Tag Archives: struggle

Are You Discouraged?

Oswald Chambers

 

 

Oswald Chambers meditation:

. . . when Moses was grown . . . he went out to his brethren and looked at their burdens —Exodus 2:11

 

Moses saw the oppression of his people and felt certain that he was the one to deliver them, and in the righteous indignation of his own spirit he started to right their wrongs. After he launched his first strike for God and for what was right, God allowed Moses to be driven into empty discouragement, sending him into the desert to feed sheep for forty years. At the end of that time, God appeared to Moses and said to him, ” ’. . . bring My people . . . out of Egypt.’ But Moses said to God, ’Who am I that I should go . . . ?’ ” (Exodus 3:10-11). In the beginning Moses had realized that he was the one to deliver the people, but he had to be trained and disciplined by God first. He was right in his individual perspective, but he was not the person for the work until he had learned true fellowship and oneness with God.
We may have the vision of God and a very clear understanding of what God wants, and yet when we start to do it, there comes to us something equivalent to Moses’ forty years in the wilderness. It’s as if God had ignored the entire thing, and when we are thoroughly discouraged, God comes back and revives His call to us. And then we begin to tremble and say, “Who am I that I should go . . . ?” We must learn that God’s great stride is summed up in these words— “I AM WHO I AM . . . has sent me to you” (Exodus 3:14). We must also learn that our individual effort for God shows nothing but disrespect for Him— our individuality is to be rendered radiant through a personal relationship with God, so that He may be “well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). We are focused on the right individual perspective of things; we have the vision and can say, “I know this is what God wants me to do.” But we have not yet learned to get into God’s stride. If you are going through a time of discouragement, there is a time of great personal growth ahead.

Have you thought about discouragement in this way?

Your thoughts or comments are encouraged.

A Picture of Survival

Yesterday, we took this photo on a cell phone at Duff Park in Murrysville, PA. [I apologize for the low quality.]

I really wanted to share this because the image is a fantastic visual example of survival. Look carefully. The red square shows where the tree started. Perhaps some rocks gave way underneath it. Has that ever happened to you?

It seems that for some time the tree was pointed down, away from live-giving sunlight.

But what happened after years of struggle and persistence?

Growth. Survival. Resilience. Vigor. A Healthy (though precariously placed) Tree.

How can you survive when the bottom drops out? Grow up. 🙂

"I will survive," said the tree.

My prayer of thanksgiving: God, thank you for this example and inspiration from your created world.

What are your reflections, thoughts, or comments?

My ugly Confession.

I have a confession to make.

ambition while missing the point

 

In about 2 weeks, this blog site will be a year old. In the last 5-6 months, I’ve been trying pretty hard to write interesting, helpful, or entertaining stuff for this place, almost every single day. I’ve made fantastic contacts, great new friends, and I’ve had a good time doing it.

This is hard to admit, but, I have to confess, that I’ve been blogging mostly to build a larger reading audience. A little while ago my agent told me that I stood a good chance to have my material published, but the biggest obstacle was “lack of platform.” Lack of platform sort of means, not too many care who you are, or what you do. A successful blog can change that, and help a writer build this much-needed platform. I know there’s nothing shameful about writing a blog and hoping others read it, but my remorse at this moment is that I realize I have made it my means to an end. I’ve been holding so tight to this idea that I can generate a solid readership base to, as Pedro says, “make all my wildest dreams come true,” that I didn’t realize I was putting it before the whole point, which is to share myself and my God with others. In a real sense, I’ve thought of this blog as a vehicle to “get me somewhere,” and I’ve made it an idol. Sometimes I have said to myself, “Well, it’s really both, a vehicle and my ministry.” This may be true, and I hope things work out like this, but if my priorities or motivations shift weight, things get off balance. And they have been.

I stopped long enough for God to speak to my heart, and in my spirit, it seems “he” said, “Let it go.” I got a little panicky at first. “Completely? What? Huh? What ‘chu talkin’ ’bout Willis…er, Father in Heaven?”

Then it seemed like God nudged me, and “said,” “Don’t be such an extremist.” This threw in off a little. So, I sort of looked around sheepishly for a little, almost looking for an exit, but without trying to be obvious about it. It seems like God “said,” “You’re clutching. Stop it. Just write and stop thinking about the rest. It’s none of your business.”

This bothered me. I felt out of control. Of course, it was a false assumption that I really have control like I was thinking I had. But, then I thought about what that might feel like…to hand things over… and I tried to “put that skin on.” Even just putting it on halfway felt SO nice. Relaxing. Like the pressure was off, and leaving the room, like a smog lifting. So, I stopped that exercise midway, I took a deep breath and I yielded. I took my sweaty feet off the pedals and coasted. I waited. And nothing happened. Nothing, for better or for worse, but I felt much better.

