Miracles and the Mundane

Last night was rough.  Major struggle bus rough. b0ef15e95cf662961b5a62c3103b9ae2 I had to close at my store and then I came home to find I had been put smack dab middle into some serious family drama.  Then my daughter got sick and was up half the night emptying her stomach contents into blanket after blanket.  I finally dragged myself out of bed after giving up on more sleep at about 5 am after round five; stomach evacuation.

My husband had to stay home with our daughter, who was still feeling pretty crummy.  I brought my nephews and my son to church anyways.  It’s Palm Sunday!  I was going to church, come hell or highwater.  Everyone was tired from Shiloh’s late night cookie tossing and screaming in distress and the boys were fidgety and I felt disappointment sinking in.

I don’t get to see these boys enough and I was really hoping that the time would be a bit more idealistic.  But such is life.  Sometimes we need to let go of our unmet expectations to embrace the beauty unfolding before our eyes- in our imperfect reality.

Later in the day we went to visit my Dad for his 61st birthday.

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My Papa

My husband ran out to Caribou to get us some coffee (he’s a saint!).  He took forever but I didn’t really think much of it.

 

We had a great visit and as we were pulling away from their driveway my husband told me why he had been so long getting the coffee.

He had seen a homeless man standing outside.  Heart moved; he had brought the man coffee, food and some cash.  He took time to talk to the man and ask him his name, so that he could pray for him.

As he told me my eyes swelled with tears.  I love this man and I am blessed.  I am blessed to be a blessing.

Life isn’t perfect.  Some days you are tired.  Some nights you are up cleaning up puke when you’re exhausted.  But there is still so much beauty to be found when we look beyond our own circumstances.  When we realize how blessed we truly are.  When we are able to show the love of Jesus.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

You are blessed.  You are loved.

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Hope

I have a serious addiction. cowbelljr1 Not to cowbell but to podcasts.  Seriously.  I’m a bit obsessed with being productive to begin with.  I also love learning.  So if I can enhance daily activities like driving, cooking, cleaning with enriching my mind with podcasts- I am in my happy place!

I usually stick with health- both spiritual and physical.  My favorite is probably Walk in the Word with Pastor James MacDonald.  Seriously- check it out.  I’ve been listening to it for over a decade; first on the radio and now usually via podcast on my phone.

One of my other favorites is Bulletproof Radio with Dave Aprey.  I was listening to the latest podcast this morning and the topic of mortality came up.  Dave Asprey is a leader in the “bio-hacking” field of really smart guys trying to find ways to optimize health and lifespan through various “hacks”.  His guest was Jason Silva from the brain games show.  Both men are very successful by any measure.  But both are still on their quest to find the meaning of life.  Both are still grappling with (and attempting to postpone!) their own ultimate death.

It seems so sad to me.

This may sound morbid, but in many ways; I welcome death.  Of course I want to live a full lifespan and watch my kids grow up- but I want to go home, too.

“Instead, they were longing for a better country–a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” Hebrews 11:6

This place isn’t my home.  It’s ok if I don’t have “my best life” now.  I’m waiting for something better.  When pain and trials hit, it reminds me that this place isn’t my home.  I’m ultimately not of this world because my citizenship is in Heaven.  Phillipians 3:20

“We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body….” 2 Cor. 4:10

As Christians we need to embrace death everyday.  The death of the part of our nature that is hostile to God; selfish, wicked, detestable… so that Jesus can live through us.  Death precedes rebirth.  “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” John 12:24

As Easter approaches I’d invite to embrace the fact that death is not the end.  It’s the beginning.  1212

“Lord Jesus, I pray that you will work in us the will to obey you.  Help us to surrender to you and so live our lives as a living sacrifice- pleasing to you.  We know that in you we find purpose, meaning and eternal life.  We thank you that in you in we have nothing to fear- not even death.  Thank you for the sacrifice that bridged the impossible gap between sinful man and a holy God.  Amen” 

 

Tree of Life

Reading the intro to Genesis this morning, I was blown away.  I’ve probably read this passage of scripture at least ten times but there is always fresh revelation.

I am struck by the intimacy of it; The Spirit of God hovering over the freshly created waters.  The hands of the pre-incarnate Christ molding the first man from the dirt, then leaning down to breath the breathe of life into his nostrils.  The fact that God himself planted the garden of Eden for this new man to live in.  Jesus walked through the Garden with his newly formed human beings and had unparalleled, unimaginable intimacy with them.

The Bible says, “God” but we know that God exists in three persons- the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  1 John 5:7  God the Father is spirit John 4:24 and invisible Colossians 1:5…so it makes sense that God was in the Garden in the form of the God-Man; Jesus Christ.  Jesus walked through the garden.  Jesus’ hands formed the first man out of dirt.  The same hands that would much later be stretched out on the cross for us….jesus.png

It’s all so beautiful and intimate.

