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All posts for the month August, 2013

Learning to walk

Published August 29, 2013 by Dawn

I was walking around outside work today, praying and considering some recent happenings in my life and wondering exactly where my Daddy is in the midst of all of it. And just so you know, I woke up and read Job 38 and 39, so He was all over my wonderings from the get-go. I guess what I was really trying to do was submit my will and my understanding of things to Him.

Anyway, so while I was walking, I had this image in my head of a toddler moving cautiously away from a table on wobbly legs, being coaxed out into the middle of a room. And I quickly remembered something that the Holy Spirit spoke to me a few days ago: “Because you can trust me, you can trust you.” This must be what it’s like for a toddler to learn how to walk.

I remember when my daughter first learned how to walk. She was a lot like me: clumsy. She fell into everything before she learned to stand on her own two feet. A lot more cautious than my son, she still ventured out to our gentle coaxing, just with trepidation. In all honesty, she would have much rather been held and carried around than to walk on her own. The independence thing came with time, but it took longer for her. On her own, she was often unsteady, and bruised up many times from falling into table and things. My son, on the other hand, crawled at five months’ old and it wasn’t long before he was cruising all over the house on his own two legs.

I’m more like her when it comes to spiritual things. I would much rather be held and carried than to do things on my own. I don’t often trust myself to make the right decisions. At times, I get excited and venture out on my own but other times, I wait until the Lord makes it painfully clear that He has spoken direction to me. I don’t mean to seem faithless, it’s just that I’m clumsy. I screw things up on my own, and I know that without His strong hand holding mine, I’m destined to fall.

All I have heard from Him these past few days, other than His reprimanding me this morning, is “Trust me.” He’s coaxing me to take a few steps on my own, with His eye on me and His reassurance ringing in my ears. I’m struggling to let go of the safety in this place that He put me. Thankfully, I am determined to get to where He is and to be a part of what He is blessing in my life. I will take that first step. And the next and the next, until I fall into His arms again. And then maybe, when He sets me down for the next lesson in walking, I’ll be a little more willing to trust myself, as I move toward Him again.

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Second Chances

Published August 28, 2013 by Dawn

Every time I read the story of David and the Israelites restoring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, I stumble over the part about Uzzah. Uzzah was apparently walking right next to the cart that the ark was on, and when the oxen that were carrying it stumbled, he put out a hand to steady the cart. And fell down dead. I’ve always thought, “Well, Lord, it seems like he was doing a good thing. Why would you inflict such a heavy blow when he’s obviously trying to avoid the shame of dropping the ark?”

I’ve literally thought about this story for years. It has always bothered me because I never before understood the Lord’s anger at him. Today, though, I feel like I’ve had somewhat of a revelation. First Chronicles 15:13 says, “For because you did not do it the first time, The Lord our God broke out against us, because we did not consult him about the proper order.”

The Lord was not just angry with Uzzah. He was angry with the whole affair. If you back up to 1 Chronicles 13:4, you will see that the Israelites just up and one day decided to bring back the ark “for the thing was right in all the eyes of the people.” They were doing something that seemed honorable, but they left out one crucial detail, apparently. They forgot to ask God how they should go about doing such a thing. Who would have thought that overzealousness would be such a big deal to the Lord?

I got to thinking about Uzzah and what it was about his act that seemed so irreverent to the Lord. Looking at the second attempt David makes at returning the Ark, it is clear that the journey was a lot smoother. There was not a whole lot of opportunity for the Ark to be bustled about because they were sacrificing every step of the way. They were constantly acknowledging the Lord as they journeyed back into the city. Uzzah took it upon himself to steady the Ark the first time around and it was like the Lord gave them all a huge wake-up call: “This is actually a big deal! Do it right!”

It is unfortunate that someone had to die for them to see the flippant approach they had taken to such a glorious event. Returning the presence of the Lord to the land was not some everyday task. It was monumental. It called for ceremony, and much prayer and dedicated worship. It was going to be a huge, redefining moment for the Israelites. They were wooing the presence of the Lord back into their daily lives.

