Sunday, February 27, 2011

overwhelmed by JOY...

As we worshipped this morning, I was overwhelmed.

I was up front, helping lead, with 3 other singers.  We led out with a fairly upbeat set of three songs to start the service.  The last one that we sang was called “Stronger.” 

The chorus:

You are stronger, You are stronger
Sin is broken, You have saved me.
It is written “Christ is Risen”
Jesus, You are Lord of all.

It just hit me all over again what God has done for me in the past 3-4 weeks or so.  I mean, the healing, the bringing me to different points of surrender, the hope. 

Yes, my friend Cindy can tell me, “I told you so,” now. 

She kept telling me that there was hope.  She kept on telling me that I would make it through.  That I would heal.  That God had something more for me.

I don’t know the depth of that which God has done yet.  But it is more than a mere surface fix.  For I am more healed, have more hope, feel more freedom than ever before.

God has broken the power of sin and death.   
He has redeemed me and I am His.   
Greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world. 
I am more than a conqueror through Him who loved me.

These truths resonated in me over and over this morning through our first set of worship.  We came back around to the chorus (above) and as we got to it, I couldn’t stand still.  It was all I could do to keep from dancing up there.  I had a hard time singing cause I couldn’t tell if I was going to cry or laugh or do some combination of both.

I am undone.

I am overwhelmed.

Overwhelmed by JOY!

Please enjoy this video of the worship song, “Stronger.”  It’s worth the time… and wonderful to worship along with.

Friday, February 25, 2011

A new place...

A new place.

That’s where I am now. 

In a new place.  I never expected this on Wednesday as I sat down to review my “Believing God” study in preparation for leading it the next day.

Two weeks ago, God took me to a new place in my believing Him.  He prompted me to surrender to Him completely.  I made the decision to walk by faith no matter what He called me to do, no matter what happened to me in the future.  I was going to trust Him with everything.

After two weeks of walking that way and seeing what it felt like to be in such peace, God asked me again to do something. 

It was more of a subtle realization as I was writing a prayer in my journal.

We were given a prompt to thank God for His sovereignty and sufficiency.

As I was writing, I reflected on what sufficiency meant to me.  To me, I always have thought of sufficient being "just enough to fill the need."  However, with God I always think of it meaning, "more than enough to fill the need."  Filling it and then overflowing the cup into the saucer and all over the table.  That kind of sufficiency.

It reminded me of the song, “Enough” by Chris Tomlin.
 As I thought of the song, I was in turn reminded of a time the song played a significant role in my life.

When I was in the hospital the second time in 6 months or so, in 2008, I remember not being able to read the bible, or even pray.  All I could do was cry.  As I went to bed that first night, I cried myself to sleep. 

In the morning, I had a little time after breakfast, then was expected to go back to the common room for some group time and other things.

I remember sitting on my bed, with the door closed (the only way they would allow us to close our doors is if we were changing).  I started at the closet overwhelmed at even the idea of pulling out any clothes to change into.  As I sat there, crying again, I remember the words of this song running through my head.  I don’t even remember hearing or singing the song before

All of You is more than enough for all of me
For every thirst and every need
You satisfy me with Your love
And all I have in You is more than enough.

I couldn't get it out of my head.  A day or so later, I was discharged.  Later that week I was at worship team practice, and guess what song we were singing that week?  Yup.  You guessed it...
So, now back full circle.

God used this train of though and connection of memories to bring me to thinking about the depression I have been struggling with.

Up to this point I have been very resistant to the idea that I would have to struggle with depression all my life.  I kept asking God to heal me from it, to take it away, to at least let me get off the medications I’m on.

Every time someone talked to me about this possibly being my thorn in the flesh, I would calmly tell them, “I know, this may be mine.” Just to get them to stop talking about it.

Inside, to be honest, I felt extremely angry.  I hated the thought that this was a thorn in the flesh for me – whether it was to show Christ’s strength in my weakness or not – the idea that I had to keep this, and that God wasn’t going to remove it infuriated me.  I got stuck on the "thorn in my flesh" part of the passage and never moved beyond that to see the part about Gods power being made perfect in weakness. (see 2 Cor. 12:8-10)

When I heard someone say something to me about this being my “thorn in the flesh” I would clamp down on my reactions.  I had to.  I didn’t want to take off someone’s head when they really were well meaning and only trying to encourage me.  But I could hardly stand it.

The specific question for the journal prompt Wednesday was, “How have I seen God powerfully reveal His supremacy and sufficiency to me personally?”

