Who Me? God has to be kidding…

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The Lord has a very weird sense of humor, when it comes to the ways He chooses to work through my life.  I also find that when I am at church and our Pastor issues some sort of a challenge…

… inevitably I am about to be moved out of my comfort zone.

The interesting thing to me, is that the more I look at what He is doing the more I realize that it is not something He was suddenly doing in my life.  Instead, the Lord was preparing for me it long before I even knew what IT was going to be.

But, I’m jumping ahead of myself.  Let’s start here….

My Pastor began a series called “If I Wasn’t Afraid” (you can watch each of the messages on vimeo from the link above).

In the course of the series, we were challenged to “Be Brave, Don’t Cave”and:

  1. Accomplish a personal adventure.
  2. Have a God honoring and needed conversation.
  3. Take a step (or leap) toward a God honoring commitment.
  4. Make a God honoring contribution.

Those who know me would hardly consider me as someone who is afraid.  For the most part, I’m not.  As you get to know me though you’ll realize there are many things I can do… there are many situations I’m bold in… there really isn’t a conversation that I won’t have.  I’m not afraid to share my opinions, to try new things, and to even have difficult conversations.

I am, however, terrified when it comes to talking about my personal life.  I can share about how I struggle in my walk as a Christian.  I can share my parenting difficulties and whatnot.  Yet, there is a line.  When we get too close to talking about it… I get uncomfortable.  I’ll change the subject.  I’ll make a joke.  I’ll find an excuse to duck out of the room.

This would be the exact subject that God would call me to conquer in the challenge our Pastor issued.  You see, this will be a personal adventure for me.  I’m about to enter a world that I am terrified of… that one area that has been off limits.  It is going to require me to have a God honoring conversation with myself, my husband, and with women just like me.  It is going to take a commitment to see this through to the end, no matter how many times I want to run and hide.  And, it is going to be a contribution that will hopefully help other women.

By now, I am sure you are all waiting with bated breath for the big reveal….

Ya’ll the Lord has called ME of all people to talk about S… E… X…

Sweet cheese and crackers.

So this week, I’m going to be reading the Song of Songs (aka Song of Solomon).  I can’t lie… this is the only book of the Bible I have avoided.  However if I am going to stand before anyone and claim the authority of the Word of God… that all parts of it are God breathed for instruction and correction… it must include Song of Songs.

All of it… every word… is important.  Whether I ever wanted to admit it or not, God cares about our sex life.  It is no wonder we live in a world of sexual brokenness… when we are afraid to talk about it’s holiness.

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At the beginning of this post I shared that I realized the Lord had been preparing me for this long before my Pastor issued the challenge.  Did you know that the Lord does this quite often.  In the book of Nehemiah, there was a lot of preparation going on between the time the Lord burdened Nehemiah’s heart and when the Lord actually said “GO”…

For me, this process started two years ago when a book called “Pulling Back the Shades” came across my lap.  It was a simple book review, that would have profound impact on me.  A book that would cast off some scales and force me to take a hard strong look at my own past and beliefs about sexuality.  That review would lead to me becoming a part of a launch team to promote the book as the 50 Shades movie was about to release.  Thus, establishing a relationship with @AuthenticIntimacy that would lead me to volunteering for a women’s conference, launch teams for two more books (25 Questions You’re Afraid to Ask About Sex, Surprised by the Healer), another live event, and then a leaders training.  It would put me in touch with a network of women who have become amazing friends, and sisters in the battle to take back this ground.

I would find myself sharing with women things I never imaged I would share with another human being.  Then, the Lord pushing me out of my comfort zone, to the point that I would be leading a study on sex in marriage… IN MY CHURCH.  Having candid conversations with women in my church about how important this is (and how broken I am) and quite possibly the most awkward email I have ever sent to a Pastor… IN MY LIFE.  Why?   Because, my Pastor recognizes how important this subject is.  For our church.  For our community.

I am afraid, terrified of this subject.  I know that in short order this last hidden part of myself is about to become absolutely transparent to the women who attend the study.  The Lord has a lot to say about being afraid too.

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Isaiah 41:10

It is ok that I am afraid, that I am scared, that I am even terrified.  This means that I am going to be leaning and relying on the Lord more than ever.  Please pray for me, and the women who are going to be walking this journey with me.  Lord, bring healing. Redeem the broken.  Heal marriages.  Amen.

