Saturday, December 31, 2011
This season has been packed with research, experiments, casual interviews picking ones brain, experiences, meditation, and revelation. I feel as though I've learned so much from God through the word, nature, other people, and my own imagination. This has been an incredible time of sorting through and holding on to the source of truth in all things. I'm very excited to share all of these things with you in the coming year!
In addition... God is leading me to get a few more certifications while I'm home in the U.S. before stepping into the long-term vision. For the first time ever... I finally feel as though I'm truly walking out God's destiny for my life. Although the foundation of His will for all of our lives is to know the character and nature of God, love Him with all our hearts, minds, soul... BE a son/daughter of the King, and follow Him wherever He leads - loving and serving those around us... I also believe that He has put desires, hopes, dreams, passions and gifts in all of us! Not to use these things for ourselves to climb a ladder, but to use them for the body!!! And when we are in unity as the body- seeking the WHOLENESS of who God created us to be, then can you imagine the impact that will make on our relationship with Him and His relationship with the world????
So where do we begin? Well, for myself I've decided to use this day to purge, simplify, detox, and clean. I'm spending this day before 2012 begins to ask God to come into my body, mind, soul and give me a fresh start. Just like every cell in our body must be detoxed before it can be nourished... I want EVERYTHING to be empty so He can fill it! I want to make ROOM for God to move in my life and in the world!
First practical step: CLEAN out the closets. (If you do this try not to just throw stuff away... there are more sustainable ways of handling this process, haha... suggestions: check out pinterest.com, look for places/people you can donate too, or save it for the garage sale "Families Outreach" is having in march to raise money!!!) Not only does this simplify your life, but it's known to remove clutter in your mind too!!!
First REAL step: PRAY and worship... repentance is the best detox one could possibly do! But ask God to come in and hit the reset button for you today. As you clean out your life...ask that He clean out all of you :)
Step two: I've already written down 3 main things that are apart of the make-up of me. Example: Justice, Photography/Journalism, and Health and Wellness. This is how God made me. These things stir up a passion in my soul that cannot be quenched. You get me talking about them and I can hardly stop! Haha. As I've gotten older and traveled a bit, I now see how God is using them for the body and the world. If we do not take part in the things God knit into our soul then i believe pieces of us begin to die and we become depressed. Once I wrote down these things I began to make goals for the year that fit into these categories. My goals/visions are not limited to these things but sure do help me stay focused! When we are able dream with God on these things with a self-less attitude the possibilities are endless!!! Something God created inside all of us wakes up! Then when we can work together on things... how much more beautiful is the outcome. Some of my goals this year involve things to create, things to learn, areas to get certified, missions to go on, "wholeness" weekends to facilitate, and half-marathon's to run!
Step 3: Whole Body Detox. As I'm finishing up the "90" day blog I'll be doing a real body cleanse. I think that when we do things in the physical it directly effects the spiritual and vice verse. I also believe that in order to be strong and fit to do what God has called us to do... I need to make healthy lifestyle decisions. What better way to kick off the new year!!!
There will be about 10 days left of this blog and then I'm moving into "spiritual disciplines". I'll explain more on that later, but the basic idea will be to focus one spiritual discipline at a time to really study, understand, and experience it. I want to see God's heart and design for us walking those out. I will be going through the "Celebration of Discipline" by Richard Foster if you'd like to join me.
If you haven't read the bible through, you might want to try the "90 day" challenge I just did. And of course, you have complete freedom to do your own version of that. Keep in mind the "wholeness" perspective and look into adding pieces that create a healthy atmosphere and challenge for your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual.
I'd love to hear from you all!!! I'd love it even more if you want to join me in any of this! I am so excited to share more with you very soon on what God did in New Zealand the past few months... and what is in store for 2012. I am SO grateful for ALL of your prayers, thoughts, encouragements and support!!!! THANK YOU SO MUCH AND HAVE A WONDERFUL NEW YEAR!!!!! God's got a LOT in store for you and the world, we are so blessed to be a part of it!!!
Sunday, November 20, 2011
Before we get started here.. I have a few questions. Have you ever sat down and intentionally tried to clear your mind of all the busyness and commotion going on up there? If the silence was actually achieved to some degree, did you have a chance to listen? I imagine this act would probably be considered meditation. I feel like those times... when i'm not being taught something by someone else or analyzing a situation... are the times when i learn the most. God can and does often speak through people. He uses the stories we read in the word of God and their old-school miraculous circumstances, as well as modern-day folk like your pastor, neighbor, or the homeless guy across town. But how often do we give Him the chance to speak directly into our soul by the quietness we facilitate within us?
I've been thinking about this a lot lately. The opportunities in life we have to either allow toxic things in, remain neutral, or allow God to nourish us. Daily living is infused with things that will create a toxic build-up in our system that make it difficult for God to really infect us with His goodness. So, just like with our body... we need to treat our mind as good as our vehicles that need a nice little washing from time to time. Every day would be prime... but a few hours of solid meditation a week would probably impact your life at a capacity you could never dream of.
Last week I spent one of my evenings with a friend watching the movie "Tree of Life". If you are used to following "hollywood" flicks, then you'd more than likely be frustrated with this film. It doesn't stick to normal movie guidelines leaving the average art guru over analyzing the thing to death. I finally got to a point where I had to tell myself to shut-up and just watch. Even though the plot didn't flow with a natural pattern, it was creatively pleasing to the eye and intelligently whispered into your soul. Once I decided to sit back and actively use my eyes and ears instead of my mouth and brain I enjoyed it fully. That was the moment when I began to see the characteristics God come through. I then started to see life and death revealed in many forms...the beauty, the destruction, the conflict of grace and nature, corruption and conception, and the source of all truth.
The next day I had the unique opportunity to sit down with the speaker of the week who has pioneered a few things through YWAM as well as spends most of His time memorizing the word and teaching on that. One of his "methods" is to just read the word over the audience. He mentioned how funny it can be to watch the many faces change. Some just listen, others are a bit confused, some are irritated, and then there are a few who become a little uncomfortable. A lot of the mixed reaction comes from our modern-day culture where we almost expect to be taught something by someone who knows more than we do on the subject. Then another reason could be that we are just trying so hard to figure it out that we don't know how to simply rest in it and let the words wash over us. This is something that could be a bit awkward at first... but very beneficial to the soul as God's character begins to be revealed to you in the quietness of your mind.
The closer in proximity we walk towards God the more we are impacted by His love. His love never changes, but our spiritual location can. The more we are overwhelmed with His love, the deeper our gaze becomes and the more His character is revealed.... and the more like Him we become. The other day I was sitting in the prayer room in silence asking God to clear my mind of all these temporary distractions. All the sudden I heard a guy say, "Lord, I want to gaze upon your beauty." Then the revelation began to flow. I realized that as we look upon Him intently He does something eternal.
The more we gaze upon you, the more like you we become.
The more we gaze updon your beauty, the more beautiful we become.
The more we gaze upon your truth, the more truthful, integrous and trustworthy we become.
The more we gaze upon your salvation, the more we are filled with grace for others and ourselves
The more we gaze upon your broken cross, the more humbled we become.
The more we gaze upon your stripes, the more healed we become.
The more we gaze upon your resurrection the more freedom we walk in on earth.
And the more we gaze into your eyes, the more we become overwhelmed with a love so awesome and are able to love in ways the world can not understand.
He is worthy of our gaze because of WHO He is. Sit and be His child in a time of silence. Offer up your adoration because He is good. Let go of everything else. Breathe out your worry, fear, insecurity, questions, and lies. Breathe in ALL of Him... let Him wash over you with His truth... bringing freedom and healing in all areas... and be changed for eternity.
B90: (Acts 17- 28:31)
"The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for 'In him we live and move and have our being'". Acts 17:24-28
Paul's journey is quite an adventurous one. I have friends right now in Turkey that are pioneering a new school through YWAM that actually follows his footsteps. Something I think we forget is that Paul was actually a regular human being just like us but with even more intense problems, extreme conditions, and seemingly impossible missions. So when I read the message He spoke above I realize that this is something He actually had to live through in order to speak it as truth. He knew those things were true because He KNEW the character of the God that he spoke of. He let God speak for himself... He let His words and truth wash over Him, and then He released those words with power and authority.
"He entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God." Acts 19:8
I encourage you to actively silence the world around you for a moment today letting it be the most valuable thing you do. Sit in His wonder as His character of love, beauty, truth, health and life wash over you. God wants to nourish ALL of you with Himself. Let us worship Him in every single thing that we do... and have something so much deeper to give. Wow, we have SO much to be thankful for.
