The God of Second (Third…Hundredth) Chances

6 01 2015

January 1, 2015 began a new year, new beginnings…another chance.

When I opened my Bible app for the Verse of the Day, guess what it was?

Behold, I will do a new thing. Now it shall spring forth; do you not perceive it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19.

This is the same verse I received last year!

As I read the words for the umpteenth time, I sensed the Lord’s smile as He let me know that I have a “do-over.” I get another run at this promise. That’s good news!

Last year, I had expectations of what that would look like for me. Those are now gone. I have no preconceived notions of what He has in store…only that He will be faithful to complete the work He has begun.

Life took a crazy turn last year. As I look back at where I was last January, I am amazed at the growth He’s wrought in me – despite my confusion and disappointment. Through all that, the Lord took my faith in Him to a new level.

He used the trials to reveal some very ugly things that I believed to be true of Him, and replaced them with a greater understanding of His infinite love for me.

The training received on making disciples – have no opinion in other’s situations, do not judge, do not advise, only love them – was well-tested. I had ample opportunities to walk out what He’d worked in.

I didn’t do it perfectly {gasp!}.

However, I did much better than ever before.

Progress!

Nothing is resolved yet, but this year I have hope…hope for a brighter future, hope for transformation and restoration.

How I appreciate the fact that the Father loves us where we are, with all our messed up thinking about His character; and that He continues to pursue us in hope that we will finally see Him more accurately.

I said some really mean things to God last year, all borne out of my misunderstanding of what He is really like. My words did not deter Him. He didn’t throw up His hands in exasperation and write me off as a lost cause.

Instead, He continued to tenderly whisper that He loves me, that He understood my confusion but wanted me to know that what I believed was simply not true. He asked me to trust Him with the hard things I’m dealing with, and to believe that He will work all this for my good.

I saw this quote on someone’s blog earlier this week. It resonated with me, and so I share it with you:

“Everything is going to be fine in the end.
If it’s not fine it’s not the end.”

-Oscar Wilde-

And so I begin this year with my hand in my Father’s, trying to match my steps with His, in full confidence that He has this. It will be fun to look back over this year in 2016 and see all He has accomplished in, around, and through me.

To God be the glory! Amen.

How about you? Do you find this the Year of the Great Do-Over? Do tell!

PS If you live in Northern California, the Legacy class (disciple/mentoring) begins soon at The Stirring in Redding. Jim Bailey and his wife Amy are amazing, and very gifted teachers. Don’t miss it!





Of Promises and Poo (or “Messy in the Middle”)

29 12 2014

Diapers: The most appreciated gift any new parent will receive.

Oh, all the pretty little dresses, smart suits, and adorable shoes are loved as well; but without diapers, they will soon be ruined!

Why? Because “poo happens!” It’s unavoidable.

When yes wears a diaper in response to our prayers, we will handle things better if we know this “minor” detail:

We will be messy in the middle!

The sooner we learn to roll with this, the sooner we can trust God and His process. He has a purpose and will finish what He has begun (Philippians 1:6).

The year began with a promise from the Lord. It is Isaiah 43:19. I’ll bet He’s repeated this to me at least a couple dozen times this year. It reads:

Behold, I will do a new thing. Now it shall spring forth; do you not perceive it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

Now THAT’S a promise! I was very excited, believing the “new” thing would “spring forth” from all the music studies of the previous year. Surely beautiful music would soon be forthcoming.

Next thing I knew, we had a houseful of people. There was no possible way I could work on music…or even blog. We had five adults and seven small children here for several months. Days consisted of housework, meal preparation, and child care.

To say that I was confused would be an understatement!

My confusion turned to hurt, as I began to believe that God had pulled a “bait and switch” on me. It felt like He promised me something wonderful then, when my hopes were high, switched it for something ordinary…like when my dad drove us to the gates of Disneyland, then said,”The guys said this is just a glorified fair. We’re going to Knotts Berry Farm.” (In the 1970s, Knotts was more like visiting a film set.)

In the midst of the chaos, God chose to bring transformation to a family member.

Now? Really?

You need to know that when a close family member begins to deal with their “stuff,” it’s like their anchor is being raised with all their junk on it. Because of your relationship with them, all your stuff gets hauled up as well.

That’s when things start to get messy in your middle. You’ll be dealing with your own “poo” – in addition to that of your family member!

