Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Stop it, drop it, and pray

Recently I wrote of being increasingly aware of my sinful heart's condition. It is one of the seasons, where the Lord starts to highlight areas He wants to work on us and purify us. For me, and I'm assuming others, it always start with an increased awareness of my own 'wretchedness'. It is seeing the sin in my life, that I cry out for relief and help to clean up this area, yet the Lord usually takes a while to respond.
He lets me get very uncomfortable and down-right desperate for His touch in that area of compromise, He also lets me try all my own good ideas first and lets them fail also. Then, when I'm good and ready for Him, He shows up and gives me some insight.
Well one of the areas I am dealing with is anger. I seem to suddenly have a lot of it, and I don't remember having much in the past. Little things tip it off, and before I know it I'm almost seething inside for no apparent reason. I hold a lot of what I'm thinking inside, so when I say this, people are mostly shocked, but it is the truth. I have anger issues, yes I do.
I have also been trying to figure out what to do about it. Asking the Lord to give me more patience, wisdom, and love hasn't seem to answer the need. I've asked Him to give me a happy heart, a heart that is content, and a whole host of other things which I thought would be the remedy, but I'm still dealing with flare ups of rage almost daily.
So I cried out for the Lord to break in and have His way with me, whatever needs to happen, do it! I was brought to this breaking point after having house guests for three weekends in a row. If that doesn't tip the scales of 'I'm in control and can figure this out on my own' to 'I'm a poor miserable wretch who needs You'.
I was so anxious and frustrated in my heart by the time I got to the prayer room the morning after the last set of house guests left, that I was almost physically sick. So I told the Lord that I needed His touch if I was going to be any use to anyone. I waited, and waited, and waited, and refused to be satisfied until I felt Him. So He came and touched me, and it was tangible.
I could feel His peace wash from the top of my head and work it's way into my heart. In all of 5 minutes, my heart was calm, I was thinking clearly and I felt such happiness and contentment, I cried, just a little, and then I said, Lord what did you do?
That is when the answer to my anger was revealed. It was rooted in fear. That is what my anxiousness was about too, fear. I'm  not entirely sure what specific kind of fear, but just fear of something, and I know that fear is never from the Lord. This fear had been driving me to go, do, be and live beyond my own strength and therefore I was exhausted and anxious.
So He told me what the anger was from, but not how to deal with it. Several days passed before Holy Spirit showed me how to overcome that fear and anxiety.
I was cooking dinner and my two year old came to me and ask me to look at something. I brushed her off, like usual, because I was way too busy with dinner to stop for her. She wailed in protest and kept at me, and the anger came., In the next moment, Holy Spirit whispered, stop, you have time to spend with your daughter. I protested a little to that suggestion, but then I saw my foolishness and stopped cooking, went to the living room and spent a few minutes with my daughter. I also prayed in the Spirit against that spirit of fear in me, and spoke truth to myself. Truth casts out all fear.
After, I went back to making dinner, it was finished on time, and I had a happier heart at the end of cooking than when I had began.
So that is my story for today. If there is something in your life that is causing compromise, like anger, ask the Lord what to do about it. Wait for Him to actually answer, because He will, and then walk it out. He may tell you what it is and then take a couple of days to show you how to actually walk out the solution, but He will supply you with what you need to overcome any struggles in your life. Trust Him for the answer and be encouraged, you are dearly loved by the Lord Jesus!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sleeping like a Baby

