Tuesday, July 28, 2015

2015: The Year of Prayer - Week 28 and 29 - Catch Up Post

This summer has been spanking my "regular" schedule.  Really, in summer time, with 3 kids at home, there is no "regular."  But the last 2 weeks have been particular out of the norm, as we've been on vacation and extremely busy when home.  I didn't even lead our URPrays meeting last Wednesday - SHOCKER!

(Moseka Medlock, my lead prayer partner in the Upper Room did a fantastic job.  Too bad she doesn't follow this blog, I'll have to tell her later about how I'm going to take advantage of her love for Wednesday night prayer more often in the coming year.  ;))

My last post described a Wednesday night where the Lord gave me more freedom.  These last 2 weeks have been a lesson in walking that out.  Before, if my regular devotion routine was different, I would struggle against guilt.  Now I know the guilt is gone.  I got the time in the last 2 weeks to do "living prayer," where I prayed wherever I was.  It was a really neat experience because it confirmed what was spoken over and into me that night.

I hear from the Lord.  I know Him.  He knows me.  He is always with me.  I am never disconnected from His Spirit because His Spirit is on the insideI am valuable to Him and to His people, wherever I am.

Experiencing God not something I have to earn because I got up early and sat down to be quiet.  He is always available.  I knew this, but because I was so wrapped in insecurity, doubt was fostered, so I have always struggled with mentally accepting it.  I knew it in my heart but my head didn't believe it.  So, by practicing centering on Him, wherever I was, talking (mostly silently...which has also been a stretch for me, to believe I'm praying with power when not speaking) about whatever was happening or on my mind.....The Lord and I got just that much closer.

On the beach playing with my family, He was with me.

Cooking meals and cleaning up, He was with me.

In the morning before I got out of bed, He was there.

At night when I was dead tired, He was there.

Anytime......He was, is and will always be there for me.

I read parts of Psalm 139 this morning, in which King David describes this whole concept.  This is my version of it:
You have searched me.  You know me.  You see me wherever I am, in whatever I'm doing.  You know what I am going to say before I say it.  He protect and keep me, holding me, making me safe and secure in Your care and compassion.

I seek You again, so You can sort-through me, soaking into me, renewing me.  Anything that offends You, remove from my heart, mind, soul and life.  Let me continue to walk the love-lighted path, being made more fully alive in You.  Renew the best of You in me.
Things got back to semi-regular status this weekend and I am grateful for it.  I'm grateful for the time away because there is just nothing quite like coming home - to our home and our church home. I'm continually grateful and finding that is the key to unlocking the Presence to flood my heart and mind again. 

There is still much to pray for.  Our world needs our prayers more than ever.  God's people need hope and direction or they will continue to wander in the wilderness.  I am called and you are called to roll up our sleeves and do our part.

But thankfully, He also calls off to far-away places, for refreshing and restoration.  I got that, praise God.  I'm ready to work again. 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

2015: The Year of Prayer - Week 27

Have you ever read something in Scripture, but never fully, truly believed it?

Have you ever, for years, wished for something to be true but it never rang that way inside your soul?

Have you ever looked in the mirror, knowing God loves you but never deep down, felt it?

Yeah, me too.

Nothing about praying a lot or leading people in prayer or knowing the Bible really well or consistently hearing from the Lord or having a deep well of hope, purpose and meaning completely erased this nagging sense of doubt in my mind and heart.  When I would read the verses about being dearly loved, treasured, purified, whole, beautiful in the Bible, I didn't completely accept it for myself.  I'm being as blatantly honest as I can.  I've been journaling for weeks now about how I knew the Lord wanted to rid me of these deep-seated insecurities.  It's been a good 4 months of full consciousness of this nonsense (for I've known it was nonsense for the last 11 years since I came back to Christ).  But still, my thoughts about myself never quite matched God's thoughts about me.

It wasn't just that, though, either.  My thoughts about who I was never quite lined up with anyone else's thoughts either.  That's why I have always been uncomfortable when people compliment me -  on anything.  I am literally struck dumb and my response comes out feeling painfully awkward and inadequate.

