Partially Victorious?

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I find it interesting how we often live a “partially victorious” life and think we’re blessed and highly favored.  I don’t see a Biblical example of this, yet it’s what we seem to settle for.  
I picture it like a sporting event.  We’re in a fierce battle to win, then we get to the finish line and decide we’re ok to just tie.  If we tie, we didn’t really lose…we’re still partially victorious, right?

I recently read a passage in my Devotional Journal that said, “this life in Christ is to be lived to the fullest, not in partial victories and agonizing defeats”.  Wow.  Just wow!

It went on to say that it wasn’t until Sarah banished her fear and doubt, completely trusted God, and stopped trying to fix things herself that His promises became a realty.  Until that time, she wasn’t living completely victorious.

I’m in a similar situation in life.  As a pastor’s wife, mom of 4 (3 still at home), a 2nd year public school teacher, a wife of a Youth & Discipleship Director for 105 churches, and a Girls Club coordinator for the same 105 churches, I wear quite a few hats.  It can be overwhelming.  No, it IS overwhelming, no “can be” about it.

I know I cannot give 100% to everything all the time, so I’ve found myself being content to just get by.  Just work the best I can and make sure I’m not losing.  I’m a sore loser by nature, so this is an easy objective!  However, I’ve come to realize that merely not losing isn’t the same thing as winnng.  It’s only partially victorious living.

It’s only when we’re willing to completely submit, completely surrender control (ouch!), completely abandon all doubt and fear that His promises can become our reality.

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The Linen Belt…

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With 6 kids ranging from 5-16, it’s not always easy to keep them all on the right track.  I tell one to pick up their clothes, another to empty the trash, tell them all to do their homework, tell them to make their beds, flush the toilets, etc.  Yet I seem to repeat these phrases more than 6 times a day…which means SOMEONE isn’t listening.  And when I ask why it wasn’t done, they say “I did it”.  The obvious question is “then why is the trash still full, homework undone, bed unmade, etc?”  Saying you’re listening certainly doesn’t mean you are.

If you’ve ever been responsible for leading someone, in your family, on the job, etc., you undoubtedly know the frustrations that come with trying to lead a stubborn soul that refuses to listen.  You ask them to perform the simplest of tasks and they want to ask 20 questions before they will commence. And at least 19 of those questions would be automatically answered for them once they obeyed and started the task!  Yet they look at you as though, as my husband would say, you have “arms growing out of your ears.”  Completely flabbergasted, completely confused, completely unfocused, and completely void of any real intention to listen to you!

It’s no different in relationships.  How many times have you said to your spouse, “we talked about this!” only to have him/her look at you as though you have “arms growing out of your ears”.    And although we don’t want to admit it, we’ve been on the other end of that situation too!  Fact is, you can talk all you want.  Let’s face it, some of us talk quite a lot, but are we listening?

I must say I do have good things meant for my children.  I have good intentions of teaching them and leading them into being responsible, (and yes, God-fearing) adults.  And they HEAR me, they just refuse to listen.  They follow the stubbornness of their own hearts & minds, and let my words fall on deaf ears. can you hear me now

I want to scream.  I want to jump up and down and throw a huge toddler-sized tantrum.  I want to ask them “Why are you so selfish and stubborn?  Why won’t you listen?!?”

I was directed to this scripture this morning, which seemed so incredibly fitting for what’s been going on in my house lately.

Jeremiah 13:8-11(NIV)   Then the word of the Lord came to me: “This is what the Lord says: ‘In the same way I will ruin the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem. 10 These wicked people, who refuse to listen to my words, who follow the stubbornness of their hearts and go after other gods to serve and worship them, will be like this belt—completely useless! 11 For as a belt is bound around the waist, so I bound all the people of Israel and all the people of Judah to me,’ declares the Lord, ‘to be my people for my renown and praise and honor. But they have not listened.’  Jeremiah 13:8-11

Wicked.  Now, I wouldn’t call any of my children “wicked”.  After all, they DO (sometimes) listen and obey.  But when their stubbornness and selfishness takes over, I would definitely and unapologetically agree with the term “completely useless”.  These are all very bright kids.  They are also gifted with great imaginations, perfect health, and mental soundness. They have such potential, such ability, such talent, such promise!  But they turn a deaf ear to my words and we spend days/weeks in a cycle of grounding & un-grounding.  They get mad and pout, and I get frustrated.

