11/07/2012

Freedom of Choice


The rebellious nature in me is starting to bubble to the surface again. Each bit of impurity that reveals itself is another opportunity for the LORD to remove it. It's gotten so that I am almost glad when something else pops up because I know God is doing work and is faithful to complete it. This particular rebellion has been paralyzing me with it's stubbornness and it's refusal to surrender. I'm sad to say that it's a trust issue. I really thought I trusted God with nearly everything and yet right here is a place where I haven't. It's such a fundamental place, too. It is my personal freedom of choice and the way I use it.

I named this blog Faith Out of Freedom because I know I've chosen faith freely. I believe in free will and our ability to chose God or not. Jesus, when He spoke to the disciples in John chapter 15 said, "You didn't choose me, I chose you..." so some may argue that we don't have a choice when God calls us. But if you read the context you also find Jesus commanding them to love one another. Commands are orders to be followed. Jesus didn't say, "I will make you love one another." Correct me if I'm wrong but the only time God ever causes people to do things it's a direct result of choices they've already made that require intercession from Him for their own good and for the fulfilling of His plan. If God wanted to control us He would have made us like the animals without a free choice to try and be something we're not (for example, have you ever seen your dog try to do anything that wasn't in it's nature to do? Like flap its legs and try to fly?). Part of our glory as humans is in our choices to believe, trust, and act in faith. Jesus couldn't do certain miracles because of peoples' refusal to believe. That was their choice.

I am a strong believer in the sanctity of unborn life. People have used their freedom of choice to do some horrendous things but nothing disgusts me like a woman taking the life of a helpless human being that is dependent on her for their existence. But I judge no one because I, too, am a disgusting sinner capable of murder. I've used my freedom of choice to hurt and belittle and dishonor and rebel. I've hated and envied and wished harm on people. I'm just as much a murderer as anyone else. Sin was my choice, too.

Sin calls out to us day and night and pulls at us from every direction. Lately there are some areas where I've unknowingly been serving my sin and telling God, "No." He's been asking me to do some things and I've been ignoring Him. "No, Lord. Just give me the stuff I'm used to. Also, I'd prefer to continue appeasing this selfish desire in me. Sin is being more forceful about what it wants from me. You're so nice, Lord soYou can wait." Oh God of mercy and compassion! Forgive me! He then shows me what that mini god, that idol, is asking of me. He shows me the clock ticking hours away and my kids' being pushed aside as I serve it, my selfish desire. That mini god requires more every day. It takes more time, more attention, and more maintenance and still it's not satisfied. It won't be until it has all of me.

Who will rescue me from this loud and obnoxious master in disguise? All I have to do is say, "Yes" to the other, loving Master who not only enjoys what I bring to Him, but satisfies me in the longings of my soul. God forgives bad choices and forgets them. He made a way for us and we must choose to walk in it. So many masters clamor to be followed. In Jesus Christ I have been freed from the requirement to serve anything but God. It's my freedom of choice. In my service of Him, He strengthens me for the choices He wants me to make for my own good and His ultimate glory. The burdens He places on me are a delight to carry and He provides the tools and guidance with which to carry them well. We eat together, laugh together, and fellowship together as friends. So His requests aren't pushy and He's not going to manipulate me or force me into serving Him. He merely presents me with one choice every day. "Choose this day, whom you will serve."


10/24/2012

Eyes for Me

I'm so excited I can barely focus. I just got out of a Theophostic Prayer meeting with two of my favorite sisters in Christ. I knew I was going to receive a word from the Lord Jesus, and He is ever so faithful. This blog is to share some of what took place just a little bit ago.

Some of the feelings I have been dealing with have been associated with a deeper longing for significance. Through the process of the prayer intervention I was able to see that the longing is rooted in my childhood. My brother had leukemia as a toddler and I was born right in the middle of his cancer treatments. He survived, thank God, and is a healthy father of one sweet nephew of mine. Anyway, being born into such a trying time for a couple to go through (and also being conceived while my mother had an IUD to prevent pregnancy) I started to sense that I was somewhat of an inconvenience. While my parents did their best to help me feel loved and that I was important to them, my brother had some very big needs that were constantly needing attention. The inevitable place I found myself in was second: second-born, second-loved, and second in the amount of needs I had. Let me just say that I most assuredly was loved and cherished by my parents. They did the best they could and they did an amazing job raising us with what they had to work with. This is in no way a rant against them. They just aren't God.

The enemy of my soul managed to convince me that I simply wasn't significant. He whispered to me with his malicious words that I was a nobody and a big problem for everyone. While my parents did their best at loving me, nothing could fill my emptiness. I needed God's truth to expel the lies. Both Mom and Dad told me of Jesus' love that had Him die on the cross for me. But seen through the lens of me being a big problem, I still didn't understand how He could love me. What an inconvenient child I was! That was what I felt in my heart and the enemy took advantage of that feeling and it became my personal reality.

Enter Jesus, lover of my soul...where He goes, healing abounds! Today I was grasping for images so I could hear His voice. From far away I received a fuzzy transmission. It was a giant obelisk standing on a grassy hill overlooking the ocean. At first, now that I look back, I was holding it in my hand and then I placed it on that hill. It was shiny, cold and sharp. But I felt that there was something useful and significant actually within the thing itself. Could it be a protective covering over...a lighthouse? Suddenly "This Little Light of Mine" jumped into my head and I started making connections. This was quite a bushel to hide my light under! So we inquired of the LORD what it meant. After going down several rabbit trails and taking a few healing detours we discovered there was a lot to this feeling of insignificance. At the end of the meeting I was returned to the image of the metal structure. We asked the LORD if He had anything more to say to me about the image. I thought I would see it start to crack and crumble and the light would come streaming out. I'd even spoken before about how the metal obelisk reflected the sun's rays and sent it who-knows-where depending on the curvature of its sides. Also that a lighthouse has a light of its own and shine from within. All of that sounds very interesting, but it was from me. God had something different to say about it.

