Category: Holy Spirit

When You’re Afraid Afraid

It’s not uncommon for me to go arms-a-flailing if I think I’m being attacked by a swarm of bees…or a fly. It’s rather grandiose and entertaining to those around me who stare motionless for a half a second, then proceed with a look that says, “What the heck was that?” Many just come on out and say it. When it comes to flying bugs, let’s just say… I’m punchy.

Instinctive fear, I suppose. If it’s flying, I’m flighting.

Fear. So many things to be afraid of. So many things we are exposed to that cause us to get punchy about the future. We might look cool on the outside, but inside our stomachs are full of flying insects and our invisible arms are flailing hoping that we can somehow swat the fear of whatever might be coming our way.

Fear. So many things to hide from. The past. The mistake. The secret sin. Those things swarm us and we whip around looking for where it’s coming from only to find that it really does allude us, and then we cower, waiting for it to come at us again. It’s exhausting.

Fear of what was. Fear of what is. Fear of what could be.

 

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Recently, I went on another hike at a nearby heaven-of-a-place in the heart of Nashville. For this Okie, these are mountains. They are covered with trees. Huge, gorgeous trees. Breathtaking trees. This particular day, I played a podcast that a friend had recommended. A local pastor, Scott Sauls, was on deck as I heaved up the hill one more time.

It was one of those messages. One that came right place, right time. Here’s the takeaway.

He was teaching on the glory of God that came to the shepherds at the time of Christ’s birth. And what do they say? “Do not fear!” Riiiiiight. Apparently the Greek says they were “afraid afraid.” Double afraid. Doozy afraid. Really, really afraid.

I’ve known afraid afraid. Not bugs, but the world of the “What if…..” I hate that world.

But the Glory that shown around them ushered in fear. That Light of God exposed the darkness of the world, thus exposing our vulnerability. The Light that walked in the Garden with The Couple exposed them when they sinned, and they hid in fear.

The Light revealed what Adam and Eve ushered in…. we are all going to die.

We are exposed.
Vulnerable to the instinctive knowledge of our tenure on earth.
And we are terrified.

Sauls said there was the disorienting light that shown and scared the wits out of them, and the comforting light that offered the redemption of the world in a baby.

This light and it’s disorienting/comforting manifestation is made reconciled in one word: Glory.

The Glory of God shown round and exposed all that was. The Glory of God shown round and comforted all, giving peace and favor on all who believe.

(enter revelation in the hike)

When Sauls kept saying “the Light of God” did this and that, and it is the Light of God that exposes the fact that we are indeed vulnerable, temporary, weak and powerless, I was….. RELIEVED!

I realized my instinctive fear and concern for my life isn’t from a place of lacking faith or weak trust, but from the fact that I’m a human who has seen the Light and what it has exposed. It is natural to realize that our lives are fleeting, small, open, exposed, vulnerable, because it is what God revealed to us through the sin of Adam. And, therefore, it is supernatural of us to realize that our lives are bolstered, cared for, favored, blessed, lavished upon, and redeemed because it is what God reveal to us through the grace of Jesus.

Same Light. Same truth.

Vulnerability. Death. Comfort. Life.

IMG_3925(The A-ha!)

If then, all those passing, jarring anxiety-juiced moments when
“was that a lump?”
“what if one of my kids gets sick?”
“does he love me?”
“am I beautiful?”
“am I worthy?”
“do I matter?”
“I’m not like her.”
“I am weak and afraid”

Those moments, when they pass through our minds because of our vulnerable and exposed state, we must say one thing:

God’s Glory is Greater

God’s Glory is Greater, loftier, weightier, heavier, stronger than any shame, any fear, any vulnerable place or thought. The Light that exposes our darkest fears and sin, is the same Light that infuses itself in our souls providing redemption, peace and marks us with favor and blessing.

We are as vulnerable as we will ever be because of the revelation given to us by the Light; and as safe as we will ever be in that same Light.

The weight and majesty of His glory both reveals our tragic weakness and yet lovingly holds us in his Almighty greatness. We cannot escape our vulnerability, and as those of The Way, cannot escape the love of this great grace. We are worse off than we realize and safer than we could dream. This is the great paradox of the revelation of God’s Glory.

Rest deeply in your vulnerable state my friends.

Spiritually Open Borders. Is the Church Ready for the Work of Welcoming?

We sit in their living room on mismatched chairs and smile at one another trying to determine what we are all trying to say to one another. Their bright teeth shine beautiful out from their dark, warm African skin. They speak Swahili. We speak English. We laugh at what we cannot understand and hope that each of us will one day know one another.

IMG_2331They fled Democratic Republic of Congo sometime this last year and came to America only a month ago, thankfully with other families. Fear of fighting is what I understand. I ask the father in English and make guns with my fingers. “Did you leave because of war?” He doesn’t understand. “Did you leave because of fighting?” Guns pointing. He nods yes.

These refugees have run from what all refugees run from: fear of persecution, fear for their lives and their children’s lives, fear that all will be taken from them. They come here for shelter and safety.

However, in this case, they are Catholic. We share the same God. We speak the same spiritual language. We know the same Savior.

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If we didn’t share the same God, would that mean I didn’t want to know them? No, but in light of the knowledge that we are facing the ever-increasing fact that Muslims, by the thousands, are coming either as immigrants or refugees, we have some thinking to do.

This post isn’t about whether or not we should welcome the refugee, the lost, the wanderer. I dare not challenge my Lord’s directive. This post is more about these questions:

  • Is the church ready? 
    Is she ready for the months and months it takes to help a refugee family implant in our culture? Ready to help them shop, learn the language, go to school, ride the bus, find a job? Is she already partnering with the agencies that do this? Does she understand the undertaking? Is everyone ready for the long haul? Because it is a long haul.

It’s more than welcome banners and hugs at the airport.

  • Has she already done the work of engaging immigrants, refugees, the lost, the wanderer, the displaced, the lonely?
  • Is her compassion for the Syrians an extension of the compassion she has already shown to those here? In many cases, I’m sure it is.

