Dreaming of Dreaming……

I think anyone who has lived any decent amount of life can truly and honestly say that life today looks much different than it did at one time, through the previously fresh, and hopeful eyes of perhaps, 15 years or so, ago.  Graduating high school, rarely does one consider that they may over time, or even in one moment lose…..so much.  And then what? Will you swim? Will you sink?   Perhaps we felt content with the known…..like the safety of the backyard pool.  Sure, there’s an ocean out there…..but one can still live cool and refreshed in the back yard pool never venturing into the wild, open waters.  I do know that eventually, each one of us is faced with the ocean….and some of us learn to swim, only after we’ve sunk.  And that takes courage, does it not?  To feel the weight of gravity pulling us down….would it not be easier to give in to the pull, than to fight the force?  Dying hope. Shackled dreams. Heartsick. Cooling embers. Ashes of once was.  It would be easier to lay down the fight.  Give in. Give up. But no, the fight rises. The determination begins to take over. The inability to let go of our hope surpasses the urge to sink beneath the weight. God certainly has a plan in all of this!  He brings beauty out of ashes. As our hearts scream to Heaven, “Can these bones live???!!!??? O Lord, God…..only YOU know!!!!!” (Ezek. 37:3) The depths of our hearts somehow make their way in tears down our cheeks and in words that cry, “Our bones are dry, hope is lost….”(vs.11)  And His gentle Voice whispers into our stormy hearts….”I will put My Spirit in you, and you SHALL live….” (vs.14). My heart will choose to say, “blessed be your Name, oh Lord.” I’ve been in this place. And not just once.  I do think our trust and faith is tested in a very real and tangible way when we do not fight life, but allow ourselves to walk THROUGH the furnace. We can look the enemy of our souls in the face, with NO FEAR and FULL CONFIDENCE and say, “Your threat means nothing to us. If you throw us in the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from your roaring furnace and anything else you might cook up.  But even if He doesn’t, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference…..” (Dan. 3:16-18)  I have found myself repeatedly choosing joy, choosing peace, choosing patience in the middle of circumstances that would rob me of these precious gifts.  I have no doubt this is a good place to be.  I’ve heard all the one-liners: “bloom where your planted”, “If life hands you lemons, make lemonade”, “If the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, water your own lawn”.  This choice to make the best of what life hands you, is an amazing skill to have.  It takes much grace and much strength to persevere through difficult circumstances.

But something happened in my heart the last couple of days that made me realize something.  I realized that, while always choosing joy, and not allowing circumstances dictate my peace is a GOOD place to be,…..its still a place one could get stuck.  So thats it.  I feel stuck here. In this place of choosing joy, I feel stuck.  I feel awed at this truth God is showing me.  Never, ever have I considered the possibility that this is a state in which I could forever remain.  So as I asked God to explain Himself….the pieces start falling into place.  How could this place that requires so much leaning on God….be a bad place?  So His answer came so softly and so gently that the truth and weight of the words may have been missed had I not been listening. I think He knew I needed the gentle break and not a jarring awakening.  Thank you, Jesus for your heart that loves me enough to speak gently. The reason it can become a place where we remain stuck is that it focuses us in on here-and-now.  He told me I’ve spent so many years navigating the road right in front of me….and actually doing it well.  Learning lessons, asking Him to teach me the “right response”, give me wisdom that would apply, growing fruit, pruning when needed….all these things that truly do make us more like Jesus.  But.  Buuuuut. Yes, that word.  Because God has more than just the here-and-now in His world.  He’s been backward and forward and everywhere in between and all at the same time.  He isn’t stuck in here-and-now, so why should I be?  What happened to looking ahead? Looking forward?  Hopes and dreams have a way of sinking into the background when we focus only on the next step.  So what happened to my hopes and dreams? Oh I remember the feeling of having them.  The anticipation. The expectancy that “one day” that thing will happen. The knowing that anything is possible because God is the One that makes those things happen. What happened? Where’d they go?  What were they anyway?  Its like Lucy said in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe……”it’s like a dream of a dream”.  Well, a couple days ago….a beautiful, amazing, inspiring couple (Jessica and Justin Collins) handed out paper to a room full of teenagers and told them to write down their dreams.  As I watched them get busy and get serious and get laughing and get creative…..I felt my spirit leap. This is amazing! This is incredible! This is fresh! This is hope at its best! The Holy Spirit moving over one and another and everyone all at the same time.  So much courage in one room. The tears rolled. I felt like I was Paul in the book of Revelation as he was very present and yet seeing a vision unfolding around him.  And then, of course, as they began sharing their dreams….whoah…..the spoken, powerful word inspired by God Himself….such power was released!  We can speak human words and watch Heaven released.  Its super incredible. Beyond understanding.  Such a beautiful night….so full of God.  Its what I live for.  My heart sings. My soul soars.

