Apr 29, 2010

Before and After

I love the idea of facebook. Connecting once again to people you've lost touch with after school or people you used to work with but don't get to see very often.  It is a joy for me to see so many of the "girls" I went through school with become beautiful, strong, women of God.  However, to be honest ever since I began my facebook account I have had many, many thought-sessions about who I was in high school, who I was in college and who I am now. 

I think that's why it was so great for me to hear Beth Moore's conference about insecurities (as I mentioned in this previous entry) and becoming a secure woman of God. I have struggled with insecurity for the better part of my life and especially so in high school. I was painfully shy and extremely self-conscious. There were so many things about myself that I hated and I was so sure that they were the only things about me that anyone else could see. Right now as I'm typing this out I'm tempted to list all those things out because they are so fresh in my mind and after so many years, they are still the same things that taunt me quite often - but that wouldn't be very helpful for anyone.

There is a quote from the teaching at the conference on Saturday that I have been trying to grasp and take hold of in my life. I'm not sure if she says this quote in her book (I've started it but am only 3 chapters in), but at the conference Beth (we're on a first name basis now) said, "As Christians we are to be poster-children of a 'before and after' life." What she meant was that if we are about to react to a situation out of insecurity, we need to stop and think, "this is how I would have reacted then, but now I'm a secure woman of God and need to react in a different way." This thought has been rocking my world.

Hence, the reason I've been thinking a lot of my "before." It is so uncomfortable for me to think about this type of decision making and reaction style. It feels so opposite to myself...AND IT IS!  That's the point. And yet I still get all nervous and anxious just thinking about it. This is where the other tidbits that I've been reading come in to view.  Ephesians 4:30 says, "...his Holy Spirit moving and breathing in you is the most intimate part of your life..." That verse has been my memory verse for the week (and yet I still looked it up to make sure I got it right).  The chapter that I'm reading in the book Metamorpha talks about relating to the Holy Spirit as a person, not just a power available to me. This person lives and moves within me and knows me better than I know myself.  This relationship with the Holy Spirit is where I get the strength to live out a life that demonstrates security in Christ.

Since I got back from the conference I have been making an effort to do the self-talk thing, trying to figure out an "after" way of thinking about myself and living my life. However, it's surprisingly hard and I'm going to be praying and thinking through it for a while I think.

Apr 27, 2010

We're gonna need a bigger boat.

This morning my mind was drawn back to the famous quote from the movie Jaws, "We're gonna need a bigger boat!" I was thinking back over everything that I've been learning these past couple days and I just feel so overwhelmed by all of the challenges and encouragements that are now floating around in my head.  I think I need about an hour a day for a month or so to be able to start making headway on taking these lessons into my life and being changed by them.

After about a month of feeling like I was a sitting duck waiting for my next lesson(s) they all come at about the same time.  All of these lessons are connected together, but I need time before I'm able to make all the connections make sense.  

On Saturday, April 24th I attended a Beth Moore conference based on her book So Long, Insecurity.  I was reminded and encouraged of so much regarding my security in Christ. I haven't read the book yet, but I am now planning on it (it's been on my iPhone for about a month -  all I need to do is take the time to read it). I'll share with you just one of the challenges I heard at the conference:  
  • Insecurity is not just a minor weakness, it is a symptom of unbelief. Youch! 
In addition to all of these lessons about my security in Christ, I am reading chapter 4 of the book Metamorpha. This chapter is about the Holy Spirit as a person, alive and living in me. The chapter is so good that I will literally need to read it a couple times before Bible Study on Monday.  One of the ideas in this book that has caught my attention is this:
"We often talk about the Spirit in light of his fruit or power, but rarely do we really know the Spirit as the person who lives within us."
This morning in my prayer time, continuing in my Bible reading (now in Ephesians) this idea was confirmed in chapter 4 verse 30: 
"Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted."
As you can see, my plate is once again full of things to meditate on. But as I've just read, the Holy Spirit is within me and will help me to make sense of it all. He will show me the connections and how they apply to me. Which means that there is plenty for me to journal about for a while.

Apr 22, 2010

Connection Failed. Try Again?

These past seven days felt really long. In the beginning things were good and normal. By the end of the week I began feeling parched and a little zombie-ish.  I've been thinking about what/when my next entry would be...thinking about it and only vaguely praying about it.  See, it started one day when there was something more pressing than reading my Bible and praying. Then the next day, something else came up that was also "more important." By day three, the thought was more like, "oh yeah, and I should read my Bible if I have time." That's when my connection started to fail. My prayers became more shallow and less of a conversation. The focus shifted from what God is doing to what I thought he should be doing.

I haven't had a teachable heart these past few days. This morning I made the choice to once again sit and read and pray and open up my heart to my Savior. At this point it was a choice, an action that had come so easily just a week before was now shoved to the back burner, and my heart felt the displacement.  My mind struggled again with sinful thought patterns that have already been conquered.  I guess that's when I realized that I had disconnected myself from The Vine.  This morning's act of humility and obedience felt like cool water to my parched soul.

