Sunday, February 26, 2012

You Never Know Where You'll Find Inspiration

“It’s been a ride.
I guess I had to go to that place to get to this one.
Now some of you might still be in that place; you’re trying to get out.
Just follow me. I’ll get you there.”

“I’m not afraid.
To take a stand.
Everybody, come take my hand.
We’ll walk this road together.
Through the storm.
Whatever weather, cold or warm.
Certainly know, you’re not alone.
Holler if you feel like you’ve been down the same road. “

“And I just can’t keep living this way, so starting today
I’m breaking out of this cage
I’m standing up, Imma face my demons
I’m manning up, Imma hold my ground.
I’ve had enough, I’m so fed up. Trying to put my life together right now.”

You will never guess where I got those lyrics. I’m afraid to tell you.  Right now I’m sitting in a parking lot in the Tri-Cities waiting for my daughter’s next soccer game.  On the way to the tournament she played a “pump up” CD that a teammate had made her to “get pumped up for the tournament.”  One of the songs was written my none other than Eminem, a rapper notorious for the number of expletives that pepper his songs. He’s also well known for having quite a difficult childhood, sort of a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” kid. I am admittedly, very sensitive to foul language, and because of his language I have judged him.  And then I sat in the car and really listened to this song. I’ve only picked out a few verses and ones without language (and there was a lot).  But as I heard this I felt a totally unexpected connection to him. He said out loud things that I have been feeling recently. In the past month I’ve gone for prayer twice and I feel the awakening of change. I’m starting to realize the black cloud of sickness I’ve been living under for so long. It has colored my thinking so much that I couldn’t even see it anymore. “And I just can’t keep living this way, so starting today; I’m breaking out of this cage.” Those have been my exact thoughts.

I should not judge a fellow sojourner. We all walk this road together, through the storm. Our “demons” may be very different, but the human condition is something we share. I am most fortunate to know The One who can really make a difference, and I prayed for Eminem today. He said, “Holler if you’ve been down the same road.” I say back to him….”Holler.” 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lent Is Upon Us

Lent started yesterday. People are giving up all sorts of things. My daughter’s giving up Facebook and all computer related video. For her, that will be a big sacrifice! The theme for me this lent is “Be still and know that I am God.”  Still in this case means to cease from striving. Know means to know experientially. I want to cease from striving and know God personally this lent season differently than I have before.  

Be still. Cease from striving. I’ve made a conscious effort every day this week cease from striving. This means that one morning I sat in the bathroom at school and prayed until I calmed down when I realized I was all tense.  It means that I’ve had to make quite a few choices to take a deep breath and relax.  It means I’ve cried out to God for help frequently! God is so good. He is hearing my cries and helping me do something I’ve never really done before. I’ve always been wound a little tight, driven towards the next goal. But it hasn’t been very helpful for my health and it is wearing me down. I have felt powerless to fix this. But God is big enough and I am changing. 

Know God experientially. This one is a little tricky. How do you know God? Especially experientially? In an attempt to put myself in a position to know God better, I have been spending time in solitude with the Lord. Here’s what it’s looked like. I’ve gone off by myself.  I’ve turned off all the music and the noise and I’ve just sat with Him. I don’t even really try and pray. I talk with Him some, but not steady. I imagine us both sitting companionably on a park bench, not saying much, being together. It’s hard to do sometimes, but I want to give my time to the Lord to be His companion, to offer myself.  “I’m here. I’m willing to know you, God. This time is yours. I value you.”  I hope He is blessed.  

Psalm 46:10 (NKJV)
Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Cares of This Life

I knew that something was wrong and I didn’t know how to fix it, but I felt trapped in a cycle I couldn’t get out of. I felt sick, which made me worried and preoccupied with being sick and worrying about what was wrong. That was upsetting and I was sad and preoccupied and just plain not feeling good.  No surprise, but I haven’t been very joyful.  I went to Healing Rooms in Spokane for prayer and God spoke some things to me.  The people praying for me didn’t know about this downward spiral but thankfully, God did. And He wanted to help (Because that’s just the way He is.)  Some things that they said were divinely inspired, because I hadn't talked about it with them.

