Joy

Last October God healed me of digestive troubles that for several months had left me unable to eat most typical foods. He heard the prayers that I finally asked for. Any remaining symptoms were negligable.

I wanted to run around and tell everyone, but there was one problem: though my body was healed, my heart was still sick. What should have been joy was tainted by fear, shame, and sadness. I was afraid that I would sabotage his healing. I was ashamed that instead of doing everything I could to take care of myself, eating had become a source of comfort and control, and out of this situation grew a frustrating depression.

My deepest sorrow was that in my unrest, I couldn’t find stillness in God’s presence. During the many, many times that I turned to food or distractions I found it nearly impossible to pray at all. I felt though I didn’t deserve to enter God’s presence. Yet where I felt the deepest shame and hopelessness, I also felt assurance that I am God’s and he would bring me through it. That assurance was like a candle lit in the distance; a light so small yet undeniable in the darkness, and by it I learned that I cannot escape his presence.

Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. Psalm 116:7 ESV

A dear friend I visited this Christmas spoke mountains of wisdom to me to that effect. She told me to stop striving. She told me to rest in God. She told me that he does not want to change me, because he has already changed me by His Spirit.

In my heart I could not understand what she said, but I knew it was true and I longed for it to take hold of me.

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

In the week after that visit I began to fully recognize the spiritual attack against me. For months I had followed the enemy’s bait into darkness. Finally, in a moment of struggle with anxiousness, God lightened my darkness by his peace.

All of the fear and shame that pinned me down have vanished.

As I had the joy of sharing with my church in Leavenworth, I feel as though God has given me clear vision. I see everything through different lenses. God is allowing me to witness his hand mending my heart, reminding me of my identity, and reprogramming my thoughts to rest in Him. This is pure joy.

1 When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
3 The LORD has done great things for us;
we are glad.

Psalm 126:1-3

Day by day I see God’s involvement in my life. Sins and struggles are falling away, like the scales that fell from Paul’s eyes. It is not necessarily easy, but in each moment I find myself thankful for weight lifted from my shoulders. I am thankful for freedom from the tempation to eat all the time. I am thankful for freedom from the temptation to hide all the time. I am thankful for the growing clarity with which I am beginning to see myself and my surroundings. I am so thankful for God’s promise to complete his work in me; that he is with me.

“The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” Psalm 145:18

Most of all, I am thankful for the price he paid, that he revealed himself to me, and that he has given me faith to call on Him and to trust his goodness in the light and in the darkness. “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!” Psalm 150:6

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Persistent

One of my favorite assignments my first term at bible school was to spend an hour on the beach, simply sitting in silence and waiting for God’s voice. The professor requested a written reflection, and this is what came out of my heart after my time on North Beach.

Persistent. Wave after wave rolls in, the water surging and crashing and then slowing to gently sip at the sand. It rises like the ranks of an army, then falls in toward the enemy in tiers. Marching, marching, marching. The ocean stretches far beyond the scope of my imagination. I know what it looks like on a classroom globe, but to sit and see it in person… it is infinite.
Suddenly I hear it, truly, for the first time. Often I think in awe of God’s persistence on my walk to class when I can hear the ocean a few blocks away. I am already familiar with the idea, but now I really hear it. Not an army marching, but the voice. The music. The wave rises, readying for break. Like a sharp intake of breath, the rolling water bursts forward and crashes back into itself. First the bulk of it, then the free-falling fly-away gallons and handfuls and drops. From my perch I anticipate the coming sound; a deep, forceful booming that resonates in my body. I expect the ground to shake, but it does not. The loose water follows and races along the edge of the approaching wave. It appears so much gentler than the crash and carries a rushing treble voice to my ears.
Persistent. Wave after wave rolls in, like voices in a choir or violins in the symphony. Or perhaps it is like God’s voice. “And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder” (Revelation 14:2). As I look to the horizon; northwest, west, southwest; I remember that God’s Word is eternal. His voice is eternal. Night and day, like the ocean’s constant movement, God’s Word speaks. The thundering bass speaks of his terrible might. I am so small. The swift, smooth treble speaks comfort to my heart. It draws me closer without betraying His power.
The ocean is not background noise. It is not repetitive, dull motion. It is persistent, and God is eternal.

