Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Not many people would probably cry watching an Adam Sandler movie... but when it comes to "50 first dates" I sob like a little baby. Ironically, every time I see the thing I forget how it ends, haha. If you're not familiar with the film it's about a girl getting in a car accident and and losing all ability to remember anything past the wreck. Her dad and brother have to essentially relive the same day every day. At one point she meets Adam Sandler's character and he falls head over heals for her. The problem is that every morning she forgets who he is again. He figures out some cute ways to help her remember but there is one particular part that really gets me. One day she walks up to his work and tells him she has to end it. Her reason is because she knows he would have to pursue her all over again tomorrow and the next day for the rest of their lives.... and she feels somewhat unworthy of that kind of pursuit. No matter how much he disagreed with her decision, he had to honor it. I won't ruin the end for you... but the beautiful part in this whole thing was his relentless pursuit of her heart, no matter the cost. Every day He started from scratch... even though he might win her heart by every night. If this kind of love is even humanly possible, how much MORE does God chase after our hearts with His heavenly kind of love?
I was speaking with a friend of mine today about this very thing. (Seems to be the topic of conversation lately.) She has been going around in circles with a guy for many years now... only to find herself completely drained mentally, physically, and emotionally. She knows it's not what God has for her... but the counterfeit becomes a beautiful illusion in her weakest moments. As we were chatting I felt inclined to pray for her freedom in this area.
There are chains we sometimes can not see holding us back from heaven's best . It's never God's desire to withhold His good gifts, but our fleshly desire to settle for the enemy's watered down imitation. Here's the thing: If God thinks we are worthy enough to pursue our hearts despite our iniquities... then I think He is calling men to be a physical representation of this on earth. If you are a man, you know what you want and you have a peace about a certain gal.... then go for it, and chase after that heart of hers for goodness sake. If you are married... then I believe you persist in seeking the depths and mysteries of one's heart. If you are a woman and not married... please wait. (You can wait with me, hahaha) Seriously, wait... wait for the man who knows what it is like to be pursued himself by God. If you are a woman and married... appreciate and thank your husband for loving your heart so deeply. If this is not the case...truly pray that he will have such a love encounter with God that he will begin to know how to love you well :)
the big day...
Most women live for this day. They dream about it their whole lives... then still take a year to plan it. (Not me... boy, when that time comes give me a month and I'll be set! haha.) But to most... there are so many details to take care of. They want everything to be absolutely perfect...the food, the dress, the hair.... everything. And the best part of the whole wedding is the look on the guy's face as He is watching His beautiful bride gracefully glide down the aisle towards him. Their eyes lock and his shy but confident grin speaks volumes. She is standing there hoping that he is satisfied with her beauty and his mind is solely fixed on captivating her heart.
Can you imagine what it must be like when we return to our first and true love?? After days and sometimes years of pursuit... we finally realize what we were made for. He puts aside our chains and rags... adorns us with jewels and royal garments....and gives us the world. As we humbly walk down the aisle dressed with rose petals laced with His son's blood, we so gratefully step up onto that alter and accept His heart for us and gladly give Him ours. All the while His gaze is fixed, His heart is giddy, and His love freely flows into our lives at that moment.
Reception (and deception)...
The root of pure joy is His love. If we have experienced a life full of sorrow, pain, and sadness... it's not because this love isn't present. We can know true joy and peace in the midst of our troublesome circumstances. And I truly believe the reason why we don't is because of the role deception plays. There are lies we've heard that our mind has accepted as true and then we convince our heart that they are. These lies form those chains we were talking about that keep us from the freedom of basking in His glory, running in His beautiful presence, and rolling around in His love in the sanctuary we have available to us called the "kingdom of heaven". How much more could our relationships live up to God's standards when we know this kind of freedom on earth?
When I was in Israel last year I had a huge revelation about this. As I was sitting in the hotel lobby I looked up at the front desk where the letters "reception" were written across the back wall in retro wooden block letters. Above the word was a giant key. As clear as day I felt like the Lord said "the key to freedom of deception is reception."
One of the definitions of reception I found was: the act or process of receiving or of being received. I thought about when we actually receive God's love or know that we've been received by Him there is this love exchange that happens. This very encounter will keep us from believing the lies. If our heart is still convinced the deceptions are true, then we continue to ask God for our heart to have a supernatural revelation of this love.
Another definition of this word was: Reception- Conversion of transmitted radio waves or electric signals into perceptible forms, such as sound or light. Then I thought about a radio tower and how it's almost impossible to hear it clearly if there is interference. This is why we must ALWAYS keep a clear line of communication open with God avoiding as much interference as possible. Sure there will always be distractions, but if we have great reception we will be able to hear His voice and see His light like never before... especially in those dark times.
After that I thought about that reception desk and what all goes on behind there. These people come in every single day with smiles on their faces ready to help whomever will grace their presence. They love to serve you in any way... providing the optimal comfort for your stay! The more we serve and love others as the bible commands; the more we will see God's glory arise in every situation, the less we will think of our own problems, and the more energy it will take for the enemy to try and deceive us!
Last but certainly not least is the wedding reception!!! I just want you to know that yes, life can be hard.... but life with Jesus is such a party!!!! After we walk down that aisle and give Him our heart, it doesn't begin a life of strict rules and boring conversations. I mean, who has ever been to a wedding where the bride and groom left immediately to go home, watch some t.v., eat a microwave dinner then fall asleep on the couch? Come on!!!! They live it up with their family and friends CELEBRATING the joyous occasion. Don't we have something to celebrate?? We have LIFE!!! WE ARE FREE! Too often we treat Christian life like our God is boring or something. Well, that's a big fat lie from hell. God is amazing, creative, passionate, exciting, adventurous, hilarious and certainly capable of having a good time! God truly delights in us when we delight in Him. Sure, there are serious moments... but He loves when we take part in His supernatural goodness :) Can't you see now how those silly lies of deception are not even worth wasting a second on? No time. I'm too busy livin it up with Jesus :)
It's 3 am now, but this blog is totally worth it! Tonight I was browsin around FB and found this video on my friends page. It's so amazing how perfectly things fit together when it's God that's doing it all. No kidding. I'll let you draw your own revelations :)
B90: (Ezekiel 33:21-45:12) There is so much I want to talk about from these chapters today. I'll definitely get to that later... but today want to focus on God as our shepherd. I love in Chapter 34 starting in verse 11 which is titled "The Lord will seek them out". I love to relate this to all of His sheep. Especially verse 16 that says, "I will seek the lost and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak..." well, and there's more but I don't feel like writing it. You can read this all for yourself and gather your own conclusions based on the truth of the word of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit. We can not neglect any part of the trinity or leave out parts of His word. My hope is that I will never misinterpret, but always find exactly what He wants to show me in that moment with even a greater understanding of His character and love. I also pray we all continue to seek the source for truth daily; and that we will be encouraged and challenged by others interpretations but not be satisfied in that alone.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
From reading His word, I'm seeing God's aching desire for our freedom. I truly believe He wants to "detox" us from all of the "hell" we've collected over the years. This "hell" being any sin we've chosen to be a part of, any negative thing that's ever been done to us, any lies we've believed, any negative emotion we've been hanging on to, any generational sins passed down, any negative spirit that's attached itself to us; ANYTHING that's in our mind, body, soul or spirit that is NOT of Him. We've got to let Him in EVERY waking moment. And just because we may have "said a prayer" once... I still believe it's an active/everyday choice to allow Him authority to move in our lives. So easily we can shut Him out and not even know it!
For years I did this and became numb to my own sin. I believed in the word of God but didn't live it... as a result I chose to live in this slavery. I absolutely hate that I broke my Daddy's heart during that time, but I know now He's forgiven me more than I could imagine. Let me tell you though, it was so hard to look Him in the eyes as He revealed my ugly flesh to me... I wanted to crawl in a hole. I'm so joyful to now live a free life. Sure, there is still the occasional stupid thing I do... but it's so important to get up off the floor and RUUUUUUN to Him!!!! He's the only one that can clean us up and make us whole again.
So this thing that's been rolling around in my head??? Well.... it's forgiveness. Remember those stupid things I said I have done?? Unfortunately they not only hurt me, but other innocent by-standers. I have never intended to hurt anyone in my life...EVER... but because I was not a free person, I was blind to the pain I was causing due to my own selfish ambition. Every time I became aware of something I had done, I asked for forgiveness from that person. A few of these people, one in particular, has not talked to me since. It's been over 6 years since this happened and all I hear in return is..... silence. I know I've done all I can do in the situation and I've been forgiven by God for hurting someone so dear... but it still pains me to know that she is obviously still aching or letting unforgiveness eat her up inside. I just pray that God will make things right one day and mend that broken relationship.