Friday, October 28, 2011
I know it's been a good chunk of time since I've written in this blog, and i've deeply missed it and you. If you've had a chance to read my update recently you may have seen a little bit about what God is doing in my life here in this country of New Zealand. With this blog I plan to go even deeper into what He's been doing in my heart. My prayer is that you continue to find it encouraging and challenging at the same time. I must warn you because it's not always a lovely journey (most of the time quite painful)... but what I'm finding is that it's always a beautiful outcome if I hand over control to Him and patiently wait for His purpose in it all while clinging to His cloak in complete and utter dependency.
It often seems that when I leave my comforts and securities of home is when my real desperate needs begin to arise. At home I tend to cling to those things I can rely on like trusty friends, family, and other things that will temporarily fulfill the need or disguise the discomfort. I suppose we all have needs at a deeper level that we are unaware of until certain circumstances expose them... and when it happens, it's not a pretty site. But now i'm discovering that it's a perfect opportunity to find an intimacy with the Father that might otherwise be missed. He loves us SO much and desires for us to go on that journey with Him; but very few will find the time, energy, courage, or strength to walk down that road. Why? Because it requires much and proves little to the world. The only reward (that is of any true eternal value) is the one that's found in that quiet place of intimacy with the source of all Life. Out of this place is where all good things will flow.
The reason this is such an important topic for me this week is because it's been something I'm seeking and honestly struggling with because of the daily sacrifice it requires of us. Another reason is probably because the speaker on the school this week was Dalton Lifsey from the Tauranga House of Prayer in the north island of New Zealand. Dalton carries the message and annointing of intimacy with the Father wherever He goes. Something they do in the prayer house, which we also practiced here, is sit in a time of "Adoration" every morning for 2 hours in silence and meditation before the Lord praising and adoring Him for who He is. They read, write and reflect over His goodness spending quality time in His presense. It is a beautiful time of quieting your earthly mind and directing all good things to Him... especially the ones we can't fathom or understand.
During this time Dalton started singing a song that gripped my heart, and i want to share the chorus with you:
For my shame you give me romance,
and for my dirt you give me a wedding dance.
For my rags you give me riches,
and for my scars you give me kisses.
For my filth you give me treasure,
and for my pain you give me pleasure....
for me you give me YOU, for me you give me YOU.
This song reminds me that even when we give the Father our crap... He gives us something beautiful to replace it. What if then we turn back to Him and lift up the beautiful things too? What if we also blessed Him with words of adoration and praise... in addition to the things we don't want in our life? Certain things should be easy to let go of and for some reason are still hard because it's all we know. What if those things that hurt us and stand in the way of that intimacy became easy to release... and we moved on to letting go of things we truly adored? Including His promises. We need to trust that He is who He says He is ALL of the time. He is good ALL of the time... whatever the circumstances we have the choice to push through to see His goodness. That is our earthly disposition. Jesus was a perfect example of this. So why do we settle for anything less?
Something a friend of mine said a few weeks ago at the YWAM family gathering has really stuck with me. He said, "Jesus didn't die so we could have a relationship with the Father, he died so we could have HIS relationship with the Father." No matter how deep my lonliness and insecurities seem at times, His design is to take us deeper and deeper into His heart for us. And when we allow Him to do that we find something so extremely valuable that causes us to cling onto Him even more. Jesus represented this so well. He never needed recognition for himself, only pointed to the Father. He also trusted Him when things got a little (or a lot) sticky. The closer in proximity I walk towards Him the more these deep needs are exposed so that He can fulfill them; because no one else on earth can possibly reach the core of our being other than the one who knows His way around in there. So many times i've settled for being an aquaintance of God (like a lot of our FB friends... ) rather than moving into this intimate relationship I know He desires and I know our soul deeply longs for (whether we are fully aware of it or not).
I'm painfully being shown through this process that, in the past, i've placed way too much value on the recognition of others in what I do rather than knowing God, being recognized by Him, and caring what He thinks about me. Earthly titles, roles, and positions are always overshadowed by the heavenly purpose we find in Him as we discover our role as a son/daughter who is loved to the nth degree. Nothing, nothing, NOT A SINGLE THING on earth can possibly even come close to replacing this.
Today, I sit here alone in the back yard (in a completely different hemisphere) writing to you. Everyone else on our base is off celebrating a wedding, spending time at a conference, or visiting a beautiful south island town. My options are: I could sit in misery reflecting on the fact that i'm alone, possibly forgotten by human friends, and quite possibly being thought of by no one else on earth at this moment. But all of this would only lead me to the place of apathy which will impair the way I see and treat the world. On the other hand... I could sit alone... KNOWING that God has not forgotten me, rejected me, or abandoned me. HE KNOWS MY NAME. He knows YOUR name. He cares about every single little thought that's going on in your head and every broken place in your heart. Most of the time the others have not forgotten you either... we are just believing lies... but more importantly He wants to take us to that place of complete dependency on Him. When He does, no matter what circumstances we may find ourselves in on earth, we will be able to stand confident in our identity as His child and be able to minister and love on others from this place of freedom so they too might know Him.
B90: (John 16:5- Acts 6:15) I was just re-reading Chapter 17 of John titled "the high priestly prayer" in my bible. This is a chapter I think that I could read over and over and only truly comprehend a very small percentage of it's worth. Take some time if your'e able to sit and meditate on these words of Jesus to the Father reflecting the deepest parts of God's heart for the world.
Jesus speaking to Father, "But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sandtified in truth." Ch.17: 13-19 "I made known your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them." vs 26.
Wow... even if you just read this part I realize just how much other meaningless stuff in this world can consume my time compared to the rich heritage we have in the Father through the Son and our continued purpose in this world to know Him and make Him known. More than anyone else on this earth Jesus had "rights of recognition" and didn't even use them. Why? Because He was not called to make himself known... but he was born, lived, died and rose again to make God known. And again, he would not die just so we could have a pretty good relationship with God... but so we could have HIS relationship with Him... "the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them." How amazing is that? Are you guys getting what I'm getting here? Sometimes I still can't believe that the divine, holy, righteous, and ever-lasting God of the universe and beyond actually wants to connect with us on a relational level (and while we are fallen humans!!!) I guess God could've told us to believe in Him, follow all the rules and He'll have a relationship with us when we get to heaven..... but he didn't! He sent His son to not only show us how but to make a way for it. He desires it now and forever more. Woweeee that's cool.
And I'll never stop loving this passage, just can't read it enough. What would happen if we really really really did live like this? This would be something great to really meditate on this week :)
The fellowship of the believers: "And they devoted themselves to the apostles; teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And AWE came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. and all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and disributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. and day by day, attending the temmple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved." Acts 2: 42-47
Health and Wellness: I know I haven't talked about this a lot lately but it's still very much a part of the "wholeness" mindset that I think is foundational in our walk. If we want to truly experience the fullness of God in us...then it's simple, the less of us = more of Him. The more we allow Him to "detox" us mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally... the more room their is for Him to nourish every area. We've been looking more into that while i've been here on this YWAM base in New Zealand. What does this look like for people across the globe in the poorest of situations to the first world. And the more I search the word, my own heart and ask others for wisdom... i find that He wants freedom and healing for every part of everyone. This happens when the Holy Spirit comes in and sets us free by the power of God. We also need to be realize that the enemy will try and cheat His way into you whether it's through negative messages in the media, dark movies, bad music, toxic food, supressed emotions, mental blocks, lies we've believed... etc etc etc. Being aware of this (but not obsessing over them) and letting God do His work to purify and wash over us so He can consume!!! I'm always learning so if you have any insight, wisdom, encouragment, or schooling in these areas PLEASE pass it on. God is for us!!! Love you all :)
Friday, October 7, 2011
The reason why I'm going back to New Zealand? Well... I've been serving with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) on and off since 2007. For the past couple of years God has given me even more vision, passion and excitement for the lost and broken world. Some of the areas I believe He's desiring me to focus on are: health and wellness, wholeness, self-sustainability, natural medicine, gardening, stewardship, etc. All of these things, I believe, are important for physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual strength and health. I also see how all of these support each other and how God does desires freedom and healing in all areas of our life.
I'm excited to return to New Zealand for several months to A)foster the vision for possibly starting a new discipleship training school with some of this focus B)learn more about each of these things as i walk alongside wise folks who are willing to teach me C)implement some things I've been learning here D)continue to serve the base and local community in any way (lots of earthquake relief in Christchurch still do be done as well) E) do some evangelism throughout the south island F) and I'm goin cuz God called me!!! haha.
I feel as though God has revealed to me many cool things this year while I've been at home in the U.S. A lot of times in missions we are called to 'give fish away', asking or looking for nothing in return... but simply because He called us to. Then other times we are called to 'teach a man to fish'. But recently God has been showing me how we can not only 'teach a man to fish' but also 'teach that man how to give his fish away'. This has really got me thinking a lot about the way we view mission work.
