Wednesday, January 15, 2020

What's "Inside" and "Staying Woke"

The poem (minus the man's name for privacy reasons).

Just a few minutes before our office closed today, a man walked in; a man I don't recall ever seeing before. I said "hello" and asked what I could do for him. He said, "I wrote a poem today. You want it?" My brain was kind of stuck for a second because it obviously wasn't a typical or expected statement/request. I said, "Uh...yeah...sure." What else could I say?! I figured it would be best to be polite and humor him. I also had a twinge of curiosity and a vague sense that this was something God ordained; as if Jesus Himself were asking "do you want what I have for you today?" I wasn't going to say "no" to a message from the Lord; even if, by chance, I wouldn't like it!

He took out a pen and paper and started writing. I was still intrigued, but a little nervous. I was second guessing my "yes" because his demeanor suggested that maybe he wasn't quite with it. I had doubts as to whether or not this "poem" was going to be anything legible, coherent, or even appropriate. I decided that no matter what, I would just smile, nod, and thank him for sharing. I assured myself that it was going to be ok and that this was going to be meaningful in some way.

He handed me the piece of paper and I started to read it. As I deciphered the words, I wasn't fully grasping or digesting it all yet. I was hoping I didn't look weirded out or confused; I didn't want to offend him. He asked me if he should submit it to the newspaper and I just said, "Yeah, sure. Go ahead and take it to them." I tried to hand the paper back to him and he told me that that copy was mine; that he had wanted to bring it to me first (I don't know if he meant it specifically for me or for our office as a whole...but it works either way). I was still kind of stupefied by the random event and could only manage to be like, "Oh, ok. Thanks!" 

As soon as he left, I slowly read it a few more times. The more I read and studied each word, the more it dawned on me that it really was a message from the Lord for me. I had so many questions to ask that man, but he was already gone. I just sat there for a few minutes; contemplating and crying. I was amazed; wishing I would have asked him more about what inspired him and caused him to bring that word to me! That's because I had been trying to sort out some thoughts and feelings earlier in the day; regarding the very issue that he named! Not only does my work at the Salvation Army deal with those entrenched in alcoholism, but there are friends and family members in my life that are affected by it as well.

I doubt there is a single person out there who isn't being affected by someone's alcoholism, drug addiction, rage addiction, gambling addiction, etc. Whether it's someone close to you (or even yourself) this "poem"describes us all. Inside every person who does the destructive action is the condition/addiction at work inside of them (which reminds me of what Paul talks about in Romans 7:14-25). Alcohol, drugs, behavioral patterns, bad choices, cycles, and evil spirits are all contributing factors to these strongholds. However, underneath it all is a PERSON... the REAL self. It's the human being that's been forgotten, buried, suppressed, stifled, and hidden beneath the mess. It reminds me of something Kanye West recently said: 

I’d say when you go to sleep, would you agree that you are asleep when you’re asleep? And when you wake up, would you agree that you’re awake when you’re awake? Would you agree that those are two different states? People who don’t believe are walking dead. They are asleep and this is the awakening.

Those whose souls are lost (or who are in bondage in some way) are asleep... real life "walking dead." They are in a spiritual coma. Somewhere deep "inside," they are aware and wanting/trying to wake up but...they can't or won't. Maybe they're actively trying to break through, stir, and open their eyes; or maybe they're not. Either way, they are still there; even if it's just a shell of a person who is almost too far gone. Almost. As long as there's still breath, there's still Hope; there's still Jesus! 

