Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Learning to Rest

On August 3rd I had a long conversation with God. I had been seeking Him all summer for some answers and on this day, as I sat in a lovely little coffee shop in Garden Valley, TX; I told God I wasn't leaving without hearing from Him.
That comment in itself was scary enough to me to drive me over the edge.
I was just back from India. I had said "good bye" to my wonderful team the day before. I was jet lagged beyond belief.
But I was determined to wait on God until He showed up.
It gets scarier when you consider what I was seeking God for. The questions I was asking and the decisions I was facing made me tremble with fear. I knew that I had to hear from God, because with out hearing from Him I would never truly know I made the right choice.

Looking back... had I known then what would happen in the weeks that followed I don't know that I would have been so eager to hear from Him. I may have been content to just stay where I was. Thank God that He knew better!

After some intense conversation with God and picking through a passage He gave me until there was nothing left to analyze, I threw myself into the answer He gave me.

Rest.

I heard Him very clearly call me to a season of rest.

What this looked like for me...

August 24th I officially stepped out of leadership.
Not because of any sin or struggle in my life.
Not because I was tired of being a leader.
Not because I wanted to do my own thing.
I stepped out because I valued my relationship with Jesus more than I did a title or a position.
I stepped out because I wanted to fling myself into the arms of my Savior.
I stepped out because I just wanted to love Jesus.

Crazy.

It was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever had to make.

It didn't make sense.

But I knew.

Let me teach you how to rest.

I heard Him call me, in the most inner parts of my heart, to rest.

My Lord wanted to teach me how to rest.


In my mind, a season of rest sounded wonderfully pleasant.
Rest was laying on a fluffy, white cloud, singing songs to Jesus.
Rest was a peaceful, calm season where nothing bad happened. I love Jesus, Jesus loves me.
Rest was the next best thing to heaven itself.

HA!

In the past couple days I have looked up to the clouds that I am supposed to be floating away on and screamed, "God, what are you doing?! Where are you?! This is NOT what rest is supposed to look like!" more times than I am willing to admit.
In the past couple days I have fought God through many tears.
What do you do when circumstances make it seem like God decided you are the exception and He is not longer going to keep His word to you?

Well, what I do is throw a fit.

I throw a huge fit full of snot, tears, and angry words.

I get in my car and drive 2 hours in one direction screaming and crying the entire way.
Venting all the pain and confusion that is locked up in my heart.
Then I scream at God for not punishing me for my tantrum.

God just whispers,

"I rejoice over the honest expression of your emotions. 
I dance over you when you are fully alive." 

Once I am satisfied that I have let go of the anger, I turn around and drive the 2 hours back home.
(I am convinced I experienced more freedom because of that 2 hour drive back home than I have in any other setting in my life.)


Rest, beloved.
Rest?
How do you rest when everything you have ever known seems to have been ripped from under you? How do you rest when your heart has been broken into a million pieces. How do you rest when you are shaken to your core?

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side." 
And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat just as he was.
And other boats were with him.
And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.
But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion.
And they woke him and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" 
And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" 
And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
He said to them, "Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?
And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, 
"Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"
-Mark 4:35-41

Rest.
Beloved, come and rest with me. Take my yoke.
My yoke is easy. My burden is light.
You are safe with me.
Rest.
Jesus and the disciples left the crowd. They left what they knew.
They entered one of the biggest storms of their lives, and Jesus called them to rest in the middle of it.
Jesus rested. He was so confident in God's ability to sustain that even in the most frightening, dangerous, painful situation he rested. 

Once they crossed the sea and got out the boat Jesus set one man free. 
One.
Then they got back in the boat and crossed back over.
One man.

The storm they endured...
That was so that ONE man could be freed.

ONE

Was it worth it?

That storm.
The pain.
Hurt.
Heartbreak.
Separation.
Confusion.

Is it worth it?

Abba, change my perspective. 
This storm. It's worth it. For one to be freed. 
For me to be stretched.
For your to be glorified.
It is worth it.

This is not the only story of resting in the storm. (Believe me. I tore the Bible up looking for all I could find.)

