Mercies in Disguise
It’s been a week full of music for me. A few days ago, Ken and I were sitting at the piano practicing the song “Blessings” by Laura Story for Sunday's worship. As we sang, I heard footsteps and that gorgeous alto voice I know and love of my dear friend from Houston. For years in ministry we sang together as a trio and she was coming to pick up the music to sing with us again in this years Restore “The Light of Christmas” worship concert. She told the story of when she had sung “Blessings” for a women’s retreat and how the Lord had poured out His anointing as the Spirit took over and ministered. As I listened, I knew it must have been difficult for her to sing for she has walked courageously through tremendous pain and trials. The words are powerful and true.
They tell my story, too.
Perhaps they tell yours if you listen carefully.
You may want to listen to Blessings by Laura Story on Youtube at this link:
After you listen come back and read the lyrics below. Let them sink into your spirit.
We pray for blessings, we pray for peace Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while You hear each spoken need Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things
We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
And all the while You hear each desperate plea And long that we'd have faith to believe.
When friends betray us, when darkness seems to win We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home. It's not our home
'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You're near?
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst
This world can't satisfy?
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise?
music and lyrics by Laura Story
Throughout the week as I’ve sung these words, waves of struggles over the last few years have swept over me.
Three years ago I could not have made it through the song. I wasn’t ready. The tears were too fresh, the pain too deep.
But now....You see God has brought healing through those tears.
I have known His presence in the pain.
I think of the trials of the last few years of our lives and God, in His grace, has used them to be a blessing.
I think of the sleepless nights when my husband was told it was a 90% chance he had pancreatic cancer.
In those nights I drew nearer to my Savior than ever before in my faith journey. I cried out in pain and fear and for His mighty hand to ease the suffering. Jesus poured out His mercy as hundreds went before throne of God and Ken was healed.
The last few years have been full of trials and disappointments in ministry, personal health struggles, cancer diagnosis of dear friends, deaths of family members, my mom’s illness, betrayals, buckets of tears and a longing for Home.
Sometimes it seems as if we are hanging by a thread to simply survive, doesn’t it.
Yet, in the midst of trials and disappointments there have also been times of great joy, weddings and grand babies and graduations and new ministries!
But, through it all I have known that great thirst that this world can never satisfy. And I'm grateful.
There were also things I prayed for that the Father did not give and in that too, I'm grateful.
He does not want us to settle for lesser things. He knows the future.
Now I can see there have been so many mercies in disguise.
I experienced one of those great mercies today as the Restore choir gathered at our home for the first rehearsal of “The Light of Christmas.” A year ago I didn’t know if I would ever have the privilege of conducting a choir again.
And there they were sitting before me, fifty glorious voices from about ten different churches. Most have sung with us at some point during our thirty plus years of music ministry. It was like a sweet reunion.
Yesterday, as I prepared the folders of music, I prayed over each name. I prayed that these beloved with whom I have sung praises to our God through the years would know deeply these truths we sing as they face the aching of this life. Our Jesus hears each spoken need and His mercy will be revealed. In my home today, the body of Christ came together to proclaim that the Savior, the Light of the world has come.
He is Jesus,
the Light that ends the darkness,
the Love where hope begins.
As our living room filled with His glorious music, I rejoiced that my life has truly been a testimony of the boundless love and mercy of Jesus......a pouring out of His great blessings.
Take a moment and reflect back on your own life.
Let His music, His Word and the beauty of these lyrics wash over you and minister healing.
Can you now see that some of the trials and storms in your life have been His mercies in disguise?
.......He is near.
............His heart is to bless.
Let it cause you to thirst for Him
and long for the hope of your heavenly Home.