But more than this, are we ready for the spiritual implications of spiritually open borders?

woman-812070_640Islam is not a religion that is the same as Christianity. Neither is Buddhism, or Hinduism, or Animism. They do not serve the same God, and in fact, serve a false god. This kind of false religion will bring with it strongholds and demonic powers that can, and will, influence us if we are not both intellectually and spiritually ready and equipped, in the Spirit and in the Word, to open our arms, homes, churches, and country to more and more false religions.

This is not to say we do not do such things as make friends with Muslims, or engage in our neighborhoods with Muslims. What we must understand is that while we find it heartwarming to be able to engage as a community, even move beyond acquaintances to friendships, there is an entire iceberg of cultural differences, an entire worldview, underneath our warm hellos and friendly dinners together.

Above the waterline of our deeply entrenched worldview we find the easiest cultural differences to overcome. They, and any other refugee or immigrant, will come see how we interact, what we eat, how we sound, what we smell like, what is considered rude, what is considered to be gratitude. On and on there are things that are considered to be “above the waterline.”

Below the waterline is a giant iceberg of differences. Values and beliefs that will not, and cannot, be compromised are buried deep in all of us. There are ingrained cultural habits that will not be moved nor changed. There are spiritual DNA strands unchangeable unless touched by the Holy Spirit. The worldview of the American Christian and the worldview of the Hindu, the Buddhist, the animist, the atheist, or the Muslims will clash and rip at one another under the waterline. What I value as deeply embedded beliefs about God, humanity, the heart and soul of a man, salvation, the afterlife, war, ancestors, and the future lies under the waterline.

As does theirs.

Are we even remotely ready, spiritually and prayerfully ready, for our icebergs to glide together in close proximity? Do we have the spiritual fortitude to pray against the evil attached to the false religions? Do we understand the gravity of the war we wage in the heavenlies when we so passionately want to welcome those who are fleeing to our country?

And welcome them we should.

Shrewdly, and in love. 

Jesus, when he sent out the disciples told them to be “shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10.)

As I read the posts and the blogs about whether or not we welcome the refugee, I actually want to sit with everyone, look at the ones who are saying, “Mercy! Love! Welcome!” and say “YES!” And I want to sit with the ones saying, “Pause! Wait! Think! Prepare!” and say “YES!”.

It is yes to all.

Yes to love.
Yes to open arms.
Yes to helping, serving, housing and sheltering.
Yes to prepare, be patient, understand, study, pray…deeply pray.

It will take all the the Body of Christ to show Christ to the nations. It is His heart’s passion that all men come to the only name that will save them. It is is intention that the manifold wisdom of God be made known by and through His church. In our love for one another, they will see we are Christians. It is not our love for them that prove that we are Christians, it is our love for one another.

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We must stop the fighting, and come together and unite. Not because “they” are coming, but they are already here! There is no good purpose in fighting. Humility is the way. We must unite in love, hope, mercy, prayer, intelligence, resources, strength, and spiritual preparedness for what we are so quickly wanting to happen and so ready to open our hearts and lives to. We must work together, prepare together, and most importantly, pray together.

This is no game. For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but “against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6)

As we welcome, we must also be prepared to fight in the heavenlies in prayer. Protect your home in prayer, not by locking your doors (unless you’re threatened). Be the hands and feet of Jesus. Be the mouthpiece of the Gospel. Be the light of the World. Be the enemy’s greatest nightmare. We are ready to be welcomers. It’s in us because Christ is in us. Let us prepare ourselves for the work.

“Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all the believers everywhere.” Eph. 6

I Wanted Us to Suffer a Little, Then I Saw a Tree and Changed My Mind.

IMG_7399Just above me is a giant tree in our backyard. Growing up in Oklahoma the giant trees were few and far between, and were put on display at Christmas and people drove from miles around to take a look. Here, in Tennessee the trees are quite different. The rise so tall that you hurt your neck looking up for too long. They cover the landscape like a blanket and provide shelter and shade for everything below them.

Trunks so large it takes arms and arms to reach around.

treehugThey sway in the breeze and climb the hills together to display their gold and orange change every fall.

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They are wonderous.

There is a verse in Revelation that has been tucked in my heart for over a decade

On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

trees in sun

I sit under that tree in my backyard many times a week. I look up at it and that verse runs through my mind as I stare at the thousands of leaves whispering over my head. “How are the leaves the healing of the nations?” I don’t know, but I do know scripture says it. I also know that is Psalm 1 a righteous man is compared to a tree by living water. And although Jesus said he is the root of the vine, why not be the root of the trees? Would that not be a stretch to think that the leaves are….us? 

Are we the leaves that are to be the healing of the nations?

He is healer, no doubt, but we are the messengers, the ambassadors, the one reliant on the root of the vine, where we are admonished to be “root and established in love.” Rooted. Roots that go down into someone who provides all we need for life. Roots so deep that when they are threatened, they cannot be uprooted, even when storms shake and whip the tops.

tree in storm

What if when we are rooted and established in love, even though he slay us, we never stop trusting him? What if our roots were the only thing that kept us from dying in the worst of times? What if our roots in Christ, though we are pruned and changed, we grew stronger and more powerful as a whole collective?

natchez

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I wanted, for awhile, to be really upset with the Church, not a particular church (notice the capital “C”) but at the church of America. I was even thinking “Bring on persecution! It will only cause us to grow! We deserve a little tough times. We don’t know what persecution is! Let the storms come and cut us down a bit. Let the lightning strike and strip us of our pride!”

Angry

Bitter

Arrogant

Then I realized that the church of Acts, when persecuted was scattered. Scattered like ants when their little ant piles are messed with. Scattered like roaches when the lights come on. They, our first brothers and sisters, were forced out of homes and displaced by persecution. Much like what is happening even now to our brothers and sisters.

Then I looked at the tree and wondered, “So, what happened between the times of persecution?” What happened as they rebuilt their lives and started again? What did they do?”

