Sunday, January 25, 2015

2015: The Year of Prayer - Week 4

I sat before the Lord this morning.  I bawled my eyes out.

The feeling just welled up in me, I couldn't hold back my tears.  I sat here in the dark, no devotional, no Bible Study; with the dog running around like mad and cried.

Prayer this week has been heart-wrenching in some cases, involving emotional differences, struggles, comparisons and misunderstandings. I've come face to face with my lack of ability to help my closest peeps.  Circumstances have threatened those most precious to me. Their work in the Kingdom is great and satan has pulled out all the stops to prevent that work from coming to light.

It seems people's words can bring you low, circumstances can bring you to your knees and even your own thoughts about yourself can keep you down.  But nothing is so humbling as knowing the Almighty God of the Universe has answered your prayers.

I don't think my prayers are anything special. In fact, I have a lot of prayer aides where I'm actually using other people's prayers, including the books Prayers that Avail Much and Prayers for Others.  The authors of those books REALLY know how to pray.

Maybe as this year of prayer goes on, I will experiment with other types of prayer. My go-to tool is always the Word of God, I pray a lot from Scripture. Still, there are so many other ways to pray, I know I'm only dipping my toe into this ocean called Prayer.

And don't get me wrong. I'm still praying for folks whose situations have not resolved. The need for prayer in 2015 is even greater than I ever thought. This fact does not discourage me.  The needs are beyond comprehension but the grace and provision of Jesus Christ are even greater than the needs.  It shows me how many windows are open for Holy Spirit to fly through with His answers.

The Apostle Paul, my go-to in his happiest of letters writes, This same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. (Philip 4:19)

Jesus is the start, middle and end for every prayer. He is also the means to the answer. Jesus Himself said that if we pray anything in His Name (which means asking for things in line with God's will), the Father will not hesitate to give it.

Those are ridiculous level promises. By the grace and patience of God, I've come to believe them. In Christianity, believing is seeing.  I'm seeing the fruit of my faith: the answers to prayer. They are real and Christ is everything He says He is.  Faith is the most useful tool when we are praying. If we pray without believing, there is nothing to see. 

The beauty of faith is God meets us where we are. He doesn't require apostle-faith out of everyone, all the time. He will still answer. Yet, growing in the nature of what is possible with God means we will see greater and greater things - miracles, signs, wonders.  This is the level I want to go to in 2015, to witness and document the stories of our faith happening RIGHT NOW. 

So, I sit before the Lord and cry because I feel the weight of His love and His desire to prove Himself, and use us frail and faulty people - like me and you - to do it. 

The year is just beginning. We aren't even out of January and eternal earthquakes, shifts in spiritual tectonic plates, are happening.  Revival is coming and we are a part of it. It is growing and I don't want anyone to miss out.

God is so good.  He has been so good to me, to my dearest family and friends.  He want to be good to you in ways you cannot comprehend. Let this sign, on the prayer wall at Dr. Gleem Car Wash in the Heights, encourage you.

Let's keep going on in this journey of prayer, sweet friends and I know the words of King David, from my favorite Psalm (27:13), will be a reality: I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

2015: The Year of Prayer - Week 3

Here's the short version of Week 3 in the 2015 Year of Prayer:
Focus on the strength of God, not your own weakness. 
I'm painfully aware this is not earth-shattering revelation, as much as I like to have those.  Seems the Lord is sending me back to the basics of the faith, rather than promote me to graduate school. (No doubt that is to deal with my pride.) As Beth Moore famously said in Psalms of Ascent, "The way up in God's economy is down."  To really live something, you have to go back to the basics.  So, I'm on the ground floor - going up, please.

This truth has stood the test of time, since Paul wrote the words God spoke to him,

My Strength is Made Perfect in your weakness. (2 Cor 12:9)

It is a core belief of the Christian faith as well as a bedrock of Scripture.  We must decrease in order for Jesus to increase.  I've physically felt better this week, which is nice, but a few times last week, I was still limping along. I leaned hard into this whole My Yoke is Easy and My Burden in Light business Dr. Dennis called out a few Saturdays back.  

For real, this week has been about putting that truth into practice. Thankfully, I has not been as difficult as I secretly suspected it would be.

I've known for a good few years now that my feelings are only the triggers of something deeper.

When my nose is out of joint (so to speak), it is an indication the problem isn't completely with the person who knocked it that way.  When my feelings - specifically of frustration, irritation and most recently, jealousy, surface - I've treated it as an opportunity to converse with the Lord.  Lately, I start the conversation with, "Lord, this is most definitely NOT easy right now."

