Thursday, January 28, 2010

Outside the Box

This may be kind of a ramble so bear with me if you will. I really haven't posted much since that high I was on after Discovery almost 3 weeks ago. Well, as we know with highs usually comes lows shortly thereafter. And I've definitely had my taste of lows over the past week or two. Depression, fear, doubt, you name it has pretty much hit me in the face due to circumstances, questions, confusion, etc. So hopefully this post won't confuse others as I try to get my thoughts out.

I think the one thing that keeps ringing back to me when I'm trying to sort through the ups and downs over the past few weeks is, "Am I trying to put God back in a box (in my mind) that He has never been in the first place?" I still can't wrap my mind around some things that I experienced at Discovery...nor can I ever really put it into words as I describe it to other people. I usually get cross-eyed stares and even rebukes about the things that I experienced there so I've just stopped bringing it up to avoid heady I know what my heart experienced though and really only I and God can know it to the depths what that was. Therefore I still believe God moves in mysterious ways a.k.a (outside the box) and sometimes we have to accept that that's "the final answer". Point being for myself and others, DON'T TRY TO FIGURE OUT GOD WITH OUR MIND! HE IS WAY TOO BIG and our minds are way too small!! He is infinitely able to work and function in any circumstance...anywhere, with anyone, even if we don't understand how or why...but we must be in the position to receive what He has for us, whatever it is, wherever it is.

I think (and tell me if I'm wrong here) one the biggest traps of the enemy is to make us believe that we can figure God out as we're getting to know Him. I just am speaking from experience here. If our minds are trying to wrap around God, we are gonna get nowhere fast because it's gonna make us confused and frustrated. God is too big for our minds!! Too much!! How freeing it would be if we would get to the point of understanding that. But what is a subtle tactic of the enemy is that we think we're merely getting to know God by trying to figure Him out. So I believe we need not mix up the two. It's a least of me and my over-analytical-ness (is that even a word? :-) )

Only our heart can know God intimately. And knowing God intimately comes from His promptings, His drawing of Himself to us, His revelations to us, His will, His plans. If we aren't sensing Him doing so, we start trying to figure Him out. Talking about digging ourselves a hole. Not to say we aren't to pursue Him. We are. But we are also to let Him reveal things to us when He knows we are ready for it, not when we think we are ready, or what we want to hear.

I also want to address this regarding the Bible. By us trying to figure out everything that God says in His word in our understanding is simply gonna make us get frustrated and want to throw the Bible across the room least it does for me. Am I the only one who struggles with that? Some scripture can give me the all good fuzzy feelings while another can make me want to hurl all over myself and also question God's character and His thoughts toward me...but only if we let the enemy use it against us. But instead of tossing it across the room, we can ask God to reveal why we are feeling that way. What is our mind getting wrong that our heart needs from Him?

Another example, the enemy used scripture against Jesus during His test of temptation, but Jesus had God's wisdom and God's heart ready to to hurl it back at the enemy like a torpedo. What would happen if that was us? The possiblities are endless really...because God is that big! Doesn't it make complete sense then to say that anytime we begin to open up God's word, we need to wholeheartedly pray for the Holy Spirit to guide us through it with His wisdom and His understanding? Otherwise, our feeble minds and the scheme of the enemy will ultimately yield it fruitless to even crack it open.

Ok, did I just chase a rabbit?....

So in a nutshell, my challenge for myself and others is to let God outside of the box (since He's not in there anyways), stop trying to figure Him out, and ask Him to reveal Himself to us in ways we will never be able to wrap our mind around and sometimes not even put into words, but that our hearts can't deny. Only then, will we know God intimately and see His HUGE heart!

