Tag: Working Out Faith

You know… there are few things that invoke awe in me. I post tons of pictures hoping that it can communicate our life here or stir emotion in someone the way it may for me in real life. Usually, I know that its impossible unless someone is right here experiencing it with me in real time. However, after downloading the pictures this week of the sunrises here, I must say they took my breath away in the same way as the day I captured them. I love that the sky changes daily here, if not hourly. I love that the world seems different, new, and full of art on a consistant basis. I didn’t expect that of the mountains. I didn’t expect to be so close to the clouds that I could live in them.

Take note heart. It is your God that directs the clouds, moves the air, breathes into the wind. It is your King who lights the sky, who fills it with glory and calls you to take notice. It is your Counselor who gives you comfort, who inspires awe, and rests your soul.

Take note weary soul. It is your Creator who commands the sun, who shakes the mountain, and demands praise from the rocks. Take note, for He calls you to notice. He calls you to rise, lift your voice, to lift your eyes, your chin, and your chest to exhale your praise to Him. . . for no other reason than because He is the I AM and has spoken the day into being.

Take note. Remember. Capture His presence. All of this is ours for use in getting who He is, how He moves around us, in us, for us.

I see it.

Through waves and clouds and storms, He gently clears the way
Wait because in His time, so shall this night
Soon end in joy, soon end in joy
Soon end in joy, soon end in joy.
~ Jars of Clay, God Will Lift Up Your Head

Storms don’t have to be external circumstances that make you feel out of control and feel distant from God. In fact, mine tend to all be in my head. My surrounding life and family can be running smoothly, seem just fine, but my mind is full of clouds, storms of fear, anxiety, and noise that drowns out God’s voice. I am self-aware enough to know that at times this calls for a physical relase of energy, one of the reasons I run about twice a week. I usually feel compelled to do it, to clear my mind, soak in Vitamin D from the sun, and fill my ears with the methodical beats of worship aligned with my shoes pounding the trail. Other times, though, running isn’t enough, it is something in my gut that can only be processed through prayer, writing and reflection. It is God’s way of pounding on my heart that He misses our time and I have let life take hold of my heart instead of Him.

This week I have witnessed the effect these storms can have on my attitude, my peace, and serenity. I can’t pinpoint a trigger, everything on the outside seems fine, but inside my heart has been robbed of joy. The storms on the inside are far worse than those on the outside- and I have seen the result of external damage outwardly that began from one degree off in the mind. In fact, Matt and I had a conversation this week about how the enemy doesn’t tempt us (me) with immediate, extreme sinful behavior, he tempts us by distracting us from our source of peace, direction, and joy- often causing me to focus on myself, my feelings, and entitlement. I then allow it to transition to a selfish attitude resulting in grey clouds of unhappiness. Where is my joy? I left it behind.

I see more clearly now the sinful nature that so easily entangles. “For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind” (Rom 7:22). I am left feeling like the dry bones scattered on the floor of the valley needing only the breath of the living YAHWEH to bring flesh and life to what is dry and lifeless. I realize now more than ever that amidst the clouds and storms of my mind, there is only one thing I can be sure of, certain of, and that “Christ [can] make his home in my heart as I trust him. My roots will grow down into God’s love and keep me strong. And may I have the power to understand how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.” That with my effort to seek him, know him, that I will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Eph 3:18-19

Once you experience the love of God, embrace His son as the source of joy, and listen to the Spirit’s voice, it is evident that there is no other truth. There is no job, no book, no talk, no pill, no running trail, no end to the chaos around you that can bring back your joy but Him who created it. If I never had storms, if I was never tempted away from God, I would never have reason to choose him, I would never run to him, and never have need to thank him from delivering me from myself- for that is who I have to blame in the end. And that is my sin- I allow the storms and confusion room in my heart to rob me of joy. And I am grateful to know that- because I want joy not of my own making- because I can’t make it.

After Ezekiel delivers prophesy as he is told, the bones took back the form of life, but only Yahweh could breath life back into them. This was his message to his people- “I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it.”

Yahweh- I beg you to breath you life into me, restore my joy, forgive me for my sinful heart- for I make myself an idol when I shift focus from you to me. Clear the way, and in your time, end this period of night with joy. Settle me in the land you have already given me, and mark my character so that I will remember that it is you who did it all, for there is no greater truth than what you have already spoken in your Word and through the power of your son.

