Stumbling, but Still Walking

As I leafed through one of my 2008 calendars — and I admit that I have three of them this year — I filled in appointments and special events, but I also focused on the changes I’d like to see in my ministry, my job, my family, and my health. I’m ashamed to admit it now, but I did not think much about the changes that need to take place in me … in my character.

An anonymous sage once wrote, “It is strange that while praying, we seldom ask for a change of character, but always a change of circumstances.” Why is it that we think that altered circumstances are all we need to change the direction of our lives?

Everything is a matter of a surrendered, obedient heart. God wants to transform us into the pure image of His Son (Romans 8:28-29). Romans 12:2 tells us that change occurs in our minds through the power of the Word as we exchange our lies for the truth of scripture and live in freedom according to the truth (John 8:32).

I don’t know about you, but I get discouraged in my journey with God. Sometimes I walk forward in confidence in Him; other times, I trip and fall. It’s a two-steps-forward, one-step-back experience. But I desire with all my heart to cooperate with God in changing me through the choices He leads me to make.

C. S. Lewis once wrote, “If we only have the will to walk, then God is pleased with our stumbles.” I’m reminded that Peter sank beneath the waves when he took His eyes off of Jesus (Matthew 14:28-31), but surely Jesus must have smiled to see Peter step out of the boat!


“Use Me, Lord” – Yikes!

I bounce back and forth between excitement over God’s recent calling in my life, and total, unreasonable fear. When I came to God with an open heart and hands, He called me to share the message of “choices” with women. “Fine,” I said, “I will write for You, Lord—no problem.” But that was the problem. Writing was something I could probably do with a measure of success, in the flesh.

I imagine that God smiled when He called me to speak, knowing how it would stretch me and force me to run to Him over and over again. I struggled with the calling, back and forth between anticipation and the desire to run away. Like Moses (Exodus 4:10), I protested, “Father, I cannot speak. Remember how I tend to get all stutter-y when I speak?” It was already a miracle, I’d decided, when God called me to teach a group of women at my church, but they were friends. How would I ever stand before a large group of women—strangers—if God opened a door? Again, I had to return to that submissive, open heart-open hands position. I took my fears to the foot of the throne where fear of man succumbed to worshipful fear of God. I did not come boldly, but I did find grace to help until He gave me more courage (Hebrews 4:16).

Actually, I’m thankful that God didn’t give me much time to mess up His calling with my emotional churning. He baptized me in an unexpected last-minute speaking engagement, and I’m now preparing for a number of events, including three women’s retreats. Each event will require me to say, “I love you and I give you my fears (I John 4:18).”

We cannot foresee the challenges or blessings that may come our way, but surrendering our fears and concerns to our great, enabling God is always the wise choice—and who knows what He will do when we come to Him with open hands?


Romance in Marriage—Yes!

I listened to two Christian women discuss romance in marriage and found the conversation both insightful and frustrating. One said there is no place for romance in a Christian marriage. “We need to grow up and be mature,” she said, “and get on with serving God.” The other advocated “whatever it takes” to keep a marriage alive, especially in the sexual relationship. The first perspective was foolish and the second required wisdom to avoid sin!

“Romance” is not essential to have a Christian marriage, but it sure does make for a pleasant experience! In contrast, there are worldly methods of “enhancing” marriage that are clearly outside biblical standards of purity—watching pornography, for instance. In addition, Christian spouses must also be careful not to violate a partner’s conscience. Selfless love, described in I Corinthians 13, is the hallmark of biblical marriage.

In between the women’s two extreme viewpoints is a biblical, satisfying perspective. Some Christians will be more comfortable with a clear but more subtle approach to romance, such as in The Act of Marriage by Dr. Tim and Beverly LaHaye. Others desire more creative (yet biblically-positive) suggestions such as those in Red-Hot Monogamy by Bill and Pam Farrel. What is helpful to one might be intimidating to another, but all believers must stay rooted in the wisdom of the Word of God. For a list of helpful scriptures, see “Resources / Topical Scripture Studies / Marriage” on my website - heartchoicesministries.com.

We must be careful not to quickly condemn other married Christians for their romantic choices. Certainly, the Song of Solomon is pointed and clear about romance and even sexual technique! God is the author of creative expression, and He is not silent on the subject.


Cradled in Thorns

Last spring, as my five tree roses displayed their fragrant crop, my little Jack Russell Terrier stood on the retaining wall near my most abundant plant, sniffing. “Oh, how cute,” I thought. “Bailey’s sniffing the roses!” This January, as I cut back the roses, I discovered the true reason behind his interest.

My white rose plant is by far the most lush—and thorny—of the five. Pruning is an unwelcome, prickly chore, and I never do get the finished product down to the recommended five canes. This time, nearly completing the painful task, I discovered an unlikely surprise. Cradled in the arms of the branches, on the woody ball of the tree, was an empty bird’s nest. One partial egg shell proved a bird had chosen this thorny home to start a family.

I stared at the nest for some time. “What a place to bring up a baby bird!” I thought. “Why would a bird brave the prickling of thorns to build its downy nest here?” When I remembered my rambunctious Bailey, I knew what the bird knew. It was a safe place.

I considered my own circumstances, and the safety I find in God in the midst of troubles and trials. I thought about two friends, undergoing surgery for brain tumors. Each turned to God in the midst of their emotional and physical pain, and, in Him, they found peace and protection from Satan’s attacks of doubt. I thought of the biblical Job—stripped of nearly everything but God Himself, and finding Him sufficient (Job 19:25-27).

The circumstances of life do not define us when we choose to see our mighty, all-wise God in the midst of them. Thorns may prick us, but our troublesome circumstances may very well be a place of safety, cradling us in the arms of our caring God (I Peter 5:7). So, what is your thorny situation today? Will you choose to rest in the presence and power of God?