And then it was like watching a movie and the DVD skips or freezes or halts. I hold in my hands the very sheet of paper that these kids were furiously scribbling over as if they couldn’t get the words down fast enough.  And I couldn’t get one thing written down. One dream. One hope. Just one…..come on…..i know I have something…..right?!?! What in the world do I dream about?? I know I’ve written some goals….but thats more program related….not so much a personal dream.  So what??? Wow.  And then come the questions. What’s “safe” to dream? What can I dream for myself if my husband doesn’t have the same dream? What can I “do” or “be” without him?? What do I even want to do? Most of my grown-up life I “do” what God wants me to do whether I’m good at it or not.  Kind of like a Moses-obedience thing. So this is kind of where I’m at right now.  The last couple of days seeing the teens lock on to dreaming and hoping and expecting to see God do amazing things in and through them….it was so inspiring. I’m at this place now where I just have to pray and ask God “HOW” to start dreaming again. When I get an answer I’ll share it, for sure.  I don’t want to stay stuck on everyday stuff….it has its own great value. But God has higher heights to look out over.  And I’m in the mood to climb.


Watching and Waiting

The beginning of January, I read a few verses in my Bible that I’ve probably read a million times.  It’s a passage often preached, often quoted, quickly memorized. Its good. I love it.  And, its actually guided many of my prayers in this new year.  In John 10, Jesus speaks about His role as the Shepherd. Normally, I focus on that part about the sheep knowing the voice of their Shepherd and following Him.  Even in this new year,  my ache and desire is to know the voice of my Shepherd so clearly and distinctly. He speaks to me through scriptures.  He speaks to me during times of prayer and worship.  But its a greater longing.  A longing for conversation. For on-going communication. Daily. Minute-by-minute.  Exodus 33:11…..”So the Lord spoke to Moses, face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. ” Genesis 6:9…”Noah walked with God.” Just so many examples of God’s up close and very personal encounters with His people.

