Every day I learn something new. It may have been about events, life, a friend or human behavior. This morning was about me! Sitting quietly I became aware of something that triggers me and causes me to feel shamed. It’s not from past trauma or anything like that. People, family, coworkers etc, sometimes without realizing it say things that sting. That stuff will happen. But here’s what I learned about myself…. I try very hard to set up my world to avoid pain at every turn. I want to inoculate myself from pain. How unrealistic to think I can avoid it. I can’t avoid it! Yet I want to at all costs. The real question is why? I wonder if it’s as simple as pain avoidance or if an old coping mechanism. No matter why I think the better thing to do is learn to become aware of the trigger and work through it constructively. The first step for me is awareness, then prayer then reaching out to a friend. I’m a verbal processor. So once I talk through I’m usually ok again. And after all isn’t that how we all want to feel?
Usually I think about waiting on The Lord. But the other night God spoke to my heart. He said “I wait” As I thought more about what that meant I remembered my own fathers last words to me. ” My love for you is long and patient” I didn’t understand why my dad would say that to me. I chalked it up to the cancer that had gone to his brain. But those words haunted me for a few years.
Then one day, out of the blue, God gave me understanding. You see my dad knew my walls were up. My dad was willing to patiently wait until I let those walls come down and show his love to me. I put those walls up to protect myself.
Ok that’s the background.
The other night. my husband and I were at a marriage retreat. During worship, God spoke to my heart. He said “I wait”. I wondered what more God wanted to say. Then He said “I wait and watch. I wait for the walls to come down, I watch to see willingness”
“THEN I COME”
Sometimes He comes in a gentle breeze. Sometimes He comes as a mighty rushing wind. But just like my dad waited for me to let him in God waits too!
I never thought my dad’s last words would become a parable. But it has! How cool is that!
I became aware that I was trying to say something. “DAD” but nothing was really coming out. I could hear myself trying to say it over and over but still nothing would come out. I was in that state between being awake and asleep. I didn’t know what was happening or why I was saying dad. Then all of the sudden I saw a demon standing near my bed. At that point I barely got the word dad out of my mouth but I managed to say it. The thing moved to the other side of the room. I said “dad” again a little louder the second time. Then as fast as it came it was gone.
I had a similar experience years before. So once it happens you don’t forget. I know it would be easier to dismiss it as a dream, but I couldn’t. It wasn’t a dream back then and it wasn’t one now. I know a lot of people will disagree with me. We live in a spiritual world as well as a real world. Like it or not.
I learned something interesting. I learned that God knew I was calling on Him and He honored it. Why was I saying dad??? I was calling on my heavenly Father to protect and defend me. I did it instinctively. If I were fully awake I probably would’ve called out the name of Jesus. But I was in that in between state and God honored it!!.
It makes me wonder how many other lessons there are yet to be learned. Calling out “dad” instead of using the name of Jesus and having His help in the moment I needed Him is certainly something I won’t forget. It tells me how unconcerned Jesus is with our correctness. He’s much more concerned about us than being called by a particular name. He is true to His word, His character and His promises.
When I was really young I never really felt like I fit in anywhere. It didn’t matter if it was true or not. It’s just a feeling I wrestled with daily. It didn’t matter where I was. I still had this nagging sense of being different or not good enough. I felt this way at home, among cousins, in my neighborhood and at school.
Then one day I attended a charismatic church and went forward for prayer. Oddly enough I didn’t realize the guy that was praying for me was a pastor (even though I just listened to him preach). And I didn’t know He heard from God and shared those words with others. So there I am thinking I’m getting prayer for bad sinuses and this guy says “I can tell everywhere you’ve ever gone and everywhere you’ve ever been you’ve always felt a little different and little out-of-place. From this day forward you will never walk alone.” This guy nailed it!
That began my journey for truth in the inner parts. I have no problem leaning into the discomfort of getting to the root of my stuff. I’m not afraid to sit with those uncomfortable feelings , take them before the Father and allow Him to bring light into my darkness. Though I was an adult , what I found was a little girl still very much alive on the inside of me raging from the shame and rejection.