 

They grew.

treepathShe discipled. She spread the gospel. She took care of her own. She fed the poor and took care of the sick. She supplied food and money to missionaries and housed them when they returned. She prayed for each other and encouraged them in Christ. She met for communion and eating, and I’m sure, laughter and tears.

She healed nations.

Now, we sit in a nation, one that is sick and dying, and I’ve wanted the Church of America to feel the pain our brothers and sisters around the world are experiencing, but have realized what an awful thing that is. I only meant it like how we talk to our kids “When I was your age!” as though our experiences might make them different. I wanted the experiences of others who were persecuted to guilt the American church into feeling bad about herself, and maybe even wanted us to “suffer” a little more and grow up.

There might be some truth in that. We have a tendency to be spoiled. Our freedom has made us comfortable and we can easily miss the suffering around the world, but that’s not true for all of us.

Obviously

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We have more than a great opportunity here. We have a great gift, obligation, responsibilty as the Church to be the turning tide of our Nation, and to be the ones who fund other other nations to take care of the displaced, the refugee, the poor, the homeless, the persecuted. We, as millions of believers in Jesus, have the time, resources, technology, and freedom to be those healing leaves, not only to the world, but to ourselves, to our neighbors, to our politicians, to our enemies.

No more do I say, “Bring on the persecution and watch us scatter!” No, I say,

Bring on the Holy Spirit and watch us explode!

I pray the prayer of the founding Church,

“Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant, Jesus.”

And I pray, that through our unity, the same thing will happen among us:

“After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.”

We still live in a free country. We still have the freedom to pray and gather and stand up in boldness. Not in anger, not out of guilt, but in a great unity of believers, full of love and hope and faith, so that we will be filled with the Spirit to expand the kingdom. While we are in this freedom, let us not squander it. I pray we take advantage of it.

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And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Rev. 22

 

Wanting a Pacifier God

paci“She’s lost her paci again.”

These words have been uttered who knows how many times in all the years we’ve been raising kids. The never-ending hunt for a paci plagues most parents with babies who love those darling, wonderful peace-saving pieces of rubber!

Whoever invented the paci should get a Nobel Peace Prize, or at least a firm slap on the back. We salute you, pacifier inventor.

A Paci is just that, a pacifier. These man-made wonders (probably mommy-made wonders) were designed to bring both comfort to the baby, and peace to the mommy, because mommy cannot be the pacifier, wee one. Momma need a shower! However, when time to say goodbye, these wonderful things become the most troublesome, we-are-the-worst-parents-ever, “yes, you can have it one more night”, complicated seasons of your young child’s three year old life!

What? What happened to easy bedtime filled with joy and singing and ease!? (None of that is true, but it felt true when we starting taking away said paci) The tears! The sadness! It was like the paci had a soul! It’s like we took away her best friend! What parent does that?

We did.

Twice.

No “paci fairy”. No sending it to other kids who needed it. No lying. (Parents, stop doing that.) We just told her, “It’s time to stop using the paci now, baby.” And slowly, we worked it out of her little life.

Paci’s are good for a season. When that season is over, paci’s are from the devil.

A pacifier and comfort are two different things. A paci fixes a moment. Comfort goes with you through the moment. The difference is stark, especially when it comes to faith. 

Let’s focus on us grown-ups for a minute. Anyone here ever get angry at God? What about wish you knew the details to the future plan of His universe and was slightly irritated that He wasn’t telling you? What about when you demanded a sign from Him so that you would believe? Ever hold hate or anger in your heart toward someone and wish He would just change them? Ever want to throw yourself of the floor and kick and scream like a toddler because you weren’t getting your way? (Maybe, you’ve actually done that! Shhhh, I won’t tell, but seriously, get up. You look like a fool!)

I remember one afternoon I was in the car and took the opportunity to talk to God about some stuff. I was struggling with an issue in my life and I just needed Him to take it away and make me different. I was irritated and crying that He wasn’t fixing my problem. Then, I heard in a very clear voice in my heart:

“Natalie, I will not pacify your sin.”

I was stopped in my spiritual tracks. I knew exactly what He meant. God was telling me that He would not make me feel okay about what I was doing and that He would not just make me feel better and take away something that I needed to stop doing. It was a clear teaching that He would not pacify my sin, but would be more than willing to comfort me in my repentance.

  • You see, God will not pacify your sin, but He will comfort you through your repentance.
  • He will not pacify your rebellion, but will comfort you through your return.
  • He will not pacify your stubbornness, but will comfort you through your humility.
  • He will not pacify your unbelief with signs and wonders to prove Himself to you, but will comfort you through your faith with signs and wonders of His goodness and faithfulness to you.
  • He will not pacify your anger and tantrums, but will comfort you through your calming down, listening, and remembering He is good and He is God.
  • He will not pacify your blame game, but will comfort you through your ownership or your forgiveness of others.
  • He will not pacify your hate, but will comfort you through loving your enemies.
  • He will not pacify your judgmental nature, but will comfort you through your grace.
  • He will not pacify your “rights” and living for yourself, but will comfort you through your “cross” and dying to yourself.

Our God is not a giant paci to our me-centered faith. Instead, He is a God of grace, mercy, forgiveness, intimacy, fire, strength and comfort when we are humbled to Him and His Spirit. We have to be a humble people to a mighty and awesome God. I’m not saying we can’t be honest with God. I am saying we can’t be like tiny kids, angry that we aren’t getting our way, and expect God to fix it, pacify it. We don’t do it to our kids, He won’t do it to us. He wants a humble heart, a contrite heart, one yielded to Him.

There you will find all you need for all you need.

 

In what ways do you expect God to be a paci? 
In what areas do you need to humble yourself and let Him be the Prince of Peace in your life, the God of all Comfort?

When Fear Pounces and Joy Unfolds

FullSizeRender-1I didn’t want to take showers anymore because I knew that I would find something wrong. I would start the water and my stomach would fill with the little knives of anxiety. My heart race, my breath shorten. Somewhere along the way on my road of depression and grief, I had developed a trigger that said, “You get in and this time you’ll find a lump.”

