Practice Makes Permanent

The first time I heard him say it I thought I had misunderstood.

“Practice makes permanent.”  

Yep, that’s exactly what he said.

As I watched the Tae Kwon Do instructor work with the young boys striving to copy his perfect form I began to understand. Some students worked hard to make their movements precise and as close to perfect as possible.  Some were just going through the motions.

Kids on karate.

Either way, they were creating muscle memory and training their bodies to recall the moves just as they practiced them.

Practice makes permanent. 

Perfect practice makes perfect.  

It’s much the same with our thoughts.

In Romans Paul says:

Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity.

Romans 12:2 PHILLIPS

What I think about, dwell on and mull over becomes permanent.

I have to guard the gates of my mind so that I don’t fill it with untruth.  

I have to practice recalling the goodness, faithfulness and lovingkindness of God so that I don’t feel abandoned.

I must saturate my thoughts with Scripture if I don’t want to drown in doubt.  

I’m thankful for the years and years of Bible study I had under my belt when Dominic ran ahead to heaven.  Otherwise, I’m not sure I would have been strong enough or willing to do the deep digging necessary to feed my soul if it was not already my practice to turn to Scripture in times of great trial.

i-have-hidden-your-word-in-my-heart

Even when my heart was shattered and my faith strained,  my mind fell readily into the ruts that practice had put there.  

Practice makes permanent. 

Yes, yes it does.  

God’s comfort does not usually smooth the road we travel, nor does it make us jubilantly happy. But it does make us strong for our trials. God’s comfort is not good feelings but worthy deeds. The heart that exults in God’s comfort is like that of a champion who confidently runs his course, though with pain. It is not like the ease of one who indulges his appetite. ‘The joy of the Lord is your strength,’ not your ease (Nehemiah 8:10).

~James Means, A Tearful Celebration, p. 73

 

 

 

 

 

June Challenge: 12 Promises I’m Thankful For

Day Twelve of Kathleen Duncan’s  June 1-30 challenge.

The prompt: 12 things you are grateful for

Like Kathleen, the 12th of each month marks the anniversary of the accident that took my son’s life.  And like many bereaved parents, the date is etched in memory and re-etched every time it rolls around.

I love the idea of reclaiming the ground which the enemy has stolen by resolving to remind my heart of the promises of God that uphold me in the midst of my sorrow.

I am grateful for promises contained in His Word.  They are manna, bread from heaven as I walk the wilderness of grief.

Here are 12 I savor:

1. One day there will be no more tears because God will restore and redeem every hurtful thing:

rev 21_4

2. A single day in the presence of my Savior is better than a thousand years here on earth:

Better is one day in your courts
    than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
    than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
 For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
    the Lord bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
    from those whose walk is blameless.

Lord Almighty,
    blessed is the one who trusts in you.

Psalm 84:10-12 NIV

3. I can trust God to finish what He started-in me AND in Dominic:

began a good work

4. The Lord is good and He is my stronghold, even in this trouble:

The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knoweth them that trust Him.

Nahum 1:7

5. The Lord will restore the years the locust has eaten-He will give back what the enemy has stolen:

I will restore to you the years which the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.

Joel 2:25

6. God will carry me, even to my old age-as long as it takes-until I am in His presence and with my son:

carry you old age

7. My Shepherd is with me in the Valley of the Shadow of Death:

 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Psalm 23:4 KJV

8. This trial will refine my faith and it will shine as pure gold on the day Jesus is revealed:

Their purpose is to prove that your faith is genuine. Even gold, which can be destroyed, is tested by fire; and so your faith, which is much more precious than gold, must also be tested, so that it may endure. Then you will receive praise and glory and honor on the Day when Jesus Christ is revealed.

1 Peter 1:7 GNT

9. Death is defeated because Christ is risen:Romans6-8-9

10. I am struck down, but not destroyed or abandoned:

We are pressured in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed. We always carry the death of Jesus in our body, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 

2 Corinthians 4:8-10

11. Even as I walk through the Valley of Weeping, God turns my tears to springs of life:

valley of baca

12. God will turn my mourning into dancing.  He will fill my mouth with songs of gladness:

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing. You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness. That my soul may sing praise and not be silent. O Lord my God I will give thanks to You forever.

