Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Confession #60 - Lines of Time

As I was putting makeup on the other morning, I noticed the lines of time beginning to form on my once soft and smooth skin.  In the past I'd always been able to excuse these as a lack of sleep but nowadays I have to come to terms with the reality that I'm getting older.  Actually, today happens to be my birthday, my 44th and with it I am reminded that fifty isn't too far away.  I didn't think I'd be freaking out about my age this year, after-all it's not a milestone birthday or anything, but to be perfectly honest, I confess that I'm am kind of freaking out a little.

I've just taken this huge leap of faith and left my job at the church because God has led myself and my family to a new church home.  I know that God has plans for my future and I know that I will be a speaker and writer working in women's ministry.  But this is still but a dream for my future, and not, as of yet, a concrete reality.  Thinking about the fact that I still have a long road to walk, time of preparation and growth, in order to reach that dream and achieve that calling leaves me a little anxious to think just how old will I be when I get there?  Honestly I have no idea why I feel this way but I do.

I'm probably not alone.  Many of you ladies can relate.  You know what it's like when you think about how much farther you have to go before you get to where you want to be.  We are always striving, climbing and reaching for more.  Like me, many of us are looking at how long the road ahead is.

On my last day at the church I decided to take the stairs instead of the elevator.  At the bottom of the stairs I looked up and thought, "What am I crazy?  There are too many steps.  I'm so out of shape by the time I get all the way up there I'm going to collapse."  Then the little voice inside my head told me to look down and only concentrate on one step at a time.  So I did.  Every time I was tempted to look up and see how much further I had to climb I heard that voice remind me to keep my eyes on the step I was at.  Before I knew it I was at the top and not as exhausted as I thought I'd be.

This birthday God keeps reminding me that it doesn't matter how old I may be when I reach my goal.  Abraham was very old when God first called him.  Moses didn't lead the people out of Egypt until he was 80.  Elizabeth had John the Baptist at an old age.  Sometimes God uses people that the world defines past their prime to display His immense glory.

II Corinthians 4:16-18 says, "Therefore we do not become discouraged (utterly spiritless, exhausted, and wearied out through fear).  Through our outer man is [progressively] decaying and wasting away, yet our inner self is being [progressively] renewed day after day.  For our light, momentary affliction (this slight distress of the passing hour) is ever more and more abundantly preparing and producing and achieving for us an everlasting weight of glory [beyond all measure, excessively surpassing all comparisons and all calculations, a vast and transcendent glory and blessedness never to cease!].  Since we consider and look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are visible are temporal (brief and fleeting), but the things that are invisible are deathless and everlasting." AMP

The Holy Spirit is that little voice inside my head reminding me to keep my head down and focus on the journey one step at a time.  It's not so tiring  that way and I will enjoy the journey ever so much more.  In the meantime, even though the dear Apostle Paul reminds us that we are decaying and wasting away, I'm going to fight it with all the marvels of our modern world.  With that said I'm headed to the spa for a day of rest, relaxation and pampering.

If your road seems as long as mine, if you feel that time isn't on your side anymore, just remember that when we're working for the Lord age and time are defied in a supernatural God.  We needn't worry about how many steps there are to climb or how long it will take.  We just need to focus on the unseen, on our God and He will do amazing things to achieve something through us that is beyond all measure.

Dear Heavenly Father, I thank you granting me life and that I can celebrate this life today in particular and enjoy the blessings you have given me.  Thank you that you still have a plan and purpose for this aging lady.  Bring about your glory through me no matter my age or stage in life.  Let me keep my eyes focused on you one step at a time Lord.  And Abba Father, for the ladies like me reading this who struggle with the lines of time too, please do the same.  Grant them strength and determination and make their light and momentary afflictions achieve an everlasting weight of your glory.  In Jesus' name I pray.  AMEN

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Confession #59 - At All Costs

OBEDIENCE.  This is not a very fun topic.  As parents we demand and expect obedience from our children. It comes at a cost of not doing things their own way for their own good.  Sometimes that's the cost we pay to obey God, and sometimes it seems like the cost is much more....

For months and months God had been instructing me to clear my plate.  I fought it and fought it, exhausting myself, and allowing family problems to increase.  So I partially obeyed.  See, I figured I could compromise and do only some of what God told me to do.  I even convinced myself that God couldn't be asking me to give up certain things because it's what He had called me to do in the first place.  It just didn't make any sense.  But the truth is God told me to CLEAR my plate, not to lessen my involvement, or get help, or hold onto things "just because", He said CLEAR it.  I did not obey completely...that is right away.

It's kind of interesting when you think about it.   In our flesh we see it as partial obedience.  As if we expect God to give us at least 1/2 the credit or something for doing only part of what He's asked of us.  However, God doesn't see things in terms of partial obedience, no on the contrary, He sees them as complete disobedience.

Take King Saul, for example, God told him to destroy the Amalekites.  He gave Saul pretty specific instructions to kill all men, women, children, livestock and to take NOTHING!  Instead, King Saul kept the Amalekites' King alive and reserved their best sheep and cattle.  Saul was soon confronted by God for his sheer and utter disobedience.  (1 Sam 15) See God doesn't need or want partial anything from us.  God requires the full measure of our obedience.  Just as we as parents expect it from our children.  “Tell me,” Samuel said. “Does the Lord really want sacrifices and offerings? No! He doesn’t want your sacrifices. He wants you to obey him. Rebelling against God or disobeying him because you are proud is just as bad as worshiping idols or asking them for advice. You refused to do what God told you, so God has decided that you can’t be king.”