But this scripture has made me think this morning, and ask myself a difficult question.  How often does the Lord think of me as being “wicked, stubborn, and completely useless” because I “refuse to listen”?  Oh He loves me, I’m not questioning that. But how often is He frustrated with my unwillingness to listen (and obey)?  I heard someone say recently, “How can we expect the Lord to listen to us when we refuse to listen to Him?”  Obviously, the Lord can and does listen to us, but that’s certainly something to ponder.  How frustrating the Lord must be with us when He is calling, directing, guiding, leading, and speaking…yet we turn a deaf ear.  And how wonderfully gracious He is to continue to call, continue to direct, continue to guide, continue to lead, continue to speak, and continue to LOVE us even in our wickedness, stubbornness, and complete disobedience.

It’s my mission this week to hone in and listen.  To acknowledge that still small voice instead of drowning it out with “noise”.  To let His Words resonate within me instead of tilting my head to let them flow effortlessly out of the other ear.   To obey when He speaks, and to trade my wet linen belt “for His renown and praise and honor”.

Dogs don’t fly

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Can you fly?

This picture makes me laugh. I can envision the man saying “You’re a dog, I asked you to fetch. You refuse to fetch, maybe you’d rather fly?” And I envision the dog screaming back “Ok, Ok, Ok! I get it, I’m a dog. I’ll fetch, PLEASE don’t make me fly!”

Perhaps I envision this dialogue because I can relate. At least to the dog…

For several years, the Lord has been prompting me to take a step of faith in ministry. Quite frankly, it’s a step that I find terrifying. Like the children of Israel wandering in the desert, I don’t want to face the giants and conquer the Promised Land.

Think about it, the children of Israel are miserable. They lead a life of slavery that we can barely even fathom. Their lives are bitter and harsh. These are God’s chosen people, and they’ve been completely oppressed for years. When God is ready to deliver the Israelites, He sends plague after plague upon the Egyptians until Pharaoh finally releases them. Later when Pharaoh changes his mind and comes after them, God intervened on the Israelites’ behalf by parting the Red Sea. God leads them with a Pillar of Cloud and Fire, and the Israelites experience miracle after miracle; favor upon favor; blessing upon blessing.

Moses has spoken the Word of the Lord to the Israelites, saying: ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the LORD.’ (Exodus 6:6a-8)

God has been true to His Word. They’ve been set free, they’ve been rescued, they’ve experienced God’s unconditional love, they’ve seen His hand of favor upon them, and they’ve encountered God through numerous signs and wonders. They’re ready to enter the Promised Land. That is, until they hear of the giants in the land. Fear, intimidation, anxiety, and disbelief sets in and they stop. Instead of pressing onward and believing God can and will see them through, they stop.

They begin to doubt His Sovereignty, they doubt His love, they doubt His ability, and they doubt their own calling. Think about it, He’s called them to a land of milk and honey. To a place they could have previously only silently dreamt about. It’s right there in front of them and He’s called them to take it, to conquer it, to enter it, to possess it. Yet they let their fears grow bigger than their faith… and they stop. And sadly, the majority of them are never allowed to actually enter into the promises of God (i.e. the Promised Land).

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Ah, my life! For forty years (how ironic), I have lived a life of slavery and wandering. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been redeemed. I’ve been set free. I’ve been rescued. I’ve experienced God’s unconditional love. I’ve seen God’s hand of favor upon me and I’ve encountered God through signs and wonders. I’m ready, I’m committed, and I make a vow to obey the Lord’s calling.

Yet when He says “Go…and take possession”, I reply “I can’t! Don’t you know what kinds of giants stand at the door waiting to attack me?! Don’t you know who I am? I can’t do this.” And I stop. And I become enslaved. And I wander. And I’m confused. And I’m an emotional wreck, a mental basket case. And worse than any of that, I’m completely miserable inside. I complain. I murmur and grumble. Like the Israelites (God’s chosen people), I begin to doubt His ability. I doubt His Sovereignty. I doubt His love. I doubt my own calling. The fears grow…and the faith shrinks. And wandering I go. Around and around and around. Directionless, passionless, powerless.