I wanted to tell you about it, because I know I haven’t been thinking the right way. I know that has to change, and I’m turning my heart the other way. I may post less often, but maybe there will be more true joy and inspiration when I do.

I do hope many are blessed by this blog, and resources, but I’m not going to transpose the priorities anymore, if I can help it, (with God’s grace). This will happen on a heart level, and it might not even be apparent to you, but I hope that my honesty will not only encourage you to look carefully at your own priorities, and goals, but also be a way to ensure that I stay congruent to my core convictions and values, in the way and nature of my God.

It’s hard to make confessions because, sometimes, it makes you feel really weak, stupid, or like some kind of a scum bag. It’s risky. The temptation to keep on a mask, and act like things are all pulled together, can be a strong influencer. Even though it feels embarrassing, it’s still the only way to move forward, and toward shalom (well-being/peace). I’m trying to be brave.

Thoughts… comments?

God vs. death

 

by: Michael Busselle

 

Tonight in class Dr Buckwalter discussed how the plagues of Egypt each took on an Egyptian god. God was showing his power and supremacy to his people who had been exposed to what seemed like amazingly powerful gods, of fertility, health, etc. The final plague was a display over the power of life and death itself. This shocking plague, brought the Pharaoh to his knees, as it defeated his most powerful deity in one swift shot. He sent his throngs of free labor away.

As the nation of Israel fled, Pharaoh reconsidered. Pharaoh’s armies charged, and pinned the ambulating nation between the sea and the force of Egypt’s finest military. The sea didn’t just promise a watery interruption, but certain death. For the people of those times, and many today, the sea is still a symbol of death. Without rescue, none can survive her.

Narrative speaks volumes to us here. At the linear climax what happens? What does God do? Does he send legions of angels to lay waste to the huge army? Does he cause a sound or distraction that confuses the approaching troops? Does he smite the army with blindness? No. All these would have saved his people, and all  were miracles implemented at certain times in biblical narrative. What does he choose to show them?

He shows them, that he is trustworthy. They need not even fear death. He does the impossible, and creates a dry path right through death itself. He holds back the deadly waters, and dries up the land beneath. Animals, children, mothers, fathers, fearful youth, elderly women, and all the rest can simply stroll through, and away from impending danger. This would not just save them, but penetrate them with symbolism that would hit hard–very hard.

What giants are in your way, and how might you respond with this story in mind?

Want to take part? Leave your thoughts, reflections, or feedback of any kind.

AND~Feel free to promote your blog, or current project as well.

Thanks for reading.

Faith (the biped Dog)

Faith is confidence in what has not yet been seen. If you don’t know something is impossible, faith can make the impossible possible. Don’t forget about Faith. Be encouraged and Don’t lose heart.

For more information about the inspirational and amazing Faith the Dog, who learned to walk like a human, click here.

Guest Post-by Veron Graham “Writing: An Act of Prayer?”

writing prayers

I invited my friend Veron, the author of exploretruth.com, as a guest writer here. He’s not just a talented writer, he’s an insightful man who translates vital concepts we should take in and absorb. 

Enjoy this honest, and helpful contribution about what he has done when prayer has become difficult. This type of prayer exercise can be done when it’s hard to be verbal, or just to freshen up your time alone with God. Give it a try. I’ve enjoyed the practice too.

 

Writing: An Act of Prayer?

-Veron Graham

They swarm like drunken bees.  Disjointed and restless having lost their motivation and focus.  With thoughtful pause I point the pen,  the swarm now threatening to coalesce around a single thought, emotion, or heart felt longing; like the only drop of honey in a dry expanse of nothingness and silence. 

 Thoughts sometimes struggle to shine in our confused states of darkness.  Of doubt.  Like one candle in the dark, I’ve struggled to whisper into this darkness.  And if you’re anything like me you have as well. 

Some days go better for me than others, but mostly I’ve struggled to utter words to a God who at times I didn’t fully understand, and just reverted to mumbling variations of childhood prayers that allowed me the comfort of remaining on the surface, never plunging the depths of truth and genuine connection with God.

 True prayer has always been hard for me.  I’ve only now begun to see how revolutionary an act of faith really talking to God truly is.  To be quite honest, as of late, I haven’t really been praying.  Not in the traditional sense anyway.  I’ve been suffering some guilt about this, and the fact that Ive recently begun writing is the only balm that has sustained me, and given me a possibly different perspective on the subject of prayer.

 So what exactly is Prayer?

 Wikipedia defines prayer as:

 “The act of addressing a god or spirit for the purpose of worship or petition.[1] Specific forms of this may include praise, requesting guidance or assistance, confessing sins, as an act of reparation or an expression of one’s thoughts and emotions. The words used in prayer may take the form of intercession, a hymn, incantation, words of gratitude, or a spontaneous utterance in the person’s praying words. Praying can be done in public, as a group, or in private”.

