Monthly Archives: September 2014

Nonexistent

menopause

On Friday afternoon I stared at the text message from my doctor, giving me the results of my estrogen level test: “nonexistent.”

Nonexistent.  Maybe that’s what all women go through when they go through menopause.  I don’t know.  But I know that with the things I’ve been dealing with, I was willing to give the sample of Estrogen gel the doctor gave me a try.  Within thirty minutes of applying it, I noticed a difference.  I could feel my hard edges softening.  My appetite returned.  It felt like my life was going from two to three dimensions.

And as I felt better, the contrast made it clearer to me how I had been living —  with nonexistent energy, nonexistent motivation, like a wooden stick figure trying to find a way to go through the motions.  Yes, I had times where everything came together and I felt like myself again, but I didn’t know when they would come, or how to bring them.

But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always.  Hos. 12:6

I read that verse in Dr. Delgado’s waiting room, while I was trying to have a spiritual time in the midst of feeling like my chemistry was off, a bit shaky and weak.  What a great verse it is.  It reminds me that the most important things to God are for us to practice love and justice.  It also spoke to my heart:  I need to ALWAYS wait for the Lord.  I need to be patient in my nonexistence, knowing He will  thinks I am awesome and has my back, that He is faithful and passionately wants the right thing for me.

The next morning, Saturday, was grey as we left early to go to have a reunion with our old friends David and Sheila.  Driving under the overcast sky, we prayed, and asked God to use us over the coming weekend.  Then I read aloud the first chapter of “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voscamp.  We read about the tragedy of her life, and how she closed her fists to God.

The book mentioned the story of Hezekiah, and how he prayed to live 15 more years, and God answered his prayer.  But when he did, he fathered Manasseh, who led the Israelites to do much evil.  Voscamp related what her brother in law said, “Maybe you don’t want to change the story, because you don’t know what a different ending holds.”

How much would I like to change the story sometimes!  How much I would like to not be nonexistent.  How much I would change what I see as less than optimal circumstances and situations because (gasp) I think I know better than God how things ought to go.

And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord…  Luke 1:46

I read this verse in “One Thousand Gifts” and I made it my goal for the weekend to become less, especially in my world view, and instead focus on making God greater.

The sun came out.  We arrived in Cleveland, TN and had a wonderful  visit with David and Sheila.  It was inspiring to see how they have matured because they have honored their relationship with God.  I saw the peace in their hearts, and what they have been learning.  I saw how they give to so many.  “I’ve decided there is no failure,” David told me, “because failure is an ending.”

It’s true.  Life is a process.  What looks like a failure can be God’s success.  And what we think of as a success can turn out badly.  The only way is to totally rely on God.

From there we went to the wedding.  What special vignettes I remember!  Seeing Devon, beautiful in a light blue dress and red lipstick, slip in the seat next to me just before the wedding started.  She made it in time.  Seeing Dave walk Rachel down the aisle, she so lovely and he so proud.  The groom looking like he was tearing up.  Hearing how Rachel’s favorite thing about her husband to be was his passion for God.   The barn turned into a fairytale with flowers and twinkle lights.  My grandchildren running around the grassy fields in the twilight, Layla looking like a little Norse princess in her flowered dress and suede boots, the front of her hair pulled back in two braids, with long curls bouncing.  Ethan “exploring” with me, keeping a running dialog, bright blond hair and his now grubby white oxford shirt.  I dragged my daughters to the dance floor and we danced, and later Layla came and twirled with impish happiness to the music.

Sunday we woke to a vista of lovely hills covered with mist. We drove back through the beautiful scenery, singing “How Great Thou Art.”  We read more of Voscamp’s book, about how thankfulness is the soil from which God works.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  Phil 4:6

That is a challenging concept for me.  How can I be thankful for situations that my own best thinking tells me are not they way they need to be?

My thought is, I’ll arrange things how they need to be, I’ll pray about how things need to be, and then when they are,  I’ll be thankful.  God wants me to be thankful first, thankful in the nonexistence.