“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” John 17:24
Resources: "Blessings" by Laura Story, Images Pinterest
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Reflections from His Handiwork
As part of every RESTORE retreat, Kathy and I are sure to embed every element of our acrostic in making each weekend meaningful and special. Retreating from the mundane to allow our soul to breath is just as important as food is to nourish our body. I have been blessed these past two weekends to do just that! My heart yearned for the beauty and majesty of the mountains and my soul was refreshed by the peace of the beach. Allowing space between the chapters of my life has given me a small but necessary respite. I guess you can say that I went on my own RESTORE retreat...and so did some of my friends. I have asked them to take a picture of what speaks to their soul and to reference a scripture. I would ask that you ponder the scripture verses as you look deep into each photograph. I love how the beauty of God's Word speaks through His creation!
1For the choir director. A Psalm of David. The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
Psalm 19: 1
In this image, I see the hand of God holding a conductor's baton as all of heaven and earth sing aloud and boldly of the Glory of His name!
How often do I tell of the glory of God? It should depart from my lips at every breath!
The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlasting
the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children--
Psalm 103: 15-17
Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall Iflee from thy presence?
If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there:If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, thou art there.
If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
Even there shall thy hand lead me, And thy right hand shall hold me.
Matthew 11:28 and 29
"Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls".
This weekend I had the privilege of getting away with some girlfriends and going to my happy place - the beach.... Going to the beach, listening to the water flow, brings rest and comfort to my soul. As I was watching the water, I thought about how vast it was, how it didn't seem to have any boundaries, how the sound of the surf is so refreshing to me.... And how unsafe it is - if you don't swim you will sink and drowned. Jesus walked on water. I could almost imagine Him coming towards me there on the beach... Asking me to take a chance- come out further into the deep with Him.... Where His yoke is easy and His burden is light. ~ Anonymous
By the word of Jehovah were the heavens made, And all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.
He gathereth the waters of the sea together as a heap:He layeth up the deeps in store- houses.
Let all the earth fear Jehovah:Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.
For he spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139: 23, 24
I am so grateful to have had the time to break away! I needed Rest for my soul and body. My creative journey has been Encouraged by the marvelous works of His hand. I Savored friendships of new and long standing ones. Transformation of my mind occurred as I meditated on His Word and enjoyed a timely book given to me by Kathy. Observing the wonder of God was especially wonderful as we laid on the beach at night, star-gazing! My heart was Renewed as time was spent in worship of the Father. And what a sweet privilege to spend time in prayer together, going to our Father on behalf of another dear friend unable to be with us due to a serious illness. My prayer-life was Enriched! RESTORE!
Let me encourage you to pull away if you haven't lately. A trip isn't always at the right timing but simply retreat to your favorite "happy" place. Spend time away with the One who loves you lavishly. Who thinks about you more than number of the grains of sand by the sea. Contemplate His love for you. He is calling...come! Observe the wonder of His creation. Open your heart and mind to see beyond those images. He has a word for you! Won't you join his conversation?
Join us December 12th for a beautiful evening of declaring His glory! Tickets are still available. Click the Picture!
The Work of His Hands
I love it when the Lord works a concept of His truth into the depths of our hearts. For me it seems that when the Lord wants to be sure that I understand, His message comes from every angle. From speakers, pastors, conversations, my personal study. It is everywhere and then I know that He is speaking to me.
Recently I gathered some Bible study materials for a friend. It came as a result of a lengthy conversation we had a few weeks ago. In it, I asked her, “Are you absolutely convinced of God’s love for you? Do you ever feel that you are not worthy of His love?”
These are important questions, because even as believers we can wrestle to understand His love for us. If we are honest, circumstances or relationships, disappointments or unfulfilled dreams can make us question. My friend and I talked about how important it is that we not only seek to know the character of God in our minds, as we read and study the Word, but it is so vital that we grab hold of these truths in our hearts. I remember saying to her, “You will never move on in the depth of your relationship with Christ until you are absolutely convinced of His love for you.”
I said that because it has been true in my own life. Years ago, I sensed the Lord speaking to me that I needed to study and meditate on the character and attributes of my God.