The internal misery finally gets the best of me, and I repent. I pray. I seek. I commit. Cycle-diagram

I see the Promised Land before me, God says again “Go…and take possession”.

I take a step or two, and then stop. And the cycle continues…

This last year has been a turning point on this spiritually self-destructive journey. Perhaps it has something to do with entering my 40th year of life. Right after my 39th birthday, I was taking a group of ladies to a Women’s Retreat, and let me tell you I did NOT want to go! Honestly, I didn’t like the rural/rustic location and that’s where I put the emphasis of my grumbling. But that wasn’t really the issue. I had begun to encounter a very familiar and very massive giant in my life, and I knew the timing of it wasn’t a coincidence.

The Lord had recently asked me to step into a role of ministry that I am not necessarily gifted in; and one that I knew wasn’t going to be well received by many around me. I stepped in faith and took on the role of Praise & Worship leader at our church. I encountered major attacks from within and from without, and that’s all of the details I’ll share. However, I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt He had called me to take this ministry for this season, and I obeyed. In spite of my natural inability to do so, I did it. And I never doubted.

Yet as the Women’s Retreat approached, the Lord began to once again place in my heart the calling I’ve continually ran from. He used many friends and many circumstances to confirm this, yet I ignored. One night at this retreat, the Lord used a mighty prayer warrior to speak into my life. She spoke directly into my heart to confirm the calling the Lord was placing upon me, yet I ignored.

At the end of service, I responded to an altar call and waited for the speaker to also confirm this calling. After all, she was obviously VERY anointed of God and if she confirmed this calling it couldn’t be wrong. Yet she spoke nothing over me except regarding the calling and direction for my husband’s life. I returned to my seat and said within myself, “See, it’s obviously something I’m fabricating in my own mind. If it were really a calling of God, this anointed woman of God would’ve seen it and confirmed it.” God immediately interrupted my thoughts and spoke into my spirit loudly and clearly… “Michele. I have called you. I have spoken to you. I have sent confirmation to you over and over again for many years. I sent confirmation to you just tonight. But I am not sending  /the speaker/  to confirm it to you. She doesn’t need to confirm it to you. I have called you myself, and you don’t need any further confirmation.”

I came home and requested a ministry license application. I completed it. And…I put it in a drawer.

As I’ve approached this 40th birthday, the Lord has drawn me over and over to the story of the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years… and to that completed ministry application sitting in my drawer. Yet I’ve argued with the Lord once again. “Don’t You know who I am? Don’t You understand where I come from? I’m just a Pastor’s wife. That’s enough. I can do this, I can be a Pastor’s wife. You’ve called him and You’ve placed Your anointing upon him, I’m sure of it. This thing you’re asking of me is bigger than me, I can’t do it. I CAN support him. Just let me stay in the shadow and support him in his calling.”Very recently, the Lord sent a friend…a mighty man of God, to speak at our church.

Sunday morning, “Seizgod-prescriptione the moment” (ouch). Sunday night “Know your identity in Christ” (double ouch).    He even spoke about somebody needing Prozac. He couldn’t have known that 4 days earlier, I had angrily left a doctor’s appointment because they refused to write me a prescription for an anti-depressant to deal with anxiety. The doctor (who also happens to be a licensed Assembly of God minister) left me with only these words, “I don’t think you need it. I think there’s something else going on here.” Yet she also couldn’t have known…

Monday morning, I took the ministry application out of the drawer. Still apprehensive. Still full of anxiety. Still somewhat embracing fear instead of fully stepping out in faith. But I took it out and turned it in.

Ps 27:1 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

This week, the Lord asked me to sing a solo. I don’t like to sing, especially not a solo, especially in front of 100 people. It’s not my gifting, it’s not my calling. I didn’t want to do it and I argued (which is so uncharacteristic of me – not!). We had 3 visitors Sunday morning which made me want to say no even more. But He asked, so I did it.

