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Archive for April, 2012

 

 

For years I have desired and prayed for a gentle, quiet spirit.

Those who know me chuckle and say, “Ain’t gonna happen. Not in this lifetime.” My husband’s recent comment stung a little more. “DiAne, I don’t see any evidence of a gentle, quiet spirit. Why sweetheart, you’re just like your daddy with his hair-spring temper.”

Of course, I fell silent.

And he quipped, “See. Just like that. Now you’re angry.”

Tears gathered around the rims of my eyes but I managed to voice, “Have you ever considered my silence is not anger?”

How many times have my actions and emotions been misread by those who think they know me? More than I’d like to admit, especially by those who love me most. Could it be we have misinterpreted what a gentle, quiet spirit is?

Mama used to tell me, “Sit down, fold your hands and be quiet. Be a good little girl.” Do I have to sit down and be quiet to be a good little girl? To have a gentle quiet spirit do I have to be a silent door mat?

Our pastor addressed that interpretation this morning. He said gentleness or meekness is an exhibition of power under control. And quietness is defined as being composed, tranquil, temperate, and sober.

I thought about my three favorite women of the Old Testament. Deborah, Esther and Jael. Three women who shared a common thread—they were each engaged in a battle of the Lord’s choosing. And not one of them refused to fulfill the task God gave them.

Deborah was called to be a judge during a dark, dangerous period in Israel’s history. The men of Israel had turned away from God’s vision for the nation and were hiding. Evil flourished. God allowed Jabin, king of Canaan and the commander of his army—an evil man named Sisera, to oppress Israel for twenty-five years because of their disobedience to God’s principles and precepts.

God instructed Deborah to call Barak and tell him, “The Lord, the God of Israel has commanded you. . .” She told him to gather an army, wage battle against Jabin, and that the Lord would give him the victory. Read the account in The Book of Judges, Chapter 4.

Barak said no. He wouldn’t go unless Deborah went with him. Hmmm, to paraphrase she said, “Okay, I’ll go, but you won’t get the glory for this—a woman will.”

Meanwhile, Heber the Kenite, an in-law of Moses, didn’t want to be involved in the ruckus, so he moved his family and made peace with this evil King. But the battle followed Heber to his new digs.

Enter my second heroine—Jael, Heber’s wife. The Lord routed Sisera and his army before Barak and Deborah. However, Sisera managed to escape and fled on foot—straight to Jael’s tent.

Ms. Jael invited him in, cleaned, fed, and convinced him she would hide him. As soon as this enemy of Israel went to sleep, Ms. Jael seized a hammer and drove a tent peg through his temple and into the ground. She came out of the tent, flagged Barak down, and told him to come get the body. The honor for this victory went to a woman—Jael. Just like God said it would.

Then there was Esther. A beautiful Hebrew orphan, required to walk the runway in a beauty contest for a place in King Ahasuerus’ harem. But God had another plan. Esther became queen of Persia. And in this foreign land, she became another woman who had the courage to stand for her people.

She engaged in a battle of wits with evil Haman who plotted to destroy the nation of Israel. The complete account of her life and this victory is recorded in The Book of Esther. We see her courage in an exchange she had with her uncle. He challenged, “And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” And she replied, “I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish.”

Three courageous women that God placed at a particular moment in history to bring about His plan.

Deborah—a woman of wisdom given by God. A woman who didn’t squirm at the prospect of going to war with the man God chose to lead Israel—even when the man showed himself to be a coward. God was in control and Deborah knew it.

Jael—a loyal wife and homemaker, didn’t say “I’m afraid. Oh, I can’t possibly do that and besides God, the blood will mess up my living room rugs.” No, the enemy camped on her doorstep and she knew God would give her the strength to defeat this enemy of her people.

Esther—an orphan who lived her life in strange surroundings, waiting for the exact moment God would use her. When He appointed her to be the necessary tool in His hands, she met the challenge that would save His chosen seed.

While I doubt these three women would ever have been seen on the 6 o’clock news, I’m pretty sure they never dreamed of being historical event changers. Yet they were. And I know these three never considered balking when God placed the mission before them.

