March 13, 2017

The Best Tomato Soup

While I was in Uganda, I was blessed to know and be in community with several missionaries who came from the IHOP-Atlanta community.  The Sheehees were one of these families; they are the primary leaders of the school I worked at.  This dear family arranged a sending dinner gathering for me and one other volunteer who left on the same day.  All the missionaries and several of our local friends got together for a wonderful meal and some time of prayer as we prepared to leave the following day.  It was a really special time.  Will Sheehee gave me a prophetic word about John 14:8--Show us the Father and that will be enough for us.  He said that God is revealing the Father to me in a way that far surpasses my previous knowledge and understanding of Him.  And that I would hold my heart and all its contents out to the Father and His embrace would heal it more every day.  Even before Will shared this word of encouragement to me, I knew that God was slowly and gently touching me with this part of Himself.  My initial response was just to receive the words, pray into them, and invite God to fulfill it as He saw fit in this season.  I tucked the paper in my Bible next to the passage and pulled it out every so often.

I had more or less tucked it away for a later by the time I got to IHOP in January--that is until we had a class within the first couple weeks about the Father heart of God.  The class focused on reconciling with our fathers and with God, identify the lies we had projected onto God as a result of the pain many of our fathers have caused our hearts, rebuke them, and receive truth of who God is and act in forgiveness toward our earthly fathers.  As I sat in this class, I felt so discouraged because how are you supposed to reconcile with someone who isn't alive anymore?  The teacher suggested that I start meeting with another leader here to try to do some father reconciliation.

I set up this meeting and the ball started rolling on this receiving new revelation about the Father God during this season.  I don't think I have received all of what God wants me to know about Himself in light of this identity of His but I'm being changed.  I made a decision just moments before deciding to share these thoughts with you that I need to stop projecting on God what my father did in his life as my dad.  I have projected evil actions on the Lord, I have blamed the Lord, I have held a grudge against the Lord, I have misjudged God Almighty. These are all so wrong!  I have chosen to repent and walk into renewing my thoughts and words as I talk about my Father God and allow Him to renew my heart.

I have recently been convicted by the power of words.  I have not stewarded my words as well as I should since well, forever and it is time to pay attention to what I say and not let any idle or perverse talk out of my mouth but only what is right and good for building others up, including myself and God.  I need to speak only what is truth and the lies that I believe need to be rebuked.  For example: I've lost count the number of times that I have said I don't trust God or I struggle to trust Him.  While there are times that it might be true, I need to tell myself to trust Him and identify the areas that I do trust Him rather than focusing on the fact that it's struggle.  Words have power and I don't think I realize just how much even now.    

One of the most powerful and challenging things I have done in the prayer room this entire internship was to take some time to ask Father three questions and list to and write down His response.  The three questions are: What does He think about me?  What does He feel about me? How does He see me?  I spent an entire afternoon listening, writing, and crying at His feet as I let His words penetrate my heart filled with lies.  I have not dedicated enough time to continuously meditating on what He spoke over me but I have not experienced Father's love in quite that way before.  I never realized how much I need words of affirmation from Him and how powerful they are to the heart when I know that they are for real.

My Father delights in me.  He wants to spend time with me.  He wants to hear what I have to say.  He likes me.  He thinks I look good.  He thinks I'm smart and beautiful.  He applauds my successes and loves the things that I'm good at.  He likes to talk about me and thinks about me and prays for me.  He likes the things I like and wants to be a part of my life, my decisions, and my activities.  He takes care of me even when I feel like I'm not being taken care of, He still is.  Does Father not know how to give good gifts to me?  He has provided seamlessly for all that I need exactly when I need it.  He has never failed me.  The more I learn about Father and spend time with Him and talk with Him, the more I want Him to be a part of my life and the less negative my perspective is of Him.

After being in the internship for a couple months, I was in the prayer room and asked God to show me a memory that He wanted to heal my heart through.  I recalled when I was young at a New Years Eve party and got hit in the face with hockey puck.  Not a fun time.  There were two memories related to this incident.  The first that came to my mind was a few days after the injury and I was at home.  My right cheeks was so swollen it was hard to move/open my mouth and when I smiled, half my face drooped.  My dad was a great cook and he made me some tomato soup that I could drink with a straw.  I remember sitting at the kitchen table and noticed that he made the tomato soup with milk.  Weird, mom never did that.  But he explained that it was way better with milk--says the farmer... ;)  He was right, tomato soup is so much better with milk.

What I got out of that memory was this, dad loved me somewhere in there.  I have allowed myself to believe for far too long that if he loved me, he would still be alive today and wouldn't have abandoned our family.  Despite the darkness that took over, there was somewhere in him that loved me and wanted to provide and take care of me.  And he wanted the "best" for me--even if it was only tomato soup.  The gesture is forever sealed on my mind and now is a special memory to hold close to my heart.  The one that God used to reveal to me that not only did my dad love me, but He loves me so much greater than I can know and wants the best tomato soup and the best of all else for me.

