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All posts for the month November, 2013

The Cost

Published November 21, 2013 by Dawn

He sat, staring at his hands and rubbing his feet absentmindedly in the hot dust. The sun beat down on him without mercy, his cracked and peeling skin absorbing the heat and responding with rivulets of sweat. He was completely unimpressed with himself. He was actually quite sick of himself. He was sick of the sweltering heat, the itchy camel hair, the stinking bugs, the sickening sweet of honey day after day. He struggled every day to minister in the midst of hardened hearts and ridicule. John folded his fingers over his palms, placed his head on his fists and wept. His heart was torn afresh. There were not many who sought the Lord, not many who cared for John’s message. They all came to ogle and scoff. For God’s glory, John lived in a daily humility he could hardly stand sometimes. When the Spirit was on Him, it was easy. He felt in every part of himself that this, this self-deprivation and humiliation, was exactly what he was created for. He knew the sacrifice he paid was necessary. His death to self, the eating of locust and wild honey, the camel hair wrap, no place to lay his head. No comfort ever … it was all for a purpose. He could not possibly handle the call of God living in his flesh. But the dying was a daily thing, and the pressure wore greatly on John. He lived in a glorious tension of both hating and loving life.

This is what I imagine John the Baptist must have thought and felt in his lonely moments. We know that at one point, he was so depressed, he sent his disciples to ask Jesus if he was the Messiah or if there was another. John must have sometimes doubted the work he was doing for the kingdom. What John never heard was Jesus’ praise. He was absent when Jesus said to the crowds, “Among those born of women, there is no one greater than John.” And the daily derision of the crowd had to have hurt in those moments of weakness. John was, after all, still human.

Yet, the truth remains that John had been called, and he had been called to discomfort. He had been called to a life of denial and humiliation. He was not destined for greatness as the world saw it. He was considered demonic by the vast majority of the church, and really only accepted by the outcasts of society. There was little to no comfort in his life. His clothing was strange and most likely, he didn’t smell to great. He probably only ate when the hunger overwhelmed him, considering locust and wild honey was the only thing on the menu. He was a very strange, repulsive kind of man. He didn’t win people because of his good looks or money. He didn’t win people at all, really. But his message was so attractive, people pressed in to hear it. And they flocked to the desert to drink in the words that John was preaching. They walked with him into the water to display the purifying affect of the message the Spirit of God had burned on his lips.

John did not demand attention. His message did. And it wasn’t accomplished with tons of money. It was accomplished through an obedient self-denial and sacrifice. How was John able to submit to this life and calling?

I recall a verse in the Bible that could explain: “for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. (John 12:43” This is obviously not true of John the Baptist. If he loved the praise of men more, he would have never submitted to that life. He would have run from it. He would have run from the call. When Jesus publicly praised John, it was a foretaste of what awaited him in Heaven.

There are many opportunities for us to seek the praise of men in this life. Sometimes, we even insist upon it, pushing ourselves into positions of acknowledgement and the limelight. But at what cost? I’ll tell you … in Matthew chapter 6, Jesus said that when you do things before men to be seen by them, you forfeit your reward from the Father. When you seek the praise of men, or jockey for it, you give up something so much more fulfilling and precious: the praise of God. That’s a hefty price to pay just to impress fickle people. The honest truth is, there is no person on earth who will unequivocally approve of you. So you may as well, whatever the cost, live for the praise of God because He can and will approve without reservation. Whatever the cost. This is burning in my heart today. Whatever God calls you to do, do it without reservation and He will praise you for it. Maybe not in this lifetime, but you are storing up treasures in Heaven. And it’s gonna be worth it.

