My spiritual journey: moments of clarity, ponderings, and vast irritations

Saturday, June 28, 2008

I'm so glad I got up this morning!!

I'm weeping as I write this. I was complaining last night about having no time to read the Bible... and that Jesus doesn't wake me up to read anymore... and that I could never get up regularly to an alarm clock... and now here I am wide awake. I woke up around 6:00? I was awake a few times before that but went back to sleep. I lay there for a while, but all I could think about was getting up to read my Bible. "Nah, I'm to tired," I thought. Then when I had myself about convinced that it really was Jesus that wanted me to get up and read and that I should probably listen, my next excuse was that I wouldn't know where to read at. Suddenly Colossians was strongly impressed upon me, but that could have been me, right? So I shrugged it off and tried to get back to sleep. The thought was insistent, so I was like ok then, but I'm having a real hard time reading lately, and my Pastor said that maybe I'd enjoy reading a paraphrase like the Message sometimes and I don't have on yet. I don't want to read this morning, I would maybe read that, but I can't so I have to go back to sleep. Then I have this strong thought that I could of course read the Message on the internet because everything is on the internet. I could even read Colossians in the Message on the internet. Excuse me? Is that you Jesus? It must be, because all I want to do is sleep, and it seems to me like you are explaining away all of my excuses and giving me direction all at the same time. So about 6:30 I dragged myself out of bed. I pulled up, finally figured out how to open up the Message, which I have never really read before other than brief passages in books or someone else reading me a quick example, and I began to read. I don't know if it was hearing something that I've heard over and over a different way (I've become almost deaf to it in the past?), I don't know if it was that it sounded as if Paul and Jesus were standing right here talking to me in 2008, I don't know if it was because it was the exact passage in the exact version (paraphrase ;0) ) that Jesus wanted me to read, but I began to weep. And it spoke to me about things that I've been dealing with. And it answered questions that I've had. And it was so beautiful.
I really felt that He was thankful for me! Somebody is singing praises of thanksgiving for me! I felt that when Paul wrote that, he was thinking of me, and beyond that Jesus was thinking of me. I feel so many times as if I don't matter. As if I could disappear from the world and no one would even notice. But someone is thankful to the point of spilling over for me!
Here's verse 9-12: "
Be assured that from the first day we heard of you, we haven't stopped praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works. We pray that you'll live well for the Master, making him proud of you as you work hard in his orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you'll have the strength to stick it out over the long haulnot the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us."

To make the Master proud of me? That's what I long for! To not give up and quit? To have strength that endures? To not have that mindset of I'm just going to make it one more day, but I might not make it tomorrow? To actually have real Jesus joy and Jesus thankfulness and Jesus strength? To enjoy life? This would be to experience that life more abundant that Jesus talked about. This is what Paul wants for ME! This is what Jesus wants for ME! And he prays for me to have it! It is attainable... somehow. I want this.
Vs. 13-14:
God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He's set us up in the kingdom of the Son he loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating.
With this depression, I feel like I am in a dead-end alley and a dark dungeon... but that's not where I am in Christ. This is a good reminder.
We look at this Son and see God's original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him.
I may not know what it is now, but I have a purpose! He says I do! I feel purposeless, just as I feel I don't matter to people (worthless, I suppose). But Jesus says everything finds it's purpose in Him. Perhaps I have not searched in the correct places for my purpose?

So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross.

Here it is again... everything finds it's place in God, but even more so, everything that is broken gets fixed and put back together! Wow! That's me, alright! And even better than it was before...we get put back together into a beautiful song. If I look to him as the source of my purpose and my place He will fix my brokenness. He will rescue me from my darkness. He will place the strength and joy in my heart to serve him with out tiring... because it is he who gives me the song to sing for him! It is that song that gives him pride in me! I can't make him proud in and of myself, can I? wow... He does it all. He gives it all. It's almost more than I can comprehend in one morning.

And finally... Jesus says to me, "Don't give up!"
You yourselves are a case study of what he does. At one time you all had your backs turned to God, thinking rebellious thoughts of him, giving him trouble every chance you got. But now, by giving himself completely at the Cross, actually dying for you, Christ brought you over to God's side and put your lives together, whole and holy in his presence. You don't walk away from a gift like that! You stay grounded and steady in that bond of trust, constantly tuned in to the Message, careful not to be distracted or diverted.
So.... I'm glad that I got up this morning!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Vision, Purpose, Dreams, and Goals

