Saturday, June 27, 2009

a vision for fullness of joy

if you haven't read my blog on humility, click here to read it first.

leadership is an invitation to mistreatment
- allen hood from a teaching on growing through mistreatment.

for the past year or so i have been on a personal journey to grow in humility and meekness. i have a favorite teacher on the subject named alan hood, an intercessory missionary out at kansas city ihop. this is not a favorite subject of mine because it is an area of strength. the above quote is from a teaching my husband had me listen to a little over a year ago that so challenged my entire way of thinking that i listened to it 4 times in a row.

you can actually find the teaching and many more on the theme online for free at websites such as mike bickle, the founder of kansas city international house of prayer, says that his copyright policy is the right to copy. so go look around and listen to many great teachings. i personally recommend anything allen has taught on about christology and series such as the sweet aroma of meekness and growing through mistreatment.

my interest in the topic of humility wasn't birthed by some introspective sin-searching mission or any masochistic kind of approach to knowing God. funny that i have to even preface the topic with that disclaimer, but in our circles of Christianity the subject of humility is not a popular one. i actually was having this unquenchable longing for joy. i was no longer satisfied with being happy and having the feeling come and go as it pleased. i, naturally as a female, am prone to a roller coaster of emotions. when dating my husband i warned him, since he grew up in a home of 6 boys and no girls, that i was not even any normal girl amount of emotions, but much much more sensitive and emotional. even though i cry at least once almost every single day these emotions are not all negative, but i feel very deeply the sweetness, sadness, and all the other feelings of life. all that to say, i have grown tired of the ups and downs of emotions. i don't want to be an emotionless robot, but just more anchored. i had grown very attracted to the description of Jesus and how He walked in the fullness of joy. on this new search and fascination with the fullness of joy that Jesus possessed, my husband suggested i listen to this teaching on growing through mistreatment.

i do not feel like i have the words to adequately articulate what i am learning right now. i may write more and better on this subject at a later date, but the one big thing i have found is this direct link between growing in humility and real joy. humility is the key to the the kind of joy that doesn't go away based on moods or emotions. allen hood seems to have such a way of describing in a way that just makes sense how humility is the key to real freedom as a believer and how being free from anyone owing me anything is the starting place of tasting a joy that will never disappoint me. as i sit here and ponder how to explain the way this topic has caused my heart to come alive, i just want to urge anyone reading to take the time to listen to these rich rich teachings by him. i have gone back many times in the past year to listen to these truths again and again. after being so moved this week by my emotions and hurt by the words and actions of people, i am stirred to get renewed vision in my journey. i want vision for my life down the line being completely free and full of joy and actually being able to live from the place of humility.

also, although it isn't the easiest read, i highly recommend the book humility by andrew murray. there is so much meat to chew on in this book! i have learned the importance of valuing the attribute with which Jesus most often described Himself. this book has some great insight on the value of humility and imparting a desire to obtain it.

one huge thing i have learned this past year is that my best efforts and striving are not going to make me the least bit more humble. more than anything i get more frustrated with my lack of it when i try in my own strength to be humble in my interactions. i have found that gazing on the humility of Jesus is the only thing that is going to transform me into His image. as i read the Bible, both about His 33 years here on the earth and then also all that was written about Him before His birth as well as after His ascension, i meditate on the attribute of humility in this man who is fully God. i mean, He is God. we often talk of how He washed the disciples feet, but even the mere act of becoming a man was the ultimate act of humility. as i wrote before: humility is not weakness, it is strength restrained by choice. when i can see Him as He is, the humble image of an all powerful God, i have vision for fullness in my life and living in the fullness of joy.

and so, i sit here and consider this virtue so long overlooked. it is the key to freedom, joy, and is so highly valued by God. teach my heart to value what You value.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

the discipline of writing

i sat down with my husband today over a wonderful lunch date at one of the best restaurants in town. i asked him, "what are you focusing on right now and what is God speaking to you right now?" he answered, "unfortunately, they are probably two different things." as he said this, i realized the same is true for myself.

