favor of God

Only Me, On My Knees…

How many roads did I travel
Before I walked down one that led me to You?
How many dreams did unravel
Before I believed in a hope that was true?
How long? How far?
What was meant to fulfill only emptied me still
And all You ever wanted…

There are turning points in our lives, points in time where there is a quickening spirit and doors are opened if only for a season. Do we walk through those doors? Do we rise to the tasks set before us and grasp ahold of that quickening with both hands and let it fling us forward? Or do we shake our heads and find ourselves focusing too much on the muck and the mire, or the comfort that surrounds us? Focus on the past or seek the future?

When these opportunities have come my way, I’ve been slow to take them. I haven’t seen them for what they were. Or was too engulfed in pain and fear and shame to see the love and desire in God’s eyes. I couldn’t see the kindness motivating the opportunities. I could only see my lack. Or my hubris. So I chose the known over the unknown and my own abilities over God’s and sometimes I missed out. Sometimes God was gracious and showered me with His gifts despite my hesitation, showing me His great kindness even when I couldn’t see it for what it was. Those acts of kindness helped me to trust that God was different.

Isn’t that just like, God, though? He chips away at our reservations and shines the truth on our fears until we start to see God for who He is, not who others say He should be?

How many deaths did I die
Before I was awakened to new life again?
How many half-truths did I bear witness to
‘Til the proof was disproved in the end?
How long? How far?
What was meant to illuminate shadowed me still
And all You ever wanted…

And what does God as in return? To spend time with Him. To engage in relationship with Him. To get to know who He really is. And to accept the gifts He wants to lavish on us.

A year ago, five years ago, I would have said I was there in that place where God and I were encountering each other. But after this last year? I realize what I’ve had and experienced is merely a taste of who God wants to be for me. I’ve made God too small and I’ve believed His love for me wasn’t deep and abiding. I haven’t truly believed that my worth is not based on works or contribution or accomplishment. My faith walk has been burdened with works and lies and living in shadows.

For me to experience more requires some work on my part. Not work so God will find me worthy. More ridding the garden of the weeds that want to grow up and choke out the fruit God has started to grow in my life. In this season of my life I’m weeding and pruning and healing the soil. Only this time, I’m not doing it alone. The Holy Spirit is right there with me, digging in the dirt with a trowel and sometimes with His bare hands. He’s pointing out which plants are the tender shoots that will bear fruit with a little care, and which plants, no matter how pretty, will choke out that young life if left to grow. He’s ruthless but tempers that with a sense of humor. And compassion.

Some of the roots are deep and require strong hands to yank them loose from the soil. These hurt initially. There’s a visceral rending within my soul and a moment of shocked silence as together we yank the weeds free. This is where the compassion comes in. While it may take time for the wound left by the evicted weeds, God is currently quick to reveal what can grow in its place. This isn’t to say He heals everything quickly. I’m still smarting from some fairly invasive species of cursed weeds we identified and removed a few weeks ago. But I can see how the lack of this wicked flora has opened up space for blessing. And renewal.

I think this is part of the process of sanctification. I used to know all these huge concepts around sanctification. Theologies by great men who studied the Bible and proposed doctrines on what it all means. I am in no way dissing these minds, nor I am putting myself up there with them. I’m not a great thinker. Not in that way. What I am is a woman on a journey to know God and to know who I am in Christ. To really know. Deep down in my bones, branded in my mind and heart knowing.

If sanctification is the process of being made holy, of embracing that image of God that has been part of our DNA since Adam and Eve, then isn’t partnering with God to remove the weeds, the roadblocks, the generational curses, the agreements we have wittingly or unwittingly made that pull us away from a relationship with the Trinity part of that process? And isn’t the journey of sanctification being able to see God for who God truly is and wanting to sit at His feet and commune with Him, worship Him, rest in Him?

There are turning points and seasons in which we are offered the path of God’s quickening spirit. If we choose to trust the hand God is holding out and walk into that choice, things will move quickly. Those weeds, God will be very quick to point them out. Never with shame. Never to make us feel guilty. Always to say ‘Do you see that there? If we plucked that out, if we ripped it away and mended the soil, this fruit, this gift will have room to grow. What do you say? Should we do that? Should we get our hands dirty and play in the soil? When this season is over, think of the glorious garden there will be.’

