Grace

It’s been a little over a year since I started this blog, and while I covered the topic of grace in my first post, I thought it was time I revisited it. God has been pouring out His grace on me in the last few weeks. Pouring out His grace–even though I’ve doubted, even though I’ve struggled, even though I couldn’t feel His presence. He’s been working on my heart and spirit though as I indicated the other day with my post about prayer. I had an idea about how He could answer my prayer, and that is what I was praying for.

But, when He told me I needed to change the prayer and I did so, things started to happen. No, my husband hasn’t found a job yet, but the blessings and the grace He has poured out have continued to astound me.  God is growing characteristics in me that needed to be sharpened and  refined in the fire such as patience, humility, understanding of others, and a true acceptance of grace. Things that we need are coming to us more rapidly than I can even type, and I find myself wanting to share them with others. None of this is being done with perfection and will not result in perfection, but I am rejoicing anyway because I have the “peace that passes understanding.”

I am going to end with the words of an old hymn.

Grace Greater than Our Sin

  1. Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
    Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
    Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
    There where the blood of the Lamb was spilled.

    • Refrain:
      Grace, grace, God’s grace,
      Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
      Grace, grace, God’s grace,
      Grace that is greater than all our sin!
  2. Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,
    Threaten the soul with infinite loss;
    Grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,
    Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.
  3. Dark is the stain that we cannot hide;
    What can we do to wash it away?
    Look! There is flowing a crimson tide,
    Brighter than snow you may be today.
  4. Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
    Freely bestowed on all who believe!
    You that are longing to see His face,
    Will you this moment His grace receive?

God’s blessings on all of you today!

The Words of a Prayer

As I wrote in my journal earlier, God, sometimes, needs to make things very simple for me, and He has done so this morning. I was not specific in the posts I made last week as to why I was struggling. I plan to be specific this morning, and it’s related to the words of a prayer.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but praying is difficult for me sometimes. It’s hard to know what to say. I wonder if that’s why Romans 8:26 – 27 was included in Scripture.

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

I think it might have to do with weakness. It’s not easy showing weakness to others. That might be why we call the church office with our prayer requests as opposed to sharing them within the body. It might be why we share them online as opposed to getting together with Christian friends and praying. Or it might be because we just do not know what to say, and we are afraid to be emotional or to appear selfish.

God has called me to something different though which requires specificity and honesty. Right now, my husband is unemployed for the second time in a year. I want to be clear. I don’t say this for any other reason except because it’s a fact. He has also been our sole income since I homeschool our younger son. In the last week though, I have picked up a part-time tutoring job which I hope will start bringing in some income quickly. Many of you have, more than likely, been through the same thing and have had the same fears. Fears of being homeless, fears of not being able to pay your bills, fears of being hungry, fears of what people are saying, fears of appearing selfish, or fears of not being able to stand strong in your faith.

These are all fears I have dealt with in the last few weeks. And, those fears, I think, have colored how I’ve prayed. Praying for my husband to find a job. Praying for his health which is what started this mess. Just praying, for God to bless our family. When He didn’t, that’s when I started to struggle.

But, God, who knows my heart better than I ever could, showed me my thinking was backwards in what I was praying for. And, this morning, He gave me the words to a prayer. A prayer that is more of a “safety net” than any safety net our society offers. A prayer of just two sentences that reflects our whole situation and puts the focus back where it needs to be–on my Lord and Savior. So, that prayer will be the prayer I offer as we walk through this fire. A prayer I will pray by myself, and a prayer I will pray in front of others.

Dear God, help me to trust you for our provision and for our stability. And help me to love others in your name.

God’s blessings on you today!

Quivering in the Corner

My writing time has been full and honest this week as I’ve searched and struggled. I know, for a fact, I don’t have it all together like some people I see at my church. Our pastor likes to say we are all dirt bags which I resonate with. I’m not trying to say these other people are perfect or think they are perfect, but they seem to have all their ducks in a row regarding faith where I see my faith and realize I’m just forming the first row. In the two previous posts I’ve made this week, this was a troubling thing for me. I didn’t feel like it was right that I had to search and struggle and that I had doubt, that God didn’t like it because I had doubt.

I’ve changed my mind about this though, mainly, for two reasons. One, because some psalms were read to me that said some of the same things I had been thinking. I read through all the psalms last year, and I’m starting to think I should do a read-through of that particular book of Scripture every year. There was one psalm in particular that didn’t even include a praise to God at the end, and He still included it in Scripture.  It is Psalm 38, one of David’s psalms. I am going to quote it here because it reflects what I’ve been thinking so well.

Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger
    or discipline me in your wrath.
Your arrows have pierced me,
    and your hand has come down on me.
Because of your wrath there is no health in my body;
    there is no soundness in my bones because of my sin.
My guilt has overwhelmed me
    like a burden too heavy to bear.

My wounds fester and are loathsome
    because of my sinful folly.
I am bowed down and brought very low;
    all day long I go about mourning.
My back is filled with searing pain;
    there is no health in my body.
I am feeble and utterly crushed;
    I groan in anguish of heart.

All my longings lie open before you, Lord;
    my sighing is not hidden from you.
10 My heart pounds, my strength fails me;
    even the light has gone from my eyes.
11 My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds;
    my neighbors stay far away.
12 Those who want to kill me set their traps,
    those who would harm me talk of my ruin;
    all day long they scheme and lie.

13 I am like the deaf, who cannot hear,
    like the mute, who cannot speak;
14 I have become like one who does not hear,
    whose mouth can offer no reply.
15 Lord, I wait for you;
    you will answer, Lord my God.
16 For I said, “Do not let them gloat
    or exalt themselves over me when my feet slip.”

