Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Moving in the Direction of my Dreams

I have an amazing pastor.

Let me say it again. I have an amazing pastor.

Not only does he encourage me personally, he encourages our entire congregation to be better and grow more. I call him a 'fixer' ... because that seems to be the way he approaches things that are broken (exhibit 1: Me).

I have an amazing pastor.

Recently, I sent him what I would consider a sort-of-erratic, just short of an emotional breakdown email. I NEEDED a perspective, and I NEEDED Godly he clearly was my first choice. Despite the fact that he has had a very busy month; despite the fact that he needs to rest;  despite the fact that I am not the ONLY person in our congregation that needs him... he still answered AND with the perfect answer.

You see, my question to him was a question I am assuming all of us have had at one point or another. I confirmed this fact with a few friends who have said that they have wondered the same thing... My question was this:

How do you know if  [insert issue here] is God's will OR if it is the enemy trying to veer you off the path that God wants you to walk on?

Well, truthfully, I didn't say it as succinct as that, but that was the gist of it...

Exhibit 1 (me, remember?) assumed (and unfairly so) that the answer would be the obvious answer. I am ashamed to say that I expected the answer to simply be "if you pray and get a peace in your heart, then it is in His will. If you pray and feel any sort of discomfort in your heart, you may want to keep praying." Isn't that what you thought? Or perhaps isn't that what you've been told? While I absolutely believe in the infinite and divine power of prayer, I wanted - no I NEEDED - an answer that was more substantive...more relatable...more concrete.

As I mentioned before, I have an amazing pastor. He delivered. In less than 50 words (remember, he's a 'fixer'...they tend to speak in action, not words) he spoke truth to me that seared the cracks in my heart and helped to slow the hurt that was pouring out. With tears in my eyes and a grateful spirit, I realized that his answer was exactly what my weary soul needed.

And what did he say exactly? Let me share it with you. My prayer is that it will help seal the cracks in your heart as it did mine.

Among other things, my amazing pastor said this:

In order to be sure you are walking in God's will, you have to look at three things: 1. Inner conviction 2. Outward circumstances and 3. The word of God

Well. With regard to number 1 on this list, I have been struggling with a particular topic for about 6 months now. It's a daily struggle with what my heart wants to do and what I believe God wants me to do and what I HAVE to do. I have been toying with an idea that will release me from this struggle, but haven't had the courage to move forward with it...which leads me to number 2. My outward circumstances regarding my interaction and satisfaction with this struggle have greatly declined - coincidentally in these same 6 months... or perhaps not coincidentally? I haven't made that connection until now...

And the word of God... ohhh the word of God. How I've been pouring through the tear stained and tattered pages, feeling as though I've lost something that I am desperately trying to find. My fingers, and I suppose my unconscious mind, often land me in Isaiah...a book that was written by a prophet. A book that I revel in because it fills me with hope. And this - a small piece of scripture that represents more than any words I could ever pen (or type!) to a page:

"10 As the rain and the snow
   come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
   without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
   so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
   It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
   and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
12 You will go out in joy
   and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
   will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
   will clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thorn bush will grow the juniper,
   and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the LORD’s renown,
   for an everlasting sign,
   that will endure forever.” Isaiah 55:10-13

Between my inner conviction, my outward circumstances, and the word of God, I feel confident in my decision to move in the direction of my dreams. While I refuse to be unreasonable and unrealistic, I also refuse to be moved from the path set before me. I know it will be something that will require a lot of prayer and a lot of trust in God, but I believe with ALL of my heart, that the direction of my dreams is also the direction of His will.

Friends, I encourage you to to apply the same principles if you wonder if what you need to do is within God's will or if it is an attack by the enemy. It freed me from the burden I carried in trying to figure it out on my own. My hope is that it can free you too.

You see, I have an amazing pastor, and without him (and HIM!) I wouldn't be as clear as I am today.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Reconnect the Disconnect

"Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us into pieces, but He will heal us." Hosea 6:1

To be honest, I have been feeling a bit disconnected lately. Not from specific people, but from most everyone and everything. At times it feels like my prayers are just bouncing off the clouds, ricocheting right back down like a lightening bolt to my heart - despite the fact that my prayers are thunderous in sound and span many miles in width. Lately, I repeatedly hear God's quiet voice whisper something I don't quite understand ... and the clouds that were clearing in my heart suddenly gather and produce monsoon-like rain; leaving me with knees to the muddy earth and arms stretched out to catch the last shattered pieces.

I say go. He says stop. I say run. He says be still. I say hear me. He says listen. I say now. He says later. I beg please. He says pray. I implore. He is silent. I surrender. He swoops in. I am safe.

I have concluded that God will put obstacles in your life that cause frustration, anger or hurt...and He does this so we can realize that the path we are on is the wrong one. It forces us to re-examine ourselves and rely on Him to get on the right path.
I find comfort in the fact that when I step out and do what I think is right, He is still there: "Nevertheless, I am continuously with thee" Psalm 73:23. I fail. Daily. I rush ahead of Him. Daily. I step out of His will. Daily. I am grateful that His mercies are new every morning because without that, I would surely have no hope.

