Remember that episode of Friends where Ross thinks he has this thing called Unagi? He received Unagi while training in Kay-Ra-Tay. It is a conscious state of TOTAL awareness where a person is keen to all things around them. A sort of “sixth sense”, if you will, or what we who love Jesus might call communion with the Holy Spirit.I had an Unagi moment yesterday.
Life is always a mixture of ups and downs. Good stuff, bad stuff… it all comes with the package. Sometimes we just have to roll with the punches.
But yesterday, I was complaining a little, I will admit.
I just can’t do this anymore! This is impossible. There is no way I can handle this. I CANNOT DO IT. CANNOT. NO…. NO NO NO!!!!
And then Unagi:
“I trust you,” He says.
At first I think it is me praying these words out loud. Because that is something you PRAY, not something Jesus says to you… or at least He wouldn’t say it to me. But then I realized that I have a ton of trust issues and so that couldn’t have possibly been me who made this statement.
What the heck does that even mean?
“I trust you. You can do it. I picked you and that means you can do it.”
Ummmm…. No. No, I cannot.
“Well, not without me, you can’t. But you have Me, so you can.”
This doesn’t even make sense. What the heck is happening right now??
But something weird did happen. All of the pent-up anxiety that I had been feeling all morning just left. I felt this rod in my back, strengthening me, straightening me. I felt taller (those who have seen me might find that hard to believe).
He trusts me……… You trust me? ME????? WHY????
It’s funny how one word from God can change everything. It’s a suspicious word, I know. But His words bring life and I know that it was Him because that phrase brought life to my heart. That was the only thing I needed to hear. That He thought I could do it. No, that He KNEW I could do it.
Next time you give a word from God to someone, think about whether that Word will activate something in their heart. Will it bring life? Does it seem impossible or possibly ridiculous? Does it not make sense to you? Do things not line up with what you see? Then, baby, it is probably Unagi… errr Jesus. That’s how He rolls…. In the impossible.
Anxiety. It’s like this heart crushing phenomenon that happens to me every-once-in-awhile. Like today. You see, I’m leading the last worship set at our church this Sunday before we go to two worship services the following week. We haven’t even had practice for it yet and I am a bundle of nerves… I’m even nervous about the practice tonight! My heart is pounding, and I get big red blotches on my neck as anxiety overwhelms me. I just can’t seem to RELAX.
Yesterday I came home from Grace and instead of working out with a friend and then going to a barbecue I instead huddled under some blankets and prayed for God to give me peace. I called a friend from long ago who could totally relate to what I was going through and I shared my anxieties with her. She prayed for me. I loved her for it.
I opened up my Bible… the one that has actual paper and a cheap bonded leather cover, not my iPhone, and I turned to Psalm 23. I read it out loud and then stopped when I got to, “even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me”, this peace came over me. I asked for more of it. More of it came. Unbelievably, after a whole day of fighting fear and anxiety I was actually able to fall asleep about a quarter to ten.
But then I woke up at 4:15. 4:15 is early for me. It’s like I would rather die than get out of bed at 4:15. But I woke up anyway and as soon as I opened my eyes the anxiety was palpitating. I scurried from my bed and turned one of my favorite Bethel albums on. I paced up and down in my living room and worshiped, singing the words out loud and not caring too much about the neighbors at that point (they still love me though). But I knew there was going to come a point when I needed to turn the music off and listen to His heartbeat and fight through what I was feeling. So many things were fighting to distract me from my pain but I knew this was an opportunity for Jesus to work.
God just come. Come heal my heart. It hurts, Jesus. Come sit with me. Come be with me. Touch my heart, Jesus.
I cried. I felt Him come. I felt His presence. I prayed. I believed the things I prayed for.
Peace came again, flooding me, filling me with hope.
As the day wore on, I tried to fill my mind with Him. It’s not always easy at work. You’re around people that don’t understand relationship with Jesus. When you have to stop mid-keystroke because you have to ask Him for peace (silently), everyone is like…. uhhhh what? That anxiety will come in waves, cresting during very inopportune moments. Push through it. Ask Him to come. Focus on His heart. Focus on His plans and promises. Sometimes I imagine myself curled up in the crook of His arm. Tiny little me, and great big Him. Look at who He is and You won’t be disappointed. Feel the rush of His love and His kindness and His goodness. Just sit in front of Him. Just sit.
In the past I have been known to have some serious sleep issues. Anxiety is usually the culprit… worry, fear, etc. etc.. In the last several months, however, I’ve noticed a healing taking place in that area. It use to be that I could go for a couple nights without getting any sleep at all, and now for the last several months I rarely have one night where I am having trouble falling asleep. The Lord has restored a peace to me that I haven’t had since elementary school! It’s quite amazing, actually.
Unfortunately, last night that same enemy of insomnia crept up on me again. I was worried… again. I was distressed about friends that were struggling with addiction and despair. I was wrestling fear issues in my own heart. Hopelessness started to set in a little bit and the tossing and turning continued. In desperation for some sleep I asked the Lord for help. Please Jesus… I have GOT to get some sleep! It was a scene that was all too familiar as I tried to examine my heart… repent for my fear, worry, or anything else that I might be allowing to rob me of my sleep.
