Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Guard your heart

Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
Over the years I've struggled with wide ranging emotions--exuberant, passionate highs and devastating, aching lows--and very little inbetween. 

I've researched conditions like bipolar and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) to try to understand why my heart is so volitile.  I'm not bipolar, but I share some of their traits.  I do struggle with SAD and at times it has been debilitating.  To some degree, I just understand that in February I have a delightful burst of energy in which I am enthusiastic, organized and creative.  Around August, I begin to slow and become critical so it's a good time for me to edit the work done in the fury of February.  By December I have to be cautious about my moods so I gently revel in the holiday festivities as a strategy to combat the peaking darkness in my mind.  I also take medication and nurture my body gently--some of the depression is a genetic issue that just won't go away without the support of some very gifted physicians.  In military terms, these are the air war strategies.

The ground war strategies include good old fashioned thought and attitude management.  II Corinthians 10:5 encompasses the heart of this strategy: 

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

That means I have a choice.  I can choose:

                 to be full of faith or full of doubt
                 to remain at rest or become frantic with fear
                 to notice God's peace or be overwhelmed by chaos
                 to be focused on the Father or focused on self

This is what it means to guard your heart.  It means guarding it from the attacks of the enemy, the criticism of well-meaning friends and your own insecurities. 

Still, there are times that my best efforts are insufficient to the task.  My heart often feels like the sandbox heart in the picture above, or worse it feels like the sand has been fused into solid, glistening glass--hard and brittle, with all the imperfections frozen forever into the matrix.  In those moments, I lean on this promise from Ezekiel 36:26:

 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

When I can't change my own heart, He promises that He can and does.  He tenderly loves me showering me with the compassion I don't even have for myself.

God is kind, but he's not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change.  Romans 2:4

He loves me enough not to leave me in the abyss I have placed myself, but I still have to get my backside up, take His hand and walk out with Him.  It's hard work sometimes, but it works and I am grateful.

Thank You, Father!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Hurry Sickness

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  II Peter 3:9

This morning a good friend from down the street was complaining about how rude it was for their behavioral therapist to show up late every week.  It took some time to explain, but a person who has to wait an infinite amount of time for a child to intentionally bend their will to hers has probably got to see time in a completely different way than one who runs an entire theme park (like he does). 

Yesterday I wrote about how gently the Lord condescends to my weak faith, gently teaching me that my trust in Him is not misplaced.  This morning He filled in a few more thoughts to chew on:

"You have set out to test me within the context of your business.  Am I not trustworthy?  I only delay to increase your faith.  I cannot always answer right away.  I often have other pieces that need to come together before I can provide—things that have nothing to do with you.  I need you to trust Me whether My answers come quickly or delay so that I am free to work in all of the hearts involved, in the same, gentle, condescending way that I work in you."

I often suffer from what John Ortberg calls "Hurry Sickness."  I want answers, and I want them now.  It's a subtle form of pride.  My priorities and timing are more important than anyone else, so they should get me what I want and get out of my way.  Unfortunately, sometimes I end up treating God that way too.  I want my heart to be at peace because I know everything is handled.  He wants to BE my peace and walk in relationship with me.  I would never say out loud that my priorities and timing are more important than God's priorities and timing, but that's exactly what I'm saying when I cry out like a toddler, "I want what I want when I want it!!!"  A toddler only cares about his own needs.  Maturing means thinking of others--and when I get in a hurry it's almost always because I've forgotten to care about what others need and the pace they need it. 

I want what You want, when You want it, Lord.  Thank You for teaching me to enjoy You in the wait--even when it scares me. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Out of work, again?

I have to admit.  Trust doesn't come easy with Me.  The Lord works really hard to continue to win my trust--something He shouldn't have to do, but He condescends to my weakness. 

This week I turned in the final report draft to our review team.  As soon as I turned it in, John asked me if that means my job is over. The truth is that it probably does.  There will be a little more work but it will end soon. When I lost my job 17 months ago, I started a business and it's doing ok, but not great--we've done better than break even but it hasn't brought in anything close to the income I made before.  I got this job working for UF when I looked into do a PhD.  It's been a good research project and it's come out in a completely different way than it would have with a typical grad student straight out of school.  It's also been a small but steady income. 

Most of the time, I'm not all that concerned about that because I really do trust that the Lord will provide. When He asked me to go back to work, I went back on the condition that I would do what He sent me, but I wouldn't look for it.  That way things wouldn't get out of balance.  He's always sent me what I needed and we're doing ok. 