If someone has done wrong to you and you just can't let it go... I want to ask you forgive them on their behalf. They may not ever ask for forgiveness... and honestly they may not even know they hurt you. But I can promise you that the unforgiveness you hold inside will eventually hurt you more than it hurts them. I apologize on behalf of what the world has done or said to you, but I want to make it clear who the real enemy is.... he is the father of all lies, counterfeit and illusions. He will go to great lengths to steal, kill, and destroy you. Forgiveness is the first step to freedom. When we know and accept God's ultimate forgiveness we are then able to forgive ourselves. When this happens we must forgive others, wiping their debt to us... bestowing the same grace freely given to us. Your forgiveness is a powerful thing in the spiritual realm... don't ever underestimate what God can do in this obedience to Him. He now will have even more authority to move in amazing ways in both party's lives. Remember that self-righteous forgiveness is only a prideful illusion of the real thing.... supernatural forgiveness calls for humility, selflessness, and the power of the cross. It can break strongholds and chains if we take advantage of this gift and glorify the one who gave it.
the cross...up close and personal:
Last year in new zealand I remember lying on the floor during a worship session with my face buried in my hands. I don't recall what exactly I was praying... but all of the sudden it was like my eyes opened to a vision of the cross from a distance. I could barely see my Jesus up there... and most people were just walking by, minding to their business. Every once in awhile someone might bow down and say some prayers, but I found it odd (in my vision) that no one was crying out or running closer.
Then I felt my eyes close even tighter as I began to ask for more of Him. When I opened them in my vision a second time I was closer to the cross. It seemed that the closer I got, the more intense the repentance, praise, thanksgiving, and worship was of everyone around me. I felt myself take a deep breath as I closed my eyes a third time.
This time as I opened them in my hands I was so close to something I could barely make it out. This object was rough and was covered with dried blood. My vision was so clear that I could almost smell it. I could almost feel the grooves of the cross with my fingertips as I imagined my hand running over it. This piece of wood became more than just a piece of wood to me in that moment. I finally was beginning to understand the incredible magnitude of it's significance. I realized in this moment that I had known a whole lot "about" the cross, but I wasn't quite sure up until this point how much I "knew" the cross.
I began to weep as I felt only a microscopic version of the pain Christ must have endured up there. And I don't think I was quite prepared for what happened next. All of the sudden it was like I felt a face touching mine. (my face was still in my hands... or I would've thought it was someone else.) When I looked up this time I was looking directly in the eyes of my Savior. He began saying, "Lindsey I love you, and I'm doing this for you." In this very instant I was painfully lost in His love for me. As He began to breath His last He held my head secure looking straight into my eyes. And then it hit me.... As He was dying, He was breathing that very life straight into me.
Although I had "prayed the prayer" as a young child, this was the closest to a salvation experience I had ever felt in my entire life. THIS was true forgiveness. THIS was sacrifice. THIS was and is Love. The ONLY reason we are able to have true LIFE and FREEDOM is because the Son of the Living God died and rose again. In His death He breathed life into us. How can we now hold on to anything negative or sinful... when we really and truly realize the enormous capacity of what took place on that day.
I pray that you will close your eyes tonight and make a decision to walk up to the cross. Envision yourself, if you can... touching the cracks of the wood, seeing the blood and smelling the smells. Then picture yourself face to face with Jesus... eyes locked. You suddenly become lost in His love and want nothing more than to stay in that moment with Him forever. You know that you'll have to leave and so will He... but right now you are His and His alone. No one is around, no kids screaming, no bills need to be paid, no kidney is failing, no boss is demanding, no horn is honking, no church bells are ringing, no cake is baking, no back is aching, no fear in the world is dwelling.... ALL you know in this instant is the peace, forgiveness, joy, truth, and freedom of His love.
This is the love that will bring you to your knees every single day... not just in desperate need of a miracle, but knees bowing in complete humble adoration of the one who SAVED you. He saved you from an eternity without Him and He saves you for Himself. This is the love that will keep your hands held high in undignified praise, thanksgiving and worship. You will now TRUST in what His word says and spend your time giving Him your ALL the rest of your days!!!! You are a beloved child of the most High King. A King who humbled himself to a baby who would grow to live, serve, and die for you.
B90: (Ezekiel 22- 33:20) Two more days of Ezekiel. Hallelujah. When I read bigger chunks of the bible I tend to notice things I usually don't. Today I saw that God was saying this particular thing over and over, "Then they will know that I am the Lord God." He says "then" after all this all this bad stuff happens. Yikes, I don't wanna be one of the "thenners". I think I'd rather start getting to know my Dad now :) Ok, that's all I got for Ezekiel tonight... sleep tight in His arms tonight.
Monday, August 29, 2011
Sadly, we live in a fallen world in fallen bodies with toxic things ALL AROUND. To be completely unharmed by any toxic things we'd have to live in a bubble I'm afraid. Even then you'd have to be careful what you were reading, watching, and who was visiting you! Ah!!! We will all be somehow affected by toxins in some way until the day we are taken home where sin is no longer present. Another thing that will no longer exist is pain. Pain is a result of this toxic world. Today I felt pain... and I witnessed pain all around me.
I prayed for a friend who has experienced agonizing pain in her neck and head for two years! There was a funeral at my church for a man my age who was murdered in his own home and left behind a young wife and 3 kids. Widespread pain. Another friend of mine has had a string of pain with sick family members, difficult relationships, heavy burdens from work, and an insurmountable stack of important decisions piling up. Someone else I know and just spoke with is taking on responsibilities she never would have expected for herself in this life. A close guy friend is feeling the weight and stress of his position in ministry. And my pain is hardly any comparison... but I'm feeling it physically and emotionally tonight. The list goes on and on.... and I have an inkling you could add to it with your own personal stories.
Pain is definitely a part of our lives. BUT so is beauty. It's hard for me to think that God wants pain for His children... because what loving dad does? Nevertheless, I'm constantly hearing that this or that was "God's will." Sure, we CAN and should always praise HIM despite our difficult circumstances so that He will get the most glory out of the situation.... but does He always cause the pain? I'm not so sure about that. Oh, He can definitely use the pain and birth something sooooo beautiful from it... but I think sometimes we give God credit for the bad stuff, when His desire is for our good. Now, on the other hand... allowed pain (like we read about in Job) can be also used for His glory and other times be blessings in disguise. I'm just questioning all sides of this argument so that you'll look closer with me at God's heart for His people and maybe find truth for yourself in all of this. Like I've said before: I NEVER want to take away or add to the gospel, only ponder the word in hopes of going deeper into the great mysteries of the Lord. I also NEVER want to undermine His authority, that would be dangerous ground to tread. What I do desire is to bring more light to His truth and heart for the world... in the midst of the pain and trouble.
Many moons ago when I was still sportin the headgear (don't laugh...) and my 89 pontiac sports car, my dad took me to my first driving test. Boy... was I nervous. This was my "big day", the gateway to maturity if you will. I was taking the opportunity to pass over my childish threshold into the unknown portal of adulthood. I had studied my brains out for this thing, and practiced hours with a very brave yet nervous family member gripping the seat next to me. Palms sweaty, I sat down and pushed through the written part equally as frightened of the driving section coming up. Afterward, I hopped in the car with the stern faced woman. I could feel her judging me with her left eye as we rolled out of the parking lot and carefully glided around the corner. At one point I forgot to use my blinker. This is something people forget every day in the "real world", and for some reason beyond my imagination I was punished for this and denied my driver's license. Teenage devastation at in it's finest hour. A few months later I was able to go back and prove that mean old lady wrong, thus my finally treading on uncharted grown-up territory... where freedom was just a steering wheel and gas tank away! It wasn't until just a few short years ago that my very own dad told me that he was the reason I didn't pass :( Are you kidding me right now?? He said the lady had told him my mistakes, and although she was going to pass me anyway... He told her not to because he thought I wasn't ready. I blamed this poor woman for years!!! Can you believe it?? So although I would have passed my butt in a second... Dad "allowed" this woman to flunk me and knew that it was for my best.
I know that God does know what we need better than we do... because He knows us better than we even know ourselves. I also believe that He has provided ways for us to be protected from this toxic world more than we think. First we must continue to believe in the POWER of God's healing hand. When we pray for someone, I truly believe that even if we don't see a physical miracle He's healing their heart in some way... and that's eternal! God also created fruits and vegetables and herbs that heal. I believe these are wonderful things He designed to protect us from some of the pain we endure. Did you know that we can actually change the way we feel, sometimes even the way we think... just by the foods that we eat??? It's pretty amazing how He created our bodies to work! Also, when we repent from sin... He is detoxing our bodies from something that will eventually poison us. He wants to cleanse us from negative emotions. Did you also know that fear, anger, and bitterness can all harm our physical bodies as well? I know we are barely scratching the surface here... but the more I research and the more I read His word... the more I see how it's all so connected!!!