Looking at the hill with the big metal thing on it I waited for it to reveal its true identity as a light house. Suddenly, BLIP! It was gone... and no lighthouse either. Tilt the camera down and there, hugging her knees, was a happy little girl gazing Heavenward. My heart flooded with God's love for me. Just a beautiful little girl enjoying her Heavenly Father's presence; that's what He wants me to be. How simple and divine! After I cried for a while I realized what I had to become. I'm not some hard and angular tower on display for him and neither am I a lighthouse who's only concern is guiding and warning others of danger. He pulled me out of my mindset of significance and usefulness and showed me what I am to be.

You see, another vision He gave me was of eyes all around me, looking at me. I was looking back at them, too. So many eyes! In my heart I wasn't afraid of them, but I was comforted by them. Most of my reading lately has centered around idols. It all came together today as I realized that I had made an idol out of all the eyes that watch. If I worship the eyes of people and what they see, then I am focusing on myself and being selfish and self-absorbed. The only answer would be to become unselfconscious and selfless. When I rid my life of the idol of those eyes watching, I will truly be free to gaze upward and focus my eyes where they should be. Then I will be that girl on a peaceful hill overlooking His marvelous creation and knowing that nothing is as beautiful as He. His are the only eyes for me.

10/17/2012

Discovering a Weed

What a nightmare! The place that I was the other day was certainly a dark and miserable place. But Jesus reached out His hand and grabbed hold of mine just as I started to go under. It's a good thing I reached out via blog and Facebook when I did. A dear friend answered my cry for help and was able to listen to me. She gave me some priceless advice straight from Heaven.

It seems as though I am harboring some unforgiveness in my heart. The revelation of it actually brought me comfort! You mean, it's just a damnable weed?! I am relieved to know there is hope for me in God's forgiveness and in the cleansing blood of the Lamb. It is also enlightening to me how destructive this fast-growing bitterness can be. When I flipped out the other night it was because my relationship with God was strained. There was sin wrapped around my heart, keeping me from hearing Him and receiving His love. I hate sin even more now for the terror I felt that night. I never want to be distant from God again. I can't think of a worse... hell.

I am looking forward to a meeting I will be having with a mentor of mine next week. She guides what is called a Theophostic Prayer session. It is a deep prayer time where we ask Jesus to address the root causes of dark emotions. It's been over a year since I had my last meeting with her so I think there will definitely be something for Jesus to uproot. I hope to make time to write about what the Lord shows me, if I can wrap my head around it.

Thank you for your loving words of encouragement and prayers. I hope to never have an episode like that again. Now I know the warning signs better and will be quicker to allow God access to the dark places in my heart. Dark corners are a dangerous thing and we can be overcome when a seed of unforgiveness is planted there. Once again I am awestruck by God's grace and love. I don't even feel a hint of shame from my outburst. He has forgiven me completely. The event served it's purpose and I'm now at peace and content in the arms of pure Love Himself. Together we will keep moving on and forget what lies behind.

10/15/2012

Desperation

I have utterly failed God... again. After a weekend filled with God's presence and revelation I come home to this old battle that has worn me thin for weeks. How did I know that I would fail? Because the anger has taken up residence in my heart. What isn't anger is apathy. I am so tired of talking to people about my issues that I'm sure they are tired of it, also. What the enemy hasn't done with his brutal attacks on me he has done with his unrelenting persistence on the ones I love. He's worn me down. I'm completely helpless in my failure. Depression is haunting my every move. It's seeping into every area of my life. I've had an unbridled destructive tongue toward my husband and zero patience with my kids. My ability to have compassion on others is lost in my desperate need to be saved from this darkness. I have nothing to offer and am unworthy of any blessing I might stumble upon. I can't shake this sense that I've failed God and should be punished with tragedy. At this point I am awaiting His judgment and whatever discipline He sees fit to put me through.

But...

God is love. He forgives, restores, and reinstates. But not before I weep bitterly and cover myself in dust and ashes. Not before I turn back to what little I can do of my own strength and abandon any hope that He could use me in His kingdom. My weaknesses are glaringly apparent so that it's hard to drag myself around my house. But His mercies endure forever. He hasn't taken away my family, yet. I pushed my husband to the brink last night so I'm not sure if he'll stick around for more of that treatment. But he hasn't left yet.

Oh God of hope! Spare me, please. I'm at Your mercy and have nothing to offer You but a broken and pitiful shell of a woman. Make me a hired servant in Your kingdom and allow me to wash Your feet with my tears. Let me touch the hem of Your robe so I can feel Your wholeness again. Protect the ones I love from the evil one. May I have the crumbs that fall from Your table? These things I ask of You because of who You are, not because of who I am. I have no right or place to ask these things of You. But I am appealing to Your mercy and love. Your word says that You love us, Your sorry sinful creatures. Please don't abandon me in my distress or leave me in this place of darkness.

10/06/2012

Future and Hope


I was thinking about all I have. There was a moment as I was walking down the street with kids and the thought occurred to me, "I'm completely safe." There was no one hiding in the bushes to kidnap me and the kids and sell us into trafficking or turn us into murderers with automatic weapons. We were just walking to the park to enjoy the equipment that is maintained by our governing agencies across a lawn that is mowed regularly. The peaceful Oregon air wasn't broken with gunfire or sirens and there was no smell of human waste on the breeze.

