"I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write." ~St. Augustine

Monday, October 28, 2013

Sleep Walking

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I fall asleep so quickly...

I slumber and slip into numbness with the simple tasks of cooking, cleaning, teaching my children and walking to the store...  I slip into a state of "to-do" and "task-girl".   I slide into automatic.   Do you ever do this?  Like a dishwasher, just push the "start" button on Stephanie and off I go... working without much thought or "life" or awareness.  Almost inanimate.

I think Jesus is inviting me to something more... a life lived more alive.  More awake.

"Be dressed and ready", He has been saying.  (Luke 12:35)

"Stay alert, watchful and awake", He has been speaking to my soul. (1 Peter 5:8)  Not words of condemnation, but these have been words of invitation and wisdom.

I have more for you, Stephanie.

I went away on a three day spiritual retreat this week.  What a joy!   The beauty of silence, solitude and pulling away are always balm to my soul.  Curled up in the comfy easy-chair in my friend's living room, I sat with my journal, my Bible and my pens...  "What is it you want to do with our time, Jesus?"  I asked and waited.

Go outside and take a walk into town.

What?

The quiet words wafted across my mind.  Go outside.  Take a walk into town.   "What, Lord? Go outside?  Take a walk into town?"  No, that can't possibly be from God.

So, I asked Him again.

Silence.

Twenty minutes later (after explaining to God all the reasons why I shouldn't be doing "this" on my pull-away-quiet-solitude spiritual retreat!) the invitation still hung in the air of my soul.  It was like the words just waited patiently for a response.  Go outside and walk into town.  

So, I put on my shoes and my coat and took a step outside.   Crisp cool air hit my face and woke me up.

I have more for you, Stephanie.  Be awake and alert.  Be watchful.  

I walked up into town with an obedient heart.  I was so alive in those moments.  Awake and aware.    Extra aware, extra sensitive.  I was listening.  What was it He had for me?  Why would He ask me to do this?  Who, Lord?  What is it, Lord Jesus?  Show me?  Teach me...  Lord, I want to walk into town with you.

I walked into town with Jesus that day... In those sweet moments, I was so very awake.  I felt alive.  From the beginning until the end of my walk, I felt that I "saw" everyone, smelled everything and heard all.  I noticed each soul and prayed my way through the town.  I was waiting and watching and listening... What do you have for me, Lord Jesus?  My heart was asking.

I have this..  

I have this awareness, Stephanie.  Awakeness.  Surrendered-obedient-anticipating-adventuring-aware-awakeness.  Learn to walk through all of your life in this way, my daughter.  

Because... I fall asleep so easily.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Old Videos...Old (and New) Grace

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Clunky, chunky old VHS tapes gather dust in the back of our television cupboard.  Tucked away in a place we never go, a place we forget, these video tapes sit quietly keeping record of another time---was it another life?

We pulled one out last week to watch with our kids.  We hadn't seen these tapes in over fifteen years.  In fact, I am not sure we have ever watched these tapes...

In the first scene, here she was---Stephanie---a blond pony-tailed girl, hardly touched by the early morning 5 AM taping of our departure!  Young kids we were... in our early twenties...  leaving the known of California and venturing out to follow God's call overseas.  Duffle bags, a scarf for my head and wearing a long skirt, we were flying away to Central Asia.  What were we thinking?!  We had only been married for 2 years. We knew that God was asking us to go.  

Bright eyed and not a speck of grey in my hair, we were so young!  

I watched and found myself judging that young Stephanie.  Liking "her" sometimes and not liking her much at other moments in the video tape,  I watched and judged and wondered...  who was she, anyway?  And, who am I now?  Did I like her better then?  Do I like who I have become now?  

Is this what a mid-life crisis feels like?!   

As I sat in my clunky and chunky living room chair, I wondered and I prayed.  Feeling heavy with the memories of mistakes and victories, I needed to process these VHS moments.  In my mind's eye, I prayerfully walked through those fifteen years with Jesus... asking.  Watching... Wondering.  

What does He see?  What would He say? 

Taking a walk down memory lane with Jesus, I asked for His thoughts.  

His words poured over my soul.  Grace.  Unmerited favor.  