I’m so glad God is patient. I’m glad He has offered me the gift of this season in so many different ways, always prodding just a little deeper until I was able to say yes. And I’m glad He redeems the time. For this, for that patience and those gifts and that steadfast love, I’m truly grateful. What has God wanted? Me. Only me.

Only me on my knees
Singing holy, holy
And somehow
All that matters now is
You are holy, holy

(Nichole Nordeman. Holy. Sparrow, 2002. CD.)

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The Truth About Love

There’s been a lot of thinking and pondering going on since God’s revelation two weeks ago. It’s not that what He told me was anything new. It was that He took the time to tell me at a time when I truly needed to know how He sees me.

According to the word I received, God sees me as talented, intelligent, beautiful, capable, and gifted. Creative even. I have not been seeing those things within myself. Creative? I can’t seem to write a word in the two novels I started this year. I don’t feel intelligent or capable half the time. Beautiful? I often feel anything but and I often don’t even believe my husband when he comments on how much he loves the way I look. What I see is almost the exact opposite of how God sees me.

Belief is an interesting thing. It doesn’t matter what is true if we choose to not believe it. So what if God sees me as this amazing woman? If I don’t see it then I’m not living in the truth. Worse than that, I’m making agreements and aligning with forces outside of Heaven.

I had to really think about that concept. If I’m not agreeing with God I’m agreeing with someone or something else. And those agreements I make are for things that are less than God’s best for my life. They are in essence keeping me away from God’s favor and bounty through the use of subtle and slick lies. God isn’t withholding HIs favor. In fact, He’s holding it out to me, waiting for me to grasp onto it.

Instead, I’ve listened to seductive and destructive voices play off situations and emotions while they tell me things about myself or others. Things that are not meant to grow the fruit of the spirit, but things that are meant to choke out any and all spiritual and personal growth.

How many times do we do that? How many times do we step out of our first love with the Trinity and into lesser agreements? How many times have we believed we are less than, worthless? How many times have we compared ourselves to others and felt jealousy and wished for something different? How many times have we wanted more and turned not to God but to the world and the powers of this world?

I am not too proud to say that while I love my Heavenly Father, I have succumbed to these agreements more often than not. Some of these have been with me a long, long time. for me, it started with one belief, one misconception that occurred at a young age where I agreed with a curse that was spoken over me by my grandmother and possibly other family members. This curse has been with my family  line for a while. It was birthed in jealousy and a desire for power by someone in the past and it has followed us around ever since. My grandmother is the most blatant example of living out life under this curse, but it impacts my entire extended family. Such is the nature of generational curses.

Belief births more beliefs and if what we believe isn’t in alignment with God’s truth, these beliefs become a fun house maze of mirrors, distorting how we see the world, our relationships, ourselves. They warp how we see God.

And isn’t that the point? The smoke and mirrors illusionists use are to distract us long enough that our attention is pulled away from the truth toward the illusion, tricking our minds into believing the illusion truly happened. The enemy wants us to be distracted long enough that we listen to the lies and agree with them. If we allow distraction to focus us on the lies long enough, we begin to believe them and eventually it becomes so very difficult to believe God when He embraces us with the truth.

God has been telling me the truth about who I am for years. I have been shrugging it off because the lies had such a foothold in my belief system I couldn’t see anything else. Until now. Until I started praying for the truth. Until I asked God to reveal the truth to me, to help me be a lover of truth and to be a voice for truth.

Because that’s what it means to be a prophet. You speak the truth. God’s truth. You remind people of who they really are in Heaven. You reveal love and joy and peace. The truth isn’t ugly. The truth doesn’t require penance. It’s isn’t about pointing fingers at the areas in life where we fall short. It isn’t about shame and blame and it definitely isn’t about turn or burn.

The truth, God’s truth, is all about setting people free. Isn’t that one fo the foundational messages in the Gospel? If you know God’s truth, it will set you free. (John 8:36).

