Monday, November 18, 2013

Horsetooth

On Saturday, Bethany and I took a lovely early-morning hike to the top of Horsetooth Rock and back. It was such a beautiful day, and we made it just in time before the wind came up and it got really cloudy. It was a quick-n-easy round trip (2 hours and 20 minutes total), but I realized how out-of-shape I was by how SORE it made me!

View from the beginning of the hike

Can you spot two deer?

(Can you spot one deer? LOL)

The "horse tooth"

Climbing to the top of the rock

View from the top. On a clear day, the sign said you can see Pike's Peak to the south, Long's Peak to the west, and Wyoming to the north.  

Sunday, November 17, 2013

True Prayer--True Power

This was my meat for the day, since I had to miss church due to work. (Praying for a job where I don't have to work Sundays! I have the next two Sundays off, though! YAY!)

Spurgeon's sermon "True Prayer--True Power" is the best sermon I have ever heard on prayer. It re-ignited my dry, faithless praying and set me back on the feet of my faith. It was such a blessing to me that I sat there, wide-eyed, with my jaw hanging open at the beauty and power of prayer. I'm sure it will be a blessing to you, too!

I listened to this recording of it (someone else is reading it, not Spurgeon) and read along here.

To whet your appetite, here are a few quotes:

"Therefore I say unto you, what things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive and ye shall have them."—Mark 11:24.


We spend the time allotted, but we rise from our knees unrefreshed, like a man who has lain upon his bed but has not slept so as to really recover his strength.


According to our Saviour's description of prayer, there should always be some definite objects for which we should plead. He speaks of things—"what things soever ye desire." It seems then that he did not put it that God's children would go to him to pray when they have nothing to pray for. Another essential qualification of pray is earnest desire; for the Master supposes here that when we pray we have desires. Indeed it is not prayer, it may be something like prayer, the outward form or the bare skeleton, but it is not the living thing, the all-prevailing, almighty thing, called prayer, unless there be a fulness and overflowing of desires. Observe, too, that faith is an essential quality of successful prayer—"believe that ye receive them." Ye cannot pray so as to be heard in heaven and answered to your soul's satisfaction, unless you believe that God really hears and will answer you. One other qualification appears here upon the very surface, namely, that a realizing expectation should always go with a firm faith—"believe that ye receive them." Not merely believe that "ye shall" but "ye do" receive them—count them as if they were received, reckon them as if you had them already, and act as if you had them—act as if you were sure you should have them—believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them."



Do you not sometimes fall on your knees without thinking beforehand what you mean to ask God for? You do so as a matter of habit, without any motion of your heart. You are like a man who should go to a shop and not know what articles he would procure. He may perhaps make a happy purchase when he is there, but certainly it is not a wise plan to adopt. And so the Christian in prayer may afterwards attain to a real desire, and get his end, but how much better would he speed if having prepared his soul by consideration and self-examination, he came to God for an object at which he was about to aim with real request.



Did we ask an audience at Her Majesty's court, we should be expected to reply to the question, "What do you wish to see her for?" We should not be expected to go into the presence of Royalty, and then to think of some petition after we came there.



If you had some object you would never find prayer to be dull and heavy work; I am persuaded that you would long for it. You would say, "I have something that I want. Oh that I could draw near my God, and ask him for it; I have a need, I want to have it satisfied, and I long till I can get alone, that I may pour out my heart before him, and ask him for this thing after which my soul so earnestly pants."



We must have such a desire for the thing we want, that we will not rise until we have it—but in submission to his divine will, nevertheless. Feeling that the thing we ask for cannot be wrong, and that he himself hath promised it, we have resolved it must be given, and if not given, we will plead the promise, again, and again, till heaven's gates shall shake before our pleas shall cease. No wonder that God has not blessed us much of late, because we are not fervent in prayer as we should be. Oh, those cold-hearted prayers that die upon the lips—those frozen supplications; they do not move men's hearts, how should they move God's heart?



And surely, my brethren, it were enough to restrain all lightness and constrain an unceasing earnestness, did we apprehend the greatness of the Being before whom we plead. Shall I come into thy presence, O my God, and mock thee with cold-hearted words? Do the angels veil their faces before thee, and shall I be content to prattle through a form with no soul and no heart? Ah, my brethren! we little know how many of our prayers are an abomination unto the Lord. It would be an abomination to you and to me to hear men ask us in the streets, as if they did not want what they asked for. But have we not done the same to God?



It was said of John Bradford that he had a peculiar art in prayer, and when asked for his secret he said, "When I know what I want I always stop on that prayer until I feel that I have pleaded it with God, and until God and I have had dealings with each other upon it." I never go on to another petition till I have gone through the first."



Now, my own soul's conviction is, that prayer is the grandest power in the entire universe; that it has a more omnipotent force than electricity, attraction, gravitation, or any other of those secret forces which men have called by names, but which they do not understand. Prayer hath as palpable, as true, as sure, as invariable and influence over the entire universe as any of the laws of matter. When a man really prays, it is not a question whether God will hear him or not, he must hear him; not because there is any compulsion in the prayer, but there is a sweet and blessed compulsion in the promise. God has promised to hear prayer, and he will perform his promise. As he is the most high and true God, he cannot deny himself.



Seems it not my dear friends, an awful thing to have such a power in one's hands as to be able to pray?



Allow me to quote what an old preacher said upon the subject of prayer, and give it to you as a little word of advice—"Remember, the Lord will not hear thee, because of the arithmetic of thy prayers; he does not count their numbers. He will not hear thee because of the rhetoric of thy prayers; he does not care for the eloquent language in which they are conveyed. He will not listen to thee because of the geometry of thy prayers; he does not compute them by their length, or by their breadth. He will not regard thee because of the music of thy prayers; he doth not care for sweet voices, nor for harmonious periods. Neither will he look at thee because of the logic of thy prayers; because they are well arranged, and excellently comparted. But he will hear thee, and he will measure the amount of the blessing he will give thee, according to the divinity of thy prayers. If thou canst plead the person of Christ, and if the Holy Ghost inspire thee with zeal and earnestness, the blessings which thou shalt ask, shall surely come unto thee."



Christian brethren and sisters, and let us weep. Oh God, thou hast given us a mighty weapon, and we have permitted it to rust. Thou hast given us that which is mighty as thyself, and we have let that power lie dormant. Would it not be a vile crime if a man had an eye given him which he would not open, or a hand that he would not lift up, or a foot that grew stiff because he would not use it. And what must we say of ourselves when God has given us power in prayer, and yet that power lies still.



I challenge you this day to exceed in prayer my Master's bounty. I throw down the gauntlet to you. Believe him to be more than he is; open your mouth so wide that he cannot fill it; go to him now for more faith than the promise warrants; venture it, risk it, outdo the Eternal if it be possible; attempt it. 



Saturday, November 16, 2013

A chance to breathe

It has been so nice to settle down a tad bit and have time to catch up on all the little things that I haven't be able to do. Life has tossed me a good amount of upheaval lately, but in the last few weeks since I moved, it has calmed down quite a bit. There are still things to do--I have only worked on my book once since I got this job--but little by little, I am discovering how to incorporate everything back into my schedule.

(Can I just say, in passing, that managing my activities has turned out to be far more successful than managing my time?)

So here are a few of the things that I have been so grateful to have the chance to do...

--Catch up on thank-you notes that were overdue since July. So sorry to everyone who had to wait so long! Thank you for everything!