Just as a confirmation that He will provide, less than an hour after I sent the last chapter out, I received the contract I've been expecting for over a month.  Yaay!!  So what about the worry?  It's a continuing services contract--I need to have costly insurance for it and I have no idea if I'll get any work from it at all.  It's just a part of business and I knew I would need to do it at some point.  A contract is a contract--and a glimmer of hope for consistent work. 

Still, I'm human and My Father and Friend knows that at some point I could worry and I don't like to risk money.  Just so that I would really get that He has this all in His control, last night He set up another divine appointment:

As I went into the prayer room before the service, I felt a familiar divine stillness--He wasn't pressing me to pray about anything, just wait in His presence.  I could hear the worship time coming to an end but His presence wouldn't lift and allow me to go into join it.  After a little while, the same couple came in and joined me that had come a few weeks ago.  I prayed with them again and they chose to stay and just sit in the stillness with me.  I laid hands on his head to pray for him because he has frequent headaches.  Usually as God heals people when I lay hands on them I feel their pain and feel it release as He provides healing. It gives me a sense of compassion for them, shows me where to pray and sometimes even why they hurt.  This time, though I felt the Spirit's blessing on Him, I felt nothing else. 

We talked for awhile longer about the delight of seeing God work and at some point I mentioned that I happen to be a traffic engineer.  He mentioned his fears about a roadway that had been planned through a mobile home park he owns.  Before we parted, he asked for a business card.  There are many ways I could help him in the future, if he needs it.  Nothing is guaranteed, but I could easily recognize the nod from My Friend that He has my work life in His control.


Friday, July 27, 2012

Finishing well...

Today I finished the final draft for the last two chapters of the report I've been working on for over a year.  I struggle to finish anything.  I don't know why.  I've been trying to figure it out of months.  The report was due at the end of April, but the model wasn't working so we ended up getting a 3 month extension.  I'll have comments to address over the next few days, but the work is basically finished. 

I know my fears have something to do with the fear of the criticism that will inevitably come with the submission.  I like to please people and I hate it when I don't understand how to give them what they want.  Maybe I fear that I'll lose the meaning of my life when I don't have this to work on anymore--that feels closer, but not on target either.  There are so many times that the Lord places me where I need to be to do good work. 

When I went to the Lord, He told me that this is where I struggle with change.  Some people struggle when new things come along.  I struggle when old things end, particularly if I don't know what's next--and right now I don't know what's next.  I have to stand at the edge of this cliff, waiting and watching for whatever is to come along next.  I know it will come, but I feel more comfortable making progress than sitting still.  I've learned so much about being in the moment and trusting even when I can't see, but it's clear I still have a long way to go. 

I'm believing there is a picnic waiting for me at the edge of this cliff and that He and I will enjoy each other's company. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

I am an idoloter

Jimmy Needham
The other song we looked at in our Saturday night life group was Clear the Stage by Jimmy Needham (what a great name!).  It talks about the things we put on the stage of our lives--the things we worship.  These lines really hit me then--and break me now:

Anything I put before my God, is an idol
Anything I want, with all my heart, is an idol
Anything I can't stop thinking of, is an idol
Anything that I give all my love, is an idol

I want no idols in my life and I truly enjoy spending time alone with Him in quiet listening for His whisper.  I loved the song, but blew it off a little because Jesus really is my passion--or so I thought.

Yesterday, my computer died (or at least fainted).  

If you want to know what a person's idols are, just take them away and you'll see pretty quickly.  It's my work computer and I was just getting ready to write the last chapter of the research I've been working on for the last year.  It's also where my journal is along with all my pictures.  It's where I come to God in the morning to soak in His word, receive encouragement from other Christians, and write out of what He has poured into my heart.  It's also where I play stupid, mind-numbing, time-consuming games, check out what's going on with people I barely remember from High School, and get crazy ideas from Pintrest.  

It's in the shop.  It's not likely to be genuinely terminal.  I'll probably get it back today.  Still, an engineer without a computer is naked (and yes, I had a spare--it's not the same).  

I John 1:9 says:  " If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."  I am agreeing with God that this is an idol.  I am throwing myself on Him again, begging for forgiveness from my betrayal.  I desperately need His purification and He promises to give it.  That's what Jesus died for.  That's what grace is all about.

Thank You, Father and Friend...

Monday, July 23, 2012

A living and active Word

I've been devouring scripture since I was a toddler.  My mom first started reading the Bible through with us when I was 2 and all that was available was King James (and not the New King James).  I have a strong auditory memory, so I've retained much of it, in the language it was first delivered to me.  I haven't intentionally memorized it, but I know it, nearly word for word.  It remains precious to me and I continue to devour it daily--to the best of my ability.   I have found it to be living and active--sharper than any two edged sword

Still, sometimes a new translation or a new season of life comes along and those old familiar passages take on a new vibrance--a new richness--and my heart is passionately enflamed again.  It's like walking the same familiar paths and finding them enrobed in a sunrise at spring when all is ablaze and blooming.  It was beautiful before but it becomes entrancing and makes me pause in wonder. 

