Recently I've been thinking a lot about how we have to walk through lessons and seasons more than once. It's a shame we don't learn all we need to learn the first time we encounter a lesson. Like children, it seems that we need constant reminders and experiences that help us re-learn the lessons He needs us to learn.
“When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, "Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” - John 6:12
This verse is so powerful. Within the context of the story one could pass over this verse and think only of the left over food that the disciples were seeing. But if we dig a little deeper, it can transform how we view the events of our life.
Blind obedience is really hard. I see this in my kids, they want to know why, when, what and a million other questions along the way, but don't often obey blindly. Actually I'm kind of glad, because it means they question things in a healthy way, but there are times when we do just need to plain obey.
"Grace aboundsIn waves so strongI'm all out at seaI'm right where I want to beGrace aboundsEngulfing me all aroundI'm all out at seaRight where I want to beUntil you've done all you need inJust me and You..In your great rescue. " Life is an ocean. It's full of twists and turns, currents pulling you in directions you didn't know existed, it can get rough in an instant, but can also be so beautiful and refreshing at times too. I don't believe there has ever been a person who hasn't experienced the choppy, tumultuous times life can throw at us, even the most sheltered and luxurious of lives have these times. It's not always circumstantial, it's out inner being that can encounter these waves crashing in, and that is universal.Sometimes we're ready and waiting for these waves, because we know we're walking through a storm , we saw it coming, it started with a light drizzle, the winds picked up, and we were ready, with our coats, boots, umbrellas, and we're heading as quickly as we can to get 'out'! Although we may not anticipate every wave, we are almost prepared for dealing with them because we know, we're living in a storm.Other times we're happily enjoying a quiet, peaceful picnic for the soul, and in an instant we are being pounded with the lashing rain's of a storm that arrived with no warning. We're not ready, we're left outside in our summer clothes getting soaked to the bone! Our picnic is ruined, our food has turned to a soggy mess which is no longer appetising or satisfying. The rain stings our skin, and we can't see anything clearly, so we just sit there, getting drenched by the rain, hoping it'll pass quickly so we can get back to life!But what if God had a plan in the suddenness of the storm? What if he meant to 'catch you unawares'? What if he didn't want that food to satisfy you anymore? What if he has things he wants to do in you during the storm? What if he wants you to stop fighting the tides, and give all control to his currents. Let Him carry you. Even if that means being all out at sea, with seemingly no hope, and no direction. Would you let him? Probably not!God knows that he gets a lot less done in us when we're ready, and prepared to fix all the things which are going 'wrong' around us. We don't look to see if these circumstances are God's way of doing a work in us, we just get on and fix it. I believe that's why some storms come 'suddenly' and out of the blue. Because in His mercy - he saves us from ourselves, from our incessant need to fix everything and find the easy way out.What if we're supposed to embrace the storm, and all it brings, and trust that He's good. He's always good. His grace abounds, engulfs us, surrounds us, it carries us in His currents to the places He wants us to be. If we stop fighting it, we might discover that we have been transformed, washed clean, renewed, restored and directed in ways we never could have accomplished for ourselves.What if God isn't as interested in saving us from our circumstances, as He is in saving us from ourselves? What if the circumstances are his tools?What if God is leading us right into the eye of the storm, and being in the storm with Him, IS His great rescue plan?
Have you ever fallen in a fast flowing river?
When I was a kid I used to go do water sports in the river which ran through the middle of the city. One time my wind sail caught a current of wind and took me out of the safe area, an inlet, or dock where we did our activities, and took me into the main body of water where I immediately felt the strong pull of a massively powerful river. I fell off my board almost immediately and began screaming for help. I realised instantly that although this huge river looked lazy and slow, it was powerful and swollen, had the potential to suck me under and lose me in it's depths
"Made of clayI pour myself outI don’t have the strengthSo Lord I ask, Won’t you break meI’m alabaster..."
The woman with the alabaster jar has to be one of the most well known and loved stories in the Bible. It talks of a woman scorned, who should have been turned away and rejected, in the culture of the day, she was known to be unclean, she was thought to be embarrassing herself, and was a woman. All reasons for her to be forgotten. But she isn't forgotten, she is remembered, and Yeshua said himself that she would be remembered through the generations.