I've been on a journey for about three months now of eliminating caffeine in my life, mostly from the coffee source since I still welcome the occasional chocolate bar. Before this journey began, I was drinking between 2-3 cups of extra bold Sumatra coffee. It is by far the best coffee I have ever loved as far as home brewing goes.
Well, I was starting to notice that it was taking more and more coffee to keep me going throughout the day, and I didn't like the money it was taking to support my coffee habit. So I started making rules for myself. Starting with no coffee after 2pm, not even decaf. That was hard to stick to, since my afternoon drag usually hit around 3pm.
Once I had mostly mastered that rule though, I moved on to a harder one, only one cup of coffee in the morning and none in the afternoon, and if I slipped in the afternoon, it could only be decaf. (that last part was included because our lovely friends the Harrigans sometimes serve decaf after dinner on Thursdays and I love a warm cup with company).
Next came switching to half-caf coffee, but that was a total flop because only Folgers makes a premixed half-caf and it is terrible. So when we got a new roommate and he started brewing the coffee in the morning he would make the good stuff and I just couldn't resist.
So the next plan of attack, which happen quite by accident is that our roommate jumped on board and we started a slow weaning process. It started with 30% decaf Sumatra coffee mixed with 70% Costa Rican coffee and we worked our way to our current ratio of 40% Costa Rican and 60% decaf Sumatra. 
I got to say, I have been sleeping amazing at night and waking up ready for my day. I haven't slept this good since before I was pregnant with Kalei, so almost two years with crummy sleep. 
I will admit, it took a little while for my body to adjust, but now that it has, I love the results. By Dec. 1st my goal is to be on decaf Sumatra 100%.
If you have ever wanted to kick caffeinated coffee, I suggest the method we are using now, and the key is to find a good tasting decaf to substitute with, since I still love the taste of coffee, and could never part with it altogether. 
So with that I tip my mug to you.

Monday, November 15, 2010

My LIVE Christmas Tree

Well, everyone, I decorated for Christmas for my birthday. I just couldn't stand it another day, and my mother was in town, so it made me especially feel like being creative and crafty and sharing it with her. So on my special day we went shopping and I picked out a wreath for our front door and picked up a few new ornaments.

Still, the tree I had been using in recent years was pitifully small for our new rental house (less than 2 feet tall), so I asked Ken if we could get a bigger tree. He asked if we would get a live one or a fake one. I couldn't really decide, but I felt like it was frivolous to splurge on a cut tree when 'technically' my old fake tree from Peoria was still in storage at my parents house and could be transported to Kansas City somehow, I was sure.

Then one of our room mates suggested a brilliant alternative, and one I love especially as a horticulturalist. He suggested a live tree. You know, one with roots still attached and in a pot, one which was natural looking for it had never been shorn at the tree farm. Oh I loved the idea of it, and the best part being that if it survives the winter in our heated house we can plant it out in the yard and enjoy it forever (or at least as long as we live at the house).

So, it being early November, all the nurseries around here are trying to sell off their tree stock at up to 50% to make way for all the cut Christmas trees that they ship in for the season. After looking at was available in the pot size however, we decided they were pretty dinky, so we splurged on a 5' Norway Spruce in the balled and burlaped section. If you don't know what balled and burlapped means, picture a 5 foot evergree with a root ball too big for a pot, so they wrapped it in burlap.

We got a great deal on it, but it was interesting to see them load it in the van and then when we got home, I was dismayed to find it would not fit in one of my 20" fiberglass pots. The top of the root ball was 26" wide and 30" deep. When we found a make shift pot (a plastic rain barrel cut in half), it was quite a chore for Ken and our room mate, Tad, to get it in the back door.

Still, once it was all said and done, it was a gorgeous result, and better than any tree lot cut tree. It had a naturally open form with nice branching and with the windows behind it, you can see the sun shining through. It is amazingly beautiful and I don't know if I will ever be able to go back to fake/cut trees again. It stand roughly 6.5' tall (pot and all) and is decorated with ornaments starting 2.5' off the ground (to keep them away from our 1 year old's reach).

Pictures will hopefully be posted soon. Be inspired.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Quiet Time

