Friday, April 29, 2011

Faith and Tornadoes

"Faith is...the evidence of things not seen."   --Hebrews 11:1

"True faith drops its letter in the post office box, and lets it go.  Distrust holds on to a corner of it, and wonders that the answer never comes.  I have some letters in my desk that have been written for weeks, but there was some slight uncertainty about the address or the contents, so they are yet unmailed.  They have not done either me or anybody else any good yet.  They will never accomplish anything until I let them go out of my hands and trust them to the postman and the mail.

"This is the way with true faith.  It hands its case over to God, and then He works.  That is a fine verse in the Thirty-seventh Psalm: "Commit thy way unto the Lord, trust also in him, and he shall bring it to pass." But He never worketh til we commit...."  (from Days of Heaven upon Earth, as quoted in Streams in the Dessert)

Two nights ago, I found myself alone with 4 children in our basement as tornado warnings popped up all over the radar screen.  My husband was not home at the time.  He called to instruct me on how to manage the night.  He was insistent that I take the computer down in the basement so that I could constantly keep track of the weather radar.  He and I handle things quite differently. He's methodical and wants to review the facts.  Weather radars give him info he needs.  I, however, truly didn't want to keep track of the radar.  I wanted to prepare as much as we could prepare (hunkering down in the basement) and then sit still and pray and focus on God alone.  Watching the radar only heightens my fears and causes me to look at the storm as Peter did; instead, I wanted to peacefully pass the night in prayer and quiet, focusing instead on my Jesus, the one who calms the storms.  Surrendering my will in this situation was excruciatingly difficult; but, in the spirit of submission (which I'm desperately trying to practice!), I agreed to his plan.  The computer screen, with its awful red boxes of tornado warnings, accompanied us to the basement.  It sat like an unwanted friend just outside the glass door of the office where we settled in for a long night.

Shortly after we were all settled in the basement office, lights flickered and then went dark.  There's nothing more pitch black than a basement with no lights in the middle of a dark stormy night!  With hands reaching for the flashlight, I realized that the tiny lights on the laptop were shining through the glass door.  That unwanted friend was now our night light!  And a calm bathed my mind as it donned on me that, with the electricity off, it was impossible to look at the weather radar.  God was taking care of every detail!  He knew exactly what I needed.  In submitting to my husband's requests, I had gained a night light; and God had arranged the radar screen to no longer be an issue to rattle my nerves.  He is faithful to His Word...if we commit our ways to Him and trust Him, He takes care of the rest.

With wide-eyed children huddled next to me (one of which was crying because he was so scared), I prayed a silent prayer for God to make me solid for my children.  I opened my Bible to Psalm 91 and began to read about God being our refuge.  Then, teaching them how to claim Scriptures, I read it again, turning it into a prayer of faith...praying His Words back to Him...believing that His Word cannot return to Him void.  Faith began to flow.  Crying child settled down and drifted to sleep.  The two oldest children began to talk about missionary stories we had read.  "Mama, I'm scared, but I keep thinking about Nate Saint and how he was in many scary situations but trusted God.  That's what I'm going to do."  "Mama, when I become a missionary and write a book, I'm going to include the story of this night."

Our make-shift tornado shelter in the basement

Ahhh...a light dons in my spirit.  There was a horrible storm beating the outside of our home, but inside God was busy working in hearts.  Solidifying faith.  Letting delicate wings begin to spread.  I leaned my head back and prayed silently as the children began to fall to sleep.

The storm raged outside for 4 hours.  My husband and father-in-law (a former weather man who still has the computers and know-how for observing storms) were tracking the storm closely and looking at the rotation of clouds.  I received text messages several times through the night as they watched the storm.  One phone call told me that the clouds exactly over our house were beginning to rotate, and it was "serious."

My peace evaporated.  My heart began to pound so hard that I felt weak.  My skin felt cold.  This was unedited raw FEAR.  It's the flesh that we just cannot seem to separate ourselves from.  I hung up the phone and sat still in the darkness.  And Peter came to mind...stepping out of the boat, walking...then seeing the waves and sinking.  I didn't want to sink like Peter did.  Don't let me sink now!  I began to picture the face of Jesus in that storm...I pictured myself walking out to him.  I coaxed my mind: "Don't look at the storm...look at His face...He can say 'Peace be still' and calm this entire storm.  Don't listen to the storm.  Don't look at the storm.  Don't focus on the storm.  Look to Him alone.  He alone is my hope."

