“Father, make of me a crisis man. Bring those I contact to decision. Let me not be a milepost on a single road;
make me a fork
, that men must turn one way or another on facing Christ in me.” - Jim Elliot

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

This Jar is Cracked

photography by Anthony

We now have this light
shining in our hearts,

but we ourselves are like
fragile clay jars
containing this great treasure

This makes it clear that
our great power is from God,
not from ourselves.
2 Corinthians 4:7 NLT

As I ponder my current memory verse... I marvel at the thought that God's light shines within me. And also through me... considering all the chips and cracks in this particular jar of clay. How easy it is to see God's great power when the gaps and crevices allow the light to shine through...

And so I was caught off guard when I came across this verse in Jeremiah.

"This is what the Lord Almighty,
the God of Israel, says:
Take these documents,
both the sealed and unsealed
copies of the deed of purchase,
and put them in a
clay jar

so they will last a long time."
Jeremiah 32:14 NIV

The beauty of the Old Testament. The beauty of scripture interpreting scripture.

I had only ever considered Paul's inference towards the fragility of a clay jar. Not the durability of a clay jar.

Anthony took this picture when we were in Israel last year. These jars are similar in nature to the jars that housed the Dead Sea Scrolls when they were found in 1947. Jars of clay that protected ancient manuscripts for almost 2,000 years.

Although fragile in nature. They were used for preservation. Preservation of the word of God. Worthy of holding a treasure.

And that is me. And that is you.
"And what a awesome thought—
God has always put his eternal treasure
in fragile jars of clay,
and though the jars eventually break,
the treasure doesn’t,
but somehow makes the jars themselves eternal."
- Pastor Ray Noah

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Sometimes I Keep Better Track of the Prayers He Hasn't Answered...

Now to Him who is able
to do far more abundantly beyond all
that we ask or think...

Ephesians 3:20 NASB

I met her today.

It was a coincidental meeting. She was having lunch with her parents. I went over to say hello to them... not knowing it was her. And her mother introduced us. And we hugged and praised God.

It was the her from the post Reflections from My Garden. It was the her that I had prayed for so fervently. Not having met her, but knowing her affliction intimately... I interceded on her behalf.

And the Lord answered. And it was as if I knew He would.

But what I didn't know was that He would answer it "far more abundantly beyond" I could ever ask or imagine. He didn't just answer it. He super-sized it!

And I am so grateful to God because He destined this coincidental meeting today... as if to remind me to keep on praying and believing. Realizing that sometimes I keep better track of the prayers He hasn't answered... or hasn't answered yet... or to my satisfaction... than those that He has answered and even more so.

I took my troubles to the Lord;
I cried out to him,
and he answered my prayer.
Psalm 120:1 NLT

Thursday, July 23, 2009

We're Not Much To Look At...

But we have this treasure in
jars of clay
to show that this all-surpassing power
is from God and not from us.

2 Corinthians 4:7 NIV

If you only look at us,
you might well miss the brightness.

We carry this precious Message around in the
unadorned clay pots
of our ordinary lives.

That's to prevent anyone from
confusing God's incomparable power with us.

As it is, there's not much chance of that.
You know for yourselves that
we're not much to look at.

We've been surrounded and battered by troubles,
but we're not demoralized;
we're not sure what to do,
but we know that God knows what to do;
we've been spiritually terrorized,
but God hasn't left our side;
we've been thrown down, but we haven't broken.

What they did to Jesus, they do to us
—trial and torture, mockery and murder;
what Jesus did among them, he does in us
—he lives!

Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus' sake,
which makes Jesus' life
all the more evident in us.
While we're going through the worst,
you're getting in on the best!

2 Corinthians 4:7-12 The Message

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

All I Want is for My Daughter to be Whole and off those Antidepressants

"But I have prayed for you, Simon,
that your faith may not fail.
And when you have turned back,
strengthen your brothers."
Luke 22:32 NIV

I had never met her before. I had joined my mother for a luncheon and I just happened to sit next to her. A godly woman... perhaps almost 70 years old... well put together. She explained to me that her daughter, a mother of fourteen children, was dealing with depression. And then she boldly exclaimed, "All I want is for my daughter to be whole and off those antidepressants!"

