Thursday, January 29, 2015

High Walls

Growing up I was always fascinated by the houses with the big brick walls surrounding them.  The idea of who might live in them, what kind of life they might live, and the mystery of what was really behind that tall wall that driving by or walking by I could not see over.

Listening to Proverbs17:19 a portion of the scripture just kept calling out to me.  Anyone who trusts in high walls invites disaster.  I realize that in Old Testament times that there were walls built around cities to protect them from being invaded and that this scripture likely refers to those in the city only placing their trust in the structure around them for protection, but God spoke so much more to me through it.  Even as I tried to ignore it, I just kept hearing those words, as if the other words in the verse and chapter did not exist. 

As an adult, I have learned about a different kind of high wall.  These walls were also built for protection, but for self protection.   Like the walls we build because of hurts caused by people we care about, and even those we don't.  The walls that we build to keep people out, because we don't think that they can really handle who we truly are.  The walls we build because we just know that if we are disappointed on more time, that it will destroy us.  We build those walls to keep others out, but we don't realize that our walls limit us.  We end up being caged in by the very walls that we build to protect ourselves.

I admit, I have walls.  I didn't realize how closed off I had become.  I didn't realize that not everyone is as intrigued by walls as I am.  I first realized the walls protecting me in a casual comment made by someone that I was intimidating.  When I questioned my family, they told me I could be and that I often came off as trying to be even to them.  Ouch!  It is my personality, and although I have learned to temper it and build up the other parts of my personality, I am still a very dominant choleric (Find out your  personality temperament here).  I think a lot of the time while God was trying to tame this lion, I was busy building walls to avoid hurting others or being hurt.

I also loved old graffiti walls.  Those that told a story of what had happened in that area, the people who had been there. I loved the old time advertisements that were painted on the sides of buildings.  There was something about the history told by those scenes that captured my attention.

Other people's walls have always intrigued me, and as a counselor, I love to pull down those walls and learn about people's history.  I am not intimidated by the walls, I find them a challenge.  To learn what hurts caused them to build up the walls, the stories behind the graffiti and to help them see that it is so important to let others in.  It is through connections that past hurts can be healed. 

Over the past few months I have realized that something I have so openly taught to others, also applies to me.  We each have our own individual gifts and talents, personality and history that we need to share with the word.  Walls don't just keep others guessing, they keep the beauty inside the walls from being shared as a gift to the world.  I don't want disaster to come upon me because I have trusted only in high walls.  I realize that having other people in my life brings protection.  People who will call me out when I am doing something i shouldn't, who will encourage me when I am down, and who will challenge me to put forth my best in every situation.

We have to put our trust in God and in people.  Sometimes it is those that you least expect that can breach the walls and really get through to you.  Those who will take the time to hear the stories you thought no one could handle, and love you anyway.  Those who would let you be you, in all your uniqueness and pull on your talents and gifts, not for selfish reasons, but to help you become the person that God wants you to be.   Those who would speak life in to the dead places, and dare you to dream again.  Those who would brick by brick help you tear down the walls as you make peace with yourself and the past that caused those walls to be built.

I am so grateful to those who have been beside me these past few months.  God blessed me greatly when he brought Rapha Center into my life and connected me with such a wonderful group of women.  I had no plan to let those walls come down, but God had other plans.  Thank you for being part of His plan!

Let Go

2014 was a year of letting go.  At the beginning of the year, I set my focus on Letting Go. At the time I did not really understand what I would be doing, but Letting Go was what I felt God wanted me to focus on, however that might look.

I began the year looking at my past and working through letting go of the lies and misconceptions that had shaped my life.  God revealed deep seeded feelings that shaped who I had become but that were grounded in untruths.

For example, I thought that my parents didn't care as much about me as they did my older siblings because as I child I was taken to every performance they had - band, sports, church, whatever we were there.  Other than graduation, I really don't recall my parents coming to any of my events.  In my mind, it was unimportant to them.  My childhood self could not see what my adult self knows, my father couldn't be there.  My mother was working nights.  Could she have rearranged her schedule? Yes, but reality was she was working.  It had little to do with me and more to do with the decisions that each of my parents made.

