The Life Within

Today, I am celebrating the birthday of my favorite person.

Jesus has asked me to think of Him in a number of ways – my Lord, my best friend, my husband, my Savior. I’ve heard lots of people refer to Him in these terms.

A few months ago, I asked Jesus what He would like to be for me that I had not yet allowed Him to be. I expected Him to reply with something strong, dominant, and powerful like “Your Father”, or “Your King”. So I was more than a little taken aback when I heard Him say, “Your child.”

There are certain things I deem appropriate, and this didn’t fit. In fact, it immediately smacked of sacrilege to me. The other roles I have placed Him in are always more powerful than me. I tried to help Him out..surely He meant to say He would like me to be HIS child. He repeatedly assured me I heard Him right, and this is what He showed me.

I had recently read the few verses in Luke about His childhood. When He was 12 years old, He went with His family to the temple to celebrate the Passover Feast. When the family caravan left to return home, He wasn’t with it. Three days later, He was found astonishing teachers in the the temple with His wisdom and understanding. Any parent can relate to the panic that Mary and Joseph must have felt during those three days, but Jesus seems to respond to their worry with true surprise. Surely they knew where He had to be…in His Father’s house! The next two verses broke my heart:

“But they did not understand the statement which He had made to them. And He went down with them…and He continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all these things in her heart.” Luke 2:50-51

It is so human for us to misunderstand the ones we love the most. As a parent, I struggle to figure out the thoughts and motivations behind the actions of my children. It’s important to me to try to understand their uniqueness, their individuality, and what works best for each one. The Creator of All subjected Himself to the most humble situation – childhood! He was fully God – perfect, sinless, bearing all knowledge. He was also a child living with a human family.

Nobody knows me better than my Jesus. He knows that I see everyone around me in their childhood form – that is what makes me love them. My heart is easily broken for children. What He wanted me to see is that by loving Him only in His superior forms, I am unintentionally keeping Him at a distance. He wants me to love Him with the whole, ferocious, to-my-heart kind of love that I found when I had my children.

My pastor made an analogy today of all Christians to Mary, the blessed woman who conceived, carried, and delivered Jesus to the world. We are carrying Him inside us. We have the opportunity to deliver Him everywhere we go. Thinking of Him this way, as a precious life growing within us, helps explain why we feel a little more cautious about where we go and what we take in to our bodies. Knowing Him as my own child has helped me love Him in a more tender and compassionate way. Learning to love Him fully is teaching me to accept…and GIVE…right love. He is our “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6), and He is also our perfect Lamb.

Blessings to all this Christmas!!

Lay It Down

Last week, my world was momentarily rocked…and not in a good way.

God has been making some promises to me this year. One particular seed of promise had been cultivated, nurtured, and carefully tended for months. I believe it was on the threshold of blooming. I thought I did everything perfectly and prayerfully. Then it got ripped up by the roots, or at least mowed over to wait for a new season.

This would have thrown the old Amy into a frantic flurry of replacement. I am so thankful that I am a new creation. I am learning to think with the mind of God, and learning to hear what He wants me to hear in every situation. Yes, I experienced shock…embarrassment…even a good amount of anger, but none of that was directed towards God.

First of all, He is such a loving God. About five hours before my promise was “postponed”, I read a passage from an author who went through something very similar. He was promised something. He was confident the promise was from God, and he had no doubt that it would happen. Then it didn’t happen…at least not in the way the author expected. God did deliver on His promise, of course, but He delivered it a year later.

That passage really sunk in. There have been some very clear times in my life that I’ve seen God work this way. It happens when I try to help God out…in other (more realistic) words, when my desire to be in control attempts to override God’s plan for my life. So I knew the author’s initial confusion. The self-doubt that arises (“Did I misinterpret or manipulate that promise? Did I really hear God’s voice?”). The disappointment. It was the first time I’d seen someone else describe it so clearly, and it was a reminder that God’s promises are real. They’re just not always on our terms.

What happened five hours later was painful, but I had already been counseled by God. He had prepared me to see the situation from the very beginning through His lens, not mine. What a difference His perspective makes! Rather than experiencing feelings of rejection, I feel chosen by Him. He will no longer let me go at the wrong time, to the wrong place, or with the wrong person! Rather than feeling alone, I feel protected and surrounded by His love. He cared enough about my future to protect me, even from myself!

