Friday, September 28, 2012


In this connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.'
And I said, 'Who are you, Lord?'
And the Lord said, 'I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles--to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.'
Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. 
Acts 26:12-20
     Just days ago, I was telling my son the story of Saul, in part because my boy is one who frequently kicks against the goads. My child does not yet have the training Saul did, but he is every bit as single-minded, wrong or right. Before his conversion, Saul was in that category of Jewish culture largely viewed as righteous. He was rigorously engaged in persecuting those who were following the teachings of Jesus and "breathing out threats and murder" against them. Full of what I am sure he thought was holy anger, he sought permission from the high priest to travel to Damascus and haul more of those heretical Jesus-followers in to justice.

     However, as Saul stormed down that road toward Damascus, the Lord pricked him sharply with a goad, turning him aside from his rampage by striking him temporarily blind, and thus steering him to the rather reluctant ministrations of a believer by the name of Ananias. He spent the next three days in fasting and prayer until Ananias arrived on Straight Street, perhaps somewhat nervously inquiring if the ruthless Saul was around and in need of having his vision restored.

     I have to wonder what Saul pondered during his period of helplessness? Did he realize that his blindness was a tangible representation of what he had been before encountering Jesus, a man spiritually blind? For after he was healed, he was no longer Saul, the hate-minded persecutor of Christianity but Paul, the enormously loyal and obedient servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. The temporary loss of sight was also a foreshadowing of what he was setting out to do, for he also was to become a minister of the risen Lord and restorer of sight to the spiritually blind just as Ananias had been to him.Whether or not those things passed over his mind, it is certain that the affliction served as a rather efficient impetus for him to join his God on the correct path.

     As my son and I walked, I found myself wondering aloud whether Paul thought of these words, "it is hard for you to kick against the goads," later in his life. When he wrote of the thorn in his flesh placed there to prevent his becoming conceited, was he writing from a mental image of the goads used to keep the plow animals in line? As he endured the agony of the lash or the scorn of crowds furiously pummeling him with stones, did he remind himself not to retaliate; not to kick against these goads, too? It was an interesting thought.

     I think that many times, I have kicked against the goads--and so my son comes by it honestly, it would seem. I know that I have been called to a much more simple way of life, to listen to what that voice behind me directing, "This way," when I must turn to the right or to the left. However, I find I still constantly run ahead, charging full-bore down what I am certain is the correct path only to find that I have left the Lord's side and am barreling down the wrong path--alone. And I must find my way back. At other times, I will simply snap and give in to my anger, throwing what amounts to a grown-up temper tantrum. Always, always when this happens, I am pricked and shamed once my fury ebbs, and I am soon repenting before God and the target of my ire, typically my children. Still other times I will almost painstakingly nurse my hurts, letting my thoughts linger over what life should be or what I wish could be, if only... Yet this sort of selfish mental meandering only brings a keen jab from the One who lovingly seeks to keep me in line.

     There are so many instances and so many ways in which goads are used in my life that I could fill a book with them, though it doubtless would be a rather dull book! Each time they are used, I am reminded that the whole point of the story--of any story--is not me at all. My life is wholly given to serve the One who died in my place, paying ransom for the atrocities I have committed as well as those I still commit. It is love for Him that fuels me now; the goads are in place to remind me of that when I momentarily forget it.

     For you see, the natural me does not want to pick up my cross daily. Like the oxen that needed the goads to plow a straight furrow, the natural me is prone to wander, leaning always toward those paths that seem good because they feel good for a time. But my Master knows what is good for me far beyond what my eyes can see, and so he pricks with the goads to keep me on the narrow Way. Because I trust Him, I believe that He knows best, and so I yield to the goads no matter how much discomfort or inconvenience it causes me now. He is leading me through this brief life to something greater than I can even fathom. He is my Shepherd, marshaling me onward towards joy.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives."  
Hebrews 12:1-6
 Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, September 24, 2012


Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
     Father, Provider,Comforter, Deliverer, I have much to thank You for today. You have given me so many blessings, and for many such as food, shelter, clothing, and health I have expressed my gratitude numerous times. Yet there are blessings I have neglected to thank You for, in part because I have only recently recognized some elements of my life as blessings.

     Betsie Ten Boom once thanked You for the fleas in the filthy concentration camp barracks she was imprisoned in, only later to discover that it was the fleas that enabled Your word to be spread and shared without interference from the guards. She was wiser than I and recognized that Your blessings do not always come dressed in a package the human mind appreciates. I have neglected to thank You for the "fleas" in my life, and today I intend to do so.

     Lord, thank You for long, friendless spans of time in my pre-Christ life. Those periods of separation, though they chafed at the time, prepared me to walk the narrow path unaccompanied at times when I find that it is necessary to choose between walking alone or forsaking Your way. Thank You that feeling rejected then has galvanized me against being rejected now, for the zeal I now have for You and Your Word is not always readily embraced, and I again find myself categorized as a freak, albeit for better reasons this time around!

      Thank You that the same loneliness left me with a tremendous ache that was oh, so ready to be soothed by Your love. My heart had been seared by suppressed anger, by fear and rejection, and by my own bad choices, and it was calloused and numb. The shock of meeting You, the realness of You, pierced through and made a start from which You began Your patient work of pruning. It hurt, but I knew somehow even then that it was worth it--that You were worth it. Thank You for carefully debriding and then healing the fathomless wounds of my heart.

