Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I SHALL be moved

It is no small thing when the Creator of all things moves through your soul.  

He, that created every star in every galaxy in every corner of the unfathomable universe.  He that spoke the world we live in into existence.  He that formed the ant and the elephant, the grain of sand and the tallest mountain, the cloverleaf and the redwood tree.  

He that did all of these magnificent and incomprehensible things......

Is the same One who comes upon me now like the force of a mighty wind, yet with the gentlest of sighs as He whispers His Love through my being.  

This God who commands all of Creation with just the sound of His mighty voice, is the same Who caresses me softly in the enveloping arms of His graceful Presence.

And when in pain, confusion, and feeling loss as I was today, He came to me, in a way that He knew I could not  He came on the lilting voices of the singers I happened to flip the channel to on TV.   It was a replay of an unforgettable moment in the history of these 2 singers on stage.  One of those moments where what would normally have been just another performance of singing praise to God, turned into a very real and powerful movement of the Holy Spirit through them and everyone in the room.  I was transfixed, but closed.  Tears taunted the corners of my eyes but I would not let them out.   I was too deep in the confusion over the dichotomy of this profound conviction I have experienced and the pain of how it is changing relationships in my life.

But God pursued me anyway.  He came before me, and gently uncrossed my arms, He enveloped me in His Presence which felt like He was cradling my soul. 

WHAT IS THIS LOVE that I can hardly fathom!  That can so easily soften the porcupine prickles I erect around my heart when I am feeling hurt.  No one or thing has EVER been able to affect me so!  I have no defense from this Love.  He knows me so well and knows exactly what to do and what to say so that I will let down my walls and let Him in. 

I never knew that profound peace could co-exist with pain.  That in that pain, I could have perfect clarity that all was well.  And not just BELIEVE that it is well, but KNOW so because in His Grace, He shows me plainly why it is so.  

It is through this experience that I see the Truth of how His Glory is revealed through our trials and struggles.  And in doing so, it draws me ever closer to Him and reminds me that this Omniscient mighty God, Creator of the Heavens and the Earth, is also a personal God who is intimately in relationship with me.  

I am moved.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A spontaneous prayer

Dear Jesus,

I love you so much.  So, so much.  And I've hardly even begun to know who You are!  It still feels a bit awkward praying to You because I'm such a perfectionist with my words.  And I don't want to say the wrong thing.  But I keep getting the message that I can just spill it out like You are my bro or a friend whom I've known all my life.  So here it goes.....

I keep thinking about how much things have changed in the last 2 months.  It still blows me away, how complete this conviction is.   How real it is.  More real than anything I have ever, ever experienced in my life.  How easy it is for me to think of You, to speak Your name, to feel Your presence, to know with absolute certainty that You are who the bible says You are.  Even when my mind gets going and I'm off in a hamster wheel of questions and judgments and frustrations, the conviction remains, and when I stop, for just a moment to remember that, everything else falls away.  I feel like I am home. 

I think one thing I have underestimated though, is the impact that this would all have on the people around me.  The change within me is so complete, that I cannot even remember thinking/feeling the way I did before.  So when I express from this new place, I find that others are surprised and sometimes downright shocked and I don't blame them.  I am not who they knew me to be.   And I don't know what to do with that.  I don't know what to say other than what I have already said in the previous pages of this blog.  I have to admit, Jesus, this part of the change really sucks.  :(

However, my desire to grow in You is powerful and immense.  I've never known a desire so strong nor a commitment so deep.  Even when I am feeling weak, sad or just plain distracted, it is there, burning deep within me.  It overwhelms me sometimes because when I pause long enough to really focus on You, it grows and grows and grows and I am filled and filled and filled until I think I am going to explode.  It spills over in my tears of gratitude and joy at just Your presence, so full and alive and real!  I have so longed for this all my life and looked for it in so many ways that I still find myself flabbergasted that I have found it, in YOU!   It is so freeing and exhilarating and such a RELIEF to know that I no longer have to drift on the winds of uncertainty and the empty illusions of the world but instead, I can plant my roots firmly in the rock solid foundation of your Love and Truth and grow as You have always meant for me to. 