These past few months have been a challenge. I fight a daily struggle between what I am doing and what I SHOULD be doing. What I am finding is that discord is more prevalent than peace in what used to be a big positive in my life. What I am finding is that I am less and less satisfied with the temporary trappings of this world, and desiring more and more of the things I cannot see. I feel as though the world is flying by me at the speed of light, but yet, I can't seem to grab the arm of anyone rushing by to ask them where I am or where I'm going. I can't look ahead or aside of me because it makes me dizzy. I can only look up.

In a season like I'm in - a season of uncertainty of direction, a season of possibilities, a season of mistrust, disgust and frustration, I can only look up. God has put me here - not as punishment - but as a gentle reminder that I can ONLY do ALL things through Him. Not on my own, but through Him. He directs my steps. My prayer has been to put me in a place where His light can shine through me - where the gifts He has blessed me with can illuminate even the darkest places. I'm waiting. It's coming. I'm ready. It's taking too long.

For my dear friends who are also in a season, I say "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God" II Corinthians 1:3-4. When we hide, deny, or ignore our hurt or pain,we are denying the possibility of God comforting us. He wants to directly comfort us in our affliction - He wants us to look UP. Not away. Not at our bank accounts or who has what. Up. He also wants us to receive this comfort, be blessed by it, and bless others with it. Bless them with words and simple conversation. Bless them with the love of Jesus. Bless them by your example of grace and trust.

Disconnected. The word is "disconnected" in feeling if that makes sense to you. Sometimes I just want to yell STOP or WAIT because I have no idea about what is around me. Sometimes I just want to go ahead and do what I want to do and not care about what He wants me to do. Sometimes I look to the side of me and then to the other side, and then down the road and over 'there' (wherever that is) and think that it is, for sure, better. The side, down, or over there may in fact BE better...but should we be worried about being better...or should we be worried about being on the path that God created for us before we were knit together in our mother's womb? Being on that path isn't always 'better'...but it is always right.

My prayer today is that for those of you who feel like I do, that you join me in praying that the veil over our lives be lifted. Jesus tore the veil FOR us, yet, we seem to always hide behind it. Jesus is the answer. Jesus shed his blood so we wouldn't HAVE to feel disconnected or shrouded in despair. While we don't choose to feel the way we do, we have to remember even in the thunderous rain that stings like thorns, it was Jesus who wore the crown of thorns so we could even have a life full of options and faith in what's to come. And as disconnected as I feel, I choose to believe that Jesus' hand is in all of it and I trust that He will direct my path. All I need to do step away from myself and step forward into His arms.

With my voice I cry out to the Lord; with my voice I plead for mercy to the Lord. I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him. When my spirit faints within me, you know my way! Look to the right and see: there is none who takes notice of me; no refuge remains to me; no one cares for my soul. I cry to you, O Lord; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.”
Psalm 142:1-5

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Thank You For Being A Friend

Hi friends.

I'm writing with nothing in mind today. My mind is too full to speak on any one specific thing. My hope is that by writing a little of this and a little of that, I will be able to start forming coherent, deep, and full thought... sort of like bleeding the brakes on a car (can you tell I'm married to a mechanic?)

Let's see... where to begin. Somewhere and see where it goes, you say? Ok.

The other day, I was laughing and the sound of it caught me off guard. I laugh often...but for some reason, this laughter sound different - more true, more real, more genuine. Not that I fake laugh, BUT, sometimes you laugh from the orders of your brain. Other times, such as happened the other day, you laugh from the orders of your heart. Apparently, I've been using my brain too much when it comes to laughter because the sound of it sort of surprised me. I know I can't be the only one that has noticed this before...I wondered who was laughing - and then I realized it was me. Again - I laugh often, but sometimes it just comes from a different place.

Speaking of coming from a different place...let's talk friendship, shall we?

I find that I have a few good friends. I know there are at least three people that I could call and at the drop of a hat, those three people would support me, love me, help me, guide me, talk me down, and celebrate with me. It is sincere, genuine, and easy to be with them. Nothing is forced. Boundaries are nonexistent because it is hard to say when one ends and the other begins. I am SO grateful for my friends like this. I try to tell them as often as I can, but I'm afraid it's not often enough. They talk me down from myself, they buy me gifts just because, they take the time to celebrate with me, and they ask me how I'm doing - and take the opportunity to look in my eyes into my heart to see if I'm being truthful in my answer. These friends will never be 'seasonal' ..

BUT what about those seasonal friends?

It's a topic on my heart lately. Everyone's got em'. Those friends that float in and out of our lives 'for a season' and only after they are gone we realize WHY they were put there in the first place. For me, if a friend is going to be seasonal, I'd rather not, thankyouverymuch. Know why? Cause seasonal friends hurt. Seasonal friends celebrate with you if you are celebrating but never are the first ones to throw streamers. Seasonal friends ask how you're doing, and try to look in your eyes to see your heart, but the mirror in their eyes seems to reflect the wall that is always up. Seasonal friends have boundaries and it is easy to tell when one ends and the other begins. While I enjoy the seasons of the year, I do not enjoy how quickly they pass. It's the same with seasonal friendships. Seasonal friendships hurt even if they start out with good intentions.

So what does this all mean?

If you meet someone worth of being called 'friend,' then you should love them as wide and as deep and as openly as you can. Friendships are not to be taken lightly. Friendships are not one way. Friendships are the thread that God uses to stitch love, laughter, hope, and trust into the fabric of our heart. If I call you friend, then this is what I believe. If you call me friend, you already knew everything in this post.

Love & Light