Sunday, May 15, 2016

All the small things

I have rheumatoid arthritis.  It's in my hands, feet, and it is especially annoyingly painful in my lower back.  Many people don't know this about me, although I don't really try to hide it.  In part, it's because I don't want to be known by my disease.  It's also because I am fairly tough and most of the time I just power through.  But none of that is what I want to tell y'all today.

I have several friends, and even family members, who have chronic ailments.  I've prayed for healing for them, I've seen healing take place in some of them, and I do believe that God can and will heal (whether it's on this side of heaven or not is all in His will).  But I don't pray for healing for myself.  I don't even think about it.  I realized that this morning as we stood in church and pastor Lynn asked people who needed healing to come forward.  I don't think of myself as a chronic sufferer and I don't think of myself as needing healing.  And then my husband grabbed my hand and pulled me forward and asked the elders to pray over me.  As a friend anointed me with oil and said, "I had no idea you had RA," it occurred to me exactly why it is that I don't pray for healing for myself.  I'm not important enough to matter.

"But wait," the spirit I've asked to live in me said, "I made you the most important thing in the world to me."  That whisper in my soul resounded in my head and heart with a shout, telling me that if I am not important, then what was Jesus' sacrifice for?!  If I'm not important, then I'm trampling on His love for me and His value in me.  How dare I think I'm not important enough and not worth considering for healing?!  If Jesus died for me, for my sins, for my healing (albeit spiritual or physical) then who am I to reject his sacrifice because of my own feelings of unworthiness?  And so, as I stood there with friends and loved ones praying over me, I felt something else; spiritual healing.

Y'all, I can't be the only person who thinks this way.  Do you feel like your issues are too small or too unimportant for God to deal with?  I mean, He has bigger issues to deal with, right?  Like world peace, starving children, etc., etc.  Here's something that God has been trying to prove to me for a while now in other ways- He cares about the small stuff.  This past Friday I was shopping for clothing for my teenagers who are growing just way too quickly.  I've been thinking about getting a new pair of a specific kind of shoe and just kind of waiting to find that "right" pair.  I walked into the re-sale shop and I'll be darned if the exact same pair of shoes I already owned wasn't sitting all shiny and brand-new looking on the shelf (as opposed to the busted up and falling apart ones currently on my feet).  It's not like I was praying for new flip-flops.  But God knows our thoughts and the desires of our hearts (small and large).  And here these flip-flops were.  As if that wasn't enough, the next morning I was driving past a certain house with a #BTR sign in the front yard (a specific slogan from our church which stands for Bring The Rain) and wondering who lived there, also thinking about how we haven't had any service calls on that specific street yet.  Guess who called me that same day needing my awesome appliance-repairing guru husband?  Yep, the sweet woman who lives in that exact house.  It was like God was saying to me, "Do you get it yet?"  So obviously, (and these are just a couple of examples out of quite a number of them) God has been trying to point out to me that he cares and that the things I think about, feel, do, say, etc., are important to Him, no matter how small.  So why on earth would the fact that I am suffering from a debilitating and chronic disease not be important to Him?  Ok, God, point taken.  I am finally hearing you. 

I may never be healed of rheumatoid arthritis while I live on this earth.  I may suffer with it and struggle some days.  But I'm still going to ask and seek that healing.  Jesus said I was worth it.   I choose to believe Him because I know His word to be true.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

One Word for 2016

Several years ago, a friend of mine told me about how she prayed about a one-word theme for her new year rather than creating a New Year's Resolution.  The idea appealed to me because I've never been great at following through on resolutions, but words... words I can do!  I was interested to see what kind of word God would provide for me.  The first New Year word I ever received was "discernment."  I'll be darned if it wasn't just what I needed to practice that year.

This is a tradition I've committed to every year since then.  I don't always have my word on New Year's Day.  In fact, more often, I don't receive my word until later in the month.  On occasion it has even taken as long as two months to be revealed.  This year, as I was sitting in church this past Sunday morning, my word drifted into my soul and was so immediately incredible I sat up straighter in my pew.  My word for the year: intentional.