Psalm 30:11-12

 

greener pastures

 

 

Why Not?

I cannot bring Dominic back-I cannot have my child once again in my arms.  I cannot undo the damage death has wrought and the great gash loss has made in my heart.  

And so I am left with my pain and my questions.

“Why?” is not a particularly fruitful question (although I ask it still).

 “Why not?” is probably more helpful.

If I consider the lives of all the people God chose as examples of His faithfulness and grace there is not one who escapes heartache.

Not even one was allowed to walk this sod untouched by suffering that forced them to lean hard into the only Hope that lasts for eternity.

Adam and Eve reaped the consequences of their sin, were cast from the Garden and buried one son murdered by the other.

Noah watched the world descend into unbelievable wickedness around him and then witnessed the destruction of all flesh on earth.

Abraham left the familiar, trudged for years in a land promised but not given, had a son that he loved but had to send away because he was begotten outside the plan and will of God. He finally received the son of promise but was aked to sacrifice him.

He grew old without the blessing of possessing much of what God had promised him.

Jacob reaped the reward of his deception but lived a complicated and heartbreaking life.

Joseph enjoys a happy ending,  but it was a long lonely path that led him there.

David, Moses, Paul, the apostles, Elizabeth, Hannah, Mary, Esther, Ruth-all were called to walk in sorrow as vessels of God’s glory.

Only recently in human history have we been able, in small pockets of abundance, to mistakenly assume this mortal life is as wonderful (or, dare I say it?) MORE wonderful than the promised eternal life provided by God through the ultimate and complete suffering and sacrifice of Jesus.

I want victory without war.  

I want harvest without planting and working the fields.

I want to be happy and satisfied here yet still have a heart for heaven.

It is impossible to have both.

Only in light of eternity am I free to live a life set apart for God’s use in the here and now.

Only as a recipient of God’s grace can I be a conduit of that grace to others.

Only in deep sorrow can I find the true value of Christ’s promise that He will never leave me nor forsake me.

Only alone can I fully appreciate the gift of God’s constant companionship.

Only when I am truly hungry can I taste the bread that satisfies my soul.

Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You [alone] have the words of eternal life [you are our only hope].

John 6:68 AMP

Truth out of Balance

A  wise pastor I know made a profound statement that has stuck with me through the years: Heresy is truth out of balance.

I read my Bible.  I have been in church for most of my life.  I’ve heard sermons, participated in Sunday School lessons and listened to teaching on tapes and the radio from sound expositors of the Word. So it is unlikely that I would fall headlong into chasing after a wildly twisted theology that bore little resemblance to biblical truth.

But, I can be seduced into taking tiny baby steps away from the straight line of doctrine and look up one day only to realize that I am miles from where I thought I was headed.

The Pharisees clung tenaciously to the Law until they excluded grace.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he addressed the opposite extreme, answering the argument that if grace was so abundant, then perhaps one should sin more so that grace could be made more evident:

Now what is our response to be? Shall we sin to our heart’s content and see how far we can exploit the grace of God? What a ghastly thought!   ~Romans 6:1, 2a Phillips

Grieving the loss of a child, I am forced to face and balance questions that I thought I had once settled firmly in my mind:

  •  Is God good?
  • Is God in control?
  • Is there a heaven?
  • Is the blood of Christ sufficient to cover all sin?
  • Why does God save (physically) some people and not others?
  • Why do bad things happen to “good” people?
  • What, exactly, does God want from me?
  • Does God love me?

And if all I do is roll them around in my mind, depending on my own reasoning , I am at risk of answering my queries in a way that may seem right but which might actually be far from the truth.

There is a way which seems right to a man and appears straight before him, But its end is the way of death. ~Proverbs 14:12 AMP

Or if I look to other people and their lives, I am limited by what I see–which is never the whole picture.

So I must meditate on the Word and balance my interpretation in light of the whole counsel of Scripture as well as being honest about my own feelings and experience.  I must ask God through His Spirit to “lead me into all truth”.

And when I find it, I must cling to it with all my might and refused to be uprooted by the winds of sorrow and pain.

