April McGowan

Chipping Away

Tall TreesWhile growing up I thought once I was in my forties (or old, as I considered it) that I’d have life all figured out. Okay, quit chuckling at me, that’s not nice. Anyway… as I was saying…life all figured out. Easy sailing on smooth seas. (Seriously?…Stop laughing!)

God’s word doesn’t promise smooth sailing, through. It does promise He will never leave us nor forsake us. I’ve begun to wonder if that verse has a double meaning. In His not leaving us, He’s also not leaving us to our own devices, or leaving us unchanged. Rather, once we accept Jesus as our savior, we are being made over.

We’re like trees standing in a grove, growing, waiting, watching the seasons pass, one to the next. The summer, the fall, the winter… But rather suddenlyfile2911254930140 and often without warning, trials come. We are cut down. Our limbs trimmed with each challenge, each hardship, each prayer for mercy until our bark is stripped and we are laid bare and tossed away seemingly forgotten in a stack. It’s tempting to despair in that wood pile. There seems no point. If we are walking alone in our faith, it can be devastating. But never fear, the Father is busy not leaving us to our own. He’s making us over, chipping away at us, for our own good and His ultimate Glory, making us into something useful. We have to be careful though, because the temptation to focus on the shavings pooling around our feet instead of the Master Carpenter is great.

Some of us (me included) will race to the store for wood glue and desperately try to stick those useless shavings back on, or put them in a box to save for later. In our memories, those shavings can become so important we forget that the Lord isn’t interested in them, but He’s got a better plan in mind. It’s not until we brush the shavings off and step away, looking at ourselves through His eyes we are able to see a new, useful creation. The old has been chipped away.

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Are you stuck in winter? Are you being chipped away at? Do not fear, nor despair–spring is coming. It’s nearly here.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

 

 

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Another Brand New Year

579297_3776472893353_1699285100_nWe’re wrapping up the old year and bringing in another brand new year. Goodbye 2014. You were a challenge to me. I had some of my greatest writing achievements (a second book published, up for some awards, won an honorary award) this year. I also faced a long bout of multiple illnesses–it was a very hard spring and summer.

People I’m close to faced some pretty unimaginable trials last year–many are carrying on into the new year. I’d like to say tomorrow is a brand new day with no problems in it–that it really is altogether new and spotless, that being a new year carried some guarantees of wellness and will be trouble free. But I can’t. This new year will have high points and low for everyone I know. But I take comfort we can face anything if we’re trusting in the Lord.

In my prayer time recently, I began to feel uneasy. Some of the things I’ve been praying for a very long time. Was I praying right? Did I have the right words, the right faith, the right posture? Was my heart right, my intentions good enough? At that point I was reminded that I could never pray right enough to convince God of anything. You see, I’m imperfect. I sometimes have selfish motives. I can’t see the big picture like God does (who planned our Lord’s birth over thousands of years down to the last detail). I don’t know if removing a trial from a loved one’s life will, in the end, be a detriment instead of what God intended using it for (drawing them closer to Him usually figures in that equation). In fact, when it came down to it, I didn’t know anything at all. Well, except one thing–these circumstances I prayed for, they all needed God’s hand of strength, of peace, of patience, of healing. The details were not up to me, they were up to Him.

Jesus said to pray. I pray. Jesus said to ask for whatever I need in His name. I do. He also prayed the night before his arrest and conviction: “Not my will but Yours be done. *

That removes a lot of pressure, doesn’t it? At the end of us and our ideas of how things should be, it’s enough to pray, “Not my will but Yours be done.” I know I can pray that with all confidence because I trust Him. I know His attributes: He is the God of love, of mercy, of strength, of peace, of comfort, of provision.

Trust comes in every relationship as intimacy deepens. You share, they share; you listen, they listen; you’re there for them, and they are there for you.

Do you trust in the One who hears our prayers? If you’ve never given your life to Jesus, if you’ve never admitted your sin and need of Him and asked Him into your heart, then that first step of intimacy is missing from your life. You’ll never learn to trust Him if you’ve never met Him. Relationship with Him begins with that simple prayer.

But then it goes on. It has to or you’ll never get to know Him the way He’d like you to. Think of it this way: It’d be as if I met you on the street, we had an amazing bonding experience, and then you never spoke to me again.

I pray this new year will be full of blessings, but especially full of intimacy with our Lord. I pray for Him to work out His full, perfect will in your life.

* Verses used Luke 22:42 John 15:7 Luke 11

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The Lord Is My Strength

2 Corinthians 12: 9-10 But he (Jesus) said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 

20140808_104355I won an award this week at the Oregon Christian Writers Summer conference. It’s an award for being a Writer of Promise. It’s actually an award I thought would be very cool to win, but never expected to hear my name associated with it. In fact, I was so surprised to hear my name, all the blood rushed out of my extremities. I have no knowledge of how I got up those stairs and onto that stage. I remember very little about what I said, and only have a vague recollection of sitting down in my seat again. But I did because God enabled me to. In fact, God enables me to do everything I do. He’s enabling you, too, but you might not be aware to what extent. I am acutely aware.

Here’s what I would have said on that stage if I’d had more time and had my wits better about me. Maybe I said it and don’t remember. If you were there, I pray you saw it in my eyes: my complete unworthiness, my gratefulness, and my boast in the Lord:

I can do nothing without God. Really. I am chronically ill with a rare disease that leaves my body “fighting” germs 24/7. I get up every day with body aches and a fuzzy head, not walking straight, not sure of what I can take on. I’m exhausted because of the fight. Have you had the flu? Yeah, like that–pretty much all the time. At this week’s conference, I was heading back to my room every four hours for breathing treatments. I planned my classes, my meetings, around these treatments, around rests, around plenty of downtime. I almost didn’t make it to OCW, let alone the dinner and awards ceremony, because I’d been so sick. My medical treatment for my condition is done on Tuesday evenings, and 98 percent of Wednesdays, I’m down all day. I’m certainly not dressed up, on my feet, attending classes and going to late night galas. I shouldn’t have been at the dinner. In fact, I was due for a breathing treatment RIGHT in the middle of the awards ceremony. I was going to have to leave. But my lungs didn’t spasm with an asthma flare, so I stayed. And that’s when I got the most amazing surprise of my career (outside of my first book contract).

As I heard the kudos for the last award of the night, I prepared to clap for whoever it was. Then, I suddenly realized (via some clues) that the presenter, Lindy Jacobs, was talking about me!  Although we were in a room of several hundred people, right then, it was just me and the Father. Because all I do, all I accomplish, all I write, all my steps are from Him. Literally. He carried me up those steps, He got me back to my seat. He got me through photos and lots of lovely hugs, and then back up that long hallway to my room where I cried and stayed awake in awe and humility into the wee hours. He stayed up with me, too. People often ask me why I write about my illness on my blog, why I share so openly when asked. THIS is why. I want you to see it’s not me, it’s Him. I want you to see how He loves us. I want you to see how involved He is in every aspect of our lives. He is my strength, my portion, my motivation. My all in all. And I’m so grateful.

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