Thursday, September 20, 2012

My Miracle

God is so unlike us, and His Kingdom is so unlike ours.  The Kingdom of God is frequently described as an "Upside-Down Kingdom."  It's a kingdom where the first shall be last, where you find your life by losing it, where the humble are exalted, the proud are humbled, and the least are greatest.  Yes, "Upside-Down Kingdom" indeed!

I say I know this upside down nature of God's Kingdom, but do I really?  I think I do, but then He reveals another layer.  I see in greater detail just how opposed to human wisdom His ways are, and I realize I've only begun to scratch the surface in my knowledge of who God is.  Each revelation brings me once again to my knees in wonder-filled, awestruck worship.

For years, I have had a "tape" that's played in my head.  It's this voice that comes unbidden and repeats itself over and over and over:  'I'm hungry!  I'm hungry!  I'm hungry!'  Frequently, I'd be going about my day, and this cry of emptiness would come into my mind.  There was no conscious thought involved on my part; this cry came from someplace deeper.  Try as I might, I couldn't find the "stop" button; this cry of hunger became the background music of my life.

I remember so clearly one day in particular.  I was driving home from a day of running errands, and the chant began.  My first reaction was always to reach for food.  That's what you do when you're hungry, right?  The problem was:  I wasn't physically hungry.  In fact, I was stuffed.  I had eaten too much.  I didn't think I could bear to eat another bite.  Still, I couldn't quiet this voice.

I can't put into words the frustration of that moment.  'I'm too stuffed to eat another bite, yet I'm still hungry!  What's wrong with me?!?!'  I felt so broken and "messed up."  It's so painful to experience need on the scale that I experienced it, but have no idea how to meet that need.  To be honest, I despaired of ever finding the satisfaction I craved.  I saw myself as this big gaping hole that would never be filled.  My husband hadn't filled it.  My children hadn't filled it.  Food hadn't filled it.  

I felt such shame over my need.  How could I be in relationship with others?  If I let anyone close, she would see that the sum of all my parts add up to a negative.  Who would even want to be in relationship with me?  I'd take and take and take, and it would never be enough.  Still, I'd be wanting more.  

I can't express the depths of the despair and hopelessness that settled upon me in that moment.  How was I going to make it through sixty more years of this?!?!!  I had given up on the possibility that anything even existed that could make me feel whole.  The best I thought I could hope for was a way to ignore the voice (the hunger cry of my soul) and stuff the pain down deep enough that I could get through my days with a fake smile, pretending I had it all together and everything was okay.  Maybe if I fooled enough people, I'd eventually believe my own lies and fool even myself.  I had resigned myself to perpetual emptiness.

Between that day of hopelessness approximately 6 years ago and now, God powerfully intersected my story.  Through the darkness of those years, God kept pursuing me with so much gentleness and tenderhearted compassion.  He wooed me and used others to reach out to me with His love.  His light began to enter my darkness, like flickering candlelight at first; that's all the exposure I could bear.  But the more light I experienced, the more I wanted.  It took many baby steps before I was able to summon the courage to enter intentional community, but once I did I experienced so much grace and healing.  I grew in my knowledge and passion for the Lord until I was utterly consumed by my love for Him.

Sometimes I still hear an inner cry, proclaiming hunger.  But I know it's soul hunger.  I know God is the answer.  I examine myself:  Have I been neglecting my time with the Lord, or am I just longing for the completion that awaits in the next life (aching to see clearly, as with an unveiled face, and know as I am known)?

When I was asked to consider facilitating a bible study at my church, I prayed for God's guidance and leading.  I do have a passion for the Word of God and other women, and I felt Him opening the door and asking me to step through it.  I accepted the role out of obedience, but it has been an exercise in faith.  I hate speaking in front of people.  Additionally, I've had problems surface in my personal life that have tempted me to disqualify myself from serving.  Furthermore, I've felt as if I've been in the enemy's crosshairs, and that has tempted me to quit.  Things felt a little bit "safer" when I was sitting under somebody else's leadership.  I feel like I'm still waiting for the "real facilitator" to step up, at which point I will gladly take a seat. 

But how can I say, "no," to God after everything He has done for me?!?!  My desire IS to please Him and show Him how very much I love Him through my obedience.  So here I am, fearful and trembling, but leaning hard on my God.

