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Posts Tagged ‘strength’

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Chatting with a friend, it was clear that something had changed in her life, for I had never before known her to be so comfortable in her own skin.

As a matter-of-fact, she oozed confidence, joy and strength.

“What had caused the change?” I asked.

The answer was not a quick one, waiting on the tip of her tongue, but one that came from asking it of herself … again, and again. For her answer was not in an event or epiphany, but in a slow and gradual change from the inside out.

As we talked, I found myself suggesting different possible events and choices she had made, in the last year, or more. Each suggestion caused her to pause and not, but not in total agreement.

At last we discussed some of the more difficult things she had been through and experienced. The more we talked the more clear it was that life had actually been more challenging, more difficult, through this process of her metamorphosis. There were events and frustrations she had faced that might put many of us back in our beds with the blankets over our heads.

Finally I smiled at her, “I know what precipitated this changed! You chose bravery. You did the hard stuff, you faced the challenges and you kept moving forward.”

She smiled, reflecting on my words, but also reflecting on what had gone on in her life.

She was an overcomer, and doing that hard stuff, the uncomfortable stuff, challenging herself to keep going actually strengthened her, making her even more prepared to forge on when the next, even more difficult challenge presented itself.

Often in our society, today, we are gracious with ourselves, giving ourselves the permission to say no, to bow out and to not complete the tasks that are difficult. This is not all bad, but maybe, what we need to consider, is that it is through perseverance, through humility and through hardships that we condition ourselves, growing in strength as we commit to completing the challenge?

“A sense of weakness may bestir us to a bravery
which else we had not known.”
C.H. Spurgeon

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Weak Tea

Someone has said that a person’s strength is found when, like a tea bag, you are thrown into boiling hot water.

I would make weak tea.ee34ab1be8ce09f3eed04746a01e50cd

When I am in hot water

well

I simply become

weaker.

I would have made a great first responder, as I do great in stressful situations that pop up out of nowhere. I do not even think, I simply respond, adapting to whatever comes my way. Give me blood and physical brokenness, give me problem-solving, give me an emergency, I would be

clear, calm, cool at a cucumber.

But, the longer I am steeped in the hot water of brokenness in relationships, the weaker I become. I become weak to the point of motionless, lifeless.

As our three kids have grown and gotten older, I sometimes see that they too have been infused with the same weak leaves.

Like their weak mother, a shaky relationship, or conversation can break them, immobilize them making it nearly impossible to think of anything else. Oh, we are all good at compartmentalizing for a little while, but eventually our bag breaks, and our leaves end up sinking to the bottom of the tea cup.

My oldest daughter loves, what I call ‘gourmet’ tea. You know, the kind you buy by the pound, and it is not steeped in a bag, but in a metal diffuser. No leaves get out because of a broken bag. They are protected in their metal cage, and will not be settling to the bottom of the cup.

They are protected by the strength of the diffuser.

she_is_clothed_in-104184

The cloth around those precious tea leaves is what is supposed to hold them together, but it is so thin, so fragile.

To perform best, the leaves need to be surrounded by something stronger, like metal, because we are all infused with weakness.

We too need to recognize that our strength does not come from within ourselves, but what we have surrounding us, protecting us. It is what we are covered, clothed in that provides our strength.

Proverbs 31:25 tells us that “she is clothed in strength and dignity and laughs without fear of the future.”

The strength and dignity we have do not come from within, they are what Christ has provided by his love and sacrifice. As children of the Father God, we are protected by His loving hands. It is His hands that provide the strength and dignity that is available to us … but we do not always remember that.

Our own strength is weak, His covering us is what infuses strength.

No milk and sugar are needed.

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A few days ago I shared (Got a Dementor in Your Life?) that I had been learning all about Harry Potter, from my son who is loving his new-found adventure series. Well I am back to Hogwarts again, after watching The Chamber of Secrets movie the other evening.

The quote, above, spoken by the wise and kind Dumbledore (the name does not sound so wise) grabbed my attention, I was furiously jotting it down, when I heard it, so I would not forget (that is the stage I am currently living).

When I first heard it I thought …

ahhhh!

In a world where we are valued, promoted and given higher pay for our credentials, experience and strengths this quote immediately took me to an example of choice over ability in the Bible.

In Exodus, the story of God calling Moses into a position that required, not Moses’ abilities, but his choice to say yes.

In Exodus 3-4 the story of God speaking to Moses through a burning bush is told. God wants Moses to step up and lead the Israelite people … his people, from their bondage and slavery in Egypt.

