Wednesday, April 29, 2009
I never knew it could be so simple. I have heard the hymn hundreds of times since I was little, have sung it on multiple occasions myself, yet never really let the words sink in. Maybe you know which one I'm talking about.
"Trust and obey, for there's no other way
To be happy in Jesus, than to trust and obey."
Looking back I can see that for the majority of my life I had opted to do the one, without the addition of the other. I never had trouble with the trusting, it was the obeying that really didn't appeal to me. Sure, I believed that Christ died on the cross to save me from my sins. And, yes, I trusted that He had a perfect plan for my life if only I would just hand it over to Him. And I very much admired my father, and my mother, and numerous other people in my sphere of influence who seemed to have the whole package down pat. I even went so far as to be envious of their close walk with the Lord and the obvious fulfillment it brought to them. But was I willing to let go and give God control? Not on your life. To me, it seemed much more simple to worship God from a distance. To believe in the stories, but not internalize and practice the truths that came along with them. To appreciate what Christ did for me, and to love that He had such a strong, positive influence on the people close to me, but not take that extra step to see what He could possibly do with my own future. And I just kind of hoped that maybe by doing and saying the right things God wouldn't notice if I wasn't really 100% committed to Him.
And boy, was I good at it. If they would have handed out medals for people who could talk the talk without having to walk the walk, I'd have taken the gold every time. "Spiritual Idol"? "Praying With the Stars"? "The Biggest Liar"? Those trophies would have been mine, all mine.
I was not ready to completely hand myself over to Him, not when I was sure that I could do just fine living this life on my own terms. (You know what? Now that I think about it, maybe I wasn't so good at the trust thing after all.)
Well, He noticed. Turns out He can very easily distinguish between someone thinking He's a pretty cool idea, and someone who is experiencing flat on their face, tears pouring down their cheeks, soul giving worship. He saw right through my surface Christianity, convicted me of my award-winning fence-sitting, and felt it was time to call me out on it. I'm sure He would have let me stay wishy-washy if that's what I desired to do (He's never been one to force Himself on anyone), but He sensed my emptiness. He saw me searching for something more. He heard me call out to Him and question His ability to lead me out of the gray area I had called home for so long. And He answered me. He came down. He met me right where I was.
And then He had some questions for me as well.
Was I really ready to follow Him? Was I ready to let Him lead me into the unknown? Was I willing to make myself vulnerable to the loneliness, ridicule, and sacrifice that can often accompany such a decision? Did I fully understand the lifelong commitment that becoming His disciple would demand of me?
And with my forehead to the floor, my knees to the ground, I answered him back.
"Yes, Lord. I am Yours. Now please help me to live like it."
And this time I knew it was for real. No more shallow commitment, no more deciding to follow Him one day and then the next day opting to go it alone. No, He wanted all of me. And for the first time, I was ready to give it.
And some awesome things started happening over here. I started learning what it meant to trust the Lord with every part of me. And not only that, but I also started learning the joy (the joy! Who would have thought?) that goes hand in hand with obeying God's calling. And since then He has shown me blessing beyond measure. Even through the pain that accompanied my Dad's battle with cancer and his death six weeks ago, and through the grief that still follows me through every single day, I can say with certainty that God has been good to me. I have been faithful in responding to His call, and He has blessed me.
Sitting here today, writing to all of you, I have never been more excited and more confident about where I am in life. It has taken me a long time to get here, and I know that I still have a lifetime of learning in store for me, but God has shown me repeatedly that I need not fear the future. I do not have to harbor any anxiety over where I will be in one year, or five years, or twenty years, because I know my God goes before me. He has seen all of my tomorrow's, has them planned to perfection, and is just waiting for me to get there so He can continue to reveal His story and His purpose for me.
And the beauty of it is that all it took was for me to say, "Here I am, Lord. Send me". Be careful when you tell Him that it's okay to do this, because He will do it! He threw me right into this world of writing a year and a half ago when I had no idea where I was headed, what I was doing, or even what my next sentence would be. But I went on with complete assurance that I did not need to know, because He was holding the reins. All I needed to do was obey His direction, and trust that He would be the One to speak through me to the people He loves.
To be honest, I do get scared sometimes. I wonder if a time will come when I will just run out of words, or ideas, or inspiration. But then I remember Who it is that brought me here. He made a promise to me (and to you) in Philippians 1:6, a promise that declares we can go on "being confident of this. That He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus". I plan to hold Him to His word on this one, and He would (and could) have it no other way.
He will always provide, He will always be here, and He will always see to it that His perfect plan comes to fruition. We just need to trust, and obey.