You can put a pretty little dress on it, complete with ribbons and bows. Keep up appearances at all cost.

But the “mess” will leak out and be unsightly…no one will understand why you stink!

How thankful I am to be part of a congregation where it’s okay to be a mess; where people are willing to wade in and help clean things up!

It’s been costly, and I’ve had to say “good bye” to pride. I’ve had to reach out for help – including a counselor to help me sort things out.

To my surprise, we’ve talked very little about the current situation. Instead, we’ve mostly dealt with what their stuff was triggering in me…old, unhealed wounds and strongholds.

Having other people living with us was an effective way to keep me from saying things that would only delay, hinder, or halt altogether the work the Lord was doing.

His ways were very wise!

Interestingly enough, a “baby” promise kind of made me become the baby. Helpless, inactive, and in need of a lot of love – these became a reality for me. I cried so much that tears no longer came forth…only goo. We hit the bottom of the well of tears and sludge was all that left. Gross!

Through it all, the Lord kept asking me to sit quietly in His presence. As I stated in my last post, I was certain that a butt-chewing would be involved, so I avoided His presence…only to discover that He was making me into a new person in this process and wanted to get re-acquainted!

Every week from September through just before Christmas, God addressed another stronghold in me and together we tore them down. There have been more than a dozen…ones I’d previously been unaware of. There were countless lies, and an insane amount of forgiving that I had to take care of: others, myself, and even the Lord (who’d done nothing wrong! There were many lies I believed about Him as well.).

Much repentance had to be done, too.

It’s been a lot of work, but worth it.

It wasn’t until yesterday that I gained God’s perspective of what He’s doing. The promise given last January is a “baby promise;” one that I will have to grow up alongside. It’s been messy in the middle, and I may not be ready for my “big girl panties” just yet.

At least now I have hope that they will be forthcoming!





When “Yes” Wears A Diaper

28 12 2014

Simeon held the key to my needed paradigm shift. Who’d have guessed?

This year has been especially tense between the Lord and me. His answer to my prayers of almost a couple of decades seemed so minimal, so like He’d given me the dregs of His abundant riches.

I was deeply offended that His response was so underwhelming, considering the need at hand.

Somehow, some way, I knew that the lack was on my part. That I was missing something.

For the last month or so, while I was crying out to Him, telling Him how much I missed Him, I was unwilling to sit with Him…to hear His heart.

Somewhere in His response was a sharp rebuke for me. Of this I was certain.

And I didn’t want to hear it, so

I’ve been hiding.

I love His tender patience with me, though. His willingness to pursue me when I’m hurt and confused by what He is (or seems to not be) doing.

This was a serious matter, this breach in our relationship, and He was not content to let it go. Love found a way to get through to me. This morning, He used Amy Bailey’s sermon at The Stirring today to reach me.

The lack was on my part – but not in a “shame on me” kind of way. It was a misunderstanding of the simplest truth of all.

Sometimes “yes” wears a diaper.

I didn’t want an “infant” answer. I wanted one fully grown, sporting a beard, and ready to roll.

His “yes,” however, came as a baby. Such a tiny thing that I nearly missed it.

This is not unlike Simeon of old. We find him in Luke 2:25-35.

He was waiting for the Consolation of Israel. It would seem, from the text that he was an elderly man, for it was revealed to him that he would not die before He’d seen the Lord’s Christ.

Although Israel needed a mature answer to their problems, Simeon had eyes to see that their Answer was here before him…and in a diaper!

Undaunted and un-offended that God would say “yes” in such a way that it seemed foolish to believe, Simeon blessed the Child, and glorified God for His faithful fulfillment of promises spoken long ago.

While Simeon would not live to see the fulfillment of these promises, he believed they would happen, nonetheless.

Scriptural hope is not like wishing: “I hope this or that will happen.”

Hope, as the Bible defines it, is the confident expectation we are to carry that God will do what He said.

It is based on the One who never changes (James 1:17). His purposes never shift, never waver, and never change.

From Simeon I learned:

1. It is important to listen to God. As Simeon went about His day, the Spirit told him that the answer would arrive in the temple that day. He was alert.

2. He embraced Jesus. The answer to his prayer came in the form of an infant. Nevertheless, he wrapped his arms around the Answer.