I was overcome with a hunger and thirst to know more of Him. My life was full of religious activity and I believed in Jesus as my Savior, but I longed for more.
I knew there had to be more.....
More.....the abundant life!
And so my search began.
Are you hungry to know Jesus?
Are you thirsty for His Word?
My study began with one attribute of His character at a time. The Lord and I started this part of our journey in the riches of His love. I stayed there in the Scriptures on that one attribute until I felt He moved me on to another. It was a very personal search through the Word. Sometimes we would dig in the Scriptures on one attribute for a year or more. There are vast treasures to be opened. My heart needed to be transformed and restored. The Lord and I have moved into many other attributes through the years - His faithfulness, His sovereignty, His grace, His wisdom, His holiness, His peace, His righteousness, His rest..... on and on it goes.
I started a notebook in the beginning and simply wrote down the lessons the Father was teaching me each day about His character. Each week, each year as we journey together I journal what I am learning. Sometimes there are lessons taught through sermons, sometimes through circumstances, sometimes through suffering or the way I observe another living out life. Most often they are found in the treasures of His Word as I dug down deep with a hunger and thirst to know my God.
I will give you hidden treasures,
riches stored in secret places,
so that you may know that I am the Lord,
the God of Israel, who summons you by name.
There have been days, and seasons when it seemed the hunger and thirst were gone. There have been times when I have cried out for the Lord to restore the passion in my heart to know Him more.
I became numb or lazy, or busy. But, always He has drawn me back to this amazing discovery in search of the depths of His character.
He has always been faithful to answer that cry of my heart.
It will never be complete, of course, until I see Him face to face.
Last weekend, I attended a women’s retreat. Throughout the weekend the speaker focused on the things that keep us from knowing God and believing in His goodness. I knew the Lord had something for me since this teaching was so similar to the conversation I had with my friend.
The message of the speaker and author Shelly Volkhardt captured it so well. She said,
“Sometimes our dreams that we hold on to keep us from clearing the space of God’s best for us.“
She talked about the how heartache and broken dreams in her life had birthed this passion to know God more. How she had read through the entire Bible with the lens of looking for all of His attributes and then written them down. She talked about waiting years and years for dreams to come true and said,
“God is developing us, birthing in us the character of Jesus Christ.”
I have not been able to get the reminder of that concept out of my mind.
God is birthing in me the character of His Son!
It is His purpose for our lives. Every circumstance, every relationship is designed to conform us and shape us into His image so that we might be the reflection of His Son in our dark and needy world.
We know that truth. But, are we looking for the work? He is giving birth to the life and character of Jesus in us!
Not only are we to seek to know our God, but we are the work of His hands. As we discover more and more of the wonders of who He is and surrender to His plan for our lives, His character begins to emerge within us.
And so today as you face a disappointment or challenge or experience deep joy, it’s important to ask some questions.
“What aspect of your character are you trying to birth in me, Lord?”
"What is it that I need to know and understand more deeply about your character, Jesus?”
Years ago I read a story about the master sculptor Michelangelo that helped me to better understand this process of our God, the Master Artist. Recently, my pastor mentioned the story and I knew it was time to revisit the truths found within it in my own life.
The Father led Michelangelo to make David out of an eighteen foot block of flawed marble that sat for forty years gathering dust. He saw something in the marble no one else saw at age twenty-six and sculpted for months until the form of David began to appear.
There is a story told of a little boy who watched him carefully work the stone. “Finally the little boy tugged on Michelangelo’s cloak and asked, “Sir, how did you know he was in there?”
Michelangelo replied, “I just took away everything that wasn’t David.”
That is often how the Lord works in our lives. He must hammer and chisel away everything that doesn't look like Him, like the masterpiece He has envisioned for our lives.
Michelangelo labored for almost two years on the marble for his incredible masterpiece, the Pieta. ”He believed his figures were trapped inside the marble, and if he listened to the stone, he could chip away everything that wasn’t part of the figure, and the figure would be liberated.”