I would get in because, well, it would be gross to never shower again and I had some sort of dignity left even though fear and anxiety had become my BFF’s. It was strange to be experiencing fear at such a pronounced level. I mean, I think any woman gives at least some thought to finding something in the shower every now and then, but what I was going through was not like that. I could hardly muster up the courage to get in the water.

Patsy Clairmont says in her book, You are More Than You Know, 

“Fear suggests that it came on suddenly when actually it’s been setting up housekeeping inside of us most of our lives. Satan has just been waiting for a situation where he would catch us off guard and set off fear explosives.”

I felt like all the fears, the paranoia, the hypochondria episodes, were sudden, pouncing on me like a lion on an unsuspecting meal. Not so true. Those fears had really actually been there inside me. Maybe somewhat dormant, easy to ignore and control. But, once my life had been uprooted from my home and I went spiralling into depression, those fears were unleashed and grew to the size of monsters. Satan absolutely took advantage of my situation and went on a full out war to get me to surrender to crazy. He dropped fear bombs on me and left me wounded and crying in pain.

My showers were quick. I would slide the soap bar over my breasts and make sure I didn’t linger on them very long. Or, I would just indulge the fear and do a 20 min examination on myself, shaking and knowing things were going to go wrong. Once I was “in the clear” I could go on with my shower and be done with it…until I cycled again.

My fears weren’t limited to just my boobs. I would feel anything weird and know I was doomed. It was appalling to me that normal aches and pains could send me into days of worry and self-medication (wine). A pinch at ovulation. A not-so-normal bowel movement. A headache. Even though each had a rational explanation, it didn’t matter, my emotions won the battle of my mind. The more I stressed about things, the more I believed things were happening, the more my physical body actually acted weird. I had pins and needles. I had weakness and my arms felt limp. I was sore down my neck and arms. I thought my legs weren’t working right. And, I more than once went to see my nurse practitioner/friend and tried to play it cool until she flat out said, “You’re a hypochondriac.”

She was right.FullSizeRender-2

I had spiraled and spun and cycled into an all out worry wart about my health, all while dealing with depression and two more moves after we got to Nashville. I would try and stay away from Google, because we all know every symptom of everything could be the common cold or you’re dead in seven days.

Listen: STAY AWAY FROM GOOGLE! (unless you need an answer to some trivia question like, “Who’s the best ping-pong player of all time?”)

I researched my brains out on how to heal the mind. Ordered supplements, read books and articles, listened to my NP on what were the best natural ways to balance my chemicals and feed my brain.

Vitamin D3
GABA
L-Theanine
Omega 3’s
5-HTP

I took them religiously, some of which I still do.

But, there was no magic pill. No right supplement combination that got me through. They were a great part and a good part, no doubt. Feeding my brain with good brain food was a step in the right direction. Talking walks in the sun were great as well. But, the biggest factor to my healing was…

 

Time.

 

You thought I was going to say Jesus, didn’t you? But, notice, I said factor. I didn’t say agent.

Here’s some fun dictionary stuff.

Factor: one of the elements contributing to a particular result or situation.
Agent: a person or thing or acts or has the power to act.

 

Time was indeed my greatest factor. It was one of the best elements that contributed to a result of healing. But, Jesus, he is the only person who had the power to act and heal.

In that time, I would fall and weep and tell him I couldn’t do it. I thought I would never be normal again. The fear and anxiety was too great and I just needed to move home to Oklahoma and drink wine and all would be okay.

FullSizeRenderBut, when the wine wore off and there were no boxes to be packed, I was still there with my fears, and my grief, and my depression. I think somewhere along the way in our super speedy way of living, we think that we can come through things faster, or that we should come through them really fast, and in a tweet sized way. Quick, short and easy. “This too shall pass” we say, but how long that takes is different for each of us. And usually, we want it to pass quickly.

There isn’t a day I can look to back and say, “Huh! I’m not a freak anymore!” I can’t tell you when the paralyzing grip stopped choking me, but I can tell you it did stop. I was persistent with God. I clung to Him and told Him I trusted Him over and over. I read the Word and had a few safe friends who knew what was going on. I confided in my mom. I saw a counselor and was honest with my husband. I sat. I stared. I read. I wept. I believed that God was greater than my situation and actually got to where I could say, “This won’t last forever.”

The fear let go.
The paralyzing cycle of what-if’s quit playing in my head.
The assurance of a faithful God even if my worst nightmare happened began to take the place of struggling to believe I would be normal again.
The grief of losing the life I thought I would have released, and I accepted this journey He had me on.
I quit waking up in knots.
I quit reaching for the bottle.
I relaxed.
Breathed.
Knew God.
Slept all night.
Smiled.

 

Laughed.

 

To open back up from being so tight in fear is like the slow opening like a flower to the sun. It’s a process, an unfolding, and exposure to the Truth-Light until you’re all the way open to the fresh goodness of God, a new perspective on life, and a newfound firm place to stand.

This is what coming out of fear feels like.

I won’t lie and say I never fear anything ever! because, well, I’d be lying. But, I can say that fear doesn’t call the shots. Fear doesn’t tell me that I’m crazy and that I’ll never be free. Fear no longer leads me through my day like a whipped puppy. Fear isn’t my boss, Christ and His Word are!

 

Your journey holding hands with depression and fear can come to an end.

Believe me.
And trust the Agent of healing through a long factor of time.

 

 

For a more in-depth look at how to be free from fear read Patsy’s book, You are More than You KnowAvailable on Amazon. Just click the book title!

Why We Don’t Pray

209I’ve sat silent before God, unable or unwilling to talk. He’s been in my heart’s peripheral, while being on my blog’s front page, my next tweet, my sunset Instagram.

I lift my hands before him in church, and then find myself looking around to see if anyone else has their hands up. Losers with your hands in your pocket! Don’t you know who we are singing to! *fixes shirt* Oh! I’m worshipping. La-tee-da! She’s pretty. I’m hungry. *guilt for the judgment filled loser thought*

I sit to pray and seek God for my life and others. *we need milk and creamer and some brussel sprouts* Thoughts fly through my head. *oh my word, it’s dirty under that couch!* Humanity wins over the spirit. The pull on my mind to pay attention and “fix my eyes on Jesus” can be annoying. I can be very mean to myself about how easy it is for me to bear the weight of the Beheadings in my chest, and in my next thought wonder how on earth I’m going to ever find the right pair of jeans!