You and I have been placed at this moment in history according to God’s purpose and plan. He has given each one of us every characteristic and personality attribute we will need to accomplish the goal He has set for our lives, our families, and the life of our nation.

What about you? Men, are you going to hide from these tumultuous times or will you lead the battle? And ladies, will we chose to listen and obey God’s call? Will we quake with fear? Will we sit down, fold our hands, and be quiet like good little girls?

Or will we act with courage and strength that rises from a gentle, quiet spirit when called by God to accomplish His will in our lives—as Deborah, Jael, and Esther did?

 

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Have you ever watched hermit crabs scurry back and forth alongside the ocean’s edge? The crabs race left, then right, dashing helter-skelter over the sand.

I often feel like those little creatures—skittering through life—running here to do one thing and then over there to do another or put out a fire. Frustrated and fragmented. So many things screaming for my attention—important things, necessary things. Or are they?

At the end of the day I crawl under the covers, weary, wondering what I’ve accomplished and spend the moment, between exhaustion and sleep, mumbling my pathetic state and requests to God. And I wonder why my prayers often continue unanswered? I should wonder that God’s mercy extends to answer any of them.

This morning I read the 9th Chapter of Daniel:

“Now while I was speaking and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God . . . while I was still speaking in prayer, then the man Gabriel. . . gave me instruction and talked with me and said, “O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you insight with understanding. At the beginning of your supplications the command was issued, and I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed . . .” (Daniel 9:20-23 NAS).

Wait a minute. Daniel began to pray and God issued the command and sent Gabriel to give him insight and understanding? Wow! Have you ever had a prayer answered that fast?

I backed up and retraced the beginning of the chapter to glean information about Daniel’s reason and manner of approaching God.

In verse 2 I found that Daniel had been searching the words of Jeremiah and found God had given information there about his questions concerning the end of  Israel’s captivity in Babylon. Then in verse 3 the Word says, “So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes.”

Daniel wasn’t skittering about. How long has it been since I’ve given my full attention to the Lord God—for more than fifteen or twenty minutes? Do I even know how to focus completely on God and Him alone?

For the next twelve verses Daniel prayed and confessed who God is, what He does, and the deplorable state of Israel and himself. Now I know enough about Daniel’s life to ask he’s confessing? This man—a warrior for the Lord God—is  admitting open shame, willful sin, and rebellion?

From verses 17-19 he asks God to listen and hear. To open His eyes and see the desolations of His people. Why? Not for any merits he or Israel possessed but on account of God’s great compassion. He asked God to hear, forgive, listen and take action.

My prayers are often laced with what I want, what I think others need, and what I need to do to accomplish the above—with few thoughts to what God wants. Verse 21 tells us Gabriel came to Daniel in his extreme weariness about the time of the evening offering.

I’ve never even come close to extreme weariness on account of seeking God’s face in prayer and worship, have you? And I wonder why I’ve prayed for years about some requests receiving no answer?

Could the answer lie with one small word—skittering—like that hermit crab? If I came apart from every distraction and gave my total attention to the Lord God, diligently sought Him, put everything else aside, then perhaps God would move in the lives of my family, my friends, my life, and this nation.

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It was early and I was late—as usual.

I grabbed the box of supplies for my monthly writer’s critique meeting off the kitchen table and raced for the back door. A beeping noise invaded the quiet of the morning hours. What was it? I didn’t have time for interruptions. The troublesome sound stopped so I dismissed it and hurried out the back door. I threw everything in the car and slammed the door shut, revved the engine, and backed out of the drive-way.

I had thirty minutes to complete a forty-five minute trip. No margins. Just drive with a purpose—get there.

We live twenty-five miles outside of the city so I could make up time on the country highways—I hoped. It was early on Saturday morning. No traffic and no police—I hoped. I could be on time—I hoped. Things were going well when that pesky beeping sound filled the car.

Where did it come from this time? I checked my cell phone. Nope. Wasn’t the phone.

I punched all the digital instruments on the dashboard. Nothing. The beeping continued. I was alarmed. The car had a lot of miles and a history. It was a desolate stretch of road. What should I do? Pull to the side of the road? Wake my husband and call for help? Any of the above could be dangerous and cause me to miss the meeting. I threw caution aside and decided to go for the meeting.

