Forged Steel

We are very excited that our soon to be 18 year old son has been blessed with the opportunity to learn welding. This will be a skill that he can use all of his life no matter where his path leads. Because we are all basically unfamiliar with the concepts of how welding occurs, we began to investigate and research the terminology, tools, etc… We even found some good YouTubes. My husband and son watched with keen interest as the process of melding two metals together was explained. When the test for certification is done, they literally X-ray the bond to test the quality of work.

Last week as I gathered with a special group of ladies to consider the following passage and hear three of those ladies, whom I love dearly, share their testimonies. I left the meeting thinking about their endurance, strength and confident hope that developed from trials and troubles. That caused me to consider the process of welding. The endurance, strength and hope placed in a good solid weld. Vehicles, bridges, equipment, a lot depends on the skill of that welder.

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” (Romans 5:3-5 NLT)

Just being alive is all the guarantee we need that we will ‘run into problems and trials’. We can’t control that fact. But, we do have some control as to what those hard times develop in us. Will it be endurance, strength and hope? Or will it be brokenness, weariness and hopelessness? This is determined by the skill of the welder. When we are determined to manage things ourselves, it never turns out like it would if we allow God to do the work.

This is how the message reads –

“There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!” (Romans 5:3-5 MSG)

Passionate Patience!
Tempered Steel of Virtue!
Alert Expectancy!

Look, y’all, that is something to get excited about. That should make your heart flood with joyful expectancy! This can give us the COURAGE we need in the midst of troubles to be ENCOURAGED. We aren’t just at the mercy of whatever life might throw our direction! We have a Master Welder who is developing good results out of evil intents.

When the heat of the flaming torch is pointed our direction, when we feel our very core begin to melt, when we see all that we thought was straight twisted into another direction, we have a CONFIDENT HOPE that God has a purpose, a plan and the ability to create a bond that can withstand and hold!

Shadow Boxing

Pondering this passage from 1 Corinthians this morning.

“So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.”
1 Corinthians 9:26,27 NLT

We are all doing plenty of running, running here and there trying to keep a step ahead of the busy-ness of life. But, are we running with purpose? Are we being intentional with our steps and energy and words and thoughts? Check out the way this translation words it.

“Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.”
1 Corinthians 9:26 NIV

That’s the kind of life that wears us out!! Aimlessly beating the air! I have definitely felt exactly like that at times. Feeling as if everything I’m trying so hard to do is pointless.

This is when I must sit down and reevaluate my PURPOSE, develop a workable plan and be INTENTIONAL about it. That is going to require DISCIPLINE. It won’t be easy. It will be worth it.

I don’t want to spend my allotted days shadow boxing. I certainly don’t want to arrive at the end of my race and find I have been disqualified because I strayed off course.

So, I will begin again and do so as often as is necessary to meet my goals, minister to hurting hearts, raise my children and make a difference in this world that is so obviously doing a lot of shadow boxing of their own.

Entangled

This morning I was tired and I wanted to close my eyes a little longer but reminded myself that my husband and three oldest would be leaving early to serve in various ways at our church so, I wanted to get up early, fix breakfast for them and be a servant to them. I don’t mean in a subservient manner but to shower love upon them because I wanted to. I felt almost saintly as I yawned my way through the beginnings of sausage biscuits.

The coffee was just made and I was about to take a sip when all heck broke loose. There was a commotion on the back porch (later discovered it was two tom cats) and every dog in the house began barking and trying to get out that door.

The back door is close to where three teen boys were slumbering after working a closing shift last night and I didn’t want them awakened. So, I rushed into the dark room to hush the dogs.

It was there that I encountered two precariously placed brooms left sprawled on the floor. They invited me to dance an impromptu routine that resulted in me joining them in their sprawl across the floor. The performance was brief but invigorating, to say the least.

Jesse burst upon the scene to separate the yowling cats, quiet the hushing dogs and peel his momma off the floor. I’ll laugh about this later, you can feel free to chuckle now.

As I precariously made my way back to the stupid sausage biscuits (I know the biscuits weren’t to blame but I needed to vent) I wasn’t feeling saint like any longer. I was feeling ‘put upon’ and sore! This good intention of mine had left me in a heap on the floor and in pain. Stupid biscuits!

As I’ve contemplated the events of this morning, I found myself thinking of my grandma. I could just imagine her reaction to my encounter. I know exactly what she would have said, “Ain’t that just like the devil.” I smiled at the thought and smirked a smile in agreement.