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Starting Over

Published November 19, 2013 by Dawn

I spent several hours yesterday writing a chapter for a book I’ve been working on for years. I haven’t written anything new in quite a while, although I have spent a lot of time editing what I did have down. Many, many hours over the years working on this book. I confidently said, “two chapters away from done!” and got to writing again and was very pleased with the way the Holy Spirit smoothly wrote a whole chapter in those few hours I gave to Him yesterday. When I was finished, I went through the painful process of saving my work. I say painful because I have always went above and beyond to save my work to multiple places so that I don’t lose it. I’ve read horror stories of authors getting careless and losing entire manuscripts. I can’t even wrap my mind around how awful that realization is. Or I should say I couldn’t … I found out yesterday. Didn’t have to wrap my head around it, because it became my reality completely without my permission.

I opened my online files to peruse some of the older chapters to fine-tune them, which I do often because when I’m not writing, I still like to be moving forward on them. I was shocked to find that the chapters I had saved were not the last version I had revised and saved. Not even close. They were old. Like, the first draft of each chapter. I was sick! I was so upset. I just sat there dumbfounded until sobs overtook me and my kids looked at me like I had lost it. They both immediately got concerned and began to hesitantly inch toward me asking me what was wrong. I couldn’t even say it. My book, what I thought was very polished and almost finished, was gone.

I can’t even express the feeling of despair that hit me. How am I going to start all over? I’ve been writing on this one book for five or six years. I’ve put so much time, at the expense of sleep and fun and food, to write this book that I felt was God’s divine plan for my life. I just knew I was going to get it done because He gave me a vision for it, burned it into my heart and fed it to me line by line … how could this happen?

I looked up into Heaven and this intense peace settled over me. My spirit all the sudden had a calm reassurance: He’ll do it again. All the sudden, I just knew it wasn’t up to me this time. It’s God’s work. All I have to do is be obedient, He’ll do the rest. He’ll inspire and teach and work through me. For the first time in writing, and aiming for finishing a book, I have this deep sense of freedom in it. It’s His. I don’t have to carry the burden of producing something for Him. He is going to produce something through me.

Perhaps there are others out there who are starting over. And maybe it’s something much bigger than writing a book. Maybe it’s starting over in a new place, with new people, or with a new purpose. Whatever it is, you recognize the anxious thoughts: “How am I going to do this?” May I suggest you place that burden on the Lord, and allow Him to carry you. While nothing is more daunting than starting over, it can be a beautiful thing. Each new beginning comes with fresh wisdom and a fresh opportunity to embrace God and invite Him to walk with you. He can enable you to do what He is calling you to do. Peace be with you!

Worship Like a Dog

Published November 18, 2013 by Dawn

Jeshurun. A poetic Hebrew name given to the land of Israel. Although not fully understood, several different possibilities exist for what the word means. Some scholars believed it was related to the term “yeshiram,” which meant “upright” or “the noblest and best among you.” Others believed it was derived from the root “shir,” which meant “song” or “ring,” suggesting a dancing melody. Jeshurun was a beautiful nickname, a term of endearment speaking of tender affection for the land of Israel. The Lord’s beloved.

Jeshurun was also the name of my childhood best friend. She was a beautiful Harlequin Great Dane, and I absolutely adored her. True to her name, she was the noblest and best of dogs. My parents got her when she was a very young puppy and I was four, and the two of us grew up together. She was my security and the one constant source of love I knew would never be quenched. She often crawled onto my bed with me or curled up on the tops of my feet while we sat in the living room together. She loved to be touched, so if I was standing somewhere, she’d come up and lean her massive body into my legs. I had to brace myself to keep from falling over. She was always such a puppy at heart. She never outgrew the lap-dog syndrome, although she quickly outgrew every lap in the house. She was always standing very near, which got really uncomfortable if she became excited; her tail was alike a thick whip. It hurt! But she loved me and my family deeply, and we loved her the same.

I was listening to a sermon the other day, and the speaker mentioned that the word worship was originally used to describe the way a dog is with her  owner. I immediately thought about Jeshurun. I spent ten years being fulfilled in many ways by the love of this dog, and I remember it very well. I remember the way her eyes looked when she would come up and search my face, nuzzling her nose under my arm or licking my face so that I’d hug her tightly. I remember the way she’d meet us at the door when we came home, tail swishing dangerously behind her, her muzzle seeming to smile with joy at our coming home. This is a dog that figured out how to unlock a deadbolt with her teeth because she wanted so badly to follow us. She was very confident of her place in our hearts, and she pursued us as hard as she could. She worshipped her family.

