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”

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Approaching Prayer

How do we know that our prayers are being heard?  How can we make sure that our prayers are going to be answered?

A lot of it has to do with the way we approach prayer, our heart before we even start to pray.  I often let out a deep sigh and take a moment to simply remember that I am praying to my heavenly Father who loves me.  I don’t have to beg or barter.  This is my father who desires to give me good gifts.  He’s good.  He’s the very essence of love.  Even if I’ve had a bad day, his feelings towards me are that of a loving Father.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

If I’m feeling overwhelmed with my problems I need to put them in perspective.  God is all powerful.  This problem I face is nothing to the God who breathed everything into existence.  If he allows the issue, he has a reason for it.  If he allows the trial, he will enable me to stand up under it.  Every single thing he allows or blesses me with is working together for my good and to bring him glory.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28

If he allows a thorn, an issue to remain (Hallelujah, sometimes he does just remove them!) it is because he sees a far bigger picture.  He knows this thing is going to allow you more room for growth.  Just like doing a set of squats under a heavy barbell. barbell It hurts, right?  It’s really hard.  You may be hobbling around for the next three days.  But you’ll get stronger.  God wants to grow our faith muscles too.

When we enter into prayer we should seek Him and not just what he can do for us.

“…your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”  Matthew 6:8

I have an adolescent son who is apparently very driven and always has his own agenda.  I’ve been known to get irritated with him because I get to feeling like every time he comes up to talk to me it is because he is trying to get something.  It’s irritating!  I’m like, “can’t you just simply spend time with me?”

I think about that often when I pray.  Yes, of course, we can and should bring our requests before God.  “you have not, because you ask not.” James 4:2  But I’d imagine that God is going to want us to approach him out of a desire to be close to him as well.  I may be bringing a laundry list of prayer needs and wants before the throne but first and foremost I should be approaching the throne of God because I love him and desire to be with him.

I only pray to the Father.  I know some people will pray and address the Holy Spirit or pray directly to Jesus…but I stick to a biblical model.  Jesus only prayed to the Father.  He instructed us to pray to the Father.  Through Jesus we have direct access to the Father in a way that Old Testament saints couldn’t even have dreamed of.  We’re not tip-toeing into the Holy of Holies hoping we don’t mess up and get struck dead.   The O.T. priests would literally wear bells into the Holy of Holies and if the bells stopped jingling there would be people waiting outside the curtain to pull their body out by an attached rope.  But the way has been opened up through the blood of Jesus.  When he died that thick veil was literally torn in two by invisible hands. torn We have access.  It’s amazing.  Let’s approach our heavenly Father directly and with a sense of reverence that is only fitting because we are approaching this God that is  indescribably powerful, amazing, jaw-dropping… yet he loves us and cares for us.

When we take a few moments to consider who we are actually about to engage, our hearts will be prepared to pray in a manner that is pleasing to God.  We’re likely to encounter him in new ways and see amazing answers to prayer.

 

Labor and Reward

My son, Gabriel, had a tough journey from the start.  My entire pregnancy was very difficult and it culminated in a very dangerous birth.  We barely got to the hospital in time.  I was almost fully dilated and I think the stress of trying to get to the hospital and being jostled around a scrambling to a birthing room, caused an umbilical cord prolapse.  They told me I had to get him out NOW or they were going to have to do an emergency C-section because his oxygen supply was being cut off.

I pushed with everything I had and he came out, blue and not moving.  He was also tiny at 5 pounds, 10 ounces.  The newborns size clothes we had bought were too big!!1930389_117444265073_6519_n

The revived him and he was ok but later struggled with learning to walk and other tasks. He needed a lot of early intervention therapy.  He needed title one support in kindergarten and 1st grade to bring him up to grade level.

Just this past year has been an agonizing ride as we had to go through topical steroid withdrawal.  He missed a ton of school as he the condition was so painful and debilitating.

It’s been a tough, tough journey but we serve a faithful God.  A good God.

Many nights his father and I knelt next to his bed and prayed over him after he fell asleep.  You’ve never met a child more loved and adored by his parents! 397824_10151092514535074_1177420881_n

We’ve always thought he was amazing and smart and gifted, even if those qualities needed a bit of nurturing to emerge fully.

Well…. yesterday I opened a letter from his school inviting him to apply for the Quest program; a program for highly gifted students, because he was showing signs of exceptional giftedness.

I stood in my kitchen as tears filled my eyes.

Proud doesn’t begin to cover it. 

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“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 

Today when you face your struggles, remember that God wants to use them to prepare you for greatness.  He has an end game and it is GOOD.  Pray hard, believe, do your best and you will be rewarded. 

 

 

The Choice

Lately I’ve been watching a rather iffy show on Netflix called Paranormal Survivor.  Guests on the show recount their brushes with “ghosts” (*ahem*demons), often with tears and visible emotional scars.

My husband is more skeptical than I but we both see the element of truth to these stories.  These people are not actors.  They are regular people who, for whatever reason, had these unexplainable experiences with forces of spiritual darkness.

I’m inclined to believe them because of my own experiences.