They said several things to me as they prayed. One thing they suggested was that I turn my brain off, quit analyzing and trying to figure everything out. I needed to get my mind off of my earthly cares and shift my focus to God and heavenly things. I could not fix my circumstances but God could. I don’t have the strength, I can’t do it on my own, but He can. I need to trust Him and rest in Him.  They also said that the feeling I had that my best days were behind me wasn’t true, that the best days are ahead of me.  I admit, I cried when I heard that one, because it was true. I had been thinking that exact thing.

When I left I had hope. I believe that God understands my circumstances and cares. I believe He is going to help me. I felt like a load was lifted off of my back! I’ve made a conscious decision NOT to let myself get all caught up in “what ifs” and concerns since then and that’s been incredibly freeing.

The cool thing is I have been able to successfully avoid negative thinking and embrace heaven minded thoughts. God is giving me the strength to do what I desire to do.  It’s easy to get caught up in the cares of this world. But they do not bring life to our souls. Sometimes we need to lift our vision higher.

Mark 4: 19-20 (NKJV)
“…and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.” 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Most Important Relationship 7 - Take the Challenge

So, do you want to play a game? I've got one for you. When I was in my early twenties and struggling some in my relationship with the Lord, a mentor of mine gave me an assignment. She said, “Go to the Lord and ask Him to share something with you. Ask Him to pick an object that reminds Him of you.  Then ask Him why it reminds Him of you.”  I did it. I went home and spent time with the Lord and at some point during the next week I felt like I heard.  Sadly, I was kind of disappointed. In my mind it wasn't very cool or special. I wanted it to be splashy, like jewel or something.

Want to know what it was?  The word God gave me was heart.  Well, I didn’t like that at all. I pictured a big throbbing blob of blood and meat. It wasn’t pretty or showy. (Isn’t that sad that we don’t always appreciate what we have and we wish for what we don’t have.  It’s certainly been a problem for me.)  God said that I had HIS heart. That I was driven by a compassionate heart. That we were of one heart.  That I could trust my heart and that He would continue to make my heart more like His.  That we connected at the heart. That the heart of the matter would always be important to me.

Little did I know as a 20 something that those words would in many ways define my adult life.  I’ve had people actually say some of those phrases to me, totally unaware of their significance.  It’s no accident that this blog is entitled, “Here the Heart Lies”. Probably no accident that when God started speaking to me about a blog He wanted me to share what was on my heart and what I felt like He was speaking to my heart. 

I have a challenge for you. Try this little exercise. See what you hear. Then tell someone you trust who can confirm what you’ve heard. It may change your life!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Most Important Relationship 6 - Confirmation

Last week I was talking to a friend and giving her the update on my life. I told her about some of the health issues I’d been struggling with and she said a bit remorsefully. “God told me to pray for you. I had no idea you were having trouble. But God told me to pray.” She was feeling badly, but I was excited for her! The thing she felt she was hearing from the Lord was confirmed to her and that is awesome.  If you want to learn to hear from God you have to do a few things. First of all, you need to pray for the Lord to speak to you. Secondly, you need to take the big risk and write down what you believe you are hearing. Next, you need to pray that the Lord brings confirmation to the words you heard.  Finally, you have to trust that the Lord does indeed want to speak to you and He’s going to help you learn to hear his voice.

This summer I was praying and I felt the Lord really challenge me to pray for the lost in our city. Now I’ve got to confess here, I am not a great prayer of vague prayers. I’m good with specific people, specific issues. I’ve not spent much time praying for the unnamed, unsaved.  But this summer, God prompted me to do so and I was obedient. This school year our church has seen a huge amount of growth. Guess what? We've had a much greater number of unsaved people coming to Christ than we've ever had before.  I’d love to take all the credit, but I can’t. What I can say is that God wanted to do something in Pullman. He looked around for someone who would hear from Him and pray His agenda. He found me. I prayed. He moved.  Not just because of my prayers, but I know my prayers were a part of His moving. I got to partner with Him because I heard His voice. This was a moment of confirmation for me! I thought God spoke something to me and I acted on it. He showed me later that He was in fact speaking to me. Pray for confirmation in what you’re hearing. Pray that God would teach you to hear. He wants us to hear Him.  