Finding JOY again in the midst of tough emotions
This poem was the answer to the cries and burdens of my heart! I am so grateful for the messenger that God sent to me! Lately (particularly today) it has been a struggle; a maddening, frustrating, saddening, struggle. It all eventually reaches a boiling point that feels like something beyond what I can tolerate. Exhausted by emotions, I tearfully fall apart and wonder how I'm supposed to continue empathizing. How can I come back to a "relation point" in order to continue extending grace, mercy, and forgiveness to those whom I just want to shake and say "WAKE UP!!!" ?! Even when I make the choice to be led by the Spirit, my sin nature screams inside for justice and all my "feelings" collide into each other and nag at me. I tell myself to grin and bear it as I help the homeless man who is demanding that we drop everything for him and meet his needs; and then abuses whatever "help" he gets and continues to suffer the health consequences due to always picking up the bottle. I tell myself to keep on "helping" him and others; even though they don't appreciate or deserve it (after all, this may be all the kindness and "reward" they'll ever get). I try to tell myself not to get mad at that selfish and ungrateful friend or family member that squanders every act of kindness or "second chance" that they get; spitting in our faces and lying/betraying us at every turn with no remorse or repentance. I suck it up and prepare myself to keep sacrificing more and turning the other cheek because the Bible says love perseveres and never
This was the "verse of the day" in my Bible app.
fails. I want to act in faith and love; yielding to the Lord out of worship and obedience to Christ. I have to take my thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) and choose it; even though my "feelings" are raging and screaming "I'm sick of this! It's not fair! Why won't they stop and why aren't they reaping what they've sown? Where are the consequences and justice? How much worse does it have to get before they hit the so-called rock bottom?!" Every lamenting Psalm in the Bible echoes my questions and pleas; reminding me that the Lord is as merciful as He is just. He hears us crying out; just like the story of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8). He's going to take care of all of it. In the meantime, it's vital to contend for the "awakening" and healing of every person; and continue overcoming evil with good (Romans 12:9-21). Prayer and compassion wins out; not hate, bitterness, and vengeance.

Grace and peace to you, my friends! I'll keep saying "yes" to the Spirit; and I hope you will too! I'll keep saying "yes" to love, compassion, and mercy. Even if the pouting, disgusted, disgruntled, and agitated sinful nature inside me whines and protests, I'll keep praying for Jesus to put my inner "Scrappy Doo" ("let me at 'em!" lol) in her place. It's a constant struggle to get my "feelings" to match my actions. However, as long as I still CHOOSE the facts and promises over my feelings, I won't "gratify the desires of my sinful flesh" (Galatians 5:16). I'll be kind and compassionate; forgiving as Christ forgave me (Ephesians 4:32). I'll remember this day (and this poem) forever; a reminder to "stay woke" so that I won't have to be like the ones that I'm hoping to see awakened from their own sleep. Amen! God bless you!

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Your Heart is Where the House Is

Have you ever found it difficult to understand God? Jesus? Holy Spirit? Many of us (even those that don't personally know the Father and Son) probably at least know OF the two of them. Holy Spirit? Maybe not quite so much.

The current series at church has been about the Holy Spirit. You can click here for part one and continue to watch them as they're uploaded each week. Treat yourself to these videos! You'll be glad you did!

The big reason I was compelled to make this post was because of what the Holy Spirit has stirred in me (and around me) lately. There just aren't enough words, or time, to share every amazing thing that I want to share. However, I felt that this was important to put out there because of the encouragement and fresh perspective He gave me.

This experience comes from the second message in the series (the video is at the end of this post). A question was proposed for personal reflection: "Holy Spirit, what do You want to show me about Your personality?" If that question throws you off a little (and you need the notes about the personhood of the Holy Spirit), just ask and I'll forward you all the notes from the Bible app. Right now, just roll with me. ;)

First of all, when it comes to things like this, I usually end up in a sort of "blank screen" mode lol. The TV screen of my mind goes white or fuzzy...or there are those technicolor stripes with the long "beep" sound. When it comes to pondering things like this in a large group setting (and we only have a short time to be still/quiet and wait) the pressure and distractions often get in the way. However, I ended up thinking about Him being "creative" and how there's a Creativity Encounter coming up. There's recently been more exploration of encountering God through various forms of art in our church (and it's really neat!).