The majority of this world would look at my "day in the life of a stay-at-home-mom" and think I lived in a heavenly paradise. So there are many broken people behind the scenes, a holocaust happening right under our noses, and corrupted power in nearly every office building. But I thank God that my kids and I are safe. There may be a rogue drunk driver or a losing battle with cancer in my future, but the chances are better that I'll live a long life. My daughter already cheated death three times because we could obtain antibiotics for a dry birth and a couple of common infections. Antibiotics are a grace and mercy from God, if you ask me! So is the United States and the nearly 250 years it's been around. I've won the lottery by being born here and it's taken me till now to really see that.

Is the world going to Hell in a designer handbag? Yes. But I am teaching my kids to follow Jesus and my hope is that they'll teach my grand-kids even better than I did. Could the world exist for several more generations and collect millions more children for God's Kingdom? The thought hadn't occurred to me until now.

I have been looking to the sky for my Lord's return since before I even knew His love for me. I couldn't have imagined I would live to be thirty, let alone thirty-four! When I was sinking beneath the weight of my vices and trying to breathe the mud of my fears I was sure that my useless carcass would be best used as fertilizer someday. My only hope was to die and be at God's mercy for whatever the afterlife brought. Back then, even as I began walking with Jesus, I believed humanity was mostly a waste of space. From the news on television to the meanness of my generation I was convinced that our world was as close as it ever would be to the wrath of God and to the End. But the other day on my walk my eyes were opened.

God does not wish that anyone should perish. If there is one person in our future that will choose Him, and therefore be chosen by Him, He will allow this world to continue. Will my grandchild be the last born child of God? Somehow I doubt that. Believers in the most ravaged countries of the world are sharing a Christlike faith to their generation that will never make it to age thirty. Their faith makes American Christians look like spiritual nursing infants. They are dancing to the slaughter as others watch and believe because of them. Heaven is not going to have a small remnant. Millions and billions and maybe even more than that will be added!

I thought we were close to the End so I gave up hope for future generations. Having children has helped my hope and strengthened my resolve. We could have another several hundred years with the way God is helping me raise my kids! Unless martyrdom sweeps across our nation as it has all over the world, my family will be sure to rake in a good couple hundred for the Kingdom. The lovely thing is: God will tell His story as He wants to. I'm just happy to be a part of it.

9/18/2012

Project Day Eve

When I'm standing before a mountain and there are so many different ways I can take to get to the top, I wish God would just get out His highlighter and show me the right way. The bible says that His word will be a light unto my path. It also says that no matter where I go my ears will hear a voice behind me saying "This is the way, walk in it." The silly thing is this: the mountain I speak of is the kids' bedroom.

So many things come easily for so many people but not for this abstract mind. If it looks too easy, I doubt. If it looks too hard, I shrink back. The truth is that you never know what tomorrow will bring and that goes for corners of closets and areas behind beds and giant toys. I get myself all worked up so that I can feel that familiar failure of being overwhelmed into paralysis when sitting around thinking isn't getting anything done. This girl's gotta change and Jesus is gonna make it happen!

The first idea I have is I'm not going to bite off more than I can chew. Secondly, I will happily begin discarding things that are wastes of space. Thirdly, well, I'm not sure about that yet. But I do want to discover those corners and hidden places and greet whatever living or dead treasures lie waiting there. Where do moms put all the tiny little precious things that kids love so they can be easily found again? I've got some in buckets, some in bins, and some in a craft organizer or two. I find them everywhere and they end up in various piles and collector containers all separated from each other and in no particular grouping. Pinterest is annoying me with all of it's perfect little solutions that cost more than I can spare. I need supernatural intervention. These toys are like the thoughts in my head. I must have to dump them out in order to see what's there. Either way most of it's junk.

Dust and spider webs never stop to think about how they might be making me feel. Dog hair just keeps falling off my dog and either runs from the broom or clings desperately to the carpet with invisible fingers. But there is hope when there is daycare. Tomorrow I'll drop the kids off and come home with my guns blazing. I plan to purge and I plan to conquer. I definitely don't want to see you tomorrow, internetland. Not unless I've had a satisfying five hours with a power nap thrown in. I'm going to be praying and I'm going to be taking no prisoners on this house. I plan to give the kids a new desire to be in their room with all of their toys. "Mommy, we don't want to watch a t.v. show, we wanna play in our ROOM!" By God's grace, it just may happen. Miracles do, ya know.

8/04/2012

God has Our Back

I just read something very good in the book of Numbers of all places. Numbers 12 to be exact. I was just thinking the other day about how my bible reading hasn't been producing the Zip! Bang! Boom! effect that it used to. Well, so much for boring! I was struck by something that really made me feel like I'd had a revelation. So now I share...

In that chapter of Numbers Aarom and Miriam decide to give Moses grief about his wife, Zipporah. She's apparently an Ethiopian and that's for some reason not OK with the brother/sister counterparts. Boy, was it a bad idea to bring THAT up! It states in verse three that Moses was very humble, the MOST humble man of all, in fact. That says to me that he didn't have much to say to his brother or sister when they came at him. I can almost see him bowing his head in prayer to ask God to examine his heart on the matter of Zipporah. How sad that the man was caused to possibly bring doubt upon his love for his wife! I felt like coming to her defense when I was reading, but Moses was "humble". And in steps... GOD.

Hear now My words:
If there is a prophet among you,
I, the Lord, make Myself known to him in a vision;
I speak to him in a dream.
Not so with My servant Moses;
He is faithful in all My house.
I speak with him face to face,
Even plainly, and not in dark sayings;
And he sees the form of the Lord.
Why then were you not afraid
To speak against My servant Moses?”

Woah. Don't mess with Moses. I loved this SO MUCH. God totally gets the back of his bestie. GOD, the LORD and Creator of the universe steps in to defend His closest companion among His people Israel. Then to top it off, Miriam must have needed a little extra punch because she got leprous for seven days. Talk about a time out! I'd like to think that bro and sis got a little headstrong in their positions as siblings of Moses and worked themselves into a confrontation. Boy, were they put in their place!