There were many feelings that God revealed to me, their root, and then helped me to process.  He knew I needed this, because I have always said that feelings were irrelevant.  Although I still believe that, I also realize that they can shape how we respond to situations, even when we choose not to acknowledge them.  Just because I chose not to acknowledge feelings of shame, did not mean shame did not exist in my life and did not mean that shame based feelings had not shaped my life.

Around Feb. or early March God woke me up from a dream that I still remember (which is unusual for me).   In the dream I was arguing with my Pastor.  He was telling me I needed to quit my job, I was telling him all the reasons that I couldn't.  It didn't dawn on me that God was preparing me or even just speaking to me about His will, but all my excuses went out the window when I was fired in May.  What transpired over the next two months was nothing short of God's miraculous hand.  While I had to let go of everything that I thought defined me, I found a peace in God that I had not known before.  God took care of all the details, and I rested in Him.

Letting go, and truly surrendering to God has been the biggest leap of faith and the biggest blessing in my thirty years as a Christian.  The idea of not working full time, had never crossed my mind.  I have loved every job that I have had since I began working at age fourteen.  I have defined myself by hard work, integrity, being content while I was working, and good customer service.  Not working, I had to let go of those definitions and God had me start to look at who I really am.

Letting go of "my ability" to provide is also something that never crossed my mind.   From an early age, I made a promise to myself that I would never have to depend on anyone.  I knew the only ones I could count on was God and myself.  Even after I was married, I wouldn't bring myself to depend on my husband.  Being fired, meant that while I was fighting for  unemployment and searching for a job that I had to depend on him.  Even now, God has not lifted that dependence.  For most this seems like no big deal, but to me it is a massive step in letting go.  God let me see that I could depend on other people.

Then God placed me in the situation that I dreaded most.  A group of ladies, whom I didn't know where we needed to share our past and our feelings.  I don't really have a problem talking about my past.  Although a lot of it I am selective in who I share with, I have shared most every aspect of my life with someone at sometime over the last fifteen years.  However, I did not have to share my emotions and feelings.  For the most part it was I share and I leave.  Although I might see those people again, we are not necessarily going to discuss what was previously shared.  Or I shared in close relationships where I had time to build trust before sharing the deepest parts of what I have been through.

Honestly, I would have rather let go of the group, than let go of the control I had in sharing and telling my story.  Having agreed to focus on Letting Go, I knew that this was something that God wanted me to be part of.  I am so grateful that I did not let the enemy talk me in to letting go of the group.  I feel so much lighter having shared.  I learned so much from the other six women that were in my group.   I received so much prayer and encouragement, I guess that over the years I forgot what it was like to have women friends that just pour in to you.  Letting go, was just what I needed to do.

So, although I am 29 days late, I wanted to wrap up 2014 by writing about Letting Go.  Sometimes change is hard, but in order to receive new things we must open up our grasp on the things that hold us back.  We must let go to receive the new.  I am so grateful for the new opportunities, the new doors, and the new realities that I have found this year in the process of letting go.

Monday, January 26, 2015

the Esau generation

Genesis 25:27-34 As the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter. He was an outdoors man, but Jacob had a quiet temperament, preferring to stay at home. Isaac loved Esau because he enjoyed eating the wild game Esau brought home, but Rebekah loved Jacob.
One day when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau arrived home from the wilderness exhausted and hungry. Esau said to Jacob, “I’m starved! Give me some of that red stew!” (This is how Esau got his other name, Edom, which means “red.”)
“All right,” Jacob replied, “but trade me your rights as the firstborn son.”
“Look, I’m dying of starvation!” said Esau. “What good is my birthright to me now?”
But Jacob said, “First you must swear that your birthright is mine.” So Esau swore an oath, thereby selling all his rights as the firstborn to his brother, Jacob.
Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and lentil stew. Esau ate the meal, then got up and left. He showed contempt for his rights as the firstborn.

Esau was quick to give up his future blessing for the immediate reward of what he wanted. That is a direct reflection of our society today.  

It is reflected in the lack of nutrition in fast food, we want it quick and are willing to forgo the health risks that poor nutrition offers. 

This is reflected in short marriages and speedy divorces.  We all want love, but affairs offer a faster return without the work.  We throw away a moment of pleasure instead of working for a life time of happiness.

It is reflected in television shows, where problems are solved in thirty minutes and drama is completed in an hour.  We expect the same results in our own life because we have lost touch with the reality of what life really takes.