Then we got to church at North River, and I did one of my favorite things  — I sat next to my son and worshiped God.  And I listened to Tom Brown’s sermon on how we CAN change the world, as overwhelming and hopeless as it seems.  Tom read the following scripture:

The least of you will become a thousand, the smallest a mighty nation. I am the LORD; in its time I will do this swiftly.”  Is 60:22

The least of you will become a thousand.  God can take the nonexistent and make it great.

Even failure is not an obstacle.  I keep worrying about the details, trying to assure that everything works out perfectly.  But what’s amazing to me is that even if things don’t go perfectly, even if things fail, God can use the failures.  It can all a part of His plan.

I need to learn to thank God in the incompleteness, in the failure, in the nonexistence, because I TRUST Him.  He who brought the broken manged body of Jesus back to life, seated at His right hand, can work in any situation. We CAN change the world, though our efforts seem feeble and fallible.  May His will, and His will only, be done always.

 

 

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The Vibrant Life

What is the vibrant life?

It is stepping out of our comfort zone and sharing our faith, believing each person crosses our path for a reason.

It is having great stories to tell of how God is working in our lives.

It is reading our Bibles and being excited about new spiritual insights.  God is showing us just what we need, the thing that hits the sweet spot of our soul!

It is praying and feeling the will of God spreading through the earth.

It is being quiet, and realizing that God is moving, not us.

It is being thankful, and living in the moment.

It is praising God for the little things that happen throughout the day.

It is feeling the waterfall of grace and love that is being poured on us.

It’s living in eager anticipation that God will answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness.

It is singing until we are bursting with the Spirit.

What is NOT is not the vibrant life?

It is not being comfortable. If we have a comfortable religious life we’ll always come back to the feeling that something is missing, something feels off.   As the Bible says in II Tim 3:5, we’ll have a form of godliness but deny its power.

We’ll become stuck in a spiritual lethargy, not doing what we should because we’re afraid, and doubtful.  And the more we don’t do what we should, the worse we feel about ourselves.

We’ll become inward focused, not sharing our faith or having deep relationships.

We won’t deal with our inner selves, our sin, our insecurities and our discontent.

And so we’ll medicate and numb ourselves with the media, with buying things, with busyness, with jobs and hobbies.

We’ll tell ourselves that we’re good people, that we’re still doing things for God, that we’re doing our best to get by, that we’re not perfect, that we have to look on the bright side.

But all the while, we’re missing the vibrant life.  We don’t feel significant.  We don’t feel loved.  We don’t feel like we’re a part of something bigger than ourselves.   We don’t feel the sparks of excitement about seeing God at work.

This was true for me.  I wasn’t sharing my faith or being outward focused. I got lost in daily pursuits.  I felt dull and squishy.

On the outside, I might have looked like the countless religious people around me — going to church, talking about how great God is, trying to live my life for Him.  But I would go to bed at night feeling empty, wondering what it was all for. I was lonely for deep connections. I felt stuck in a pattern of mediocrity.

Thank God that He gives us the opportunity to break free!

And my heartfelt goal now is to help others to get unstuck, and live a vibrant life for God.  They think they are happy, but I know better.  I was there.

One book I really love is “If You Want To Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat” by John Ortburg.  We need to be walking on water, becoming all we can be for Christ, and having Him work IMMEASURABLY more than all we could ask or imagine through us.  It feels great.  But we’re going to have to shake off the lethargy, look inside the secret places of our heart and repent, and step out on faith.

Let’s do it today!  Find someone to encourage you in this.  It’s hard to do it alone.  Pray for me, that I can continue to do this for the rest of my life!  That I can be like Joshua, just as eager to enter the battlefield at the age of 80 as he was in his youth.

Let’s share in the victory of the vibrant life together!  To God be the glory forever.

 

 

 

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Things I am Learning: People are Like Christmas!

Comfort

1. Satan wants us comfortable.  It has really impressed me, how comfort is one of our biggest enemies. It keeps us from growing, addressing sin, and ultimately, feeling deeply joyful and vibrant.  We get dull.

