Even the Pomegranates Cry Out

Chop. Chop. Chop.

I seem to have the best God-moments when I’m feverishly hacking away on a helpless piece of food, trying to work out my anger. It has come to be a habit. We fight—I cook. It’s how I wrestle with my emotions, think, pray, and take several deep breaths while annihilating a target other than my spouse.

“Ok, God, I know what you said in 1 Corinthians 10:13, I’ll never forget that verse…but, I’m starting to think You enjoy taking me to the edge of what I can handle.”

Chop. Chop. Chop.

Silence.

“Ok, You’re not talking. That’s ok, I have plenty to say…”

If God could get frustrated, I am sure I’d be His number one cause of irritation. “Oh, here’s Rebecca again, whining like it’s the end of the world. If only she knew how bad it could really be, maybe then she’d be grateful.”

Of course, I know God isn’t really thinking that towards me, in fact, what He is thinking about me is too mind blowing to comprehend. For example, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—the fruit that will last.” (John 15:16)

Oh, and speaking of fruit? Yeah, I was carving up several pieces of fruit to make a fresh fruit salad while conversing with God in a less-than-humble way.  He never spoke to me in those heated moments, not audibly at least. But He did find a way to cut through my incessant ramblings of self-pity.

I don’t know about you, but I enjoy seeing God in nature—all facets of nature from animals to the weather to food. My social media friends are well aware of this due to the multitude of pictures I post of the food I’m cooking, the clouds in the sky, or my dog acting exceptionally cute. Creation is beautiful, and in it I am made aware of God’s presence in the details.

Slice. Slice.

285-Pomegranate

 

And then it opened and my breath was taken away. As the crimson juices ran over my fingers and the seeds spilled out my thoughts were interrupted. “Oh, Lord, it’s so beautiful! It’s like a honeycomb giving birth to rubies!” And for a second I was so captivated by the gorgeous intricacies of that pomegranate that my self-centered complaints were replaced with worship and gratitude.

How could I ever doubt a God who took so much time carefully designing every piece of fruit to not only taste good, but look good as well? But doubt I do—and often. It’s so easy to forget in the heat of the moment. To forget all things good and grateful and focus on the ugly and distasteful.

Fortunately, God is not surprised by any of this. He knows what I will say, how I will react, and whether or not I’ll confess it. He knows I will continue to grieve His spirit unintentionally when I allow bitterness to take root, and He knows the exact moment I will fall on my knees and give it all to Him and choose peace.

When my voice fails to speak of His love, surely the pomegranates cry out in my place.

“My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.” Psalm 63:5  

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profilepic3Rebecca Aarup is a health columnist for The Christian Online Magazine, a contributing writer for Encourage 365, founder and creater of S.E.R.V.A.N.T. Sisters, and has written devotionals/studies/articles for a variety of other publications. She just released her latest Bible Study The Word: Six Lessons from Psalm 119 which is available as a free download on her website or in print form from Amazon. Beyond writing, Rebecca is a wife, home-schooling mom, and Bible student at Liberty University. She lives in Glendale, Az with her husband Chris and 5 year old, Samantha.  You can read more from Rebecca by subscribing to her blog (it’s free) and following her on twitter and facebook.

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A Little Inspiration from Isaiah

“Don’t fear anything except the Lord of the armies of Heaven! If you

fear Him, you need fear nothing else.”

Isaiah 8:13

 

“See, God has come to save me! I will trust and not be afraid, for the

Lord is my strength and song; He is my salvation. Oh the JOY of

drinking deeply from the Fountain of Salvation!”

Isaiah 12:2-3

“But the Lord of Hosts is exalted above all, for He alone is holy, just,

and good.”

Isaiah 5:16

Celebrate Sorrow

Suggested Reading: Nehemiah 8:7-12

“It is a time to celebrate with a hearty meal, and to send presents to those in need; for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10 (The Living Bible)

It was a momentous day for Judah. For the first time in their generation, they read the laws of God as given to Moses. In an instant their spiritual eyes were opened to the truth-and how far they had strayed from it.

They wept incessantly. The Israelites were sorry for their sins and the sins of their ancestors and desperately wanted to make it right. Ezra and Nehemiah reassured the people that while it was ok to be sad over their sin, they shouldn’t live in that state of mind.

The truth of God’s word should bring repentance, but that repentance should give great joy as God’s mercy is celebrated. Celebrating the goodness of God should cause worship, and worship should create an outward focus on the needs of the world.

When I look back on my life, it’s tempting to live in a state of despair and regret. However, God is not glorified in my incessant weeping. Jesus doesn’t tell me to live in sorrow, he tells me to, “Go, and sin no more₁”. Ezra puts it well, “What hope could we have if [God] gave us justice₂?”

I rejoice that I have not been given the justice I deserve. That joy strengthens me to share the redemptive, transforming message of the Gospel with others.  I may weep for a moment but I’ll rejoice for eternity.

  1. John 8:11
  2. Ezra 9:15

Rippling Effect

Suggested Reading: John 15:1-11

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:11

I was thinking about that day, as it often returns to my thoughts. He appeared to me in such a clear way it was undeniable. His voice spoke soft yet firm, “Your independence from Me has shattered his dreams.”

