Blessed and Miserable

Have you ever taken stock of your life and thought, “Everything is fine, so why am I so miserable?!”  Your finances aren’t perfect, but you just got back from a beach vacation, so you really can’t complain.  You love your church; you have great friends; you’re in good health; your job has its ups and downs, but you enjoy what you do and you get paid fairly well for it.  You like your house; you have a good relationship with your parents and extended family.  And yet.  And yet, there’s this gaping hole, this elephant in the middle of the room, and you just can’t get around it.Continue reading

Returning to The Well

Important things happen at wells.  People rest, get refreshed and meet the Savior at wells.  Civilizations radiate from them and families who depend on them visit them every day.  In spiritual terms, when we go to The Well, Jesus, the Living Water, speaks to us, reassures us, quenches our thirst, rejuvenates us and fills us again with the wisdom and strength we need to continue our journey.

I visited The Well everyday when I was single.  I felt so desperate to know His presence and hear His voice.  I woke up feeling dry and ran to Him for refreshment.  I could barely manage to get dressed until I sensed His nearness.  And then something happened when I got married and had kids. “Small Children Fatigue” set in: interrupted sleep, early mornings, needy little people pulling, tugging, demanding and requesting almost all day long. And I began visiting The Well less often.  I didn’t feel as spiritual desperate and I was more physically exhausted.  But then the physical depletion made me emotionally desperate which made me thirsty for that Well water again.

I remembered wistfully my mornings at The Well years ago, and though I don’t get to spend the hours there that I used to, I once again go back to it on a regular basis.

So many of us experience this.  We experience God and His refreshing and then we get busy and wander from The Source.  We haven’t forsaken Him, we just don’t talk and listen to Him as much as we used to.  That last long drink keeps us quenched for a long time and we don’t feel the intense need – until life changes and we feel desperate and thirsty once again.

And so we return to The Well especially as seasons change in our lives.  We go there and drink from Him as we navigate our youthful insecurities.  We go there as we become women and fall in love. We go there when we become mothers and feel both sucked dry and emotionally vulnerable because of intense love.  We go there when we feel weighed down by the taxing demands of work and finances.  We go there when the grey hairs multiply and we realize we are now middle aged and that sometimes feels sad.  We go there when our children begin to leave and we wonder what now will give us a sense of purpose. And we go there when we realize we are actually old and our control of ourselves and our surroundings decreases and the number of unknowns increases.  I am watching my mother return to The Well as she nears 80 and wonders what the next years will bring.

And Jesus is always there waiting.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that we only pray when we’re desperate.  I am saying, however, that there are times of sipping and times of gulping: times when we drink a little and feel satisfied and times when we know such intense thirst that we plunge that ladle into that Living Water, we cast off decorum and we drink until water drips off our chin.  At those times, if we don’t drink, we will die.  And He always satisfies.  He always has a word to mollify our fears and instill peace in our hearts.  He is so faithful, even when we wander and think we can live on sips.

I am grateful for this Well of Living Water, called Jesus.  I am so grateful we can approach Him without fear and boldly, greedily drink.  He is so patient, so kind and so full.

Sharpening the Ax

A few weeks ago, our pastor taught on the dangers of becoming spiritually dull.  As a church, we were about to embark on a 21 day fast, and he was encouraging us that fasting is one of the best ways to sharpen our spiritual lives once again.

He used the analogy of a husband and wife who have grown distant and have nothing to say to each other.  They still love each other but they no longer experience the passionate emotions and lively conversations they once had.

It was one of those times the Holy Spirit whispered, or rather shouted, in my ears: listen to this, take it to heart.  This is you.  I felt that dullness spiritually, and I even alittle in my marriage.  I definitely still loved the Lord and I certainly still loved my husband, but the realities of two small children had overtaken me.  I always felt sleep-deprived and so I tended to take naps when I could rather than having quiet times, and going out on date nights lost its luster compared to going to sleep!  I had fallen into the trap of speaking to God only in desperation and conversing with Marvin mostly about the kids.