For instance, Romans 5 is a familiar passage that I've heard all of my life (mostly in New International Version): 

Bok Tower Gardens
"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."

This is great stuff--talking about the way that God uses suffering to mold us into the character of Christ.  Here's Eugene Peterson's take on the beginning of Romans 5 in The Message:

"By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that's not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God's grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.  There's more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we're hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we're never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can't round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!"  Romans 5:1-5

See how what was familiar stands out with a new vibrance?  Just the phrase, "passionate patience" will hang with me the rest of the day, inviting me to chew on it in great delight.  Just like the two pictures above, the same place moves from simply beautiful to extravagantly amazing. 

If your time with the Lord has become stilted or dull, try checking out a new version of the same passages.  Compare them side by side.  Let your mind and heart be stirred to see the nuances scholars have observed in the original text.  Be careful to listen as the Holy Spirit points out new words or phrases from the "same old, same old" passages.  Write down what He points out so you can meditate on it throughout the day and come back to it weeks later.  Let it stir you to reconsider what the Word means in your life.  

You may never be the same.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


My education pastor finds the coolest stuff...Last night we looked at how music can be a part of our quiet time.  He points out that lyrics are basically poems that contain deep truth in compact packages.  This one really hit me (I even bought it for myself):

She could have been spying on my own journals:

Fill my weak with strength
Fill my full with more
Fill my soul with hope
And fill my faith with Yours
I'm desperate for You...
Consume every part of me
For I'm missing nothing
The more I seek You I find that You are here

I see my weakness.  I see my fullness.  Together, they amount to nothing.  If I don't have Him, filling me to overflowing I am nothing.  I have feared every day that He would leave me to my own, substantial, devices--but it wouldn't be even close to enough.  Once you have tasted Him, nothing comes close. 
Over the last few months, the Lord has been gently reminding me that He is and has been here the whole time.  As desperate as I am for his resources, I have never been without them--I only needed to look up.  I am still frantic at times.  I am terrified I will forget and rely on my own resources.  He reminds me both in my journal time with Him and by the gentle orchestrations within my own life that He is always here.  He is always laying out good work for me to do and He is always providing the resources I need to do it.  I am beginning to exhale.  I am beginning to trust. 

It's about time.  

Friday, July 20, 2012

Dreamscaping 15...praying and talking...

If you believe, you will receive whatever
you ask for in prayer."  Matt 21:22
Ok, as I looked for pictures for the blog, I stumbled on this beauty:


As I talk about the ideas God has placed on my heart, I'm often trying to work out the plan in my mind, mulling over the details as I talk about it.  There are many times that the Lord brings clarity through many counselors--Pr 15:22 tells us that "Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed."  Still, our first and best Counselor is the Holy Spirit. 

It's easy to lean on human wisdom but it can become foolish if that's the primary wisdom we seek.  It's harder to hear what God has to say to us.  People are always happy to put their two cents in, usually whether we want it or not.  Listening for what God has to say has to be an intentional choice and it's a crucial part of prayer.  It requires the disciplines of being still and going to the Bible.  It requires closing our own mouths and opening our ears.  It's a lot of work--it is, in fact, the work of following Him.  Look closely at John 6:28 and 29:

28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?"  29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

If we really believe He is the one who does the work; He is the one who creates the plan; He is the one who puts the pieces in place--then the real work is just seeking out what He has already prepared. That kind of ministry life is one rife with miracles and God's handiwork. 

I've got work to do...

Thursday, July 19, 2012

"I will uphold you"

My journal entry this morning reflected my exhaustion and overwhelm.  I went to Bible Gateway and the verse was nearly a copy of what He had already said:

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 NIV

Today was the monthy iDignity event.  One of the issues with the homeless is that as they lose their homes, often they put their most important stuff in storage.  When they can't pay for the storage they lose all of their identification.  Without those papers it's hard to get a job or any help from social services.  My disabled friend's driver's license has been expired for over a year so she can't even do her own banking and had a hard time flying to her dad's funeral because security almost wouldn't let her on the plane.  With her limited income, the $50 it takes to renew her license was over a quarter of her disposable income in a month.  iDignity can get it renewed for her at no monetary cost, but it was a long and taxing day.