It's equally as important to note that it wasn't Moses merit that created God's love for him. Moses simply responded to God and became closer and closer by accepting God's initiative. But a few chapters later, Moses gets a little big for his britches. He allows his anger to rise up against the thirsty Israelites and bangs on a rock while saying "Must we bring water for you out of this rock?" (emphasis mine) God had told him to merely speak to the rock and it would open. Moses was really mad, though. Anger can make a person feel powerful if they forget where their power comes from. God told him that he wouldn't be entering the promised land because of that. It was a mild rebuke in my opinion because being eaten by worms seems to be appropriate for that kind of arrogance. But God in His mercy showed Moses His love by merely keeping him from entering the land of milk and honey. Moses had a far better land awaiting him in Heaven. 


I just love the personalized relationship that we get to have with God. He comes to our defense when we humbly trust Him. He gently disciplines us when we step out of line in our mindset toward Him. He deserves to be our highest and most loved. I'm thankful that He would remind me to keep Him at the center of my life and always before me. I believe Jesus met with Moses regularly and I know He meets with me, and indeed is always here with me. May I always find refuge in Him alone and I pray I never forget my place beneath His wing.

7/21/2012

Trading Storms

Why is it that when things start to go well in one area of life that the other areas suddenly clamor for attention? Maybe I'm doing it to myself. Am I always looking for a crisis of character that the LORD can change in me? As I begin to see evidence of His hand at work, it's almost as though I want to place my own tiny hand atop His and try to move it around like a mouse on a mouse pad. When He doesn't allow me to move His hand I start to stress out.

It's dangerous to take your eyes off Jesus and to look at your circumstances, even when they start looking great. There's nothing wrong with enjoying blessings and basking in the providence of God, but to turn our gaze to those things at the expense of seeing Him is not good.

There is a tendency in me to move on to the next thing. While I have been set free from the major addiction of starting my life over in a new place, I still struggle with focusing. My marriage is finally seeing manifestations of God's perfect plan. I prayed for that and it happened! Now I need to make sure the enemy doesn't pull me too far in the right direction so that it becomes the wrong place to stand. I need to subject the momentum of this miracle to God even as I enjoy it's benefits.

My parenting is starting to lose it's grasp on Jesus. I don't know if it's the good changes in my marriage that are throwing me off, but suddenly I am a horrible mother again. If it's not one thing it's the other, right? The very things with which God provided comfort during scary times are starting to become burdens to me. WHY? The only thing I can think of is that I am jumping the gun. I've moved out of crisis status and I am trying to create another crisis to replace it. Fix, fix, fix! Go, go, go! STOP! A storm is a storm is a storm and Jesus can quiet them all. Amen.

5/05/2012

At His Mercy

I went through my old diaries while I had the house to myself last weekend. Each entry I scanned left me more and more incredulous. How did a perfect God ever put up with me? I mean, I know I have my faults even now but back then I was just completely lost and out of my mind! On one side of a journal page would be all my processing from various dramas dealing with boys, friends, and drugs and on the other side would be a prayer to God to help me find my way through the mess I'd made. I will spare you the inevitable sharing of all of the black blotches that my past boasts. Look for a series of teen fiction books in the far future or perhaps after my death I will become a cult sensation like "Go Ask Alice" if the wrong people get a hold of my writings.

I am not proud of what I once was. There was a good day or two that I seriously considered burning the entire tote full of incriminating information. It is at least ten journals totally full and a foot and a half tall stack of lined paper that was taken out of spiral notebooks. Volumes of teenage and young adult feelings and questions and speculations. It's a place I wouldn't want anyone to visit before it's edited and put into proper context. What a project that will be!

Despite the black darkness it threatens to put me back into, I cannot part with it. It's hard for me to imagine that I would have written all of this stuff for no reason but to burn it in the end. One thought that kept reoccurring as I read was, "I love this girl, but she's clueless!" besides complete disbelief that it was once ME. I've undergone so much transformation just in the last year that has taken me galaxies from where I was even five years ago. I've begun to rapidly grow in faith and love for God and others just since I've been a mother, but mostly in the last year.

As I read some of the most transparent and depressing stuff, I started to realize why I don't care for the company of teenagers. It's not that I have anything against them as people, it's just that I don't respond well to the micro-solar system that revolves around them. I do not want to be a satellite or a meteor just passing through unacknowledged or as an afterthought to their existence. I'd rather enter as a significant presence to the people I associate with. I don't have time to prove my worthiness to anyone. Teenagers are always assessing and testing people while thinking that they are already adults and they have everything figured out. Ok, maybe I'm a little prejudiced and hard on them. Mostly it's because I am scared of going back there. I don't want to relate to you, teen, because that would take me back to a place I barely survived. That could explain why I exhausted myself mentally after reading journals and letters and stories from my past for four hours straight. I was the center of my solar system and all of those precious souls around me were merely expendable planets. What a selfish, pitiful, and empty existence! It is insane to me that I was allowed to continue here on God's green Earth with that mentality. Now that I know the truth about who I really am...

Mercy. God is great in mercy and "great" is the understatement of the century. Perfection has so much to put up with and yet He willingly does. He guided me like a rat through a maze with His subtle ways and pulled me out of so many traps and dead ends. Patiently He drew me out of selfishness by letting me see little bits of His big picture at a time and only when I was ready to receive them. Each puzzle piece was strategically given at just the right moment and He let me place it where it belonged. He humored my attempts at manipulating Him, but only when it suited His purposes. The times when I cried out to Him in the depths of my depravity, He heard me even though I didn't think He had. I thought that I had done something to sanctify myself but now I see that it is only His mercy that brings me through. In hindsight I see that I was oblivious to His hand in my life. Even now I sense He is moving but I don't know what He is doing exactly. Instead of railing about unanswered questions and unfulfilled desires, I breathe in the comfort of His grace and mercy and do what Christians should do best: wait.

