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Sunday, November 18, 2012

He Has a Plan for You

After a hard conversation with a friend who is going through a big valley, and listening to a worship song this morning at church, came these thoughts.

A line from the song is, "I have a plan, I have a plan, for you."  I believe that God's ultimate plan for our lives is to bring us to Himself.  It's not about what we will do for God, or what we will accomplish for Him in this life--those aren't "the plans" He has for us--it will be an awesome byproduct, but not the original plan.  His plans for us are to be with Him fully and completely; for ALL of us to be with ALL of Him.

Now, we won't fully accomplish this until we are out of our fleshly bodies, but we can move towards this goal now. 

As we keep going through life's hard challenges, struggles, and pain, He uses these things to try to bring us to Him fully; desiring us to surrender everything: every wall, every mask, every thought, every emotion, every desire, every dream, every circumstance, our entire heart.  When He fully has ALL of us we see MORE and MORE of Him, and in this we become fully alive, filled with His glory, aware of His grace and mercy, changed by his love, and surrounded by His wonderful fragrance.  THESE are the plans He has for us.

Now imagine going in to the world from this place!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Familiar Storm

Current Situation

In 2004 my husband had a back surgery that consisted of a total disc replacement.  His L5/S1 disc had ruptured.  They took out this disc and replaced it with a prosthetic disc.  As of almost 2 weeks ago his L4/L5 disc (the one right above his prosthetic disc) has also ruptured.  This means a lot of pain and numbness in his legs and feet.  His surgeon's office wants to try and manage the pain for the next few years because there are some new medical technologies on the horizon that he would be a great candidate for.

History

In March of 2001, my husband Matt suffered a terrible back injury.  Only a year and a half in to our marriage, we entered in to a wilderness season that would last 10 years.  In this 10 year period (also dubbed the "fast track maturity plan" by my dad), there was much suffering; physically (obviously), mentally, and emotionally... for both of us.  My suffering came in the form of watching my husband and best friend suffer.  I watched him be in constant pain, trying to manage it with addicting pain medication, that really didn't work.  I watched him struggle with the thoughts that he would no longer be able to do any of the physical activities that he used to, while watching all of his friends continue on with them.  He constantly doubted that others even believed him when talking about his pain. He struggled with no longer being able to work and provide for his family. He felt as is if life was happening and passing him on by.  As his wife, I wanted nothing more than to fix everything!  I wanted to stop his physical pain, to bring truth to the lies, and joy to his heart.  But there was NOTHING I could do... except watch. 

The upside to living in the wilderness is God's faithfulness--well, if we choose to follow His leading through it.  We chose to follow Him.  It was dubbed our "fast track maturity plan" years because following Christ through suffering means you grow.  He uses it so we would draw close to Him.  When we draw close to Him we see, feel, and experience His character in ways that blow our minds.  As we learn who He is more and more we begin to learn who we really are and how He really sees us.  The Lord began healing both of our hearts from abuse, pain, sin, false identities, and much more.  He took down all the walls that we had built up and set us free.  For me personally, He delivered me from anxiety, fear, doubt, and healed my heart from wounds of the past.  He told me and showed me that I am beautiful, strong, intelligent, and good enough.  He showed me that I am worth it-- worth pursuing, worth loving, and that there is nothing that I could do to change how He already feels about me... AND that what He feels about me is sufficient enough.  He taught me how to let go of control and trust Him for my husband.  He taught be how to be the wife that my husband really needed.  Much of the same is true for Matt--just in the ways he needed healing, deliverance and freedom.

The results are good. The process is hard.  The freedom in the end is SO worth it.