Let’s FIGHT every day to ADVANCE the kingdom of God.  Just little actions do so much.  Let’s pray harder, with faith.  Let’s address our sins.  Let’s open our mouths more, think of others more, dig deeper in the Bible.  Life can be so exciting and fulfilling if we will shake off the lethargy that settles on us like a cozy blanket.

Woe to those who are at ease in Zion. . . You lie on beds adorned with ivory and lounge on your couches.  Amos 1:1,4

word of life

2. Keep offering the gospel to those we know.  Don’t just think, “I talked to them and they weren’t interested.  The door is closed.”  God is working all the time.  This might be the time they’re open.

Sharing the gospel is like a game of Marco Polo.  We keep calling out, and listening for a response.  Like the verse in Ecclesiastes, we keep casting our bread on the waters, sending our ships out to sea, knowing after many days some will return.  We keep planting seeds, KNOWING that God is making some of them grow.

“Ship your grain across the sea; after many days you may receive a return.”  Ecc 11:1

“You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness.”  Ps 65:1

merry go round

3. Abiding happiness doesn’t come from answered prayer.  Our prayer life can become a merry-go-round  of focusing on what we want to happen, rejoicing when it finally comes to be, and then moving on to the next prayer “need.”  It can become a cycle of want that never ends.

Instead, we need to focus on gratitude.  We need to praise God, and just soak up being in His presence.  We need to rejoice in the moment.

Your boundary lines mark out pleasant places for me. Indeed, my inheritance is something beautiful.  Ps 16:6

Cheryl was just baptized!

Cheryl was just baptized!

4. Resurrect the lost art of friendship.  “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”  John 15:15

I realize that I’ve forgotten how to be a friend to those closest to me.  Here are things I am working on:

  1. I need to get past the shallow superficiality, sharing of banalities and GET REAL! Talk about what my life has really been like. CONFIDE.
  2. I need to believe that each friend has something for me. It isn’t just me giving to them.  I’m learning to relax, and let the relationship wash over me, meeting my needs. I’m learning that we all need connections.  Sometimes it’s enough to just listen to a friend, appreciate who they are, learn about their life. We simply need the back and forth that is a relationship. It is actually soothing.
  3. I need to reach out to friends more with my little pieces of daily news, my joys and heartbreaks. That is what a friend does.
  4.  I need to do things with my friends more – go shopping, have them over just to hang out.

young pregnant woman enjoying life outdoors in summer

5. God is SUPER excited to have children “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”  James 1:18

I hadn’t thought about it before, but when I meditated on that verse, I realized that we are God’s first true children.  Just as a farmer plants a crop, and eagerly waits for the fruit, God has eagerly waited to have offspring who can actually come into his presence and dwell with Him.  It is incredible to think we are spiritual beings, born of the Word and Spirit.  “You received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, ‘Abba, Father.'”  (Romans 8:15)  “In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ.”  (Eph 1:4b-5a)

Ken asked me yesterday why I had wanted to have a baby so much.  I had had a miscarriage, and after that, I would have given almost anything to have a child.  I had to think a bit, but I told him that I wanted for our unit to increase.  I had this wonderful togetherness with my husband, but I wanted it to encompass more.  There would be a wonderful togetherness of my husband AND children.

Surely it is the same with God.  The difference is that I longed for children for a short space of time.  When I got pregnant, I only had nine months of anticipation before my child was born.  God waited THOUSANDS of years for us!  Just think how fired up he is!

christmas

6. People are like candy and Christmas.  What is God’s attitude about people?  He thinks each individual is the best thing ever.   “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”  Luke 15:7

Look at how the father greeted the prodigal son in the parable in Luke:  “he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”  (Luke 15:20)  God is so excited when we come to him.

In the same way, I need to be more excited when I see people.  God thinks they are super special, and so should I!  I need to treat my time with them like it is a gift.

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God Gives 100%!

