What You Seek

August 24, 2010 at 7:26 pm (Attitudes, Poetry, Worship) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I seek a remedy for pain

You only seek my greater gain
I look for breast to rest my face
You give me suffering’s embrace
What is my pain compared to Yours?
My splinters measured by Your thorns?

I seek to walk in comfort’s ways
You seek to teach my lips true praise
I cry because of aching bones
You wish I’d worship at Your throne
What are my tears to darkened stars?
My stitches measured by your scars?

I seek to shun my misery
You seek to teach me harmony
As You Yourself once learned to kneel
So You would have me, e’er You heal
What is my suffering to Your shame?
My aching measured by Your pain?

You do not seek that I would bear
A cross You will not also share
Nor do You seek to cruelly break
What You do not seek to remake
And any pain that leaves me torn
Is lesser then the weight You’ve borne.

This house of clay is not my home
But You teach patience through my bones
I face the fire You’d lead me through
And see the road emblazed by You.
Your suffering puts my pain to naught
This is the lesson You have taught
This is the outcome You have sought.

by Abigail Copyright 2005

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My Prayers of Dust

June 24, 2010 at 10:45 am (Godly Living, Poetry, Worship) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

I plead a cause I think is just

With eloquence that man applauds

My guilded prayers melt into dust

Before the mercy seat of God

Is He who formed the mouth impressed

With many words and colored speech?

My empty prayers He sees undressed

And into dust He turns them each

But when I bow my knees and sob

That is a sound His spirit knows

Its measured beat meets with my throb

And cries to heaven overflow

And every word is deeper far

Than all the wells of earthly voice

No sounds of mine could ever mar

The pleadings of that Spirit’s choice

And when my God my prayer receives

It is not empty words He holds

His spirit intercedes for me

And turns my prayers of dust to gold.

Copyright 2004 by Abigail

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In Sanctification and Honor

February 14, 2010 at 1:03 am (Articles, Attitudes, God's Will, Godly Living, Purity) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

(From 1st Thessalonians 4:1-8)

Once upon a time I felt called to be an example of purity.  I use the terminology “felt called,” but what I really mean is that, as I studied scripture, I began to see the emphasis the Lord put on purity.  In the Old Testament, Yahweh bemoaned His apostate bride’s “adultery” as she sought other lovers—bringing foreign gods into her life and heart and worship system.  In the New Testament He proclaimed that our bodies are His temple and His spirit dwells within us.  When we transgress His commandments regarding fornication and adultery, we are sinning against our own bodies—His temple.  It’s adultery against Him.  It makes Him as sick as did Israel’s child sacrifices to Molech and the pagan orgies around the golden calf.  “Flee immorality,” Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers.  “Every sin that man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.”  (1 Corithinthians 6:18-20)

At first I embraced my call to purity as a call to lifelong singleness.  I’ve always been a bit dramatic.  If the Lord wanted me to be an example of purity, what better way could there be than to never marry and demonstrate to the world a life spent in self-control and single-hearted devotion to the Lord?  But as I continued to study the word, I discovered that the most perfect picture of purity is Christ and His bride, the church.  Purity is so much more than abstinence or a vow of celibacy.  It’s a lifelong journey of sanctification and it can certainly include a God-glorifying marriage.  In fact, Paul wrote to the Corinthians telling them that, while singleness was great for those whom God had supernaturally gifted in that manner, for those supernaturally gifted in another manner,  marriage was the wise safeguard against immorality.  (Check out 1 Corinthians 7).

When he gave instructions for the training of younger women, Paul made it clear that purity doesn’t end at marriage.  “Older women are to…train the younger women,” he wrote his disciple Titus, “to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure workers at home, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.”  (Titus 2:3-4)  Married or single, God’s call to purity extends to all of us and reaches into every corner of every relationship.

Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, reminding them of God’s will in the issue of purity:  “Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that, as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you may excel still more.  For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.  For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you.  For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification.  Consequently, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.”  (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8)

This is important, ladies.  Paul warned, he requested, he exhorted and he wound up with a reminder that the person who rejects God’s will in the issue of purity is rejecting God who gives the Spirit’s empowerment.  “Walk so as to please God,” Paul implores, “and excel still more!”  We can’t be too pure.  God’s desire is for His people to be sanctified—set apart and made holy and He has a plan for how to accomplish this.

Abstain from Sexual Immorality

The Roman Empire in which Paul’s readers lived was a decadent match for our own modern age of “free love.”  Immorality was praised in the arts, just as it is today.  It was worshiped in the temples and proclaimed in the palaces.  The concept of choosing a lifestyle of purity was counter-cultural and difficult.  Many of Paul’s readers had walked out of this world-view, by God’s grace, and to them Paul extended God’s mercy.  “Many of you were once fornicators…adulterers…but you were washed clean.”  He wrote to the Romans reminding them, “just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.”  (Romans 6:19)  Paul wanted his readers to know that they were washed clean from past sins, and also given empowerment, through the Holy Spirit, to resist future sins.  There’s a world of difference between slaves to impurity and lawlessness and slaves to righteousness—a world that far exceeds technical “virginity.”  God wants His people to be so far removed from impurity and immorality that they are controlled and driven by righteousness.

The statistics prove God’s wisdom—and the consequences of rejecting it.  When I taught abstinence in the schools as an outreach of a Christian Crisis Pregnancy Center, I was blown away by the seriousness of the facts—fornication doesn’t even lend itself to happily ever after, regardless of your personal convictions.  The sexual progression chart we shared was rather telling as well—it began with “hanging out” and showed that as soon as affectionate touch occurs, the battle becomes a war against your own body.  Paul commanded believers to flee immorality.  This is God’s will!  This is what pleases God!  A warning, a request, an exhortation: sexual sins are not something to be approached with caution.  We are to flee!  If we’re commanded to flee, then even the first step down an inevitable sexual progression is a step in the wrong direction.

