3 Steps Forward, 10 Steps Back – and Have A Seat!

Oh my, what a mess!!! Ever seem to have one of those weeks where your gaze on Him has dropped and you feel as though you are going to drown? Where you fall flat on your face? Where your weaknesses are exposed and found to be so much larger than you would like them to be? Ever find yourself in a situation where you are enjoying a nice moment/conversation and a random thought comes along catching you off guard? You don’t really see the harm in it for a moment, but, before you know it, that random thought has taken hold. Maybe you don’t realize it at first, but it just kind of grows. This is a very accurate description of this past week for me – and it was all due to my own choices.

For just a moment in time, I took my eyes of my Lord and focused them on the desires of my heart. Like Peter, I began to sink quickly, but, rather than cry out to Him, I stayed in the water far too long trying to decide how “I felt” and what “I really wanted” – as if it was really about me. I chose to stay in the whirlpool rather than rest with Him in the green pastures beside the calm waters. I chose to explore areas forbidden to my soul, finding nothing but sorrow and emptiness – and possibly a damaged friendship.

As sanity has begun to return, so to speak, and restoration has started yet again, a verse from long ago was brought to mind. I have known this verse for a very long time, but I don’t think that the depth of truth contained in this verse had ever really sunk in before now. Let me assure you, the lesson has become a well learned one this week – and, unfortunately, it was a lesson that didn’t necessarily have to be taught in the first place had I kept my focus where it needed to be. Through His prophet Jeremiah, the LORD says,

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Jer 17:9 (NIV)

The King James Version says that the heart is “desperately wicked” rather than “beyond cure.” A much more powerful description and, given recent events, I think the King James captures it a little more accurately. The verse that follows seems to drive the message home even harder.

“I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their
conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” Jer 17:10 (NIV)

If am to be “rewarded” for the contents of my heart during this past week, I am in big trouble! However, I know I can take comfort in the promise that not only does He provide grace all sufficient during our times of need, His grace is sufficient in our weakness and His mercies are new every morning.

I cannot say this week has been wasted in all senses of the phrase. Yes, countless opportunities to be a blessing to someone else were missed. Yes, many God-sightings were missed because my focus was on other things beside Him. Yes, I missed the opportunity to find out what was around the next bend in the river because I decided to explore a different stream. However, what I did find was a new sense of adoration for my Lord and a new outpouring of grace. He remains faithful even when we are faithless.

My assurance that Jesus truly is my Messiah is stronger now because of this journey. Does that justify taking the journey? God forbid!! It does, however, prove that He is still working for our good even in the midst of our stupidity and our hardheartedness. He will turn our bad choices into something good for His glory, if we will allow Him the opportunity to do so by humbling ourselves at His feet and allowing His ever-sufficient grace, His boundless mercy, and His limitless love to revive our hearts and turn our focus back to Him.

The new prayer of my heart is this:

Wash me in the waterfall of Your mercy! Pour Your love over my sin-soaked soul so that I feel Your peace and Your grace wash over every pain, every bruise, every stain I have placed upon my heart! My soul cries out like David’s and begs You to create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me! As it is written in Psalms 139:23-24, I willingly invite You to:

Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting. (NIV)

Be Still, My Soul!

This past week in my life seemed to be one of back-tracking. I kept trying to push forward and continuing working on the areas in which I struggle, but the more I pushed, the more I saw myself going backward. I finally stopped and asked the Lord what it was that I was missing, what I had missed. The silence seemed deafening for a while… Something happened a few days ago that has caused me to really sit back and evaluate some places in my heart and life. A rather interesting conversation with a friend had taken place and challenged my heart and mind to go places it had not been in a very long time and try to force words to surface to express feelings long buried in the past. The fear of this was overwhelming at first, but my friend was very patient. Through a few prods and challenges, I realized that I have been held captive by this fear for far too many years – and for no reason. When I pushed beyond the fear, the expected result at the end never appeared. The fear was completely without merit – as so many of them are. The silence from the Lord was preparing my heart for this conversation and He used it to His glory to break down walls in my heart erected so many years ago that I do not remember life without them.

So begins the process of rebuilding… and renewal. I am not sure what is around the next bend, but I do know who will be with me when it is found. There will be new challenges to face, new barriers to cross, but I know that He who started the work in me will be faithful to complete it – and it will better prepare me for whatever work He has for me to do. All I have to do is be still and know that He is God – and that is all I need to know!

During this process, when the doubts and fears creep in and questions begin to swirl, it is important to remember to fix our eyes on Jesus. After all, in the midst of the storm, look what happened to Peter when he took His eyes off the Lord….he sank. However, much with like us, Jesus was there immediately reaching out a hand to pull him up again. During those dark times when you wonder why you were made the way that you were and what purpose the Lord could possibly have with your weaknesses or failures, just remember that it is not WHO you are that is important, but rather WHOSE you are. There is a reason and purpose for everything under heaven – and that those weakness are opportunities for Him to be our strength and show His strength in our lives. We just have to trust that He knows the way, He will guide, and He will comfort during the dark times through the valley and rough rapids of the River.