Most of us who live the gospel understand and see how God blesses the heart of generosity. I mean, it's cool if we give out of obedience... but even cooler and more trusting if we go above and beyond what we believe we are "supposed" to give. Or if we step out on faith to give... knowing that He will provide for our own needs. Something happens when we begin to have an open handed policy with everything we've been given; the more we give, the more we really do receive... and it's not always money. But if our hands are tightly closed we miss out on the special love exchange that happens by being apart of that giving/receiving process.
This got me thinking about the ones in the world we would consider poor and needy. Sometimes we are called to feed them and/or teach them how to grow their own food. But what if we show them that they too can be generous and giving with what they have. A friend of mine in Nashville runs a homeless ministry downtown. The whole group that goes with him serve once a week down there by making many meals and feeding their bellies. One of the greatest things that has come out of this (other then their need to eat) is the community that has been formed. Through this the group has been able to step into each of their lives and climb into their story. Now, these people who may not have a home DO have a family who believes in them. Recently we've been brainstorming about a way in which they can get the homeless to help them raise money for Africa. We are both feeling like this could be the next step in homeless ministry. Perhaps, they will begin to catch the blessing of being able to give to others even in their desperate need and watch as God continues to provide. What a testimony that would be to people who (compared to them) seem to have everything.
If you could please be praying for me over the next few months, especially the next few days. There's always attack that comes right before I leave for missions... and yesterday wouldn't you know after over a whole year of being healthy, I got sick :( It was such a weird thing that came over me very quickly. I slept all day yesterday and think I fought off most of it! Praise God!!! Unfortunately, I'm a little behind on everything. Shooting a wedding all day tomorrow, still need to clean, pack, and work out some details. Then I leave bright and early Sunday morning! I know God's in complete control... just pray for rest and peace in Him. Because of all this and the traveling I probably won't pick up the blog again until next week sometime. I appreciate your prayers, encouragement and LOVE! I pray that God continues to speak to your heart about how much He absolutely loves you as His child! ~lins
P.s. If you'd like to be on my email update list please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
One man in particular I met today has been walking/ hitch hiking for 3 months making his way from California to the east coast. This man... William... has now been in Jonesboro, Ar. for 3 days. Immediately when He sat down my friend and I simultaneously noticed the spiritual baggage he was carrying almost before we noticed his physical baggage. This man was weary, tired, beat up, and lonely. He'd been rejected, mocked, and taken advantage of. He sure did talk about his problems a lot... but He also talked about His LOVE and hunger for the word of God. He seemed as though His bitterness was just about to get the best of him and he was about to give up on the human race. God's grace had been sustaining Him thus far and He knew it... but my friend and I both new He had places in his heart that had been scarred on this bumpy road that needed to be healed. He knew the truth forwards and backwards, but He needed a divine intervention. I got a picture of Jesus in the wilderness being tempted and Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane and then God sending angels to minister to His weary soul afterward. I felt as though that was what God was doing in that very moment. Not that we were his angels, but that He was allowing this man to rest in His presence and softening the rough edges right in front of our eyes! It was crazy to see the difference in Him when he got up to leave. I knew we had all 3 been in the presence of angels sent straight from God to love on us and fill us back up with Him.
One of the things the man carried around with Him was a sign that simply said : THANKS. At first I thought it was so cars would pick him up or something but then I realized it was for God. He said that He holds it up to heaven every single day in adoration and praise for a God who provides for all His needs moment to moment. This man truly knows what it's like to live on faith alone. So although He may have walked away refreshed... I walked away with an extra measure of faith and encouragement to let more of my "stuff" go.
One of the most profound things I think I heard Willy say was: "When you attack someone that satan has crippled then he gets double the victory". This got us talking about how we interact with broken people all day long... in some areas of our lives we are too. What i mean is that we are not and will not be made perfect until that glorious day... but we DO have the opportunity for more freedom and healing in our lives until then. If the enemy is the father of all lies, and he seeks to kill, steal and destroy... then everyone we encounter that has broken places has probably believed a few of those lies. In some ways they are crippled by the enemy if they sit and act out of a victim mentality.
The lies are toxic and will make our spirits sick, weak and susceptible to more lies. Sometimes we take it upon ourselves to gossip, say or think mean things, or even shut a person completely out because of whatever reason we deem worthy through earthly measures. Most of the time we did not agree with what they did or how they acted. But does that act deserve the same in return? We have no more rights because their disappointing act came first... and we are responsible for our own action or response no matter what they've said or done. This is very CLEAR in the word and revealed in the heart of God. He is the judge, not us. Most or all victimizers are victims themselves.... but it's more or less a series of lies they've believed that have enslaved them allowing outside circumstances to control their internal feelings which control their response to life.
Have you ever thought or said these things? "Well they're an adult.. they should know better" , or "i can't believe a christian would act like that", or "i really thought they were raised right", or "that poor girl, she never had a chance", or "how dare they treat me like that, i'm...." the list goes on and on and on. I know at least I have shamefully thought some of these at some point in my life. This could be a clear indication that a) we feel as thought they've made their bed and deserve to lie in it (no grace or humility) b) we think we have certain "rights" because of certain earthly positions c) we don't see their need for freedom and healing rather see them as just evil people d) or perhaps we don't even desire for them to have more freedom and healing in their lives... or desire to see them stand in a place of victory rather than a victim.
I'm sure I'm leaving some stuff out here, but all I'm asking is that we walk into the light ourselves and choose to see with His perspective rather than our own. You see... as followers of Christ it IS very possible to be unoffendable. In fact, we need more believers who KNOW their Dad so well and have so much confidence in their position as His kids that they are saddened by these things rather than effected by them. We REALLY don't have to take things personal. I know it sounds crazy... but it's true!!! I used to be so insecure in who I was trying to be instead of claiming who God created me to be... and said I believed and loved and followed Him... but never really walked it out in obedience and truth. During this time I was so controlled by my emotions and feelings that just about everything hurt me. I was always a victim. Sometimes I even feel those lies creeping back in... but that's when we have to take control of those thoughts, throw them out with the trash, walk in the opposite spirit and get filled back up with the truth!
Walking in the opposite spirit: what does this mean exactly? I know I talk about it often. Basically when we are feeling, thinking, or saying crap things... we are INSTEAD to choose to believe the truth of what God says and speak that into fruition! The truth is what He desires for us and THAT is what will set us free! Right? So we must walk in that truth! It's ok to not FEEL great or to be honest with where you are at :) In fact that is healthy!!! Suppressing those things can actually be harmful. We just need to sift it through the perspective he gives us in the word, take it all to Him, hold it up to the truth and if it doesn't align we take it captive before it takes us captive!!!
And then all of this talk got me and my friend talking more about what God reveals in His word. Sometimes I hear people say..."I will do this, or that, when God reveals it to me". Or they might say, "That's good for you... but He hasn't revealed that to me yet." I understand there is a certain truth to that statement and it fully depends on what the other person is saying in that particular conversation. But the point I'm trying to get across... is sometimes we are waiting for God to come inside our house, sit down on the couch, and personally reveal how He wants you to live. Again, I understand there are specifics that sometimes we DO wait on the Lord for certain things. But what He's been showing me is that He's revealed it ALL of what we need to know and how to live in and through His word already. And what He's revealed in the word (whether we've read it or not) WE ARE ACCOUNTABLE for.
I've always heard that with my ears, but never quite understood it with my heart until I began this 90 day journey thing. All I know is that before I really dug in, I spent a heck of a lot of time comparing my life to others lives instead of to the word of God. I figured I was pretty "safe" if I lived a life marginally better than someone else. But I'm telling you... we are in serious trouble if we are not meditating on the truth and are measuring our walk according to the performance or velocity of others. How then will we really know the sneaky lies when they are approaching or if we truly are out of line? Reading the word more does not make you a "better christian" or more loved by God... because He already loves you at heavenly max. But He does command us to and obedience is His love language, so..... I dunno. I'll let you draw your own conclusions. It's simple: we obey Him because we love Him... and we love Him because He FIRST loved us EXTRAVAGANTLY.
This afternoon I got to go see "Courageous" with my good friend. I always tend to think those movies are going to be a little hokey, but it was really good actually. One of my favorite scenes was when the family was sitting around the table saddened by a terribly tragedy. The son says something revealing His guilty conscious and deep sorrow for his actions. The dad immediately gets up from the table, runs over to his son and wraps his arms around him and says, "I love you son... no matter what you've done, I love you." It was something along those lines... but they all just sat there hugging and sobbing. The dad's tears for his son probably ran down to his son's face as they embraced. I suddenly got a picture of the God of the universe doing the same for us every time our heart is broken, or realize our own human shortcomings, confess and run to Him. Before we can even get up out of our chair I see Him running over to us, tears streaming as He confirms this love He's always had for us and always will.