Possess Your own Vessel

The context of this command suggests another angle of the purity issue.  Paul is dealing with purity and its effects on those around us.  The Greek word translated here “possess” actually suggests the concept of “acquiring” and the use of the term vessel perhaps refers, not to a man’s own body, but to that of his wife—who is the weaker vessel.  Paul’s command is to take a wife/acquire your own vessel in sanctification and honor—not in lustful passion like those who do not know God.  This fits with his teaching to the Corinthians, when he says, “Because of immorality let each man have his own wife and each woman her own husband.”  (1 Corinthians 7:2)  The antidote to immorality is actually to pursue marriage—not as the pagans do, with selfish and lustful motives—but in set-apartness and honor, in purity, for God’s glory.  The answer to immorality is actually not whole-sale celibacy—monasteries and nunneries.  Paul condemns those who forbid marriage.  The answer to immorality is pure marriages that mirror Christ and His church—built on love for the Lord and sacrificial love for each other.  God created woman for the man’s sake—to be joined as one by God—and together to serve the Lord.

Do not Defraud

Paul adds one more element to the mixture: the issue of defrauding.  The basic meaning of the word is to “cheat”: to claim that which is another’s, to get too much, to be greedy.  His warning is sobering, “the Lord is the avenger in all these things.”  This whole section about purity and sanctification is wrapped within commands to love.  Paul wants his readers to be well-aware that the world has a skewed perception of love.  What the world may call “making love” God calls “sexual immorality” and what the world may hold up as “in love” God denounces as defrauding.  And He will avenge.  God holds up for us a different standard of love: a love that is self-sacrificing, that focuses on God and God’s glory and that seeks to point others in the same direction.  It is a love that gives, not seeks to snag whatever it can get.  “Love does not seek its own,” Paul writes in his famous “love chapter.”  We are to love our neighbor as our self.  We are to look out for the interests of others.  In all our relationships, we must keep in mind the interests of others, careful that we do not transgress and take what does not belong to us.  This is true whether we hope it may one day belong to us or not.  We are not to take what is not yet ours.  A wife’s body belongs to her husband and no one else is to ever ask her for any part of that.

Paul doesn’t lay down for us a pattern of romantic pursuit.  Scripture doesn’t seem to offer a step-by-step plan of how to seek a spouse.  But God has certainly made it clear what His goals are for a marriage that glorifies Him.  God’s will is for us to abstain from sexual immorality.  To flee youthful lusts.  To pursue righteousness.  God’s plan is to protect us.  God’s will is also for us to “acquire our own vessel” (this command is probably given to the men, but Paul wrote to the Corinthians for each woman to have her own husband) in sanctification and honor.  In our pursuit of marriage and in our marriage, we must carefully guard honor and holiness.  God’s plan is to protect our spouse.  Each of us is responsible for the protection of each other.  After marriage, Paul writes that the wife’s body belongs to her husband and the husband’s body, to his wife.  Before marriage, those “vessels” must be carefully guarded from everyone.  After marriage, they must be carefully guarded from all save one.  “Forsaking all others,” read the traditional marriage vows.  God’s will is also that we not cheat each other.  A wife’s body belongs to her husband, and until a marriage covenant is made, she has no husband.  God will avenge those who take what does not belong to them.  God’s plan is to protect our brothers and sisters—that we might not cheat them out of what is rightly theirs.

In every relationship, God’s will must guide our hearts and minds.  We are to seek to be set-apart, holy, pure.  We’re not to be like the pagans, full of lustful passions and selfish ambition.  Purity keeps us fleeing from sin, it guides us into godly marriage and it protects us from taking what is not ours to take.  And the goal always is to please God.  Married or single, God’s will is for us to be pure—to be set-apart.

Much of the commentary on the 1st Thessalonians passage has been shamelessly stolen from my father’s file-cabinet of Bible study materials and teachings on “Taking a Wife.”

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He Has Told You What is Good

February 8, 2010 at 10:17 pm (Articles, God's Will, Godly Living) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

(From Micah 6:6-8)

You may not agree with me on the issue of God’s individual will, and if not, I challenge you to sincerely consider and evaluate and I welcome your feedback.  I’d always encourage you to be like the Bereans, searching the scriptures to see if what I write is true and, if so, accept and obey it.  For any believer, God’s word must be the first authority in every part of our daily lives and this passage certainly reveals what God requires.  With that in mind, I hope you can enjoy and discuss this passage with me.  During my search for “God’s will” I also found the book “Decision Making and the Will of God” to be very encouraging and a Biblically responsible and balanced treatment of the subject.  I highly recommend it to anyone who desires to please the Lord.

I am a firm believer that God speaks today.  That He makes known His will to those who seek Him earnestly.  That He reveals to the obedient exactly what He wishes them to do.  And I am a firm believer that those who love Him, obey.

But I don’t believe that God keeps secret what He wishes us to do, or leaves us confused and struggling to seek His will from a baffling set of circumstances, impressions and interpretations.  As I looked into the pages of scripture, I discovered a distinct lack of commands or encouragement to look anywhere else for God’s will.  No descriptions of a Map-Quest set of directions revealed mysteriously in the inner workings of each individual’s heart or mind or a maze in which we could easily find ourselves lost, randomly bumping into others, never knowing when we might hit a dead end or a fork in the road that we might miss or a flower along the path that we might pass by if we don’t pray enough.  The scriptural presentation of God’s will distinctly lacked the feel of an obstacle course that we might not make it through if we don’t hold our breath just right and just keep plowing ahead—in sincerity.  Those who received direct revelations from God didn’t appear to be searching for them and I couldn’t discover that they had been commanded to do so.  Instead, I found this phrase imbedded in descriptive commands—“this is God’s will for you.”  Each of us has an individual path down which the Lord will lead us—His word is the guiding staff by which we can be assured what is right.  We are to please Him, to obey Him and to be wise.