My favorite "walking on water" story is in Matthew 14:22-33
You know the story.
Jesus sends the disciple on across the sea while he goes away to pray. 
They start rowing and this huge storm comes up. 
The Bible says that Jesus SAW the storm. 
He walks across the sea to where they are. 
Disciples freak out... It's a ghost! 
Jesus says "Don't panic, It's just me." 

Matthew is the only gospel that talks about Peter walking on water with Jesus.

Peter calls out, "Lord, if it is really you, tell me to come to you." 
Jesus says, "Okay go for it. I'm right here."

Peter steps out the boat and starts to walk. 

At this point, the storm is still raging on. 
Wind blowing, rain beating down on them... 
I'm sure it was not a pleasant spring shower.

The word says that Peter sees the wind and waves and becomes fearful and begins to doubt. 
When that happened, he began to sink. 
Peter does what any sane human would do... Screams for help!

Jesus reaches out, grabs him, and asks him why he doubted.

Well, Jesus, it's not normal to walk on water...
They get back in the boat together.
The winds and rains stop immediately.
Done.

John 6:16-21 adds that as soon as Jesus got in the boat, the storm ended and they arrived at their destination. 

I could take that several different directions, but for now, I'm going to leave it there. 

The point I want to make is back when Peter began to sink.

If you have ever fallen out of a boat, or into a pool you know that something about you has changed when you get out. 
Obviously, you look different... You are soaked.
However, if your sinking was unexpected, you may have lost something you had held pretty close to that point.
A cell phone, fishing pole, sunglasses, flip flop...
Something is different.
Something is missing.

Sinking can be beneficial. 
1. You realize that you need someone to save you and you cling to them.
I'm sure Peter clung to Jesus pretty tightly until his feet were firmly in the boat again.
2. Things like doubt, fear, anger... they get left in the water. 

Abba, Drown my doubt. Drown my fear. Drown my unforgiveness. 
I don't want to come out of these waters the same.
I don't want the wind and waves to stop until I have changed.
Give me grace to rest in this storm.












Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Eyes of Fire

You are seated on the floor in the middle of a room
Brilliant light surrounds you
You hear what sounds like waters rushing
You feel a cool, peaceful breeze

Looking up, your eyes are met by the eyes of One who is indescribable
His eyes seem to pierce through you
They burn deep into your heart
All is laid bare before those Fiery eyes.

Everything in you wants to run
It's terrifying
Your mind is screaming "Run, Hide!"
But your heart hears a whisper

"You are safe here"

You mind screams 
"Run, exposure is painful!"

Your heart replies
"Here I find healing"

You mind argues
"Don't stay, He knows"

You heart rejoices
"When I am known, I can be free"

Here, gazing into the eyes of fire of the One who knows you
You find healing
Your brokenness is made whole
Your heart is restored
You are redeemed
You are rescued
You are free




Friday, September 21, 2012

Galatians 2:20


I have been learning so much lately. I feel like Jesus is giving me a crash course in like 50 different subjects.

A beautiful sister and I were talking a couple days ago and she shared this picture with me that absolutely blew me away. I have never thought of it like this before. It’s actually a concept that I have struggled to understand up to this point.

When I was in India, the Pastors I had the great privilege of working with amazed me. These men lived dead. When they surrendered their lives to Jesus they died. They no longer focus on their desires. Their only desire is to see Jesus’ will be done. They are such an incredible example of what it means to live a crucified life. I can’t really even begin to express how amazing these men and their wives are. It’s overwhelming to even think about it.

The picture that my sister shared with me was this:

You are drowning in an ocean. You are thrashing around, choking on the water as you try to call for help. You are quickly losing all hope of being saved when you see a Man walk by.

With one last breath you call out for help.

The Man sees you drowning.

He exclaims, “Oh no, you are drowning!! Let me come drown with you!”
He runs out to where you are and begins to drown right next to you.

You both die.

You are dead.
The Man is dead.
Drowned in the ocean.

But.

In three days, the Man comes back to life!

This crazy Man who decided to drown with you rather than save you comes back from the dead.

You are still dead.
You drowned.