As the 2nd verse began, the words of the song came out of my mouth while these words were coming out of my spirit, “God, why do I have to do this? I don’t want to do this; it’s not what you’ve called me or equipped me to do. I’m willing, I’m obeying, but I don’t understand!” He answered, “Why are you willing to obey me here, in an area that you know I have not gifted you, equipped you, or called you, yet you’re unwilling to obey me by stepping into what I HAVE called you to do?” I unintentionally and audibly uttered the words “Oh God, I can’t do this”. Yet the music played on, so I stumbled, stuttered, and held back a flood of tears through the end of the song.

Which brings me back to this picture…

Can you fly?

I have no desire to ever again be asked to fly simply because I refuse to fetch. I’m not called to fly. I look stupid trying to fly. God can ask me to do either one, and I’ll obey either one. But I’m pretty sure as long as I’m willing to fetch, I’ll not be asked again to fly (hallelujah!) I have to wonder if the look on my face and the terror in my eyes this past Sunday morning resembled that of the dog in this photo! …at least until the look on my face became one of sorrowful repentance and the terror in my eyes gave way to overflowing tears.

Many of us have so much in common with the children of Israel! A chosen generation, a chosen people, yet refusing to move into the Promised Land and take possession. Don’t wait for the Lord to ask you to fly when He’s calling you to fetch. He’ll equip you when you obediently respond to His calling, and He’ll also humble you when you’re not.

“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”

Some Glad Morning…

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The old hymn starts out “Some glad morning, when this life is o’er, I’ll fly away”.

Are we living in such anticipation of spending eternity with Him that we truly cannot wait until this life is over and we “fly away” to meet Him? Are we living each day, taking every breath and every opportunity to praise God for who He is and all He’s done?

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Think about heaven…our worship will be true.  It will be pure.  It will be complete.  It will be from the heart, undistracted, and unrestricted.  It will be constant, it will be consistent. 

Worship is the one thing we do now that we can be certain we’ll also be doing in heaven.  We’ll spend eternity in heaven worshipping a God who we struggled to spend an hour worshipping on Sunday mornings on earth. 

Worship.  It goes on continually in heaven.  Does it go on continually in our hearts?  In our lives?  Or are we waiting for someone to “lead us there” (kicking and screaming) on Sunday morning?  If we’re not living a life of worship the other 6 days of the week, the journey to true, complete, pure, undistracted, and unrestricted worship will be a long one on Sunday mornings. 

“I will enter His gates” is not a song that’s intended to describe a long term goal.  It’s a declaration.  I will rejoice and be glad.  I will enter with thanksgiving.  And I will do this because I live a life of praise, a life of thanksgiving, and a life of joy.  I know who my God is, I know Him intimately, I spend time worshipping Him.  I long to see Him.  I long to spend eternity with Him.  And I am entering His gates on Sunday mornings expecting His Glory to come down. 

Live a life of worship.  Join the heavenly hosts in singing “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”  Don’t waste a single moment. Enter His gates on Sunday mornings prepared…and expecting!

 

 

It’s what I deserve!

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What exactly do we deserve ladies? A weekly pampering session at our favorite spa? A nice “self-cleaning” house with a big “no-maintenance” yard? A drop-dead gorgeous husband who waits on us hand and foot? Our own personal assistant who helps us with our housework, clothing selections, and hair/makeup each day? The ability to eat what we want and still have the body of Jillian Michaels?

We’re capable of dreaming of a fantasy life where everything falls naturally into place without a hitch and we are given everything we could ever want in life. Let’s face it, we all want to reach for the stars! But if we’re not careful, we’ll find that our head has been stuck in the clouds while life was going on all around us.

In Philippians 4:11b-12, Paul says “for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Yet He knows it is God who gives Him strength in every circumstance.

Job, though forced to face greater challenges than most of us will ever know, found the strength and faith to say “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”

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I’m not necessarily a “cat person”, but we do have one (of course we also have NO MICE!). Not only does this cat require IAMS catfood to keep her digestive system calm, she also apparently must have a certain kind of litter…

There is a covered litter box and an open-topped large tote full of clean litter. And yet I caught her going on the floor recently. It’s happened once or twice before. Apparently, she will not use the type of litter that resembles a sandy texture. She also apparently will not use the litterbox if there is any baking soda in it.

