Saturday, February 19, 2011

No Sacrifice.....

To you I give my life, not just the parts I want to

To you I sacrifice these dreams that I hold on to
To you I give the gifts
 Your love has given me

How can I hoard the treasures that you've designed for free?
To you I give my future

As long as it may last

To you I give my present

To you I give my past

Your thoughts are higher than mine

Your words are deeper than mine

Your love is stronger than mine

This is no sacrifice

Here's my life
 - Jason Upton "No Sacrifice"

So obviously I love writing. I have always loved it. But it was always something I put on the back burner because I had greater ambitions: to get married. Convinced this was my calling in life, I was determined to the point of tunnel vision that the only God meant for me to be was a a wife and a mother.....that I was going to be the Dalai Lama or something of wives and parents... or some silliness of such. This was the only thing I could see for myself. Don't misunderstand, it is the noblest of professions...such a gift from the Lord. I have such respect for mothers and parents and honor them greatly for what they give to the Lord. Its awesome. But it was becoming a bit of an idol in my life.
 Like I didn't exist, my life hadn't begun, because I hadn't accomplished this goal.

And unfortunately a lot of valuable years were wasted because I refused to see any other possibilities but what I wanted to happen. I sought the will of the Lord for my life but would always skew it to fit my purposes. I was still writing..songs, poems, stories, etc. But I never allowed myself to see that there might be something to this whole writing thing...never thought I would ever be good enough to make something of it.But what did it matter? I was going to be a wife and a mother...who has time for such things? It was completely inconceivable for me to be able to do both. That mothers or wives weren't able to be anything/ do anything other than fill those titles. I was just going to be a happy housewife....and that was about as far as I got.

But this year, God began to do something miraculous. He took the blinders off. He began stripping me away piece by piece. He began to show me what was really in my heart and areas of healing. Its been a slow by day...week by week. But its been so amazing how tender and gracious He's been in it.

About a week or so ago I submitted a piece from this blog to an online devotional called Our Daily Journey. I had been really feeling from the Lord to pursue writing more wholeheartedly and thought this would be a good way to put my stuff out there. Well they accepted it and I was waiting for it to be published on their site. It never popped up. Meanwhile, as I was waiting, throughout this week I had been having dreams and thoughts, confirmations from others that I felt like God was asking me to lay down my desire to get married. Probably not forever but for awhile....that He wanted me to acknowledge the possibility I was meant for other things.
That if I could lays this down, this massive idol in my life, this thing I had been clinging to for years...that He could open my eyes to treasures that accompany a life of true surrender. That by saying "Not my will but Yours be done", there was such an open door for him to flood my life with opportunity.

Because when I lay down my will and allow His to be my focus, I'm no longer hindering His Spirit from sweeping through the path of my life and color it with splendor....paint it with ideas....shade it with promise.

So not long after speaking these very thoughts to a close friend, I saw that my story had finally gotten put on the website. It had actually been up for about a week but I had been looking in the wrong section of the site. And the funniest part of it all? It was published on Valentine's day.
 So I urge you, dear reader, don't not be discouraged by what you will lose by following God's will. He loves you and only wants the absolute best for your life. But His best isn't always ours. Sometimes its not easy or comfortable. But I promise you this, its absolutely worth the sacrifice. After all,what could we possibly make with our hands that would be even half as beautiful. He is the Creator after all. He can take the mundane and make it glorious with a whisper. 
So see...really, in the end, its no sacrifice. Its just having good taste in decorating.

"But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ."
Philippians 3:7

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Hidden Things.....

For here's what I'm going to do: I'm going to take you out of these countries, gather you from all over, and bring you back to your own land. I'll pour pure water over you and scrub you clean. I'll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you. I'll remove the stone heart from your body and replace it with a heart that's God-willed, not self-willed. I'll put my Spirit in you and make it possible for you to do what I tell you and live by my commands. You'll once again live in the land I gave your ancestors. You'll be my people! I'll be your God

Ezekiel 36:25-27

So over the past week I have been on vacation. Due to the lovely weather that rolled through most of the country, I unfortunately was unable to go anywhere or for anyone to come visit. But I did get a chance to spend some amazing time with Jesus, write a ton and clean like the dickens! I cleaned out my closets, my old purses, under my bed, my storage containers and under my bathroom sink.  And upon my journey I discovered many things many three other other bottles of face makeup that I didn't know I had....and recently had just purchased a brand new one because I thought I was out of it. I also found some makeup remover wipes I thought I was out well as two separate packs of the ones I had just purchased. I found old letters, photos, journals, books....things I didn't know I had...things I had just tucked away and forgot about.

How many of us have hidden things within us we have forgotten about? Things we put away for a rainy day? Things God spoke that we put in the vault, never to be heard from again? Things that may be of use in such a time as this? Maybe the the thing you have been needing in your life, you have had inside all along.....

Maybe its time we ask the Lord  "Is it time?"

Have you had dreams in your heart that you tucked away because you didn't have faith that He could really make it happen?

This is what the Bible says:

"God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us."  
 - Ephesians 3:20-21 (The Message)

Are you afraid to chase your dreams because of what others will say?

"You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world."
-1 John 4:4 (NKJV)

Afraid you don't have the strength to do what he's called you to do?