The Man is alive.
The Man is living.

You are not.
You drowned.

And with you drowned your sin.

Your failures.

Your mistakes.

You.

All of you.

Drowned.

You did not come back to life.

Jesus did.

He is the one who now lives.
He is the one who is living in your place.

You don’t live.

Those things that drowned with you…
They don’t have any hold on you.

They are gone.

In the sea of forgetfulness.

Drowned.

I know that sometimes I get so caught up in trying to put to death my sinful nature and work my way out of sin.
That’s not how it works.
If not sinning is my goal; sin will be inevitable.
If loving Jesus is my goal; sin will have no hold on me.

When your focus is Jesus, you don’t desire anything but Jesus.
When your focus is on not sinning, you don’t desire anything but sin.


Stop beating yourself up.

Just fall in love with Jesus.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Sin and Grace

We are taught from day one in Sunday School about Adam and Eve and the fall of mankind. Every Sunday preachers dance around the pulpit and hoot and holler about Romans 3:23 and how sin separates us from God. We all can quote the verses in the "Roman's Road" and we know how to prove to sinners that they deserve hell because they have "missed the mark". 


And then we sin. 
We fail.
We give in to temptation. 

and

We dive headfirst into a sea of condemnation.

God says that He throws our sin into a sea of forgetfulness, but we just don't believe it. 
We are the exception.

Can we rewind for a moment? 
Can we revisit that Bible story we all know so well?

Genesis 3 (Paraphrase)
The snake pays the woman a little visit (She has not been named Eve yet. 
This little snake says, "So woman, did God really tell you that you can't eat from the trees in this beautiful garden?" 
Our woman friend was like, "No. We can eat from all of the trees except for this one little tree in the middle of this huge garden. We can't even touch that tree cause we will die." 
Mr. Snake was sneaky, he exclaimed, "You won't REALLY die!! You'll actually become gods! You will know good and evil."

Now, if you are a woman, you know that we are prone to having moments of weakness from time to time... Oh what I wouldn't give for ice cream on a hot summer day!! The woman in our story had a moment just like that!

The woman saw the tree and the fruit of the tree and realized that it looked pretty darn good. Her mouth began to water and her stomach growled.  She decided to take a bite. Then she shared it with her hubby. 

If you are a woman, you know that if you are going to give in to that ice cream sunday you feel a whole heck of a lot better if you have a friend who will give in to it with you! That's what she did. 

As soon as Adam and the woman ate from the tree, their eyes were open and they realized that they were completely naked!  Uh oh!  "This is awkward!" they thought, "We need some sort of clothes!" So they made themselves some nice, organic, eco friendly clothing to wear.

Here is my favorite part... You ready for it? Get ready!

They hear God's footsteps. Just like every other day before, God comes down and calls out to Adam. 


Just like every other day.
Just like God did the day before.
Just like God did.
Always.
Always Had.
God came down to hang out. 
Just like he always had done.
Before they disobeyed.
Before they sinned.
God came down to hang out.

Did God not know they disobeyed Him?
Did God miss the memo that sin separates us from Him? 
Did God skip class the day the teacher taught on how God is supposed to turn His back on the bad little humans who have a moment (or a lifetime) of sin?
Was God confused?

(The place where the Devil lives) 
No. 
Adam and the woman hear God coming. 
They freak out.
"Oh crap. We messed up!" 
They ran and hid from the presence of God.

Adam and the woman hid.
Adam and the woman separated themselves from God.

The worst part about sin is that is causes us to separate ourselves from God. 

Our shame, our guilt, our condemnation.

We run from God.

God wants to meet with us 5 seconds after we have fed our addiction just as much as he wants to meet with us the day that we lead 12 people to the Lord, baptize 8, and spend 7 hours in the prayer room. 

God isn't afraid of our sin. 
God isn't ashamed of our nakedness. 
We are the ones who make the nakedness awkward. 
We are the ones who turn our backs.
We are the ones who separate ourselves. 
We do.
Not God.
Us.

When we sin or are tempted to sin the we need to run boldly into the throne room of God. 
Not hide from it. 