God knew, of course, that mankind would fall.  That is why there was a plan in place for salvation before the first human ever drew the first breath.

When Adam and Eve sinned they were thrust from the paradise of God.  An angel and fiery flashing sword were sent to guard the tree of Life, so that Adam and Eve wouldn’t eat from it and become immortal and therefore stuck forever in their fallen state.

I find it interesting that the tree of Life is featured in both the opening and closing books of scripture.  At some point God withdrew the tree from Eden and up into Heaven.  It exists in wait for the time when the curse is finally broken.

“Then the angel showed me a river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb, down the middle of the main street of the city. On either side of the river stood a tree of life, producing twelve kinds of fruit and yielding a fresh crop for each month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse.” Revelation 22:1-3 

In that time we will be granted to privilege to eat the fruit and gain immortality.  “To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” Rev. 2:7 

Everything will come full circle.  Everything lost will be restored.  We’ll experience that amazing intimacy with God, face to face.  But this time there will be no serpent, no temptation.  We’ll have had the knowledge of good and evil and those of us who chose good and God, by association, will get it in every way, for all eternity.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Cor. 2:9 the-tree-of-life-hd_.jpg

 

Growing Up

I guess I’ve been feeling very nostalgic lately.  My oldest child, Michael, is almost 13 and…we’ll just say he’s rapidly changing.  Everyday when my facebook memories pop up and I see how he looked just a year ago, I am blown away by how much he has changed in just a year.  He’s shot up like 4 inches, gained like 15 pounds and is losing his boyish look.

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Look at that sweet face!
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Same two kids, five years later.  Now he’s too cool to smile.

He’s growing up.  He’s changing.  Most of these changes are involuntary, and the spring forth (often in the most awkward of ways!) like a force of nature.  Growing up is a part of life.  But growing spiritually is completely different.  It doesn’t just happen.  We don’t wake up one day spiritually mature by accident.  It’s a process.  It takes time, experience, and cooperating with God through the work of the Holy Spirit.

 

God wants us to grow up.

“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.” 1 Corinthians 13:11

This past year has been one of growing up.  Of throwing down the gauntlet.  For a long time I was struggling with my doubts and really walking the fence.  No wonder I felt so unsure and struggled so much to obey God.  I made the decision that I was going to pursue God, no matter what.  Daily I was going to seek, daily I was going to submit my will to His.

“My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”…Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn.” Psalm 27:8, 108:2

I’ve got my alarm set for 5:30.  I’m spending an hour a day with God in the morning.  It has been completely changing my life.  No more waffling.  This is my commitment and I will carve out the time.  I want to grow up.  I want to be a mature believer that God can use mightily.  I want to go from the spiritual, infantile milk to the spiritual meat described in Hebrews 5.  I don’t want to live my life in spiritual diapers.

I want to be full of the Word, full of the Spirit, I want to advance the kingdom of God with every day and every breathe that I take.

“Lord, we thank you that you love and care for us regardless of our state or level of maturity, but we also know that you want us to grow up in the things of God so we can accomplish the plans and works you established before the dawn of creation.  help us to get off the fence, and to love you with all our hearts, minds, and strength.  Thank you that in living for you we find abundant life and you fulfill the desires of our hearts. Amen.”

A Year

The one year anniversary of my son starting topical steroid withdrawal passed pretty quietly ten days ago.  I wanted to write a triumphant blog commemorating the occasion but I didn’t have it in me.

Some of the memories and feelings are still raw.  Today I unfollowed my ITSAN support group.  The daily barrage of suffering is too much.  Our experience has gotten considerably better but the memories of the months of unmitigated suffering are still fresh and the daily reminders aren’t something I want to deal with.

Life is moving on.  Gabe is back in school and mostly functioning like a “normal” kid.  He is currently in the process of testing for the districts highly gifted program.  I could stress out about how little sleep he got last night and how it will affect his testing today, but I know it’s in God’s very capable hands.

One thing I pray is that God would give Gabe a double recompense of blessing for the horrible trials he’s had to endure.  I pray that Gabe would grow up in the presence of God and fulfill everything God created him to be and do.

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My Sweet Boy

The awesome thing about serving God is that HE can take the horrible things you have to go through and turn it around and make it work out not only for your good but for the good of everyone watching your story unfold.

“He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock…Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him.”  Psalm 40:2-3 

The Devil does his damndest to destroy us and thwart the plan of God for our lives.  But God uses those things and it’s those things that actually prepare us to step into our calling.  Devil be damned.

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20 

Through all of this I have been boldly bringing my prayers and requests before the throne of grace.  But one verse I have been meditating on lately is this stark warning from Psalm 106- “And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.”