"I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ's sufficiency]."
 - Philippians 4:13 (Amplified Bible)

So what do you have hidden away inside you? What have you been holding back from the rest of us?
Maybe its time to share them with the world. Maybe its time to wake up, Sleeping Beauty.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Volunteer State.....

"Many years ago Tennessee earned the sobriquet of 'Volunteer State,' growing out of the alacrity with which her sons have enlisted in the various wars in which the country has engaged. Scores of Tennesseans figure prominently in the Indian wars in the early history of the country.. In the Mexican war regiments were formed in many instances in advance of calls and waited impatiently for their turn. Tennessee's quota was always full, and scores of men enrolled their names whose services were never called for at all. And in the late war [the Civil War] Tennessee fully maintained her reputation as the 'Volunteer State.'"
 - Knoxville Journal,  November 12, 1885

 The Nashville flood in 2010 was one of the most intense experiences in my life. Never had I seen devastation like that  so up close and personal.  With the death toll at an estimated 31 across the state and over an estimated $1 billion in damages, it was heartbreaking blow to the people of Tennessee.  But in the midst of such a horrific event, something amazing happened. The people became a family. Everywhere.... neighbor helping helping church...people came together by the droves to help rebuild and restore. Men and women who were able cleared away debris and began to rebuild houses. Those who weren't gave money or sent canned good, clothes and shoes. Some even walked the streets with coolers passing out bottles of water and food to these good Samaritans. It was so beautiful to see folks truly rising up higher than those waters to help their fellow man. Tennessee truly lived up to its nickname as the "volunteer state".

In the dictionary, a volunteer is defined as  a person who voluntarily offers himself or herself for a service or undertaking or a person who performs a service willingly and without pay. In military terms, its  a person who enters the service voluntarily rather than through conscription or draft. In the law, its a person whose actions are not founded on any legal obligation so to act or  as a person who pays the debt of another where he or she is neither legally nor morally bound to do so and has no interest to protect in making the payment.In agricultural terms, its growing without being seeded, planted, or cultivated by a person; springing up spontaneously.

Yesterday  I began reading in the book of Judges. The Lord had promised the ancestors of the Israelites that if they obeyed Him and served Him alone, He would give them their promised land. And again and again He watched as the Israelites broke their promises. They married other tribes and began worshiping other gods. By the third chapter, God flat out refused to help them defeat their enemies anymore. He wanted them to learn to fight as their ancestors had. They were attacked over and over, but God had mercy on them and sent Caleb's nephew Othniel to lead them in a victorious war. They had peace again for forty years, but as soon as Othniel died, the Iraelites went right back to their old ways. Then they begged for help again, and He sent Ehud. Israel was at peace for eighty years this time...until Ehud died, of course. Enter Barak and Deborah, whom God used to lead an army to defeat the Canaanite army. The Israelites eventually killed their king, Jabin and overpowered his army by their growing strength.

After it was all over, Barak and Deborah sang a  song of victory and thanksgiving. Here is a specific selection from it:

"....When they let down their hair in Israel,
      they let it blow wild in the wind.
   The people volunteered with abandon,
      bless God!  

Lift your hearts high, O Israel,
      with abandon, volunteering yourselves with the people—bless God!
" ( the Message) 

In Psalm 110,  King David also speaks of the volunteer:

"The LORD said to my Lord,
         “Sit at My right hand,
         Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”
  The LORD shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion.
         Rule in the midst of Your enemies!
        Your people
shall be volunteers
         In the day of Your power;
         In the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning,
         You have the dew of Your youth.
 The LORD has sworn
         And will not relent,
are a priest forever
         According to the order of Melchizedek.”  ( NKJV)

This made me stop and take a look at the term "volunteer" a bit more closely. Look at these two circumstances. In one, God's chosen people who have been marked by their repeated disobedience to Him. Yet in their time of trouble, God rose up to save them. In the case of King David, a shepard chosen by God himself to be king, who then became an adulterer and a murderer. God could have so very easily written them both off as lost causes but still, in his faithfulness, chose to save them. Something stirred in these people. I believe it was hope. People who volunteer themselves usually do so because they believe in the cause they're helping out. In the case of the Israelites, I believe hope stirred them to give their lives and swords to finally defeat their enemies. They began to finally understand that God had given them everything they needed to live victoriously, He gave them a promise to fight for. In King David's case,  I believe it was God's gift to David for finally beginning to live the life He was meant to. So He sent others to rally around him and defeat anyone who tried to stand in his way.

If strangers on the street know its right to serve others, to volunteer themselves in battle and in times of need, to forfeit their time and money to providing for someone else.....if people who have lived in disobedience and destruction all their lives can rise up in hope to fight for their inheritance...if God can stir their hearts to fight along side a leader who is far less than much more can he stir us today...the children of God...his beloved?

Its His love that makes you capable of doing anything. Its by His strength that makes things possible. It doesn't matter how many times you have tried and many times you think you have let Him down...He still has called you forth at such a time as this to rise up and fight for love your neighbor as give your lives to service. Let the volunteer rise within you. Lay down your life and desires to see the kingdom of God come and His will be done on earth. Be the hands and feet of Jesus. Make a meal for someone....clean their house...share the gospel...stand up for what you know is right....rally yourselves to an unyielding desire to see love breath stronger than hate in the world around you. You can do it. He will uphold you. You have nothing to fear. He will always fight for you. He loves you. You will succeed if you never give up on Him.