Dear Lord in heaven,
I pray this day thankful that my life is out of my hands. Never has being blindly led sounded so appealing. I thank You again, Lord, for this chance You have given me to reach others for You. The beauty of that opportunity remains beyond anything words could ever convey. I thank You for allowing me to see the freedom and the pure joy that comes along with following You. I look forward to tomorrow with excitement, just wondering what You have in store for me.
I pray for all of Your people reading these words right now, that they will somehow be moved to take the next step, to trust You, and obey whatever calling it is You have for their life. Give them a glimpse of the good stuff, Lord, the total fulfillment that accompanies knowing that they have found themselves in the center of Your will.
I pray for myself, too, Lord, that I can continue to trust that this site does not belong to me, but that it is of Your making, and You will carry it out to completion. Help me to not get in my own way with my own ideas of what should be said here, but may this place be used only for Your glory, and Your praise.
Thank You for the privilege of obeying You, and the gifts of Your presence and blessing that come hand in hand with it.
In Your Mighty Grip,
Monday, April 27, 2009
I thought I would try to lighten up this post a little, as the last one was a bit on the heavy side. (Thank you, by the way, if you have decided to stay with me. You wouldn't have been able to tell it from my last entry, but I usually am a pretty bright, cheerful, optimistic girl. Some might even say annoyingly so.)
Anyway, for today I thought I would introduce you to the people whom God has chosen to place in my life that make up my immediate circle. If we can tell what kind of person we are by the people who love us, I have been inundated with about ten different personalities. No wonder I have trouble staying focused!
(On a sidenote: If you are one of my email subscribers, I am not sure if these pictures will translate. If you want to see them you may have to click on over to my actual blogsite.)
We'll start off with the love of my life, my husband Jason. (Pictured below.) God brought Jason into my life seven years ago just as I was getting ready to make a pretty impulsive move to California. I saw him walk in the door of a Superbowl party we both happened to be attending, and the first thought that ran through my head was, "I'm going to marry that man". Little did he know, Elling women don't often take no for an answer, and two years later I tricked (I mean, wooed) him into marrying me. He is nothing short of a God-send to my life. We are polar opposites in many ways, which is just the kind of life-partner I need. He keeps me grounded, he makes me laugh, he's strong as an ox both mentally and physically (must be the teacher/farmer combo), and he's one of the most sensitive, caring souls I have ever met. (He reminds me very much of my father in this way.) And most importantly, he has a heart that is complete only when in service to the Lord.
My prayer for Jason is that he continues to follow through with his desire to tangibly make a difference in the lives of those who are seeking Christ, and also with his own desire to more fully understand the God we serve. Next up is my firstborn daughter, Dana. Out of our two children, she is the most unlike me, and subsequently the one that teaches me the most about life, and about loving wholeheartedly those people who we may just not understand. Dana is my more reserved, cautious child. She is shy in groups, and comes alive only when she feels 100% safe and secure with the people around her. She is a tenderheart through and through, is at her happiest when being read to, and has an instinctual love and respect for all of God's creation. (Other than ants, which for some reason she feels the need to squish on sight. I'm trying to work with her on that.) I also need to be careful what I say to her, because she takes every one of my remarks at face value. She doesn't appreciate, or see the need for any form of sarcasm or exaggeration, and does a great job at holding me accountable for every word that comes out of my mouth. Dana first taught me how to be a mother when I was convinced I would be a total failure as one, and for this I am forever in her debt.
My prayer for Dana is that she finds her inherent value only in being a Child of God and not a child of this world, and that she understands down to her very core that she is a Promise and a Possibility in the Lord's making.
Friday, April 24, 2009
Grief can be so disorienting sometimes. You momentarily lose yourself, your identity, and your sense of self as you try to figure out who you are without the presence of the person you have lost.
You find yourself doing inexplicable things, like picking up the phone to call your Dad to ask him to pray for you as you mourn his loss.
Yep, I just did that.
And the pain that followed the realization that I will never again hear his voice on the other end of the phone line opened wide this wound in my heart that I had hoped had begun to heal ever so slightly.
All I can think about right now is that I will never again hear the gentle, "Hi, Susan, how are you?", knowing that the course of our conversation would hinge on my answer to that question. I will never again hear our standard, simple good-bye of "Love you, Dad", "I love you too, Susan" at the close of our chats together. I will never again be able to call him just because I felt like it, or ring him up to tell him a story in the hopes of making him laugh, or making him proud, or both, or return a call to him in response to a message he had left for me. His warm, soothing voice in answer to my own is no longer available to me in this lifetime.
