Gathering the spoil…

I collect words.

I hadn’t seen it quite this way before, but in this getting ready to move process I’ve been going through all our possessions–sorting, sifting, tossing and boxing.  And one thing has become obvious, I am packing a lot of words away!

My boxes are full of them.  It’s almost embarrassing to assemble all my journals in one place…’Put them all in one box’ an organizational guru friend suggested.  Well, that’s not happening.  I could never lift such a box safely!  And once the journals are stowed away, there are still the ‘notes’ in pocket-size handmade books that practically fill a shoe box, and the school notebooks at a rate of 5 children plus one teacher (me) times 13 years of learning together at home.

And when I’ve stowed away all my words, interlaced as they are with copious amounts of God’s word copied out, well then I come to the books—other people’s words.  The bulk of them are non-fiction, mostly by Christian authors–books that teach and counsel, that interpret and celebrate God’s words.  Yes, it’s for sure, I collect words.  The evidence is all around me as I write, on boxes emblazoned in permanent black ink: “BOOKS–Hymn books, Family Room”; “School Notes”; NOTEBOOKS to Store…There’s no denying that I collect words, but this is beyond collecting; this is hoarding!

I’ve been challenged lately, as I sort, box, and toss things, by my undeniable propensity to hoard. We have such excess! You’d think God’s provision for us had ended and we were never going to get another thing, so better hoard all we come across now.  Oh, we justify it, I justify it, as being frugal, practical, smart, prepared, even wise.  We are faithful stewards, right?  But have I been generous?  It’s one thing to find a good deal. It’s another to keep it for myself!

It has been good to ponder aloud here in cyber-space and to let a trickle of words flow out from my many journals—words that have brought me fortification and hope and encouragement and challenge.

This morning before I launch into a day packed with things requisite to our leave-taking in a couple days, I want to pass on some words I’ve  collected this week.  They come from one of my very favorite Bible stories—the time God’s people marched forth singing to face the enemies that greatly outnumbered them. 

But before that there’s the reality of the situation– ‘a great multitude is coming against you’ , and the fear it incited– “Then Jehoshaphat was afraid”, and the determination to seek the Lord’s counsel—“and set his face to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast”( II Chronicles 20:2-4).

I love the way the king prays.  There’s nothing of mysticism here, or some impersonal canned prayer to an unseen force.  He speaks to God as though He were personally present right there in the temple.  He speaks to Him as a person, ‘a very present help in time of need’.  He reiterates God’s greatness—‘in your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you’ and His promises to hear and save His people in their distresses.  He concludes with that memorable verse:

“For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us.  We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

I have an inkling of that feeling. I can’t see the enemy ranging around us as we make this move into a lot of unknowns, trusting God to direct our steps.  But the possibilities of how we might be tripped up is endless.  The fears that rise unbidden are real.  And I want to learn to talk to God like King Jehoshaphat does in this passage…  Here’s our situation.  We know who You are God, we’ve seen what You’ve done in the past, we anticipate what You will do for us now, though we can’t really imagine it. Our eyes are on You; lead on.

And of course the story just keeps getting better.  If you haven’t read it lately, do!  It’s at your fingertips here, II Chronicles 20.

God speaks as the people stand there in anticipation:  “Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s”

“You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf…Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed.  Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you.” (20:15-17)

So first thing in the morning they were up and at ‘em with the king’s words ringing in their ears: “Believe in the LORD your God and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed” and as the army went out the king appointed singers to go ahead of them singing and praising in holy attire: “Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever”

And the enemy pretty much self-destructed; God ambushed them and they destroyed each other!  And His people collected the spoil.

Again, they were reminded that God was with them and for them, a strong and good Shepherd mindful of their needs and intimately acquainted with all their ways.  I need that these days.  And I need to march forward singing in my heart and giving thanks always, “for his steadfast love endures forever”

Can I invite you to hold us up in your prayers in the next little while, that we would be a credit to the Shepherd we call our own.  We are His sheep. I’m donning my wool and gathering words to carry along.

Do you know this old chorus? It sings through my mind restoring me to peace quite often.  I commend it to you:


In God’s green pastures feeding, by His cool waters lie;
Soft in the evening walk my Lord and I.
All the sheep of His pastures fare so wondrously fine,
His sheep am I.

Waters cool, (In the valley)
Pastures green, (On the mountain)
In the evening walk my Lord and I;
(In the evening walk my Lord and I)
Dark the night, (In the valley)
Rough the way, (On the mountain)
Step by step my Lord and I.
(Step by step my Lord and I)


“Believe in the LORD your God and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed” II Chr. 20:20

BlueLetterBible is the greatest, easiest to use, online Bible reading & study tool I’ve found.  Don’t miss it!  Just click here!

