Isaiah 12:2



I chose Isaiah 12:2 as my memory verse for this week because the other day I discovered a unique way to read it. I read the verse over and over again, each time putting emphasis on a different word. This turned out to be a remarkable way to study and meditate on the meaning of the verse. (It also has greatly aided me in my memorization of the verse!)

Surely God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:2
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, without question, surely God is my salvation.

“Surely God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:2
This verse names no one else but God and me. Could I survive if it were only God and me? Is God alone my salvation, my strength, my song, the only sustenance I need to survive?

“Surely God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:2
I love the fact that the word “is” is used here. Not should be, will be, or was, but God is my salvation.

“Surely God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:2
The word “my” is extremely personal. It's use here means that God is my salvation, my strength, and my song. Whether or not He is all of those things to anyone else, He is to me. In addition, because of this, I will trust and not fear! What a bold declaration! It makes me think, have I claimed God for myself personally like this?

“Surely God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:2
When I first read this verse with the emphasis on “salvation,” I thought of the fact God has saved me. I believe in Jesus to be my Savior. I know that He died on the cross for my sins, rose again on the third day, and that on the day I invited Him into my heart, my name was written in the Lamb’s Book of Life and I was given a ticket to heaven.
But I decided to go further. I looked up “salvation” in the thesaurus and amazingly, that is not the first entry! Instead, salvation is described as “the good place.”
Interesting.
Is God my good place, I asked myself? Is He the One I go to when I’m hurting, when I’m confused, when I’m in need of wisdom, help, or someone to share my joy over an accomplishment others may or may not notice? Is God my good place, my salvation?

“Surely God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:2
Every time I read this verse with this word emphasized, I am floored. The use of the word “will” here signifies a determination of the one who claims this verse. When I say this verse like I really mean it, I don’t mean I should trust, I will trust later (when it’s more convenient, the stakes aren’t so high or when no one who can ridicule me is watching), or I used to trust. I’m saying I will trust, from this day forward, for all of eternity.
“Surely God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:2
There’s a promise in the word “and.” “And” says to me, “Wait! There’s more! Keep reading!”

“Surely God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:2
This is a very important little word, “not.” Without it, the whole phrase falls apart.

“Surely God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:2
Thanks to my handy-dandy thesaurus, I know “Be” is defined as “to have being.” To patch the pieces of the puzzle together, when I read this verse like I mean it and promise that I “will trust” I also declare I will not be afraid. This means that no inkling, not even an ounce, of fear should invade my mind when I’m trusting in Him.
In my experience, fear continues to barge in like a pesky neighbor even after I have resolved to fully rely on Christ. But that’s when I’ve got to draw the line and say, “Fear, you’re not welcome here. Trust is moving in and there’s just not room enough for the both of you.”

“Surely God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:2
“The Lord is my strength,” I like to repeat to myself. It’s a powerful promise that when I go out into the world and don’t like what I see or experience pain, that I have at my disposal every ounce of God’s power and might to sustain me.

“Surely God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:2
Owning the Lord as my salvation and my strength are slightly easier than claiming Him as my song. After an exhausting day at work, can I praise Him? When I feel as if I’ve sunk farther than I have ever been before, can I lift up a song of thanksgiving to Him? When I am joyful and celebrating, is He the first I think to give glory to? If He were the only subject of my song, could I sing forever?

“Surely God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:2
When I place emphasis on these two words, it reminds me that my relationship with God hasn't always been this good. Once I was dead (Eph. 2:1). Then Jesus saved me. When He did, He invited me into a personal relationship with Him.
Don’t all relationships take work? It is slightly intimidating to think that my relationship with God takes time and effort to deepen. After all, He’s GOD! He's bigger than the universe, deeper than my intelligence, wider than my understanding, longer than eternity…yet I can have a relationship with Him. And I have the privilege to put work into it and by His grace, make it a good one.

Silence

Someone recently encouraged me to integrate a "Day of Silence" into my schedule. Despite what you may be thinking, on these days I don't remain mute for hours upon hours (as much as my brothers would undoubtedly appreciate that).
Instead, on these days, I am supposed to completely unplug. Detach myself from the Internet, from the telephone, from the CD player, from the television, and...
be silent before God.

I have found that it makes me a bit uncomfortable at first. I guess I am used to constant noise. When it is the television or the radio or even Facebook up on my laptop, for some reason, having noise (even just the whirr of the computer) is oddly comforting to me. It's as if noise makes me feel as if the house is fuller, as if I am not as alone. But do you know how it feels to be "alone in a crowded room?"

