I am renewed

Waiting For Renewal

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength…”  -Isaiah 40:28-31, NASB

Are you tired? Out of strength? Down on the ground with nothing left to give?

I know that one. Just a couple of weeks ago I asked my husband for a break. Not just for like an hour to go have a cup of coffee. I wanted a real break—like a weekend escape.  I wanted to book a solitary cabin by a lake in the hills and not talk to anyone. Not cook for anyone. Not deal with anything.

I’d done run out of fuel.

Sweet man that he is, my hubby said yes. I could book myself a quiet weekend alone. So, I began making plans. You know how those go, right? Well, just in case you don’t, here’s the short of it: I’m not going anywhere. Something else came up, and my hopes for a retreat got put in a box and sealed with packing tape.

Thing is, while that’s a bit of a bummer, I’m realizing that little escape probably wouldn’t have accomplished what I’d hoped anyway. Truth be told, I’m a bit of a bear when I come back from a trip because, while the days away are pleasant, jumping back into real life is overwhelming. And, getting down to the real issue I was wrestling, I’d have to admit that I was spiritually weary.

I was thinking about this as I drove my kids to school this morning. It was raining. The cool, soft drops splattered my car, and I had a moment to reflect on them while my son ran off to get in his line. The earth had grown dusty since the last rain, and the drizzle this morning washed it away. But the ground, though thirsty and yearning for renewal, hadn’t made it rain. It can’t. It had simply waited.

That struck a chord with me. The dust of my spiritual weariness had yearned for renewal, for cleansing, and while I can cry out to God to pour his refreshing spirit upon my soul, I can’t really tell Him when or how much. I can’t make Him do it according to my whim. I can only wait.

Spiritual renewal, I think, is something every one of us longs for at some point or another, and that’s a good thing. But we search for it like it’s something we can do or find for ourselves. It isn’t. We won’t find renewal in a secluded cabin, or from a spa day, or even in a cup of coffee. All good things, no doubt, and certainly nothing wrong with them. But, truly, if it is renewal we seek, waiting is the prescription.

Yet those who wait upon the Lord will gain new strength.

Lord, I wait upon you, for you alone will renew my spirit.

 

I am renewed

Renewed, After the Blackest Sin

God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not banish me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore the joy of Your Salvation to me, and give me a willing spirit.  Then I will teach the rebellious Your ways, and sinners will return to You.  Psalm 51:10-13

David saw lovely, young Bathsheba bathing, and he wanted her.  Being a king made this easy.  He just sent for her, and she had to come – even though she was married.  To a soldier.  Who was out fighting a war for David.

Well, you know the story.  She got pregnant.  So David called her husband, Uriah, from the battle field on the pretense of getting the latest war news from him.  Then David sent Uriah home, where David was sure he’d sleep with his wife. But he didn’t.  Uriah was too worried about his buddies still at the front.  So, David sent him back, carrying a letter to his commander that read:  “Put Uriah at the front of the fiercest fighting, then withdraw from him so that he is struck down and dies.”

David – the man after God’s own heart – conceived and carried out all this evil.  David, who composed  most of the beautiful Psalms, which I use to worship God even today, thousands of years after he penned them.  This wasn’t something David did before he found faith in God.  This wasn’t the “before” part of his testimony.  This was solidly in the middle of his life, long after God had chosen him to be king because of his passion for Him.

But God loved David far too much to allow him to continue down this dark path.  He sent a prophet to confront him, to open David’s eyes to his own evil.  The king’s heart was pierced when he realized what he’d done, when he really took the time to see it from God’s perspective, when all the justifications were stripped away.

Mourning, he sat down and penned Psalm 51. Renew me, God.  Give me back a steadfast spirit, one that resists temptation and sticks on your path.  Create a clean heart out of my filthy one, Father. Save me from myself, from my selfishness, from my lust, from my sin.  Save me, because only you can.

God did renew David.  He did wash away the blackness of that sin from his heart. Consider these words, also from David’s pen: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgression from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.” Psalm 103:11-12

Then what?  What did David promise he’d do when God renewed him? “Then I will teach the rebellious Your ways, and sinners will return to you.”  God gave David a task: Don’t waste it.  This was horrible, but don’t waste the experience.  Use it to teach others, so that they’ll avoid the same mistakes, so that they’ll come back to Me when they’ve messed up … well, royally … themselves.

You and I are David’s students.  We are the rebellious ones that David had on his mind.  We are the sinners who need to return to God.  David is reaching out to you across the millenniums through the words he wrote down.  For you.  So you’d know God wants you back, no matter what you’ve done.

So you’d know you can be renewed.

