Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Trust the Inner Voice

Below is an excerpt from Henri Nouwen's book, "The Inner Voice of Love":

Do you really want to be converted? Are you willing to be transformed? Or do you keep clutching  your old ways of life with one hand while with the other you beg people to help you change?

Conversion is certainly not something you can bring about yourself. It is not a question of will-power. You have to trust the inner voice that shows the way. You KNOW that inner voice. You turn to it often. But after you have heard with clarity what you are asked to do, you start raising questions, fabricating objections, and seeking everyone else's opinion. Thus you become entangled  in countless often contradictory thoughts, feelings, and ideas and lose touch with the God in you. And you end up dependent on all the people you have gathered around you. 

Only by constantly attending to the inner voice can you be converted to a new life of freedom and joy. 

The baby is napping & I have hopefully in front of me a couple precious hours of quiet. I grabbed this book, turned to this page and immediately found an expression of words that sum up this past season of my life. I feel like I have, in many ways, lost touch with the inner voice of God in my life. Not in all ways, but  many. I've been following what others have told me God is saying, rather than staying true to my own recognition of His voice. God has been showing me that the man-pleaser in me was crucified with Christ and I need to stop resurrecting it. He desires to transform me into His likeness, not someone else's. This is freedom, and I'm thankful for His kindness that reveals my wrong thinking and behavior. 

Only by constantly attending to the inner voice can you be converted to a new life of freedom and joy. 

I feel brought back to square one, the beginning where it's just You and me here now. It's a return to my first love, the place where there is fullness of love, peace, joy, wisdom & direction. It's a place where I never have to strive for acceptance or worry about rejection. He is the one place where who I truly am is desired. This kind of voice is found no where else but in Christ. Today I'm thankful that He is in me and I am in Him.

Monday, August 27, 2012

My Light & My Salvation

"The Lord is my light & my salvation; whom shall I fear? 
The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?"
                     Psalm 27:1

Psalm 27 is one of my favorite passages of Scripture. I read it several times a week because it's chocked full of promises and right perspective. Lately, God has been speaking to me about fears that I have about certain things and raising the question, "Why?" I can't get away from this verse. It stifles my reasoning for why fear would be justly caused. It's one of those verses that stops me in the middle of a fearful thought and causes me to wake from my hamster-wheel stupor of habitual partnership with the enemy's camp. It reminds me that I'm not satan's play toy.  The Lord is my light & my salvation. If I were to remove the word "Lord" there and fill in the blank with any other name, then there would be just cause to fear. But it's Yahweh's name that is placed in that sentence...Yahweh, the One through whom all things are possible. Yahweh, the One who will never leave me nor forsake me. Yahweh, the One to whom all things under heaven and on earth must yield. Yahweh, the One whose wisdom defines wisdom. Yahweh, the One whose power is so vast and good that just a whisper sends the universe into creation. Yahweh, the One who sends mercy & goodness to chase me down all the days of my life.

He is my light & my salvation
Fear is ignorance and forgetfulness. Fear is illogical. Fear is proof that God is still unknown to me. Fear is rebellion against the knowledge of God I've already been given. 

The Lord is the stronghold of my life. Yahweh...Himself. 
What a great God we get to love and commit to! His minions are not my stronghold. He's not some aloof CEO who never gets His hands dirty with His creation. He's close. He's within me. He's around me. He's involved. He's sovereign. He, Himself, is my refuge in time of need. What enemy of hell could possibly break through His fortress? What tool of the devil could stand against the love & majesty of God? I stand in Him protected & safe, no matter the circumstance. 

Fear is a hungry monster that we eagerly & willingly feed. Our culture demands it. It sucks us dry of all our resources and rest. It renders us weak and crippled, purposeless and useless. In God, I don't feed Him. He feeds me. He fills me. He fills me with rest. He renders me strong and agile, purposeful & useful. I believe the main reason we fear comes down to our own activity...do we feed fear or do we feast on Jesus, the Bread of Life? 

The rest of Psalm 27 goes on to teach us how to feast on God...
                 "One thing I have asked of the Lord...that I may dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
                 "I will sing and make melody to the Lord." 
                 "You have said, 'Seek My face.' My heart says to You, 'Your face, Lord, I do seek.'"
                 "Teach me Your way, O Lord, and lead me on a level path." 
                 "I believe I will look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living."
                 "Wait for the Lord; be strong, & let your heart take courage." 