Like I said... I know we can't keep every toxic thing from entering our mind, body, soul and spirit. But I do believe that He has given us the means to live as WHOLE as possible in this earth and be strong and healthy for Him while we are living. When I got sick a year ago with Dengue Fever I saw how right after my physical body crashed, my emotional followed. Soon after... my mental became weak and then my spiritual. I began to see how they all somehow supported one another and that each of those things were vital in my relationship to the Lord and my service to the world. I know that when I'm feeling great physically, I'm even more excited and passionate about serving and loving people. I also see how easy it is to focus on positive thoughts and how much energy I have to read the word and blog this much. Haha. When we are sick and/or feel crappy, it seems that everything looks gloomy and takes a back seat to the illness. There is no doubt that God can use those very moments to help us "be still and know".... but there are other (healthier) ways for us to rest and not even get to that point.
I pray that we, as a church, begin to see the importance of living whole lives. I pray that it's never what we look like on the outside, but what God is actually doing on the inside. It IS a temple of the Holy Spirit and if we honor our vessel in that way we will find that the life we've been given is such a beautiful gift worth treasuring. As we surrender ALL areas of our life to Him, and not just our "spiritual" side, He will take us to even greater heights and delight in us honoring Him with our whole selves! If we are good stewards with the temporary life He's given us, ours as well as others lives will be changed eternally! I'm telling you, it's been quite an adventure for me...an adventure that lasts a lifetime, but one well worth living.
B90: (Ezekiel 8- 21:32) Oh man oh man... yet another book i'm ready to hop out of. I'm telling you, the bible is not so much of an easy read (but i'm sure you already knew that). I've began to notice recently this "fear of God" rise up in me again. As you read through this stuff, it sure can kick you in the gut just hard enough to realize how freaking powerful and mighty God is. It's pretty humbling and will surely keep you on your knees. Nevertheless, God's faithfulness and love does come through in moments of these dreary but honest books.
Just last night I was reading in one of my "food and healing" books about fevers. Basically it was explaining how for many many years now our medical community has told us that a fever is bad and needs to be broken. But after much research, the high temperatures in the body are actually it's way of killing bacteria. You see, the bacteria can not possibly survive at those high temperatures... therefore our body is doing us a much needed and urgent favor. (Yet another amazing design in God's plan for our bodies). Although it can be painful or annoying to deal with, our fever is supposed to break on it's own when it is finished with it's job. Unfortunately, when we break it ourselves with medicine of some sort... the book so eloquently puts it "we kill the cleaning lady before she's finished her job" and the leftover bacteria scatter throughout the body. Each time we do this bacteria is dispersed and eventually we will have a much bigger problem on our hands. The key is to build up your body's immunity so that bacteria can not even find a place to take hold when it's introduced to your body. But when fever occurs, it's actually helping us. Some will not agree with this at all, and that's ok... but I choose to believe that God designed our bodies to work in tune with us and not against us ( "if" we treat it properly).
Again, something like this reminds me how something a little annoying and slightly painful can be a good thing sometimes. The high fever, which we may see as a negative... could very well be a positive thing that fights off the bad stuff. After trudging through Ezekiel and all of it's "condemnations", I got to the end of chapter 18 and saw something I hadn't before.
In verse 25 The Lord is speaking to the house of Israel who has said He is not just to which He replies "Is my way not just? Is it not your ways that are not just?" He goes on to say that when a righteous person does injustice he shall die, and when a wicked person turns away and does what is just he shall live. Read on down through the following passages paying close attention at the His last few sentences here. "Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel. For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so TURN and LIVE."
He makes it clear at this point that what He does judge is the sin... the sin is what He hates. He takes no pleasure in the death of those He created (or the sickness for that matter). He DOES take pleasure in seeing us choose LIFE, His intention and desire for all of us. God deeply cares for each and every child of His and I truly believe He wants us to be as free from toxins and sin as we can be on this earth; so we can live fully in His freedom and joy, resting in His grace and faithfulness, and trusting in His word and truth.
Sunday, August 28, 2011
After our little game of bocce I sat by the lake enjoying the stillness of the water and the brilliance of the sun. I heard a father and his child conversing as they reached the shore. The first thing the girl wanted to do was take her shoes off and jump in, but her dad denied her of that freedom. Then she wanted to run and he told her to slow down. After that she started to play, but he just verbalized his annoyance and wanted to leave. Although it was a sweet gesture bringing her to this captivating place, he seemed as though he cared not for her happiness. I just kept thinking about how she might view God as she gets older. Will she see Him for who He truly is, or will the only representation of a father she knows skew her picture of God's great love?
I've had many conversations with people about their up-bringing. Some adults see the connection between how they were raised and how they now view God, but some don't. Even the ones that do have to sort through so many past emotions that it can sometimes be quite exhausting. Some of you have been abused, forgotten, abandoned, rejected, or mistreated by your own dads. It wouldn't be a surprise if you were afraid God might do the same one day. We don't always realize that our false accusation of God, sometimes completely unintentional, can be detrimental to that relationship. It can actually cause us to hold back from God- not fully trusting, or it can even keep us from living in the freedom of His abounding love and walking in His truth. He so desperately wants us to KNOW who He really is by His living word and the miracle of His heart captivating ours. God wants to banish the lies that we've believed about who we think He is and heal those broken places. We can't forget that we are "adopted kids" meaning HE CHOSE US. Hard to believe sometimes I know.... but He did. I want to remind you that He will not forget you, forsake you, abandon you, reject you or mistreat you. You are safe in His care.
I encourage everyone to pray into this a little bit. What are some lies you may have believed about God because of ways you have been treated poorly on this earth. One thing God knows how to do right that many humans get wrong, is how to love us well. After you've walked through some of your past it could feel a somewhat heavy or burdensome. At this point remember to release those lies and negative emotions to God asking Him to break off anything that is not His truth about who you are in Him and who He is to you. Forgiveness will bring a whole new level of freedom in your life. Also, go back and read (day thirty-three) heart doc: the hand that holds and heals as a refresher for what God says about you, His child.
So, I'm not exactly sure if this is a call to all men to be a proper representation of Christ to your families... or for all mankind to see God for how God wants us to see Him. Regardless, when we do see the truth- nothing can keep us from praising Him. I recently ran across this short clip on someone's facebook wall and now feel I should share this timely and motivating message with you! Who really is our daddy?
B90: (Lamentations 1- Ezekiel 7:27) Gosh, it really is tough to see the good parts of God as you're reading through these books. I have a little theory that was revealed to me today in an analogy that may only bring up more questions for you. For me, it is a picture to help explain these sticky parts in the bible we just wanna toss. Since I haven't done extensive research finding biblical truths to support it, then I will probably just ask a lot of questions. I'm going to attempt to simplify this, so bear with me.
I felt the sun bearing down on me today as I was reading these very chapters on the back porch several hours ago. I absolutely LOVE the sun. I can sit for hours and be completely satisfied. I love the warmth, the brightness, and even that thing it does to my soul that makes it happy. Then I started thinking of all the warnings people heed about it's deadly rays, skin cancer and such. This doesn't make me love the sun any less, but it does confuse me as to why something so wonderful could be so damaging and unkind. Then I realized that the sun had not always been dubbed as the skin hater. It seems (by most folk) that our toxic world is thinning the very thing created to protect us from the power of the sun.
Let's travel back to Eden for a moment, shall we? If God's intentions for us humans were to live in Eden and not eat of the apple (in my opinion the very first toxin that ever effected our world), but to live in perfect harmony and freedom with Him... then the ozone would have stayed intact and the sun would never harm us. Nevertheless, we know how the story goes... they took a bite, the fall of the world began, and sin began to infuse the perfect earth with it's toxic reputation.
