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God’s Favor January 19, 2008

Posted by amybeth in God, Life.
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Its been a long time since I’ve had the time and the brain space to post on here. Doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking, but its all kind of jumbled up. I’ve actually decided to take a year off before graduate school specifically to give myself time to sort through all that I’ve learned and thought about and to catch up on a very long (and growing) reading list.

But…for the present. Some of you have heard stories about the awesome favor that God has given me while I’ve been in school the last three or four years. I’ve connected with the right professors, been given amazing research opportunities, been published as first author in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, had numberous ‘exceptions to the rule’ in terms of classes and scheduling, been awarded some prestigious scholarships and been hired for more teaching assistant positions than I think any single student has held before. The only explanation is that God has paved the way for me.

And now I have yet another story of favor to add to the collection. I’ve been frustrated in trying to settle on courses for this, my last semester in school. Due to a professor going on medical leave, some of my options changed and everything was up in the air. I had already, amazingly, gotten a professor who was on research leave agree to supervise me in and independent library study course which solved one of the issues, but I was still stuck on what to take as my final elective. When I went to the first actual full class of the one I had chosen I realized I had made a very bad choice and that the course was going to drive me nuts. Problem was that the drop and add period was technically over.

So…I went in to talk to my undergraduate advisor who said if I went to the faculty office that afternoon before they closed, they might make an exception and let me switch into something else. Meanwhile, I had emailed the Associate Dean to ask if there was any chance that they’d accept some of my Bible school courses as transfer credit eliminating the need for me to take an elective course at all. Three years ago when I returned to university they had told me they didn’t accept Bible school transfers but were reviewing the policy. My undergraduate adviser said this was a long shot and even if they did agree, the paperwork would be complex and would take a couple of weeks. I needed to choose a backup course just in case. So…we found a possibility that was actually in session 15 minutes from then. So, the plan was I was going to go check the class out for a few minutes and then dash to the faculty office before they closed at 4 to make my request for a course change.

Just before I left, I checked my email and had a reply from the Associate Dean saying that yes, they now accepted Bible school courses in some cases and that I should make an appointment with her. I sent a reply asking her if she thought I should make a course change just in case and when could we meet. I then went off to the class, deemed it sufficiently okay (at least in the 10 minutes I gave it) and dashed off to the faculty office. On my way I stopped at the library to check my email one more time and found an automated reply from the Assistant Dean that she would be out of the office for a few days.

Well, I arrived at the faculty office 5 or 10 minutes before they closed and asked the secretary if by any chance the Assistant Dean was still there. She was and I went in and explained where I was at. After asking me a few questions about accreditation and the nature of my classes, she agreed to make the transfer. All I had to do was drop my transcript off at the beginning of the next week. She was certain enough that she didn’t advise doing a backup course change – in fact she had me drop my elective right then and there.

So, a half hour after having been told by my adviser that this was farfetched or at the very least time consuming, I had a guaranteed answer. I don’t have to take any elective course this semester which frees me up time-wise and puts approximately $500 back in my pocket. Sweet!!!

I laughed when I told my parents. There have been so many small instances over the last couple of years where I’ve had to push for things and have found amazing favor. It makes me wonder what big thing is ahead of me in life where I’m going to be told ‘it can’t be done’ and my natural response due to experience will be ‘you wanna bet!?’

Proud Abba November 12, 2007

Posted by amybeth in God.
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As some of you know and some of you don’t, I am leading my church’s youth group this year. Some time back, we heard about a 48 hr worship event being held at a local house of prayer during the Halloween season – a standing for light in the midst of darkness. The youth expressed interest in attending just to see what was going on. While the director has asked if our youth band would be willing to take a 2 hour slot and play, I didn’t think we were ready yet. At that stage we’d only had about 2 practices and knew a grand total of 3 songs.The week before the event I discovered that most of the youth had made other plans and wouldn’t be coming after all, but I did have four who were still interested, three of whom were musicians. After contacting the director and discovering that she remained unsuccessful in getting another band to cover the time slot that we were planning on attending, I proposed to one of the youth who was planning on coming with me that perhaps the three of them could play. They had jammed together outside of youth and I thought that just possibly, they could make a go of it. He actually got quite excited and booked off work to make it happen.