B90: (John 6:16- 16:4) I found a few parts of this very interesting but what stuck out to me the most was the mystery of what Jesus wrote in the sand that day in John Ch.8 vs 6-8. I was looking around the internet to see what theories were out there and one in particular really caught my eye. I've never been to seminary so I'm not sure what they're teaching... but this little theory is intriguing to me. (Keep in mind, it is JUST a theory).
John 7:37-44 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. Therefore many from the crowd, when they heard this saying, said, “Truly this is the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Will the Christ come out of Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was?” So there was a division among the people because of Him. Now some of them wanted to take Him, but no one laid hands on Him.
Jesus teaches on the living waters, He is rejected by some that wish to kill him for it. The next chapter (not sure if it’s the same day or weeks later, but I imagine the events are close together in time and chronological.
John 8:3-11 Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
This is all great, but where’s the link?
Jeremiah 17:13 O Lord, the hope of Israel, All who forsake You shall be ashamed. “Those who depart from Me Shall be written in the earth, Because they have forsaken the Lord, The fountain of living waters.”
Is it possible that John 7-8 are a fulfillment of this prophesy and Jesus was writing their names in the sand? Hmmm, very interesting! Maybe you have seen this before, but it is new to me and I find it fascinating!
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Over the years I've had a few friends who have told me about these "silent retreats" and the amazing benefits of going to one. I trusted what they had said... but hadn't felt the urgent need to attend. UNTIL right around last fall when I was completely desperate for some word from the heavenly realm! I had been home from my missional travels for several months now... was still not in the best physical shape, pretty bad emotional shape, and an ugly place mentally and spiritually. I didn't feel at all like myself, and I knew it... which was driving me mad! What was worse, was that I was doing everything I knew to do to try and get out of that darkness... all I could do was wait. Around winter I started researching this silent retreat thing and started talking with the woman in charge of it who graciously offered me a scholarship if I would come. As I drove up to the most enchanting place I'd ever seen tucked away in the hills of Tennessee I was overwhelmed with a sense of peace.
The last thing my mentor told me (on the phone) before I walked in the center was, "Lindsey, you're just gonna have to LIVE it before you can write about it." Just a few days before this... right in the middle of all of the darkness, God gave me the title to the book that I knew I was going to write since I was a young girl. I know I've shared some of the ideas in these blogs but the basic premise of it being God's desire to detox our whole selves- mind, body, soul, spirit. I truly do believe that the WHOLE picture matters because it is all so connected. And what exactly does He need to detox us from? Well... the sin or toxins we allow in, the toxic things that just happen to us (i.e. abandonment, rejection, etc) and we hold on to, the lies we've believed about Him, ourselves and others; basically the "hell" that we see, hear, suppress, believe and live.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is what enslaves us. But when He comes in and breaks us free... we must FILL up with His love, grace, hope and truth or more "hell" will make it's way back into that place and fill up the space. This is how we truly live from a place of victory rather than with a victim mentality. To carry on the freedom He gives we are given choice... when we make healthy choices and become good stewards of ALL we are given... our bodies become strong, our minds, our spirits and souls. It's much much harder to put on the armor and defeat those lies when we are weak in a part of our whole. Thank God there IS so much grace given to us... but I also believe it is better that we hold fast to the truth and not play with this beautiful gift of grace that we are given.
So going back to what my mentor said, I had to live my own version of hell so He could show me how He desires to detox me from it... before I could write about it. Makes perfect sense now...in hindsight. Haha. Most of these retreats are about 2 or 3 days long. And once I got to my tranquil room I immediately wished I could stay in this place forever! As soon as I met the woman in charge and dropped my luggage I began babbling about all the darkness I was walking through at the time. I frantically asked her, "Am I crazy??? Has anyone else had these sort of questions and dilemma's as I am having?" She calmly responded in such a loving way..."This is the one thing you must remember during this time. It will be hard, but there is nothing that you will ever walk through on this earth that Jesus himself didn't walk through. So whenever you are having one of those freak out moments remember to invite Him in to that place. He's the only one in this world that has been there and the only one who can console you the way you need." I'd only spent a total of 15 minutes in this precious place and already I was blown away!!
Each day our counselor (mine was a cute little nun) would listen to us for about an hour or so and then give us some scripture to meditate on the rest of the day. This was the only hour during the whole 24 that we were permitted to speak. I LOVED that... I know, crazy right? Ha. There was so much charm in the silence. The first day my nun gave me Genesis Chapter 2 to read. She told me to spend my first day in Eden with God as Adam did. As I meditated on this scripture I pictured what it might have been like to walk around with the King of the Universe in the most spectacular place on earth. As I sat there reflecting I loved to listen to this song by Phil Wickham:
After this completely overwhelming day the nun sends me to Gethsemane to meditate and reflect on the day Jesus went to pray in the garden with a weary and sorrowful soul to His Father. In Luke's version it says, "an angel appeared from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony He prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground." (Ch. 22: 43 &44) What an image. During this time I felt as though I could almost feel a tiny tiny fraction of what He did. And then it hit me... I had always assumed He just didn't want to go through all the pain of the cross. And perhaps that was part of his agony. But at this moment I started to wonder if He knew that what was going to be the most painful was the moment He was going to think that the Lord had deserted Him. God says He never will leave us or forsake us... but maybe while Jesus was dead (and in some sort of "hell" some say) perhaps it was so dark in that place He did not know in that moment God was still in control and was bringing Him back. I don't know... the bible is not clear on this... but this is the thought I had about it and the things that I learned from it: 1- He loved His Father so much that in the garden He couldn't bare the thought of being outside of His presence even for a moment, 2- He was willing to go through ANYTHING to carry out God's plan for His children because of His love and 3- Most humans experience some sort of "hell" on earth at some point and it may be so dark we do not possibly see where God could be in all of it. This is why we must know the truth and hide it in our hearts. So even in those times... we know that He is there and is in control... even when we don't feel it at all. We've got to trust Him, obey and praise Him especially through the crap simply because HE IS WORTHY.
On the third day my cute little nun counselor gave me Luke Chapter 19: 11- 18 to read. This is when Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene at the tomb. So picture this: Mary is standing there weeping over Jesus's body because it was gone. All the sudden Jesus comes up behind her and starts asking her what's wrong. Not until He says her name does she realize it's her savior! Then as she's freaking out He replies, "Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God'". I had a few revelations during this meditation as I spent time at the tomb with Mary and Jesus. I imagined that I would've felt much like Mary did... wanting more than anything to hug and kiss him!!! And what seems like a cold response from Jesus was an act of AGAIN pointing to God the Father, positioning Himself as the Son and servant of the Lord. He knew He was not going to be on earth any longer so in this moment they HAD to begin to trust in Him they were not going to see anymore. I used to think it would've been easier to believe if I would have known Jesus in person first. But now I'm not so sure.
At one point last year when I was in that dark place I asked the Lord if He would just show Himself to me. All I wanted was a real vision of Jesus or an angel in my room or something! Then I felt as though God said..."If I gave you this that you want, then why would you need faith"? Then I realized if that ever did happen to me I would probably not spend as much time seeking Him as I do... digging deeper into the great mysteries of God, searching for His hand in the darkness... discovering His heartbeat for me and the world. FAITH is essential to our walk with Him. And He does not just strengthen our faith, but allows us to be in circumstances where our faith can be tested. When it's tested it has the opportunity to become stronger when we choose to put our trust and adoration in Him.
At the end of my silent retreat I recognized something about all of the scriptures my nun had sent me to. Each one of those places was found in a garden. When I visit Israel two of my favorite places to pray and worship are the Garden of Gethsemane and the Garden tomb (where Jesus was buried). And another place I love to imagine I'm in now is the Garden of Eden. There is something special about the Gardens I believe. It looks like God is a pretty big fan of nature if you ask me! As I walk through lush gardens I see how alive and beautiful they are. In a garden all of my senses are heightened to where I can see so clearly, smell so perfectly, and almost hear the voice of God so audibly. I wonder if this is because there are no other distractions in the garden to keep us from its delicacy and elegance. I feel God so powerfully in nature, and I wonder if Jesus felt this too.
He walked, prayed, loved, bled, was buried and rose again in a garden.
He is in the garden waiting for you.
He is at the garden praying for you.
He is at the garden calling your name.