Carefully taking this a step further: I wonder how much this might relate to our powerful and mighty God. We want to only see the good, believe the good, and explain the good of God. The moment something terrible happens, many questions arise that we sometimes can't answer. Our faith tells us that God is worthy of our praise no matter of the situation. But our mind can become a tad confused and a little bit frightened at times. Is it possible that the sin in the world has (in a sense) eaten away at the "ozone layer" that now reveals all of who God is. So- like the sun- instead of us only seeing the warm fluffy stuff we now have to see the just/righteous/judgment part of God's character as well? I could be totally off, and rightly so... I'm posing some pretty "out there" questions. I would just like to explore the possibility of this analogy in a safe environment... that's all :) "If" the Eden Fam (A & E) hadn't taken a bite of that apple, I have to wonder if we would have ever seen the"just" side of God (the hard parts we can't explain)? I'm proposing there would be no need to since there was no sin before the bite... but i'm just curious as to how this might help us see God in a clearer light I suppose. This is why it is crucial that we know the word of God and ALL that it says/reveals about Him. I'm very good at translating the love of God to an audience of one or a thousand, but find it a little more difficult explaining His love in a tragic situation. We must always keep a healthy fear of God, but remember in the same moment what His very son did for us... and covers us with His blood that protects us from those powerful rays. He desires for us to soak up every ounce of His son and never forget what a loving Dad He is.
If you have not read Lamentations in awhile, it would be proper research for this blog. If you do, pay close attention to Chapter 3:20-41. I'd be interested if you see it through new eyes with a clearer picture of God's character or not. Anyhow, feedback is awesome... I wanna know what is going on in the heads and hearts of all of you! Again, I apologize if this complicated things for you... my hope is that it will challenge all of us to go deeper in His word and seek His face even more! Email me if you have any thoughts, questions, disagreements, or prayer requests... I want His truth to be represented more than anything. firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday, August 27, 2011
I'm sure there were times my dad could have accomplished the job much faster (or better) without us. I'm also pretty sure there were times we slowed him down or even frustrated him a little with all of our questions and complaining. Sometimes we would mess up, but before we could even get upset about it dad was there to clean it up and show us a better way. The thing dad probably hated the most was when my sis and I got into it. He would simply teach us that if we worked together on things, we'd be able to get more done and do a better job (not to mention a more pleasant work environment for everyone, haha). We made friends with the electricians, the plumbers, and whoever else dad needed to hire. All of these people became family. Individually we did what we knew to do and collectively we built a house, from the ground up.
Dad had the right tool for every job he asked us to do. If we didn't know how to do it, he'd teach us. We had learned a plethora of invaluable skills as a kid before we could even write in cursive. Not only have these trades come in handy, but so had our ability to believe in ourselves and others. One of the most priceless things he taught us was how irreplaceable we were to him; no matter how much we may have messed up, argued, or complained. He loved us. And no matter how we got through the journey, we got through it with him. He was ALWAYS there. He may not have been in the same room, but he never left the house without us. Dad knew we would fail at times, but he never once treated us like a failure... rather he taught us how to walk out of that in the freedom of his love with no guilt or shame. In fact, if we had always done things perfect... I'm not sure we would've known how much his love far outweighed performance and exceeded our human expectations of our little selves.
Just a few days ago I found myself vacuuming around the edge of a room at one of the houses my dad is currently remodeling. I felt my childish tendencies returning when I asked if he was REALLY needing this to be done or if he was just giving me a job to keep me busy. Then suddenly it hit me! Dad could always pay someone else to do exactly what i'm doing... so whether or not he's making up mundane assignments he just wants me in his presence!
I immediately started to tear up as I realized the magnitude of this revelation and the impact it was about to take on my life. All these years, dad just wanted to be with us and us with him. He wanted to show his love through the ups and downs of life, the success and failures, the mistakes and the beautiful finished products. He was always much more concerned with us knowing his heart than he was us learning specific skills. He knew we were most likely not going to grow up builders, but we were going to grow up. What better way to grow than in the constant care of a father who loved us so much that he would spend his life showing us.
So as I was vacuuming I was also pondering. Again the Lord was showing me that if my own earthly dad had this much love for some crazy kids, how much more He desired for us to know HIS own insane love for us! Then I began to see how much our life is like all those houses we built. Our heavenly Dad doesn't always worry about us messing up, becoming skilled, or the occasional complaint... He simply wants us in His presence (although I'm sure he'd rather do without the whining, haha). I'm beginning to see that His love for us far exceeds what job we are doing or how well we are doing it. It's all a journey, and He's not intimidated by how fast or perfect we live it. In fact, I'd be willing to bet He would LOVE for us to slow down from time to time and rest with Him. I don't think our mistakes bother Him as much as the lies we believe about ourselves afterward. Our shame, guilt and disappointment do not reveal His glory in the situation... but our utter dependence on Him does!
We've got to remember it's not a race to see who can build the bigger, fancier house before we die... but perhaps it's more about the time spent with the builder- the one who wrote the plans for your life in the first place. The one who cares about every step of the journey. We tend to miss some pretty amazing opportunities when we just focus on the end result. I mean, the end result is gonna be pretty fantastic... but there are so many who have not been shown how much the grand Architect adores all of His kids, even the messy ones :) When we realize how much grace He's bestowed on all of us, we can't help but bestow just as much grace on their journey. And how much more can we accomplish for His kingdom when we work so beautifully together.
So just like my own dad: our Father gets so much delight out of watching his kids work along side of him, work together, work for a greater cause than just ourselves, and being able to stand back and enjoy the finished product as a family. He's got every tool we need to do what He asks of us... but no matter what- YOU are irreplaceable to the Father. He is always there. And His love far outweighs our human nature to perform. He can accomplish exceedingly more in and through us when we are completely surrendered to His will for our lives. How much JOY He gets out of us being right by His side. His presence will make even the most boring mundane job worth every second. Our acceptance of His pursuit and desire to follow our love wherever He may go tend to result in a pretty fulfilling and very God-glorifying life.
B90: (Jeremiah 31- 52:34) If Jeremiah was a crayon in the box of prophets, I'd say he would be brown or black... probably closely tied with Isaiah. I mean, aren't these fellas are just a bundle of joy?? Hahaha. Ok, in all seriousness though. These books are harder than hades to read. I found myself trying to remember how much God really does love us when I'm enveloped in the lives and words of these crazy characters. And as much as I'd just love to throw these books out all together, it's a part of the WHOLE gospel. While I'm also reading "Erasing hell" by Francis Chan, I stumbled upon these interesting words by J.C. Ryle yesterday (quoted on a friends blog):
If you would ever be a healthy and scriptural Christian, I entreat you to beware of any ministry which does not plainly teach the reality and eternity of hell. Such a ministry may be soothing and pleasant, but it is far more likely to lull you to sleep than to lead you to Christ or build you up in the faith. It is impossible to leave out any portion of God’s truth without spoiling the whole. That preaching is sadly defective which dwells exclusively on the mercies of God and the joys of heaven and never sets forth the terrors of the Lord and the miseries of hell. It may be popular, but it is not scriptural; it may amuse and gratify, but it will not save. Give me the preaching which keeps back nothing that God has revealed.And although I'm not even completely sure where I stand with this quote, I am sure of one thing. I am sure of kingdom that began with His love and will last forever in the freedom of that love. I know that I serve the God of this kingdom. I deeply desire that every single person on this earth will one day come to the revelation of His love and be rescued from a Godless eternity. What that all looks like, can any of us be sure?? As confusing as things can be in this world, we must always remember to invite Jesus into those moments with us. Anything that we could possibly go through on this earth... He has gone through to an even greater degree. We must trust in the one that was there before the foundations were even laid. He's got a plan and I wanna be a part of it!
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
You ever have one of those "off days"? Seems like everything that happens around you is just plain weird, and you don't quite know how to respond to it? Well, I have those every now and then and today was one of them. Around 5 am I was dozing in and out of sleep as I hear this loud pounding of thunder right outside my window. All I could think was, "could somebody please turn off the lightning i'm trying to sleep here." Then later today I found out about four people murdered, two of whom have gone to our church. Although the rain had stopped, the storm continued...
All day long I've been troubled by some big decisions in my life. I know any decision in this case will be a good one, it's just one that's going to determine the next several years of my life. I have had cool job offers in the states, invitations to live long term in several countries, and opportunities to use my passions for the Lord anywhere in the world really. The possibilities are endless. But for a girl like me, this can sometimes be my hurdle. I suppose it draws me even closer to the throne of Christ, because I couldn't possibly make a decision without Him. I also know that sometimes He lets us make up our own mind if it aligns with His word and will for us. A large majority of the world is happy with being in one place for a really long time doing one particular thing... whereas I am happiest serving globally, learning how to do many things, broadening my horizons culturally, and meeting all kinds of people. Nevertheless, I do grow weary. Sometimes I envy those who are content or have been called to stay put, but other times I feel as though that might drive me a little crazy. I suppose the grass really is always greener on the other side.