Oh, how I wish I would have had the foresight to capture the sound of him on video. I wish I would have had the premonition to ask him questions on camera that could have been preserved for all time about himself, his views on life, his advice for his grandchildren, and his love for me. What I wouldn't give to have just five more minutes to try and implant the sound of his quiet, melodic laughter in my memory forever. I am so afraid of the moment when I realize I can't recall his voice at my every whim. You'd think after thirty-some years of hearing it regularly it would be permanently etched in my brain, but even I know that there may come a day where it could be lost for good.
(Please forgive me for my depressive rambling, I'm having a hard night tonight. I do thank you, though, for sticking with me even as I turn into an emotional basketcase before your very eyes. You are good friends.)
And as I sit here pondering these things, one sad thought just keeps leading to another, and the heaviness is getting to be almost more than I can bear. I worry about things I never even thought twice about before. Things like losing the image of him walking towards me, smiling, ready to give me a hug, and of not being able to recall the feel of that embrace. I worry about not being able to summon up the sight of the ever-present sparkle in his kind, hazel eyes. I worry about forgetting the way he looked upon with wonder and adoration his grandkids, and how he loved nothing more than to hold their little hands in his own. He used to just gaze at those tiny hands he held in awe, and you could almost hear him worshiping and praising God for the perfection that can come in such a small package.
(Sidenote: Most of you who knew him probably didn't take the time to notice this, but he had beautiful hands. I always loved his hands. They were so youthful, so smooth, so gentle, you could almost feel the warmth of his servant heart flowing from his servant hands.)
And as my downward spiral of sadness continues, I find myself dreading the time when I will not expect him to greet me from his spot on the couch when I go to visit my Mom. I can see him now in my mind's eye rising up to hug me, glasses (minus a stem) in one hand, his latest read in the other, and a big grin on his face as he wrapped his arms around me, with one eye always on the lookout for his grandchildren. (And even though in the last few years I had become second-place to my girl's, he was still kind enough to try to be subtle about it. I can only remember a couple times when he completely blew by me as he made his way to where the little ones were filing in.)
How am I going to go on without these routine, commonplace, taken-for-granted moments in my days? After so many years of these things defining the way things were with us, will life ever really feel normal again?
These are things I do not know, and am too sad to try and figure out.
But as I sit here, wallowing in my grief, moving from one painful thought to the next, it feels good to know I serve a God who does not begrudge me these times of sorrow, but instead joins me in them. If I take a deep breath and still myself long enough, I can feel His peacefulness, I can feel His reassurance, and I can feel His heavenly arms wrapped around my broken spirit. And like the good friend He is, He doesn't even fire reminders at me of where my father is, or tell me that I should be joyful knowing that I will see him again someday. He doesn't feel it necessary to point out that the times I spent with my father are far from over, and that our future together will be greater than our past. No, He knows that I know these things. And He also knows that for now, for tonight, I just need to grieve the father that I lost, and mourn what that will mean for me today, and tomorrow, and for all of my tomorrow's thereafter.
So He remains right here with me, letting me sob into His shoulder as I once did, not that long ago, into my Dad's. He continues to offer me nothing more than His presence, knowing that all I need is to just make it through to the next moment. And if I let myself, I can hear His calming voice telling me that He knows my sorrow, He understands my sorrow, and He would never stand in the way of my sorrow.
He's comforting me like any good Father would.
Dear Lord in heaven,
I pray this day in sadness. I miss my Dad. You know him, and You understand more than anyone the reasons why. He was a good man, Lord, which makes it that much harder to not have him here.
I am beyond grateful for the knowledge of where my Dad is right now, and for being able to say in full confidence that he is where he should be, but that doesn't stop me from wanting him here, too. He's left a void that I just don't ever see diminishing, much less disappearing.
Thank You tonight, Lord, for just letting me grieve. For recognizing that my faith is still strong, though my spirit is weak. Thank You for allowing me to be broken, and beaten, and battered by this loss, while still trusting that I will never stray so far from You that I would be unable to navigate my way back.
I love You, Lord, nothing will ever change that. Even as I lay in this pit and am shrouded in this darkness, I know I need only to lift my eyes to find my relief, to find my refuge, to find You.
Please stay near to me tonight, as I am in desperate need of a Father's love.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Well, today he's been working overtime, and calling in for reinforcements.
He was out to get me today. He had me in his cross hairs and was not afraid to pull the trigger. Never before have I felt so oppressed by something (or someone) I could not see. I am a novice when it comes to the theology of spiritual warfare, but today I definitely knew that I was deep in the trenches, fighting for, and against, something. He and I have been battling it out all day, and he's got me weary. (But, on the other hand, it almost feels like an honor that he considers me so much of a threat that he is making such an effort in trying to stop me.)