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Phillippians 1:6

A couple days later I heard a teaching on Abraham and Isaac. Isaac is the ultimate, extreme example of God’s promises being delivered in His own perfect timing …which rarely aligns with ours. Genesis 22 is the ultimate, extreme example of God’s desire to be first in our lives. God’s demand for Abraham to sacrifice his son, his seed of promise, bothered me a lot until recently. I see now that Abraham allowed Isaac to become his hope, his world, his future. He allowed God’s promise to creep into the realm that belongs to God alone. Abraham got the point. He saw he needed to lay down the promise, to give it back to God. He also had full faith that no matter what happened on the altar, Isaac would return home with him that day. Abraham knew God’s voice. Isaac was His promise.

I really think it’s awesome the way God pulls things together for us to teach us and help us grow when we are listening. I see where I have given His promises more affection, attention, and priority than they deserve. I’ve allowed them to creep into the places of my heart that He calls His home. I may have even used His promise to suit my own purposes, without letting Him give what He has in store for me at the intended time. I believe God wants more time with me; can you imagine a higher compliment?? I am thankful for another opportunity to see His love in action.

While I was reeling from this stupid situation last week, I was thanking God for setting my heart foremost on Him. I told Him (as if He didn’t know) how badly it hurt, and asked how long the pain had to last. He replied immediately, “As long as you want it to.” Anger, shock, hurt pride, fear, disappointment, etc. will hold on to us as long as we hold on to them. It’s our choice!

Have you ever tried to make something happen that you knew wasn’t meant to be? Is anything other than God consuming your thoughts? That is modern day idolatry. God will not coexist with other idols. Have you ever seen Him rip something out of your garden because you have placed it too highly in your heart? Learn to see that as a gift of love! Learn to lay your idols down. Or better yet, learn not to make idols out of His promises.
2 Peter 1:4 “…He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature…”
His promises are intended to draw us closer to Him, not distract us from Him.

To Be Or Not To Be…The “Single” Question

To someone recovering from relationship addiction, this is a big question.

When that person has finally found wholeness and peace in Christ alone, it’s even bigger.

When you introduce that person to someone with a matching fire for God…well, it can create a dilemma. It’s a really nice dilemma, but it ultimately demands a weighty decision. I’ve been swimming in that place for a couple months now.

Background: When I met Jesus, a radical life transformation took place. I put myself under good teaching and prayed for faith and more faith. Things clicked for me instantly in just about every area of my life. Strongholds that had been built up for decades came crashing down in a period of about four weeks. I was a beautiful mess, resting in His palms like a newborn, learning to see and hear and grow from scratch. Because of my history, He made it very clear that I was to avoid men for an indeterminate period of time. [He gave me Matthew 19:12 – yes, the eunuch verse, which I’m sure will require its own blog discussion at some point.] His disciplinary process was done with humor and tenderness, but it was REAL. I am so thankful He loved me enough to take the time to put me on the short leash/choke chain/shock collar. After all, “He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.” (Heb 12:10)

A few weeks ago I went to camp with my daughter’s Girl Scout troop. We had a break and I found a bench around a fire pit where I could lay down, look up, and talk to Him. There was a small circle of blue sky surrounded by layer upon layer of tree branches. I really began to see the layers, even in the sky. My view of a group of tiny black dots was interrupted by a soaring hawk closer to the tree tops. The branches were all unique, made up of different varieties, some lush and some needing to be pruned out. The higher the tree got, the narrower the patch of sky got…and the fewer branches there were.

That tree became the Kingdom Tree to me – I could see that each layer was made up of lush and healthy branches, with areas that need to be cut out to reach the next level of intimacy with God. Lord, I want to go higher! I can see that even blessed relationships can keep us from reaching a higher level – they tie us to this earth, distract us from giving our full attention to the Kingdom – but they are still blessed by God. Is it also possible that a Biblical marriage could push us higher than we would get walking alone? I believe that is God’s intention.

Marriage is intended for holiness, not happiness… though I like to believe a holy marriage will be a nest of delight. It is meant to bring three people together – two who are already complete in their marriage to Christ. Can I support someone as he grows deeper in relationship with Him; can I overcome my habit of finding and focusing on all the flaws; can I love a man the way He would have me do it?