We use this word to describe the act of seeking the heart of God, but I wonder if our pursuit of Him looks anything like the way a dog loves her owner? I am very challenged by this word. Are we just giving God lip-service, or are we truly in love with Him? Do we adore Him? Do we wait for Him, unsatisfied until He shows up, and unable to contain ourselves when He does? Do we curl up at His feet or crawl up in His lap just to be near Him? Do we lean up against Him, allowing Him to bear our weight because we are comfortable enough with Him that we forget ourselves? Does a smile overcome us when He looks at us? My dog captured a special place in me because of the way she abandoned herself to love me best. It was like the greatest desire of her heart was to fill my heart to overflowing with joy. Can this be said of us? Is His delight our greatest ambition, or are we using His delight simply to get things from Him? Are we loving Him with all of ourselves, pouring into Him all the love He pours into us? Do we truly worship Him? Do we long for His touch, searching for it and pressing in to it?

Father, May we worship you with reckless abandon. May we adore you with all of our hearts. May we lavish on you all that you lavish on us. May we love you with every fiber of life. You are so much more than wonderful.

The Holy Huddle

Published November 16, 2013 by Dawn

I love football. It’s an irrational love of mine: I hardly understand half of what’s going on out there when I watch it, but I still love it. It’s suspenseful, on-the-edge-of-your-seat entertainment that lasts just as long as a movie, but it’s out in the open, loud and absolutely wonderful. I get it from my mother … When I was a teenager, she fell in love with watching it on TV, and I would sit back and watch her become a fan in the stands, my jaw on the floor. My mom is otherwise pretty reserved … unless there’s a game on. Then she’s comical. But the more I watched her watch it, the more I watched it to see what all the fuss was about, and before I knew it, I was just as ridiculously wrapped up in the game. I lost all sense of propriety and dignity when the games came on. I still do if I’m not careful.

One thing I do understand of the game, though, is the huddle. You can always tell when a coach is going to call time and pull the team in for a chat. There is actually a strategy to it. If the team is winning, he pulls them in to shake up the other team. He’ll discuss strategy, give high-fives, slaps on the rear (I don’t understand that part), or whatever other way the coach chooses to encourage his guys. If the team is losing, the coach will call time right after some awful mess-up, and he’ll have some words of exhortation, maybe some stern correction, whatever he feels may influence them to greatness. Then, when they’ve been fully instructed, the coach breaks up the huddle and sends them back onto the field. The game resumes and hopefully, the team changes some things and ups their game, and is victorious.

I had this epiphany this morning: Jesus had a ragamuffin football team! Think about it: He had twelve disciples, right? But one wasn’t spiritually mature enough to handle the field, so he was relegated to carrying the money bag and following the others around. We’ll liken him to the water boy. The rest of the team – eleven men who wanted to win the world for Christ. Jesus was the coach. So they set out to defeat the enemy in whatever area they came into. Jesus would often pull them aside for times of teaching, and then send them out to the field. They had a holy huddle and then broke up and did their part, each of them working together, using their individual personalities and gifting to minister to the lost. Jesus would teach them, correct them, encourage them, and send them out. His purpose was the game, so to speak, not the holy huddle.

Today, the church seems to have the exact opposite approach to the world. We turn our backs to them, hunch over our bibles, huddle up in  a church and call it the Will of God. It’s really starting to bother me. The huddle is as small part of the game! You can’t play the game and be in the huddle all the time. The Bible says don’t forsake the assembling of the brethren, but I don’t think this was what the Lord had in mind. Church should not be a legalistic obligation, and it definitely is not our divine purpose. It should be a holy huddle, where we all get together, teach, exhort, encourage, and LEAVE to get back to the field. Our purpose is to be victorious in a world of darkness. We are to be used by God to overcome the darkness with the light of His presence. If we are huddled over that light, or holding it in our hands between ourselves, the world can’t see it. If we aren’t back out in that field, working together to win, we aren’t doing the team any good.

