P.S. to Leaving Egypt Post

At the bottom of the Leaving Egypt post I have added the words to a song a reader mentioned in her comment and I have fallen in love with this song.  We have also added the link so you can hear the song and watch the video.  Also, check out the comment section to that post and read what the readers comments were about the song.

Leaving Egypt or Leaving the place of bondage

I have had one of those aha mornings like I haven’t in a long while and I am excited about this post.

Sherlene pointed out a story from the Old Testament to me this morning that totally fits into the line of thought from my previous post about how hard it is to leave the meetings and for some, hard to stay away for very long (see Blessed are those Who Mourn). She has given me permission to share her thoughts and expound on my own from there.

She reminded me of Exodus 16 when after being delivered from Egypt, the Children of Israel (COI) soon after their journey started, began looking back to where they had been. They had not anticipated the long journey through the wilderness. I don’t know what they were thinking but it seems like they thought it would just be a matter of days to get to where they were going. After all, they had never been outside of Egypt, so they had no idea how big the land was outside of what was known and familiar to them. The journey through the wilderness was taking longer than anyone expected. And they weren’t happy about it. As soon as they got to the desert, the entire community complained. (We need to remember that they did everything en mass in those days.)

They’d been journeying about a month and half and it was hard. It was long, hot and they were getting hungry. They began looking back and wishing they had never left. They kept focusing on what they had back “home”; the good food, the familiar settings and FORGOT about the fact that they were SLAVES there. That they were in bondage there. That they had NO freedom.

So, God gave them something new. Something totally different. It was manna. It kind of freaked them out because they weren’t used to anything new. Everything had been the same their whole lives. But, this something new was from God. It was bread. It was life sustaining. It was enough.

The wilderness was foreign and different but it was the path to the Promised Land. The Promised Land was not heaven but it was heaven on earth for them. It took a while to get there.

God did not let them return to Egypt because he couldn’t; he had made a promise to deliver them out of Egypt on a certain day and on a certain year and he had fulfilled that promise.

But because they complained and didn’t trust God with their journey, most of them never made it to the Promised Land. They never experienced the best of the best.

It is all just such a crystal clear picture to me of how I and others often react when we think about leaving meetings or especially when we have already left and have started feeling new feelings and experiencing things we had not anticipated. Go back and read this story for yourself and see if you can identify. I have said several times how I never anticipated the loneliness I would feel after leaving. However the freedom God showed me was making enduring the loneliness possible. God was giving me the first glimpses of True Grace that I’d never seen before. The truly Glorious Good News of the Gospel! The meeting fellowship doesn’t believe in the Gospel of Grace. So, going back to it would mean being surrounded in part, if not all, (depending on where you live) by people clinging to salvation by works rather than salvation by grace.

Going back to meetings after you’ve left for a season with an awareness of what true Grace is can be done, yes it can, but you will be swimming upstream. You will be going against the current. And that is hard and exhausting to maintain for very long. You will hold on for as long as you can for your own reasons and also with the hope that maybe, just maybe, others will want to swim against the current with you. Maybe you can start your own Swimming Against the Current Club. How cool would that be! A quiet revolution. Making a difference and a statement by golly.

Screeeeeech!!! Hold it!!

You know what will happen if you get too many followers. I’m not going to even put it into words!

One last thing to remember, and I love this because it is from God Almighty Himself and it is so easy to forget these two little verses spoken to the COI soon after they left Egypt.

Exodus 13:17-18 The KJV says, “God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near, for God said, ‘Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt. So God lead the people around by way of the wilderness of the Red Sea.”

The Voice translation puts it this way:

“God did not take them by the coastal road that runs through the land of the Philistines, even though that was the nearest and easiest route. Instead, God said, ‘For if they see battle with these contentious Philistines, they might regret their decision and then return to Egypt. So God chose a different, longer path that lead the community of His people through the desert toward the Red Sea.”

I write these words with so much passion and love; (not at all out of anger or frustration). It’s just so much of what I wrote in a previous post, “No one said leaving would be easy” We need to follow God wherever He may lead us as individuals. We can trust Him. No two journeys are going to be identical; just the desired destination is. In the Old Testament, they followed as a group and were lead as a group along the same path, but we don’t see Jesus doing that. He alone knows how best to get you to your desired haven. Maybe this is your time for great things! For a walk of faith as never before. Maybe even for a leap of faith! Or maybe just a few baby steps of faith. Our faith is supposed to keep growing. It will be made to grow into a huge tree like Jesus talked about.