Thursday of last week was the kick-off of our fall bible study.  In the flesh, I would have been a nervous wreck.  But I just kept reminding God it was all on HIM.....His study, His women, His message.  All I had to do was just show up, and He would take care of the rest.  And show up He did!!!  I heard several stories of how God spoke to women in our gathering.  How super exciting and completely humbling to see God moving and working in our midst!  After class was over and everyone had left, I just had to get down on my knees and thank Him.  God is so good, and He allowed me to see and taste His goodness last Thursday night!  

Now, I have to mention that I fasted last Thursday.  I only say that because it's important in understanding what happened next.  That's probably the first time I've ever really fasted so don't go thinking I'm some sort of super-spiritual giant.  I just sensed it was important for me to fast that day; when I felt hungry, I used the hunger as a reminder to confess my lack, inability and emptiness and declare His sufficiency, ability, and faithfulness.  If any good comes from our study, I know it will not be because of human strength or strategics but only because of His Spirit and His Spirit alone.  'I've got nothing, Lord, so I'm counting on You!' 

As I was cleaning up afterwards, wheeling a cart down the hallway to the kitchen, the voice began again. 'I'm so full!  I'm so full!  I'm so full!'  It was so jarring, I literally stopped mid-step.  My jaw dropped.  Did I just hear, from my soul, that place deeper than conscious thought.....did I just hear what I thought I heard????  Dialing in, the voice grew louder, and my heart swelled with a joyful exuberance! 'I'm so full!  I'm so full!  I'm so full!  I couldn't eat another bite!'   And on a day I had eaten nothing in the physical realm!  God rewrote my "tape" last Thursday night, and it is nothing short of a miracle !!!

I've been pondering the miracle a lot this week.  I see more clearly how "other" (upside down) God and His Kingdom really are!  Even when I realized that God was the only source that could satisfy the hunger I felt, I tried to fill that spiritual hole the way I would fill a physical hole:  by inputting more of Him.   But I never reached spiritual "fullness" that way.  I don't completely understand it yet, and I would LOVE for older, wiser, more mature believers to comment here and speak into my experience.  Somehow, there was something about the "giving myself away" on Thursday that filled me in a way I've never been filled before!  Was it because I was fulfilling Ephesians 2:10, walking in the good works that God prepared for me before the foundations of the world were laid?  Or was it the evangelism aspect, because I was doing my part to fulfill the Great Commission?  Our focus for these eleven weeks is "Jesus, the One and Only:" testifying to the difference He made in my life, proclaiming Him as the only hope for all of us!  Was it something about JESUS?  

I think it was the latter....I've served before in ways I know God purposed and intended for me, but I've never felt so spiritually "full" as I did that day....after a morning of praying that Jesus would be high and lifted up and all women would be drawn to Him, then opening up a space on Thursday night for that to happen.  All I know is....I want more of that!  I want to do that more and experience that more and tell others how they can experience it as well!

"I have food to eat that you know nothing about." --Jesus (John 4:32)

Heavenly Father, Thank You for giving me a taste of that food!  As I meditate on these words, send your Holy Spirit to help me understand.  It's not just a feeling of fullness I crave; it's YOU!  It's the fullness only You can bring.  You were so present in that fullness, and it's YOU that I desire above all else!  Give me wisdom.  Increase my faith.  Help me to put off fear and a lack of self-confidence and help me to put on faith and a supernatural, overflowing, limitless abundance of God-confidence.  You know that all my attempts to fill myself only left me emptier.  Thank You for opening up my eyes to SEE You and Your beauty!  If You had not opened my eyes to see truth, I would still be in that pit of despondency, dreading yet another day of carrying the weight of my bottomless need.  I want to grow in my knowledge of You and Your ways and share the excitement and satisfaction of life in You with everyone I meet!  I ask all of this for the Glory of Jesus! Amen.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Joy Through Obedience

"My happy place is my obedient place." --Beth Moore 

From my own personal experience, I know that this statement is true.  To be honest, I've had to learn that truth the hard experiencing its opposite.  Too many times I have been disobedient, stubbornly insisting on my own way and refusing to bend my knee, and the end result of that has always, always, always been pain, brokenness, emptiness, dissatisfaction and extreme unhappiness, even depression.  

Praise be to God...He never gave up on me, but gently whispered to me of a better way.  He blessed my first baby steps of obedience by showering me in a flood of "good and perfect gifts!"

One night in particular stands out in my memory.  I had promised my husband a massage when we went to bed that night, but we had gotten into a quarrel that evening.  I don't remember the impetus for the argument or the exact words spoken (or more likely, knowing us at the time, not "spoken" but rather "hurled like weapons").  I do remember the feeling of separation as we lay side by side in bed that night.  It was more than a "wedge" between us; it was a "Grand Canyon" of hurt feelings! 