Yes, it is just like our enemy to set a trap for the well intentioned. You identify a need, decide to press on in spite of how you feel and become a servant in some capacity; nursery volunteer, women’s minister, youth sponsor, event coordinator, etc…

Then all of the sudden all heck breaks loose and before you even get started good, you are in the midst of yowling cats, barking dogs and menacingly placed snares that alarm, distract and entangle you.

In spite of your best intentions you find yourself in a crumpled heap on the floor trying to determine the best way to get up again. You may find yourself feeling quite agitated at your biscuits! And, as Grandma would say, “Ain’t that just like the devil.”

You see, if our enemy can get us alarmed by the unexpected, distracted by the chaos and entangled by the messes you encounter – tripped up and dazed from the fall, he is counting on you staying down for the count.

Right at that very moment, is when Jesus arrives and gives you his strong right arm so you can get up again, try again, serve again. Try not to mumble ‘stupid people’ under your breath as you rub your aching knee and continue about what you’ve set your heart to do.

UNDER SIEGE

If you watch any movies involving epic battles and especially if there is a stronghold or a castle involved, you have likely seen what a siege looks like. The word siege originates from the Latin and means simply ‘to sit’. There are a number of recorded Biblical Battles that involve a city under siege. One of those is found in 2Kings 6:24- 7:20. Samaria is under siege and the results are gruesome and horrifying.

So, exactly what is a siege? Well, a siege is a basic military strategy that goes something like this. When a land was being invaded, you couldn’t occupy every square inch so you went after the key cities, the fortified cities, the strongholds, the cities with walls. A walled city meant safety from enemies. It represented strength, protection and power. If the invading enemy could take a walled city, this meant a change of rule and authority and possession of the surrounding lands. At its most basic form the enemy army would simply set up camp and prevent any coming or going from the city. They could also include catapults, battering rams or perhaps even march around the walls and blow shofars (think Jericho).

So, what is the purpose of a siege? Bottom line, the purpose was to alienate and cut off the people within from resources they needed to survive, as in food and water. They also wanted to prevent them from contacting other people who might be able to send aid. What was meant to protect would become a prison. An entire city of people trapped and taking terrible measures to survive.

Have you ever been there? Have you ever been busy about life when the very walls you have labored to build, with the intention to keep you safe have imprisoned you. You are trapped. You are under siege. Perhaps you are under physical siege with health issues, pain or a devastating disease like cancer. Perhaps you are under emotional siege with grief, infertility or a relationship devastated by divorce. Perhaps you are under the most terrifying siege of all, spiritual siege.

What are the signs of a spiritual siege?
Value system warped/priorities out of order
Broken thinking/unreasonable behavior
Blame game/targeting spiritual authority

We see these clearly in the Scripture passage mentioned above.

Dove dung being sold and considered valuable. Say what? Yep, they were starving and they were willing to eat anything to survive. As a matter of fact it gets far worse when a woman comes to complain to the king about another woman who has broken their agreement involving cannibalism. How could someone resort to such measures? Their value system is warped! What should be sacred and precious and defended is instead sacrificed and then justified as necessary to survive. Don’t be too startled, it happens regularly in our modern civilized world. Just let a life, an innocent child, a wife or a husband get in the way of what someone has decided they want or need and you will see how quickly the decision to self-preserve is. How could anyone think this is okay? This is a result of broken thinking.

What then immediately happens when we are faced with such atrocities? Well, you’d think there would be repentance and sincere changes of lifestyle and behavior. But, not when there is a spiritual siege involved. Instead, the next step during a spiritual siege is the blame game. It has to be someone’s fault. A refusal to be held accountable for the consequences of sin requires that someone else be blamed. More than likely it will be a spiritual authority that is blamed during a spiritual siege. We see this when the king decides to behead Elisha! Say what? Yep, the anger that should have been directed toward the enemy is retargeted towards the prophet.

So, what could delay our deliverance?

Refusal to believe, trust the Word of God.
(angry, bitter, blind, easily offended).

Refusal to get up and move.
(Siege=sit here and die, resisting change, embracing the past).

Refusal to share the good news.
(Self-serving, Self-centered, Self-focused, Self-preserving, Self-absorbed).