As I thought on that word, the first Biblical example I thought of was from the first two verses of Genesis: 
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
Creation. The very first thing the Spirit of God did was "create" and it was "good." "God saw that the light was good" and He SEPARATED it from the darkness. Just reading that NOW...I feel like the big idea will sink in even deeper (so put "the light was good" in your pocket for a bit). ;)

The next thing the word "creative" sparked in me was music. You might have heard the saying, "Where words fail, music speaks." I love music; whether it's playing the piano, singing, listening to it, or watching/hearing my husband use his musical gifts. Music is powerful; whether there are lyrics or not. Lately, I've noticed just how often God brings songs to my mind in order to speak His heart to me. Originally, I didn't think a lot of it because I often expect to get words or pictures from God the way other people do. While I do sometimes get words and pictures, I've realized that my primary way of receiving from God is through very strong empathetic feelings....and music. It's taken me a while to realize that God was speaking to me through something as simple as songs popping into my head. Once it became clear to me, I really got excited about it! In fact, for both this month and last month, I've been creating playlists for myself and entitling them "HeartSpeak". It's been so thrilling to add songs each month as they come to me in various moments! I notice the theme(s) in them and those songs start attaching to the memories and experiences that I had with Him. It helps me remember what I was learning; and what He was showing me. Songs have even come to my mind for other people (even in my dreams!).

After the sermon wrapped up, we went into a time of worship. As I absorbed the music and chorus of voices all around me, I felt the Lord saying, "Do you feel that?!" My own spirit testified strongly, "YES!" Suddenly, I was thinking of a song that we weren't currently singing. There's a line that says, "let our praises fill this temple." Naturally, we think of the temple as the church; the literal and physical house of worship. However, that line took on a fresh meaning because we had just been reminded of the temple in which the Holy Spirit lives (1 Corinthians 6:19). So, the praises filling the temple aren't just worship songs sung in the house of the Lord filling up space in the building. The praises are sung from my heart; radiating out into the atmosphere of the house (body) in which the Holy Spirit has made His home. "Let my praises fill this body" in which the Holy Spirit lives! I could feel every bit of it in my temple!

I started thinking about myself as a very literal house of the Holy Spirit; thinking about the praises inside my being. The melodies were echoing off the walls in my body, mind, and heart. I thought about God's house being a "house of prayer" (Isaiah 56:7). I'M a house of prayer; praying continually (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)!
This definitely makes me want to honor and respect "my house" a lot more. Think about it! There are a lot of things that people won't say or do in a church building. Why? Because it's a sacred, holy place. We don't want to dishonor or defile it in any way. We have reverence and respect for "the Lord's House." We care for it, maintain it, clean it, beautify it, fellowship, praise, pray, love, and serve in it. Now,... think of YOURSELF as "the Holy Spirit's house". If you're a believer, He lives in you. You are His house and dwelling place; His permanent address. He NEVER leaves. He is always "home"; always "Right Here" (one of my HeartSpeak songs!). As Kent said, "He's a homebody." ;) The lights are always on; because He IS light and He is GOOD. In Him, there is no darkness (John 1:5,John 12:46,Ephesians 5:8,1 Thessalonians 5:5,1 John 1:5). He exposes the darkness; shining light onto any dark place that foolishly attempts to overcome the light. He SEPARATES us from that darkness that tries to creep in. As the song goes, "This little light of mine...I'm gonna let it shine...hide it under a bushel, NO!" The brighter the light, the less darkness there is! SHINE (Matthew 5:16 & 13:43)!!!
See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you. - Luke 11:35-36.

New questions: Do we see ourselves as houses of God? What does our house look like? Do we see OTHERS as houses of God too? Are we treating ourselves (and others) as sacred? I recently had a dear friend tell me that very thing! She said that I "treat others as sacred". It was one of the most beautiful and amazing things anyone has ever said to me! She saw my heart and how much I love and value people. They are precious to God; made in His image. Therefore, they are also precious to me. I will forever strive to love with all my heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27).

That's some mind-blowing stuff isn't it? Does it seem difficult to take in and apply? Yes, for the flesh it's definitely hard (Paul talks about it in Romans 7:14-25). It's easier when we are led by (and obey) the true master of our house. Much like the movie "Inside Out", that control panel could be yielded to just about any emotion, thought, or temptation (which is why we need to take our thoughts captive). It's always a battle between the Spirit and the flesh (you). Holy Spirit is a GOOD roommate! If you want your way, He'll let you have it (but His way is always better, so we should just listen the first time). Our "ways" bring disorder to the house and breaks down those special rooms (family, friends, etc.). However, He'll always help you repair, rebuild, and restore (and seal off/demolish doors we've opened and rooms we've created that shouldn't be in our house). Mess happens. He's not mad at you; just come to Him and ask for His help! You might have let darkness in (intentionally or unintentionally), but it's not too late or too dark to be swallowed up by the Light! The Spirit always illuminates and NEVER goes out! Even if Satan got his foot in the door, Holy Spirit will kick Him out once you revoke the devil's rights to be there! 

