Whatever is Pure - June 2007
Teach me to treat all that comes to me today with peace of soul and with firm conviction that Your will governs all.
This is a prayer I'm learning from missionary and author Elisabeth Elliot. This prayer intrigues, exhilarates, and terrifies. Let me explain.
Some time ago I apparently lit a fuse in someone that exploded into hot words and acidic accusations. With the stunning swiftness of a cobra strike, a seemingly affable conversation on an unrelated topic turned venomous. Bitter words poured over me like battery acid as each caustic claim burned holes in my heart. The tsunami suddenness of the attack caught me off guard, took my breath away.
"Where in the world did this come from?" I thought, blinking back tears. While I had no clue as to what I may have said or done to light the Mount SaintHelen-esque eruption, one thing was certain: the lava had been smoldering for quite some time.
Reflecting on this situation and the prayer above, I later wondered: Was it "God's will" for me to be hurt? Was it God's design for me to be maligned, misunderstood and falsely accused by someone I trusted? Not quite. But in a fallen world peopled with sinners we suffer (and cause) many a wrong. Yes, God heals, comforts, and forgives. But I also have a choice to make in an instance like this. If God's will governs, then aren't the people, events, circumstances or words that touch me all "Father-filtered"? If His will governs all, then can I choose to say with Joseph that "It was not you who sent me here but God" (Gen. 45:8, 50:20), and "You who meant to do me harm, but God meant to bring good out of it"?
You and I have choice. Free will. We can work with God or against Him. He waits for us to choose Him, to embrace obedience. Trust is a choice. As Elliot notes, "A sovereign God… works through flawed human instruments to whom he has given the power of choice. Sometimes the choices are mistaken. Divine sovereignty permits those mistakes.
Jeremiah 29:11 puts it this way:"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.."Part of that "future" is conformity to the likeness of His Son (Romans 8:28,29), which means a death to self.
Which brings me back to the "Roman candle words" that recently exploded in my face. If God's will governs all and His will is for me to become more like Christ, can I choose to see this "candle" as the catalyst I may need to learn forgiveness, longsuffering, graciousness, gentleness, meekness, self-control and more of the fruit of the Spirit? Could this offense not ultimately result in an increase of love between me and the one who hurt me? May it not be the occasion I need to cling more tightly to the Anchor of my soul, to drench my heart in the One whose compassions never fail (Lamentations 3:22, 23)? Can I lift my meager cup to the Lord Jesus Christ and let He who knows best fill it with His choice for me? I'm learning these "teach me" lessons very slowly and very imperfectly, over a very long time.
How ‘bout you? What has God allowed or brought into your life today to teach you?
A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael, p. 266.
© Kristine K. Lowder
What is this feeling that I feel.
How can I control these feelings, that taunt my soul.
Lord have mercy on my soul, and take away this anger
Give me a new song on my lips, when anger comes against me
Teach me the way of righteousness and to live right
The Training Field of the Mundane
An extraordinary percentage of the victims of the Virginia Tech massacre on April 16, 2007 were active, faith-living Christians. Many of these young people were raised in Christian homes and attended Christian fellowships where they were considered 'close family members'. Shock, horror and unimaginable grief over the senseless deaths rocked the hearts, minds and spirits of those who were intimately acquainted with the victims. Most of the victim's families and loved ones were not allowed the luxury of mourning in private as the world's media swarmed onto the college campus, parked in front of their homes and attended funeral services with recording devices at hand.
Every word spoken by the victim's families and friends was micro-analyzed by news agencies. Many interviewers skillfully attempted to manipulate those with whom they spoke, in hopes of provoking an angry response or a bitter tirade toward the gunman, the campus or the government. After all, controversy brings in good ratings.
As the Christians stepped forward and spoke of the Lord's strength carrying them through the most painful days of their lives, they were once again assaulted with questions that only brought more pain to hearts already broken. "How could a loving God allow this to happen?" "Do you really believe you could forgive that gunman, if he was alive, would you want him to get the death penalty?" Christian parents who had not yet been allowed to collect their children's bodies from the morgue, no matter plan their funerals, were expected to be articulate, logical and able to give a ready answer to every question posed.