Trust Him with your journey. Yes, it won’t always be easy or comfortable but there are great things ahead! There is so much ahead of you that you never knew even existed before while you were still in bondage! Are you willing to face the wilderness, knowing God will provide everything you need while in the wilderness? Can you follow until He leads you to true rest and your desired haven? God is faithful to deliver.

“Painting Pictures Of Egypt”

V1
I don’t want to leave here
I don’t want to stay
It feels like pinching to me
Either way
And the places I long for the most
Are the places where I’ve been
They are calling out to me
Like a long lost friend

V2
It’s not about losing faith
It’s not about trust
It’s all about comfortable
When you move so much
And the place I was wasn’t perfect
But I had found a way to live
And it wasn’t milk or honey
But then neither is this

Chorus:
I’ve been painting pictures of Egypt
Leaving out what it lacks
The future feels so hard
And I want to go back
But the places that used to fit me
Cannot hold the things I’ve learned
Those roads were closed off to me
While my back was turned

V3
The past is so tangible
I know it by heart
Familiar things are never easy
To discard
I was dying for some freedom
But now I hesitate to go
I am caught between the Promise
And the things I know

If it comes to quick
I may not appreciate it
Is that the reason behind all this time in sand?
And if it comes to quick
I may not recognize it
Is that the reason behind all this time in sand?

 

Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted

Last night at about 2:00 a.m. (I woke up and could not get back to sleep), I was thinking about some of the personal emails and texts that I had received after yesterday’s post about convention.  Suddenly God reminded me of His wonderful words, “Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted.”  I got up and added that verse to the very end of that previous post, even though few would ever read it at this point.  But God had given it to me not just to write about but also to remember.  So, I prayed then for His comfort to come in to that loss; into that area where I still mourn once a year.

Afterwards, my thoughts turned to the wonderful promise and power contained in those words.  Hebrews 10:23 says, “For He who promised is faithful…” and 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promises.”

I thought about my readers who are not just frustrated with the meeting fellowship but have received a God-given revelation of how some things are just wrong, period; not according to Scripture.  You are perhaps finding it harder and harder to go to meetings because there is this ever widening gap between what is taught and believed and what you now believe.  You want more than what the group embraces.  You want more of God but hardly know what that will look like. You want more of Jesus. You want deeper and more relevant fellowship than what you have been experiencing.  You want to be around people who are open about their walk with God and know He’s very much involved in all of their life.  You are asking God the difficult and scary questions for the first time and the answers are exciting and terrifying.  You want to make a decision to leave and yet when you start to count the cost of that decision, you just can’t.  It will just be too hard, too lonely, and it will hurt too many people.

It is at this very point where Jesus begs you to step fully into His arms and into His words when He said, with all his heart and passion (I don’t believe he just recited those words in a flat-lined, rote voice), “Blessed are you when you mourn because you will be comforted.”

Comforted by the God of Heaven, by Jesus Himself, by The Comforter the Holy Spirit.  That, my friends, is Comfort like you have never known before.  Not even close.  That is comfort better than your spouse, your best friend, the workers or anyone else in your life can give.  Than anything in your life can give.

Jesus was making a promise that day He 100% intended to keep.

When was the last time, in your fears or in your pain that you fell into His comfort rather than just reverting instead to your comfort zone where things feel comfortable and familiar and you told yourself that because it feels so comfortable and familiar, it must then be the place God wants you.  You chose your comfort instead of His.  Trust me, I have done it and I still do at times.

I think we don’t grasp what His comfort is going to be like.  It is NOT going to feel like correction, or like a scratchy blanket.  It is NOT going to feel awkward.  It is NOT something you have to “act as if” you’ve experienced.  It will be real.  It will be palatable.  It will be felt.  It will settle on you and around you as the softest thing you have ever felt. The words you need to hear will be right there.