Lauren and I became fast friends shortly after meeting—when she was nineteen and I was sixteen.  Three years later she was slogging through her senior year of college as a history major with a few basic desires:  be done with college, get married and keep a home.  The only problem was, none of these were options at that time.  As she struggled with desires that seemed out of keeping with the visible future and her parent’s goals she considered everything from teaching, to grad school, to working in a coffee shop.  That’s when we decided to look together at God’s will—as revealed in His word.  Both Lauren and I believed that everything we were required to do was spelled out in God’s word, and everything that happened in our lives was filtered through the loving hand of our Father.

For Lauren, her desires matched up with the things she was learning in scripture—the goals God has for His women.  But her parents had goals for her as well, and her peace of mind came from knowing that God’s will was for her to submit to her authorities.  To rejoice in all things.  To give thanks in all things.  To be pure.  To seek to be like Christ.  She wasn’t expected to probe into the secret workings of God’s sovereign will or read and act on circumstances—she was only responsible to do what she knew to be right within the confines of what were available options.  The object lesson from my end was priceless as I watched Lauren take every thought captive to the Lord, give her dreams and hopes to Him in prayer and simply seek to please the Lord—even as the Lord was working behind the scenes to fulfill her desires.  As we stewed over creative plans to compromise with her parents, I knew what she did not: that my brother hoped to claim her has his wife.  Before she even graduated God had provided for her to have both a husband and a home—to her parent’s delight.

Some time later I found myself in a place of confusion and anxiety, caught between what seemed to be two choices—reason appeared to favor one while surprising circumstances pressed the other.  But even as the two choices seemed to press me, I was given a glimpse of my finite view of circumstances—how partial is my view!  What I interpret as one thing could have a completely different appearance to someone else—and how could God contradict Himself?  Knowing that the only solid footing I had was in God’s word, I was driven to my knees time and again, searching for answers to how I should think, feel, speak and behave.  As I pleaded for answers and sought to please the Lord and keep my heart pure, the scriptures came alive to me, packed with powerful pictures of God’s character and goals.  I found what I was looking for: not as a blueprint of my next fifty steps in life, but as principles which could guide me through any valley as expressions of my Shepherd’s rod and staff.

The prophet Micah spells it out clearly after a long wondering about “God’s will.”  “How shall I serve Yahweh?  With what shall I come to Yahweh?  Shall I come with burnt offerings?  With my first-born?  With what?”  And the answer?  “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does Yahweh require of you but to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.”  (Micah 6:8)  We can ask all kinds of questions and we can invent all kinds of ways to serve Yahweh, but if we want to know His will, it’s simple: He’s told us what is good—what He requires.  In His word.

Do Justice

Simply stated, to do what is right.  Always.  God is proclaimed throughout scripture as just.  His character will not allow Him to do anything but what is purely right and righteous.  As redeemed daughters of Yahweh, we are to be of the same character with Him, that we can’t do anything but what is right.  That is doing God’s will.  How do we know what is right?  God’s word reveals what He abhors, what He condemns and what separates us from Him.  We must keep our hearts and hands pure of what displeases God.  If we want to know what is just and righteous, we must look to the God revealed in the Bible.

Love Kindness

Also translated “goodness” or “mercy,” God desires for us to love what is both good and benevolent.  Justice reaches only so far, but where justice leaves off, kindness takes over.  It was justice that required death for sins, it was kindness that died and wiped them away.  God is both just and merciful and He desires that His people demonstrate His kindness.  How do we know what is kind?  Again we see God’s mercy revealed through His word, with exhortations for us to follow in His ways with hearts of compassion—knowing that we, too, have been treated with compassion.  True compassion seeks to know what is best for someone else, and offers it freely.

Walk Humbly with your God

First note the personalization—your God.  God wants to be our God and us to be His people.  That we humbly own Him as Master is the purpose of scripture—the first step in doing His will.  If we desire to walk with Him, we must humble ourselves because He is opposed to the proud.  (For some practical ideas here, see “Beheading Ye Olde Beast”)  And we must walk beside Him, faithful to be with Him, to listen to Him, to converse with Him, to learn from Him and to keep in stride with Him.  Scripture gives us countless examples of men and women who “walked with God”, fellowshipping with Him intimately—and obeying His word.  These are the true worshippers which God is actively seeking.  How can we obey Him if we don’t know what He wants?  How can we expect to do God’s will if we don’t know Him intimately?  Modern Christianity seems to insinuate that we’ve got to find His will somewhere else, since His word doesn’t detail every decision we are to make.  I ask, where else could we go?  Our lives must be filtered through the truth of God’s word.  When the future seems unclear and the decisions in our pathway appear foggy, shouldn’t we go back to the basics—study God’s word to understand God’s character and commands and make our decisions fit into that grid?  How often do we suppose that we know what God’s word says about a topic—only to discover how little we know about God’s word?  And where His word is silent, still we can find what pleases Him revealed in principles that guide and guard our hearts.

Condensed, God wills for us to belong to Him, to walk beside Him and to learn to imitate Him.  How do we make this happen?  Perhaps you caught a repetition of theme.

