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Approaching the Thick Darkness

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by: Carole L. Haines

18 When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance 19 and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”

20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”

21 The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was. (Exodus 20)

Darkness generally represents evil, danger, or depravity. Unsavory things are said to lurk in the darkness, waiting to harm an unsuspecting passerby. It is completely natural to avoid venturing into darkness because of what may be waiting for us there. Even so, it makes sense that the people remained at a distance in the passage above for fear of God.
Yet, several times in Proverbs, the FEAR OF THE LORD, is spoken of as a good thing, bringing protection, prolonging life, imparting instruction, giving confidence and refuge to God’s people. The FEAR OF THE LORD is declared a Fountain of Life in Proverbs 14:27, so that one may avoid the snares of death. It even says, in verse 20, in the Scripture above, that God wanted the fear of Himself to keep the people from sinning.
But Moses was not afraid and approached the thick darkness where God was. He was not afraid, even though thick darkness obscured Him.  Why was Moses not afraid and keeping his distance like the rest of the people?
In Exodus 3:3, Moses was fascinated with the Burning Bush that was not consumed and said to himself, “I must turn aside and see this marvelous sight.” God spoke directly to Moses at the burning bush and told him His name was I AM. Moses developed a long history of walking with God from that point forward. He had the FEAR OF THE LORD, but also a great sense of God’s friendship and love. It even says in Exodus 33:11, “The Lord used to speak to Moses face to face as a man speaks to his friend.”

We too must develop a long History with God in order to balance the FEAR OF THE LORD with an experience of His friendship and love for us. It is the knowledge of God’s character from the Word and the times of walking with Him that evoke this trust.  It is only then that we can venture into the deep darkness of our own souls and not be afraid to wrestle with who we really are, what we’ve really done, what things have really happened to us.
God is in those dark places, those deep dark places of our lives that we want to forget about, avoid looking at and dealing with. God is already there and He already knows.  He wants to reveal to us these things in the darkness so He can set us free from them and shine His light in and through our lives.  It is God’s love that calls us into the deep darkness. Get to know God in the light, and you will not be afraid to approach Him when the deep darkness, which lives in each one of us, begins to reveal itself to us.  “God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)

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We have heard for ourselves

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by: Carole L. Haines

No relationship can blossom without a personal touch. In this day of Online Dating, Social Media, etc. people may meet initially in a semi-personal way. But for real in-depth intimacy, there must be an in-person, face to face experience with the other person. You can only grow so far in your relationship via emails, texts, social media, Skype, etc. In John 4, Jesus encounters the woman at the well, there is a lot to observe in this Scripture relating to Knowing and Worshipping God. If you can, please read the whole chapter. For now, let’s look at a small portion.

39 From that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all the things that I have done.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to Jesus, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. 41 Many more believed because of His word; 42 and they were saying to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.” (John 4:39-41)

At first, the Samaritans believed because of the woman’s testimony about Jesus. But then they encountered Jesus for themselves, and their faith became their own. As parents, or those who mentor and disciple others, it’s natural for the young in faith to begin their walks looking to us for guidance and help in their new walks with Christ. But ultimately, in both relationships, our job is to basically, work ourselves out of a job. We want our children, our mentees, those we counsel, to be independent, fully reliant on Christ.
This takes time, but it is the ultimate goal of our roles in these areas. It is an unbelievably remarkable thing to witness a child or new believer grow up in the faith, embrace Christ as Savior, Learn to walk under Him as Lord and Friend, and get to a point where we can tell, they have owned their own faith. Jesus is always drawing us toward the Father. Just listen to John 10:2-5.

But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.”

Learning to discern the voice of Jesus amidst all the other voices clamoring for our attention is probably the most important thing we are privileged to learn as new believers. We want to help those we come alongside to be able to say to us, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One indeed is the Savior of the World.”

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STILL CONFINED?

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by:
Carole L. Haines

Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the second time, while he was still confined in the court of the guard, saying, “Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish it, the Lord is His name, ‘Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know. (Jeremiah 33:1-3)

There are times in our lives where we feel confined, boxed in, restrained. The word “confined, here means “closed up, shut up, under restraint.”  Ever feel like that? I know I have. When I was in such a time, I did everything I could to try and escape my confinement until God spoke to my heart and said.
“Stop bloodying your knuckles on the walls, trying to scrape and claw and find your own way out. Come to the Center of the Room, away from all those walls, that is where I am. Focus on me, sit with Me, Trust me to remove the walls when the Time is right.”

