Here at night: a poem

Here at night…

Here at night as the bittersweetness of the day fades from memory…
I soak in music that speaks of your love and belief of your power…
Here at night as the season of paradise won and paradise lost, sowing and reaping, giving and taking finally lets my soul rest…
I lay back on my pillow and through the crevice of a wicker headboard I see the moon…
Here at night as I look above, I’m reminded that you love me through the deepest crevices of my heart…
Here at night as I let the moonlight cover the room…The world socializes about mindless chatter, heartache and hunger grows all the more, and hopes are torn away…
Here I am, Here at night comforted that I matter to you…
Here at night though the world may fear, and people don’t know where to turn…
You are the light guiding sight,
Through all the day, and even….                   Here at night.

LSOF: Healed, Restored, Renewed…

There are many old houses in the area that I live in, and some date all the way back to 1900’s, when there were still dirt roads, Western Union telegraphs, and horse and buggies. The house across from me was built in 1924, and sometimes when I look over at it in the morning before work I cannot help but wonder about its history. Recently, this house was sold again, painted on the outside and restored on the inside.

My friend and I were talking the other day and this verse of scripture was really on my heart,
“ They will rebuild the ancient ruins, and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.” (Isaiah 61:4)

“They will REBUILD the ancient ruins…”

A house possibly so old could very well have damage to the roof, or the siding, or the foundation itself could begin to crumble.

We all have places that have been damaged, and many of us could admit our foundations have had places of crumbling.

I remember a verse that God gave me in regards to healing one evening, and it was so profound to me because of how He revealed to me the process,
“ He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)

The Lord showed me that healing is a two step process.
1. He makes whatever we are dealing with bearable to continue on
2. He slowly starts to take care of the damaged parts of us.

“They will RESTORE the places long devastated…”
I watch the construction on the house for weeks, and each day I came home from work I would see something look back to what it may have back in the day.
Perhaps the stairs are being nailed back into their grooves, or perhaps there were windows that were broken or doors off hinges due to moisture.  Slowly each week it was more restored.
We all have parts of us that need to be restored. We all have parts of us where maybe it was a relationship, an identity, or some sort of situation that once the healing began then slowly we saw evidence of it being restored.

“They will RENEW the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations…”
I came home the other day from work and the house across the street had a completely different paint. It honestly took some getting used to, because I was used to seeing this white and blue house that now had tan and dark brown colors.
The family that had moved there wanted a different color scheme, they wanted a porch built on the side of the house, and they wanted the plant hangers on the outside of the windows removed.
It looked like a completely different home.  I knew from seeing it every day the changes that were made.

Personal Affirmation
Just like that house, there were parts of you and I that have to heal, be restored, but also be renewed.
I can tell you that just like the new paint on that home across the street I did not really recognize myself in the mirror for awhile. The more I wondered if things would go back to what they, “were,” or what was, “ comfortable,” for me, the more they did not.
We cannot be the same people, doing things the same way, and expect a new result….it just cannot happen.

Our culture places such emphasis on getting back to the OLD you, but if we did that what stops us from falling into the same habits…we have to change…in every area that is unhealthy.
If I were the same person, my mind would still attack me so much so that I would literally concentrate on everyone around me and wonder what they thought of me….or I would think what they “would soon,” think of me.
If I were the same person, I would not believe God could make me truly free of what I had been through.
If I were the same person, I would spend every day convincing myself that I was not good enough to be used for God and comparing myself to others.
I do not have the same attitude or perspective in my life in many areas.

To be renewed means you trust that God knows better.
Trust Him when He tells you that there is something inside you that He needs to deal with… and you let Him….Trust Him with relationships. Trust Him with your workplace, with your family, and with your health.
To be renewed means to trust that the paint God will use will look better than it did before– The artist completes His work with certainty.
My Pastor said to me the other day, “ Your eyes look good,” and of course I did not pay attention and said, “ Oh thank you, but its just this new mascara I am using.”
And He shook his head, “ No that is not what I mean. The eyes are a window to the soul, and I can see your soul is doing well.” Sometimes we do not always recognize that God has changed us or, “renewed,” us, and sometimes He has to find ways to show us.
If we truly believe the Lord can heal us, and then believe He can restore us, and then believe He will renew us…we will have a completely different life then we have ever known…

LSOF: Places of Desperation

I was sitting down with a friend a month or so ago, and I was sharing with her things God was doing and that I was learning. Her response surprised me…, “ Why do you sound so impatient?.”….