--Make a purse that will be donated to Focus on the Family's gift shop, and the proceeds go to their ministry to sex trafficking victims

--Bake! A lot! Cinnamon rolls, apple pie, pumpkin pie, oat dinner rolls, and homemade tortillas. Yum! (And it's good to have a lot of people around to eat the food.) :-)

--Play the piano. I was so music starved for so long. It's great to be polishing the rust back off of my favorite pieces.


Thank you, Jesus, for the chance for a little bit of leisure, the chance to recharge, and the chance to just enjoy simple things. You are always so good to me!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Devil's Backbone

One day, when I wasn't scheduled to go in to work until 11, I went to Devil's Backbone for a short hike. Since then, I have been back once more and took a bit longer hike. Colorado is so beautiful! Even though the road is still closed to Estes Park (Hwy 34 is still under construction after being destroyed in the flood), there are still gorgeous places to go outside and enjoy sunshine and great views. I love it here!  




I got a couple of weird looks for hiking in this...haha...I was on my way to work!



The Devil's Backbone trail is about 16 miles long (so I have not nearly done the whole thing) and it goes all the way up to Horsetooth, another beautiful area that I have yet to explore. Yay for being outside! 


Friday, November 8, 2013

Time Management Ephiphany

The other day I went to the library and checked out a few books to improve my job skills, and last night I was reading one called The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes. The first chapter was on time management, and it gave six practical “time management secrets of billionaires.” Here they are:

  1. Touch it once.
  2. Make lists
  3. Plan how much time you will allocate to each task
  4. Plan the day
  5. Prioritize
  6. Ask yourself, “Will it hurt me to throw this away?”

It sounded a lot like the plan my brilliant sister, Katherine, had come up with one day last summer, when I was moving and trying to sort through my entire life’s worth of accumulated junk.

I was stuck. I would go in amongst the chaos, look around in bewilderment, pick up something and set it down, wander around, realize I was doing nothing, ask myself what I was supposed to be doing, and stand there staring off into space for a few minutes, trying to remember. It was bad. I needed help.

I went to Monica and Katherine’s room that evening and made the rather humiliating request, “I don’t know how to do this. Will you give me step-by-step instructions for how to get this done?” And Katherine took the time to write down a plan for the entire following day. She thought about my situation, figured out a way to break it down into achievable steps, and wrote down a comprehensive list of what to do at what time, with satisfying little check boxes for each minuscule part of the program. She was guessing as to the time involvement for each part, but it ended up proving quite realistic. I followed her plan to the letter, and it worked! All the daunting bits that had stopped me from any further productivity were done on that day, and I was free to move ahead. It was an entirely liberating feeling. I actually got it done.

So last night, reading Chet Holmes’s book, I stopped and said to myself, “These aren't steps for time management, these are just steps for getting things done.”

That's when it hit me:

What we call “Time Management” is really more precisely “Activity Management.”

Right?

Because you can’t manage time. Time marches ahead, unstoppable.

That’s what I had been doing wrong. I was looking at time management waaaaaay too literally. I was trying to manage time. My unconscious attitude was that time management was some kind of superpower where I was supposed to be able to tell it, “Be longer than you are. Grow at my command. Accommodate me by multiplying when I don’t have enough of you.” I was playing chicken with time. I would take longer than I had to get something done, and then I would expect time to expand so that everything would work out anyway. Or I would put something off until the amount of time I had to do it was less than I needed, and I would expect to stretch that time to get the thing done at the same level of quality that I would have been able to achieve if I had had more time.

Uh, that doesn't work.

The confusing thing to me was that other people talked about time management as if it worked for them, so I continued to try. Also, when you’re late for everything, people try to be helpful and encourage you to have better time management skills, so there’s quite the significant pressure to actually have good time management (this elusive superpower). If you know me, you know that I am the world’s worst when it comes to time management. Haha…you’re probably smiling and nodding (or shaking your head at how hopeless I was).

It’s a bit embarrassing to think that I continued to try so long to manage time. I never had the least bit of success, never the smallest hint that time might be finally coming around to see my point, never the tiniest leverage over time, never the ability to wield it to serve me on my terms. In fact, I only ever had the exact opposite. Time marches on, unstoppable, unflappable, and all my efforts to manipulate it were only met with a resounding, “No! You cannot be my dictator. I will not yield to you.”

So if time is inflexible, and if I have 24 hours a day like everyone else, then time management is not about being some kind of genie who warps time to my desires, nor is it attempting to flee the system and act as if time did not have a hold over me.

Instead, it is recognizing time for what it is, giving it its due respect, and ordering my activities in such a way that time’s ceaseless march presents the least possible obstacle to the accomplishment of my tasks.

I feel like I just stopped beating my head against the wall of “time management.”

It feels good to stop beating your head against the wall.

I cannot manage time, but I can manage my activities—and when my activities interact with time’s unstoppable march in the most seamless way possible, most people call that “time management.”

To my way of thinking, that’s an amusing illusion.

Now, onward! Today is the first day of abandoning forever all attempts at time management and beginning to practice “activity management” with all my heart.

I think I can actually get somewhere with this approach. No more chasing elusive superpowers and wondering helplessly how other people do it. Forget about managing time. Manage the activities, and submit yourself to the fact that time will not be dictated. 


YESSSSS!

Friday, October 11, 2013

No Certain Dwellingplace

Since November of 2011, the longest I have been in one place is three months. It has definitely been a season of stretching. I thought I was flexible, but I never dreamed I would have to be THIS flexible.

Part of me longs to have a place of my own, a home base, a little tiny house that is just mine, where I can settle down and just stay put and let things stabilize and feel normal. I was born with a good-sized dose of wanderlust, but even my travel tolerance is beginning to wear thin. 

Sometimes in prayer lately, I sigh to the Lord with longing to just settle down in a place that I can call my own. But then He asks me, "What if it is my will for you to have no certain dwellingplace?" Would I be okay with living my whole life on this earth as a transient, a nomad, uprooted, never having the chance to own a home or live a normal life? 

So I cry, "Oh Lord Jesus, be thou my dwellingplace, and purify my motives for wanting to settle down, and make me available for Your purposes, whatsoever they may be." 

Could I be satisfied with a basement bedroom in the home of people I don't know? 

Could I be okay with never having a kitchen that is mine, with the good quality pots and kitchen knives that I dream of having? 

Could I accept the idea of still living under someone else's roof, and still not knowing where I'll be three months from now? 

I kind of moved out here with the dream that I would put down roots and finally settle---but since I have been here, circumstances have forbidden that outcome. 

And the whisper falls soft on my soul: "Why did you want to settle? Was it so that you could prop your feet up and stop fighting and just live a comfortable, normal life?" 

Lord, spare me from ever settling for retreat. Spare me from mediocrity, from normalcy, from the status quo, from the rat race. I was made for more than this. Therefore, I freely relinquish all claim to a place of my own. I embrace the nomadic life for as long as you want me to live it. You must love me very much indeed to have given me this opportunity to discover your grace. I look forward to you being better than a house to me. Thank you. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Witnessing vs. Banking: Parallels at work

It's amazing what God can use to teach you through a secular job and unsaved coworkers and customers. 

One of the things I do every day is stand out front and hand out flyers to people who are walking by the bank. This feels exactly like handing out tracts, and it provides some interesting insights on doing Christian literature distribution.  

•  I used to think when I was handing out tracts, "Oh, people are just so hardened to the gospel. No one will accept a tract." No, actually, no one wants ANY kind of literature shoved in their face. It doesn't matter if it's a flyer advertising free checking accounts or free salvation. It's not necessarily the content that people are opposed to, it's the interruption when they are passing by.  

