27 February, 2016

Oh So Thirsty

(Cross post from Fortyfaithful.blogspot.com)
One of the great joys of my life was living in Corpus Christi, Texas.  We lived there 12 years and experienced great joy and friendship.  We were blessed beyond measure.  Our lives were transformed.  Corpus Christi is gifted geographically and sits right on the Gulf of Mexico and one of its most beautiful spots is aptly named Ocean Drive.  Ocean Drive holds many, many memories for me.  One of the dearest though is the memory of sitting at the waters edge.  On many occasions I would phone a friend and ask her, "Can you meet me at the water?"  That one phrase told her all she needed to know and she would come.  There were days when the waves were so large that my car would easily be sprayed with the surf and there were days when all was calm and flat.  I learned that for my soul it really didn't matter which waves I experienced as it was ALL about the water...The moving, life-giving water.

We've been living in the desert for several weeks now.  And the desert of Lent has begun to teach me about my thirst.  It's helping me recognize how thirsty I really am.  The dry desert and hot sun force our thirst.  These are hard days.  Jesus must have been thirsty in those desert days.  Did Jesus need to go into the desert for 40 days?  Or did He go for me and you?  What was He modeling for us?

As I've read and reread the verses regarding Jesus entering the desert, I'm interested to read that Jesus went directly from his water baptism to the desert.
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  Matthew 3:16-4:1

Jesus came from his baptism where He experienced the Spirit of God descending on Him.  He experienced words of affirmation from His Father.  And then Jesus willingly walked, as led by the Spirit, into the desert.

I've been fooled into thinking that the journey of my life SHOULD BE desert-free.  I've been fooled into thinking that hot, desert days are those you keep hidden, those you keep buried deep inside.  BUT, the reality, according to these few verses is that as redeemed, newly washed Christ-followers we are to willingly follow the Spirit into the desert.  For it is in the desert, and for some ONLY in the desert, that God can refine us and remind us of our enormous need and His enormous ability to provide what we most desire.  And because I wear blinders most of the time it takes a desert experience for me to realize my great need.  The desert strips me down.  The desert makes me so very thirsty.

Regardless of success, I am thirsty. Regardless of my wonderful marriage, I am thirsty. Regardless of beautiful children, I am thirsty.  Regardless of plenty, I am thirsty.  What are the people, places and things vying to falsely quench my thirst?

Jesus modeled desert days for us.  He walked from Holy water into the desert--to defeating the enemy--to living a Holy life--to calling us to the Water.  He shows us that we will have many days that feel like the high desert.  Our job is to lean-in to those days and let Him lead and refine us.  And then, to drink deeply from His oasis...For there is always an oasis in the desert.  “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life."  Rev. 22:17

Will you meet me at the water?

A psalm of David. When he was in the Desert of Judah.

You, God, are my God,
    earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
    my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
    where there is no water.

Psalm 63

20 February, 2016

Seek but Wait

(cross post from Fortyfaithful.blogspot.com)
Thank you for your call.  All of our operators are busy with other customers right now but please wait someone will be right with you.  Your wait is...approximately 40 minutes. 
Hello! AT&T...please just answer my call and with a live voice...please.

I don't wait well.  I like for the traffic to flow, for phones to be answered, for doctors appointments to be wait-less, and for my food order to be quickly forthcoming!  I tend to like now time not wait time.  And yet I find myself with you in 40 days of waiting.  Forty days of anticipation is lengthy for those like me.  What could God possibly want to say to me that takes 40 days of preparation?  Am I THAT messed up?? Or what exactly does He intend to do inside me in these 40 days?   Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil(Luke 4:1-2a).  There are no specific words about Jesus' activities within all these 40 days so I went Bible searching.  I was looking for times that Jesus went away to pray or times where we find Him earnestly seeking, for I believe that IS this Lent journey.

Let's take a look at Luke 9:28:36: [underlined words are my emphasis]
[Jesus] took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what he was saying.)
While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen.

