Tag Archives: God

Boot Camp

May 15, 2011

On this day last year, I found myself unemployed.  The church that had funded my full-time ministry determined that it could no longer carry the financial burden of the number of employees it had.  The leaders decided to downsize by 25%.  Although I felt that God had been preparing my heart for the change for nearly a year prior to the layoff, I was stunned.  I had not imagined the change would come in that form.  Surely what God had planned was tremendous blessing without any pain, right? 

The swirl of emotions that followed was not unusual, but it was difficult.  I have wrestled with feeling like a failure, rejection and fear.  God sustained me during the worst of the down times.  I had a sense of peace in the middle of the storm that I could only attribute to His presence.  My emotions were reeling, but as long as I kept my eyes on Jesus, the storms soon passed and I was able to keep my peace.  Instead of being swallowed up by the negative emotions, I allowed myself to feel them, gave them to the Lord, and moved on.  That is one of the best testimonies I could ever give to the faithfulness of my Father.  With the wind and rain pounding around me, I was sheltered, safe and secure in His arms. 

There is another very tangible blessing that I see as I look back over this year.  As a single woman, no one else is here to help me carry my financial responsibilities.  No, I don’t have a family to support, but I also have no one supporting me.  I had barely scraped by while I worked full-time at the church.  I had no idea how I was going to make it without my salary.  With no choice but to trust God as my provider, He proved to me that I was not alone after all. 

I was given six weeks’ severance pay.  I felt in my heart that God would provide a new job and I didn’t need to hit the pavement, searching high and low.  But I didn’t want to completely freak my family and friends out by not applying for jobs, so out of respect for them I applied and applied and applied.  I sent out hundreds of resumes and I didn’t get one interview.  Not one. 

During that time, I needed to buy new ink for my printer.  That stuff is expensive!  I sat in my desk chair, looking online at prices, looking at my bank account balance and the bills coming in, and not knowing what to do.  I had the money to buy the ink, but with no more money coming in I was afraid to spend it.  I needed the ink.  As I wrestled with what to do, I felt like God said, “Get what you need.  Whatever you spend will be covered.”  I knew with certainty that this wasn’t a license for irresponsibility, but that God would take care of what I needed.  I spent the money for the ink and the next day a man at church handed me the amount I had spent.

My family had scheduled a vacation to the beach around the time my severance was ending.  I hadn’t committed to it because I thought I’d be starting a new job and wouldn’t have the vacation time.  But as the days neared and I still had no job and money was running out, my prayers grew louder.  I continued to hear God’s voice assuring me that it would be okay.  I felt like He told me to go on the vacation, enjoy myself, not worry about work, and He would take care of everything.  He wanted to bless me with the vacation.  I went.  As I drove to the beach that hot, summer day, I played a song over and over in my car – What’d you say to taking chances?  What’d you say to jumping off the ledge?  Never knowing if there’s solid ground below, or a Hand to hold… 

I took a chance on trusting God, gave up the job search, and thoroughly enjoyed my family.  On about the fourth day of the trip, my fear took over and I allowed myself a pity party.  Of course, I missed out on a really fun day with my family while I sat alone and sulked!  I picked myself up that afternoon and placed my fears back into God’s capable hands.  On the final day of vacation, I prayed all the way back to Nashville, begging God to intervene. 

A few days after I got home, I went to a friend’s house to hang out.  As we talked, she mentioned that her nanny/housekeeper was unavailable.  She shrugged her shoulders and asked me if I’d want to help her out.  I’d helped with her kids before and loved them, but had never considered making a job out of it.  I didn’t need to pray about it.  I quickly answered, Yes, please.  She told me what she paid and the hours she needed.  I agreed.  It was extremely part-time – 13 hours a week – but it was something. 

That was my job interview.  That job soon turned into about 20 hours a week – a low-stress, physical job where I get to care for 5 beautiful children who I adore.  Besides that, I get to help out a good friend with her home.  Ministry just took on a new meaning. 

God also provided a new living situation for me.  I moved in with an elderly woman who needs someone to be present overnight to help her out a little.  Free of typical housing expenses, I had enough money to pay my bills if I lived very frugally. 