Let the other questions be answered when we get to heaven...;)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Hearts Alive

"You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts."
2 Cor. 3:3
This describes what we saw last weekend to a tee!! I saw the living God written all over the tablets of human hearts like never before this weekend!
And my title to the post pretty much sums up what that looks like. Hearts alive!!! Some of you have read my husband's account of last weekend. Nothing short of amazing! Amazing! And I was given the unique honor and privelege of experiencing something this weekend alongside him that will be in my heart forever. Many are reluctant about this retreat we attended last weekend. And understandably so. And I know it is only in God's will or timing that those of you praying about it will go or not.
I even was going in scared out of my mind...and very skeptical. But left with a beautiful gift that will remain forever. My heart was set free in ways I didn't know it needed. True that my strong discerners were still on all weekend. And it took me two days to really just soak in what God had for me. But in the end, I knew how to love who God made me to be just the way He's wanted me to all my life. Do you know how freeing it is to love you just the way you are? I finally was able to come into agreement with God about how He sees me as His beloved, chosen daughter.

Backing up a bit, what I can say is that this program is not perfect. No program is. Heck, churches aren't perfect. We all know that. But the sole purpose of their mission is to show people what's in their heart that needs to come out, help them remove it...then get it filled it back up with unconditional love and grace that they have been lacking all their life, and ultimately set their hearts on fire. Later on they teach us how to live that out and find our purpose here on earth. And thru the love that was given out, I can't doubt for a second that what I saw last weekend has God's hands all over it, even in it's imperfections. Where love is, God is. And it is not Discovery that gave me and these people I now dearly love a second chance on having a free heart. It is only God who can do that. He is just using this place as a tool to do so. And I have been finding scripture after scripture to back up what I saw this weekend.

Also, you find out thru testimonies from the leaders at the end of the weekend that a lot of the people leading and assisting are Christians and believers in Christ and that sharing Him with others is their mission in life.
I can also say with confidence that they openly let God in where there is room for him. But many people aren't ready to receive Him just yet. And they don't just pound Him in where people can't receive it. And I respect that.
I have also come to the conclusion that many people who came to get "help" came because they really have been scared away from the church or from God...and are looking for help wherever they can find it. This organization is really about meeting people where they are at. And sometimes the don't want to hear about God. And having God in the advertisement would have been a hindrance for some to come who really needed to be there. Yet I love that God is not limited by the reason people are there. They usually come out with a different result than what they thought they would...and may find God again because of it.

Personally, my experience was not quite as emotionally heavy with sobbing tears as my husband's when they helped me tug out all the things in my heart that needed to go. But it rings true that the experience is very different for everyone. Don't get me wrong, there was plenty to be tugged at and pulled out of my heart. I cried a lot throughout the weekend but at different moments. I learned I had a lot of anger, feelings of low self-worth, guilt, and my experience in the process of removing it was a very difficult one but in the end it was all worth the pain. It's like in childbirth. The pain hurts but once you have that new life, you forget about that pain. But I can say that I think I got just as much if not more out seeing others walk in freedom as I did in my own. Words just can't describe how amazing that was. My heart was overflowing like never before. It was beautiful!
And lastly, I learned for myself that for a long time, my receiver has been broken. I was taking in all the bad that has been said to me through the years...and pushing away all the good that others have tried to fill my heart with...because I didn't feel they were true...nor have I loved me for who God made me to be. I've always felt like I didn't measure up to this standard I had given myself. And because of that, I haven't been able to freely give out unconditionally love with reckless abandon the way I have always wanted to. I can't give what I don't receive. If my heart is empty, there is nothing to give out. I just didn't know how to get to the point of having love flow freely in and out of me. And now I can say with confidence that my receiver is whole and hopefully the outflow will reveal that!! I will stumble and old habits will try to creep in but there is a new identity that I can cling to and believe about myself that I couldn't before. And there is power in that because of Christ living in me!!

I think anyone can benefit from an experience like this. But I also know that Discovery is not the only way. God can use any tool to reveal Himself.
There is a gift in your heart though that God wants to give you and it will inevitably be a beautiful empowering thing for a lifetime!