I looked at her with such a confused expression, I was telling her the good…I was telling her what God was working in me, and doing in my life…I was telling her all He was showing me…and then I took a moment to think about it…

Even though I had seen Him do many great things in me, and around me…even though I knew how good He has made so many areas….even though I had learned so much….
I was not content.

Since that conversation I really have been praying and seeking the Lord on this, and what I have realized that it was not impatience that my friend saw that day, she saw there was still some places in me that spoke louder for God to work in and move in…then the things He had.

I had places of desperation swelling up inside me, and clearly showing on my face…

It is truly a never-ending battle to be content in the places God has already placed His signature as, “completed,” whether it be healing of an illness, a relationship, and other things…but Paul was not exactly, “ A spring chicken,” when He wrote out,   ” I have learned to be content in all things…”

I had a Word spoken over me recently. I believe there are people out there with a gift to give the words straight from the heart of the Lord, and this was said, “ You have been waiting for me to do great things, You have seen me do many great things…Greater things are yet to come.”

The person had no idea of my story, and what the last year has been like.

What is so interesting in what was spoken was how well God knew my heart, because He started with, “ You have been waiting for me to do great things…” but then adding, “ You have seen me do many great things…”

He was telling me, “ Let what I have done speak louder than what is still, “ Under construction.”

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. (2 Corinthians 4:16)

Pastor spoke last night about our, “ Divine Design,” and how God moves us into the places we are called….We all have a starting point. We all have a place of, “ rite of passage,” and we all have a place where we will move into the life we have called to walk in…

But it is always God starting with the pen. It is not us, and it is not up to us.

The Lord makes firm the steps
of the one who delights in him;
though he may stumble, he will not fall,
for the Lord upholds him with his hand. (Psalm 37:23-24)

He orders our steps. He knows exactly where are are meant to be…He orders exactly what we are to say, and when we are to say it…

If we were really to think about it, “ The places of desperation, “ are really those places we do not yet trust God in or place our faith in that He can overcome.

I was writing something the other day to someone, and said so many things about how awesome God has brought more clarity in, “ this,” area and “that,” area…
But then when I spoke about the areas I still knew I needed Him to work in…I felt the anxiety rise up….I had fear in these areas…not one iota of peace…not one iota of faith…

I have seen Him do some amazing things…and yet in these areas I struggle…

When I thought of this I had the image of Peter when Jesus was being captured the night. Peter cutting off the man’s ear…after everything Jesus had taught him…” Turn the other cheek,” and that it was no longer, “ eye for an eye.”….

I believe I had this image, because God is telling me, “ You cannot fight this…Only I have the power to take this on, as I have also done in the other things.”

Jesus took on the cross to break the power of sin that rules over us. To break the chains from the enemy forever.

There is nothing inside us that says, “ I can take care of this if I just talk it out more, if I just blog about it more, if I just run around the block more…etc.”

The only good in us is Jesus, and it is not us in anyway that “upholds” ourselves in our lives, it is not us that can “ order” exactly where we want to step next, what the plan is for us next looks like…It is the Lord…Only the Lord.

It is His battle. He breathed us into this life, and He knows how to overcome it. 

“ Lord Jesus, I come to you to ask you to help us all to see that you are constantly working in us, and that we are being renewed day by day to not the standards we set for ourselves, but by the standards set by grace. Help us to know that you can overcome all things, Help us to be reminded daily on this, and help us to be content in you, and all you’ve done. In Jesus name, Amen.”

LSOF: Stirring

LSOF: Stirring…

I believe that there are those times when its possible to feel something so deep within, but there are not words to convey it.

The days can pass by, we go about our everyday routine…yet the stirring continues.
It may be possible to suggest that in those moments when the stirring within us just stirs and stirs, that perhaps it is the Spirit communicating with our soul.

There are secrets that belong only to the Lord, and there are secrets that He will share with us…in His timing.

Deuteronomy 29:29
The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.

It can be easy to lose patience, and rush the process, but if we are still as we wait, sometimes understanding and clarity speaks in a still small voice.

The goal lately has been to put aside distractions, and Seek Him. Seek who I am, in Him. To allow the Lord to share what needs to be done, and the perspective that should be in place.

Psalm 27:8
My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
Your face, LORD, I will seek.

I have found that when I am in touch with my Creator, He who changes times and seasons, and changes me from the inside out…I show I can trust the process.

It is like standing in a field waiting for flowers to bloom, but in the wait the sun shines…clouds pass overhead….birds sing…animals run about…and the wind flows gently through my hair….