But as You have said, it will not always be easy.  You have asked me to trust and become more vulnerable than I ever have in my life.  Writing this blog, letting go of very special relationships, facing longstanding intimacy issues that scare the dickens out of me, learning to remain quiet when everything in me wants to scream out my defense/excuse/justification,  and don't even get me started on learning patience.  :smile:   Let's just say, I wouldn't do all this for just anyone!  :silly grin: 

But I know it's worth it.  You are worth every heartache, every loss, and every challenge I experience.  Because I trust You.  I trust You to fulfill the promises You have made.  And because I love You.  I love You so much, I ache.  I have never felt a Love like that ever.  So it's all worth it. 

If I have one prayer, it is that the Love I have found in You be made visible to everyone around me.  That your Love would shine so brightly through me that they, too, would know who You are, or if they have forgotten You, that they remember once again, and come home to You.  More than anything else, I pray for this.

Dear Jesus, personal friend, most Glorious Lord, Wonderful Counselor, You hold the reins to my life, and I remain, perpetually surrendered to Your will.

In Your most holy name, I pray.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Create in me a new heart

I think I now know why non-Christians sometimes get disillusioned with what it means to be a Christian.  The way it is so often portrayed is a person who has been filled with the Holy Spirit and saved by God's grace then goes on to have "all of their cares taken away" and their life becomes a happily ever after.  This is most often not true.

The reality is (and many true Christians know this) is that after the initial "glow" of conversion fades, life, in fact, can get much more difficult.  The biggest difference is, I know this difficulty has purpose and that I am NOT alone in it, even if I feel alone.

This is what I have been going through lately.  And today, I feel led to put it into words.     

Some of the difficulty has been from external things:  car and house maintenance issues, issues with my boss/job, old friends continuing to leave,  not being able to find a suitable new connection for fellowship (reached out to two house churches in my area with no response).  But most of the difficulty has been internal.   

Anyone who knows me, knows that I love to be in control, to micromanage, to orchestrate my desired outcome for a situation.  My way is usually the "only right way."  And when I perceive being wronged, I generally let people know in no uncertain terms how I feel about that.  I'm also a perfectionist intent on doing something right the FIRST time.   And when virtues were being passed out, patience was NOT the one that was handed to me.

I thought that, over the years, I had learned to overcome, or at least, manage um....traits.  But given my experiences of the last month or so, you sure wouldn't know it.  Those dragons have blazed their way through the flimsy artificial covering I had on them to let me know they are most definitely still alive and well.  And I have been feeling incredibly helpless in the midst of it all.

So this is what the crazy wheel I've been spinning on looks like: 

I have an overwhelming desire to love and serve God, to get to know Jesus personally more and more.  I have these dragons that rear up and shred any attempts I make to demonstrate (both in my thinking and in my actions) this desire in my life,  I feel like crap for letting God/Jesus down, I double up my efforts/resolve to "do things right", I fail miserably once again (usually within 5 minutes of renewing my resolve) and then I throw my hands up in frustration and despair.   I then remind myself how the whole point is that I CAN'T do it myself and to surrender my will and let God do it, but then I feel so incredibly unworthy of letting Him in and then I realize that by feeling that, I am denying the work that Jesus did on the cross and so I redouble my efforts to fight the lies going through my head by countering it with Truth and then my mind retaliates and I fail miserably again and fall into despair.......and........

Yea, you get the idea.

I feel humbled, hollowed out, and like I'm being broken like a wild stallion.  Every time I want to get up and run away, or look aside or cover my eyes, I'm brought right back around told to be still.  And in the process, I am reminded over and over and over again why I need Him. 

Surrendering one's will to God is an every moment of the day act.  

And it can't be done perfectly.  (hmmff)
And it can't be done on my terms. (grrr)
And I can not just rush through the process (argh)
And it does not mean that those old traits just magically disappear (sigh...).

And I think the hardest one of all for me to truly and fully accept is that He absolutely loves me and there is not one darned thing I can do to either earn that Love.......or lose it.  (tears.......)

God promised to create in me a new spirit and a new heart. 

I will give you a new heart and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.                 Ezekiel 36:26 

It appears He's most definitely in the process of doing just that.



Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Dark Side - Beyond Good and Evil

One of the things that has amazed me more than anything else since my conversion is the fact that hell and sin are no longer "sticky issues" for me.  To me, they are now a given and I have no problem accepting the Truth of them. However, knowing this Truth and living it day to day is an entirely different matter.

I've been wanting to write for awhile now about this because a huge part of my previous spiritual beliefs denied the existence of evil.  I called it darkness and I believed I was to embrace this darkness because I believed that light and dark were just two sides of the same coin and were meant to be integrated to become whole.
Holding this new Truth has been challenging, not only because of the experiences I had as a child but because of how it so directly opposes what I believed before.  I would like to write more about this very soon but for now, I want to share an article that I read today.

It's by a gal named Marcia Montenegro who speaks about the many various philosophies about evil/darkness as they are expressed in the world, through movies, through other religions, through individual descriptions and then compares them to how evil is described in scripture. Her testimony can be found here.

The article itself can be read here.  

I hope that you do not let "problems of the mind",  including the idea of sin/evil, prevent you from being open to reading this article.  
The Dark Side - Beyond Good and Evil

Monday, January 3, 2011

Where is the Church?

Since the day this all began almost 2 months ago, one thing that was forefront in my thoughts was "oh wow, I cannot wait to share what has happened to me!"  And the one place I sought first was with other Christians.  I mean, they would understand more than any other what a fantastic thing this is that has happened in me, right?   In that initial moment, there were only 4 Christians  I knew of to share it with;  Jerry,  my mom,  my stepson,  and my neighbor.  And all of them definitely got a full accounting of the "cup that overflowed" in me during those first couple of weeks. (thank you!!!) In addition, my neighbor introduced me to another gal who I have had a few occasions to meet with and that dear person also gave me the gift of her time and fellowship.

Since then, as the full intensity of my conversion has settled a bit, I have been looking for a church where I could find more ongoing fellowship.   But as on fire as I have been about finding this fellowship, I have found that I am not too eager to "jump back in that boat", partly because of my past experiences, but also because aside from that, I have always felt there has been something lacking in the church structure in general.  Namely, the fact that there is a structure in the first place.  I can remember times in the past where I have arrived for a church service, and before the "official start" of service, there would be music and sometimes, the spontaneous moving of the Holy Spirit would occur while the music was playing. You could very palatably feel of the presence of God.  I'm sure many know what I am talking about.  But then, because there was a "service" to conduct, the music had to end and the sacred moment cut short for the sake of the "schedule."  This is but just one example of what I have felt is an overall shutting down of the natural movement of the Holy Spirit in favor of man's preferences.

As I mentioned before, we went to a Christmas Eve service at the church we first attended after moving here.  At first, I was a bit startled with how "organic" it all was.  Meaning, the members of the church itself were the one's conducting the service through music performed by the youth and adults who took turns giving scripture readings of the Christmas story.  And mostly from the pastor himself who, if you did not know he was the pastor, one would think he was just another member of the congregation!  He simply led the musical pieces that we all sang, contributing himself by playing his guitar as well as giving the main message of the evening.

There were no flashy decorations or lights or sound system with dramatic displays to enthrall the congregation.  The pastor was not demonstratively animated while he gave his message nor did he exalt himself in any "pious" sort of way.  Without these distractions, the members were then free to focus in on the REAL reason for the gathering and that was Jesus.  

Unfortunately, I did not appreciate this in it's entirety at the time.  But after leaving that service, I couldn't stop thinking about it.  I thought of the new friend my neighbor had introduced me to and the  little bit of experience I have had with her so far as well as the gathering I attended with her and other Christians just before Christmas.   I thought of the people who rode in the van with us to that gathering.  These were REAL PEOPLE.  Real Christians with a true love for Jesus as their focus.  People who live their faith every single day, WITH one another.  Not just on Sunday.  

So with these things percolating inside of me, today I received an email link to a youtube video describing something called a "Simple Church" or "House Church."  And after I watched, I was reduced to tears because THIS.... THIS is what I've always felt church SHOULD BE.  

Rather than describe it, I am including the video for you to see for yourself.   I am also including the first  of 6 more indepth series of videos that show biblically how this is what church was intended to be.  You can see the remaining 5 in order once you go to the first on Youtube.