It’s ok to ask.  We all want breakthroughs.  I want my baby healed.  I want to be a published author.  I want certain loved ones filled with the Holy Spirit.  But I don’t want those things at the expense of my spiritual hunger for God.  Sometimes we demand to get our way, and do get it.  But the end result is a leanness in our soul.  How terrible.

“Lord, help us to always seek your face and not just your hand.  Help us to be ever aware that there is nothing that compares to the riches of knowing and being known by you.  Help us to pursue you more than we pursue anything else, even the good things and hopes you have placed in our hearts.  We love you and trust your plan, even when it includes suffering. Amen” 

 

Gifts and Humility

I remember as a new Christian hearing so much about spiritual gifts.  How to find your gift!  How to develop your gift!  Primary gifts!  Secondary gifts! Laying on of hands for gifts!  And for some reason I got really hung up on it and it caused me a lot of stress.  I put a lot of pressure on myself to figure out my gifts and start popping out spiritual “fruit” and ASAP.

I’ve learned so much along the way that I’d like to share….

First of all, RELAX.  Don’t sweat the fruit or the gifts.  An apple tree isn’t grunting out apples.  There’s no flexing or straining, though that’s an hilarious image.  When we relax into God’s presence, when we feed on his word, when the sonshine shines on us; that fruit is going to come forth in season and it’ll will be a natural by product of our walk with God.

Your spiritual gift is going to be something that comes naturally to you.  For instance; I’m an introvert and I’d be a terrible evangelist.  That’s ok, because we’re not all called to that.  What I do really enjoy is quiet time with God in which I unearth treasures from his Word and eagerly share with others through my writing.  I’m a writer.  It’s who I am.  It comes naturally.  I may never witness to a stranger on the bus but I am witnessing to whoever happens across the things I have written.

Another thing to realize is that just because there is a need, and we have a mandate to serve- doesn’t mean we are called to everything, all the time.  In our old church there was a growing sense of resentment for me.  The church was a small one, in a small town, so there were a lot of older people.  There were also a lot of young families.  There was a need for workers in the nursery but no one wanted to be in the nursery.  The older people would bring their young grandchildren and expect there to be someone volunteering, but of course it wouldn’t be them.  They had to make coffee in the kitchen.  So I ended up in the nursery an inordinate amount of time.  I also volunteered to teach the young kids on Wednesday night (again, no one else wanted to).  It was an absolutely terrible fit.  I was awful at it.  This thing began to feel like a giant, life-sucking burden in my life.  If you’re trying to do something for God that he never called you to, that’s how it is going to feel.  However, if you’re operating in your God-given gifts, for His glory, it will be rewarding and even fun.

I’m not called, or anointed to teach children.  I love ’em but I’m just not gifted in that area.  In fact I was so bad that the pastor’s wife was looking for someone to replace me (unbeknownst to me) in the announcements during the church service (of course, I didn’t hear them, I was in the nursery) they made announcements until someone else eventually stepped up.  I was fired from a volunteer position.  Sometimes when you get involved in church you see that there are situations where people don’t handle things with integrity.  If she had come to me and said, “look, toots, you’re sweet and all but not a great fit for this role.”  I would have sighed in relief and graciously stepped down.  But people in pews are just people too.  We ultimately left the church but there aren’t hard feelings.  We wanted a church were we felt like our children were welcomed into a solid children’s ministry.

A different instance occurred where I had gifting but a lack of humility, it was a painful scenario that happened about 7 years ago.  I got invited to a Bible study hosted by another young woman who was a very new believer.  She wasn’t as versed in the Word as I was.  I corrected her a few times and was sort of “taking over” the study.  I had the knowledge and gifting but the wisdom and humility weren’t developed to match.  Our friendship ended over it and I was basically booted from the group.  It was very painful at the time but became an opportunity for me to grow.

Even at this point in my life I am working hard to use my gifting to serve God.  It’s for a very small “audience” and I have hope and dreams for a wider platform but that hasn’t happened yet.  I firmly, 100% believe that when the time is right, God will open the doors and bring a spiritual promotion.  I don’t promote my blog at.all. because I want to be waiting on God.  I have more than a sneaking suspicion that God is putting me through this extended waiting process in obscurity because the approval of man is still way too important to me.  If I had more success now it’d be easy for it to go to my head and make it all about me.  If I am swayed by people’s opinion I won’t be the solid, godly teacher that God needs me to be- A vessel that is pure that he can use.