Hebrews 4:16 

ESV- Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

ISV- So let us KEEP ON COMING boldly to the throne of grace, so that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

YLT- We may come near, then, with freedom, to the throne of the grace, that we may receive kindness, and find grace--for seasonable help.

NLT- So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. 

Get the point?

God wants us. 
He doesn't want our show.
He doesn't want to see how good we can be.
He wants us. 

Just because I know that some will disagree with this...
Yes, we need to live lives of holiness. 
Yes, we need to obey God.
Yes.

When eradicating sin is your focus, sin will be your identity.
When loving Jesus is your focus, holiness will be your identity. 
I have found more freedom from temptation than I ever have before when I just fell in love with Jesus. 

When Jesus is the center of my attention, sin doesn't get my attention.

The last thing I want to mention is about Romans 3:23.
We all know it. 
"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." 

Honestly, I could go on to talk about the following verses that make this point, 
but I just want to focus on the one verse right now.

Come short---> hystereƍ

It means to come late or tardily to. 

We come late to the glory of God. 

Glory of God ---> Doxa

A most glorious condition, most exalted state
Of that condition with God the Father in heaven to which Christ was raised after he had achieved his work on earth
The glorious condition fo blessedness into which is appointed and promised that true Christians shall enter after their Savior's return from heaven

Yes, we must repent when we sin. That is a given. I am in no way saying that we can live in sin with no consequences. The Bible clearly states that there are eternal consequences for sin. But what I am saying is that our sin shouldn't cause us to run and hide in a closet away from God. 

I feel that the body of Christ as a whole has done a huge injustice to broken people. 
Sinners sin.
Christians sin.
We sin.
But we have no reason to separate ourselves from God when He is walking through the garden calling us. He still wants us. Even in our sin.

Final thought:

What would have been different if Adam and Eve had not hidden from God? 
Do you think that things may have been different had they repented right there?

Obviously there would have still needed to be a sacrifice... Jesus was sacrificed before the foundation of the earth. 

But would anything have been different? 

Let me know what you think. :)










Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Just Another Prayer?

Something that the Lord has been challenging me to do lately is to really develop a discipline in prayer. I am definitely disciplined in the Word and spending time with Jesus, more now than I have ever been before in my life! However, my prayer life has honestly been my last effort to help me fall asleep before giving in a taking my sleeping pill. Granted, I've had some pretty amazing prayer times... and it doesn't always help me fall asleep. Sometimes it actually leaves me laying awake crying and journaling and pouring my heart out before the Lord for the next hour. What I want though, is to be able to really labor in prayer. I want to have deep conversations with God throughout my day. Not just moments here and there. I have gotten really good at asking God questions and getting answers, but when I don't get the answers immediately, I have just kind of moved on to something else rather than sticking to it. I don't want to be praying just another prayer of blessing or healing over a hurting friend. I don't want to just casually throw out the names of loved ones that I want to see saved and set free. I want to be disciplined to pray through these things. This morning I realized on my way to school that most of my time is spent driving in my care by myself. Worship music is playing and I am processing through stuff in my head. Those are good times, but how much more effective could those times be if I were to really pray? What kind of fruit would I be seeing in my life and in the lives of those around me if I spent that 90 minutes every Tuesday and Thursday (more if I don't go home after school) in my car praying? What about my 50-60 minutes every weekend driving too and from church? Or how about that hour on days that I work at the group home? If I spent my drive to and from work praying for the girls that I take care of to be saved and delivered and their families to be  restored... wow... what would God do in response to that?!

