Monday, April 25, 2011

Disappointment and Longing

The last forty days I have purposefully cut out distractions (TV, books, social media) in order to focus more time and attention on God’s Word and prepare my heart for Easter. As I have quieted my heart I have felt an awakening in my soul. A longing for more of Him.

This weekend was the culmination of my Lenten season and I was so looking forward to Easter Sunday worship. As we pulled out of the church parking lot only one word came to mind to describe my feelings about Easter worship… disappointment. Don’t get me wrong, we attend an amazing church filled with people who genuinely love the Lord. I don’t think it was the church’s fault I felt disappointed. In two decades of following Jesus I can’t think of one Easter service that I’ve attended and left feeling satisfied.

Easter morning I couldn’t stop thinking of Johnny the Brave, a sweet 8 year old boy with an inoperable brain tumor who got to go Home last Thursday. Johnny got to spend Easter Sunday worshiping at the very throne of God. And I have a feeling no one standing in Jesus’ presence with Johnny felt disappointment.

When I think of Johnny worshiping at the feet of Jesus and me stuck here in this fallen world where sin and suffering reigns I realize why my heart longs for more. It’s not better songs, or more compelling music, or deeper sermons that my heart aches for. It’s HIM! His face, His voice, His presence.

“But our citizenship is in Heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Philippians 3:20

In the heart of every child of God is a longing that this world can’t satisfy. Every joy that causes our heart to swell is a foretaste of eternal glory. And every hurt that causes our heart to ache is a reminder of a coming day that will be free from sorrow.

Yet, instead of embracing the longing for our eternal home we distract ourselves with earthly entertainment. Filling our days with diversions to keep our minds occupied with anything other than Him.

Which leaves me with the question, what am I to do now? After forty days of purposefully quieting my life to listen to Him can I go back to the way things were? I could. Easily. But I don’t want to. Don’t get me wrong, I want to resume my routine of sitting on the couch with my popcorn and remote control. But not at the expense of losing this longing in my heart. Not if resuming the noise of life brings about the quieting of His voice.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jer. 29:13

If I seek Him with all of my heart I will find Him. Not with a divided heart, but with my whole heart. And that is my greatest desire, to find Him. To see Him face to face. But until that day comes I want to spend my time here seeking Him. I want to embrace the longing in my heart for Home, and not allow myself to be distracted any longer by the things of this world.

What a day that will be,

When my Jesus I shall see,

And I look upon His face,

The One who saved me by His grace;

When He takes me by the hand,

And leads me through the Promised Land,

What a day, glorious day that will be.

Monday, April 18, 2011

This Is What Dreams Are Made Of

If I had to sum up the last 60 days of my life I’d have to go with “roller coaster”. I’ve traveled through the depths of despair, to the highest mountain top, and back several times. Our family has got to be one of the healthiest families I know, but 2011 has been filled with illness for us. And not just passing around the cold or flu bug, this has been more of the visiting hospitals and running test kind of stuff, which makes a momma’s heart tired. I’ve been stretched to trust Jesus like I never have before. And in the midst of this intense period of suffering there have been overwhelming blessings as well. Dreams that I’ve hidden in my heart for years have come true.

Like this one. There in the middle of that beautiful group of ladies is Beth Moore, my hero. And on the very left is my smiling face hugging my dear friend’s neck. Yep. I finally got to meet Ms. Beth. And I’m overjoyed. We had a 3 minute conversation that will be permanently etched in my memory, and she spoke words over me that I have asked God about for years, confirming the very secret desires of my heart. And yes, she really is that cute and sweet in person.

Then there’s the real God-Sized Dream come true. My first book. {pinch me please!}

I remember when I was 10 years old and moved from St. Louis to Arkansas. My heart was broken because I was leaving my sweet Noni. She promised that we would write each other. And we did. I wrote her letters and short stories and poems. And she read every word, telling me over and over again that I should be a writer one day when I was all grown up. Several years ago I stood in the ICU holding her hand and we had our last conversation. I did all the talking. She was in a coma, but I’m pretty sure she heard me. I told her that I was going to take her advice and write a book one day. I promised her that I would. When I held this book in my hands for the first time I thought of my dearly missed grandma and how proud she would be of me.