I really think he hates what I'm doing here. Actually, I know he does. He made that abundantly clear today when I could hear him in my head, over and over again, telling me I am not good enough to be doing this. He was having me question my experience, my skills, and even my inspiration. He was trying to fill me with his lies by giving me glimpses of my past where I was anonymous, where I didn't have to answer to anyone, and where my faith was a private matter between me and God.
And I will admit, there were times when he seemed to be gaining some ground. Times where I conceded that he was right, and agreed with him that there are far better ways for you to spend your time than to be reading anything that little ol' me has to write.
He's good at what he does. He's really good, actually. But what he didn't count on was that I already knew he wasn't the best. I played his game for a little while. I looked at what he had to offer me, I weighed my options, I waded through the doubts and the anxiety he tried his best to instill in me, and in the end he didn't even make it to the finals. Because there is one thing both him and I do see eye to eye on. We have one common denominator that even he can't dispute. And that is that though he may be good, his enemy, my God, is Great. And once he realized that I knew that as well, he had no choice but to retreat.
For while I was deep in the trenches today, I was not fighting alone. With every temptation Satan threw out for me to consider, Christ countered it with a promise of His own. When Satan told me that what I was doing here didn't matter, and that I should be spending my time doing other things, Christ reminded me of the fulfillment following Him brings along with it, and how nothing can compare to the rewards He has waiting for me if I remain faithful to Him. When Satan pointed out all the other devotionals and websites that are surely much better than this site here, Christ reminded me that this forum belongs to Him, and He will not allow it to be anything less than what He intended it to be. When Satan showed me pictures of the comfortable life I had been living, and the easy life I could continue to live if I give this up, Christ fought back with pictures of His own, pictures of me enjoying heavenly splendor and eternity with Him if I would only just stay this course which He has presently called me to.
At the end of the day there was nothing Satan could offer me that even came close to the majesty of what is in store for me if I just remain faithful to the One I love.
I was also reminded of one other thing in all of today's warring. Though I knew God was by my side all day, I was never promised an easy win. He never guaranteed that there would be no opposition, no pain, and no sacrifice. In fact, in His Word He promises just the opposite. (John 16:33 "I have told you these things so that you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.") But God does promise that the sacrifice will be worth it. That He is faithful to those who are faithful to Him. And that He will be waiting for us when the battle is over, with open arms, a proud smile on His face, ready to say the words that we, as believers in Him, most long to hear.
"Well done, good and faithful servant."
This battle, my friends, belongs to the Lord.
Dear Lord in heaven,
I pray this day mentally and spiritually exhausted, but with a strong sense of victory. With Your help I was able to recognize Satan's attempts at filling me with his darkness, and hold him off. I do not know where he's going to turn up tomorrow, but I do know that You will be there also, ready once again to defeat him if I give You the chance. Thank You for coming along side of me, a beginner in all of this, and showing me that I need not fear, that when I call upon You, You are faithful in protecting me.
Be with all of us, Lord, as we daily battle the one who longs to see us fall. Help us to be able to see him at work. Make us conscious of his efforts, and aware of his attacks. And then just remind us, O Powerful One, that we serve the Living Lord. And that Satan fears nothing but the moment when we call upon Your name.
What an honor, Lord, to go to battle for Your kingdom.
In Your Strong and Mighty Name I pray,
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
And to top it all off, since I have started writing this blog, I feel as if Satan has been piling on the distractions, the discouragement, the self-doubt, the fear of failure... and then using the kid's whining as his big, fat cherry on top.
I am tired.
So what am I doing up, just starting to write, at 9:30pm when I should be heading to bed and renewing my mind and body for another busy day tomorrow?
I am laughing.
Because God knew I needed to.
He knew I just needed a break from it all to sit back, become a voyeur into someone else's life, and realize that I'm not the only one who feels this way sometimes.
(Enter my sister-in-law, Emily, a comic genius with the bravery to put her life on display for all to see. Check out her hilarity at www.designHermomma.com, you won't be sorry.)
I have always appreciated that God has an awesome sense of humor. Creation itself is a testimony to that. (Have you ever seen a blue-footed booby? Those things had to have been created by someone with a pretty fresh funny bone.) And I know that the Bible never really mentions times where "Jesus laughed", but we have got to believe He did. I actually bet He was a pretty funny guy in His own right! (If anyone has any Biblical references that can back me up on this, I would love to hear them. I know there's got to be mention of it somewhere...)
And so today, instead of Him giving me life-changing words of wisdom, or inspiring me to do great and marvelous things, He simply gave me the ability and the opportunity to just laugh. To release. To gain a little perspective.
