Sunday, October 25, 2009

I want to soar!

There's a video that's been going around on Facebook--maybe you've seen it? It's some guys jumping off cliffs in Norway, wearing wingsuits and flying through the air. I've watched it over and over and over again and I get the queerest feeling inside. I long to soar. I'm hungry to soar. I don't want to limited by gravity or weighed down by baggage. I want to fly.

If you haven't seen it, you can check it out here:

wingsuit base jumping from Ali on Vimeo.

It makes me think of some of the first verses I ever memorized:

"Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:28-31
If that verse has a "same old, same old" familiarity to you, try reading it again. Out loud. Perhaps really loudly like you're cheering someone on who's strength is failing. Not so "same old," is it?

Have you heard? Maybe you've heard but didn't understand? The Lord is so great and powerful that He was able to create the universe! He never grows weak or tired! There's no limit to His understanding! He gives power and strength to--whom? To the powerless. Are you feeling powerless in a situation? Without strength or understanding? Trust Him.

What does trust look like? You could get a different analogy from every person you ask, each one as unique as the individual. (I'd love it if you posted a comment telling me what it looks like to you.) It can be that calm and peaceful quality of a baby sleeping through a storm. I think it can also be like a warrior that won't back down because he knows Who's side he's on.

In any case, those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. It's a promise. Trust Him. Declare your confidence in Him by praising Him when there are no "obvious" reasons to rejoice. Your strength will be renewed so much that you will be able to put one foot in front of the other even when "young men will fall in exhaustion". Were you expecting me to put the "soaring" part in there? I'd like to and you can! I love those soaring moments, in fact, I tend to be hard on myself and feel like a failure when I'm not soaring. Why is that? Why is it so hard to recognize that it's a miracle of God's supernatural intervention when we can "walk and not faint" or "run and not grow weary" at times when it would be normal to become "weak and tired and...fall in exhaustion"? I want to encourage myself and you to be really excited and to praise God for his strength and power that enables us not quit, but to keep on walking, running and soaring.

Like the men in this video, most of my soaring times have been after a leap of faith. Some leaps are huge, like when you move across the country or take a new job. Some of them are perhaps less dramatic, but feel huge in the moment when you take a deep breath and share your faith or give a word of encouragement when you weren't sure how it would be received. But what a rush!!

Trust. Leap. Soar!!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Got Crap?

Shocking title for a post, isn't it? Especially one that is meant to encourage you in your faith! Not really--"it" happens.

There's a story I love to tell (I have no idea who is the original author so I make my apologies to them) which goes like this: There once was a little girl who was really optimistic. She never had a care and was always sure that everything would turn out wonderfully. This really concerned her parents as they felt that, sooner or later, life was likely to deal her a crushing blow of "reality". They became so concerned that they felt the only responsible thing to do would be to help cure her. When the little girl asked for a horse for Christmas and then began telling everyone she knew that she was so excited because she just knew she was getting a horse for Christmas they felt their opportunity had arrived. On Christmas morning the little girl's excitement could hardly be contained. She began opening gifts, anticipating the moment when she would get her horse. Her parents looked on with heavy hearts as she opened the gift that would teach the lesson. The little girl pulled back the wrapping and revealed...a box of horse poop. "Horse poop!!" she shouted joyfully. "There's got to be a horse around here somewhere!!"

"There's gotta be a horse around here somewhere..."

I really believe that as children of God we can live as this little girl. After all, His promise is that His plans for us are good. (Jeremiah 29:11; Romans 8:28) Sometimes it's really hard for us to believe there's a good plan when we encounter
difficulty/pain/challenges in life. These moments are really about faith. Is this "poop" the end of the story, or is it just evidence that there's got to be a horse around here somewhere?

I had one of those "Oh, crap!" moments today. Things didn't work out the way they should and it should have been really simple. Resolving the problem meant going out at nine in the evening--and I'm almost dysfunctional after 8 p.m. on a good day. As I headed out, I had this stirring in my spirit that God had a plan. I began to pray for a Divine Appointment, specifically asking Him to give me an opportunity to encourage someone tonight. And He did!! In retrospect, it's all so obvious that the silly glitch of the afternoon was just a setup to put me in the right place at the right time tonight.

Looking for the "horse" is key to living with a peace that passes all understanding--something that should characterize a child of God. So, if you're encountering some poop in life, I'd like to encourage you to look for the horse--it's got to be around here somewhere! God has promised and He always keeps His word.

"Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.
God what you need, and thank
Him for all He has done. If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand.
His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:6-7

Monday, October 12, 2009

Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

This is one of my favorite holidays and it's not about the food. Something really special happens whenever we pause and give thanks. It's not because our lives are trouble-free or because we just cheer ourselves with positive thinking.

Psalms 22:3 says, "You are holy, O you who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel." This word enthroned is translated from a Hebrew word that means "dwell, remain, abide, inhabit". God lives in, His presence abides in, our praises to Him!

My parents established a great tradition in our family of inviting anyone who might otherwise be alone to join us at our table. My husband and I have added a tradition of pausing between the main course and dessert to let our food settle and have each person (including the little people) share something about the past year for which they are particularly thankful. These two traditions combine in a way that means we're gathered with people who may be suffering from a particular loss or sadness and yet we are expressing gratitude. It always seems to me that in those moments when we are saying our "thankful things" a holy hush enters the room. God's presence abides in our praises.