I remember standing before these great works of art in my travels in Europe. To behold the life, exquisite detail, and beauty that the master sculptor could create from a huge block of stone is breathtaking. What one sees as you gaze at these masterpieces is the work of a man of faith whose passion for God has spoken through the work of his hands for centuries.
Notice Mary in the Pieta. There is great suffering in her face and yet a serenity as well. Her body is like an altar holding the crucified body of her Son, our Savior.
Observe the hands of Mary in the Pieta. One hand clings and holds her precious Son.
The other seems open in surrender.
Out of great suffering comes the beauty of our lives surrendered to Jesus.
How much more beautiful is the work of God’s hands on our lives, chipping away what doesn’t look like Him so that His character might be birthed in us!
Take a moment and consider your own life. You were conceived to be much greater than the work of the Pieta for you are God’s masterpiece. Deep within is the beauty of Christ and the Father sees it and is committed in love to transform you into His image. Sometimes it involves suffering or the painful removal of what doesn’t belong.
Sometimes it means waiting until the right time, for creating a masterpiece takes perseverance and skill.
Sometimes it involves letting go and creating space as we learn to dream His dreams for our lives.
Always, it involves surrender to the work of the Master Artist as He crafts our character.
As we seek to know Him more intimately we begin to understand that the Father sees what we cannot -
the beauty within the stone, the beauty of our calling and purpose.
And so, we cling to the Savior and surrender to the work of His hands.
We are all the work of your hand. Isaiah 64:8c NIV
Surrendered to the work of His hands,
Resources: images Pinterest, teaching by Shelly Volkhardt, Living Water by Kathy Drake, Ken Gire writings on the Pieta
Please join us for a Christmas Evening of Worship and Dessert Reception
at LSU's Lod Cook Alumni Center on Dec. 12th. Tickets available now!!!
Early bird rate ends October 21st!
Moving from Paralyzation
I believe the key word is hope! Hope, in the secular world, is wishing something would or would not happen. But for the Christian, hope is something that is concrete, assured, and solid because it is grounded in the promises of God! What are some of the promises of God that can help move us from a state of being paralyzed to that of productivity? Have we not considered that paralysis could be like a yellow or red light? Maybe God has us slowed down or even stopped us for a divine purpose! Maybe even REST?!
I don't believe that my paralysis is totally due to a break in fellowship with God, because that's when I find myself praying harder and seeking more fervently. I realize something is amiss but I cannot grasp what is actually the problem. If I am not careful, I can let myself slip into discouragement and depression. I get into a funk! I find myself withdrawing from fellowship and crawl into a hole. It's a battle for my mind and ultimately my heart.
Elijah was such a man! He spent some alone time under a juniper tree. Paralyzed! Discouraged! Lonely! What was it that led him there? Let me encourage you to stop and read the story of Elijah if you are not familiar. (Click Here for 1 Kings 17-19)
Conditions Contributing to Paralysis:
In 1 Kings 17, Elijah's story begins with him hearing from the Lord and doing all that God required of him. Throughout, we find Elijah consistently hears from the Lord and is obedient to His word. "After a long time, in the third year" (as indicated in chap. 18:1) God spoke to him yet again with some hefty instructions. Notice Elijah's comment in 18:22 "Then Elijah said to the people, “I alone am left a prophet of the Lord, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men." I'm thinking this is his first slip up! Commentaries debate on whether he is actually the last prophet left alive or whether he is the only prophet (with everyone else still hiding in caves) brave enough to confront and stand firm. Whatever the case, I find that he considers himself alone (we're never alone with God!) and perhaps has a small case of "i-itus." He has been so busy working for the Lord that maybe he considers himself as the "only one that can do anything around here!" Ever feel that way? No one else can do it quite the way you can or with the expertise that you could bring! After all, you've been doing it for a long time and are pretty good at what you do. Yep, i-itus has grabbed you and your a little bit proud of your work history...I alone!
