Love This Today!

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Searching for “Right Side Up” Again

That moment when you feel like you have finally reached the end of your rope and you can do nothing more than long for God to step into your story and turn everything right-side up again…that is today, right now.

upside-down

To observe me, you would think nothing is wrong. I’m sipping my café au lait in Whole Foods, eating my avocado with salt and pepper, nibbling on a very oniony cranberry quinoa salad and typing away. No tears are escaping my eyes at the moment. My tummy is happy. I’m warm and toasty and watching the snow out the window. I’m in Colorado for goodness sake! A few months ago I truly believed that by now I would have had to say goodbye forever to this beautiful place I call home. It seemed I was going to have to give up so much more than I ever wanted. I was preparing for what I considered to be the worst, and in a beautiful blink of the eye, God swooped in and granted the desire of my heart…the opportunity to go back to Boulder County and remain in my home, Colorado. He actually chose not to take EVERYTHING away. I reveled in this joy and aww. Heck, I still can’t believe it!

There is nothing to complain about. Nothing. A long hard road traveled has landed in resolution. A tremendous amount of healing has taken place. We now have a beautiful place to call home. It feels just right. Kevin has a job with a paycheck again. His giftings are being used. My kids have a home again and an opportunity for new friends and experiences. It’s peaceful and beautiful and more than I deserve.

This next chapter is nothing like I would have chosen or imagined. But that is the beauty of walking with God. His imagination is much different from our own, and often much better. He knows what I need and in the middle of it he is also mindful of what I want…then it seems he miraculously works to weave the two together as I wait….poof, he gifts his plan and goodness in the fourth quarter just when I’m about to go down in defeat. It’s almost more than any one person can handle – those things he hands us. They are often quite overwhelming in very good way in the end. But they are stunning all the same.

Today I am stunned. Life has been a roller coaster of mostly downs for almost 3 years now. After a while it seems you just get used to losing your stomach in the dips. Downhill at 50mph becomes tragically normal…never fun, but normal. And when the ride slows down and steady ground is felt again, it’s hard to know what to do with the break in momentum. It’s hard to breathe normally. It’s hard to balance yourself again. And in a strange, strange way there is almost a longing for another ride. Yet, nothing in me wants to feel that sickness again.

I’ve just forgotten how to live “well” instead of constantly sick at my stomach.

What do you do when the biggest issue you have to tackle and deal with in your day is what you are cooking for dinner? What do you do when worries aren’t waking you up any more in the middle of the night? Most of all, what do you do when “right side up” still feels “upside down?” I think I have forgotten how to really LIVE life.

I think I’m ungrateful.

I think I’m so wrong not to be finally satisfied.

I think I’m wrong to long for more.

I think I’ve forgotten how to live when life is “normal.”

I think I’m still mad at God for leaving more unanswered questions and unrealized hopes and dreams.

I’m still upside down even though it seems on the outside that God has righted me.

 

And no advice from anyone seems to benefit. It’s yet another thing where only God can set me steady again…..

Is This Sensible?

thumb_drS-nonsense01Today I’ve been thinking a lot about sensibility and nonsense.

Have you ever really thought about how completely subjective each on of these two are?  A sensible action or one that is completely nonsense seems to depend basically 100% on someone’s personal point of view…their past – how they were brought up – what was modeled to them as a kid – who a person’s influences are – what a person’s culture says, demands or applauds – what someone likes or feels comfortable with or simply dislikes all together – what’s “best” for their future.  These things seem to determine if someone is being/doing what is sensible or non sensible.  Wouldn’t you agree?

And what I am coming to realize is that all of those things are pretty terrible barometers.

Almost all of us are are taught to be sensible.  It’s the “American Dream” way of life.  Sensible often comes in the package of a good education including bachelor and masters degrees, getting a good paying job with health insurance coverage and a healthy 401K, marrying a good man or woman, going to church, having 2 kids – a boy and a girl, working hard for the paycheck, sacrificing little, owning a home for it’s investment equity, buying a Toyota because everyone knows it holds the most value :-), retiring at 65 or sooner and then sitting on the beach sipping a fruity drink until your days are done.  Don’t be too risky.  Plan wisely.  Make sure you exercise at least 4 days a week and eat an apple a day – no gluten or egg yolks, please.  And don’t forget to give your 10% to stay on God’s good side.

