Monday, July 28, 2014

Fear Not

Often on Monday mornings, I'll sit down at my computer and scroll through new posts on facebook. (I know that much can be said against this particular social media site, but I still love it. With friends scattered all around the world, and having resolved to use the platform for good, it's a very useful tool.) Too often to call it a coincidence, I've noticed a theme emerge - one that seems to speak directly to whatever need I have in my life at the time. Today, it's fear.

I've experienced so much growth and renewal and freedom and change in the past months that it's becoming a little overwhelming. Welcome, no question, but so much to process and assimilate and apply to my life... It would seem, however, that God has me right where He wants me, and is calling me to a specific task. To be truthful, He's been calling for awhile. In fact, a few years ago, Chris and I heard the call and got all excited about it and had big dreams and made big plans...and then we got scared. And instead of following the path we knew God was calling us to walk, we took a safer, less risky route (or so it appeared at the time) and failed to answer the call.

Well, God is a God of grace and mercy and perfect timing and patience and persistence and more grace. He never gave up on us, never withdrew the call, never turned His back and walked away from us. On the contrary, He kept on growing us and testing us and challenging us and changing us, shaping us and preparing us to take up the task. Which brings us to the present. Seabreeze, to be exact.

We believe God is calling us to start a ministry. We believe God wants us uprooted Maritimers to write books and blogs, songs and stories that bring refreshment and hope and encouragement to the Church through worship and the Word, and to help empower and equip God's people to fulfill God's call in their own lives. In short, we want to share our God stories.

Part of me is so excited! This is what I was made to do! I find such joy and satisfaction and energy in writing to encourage and leading in worship and telling God stories! I'm thrilled at the thought of doing this for a living!

But...there's also a lot of fear. I'll have to ask people for things: financial and prayer support, bookings, and many more things I haven't even thought of yet, I'm sure...I hate asking people for things, or potentially putting them out in any way - remnants of my people-pleasing penchant. And in addition to that, which in my mind is a very significant obstacle, there are all these doubts and questions that continually nag at me since we've made this leap of faith: Am I too fat to be credible? Too messed up to be trusted? Too honest to be palatable? Too undisciplined to finish the task? Too lazy to actually write a book to its completion? Too insecure to do the humbling work of recording a CD? Can I really do this?  Will God really provide? Is this really what He wants?

One thing I do know, God doesn't wait until we're perfect, until we've arrived, to use us. He comes and equips us and anoints us in the middle of our messes and in spite of our shortcomings and questions and fears and doubts (and often because of them), He blesses and ministers and allows us to be His hands and feet and arms and voice in the world, for His glory. I'm not the best singer in the world, but God's given me a voice and songs to sing. I'm not the best writer or speaker, but He's given me a story and the words with which to share it. If I've learned anything at all on this journey, it's that God can and does work in me and through me, just as I am - the real Joy. :)








Friday, July 4, 2014

Yoke

I'm sitting here at my little yellow writing desk, gazing past my computer screen at the lego-strewn living room, enjoying a cool breeze as the sun begins to set on a hot summer day, inhaling the tantalizing scent of the vanilla candle beside me - content, satisfied; reflecting on the past few weeks.


I still can hardly believe the change that has taken place in my heart, my life and my family - miraculous is the only word that comes close to describing it. My husband and I were discussing the change in me and resulting shift that has taken place in our relationship the other night and he said, "These have been the best weeks of your life, haven't they?" and I realized that he was right!


I don't think I can overstate the difference it makes to know and really believe that God is for me, is on my side, isn't mad at me, doesn't hold me to unattainable expectations - loves me personally, unconditionally, exactly as I am... It sickens me now to think how insidiously these lies about Him invaded the private sanctuary of my heart; and how long I allowed them to remain and fester and grow.


I was just about to write that it wasn't until my shame was lifted and disposed of that I could receive God's love, but upon closer examination of my experience, it was God who made the first move - it's always God first. While I was still all wrapped up in my cloak of shame, God came along side me and began to soften my heart. Almost against my conscious will, He stepped in and tenderly wrapped His arms around me and whispered words of love and acceptance and peace; something in me just seemed to melt. I'd never experienced His presence in that way before - affection, warmth, comfort, intimacy (oh, how I used to hate and fear that word!); no hint of judgement or expectation or evaluation...No, wait - there was evaluation; I felt deep in my soul that I was deemed utterly worthy by the only One whose opinion counts, finally freed to accept the love that He has always wanted to lavish on me.


