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Desperately Seeking – Part 1

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Consider the heavens!

Consider the heavens, so far up above, consider and see the height of His love.

In that great truth, what truth I now see: That my Father in Heaven, He loves even me!

Psalm 103, verse 11, kindled the above thoughts. By “great truth” I mean that God’s love for those who fear Him is as great as the height of the heavens. By the “truth I now see”, I mean that His measureless love includes me.

The heavens declare His glory and His love for us. (Psalm 19:1) Whether I look at the inverted bowl of indigo that is the night-time sky or the majestic clouds that float, like mountains, in the celestial blue of the day-time sky, the distance between me and the Creator of the universe discomposes my soul. How can God, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, love me? How can the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob say to me “Behold, I am with you, and will keep (watch over you with care, take notice of) you wherever you may go. . . “ (Genesis 28:15) (AMPC)

He is looking for those who desperately look for Him. Psalm 53:2 tells us “God looked down from heaven upon the children of men to see if there were any who understood, who sought (inquired after and desperately required) God.” (AMPC) Note the word “desperately.” How wonderful to think that God is looking for people who desperately seek Him. That includes me!

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These last few months, I have needed awareness of God’s presence more than ever before. I have sought God, needing His strength to calm my emotions, to help me think the right thoughts, and do things I need to do as He and I reclaim the life the enemy tried to steal through months of dark depression. Learning to remain aware of my loving Father’s presence has brought emotional stability. He is always with me, I know, but for far too many months, awareness of His presence was as changeable as waves in the wild wind. So I have been seeking Him–desperately requiring Him–every day.

            “Seek” means to inquire and require God. The Amplified Classic Bible includes words and phrases (set off by parentheses, dashes, commas, and brackets) that speakers of the original language would have implicitly understood as part of the meaning of the words. In Psalm 24:6, the word “seek” is followed by “. . . [inquire of and for Him and of necessity require Him] As I explored how to seek God, I pondered these words in brackets. I saw that seeking God means to inquire of Him, to investigate, or ask for information from God. Seeking God means to ask God for God Himself. And, seeking God means to require, or actually need, Him.

This is what I have been doing in recent months. Because fear and gloomy feelings often seemed so close, I was driven to:

  • Inquire of Him–asking Him questions through exploring His Word,
  • inquire for Him–asking for Him to be with me, and to
  • actually need Him–telling Him I must have His presence as my “greatest need.” (Psalm 22:26)

Ways to find God’s presence. Do I do seek Him perfectly? By no means! Do I still get stuck in feelings sometimes? Yes! However, desperately seeking His presence has provided training in some habits of hand and heart that consistently bring the blessed peace of His presence. It still takes a while sometimes to regain my peace, but He never fails.

I strive to keep these ways of seeking God’s presence sincere and authentic, lest they become mere ritual or tradition. I also strive to keep my heart pure as to why I seek God–because I love Him, need Him, and want to seek Him for the sake of others, not to avoid tasks I know I need to do or to avoid consequences of my actions or failure to act.

Below is a list of some ways to find God’s presence that I have discovered so far. I plan to write more about each of these ways in the coming days.

You will find God’s presence in:

