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All posts for the month September, 2013

The Taint of Death

Published September 29, 2013 by Dawn

He stood, peering curiously over my shoulder as I read. My brow was wrinkled in distaste as I scanned the paper. “What’s wrong?” He asked. I looked up and said, “I hate this. Something about it just isn’t right.” I handed him the paper to read it, pointing out a few of the things that were bugging me, and he nodded his head in agreement, “Yeah, just doesn’t sound right to me. You know what that is, don’t you? It’s the taint of death.”

“The taint of death? Pray, tell. What exactly is that?” And so He began. The Lord explained to me what I perceive in the things I have written that fail to minister. He calls it “the taint of death.”

The first time He spoke this phrase to me, I had no idea what it meant. I prayed about it for months, with no revelation. One day, out of nowhere, He began to speak to me and explain what it is. The taint of death is anything in a ministry that originates from human effort. Any place where human effort replaces the flow of the Spirit in something. The Holy Spirit and the Gospel bring life, and any place where a man or woman seeks to expound on the Word or Work of God without the Spirit’s help is labeled thus.

He explained that it is the taint of death because it is lifeless. No life can come from human effort. Life is a work of the Holy Spirit. Look at it this way, when a woman births a child, that child is born of human effort. Born into sin, therefore, born into death. It isn’t until the child makes a conscious decision to die to self and become born again in Christ that he or she truly begins to live. Because before the Spirit entered that work, if you will, it was tainted by death.

The taint of death is pandemic in ministries around the globe. Worshipers who are so intent on waking up the place and stirring up the people that they forget why, or better yet whom, they are worshiping. Preachers and teachers who stress all week trying to create something to teach their congregation or youth groups. Evangelists worrying about how to get people to come to their revivals. All that effort is tainted with death. Nothing spiritual can be born by human effort.

I have read through things that I have written that still minister to me, and I can see that God was the one who ministered it to my heart. I have simply been the conduit in those situations. I also look back through things that I have written and I know that some things were my best effort … which isn’t ever good enough. And I hate those things. Because I know that they are worthless in drawing people to the Lord.

What I know about the Spirit of God is this: He does the wooing. He does the work. It flows smoothly through the willing vessel and it is created by the Spirit. The things that God has done through me, I can take no credit for, because I read them and think, “Where did this come from?” The things I have done on my own, I loathe to take credit for. It’s embarrassing what my efforts produce on their own.

So I looked at Him and asked, “How can I guard the talents you have entrusted to me from this taint of death?” His reply: “Worship me. Revere me. Commune with me. All these things that I have given you to use for my glory will flow naturally from that relationship. There’s no stress in it. It’s glorious!”

Ok Lord, sounds like a plan!

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Driven

Published September 26, 2013 by Dawn

I’m not a very good passenger. I get carsick really easily, and it’s not a simple queasiness; I literally feel like I’m dying. A few weeks ago, we drove back from church camp, which was three or four hours away from home, and in anticipation of the ride home, I took a Dramamine with breakfast. That was my first mistake … breakfast. Second mistake was thinking I would be okay in the back seat with no air conditioner blasting in my face. By the time I finally spoke up that I needed to move, I was very green. Thankfully, when I felt as if I could not possibly feel any worse, the meds kicked in and I fell asleep. We stopped for lunch … third mistake, and then I made my fourth mistake: I took two more Dramamine so I could spend the rest of the ride unconscious. It worked. I slept for the next two days.

I don’t know what my problem is. I don’t get sick at all when I’m driving, which I do all the time. But if I sit anywhere else in a car, my body rebels and I am miserable. I have a theory: I think it’s because I’m not in control. You see, when I’m in the driver’s seat, I can anticipate the movement of my body and the movement of the car. I am automatically focused on the road ahead of me, and reacting to it as it rolls along in front of me. When I am being driven somewhere, I am utterly at the mercy of the person holding the steering wheel. This guy drove just like me … which isn’t a good thing, just sayin’.