He always seems to know just what I need, when I need it. Just another reason you've got to love this guy.
Dear Lord in heaven,
I pray this day with a lightness that I have not felt has belonged to me for quite some time. Thank You for reminding me that it's okay to not be "on" all the time, for giving me the freedom to let myself let go and enjoy this crazy life that is whirling around me, and simply enjoy being a part of this day that You have given me. I know these moments in time are finite, Lord, help me to treasure them, store them up, relish every second of them, and see You in the middle of them all. Thank You for not only being the God of Mercy, and the God of Might, and the God of Justice, but also the God of Joy.
With a smile on my face I say to You today, I love you Lord.
Monday, April 20, 2009
I have also been blessed enough to attend Bible Study Fellowship for the last four years, which is an intense study of God's Word that focuses on one section of the Bible a year, complete with weekly lectures and discussion, and daily lessons that require you to read certain passages and record your thoughts from there.
Give me that kind of structure and teaching any day.
I thrive on disciplined study, I can check my "completed" boxes with the best of them, sit me down with a set of questions and a time frame to do it in and I'm your gal. But leave me to my own devices when it comes to diving into the Word of the Lord, and more often than not I am lost.
And this is why it makes it so much more meaningful to me, and so much more of a miracle, when I do feel led to a certain passage. When I feel the Spirit whispering in my ear, leading me where He wants me to go, lighting on specific words and phrases that He desires me to internalize and to share. This does not happen as frequently as I would like, but when it does happen, oh my... the feeling that the God of the Universe has a part of Himself He would like to share with me is overwhelming, sends my heart a-flutter, and reminds me just how lucky I am to have heard His voice.
And last night He did just that. The actual Scripture He gave me I thought I would save for another post, as I know your time is valuable and I am well aware of my tendencies to go on and on. But today I want to focus on the magnificence of being people who the Lord desires to have a connection with. People who He notices are struggling to understand His Word and longing to see more of Him, and then graciously reaching down, coming close, and speaking to us.
Reflecting upon last night, and what made it different than any other night, I have come to the conclusion that He chose to get up close and personal with me because that was the only thing I wanted from Him.
I have found over the years that how blessed I am as a result of my daily devotions is in direct correlation with what I expect to get out of them. Do I expect answers to my problems? Direction as to the next step in a particular venture? Complete assurance that any worries/troubles/situations I have will be taken care of by Him? Many times, I admit, immediate solutions would be nice. And not to say that this is something I should never expect to receive from spending time with Him, but it is not a guarantee. Do I know He hears me? Yes. Do I trust that He does all things according to my own good? Absolutely. Do I have faith that He sees my life, knows my struggles, and could make all my problems vanish in an instant? There is not a doubt in my mind.
But this is not the kind of devotion He is desiring from me. The dictionary describes devotion as "selfless affection and dedication, as to a person or a principle". And I am learning that this is the kind of time spent together with our Lord that He will honor. Selfless affection for Him. Dedication to seeking Him and finding Him. Limitless adoration for the One who knitted us together in our mother's womb, and knows every one of our days before they come to pass. I have discovered that His blessing seems to pour over me when I come to Him hungry for only Him, when I pray only to be filled with His presence, when I address Him with no other agenda than to simply worship Him, to praise Him, and to just love Him for who He is and what He has already done for me. It is those times when I forget myself and focus on Him that I feel the closest to Him. This is when I come away knowing that He has allowed me to learn more about Him. And this is when I feel as if He has given me the chance to see His beautiful, tender, human-loving heart.
So today I am going to make a point of not waiting for the Lord to swoop down, drop a magic verse in my lap, and promise to solve all my problems. Today I am going to just concentrate on Him and what a privilege it is to be able to spend time together with Him. I am going to choose to adore Him, to make a list for Him of all the reasons why I love Him, and then unabashedly, unashamedly, with my hands in the air and my eyes to the heavens, glorify His Holy name.
I pray this day with praise on my lips. I praise You for being a God who desires to come down to meet me, when it would be so much easier for You to stay on Your throne. I praise You for Your unending love for me, a love that cost You everything, simply because You could not stand the thought of spending eternity without me by Your side. I am unworthy, Lord, of this kind of love and sacrifice, but I am forever grateful. I praise You for Your compassion, and Your willingness to forgive my sins in an instant, as long as I just bring them before You and ask for them to be washed away. You are a great God, a Holy God, a God worthy of all our praise.
If I may ask just one thing, Lord, it is only that You continue to be faithful to me when I honestly am seeking to know You more. That You continue to let me see a little more of You everyday as I hunger and thirst for Your wisdom, Your guidance, and Your Spirit within me.