I often wonder, if it's God who must always make the first move, if it's He who must cause us to "will and to act according to His good purpose" (Philippians 2:13); why He doesn't, in the wise words of the Nike commercials, just do it?! If it was God who needed to soften my heart so that I could accept His love, why didn't He do it years ago? Why not when I was a new Christian at the age of 6? Why not then, before the mantle of shame became so deeply embedded? I can only conclude that God cares more for His glory and my good and my growth than my immediate comfort and convenience. This is true love. What a story I have to share now - and it's not even finished yet!



As I struggle to believe that this amazing change in my life is for real, that it might actually last - I've been drawn to this verse again and again:
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves
be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
(Galatians 5:1)

Christ has set me free, there's no denying that, but I can definitely bear witness to the fact that it is far too easy to become burdened again by a yoke of slavery. This verse tells me that, though it's God who does the freeing, I also play a part in my continued freedom. I get to choose what yoke I will wear; I can choose to allow myself to be burdened again - or not! And it's a choice that must be made deliberately, intentionally, daily, sometimes hourly or minute-by-minute...And since I get to choose, I pick this one:
 “Come to me,
all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart,
 and you will find rest for your souls.
 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
(Matthew 11:28-30, NIV)

And, since many of us have heard these particular words so often that they cease to carry any meaning, I'll leave you with another expression of this beautiful and freedom-giving truth:

“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.”
(Matthew 11:28-30, The Message)

Ah, to "learn the unforced rhythms of grace"; to "live freely and lightly" - therein lies real joy!













Friday, June 27, 2014

A Very Happy Anniversary!

In a few days, I will be celebrating my 16th wedding anniversary. This, my friends, is nothing short of a miracle! I'm usually very careful not to drag the issues of my family members into my musings here, but my husband has agreed to a certain amount of revelation for the sake of encouragement and truth.


We became aware of our issues pretty early on in our marriage, but bumbled unhappily along for years, occasionally trying to make changes. It became a pattern, every couple of years or so, to have a huge blow-up of some kind, then the talking and crying and praying and vowing that things would be different this time...but nothing ever really changed.


Well, we finally accepted the fact that we needed outside help to sort through our issues; that we simply couldn't carry on like this anymore. It was do or die, as far as we were concerned. And so, we started seeing a counsellor, much to our shame and embarrassment at the time. It wasn't too far into our sessions that our counsellor determined that she needed to see me on my own for a bit. (Chris has been bravely and deliberately dealing with his issues for the last 4 years and growing like crazy - I guess I had some catching up to do :) )


Turns out that this was exactly what was needed. Thanks to a wise and Spirit-guided counsellor, I found out all kinds of things that had to be identified, confessed, and broken off. So many lies I'd been believing for so long that they were before now undetectable, about myself and God especially. Underlying all of this was a heavy load of shame, so much a part of me that it had essentially become my identity; the filter by which I viewed and lived all of my life.


 Then, this wise woman had me picture in my mind exactly what this shame looked like that has been covering me and negatively affecting everything from self-image to relationships for most of my life. (I've mentioned here in a previous post how God revealed this shame thing to me a few months ago, and that I'd made some progress in understanding the issue but very little in overcoming it.) As skeptical as I might be about this kind of exercise, a picture came to me immediately - a huge, filthy, heavy, tattered, grimy, suffocating blanket wrapped tightly around me, covering me from head to toe.  We then asked God to take it and destroy it once and for all and replace it with His truth. And He did! She asked me what He had replaced it with, and I saw another picture right away: myself in a garment of sparkling, glowing, glittering white; perfectly fitted and beautiful! This vision, this gift, and the unbounded love and absolute acceptance that accompanied it, reduced me to tears of pure delight. It was an amazing experience, and I left full of joy and feeling free as I never had before, but still underneath it all a nagging doubt that it couldn't last, that I couldn't really change...


The next morning, the shame was still gone, the freedom was still there - much to my surprise and delight! On my way home from driving my son to school, I was singing and praying and rejoicing in this beautiful freedom, when God clearly spoke. He asked me what was holding me back now from forgiving my husband (and myself) for the past and fully engaging in this marriage relationship. I had no answer - NOTHING was holding me back! It was like a rebirth.


And without going into too much detail, the days since that day have been AMAZING! While we're both a bit wary lest it fade, we're trusting God to help our unbelief and sustain us in all this wonderful change. Real joy, indeed!