Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Heavenly Hope: A Journal Stone

I lift up my eyes... where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the maker of Heaven and earth.
Psalm 121:1-2

Rebecca recently wrote a short but powerful testimonial blog that focused on the miracle of God's hand in the gift of their family's new dream home. Her story was filled with such hope, as it was one of her main reasons for writing, that it provoked in me the response below. 

As so often happens, when I write for any reason--be it initiation or response--Holy Spirit has this way of working things out in me and clearing a path for the new. Having shied away from writing altogether for far too many months (has it really been almost nine months since I posted anything?), this heart response to her blog felt like a tiny release of just as many months of words stored inside me--words not given any freedom to surface and bring relief to an oversaturated soul. It was refreshing to once again put thoughts to paper (metaphorically speaking). And it renewed the desire to pursue the very process (writing) He uses to heal me and speak to me, but also can use to minister to others, should they come across this blog.

Many people have a passion for writing and for sharing through this medium, but I think sometimes we can get bogged down by this obligation to ensure our writing has a purposeful period at the end of all the sentences. That we have to deliver a sermon in order for our words to be worthy of clicking the 'publish' button. But Revelation 12:11 tells us that our testimonies, along with the blood of the Lamb, defeat the enemy.

Sharing HOPE is a testimony.

So I'm anchoring my response here to not only have a journal stone that reminds me of this day's hope (because it's so necessary to be able to look back on what God has done), but praying that anyone who reads this will be provoked towards God and receive the very thing He wants to deposit in your heart, be it hope or the encouragement of seeing God's goodness in the lives of others.

If you haven't read Rebecca's "Our New Home and Hope" blog, head over there. I've never known anyone who thinks they been exposed to too much hope, or God's goodness on display.

I know, as I begin to type my heart’s response, that it’s got the possibility of being a lengthy one. Even with your writing being shorter in length than I anticipated, the impact of the words you chose are deep and rich and wide and long. They have stirred HeavenlyHope, as you have taken the time to declaratively share the wondrously miraculous works of God, the best Daddy ever! 
Just a few weeks ago I had the privilege of hearing Todd White share his heart for Jesus and he said something that immediately tattooed itself on mine: “I share my heart with you so that it will provoke your heart to God.” 
I wrote those words down because I didn’t want to forget them, but honestly, I haven’t had to go back to my notes to remember this statement. When Holy Spirit illuminates something for me, it has this way of sticking. 
You’ve done this today, Rebecca: shared your heart so that you could provoke other’s hearts to God. I am not taking away from the fact that you are also sharing God’s goodness in your life; I’m just partnering them together. Because when we share, we are pointing right at God. It’s one and the same. 
HeavenlyHope … I’ve been struggling to hold onto this. Some would read this as if I’m stating that I’m struggling to even believe in Hope anymore. But it’s really the opposite. I’m struggling to hold onto the rope of hope as the waves of circumstances push and pull against me. That rope is the my lifeline, and I’m not struggling to even consider whether or not it’s worthy of my holding on to, I’m struggling to not let it go … because waves do one of two things: they either propel us towards shoreline and safety, or they grind around us, wearing us down and challenging our fortitude to hold onto our belief that rescue is coming. 
“Everyday I drove by the house for over a year and I asked the Lord to give the family an amazing promotion, that it would be a blessing and a joy for them to move. Sometimes, as I drove by my heart would ache so bad that I could barely get the words out. They tasted bitter on my tongue as I felt my hope waning. But, I persisted…" 
Rich, rich words. Filled with a belief that grounded your hope. Sustained by a heart to bless a stranger. But also displaying the reality of blessing not always being easy. This paragraph holds it all. You didn’t just say to us “bless” and then BAM! your dreams are fulfilled. You showed us that heartache can stand alongside blessing and still be powerful. They don’t have to be exclusive to honor God because the point is that you dared to speak blessing and abundance over a family instead of just some random prayer that God would find a way to make this home yours. That’s POWERFUL! That’s a heaven-to-earth focused heart. And even when it felt hard or tasted bitter, you prayed blessing. HopefulPersistance. 
I purposely clipped off the end of your last sentence because these three words “but, I persisted…” screamed at me. They embody STRENGTH. “For when we are weak, then we are strong (2 Cor. 12:10).” My soul cheered when it read these words because even it recognized the spiritual significance of His Strength partnering with your persistence and then triumphing over the long ticks of seemingly endless calendar days and the taste of bitterness on a tongue. It’s VICTORY over flesh. And it’s VICTORY over the enemy of discouragement and the stealer of hope. 
When I think of the lengthy natural process you guys endured–from first seeing your dream home, to being beaten out by time constrictions, to believing it was still yours (just not yet), to a persistent prayer of blessing, to sustained hope, to the now of the reward fulfilled–I am reignited to not just be satisfied with the fact that I’m still holding onto hope, but I will, once again, LOOK. I’ve been so busy focusing at holding on that I haven’t opened my eyes in a long time to see what HeavenlyHope looks like. I’m not focused on the One who dreams first for us and then places those dreams in our hearts to pursue; I’m intent on surviving. And survival is not God’s heart for me, not the fullness of it anyway. 
“…seek Him first above the things He can do for us.” 
This is the focal point. When I seek to survive (only), I lose sight of God’s BIGNESS. I know Who is keeping me alive, and I truly am thankful for every way that He has sustained us time and time again these past 8 months. But my HOPE for big things, for dreams and purpose, has been reduced to the hope for another month’s rent. One is not wrong–it’s just not the fullness of hope. I’m thankful for manna, but I’ve stopped hoping for the Promised Land. 
Sharing your heart, Rebecca, has provoked me towards the Bigness of my God’s heart (again), and His dreams for me, and His land filled with promises that I just can’t yet see. I’ve stopped looking at the tops of the hills with anticipation, believing for promises that lay on the other side of one of them. Lately it’s just been this weariness that the top of the hill is “way up there”, and that it’s a long climb up. 
And I’m not complaining about where we are right now. I am truly thankful for sustenance. For the goodness of God’s hand of provision. I just know that the desert is not where God intended to leave his children. The desert was the journey from one place to another–not the destination. And while this desert journey hasn’t been as harsh and hot as some in the past, it has held some stolen dreams, stolen income, and the reality of a long time friendship dissolved by an act of careless betrayal.
But … the Word of God does not return void; I believe that with every fiber of my being. And Romans 8:28 is an active promise filled with the active hope of loss redeemed by His goodness. “AND WE KNOW that ALL things work together for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” 
Seek first the kingdom of God, and ALL things…