This kind of comfort will also extend into all areas of life where there are losses. We choose other comforts because we don’t understand and/or grasp how much better and more real His comfort is. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 says He “is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles…for just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comforts overflow.” Paul writes about God’s promises and how they are not wishy-washy; they are not Yes and then sometimes No but “In Him they have always been yes. For no matter how many promises God has made, they are Yes in Christ. (V19-20).  In other words, He intends to keep them all.

I have not let Him comfort me countless times because I wanted another kind of comfort.  I assumed His wouldn’t be enough.  Oh Father, forgive me for thinking like that!

Lord, I believe, help my unbelief! Help me believe that you will comfort me whenever I make a costly choice to follow You instead of this world or instead of others or instead of my own will.

Missing Convention

The time for my home convention for another year has come and gone again.  I am feeling sad it is over and that I wasn’t there.  I do this every year.  Of course I could have gone, but of course I did not.  I can only imagine the flurry for a few minutes it would have caused as word spread that I was there.  That part makes me smile.

But you know what I miss about being there?  It’s not the meetings.  It’s not the singing.  It’s certainly not most of the sermons.  It’s not really the people. It’s not the food although I do miss the smell of breakfast cooking and that smell wafting over the grounds in the cool morning air.  Its two things:  the grounds themselves and the sense of belonging I always felt there.

At this particular convention (Saginaw, Oregon), I really do not have one negative memory per se.  Yes, there were a few disappointing happenings and visits or lack thereof but for the most part, it was all good.  My mother took me to this convention when I was just a few weeks old and we went every year until I went into the Work and was sent to another convention for preps.  I know every inch of those grounds and I wish I could just walk around there one more time.

I would walk down to the old kitchen and remember how it was set up and the fun times at preps. Then up the hill to the girls/women’s dorm through every floor of that old building (there are 4!) ending with crossing the bridge on the top floor to the path leading up to the old house.

Back in my day it was main house (although I understand not anymore) and here I’d go inside where again, I have so many memories.  I would walk up the stairs to my very favorite room, the screened porch where I sometimes got to stay during preps when the mill across the highway was still running and the trains would go by and make the house vibrate.  I would peek in all those fun little closets upstairs, then come down and go up the spiral staircase to that bedroom up there.  Check out the laundry room and that little bathroom off of it us sisters would use.  I would sit out on the lawn in front of that house in the shade of those very very tall trees and remember how in my teen years, there would be a bonfire out there every evening after the evening meeting.

I would walk up the hill to the meeting hall and just be.  I know I would spend a lot of time in that room; again so many memories would be flooding my heart and mind there.  Memories of my youth; I professed in that room, the rows where us kids would sit and where I felt “called” to go into the Work.  I spoke on that platform for years, then I sat in the crowd as a “saint” my last few years there.

I would walk up to the “new” kitchen and walk thru it and the cafeteria upstairs, then out to the beautiful terraced areas where the RV’s are parked.  And then finally, I would walk that gorgeous trail on the mountain behind the grounds, and come down and look at the view from up there as you looked down on the grounds.

That’s what I would do if I could go there again. Those grounds will always be holy ground to me.  Maybe one year I will find the courage to show up for convention just so I can be there again.

Not being there is part of the grieving process I’ve had to go through since I made the decision to not attend the meetings anymore.  Yes, it is hard but what was harder was staying when I could see how wrong the doctrine is and how they don’t believe in Jesus fully and how little they make God.  How stuck they are in tradition and not open to anything new.  How exclusive they are.  How much emphasis is put on the outward and not nearly enough on the heart.

I miss the feeling of belonging I had in the group; I don’t think that will ever be replaced.  I miss the camaraderie I had with the workers.  However, when I think about it now and the quality of visits I would have there compared to the quality of visits I can have now with other Christians, there is a huge gap between the two.

The Lord truly does give and then take away.  I no longer could stay in the group just because it was comfortable there or I loved it there.  I just couldn’t.  I had to make a choice because I could not/would not compromise.  I never dreamed He would lead me where He has lead me, but I can see how totally right it has been.  I have been saved and rescued, restored and renewed. The Lord is so precious to me; He’s been walking with me all this time when others have come and gone, He has remained.  I love You so much!  My heart is full of You, Lord!

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”.

Do I really have faith?