Something shifted inside me after this latest word from God, like all the Tetris pieces falling neatly into place. There is work ahead of me and a lot more truth for me to face and be embraced by, but I’m no longer on auto-pilot following the illusions. I continue to pray for God’s truth to be revealed around me and for wisdom in what needs to be changed in my own beliefs and behaviors. And I’m ever so grateful that God doesn’t give up on us, didn’t give up on me. I can’t imagine getting to this place on my own.

I’m no expert on this, I’m still learning, but I need to ask for those of you who have read this far, where do you believe in lies spoken to you or over you and does God’s great love for you have any place within those beliefs? If not, maybe it’s time to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal God’s truth to you.

Losing My Religion

I seem to be ranting a lot about the spiritual teachings I experienced throughout my life. Please don’t get the wrong impression. My parents are good and well-meaning people with their own biases and experiences that have shaped their own faith and belief in God. They didn’t abuse me or force me to walk a certain path. My decision to be baptized at the age of twelve, that was all me. In fact, my parents attempted to talk me out of approaching our pastor about being baptized because I was only twelve and did I really understand what I was doing? As it turned out I did.

My parent’s church was made up of people who were trying to live faith as they understood it. They meant well. They were earnest in their belief and I think they truly loved Jesus – as they understood him anyway. I have no idea what they though of the Holy Spirit for he was never really discussed. God, well, it depended on who you talked to, but by and large God was always referred to as Father and we spent a great deal of time worshipping God. The teachings themselves were more about being worthy and the change we need to make, rather than the change God makes within us. I do have some memory of some talk about the power of God. Those pale compared to what we were supposed to learn from characters in the bible, and the morality teachings. Youth group is a blur of mean girls, cliques and “you are set apart so live like you are set apart.”

My experience in church is likely not very different from anyone else who has attended an evangelical church. There are good people within those walls, people who earnestly love God and want to live life according to His precepts. People who truly see God and have a strong and loving relationship with Him. As a whole, it is the broader teaching of churches that is errant. Instead of teaching what Jesus taught, these churches unwittingly (or wittingly depending on the leadership) teach rules and judgments and works based faith. In fact, most of these churches, mainline or evangelical or charismatic, preach religion not faith. I’ve been to many churches in my forty some years, so I know of what I speak. And note, I said most not all. There are some exceptional churches who are grounded as a whole on their identity in Christ. It’s also not all teachings that are shrouded in religion, but enough that it keeps people from really seeing God.

So, while I speak out against the religious teachings, I recognize there are amazing people within those walls who see and hear and live the truth of who God is. These are the people to get to know. There’s something about them that is authentic, peaceful, joyful and filled with grace. These are the people to seek out if you want to learn what Christianity is all about, even if you’ve been attending church since you were a babe in arms. These people will speak a different language – one of grace and reconciliation. They aren’t filled with judgment and they won’t speak of you as if you are a sin filled person in need of redemption. They will love you for who you are and will see you as who you are in Heaven. They will show you what a relationship with God really means.

I’ve had a few of these people in my life along the way. Sometimes I listened to them and attempted to live a different way. Sometimes I ignored them because being around them made me feel like I was less, unworthy. What I didn’t know was that this was the religiosity in my life rebelling against God. I was resisting my identity, the nature God bestowed upon me when I laid my life at the foot of the cross.

There are people in church who can and will make a difference in your life if you let them. There are people who don’t attend a church for various reasons who are in a deep and abiding relationship with God. These are the people I seek out. They are my people, if you will. I want to learn from them. I want to enter the journey with them. I want to have honest discussions about God and religion and life with them. As a prophet, I want to give them the gift of seeing more of who God is for them and a deeper look into their identity.

I would love for everyone one who was a member of a church or had ever been involved in a church, to get to know God the way I am getting to know him. I would love for the well-meaning and earnest believers in my life to let go of rules and works and struggle and religion and find a relationship with God. I am beginning to experience such immense freedom and grace. Imagine what the world would be like if everyone experienced this? If we were able to let go of the religiosity of Christianity and focus on the grace and relationship.