Something else caught my attention and hasn’t let me go since reading it at the beginning of the month.  Here it is, John 10:2,3…..”But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.  To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice….” Doorkeeper.  Gatekeeper. Porter. Meaning….a watcher that kept the door.  My first thought….”oooohhh a watcher….who gets to be THAT person???  I’d looooove to be THAT person….” This verse written in red are Jesus’s words.  I think He often has meaning on multiple levels.  I don’t have any commentaries in which to find what other respected people may believe these verses mean.  However, as I joined in prayer with other youth leaders last night….God reminded me of this verse.  While the sheep are going about their daily business in relative ease and safety…..distracted by their everyday activities…..not interested in looking beyond the gate…..there are watchers.  People looking beyond.  Waiting.  Anticipating the Presence of God.  Not wanting to miss Him when He calls to gain entrance.  And of course, the enemy would bring distraction.  In what form?  Oh so many….perhaps on a physical level.  Distracted by what the other sheep are eating….where the sheep are sleeping….what business they are about.  Isn’t that like you and me?  Aren’t we tempted to be distracted by what other people are doing? What they are wearing? What houses they live in? What cars they drive? What amount of money they make? What jobs they have?  So many simple distractions.  But perhaps the distraction is a little deeper.  Discouragement. Loneliness. Fear. Lack of purpose.  Standing in a place of anticipation….and yet having no indication when/where/how/and if ever God’s Presence while arrive in such a way that the sheep will follow Him out of their penned in little world.  And what if I stand and watch….how long? Will I spend my whole life looking, watching, waiting?  Is the price I pay worth the return? If my friends are all doing this and that, and yet my eyes remain fixed…..will it be worth it?  I say yes.  In this upside down world….where to gain your life, you must lose it.  Where unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies….it will bear no fruit.  Where you turn the other cheek.  Where if someone asks for your shirt….you give them your coat as well. Where to become great you become the servant of all.  So to stand apart, you have the greatest fellowship.  To stand and watch in the place of greatest loneliness…..in reality, you have the greatest intimacy.  When what others think you are doing is pointless….God is depending on. Its so powerful.  We must NOT give up watching….we must not give up waiting with anticipation.  Why so downcast, oh my soul….put your hope in God!!!  Lift up your eyes…..its from there your HELP is coming.  He is coming.   Oh, the intimacy and fellowship the enemy seeks to destroy.  Remember Adam and Eve….”they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden……” (Gen 3:8)  The sheep know His voice….the watchers hear His footsteps before He speaks.  Wow.  Thats cool.


A brand new year.  Typically, I’m bursting with excitement….full of anticipation, full of hope. What new thing is God going to do in this new year?? And don’t get me wrong….I already have my share of  high hopes, my list of prayers, my heart full of dreams for 2013.  January brings a unified season of fasting and prayer….and I join my heart to the others across the U.S. in setting apart the first moments of the year in dedication to the Lord and hearing HIS voice. I know He has something to say…..and I want to hear it.  But its with a different sort of “feeling” I stare this new year straight in the eyes.   Difficult to describe exactly. Sadness? Maybe…..”tough” doesn’t even begin to describe the year some of my friends have just experienced.  This feeling I have carries a lot of weight…much heaviness.  I think maybe its a deep intensity….a desire to look past the “thing” and see what’s actually there.  Almost like its hard to “party in the new year” when you have no idea if 2013 will be something to party about.  And yet, we’re told to look forward.  Press on. Run the race.  I have a focused longing for a clearer hearing of His voice…..and a deep gratefulness for all that He has filled my life with. 2012…..so much intensity.  It feels as though this ball of a planet keeps rolling around desperately seeking a resting place only to smash into yet another wall.  Intense and Real.  I’ve met some amazing people, for sure.  And some I’ve only observed. Wounded, grief-stricken, yet beautiful and powerful.  Wounded by life.  Grief-stricken by unbearable losses.  Beautiful because of the ONE that gives them breath to live the next moment. Powerful because their lives have been anointed by the Holy Spirit in ways that I can’t know because I haven’t paid that price.  They’ve taught me so much.  And, I know…..they never wanted to be the ones to teach such lessons.  They’d rather die than be the teacher in this classroom.  And yet they teach.  They’ve taught me the importance of every day, every moment. They’ve taught me not to be too busy for my children.  They’ve taught me the importance of cherishing their lives, and cherishing the moments I have in their lives.  They’ve taught me to never assume I have tomorrow.  Life is too short for petty arguments.  Oooh how I wish for their sakes they didn’t have to be the ones to teach me this!!!  But I’m deeply grateful that they did. At this point….when my kids ask to snuggle….I can hardly tear myself away.  I just know we aren’t promised any certain number of days.  We just have to listen each day for the Voice that really matters to lead us .  It always astounds me how loud the “other” voices are….and how we are so easily swayed by the mere loudness of those loud voices.  So often our emotions rise, our defenses lock into gear, we’re ready to fight it out…..all because of a loud voice.  His is not loud.  Its the still, small voice.  I know its not the one most people will hear…..unless they are listening for it.  I’m listening….seeking….probably with more focus and intensity than…..ever.  May HE be the Voice that leads this new year. 2013.