We live from paycheck to paycheck or paycheck to credit card wanting the life that our parents spent years saving and planning for, because we think we need it now.

We have get rich quick schemes, pills to melt away the fat overnight, extreme exercises, cheat codes for video games and hacks already built in.  All these things trick our minds in to thinking that we can get a reward that others work for without any effort.  It makes us think of the immediate reward instead of the long tem consequences.

Except salvation, God's blessings require effort on our part.  We seek Him, we will find Him.  We obey Him, He will bless us.  There are many kingdom things that we will forego if we decide that we want to live in NOW Chritianity.  We will find ourselves frustrated when the answers to our prayers don't come after the first time and we have to wait on God's timing.  When the obstacle in front of us is not removed immediately because God knows the process He wants to take us through requires we go through the obstacle. 

God is the God of the now, but His ways are higher than our ways.  His timing is not our timing.  He orders our steps, it is our responsibility to walk in them and wait on Him. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Focus of Faith

Sometimes our walk of faith doesn't look much like a journey of faith as we are walking it out.  I have experienced this personally and have heard others talk about how they had so many doubts and fears as they embarked on the journey God placed before them.  Then I hear that they could have never endured what I have been through or I think how great someone else's faith was through a particular trial.  We don't always see the day to day struggle of faith being walked out. 

I think at times we look at the journeys in the Bible, like those mentioned in Hebrews 11, the chapter of faith, and we forget that they too had human emotions.  We forget their great faith had its own ups and downs.  I was reminded of a few failures in faith on the pages I have been reading.

Hebrews 11:8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.

This clearly credited Abraham with faith when he was called to go out to the place he would receive as an inheritance.  Did the writer of Hebrews skip over Genesis 12:11-13

Genesis 12:11-13   And it came to pass, when he was close to entering Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, “Indeed I know that you are a woman of beautiful countenance. 12 Therefore it will happen, when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, ‘This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. 13 Please say you are my sister, that it may be well with me for your sake, and that I[a] may live because of you.”

Abraham didn't even trust God to protect him on the journey that God sent him on.    He opened up Pharaoh to the curses of God by lying to him about his wife. I guess that takes faith!  And what kind of man offers his wife up to other men to protect himself?  Abraham took his focus off God and placed it on the circumstances. 

Genesis 12:3

I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Or there is Peter who walked on the water.  And then sank.  He had enough faith to get out of the boat, but he lost the focus of his faith when he took his eyes of Jesus.

It is much the same way with us. There will be times when we step out in faith, where we leave out not knowing where we are going or step out of the boat on to the water.  There will also be times where we take out eyes off God and start worrying about things that would be safe in His hands, but aren't meant to be in ours. 

Around March last year I had a dream, God was telling me to quit my job.  I didn't listen.  In fact, in the dream I was arguing with my pastor telling him all the reasons that I couldn't.  I did not have peace in my job, and apparently everyone else knew that too.  Fast forward to May, and I was fired.  I will admit it angered me, because what was said wasn't true, but it was also humbling. 

Has my faith been perfect.  Absolutely not.  There were days where I wanted to take things in to my own hands and yell from the rooftops about the injustice.   Or at least write an ugly letter and get things off my chest. There were days when I had a pity party.  There were days when like Abraham that I started worrying about what was happening to me.  One thing I did not do is take my eyes off Christ. 

God started doing a work in me that needed to be done a long time ago, but I wouldn't allow it because I was too busy helping others. Had I listened to God and done what He told me, it would have saved me a lot of anguish.  But honestly I am glad for the experience.   It has deepened my faith and dependence on Him.  I got to see Him work impossible things in my life.  The blessing have been amazing.  It also opened me up to things I had been to busy for before.  It also let me rest.  You don't realize how tired you are when you are going nonstop.  God has rearranged my life.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Resting in His Love

Tonight I got a glimpse of the love of God, so tangible and present that I know I am loved.  I am here in the dimmed lights of the living room watching my two grand children sleep.  My heart is so filled with love for them, it is overwhelming at times.  Is there anything more precious than a sleeping child? Imagine how precious we are to God when we rest in His love.

It wasn't an easy night.  Neither of the kids is feeling too well.  My grandson was fighting sleep.  I try to calm his soul, rocking him as he finishes his bottle. So much like God's children.  He says "Rest."  All we can think about is the million of things that we have put on our to do list, most of which God didn't call us to do. God also tries to calm our souls, if we let Him.  If we can just get still and quiet, we will find rest.

