Friday, October 16, 2015

#RelationshipGoals ... I Can't Love You

I know it's only 4 in the morning. But I'm on break at work and I just can't help but go bonkers in my soul. In gen real we started a series called #relationshipgoals and Pastor Sarah is talking about what it means to have healthy relationships and friendships for the next three weeks. We began the series last week. So one solid month of teaching and a God-perspective from a God-loving pastor about relationships. It's monumental and foundational. So. I've been praying as one of the leaders throughout this series and before it began for God to show me too. Because if the students are gonna go through it, the leaders will first. And holy crap. I subscribed to a blog from Pastor Steven Furtick lead pastor of Elevation Church. Every morning at 3am I get an email titled Waking Faith and there is a scripture and a short devo. Because I work overnight, I'm awake when y'all aren't. I have been praying continuously overnight every Wednesday Thursday and Friday for the past 6 months.  I pray during the day and I get to pray overnight. I just realized it yesterday how I have this rare opportunity to be in direct communication with the God of the universe for 8 hours straight while most of the world sleeps.  And if you think that's interesting, for the last month or so, I have been asking God, in those midnight hours while y'all are asleep, that He would give me opportunities to bless others and to love them with the overflow of love that is His love for me. It all sounds well and good and cute. But I cannot give what I do not have. If I strive to love others with my own love...ick. It's not gonna be that great. God doesn't require us to give what we do not have. He can't. Sooner than later you'll get burned out and frustrated and angry. I had to learn this the hard way. I desperately tried to give what I did not have. I desperately tried to be what I had not received from Him. I desperately tried to be a good friend...without being friends with my source, Jesus. The one who sticks closer than a brother. The one who has the greatest love, the kind of love that lays down his life for his friends. I was trying to love that way. Without having received it and believed it for myself from Him. It's impossible to do. I know...I tried it. And failed miserably.

So I've been on a journey of love. Learning how to allow myself to be loved by Him because He likes to love me.  And this blog from Pastor Steven has helped confirm things I was already praying and believing for. But then, I get this morning's blog post and guess what it's about? Receiving God's Love. Something I turned away from for years. Believing falsely that of course I was the exception to His love, sacrifice, Grace and mercy. But I've allowed Him access. And he has totally rights to my heart. Check out what the blog post says; "There is a principle that applies to every area of life — money, relationships, business. You can only give what you’ve first received. You can become spiritually anemic when you strive to love, give, and serve. You end up burnt out. Why? It’s because you’re operating out of order.
The first thing you have to learn about love is the source it comes from. Love comes from God because God is love. God is also just. He won’t ask you to give love you never received. You have to learn to be loved. If you don’t, you’ll act out of your frustration — which comes from a lack of received love — and you’ll end up damaging all of your relationships.
If you are going to be loved, then you’re going to have to believe the love. There’s no other way around this."

Dang. When I read it, I about fell out my chair.  God's thoughts have become my thoughts. And I'm not completely crazy. 
It's taken me 28 years to understand I am able to receive His love for me. Not bc I deserve it, but bc He just does. He loves me. And there was a sobering line from that post that I felt hit me like a ton of bricks.  Pastor Steven said, "You have to learn to be loved. If you don’t, you’ll act out of your frustration — which comes from a lack of received love — and you’ll end up damaging all of your relationships."  Dang. And seriously, it's true. I know. I've done it. So just get over the fact that you can't strong arm your way thru this. 

You have to receive His love for you first before your valiant efforts to love are even worth anything.  I am recalling even now many times where I said to myself, "it's ok, I don't need God's love. He can't love me, I'm too messed up, gross, unlovable. I'll just love people and it'll be fine." No! It's not fine!  This revelation of his love for me has been one of the most satisfying, mercy-filled and redemptive lessons of my life. We love because he first loved us. But he won't force his love on us. We must receive it.  I believe it's one of the most foundational truths that I skipped over when I entered into friendships. I learned it AFTER seeing things break and I wish I would've just surrendered to this great love sooner. But I can't change what I did. I can only allow Him to change me moving forward. And he's faithful, he who began a good work is faithful to compete it. So when I'm surrendered to Him, nothing is wasted. I'm believing that. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

I'm In Pieces...

But He is not.  I suppose this is a spin-off of a post I already made on facebook just a little bit ago.  I was doing mindless activity (watching television, something I rarely do), When all of a sudden, I realized that I was longing for something more than that.

I began my day in, what has become a routine.  The first words or thoughts out of my mouth are directed to God.  I wake up with a sense of anticipation, of expectation.  I usually begin my day with a conversation...the most important conversation of the day.  I talk with Jesus.  This morning was no different.  I woke up feeling different.  I woke up feeling older.  Not like, in my bones...but in my mind, in my heart and in my spirit.  Like God had done something in me overnight while i was asleep.  Like He had cleansed my heart, my brokenness, with the power of a fierce rainstorm.  That's how I began my day.  He left me wanting more.