I can’t help but think about all the things that I have screwed up in my life, all the parts of me that died because of my casual approach to life. All the things I’ve done just because they seemed right in my own eyes. All the things I neglected to search out the Lord’s heart in, to know His Will and His desire for me. I have plenty of places in my past I can name “Perez Uzzah” because the Lord broke out against me. I have known since I was a child that the Lord had a calling on my life, that I was born to make much of Him. I didn’t live like that was a big deal. But He was quick to give me that rude awakening, thank the Lord. Like David, though, I had to reevaluate what I thought I knew about the Lord and resubmit my plans to Him for approval. After all, I have to admit that this is a big deal. Making much of Him is a big deal. My zeal will only take me so far, and it’s not my purpose to just get somewhere on it. I want to glorify Him to the utmost. I want to see Him smile from ear to ear when I walk into heaven and I want to hear Him say with such love and adoration, “Well done, my child.”

Father,
I want to do this right. I give all of my plans to you, knowing that you don’t need my help in perfecting them. I ask that you make me submissive to your every will and desire for me. This life is not my own. I live for you. And that’s a big deal to me. Overrule my zeal where necessary and make the most of this life that I willingly give to you now. Thank you, Father, for the wake-up call and helping me to endure the aftermath of it all. Thank you for second chances. I intend to acknowledge and exalt you every step of the way. You are my King! I love you!

In it to win it!

Published August 26, 2013 by Dawn

I don’t know what it was about today … maybe my expectations were too high. After all, I invited my best friend and her family over after church today to hang out and have lunch. She brought over her two kids and a nephew, which should have been plenty to keep my kids thoroughly occupied while she and I reminisced and her husband did his best to enjoy our girl-talk (he at least pretended to enjoy it). I expected to have a great time. What I didn’t expect (maybe I should have) was the onslaught of spiritual war that happened all throughout their stay. My kids found every reason to whine, complain and act a fool while they were there, and by the time they left, I was completely out of patience. Our chit-chat over what they could have done differently to avoid the upcoming hour in their room started as the door was closing behind our guests’ departure. I was so aggravated!

After we talked and both stomped off to their rooms, I went to mine. I didn’t want to fall apart out in the open. I sat on my bed and right before I responded to all the frustration with tears and an anxiety-driven prayer, I had this thought: “I’m not going to let the enemy have even an inch in this. We’re at war and I’m in it to win it!” So instead of crying, I took the opportunity to nap. I overslept their hour and right as I was getting good into the REM cycle, my son came into the room and started talking to me. Just a few sentences, followed by enough silence for me to slip back into my REMs. Then he’d come back in and say something else. This went on for two hours! I was more exhausted after my nap than I was before! We headed off for the evening service at church, and then afterward, went out to the state park near our house for a walk. More whining and complaining on the way set me up nicely for a bad mood.

We started off on the trail, and it wasn’t long before there was a mosquito buzzing around my ears, a gnat trying to plunge into my pupil and a horse fly taunting me. Every step of the way. SOOOOO ANNOYING! All I wanted to do was take a peaceful walk! I prayed, I demanded the devil to leave me alone. Nothing worked, it seemed. Finally, I stopped and after a few attempts, managed to kill the gnat in front of my face. Small sort of accomplishment, but it was a victory none the less … until a few feet later, there appeared another one in exactly the same flight pattern with the same destination: My pupil. I let him have it. He dove right in my eye and I thought, “Well, mission accomplished for both of us, I guess.” For whatever reason, another one picked up where he left off and continued to really just grate my nerves. All the while, this horsefly was doing figure eights around my head, my knees and my kids. That was enough to make my daughter batty. But to add to the aggravation, she scraped herself with a stick and began to act as if she had incurred a fatal cut. OH MY GOSH!! I prayed some more. Short of walking the mile I needed to accomplish before turning back, I turned around and headed for the car, praying I could just make it there without losing my mind. It was quite a ways to the car … not so far to go from losing my mind.

Then it happened. It may be described as losing my mind. Probably looked that way from a distance. But I decided it was time for war. I grabbed the walking stick we had found and began to swing at the horseflies. Yes, that’s a plural. It seemed they were everywhere. And some of them were just hovering midair right out of reach. Taunting us! My kids burst out laughing and all the sudden, we were all three trying to kill horseflies with walking sticks while we walked back to the car. The walk I had been dreading turned into a nutty game that restored our joy as we laughed our way back to the car. By the time we got there, we had accumulated quite the entourage of horseflies. There were probably twenty zig-zagging through the air around us and our vehicle, which is incredibly ridiculous to think that they were intentionally pestering us, though it definitely seemed that way. By the time we made it safely inside, though, it didn’t matter. We had made lemonade out of our lemons, our sour faces and attitudes were gone and we were once again enjoying one another.