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Praying the Bible – Changing My Prayers (part 2)

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I believe I have known for quite some time that my prayer life wasn’t living up to all it could be, or should be.  However, I was entirely uncertain of how to change that.  None the less, I was unsatisfied with my prayer life.  I knew it could be better, and I wanted to make that change.  The book, Praying the Bible, was exactly what I needed to facilitate that change.  It pointed me in the right direction, even giving practical examples to ensure that I understood the intentions & purpose of what I was doing.

I finished the book at the very end of September, and it was time to make two important decisions.

  1.  I was going to challenge myself to follow the concepts of the book for one month.  I was ready to put what I read to the test.
  2. I needed to break the habit of praying the same prayers, which also meant that I couldn’t allow myself to pray the same old prayers in a brand new way.  So, I challenged myself that for the entire month of October, I was not going to pray for anything for myself.  This didn’t include things like my children getting sick.  It did however include the things I typical pray (aka worry) about… finances, for example.

Starting on October 1st, I began praying the scriptures.  Since so many people have recommended praying the Psalms, I decided to start there.  I would pray 1 Psalm a day (the book recommended more than that, but I’m just starting out in this process).  I also decided that I was going to write down my prayers & keep track of how they were answered.  I wanted to be able to reflect upon my prayers to see how they transformed from the same old, same old, into something beautifully new.

It turned out to be an interesting journey.

First, I was shocked at how absolutely relevant every single Psalm was to whatever situation I was dealing with at the time.  I found myself convicted over my own behaviors, recognizing areas where I need to confess and seek forgiveness.  I began to have new insights into situations and seeing them from a perspective outside of my own wants and desires, and instead more clearly and with God-perspective.  Sometimes the Psalm was relevant to something I read in the news that day, about the world…. or even a situation a friend was going through.

Second, I was amazed at how my prayers were changing in content.  I was praying for the world (which I have done before), but in more specific ways.  I was praying for relationships, people, and situations that were NOT part of my normal prayer list.  My horizons were expanding, my view was broadening, and my petitions were a lot less centered around what I wanted, and gaining more and more about what God would want to happen.  These prayers were not always long and drawn out petitions, either.

Third, because I was not praying for myself, I had clued a few people into what I was doing.  I asked them to pray on my behalf.  Not for specific things, I wasn’t emailing or texting a list of things each day.  I just wanted general prayer, if they thought of me.  For the first time in a long time, I was truly dependent on intercessory prayer on my behalf.  I was letting go of self, more and more each day.

Fourth, during the month of October, God gave me opportunity to pray for others.  It wasn’t just the people who came to mind while I was reading the Psalm for that day.  I was getting personal, direct, requests to pray with someone over specific things they were dealing with.  These were not my core group of friends whom which we often pray for each other.  These were new people, or people whom I didn’t share that type of relationship with in the past.  This was truly humbling, that they would seek me out and a blessing to be able to pray for someone else.

Finally, when the month was over, I reflected on something else I noticed.  You see, just because I stopped purposefully praying for myself and praying for others didn’t mean that my month went trouble free.  There were definitely a few moments were I almost prayed for myself, because I was struggling with something or uncertainty.    There were definitely areas where I wanted a God sized intervention, clarity, or a solution to a blunder that I made.  Even though I didn’t speak them, or write them down, there was not one situation where God didn’t answer that unspoken prayer.

What I truly believe is that in order to make this challenge a success, I had to turn everything for my own personal self over to God.  I was saying:

Lord, I’m trusting your Word that you will care for me, provide for me, and guide me.  I believe that you have my best interest at heart, and so I am going to leave all of these things up to your will.  Instead, I am going to spend my time praying as you would have me pray.  I am going to pray for the things that concern you.  I am going to pray for the people whom you love.  I am going to pray for the situations where the world needs You. 

And, that is exactly what I did.  I didn’t worry, nor was I anxious.  I trust that God had things under control.  Instead of focusing on my wants, I focused on God’s.

(Matt 6:25-34, Phil. 4:6-7, Luke 12:24-34)

There is a piece of scripture that reads:  “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. (John 14:13-14)

Something I have been camped out on, quite a bit, recently is exactly what does that mean to “ask in Jesus’ name”.  Does it mean that we can petition God for anything we want, and by sticking Jesus’ name on the end of it there is instant approval?  Or, does it mean that we will be so transformed by the life changing power of Jesus Christ, that we will change what we are asking for to reflect His will over our own?