17 For I am about to fall,
    and my pain is ever with me.
18 I confess my iniquity;
    I am troubled by my sin.
19 Many have become my enemies without cause[b];
    those who hate me without reason are numerous.
20 Those who repay my good with evil
    lodge accusations against me,
    though I seek only to do what is good.

21 Lord, do not forsake me;
    do not be far from me, my God.
22 Come quickly to help me,
    my Lord and my Savior.

Amazing! David thought the same things I have been thinking. So, if someone who was close to God’s heart thought the same things I’ve been thinking, it’s okay for me to think them.

The other reason I’ve changed my mind is because of a phrase I  was introduced to. This phrase is actually the title of this post–Quivering in the Corner.  It’s a beautiful picture of what my heart has been like. I have quivered because my wounds have been so great. I have quivered, not feeling like I could share my thoughts, even in prayer to God much less to anyone else. I have quivered because I felt like I needed to pretend. I have learned that God doesn’t want me to pretend though and that Jesus will sit with me while I quiver. I hope by being honest with my fears, with my wounds, and with my doubts, I will be able to help someone else know that it’s okay to quiver in the corner.

And now, for the phrase I’ve used since I started this blog, but one I have felt like I couldn’t use this week.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

Feeling Like a Fraud

This post is paired with the post I made on Sunday about the struggle I am having right now. If you are interested, go here to read. https://alisarussell.wordpress.com/2015/08/16/struggling-with-my-salvation/

So, where am I three days later? I am still struggling, still searching. I have wounds that are gaping wide open and bleeding, and I don’t know what to do about them.  No matter how much I try, they just won’t heal. I’ve tried to pray, to ask God for healing, and they still hurt. Nothing changes. Maybe that’s the point. Maybe nothing is supposed to change. But, then, where does that leave me?

There’s another thing. Before, when I’ve hurt for whatever reason, I’ve been able to hang onto to the cross that I’ve had around my neck. In the last three years, I have made a point of wearing that cross because it represented what had changed in my life — having God back in my home. Now, though, I’m not sure where God is, or even if He exists, so I feel like a fraud if I wear my cross. I feel like I’m proclaiming something I’m not sure I believe if I wear it.  So, since I feel like that and don’t wear my cross, another form of comfort is taken away from me.

I’ve been told I wrestle honestly with things. At least, I try to wrestle honestly. Growing up, I had more experience with putting up shields than wrestling honestly with what was happening in my life. I’ve come to a point though where I can’t do anything, but be honest. I want my faith to get back to where it was–something I am strong and sure about, but I’m not sure if it will. That is the most honest I know how to be.

I’m going to end with quoting a song by Tenth Avenue North. It’s called Hold My Heart, and it reflects how I’m feeling right now. A friend of mine posted it a few years ago, and I am grateful she put me on the track of something so beautiful and authentic. Here it is.

“How long must I pray
Must I pray to You
How long must I wait
Must I wait for You
How long till I see Your face
See You shining through

I’m on my knees
Begging You to notice me
I’m on my knees
Father, will You turn to me

One tear in the dropping rain
One voice in a sea of pain
Could the maker of the stars
Hear the sound of my breaking heart
One light, that’s all I am
Right now I can barely stand
If You’re everything You say You are
Won’t You come close and hold my heart

I’ve been so afraid, afraid to close my eyes
So much can slip away before I say goodbye
But if there’s no other way
I’m done asking why

‘Cause I’m on my knees
Begging You turn to me
I’m on my knees
Father, will You run to me, yeah

One tear in the dropping rain
One voice in a sea of pain
Could the maker of the stars
Hear the sound of my breaking heart
One light, that’s all I am
Right now I can barely stand
If You’re everything You say You are
Won’t You come close and hold my heart

So many questions without answers
Your promises remain
I can’t see but I’ll take my chances
To hear you call my name
To hear you call my name

One tear in the dropping rain
One voice in a sea of pain
Could the maker of the stars
Hear the sound of my breaking heart
One light, that’s all I am
Right now I can barely stand
If You’re everything You say You are
Won’t You come close and hold my heart
Hold my heart
Could You hold my heart
Hold my heart”

 

Struggling with my Salvation

The title of this post is something I never thought I would write, but it is something I am struggling with today. My salvation. I am in a dark place, one of the darkest places I have ever known. It has been one thing after another for the last six months, and I am at a point now where I am saying, “Enough!” I can’t seem to get a break, a break where things are normal, and my emotions are not sailing up and down. Part of me wants to say I wish I was with Jesus, but then the other part says I won’t be with Jesus because I can’t even do the things that are spelled out in Scripture. It’s an ugly place to be in. I read verse after verse which says to do whatever thing it says to do, and I realize I haven’t done it. I’m not capable of doing it. Those things which I felt more than capable of doing just a few weeks ago, I don’t feel capable of doing anymore. I just feel lost.

When I read verses like 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 which say, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Or a verse like Philippians 4: 6. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  I think of how I haven’t been able to do that, or how I’ve done that, and nothing has happened. That is what tears me apart.

There’s another passage in Matthew that brings me closer, I think, to the reason for some of the thoughts I’ve been having. It’s Matthew 6:25-27. “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”

The words about being more valuable to God than the birds stare out at me, and I realize I don’t consider myself valuable. A lot of that has to do with my background which I won’t get into, but, for the purposes of this post, all that needs to be said is because I don’t consider myself to be valuable, how could I possibly think God considers me valuable. That’s not a good place to be in either. And, then, if God doesn’t consider me valuable, why should he consider any of my prayer requests? It’s a question I can’t answer, but now I’ve put my feelings into words, and they’re not just in my heart anymore. Maybe putting them into words is what I needed to do so God could help me as I search and as I struggle. Maybe this is something that will help someone else too.