I am a very blessed and humble owner of a book entitled ‘The Life God Blesses -- Weathering the Storms that Threaten the Soul’ by Gordon MacDonald.
I’m nearly finished with it and anxious to get back to it. Thus far, it has been packed with wisdom, encouragement, and hope from first page to chapter 11, where I am presently up to in reading the book. Chapter 11 is entitled ‘Convictions Grow in Special Soil’ and has, obviously, had much affect on my posts lately, especially that of ‘Crushing the Shards’ and ‘Where are the Seagulls?’. One of the many proofs that one lives life out of the soul is the ability to receive conviction and correction (a fiery furnace, if you will, that every true child of God must endure).
In chapter 10, entitled ‘Where Will You Be?’, MacDonald lets his readers in on the insecurities of his own little girl at bedtime and the comfort she takes in knowing that her Daddy is going to be in the next room while she is going to sleep. She asks him nightly, “Daddy, where will you be?” It is sure good to know that we have a Father who is never far from us.
In the same chapter, he also quotes John Berridge (a great Church of England preacher of the eighteenth century) in a passage that, though it won’t be received by many, strangely comforts me in the midst of my own convictions:
Ten years ago I hoped to be something long before this time, and
seemed in a promising way; but a nearer view of the spiritual
wickedness of my heart, and of the spiritual demands of God’s
laws, has forced me to daily cry, “O wretched man that I am! God
be merciful to me a sinner!” I am now sinking from a poor
something into a vile nothing; and wish to be nothing that Christ
may be all. I am creeping down the ladder from self-complacence
to self-abhorrence; and the more I abhor myself, the more I hate
sin, which is the cause of that abhorrence.
As the heart is more washed, we grow more sensible of its
remaining defilement; just as we are more displeased with a single
spot on a new coat, than with a hundred stains on an old one.
The more wicked men grow, the less ashamed they are of
themselves; and the more holy men grow, the more they learn to
MacDonald compares a life lived out of the soul to Robert Frost’s ‘A Road Less Traveled.’
I took the [road] less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
But it is the only kind of life we can live that will leave us truly capable of weathering major storms. He compares our souls to the space below the waterline in a ship. If that necessary weight below the waterline becomes disconnected, any ship, no matter how well built or manicured, will capsize in the throws of a major storm. If you’re not willing to have the weight below your waterline tested, however, you might want to reconsider reading McDonald’s book. Then again, those of us who choose the road less traveled would fair well to read a book that forces us to search our souls and test the weight therein.
Personally, I have weathered some typhoons. I’m not boasting about having weathered them however. I distinctly remember crying out at one time, though not in these exact words, “JESUS! My sails are tattered and my masts are destroyed! My ship is filled with water! ARE YOU GOING TO LET ME DROWN? No one is trying to rescue me from this storm! If You don’t help me, I’m going to die!” I didn’t just weather those storms; I suffered pitifully through them. But I’m still here, still afloat ... even with battered, tattered, torn sails. And the only reason I’m still afloat is because I called on the Name above every name ... the One who was resting peacefully and knowingly inside the depths of the ship. And THAT, when asked “Where will You be?” is where He assures me He will remain!
Emmanuel -- God is With Me
A place awaits in Glory for me --
salt of the earth, work of His hands.
These fiery trials -- they prepare me
to walk upon those golden sands.
[Chorus] Emmanuel -- God is With Me.
I do not bear the fire alone.
Seasoned well in these afflictions,
I look toward the shores of Home.
When I cannot endure the sorrow,
I look toward the shores of home.
I’ll get through, until tomorrow.
I do not bear the fire alone.
I’m storing up heavenly treasure.
Someday, I’ll take my Savior’s hand,
when these fiery trials are over.
He’ll lead me to my Promised Land.
[Chorus X 2]
© Joyce Pool
In chapter 9, entitled ‘A Beautiful Soul,’ MacDonald forces his readers to delve into the secret places of their souls (“below the waterline”) and check for things that might cause that weight to become disconnected with these questions:
1. Who Am I Really Trying to Please?
2. What Needs Am I Trying to Meet? What Insecurities Am I Pampering? And What Feelings Am I Storing Up?
3. With Whom/What Am I Competing?
4. What Rewards Am I Seeking?
5. What Guilt or Shame Might I Be Covering?
I am a people pleaser, a rather needy and insecure person at times, with a lot of stored up feelings, highly competitive, with tons of guilt and shame. I abhor myself. I think my own writings cover the details of my personal answers to those questions, excluding that of number 4. My answer to that question is simple: I seek the “EXCEEDINGLY GREAT REWARD,” that of seeing and knowing my God. What other reward is there? Other people’s acceptance and approval, my physical and emotional needs being met, high self-esteem and relief from guilt are all really nice rewards. But they’re also easily corruptible and they’re all quite temporal. Let me store up for myself one treasure then, the reward for having diligently run this most difficult race with the best of my mind, the best of my heart, and the best of my soul.