My granddaughter wasn't fighting sleep, she was just wanting her way.  She didn't like the time and wanted to stay up later.  She didn't want the big bed, then didn't want the baby bed, she wanted the couch.  She didn't want the red blanket, she wanted her blanket.  I admit, after listening to her cry "Mimi" for five minutes I finally gave in and she is now sleeping peacefully on the couch with her blanket, thirty minutes after I called night time.  Before she dozed off, she was just starring at me with those big brown eyes, all puffy from the tears.  I signed our special love language "I love you" her little eyes smiled and sparkled back at me as she finally fell asleep.

As God's children, we are much the same way.  We want things our way.  We want things in our timing.  We want  what we want, how we want it, and when we want and at times nothing else will do.  Sometimes God gives us our way, whether he gets exhausted in fighting with us and decides to let us go around the mountain one more time or if He just says "I love you too much to let this come between us. I'll let you have this one." 

What I see is that God's love is real.  I know that I can not imagine His full love for me.  I know that He wants us to rest in His love always.  There is so much that we take on and burden ourselves with that is unnecessary.  I know there are times that He just looks down at us, despite our fight and despite our wanting things our own way, and just looks on us with such love.

Matthew 11:28-29 (NKJV)   Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.   Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Hope of But...

Genesis 6:5-7 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.  So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”


Maybe it is the version I was reading, but I had forgotten how upset God was with His creation before the flood.  The word regretted just struck me.  The NKJV says he was sorry that he made man.  As I was focused on the regret of God, I then saw the hope in verse 8.

Genesis 6:8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

God loves His creation so much, that for one He altered His plan to destroy the world.  How many things have been diverted because of the but.  I think about the messages of the prophets, like Jonah to Nineveh or how Abraham pled for Sodom if there were just ten righteous.  I think of Joseph to Egypt and Moses to Israel and Paul to the Gentiles. 

How many things happened, or didn't happen because of the ONE.  It is so easy to discount the actions of one.  Especially if you are the one.  Noah didn't have to build a boat.  Jonah tried to run from saving the people in Nineveh.  Joseph didn't have to interpret the dream.  Moses didn't have to go fight the battle against Pharaoh.  Paul didn't have to break the code he lived by and minister to the Gentile.  But each one did.  They did despite the personal cost, the ridicule, the questions they might have asked.

Genesis 6 shows that there is hope in the action of one.  What if you are the ONE? 

The Lie I Believed: Don't Ask

Lately I have read several book that asked the question "What lie have you believed?"  Most of the lies I have seen or thought have long been dispelled in my life.  But reading Captivating by John and Stasi Eldridge, the answer was there in black in white.  Starring up at me was the reality of the question I had left unanswered.  The answer to the lie I believed is "You can't ask for help." 

It seems silly to think that I can't ask for help.  I know that there are people who want to help. I know that because God has blessed me with a wonderful group of people who are willing to help me.  But yet, when was the last time I asked.  I am very good at laying out the need, but I don't ask.  If someone offers I can accept, but I can't ask. And even some times when people offer, I won't accept the help.  I immediately think about the number of times I have struggled bringing in a lot of things and someone offers to help, and I say "I got it."  even as things are slipping out of my grip. 

You can't ask for help.  I have believed that actually asking for someone's help makes me needy.  That it is an inconvenience.  That it is demanding.  As I read the thoughts of the person who also believed that lie, I saw myself.  My thoughts were starring back at me.  I could see the lie I believed, even though I had never verbalized it or even thought of it as a lie. 

There was a positive side of not asking for help from people, I learned to depend on God from an early age.  I knew that He was bigger than any problem that I would face.  I also became very self determined.  When you depend on yourself, you have to push yourself beyond the limits, because we all have needs that are beyond our limits.  Independence was my motto.

As I thought back to when I first believed I couldn't ask for help, I realized I must have been very young.  I don't remember a time when I would ask for help.  As the youngest of five siblings, with a ten year age difference, I was very much an inquisitive child.  At some point, I must have learned to read people's annoyance at my persistence.  When everyone is busy with their own lives and problems the childish needs of the youngest were ignored.  I could read the inconvenience and how it upset people that I was persistent.  I must have decided to keep the peace by not needing anything, EVER.