It seemed that every time an expenditure came up that wasn’t within my budget, someone would hand me the money I needed or I’d get an extra babysitting job.  I have not had one bill go unpaid.  I worked approximately 20 hours a week for six months and in that time I continued to repay debt as scheduled, and I had everything I needed. 

As I was only working part-time, I had a lot of time to nurture the new relationship that sprung up unexpectedly.  I spent hours every night on the phone with my new love interest, received visits from him, visited him, and didn’t have to miss work to do so. 

My family was concerned about how I would continue to survive financially and urged me to apply for anything I could find so I could have at least another part-time job.  I prayed about it and spoke to my boyfriend about it, asking what he thought.  Together we decided that I needed to be free to travel throughout the holidays (he and all of my family are located in different areas of the country), so I would hold off on finding a second job until after Christmas.  In January, I could start looking. 

I worried about how I’d afford Christmas presents for my loved ones.  (I love giving gifts!)  Because of all the holiday parties and events, I was needed to care for the children on nights and weekends.  The extra hours provided all the money I needed to buy gifts.  I felt so blessed. 

Right before I left for Christmas vacation, I got an email from the church, asking if I would consider a part-time job at the receptionist desk.  Although I was over-qualified, they knew I needed additional income.  I was able to work out the schedule and left for Christmas knowing my financial needs had again been met.  While on Christmas break, my friend asked if I wanted more hours at her house.  She is pregnant again and needed some extra help.  Between the two jobs, I suddenly had 40-hours a week, plus free living expenses.  When I added up the income of the jobs and added in what I was saving in living expenses, I’d gotten a raise! 

Over the last several months, I’ve been able to pay extra on my debt and I even put a little money in an emergency fund.  I still have 3 days off each week, so travel arrangements are fairly easy to accommodate.  And the home I’m living in now has separate guest quarters that make it possible for Rick to stay here when he visits and still have his own space. 

I am thankful.  My God has supplied my needs.  He has given me peace.  He has brought romantic love into my life and the joy that comes with feeling loved and accepted by someone I love and treasure.  God has allowed me the dignity of seeing my debt go down, down, down, and my savings go up.  And God is putting me through a new school these days – that of learning how to run a large household and care for many children.  I now know things I could have never learned in books – like how to put a gleam in the eye of a child who feels a little left out.  I’d like to think I know why He is putting me through this training, but I have discovered that what God does is never quite what I thought He was doing.  He is sneaky.  And while there are times that I feel rubbed raw by the hands that are shaping my life, I am delighted by the outcome. 

I asked God to put me through a sort-of boot camp, quickly teaching me the things I need to know to get where I’m going faster.  Quit dragging it out a little at a time, Lord, and just give it all to me at once.  As long as it’s by Your hand, I’ll be okay.  I can handle it.  I knew it was a dangerous prayer.  I knew I might have times where I really regretted it.  And there have been times where I’ve cried out, Enough!  I didn’t know what I was asking.  Please stay Your hand for a minute so I can catch my breath.  But He is so faithful to me.  He gives such grace.

I see this last year of my life as that boot camp.  God has humbled me, then humbled me again, and then humbled me again.  He has shown me clearly that I can do nothing without Him, and that my pride (I didn’t know it was such a problem) is an offense to Him.  He has proven to me that He will not give His blessing until I put Him first.  And yet He has given me such joy and hope as I explore the beauty of romance. 

…He gives beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.  (Isaiah 61:3)

One year later, I stand in awe of the blessing of the Lord.  Thank You, Jesus. 

Psalm 63: 5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.

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Learning to Breathe Under Water

Psalm 29 (NLT)

 10 The Lord rules over the floodwaters.
      The Lord reigns as king forever.
 11 The Lord gives his people strength.
      The Lord blesses them with peace.

Today I wrote this in my journal: “The Lord DOES rule over the floodwaters.  It may appear that my life is under water right now, but God rules over those waters and I am safely held.  God has given me peace, just as the psalmist writes.  God is my strength during this time of testing, when my life seems to be metaphorically under water.  I think I might be just as blessed right now, in the middle of such strange circumstances, as I have ever been.  I can FEEL God’s arms around me.  I can feel His embrace, His love, His acceptance, His mighty protection and peace and joy.  What else do I need in life?  If all I ever have is this, I trust God to expand my ability to endure and to become the woman He is making me to be.  Change me, Lord.  Help me to endure and to become stronger.  Let the sun shine on me, causing the waters to reflect off me and display Your glorious shine even in this deep place.  Help me to learn to breathe under water!!!