 It appears that there can be more than one way to express thoughts and emotions.  More than one means to reveal what burns in our hearts.  And thats comforting.  Like a million varying classifications of flowers raised heavenward to their life source, it seems to me, that we to can raise our voice, hands, or lives in whatever medium speaks, and opens our hearts to Divine wisdom.

So Why is Prayer so Hard for some?

In a world full of distractions and complexity, I’ve realized that focusing the mind and concretizing my thoughts can be difficult, far less for the thoughts I have towards God.  Make no mistake, I possess the yearning to connect to the divine, and desire to experience more of a real connection.  To wrestle with the unknowns in my life.  But sometimes the faith feat of articulating and communicating my thoughts to a less than tangible concept of God can seem abstract, prove difficult, and sometimes feel pointless.

 As of late, I have found that the act of writing my spiritual journey, to be a powerful act of reflection, contemplation, meditation, prayer, and maybe even praise.  Grappling with the bedrock of human existence, the why’s of life, the unresolved questions I have, doubts, and fears, all can be given proper voice, in the visible form of the written word.

Our prayers, becoming statements of faith, and even of doubt.  Lord, I believe, and please help my unbelief.  All nakedly and honestly expressed on paper, where we can both remember from where we’ve come, where we are, and petition to participate in where we understand God to be going.  It allows us to plot our stages of growth, bolstering and transforming theory into a real, tangible and experiential spiritual life. 

“I love the LORD, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications. – Psalms 116:1”

Find what works for you!

Writing has allowed me to penetrate the facade that much of life’s distractions can cultivate.  For you it may be another creative outlet.  I was talking to my mother, who happened to just start a womans small group at her home.  She was describing to me what she called a prayer basket.  She creatively collects all the things that she needs in order to pray or spiritually connect with God.  “I have my prayer journal in there, along with a pack of cookies”, she said, smiling.  I imagine each basket will be as unique as the thumbprints of the ladies in her group.  I think that if nature is any indication of Gods creativity, it leads me to appreciate the plethora of genuine expressions and communication styles from his children.

 

 Thank you, Veron. Many more great things by Veron are here.

The Suffering Grape

Once I stepped on a grape, and it gave out a little whine. But never I did I imagine it had suffered.

I was watching a bit of a travel episode on Rick Stevens’ Europe show the other day. It does get a little annoying to see how much fun he’s having sometimes. As I was sweltering in my living room, he was sitting on a chair in a boat on the river, sipping wine, and the lovely breeze was blowing his hair. What a nice gig, I thought! as I wiped the upper lip sweat from face, and tried to get my hair up in a ponytail.

Rick went to a vineyard in the region of Burgundy. Wines in France are not named after the grape from which they are made, but for the particular region from which they come. Each area has a particular blend of soils that produces a unique flavor in the grape. Even a few hundred yards can create a whole different tasting grape.

When Rick remarked on the soil there, and he said, “This doesn’t look like good soil for growing.” I agreed. The soil was light brown, (much like the picture below) and looked nothing like the futile, jet black soil in the midwest bread-basket of the USA, like Iowa, where millions of acres produce abundant crops.

“No,” the vineyard expert said.

She said that the soil has to be bad. The grape has to work very hard to get the good from the soil to become its best, to become sweet, and to become just right for the most amazing and flavorful wine. She said, “The grapes have to suffer!”

It seems to be one of the most incredibly common notions that struggle and suffering is bad, or negative.I know I don’t like it much. Yet, when has anything truly good come to fruition without struggle? Putting someone through suffering is a  wholly different matter, and I stress that we mustn’t ever assume the role of victimizer, to produce good in someone or not. Here, I speak instead about our personal perspective on our own suffering and struggle.

It’s easy to think, “Oh no ,something is totally wrong!” when we suffer, or that good isn’t being created in or around us, somehow, in the midst of it all. Some suffering is unavoidable, like sickness, or accidents. In those times, maybe we can remember the suffering grape who can never be a fine vintage without being planted in poor, harsh,ill-suited soil. It works hard to find the nutrients it needs, but alas, it does find the goodness to be healthy, and sweet. All this time I thought the only grapes that suffered were just the raisins!

Are you suffering? Take encouragement in this story. Leave a comment if you’d like.

The picture below is under a Creative Commons license from photographer “focalplane” at Flickr (image). Note the photograph’s interesting information from the artist below. 

French grapes

Photographer’s notes:

Within the Coteaux de Languedoc Cru “La Clape” near Fleury. 
Geologically this is an interesting area with soils derived from both volcanics and limestones, so the terroir, also influenced by proximity to the sea, makes for interesting wines, both red and white.
These photos were taken on the road between Fleury and the coast.