"There is space only for youOn the throne of my heart.I long and yearn to sit at your feet.Just to be with you,Just to stand in your presence,Just to see you in your Glory,Just to hear your voiceThis is all my soul desires"It's really easy to say that we love God, we adore God, we put no one else before God, we worship God, we serve God, and a thousand other things about how we interact with God.Recently I was challenged about really, who, or what is on the throne of my heart? Who or what is taking that space from, or sharing that space with Yeshua?For me, this challenge came in the form of food and exercise. After having 3 kids I was determined to take control of the situation, get fit, lose weight and live more healthily. I threw myself at it, working out daily, trying many different eating programs which left me rigidly following plans which had no 'give' to them. I enjoyed it! It got results! I got fit! I gained muscle tone! I made it to many personal goals, like running 5K! I did it! right?Wrong. I reached an all time low, emotionally, when I realised that if I was going to maintain this weight loss and fitness level I was going to have to deny myself constantly, discipline myself relentlessly, and have no leeway for the rest of my life. That isn't living. That is slavery.I was desperate - it was something I'd struggled with since I was a child, I cried out to God, and it came crashing in on me - I had never sought to hear what God's opinion was on this matter. I had tried to fix it completely humanly, completely scientifically, and it wasn't His way!Over the next few days and weeks came a very deep and at times, painful process of realising how much I had put things before Him. Even when it was with good intention, and a 'right' desire - to be healthy and look after my body. I suddenly felt freedom for the first time in my life in this area, and once I understood that God had made a way for us to live healthily, without plans, calorie counting, restricting myself, without viewing foods as 'good' or 'bad' - and guess what? I was free and I lost weight.The amazing side effect of weight loss isn't what I'm writing about here, I realised how many times I'd not run to God when I felt down - I'd run to a chocolate bar. I had this horrible realisation that I'd put a piece of chocolate on the throne of my heart, rather than the Almighty creator of heaven and earth. Chocolate.For you it may not have anything to do with food or exercise - it may be music, work, technology, money, friends, ministry, family - it could literally be anything - where do you run when you want comfort?It's hard to run to God because it's usually the moments when we need to run to him, that he feels furthest away! So we find a quick fix, which usually becomes a crutch without us even knowing or noticing. We shove things between us and God which fix us for a few minutes, or even hours, but it doesn't deal with the root.For me, the root was emotional - I was a comfort eater, and I didn't even notice! I had no idea how many times a day I ran to food instead of God, and until I found a strategy to distinguish between my heart needing to be fed, and my stomach needing to be fed. Up until this point I couldn't tell the difference, and used my self made comforter for both - food. Now I learned the difference I could feed my heart on God, and my stomach on food. Both in their rightful - and enjoyable, places.Recently a good friend and co-worker quoted "The final question presented to humanity is this: Who will you worship?". I was worshipping food, fitness and the ideal of being thin and muscly, and I didn't even realise.Whatever gets our most attention is what we worship. Those things can be good things - like our families, being a good mom, being a good friend. But if those things become slightly too emphasised, and it becomes a crutch where we gain even the smallest amount of identity, then they've climbed up onto that throne and have taken the place of the King. I'm not saying we should deny who we are, I am a mom, there is an aspect of that being my identity, but it's not the summation of who I am, it's a part of the calling and role that God has for me. My identity, the essence of who I am made to be, is wrapped up in Him.As I've walked through this process it's becoming increasingly clear to me that this is what God does with us. He gently peels things away, he strips us back, getting rid of the 'stuff' we wrap ourselves us in. He wants us to be who he made us to be - without all the bolt-ons we add. He's stripping us back to the original design, and yes, he'll use all we've been through to enhance that, and teach us things, but we think we can outsmart God so often. We think we can help Him out by adding things to the already perfect recipe. God didn't leave things out when we made us - he got it right - exactly right.When we clutter up our throne room, with little bits and stuff which we think we need, the process of emptying, ordering, stripping back and restoring get harder and harder, more and more painful. Some of those things have taken up residence in your throne room for decades! Those are hard things to root out - but you see, the King wants a clear throne room, with no distractions, where he can speak, and you hear clearly. Where you can run to Him and not trip, where He can love you, and you can not share it with anything else.The question is - are you willing to clear the throne room? You may find unexpected things sitting on your throne - like I did. You may already know what sits on your throne. In either case, the King is ready to be given back his throne, He's waiting on your acceptance of this challenge to gently re-order your throne room, and let him take up permanent residence.
"In me all things are possible
In me all things are made new
All things made perfect in my hands...
So rest your soul "
Ever dreamed of something, worked towards it tirelessly, imagined life as if the dream were the reality, but eventually given up on it? I think most of us have. We all have a deep place in our souls where we dream of what we could be. Our dreams for ourselves were often God's dreams for us, before he gave them to us to dream. I haven't often met someone who's dream bears no relation to who they are - we are usually fairly self aware in our dreaming.
Let the pressure be just right.Let the darkness be fleeting and never lonely,So that what comes forth is pure, and an oil you're pleased with"
On a recent family visit, I had the privilege of seeing my son operate an ancient olive press. He followed the instructions given to him perfectly, and pressed a few (not quite ripe!) olives and we saw the beginnings of oil coming forth from them.
Ever since then, the enormity of the meaning of the olive press has been made more real to me than ever. The struggle that each olive goes through to produce this precious oil, is such a representation of what God is doing with us. We need to be squeezed, refined, and put under pressure in order of that pure offering to found in us.
"Can I come with you? Do I dare to ask?Can I join with you?Do I let this moment pass?"
One of my favourite stories is that of Rahab. Have you ever stopped to ask just how bold she was to ask the spies to let her join them? She was a prostitute, a gentile, very definitely classified as 'unclean', and moreover, she was a woman.