God has supplied my every need, given me tremendous peace, and filled me with wonder.  Circumstances do not determine my joy and peace.  My relationship with the Lord takes care of that. 

These things are hard to explain in words, but I’m trying.  If I have to be covered by floodwaters to learn that the joy and peace of God are mine, regardless of my circumstances, then it is the greatest blessing I have ever received and I stand in awe of God.  Circumstances have just lost their power over me. 

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me. Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.  (Ps 23:4 KJV)

After you’ve been “wowed” by God, there’s no turning back.  I pray that each one of you reading this today will come to understand the beauty of what I’m trying to communicate.  My words are feeble, but my prayer is that my life will reflect the glory of God in a way that will speak volumes more than I could ever say or write.

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Peace that Passes Understanding…

I’ve become one of those people who pass much of their day drinking coffee in a coffee shop or bookstore, working on their laptops.  I’ve always wondered why people do that.  Don’t they have a home or an office?  Doesn’t the constant stream of people and conversation around them bother them?  Don’t they have somewhere else to be?

I have a comfortable home with plenty of peace and quiet, but I get tired of staring at the same four walls at home, chores all completed, fighting the urge to watch television all day in a state of numb oblivion.  The coffee shop and bookstore have free wireless internet and perfect coffee.  They allow me the faint distraction of evaluating other people’s fashion choices, in the most Christian way, of course ~ “Bless their hearts!” (How can you not notice and wonder a bit when the 60ish guy with a jet black mullet, choker necklace made of bones, short black shorts, bright red socks, and black sandals comes strolling in?  My own fashion sense isn’t always perfect, but some things just beg you to notice and have an opinion). It also occasionally allows me to run into someone I know and have a brief conversation, and keeps me from numbing out at home. 

I sit here with plenty of time to think, feeling the weight of my situation.  For months now, God has felt very near to me in a way I’ve never quite experienced before.  There is a sense of peace and inner joy that I cannot describe or even fully understand myself.  I’ve been free of anxiety attacks and depression, in spite of the tremendous changes and stress-inducing circumstances in my life.  Technically speaking, it’s not much of a stretch to say that I should be huddled in a corner, drooling, and mumbling something incoherent over and over again… 

And yet, here I sit, calmly typing away at Starbucks, giggling at other people’s fashion sense, or lack thereof, drinking CAFFEINE.  In the past, the littlest bit of caffeine sent me right over the edge, but I’m on my second cup without a hint of a side effect.  Who am I?  The answer is, I learned to live out Philippians 4:6-9. 

Philippians 4:6-9 (New Living Translation)

 6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

 8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

I have poured out my concerns to God, telling Him exactly what I need and desire, and thanking Him for the ways He has already provided for me.  I have listened for His voice and done all I know to do to obey Him.  I have fixed my thoughts (most of the time) on things that are ‘truehonorablerightpurelovelyadmirableexcellentworthyofpraise’, telling the fearful and anxious voices in my head to shut up and go away.  Why should I be surprised that it’s actually working? 

I have decided to believe.  If God is God, then I must serve Him.  If someone or something else is god, then I should serve that person or thing.  I refuse to be wishy-washy in my faith, flopping from side to side, saying I trust God but running around in anxious circles, throwing my hands up in the air and crying.  If I believe God is God, and I believe He speaks to me in a still, small voice of love, then I must faithfully obey His commands.  Anything else is not faith.

I believe God has spoken to me clearly the same message for the last several months:  be still, stop struggling, and wait for the redemption of the Lord.  I believe that He has said what He has for me will come to me in His timing, in His way, without all my frantic worrying. 

I have spent a lot of time with the Lord, fasting and praying, laying out my concerns and requests before Him, asking for direction and for Him to open the door before me and to keep me from making a foolish decision out of fear or desperation.  If you really think about it, isn’t that what you expect a minister of the gospel to do when in this type of situation? 