     Thank You for bringing me away from my hometown, for causing every friend I thought I had to desert me, for showing me the intense suffering of a young person dying of cancer, and for bringing me to the point of questioning every worldly philosophy my non-believing self had embraced. Without being confronted with death, I may have never found life. Without that sobering morbidity thrust into my directionless, bar-hopping lifestyle, I may have continued in my flippant attitude about death, life, and all things Christian. Thank You for forgiving me of the disrespectful manner towards You that was my custom at the time. Thank You, also, that in those small acts of betrayal and desertion, in the agonies I witnessed, and in the death of self I experienced, I am not alone. Jesus, too, experienced those things, and so I know my Redeemer can also empathize.

     Thank You for the headaches and other pains of aging today that are a constant reminder that the outer man is wasting away but the inner man is being renewed day by day. Thank You, too, for the increasing slips of my mind and waning of physical strength that remind me that Your power is perfected in weakness. In the relentless decay of self, I find that apart from You I truly can do nothing.

     Thank You for allowing me to walk through times of darkness and despair in my Christian life, for in those bleak spells I have learned that You truly are with me wherever I go even through the valley of the shadow of death. Thank You, also, that in those times of desolation You have stripped away all the consolations of religious feeling, all my pride, and even the sense of gratification that comes of service to others or to You. You have utterly flayed my soul until all that I am was raw and naked, weeping before You. Painful as that those times were, in them I have found that at last I know where my allegiance honestly lies and it is no longer to myself. With my spirit laid bare and bereft even of the longing for You and the satisfaction of knowing You, You gave me the blessing at last of utter assurance in this: I cannot be separated from You. When You asked me, "Would you, also, like to leave Me?"  I can now echo Peter in saying, "Lord, to whom shall I go? You have the words of eternal life!"

     Thank You for the times of financial crisis my husband and I have been through. I thank You specifically for the time when we had a single car, single income, both a baby and a mother-in-law to support, a tiny duplex where we all lived, no television, basic phone service, no Internet, and no cell phones. Though it did not make sense, we chose to forsake my income and obey Your voice that I should stay home with our infant and our future children. We learned so much: That You truly provide for our needs always, that there is a very distinct difference in what we need and what we want, that You bless obedience even when obedience does not make human sense.

     We are in a different stage of life now, Lord, and we have so much that I sometimes take it for granted. I find I am now feeling that my needs have increased  when in fact it is only my wants that have increased. Lord, forgive me for presuming upon Your provision and thank You for the lessons You taught me in poverty. Should You choose to remove all the material gifts You have lavished on us, I will still follow You. You are my God. You are my Portion. You are my Reward.

     And I am Yours, wholly Yours. Thank You for all the blessings of pain, irritation, and desolation that have brought me to this conclusion. Thank You for the fleas--every last one of them.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  James 1:2-4

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ... Philippians 3:7-8

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Thursday, September 6, 2012


Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives." It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

Hebrews 12:3-14

     Now that yet another homeschool year is in full swing, I have had reason to contemplate the fatherly heart of God again and again. I firmly believe that He grants us children so that we can understand more fully our own childlike natures. You see, I wonder at times if my children do not trust me when they badger or complain about something--some treat or privilege--I have withheld. It could be, perhaps, that I deny a trip to the park when I know that a thunderstorm is imminent or a sweet on one day after several days' indulgence. From their droopy demeanor and unbelieving glances, it would seem that I had deprived them of a thing needed for survival and not a frivolous boon. 

     As I ponder my children's seeming lack of trust, wondering how on earth I have ever given them reason to doubt my loving care, I inwardly cringe at the sudden realization that I have treated my Father to the same temperamental pouting. I have voiced the same sulky whine when He has kept aside something that I was absolutely certain would satisfy or that I simply knew was critical for my survival or well-being. Just as my children are with me, so I am with my Father. They assume that what seems good to them must be good, and so do I. Only, my children are truly progeny while I am a mere creation that has been elevated to the status of "child" by the sacrifice of the true and only Child of God.  
     Appalled at my own audacity, I find I am wholly without excuse. 

     Recalling my last post, it is still really that same assumption that my thoughts have any relation to reality. I think I know what is good, but in actuality, I do not. I may believe a certain season or even lifetime of suffering is bad, but does my belief make it so? Am I not willing to suffer to attain something of great value to myself? I will endure pain and soreness to keep my body fit (at least, at times I do!). I have risen at gritty hours just to watch the sunrise, and I have willingly embraced a shattering lack of sleep to soothe three sick children, knowing all the while that I would soon succumb to the illness as well. For a time in my past, I allowed myself to be flung around by burly men and toiled through countless, uncomfortable blunders only for the joy of one decently-executed judo throw, sending one of said men sailing through the air with little effort. And I could rattle on endlessly...
     So it seems that the human condition is to find pain and suffering only worthwhile when we find the end result worthy. I am humbled before my Father, for even if my end result is solely that I have been called His child for one hour--He Who created me--than that is enough. But it is not all, for He has promised a peace surpassing understanding to the one whose mind is steadfast, trusting in Him. He has promised to be with me always, in the good times and the bad. He has promised the crown of life for those who are steadfast in trial and faithful unto death. He has promised His mercy and grace to those who accept the proffered cloak of righteousness from His Son, purchased dearly and offered freely. He has promised so much more than mere acceptance if only I will trust Him utterly and without reserve. Truly it is as the Psalmist wrote, "For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere!" Yet He offers us so much more.

     My friends, if that is not a worthy result I am not sure that one exists. 

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!"
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 
Romans 8:14-18

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.