The Word of the Lord, Thanks Be To God

God speaks to me in different ways, through the beauty of nature, through words from other people, and through conviction in my heart from the Holy Spirit. But when I started to listen to what God was speaking to me through the Bible, His own Word, our relationship blossomed. It became more intimate. I can always mistake or ignore the nudges, get them confused with my own thoughts, or be amazed by nature though not sure what God is trying to tell me through it. But there’s something incredible about knowing when God’s own words are speaking to my heart. He’s written those words down for us. What a gift!

I don’t remember when it happened… this insatiable hunger for God’s Word. But I do remember the prayer that initiated it. I had been out of work for quite some time and it was during my very dark period so I’m sure I was desperately trying to grasp for whatever was going to get me out of the darkness. Deep down I knew I needed to let God get me out and I figured regular time in His word couldn’t hurt. But it felt like such a chore so I knew my attitude had to change first. I don’t know what made me say these words but I prayed, “God, help me be addicted to Your word.” I’m not God but I can’t imagine that’s a prayer He wouldn’t answer. Of course He wants to engage with us through His Word.

I’m not saying God is going to physically put your Bible in your lap and open it for you each day but I believe He will put the desire to encounter Him through His Word in your heart. He did for me. I’m also not saying that I always enjoy reading the Bible now, but my day feels off if I miss the opportunity. And many days I enjoy it immensely!

It takes 21 days to make a habit. It helps to break it up in our minds like that, to convince ourselves that surely we can stick with something for 21 days. We don’t have to think about it like, “ugh, how will I ever have time to do this every single day for the rest of my life?” Just take it in small steps and eventually our brains will form a habit. Let God grow the hunger in us.

Nothing about my day feels right without time in God’s Word… and a lot of it! I know not everyone has the kind of time I do but it’s absolutely essential to make time to read the Bible. Sometimes I wonder how I’ll handle it if I’m able to go back to work but I really believe that if we truly want to spend time with God, He’ll help us find the time no matter how busy we think we are. Any relationship will get stagnant without communication and we just cannot afford to let that happen with God. I am absolutely addicted to His word now and I could not be more grateful. Each day is another beautiful opportunity to encounter Him. Will I open myself up to that opportunity?

My purpose in writing these blog posts about how I found healing has been to practically lay out how to practice each concept but I am concerned it will sound like my way is the right way. It’s not. I’m just giving you ideas and you and God can discover what’s best for your relationship. Here’s what I have done for years, but that may change as God leads. My quiet time is in the morning. I try to remember to invite God to speak to me through His word. I read the devotion from the First 15 app on my phone. I like it because it’s very well balanced, includes worship and prayer, and zero fluff. I can’t even express how much I dislike fluff. Give me Jesus.. period. Then I just read the Bible straight through cover to cover. I usually make two page turns a day and end on a chapter ending. Then I read a Psalm because sometimes reading so much Leviticus deserves a palate cleanser 🙂. I definitely know my way isn’t for everyone but I have so enjoyed God opening my eyes up differently each time I read the same passages. I recently heard someone ask Beth Moore how she spends time in God’s Word and she was hesitant to answer as well because she knows her way isn’t everyone’s right way either. She gets up early while it’s still dark and only turns on a reading light so she can’t see anything but her Bible. That provides much less distraction and the first bit of information she gleans every day comes straight from the mouth of the Lord. How beautiful. We each have to work with God to find our ideal method of communication and learning and it may take some time trying different ways to figure it out. You won’t regret sticking with it!

God didn’t have to give us the Bible but we need to be thankful that He did. Some people don’t have the privilege and we often squander it so. It’s such an incredible gift from our Father who loves us and wants us to know Him.

When you get to the point where God speaks to you about whatever is going on in your life directly through His word, it’s going to be hard to go back to the days you spent without reading. There have been a few times that what I was reading on a particular day was undeniably God-ordained because it applied exactly to what I was struggling with on that day. I wrote about this a few blog posts ago. After hearing directly from the Lord, I became so smitten with Him, overwhelmed that He would care enough about me to speak to my heart in this way. It makes me want more: Addiction!