Walking in full assurance of faith (Hebrews 10:22 KVJ) is not my default.  I wish it was and I have hope that more and more it will become so.  But, for now, in some areas I have to consciously, over and over, make the choice to believe God means what He says literally.  I also have to consciously refuse to listen The Voice that tells me not to pray for certain things, not to ask God for that, or never to assume God would ever answer my prayers.  Contrary to the many verses in Scripture that tell me otherwise.  That tell me the real truth.  That tell me to believe and have faith and that even a tiny bit of faith can remove a mountain and accomplish great things.  That walking in full assurance of faith still applies today.  Here. Now.

I discovered an amazing verse recently in Isaiah 35:4 that says 3 times in one verse, “your God will come.”  And when He does, things happen.  Has He stopped coming on behalf of the needs and even some of the wants of His children? No!

When we pray “Come, Lord Jesus, come” and “Come, Holy Spirit, come” we aren’t just referring to Jesus’s Second Coming.  We need Him to come now to us.  Here. Now.

I have a new friend who has the most faith I have seen in anyone recently.  She is amazing.  The stories she tells of prayers God has answered for her are incredible and very inspiring.  She has shown me how she presents her prayers and lets go of the outcome and of the timing.  She doesn’t keep asking for the same thing over and over because that suggests a lack of faith that God heard her the first time around.

I do have faith but I want a deeper faith. ‘Believing God’ is not arrogance or being presumptuous as I was always taught. Because I am fully aware of how I will never be worthy of a single prayer being answered but God doesn’t answer our prayers based on our worthiness (still a struggle for me to accept sometimes) but because of His goodness and His unmerited grace.

I have often quoted James when he said we receive little because we ask little.  It is so true.  We can ask God for more than we think.  It’s quite a thought and it opens up doors like you would not believe!

Becoming More Spiritual – Part 3

There is just so much to this subject; the more I think about it, the more questions I have and the more I want to be part of a like-minded community.

2 Samuel 16: 14 says, “The King and all the people with him arrived at their destination exhausted.  And there he refreshed himself.”  The literal translation for that verse is he ‘re-souled himself.’  This suggests more than just a good night’s sleep, and good strong coffee in the morning along with a farmer’s breakfast and he took a few naps the next day.

He probably did experience those things but knowing David as we do through his writings, I have the feeling there was much more to the refreshing business.  I don’t think David did a bunch of stuff during that time; I think he ‘let God” do a bunch of stuff for him.

He let God re-soul him.
He let God be God.
He let God be real to him.
He rested in God’s refreshing presence and Grace.
He just was.

Recently, for four mornings, I got to wake up in a room with a spectacular view of the beach. That view literally helped me re-soul myself. I needed to bask in the beauty of God’s creation. I need beauty in my life because there is so much of life that is rather un-beautiful at times.  I live in a not-so-great neighborhood and my views are old apartment buildings and really messy balconies.  I can see the sky off my balcony and at night it is beautiful.  For those mornings on the beach, I would sit on the deck in the early morning hours wrapped in a blanket with my dog on my lap and a cup of coffee in my hand and just stared at the water.  I praised God in my heart, and soaked up the beauty, the sounds and the smell of the sea and felt my soul heal.

Any time I have in nature does that for me.  Today I will be driving through the Redwoods and then just moments later the beach will appear again and I know I will be re-souled in both places.

My soul can be re-souled at home as well. After a busy work week, I can hardly wait for Saturday mornings when I can sit alone and listen.  I have the luxury of living alone (and to me it is a luxury) and this is when I recharge.

Another way I re-soul is when I have the courage and the time to listen to the spiritual hungers inside of me.  I am usually trying to satisfy those hungers with other things but the real, true, spiritual hunger from God is left alone.  Even though we may be very faithful in reading our Bible’s every day or praying every day, we may not be addressing the deeper hunger because we either don’t even know what it is or we may not know what to do about it if we did know.  Genene Roth writes in “Women, Food, and God” about ‘disengaging from the habitual way you might be avoiding the deeper issues and begin paying attention to the deeper song, the deeper truth.  You without your story of you.  It’s been in the background every moment of your life, but since you were paying attention to the foreground, to the changing appearances and drama and feelings; you never noticed it.’  Becoming more spiritual involves listening and observing our own thoughts, actions, and reactions in a much more conscious way and finding God there where He was all along.