I appreciate the now, and I wait for the Lord.

Psalm 27:13-14
I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.

LSOF: Full Circle

It’s hard to not know the full outcome of something. It is the plain truth. No matter who tells you that you will just find peace in the unknowing…you would not be human if you did not wonder.

But in the waiting the question asked would be…would you keep your faith? Would you trust that God has it all planned out, and has the concrete poured on the foundation before you ever step upon it? Would you believe the promise in Deuteronomy 31:8 :

The Lord himself will go ahead of you. He will be with you. He will never leave you. He’ll never desert you. So don’t be afraid. Don’t lose hope.” 

This is has been so much my story for the past few years. I have had many times where I would give up, and then start over again. When the race got too hard I would just stop running and walk away. But that is not the way we can take on life, that is not the way we will ever accomplish anything worth it.

I have lost out on too many possible accomplishments, relationships and my own contentment, because I would not just trust God. I would believe in some areas, but mostly the areas I saw Him move and change before. We have to trust in the unfamiliar too.

I really liked this message given by a guest speaker at church today. He spoke on the story of Mary and Martha and how Martha began as this pretty much type A, always in control, always the workaholic…to someone who had deep reverence for the Lord and what she could believe in her heart to trust Him to do, and without her help….and of course we know that He raised Lazarus from the dead.

I liked this story, because it was the realization that Martha was changed. I have learned this past year all about how God is within everything, and that His ultimate plan is to bring us full circle, or the best way I could say it in Romans 8:28:  We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him. He appointed them to be saved in keeping with his purpose. 

Something more interesting that I did not see until recently, that in order for Him to bring it all completely full circle that we have to let go of the familiar completely, or it is not really bringing all full circle, but semi-circle, because what we choose to hold on to will make the difference in who we will become.

Job came full circle, He started out very righteous, and very trusting of God, and then the Lord allowed him to go through so much trial and testing, worse then any of us could imagine….and there were plenty of times in his story that he just grumbled and asked God, “ why?” …At the end of the story we learn that Job recognized God after it all…He saw Him face to face.

So many stories in the Bible I have seen talk about this…most times people see God face to face are the times they are admist of the most trials…I can testify to that myself.

My ears had heard about you. But now my own eyes have seen you. (Job 42:5) The Lord blessed the last part of Job’s life even more than the first part. He gave Job 14,000 sheep and 6,000 camels. He gave him 1,000 pairs of oxen and 1,000 donkeys.   

Job also had seven sons and three daughters.  He named the first daughter Jemimah. He named the second Keziah. And he named the third Keren-Happuch. 

Job’s daughters were more beautiful than any other women in the whole land. Their father gave them a share of property along with their brothers.

After all of that happened, Job lived for 140 years. He saw his children, his grandchildren and his great-grandchildren. And so he died. He had lived for a very long time.  (Job 42:12-16)

We can look at our story the way we learn in English class. You have the beginning, the middle and the end….And if you were to put it all in where it belongs…the story would make sense. But without the ending of the story….it would seem like all the character goes through is in vain.

And in most stories, before it ends…there is always one last trial for the character to go through.

I like how Lisa Bevere put it: “ Stay the course….you can get off it early, but if you do, when you get back on it there will be a retest, and it will be much more difficult…so stay the course.”

I encourage you through my own experience to just stay the course. Just keep trusting God. Stay in fellowship with Him. Know that He has it all planned out…for GOOD.

Take in everything He teaches you and let Him examine your heart and clean up the broken places and restore them from the ashes.

And lastly, know it is not by anything we do that we can come full circle. Only God in all of it, only His Spirit alone can work the things in our lives and put back in order.

If we try to help Him, we will may find ourselves taking a different course.

The journey will not be easy, but I promise you, it will be worth it.

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. …

(James 1:1, The Message) 

Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.       (James 1:12, The Message)

LSOF: Where Grace Found Me

There has been lots of conversation lately about evangelicals leaving the church, and those who stay…but instead of talking about “ THOSE” who do have done this, I am going to share a little of my story and how I have come to the church I have now, and the walk of faith I have now…To the place Grace found me.

I’ve done a lot of leaving and a lot of staying too in the past churches I’ve been part of….