We are tragic. We are messy. We are beautiful. We are full of hope. We are tired. We are wired. We are longing for things to be drastically different, and then are swallowed up in the joy that things can be calm and clean and the same.

We want to eat ourselves silly on books and blogs that feed a peaceful and carefree, full-of-Jesus, all-about-me life.

We want it easy. We so desperately wish things were easy! I know I do. I want the white-walled life with the right lighting and soft hues. I want the life that polishes Jesus and makes him my pillow, my comfort, my peace. We desire to have a kind-hearted, blissfully balanced life full of complementary colors coupled with the right chairs and blankets.

God, I want that.

But, it doesn’t fit what I see is the call to follow Christ in the Word. That? That’s messy. That’s challenging and wild and crazy and really irritating because it goes so much against what I want. And the mess in my heart is just messier. How desperate I am to surrender to him. Just give up because the more I say I am a Christ follower, the more I realize there is no pretty way to do it. And I want to do things his way more than I want the cushy life that begs for me to run after it. I really do want to follow him.

 

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There is indeed a time to center and let the Holy Spirit fill the space in my life that is nothing but all the space in me. There is no God-sized hole in my heart because God isn’t in the business of filling holes. He is in the business of fulfilling his glory in our lives. He wants to dominate. Take over the life he died for. Have complete control. Fill the fullest measure.

There are no God-sized holes. How trite. How dare we use such pathetic descriptions of what we are without God.

If we have any holes in us that need to be filled by God it should be the unending black hole of desperation for his presence. Moses did not even want to go the promised land without God. The promised land! All that was promised, all the dreams, all the hopes, all the stuff that God told him would be his was nothing if God was not there.

Can I say the same thing? If I looked just at tomorrow, just tomorrow, never mind any dream I may have, never mind any goal I might have prepared, would I say, “I cannot go to tomorrow if You are not with me.”

What does that say about my today? What does that say about what and how I pray? What does that say about my intimacy with Jesus? The answer to that question leads us to look at how personal and seriously we take this intimate, messy-life thing we call prayer.

Taking a few moments to take inventory on the reasons I haven’t prayed in the past (or not so distant yesterday), I came up with a short list.

 

Maybe we don’t pray because…

 

we do not think that He is everything we need, not only for us, but for the world. Is he really everything you need? Or do you “got this”? Could you remove God from all facets of your life and it look the same?

we are swimming in unbelief. We believe that our tomorrows rest on our shoulders. We believe that our talent, our charisma, our connections, our feeds, our blogs, our next thing, can be done in our power, our way. We believe he won’t come through, or that we couple our little strengths with his, like he is a spotter as we lift the weights of ministry. We believe certain things about God and other things about God for other people, but have a heck of a time believing things that he says in his Word about us.

we have been pacified and babied in our walks with Jesus. We have fed each other spoonfuls of grace and love and forgotten to drop on our knees, grab the arm of the person next to us, pull them down and spend our strength in prayer before a holy and awesome God. We’ve forgotten to chew on the sinew of maturity and be grown up in Christ.

we do not see needs beyond our own teeth. And those needs get tiresome and boring and we get sick of hearing ourselves ask for the same thing over and over and then when “it” doesn’t happen, we are pissed and he is a lousy provider.

we forget that we are filled with the Spirit, the same Spirit that hovered over the waters at creation. The same one that dropped life-fire on the men in Acts. The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead. The same Spirit that is sealed up in us and has the power to stop your breath just after you take the next one. We do not pray because we forget…and we grossly underestimate.

we are blinded by lights and shows of greatness. Great people writing great things and tweeting great stuff. We watch and like and retweet and laugh and applaude and then move on to the next thing like this blog post.

We do not pray because we give time to what really matters to us. Think about what you give your time to. What fills the ticking minutes of your day? I know what fills mine and, wow, I need to put that stupid phone down.

we do not know the Word of God. You cannot pray to a God you do not know and cannot pray for what he wants if you have no idea what his agenda is or what he has even asked you to pray.

we are ignorant. Ignorant because we go day to day without engaging in the tough news of life and putting that up against God’s Word. Ignorant because we do not practice prayer and learn more and more and more.

 

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These judgements are harsh, but I can only say them because I have lived every one of those. They are life-drainers. The only way we will every have a breakthrough in how and what we pray is when we have a breakdown of ourselves and a soul willing to be interrupted and overrun by the great God we say we serve.

We greatly, and I mean, greatly underestimate the power of prayer in our lives, and even more so in the outcomes of what can happen in the world. We dismiss it as something other people do and aren’t even sure about how to do it. But, we must pray. We must change the list of reasons we don’t pray and write a list of reasons that we do pray.

 

So…

We pray because

He is everything we need. Everything. 

we believe. We believe there is nothing in us, or given to us by him, that we can do without him. We believe that he is the only way we can do anything he has called us to. We believe and take him at his Word at every turn of the page and then we bow in prayer in belief that the Holy Spirit is making those things possible in our lives and in the world.

we realize we must grow in maturity and move beyond being babied and coddled and rise up in the power and strength afforded to us.

we see a world in need of Jesus and we have the power to give him to them. We can go and send people into the world, both down the street and into the places where the Gospel has never been heard. We can do that!

we have been given the power and the freedom to do so. Our enemies can take everything from us, but they cannot take the Spirit in us or our freedom to pray. Don’t squander that freedom now, use it like it could be threatened tomorrow.

we are filled with the mighty and awesome and powerful prayer-instilling and prayer-answering Holy Spirit who causes us to fight in the Spirit and know the Word of God so that we can stand against the enemy, send the forces of the Gospel into the darkness, and rise up in strength against persecution and hardship.

we forcefully humble ourselves to be caught up in the greatness of Jesus and not each other.

we realize the importance of it and we give our time and effort to it knowing that the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

we have ingested and digested the Word of God so deeply that we cannot not pray because of the truth that dwells in us. The Word of God shows us the greatness of God and we will make our mark in prayer because prayer is where courage is unleashed.

we are incredibly smart and ingenious men and women of God who will not let being ignorant of God’s Word stop us. We learn, we read, we understand, we go after knowledge of Christ in each other and in prayer.