My eyes widened. My throat got tight. My heart hurt. And immediately I began the self-talk.

If you're going through the study Me, Myself & Lies, you know what I'm talking about... the talk that goes on in our head... often destructive in nature. And if not properly taken captive can tempt me to destroy everything that God has instilled in me.

And the self-talk prompted by her exclamation sounds like:
"Those anti-depressants... That's you, Sheri... you're on those anti-depressants. You know what she would be thinking if she knew you were on those anti-depressants... if only you trusted the Lord more... prayed more... were more godly. Christians shouldn't be on those anti-depressants."
This particular conversation with myself has occurred many times. And since I am on anti-depressants... and most likely will be on them for the rest of my life... I have had to "speak truth to my issues." I have sought the Lord in prayer. I have sought His heart through reading the Bible. I have worked with Christian counselors. I have done medical research. All of this to combat the damaging self-talk.

I have begged the Lord to take the depression away from me. And wondered... why would He not do it instantaneously. Why not an instant miracle of healing? But through reading the Bible I find it is not always the case.

I consider Naaman in 2 Kings 5 who had leprosy. He went to Elisha for healing and was disgusted to find out that he had to dunk himself seven times in the muddy dark waters of the Jordan. "But Naaman went away angry and said, 'I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy.'" 2 Kings 5:11 NIV Ultimately he did go to the Jordan... did the dunk... and was healed by God.

Or I consider the man who brought his son to the disciples for healing. He said to Jesus, "I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not." Mark 9:18b NIV The disciples in all their proximity to Jesus could not heal his son. So the man went to Jesus... and then the son was healed.

These people were not healed instantly. They had to pray and then pursue and act and then receive. It did not happen as they thought it should.

And what about the shame I feel in regards to taking medication? I realize that there are people with diabetes or thyroid cancer or arthritis or asthma or IBS or irregular heartbeat... who are on life giving or pain relieving medication... and we shame them not. So, why should I feel shame over taking medicine for a medical condition?

I have done my share of medical research. And due to sexual abuse under the age of five... and due to hereditary issues from my father who had mental illness... and due to the effects of thyroid cancer... I come about my depression honestly. The effects of the abuse, heredity, and thyroid cancer cause my synapses and serotonin to be out of whack. (I often wonder why there is not a blood test to show the levels of serotonin.)

Still when the exclamation was made... it sent me into destructive self-talk... but I immediately covered it with the truth. And later that day, admitted to my own mother that I am on anti-depressants.

And in writing this post... and revealing this weakness... this vulnerability... I realize that someone could decide to leave a comment that could send me back into that self-talk. But I also know that I am not alone... and that by "confessing" my issue, I am taking away some of its power over me.

My thorn does not define me, but instead refines me.

At first I didn't think of it as a gift,
and begged God to remove it.
Three times I did that, and then he told me,

My grace is enough; it's all you need.

My strength comes into its own in your weakness.
Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen.
I quit focusing on the handicap and
began appreciating the gift.
2 Corinthians 12:8-9 The Message

Dear sister, when you are prompted to start the destructive self-talk... take courage. Press into the Truth... read the Truth... pray... and find someone in whom to confide. And may God's grace be sufficient in your weakness.

My Return from Egypt

Egypt doesn't look so bad...

"...Tell them, 'God, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, appeared to me, saying,

"I've looked into what's being done to you in Egypt, and I've determined to get you out of the affliction of Egypt and take you to the land of the Canaanite...
a land brimming over with milk and honey."'

Exodus 3:16-17 The Message

I returned from Egypt yesterday. No, not the country of Egypt. But my personal Egypt. The Egypt of my childhood.

For the last two weeks I spent most of my time reminiscing. Easy to do since I was at my birthplace -- Maryland. On the second day of my visit, I was able to drive past my childhood home, elementary school, middle school and high school. Christopher was with me and I would share with him the memories that immediately flashed into my mind.