Another friend was running crazily, her life a mass of busyness, her thoughts a tangle of confusion.  “What does God want me doing?” she cried out in frustration.  As we talked I discovered that, in her motions, she rarely found time for reading God’s Word.  “I think there’s an answer to your question,” I offered, “But you’ll have to make some time to read some passages.”  As she studied this one she shared parallels with me that blew my mind—all of them coming back to one central theme: “Abigail,” she finally said.  “I think God’s will is for me to spend time in His word!”

“When all else fails, read the instructions,” we joke.  In our quest for God’s will, don’t we tend to complicate our lives, pursuing shifting, elusive dreams under the guise of “God’s will”?  Then what happens when they fall through?  Who failed?  Me or God?  Is it still God’s will, even after I failed?  Is God faithful if I thought this was His will and, well, it didn’t happen?  Did His will change?  Did we simply have our wires crossed?  God becomes as shifting and elusive as our emotions, our dreams and our decisions, as subjective as our inner impressions and as subject to change as our fancies.  Even the apostles didn’t claim (or perhaps, blame?) “God’s will” for every decision they made.  “It seemed good…” we read.  “It seemed good…” and they searched the scriptures.

We have a huge advantage over the prophet Micah—he had the five books of Moses, and perhaps some histories of the priests and kings and the writings of the scribes and prophets.  The apostles had the Old Testament and the words of Jesus.  We have the whole scriptures, bound in leather, with gilded pages and time-tested translations.  We see more of God’s working revealed than any other moment in time—because He’s been at work longer.  I’m a firm believer that God still speaks today.  That He makes known His will to those who seek Him earnestly.  That He reveals to the obedient exactly what He wishes to see done.  And I am a firm believer that those who love Him, obey.  Jesus came not to do His own will, but the will of His Father.  Jesus was the Word—the distillation of God’s will.  We don’t have to wait, to sweat, to weep, to pray to discover God’s will for us.  We can know we are doing His will.  We find it revealed for us in timeless clarity.  Boil it down and the practical application is to hear and obey His word.

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New Year, New Things

January 1, 2010 at 1:24 am (Announcements) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Happy New Year, Ladies!

We look back on the past year and are blown away by the grace of the Lord on our lives.  So many changes!  So much to be thankful for!  We’re excited to see what the new year holds.

For the blog, we hope it holds some changes, as well.  We’ve wondered some about the reality of trying to run a blog and keep up with our home lives but, Lord willing, we will keep blogging for a while yet.  And here’s some of what we hope to get going this year:

We now have a domain name! You can point all your friends to us at our new home www.pearlsanddiamondsblog.com And for those of you with links saved, don’t worry—the WordPress address will still land you here.

We’re planning a blog makeover—hopefully this month, so bear with us as we slowly try to redesign and redecorate.  If you have any HTML or CSS shortcuts or tricks, we’d love to hear them!

We’ll be including interviews from women we know who are trying to live lifestyles of obedient worship.  We’re pretty excited about some of the diversity among the godly ladies we know, and we’d love to share with you how the Lord works in the lives of other women, always creatively, always uniquely, always for His glory.  You can expect the first installment next week!

We’re planning to add a page with a bit of clarity on our beliefs. As always, feel free to ask us about anything!

We also hope to get our series on Finding God’s Will rolling—and we’d love to have some interaction as we try to put what we learn into action.  We want to know how you’re working out God’s will in your own lives!  After all, what difference does it make?

And the big news for February is that, if everything goes as planned, we’ll be hosting “Purity and the Greatest Commandment”—a month focused on Purity.  The goal is a new post every day (which will be pretty impressive for us.)  We’ll be including several articles, our personal testimonies as well as the experiences of some godly women we know.  And we’ll incorporate some entirely new content—anyone up for an audio drama?  We’d also love to hear from you, so start now by sharing your own personal purity convictions and how you came to them on your own blog, and toward the end of February we’ll have a linking party to exchange stories!  We’re also planning to wrap the whole month up with a giveaway—of a purity ring.  We’ll get some more details up soon, and provide you with a bumper sticker in case you want to help spread the word.  And if you know of any excellent purity articles, books or blogs that deserve to be spotlighted, send us an e-mail (pearlsanddiamondsblog@gmail.com) and let us know!

Looking forward to worshiping and growing with you in 2010!

Blessings,

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He Has Also Made Me Fast

November 19, 2009 at 1:27 am (Flowers of Thought) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

flowers-of-thought-2
Ravi Zacharias joined us for the drive to church this morning, with a message from one of the minor prophets on worship—in Spirit and in truth. I listened, wrapped up in his quaint accent and the power of his message, as he shared how worship must be according to God’s truth: intimate, but still reverent. “You call me Father, but where is my honor?” He spoke of the Indian word for father, and pointed out how they never use it without adding a term of respect—like saying, “Papa, sir.” Our relationship with God is the same: He is our loving Father, but we must never forget that He is almighty Creator. Then he began to share a vignette from the life of Eric Liddell. “God has made me for a purpose, but He has also made me fast. When I run, I feel His pleasure.” We worship God by doing everything for His glory, whether it is running—or writing. He doesn’t seek to strip us of our identity and be worshiped by robots. He gives us a new identity in Christ and the power to seek to glorify Him in all that we do. He wants us to use the talents and gifts He has given to each of us to worship Him privately, and to proclaim His excellence to all creation.

Lord, Thou made me for a purpose
To be overwhelmed by worship.
And I see Thy perfect plan
Manifest in who I am.

Prayer and praise are just a start
For the worship of the heart.
Talents that Thou gives are holy
When my life is yielded wholly.

