Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Fight for Grateful Surrender

Yesterday I began my day reading about gratitude in Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts. She writes, Lament is a cry of belief in a good God, a God who has His ear to our hearts, a God who transfigures the ugly into beauty. Complaint is the bitter howl of unbelief in any benevolent God in this moment, a distrust in the love-beat of the Father’s heart.

At one point she quotes from Habakkuk 3:18-19: Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hind’s feet, and makes me walk in high places.

Later in the afternoon I was sitting outside with Y’shua reading and listening. I told Him I wanted His River of Life within me to be so full it is like a plump gusher, filling a room with His presence anywhere I go. He told me, if you want that, then get down and surrender, not just one knee but both, and raise your hands in gratitude. And I did. I told Him He could have whatever it takes to make me like that. I saw a bare patch of grass that looked like a giant footprint heading towards an un-mown field. I felt the Spirit tingling through my body and Y’shua whispered, I will make a way. Follow Me into uncharted territories. It was a sweet time and my heart was full as I walked back to the house.

So how was it that forty minutes later during dinner in the kitchen my heart was grumbling with complaint, indignant about an extra meeting we had to go to that would take two hours out of the evening, indignant about the fact that I was going from there to spend the night with two other girls on the farm to give a friend the night off and my day had been so full I hadn’t found time to pack, indignant that I had no choice in what to do with my time, indignant over the words you must that made me feel more like a micromanaged child than a mature contributing adult? So I showed up at the meeting in a roomful of people who I’m supposed to be reading the Word with and praying and my heart was resentful.

But somewhere in the midst of that time the Lord made me remember how recently that sweet time in the afternoon with Him had been. He reminded me of the proclamation I had made that He could have it all. Surrender. And suddenly I can see how this is all just a ploy from the enemy to steal the gratitude and surrender out of my heart. Of course this evening would be hard. The enemy of my soul is mad. I scribble in my journal—How the enemy fights hard to steal my joy, to plant a grumbling seed in my heart, to tempt me to pick up my self-rights and indignation at them being ignored. Y’shua fight for me. Help me ward off this darkness, to choose life and surrender, obedience and joy. Because it is a choice. Ann Voskamp states, “God does not give rights but imparts responsibilities—response-abilities—inviting us to respond to His love-gifts.”

And it’s a love-gift to be on this farm. No matter how difficult it gets I know that. It’s a daily battle here—gratitude. In some respects it’s so easy because the Spirit of God is walking with me and, well, there’s just so many things about God and His goodness to be grateful for. And in other respects it’s not so easy because the days are long and I’m tired and I constantly lose or have to lay down the small pieces of personal space or time I think I have. But in the end it is a choice. Last night I fought and when a song began to play at the end I made myself stand and raise my hands and belt out the words.
            Bless the Lord O my soul, O my soul
            Worship His holy name
            Sing like never before, O my soul
            And worship His holy name.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

John 14:16-17

Y’shua has me on a journey of searching the scriptures for an understanding of the Holy Spirit. I keep being surprised by places the Spirit is referenced that I’ve never noticed before. The following is one verse I’ve landed on recently, followed by my paraphrase of it after I picked it apart and studied it in the Strong’s.

John 14:16-17
“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.”

I have determined (and therefore it will happen) to beseech and interrogate the Father, and He will commit to bestow and bring forth in you an Intercessor, Consoler, and Advocate who will come between you and any attack, that He may be joined together with you in companionship forever; that is the unconcealed breath of God whom the world with its orderly arrangements and decorations cannot accept, be amazed by, or get a hold of, because it does not look closely or gaze with wide-open eyes upon Him. But you are aware of the Spirit and gaze with wide-open eyes as at something remarkable because He dwells and tarries, staying in one place with you, creating a union, resemblance, and possession of you (you are His) in a fixed position (He will not leave you) and relation of rest.

Monday, October 14, 2013

That Thing Called Dating

From the time I was a child I remember dating being established as something taboo. It wasn’t healthy. It wasn’t godly. It wasn’t something I was going to do. And it wasn’t something I ever did… until two months ago.