•  I used to feel unspiritual for not wanting to hand out tracts. Now I realize that this is an activity that is universally difficult, whether it's love of money or love of Jesus that motivates you to do it. NONE of my coworkers like handing out flyers. They state frankly that they can't handle the rejection. The reluctance to go up to a complete stranger and hand them a piece of literature is not unique to Christians. It is intimidating whether or not there is anything spiritual about it. 

•  Handing out flyers is something you can get better at with practice. In a month and a half, I have gained skills, learned more about how to read people, and improved my ability to give out flyers. I discovered that if you stand still with the flyers in your hand, no one will take one all day long. In fact, it seems they will go out of their way to escape you, studiously avoiding eye contact. However, there is a way to get a flyer into the hand of that person who is studiously avoiding eye contact. First, greet the person with a warm smile and a genuine, "How are you doing today?" They will make eye contact. Then hold out the flyer, and casually take a few steps in the direction they are walking so they won't have to be bothered to stop. If you hold out the flyer while you are saying, "How are you," it doesn't work. The flyer must come an instant AFTER the greeting, but before they have a chance to break eye contact. (I have experimented with the timing on this.) And lo and behold, their hand will make an imperceptible move toward the flyer, or two fingers will spread out to receive it, and the flyer will go into their hand. Little techniques like this make a difference in terms of delivery. Whether or not they actually read it is a different story, but certainly more will get read if more get delivered. 

•  There are always some people who will rudely reject you, some who will reluctantly take a flyer, some who will pause for a short conversation, and some who want what you have to offer right away. Don't take it personally when they are rude. Don't stress about the person who reluctantly took the flyer. Be ready to plant a few key ideas in the mind of the person who stops to have a short conversation. Know how to deliver the goods to the person who wants it today. 

•  Usually the person who consents to open up a checking account is not the recipient of the flyer, but someone who is aware of some sort of problem. They come to us with a check that they couldn't cash elsewhere. They can't get a bank account with another bank because of a bankruptcy or other issue. There is a check-cashing fee for non-customers that we can waive if they open up an account. This is the easiest person to work with. Same with the gospel. If a person has an awareness of the problem (sin), they don't need a flyer as much as they need to be offered the gospel, and they will be the readiest to receive it. (Does this render the flyer distribution unnecessary? No, because it is reaching a different person at a different level, the person who needs a sound byte, the person who doesn't have awareness of a problem, the person who is just walking along, minding their own business, oblivious to you and the issue you represent. The flyer creates initial awareness for that person that can possibly bear fruit later. And even if we don't understand all this reasoning, we pass out flyers because the higher-ups ask us to. It's part of our job, simple as that. Also, being out there handing out the flyers allows us to interact with a higher percentage of "people with a problem" than if we stood at our teller windows all day and waited for them to come to us. A few come to us out of their own initiative, but a far greater number walk on by, unaware that we could offer them a solution, unless we are out there, drawing them in and engaging them in conversation.)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Loaves, fishes, (and housing?) materializing out of nothing

And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased. And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples. And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh. When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little.--John 6:2-7

He himself knew what he would do, yet he asked Philip, "What are we going to do about this?"

Is there ever a time when the Living God does not know beforehand what he is going to do? No, never.

Therefore, when He asks me, "What shall we do to provide for this need," I need not gasp, "I have no idea---who could afford to provide such a thing?" Jesus did not ask, "Do we have the money," he asked, "Where shall we buy bread," but Philip immediately jumped to the money aspect: it's going to cost this much money, and how in the world can we afford it?

In my case, Jesus says to me, "Where are you going to live," and He ALREADY KNOWS WHAT HE IS GOING TO DO, but I (predictable creature) instantly jump to the money aspect and say, "I don't know, I couldn't possibly afford it. What AM I going to do?"

Is He not saying this to try me? Ought not my response to be, "Thou knowest, O Lord"?

Jesus said to Philip, "Where is this bread going to come from," and the correct answer was that it was going to come from Christ Himself. Was Jesus proving Philip to see whether he would answer, "You, O Lord, will provide it"?

How could Philip conceivably guess what was going to happen, for who ever heard of bread materializing out of nothing? Yet Jesus knew what he was about to do, and He proved Philip to see how close he was to trusting Him to do something of that magnitude.

Whoever heard of housing materializing out of nothing? Yet what if Jesus is proving me to see how close I am to trusting that He can provide even this for me? So much for "two hundred pennyworth"---it would cost me ten years wages to buy a house. It is farther out of reach than a multitude-sized meal of loaves and fishes was to the disciples. And shall I not trust Him to do great things, Who proved Himself over and over again to His people?


***UPDATE***
February 8, 2014

The same week I needed to be out of the house, God orchestrated the most remarkable set of circumstances to bring me into the a lovely home of a Christian family who had an extra bedroom for rent. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A beautiful day

It started off with a spectacular sunrise. Days that start with a great sunrise always seem to portend great things to come, and this day certainly delivered on its promise. I had the day off work, and I planned to go up to Rocky Mountain National Park.

The mountains from the balcony, in their sunrise glow, made me hungry to be out there among them. Long's Peak, Colorado's northernmost 14-er, is visible to the right.

I packed a backpack with cardstock, acrylic paints, brushes, sunscreen, and a coat just in case I got cold (I didn't), and by 7:30 am, I was on the road to the park, waves of happy exhilaration and anticipation washing over me.

I was driving through the Big Thompson Canyon, where the signs say, "Bighorn sheep, next 10 miles," and I was hoping I would get to see some. Sure enough, I rounded a bend, and there were four stalwart ones right on the side of the road. (By the time I parked and got the camera out, they were trotting off into the distance, so in the photo they look like four white specks to the left of the more distant car.) It made me happy just to see the way these bighorn sheep walked. They were so muscular and yet so graceful.

I got up to Rocky Mountain National Park and took the shuttle to Bear Lake. Day after Labor Day = best time to go! The massive crowds of people were thinned to almost nothing, so Bear Lake didn't have the agonizing "Get Me Away From All These People" feeling that it did in July when I went.

The lovely view at Bear Lake:

I hiked to Bierstadt Lake, which also had a lovely view, and I sat on a rock and pulled out my painting stuff and painted it. It made me happy to apply color to paper, even though I knew it was turning out amateurish and...well, just funny-looking. This was literally the first time in my life I had ever sat outside to paint a landscape. But it was something I had wanted to do ever since I came here in July. I had been longing to come out here and paint this--even though I knew I wouldn't really be able to.

The painting in front of the original:

Then I hiked on a little further and came to the steep part with the switchbacks, where the inspiration had first struck me to come out here and paint, and I sat down exactly where I had said to myself I wanted to sit, and I painted another painting. But I got tired and hungry and by the time I was painting the aspen trees, I was a bit bored and just abandoned it before all the details were done. Oh well...even if I had done my most careful work, I would not have been able to do it justice. The point was, it was fun and it made me happy to do it.






On the way home, driving out of the parking lot, I passed two elk on the side of the road. I also saw lots of chipmunks, a huge wild turkey, and two deer, making my wildlife count entirely satisfying. 

After all that, I had a wonderful evening with some friends, the most delicious chocolate cake I have ever tasted, and a sweet time of sharing and prayer.

There was even a spectacular sunset to put a fitting bookend on the day (but I didn't get a photo of it).

Thank you, Jesus, for bringing such beautiful moments into my life. Thank you for this beautiful day!


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Sleep vs. Prayer: Weak Flesh vs. Willing Spirit

"What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." Matthew 26:40-41

The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Have you ever used that as a cop-out?