Amazed at my fellow believers' graciousness and transparency in the midst of their obvious pain, I asked the Lord, "How could they speak with such eloquence so soon in the grieving process?" The Lord's answer was swift. In His mercy and forethought, God had brought opportunities along their way in preparation for that very moment. God used their mundane every day life experiences as coaching sessions in order to facilitate the strengthening and development of their moral and spiritual fibre. As they daily forgave those that sinned against them, God developed their 'forgiveness' muscles for the task that lay ahead. As they let go of daily resentments, the Lord filled their hearts with the assurance needed for the days to come. When they shared their faith on a daily basis with family and coworkers through action and word, they gained skills for the battle that was yet to be fought. The character they showed at the time of great crisis was born out of their responses to every day challenges that had come their way up to that dreadful April morning.
Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV
1 Peter 3: 14-17 NIV
But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened." But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
I learned to fish this river with a worm.
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How Does Your Garden Grow?
Cultivate a thankful spirit! It will be to thee a perpetual feast. There is, or ought to be, with us no such thing as small mercies; all are great, because the least are undeserved. Indeed a really thankful heart will extract motive for gratitude from everything, making the most even of scanty blessings.
J. R. MacDuff
Although I don't have a garden of my own and I am certainly not a farmer, I believe I know enough about the concept of cultivating to be confident in stating emphatically: cultivation requires work. A smattering of an occasional handful of seeds tossed onto the surface of untilled soil will not result in much of a crop no matter how well intentioned a momentary impulse to sow a good seed might be. I have several friends who have lush beautiful gardens, which is no easy feat in North Central Alberta. Through out the year I overhear their conversations as they speak of tilling, composting, seedlings and planting, weeding and harvesting. Every step along the way demands their complete attention and conscious involvement in order to see that harvest come in, whether that harvest is a bounty of fresh vegetables or a plethora of beautiful flowers and shrubs.
And so it is in developing a truly thankful heart. Good parents instill in their toddlers the importance of 'please' and 'thank you'. As their preschoolers grow in their development, a thoughtful parent adds to this foundation by introducing the concept of thank-you pictures to send to gift-givers and graduates this education further to thank-you letters, meaningful phone calls or emails. This is an important first step in understanding the concept of gratitude but I believe a thankful heart goes beyond merely giving thanks for the gifts we receive.
Truly grateful hearts see reason to give thanks in all things and all seasons no matter how dark and dreary those seasons may be on the surface. A grateful heart can see with eyes of faith the goodness that surrounds them or that is yet to spring forth from the long dormant days of spiritual winter. Such grateful hearts belonged to the Ten Boom sisters, Corrie and Betsie. Because of their determination to protect innocent lives during World War 2, the middle-aged Christian sisters were thrown into an infamous concentration death camp. Conditions were deplorable, disease and vermin were rampant. Housed in the barracks that had the worst reputation of all; being invested with fleas; it was impossible to sleep in the cramped quarters and the prisoners lice-covered bodies were ridden with fleabites. When the sisters cried out to the Lord for grace to endure the hardships, the Lord reminded them to give thanks in ALL circumstances and they did so, in child-like obedience. It wasn't until much later that Corrie came to the realize one of the reasons why she was able to share the gospel freely in her barrack and lead nightly bible studies without the interference of prison officials. The very fleas that plagued them kept their enemies at bay ...the guards refused to enter their hut unless ordered to do so, in fear of being infested themselves.
Corrie and Betsie would not have been able to bring good out of so much evil around them if they had not been able to give thanks out of hearts filled with faithful and faith-filled gratitude to their Loving Heavenly Father.
My prayer is that I will cultivate such a garden of praise and thankfulness myself so I can partake daily of this perpetual feast of gratitude.
As of May 2012, "WHATEVER IS PURE" ARCHIVES will no longer be seeking submissions. As most authors and poets now have their own blogs, we noticed a significant drop in submissions over the past year and felt it was best to move on to other endeavors.
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