a couple months ago, when i began this blog, i had a huge transition in my life; a complete shift in focus and direction, that i was completely unable to manipulate, took place and i knew God was putting a dead end in front of the path i was currently taking and telling me to take a sharp left-hand turn. as i sat down before the Lord at the piano, a place i seem to be able to hear Him more clearly sometimes, i felt Him speak very clearly to my heart that i was entering into a season where He was asking me to write. you know those moments when the word of the Lord for your life seems so perfectly clear and you are so in the moment that if He said, "jump" you would say, "how high?!" you probably also are familiar with the feeling later when you try to describe what God was speaking in that moment with someone else and it sounds like complete foolishness.

when i was faced with losing my source of income, having God tell me to pursue one of my greatest buried passions, writing, made so much sense and filled me with hope and vision. the next day someone asked me the simple question, "so what are you going to do now?" when i responded that i was going to write, which has no promise of income, i felt so foolish. out of the God moment it didn't sound like such a brilliant idea.

so, as i sat today at lunch talking about what God has said and what i have actually been doing, i realized that though i have been writing i need to make more of a point to write even when i don't feel inspired. i want to start making a better disciple of writing merely as an act of obedience to the direction i have for now. i want to show up to the page even before i am inspired and expect the Holy Spirit to speak through me. i tend to get moody as an artistic person, but the best songs and books are written many times by simply writing and rewriting, not just having it just download in the moment.

i have in my heart to write many books, songs, and to have the Lord speak through me like the pen of a ready writer. thank you so much to those who faithfully read these and even comment at times... be ready to check back more often as i attempt to simply obey and write!


Thursday, June 18, 2009

fasting part 2

as i promised a while back, i am planning on writing a series on fasting on here. if you haven't read fasting part 1, click here to read it first. maybe some of this will be included in my future book. who knows?! as i have said before, i am on a journey and have committed to share what i do have to give along the way, though i know that i will learn more and more as i continue to press into the Lord.

in fasting part 1, i shared some about my history with fasting, my own ups and downs, and personal motivations i have had in even attempting this journey of developing this area of my life with God. because of the many many times that i mess up in attempts at fasting, i find that i have to remind myself often of the why of fasting in secret. i am going to attempt to share with you some of the reasons i have found to helpful in keeping on in something i am not very naturally good at doing.

i have found fasting in secret to always sound like such a good idea the night before i start a fast day. i can feel my heart excited about pressing into the Lord. the excitement i feel in my spirit reminds me of the excitement that i feel on christmas eve anticipating the delight on the faces of my kids as they open up presents. there is something so rewarding in knowing that you are giving a gift that will bring delight to the recipient. it is worth all the sacrifice it may take to make the gift possible when you know what your loved one is desiring.

God is very clear over and over again in both the old and new testaments that He desires us to draw near to Him, even in the specific act of fasting. He is also very clear that He desires to draw near to those who are broken and contrite in spirit. i don't know of anything else that will produce more real brokenness inside of a person than denying oneself of the substance that gives energy, mental clarity, and delight.
the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. psalm 51:17

though God uses all brokenness in our life to draw us nearer to Him, there seems to be something unique about voluntary brokenness or weakness. there are so many things in life that make us weak, but when we chose weakness in the times that we could be strong, we are imitating the life of His Son. it is the definition of humility that i have described before - not weakness, but strength restrained for a purpose. when we willingly choose to make ourselves weak, i know may sound bizarre, it delights the Father's heart because it is a testimony of the sacrifice Jesus made not only in His death, but in the entirety of His life. philippians 2 is one of my favorite passages to meditate on when considering this man Jesus. He humbled Himself. He emptied Himself. He did not grasp; quite different than the first adam who ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil so that He may be like God.