It is all grace.  

My grace has covered you since before you were born!  I have walked with you.  I walked with you then, Stephanie... yes, as you stumbled and fell.  Yes, as you stood firm and walked in victory.  

All along... I have poured out grace.
  
Grace.  Favor poured out.  

My grace has covered you and covers you now.  And, will continue to cover you.  Every day. 

Every day grace.  It is all grace, Stephanie.  Just grace.  Just beautiful, powerful, unexplained grace.    


"From the first to last... all my life will pass through grace!" ~Mike Rayson, "Just Grace"  


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Born to War

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Early this morning, he came to me tired and discouraged.  He just wanted to go back to bed.  He was confused and foggy.   Doubt and dark thoughts swarmed in and out of his mind.

I have been there many times before!  Have you?

Sometimes when he feels this, though, I begin to feel afraid.  I worry.  I can't fix it.  I can't make him "feel" any different---or better.

"Is this spiritual attack, Mom?"  He asked knowingly.

"Yes, my love!"  Yes.  All of life is spiritual, my sweet boy.  And, in this spiritual life, sometimes we are attacked!

"We are born to war", I heard it said a few weeks ago.

Every moment of our every day is lived in the spiritual realm.  We war against our own flesh, the world, and the enemy of our souls, Satan and his demons.  Each of these is spiritual attack.  ...attack against our spirit and the Spirit of God within!  Yes, indeed, if you are discouraged and hopeless and confused and foggy...

Yes, this is part of the war you were born to, my sweet boy.

The Kingdom of Jesus is love, truth, peace*, joy and light.  The enemies of Jesus prowl around looking to devour life, love and joy.  They are seeking to kill hope and energy and peace.  (John 10:10)

"You know how to fight, my son", I reminded him.  He brimmed with tears...

How do you fight?  What is your pathway back to joy and truth---back to the awareness of Christ's Presence?  He knows.  He just forgot this morning. That is why we need each other.  Sometimes we just need a nudge and a reminder.

I gave my sweet boy a gentle nudge.  "Go worship, sweet boy!"...  "Get outside and lift your voice in praise". It was a suggestion, not a command.  He complied.  He put on his coat and gloves, donned his wellies and his hat and outside he went.

And, he worshiped God in word and in song.  

I sat quietly in my chair, with a lingering fear and concern, and prayed for him.  Choosing my own pathway to joy, I worshiped in prayer and through His Word.  "In you O Lord, my son is taking refuge.  Do not let Him be put to shame.  In Your righteousness rescue my boy, O Lord.  Deliver him. Be His rock again today. Please be his refuge."  (Psalm 71:1-3)

Red cheeked and bright eyed he came back inside a few minutes later.  He was literally leaping and bouncing with joy.  He told me that literally as he stepped outside and was choosing to go... he began to feel the joy and peace filling.  The darkness began to lift.

A battle won.  Thank you, Jesus! my heart sang.

What is your worship pathway back to joy and peace?  Is it musical song... Is it thankfulness?  Or, quiet prayer or reading His word?  Is it dancing or walking?  What step forward do you need to take today...

We are born to war.  

Help me Father to suit up and look to you to fight for me.  Help me to walk forward in worship today!  "As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes for their enemies" (2 Chronicles 20)



*I am writing here about an internal peace that passes understanding---something beyond our circumstances and trouble.  I am not suggesting a pain-free existence... instead a peace filled, joy-full living a midst pain and real troubles in this world.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Throwing Tantrums Today

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I get angry.  Sometimes I get really angry... and I throw a two-year-old tantrum.   This morning was one of those mornings.  In one silly moment, I quite literally held my fists in a ball and threw my head back with a loud "UUUGGHHH!"

Funnily, the healthier I have gotten as a person, the louder these 'outbursts' have become.  Weird.  I know.  But, true, none-the-less.  You see, for most of my life, my anger just seethed and simmered.  Undetected by most.  But very real to me. And, now, I am more aware of it's presence and I am more comfortable verbalizing how I am feeling.  My family is getting used to me saying, "I am feeling angry right now."  I don't feel I have to hide or pretend or be other than I am...  angry, at that particular moment.