Whether you already know Jesus or not He is beckoning you to the Father, wooing you with His undeniable love. It doesn't matter who you are or what you've done... God wants all of you. And when we begin to know even a little bit of His character we are overcome with praise and adoration for the one who humbled himself... bled, died and came back to life again.... for each one of us. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh, I can't get enough!! I want more and more and more of Him!!!!
B90: (Luke 21- John 6:15) Find the gardens today and spend time in them with Jesus. Meditate on Him and He will meet you there.
P.s. If you would like more information on the "silent retreats" let me know: email@example.com or check out: http://www.dovehouseministries.com
Monday, October 3, 2011
This afternoon I spent some time at the local homeless shelter listening to stories and serving Chinese food. It was great. Every person there has a different story. There is so much humility in that place, so much gratitude, and an insurmountable amount of hurt and pain. One of the men I spoke with began to tell me how he ended up there. I asked if he had any family... and He has absolutely NO ONE. Not one single person on this earth alive that he can count on.. be it love, shelter, hope, food, etc. I don't hardly understand how this happens, but it does... all the time. It's a completely different world that most of us can not comprehend (nor do we want to). The crazy part is: it would probably only take one person who believed in this man for him to get on his feet again.
There were several men there I've seen before with physical deformities. One shares his van with another man and they switch back and forth every night between the bed and the seat. That meal was the only one he had all day. There were several other families with babies seemingly hopeless. All we could do is feed them, climb into their stories, offer hope in Jesus... and maybe help with some other needs. Each person there was so beautiful... even in their pain, sorrow, or tragic situation... they are survivors and they are God's children (possibly angels). My how His heart must ache for them. We know that no matter what we've done He still loves us. I can't imagine being in their shoes... and sometimes that's just the shoes they were born with. And man, do they have a lot of miles on them.
After I got home I sat at the kitchen table discussing with my parents what I can possibly do more. The more I read the gospels the more I see Jesus gave, fed and healed even when He was exhausted or empty. Sometimes He stayed somewhere for days so that He had time to heal everyone. Even when Him and the disciples lacked resources they asked for more and the Lord provided. Jesus didn't ask always ask for salvation in return of a healing (like a trade)... He just healed, spoke freedom and truth... and let God save. He also didn't make sure everyone deserved the loaves and fish that day... He just fed.
One of the only complaints the homeless had about the place was that the management had lost compassion. They feel like a number instead of a person because of the many rules that have been made. I can understand why people would want to build up many rules for protection... but now most who enter still feel like outcasts and a poor excuse for a human. It's so terribly sad to me that any human would be treated this way. As we walked out tonight all of them thanked us and said they really enjoyed it (as they got about their chores). We didn't give out fortune cookies with their meal, but I do feel like we were able to restore a little bit of their hope for their own future as we hugged them and walked away.
So... as soon as I get back in December I'd like to get a few local churches together and maybe open up a hostel or something. It's worth a shot and these people deserve it... simply because they are people (plus i LOVE hanging out with them!). If anyone is interested let me know and we'll start discussing the vision!
This has all got me thinking about treasure. No, not the pirate kind (although some kid was having a pretty fantastic pirate party at the park the other day... man, that's a lot of p's). I started thinking about control. How the poor can be controlled by money just as much as the rich or middle class. (Just so you know our "middle class" is considered rich to the world, so I wish America would start comparing it to the rest of the globe to give us some perspective). If you are one of those people who wishes one day to win the lottery and thinks all your problems will be solved... well then, I'd say money holds a great importance in your life whether you have it or not. And if we take a job we don't believe in for the money... or talk about money all the time and how much we don't have it, or need it... or worry about it... then, guess what? It controls us.
I have a strong feeling God wants us to get to the place where we can use it, give it sacrificially, save it, invest it... but not worry about it, hold on to it, control our giving and what they do with it, talk about it, or even desperately need it. Instead we can praise Him for what He IS going to provide!!! And that doesn't mean a bigger house, better car, more clothes... etc. He provides us with what we need and every bit is such a blessing! We are to be a blessing to others and not worry that our supplies will run dry.
Yes, there are many needs around the world and even in our country. We've got many many needs right here in Jonesboro. We have people who are literally living in their cars and on the streets. You don't see it most of the time because of where they go... but it's happening. But what a blessing it surely is to be a part of their lives... even if it's a little uncomfortable at first. Most of them just need someone who believes in them. I understand people have been cheated, taken advantage of, etc etc.... but not one story is the same. Even so... we are called to serve, love and give to the "least of these". So let's start here then.
Most of the time it takes a little more than just an inspirational message or motivating speech to get us going. My intentions are never to make someone feel guilty. The real reason we are able to move forward and keep on is because of God's ability to equip us for the journey. Sure, someone can light a fire of passion under you... but we can only go so far on that until we run empty, get discouraged, get hurt, or give up. This is why it is necessary we lean on the Father, rely on the Holy Spirit, read the living word of God, and follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
A few years ago had a very vivid dream that I was pregnant with Jesus and it was the second coming. Pretty crazy I know! When i realized who i was pregnant with in the dream I was overwhelmed and humbled because God was using me as such an important vessel of life. When I woke up I started listening to an old sermon of my pastor from nashville and was a little startled when he started talking about Mary and her humble realization of God using a simple servant like her to bring the King into the world. Please read her poetic response to God in Luke 1: 46-55.
It was pretty evident even then that the Lord was wanting me to go deeper and identify with Mary some how. Many more things came up the next few days about the subject of Mary... whether it was a song, verse or vision. As I was speaking with the base leader, He felt that perhaps I was supposed to identify with Mary's availability... and that God had unbelievable plans for me if I stayed willing and available to his calling. This will involve much sacrifice, but when we identify with His sacrifice... ours doesn't quite compare does it? Here we go....
B90: (Luke 11:14- 20:47) All of Luke is great but it seemed like Chapter 12 was specifically reaching out and gripping my soul today. Even before all this other stuff happened tonight! Wow, God is so awesome.
Jesus gets right down to business in Chapter 12 when He basically says commands us not to fear anything but Him who has the authority to "cast into hell". This seems a little abrasive and quite scary, but in the same breath says... "Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows." I think it's super crucial here for us not to discount or diminish the authority of God here. We must realize the power He holds. We tend to automatically think, "well, we are safe... it's the others that need to worry." When rather we should look at that statement in complete humility and gratefulness which will help us view all humans with compassion desiring to share the value we know that He places in us and them.
Even with the story of the Rich fool Jesus makes it very clear how He feels about possessions. "For one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." Even when manna was coming from heaven God told them to only take what they needed for the day. I think there's something to this you know? Maybe He's simply telling us to be open handed with everything we have, or maybe there's more. He'd rather us be rich toward Him than lay up treasures on earth for ourselves...
Then the next whole passage He's commanding us to not be anxious confirming how much we are valued to Him. "And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added." vs 29-31...
"Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy.....for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
Saturday, October 1, 2011
One of my favorite things in the world to do this time of year is take my blanket, bible, snack of some sort and head to the park! There's nothing I enjoy more than soaking up all that sunshine and gettin as much of God in nature that I can. At one point I got distracted by the ducks (not unusual for me) and noticed a little guy out there kind of away from the others. Wouldn't you know that's the one I immediately fell in love with? It seemed as though the other ducks were communicating to one another, quaking jokes (hahaha...oh man, that was cheesy). But my cute little ducky was left out. A few minutes later it steps out of the water and starts struggling up the bank. Then tragically I realized my pet had a gimp leg!!! Oh no... how terrible. It started hopping up the bank and more than anything I wanted to take it into my arms, love and care for it, and fix all of it's problems. But the duck just kept hopping away from me no matter how hard I tried to communicate, "I come in peace" in my best quaking voice. (I'm quite a sight to see sometimes.) It's almost as if it couldn't trust me because it had been rejected so many times before. All I wanted to do was to tell it that it was wanted and loved.
If you've read any of my recent blogs you'll quickly see how passionate I am about orphans. Even more so... the broken, lonely, poor, hurting, disabled, or dying ones. Seemingly, the worlds outcast. At first we say, "how can this be?"... but yet, the remain alone. When I saw this broken duck abandoned by it's bird community because of it's deformities, I knew what God had in store for me. I don't even know the details yet... but I know God is going to lead me to that place. My heart hurts for the ones the world rejects, and it aches in a big big way.
Going to new zealand next week for a few months is the first step in this process. While I'm there we'll be developing a new school for our base but also I'll be looking into more long-term outreach destinations to connect with. This past year as I've been recovering from my sickness, God has been stirring in my heart and transitioning me into a life long missionary mentality. It's always hard to leave the fam... but it's just as difficult for me to see a lonely child rejected by the world with no one.