They told us to show up between 9 and 10 and we were there until almost 2.  In the process, the birth certificate she thought she had brought with her had disappeared from her purse and she was in tears, demanding to go home.  We hung in long enough to order a new birth certificate and get some other business done, but we can't get a new license until she gets the birth certificate.  We even tried to renew her license online, but since it had been expired over a year, there was nothing we could do.  Another casualty to the digital divide.

I didn't realize how traumatic this could be for her.  There's no way she could have made it through that alone and I wonder how often the burecratic process is just beyond the capacity of those it's made to serve.  It looks like it may be pretty often.  Frankly, what iDignity does is great and it's a wonder they can do it at all.  It's a lot of volunteers going through mountains of paperwork.  Restoring a person's identity is daunting under good circumstances.  For someone who is homeless or disabled, it's unbelievable.  Doing it without a friend would have been impossible.

I can't help "the homeless" or "the disabled" in my city.  I can help my friend, together with the others that have come to her aid.  She is an encouragement to me too--sometimes just for hanging in there when she's tired and beyond her limits.  We Christians often talk about loving the poor and down out as a general principle--usually by sending money for someone else to do the dirty work.  It's a lot more comfortable that way.  I didn't need a lot of money, just the time and patience to do paperwork--which isn't that hard.  I didn't help a whole bunch of people, just one.  She's going to need help for a long time, just like every other person in that line, and many more who couldn't handle that line.  One veteran just ended up leaving without even getting a number--he was off to get a beer, and it was hard to blame him.  I watched my friend try to encourage him to both stick around and seek God--to no avail.

We did make it through and He did uphold us with His righteous right hand.  He even gave us a lead on getting a new driver for Celebrate Recovery to pick up people from the homeless shelter.  It was a good day and I love how He works.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Awe and silence

"14 The Spirit lifted me up and took me away. I went in bitterness and turmoil, but the Lord’s hold on me was strong. 15 Then I came to the colony of Judean exiles in Tel-abib, beside the Kebar River. I was overwhelmed and sat among them for seven days."  Ezekiel 3:14-15

This is the state of mind Ezekiel was in after his first encounter with the Lord in Heaven.  He was on sensory overload and overwhelmed with the messages that God had given him.  I can't say that I've seen anything like what he saw, but it's been an amazing week seeing God work and I can relate.  My mind is reeling in amazement and wonder.  My mouth would be agape if I could open it at all. 

I'm beginning to understand awe and I have yet to even see Him in person.  What have I seen?  I've seen:

  • Prayers answered in moments
  • Comfort sent to a wounded warrior in the battle to restore addicts
  • Comforters of the grieving, comforted
  • Forgiveness and restoration anticipated before the offense
  • A house of prayer ministering on the doorstep of homeless hotels
  • dozens of kids in a missions camp come to know Jesus for themselves
  • personalized comfort in the night and encouragement from friends
  • A belived Christian Saint rejoicing in the weakness that God is granting him as a tool to take his mission work to another level
"But afterward the people will return and devote themselves to the Lord their God and to David’s descendant, their king. In the last days, they will tremble in awe of the Lord and of his goodness."  Hosea 3:5

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The midnight call

For many years now I've given God the opportunity to wake me at night just to talk.  We have a signal system so that I can recognize the difference between my body and His call but I wouldn't trade it for anything.  Last night He called again and His encouragement was sweet and thorough.  I needed it. 

Many might say that it is a sacrifice to give Him that time.  I've heard others who have chosen to ask God to get them up when their bodies are adequately rested so they can give Him the remaining time.  For me, I need to be still to hear the subtle things He desires to tell me.  He does occasionally shout over my day but I don't want to wait until He has to shout.  Those times are sweet and quiet, uninterrupted by the clutter and chaos of the day. 

I've heard people say that even though they've been a Christian for years, they still feel something is missing.  It's in those midnight rendezvous that the aching places in my soul are filled.  It's in those times that He shows me the places I've kept Him out and loves those places open.  Jesus made a habit of praying at night, sometimes all night.  Anyone who will try it out will find out why He did. 

The spiritual disciplines aren't individually that hard--they're just a long obedience in the same direction.  After getting into the habit, taking time with Him every morning and evening aren't a chore--they are a delight.  There are times that I'm struggling to obey or fighting His direction and it's in those times that it's a bit harder.  I can't tell you how many times I've awoken in the morning to realize I missed His call.  In those times I weep for the opportunity missed and He comforts me. 

I want to encourage you to test Him--there is nothing you can give Him that He won't return to you more full and powerful. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Dreamscaping 14--Poured out...

This weekend's sermon was on the story of how Jesus recognized the widow who gave two coins.  The point of the sermon was that it's not how much you give--it's about what's left over.  In this series on dreamscaping, I've talked a lot about what God does, but He chooses to do it through us.  At the end of Paul's life, he said: 

"For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." II Tim 4:6. 