I was raised Catholic, and though I did appreciate some of the traditions such as the white dresses for communion and confirmation, and the stories I read that I found in the giftshop of “ Saint Joan…
it just wasn’t a place I called home. I never knew anyone who went there either, except before confirmation I had a few people from middle school there with me….but no relationship was truly ever made, and nothing kept me going…

When I was in high school, I really had no desire for church, and not much of a respect for God either, but I think that is normal as a teen. The thoughts I have were constant wonders of my adequacy to the rest of the kids around me…I was in Drama and writing deep, and sometimes dark poetry in English.
Church was furthest from my mind…but then I needed to find something for on the job training elective, and my mom found a church in the pennysaver needing an infant caregiver.
I was not thrilled at the opportunity, but I went for the interview, and I got the position.
Eventually, I became part of the church, because there was something MORE there and I wanted to figure out what that was…

Later in the years I was part of that church I did a lot of going and coming, and I was welcomed back each time, but one of the times I left…I almost did not come back.

I have always loved the Bible, and I wanted so much to have indepth study, not just small groups, I wanted to really get down to the nitty gritty of it, I wanted to learn Greek and Hebrew translation, I wanted to learn the history…..and because I had this craving…it got me into trouble, and I ended up in throws of false teaching. To make that long story short, I will simply say false teachers will manipulate you, will make you feel like you are 1.5 feet tall, will alienate you from everyone you love, will control your mindset and everything you believe…will make you feel like you are not worth being loved by God.
I ended up losing my job due to this religion but it moved me back to my old church…

I was comfortable after that, because of what I had gone through I just thought it would be best to just take in whatever I was being taught, and to just force myself to have relationship with people, and to put on the happy face…But that could only go on for so long. Without going through the story of all of it, I will just say there was a situation that happened that finally forced me to leave for good, and this was under advice of my pastors wife that had moved to another city.

I moved to a place closer to my job, I did the church hopping thing too, I wasn’t happy that I couldn’t go back to my old church, but knew it was not safe for me under the circumstances.
I tried three different churches, and the one I thought I would not have ever walked into again, became the church I go to now. I judged them the first time I walked in. There was a man on stage that spoke broken English and no one had bibles open…but I made the mistake of writing out a prayer request and my phone number on a visitor card…and I was called to meet the pastor and his wife…
My most memorable words from my pastor’s wife were, “ Honey, that was a visitor, believe me, you will not meet a man that knows the bible better than my husband does. I suggest you give it another try.”
And I did.

And I grew to have such a love for this church, and the people there. I got to be part of choir, and had responsibilities in the office, and worked with the youth…but it was about a year ago or so when I stepped away from all of it. Sometimes the only way you know God loves you is through His discipline, and in this time though I wanted to so much continue all I was doing at the church, I had to be obedient and know God needed me to just listen and submit to His authority.

A real church will support not what you want, but what God is speaking to your heart to do.

A real church will tell you that you need to stop and pray and seek God on your decision, A real church will notice that there is an issue that you need to be concerned with and go before the Lord about it,
A real church will not just help you to heal from the past, but to be restored.

I did have a few times where I wanted to “Go,” because I dropped everything that was keeping me there, if I wasn’t in choir, working with youth or working in office…why would I need to go?

But there is something more that happened in all of this, and that was I found my real reason for going to church in the first place. I found the reason I go is because I love Jesus, and I want to learn everything I can about the Word. I wanted to learn to the deep , that “ the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)

And you know what happened when I took my focus for going to church for being more than the people I saw every Sunday, for being more than the songs we sang, for being more than the message given by pastor… I left behind me the past pain from the false teachers, I left all those times I felt that I didn’t, ” fit in,”, I left all those times where people told me, ” I wasn’t spiritual enough to do this or do that,” I left those thoughts of being rejected, and focused on God alone…and I started to have a deeper love for people then I ever have in my life. God’s discipline really does show us how much He loves us. He needs us to see that we are nothing without Him, not so it will discourage us, but so that it will encourage us.

Encourage us to know we don’t have to do this life on our own, and it is much safer if we give him the steering wheel.

I know I don’t have a ” Perfect,” church, none of us do,  but I do have a Perfect God, and because of that, I know my church and I will continue to fall for a deeper relationship with God, and will continue to share and reach out to others His love as well as we all know how…as well as we know His love.

He has this master plan behind the scenes at each moment, and He desires a relationship with us that goes further than any relationship we can have with people on this earth…He pursues us, He will pull us out of the pit, and He will heal us so deep that the wound becomes a beautiful memory of His goodness, instead of a past to look back on with shame.

“ My sins are gone, I’ve been set free, My God my Savior has ransomed me, and like a flood, His mercy reigns, amazing love, Amazing Grace.”