But you know... even here there are lonely children who feel rejected by the world (and I'm not just talking about kids). You may even be one of them. And sometimes it doesn't even matter how many people are around us... often that even makes us think we don't deserve to be loved, wanted or valued. Welp, this is just not true. He loves you so freakin much! I also think that if you really need something, you should look for ways to give that away. If you are lonely... then find lonely people to love and serve. If you are having financial difficulties... then look for poorer people to feed or love on, or ways to give money away. If you are feeling trapped... then go spend some time loving on the local prisoners. I know it sounds crazy... but by walking in the opposite spirit you are making a huge statement of faith and trust. You are also showing that those things don't control you and you are relying and waiting on the heavenly Father to provide. The more we look upward and outward, the more God takes care of the inward. But the more inward we look... the more everything seems to fall apart :(
I have a great friend who shared a vision recently someone had for her. In the vision she was a horse who was running wild, obviously upset about something. The stable boy tried and tried to check it's foot to see what was bothering the horse, but she was not having it. One day the master came along and soothed the horse with words of authority and love. The master got the horse to lift up her foot and found a tiny thorn that had been the root cause of all of the pain. He pulled out the thorn and after the initial pain, the horse had a sigh of relief. My friend identified with this vision in such a way that it brought up painful things to which she realized were the source of so much sorrow and slavery. Instead of pushing that back down and trying continue to "do life" with those tiny thorns, she was allowing the master to take them out. Now he could begin to heal... now she could run with freedom and joy.
I've been there, and I'm almost certain most of you guys have to. Sometimes we've become used to the thorns that bring so much pain and sorrow... and often we don't even realize that freedom is possible. You may be the horse... or you may be the little duck with the gimp leg, but there IS a purpose and design for you. Sometimes we continue to live with physical ailments and sometimes we are completely healed... but the masters always brings freedom and healing for our hearts if we choose to let Him.
When His character is revealed to us in such a way and we see the precious life we are given... we can't help but praise Him. Let the words of this song penetrate your soul today and bring light and life to the dark places. He wants to take out your thorns... allow yourself to be still in His presence so He can do what His does best.
B90: (Luke 3:21- 11:13) I LOVE in Luke Ch.4 when Jesus takes the prophetic word Isiah had written and stands up in the synagogue and reads, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. he has send me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Then He rolled it up, sat down... and it said all eyes fixed on Him. It was probably awkwardly silent too. Then He basically said... "what i just read to you guys, was just now fulfilled." Whoa!!!! Insane! Can you imagine? Then He said a few things that ruffled their feathers and they drove Him up to a place they were actually going to throw Him off of a cliff. He quickly became the outcast. But somehow, he disappeared....
Last year I was able to travel through this part of Israel and actually stand on this mountain top. It was crazy to think that it happened right in that very place. I can't help but think what we would do if Jesus came into our churches today and started proclaiming some of these things. Yet another reason why the word of God MUST be on our minds, hearts, and lips... so that we KNOW the truth of who God is! And when we see, hear, or are moved by God we recognize Him.
There were some beautiful truths mentioned in those verses above. 1- Proclaim good news to the poor. 2- Proclaim liberty (freedom) to the captives. 3- Recovering the sight of the blind (healing) 4- Set liberty (freedom) to the oppressed and 5- proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. I wanna break it down even further... 1- He's telling others (the poor in spirit or/and literal poor) the GOOD NEWS... He's not forcing anything or enticing. 2- He's speaking freedom to those enslaved (spiritually and quite possibly physically). 3- He's reclaiming the sight that was lost for the blind (spiritually and physically too) by healing. 4- To the oppressed (again possibly both) setting free and 5- declaring the favor of the Lord! Notice some themes here? Proclaiming truth... freedom... healing... And the thing is; Jesus knows exactly what it feels like to be rejected, unwanted, and unloved. No wonder He has such a heart for the ones cast out of society.
I also noticed something I hadn't before in the story of the good samaritan Ch. 10:25-37. Right before He tells that story someone had asked him the greatest commandment. First love God with everything, second love your neighbor as yourself. Whatever we think neighbor means... this brings a new spin to it! It was the man that bound up his wounds and went out of his way to take care of him that "proved to be a neighbor of the man". It was the "one who showed him mercy". Wow. Again... I used to think loving my neighbor was letting them have a cup of sugar or something. But this really does bring whole new meaning. Instead of waiting for a neighbor to ask us for help... what if we were constantly on the look out for needs of people (even strangers!!). And what if we were willing to go out of our way for them... knowing they could not repay us? How often have I overlooked someone's need because I thought maybe someone else would do it? I can't think of a better distraction from this "busy life" than entertaining angels :)
Friday, September 30, 2011
A few things today have got me thinking about the quality of life. If we could remember what our first thought was when we entered the world as a baby, I wonder what it would have been? Perhaps you would feel valued... like you were worthy enough to be created and born. Then imagine, over time, the different things that could happen that would strip you- the child- of the very God-given value placed on your life before the first breath was even taken. Some believe that as soon as a baby comes into the world, skin to skin contact with the mother and father is most important. In some ways I suppose it would solidify that value to the child. There is so much that is exchanged in this intimate moment. Something I've learned in the past few years is that our cells can actually hold memory. So whether we think a newborn is too young to remember or not, it's very possible that each cell in it's body is either remembering the love and worth or wanting to forget the rejection and abandonment.
Best case scenario: a child is born into a loving family who raises it the best possible way they know how (regardless of it's financial situation). Worse case scenario: the child is rejected, unwanted, abandoned, and unloved. Either case eventually allows a chance for the child to know and receive TRUE heavenly and perfect value from a Father that accepts, desires, protects and loves. Because He does. If God is completely God all of the time then we are always valued by Him. Right? So what's the problem? Well, the enemy hates when God's creation knows how much He loves them because then they delight in God, worship, praise, and thank Him for who He is no matter what. Then we understand the price He paid and the value He placed on our lives and we see the value in others... no matter where they are in their journey. Devil despises this stuff. When we recognize the value God has placed on our lives before the beginning of time... we begin to then question the quality of life.
So even the worst case scenario mentioned above is still better I suppose than the alternative: never being allowed the chance to live in the first place. Being rejected for no substantial reason without a voice to speak. Over the years I've asked myself all of the questions anyone does about their stance on abortion. The reasons may include: mother's right, rape, deformities, poor, or potential risk for mother. But these are all pretty much based on the worlds view of the quality of life. Every single one of us human beings are a miracle. The facts surrounding the conception, growth of an embryo, and process of birth STILL blow my mind. But I guarantee you that if we began to view quality of life as the Lord does, and believed that His power is great enough to completely reverse the possible effects of the reasons listed above... then we might see ourselves, unborn children, and worldwide injustice a little bit differently. We might actually begin standing up for life (other than just our own). We may see that one person CAN make a difference in this world, but a unified community can make an eternal impact. We don't have to make war with injustice but we very much need to rely on the power of God in and through us. His love is going to change the whole world one day... and I choose to be an active part of the journey now. Do you?
Are we just living to work to sleep to die? Or are we just surviving till the good Lord takes us home? Do we consider "quality" as having a good family, occasional satisfying vacations, good insurance, a nice retirement, good church life, nice neighborhood, pleasant routine, good morals and a fun hobby? These are tough questions I'm asking myself and these things aren't wrong in and of themselves; But as I've examined my life this last year... and started aligning it with the word rather than comparing it to others, I've been quite shocked with what I've discovered. I found that the quality of life God offers is strikingly different than the quality of life we tend to buy in to. Again, I'm not saying He doesn't want those good things for us (He does have a best in mind!!!), but what I'm saying is sometimes we settle for those things as "good quality" when He has a much greater purpose in store for us than just to live a "good" life and die. But search your own heart and His to find out what it means to you? It was disturbing and convicting for me, yet profoundly invigorating. As I began to give away the life I had bought in to... I began to catch a glimpse of the reality of my worth and how to live that out on earth... the one chance I've been given. Not only has God now let me identify with my true identity in Him, but He's greatly expanded my expectations in life, allowed me to see the true value in others, and given me a new relentless passion for the broken, dying, hungry, poor, and injustified. On top of that... I find even more fulfillment in family, church, work, relationships, hobbies, and travel when I seek satisfaction in Him first and foremost. We can settle for just those things, the "good" safe life, and die- smelling good, with money in the bank, clean as a whistle, and full of love. But really... what kind of life would that be? If we think we have the right to pick and choose what suites us to love and fight for... then we might be awfully surprised when we enter the gates of heaven scanning the crowd in search of just one person we were acquainted with on earth in the "good life". And there is a great possibility there will be people in heaven you (myself included) were too uncomfortable to hang out with on earth. It's just one of those funny thoughts to me. Could that change the way we see people now? Or do we even really SEE people that can't do anything for us? (You can thank God later for the tough questions.... haha).