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True Patriotism

October 12, 2009 at 1:35 am (Food for Thought) (, , , , , , , , , )

food-for-thought

Chew on this…

“Allow me to say that it excites both my wonder and concern, that a Christian minister such as yourself, should think it worth his while to attempt political reforms.  When I look around upon the present state of the nation, such an attempt appears to me, to be no less vain and foolish, that it would be to paint the cabin-while the ship is sinking!  Or to decorate the parlor–while the house is on fire!

When our Lord Jesus was upon earth, He refused to get involved in disputes or politics, ‘Friend, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?’ (Luke 12:14)  ‘My kingdom is not of this world!  If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight!’ (John 18:36)  God’s children belong to a kingdom which is not of this world; they are strangers and pilgrims upon earth, and a part of the Scriptural character is, that they are the ‘quiet in the land’ (Psalm 35:19).

Satan has many contrivances to amuse people, and to divert their thoughts from their real danger!

My dear sir, my prayer to God for you is–that He may induce you to employ he talents He has given you, in pointing out sin as the great cause and source of every existing evil; and to engage those who love and fear Him, (instead of wasting time in political speculations, for which very few of them are competent,) to sigh and cry for our abounding abominations, and to stand in the breach, by prayer, that God’s wrath may yet be averted, and our national mercies prolonged!  This, I think, is true patriotism–the best way in which people in private life may serve their country. ” ~John Newton, excerpt from a letter, era 1725-1807

…and tell us what you think.

thess-5

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Pearls and Diamonds has gone to the Birds

September 12, 2009 at 3:37 pm (Announcements) (, , , , )

Well…at least we’ve joined Twitter.  You can keep up with us by following @PearlandDiamond

And we hope to be getting back in gear soon with a series on Purity, one on God’s will and hopefully wind up Lauren’s series on Modesty.  Plus some.  🙂

Thanks for your patience!

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When God’s Will meets Woman’s Emotions

June 15, 2009 at 4:50 pm (Attitudes, God's Will, Godly Living) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Ladies, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything of substance. Actually, I’ve been working on a two-part article about emotions and controlling them and a series on the will of God. And then something happened today which brought the two into head-on collision and gave me a huge reminder of just how silly I am. I’d like to share my story, so that when I get my articles written and posted you’ll know that truly I am writing reminders to myself–like the sticky notes I leave on my desk.

Reposted from Abigail’s personal blog.

See, it’s like this: it doesn’t happen often, but when it does, beware. Today I was riding an emotional rollercoaster–and it looked like a suburban. It’s been building up for a couple of weeks. No, actually, it’s been building up for a year. A year’s worth of build-up can be pretty nasty. And to top it off, several things this weekend resulted in a complete drop-out in the careful nest of my emotions–mostly due to relief, partly due to confusion and a lot of bewilderment. Why did I have to go through all that misery, confusion and pain, trying desperately to do the right thing–and there’s no point to it?

Then along comes the reminder that I still haven’t sold the suburban. That suburban that I’ve had for a year to sell. That one goes like this: Papa gave me the suburban (sort of) to sell with a caveat. See, the money I get from the suburban is supposed to pay for my wedding. Whenever. That’s the missing link for all those people who keep pestering me to find out when I’m going to get married. I can’t until I sell this suburban. (That’s a joke…I think.) The problem is that I never wanted the suburban. In fact, it was kind of embarrassing, so I never explained to anyone why my parents gave me a suburban. In olden days girls had countries or lands or cows for dowries. I have a suburban. It’s not very useful to drive in the meanwhile and if I never sell it, it’s not exactly the kind of vehicle I care to start out with. In fact, on the surface it feels like the kind of gift where the giver says, “You know, I’ve got this thing I don’t want anymore. And someday soon, I’m going to have to pay for her wedding. So, why don’t I just give her this thing I don’t want anyway and tell her to sell it and pay for her own wedding.” And I feel just that valuable. Which isn’t very.

Is that the truth? Tell me, dear Searcher of Hearts, since when were emotions dependent on reason or truth? My wish-wash emotions aren’t terribly interested in the truth. So this gift I have has been weighing on my will, mind and emotions for a year now. And I’ve tried everything that doesn’t cost money out of my pocket in order to sell it. Oh people are interested until it comes down to a price and then they aren’t. At least not in a reasonable price. Or they’re super interested, but wait? You live in D-town? That’s too far to drive. Nevermind. More trouble than it’s worth.

And today Papa expressed his frustration that we still have a suburban. You must understand, this suburban and I are both still at home for one simple reason: the right person just hasn’t come along yet. The right person who needs just this special vehicle (which is really not so much special as not in demand) and is willing to pay the price. Yet here we are, still paying tags and taxes, trying to keep clean and spiffy and advertised something that no one wants. And here I am, trying to sell a suburban to pay for a wedding when no one even wants to marry me.

How pointless is all of that?

I fought tears and crashing emotions all the way to work where I dropped Papa off and wished him a good day and noticed that the gas was on empty. I hadn’t even been the last person to drive it, but I would get to fill it up–and I was already late for Choices. I drove away feeling frustrated, lost and unloved.

Remember, emotions are not always reasonable. Or based on truth.

Trying to talk truth into my weeping soul, I began reminding myself, “Nobody promises results, Abigail. You’re just supposed to do your best and seek to do what’s right anyway.”

“Yeah,” I argued with myself, “But that’s just not fair. I’ve tried so hard! I’ve been honest and forthright! I’ve researched, I’ve posted ads, I’ve tried to please my parents. I don’t get why hard things always happen to me. Why I’m always frustrated and hurt and confused. What am I doing wrong?”

That was a rhetorical question, you know. When I ask, “What am I doing wrong?” I don’t expect an answer, or I expect to hear “nothing.” Because, clearly, no fault lies with me.

Instead a verse in Philippians drifted over the current of my complaints. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks. This is God’s will for you.”