I’ll leave you with this. Once, God spoke to me through Isaiah 45. I have nearly every verse of that chapter underlined but the one that most jumped off the page at me was verse 3, “I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.” I could write a book about what this verse means to me… and I am, haha. My book, if I can ever get it written, is called Treasures of Darkness. When I first noticed this verse I thought… treasures of darkness? Things are SO dark for me right now. I have to know more about these treasures. I believe the Word of God itself is one of these treasures. It’s something to be treasured even when things seem dark. It’s a shining light. Let it shine on your face each day and see how it lights you up. The Word of the Lord is a priceless gift but it means nothing if we don’t open it. Open the gift! Let it light up the dark!

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You Are More

This is not the topic I planned to write about today but I need to stop making plans. God’s in charge and I’m pretty happy about that.

I spent the better part of three days this week feeling sad and kind of lost and not being able to work through it because I couldn’t put my finger on why. I wanted to figure it out so I could move on but sometimes we just have to sit with it for awhile until God reveals its source.

I’d run through the checklist in my mind:
I’m a burden-bearer. Am I sad for the whole world? Yes… but that wasn’t all.
I had just started to gain more confidence in leaving the house. Am I sad because that’s been thwarted? Yes… but that wasn’t all.
Holy week is my favorite week of the year. Am I sad because it doesn’t look nearly the way I think it should look this year? Absolutely… but that still wasn’t all.
Picture after picture went through my head of things I’m sad about and people I’m sad for but I could feel in my guts that I still hadn’t discovered the whole of it. So I asked God to reveal whenever He was ready, and He did.

I’m a social worker. Social workers are in the trenches during crisis. I am not where my heart feels it should be. I feel helpless. I’m tempted to feel useless. My heart is ready to go back to work. I pray someday my body follows. It’s hard to be a benched social worker aching to help. I reached out to several places and offered help from home but finally just let go and asked God to bring people to mind and show me what to do, or bring the people to me. And in His sovereignty, He did… along with a word of, “patience, My child.”

Here’s what I’m being reminded of: I am so much more than a social worker. I can do whatever I am able to encourage my circle and follow God’s lead to who and how He wants me to bless. Susie Larson said recently that God reminded her that just because she doesn’t feel well doesn’t mean she can’t be mighty in prayer. Right now prayer is my weapon and my job and I am so honored to do it. God reminded me that it is enough! I am enough!

And that’s what I want to remind you. You who have just been laid off and don’t know what to do with yourself. I remember… and my heart aches for you. You who have worked more hours in a day than you thought humanly possible and have to wake up and do it all over again tomorrow. I remember… and my heart goes out to you. You who have to hold it together to help others when you feel your own world is falling apart. I remember… and I wish I could wrap you up tight! I want to remind you that YOU ARE SO MUCH MORE THAN YOUR JOB. YOU ARE NOT YOUR HEARTBREAK. You are not irreparably broken. There is no such thing. You are GOD’S BELOVED CHILD, His HEIR. Our identity is so much more than we believe when we choose to wrap it around earthly things.

I am not a crippled social worker. I am a PRAYER WARRIOR. I am an intercessor, encourager, and listener. You are not the lie Satan is whispering into your ear now that the thing you thought identified you has been taken away. You are a child of the Most Holy God. Let Him show you who who really are. Stand in awe of the heart He placed in you. I pray for you to see yourself through His eyes.

I’m not saying this isn’t a process and isn’t difficult. It was one of the hardest lessons I learned. But such freedom and abundance comes from embracing it! Invite God to sit with you. Ask Him to show you who you are. Ask for His perspective and be open to receive it. I feel like I’m making this sound so simple when your heart is breaking. It’s not simple. But it’s worth it. So be angry, sad, hurt, confused as long as you need. But invite God into it. I pray He shows you a depth of your identity you never knew was there.