I bow down before You in complete humility, just thankful that I have the opportunity to bow down before You at all.
Today I praise the Name above all Names, Lord... Your own.
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace... I honor You.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
I thought I would share with you tonight my favorite verse in the Bible. I have loved this verse for as long as I can remember. Often it plays like a constant refrain inside my head. It is a short verse, easy to memorize, but unbelievably hard to implement sometimes in everyday life. In Psalm 46:10 we are instructed to, "Be still, and know that I am God". These words have reached places in me that no other words ever have. They have changed me, as I have been able to relate this simple phrase to every situation I have experienced in my life...
The birth of my children? Check. (Be in awe, I am the God who created life!)
The death of my father? Check. (Peace, my child, I am the God who has conquered death.)
Worry over money, health, kids, etc.? Check. (Everything will be all right, I am the God who controls everything.)
Success and celebration? Check. (Step back, faithful one, and count the blessings your trust in Me has earned you.)
This verse renews me. It excites me. It calms me. And most importantly, it reminds me.
So tonight, as I listen to my three-year old daughter playing in her room long after she is supposed to be asleep, as my husband sits in the other room trying not to become worried about recent work developments, as I continue to battle with the loss of my Dad, and as my dog whines at me to go outside for what seems like the umpteenth time in the last ten minutes, I will heed the words of my Heavenly Father. I will be quiet, I will trust, I will appreciate His sovereignty over every minute of my life, and I will remember that He is God. There is nothing in this life so important to hold onto as that.
Dear Lord in heaven,
I pray this day in peace, knowing that these seemingly scattered, anxious moments have already been seen by you, and ordained by You. You can do no wrong, it is impossible for You to fail, to make a mistake goes against everything You are. Today I take comfort knowing that I serve a capable God, a powerful God, a God who enjoys me, and a God who is loving enough to know that I need gentle reminders on occasion to simply just be still, remember all that You are, and embrace what You being You means for my life.
I love You, Lord. Thank You for giving me glimpses of Your greatness, and the knowledge that I have only just begun to scratch the surface of it.
In Your Wonderful Name I pray,
Thursday, April 16, 2009
It's been a tough day over here.
I just miss my Dad.
There really have been times lately where I feel as if I have taken huge steps in the right direction. A couple days will go by with maybe only a tear or two shed, hours will go by where I don't notice the dull ache in my heart that has been there since he passed away, and I will even find that I have been smiling and laughing without the constant thought running through my mind of, "My Dad just died".But then days like today come along, and I am thrown, hurled, catapulted right back to square one. Every part of my body hurts, from the inside out. My breath is caught in my chest as pictures of him when he was alive, and strong, and healthy run like a slideshow through my head. And then the tears, oh the tears, flow with abandon, until ironically my eyes seem to dry out while the tears still continue to pour onto my cheeks.
Dad, I miss you. I need you here. I can't do these days without you. I'm too young to not have a father, for my kids to not have you as their grandfather, for Mom to be reduced to one of the two that she was a part of for almost forty years. There just wasn't enough time, Dad. I didn't get the chance to learn everything I needed to know from you. I want you here, I want you healthy, I want you back. Living without you doesn't seem like life. This is just too hard...
Friends, can I tell you what one of the main things is that I am missing most about my Dad? One of the things that reminds me at every turn of the gravity his loss brings along with it? It's that beyond being a wise leader, beyond being a compassionate soul, beyond loving me and supporting me with everything he had, he prayed for me. Everyday. On his knees. Whether I asked him to or not. I knew every night as I crawled into my bed that I had been lifted up by him at some point during the day, and my name had been spoken before the Lord. Many times I didn't know exactly what was said, exactly what he saw in my life that day which he felt needed to be laid down at the foot of the Throne, but I was placed there with the unshakable faith that God would take care of me. Can our earthly love go any deeper than that? The constant, daily surrender of those we hold most dear to the God above, knowing that our power and protection have multiple limitations, but our God's does not. Recognizing that there are so many things that we simply cannot guarantee our loved ones, but then giving them the one thing we can... the habitual, daily offering up of their lives into the hands of Christ.
Oh, how I miss that. How I miss the security that comes with having my own, personal prayer warrior. Of having in my corner a man who felt called, who felt it was his duty, to bow down on my behalf every single day. And this also makes me grieve desperately for what this loss means for my children, and for their cousins, and for my husband, and for my mother, and for my siblings, and for their spouses, and for so, so many of you... because rest assured none of your names were far from mine on his list, and he prayed for all of us, without fail, every day of his life.