That's the word - inadequate.  For most of my life, on and off, I have felt I'm in no way up to the task - whatever that task is.  That's spilled over into my perception of my physical self too.  (I know I've written about this before, even last week.  See, it's been on my mind for a long, long, long time).  Culture grossly inflates the idea that you aren't good enough and then add in the efforts of the enemy to steal, kill and destroy....well, I just didn't believe what others said.

I've had moments of fleeting freedom.  Multiple times, I set my face like a flint against this insecurity but it never lasted more than a few days.  I knew the end of it was coming, though.  I've witnessed and participated in too many miraculous works of God lately to think He wasn't going to set me free from this.  I just had to wait on the right time, when everything was lined up in His order. In our Wednesday night regular prayer meeting, it was.  

It didn't start that way, for the first 45 minutes, I was leading the prayers.  But it ended with me on the floor being prayed over...and stuff getting prayed out.  It was a most holy and interesting experience.  I'm tempted to get on my face now, I am still so humbled by it.  Thanks to the gifted and Holy Spirit-led ministrations of 9 friends family members, all that insecurity, all that inadequate feeling was removed from my soul and body.  I didn't thrash around, I never lost control of my mental facilities - I was a willing and able participant.  I contributed to the process because I knew it was time for all this double-mindedness to go.
For the one who wavers (hesitates, doubts) is like the billowing surge out at sea that is blown hither and thither and tossed by the wind...For being as he is a man of two minds (hesitating, dubious, irresolute), he is unstable and unreliable and uncertain about everything he thinks, feels, decides.
The Apostle James wrote that in the first part of his letter (James 1:6,8).  It describes who I was when I thought about myself.  40 years of hesitating, dubious, uncertain thinking about agreeing with God about me was healed.  It was really a miracle hour for me, a long time in coming.  Even (and especially) church leaders need to be prayed for and poured into.

This is not the end of the story - I still have to walk this truth out.  I have to stand firm against the wiles, tricks, illusions, imaginations of the enemy, the influence of the world and even when my own negative self talk rears its ugly head.  I have to remember to walk down a brand-new neurological path.  I can't go on auto-pilot down the same-old worn trail of self-doubt.  I have to remember the word the Lord left with me after that intense session was "Today you will be with Me in paradise."  The real truth of it is, I'm already there but not yet completely.  It's the now-not yet principle of eternal life in Christ.

(Read what I have to say about that idea here.)

The difference now verses before prayer on Wednesday is: the hole that was filled with insecurity and doubt is now filled with truth and faith.  I am secure in Him and I believe it.  I am not perfect and I am indeed more dependent on Him than ever.  But real freedom comes from dependence and obedience.  I can actually point to the area of my body where all those ugly feelings and thoughts were housed and know that place is now cleansed and cleared.

It really was a miracle.  That's the currency God deals in if you let Him.  He doesn't want His children to suffer, especially under the weight of any other yoke than His.  Every burden we would put on our own shoulders (or others have put on us) is too heavy.  Ella says that now when she tries to pick up a basket or bag.  She tries, puts it back down and looks at me.  She says, "Too heavy Mama."

We need to look at our Heavenly Father and say the same.  

I finally put this burden down.  I know and believe the truth of who I am....and when you know the Truth, you are free indeed.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

2015: The Year of Prayer, Week 26

If you went to church with me last week, you might have seen me trying hard not to come apart during this song. Never heard it before but sometimes, the Lord comes upon me unexpectedly like that.  When that happens, your very spirit shifts.  Like tectonic plates moving around, an earthquake happens - in your soul, mind, body and ultimately in your life.

This song is called "Good Good Father" by Housefires.  I've listened to it about 49 times (that's 7 times per day if anyone is counting) in the last week.  To the point where my husband, every time he sees me with my earbuds in and tears streaming down my face says, "You are listening to that song again."

Deep within me I have been unsettled for most, if not all, of my life.  I've struggled against insecurity in every imaginable way.  It drove to me success in business but that's not a good thing I realize now.  Over two weeks ago, I woke up one morning and had enough of insecurity - especially about the way I look - running roughshod over my heart and mind.  I just got sick of living from that place anymore...by myself.  I don't want to think badly of myself or steel myself as I go to look in the mirror.  I want to see and feel the connection to how others see me.  My body image issues are only just a symptom of a much deeper problem: I don't love what God created....me.