In 18:27 we read of the mighty prophet calling down fire from heaven. Imagine 450 prophets of Baal as Elijah taunted and made fun of them. And as he built the altar and called on the name of the Lord God, Elijah prayed and God answered. The people believed and the prophets of Baal were seized and slaughtered. As Ahab was celebrating, Elijah climbed to the top of Mt. Carmel for prayer. I believe that he was spiritually and mentally drained. Elijah had been obedient to the Lords call and was up against lots of opposition. Not only that, but he probably felt considerable pressure as the last of God's prophets. (18:22) If you have done any kind of ministry, you know that there is a certain amount of spiritual drain that accompanies it. I think Elijah was also experiencing some of that.
He had been busy doing just as the Lord requested...for all these years... and considered himself zealous. He was on the mountain top...literally, at Mt. Carmel! When his work was through there, he ran to the valley of Jezreel. Notice verse 46The power of the Lord came on Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel. This was about 16-17 miles, running faster and harder than horse and chariot! I'm sure he was physically tired!
I believe one of the things that led Elijah to be paralyzed, unable to move forward, was his physical exhaustion! I find that when I am overly tired, my armor is no longer girded. I'm so weary that I fall into a metaphoric ditch and have a hard time climbing out. I let the enemy kick me down. Dropsy sets in. If you are driven like me, you grind and grind and grind until you literally cannot go any further. It's that balance issue again! You've worn yourself slap out and you are no good for anything and nobody wants to be around you because your so grumpy! It's hard to rest when you feel like you need a REST so you can rest! Get my point?!
Once Elijah got to Horeb, he received word that Jezebel was going to kill him, just has he had killed the prophets of Baal. After all the amazing ways that God had used Elijah and shown Himself faithful, Elijah decides to loose heart and is afraid. He runs! He has reached a point in his life where his focus has turned away from God and on himself. In verse 4 we find him sitting under a juniper tree praying that he might die. He has had enough and is feeling sorry for himself! I'm sure he has started feeding on a diet of lies that Satan began to deliver. Elijah has had enough, he has worked hard, His self worth is depleted as he compares himself to his ancestors. He has reached a place in his heart where he can go no further. He has tasted some self-sufficiency, He is mentally, spiritually, and physically tired. The enemy swoops in when he is weak and begins to play with his emotions. Dropsy! He lies under the tree and falls asleep! Depression and paralysis makes you want to close your eyes and cover your head.
I love the next few verses! (vs. 5) Our sweet Lord, all at once, sent an angel to encourage him to get up and eat. He had provided hot bread and water. Nourishment for his body! Rest for his soul. My physical need often needs to be met before other needs. Yours? Then the angel came a second time, reminding him to get up and eat and showing compassion states that the journey is too much for you. In other words, He was encouraging him to eat more and nourish himself for the long journey ahead. When we are in a state of paralysis, tired & weary, we must remember not to neglect nourishment provided by the Lord. He is not finished with us, yet! We need to be feasting on the promises of God. That is where we find our hope.
"Christian hope is when God has promised that something is going to happen and you put your trust in that promise. Christian hope is a confidence that something will come to pass because God has promised it will come to pass."
~ John Piper
So I ask again, "What are some of the promises of God that can help move us from a state of being paralyzed to that of productivity?" State them aloud right now. I have listed some incase you need a little help.
2 Peter 1:4
And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.
Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion.
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.
And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.
No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
But all who listen to me will live in peace, untroubled by fear of harm.”
“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Stand on these promises, claim them as your own. Write your own list of promises from the Scriptures and pull them out when you find yourself sinking low. Be mindful of your work for the Lord. Build in times to let your soul breathe. Beware of depleting yourself for that is when the enemy strikes the hardest! Feed on God's promises not Satan's lies. You will find that you can move through the "PigPen cloud" of taunting tasks without them overtaking you. It will soon dissipate and fall under your feet and your heart will be lifted up and filled with joy!
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