life ALTAR-ing

You are going to think this is strange….but I’m quite taken with the Old Testament.  Leviticus fascinates me.  Numbers doesn’t bore me. Abraham, Nehemiah, Esther, and Job carry a destiny and purpose that overwhelmes me. Believe me…..I’m no legalist, neither do I think salvation can be earned.  But when I read the laws and practices held by the heroes of the old testament world…..I know those commands are simply the “tip of the iceberg”.  If you haven’t taken time to get to know the Lord….you’ll see only that….the tip of the iceberg.  But theres a huge heart lying under the surface of the water.  But break the surface you must…..if you desire to see what lies beneath. You have to see God’s heart is deep….full…..and virtually unknown if simply observing from a distance. The old testament flows from the depth of God’s heart.

This morning I read a section of scripture in which Abram was building altars.  Him and his beautiful wife were on a mission from the Lord in which they didn’t exactly know the destination.  They had orders to go and so they went.  Along the way he built altars and it was this idea that struck me and hasn’t let me go all morning. I mean, BUILDING an altar probably didn’t happen in five minutes. It took TIME and LABOR to construct such a thing. It had me really thinking….I mean, God said “GO”…..shouldn’t that be most pressing? GOing?  Isn’t that priority here?  But there he was…..building….hands and knees digging and dirty and focused.  How very significant. I can imagine altars may have signified humility, submission, sacrifice, honor, rememberance, purpose, repentance.  You may be able to add to the list. But this place…in front of this altar is the most important place.  There will always be places to go, people to see, to-do lists a mile long…..but I’m fully convinced HE would rather have our dirty knees and open hearts.

Interestingly, immediately following the construction of this altar, Abram devised a plan deceiving the Egyptian Pharoah and his people regarding his own identity and that of Sarai. The end result was a widespread plague until God brought the truth to light.  How quickly human nature rose up, clouding God’s faithfulness and protection. Sadly, this is so common. How quickly the altar was by-passed for human agenda.

Post betrayal, after the tremendous hurt he brought upon so many people…..his next move is key.  (Gen 13:3,4) “and he went on in his journey….to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Ai and Bethel, to the place of the altar which he had made there at first. And there, Abram called on the name of the Lord.”  Wow. So powerful.  How amazing to have a physical place to return to.  It made me ask the Lord how to implement this altar system in my own life.  HOW?  I mean the curtain is torn…..we aren’t bound by old testament sacrificial system….the precious LAMB laid His own life down in complete purity satisfying the law for all eternity. But the altar is so significant.  Is it a location?  Is it an action?  How do I signify my place of humility and submission and surrender? It has to be something I put TIME and WORK into….because that will be lasting. It’ll be the lighthouse for me in the middle of a storm. Perhaps its something thats uniquely individual….my “altar” won’t look like someone else’s.  Perhaps yours is journaling or drawing or painting or writing music or finding that perfect item that provokes a memory. All these things take time and work and thought and effort…..and taking time away from the “GOing” to construct a place of eternal significance….a place of connection between Heaven and earth. I love how Abram wasn’t afraid to “go back”.  He may have felt the humility set in…..but humility marks a man or woman of God in a good way.  It allows access to their heart and to the work of God inside of them….you know you can trust them because in trusting them….your ultimately trusting God, who lives inside of them.  Abram knew the only way forward was to go back.  Go back to the place of commitment, the place of purpose, the place of power, the place of connection with God.  Don’t ever feel your “losing ground”……the plan is never more important than the ONE who created the plan.