On this Holy Thursday remember this. Long ago on this the day before His death, Jesus prayed for YOU. He prayed for me. I am undone by this. His prayer was that we would be unified and be with Him. That’s what was on His mind this night so long ago. If that doesn’t help us understand our importance above and beyond any earthly identity, I don’t know what will. You are MORE. Don’t ever forget that!

“Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” – John 16:22

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The Healing Presence of God

Throughout my period of darkness, I gained a much more profound awareness of God’s presence. Nothing is more healing. NOTHING.

I remember one of the first times God’s presence was almost tangible. I had just returned home from a particularly difficult doctor’s appointment. The doctor became another of multiple doctors to tell me there was nothing more he could do for me and I felt out of options yet again. Heartbroken again. Hopes crushed again. I pulled into the garage and turned off the car except the radio because it was playing a song I needed to hear. I stayed in the car so long that the car light and garage light went off and it was nearly pitch black. As the music played about the goodness of God, goosebumps formed and tears began to fall. As I sat there, all senses focused on God’s goodness with no distraction and no light. I became so overwhelmed with God’s presence in the darkness. It was clear to me that He and only He saw my streaming tears and was comforting me.

I received treasure in the literal and figurative darkness that day and so many others after. I began to feel pulled to the guest room late at night to fall on my knees and let God hold me. There are so many distractions in the light. Too many things to look at. Too much noise in the daytime. God shows up so strikingly in the dark because He has our full attention. Those nights of brokenness on the floor are the most precious times to me. Even though they often felt like agony and I thought things would be irreparably broken forever, those were my closest encounters with God.

Isn’t that precious of God? In the darkness, when we need Him the most, that’s when He is most tangible. But it wasn’t always that way for me. I would get mad when people would say their darkest times were the closest they were to God because I didn’t feel that way. I wondered what was wrong with me and why God wasn’t showing up. But He was. I just had a veil of bitterness obscuring my vision. But when I let Him remove the veil… when I prayed for sight… oh, the comfort I found!

The presence of God is what heals. Through counseling I learned that God can heal past wounds if we let Him take us to those hurt places that haven’t yet healed. We don’t have to live in those wounds by ourselves and we don’t have to keep them covered. Inviting God into our wounds allows Him to bind them up, just like He promised (Psalm 147:3). When I learned that God is not only present, but OMNIPRESENT, that’s when I understood that He is with me now and He is also in the past with me during the moments I was wounded. It’s hard to wrap our human brains around this concept! But He can heal those past wounds because He is still there now. He can give us a new memory of His comfort if we let Him carry us back to those painful places. I suggest doing this with support, as it can be very painful to revisit old wounds. But it can also be incredibly healing.

God’s presence also deflects fear. When we are aware of God’s presence, we are aware that there is nothing to fear. His perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). When we fully grasp that the same God who is all-powerful and not at all surprised by anything- including global pandemic- is WITH US, we better understand why we don’t need to fear. From someone who still struggles with anxiety disorder, I know this is easier said than practiced, but when that anxiety comes, scoot a little closer to Jesus. Pour it out at His feet. The closer to His heart we are, the more peace we’ll find and the less we’ll fear. Listen for the heartbeat of your Savior. Eventually, your heart will beat peacefully with His.

With God’s presence comes His love and acceptance. I knew God accepted me because He said there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). I knew that but I didn’t believe it for a very long time. Then I finally got to the point where I believed God loves me but didn’t believe He accepts me. Huh? I guess I just thought He loved me but preferred the elusive perfect me that I ‘should’ be. When I finally understood the acceptance of God to my core, that He accepts the me that I am right now- the afraid, doubtful, sinful, current me- I can’t even describe the freedom and abundance that came into my heart. I stopped beating myself up for every imperfection. I was so overwhelmed and overcome with the love and acceptance of God that I felt something come alive in me that my constant self-condemnation had killed. God still raises the dead. I feel it in my bones.

I crave God’s presence now. If I’m doing something that isn’t seeking after or spending time with God, I honestly get a little restless. I miss Him! Not that He left and not that things like watching a bit of TV are bad, but I just love spending time with Him so much that my heart seeks Him out. The immense healing that has come into my life through my awareness of God’s presence is enough to make me constantly want more! I want more God! Always!