The other memory was the night I actually got hit.  Now, bear with me, it's possibly that I don't have all the details right but I remember it like this.  I was ice skating around the perimeter of the outdoor rink and others at the party were playing hockey in the center.  No I wasn't the only one skating on the same rink as a hockey game.  Poor set up yes.  But that's what happens in little country towns in Vermont.  All of a sudden, whack!  A puck nailed my right cheek bone and just missed my eye.  I felt the instant pain that made my knees buckle and felt myself scream and begin to collapse.  Someone came up behind me and caught me from under my arms and tucked me in close and we skated to the shelter.  Or rather, I was held up from behind and my dad did all the skating.  I knew it was him even though I couldn't see him.  I felt his strength and safety despite the throbbing pain that consumed my whole face.  He held me while others put ice on my face and tried to calm me down.

Again, my dad loved me.  But this time, he loved me with his strength and safety and tenderness.  I have few memories of my dad, and most are not happy but again, this one will be forever seared on my heart as the time that God showed me, my father wasn't always dangerous.  He loved me and wanted to take care of me and keep me safe and when I was in trouble, would come out of nowhere and carry me to shelter and tend my wounds.  This is an accurate picture of my dad's heart and my Father's heart that I had allowed to smothered out by dark memories, grief, anger, and unforgiveness.

This revelation cannot be undone.  This is my Father's heart and my dad's heart redeemed in my soul and mind.  I did not know my dad well, but now I know him better.  I did not know my Father above well, but now I understand a part of Him that I couldn't have known before now.  I want to invite you to invite God into your memory and let Him redeem lies and heal you with truth.  It will change your life.

March 1, 2017

A few reflections on the greatest song ever written.

The fire hose has continued or rather intensified which, come to think of it, is why I haven't gotten around to writing about this last month.

Many of the things God has been doing in my life over the last month feel so personal and not to be shared with the whole world.  However, I want to take this time to share about one aspect of how the Lord has been moving in me.

"You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you." Song of Songs 4:7 (ESV)

If you have never studied in depth over an extended period of time, I strongly recommend it.  Your heart and mind and emotions toward God and toward yourself will be transformed and aligned with Biblical truth.  It's one of those awkward sounding books that is just too personal, romantic, and uncomfortable and yet it speaks of what is in God's heart towards us and, if we're honest with ourselves, long to find in relationship with a husband or wife no matter how independent or satisfied or wounded we might be.  We were created for deep love and we inherited that from a God who has unified Himself with three persons and if we will receive Him, with the entire human race.  God is tender and romantic and emotional and so are we (yes guys, even you are too at times).

I have been attending a class every Monday night about Song of Solomon.  Its affects have impacted my heart deeply with every week.  The first chapter contains deep language of how God sees and feels about us; His desire and love for us.  One of the most defining and challenging verses is this "I am very dark, but lovely." Song of Songs 1:5 (ESV)  I wish I could break all the verses and symbols down for you but I just want to encourage you to read it and study it and meditate on it and let the words sink deep into your soul.  I have found myself in a lot of darkness and self condemnation as God shows me my unresolved wounds and mistakes and ways that my past is still defining me.  As I spend time engaging with Him in prayer and talking things out with peers and leaders, God keeps plucking away at the lies that I didn't even know I believed.  But God sees me as lovely regardless of the issues and wounds in my life.  I look at His glorious self and wonder how this can be but in the end, choose to soak in it until it transforms my heart and mind.  It hasn't happened yet but the work has begun.

In the second chapter I was deeply struck with what happens.  I identified with and needed to receive the message God had for me in the first chapter but as we studied the next one, I realized how closely it was speaking of my own life.  There was a period in my life when I lived out chapter one.  I received God's love in a way I never had before and responded with desire to be close to Him.  And then God called me to go with him to the mountains.  To walk the high and hard road with Him and I lacked the faith and trust to follow.  God can do the impossible and He will call me to greater heights as I live life for Him but sometimes it is big and scary and I just can't say yes.  It's not a no out of rebellion but out of fear and immaturity in my faith.  Been there done that.   I would guess though that most people do at least once in their lives.  For some reason, I say I'll never do certain things and very often those are the very things God tells me to do.  But it's God's response to my "no" that impacted me.  He goes to the mountains without me but He never rebukes or condemns me.  He just waits as I walk through my wilderness.

I realize and experience God's silence and waiting with pain and with longing and with increased maturity in my faith and trust in Him.  For some reason when I didn't accept the first offer, I started to realize what was before me and when I can't feel or see Him, I long for Him with every ounce of my being.  I have recently walked through this wilderness it was a long treacherous one though thankfully not 40 years.  Two years is long enough for my liking though.  God remained present through it and there would be times He would show up and continued to lead me.  Without fail, He continued to draw me closer to Himself but it was so subtle I didn't even notice until more recently.  I feel like in this season, I am experiencing the fear and surprise and risk and excitement of Him coming to me as He did in chapter three.  He has arrived at my house with a wedding procession to take me with Him and I have accepted but with trepidation.  He is now challenging me to just say yes to Him.  To go deeper and higher with Him in love, in power and in relationship.  It's hard.  So hard.  But despite the difficulty, I have loved it and wouldn't trade this season for anything.