Feelings

Like I said, our freedom and transformation are indescribable and I wouldn't change anything!  But it was HARD!  The amount and intensity of my feelings through this process was heavy.  I do not miss it.  I mean, no one wants to relive wilderness experiences.  But that's exactly what this new injury feels like.  When Matt told me the news this past week, I was overwhelmed with the feelings of the past.  Especially with certain trigger words, like "pain management", I was brought back to the emotions of the suffering once experienced.  I feared I would have to watch him suffer all over again.  I feared that he would become addicted to the narcotics again.  I feared having to watch him go through dark seasons and feeling helpless through it.  I feared (and still do) the unknown... not knowing when this is going to change... when there will be a solution... when there will be relief.  It hurts me so much to see him in pain.  I'm scared of reliving the past ALL OVER AGAIN!

Truth

The truth is that we are NOT in that wilderness anymore.  The Lord spoke very clearly last year that we were leaving our 10 year wilderness and entering in to the promise land.  We've been living here for a year now.  This injury is a new experience because we are new people experiencing it in a new place.  We have been TRANSFORMED!  We are NOT the people we used to be.  Yes, we have much to learn and grow in, but we are not who we once were!  Our Father is GOOD!  He is FAITHFUL!  He LOVES us with an everlasting love.  He wraps me in His arms and COMFORTS me to my very core.  He WILL do great things through this like He always does... whether that's through a miraculous healing or a deeper spiritual formation.  Either way, everything works together to bring Him glory.

My Attitude

Clearly there's a huge difference between my feelings and the truth.  So what does this mean?  It means it's time to practice what I preach.  Feelings are not to be ignored, stuffed down, or pushed aside.  Yet, feelings also shouldn't be the guide to our choices because they are not stable or reliable.  Before, I held it all in.  Partly because no one ever asked how I felt, but even if they did I don't know that I would have been able to give them an answer... I had no identity, and therefore no confidence to be vulnerable with my heart.  That is different now.  I know who I am in Christ.  My full confidence lies in who He says that I am.  My full confidence also lies in knowing more of who He is.  So I'm choosing to live this out, transparently, to be able to show all who read this the power and faithfulness of Christ, and how this process of living through hard circumstances can look walking with Christ. I'm sharing my feelings because they are what they are.  I'm choosing to live this out in community and allow others to minister to my heart (not an easy thing for me).  I'm processing my feelings and then laying them at the cross.  I'm dealing with my feelings, but believing the truth.  I'm choosing to spend time in His presence allowing Him to love me more which will chase away the fear and fill me with strength and courage.  I'm holding the hand of Jesus as we walk down this unknown path.  My prayerful attitude is this: "Harbor me in the eye of the storm. I'm holding on to the love that you swore." John Mark McMillan

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Weight of Glory pt. II

My Stone (see previous post):

Important.  It's all I've ever wanted to be.  I believe this is a basic human need, the need to feel valued.  But this is why it was disguised for so long... 

My issue:

I've spent my whole life trying to fit in... somewhere... anywhere.  I wanted so bad to feel like I belonged and that I was important... to people.  That's my issue.  I had (and still have) this basic core need to feel valued and important, but I've spent my whole life trying to get people to fill and validate this.  It has only led me to heart break, which created thicker walls and more masks, which thus created even more heart ache... it was a vicious cycle.  Elementary school was my most difficult time and longest lasting wound that set the foundation.  When I was rejected and completely ignored at my own birthday party, I was silently told that who I was wasn't good enough.  So that was the point at which I began wearing different masks.  All throughout Junior High and High School I put on whatever mask I needed to blend in and belong to whatever group of people I was around.  I did what I thought "they" wanted (whomever "they" were at the time).  I didn't know how to be myself.  My "self" got buried deeper and deeper beneath the many masks I had created.  No one truly knew me.  I didn't even know myself.  This lasted throughout my early twenties.  Finally, the Lord took me on this healing journey.  On this journey He showed me who He really was... who I really was... who He had created me to be. (This is the really short version).

