Me–a momentary atheist?
I was seeking the Lord for healing and redemption with some girls in my small group last night, and to start our time off, one of the girls read a quote from Randy Alcorn’s book about the goodness of God. It was so profound that I have been thinking about it ever since!
Worry is momentary atheism crying out for correction by trust in a good and sovereign God.
—Randy Alcorn, If God Is Good
Though I never thought of worry in such a severe way before, it rang true to my heart. When I worry (which has been true of me recently) I deny the reality of my good Father who intimately and lovingly attends to the needs of His children. I turn my back on Him, His works, and His faithfulness in my life, declaring a practical atheism that affects the way I think, feel and act. Incredible!
The Lord has been teaching me in a new way that “In His presence is fullness of joy!” (He’s been using this book “Strengthen Yourself in the Lord: How to Release the Hidden Power of God in Your Life” by Bill Johnson. So rich!! I highly recommend it! )
How do I get into His presence? One of the surest ways into His presence is to “enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.” Funny enough, it’s also the cure for momentary atheism! I have spent ALOT of time in worship and in thanksgiving recently, and guess what? Worry and fear–momentary atheism–melts away in His presence. It really does.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
Join me! Confess and forsake momentary atheism and embrace the joy of His presence. Praise Him, recounting your blessings out loud to Him. Then..watch what He does with your heart and spirit. Amazing!!
He Carries Me…
Have you ever gotten back from a season of travel or just a time of high activity and then hit an emotional place that was just…HARD! I mean, wondering who you are and what your purpose is in life anyway. Who is God, and does He really still love me, and…and…and….
Well, those have been some of my days the last couple weeks as I have come off the last couple months of travel. Just feeling raw and tired and experiencing the adrenaline let down of being home, in more of a routine and in my own bed.
Oh, it has been so wonderful to be home on one hand, and on the other, when you travel alot, community (or even family for some people) can seem a little disconnected, and it seems hard to find your “place” in some ways.
How I hate these times, or at least my flesh does. Having said that, I know from personal experience that this very disequilibrium pushes me back into the arms of Jesus in a way that nothing else does. It’s the only place I have to go. After all, “He will be the sure foundation of your times, a rich store of salvation, wisdom and knowledge. The fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.” Is. 33:6.
Though that sounds easy hypothetically, the prevailing of that truth in my mind and heart represents a lot of battle and some gnashing of teeth :-). In order to fight the emotional darkness, I have to spend significant time in Scripture, sleep a lot, listen to praise music/sermons (This time a sermon from Louie Giglio called Who You Really Are. Incredible.) exercise, have times of conversation/processing/prayer with godly friends, eat well, and review His faithfulness in the past, thanking Him for His incredible blessings. Then after many tears and lots of questions, He meets me there, and ushers in peace–oh, the blessing of that–the calm at the end of the storm.
In the end, it’s all about Him–intimacy with Him. He often reminds me of that, even in the midst of the storm. One of His recent statements to me is, “Our most intimate times are when it’s dark and I carry you.” I don’t like the helpless feelings of needing to be carried, but it’s the reality of my need, whether I know it or not.
So, the conclusion of it all which I speak in faith–“my flesh and my heart may fail [which it so often does, even lately] but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever…But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.” Ps. 73:26, 28.
The Heavens Shout…
I was looking through pictures from this last year of my travels and saw picture after picture of His heavens in all different stages–blue skies, dark and stormy skies, beautiful sunsets, amazing and colorful sunrises, stars, the moon, lightning, and colors (some of which I have no way to capture with my wimpy camera, unfortunately, but I’m not willing to sacrifice my back to have the “right kind” of camera to capture His heavens! :-). Just amazing.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” Ps. 19:1-4.
He’s clear. The skies declare the glory of God. There is not an unreached people group on earth that doesn’t hear this loud declaration, as it is proclaimed in EVERY language!!
A couple of His heavenly shouts from this last year still ring loudly in my ears. One was sitting with my nieces in a Walmart parking lot in the middle of Wyoming, waiting for some of our family to return from the bowels of Walmart (those of you who have waited patiently for someone shopping in Walmart know what I mean! :-). There was an INCREDIBLE lightning storm in the distance. I pulled a couple nieces onto my lap and we watched in awe as we talked about the book of Job which says that every lightning bolt is sent on its way by God and checks in with him to say, “Here we are.” (Job 38:35).
Another loud shout was in Uganda at Lake Victoria when the dark storm raged in the early morning and again at New Hope on the night before I left as the thunder shook the foundations of the earth in the middle of the night (at least it sounded like it did). His raw POWER is amazing.
A third shout came over Labor Day weekend as I sat with a group of dear friends at my parents house around a fire in the evening and watched a “blue moon” (the second full moon in one lunar cycle) come up over the trees. Stunningly beautiful.
God is constantly shouting His glory in the heavens, but I have a heart that is not always tuned to his voice.
The thing that amazes me is that the God who shouts His raw and unmeasurable power in the heavens is the same God who values me–me personally. It’s so hard to put my mind (and more often my emotions) around, but it’s true–I am a loved daughter of the King who made the heavens. Even today, I’m facing some heart matters that seem difficult to trust Him with, but as I have been writing about the heavens, it again reminds me how easy it all is for my God. He’s big, and He loves me!!
“To the LORD your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. Yet the LORD set his affection on your forefathers and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations, as it is today. Circumcise your hearts therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. For the LORD your God is God of gods and LORD of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome…Fear the LORD your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. He is your praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes.” Deut. 10:14-17,20-21
I desire to respond to His shouts of glory from the heavens as a dearly loved daughter who delights and boasts in the strength and majesty of my Dad and believes and trusts Him for big things!