It is important to remind myself that God did not disconnect from me.  I know this because He has promised it, "I'll never let you down, never walk off and leave you." (Hebrews 13:5). In fact, it was His urging that I was not heeding when I decided to not spend time with him. I'm so thankful that I have a God that pursues a relationship with me. He is jealous for my attention and will not let me go

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. 
Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
(James 4:8 ESV)

Apr 20, 2010

It's been a long week. I have been praying about a few things. They aren't full thoughts that i am able to share at this point. I will say this, I am praising God for protecting some dear friends as they experienced a house fire. All family members were safe and the house will be restored. Praise Him for protecting those we care about.

Apr 13, 2010

Enjoying the View

Sometimes I'm able to just sit back and enjoy the view of God working all things together in His time. It doesn't happen often, but when it does it's beautiful.  Even when I'm not seeing the actual end result, just the build-up to the crescendo. That's how I feel right now. 

I had a sweet thought yesterday on the way home from Bible study.  During Bible study I had stated that this waiting process has been the hardest thing I have experienced in my life thus far. In the car the thought occurred to me that at some point I will be able to look back and see exactly how God had guided this time. I will be able to see that this time that is really hard is building character in me, it's drawing me closer to my Savior. At some time in the future, this waiting process will be a thing of the past that I will have to try hard to remember exactly how I felt. There will be a new "hardest" trial. The sweetest part of this time is that it is a time that I will look back on and KNOW that God held me up and stayed close to me throughout the entire time. My relationship with God is so completely different know than it ever has been before. So in the midst of this journey of waiting I praise God for bringing the hardship and trial. I praise him for keeping me in the palm of his hand and pursuing His own glory rather than glorifying me. 

I've been hearing a song on the radio recently that has nearly brought me to tears every time I hear it. I've turned the playlist off for now so that you can read the words and not be distracted by a different song. You can watch the slide show with lyrics at YouTube. The song is He Is With You sung by Mandisa, here are the lyrics:
There's a time to live
And a time to die
There's a time to laugh
And a time to cry

There's a time for war
And a time for peace
There's a hand to hold
In the worst of things
In the worst of things

He is with you when your faith is dead
And you can't even get out of bed
Or your husband doesn't kiss you anymore
He is with you when your baby's gone
And your house is still
And your hearts are stone
Crying "God what'd you do that for?"
He is with you

There's a time for yes
And a time for no
There's a time to be angry
And a time to let it go
There's a time to run
And a time to face it
There's love to seek
In all of this
Through all of this

He is with you in the conference room
When the world is coming down on you
And your wife and kids don't know you anymore
And He is with you in the ICU when the doctors don't know what to do
And it scares you to the core
He is with you

We may weep for a time but joy will come in the morning
The morning light

He is with you when your kids are grown
When there's too much space and you feel alone
And your worried if you got it right or wrong
Yes He is with you when you've given up on ever finding your true love
Someone who feels like home
He is with you

When nothing else is left and you take your final breath
He is with you

He is with you

Apr 9, 2010

I Surrender All.

Who didn't see this coming? The Lord answered my prayers this morning with a resounding "No." It smarts still. I'm trusting in Him and the perfection of his plan. I did read portions of Job this morning, particularly the portions with Job and God's conversation. I was struck by how similar my prayers were to Job's. God's response to Job in chapter 38 is especially humbling.

"[Livi] answered God: “I’m convinced: You can do anything and everything.  
Nothing and no one can upset your plans." Job 42:1

Apr 8, 2010

Want, Want, Want

My mind is pretty much a mess right now. I'm praying hard, trying to apply all that I've been learning over the past couple weeks.  I really want the Lord to hear my prayer and answer in favor of my request. I really want his will to be what I want...let me phrase it so that it is more clear what I'm saying. I want Him to want what I want. I know! I just wrote about how this is totally a wrong way to view prayer and waiting. I'm in constant conversation with my Lord; in my heart I know that His will is best. My mind keeps begging him to hear my prayer and include my desire in his plan. I feel like the widow who kept nagging the judge to hear her case (Luke 18:1-7).  However, it's not like I've been mistreated. My life has been blessed immensely by God. He has already done more than I could ever have dreamed.

The other side of this internal conversation is urging me to want what God wants. Nothing is good unless it comes from him. Nothing is perfect unless his hand is on it (James 1:17). I truly know this and believe it but it's so hard to just surrender and give up control.

As a side note, this small little entry took me 9 hours to finish. I started at 2 and have been staring at the half written post wondering how to bring it around. Today, I wasn't feeling it. Tomorrow, I pray that I will be able to focus on what God wants, to immerse myself even more in His word so that my spirit and soul can make battle on an attitude of discontent that is clearly evident in this entry. Maybe I should start with Job 41.

Apr 6, 2010

O, the Wonderful Cross!

This Easter I meditated and prayed a lot about the power that was displayed in Jesus' resurrection. His resurrection accomplished so much for my benefit. So much that I could never hope to gain for myself.  In Romans 6: 6-9, Paul tells me exactly what was accomplished through this power. He says, "Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life--no longer at sin's every beck and call! What we believe is this: If we get included in Christ's sin-conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection. We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end. Never again will death have the last word." My heart and soul praise my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I was a nobody and he made me an heir of his righteousness! I thank him for showing his power to conquer sin so that it no longer has the power over me. 
"With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.
God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that.  The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it." Romans 8:1-3

Apr 2, 2010

Good Friday.