I will be holding onto the journal entries but not for my own satisfaction. Maybe God will use them one day to tell the story of one of His lost and broken sheep that He rescued. When I'm ready to go back to the places where I was trapped and terrified, my Shepherd and I will go there together. He will take the filth of my past and make it glorify His beautiful name.


4/01/2012

At His Service

I've been divorced twice and both previous marriages were rushed into and not an act of obedience to God. While God hates divorce I think He also hates disobedience. It took two failed marriages for me to see how inept I was at choosing a mate or a future for myself. Finally I admitted that I didn't know what I wanted and I begged God to just take me as His hired servant (because I was even unfit for the devil's work at that point). He began ordering my steps when I was truly submitted to Him. I don't tell God what my dreams are anymore, I ask Him what they are.

Sometimes we find ourselves bound and gagged by our own disobedience, stuck in a marriage or an agreement that is miles away from where we ought to be. Let it be by God's grace that we are set free, even if it is only with freedom on the inside. A life of regrets and unrealized potential could be your fate, but at least you've avoided eternal separation from God. "Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in Heaven.” So you may not win the souls that God intended for you to win had you been obedient from the start? Mourn for what might have been. Mourn for it in the same way you mourn for all those babies who'll never see the light of day; life never given a chance to live.When we didn't step up in obedience He had someone (or maybe it was a rock) that obeyed Him in our stead. Too bad for us! Get over it and get down on your face. He may have a job for you yet.

Sin is the death of our potential.We had so much promise before we disobeyed God in the garden. All of what we could've contributed to God's kingdom of ourselves died when we disobeyed Him for the first time. We should take what we get and grow where we are planted until we learn complete and utter surrender to our Creator. Let's not get caught up in the plague that ensnares the people of our culture. It's a disease that seeps into our minds with words like, "I deserve better," or "I have so much to give, if only I had the support I need." What a death-blow to our obedience to God, who alone knows our highest potential!

I am utterly indebted to His grace. My only proper response to Him is thanksgiving. I am thankful in all manner of adversity and tribulation when I remember to rejoice that my name is written in Heaven. All of this is foolishness to those who are perishing and there are so many who are perishing! Am I really spared the torment of this fallen world and it's death and darkness eternally? There are so many who will never choose Him and yet He keeps Earth turning for me and the rest of His remnant. It baffles me sometimes that I was ever so demanding of God. It's as if I put on Jesus' clothes and threw my weight around like I was owed something. Even Jesus submitted to God as a servant and humbly denied His powerful and complete potential until God the Father will release it in His time. He who could have called down ten legions of angels and set up His kingdom two thousand years ago, stopped Himself because God didn't want me to miss out. Yes, we want Jesus to return and we anticipate the day with our eyes fixed on Heavenly realms waiting for the sign of His coming. But He wants every last one of us to be born and exist whose names are written in Heaven.

Father, when I get caught up in the two-dimensional dreams others place on me, please help me to remember that You are the Author of my highest potential. When I become enamored with the gifts and abilities You've granted to me, help me to drop them the instant You offer me Your hands instead. May I break open my potential and all of my value as an alabaster jar over Your head and over Your feet and wipe them with my hair, Lord Jesus. If I find myself as a part of Your body that is hidden and yet vital, let me secure my place there and find my honor in being committed to Your body and Your guidance. If I am not the vessel that should be on display for many to see, but if I'm one built for endurance and duty let me remain strong and sturdy in Your service.

Having an audience with God is better than filling a stadium with humans who bought tickets to hear me. If I ever have a stadium-sized audience to attend to then I pray that they are there to seek God and nothing else. He's all we ever really wanted. He's the answer to all of our questions and in His presence all of our dreams come true. Only in surrendering to that fact will we ever be truly happy.

He still has a place for me despite all of my squandered potential that I lost in disobedience to Him. I came to Him with tears and begged Him to find me a place in His Kingdom, if He had one. I was sure that I had dishonored Him and done so much wrong that I could never truly be called a "Christian". Yet I knew I could not make it in a world under the dominion of the devil. When I was ready to take the lowest position in the kingdom, the hired hand of His house, He finally could truly embrace me as His child. Now I'll do anything for Him.

3/25/2012

From Dreams to Surrender - A Journey

There is a vast landscape between dreams and surrender. I've come to a middle ground on my journey where the valley is mysterious and dangerous. Behind me on the distant hillside like an abandoned carnival rest the old dreams. Some of them are broken down with caution tape around them. Others of them are still and lifeless with the wind howling through the spaces between the bars. I can still smell the popcorn machine when the wind is just right. The occasional wisp of cotton candy floats by and beckons me to return. I've come too far in the right direction even if the child inside of me has no idea why I would leave behind the good old days.

I remember riding the dream of being a rock star until I made myself puke. Around and around with dizzying drive and ambition I stayed on for another turn. Finally when I stepped off and tried to walk, I collapsed into a vomit-scented pile on the grass. So much for the promise of glory! I remember weeping as the ride that had been a classic and my favorite started to sink into the soggy ground right before my eyes. As I look up now to that hillside I can still see the half-circle of its remains sticking out of the earth and looking at me like a big, drowsy eye.

There are so many dreams up there. The one of having the ideal family is nothing but a paint-chipped carousel with unrecognizable horses and sinister music. There is the dream of becoming a film editor in Hollywood that I barely escaped with my life when the trestle beneath the car cracked on a steep incline. Now it looks like a gray skeleton of sharp toothpicks with barely a resemblance of its former construction.