I was praying today and this was my revelation: I am being driven. Driven by my emotions, by fear and the enemy’s tactics, by my limited understanding of things, by my dreams and desires. In short, by distractions that keep me from being present-minded and 100% effective for the Lord.

I felt impressed that what I need is the Holy Spirit. More than anything else, I need the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5 tells us that self-control is a fruit of the Spirit, and in order to not be driven by my emotions or my own will, or the enemy’s distractions, I need to bring some things back under control. The Holy Spirit is the answer. In addition to that, the Spirit can also enable me to enjoy this ride, and to have peace no matter what the circumstances and to rejoice in the Lord in all things. Truthfully, I have not rejoiced through some of it. I would have loved to, but I was sick! Sick of myself and sick of the enemy. And sick of my response to the enemy. With the Spirit’s help, I can anticipate the next step, walking in discernment and knowing that the Lord orders my steps. Joyfully!

Holy Spirit, will you join me  on this ride? Be my companion. My passenger, and my GPS. I want to be driven by you.

The Mess in Me

Published September 24, 2013 by Dawn

“What’s wrong with me?” That’s a question I hear every day from one of my autistic students, and it never fails to break my heart. His asking is not defensive or even because he’s been offended. He asks me this because he knows he needs more help than some of the others in class, and he just wants to know what’s wrong with his work … or, what’s wrong with him. This same kid is a source of delight in my day, and I tell him, “There is absolutely nothing wrong with you. I just need to help with this.” He says, “Oh, ok.” And we move on until the next time.

I’ve been wondering a lot lately, and asking my Father, the same question: “What’s wrong with me?” I feel like while life is hard for all of us, God’s been doing an awful lot of work in me lately. My battles have been intense, He’s said no in several areas I expected to hear yes in, and while He’s answering some prayers, my most precious and urgent prayers remain unanswered. I have looked to Heaven plenty of times this week and cried out, “What the heck is so wrong with me?!” I have felt lately like I must be way more screwed up than even I knew, or God wouldn’t have to fix so much in me in preparation for whatever He wants to do in my life.

Well, I guess I got my response this afternoon while doing what? You guessed it … yard work. I get some pretty profound answers while tending to the mess in my yard. I guess the yard and I are quite alike.

Today, I was clearing out some overgrowth in the middle of my yard. I have a concrete barrier running down the middle of the back portion of my yard, and these last five years, some major nuisances have been growing there, dividing the yard quite nicely and making mowing even more of a pain than it should be. Well, this past summer, my step-dad came over and took care of them with a chain saw. One crazy, busy day of hauling limbs to a brush pile and I thought we had taken care of the problem … Only, we didn’t actually take care of the problem. A few weeks later, the stumps that were left had begun to sprout in all directions and the regrowth was massive chaos. Instead of one or two branches on one central trunk, there was now about 10 to 15 branches coming off the nub that was left. It looked worse than before!

I put on my pretty pink yard gloves and took some clippers out there to clear up the mess, and while I was out there, I was praying because, well, an unproductive mind is a dangerous thing. So I was praying about things, asking again, “What is so wrong with me?” And in response, I heard, “Check out what happens when you leave a root.” Ugh!

Yeah, that’s how it is between the Lord and I. He is straight up with me. I’m not clever enough to handle anything but straight-up. So … point taken. As I continued to chop away at the tangle of tendrils reaching out in every direction, I realized that this must be why I have been hurting so badly lately. I made it very clear to the Lord that I want His best, and in order to have His best, He has to remake me so that I don’t ruin His best. He’s standing over me with a bunch of clippers saying, “Let’s do this thing!” And He’s taking care of the mess.

Do you know what I thought of when I looked over the yard after cutting away the limbs, and before picking them up? One word – carnage. I had caused carnage to a great many budding trees. Likewise, I feel like the Lord is creating carnage in me. And I guess to an extent, He is. He’s dealing a death blow to my flesh in so many ways right now. But even though it hurts something fierce, I know that to be dead to my self and my desires means I am becoming more alive in Christ. And that’s something to rejoice about!