Please see that God is testing my heart right now too! Writing this is not the easiest thing in the world, because I too am now accountable and vulnerable. Things like this are very hard to hear, but should also be held up next to the word of God. I know many of you that live your life with the beautiful quality God has revealed to you, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being this example to me. And even if we don't exactly know or see that yet... I pray God is giving us all a revelation of His value and worth at us this very moment. I pray that we begin to intentionally walk outside of our comfort zone to SEE people, see the needs, fight for the justice, and allow God to bring freedom, healing and value in others lives through us.
If we still have an issue with trusting, believing, undermining, or underestimating God... then I'd say there are some lies we've agreed with along the way that aren't quite true of the God who tells us exactly who He is in the word. One of the great hard lessons I'm learning right now is that we will never fully understand God until we die. So often I get overwhelmed with His mystery and could actually make myself go crazy with questions. But then God gently reminds me that I am human and my human efforts and fleshly heart will never amount to anything of worth and value on its own. No amount of earthly acceptance, love, and desire could give us even a fraction of the quality of life that He places on all of us before we enter the world. This is why when we accept Jesus- the way, the truth, and the life- we are able to connect with God in such a way our true identity is revealed, our hearts are healed of the BIG LIE that we are worthless orphans in this world, and we become free to live a quality of life we never could have imagined before. But it doesn't stop there. When this happens... this love encounter with our Father... we want everyone else in the world to have the same revelation of His love and worth for them.
It's easy to repent when you begin to understand that the things you are repenting from are stealing your quality of life away. Your ability to move, breath, love, live, believe, trust, heal, give, and be free is altered and somewhat disabled when we continue to hold on to the lies and the sin that toxifies our one life. Repentance then becomes not a chore or a rule... but a beautiful thing to be desired. Yes, it's admitting you were wrong and you want to be cleansed... but it's an unbelievable opportunity (not to mention commandment) to get detoxified and have more space for God to move in your life. I don't know about you... but I don't want to be satisfied with just "knowing" more about God (which is all good), I want to have more of God inside of me!
YOU are made in His image! You are beautifully and wonderfully made! No matter who you are, where you are from, or what you have done... you are valued. If you don't know Christ... I encourage you to pray for a revelation of His love for you and to see the truth. If you do know Him... I challenge you to not settle with the worlds definition of quality. I challenge you to dig deeper into His word, into His mind and heart for you and the world... dig deeper into your personal worth. As you read trust that the words are true whether you feel them or not. If your faith is wishy washy get on your face before Him; He is the same but the world is changing and your watered down perception of the truth will be your stumbling stone as the times get harder. Let HIM be your rock! Especially when you feel like you are sinking. Some of us need to examine our lives in a manner we never have; asking deep questions of why we believe what we do. I sometimes wonder what would happen if my bible was taken away tomorrow. Would I have His word so imprinted on my heart and mind that nothing could shake the truth? Or would I begin to run out of faith because of the harsh lies penetrating my weak soul?
I know it's not all about the word.... we have the Spirit too! And we need to rely on the Holy Spirit for many things. I'm a firm believer in miracles, God's power, and all of the gifts of the spirit... and I also believe that we as Christians are not confidently collectively walking in these things. We must have a balance. We must have unity. We must find our strength, hope, faith, trust, value and love in HIM.
Now it's time to watch this very sobering, convicting, yet POWERFUL short film that should be watched with humility and grace. So instead of allowing hatred for evil people to stir up... put on your armor for the spiritual battles we are facing and hopefully become willing to let God's justice come through you to break down the enemy's authority on this earth. He comes to steal, kill and destroy but God gives us authority to override these abominable lies if we let the word penetrate our hearts and live to the greatest capacity of quality we can as humans in this fallen world until the day we die.... dirty, damaged, broken, and tired.... but FREE, valued, healed, sanctified, justified and loved- rejoicing in victory and praise with ALL of our colorful family and AWESOME God. Please take a moment to watch this....
B90: (Mark 10:35- Luke 3:20) There are just a few verses from today's reading that I'd like to highlight and let you seek for personal revelation within the scripture. For me, He's confirming through His word what He was speaking to my heart today.
Jesus said to the disciples who were inquiring about their "seating arrangement" in heaven, "You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
When asked which of the commandments is most important Jesus replied, "You shall love the Lord your God with ALL your HEART, and with ALL your SOUL, and with ALL your MIND, and with ALL your STRENGTH. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
Read the "widow's offering" Ch. 12:41-44
Read Mark Chapter 13: 5-13. Good stuff... too much to type out. It's late ok? Ha.
"Stay Awake!!!" Chapter 13: 36 (exclamation marks added for emphasis)
And don't forget the power of the Great Commission at the end of Mark :) Go Jesus!
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Not till I entered adulthood did I really realize the kingdom of heaven was attainable before I pass on from this earth. I guess I had always assumed Jesus was talking about the place we go when we die... but after reading the gospels many times over it's become quite clear what message He was proclaiming. Alongside all the kingdom talk Jesus speaks a lot of His love for children. Even as adults we are God's kids... but there are certain characteristics that define a child that I think are a blessing to our Father as we acquire them at any age :) And when we do step into the kingdom, it's almost as if we are dipping our toes in the fountain of youth- accepting that our eternal worth starts now....not just when we die.
My neighbor said something profoundly simple the other day that really hit me differently this time. This is the cliff notes version: "I AM not my age, it REALLY is just a number... and my body is a house for this eternal soul." He may have not said it just like that... but that's what I heard in the moment. And for the first time I truly felt age-less (and i didn't even need a revlon cream to help!). Sure our bodies will age since we live in a fallen world with temporary bodies; but our mind, soul and spirit doesn't have to. For some reason we tend to equate maturity with a less faith /more reality kind of composure. We sometimes think (believe me, i've been there) that we must "grow up" and be strong, independent, self-reliant, successful, respected and intellegent. It's not that these are wrong... it's just that it becomes easier to trust in ourselves than to depend on God (or even other people). And when we fail, boy... do we beat ourselves up. When others fail us? Well... our grace runs thin.
What if we truly saw our bodies as a vessel for the Lord and treated children with the same respect as an adult or elderly person... not because they did something to deserve it, but because we are all broken human beings in desperate need of God! And when our expectations of others are shattered, or we fail ourselves, or we don't think someone deserves OUR respect... maybe we could see that we all just need more freedom and healing from a God who is big enough to give it. It's funny how each of us think the world owes us honor and respect to a certain degree... like we have special "rights" because of age, status, paid dues, prestige, degrees, or money. When if we truly begin to see with a child's eyes... none of that matters. If you look closely on the public playground you'll see that most of the time they are all playing with each other no matter race, money, intelligence, or status. We, as adults, are the ones who begin making that unfortunate distinction and separation. The harder we work in life the more we deserve, right? Well.... if we really got what we deserve we'd all be in a heap of trouble. Thank God He saved us... literally.... from ourselves.
Most of the time children are over-looked; especially children with nothing to give. Jesus emphasizes the importance of little children again and again in His word. I think it's time we begin to take notice. First of all, a child is a gift and should be treasured highly. They should be loved and nurtured and listened to. Why? Well one reason is they have not yet been tainted by the world. They are, however, vessels who are in need of a Savior. YOU are that representative until they make the decision for themselves. They can teach us so much through their inhibitions to life and fearless dreams. Not a worry in their mind or a scar on their heart- they play long, love hard, and live fully!! So, listen to their sweet small voice... and find your innocence again. There IS a child in all of us...
A cool story about listening to His voice and waiting: A few weeks ago, as I mentioned in a previous blog, some friends of mine purchased my ticket for new zealand for me. I needed it quickly (didn't have the money) and God told me to wait. They called that day and took care of it. Wow. So then I knew I was going to have to buy a ticket from Little Rock to LA to catch that flight. I checked on prices two weeks before my flight (last Sunday) and the price was $200 with tax. Not bad really. But for some reason I felt like God told me to wait and not buy it. So I waited. The next morning I woke up and it was $300 with tax. Shoot! I wondered if I had really heard God wrong??? But instead He told me to keep waiting and trust. So I did. Today a friend of mine found miles that someone had given him awhile back that He had never used. He transferred them and I paid only $80 in fees!!!! Wow. Seriously... God is very cool. Even if I would've had to pay $300 there is no doubt that God would've taken care of me, and He's cool regardless of what happens.... but I'm celebrating His goodness and provision tonight!!! Yahoooo!!!