But I also wreckin' the grass wouldn't be so green if it weren't for the rain and storms. Sometimes on "our side" of the fence we can peer through the cracks and suddenly feel discontent with the yard we're standing in. We often desire the good or attractive things about someone else's life, but discount the storm they walked through to get there. I know that God has a particular design for each of our lives, but I also know that sometimes we settle for less than His desire for us because we find a comfortable spot to set up camp. But then again, you may be someone who is taking extreme risks all the time... but can't seem to find the courage to commit to anything. This is a hard realization I'm beginning to discover about myself. There has got to be a balance, right?
Is it possible for us (and I know it must be).... to be a "risk taker", follow the Lord in complete abandonment, be sensitive to His calling for you and your family, be content with our "yard" (life) while always seeking more of Him, rejoicing in other peoples "yards" without becoming envious of their landscaping (hahaha), and not being judgmental or gossiping neighbors but living in true community wherever in the world you may find yourself? Loving each other's journey's, and letting God be our consistent factor.
As I had all of these big decisions swirling around in my head today not really knowing what to do with any of them... I found myself just wanting someone to tell me what to do. That would be sooooo much easier. Like a husband or a boss or something. Then I felt God say to me... "Linds, just focus on being my daughter today." This immediately took the pressure off as I let go of the stressful burdens squeezing my heart and let Him figure it all out.
As I began to sit and be a kid.... suddenly the "storms" seemed to become a playground. I remember when I was young how much we loved when it rained. My sister and I would get our bathing suits on and go outside and just dance around trying to catch each raindrop on our tongue. The beautiful summer rain was such a relief from the miserable heat of the sun. We equated rain with play time, appreciating every single drop.
As adults we run from the rain...we tend to shelter ourselves from the way it might alter our hair, makeup or clothing that day. We see it as more of an annoyance rather than a necessity for growth. Without storms, we'd always stay the same... and we would never be challenged for more. With them we have the opportunity for change, insight, wisdom, and growth. Who really wants a dull, boring, dry life with dead grass? Not me! I know it's hard when you're right in the middle of the storm... but we must push through to His promises knowing He's going to follow through. Don't forget, the rainbows (His promises) are always there... we just don't always see them unless the conditions are just right and it's time.
B90: (Jeremiah 18- 30:24) "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for WHOLENESS and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and f ind me. When you seek me with all our heart, I will be found by you, declares the Lord. " Jer 29:11-13
He does have a plan and purpose for it all... for us all. I pray that even when we don't exactly see what that is, we will see our purpose to seek His face. As we seek Him, especially through the storms, His plan for you and the world will begin to be unveiled to you. We must also remember that it's not about us... it's about Him and only Him. We are so blessed to be able to be used by Him every day, and to have a real relationship with a God who loves us so very much. Quick... run outside and dance in the rain a little while. Remember what it's like to be a kid, not care about appearance and trust that God will completely take care of your needs and your future.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
The time for me to leave this country again is getting nearer. Like always... I don't feel ready. My heart is aching at the thought of leaving my family; I so long for consistency. With my missional lifestyle things are constantly changing. This has it's ups and downs for sure... my life is always exciting, but there isn't always someone there I love to share it with. I love to follow the Lord wherever He's leading, but I absolutely hate saying goodbye to those I care about the most. I like choosing with God where to go to next and what to do.... but sometimes I'm just ready to share my life with someone who will lead me. But the more needs I have, the more I must trust Him and the more God ALWAYS pulls through for me.
Every conversation I seemed to have today was deep, and the subject of conversation seemed to be about taking risks. All of us have the opportunities to take risks every day... and to me this just means, attempting things the world thinks is crazy or won't work. But there's a reason they call it "the upside down kingdom" that we live in. It's because God works so differently than the world. And guess what? God is the God of the impossible. Taking risks usually means going outside of our comfort zone too. Most of us would prefer to just stay right here, thank you! Believe me, I KNOW the feeling. I still fight that sometimes, even when I know where i'm supposed to go! All I know is that as much as my flesh cries out for attention, my spirit is the one that deserves all of it. The more we risk, the more we have to trust! Taking risks looks different for all of us... just keep listening for His whisper and stay obedient to where/what He's leading you to do :)
A friend of mine just showed me this video by Francis Chan I thought I'd share with you. I thought it was challenging and very encouraging :)
B90: (Jer 7- 17:27) "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit." Jer 17:8
Monday, August 22, 2011
So sorry folks about the "case of the missing blog" yesterday; we'll just make this one double the fun. Haha. I have to be honest with you and just say that this blogging thing is not easy. There are legitimate days when I physically can not write it, but there are other days when i frankly just don't want to. Many times i've just sucked it up and pushed through and those seem to be the most humbling days when God REALLY came through. I know without a doubt in those moments I alone could not have written anything of worth, it's only through Him that this is possible. He's the very one that brings value to every word or thought represented and I truly pray that His power moves in every line and love penetrates every heart! I do this for no other reason but to glorify Him with praise and adoration :)
With that said... Speaking of value and worth, Pastor Dan was on fire again yesterday at Journey Church. One of the things He mentioned is how when we find something that is of value to us, it brings everything else into perspective. That valuable object begins highlighting the things that are of real worth around you. Other things that are of less or no worth fall away. Letting go or laying down stuff for that particular thing of value is no longer sacrifice but suddenly becomes a beautiful investment. Dan likes to compare this to meeting his wife. He said that when he met her... all the things he thought were important faded away. She became the comparison for all other things. He fell in love and knew He'd follow her anywhere :)
In the same way Jesus calls us to follow Him. Something very cool happens when we do... we meet Him face to face. We begin to have love encounters with Christ. And...(for the sake of not sounding mushy) we REALLY do fall in love!!! If you have been resisting this love... i beg for you to let go and run into His arms. You will NEVER be the same again. If you feel like you've been asking for this love and just don't see it yet... keep pushing through! He is who He says He is and we are who He says we are... no matter what we "feel" about it. The feelings will come, but He's still worthy of our praise!!! And I do believe He wants to break down those walls of injustice and lies (from the enemy) so we can truly feel His breath of life, words of truth, and His heartbeat for each one of us.
When we see HIM as the object of greatest value and worth... all else fades. Our circumstances no longer control us. We find the freedom to fully live in His kingdom! We can walk in obedience and joy at the same time. We can be overly generous but lack nothing. We can be thrown under the bus by the world, but come out without a scratch. We can be rejected, hated, and abandoned.... but stand secure in our adoption as sons and daughters of the most High King! We can be cheated on, stepped on, stolen from... but don't have to be defeated, crushed, or broke. God is powerful, He's on our side.... and He's got plans for us in His plan! He wants to take us and all of who we are, and place us smack dab in the center of His big ole plan for the world. When He becomes (to us) the worthy being that He already IS, we become humbled, ecstatic, and eager to follow Him every step. Because it's ALL an adventure and it's all apart of your journey towards Him. We only have a little time on earth to glorify Him in our lack... and I want to point to Him every chance i get- ESPECIALLY when life gets hard.
Sometimes I call my friend just so I can hear his motivating voice mail. At the end of a cheery message he simply says, "Make it a great day!". I love this! I mean, really... we don't always have impeccable circumstance that surround us but we ALWAYS have the opportunity to choose. Today, I was fighting my flesh as I was driving to work. I kept thinking about all the other things I should have been doing. About half way there I just felt like God was telling me to choose my attitude like i chose what clothes i put on today. God honors us when we choose to honor Him. I walked in work and was completely blessed by all of the amazing conversations and hilarious endeavors. One of the guys who came up to the register actually said that very thing to me again (like God was trying to tell me something...haha), "Make it a great day!"
As we know, it is about the moment in every day. Enjoying it, praising Him in it, loving others, serving, etc etc. But it's also very much about the bigger picture. The more we place God as our valuable centerpiece... the more we find our worth wrapped up in Him and the value of others lives. And the more time we spend with Him, the more we see from His perspective; through His eyes. We finally begin to "get" His plan. This is when we choose whether or not we will keep doin our own thing, or take up His offer. He does give us the freedom to choose which ever we like. But I can promise you, NOTHING can beat what He has for us. Nothing! Now that I have tasted His presence and seen His power in my own life, I never want to waste another second! This is my prayer for you this very moment. That right now, these words will penetrate the deepest part of your being.... you will choose Him, and NEVER be the same again. His love is divine and will take you on the best (and most valuable) ride of your life. He wants to be our life. That is true life.
B90: (Isaiah 49:17- 63:19 & Is. 64- Jeremiah 6:30) Since I'm still slightly obsessed with the analogies that are coming from the recent release of the West Memphis 3... I was reading tonight about Peter Jackson's involvement in this case. Mr. Jackson has made a lot of incredible films including the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. When he was made aware of the case, He quickly became very active in fighting for justice for these boys he saw as innocent though most of the world and judicial system deemed unworthy of freedom. They sat for 18 years behind bars of shame, possible injustice, unforgiveness, and fear. Mr. Jackson helped pay the debt of the investigation leading up to their freedom.