Seriously, am I the only one who feels like this is the life I’m expected to live?  Is this what’s supposed to make sense?

When I step out of my little “American Dream” bubble, I look at this and I have to admit that lots of days recently all of these above “sensibilities” almost look like utter NONsense.

When I look to line my life up with the Truth that I claim over myself and my family – JESUS – I just can’t seem to picture him patting me on the back at the end of my days of living the above “sensibility” and saying, “Good job, Amy.  You were very wise and prudent.  I’m so proud of you.”  Instead, I have the feeling Jesus wouldn’t be the least bit impressed.  In fact, could it be possible that he might even say something along the lines of this?

Matthew 7:23

The Message (MSG)

21-23 “Knowing the correct password—saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance—isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.’

OUCH!!!

Now let me back up a tiny bit and say that I do not believe that all I pointed out as “sensible” above is bad.  We have been given a brilliant brain, capable of making good and wise decisions and most definitely it is more wise to get an education, for example, than living this life dumb and stalled out because you can’t get a job and you have to live in your parent’s basement for the rest of your life.

Where I think the conflict happens is when you find yourself striving so hard to make life work within the perfect little guidelines that you have always believed to be sensible that you have the complete and utter inability to allow for NONsense.

Jesus was often quite nonsensical, don’t you think?

He asked people to follow him without giving them a job description or telling them where they were going.

He hung out with the bad guys and gals.  He ate with tax collectors and let the prostitute close.

He rode a donkey instead of a stallion.

He didn’t have a place to lay his head.

He endured the worst persecution when he had the ability to call down a legion of angels to make the madness cease.

He actually thought a few fish and a couple loaves of bread could feed thousands.

He taught that the meek were going to inherit the earth.

He let a dude who was only hours away from selling him out and bringing an end to his life partake of his “body and blood.”

Nonsense.

What is sensible to me often equals what is comfortable to me.  It’s what I know.  It’s what I can wrap my head around.  I can grab hold of my sensible.  It all plays out good in my head.

NONsense is wild. . .rogue. . . risky. . .uncomfortable. . .untamed. . .full of question marks. . .dependent upon faith. . .Biblical??????

Is there anyone out there like me who secretly gets tired of the ongoing struggle towards making sense all the time?  I wonder what would happen if we all started asking, ‘what is the most nonsensical thing I could imagine God asking me to do?’. . . and then in prayer and obedience actually do it?  Whoa!  That there might just blow the doors off of the “American Dream.”

But, I wonder if it might equal the LIFE we all feel like we’re all missing out on??

I wonder why God alone isn’t more often our sensibility barometer?

The Table

bread wineEver since last Sunday I have not been able to get a certain image out of my head.

At Adullam, where we now attend their church gathering, we take communion every Sunday.  This time has quickly become my favorite and most anticipated part of the day and often even my week.  I can’t explain it here, but it is a beautiful and pure experience unequaled by most moments I have grafted into my weeks.  I wish you could be there.

Anyway, last week I was in the long line with the family, waiting to get my piece of bread and wine.  Our good friends, Jenna and Roy and their lovely girls were behind us.  It was sweet and I was smiling already, just taking everything in-watching families and singles and ladies with dogs 🙂 go to the Table, pray together, experience moments of peace and love only offered by the Lord .  And as I stood there I was captured by this little baby girl.  She was obviously the first child of a young couple in front – maybe 10 months old.  It was a brief second of a moment that spoke so much to my soul as her mom and dad took their bread dipped in the juice and turned to go back to their seats.  Almost instantly the baby grabbed the bread from her dad’s hand and stuffed it in her own mouth.  Dad didn’t have a chance!  And they all just grinned as they walked away from the Table.

The Table. . .for so many of us, hasn’t the Table become just another religious experience?  Whether we go there weekly, quarterly or just at Christmas and Easter, hasn’t it become more like a religious “rule” than a pure, humbling and life giving experience open to anyone who would wish to receive it?

A baby “taking communion.”  Wouldn’t some call that sacrilegious?  She hasn’t been “saved.”  She hasn’t been baptized.  She certainly isn’t a member of the 501c3 organization.

Judas taking communion with Jesus just before he sold him out for a bag full of money.  Wouldn’t that count as extreme sacrilege?