And it is this thought that is bringing me to my knees in despair today. To not have that daily prayer to rely on makes this gaping, heart-shaped hole he left behind seem to grow infinitely, endlessly bigger. I feel more vulnerable, more open to the attacks of this world, and subsequently, even more lost without him here.
But, as always, I can feel the Holy Spirit once again working through my pain. And right now he is telling me that this sadness, and this loss, need not be in vain. Prayers can still be offered up. Maybe not by my father on our behalf in the same capacity that they used to be, but prayers for God's children nonetheless. Today there is something that I can do, something that will help to fill that void, something that can bring glory to His name, and once again it involves you.
Over the last year or so, God has layed on my heart the responsibility of what it really means when I tell someone that I will be keeping them in my prayers. Oftentimes I would find myself saying this to someone almost as a way of letting them know that I cared about them. Flippantly throwing around the phrase "I'll pray for you", and then not following through by actually doing it. I would mean it wholeheartedly at the time, but then I would either just plain forget, or I would do it once or twice and feel as if I had fulfilled my promise. But this is far from the way God views this pledge I am making to His people. I was reminded in a Bible study yesterday that God never forces us into making a vow of any kind, but when we do make one, he expects us to keep it. And this truth very much hit home with me. And it also strengthened my resolve to become a prayer warrior myself, both in honor of my father, and because it is one more way I can show my Lord that I love Him, and in turn that I love and care for His hurting people.
So today I wanted to invite you, if you feel so moved, to share with me anything in your life that you would like to be lifted up in prayer. If you are hurting, if you are empty, if you just need some encouragement, I promise you, I vow to you, in front of my Maker, that you will find me on my knees on your behalf every single day until I am told otherwise. I know what a difference the knowledge of someone daily speaking to the Lord for you can make in a life, and I am willing, if you so desire, to do my part in yours. Whether you are someone who my father was praying for, and you, too, miss having that assurance in your life, or whether you did not know my Dad at all and just need someone to support you, let me bow down with you and help lift your requests up to the King. Please don't feel obligated to share specifics if it makes you uncomfortable, they are not necessary. God knows your story, and knows your needs before they ever leave our lips. You can find me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I've got my kneepads on, and I am ready to go.
Philippians 4:6-7 "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."
Dear Lord in heaven,
I pray this day trusting that you know my heart, and you know the hearts of all who are reading these words. You understand the depths of our suffering, our guilt, our doubts, and our fears. You feel our pain, you empathize with our sorrow, you've seen our tears, and you are longing for us to feel whole again. Lord, there are many of us hurting right now, for so many different reasons. And I know this is why You have given us the ability to commune with each other, and to commune with You. Please give me the strength and the endurance to come alongside Your people whom You so treasure. Help me learn to love them as You love them, and in my prayers, Lord, let us see Your power revealed. As I come before You today I ask that Your ears are open to our requests, that Your grace overwhelms us, that Your mercy is rained down upon us, that Your comfort is undeniably felt by us, and that Your peace becomes a part of our innermost being. We need You, Lord. We love You. We bow down before You. Hear the prayers of Your people.
In Your Holy Name,
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
With that said, I must admit that there have been many times today in which I have been overcome with anxiety as I contemplated my role here, and the pressure of being on "center stage" for our Lord. I was weighed down by feelings of inadequacy, and plagued with bewilderment as to how (and why) the God of the universe would trust His disciples to come alongside someone as unequipped as me. I thought of about twenty other people who I was sure He must have mistaken me for, about twenty other things I thought I could do for Him in lieu of hosting this very public arena, and about twenty things I have done in my past that should most certainly disqualify me from this type of service. I feel I am not worthy enough, I am not educated enough, and I am not prepared enough to be His voice to those of You who are seeking to find Him, to follow Him, and to commit Your lives to Him.
And do you know what He told me? That I'm absolutely right. I am not worthy. I am not equipped. To this day I continue to fail Him over, and over, and over again. And then He proceeded to reveal to me that this is exactly why He has chosen me. Because I could be any one of you. I am every one of you. I do not have the answers. I am still trying to determine my own path. I am still facing consequences everyday for poor decisions I have made in the past. But He reminded me clearly today that He is a God who has not given up on me. He knows everything about me, knows my mistakes, my regrets, my doubts, and still loves me so much that He could not withhold this opportunity for me to try and do something right. Something meaningful. Something that may have eternal rewards. It floors me that even with everything I have done to seemingly halt the spread of His Word; the missed opportunities to witness, the endless decisions to remain silent, the giving in to the fear of being thought of as "different" because of my love for Him, the many, many times I have fallen short of being the Godly woman He has called me to be, that even now, especially now, He trusts me. He still believes in me. And He has chosen today to provide me with everything I need to speak to His beloved people on His behalf. The responsibility that accompanies this trust is far and away one of the most precious gifts I have ever received.
