Thursday, December 31, 2009

Walking with God--New Years Reflections

Psalm 116:1-19

I love the Lord, because He has heard
My voice and my supplications.
Because He has inclined His ear to me,
Therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live.

The pains of death surrounded me,
And the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me;
I found trouble and sorrow.
Then I called upon the name of the Lord:
"O Lord, I implore You, deliver my soul!"

Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;
Yes, our God is merciful.
The Lord preserves the simple;
I was brought low, and He saved me.
Return to your rest, O my soul,
For the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.

For you have delivered my soul from death.
My eyes from tears, and my feet from falling;
I will walk before the Lord
In the Land of the living.
I believed, therefore I spoke,
"I am greatly afflicted."
I said in my haste,
"All men are liars."

What shall I render to the Lord
For all His benefits toward me?
I will take up the cup of salvation,
And call upon the name of the Lord.
I will pay my vows to the Lord
Now in the presence of all His people.

Precious in the sight of the Lord
Is the death of His saints.

O lord, truly I am Your servant;
I am Your servant, the son of Your maid servant;
You have loosed my bonds.
I will offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving.
And will call upon the name of the Lord.

I will pay my vows to the Lord
Now in the presence of all His people,
In the courts of the Lord's house,
In the midst of you, O Jerusalem.

Praise the Lord.

This was the scripture in my devotional and it went along so well with what God was rolling around in my heart this morning. I don't know why, but it still surprises me when God set things up so the devotion, bible reading, or even sermon seems to line up directly with what He is speaking to me. I know He is God and can handle these little details, but it still evokes in me a sense of awe, when He does it. And He does it all the time. Why does it still surprise me? I have devotion I go through every year and I just keep going through it every year. I reach the end and just go back to the beginning. Maybe some day I will feel led to change to a new devotion book, but for the time being I keep going back to the beginning every Jan 1. This has been going on for years. I have probably gone through it 7 or 8 times. Every once in a while I read one that I recognize, but for the most part it always seems new to me. Amazing, huh? It always blows my mind that he can take this little book and somehow it is in the exact order the confirm and support what He is doing or speaking to me that day or in that season. Amazing to me. Maybe some day it will stop surprising me. I hope not though, b/c I love that sense of awe when I realize He has done it again. I hope He never stops surprising me. I think that is why I love life so much and why I wake up excited every day to have another day to walk with Him. I never want to get used to Him or let my walk with Him become stale. Lord, keep surprising me. It is so much fun. I feel almost like every day is Christmas for me. Strange, naive, crazy, immature, maybe, but I don't care. "Unless we come to him like a little child...." Let me continue to become more like a child and less like an adult. We lose the magic and zest of life when we grow "old". And as a matter of fact, Lord let me infect everyone around me with this disease of immaturity, naivety, and insane love for God and delight for each day He gives us. May we begin to believe in magic again (not real magic mind you); may we begin to be giddy, silly and amazed with anticipation of what our Father has in store for us each day. May we be willing, as David was, to dance with all of our might and be a fool for Jesus. May we get so lost in Him that we just don't care what anybody thinks about us and our love for our Savior. If people can act stupid for a football team, which has no eternal significance whatsoever, then they can act stupid for Jesus, who created us, loves us, died for us, calls us and equips us to do great things for him. Let's strip off of us the garments of "properness" and really express what He deserves for what He did for us. Can we please bring to church our football behavior? I think God would be delighted and be most honored by this behavior.

Well, that was an unexpected little rabbit trail.

My post yesterday about Larry and my story brought about a discussion with a friend. It seems that my post ripped open some wounds inside her that she didn't realize were even still there. We had gone to church together. I am sad that she is in pain, but I am glad that God showed her the wounds were there and ripped open the scabs. This is a great place to be; it is a painful place, but after the bleeding comes the healing. We discussed my perspective on the subject and how I am able to forgive and not be angry. I tried to share my heart with her and I hope that I was able to bring her closer to allowing God to heal her.