It is the difference between walking up to God and saying:

“Hey God, give me a brand new car because mine is broken.  Jesus said just to drop his name, and you’ll make it happen.   Please, and thank you.”

and saying:

“Hey God, Jesus sent me.  There are things He needs me to do, can your provide the means.”

If we wonder why our prayers not being answered, I would challenge any of us to examine what we are praying for, and how we are praying for it.  If we are truly changed by Christ, our desires become His desires.  When I began to actually pray the Bible, I noticed a significant change in what I was praying for, and how I was praying it.

The month of October is over, and I have decided to continue on Praying the Bible.  I am going to finish out Psalms, then I will begin the process over starting in Genesis.  With so many books, chapters, and verses… I think it will be a long time before I find myself repeating the same prayers over, and over again.

I will not be continuing the challenge to NOT pray for myself, as I do believe there are times we need to be praying (on our knees) over our own conviction, discernment, etc.  I do believe though how I pray for myself, and the things I will be praying over will be radically different.

If you are finding yourself in that same rut… praying the same old prayers on repeat,  grab this book.  It will change your prayer perspective in the best way possible.

#Write31Days – Post 11 – Waiting on the Lord

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A little bit of truth here, I am NOT the world’s most patient person.  I really hate to wait for anything.  It’s not from a space of instant gratification either, it is actually everything else.  I don’t like to wait because I feel like time is being wasted.  There are other things I could be doing in that time, that are important and need to be accomplished.  Or,  on the other side of the coin, I don’t want to waste another minute not doing the thing I have been called to do.

When my daughter went to the DMV to get her learners permit, it was tortuous.  I couldn’t help but think of the hundreds of things I could be doing instead of sitting.  Just sitting.  Her number gets called, but it is just to prepare her paperwork.  Then we have to sit again.  Then she takes the written exam, and we have to sit again.  She is then called back up for the eye exam, to answer a few questions for her license and take her photo.  We sit again, waiting for the license to be printed.

SO. MUCH. WAITING.

There have been times that I could see where God was moving me, long before I actually got there.  Waiting would be so hard, because I knew that we were just wasting time.  If I could get there NOW, so much more could be accomplished.

GOD SAYS WAIT.

But, waiting is hard.  Ask any three year old who is waiting on mom to get off the phone and fix the thing that she broke for the hundredth time that day.

WAITING IS HARD.

Our world of increased technology has created in us a spirit that we shouldn’t have to wait, not for long anyway.  We have information available to us at the touch of a button.  An oil change on our car can be done during our lunch break.  Meals are ready and waiting at drive through windows.  We do not have to suffer through life due to infertility we can adopt, we can have medical interventions, and surrogate mothers.  Anything we need, we can just go right out and buy.  We no longer have to wait for things to be constructed or manufactured.  Thanks to flight, I can leave my home and go anywhere in the world in a day’s time.

All of this progress has made waiting all that much harder.

But the Lord, He waits.  Bible account, after Bible account…. He waits.

He waits long enough for Noah to build an Ark.  Israel wanders the desert for forty years while He prepares a place. He waits for Lot to flee. Nehemiah waits four months while God makes provisions for the task ahead.  Even after Christ is crucified, the Lord waited three days for him to rise.

We have all heard and said the cliched response of “In the Lord’s timing….”.  We know the scriptures say that His ways are not our ways.  So we know in our minds that His timing is not our timing…. but the flesh doesn’t like that answer.  Waiting is hard.

This is where we begin to make our biggest mistakes.

As a wife, I may have come to a decision about something I feel God is calling us to.  My husband doesn’t agree.  I rush him to a decision in my favor by manipulating him, as I walk through the home depressed and crying.  I withhold affection from him, yell and demean him, make him feel guilty.

As a ministry worker, I see the direction that God is leading our ministry.  However the things we need to get there are slow in coming.  I take it upon myself to make things move faster.  I work in my own strength and ability.

I feel called to move to another state, but I don’t know the rhyme or reason, I sell everything and pack the family up, and we move.  I have no clue why, or what for.  I am following blindly.

The thing we have to understand is that when it is something God has willed for us, we must be patient and allow him to unfold it in HIS timing, not our own.

When we rush God, we will often shortchange our blessing.   God had a bigger picture in store, but because we were foolish and couldn’t wait… we get something smaller.  The reason this happens is that we are incapable of seeing or knowing all of the things that God is moving around in the background.