Grace and peace to you, my friends! Take care of your house! If it's a mess, partner with the Holy Spirit and get it cleaned out! Don't worry; He's gentle. :) Find some trusted and godly believers to help you and pray with you for deliverance! Shine brightly for Christ! That light inside (that you invited in when you first believed) is always there! He'll never leave you! You are His dwelling place! If you have yet to invite the Light into your heart...don't wait another moment! Do it...and then tell me, or another trusted friend in the faith, so we can walk with you! "Home is where the heart is" but your HEART is also where the HOUSE is (for the light or for the darkness...your choice on whom you're inviting to live there!). God bless you!

Life in the Spirit - Part 2: Who is the Holy Spirit? from Vineyard Community Church on Vimeo.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Remembering Grandpa (Oh, Cripe!)

This past week has been a blur. I feel like today has been a mirror of Monday and Tuesday when the grief was fresh and unprocessed. Being with my wonderful and loving family all week made me feel insulated from it all. All the love, prayers, fellowship, and other bright spots in the darkness, helped to create a safe place that made it easier to be "strong" and soldier through. However, now that I've come back home and am resuming my daily life, I feel more aware of the fact that my heart hurts. I feel like I just woke up from a very long dream and I'm trying to remember what has happened.

At my Grandpa's funeral, I sang "Tell Your Heart to Beat Again" by Danny Gokey; which had been suggested by Gianna when I was considering song choices. Even now, I feel like it was a God-thing for Him to have stirred her to mention that song because I'm still repeating the lyrics to myself. All who grieve have to take it one day at a time; telling their hearts to beat again. We close our eyes, breathe, and try to leave the sadness in the shadows and step into the light of grace; because we don't live in the closed doors of yesterdays. Life is a continuing journey where we have to move forward and allow the pain, sorrows, and scars shape us rather than break us.

This blog post is as much for my grief-processing as it is for anyone that knew my Grandpa. It is a blessing to me that my family finds comfort in the ways that God enables me to put my heart on paper. Therefore, I'll share the words I submitted for pastor Clark Stoller to read at the funeral so that it's here for people to read. I had also made a brief slideshow of some of the pictures of him that I had (and my cousin, Nikky, made the longer one that was shown at the funeral home):

Ask anyone who knew my Grandpa, and they would likely say that he was a "character". I couldn't agree more and I don't think there's a better word to capture him than that. 

Grandpa was a son, brother, husband, father, and grandfather. All of these roles he did well and with that sense of humor that he was known for. We loved his funny and silly ways. Sometimes, you could just see the orneriness in his face during a conversation because you knew he was waiting for the opportunity to interject a goofy comment or something completely random and nonsensical. It was even funnier if Grandma was around because she would often reprimand him and say, "Wayne, cut that out!" However, that usually didn't dissuade him from misbehaving; or even making a silly face at her. That usually earned him the bonus comment of, "you're so childish."

I am at a loss for words when it comes to describing him beyond the "character" that everyone knew, because I don't think many people knew the character behind the character. He didn't usually exhibit any mushy emotions very well; though he didn't mind if people made a fuss over him. He often pretended to escape your affections and would give you an "oh, cripe!"... but he enjoyed every second of it. Grandma always told me that he was her "biggest baby"; and she usually said it with fondness. He loved attention from others; even though he didn't usually reciprocate it in the same ways. Yet, he was still so easy to love because he was entertaining and good company. In that way, he gave as much as he got.  

I'm thankful to have had him in my life as long as I have. I'm blessed to have tons of memories, pictures, and videos with him in it. When you have that, a character never dies. "Boy oh boy...." that humor and personality lives on! We all love him and will miss him so much,...for "criminey sakes". 
Grace and peace to you, my friends! My heart and prayers go out to those of you that might be reading this and are dealing with grief of your own. Don't go it alone! Stay connected with family, friends, and church family that will lift you up (and I also suggest this short and powerful book that I can never recommend often enough!). God bless you all!