But the dilemma for me, the words shame,fear and unworthiness, were considered carnal in nature in the circles I ran in. Consequently some of my “stuff” remained hidden in dark places for years. I just couldn’t risk making myself that vulnerable to another Christian by telling them what I was secretly feeling. I couldn’t take the chance of being told “you’re just too carnal for me” I.e. “you’re too immature and unspiritual for me to hang out with”. That would’ve devastated me. It was that fear of disconnection that kept me trapped and unable to let God into a really deep dark scary part of my heart.
As time went on, God separated me to himself for a second round of sifting and separating. The first time I went through one of those “seasons” it lasted 1 1/2 years and was awful. In the second round it lasted closer to 5 years. And it just plain old sucked. (Sorry God but it did) God wanted access to my heart. All of it! He knew I could handle more than I ever thought I could, with His loving arms to hold me up. It didn’t feel like love at the time. It felt more like I was a plant that had been pulled up by the roots but not yet potted in a bigger pot. This “season” produced much fruit. But for this post I’ll focus on more freedom to be me. Warts and all!
Jesus loves me and you just as we are. That’s part of belonging to the family. But people and yes even Christians because of fear settle fitting in over belonging. I can say this with certainty because I know I’m not the only one guilty of sacrificing the real me at the altar of peer acceptance. Is anyone saying ouch yet??
In the words of my new favorite author Brene Brown “Fitting in and have a sense of belonging are two totaling different things”.
Fitting in is something we do to be accepted. But the problem is that when we settle for ‘fitting in’ we’re always looking over our shoulder to make sure no one else comes along to expose us for something and kick us out of the group. Leaving us all alone. again!
So here’s what I’ve discovered…
First, no one wants to talks about fear or shame,and the less you talk about it the more you are stuck with it like a thorn in the paw of a lion. It’ll roar at you until you hear it and pay attention.
Second, the more I say out loud the things I’m secretly thinking the more I find other that say “I know! and me too!” And That’s when I find a sense of connection and belonging that I crave. That’s when I’m truly being strong and courageous. That’s when ministering to each other happens! That’s when we start to open eyes that are blind, and free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. Is 42:7
So today I say to you…Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a dream and just knew I had to get up and pray for someone. But it wasn’t always that way. It was developed over time and by become aware of a few indicators. Just about every dream can give rise to some form of prayer. But some dreams are God’s way of letting the dreamer know it’s time to pray for someone or stand in the gap for a specific purpose.
In this post I will share a few of the tips and indicators I’ve learned over the years. First you’ll notice the dream is somehow different from when it’s just the normal kind of dream.Usually you can tell when the dream is meant to help you process whats going on in your own life. You’ll know because of whats gone on over the past several days and the dream though symbolic will relate to those events. If none of the events fit with the theme of the dream then you can ask yourself “Is God trying to tell me something?”
One clue will be when a messenger or voice from within the dream will give you some kind of message or direction. Both Freud and Jung as well as the Bible say that a message within a dream should be given attention. But a God inspired dream will accompany His presence or a sense of peace and resolve or it will forecast the future.
A God-given dream most likely will be less frequent than the dreams that help us process our feelings. Both are a gifts from God. But a God-given dream will burn in your heart and you can’t get away from it until you accomplish it. For example. A number of years ago I worked at a Christian School. Every summer during summer vacation I would ask God “should I stay or should I go”. The summer of the very last year I worked at the school God sent me His answer in the form of dream. It had 3 distinct timelines. It ended with me saying “How did I get here”. That was a message wi a dream. I knew from that dream I would have 3 career changes. I didn’t know exactly what they were but I knew it would be the last year at the academy. As it turned out I did have 2 additional career changes. After I left the Christian school, I went to work in a duel diagnosed inpatient drug and alcohol treatment center. A Duel diagnosis refers to someone with addiction and a mental health diagnosis. This place seemed to breed insanity in its employees. So I quit and went to work in a local health system. How that happened I’ll never know because I like people not administrative stuff. But I’ve been there since and I’m happy.
Sometimes God will give you a dream about another person. It could be to pray, to encourage or to warn them. As a mom I had several dreams of my son getting into trouble. Sometimes I would sit on them and pray. Sometimes I would say “Ya better mind your P’s and Q’s”. Both options could be right. It can be right to ponder things like Mary and Joseph did. It can be right to warn. In one instance I sat on a dream for 6 months or so. Then out of the blue the dream began to disturb me so much so I had to call my son. After that call, he looked around at the party he was at and decided to leave. 5 minutes later the place was raided. My son’s friend who’s house the party was at later said “why didn’t God warn your mom for me” half joking and half serious!