And so, I learned to Seek First the Kingdom of God in my confinement. I learned to gaze upon the face of Christ, to sit with Him in His Word and learn of Him. Days of confinement can be a mysterious gift from God. Perhaps He has been trying to get your attention for some time now. Perhaps you have not heard His Whispers, His beckoning for You to come away for awhile and just sit with Him in His Word, in His Presence.  Walls are not only there to hinder us, sometimes they are put there by God to protect us.
Re-read the Scripture from Jeremiah 33 above. The Lord came to Jeremiah a second time while he was still confined. He told Jeremiah to call to Him and that He would answer and tell Jeremiah great and mighty things which he does not know. 

Look to God in your confinement. Call to Him and listen to what He wants to tell you.  Find a place alone, away from life’s clamoring and sit with God in His Word.  He will speak to your heart there and perhaps reveal more of Himself to You, More of Yourself to You. Perhaps He will tell you great and mighty things that you do not already know.  He is soooooo good to us, in every and all circumstances.

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Perched upon a Precipice

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Photo by: Cody J. Haines,  featuring a lake in Banff National Park, Canada

By: Carole L. Haines

Sometimes life leaves me feeling like I’m perched upon a Precipice

Long way down, few places to turn around and start again.

Can’t go back, or side to side, and going ahead is a way unknown

O, Which way should I go?

But then I think of Him who made the world, who made the stars and sky

The One who hangs the earth on Nothing and gave birds wings to fly

I think about the Ocean’s might, yet He holds back the waves

And the stars too numerous to count that dapple the end of day

I think about His Wonderous love, immeasurable in length,

With no width or height or depth that anyone can count.

For Deeper than the Ocean Depths, and Higher than the Sky

Farther than the Universe expands is the Love of God

Yes, farther than my life expands is the Love of God

Sometimes this world can feel so cruel, not like a home at all

More like a place fallen from Grace, and I someone so small

Where hate takes lives, and hope seems smothered

Yet Our God cries out to us, “Love each other!”

Each one of us Uniquely His, even if we won’t believe

Surely this God who loves me so, will guide me on from here

For Deeper than the Ocean Depths, and Higher than the Sky

Farther than the Universe expands is the Love of God

Yes, farther than my life expands is the Love of God

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A world I can control

By: Carole L. Haines

All of us must die eventually. Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God does not just sweep life away; instead, he devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him.
(2 Samuel 14:14 NASB)

“You paint too!” I hear that a lot. It’s one of those precious, quiet-place things I do. I started painting very late in life. I was probably about 40+ years old. We bought a house that had all its old windows replaced. It was a wonderful farmhouse that had raised other families under its caring eaves. I found the old windows in the attic and began to paint on them, just out of nowhere.
We actually had a car stop by with two older women inside one day and they told us they had grown up in that house. We invited them in and learned of their story and the story of some trees planted in our yard. One Black Walnut was planted the day that Franklin Delano Roosevelt died.

But we suffered the loss of that house through job loss, etc. We lost many things through that dark time, but the most poignant loss was the sense of any control whatsoever over our lives. As a mother, you protect your children, as best you can. But we couldn’t protect our youngest from the pain of going through that loss with us. As I sat in a room filled with windows of our new rental home, surrounded by trees, I realized just how little control, if any, I had over anything that happened to us.

I think I broke in that room, I had been cracking, chipping away at layers of false senses of security and control; but that final blow shattered what was left of my sense of security and control. I just sat there, no feelings at all. I had cried every tear my body held and ran out of them before I ran out of grief. My Best Friend saw the change and tried to get me to go to see a Christian Counselor. But being Baltimore-born and raised, I was tough, and felt I should just suck it up and move on like I always did. But this was different, like trying to get up after breaking a leg, and trying to put weight on it. I finally went to a Counselor and when she heard my story, she was blown away at all that we had suffered in a short period of time. She said we had experienced some of the most difficult losses, one right after another.

The Dam in my Heart broke and I literally cried a river. She knew I was a musician and writer, but when she heard I was an artist, she encouraged me to paint out my pain. I laughed inside at the sound of that, but thought, “Why not give it a try?”

Thus began my long journey of painting out my pain. Self-portraits, snapshots of my old home. God led me to listen to other people’s stories and make paintings for them of His Rescue in the midst of their pain. It was a Beautiful thing for me, and I gained back some sense of control. I could paint whatever I wanted, however I wanted, and no one could take that from me. I found solace in a world that I could control, my painting. People have such strong opinions about writing and music. They like you, or they don’t and they feel free to tell you so. But with my painting, I rarely let anyone see them, until recently, when I started feeling led to share them a little more. I’ve had nothing but encouraging words about them, and that blessed me a lot. It’s been a long road back to wholeness, and I will never reach its end ‘til I am with Him. But The Lord is good, and He gave me a verse in the midst of all my loss that I go back to over and over again.

