When Yes to God Means No

“Be on guard.  Stand firm in the faith.  Be courageous.  Be strong.  And do everything in love.”  I Corinthians 16:13-14

Kicking and screaming in 2007.  Like a disobedient and overwhelmed toddler drama queen, that’s how my heart responded to the circumstances I found myself in.  And no choice.  No way out.  Really God?  I mean, hadn’t He given me enough in the past year?  A husband deployed to Iraq for a year, a senior in high school applying to colleges, a daughter getting married in the summer, a junior higher with a bad case of mono and a cancerous lesion on her shoulder needing surgery?  And now I was supposed to move to Germany?  Leave two daughters and aging parents an ocean away?  We were to ship our car and household goods, saunter back and forth across the entire country for the wedding, drop our daughter off at the college dorm curb and move to Europe.  All within 2 weeks.  I felt abandoned.  I didn’t know how to physically do it, much less emotionally readjust to a husband who had spent the last year in a war zone and say goodbye to two daughters at once.  I wrung my heart out to God, “Why have you abandoned me?”

The next Sunday, I took my angry heart to our military chapel with our two youngest daughters.  Another well-meaning military wife had just encouraged me, “Oh, you’ll love Germany!”  I didn’t want to hear it again.  Not one more time. How could they understand?  And why was I attending a place of worship?  I sat during the singing, arms folded tightly.  Don’t. talk. to. me.  The  chaplain took his place in front of the congregation.  What he said next I’ll never forget.

“I had a sermon all prepared, and last night, God told me to change it.  There’s someone or maybe several people in here who feel like God has abandoned them.  And so, today, my message for you is: God has not abandoned you.”

I’d like to say that after that glimpse- into- eternity encounter, my heart changed completely.  It didn’t.  Yet this God of grace took the screaming toddler inside of me and held me close.  He did not condemn. He held my hand across the country and back, at the wedding, and on the dorm curb.  He took it again as we crossed the Atlantic Ocean.  I learned that saying yes to God means saying no to me.

I have met many women who live out extraordinary circumstances in what may appear to some as mundane existence.   Some reside in small towns where they were born and will probably live out the rest of their lives.  Some don’t know where to call home because the military has moved them so much. Others press on in ministry, whether it be in rural churches or urban soup kitchens. Women who have turned their palms up and said, “Yes, God!” with bowed hearts to the Creator, even though they may not understand His ways.  Women who may never be well-known by the world’s definition of fame, but by exemplifying strong faith inspire others to follow Christ with abandon.

The beautiful, energetic Army wife whose second son was born with Downs Syndrome.  She and her husband named him William for William the Conqueror.  And he conquers milestones.  His optimistic, hilarious mother handles her life with grace, humor and thanksgiving.  She said “no” to self-pity. Yes, God.

The mother of 2 young children and a husband who is gone literally half the year who stays home to give her family stability.  She and her husband have an intentionality about their marriage than I don’t see in relationships where both people are home 24/7.  She said “no” to the pressure of needing more. Yes, God.

A woman who works as a children’s speech pathologist, mostly with at risk families in poverty.  She considers her position a calling, regularly praying over her patients and asking for intercession- that God would intervene in their lives and that she can be the hands and feet of Jesus.  She said “no” to doubt.   Yes, God.

The church planter’s wife with a passion for Jesus and His Word who wonders every day, “Who will you put in my path to introduce Jesus to? When will You establish this church?”  She homeschools 3 kids, clings to God’s promises with her husband, stands firm and shows courage.  She said “no” to things seen, believing in the things hoped for. Yes, God.

A young teenage girl over 2000 years ago who met an angel and was told she would bear Emmanuel, Jesus, conceived by the Holy Spirit.  Literally, breath.  God chose her because she was an ordinary girl-woman whom He knew would say yes.  She said “no” to needing all the immediate answers.  Yes, God.

Ordinary women.  Extraordinary faith.  What can we learn from those that God has called to say no to say YES to Him?








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It Is Not Death to Die

Several years ago, a book made its rounds in popularity in Protestant circles.  The book?  Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret.  In simple explanation, Hudson Taylor was a missionary to China in the 19th century.  He founded the China Inland Mission, which is still in existence today as Overseas Missionary Fellowship International.  But Hudson Taylor’s influence has been anything but simple. He inspired generations of Christians to live in abandonment to the gospel message of grace found in Jesus Christ.  Because of his impact and evangelism, several other British men gave their lives to Christ and took His message worldwide.  Sadly, I am finding that more and more people have not even heard of Hudson Taylor or know very little about his life.

Last night I began reading It Is Not Death to Die : A New Biography of Hudson Taylor, a book that my husband thought I would enjoy.  I barely finished three pages, and I was filled with a stirring heart, memories of the passionate conversations with friends when we were in young adulthood, a summer mission trip to Japan and China.  We stood on the Great Wall with an open Bible and prayed for the country that was home to at least 25% of the world’s population.  We prayed that the grace and love of Christ would break the bondage of godless communism.  This immature Christian college student returned to the States changed forever, sensing an urgent call to full time ministry.  I thought I would become a missionary to China.  God had other plans.  Yet in the past couple of years, the urgency has returned…to share the truth in a world that desperately cries out in the midst of turmoil.  Jesus Christ is the only constant.  Jesus Christ does not change.