But with rotating clouds directly above our home, my flesh struggled greatly, even with the pep talk I was giving myself.  My heart still beat wildly.  And it angered me that my faith was not winning out.  Then, I remembered: "REST in Him."  My prayers changed: "God, I want to have faith.  I'm striving to have faith.  But it's not in striving.  It's in resting.  But I cannot even make myself rest in You.  I need YOU to do the whole thing.  I submit myself to you, and I trust you to cause me to rest in You."  I was at the end of myself.  I couldn't will myself...I couldn't strive hard enough...nothing at all in my own power was capable of resting at that moment in time.

And then an unseen warm calm flowed over my entire body.  Words are escaping me, as there really are no human words to describe what happened.  It felt as if warm water...only not water...was flowing over my body...from head to toe...every inch of my being felt a flowing of some sort.  Warm washed over me.  PEACE literally bathed me.  My heart rate slowed to normal pace, and I felt absolutely zero fear.  I was breathing in, breathing calm, complete peace.

The phone beeped with a text.  But nothing at all could invade that supernatural coating of peace.  I felt strength rise inside me...not my strength, but His.  And I realized anew that He is in me.  He was in that room.  Let the storm rage all it wants to, but my God can direct it anywhere He pleases.  Let the storm vent and intimidate, but I was looking only at Jesus...trusting Him at His Word.

And, in that moment, all the weeks of my praying to truly understand the concept of resting in Him were answered.  Sometimes the answers come in the storm.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sweetly Broken

Lord, you were broken for me.

Break me for you.  

Sweetly broken, wholly surrendered.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Entering His Rest

Deep inside, where no man can see, my spirit has been wrestling intensely.  I wake with the burden of lost souls on the other side of the planet who don't know Him...souls that are dropping into an eternity of suffering...and it grieves my actual pain.  

I live in comfort in a beautiful wooded area that feeds my very being with its quiet nature.  And yet I cannot forget...I choose NOT to forget the thousands of souls who will die today without the hope of the One true God.  I choose not to forget the millions of souls who have never heard His name.  

I surround myself constantly with input, such as this video so that I will not ever forget:

And I choose to keep it in the forefront of my mind.  I've let it invade my every thought, every moment of my life.  I simply HAVE to DO something.

Making ourselves available, we stepped out to GO to the mission field full-time.  We knocked on doors.  At every turn, we found a closed door that wouldn't budge.  

I don't want to go unless He opens the door, so I wait.

The wrestling in me grew so intense...  The thought of the lost...the knowledge of Jesus calling His disciples to go into all the nations...the weight of the burden waking me up at night.  Having closed doors was like having an itch somewhere you can't reach reach and reach and try to scratch it, but no after day.

And the itch intensifies...

I am compelled to give my life to Him to spend as He chooses.  I just don't know what He's choosing.

If GOING wasn't an option right now, I began to think of a million good ideas for how to SEND others.  We have friends who are missionaries, and I began to come up with amazing ways of how I can spend my life to send them...having a business and pouring the profit into supporting God's work on the mission field.  I got excited about the possibilities and began to feel a powerful surge inside, as if the itch was finally going to be scratched...that focus would be achieved, and all my life could be poured into this one goal.

I was elated to finally be on the verge of "marking out a straight path for my feet" and "running with endurance the race."  There's amazing power in a focused life, and I was thrilled to be finally stepping out of the boat...putting action to these restless feet.

But, instead, the answer clear as day was: NOT YET.  STAND STILL.  

My husband's advice was to stand still.  Oh how hard it is to submit when I'm just super sure that I'm on the right track!

Last night, just after this apparent "blow" was delivered to me (oh how it smashed my plans and ideas to bits...I felt like I was holding shattered remnants), I went to bed and just before turning off the light, I opened up a devotion book my mom had recently given me.  I opened to the April 19th page and found the message to be "STAND STILL."

Oh how I struggle with standing still!!  I want action.  I want movement forward.  But everywhere I turn is the same message: STAND STILL.