I reflected back to all the times in the past 3 years that God has held me up, been more than enough, filled me and empowered me.   He has carried me through all the times of despair and depression, joy and pain and peace.  He has carried me in His hands and painstakingly put me together a piece at a time.

I know He will always be working to free me and restore me.  Sometimes pieces will get put together and I won’t even be aware of it right away.

Wednesday, that is exactly what happened. 

God brought me to a point of suddenly being able to see with the eyes of my heart how He has been with me through this all.

I have agonized so long, wanting to be free of depression.  Free from needing to take medications.  I was to the point of messing with my meds, sometimes taking them, sometimes not, because I didn’t want to be on them anymore. 

I asked God why He hasn’t freed me from depression… or at least from the meds.  He has for others. 

But then I realized.

Maybe He has used my struggle with depression to get me to the point of all these different surrenders.  (Yeah, I know – duh – it takes me a while sometimes)

He opened my heart to see that He wanted me to take another step beyond the surrender two weeks ago.  He wanted me to commit to believe Him and have an active, moving forward faith and trust in Him, then wait and see what He was going to do.

Now He wanted me to surrender even more fully.

Surrender more.
Trust more.
With a faith deeper than before.

So I said it.
He used depression to get me here.
So I responded to the prompt I felt in my spirit from Him.  Obeyed Him.

I prayed.

“Ok, Lord.  I will believe You and trust You, even if I am never healed from depression, even if I always have to take medications.”

Two weeks ago the ground work was laid for this decision of my will, spoken aloud, written down to be remembered

Now what?

Now, I am learning to stand on newly healed legs.  Legs that used to be crippled, that never had been used.  Like the crippled man, who in faith stood when Peter and John told him to stand.  Who held onto them and jumped around for joy in the temple to the astonishment of all.  Healed because of his faith, one who had been crippled from birth.

Newly healed legs.  Strengthened ankles.  Feet solidly placed on the Rock.

He set my feet upon the Rock that is Him, and I am leaning against Him.  Resting.  Looking.  Learning what it feels like to actually stand on these healed legs.

Just waiting. 
And in the waiting, doing the things He has placed before me. 

Being a wife and mother.
Doing my administrative job.
Assisting on the Communications Team.
Leading worship on a Worship Team.

And, learning to really listen for my God, my Lord, my Jesus…. And be at peace.

This is truly a new place for me.

And I am overwhelmed….

Saturday, February 19, 2011

By Faith....

Today was a good day.

I sat at the coffee shop after dropping off the kids at their respective schools.   I relaxed with my hazelnut breve and settled in. 

It was the first day all week that I didn’t have to rush anywhere. 

I took the time I needed to refill... to be recharged.

The last week I have felt God carrying me.  I can’t describe the peace.  I don’t know if it’s possible to even come up with the right words.

Last week I described how I felt pushed and pulled between what I knew God was wanting me to do, and what I felt He was calling me to, and what my self, my flesh was wanting to do.  I was willfully choosing not to listen to Him.

After working on my bible study some a night or so after I wrote that post, I came across something about God wanting us to start believing Him.  It was the time now, and we shouldn’t wait till tomorrow.

However, at that point as I read it, Dave was rolling over to turn out the light, so I had to wait.  I just said in my heart to God that I wasn’t putting Him off again, but logistically I needed sleep, and my husband was turning out the light.

In the morning, I headed to the coffee shop before I went up to the church to lead our morning ladies bible study.  There I sat, with my bible and bible study open, and my journal out.  I wrote to God about where I was at, what I was feeling and my hesitations.  I thought about my counseling session earlier in the week and how Tricia had been working with me, trying to help me really know and believe that even though this “thing” happened in my past, that I was still valuable, worth saving and pure. 

The more I prayed through it, I could see how God had paved the way through my study that week on my value in God’s eyes, and that He wanted me to believe that I am who He says I am.  God is so good how He orchestrates things.  There is no way that this (and other things He has done) are coincidences.

I finally surrendered last Thursday morning.  I sat in a secluded corner of the coffee shop, cried and wrote and told God that I was going to choose to believe Him.  Right then and there.  No matter what He called me to.  No matter what it looked like.  No matter what I had to leave behind.

In Hebrews 11:8 it says, “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.”

I feel like God has been calling me to my promised land.  Though I do not know where I am going, I am packing up my things, getting rid of what I don’t need to weigh me down in the journey, and I am obeying.  I am going.  I don’t know where.  I don’t know what for.  I don’t know how. 

But I do know Who I am going with.  I also know that He is going to reveal more and more of Himself to me.  The more I know about Him, the more I will realize that God is that, and so much more.  I will never learn all there is to know about God. 