 

LSOF: Familiar and Unfamiliar Places

The familiar and unfamiliar paths…

I was at a conference a month ago. I was blessed to have had this particular speaker come to my area, and I was happy that my mother was able to attend with me. It was an overall good time, but the second day hit very hard to my soul.

The second day, I remember fumbling through a good few thousand people to get back to my seat.

I stopped and saw the speaker for a moment, because she had stopped in front of me to embrace a sweet old lady and the lady with her. After they walked away, and the speaker went back to their seat, I walked by and stopped, because I knew this person knew me and I believed the Lord had made the meeting in front of me happen. This person came over to me, and hugged me and then she looked into my eyes and said very directly, “ Make sure you get a Word today.” and walking away I felt I was in for it.

Interesting enough, while the message the speaker gave while it was amazing…the deepest message for me came during a praise and worship song, that had no lyrics to what was spoken to my heart.

“ The familiar places have been covered with grace, and I now lead you through the unfamiliar.”

I stood there, and just felt the tears pour down my cheeks, and my entire body was shivering…I knew where that Word came from…

I opened up to Isaiah 42:16…

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them..”

Up to that point, I had read that verse seeing “ unfamiliar” as a place of testing, and a place that was just unbearable, a place of torment…but God showed me something huge at that moment, and I walked out of the conference that day with a real Word.

The “familiar” places are those things that we can only see directly in front of us, that are close enough to our reach, what we are able to control or manipulate to go our way, and the expectations we have for ourselves and others based on what WE THINK.

The “ Unfamiliar” we see the bigger picture, they are places that would help us to see the realization of what Phil 1:6 is about, “ That HE will bring it all to completion, but we have to trust Him to know we are a work in progress, and that He won’t leave us in a stagnant place without making it really uncomfortable so we leave it. This is a place of learning to let go, because He pulls us away to what was “familiar,” and teaching us to trust Him even when we believe He has not kept His Word. We lose expectations for ourselves and others because we come to realize it is based on WHAT GOD THINKS, AND HIS PLAN.

I had learned somewhere recently about how Eagles teach their young to fly, and it was quite interesting, and not very different to how the Lord is with us.

The eagles start to make the nest an unbearable place to live, jagged edges of twigs instead of soft hay underneath the the little young bodies of the baby eagles. The eagle also when it feels it is time for the baby bird to fly will push its young out of the nest. The eagle will watch her young try to fly, and just before it hits the ground it will swoop down and rescue them. The same process happens until they learn to fly.

The familiar place provides comfort , and it provides a place of where we can hide from the things God calls us to do, and little by little God pulls it away, whether it be a relationship or something we love to do.

He makes it so we don’t want to stay in that place anymore.

I remember the movie, “ What Dreams May Come,” and how the wife was in hell, and her husband went to rescue her. Her vision around her was so distorted, she thought she had a beautiful home around her, and she thought even her garden looked nice and kept. She did not feel the hailing of the cold wind piercing through the darkness, or the falling rocks from the foundation slowly slipping away.

I think it is safe to say that eventually if God did not come to deliver us, we would have a very similar view of the life around us. We would be caught up in all sorts of things. But He loves us enough to walk us out of it, and into something beautiful.

I wish I could say that the “unfamiliar” places are easier to walk in, but they really are not. But what they are is REAL…what they are is a place you know God set your feet, it is a place of repair of brokenness, and restoration. A deep healing from things we never even realized were part of us.

It’s a place of real separation from our old life, and thought patterns…to a life of fresh revelation and meaning, and purpose.

Our every sense even changes. We see through different eyes than before, and what we didn’t pay attention to before suddenly shines bright in our sight, we think differently or what is called “ Kingdom thought,” setting thoughts to things above and learning to cast out of thoughts what tries to hurt instead of help, we speak differently…The tongue is powerful, but in the “unfamiliar” there is forgiveness for those things spoken over us, and those we have spoken too…and even touch is different. I have found myself grabbing onto peoples arms when I speak to them instead of standing 3 ft away,….

It’s amazing how much can change when we live by faith and step out of what has been so comfortable.

There are days where its not always so easy to take a breath and move forward, but I’d rather have God in control of my life and my growth than ever letting myself or anyone else have that control.

So I look ahead where my footprints have not yet imprinted in the sand and trust that God will not let me fall through.

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,
    along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
I will turn the darkness into light before them
    and make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do;
    I will not forsake them.

(Isaiah 42:16)