"Stand still---keep the posture of an upright man, ready for action, expecting further orders, cheerfully and patiently awaiting the directing voice; and it will not be long ere God shall say to you, as distinctly as Moses said it to the people of Israel, 'Go forward'." ---from Streams in the Dessert devotional

If I were having to stand still, awaiting my own selfish ladder-climbing, I think I'd be okay.  But the ever-present tugging on my spirit of all the souls who are going into eternity without hope...THAT just spurs me onward as a pressing need that I simply cannot forget.  How can I stand still while I COULD be doing something??

Ahhhh, it hits me...  It is not ME who does the work.  I enter into His rest.  I enter into HIM.  It is HE who does the work.  It is me who is a utensil for His use.  HIS use.  HIS timing.  I picture myself as a willing servant sitting on a stool, awaiting orders.  When I hear His voice, I jump up to do whatever He calls me to do.  HIS missions.  HIS work.  And when He bids me to rest, I must rest.  A rest that only comes by entering into Him and abiding...simply abiding...and trusting Him fully to know what is best.  And yet ready...always that when He gives direction, I'm able to jump up and GO, no matter where or what the assignment is.

It is not that I need to help God out.  Really, who do I think I am to ever think He needs my help??  NO, it is because He has chosen to love me that I CHOOSE to let Him spend me however He sees fit.  And if that means that today He is calling me to rest, who am I to make other "more active" plans?  

And when the day comes when an open door stands before me, who am I to question that door?  No matter how inconvenient or how different from my plans, let me always be willing to say, "YES, LORD."  To wait when He says wait, to rest when He says rest, to go when He says go.  And to always always devote more time to prayer than to plans.

I leave you with this video and the wise words: "The grace of God evokes the surrender of men."   

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Casual Acceptance or Absolute Surrender?

If you've never heard of David Platt, I encourage you to Google his name.  You will be challenged...maybe even uncomfortably challenged by the message he gives and LIVES.

Here is a message he delivered called "Casual Acceptance or Absolute Surrender?" Quite frankly, it has messed me a good way.  The videos are around 12-14 minutes each and very very much worth the time.  I don't see how you or I or anyone can be the same person after taking this message truly to heart and action.

I pray the Holy Spirit will speak to your heart as you seek Him.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Awake before dawn

The IDEA of surrender is appealing.  "In acceptance lies peace."  Peace, so often elusive, beckons me...and all I have to do is surrender.  It's like bartering: bring surrender to the table and exchange it for peace. It all sounds really good in type on this screen. 

But when at 3am I'm jolted out of bed by a little one with a gushing nose bleed...  Well, I wasn't thinking of surrender.  I was thinking of let's-get-this-fixed-so-that-I-can-get-more-sleep!   With nosebleed under control, little guy tucked back into bed and bathroom cleaned up, I headed back to bed.  Then wrestling with the sheets began...trying desperately to fall back asleep before the alarm went off.  I wasn't thinking of surrender then.  Tossing and turning only worsened my mindset, and pretty soon I was huffing on the outside and growling on the inside.  A stream of things came to my mind: "it's going to be a looooong day...I'm going to be grumpy...I need more in the world am I going to be a good Mama when I'm running on fumes..."

I began to pray.  

And then it happened.  I remembered that peace lies in acceptance.  Though my day was already heading quickly downhill before the sun had even contemplated rising, the paradigm shift began to force my thoughts onto new territory.  Peace lies in acceptance.  With burning eyes and weary body, I let that moment seep into my soul.  Breathe it in...this moment right here was not a mistake.  Somehow, some way, it is one small part of the tapestry that makes up my whole life.  It may be a mere speck in that tapestry, but I could either wrestle with it or accept it.  Wrestling meant great frustration.  Accepting meant peace.

I chose acceptance.

If I truly and honestly, with all my heart, REALLY believe that my God is in control...then He was in control of the pre-dawn moments.  If I accept HIS Will for my life, then I accept what appears (in my limited human viewpoint) to be inconvenience.  

There truly IS peace in acceptance.  

Lord, let the day roll in.  Bring your sun up over the horizon, as only You can do.  Set my day on Your course, and let me see every moment, every inconvenience, absolutely everything as from Your loving Hand.  

"You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, whose thoughts are fixed on you!" ---Isaiah 26:3