I’m still asking God for a tangible way to signify my altar.  I’d love your thoughts on implementing this idea in your own life…..life application in this modern world.  Share:-)

Enemy Tactics

Mockery. Confusion. Oppresion.  That Enemy of our souls…..he is so uncreative.  He uses the same tactics over and over again. Well…..as uncreative as that is, why come up with new tactics when the old ones are tried and true?  I’ve been so enjoying the book of Nehemiah.  So much inspiration leaps off the pages right into my heart.  God uses Nehemiah to gather His scattered ones.  He appoints Nehemiah, as only God can do, to rise up and rebuild the city walls.  And yet, when it comes to God’s heart….He is after something deeper. Yes, the walls need rebuilding, but so do His people. Nehemiah, trusted servant of the Persian king, wakes up one day to fulfill his normal routine. (*Lets just notice that Nehemiah is “trusted”.  Life lived faithfully, without complaining and grumbling, in his normal humdrum routines, says so much about his inner character.  God is faithful. He looks for faithful.*)   Because of his faithfulness lived out before the king….Nehemiah finds favor and God literally thrusts him into a whole new season full of direction and vision. He takes time to pray and circle the city, and gain clarity….hear God’s heart on the matter.  “I arose in the night, I and a few men with me; I told no one what my God had put in my heart to do ….” (2:12)  After this, he gives his testimony of the king’s favor, and shares his heart with the people.  This so reminded me of the purpose and importance the LEADER has in casting vision.  The people rally together, joined in one purpose. “Let us rise up and build!” (2:18)

In chapter 4, in marches Enemy Tactic #1. Mockery.  How many times have we begun to walk in the purpose and vision God lays on our hearts….and all we hear are the lies.  “You aren’t good enough to do this. You don’t have the gift for this.  You really think anyone is going to listen to you? Follow you?  You are too young. Too old. Too weak. Remember what you did back then? Haha….you are a fake. Loser.”  You HAVE heard it, haven’t you???  I know I have.  All the time.  I know the enemy’s voice immediately.  How do I know it?  Its the loudest. It doesn’t hesitate.  It pipes up immediately and kicks me right in the gut. Oh I know it well.  God’s people heard it. “What are these miserable, feeble Jews doing? Do they think they can get everything back to normal overnight? Make building stones out of make-believe? What do they think they’re building? Why, if a fox climbed that wall, it would fall to pieces under his weight!” (4:2 msg) Mockery.  Its just simply the lies he shouts in our heads to make us despair and give up.  And so often we believe it.  The mockery goes on and we wear down. He wouldn’t still be using this tactic if it didn’t work.  Nehemiah saw it for what it was. He prays. “……Hear, O our God, for we are despised. Turn their reproach on their own heads!  (the msg says: boomerang their ridicule on their heads). For they have provoked you to anger before the builders.” (4:4,5)  We can’t wither when we hear the enemy’s voice….we have to give it to God.  Because it is Him that they are mocking, and Him that is being provoked to anger, and Him that is going to fight our battle.    “We kept at it, repairing and rebuilding the wall. The whole wall was soon joined together and halfway to its intended height because the people had a HEART for the WORK.” (4:6 msg)  Wow.  Amazing what God can do when the people are faithful and work with a heart full of purpose. Progress. Forward movement. A measurable difference. Unity. Expectation.