But God is so wonderful; He never leads us to a place of conviction and then fails to provide the solution.  He shows us where we’re wrong and then gives us clear steps to make it right.  And He did just that for me.  By the end of the service, I had a clear plan to restore luster both to my relationship with Him and to my relationship with my husband.

God showed me what and when to fast (which I confess was not the full 21 days) and when to have regular quiet times.  And He gave both me and Marvin a plan to restore regular date nights.

Now, here’s the amazing thing about God.  When we give him our five loaves and two fish, He always multiplies them!  I was faithful to fast and begin to read my Bible and a spiritual book for a few minutes on most days.  And I began spending time with Him and talking to Him about things other than sleep.  Marvin and I started talking more during the day and had a wonderful date night (and we’re looking forward to another one this week!).  And in both cases, I felt the Holy Spirit blow on the embers in my heart and a flame billow up, bright and warm.  I am encouraged about both relationships and feel like my heart is soft once again.

The cares of the world will choke the seed, the seed of love, the seed of passion, and we have to be proactive at weeding.  If we don’t, before we know it, our hearts will be barren and it will take a lot more work plowing up fallow ground.

With some of you, it may not be kids, but rather a demanding job, or ministry obligations, an aging parent or friend in crisis.  There are a plethora of things that can consume our time and energy and push aside time with God, and if we’re married, time with our spouse.  And God is not demanding hours a day to make it right.  He just wants what’s in your hand: that 15 minutes while a child is napping or watching TV.  That evening that you take a break from TV and spend time with Him or your husband.  Just give him your widow’s mite, your loaves and fish, and watch Him do what only He can do.

It’s Time for Breakthrough

When I was giving birth to our second son, something scary happened: Benjamin’s heart rate dropped disturbingly low every time I had a contraction and pushed.  He didn’t like coming down that birth canal very much.  When his heart rate dipped even lower, the doctor did something that terrified me.  She pulled on a surgical gown, called the pediatrician and said, “If this baby doesn’t come out in a few more pushes, we’re going to have to use the vacuum.” I instantly imagined the pediatrician examining my newborn son for damage.  Now, I know suction isn’t supposed to cause permanent physical or mental damage, and I know plenty of beautiful children had to be suctioned out, but I still didn’t like the idea.  I hated it, and the possibility transformed me.  In a moment, I decided that the vacuum wouldn’t be necessary.  I could do this.   She told me to push harder, and I found a strength inside that I didn’t know existed.  I almost passed out, but within a few minutes, Benjamin entered the world, perfectly fine, without suction aid.

There are moments in our lives when we hate something enough to push harder than we ever have before.  We may go through years praying about an issue that’s not quite right: we’re making it financially, but just barely.  We’re making it in our marriage, but just barely.  We’re making it at our job, but just barely.  We generally have good relationships, but there is that one lost friendship that begs reconciliation.  And so every year we pray about the matter, sincerely, but without power or focus.  This thing bothers us, but not enough to really bear down and push through until we see change.  It’s not because we don’t care, but we’re just so distracted by the myriad of life’s issues that we fail to focus on any one thing long enough or hard enough to see change.

As we cross the threshold into a new year, I believe that God wants to highlight something in our lives that He wants us press into more than we ever have before.  He may say to you, “This is the year of financial breakthrough.”  And with that, He wants you to focus your prayers, muster your energy, read about it, pray about it and fast about money.  You don’t forget the other concerns in your life, but this one takes a front row seat and you have hope and faith in your heart that by December of 2011, you will see significant, positive breakthrough in the realm of your finances.  It may be your marriage, on the brink of mediocrity or even ruin.  God wants you to gird your loins, roll up your sleeves and bear down, hating the very thought of divorce, determined that your marriage will make it.  More than make it.  It may be reconciliation with that estranged family member.  THIS is the year that you will call, seek out, and try to mend fences.  You will believe God to be the repairer of this breech (Isaiah 58).  And by year’s end, you will see progress.

God wants to be Jehovah Perazim (God of the Breakthrough) for something in your life this year.  What is that thing?  Ask Him.