We pray because we know the need is great and our hearts should be so full of fire for the name of God to be displayed that we can do nothing without prayer. We pray because we are so for certain that there is no greater need than the need to pray.

 

So, what do you do?

Find out what to pray.
Learn how to pray. (You’re you. It’s between you and him)
Join with others to pray.
Pray at church.
Pray at home.
Be aware and pray for others.

This list is almost endless. But, if we do not pray, I fear we cut of the very power afforded to us by the Holy Spirit. Will you join me in the great and mysterious wonder of humble and deliberate, life and world altering prayer?

At the end of the age, you’ll be glad you did.

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions, with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:18

You Do Not Believe God

photo 1-4Pick a table, any table. Or a couple of chairs. Or a couch. Maybe a restaurant. Just pick someplace where you have sat with or sat across from someone and you’re talking about God, His Word, what He has done, who Jesus is, prayer, etc. I’ve been here many times and heard something like this:

I just don’t know if God loves me.
I’m not sure God hears me when I pray.
I don’t know if God has a plan for me.
I still feel so guilty.
Why would God want to save me.
I don’t think God really cares about what is happening to me.
I’m not sure I can change.
I’ll never understand the Bible.
I’m just not gifted.

Ever heard or said any of these? Raise your hand.

To the person who has not followed Jesus ever, or the one that maybe has just become a believer, you can just go back to browsing or Instagram. This isn’t for you.

For you, the one who has been in church a thousand times, who has been a professed follower of Jesus for more than 5 years, who has sat in Bible study, gone to the conferences, read the books, watched the videos, listened to your pastor, had lunch with your Godly friends, I need you to keep reading. If you still say those things up there, or something similar and are still living in those kinds of thought processes, I have one thing to say to you.

You do not believe God.

I can only say that to you from experience, from facing what ever string of sentences I would say over and over to Him and to others, and then realizing that, according to the Word of God, I did not actually believe Him nor take Him at His word.

When I would say, “God doesn’t see me. I’m overlooked” I was actually professing that I didn’t believe what Scripture is crystal clear on. I was actually allowing what I felt to determine what I believed and how I then behaved. I was saying to God, “I know what your Word says, but because I have baggage, brought on by humans, I will go ahead with my tender broken feelings and believe that You act the same way, instead of taking You at Your Word and allowing Your Holy Spirit to transform me according to it.”

And you are doing the same thing.

Whatever line you say to yourself, or others, that is in direct opposition to the Truth of God’s Word is unbelief. It’s not that God has a problem, or that you need to work through something…again. It is that you need a face to face with God on your unbelief.

There is no pastor, no conference, no book, no self-help article that will convince you of what you’re dealing with. You’ve heard it a thousand times and then still…you wonder. It’s time for you to stop that. Get on your knees and confess your unbelief. Tell Jesus of how you have chosen to follow Him, but then have also chosen what to believe and not to believe. When you do this, when you say to Him, “Your Word says _____________, but I believe _______________, and I now chose to believe Your Word, regardless of how I feel, and let your Holy Spirit transform me” you will begin to see yourself become unattached to that unbelief. It will be replaced with a Truth fashioned by the Holy Spirit in you, for the Word of God teaches the Jesus is the Author and Perfector of our faith.

Believer, follow of Christ, rise up in faith! Look to the Word of God and believe it! If you say you have been found by God and have chosen to believe and follow Him, then take the whole package of faith! Let Him be all your fulfillment in faith! Believe Him and move on from your hang-ups and tragic lines of false belief. Our God has made plain in His Word an answer for every need you have. His name is Jesus and He has a plan in you to make His name famous in all nations.

Our enemy would like us to be so self-engrossed, so introspective, so ready for the next “fix” that we fail to see our true purpose here on earth: to know God and to go and make disciples. 

To know God is to be known by Him and there we find complete and joyful satisfaction. In that, we are compelled to go, go to our neighbors, help send others to the ends of the earth, or go ourselves.

We are not saved to sit and wonder if God’s Word is true. We are saved because a great and awesome God made a way for us to be delivered from death in Jesus Christ. This is the God you have said yes to and He is faithful to His Word.

Will you believe?
What lines do you repeat that mark your unbelief?

Why I Watched Him Die

Squaready20150206181548It popped up in my Twitter feed. I had heard about it all week and even read just a bit on the situation, but this link, this click, took me to the video.

I clicked on the play triangle. 22 some odd minutes appeared at the top. 22? Twenty-two minutes of this?

I sat on my piano bench and turned down the volume. I didn’t want to hear it.

I grabbed the little dot with my left index finger and moved the time line down to around 5 min. My heart rate increased. My stomach began to fill with anxiety. I knew what was coming. I let the seconds tick on.

The cage. One man standing in it in an orange uniform. Some distance away, another man, outside the cage stood facing him holding a torch.

Dear God, no. This can’t be real. It’s a reenactment. Surely, this clean, edited version complete with transitions and HD video capability isn’t the real thing.

I wanted that to be the case.

4 min.

The man outside the cage lit the torch and stooped over to light the wet line on the ground. It ignited and it sprinted to the man in the cage, covering him in seconds. His initial reaction was pathetic, like a child. Then, he put his hands over his eyes and left them there as the fire overwhelmed him.

The next moments were the ones I wanted to scream, vomit, beat someone to death because of what I was seeing.

Horrific.
Terrifying.
Evil and sadistic.

Thank God I had my volume down.

Why did I keep watching? I hit pause and stared out the window. My kids were running by me and someone was watching cartoons.

Play.

God!