So the first tactic didn’t work. Enter Enemy Tactic #2. Confusion. Its still his voice we hear loud and proud.  He just changes it a little, so we think we are hearing a different voice. Nope. Still belongs to enemy….who is out to thwart God’s plans, derail the train from its intended destination, and basically destroy us in the process. “Now it happened (when all these enemies) heard that the walls of Jerusalem were being restored and the gaps were beginning to be closed, that they became very angry, and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jersualem and create confusion.” (4:7,8) Conspiracy. Attack. Confusion. Ever feel confused?  Yep, me too.  Did I hear God’s voice?  With all this stuff going on….maybe I heard it wrong.  Maybe this isn’t the right timing?  Was I supposed to do this next week? Next month? Next year?  Maybe I was supposed to do it yesterday, and I missed my window. Maybe I missed God’s plan for my life and now someone else is supposed to be doing this. If this is God’s will, shouldn’t this be easy? Where is He in all this? Am I abandoned?  Should I just go back to what I’ve always done….after all I was very comfortable.  And good at it. Hmmmm….so many questions.  Not so many answers.  And its easy to give up.  Heres what God’s people started to say…..”the builders are pooped, the rubbish piles up; We’re in over our heads, we can’t build this wall.”  (4:10 msg)  So see? The battle rages. With the enemy yelling so loudly, its hard to hear the gentle whisper of God’s voice.  Encouragement is so gentle to our hearts….so settling to the ruffled edges of our soul,  such a “sight for sore eyes”. So it can often be missed. Our ears so focused on the loudness of the battle that we miss hearing God in the midst of it all. “our adversaries said, “they will neither know nor see anything, till we come into their midst and kill them and cause the work to cease.” (4:11)  God’s people panicked. “From whatever place you turn, they will be upon us.” (4:12) Can you hear it in your own life?  “It doesn’t matter what I do….its never going to change.  Its hopeless. What am I doing here? Maybe God has someone else for this job.  Is anyone even hearing me? Do they think I heard God’s voice or do they think I’m crazy?”  Well, Nehemiah, thankfully knew God had a purpose and a plan and despite the enemy’s tactics….they would continue.  God’s plan involved a strategy. Ha!  Imagine that….you enemy!  We have a strategy.  We are NOT going down.  God is with us…..who can be against us.  Certainly not you. “I positioned men mehind the lower parts of the wall, at the openings; and I set the people according to their families, with their swords, their spears, and their bows.”  He identified their weak points….and their vulnerabilities….and he strengthened them with people who knew the enemy and were prepared for the fight.  The enemy then realized the people knew what they were up to and that “God had brought their plot to nothing.” (4:15)  Nehemiah planned it out.  Half the people would stand watch and fight….the other half would build.  So much to say here….but we must realize our roles in God’s strategy.  Some people hold the line in prayer and intercession, watching and warfare, while others do the building.  We may need to do both….we just need open ears and hearts to know what God is saying in what season. “Every one of the builders had his sword girded at his side as he built.” (4:18)  We have to be ready, prepared. For anything.

Okay. So first two tactics didn’t work. Along comes Enemy Tactic #3. Oppression. The enemy saw God’s people making progress, moving forward, fulfilling their purpose, closing in on the desired goal. Mockery and confusion didn’t work….I’ll just have to hover over them all with my overwhelming hopelessness and discouragement. I’ll take their eyes off God and onto their hardships: hunger, finances, debt, quarrels.  Every feel overwhelmed in these areas?  Its smooth sailing, and out of *seemingly* no where…..the business slows down, debts add up, where peace reigned in relationships now there is strife. Where did this come from? I’m so overwhelmed!  This can’t be God with so much darkness hovering? I’m tired, exhausted….don’t want to get out of bed, don’t want to face the day. Direction has fled, I am left feeling worthless, feeling purpose-less.  If you allow the oppression….you allow the enemy to take your eyes off God and turn them onto yourSELF.  Mark that…..a point for the enemy.  Its so easy isn’t it.  Its a vicious tactic.  We just think if we had a little more money we could move forward.  If we had “her husband” or “his wife”, life would be so much better and there wouldn’t be so much arguing.  If we had that gift or that talent, then we would be recognized.  If we were a part of that group, we would be so much happier.  All the sudden, the boat and Jesus quickly disappear and the rocky waves engulf us and the sea weed pulls us under. Oppression. Depression. Obsession. Yikes!  I’ve been there! Have you? Its ok to say so.  It really is!  You know God uses it all. “They (the enemy) were trying to intimidate us into quitting. They thought, ‘they’ll give up; they’ll never finish it.'” (6:9msg)  That’s the bottom line.  He really just wants us to quit.  That call God put on your life, the dream in your heart, the purpose to your very existance….the enemy wants it and you….destroyed. But GREATER is He that is inside of us than little, old him that’s in this world. Pray like Nehemiah, “O God, strengthen my hands.” (6:9) 