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The Fourth Day

hudf_hstRight now you are looking at the farthest objects in the universe that we can see, and only with the help of the Hubble space telescope. It took the telescope nearly three months to gather the light for this image. Doesn’t it make you feel very, very small? Try this, also:

We are among the tiniest things in the universe compared to those stars and galaxies. I think that though we may be the smallest specks of dust, we are very important ones! One of my favorite verses says:

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.

Psalm 8:3-5

The majesty of the universe made David feel small even without a massive telescope to show him the farthest visible galaxies or a video to jar us with the reality of the scale of our universe. Yet God has crowned us with glory and honor! The angels themselves are in awe of us. God created us uniquely. He admires us and made us so much higher than other living things!

Some people still feel small after this knowledge. They seem to reject God’s love and search for proof that we are not really special. We say that in a universe this gigantic, and one that is ever expanding, there is no way we’re the only sentient beings. There has to be other life! God wouldn’t just make one little world of physical and spiritual life, would he? The problem here is that we think the universe is bigger than humanity. That it is more important because of its unfathomable size. I think that we’re wrong.

The night I read Genesis 1 after stargazing is when my perspective on the awesome size of the universe flipped. Looking up at the stars now makes me feel wonderfully significant! Why? Because God didn’t make us for the universe, He made the universe for us.

On the fourth day, God had already created the Earth. He distinguished the land from the sea, and he planted all sorts of flora. All of that was in place before he made the Sun and the moon. The earth was here before he made all the stars, including the ones in those galaxies so far away. The Earth was nearly ready for living creatures and mankind – it only lacked the universe around it to light up the sky.

God’s ultimate goal in creation was to make us – the only creatures that are physical and spiritual. He wanted to give us paradise, so he created the entire universe for us. That alone shows that we are very significant to Him.

While this revelation is exciting to me, I shouldn’t stop there. Because we are unimaginably significant. Not because God made us a universe, but because he stepped into our universe. He came into Earth. And then he suffered and died for us so that we can join him in heaven for the rest of eternity. Even this universe, which is larger than we will ever be able to really understand, cannot give us such importance as that. God died for us. (But let’s not forget that he rose again!)

Now try to tell yourself we’re just an accident and we’re nothing special in the expanses of the cosmos. Not even the stars in their magnificent size and glory are alive. Yet we, so seemingly insignificant in the expanse of God’s universe, have been given the gift of life and free will and the possibility of eternity with Him. Remember that the next time you feel small standing under the starry sky.

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Divine Detour

God seems to always be on the move, teaching me a new lesson and taking me down a new path. Just when I’m starting to think He’s not really involved in my life at the moment, he opens my eyes to something he’s been doing! I love that he’s so present, even when I don’t feel it. Lately, I’ve noticed a sneaky habit of his…

It always takes me forever to read Christian non-fiction books. I just read 450 pages of a mystery novel in three days, but in two months I’ve only gotten 150 pages into my latest nonfiction read. It’s not that I don’t like Christian nonfiction – I love it! It’s super helpful when authors take time to elaborate on what’s in the bible. But no matter what book I’m reading, God sneaks in and before I realize I haven’t picked it up in a long time, he’s taught me something through another book, or perhaps a movie or a sermon so I can better take to heart what’s coming up next.

When I reached the chapter called “The Adventure Begins” in Desire, by John Eldredge, God pretty much said “wait, this chapter is missing six hundred pages. Read this first.” So I read the entire mystery novel, and I wasn’t even aware of God’s involvement until I remembered Desire and pried it open again. Guys, I really needed those six hundred pages.

