It Is Well With My Soul

24 10 2013

I think that almost all of us know Philippians 4:13 by heart, I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. It’s the go to verse whenever a person is struggling with a difficult situation, trying to persevere and not lose hope. I have quoted this verse to myself and have encouraged others with it. But too often we read this verse in isolation; I have done it, like a magic pill, take it three times a day and call me in the morning, hoping that we will get out of the situation as quickly as possible. We hardly ever look at what is written before it. For the past few months, I have been living in Philippians 4:12, or at least trying to. And let me tell you, it hasn’t been a fun place to be. The funny thing is that I finally today understood that. Well, let me take you to the beginning of the story and tell you what I mean by that.

As many of you know, I have been having a rough time financially since the beginning of the year. It started with work cutting my hours several time to the point where I was earning just too little. Add to that a little bit of car trouble and a few other bills and soon I was finding myself in the perfect storm of financial trouble, knowing that I needed God to work some miracles for me. Now over the last decade I have come to trust God for my provision. I have seen him provide for me in awesome ways over the years. So I thought I was prepared to cope with this situation. Have you ever had the experience where you thought that you had learned a lesson that God had taught you, only to find out that you really haven’t or at least not at a deeper level that God is trying to take you to? Well, I realized that this whole financial situation was totally stressing me out, not a good feeling. I had lost my peace, and I didn’t like it. Immediately, I was disappointed with myself, because I felt that if I trusted God enough, then I shouldn’t feel this way, stressed out and worried. Some friends tried to encourage me with the notion that I probably did learn trust at a certain level, but that God wanted to do something deeper here. Those who know me well know that I am always ready to face the challenge of learning this new lesson and be done with it as fast as I can. It was sometime in the spring that we were praying for each other at my home group. I asked people to pray for me for the usual thing, for God’s provision and that I will believe that God wants to provide for me and has good things for me. Prayer is always good and when God tells us something in prayer, even better. Well, my friend Corinna felt she had a verse for me. Guess which one. Philippians 4:12

“I know what it is like to be in need and I know what it is to have plenty.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether
well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want.”

I can’t really say that I was jumping for joy at this particular word. The whole bit about being satisfied in my time of need. God, can’t I be learning some other lesson here? Maybe about the cattle on a thousand hills, or your many blessings…? Ok, ok, I will think about it. So being the kind of person that I am, I have never been able to reject a word just on the basis that I didn’t like it. So I thought about it, and over the next few months I realized that this was indeed the lesson that God wanted me to learn. Knowing that I am currently residing in God’s school of hard lessons helped some, but at the same time I knew that I had a long way to go, and I was definitely not feelin the contentment. On top of everything else, it went from bad to worse. In the first few month of this lesson, God at least provided enough that I broke even at the end of the month. But then summer came and I started running out of money. My account ended up in the red at the end of each month. And I was like, God what’s up with that? I thought you said you would provide for me and take care of me, and here I have to spend the Bank’s money and get myself in debt again. I was frustrated and stressed out. My joy and peace decided to take an extended vacation and leave me behind. And though I have known all these month that the lesson was to learn to be satisfied in all circumstance, to have joy regardless of what was going on outside of me, I just couldn’t get there. That was really frustrating me. Needless to say, I had a rough summer. God and I weren’t very close during that time and I felt left alone by him. It was definitely God’s turn to do something, and so he did.

So, let’s fast forward to two weeks ago. It was early Saturday morning, after another really bad week. I woke up way too early, it was still dark. I definitely wanted to sleep some more, so I turned on some worship music to help me get back to sleep. I was able to go back to sleep and when I woke up I felt God’s presence with me in a very strong way. It was like he was saying to me, look I am here, I didn’t leave you alone. It was really wonderful. I hadn’t felt that in a really long time. Feeling God there with me made spending time with him so easy too. It didn’t feel like an effort, it felt good to be there with him. I could feel his presence almost all week. Immediately people around me started noticing that something was different. They asked me if something had happened because I seemed so much happier. I told them that nothing happened except that God showed up. I also noticed right away that when I thought about my circumstances, for instance, my finances that I didn’t feel the kind of stress anymore that I had felt before. I was at peace about putting it in God’s hands. I thought, hurray!!! I am finally learning the lesson, this is what it’s supposed to feel like. So I have been living in that for the last two weeks. But had I really learned it? So this week I had to pay some bills. It isn’t yet the end of the month and my account is already overdrawn with some more bills to come. So my question again was, what is up with that God. I thought you said in your scriptures that you know all my needs and you will provide. Here, I am sitting and I am not seeing your provision. I must say that asking this question this time was much different then asking him before. This time I still had my peace and tried to trust that it will somehow work out. But still, the question was there. Why do I hear so many stories of you miraculously providing for others and I am not seeing it here? I sent this question up to him, still in the hope that he would take care of it all. So, this evening I was having my time with God. I have been reading this book “100 Days in the Love of the Father.” This book has daily lessons to help you understand the father’s love for us. Each day there is a verse, a prayer, some devotional thought and an exercise. Today’s lesson was about the father’s love in his discipline. I read the scripture in Hebrews 12:4-11 about God’s discipline and then the author’s thoughts about it. He was talking about how sometimes God will lead us through the tough times in order to teach us and mold us. Furthermore, he urged the reader the trust the father’s love when we feel his discipline and ask him to help us to learn the lesson. That’s when it hit me, the answer to my question, why God isn’t providing. In that moment God reminded me of Philippians 4:12, that he is teaching me to be content even when I am lacking. I wanted him to take away the lack (who wouldn’t?), but if he did, he would take away my classroom before I learned my lesson. And though, honestly, I would rather live in the land of the plenty, I am willing to say, bring it on, I am willing to be taught by you. And hopefully I will be able to learn my lesson quickly. Because I desire to be a person whose joy and peace isn’t dependent on outside circumstance, so I can respond in those words of that old hymn

“Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.”



14 03 2010

Last night I stayed up till 6am reading a book, “Merlin” by Lawhead. It is the second book in a series called the Pendragon Cycle. I totally got sucked into it. After about 2 am I knew it was going to be hard to get up for church. I kept saying just a few more pages,… just a few more pages. I kept doing this and in the end I decided I just wouldn’t make it to church, with day light saving time and all. But it was worth it. Just like with the first book, I really felt that God was speaking to me though this second one. The books are a retelling of the Arthurian legend and this one is about Merlin, specifically the time before Arthur. It tells of his childhood and early adulthood, triumphs and tragedies, great adversity and faith… great faith. It is funny how sometimes you pick up a book and start reading it and you just know that it is God’s timing that made you pick it and read it at exactly the time that you do. I felt that way with the first book in the series. I had it at home for almost 3 months when I finally decided to read it and the story was for that moment. Right now I am dealing with my own faith, trying to trust God for my future and reading this book made me want to trust God more. At this moment in time I don’t know at all what lies ahead for me. I know I will be jobless this summer after my contract for this school runs out. Will I have to move? Am I going to be able to stay in this country or not? All these are big and scary questions. And yet, there is a small part of me that is excited to see what God is going to do. I want this excitement to grow. But there is apprehension. It feels like such a big task ahead and I don’t even know where to start. God has to work this one out, show me the way. But there is a fear inside me that somehow I won’t hear him and then I will have to pick something on my own, fear that I will make the wrong decision and it won’t work out or worse that I will miss something really good that God has for me. The frustrating thing is that the last three weeks since I found out, I have been so busy and stressed out that I haven’t even really had the time to hear God on this matter or to look around. I started reading Merlin. It is about a person born to a great destiny and his struggle to live a life that would fulfill that destiny that God set before him. The story shows how God guided Merlin through out his life and how he always was there to uphold, heal or guide, redeeming mistakes that were made. It made me reflect on my life, look at the paths that I have taken, things that I have done, I can see God in them, even in the really dark places. And though the future is still hidden from me, I know that God will be there. I just want to have enough faith to follow on whatever path he leads.

God With Us

11 02 2010

Tomorrow morning I am leaving to go on a Kairos retreat with student from my school. This retreat allows students to explore their spirituality and learn about God. At this retreat I will be giving two talks. The first talk I will be giving is an exploration of who Jesus is. Now, this isn’t the first time that I will be giving this talks, as a matter of fact it is the fifth time. As I review the notes for the talk, I am anew struck by the awesomeness of that person who is Jesus. One of the opening verses that I use is John 1:1-3,14

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”

This verse is one of my favorite verses. Just think about it, here John is speaking about the word, Jesus, he who created the universe, who was before time itself, our all powerful God; he became a human being, flesh and bones. He limited himself, put aside his power, and became on of us. That alone is enough to blow your mind. But as amazing this is, what even more wonders is the way he chose to do it. Now God, being the all powerful being for whom nothing is to difficult, could have gone about in all kinds of way. He could have just decided to materialize as a full grown man, ready for business, spread his message for a couple of years, die on the cross as planned, finishing his task here on earth and return to the father, quick and simple. But that isn’t the way God chose to do it. Instead, our creator God, the most powerful being in the universe, became a baby, the most helpless of all creatures. It seems to go against all logic to do it that way, but as I ponder this, I see the beauty of this plan. My God, Jesus, experienced what it is like to be completely helpless and having to rely on others. He had to learn how do to everyday common things, experience what it is like to make friendships and loose friends, go to school, learn his fathers trade. He knew what it felt like to loose a loved one and the pain of betrayal. So when the scripture calls him Emmanuel, God with us, it is in every sense of the word. Not just as flesh and bone, but also with us in every human experience. So when I think about Jesus, I am awed and at the same time greatly comforted that God knows and understands what I am going through. This amazingly powerful God, my God who is with me.

His Love Is Enough!