Elisha, even after being threatened with being beheaded (the Lord thwarted that plan) offered hope and a Word from the Lord. Tomorrow, he said, everything would be set right. They refused to believe. Okay, I hear you, I know after facing such a terrible life altering siege, it is hard just to take someone’s word, even God’s Word. God understands that too. And when we need something more to help us believe, He will provide it.

There were these four lepers sitting, like everyone else, expecting the worse, anticipating death and destruction. But, they decided to GET UP AND DO SOMETHING. (Remember, siege means to sit). It’s a great story and you should read it. They decide they can’t get what they need ‘back’ in the city and they can’t get what they need by staying where they are so they will take their chances by moving ahead. I believe that there are many of you who just read those words and as you did, something stirred within your heart and spirit. You’ve been longing for what used to be, but yesterday can’t provide for you anymore. What was enough is no longer enough. You’ve been in a state of siege, stuck, trapped, imprisoned in this situation that surrounds you and yet you continue to sit there. Today is the day that you can take the first step towards deliverance from the personal siege. You see, what began as an enemy siege has developed into a personal siege. You’ve become your own worst enemy.

When the lepers arrive at the enemy camp they are astounded. God has cleared out the enemy and provided a bounty of provisions. At first the lepers begin to collect and hide what they’ve found and then, they are convicted and decide to go share the good news. The siege is broken. The enemy is gone. The miracle everyone has hoped and prayed for has arrived. Just like God said, everything has been made right.

The king is suspicious, his doubting officer continues to doubt, but someone suggest at least checking out the unbelievable report that the lepers have given. They didn’t have much faith, but, they acted on what faith they had. They were delivered from the siege! Those who refused to believe died in their unbelief (see the end of the king’s official).

No matter what kind of siege you may be facing today, whatever you do, don’t just sit there. Let go of the past and take advantage of today to change your tomorrow. Don’t allow the enemy to cut you off from your most valuable resources of the Word of God, Living Water and Loving Relationships. That is his strategy, but, you don’t have to sit down and take it.

Pack your bags and prepare to leave; the siege is about to begin. (Jeremiah 10:17 NLT)

Painful Possibilities

Pain is seldom a welcome part of our life and yet a guaranteed result of living. From the tiny ouches to the excruciating, you can count on it. Don’t let that discourage or frighten you however. Along with that assurance of pain comes an accompanying assurance of possibilities. Let me explain.

My 12 year old adopted daughter has injured her foot. She hyperextended the tendons on the top that extend from her toes and let me tell you, she is experiencing some pain. She and I along with my 13 year old daughter (her birth sister) are heading out of town early in the morning where plans of hikes and zip lines have fizzled into disappointment. Instead she will be hobbling around on crutches, soaking her foot in Epsom salt baths and keeping her hands and mind otherwise occupied while her foot is elevated.

Although I am so very sorry that she is hurting and although I regret that she won’t have the same opportunities to enjoy our trip, I intend to take advantage of the possibilities that pain is presenting. Take advantage of my child’s pain? What kind of parent would think such thoughts and do such a thing? Well, once again, let me explain.

You see, my daughters came to me at ages six and seven. Sometimes I grieve over the lost time and not just because of time itself, but, because I never watched them suckle, I never had to choose the right diaper rash cream or soothe them as they teethed. Instead they learned to rely on each other and to self soothe. They learned that adults didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to a child in pain and as a matter of fact, an admission of pain might put you in a vulnerable (and therefore dangerous) position.

So, for the next week our so, my daughter is going to be much more dependent on me. She will need my assistance, my guidance, my tender loving care. And yes, I am going to take full advantage of the painful possibilities. While she is being still and quieter than usual, I will show her how a mother chooses to nurture and reinforce what I’ve been teaching her half of her life now. Pain is about more than vulnerabilities, it is also about possibilities.

Pain provides possibilities to build a trusting relationship, to bond more deeply as you depend on another – a possibility to experience the miracle of healing.

Chances are most of you reading this are experiencing some sort of pain right this moment. You may have an injury yourself. You may be suffering with an ongoing illness. You may be grieving the loss of a loved one. You may be in pain for countless reasons and feeling extremely vulnerable.

If that is the case let me assure you of this truth. You have a heavenly father who is totally aware of your pain and your broken dreams and your grieving heart. Guess what else? He intends to take full advantage of the painful possibilities. He wants to draw you into a more intimate relationship and comfort you into a trusting without reservation. Don’t hesitate to turn your face His direction. He has already turned His face toward yours.

“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” CS Lewis _The Problem With Pain_