God opened my heart with surgical precision. I had gotten caught up in, “It’s my life; it’s my body; it’s my choice!” All those “my my mys” destroyed my husband’s heart, and mine as well. Did God reveal this to cause shame? Never. He revealed this to cause repentance.

“If only I had remained in His love, attached to His vine of wisdom; if only…”

As the ramifications of what I did spilled into my psyche, I was overwhelmed with grief. It took at least two weeks before I could confront my husband and share with him my regret.

“I should never have done it, I was wrong, I am so sorry! Can you ever find a way to forgive me?”

It was a nice sentiment, but he had long lived with the pain of my decision and bitterness had set in. It was several more weeks before he could talk about my change of heart. Healing has been a long process for us. In His love, God has allowed me to experience the consequences of my decision. I don’t find this to be cruel, however. I embrace the discipline. Everytime I feel the stinging pain I am reminded of how vital it is for me to remain in Him. Stay in His word, and for crying out loud, ASK HIM FIRST before making decisions.

You’re probably itching to know what awful thing I had done. I had many Christian women advising me to do it. Funny how in hindsight no one was telling me to see what God thought about it. It’s not their fault, of course. It was my responsibility to look for His will, and listen for His voice. Truth be told, I didn’t care at the time what He wanted. It was “my choice” and I made it.

Against my husbands wishes I walked into the hospital and signed the consent. I assured my OBGYN I was never going to have children again. My husband (who does not have a relationship with Jesus) and I had been having a lot of difficulties and I concluded I could not bear any more of his children.

Since then Chris has watched his sisters bear children, boys, which is what he always wanted and hoped to try for. I remember snapping a picture of him with his nephew,

and God began working on my heart. I destroyed that man’s dreams because I couldn’t be bothered to listen to the God I claim to serve.; no wonder my husband doesn’t care for “religion”.

I was certain I never wanted more children, but I underestimated the power of God. He has placed within me a strong desire to have another baby. Poetic justice? I mean, why would God place a desire that couldn’t be fulfilled? Actually, I know God didn’t place that desire in my heart to torture me. In a sense He has branded my heart with the hot iron of His love. Every time I hold my friends baby or see someone else holding their newborn I feel the ache deep within and I thank God for it.

Reminders that my choices aren’t my choices.

They effect others like a stone dropped in a pond. The ripples go out far and wide in ways I couldn’t begin to understand.

I’m a firm believer that God doesn’t waste our pain, and he brought me on my knees that day to bring about a glorious new birth. Is it a physical brith? Maybe not, but a spiritual one; definitely.

He told me all of this so my joy could be complete. Thank you, Jesus, for loving me enough to teach me how essential it is to follow You.

 

A Mother’s Joy

“May she who gave birth to you be happy!” Proverbs 23:25b

Suggested Reading: Proverbs 23:22-25

The Holy Spirit tugs at my heart and I am reminded that my parents are my parents forever, and they’re the only ones I’ll ever have. Life is short, and I still have a responsibility to them. This obligation goes way beyond physical needs being met, or nursing home bills being paid. I’m talking about the emotional state of my parents.

As Mother day draws near I am prodded to look deep within and how I am contributing to the joy of my mother. I can’t always give her what she wants or needs materially, but according to God’s word, my godliness (or lack thereof) has an effect on my mother’s inner joy. That’s a lot of pressure! I’m starting to understand what that looks like, though. Godliness isn’t just about “doing”, it’s about “being” all God has designed me to be, from the inside out. Seeing with God’s eyes allows me to appreciate how He feels about my mom, and how she deserves to be treated, regardless of past hurts.

The Master Creator formed my mother in the womb (Psalm 139) and created her for a specific purpose; He loves her and went to the cross for her. It is my honor as her child to replicate the love of Christ over her. There is no mention in Proverbs of how I was raised, what was said, or how I was treated; it simply has nothing to do with how I am to love my mother (or father). How I love my Mom (not the feeling love, but the active love), and anyone else for that matter, is only contingent on the value I see. If I see her through the eyes of my Heavenly Father, then I will be motivated to love, honor, care for, listen to, and encourage her with the love of Jesus.

I looked hard to find the perfect gift for mom this year, not because she needed it, but because I wanted her to understand my love for her through the giving of a special “thing”.  But Mother’s Day isn’t about breakfast in bed, pretty flowers, or new appliances; it’s about reflecting the love of Jesus to my mom every day of the year, and choosing to love her as God does, without expectation.

My mom, Sue, dressed up for an old west re-enactment.

 

Secret Poison

Narcissism: n. self love or excessive interest in one’s own appearance. (Webster’s New World Compact Dictionary)

We all have them in our lives and we have all been them at some point. The narcissist is always concerned how they are perceived in someone else’s eyes. This excessive self interest leads them quickly into deceptive behaviors. This person will extort emotionally to have their own needs met, contemplate wrong thoughts for self gain, and plow through life expecting to be gratified by everyone they come in contact with. When their perceived needs go unmet, they turn into self-loathing, contempt, and self-pity.