I am His sheep

I came across an ancient little book tucked in amongst my aging journals.  I cracked it open pretty sure it would be a book I should dispose of since likely it will lay unread till our next move…I was surprised. Despite the old English its advice was very relevant.  Consider this:

Of four things that bring much peace

  1. Endeavour to do rather the will of another than thy own.
  2. Ever choose rather to have less than more.
  3. Always seek the lowest place, and to be beneath every one.
  4. Continually wish and pray that the will of God may be wholly fulfilled in thee.

“Behold, such a man entereth into the bonds of peace and quietness.”*

I don’t know about you, but I need that these days. Such advice isn’t likely to propel this volume to the best-seller list these days but it was exactly what I needed to hear.

Not my will but yours is what matters.  I am your sheep, Lord.  Do with me, in me, through me whatever you will…  I have to consciously remind myself of these things or anxiety begins to gnaw its way into my heart. It is displaced by peace when I cease claiming my life to be my own.  It is both privilege and source of peace to do God’s will above my own personal preferences. If I am His sheep and He is both good and strong nothing that comes my way can ultimately harm me.  I can receive it from His hand for my good.  I can know that He knows and that is enough; I am His sheep.

I live in this body, a gift of its Creator, designed to fulfill His purposes in this world.  In sickness and health, weakness and strength it is the vessel I’ve been entrusted with in which to glorify God.  And He is its ultimate Sustainer, Healer, and Strength.  I can rest my case here, today, always, come what may.

These are thoughts I’m holding near and dear today.


You are not your own,  for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. I Cor.6:19,20

Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. Ps.139:16

O LORD, you have searched me and known me!  You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.  You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.  Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. Ps.139:1-6

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.  Ps.90:12

Then I said, “Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”
Ps. 40:7-8

The little volume was titled: An extract of The Christian’s Pattern by John Wesley, an English translation from the Latin version of Thomas A’Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ.

He has made me glad

“Will you lay aside the rags of sinful sadness you are clutching to yourself and bow to Jesus?”

The words couldn’t have been more pointed.  That very morning I had been convicted that my sad, anxious, doubting melancholy is out of keeping with my position as the sheep of a Good Shepherd.  Yes, there will be losses, there are uncertainties looming, there will be good-byes. Transitions are like that.  But my calling hasn’t changed, nor my God. Clinging to sadness as though all the good years were behind is…. well it denotes the sin of unbelief in a good God. Being by nature a bit melancholy and sentimental this is easy for me to fall into.

But  I am called to serve the Lord with gladness.  He is good, ALL THE TIME. Does my countenance and confidence reflect this goodness?  He provides me everything I need to do what He’s calling me to do today.  Is it hard to let go of security and comfort, of possessions and lands, of friends and familiar surroundings?  Yes, but must it be a dreary dreadful process?  So what! if from this vantage point I can only see an uncertain future devoid of the beauty and repose I’ve known in this place.  The eyes of faith see beyond those dimmed with tears of loss.

So it was that spending some morning time in the Word, listening to the Spirit wield it well in my heart, I came away gladdened by the reality that God is my shepherd; I am His sheep.  Where He chooses to lead me is His business. I can rest in His care.  More than that I can be glad I am in His flock.  It is a good place to be. Among the verses I copied down that morning (lest I forget them) were these:


Serve the Lord with gladness! Know that the LORD, He is God! It is He who made us, and we are His—the sheep of his pasture. Ps.100:2,3

Give thanks to Him; bless His name!  For the Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations. Ps.99:5

Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things, therefore you shall serve your enemies… in hunger and thirst..lacking everything.  Deut.28:47,48

When my thoughts are all wrapped up in me, my comforts, my well-being and what I want,  I miss seeing what God is actually doing. If I measure His love and care by my own expectations of what that should look like I will miss the myriad of ways He shows His love for me.  I will be an ungrateful (and gloomy) wretch!

Later that day I tuned in ‘randomly’ to a message by Alistair Begg on YouTube taken from the book of Esther.  The take-away points were so apropos:

  • We need to learn to trust God in the matters of timing and of delay. “God’s delays are maturings either of the time or of the man.” –Derek Kidner
  • We don’t enjoy God as much as we might because we have unrealistic (and unBiblical) expectations of what God’s love for us should look like.  Meanwhile we miss seeing God’s hand in the tiny things and in the life-sustaining things we take for granted.  Instead we live an impoverished life looking for God to do our wishes, to step forward at the time that we’ve decided and to do what we believe is right for us and our situation.
  • We must learn to bring all our doubts, fears and disappointments under this overarching truth—God has an ultimate purpose He is working toward unerringly, to bring all things together in Christ.  “For from Him, for Him, and to Him are all things.  To Him be glory forever. Amen” Rom.11:36

To the extent that my agenda is God’s agenda I will find a steady refuge in His care, no matter what life throws at me. If I am bowing to Christ, wanting only His glory, then when all else is shaken, that’s ok. He changes never and His plans are uncompromised. He will complete the work He has begun in me and through me to conform me to His likeness and to prepare me for an eternity under His rule.  He knows exactly what He is doing and He uses everything—man’s freedom, foolishness and even sin, to bring about this eternal plan.  Alistair Begg went on to affirm:

The righteous have every reason to look joyfully forward even through tears, pain, disappointment and regret.  The expectations of the wicked have no such joy to look forward to.”