That is the only way I have ever used it or heard it used. "Oh, Jesus wants me to get up and pray rather than falling asleep. I would, because the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak, so that's why I can't get up."

As if the weak flesh trumps the power of the spirit.

That's how I always saw it.

But this morning, praying and meditating on what Jesus is saying, I see it totally differently. It doesn't make the least bit of sense that Jesus would mean it that way. Why would He say, "Watch and pray! This is important, guys, and the Spirit is willing to do it! Oh, but the flesh is weak, so never mind."

Surely He didn't tack this phrase on to give us an excuse to be hopeless about ever succeeding in obeying Him.

Rather, He is giving a really helpful instruction about the only way to succeed in prayer, answering the question, "Who are you trusting in to get your prayer done?"

If you are trusting in the spirit, the spirit is willing. The spirit is always willing to pray.

If you are trusting in the flesh, the flesh is weak. The flesh is insufficient, unable to pray, helpless to get to God.

What is the spirit? The spirit is not a thing, it's a Person.

Who is the spirit? The Holy Spirit of God. Consider who the Holy Spirit is. Can He ever be unwilling to pray?

What is the flesh? The flesh is the part of you that can't and won't serve God. The flesh is your old nature, the part that is bound to the dictatorship of sin and the devil. Why would we ever trust in the flesh in order to pray?

But we do.

We are used to trusting in the flesh.

If we need to get up super early to go on a fun trip, the flesh will help us to get up, because it is excited about the gratification and pleasure that the trip promises.

If we need to get up in the morning to go to work, the flesh will help us, because it knows you have to work to eat, and it is unwilling to put itself in the position of losing the food and other nice things that the job brings.

If we need to get up in the morning to face an unpleasant task, the flesh may be reluctant, but it will help us even then, because there are certain perks--the self-gratification of taking it patiently, or the need to get it over with, or the benefit that will come afterward.

So when it comes to getting up to pray, we turn to the flesh.

But the flesh is weak.

The spirit is willing. Walk in the spirit, and you will be able to watch one hour with Jesus. If there's even a tiny little bit of self-indulgence in your system, you will end up giving in to it and you will fall asleep.

Is this not a valuable key? Jesus is giving us knowledge for victory, not a cop-out for failure.


Monday, August 26, 2013

Sleep vs. Prayer: Death vs. Life

"Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." Eph. 5:14

How's that for a verse on getting up from your sleep? 

I thought that waking up felt like dying. Death to self, get up, put away your tiredness, even though it feels like you can't possibly stand it.

But here, it says awake and arise from the dead. Waking up is not dying--waking up is living! Going on sleeping means to go on indulging the flesh, investing in sin and death. 

Awaking and arising from the dead--synonymous. 

If I get up out of bed when my alarm rings, when all I feel like doing is flopping right back onto my pillow and falling asleep for another hour, then it represents that I am walking in the resurrection life that Jesus has given me. That is literally what it takes for me to deny the flesh's insatiable hold on more sleep. 

Awake, and arise from the dead. 

Awake, and arise from the dead. 

It's a simultaneous thing. In order to awake, I have to walk in the resurrection life, and by awaking, I prove that I am risen with Christ. 

"And Christ shall give thee light." Even at 5:00 in the morning, before the sun rises, the light of my life, the sunshine of my soul, is Jesus. 

"But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall." Malachi 4:2

Do I trust Him to bring the light? My dead, dark, sleepy soul cannot produce its own light. The alarm rings, and I don't see or feel the burning glow of spiritual light, so I retreat back to where it's comfortable, under the covers. But He is always trustworthy. I can expect Him to bring the light. I can count on it. When I burrow back into the covers, it says, "No, Jesus, I can't trust you to bring me light today." But I could have trusted Him. Often He asks for obedience before He brings the blessing and life and sweetness of His presence. It takes faith to obey. Going back to sleep, for me, is rooted in unbelief. It takes faith to get up earlier than I "need to" in order to come into His presence and pray before I absolutely have to get out of bed for necessaries like shower and breakfast. 

God is zealous to build my faith, so He keeps pressing this issue to a point until I walk in consistent victory. 

It wouldn't be sleep in everyone's life, but I suspect there is some area for each person that is absolutely impossible in the strength of the flesh, that God will point to and correct until there is victory. The main reason why I am posting all the nitty-gritty details of this private struggle is that I trust it will be a help and a guide to some other dear sister who finds that she must apply the gospel to herself in an area of weakness in order to find victory. If this is you, take heart, and don't give up the fight; pursue Jesus and allow Him to pinpoint the area of your life and work on it. Let Him build your faith, and look at your particular "sleep" issue, not as an unfortunate command that always results in defeat, but as an invitation to discover the true victory and life that only He can bring. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Sleep vs. Prayer: Sweetness and victory

Last night I was reading Of Whom The World Was Not Worthy before I went to bed. It's a book about Yugoslavian Christians during World War II. It'll revolutionize your prayer life. Incredible story.

I went to bed feeling inspired by the way they prayed and the way God answered, and I wanted so desperately to break through to being able to do that kind of prayer. Would I get up the next morning, finally, to meet with Jesus?

As I got into bed, I asked the Lord, "What is the key? How am I going to get up?" He suggested that I get in the secret place now, before I went to bed, and stay in it, and not leave. I have been going in and out, taking the gospel and then dropping it on the floor, having an up-and-down experience simply because I do not abide. Why would I ever leave?

He also whispered to my heart that He would come and give me an invitation to meet with Him without my alarm. Sure enough, I woke up at 4:45 and thought, "He came!" I got up. I didn't say no. I met with the Lord. I broke through in prayer. I had a lovely, lovely hour with Him. By 6:00, I had a smile on my face and a bounce in my step. The sun was just rising, and the air was beautifully clear, affording a spectacular view of Long's Peak and the whole Rocky Mountain range to the west. I took an hour-long walk around the neighborhood loop and continued my conversation with Him. It was a beautiful and fruitful and productive time.

I'm so, so incredibly thankful.

Now for this to become a regular pattern...

Stay in the secret place, and don't leave.



Friday, August 23, 2013

Sleep vs. Prayer: Plan A vs. Plan B

God has asked me this one simple thing, this tiny little sacrifice--sleep a little less if necessary; you don't even have to if you go to bed on time--and watch with me at 5:00 in the morning.

How can it be that it is THIS hard?

It's not like I should be that tired. I have the most flexible time schedule and the least amount of work responsibilities that I have had in years. It's not that I'm too busy, or too stressed, or anything. But for some reason, I am being violently opposed on this front. What is going on? What in the world?

Let me go back to the gospel. The gospel gives me power to overcome sin, no matter how violently it opposes me or how addicted I am.

Lord, preach the gospel to me again. Remind me of what it says. Show me how and why I have fallen off from living in the power of the resurrection.

Lord, bring me to the secret place, and let me get in and not leave.

I just fell asleep for like 20 minutes, which is ridiculous, because it's 9:00 in the morning. I do not need a nap! Sleep is temporarily trumping the gospel. The skirmish is going the wrong way. But sleep must ultimately lose. It must be judged. I must be delivered.

Frightening to think that sleep could win the skirmish for the rest of my life if I give sway to it. Yet on the other hand, tomorrow could be the first day of a lifetime of faithfulness if I enter into the power of the gospel and walk in it and give no place to the flesh.

This morning when my alarm went off, I consulted my body to see if it was tired, and it was, so I went back to sleep. But I am not to consult my body; I am supposed to consult Jesus to see if He wants me to get up and pray, and if the answer is yes, then it doesn't matter what my body says, HIS word goes.