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

What if We Dared to Look Deeply?

This morning she awoke with a different sensation bubbling up in her heart. But it wasn’t what was bubbling that struck her the most; it was this instant recognition that it was drastically divergent from the companions that had been sharing her days for some weeks now, maybe months—actually years if you were brave enough to press in beyond the easy answer and ask “how are you?” more than once, and really mean it.

Apathy. Wandering. A touch of Loneliness. Well, maybe more than a touch. Probably more like the deep end of the pool that sometimes feels like that expanse of ocean experienced when one swims out beyond the break of the waves. There are no sides to hold onto out there when the legs grow weary from treading water. One simply wills him or herself to tread longer, or … sink.

These were some of her companions, but there were others too.

Insanity. Really, just a sense of insanity, but not the kind we call crazy where the mind can’t distinguish thought from reality—the kind that causes a mind to break into pieces and take up residence in the fractured places of darkness. No. This is the heart kind of insanity where what’s offered up and out to be heard and accepted and understood and nurtured bounces back in confusing ways. Ways that speak one thing but demonstrate another. Ways that almost force her to choose between what she hears and what she sees. Ways that allow room for her to grasp at hope for change but often back her into a corner where she has to consider a reality that may not be what she’s built around her. A carefully constructed environment often betrays what lies behind closed doors.

This kind of insanity is dangerously deceptive because while crazy tends to prominently display itself, the heart can hide itself in pretend smiles and creative words that tell a story of what’s longed for but not actually lived out.

And then there are those questions unanswered. Constant questions can spin a mind into a cycle of unknowing that feels endless and exhausting. Questions about what’s been and what is and what will be—and how they all fit together. Questions about what’s true versus what’s believed, and the fact that the forces of life’s winds can twist and bend us until up seems down and down seems up. And we’ll stake our lives, and the lives of those around us, on this upside-down truth. That’s a world with which she’s become far too acquainted. A world she chose to settle into because it seemed as if it were the only option offered. But was it? Is it? What if we don't see other options because we're just not willing to look in a different direction? Many say they see, but how many actually look?

What happens when questions remain unanswered for too long? When not knowing no longer satisfies the often-distorted stability of uncertainty? When the desire for answers trumps unanswered acceptance? A heart can only ask for so long before it just stops asking.

She’s heard it said, “One should not ask a question they don’t want to know the answer to.” And she’s understood for some time now that many happily abide by that suggested life policy, and do so with ease. Many don’t ask because there simply isn’t a desire to know, and she’s been wondering if that’s equally proportional to their desire to not be known. Questions are necessary though—vital actually—to fully living instead of just surviving, to knowing instead of just being.

The mystery of the human heart—just like the Mystery of God—is hidden, not to be forever buried, but to be uncovered by those who desire to search for it and appreciate the adventure; and deep is not meant for those who are content to float on the surface, but too many are.

What if we dared to look deeply and stayed long enough to gain trusted access into this hidden place? We may discover a world that’s pleading to be inhabited, where the ground is lush with life and love, and the soil is fertile for growing so many things new. Where treasure remains unearthed because no one’s yet dug deep enough to find it. Where the fraudulent belief that knowing someone is a finite process actually dissipates and then stretches into the wondrously wild and borderless expanse that was breathed into man by the One who is infinite.

But to many—to most, more often than not—this hidden place is too hazardous a path to travel because it requires a conscious choice to step over awkward and into the delicate and fragile territory of the unchartered human soul. It’s risky business here because easy answers don’t work, and listening is more profitable than being heard, and questions become the shovel to the buried treasure of the heart.

And really, isn’t there some truth to the thought that we’ve been lulled into this belief that comfortable clich├ęs are enough? That communicating knowledge and being heard are the same as being known? And those years marked off on the calendar equal knowing someone instead of what they really are … just time?

I wonder how much would change if we dared to look deeply?