Great. The good ol’ rejoice always passage. Smiling is God’s will for me.

But the truth began to sink in deeper than my level of self-pity. In everything give thanks…in all honesty, I had always resented that suburban. I had viewed it as a burden, something I hadn’t asked for, which would be sold to pay for a designated purpose I never sought. Gee thanks. Some gift. In all my recalling, I could never recall being thankful for that suburban. In all my recalling, I could recall being irritated about trying to park it, or having to park it at the library for advertising and walking to Choices, or having to wash and vacuum it or having to get gas. I certainly was not grateful for that gift. A generous gift from my loving parents.

Then began the sermon. I’m very eloquent when I preach at myself. “Abigail, be grateful! You be grateful! Be grateful!” I signaled and shifted into the turn lane on Main street. “You be grateful for this suburban!”

And the suburban died. Right there in the middle of the busiest intersection in town at two o’clock in the afternoon, this suburban that I was going to be grateful for died. And it wouldn’t restart.

Two possibilities–absolutely no gas, not even fumes. Or the battery, which we’d just replaced and had worked on, since the battery light was on. Becky called to tell me there was no power at the clinic and we were closed and I sniffled into the phone as I explained where I was anyway. Kindly she offered whatever help she could. Then I called Mom to see if Josiah could tell me anything about what my next course of action should be. I didn’t relish braving oncoming traffic while checking on the battery if I just needed more gas. I tried starting it again. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Even on empty, surely I could have made it that last block to the gas station.

Then I heard sirens and saw the flashing blue lights. By now I had tears streaming down my face. So much for being grateful, I was ready to call a wrecker and have this stupid car towed. And plan a fifty dollar wedding. Fifty years from now. I feel terribly sorry for the police man who approached my door. He probably has enough to do dealing with one emotional woman at home. When I opened my door I was both laughing and crying. And I know I must have looked like a tiny teen who didn’t know squat about cars. He quickly noted the for sale signs and asked, “Are you just test-driving?” Ludicrous. I don’t WANT this car. Can’t you tell that just from looking? (I’m sure my parents never guessed. I still need to be sure I’ve thanked them.) I tried to explain my situation as best I could and he nodded in sympathy. “Can you start it for me?” Which I did and nothing happened. Then he said, “Do you have it in park?” Well, no. I’d been driving when it died. And I was already emotionally nuts by then. Of course I didn’t think to put it in park. I shifted into park and turned the key. And it started. “I feel stupid,” I said and laughed and snorted and choked on tears. “You’re okay,” he smiled. “See if you can make it to 2nd and Arkansas and I’ll follow you.”

I made it. And filled up. And went home. And washed the suburban. Vacuumed it. And sprayed that silly foam on the tires to make them shiny. Because everyone is looking for a car with shiny tires, you know. Then I posted up some new ads. And I whispered, “Thank you for this suburban. I don’t understand. I don’t get it. It doesn’t seem fair. It hurts. It’s annoying. I don’t see the point. But thank you.”

Because I don’t have to understand. Things don’t have to go right. Things don’t have to make sense or have a point. But I have to be thankful. That’s God’s will.

Now, the temptation is to say, “Look, Abigail! You learned your lesson! You’re thankful now! God can bless you now!”

But the Lord is not a genii in a bottle. Rubbing Him right doesn’t earn me three wishes. Doing the right thing doesn’t equal getting what I want. I assure you, I want to sell this suburban. Trust means doing the right thing and believing that He sees it, is pleased and will reward it–sometime. Someway. His way. I can’t make anyone buy that suburban. I can’t make things happen by believing–that’s humanism, paganism–not Christianity. But by believing, sometimes I can see things that are happening in a new light–I can believe God’s promises that He will withhold no good thing from those who walk uprightly, that He works all things for the good of those who love Him, that trials produce proven character and that His will for me is my sanctification–that I would be made holy like Him. With those promises in mind, I can look squarely at anything thrown my way and say “Okay. Thanks.”

Thank you, Lord, for an excellent reminder.  Please make me holy.

And…when You get around to it…please sell my suburban.

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Behind the Scenes on My Vanishing Act

March 26, 2009 at 7:14 pm (Announcements, God's Will, Godly Living) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Hello Sisters! I realize I’ve been missing in action for several weeks now…at least in the online world.  Many small factors have played into my absence, and you deserve an explanation.  My Mom and Papa were in a minor motorcycle accident about three weeks ago and Papa broke his collar bone.  It seems to be healing well (though still swollen, green and painful), but he’s been on temporary disability which leaves him home—for at least a month.  Always, anything unexpected brings both unexpected blessings and stretching.  You see, I’m a person of projects.  My projects always seem, to me, to be of great importance—whether blogging or taking pictures or journaling or designing literature.  But sometimes something “interferes” with my projects and I must learn the secret of priorities—the priorities the Lord has created for me.  Blogging is something that has blessed me and been an enjoyable outlet, as have writing, music and many of the other “projects” in which I’ve engaged—but it is not a God-ordained priority.  The Lord has set up priorities that start with my relationship with Him and continue to serving my family, then to outreach to those in my immediate life.  With my father off work, I’ve been super busy.  At first, my heart stubbornly resented the intrusion into my “projects” and “goals” at first, but the Lord is patiently reminding me what’s most important.  Honestly, I’ve come to enjoy the break from my project-driven mentality.  I know that I’m doing God’s will, serving the Lord, when I simply obey and serve my father.  It’s pretty freeing.