This scenario is echoed again and again in scripture.  One of my favorites is that of Joseph.  Joseph was richly blessed by God.  He was the apple of his father’s eye.  He had a strong spiritual anointing to the point where he was having dreams and visions.  His future was so bright he needed shades 😉  But then he experienced what had to have looked like a complete abandonment by God and the utter ruin of his life; when his jealous brothers sold him into slavery.  Then, he was just working his way to the top (as much as he could as a slave) when his master’s (shameless hussy of a) wife threw herself at him.  He, being a godly young man, rebuffed her advances.  She couldn’t handle the rejection, accused him of rape, and he was thrown into the worst hell hole of a prison you can imagine.  He did get out of that prison though and became instrumental in saving countless lives from famine.  He even saved and was reconciled to his brothers.  God knew he needed the struggle to develop the character and humility that he would need to be this great savior in his time.  The gifting, the call was always there.  The humility and wisdom needed to catch up.

All this to say, in this age where everyone promotes themselves, go against the grain.  Embrace the quiet and solitude that only comes with knowing God in the secret place.  The place where you won’t get any recognition or accolades from man, but you’ll have a prime spot to hear from God.  Trust that God’s timing is best.  He’s working things out in advance for you.  While you’re waiting do everything you can to prepare yourself for the dreams and hopes that he’s placed in your heart.

“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3 

 

When the End isn’t the End

One major life thing I haven’t blogged about was the abrupt end of a friendship that occurred this past summer.  It wasn’t just a friendship, this person was incredibly close, more of a sister than a friend.

We have similar backgrounds and a real kinship of spirit.  Though she is wild and extroverted and I’m really quiet.  She’s the life of the party, I’m at home reading… you get the picture….We always found common ground.  She helped me to loosen up and I was a calming force in her life.

When we first met we were both very involved in the same church.  We would get together and talk, laugh, cry, pray… the friendship was a gift for both of us.

Well, life happens and we both drifted away from church and God and became more and more enabling rather then edifying.  Less “iron sharpens iron” and more gummy bear enabling gummy bear.  That and some other issues culminated in an abrupt and painful end.  There was no communication for months.

I didn’t know if it was the end.  Honestly, at first I didn’t even think much about it because I was so engrossed in caring for my son.  Around the time things went sour I was providing basically round the clock care and my son was practically an invalid.

But here and there emotions and feelings would burst forth.  Anger, regret, hurt.  Really, a grieving process.  It got to the point were I would think about her everyday and what went wrong.  I stopped focusing so much on the hurt and was able to introspect and see how I had failed her.  I had room to grow.  I should have handled things differently.

She reached out to me last week.

We met up in a quiet coffee shop.  The mood was somber.  We both had come out of very rough years.  There was a feeling of mutual muted sadness and reflection.  We were able to apologize to each other and talk openly about where it all went wrong.

Last night we got together again.  My inhibitions loosened after a glass of wine, I wrapped my arms around her and prayed over her.  I cried.  She cried.  The Holy Spirit went pumping though our bodies with his gently persistent love.

You can always come home.  

I had felt a sense of grief over the way I handled this year and the trials I went through.  I wasn’t cooperative.  I sinned and hid from God.  Coming back to a more authentic place of worship I’ve felt this grief that I had missed this chance to be sanctified through this trial.  Like dross being removed from gold in the fire.  I went into the fire and came out, cruddy dross intact.

But I’ve come to realize that God, in his grace, worked through even that.  See, I’ve always struggled with the question of, “Can I lose my salvation?  Will God still love me if….?”  This year I found my answer.  I reached new personal lows.  I did things I thought I’d never do.

God still loves me and his Spirit never left.

I now believe what I couldn’t before.  I am sealed.  I am chosen.  I am loved.  I am saved.  Period.

“And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified…  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:30&38-39

I feel a sense of grace and freedom that I never felt before.  Because I tumbled to the bottom and he caught me.

As I prayed over my friend I got a word for her.  This past year of pain and sorrow has been a process of breaking up a faulty foundation.  When a foundation is no good it needs to be dismantled, with a jackhammer or carefully inserted dynamite.  It looked like her life as she knew it had blown up and she was emerging, blinking and dazed, from the rubble.  But what God was doing was breaking up the old foundation of shame, false beliefs, generational dysfunction.  The foundation she had been struggling to grow in all her life.  A bad foundation with gnarly roots and hunks of ugly concrete and warped steel.  In the process of the mining and overturning he was preserving and exposing the gold tucked in amongst the rubble and calling her to a place of greater freedom and abundant life.

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I don’t know where you’re at but I can confidently say that God loves you.  Jesus died for you.  Because of Him the end doesn’t have to be the end.

“Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls…” Isaiah 58:12

 “Dear Heavenly Father, Lord I pray that you would touch the person reading this right now.  That you would wash over them with your love.  I pray that You would make us people that repair the ruins of our lives and the precious lives around us.  We thank you that you are good, even when we can’t always see it.  You are the Ancient of Days and you are coming soon to make all things new.  Amen”