Selah

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I have been in a holding pattern on this blog, it seems.  I originally started writing it as a means of sharing what I am learning in my delving into the Word of God.  That does not mean I have answers for anyone else by any stretch, but if something I have learned makes sense to someone else, so much the better.  AND I have so benefited from what others learn in their study time that I just wanted to share what God is doing in my life and what I am learning as well.

I have been in a place of sifting for the past two years. The sifter has been my job.  The Bible talks about sifting in more than one place, but the experience I have been in is referenced in Luke 22: 31-32.  31 “Simon, Simon, pay attention! Satan has demanded to have you all, to sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. When you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

I have been in places of sifting off and on in my journey with God for over 3 decades.  The experience is painful, and I do not pretend to understand why it is necessary in the sense that maybe for me God determines it necessary to sift me repeatedly when he may not one of his other children.  Maybe I’m just a slow learner. That is very possible, but what I am seeing now, as I look back a ways down the path from which I have come, is a process taking shape.

You see in the scripture where Jesus is talking to Simon Peter, he tells him that Satan is wanting to sift; is asking to be allowed to sift, and he is given permission.  That tells me a lot.  For one thing, God does not do bad things to his children, but he allows it.  Is that semantics?

Well, yeah, but it is important.  I believe, in my finite little human mind, that it is all about adding dimension to us, and more specifically, to our faith.  After a lifetime of being in relationship with God, I have learned a few things about him and how he handles me.  I am exceedingly stubborn and self-sufficient, prone to hubris.  Those are not admirable traits in the walk with God.  I have been learning the hard way for a lifetime that I MUST rely on God, and I cannot attempt to procure my ending myself.

Because I tend to not “get it,” I believe God has allowed Satan to sift me, because even though God is working on these undesirable traits, he knows I can take it.  He knows I have been conditioned enough to handle the obstacle course, even though I’m gonna complain and groan my way through it.

So, I have been in a job that challenges my most fundamental character trait, my sense of justice.  What Satan has done, since he has also known me my whole life, was to make sure I felt helpless, and at every turn I was thwarted, betrayed, and impotent to stop what I was seeing, because he knows that combo triggers my animalistic nature.  I am no flight person.  It’s fight all the way, baby.  (Thank You Jesus, You gave me a husband who is a tough guy with a gentle nature!  He is wise!)  But he also knows, I have an illness that gets triggered in such fights.  He also knows if he goads me to take it all on on my own…I will.

I am happy to say that I began calling out to God from the beginning.  I struggled with my fundamental nature and my wanting to step out on my own and take things into my own hands, which, I confess, I did.  A lot.  But I also stepped back and asked for guidance.  I asked for help too.  Maybe not enough.  And I know for sure that I did not exhibit God’s grace at all near the end of the the two years.  I began falling apart mentally, as Satan knew I would because of the nature of the illness that impacts my life, but I did not fail to turn to God.  I cried out over and over for his rescue.

Yeshua, my rescuer.

What I have been learning VERY slowly is that God is not interested in me winning the human race.  All the things that people hold up as successful, God is not interested in cultivating in his warriors.  He is not interested in how many church services I attend or how many messages I take in from famous speakers.  He does not care how much spiritual jargon I can spew or how many “encounters” I can say I have had with him if it does not change me to be more reliant on him.

I’m gonna tell you right now, this was ugly.  I have been praying since the first month I started my job to be released.  I committed to two years, and he has held me to it, to the day.  But he is faithful, and even though I made a mess of so many things in trying to get away and stop the wheat threshing I have been experiencing, he has been faithful in releasing me.

Satan has been right there with me as well, even sending someone along to tell me what a sinner I have been.  The truth is that I have sinned.  It’s really not about my sinning.  I’m human.  It happens.  He knows better than anyone that if he wants perfection, he better not send me.  But, my heart is good, and when he told me to love the people I worked for, he knew I would do it.

He knew I would screw up as well, which is why he provided Romans 8:28: 28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”  He did it so that I would know that my sin in the midst of serving, in a place I never would have chosen for myself but that I went to in obedience, he would erase and work out all of it in spite of my blunders and mishandling; because my heart longs for him and I confess what I break.

One day I woke up and asked as I had every day, “Is it done?  Is it over?  Can I leave?”  One day he said, “Do it,” and so I did.

