Monday, October 13, 2014

Come Away With Me . . .

      "Don't you know anything? Haven't you been listening?" Isaiah 40:28a (Emphasis added.)

      Sometimes I feel so incredibly alone. How can someone like me, Miss Personality who's always running for Homecoming Queen, ever get lonely. Oh, but I can. Oh, but I do.
      So often I find myself isolated from the crowds, something I've never done before. I'm the life-of-the-party gal who makes "biffls" out of everyone she meets. The enemy will use past hurts to make me skittish, to make me question trust and a person's worthiness of it. He also makes me doubt myself. I don't feel pretty enough. I don't feel thin enough. I'm not stylish enough. By the time I'm finished not being enough, my poor self-esteem plummets to the earth faster than a fat kid running the required timed mile in P.E.
      It's been especially difficult here in a new place. I don't seem to fit. There's a certain fashion sense in Nashville. I got the memo, but I can't read the writing. I'm about 10 to 12 years older than my fellow students. Sometimes I'll eat my lunch in my car because I feel like an old worn out shoe that should probably just stay hidden under the bed and only come out for bug-squashing purposes.
      Oh, how wrong I am about my Father's greatest work, the apple of His eye (Psalm 17:8). How utterly wrong we all are when we cave to these thoughts about ourselves that the enemy pierces into our hearts. He's wrong. We are created in the image of the Most High (Genesis 1:27) and He is beautiful (Psalm 27:4 and 90:17). We are precious to Him (Isaiah 43:4). We are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).
       I love Nashville. I think it's partly because it's new, but also because I know without any shadows of doubt that I'm right where Father wants me. Oh, to be so sweetly settled in His will . . . but still, I do shake from time to time.
       Music City isn't called such for the heck of it. This place is saturated with the world's universally impeccable language with which each individual soul identifies. It's overrun with music. It's perfectly bursting at the seams with strikingly dissonant chords and chaotic instrumentation, constantly pounding in my heart and my ears. My pulse thumps to the rhythms of this place. Even the winds blowing through the slowly changing leaves carry a symphony worthy of recognition. I feel God continually strumming the harmonies of life in this place. I was born to be here, even if only to listen.
      As you can imagine, it's hard to sit and wait in the midst of our own personal music playground, seemingly tailor-made for us. But we can wait. And we will wait. We're even slow to tell people we're musicians. We're not here for music. We're here for Jesus. Even typing that . . . there is such perfect peace. Yes, the music is His tool through us that He will use in His time. However, the current season is our healing season in which God is preparing our hearts for His ministry within them. While we've been at work for him for a long time, He's moving us to the next step. The music is there. It's ready. It's been ready. But our spirits . . . our hearts . . . our minds . . .  He is working miracles in them, stitching together broken pieces, and refining us both in His burning fire. As impurities are melted away, we will come out of the Refiner's fire shining brighter than any sun-reflected piece of glass . . . So bright you'll see His reflection rather than either one of ours. You won't even know it's us. We're more ready than we've ever been to sing our Father's praise, but now is the time to wait for Him to anoint our tongues with His searing coals and place His new song in our voices and fingers. We are growing in Him. We are finding His heart, the heart He has for His bride. We're discovering depths of love we never imagined, let alone fathomed, for our feeble and flawed human hearts could never hold the amount of love our Father has for us.
       In the midst of the loneliness I have been reminded that my God never leaves me or forsakes me time and time again (Deut. 31:6). He sends me little reminders every single day as I make new friends and open my heart to them. They're my brothers and sisters; and I'm not to fit in with them, but to fit together with them. There are many pieces to a jigsaw puzzle to make one big, beautiful picture. None of them are ever the same. They're shaped different. They hold a different, smaller part of the larger picture, and they all belong in varying places. So as with the Body of Christ. We are one big body with many different little parts (1 Cor. 12:12).
      Tonight I was listening to this amazing song Father sent me over the weekend. My anthem since I was in high school has been It Is Well. It's sheer musical perfection. Every word, every note. However, as I said, God sent me a new rendition of it by Bethel Worship out of California. I've had it on repeat as the Holy Spirit continues to speak to me while I write.
       Last Tuesday night at church our worship leader Henry responded the Spirit's move over the Body that night and said, "Whatever position you need to get into in order to deal with God, I feel like we should do that. Kneel, bow, get on your face, whatever so you can deal with God." Little did Henry know, but I had been standing there thinking to myself, God, I want to kneel before You. I am so ready to give this burden to You. Before I knew it, I was on the concrete floor of Rocketown, my hands grasping the Master's feet and freely handing Him my pain and the burdens that were weighting me down so low that I was dragging the ground, leaving a slug trail in the dry earth behind me.
       Matthew 11:28-31 was on my spiritual formations midterm the following Thursday. I had been studying it tirelessly. And now, a week later, I finally see that Jesus was waiting for me to listen  
to His voice in it. (I'm using The Message version because I love the translation of this verse):