I hear Him say that either path will be equally blessed at this point, and that neither will be a disappointment to Him. He has put the choice in my hands…and He is loosening the leash to allow me to make it. So I will just continue to walk in each day given. Jesus said, “Do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34) You can say that again!

I pray for a fervant disciple who loves God as much (or maybe even a tiny bit more) than I do. I pray that he has walked with Christ longer than me. I pray that the man He wants me to walk with will be found walking on the same path. I pray protection over him, protection from me!, that neither I nor anyone else will distract him from his calling and purpose. I pray strength for him, because he will certainly need it.

And I am thankful to a Father who pulled me from the pit and restored my innocence, my childish awkwardness, my purity. Who will allow me to experience “the real deal” in this lifetime if I choose. Who is more and gives more than I will ever need, and still continues to give.

Daily Bread…And Sometimes Butter :)

It’s Thanksgiving season again…

…and I am so glad. It’s been nice to have an excuse to splash some of the gratitude that’s been overflowing my heart on everyone around me. You see, this year I was permanently etched on my Father’s palm. I have been given, and finally received, the gift of Life. I am exceedingly thankful.

The other day I was having one of those moments where it all came together…life was skip-down-the-hallway sweet and, out of the blue, I shouted, “Thank you for the bread!!” It’s ok if you’re laughing – I certainly did. I’m not used to shouting out seemingly random phrases when I’m alone, much less in public! And I’ve never blurted out a sentence thanking God for food I’m not eating.

That’s when it hit me. I didn’t thank Him for food I wasn’t eating. I was overwhelmingly FULL of His bread. In John 6, Jesus said:

“…It is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world… I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.”

This year has been incredible, but it has not been easy. I have been broken down beyond my foundation, and am still in the process of being rebuilt from the ground up. I have had to learn how to speak, how to dress, how to be a friend, how to love, how to parent, how to talk to a man without the “aids” of flirtation and manipulation, how to trust, how to forgive myself, how to surrender control of my little kingdom.

But every day, I find my daily bread is waiting here for me.

I’ve noticed in my life and throughout scripture that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle – good or bad. He is a God of balance. He asks us to take just enough for each day and asks us to steward it well. He will provide. He is all we need!

Seriously, He really is ALL WE NEED. Once I accepted and learned to walk in that knowledge, my eyes were opened to all the blessings He allows us to enjoy while we are here on this earth. Our families. Gifted teachers. A new friend to grow with and share His love. That’s the butter.

How can I express gratitude for that?? More skipping and shouting!

Comfortable?

I fell once again to the temptation of Comfort. I placed it higher than the will of God for my life. Instead of trusting Him for strength to overcome, I resorted on my own strength and devices. Instead of walking in His direction, I ran straight into the arms of instant gratification. Immediately aware of what I did, I threw a casual, half-hearted apology over my shoulder and went on my way with no real relief in any aspect of my life. Instead of bringing any comfort, I brought a sense of shame and separation…and I felt it profoundly.

The next morning, I woke up an hour earlier than I needed to. This happens almost every day, and every day my first thought is to get up and spend time with God. I normally talk myself into thinking that lying in bed, talking to Him wrapped in comfort, is good enough. Not this day. In fact, His words started with, “Humble yourself.”

I’m embarrassed to say…I actually considered pretending to be asleep to revel a few more minutes in that luscious morning comfort. “Humble yourself before a Holy God!” I’m not sure how, but I found myself still resisting His nudges. It was silent for about 30 seconds….ahhhh…..and then I heard His voice once more.

“Comfortable?  You have longed to hear My voice. You have asked Me to continue to speak to you. I have something to say. Get up.”

I don’t think I’ve ever gotten out of bed faster.

What followed was the longest download of Admonition and Love that I’ve ever been given. In a nutshell, even when I know He has given me the strength to overcome ALL my battles, I tend to fall back upon my own strength in times of discomfort. This willful disobedience, this lack of faith, is keeping me from a deeper connection to the One who loves me more than I can ever imagine or believe. In fact, only through continually humbling myself and obeying His words will I reach the destiny He has called me to.

My dream is for His power and love to shine through me, pointing others to Him. The riches entrusted to me today are His words. I am so thankful for His gifts and pray that I will steward them well.

He has shaken me out of my comfort zone. He knows I prefer to hold on to these treasures as sacred and private. He lovingly reminds me that it’s not all about me. “My words are meant to go through you, not just to you. If it reaches one life, isn’t it worth it?”