Fast forward to now.  I've gotten a lot better at being myself around people.  The next layer of my healing is when it comes to leading others... not depending on what others think of me as I'm standing in a position of authority.  Having to make decisions and have my own opinion on things knowing that not everyone would agree with me, and that in fact some might actually no longer like me because of it has become my new muscle to exercise.  Standing up ALONE (as in with only God and not people) is a muscle that was atrophied that Jesus is strengthening through His own physical therapy.  During one of these painful exercises (I'll spare you the story to keep this short) I had an epiphany.  God's purpose for me my whole life was to stand out... to be a leader.  This makes so much sense as to why all my efforts to blend in with the crowd has always ended in disaster... because it was NOT God's will and purpose for me!  DUH!  Took me 31 years to get this, but OK Lord, I get it!  So my dangerous and scary prayer for a couple of months now has been, "Lord, please do not let any person give me any praise unless You tell them specifically to tell me."  I figured if I live by man's praises then I will also live by his criticisms.  He has been most faithful in answering this prayer.  BUT although it hurts so bad as my flesh dies every time it doesn't get what it wants my heart comes alive and strengthens as I'm forced to spend time in His presence to receive exactly what I need.  He tells me that I'm important in the exact way that I need it... the way my soul craves it.  And this muscle is getting stronger and stronger.  I saw this quote the other day that sums it up perfectly:

"Jesus wasn't moved by people's rejection nor was He moved by their acceptance.  He was moved by the Spirit of God."  Joyce Meyer

So that was my stone. I choose to only seek the Lord to feel important now.  What stone do you need to throw?

Here's the video that our high school group, Catalyst, made when we threw our stones.


video


Monday, May 21, 2012

Weight Of Glory

We are all carrying weight around.  The question, then, is what kind of weight do you want to be carrying with you through this life?

At our church's high school group, Catalyst, we've been talking about the burdens that we carry.  Pain, shame, anger, bitterness... these barely scratch the surface of what we walk around with... what we CHOOSE to walk around with.  Yes, this is a choice.  It is true that we cannot control the circumstances around us or the things that happen to us.  Yet, we can choose what we do with them!  Many of us hold on to these things, cling to them even, because in some weird way they have become a part of who we are... a part of our identity.  Many of us are afraid to let go of these things for fear that we will no longer have an identity; that having this negativity in us telling us who we are is better than our souls being void and our identity unknown.  Or, we just don't want to go there.  We don't want to deal with it (whatever "it" is for you).  Time doesn't heal wounds.  With time, wounds untreated only get infected and spread to the rest of our bodies!  Only the proper care and treatment can bring healing.

Here's the good news, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ and He has come to take residence in your soul then He has completely replaced the death that was once at the core of who you are with LIFE.  Now think of this Life (or Light) covered up by all these layers.  This Light is trying to get out.  The only way this happens is if we let it.  We can keep this Light hidden away never to be seen or allow this Light to permeate every layer of who we are on it's way to the surface.  With this permeation it slowly transforms every dead cell to a living one.  So you will never be without an identity, but will receive the truth of who you are cell by cell, layer by layer, until you are brought to completion... brought to full Life. 

Allowing this permeation is not easy.  BUT we don't need to do the work.  We just need to choose in to it and trust the Holy Spirit along the journey.  The trusting is the hard part because He will undoubtedly lead us through the journey of our past... the journey of our pain.  He doesn't erase the past or our memories, but rather changes them to include Him, to include truth.  All of those layers in us are the same (our will, heart and spirit, our emotions, our mind, our bodies), but it's our choice on what we burden those layers with... the weight of sin or of pain, or the weight of glory... His glory and freedom, Life and Light.

Our Catalyst group decided it was time to let go of some of the weight that was not good.  We chose in to the journey that Holy Spirit is leading us down... to eventually only have His weight to bear.  We wrote different things on rocks to throw in to the river as a symbol of our letting go.





Freedom.  Weight of glory.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Don't Take the Poison

Forgiveness is such a complex thing.  And there are so many misconceptions about it.  A couple of my favorites (enter sarcasm) is that forgiveness is a feeling... that you need to feel forgiveness before you can actually forgive that person.  Or, if I forgive, then that gives the person the right to continue to walk all over me and hurt me.  There are many more (and they might possibly pop up further along in this note), but hopefully I can shed a little light on this subject and give some practical steps to forgive.