It isn't that my anger is good or righteous.  Very, very rarely is that the case.  This morning it was utter frustration with a rather trite matter...  It was unrighteous and unhelpful, really.  I was simply irritable, annoyed and impatient.  And, therefore, angry.

After my toddler-tantrum this morning, I felt very unsettled.  The tantrum brought no peace.  In fact, in it's wake came more anger.  Now, I was angry at myself for my bad behavior.  It is good to be aware.  The outburst didn't help; but, the awareness did.  I could have seethed again... dug deep, pushed down the fresh anger and felt a day of shame.  I didn't.  I told God I was frustrated.  I told Him I was angry at myself and my response.  I asked Him for grace and forgiveness.

Praying my way through the morning... asking God what His thoughts were...  I think I might have heard His whisper...  "The Kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21)  The Kingdom of God... Jesus's Kingdom of Peace and Light.  Refuge and Strength

Tender words.  These words wafted over my mind and I was reminded of the indwelling of the Spirit of God within me.  His Kingdom within... around... in the midst.

It was a sweet reminder that I have a place to run to when frustrated and irritable.  I have refuge within and around me...  My Rock.  When I am unsteady and impatient... I can turn and run inward to this place of peace---running to the Spirit of God within me.  He holds and carries and contains and fills.

A frustrated two year old has a choice.  I know because I have had two of them.  I distinctly remember saying to my two year old child, "Are you frustrated?  I see you are very frustrated...  Come here.  Let me help you.  Let me hold you."  When they chose refuge in my arms, they would find peace and calm and ...help.

I don't have to seethe and push it down.  I can acknowledge the true emotion.  I also don't have to outburst in rage.  In my anger, I don't have to sin.  I have another option.  I have the Kingdom of God within me!  I can take these raw and real emotions and run into a stable and constant place of peace... getting a hug and help.  I can confess and be made right...  I have big, beautiful arms to run into.  Right in that moment.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Me...Holy of Holies


The Holy Spirit... where does He live?

More to the point, where does He live in me?  In you?  Where does He dwell?  Is He in your fingers?  Your heart?  Your gut?  Do you know the feeling of Him in you?

We are told that we are His temple and with faith in Jesus comes the indwelling of His Spirit within in us!  (Romans 8:11, 2 Timothy 1:14, 1 Corinthians 3:16) This is amazing.  Truly amazing.  We, our very bodies, become the "holy of holies"---the house of God.

Do you know what He feels like in you?  Are you aware of His Almighty, Holy Presence there in your inmost being?

I'm not.  Or, at least, not very often.  I am learning.  Teach me awareness, Father. Lead me into Truth, Holy Spirit.  

I have been reading a challenging little book called, Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ by Jeanne Guyon.  She suggests that much time is lost in our Christian experience by seeking God "outside" ourselves.  We are looking for Him in our world and somewhere outside ourselves.  Of course, He does dwell in the world and in the heavens.  All heaven and earth are His!  ...But, He is much closer than that.

He dwells within.  He lives in us, through us, filling us.  He lives in me.  He lives in you.  This is the "eternal life in Him" and the being "born of the Spirit" that Jesus is offering Nicodemus during that dark night-time conversation.  (John 3:1-20)

Guyon suggests that worship begins with adoration and the beholding of His Presence within you.  She offers a simple way of turning your gaze inward---not toward yourself, but---toward the One who lives within you. Worship can be a simple loving gaze at the Holy Spirit dwelling inside.

I have always loved the concept of God being my refuge, my rock and my fortress.  This thought has been a comfort since my early days of faith.  But, now, I am realizing that that refuge that I always mentally pictured as slightly outside of myself---a place I run to; is, in fact, a refuge and a rock within my very spirit.

In me.  He is building a fortress of strength, a rock of His love, a foundation and a refuge that is within.  I don't have to run anywhere... I only have to acknowledge and turn my gaze inward.

Where does God live in me?  I don't exactly know.  But, I do know He lives and I know that He lives in me.  I want to learn to behold Him there and listen to His leading.   Teach me, Father, to know Your Presence and Your indwelling Spirit within my heart and my very body!  I am yours... possess me entirely, Holy Father.  