The blessings have been surprising as well!  I’m an idealistic realist, which means that I don’t believe ideal exists but I’m holding out for it anyway.  J Over the past several months, frustration had built up in my heart:  frustration with status quo, with the mundane—with things I struggle with perceiving as unnecessary wastes of time.  Why do people have to eat, anyway?  A couple of weeks ago, I came to Papa in tears with a pile of questions taller than I am.  Having him home gave us some time to work through some of my confusion and frustration and bring me back into focus—reminding me that God is the One who works miracles and that many mundane things are for my own good—to prove my character.  And my hopeless tendency to forever reevaluate what I’m doing has been God’s very tool for honing and strengthening me.  He forever reminds me that He still works through things that aren’t ideal and that I simply must depend on Him to work in His perfect way.  I wasn’t redeemed to serve God—as an end in itself.  He has angels who constantly do His will.  I was redeemed to be restored to an intimate relationship with Him—as Adam and Eve once walked with Him in the garden.  All the working and learning in the world are empty eating from the Tree of Knowledge without a relationship with God—the author of wisdom.  And no matter where I am or what I am doing, I can walk with God.

This time of year my life always turns upside down with crazy busyness (you know, weddings, graduations, “projects”, people) and I struggle to balance everything.  The Lord has given me a simple reminder to prioritize and rest in Him, knowing that only one thing is truly important:  being with Jesus.

So, ladies, whether or not I make it back online any time soon, my cry remains the same:  Love Jesus!  Be with Jesus.  Serve Jesus.

Blessings in Christ,

abigails-sig1

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Someday

March 5, 2009 at 10:55 am (Articles, Attitudes, Family, Friends & Ministry, Godly Living, Singleness, Vignettes) (, , , , , , , , )

Posted by Abigail

someday

I was sixteen years old when my Grandma took me driving and told me I needed to be more aggressive. Five years have passed and this weekend found me pondering her words as I navigated Kansas City to visit her. She’s eighty-two and as far back as I can remember she’s been running a hundred miles and hour serving other people. She spent most of her younger days in a cult one step removed from Mormonism, but she met the Lord not long before my birth. A short time later, she lost her husband. She’s been a widow as long as I’ve been living.

At sixteen or twenty-one, it’s easy to rush forward, hurrying toward the next thing, dreamily planning the future. Marriage, children. How many of us look beyond marriage to a time of being single again? We think of our wedding day as signifying the day in which we have finally arrived, the day when our life is fulfilled. For those newly married brides, a baby is the next thing—the completion to fulfilled life.

When that dream ends, what comes next? When the nest is empty and we’re back to sleeping in a twin bed, then what?

I watch my grandma with pride and amazement. She lives simply, but always busily. She went to a ladies Bible study at a retirement home and took cupcakes and fruit salad. I’m willing to guess that most of the ladies present were younger than she is. She’s held more dying people than I can count, pouring love and tenderness into their last days. She’s sent parts of her carefully stewarded retirement overseas for the spread of the gospel. She studies God’s word and shares it with everyone she can find. She’s helped out young mothers. She eats lunch once a week with a troubled little elementary school girl. She keeps tabs on a destitute nephew. Prays daily for her large family: some know the Lord and some don’t. Offers smiles, encouragement and even rebukes to those she comes into contact with. Shares Jesus when she can.

From the other room I heard her answer the phone when a neighbor lady, another widow, called. After a few minutes, she gently said, “I’d rather not talk about other people like that. It doesn’t really do anyone any good.”

She’s about to have her knee replaced. “That’s just what happens when you get old and your body wears out,” she shrugged. “And I have to make an appointment to get my batteries checked,” she joked about her pacemaker. No bitterness. She laughs easily, teases lovingly and trusts the Lord in everything.

I think of my grandma and I think of Paul’s requirements to Timothy for widows “indeed.” The wife of one man, a reputation for good works, brought up children, shown hospitality, served the saints, assisted those in distress and devoted herself to every good work. His greatest warning was that they be wary of becoming gossips. When he wrote to Titus he said that older women should be teachers of what is good—to the younger women.

It’s natural for young women to think and dream and plan for marriage, to strive to become godly wives and mothers, to look forward to that time. But being a godly wife and mother is not the end in itself. Being a wife and mother is not what fulfills a woman. Even a pagan can be a wife and mother. Serving the Lord, being obedient to Him, loving Him and serving His people—that’s what fulfills a woman, in whatever circumstances she finds herself.

My mind goes back two thousand years to another widow who lived her life serving the Lord. Anna, the daughter of Phanuel grew up in Israel and married, but her happily ever after ended seven years later with the death of her husband. Being a widow in Israel was especially difficult, yet Anna spent her days in the temple, serving the Lord with fasting and prayers, waiting for the Messiah. Then one day, when Anna was eighty-four, a young woman entered the temple with her husband and newborn son and Anna knew that the Lord had finally sent redemption. When I look into my grandma’s smiling eyes, I think I might know what Anna looked like.

Sisters, your whole life will be filled with someday. Someday you will likely be sixteen and driving. Someday you will likely marry. Someday you will likely have a baby. Someday your children will likely grow up and fly away. And then someday, someday you will likely be a widow. Through each someday the Lord wants you to recognize today—this is the day the Lord has made, rejoice and be glad in it.

For twenty-one years I’ve lived as a single woman on one side of marriage. For twenty-one years my grandma has lived as a single woman on the other side of marriage. The call to both of us is the same—serve the Lord.

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Situational Modesty and Upcoming Posts

November 18, 2008 at 9:09 pm (Announcements, Modesty) (, , , , , , , , )

Hello ladies,

Abigail and I are still a little slow when it comes to the meatier articles we intend to write. We hope you’ve enjoyed the more devotional posts we’ve made lately–and the recipes!