Sometimes I wonder what bars we sit behind when we have already been given that choice of true freedom. Our debt has been completely paid yet we sit in cold cell full of shame, guilt, injustice, unforgiveness, and fear. We play victim when we could so easily claim victory. We don't exactly see this place when we choose to live there, but can almost guarantee we know the difference if we've ever tasted true freedom at all. If we haven't yet, then look around you... there are (or at least should be) examples of real freedom and joy in Him. This goes for people inside and outside of the church alike. Being inside a church does not make us free.... it's running after Him that does. Now, what happens when you have a bunch of free people worshiping Him as a church??? A lot of healin, shoutin, praisin, dancin, and lovin! That's what!
I love the part in Isaiah where the "Lord will say to the prisoners, 'Come out', to those who are in darkness, 'Appear.'" Is. 49: 9 Don't you think the God who created us is tired of coming to "visiting hours" and speaking to us through a glass wall? I know God is ALL-POWERFUL, but hear me out. Maybe this is the very reason we sometimes feel that there is something blocking that communication with our God?? Perhaps it's because He created us to be FREE (in a fallen world even) and we are letting ourselves be imprisoned by other things that have become more worthy than Him.
"Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God." Is. 50:10
He believes in us... He no longer sees our guilt, but He's made us innocent by His blood. He paid of all our debt, there is no more need for an investigation of our case- we are free! It's time to walk in that freedom. I can almost promise that when you step out, God will become so much more REAL to you.
"Awake, awake, put on your strength, O Zion; put on your beautiful garments (take off those awful prison clothes).... Shake yourself from the dust and arise; be seated, O Jerusalem; loose the bonds from your neck, O captive daughter of Zion. For the Lord says ' You were sold for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money" Is 52: 1-3
Now... what exactly do we do with this new found freedom?
"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, 'Your God reigns.'" Is 52:7
And you become hope and a beacon of light in the midst of tragedy and pain..." Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; BUT the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And the nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising." Is. 60: 1-3 (Keep in mind He's speaking to future Israel, but I still think it applies to us in this moment.)
We have an exciting responsibility in this freedom to see others who were in the same place we were and to speak life into their situation. We are to call out and break off the lies and injustice so they too can experience the freedom of Christ we now walk in. When we've been there, recognize it, and walk out of it.... we truly desire for others to know the Life that we now know.
"because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound." Is 61: 1 Amen!!!
"For I the Lord love justice; I hate robbery and wrong; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them." Is 61: 8
And lastly... find rest and peace on your personal journey with Him. Where there is REAL love and trust there is no fear. "Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls." Jer. 6:16
Saturday, August 20, 2011
The other night I started browsing through one of the guys old blog from solitary confinement. The scene he painted for his audience was at times very disturbing and uncomfortable. His words describing such a slavery felt like thorns in my own flesh as my heart ached on behalf of the pain he endured:
"I can vaguely remember life in what I call the real world. It seemed to be a chain of events that flowed one into another, not always seamlessly, but at least naturally. There is nothing natural about my current situation. Nothing flows or even moves without someone applying a tremendous amount of willpower to one of realities pressure points. Even then, it's like trying to keep a beach ball afloat just by blowing on it. Life without momentum is not truly life. A person needs movement, or they eventually begin to forget that they even exist."
When reading this one can clearly sense the feelings of abandonment, rejection, loneliness, fear, emptiness, and tremendous pain expressed. Gut wrenching pain took on so many faces for him in that cold emotionless place. His wounds were exposed in every way which caused affliction to be that much more visible as he honestly recounts every detail of discomfort.
Even in "the real world" we can experience some level of pain and slavery. And most of the time it's less visible. Internal affliction is difficult to handle on your own, but pretty easy to cover up. I've learned to look for external signs that reveal things going on deep inside a person's life... but often it's masked so well the world would never know. We all have the same freedom offered by the same price paid... but very few accept, believe and commit to this freedom and love. Even fewer live radical "kingdom" lives with Jesus on earth. I just wonder how many push pain down further because of fear. I wonder how many have actually started forgetting that they even exist (like echols), and have become numb to life in slavery?
God can and will (if we allow Him) turn our pain into something beautiful. He can use the very thing we tend to mask for His glory. He can turn ANY story completely around. He can take us off the path of destruction and onto the trail of true life. He can also use our victory in other people's lives so they too can learn to walk in complete freedom with Him. Where are your broken places? Do you believe God can make those places beautiful again? He's got you.
Today a friend of mine sent this video to me and I thought it fit nicely so I'd share it with you. It's another interesting perspective on this whole thing. I love to watch things that provoke me to think... and explore more of the mysteries of God! Enjoy :)
Friday, August 19, 2011
Now... I'm not saying they are innocent or guilty. I'm just wondering if that's the REAL issue at stake here. When I heard that the WM3 (now grown adults) were being released from the courthouse in my hometown this morning, the journalist in me could NOT stay away from the action. When I arrived, I noticed many news vehicles surrounding the courthouse and police men galore! What was meant to be a peaceful little release party, suddenly turned into a pretty big ordeal with more attention that anticipated. Although there were a lot of people, it was strangely quiet. Everyone was standing still.... waiting. Many of them have been following this for years. I talked to a some who knew the boys, some who have researched this to death, and others who were just very interested in seeing justice served. To most of them justice was getting to see these innocent 3 released from being in prison almost 18 years for a crime they did not commit. We stood still quietly whispering among ourselves watching the doors for movement. About 30 minutes after I'd arrived the WM3 were officially released on probation.... they were finally free.
All day long my heart has been churning over this strange occurrence. On one hand, if the 3 are innocent... I weep over those lost years for them separated from loved ones, kept from the freedom to live life. On the other hand if they are guilty... I don't know... I still am saddened by the loss of life either way. Since the beginning of "the fall" in genesis we have lived in a world which acquired an atonement for sin. In the old testament animals were sacrificed. But in the new testament something happened. An innocent man took the blame and paid the price for ALL of us for the rest of time because of His love. When we see and understand what He really did for us we are overwhelmed by His love, captured by His story, and changed forever. So, no matter what REALLY happened that day in West Memphis back in 1994... my heart hurts. My heart aches for the pain and suffering in the world, my heart aches for the victims and victimizers, my heart aches for the hate, death, anger, vengeance, and injustice. We have an enemy who loves the stuff... and a God who sent His son to die and rise again to defeat that enemy with His love and win the worlds heart back.
Tonight as I was again researching the story I stumbled upon something that really hit me hard to the core.
Mark Byers, who's son was a victim of the West Memphis three killings, has supported the release of Jessie Misskelley, Damien Echols, and Jason Baldwin. "I want justice and I wanted the three of them to be free, and I have no hard feelings against the three. I have love and empathy and sympathy for the family, who I've made amends to. I'm looking for them today just to hug them. To let them know they have their child back. Maybe I can't have my child back, but they're going to get theirs," said Byers. "I think it's a terrible crime to be put in prison for a crime you didn't do, and you have to admit to a crime you didn't do on a plea bargain to get out of prison."
As I was reading this I had another thought. Jesus, who was completely innocent, died so that we would have freedom. How do we think God feels when we step back into the very prison He released us from? He wants us to be completely free. He wants us to have our childhood back. He's pleaded our case and won, now we must choose to step into the freedom that he "freely" gives or choose to walk with shackles keeping us from the life He desires for us to live in and with Him on this earth. If your life reflects that of the Father, others will see something in you that they want. They'll be drawn to the freedom you have, and all you have to do is point them to the truth and He'll do the rest. He's given you one life, now what are you gonna do with it? They may have been innocent boys in a physical prison for 18 years, but how long have we been in prison ourselves with the very keys to the door of our freedom?
B90: (Isaiah 26- 37:38) "Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him." Is 30:18
My prayer is that these boys turned men will have many divine appointments "outside the walls" with people who follow Jesus and can show them forgiveness, grace, love, kindness, and joy. I pray they will all come to know the GREATER freedom they can have in personally knowing their Creator. I pray that the physical symbol of their freedom today will release spiritual freedom across the state, the US and the world. Truth is- we all deserve death. But He paid the ultimate price so we didn't have to. Amen? Let's live it!
I'm reminded of one of my favorite childhood songs....
I've got a river of life flowing out of me
Makes the lame to walk and the blind to see
Opens prison doors, sets the captives free
I've got a river of live flowing out of me!