Everywhere I turned... memories of over 30+ years ago would surface. Again and again. I was almost frightened by their potency. And even Christopher noticed. "Is this somewhere else where you were bullied, Mommy?"

And it hit me... is it easier to move on to my Canaan because I am physically no longer in my Egypt? Instead of having to layer my Canaan on top of my Egypt... did I have it easy? Because I was no longer daily reminded of the past that sometimes left me scarred?

For me, the memories of my difficult childhood are entrenched in the buildings and playgrounds I encounter when I return to my birthplace. Memories of being bullied or beat up by other children... or being abused... or rejected... or all the mistakes that were made. Hard memories that are part of who I am.

Perhaps if I had stayed... new memories would heavily layer over top the painful ones... and only the positive memories would survive. All I know is... one way or the other... we need to move on from our Egypts and into our Canaans. Whether we leave our Egypts by space... or by time. We need to move on...

And when we look back to how far God has brought us... may we always be amazed by His grace and grateful for His mercy. And even if it is painful to visit our Egypts... may it be a strong reminder that we do not want to return there... and how God rescued us.

that you were slaves in Egypt and
that the LORD your God
brought you out of there with
a mighty hand and an outstretched arm...

Deuteronomy 5:15 NIV

Monday, July 13, 2009

Me, Myself & Lies: 5+8=13

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...
1 Peter 3:15 NIV

Me, Myself & Lies
Week 3, Day 4
A Spirit-Controlled Thought Closet:
Snapshots of the Spirit

Do you ever think that no one is interested in what you have to say? Well, I do. Even with constant affirmation.

Today's study reminds us that the Holy Spirit challenges us to hear, admit, and embrace truth. Hearing truth and admitting truth is not where I lack... it is in embracing the truth. Embracing that there is an answer within me for the hope that I have.

It reminds me of math facts. I have noticed that when Christopher and I are reviewing math flash cards that sometimes he is uncertain as to whether 5+8=13. I try to encourage him to just KNOW that 5+8=13. It just is. There is no doubt. He should just believe it. It is a fact. It is truth.

The truth is... that there is a reason for the hope that is within me. Even when I feel inadequate to speak the words or write the words that are on my heart... God is NOT inadequate. The reason is NOT inadequate.
And that is the truth... and I will rely upon the Holy Spirit to remind me that testifying of God's great love for me... and what I've learned... is NEVER inadequate.

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you all things and
will remind you of everything
I have said to you.
John 14:26 NIV

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Me, Myself & Lies: Self-Talking!

My current Bible Study, Me, Myself & Lies focuses on our self-talk. Sometimes as I'm working through the content... it is hard for me to remember concrete examples of how negative my self-talk can be. This is where journaling (or blogging) comes in handy. I encourage you to journal about your negative self-talk, so that you can know what you need to combat... and to remember how far God has brought you!

Prime Example of Sheri's Self-Talk from March 9th of this year...

I'm Angry!
March 9, 2009

Fresh Snow this Morning...

Last week, I decided to stop blogging.

After teaching last Tuesday on Abigail... I believed the lie that I was told. "You didn't do it. You weren't good enough. You were telling people things they already knew. You sighed too often. You crossed your arms. You made exaggerated statements. Why did you think you should be up there teaching?"

And so, if I was that poor of a teacher... why did I feel that my random musings via blogworld would be any different?

When asked by a friend* "How did it go?" I said, "It went."

Despite the fact that one of the ladies at my table said to me that she wanted to pick up my challenge to be an Abigail (or Jonathan) to someone who is in an Abigail-like situation. Despite the fact that my pastor's wife commended me on Facebook for all to see. Despite the encouraging words of ladies I love and I adore... and more importantly... I trust.

But what is worse... It was despite the fact that I was obedient to what God asked me to do... and even more so... despite all of the intercession that had occurred on my behalf... and finally despite the fact that I truly knew it was "not about me" and that God would have to be the one to "bring it"...

Yet, the lie was easier to believe. I wondered... was it false humility? Perhaps. But the lie was strong and deep and it was carefully mastered. Almost as if the lie came from someone who would want to tear me to shreds... so that I would shut up... hold back... sink within myself...