Having some sort of noise drifting into my ears is often just an escape mechanism for me. Noise is distracting.
Noise distracts me from the things I like being distracted from (thus the reason I allow myself to be distracted in the first place). Noise also distracts me from things I would rather not be distracted from.
Neither option is very healthy.
In contrast, when I make a conscious effort to shut everything off, shut every door, and be silent, just sitting and allowing God to speak to my heart, I find release from that feeling of aloneness.
When I sit before the King of Kings and pour out my hurts to Him, I am filled, not with the superficial distraction that dulls the pain but ultimately only deepens the wound, but true, lasting, freeing healing. When I come before Him and honestly acknowledge that I have sinned, that I have messed up again, and that nothing I do can restore my relationship with Him, I am filled, not with the temporary distraction that allows me to forget (somewhat) the problem and the fact that it is stealing all of my peace and joy away, but forgiveness, redemption, and restoration.
When I am silent, it is...well, try it, and see if you can describe it.

This post was supposed to be an explanation why and an apology for failing to make time to invite Rebekah to share more of her story this week, but has turned into more of an confession of how this week I became too plugged in. I became distracted from more worthwhile pursuits like surrendering my worry and pain to God, like focusing on release through my writing and prayer, and how, instead, I allowed noise to reign.

But I've had enough. And I'm taking back my heart, reclaiming the throne of my life for my Lord. So if you were wondering how Rebekah is doing, she'll be here sometime next week. And if you were wondering where I was, for most of the week I was on this very same laptop, doing all the unnecessary things that for some reason always seem so important when one is online. In short, I was smack dab in the middle of noise.
But if you are wondering where I am now, well...
I am at the feet of my Lord.

Silent.

Youth Sunday "Sermon"


(May 16 was Youth Sunday at my church. It was a lot of work as my youth group led the entire service from start to finish. From planning to preparation to presentation, we did it all! I gained a new appreciation for my pastors and all of the church members who work so hard to make sure the worship service runs smoothly each Sunday morning. Also, I conquered the #1 fear of Americans, public speaking, as I took the pulpit and shared my story. I hold fast to my belief that I am a much better writer than I am a speaker, though, and blogging is definitely more to my style than is "preaching!")



I love my job. I am a gymnastics coach at the YMCA. The way I often lead my class is to set up “stations” or clearly marked spaces where my kids complete the skills I give them. I can’t tell you how many times during the hour-long class I hear, “What are we doing here?”
My student’s questions remind me of the timeless questions:

Why am I on this earth?

What’s the reason for my life?

What am I doing here?

What is my purpose?


I have answered these questions in my life in many ways. When I was six years old, well-meaning friends and family members would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I would reply enthusiastically, “A country music singer!” My simple statement and the confident sparkle in my eye would prevent anyone from discouraging my dream (though I wonder how many glanced anxiously at my parents). So I passed through my elementary school years dreaming of one day holding a microphone and performing on stage.

Gradually, this ambition faded and lost its original luster. As I entered middle school, my aspirations developed more along the domestic side. When asked what I wanted to be someday, I would reply, “A mom.” I dreamed of a white picket fence and a bed of roses (well, maybe, a pot of roses, for I have not inherited my mother’s green thumb).

When I entered high school, I began to look ahead to college. I realized I would have to pick something to study! So I began to plan. It was around this time that I realized not everyone had to squint as hard as I did to see street signs. I soon found contact lenses to be my very best friend. So as I racked my brain for any and all professions in which I might be interested, eye doctor began to top the list. I pictured myself setting eyeglasses on a child’s face and watching them see the world clearly for the first time. Again I changed my answer to the timeless question, “What do you want to do?”

Knowing what I wanted to do with my life was all well and good. Knowing how to manage my plans and goals for the future soon developed into a whole other monster. Almost without knowing it, I began to string tightropes in my life when it came to my future, my goals, and my dreams. They were tightropes of impossible expectations, of stress, of undue pressure, of perfectionism. These tightropes were unrealistic and certainly were not God’s purpose for me.

Each one of my tightropes brought me farther and farther from God’s true purpose for my life. I wasn’t focusing on what God wanted. I was trying to walk on a tightrope that instead of leading me closer to God, only sent me hurtling towards the safety net. I was trying to balance my life on a tightrope and it just wasn’t working. I was wobbling and bobbling and about to fall when God made it clear to me that I didn’t have to live that way.

Psalm 119:32 says “I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.”

When I was poised for a fall off of my tightrope, God set my heart free. There are still times when I want to string tightropes of stress and worry, but I have come to see that my purpose is to focus, not on the mountain, but on Who can move the mountain. My purpose is to focus, not on what is wrong, but on Who can make it right. My purpose is to focus, not on the questions that plague my mind, but on Who knows all the answers. My purpose is to love and glorify God and earn those calloused hands.

With renewed purpose, I have again changed my answer to the question I’ve been asked so many times, “What do you want to do?” I want to be a writer. Now that may change yet again. But that is exactly my point. I’ll be okay if the answer to that question changes when I enter college this fall, when I turn thirty, or when I turn sixty-five. I’ll be fine whatever my vocation is because my purpose will always remain the same.