John 10:27 (NKJV)
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Most Important Relationship 5 - It's Worth the Risk

I’ve touched on supernatural things. God has spoken to me clearly in ways I cannot deny.  I went through a season where God spoke specifically to me about the needs of people. The church I went to had a time during the service to pray for needs. If a person felt like God was leading them to pray for a certain illness or need, they would share that burden with the congregation. Anyone who identified could raise their hand and receive prayer.  Well, God challenged me to hear from Him specifically and though it was hard and scary, I determined to do my best. One of my favorite stories goes like this:

We had a Wednesday evening service that I usually attended. However, on this night I was tired and busy and decided not to go. But I couldn’t shake the thought that God wanted me to go and share a specific word to someone who needed ministry. I kept wrestling with the idea, trying to convince myself that God was not speaking to me. Finally, unable to shake the feeling that God wanted me to be there, I left for church. I was concerned at this point because it was late and worship was already in full swing. It would look like I just popped in to give this Word of Knowledge like I was some prima donna. Ugh. I had to do this.  I got to church and felt the Lord’s urgency. If I didn’t get in there soon it would be too late. I ran across the parking lot and into the church, out of breath and sort of in a panic. I felt like He was directing me to calm down and look to the left side of the church. I was standing in the back and could only see the backs of people. The Lord pointed out a girl I didn’t know in a blue sweatshirt. “Her.” He told me what the problem was and I went to the microphone at the proper time. My heart was pounding in my chest. I'd made it, but just barely. This is what I shared, “You are struggling with stomach pain. This is a new problem and has gotten worse lately. It’s related to anxiety and something that is upsetting you. The Lord wants you to know how much He loves you and how much He cares about you and what you are going through.” The woman burst into tears as we all prayed for her.

After the service she came up to me and told me her story.  She had married her husband the day before he left for Iraq. He had been gone for a long time but recently returned to the states and was staying at Fairchild in Spokane. It was actually harder for her now to have him so close and yet so far away. She had just talked to him that morning and told him about her stomach pain. He thought at the time that it was anxiety related to their situation. So when I showed up and told her how much God loved her and how much He cared….it blew her away. I absolutely love my God so much. He really does care. This story is proof of that. 

So, learning to hear from God involves risk. It’s scary. We can be wrong. But it can also be amazing. It’s worth the risk. Let’s risk.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Most Important Relationship 4 - Listening to God

Do you ever feel like God set you up? I’m feeling that way today! I said in my last post that I’d talk about hearing from the Lord, and today I’m desperately trying to hear from Him! A professor approached me and offered me the opportunity to take a two year’s leave of absence, work on a grant and get my doctorate. I have to tell them tomorrow.  

It’s hardest to hear those yes or no answers from God. In fact, when I think about listening to God, life altering decisions really aren’t the place to start.

So where do you start? I started with my spiritual journal. I started by writing to God in my notebook in one color and writing down what I felt He was saying to me in another color. The biggest roadblock to putting your pen to the paper is the fear of being wrong. How do I know this is God? We all face it. But we have to start somewhere. How do we learn if we never try?

There are things we can do to gain confidence that we are hearing from the Lord.

First of all, what you feel you are hearing from God needs to line up with scripture. If it isn’t in line with the Bible, then it isn’t God.  So, if you hear God tell you He loves you, then you should believe it because that is also what the Word says. It’s truth!!

Secondly, if you feel like the Lord is giving you direction, it’s always a good thing to tell someone you trust. If it’s the Lord, it will bear the scrutiny of others. An objective third party can give support to that word or bring caution.

Thirdly, when I feel like the Lord is speaking something specific to me, like maybe something that is related to the future, then one thing I make sure to do is focus on God and not that word. In fact, I set the word aside and wait to see what happens. If the word is from the Lord, then He will bring it to pass in time and show me why I needed to hear that word. If it isn’t from the Lord, then it’s just a distraction that I don’t need to become focused upon.  It’s easy to try and cling to something that we really hope happens. But we should only cling to God.  We can be wrong, but He is never wrong.

If I do these things, then I protect myself from getting caught up in something that isn’t the Lord. Over the years I have learned a great deal about hearing His voice. And that’s because I picked up my pen, clicked to red and started writing. Practice makes perfect! So I’d encourage you to write to the Lord, and let Him speak back to you. J