We've been going through a series at church called "If God is Good".  We're looking at the life of Joseph and the pain and suffering he went through... which subsequently led to his process of forgiveness.  Being sold in to slavery by his own jealous brothers, he spent an intense 13 years in Egypt (most of it in prison) after being wrongfully accused for something he didn't do.  Then with a turn of events he ends up as second in command in all of Egypt.  Now, there are many important details in this story that lead to the end.  Before this all happened the Lord had given him a dream of his future... a hope!  When he was in prison it says that the Lord was with Joseph, and showed him mercy and loving-kindness and gave him favor in the sight of the warden.  This is a time of suffering... being persecuted for something he didn't do!  And yet, the Lord was with him.  Even amongst this pain Joseph knew that the Lord was with him (exploring this topic will have to be for another time).  Because he knew this he knew God had a purpose for all that he was going through.  Instead of dwelling on how his brothers absolutely betrayed him (which we can all agree he had good right to be seething mad) he already CHOSE to forgive.  And there's the first key word... forgiveness is a choice and not a feeling.  He gave his "right" to revenge to the Lord and trusted that God was in all of this (even though it is SOOO easy to question the whereabouts of God in such horrible circumstances).  He let go of all bitterness and gave the Lord room to seek justice (His perfect justice) on his behalf.  I mean... what good would it have done him to be in prison plotting his brothers' demise... really? NONE!  Except take years off his own life (bitterness dries up the bones) and make his existence a lot more miserable.

So moving on from his initial choice to forgive... he is now second in command of all Egypt and the land is in the middle of a horrible famine.  Joseph's father sends his sons (the infamous brothers) to Egypt to get some food that had been stored for this time.  When they come in to Joseph's presence they don't even recognize him, but he knows who they are immediately.   Before he gets to the moment of revealing his identity he has a moment when he turns away to weep... all the emotions from all those years prior came flooding back.  Does this mean that he really didn't start the process of forgiveness?  NO!  Choosing to forgive someone doesn't mean that you ignore the pain that was caused you (another common lie).  On the contrary, in order to get to the end of the process of forgiveness this release of emotion MUST happen... and perhaps more than once depending on the severity of affliction that you experienced.  I've told this to so many people just in the past month!  It's like we need permission to feel and acknowledge our hurt.  If you just try to sweep this under the rug you will never experience TRUE forgiveness in your heart.  This pain must be completely emptied out of our hearts and souls... it's only then can we let compassion (seeing the person as God sees them) fill us and begin to change our very core. 

Which this brings me to the next point.  On Sunday it was said that it's in the place of compassion that we learn to forgive.  So if compassion is seeing as God sees then how do we get there?  This was a huge lesson that I learned when I walked through my own forgiveness story (at least one of them).  Many years ago I had a friend that hurt me deeply.  I hated confrontation so my coward self only wanted to run from the situation and pretend like it never happened.  In a strange way it did kind of just "go away", but little did I know that it was far from over.  It was about a year later that the Lord brought to my attention that I hadn't forgiven her.  I suppose sitting in church, glaring at her, and hoping that all of her prayer requests weren't answered should have been my first clue that I still wasn't over this... Anyways, after the Lord revealed my unforgiveness towards her it was time to walk down the road of letting go.  I had NO idea how to even begin the process to forgive her... like I said, I didn't want good things to happen to her.  But this is exactly where the Lord had me begin.  Praying for her!  What, Lord?!?!  You know how much I DON'T want to pray for her and that's what you want me to do???  In obedience to the Lord, I attempted.  I have to admit it was REALLY difficult for a while.  My flesh was TOTALLY against it.  My prayers started off something like this: "Lord... bless her. Amen."  That was all I could get out.  But even starting at this, in my obedience, the Lord did for me what I could not.  He began to soften my heart.  My prayers got a little longer, and a little more meaningful as time went on.  I actually became sincere in what I was asking for on her behalf.  I was kind of shocked.  I was starting to have compassion for her.  I chose to forgive, did what the Lord asked of me, and the next thing I knew my heart was free!  No more bitterness!  The interesting thing is she wasn't a part of this at all.  Before this I wanted an apology from her.  I wanted her to tell me how wrong and mean she was.  I wanted HER to validate my feelings, my pain.  But that was NOT what needed to happen.  I needed to vent my feelings to the Lord... the only one that can truly validate me.  I needed to pray for my "enemy" because in that the Lord filled me with His compassion (after I had been emptied of my pain).  Then with His compassion (seeing her and the situation through God's eyes) true forgiveness was achieved and felt.  Forgiveness isn't about the other person... it's about you.. and me.  It's about being free and not letting the person who offended you to continue to have control over you.  I heard this description before and think it is so accurate in describing unforgiveness and bitterness:  Unforgiveness is like drinking the poison and expecting the other person to die.  Don't drink the poison.  In fact, throw the poison away and allow the Lord's life giving water to flow through your body instead.