It is not the Lord’s Will that we exalt our holiness for all the world to see, thereby alienating those whom Jesus came to serve. The sick need a doctor, we know the guy, and we are just being cruel if we would rather watch them die than be healed. It’s time to abandon our pride and so-called dignity, get out there and play our hearts out. If He’s got us on the sidelines right now, let’s cheer on those who are on the field! Let’s encourage, pray for, minister to, and be a part of the winning team. The Lord’s going to win, whether we help or not, but I want to be a part of that victory!

Opinions are like …

Published November 15, 2013 by Dawn

My kids were airing their opinions rather freely one day to the point that I just couldn’t take another minute of their bickering back and forth over their thoughts and feelings. So I got really philosophical and began their first lesson on opinions: “Opinions are like …” They thought I was going to say something profound, and in fact, it was profound. You know the saying … It’s true, isn’t it?

Today at work, I was sitting in one of the lounges waiting on my students to finish something, and feeling rather chatty, so I struck up a conversation with a new face sitting at the table next to me. I don’t know why I was so vulnerable to the thoughts flying around in my head but I expressed most of them without thinking and ended up in the middle of the worst kind of foot-in-mouth situation. I probably offended the poor guy. Three minutes into our first encounter, and his first impression of me probably was not a good one.

To make matters worse, I remembered my time in the Word this morning and one particular verse that really stuck out to me today: “A fool delights in airing his own opinion. (Proverbs)” Yep, He tried to warn me … Thanks, Lord, for the heads-up. Sorry, I didn’t pick up on it like I should have.

The truth is, and I realize this might sound like my opinion, but I don’t think it is. I think it is truth: our opinions aren’t really worth much. They are so subjective and perception-based. I’d rather hear someone’s discernment in a matter than their opinion, because then, it’s more about the Spirit speaking than us. Our opinions have so much power in the lives of others, but most of the time, change with maturity and sometimes, with the wind. And I don’t know about you, but my opinion has revealed my foolishness more often than not, whereas, when I let the Spirit lead me in speaking to people, I don’t have these problems.

His Beloved

Published November 12, 2013 by Dawn

I woke up to the sweetest words a woman can hear from her lover. I was gently nudged awake by His Spirit and heard whispered into my heart, “Beloved.” Like cool water, that word quenched the thirst in my single-woman soul. I smiled, tears forming in my eyes, rolled into the warmth of His embrace and allowed The Lord to hold me this morning. And as I lay there, He whispered more: “Blessed and highly favored.” Confidence welled up in me, assurance of being loved and beautiful in His eyes, valued and smiled upon. It felt so good.

This present season has been a hard one for me. After years of being wakened in the early dawn by the Holy Spirit and wooed into His arms before the sun rose, I began into a season of oversleeping every alarm, as I descended into an emotional pit of depression and feelings of hopelessness. Proverbs says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.(13:12)” I fell into it hardcore. My hope waned as His promises proved long in coming, and the longer I had to wait, the less I trusted my discernment and my ability to hear His voice. And when I did hear Him, or think I heard Him, I would refuse to admit it to myself for fear that I was wrong.

So as not to be accused of beating around the bush, I’ll try to be more forthcoming about my disappointment. I’m a single mom, and for much longer than ever thought possible. Taking it one day at a time sure does help, but I’ve been overwhelmed many times over the years. I never prayed for a relationship because I didn’t have that desire … until it was awakened in me and I readily admitted my desire and could see it very clearly reflected in my kids. I was pleasantly surprised when the Lord spoke this promise into my heart, of a relationship with promises straight out of Jeremiah (those are my own to hold). He also spoke in this time of a ministry that awakened in me the deepest love I’ve always had for Jesus, and a great desire to proclaim Him to the nations. Yet, years later, here I am … with no evidence of either anywhere in sight. Hope deferred was hurting me big time.