Can I trust Jesus to get me up, even though I can't trust myself? Yes. How foolish of me to constantly look to the flesh to get me up when I know it never will. How absurd to start 8 years ago with "Plan A: Self Reliance: I trust myself to get myself up."

Failure that day.

Next day, "Oh, let's try Plan A again."

Failure again.

Next day: "Oh, I know! Let me try Plan A!"

Failure.

8 years later: "I'm going to try plan A tomorrow morning and see if I get up."

UMMMM... HELLO? DUH!

PLAN B!! Trust Jesus to get you up!

It just shows how much trust I had in the flesh for me to keep going back to it all those times, even when it repeatedly proved untrustworthy, and how little I trusted Jesus. He never failed me, yet I say to myself, "Oh, no, HE can't be expected to get me up. I'd better rely on myself." Ridiculous, preposterous, when you put it in that light, but I have literally been that ridiculous continually in this ongoing struggle.

There is nothing for me to do but cry, "Holy, Holy, Holy, Abba Father! Deliver me from myself, and preach the gospel to me, and let me look only to Jesus!"

  • Jesus to come and get me up. 
  • Jesus to say whether or not I am to get up. 
  • Jesus to provide the power to get up. 
  • Jesus to defeat the flesh, which opposes me getting up (He has already done it!)
  • Jesus to be the sweetness and the presence in the secret place.
  • Jesus to impart His life to me in exchange for my dead self.
  • Jesus to bear the judgment of God on my sin. 

Jesus! How could I look to anyone but You?


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Sleep vs. Prayer: God's mercy

I got up at 5, knelt by my bed, fell asleep immediately, and crawled back under my covers and fell fast asleep. I had been prevented from going to bed early like I wanted to, and then ended staying up till 1. Bad idea.

But all during the day today, I was blessed by the Lord with His presence. I had a wonderful prayer walk. I felt like I was in the secret place more often and more constantly than usual. Oh for the day when I never leave the secret place! "Now unto Him who is able to keep you from falling" was my watchword for the day.

This evening, the Lord allowed my speech to be instrumental in the life of a friend. His power and glory opened up the door for her to be blessed, and I was a channel.

I am going to bed rather late (11:54) as a result, but I just read a bunch of verses from Proverbs on sloth, so hopefully they will be effective at convincing me to get up anyway.

Oh, Jesus, let not love of sleep keep me from Thee!


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sleep vs. Prayer: One obedient day

Trusting in Jesus, I got up and prayed from 5:00 to 6:00. I did not break through in prayer and went back to sleep at 6, but later I did break through in prayer. Part of the key was a prayer time on the floor of the playroom, where I wept and found newly established faith IN Jesus, not in myself, to get up.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sleep vs. Prayer: Tame me

I said "no" again this morning. The alarm went off, and I shut it off and quickly went back to bed, bumping my head really hard because I had forgotten I had moved to a different room and was in a bunk bed. That could have been enough to wake me up, but I said no and closed my eyes and was asleep in an instant, waking up at 7:00.

And yet the Lord has come back in sweetness, to woo me back to Himself.

I was praying while I got my breakfast ready and saying, "Lord, fulfill all your purposes in me and let it not be said that I was your fiercest opponent." And the thought struck me that I think I really am. How preposterous is that? It's not Satan--he was defeated 2,000 years ago at the cross. He plays into God's hands, even when he is bent on opposing God. He is subservient to God's instructions and permissions. When God says, "Do this," Satan doesn't say "No."

Who am I to say no to the living God? And how is it that He continues to love me and bless me? Yet He reassures me; He continues to help me, He works on me, He trains me.

I look within myself and find no strength to refuse or deny this perpetual, rebellious, "NO." Yet God says, "It is in my power to tame you. If a mere mortal man can tame a wild horse, then I, God, can certainly tame you." And so I cry, "Lord, tame me! Harness me! Rein in my wild breakings forth on every side!"

I see that I am not submitted in this area. How can I be? I love sleep so much? How can I come to be submitted? I find no strength to deny myself the pleasure of the sleep I so dearly love.

But God is able to do even this.

He is able to deliver me and so completely change me around, that one day I will say to those who would dissuade me from prayer, "How can I stop? I love prayer so much. How can I come to stop? I find no strength to deny myself the pleasure of the prayer I so dearly love."

Lord--let it come to pass. Tame me.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Sleep vs. Prayer: Discouraging distractions

If I don't learn how to surrender myself to the power of God and live by grace, then I will never be able to pray, and I will never be of any use.

I slept in 2 hours past my alarm again.

After I got up, I still couldn't pray. I said aloud, "I can no more pray than a broomstick can play the piano." If I can't and won't pray when I've slept my fill, how do I expect to get up and lose my sleep for it?

I finally began to pray, and I immediately got distracted. I tried to cut down on distractions--I prayed standing up and walking back and forth in the upstairs hall with all the bedroom doors closed--and I still found myself standing still, doing nothing, looking at my fingernails for about 20 minutes. Things like that are discouraging.

I am asking for an anointing, a breakthrough, a move of the Holy Spirit on my life to take complete possession, and I find I am rebellious, hard-hearted, self-centered, proud, and fighting against God. I find that I do indeed have Jesus; He has given Himself to me, but I have not surrendered myself fully to Him; He does not fully have me. This must not be.

I asked the Lord, "How did David Brainerd and those other guys DO it? How does anyone fight off tiredness in order to get up in the morning at 4:00?" It went quiet. Then I realized (and said aloud), "If the power of God is the power of God, then it can overcome tiredness."

I am just not accessing or tapping into that power, either for tiredness or for prayer or for anything else, probably.

How do I access that power, that grace?

Everyone says He flows in of His own accord when we open the door. He is knocking. He wants to come in. It is I who don't want Him. That is surely evident in my own case.

How do I open up the door? By faith.

How do I live by faith? By looking to the WORD.

What does the Word say about God giving us His power? "Being strengthened with all might according to His glorious power," "Striving according to His working, which worketh in me mightily," etc.

So what do I do? I receive the command, open the door, and set about obeying, trusting that His power and grace will be given.

Is that right?


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sleep vs. Prayer: Strange fire and Phinehas

The battle is still ongoing. Waiting for a breakthrough.

This morning I did not get up but slept until 8. It was partly a lack of guarding my bedtime the night before (first coffee in the evening, then WordReference forums until after 1:00 in the morning) and partly a lack of applying the gospel to myself and partly a lack of supreme love for my Savior that would trump sleep...oh, who can count all the factors? It is too complex for me to understand.

We had a good message today, The Man Without Mixture, and in it Eric preached the gospel. It was the gospel, and I was sitting there recognizing I needed it, but I couldn't grasp it. It eluded my comprehension.

In the message, he made a comparison with strange fire. Nadab and Abihu offered strange fire and died before the Lord. My life is the temple of God; there ought to be no strange fire offered in this temple, either. I wrote in my kindle on Lev. 10:2, "In the temple of our bodies, we are not to offer strange fire, either. The fire of the Holy Spirit shall not have mixture with the fires sourced from the flesh. Let us not let the fire of the Holy Spirit go out--but if it does go out, we can't just get fire from anywhere; we must get the fire that descends from heaven. Let me get on my face before God and be an altar ready to receive the all-consuming fire until it comes. O, God, come down and ignite me."

Spirit of God, descend upon my heart...
My heart an altar, and thy love the flame. 

Eric spoke about Phinehas, who carried out a ruthless act of vengeance against the "strange fire" and the "mixture" in the camp of Israel, and it was counted to him for righteousness through all generations (Num. 25:6-15, Psa. 106:30-31). I knew I needed to take a similar decisive action against the flesh, thrusting a javelin as it were through this part (sleep) that flaunts the commandment of God.