A drink offering was completely drained out over the offering on the alter until it was drained dry.  The pastor spoke about an experienced marathoner who told his own sons that if they finish the race with anything left over, they haven't run their best race.  I hear in Paul's voice the satisfaction that he left nothing on the table; the joy of finishing well.  This week I've been wrapping up a work project and I've been asking my prayer partners to pray that I finish well.  I'm still asking that, but I was in for a surprise. 

See, I'm struggling to declutter and get free of the stuff around my life.  I feel like I don't even know where to begin sometimes and I feel like what I give is so small.  When the pastor talks about what's left, what I see is a lot left around me.

As I came out of the prayer room last night, I watched as an older woman hugged and held a younger woman as they both cried.  When the younger woman left, the older one was still there crying.  I reached out and held her and talked with her for a few minutes, encouraging her to release her niece to Jesus as she grieves.  It's a lesson I learned earlier last week.  Then as I walked down the hallway to join my husband in the service, another woman I barely know was walking beside me and asked if she could sit with me, but it was clear that she needed more than that.  We sat in the back and she cried for the rest of the service as I comforted her and prayed with her.  Then, in the middle of the night, the Lord woke me and after a sweet time together, another, very troubled friend called (at 3:00 am!!) crying because her food stamps hadn't come in, even though I had tried to help her get them the information they needed to continue them.  Each time, I had the priviledge of pointing them back to the Father's resources, His comfort, His care for them.  (We did eventually have to set some boundaries on that one...but that's another story). 

What I realized this morning as I finally listened to the sermon for myself was that when I looked at what I had to give of my stuff, the Lord looked at what I had to give of my time and care.  I don't know that I'll always end up being the one people cry with, but I don't mind for now.  It's ok.  I know that I left nothing He asked for on the table.  I didn't even get to see most of the sermon during that time--my time was all used up and I wouldn't have it any other way.  It was my joy to direct them to Him, whether they were able to do that right then or not.  Years ago, I gave it all to Him.  It's still His--the stuff and the non-stuff. 

Don't be afraid to give it all.  What He wants is your heart.  Leave none of it on the table and He'll have all He needs of everything you have.  Of course, an empty vessel begs refilling, and He is delighted to do it--the pipe can't help getting wet. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Dreamscaping 13...What if I just give up?

I had a dream this afternoon that was frightening and heartbreaking. 

I was the student director from the High School for the lower grades choirs.  They were wiggly, impatient and not following direction.  I looked around thinking isn't there anyone else who can do this?  There seemed to be plenty of people in my own choir and in the choir I was leading (50+ kids each).  The adult directors told me as I tried to quit that there weren't that many coming up behind me that had the musical training to lead.  We also came to see that if I quit, then the praise coming from that group would cease which would disrupt the uninterrupted praise before the Father--with dire consequences.  For if the praise ceased, the oil of the Holy Spirit would cease to flow through us and His work would stop here.  I wept to know that there were so few to carry the load, not just because of my own exhaustion but because it was good work that should be shared. 

As I woke, I quickly realized that the dream had little to do about music, per se.  Our church's music ministry is marvelous and praises pretty regularly.  I believe it has to do with doing what we're called to do.  The place God has for each of us is unique and draws God's attention in a unique way.  If I don't do it, it may not get done because God may not have a backup plan for what He called me to do.  Remember, it was when Moses said, "Get someone else" that God really began to get irritated with him.  The verse that comes to mind is this one: 

“I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall so I wouldn’t have to destroy the land, but I found no one.  So now I will pour out my fury on them, consuming them with the fire of my anger. I will heap on their heads the full penalty for all their sins. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!”  Ezekiel 22:30-31

What a heartbreak!!  All God was looking for was someone to intercede alongside Him (stand in the gap), through prayer rebuilding the wall of righteousness so that He could continue to protect the land.  If there was no one to pray for righteousness to be restored, there was no longer any way for that righteousness to be rebuilt and no hope for which the Lord could delay His wrath. 

Keep us vigilant to the call You have laid on us, My Father and Friend...

Friday, July 13, 2012

An uncomfortable support

"Faithful are the wounds of a friend;
profuse are the kisses of an enemy."
--Proverbs 27:6

Yesterday I got a call from a friend who has had a lot of trouble with her marriage.  As we talked about the issues at hand, I recognized many of them as mirrored images of the issues John and I have had for years.  They are not exactly the same, but very similar--and the roles are somewhat reversed.  He is pushing too hard for emotional closure (like I would) and she is frightened by his direct approach (which is loud and often hurtful). 