All of us must die eventually. Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God does not just sweep life away; instead, he devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him.
(2 Samuel 14:14 NASB)

He devised my way back. He will devise yours too.

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Jesus throws our sins away

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by: Carole L. Haines

Children have a way of teaching us the deepest truths just by being children. Trusting, believing, wonderful little people that they are. I love working with them, though there are days that they certainly outmatch my energy. One day was particularly hard with a child in my class. This child is both one of the sweetest and one of the most difficult children I teach, both enthusiastic and strong-willed. The defiance this day was as thick as a rope and I had done everything to curb it; taken all her prize points, one by one, privileges that the other children shared. The director came and spoke with her, so finally, I wrote a long litany to the parents about this child’s behavior. I listed every wrong. After a time, the child calmed down, told me she was sorry, hugged me, and all was right. She asked for her privileges and such back, but they were gone. We moved on from there and as it came closer to the time she would leave, I looked at the letter and felt prompted to show her how God treats us.

I called her over, read the letter to her, and then told her I wanted her to know what grace and mercy were. I told her the Jesus died to take away our sins and when we ask His forgiveness, he forgives us, and he throws our sins away. I tore the letter up in front of her and said, “I forgive you, and like Jesus, I want you to throw this letter in the trash.”
Her eyes lit up like fireflies and she said, ” You’re not going to tell My Mom?”
“No, this is the end of it. Just throw that away and we’re done, just like Jesus does.”
“Yeah!” she said, “Jesus throws our sins away too!” and she dropped the torn-up letter in the trash and went skipping off back to play.

Tears welled up in my eyes as I realized just how freeing it is to actually, whole-heartedly believe the truth that Jesus really does throw our sins away.

How many sins am I still holding against myself or someone else? Jesus died to set me from these sins, both my own and those others have committed against me. I don’t have to carry these around inside me anymore. I don’t have to read that old letter written about me by someone else or believe what they say about me. I don’t have to go through all this self-condemnation for all the mistakes I have made, all the sins I have committed in the past. If I have confessed my sins to Jesus, and I believe in my heart that He is my Forgiver, my Savior and my Lord, I can walk freer, and skip off to finish the rest of my life without all this baggage.

God Is Light

This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

I have learned more about grace and forgiveness working as a teacher to these precious children, then I ever learned in a church. Truly, the little ones will lead us. I thank God for such a privilege, as teaching these little ones is. I truly have the best job in the world.

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Prisoner of Unforgiveness

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By: Carole L. Haines

I have stayed a prisoner to my unforgiveness and didn’t even know it. I should have known it. I’m sure God tried to tell me a million times, the Holy Spirit urging me to truly forgive from my heart, but I didn’t listen. I wanted to pick at the wounds, demand my rights, wallow in self-pity. The wounds festered, they grew infected, and spread everywhere throughout my bloodstream. I never thought about it like this before, but God’s Word tells us:
23 Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life. (Prov. 4:23)

In the body, the heart is what carries the blood to all the organs and such, enabling us to think, and do all we do. But if there is an infection in the bloodstream, stemming from the heart, it will carry that poison throughout all the rest of our being and infect everywhere.
Guard means to:

  1. to watch, guard, keep
  2. to preserve, guard from dangers
  3. to keep, observe, guard with fidelity
  4. to guard, keep secret
  5. to be kept close, be blockaded
  6. watchman (participle)
    (Blue Letter Bible BLB)

I have not done these things when it comes to forgiveness. I have let unforgiveness run riot throughout my body by holding it in my heart. I kept asking God to restore unto me the joy of Salvation, this was His answer to me. The person I have needed to forgive more than anyone else, is myself. I still have much to let go of toward others, but God made it clear to me, that my greatest grudge was toward myself. He showed me that to forgive as He forgives us includes forgiving ME.

  1. The heart means: inner man, mind, will, heart, understanding, mind, knowledge, thinking, reflection, memory
  2. inclination, resolution, determination (of will)
  3. conscience, seat of emotions and passions (BLB)

All these parts of myself became infected by my unforgiveness. My will, my heart, my emotions, my understanding, my memories, my conscience. All infected, all disturbed and twisted by unforgiveness.

Dearest Lord Jesus, Have mercy on me, an unforgiver. You have touched me at the sorest spot, and I run to you for the strength to forgive fully from my heart. Nothing is impossible with You. I see now. Help me to do the deep work of forgiveness toward all, holding nothing back. Please empower me, as I know You have given me. Please give me the want to and the desire to, forgive from my heart, as You have forgiven me. Amen

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