I love what this says about the God we have chosen to serve. He is a God who, regardless of our many shortcomings and obvious selfish ways, desires to grant us the chance to prove ourselves to Him. He knows our potential, He instilled in us this potential, and wants nothing more than to see us reach it. He has given every one of us very specific, unique qualities. Wonderful characteristics fully intended to be used to spread His Word, and once we make the decision to come before Him, ask Him to reveal to us these gifts and how He wants us to use them, He will quietly step in and gently guide us in the right direction. We just have to be humble enough, and willing enough, to allow Him.
Dear Lord in heaven,
I pray this day with a heart that is bursting at the seams with gratefulness to You. I am unsure of many things, I still do not know where this path is leading, I am scared, I do not trust myself to do these things that You have asked of me, but I do trust You. I trust that You see things in me that I am unaware of, good things that You can use to bring others to You, and I thank You for being willing to help me guide these things to the surface. Thank You for being a God of second, and third, and fourth, and one hundredth chances. Thank You for not giving up on me when we both know that there are other people far more equipped to handle this wonderful opportunity that You have decided to give to me. Thank You, Lord, for believing in me, for filling me with the assurance that You are in control if I just allow You to be, and for taking, yet another, chance on me.
I humbly ask today that You reveal yourself to those who are honestly seeking Your will for their lives. Let them know that You have a plan for their life, a purpose for their days, and a promise that You are just waiting for the chance to fulfill. Be near to those who are longing to be near to You. Honor their desire to serve You, and let them know, Lord, that You have created them with the confidence that they can do marvelous things.
We love You, Lord, and thank You for hearing our prayers.
In Your name we pray,
Monday, April 13, 2009
I'm not even sure how to begin this... how to begin this posting, begin this blog, begin this next chapter in my life... it just all seems very surreal. Since my Dad passed away almost one month ago, I have been feeling nudged by the Holy Spirit to continue the community we started throughout my father's battle with cancer. I had no idea how He wanted me to do this, and until just recently it seemed like it was too much to think about. I am wounded, I am grieving, I miss my father every minute of every day. And up until about a week or so ago I felt as if I had nothing more to offer, as if I had given everything I had to recording the legacy of my father, and I was empty.
But I have missed you. I have missed being able to talk with you about my thoughts, my fears, about the things God has been revealing to me, and hearing back from you endless words of wisdom, and encouragement, and support. You have instructed me endlessly about faith in the face of adversity, about diligence and trust in prayer, and about how to be an extension of Christ to those who need it most. You have taught me lessons I will carry with me throughout this lifetime, and I am sensing the Lord telling me that these times of teaching do not need to end.
I have had a few people approach me since my Dad's death and ask me if I have ever considered writing a book. And while I found this extremely flattering, my first and my most lasting thought was that I just don't have a story to tell. I may have a few anecdotes, maybe a couple of interesting tales, possibly some humorous accounts of times past, but nothing that would fill up more than a couple chapters, and definitely not some sort of epic saga that could hold a reader's interest for a few hundred pages. And so I very easily discarded and dismissed the idea of any sort of writing in any form. But God has not given me peace with this decision. Over the past couple of weeks I have been hearing His voice telling me that even though I may not have my own story to share, it doesn't mean that I do not have any story to share. Namely, His story, and how it can play out in the life of an average, regular person like me who still has so much to learn about Him.
And this is where He has led me today. I do not know what His plans are for this site. At this point I don't know what (or even if) He's going to have me write tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that. I just know that I need to be open to His leading. I will just plan on doing what I have been doing since the beginning, which is being honest with you about my struggles, my victories, and my love for the Lord. My hope is that you will come alongside of me, search for Him with me, continue to let me know your own thoughts, insights, prayer requests, and struggles, and maybe we can learn from each other how to better serve this mighty and powerful God who longs to have community with us as well.
Dear Lord in heaven,
I pray this day over this website. Right now I have no idea what Your plans are for me, or for anyone who chooses to join me on this journey, but I know we will be blessed if we commit ourselves to seeking Your face. You are a God of great things, and we choose to follow You once again into the unknown, armed with the assurance that You desire to draw us close to You, to teach us about You, and to give us many more reasons and opportunities to love You.
Please guide me as I take on this endeavor, as I feel very much in the dark at this moment. But Your light shines brightly, Lord, and I long more than anything in this world to bask in it's glory.
Thank you for Your body of believers, for those who desire and are dedicated to searching You and knowing You too. Honor and bless our faith, Lord, for it is You who we are trying to meet.
In Your Son's Most Holy and Precious Name,