As long as I continue in the current course of action – waiting, praying, seeking God, and trusting Him to provide for me, I have an unexplainable peace.  When I get my eyes off Jesus and look at the waves threatening to swallow me up, I do face an overwhelming feeling that disaster is upon me.  In those moments, I stop and evaluate my thoughts.  I get my eyes back on Jesus and the calm returns.  As I gaze into His eyes, I feel the most comforting sense of love, peace, and comfort. 

I admit that one of my fears is that what I think is God’s voice is merely my own.  As I consider that fear, I’ve come to a conclusion:  If I’m wrong, then I’ll deal with the consequences of my decision.  If I’m wrong, then it is ME who has failed to correctly discern God’s voice.  I will not blame God or love and trust Him less.  I will deal with my own lack of discernment and pick up the pieces. 

One of the things I think God is teaching me through this time of waiting is how to stand firm in my beliefs.  God hears my prayers.  He is teaching me something through this trial.  He is in control.  What have I to fear?  The only thing I can think of right now is that I fear looking like the older lady who just walked in wearing bright green, skinny jeans, a skin-tight black and white striped shirt, and purple high-tops.  Oh my…

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The Need for Speed

I love to drive.  I began driving when I was around eight years old.  Rather than going on a family vacation that year, my parents bought us a little four-wheeled all-terrain vehicle (ATV).  We lived out in the country with plenty of land and I made good use of every square inch of it, whizzing around trees and over hills.  The faster I went and the more things I jumped over, the better. 

When I turned fifteen, Mom took me to the DMV in her mini-van to take my driver’s test for a learner’s permit.  Two weeks later, I was eligible for a restricted driver’s license, but Mom and Dad made me wait a while longer.  The wait just about drove me nuts.  I wanted my license so badly.  When Mom finally took me back for the driving test, I was ecstatic.  I walked away with that precious piece of plastic with the horrible picture on it as proud as could be.  I was allowed to operate a vehicle by myself during daylight hours and with an adult after dark.  When I turned sixteen, the after-dark restriction was lifted and I was FREE.

My parents bought me an orange Ford Fiesta that was as old as me.  I was assured by my parents that if I ever got a speeding ticket, my car would immediately be taken away from me.  I was also assured that if my grades weren’t good, if I talked back to them, or if I got into any trouble of any kind, my car would be GONE.  It was a good deterrent to getting into trouble, but I still believed I was invincible and had no intention of driving slow.

I’m not sure how I kept from getting a speeding ticket.  I got pulled over for speeding on a fairly regular basis.  I was used to the four-wheeler, where the point was to go as fast as possible around anything in my path for the thrill of it, and I didn’t realize that wasn’t a good policy for driving a car.  My car was a little orange torpedo!  But somehow, every time I got stopped, I was merely given a warning.  One highway patrol officer who stopped me on the interstate spoke very firmly to me and didn’t let me go until I understood the impact one of those eighteen-wheelers could have on my little tin can of a car.  I’m grateful for that man today.  He really did slow me down quite a bit, at least on the interstate.

I still like to run as close to the maximum speed I can get away with on a daily basis.  If I’m in a hurry, then I push it a little further.  But a few months ago I heard that still, small voice of God whispering in my ear, “Slow down.”  I tried to ignore the feeling, hoping it would pass.  But it was like God’s face got closer to mine, right beside me, and again the whisper came, “Do you trust Me?”  If I turned my head fast enough, I was sure I’d be able to catch a glimpse of Him.  That was how real the voice was to me.  I thought the question of trust was a little odd, considering that we were talking about driving too fast.  But the answer to His question was, “Yes.  I trust You.”  And so I slowed down. 

I often travel on a highway where the speed limit is 55 mph.  Other highways in Nashville have a 70 mph speed limit, but not this one.  I typically run in the left lane, going as fast as the cars in front me will go.  The first time I set my cruise control to 55 mph, everything inside of me rose up, screaming and crying like a two-year old who has been told to take a nap when everyone else is playing games.  Cars were flying by me, practically honking as they passed, totally annoyed by my slowness.  I wanted to scream out the window, “I know!!!”  I tried to go a few miles over the speed limit to be less obnoxious, but the question returned, “Do you trust Me?”  Grr….  So I dropped back down to EXACTLY 55 mph.  Tapping my fingers on the steering wheel, frustrated beyond belief, I poked along.  Inside I was about to boil over in total frustration, but I kept the speed down in obedience. 