Intentional?  Well that just had to come from God because He knows I wouldn't put a word like that on myself.  As I was sitting there, moments after realizing my word for the year, immediately God started speaking to me about it.  He told me I need to be more intentional in my prayer life- I need to pray more specific prayers and at more specified times.  Um, ok.  Guess that means the empty prayer journal on my bedside table is going to start filling up.  Then, he told me that I need to be more intentional in my actions.  Wow.  And, ouch.  If that didn't step on my toes...  If you know me, you know that I tend to go with the flow and whatever comes my way is what I end up doing.  I'm a fly by the seat of my pants type of Jesus girl.  Sure, I plan stuff and follow through, but I'm not a very thorough and organized planner.  I can be, however, I don't practice it.  God told me that my actions mean something; the things I do matter, and therefore, they need to be more intentional.  I have to put more thought into the things I do.  Y'all, this is good stuff.  I could not make this up.  It is all God.  And I'm excited and a little freaked out about where this intentional word is going to lead me.

And so, dear reader, where does this leave you?  Have you heard your word for the year?  Do you like the idea of having a theme rather than a resolution which will be forgotten by mid-February?  Tell me what your word is for the year and tell me what you think it's going to mean for your 2016.  Let's hold each other accountable for staying connected to our words and thereby growing closer to Jesus this year!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Following Your Heart

I hear people say "follow your heart" all the time. I see beautifully made pictures on Facebook with that quote, and I see well-meaning people give that piece of advice to struggling friends. Follow your heart. It sounds so simple and it would make life so much simpler if we could just decide to follow our hearts. I'd love to follow my heart and do whatever I felt like doing! It presents itself as an ideal solution to our own happiness. But beware those sugary sweet words of advice; they'll end up tasting sour as vinegar.

The problem with following our hearts is that our hearts are deceitful. Jeremiah 17:9 says "The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?" Our hearts lie. We look inside ourselves and we think we know what we want and/or need, but it's not the truth. God knows what we need, his plan is sovereign, and always for our good (Jeremiah 29:11). Jeremiah says we don't even know how bad our own hearts are. Think about that for a minute-- our hearts are deceiving us already and we're blinded to the fact that they are deceiving us, so we can't even understand how bad our own desires are! I'm not saying that everything we want or desire for ourselves is bad, but we are inherently selfish beings and we don't ultimately know what is best for us. Because our hearts are deceitful, it is vital to pray for God's leading and his wisdom in our lives. We have to be discerning about whether we are following our own hearts or listening to the leading of the Holy Spirit whispering to our hearts. When we are open to being obedient to God's voice in our lives, it is truly amazing how our own wills are brought into alignment with his. We then start to desire what God desires for us. In this way, we are no longer so disappointed when things we thought we wanted don't come to pass.

Here's an example: a couple of years ago, we had the chance to move to Canada (where my husband is from) and take over a family business. We were so excited and couldn't wait to get everything in order and ready to go! We prayed about it often. Although it seemed like exactly what we wanted and had ever hoped for, we still prayed God's will over it. Through the months it took to try and get everything settled, we prayed for God's will to be revealed even though we really wanted to move. After several months of planning and praying, we found that what we thought had been our hearts' desire in moving turned out to be contrary to the will of God, and in praying for God's will, he had changed the desires of our hearts and we no longer wanted to move. Amazing how he does that! Something we thought we had so wanted ended up being something we didn't want after we prayed for God's will to be revealed in our lives.

It's easy to get caught up in your own desires, your own plans, your own hopes and dreams. There's nothing wrong with having desires, plans, hopes and dreams. We just have to realize that they may not be what God has planned for us. However, when we pray for his will to be accomplished in our lives, and truly desire to be obedient, we won't be disappointed if our own plans don't come true. God's plan is always the best plan, and when we desire nothing more than to walk in his will, we will experience the fullness of God's blessings for us.