You’re thinking “what could possibly require a six-hundred page introduction? Advanced brain chemistry?”

No, but the content was just as important! The chapter is about how our earthly lives are in preparation for our eternal life in heaven. Simple concept, right? Why did I have to read a fat detective story to understand that?

God really wanted me to know the truth Eldredge was trying to share. It seems that when Christians read about and discuss biblical truths, they often don’t actually absorb and live them. This is certainly true for me. Sometimes I catch myself “being spiritual” by nodding my head and saying “yeah, that’s so true” to all the right stuff, but I’m not really taking it in!

Dominion, by Randy Alcorn, follows a woman to heaven, where she experiences nearly everything Eldredge talked about regarding heaven and our purpose. God allowed me to encounter truths of heaven through the experiences of a relatable character. So when I started reading what Eldredge had to say, I was simply learning names for concepts I had already discovered and pondered. I wouldn’t have taken so much away from the chapter if I hadn’t!

I wish I could explain what I learned because it’s amazing stuff, but it would take a long, long time! The point of all this isn’t to teach you what I learned about heaven, anyway. It’s to share what God reminded me: that he is deeply involved in our lives, and he longs for us to know him. Sometimes he shows us through outright miracles. Sometimes he gets creative and sends us on a divine detour. Whether you’re aware of what he’s up to or you think he’s gone on vacation, he is doing something in your life!

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In the beginning….

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

Genesis 1:1

Cool. We’ve got an itty bitty planet in an infinite universe of galaxies. God makes light, tosses a bunch of fish in the sea, and decides to put little people on it.

I read Genesis 1 a week ago after an hour under the stars with my telescope. I was already somewhat familiar with it. After all, I used Genesis 1:1 as my Sunday school memory verse three weeks in a row when I was little. But that night every word in the story of God’s creation was captivating. I was holding my breath in anticipation, the same way I do when I’m reading a fantastic book and I know something absolutely delicious is coming. Details I had deemed insignificant, like the black balloons I used at work this morning, started to expand with thought and revealed their true color: a brilliant royal purple. Each “there was evening and there was morning — the nth day” was a grand closing to a day of God’s tireless creation, and an exciting transition to what happens next.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHow come this story never excited me so much before? Sometimes God waits for the perfect moment to turn on the lights – click! – so we really understand what we’re seeing. What once seemed to be the introduction to the story of humans suddenly became the romance novel of the universe. I’m not talking about the romance novels humans write. Those are cheesy, emotional-death-bringing fantasies. I’m not fond of those. I am enraptured in this story because God trumps everything any human has ever done to win someone’s heart.

Does your significant other bring you roses and chocolate on valentine’s day? Maybe he says he’d give you the moon if he could. Genesis 1 reveals that God made the moon for us! He created the cacao tree and rose bushes. He created the earth and filled it with fascinating things just for you. For us. For everyone. He wasn’t even finished there. He created the whole universe before he decided he had made us a suitable home.

Those are only a few of the things I discovered that night. Over the next two or three weeks I will write about some of the magnificent purple balloons I found in the first chapter of Genesis. Do come along. There may be ice cream.

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Coffee Shop Balloon

During a leadership training program at camp, we discussed the importance of one on one time with God. It’s human nature to be so busy you forget to hang out with the most important person in your life. Especially when that person isn’t physically there to get in your face about ignoring them all week. Jesus waits patiently for us to sit down with him and have a deep discussion. The lesson gave me a silly mental image that still reminds me to take time for God:

I saw Jesus walking beside me with a balloon trailing behind him. Inside the balloon was a coffee shop. When I turned to him, ready to hear his voice, he pulled the balloon down and we popped inside it for a spontaneous coffee date.