So Happy Father’s Day to all of you who have created little ones, want to, or have chosen to father the fatherless. Much has been written about the importance of fatherhood. As crucial as it is to have a mother, a nurturer, a caregiver, there is something about the follow through of a father that God put great expectation on. It is a fascinating role designed to influence our perspective on the heavenly father. They say that little girls strive to captivate the attention of their fathers. Although I was not one to twirl in my pretty dress in front of my father, I in a tomboy sort of way did everything I could to chase after him. Of course, I really didn’t have to work that hard because I believe he chased me too. What a great picture of who God is- one who pursues us without ceasing. I remember chasing after my Dad while he jogged on my bicycle until I was old enough to run myself. And then I remember him at every track and cross country meet he could get to. Holding a stop watch, helping me with time, encouraging me to attack the hills. He was present and wanted me to work hard to be my best.

I have a great earthly father. He continues to teach me and inspire me and points me to God even when he doesn’t realize it. Above all, he is a good man. He fights for what he believes in, stands up for those who can’t stand themselves, and works hard. He knows what his passions are and enjoys life. Even in my adulthood, he supports me, helps me when we need it by bridging the gaps between what we know and what we have yet to learn and yet with such respect.
I have an amazing husband as well. There is truth in finding a spouse that is like your father. It was not luck or by accident that I chose to say yes to Matthew. The example of integrity my Dad walked with set an example I wasn’t even completely aware of at the time when I came across my husband. God knew exactly what I needed in a man and walked with me through my childhood opening my eyes to the things he wanted me to see and remember. As I am sitting here on vacation at the beach, I have a vivid picture in my mind of my father playing in the sand with me. It is a precious picture in my mind of a present, playful, and creative man. And yet, over the past month- our family has been in transition, moving across the country for our next assignment. Matt has been so amazingly present, playful, and patient with all of us during what could have been a stressful experience. It leaves me so complete to watch him build in the sand with the boys, play with them in the water and work with them to raise them to be solid, good, men. Men with integrity, men who raise up those in need, and patient with each other.
So, Happy father’s day to my Dad- you do such a great job, in a role that is quite difficult at times. Thank you for all you have done and keep doing. Thank you for teaching me so much about life and myself. I take pride in seeing each day that I am more like you than I ever thought. Thank you for pursuing me and being so patient with me.
Happy Father’s Day to my husband. Thank you for being so involved in parenting our boys. You bring thoughtfulness and strategy that when paired with my discernment results in making decisions that I believe are from the Lord. A perfect example of unity and a whole picture of God’s justice, grace, and goodness. I love you both!

When I first started Seminary, I started out as a Masters of Divinity student. After one semester, and an almost nervous breakdown, I realized I was not supposed to go for that degree. One of the classes that led up to this moment was a study on Jurgen Moltmann, a popular German theologian. An entire semester was devoted to this guy and we were asked to laboriously suffer through reading his German-to-English books on his view of God. His thoughts were thick, philosophical, and so deep my brain couldn’t hold even the cliff notes version. I struggled to understand why it had to be so complicated. I cried in the bathroom while my husband assured me that I would get it. Sure, for him, it was like candy- Matt devoured this kind of mumbo-jumbo jargon. When it came exam time, even the three hour exam-prep class wouldn’t help me. I was lost in the sauce, and all I had was one sentence of what Moltmann was trying to say, and I knew a whole exam of questions and essays could not be answered with that one sentence:We can only hope for that which God has already promised us, and that was Jesus.