I am ok with that. 

I just know that since I have chosen to believe Him… every day this week… I have felt a peace that I haven’t in a long time.  I have felt a joy – not always that I’m happy – but a deeper internal “something” I can’t really describe. 

Maybe it’s a knowing I’m not alone.
Maybe it’s the feeling that I’m finally making the right choices to believe Him.
Maybe it’s that I’m finally obeying Him.
Maybe it’s that I’m not running away any more.
Maybe it’s that I’m not holding onto my past.

I am finally choosing to believe that I am fully forgiven for every past sin – completely and absolutely forgiven.  To the point that it is wiped out, demolished, destroyed.

I am finally choosing to believe daily that I have God’s child, He has a glorious inheritance for me, His incomparably great power is at work within me, He protects me under the shadow of His wing, and His love for me is far bigger, deeper, higher, and wider than I could ever imagine.

For me.

He knows me inside and out.
So do I.
He knows me better than I do, even the motives behind things I do, that I don’t even realize are there.

But He holds me tight, even when I let go of Him, he never lets go of me.

I know this because I have seen it.

I know this because for a while here I have let go of Him.  Now I am choosing to grab back onto His hand (at least with a more conscious effort than in the past months) and believe Him for every promise He has given me.  Promises He has given to all of us.

In love, we are blessed, chosen, adopted, accepted, redeemed, forgiven, secure, called, confident, free, anointed, able…

That is who God says we are… but there are even more things that are promises to us, just one of them being that He will never leave us or forsake us.  (Yes, even when it feels like He has, He is still there)

Personally, I have the sense that I am being called out to my promised land here on this earth.  I have a heavenly promised land, but I believe that God has a “promised land” here on earth that He wants to give me. 

All He is doing is asking me to believe Him. 
Asking me to follow where He leads. 
Asking me to take the time and really listen,
Really watch to see where He is moving, 
Where He is calling me to.

It’s not going to be in ways I expect maybe, but it is going to be great!  Because our God is a great God!

I am excited.  Scared.  Anticipating what He will do in my life.  Afraid.  Anxious.

Yet at the same time I feel this very secure sense of peace.  Yes, some things have come along this week to try to throw things into that peace.  There have been times when I have succumbed to the pressure, but each time, God has turned my eyes, heart, thoughts back to Him and the peace has invaded my soul again.

I feel like He is asking me to just stay close to Him, resting in His embrace.  I feel like I am truly covered with His feathers and finding refuge under His wings.  (see Psalm 91)  I am just standing next to Him, waiting as He points to something and says, “Try that, there.  See how this stretches you?  This is where I want you to go.”

One new little assignment He gave me that started this week.  I don’t see the big picture.  I’m not supposed to.  He does though.  I am choosing to trust.  Choosing to take the time to see what He sees and to listen like He wants me to.

I am choosing to actively believe Him.  Walking in faith.  Walking, not just believing IN God, but BELIEVING Him.  Believing Him leads to hope...

I want God to later say of me, “By faith Heather….”

Though this post is a bit late for the Walk with Him Wednesdays, I couldn't help but join in on this discussion this week, because I saw how God was working through time in my life - and asking me to take the time with Him I needed.

Please hop over to A Holy Experience and meet Ann.  You are in for a treat.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The push and pull...

This tendency I have to just resist God isn’t just resisting him.  Resisting Him the way I am is a sin… it’s out and out disobedience.  Not doing what God wants us to do {disobedience} is a sin.  I can’t get around it any other way.

I know what God wants me to do.  I want to do it, and find ultimate healing in the process.  At the same time there is this part of me that is digging in and hunkering down.  There is this push and pull inside me between what I want to do and what I should do.  What I know is right, and what I willfully want to do.

What I am really doing is hardening my heart against God.

Good grief! 

I mean look at what God did to the Israelites!  Even though we are under the new covenant now, can I possibly think that God might let me get away with outright hardening of my heart against what He is wanting me to do?

It’s not like He’s wanting me to do anything that is some huge feat.  He wants me to take care of myself so that I can heal.

Straight forward.

If I don’t take care of myself, my mind and my emotions and my spirit are not going to be able to heal the way they need to.

Eating.  Yes, I am having problems with food.  It started with really being sick every time I tried to eat because I was so emotionally upset by some things that started flooding in.  I got to the point in the past month where really I have been eating one small meal a day, cause that’s all I have been able to force myself to do.  Now I am finding that I don’t want to eat.  I get hungry, but feel better when my stomach is empty than when I eat.  I mean I eat when I have to, but when I do, my stomach still feels sort of upset, and doesn’t take very kindly to it.