Into my indignant, self-righteous heart, Jesus whispered, "Give him the massage."

"No way!  Not until he apologizes!  Did you hear what he SAID to me, God?!?!"

"Give him the massage."

I lay in that bed arguing with Jesus for a long time.  No matter what I said, He kept gently insisting, "Give him the massage."  I knew I had a choice to make.  I didn't have to obey!  I knew Jesus wouldn't take over my brain and nervous system, seize control of my muscular system, and make "massage giving" an involuntary act like breathing!  The age-old choice presented to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 30 was presented to me:  Choose.  God's way or my way.  Blessing or curse. Life or death.  The choice lay with me.  

Finally, I surrendered my will to His.  The ONLY reason I reached out to touch my husband that night was my love for my Savior.  NOTHING in me wanted to serve my husband, but my love for Jesus ultimately compelled me to the place of obedience.

The instant I touched my husband, I was flooded with divine love for him.  Believe me....I know my heart, and that kind of love does NOT come from me.  My heart in that moment was anything BUT loving, but because of my obedience, God gave me the privilege of experiencing the Father's Heart.  Sinful, selfish me became a conduit of GOD'S LOVE for my husband.  What a privilege it was!  There are no words capable of describing the love of the Father!  (It was warm and real and total and substantial and absolute and bottomless and safe, so thick it's almost palpable, so overwhelming nothing else matters.  I recognized that love as the treasure my heart has always longed for.)

My husband received the massage that night, but I was the one who was TRULY  blessed!  Joy?  Yes!  Awed by grace?  Yes!  Wrecked by His love?  Yes!  So, so grateful?  Yes, yes, yes!

And I could have missed it. I could have missed it so easily.  I almost did.  Clinging to my rights, my way, my feelings, my will, ME, ME, ME!  I can't base my decisions on ME because my thinking is distorted;  I have those "deformed desires" James talks about that carry within them the seeds of self-destruction.    Yes, "there is a way that seems right to a woman but the end is death."  I've experienced too many deaths in my life!  I need God's wisdom, desperately.  Only by obeying His directions do I find JOY and so much more... the life that is truly life!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


When I fail, You call me Beloved.
When I overeat, You call me Beloved.
When my house is a mess, You call me Beloved.
When my children are disrespectful, You call me Beloved.
When my laundry room is overrun with dirty clothes, You call me Beloved.
When my bank account is overdrawn, You call me Beloved.
When I mismanage my finances, You call me Beloved.
When I lash out verbally, You call me Beloved.
When I gain weight, You call me Beloved.
When my tears will not stop flowing, You call me Beloved.
When shame keeps me away from You, You call me Beloved.
When I'm wallowing in self-pity, You call me Beloved.
When I am a bad mother, when I am a complete and utter failure, still You call me Beloved!

I've needed the truth of my belovedness repeated over and over today.  On a day like today, bombarded by the enemy's attacks, that truth is my refuge.  As I meditate on the unfathomable, incomprehensible, lavish, ridiculous, inexhaustible love of God (and not just a general love towards all creation but a focused, personal, intimate and individual love for ME specifically), the pain and sorrow and anger are ebbing; in their place comes the peace and contentment of Christ.

If you are having a hard day, feeling very much in the enemy's cross-hairs, the accusations from the Accuser flying fast and furious.......I hope the reminder that you are loved more than you could ever possibly grasp lifts your eyes from yourself and the countless ways you are not enough onto the God who IS ENOUGH!  Oh, I acknowledge that there is truth in the accusations, "I won't deny the worst you can say about me,"* but I remind the condemner and myself that not even the biggest, ugliest, dirtiest dart in Satan's arsenal can separate me from Christ's love.

Yes, I have failed a million different times and a million different ways, but that DOES NOT CHANGE THE UNCHANGEABLE FACT THAT I AM BELOVED!!!  It doesn't matter that I don't deserve love.  I AM loves me!  I AM says that my new name is Beloved!  And there is no asterisk after "Beloved."

Here it is, my promise, straight from God's Word, "I'll call the unloved and make them beloved." (Romans 9:25b, The Message).  Today I am clinging to Him and the uncertainty of His unfailing love ........desperate, needy, unworthy but oh so very very grateful!

*Jason Gray's song,  I Am New, came flooding into my mind; this quote comes from those lyrics.