I’m in a relationship. I’m dating. I have a boyfriend. I’m twenty-six and it’s taken me nearly two months to let those words roll easily off my tongue, and it’s not because my boyfriend, Aaron, is not a good man. He is. A very good man. It’s because when Aaron said I want to pursue you, I ran smack up against a wall—a towering, fortified wall labeled DATING.

I’m an adult. Rationally I knew that dating wasn’t wrong, that I was free to make whatever choice I wanted to make, that I didn’t even need anyone’s permission. Yet emotionally, something about it still felt off, still felt taboo. Aaron waited for days without hearing from me while I tried to find the edges of this wall or a crack I could chisel my way through. So many times in the past two months he’s been gracious and patient, honoring me and my need for space while still telling me I’m worth the wait. A lesser man probably would’ve given up and walked away, and I wouldn’t have blamed him. But he hasn’t, and this is what I’ve discovered thus far.

That wall was a wall of self-protection. From a young age it built itself up around me like a fortress, promising me safety, but the truth was it was a false protector. It kept me boxed in and isolated. It whispered lies that said love isn’t safe and it’s easier to do everything on your own. It made me afraid of becoming an inconvenience. It convinced me I liked being independent and that with my strong personality and vision I would be too much for anyone to handle. It told me love may be for other people but it wasn’t for me. But God’s been smashing through those lies and slowly carrying away the rubble.

This wall was reinforced by my own pride. Other girls outside the wall date, but I’m not like them. One brick stacked on top of the lies. I don’t want to be like them, to sink down to their level. Slather on the mortar. Girls that need boyfriends are needy and insecure. Plunk goes another brick. Like the Pharisees I added rules beyond God’s original intent. I got caught up in a religious spirit. I became judgmental and critical and decided what manner of living was holier than another.

But here’s the truth: I was wrong.
Truth: All these beliefs were just my rationalization for why that wall should be there.
Truth: I was scared of being vulnerable, of tearing that wall down and being exposed.
Truth: With the wall gone I’m not exposed because Y’shua is my strong tower, my protector.
Truth: Even if I offer my heart to another (any person in any kind of relationship), Y’shua still holds it in His hands.

I’m not all the way there. I’m still hesitant. It can still feel scary to keep moving forward. I often make Aaron wait on me while I figure out if I’m ready. But I’m also learning to step out in faith and take risks, to open up my heart and be known bit-by-bit. And what I’m discovering is that dating—that shallow, flirtatious, emotionally-driven pastime of our culture, the kind that is motivated by self-seeking gratification and bails at the first sign of trouble, the kind I was afraid of taking part in—that is nothing like what Aaron and I have chosen. We use the word dating because it’s easier than having to explain, but we’re not really dating. Maybe we’re courting, although that word can carry a wide range of connotations too. In some ways whatever we use as a label doesn’t matter. We are pursuing relationship intentionally. But it’s not like what I feared. I haven’t lost myself in the midst of it; I’ve become myself more fully. I haven’t been distracted from the Lord; I’ve been pressed more fully towards Him, compelled to trust and surrender in new ways.

Our relationship is long distance, so most of our time together is spent over the phone and writing letters. And while that has it’s inconveniences and won’t be ideal for long, I do like the fact that it forces us to be intentional about communicating. We’re not just caught up in activities and physical attraction. We have to hear each other’s hearts or we have nothing to go on. But that’s a good thing. We listen to each other and we come back, clarify, and listen some more. We discuss values, family history, theology. We open the Word and pray, continually surrendering ourselves back to Y’shua, asking Him to orchestrate and lead, because nothing about our relationship has been conventional. But then again I don’t like convention. In a way, even in the midst of God rooting out my pride and pushing me to join the ranks of the daters, He still surprises me. He takes something conventional and rewrites it into something that’s not. He puts together a story that I couldn’t write or even know to ask for. But it’s a good story, because everything that the Father gives is good. So without knowing the end I’m grateful. I’m grateful for Aaron, for his friendship and for his more-than-friendship, for being known by him, for the way that dating has been healing for my heart, and for the way he tells me I’m worth it. I just might be starting to believe it.