Z is for …

 

I did it! Oh, yeah, I did it! I completed the A to Z Challenge!

 

celebrate

Woo-Hoo!  

There’s a party going on right here  … a celebration

Cel  – e – brate good times! Come on!

Now, I bet, I’ve got you singing.  Great! Because the fact is, I am celebrating today and I’d like you to celebrate with me .  But, you should know, I’m not celebrating me and my accomplishments. No, I am celebrating what God did for me in the month of April.

You see, I’m 99.9% positive I could never have completed the A to Z Challenge on my own.  A quick look at my blogging statistics prior to April 2014 will show some pathetic results.  Relatively infrequent posts. Low readership. No goals. Truthfully, I felt as unsuccessful as the statistics already proved.

Whenever I thought about writing, I typically whined,

“Lord, why did you call me to write for You when it is obvious I cannot do it successfully!”

Despite my feelings about my “writing career,”  I  was eager, enthusiastic and excited when the Holy Spirit prompted me to take the A to Z Challenge.  But as the time passed and the beginning of the challenge grew closer, I begin to have second thoughts,  doubts replacing my zeal for the task ahead.

How on earth could I post 26 times in one month when I hadn’t posted 26 times total in the previous year? I had five kids to homeschool, meals to cook, errands to run, and laundry to wash. Lots and lots of laundry. Where would I fit in all the writing time? How would I come up with topics for all those letters? What about Q and X?

Then in the quietness of my soul there was a whisper.

I’ve got this. All you have to do is give it to Me.

So I did. Day by day. Post by post.

Several times, I thought I wouldn’t have a thing in the world to write. Every single time, God came through. In the beginning, I believed I didn’t have a chance in the world of seeing this challenge through to the end. Truthfully, I didn’t.

I had something better.

I had the zeal of the Lord of Hosts to help me accomplish what God had called me to do for His glory.

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letterZ

Zeal means great energy, enthusiastic diligence, or passion in pursuit of a cause or object. Many places in the Bible talk about the zeal of the Lord, almost always in references to the zeal of the Lord of Hosts performing a particular feat.

I almost always start off a new project with a lot of energy and enthusiasm, but I often lack the fervor and passion to see it through to completion. In the past, I’ve been scared to step out and do things I know God has called me to do because I fear I cannot accomplish the work.

How wonderful is this thought: I don’t have to! It’s not me. On my own strength and power, I will certainly fall short of success. Rather, it is the zeal of the Lord of Host (God working in me) that will accomplish whatever task He has asked me to do. All I have to do, is be willing to let God work through me.

Z is for Zeal …

God’s zeal, not mine, to do wonderful things through me to bring glory to His great name!

So what is it that God is asking you to do?

Are you willing to let His zeal carry you through in completing your mission impossible?

And The Walls Came Tumbling Down!

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It’s a story told often, how the walls of Jericho fell. In Sunday School classes, tiny children are taught to sing the song, retelling how Joshua fought the Battle of Jericho by simply marching round the city walls and blowing on trumpets.  

While the account of those tumbling walls of Jericho definitely make for a memorable Bible story, the life lessons contained within should be nothing less than inspiring for a Christian facing what seems to be a formidable problem.  As I study this story, I find not only encouragement for battles in my life, but also a very particular battle plan that is a key to breaking down strongholds in my life.

You find the recount of Joshua and the Battle of Jericho in the book of Joshua, chapter 6. The very first verse says this:

Now Jericho was strongly fortified … ~Joshua 6:1

Joshua had literally just led the Israelite nation into their Promised Land. Now they were going to have to drive out all those who lived there, and Jericho was the first city on the list of many. Archaeologists and historians have noted that Jericho’s walls actually consisted of 3 walls:  a retaining wall about 15 feet high with a 25 foot high mud-brick wall on top of the retaining wall.  Between the first two walls and the third wall was a steep embankment.  At the top of the embankment stood the third wall, which was also about 25 feet high, though the base of this third wall was about 45 feet higher than the top of the second wall. To Joshua and the Israelites, Jericho was formidable. There was no hope of a battle victory here.  And yet, Joshua’s instructions were to drive out all those who lived in the Promise Land. It must have seemed like a monumental task.