For most of my adult life, finding quiet time with the Lord was a goal, but not a priority. I thought that it was enough to want to spend time with the Lord, even though I rarely found that time, and usually it was motivated by guilt rather than an actual desire to spend time with Him.
Recently, however, in the last year or so, I had that breakthrough in my life, and my ability to experience the presence of the Lord is somehow heightened. It was right after I had my second child, in an awakening service that the Lord came and brought deliverance to some areas of my life (you can read about it in a previous post if you like).
From that place of freedom, I have had a growing hunger for the Lord and hoping for time with the Lord is no longer acceptable. I MUST have time with Him! Some days I feel like I will cry if I don't just get away and have a few minutes with the Lord and hear from Him. It is a new reality for my Christian life, and although I still don't always 'feel' Him, I know He is there and I know that spending time with Him is key to 'feeling' Him more in the long run.
Everything I have ever read, and any note-worthy Christian teachers say this is what Christianity should look like. We should want to love the Lord above all others, we should want to spend time enough that we make time for Him, and we should notice the lack of His presence if we haven't been giving Him our attention and time.
What is kind of scary is that I use to be in ministry, considering myself 'called' by the Lord to do His work, and what is even more scary is that He would show up and encounter people when I would pray or work or evangelize. I look back now and see that I was doing ministry in His name, but I didn't really know the Lord. It was like I had had a few cool encounters in my Christian walk, and I remembered the way God felt and moved, but I hadn't felt it in a long time. In fact, when I moved to Kansas City almost 4 years ago, I had been working in a church and I was so dead inside, that when I got around people who were going hard after God, I thought they were a bunch of weirdos. I look back now and see with a sad heart that if the Lord had allowed me to remain in that place I would have been one of the ones in Matthew 7:22-23:
'Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.'
I didn't really know Him in that season, but I was working hard in His name...
I was convinced that you didn't have to run that hard after God, He would just somehow find you throughout your day and you would just someone know Him. It has been so long since I had felt the tangible presence of the Lord that I had forgotten what it felt like. It was in that early season in Kansas City that the Lord began to encounter me in dreams, and it was the beginning of my journey to awakening to the reality of my own soul.
I had been mostly dead in religion for years and as the Lord began to wake me up, He taught me how to love Him better.
First off, He showed me how to learn to love the Word - it is not always a natural response to do so. So I had to ask Him for it, and ask Him, and when I was feeling bored reading the Word, I would ask Him again, to make it come alive to me.
It eventually kicked in and now I am passionate about the Word for the first time in my life, but the key for me was realizing that it was not necessarily natural to love it first thing, but to ask for love toward His Word.
Secondly, He taught me that spending time with Him is key! Oh my goodness, I could right a whole blog about the importance of this discipline in the Christian life.*
How do you get to know someone you have never met before? How do you make friends with someone you were just introduced to? You call them up in the coming days and weeks and talk to them. You get together for lunch and make arrangements in your schedule to include them on major occasions. Your best friends, well you probably talk to them almost every day if not every day, and you make a lot of one on one appointments/calls.
So then how can we say Jesus is our best friend if we haven't talked to Him all week, or how can we say that we are His friend if we only call to talk about our day, our needs, or ask our selfish favors of Him.
Quantity does not matter as much as the quality of the time, and your flexibility is also helpful. Don't try to set aside just one hour a day and that's all He gets. If Holy Spirit is talking to you, then try to find some extra time to sit and listen to what He has to say. Being too busy is not a good excuse. I have two babies, a house to keep and a job that I work 20 hrs a week at, and I still try to tithe my time, that is 18 hrs a week**, to the Lord. Not all of it is one on one, and it doesn't always look like that, but it is my goal and I try to stick to it as best as I can, some weeks its less and sometimes its a bit more. Make a goal.
Well, I didn't intend this to be an instructional thing, but these are a couple of the important things that I have learned in the last year, and it is amazing that I have gone from a place where I relied solely on others to feed me the Word and the things of God, to where now I get just as much of a 'feeding' from a 20 min. prayer time on my own as I do on some Sunday mornings.
When I take the time to meet with Him daily, I learn more and more what His voice sounds like, and I find its so much easier to follow His leadership because I've become use to His style. I also trust Him more, because I know Him for myself (to some degree, it's a life long journey) and don't have to just rely on others to tell me what He is like.
Well, so I say all of this as an encouragement that if you haven't been finding time to spend with the Lord, it is so important that you do. Our very lives depend on knowing Him and recognizing His voice, and how can I know His voice if I haven't talk to Him in three days!
Make time for Him and His Words. You won't be disappointed. I'm loving this season of learning.