“Make them ready for your service [Sanctify them; Consecrate them; setting them apart for service] through your truth; your ·teaching [word] is truth.”

~John 17:17 EXB

 

 

 

New Year’s Resolutions

The funny thing about New Year’s resolutions is that they are pretty much the same, year after year.  We all have particular struggles and the turning of the calendar seems like the perfect moment to commit to action to try to overcome them.

But most of us fail miserably and find ourselves back at precisely the point from which we started, regardless of our best efforts to change.

Truth is, we are terrible at remaking ourselves.  Habits wear ruts in our thinking and in our behavior.  It requires more strength than most of us possess to climb out and start fresh.

But God has promised that those who trust Jesus will be “made new”–they will be changed dramatically, like a caterpillar to a butterfly.  From the inside out and no turning back.

“Therefore, if anyone is in the Messiah, he is a new creation. Old things have disappeared, and—look!—all things have become new!”

I Corinthians 5:17 ISV

In the five years before Dominic died, I had slowed my Bible reading to a crawl–limiting myself to one chapter a day and writing it out in my journal.  After decades of church attendance, I realized that the stories had become too easy to rush through, the verses too familiar to resonate deeply in my spirit. I had just finished my journey through God’s Word in this way when my son was killed.

No one is prepared to bury their child, but God did lead me in the years before Dominic’s death to commit to reading Scripture in a slower, more deliberate way.

Having those Bible verses in my heart and in my head gave me a safe place to land when I received the awful blow.

So may I suggest that this New Year’s, choose the one resolution that can truly transform–if you don’t know Jesus, ask someone who does to introduce you to HIm.

If you are a Christ follower, commit to reading His Word. Store it in your soul. Write it on the tablet of your heart.  You never know what a new year will bring…

And so, dear brothers, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living sacrifice, holy—the kind he can accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask? Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but be a new and different person with a fresh newness in all you do and think. Then you will learn from your own experience how his ways will really satisfy you.

Romans 12:1-2 TLB

 

Bringing The Sacrifice of Praise

Job said, “I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I shall have nothing when I die. The Lord gave me everything I had, and they were his to take away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21 TLB)

It’s so easy to be thankful when things are going my way–

So easy to trust God when my pantry is full and my family safe;

So easy to laugh when pain is something I read about and don’t carry in my heart.

But how can I give thanks and say that God is good when I buried a child? How can my spirit make peace with the truth that God gives AND GOD TAKES AWAY?

True thanksgiving can’t spring from the notion, “it could be worse”. Guilt can’t lead me into the throne room of praise.  I can’t drag my broken heart to the table and mumble a makeshift prayer to a God I don’t believe will hear me.

Real thanksgiving rests on the bedrock of truth that it is ALL a gift.

Every moment.  Every breath.  Everything.

Even pain.

So today I will sit at our table and trust, missing Dominic, but loving the ones still here.

My heart hurts and it is hard but I will bring a sacrifice of praise to the God who gives and the God who takes away.

 

 

Waiting On Someday

It’s been said that children are a mother’s heart walking around outside her body–mine certainly are.

And now part of my heart is in heaven.  That makes the promises of God so much more personal.

So I hunt for, cling to and chew on every word like it really is the bread of life–because while I walk the valley of the shadow of death this is the food that sustains me.  

Today  my heart is broken, but someday it will be whole again.

Today I walk in shadow, but someday I will walk in bright light:

“No longer will you need the sun to shine by day, nor the moon to give its light by night, for the LORD your God will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.” Isaiah 60:19 NLT

Today all creation groans under the curse of sin and death, but someday everything will be restored, renewed and redeemed. 

On this mountain [Zion] the Lord of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples [to welcome His reign on earth],
A banquet of aged wines—choice pieces [flavored] with marrow,
Of refined, aged wines.

And on this mountain He will destroy the covering that is [cast] over all peoples,
And the veil [of death] that is woven and spread over all the nations.

He will swallow up death [and abolish it] for all time.
And the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
And He will take away the disgrace of His people from all the earth;
For the Lord has spoken.

It will be said in that day,
“Indeed, this is our God for whom we have waited that He would save us.
This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
Let us shout for joy and rejoice in His salvation.”
Isaiah 25:6-9 AMP