I did talk to my counselor about, so she knows.  Tricia said to me that for a while you can control the food, but soon it takes over and you find that it’s controlling you.  I know I have to be careful here with this.  I don’t want to get even more unhealthy and go backwards rather than forward.  But at the same time, I am still struggling with the letting go that I need to do.

My meds.  Yes, I am still struggling with this too.  I have been fiddling with my anti-depressant, exactly what I tell others not to do.  Yet I take it one day, and skip a day or two, then take it another day or so, and skip another day or so… and on it goes.  Again, not the way I should be taking care of myself, not the way I would want my friends to take care of themselves.

Those are the main two areas that I am struggling with.  I talked about both of them with Tricia yesterday.  She asked me, focusing in more on the medication at the moment, why I wasn’t taking it.  It took me a long time to answer her, but finally I came up with a couple of things.

The first was that it was something I could control.  Like I am saying to God, “Ok, you can have there and there, but I am going to control this here and this one over here.”  Then I perceive that I have some control somewhere in my life, when other things seem so out of control.  That perception of control makes the swirling of the storms that come around me from time to time, seem less scary and out of control.

The other was that I feel like I don’t really deserve to take the medications that will make me feel better, almost as a punishment for the things that happened in the past.  I don’t deserve to eat because I did such things, and allowed such things, and I am worthless, not worth saving, and helpless, and the only thing there is despair and on and on and on the lies go. 

See, I even know they are lies. 

I am leading the Bible Study, “Believing God” and I still am struggling with believing, actively believing God that I am who He says I am, that He can do what He says He can do, including heal me from my past and present, protect me in the future, forgive and redeem me.

But how much of my struggle is just simple rebellion, plain and simple hardening of my heart against the truth of God?

How much do I have to go through before I finally give in?

I have moments (like on Sunday) where I let down the walls.  Moments where I let God control.  Moments where I feel the freedom of that release and submission.

But they don’t last long, and I find myself wrapped back up in the same old thought patterns.

Even when I am trying to fill my mind with the truth, even when I am getting support and prayers and encouragement from others, going to counseling, working through a Bible study to keep me closer to Him, there is this stubborn core of me that feels like a little kid. 

You know that kid.
The one who closes her eyes, plugs her ears, and yells “La, la, la, I can’t hear you….”

That’s what I feel like is part of me inside.

I don’t know to reach out to that little girl and pull her hands away from her ears and hold her and hug her and let her know that God isn’t going to hurt her.  That He just wants to love her and lead her into her Promised Land. 

To get to my Promised Land, I need to stop looking back and look ahead to the future land that is coming to me.  Yes, it may seem to be filled with giants and scary and too big and too much.  However, God is with me.  He is walking with me.  I have to keep on stepping out in faith and purpose to follow Him no matter what.

I’m not sure that I’m willing.  Willing to let go.  Willing to face the surrender, the lack of control.

It means freedom. 

That freedom means open armed, open handed surrender and submission to God.  I need to throw open my arms and stop protecting my heart and putting up walls between me and my God.

Oh God, break this hard heart of mine.  Make me willing to be willing.  Change my heart, renew my mind.  Break through this hard shell I have built up and help me to move forward again, and not go backwards any more.  Because you know, even as I pray this that part of me is still trying to plan how to hang on to what I want to hang on to.  My will, my desires, my ideas are what need to get torn down, because they are becoming such idols in my life that I find myself only serving you half-heartedly.  Bits and pieces.  Here and there.  Once in a while, as I listen to you and decide to do what you want in that instance.  I don’t want to live like that any more.  I hate the push and pull in my heart.  I hate the tug of war that I am feeling between doing what you want and doing what I want.  I hate knowing what I should do, and the exhaustion of try to fight myself, fight through the junk to do it.  What is holding me back, God?  What is keeping me from progressing and healing as fast as I did last time, as Tricia noted?  What is stopping me from working as hard as I used to, to get healed?  Because You know I can’t keep on going this way much longer.  You know that I finally agreed to have Tricia hold me accountable to taking my medications.  You know that I finally agreed to eat two meals a day, even if they are small and that Cindy is going to hold me accountable to that.  You know that I want to take the right steps.  But you know that I don’t at the same time.  There is such opposition and fear, that I know isn’t from You.  God, You know what I need better than I do myself.  Help me to let go and let You and find the incredible paradox of freedom in submission to Your authority.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Living for Him = obedience

It has been a long week or so, fighting off a sinus infection.