I thought, "What does giving up sleep feel like? It feels like dying." It really does feel like I'm dying. Am I not willing to die?

I came home and ate lunch and felt pressed to "be afflicted, and mourn, and weep." After lunch, at about 2:30, I set myself to seek the Lord. I went to the prayer closet in the basement. I reviewed the gospel. I quoted Romans 6 to myself, and part of Romans 7 and 8.

I fell asleep.

I walked upstairs to my bed and slept until about 6:00. Even in my sleep, I was feebly begging God to help me, while at the same time I had no intention of relinquishing my nap until I had slept my fill. I saw in my sleep a mountain, and I said to the Lord, "Conquer this territory in my soul."

I woke up, sleep-saturated, and the Lord reproached me. It is harder, not easier, for Him to get glory now, because whereas before a victory would have been in the face of overpowering sleepiness, now there would be no evidence visible to myself and palpable to tell others that I had broken through. I had not woken up because of a breakthrough, I woke up because I had slept my fill.

Where is any strength to fight this beast that has captured my life so completely?

Where is any will to will anything opposed to indulging in sweet sleep?

Where is my love to Christ that will trump this once and for all?

How do I wield the gospel? How do I die? How do I thrust a javelin into sleep?

Sleep is such a tricky one because I can't fast from it completely; I can't just cut it out like I did with sugar. So it requires a discerning judgment between good and evil to even know how to decapitate the monster that is hiding behind one of God's good gifts.

Here is my heart. I bare the altar to thy all-consuming flame. Burn up this inordinate love, Lord Jesus, and let my heart burn only with love for Thee. Come quickly, before this false love has another chance to exert itself.

Can I prevail upon Thee to send this fire?

It's so far from being an unblemished sacrifice.

Cleanse me, purify me, purge out this rottenness; strip me of all fleshly indulgence. I don't care if it hurts; it must go. Be my Phinehas. Come, my High Priest and King. Come and have mercy upon me and do this work. I plead your lovingkindness, not my merit. What must I do to be saved from the body of this death?


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Sleep vs. Prayer: The battle renews

It is 1:25 in the morning and I just got off of my computer, where I wrote emails until 10:30 or 11 and then surfed the Word Reference forums and contributed to them until just a few minutes ago. That was my old trap when I was working on the exam writing job, and I fell into it again tonight. I have closed down my facebook account, but that doesn't mean there aren't other ways to waste time.

It's a problem in ME.

Ultimately, it's a fleeing from the fight to conquer sleep, a delay, an extension of the problem, for if I go to bed at 1:30 or 2, then I certainly "can't" get up tomorrow morning at 5, and the flesh has won another skirmish.

I thought to myself this evening--said out loud, in fact--"This continued issue with sleep is a symptom of a dysfunction somewhere."

A symptom.

I have looked at things like staying up late as causes and not getting up in the morning as a result. But the whole cycle of defeat is a symptom of a greater problem. What is the root?

It came to me while I was brushing my teeth. The root is an improper or insufficient application of the gospel to my soul. I saw that I had wanted the gospel to be something it is not.

What did I want the gospel to be? I asked myself.

I wanted it to be a system that allowed me to do whatever I wanted. I certainly did not want it to be a daily death.

And I had been living trying to make the gospel into something it is not, and therefore I was in defeat.

So, what I need to do, I realized, is submit to the gospel, and recognize it for what it is, and go forth in victory.

Now, how do I do that?

Lord, how do I submit to the gospel in such a way that it will deal with the root causes that continually produce the symptom of disobedience regarding sleep?

Can I do that today? This minute? Enter into it, and walk in it, and continue to abide in it?

I believe the answer is yes.

I believe it's not an "it," it's a Person that I must enter into, walk in, and abide in.

That person is Jesus.

What is it about Jesus, and my relationship with Him, that is not as it should be in order for the gospel to WORK?

(Of course Jesus is as He should be.) How do I get where I should be.

The gospel says that my flesh is dead.

My flesh is the root of these symptoms.

I saw long ago how the only way I would ever get rid of the sin (these symptoms) was to die.

Jesus has already offered me death. He has already grabbed the flesh, snatched it into Himself on the cross, crucified it, and buried it. He left it behind, let go of it, when He rose from the dead.

The flesh no longer should ever have any say in my life, bear any fruit, or cause any symptoms.

If the flesh is still bearing fruit in my life, what does that mean?

It means that I am yielding my members unto sin and death rather than righteousness and life.

It doesn't say I am yielding my members to the flesh--because that it literally out of the picture. But sin can still come clamoring, "Yield to me! Give me your machinery! Let it produce my fruit." Before, the flesh obliged me to yield to sin. Now, the flesh is gone and the soul is free to yield to righteousness for the first time. But the soul still remembers how to follow the old designs, still is used to lending its machinery to produce bad fruit. When sin comes calling, the soul sways to heed it.

IT NEED NOT!

So how does this look at 5:00 tomorrow morning, when my sleep-deprived body does what it usually does and turns off the alarm and rolls over and goes back to sleep? How do I apply the gospel? Where is the stronger force to overcome that so-far-unconquerable sleep drive? Where is Jesus? What is He going to do for me and how does the gospel set me free?

What I have been wanting the gospel to be, which apparently it is not:


  • An anti-tiredness drug that pops me wide awake in spite of myself--Instead, it's a choice. 
  • An overpowering force that obliges me to obey and submit to righteousness the way the flesh used to oblige me to follow evil--but Christ is not a dictator; He tenderly leads. 


So if the gospel isn't going to do that for me, what is it going to do? When I'm tired, and defiant and rebellious toward anyone who would rob me of my sleep, this gospel somehow has more poser than that tired, defiant, flesh-loving self.

WHAT IS IT?

What is it that the gospel will do?

Set me free to choose? But I won't choose.

Plant somebody in me who will choose? (Jesus?)--But He's not going to overpower me with brute force.

But somehow there is power there.

I doubt I have ever accessed that power in the realm of sleep. In the realm of forgiveness, yes, and in other areas, but not in the realm of sleep.

I have an inkling you access that power by faith.

Oh God, give me something!
 - Some insight
 - Some breakthrough
 - Some victory
 - Some taste of walking by faith.

Help!

I'm falling asleep!

Before tomorrow morning, I need to know so that I can begin to walk in victory today and not delay any longer.

Is it not available today? YES.

Help me! I feel like I was so close to grasping it, "getting warmer," and now I feel like I'm "colder." Don't leave me! Have mercy on me.

Just get up in the morning and prove the power of the gospel. 

Really?

Am I not to ask how?

Just do it? Just experience it?

It has to be done to be understood?

Every other time of going to sleep in my life, I have lost my pep talk, my resolve, my good intentions, everything, overnight in my sleep.

And now you're telling me to go to sleep and get up in the morning?

Yes sir.

Isn't that all I can say?

Oh. Isn't that "yielding" to righteousness?

Something doesn't get lost in sleep. There's something about the gospel that endures--because the gospel is Jesus, and Jesus will never leave me, and He that has power over death has power over sleep.

Jesus says "Yes, sir" to the Father. He says it here.

May it still be so at 5:00 in the morning!

No analyzing! No excuses! No second opinions!

Let your yea be yea and your nay be nay.



Wednesday, August 14, 2013

If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee

If thou but suffer God to guide thee,
And hope in Him in all thy ways,
He'll give thee strength what e'er betide thee,
And bear thee through the evil days.
Who trusts in God's unfailing love
Builds on the rock that naught can move.