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Reckless Abandon

Luke 4:22-28
All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. "Isn't this Joseph's son?" they asked.
Jesus said to them, "Surely you will quote this proverb to me: 'Physician, heal yourself! Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.' "

"I tell you the truth," he continued, "no prophet is accepted in his hometown. I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah's time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian."
All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.

I'm getting back into my daily Bible reading. This is part of the passage I was reading last night. I read through it and was actually a bit frustrated at myself because sometimes these stories of Jesus just don't penetrate my heart like I want them to. They kind of bounce off of me and I don't know what I'm supposed to learn from it. Why did Christ walk away at the end of this passage? Is He really that heartless that He would just leave those people like that? So as I was honest with God about my questions and concerns, I asked Him to reveal something to me through this. About Jesus, about me, whatever He wants. And sure enough, I haven't been able to get this passage out of my mind since. And boy has God been revealing!

First of all, this passage reveals the human condition. And I have to realize that Jesus wasn't actually even surprised by their actions. He knew their hearts before He even got there. And knew the cross was necessary for this reason. Look back at what this passage says. First the people were amazed and speaking well of Jesus when He was speaking what they wanted to hear and all the grace coming out of Him. But as soon as He spoke some truths that they didn't want to hear, they wanted to throw Him off a cliff. Suddenly He wasn't that feel-good Jesus that makes everything feel better in a snap that we think He is supposed to be. No, He was being the real Jesus. He is good alright, but He isn't always out to make us feel good if it is to bring us to the place we need to be. We don't know what happened to this group of people after He left, but I like to believe that they were later humbled by what His message of the cross really was if they ever were to hear it again...which brings me to my next point...Jesus' heart for relationship.
He was looking for people Who wanted a relationship with Him. And as soon as He was rebuked, He moved on to find someone who would follow Him. But did He leave them with a hard heart? No He left them knowing that soon after, the cross would take care of His relationship with them. He knew the story wasn't over. And as we know, there were only a select few out of His disciples who did actually follow Him all the way to the cross for shear loyalty. Most everyone else nailed Him there.

Wow! Is it just me or can you relate to this wishy-washy way of living and supposedly "following" Christ? We want feel-good Christianity...not the kind that requires us to abandon all our desires and dreams so we can follow Christ simply for Who He is and not what He might do for us. The second we don't hear what we want or don't have our prayers answered, or are asked of something too hard, we just want to "throw Him off a cliff" and abandon Him first to "protect ourselves" from anymore hurt. And we only know where that leads us.

Last Sunday night at church we had an awesome discussion about what Christianity really involves. And when it is said to take up our cross and follow Him, taking up our cross means to deny our own selfish wants and desires for His. They were traded out at the cross anyways so what are we holding on to? Our flesh was crucified ALONG with it's passions and desires way back then. We can't hold on to the flesh and the cross at the same time...and follow Jesus. It just doesn't work that way. That was a huge revelation for me. Not a new one, but a fresh reminder of how skewed my view has been. But the good news is that we have freedom to choose to pursue what He was out to accomplish and that is ultimately to have unbroken relationship and fellowship with Him....if we choose. I guess the way to know if we are messing it up is if we are putting things we want ahead of having a relationship with God? I'm sure all of us can think of something. We're human and we live in a fallen world. The first commandment says to have no other Gods before Him...we mess that up daily. But there is no condemnation in this because the cross took care of our human, worldy condition. Therefore we can choose to follow Him today and every day so He can show us what the cross accomplished. I know I haven't seen enough of that in my own life...but know I'd like to.

All in all, are we asking God to follow us? Are we trying to "throw Him off a cliff" because He didn't tell us what we wanted? Or are we willing to jump of the cliff with Him and whole-heartedly follow Him?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Living What We Want to Teach

This may hurt to read, but when it comes to what we teach our kids, how many things do we really do that we tell our kids to do? Ouch! Don't you love those punches in the gut?