I've been meditating on Isaiah 53 today. It really is so incredibly powerful. I can't help but praise my Father in Heaven for knowing the lengths he would go to in order to make it possible to set things right.  It was His plan all along and he carried it out completely. I praise Him with my whole heart and am so excited to celebrate Jesus' resurrection on Sunday.

Isaiah 53: 5 "But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins! He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his bruises we get healed."

John 11:49-53 "Then one of them—it was Caiaphas, the designated Chief Priest that year—spoke up, “Don’t you know anything? Can’t you see that it’s to our advantage that one man dies for the people rather than the whole nation be destroyed?” He didn’t say this of his own accord, but as Chief Priest that year he unwittingly prophesied that Jesus was about to die sacrificially for the nation, and not only for the nation but so that all God’s exile-scattered children might be gathered together into one people.  From that day on, they plotted to kill him. 

Isaiah 53:7-8 "He was beaten, he was tortured, but he didn't say a word. Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered and like a sheep being sheared, he took it all in silence. Justice miscarried, and he was led off - and did anyone really know what was happening? He died without a thought for his own welfare, beaten bloody for the sins of my people."

John 19: 1-16 "So Pilate took Jesus and had him whipped. The soldiers, having braided a crown from thorns, set it on his head, threw a purple robe over him, and approached him with, “Hail, King of the Jews!” Then they greeted him with slaps in the face. Pilate went back out again and said to them, “I present him to you, but I want you to know that I do not find him guilty of any crime.” Just then Jesus came out wearing the thorn crown and purple robe. Pilate announced, “Here he is: the Man.” When the high priests and police saw him, they shouted in a frenzy, “Crucify! Crucify!” Pilate told them, “You take him. You crucify him. I find nothing wrong with him.” The Jews answered, “We have a law, and by that law he must die because he claimed to be the Son of God.” When Pilate heard this, he became even more scared. He went back into the palace and said to Jesus, “Where did you come from?Jesus gave no answer. Pilate said, “You won’t talk? Don’t you know that I have the authority to pardon you, and the authority to—crucify you?” Jesus said, “You haven’t a shred of authority over me except what has been given you from heaven. That’s why the one who betrayed me to you has committed a far greater fault.” At this, Pilate tried his best to pardon him, but the Jews shouted him down: “If you pardon this man, you’re no friend of Caesar’s. Anyone setting himself up as ‘king’ defies Caesar.” When Pilate heard those words, he led Jesus outside. He sat down at the judgment seat in the area designated Stone Court (in Hebrew, Gabbatha). It was the preparation day for Passover. The hour was noon. Pilate said to the Jews, “Here is your king.” They shouted back, “Kill him! Kill him! Crucify him!”  Pilate said, “I am to crucify your king?” The high priests answered, “We have no king except Caesar.Pilate caved in to their demand. He turned him over to be crucified."

Isaiah 53:9 "They buried him with the wicked, threw him in a grave with a rich man, Even though he’d never hurt a soul or said one word that wasn’t true."

John 19: 17-18 "They took Jesus away. Carrying his cross, Jesus went out to the place called Skull Hill (the name in Hebrew is Golgotha), where they crucified him, and with him two others, one on each side, Jesus in the middle."  John 19: 38-41 "After all this, Joseph of Arimathea (he was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, because he was intimidated by the Jews) petitioned Pilate to take the body of Jesus. Pilate gave permission. So Joseph came and took the body. Nicodemus, who had first come to Jesus at night, came now in broad daylight carrying a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. They took Jesus’ body and, following the Jewish burial custom, wrapped it in linen with the spices. There was a garden near the place he was crucified, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been placed."

To be continued...

The Balancing Act of Waiting

This Monday I was chatting with a dear friend who had been to a women's conference over the weekend. She told me about a great challenge she heard regarding waiting. I've been mulling it over and praying through it ever since then and I think it is definitely worth repeating.  

The speaker said that there is a difference between waiting with expectancy and waiting expectantly.  When you are waiting expectantly, you are full of expectations that you want God to fulfill. In other words, you will be trying to tell God what to do the whole time you are waiting. When you are waiting with expectancy you are in full trust of God's plan, and are waiting to see how his plan will unfold.

In Phillipians 4 vs. 6 and 7 we're told to present our requests to God with the promise that "the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard [our] hearts and [our] minds in Christ Jesus" (ESV). So, here's the balancing part of it.  How do I make sure that I am being honest with God, presenting my requests to him, but not making demands of him? It is a line that I am finding very hard to walk. I have a tendency to pester my requests to God. 

I am sure that I have been waiting expectantly for quite some time. It's tiring. Praise God that he shows me over and over again that I do not know best. It seems like this is a message that I've been hearing many times, each in a different way.  This challenge has been a helpful reminder that I need to constantly check my prayers to make sure I'm presenting my requests to God and not giving him a list of expectations.