As the Biblical account reads, God lets Joshua know that He has already handed over the entire city of Jericho, as well as its king and fighting men, to Joshua. All Joshua must do is have his army of men march around the city once a day for six days. On the seventh day, the priests were to blow the trumpets while the men march around the city seven times. Then at the sound of the long trumpet blast, the men were to give a mighty shout and the walls would collapse.  I have often wondered, as have many Bible preachers and teachers, how Joshua felt upon hearing God’s battle plan. After all, it wasn’t exactly the typical method of defeating an overwhelming foe. Yet, God promised Joshua the outcome wasn’t in question. Victory was assured … as long as Joshua followed God’s battle plan, as crazy as it seemed.  The first key to overcoming strongholds in life is obedience to God. Obedience is doing things 100% God’s way, even if it seems illogical or crazy to our human brains.

Joshua had enough faith in God to obey, to trust that God would bring about the impossible. Joshua also knew that faith often requires an element of discipline. In Joshua 10:6 we see Joshua command his troops:

Do not shout or let your voice be heard. Don’t let one word come out of your mouth until I say, “Shout!”

Then you are to shout.

How often do I ask for God’s help and receive His action plan for victory, only to not have enough discipline to carry it out?  Faith may begin in the heart, but it is carried out in our deeds. True belief is followed by actions which are the proof of what is in our hearts.

Along with discipline, faith requires endurance. Joshua and his army didn’t just march around the city of Jericho once.  They didn’t march sporadically either. They marched once a day for six days straight, and then on the seventh day they marched seven times around those walls. Historians tell us that the walls of Jericho surrounded an area that was approximately 1,500 feet in length and a little over 500 feet in width.  While it was certainly doable for Joshua’s vast army to march around the city seven times in one day, it would have been a long walk. And yet, because of their willingness to endure and push through, God’s victory was given to Joshua and the Israelites.

More than anything, when I face problems in my life, especially the kind that are rooted deeply, I feel overwhelmed and hopeless to make positive changes.  Currently, I’m working to change a lifetime of poor eating choices.  After 40 years of eating more than I should and not making the healthiest of food choices, it feels like a daunting change.  When I consider the aspect of having PCOS and genetics, both of which predispose me to having a struggle with my weight, I realize that this foe is formidable, and to attempt to defeat it feels like a losing battle before I ever get started. Yet, deep down in my soul, I think God will be delighted to give me victory in this area, if only I am willing to follow Him in obedience, with discipline and endurance, trusting that His battle plan will bring me the victory. 

What overwhelming problem do you face in your life? Have you given it to God for the victory?  If you do, you can trust your faith in God, along with obedience, discipline and endurance, will be part of the battle plan God gives you in order to overcome even the strongest foes.

 

Defeating Defeat

For as long as I can remember, I have loved words. The sounds of words, like serendipity and fricasee. The meanings of words, like blessed  (Oh, how happy) and  Hallelujah (to boast in God). The process of stringing words together, creating alliterations and metaphors. I even think in words, not pictures. My dreams often consist of visual  words, like closed captioning in my sleep.

I don’t remember when I first began to write, for  I never really kept a journal or a diary with any sort of regularity. By adulthood, I wrote almost daily, and for a variety of reasons.  To remember … all the adorable things my children did and said, as if putting it down on paper would ensure that I would never forget a single moment. To clarify and organize my thoughts, especially when feelings didn’t match beliefs and I searched for the right perspective. My marriage felt apart, and I found writing helped me to grieve.  Somehow I realized through writing, I found myself … perhaps more importantly, I found God.

Along the way, through all this writing, God called me. He called me to write for His purposes instead of my own, for His glory instead of mine. I marveled at this plan for my life. I laughed with joy when, on my 40th birthday, God Himself gave me a verse, confirming what I already knew in my heart that in this next season of my life I would write for Him:  “My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the King; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.” Psalm 45:1

And then I very promptly got the worst case of writer’s block ever.  Eight months of nothing … I couldn’t not write a single sentence, not even prayers in my journal.  At first, I felt annoyed. Soon, I was concerned, then anxious and finally devastated.