Sometimes dreams can contain instructions what we call a word of wisdom. I once had a vision of how to fix my sewing machine. A vision is just a dream when you’re awake. It too will have a sense of His presence. So I got up, went over to the sewing machine and fixed it! Did God have to do that? No not at all. But He did it to demonstrate an aspect of himself to me that I thought was pretty cool.
I’d like to hear about your dreams too so we can stimulate each other in our faith journey. I can’t wait to hear what you’ve dreamed about!
Once upon a time a few years back, I sat alone in the darkness. This wasn’t a spiritual darkness we typically speak of as Christians. Usually we think of that type of darkness for those that do not know my God. The joy and emotion I once felt was gone. I sat alone in my darkness frozen and numb. Most of my friends and family knew I wasn’t myself but no one knew the extent I had internalized things.
Then just as the darkness slowly covered over me, at an appointed time, the light began to slowly dawn again until the full light of day. I asked God to give me revelation about this period of time so I could make sense of it and maybe bring some hope to others that may be experiencing the same thing. Here’s what He gave me. He gave me an internal vision that I hope I never forget.
It was of a girl in the right hand lower corner of a very dark room curled up. She was afraid to move and afraid to stay put. Then came a small faint beam of light in the upper left hand corner. But the girl didn’t see it because she was curled up with her head buried in her knees. Then the light grew slightly brighter. It made the girl raise her head for the first time since the vision began. The small beam of light turned into hands stretching toward her. These hands weren’t upraised in anger but they were reaching out as if to scoop up the little girl. As the vision continued, I could tell the hands were moving closer and indeed did scoop her up and pulled her to the light as if to comfort heal and restore her. She kept looking up at this light that turned into hands and now she sees the hands are attached to a body. It’s her savior’s body! She recognizes Him! It’s Jesus and He came for her! He pulled her close and she felt safe again. She felt sane again. She wasn’t afraid anymore. She relaxed in His arms and cried a cry of relief and joy at the same time. That was the end of the vision but I felt the warmth of it linger for quite a while afterwards.
We all have our theologies that include being happy healthy and whole. It also includes times of darkness like the one Joseph experienced that went on for a very long time. But for me, as I’m sure for most, I preferred the happy healthy and whole part of my beliefs. I didn’t see the darkness coming so it really threw me for as much of a loop as the depression itself. Depression among believers does happen but rarely makes sense when compared to our system of beliefs. But we are in this world and we experience stresses, major life changes, traumas and unspeakable acts that take a toll on us.
So why do I write about this so much? Because too many of God’s faithful have or are struggling in darkness desperately trying to make sense of it all. Too many of us have felt the sting of failure and shame because of it. Too many have fainted in the course of waiting. All of it is unnecessary. Jesus loves us in the mountains and the valleys of life.
I don’t want to say “it all has purpose”. It may, but it may just be the result of living in a fallen world. But at an appointed time (which will most certainly be different for each one of us) He will come and save you! He will, He really will.
My prayer is that it will be sooner rather than later. Hosanna!
A thought goes into the mind,
Goes down to the heart
Turns into an action
Then I went to church a few days later and our pastor was doing a series called FIGHT. He spoke on spiritual warfare. He said “winning battles in the heavenlies, makes it possible to realize victories on the earth”.
Ephesians 6:12 For battle is not against flesh and blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen worlds, against mighty powers of this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
He also said don’t let satan own your mind or your heart. So I started thinking back to my chance meeting earlier in the week. As I took it all in I realized if satan can get to your mind without your awareness then he has a really good chance of owning your heart. If he can get to your heart then he can convince you to act on …. fill in the blanks and next thing you know you’re a slave.
I think God is trying to tell me something….
A while back God gave me a scripture. It was from Isaiah 37:31″Once more a remnant of the kingdom of Judah will take root below and bear fruit above.
For some reason this scripture caught my attention. Then I walked into a Starbucks Coffee shop and saw a similar saying on their wallpaper that said “Deep Roots Bare Fruit”. Now God had my attention. He gave me that scripture to hold onto to during some really hard times. The only problem was things went from bad to worse and I forgot about the promise. The anxiety got worse and then depression set in. I was numb. I lost my hope. My vision grew dim and everything got dark I couldn’t believe that things were not always going to be like they were at the moment.