So much more that I had to turn off the tv about 6 hours after that encounter to get something I desperately needed from Him.  When this song came to mind... Pieces.  It's a song that talks of the wholeness of God's love.  How it doesn't come to us in pieces.  He doesn't give us His love in pieces. It comes to us, it beckons us, from a place of wholeness.  When wholeness calls out to brokenness...there is a joyous reunion when one receives what the other is offering.

God, in His wholeness, called out to me, in my brokenness.  My fractured heart, my anxious heart.  My heart in pieces was beckoned by the wholeness and fullness of God's heart.

**At the end of this post, I encourage you to listen to this song I am talking about, "Pieces" by Amanda Cook and Bethel Music.

I just turned 29 on Friday.  And up until about a month before that, I was wondering how in the world God could love a broken, messed up person like me.  Someone who has hurt, been hurt, is hurting.  Someone who turned away from the most perfect love that anyone could ever know.  Jesus ran to the cross, I ran away from His love.  He turned toward me in my brokenness, I turned away in shame.  But this last season, I have turned toward Him, fully.

It's one thing to be sorry for what you have done, it's one thing to apologize.  But it is an entirely different thing when you have a repentant heart.  When you live with a repentant heart, the best is ALWAYS yet to come.

In a season where I felt completely left alone, in the silence, He met me.  In a season where I looked around and saw everything broken, He gave me His love in wholeness, not in pieces.  In a season where I was reduced to a relationship with only Him, He showed me how to love, when He was the only one I felt I could love.  When He felt like my only friend, He taught me how to be a friend.  When the darkness swallowed me up, His glory broke through my night.  When i felt abandoned, He redeemed my life from the pit.  He was everything I was trying so desperately to be on my own.

I was trying to love people from an empty tank.  I was trying to be a friend when I was ditching my best friend, Jesus.  Now, I know it might sound elementary to say, "yea! Jesus is my best friend!!"
I used to think that.  But it's true.  He gives me what I need, He's there ALL the time.  There's no one on earth, not even a best friend or spouse who is with us...everywhere, all the time, with all the attention we need.  And I can tell you (whoever "you" are) life gets messy and broken when you don't make Him first.  I wish I would have learned this a whole lot sooner.  It would have saved me some heartache.  And what's would have saved others some heartache too.  I wasn't giving them my best...I was giving them leftovers.  I was giving them leftover Jesus from a few days ago when I spent 15 minutes with Him.  I gave them leftovers...from the week before on Sunday morning.

I gave Jesus in pieces.  But He gives me Himself in wholeness.

---> "Pieces" by Bethel Music

Thursday, October 8, 2015

When I Blow Out My Candles On Friday...

It's the eve of my 29th birthday. The real 29th one...not like the ones you repeat after you hit 40.  It might just be my personality, or it might just be human reflect when you come to a milestone. But this birthday, just seems to be mundane. It's actually one I don't really want to celebrate. I kinda wish I could just sleep thru it, because I get to go to a wedding on the day after it. This birthday, as I reflect, I see things gained and things lost. Things broken and things restored. But mostly lost and broken.  Last year at my birthday, I was celebrating many things gained. This year, I feel like I've had on funeral clothes.

As fairytale-esque as it would be to paint a pretty picture of beautiful relationships, leaves changing color, football hoodies and hot chocolate in this, my most favorite season of the year, I have found myself shutting my eyes tighter and tighter, begging God to hurry up to the next season. Because maybe at least then...things around me would be different.

I began the summer season with a death, my grandpa. And since then, have seen death come to many facets of my life. Dreams, hopes, relationships, ideas, expectations. Just to name a few. And I wish I could say that after these last 6 months of being broken that things are finally looking up and not so broken, I have dared to open my eyes just enough to see...that things are still just as dead as they started.

I have cast hope and expectation onto the Lord. I have believed in the face of helplessness. I have hoped in the face of hopelessness. I have stayed in the wind and waves and rain, trusting that God was hearing me in the midst of pain & regret. And I know he has indeed heard me. He has brought me thru the most painful hell I have walked thru in my life and I am better for it. But when what you sense is not what you see...and you live in hope but your reality is defeat...what do you do?  I'm not really sure. The best answer I have is to just keep on believing.

"What do you want for your birthday?" I've been asked. Well, the things I want can't really be written down on paper. They have been etched on my heart, they can't be bought with any kind of currency.
They aren't material things, they are things that mean far more than jewelry, or something wrapped up pretty in a bow. They are soul things. They are things loved & hoped for.

On this birthday, I don't want things for me, I want things for others. The peace and restoration that God has brought back into my life with greater power and purpose are things I want for others. And if it were at all possible, I would rip them out of me and give them to the people I love the most in a second. But since that isn't possible, I will just continue to hope, believe, trust and love.

For my birthday, I just want Jesus to bring the dead things back to life. Oh. And a tattoo.