My goal is to be like Paul – who prayed without ceasing. Although God has pressed onto my heart my role as a prayer warrior and the importance of staying close to him throughout the day, I often get distracted and forget to seek him. The great thing about the coffee shop balloon is that it reminds me how ready Jesus is. We can go years without talking to him and he’ll still pull down that balloon for a conversation the moment we turn to him. God is the most patient guy. His coffee shop balloon kind of grace is what keeps me reeled in and becoming more focused on Him.

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A Thankful Attitude Goes a Long Way

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHave you ever thanked God for horrible traffic? If you had to work on Christmas would you thank God and happily say “I get to work on Christmas!” If you have a disease or a disability, are you thankful to God anyway? During a week at camp with my mom this past summer, God taught me about the freedom of a thankful attitude.

In order to fully explain, I need to tell you a little tidbit about me. I am Hard of Hearing. At three, I got the flu and developed 50% hearing loss in both ears. At five, I got my first hearing aids. At eight or nine I decided I didn’t need them because they were uncomfortable and kids were always asking about them. At twelve, I got new ones and actually started to wear them because my choir teacher told me I sing better when I’m wearing them. At fourteen I began to realize just how much I miss in everyday situations, even with my hearing aids, and I got frustrated. I was frustrated with myself, frustrated with others, and frustrated with God. Simply communicating with other people was and still is so. much. work. I always miss the punchline of jokes. That’s probably why I can only pull one joke off the top of my head. I say “what?” smile & nod, and encounter awkward silences fifty thousand times a day (or maybe just fifty). Sometimes people get impatient with me. All of those things made my mild hearing loss a major stress factor for a long time.

So what does that have to do with what I learned at camp? Let me explain. One of the summer staff, whose story I had heard before, shared his testimony at the dinner table. At first I felt bad for him – people are always asking him about his story and they always will. By the end, I realized it didn’t bother him one bit. He is the embodiment of a thankful attitude. He shared how he spend months in the hospital at fourteen, covered in burns and likely to die. If he didn’t die, he was sure to lose his legs. The months in the hospital were physical agony, but he didn’t die and he didn’t lose his legs. He still has some physical problems that might never go away, but even having to sit in the walk-in fridge to avoid heat stroke on hot days doesn’t phase him. He’s just thankful. He’s thankful that his friend that was involved in the incident that caused his injuries didn’t get hurt. He’s thankful God let him walk away from the hospital on his own two legs. He’s thankful that he can move around, even though it can be painful. He’s thankful to be alive. He’s thankful that God has given him a testimony that can give hope to others.

That summer staff’s thankful attitude prompted me to think about my hearing loss in a new way. I used to have major “why me?” syndrome. Now – I’m thankful that God has given me the ability to hear. I’m thankful that he has given me the ability to sing. I’m thankful that I can see, hear, and talk to others. There are still days that wear me out. I still miss the punchlines. I still have to apologize to people for not responding when they say my name two, three, four times. But what a comforting thought that I can be thankful for what I have and not fret about the temporary frustrations. It is much easier to get through a day when I am thankful to God for what he has given me than when I am wallowing in self pity.

Living with a thankful attitude takes away the distraction of our troubles and allows us to freely serve Christ.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever. Psalm 136:1

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Why am I writing?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI recently read this quote from a book by C.S. Lewis:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

It was after reading this that I thought about how Jesus is so much more to me than a well known figure stuck in the past. He is God. He is present. He is undeniable. What is it that makes people want to just dismiss him as a wise guy? God put the title “Christ Undeniable” in my head. Jesus has been about as subtle in my life as an elephant could be in a studio apartment. I mean that in the most loving, appreciative way. Sometimes it amazes me how people can deny him altogether, or say they believe in him but give him no real thought or attention as the Son of the God of the universe. I’ve been there, though. I grew up believing, but it took me a few years and a few miracles to get to where I am in my faith now.

So this is why I write: To put into words the love and power and presence of Jesus in my life with the goal that I may share his hope with others and aid them on their journey of faith. I want everything I do to be in service to my God and King.

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