As a young woman I came to God from a place of intense spiritual darkness.  I had opened myself up to all kinds of junk.  I think at various times I had been all but taken over.  I was plagued with feelings of intense paranoia and rage along with audible manifestations.  I was diagnosed with depression but prescription medicine couldn’t come close to curing the spiritual tomb that was my heart.

When Jesus called me out of that darkness there was an intense struggle.  I felt those forces trying to keep me in their grip.  I threw myself deeper into the things of God.

In those early days I had a lot of demonic nightmares.  Dreams I’ve never shared.  I would wake up soaked in sweat and terrified.  There was one time where I was being suffocated and in my dream I was trying to call out the name of Jesus and I couldn’t because it felt like my face was being smothered.

I finally broke lose from that and the effect it had on me was to further solidify my faith and push me even closer to God.  I believe that is why the nightmares stopped.  Satan saw that it was backfiring.

Also, around that time my husband and I started praying together every night.  We always pray for protection over our family and our home.

There are these very real forces that I believe attack every single believer.  It may not be something as frightening and blatant as what I experienced, but real, nonetheless.

More often we get hit with a spirit of complacency.  We’ve heard the gospel a thousand times.  We get numb to the horrifying events that seem to occur with ever greater frequency.  We get bogged down with daily life.  We get lukewarm.

But when we encounter evil- whether it’s a mass shooting or a spiritual attack on our family- we have to make a choice.  Are we going to be ambassadors for Christ in this dark world?  Are we going to let the Holy Spirit sanctify our hearts?  Are we going to live lives worthy of our calling?

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My daughter, because it’s so cute but also because this is how we need to operate.

 

The Bible says that we are all slaves.  We are either slaves of God, leading to righteousness.  Or slaves to the forces of evil.  While we are technically free moral agents in that sense we don’t get to choice.  Why?  The Bible says are hearts are desperately wicked and we can’t begin to understand.  We deceive ourselves.  We fall under a spirit of deception.

“The coming of the lawless one will be accompanied by the working of Satan, with every kind of power, sign, and false wonder, and with every wicked deception directed against those who are perishing, because they refused the love of the truth that would have saved them. For this reason, God will send them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie,…” 2 Thessalonians 2:11

This is a powerful warning.  If we aren’t allowing the spirit of God to work in our hearts and minds we will fall into this great deception.

I believe we are standing at the end of the age.  The man of lawlessness will soon be revealed.  The choices we make now matter.  The prayers we pray in faith matter.  Our daily walk with the Lord matters.

“Lord Jesus, help us to shake of any spiritual complacency and follow you fearlessly in this dark age with passion and holiness.  Work in our hearts to make us worthy of our high calling in Christ Jesus.  Give us discerning hearts.  We thank you that in you, we already have the victory.  In Jesus name, Amen.”

 

Irrevocable

Today I put the final entry in my journal of over 3 years.  It wasn’t a big journal.  It was something that I wrote in sporadically.  As I filled the final page I reflected over the past three years and changes I want to make.

I felt a general feeling of sadness.

I haven’t been as close to the Lord as I could have been.  I wasted a lot of time.

I wrote out my last entry with some pretty basic goals/hopes for the coming years.  I want to see my baby healed.  I want to be closer to God.

I opened my Bible to Romans 11 and read “….for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.” Romans 11:29  I love the word “irrevocable”.  The Greek word here is ametamelétos which means “about which no change of mind can take place”.

The call on your life, the gifts God has given you- those things are irrevocable.  Does that give anyone else a tremendous sense of comfort? 20170712_130709

“For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those He predestined He also called, those He called He also justified, those He justified He also glorified.” Romans 8:30-31

Foreknew.  Predestined.  Called.  Justified.  Glorified.

I can’t type these words without tears welling in my eyes.  There is a destiny on your life that supercedes the things that bog you down, the pain that leaves you crippled, the sin that separates you from your Father.  His call, his choice…it’s irrevocable. 

“Lord, fan into flames again the dreams you put into our hearts.  Work in us the will, the desire to obey you.  Help us, Lord, to be courageous and to be more than overcomers through Christ Jesus.  Thank you, Lord, that you knew us before the dawning of time.  You chose us and your banner over us is love.  We love you and we trust that you are working all things out for our good, because we love you and are called according to your unshakeable, irrevocable purpose.”

 

 

For the Joy

I realize I’ve blogged a lootttt on the topic of suffering.  I write from where I’m at.  I write what is on my heart and what God speaks to me.  I write because I feel called to (and heck, I like it) and to hopefully encourage people.  I’ve written a lot on hardship and I feel like it’s a good thing because people can relate.  I certainly don’t think we should (or need to) minimize our pain.

Suffering is an undeniable part of life.  If you are walking this Earth with feet of clay you are going to have to contend with pain and difficult trials.

But I believe that suffering has an expiration date.  We are not here to suffer.  We are here to enjoy intimacy with our God and live in victory and freedom.

“For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!” Romans 5:17

Suffering is always a means to an end.  The end being that God is glorified.