This secret poison can rot away at the person who is not aware of its damage. I can recall many instances in my life where I was tempted to “exaggerate” the truth in order to receive attention. Perhaps I allowed my symptoms to appear worse than they really were, or I let others believe I was capable of more than I really was.

I remember the moment when God gently but firmly grabbed my heart to these subtle behaviors and began to show me that in the end, I was lying. I never wanted to look at it that way, that was more severe than “a little exaggeration”. I saw at once how my deceptions had hurt myself more than anyone else. I was constantly unhappy because I was seeking emotional fulfillment from those around me. This is an impossibility, since Christ is the only true source of satisfaction.

As I saturated myself in the Word I began to see that the only way to truly be happy was to be honest about who I am, what I am feeling, and what I am capable of. Constantly seeking the attention of others was only poisoning my spirit. Once I expected to receive a certain amount of attention from someone, and they failed to meet my expectation, I would drown in my own cespool of self-pity. Nothing anyone did was ever good enough to meet my needs.

Perhaps we all have a touch of narcissim within. We need to allow the Spirit to erradicate it from our lives, and we can cure the poison of self-deception. Who we are in Christ is all we need to be. His standard is the only standard that matters. The beginning of integrity is through honest lips. The righteous person will speak truth, sacrifice personal comfort for the sake of their integrity, and in turn they will be well taken care of by their Heavenly Father. This is the person who is fortified in the Spirit, and soars with the eagles on the heights of authentic peace and joy.

“He who walks righteously and speaks what is right, who rejects gain from extortion and keeps his hand from accepting bribes, who stops his ears against plots of murder and shuts his eyes against contemplating evil-this is the man who will dwell on the heights, whose refuge will be the mountain fortress. His bread will be supplied, and water will not fail him.” Isaiah 33:15-16

Holy Water

Holy Water

“With my lips I recount all of the laws that come from your mouth.” Psalm 119:13 NIV

I’ll admit it, I like to sing in the shower, in my car, while I am doing the dishes, vacuuming, or even cleaning the litter box (which is tricky when you’re trying not to inhale).  Music has always been a part of my life and as an accompaniment pianist, I find myself hearing rhythms, accompaniment patterns, and ad libs whenever I listen to a song. I can’t even hear a clock ticking without hearing tempos and singing songs in my head. I have memorized many songs unintentionally just by listening to them and singing them over and over again. It’s really annoying when I get a commercial jingle stuck in my head, and I find myself singing about auto insurance at odd hours of the night.

A lot of times we think we can’t remember anything, and it’s true we all misplace our keys or lose our debit cards occasionally. (In my case almost daily in the pit that is my purse.) If we’re honest we’ll admit it’s not as hard to memorize something as we think it is; in reality it just depends on what’s important to us and what we choose to listen to/look at on a consistent basis.

The Psalmist said he could recount all of the laws verbally. That’s a pretty impressive statement. How do you suppose he was able to do that? I doubt it was because he glanced over them for an hour once a week. He most likely repeated them over and over again out loud many times a day; just like that commercial jingle that gets stuck in your head because you hear it over and over again during that football game (or movie or whatever you like to watch). When we hear something and repeat it out loud we tend to remember it better. Often times when I am trying to memorize a verse I repeat it out loud many times as I lay in bed until I fall asleep. It’s the first thing on my mind when I wake up and I remember it a lot better than just reading a verse on a page. You would think having spent over a year studying Psalm 119, I would have most of it memorized by now, but it’s not the case. I only remember the verses I have intentionally sought to remember and spent time speaking them and hearing my own voice saying them. That verbal reinforcement is powerful and transforming.

The Hebrew word for recount in this verse is actually to declare, inscribe, enumerate, celebrate, commune, speak, talk or tell.  This is not just a mental exercise; it’s also a physical process involving the tongue. It’s no wonder this is necessary in training the mind as we see in James 3:6:

“The tongue is also a fire, a word of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire.”

Have you ever said something you regretted? Has your tongue ever gotten you in trouble and lit up your life like a flaming wildfire? I know I have. The Scriptures are our way of dousing those flames with “holy water”, so to speak. When we declare the words of the Lord with our mouths, we reiterate to our minds truth that transforms. It takes black and white off the page and puts it into practice. We’re more likely to remember the words and attitude of Jesus that we are told to emulate if we are spending time repeating them. Is there something in your life that you struggle with? Perhaps it’s anger, gossip, or impatience. Find a verse that addresses the issue you struggle with, and commit it to memory by repeating it out loud several times every day. Listen to the word of God spoken on a cd in your car, or record it yourself to listen to you when you’re driving. Declare it in your bed at night until it begins to transform your mind and you can say, “With my lips I recount your laws, Lord!”

Prayer

Jesus, I ask that you reveal a verse to me that I need to commit to memory. I want my actions to mirror the life of Jesus, and I realize I need to have a transformation of thinking in order for that to occur. Control the damaging flames of my tongue with the cooling water of your word.