Friday, June 9, 2017

Paper Chains

Sometimes when I get myself into a conversation about something Scriptural, I can make myself dizzy. One thought leads to the next, and one verse sparks the memory of another, and before I know it, I don't remember where I started or how I ended up where I finished.

Often times when I am reading, the same thing happens. Rapid fire thoughts are going out in all directions and I can't write them quickly enough to make something coherent out of it. But today I tried something different. I made a circle.

My memory verse this week has been 1 Peter 4:12-13. Each day I write it out in my journal and then write something down about it that clarifies it further or applies to my current set of circumstances. Writing it has helped me memorize further, writing about it has opened my eyes to the deeper things God is trying to teach me.

Not coincidentally, I read a devotional this morning that was the second part of my circle. I ended up with five segments that I could name by the time I was done. I'll have to see how many I end up with by the time I'm done writing.

We all go through fiery ordeals. But the reality is a fire is what refines us because it burns out the things we don't need and only leaves what's actually worth something. And the truth is, these fires are a blessing. Because it is only through them that we can truly learn to trust God for what he is ultimately doing in our lives to achieve for us an eternal glory. But God, in his infinite wisdom, doesn't just give us these things, he asks us to do something with them: consider them pure joy. Why? Because they produce perseverance that ultimately makes us complete and not lacking anything. But here's the real kicker. He has given us a great high priest that can empathize with us because he endured it all in the first place and is willing to help us out as we go through it ourselves. It's like the ultimate open-book, open-note test. And even when we feel like giving up, when we don't think we can take one more step, or try one more time, he promises to use his strength to perfect our weaknesses.

Now, I am not a gardener or a farmer. In fact, I could kill a plastic plant. But if there's one thing I do know, it's that in order to grow well, plants need to be well cared for and fertilized. And if you've ever driven by a farm in the summer with your windows rolled down, you know exactly what 'that smell' is when it hits your nose. But that material is what makes the soil rich to grow amazing, tall, fruitful crops. And the sad reality is, in order to get those kind of results in our life, we have to go through some of it, too. But when we see the results, that's when we get to be overjoyed because his glory is being revealed.

This is what Ann Voskamp has been teaching me. It's easy to give thanks in and for the good stuff. But can we learn to give thanks for the hard stuff? Like when the car has an insane repair bill, when the blender breaks, and the cell phone dies all in a two week time frame. Or when we got a ridiculous assignment, on the same day we got our braces, and our mouth hurts so badly we can't eat. Or even when the phone call comes that says more tests are needed and you don't know if you can handle getting your hopes up one more time that THIS time could be THE time that everything goes back to the way it should have always been.

The fiery ordeals aren't easy. But we don't go through them alone. And for every single one I've gone through, I've ended up in a much closer relationship with God because of it. That alone has made it worth it every time, but it never ends there. The blessings of it never stop coming because the faith that was built up keeps getting stronger as I take a moment to meditate on all of his wonderful works and proclaim his great deeds. He sets us up for success, we just have to be willing to follow him and participate.

I don't know if you are going through something horrid right now, if you just came out of it, or if something is just around the corner. But wherever you find yourself in proximity to the flames, hold tight to the fact that you are not alone and that it is for this very purpose he is raising you up to show you his power. And as he takes you through, he opens his arms wide to be your source of refuge and will renew your strength until you are soaring like an eagle.

Lord, you never waste any of it. You use it all in the most astonishingly creative ways. Help us learn to trust you even when it all hits the fan and makes what looks like a terrible mess. Because what we might see as scattered waste, is your way of making the soil fertile everywhere to leave us with a well tended garden of beauty and fruit. We praise you for your faithfulness, goodness, and love. Amen.

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