The beeping stopped. I sighed with relief, then a few moments later realized it was the automatic timers stuffed into my supply box announcing their time limit warning.

I had run right through the first beeping sounds in the kitchen. Had I heeded those warnings and identified the source, it would have solved the problem.

How many times have I run through God’s warning signals in my life? How many trips to God’s woodshed could I have avoided, and how many unnecessary life detours have I taken that God warned me about as I blasted through His stop signs?

Perhaps if I left margins in everyday life—a safety margin of time that allowed for adjustments to the unexpected—then I would take the time to stop and listen. No, I think the problem rests with my pride. The subtle sin of believing, I can handle everything—I’ve got it under control. The sin of believing what I’m doing is so important that I must fill every moment of every day to capacity, giving God the left-overs. The sin of believing that what I’m about is so important that I don’t have a moment to spare.

Failure to start my day sitting before the Lord God, seeking His understanding, receiving His instructions, and asking for His wisdom places me in the precarious position of believing a lie. Fooling myself with the untruth that I am in control of  everything and don’t need His guidance for the day.  I trouble my own trouble.

How about you?  Do you listen when God warns you to stop, slow down, or turn around? Or do you just run faster in order to build momentum to catapult over His warning hurdles?

            “Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10

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A week ago, without warning, the cable cut out in our apartment in Longview, Texas. By mid-afternoon service was restored—to every apartment except ours.

I began making phone calls, and each call ratcheted my frustration and my wealth of words several notches. It was as if each customer sales rep read their reply from the same index card, regardless the problem. They didn’t listen. They didn’t help. They didn’t care.

I left for Dallas the next day, expecting the cable to be restored by the time I returned to Longview the following Monday. My husband and I planned to have dinner in front of the television and watch the national basketball championship game. But seven days and six phone calls later—still no cable.

Now I’ve got swift to hear and slow to wrath nailed—but slow to speak? Not so much.

I grabbed the phone and called the past list of service assistance numbers only to receive the message, “a part was missing and they were awaiting it’s arrival.” Now I’m no technical Einstein, but seems to me if a part was missing everyone in the building would have been without service, right? And I told them so. After a plethora of phone calls I connected with a supervisor who promised she would get to the heart of the problem. Two hours later I called her back and the phone message said the number was invalid.

Anger doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Pastor’s Sunday message on the subject of anger flashed through my mind: But now you also, put them all aside: anger, rage, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth (Colossians 3:8 NAS.)

 Still I tried to argue with God. “I only get angry when people don’t do what they ought to do.”

The Spirit answered, “You don’t do what the Word tells you to do.”

Ouch. With the cover ripped off my own sin I cried out to God. “My temper has flared again. God, I’m so sorry. Please extinguish this fire.”

The Spirit’s finger poked my heart. That’s the reason the Bible is called The Water of the Word—use it to douse your malicious, angry words.

Had I spoken, or even thought about the Word of God? Had I sought His help to solve this situation? No. I rehearsed inflammatory words, hateful thoughts, and a plan of action that would fan the flames instead of encourage solutions. I missed the mark. Again.

Late in the afternoon, the supervisor I had spoken with called to say the problem would be fixed within twenty-four hours. Another twenty-four hours? The Spirit reminded me of my earlier confession and God’s faithful forgiveness—I did my best to use words laced with grace.

Through the night fiery darts zoomed into my mind: But they took seven days. Those reps were rude. Their business practices are unacceptable. Then God’s Words of wisdom and understanding spoke to my heart: Turn the other cheek. A gentle answer turns away wrath. Let it go.

It’s my choice now. Satan’s fiery darts? Or God’s wisdom and understanding?

Perhaps I’d better add the rest of that verse—slow to speak—to my short list and not give Satan so much information from my mouth for a frontal assault.

Do you struggle in this area? Or am I the lone-loud-mouthed-hot-head on the planet who must continually flee to the cross of my Lord Jesus to crucify the prideful idol of self?

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19 KJ)

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