I read Pastor Tim's blog the other day, and I realized that I don't have a vision. I have long lists of goals that I want to accomplish (yep! I have an amazing life list!), but if I were honest with myself, I have no idea where I will be when they are accomplished. They are all great things of course, but what is their purpose? Beyond that, what is my real place in the world? What is my purpose in existence? I'm 25 years old, and I don't know what I'm supposed to be when I grow up. I know a million things that I'd like to be, that I'm interested in being, that I may even have a passion about being, but what is my niche? Even more important, where does God want me? Did he screw up when he made me? Am I an accident? If I were made for a purpose, wouldn't I know it by now? My husband is called to the ministry... he knows it. He knew it shortly after he got saved. He has the gift of teaching, an amazing ability to preach, and a huge heart for most anything ministry including missions. I don't know my gifts, I don't know my abilities, and don't really know where my heart lies. Is it in the church? Is it in the home? Is it in a secular job? Just because he's in the ministry doesn't mean I have to be... But at the same time because he is I may be... I'm musically talented, but is that my gift? I don't know. I've often dreamed of being a worship leader, but is that God's dream for me or mine? Most of my goals are silly ones like learning how to ride a motorcycle, quilting my first quilt, flying a plane, bungee jumping, going on a Mediterranean cruise, getting a full body massage, making more married friends so we can go out more, going back to college someday, etc... But what do they really accomplish except giving me a few more experiences? I thought that being a Party Lite consultant would be the it job for me... but I'm already feeling bored with it. (could be from the depression, who knows!) Seems like it always goes like that for me... I do something for 3-6 months and then I want to move on. You could blame it on a restless spirit, you could call me a quitter, but I say it's because I haven't yet found my calling. I think about what to do next... cosmetology school, law school, business school, to name a few of my often thought about options, and I can't decide which one I'd be happiest doing... which one I'd stick too. Which one would I get a degree in and get certified in and actually do something with? I got a degree in medical assisting. I never got certified. I was so bored with it by the time it was almost over that almost quit before I graduated. (It wasn't much of a challenge either...) So here's the deal... I could keep going from thing to thing, trying this and that, getting bored, being unchallenged, or whatever the case may be.... OR I could actually find my vision. My God-given dream. I really don't feel like I have one. I don't think I do. I talked to Pastor about it, and he said that it's in there, but it's buried deep under all the baggage of life. Somewhere deep inside me is the dream that God gave me when I was a little girl, long before I was tainted by the world, others, and my self. Before I was even saved, God gave me a dream. Now I have to resurrect it somehow. How? I'm not sure. But I have to. I have no choice. I refuse to live my life feeling worthless, and purposeless, without place or vision. I may be a mostly happy and optimistic person most of the time, but if you don't have vision, your gonna end up down in the dumps. Vision is why you move forward. Vision is why you don't quit. I don't have that. Nope. Don't have it.
I'm supposed to read DreamGiver by Bruce Wilkinson. I mooched it from BookMooch, and should have it by the end of next week.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Surrender and Tug-o-War