So yeah, today, I was cleaning my house like crazy. This part of me doesn't pop up very often but when it does, watch out. I can be a bit of a control freak about the house looking somewhat clean or functional a lot of the time. Funny thing is, when it comes down to it, I really stink at organization and I'm really bad at sticking to any kind of routine to help keep things simpler. Therefore I'm usually always unrestful about the state of my house and I'm terrible at teaching my kids how to do their part. I hate that about myself. It's a daily battle. I'm usually overwhelmed with housework and avoiding my duties...and resenting them...or I'm racing around all over the place to clean like a crazy woman and "stomping" on my kids if they get in my way...and getting upset at them for not doing their part in helping me out or if they mess up what I just cleaned. Yeah, this is not ok to do, is it?

So today I was doing just that. Anything they left out, I told them to pick up or told them to not mess anything up. I was a drill sargeant by the end of the day. And the reason being, I was actually expecting them to automatically be something at age 11, 6, and 5 years of age that they really couldn't be...that actually in my 34 years on this earth, I can't even be. How fair is that? I mean how often do I treat what God has freely given me to enjoy and also to take care of so passively and unmindful? Too often! I have to hope that God is speaking to me about this for a reason. Because I'd like that to change.

Some people are there, I know. But I bet it didn't happen at an early age. Some people floor me at how mindful they are that everything they own is not theirs. And that they are to do everything as unto the Lord...and treat everything given them in a way that pleases Him. That includes our time, bodies, our children, our homes, our finances, and of course His beloved children (and that means everybody...everybody), and I'm sure there's more I'm not thinking of.

So my conclusion is, God needs to do some serious transforming in me before I can ever expect my precious children to even get what it means to treat everything as if it is the Lord's and to not take anything for granted. I still should be teaching them no doubt. But I'm not sure how good I'll be at it unless I'm really living it myself.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Another Year Has Passed...

So I've been trying to think of the highlights that encompassed 2009 for me. With my ADD brain, sometimes compartmentalizing things in my head is an impossibility so I'm hoping as I type, it will come.
I'm starting with what is under the category as "new" or "a horizon" in my life that happened in 2009.

1. First and foremost, we have a new family member living in our house...and no, it's not a baby. It's my sweet sister-in-law Becky who has moved down here from NY. She didn't plan to stay with us longer than a few months, but lo and behold, she is still here waiting on God's timing to find her a new place to live....which is completely fine by us. Thankfully she has found a church home, new friends, a good job, and even a very nice boyfriend. All the chips are falling in place so far. I just hope she isn't sick of us yet because we are certainly not with her. Quite the contrary. She has been nothing short of a blessing to have around and we will miss her when she does find her own place. And as a little extra, the chips are falling in place for my mother-in-law to move down in 2010, which will be very exciting!

2. The next new thing I can say that really developed in 2009 is the new community of friends that God has brought into my life. And strangely enough it's not even really within my church. I tend to be someone who surrounds myself with friends regularly. I'm a very social and relational person, yet toward the beginning of last year, I was missing the sense of community we (Tim and I) had a few years back through some relationships at church. Dynamics changed, people moved, relationships changed, etc. and we were kind of left wandering around when last year least I was. I admit I don't do well when I feel out of sorts in that area. Then thru a series of circumstances, we started rekindling some old friendships, then that led to new friendships that we met through these old mutual friends...and then some of us ladies started meeting weekly as a prayer group with new and old friends...and we still are...and Tim and some of the husbands had been already meeting separately even before we were. Now here we are and we have a group of friends that I really believe have been God-ordained into our lives. It's been awesome! We genuinely love to be together. And after the year we've all shared together, we were able all spend the last day of 2009 together. No other way to do it in my opinion! Some of these people I've known for less than a year, some for many years, yet I feel I've known all of them my whole life. And I dearly cherish the love that we all have for each other and thank God for them. It will be etched in my heart for a lifetime.

3. I also must mention a dear childhood/family friend that I have been able to rekindle my friendshship with this past year thru Facebook. Amber, I really consider you another "new" soul sister to me in so many ways and I thank God for bringing you back into my life. May our physical distance never keep us from remaining close at heart. I look forward to sharing more life together over a new year and hopefully even the next decade...and beyond. Love you, my friend!