*If you feel what I have said is nothing more than religious rules, then I'm afraid you are probably where I was for years. I've learned since then that we are called to be holy, and that living a life of discipline done with a heart of love for God is not religion, but can become religious if done in the wrong spirit/motive. A fear of having a religious spirit however is not a reason to throw off discipline and healthy guidelines completely, it is only a warning to keep your heart in tune with the Lords. Ask Him what He thinks about things, I'm pretty sure He's going to say some of the same things He's already said to me about how to live a holy life.
**I say this with almost no pride, because most days it is super hard and I know there are other people who are just as busy if not busier than I am, but I do know it is worth it, and setting goals for yourself is pretty key to starting a holy discipline in your life. Be encouraged that even though it is my goal to spend 18 hrs a week, on average I am only at about 65% of reaching that goal, still it is my goal and I sometimes have to sacrifice doing fun things to keep my times with the Lord. He never leaves me disappointed though sometimes I don't see the results of the sacrifice until later! And be of good cheer, when my ability fails, that is where His grace picks up.
Got questions? post 'em in my comments.

Waiting for Christmas

So in one of my latest posts, I wrote about how much I wanted to start decorating for Christmas, and in a recent facebook post I talked about how I couldn't wait to get Thanksgiving over with already, so I could start getting ready for the Christmas season.
Well, just yesterday, as I was reading in a book I've started, 'Keep a Quiet Heart' by Elisabeth Elliot, she starts talking about the disrespect Thanksgiving gets these days and how we have a weak view of giving 'thanks' in general as a culture.
Here is a little excerpt from the book that really got me:
 'Christians, I hope, focus on something other than a roasted bird. We do have Someone to thank and a long list of things to thank Him for, but sometimes we limit our thanksgiving merely to things that look good to us....I've been thinking of something that stifles thanksgiving. It is the spirit of greed-the greed of doing, being, and having.'
Wow, it gave me a whole new perspective on the holiday. It is not just a time to think about the pilgrims and indians; it is not just the holiday right before 'black friday' where by I get all kinds of great deals on Christmas stuff. It is a holiday where I can thank the Lord for all me and my family have. A day to teach my children the power of being thankful.
Giving praise and thanks is a very powerful weapon against the spirit of greed, which runs rampant in our world today! So I have committed in my heart to try and remember that in the everyday, and pause to thank the Lord even for the small things which aren't particularly impressive, but a blessing non-the-less; like babies taking good naps or being able to find my keys!
So although I plan to still decorate soon for the Christmas season, I had a wonderful reminder from the Lord on what the spirit should be behind the Thanksgiving holiday and how it is equally worthy to be celebrated and celebrated with zest!