And yet, Jesus invited Judas to the table. . . knowing it all, didn’t he?

Who are we to think we deserve to go to the Lord’s Table and that someone else does not?  Aren’t we just like Judas?

I happen to think that sweet baby girl belongs at the table and I actually wish my heart felt the intensity that she did to jerk that bread and juice from the Father and devour it with a big grin on my face like her.   That would be pure presence with the Creator.  I think that is what he meant when he said “do this in remembrance of me”…to come like a little child, junk and all and devour Life, no pretense or strings attached.  No rules of who’s in and who’s out.  Only a desire to get one step closer to the Father.

This stage of life is making me more and more sacrilegious.

Kevin calls it “deconstruction” of a past belief system. . .a religious belief system.

Talk about upside down!  That is me.

I am more cynical of religion and “church” – not The Church.  (I’m not saying I’m proud of that, but it’s true.)

Yet I think I feel much closer to the heart of Jesus than ever before.

For the first time ever I am taking a look at so many things the “church” has taught me and realizing, “hey, I actually can’t find that in the Bible.”  “And actually, what I find in the Bible I don’t really see in the ‘church.’ ”  It’s weird, this journey I am on.

I mean, you tell me what you do with this. . .

 James 1:22Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Do you just read it and nod your head at what good teaching that is?

Do you analyze the heck out of it until you free yourself from every responsibility those words hold, choosing to believe God didn’t mean that literally for you?  Then you don’t have to deal with it?

Or do you believe God spoke exactly what he intended and that he’s a dude that means what he says?  The religion God accepts isn’t proper Communion, church attendance, lifting our hands when we sing or potlucking together.  Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.  And if I read it and believe it then I have no choice but to respond.  And in response to this scripture and so many more that the Spirit is confronting me with , I might look a bit sacrilegious.

But I’m pretty sure Jesus was the most sacrilegious of us all. . .dining with tax collectors instead of the preacher guy. . .partying and making wine at a wedding (yes, it says wine and not juice!). . .throwing tables around at the Temple, sitting with a woman at the well he should have never been seen with, healing on the Sabbath.  So, I’ll be in good company. 🙂

Why do we make such big deals out of the rules of religion WE have created?  All the while dismissing Jesus’ heart?

As Francis Chan says, I just really want my life to be written into The Book. . .not a set of religiousness that looks nothing like Him.

. . . . . .me stepping off my soapbox now. . .  . .  🙂

 

When Fervency = Silence

it-is-well-music-wall-art2My Lesson in Learning to Cry Out to the Lord. . .

In all past circumstances I have recorded in my life’s spiritual memory, crying out to the Lord has looked something like this…circumstance/need/question arises = seek the Lord = answer from the Lord (whether I liked answer or not) = acceptance = movement = understanding.

And it has always seemed that he has been fairly expedient in his direction once the Spirit actually got me to a place of seeking.  Answers and direction given from the Lord have often caused me to exercise my faith muscles and grow my understanding of who he is as Provider, Comforter, my Strength, etc.  And the more I practiced listening, trusting and following, the more confident I grew in our relationship and my “sync” with the Spirit, if you want to call it that.

But what do you do when all of a sudden the above equation doesn’t factor out like it’s “supposed” to?  What happens when God changes the equation?  That’s what I’ve been living for the last year and a half.

This equation is much more complicated for my brain to comprehend.

I’ve never experienced a silent God.

And yet,  for much too long for my own comfort, my personal prayer fervency towards every significant thing I have cried out towards in the recent  months is still equaling nothing but silence…and I don’t like it one single bit! (Hopefully some day I will be able to share with you these very specific prayers, but not yet)

But here’s what I do know. . .

It is well.

Most days those heart wrenching prayers and longings don’t feel well.  My gut feels sick at it’s very depth.  God’s silence seems more than I can bare.  And yet, it is well.

And maybe that’s the greatest lesson in the silence.

Today, Fervency = silence = a deeper craving for the Lord to break through = a depth of faith and belief I have ever known = a deeper search than I have ever had to persist in = a greater perspective on the call I’ve been given and a more defined understanding of who I am = exhaustion = renewal = more fervency… and the whole cycle repeating itself over and over again.

Some day He will choose to break through the silence.

Many, many things I do not understand about God’s way of doing things.  It’s rarely the way I would choose.