Father, thank you for all you are doing in me right now. In my weaker moments, I cry out about it and I question you, but your word assures me that you are doing this to make me more like Christ, and that is my purpose. Please know, the best part of my day is talking to you and I love to hear your voice, so continue to speak to me. I am forever listening for you. Please take care of the roots in me that cannot produce good fruit. I don’t want them anymore. Hold my hand and help me to endure this process of clearing out the mess in me. I love you.

Here I Am

Published September 21, 2013 by Dawn

“Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. (S. of S. 8:6-7)”

I was laying here listening to worship music and just letting the Spirit sooth me this afternoon, when I heard the Lord say, “Here I Am.” And I waited, because I’ve been longing for Him to speak to me a sustaining word. He continued, “When you are finished looking for someone to desire you, Here I Am. When you are finished seeking someone to make your life better, Here I Am. When you are finished searching for the one who will make you feel complete, Here I Am. When you are finished looking for someone to love you and fulfill you, Here I Am.” Then He said, “My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you.” Is. 26:9

When I heard this last part, I thought at first He was showing me that all my yearnings and longings were simply misdirected. That my soul really longs for Him and I have misinterpreted my heart cries and run after others. But what if … what if He was really saying that He yearns and longs for me? What love is this?

Can it be true? “I belong to my beloved, and his desire is for me. (S. of S. 7:10)” After all, I can truly say that the sweetest moments are those in which He and I are together because “I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste.(S. of S. 2:3)”  

If it is true, then “let his banner over me be love … for I am faint with love.(S. of S. 2:4)”

As I allowed myself to believe that this fullness of His love is for me, I heard Him. “My beloved spoke and said to me, ‘Arise my darling, my beautiful one, come with me. See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone … the season of singing has come.(S. of S. 2:10-12)” At last! How wonderful that the frigid, dark winter, those barren months, are over and the rains are gone. Let us sing together, Lord.

Overwhelmed with His declaration of love, I sang to Him, “You have stolen my heart … you have stolen my heart … How delightful is your love. (S. of S. 4:9-10)”

“His mouth is sweetness itself; he is altogether lovely This is my beloved, this is my friend. (S. of S. 5:16)”

“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine. (S. of S. 6:3)”

“How beautiful you are and how pleasing, my love, your delights. (S. of S. 7:6)”

I am completely undone by Him! Lord, “Turn your eyes from me; they overwhelm me. (S. of S. 6:5) ” How can I sit beneath your gaze, seeing that you are overwhelmed with love for me? How I have longed for someone to look at me this way! And yet, all this time, here You are, longing for me. How great is your love?!

Wide Awake in Surgery

Published September 19, 2013 by Dawn

I still remember the pain of that surgery. I still remember with a chill the cut of the knife and the doctor’s voice as he described to me what he was doing. It doesn’t seem real, does it, to be talking this way, but this is the truth: I was awake the whole time.

I had gone through two hours of hard labor before the doctor came in and told me that they strongly suggested a Caesarean. My epidural had not blocked all the pain, as I expected it to, and so I was on the edge of hyperventilating and not able to deliver my baby. I really didn’t want to have a c-section, but when I asked the doctor which he recommended and heard his reasoning behind it, I really didn’t feel like I had a choice. Half and hour later, we were in the operating room and there was a thin blue sheet hung up between the operating team and myself. My epidural was supposed to get me through this thing … did I mention it wasn’t working out as expected?

“I’m getting ready to make a small incision. You will only feel a slight pinch.”

My face contorted with the sting of the blade as it sliced through my abdomen. The nurse standing next to me looked over at me and said, “You shouldn’t be feeling anything.” The doctor then said, “Ok, now I will have to move around a few things…” And then pain shot through me, and I clenched my teeth and tried not to scream, begging him to hurry up. The nurse’s face got really worried, and she said, “You really shouldn’t be feeling anything.” I admit, at this point, I was less patient with her and less silent. All of my humanness came out, along with a string of awful words to express my suffering. I honestly do not know how long it took for them to take my daughter. It couldn’t have been too long, but it was long enough to feel every bit of that procedure. I don’t know why the pain meds they gave me weren’t working. My sister all but slept through child-birth. I felt every bit of that one. And it was awful.