and, because of His voluntary weakness, He is exalted by the Father forever. He pleased the heart of the Father and we have the opportunity only in this life to choose voluntary weakness like our Savior. you see, the day is coming when every knee will bow, every tongue in heaven, hell, and on the earth will recognize Jesus as Lord. but to choose to enter into drinking His cup with Him, the cup of humility, we have something we can only give Him in this life. in the chapter of our lives after death it will no longer be a struggle to choose loving the Lord with our whole hearts, but here we have so many things we have available to dull the struggle to give Him all of us. i don't think that not eating food makes us struggle. i think temporarily denying ourselves of food, which is not evil in itself at all but a blessing from the Lord, reveals the struggles in our heart that are always there which we just aren't always aware of when we can control the quality of the circumstances around us. in 2 corinthians 12:9 paul said:

and He has said to me, "my grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." most gladly, therefore, i will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
the life of voluntary weakness is not a life a God that is void of His power; on the contrary, it is the life in which He can most display the wonders of His glorious power because we are not going to grasp at it for our own gain or advancements.

fasting in secret does something different in our hearts than any other forms of fasting. i recently attended a bible study on the song of songs. in chapter 8, the beloved says of her lover:
oh that you were like a brother to me
who nursed at my mother's breasts.
if i found you outdoors,
i would kiss you;
no one would despise me, either.
i would lead you and bring you
into the house of my mother, who used to instruct me;
i would give you spiced wine to drink
from the juice of my pomegranates.
at the bible study we discussed how there is something so powerful to a secret life with the Lord. just as there are intimate aspects of marriage that are not shared with all, there are aspects of my life with God that are to be just between Him and me. it is special, sacred, and cultivates a deep deep love to have a secret place with the Lord that everyone else does not know about. the fasting in secret is something that i can give to Him alone. although it could win me esteem in the eyes of men and influence here on earth, i can choose to make myself weak and vulnerable in His eyes alone, move the heart of God, and gain more that i could have ever gained with man.

the interesting twist i have found about the pain of fasting in secret was a surprise to me. i expected to feel the pain of not getting the positive recognition for my efforts to pursue the Lord. what i did not expect was the pain i would feel when i struggled and gave into my flesh and kept that part secret before the Lord as well. how real is the pain of not being able to make it through one day of fasting and having no one to reassure me that i am okay! to share the awareness of one's own poverty of spirit with God alone is a dynamic that is so so powerful! the new levels of intimate dependency on the Lord and the love for His very near and real mercy toward me make this part of the secret life so priceless. it is like the beatitudes in matthew 5:
blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
when we are aware of our own spiritual poverty, we are able to receive His kingdom. when we share with Him alone our inability to love Him the way we desire to love Him, He is the One who draws so near to us to comfort us. when we chose humility and meekness just like He did, we will inherit the earth along with Him - co-heirs with Christ. this voluntary brokenness will stir in us a real hunger and thirst for righteousness. He promised that when we come to this place of deep spiritual hunger because of our own emptiness He will fill us with all we are desiring. The awareness of our inability to love Him without Him giving us that love to pour out on Him draws mercy out of us towards others who struggling in their walks with Him. the dynamic in giving mercy is amazing - the more we give, the more we will receive from Him; the more aware we are of our need for His mercy in our own lives, the more we will desire to give it to others. what an amazing journey Jesus laid out for us in growing in love with Him.

each step of the way there lies a reward waiting for us on the other side. in luke 18:29-30 when the disciples told Jesus all they had given up voluntarily in order to follow Him, He promised:
"i tell you the truth," Jesus said to them, "no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life."
i believe the same is true with fasting - we cannot out give God! over and over again in matthew 6 Jesus described the Father as the rewarder of what is done in secret! the amazing thing is the Father often gives us a choice of where we will receive our reward. we can receive the reward in full here on earth, which looks like the esteem and recognition of man, or we can voluntarily choose to cultivate the secret life with Him and store up for ourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal (matthew 6:20) i know how hard it is to not give in to the desire for the reward here in the seen rather than wait for it in what is still unseen for us, but this is why i must encourage my own heart regularly! He is El Roi, the God who sees! if i can learn to value what is unseen to others, how much more will i gain from Him forever and ever and ever!