Relax…God’s Got This

There have been many ongoing struggles within the realm of writing. What to write? How do I convey what is on my heart and will the meaning come across clearly and understandable? Do I actually have anything relevant to say? Do I believe that the Lord would have something to say through me? All are very good questions for one who has their focus on the wrong thing, and none of this is helping the Kingdom in any way, shape, or form. While questioning and thinking that I am just trying to make sure that I am doing His will, the reality of it is I am just sitting in neutral, stagnating, and being stubborn. To really be working for Him and doing His will, one must be DOING SOMETHING! Sitting and thinking, while very essential and useful in many situations, is of no use at all if that is all that you do. The journey with Jesus Christ and walking in the will of the Father will not begin or continue along if we spend our entire time sitting, thinking, and continually questioning.

This is a lesson that was driven home to my heart this past week in the most amazing, gentle, and humbling way – as only our Father can do. I love to write poetry, but have not really found a “use” or purpose for it beyond just being something I enjoy. I have submitted some pieces to various contests, but it never went any further. True, they were not Christian based contests and, yes, the testimony of the Lord was presented to some who may or may not know him, but, in the back of my mind, a small part of me still would like to have had that affirmation that I had written something that someone felt was worth reading. The intention was good, but the focus was still just slightly skewed – after all, if I am writing for Him, they are not my words but His anyway and, therefore, they are worth reading. In light of my lack of faith in this area, I put the pen down for a while. I did, however, share a couple of pieces on a FaceBook group page dedicated to Christian poetry. Some nice comments were made and that is as far as it went – or so I thought. Come to find out, the moderator of the group is putting together a compilation of some of the poetry posted to that sight – and two of my pieces are listed among the ones to be included.

For those of us who tend to be just a little hard-headed at times, here is the question for you (and for me). How much time has been lost to stubbornness? Better yet (especially with me), how many kind, sincere words are wasted by second guessing? I know that I have broken the Father’s heart with some of my misdirected stubbornness. I know I have missed out on many God-sightings and blessings by spending too much time sitting, thinking, and second guessing. Therefore, the challenge this week is to speak to my soul and remind my heart to just Be Still and KNOW that He is God – or as my niece would say, just relax – God’s got this!

…And Then The Next Thing

What an incredible journey!!! Walking in the blessing of new beginnings, while a little disconcerting at times, is exactly that – a blessing! I would like to share with you a few of the lessons I have learned along the River so far.

There is far more truth in the saying “Familiarity breeds contempt” than I ever thought possible. My background is one of being raised in church, memorized Scripture, knew the order of the books of the Bible, and faithful Bible reading. Recently, while having a very interesting conversation with a friend, the suggestion was presented that the Word be read with purpose. (Hadn’t heard of that before…) Some general direction was given as to how to proceed with this quest (I love instructions!), and I was off and running. The first chapter came to life in ways I had never seen before! The next day, the Word was still alive, but it wasn’t quite as impactful – after all, I already knew what was going to happen next. By the third day, I had already fallen back into old habits – re-reading the words on the page but not finding the heart of the matter. Sitting and thinking about it now, I wonder just how much I have missed out on all these years because I felt “I know” what it was going to say. (BTW… The Lord has since re-directed my reading – and changed the version I read from.)

How often does our sense of “knowledge” get in the way of the leading of the Holy Spirit? How often do we break His heart with our calloused, self-important ways of expressing just how much we think we know? How much have we missed out on in our Bible studies because we “knew” where to go rather than allowing the Holy Spirit to guide us where we NEEDED to go? If we were to take an honest look and examine our hearts, would we find that we are held back by the way in which we were taught years ago, by the way we view ourselves, or by the way we have/have not found a “place” in this world? These have been just a few of the challenging questions of late – a challeng to take time to sit back and really examine mindsets, values, and beliefs.

Here’s the kicker… Until the junk from the past is gone, we will not be able to walk into the fullness of the future the Lord intends for us. We have to let go of all that is holding us down, binding us up, and causing difficulty for us in reaching our goals of walking closer with Him and fulfilling His will for our lives. John tells us not only that we will know the truth and the truth will set us free, but also gives the assurance that whom the Son has set free is free indeed. Only we can hinder this miraculous freedom for which Jesus paid such a high price. It is our choice – which is what it always seems to come back to…

Until such changes are made and the freedom offered to us is embraced, walking into what the Lord has NEXT for us will be so much more challenging than it needs to be. I choose to take another step in the River of His Heart – and I can’t wait to see what He has in store around the next bend!!