May I encourage you to read this biography?  It opens with an excerpt from Hudson Taylor’s writings at a time when he was feeling forgotten by the Christian world and confined to bed because of a fall he had suffered, leaving him practically paralyzed for a time :

“If God has called you to be really like Jesus in your spirit, He will draw you into a life of crucifixion and humility, and put on you such demands of obedience that He will not allow you to follow other Christians ; and in many ways He will seem to let other good people do things that HE will not let you do … Others may brag on themselves, on their work, on their success, on their writings, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing; and if you begin it, HE will lead you into some deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all your good works.  Others may be allowed to succeed in making money, but it is unlikely that God will will keep you poor, because He wants you to have something far better than gold, and that is a helpless dependence upon Him, that He may have the privilege (the right) of supplying your needs day by day out of an unseen treasury.  The Lord will let others be honored and put forward, and keep you hidden away in obscurity, because He wants some choice fragrant fruit for His coming glory which can only be produced in the shade…

The Holy Spirit will put a watch over you, with a jealous love, and will rebuke you for little words and feelings or for wasting your time, over which other Christians never seem distressed.  So make up your mind that God is an infinite Sovereign, and has the right to do as He pleases with His own, and He may not explain to you a thousand things which may puzzle your reason in His dealings with you…

Settle it for ever that you are to deal directly with the Holy Spirit, and that HE is to have the privilege of tying your tongue, or chaining your hand, or closing your eyes, in ways that He does not deal with others.  Now when you are so possessed with the Living God, that you are in your secret heart pleased and delighted over the peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship of the Holy Spirit over your life, you will have found the vestibule of heaven.”

It is my prayer that anyone who happens upon this page will find encouragement and the kindling to keep the fire going.

In His love,

 


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Be Present

Obedience.

Do I comprehend how a simple act ripples like a finger dipped in water?  How it disturbs the inertia and sets the physical into motion?  HE created it to be that way, you know.  Just as water can’t remain still when gravity pulls out or down or a hand interrupts the shower from a spout, our obedience intervenes the oblivion of fear.

God asks me not to be caught in the lying web of the “have to.”  God asks me to resist the tyranny of the virtual and be present.  Because this

Becomes this
and this
becomes this
 
Overnight.
 
And the sun comes up and the sun goes down and you can’t stop time.  You can’t. stop. time.
Hands held tight round the dinner table.  Laughter so hard our kids snort milk.  Green beans hidden in napkins.  Yellow school bus and waving hands. 
 
Brave kindergarten smiles.
Brave college smiles.
Tears and toasts and weddings.
The echo of Michael and Maile’s love
begins the song of another generation.
 
Can we ever turn the hands of the clock back?  
 
“A person’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.” Job 14:5
 
YES, Lord, to being present.

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Obedience Rather Than Sacrifice

The last two weeks of my life have been spent with my new grandson, Michael. My daughter and son-in-law live in Brevard, North Carolina, nestled in a valley of the Blue Ridge Mountains. They have lived in western Carolina for almost 5 years now, and these mountains have become a sabbatical for me. Every time I visit, I discover a new place to experience the very presence of God. This time, it was in a waterfall glen about a mile hike from the road. Transylvania County (great name, isn’t it?) has more waterfalls than any other county in the United States, and each one is unique, one rushing, another hundreds of feet high, most tumbling. But nothing prepared me for this quiet place of a slight steady stream of water cascading gently overtop a high, shallow cave indentation back in the Appalachian woods. For a few minutes, as I stood and looked at the waterfall, true silence surrounded me. No footsteps, no cars, no overhead airplanes, only the sound of God spilling gently into a wadable rock pool. I wanted to stay there all day and listen.

That water has no choice but to do what it is meant to do…run downstream somewhere. It obeys gravity. In that quiet place, God spoke to my heart about obedience. We do certain things, or at least I hope we do, every day, without thinking, that are a mark of obedience. We exercise restraint because of laws: stop at stop lights, follow the speed limit, especially though school zones when we see a police car. What if we saw God looking at us when we choose to disobey Him? Have you ever seen a toddler who is told to not do something and then he looks directly at his parents and does it anyway? Are we not like that at times with God? We know He is looking at us and prompting our souls not to do something and we do it anyway?

A wise woman I respect once sent a prayer request for the children of an ill mother who was in a coma, and in the request she included this: “pray that they will be obedient to God’s Word, because I am sure their mother would be praying the same thing for them.”

As I hold my 3-week-old grandson and have held my 4-month-old granddaughter Maile in Colorado, I pray many things for them. I pray that they will have a personal relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ, I pray that they will know that they are set apart for something special, I even pray for their future spouse. But I have also been praying that they will be obedient to Him and His Word. The troubles that we bring to our own life really can be traced back to this one and most difficult daily thing: obedience. It is true of my own life, and I see how my disobedience has affected others. And although I have studied about it, talked the good talk about it, and prayed for a heart for it, I don’t think I have truly practiced it.

“Now then if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be my own possession among all the peoples, for all earth is Mine.” Exodus 19:5


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