I realize you can’t expect a cat to be “grateful”, but this is a cat that we rescued from the animal shelter! She thinks she gets $10/bag catfood and special litter in her TWO litter boxes? She should just be thankful she has a home and a life! And the thing is, she knows she’s doing wrong too! She runs from me when I try to discipline her for it. Hmmmm…

Ah, what a life-lesson there! We’ve all been ‘rescued’ and deserve nothing but death for our shortcomings, failures, and sins. We’ve been given more than we could ever ask for or deserve, yet we act like my cat. “God, I know you gave me THAT, but it’s not the kind I wanted so I’m not using it! I’m gonna make my own mess, I’m gonna do it the way I want to, and when You try to discipline me or get me back on track, I’m gonna RUN!”

…we could all learn a lesson from Miss Annie.

“Be Original”

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What does it mean to be original? One of the definitions Merriam Webster gives for the word is: a person of fresh initiative or inventive capacity, a unique or eccentric person.

A & E’s official Facebook page reads this description: “Now reaching 100 million homes, A&E is the home to 100% original content that inspires and challenges audiences to BE ORIGINAL.”

Let me start off by saying I personaly do not agree with the homosexual lifestyle, but also do not hate or mistreat those who choose that lifestyle. Nor do I shake my head or finger at them. Nor do I condemn them.

I’m not a “huge” Duck Dynasty fan, but I AM a “huge” fan of freedom of speech. I am completely against hate speech directed towards any individual or group of individuals. PERIOD. But Phil Robertson did not use hate speech in his recent controversial remarks. He simply exercised his freedom of speech. And our government has vowed to protect that right in our Declaration of Independence.

I heard the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation spokesman, Wilson Cruz, say this morning “Phil and his family claim to be Christian, but Phil’s lies about an entire community fly in the face of what true Christians believe.”

Mr. Cruz, I don’t think you understand what Christians DO in fact believe. Phil’s comments (with the exception of his personal take on physical anatomies), are Biblically based…and do reflect what Christians believe, sir.

Phil Robertson holds tightly to his Christian beliefs, including the belief that we are called to love one another. He never said he hated gays, in fact he is quoted as saying: “I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other.”

Furthermore, Phil’s remark: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right” isn’t PHIL’s original quote…

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

A&E has never suspended anyone for their SUPPORT of a gay/lesbian lifestyle, so how can they justify suspending him for speaking out against it? What’s next? Are we going to start banning the Bible altogether?

Pour It Out

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“stupid kidney stones” That was my husband’s Facebook post after being in bed a few days in agonizing pain. Looking for a quick fix and some pain medication, he went to the Emergency Room only to be told they were small enough to pass at home. He was instructed to drink a lot of water and wait for the stone(s) to pass. Two problems with that remedy: he doesn’t like to drink water and he doesn’t like waiting!

After a few days of watching him lie in bed in misery and miss work/church, I spent hours online researching ways to help the stone to pass. I knew he wasn’t drinking enough water, but hadn’t been successful in convincing him to drink more. I found several home remedies, the most common being Apple Cider Vinegar, Lemon Juice, Water, and Olive Oil. I was pretty proud of myself when I came home 2 hours (and $80) later with bags of those items along with a few bottles of vitamin/herbal combinations and a box of “kidney health” tea. He wasn’t so proud of me. Complained about the taste, complained about the amount of water, complained about anything and everything I offered to prepare for him. He WAS willing to take pills, or so he said. One of the pills was to be taken 4 times per day, but he did good to take them once or twice.

Days later, we revisited the Emergency Room. The nurse asked if he was drinking a lot of water, and of course he proudly answered “Yes”. The nurse then asked, “are you urinating at least once an hour?” The answer was no. The nurse’s reply: “Then you’re not drinking enough water.” DejaVu, I could’ve sworn that conversation had taken place daily in my house for the past week. Bottom line was that he didn’t want to drink the natural remedy to pass the stone because it wasn’t pleasant to drink. And although he had admitted that he wasn’t drinking at least 10 glasses of water per day, when it was suggested to increase his water consumption, he’d reply: “I AM drinking water…I’m drinking tons of water.”