As I prayed for me friend this morning, this post began to roll around in my mind. When I read the devotion for the day, it confirmed to me what I needed to write about today. It is so hard to try to put into words the journey I have been on and how I have arrived here at this place. It is hard to express what has happened and what happens on my treadmill that has so dramatically changed and continues to change who I am. I would liken my treadmill to going into a closet and shutting the door to pray. From the outside one would probably just see someone running. You can't really tell that I am praying at all, unless you know me well and you just know, if I am running I am praying b/c that is just what I do. As I prayed, I tried to think about how I pray and how that impacts me. I was trying to describe it to my friend last night.

I have to say that sometimes I write with trepidation because I don't want to be taken the wrong way. I never want to come across like I think I have all the answers, or that I think I am just so spiritual, or that I think my way of praying is the only way. I hope and pray with all my heart that what comes across is an honest, authentic and sincere account of a desperately broken person who is desperately clinging to the only person she has hope in. I hope that you see someone who is so in Love with Jesus and so convinced that she has nothing without Him that all she can do is cling to him. I also hope you see someone who just wants to share her heart hoping that God would be gracious enough to use it to impact and help people.

I have reached a place in my walk where I have really ceased striving. I cannot do anything on my own. I don't even try. I need Him for everything, including even the desire to pray or seek Him. The desire and willingness is a gift He gives to me. If I see a struggle or an area that seems out of whack in my life, I don't try and change it. I bring it to Him. I don't try to use will power to solve my struggles. That is useless. I will always fail in my own power. I cannot do any good without Him. This also means that I cannot be proud of progress; I cannot seek glory for myself b/c I haven't done anything. I cannot find my significance or identity in any of the things I do or don't do. When people complement me or God uses me to speak truth and life into someones life, I must turn around and give it to Him. I cannot boast or think I am better than anyone else. You may struggle with food; I do not. I struggle with alcohol, and pride, and lust; I am not better than anyone else. You struggle; I struggle; we all struggle. No struggle is less or more than any other. They just are what they are. So, I cannot boast in any of my "strengths" b/c I have many weaknesses and the strengths I may have are a gift from God. How can I boast in a gift? So because I realize that everything I have is a gift and that I have nothing that He did not give me, I can cease striving. If He gave me these gifts, then He can give me strength in the midst of my weakness and struggle.

How do I pray? This is how I pray. I am not saying my way is the only way, but maybe someone somewhere will get something they need from reading about my prayer. First I spend a lot of time praying for myself. I have very long conversations with God about me and I don't think there is anything wrong with it. We need to pray for ourselves. What an asinine idea that we should pray for others and not ourselves. In that time of praying for myself, I pray, I listen and cry out and before I know it prayers are uttered out of myself that I know are no longer me; they are prayers of the Holy Spirit. He causes me to pray things that are scary to my flesh. He gives me to courage to trust God to know what is best for me. I find myself uttering things like, "if your Spirit goes not with me, I don't want to go. I don't want anything that you don't want me to have. I don't want to be anywhere that you aren't leading me. Lord, I will go where ever you want me to go as long as you go with me. I will go to Antarctica (that is a huge thing for me to say, there is no place I would rather not go than somewhere really cold; I am a cold natured person; I hate to be cold; Hell would be cold to me not hot). I will go to Africa; I will go live in a dump in Indonesia; I will live in a cardboard box under a bridge as long as you go with me. I don't want to be anywhere with out you. Take my family, just don't take your presence from me. I desperately need you and I am desperately in love with you. I know that where ever He would call me, would be where I would be most fulfilled, most at peace and where His presence would be. There is no where on Earth that I could be happier than where He would call me. B/c happiness is not external, it is totally internal. You have to admit those are pretty scary things to pray, but His Spirit prays them through me. When I am unable to pray, His Spirit prays for me, and through me. I am also free to not walk in fear b/c I am able to hold everything with an open palm. I trust Him so I can surrender everything to Him.

I find myself just praying for him to make me willing to do whatever He would ask of me, to go wherever He would ask me to go, to say whatever He would ask me to say, to be who He has made me to be, nothing more, nothing less. I pray for him to take out of me everything that stands in the way of me knowing Him and making Him known. I pray that if there is anything that I am unwilling to do, or anywhere I am unwilling to go, or unwilling to let go of, or unwilling to look at and deal with that He would make me willing. I ask him to help me to love Him with all of my heart, mind, soul, and spirit and to love my neighbor as myself. I pray break me, bring me to the end of myself so that I could lose my life and find it in You, so that it would no longer be I who live, but Christ in me. I pray that God would give me to courage and willingness to dig as deep in me as necessary so I could be free of all the infection, corruption, and contaminates inside of me. Free me from denial and deception, distraction and distortion, all the filters, wounds, arrows, and the voice of the enemy so that the enemy would not have ownership of any of the land in my soul.