That sentence cost me about $1500 to learn. At the time, I thought it was the biggest joke and disappointment I had to that point. I was disappointed in Moltmann, my professor for putting me through that mess, but mostly in myself for “not getting it.” Now, some 11 years later, I find myself still struggling with disappointment. It rocks my world every time. I get disappointed in people, the church, life’s uncontrollable events, and mostly me. I am way low in adaptability in my strengths. I freeze when something surprises me, I have no wit or quick come backs for a joke, and most frustrating is when something unjust happens in front of me and I go blank as I wait to figure out what my response will be. As I am learning to embrace my inner workings, I am still met with why disappointment rocks my soul. And that haunting Moltmann sentence comes back to me: We can only hope for that which God has already promised us, and that was Jesus.
I am disappointed because I hoped in something. I hoped in everything that is flawed, that could and will let me down. Of course, I know I am not center of the universe, but somehow I seem to easily put myself there. I hoped that a friend wouldn’t hurt me or let me down, I hoped that I could find consistency this week as I tried to feed my body the nutrition it so deserves, I hoped and trusted that the church people would act like lovers of Jesus, I hoped for stability in the midst of a calling in the military, and even what I thought was most important- that God had my back. We will be disappointed every time. We will be discouraged every time. As much as it pains me to say it, Moltmann was right. The only thing we can put our hope in is what God has already done. There are no new promises from God because His Word introduced his desire for us, revealed a promise of reconciling all things to him, and delivered. And the delivery of His son Jesus answered every disappointment, every fear, every bit of suffering we would ever feel in that Jesus brings us back to God. He has made it so that I cannot even trust my own ability to be consistent, because only He is. He is stable, loving, all knowing, and full of grace for when we slip away to think of ourselves more than Him. Romans 5:2, “And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. … And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love in to our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
I love that the Holy Spirit is mentioned here. The disappointment that I struggle with is when things don’t go the way I wanted them to go and I fail to give timely grace. Life, though, is full of all kinds of hurt and disappointments. The Holy Spirit is God’s gift of counsel and wisdom. Without a humble, dependent reliance on God, we will not hear the Spirit clearly. It is the Spirit that convicts my pride for thinking that I could do it on my own strength, that reminds me in the middle of my prayerful complaining that my disappointment was because I trusted too much in the imperfection of the world. Yet, it is also the Spirit who counsels in wisdom that humility does not equal living with a victim mentality. On the contrary, it means trusting in the fulfilled promise of Jesus that we are free from strongholds that keep us from intimacy with our Creator. We are freed to mov actively in obedience as we love others, stand up for truth, and sometimes have to walk away from people or things that seek to teach otherwise.
“Forgive me Jesus, for trusting in my own strength instead of relying on yours. Forgive me for pridefully thinking that life was about how happy I am, or what I get to do. Forgive me for being self centered as I beat myself up for thinking I disappoint you instead of fully embracing your grace and mercy and rejoicing in your love and acceptance pouring over my soul, stilling my heart. Forgive me for not accepting how you created me and living it out fully for your glory. Forgive my unforgiving heart as I have held on to past disappointments from others when I should have seen it was my own sin of putting hope and trust into people instead of you and your plan. Thank you for using my disappointments to develop character in me that learns to look to you and develop patience in life. Thank you for “having my back”, but not in the way it will serve me- but glorify you. With authority, given to me by you, Jesus, I rebuke any stronghold that distracts my view of you. I will uphold your truth, seek to humbly rest in your gift of closeness and refuge, and ask for your strength and consistency, so that I can speak of your unfailing love and forgiveness in the midst of my imperfection and sin. Help me to actively walk in your love, and hope in Jesus.”

Finding and Keeping our Calling…

I had someone ask me the other day, “How am I supposed to know what God wants me to do when I have so many ideas in my head?”  Wow, have I ever been there!  I remember a number of times that I thought I heard the Lord speak to me directly and tell me a direction to go, a boy to date, or a career path to begin. Had it not been for the beginning wisdom of a dear professor that taught me how to discern the will of God, there is no telling where I would be today.  But if you will allow me, today I am going to zoom in on one aspect that seems to particularly trip us up.

Martin Luther’s Reformation unchained the Word of God from the pulpit and reminded believers that they had a relationship with God personally.  Although we Protestants (hopefully) still value confession, Luther showed us that we could go to the Father directly to confess and have conversation with Him.  Hearing Him, however, has many believers jumping at the first “whisper” and leaving many confused when something doesn’t feel right, or go right.  How are we to tell the difference between our own thoughts, the Holy Spirit, and the enemy?

Let’s start with this.  Nothing that God says to us will ever go against scripture.  Scripture is the living, breathing, Word of God that is alive- meaning that we are moved and changed by it daily and it’s words give us direction today even though it was written forever ago.  Along with that, it is clear that God created a special need for community that we will never be able to escape.