On the actual night of, I had two more of the youth who hadn’t planned on coming before show up. The one young man I had spoken to picked a bunch of songs he thought they might be able to play on the spot…and we were on! It was an interesting night…as I told the youth themselves, we had some absolutely awful moments when nothing sounded right, but we also had some incredible moments where everything seemed to come together despite our lack of preparation.

But the point of this story is the huge grin I couldn’t seem to wipe from my face the whole night. Literally…I felt like my smile was stretching of my face. I was so proud of them for stepping up to the plate and trying. It was a pretty scary thing to take responsibility for providing continuous worship for 2 hours when you’ve only practiced 3 songs as a group before. And they kept persevering even when the songs they tried didn’t work so well. They were just awesome!

A few days later as I was pondering on the experience, God dropped the thought in my head that that is how he feels about us when we try and keep persevering despite the odds. I know I’ve heard before that when you become a parent, many attributes of God as Father are opened up to you due to the parallel feelings you have towards your own children. I think in that moment, the youth became like my kids and I had a momentary glimpse of how proud Abba is of us.

This was profound for me because I’ve always struggled with how can God be proud of us, pleased with us, when he knows how much more we could be, when his final goal is so much beyond where we are now. Wouldn’t he get frustrated at times? Or maybe he’d have that kind of half grin/half grimace on his face like people do when they are experts in a field watching amateurs make bumbling attempts?

But that night, I discovered just how proud a person can be of another person or people despite their imperfections, despite not having yet reached their potential – very, very proud.

Then, to add to the story, a few days later I was driving to school listening to a CD that I’ve listened to thousands of times before. I had just recently made a very difficult decision about a direction I was headed. It was one of those decisions that was more than just the decision itself but felt like it was deeper down, the taking of a stand spiritually. Anyways, the words of this one song just leapt out at me and I started crying in the car because they’d touched something inside.

The singer was speaking as if from the perspective of God saying, “Angels, oh Angels look and see, through this dark night of faith she is trusting in me.”

It was the same thing…like God was saying to me ‘I’m proud of you…pleased as punch that you are choosing me even when you can’t see what’s going on. You don’t have to have it all figured out…just stand. And that’s enough to totally bowl me over with pride in my daughter.”

Wow, eh?

Unnaturally Unatural September 12, 2007

Posted by amybeth in Deep, God.
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I’m a teaching assistant for a class this fall and we had the opportunity to put a brief profile up on the web. One of the questions it asked was what books and music we would take with us to a desert island. I would definitely take the Bible and some of my worship CDs, but I hesitated to put it on there for fear that it would either turn people off or label me in such a way that would make open discussion in the classroom difficult (ie. would being known as a Christian make students less likely to trust my answers in class). That bothered me somehow because the answer to a question as simple as what books and music I like should be a no brainer…answering it should come naturally. I began to think of other areas such as asking for advice about school decisions. Its really hard to include in the conversation the fact that my overall orientation towards such decisions is a belief that God is leading me. Instead, I’m usually very concious of leaving that sort of info out.

If my worldview is such that I believe God is intimately involved in my life, that he is in control, that he loves me and so forth, there are countless places in conversation where that should jus slip out. And yet, it doesn’t very often. There’s a sort of preset choke mechanism within me that is always valuing appropriateness. And thus, what should be natural feels very unatural.

And the fact that it feels unatural…is well unatural. Thus, the fact that I don’t feel comfortable simply making reference to my faith and how I see God involved in every aspect of my life is ‘unaturally unatural’.

A big consequence of this is that we actually grow to doubt what we believe rather than strengthen it. Its a psychological reality that our attitudes often align themselves with what we speak, and if we never speak of what God is up to in our lives, we will find it more and more difficult to recognize his presence and involvement ourselves.

The Joy of the Lord July 24, 2007

Posted by amybeth in Deep, God.
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I came across an article written by John Paul Jackson of Streams Ministries that really touched and challenged me. I’m going to paste a portion of the article here and then comment on it below.

“Has anyone ever come up to you and tried to encourage you with the following verse? It sounds like a psalm, but it’s actually found in Nehemiah. The joy of the Lord is your strength. You can find this verse all over the Christian world — greeting cards, refrigerator magnets, church bulletins — but what does it actually mean? More specifically, does it really mean what most of us think it does?

In different ways, many of us take this verse to be the Christian life standard: “I will be joyful. The joy of the Lord will be my strength even if it kills me!” When taken to an extreme, this belief literally will kill you because it doesn’t allow you to be real, process pain or genuine joy, grow spiritually or truly know your Father.