“Then Moses said to the Lord, “But, Lord, I am telling you, I am not a good speaker. I have never been able to speak well. And that hasn’t changed since you started talking to me. I am still not a good speaker. You know that I speak slowly and don’t use the best words” … Moses said, “My Lord, I beg you to send someone else, not me.” (4:10, 13)

Ever said something similar? To God, or to another person? Something along the lines of “oh, I just couldn’t do that … I don’t have that skill, or gift, or enough education, or enough experience?”

God offers to send Aaron along with him as his personal assistant!

This is where Moses had received and offer that he simply could not refuse!

And he CHOSE to accept the job, fully aware that his choice was one made in faith, not made from the strength of his abilities.

Moses chose to move his family to Egypt, went to find Aaron, and they met the Israelite elders, Aaron speaking and Moses performing the miracles God had shown them. The Israelite people knew that Yehweh had sent them, and that their time of suffering was coming to an end.

Moses was successful because he CHOSE to obey, CHOSE to trust, CHOSE to have faith that God would do all that he said he would …

… no ability required.

 

 

 

 

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As a parent who believes in prayer, praying for my kids has been a regular thing since even before they were conceived.

One of the realities of prayer is that it is really more about me, than the one who I am praying for, as I do agree with C.S. Lewis who said, “prayer changes me” in this clip from his Shadowlands story.

But this is not something that I was fully aware of when I was a young mom. In the early days of motherhood I prayed, anticipating that God would grant my every request. Much like Santa with my gift list at Christmas time, I think that I subconsciously believed that if I was obedient to Him (kind of the equivalent to “being a good little girl”) then God would reward me by meeting my every wish and desire that was expressed in my prayers to Him. I may have even believed that I deserved to have my prayers answered.

When my children were young I prayed that they would grow up healthy, would make wise choices, and that they would be opened to God’s leading in their future decisions, especially surrounding their choice of friends, career and their choice of future spouse. These are all good, and I am not saying that I do not wish those things for them, but that I now wish even more for them.

The reality is that character rarely is developed without the exposure to temptation, life is not fully appreciated without the threat of or reality of loss, some of the best choices in life are made on the heels of the stupidest mistakes in our lives, love is rarely long lasting without enduring the struggles, and dependence on God rarely comes without a season of questioning His ways.

Really, the best things in our lives have often been born out of disaster, death and despair. Failures, mistakes and heartbreaks have a way of opening our eyes to what really matters to us, they have a way of drawing us to cling to God like nothing else.

I don’t pray for disaster for our kids, but I also have lived long enough to know that the greatest growth in life can come from the greatest difficulties. I also have lived long enough to know that life is hard, mistakes get made and difficulties will come to everyone in time.

Now I pray that they might have strength, grace and courage when the rough stuff of life happens, and that they might grow closer to their Heavenly Father through it all.

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Sick

I had a “to do” list to accomplish, as we all do, so as stay on top of all that is demanded of us.

As the evening wore on fatigue was setting in quickly and with a dramatic vengeance. I knew that I would not be accomplishing much that I had planned for the evening.

By 8:30 I was crawling into bed with the hope that the early bedtime would help me ward off whatever it was that was causing the intense fatigue that I was feeling. It always amazes me how sleep can restore energy and health like nothing else. But my plan was not going to go as I hoped.

Despite the intense fatigue that took me to my bed early, sleep did not seem to want to find me. but shivering did, followed by a headache, followed by body aches. It was a night of little sleep, and much contemplation of how to get feeling better by morning, so as to not have to miss out on a day of work (especially since I had not finished my “sub.” plans yet), and all that was on my “to do” list.

By the morning I was aware that going to work was just not going to happen, due to how fatiguing it was just to walk to the kitchen. Even so, I thought that maybe I could get a head start on the mounds of laundry, if I was to be home all day.

The plans of my day, including work, my “to do” list and laundry, were not going to happen, as I could barely do more than walk from one room to the next, followed by a nap. The day was a wash. My plans were thrown out the window. Although I was home alone for much of the day, I was without the energy to do anything more than change channels on the television.

This day of being sick and having low energy reminded me of a verse in the Proverbs of the Old Testament (Proverbs 16:9):

“We plan the way we want to live,
but only God makes us able to live it.”

I had made my plans for my day at work, for my evening, and for the weekend to come. In an instant the plans I had made were changed. And I was reminded that “only God makes me able to live it.”

He is the wind beneath the sails of our life, and it is by Him, and due to Him that we are able to live our lives. He directs the pursuits that we make, it is He who gives fuel to our every move.