I worked through the frustration and irritation and learned a new way to drive.  Rather than looking for the holes in traffic so I could pass everyone else, I learned how to stay out of the way.  I also learned something that totally amazed me:  driving the speed limit didn’t really slow me down much.  I still arrived at my destination in about the same amount of time as when I had driven much faster.  Driving around town that fast might have saved me three or four minutes, and out of town trips might save me a whopping twenty minutes, but not enough to make a big impact.  I also discovered that slowing down saves a huge amount of gas!  The screaming inside me died down and I began to relax as I drove.  Driving that way has probably lowered my blood pressure significantly – once I got over the frustration, that is.

I’ve been driving the speed limit for several months now.  But about a week ago I was really late to teach a class at church, so I hit the gas and sped the whole way, hoping God would understand.  (I was speeding in order to be on time to serve Him, right?)  Oh, the wonderful feeling of driving fast!  I felt like I could breathe again…  And so I fell back into my habit of driving too fast.  I stuck my fingers in my ears and attempted to ignore the prompting to slow down.  God let me have my way for a few days and then He showed up in my car again, face right up next to mine, impossible to ignore, but as usual speaking to me in a loving whisper.  “Why are you speeding?” 

“I really like to drive fast, God.  You’re killing me here.  Can’t You just leave me alone on this one?”  Um, yes…  I was trying to bargain with God.

“Why are you speeding, Kimberly?”  Uh, oh.  He asked the question twice.  God’s about to make a point. 

Why am I speeding?  I was doing so good for several months.  After calming the volcano inside myself down, why am I allowing it to erupt again?  And then the answer came to me so clearly that I nearly stopped the car.  I was driving on a little stretch of road where the speed limit is 30 mph (which is CRAZY) and I was driving 45, right along with everyone else.  Okay, so maybe I was passing everyone else…  But really, 30 mph? 

The answer was, “I’m speeding because at this time in my life, everything is moving so slowly that at least when I drive, I can speed things up a bit.”  And to get really honest, I had to add, “I’m kind of mad at You, God.  You’re taking too long.  You’re moving too slowly.  Could You please move things along a little faster?” 

With that reality smacking me in the face, I slowed down to 30 mph and moved into the right lane.  The speed junkie inside me got all nervous and tried to have it’s fit again, but I told it to shut up.  I finally understood why God had asked me the question, “Do you trust Me?” 

To say that I’ve been frustrated at the speed of my life is a vast understatement.  I fully expected to be married by 24 years old, to have all my children by age 30, and be a rock-star pastor’s wife.  I wanted to run a dynamic ministry, letting my husband preach and play golf with the guys, and take care of the rest of it myself.  I probably would’ve been one of those nightmare pastor’s wives I hear about, but I’m just sharing “The Plan.”  When I wasn’t married at age 28, and saw that my career was not taking off the way it should if you’re still unmarried at age 28, I read all the books and talked to all the successful people about how to jump-start things and at least have a stunning career.  I was told to find my passion, go after it, and then it wouldn’t feel like work and I’d find great satisfaction in what I did.  With that much love and passion for my work, promotions and praise would naturally follow. Plus, a good man would be working alongside me and we’d just match up naturally and marital bliss would follow.  So I followed my heart and went to seminary

Upon graduation, I was hired at my church in Nashville.  I threw myself into the work, passionately pursuing my dream with the highest expectations.  I love my church and support the leaders; however, I did not find the great success and promotion I had dreamed about.  Instead, I felt constantly frustrated and held back.  I believed for a breakthrough, smiled brightly, and pushed ahead.  I just knew that one day my sacrifice would pay off.  I was privately praised by the leaders, received great performance reviews, and felt the anointing of God on my work.  I was called into a meeting where I thought I’d finally receive that promotion, but instead had to wrap my mind around the words I was hearing:  my position was being terminated

And so with frustration building inside me, I began to speed again.  Without even realizing it, I expressed my dissatisfaction with the speed of His timing in a passive-aggressive way.  One of my friends posted a new blog about God’s perfect timing and it was everything I could do not to comment on it, “Yeah, He’s SLOW.” 

“Do you trust Me, Kimberly?” 