Monday, October 7, 2013

Painful Release and Surrender


What must she have felt the day she dropped Samuel off at the temple?

What pain must have ripped through her chest, tugging at her heart, as she turned and walked away?  What sorrow did she encounter as she slept her first night alone... her baby boy now ushered into the house of God.

I can only taste Hannah's struggle now as I pray over my boy and realize the desperate need I have to release him.  Release and surrender, once again.

Like Hannah, I asked for him.  My sweet boy.

I pleaded with the Lord.  Praying over my womb, I asked God to give me a warrior.  Within weeks of becoming pregnant, I knew he was a boy... and I knew his name.  He would be called, "Asked of God".  He was a direct answer to my prayers of God's warrior.

Early in my life young teen life, because of my health issues, I was told that it was unlikely I would ever bear a child.  But, God knew better.  God gave me two precious ones.  I asked for them both... my two sweet miracle-gift babies.

Like Hannah, I asked for them.  And, God chose to answer with a massive and beautiful, "Yes!"

...but, also, like Hannah, I know they belong to Him.  They are His.  His creation.  His kids.  His delight.

All along I have known they were gifted to me.  A stewardship offered. They were precious possessions on loan to me, their mother.  They have always been His, before the foundation of the earth (Jeremiah 1:5, Ephesians 1:4) ---His cherished ones, knit together in my womb.

And, I have indeed, time-and-time-again, surrendered them to His care.

But, somewhere deep within, these two sweet babes still tug so tightly to my womb; almost like they are still attached.  And, if I am honest, somewhere deeper within I hear an unhealthy, sinful cry:"mine!".

My babies.  My children.  Mine.

Mine to care for. Mine to guide.  Mine to fix and make perfect.

Oh! The sickness of possessing and holding too tightly.   The tug and the ripping is a painful one.

What must it have felt like for Hannah to go to the temple that day and hand her miracle-gift over to God? We are told in 1 Samuel 2, that she turns and walks away with praise on her lips, declaring God's power and glory and goodness.  She will declare His faithfulness and His goodness.  My heart finds courage in her worship song!

I taste the bitter and the sweet pain of release tonight as I hear the call of their Father, my Father.

They belong to Me, my love.  They are mine, my daughter.

My loving Father gently calls and reminds my heart that these two sweet miracles are His to care for.  His to guide.  His to fix and perfect.

I need to release.  I need to lay them down again.   Tonight I need to drop my boy off at His house, and let him live under His roof.

"I prayed for this child and the Lord granted me what I asked of him.  So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord." (I Samuel 1: 9-28)

Friday, October 4, 2013

I Left My Hearing Aids Behind

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My father-in-law came for a lovely visit.  The day he left, in the early morning fog and grog, he accidentally left his hearing aids at our house...

He flew home over the Atlantic ocean handicapped with minimized hearing ability.

What a huge bummer!  I can just imagine regularly having and relying on an aid... glasses, pain meds, crutches, braces, or hearing aids... and then suddenly being without them.  I think I would feel pretty vulnerable.

When we found them, we rushed to the post office and sent him the hearing devices...  Express Mail.  Two day delivery.  After a long conversation and much discussion with the post office staff, we were assured... indeed, he would have them soon.  Within days, they promised, the aids would arrive and he will have them in his possession again.

I need aids to help me hear, too.  I need help to spiritually hear, that is.  And, sometimes I leave "my aids" behind in the early morning fog.

Daily times in God's word, my journal, prayer cards, friends to share with, books I read and worship music are only a few of the "glasses, braces and crutches" I use daily to help me see, hear and walk rightly with my heavenly Father.  There are days, though, that I leave them behind.  Accidentally, of course.  I forget them or misplace them or simply overlook their importance.  I leave them until I feel vulnerable and have trouble hearing, of course!

Are you hearing Me, Stephanie?    Are these the words the Spirit has been whispering into my soul this past week?  I am not sure... I am wondering as I type today.

The hearing aids that my father-in-law left at my house didn't make it to him on time.  In fact the parcel was stuck, for no apparent reason, in our country.  They sat, neatly wrapped---carefully protected---in someone's outbox in the middle of the UK.  Days and days left behind.  No worker with the post office could tell me why.