King Saul paid a hefty price for his disobedience, and so did I.  A few months later my marriage began to completely dismantle.  Coupled with no work for my husband our financial state quickly went from bad to worse.  Now we were facing near foreclosure.  Finally, I had to come to terms with my disobedience.  However, God, instead of allowing me to fulfill His original command to simply clear my plate,  now gave me an even more difficult task, a bigger and more difficult sacrifice.

Like Abraham, I was to leave the place I called home for the last five years, the place where I had launched my ministry, the place where I formed beautiful friendships, the place I lovingly served, worshiped and where I worked.  He was calling us to leave our church.

But how do you give up everything you love, and abandon a job that you love with no other real source of income.  How do you leave a ministry that was allowing you to use the gifts and talents the Lord gave you, and all the friends God blessed you with?  How do you say goodbye to people who relied on you, and who helped shape and mold you?  How do you pick it all up and go wherever He leads?  How do you obey at all costs?

I wonder if Abraham went through this when God told him to leave his home and follow Him, at all costs?  I wonder how he did it.  For me, it took months of prayer, questioning and wrestling with God.

Although we were not seeking, we knew that we had found a new church home, one that has such a tremendous anointing that when my husband and I asked for prayer for our failing marriage, God, through the power of the Holy Spirit healed us.  Seriously, healed our marriage!  A church where I could see God transforming the spiritual state of my husband in ways I had never witnessed before.  A church that my daughter accepted Christ at.  A place where I could see my gifts growing more than I ever imagined.  But still  it seemed such a hefty price to pay.

Again I wonder how steady Abraham's hand was when he raised the knife to sacrifice Issac?  Or how much Moses stuttered went God first told him to confront Pharaoh.  I wonder how scared they were.

This command has taken me on the biggest journey of faith in my life.  For the first time as a Christian woman, God was literally telling me to jump off a cliff and trust Him to catch me.  I thought my faith had been tested before, but I was so wrong.

Not to mention that it all seemed pretty crazy.  And there are people who think I'm utterly insane.  Perhaps like Noah who built an Ark for a flood that nobody believed in.  Moses talked about the flood, before it had ever rained a single drop on the earth.  (Genesis 6) I suppose I'm in good company, most of God's servants and prophets were thought to be crazy.  Moses, Paul, John the Baptist.  All thought to be a little crazy.  Right?  So why not the lady who calls herself the Dirty Christian Woman?

When God gave me that name I though it was a little crazy too.  Until I realized that it's marketing genius.  Of course that's how He works, in genius.  God never orchestrates outside the genius.  And that's why we have to trust that He knows what He's doing.

Like I said it took months of praying seeking, and wrestling with God, not to mention, endless conversations with my best friend to truly come to grips with God's command and then a few more weeks to actually trust Him and resolve myself to listen and obey.  However, once I made the decision to do so, two things happened.  One, I had found peace.  Real amazing peace.  The peace that the Bible talks about, one that surpasses all understanding. (Phil 4:7) And two, my finances began to change.  As I said before we were facing foreclosure, and God sent work, steady work for my husband.  As soon as I gave Him my obedience and jumped off that cliff, God began to release His blessing in order to assure me that He had me suspended in mid-air by His mighty hand.

Then the hardest part of all, making the announcement and leaving my job and the Women's Ministry.  This came on the heals of a Women's Event I had been putting together for months.  An event that had took such a toll on me.  A beautiful and powerful program, and at the end when I received praise and accolades from my superior and mentor it was so gut-wrenching to think that in a few days, I'd be saying good-bye.  Then, potentially facing the rejection and anger my leaving may cause.  My greatest fear is that it would be viewed as betrayal.

Betrayal, rejection, anger, it did not matter, good-bye it had to be, because, at all costs, it's what God told me to do.  But again God proved His faithfulness and allowed the news to be received well, and peace to reign over the conversations with my superiors.

Finally, after all the deliberating, wrestling, and fear, now, I can honestly say, that I'm so excited to see what the future holds for us.  What new relationships will form.  What I will learn from God, how my family will grow spiritually.  And I praise the Lord for calling me to obey Him at all costs.

So what is the Lord calling you to do?  Has He been telling you over and again to do something that you're scared to do.  Just DO IT!  I know for a fact that God will go before you and iron out the details,  God will be with you in the midst of the difficult moments, and then He will bless you for your obedience.

Dear Heavenly Father,  Thank you Lord for calling me to make a difficult choice and giving me the strength and courage to do it.  I pray Father that the remainder of my days will be in complete and utter submission and obedience to you.  And precious King, for my sisters-in-Christ reluctant to obey you please iron out the details be with them give them strength and courage to do it.  Because whatever may seem at all costs to us was nothing compared to the price that your son Jesus paid on the cross to save us from our sins.

This post is dedicated to all my wonderful friends at CCC.  I will sincerely miss not seeing you at church anymore and cherish the time we spent together worshiping, fellowshiping and studying God's word with you.  You have all played such a tremendous role in helping to shape me into the woman God has called me to be.  But remember, I'm just a phone call away!  Love - Joanne