And frankly, it worked... this week I have been suffering from PTD (post-teaching depression).

But God would not let me stay there. During church service on Sunday, we had a guest speaker who spoke to us about

guilt vs. grace
shame vs. righteousness
condemnation vs. conviction.

And I got angry. Angry for being lied to. Angry for believing the lie.

And I realized that I must not be the only one who feels this way, so I immediately ran home and wrote an e-mail to the gal who is teaching this Tuesday. And I am praying for her before she teaches... and during her teaching... but now I know to pray for her AFTER she teaches.

Then, I knew that I should post about this week of weakness. Because it wasn't just for my benefit, but for yours.

And so, I again cling to these words penned by the apostle Paul...

4My message and my preaching
were not with wise and persuasive words,

but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power,

5so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom,
but on God's power.

1 Corinthians 2:4-5 NIV

I don't understand why it is easier to believe a lie about ourselves... especially when we are the one speaking it. Sisters, we must remember who we are in Christ. We must remind each other and encourage each other. We must use what we have learned during our weak times to strengthen those around us.

...that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith.
Romans 1:12 NIV

Friday, July 3, 2009

He WILL Bring You Through It

All praise to the God and Father
of our Master, Jesus the Messiah!
Father of all mercy!
God of all healing counsel!

He comes alongside us
when we go through hard times,
and before you know it,
he brings us alongside someone else
who is going through hard times
so that we can be there for that person
just as God was there for us.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 The Message

Are you struggling right now? Are you going through a difficult or hard time? Is it something that no one else seems to understand? No one else can relate to your current suffering? Are you wondering why God has allowed you to be in this "hard time"? And even more so... why is He letting you hang out there for so long?

Here's the good news... no make that the great news... okay... the BEST news...
God is going to come alongside you and bring you comfort. And God is going to be there for you. He promises. He is faithful.

And God will recycle what you have been through. Can you believe it? Remember when you thought no one could relate to what you were going through? Now that you have been through that difficult time... YOU CAN RELATE! You can be that person who truly can understand what someone else is going through. God is going to use you.

So, share it! Write a post about it. And don't be too surprised when God uses you to minister to someone else. To bring them hope and the same comfort that God gave to you.

Because He will bring you through it. He has promised!

When you're in over your head,
I'll be there with you.

When you're in rough waters,
you will not go down.

When you're between
a rock and a hard place,

it won't be a dead end—

Because I am God,
your personal God,

The Holy of Israel,
your Savior.

Isaiah 43:2 The Message

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Authenticity: The Remix

A Remix from the original.

Paulina's Peak, Oregon

During our trip to Sunriver in June of 2008, we decided to take some time to explore the nature around us. For those of you unfamiliar with central Oregon, it is highlighted with desert and volcanic rock. We decided to climb (okay, drive) to the top of Paulina's Peak. I noticed tan rocks, green trees, blue water, and white snow. But no other colors... until I looked down.


And there, I saw it... authenticity... it had a beautiful pinkish-magenta color. Here a seed had settled amongst the rocks... on the edge... and decided to bloom... where it had landed. It didn't wait to be picked up and nurtured in a nursery. It didn't hang on until someone gathered it up and took it from this dry and barren place. It didn't offer excuses as to why it shouldn't bloom here. It just did. No one sat around and thought.... "Gee, that plant is just showing off." Or "Doesn't that plant know that it will not be noticed here?" Or "What made that plant presume that it could just go ahead and bloom where others have failed to do so?"

I often find myself thinking that I have no right to presume to share from the depths of who I am. I mean, really, who do I think I am? Do I think that I am special? That my words might offer relief to someone? Or they might bring comfort? Who do I think I am...

And then I looked down... and realized that, I am authentic. There I am. Blooming where it might be unexpected. But afraid to show it. Thinking that perhaps I will appear that I think "I know it all." So, I withhold words of wisdom, comfort, love... why? Because I don't want to assume or offend or be rejected.

That's me. That's who I am. Authentic. Sometimes, I am afraid to let my light shine... but as God is liberating me from my fears, I would pray that He uses me in your liberation, too.