In chapter ten, McDonald tells the story of Cardinal Basil Hume, once the leader of English Roman Catholics. He reflects upon his youth and frequent attempts to raid the cookie jar. His mother would warn him sternly that God saw his hand in the cookie jar and would one day be very harsh with him. Hume, apparently familiar with a kind God, states “Now, today, I half expect that when I someday stand before God, the Lord will raise the subject of the cookie jar and say, ‘Basil, why didn’t you take two?’” In my search below the waterline, I find issues with harsh words spoken over my heart and my life. And in my spirit, I hear a word ... “Treava, take ten. It’s okay to take all that I have to offer you. Open up your hands, My Little Sparrow, and receive abundance from Me. I am not going to punish you for not wanting to do without.”
And this is why we need to familiarize ourselves with the Word -- If you are human, and I know that you are, someone, at some point in your lifetime, has spoken a harsh or ungodly word over you. Personally, I can still hear some of the echoes of the many, many harsh words spoken over me. So I take this Word from the Word of God and apply it over my wounds for the most sufficient balm. Isaiah 54:16 states “Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy.” Those of us, therefore, who have been run over the coals, so to speak, can be assured that we are being made into fine instruments for the use of God’s hands. And verse 17 goes on to say “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.” We are, therefore, strengthened by the Lord to rise above harsh words or curses spoken over our lives and God is able to use those things for our sanctification and for the overall good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
Presently, I am on page 185 of MacDonald’s book. But I see something in bold print on page 186 that I am anxious to get to: “Can Character Be Rebuilt?” As anxious as I am to get to the answer he gives, I already know the answer. Of course it can! God promises His sheep restoration. Or at least He has promised me that. And so I sheepishly rely on Him to repair my sails and to restore this vessel into the unshakeable sanctuary for the Living God that it was intended to be. But He never promised that the restoration would be an easy process.
In the meantime, I know where the insecurities and needs for acceptance that wreak havoc on my character come from. They are deeply rooted. Their mangled roots remain planted in my soul, corrupting the healthy roots of my faith. But I have never seen the righteous forsaken. He will not leave me in this terrible state. I have never seen a plant that God cannot uproot. But so as not to destroy the good with the bad, He is most gentle and careful with the process. One step at a time, He covers the shame with His mercy, the pain with His love, the stinging words with Truth-filled Words, the bruises with understanding, the desolation with provision, the rejection with hope, and every sin, first with His rod and His staff, and then with His Blood. And for the stench of the iniquity I was born into, He gives me a new name.
with her spine of yellow,
a portrait of shame and fear,
called out with a voice so mellow,
“Prince of Peace, are You still here?”
He came to her
wearing a seamless robe.
Her future with Him was set.
Lowly, on a donkey He rode
and whispered “I paid your debt.”
He lifted her
with His strong, nail-scarred hand
and looked her full in her face.
He whispered, “Princess, take your stand.”
And iron took yellow’s place.
donning a brand new name,
sharpens iron for today,
until her Prince, Who stays the same,
and Hephzibah ride away.
© 2006 Plain-Ol’-Joyce-Is-Not-Even-My-Name-A-Rella Pool
Daughter of Zion
Hephzibah, which means -- My Delight is in Her
A Crown of Splendor in the Hand of God
A Royal Diadem in the Hand of God
A City No Longer Deserted
Hey! Is it just me, or does that look sort of look like a ship, with a banner of love over it even? It looks like a ship with sure, or assured direction! Surely my Rock of Salvation is still where He said He’d be too, resting peacefully and knowingly in the depths of the ship.
Be praised Jesus -- Lover of My Soul! -- The Solid Rock -- The One Who Came to Seek That Which was Lost -- (He “sought after” me) -- My Anchor -- The Water Walker, Rebuker of Storms, Calmer of Seas, holding fast the weight below my waterline!
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