11 02 2010

A few days ago I read “Taliesin” by Stephen Lawhead. It is the first book in a series that is a retelling of the Arthurian legend. One of the main characters in the story is a woman named Charis. As a child Charis experiences much loss and pain. Her mother dies in her arms. Charis blames herself for her mother’s death; so does her father. The guilt and self-hatred makes her choose a path that is dark and self-destructive, always just a step away from death. She witnesses the destruction of her home and country. All this tragedy leaves her numb an unable to love. In a new land she meets two priests, followers of a strange god named Jesus, the god of love. She is drawn to this god; at the same time, pushing him away. Love was never enough, hadn’t saved her home, it had never saved her from any agony; love was not enough. In this new home of her she also meets Taliesin the other main character. Taliesin also loves her and wants to marry her. But just like with Jesus, her response is: Love is not enough. Trapped in her losses and the pain, Charis can’t conceive that she would love anyone ever again..

In the midst of this the author chooses the perfect metaphor for what Charis is going through, one that I could personally relate to looking at my life. As Charis rides through the woods she hears a noise coming from a blackthorn thicket. A strong wind had blown a hawk into the blackthorn. He was thrashing around the wings pinned by the thorns, unable to free himself. Charis wants to help the hawk, free him from its trap. But the hawk, not able to recognize her as his savior thrashes around, slashing at her hands with talons and beak, scratching her and drawing blood. But Charis doesn’t give up, she tries again, and again, and again, till the hawk finally gives up and lets her free him. This picture of the hawk describes most of us so well, I know it does me. When I was younger I experienced some wounding and rejection from people I trusted, people that were supposed to love me. These wounds were very deep. Fear of more pain from people I cared about made me build a wall around my heart. Even though love was the thing I needed most it is the thing I started to fear. I got trapped in a world of more hurt and pain and when the real thing would come along from people who loved me I would push it away, fight against it. But what’s worst, I started to push away the hand of he who could truly heal me of the hurts that I experienced. I stopped seeing Jesus as the source of love. Just like the hawk trapped in the thorns I thrashed around in the attempt to free myself from my cage, scratching and pecking at helping hands. But love is patient. Jesus waited till I stopped thrashing, and kicking, and scratching, till I couldn’t do anything anymore; so I let him free me from the thorns.

But the story doesn’t end there. In the book, when Charis finally frees the hawk from his thorny prison, she lets him fly. The hawk takes off but quickly falls to the ground; the experience has left its mark, his wing is broken. The hawk can’t fly, and if left, he would die. Again, Charis wants to help him, wants to mend what is broken. Since Charis has already help the hawk once, you would think that the how would welcome her help, yet again the hawk is slashing at Charis’ hand and running away from her. Finally, too exhausted to continue running the hawk lets her pick him up. She takes him home. To save him, his wing had to bandaged and immobilized and feathers had to be clipped to keep him from flying while he heals. Like with the hawk, so it is with us. God has come and saved us, but there wounds, hurts and scars that haven’t simply gone away the day God picked us up and saved us. Now begins the process of healing; the process is usually not pleasant; it’s something we can’t do ourselves. Oh yes, we try, and maybe even run away from the healing our savior can give us. We still try to protect ourselves, from more pain, from the process of healing, not yet fully convinced of his love and his goodness. I certainly have done that. I have made choices in the passed that I knew disappointed God and after the amazing way that he came and changed my life, I didn’t want to disappoint him again. So I tried to protect and guard myself from making choices like that again, not realizing that it was beyond my strength to do so. Eventually when I realized that I had no more strength and will protect myself, collapsing yet again at Jesus’ feet, I let him do the job, let him come near and protect me. He has healed many hurts. It has been a painful and uncomfortable process at time, but a necessary one.

In the end, the hawk did heal and was able to fly again. And Charis, she did find love first through Taliesin, whom she did marry. But more importantly she discovered that God did truly love her. That his love had always been with her, even in the dark places she had walked. He healed her pain and her wounds and allowed her to discover that His love truly was enough.  

For me it’s been a journey. Some days I see his love so clearly and some days I am still fighting and pushing away. I am longing for the day when I fully understand his love for me, for his love truly is enough.

Hello world!

17 01 2010

Welcome to my blog. You might wonder why I decided to start a blog. I have never been someone who wrote a lot unless I had to. I remember this one day when I tried to start a diary. I wrote a couple of pages. When I was finished I proptly tore those pages out and ripped them into little pieces. I didn’t want anyone to ever read what I had written. This was my first and only attempt at writing about myself until very recently. A couple of months ago I decided to do a TV fast. As part of the process I decided to journal about the things I learned and felt. I discovered that I really enjoyed writing about my experience. It made me want to do it more often. An outlet for my thoughts, it’s something I feel I need. When I am not at work, I tend to spend a lot of time by myself. It’s just the nature of my life right now. Sometimes I can go all week without haveing a meeningful conversation with an adult. Sundays at church is usually the time when I get to converse with friend. In these conversations you usually hit the highlights of the week, share any big issues you deal with. But what about the day to day stuff, the random encounters, passing thoughts, the little lessons God teaches us every day. This blog will give me a chance to share some of these “Musings” about me, my life, God, or anything else that comes to my mind. So consider yourself invited to take a gilmps. I hope you will enjoy it!