When I was struggling with my alcoholism and the denial associated with it I just cried out to God to help me. My heart wanted to stop drinking, but my flesh did not. I did not say, "Okay, Lord, I won't do it anymore," when that was not really what it felt. I told Him, "I know that you don't want me to keep doing this, Lord, but I want to keep drinking, I like drinking, so I ask You to makes me willing to give it up, help me to not want to do this anymore." There was no point in me trying to get control (for those who are familiar with recovery, that would be the first and second steps). I didn't even want to control it. He knew that was the case so I didn't try and pretend that I felt any different than I felt. I did know, though, that He could change my heart and make me want what He wanted for me. I loved Him and wanted to obey what He was telling me, but I didn't have it inside me to do it. So, I brought it to Him and asked for Him to change me. And guess what, He did it; He changed me. I don't want to drink anymore. I know that there will probably come a day that I am tempted; the Word says, "let him who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall." I pray for that day when I am tempted, but today and for the past few months, He has taken the desire away from me. He did that for me. The first couple months had some pretty tough days, but He was so faithful to always give me not only a way of escape, but the desire to take it. So you see, I have ceased striving, I don't even try anymore. I just give it to Him, cry out to Him and ask for His help in all the ways I need it. My will power is not even relevant anymore; it isn't me doing it; it is Him.

Another example of the phenomena happened when we first really started going back to church and I started to trying to draw close to Him and let go of the things that were weighing me down. I would go to church and we would sing songs; they felt so inauthentic to me. I sang, "Lord, you're my all and all, I love you more than anything else," etc. While I was singing, I would be apologizing to Him b/c that is not how I felt and it really bothered me to be inauthentic in praising Him. I knew there had been a time in my walk that those words were sincere and I believed that I would come back to a sincere worship. I did the only thing I knew to do; I prayed every day that He would change my heart and help me fall back in love with Him. I prayed that He would make those words authentic and sincere in my life so that I could sing them and mean them with all of my heart. Over the next couple months He answered those prayers and He started transforming me and restoring me and healing me. Then one day I realized that I was once again singing from my heart and I really meant the words that were coming out. I could not work that up or make it happen; I just went to the source of everything I have and asked for His help. He helped me. He has brought me back to that place I walked when I first met Him, only with more wisdom, experience and root. We just have to be real, come to him with what we have and ask for His help. He will meet us right there. "Ask and it shall be given to you, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened to you." "Then you will call upon me and go and pray to me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek me and find me, when you search for me with all your heart" Sometimes He will withdraws from us, when we are half hearted in seeking Him so that we will really get desperate and search for Him with all our hearts. He doesn't want our pretense, our half hearted devotion; He doesn't want us to come to him with a mask of perfection on. He wants us to come as we are, with all of our hearts and allow him to meet us there, even if there is a sewer. Sewers are His specialty.

I love Jeremiah 29:11-14

"For I know the thoughts I think toward you, says the Lord, thought of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and go and pray to me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive."

He has great plans for us and He loves us. He wants to put it in our hearts to seek Him with our whole being. He wants to bring us close to Him. He wants to bring us back from captivity. He will allow our sin, whatever it is, to take us away in captivity until we are sick enough of it that we will cry out to Him with all of our hearts. He will let us gorge ourselves until we are so full that it becomes sour in our stomachs and we vomit it up. He will let us have our fill and allow us to be dragged away into captivity, b/c He loves us and when the captivity is bad enough, we will cry out to Him with all our hearts b/c we want Him more than that things that holds us captive. He lets things get as bad as it takes. Then when we have had enough; we will cry out to Him. We will desperately cry out for Him and search for Him; we will try to figure out where it is we left Him, lost Him; then we will realize He is right there and He will rescue us.

God is good and He loves us more than we could ever possibly understand or love ourselves. For that I am grateful. He never afflicts without reason; He afflicts to bring us back to Him. He won't let us go. Man, is that good news.

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