In every piece of scripture God’s people waited because God was doing something.  God was giving Noah the time he needed to construct the Ark.  God was PREPARING a place for Israel to call home.  God was PROVIDING the necessities Nehemiah would need for his task.  God was CHANGING the hearts of men.  God was PROTECTING his children.

God goes before us, and he comes behind.

As we sit and wait, we feel like God is doing nothing… but in reality GOD IS DOING EVERYTHING.  Everything that is necessary to get your from point A to point B.  He isn’t being still, ignoring your prayers, nor has he forgotten the calling He put on your heart.  He is making the arrangements for it to happen.  He will move people into place that you will need to learn from or will assist you.  He is making sure the financial provisions are met, or the supplies are provided.  If you are to fill a vacancy, he must first make it vacant and move that person to their new calling.

The good news is that waiting on the Lord is never a waste of time.  There are many things we can be doing, actively, while we wait.  I look at “waiting on the Lord” in the same way as a waitress will serve a customer.  A good waitress (servant) doesn’t just seat her patron (God) and never return to the table.  NO!  She welcomes the patron to her table (life).  She may compliment (praise) him.  She will offer to get a drink while he is making his decision (service, offering).  She will take his order (receive his calling).  She will check in with him to ensure everything is to his liking (prayer life).  She will present His bill & He will pay that price (Christ).  She invites him to come back (willing to continue to serve).

In the time that it takes a customer to place an order the waitress is never WAITING, just wasting time sitting around.  In fact, while He is considering the menu… what is she doing?  Rushing around and serving other people.  No time is wasted.  Her waiting is not passive, but very VERY active.

When God told Noah that He was going to flood the earth, Noah was given the time to construct the Ark. Noah was actively working while God was preparing.  When Moses wandered the desert with Israel, Moses  was actively ordering the nation’s laws, societal structure, and people.   When God called Nehemiah to return to rebuild Jerusalem, there were four months between when God planted the seed and when God called Nehemiah to move.  In the four months, Nehemiah was praying while God was putting things into order.

These men were not sitting under a tree, like lumps, waiting for God to deliver them to their calling on a silver platter.  NO.  They were working, they were building, they were shaping, they were serving and they were praying.

If you are waiting on God,  it is time to get to action.  This doesn’t mean moving mountains to make Him move faster in your desires.  It means that while you are waiting on God to answer your prayers or his provision… you are:

Serving God in the ministries of your church or in your community.

Serving God’s people through hospitality, generosity, use of your gifts and talents.

Praying, faithfully, every day.  Not just for yourself, but for others.

Praise God as you reflect and share with others how He has moved in your life in the past.

Pray for discernment that God will direct your paths for today, and you will not worry about the days to come.

WHEN FACEBOOK WINS

I can’t even qualify today as “one of those days”.  It really stunk.  From the moment I woke up, it wasn’t going to be my best day ever.  Regardless of what type of mindset I was trying to get myself in.  And it grew more difficult as the day progressed.  In fact, I sit here at the end of my day with eyes red and sore from crying.  Not recent crying, but that all day long crying.

This isn’t a bout of depression, or the deliverance of some horrific news.  It’s a response due cumulative events, that overwhelmed my heart, mind and soul.

It felt like the only time I wasn’t crying this evening, was in that moment I fell asleep because crying had exhausted me.

Then, as I sat down to eat some marshmallows, with some sort of notion that would make me feel better, I decided to peruse Facebook.  And, Facebook … for all the complaints that can be said about it… today, it won.

Because, all things can be used for the glory of God.

It started when I saw this:

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And then this:

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And it just kept coming:

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The timing couldn’t have been more divinely appointed.  They were the reminders I needed, the things I needed to hear.

Reminding me:

  • I am not alone, in having bad days.  Someone wrote these, because they too had a bad day.
  • I am not alone, on my bad days.  Friends, family and GOD are always with me.  Just a phone call or a silent prayer away.
  • God’s promises are a part of my good days and bad days, I can rely on Him, He is my peace.
  • I may not be able to control things, but God can.  I just have to trust.
  • I may not understand the why, but I can understand the WHO that will help me through it.

God sees our tears.  He hears our cries.  His heart breaks, when our heart breaks.  He knows what is happening.  He will go before us, and follow behind.  For my God provides for the sparrows of the fields, and I am far more valuable than they.