I learned something in this. No matter how hard you combat the enemy, there is always another waiting to take its place. There will always be battles. Always pesky demons doing their best to steal your joy. In truth, you will always be engaging in battle. If you aren’t, you should be worried that you are not a threat to Satan’s kingdom. If you are, throw a party! You have worried the devil. But know this: you are victorious already. So you can laugh in the midst of trials and tribulations. Make the most of your life. Don’t let the enemy have your joy, because in reality, it’s the most important thing you have aside from your relationship with God. It’s your strength, according to Nehemiah 8:10. The joy of the Lord is what makes your relationships with others enjoyable. So do whatever you have to do to hold on to your joy, even if it looks silly. It’s gonna be worth it!

A matter of the heart

Published August 25, 2013 by Dawn

“What are you going to do with it?” I stood clutching it to my chest, tears streaming down my face. He looked at me with such sorrow as I pleaded with him again and again, “Just tell me!” He didn’t move toward me, but I felt threatened by his silence. I wanted to trust him with my heart, I just didn’t know how to give it to him. I began to hold it out to him again, as I had done countless times before, but then the fear gripped me like a vise and I pulled it back to my chest, desperate to keep it safe. How long has this been going on between the Lord and I?

I hate it when the Lord is silent. It’s the worst of times in my life. Every second becomes a painful awareness of His nearness coupled with His silence. I want Him near. But I can’t stand it when He’s silent. Every fear I’ve ever known assaults me in that time until I feel completely hopeless. I have just come through a season of His silence. Probably much shorter than I realize, it seems like it lasted forever, but looking into my journal, I know it’s only been a matter of days, a week max. But to me, it’s been way too long.

I longed for Him. That’s nothing new. This longing keeps me pursuing Him and I am thankful for it. But today, my heart began to ache for Him and that’s entirely new to me. I’ve never ached inside because of my longings for God. He had always been so quick to console me before. So quick to swoop in and rescue me. Not this time. This time, I was taken past the point of security into a place of desperation. I needed to hear from Him. More than anything.

I began to pray for time alone with Him. I’m a single mom, so it rarely happens that I get time to myself. But I begged Him, “Lord, please, I need time alone with you.” A few hours later, I laid across my bed and opened up my Bible. My kids were both safe and sound with family and friends, and I lay before Him intent upon hearing a fresh word from the Lord.

His Word, which had previously seemed veiled from my understanding, soothed me once again in His gentle way. I needed that. But then, I needed more than that. I needed specifics. What is it that is standing in the way of our fellowship? I asked Him to accompany me to dinner, and there, seated at a table with my Bible and my notebook and a hot plate of Cajun shrimp pasta, He began to speak to me and this is what the Lord revealed:

With much trepidation, I offered the Lord my heart. What I thought was reckless abandon was nothing but lip-service. I had told the Lord that I trusted Him with my heart and thus, wanted Him to hold it for me, but the moment He reached in to take it, I pulled my hands back with a look of terror on my face and began pleading with Him. Demanding to know what He planned to do with it before I relinquished it into His hands. I didn’t really trust Him with it, although I wanted to. I’ve been holding it, and refusing to let go of it until I see my own desires becoming actuality. My soul has been warring against my spirit and the will of God for my life. His will is that He hold it. As a Father entrusted to give His daughter the best, or a Husband who owns His wife’s heart. In both of these cases, the man holds the treasure and knows the value of it, and He becomes a warrior with a purpose: to guard the treasure. To keep it safe. He welcomes the battle because he was made for it. I was not. I was not made for this battle. The truth is in the evidence: my heart is bleeding all over the place. It has been for years. I can’t keep it safe, and sometimes, I am more of a threat to it than anything. How long have I been holding it out there, pleading with anyone and everyone to take it, but refusing to give it up?