Dreams have left their litter along my path, too. Mostly it's trash from a photo album of time spent up on that dreamy hillside. There are pictures of me smiling and laughing; sharing good times with friends; building the dreams with the help of my parents and mentors. The sorrow was so great when I looked at the pictures at the beginning of my journey. But as I walked on I discovered things in the frame I hadn't noticed before. The sky was menacing in one of them and there appeared to be a fanged cloud above us in another. We were having a great time as we were oblivious to the demons that supervised our work. Where was God's blessing on all our endeavors? Where was His hand?

On the distant mountain ahead.

The place that lies before me now is further away than I know and closer than I can imagine. There is no poster or brochure to give me an idea of what to expect. I haven't seen a vision or even heard an ad on the radio about this place. The only clues I've been given are in the form of promises. God's constant reassurance that He knows what's best for me. Sometimes that seems like it isn't enough to keep me moving forward. I've found myself walking in circles like the nation of Israel in the wilderness, grumbling.
What I didn't realize was that in all the walking, things were falling off of me. I had no idea that I had been carrying a ten gallon bucket full of resentment until I stumbled upon it during one of my aimless circular tours. Another item I'd packed for my journey was a backpack of vices and unhealthy coping habits. I have scars on my shoulders from where the little creatures had escaped their confinement on my back and scratched at me for sustenance. Who would've thought that bad habits would be so starved for attention all the time?

I understand some of why I am made to endure such a long trek. I see the mountain ahead of me and it's far more steep than the hill I came from. It's going to take some strength and stamina to conquer the climb to surrendering. I used to think surrender meant lying supine, gazing upward to a benevolent puppeteer in the sky. I actually like that thought sometimes, especially when the terrain is harsh and unforgiving to my sore feet. But it's after those days that I am given the cup of living water that never runs dry, the bread of life that fills you with one bite, and the fruit of the vine that gives my sleep a deep supernatural peace. I forget the pain and anguish of the day before and awake with songs of worship filling my mind and mercies like sun rays shining upon my sleepy face.

Sometimes Jesus, Himself visits me on the path. Usually He is smiling and cheering me on but sometimes when I am especially weary He lifts me up with His arms and walks in step with me. There have been moments when He just embraces me and lets me cry. I say things like, "Please, my Lord, tell me that it's all worth it. Show me a vision of things to come." He gently reminds me that my fallen nature would begin to build rickety dreams loosely based on those visions. He flashes images of the tragic and self-indulgent projects that left me empty and hurting. He turns me back to see the ghostly carnival of selfish ambition and I blink at a glint of sunlight that stabs at my eyes from an old metal structure. I change my prayer into, "Lord, help me trust You. I'm still carrying too many pictures of what I think is best. I feel dragged and pulled at by voices from that dream-ridden hillside. Thank You for being here even when I long for the Egypt of my old ways. Thank You for being patient and never leaving me alone."

As we all make progress on our unique pilgrimage to total surrender, I hope we can find one another on the way. Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are not meant to journey alone. We become the oasis and the place of safety for one another when we reach out with Jesus' love during times of faltering. Thanks to all my friends and family who help pick me up when I am down. Thanks most of all to my Lord who rescues me every single time and without fail.

3/02/2012

Artist's Way Tasks - Week ONE


Three enemies of my creative self-worth:
The World, the Flesh, and The Devil.
The world has been lying to me through all of it’s powerful influences. Media tells me what I must be, secular humanism tells me what I should be, and hypocrite religiosity tells me I can never be good enough, clever enough, or amazing enough. Still, I did try to break into the elite creativity of their god.
The flesh cries out for instant gratification and so practice making perfect is out of the question. My body with all of its learned habits of thinking and behaving has deceived me through lies I believed as a child. The vicious cycle of spiraling thought that plunged my soul into despair had kept me from producing any fruit, especially creative fruit.
My adversary the Devil that prowls around like a roaring lion has devoured too much of my hope in the past. He is the power behind all of the enemies of my creative self-worth. The creative nature of mankind is one of the most beautiful reflections of the Father. Satan’s job is to squelch it and keep it buried by any means.

One horror story of how the enemy kept me from expressing my creativity was when I was a young girl in ballet class. I remember vividly when all the other girls could put their noses on their toes while doing the butterfly stretch, but I couldn’t do it. The enemy whispered in my ear, “What is wrong with you? You’ll never be a dancer now.” Funny, I didn’t even know I wanted to be a dancer until I just wrote that sentence. I always put on dance shows for everyone and even danced in the eighth grade talent show, but that was it. I love to dance! I can sing well, I can write decently, but I can only dance because it's fun.

Rebuke of my enemy...
“Enemy of my soul! My victory is in Jesus Christ. If the Lord of my life wishes me to dance for Him then that is what I’ll do. My joy will be to master this body with the power of His Spirit. You may have had me fooled for most of my life but the truth has set me free! Your lies no longer carry the weight that they once did. Only you would prey on an innocent child’s mind when they are most vulnerable. You are experienced in battle and not to be disrespected, but God is bigger than you. I am His and He is my Protector. I will step out onto the palm of His hand and take flight. You, enemy, will not be able to bring me down.”'

Letter to the Editor in my defense?
I have no defense but the cross of Christ. I find my worth in Jesus' choice to die for me. I will not attempt to justify myself or my choices. I am a sinner that has been saved from death by the amazing grace of God. Any creativity or expression that has any worth will only come from the place in me that is walking by the Spirit. The rest is just dress rehearsal and only fit for the fire. All of that egotistical striving for approval was merely the means by which I was brought to brokenness. I won’t defend myself or rail against the Accuser. He will always seek to destroy and I will fight against him only by the Spirit of God and submission to Him, my Creator.