the last reason for fasting in secret that i wanted to share a bit about is how it causes us to grow in authority and humility in equal measures. there are very real promises of authority reserved for those who seek Him in fasting and prayer. in matthew 17 Jesus spoke of a type of authority that came in healing and deliverance only with much fasting and prayer. the humility it takes to choose growing in faith through fasting and praying in the secret place draw the favor of the Father. He can trust those who are not out to make themselves famous, but make famous the name of His Son and humble servant Jesus.


Monday, June 8, 2009

the sweet aroma of brokenness

i had the wonderful opportunity to be at a celebration for a friend who is going through the true dark night of the soul... walking through the valley of the shadow of death. as i listened to him and his wife share with all of us who were there to pray, bless, and encourage them, i found my soul so encouraged by the beauty of God shown through their brokenness. i would like to call it the sweet aroma of brokenness.

i was so encouraged that all it really comes down to in life is if we believed God - that is faith. my friend encouraged us that we don't know if we really believe what God has spoken to us to be true until it is tested in us by the hard times when it isn't so comfortable to believe. it is when we could possibly appear foolish to other people for believing the things that God has put in our hearts that are still unseen (hebrews 11) to be true that we learn what it really is to walk in faith and be pleasing to God. when it is all said and done, it isn't about if we were right or wrong in what we believe God to say as much as that we chose to believe.

i realized that so many times i am tempted to take an opinion poll on whether or not what i believe God to be speaking to me really seems to be true or if i sound like i am just being silly... i am so tempted to only believe when i have the affirmation of men that i am making a wise choice. but what about when my belief in the goodness of God and the truth of His promises looks to foolishness to those around me? what about the times when what is seen doesn't seem to be in sync with what He has spoken to me to hope for? what about the times of life when i am experiencing the dark night of the soul and walking through the valley of the shadow of death? well... if i can choose to believe God regardless of the appearance of my circumstances, i will be pleasing in His sight and i will smell like the sweet aroma of brokenness.
faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things unseen.
hebrews 11:1
i choose to believe God simply because He is God. He is always faithful, He is always good, and He is not a man that He should lie (numbers 23:19). i believe because of who He is, not because of what man may think of me or because of what i can see with my natural eyes in the circumstances that may be around me. and just like the woman with the alabaster jar (mark 14, john 12) who smelled just like Jesus when she broke it and the perfume spilled out on His feet, i pour myself out at His feet willingly - it could not help but spill over her - the sweet aroma of brokenness. faith.
and without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. hebrews 11:6
how amazing is it that God shines the brightest through broken vessels?! i am encouraged by the ones i went to encouraged - i am challenged by their lives that are full of that sweet aroma of brokenness because they have chosen to pour it all at His feet and believe simply because He is God. they live the lives of faith that the author of hebrews spoke of - and i am forever impacted because of their faith.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

His song

so the other night, just tuesday of this week, i was praying for some friends of mine and i sat down at the piano to just sing and pray and the Lord totally gave me a song for them. the next day i told a friend of mine that i wrote a song for them and she asked me how i knew it was for them. i don't know how to describe it. it was such a powerful experience with the Lord and i just knew that it was for them. i felt like the Lord opened up to me a glimpse of His tender heart of love for them and it was like i got to be the pen that wrote down this love song.

it was one of those nights when the entire house was asleep, all the lights were off except the lamp by the piano, and is was quiet. it wasn't like i sat do
wn with the intention of writing a song. i sat down and just started singing and out it came. tears streamed down my face because i felt like the Lord really ministered to my soul while i sang it, if that even makes any sense at all, and i was afraid that i would lose it because it was one of those kairos moments where it is there one moment and then gone the next. i got out my computer, turned on photobooth, and started taping my hands while i played so i would get down the words and melody before it escaped me.