This is the glorious message of the hope of the gospel, the Good News, of Jesus Christ. We live in a world at war, an earth in which there is pain, sorrow, tears, and dying. But that's not what defines our story. In the midst of the challenges we have Jesus and He brings us hope in the place of despair, joy in the place of mourning, a "garment of praise" in the place of the "spirit of heaviness"! (Isaiah 61:3)

If you're feeling the weight of disappointment and loss today or simply the blues because the skies have been grey for too many days, I'd like to encourage you to begin to give praise to God. This is far more powerful than positive thinking! The presence of God dwells in praises offered to Him. Declare the truth of who He is, praise Him, exalt Him, worship Him and the joy of His presence will begin to fill you!

May your day of giving thanks be filled with the joy of His presence.

Friday, October 9, 2009

I believe, but...

If you're like me, you know you believe, but you sometimes feel guilty because you're pretty sure you don't believe enough. However much "enough" is, we think this must be the problem because we haven't seen the answer yet that we're looking for. I think God made sure the following story got included in the gospels for people like us:

One of the men in the crowd spoke up and said, "Teacher, I brought my son for you to heal him. He can't speak because he is possessed by an evil spirit that won't let him talk. And whenever this evil spirit seizes him, it throws him violently to the ground and makes him foam at the mouth and grind his teeth and become rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast out the evil spirit, but they couldn't do it."
Jesus said to them, "You faithless people! How long must I be with you until you believe? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy to me."

So they brought the boy. But when the evil spirit saw Jesus, it threw the child into a violent convulsion, and he fell to the ground, writhing and foaming at the mouth. "How long has this been happening?" Jesus asked the boy's father. He replied, "Since he was very small. The evil spirit often makes him fall into the fire or into water, trying to kill him. Have mercy on us and help us. Do something if you can."
"What do you mean, 'If I can'?" Jesus asked. "Anything is possible if a person believes."
The father instantly replied, "I do believe, but help me not to doubt!"
When Jesus saw that the crowd of onlookers was growing, he rebuked the evil spirit. "Spirit of deafness and muteness," he said, "I command you to come out of this child and never enter him again!" Then the spirit screamed and threw the boy into another violent convulsion and left him. The boy lay there motionless, and he appeared to be dead. A murmur ran through the crowd, "He's dead." But Jesus took him by the hand and helped him to his feet, and he stood up. (Mark 9:17-27)
"I do believe, but help me not to doubt."

And that was enough. Jesus healed the boy.

There's a lot more that can be taken from this passage, but for now I just want you to be encouraged by this one aspect of it. The man knew that Jesus was his only hope and even then he knew that there were shadows of doubt in his heart. Jesus knows your heart. He knows you believe and He knows when you try to squelch down those twinges of doubt. Acknowledging it is good for us--we're not tricking Him anyway.

Offer your needs and your inadequacies up to Him. "I me not to doubt." He alone is the answer for that long-awaited healing, that broken relationship, that dead-end street, that sin that so easily besets you. Give it all to Him with the seed of faith that you have and ask Him to increase your faith. I'm convinced that He cannot resist such an honest and genuinely longing heart. He loves you so much.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

What's your story?

"And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony." (Rev. 12:11)
I've been thinking about this verse a lot lately and wondering why on earth the second part of it never made a bigger impression on me before. The "they" in this verse is "our brothers and sisters" and the "him" is "the one who accuses them". Who doesn't want to defeat him?? According to this verse he is defeated by "the blood of the Lamb", that's the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf, and "by their testimony", that's what we say about Him (Jesus). I checked it out to make sure that "testimony" means what I think it does and it means a testifying, a recounting of what's happened, a witness, what one says before a judge.

So, what's your testimony? What are you saying about the power of God in your life? Are you saying anything? What you
say has the power to defeat the enemy! And I'm finding it to be true! As I'm asking people to tell me their stories of what God has done in their lives and they tell me, I get really excited. My faith gets a boost. I'm encouraged to believe that God can do the same things in my life. I'm inspired to believe for more!! The power of the enemy to discourage me is lessened. It's amazing!

Psalm 78 starts off with instructions to tell our children about the "glorious deeds of the Lord" and they will tell their children so that each generation should "set its hope anew on God, not forgetting his glorious commands" and then they won't be " stubborn, rebellious and unfaithful, refusing to give their hearts to God." That's pretty powerful stuff!! Who doesn't want that for their kids? The Psalm then tells about the warriors of Ephraim:

"...though armed with bows, turned their backs and fled on the day of battle. They didn't keep God's covenant and refused to live by his instructions. They forgot what he had done--the great wonders he had shown them."

The next sixty verses recount a testimony of what God had done up until then--amazing miracles. These guys from Ephraim, these warriors who were fully armed, fled when confronted by the enemy because they forgot what God had done. If they had remembered, they wouldn't have been afraid, and the would have defeated their enemy

A few weeks ago our youth pastor talked about being aware that we are part of
God's Story. Our focus has to be on Him. We need to be aware of Him. He does lots of stuff that goes unnoticed unless you're looking for Him to show up in your situation. The important part of a testimony is in the hearing of what God has done! It's about HIM not us.

Everybody loves hearing stories of conversions and healings--we need to hear of God's great power. But don't think your testimony isn't worth sharing because it's not that dramatic. Were you discouraged, weary, afraid, or lonely and then you received an awareness of God's love and care for you?? That's a story you need to tell! I've heard it said that lots of people believe there is a God, they just don't know if He cares. Your story has the power to encourage others that God is not only powerful, but incredibly intimate.

I'd like to encourage you to be bold and to take the leap to change the conversation from the weather to what God has done. Ask your friends and your family about their awareness of God's presence in their day. Share about your "little moments" around the dinner table when your children can hear. It has the power to overcome and defeat the accuser. Let's do it!