Dear Father,
In truth, I don’t know how to trust you. I know you aren’t surprise. I can’t seem to do anything without you. I want to though. For whatever that’s worth. I know that you are trustworthy. You have shown yourself to be so. Please help me to open my fingers wide so you can gently remove my heart from my painful grip and begin to truly heal and restore it. Father, I have my own ideas about what’s good for me, but I don’t want them. Your ways are not mine, and your ways are higher. Your plans are better, and I can’t even imagine what you have in store for me. Help me not to make concessions regarding my life. Help me to trust you fully and follow wherever the road may lead. I don’t want to stand stubbornly in the way of your will because it’s not conceivable to me. I want to walk in the fullness of life that you have so graciously promised me. Begin to take control here in this moment. Take my heart and help me to trust you to fight to keep it safe. But then, you have already won that battle, haven’t you? What a great truth! Thank you for this night, and the truth you have revealed to me, and the freedom I feel. I love you with all of my heart!
-Dawn

Maintaining a Marriage

Published August 24, 2013 by Dawn

I’m stuck in sweet memories lately, of a time when it was just the two of us. A time when we were caught up on the calm, quiet flow of love. We basked in the adoration of one another, completely unaware of time and the world around us. Such sweet memories … and so far removed from the daily grind that wedged its way between us since then. This marriage is so much more than the happily ever after I had imagined. It’s … well, it’s work. And kids. And responsibilities. And ministry. And that short rapturous time we call “the honeymoon” is nothing more than my fondest memory. I think of it often, more so as the days run over one another in a huge hurry to nowhere. I want so badly to go back there, just He and I, and spend time alone rekindling the sweetest love of my life.

I’m full of longing lately. Everyday, I’m rushing here and there, working, cleaning, mothering. All of these things are necessary, I’m sure. But none of them are really fulfilling to me. I long for time of sweet embrace with my Lord. I long for intimate conversations and being held by Him. I know that the Bible says He will never leave us nor forsake us, but the truth is, the gentle embrace of His love is not always immediately discerned. At the end of my long, hard day, I still have to come into His presence and seek Him. I want so badly to be in His presence, basking in His glorious gaze, but after a long, hard day, sometimes, this too feels like work. And I tend to put it off. Until it feels like we haven’t had a moment together in ages. I am existing from Sunday to Sunday with short bursts of His powerful presence followed by what seems to be nothingness. I know its more than that, I just can’t perceive the reality of His presence because I am so busy. So busy doing all these other things that seem immediately important but have little to no eternal value in the long run. The things that do can’t be done without Him anyway, so why am I striving so much? I have no idea.

These feelings have led me to this one conclusion: time alone together is important in a marriage. It’s what keeps the marriage strong. More than anything else, I think. Time to get to know one another, to hear from the heart whom the other is becoming and all the things hidden within that can only be revealed, not stumbled upon. In my relationship with the Lord, He doesn’t reveal Himself to me because I present myself to Him hurriedly each night. He waits until I have cast aside all the things that are vying for my attention and come to Him in calm, quiet surrender at His feet, desiring nothing more than to know more of Him. This is not a time of revealing my hang-ups or my needs. Its a time of pure, unadulterated fellowship. The only goal is to know Him. To hear His heart and to allow Him to wrap His loving arms around me and hold me. This is the times when I am so fulfilled in Him. Nothing compares to this time with Him. And there is nothing in my world that is so important that I should put it before this time. Nothing.

Long after my kids are grown and my hands are too weak to do much of anything, I will still have Him beside me. He will always be there. That is worth nurturing. So what am I to do to once again be enraptured by His love? I will steal time. I will steal time from anywhere I can. Like right now, while the kids sleep. This time is not for playing around on the facebook or popping a movie in. It’s time that I can spend with Him. The dishes aren’t going anywhere, neither is the laundry or any of the other never-ending piles in my life. I will have time for those things tomorrow. Right now, I can give this time to Him. A small sort of getaway built into my day that allows me to lavish on Him and bask in His love. Nothing as elaborate as a honeymoon, but a way for us to rekindle the fire between us in the midst of the everydayness of life. It’s oh so necessary. This is how a marriage survives, I’m sure.

When I lose my mind …

Published August 22, 2013 by Dawn

A few Sundays ago, a man at my church sang a song that took me way back. It was a song I heard when I was a young girl that I used to just rock out to. You know, a song that speaks so highly of Christ and tells your salvation story so well. A song you can’t help but dance to. And I couldn’t. I was up on the platform, sitting with the rest of the worship team and couldn’t contain myself. I was dancing in my seat! I have to admit, this is not the norm. My church isn’t exactly charismatic, doesn’t worship like that at all …. Like, ever. But I was lost in the joy of this song to Him. I wasn’t thinking of anyone else but the Lord and the truth that was being sung. I was thoroughly engrossed and enjoying myself.