Some of us assume it’s a command: “I’m supposed to be joyful all the time, and if I’m not, something must be wrong with me. I have to try harder, because clearly I’m not measuring up.”

Both of these assumptions are entirely wrong. Jesus does not expect you to be joyful all the time. He’s been here; He knows what living on earth is like. He knows it’s hard, and He understands why we fail sometimes. Most of us don’t comprehend this last aspect especially — God actually understands why I did what I did? You mean, He’s not sitting up in Heaven with a judgment stick, ready to sever our relationship the minute I even think the wrong thing?

Not at all. He knows why that step in particular made you stumble. He knows what you’re going through. He knows the thoughts, breaths and nuances of your heart — and loves you. That brings us to what the verse actually means.

The joy of the Lord will be my strength. It’s not that some heightened level of my joy will be my strength; it’s that God’s joy will be my strength. His Fatherly joy. He is so proud of us. We know that God invented laughter, but most of us don’t understand how easily He is amused, how easily He loves and how easily we delight Him.

Someday, when we get to Heaven, He’s going to pop in the DVD of our lives, and we’ll get to sit there and watch it with Him. Yes, we’ll have to give an accounting of what we’ve done wrong, but we forget the other side of that! We forget how He loves us; we forget His joy over our existence.

As He plays the DVD of our lives, He’ll say, “Oh, I loved it there when you did that, son! That blessed My heart so much, daughter! Let Me show you how great that was.” He’ll pull up a dual screen. “Here’s what you were doing, and this is what happened in Heaven when you did it.”

We will get to see what went on in Heaven when we did what we thought were small, insignificant acts on earth. Why did God ever have me do that? we wonder in our day-to-day lives here on earth, only to hear the Father say one day in Heaven, “Wow! Oh! I loved that.”

We bring a huge, galactic level of joy to our Father. We delight Him in ways that are humanly impossible to understand. That is what the joy of the Lord means, and that’s why it is our strength. When we walk in the awareness of His joy, we won’t be able to keep from rejoicing ourselves. This joy is what gives us the strength to endure.”

Wow, huh!?  I read that after a very discouraging day when I felt like I was totally not measuring up, not getting it, falling into the same old patterns and mindsets and unable to escape. I was fighting the familiar thought that God must get awfully frustrated with me.  When I read about how joyful God is, I struggled – I wanted to believe it but it wasn’t jiving with my current discouraged state of being. I started trying to justify my self-critical point of view by going to Old Testament stories about God’s wrath. But then I remembered a teaching I once heard or read that talked about how God’s wrath is just a mirror image of his love. It was his fierce love for the Israelites that drove him to eradicate anything and anyone who might contaminate them, tempt them away from Him. He knew the value of being in right standing with Him and therefore he, on their behalf, fought viciously to protect them. The same is true for us. From time to time we might catch a glimpse of God’s anger or feel just a touch of his wrath, but we must remember that it is not directed at us, but at the sin and the forces of evil that would seek to draw us away from him. The directive to ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ is perhaps even truer of God and how he views us than it is of us and how we are to view those we witness to. God’s love you…God loves ME! …more than we/I can imagine. His desire for us to be free of everything that entangles us stems from a deep understanding of who we could be without all that junk holding us back, NOT from a frustration that we aren’t meeting some kind of standard. Its the difference between a coach who is totally frustrated at his teams’ performance because the city won’t supply them with the proper equipment and he longs to see each player reach their potential and win the victories he knows they could verus a coach who is angry at his teams’ performance because the players aren’t performing as good as he wants them to.

Obedience vs Honor July 24, 2007

Posted by amybeth in God.
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I was once again contemplating the future and trying to make decisions about what my next step should be. As usual, I was bemoaning the fact that God’s direction isn’t clearer. Wouldn’t it be so much easier if God gave direct commands? I’d obey. I’d jump right to it.  This time God brought me up short.

Sure…anybody can obey commands out of allegiance, but how many respond to requests out of love. He brought to mind how, in obeying my parents, I’ll do everything they specifically tell me too, but when they ask for something extra or just hint at how something might make their life easier, I groan and usually try to get out of doing it or somehow justify how busy I am with other things. God challenged me that there is a difference between obedience and honor. I am obeying my parents out of duty but not honoring them out of love. Yowch…that was painful enough. But then he applied the same truth to my relationship with Him. In my recognition that he is God, I am willing to concede that he deserves my obedience. Yeesh…he’s God already. But my love has not deepened to the point where I desire to serve and honor him beyond the limits dictated by duty.