It helps me to admit things to Him out loud, if I have the space to do so.  It is an act of breathing in fresh air; like opening a window when you've accidentally overcooked popcorn.  There are times when my feelings/thoughts just sound so ridiculous when I speak them out, I have to laugh.  In that laughter, my mental clarity is reset. The joy we find in truth realized is often what we need to wipe away the cobwebs of our emotions, expectations and intentions that distract us.

Not that all emotions are bad. They are God-given. The process of venting them has been shown to have great physical benefit. We just have to vent in healthy ways - and prayer (or straight-up talking to God) should be one of those ways.

This week I've discovered I have to be honest about being human.  To deny my humanity is to focus on my own strength. When I don't admit I'm human and I have weakness, I depend solely on my own (human) strength. Yet, when I see myself for who I am, a regular person, or better put: a creature, not the Creator; shows me I need help because I am weak.  I cannot do the things God can do!! I cannot force them into existence!

I have to let Him do that. Seeing my weakness for what it is gives me eyes to see a glimpse of how strong the Lord really is. Usually, a glimpse of His strength is all I need.  There is certainly day-to-day (sometimes minute-by-minute) drudgery. Laundry still must be done, diapers must be changed, homework must be completed and dinner must be on the table so the troops don't plot an uprising.  But there is freedom in that too. 

The Lord put me where I am and the only priorities I must have are the ones He gives me.  I don't have to lay man-made burdens on my shoulders.  I'm strong but I'm not as strong in myself as when I am in Christ.

It has simply been a week of taking a step back when I can feel things getting too heavy. I can actually feel it, in my body like when I've been clenching my arm too hard around Ella and the tendons in my elbows are straining to keep up.  When I feel a cramp coming on, I just put whatever I'm carrying down. There have been times when that has literally been Ella.

Other times it has been trying to pray health into myself. Last Wednesday, I let my precious sister Moseka pray healing into me and it was so easy, I nearly fell over. She had to catch me before I toppled over backwards because of the ease of which she prayed it in.

I got the opportunity to run outside at lunch today. Exercise has long been a vehicle of self-condemnation, but before Christmas, I got freed of that for good. I just stopped doing it unless it was obvious it wasn't going to mess with my head (and body).  Today, waiting on that release paid off.  It is glorious here in Houston and I was just so joyful as I jogged along. No strain and no negative self-talk because I was where I was supposed to be.

Then, I started listening to a song by NeedtoBreathe called "Keep Your Eyes Open."

As I neared my car, the Lord opened the lyrics up to me. It was Him speaking the words into my heart - continuing to instruct me how to walk with His Light Yoke on.  I included the video for it at the end of the post.

'Cause if you never leave home, never let go
You'll never make it to the great unknown
Till you keep your eyes... Open, my love.

So show me your fire, show me your heart
You know I'll never let you fall apart
If you keep your eyes... Open, my love.

The key to not getting tripped up by my own weakness is to keep my eyes open for God's strength. His Love is more powerful than any other force, it holds our bodies together. God's Love keeps the planets in orbit. He delights in His creation and we are a big part of that.

There is no shortage of seeing Him at work, seeing His strength manifested in my life and the lives of others. It is easy to see when I keep my eyes open. It only gets hard when I look at myself, to my own strength to do the things He wants to do.  

So, to close this week out, keep your focus on the strength of God. Keep your eyes open for what He is doing and when He is doing it.  And keep praying. It is early in the year yet friends, there is still so much more to see!!!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

2015: The Year of Prayer - Week 2

This last week has been interesting, to say the least.

A lot has happened, but when doesn't it?  I can't recount everything, I'm not a great journal-keeper (yet) per say.  But a lot of stuff has come up.  That's not unusual when seeking to grow closer to the Lord.  Truly, the last thing the enemy wants is for us to go deeper in God.  He wants to STEAL. He want to KILL. He wants to DESTROY.

But if he can't do that, his favorite weapons are to make you sick, busy and tired.

I've been all three for the last 7 days.  As a result, this week 2 has been a s-t-r-u-g-g-l-e.  Not that I haven't had victories, but they have come at a cost to my physical and mental operation.  I haven't slacked on prayer, but the scope of my prayers has been much more narrow than normal.

On top of that, the Lord chooses this last week to repeatedly tell me, through trusted sources, I am in danger of my priorities going askew, if they have not already.