  1. Meeting His requirements. Have clean hands and a pure heart, do not worship idols (be sure God is first in your life), and never tell lies (Psalm 24:4, NLT) Such people, Psalm 24:6 tells us such people may seek God and worship in His presence. We have to meet God’s first requirement first, before we seek His presence.
  2. Trusting, obeying, and doing good. Psalm 37:3 in the NLT says, “Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.” Our work, as a Christ-follower, is to actively trust God and to do good. Regarding trust, God teaches us about trust over and over in His Word. Regarding doing good, no matter the limitations of our life, there is always some good we can do for others if we will ask God to show us. And as I have heard so often and found to be so very true, doing good for others helps me because it gets my mind off myself. When I focus on doing something good for someone else, I am living like Jesus and that pleases God.
  3. Asking for His presence. Ask Him for awareness of His presence. 2 Chronicles 15:2 says, “. . . the Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him [inquiring of and for Him, craving Him as your soul’s first necessity], He will be found by you . . . “
  4. Absorbing His Word. Devour God’s Word and think about His Word all day long. (Psalm 119:97) Read all of Psalm 119 to see some of the benefits of loving the Bible and keeping God’s truth in the forefront of our minds all day long. Psalm 1 promises if we “. . .delight in the law of the LORD, meditating on it day and night. . . “ we will be like “trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. God says our “leaves will never wither”, and we will prosper in all that we do. Some effective ways to get God’s Word into your heart are to read the Bible, STUDY the Bible, listen to sound teaching and preaching, ponder it as you go about your daily life, memorize as much as you can, and talk with God about His Word.
  5. Talking to Him. Just talk to Him—all day long! Perhaps you have heard of the classic book “The Practice of the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence? Written in the 17th century, this small book shows us how to be aware of God’s presence throughout the day. A big part of that is simply by talking to God as we go about our everyday tasks of life.
  6. Thanking Him!. Give God the thanks He deserves! Psalm 34:1 says, “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” When I remember to thank God, for even the tiniest things, it gets my mind on Him and reminds me of His love for me and of His indescribable power. My attitude always improves, no matter what the situation might be when I sincerely look for ways to tell my loving Father thank you.
  7. Praising Him! Psalm 100:4 tells us “Enter His gates with thanksgiving. Go into His courts with praise (NLT).” And Psalm 22:3 tells us that God lives in the praises of His people. Praising is saying good things about what a person does or is. Praising God is expressing our love for God and our awareness of His flawless character.
  8. Worshipping Him! Praising and worshipping God are both essential. Praising is to love God with our words. Worship, however, is to love God with our life, to love Him so much that we are devoted to Him. You have likely heard “He worships the ground she walks on,” or vice versa. That is how we are to feel about God—passionately, crazily, head-over-heels in love with Him.
  9. Music, ah, music! God touches the human soul through music. Ephesians 5:19 tells us to “Speak out to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, offering praise with voice [and instruments] and making melody with all your heart to the Lord.” Listening to and singing along with music affects our emotions. I recommend listening to music often during the day and singing along, with all your heart! I have found that singing and humming to the Lord makes me happy. Though I am by no means a gifted singer, I know God delights to hear my voice, as a parent delights in the sound of a child’s voice.
  10. Enjoying nature. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” (Psalm 19:1, NIV) Few words are necessary about this topic. We all respond to the beauty of earth, sky, sea, and God’s creatures. Connect often with nature, in whatever form it is available to you, even if it is just sitting on your apartment steps and gazing at the stars in a sliver of sky or pausing to observe a black-capped sparrow chirping in the bushes outside your office building. Ask and God will reveal  tokens of His beauty and His love revealed in creation no matter where you are. Image result for Free Picture of Sparrow in Bush
  11. Taking care of your health the best you can. I have learned, the hard and painful way, that when I neglect to care for my body, including getting adequate rest, I have a hard time being aware of God’s presence. That is also when it is difficult to lift up my shield of faith against the flaming arrows of the enemy. When I neglect my body, which is God’s earthly dwelling place, I dishonor and disobey God. And surely it must make Him sad. Have you seen small children frantically resisting the nap they desperately need? God, the perfect parent, longs to take you in His loving arms and give you rest—for your body, mind, soul and spirit. And He wants you to follow a healthy lifestyle.
  12. Pressing on in your personal spiritual growth. This last is related to the first item in this list: keep God first in your life. I have found that in doing things God has shown are important, I feel His presence. If I neglect those things, a downward spiral starts and it becomes harder to find His peace until I go back where I disobeyed, repent, and start over. Hebrews 12 tells us that God trains us for our good, that we may “share in His holiness.” (Romans 12:10b, NIV)

God will help us! In 2 Chronicles 16:9 (NLT), God tells us “The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him . . .” To me, that means that no matter where you are on this earth, if your heart is fully committed to Him, God is searching for you, to strengthen you. What a comfort! Image result for free clipart of child in father's arms

As we explore these ways to draw near to God, we can know He will strengthen us and help us. What a loving heavenly Father we have! I say with the psalmist in Psalm 34:1 (NIV) “I will extol the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips!”

 

 

Four truths about those pesky feelings

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A beautiful morning but . . .  This 42 degree, overclouded morning, I stood with my daughter and son-in-law as my kindergartener grandson, costumed as Ralph S. Mouse and my first-grader (Tock the dog), along with 200 other schoolchildren marched around the freshly-mulched schoolgrounds for the Book Character Parade. Parents sipped coffee from go mugs and shared stories of last-minute costume disasters. I silently thanked God for the blessing of being close to my family. Happiness warmed me from the inside out. But it began to fade as I parted from my family. Those old self-doubts and fear began to spin. Uh oh! By God’s grace, I stopped them as I recalled four truths about feelings.

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[1] Negative feelings are part of normal life. Having negative feelings does not mean you are not healed. Every human being has problems. I so appreciate Joyce Meyer and other great Bible teachers who share that they, too, battle thoughts and feelings – daily! When negative thoughts and feelings surface as we move away from entrenched mental and emotional habits, we may think: “Oh, no! I am still depressed (or anxious, or whatever else) But the truth is every human has normal ups and downs, positive and negative feelings and everything in between. I Corinthians 10:13 tells us that every temptation and problem we face is something other humans do, too. This morning, I remembered to remind myself: Thoughts and feelings like this are normal. Everyone feels a bit sad when parting from loved ones. This little sad feeling does not mean anything is wrong. Calm down. Feelings cannot hurt me.