It would be very easy to look back on the teachers and influencers that have been a part of my journey and to see them through the eyes of condemnation. I’ll admit, I’ve been tempted. My self talk can turn to pointing the finger at them and blaming them for the length of time it took me to really enter into to life with God. Just like I’ve been tempted to blame my grandmother for her part in my distorted view of my identity. Or how I want to blame the man who sexually abused me. Or the fiancé who took advantaged of a vulnerable person and emotionally abused and manipulated me. Or the employer at a faith-based non-profit who treated me unfairly. Or the mean girls in youth group and the youth leaders who let them get away with malicious character assassination. Or …

That’s not fair – to them or to me. God has been there all along the way. God has been speaking, guiding, nudging. God will redeem the time. God is accelerating my journey. And He will do that to anyone who comes to Him and asks. So no, I look at the people on my journey and I see where I made choices ,where I adopted mindsets or beliefs, where I was shaped, and where God has been working. I am where I am. And the things He is doing in my life now despite and because of where I’ve been.

So, while I rant against the religion in my life, I choose to love the people. To partake in the process of forgiveness. I choose to enter in to life in Christ fully.

Of Tea and Solitude

I’m sitting on a deck overlooking a lake while I sip my tea (chocolate purerh, if you were curious). The wind is light and it tickles the leaves in the trees above my head and carries with its puffs and gusts bird song and the lap of the waves as the hit the dock below. The sun is bright and the sky is a brilliant blue shot with streamers of light grey and white clouds. My faithful dog is running around, looking for a chipmunk or bird to chase. He has no care other than to follow the scent in the grass that beckons him.

There is no one else out just yet. The family is still eating breakfast inside the cabin. The neighbors either aren’t up at the lake this weekend or are also enjoying a leisurely morning inside. Right now, I feel as though it is just me and God enjoying a morning moment together. I pray in worship and gratitude for the weather, the sunshine, the quiet. For the funny yellow birds that flit in and out of the young pine trees. For the robin who fiercely guards her nest filled with eggs. For the whisper of the wind and the lap of the waves.

It is so easy to worship God in moments like this. And so easy to forget that these moments are gifts. I’ve been coming with my family to this cabin on the lake for eighteen years and many times I have been caught up in the frenzy of activity or the politics of extended family dynamics to see the gifts God has so openly and freely offered us here. I have let life get in the way of God.

My husband saw me out on the deck, sipping my tea and smiling. He asked me what put that look of complete contentment on my face. I think he hoped it was a carry over from the look of contentment he put on my face last night. I told him I was thinking about God and thanking Him for all the gifts He has given us in this moment. I started to list them off and my husband waved his hand in surrender. To him, worship is working. Sure, we can worship while we work, with our bodies and our labor. We can thank God with gratitude that we can provide for our families or use our bodies in ways that are pleasing to Him. Still, there’s something about stilling ourselves in a moment, for a moment, and breathing in our surroundings and meeting God there.

Why do we shut ourselves off from the favor of God? Why do we not bask in the glow of His delight in us? What is it that causes us to think of these moments as frivolous whimsy instead of a necessary part of relationship?

My husband is gone now, to sit down with his brother and make a list of things to be done today, both chores and fun things the nephews will enjoy like the energetic boys on the cusp of adolescence they are. I remain on the deck, sipping my tea and delighting in the moment. God will enter into relationship with my husband in His own way, in a way that will touch my husband’s heart. I pray for that day of revelation. For my husband’s heart to be made ready. For the Holy Spirit to move in whatever way my husband needs from Him. I see in my husband immense goodness and talent. He has stores of creativity ready to burst forth from him. He has deep wells of love God is just waiting to tap into. First, God and my husband need to have a discussion on identity, on forgiveness, on who God sees my husband to be, and on who God wants to be for him. I know because God has to have similar discussions with me.

Well, my tea cup is empty so I guess it’s time to partner with my husband and his brother on some of the things on that list for the day. I enter into this time with joy and peace in my heart. All because of a moment when I sat on a deck overlooking a lake while I sipped my tea.