       Brandi, "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover you life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me--watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep  company with me and you'll learn to live freely." 

      Now, read it again and use your own name. Listen to Him speak to you. Don't just hear Him. Listen. Soak into your ears and heart the Father's calm and loving voice. His thunderous yet quiet timber that vibrates your core and brings life to the blood pumping through your veins. Feel His sweet Spirit rushing through yours as He longs for you to truly belong to Him.

      As I continued to listen to Bethel's It Is Well the joy of the Lord took over and I thought to myself, "Don't you know? Haven't you been listening?" He's here, Brandi. That's why it's well with your soul. One of the greatest verses for the broken is Isaiah 40:31: "they that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles . . ." (NIV) But have you ever read the verses before the part where the weak soar like the strongest bird of the air?

27-31 Why would you ever complain, O Jacob,
    or, whine, Israel, saying,
“God has lost track of me.
    He doesn’t care what happens to me”?
Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening?
God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.
    He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath.
    And he knows everything, inside and out.
He energizes those who get tired,
    gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out,
    young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
    They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
    they walk and don’t lag behind.
      I am confident that in this season that God isn't just sitting back and watching me struggle to understand. He gives me His peace. I close my eyes and press into His heart and trust in it. I have felt pain and wondered how I would ever move again. He was with me the whole time, holding the precious fragile pieces of my heart. I was reminded that His strength endures, not for one season, but for all of them. FOREVER. He KNOWS me. I was reminded that He stays. He is for eternity. He LASTS. When I dropped out He fed me from His cup of life and lifted up my head. I fly above the clouds with the Father of all creation where nothing can harm me, as I am safe in even the shadow of His wings. I can rest in Him, for it is well with my soul.  

Grander earth has quaked before
Moved by the sound of His voice
Seas that are shaken and stirred
Can be calmed and broken for my regard

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
Through it all, through it all 
It is well

Far be it from me to not believe
Even when my eyes can't see
And this mountain that's in front of me
Will be thrown into the midst of the sea

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
Through it all, through it all
It is well

So let go my soul and trust in Him 
The waves and wind still know His name 

It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul 


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Monster Truck Tires and Other Attention Grabbers via Jesus