It is well.

What Did You Say?

discernment-wordleDiscernment (according to Wikipedia) is the activity of determining the value and quality of a certain subject or event, particularly the activity of going past the mere perception of something and making detailed judgments about that thing. As a discerning individual is considered to possess wisdom, and be of good judgement; especially so with regard to subject matter often overlooked by others. 

In Christianity, the word “discernment” may have several meanings.  It can be used to describe the process of determining God’s desire in a situation or for one’s life.  In large part, it describes the interior search for an answer to the question of one’s vocation, namely, determining whether or not God is calling one to the married life, single life, consecrated life, ordained ministry or any other calling.

I used to believe that one of the gifts God had given me was the ability to be discerning.  It has strangely often seemed over the years that I have somehow had a unique ability to see the greater story going on around me.  You might call it God awareness or sensitivity.  Many times I’ve just been able to look at a situation, mine or someone else’s, and somehow speak into it something that was beyond simply what the eye was able to behold or just know what God wanted.  It’s a handy little gift to have, you might think.  🙂  And, yes, at times it has been.  I suppose it just developed over years of trying to listen to the Father and then obey the best I could.

The thing that is kinda rocking my world right now is that I seem to have lost it.

Now I know there is little truth to that.  But I have to tell you that it is unsettling how tentative I have become in the last few years.

First I noticed my hesitancy to speak into some of my friends, even at moments when I thought I might sense God tapping me on my shoulder to open my mouth.  Now I’m experiencing my hesitancy to even make decisions or statements about myself.  It’s quite a strange loss of confidence in hearing from the Lord that I have developed.

Why is this happening?  I’m not sure, but I think this is what I’m landing on.

Early on in life God quite graciously allowed me to learn how to recognize him.  Kind of like a mom teaching a child to speak, he didn’t try to make it difficult for me.  He made it very black and white.  So I learned and responded.  I got good at hearing him and discerning life and situations and it became very comfortable to follow him boldly into whatever he showed me.

But at some point in early education a kid then has to study language and sentence structure.  It is no longer good enough just to be able to talk.  A child has to learn how to write and communicate well and diagram sentences and study the complexities of language.  It becomes harder work.

I think that must be where I am now when it comes to hearing and discerning God.  It used to be easy.  I became confident in the simplicity of his voice speaking into me.  Then life turned upside down and everything I knew was completely different.  I became gun shy with God for a lot of reasons – mostly reasons that would serve to protect myself from any more hurt and confusion.  I kind of took a short break from him for a while – not that I wasn’t counting on Him or trusting Him, but I was a bit afraid to give my heart to Him fully in relationship for fear of what might come next.  It seemed he had done so little in the recent past to show he wanted the good for me that I perceived to be good.

But what I have found is that you finally get to a place where protecting yourself isn’t all it’s cracked up to be – especially for a person who at the very core so desperately longs to experience a great God story in their lives.  So now that I’m getting to that place of opening back up to God, I’m having to relearn him at a deeper level.  God doesn’t necessarily look and sound and smell like he always used to.  I thought I’d be able to ask him and hear him as simply as before.  Wrong.  I thought I’d all of a sudden hear what my future held and that he would start speaking truths about my future as before.  Wrong.  Discernment, like truly learning language, in this season is harder work.

But it’s good, dirty, hard work.  It’s a re-working out of my faith.

To hear the Lord now I have to press harder.  Pressing harder means I have to learn to trust him again.  I have to want him more.  I have to suffer more for the answers and direction I long to find.  But I think there is going to be a beauty in this new learning.  I think I’m going to understand him at a deeper level than I even knew existed.  I’m pretty sure that’s what he wants and why he has me here.

But I still have my doubts.  I’m still gun shy and when someone asks me anything about what I think about my future I clam up, unable or afraid to speculate.  I know what I long for God to speak, but for those words I still wait.  And in the process of pressing in a have to believe he will be faithful to speak loud and clear when He’s good and ready – and when he does, he’ll allow me all the discernment I need.

discernment

Stuck in James

For as much as I have been trying to read the Bible lately, I have had no choice over the last few weeks but to resign myself to the fact that God isn’t letting me out of James.  I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have read it.  And today, after finishing 40 Days in the Word, I’m there once again.

http://www.drivetimedevotions.com/