When he finished singing, I let out a whoop so loud in exaltation to my God, and clapped like a fool. The lady next to me shot me a look that silently asked, “Have you lost your mind?” With no defense, I had to silently admit to myself, “Yes, I have.”

I don’t know exactly what was going on inside my head at that time. I was lost in the worship and joy of my Savior. I love what Christ has done for me and inside of me. Sometimes, I guess I just lose my mind a little. I try not to. I know it’s not cool to do that, and definitely not normal. Or socially acceptable. I’d apologize, but I know it may happen again, and then what?

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the story of David dancing before the Lord as he brings the Ark of the Covenant back into Jerusalem. His wife Michal looks down from a window and sees David outside making a fool of himself and thinks, “He’s lost his mind!” She actually despised him so much in that moment because of the scene he is making. After all, he is the King. Seems he should have a little more pride and dignity, right? When the celebration was over, David went home and Michal jumped down his throat about it. Forget the tight-lipped glare. She gave him the what-for! “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls … as any vulgar fellow would do.”

I love David’s response. I have prayed for this level of devotion for many years. He said to her, “It was before the Lord … I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.” I have to admit, I was a little embarrassed after all was said and done, by my behavior that Sunday. Humiliated in my own eyes. But in that moment, I was worshipping Him recklessly.

I came across this verse in 2 Corinthians that speaks to such displays. Second Corinthians 5:13 says this: “If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God. If we are in our right mind, it is for you.” Honestly, this verse says it all. What the Lord did for me, what He ransomed me from and the price He paid to secure my heart and my eternity, blows my mind. I can’t get over it. And sometimes, I just get a little nuts about it. I forget any one is around and I lavish on Him and I allow the fullness of joy to spring up in me. Sometimes, I pray to Him without regard to time or the noise I may be making. Sometimes, I dance or clap or shout. I’m not thinking about anyone or anything else. Just Him. And I express the love that overwhelms me in a way that may seem a bit … overwhelming. I don’t mean to be offensive or distracting or ridiculous. I just have a temporary lapse of reasoning. All the other times, the times of composure and soft worship and whispering to Him … in other words, when I’m in my right mind … that’s all for you. I don’t want to freak you out or drive you away so I contain myself until I get home. There’s plenty of time to dance around and shout to Him while I’m cooking or cleaning. My kids don’t mind. So if you will, please overlook my random acts of insanity. I just lose my mind a little when I think about what He’s done for me!

Beyond the Shadow of Doubt

Published August 19, 2013 by Dawn

“Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”

I admire this man’s honesty. In one sentence, he proclaims both his willingness and desire to believe and his natural inability to embrace that belief. No one likes to appear faithless, which is perhaps why I didn’t want to write this blog several weeks ago when it was first placed in my heart. Must also be why I’ve found myself here, in the Shadow of Doubt, grappling to know my faith again. Struggling to embrace all the evidence that God is able and willing to answer my heart’s every cry. Here, in the Shadow of Doubt, I long to be on the other side of it. Beyond it.

This much I know about the Shadow of Doubt: It’s a lifeless place. It’s a place where nothing grows. And there are pitfalls of despair: deep, dark holes that cannot be seen, only felt and fallen into. More terrifying than all of that, however, are the demons that lurk there. Demons of fear and bitterness, who whisper into your soul and cause you to doubt all that you’ve ever known to be true. About yourself, your friends, and yes, even about your God. This is no common place of struggle, it’s a desperate place. A place that can only be conquered by surrender. You cannot get out by fighting or crawling, or climbing. You can only escape by looking up into the heavens and screaming out His name: Jesus! Jesus!

And surrendering. Admitting that although you want to believe, there’s something in you that still doubts. Something in you that struggles to believe that you heart’s desire can become reality, and that the God who says He can make it reality really wants to do that for you. Is it weakness to be so skeptical? Yes, I think it is. It must be, because the man who asked the Lord to heal his son also asked the Lord to help him believe it is possible. But 2 Corinthians 12:9 assures us by saying that “His strength is made perfect in our weakness.” In other words, when we are weak, He is strong for us. The Lord knows our proclivity to doubt. He understands it. Our prayer then becomes, “Lord, take me beyond this Shadow of Doubt! Take me into the light, into a newness of life, to another level of your glory displayed in my life. Bind every demon of fear and unbelief that seeks to hinder me, remove all bitterness that has tried to take root in me, and renew my faith in both your love and your provisional grace. In your precious and holy name, Amen!”