They got left behind again!

Then, they got stuck in the US customs bureaucracy--- a red-tape nightmare of paperwork and misunderstanding!  All the while, my father was handicapped in his ability to hear.  Days and days were passing.  Every day more vulnerability, more frustration.  I was frustrated.  VERY frustrated.  No, actually, I was down-right angry.

When I got the news they were still in the UK, thoughts sped in and out of my mind... and spilled out of my mouth.  'I spent X amount of pounds to send this package!'  'They promised me they would get there!'  'This just isn't right?!'

Are you hearing Me, Stephanie?  

Angered with ridiculous paper work, I was thrown into a tailspin of irritability and defensiveness.  I don't need this right now, I thought.

Stephanie, listen for a minute, ...be still.  Are you hearing Me?  

Literally, the night before the 'hearing-aid-parcel-fiasco' begain, I had copied two quotes into my journal,
"You must utterly believe that the circumstances of your life, that is, every minute of your life- have come to you by His will and by His permission and is exactly what you need" ~Jeanne Guyon  
"One who makes it a rule to be content in every part and accident of life because it comes from God, praises God more than one dedicated an hour of singing psalms."~William Law
Yeah...  uh. huh.  Got it.  Yep.

The words did make me stop at the time I read them.  I pondered.  I prayed.   I read these words, thought on them a bit, ... and THEN walked on, leaving them to rest on the table and quietly tucked in the book. Yep, I left my hearing aids behind!

The very next day, the parcel bureaucracy began... and I was utterly frustrated.

Are you hearing Me, my love?

I sat down to pray with some friends (good friends are great hearing aids!)  As we prayed I started to hear a bit more clearly... to see things as if with better light.

"Utterly believe"...  Guyon had written.  Oh Father, You are speaking to me again of faith and trust.  Surrender and rest in You...  

"Every minute" "every part and accident of life" "by His permission" "Exactly what you need..."  Are you listening, Stephanie? 

Dear Lord, again, today I think you are reminding me that I can remain in You.  I can relax in Your love.  Even in this "accident", I can trust.  I can see and trust Your hand on all things.  I can trust You as my loving, powerful Father...

I found my hearing aids this morning and put them in, turned them up!  Unapologetically, I am picking up my 'crutches' and walking with help.  Indeed, I walk with a limp and need those crutches!  I am turning on that worship music at full volume today.  I need the aids of friends, God's word, worship music, thankfulness lists, and good books to read.  I don't want to leave them behind.

I want to hear you more clearly.  Today, I will listen, Father.  Teach me, I pray.  

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Same 'ol

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I feel like I have very little to write these days.
In fact, what I really feel is that if I write, I would just be saying the same things over and over again.

I am a pretty simple girl, I guess.  The lessons that Father has been faithfully teaching me lately have been... well, pretty simple.  And, pretty much the same.  The same-song-second-verse!

Any given day, I sit down to write here and think to myself, "Oh... I have said this before... last week, in fact..."   So, I close my "new post" window and move on.  What is the point of writing it again?

It is all written here already.  Tucked quietly away in my post archives are the numerous lessons of faith and trust and love.  Anxiety, fear, gluttony and control issues line the drawers filled with blog posts about God's faithfulness and His goodness.  If I have said it once, I have said it a thousand times.

So, do I keep writing here?

In answer to my own musings a thought comes to mind...God is love.  His love endures forever.  God so loved the world.  His loving mercy is new every morning.

Sixty six books of the Bible.  Thirty nine authors.  ...they all wrote much of the same thing.  Over and over.

A fresh word spoken from Isaiah about God's faithfulness.  Isn't it nice that David wrote it, too.  And David wrote it 130 times!!  And, I am glad that Paul wrote about faithfulness again and again.

Hmmm...  makes me think.

I guess that today's simple lessons are fresh for today's simple girl.  Trust lessons I am learning today are fresh bread for me... maybe, just maybe, they might also be fresh bread for someone reading...

So, forgive me if you keep reading the same-song-second-verse from Koodaigirl...  but, that is what I am singing these days.  And, I am pretty sure, I will be singing that song until the end.
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