I am renewed

An Unexpected Renewal

“…multitudes of men and women were constantly added to their number, to such an extent that they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on any one of them.” ~ Acts 5:14-15

The disciple with the foot-shaped mouth. That’s what we call him. Maybe deserved…but I have a soft spot for Peter. Probably because he reminds me of someone I know…

Peter hit some pretty deep lows in the narratives we have of his life. He had some conversely high moments as well, but we tend to remember him for those valleys. Our nickname for him attests to that. I gotta feel bad on that account, because as I study Peter’s life I see more and more that his is a story of grace revealing.

He did have a habit of saying anything that came to mind, and often it was the wrong thing.

He did receive some forceful rebukes from Christ because he had his eyes on the wrong prize.

He did fold in a moment of truth, denying the one to whom he’d sworn his life.

Peter would be the disciple that, based on his many failures, you would think he would be the least effective in Kingdom work. He was terribly flawed, and it seemed he lacked the sense to keep those foibles under wraps. And yet, Jesus gave him the name Peter—Petros, which means ‘rock.’ That’s interesting, isn’t it?

We see in Peter’s life that living in Christ and walking in obedience is a day-by-day exercise. We also see that failure gets mixed up in there. Thinking about that, something powerful struck me when I was reading Acts this week. In our verse today, Peter is in a precarious human position. People are bringing out their sick in hopes that even just his shadow would fall over them and they would be healed.

Whoa there. That’s something. And our hopelessly flawed character, whom we may expect to puff out his chest, begin boasting that he is God’s right hand man and that Jesus had “given him the keys to the Kingdom,” what did he do?

He preached Christ. Even went to prison for it. And then started doing it all over again.

Renewed can have a host of different meanings. Fresh strength. Clean spirit. Joy. In Peter’s life, I see all of those. But I see something powerful undergirding them all. God took those flaws that we like to keep track of and used them—He built humility into a big mouth, took his unique boldness and made it useful, and didn’t let his failures keep him from his Kingdom call.

Renewed means that God takes the good and the bad, and he makes it his, revealing his grace through lives in ways that are unexpected and amazing.

Lord, please make me renewed.

 

I am renewed

His Compassion Renews Me

The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Thy faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

Several years ago, I made a choice that turned out to be a rather large mistake.  And, I had to live with it.  It wasn’t one of those things that I could say, “I’m sorry God.  I messed up.  Please forgive me,” and be done with it.  Oh, I did say those words.  And God certainly forgave me.  But the consequences of my mistake remained. For years.  I couldn’t get out of the situation I had created.

There, in the midst of the difficulties I had brought on myself, I began to despair, until God brought this verse to mind.

God’s compassions are new every morning.  He didn’t abandon me because I messed up one time.  He wasn’t waiting for me in some alternate-reality morning where I hadn’t made my poor choice.  He was there, the midst of my mess, and He had a new plan.  He took the frustrations that stemmed directly from my bad choice and began to weave them together for good in my life.  He taught me patience, humility, and not a few things about relationships and how to wisely negotiate them.  He awed me as He continually provided solutions for me, even when I had caused the problems in the first place.

Yes, Susan, you made a bad choice.  And you’ll have to live with that.  But this morning, in the midst of your self-created struggles, my compassion is new for you.  My faithfulness has not failed because you were unwise one time.  My lovingkindness never ceases.  I can take your mess and make a new plan out of it – one that glorifies Me.

And he did.  Praise God, he did.  I’ve finally stepped out of those circumstances, and I can look back at that time in my life and thank Him for his faithfulness.

Every morning, I am renewed by the lovingkindness of my God.  And I mean every morning – happy ones, tragedy-laced ones, ones where I celebrate my successes, and especially ones where I shake my head at my own mistakes.  His compassion renews me.

I am renewed

I am Renewed: A Joint Post

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do [them].” – Ezekiel 36:26-27 NKJV

From Jen:

I have an old window hanging on one of my walls. It had been destined for the junk yard, having been replaced by a new, double-paned, more energy efficient window, but I decided that it had not outlived its usefulness.

Scraped clean, washed, repainted and then repurposed, that window now hangs on an interior wall serving as a calendar. It’s my favorite wall decoration, and the one that I get the most compliments about. I’ve been told that I could sell it at one of those unique crafty shops you see in the mall for a fairly high price. How about that? It was just an old cast-off window. Who knew junk could become so valuable?

From Susan:

Jen’s window didn’t decide one day, “You know, I’d like to be a calendar,”  leap out of its hole, spruce itself up, and wriggle up onto the interior wall by itself.  No.  Jen saw its hidden potential, conceived a new purpose for it, and recreated it.

Just as God does for us.  He looked at my heart of stone, stuck there in my selfishness, my self-seeking lifestyle, and he thought, “There’s something that could be beautiful.”  Really?  Junky little old me?

He Himself, master craftsman, took my heart of stone and refashioned it into a heart of flesh.  I was the passive one.  He was the doer.  Daily, he gives me both the will and the strength to seek out His statutes.  Every time I get one right, every time I seek God’s purposes instead of my own, the glory goes to Him, the Remaker and Renewer.

Praise God.  By His hand, I am renewed.