Out of Africa…
In August, I had the privilege of being in South Africa and Uganda to visit some wonderful people–a delight to say the least.
The Lord had all kinds of things on the agenda for that time–everything from bowling to traversing rough Uganda roads, to sitting in on meetings/trainings, to doing science experiments with kids, to being treated to a wonderful coffee/dinner with a friend, to eating breakfast with an amazing couple at one of the most beautiful spots on earth, to receiving some beautiful handmade gifts, to driving through the African bush and eating “In your face chicken” (the westerners call a stand that sells chicken on a stick in Uganda “in your face chicken” because all of the sales people come up to the car with chicken on a stick and put in right up to your windows and your face trying to sell you on their tasty delights!!), to doing dishes, to singing on a veranda overlooking a lake, to visiting the pig farm, to watching The Army Ant March, to staying with dear friends from Indiana, to seeking the Lord in intense times of prayer.
And…I got to watch a game of South African rugby, which is a one-of-a-kind cultural experience for those of you who have never sat with a group of South Africans and watched rugby. Truly an experience in a league of its own. If you watch the movie Invictus, it might give you some idea of what it’s like, but there’s nothing like tasting of it in person. All of these adventures were accompanied by great conversations with amazing people.
I was in 11 beds in those 2 1/2 weeks and with 11 different sets of people (not including meeting people for short times)–some new friends and some longtime friends. It was truly a rich time, filled with the presence and peace that only Jesus can bring.
Though there was dialogue along the way over many different leadership issues, discipleship desires, marriage/single challenges, family joys, and various other subject matters of all shapes and sizes, there is one subject that has been lingering with me and continues to grab my heart.
I was asked to facilitate a discussion with the J-life ministry team in South Africa about intimacy with God, sharing my own life journey in that arena. As I was preparing for that time, the Lord impressed on my heart to look at the lives of Moses, David and Abraham, all who were identified as having an inmate relationship with God. As a result, it’s something I have been thinking about a lot–what characterizes the life of someone who has an intimate relationship with God? Even though I thought alot about these three men on a high level before leaving for South Africa in preparation, I have now started looking at their lives in depth, asking the Lord to show me what He values in an intimate relationship. It’s been an amazing and rich study–one that I’m still working on.
As I am sitting here now, think through each portion of my trip I have thought about ways the Lord revealed His heart and character to me along the way. In Capetown, He showed me His character as provider/orchestrator, as He introduced me to two people who will most likely be very instrumental in upcoming En Gedi Experiences in Africa. He also orchestrated a meeting with someone that I have been told at least 3 or 4 times in the States that I should meet, and this man “happened” to be speaking at one of the organizations that I went to visit. We ended up on the plane together on the way back from Capetwon to Johannesburg and had an anointed conversation. In Johannesburg, the Lord showed His generosity and lavish care through a family that just gives lavishly as they love on their visitors. He showed His power as I watched a storm roll in over Lake Victoria and then again at New Hope in Uganda–thunder that shook the foundations of the earth! He showed me His heart of mercy and compassion as He gave me deep emotion for two people that I met and talked with/prayed for, one who is fighting for his wife’s physical life and another who had lost her husband to a head on collision recently. He showed me His grace as he spoke so clearly to someone who had feared not being able to hear His voice.
His body across the world reveals His character to us in amazing ways. I am privileged to “taste and see” that He is good and that His love endures forever as I interacted with His bride in Africa! Oh, how I love seeing His face in His people.
This last month, I went on vacation with my family–my WHOLE family–minus a couple members. We got in two vans with 15 people, 8 of them being children 11 and under, and headed west, covering thousands of miles. We traveled through the Wisconsin Dells and the badlands of North Dakota, saw wild animals, visited the amazing Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse, waded in a river, reveled in the beauty of Yellowstone and the majesty of the Grand Tetons, ate lots of ice cream, and experienced the wild, wild west during Frontier Days in Cheyenne, WY. As you can imagine, there were many grand adventures along the way, as we shared these amazing spots all together as a family.
There’s nothing like experiencing and thinking about God’s creation and gifts as seen through the eyes of children–the very thing He calls us to be in our faith. I had a special time with my nieces and nephews almost every night of the trip which we called, “God Rocks.” The kids picked up a rock every day, writing their name on it with their special colored marker, and each night we all shared our favorite thing that God had made or our favorite “gift” that He gave us from that day! After each child shared, they put their rock in a special jar, and we all celebrated their contribution by shouting together (or whispering loudly, depending on where we were! :-), God Rocks!!! We would finish each night with the reading of a grand missionary adventure story and a group hug and prayer over these precious children, asking God to pour out His love on them so that they will love Him with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.
Some of the “rocks” that were thrown in the jar were “stones of remembrance” for the toys that were purchased at Wall Drug Store :-), the feeding of the prairie dogs in North Dakota, the 5 or 6 rainbows we saw in the Grand Tetons, the fun time with cousins, the lightning storm watched with awe in Laramie, WY, the swimming at the water park, the hike through the badlands in 110 degree temperatures, the siting of an elk in the forest, and the experience of having bison come right near our windows. These and many other “rocks” were celebrated by our 8 kids as we proclaimed together that “God Rocks!”
I love the process that Psalm 145 describes, “One generation will declare His works to another. They will speak of his mighty acts and tell of the glorious splendor of His majesty.” What an honor to have the opportunity to bring my awe of Jesus into a realm that our kids in the next generation can grasp, giving them a at a young age of just a small portion of the personal nature I have feasted on in my 40 years. How I pray that they will personally “taste and see that the Lord is good and that His love endures forever!” I pray that for the next generation in your lives as well!!