God had called me to write. I knew it as sure as I knew my name. Then why was I unable to pen words? Over and over I tried, I cried and I prayed.  Nothing changed. I felt completely defeated. One morning, out of my complete misery,  I wrote in my prayer journal, “Lord, I feel defeated. Why? And how can I find victory again?”

To my surprise, God’s response was instantaneous.  From the tips of my fingers came words, written in the form of an acrostic. Since I’m sure that I’m not the only one who experiences feelings of defeat, I’ll share what God showed me.

I will feel defeated when…

D: I am in DENIAL of the truth.

It goes without saying that what I believe and what is the truth are often completely different things. Satan is constantly whispering things in my ear, lies that he wants me to believe. But Jesus said, “The truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) When I am willing to listen to God and embrace His truths, I discover that I am free from feelings of defeat.

E: I hang onto my  EXPECTATIONS (which are often unrealistic).

Expectations are a problem for me. Often I realize that I’ve got assumed, but unspoken, expectations of myself and others (including God). Furthermore, it seems, more often than not,  my expectations are unrealistic. When I have an expectation that is unfulfilled, blocked, uncertain, lost or even fails, it opens the door for me to experience feelings of anger, anxiety, sadness, and perhaps shame. Rarely are these emotions founded in the truths of God. Rather, most often, I’m listening again to the lies of Satan.

God has been showing me how to let go of my expectations for this life, and embrace His plans for me.  I love the words of Jeremiah 29:11.  ” ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for your welfare, not your destruction,  to give you a future and a hope.’ “

F: I  FOCUS  on my  FAILURES.

Just like I listen to lies and have unrealistic expectations, quite often I spend the majority of my time pondering my failures … failures which often exist only in my own mind, failures which often are only measured by the world’s successes.  I’ve been learning that I should focus instead on two wonderful truths.

The first is this:  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.  (Romans 12:2). God’s plans for my life will look a lot different than the world’s idea of success, therefore I cannot use worldly standards to measure my success.

And the second truth:  I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)  If God has called me to do it, then He will give me the strength needed to succeed.  All I need to be is willing to follow Him.

E: I  EXTEND  myself in areas that God has not called me.

God has specific callings for my life. I am a wife, mother and writer.  These are my three most important roles. Too often, I allow other activities to get in the way of my responsibilities in these areas, and when I do that I am going to feel strained and stress.  Quite often I know when I am over-extending myself because I will begin to feel weary and worn down.  It’s a sign that something is out of balance.

Jesus told His followers, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mattthew 11:28-30)  I have to be careful to put up guard rails and protectors in order to keep myself centered in the path God has laid out for my life. When I am careful to do this, my life isn’t marked by feelings of defeat.

A: I  AVOID  dealing with my sin.

But sometimes I just do not want to give up whatever it is that is making me miserable.  I don’t know why sin works that way, but I’ve found this to be true time and time again. I get caught up in some sin, and even though it makes me moan and groan and whine about the state of my life, I refuse to confess it to God. I just don’t want to give it up.

Wise King Solomon wrote, “Whoever conceals his sin will not prosper, but he who confesses and renounces them will find mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)  If I want peace in my life, I’ve got to continually confess my sins and turn back to choosing to live God’s way.

T: I am unTEACHable.

Quite often, when I am stuck in a rut of defeat, I know that God is trying to teach me a new way of doing things.  He wants me to grow and mature so that I am living a faith-filled life.  I don’t know about you, but I can be ridiculously unteachable.  I just flat refuse to listen and learn.

In 1 Peter 2:2, it says, “Like newborn infants, desire the pure spiritual milk, so you may grow by it.”  There are many things I desire in this world:  a strong marriage, children who love the Lord, financial stability, my daily chocolate . More than these, my heart should desire God and His truth in my life.

It’s been more than two months since God shared with me the reasons behind my feelings of defeat.  It didn’t cure me instantly of my writer’s block.  However, God also shared with me how to find victory in my life, and as I began to implement those truths I found my ability to write returned more and more in the days and weeks that followed.

Isn’t it comforting to know deep within the soul that God does not want me (or you) to live in perpetual defeat?

How have you overcome feelings of defeat through Christ? I hope you’ll share your success stories with me!

Stay tuned for part 2, when I share how God showed me how to make a VICTORY PLAN for living my life according to His perfect will for me.