Rebekah

Part One: A Strange Meeting



Rebekah carried her pitcher on her shoulder as she approached the well. Collecting water from the well that night was an ordinary ending to an ordinary day, but unbeknownst to Rebekah, God was about to do something extraordinary. Something was about to occur that would change Rebekah’s life forever.
Rebekah considered fetching water a mundane task, the definition of drudgery itself. But Rebekah was a dutiful daughter. She was dependable. Her family was counting on her to provide them with their daily water supply and Rebekah would not let them down.
As Rebekah came closer to the town well, she could see a lone figure leaning on it. Whoever it was seemed very, very tired as he supported his lean frame on the side of the well. Rebekah noticed one thing right away. The person was alone. No one else was at the well at this hour? Usually around this time all the daughters of the town were drawing water. Why was no one else here?

Rebekah had no way of knowing that the other young women were so scared of the stranger who had appeared at the well that they would not come near it, even for the water they desperately needed. Rebekah was a bit frightened at the appearance of the strange man as well. What was he doing there? However, she was determined to not give way to her fear (as all the other young ladies of her hometown had done).
As Rebekah continued walking, a pinprick of fear bothered her heart. She wondered curiously who it was that was standing at the well. Why, he had not even a pitcher to collect water! What could he be doing just standing there?
Within Rebekah’s heart stirred the beginnings of a daring spirit. She didn't stop walking. She didn't hesitate to continue with her chore. Rebekah casually stepped to the well, let down the bucket until it was full, drew it up again, and filled her pitcher, all the while keeping one eye on the man on the other side of the well.
Suddenly, the object of her thoughts straightened. Belying his seemingly weary condition, he began walking swiftly towards Rebekah.
Rebekah’s eyes widened in alarm. She didn’t run the other way because she could not run with a full pitcher on her shoulder. The man’s legs ate up the short distance around the well before Rebekah could think of what to do.
He stopped and stared at her. She stared back as questions flew through her mind. What did he want with her? Did he know her? Was he in trouble?
“Won’t you please give me some water?” the man asked breathlessly.
Rebekah sighed inwardly. Ahhh, so this was the man’s dilemma. Rebekah’s fear melted away immediately. The stranger had probably travelled a long distance, was thirsty, and had nothing with which to collect water from the well. She would be happy to help him. She did not hesitate to do her part.
If only Rebekah knew she did not yet possess all the pieces to the puzzle. If only she had known how her daring spirit would serve her well later on when the stranger revealed the real reason behind his long journey.
“Drink, my lord,” she replied kindly.


To be continued...

(To read the introduction to this series, click here. To read of the first daring woman, click here.)

Introducing A Wild Imagination


"'You broaden the path beneath me, so that my ankles do not turn.' This verse consistently stops me in my tracks. Literally..."
I came across the website of a fantastic women's ministry last month. Little did I know that this month I would be typing this post, inviting you to view the page where I am listed as one of their regular columnists and the debut of my first article published with them. I am very excited about this opportunity that God has blessed me with through Positively Feminine and can't wait to share with you my first fiction short story with PF coming soon!

The Finale

Part Four: Turning to Trust



Mrs. Noah shielded her eyes with her hand as she continued to gaze upon her husband and sons, faithfully bending their backs to this gargantuan job. She swallowed again as she realized this was a job that God had given them.
“I have a job for you, too...”