The enemy has his tactics.  But we pray. prepare. strategize. and then fix our eyes on the ONE that leads us in it all.  Things we thought were all wrong, weren’t from God, weren’t in the plans…..”our God turned the curse into a blessing.”  Those tactics of the enemy make us stronger in Christ if we don’t allow them to crush us, more purpose-full, more focused, more discerning, more fearless, more hopeful, more expecting. Its beautiful. Its a miracle. Joy in the morning. Victory over the darkness. “When all our enemies heard the news and all the surrounding nations saw it, our enemies totally lost their nerve. They knew that God was behind this work.” (6:16msg)   Its undeniable. God gets the glory. He had a plan. He carried it forward.  My prayer continues to be that God would see me as faithful and persevering and unwavering until the end; that HIS plan and purpose would carry forward thru the heat of the battles; and that eventually the enemy will just lose his nerve altogether. Ha!!  Amen:-)

A Reminder

Today God reminded me how big His heart is for people that have walked away from Him.  He reminded me that I was once that person too.  He reminded me that poor choices and consequences walk hand-in-hand and judgement is never mine to hand out.  What does my response to hurting people say about my heart?  Am I ready to dish out more consequences? Am I ready to offer my “two-cents” on the matter?  Am I ready to put them to the side for awhile until they have endured their due suffering?  Today Nehemiah became my hero. Wow. His heart truly reflects the heart of our great God.  The story opens with him asking about the survivors…the ones who have escaped….the refugees….the returning captives.  How are they? In what condition have they returned?  What is the state of God’s city Jerusalem…His dwelling place.  Wow.  “They said to me, ‘The survivors who are left from captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire.'”  (Neh 1:3)  Is this not how people feel when they’ve walked away from God?  They’ve decided its time to break free, return. They are not returning to me….they are returning to God.  And yet, who do they find standing between themself and God…..little, judgemental me.  Too often we offer less grace and more punishment.  We become an additional soure of their distress. We fan the flames of their shame and cause them to feel hopeless. Defenseless. Broken-hearted. Unprotected. Completely vulnerable.  Nehemiah wept. No accusations. No judgement. Just tears. This was not God’s intentions, not His purposes, not His way….His plans involved a HOPE and a FUTURE. But you who walked with God….you walked away.  Nehemiah’s heart cried over the lost years, the captivity, the huge losses….that God’s dwelling place, His resting place….would be found in such a state of disillusionment and devastation. But heres the thing….all too often we say, “how could you…..” and forget that… we “already did”.  We are all the guilty ones.  Put the stone down.  Remember the grace extended to us. He then speaks DESTINYand PROMISE over their lives….God’s words….”I’ll gather up these scattered peoples from wherever they ended up and put them back in the the place I chose to mark with My Name.” (1:9 msg)  Wow.  Such promise.  We cannot stand as a lying, shaming voice when God says “just come back to me and I will restore the years the locusts have eaten. All is not lost.  You are the seed that fell into the earth and died.  And now you will be My source of light and life to the people around you.  You are the lost treasure. I found you.  You are the lost sheep. I brought you back.  You are the prodigal son. What I have is yours.” (corrie’s paraphrasing of several verses.) 

Oh, that I would have a voice that sounds like Jesus, arms that extend Jesus, and a heart that would carry Him to the people around me.