3. He carried hope – confident expectation – in the fulfillment of God’s promise. He knew it would come in his lifetime. I doubt that a baby dedication was exactly what he expected, but he was okay with that!

4. Even though a baby wasn’t what Simeon had in mind, he recognized this Child as the promise and glorified God for His response to Simeon’s prayers.

*****

(Although this is going long, I want to finish this thought in one post. Don’t miss the next part!)

Sometimes the answer to our greatest need comes in the tiniest way – seemingly inadequate to that which has ensnared us.

In time, however, the “infant” answer will mature – and will be more than adequate…by far surpass…our small expectations.

In Time…that is the key.

This is where my relationship with the Lord got “stuck” this year.

When He answered my prayer, I expected a “full-grown” one. Instead I received a helpless “infant.”

It came with diapers, and will need to be nurtured and tended until it reaches maturity.

That will take time and participation.

The difference between my expectation of what the answer would look like and the one I actually received is the extent to which I have been offended with God – and why I stiff-armed Him for so long.

Who, after all, hangs their hope on a baby?

I didn’t understand that sometimes the answer is the “man-sized” yes, while at other times, I will have a part to play in the maturation process required for the thing to come to pass. Mary had to change diapers and feed the little Guy.

I will need to grow before I am capable of receiving the fulfillment of His promise, too.

Growth will be needed…and that will take time. 

Oh Lord, that I would cease to cast aside Your answers to my prayers simply because they are delivered in their infancy…instead of holding out only for the “grown up” responses I expect.

Give me eyes to see – and just enough foresight to comprehend the vast and glorious “yes” that it will become…in Your time.

I’m sorry for the many times I’ve rejected Your “yes” because it didn’t come full-grown, and fully operational. I see now that this is for my benefit, that I may grow up along with the promise and be able to receive the full blessing You intend for my good.

Thank You for comprehending my distance…the why behind the what of my hiding, and relentlessly pursuing me until I will draw near to You once again. 

You amaze me!





To Trust Again

12 12 2014

“Why are you angry with God? He didn’t make these choices.”

Out of nowhere, the words hung in the air as I headed to my counselor’s home. It was a good question, I thought. He hadn’t made any of the choices that caused my pain.

We live in a fallen world, with fallen people who make bad choices – often without ever wondering why they’re doing so.

Their actions land on us, and we live out the consequences. That is all. In His sovereignty, God determined to allow free will to every human being on the planet…and didn’t limit it to those whose will was in line with His (which of us would qualify??).

It’s taken me a long time to sort things out and understand why I had turned on God with such fury. It boils down to one word:

Expectation

As God’s children, it is expected that our good behavior will be rewarded with sugar and spice and everything nice. Nothing bad should ever come our way. We are loved, cherished children of an all-powerful God who can protect us from everything.

To be honest, He hadn’t been ‘performing’ in a manner consistent with my expectations for…well, for all of my life. Many horrible things have happened to me. He ‘could’ have stopped them, but He didn’t.

Thus, when He broke into my current situation last spring and began to heal those who’d hurt me, I was more angry than I thought possible.

Angry with God

Freaking ticked!

I’d asked, begged, and pleaded with Him for years to intervene, to set things right. I can’t say how long ago I gave up asking and assumed that this was my lot in life…for the rest of my life. I’d made it thus far, it was obvious that I could hold out until the end.

Which was why my reaction stunned me.

At the same time, my faith was shaken to its very foundation. I was unsure whether I would still be willing to follow the Lord when all was said and done. He had done nothing according to my plan, or my timetable. I was disillusioned and wondered if I could trust Him after all.

Scary!

One of the things I’ve discovered is that there is a difference between faith and trust.

There was no doubt that I had saving faith going into this season. The fruit of the Spirit has been evident in ever-increasing ways. What I lacked was the cling-to-the-Rock-and-you’ll-be-okay trust that I desperately needed. I had faith that He saved me – just didn’t trust that He was going to (finally) do something about my life!!

It became apparent that there were many things I had yet to learn about God.

The first being that He had not caused any of this. Therefore, to blame Him was a lesson in futility.

I rewrote Proverbs 3:4-5 and tried to live by it this year. It goes like this:

Trust in yourself with all of your heart

Don’t ask God to give understanding

In all your ways try to make your plans work…

…and let me know how that turns out for you!