Three champions of my creativity (other than Jesus, or course) are my mom, my dad, and my best friend/”blood sister” Emily. My mom is forever the critic that will find the holes and inconsistencies in even the best-presented expression. I would sing while doing chores and here a “Woah! Are you listening to yourself honey? You’re off-key.” Little did I know that she was helping me keep my voice on a musical path. I saw it as a challenge and when I would correct the phrase of song she would praise me immediately. There were some great times when I would dance for her and make hideous faces that would leave her in tearful fits of laughter. She always read my writing with great interest and paid such close attention to detail that my story was her world for those few minutes. She was appropriate and gentle with her correction of my creative expression, always delighting in any performance I put on for her. She provided the safest, most forgiving yet challenging audience. I always kept her in my sights when I would get stage fright in the middle of a song. She always laughed at my silly and albeit obscure jokes, even if she also shook her head at the same time. What a blessing it is to have had such an audience to grow up in front of. She truly enjoys my gifts like no one else can, my dear Ma.

Dad is the source of so much of my creative genetics. He is a muralist and a guitarist that could rival the greatest who ever lived. I say that with complete sincerity and anyone who has experienced my dad’s expression knows that it’s true. I grew up in the type of creative environment that was fun and talented thanks to my dad. He, being completely self-taught, didn’t know how to teach me to read music or draw a figure. But he would gladly collaborate with me on a children’s story or an impromptu jam session banging on the coffee table. We’ve basked in each other’s talent my whole life. I learned that I could be excellent by watching my dad practice. He would practice every day and make his guitar songs so complicated that he would spend weeks perfecting the same phrase. He made a profession out of painting murals and that is what he still does, rendering life-like art for only a blessed few to enjoy. The most encouraging thing I received from my dad was freedom to be excellent. While I will never be as good at guitar or painting as he is, I hope to someday honor him by being excellent at what God has gifted me with.

Emily is the sister I never had, except she IS my blood sister thanks to a silly rendezvous by a stream with a couple of sewing needles and pre-teen devotion. From the moment I first went to her house for her ninth birthday party we have been creative allies and partners. She has always been better than me at things that I love to do. But, thankfully I take the cake in a couple of areas we won’t mention. We provided healthy competition as children and sisterly encouragement as adults. There’s nothing so motivating as seeing your best friend do something you wish you could do, especially when she’s two years younger than you! We used to put on “dance contests” for ourselves and “dance shows” for others. Our last show was for our boyfriends only about five years ago. I’m thirty-three now and I would still choreograph something to a favorite pop song if she lived in my town or even came for a visit. We’ve had our own television show where we acted like the free-loving creatives that we are. She will always be by my side in spirit and we will be changing the world together.

The one happy piece of encouragement comes from Emily:
I thought, “I could never jog. My thighs are too big. I’d probably die of a heart attack if I tried. I’ve run from my brother and one time even from the cops, but that was sprinting. I could never jog.” I wasn’t halfway through with speaking that thought when Emily invited me again to go jogging with her. Something inside me ignited at the thought of the possibility. One of the most motivating thoughts in my life has been, “If Emily can do it maybe I can.” I chose not to follow her into joining the army, however, or being deployed to Kuwait. She has always been so encouraging and has been the wind beneath my wings on many occasions. This one day, though, I was terrified. We went jogging and she slowed her pace for me a little. I’ll never forget her legs running in front of me and the rhythm that we kept together. It was the same rhythm that we’d kept our whole lives. I found myself comfortable and the next thing I knew we were up to jogging four miles! Then she got swamped with nursing school and quit our routine, but I kept on. The words that stick with me are, “You said you couldn’t jog!” and yet there I was. I still love to jog when I get the opportunity. Thanks Emily.


If I had five other lives to lead I would be: a missionary, a foster mom to many children, a gospel dancer, a horse ranch owner for rehabilitating broken teens, a children’s ministry director. Things I could do associated with the above: visit my acquaintance Julie who takes in abandoned horses, visit the foster-parent family that goes to our church: the Lunas, volunteer in the children’s ministry at church, donate to a missionary organization; ask my gospel dancer friend about one of her dance classes.


2/04/2012

Word Made Flesh - My Decoding of a Revelation

"The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life." -Jesus (John 6:63 NIV)


My Lord spoke these things after He gave an illustration of being the Bread of Life. The picture was so graphic in John chapter six that most people were offended and left Him upon hearing it. I wonder what I would have done if I heard my Teacher say, "But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day." If I were a good little Jewess I would immediately think of how I'm not a cannibal nor do I even eat the blood of animals. However, if I had understood what Jesus had spoken before that day and kept following Him I would know that He spoke in parables and pictures. If I were to have hung out long enough to hear His explanation to the disciples I would have probably had a major revelation. I had one of those during bible study the other week, so I'd assume it would have happened if I lived back then, too. 

Our wonderful bible study teacher was guiding us through this very passage when my mind took a crazy turn into the mysteries of God. I promised myself I would write about it to try and piece it together. The best way for me to do this is to picture an audience. Maybe some people read this blog (wink wink). That would be you. Lucky you. But my real reason for writing is to see if I can wrap my brain around what I feel was revealed to me. When I read the words of Jesus in red that are quoted at the very top of this entry something sparked a fuse in me. Our ladies' bible study teacher has a knack for allowing us the freedom and focus to chew on scripture. In fact, she brought a loaf of bread for us to eat before we sat down to study. She asked us what the bread was doing now and eventually what would become of it. All of that was to introduce the study called "Jesus says, 'I am the bread of life.'" Well, we are what we eat because the molecules that we need from our food (end even some we could do without) end up in our cells. But that's not the revelation I felt was most powerful. But it is noteworthy...