My disappointment dragged me down until I couldn’t hardly pray without eventually just suffering before the Lord in silence, unwilling to accuse Him or turn away but completely at a loss for words to express anything else. I can say without a doubt, this has been the hardest battle I’ve ever been in.

I opened the Word a few hours after getting to work today and the first verse I read was this: “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine. (Song of Solomon 6:3)” Relief flooded me as I surrendered to the one truth I cannot deny even now: God is aware of me and loves me more than I will ever know. I am not saying that smugly, or with any arrogance. This is true for all of us. His ways may not make sense to us, His timing may seem off to us, but His love should assure us that He cares tremendously and is doing something that is more than wonderful in us, and for us, and through us. And while some of it hurts, He is still with us, holding our hands and smothering us with kisses. He’s a good parent, a good husband, a wonderful God! He fills in the empty spaces, makes the hard road smooth and speaks when we are willing to hear and listen. He soothes us with His Spirit, comforts us with His spoken Word, and reminds us of His great faithfulness. And just when Satan gets a firm grasp on our hope and tries to tear it from us, the Lord steps in and delivers us from his grip. We are never left alone. This is my God. Ever faithful. I love Him so much!

“And I am confident of this: that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord. Be strong and take heart, and wait for the Lord. (Psalm 27:14-15)”

Why You Trippin’?

Published November 10, 2013 by Dawn

“Why you trippin’?”  I don’t know when this became a popular expression. I do know it came out of my mouth a lot in high school, so perhaps it’s a nineties, early 2000’s thing. Usually said with a look of bewilderment or consternation, it was used by the exasperated friend of someone who was highly agitated and making a big deal of something. Anxiety, discouragement, discontentment, pain, any negative emotion was quickly acknowledged in this way, “Why you trippin’?”

I was thinking about this phrase early this morning, when I would have rather been sleeping but couldn’t, and realized how insightful it actually is. You see, these negative feelings, and the things that lead up to them, actually are stumbling blocks for us, and we do tend to trip in those moments that we entertain them. We stumble over circumstances that would otherwise not be significant hurdles, when our feelings overwhelm our sense of who God is in our lives.

Whether we stumble into self-pity, sinful activity, or a pit of depression, we lose our footing and find ourselves more often than not flat on our faces where moments before, we were running with endurance the race marked out for us. The sad thing is, we’ve jumped these hurdles before, flawlessly or with little effort. But then, for whatever reason, our perspective gets off, and we find ourselves laid out, staring at the sky.

So I ask again: “Why you trippin’?” Take a look at the circumstances that have brought you low, consider why you tripped there. What is it that caused you to lose the ability to walk, or run, upright with the Lord? What circumstance overcame you? And does it keep happening? Is this a hurdle you keep messing up on? What is causing you to keep landing on your face before the Lord, in a position that should be one of praise but is instead one of anguish? Recognize this pit that you are in, and how you came to be there, lest you continue to trip into it. The Lord does not want us in a cycle of falling down. That is not growth, after all, it’s bondage. What can you learn from this course you are on, and how can you successfully conquer that hurdle?

These answers will only come through some intimate conversation with the One who sees the whole race, start to finish. Your trainer knows the course, every turn, every hurdle, and He’s watched you fail. He knows how you can improve. It is vital that you spend time listening to His wisdom. He so wants you to succeed at this. He’s willing to put whatever time you will give Him into making you better. He knows something you may not: you can do this thing! You can finish, and finish well! He is not only able, but desirous, to fully equip you in every way, to finish the race set before you so that you may receive the prize.

I don’t know about you, but I am tired of stumbling through life. I am tired of tripping over my own two feet, falling up stairs, stumbling over every pebble on the path. I’m tired of the scrapes and bruises, and of losing time because I’m stuck in a pit of despair. Satan throws things at me tirelessly because I am clumsy and provide some great laughs, I’m sure. I’m tired of entertaining the devil. I want to be steady on my own two feet, able to recognize the hurdles as they come, and to make it safely over without even touching them. I want to run this race successfully, and make my Daddy proud!