His Signs….My Times

So I’ve just spent the morning feeling so “heavy”.   There’s just no end to cataclysmic events and “goings-on” in the world, are there?? Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Israel, North and South Korea….and then the earthquakes in Haiti, Chili, and most recently Japan….crazy. Enough to make one really anxious and panicky….if one is so inclined to such feelings.  I really didn’t know exactly how to pray because this is what Jesus prophesied when His disciples asked for signs of the end. Its not as though one can pray that such things will not come to pass….because they will!!    And what is this feeling of doom and gloom and panic and uncertainty and foreboding that inevitably takes hold when watching world events, or reading the book of Revelation, or something as simple as watching a movie about the “end of the world.”  I felt a stab of guilt at the bit of anxiety I felt over the pictures of Japan this morning.  The question rolling around in my heart….”Lord, why should I feel such overwhelming doom over these events??  Shouldn’t we, as Your children…..be overwhelmed with excitement and joy by the possibility that the end is near??”   I’m not going to say that “God spoke these words clearly”…..but I felt an answer drop into my frazzled spirit….and I know I have God to thank for that. Picture a baby, clearly upset…eyebrows and forehead a wrinkled mass of tension. I remember when my kids were just babies….looking this exact same way. I used to speak quietly and soothingly….running my fingertips gently over their eyebrows and forehead….allowing them the opportunity to feel my love and assurance. They didn’t need to wrinkle their brows or strive or protest.  I was there….and that was sufficient.  This was the picture that came to mind….along with His words from Matthew 24….”See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass…” I said, “But WHY God?!?!  Why must Your Return be shrouded in such desperately troublesome events?  Why such tribulation? Why the wars???  Why cannot the signs of the end times be multiple rainbows in the skies….and pacts and agreements of world peace, and reconciliation between fathers and sons, parents and children….and WONDERFUL, JOY-filled things??  Instead, you have told us that, “Men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth, men of corrupt minds.”

God…I look forward to Your coming….but the signs make it difficult to grasp the glory of what WILL BE.  Sometimes….as is our limited, sinful human nature, we tend to focus on what IS understandable. Wars, earthquakes….even selfishness and unforgiveness…..these are things we are guilty of understanding.  Heaven….God’s plan for eternity…..the flawless relationship we will have with Him and with each other….its unfathomable to us.  We think about it….and even what we think we understand….I’m sure is just a fraction of what is real.  Even Moses was told to hide as God’s glory passed in front  of him….Our humanity canNOT experience God’s FULL glory until our earthly body has passed.

Why can’t He return on His white horse in full glory….send the devil to eternal hell….and remake this world into His new heaven and new earth??  Because He cannot possess a sinful place. His very nature is perfect and holy….all sin must be destroyed once and for all….and that is why such turmoil at the “end of the world”.  Death is misery, death is evil, death is final, death is dark, death is terrifying.  There is always a process when bringing forth true Beauty.  Think of labor and delivery….anyone who has experienced it….knows it is not easy, not beautiful….parts of it can be ugly, and stinky, and downright painful and miserable….but look at the beauty that comes forth!! THIS we can understand.  All of us mothers would tell you we’d do it again if we had the chance….because the pain of it is  forgotten when we look at the new little baby and he smiles back.  That is how it is with God.  When we finally get to see His beautiful face…He will smile at us…and all the tears are wiped away….the pain will be forgotten.  He doesn’t want this little ball called “earth”. How limiting.  Earth must go….and for us earthlings….it won’t be “fun” or “easy”…..it may be downright painful.  But there is something so much more.  His hugeness cannot inhabit a small, sinful little planet….He has a new heaven and new earth for us that He has created.

One day….if God gives us a glimpse of “what was” (as in labor and delivery)……I’m sure we will all say….”Yes….I would do it again in a heartbeat….just to be with You, God.”

In all my understanding of “now”……I choose to look to my Father….for He holds me and my family in the palm of His hand….and He holds our future…..and I trust Him through the difficult transition process knowing my future in Him is completely secure.