4. My marriage has hit many new heights. Though we still have our bumps, we have definitely come to a new level of love for each other that can not go unmentioned for 2009. We celebrated 12 years of marriage in June and am so glad to say we are happily approaching 13 years. I love my husband.

5. Tim and I also have come to a new understanding of what God's love looks like. We went through some un-doing several months back and our whole mindset began to be transformed about the whole lie of thinking we are still earning God's love vs. the truth that God's love never changes no matter who we are or what we have done...or will do. It's a beautiful freeing thing when you can live it out. We said it for years that God's love is enough but to live it out is a whole other thing. Though living it out is the hardest part as we are changing old mind habits, it is still hopeful to know that God's love is always enough, even when we don't "get it" or are able to receieve it moment by moment. He is never surprised by where we are at, what we have done, or what we will do. He created us in His image and His love has conquered all the sin that tries to encompasses our lives. Thank you, Father, for Your unchangeable, everlasting love for your children.
6. We have also begun a new endeavor of going to the Sunday night service at church and leading a Bible Fellowship as well. We love the new schedule, new worship music, and the class is moving along pretty well. It's always a challenge to develop community with a brand new group of people so we are just trusting God as He keeps us in this place of leadership. And we just hope some fruit comes of this step of faith we are taking.

6. We have had a 1st grader and a 5th grader start school in the fall of 2009. Faith (our 1st grader) is sailing through her reading. She is very artistic and truly loves school. Hannah (our 5th grader) has been dealing with an overabundance of homework and has struggled for the first time in her 5 years of school. It has been a new experience for her and for us to see our smart girl get so overwhelmed. But we're working through it and she is still a great kid nonetheless. We are very proud of her. She is also becoming an excellent volleyball player. She just finished her 5th season of playing. Her coach this fall was very instrumental in her growth. We wish we could have this same coach in the spring but she had to retire from this league after the fall. We hope to see more great games and growth in Hannah this spring in whatever team she ends up in.

Here is the category of "same ol', same ol' (everyone's gotta have those):

1. Though God is still very real, so is an enemy who doesn't give up. Through some of the past blogging I've done, it's no new news that there are still many hurdles that I still grapple with...and the enemy tries to throw them at me daily. Pride, selfishness, confusion, apathy, condemnation, and the great question "Is God really enough"?, And there's also the other big question of, "Is my life really reflecting what I say or what I want to reflect"? I pray 2010 will bring some new freedoms with it as the enemey tries to use these things to try to run my life in the day-to-day. God is a big God and is into doing more than we could ever ask or imagine. Our youth pastor challenged us last Sunday to stop depending on ourselves for change, but believing the big things that God can do in 2010. I'm still working on my list. My prayer right now is, "Lord, I believe, help my unbelief". That's about as far as I've gotten.

2. In 2008, the economy began to hit us pretty hard. With Tim being in sales, it can always be a gamble when the economy is struggling. Sure enough, 2009 has turned out to be no different, in fact has been one of our toughest years yet financially. But in the midst, God has taught us to simplify some things and really lean on Him completely. And He has helped free me of some control issues I've had over finances. I just THOUGHT I had control...ha! Yeah right! We have also gone down to one car, we don't eat out as much, we are budgetting more, and I've taken on a part time home child care job to help a little. Needless to say, selfishly, I would hope for this year to bring some relief in the area of finances, but we know that God doesn't always work on our time clock, nor does he always use comfort to show Himself more. We shall see what this year brings. I've come to the conclusion that I know nothing...and He knows everything, including what's best for us..much more than we know.

This was long so I'll stop here. But my heart's desire is to see God and know Him more than ever before. So whatever He needs to do to accomplish that, bring it. Please Lord, ignite the fire. Rekindle the passion that I once had. I'm looking forward to the journey ahead for 2010...