Why is surrender such a difficult concept? There are days, I will admit that this thing called surrender is like reaching for the apple on the very top of the tree without a ladder. Impossible. You can see it, you can taste it, and oh! how you want it, but no matter how much effort you put into jumping, stretching, climbing, and grabbing it just seems to taunt you from it's uppermost perch.
I have surrendered everything to God. I have knelt in my living room, and weeping given him all that I am. I thought that ended this whole dilemma. But wait. There was that little thing Jesus whispered into my ear as I wept.... something about there would be things that we would deal with together as I came to them? At the time I didn't think too much of it. I was on a spiritual high! Nothing could touch me.
And then that day came. There was something God wanted me to hand over that I wanted to keep. So ensued a game of tug-o-war, not very unlike the one leading up to that first day where I surrendered to him my all. What? How could this be? How can I be fighting for my rights when I've given them all up? And so I cried out to him, and released my end of the rope, not only in defeat, but in despair and guilt. And so the cycle went on. Sometimes I only tugged for a few hours, sometimes days, weeks, or months. Sometimes the game was played over the most trivial of issues, sometimes over things that felt like life or death to me. Eventually I would ask myself the question, "How surrendered are you really?" And the answer scared me. A surrendered Christian doesn't fight God kicking and screaming on every little thing, do they?
But what if.... what if he's touching my plans for my life? I know the plans for my life... they are great plans! They are going to take me places! I'm going to be somebody. But Jesus wants my plans. He wants to take everything. He says that he has great plans for my life too. Jeremiah 29:11NLT says, " For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. " That should be encouraging! And yet... what if I don't like his plan... his future... What if I don't like the thoughts that he has in mind for me? It feels like He is wrenching every little scrap of my life that I have to hold on to away from me. Why?
I know why. As I've gone through this cycle of tug-o-war, I've learned several lessons. First of all I've learned that there will always be one more thing in your life that you are holding back from Jesus, even if you don't know about it yet. Just about the time that I think I've finally dealt with every issue that could possibly be wrong, the Mirror shines my on my life and I see something else that I want to live in denial about. Secondly, Jesus doesn't want your stuff, your plans, your money, or your personality quirks that you are fighting so hard to keep. He just wants to see if you are willing to give them to him. What he really wants? Your life. So many times he asks me for something small, like giving up somewhere I go or something I do not because he doesn't like it, but just to see if I'll do it for him. He often returns the very thing that you give to him (i.e. Abraham sacrificing Isaac on Mt. Moriah!) The question is always "How surrendered are you really?" Thirdly, before surrendering everything to him in one huge weeping life-defining moment, you will never even be aware of all the little tug-o-war struggles. Here I am questioning my Christianity because I am fighting God over little things, when they are things that I wouldn't have even noticed before. I wouldn't have even spoken to God about an issue let alone struggled over it! I used to be all about running from God, and now I'm all about confronting God and eventually dealing with my issues. This is spiritual growth. Someday I hope that these confrontations will be more and more submissive and easier, but for now, I am hearing God speak to me, and I am aware of surrender as the ultimate goal. Fourthly, Jesus will take away everything that you depend on outside of Him. If anything takes his place in your life in any capacity, those are the areas in your life He will target first! Ouch!!! I speak from experience here, that these are the most painful areas to have removed. Lastly, the reason that surrender feels like jumping for that apple at the top of the tree that can never be reached is because it can't be reached. It is a gift just like everything else in our Christian lives. Jesus is the ladder, the tree, the apple, and the very life within us that allows us to climb up and finally place our hand around that apple and not only take a bite, but eventually devour every bit of that apple. And despite that fact that sometimes it may seem a bit sour, when we realize from whom it comes, it become the most delicious thing we have ever tasted.
Yes, I have learned these truths, but I did not say that I live them. I fail miserably. I still beat myself up with guilt at my failures. I still question God's plans. I still rely on myself to accomplish surrender. And here I am depressed, frustrated, angry, and who knows what else as I fight him yet again on something that to me is so huge that I dare not even blog about it...
I'm still looking for that miracle zap that will take me from struggling Christian growth to apostle Paul maturity. If you find it, please let me know?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Alive Fest

Alive Fest last night was amazing! I couldn't help but think as I walked down into that natural ampitheatre/hillside setting of Jesus feeding the five thousand. Wow what a miracle that must have been. I couldn't imagine feeding that many people with plenty of food, let alone one little lunch. There were so many people sitting and standing everywhere, all gathered in one heart, for one purpose... to worship Jesus! While we were waiting for the music to start, Reggie Dabbs had us laughing all the way to the most sneaky presentation of the gospel and of Christians getting right with God that I've ever heard. Wow! He was amazing. I was crying, and if there was a dry eye in the place I'd be amazed. A ton of people went forward to be prayed over. Here's this guy, just cracking jokes and having a good time with us and then "Bam!" the knife of conviction plunges into the heart and twists... OUCH! At one point I coud have sworn he was speaking directly to me, looking directly at me, despite the thousands of people there. That's the Holy Spirit, Baby! We saw Thousand Foot Krutch and TobyMac. What a great night of high energy rocking out and singing! The love of Christ was tangible all around, the excitement, the passion, the fervor. Here was a whole crowd of Jesus freaks dancing and shouting as one to their Saviour! I was blessed. I was convicted. I was in awe. Music is powerful, and as I listened I heard the Holy Spirit speak to me of so many things. (It was truly overwhelming!!) Of course, I also did my fair share of dancing and shouting (way up front by the band of course!) and hand raising, but in those last few TobyMac songs, I couldn't help but raise my hands to the stars in gratefulness with heart so full of love it could burst. I definitely plan on going back next year! (and thanks Shannon for taking me! It was a great birthday present!!)