And then He started speaking this passage to me in Isaiah:
1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called mighty oaks,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.
4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.
5 Strangers will shepherd your flocks;
foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.
6 And you will be called priests of the LORD,
you will be named ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,
and in their riches you will boast.
7 Instead of your shame
you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
and everlasting joy will be yours.
I have heard this passage taken out of context and people attribute portions of it to themselves. I have to admit, when I started to hear Him speak to me that passage at around midnight, I thought maybe He was telling me what I was suppose to do… but instead He was telling me who HE WAS. This is a prophecy about the Jewish Messiah, not about the ones He came to save. My immediate reaction was… “okay! I’m in, God! Let’s do it!” But what He was really saying to me was… “when are you going to start believing that this is who I am? That I’m the only one what can heal the brokenhearted, turn broken men into mighty oaks, set people dancing who were once in despair? When are you going to let Me be that in Your life? When are you going to start believing that I am who I say I AM in the lives of your friends?”
But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Matthew 13:6
Today I was thinking of the many people I know who once claimed to follow Jesus but for various reasons of their own, fell away. Some of them will return. Some of them won’t. Either way, it makes me sad that they aren’t part of my family right now. The family of God, that is. Prodigals hurt my heart. It causes me to wonder how they became prodigals in the first place.
This parable in Matthew, better known as “the Parable of the Sower”, kind of explains what actually happens when prodigals fall away. I guess I have never thought about this parable at any great depth but tonight as I pondered the “falling away” of old friends and family members, I decided to ask Jesus about it.
Roots… it wasn’t just a famous mini-series from the seventies. I think all of us learn in second grade science what an important role roots play in the life of a plant. Roots gather nutrients from the soil, allowing the plant to grow and remain healthy. Without roots, a plant will not survive.
It’s a perfect example of what happens to us when we don’t gather spiritual nourishment from Jesus. And when I say spiritual nourishment I don’t mean memorizing Bible verses, reading your 10 chapters a day, having “spiritual” conversations, or watching corny Christian movies. When Jesus is talking about roots in this passage, I believe He is talking about Himself. He’s the root system. He is the Life-Giver.
When people fall away from Jesus it is because they either haven’t really known Him or the distractions of this life have caused them to forget who He actually is. You see, the most important part of discipling someone isn’t just to teach them to read their Bible, to ‘obey’ God, and to get their butt in church. The first, and most important aspect in discipling a new believer is to teach them to sit in front of God and learn who He is, what He’s like, and who they are to Him. To help them gain understanding that Jesus loves to hang out with them and that they can discover for themselves how exciting He is.
I think so many are afraid to talk about this most important part of knowing Him because they are bored with God, themselves. But if we call ourselves “Christians” and are still fumbling through the law and refusing to embrace the cross, than why would I even want to be a Christian? I mean… really what’s the point? Blah! I wouldn’t want to stay a Christian if that was all that my life would be about.
I went through the whole ‘prodigal’ thing for a little while. Thanks to the grace of God, it didn’t last long. And I believe the reason it didn’t last long is because I had some ‘roots’ leftover from my teenage years. I realized that God was actually way more addictive than any substance I was drinking or any boy I was hanging out with. It helped that Jesus pursued me in some pretty incredible ways but that longing for Him, that dull ache in my chest grew the more I wandered from Him. It really is true that nothing else will satisfy this ache in our hearts… and it eventually made me want to come back for more of Him.
Before you start out in ministry or in life, be sure that your root system is set. Be sure to establish true intimacy with Jesus before you are thrown to the lions. I believe we’ll all need this sustenance in the days ahead more than ever history. Believers in communist and Islamic countries don’t suffer torture and martyrdom because they think it’s the ‘right thing do’ to not deny Christ. They suffer simply because they are in love and only lovers die for the ones they love.
Just like plants, without roots, we die.
God has a sense of humor. If you haven’t figured that out, then I feel really sorry for you. I say this because he speaks in the most surprising ways sometimes.
I was working most of the day today and had my iPod earbuds embedded into my head. Music causes the day to go by so much faster and makes mundane chores enjoyable. I haven’t listened to a lot of secular music in years though I will occasionally put some Pandora Radio on if I’m in the mood. For the most part, I prefer to soak myself in some really anointed worship music. But today I found myself staring at the listing for Norah Jones album “Come Away”, which was her very first recorded album. I haven’t listened to the complete version of this CD in about 4 years and was honestly obsessed with the CD when I first bought it. But because it was associated with a former bad relationship I sort of avoided it for awhile. For some reason I decided to go ahead and put it on. When the title song “Come Away” came on I stopped in my tracks and found myself wondering about the lyrics.
I don’t think Norah is a believer… but I’m pretty sure God is speaking right now.