It’s been a rough year, one from which I wasn’t sure I’d ever emerge intact. At long last, I’m able to step back from my life and gain God’s perspective a little. Things look much better from there – certainly not so intense.

His plans for me are for good and not for evil. Like Joseph, I can say, “You meant this for evil, but God meant it for good.” I’m coming back around to the faith – no trust – that “all things work together for those who love God.”

I just had no idea what those “all things” might entail.

The last three months have been well-spent. God provided the most amazing counselor I could have ever received. I’m sure He chose His very best to minister to me. She’s more of a “heart specialist” really. Every week God has used what’s going on around me to stir up deep, deep wounds and heal them. (Hint: Forgiveness looms large in healing!)

I had no idea that there were so many strongholds within my heart. It’s been painful – and yet brings freedom like I’ve never known.

I’m not sure who I’ll be when He’s finished; He’s left no stone unturned. I’ll be different, of that I am certain.

The time is close when I will, finally, make the paradigm shift so needed in my understanding of Who God is and how He works. Very close.

At last, I shall trust Him again.

*****

 I’m embarrassed to admit what this journey has looked like. I wish it wasn’t so. Thanks for “listening!”





A Time to be Silent (Part One)

10 09 2014

Due to unexpected circumstances, the friendships forged here have been neglected. I miss you all more than you can imagine and pray for you often.

*****

I began reading through the book of Luke, looking for new, amazing things about Jesus. Because He was the focus, I nearly skipped the first chapter. It’s about John the Baptist’s parents. Nothing relevant for me there, right?

Guess again! Here is what I would have missed:

Zechariah was a priest; his wife of the line of Aaron. Both were righteous  before God, walking blamelessly in all the Lord’s commandments and statutes (verse 6).

Yet, Elizabeth was barren.

I imagine her wincing whenever Psalm 127:3 was recited:

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.

No doubt she wondered at this, carefully scrutinized her heart for hidden sin…and like Job, probably had friends who eagerly ‘helped’ her to do so. Cruel things were said that cut her sad heart deeply. There had to be something wrong. What was she hiding?

Scripture tells us there was nothing wrong with her. “Blameless,” it states.

How many years did she agonize over this?

“What’s wrong with me? Why hasn’t God given me a child?”

As a couple they, surely, prayed together in earnest.

I wonder how old she was when she finally resigned herself to her childless state. Did she hope against hope until menopause set in?

In their culture, a woman who could not bear children had to learn to bear the reproach, the stigma, of barrenness – the whispers, the rude and thoughtless comments, the bold accusations.

She had borne this for a lifetime, for now she was old.

What Elizabeth could not have known was that she had been set apart for a single – and immensely important – purpose. She was chosen to give birth to the forerunner of the Messiah. Her child would prepare the way for Jesus.

Her time was coming, but was not yet.

I suspect that Elizabeth went through a major identity crises. She and Zechariah probably visited many doctors and tried every ‘surefire’ remedy and method of the day.

They ‘fished’ all night…for many nights!…and ‘caught’ nothing. 😉

It wasn’t until Gabriel showed up on the right side of the altar of incense that everything changed.

And it was here that this story became a life-changer for me as well.

As I read the next bit, I was a little perplexed. Gabriel’s response to Zechariah’s question, “How do I know this is true?” seemed to be overkill on the part of the angel – kind of like, “What, Dude? Do you want a piece of me??”

Mary asked the same question – and got a very patient explanation.

Was it Zechariah’s words…or his attitude that caused the angel to render him speechless?

All his hoping, praying, and effort had come to naught.

Until now.

Now that he was old, no longer spry and energetic – now God would answer his long-forgotten prayers? Really?

Thanks a lot!

What should have been joyous news, perhaps instead opened an unsuspected wound in Zechariah’s heart. Down deep was a cauldron of bitterness, anger, and resentment.

Zechariah would have to work through these issues with God in silence. None of it would be voiced; would rob Elizabeth of the joy of her long-awaited answer to prayer.

His poisonous emotions would be resolved between the Lord and him alone.

*****

There is a lot of conjecture here, to be sure. None of this can be substantiated from Scripture. Of this I am aware. However, I’ve discovered that there may be a great deal of truth to what I sense went unspoken by the Lord. It bears great relevance to my own story.

You’ll have to come back tomorrow to hear the rest of the story! It’s pre-scheduled, so look for it!