I will never know if there was another reason, really.  I know He told me to go, cleared the path so specifically that there was no misunderstanding.  I was an intellectual stepping into a world political agendas absent of common sense.  The people I worked with were beautiful and many from families I have known my whole life.  I will never know if there was a purpose outside the sifting I encountered.  The facility will close back over itself, absorbing my empty presence as though I was never there.  But Oh Man, did it grow me.  I learned, really learned how to swing a sword of truth in a sea of deceit.

Maybe that is what I was sent to do.  I didn’t do it well.  Bad form rather too often, but there were specific moments when God told me very directly to speak to those who seem to be rather full of their own significance, not considering those they are to be leading, and I did.  I will never know what God will do with that.  It’s really none of my business.

Footnote…

I gave my resignation when God impressed upon me to do so, and interestingly enough, it was before I had another job.  So I step from one stone of faith onto another I can’t see.  I have no idea what is round the corner, but I can tell you that, sin and all, I passed the sifting.  Satan did not take me out.  Oh, he pulled out all the stops, but in the midst of the fog I fell back on the foundation that was reinforced by God’s direction that I memorize the 40 verses of Hebrews 11.

Faith

I choose to be sure of what I hope for and I choose to be certain of what I cannot see.

I am sure that God is faithful to finish what he started in me (Phil 1:6)

I am certain he has a plan for a hope and a future just for me (Jer 29:1)

Selah

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raising the Dead

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If you were to ask my sister what she wants most in life, she would likely tell you she would like to raise the dead. Seriously.  I can’t think of a more worthy desire than that can you?

But my sister believes she has been unable to raise the dead.  Now, no matter your faith origin, you have to admit that raising the dead is up there in the category of mythology with all the super heroes.  She is not a myth, so she does not raise the dead.

She is wrong.  And I am going to explain why…

This blog is not generally where I write about mental health topics, mainly my misadventures with mental illness.  I have another blog where I write specifically about mental health.  This blog is about my faith and what I learn about my walk with the Creator.  I keep them separate because I have two different audiences I serve, but here is the rub…

I fully believe that I am resilient after edging on three decades of hard core battle with mental illness because of hope, and I cannot sustain hope when I’m sitting on the metaphorical (or literal) edge.  I can’t purchase it, and I can’t fabricate it.  Yet hope is what lifts me to my feet when I am down.  Where do I get it then?

I get it from God.  His brand of hope is best.

Those of us who are “entertaining” mental illness have had encounters with the psychiatric community.  The United States has high stats for mental illness and abysmal treatment by comparison.  There are just too many holes in a model that perpetuates relapse.  So we and our loved ones are continually searching for effective treatments in the form of medicology and psychology.

Let me explain what it is like to encounter the need to be dead over and over until it is your normal.  It is a dread that rolls in like fog.  You can see it from a distance, and terror overtakes you as you are reminded that you will experience  a hundred deaths before it is over, and if you manage to physically survive, you will have lost more than you had before it hit.  You know this to be true, and you accept it.

It is one thing to experience a round of depression (and please don think I minimize such an experience), but it is quite another to experience the black nothingness of despair, disillusionment, and discouragement that hits because the chemicals are just not playing nice with one another.  Over and over again.

There are two natural environmental things I can compare this experience to.  One is standing in a large cave or enormous room in pitch black.  The other is standing in the total white out of a blizzard.  I have been in both, and if you have you will remember that the longer you stand in those two environments the more you lose your place, your equilibrium, your bearings.  Panic sets in, because we are not made to not have our senses alert us to what is going on, and in the two scenarios I mentioned, the senses become heightened to the point of shutdown.  This total loss of equilibrium is what it is like upon entering the black night of depression that leads ultimately to the loss of desire to live and the desperation that accompanies suicide.

My sister wants to raise the dead.

And she does.

Do you hear me, Jayme?  This is a word for you.  You are raising the dead every time you get on that phone or meet that person in crisis who is just d.o.n.e. done.  Every time you intervene.

Just as Sarah’s womb was dead with no life, and God sent an angel to help “raise” it to life to sustain a life, you walk into that world every day, and you help raise the lives of those whose will to live is dead back to life.  You bring them hope.

You have done it for me twice in 2016, and that is one year out of nearly 3 decades of mental illness for me.

You are raising the dead.

God is faithful.  I know you didn’t need me to tell you that, but I know he wants me to tell you this, not only for me, but for those many many people who can’t thank you or won’t realize until much farther down the road what you have done for them.

The dry bones may have come to life in Ezekiel, but Jesus said in John that “you will do greater things.”  You are not watching dry bones dance.  You are reaching in and pulling people out of the dark.

You are raising the dead.

Thank you for working in crisis intervention.  Thank you for being willing to go where few go and God has sent you.  What you are doing is rippling out beyond where you can see.