We are flawed.  Each one of us.  Me, you, your parents, your children … and our spouse (just in case you were expecting them to be more than what you are capable of being).  We were designed to be flawed- if we weren’t, we would be God- and there is only one God that can be all things, to all people, watching our beautiful planet at the same time as He is whispering your name.  The sooner we understand this, the sooner we will learn to forgive those who accidentally (or purposefully) harm us and learn to accept the love that they try to give that may be different from ours.  Being flawed means that we desperately need a God in our life that is trustworthy, there, perfect, all knowing, and peace-giving.  And having God in our life keeps us humble by not carrying the burden of imperfection and brokenness and instead leaning on Him to sustain us to do what He gives us the desire to do.  Yet He knew, that if we only heard it straight from scripture, or His Spirit in prayer, that we would close ourselves off and dangerously mix our flawed thinking with His truth- thus cults and cult leaders.  Being flawed means that we can conjure up the wrong things, believe lies, and then think it’s God’s voice.  So, he brilliantly designed the body of believers, the Church (not to be confused with the institution or building), to be an extension of Him.  A bunch of other flawed individuals that are also trying to study and hear Him.  These believers, those who have confessed and chosen to follow Him (including you), are called to prayer and service to each other.  Why?  Because we are a physical extension of this God that we cannot see with our eyes, but feel within our spirit.

“But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lack it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.” 1 Corinthians 12:24-25

We desperately need each other. He created it that way.  And so anything that we “hear” from Him, must be taken to the body- to at least one believer who is actively following Him (spouse, small group, accountability partner) for confirmation.  It is when we receive confirmation from the body (within whom He is also actively involved and moving) that we move forward on that internal whisper.  Brilliant, isn’t it?  Thank God- for He is good.  This is what keeps us from going “crazy”, and leading other people into “crazy”.  This is why when I had a boyfriend that told me that we were hearing different things about God on what was clearly unhealthy behavior- that I knew something was wrong- especially when I had friends who loved me confirming it.

When we serve one another, we are “doing” for another what Jesus would still do today if he were physically still on Earth- how else are people today going to experience Him?  When we say we are going to pray for someone, people are actually asking us to pray (not just think about) so that we may be the person from the body that gets clarification and confirmation for what they are struggling with. So, when you hear that whisper in your mind, it is not time to move- it is often time to dive into scripture, pray, and share it with someone you trust who is actively in scripture, and wait for God to confirm it within the body.  This is also true vice versa- if someone in the body tells you a “word from the Lord”, align it with scripture, pray about it, and seek confirmation from someone else in the body.  If you are married to a believer, this is most often your spouse, but for marriage decisions- someone who mentors you.

If all gifts are given to edify, or encourage, the body of believers- then all that we experience with God is ultimately, in a timely manner, meant to be shared and used to encourage each other- thus the power of testimony.  We tend to find ourselves “in the weeds”, struggling over whether it is God’s will for us to take the tiniest step- and while God is present in the decision making of your tiniest step- He is simultaneously zoomed out to His timeline of eternity.  God cares about that tiny step that is causing you stress.  He may even choose to whisper truth and direction to you about whether or not you should take that tiny step- but make no mistake that He has authority over everything that happens in your life.  Nothing passes by Him without Him answering on whether He will allow it to happen.  No evil, suffering, or obstacle is a surprise to Him (read Job).  And while we often confuse this with thinking He “inflicts us” with our circumstances, He knows that life and sin “happen” and are followed by consequences that will hopefully give us the opportunity to glorify Him.  The ultimate purpose in everything He allows, is that we glorify Him- that we give credit to Him for the gifting, the blessing, the sustaining, the direction, the rescuing, or the comfort through the worst of it.

“teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth;  give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.  I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart;  I will glorify your name forever.”  Psalm 86:11-13

Finally, the enemy is talented at knowing exactly what to whisper to you.  Our childhood Sunday school classes taught us that he is evil, dark, and scary and while that is true- he is also deceptively attractive.  That is what deception is, trickery at it’s best that lures someone away form the truth.  Lures and baits only work if they mimic something true.  And so the enemy often will whisper and tempt us with something that sounds like what God has called us to, but is only slightly off to a degree.  If we follow that lie, it will send us in a direction that is completely off track from God’s desire for us.  Yet, if we believe that all authority is given to God, and nothing slips by Him- then we must also believe that He allows this temptation to happen in the hopes that we will change course after searching the Word, prayer, and confirmation within the body.  It is something to confess, as we chose something other than Him, but He allowed it so that we would be changed by it, remember it the next time that lure shows up and know how to respond.  Then, we will sing His praises, glorify Him in His wisdom and grace in our life and testify it to all who have ears to hear.

So, “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 15:5-6

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