What can these anxious cares avail thee,
These never-ceasing moans and sighs?
What can it help, if thou bewail thee
O'er each dark moment as it flies?
Our cross and trials do but press
The heavier for our bitterness.

Only be still and wait His leisure
In cheerful hope, with heart content
To take what e'er the Father's pleasure
And all-discerning love hath sent.
Nor doubt thine inmost wants are known
To Him who chose thee for His own.

All are alike before the Highest;
'Tis easy to our God, we know,
To raise thee up, though low thou liest,
To make the rich man poor and low;
True wonders still by him are wrought
Who setteth up and brings to naught.

Sing, pray, and keep his ways unswerving,
So do thine own part faithfully.
And trust His Word--though undeserving,
Thou yet shalt find it true for thee;
God never yet forsook at need
The soul that trusted Him indeed.

Words by Georg Neumark, 1641
Translated by Catherine Winkworth, 1855, 1863
Tune name: NEUMARK 9.8.9.8.8.8.
Tune by Georg Neumark, 1657
(A gorgeous minor tune with splendid harmony)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A new kind of job hunt


I have believed for a long time that in order to find a spouse, you don't go looking for a spouse; your future mate is wrapped up in the heart of God. Seek HIS heart, and you will find the treasures He has in His heart for you.  

So in the shower yesterday morning, a startling idea hit me:

What if I looked for a job like that? 

What if, in the heart of God, there is the perfect job, just for me, hidden away there? What if, in order to find this job, I must plunge deep into Him, delight in Him, know His heart, and discover a deeper intimacy with him? 

Sure, I could probably find a job myself. I could go down to the grocery store or the fast food joint, or apply on craigslist. But it wouldn't be that job.

I'm going to try it. I'll let you know how the experiment works.

And in the meantime, I'm just purely working for HIM, writing my book and seeing Him provide for me, and it is the most amazing experience ever. He takes such good care of me!


***UPDATE***
February 8, 2014

I promised to let everyone know how the experiment worked, and then I never posted the results. Oops. Thanks, Jonathan, for your comment alerting me to the fact. It's a pretty good story.

Basic result: IT WORKED.

But my faith was tested not a little in the carrying out of the experiment.

I wrote the above post on August 13. At that date, I still had a bit of money in the bank, so I wasn't urgently worried about my situation. I was also riding high on the confidence of how magnificently God had provided for me up until that point.

Two days later, on the 15th, I paid all my bills, and I gulped in alarm. I only had $24.10 left in my bank account. Now I really needed God to show up and make things happen. Whereas before I had felt like it would be literally impossible for me to ever reach the bottom of His supply for me, now I began to experience a tiny bit of doubt. "But what if I do run out?" began to be a question in my mind.

I wrote at the time, 

"A host of unwelcome visitors are knocking at my soul. Fear is knocking, impatience is knocking, doubt is knocking, self-effort is knocking, emotional overload is knocking, defeat is knocking, and if I open the door to one, the whole horde of unpleasant creatures will come sweeping in to wreak havoc on my peace, my faith, my confidence, and my assurance.
 "Guess what? I don’t have to let them in.

"I don’t have to come to the door, get close enough to hear what they’re saying, read the pamphlets they’re shoving through the window, or pay them the least bit of attention. Do you know where I’m going? To the closet. I’m going to be alone with Jesus, to cry out to Him, to ask Him to drive off these noisy pests from the door, and to ask Him to do something about it.  
"...Do you know what I did with the horde of angry, vehement characters beating on the door of my soul? I went to Jesus and I said to Him, as if He was my husband and could fill the role of answering the door and dealing with all the unsavory characters to send them packing, 
“Jesus, do you see all those people at the door? What do you want to do about them? They’re bothering me. Can you please take care of them?” And do you know what He did? He drove them away. 
 "And then, claiming my dependence on Him and the fact that I had staked everything on Him, I reminded Him of the fact that my bank account was almost empty and called on Him to do something about it. Do you know what He said? “Yes, it’s almost gone. But it’s not completely gone.” That gave me hope. I have never come to the bottom of His supply of resources. He has always provided for me. He has always come through for me. And I can confidently expect Him to do the same again." 

A couple of other things also helped to keep my perspective in place and not give way to doubt. One was that at the Set-Apart Girl conference back at the end of May, they had done a short promo for Compassion International, and each person received a packet to look at and prayerfully consider sponsoring a child. I had been through this before, and I had never felt prompted (or even permitted) to sign up for a sponsorship. However, as I looked at the picture of the child I had been given, the Lord filled my heart with love for that child and prompted me to support him. I initially fought it off. "This can't be right. I don't even have an income." I also argued with the choice of the child. The people to my right and my left had received packets featuring children from Haiti, and I considered asking to trade with them. I felt like Haiti made way more sense. I could write to the child in Creole, and maybe even visit him or her. But no. I had a clear and definite sense that my packet was being singled out as containing the child I ought to sponsor. So I signed up for the sponsorship, because I was pretty sure it would be disobedience not to. As I did so, I was struck by this thought: "Well, if God wants me to sign up to sponsor this child, then I can count on Him providing me at least $38 a month so that I can do it." 

Later, when I was being tested with this "new kind of job hunt," the Lord reminded me of my Compassion International child and asked me, "Do you think I will forget that child?"

"No," I replied, "of course not!"

"Then, my dear one, how can you doubt that I will take care of you?"

And I was instantly melted by His love and kindness and concern, and I felt my feet re-established onto the firm ground of faith that He would, indeed provide.

Another mainstay during that time was the hymn, "If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee." I memorized the words and sang it often, and I played it on my guitar just about every day. It served as a constant reminder of God's faithfulness and trustworthiness.

To get back to the story, right before my Compassion sponsorship payment was due, I received a cash gift of $50 from a lovely lady at my church in Tennessee, and I said to myself, "God remembered my Compassion child!" I also treated a friend to coffee and got some groceries, and when all was said and done, I had $18 left.

I couldn't help being a bit worried again. Where was this job that was hidden in God's heart for me? But He continued to press me towards Him, disregarding the outward circumstances. I had no expectation or guarantee of any income. There I was, running this unconventional experiment, trusting God for a job, and looking for it, not on craigslist, but in His heart, and I had $18.

Common sense dictated that desperate times called for drastic measures. My usage cycle on my phone went from the 22nd to the 21st of every month. I knew if I turned my phone off on the 21st, I would stop being billed for it (because I was going month-to-month), so I said to myself, "I can't afford my phone. If nothing changes by the 21st, then I will shut off my phone on the evening of the 21st." In the meantime, I continued to delight in the Lord and exult in knowing and being known of Him.

On the 20th, I received a $100 check in the mail. "Wow! I guess I don't have to turn off my phone!" I said to myself. It actually took more courage to leave my phone on than to turn it off, because I knew I had food and gas and other expenses in life, and by the time my bill came due again, that $100 would be eaten up, but I felt that the check was God's token to me that He had heard and remembered my need.

Since I didn't yet have a way to cash a check in Colorado, I went to open a bank account. The personal banker who opened my account was talkative and friendly, and he asked general questions about what I was doing with my life. I said that I had just moved to Colorado and that I was writing a book. "Oh..." he said, in that tolerant, polite tone of voice people sometimes use when they don't understand you at all, "That's a nice form of self-discovery." He asked a few sales-y questions like whether I owned or rented my home, and then he asked, "What concerns do you have?"

"Um, what do you mean? Concerns about the bank account?" I asked.

"No, just about money in general," he replied. "What keeps you up at night?"