A while back, a speaker at our church made the statement that God is asking a lot of questions in this season…asking, not demanding. Another speaker that I heard a few weeks later gave an illustration of something God asked her to do and how he specifically told her that she didn’t have to.  I think God is trying to tell me that its time to move to another level in my relationship, to cultivate a love that will draw me to him and cause me to desire to honor him, to respond to his whispered requests, not just to his spoken commands.

Preach it, Sister! July 10, 2007

Posted by amybeth in Deep, God, Life.
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Wow!  This past Sunday I was the speaker at my church.  I’ve never preached before. In fact, I don’t think I’ve shared beyond a 5 or 10 minute testimony. But there was definitely something I felt God wanted me to release and well, he opened up the opportunity. Its true that those he calls he equips, cuz amazingly, despite some nervousness over mechanical things like not bumping my lapel mic off, I was completely calm.  My cheeks didn’t even heat up like they normally do when I stand in front of people – nervous or not. I received a lot of positive feedback and my Pastor said that when he looked at faces, even those who didn’t normally respond looked as though they had really been challenged. Yay God!

Wanna know how it happened?  Well, on June 30 I went to the last session of the ‘Oh Canada!’ conference being held at TACF. What I heard there from a whole panel of national leaders about the destiny of Canada and what God is doing in our nation really excited me and I mentioned to my Pastor on Sunday that I’d like to share about it briefly. Well…as the service went on, he forgot. So, he said that I could share the next week.

No problem.  But as I was getting my thoughts together since I had the opportunity to bring a little more cohesion to all the pieces of information I’d heard, I decided to ask him how much time he wanted me to take. Well, he said he wasn’t going to preach anything…whatever was said was up to me.  Yikes!  He felt God telling him that there was a period of time over the summer where he was to have different people from the congregation bring the sermons and since I offered to share, well, I had just ended up being first! So suddenly, my visions of a 10 minute testimony type talk turned into a full-fledge sermon.

 But I think God wanted it that way because there were a few more events I participated in that week including a rally for theCall-Nashville and an 07-07-07 Celebration which provided the material for a solid challenge to awaken to what God was doing in the earth in this day.

Its very hard to sum up what I felt burning within in me – there was a reporting of what national prophetic voices were saying, a historical framework given to the moral decay in our society, a call to repentance and holiness like never before, and a challenge to examine the premises upon which we base our reality. Because I feel this was such an important word for this time and season, I’ve actually uploaded my notes here for anyone who may wish to view them. You can download them here: Oh Canada Notes

God’s Got a Crush on You July 2, 2007

Posted by amybeth in God.
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Have you ever smiled at young people falling ‘in love’ for the first time, or goodnaturedly chuckled at someone who has a crush on somone else?  The emotion, the optimism, the nervousness and careful posturing for attention.  The particular image I have in mind is of the person who has fallen head over heels in love with someone who doesn’t even know they exist, at least as a potential partner.  Often such a person is remarkably resilient to advice that their affection may never be reciprocated. They have an uncanny ability to interpret even the slightest gesture in their direction as indicated undying devotion. We look on such people with a measure of amusement, but at the same time, a measure of admiration for their resilience. In romance books, sometimes the pairing is of a rich man of character who falls in love with a poor peasant girl, or even a prostitute who refuses him due to feelings of unworthiness. In this case, we cheer the gentleman on and rave about his gallantry. I would imagine that in some ways we relate, longing for someone to pursue us with such persistent love, to persist in the demonstration of their affection despite our fears or hurts that cause us to pull away, to mask our own response with disdain or even anger. The woman on the receiving end often thinks she is saving the hero from himself, keeping him from making a horrible decision and uniting himself permantly with someone so undeserving.