Fear is stupid. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

A Heart of Faith

I am on the biggest faith journey of my life in this current season. The stakes are high because I believe that this season is God's merciful way of allowing me to re-take the faith test so that I can succeed. I believe God does this. I believe that when we don't handle situations or seasons, promises or processes very well, God never fails us. He simply recreates a new season to teach us the lesson we haven't yet grasped. I'm in a re-take season involving completely different circumstances than the test I was in before. This season is more in my face daily and I have far less people to depend on. It's between me & the Lord...no one else can strengthen me. No one else can intervene on my behalf. No one else can bring the right words of comfort. The Father alone is my source. So...how am I doing this time around with being a woman of faith???

In the middle of March of this year, I took in a 3 month old baby girl through our local foster care system. This is something I've felt for a while that God wanted me to do. Now, 4 months later, I am head over heels for this kid. She has stolen my heart, my home & my checkbook! :) I started this journey with the desire to adopt a child. As I sit today, I don't know how this process with McKaylee Joy is going to end. It is quite possible that she could still return home to her birth mom, or it is still possible she could be turned over to the state for adoption. I won't know for many more months what will happen. And so...here I sit each day falling more and more in love with this lil' dumpling. Each day fear wants to take over my imagination of what it would feel like to have to return her to a home that knows nothing of the Kingdom & love of God. Each day I have to make a choice of whether I will release myself and McKaylee to the Lord's goodness or whether I will sit in anxiety. As each new circumstance unfolds in this case I'm finding that more often than I care to admit my first response is anxiety rather than trust. However, I'm also finding that I leave that anxiety and come to the place of trust in this re-take season faster than I did before. This is encouraging to me because it's the fruit of God's hand on my heart. He's changing me and teaching me how to be steadfast, unmoved. He's teaching me how to sleep on a pillow in the middle of the greatest storm...just like He did. He's teaching me about His sovereignty and power...because I have none in this case.

I've been praying & asking God to change my heart to respond in trust, rather than anxiety as new things come about. In Psalm 31, David sings, "Blessed be the Lord, for He has wondrously shown His steadfast love to me when I was in a besieged city. I had said in my alarm, 'I am cut off from Your sight.' But You heard the voice of my pleas for mercy when I cried to You for help. The Lord preserves the faithful." David's first response when the enemy approached him was to cry out that God had left him. This is oddly hopeful to me because David is one of my favorite people in Scripture. He had a response system that would jump to fear rather than trust...AND God used him greatly. God's not finished with me yet. It's only His grace & mercy that I get to keep learning how to trust Him. He hasn't given up on me. I'm not a waste of His time. He looks at the faulty ways I've handled faith in past seasons and now sees them as opportunities to give me 100 2nd chances. The Lord preserves the faithful. It isn't about perfection. It's about the willingness to stay with Him even when you have no clue what will happen around the next corner. I love Him so much for this!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Worship & Obedience sittin' in a tree...


Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time reading and thinking about Abraham and Isaac…partially because this is currently my focus in my worship class for RMS and partially because I feel like Abraham’s story rarely leaves the surface of my thoughts. He teaches me so much about what a lifestyle of worship looks like. I thought I’d share some of my musings with you. 
If I could sum up Abraham’s relationship with God I think it would look like this:
GOD SPEAKS = I DO. 
In Genesis 12, God appears on the scene of Abram’s life and says to him, “GO from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” Immediately we learn from this that Abram’s life in God was built on trust. God didn’t tell him exactly where to travel to, which means that this journey involving leaving everything known behind would be spent listening to the voice of the Lord for direction with the intent to obey what He speaks. Right from this beginning we see Abram’s heart yielded to the heart of God. So, more accurately speaking maybe his relationship with God could be summed up like this:
GOD SPEAKS = I trust the sound of His voice so much that I’m immediately spurred into action. 
In Genesis 21, God’s voice appears again. Isaac, the promised long-awaited child has arrived and Ishmael is feeling the intensity of some serious sibling rivalry. Think about him…for 12-13 years he had been the only beloved son on the scene, the heir of everything belonging to his father until Isaac appears. It’s no wonder he wanted to smack Isaac around a little bit! :) God speaks to Abraham and tells him to listen to his wife Sarah and cast Ishmael out of the camp. Sometimes the language in Scripture reads so cut and dry, but I have to believe this pained Abraham. I believed he loved Ishmael and now he will never see this son of his again. God up’s the ante here on testing Abraham’s obedience. And again, Abraham yields his heart to God’s heart and lets his son go. 
The ultimate test comes in Genesis 22 with the sacrifice of Isaac. God speaks to Abraham saying, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love [just in case you weren’t sure who I was referring to, Abraham] and offer him as a burnt offering.” There is no reason to water down or defend God on what He was asking Abraham to do. This is the child of promise…the very promise initiated by God, Himself. From Abraham’s perspective, God was calling him to do something he would have never imagined. This unpredictability makes this such a staggering test - god seemed to be totally out of His character and destroying His own program…it’s as if God became Abraham’s worst enemy! 
THIS IS WHAT MADE ABRAHAM’S FAITH SO GREAT. 
The life of a true worshiper will involve the willingness to sacrifice whatever is dearest and most treasured…even if such is a gift from God. This parallels Jesus’ heart in Luke 14:26-27 for believers today. 
“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father, mother, wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, cannot truly be my own disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” 
I’ve heard Josh Bentley say that it isn’t that God wants us to hate these people. It’s that our love for Him is to be so extravagant that any love we have for others looks like hate in comparison. As Abraham and Isaac take that agonizing 3-day journey to the mountain, Abraham tells his servants to stay back because he and the boy are going to worship the Lord together (Genesis 22:5). He wasn’t just giving them an excuse or hiding his intentions. His intention WAS to worship. His act of worship wasn’t Isaac’s bloodshed. His act of worship was his obedience to the voice of God. Every step he took to climb that mountain echoed a resounding “Yes, Lord” into the heavens. Worship and obedience cannot be empty of the other. They are a marriage…completely intertwined and united in purpose. I cannot show up on a Sunday and sing my love to God without obeying His voice the other 6 days of the week. That’s called a Pharisee…and I’m pretty sure that almost every time Jesus spoke to Pharisees it began with, “Woe to you!” :) 1 Samuel 15:22 says:
Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.

To obey the voice of our Father, our Bridegroom, our Friend is better than any outward expression of worship we can offer. To obey Him reveals a heart that is yielded to His heart. To obey Him reveals a heart that says we trust the sound of His voice so much we’re immediately spurred into action. If someone were to sum up your relationship with God, how would the equation be finished:
GOD SPEAKS = I _________________________________
I am praying this week to have an increased trust in our Lord and to be someone whose worship is not absent of obedience to His heart cries. He’s so good and His love is so proven to us over & over. Will you take time this week to turn to Him and to listen to His voice with the intent to obey? 

Friday, September 23, 2011

What Do You Give A God Who Has Everything?

I love to learn about worship. I love to listen to the latest worship music and hear about the creative ways that churches use to incorporate worship into their identity. I've read many books on worship leading, listened to teachings & sermons on worship, traveled to different churches to watch what they do. I've studied the history of worship in churches and denominations around the world. I love talking with people about worship, because talking out what I think helps me solidify my beliefs. Living in our wealthy culture, there are resources upon resources available to me to enhance my understanding of worship. There are more than enough viewpoints and orders of service out there for me to think about and get my hands on.

But all of those things I just mentioned are mere supplements to the true knowledge of worship. In reality, there is one thing I need to learn about worship...and I need to learn it well. Interestingly though, many of the supplements I listed above do not take me to this one thing. They take me to creating song lists, how to work with your pastor for Sunday mornings, how to deal with musicians - to audition or not audition? That is the question, etc. Where can I find the newest sound equipment? They take me to creating a 'worship atmosphere' that is comfortable for the congregants and welcoming of people of all varying walks and situations. They teach me about the importance of enhancing my musical talent and how to sell many of my own worship CD's. They ask me to question how much of my song lists should be rehearsed versus spontaneous. Yet, with all these topics, it is still true that there is only one thing I need to learn about worship...and I need to learn it well.