"Nothing!" I exclaimed. "I don't worry about money at all." I was filled with a sense of awe and love for God, and I was overwhelmed with how rich I truly was. I was also amused by the thought of how mystified the banker would be if he knew that all I had in the world was eighteen dollars plus this check. Because I was depositing an out-of-state, handwritten check, I had to wait for the funds to clear, so the money wasn't yet available to me, but I walked out of the bank as if I was floating. I had God! What else could I want?

Over the next few days, as my funds continued to dwindle, I continued to delight in God, pursue him, and trust Him to do the impossible. Little things happened to remind me how little money I had. My gas tank was pushing closer and closer to empty. A friend of mine called and said she needed someone to bring her a couple of quarts of oil to where she was stopped on the side of the freeway, and I had to honestly tell her that I didn't have the money to buy the oil or the gas to get to her, and I had to ask another friend to help her out. But through the grace of God, I was kept in a happy state of rest and contentment.

I did little things to remind myself of how the money might be almost gone, but it wasn't completely gone. I found a ring that someone had folded for me out of a dollar bill. I have had it since I was a child, and it has sat in my jewelry box for years. I started wearing the ring, so that I could look down at it and say to myself, "But I haven't spent this dollar yet." I also found a sweet little envelope that some of the girls at my church had given me with some cash in it, and it still had a little bit left in it.

I went to Wal-Mart on August 24 and purchased four items with $10 of the last $13 from the envelope. As I paid the cashier, I lifted up my soul to the Lord with a little gesture of showing Him the three lonely little dollar bills. "Three dollars, Lord," I silently pleaded. What was He going to do?

As I left the check-out and started towards the exit, I passed by the in-store bank. A sign said they were hiring full-time personal bankers. I went over to the teller. "Hey, I just noticed you're hiring," I said. "I was just wondering, do you think this is a nice place to work?" She started telling me about the job, and then the manager came over. We had a conversation and he started asking me about myself. I talked about how I had just moved here from Tennessee. We laughed and really seemed to hit it off well, and I thought to myself, "Wow, I feel like I'm getting a pre-interview right here!" This was exactly what I felt like I needed, because my resume is such a hodge-podge of mission opportunities that it doesn't look extremely good for landing a job, and I figured it would land at the bottom of the stack unless someone talked to me, liked me, and saw that I would be able to do the job.

That day, August 24, was a Saturday. I went home and applied. Sunday, the manager called me and asked for an interview. Monday I interviewed, and Tuesday I started. And I have worked there ever since.

Whoosh!

Just like that!

The Lord certainly tested me, tried me, and brought me as close as possible to the end of my finances, but He did not fail me. His provision was allowed to look like it might fail, but it was never allowed to actually fail.

Someone else might be permitted to go out and look for a job the conventional way, and even in my own case, later on down the road, I might be out of a job again and be permitted to job hunt the way everyone else does. However, in this experience, I was allowed to see the heightened glory of God at work, as I proved His faithfulness and saw how mightily He Himself, without any help, rolled out the red carpet for me to have a job.

And then He did it again as I repeated the experiment with a new kind of house hunt.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Oh! I made somebody angry.


Yesterday I deleted my facebook account.

It was one of those swift decisions that had to be done decisively or not at all. There would be no announcement, no angst-filled "should I delete my account" status that allowed all my friends to talk me out of it, no agonizing and re-considering. I would simply disappear from the ranks. Hard to say if many people would even notice.



Part of the impetus came from reading my sister's status, posted on the 9th. I admired her resolve and how she didn't wait around for something to convince her to do it.

"Well, my not-so-dear-Facebook, I guess this is it. I have been on the brink of doing this for so long and quite frankly, I'm tired of waiting for something to come along and convince me to keep you. You can be sure that I will not miss you and your mostly meaningless, time-wasting drama. The real world is much more interesting. For those of you who would actually like to keep in touch, you can always call, text, or email me: [redacted]. You can also follow me on my blog [redacted]. I will leave this status up until tomorrow when I will permanently, eternally, and joyfully delete my facebook forever."

That same morning, I had read in Amos 5:13, "Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time; for it is an evil time." I had noted on my Kindle on that verse, "Reason to get off facebook? Characteristics of this evil time, vs. 7-12. They turn judgment to wormwood, hate him that rebuketh in the gate, tread upon the poor, afflict the just, and take a bribe."

I also listened to Leonard Ravenhill's sermon, Where is the Fire, and in it he pointed out that God told Elijah, "Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith." (1 Kings 17:3). Ravenhill exclaimed, "Go hide?" This is what God told the prophet to do? And I thought of facebook again and thought it was time to "hide" at least my internet footprint.

Additionally, there was no reason for me to keep my account. I rarely used facebook for contacting people. I rarely posted statuses or pictures. I kept the chat turned off and rarely used the messaging feature. But what I would do was to get on facebook and scroll through my news feed, mindlessly reading people's statuses, seeing pictures, and basically just receiving whatever facebook fed me. Sometimes I would sit there for an hour or more, eyes glazed over, back hunched over, scrolling down, down, down forever. My goodness, this is less entertaining than television, and I wouldn't watch television. At least on television there would be some semblance of an interesting story line. How can it be that this was addicting?

Before deleting my account, I checked my entire friend list, just to make sure that there were no contacts on there that I would regret losing touch with. I found that I already had the contact info for the people I actually keep up with, and I figure the people I don't keep up with probably won't notice I'm gone anyway.

It was a bit difficult to find the link for actually deleting my facebook account (not merely deactivating it), but google found it for me. I followed the steps. Facebook certainly tries to retain customers--even after "permanently" deleting your account, they offer a 14-day change-your-mind period where you can still get it back.

So that was last night.

I happily went to bed, unsuspecting what I was in for the next day.

I woke up late. I felt like I was in a spiritual fog. I tried to pray and couldn't break through. I tried to work on writing my book, and the writing which usually flowed just wouldn't come. I felt stuck, lethargic, and opposed at every turn. I had had 9 hours of sleep, but I was so sleepy I couldn't keep my eyes open. I couldn't get anywhere, couldn't think, and couldn't fight off this mysterious "blah." I couldn't even concentrate to read (and if you know me, that's weird.) At about noon I was so tired I lay down on the floor and woke up at 2:30 with a rug imprint on the side of my face.

I got up. "What is going on with me?" I wondered. I went to the kitchen to make myself some lunch, and while I was cutting up vegetables for a stir-fry, I prayed. I asked the Lord why in the world I was so messed up today. And he told me.

"OH!" I said out loud. "I made somebody angry!"

It was a spiritual attack. The enemy was not happy, and this was retaliation. He had checkmate in two all lined up, perhaps, and now I had escaped it, or he had further chains of time wasting and unfruitfulness just waiting for me, or he saw how taking this step would "hide" me just out of the reach of his clutches. Who knows? It was just shutting down facebook. I didn't think it was that big of a deal. I certainly never thought the enemy would have a vested interest in me keeping my profile.

The thing to do when you recognize that this is happening: Hit back with prayer. I don't have to take that. I do not have to be foggy, droopy, lethargic, and brain-dead in the work God has given me. I am in Christ, and He has all authority over the enemy. I can run to the strong tower and be safe in Him, and be alert to do the work He has given me to do.

When I sat down again to do my writing, it flowed effortlessly. It was as if all the things that had seemed so daunting before were brushed away, and I easily and quickly reached and surpassed my writing goal for the day.

So just a heads-up if you're ever thinking about closing your facebook account. If you have all sorts of unaccountable opposition hit you (before, during, or after), hit back with prayer, and don't succumb to the enemy's tactics like I did.