 I heard a song the other night loosely based on the Song of Solomon that talked of God loving us even in our weakness, calling us who are dark, lovely. I wish I had written down the words because they went on, expressing the longing of God’s heart for us in such a poignant way. The picture I came away with was the one I painted above. God has a crush on us. He is in love with us. Its the kind of love that causes him to look beyond our station in life or the poverty of our appearance. Its the kind of love that causes him to persist despite our resistance, despite our protestations of unworthiness, despite our deep-seated hurts and misperceptions based on past experience that cause us to act out in rebellion and rejection of his love. Its the kind of love that is unfailingly optimistic, that sees the potential in us and the potential in his relationship with us. Its the kind of love that is eager to interpret any small gesture on our part towards him as profound movement in his direction, as evidence of our affection, our devotion for him.

I still struggle often with feeling God is impatient or disappointed in me. I get exasperated with my inability to ‘get it’ sometimes and project that emotion onto God. And yet this picture leaves no room for such a reality. Instead, it puts on God’s face, that ever-present, almost irritatingly cheerful grin of someone head over heels in love – undisuadeable, undiscourageable – with me!

Character May 3, 2007

Posted by amybeth in Deep, God.
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I was writing in my journal the other day, listening to record what I felt God speak to me and I wrote this…

“I rejoice as you allow me to shape your character, the image of me in you.”

The last phrase hit me.  I know that I’m created in God’s image, but I’ve never connected that with my character before.  I’ve always thought of character development as a serious business…you know…discipline and all that.  However, what if our ‘character’ is primarily the result of how we view God, the image we carry of him in our mind’s eye.  If we view God as angry or a taskmaster, our character will have a hard edge to it, we will be defensive and strive to earn love.  But if we view God as loving, kind, always for us, and so on…we will be softer, more loving and generous ourselves.  Those life-giving expressions will just naturally flow out of us.  Hence the idea that we are to reflect God to the world…but we can only reflect what we gaze upon.  Thus if we gaze upon our falsely contrived image of God, we will reflect a false image.  But the more we spend time with God and learn his true character, the more we will reflect his true nature.

Thus, character development is not about a harsh regime of discipine…but about cultivating a love relationship with our Father.  Interesting twist, eh?

God, My Teacher May 3, 2007

Posted by amybeth in Deep, God.
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Have you ever had the feelling that God must get frustrated with how often he has to repeat a lesson or re-teach you something?  Do you ever wonder sometimes, on an off day, if there every might come a time that he’ll give up and quit, deciding that you are just to ‘thick’ to get it?  I do.

But then I had a thought.  I love to teach.  I get a thrill out of working one-on-one with someone to help them understand something.  If they don’t really care, then I quickly get frustrated and will soon quit, leaving them to their own devices.  However, if they really want to learn but are struggling, I have unlimited energy and enthusiasm to explain and re-explain until they get it.  I love the challenge.  I love the reward.

Do you think possibly, that might be a reflection of the God who created me?  Could it be that he sees my sincere desire to learn and to please him and that his heart thrills to the challenge?  Could he love to find new ways to teach me about himself and his love and his ways until I finally get it…deep down inside?  Could the Teacher himself have a teachers heart? 

I’m thinking its time for me to relax and stop trying to figure out the lesson ahead of time to try to avoid frustrating God (silly me)…and trust that my teacher is capable, committed, and infinitely patient.

Flaws May 3, 2007

Posted by amybeth in Deep, God.
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Okay…I thought of a cool analogy today.  I don’t know anything about real diamonds and how they are evaluated/refined so this may not be entirely accurate…but work with me, okay.

Pretend you’ve just been given a crude diamond and told it has 10 flaws. You were also informed that if the flaws are found and removed, the diamond will be worth a million dollars.  I’d imagine you’d get that diamond under a magnifying glass and a bright light and start searching right away.  Every flaw you found would be a cause for rejoicing.

Now picture God.  He knows what we are worth…we are priceless.  But he also knows that we are flawed.  So he sent his Holy Spirit – his magnifying glass and bright light – to search us and find those flaws so that he can remove them and shape us into the valuable gem that he knows we are. 

Too often I picture God shaking his head with disappointment when he exposes yet another flaw in me.  And yet, if this analogy holds any worth, he is instead rejoicing.  My dad once spoke of the joy of repentance and I’m guessing this is a part of that.  The exposure of my weakness or error is not a cause for discouragement but a cause for celebration because it means that God can get into that area and restore it.  He’s not looking at each exposure as diminishing my worth but rather increasing it, bringing it closer to the full value he knows is possible. 

Its a totally different perspective. And if we truly believed this, we would turn our face towards the light and welcome him to ‘search us and know us’ as the Psalmist said.