With God, things work out.  I thought yesterday was just a regular day.  But this morning I started remembering all the ways I had seen God work.  One person who is looking for a job got a call back and interview.  In two different situations, a person who was struggling found a way to move forward.  One of my children had great things happen to them.  And I realized I could go on and on, listing the ways, large and small, that things have worked out.

As Jesus said in John 5:17, “My Father is always working.”

One revelation I have had lately is that God gives 100% to his relationship with me.  This stands to reason.  He asks us to love him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.  Why wouldn’t He do the same thing?  He, who tells us to be wholehearted in our love for him could not be absent or halfhearted in his love for us.

And I have a great illustration for that:  marriage.  From experience, I KNOW that marriage only works when both partners give 100%.  God knows that a relationship takes commitment.  What is cool, is the realization that God is committed to me.

But there are millions, billions of people in the world.  It is mind boggling to think that what I listed this morning is only the smallest microcosm of what God is doing around the world.  He is working, giving EVERYWHERE!

“And we know that in ALL things God WORKS for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28

So it stands to reason that God wants to know, “How much do you love me?”

Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”  John 21:15

From reading Luke 14, we know that God is asking, “Do you love me more than your mother, father, son or daughter?  More than your spouse?  More than your agenda?  More than your job?  More than your comfort?  More than your passions and hobbies?”

I think God puts us in situations where we prove our love to Him, that we don’t love anything more than him.  In numerous ways, every day, throughout our life, we are given the CHOICE to love Him.  Let us say, “YES” to Him in every way, with a full grateful heart.

See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.  But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them,  I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed.  Deut 30:16-18

 

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Covered with Brilliance

Sometimes we need more than love.  It is wonderful to call God our Daddy, and wrap ourselves in his unconditional embrace.  But a covering of love doesn’t change our weak and wounded sinful state.

We need righteousness.

I watched a documentary last night, “Desire of the Everlasting Hills,” about three homosexuals who chose to live a life for God and be chaste.

gay man

One of them had engaged in over one thousand sexual encounters with men. He discussed how 90% of the people he knew died of AIDS, so finally he went to get tested for AIDS.  On the way, in the car, he had a spiritual experience.  He said God told him that he did not have AIDS, that there was a purpose for his life.

Sure enough, in spite of his flagrant promiscuity, this man did not have AIDS.   It was profoundly life changing for him.  He, who thought his acts had given him the sentence of death, had been given the gift of life.

But that wasn’t what he was most grateful for.  He went to a priest and confessed his sins, not just his sexual immorality, but the selfishness that pervaded every area of his life.  He felt that he was forgiven, and in a right relationship with God.  For him this was the best thing.

And that is what we all long for, a state of righteousness.

light blinding

God is righteousness.  He isn’t just love, He is a consuming fire, blindingly radiant, awesomely holy.

  • God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see…  I Tim 6:15-16
  • “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”  Ex 3:20
  • Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel.  Ex 24:17
  • And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled his temple.
      I Kings 8:11.  The same thing happens in Exodus 40:35,
  •  I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”  Is 6:1-3
The Righteous Robe: John Katerberg.

The Righteous Robe: John Katerberg.

We’re the opposite.  No matter how good we are, no matter how hard we try, our righteous acts are as filthy rags (Is 64:6), we wallow in a slimy pit.  But God offers us his righteous, and it is like light covering a ball of sludge.

  • “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  II Cor 5:21
  • In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.”  Jer 23:6
  • It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.  I Cor 1:30
  • I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.  Is 61:10

In the documentary, I loved to watch how God orchestrated times in these peoples’ lives when they could SEE.  They saw their moral poverty.  They saw that God is good.  They saw that there was hope. They saw the truth.

God gives us all such times in our lives.  Times when we realize, as in Rev. 3:17, that we are, “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”

What a comfort it is that we can approach an amazing transcendent God, who fills our heart to overflowing, and covers our inadequacies with his beautiful brilliance.

 

 

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Filed under Abundance/Greatness of God, Beauty of God, Holiness, Things I Am Learning