Thursday, August 18, 2011
The team crashed, but my co-leader and I began our duties. We were relieved to meet our laid back contact who was crazy about Jesus, but not so excited about what he was about to tell us. Something He forgot to mention ahead of time was that He was taking our team, the next day mind you, on another bumpy jeep ride another 7 hours or so to the boarder of Bhutan. I almost lost it. My very wise co-leader and I saw his heart for these people (through our exhaustion somehow) and knew that if we could make it there alive that God must certainly have BIG plans in store for us. And He sure did. Way bigger than we ever could have imagined.
On our way He told us that there were about 30 or so brand new Christians that didn't know anything about God other than His love and they needed us to teach them about His truth. We were basically running a typical 3 month discipleship school in 3 days. Crazy? Maybe. Possible? Always. Marcus, our contact, kept encouraging our team to ask God for more. He had seen a lot of miracles in this area and knew that something very awesome could happen.
So, one of the nights he decided to do a "game night." That particular evening my co-leader and I decided to stay back at the house for a little down time. We also had some details to work out for the next leg of our journey. Dinner time rolled around and we began to wonder where our team was. I went down to the church, heard some loud praying... and returned to the house. Still, hours went by and nothing. Finally at about midnight they came back full of energy and excitement! Not exactly what I expected to see. They were talking ninety to nothing about all of the miracles they just witnessed!! They saw a paraplegic man walk again, they saw people healed of sicknesses and diseases...everything! Their stories were simply amazing! This is something every missionary dreams of..... but wait, I was 500 feet away and missed the whole thing. Are you kidding me??? I came all this way around the world to see people healed and missed it!!!!!! In my head I was screaming, but on the outside I was trying to keep my cool and be happy for my team.
I quietly grabbed my co-leader and we went for a little walk. As soon as we got far enough away from the house we started to become angry at God for letting us miss such an opportunity like that! The more we selfishly huffed and puffed, the more our rotten attitude became quite evident. All the sudden God patiently said..."so you think this whole thing is about you?" Ouch. Then I felt Him ask me why I couldn't rejoice with my team for what HE did that night. Ouch again. To make a long story longer I learned several valuable lessons that night. One- it REALLY is all about Him. Two- it doesn't matter if you are actually there or not, we can still rejoice in what God is doing globally in and through people's lives! Three- it doesn't matter if I ever saw an actually healing because God is always healing things that we don't see, like the heart (which is way more valuable and eternal than our physical bodies anyhow).
As we sat there.... learning, we looked up into the sky and repented for our ugly pride. It was one of those "fear of God" moments when you suddenly see how small you are in comparison to how massive and amazing God actually is. We simply asked God to reveal His love again to us... so that we could continue to pour it out to our team and others that we would encounter on this trip. It was almost as if we had just been spanked and needed a big ole hug from our daddy to know He still loved us. Of course we knew He did, but just as we were finished praying it started thundering off in the distance. The storm seemed to be moving pretty fast so we got a move on. Right as we stepped onto the porch the sky opened up. I believe that we witnessed something close to a hurricane that night. As we were standing on our rickety little porch watching the palm trees bend completely over almost touching the ground, one of our favorite songs came to mind. A song by John Mark Mcmillan called "How He loves".
We sat there belting out the song with tears streaming down our face and the rain and wind circling us. I knew in that beautiful moment His fierce undying love for me.... for all of us. I knew that it wasn't about me at all... but that He took pleasure in using us and letting us be part of the blessing. I was overwhelmed by His love in this moment, I knew I would never be the same. Perfect love does not exist on this earth... but it does exist in Him. He is this love that we so desperately long for. Imagine for a minute what perfect love would look like and then times it by infinity. Know that in this moment... right now (even if you don't feel it) He loves YOU that much. He can't possibly love you any more than He does because He already loves you to the highest degree of love. Just sit and rest in this for a moment while you let these lyrics speak revelation into your heart.
He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realise just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.
And oh, how He loves us so,
Oh how He loves us,
How He loves us all
Yeah, He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves.
Yeah, He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves.
We are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.
So Heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about, the way…
The next day revival broke out in this village and hundreds of people were saved and healed. I've never seen anything like it in my entire life. We prayed for so many... and saw their lives completely changed. It was the coolest miracle shindig ever! The most humbling miracle of them all was this small boy that was deaf in both ears. I held my hands over his ears and began praying. As I did something strange started to happen. I told God to give him my hearing. I knew that at the very least God was healing something in this boy's heart (which was awesome) but I REALLY wanted him to hear. After a few minutes of praying I leaned over and whispered into the boy's ear, "Jesus loves you." The boy looked at me a little funny at first... and then repeated the words I had just told him the best way He could!!! Oh my goodness, I was amazed!!! I knew that God had not only healed those people that night, but He had truly healed me from my own pride and selfishness. What I would've missed out on if we had decided not to come on this trip! God is so so so good.
Today I experienced another miracle of my own I'd like to share with you. I received an email today from my travel agent telling me that I need to buy my ticket to new zealand tomorrow or the price would go dramatically up! As I began praying for a miracle, I told the Lord that it would have to be Him... because there was no possible way for me to come up with the money in one day. A few emails, phone calls and texts later... God provided every single penny I needed for that ticket through some unbelievably generous friends. I'm amazed, humbled, and honored to be apart of such a wonderful family in this kingdom of heaven on earth with such a good Dad who loves His kids like a hurricane.
B90: (Isaiah 10:14-25:12) "He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. It will be said on that day, "Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation."" Is. 25:8-9
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Today I found myself roaming through some blogs from a few years ago. I stumbled upon this one, which seems to be a lesson I (we) never stop learning. It's one of letting go. Holding on to things implies several things... a few being ownership and control. If we can't let go of something it can be a clear indication that it actually controls you. I don't think this is our intention, but I do think it's our natural tendency. What we don't realize sometimes is that: a) it's not really ours to begin with, b) our Dad wants us to be completely free to love and be loved by him, and c) He's got something way better up His sleeve than what we're holding on to!
My sister was just telling me about the death grip my niece has already... and she's not even 2 yet!!! Beth, who is a grown adult, could hardly pry this thing from her daughter's hands. She's had to do this several times because of the "unsafe" things that she was holding/eating. hahaha. If it were up to Londyn, she'd probably be holding tight onto something 90% of the time. But its those desperate times she wants to be held when she instantly drops whatever it is and it quickly becomes non existent compared to the love she knows she's about to receive.
I'm also reminded of the story of "the pearls" my pastor tells: One time a Father gave his little girl a set of plastic pearls for her birthday. His daughter loved this necklace so much!!! She wore it everywhere she went, and she was so proud! One day her dad asked if He could have it back. Her immediate response was, "No daddy, I love these pearls!" He patiently said ok, but asked again a few days later. This time she began questioning her Father's love. "Why would you give me this and then take it away?" she asked. He simply replied, "trust me". It took a few more times of him asking. But finally one day she decided to trust her Father and let go of her prized possession. As he took the cheap made pearls and placed them in his pocket, he started digging around in the other one. Her eyes began to fill with tears as her Daddy placed a beautiful REAL pearl necklace around her neck.
Several years ago I found myself wrestling with a few things... one of them being my ongoing dream for my knight in shining armor to show up and whisk me off of my little feet and we'd live happily ever after. Ok, not EXACTLY like that (probably won't actually have armor on...hahaha). Anyway, I didn't even realize that the absence of the reality of this dream was bugging me. One night I was talking with a good friend of mine and he said that God was telling him to tell me to "let it go". Let it go? Let what go?? I was clueless as to what he (or God) was talking about.
Sometimes we don't think we are actually holding on to anything because we can't see it; and the reason we can't see it is because our hands are so tightly closed around it. Could it be the simple fact of letting go- of whatever it is- that pleases the Lord? If we can't give it up, it takes priority over Him and ownership in our lives. This can be very unhealthy... it can hold us back and keep us from living an abundant and free life.
So, I started asking God what this was that I needed to let go of and as soon as I began to open my hands I started to see what was inside of my death grip. Instead of trusting God for His will for my life, I was trusting myself (and failing miserably) with "my perfect little plan." And by perfect I mean: not even CLOSE to what He had in mind. My ten little fingers were woven tightly around this plan and I was having a VERY hard time letting God take control. I wanted SO badly for someone to love and pursue my heart that I guess I felt like I was going to have to make it happen somehow on my own.
This was a time in my life when I thought I was ready for that "next step". Besides that, the world had expectations... and I was not fulfilling them fast enough! Along the way... toward the next phase of my life, I had one eye on the Lord... and one eye searching for that love. I was welcoming any prospects that might come along (and almost willing to settle for the counterfeit, like the plastic pearls).