So, how do we actually receive the healing God wants to give us through His presence? It probably takes a little practice. At least it did for me. First thing’s first… ask Him! Invite Him every single day to walk with You. I have tried to remember to say to God every day for at least a year as soon as my eyes pop open, “Good morning, God. I need You.” It helps to start your day remembering who gave it to you. Then remind yourself often throughout the day that God is with you. Thank Him for what you see and experience. Ask Him for whatever you need. Sometimes even invite Him to just sit with you awhile. Wouldn’t you do that with a friend? He wants to be invited into your life and He so loves being with you! Then when you have private, quiet periods of time, ask the Holy Spirit to take you back to unhealed memories. Ask Him to help you recall and show you where God was during those times. Ask Him to pour His healing into those wounds. Again, you may need a counselor or trusted friend to help you through this if your memories are too painful.

It’s hard to explain how to ‘practice the presence of God’ because it’s something you just have to experience. There’s not a one size fits all prescription but you could start by inviting Him to sit with you in the dark. No distractions, no light, no noise. It may feel uncomfortable at first but soon enough, it will be the most comfortable you’ll ever feel because you’ll be with the One who knows and loves you most. He sees you and loves you even when you try to hide in the dark. Let Him see. Let Him love you. Let Him accept you. Let Him heal you. Things can feel really dark right now even in the daylight. But we know that’s when God shines brighter. Look for Him. He’s with you always. Remember that.

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew 28:20b

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Let It Come

The man across the street has passed away. I’m making this assumption based on the constant motion over there for weeks, the line of cars with people dressed in black a couple days ago, and now the complete silence. 

Grief is an interesting thing. I think it’s somewhat expected that the funeral, the family gathering, the days immediately surrounding the death are the most filled with grief. But grief hits harder in the silence. No plans, no gathering, no distractions. 

I can’t imagine losing someone right now, not being able to gather and remember or maybe even tell them or hug them goodbye. No holding each other or crying together for fear of spreading the virus. My brain tries to protect my heart from even going there. I want to go inside and find something else to do. But I won’t. I will sit here awhile, gaze at his house, and pray God send His mercy and comfort to the family.

When I got sick enough to lose my job I had no distractions anymore. Nearly 20 years of grief that I’d refused to feel hit me all at once. I didn’t think I would survive so I pushed it away until I couldn’t anymore. I survived. And you will too. Let it come. 

I think a lot of us are feeling grief right now, whether it’s the fresh grief of job and social loss or old grief that you’ve managed to fend off until now. Now that it’s harder to push the silence away. Let it come. In the silence, we hear God’s voice more clearly. He wants to heal the hurts that have been living in us, slowly sucking the life out of us. Let them come. Acknowledge them. Speak them. Cry them. Scream them. Hold them up to the presence of God. 

You may not feel better instantly. That’s the thing about grief… it’s a slow healing. But the wound won’t even have a chance to heal if it’s pushed aside. It needs to pour out and breathe, allowing for the healing touch of God. Pour it out.

Everyone has to find what works for them but here are some things I have done. I have put on worship music in the dark, fallen to my knees and sobbed to my Father. I’ve asked Him really hard questions. I’ve gotten angry. I’ve screamed into a pillow. I’ve had fights with a punching bag. I’ve curled into a ball picturing myself at the feet of Jesus crying all my grief out to Him. Dr. Caroline Leaf just posted the other day that we should find an “anger wall” in our house and throw soft toys at it screaming whatever we need to get out. The point is, however you need to do it, let it out. Keeping it in destroys you. Trust me, I know. 

So today, even though the sun is shining, I am sad. And that’s okay. I’m tempted to distract myself and I have managed to do so thus far. But right now I’m going to sit here and grieve, for the world, for the man across the street, for his family, for my aching arms that want so badly to hug my loved ones. And I’m going to let God hold me. Because I know now that I will survive the grief. And you will too. Let it come.

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