As I’ve pondered that question, driving around town without speeding, I’ve had to acknowledge that it’s very hard to trust Him when He isn’t meeting my expectations.  I’ve given my life to serve Him and I think that entitles me to something amazing in life.  If I don’t have a loving husband and babies, then I should at least have a shining career to point to as some greater purpose for my life.  How am I to handle the reality that I’m single, childless, jobless, without a home of my own, and can’t even drive my car as fast as I want to??? 

“Do you trust Me, Kimberly?” 

I’ve comforted myself over the years with the stories from the Bible:  Joseph was taken from prison to the palace in a matter of days; Noah appeared crazy to everyone around him until the rain started; David lived in the wilderness running for his life until he became king; and Peter was a simple fisherman until Jesus decided to make him the rock upon which He built The Church.  But what if ten more years go by and I’m still trying to figure out why some guy I was dating and having a great time with suddenly won’t call me back, and I’m working as a receptionist through a temp agency, and I’m living in someone else’s home because I don’t make enough money to save for a house? 

Well, what if that does happen?  Do I still trust God?  Does God owe me anything for serving Him?  Will that frustration and disappointment of being the most educated receptionist in the world give me the right to drive as fast as I want to? 

As I’ve been reading the One Year Bible, I’ve been confused by the way God seems to randomly allow people to remain in their sin at times, then at other times He strikes them dead.  The kings of Israel (Ahab, for example) were total pagans, but they were allowed to live and reign.  King Herod Agrippa (in Acts) took some credit for God and got worms and died.  As I’ve pondered these things and prayed for God to reveal more of His character to me, I got hit with a profound sense of God’s mercy and compassion.  We ALL deserve to be struck dead, but He gives us chance after chance to do the right thing and serve Him.  He is so merciful and patient with us. 

Rather than question why God allowed these evil things to take place and why He isn’t raining down blessings on my head, I am going to praise Him for His mercy and compassion.   He gave His people chance after chance after chance to serve Him.  He waited for them, as He waits for me.  I get frustrated with how slow God is, but how slow am I?  I cannot honestly say that I understood true submission to God and embraced it until the last year or so.  And now that I have, I demand that He bless me immediately?  Who am I to demand anything of God? 

There’s one more thing He’s teaching me through this slow driving thing.  I’ve really been struggling with bumping up my speed to at least 3 mph over the speed limit, just to keep people from shaking their fists at me as they rush to their next appointment.  God asked me about that one too.  “Why do you care what they think?  Why do you care if you annoy them?  Who are you living your life to please?” 

Yikes!  If I am more concerned about what others think of me than about what God thinks, where does it end?  Does it end with driving a few miles over the speed limit?  What other little compromises will I make out of concern for what others think of me? 

I cannot tell you that it never bugs me to drive slowly.  I cannot tell you that I’m perfectly content to wait for God’s timing on my job situation.  I cannot even say that I’m okay with remaining single indefinitely.  But what I can say with total confidence is that I believe God is working out the details of my life and that it is His great pleasure to bless me.  I’m thankful for the joys that God has allowed me in life.  He has made me rich in friendships, has given me a loving family, and has blessed me with numerous other things that it would be obnoxious to list out here.  If that’s all He ever gives me, I will continue to thank  Him and serve Him.  If He ever chooses to give me more, I will be grateful and give Him all the glory for it.

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Missing the Point

I’ve spent a lot of time recently trying to figure God out.  What are His plans for my life?  What is He thinking as it relates to my situation?  What in the world is He trying to teach me now??? 

I’m reading Madeleine L’Engle’s book, Penguins and Golden Calves, and what she writes reflects my thoughts on the reading I’ve been doing in the gospel of John.  John emphasizes the fact that Jesus was thoroughly misunderstood by people.  They all had their agendas and tried to figure out how His ministry might help them achieve their own desires or do the things they thought the Messiah should do.  In fact, the only ones who had the right idea were the religious leaders.  They feared He’d replace them or make them irrelevant.  They were correct!  If only they’d become His followers, their lives would’ve radically changed for the better.

But back to my point…  Even Jesus’ closest followers misunderstood Him and tried to get their own way, expecting to become rich and famous (in this world or the next) through their relationship with Him.  He tried to share Himself with them, but they were so busy trying to figure out how His words affected them that they missed the point entirely! 