I don’t know what process works for you but this I do know; you will know it when you find it.

 

Being Spiritual Part Two

I mentioned in my last post that I had more on this subject of being spiritual that I wanted to share, so here goes!

1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “Whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.” Whatever you do; not just the obvious spiritual things like praying, going to church, reading the Bible but everything. What does that mean? Doing it all for Him? Doing it all with Him in mind? I think those are part of it at least. Not to impress God but to be mind-ful of Him, of His nearness and His realness because how He fits into our reality suddenly then add value, meaning and joy to whatever we are doing including the mundane and the ordinary. It makes everything we do then a spiritual act.

Carolyn Curtis James writes in her book “When Life and Beliefs Collide”, “Our goal is to bring God out of the ivory tower and into the ordinary moments of our lives”. Being more spiritual can then also mean being aware of God everywhere and looking for Him everywhere.

Another piece of being spiritual has come to light from Romans 12:1 “Offering our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God….this is your spiritual act of worship.”

I understand this verse in regards to what we engage or not engage in sexually. It’s a beautiful picture of how our sexual lives can be a spiritual act of worship to God. But I also think there is more to this verse than just that. There are other ways we can use our bodies that can also become spiritual acts of worship.

Using our creativity is one of them. Any creativity we have been blessed with can become a spiritual act of worship because God, the Original Creator, gave us those gifts. All of them.

A reader of this blog opened up this line of thought to me and I will be forever grateful. She wrote about how she had recently started painting and how it had become completely a spiritual thing to her and how much joy it had brought her. She wrote, “When I am in the zone of painting, drawing, and yes even sewing, scrapbooking, interior decorating, whatever creative pursuit, I am not of this world! I am drawing energy from an endless stream.” She also wrote that when she is painting she is “satisfied, happy, blissfully free, unaware of anything around her.” She said, “I am zoned out in the zone! I can’t really explain the joy that comes, but my whole body is filled with it. We are creators. We are made in the image of the Creator.”

Her words were powerful and impactful and exciting because I saw a whole new avenue of spirituality that previously I would have just ignored. When we are creating something, let it become a spiritual act of worship and see yourself totally in His hand. See God in your art and in you. Watch what you no longer want to do when you are zoned out in the zone. What might God be setting you free from and to? Those are not just hours spent on a hobby. Stop and listen to where God is taking you in the process. It is awesome, I promise you! Listening when you are creating something is one of the most natural and effortless ways to hear and perceive God there is.

From A Million Little Ways by Emily Freeman:

“Being His workmanship doesn’t mean we are all poets. It means we are all poems; individual created works of a creative God. And the poetry comes out uniquely through us as we worship, think, love, pray, work and exist. Jesus reminds us that we are art and empowers us to make art. There isn’t only one right way to do the job of glorifying God. There are many ways, a million little ways, that Christ is formed in us and spills out of us into the world. Knowing you are a poem doesn’t confine you to be artsy, it releases you to be you. We are art, every one of us. No matter our personality, skill, talent, or inclination. The essence of being human is that we were made by design with the hands of the Divine Artist.”

She also writes, “What makes us come alive goes deeper than what we choose to do in our professions and our free time. What makes us come alive is LIFE, and this life is Jesus. Painting, cooking, parenting, calculating, and conversation all have the potential to hold within them a mystery and an expression of your life in Christ. This is the kind of art that combines our outward work of our hands with the inner workings of the soul and spirit woven together, whole and complete and equally important.”

“My goal is a finished book — I call that my art. Yet there is a deeper work happening. I chase what I think is the art, but really that is just the evidence. The real art is the invisible work happening in the depths of my soul as I uncover, sink, see, listen and wait. The book is just a souvenir.”

These are just a few examples of the many ways our lives, our bodies can become spiritual acts of worship. Looking for those ways opens up so many new doors and life is so much richer and more exciting and meaningful. Being spiritual is no longer just work but can be fun and is more natural instead of being forced. Something I am rather than something I do. It is also one of the ways I get God out of the little box I’ve had Him in. He is uncontainable, after all! (see 1 Kings 8:27)