Jesus, Challenge accepted!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Seasons are Changing & 70 times 7

I don't have anything pretty and put together to write about. In fact, I don't even know where to start today. I'll probably just end up rambling.
I know that seasons are changing though. You know that transition between seasons when in the mornings and nights is kind of cool and you want a jacket, but in the middle of the day it is so hot and humid that you just want to hide away. You are wishing summer away and praying for winter to be here soon. You can't wait until the next season. The transition sucks.
Well, that's where I am right now. It sucks. Bad. I find my self trying to hurry things along, but I know that this transition has to happen. I have to let time do its thing.
I wish I could share everything that is on my heart, but I am not yet in a place where I can do that. And honestly, if I tried it would probably turn out poorly.
I am learning so much though. So much.
Something that Jesus has been walking me through in the last couple days is the concept of 70 times 7. Forgiveness.
What does that mean?
What I have realized is it isn't about the number. It isn't a formula.
It's in the "Today, I choose to forgive."
The next day,  "Today, I choose to forgive. Even though it still hurts."
The next day, "Today, I choose to forgive. Even though nothing in me wants to forgive."
The day after that, "I choose forgiveness when they hurt me again. I choose forgiveness when all I want to do is make them feel what I feel."
Day 15, "Today, I forgive."
Day 30, "I still forgive."
Day 45,70,300...., "...." Your daily choice to forgive eventually turns into a lifestyle of forgiveness and you don't have to make that conscious decision with that issue any longer.
You forgive them until you no longer need to forgive them.
Do I like this? No. I still want to show them how much I hurt. But today, I choose to forgive.
Today, day 4, I choose to forgive. I choose to let myself be free from the cage of unforgiveness. I choose to forgive even though it hurts. Even though it's not fair. I choose forgiveness, because Jesus forgave me.
70 times 7.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

"Can I ask you a question?"

"Miss Joy, can I ask you a question?"
"Go for it." 
"Were you ever emo?" 
"... ummm.... what do you mean?"
"You know... Like were you ever full out goth and like cut yourself?" 

Jesus, Thank you for unexpected conversations.
"Well Sarah, to be honest, yes, I did."

"Oh. See these scars. I cut myself."
I was created for this type of work. 
I was created for these kinds of conversations.

"I started to carve the letters of my ex-boyfriend's name in my arm. I did it with a lead pencil because I wanted to get lead poison. I wish I could get rid of this scar, it reminds me of him. He was my everything. I gave everything to him. Everything. And he left me."

"What makes you want to hurt yourself, Sarah?"

"It helps me get the pain out."

Jesus, how can I show them you paid for them?

"Sarah, you are so valuable. It doesn't matter what a guy says about you. You have so much worth. Do you know that?"

....

"Miss Joy, how did you stop cutting?"

Jesus, You are so faithful.


"Miss Joy, will you come do a puzzle with me?"

"Sure Amy. Go pull it out, and I will be in there as soon as I finish this up."

Make my heart sensitive to your leading. 
May I never miss a chance to love. 

"I love doing puzzles. I used to do them with my Nanna all the time. My mom hates doing puzzles. She would never do them with me." 

"That's sad Amy, but I'm glad that it is something that you and your Nanna can do together. I'm sure she loves spending time with you."

"Yeah...."
"My Nanna was there for me through everything. I'm excited to see her on my home visit. I am going to see her and my boyfriend!" 

God opportunity.

"Amy, what is reason you have a boyfriend? You can't see him or talk to him when you are here."

" Well, he makes me feel loved. He holds me and hugs me and kisses me. He is always there for me. I love him. He was there for me when my mom wasn't. He was there for me when my mom's boyfriend beat me. I have been pregnant for him, and he was there when I miscarried because my mom's boyfriend beat me." 

Oh, my heart.
"Speak to her value."
"Tell her how loved she is."
Oh, my heart, beat with His heart.

Jesus, Thank you for trusting me with these pearls.
Help me to bring glory to You.
Help me to point them to You. 


There is no reason why I should have so much favor at my job. There is no reason for these girls to love me like they do. Who am I?
These girls have stolen my heart. They have so much potential. They have such beautiful, bright futures before them. They have been through so much. They need YOU Jesus. It is such an honor to be a part of their life. It is a privilege to get to point them to You. I don't take it lightly. 
Girls crying in my arms in the kitchen.
Random questions about my past (because I "look like someone who used to cut") on the basketball court.
Lessons on self worth and purity on the floor in the living room digging through the 1500 puzzle pieces.

Teach me how to love like You love me. 
Break my heart.
I will do anything if you lead me.
I will go anywhere if you go with me.

Refine me Lord.
Shine me Lord.
Make me gold.