How often do I do that very thing?  God reveals a little of Himself to me, wanting me to know Him more intimately, and all I can think about is how that information might impact my future.  But maybe He just wants me to know His heart, His desires, and to answer my recent prayer, “Oh, for grace to trust Him more!”  What if this isn’t about ME at all, but about God’s desire for me to know Him?

I write all this because of the emotional roller coaster I’ve been on for the last few months.  God has been changing me, making radical shifts in my heart and mind.  As many of you have noticed, my physical body has begun to reflect those inner changes.  I’ve lost over 50 pounds and have made tremendous changes to my eating habits.  I’ve allowed God to be my Comforter (rather than food), my Protector (rather than my excess weight), and my Provider (rather than trying to provide for myself).  All these things were “head knowledge” before, but now my HEART knows.  I couldn’t hide the change if I wanted to.

So then the obvious question is WHY?  Why now?  What is this transformation for?  Obviously God must have something BIG for me next!  How exciting!

I’ve taken my closest friends and family on an emotional roller coaster with me, trying to “interpret the signs.”  I’ve been all over the map, thinking one day that I’m to become a career missionary to a third world country, the next that I’m to remain right here in Nashville, and every other option in between (at least it’s felt that way).  Which has left my head spinning – especially with the news that my job at my beloved church is ending with a lay off of 25% of the staff.  WHAT????

As I continue my walk with God, I see a choice before me.  I can continue spinning in circles in an attempt to figure it all out, OR I can simply thank God for revealing a little more of HImself to me and drawing me deeper into intimacy with Him.  To know the heart of God and serve Him is my greatest desire.  What else is there?  And to know His heart is to trust Him and to believe that even in the most uncertain times, He is the solid rock of certainty.

I plan to spend the next few weeks praying specifically for what God has laid on my heart – which at this time is that He will miraculously take care of our church’s $12M building debt.  That debt has led to the lay offs and many other challenges.  It is a dark cloud over our heads.  I believe God will do it.  I’m not going to try to figure out what that answered prayer might mean for me.  I’m just going to listen to the heart beat of my Savior and pray as He’s led me to pray.  I’m going to ask Him to reveal to me more of His heart regarding the debt we’ve incurred and how He feels about it.  I’m going to try to get to know God more through this challenge and leave the results up to Him. 

Do you think you ever misunderstand what God is doing in your life?  Maybe if we all followed Him obediently (instead of trying to figure out WHY He’s asking that of us), we’d truly be able to call ourselves the FRIENDS of God.  What do you think?

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Why Long for Heaven?

I often think that the whole “heaven” thing is just weird.  Do you?  I can’t imagine it.  My life can get really busy and I have so much I still want to accomplish.  The idea of sitting on a cloud and singing for a thousand years doesn’t exactly appeal to me.  At times I find myself wondering if we’ve made the whole thing up.  My feelings about heaven don’t mean I don’t believe in God and want to honor Him with my life.  I just don’t really concern myself too much with the afterlife.  I know my life sucks without God directing it, so I’ve submitted to His direction.  But that’s all about my life.  Not my afterlife.

In my daily devotions last week, there was a part in there about heaven.  I felt a little guilty for my attitude, so I whispered a quick prayer.  “God, please change my heart.  It’s not that I don’t want to see YOU face to face, it’s just that I don’t understand why I should long to be there rather than working for You here.”

A few days later I heard a statement that struck me as strange.  It was something like, “In heaven we will no longer need self-discipline.”  Huh?  No self-discipline?  Well, that’s just sin.  Isn’t it?

I thought about it for a while and realized – it’s true.  As Christians, much of our energy and effort is taken up in self-discipline.  We guard our hearts.  We discipline our eyes (be careful little eyes what you see), we discipline our ears (be careful little ears what you hear), and we hold ourselves back from going places we don’t need to go (be careful little feet where you go).  We fast, denying ourselves the pleasure of food or TV for a time in order to purify ourselves.  We stop ourselves from pursuing inappropriate sexual relationships.  We feed on God’s Word in order to keep our hearts and minds pure.  We’re careful about what we say – not claiming defeat or negativity, not gossiping, encouraging one another.  As Christians, we spend a big portion of our time disciplining our sinful nature and trying to rise above it.  Hopefully we get so used to it that it becomes second nature to us.  But nevertheless, we are in a battle every day – a battle against ourselves.