‘Wow,’ Mrs. Noah thought, unwilling to speak aloud, after all, she wasn’t sure she was completely comfortable conversing with the Almighty. ‘Really?’
“Really.”
“What is it?” she asked aloud before she could catch herself.
“Turn around.”
Mrs. Noah did so and stood staring over the desert path that led back to her home. The home she and Noah had built for themselves. The home that she had welcomed her babies into and in which she had raised them to be good, strong men. The home that she had opened to the community, in vain, for the Sabbath services for years and years. The home in which she had first met, and then watched be married, the daughters-in-law she loved. The home in which she had always pictured she and her husband growing old together.
The home she was now being asked to leave.
It suddenly dawned upon Mrs. Noah what God’s plan for her was.
And she was right. The next thing she knew, she was heard again, “Turn around.”
This time obedience didn’t come quite so quickly. When God had said “Turn around” the first time, Mrs. Noah had been unaware of what that really meant, but He had kept giving her the command until she realized the enormity of what He was asking her to do. The first time she had obeyed, she had looked at the ark as, well, the ark. But then she had turned around to view her home and realized God’s job for her was to leave that home for the ark. The command to “Turn around” seemed a lot more difficult now. Now the consequences of her decision weighed in her mind like the wooden beams surely weighed upon her sons shoulders as they labored day after day. The deep breath Mrs. Noah pulled into her lungs at the moment was shaky. She felt her eyes fill with tears. Her home! How could she leave her home? She loved this place, where she knew her place, where she could count on the well providing her with water, her sons providing her with laughter, and her daughters-in-law providing her with companionship. How could she leave this home she had made with her husband, where he had led her in worshipping their God?
A single tear slid down Mrs. Noah's cheek as she obeyed God’s command and once more turned around. She stared at the empty hull of the ark which was being built right before her eyes. This was to be her new home, the place where she and the ones she loved would be kept safe when the awful, scary word flood became a reality.
“Do not fear. I am with you.”
God’s voice beckoned her to trust Him, to place her complete dependence on Him and yield to His plan. How her heart rebelled at the thought! She didn’t want to leave her wonderful, comfortable home which held so many memories and on which she had placed so many hopes and dreams yet unfulfilled. She didn’t want to move into that ghastly-looking monster forming beneath Noah’s careful eye and her son’s strong backs.
“Turn around.”
This time Mrs. Noah knew deep in her soul that God’s command was different. She was already physically facing the ark, had indeed been physically facing the reality of the ark since Noah had come home and said God had spoken to him, that there would be rain, that there would be a flood, and that he had been called to build the floating vessel that would save them. Yes, she had been physically facing the ark for a while.
God’s command to her this sunny day in the desert was to turn around in her heart, to turn herself around, away from the home she clung to with a tenacity that surprised her, and to turn towards the ark.
Mrs. Noah raised her face to the heavens and closed her eyes. “I will. I will turn around,” she whispered, then she opened her eyes and started walking back to the ark. She had to tell Noah what she had learned about the ark he was building.
The ark where God would protect them from the rain and the flood.
The ark where God would give her the job of caring for her family through the long days and nights they would spend away from dry land.
The ark of a future she could only imagine.
The ark of trust.
Author's Note: Mrs. Noah's story is now complete. As much as I would love to imagine (and write down to share here!) all of the adventures Noah's family experienced upon the ark and after the flood as they went through all that came from being the only humans on earth, that story isn't mine yet. I am still where I leave Mrs. Noah, turning around in my heart to trust Him.
Check back next week and be introduced to the next character in the From Dependable to Daring series!

Turn Around



Part Three: I Have a Job For You, Too




Though Noah had always made it clear that all were welcome to the Sabbath services he led in their home, none but Mrs. Noah and their growing sons attended. It remained that way for the longest time. That all changed the morning a strange woman walked up to the altar where Noah was leading his family in sacrificing an offering to God. She came faithfully and observed silently for many Sabbaths before finally declaring she wanted to worship the God Jehovah, too. After a while, she came to be accepted as one of the family.
One year later, Noah married her to his son Shem.
Mrs. Noah smiled as she recalled the way this had happened twice afterwards. She was amazed at the miraculous way God had brought three beautiful and wise women from the families of the wicked men who lived around them first to Himself, then to Shem, Ham, and Japheth. She knew God had been good to them.
Even so, Mrs. Noah was perfectly content with her life just as it was. She had a good husband. She had raised three sons she could be proud of and they had chosen three God-fearing women to be their wives. Yes, she was satisfied with things just as they were.
Then God threw a kink into her plans.
Soon after He spoke to her Noah, and while the building of the ark was still in its beginning stages, God spoke to Mrs. Noah.
It was after she had delivered food and water to Noah and their sons at the site on which the ark was taking form. She was walking away, heading back to her home, when she heard the still, small voice that nearly scared her senseless.
“Do not fear.”
Mrs. Noah stopped walking and glanced back at the four men hard at work forming the ark. She was too far away to hear anything they might say. Who was it then that called to her?
She swallowed.
“Do not fear. I am with you.”
Mrs. Noah’s eyes widened and she gulped a deep breath. Could it be? Yes, she knew down in her soul, just who was speaking to her.
“I-I appreciate that. Thank you.”
Mrs. Noah slapped a hand to her forehead. Who was she to be talking back to God? Noah had told her God had spoken to him but he had never said anything about answering or making conversation with the Lord! Mrs. Noah could only shake her head as she realized what an idiotic statement she had just uttered.
“Turn around.”
Mrs. Noah’s eyes really popped open at that command of God’s. She immediately obeyed and turned to face the ark. She could just make out the outline of her four strong men. Noah was examining the plans he had drawn up according to God’s specifications. She could make out Japheth standing next to his father, pointing first at the plans, then to the ark, then using his wide, expressive hands to say something that garnered a nod from Noah. Mrs. Noah saw two more forms, Shem and Ham, carrying great beams of wood upon their strong shoulders.
“Behold my plan.”
Mrs. Noah shielded her eyes with her hand as she continued to gaze upon her husband and sons, faithfully bending their backs to this gargantuan job. She swallowed again as she realized this was a job that God had given them.
“I have a job for you, too.”