But none of this surprised God one little bit. My lack of faith took me by surprise but not God. How do I know this? Because God wasn’t suprised when Peter’s faith failed him. I know were supposed to have faith but sometimes we don’t. Thats just the truth. If we dont confess then how can we be made whole? If there’s a weed growing in our heart won’t it spoil the vineyard?
But God kept going with His plan to extend my roots deeper. Let me tell you it was tough searching for water when it was dry and I felt barren. Have you ever been there? If not don’t worry your turn is coming. It comes in every child of God life that asks for more of Him. He was performing His Word in my life. I didn’t like it very much but there wasn’t much I could do to hasten the process. And there wasn’t much I could do to stop it either. Both options would have been fine by me. I just wanted it to stop. But it didn’t. And today I can say I’m glad He finished the work He started in me. I’m by no means saying I’m a finished product but I am a testimony.
Now when I talk to someone and they say they’re struggling with anxiety and depression I can say “I understand” “I get it”. If you never battled depression you wouldn’t understand the head games that comes along with it. The sense of failure and the sense of not knowing why it’s happening are like overwhelming layers darkness that seal you in. Into what i don’t know cz it was too dark to describe.
Sometimes you can only learn something through experience. But after the affliction you are better able to lead out others struggling too. In way you become Jesus with skin on to the hurting. And that makes the suffering all worth while. Do I want to go through that agin. No way. But am I glad that some fruit has from it all ABSOLUTELY!
There are days and seasons that are so refreshing. There are times of pure delight and everything we touch turns to gold. We enjoy favor with man and peace all around. I love these times! Nothing can shake me. I feel loved and cared for by God himself, the maker of the universe. I have heard people say that it’s easy to lose sight of God when everything is going right. That may be true for some but certainly not all.
Everybody responds differently in the face of similar situations. The program “What Would You Do?” is a perfect example. I love to that show. They set a stage and watch to see how unsuspecting people will respond to situations. What makes one person ignore a problem; will make another person stand their ground. In real life, one person can become discouraged; while another will demonstrate great faith for extended periods of time. We’re all different and our heavenly Father knows that.
When I read “why, my soul, are you downcast, why so disturbed within?” It acts as like a little attitude check for me. I’m reminds that I have choice. I can go about mourning or I can trust Him. I can whine or praise. I’m guilty of both whining, complaining, as well as trusting in God and worshipping Him. Sometimes it’s hard to admit that we struggle, waiver and vacillate. But none of this surprises God.
I learned a long time ago that what you focus on increases.
Psalm 121:1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains where does my help come from?My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
Where’s your focus today?
Isaiah 43:2 says “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you”. When I think about this scripture I think of The Pool of Tears in Alice in Wonderland. Alice had so many sudden changes all in one day. She was small then she was tall. She was in a new place where everything was unfamiliar and when she spoke the words weren’t coming out right. It was so frustrating she cried. She cried so much that she made a pool of tears that she found herself swimming in. Life can be like that at times too.
When you think about it, all of us take our turn passing through deep waters. They come in the form of trials, losses, divorce, death, chronic illness, loneliness and the list goes on. The world we live in today it complicated and for some it’s very difficult. Sometimes it goes on for a long, long time and we start to change because of it. We lose heart or experience mounting anxiety or just lose interest in things we used to enjoy. In one breath we say we’re ok and we’re trusting God. But maybe like me, who in my secret thoughts had doubts life would ever get better or that I would feel good again. Heck, I would’ve settled for a feeling normal again! I’m just telling the truth.
I once read a Facebook post that said anxiety comes from being strong for far too long. That made so much sense to me. But that wasn’t enough to eradicate the dread and anxiety I was living with. I’d like to say that when my eyes fell on Isaiah 43 it did something inside me immediately. But it didn’t. I’d like to say I started to breathe deeply again. But I couldn’t. It was during this long dark night that my husband was God’s arms of love and care extended toward me. My husband was like God with skin on. He stayed with me through it all. When I went through the waters, Terry was with me to help me hang on. He’s my hero!
As I reflect on this passage I can see all the many ways God shows up in the storms of life. Sometimes it’s a scripture, sometimes it’s His manifest presence, sometimes it’s a friend or in my case my best friend. I’m learning to be open to all the ways God is with us not just the familiar