This entire short passage screams at me regarding these Lent days.  In fact, I believe it offers me a way to live until Easter (and actually beyond).
Here are my bullet points:
•Jesus found alone time to pray
•His depth of prayer changed Him!  As we pray, do we sincerely and honestly get so deep into our prayer time that our faces literally change?
•His hope was heaven bound. As we talk with Him are we reminded that our time on earth is passing and that soon our location to a spiritual place will come?
•Peter, James and John became sleepy! In times of prayer do I become sleepy and uninterested when in reality my whole being longs to become fully awake and realize His Glory.
•Peter, James and John decided they should camp out!  Do I forget all else and just stay with Him?
•Peter, James and John were afraid.  As He speaks to me, am I so afraid that I cannot hear His words?  Or am I so afraid of His words that I choose to not hear?

Let's think of ourselves as Peter, James and John.  Jesus loved them so much He invited them to join Him on the mountaintop.  He wanted them to experience the full measure of who He was.  He didn't want them to be scared or feel unworthy or feel condemned....what did He want for them?  What does He want for you and me?  Why would He lead us into 40 days in the desert or a prayer time on the mountain?  Think about it......ponder it for yourself.  Give yourself time to think it through.....(I can wait)...

He created us for one purpose - relationship with Him.  He wants us to see Him, to experience His love and roll around in it.  So he calls us to the desert and to the mountaintop in hopes that we will leave all the world trappings behind and finally recognize Him.  In fact, He is dying for us to truly SEE Him.

In my own head I've been comparing this Lent season with the Christmas Season.  This is just a small bunny trail so stay with me!  Thanksgiving ends and we are thrust into the Christmas season, head first!  We anticipate and mostly our children anticipate!  Oh, what is under the tree, they squeal!  What gifts will we get?  Packages are shaken and taped boxes are gently prodded to reveal the contents underneath.  It is so very unnerving and exciting for little children.  Because they are "dying to see what gifts they will receive."

He dying for us to see too!  Everyday of our lives, He's dying for me and you.  He's dying for us to know Him, He's dying for us to see His full Glory, He's dying for us to see ourselves only as He sees us.  That makes me want to run into the desert and wait and seek Him forever.

We can all walk into the desert and brag that we're there for the difficulty of achievement.  But there is more He says....stay a while....40 days...seek and wait.  Wait for gifts that are there just for you.

My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
    Your face, Lord, I will seek.
Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord.  Psalms 27:8,14

15 February, 2016

Wilderness Sand

(Cross post from Fortyfaithful.blogspot.com)
Well....we are four days into the wilderness of Lent and I have already blown it!  In my quest to give God MORE of my time during Lent, to follow Him into the wilderness of contemplation, I also like to "give up" something during this season.  Thursday night I was attending a basketball game and my darling husband surprised me and bought peanut M&Ms to add to my popcorn snack. Now really, how can a loving wife reject such a thoughtful gesture even if sweets are off the menu of your life?  I didn't.  Restart!

Barely 48 hours later I found myself squarely in a more serious situation.  I found myself in a wilderness with a lot of uncomfortable sand in my shoes and a lot of negative voices in my head.  This Lent I have been determined to follow Jesus' steps into a wilderness place for growth and reflection.  But now that I'm in that wilderness sand, it hurts me and it stings and it is just so so uncomfortable that I don't believe I can continue walking.   I confess that I do not like this wilderness and oh my, the journey has just started.

Wednesday, I wrote these words:
"I'm scared to go into the wilderness with Him as I'm concerned about what He will find in me.  But yet...I'm excited that our time will be in secret, our words will be just between us.  He will lead me and will find me in this wilderness.  He will prepare me."

I truly believe those words, I AM scared of the wilderness.  It forces so many uncomfortable conversations and situations.  The uncomfortable sand in my shoes has continued throughout the nights and into the days.  The words have become quieter in my head but the residue remains.  My mood has been sullen, the rewind of damaging words, lost trust, confusion seems only one step ahead and behind me.

Where is Jesus in these days?  In real life, where is He?  Does this happen to you too?  Where is the joy in the tough times?  Where is the joy in the wilderness?