There were several times during the conversation that she seemed astounded that I might take his side--which was only partly true and demand that she bravely engage with him.  I'm sure she felt wounded or felt like I wasn't adequately commiserating with her.  I know her pain.  I validated her fears, but in validating them, I also challenged them.  Yes, she was afraid, but not immediately so.  Yes, she would leave if she ever felt like she was in danger--and she had left under those situations in the past. 

Part of me wishes I could have just salved her wounds like so many people say is important.  I'm just not built that way.  In the end, we both are writing "Waddya Want From Me?" guidelines for our husbands--a guide to what we want with objective, measureable criteria and consequences to answer the question from her husband (that I'm sure my husband is wondering too). 

The Bible verse above talks about the wounds of a friend and the kisses of an enemy.  I could have multiplied kisses in false encouragement but that would have left her with the same (or more) confusion about what to do and where to find answers.  I want to be a real friend to her and I think some of our conversation might have stung a bit, but those wounds were faithful and true and hopefully will lead to healing for both of us. 

That's how Jesus did it and I hope I did it as faithfully as He does now for me.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Dreamscaping 12...Who does the work?

People always say silly things like, "God will never give you anything you can't handle."  They are thinking of verses like:

"The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure."  I Corinthians 10:13

It sounds here like He won't give us anything we can't handle, and as far as temptation goes, the verse's promise is sure and true.  Some people then think it also means that God won't allow anything in your life you can't handle and that is absolutely not true.

God will always give you tests and struggles you can't handle--especially when you are following His dreams--because you aren't supposed to be the one who handles them.  He is.  God's dreams will always be God sized, not human sized and that means by definition we won't be able to do them. 

Jesus told us that His yoke was easy.  That's because He's pulling the weight.  If we are still working to earn something from Him, we're not carrying His yoke.  That doesn't just go for salvation, but for all of our life in Christ.  If we're the one working, then we're not relying on His work.  That doesn't mean we don't work.  That just means that we obey.  Hebrews 4 talks about it in detail: 

"9 So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God. 10 For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world. 11 So let us do our best to enter that rest. But if we disobey God, as the people of Israel did, we will fall." 

He does the miracles.  We obey.  When we try to work it out ourselves rather than just simply obeying the next step God has put in front of us, we will fall.  The most we get to do is to walk beside Him and help, just as a toddler walks beside his dad to help.  If the toddler tries to do the dad's job he cannot help but fail and will probably hurt himself in the process. 

No more, "Me do it!!"

“O Sovereign LORD! You made the heavens and earth by your strong hand and powerful arm. Nothing is too hard for you!” Jeremiah 32:17 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Dreamscaping 11: Foolish Wisdom

"25 This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength."  I Cor. 1:25

As dreamscaping happens, it's remarkable how often something that looks so foolish turns out to be the wisdom of God while what we would think was prudent is thoroughly foolish. 

Was it wisdom to place the future ruler of Egypt in stocks for most of his young adult life?
Was it wisdom to wait till Moses was 80 to start freeing his people from Egypt?
Was it wisdom to have David chased around the wilderness for many years waiting to be king?
Was it wisdom that God be born in a stable?
Was it wisdom for Jesus to pick the obscure and uneducated as disciples?
Was it wisdom for the leader and God of the universe to die?

God thought so.

Truly the insanity of God is more grounded than the practicality of man, and it is wonderful to behold.  We are truly wise when we begin to fathom how little we really understand about how the world works and what should occur.  It is at that point that we quit trying to run the universe and start asking God what His perspective is. 

All my life God has been indulgent of my questions.  I have always asked Him audacious questions like what is going to happen next or why do things happen this way?  Interestingly enough, He has always provided the answers quickly.  The answers have not always given me what I needed to know because I really didn't know what questions to ask.  For years, there have been times I've known at the core of my being what would happen, yet it wasn't as helpful as I thought it would be.  In the end, it always comes down to whether I will trust the foolishness of God or the wisdom of men.  I can't say that I've always made the right choices but as I grow older, I hope I'm better at that than I have been.  In my middle age, I'm still asking to go on my Daddy's shoulders and He still picks me up and hugs me on the way up.  For that I'm grateful. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

The prayers God loves to answer!

About 9 years ago, my good friend, Will Blaine asked me to pray for him every Monday. He was the children's pastor at our church then and I was more than eager to to do that.  I checked up with him every week to see what was going on and since we were together often as we worked in church, I could usually pray very intentionally for the things he needed--though I would ask anyway.  To help me remember, I've used the online application Echo Prayer for about 7 years now.  I schedule reminders like his throughout the week at consistent times and pray when I get the text or e-mail.  In fact, I pray every time I see it so sometimes that means I get to pray about it multiple times during the week.  As long as I have had some personal time with my Father and Friend for the two of us each morning, He provides the power to pray for those on my list as a part of my everyday routines. 