He was in unbearable pain, was utterly homebound for almost a week, and wanted desperately to pass the kidney stone. But it was irritating, inconvenient, distasteful, unpleasant, and frustrating to intake what was necessary to get the desired output. He wanted a “quick fix”.

How often we live our lives like that. We deeply desire a specific outcome, but refuse to put in the required the time, energy, sacrifice, and exertion. We live in this culture of “give me, give me, give me”, but we don’t necessarily want to put forth the sacrifice necessary to achieve those things. The Bible addresses this attitude in Proverbs 12:11, “Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense.” It makes no sense to expect output without the input!

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I’ve reached an age where I drink (several cups of) coffee to get me going in the morning, and some “sleepytime” tea before bed. I know when I put the coffee and water in the coffee pot (and turn it on), I will later be able to pour coffee into my cup. I know when I turn on the tea kettle at night, the hot water will be poured into my cup so that I can steep a bag of tea. I’m willing to fill up the coffee pot and the tea kettle with water so that I will achieve the desired outcome: coffee and tea (i.e. motivation and sleep!). Simple enough. If only it were that easy in life!

Romans 8:13 says “For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Yet in life, I find myself trying to accomplish spiritual objectives in the flesh. Instead of refueling each day so I can travel the road the Lord has set in front of me, I look at the “gas gauge” of life and decide “I think I can keep going, I’m ok.” Eventually I find myself running on fumes. Distant, numb, lonely, depressed, despondent, incomplete, and completely lacking direction. I know HOW to fix those things, I know HOW and WHERE to “fill up”, yet instead of addressing the lack of adequate or appropriate (spiritual) input I just continue to try to change the output. Surely I can fix this in my flesh, right?

Of course, this isn’t something unique to me. We all struggle with living in the flesh, and often don’t even understand why we do what we do. Our inward man wants to please God. We long for a relationship with Him. We crave His love, His approval, and His affection. Yet our outward actions don’t always line up. We slack in our prayer time, leave our Bibles unopened, miss church, forget to tithe, and then find ourselves caught up in gossip, resentment, bitterness, hopelessness, and discouragement.

“For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:15-25)

For the past few weeks, I’ve found myself feeling completely incompetent and unprepared to lead praise & worship. We’ve practiced, we’ve prepared, we’re “ready”, yet I somehow find myself completely unprepared. I’m not talking about lacking musical talent, that’s a whole other story. I’m talking about being spiritually, emotionally, and mentally unprepared. In Philippians 2:17, Paul says “even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.” It’s my job to “pour out” every Sunday morning. Completely empty myself before God, while leading others into worship. To usher in the presence of the Holy Spirit, and lead the congregation into that presence. To rejoice with the saints. Yet lately I’ve found myself trying to pour from an empty vessel.

The Lord spoke to me so clearly on this subject Sunday night. He reminded me of my husband’s kidney stones. About how frustrated I was with him because he was willing to live with the pain and dysfunction of kidney stones instead of “sucking it up” and doing what was necessary to pass the stone. How I wanted so badly to just scream…How do you expect to have the desired output of a passed kidney stone without the input of adequate water! Then He showed me how I do the same thing. I want the problem to “dissolve” itself with a quick fix. In a sense, I want the coffee maker to produce coffee without the effort of filling it up each morning. I want the output of an anointed worship service, of an overwhelming sense of His presence, and of the complete outpouring of the “oil” of the Holy Spirit amongst His people. Yet I want that to happen while I’m still carrying my own burdens. I don’t want to admit that I can’t handle or “fix” my overwhelmed, exhausted, lonely, and burdened condition. I want the Lord to miraculously deliver the desired outcome without my willingness to let go of the pain and dysfunctions of life. How frustrating God must find this. How patient and merciful He is!

In Jeremiah 8:22, he asks: “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people?” The Amplified Bible goes on to add: [Because Zion no longer enjoyed the presence of the Great Physician] Ouch! God forbid we allow ourselves to become so dry that we no longer enjoy the presence of the Great Physician! This Great Physician works 24/7, and is even willing to make house calls.

All I have to do is fill my vessel, oil my parched soul with the Balm of Gilead…and enjoy the presence of the Great Physician.

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