Friday, January 23, 2015

When God Moves "Suddenly"

I am honored to be part of new author Juana Mikels' Blogger Book Launch Team.
Her first book entitled Choosing Him All Over Again released on Amazon last month and in other locations January 5th. It is her personal story of romance and redemption. More than a hundred Christian bloggers and I received advanced copies to read in exchange for an honest review.


Before cracking open the book I took note of the gorgeous cover and was impressed by the endorsement from author and former missionary, Elisabeth Elliot. 

When we meet Juana she is single and looking, then she meets Terry. They fall head over heels in love with one another, get married and begin living the American dream: college sweethearts, successful careers, nice cars, building a house together...what more could they want? But when the work week ends and they wake up to the weekend, Juana usually finds herself in the house alone in tears. Something is missing. She tells Terry time after time how she feels, yet because he doesn't feel the same, he chalks it up to being her issue. Reaching the conclusion the grass might be greener on the other side, Juana walks out.

Had she married the wrong guy?
Did "Mr. Right" exist?
She couldn't wait to find out!

Before long a gentleman did come along, but not who she thought she was looking for. To her surprise, she meets Jesus. Up to that point she hadn't known there was a God who cared about the important decisions in her life, who wanted a personal relationship with her. She believed it was up to her to do everything right.

Choosing Him All Over Again is Juana's story about romance and redemption. In midst of the waiting and hoping that her husband would take her back, she immersed herself in the Word and Christian fellowship. Chapter after chapter she shares the details of her separation and the work God did to grow her through prayer, thought processes, conversations and decisions. In trying times He taught her what a life in Christ should look like:

> how to pray
> trusting God with the outcome
> what it means to have a servants heart
> the roles of husbands and wives
> recognizing her sin and repenting
> fasting and praying for her marriage
> learning to filter the voices of naysayers
> preparing for opposition
> obeying God

As a new believer, Juana soaked up everything the Lord poured into her. She faced temptations and setbacks head on, with courage. Her honest look at the past sins in her marriage challenged me to examine my own. Her emphasis through scripture to truly die to your selfish desires and serve others selflessly with love, had my attention.

Hundreds of pages are devoted to the details of Juana's experiences leading up to her reconciliation with Terry, with viable lessons learned along the way. Most importantly, Christ takes center stage in her story. Though I must admit when the moment God moved to restore her marriage came about in the story, it felt a bit anti-climactic. Not because of how it came about, but because after all the waiting and hoping, only a paragraph or so was devoted to their triumph. I had hoped to read much more about the healing work the Lord did on the backside.

Nonetheless, Juana goes on to share more lessons learned along the way (many from her mentor Elisabeth Elliot), what life looked like living married as believers, advice for those still single or separated, insightful checkpoints to refresh your marriage, and a helpful prayer guide she has used for the twenty-some years since.

As I prayerfully pondered what to include in this post, I was reminded how often we give up the fight too soon. How we get impatient with God and choose to do things our own way out of frustration or desperation instead of waiting on Him. Juana made the hard choice to wait.

Regardless of the opinions of others, she chose to believe God and wait on His timing. Those who give up too soon miss out on the "suddenly's". In God's Word He often shows up "suddenly" and acts on behalf of His children; He comes out of nowhere and does that which is least expected. If we remain patient in the waiting while trusting Him we learn to persevere, which in God's economy develops our character, and increases our hope. He's doing that in my life, and He did it in Juana's. She waited patiently for the Lord, long beyond the time most would give up, and one day He moved "suddenly". Her marriage was restored.


If you would like to read Juana's book, pick up a copy here on Amazon in print or kindle version.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Why Do We Run?

"This very night you will fall away on account of Me, for it is written: 
I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered."
Matthew 26:31b

Read Matthew 26:31-46

I stopped in my tracks upon reading verse 31. When the shepherd is struck (trouble), the sheep scatter (run). Immediately I wrote four words in the margin of my bible and began to ponder the question:

"Why do we run?"

Why are we tempted to put on our running shoes and skedaddle when trouble comes? Or at the very least, retreat from time in the Lord's presence? It's not just us. The disciples were inclined to do the same. It takes practice in trials, and experience with God's faithfulness in them, to learn to lean in instead of lean away.

I think of the verse that compares us to sheep. "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way..." (Isaiah 53:6) We run from troubling circumstances - sometimes in another's life, sometimes in our own - out of fear, feeling inadequate, or frustration. Troubles are temptations for Christ-followers to stop believing or trusting in the Lord. When pressures are great, or circumstances uncomfortable, we have a choice to make. We can lean in closer to the Father, or give in to the temptation to take a step away. Stepping away says, "I don't know if I really believe You are who You say You are, or You will do what You say You will do, because I don't see You working this out for me." Faith leans in and says, "You are Faithful. You are Good. You are Able. I may not understand, but I choose to wait on You, trusting You are working things out for my good and Your glory."

Reading further in this passage, we see Jesus contemplating "the cup". He looks at Peter and the two sons of Zebedee in garden of Gethsemane and says, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” (Matthew 26:38) His words got me to thinking about the sin in my life and the price He was willing to pay to set me free. I reflected on the heaviness I have felt over a single sin, knowing my own grief over it. The sorrow and guilt of that one sin, times every single sin committed in my lifetime, times every single person in all the world, for all of time. That was the vile concoction in His cup. The weight of that is beyond comprehension. The only words He could find to describe it were, "overwhelmed to the point of death." They seem inadequate.

As Jesus converses with the Father in the garden over this "cup" He was sent to drink, carrying the weight of the sins of all mankind, He needs the disciples to hold Him up in prayer. But each time He returns from interceding, He finds His friends asleep! (vs. 40, 43, 45) In His greatest hour of need His closest companions failed Him. Trouble was at hand and they chose to retreat. The first time He found them snoozing He said, "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." (v. 41) Sadly, their flesh won out. Three times in a row these men of God took a nap!

Continuing with the focus on troubles, they are a trap. God calls us to be watchful and pray faithfully in the day of trouble. We must be careful not to get weary in worship or tired of interceding. If we do, we have fallen for the enemy's snare. Instead, pray "Lord. deliver me from this sleepy devil!" (M. Henry) Weariness in trials leads to laziness in worship and prayer, and opens the door for further temptation to run away in disbelief, which leads to more assault. 1 Peter 5 says, "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith..." 

God who willingly drank that "cup" on our behalf promises to never walk away. To never abandon us, especially in our time of need. Troubles and trials are meant to refine us. They are used to test our faith. The process is less painful when we cooperate. So put your running shoes back in the closet and lean in to Jesus, "the Shepherd and Overseer" of your soul. (1 Peter 2:25b)

*image courtesy of