Even though I know that it is God who makes us able to live, I forget it. I rely on my own steam, forgetting that it is He who is the fire that produces that steam.

Being sick and unable to do anything on my own strength for a couple of days was a good reminder of where my strength really comes from. It was a reminder that I needed to have.

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When things are going good, when life is hiccup-free, when smiles abound there is a lightness to my step and to my soul that opens me up to a carefree spirit. I feel like singing the The Happy Song .

Those times are times of lightness, and freedom, and a feeling that I can do anything!

Then there are the other times. The I just can’t lift my head off the pillow times. The I just want this day to be over before it has barely begun. The days when I feel like Atlas with the weight of the world on my shoulders, except that I do not have the strength that he has.

Those times are times of heaviness, and bondage, and a feeling that I can do nothing.

But …

When things are going well, and I think that I can do anything … I do, and I do it all in my own strength. I am a pretty independent person, and that independent spirit can come back to bite me in the butt. You see, my strength, it’s powered by me, and I do not have endless energy resources, so eventually all of the excitement of ‘I can do it’ fades.

When things are not going so well, and I am overcome with doubts and stresses, it is then that I know I cannot do it alone, and I lean on a far more viable energy source, my Creator God. And it is then that I soar like the eagles (instead of fly with the turkeys), because I have an undercurrent of endless momentum.

It is not an easy thing to do, but I am starting to realize the blessing of heartaches, disappointments and curses that this life inevitably hands over to us. My prayers are changing. I do not pray that God will protect and keep me from the ‘nasties’ of life, because I know that they are around any and every corner. Instead I pray that, through them, I might learn to rely more fully on God to get me through.

Thank you god for the heartaches,
the disappointments,
the fall on my face moments …
They make me cling to You like nothing else.
They make me yell and scream
and be more real more honest with You my Creator.
No joy,
no blessing
can make me yearn for and seek you.
It is only when I am at my weakest,
neediest place
that I fully rely on You,
and You alone.
Amen

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As I was recently walking a student through the story of Samson (Judges 13-16) I was reminded of how inhumanly strong Samson was, physically, and yet how humanly weak he was.

The story begins with a barren, childless couple. Like Mary, the mother of Jesus, this woman is informed by an angelic messenger that she is to give birth to a son who would be part of God’s plan. She is told that she should not drink any alcohol (the first written advise that would eliminate the possibility of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder), and that her son should never have a haircut.

The first recording of Samson’s post-womb life is that he saw a pretty lady and told his parents to get her for him as his wife. They were not so happy, because they were Israelites and she was a Philistine (think Red Sox vs. the Yankees), but they did it.

The story is worth a read, I could see a miniseries or major action film come from this story, mostly because of his desires for the pretty lady. Suffice it to say that many people died.

Then he falls in love with a woman named Delilah, and she is his sweetest downfall.

As the story of Samson progresses, the Philistine rulers offer Delilah a deal she cannot refuse … lots of money if she can find the secret of his strength. She accepts.

Samson meets with Delilah a number of times. Each time she asks him the source of his strength (imagine lots of blinking eyelashes, and pouty faces). Each time he tells her a lie, until the final time when he tells her that the source of his strength is his hair.

He blew it! He, who was set aside God from before he was conceived, blew it for a pretty face (I am sure the attraction did not stop at the face) … again! What happened next is rather ironic, as the Philistines gouged out his eyes … hum, kind of makes me think of Exodus 21:24, “an eye for an eye.” His strength may have been his hair, but his weakness was most certainly his eyes, especially his eye for attractive women.

Samson was shacked and working in the prison. This was the lowest point in his life, but he was finally using his brain rather than his lower extremities to think with.

The Philistines were partying, celebrating, and sacrificing to their god, when they had Samson brought out from the depths to ‘entertain’ them.

Samson saw this humiliation as an opportunity to redeem his life.

He asked the servant who was guiding him to place him between two pillars of the temple, so that he could touch each one. The temple was said to have about three thousand people in and on it. Samson asked God for strength once more. His last words were, “let me die with the Philistines” (16:30), then he pushed with all his might, and the temple came down on all who were there.

Like Jesus, the other angelically announced baby boy, he gave his life, so that others might live. Unlike Jesus, he was fully man, but not also fully God, and his weaknesses are as memorable as his strength. Also, unlike Jesus, his purpose was to redeem his people through physical strength and death. Whereas Jesus purpose was to redeem all people through his loving sacrifice.

Samson was thought to be strong, but was only his strongest when he was weak. Jesus was thought to be weak, but his weakest human point was when he was most strong.

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