I am still not up to full speed, after a week on anti-biotic.  I still feel stuffy, though not as bad as I was last weekend.

This morning I had to lead worship.
Now that I'm done leading, I'm exhausted.

Wednesday's rehearsal went relatively well.  At least everyone else probably thought so.  However halfway through the rehearsal found me nearly in tears.  I had not been into work until noon, because I knew I had to stay late for rehearsal.  I was exhausted, and I still wasn't feeling the best.

I made it to rehearsal, but was having a hard time hearing, because my head was so plugged up.  It didn't help that we were introducing a new song that I had sung only a few times, with people who knew it.  None of them were with me that night, and I was having a hard time with the rhythm.  Between the piano player and the drum player, I was hearing two different things.

I was so close to tears that I had to move the rehearsal along to the next songs because I couldn't do any more.

This morning every single song went really well in the rehearsal.  When we were done with rehearsal, I knew that I was going to be closing the set right before communion with prayer.  So I looked up a few scriptures to use to pray through/with and did a quick photo copy of the pages to blow up the size a bit.

We did our opening set, I opened in prayer and turned it over our pastor.

When our pastor started his sermon, I kind of felt like God was pressing on me the words of the song.  THE song.  The one I had been struggling with the rhythms in rehearsal.  I felt like He was asking me to really think about them. 

"We bow our hearts,
We bend our knees
Oh Spirit, come make us humble."

And then our pastor started talking about partnering with God (through prayer), being devoted to the mission (doing what He told us to do in prayer - being obedient) and then keeping Christ central.

As he spoke, I felt the Spirit speaking to me.... I started praying and Pastor Kim's words just started sinking into my spirit.  God really used that time of the sermon to get to me.  To get me to humble myself, seek some forgiveness, and ask God what He wanted me to do.

I felt like I had to share something about this new song with the congregation before they learned it.

So I got up there without any other plans than to open my mouth and let God speak.  I really didn't know what to say.  I'm still not sure what all I did say.

When I got up front and got the mic, I asked our sound tech to put the words up for the song.  I shared that we were going to be doing a new song, but before they concentrated on learning a song, I wanted them to really pay attention to the words, so that if they couldn't engage in the singing, they could engage with their hearts and minds with the words.

I read through all the words of the song, and said that if we were going to be God's people, really seeking His face, really seeking to do His will and obey Him, we needed to humble ourselves before Him.  We need to tear down our idols and focus our hearts and mind on Him, worshiping no one and no other thing.

My heart, and words just came out, that I don't remember.  But I invited them, as we started the song to stand, sit or kneel as they fell led, and to truly humble themselves.

It took all I had to keep from crying.  I had to stop a few times because I started to choke up.  I coudn't tell God no - well I could have.  I could have not said a word.  I could have just said that we were introducing a new song, and to stand and join in as they learned it. 

But God wanted more.

I can't ask Him to speak to me, then ignore something He says cause it's uncomfortable to do - and then walk away and ask Him to speak to me in some other area, when I haven't obeyed Him in the first area.  That was something Pastor Kim said today.

He said, "God cannot work through disobedient servants."

It was a moment for me this morning when I knew that I did exactly what God really wanted me to do and didn't shrink from it.  I kept seeking Him the whole time, to make sure that there was nothing of "me" in it. 

I think that if the real desire of my heart is to live for Him, I really have to start doing it.  There are so many other things that I am fighting with, things where I am resisting Him in.  But if I keep on resisting Him, how really am I living for Him?  I am living for myself, just saying I'm living for Him, but not fully.  Not totally sold out.  Only living for Him when it's convenient for me.

I don't know what is going to come of it.  If I will be able to follow through in other areas in my life.  But I just know that He is changing me - working in me yet again.

I have counseling tomorrow afternoon, in the middle of my work day.  When I am done, I have to return to work out the rest of the day.  I don't know for sure what we will work through, that is in God's hands and not something I should really try to control.

There have been so many things that have gone down this past week to 10 days, that I don't know where to start with her, much less here on my blog!  And there is still stuff from the past that isn't resolved either!

But, even with all that - the words of this song, "Give Us Clean Hands," still haunt me even now.

Below is a video from You Tube that is the closest to how we did it that I can find at the moment.  It has all the words right along with it, so you can read along.

God did something this morning, in my heart, that I am still trying to figure out.  The feelings of repentance, humbling of self, seeking God to give me clean hands and a pure heart, tearing down idols.... I don't know where it is leading.  But I know that God did something, and is continuing to.  I am praying that He won't let me dismiss it, or stop following Him, stop obeying Him where He wants me to.