I feel like that’s what God is doing in my life right now. A surgery, in which I am wide awake and well aware of. He’s the guy on the other side of the sheet describing all the things He’s doing as He cuts away the parts of me that make me less like Christ. I have to be awake, I know, because He would never do anything without my consent. But man if it doesn’t hurt! I feel the blade as He cuts away my imperfections. I feel the pain as He moves things around in me and makes room for newness of life. I know that out of this, there will come a new life, and I eagerly await it. I just don’t know how to rejoice in this pain. I am struggling to respond in a way that isn’t, well, fleshly. All of my humanness is coming out and rearing it’s ugly head.

I want it gone. That’s the truth. I’m okay with this, because I know that He is creating purity in me. I just don’t know how to let go of it, how to die to flesh, without feeling so much in the process. In truth, this is painful! I am not dying quietly, either. He keeps reminding me of how well Christ died. How gracious he was in the midst of suffering and persecution. How good and kind he was even though he was lonely and forsaken. And I keep reminding Him that I am not Christ! He just looks at me with a sympathetic smile and says, “I know. But when I am finished with you, you will be like Christ.” And then He continues to cut away.

Orphans and Widows

Published September 17, 2013 by Dawn

When I was a little girl, I was most perplexed over the way things always seemed to break in my hands. Almost like they were broken before I even touched them. I was always getting in trouble because things broke the moment I laid a finger on them.  And so I grew up thinking I had a way of destroying things without even realizing what I was doing.

I have carried this curse with me into adulthood. I bought a toaster from Wal-Mart a few months ago and when I went to try it out, I realized that it was all jacked up on the inside. I was annoyed and slightly amused, but with a little finagling, got the toaster to work despite its malfunction and decided to keep it rather than go through the headache of returning it. That broken toaster makes me breakfast most mornings.

A few weeks ago, I had to buy a new wax warmer for my scented wax cubes, and when I opened up the new one, I pulled out from within it a bag of glass shards that had once been a light bulb. I was irritated at the lack of quality I find increasingly at Wal-Mart, but decided rather than return it just because the bulb, I’d replace the bulb and get on with life. So that’s what I did. I’m smelling the wonderful after-effects of that decision even now, as I type.

What I am not enjoying is the scratching at my back door … some stray cat abandoned it’s adorable kitten-child on my back doorstep and my children have coddled it all afternoon. Now that it’s time to come in, neither they nor the kitten can let go of each other. My momma heart is breaking, because while I do not want this poor orphan, I am having a hard time not wanting this poor orphan. Now that I think about it, I am literally sitting here purposefully hardening my heart to keep from bringing this wretched, flea-covered ball of love into my house. Logic is warring with my heart!

I said all that to say this: I don’t know if my curse is that I break everything I touch or that I am attracted to broken things. Or that broken things are always crying out to me. What I do know is this: I understand her pain and loneliness, sitting out there on my stoop crying out for the ones who gave her attention and affection. My daughter looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “Do you know what it’s like to not have a mom? She just wants to be loved.” My heart broke! I must be cold to sit here, enduring her agony as she cries out to me from the cold, dark outside.

This cat is crawling into my heart from the other side of the glass. And I want it to be okay. I just don’t want fleas! Not to mention, what will my rabbit think of a tiny kitten sharing his domain? These are all the things holding me back from allowing this humble little beggar into my home …

All these thoughts are justified reasons to say no in my own mind, to turn off the lights and go to sleep despite the desperate pleas of a baby kitten to be let in. And you know what bothers me most about that? If that were a person, I wonder if I would come up with similar reasons to turn my back on their need … Oh Lord, I hope not. Because this is the work that pleases God: To look after orphans and widows in their distress. Not to pray for them from the other side of the glass, but to take them in and care for them. Despite whatever reasons you can come up with to not do it, this work pleases Him. He watches over them and sustains them, and when you join Him in His work, you have truly joined Heaven’s ministry.