This year, my friend Miki, challenged me to pray more intentionally and with more accountability for those in my church, family and circle of influence, in ways that are similar to how George Mueller prayed.  George Mueller would list all of the things he needed God to provide for His work in a ledger and update the ledger, detailing the answers God sent, whether they were large or small.  Rather than having FBC/O come up daily at lunchtime, I rescheduled them to early morning and broke it down into each of the major ministries in the church.  This was scattered in with various pastors and ministers that are close to my heart.  Each day as the reminder comes, I forward the request to that person to ask if there's anything specific they need.  I ask them frequently what they would like to see God do and how would they know when He had?  That keeps the requests specific and gives us the chance to praise Him when He answers--and He does.  I try to keep a spreadsheet of how God has answered the prayers we've asked.  What a joy!

This morning, I got a response back from one of our youth pastors regarding the in-town summer missions trip that the youth department is leading.  He asked that the kids get a heart for always being on mission rather than just going on a mission trip.  What a great request!!!  The verse that immediately came to mind was: 

"14 And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. 15 And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for."--I John 5:14-15 

Now, I'm not only excited to see what is going to happen with them during the mission trip but excited to see what God will be doing with them over their lives because of it.  That is a prayer request I will delight in laying before the Father over and over!!! 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Doing the work....

While I was away at my parent's house there was nothing to do at church (and I don't sit still well without sitting still before the Father--and even that's hard) so I joined the prayer team again and God did some amazing things.  I wrote about that a few weeks ago. 

I've been thinking about praying before and during the service more regularly.  John leaves our lifegroup class early every Saturday night to usher and I thought it might be good to go to the prayer room when he leaves to pray before or during the service.  The Lord does such amazing things when we pray.  It slipped my mind a few times, but this week I remembered. 

I walked in to the room and there was a woman sitting in the shadows.  I asked if I could join her.  As I sat down next to her on the prayer bench, she began to quietly sob.  I wrapped my arms around her and we began to pray together.  The Lord was there with us and I got the delight of being His comforting arms for a woman very much like myself who is facing enormous personal crisis and equally amazing ministry opportunities.  It was a God ordained moment and a connection the Lord wanted to make that I had prayed for only earlier that day.  She even told me before she left that she had just been asking the Lord to send someone to give her a hug.  (wow!)

Sometimes the God things are just a matter of doing what you are called to do because you were called to do it.  Being in the right place at the right time is just a matter of a long obedience in the same direction.  It feels so ordained and yet so random--like an episode of Touch or Person of Interest (our latest TV addictions). What I love about both shows is that faithfully following what you know, though you may not understand, pulls the strings of coincidence into something ordained.  Only in this case, it's real and I personally know the one weaving the threads...

Thanks, Father!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Dreamscaping 10-Timing is everything

Moses was 80 years old when God came back to him with the dream of freeing his people from their slavery.  At that point, he didn't even remember the dream.  When God finally laid down the law and refused to let Moses out of his own dream's fulfilment it happened suddenly--over a matter of a few months. 

Last night I opened to Isaiah 60--a passage that speaks of the new Jerusalem.  At the very end in verse 22 is this promise: 

"I am the Lord;  in its time I will do this swiftly."

I called a friend this morning to check on her.  Her circumstances are difficult and not likely to change without a miracle.  Her instructions from the Father are to wait on Him--He has it all under control. 

Mom and Baby PJ--12 years ago!!
It bears repeating that when God works it's more like pregnancy than frantic action.  When it comes time to deliver, then things happen swiftly, but otherwise the changes consist of a gradual stretching.  After the delivery, the work is a joy as you care for a child you deeply love.  Our sons are entering their teenage years and we are both so astounded and proud of the Godly young men they are becoming.  Neither of us remember all of the work through the years that brought them to that place.  Even their painful deliveries are no more than a faded memory.  Neither of us care about the continuing work that goes on with them to this day--it is our priviledge, not a burden. 

Jesus came "in the fullness of time."  We had 3 years of His ministry to us out of 7,000 years of recorded history.  His death and resurrection came and went in a matter of days.  Yet, even though it was a pinpoint in history, the impact remains and His nurturing care continues in us and through us. 