B90: (Mark 1- 10:34) There are two main verses I'd like to reflect on in this section... although there is so much more value in this book that would be good to dig deeper into on your own. Like I said above, my perspective on the kingdom began to shift a few years ago. After re-reading all of what Jesus speaks of the kingdom I came to my own conclusions that really helped me live more fully for Him in every moment. I see how when we step into the kingdom of heaven on earth we truly become the living breathing representatives of Christ with a different mindset than others who don't see with those eternal eyes yet.
"Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me." ~ Jesus as told by Mark in Ch. 9: 37. There's something about getting down eye level with a child. It's almost as if they begin to not only hear what you say but inherit the character in which you say it. Jesus also speaks a lot about character throughout the gospels, but more than that... he lives it. Character is learned by what we see, hear, observe, and attain. Sometimes we wonder why children don't listen to what we say (or yell) when they are actually watching (sometimes mimicking) your character and responding to that rather than the words. I'm often curious as to why we hold a much higher value to the obtaining of knowledge rather than character. We even occasionally hire people within the church according to their degree rather the quality in which they treat the lowly, poor, dirty, and broken people of the world. I think it'd be a great idea for anyone the church hired to put them mopping the floors for a few months or working in with the little ones. Then you can clearly see if this is something they live by.... "but many who are first will be last, and the last first." Mk 10:31
"Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it." Mark 10:14
One of the things I love about my mom: for those of you who do not know her... she's been in charge of the preschool department of our home church for a few years now. There are always ups and downs, but I've seen her character grow in so many ways. I love that when there is a child who is giving them trouble my mom stoops down, talks to them with respect and love, and prays with/for them. Almost always God's power moves through the child which handles the situation with such love and care. She has many more stories like this one, but she probably wouldn't share them with you unless she was giving God some major glory time! Yet another reason why I love her :)
I want to enter the kingdom of God as a child... everyday. The children are standing at the gate; waiting for us to love, cherish, care, and invest in them all that God has graciously given us!
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
As YWAMers we tend to saturate ourselves in the culture we are in at the moment trying to really dive deep into the surrounding environment. We want to learn parts of the language, live as they live, eat what they eat, and communicate on their level as we walk in their shoes. We relate eye level but something IS different. What is inside of us is the hope, truth, faith, and love that they may or may not know yet. We all embody this within us if we accept, believe, and seek to know God more. But not all of us have figured out what it means to walk in the kingdom of heaven on earth... It took me awhile till I understood, and i'm still learning daily. The important thing is that we keep humbly asking God to show us how to step into this "kingdom" mentality... and He will!
Call me crazy, but I truly believe we are sometimes stepping into a false sense of security (which to us usually creates comfort) when we buy into the "American Dream". This can include everything from going to college, getting a good paying job, owning at least one nice up to date car, having the newest/best technology, having cool/nice clothes, going to a posh church, getting married to a good-looking person, having cute (well-behaved?) children, insurance (for everything), being "healthy", social security, retirement, pleasant vacations, entertainment, sports, any kind of food any time, recognition, status, etc etc. And unfortunately we go to great lengths to achieve these finer things (that we see as "normal"): debt, heartache, pharmaceutical drugs, arguments, dieting, stress, business, obsession, anxiety, worry, indulgence, and so on. I'm not saying that the "American Dream" is necessarily wrong in itself... but does it become wrong when we sacrifice the foundation of the very things Christ died for? He died and rose to fulfill the law... to complete it. He died and rose to bring freedom and healing in all of our lives. Can we truly be free if there are things in our life that control us and hold us back from greater levels of faith, hope, love and joy?? I'm not saying this to condemn anyone at all... just to make us look a little deeper into our hearts and clarify our motives with the Lord so we can walk in freedom! (Sidenote: I know i'm preaching to the choir on this... most of the time it's what God is directly teaching me in my life. And when I began to be convicted and go thru this cleansing process I almost always have to release it and write about it! haha. You ARE NOT a bad person for living that "American Dream" lifestyle at all!!! It's just a night where I want God to reveal to us His way of life so that we can align ours up with His!)
Well God can certainly bring freedom in our lives as we recognize our tainted motives and ask for Him to cleanse us. He can and will restore and redeem us from our corrupt fleshly heart that can so easily believe the manipulative lies of the enemy. Please hear me out... I don't think everyone living the "American Dream" is living in sin, or is a slave to it, or lacks faith, hope, love and joy. I just think it's alright to allow God to go deeper and check our motives behind everything. It hurts sometimes, but it's always good ya know? Anything that takes us to a deeper place of trust with the Lord is always a safe place to be. May not be too much fun at first... but the deeper he cuts in, the more room for His miraculous love to be stored.
After traveling for so many years I come back and sometimes have to giggle at how different our perspective of the world is standing on this continent. For example there are A LOT of really good people out there (that may or may not know Jesus) who are extremely loving, trustworthy, hospitable, and sacrificially generous. There is a man is Switzerland I know who ALWAYS lets backpackers stay in his little tiny flat for free, shares all of his food, picks people up from the airport and train station, shows them around zurich and loves to make quality conversation. Warner gives up his own room and sleeps on the couch just so strangers can have a comfortable place to rest their heads for the night. Most people in America that I know would think that's crazy. Let a stranger in your home? Give them your bed? Feed them your best food? Show them around town? And for nothing? Are you kidding me?? I wonder how many people would think that's a waste of time? If we're being completely honest. Then... some of us might do something like that, but we'd make a deal with them they have to come to church with us or something if we are gonna let them stay at our house. What does Jesus do here?
Another big reason why we wouldn't do something like this is simply because of fear. Of course, we like to call it being "cautious". Haha. I know because I've lived this life. Just ask my mother. Whether it's a story we heard on the news or some lesson that's been passed down, we then listen to the voice "well... this could also happen to you" spoken from the mouth of the TRUE counterfeit... rather than the voice of the holy spirit which guides and directs speaking words of life, trust and faith. How come living "radically" for Jesus has become only something for those "called" by God.... rather than all who follow Him? What would happen if we stepped into the kingdom mindset living radically free from that which controls the world with FEARLESS faith, completely UNCONDITIONAL love, and CONSTANT joy.... even in the midst of trials and tribulations. The more we trust in our Father who provides... the easier it is to give things away because they hold only temporary value which doesn't hold a candle to what lies ahead in eternity. Not to mention the blessing of letting go then letting God fill those empty spaces.
So although this year or so of being in a consistently comfortable environment has been quite refreshing and replenishing... I'm ready to be an "uncomfortable" atmosphere again where I absolutely must trust in God for every single need. Funny enough I find myself creating these little pockets of awkwardness to try and relieve some of the tension I feel between the extreme differences of first and third world. A lot of times I don't even know I'm doing it... then others, like today... I'm just doing what the Lord tells me to do. Like praying for a woman's headache in salvation army. Hahaha. Something happens when (even in our "comfortable" world) we make room for God to move by shaking up the atmosphere with a little bit of Jesus juice. Whether it's taking the leading of the Holy Spirit to drive home a different way one day, stop off at the thrift store, go to the hospital, invite your neighbor over, taking a homeless person out for dinner, letting a college student stay in your home, adopting children, supporting missionaries, leaving your home for another country, or praying for someone in your local supermarket..... whatever the case we are choosing to step out of our "comfort zone" and step right into the kingdom of heaven fully relying on His prompting, wisdom and love to get us through it. All the sudden our eyes begin to open up to the needs all around and God gives us the grace to bestow this freedom and healing to others through conversation, servanthood, and the power of prayer!
Just for kicks I thought I'd look up synonyms for the word comfortable, here are a few:
| || adequate, agreeable, appropriate, at rest, cared for, cheerful, complacent, contented, convenient, cozy, delightful, easy, enjoyable, enjoying, gratified, hale, happy, healthy, hearty, loose, loose-fitting, made well, pleasant, pleased, protected, relaxed, relaxing, relieved, rested, restful, restored, satisfactory, satisfying, serene, sheltered, snug, snug as a bug in a rug, soft, soothed, strengthened, untroubled, useful, warm, well-off|
So as we strive for this better way of life for us and our families... do we actually achieve those things above? And if we do... is it worth the effort putting forth? If it is... is that security what God is calling us to? Or could it be a radical life of faith where nothing we do makes sense to the rest of the world because it is this "upside-down kingdom of heaven" way of life that man just can't hardly grasp? Are we teaching our family, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances how to live safe, secure, steady, by-the-book, predictable lives with little or no freedom to live radically different ?? It's hard to live that radical life when all we see around us is people living just like us... but it wasn't until i stopped comparing and started aligning my life with Jesus' life that I finally began to get it.
B90: (Matthew 20- 28:20)
The Final Judgment
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, an he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father inherit the KINGDOM prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you? And the King will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'" Matt 25:31-40