Father,

Please help us to be open to Your will, despite our excuses to maintain our own comfort and dignity. Lord, help us to see the needs of those around us  and to respond in a manner worthy of the calling You have placed in us. Give us the willingness to set aside our agendas and to be obedient to what You placed in front of us. May we comfort those with the comfort You have given us. Let us be a blessing to You by blessing those around us.

Your Jealous Best Friend

Published September 15, 2013 by Dawn

When I was a little girl, my siblings and I spent a lot of time with our cousins. My dad’s family was especially close. We had one female cousin around our age and my sisters and I adored her. Every time she came over, we all three vied for her attention. And we all three asked her the same question: which one of us is your favorite. We each had the desire to be as wonderful in her eyes as she was in ours. The hardest part of this relationship was seeing your favorite cousin enjoying your sister more than she enjoyed you. Without words, you found out that for that day at least, you were not the favorite. We were all three equally jealous best friends.

I was thinking this morning of our unique relationship with the Holy Spirit, in which he comes alongside us and joins us in every part of our day. Every day. What a wonderful best friend we have! Only, this morning while I was thinking about all of this, I was also contemplating how many ways I have communicated to the Holy Spirit that though He is with me always, I have struggled to embrace His friendship because I have another friend that vies just as eagerly for my time and attention: The World.

Oh, it’s not what you think though. I’m not out there being worldly while the Spirit sits and sadly watches. My attention is just averted quite often to those things that are more temporal and less satisfying to the Lover of My Soul. I’m not exactly out there gallivanting with sin, because that’s not what a Christian girl should do. I am just looking longingly at things that tear my attention and focus off the Holy Spirit and all the wonderful things He is doing in and through, and for, me. For instance, relationships and money and status and recognition … while all of these things can be wonderful and used by God, if that isn’t what God has for me, then I shouldn’t be spending all my time longing for them at the expense of this now-moment that the Lord wants to work in.

You see, either way, you have a jealous best friend. Whether you are friends with the world, or friends with the Lord. James 4:4 tells us that “friendship with the world is enmity with God” and Galatians 5:17 says that, “the desires of the flesh are against the spirit.” The world, with all it’s glamour and allure, jealously seeks all your time and attention. This best friend, though momentarily comforting and fun, does not want you to enjoy the benefits of the presence and power of God, so she distracts you with trivial, fleeting things like wealth and acclamation, entertainment and a mindless, numbing sort of rest from all your cares. Instantly gratifying, requiring no long-term commitment or investment, the world is a fair-weather sort of friend, who knows how to laugh and have fun. She’s the best friend you can spend a weekend indulging yourself with.

On the other hand, the Holy Spirit is also jealous. James 4:5 says that “He jealously longs for the spirit He has caused to dwell in us.” Your God, His Spirit inside of you, is jealous for you! However, this friendship is the real deal. He will never leave you, nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6). He’s in it for the long haul. “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother,” according to Proverbs 18:24, and that friend is the Holy Spirit. There is no storm you will ever have to weather alone. The Holy Spirit is not a fair-weather friend. He provides shelter in the storm, peace in the chaos, life in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. The Holy Spirit is with you through thick and thin, and the only thing He cannot accept is your friendship with the world. “You will either love one and hate the other. (Matthew 6:24)”

Choosing which friend to align with is often left to our fickle emotions of the moment, though. Like, we often subconsciously make this decision by asking, “which friend serves the me better in this?” Does the world make a better friend in this moment, by allowing me to enjoy myself without the hindering convictions? Or does the Holy Spirit help me get out of this mess that the world helped me get into? Ouch! This does seem to be the way we choose who’s our favorite for the day, doesn’t it?

Holy Spirit, I don’t want to be that friend anymore. Convict me when necessary, but guide me always and hang with me through thick and thin because you make me better, and I love that about you. You are the greatest gift of friendship I have ever known, and I pray that you will inspire me to be better to you. Truth be told, you are my favorite. Thank you for understanding the war that my flesh is in against the things of God, and I pray that you will always stay beside me, gently coaxing me to look at you and not at the world around me. After all, all that glitters is not gold. Thank you for this truth today. I love you.