[2] Living by feelings brings darkness and death but living by faith brings light and life to my soul and spirit.  Psalm 34:5 explains that “Those who look to Him for help will be radiant with joy. . . ” (NLT) I can focus on one thing at a time. If I think about God and His goodness, I experience His joy. If I think about myself, my mind is not on God and easily sinks down into fleshly habits. While in the pit, I made two mistakes in handling feelings:  constantly checking feelings, and letting feelings determine what I did. I am tearing down those strongholds!

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[3] Monitoring feelings keeps you stuck in them. When I left my family this morning and faced the rest of the day alone,I felt sad.Out of habit, my mind at once focused on the sadness. I wondered “How am I feeling? Down? Fearful?” Like being tied to an anchor by a chain I had grown numb to, my thoughts circled, going nowhere, looking downward into my inner self.

But by God’s grace, He is exposing this habit day by day for me. He is helping me do what I cannot do myself. As I do my part, He is doing His part. As I have been faithfully looking into the mirror of God’s Word, He is showing me what needs to change. (James 4:22-25.)  and He is giving me His strength to do what He tells me to do.

[4] Feelings should not determine your actions. Philippians 2:12c-13 tells us: “Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. (13) For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.” (NLT) Now, when I see I have focused on feelings, I choose not to let them control my life.

I deliberately start repeating a Scripture, out loud if possible, I remind myself of His promises to care for me and I look for something to do for Him, no matter if I still feel afraid or sad or whatever. I smile at the person standing next to me and say something positive, I do the next task in my hands at work as unto Him or, if alone, I smile up at God, pray for someone and choose to honor God by trusting Him to take care of my heart (and its sometimes pesky feelings) as–in proportion to—my depending upon Him! Psalm 33:22 “Let Your mercy and loving-kindness, O Lord, be upon us, in proportion to our waiting and hoping for You.”

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It still takes effort but keeping my mind fixed on Him gets easier every day. I pray it does for you, too, dear friend, no matter what may try to steal your joy! May we both be radiant with joy as we look to Him for help!

Run at fear – with praise and thanksgiving!

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Facing fear exposes it. All day yesterday, I struggled with anxiety, painfully unlearning the wrong way and relearning the right way to respond to fear. When I got to work, I knew I felt anxious but I kept vaguely thinking about it all day long. I remembered several times to quote a Scripture but fearful thoughts popped up repeatedly, thoughts like “You are never going to be really free of fear, your health is getting worse, your finances . . ..”

As evening approached, I was weary and still thinking about (and thus feeling) the fear. Yuk! All day long, that stinking fear had dived back into the depths of my thoughts, like some oversize fish running around the bottom of an aquarium stirring up all the dirty stuff hidden by gravel. Because I had not clearly identified fear and exposed it, it had grown.

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What you focus on grows. Thinking about something grows it, as surely as water grows plants (or weeds!). For most of yesterday, I repeated a mistake made for many months. I actually meditated, or pondered, the fearful, negative thoughts, and they had grown. Yuk again!

Identify the negative then run at it!  One technique I learned during group counseling was to be mindful of, or to face, negative feelings, rather than automatically running from them and then doing something to numb the emotion. It is like David running at the giant Goliath. (I Samuel 17:1-54).

For me, as a believer, facing fear means stopping to talk to God about it. So, this morning when I got up and began to feel shaky again, I prayed:

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“Dear Father, I confess I am feeling afraid again. Please forgive me if I have done something to cause this fear and show me how to change it. Yet, I know You died so that I might have a blessed, joyful, wonderful life (John 10:10), so I thank You for that, Lord! I praise You that You have made the way to conquer all my problems. Lord Jesus, You said I will have problems in this world but I am to rejoice and be happy because You have overcome the world! (John 16:33) Thank You, Lord, for teaching me how to have right thoughts. Thank You for helping me meditate on Your word. Thank You that I can go to the gym this morning, be friendly, pray silently for everyone I see and know my prayers make a difference. Thank You for enabling me to exercise and keep my earthly tabernacle healthy, thank You, Lord . . . “

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Two powerful spiritual weapons: (1) Praise, and (2) giving thanks. God inhabits the praise of His people. Psalm 22:3 tells us that God is “. . . enthroned on the praises of Israel.”(NLT) God is with us when we praise Him. What a privilege! I believe one reason God tells us to praise is that when we talk about how powerful and loving and faithful God is, it reminds our human minds of truths that our all too human flesh tempts us to forget.

And in First Thessalonians 5:16 God tells us to “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (NLT).  When we choose to trust that God has good plans for us even when our circumstances seem hard, it makes a powerful statement in spiritual realms.