Now, I must clarify that that there is a clear difference between forgiveness and restoration.  Forgiveness you do on you own with the Lord.  Restoration is what may or may not take place in the relationship even after forgiveness has happened.  I'm a firm believer in healthy boundaries... but that's for another note.

If you want to read the rest of Joseph's story it's in Genesis 45.  After his forgiveness there is restoration... for the most part.  His brothers still doubted for a long time that Joseph had truly forgiven them because it was so unbelievable that someone could forgive such an act.  Again, that's a whole other subject!

I hope this has encouraged you to choose to go down the road to forgiveness.. even if it's forgiveness of yourself...

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Ocean Of Tears

A couple of Sundays ago at church, during our time of worship, a word was spoken over my husband and I.  The picture was this:
        
Your time has come.  But you already knew that.  All the tears that you have cried over the years has been collecting in to a stream, then in to a river, and now in to an ocean that is behind you.  Your tears have flowed in to an ocean of healing that people will jump in to.  That when they jump in to this ocean they will receive His healing.

At the sound of these words I fell on my face in total worship to Jesus.  What I heard in that moment was that all of our years of suffering wasn't for nothing.  I mean, I already knew that on so many levels because of the fruit that has been produced in both of our lives.  In the midst of our suffering we chose to press in to the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit; through our tears we relied on our God to walk us through it.  And that is exactly what He did.  In our pain He showed us who He really was.  In knowing His true character we trusted Him enough when He asked us to face our pain... to know that He wouldn't leave us, but that He would walk with us through all of it... straight to the source.  Once we became aware of our deep wounds He was faithful to heal them. 

This path of healing, however, is not an easy one.  It is very scary.  Some of us don't believe we are worthy enough for healing.  Some of us believe that if we face the pain of our past that it will be too much... so overwhelming that it might actually kill us.  Some of us are afraid to let go of the pain because in a weird way it has become our companion... our friend... our "normal"... the fear of the unknown is too much... "who will I be without this pain?"  The fear of not having an identity is unbearable... that it's better to have a victim identity than no identity at all.  I am here to tell you (as someone who has been on both sides of this now) that those are ALL LIES!  Lies by an enemy that fears who you are in your freedom.  If the Father is gracious enough to send His son to die a horrible death for us... if Jesus is willing to suffer a horrible death, then certainly you are worth it!  If the Holy Spirit is your companion to walk with you through pain and suffering then it will never be too much to bear.  If our God is willing to take us this far in the process to the point of healing He will certainly not stop there, but will clothe you with every truth of who you really are and who He as made you to be (your REAL identity).

This takes me back to the vision.  I don't believe that this was just for Matt and I.  I believe that this is for everyone who has cried an oceans worth of tears in the Lord's presence.  I truly believe that if you are willing to go through the process of healing that others in your life will be able to jump in to the ocean of tears that you have cried and receive healing from our great God.