In heaven, there will be no need for self-discipline.  We will be like God and our sinful desires will be gone.  Whatever we desire, we can do or have.  All our desires will be holy and pure.  There will be no more restraining ourselves, holding ourselves back.  We will just be able to BE. 

Imagine that.

And I told God I’d rather fight the battle against myself every single day in order to accomplish what I think He still has for me to do, than go to heaven and be with Him for eternity???

While there is still much that I want to accomplish in my lifetime and I have no desire to leave this earth at a young age, the peace and freedom God promises us in the afterlife are almost too much for me to comprehend.  The joy of it blows me away. 

I know that it’s a weird concept and very difficult to wrap our minds around.  We cannot comprehend what we have not seen.  And yet, that is the mystery of faith.  We believe, even though we cannot see.  We trust, even though our trust may be misplaced.  We choose to follow this path and see where it takes us. 

I am aware that it’s possible all this God stuff is made up.  But I also know what He has done for me.  I know the peace and joy He has given me.  I remember that He parted the Red Sea, He raised the dead, He calmed the wind and the waves, He walked on water, and he healed me.  This God I serve is worth facing my fears of foolishness.  He is worth facing my doubts.  He is worth giving up everything.  And I look forward to the day I see Him face to face and feel the total peace and rest of no longer fighting against all the evil that my human soul is prone to pursue.

Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing
by Robert Robinson and John Wyeth

…Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it;
Prone to leave the God I love.
Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it;
Seal it for Thy courts above.
O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace…

Is there anything that makes you long for heaven?

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February 14, 2010

I cried a lot today.  Today is Valentine’s Day and I don’t have a boyfriend or husband, but for once that had nothing to do with my tears.  I cried today because after three days with my niece, I had to leave again.  I also cried because I know my life is changing.  

Alexis Grace

 

My niece is two years old, and she has totally charmed me.  If I tell her I’m going somewhere, she gets a concerned look on her face and insists repeatedly, “And me.  And me!”  She wants to go along.  This morning I packed my bags and put them by the door.  I told her I had to leave, had to go back to my house, and I’d miss her.  Instead of saying, “And me!” she said, “Stay here.  Please stay here with me!”  And my heart shattered into a thousand tiny little pieces.  As little as she is, she understands the difference between a short errand and going home.   She understands that she won’t see me again for months.  And today she further understood that her charm will not always get her what she wants.  It broke my heart that I’m the one to teach her that terrible, but necessary lesson. 

My life is changing.  I’ve been blessed with 3+ years of stability, proximity to my family, a stable job, and relative calm.  I know this time has been a gift from God and I’m thankful for it.  But something is stirring inside me.  I wish I could articulate exactly what it is, but the only thing I know to call it is CHANGE.  God is changing me.  He is stretching me.  He is challenging the commitment I’ve made to total obedience, trust, and love.  He is asking me to give up things I’ve held to tightly, to open my hands and offer them to Him, with no visual of anything to replace the cherished.  

He isn’t dangling a big piece of Godiva chocolate in front of my face and asking me to let go of the m&m.  He’s just asking me to let go of the m&m.  I really like m&ms. 

I cried today because letting go is so hard to do.   

Even though I believe God has something more for me, it’s so hard to let go of the comfortable and familiar.  For a moment I berated myself for being so emotional, so dramatic, and for indulging in self-pity.  Then the thought came to me, “If this isn’t worth crying over, then what is?”  So I let the tears come and didn’t try to stop them.  I cried myself out.  

Lent begins on Wednesday, February 17th.  This year I’m taking the time to purify my heart, mind, and body.  I’m emptying myself before the Lord.  I’m looking forward to standing before Him, ready to be filled by His truth, justice, mercy, and righteousness.  I’m also dreading the days ahead when I will likely feel the gamut of my emotions with nothing to soften the rawness.  I’m giving up my comforts so I may learn to look to the Lord alone for comfort.  

Anticipation of the results is what will give me the strength to do it.  Love for My Lord and Savior will pull me through.  And yes, I plan to be radically changed.  I’m ready.  I’m excited.  Today I mourned the loss of the familiar, but my tears weren’t without hope.  Through my fear, I face my blindness regarding the future and trust God to guide me to a place of bright color and beauty.

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