today i had the amazing opportunity to record this song that i have wanted to give to my friends. i am not that strong of a guitar player to go over and play it for them in person, and i really wanted to get it to them because i felt the Lord was really in it being something that encouraged them with His heart for them in what they are walking through. a good friend of ours has started recording music here and there and offered to come over to our house to get down some tracks to get a recording to give to them. after him spending 5 hours of his morning and afternoon over at our place today, we got something down he could work with.

i cannot quite describe the experience in words. as we recorded today in my living room, i felt the Holy Spirit so tangible that it was so beyond what i can describe. the presence of God was so thick and so real... once again i felt so privileged to get to partner with the Lord in expressing His love for my friends. once again a kairos moment that i will keep with me forever. so intimate, so special, so priceless for me personally. after getting down the piano and guitar tracks, my friend who was doing the recording for me told me to hold out my hands in an open receiving position. he then prayed for the Lord to anoint my voice and for me to sing out of the deep places and for there to be an anointing of healing on my singing. i felt overwhelmed with the presence of God and then he pressed record and walked out of the house and left me alone with just the Lord to sing.

i am so thankful for this experience. i feel like it is the beginning of something the Lord is doing in my life. i am not really describing that i think i am going to be recording more of my songs, though i do have a feeling that it is really coming down the road. i think that as my friend prayed for me before he left me alone to sing to the Lord the song that He downloaded to me so sovereignly, i realized that i get the privilege to be a conduit of the Lord's heart to His people and His people's heart to Him. i am so thankful, so honored, and so overwhelmed with this responsibility and blessing. i had just told bill this wednesday, just a couple nights ago, as we stood looking out over the beautiful whiskeytown lake and the trinity mountains, that one thing that the Lord had put in my heart a long long time ago was for people to be sovereignly healed while i sang worship to Him. it so encourages my heart that i feel such confirmation of that today. help me Lord to have wisdom and revelation to walk out this amazing journey you have before me to sing over your people and demonstrate the power of Your love.

jeff and laura, i love you and hope that this song takes you deep into the presence of the Lord, and you experience His nearness and His love that supplies all of our needsyou are an amazing man and woman of God and i am blessed to call you my friends.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

my heart aches

i am sad and feel a heaviness. there has been so struggle with sickness and death around me - hard hard things happening to people i love and care about. i press in for breakthrough, but oftentimes those closest, like those in my church family, haven't seemed to have the breakthrough yet that people get when they travel far distances to get prayer for healing at bethel.

it makes me sad. a family in our church lost their baby in childbirth this last weekend. i have one of my closest friends fighting for her husband's life in a struggle with a very evil disease. i think about my grandpa who fought a terrible battle with cancer believing the entire time for his healing here on earth. i miss my grandpa. he is a good good man of God who would be so great to talk to right now as i struggle with these things that weigh heavy on my heart. he would have so much wisdom to point me towards the Lord. his death has been a seed that has stirred me to fight for breakthrough in healing in those around me.

there was a prophesy back in kansas city in the 80s, i believe, that "no disease known to man would stand before this people of prayer." as i pour my life into building the house of prayer in redding, i have this word written on my heart. there will be a day when every disease will bow to the name of Jesus and it will be here in this life. i press in for this day to come quickly.

as my heart aches, i turn towards the Lord. i remember the verses of david in psalms 84 about the sparrow and how she has even found a home near the courts of the Lord - the place where His glory dwells. i feel the longing that david wrote about. in the questions and pain i am feeling i seek to be found hidden in the presence of the One who is the answer, who is life. where else can i go to find hope and courage and the love of God that strengthens my inner man to stand and endure?

surely our griefs He Himself bore,
and our sorrows He carried;
yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
smitten of God, and afflicted.
but He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
and by His scourging we are healed. isaiah 53:4-5
draw me unto You, oh Lord. i ache for You. i am in need of Your touch. for You are the fountain of all life, and in Your light we see light. psalm 36:9 just one touch from You and we will never be the same.

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