 "We are what we eat," is true for belief also. We take information in through our senses and our mind chews it up. We allow it to sit and be processed and eventually it makes it's way to our soul. The sweeter the info, the easier it is to take in. Sometimes we end up with words like those on the scroll in Revelation 10:10, sweet in the mouth but sour in the stomach. Sometimes it's junk food that does nothing but make us sick. Sometimes information enlightens us and reveals things about us and the world around us. In Luke chapter 11, Jesus says that the eyes are the lamp of the body: "If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight were filling you with light.”(NLT)  So we take things about God into our souls through listening, reading, observing, and the many other ways He chooses to show Himself to us, thereby making us conscience of our own unholiness.


But that's not the "big" revelation, either. After reading John 6:63 I realized the nature of Jesus being the Word made flesh. God took me back to Genesis 1:3 when God said, "Let there be light." Well, having done a small amount of Google-ing on that phrase, I have discovered that a precisely literal translation of the Hebrew words for that verse would be as follows, "Light be. Light was." ( http://www.maryphilkorsak.com/1workshop.html Quoted from The Art of Literary Translation, British Council Literary Translation Exhibition)
These are the first words we have recorded that God said. 

Here's the biggy that boggled my noggin: Jesus is God's voice and an expression of God. This is not to say that Jesus poofed into existence when God spoke creation into being. Just as God always was and always will be, so is Jesus. "Before Abraham was, I AM." are the words of our Savior. (John 8:58) That being said, as humans we have different ways to express who we are. When we speak or do anything we are demonstrating who we are inside. Jesus said in John 5:19 that He does only what He sees the Father doing. That's present tense, by the way. Was the Father eating in Heaven precisely when Jesus was eating here on Earth? Let that thought do some tricks on ya. But it gets better. If Jesus is the "Logos", the Word of God and God's first word for us was "Light..." and Jesus says, "I am the Light of the world..." then I believe that Jesus is a touchable, tangible, manifestation of the heart of God who is also light (1 John 1:5). When God spoke our reality into existence He had already predestined that His voice would live among us. By His voice living here, so did He also live here. The part of God that we have in Jesus is his voice, His light, and His plan to save us before we even began.

Rather than start a debate about the pre-existence of Jesus in God, let me just point out the most important part of the revelation. The life of our own words. Since we are made in God's image, we too exist within our words. Who we are is manifest in the words we speak. It's almost as if the words we say have a life of their own! Just read James chapter three and remember all whom we've hurt with our words. If our voices could become, say, digital code and be broadcast on radio waves then we could communicate across the globe in a matter of seconds. Would you say that my voice on a phone call isn't me? It is a manifestation of who I am and the way I communicate to you. In the same way Jesus is God's voice and His heart made into a form that we can fellowship with and follow closely after.


Maybe that's not a HUGE paradigm shift for you. It's pretty common that something so simple a child could understand it is difficult for my pile of intellect to grasp. It is very helpful for me to write it and see it in a somewhat cohesive picture. Thanks for reading, if you made it this far then you are top notch in my book! Maybe I should just write a book and THEN share it with the world. But it does help me to blog. 

1/08/2012

Mountains Ahead

I have been freaking out lately about my almost-four-year-old's impending education. It has looked to me like a giant mountain looming in the distance that only grows more gigantic as I move toward it on the path of days. But God is so good and has been relieving my stress gradually as He reveals the true nature of my future landscape. Yes, there is a mountain ahead. In fact, it is a mountain range but I try not to remember that detail. It is actually farther away and more manageable than I first thought. In the meantime I have looking over my shoulder and had great encouragement!

All the huffing and puffing I've been doing about the future has made me miss some very valuable insights about my present life with the kids. I realized the other day that I am taking the children to several educational (and free!) events a week. Tuesdays they go to the church nursery and are watched by Christian women as I have my women's bible study. Wednesday evenings they go to their very own bible study (and my two-year-old gets to hang with the Christian women again) where they do a craft and learn about Jesus. Thursdays they go the the local Children's Museum where I attend a parenting class downstairs and they get to explore new and interesting toys and instruments. They also go to a lovely woman's house in the afternoon to be watched while I go to my volunteer job for four hours. She is very interactive with them and during the last visit they colored David the Shepherd Boy color pages and ate gluten-free treats! Friday is story time at the library and crafts afterwards. The weekends will often find us at a local event or just spending quality time with Papa. We may even take a trip to the McDonald's playland and meet new friends and practice taking turns and following direction.

I have also realized that I have been helping them develop good habits that will help them for the rest of their lives. Things that my husband and I thought were just a given to teach your kids like: manners, respect, and cleaning up after yourself are actually huge issues of integrity that many children miss out on. Recently I noticed that my daughter is in her own competition with her little brother. I want them to be on a team and helping each other, not pushing against each other or fighting one another for our attention. So, almost by accident I have started suggesting that she praise her brother for things he does well. She's picking up the habit very quickly. They also get to share in one another's victories by sharing their rewards. I don't know if I will take it as far as sharing one another's failures, but I do want there to be compassion when the sibling makes a mistake instead of gloating over them.

When I start to stress about my preschooler getting a traditional preschool education, I just look around at how I am already teaching her valuable lessons. She may not be able to read yet but that will come. I am on a mission to create habits like holding attention for fifteen minutes at a time, respect and love for her family and all people, knowing how to recognize God's hand in the world around her, and keeping her thoughts on good and praiseworthy things instead of mean or negative things. The next time I get a tummy ache over curriculum or proper preparation or lack of organization I am going to take a deep breath, take an inventory of my successes, and ignore the mountain. I know that as soon as I turn a corner or crest a hill that God will have a surprise waiting for me that is the answer to that giant challenge. Oh, and He's been known to just up and move mountains, too.