Happy New Year.  May you be blessed and encouraged as you continue in that very special vocation of life restoration.

I love you.

 

He Sings Over You

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Do you know God sings over you with joy?  I am trying to imagine what God sounds like when he is singing.  I just can’t, and to further try to imagine His singing being about me just short circuits my synapses.  I come back to one question.

Why?

Why would he sing over me?

This little scripture is power packed with story.  Judah finally had a king in Josiah who was willing seek the ways of God.  They had had two kings, Manessah and Amon who were just vile.  They had led God’s children, who were so easily “led down the garden path” in spite of the fact the God had proven his love and provision for them over and over again.  So Josiah was attempting to reverse the worshiping of Baal and paganism to bring them all back under God’s blessing.

In that time the prophet who was delivering God’s messages to the people was Zephaniah.  And if you read the book of Zephaniah, which is, in fact, the message God gave him to deliver to the people, it may be short but much like the above referenced verse, it lays it all out with no frills and is powerful.

The first two chapters are about God letting the people know just what he is going to do to them for disobeying him, and I have to tell you I think this may be where the phrase, “putting the fear of God in” came from.  Zephaniah pulls no punches as he explains the day of judgment coming for Judah.

In chapter three there is what I perceive as a pivotal part of the dissertation in verse 3, where Zephaniah says, ” Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands.  Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger.”  Makes me think, “Okay, so God is maybe going to spare those who have attempted to follow him.”  And it also tells us that it wasn’t the whole of Judah turning away from God.  There were those who maintained his ways and walked in humility and righteousness.

Finally, in the third chapter we see that God has referenced hope, and in verse 17, not only is there hope for Judah but this scripture speaks to all the generations.  In it is not only the promise of forgiveness but so much more.

Do you know God is with you?

It sometimes seem that the limb we are swinging from is one we are on all by ourselves, and rather often we know we have gotten there of our own doing.  But sometimes we find ourselves out on a limb swinging away due to someone else’s decisions that have impacted us, and whether the wind is a freezing Nor’easter or a mild Zephyr, the fact that we are out there blowing around on our own renders volume or temperature superfluous. Verse 17 is help in so many words.

The first line is simple, “The Lord your God is with you.”  Stop there if you must.  That should be enough to help move you to the knowledge that you are not hanging but grasped in the hands of Almighty God, and coupled with his promise from Hebrews 13:5 that he will never leave you or forsake you should give you nothing if not hope that you are not alone.

The second part of verse 17 tells us that God is more than able to rescue us from catastrophe that befalls us.  “He is a mighty warrior who saves,” and I don’t know about you, but this living life thing is brutal.  When I am promised God, the mighty warrior to save me, I’m going to hold out my arms and await the rescue.

Not only will he rescue us, but “he will delight in us.”  He will take great delight in us.  Wow.  Can’t think of any reason I gave God this week to greatly delight in me.  As a matter of fact, I can’t think of any reason, ever, for God to take great delight in me.

And yet the scripture says he does.  It is true, this scripture was written specifically to Judah, but these scriptures are prophetic, which means they span time and space.  That means the application and lesson may be about a certain time, place, and people, but the meat is for all of God’s children to read and learn from.  The story endures for us to experience and learn.

So not only is God with us and delights in us, but the next part of verse 17 says he will “no longer rebuke you in his love.”  The NIV Life Application says, “he will quiet you with his love.” This translation speaks to me more, as I find the concept of quiet correlative to rest and solitude.  It is generally what I need most when I am at the end of myself, and to think that God’s love can reach out to that which is fractious in me and quiet it with his love, is so very appealing, hopeful, and humbling.

Then the verse says the thing that just blows my mind, “he will rejoice over you with singing.”  Seriously?  Singing?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t generally struggle with confidence.  I know who I am; my strengths and weaknesses, and I will pat myself on the back when I know I have done well at something I have worked for, but I NEVER sing over me.  I would not even consider there to be something I have accomplished that would warrant me singing my praises…

So I cannot begin to fathom why God would.

But, then, I don’t think this little line is about accolades and pats on the back.  I believe that this little line is about the essence of the creation he made; you. Me.  It is the fact that he rejoices over each one of us, because each on of us is his favorite creation and he loves to delight over us.  He loves to sing over us, and I firmly believe that he sings blessing, protection, strength, and hope.  In fact, I think he sings things over us we do not have vocabulary to define.

God is with you, saves you, delights in you, quiets you with his love, and

God sings over you with joy.