Long-standing problems can be overcome.  In learning from my mistakes, God is mercifully training, or disciplining, me (Please, please study Hebrews 12:6-13!) He is training me because He loves me and wants to “ . .  strengthen and harden me to difficulties” (Isaiah 41:10).

Truly, as the song says, He is a good, good Father!

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No matter how it seems

No matter how it feels, no matter how it seems

God has given grace to shatter Satan’s schemes.

No foe can fight against you, no enemy arise

That can stop God’s mighty warrior, eyes fixed upon the prize!

Press on! By grace, in faith, pursue!

Let God complete His work in you!

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No matter how it seems. When I wrote that 11 months ago, I thought my struggle with depression must surely be nearly over. However, I did not start climbing out of that pit for another nine agonizing months. I learned the truth of Isaiah 54:17: “But no weapon that is formed against you shall prosper . . . “ I grappled under a dark and heavy cloud for many months. Although it seemed hopeless, God came through as I kept trying to do my part. I use the word try to emphasize that I usually did not feel I was succeeding.

No foe will succeed. During those months, Proverbs 2:7 reassured me: “He holds victory in store for the upright, He is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for He guards the course of the just and protects the way of His faithful ones.” (NIV). Well, it did not feel like I was on my way to victory! But feelings and circumstances do not matter. What matters is truth. One blessed truth is:  God promises victory if we live upright, blameless lives. And if we press on!

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Fix your eyes on the prize! (Philippians 3:13-14) I did not understand why the darkness seemed to deepen but I held to the truth that God loved me, I kept seeking God for help, and, I did everything He showed me. With hindsight, I see that I was standing firm in the Lord and keeping my eyes focused on Jesus. (Please pause to ponder Philippians 3:1 – 4:1).

God will complete what He begins. The apostle Paul writes that he is thanking God for the believers at Philippi because he was “ . . . confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:3-6, NIV) That is another verse I white-knuckled. God repeats that thought in Psalm 57:2 “I cry out to God Most High, who fulfills His purpose for me.”

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Hold fast to His hand. Dear friend, no matter what you struggle with, hold fast to His truth and press on with your life, leaning your entire heart upon Him. His mercy and loving kindness are with us “. . . in proportion to our waiting and hoping for Him.” (Psalm 33:22, Amplified Classic)

Nearer Each Day to You. . . What More Do I Need, Lord?

At our monthly prayer team meeting tonight, we will sing the song at this link http://bit.ly/1VcXlhr  One of the prayer team leaders, sent the link on Saturday, when I was struggling, again, with trusting God that I could actually do all the things successful authors  “have” to do today.

I had gotten up early, enjoyed a leisurely extra cup of coffee, pondering God and His ways and looking out the window at my little collection of plants on the porch and at the beautiful tree just beyond my porch.  I had a long to do list – work on revising my keywords for both blogs,  search the web for more information about publishing electronically, read and make notes on the three library books I have checked out on blogging and publishing. . . and on and on.

My beautiful view on Saturday mornings with the Lord
My beautiful view on Saturday mornings with the Lord

All I really wanted to do was write, all day long, like I did years ago, after Sharon grew up and before I returned to school.  But the folks who have successfully published multiple ebooks and who are making a profit by telling us all how to do the same, keep saying the same thing:   writers cannot just write anymore.  They have to work on their own publicity — use Facebook, Twitter, do public speaking engagements, use special marketing techniques to “drive” readers to your website, and on and on and on.

I doggedly worked on some of all that for three hours Saturday and then went for a short walk.  I was then so tired, in mind and body, that I accidentally napped for four hours and woke up just in time to watch the news.  Oh well, I thought.  I tried.

Later that night, just before I went to bed early so I could  get up Sunday morning to pray before services, I saw the email with the link to that song.  Trust finally broke through the fog.

Forgive me, Lord, for letting worry, and self effort, steal much of our joy together on this Saturday, the day You and I have together to write and think and just be together.  Lord, I will keep trying to do some of the things people are saying are necessary for a writer in today’s world.  But I am mainly going to just write, because I know that is my true calling from You.  I feel Your touch on my heart when we write. Thank You for that!

I am going to trust You to make my feeble efforts at publicity work because I simply do not have time to do a lot of that and be with my grandsons and also do the writing itself.  Even if only a few people ever read what You and I write together, I will have fulfilled the call You put on my life, so I will be very, very joyful about that.

Writing. . . a priceless gift from God
Writing. . . a priceless gift from God

Thank You once again, dear dear Father, for Your guidance and for showing me over so many years that I can trust You.  If this plan is wrong, then please show me.  But, regardless, Lord, thank You for this gift You have given.  Empower me to use it totally for Your Kingdom and for Your glory. I love You so much!