As I was getting ready for church yesterday I was thinking about the story of Lazarus.  Lazarus was a very close friend of Jesus.  Lazarus had two sisters that were very close with Jesus as well; Martha and Mary (who have their own story, but for another time).

Lazarus had gotten very sick.  A messenger ran to get Jesus.  Jesus waited 2 whole days before leaving to come see Lazarus, the text says he waited until he knew that Lazarus had died.

Martha and Mary are understandably upset.  When Jesus does show up, Martha runs out to meet him.  “Lord, if you had been here, he wouldn’t have died!”

Jesus looks deep into her eyes and makes this powerful statement, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

They were just hoping that Jesus would heal him.  Jesus had different plans.  He went to the grave, where he had been buried 4 days prior.  He comforts Mary and Martha and even weeps with them.  He knows our pain, because it’s his pain.

“Roll the stone away.”

“But Lord, there will be an awful smell…”

“Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

So they roll the stone away and Lazarus is raised from the grave.

I got to church and what was the pastor preaching on?  The story of Lazarus and how it relates to us.  It was a God-thing.  We brought our son up to have him prayed for after the service.  This morning he looked a good 50% better with most of the redness and swelling gone and months-old wounds showing signs of dramatic improvement.  We know he got a special touch from God and we are believing that he will receive complete healing.

We serve an awesome God.  rays-of-light-shining-throug-dark-c

There is a powerful message in this story.  We may suffer, yes.  But we know that at some point Jesus is going to come into our situation and command some stones to be rolled away.  When Jesus shows up, he brings life with him.  He is our healer.  He is 100% good.  He is 100% for us.

Ultimately, for us who believe, we will be completely healed.  We don’t know the time table, but we know the one who does.  Jesus triumphed completely over death and the grave.  One day, death will be swallowed up.

In life we will always have an element of suffering.  We live in a fallen World.  I have my own share of suffering, as do you.  But I also have so much joy.

For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10

Suffering doesn’t get the final say.

 

Your Song, His Song

I’ve had this song stuck in my head for a couple days.  Don’t feel bad for me because the song is pretty epic-ly awesome.  It’s 80’s, it’s melodramatic and not a bad song to have stuck in your head.

I think the only way to get it unstuck is just to go with it.  I found it on youtube and decided to play it to wake my husband from his sweet slumber this morning.  Two birds, one stone.

I sashayed into the bedroom and dramatically belted out, “Take…these broken wings!  And learn to fly again!”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1M80Z7zTjo  You’re welcome.

I think he appreciated it.

He’s used to this sort of thing because I love music and I love singing (and dancing) and my home is my stage.  I didn’t say I sing well but whatever I lack in talent I make up for in gusto.

Seriously though, music can touch us like nothing else.  I recently read the book “Finding God in the Ruins” by Matt Bays and he talks about the song, the music of our lives.  Jarrod Drawbaugh also speaks beautifully of letting out the song of our lives in this blog- http://www.infjwriters.com/dear-infj-advice-recently-deceased-philosopher-author/ and as a person of faith this got me thinking of how my song is inextricably connected with His song.

As a follower of Christ there have been many times where I’ve felt utterly defeated.  Times where; I fell hard into an old sin pattern.  I fell hard into depression.  I fell hard into feeling worthless.  As an INFJ, I see things very symbolically and the image I had of these times was that of being cast down into the dust while the enemy of my soul sneered triumphantly over me.  While he hurled insults and accusations.  Many of which had more than an element of truth to them.

But at times like that when I felt the darkness closing in, I would hear something else.  Quiet but unmistakable.  An ancient song, the kind that leaved you with goosebumps as it awakens pangs of hope and images of Heaven.

His song.

My song.

I think of the women caught in the act of adultery, recorded in the book of John, verse 8.  She had been humiliated and thrown into the dirt.  Surrounded by her accusers.  Too ashamed to lift her head.  I can imagine her accusers in breathless anticipation awaiting Jesus’ verdict, as their eyes darted from the woman to the Christ…The Bible says that Jesus stooped down and began to write in the dust.  Theologians argue about what he was writing and why.  But I wonder if maybe he was tracing out the lyrics to an ancient melody.  Maybe he hummed quietly a song that only that woman could hear.  The same fingers that set the stars in place wrote out this lowly women’s redemption. “He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me.  They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support… You give me your shield of victory, and Your right hand sustains me; You stoop down to make me great.” Psalm 18:17-18 & 35

There are two voices, two messages we can listen to.  The ceaseless voice of the accuser or the quiet hum of God.  We can sing along with the voice of defeat or belt out the song of triumph.

I find in my own life that God is always speaking.  It is up to me to have my internal settings tuned to his frequency.  Whether I’m bopping through life to an upbeat 80’s tune (ah yiss) or immobilized in the dirt, God is always singing over my life.  He always has and He always will.

“He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

My God is the God that stoops down in the dirt with us, to lift our tear-stained faces.  This is the God that rejoices over us with singing.  This is the God that puts a song of hope in our hearts, a song unique to each and every one of us.

Woman Singing
Woman Singing 2003