Y'all - I'm a stay at home Mom.  Other than Christ, the first people I need to minister to are my husband and children.  Everything else is icing on the cake and, praise God, the icing is THICK. I've got lots of irons in the fire.  But a week of being sick has shown me just how much I prefer the icing over the cake.  I've been VERY frustrated with all the people and creatures in my house.  That's not new, I was once "Angry Mommy," but the last (nearly) 7 years have cleared a lot of that out.  I am not who I was but you could say this week I have been "VERY easily slighted."

When Mama ain't happy, ain't no body happy.  So, I'll just be straight with you - no one has been very happy in my house this last week.

I knew what the source of all this frustration and irritation - as well as sickness - was from: something was clogging the channel of me and God.  Theologically speaking, that's called sin. The only way to deal with sin and clear the air is to confess. I confessed A LOT.  But no matter how I tried, I could not pray it off.  I was trying so hard to love the folks inside these four walls like I knew I could (and do).

It has just been so much easier to love those who don't live here!

When your heart is jack-knifed on the freeway of communication, you need outside help...spiritual/emotional/mental Jaws of Life, if you will.  That's why this faith is communal.  We are meant to be in relationship with each other as well as God. We need each other to breakthrough the muck and the mire, clogging our relationship pipes. And sometimes, it takes a complete stranger.

Enter in the man from Uganda.  His name is Dr. Dennis Sempebwa and he spoke Saturday at First Presbyterian Church in the Museum District.  You can read more about his ministry here.  He is totally legit, with all the credentials needed to convince a worldly person he knows what he is doing, but all the surrender to the Holy Spirit needed to really minister in power.

I went with a couple of close friends, one who'd already heard him speak in November.  We prayed, worshiped and Dr. Dennis spoke for a few minutes to tee up what he did next.  He simply started to call people up and pray over them. I waited as long as I could before going up but I was jumping out of my skin. I knew this was my opportunity.

A great prophetic word about my high and holy purpose on the earth coming my way!!

That's not what I got. I got a heart-gut check and an opportunity to be free of 12 years of frustration, irritation and expectation of how my life should have gone, what my marriage should be like and how my kids are supposed to act.  This was DEEP work.  Work so deep I couldn't get there without help.

The Lord healed me of much of this over the last few years, but Saturday morning, He pulled it up by the root.  When I stood before Dennis, he told me I was full of faith and desperate.  What a combination, not one I expected.  He said he saw me as the woman with an issue of blood, suffering for years.  He said that moment was my breakthrough.

He was right.

As he and his team continued to pray over me, I fell to my knees.  The Lord prepared me for that and as I sat there huddled over, my tears ran against gravity, up into my hair line.  I cry a lot of times when the Spirit has fallen, out of pure joy and emotion in His presence.

But this time I mourned.  I sobbed.  I wretched on the floor.  I got it all out.

After all of that - Dennis spoke another word.  It still makes me smile because I'm a writer.  He said this was a new chapter in my life.  The last 12 years are finished, over, I have nothing to fear because he has always been with me.  I should have been a mess, my life should be a wreck, but it is not because of grace of God has always been with me, even before I knew it was - even as a little child.

The whole thing was as real as real can be, a thin place where the Lord met me, ripped out all that hatred and malice buried so deep (which He'd been working all week to bring to the surface) and replaced it with His tender love.

All I can say is this new chapter is called Easy.  He showed me the truth of Matthew 11:28-30, even in my favorite translation of it - the Message. 

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.

That line "unforced rhythms of grace" is on a custom-made bracelet I wear every day.  Yet now, I wear it on my heart.  I can love my family like I'm supposed to (and truly do) because I see with truth-eyes how easy God's love for me is.  It's not hard.  It's not meant to be a struggle.  I'm not meant to force myself.  I'm meant to rest, to abide, to trust, to believe.

I'm meant to respond to how easily God loves me.  In that response, I easily love them.  

That's a pretty incredible story, I realize, but sometimes the Lord uses dramatics to get our attention, deal with our sin and change us for the better.  The challenge now is to keep living in that truth - seeking the Presence of God ESPECIALLY WHEN I DON'T FEEL LIKE IT.

You see, the love of God is just a heartbeat, a deep breath away.  When I feel those frustrations welling up in me again, I know I'm over-thinking things. I know I've stepped out of the Lord's shadow and all I have to do is step back into it. Nothing more difficult than that.  My natural state is no longer ANGRY AMY, so I don't have to be.

I've already messed it up. I've already yelled at Natalie and Sophia and gotten irritated with the dog.

It didn't take me long, though, to get my peace back. I acknowledged it, said I was sorry and accepted the forgiveness of grace that falls as a result.  Step back under the cover of His Wings.

It is a new chapter of easy dependence. I'm looking forward to seeing what Week 3 holds!