Monday, November 8, 2010


There are consequences to praying regularly. It means that I am less able to be selfish, less able to justify my anger, impatience, and rudeness, and less able to feed my flesh with carnal pleasures (like refined white sugar and spider solitaire from Microsoft).
Ugh, we always think of all the wonderful gifts that come from prayer. The things that leave us feeling sky high and unstoppable. Like when we pray for someone to be healed, and we see their healing come in a moment! Wow, that is awesome!
Or when we are contending for a loved one, and they see breakthrough in their lives over the next few weeks or months and we know it was caused by our continued praying.
I also love it when I have been praying for revelation over a certain scripture and the Lord brings it and suddenly my eyes are open and the Word comes alive. What pleasure!
But we don't talk about the uncomfortable consequence of prayer. Talking to the Father regularly causes us to hear His heart more clearly and to see the areas in our lives that need to change more. As I have been spending more and more time in the prayer room, I have had these less pleasant consequences coming up in my life, and I'm pretty sure I'm not the first.
As I go deeper in the Lord, and then I try to go home and be a wife and mother, I am slapped in the face continually with the reality of my own condition. It makes me want to squirm even now as I think about it. How some days I spend hours in the presence of the Lord and then come home and can't even pretend to be in a good mood as I scramble to make dinner for my children.
Or when I am spending time praying silently, and then someone else starts to pray out loud and all I can think is how I hope they will hurry up and finish their prayer so I can get back to my own time with the Lord. Whoa, where did that selfishness come from?!?
You are probably laughing, either because my stories are so oddly familiar, or because they sound so ridiculous. I laugh sometimes too, and ask the Lord to forgive me in the next breath, but then an hour later I think or do something equally selfish or rude.
Our pastor, Mike Bickle calls it the Lord's 'microscope' (or something like that).
When we are young Christians, we see our lives at the 10x power, and we are grossed out by all the garbage. So we partner with the Lord's heart and work on the areas that need some work and we see our life transformed gradually. It is only by the Lord's hand that we improve, but until He helps us along, it is oh-so uncomfortable to look at the filth of our life.
Then, when it is just starting to look nice (our life, not our filth), the Lord turns it up to the 100x power and we see a whole new level of filth. So we groan and say, 'Oh Lord, I am still wretched!' and He comes along and helps us start changing and cleaning again.
Well, all this prayer room time must have flipped the switch in my life for the next level of inspection because I am squeamish when I think of all the filth I see in my own heart. Especially because when I try to talk to people about it, they look at me and don't see it.
I suppose that is because at this point, most of the garbage is hidden in my heart and I've learned just enough self control to keep it all inside (for the most part), out of sight! Probably only Ken sees most of it, but I am also privy to it, and it is making me sick.
So here I am, in a new season of love and intimacy with the Lord, and I am being afflicted with the reality of my own condition, and it is painful some days. It is a consequence of talking with the Lord so much and asking in my heart of hearts, "come change me, try me, renew me, refine me".
He has taken me at my word and in His mercy He is ready to partner with me again to work on these areas in my heart that need the work right now. The battle against the flesh is about to start raging at a new level, and I am ready to wage that war, because I am painfully aware of my sins!
I also want to continue to see my heart transformed, and that makes my momentary discomfort worth it.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Waiting can be a Gift

Well, that is at least what the Lord has been telling my heart this morning. I am waiting for something that I really want, and I don't know when the Lord will release it, but it is a hard thing to do with a happy heart today. Most days I can ask Him and then easily go about my business, trusting that He knows the timing that He will break in! Today is harder for some reason though, and I have a nagging desire to be filled with self-pity.
Then they started singing 'His banner over me is love' in the prayer room!
Wow, I know it's the truth, even if my heart doesn't necessarily feel it at the moment, and then I started singing along and calling forth the truth that I am not feeling as if I were feeling it, and then the chorus changed to 'I have peace like a river!'
Again, not quite what I was feeling, but the more I sang the words, the more my heart began to be flooded with trust and faith that these things are the true things, and that my feelings are the false expression. Before long the Holy Spirit was speaking to me about many other friends who were waiting for things from the Lord. Many have been waiting a lot longer than me, and some of their needs are much more weighty a thing than my small request. With those thoughts, I was filled with compassion for my dear friends who are in waiting.
You know who you are!
So I began to pray for faith and strength and a happy heart to enjoy the season of waiting for myself and my friends/family. The Lord has spoken to me that there can be a blessing in the waiting. When we are weak and weary with the wait, and especially when it is something we cannot bring about in our own power, then He is right there, desiring to touch us and renew us. For me personally He has spoken that He wants to teach me things in this season that if He were to give me my 'want', I would not learn in the same measure.
Cool! So you see, these truths are a powerful antidote for self pity, doubly so when I to began praying for others, and so that is one of my encouragements for the day for my friends. My beloved readers of my blog.
As I am waiting and learning to trust the Lord in the waiting, I am also learning to be filled with compassion for those in my life who are also in a season of waiting. Out of that compassion springs intercession, which is a great way to pass my time, and it fills my heart with the love of the Father for others. Killing my selfishness in a degree and renewing my patience.
Lord, You are so amazing and I love the daily truths You are revealing to my heart, the ones that renew me and give me the faith to stand strong on Your truths. Continue to wipe away my selfishness and help me to trust Your words above my own feelings, and help me to carry on with a heart focused on You! Be my immovable rock that I can rest upon during this season of waiting!
By the way, they are now singing in the prayer room, 'What goes up must come down, I know You move at the sound of our voice'* My goodness, if that doesn't encourage my heart!
*side note: His response to our prayers is always timely and doesn't always look the way we would have thought, but He always answers.