One day every knee will bow to Jesus Christ, some in joy, others in anguish.  Will I bow today and trade in my sinful sadness for the joy of belonging to the Lord?  Will I follow gladly in the strength that only that joy can give?   Am I a glad servant, bowing gladly even now in light of His love and kindness, trusting where I cannot understand…

Only those who rest under the Sovereign hand of God can know peace and joy despite crazy world events, distressing personal circumstances, and the confusion of a shaking world.  We can trust Him; He is entirely reliable.  His Kingdom will come.  His will will be done.

May He grant us soft hearts and seeing eyes to welcome His Sovereign rule in our lives, in everything.


Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the LORD hath dealt bountifully with thee.  For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living. Ps.116:7-9

“The stupid man cannot know; the fool cannot understand this that though the wicked sprout like grass and  evildoers flourish, they are doomed to destruction forever; but you, O LORD, are on high forever. Ps.92:6,7

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Ps. 73:26

For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy. Ps.92:1,2,4


[You’re in for a treat if you’ve never listened to Alistair Begg.  Find his encouraging message titled “The Unseen Hand of God”, drawn from Esther 6,  here.]

Jettisoning Junk for the Journey

[A hobbit-hole of a home, by Sarah]

Dealing with STUFF takes such a lot of time and energy.  Physical energy, mental energy, emotional energy.  Life energy!  And other things get put on hold, luxuries like writing and thinking about unseen things.  What would it be like for this whole house to burn down with its contents leaving me unhindered by stuff and free to start from scratch?  There would be no more decisions to make about stuff–whether it’s going or staying, and how and why and where?

A friend is farther along this way of thinking than I.  She’s eager to embrace simplicity and relishes the ideal of getting rid of everything but her Bible!  Might not be practical when it comes time for lunch and everybody’s homeless and hungry…These physical bodies do demand a lot of upkeep.

And we are not all called to take a vow of poverty and do without the world and its things.  We are only called not to LOVE them.  To use things without loving them, this is the challenge.  So I’m sorting and culling and being drawn down lanes of reminiscence more often than is helpful for an overly sentimental soul.  …Must I really keep the pebbles from Yellowstone?  And what of that tiny blanket sleeper a baby of mine now in heaven once wore?  A great Pterodactyl wing juts from an old box.  His boy grew up.  Children’s books wait to be read.  Old school books we studied together still seem dear.  And what of custom-furnished dollhouses and much-loved stuffies?

Jim urges me to be severe with myself and jettison the excess baggage, the yards of fabric that never turned into clothing.  The scrapbook paper that will never hold our memories.  The might-use-this-someday things that keep unrealistic ideals alive to haunt me.  These need to go to allow for fresh starts. What will I need in order to do what God’s calling me to do in say, the next 10 years?  Keep that, he says.  For this is the way to holiness, to being all that God intends for me to be–nothing more, nothing less.

What are the questions to be asked in this sifting process, in this holy calling?  What do I need for the journey and what is hindering progress?

What are my most precious possessions and why?

If I stood today without this home or its things, what would I want in hand for a new start in a new place?

I jot down these questions in between the heart-vexing work of sorting and boxing.  I don’t know all the answers yet.  But I am seeing how much I love my stuff.  Being surrounded by it brings me comfort and security.  Should it?  I want to be grateful without hoarding…. to use things without clinging to them…and to never never let my confidence rest in things I see, rather than things eternal.

I need this process of simplifying.  It tests and re-directs my faith.  And so I keep turning my mind to focus on my most precious of all possessions, the eternal Word given to anchor my heart in things unseen.  And I am copying out verses that steer and cheer me in this uprooting process and root my heart more deeply in its true home. These are among my most precious possessions today… May I share them with you?

Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.  Before the mountains were born or You gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. Ps.90:1,2 NASB

Be to me a rock of habitation to which I may continually come; You have given commandment to save me, For You are my rock and my fortress. Ps.71:3

When my spirit faints within me, you know my way!  I cry to you, O LORD; I say, You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.  Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in You I trust.  Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.   Teach me to do you will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!  Ps.143:8-10

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with y eye upon you.  Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.

Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD.  Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all  you who upright in heart! Ps.32:8-11


Blessings on you and yours and your journey with God into a New Year!P1160902

[and a quick children chuckle at the sentiment of this cross-stitched ideal I finished some years back.  It is so far from what my life really looks like.  I guess they know I love my clutter…]

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… Heb.12:1,2