One thing.
One resource.
One way.

I need to learn the One that I am worshiping. I need to learn the object upon whom my worshiping affections will be cast. I need to learn the One, inside and out.  I need to learn the One I am worshiping. I need to know Him. I need to know His thoughts. I need to know His dance moves, His emotions. And...I need to know what pleases Him.

What do you get for a God who has everything? What makes Him tick? What can I possibly bring that would please such a perfectly beautiful being?

I have no money, no fame, and many mistakes, yet, daily I can bring Him this question:  "Father, what do you desire from me today?" Our Western culture consistently ingrains in us the drive for self-gratification. This drive has spilled over into our churches and into our approach to the King of kings. Worship is relationship, not a great musical performance or expression. Worship is not lights, projectors, smoke machines and drum shields...it's not even my Roland keyboard that I love with oh so much of my heart! A "good" time of worship has NOTHING to do with how tight the band was musically or whether the songs played were my very favorite. Worship is Other-mindedness. It is every day. It is covenant partnership...a love relationship. It is sacrificing my desires to prefer what my Significant Other adores.

How do we know what pleases Him? Ask Him. He speaks. He speaks well. He speaks so well that when words are uttered from His mouth worlds come into existence. He speaks so well that all of the created order is sustained by His voice. We have a 66 book manual of His preferences and the things that bring pleasure to His heart. It's the Word. He is the Word. Read it. Know it. Do it. Know Him. Learn Him and proactively surprise Him with what excites Him. Daily. Right now. Abide in Him and learn His likes and dis-likes, His opinions and pet-peeves, His joys and delight.

I do not need one more worship leader conference or book on how to create a song list. I need to know One thing and I need to know Him well. Out of that knowing will spill the Great the Commandment, a love for Him that encompasses and requires every part of my being...a true worshiping heart.Welcome to "for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer", through death we will never part. Welcome to my life's pursuit.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I Kind of Love This...

All fear is but the notion that God's love ends. Did you think that I end, that My bread warehouses are limited, that I will not be enough? But I am infinite, child. What can end in Me? Can life end in Me? Can happiness? Or peace? Or anything you need? Doesn't your Father always give you what you need? I am the Bread of Life and My bread for you will never end. Fear thinks God is finite and fear believes that there is not going to be enough. In Me, blessings never end because My love for you never ends. If My goodness towards you end, I will cease to exist, child. As long as there is a God in heaven there is grace on earth and I am the spilling God of the uncontainable, forever-overflowing-love-grace. ~God


I love that AND the very warm chocolate-chip cookies I just pulled out of my oven. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

God's Word Cuts Deep...1 Thessalonians 5:18

NASB:             "In everything give thanks, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
ESV:                "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
MESSAGE:    "Thank God no matter what happens. This the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live." 
KJV:                "In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."




Holy Spirit, I need your help! Thank You that You are the Helper. 


If it is God's will for us to give thanks in every circumstance, that means that there are things to be found in every circumstance to be thankful about. This is a partner verse with "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4) If it is God's will for us to rejoice (re-joice = to joy again) in every circumstance, it means that joy can be found in every circumstance. I believe this is true and I am challenged. Too often I look for the wrong things in circumstances - worry, unbelief, fear, bitterness & disappointment. I even find that I live on edge, bearing down, waiting for these things to emerge. WHAT?! What Kingdom do I live in? God is ever joyful, never worried or despairing. God is ever delighting and rejoicing over us (Zephaniah 3:17). I think it is true to say that God is thankful for us...humbling. I want to be like my Father.


1 Thessalonians 5:18 is where God has my heart centered right now and I am in no hurry to leave. I want a thankful heart. I want my natural response to my daily life on this earth to be, "Thank You, Lord." I want to be thankful for others and toward others. I want to have a heart that seeks out treasures of joy and gratefulness that are hidden in every situation of my life. I am thankful for this pursuit, and I also recognize how much my heart needs to be transformed. My mind needs renewed. My habits and patterns need to be changed. 


1 Thessalonians 5:18...search me, O God, and find all ungratefulness within me. Transform me by the renewing of my mind. You are the Good God.