He fell on his knees. His face. Oh Jesus. He fell over. A bulldozer came and poured concrete on the cage, putting out the fire and putting out the terror.

The screen stopped. It was over.

I rallied myself and told my family, “Hey. I’m going to take a walk! Be riiiiight back.”

That video is like porn. It will never, ever leave my conscious. It will forever be an image in my mind. A running video that will for sure pop in at the most unexpected times of life and at the least appreciated moments. I will hate it forever.

But, unlike the smut I’ve seen in my life, I don’t want it to go away. Sounds awful, right? But here’s why:

That image I now have in my mind is nothing new in this world. What happened to that young man is not the new thing our enemy is doing. They’ve always been doing it. What I witnessed, and nearly couldn’t stomach, is not something we should turn our eyes from. This is our enemy. And this is what they do, what he does. What these men did is our spiritual enemy’s agenda made manifest in their lives. What we witnessed is what our enemy would do to every one of us if he had the chance.

So, when the video was over, I got my shoes on, hit the pavement, and began blasting the heavens with prayer.

This image should push us to our knees. This image, this video, is one of the representations of not only a real enemy to our country, to our beliefs, but a spiritual enemy to all who call Christ King. An image like that will cause you to suck in air, bug out your eyes, and tempt you to cover your ears and scream, “NO! I will not see it!”

And I understand.

But, listen to me, that kind of torture, destruction, agony and evil is who we are up against. You think ISIS is bad? You think those guys have anything on our spiritual enemy?

We need to think again.

And we, the Church, need to wake up and get to battle. 

I prayed, not only for that young man’s family, (Dear God! Be close), but I also prayed that ISIS, and the men and women like them, would feel the wrath of God on behalf of His beloved. I want that. My flesh, my defense for mankind wants them to be wiped out.

But…. my prayer changed because I know a God who made a deadly decision to send His son in this world for crazy losers like that (like me). I do not want any man or woman to go to hell. I don’t wish the pain of our spiritual enemy on anyone, not even those men. I want more than anything for that man, holding the torch, the one who filmed it, the guys standing around, to know and face the one true God, repent in fear and trembling, and be made new in Jesus.

Impossible for us.

Not impossible for God.

I began to pray that God would send irritating and beautiful visions and dreams that would send those members (and the others like them) to a place of wild tantrums because they can’t get them out of their minds. I asked Him to send them visions of Jesus, much like what happened to Paul on the road to Damascus. I asked that He would do the impossible! And then I asked that He would provide a way for those Believers, who I know are there, to come face to face with those who have had the visions and dreams and explain to them what they saw and show them the One and Only True God.

A video like that, with all it’s horror, with all it’s disgusting violent content, did not make me shy away in fear, but it made me rise up in prayer! I can’t go to Iraq and try to reach ISIS with the Gospel. But I, a small, white Gentile in America, can use the power of prayer to ask for the impossible and the miraculous! Those men can’t stop me praying and calling out to my God for His wild love to bug the literal hell out of them! They can’t keep us quiet! They can’t stop us from crying out to God for Him to break the darkness and shatter the enemy!

While I am here, I will use the freedoms I have and spend my spirit on behalf of others. We are called to be the light of the world, to go and make disciples, to pray for our enemies, to listen to the Spirit, to know God’s will, and to fight.

If you can’t stomach the video, I understand. But don’t let something that you can’t handle deter you from facing the realities of this world.

Pray.
Get angry.
Use that anger to become a fighting force of God in Spirit and in truth.

Because…

Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Eph. 6

The “Be still and know that I am God” verse…and the part we overlook.

IMG_5414I like God. I mean I really like God. And, I like what the church teaches about God when it comes to me and my feelings. I like knowing He is good and kind and will give me peace. I love to feel His presence and know that He sees me and lives in me. I really, really like that about God.

I like knowing I’m saved and will live forever with Him. I like knowing I’m blessed and have the promises of God at my disposal. I like being called a daugher of a King and a chosen one. I like knowing Jesus is my Savior and my brother and that we already sit with Him in heaven. I really like knowing that this body will one day be awesome.

I love the idea of having God given dreams and goals. Good ideas. I like seeing people help other people who need it; hungry, lonely, old, rejected. I like seeing them know that Jesus loves them and died for them.

I like knowing I can pray to God anytime, anywhere, and I like knowing He hears me at all times. It’s like when my little kids come to me, I know they want something and I love that. It’s the same with God, and that makes me happy. I like knowing He will give me wisdom when I ask for it, and grow my faith. I like knowing He is a God of compassion and holiness.

All that makes me feel good, safe, protected.

All of those wonderful things, promised and real, are the most predominant thoughts in my life, and yet, there is a danger in that.

WHAT? What, you say?

Do you like this verse? “Be still and know that I am God;”?

I do. How many times have you heard that in context of needing peace or comfort? How many times has it been preached for when you need to calm down and reflect? How many times have you (and I) used it to get a grip or force ourselves to think about God and not ourselves (which is impossible, by the way. We cannot think of God and not think of ourselves, but that’s a different post.)

I mean, it says “Be still and know that I am God;” but there is more. There’s even a semi-colon at the end of that phrase indicating, “Hey, there’s more here. Keep reading.” But how many placards, posters, pictures, cards, Instagrams, Facebook posts do we just see the “Be still and know that I am God”? And man, we like that. The feeling that comes over us, and we sigh, and smile and keep going.

But what comes after that semi-colon? Do you know? Here, let me show you…Psalm 46:10 (the whole verse)

“Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, 
I will be exalted in the earth.”

The words, “Be still” don’t really mean, “Hey, calm down, breathe in deep, look at the sky and think about how God is God or how good He is to you.” Those words indicate, “Enough!” or “Stop!”. They also mean “to sink, to drop, relax, sink down, be disheartened” and know.

In other words, this isn’t a verse for us to say over and over in our heads so we can bring our heart rate down and hope to God our day goes better. This is a verse with much more powerful implications and more of a wake up call to God and His purposes, rather than a call for us to calm down and take a breather. It is His own words calling out that our enemies will be silenced and know He is God. It is His own words calling out to His people to stop and sink into His greatness in the world. To realize and feel the weight of this thing of global glorification. It is a heavy, awesome, and powerful thing.