I have written and posted about three articles for the series on Situational Modesty, only “diving in” to one situation thus far: swimwear. As I have tried recently to write about other situations I have come up dry. I really think that to appropriately deal with some of the issues we want to address as far as situational modesty is concerned, we need to put a bit more time into developing not only well thought-out articles, but also helpful illustrations and even some fun and more interactive displays of what we mean. So it will most likely be a few months before we move on in the department of situational modesty, perhaps in the spring time when this issue becomes more prominent. To give you a heads-up, the two situations that I have plans for are formal wear and athletic wear. If you can think of any other situations in which you or Christian girls in general are tempted to compromise their standards, please let us know and we will try to examine them as well.

In the mean time, Abigail and I plan to develop articles related to recent issues that have come up in discussion (both online and with local friends), those being the practice of headcovering, women’s roles, and a godly woman’s courage. Abigail’s also got a couple of series in the making focusing on discerning the will of God and on wasted emotions. So stick around! We’ll have plenty of devos, more personal posts, and yummy treats for you to enjoy, as well as a slew of meatier articles that will require more chewing…and a longer cooking time. 😉

Blessings!

laurens-sig1

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All Things Well

November 7, 2008 at 1:33 pm (Poetry) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

abigail

And they were utterly astonished, saying, “He has done all things well; He makes even the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak!” ~Mark 7:37

Dissatisfaction, restless urge
From my weary soul be purged
And with the strength to shout and sing
Stand before the Lord, thy King
What He chooses none can tell
But He doeth all things well.

Doubt and fear, sharp sorrow cease
Be filled instead with heaven’s peace
Peace with God means peace of soul
He comes to make the broken whole
What His plans are, none can tell
But He doeth all things well.

Complaint and bitterness depart
Fill with content, oh broken heart
His load is easy, burden light
And He disperses bonds of night
Of His wisdom none can tell
But He doeth all things well.

Thoughts of self flee from my head
Crown Him in their place instead
Vanish plans to make me great
Kneel before Him. Will to wait.
Of His promise I can tell
He will do it. All is well.

abigails-sig1

copyright 2003

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Understanding “No”

August 11, 2008 at 6:17 am (Flowers of Thought) (, , , , )

I cried myself to sleep the other night and woke up feeling like I’d been hit by a train. Slowly I opened my eyes to discover they were not swollen, and then climbed out of bed to fix an early breakfast. As I worked, the thought came to me: No is not a punishment. The force of this simple statement hit me with the power of a speeding locomotive. No is not a punishment. It’s not a divine spanking when the Lord says “no”. It’s not something to be dreaded. His plans always work out—for the good of those who love Him. For Him to answer my prayers with a “no” should not cause me tears, it should not disturb me or make me miserable. It should bring me peace, knowing that the Lord has heard and answered. And whatever He has is better. Don’t say it tritely. Really listen. I thought what I wanted was good. The Lord said, “No, I’ve got something better in mind. Because you are called according to My purpose.” Where is my cause for sorrow? Where is my excuse for depression? Where is my reason for pitying myself? When the Lord says “no” it is not a punishment, just a redirection. He’s simply blocking me off from the wrong direction and heading me in the right direction again.

Chains fell off my heart and mind. For the first time in a long time I felt completely freed of a burden that had been growing heavier and heavier. Anything to which the Lord says “no” is simply not what He has for me now, and I can accept that joyfully as His loving protection. The rest of the day I floated around on the joy of knowing I am a daughter of the King and my heart is like water in His hands, to turn wherever He wishes.

Later, I passed a picture of a much younger Abigail, reposing placidly on the bookshelf in the library. “Little girl,” I sought to advise the innocent-eyed child. “Life is hard. Living is dangerous. Loving is risky. The only true reward is in the Lord. Pursue Him.”

Lord, may I ever, always be
Content to know Thy will for me.
And when I know Thy will in full
Pursue it gladly, heart and soul.

And when Thy will seems distant still
Remind me, waiting, is Thy will.
And when Thy will is dim or worse
Remind me to pursue Thee first.

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Questions and the Future

July 11, 2008 at 2:14 pm (Flowers of Thought) (, , , )

I’m at a pivotal place in my life and find myself often thinking about the future. I know that’s a good thing…most of the time, but it can also be a distraction from what the Lord is trying to work into my hard heart now. I catch myself daydreaming, wondering, asking what God’s will is for me—meaning, what exciting plan He’s got for me in the future—instead of focusing on what He wants me doing now. Because now is simply never exciting. Such foolishness! Getting ahead of the Lord, trying to guess His gifts before they’re finished, wrapped and presented, trying to make decisions that haven’t even come up in my life yet! “What should I do if…” “What should I say if…” “I just can’t handle it if…” I should be seeking what the Lord wants me doing now—today. His will isn’t some mystical feeling in the pit of my stomach. It’s not a voice whispering in the back of my mind. It’s not revealed through visions and premonitions. He doesn’t lead through impulses, or even through the well-plotted schemes of people. He leads through my obedience to His known will—as laid out in His word.

“Do not worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34

As I’ve been studying His word, seeking His will, and looking back at my own life, I’ve been convicted, encouraged and comforted with His ways. If I focus on obeying Him today, I’ll find I’ve been preparing perfectly for tomorrow!

He’s always got it under control and He’ll lead me across every bridge—as I come to it.

I gaze at the future and try to decide
A question that’s not yet been posed.
Between here and there stands a powerful door
That may be left open—or closed.

The light I have now leaves my choices too dim.
I worry, I fret—and I pray.
The question unanswered is unanswered still,
But it begs not my answer today.

I focus on Jesus. The future grows pale.
He points me to look at my past.
I know there’s a question that waits undefined—
But I won’t seek an answer ‘til asked.

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