“Come away with me in the night
Come away with me and I’ll write you a song
Come away with me on a bus
Come away with me where they can’t tempt us with their lies
And I want to walk with you on a cloudy day
In fields where the yellow grass grows knee-high
So won’t you try to come?
Come away with me and we’ll kiss on a mountaintop
Come away with me and I’ll never stop lovin’ you
And I want to wake up with the rain fallin’ on a tin roof
While I’m safe there in your arms
So all I ask is for you to come away with me in the night
Come away with me”
I can’t even begin to tell you how I felt the Lord speak to me in almost every single line. Not only that but soon after I was done listening to that album I put on a podcast by author John Eldredge. In the middle of the podcast John states “I was driving on a beautiful day awhile back and that song by Norah Jones… “Come Away with Me” played on the radio and I knew the Lord was speaking to me through this song.” I was sort of stunned. Once again, I am amazed at his tenderness over me.
I will write more on the meaning of these lyrics when I have time.
My sleep was slightly disturbed last night… okay massively disturbed by the probing of the Holy Spirit. I found myself frustrated, confused and condemned with the state of my heart and life. For the past couple of weeks, I have felt a distance from Holy Spirit. There are times when Jesus withdraws His presence from us to motivate us to seek Him out and then there are times that we allow our hearts to become so dull that His presence seems like a distant dream. You see, I’ve been having a running dialogue with myself for some time now.
I’m going to figure this out my way. I’m going to make things happen without His perfect timing and this is how I’m going to do it. I’m going to do this so that I can be a better person… wait oops, I made a mistake again so I suck and now He’s mad at me and there’s nothing I’m going to be able to do about it except try not to do it again. Wait, okay, what are some other ways I can stop doing this? How can I make myself learn to love more? How can I stop myself from being afraid? How can I trust God? How can I not put walls up? How can I not react to this person’s behavior? How can I not be sad when I disappoint someone? How can I stop disappointing someone? How can I get them to see me for who God made me to be? How can I love people that are difficult to love? Am I good enough to do this? Am I talented enough? I give up. I can’t do this. There’s no way…….. it’s impossible. Here I am going to that dark place again and I’m not fully sure how I’ll get out of it.
And the dialogue continued without end and the more it continued, the more withdrawn I felt. Last night I realized that there was something massively wrong. I wasn’t suppose to be having conversations with myself. Why hadn’t I even breathed a word of these thoughts to Jesus? Why did I continue to wrestle with myself and not wrestle with the One who loves to wrestle with His children? And in the dark frame of mind that I found myself in He whispered me back to an awake state:
You’ve forgotten that you need a Savior.
Then the image appeared again; an image that burned itself on my heart many years ago and has never quite faded from existence. It is the image of my Savior, hanging, bleeding, suffering and it wasn’t so that I could live life trying to pull myself up by my own bootstraps and combat sin and weakness and pain on my own. You see, people, the church is so afraid of appearing imperfect. We like to point out the failures and inconsistencies in the lives of others but we ourselves never fully realize the glory of partaking in the sufferings of Jesus, of feeding off of His flesh and blood, of partnering with Him in our daily lives… of relying on Him for nourishment and grace and healing. It’s because of unbelief that we continue to grasp for some kind of humanistic approach to holiness and righteousness. We don’t fully believe that He is there with us at all times. We feel abandoned by Him. We don’t trust in His goodness and kindness. It’s our belief in the tiny whispers of the enemy that God is withholding from us. That He is unpredictable (which He is to us, but not to Himself) but also erratic with our lives, ready to pull the rug out from under us at any moment.
But oh, He’s not that way!
We have to repeat the truth, in our mouths, in our heads in our hearts… to each other and ourselves.
For You are the living God, and steadfast forever…. you deliver and rescue and You work signs and wonders in heaven and on earth Daniel 6:26-27
“With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matt 19:26
And whatever we ask in Your name, that You will do that the Father may be glorified in the Son. John 14:12-14
But as for me, by Your abundant lovingkindness I will enter Your house. Psalm 5:7
Your gentleness makes me great. Psalm 18:35
Though the Lord is on high, yet you regard the lowly Psalm 138:6
As for God, Your way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless Psalm 18:30
Behold Your eye o Lord is on those who fear you, on thos who hope for your lovingkindness Psalm 33:18
Lord all my desire is before You; And my sighing is not hidden from You. Psalm 38:9
You have taken account of my wanderings; Put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your book? Psalm 56:8
O Lord, You have searched us and known us. You know our sitting down and our rising up; You understand our thoughts afar off. You comprehend our paths and our lying down and are acquainted with all our ways. Psalm 139: 1-3
“The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin…” Exodus 34:6-7
But those who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing. Psalm 34:10
Now didn’t that feel good? Couldn’t you feel the war going on as you read through these scriptures? I could. Happy are those that recognize the worth of their Savior. Not just who He is to us but who HE IS. He does not change. He is perfect in every way. Flawless in character. Does not show favoritism. Beautiful and Fascinating. Loves completely and perfectly and is always always always available. How lucky we are to depend on such a God.