And... my amazing friend Jennifer and I are also in process of setting up a new blog community. It's a place for those who's lives are broken, tattered, beautiful, or anywhere in between. {it's a work in progress, so patience please! :o)}

All this has me thinking about dreams, and how many times along the way I’ve wanted to just throw in the towel. It’s hard stuff, chasing dreams. Especially big God-Sized dreams. I get so tired sometimes, and I can very easily convince myself that it’s just not worth all the sweat and tears.

One of the things that Beth Moore talked about this weekend was how at the end of Paul’s life he said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”. Paul had an assignment from God, and he faithfully lived his life chasing that assignment. At the end he finished well. I don’t want to live with regrets. I want to run my race well. I want to chase the dreams God’s placed in my heart. It may be hard, there may be suffering involved, but it is so worth it!

Are you chasing your dreams?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Refiners Fire

I think we would all say that we’d like our lives to reflect the goodness of God. I don’t know about you, but I find myself guilty of wanting that reflection to involve my life actually being “good”. For me God’s goodness means that I’m happy, everyone’s healthy, and all the bills are paid with some left over.

When things start to go wrong I pull back, shut down, run and hide. I question God. Why would He allow suffering to come into my life? Doesn’t He know that I want my life to be a reflection of His goodness? And how can people think that God is good if my life is bad?

Doesn’t God want me to be happy?

The truth is He doesn’t. He cares a lot more about my soul learning to trust Him than He does about me being “happy”. And so, He allows suffering.

I often get asked “How can you know if this is a test from God or a trial from Satan”? I’ve wrestled with that thought myself. Often asking God “is this from you or the enemy”? But now I wonder if that even matters.

Job suffered because of Satan’s attack on his life. But before he attacked he got permission from God. Peter was sifted by Satan and denied Christ. But before he was, Satan asked God for permission. Paul’s thorn in the flesh was left there by a God who wanted to keep him humble. Abraham’s faith was tested by God.

Trials from Satan or testing from God the goal is the same, to strengthen our faith. It’s about us coming to a place of surrender and trust in the midst of suffering. And when we come to that point, that’s when God’s glory is revealed in us.

It’s easy to talk about suffering well for God’s glory. It’s another thing to actually do it. It’s one thing to read passages like 1 Peter 1:6-7

So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though it is necessary for you to endure many trials for a while. These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold -- and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold. So if your faith remains strong after being tried by fiery trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”

It’s another thing to truly be glad when trials come. When the doctor’s report isn’t good, when the bank account is empty, when your kids are suffering can we trust God then?

Well, that’s where I’m at right now. And I have to admit that there’s been very few cheerful moments. In fact, there have been lots of tears, and questions. But at the end of the day, the cry of my heart is still the same… that my life would reflect the goodness of God. Even here. Even now.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Plowing Season

It's Spring. Planting season. Time to break up the fallow ground and prepare soil for seed. I love the smell of freshly turned soil and the feel of dirt under my fingernails. It's hard work sometimes. Especially after a hard winter when the ground hunkers down on itself in hopes of holding off the bitter cold. But it's worth the effort required to break up and turn over the cold barren earth. It's the only chance of having anything grow.

It's a bit of a different story when you no longer find yourself in the position of the gardener, spade in hand, but instead realize you've become the soil. Barren and packed down. Hardened by the winter's harsh chill. No longer in control of the plowing but now having to yield to the Master Gardner's plan.

It's painful stuff, being plowed. And sometimes I question the Hand holding the plow. Because I so often forget... the tilling isn't for pain, but for fruit. The spade piercing the dirt and turning everything upside down isn't for chaos, but for growth.

And so, instead of questioning the Gardner as to why He's plowing me, I have another question for Him...

God, what do You want to plant in me?

Because I have a feeling whatever He chooses to plant will be beautiful. And that beauty will be worth this pain.

"Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, till He comes and rains righteousness on you." Hosea 10:12