The joy for me often comes slowly but FINALLY I see....realizing that it was the Holy Spirit who led Jesus into the wilderness.  And it is also out of His Glory and by His Spirit that I am led into all the days of my life and that includes the wilderness.  For it is only in the wilderness that He can remake me.  It is only there that He can truly have all my attention.  It is only in the desert that he can mend my broken heart and my worries.  And the further joy is that Jesus has already walked this desert road.  He has gone before us.  And lastly, it is in this desert experience that we begin to talk earnestly with Him.  We seem to realize the urgent need for our quiet space in those times.....but when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.  Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:6)   Is there any better room than the room of wilderness?  I wonder why I keep resisting these parts of life?

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”Psalm 91:1-2

Can we make this our prayer today?  Will you personalize it to yourself?
When I dwell in the shelter of God, I will rest in the shadow of Him.  I will say of my Lord, only He is my refuge and my fortress.  And it is God in whom I trust.

This is my path to joy in difficult desert places.  It is only through His Word.  The words of my friends, my husband, or even words to myself seem so shallow in the sands of the wilderness.  When Jesus was in His wilderness the quotes we have from Him are all from the Word....those are the words that sustained Him during the stress, the hunger, the hot days, and so much sand in His sandals.

Is it any different for us?

09 February, 2016

To Lent or Not to Lent

(Cross posted from Fortyfaithful.blogspot.com)
Last week, while in a local coffee shop I ran into an old friend.  After chatting for a few seconds she
said, "I haven't seen your blog recently, are you still writing?"  Ugh, I gulped.  My quick response was, "Well, actually I have not written in a while but plan to start a Lent Blog....(hopeful I sounded all holy and like a real writer with goals and deadlines...).  My friend simply stared at me with confusion on her beautiful face. And added a very intelligent question, "Huh?",  she went on to express, "I don't understand or do Lent but I'd like to try."  Then I begin to try and explain Ash Wednesday and Lent....it didn't go real well. "On Ash Wednesday, you go to church and get ashes on your forehead representing dust to dust."  More staring.  I kept going, "Then, for the next 40 days you give up something you love until Easter....it's called fasting!  This practice is modeled after Jesus' 40 days in the desert.  This commitment shows your dedication to God and your willingness to well, give something up for Him."  She replied, "Um, I love my Diet Coke and can give that up but why does God need my Diet Coke.  I'm so confused", she said shaking her head.

Ugh....why can't I just run into people and have normal conversations?

Let's move on to another Lent conversation...What are you giving up for Lent?  This question will be asked often today and by many, many people.  Another, more private topic is, do you leave the ashes on your forehead or do you discreetly wipe them off when you get in your car?  Does God care?  By wiping the ashes off am I offending God; does this mean I am ashamed of Him or that I just don't want people staring at me in Publix?  I'm feeling so overwhelmed and confused myself.

The rituals of Lent can be rule-driven but I know that was not the intent of the Church when Lent was first established.  So my choice at Lent is to look to Jesus.  Beginning in Matthew 3:16 we read this:

16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”  4:1Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.

Out of the glory of Jesus' baptism THEN he was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.  Yes, to be tempted and yes, after fasting He was then approached by the devil to be tempted but those are thoughts for future writings.

Today is about: THEN He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to get ready for the rest of life.  Today, we are being led into this season to get ready for the rest of our lives.  Instead of only giving up a silly soft drink or my beloved chocolate I'm choosing to be led secretly and privately to those places the Spirit wants to take me.  Even as we make decisions on what we'll 'give up' during Lent I'm choosing to GIVE Him more...More of my time and my attention.  I want the Spirit to have a chance to take me into the wilderness and prepare me for my life.  For there has been and will be pain in life, there will be temptation, there will be sadness, there will be joy......but none of it will ever surpass or defeat Him and His Glory.

I'm scared to go into the wilderness with Him as I'm concerned about what He will find in me.  But yet...I'm excited that our time will be in secret, our words will be just between us.  He will lead me and will find me in this wilderness.  He will prepare me.  He will prepare you.  Do we dare give up the trappings and ritual and just follow Him into the wilderness of our heart's desire?

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.  But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.  Matthew 6:1.3-4

Will you DO Lent?  Let's secretly follow Him into the Lent of wilderness and expand our hearts.

Lent 2016

Wednesday our journey toward Easter begins.  Walk with me and bring some friends along side.  Pray that my words will be His words to us all.  Until tomorrow.....

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