I also discovered that my destiny was not found in the pursuit of these things but in the pursuit of Him. I want HIS PLAN... abundant life in Him. I find more security in knowing things are safe in His hands and on His time table than mine. I know that when we let go... He's able to pick us up, place us in His arms, and give us way more than we could ever have imagined. He promises the REAL deal, and He delivers every time.
It's one of the most difficult places when you know what you are leaving behind... and your trying to have faith that what's ahead is better than what you've left. A lot of times we would rather stay where we are, holding on to what is comfortable because it's familiar (not because it's right). Fear of the unknown can hold us back. If we could only see what God had for us on the other side, we'd give everything up in a heartbeat. But instead we hold on to what we know... and in turn our deepest hearts desires are crushed. Part of us dies. We live our lives settling for what we understand and never grow.
I knew the time had come and I was finally ready. No matter how hard it was going to be to let go of this dream, I knew my Dad had something even better in store. That night I cried out to God and opened my hands to Him letting go of all I had been holding onto. I truly felt the love of God flow over me like He could finally hug me again. The next day I went to pick up chinese food for lunch and now I'm a believer that God can speak through ANYTHING.... even fortune cookies.
I cracked it open and this is what it said...
FRONT:Today is the day you let it go. Your chance will come.
BACK:learn chinese- boyfriend
Even more recently I was laying in bed praying before drifting off to never never land. I felt compelled to describe to God the perfect man. As I was spouting off all of his amazing qualities, I pictured myself walking down the beach with this man- but all I could see was his hand holding mine. In my vision we were laughing, running, loving and FREE. I had this feeling of being completely adored and romanced by someone. As soon as I was finished with my description... I could almost hear God say, "You just described my Son." At that very moment, in my vision, I looked up into His eyes and felt overwhelmingly loved and pursued by Jesus. Right then, as the tears began to roll... I knew that the man God was providing for me was going to be such a beautiful representation of Jesus on this earth. I sure do hope to meet him soon, but if I don't... I have every living day to fall more and more in love with my Savior!!! And this is the most beautiful love story of them all.
B90: (Song of Solomon 4- Isaiah 10:13) Right now I'm even more amazed at how fitting Song of Solomon is for this blog. Almost every person on earth can relate to this book in some way. We all desire love... true love; love that would die for us, love that will never end, love that is of no condition, love that never stops pursuing our hearts, love that describes every feature of our face, a love that brings out the very best in us!!! Some of us have sadly been abandoned or rejected by earthly love, therefore find it hard to trust another. But once we take just one tiny step in God's direction, He makes a b-line to us with this love that we can't explain. Read the whole book of Song of Solomon if you get a chance tonight. It's such a cool representation of His love for us :)
"Oh you who dwell in the gardens, with companions listening for your voice; let me heart it." Song of Solomon 8: 13
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Justice and unity have been heavy on my heart the past couple of days. Every time I turn on the news or walk down the street I see acts of injustice and disunity. Most of my recent conversations have been about these very things. Sometimes it's subtle; like when a look of disappointment or disrespect is given because someone else didn't live up to their expectations. Or perhaps it's as evident as a homeless man passed by without a word of kindness or a look of acceptance. This world is FULL of victims of abuse, neglect, abandonment, rejection, judgment, and hatred. Every victimizer is one of them... and I wouldn't doubt you have probably been hurt once or twice in your life. As a believer, in the freedom of Christ, we can miraculously worship and love from a place of victory despite the pain. Why then do we often still judge others for being different, not believing "our truth", or living "worldly"; rather than LOVING them to the place of freedom? Jesus never had to "prove His point" to the worldly crowd, instead He lived the point of the very gospel He died for.
Sure the bible is very clear on sin- that it not only breaks the heart of our Father but exposes us to the ploy of the enemy. Jesus plainly teaches us to KNOW what is right and live according to the truth; but never ever does He tell us to build separate churches because we can't agree, or live on a certain side of town because it's too dangerous over there, or to only give homeless people money if we know they are buying food with it, or to not go into the bar because someone we know might see us, or to not build community with people outside the church, or to be RIGHT. We are to simply know what is true and live it. Why on earth can't we live out the gospel TOGETHER in unity with our community (christian and non)???
When I travel around the world with a team of 6-8 people we MUST have unity to make it. We are under all kinds of attack out there and the enemy loves to try and get us against each other. He knows that if He can break us apart, he can also destroy our representation of Christ to others. If family bound by the love of Jesus can't stay together, then what makes it real and appealing to the world? I always would say that it's more of an injustice for us to not treat each other with the up most respect and love than most of the stuff we were witnessing out there in the broken suffering world. It's time we get this right.
Can we forget about "being right" for a moment and come together for a greater cause? I truly believe, that if we CAN (with His power of course), we will not only see revolution in the body of Christ becoming unified but true revival across the world. Everyone is watching us. They all have their reasons for staying at arms length from the church. (Sadly the world sees more of what we don't believe in rather than what we do). Let's not give them one more reason to run away, but show them every reason to run fast towards the One person that loves them more than anything else in the world.... Jesus.
Tonight I saw the movie "The Help" with the women of my family. You better believe it was an emotional roller coaster. I laughed, I cried, and at times wanted to punch someone. Wouldn't you know that the very themes I caught from the film were justice and unity? I tearfully watched black maids being stepped on, talked down to, disrespected, and dishonored. I shamefully witnessed white folk victimize these women and sadly realized the same women had been loved poorly themselves somewhere along the line. You see, there is only one enemy and he will do everything possible to tear God's children apart; Christian brothers, different colors, and separate statuses. Here's the thing: to God every human being matters. If we believe He created them, they matter. YOU matter. It doesn't make a difference to God if someone is wealthy, poor, black, white, homeless, crazy, sick, healthy, or wrong. He cares about them all, He cares about us all... HE is the one who makes us righteous, not us being right. He's not intimidated by our journey, but He loves us through it. OH GOD, that we would begin to see the world through YOUR eyes!!!!
There was something special about the black church community in the film. EVEN though they were the ones that were being treated poorly, they were being taught to LOVE the very person that hated them because of their victory in Christ!!! They learned that God is the one who ultimately will defend them and presently care for them. There was unity among their community because they knew the truth and lived it. These people gave me a new passion for injustice- to bind up the enemy, love the brokenhearted, and to see REAL freedom in peoples lives! They reminded me again that EVERY single person matters to God and should to each and every one of us; no matter where they came from or where we think they are going.
Yesterday I had a friend give me the book "The gospel according to Jesus" by Chris Seay. I picked it up for the first time tonight and read this quote by him: "The reason we are not living in the light of life that real Christianity ignites is that we have ignored, distorted, and misunderstood the gospel according to Jesus....We have a problem, and we must look again at the teachings of Jesus and seek the truth with our lives. Correcting our misguided assumptions is meaningless if we do not hold this truth in the forefront of our hearts, minds, and lives. What Jesus was saying was that... righteousness was not just about tallying our rights and wrongs, but about a way of life in which people were called to justice and mercy and holiness all at the same time."
I see inspiration in these words. I see determination in my friend who drove all the way to Florida last week to read a book to a girl who would never understand it and would die the very next day.... all according to the gospel of Christ. I see hope because of my mom who answered a phone call from a women today who is trying to escape a life of slavery. She loved on her and prayed for her... all according to the gospel of Christ. I see justice when I watch my friends travel across the globe to defend the poor, heal the sick, and feed the hungry...all according to the gospel of Christ. I see fearlessness when I listen to stories of those who go into bars and clubs every night to sit and listen to the pain and bring light and hope.... all according to the gospel of Christ. I see unity when 3 churches come together in Jonesboro to worship the same God in the basement of a friend's house... all according to the gospel of Christ. What is God's heart prompting your heart to do with His gospel?
B90: (Proverbs 29-Song of Solomon 3:11) Tonight I think it'd be cool to focus on one of my favorite passages. When you meditate on something it's good to read it several times slowly, then sit and reflect on it. I like to ask the Lord what He's trying to say to me through the passage personally, and at the same time look at what He was saying pertaining to that specific time. It's so good to take time to look deeper in the mysteries of the word for ourselves. I pray that, no matter what part of YOUR journey you are on, God will speak to you plainly through His word tonight and you will walk away with a new treasure to give away freely to the world who so desperately needs His love.
"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted.
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace." Eccl. 3:1-8
The injustice of an innocent man dying for the sins of the world was an act of justice because of His love FOR the broken and suffering world. Unity begins with what we find in His arms. He rescues us and gives us freedom not because He has to, but because He loves us. Rest in the truthful words of this beautiful song... let it flow over you like a peaceful river.