      My faith falters. A lot. I don't know why. I'm sure God wonders why, too.
      Brandi, I always come through for you. Why don't you trust me to come through for you every single time? Seriously, kid. We've gotta work on this. 
      I love how He talks to me. It's in a way I can understand but always snaps me back to reality. God will speak to you in ways that you understand. He'll sound kinda like your personality. "Why do that," you ask. You are made in His image, aren't you? (Genesis 1:27) If you're His, then don't you have the mind of Christ? (1 Cor. 2:16)  So why would He speak to you in a way that you're not going to comprehend or in which you'll not respond?  Father will use His encouraging conviction and never ending joy in a way that is specifically tailored the core of your being. And when He's quiet, you'll ask why, but in your spirit you'll know why. Just be still. Refocus your attention on Him and His precious presence. It may take a few minutes or even longer. But in the stillness of Father's presence you'll begin to unwrap the gift and purpose of His silence. He's waiting for you to be silent. He has something to tell you, but He wants your undivided attention and will remain totally quiet until He receives it from you. Other times he won't wait for you to be quiet. Instead, He'll throw big, fat, rolling, monster truck tires in your path to get the message across to you . . .  or whatever He may use to get your attention.
      Jordan sent me a message Friday alerting me of impending company for that night. I was thrilled! We love having company over to share in God's blessings, and each time someone comes to visit, be they long or short periods of time, we know we're fulfilling God's call on our lives and this blessing of a house. But my joy was short-lived as that sulfuric enemy barged in with his great financial reminder of our currently less-than-great bank account. Oh, boy . . . my tiny faith really sucks, but what sucks even more is that Satan gouges at it when he's out of ammo. What a piece of crap.
      I received a text from Jordan with a picture of our funds and was none too happy. What are we gonna do? I reminded Jordan that we had to pay bills and buy groceries. While I wanted to have this wonderful family over to eat with us (because that's how we roll here), I didn't know how I was going to feed them all: 2 adults, 4 kids, and a partridge in a pear tree. How was I gonna do this whole service thing when I had nothing to serve? On top of that I had research for a big paper I'm writing, a test, a quiz, and lots of studying to do over the weekend. I couldn't get it all together.
       For the few minutes that lasted between our worry texts, we sat in wait on the other's reply. I surfed Pinterest and talked to God in my head as my brows furrowed, and I felt the dreaded worry wrinkle grow so deep into my skin I just knew my skull and brain would need Botox. Then my finger scrolled and I ran across the following scripture: "Blessed is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her!" Luke1:45  I sat there staring at the screen for what seemed like hours as the word believed coursed through my brain like water flowing through channels, attempting to arrive at the sea. It pushed here and there as waves of all I believed were propelled from side to side, knocking down one presupposition after another in effort to bring me the truth. All I could think was Mary totally got pregnant. As a virgin. Elizabeth was as old as dirt and there was no way she was getting knocked up . . . unless she completely believed.
       My phone buzzed and interrupted the river. Jordan was on his way to a customer when he saw Luke 1:37 written on the side of a building so big no one could miss it: "For with God nothing shall be impossible."
      Naturally we shared our obvious word from the Lord with one another. I was at peace, but still unsure of how to "feed the thousands" when during my drive home that afternoon, God spoke clearly: I gave you the house to bless others and Me. Trust me. In your trust, be obedient to Me. I'll take care of the rest. Remember, this is only the beginning, Brandi. 
      Our company was set to come over, and as I cleaned the house Jordan ran to the store for food. He came back with $80.00 worth of meat and sides for dinner. We'd planned to grill out burgers and we hoped against logic that there would be plenty of food. But logic can't explain an elderly woman's promised pregnancy. And logic can't explain a virgin birth.
      After we'd fed all 9 of us, two kids had seconds, two other kids ate 5 personal chip bags, and everyone was completely and miserably stuffed, we still had more than enough food left over to take care of our little family for the next few days. In His faithfulness God didn't break His promise. We're covered.
      Friends, I don't know what's going to happen with our checking account. I have no idea how I'm going to grocery shop for the rest of the groceries for this pay period. I have no idea how we're going to buy the set of tires we need for Jordan's car, or even how we're going to pay for gas. But I don't have to know how because my Father owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10). He feeds the birds of the air who don't gather and store up their findings in pantries (Matthew 10:26). He clothes the lilies of the field who are more fashionable than a king (10:29). And He feeds thousands with the equivalent of a few tuna cans and some bread (Luke 9:17). Oh, that my faith would remind me of His gracious, giving hand!
      My prayer today, for each of us, whether you're struggling to understand the momentary lack in your finances or not, is that we wouldn't worry. About anything, folks. God will show up when we least expect it, with far more than anything we could have ever imagined. He's still in the miracle business. He's still in the feeding thousands business. And He's still in the blessing business.