Monday, June 16, 2008

I don't want to fight

Make no bones about it, I'm depressed... utterly miserable, downward spiraling depression. This is nothing new to me, as I've been in an out of depression since I was a teenager, had pre-natal and post-partum depression, been in counseling and even been medically treated for it. But this is not supposed to happen now. Not this. I'm trying, really trying to grow spiritually... and this is so... I don't know... a battle that I thought I didn't have to fight any more? "Here Jesus, here's my life, so now why are these old problems coming back to the surface? I thought you had it handled. Can't you take care of it? Just blink it away? Because I sure don't want to deal with it. I didn't want to deal with it then, and I don't want to deal with it now." But apparently I have to deal with it in order to move forward, just like I had to seek restoration with that person a couple of weeks ago (which I did and I feel immensely better, by the way!!). Again the question comes to me, "Are you as surrendered to Jesus as you think you are?" Jesus wants me to face this problem head on... I want to sink back into denial. Jesus wants me to gain the victory through him. I want to wallow in self-pity. Jesus wants me to be all that I can be in Him. I want to be a little coward and run away from everything the only way I know how to. And the devil laughs at me... he laughs knowing that he has me right where he wants me as long as I believe each of the lies that he and his minions whisper in my ear... and I do believe them every night as I lie on my pillow. But in the morning I wake only to feelings of guilt for my failure to fight, for my failure to listen to Jesus. He is there in the morning ready to talk about it, and sometimes we do. Sometimes I reach for my Bible and I weep and ask forgiveness and we fellowship together. But never do we make a game plan for victory against that which plagues me most. (My own fear, denial, and stubbornness prevents this perhaps?) Once as I read my Bible I found a passage that told who I am in Christ... How He sees me. For that moment all else faded away. I forgot the lies of Satan. I forgot the words of others. I forgot the way I treat my own self. I wept as I saw in that instance who God saw. Who I really am. I'm a beautiful person. Why can't I always see that? In listening to the other voices, I push farther and farther away from that image until it's faded to barely a memory.... I don't want to fight this battle, nor do I want to helplessly give into it and watch it tear my family apart. I'm supposed to be a conqueror. I'm supposed to be a soldier. Why don't I feel like one? The issues have become bigger to me than life itself... they have become my life. Life is worth fighting for, but the issues that I have been fighting for perhaps (even now I am not willing to admit this) are not. The battle is for the mind, and I am losing hopelessly...
And yet I am encouraged... there is hope, even if I can not feel it. There is victory, even if I can not taste it. There is an end, even if I can not see it. I have been here before and come out on the other side. Perhaps not having dealt with the issues properly, but looking over the past 7 years I have grown, I have changed, and I have healed. There are things in my life that I am ready to face now that I would have never faced even 2 years ago. So, now I look at something that I've never looked at. It's gotten so big that it can't be ignored... I can't do this alone... I'm so glad I don't have to.

Monday, June 2, 2008

No fair...

Have you ever been in a place where you just knew God was going to do something really huge, and you are anticipating it, begging for it, and can almost taste it... but then he points the finger of conviction on you and says that there's something you are doing that is keeping the something really huge from happening? Been there, done that - yesterday morning in Sunday School.
We have been praying for the Holy Spirit to do something amazing in our church for a while, and in keeping with that my husband has been teaching on the Holy Spirit and revivals in Sunday School for several months. It just gets more and more exciting with every passing week as we think about what God has done and what he can do. The last three weeks I have felt inside of me an intensity of passion for Christ and what he is going to do in our church like I have never felt before. I'm experiencing worship in a whole new way, and I am sure that others are feeling the same way.
But then as my husband read of missionary Jonathan Goforth restoring a relationship with another missionary, my heart began pounding with conviction. There was something in my life that wasn't right. Somewhere that I was prideful and refusing to admit my fault. Someone that I claim to love dearly that I was hurting very much. And as Goforth's obedience to God brought about revival, so to would my obedience to God lead us one step closer to what he has for us as a church.
I confess, I am too prideful, too stubborn, and too focused on getting my own way, and on top of that I have a certain unwillingness to admit any wrong on my part when I feel that I have been wronged in the first place.
I wanted to make it right as soon as possible, I really did...
Revival starts in the individual hearts of men; revival starts with confessing of sin; revival starts with apologies and forgiveness to others even when you think that you are in the right. Revival brings unity, and that unity can't be had when we are not showing real love for one another.
I know this and yet I held back all day yesterday from what I knew I needed to do.
This morning in my Bible reading I read in my Bible something that I really wanted to be true for me. I prayed about it, and God reminded me about that little issue I needed to take care of with that certain someone.
It has become obvious to me that any further spiritual growth will be severely stunted until I make this matter right.
Caught between pride and my desire for Christ.
How surrendered am I?
So I called this person and told them that it was imperative that I speak with them tonight.
I'm afraid. Afraid to admit my faults. Afraid that this person who of course is not blind to my imperfections will not only be unwilling to accept my apology, but be full of other short comings that have not even been brought to my attention at this time.
I can't do this, but Jesus can. He wants me to do it, so he must be planning on being there for it.
I guess that will have to be my consolation for now...