When God says, “Be still, Enough! Stop! and know that I am God” and then says, “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth”, I don’t see anything that has to do with me getting a word from God, or a peaceful sensation coming over me that everything will be okay. I also do not see that verse having really anything to do with me… or us. I see that is has everything to do with God, and His declaration of Himself. It is a call to sink down in ourselves and know that He is the world-saving, all-knees-will-bow God. A call not to stop and sigh and reflect on what God means to us, but a call to stop and contemplate and understand what God means to the world and what He will expect from it.

In our self-centered, modern day, Americanized church, we have fashioned a culture around the wonderful and powerful things of God that make us feel good about ourselves.

We even take verses out of context and make them pacifiers. God is not a pacifier, He is a mighty, powerful, wrathful, you’re-saved-by-my-Son God!

He is a satisfier, on His terms, and for His glory. 

This Gospel promises peace, yes, but that does not mean we have carefree lives. (this makes us squeamish).

This Gospel promises that I will be filled with the Spirit of Christ, but not just for my introspection and calculated goals of trying to be like Christ (but, we have crap to fix, I know, except we can’t fix them, and around we go.)

This Gospel promises that He is great things planned for us, but only when it has to do with the expansion of His Kingdom (we kinda miss this and call it dreams).

This Gospel comes with the Spirit of God, given to us for the task of making disciples. Oh! The wonder that comes with His Spirit is beyond our comprehension, but not beyond our interaction and grasp! But, He is not for us to just feel okay and sane. He is in us for His name’s sake. He doesn’t change us for just our own satisfaction (though, that is amazing!), but He changes us for His glorification, for His name’s sake.

His name’s sake.

His.

And His alone.

We must wake up as a church, stop stuffing ourselves with self-helps and fattening ourselves on what makes us feel good. Only Christ can do that, but it comes with a calling, a command. It comes with the charge of taking Christ to the nations. It’s not a good idea, it’s His idea, His plan, His goal… and it will happen.

“Be still. (Enough! stop! Feel the weight. Know.) that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.

Do you read it a little different now? Me too. And I like it.
Now, what do we do about it?
What do I do about it? Still working on that, and I like that too.

God Talking

photo-3How many times have you sorta looked around after “hearing” something that might be from God and mumbled, chin down, in your chest, “Uhh, was that You or me?” Raise your hand. Me too.

But, you see, I’ve come to the place when I know He is talking to me. I mean, I’ve come to a place (though His teaching and my humility) that I can discern when He is speaking, probably about 88.7% of the time. I’m not bragging, I’m just telling you where I have come with Christ.

If I tell people that I hear God, I usually get a few responses:

“He doesn’t do that with me.”
“How do you knooooowww it’s Him?”

Or I don’t get a response, but more of a look. A look like, “Wait. You hear Him?” or, more of an inquisitive look like someone is trying to read more on my face than what is coming out of my mouth. Sometimes I get the “Yeah, right.” look. I don’t like those people so I give them the stink eye back.

Intimacy.
Hearing God.
Knowing His voice and His will for us.

How did I get here? Funny you should ask.

Time. Years. Months. Days. Hours. Minutes. Days. Days. Days. I’m not saying it takes years to hear the Father. I’m saying it takes building a relationship and knowing the Word of God. That takes time.

Study. I not only studied the Bible, but I read books on prayer and, more importantly, the Holy Spirit. A good one to read is by Andrew Murray, The Indwelling Spirit. If you know me, you’re not surprised that I mention him…again.

Quiet. It takes a settling of the mind. A turning in to the belief that you have the Holy Spirit of God in you. In that quietness, you will pave the way to knowing when He is speaking to you and when you are having a conversation with yourself. (On that note. Sometimes, a rational conversation with what seems to be yourself, is probably the Holy Spirit. I’ll often ask myself, “Could I have thought of that or ministered to myself in that way?” Usually, when the answer if no, then the Holy Spirit is speaking.)(Sometimes talking to yourself is just that. And that’s cool. I do that all the time. “Where are my keys?” I ask. “I don’t know,” I say. “Dang,” we say together.)

Faith. These things are in faith. Faith. F A I T H. Not feeling. Not even understanding, nor knowledge. Faith. Something I learned was that faith didn’t always equal a feeling that went along with it; nor did a feeling mean I was full of faith. Faith is a “yes” to what God says regardless of how we feel about it, or how we feel period. Yes, there are emotions, thank God, and yes, the Spirit of God produces emotions in us, but He resides in our spirit, in the deep, unseen spiritual places where emotion is only a by-product, not a litmus test. He lives and dwells in the mystery, so waiting for your emotions to prove that is not faith. I had to learn to trust that He was doing His work, and then I could trust that I would have those things promised.

Are you willing to take God at His word when He says:
You have the mind of Christ? (1 Cor. 2:16)
Or, that you can know His will? (Rom 12:2)
Or that you can walk in step with the Spirit? (Gal. 5:25)
Or that the Spirit of Christ dwells in you reminding you of all Christ taught? (John 14:26)
Or that He is the Counselor, counseling you in wisdom and truth? (John 14:26, John 16:13)
Or that you have Him because you believed, not because you obey the law? (Gal. 3:5)
Or that you can live by the Spirit and not be full of sin? (Gal. 5:16).
Or that you have the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that you may know God better? (Eph.1:17).

 

These four things cultivated a heart, mind and spirit in me that can hear and receive Word from God. I will say this, my primary knowledge of God’s will and His heart and what His requirements are of me and the Church come from His Word. The Holy Spirit cannot do His work within our lack of knowledge of the Word of God. Nor will the Word of God be able to do the penetrating work of change and power in us without the Holy Spirit.

I would challenge you to explore these four things for yourself. Add journaling in there, for sure.

Through this, you will find that you are less worried about your future, more comfortable in your own skin, sure of your purpose, and happy in your relationship with God.