Although I wouldn't ask for help, I learned to get what I needed by manipulating.  If I could get the attention, I could spin a convincing story so that others would gladly volunteer to do what was needed.  I could ask permission, but even then, eventually I learned how to get what I thought I needed.  As a preteen I knew how to lie, manipulate, or if necessary just take off to go where I wanted to go, when I wanted to go. 

Without asking I had two different guys at my beck and call to pick me up and take me where ever I wanted, regardless of what they were doing, what time it was, or who they were with at the time.  I never asked, just let them know the need persistently.  One friend would literally come and pick me up to take me to the bathroom when we were out at the lake or partying outside of town, even when he wasn't invited.  Reading that now, I feel very selfish to have treated someone who cared about me in such a way.  But yet, when you can't ask, you take.

I was there to help others.  If someone asked for help and it was within my power to help, I had no problem saying "yes."  I just never felt that I could ask for help.  I never felt that I could depend on someone to meet my need.  Despite that fact there were obviously people in my life that did meet needs, I couldn't ask. 

It is freeing to admit the lie that I have believed.  How it impacted my life is also eye opening.  I realize how difficult I made things on people.  People who wanted to have something to do, but I was unwilling to ask. Instead of allowing people to give, I became a taker.  I am so thankful that God placed gracious people in my life that were able to see beyond the lie and help me in times of need.  I think of coworkers, board members, and friends who really had to press, past me, to help.  They pressed past the "I can do it all by myself" and found ways to help me succeed, despite myself. 

I am thankful for my husband who has had to live with this lie for twenty-four years.  I think of how many times I became frustrated because he couldn't mind read my need.  I think about the unmet needs that I have had that were only unmet because I didn't ask. 

The hard part will be overcoming the lie.  Learning to ask for help. I love when people ask me for help.  Why do I think that others would be different?  People like to be needed sometimes.   Learning to be open about my needs. Others share their needs and people come behind them and support them. It is such a blessing to see.  I have encouraged others to ask for help, saying that it robs people of the blessing that comes from helping others.  Why did I not see that lie in my own self when I helped others overcome?  Realizing that even if the answer is no, its not personal.  Others have to set boundaries also.  Others have limits and abilities that may or may not meet the need.

Proverb 3: 27-28
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
    when it is in your power to act.
Do not say to your neighbor,
    “Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”—
    when you already have it with you

Matthew 7:7-8 Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

Friday, January 2, 2015

What if?

Reading in Matthew 1 and 2 tonight, the story of Jesus birth, I had a what if thought.  God has given people free will, which means that Mary and Joseph were both free to say no to the Holy Spirit - with the pregnancy, Mary could have said no.  What if God had purposed his son to come earlier in history, but human disobedience and unwillingness to surrender made Mary the first to consent?

And what if Joseph had said no? What if Joseph had said no anywhere a long the journey?  What if he had divorced her as was his original thought?  What if he had not listened to the angel?  What if Joseph had not listened to the angel of the Lord  to flee to Egypt?  Jesus might not have been spared, and prophesy would not have been fulfilled.  What if Joseph had not harkened to the dream with the angel of the Lord to go to the land of Israel?  Or if he had not heeded the warning from the dream to stay out of Judea?  What if he had not decided to go to Nazarene?

Praise God that they were both obedient, but what is time is prolonged because God's chosen are not willing to be obedient to His voice?  What if there are missed opportunities - could you imagine getting to Heaven and realizing you could have been the mother of the Son of God if you had only been willing to submit?  Could you imagine learning that God wanted you to be the stepparent to His Son, but you thought she was lying?

I want to walk in that faith.  To be willing to say "Yes, God it seems improbable, but I will."  "Yes God, it is going to rock my world, but I will."  "Yes God, people are going to say bad things about me, and think bad thoughts of me, but I will."  "Yes God, I will uproot my life to protect the plan You have, I don't know where I am going, but I will." 

I want to be that God focused.  I want to hear that voice or have that dream, and know that beyond my human doubts, God is speaking to me.  I want to know that God is directing my steps, even when they don't make sense. 

I want to see a world, where all believers are tuned in to the what ifs.  What if God wants to use me?  What if there is a gift inside of me that could alter history and change the world for His kingdom?  What if I have to set aside my agenda so that God can do a work through those around me?  What if we all said Yes, God."