The point is, whatever season you are in, do the work and enjoy the company!  If it is a season of carrying an unborn dream, nurture yourself well.  Accept the stretching.  Revel in the Father's support.  If it is delivery time, then work with all your heart.  It won't last long and He's by your side.  If it is the long season of nurturing and care, revel in it as well--we are but a vapor, but what God says and does will be eternal.  Rejoice in the Lord of the conception, the birth, the growth and the harvest.   Move with His timing for He is the one who sets times and seasons.  Most importantly, pray continually so you can understand the time you are in and enjoy His company along the way.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Dreamscaping 9...Search out a plan...

Saw this today...love it.  Sometimes the dreams God gives us are so large and scary we don't know where to start.  Start today.  Start together.  Start by breaking things down into small pieces.  Get help breaking things down. 

The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.--Pr 21:5

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Crisis and failure...

I have a dear friend who went through a serious crisis again this week.  She's experienced significant pain throughout her life, both physical and emotional, and it often erupts in gut-wrenching crisis without warning.  Early in our relationship I committed that I would hang in with her, knowing that it wouldn't be easy.  But, as a part of that commitment, I promised her that I would continually redirect her to Jesus as the source for her hope.  I know I have nothing to offer her that will fix her life.  It took her 49 years to get to this place.  Only God can get her out of it. 

This week, I failed her.  The crisis came in hot and fast.  It was life and death.  It was weeping and gnashing of teeth.  I managed the circumstances.  I worked the details.  There were a lot of details that needed addressing.  I thought I encouraged her family to support her, but found out later they only saw it as being pushy.  Worst of all, the closest I could do to draw her back to Christ was to ask her again if God is good (as she knows He is), and encourage her to choose loyalty to Him over trying to please her unpleasble dying father. 

Even more, in failing her, I failed myself.  Every time I've been able to bring her back to Jesus, it has also allowed me to release her back to His care for my own sake.  I have repented and released her again, but it makes my heart ache knowing that I only committed to do one thing and didn't do it well.  I spent time helping her that I needed to spend on my own home and family. 

I will learn better.  I will do better.  I will love my Lord and friend better. 

"12 Not that I have already obtained all this or have already reached my goal, but I press on in order to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider to have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching out to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."--Phil 3:12-14

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Dreamscaping 8...You have a purpose

Today Katie and I got to go to see Hugo at the Milk Money Movies at the Garden Theater in our little town.  It was an amazing movie about life purpose.  The quote that caught my heart was near the end.  Hugo takes his friend Isabel to the top of the clock tower to show her the Paris skyline at night:

Isabelle: I wonder what my purpose is.

Hugo Caberet:   Right after my father died, I would come up here a lot. I'd imagine the whole world was one big machine.  Machines never come with any extra parts, you know. They always come with the exact amount they need. So I figured if the entire world was one big machine... I couldn't be an extra part. I had to be here for some reason.  And that means you have to be here for some reason too....Maybe that's why a broken machine always makes me a little sad, because it isn't able to do what it was meant to do... Maybe it's the same with people. If you lose your purpose... it's like you're broken.

They go on to talk about her Godfather and how he seems "broken" in that way and how much they would love to "fix" him. 

Dreamscaping is not just about fulfilling your own dreams, it's also about helping others remember their dreams--to find out or remember what part of creation they were made to fulfil and help them do it.  It reminds me of a description Paul often used for the church:

"4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others."--Romans 12:4-5

Everyone needs to be needed.  Everyone needs to receive too.  How can you help others find their place this week?

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Dreamscaping 7...Surprise!

We can make our plans,
but the LORD determines our steps. 
--Pr 16:9

Did you know that desipite the hundreds of thousands of children he tenderly cared for with his show and his ordination as a Presbyterian minister, Mr Rogers still thought of himself first as a musician?  He had a degree in musical composition, composed hundreds of songs throughout his life and continued to collaborate with musicians all the way to the end of his life.  Still, if you were to ask what God did with his life, it would be his tender gentleness to children that stands out.  If you haven't seen it, the musical remix is a fitting tribute.

God's work is amazing.  One of the wildest things about God is that His plans for us don't always match what we think they are going to be.  Lots of people in churches pass out spiritual gift surveys that look more at a persons' inborn tendencies than what supernatural gifts the Holy Spirit may have provided for the encouragement of the Body.  It's not that those inborn tendencies are useless--He often uses them.  In a sense, they are a gift to us and the Body that we received when we were born.  It's just that He more often uses our weaknesses, not our strengths, to bring Himself glory.  Jesus once gloried in this very idea:

At that, Jesus rejoiced, exuberant in the Holy Spirit. "I thank you, Father, Master of heaven and earth, that you hid these things from the know-it-alls and showed them to these innocent newcomers. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way. --Luke 10:21

As you work toward exploring God's dreams for you, be careful not to just look in the obvious places.  Ask Him what He desires and you may be surprised.