Yet, that is the core of this song.  It is the crux of our new life in Christ.  It is what the Apostle Paul was saying in Romans 8 (I think I need to memorize the whole chapter): Don't live the old way.  Live the new way, bought with a price and it lasts forever.  Please God, not just yourself or anyone else.

One of the things that struck me as I've listened to this song so much is......this must be what Jesus' prayer time was all about.  You read over and over and over again that He often escaped the crowds and His Disciples to go off to "lonely places" and pray.  (That's probably from the King James version).  And I've always wondered.....

What did Jesus pray about when it was just Him and His Abba?

Jesus came to meet His Father to remember Who He was and to be Beloved.  The world, even His closest friends, ran roughshod over His heart and mind too.  So, when it was just the two of them, Father and Son, I have no doubt it was not just face-to-face like Moses.  There had to be a deeper connection.  To me, Jesus' personal "quiet time" as we like to call it had to have been the most contemplative heart prayer ever.  I believe it was the real-time, whole-self integration of Him and God.  When I listen to this song....it defines for me Jesus' personal prayer life....and I realized this week it can be my personal prayer life too.

Jesus prayed all kinds of prayers - He is our model for prayer after all.  And I lead a church prayer ministry, which is continuing to grow and expand.  I pray often for others and with all different types of prayers.  But more and more, in my own early morning time, it is VERY contemplative.  Sometimes so much centering is going on, I fall asleep...till I hear someone else wake up (then sort of scramble to look like I was "in prayer" and not just knocked out.)

(Come to think of it, I wonder if that time when Jesus was asleep on the boat during that really bad storm was after some centering/contemplative prayer....I look forward to asking Him about that someday.....among many other things!!)

My guess is Jesus needed this prayer time as much as I do because it is the only way to recharge after pouring out.  And He lived perfectly!  I don't.....AT ALL. I love the way Paul describes it in another letter,
 For now we are looking in a mirror that gives only a dim or blurred reflection of reality as in a riddle or enigma, but then, when the perfection comes, we shall see in reality and face to face!  Now I know in part (imperfectly) but then I shall know and understand fully and clearly, even in the same manner as I have been fully and clearly known and understood, by God. (1 Cor 13:12)
We know imperfectly, in part, incompletely.  During this year of prayer, I keep coming face to face with that fact nearly every week (if not every day).  There are major limiters to my knowledge, gifting, love and ability.  Yet God, Who is Perfect Now, knows me perfectly now.  There is no shortage in His knowledge, even though there is shortage in mine.  I believe that better than anyone else ever has, Jesus lived from this place, when He walked the earth, of being fully known and loved by God.  And I've been living from my short-hand knowledge, not the fully, free-flowing script of God's love.  All my attention has been on how I come up short, not the completeness of the God I serve.

But no longer.  I no longer choose to live from the place of my lack.  I don't want to pray in a grasping, unsure way.  I want to rest and let it flow as it comes - whether that is in word, song or just silence.  What keeps getting me though is that God's love is perfect....all of His Ways are perfect.  And His perfect love loves us completely even when we are completely imperfect!

It's love so undeniable I can hardly speak.
It's peace so unexplainable I can hardly think.
As you call me....deeper still.
Into love...love...love..

Courtesy of Rev Christian Washington
Some folks turn their noses up at contemplative prayer practices, saying they are only about the individual.  I agree when contemplation doesn't turn into conversion, conviction or connection with others.  I think Jesus went to those lonely places in His heart where He could open Himself up and let all the weights, cares and burdens of being the Messiah fall away - and as they fell, He was fully restored and empowered to live His mission.  It was after that communion He could walk with such power, forgiveness, strength and humility.  He could do the Father's work because He had the Father's heart - for Himself and others.  Such is the place I want to learn to live from.....that I'm starting to learn to live from.  Soaking up the goodness of my Good Good Father and going back to that well whenever the need arises.

What if we all started to live from that place? 

You are a Good Good Father...
It's who You are.
And I'm loved by You....
It's who I am.

It's a revolutionary thought.  If we stopped trying to do what Jesus did, never quite measuring up and rest in being fully known....then we could really let Him work through us.  It wouldn't be hard, stuff would just happen.  It's promised that way.

You are perfect in all of Your ways....to us.