Soul Work

I’ve been working a lot lately. Working at TRUSTING. Wait. Working? Yep. Working at having faith.

How about meal planning, character training, school lessons, natural cleaning solutions?

Visiting, encouraging, correcting, enjoying, living?

Yes, these are the things that occupy much of my days, and all of them are part of my full life. But no, those things are not the specific work I’ve been pressed to attend to lately.

The soul-work I’ve been asked to focus on these past several months has been the work of trusting God. Relying on Him.

Having faith in His plan.trust2

Depending on The Way.

Trusting God.

Trusting that my God, El Roi (the God Who Sees), is confidently in control of my life.

Believing that my God, Jehovah-Shammah (the Lord is There), has gone ahead of me and is preparing the way for what is next in our lives.

Being sure that He, Jehovah-Jireh (the Lord will Provide), will in no doubt give us all that we have need of.

Having faith that God Almighty is in control, now, even in this.

 That’s the work I’ve been doing. Because I’ve been asked to do it. By my Father.

In spite of all that is happening in and around me, my job is to trust.

Trusting. Is. Work.

Daily work.trust3

Hourly work.

“To trust in spite of the look of being forsaken; to keep crying out in to the vast, when comes no returning voice and where seems no hearing; to see the machinery of the world pauselessly grinding on as if self-moved, caring for no life, nor shifting a hairbreadth for all entreaty, and yet believe that God is awake and utterly loving … such is faith indeed.” says George MacDonald. It isn’t easy, this life of faith. We don’t just ‘play’ at it. We ‘work’ at it! Trusting is called work!

This isn’t original with me. Identifying trust as the work that God has given me to do. WORK is actually what Jesus called it. It’s found in the gospel of John, chapter 6. There we read the miraculous feeding of the 5,000 with 5 small loaves and 2 fish from a young boys’ lunch. You may be familiar with that story. Jesus multiplied the meal and let scores have their fill. Then, He left the crowd with his closest disciples and went across the lake in the boat.

The next morning, when the crowd awoke and found that Jesus wasn’t with them anymore, they searched him out and eventually found him. But Jesus rebuked them. Read John 6:26 “Truly, truly I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves”.  If you pause in your reading you may ask yourself, as I did, why were the people looking for Him? Were they looking for Jesus to get to know Him more or were they simply looking for more of what He could give them? That’s a tough question for all of us to wrestle with. More of Jesus or more of His blessings? What am I seeking?

And then, in verse 29, we come to the crux.  Jesus says “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” Did you see it? Jesus said that the work God has for me is the work of trusting in him. To rely on, cleave to, believe in Him. That is my work.

I’m so glad He called it work! It seems to go against everything in our self-reliant bodies. Independence is the ticket, right? Not for a follower of Christ. Dependence on Him, faith in God, is what is rewarded. And this trusting doesn’t come naturally. It takes effort. Energy.

Sometimes, too often, I don’t want to muster the energy. Stress and anxiety seem easier. Easier to let a mind run wild with the worry than to exercise discipline, to reign her in, slip the blinders on and train her to walk steady in certain assurance, not spooked by the specters looming ahead,” writes Ann Voskamp. I was just sharing with my husband how I daily have to stop my thought-train in its track and command a different route be taken. How my natural self runs to fret, worry, anxiety. But the Holy Spirit coaches me to put on the brakes and redirect my thoughts to Christ, to words of Truth.

trustAnd so, as you can see, my work is not finished. I have not completed this job. I continue on today in the work of trusting… and I will persist to the very end. Because it is the work I have been called to. The work of trusting. There is no other work quite like it. And while it certainly requires effort and energy, the reward is priceless! A peace that passes all understanding.

More of Him; less of me.

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You do not know what you are going to do;

the only thing you know is that

God knows what He is doing…

God does not tell you what He is going to do;

He reveals to you Who He is.

Oswald Chambers

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March On

It’s the third month of the year already.  The month of March. Named after the Roman god of war, Mars. But that title on your calendar is not where I’m heading today. I’m thinking of the verb form, the action word.

March. To walk fast with regular or measured steps. A steady advance.march1

If we could just quit this racing about in life. If we could simply march. If we could only make a steady advance, THAT WOULD BE ENOUGH.

How often do we find ourselves running, out of breath, busy beyond busyness… and simply exhausted. What if we decided that we would pace ourselves with regular measured steps? Maybe we’d see stable, firm  progress!

I read a story on-line last night that I’ve seen circulating for the past several months. And I’m so glad that I finally did! It is an absolutely incredible story, an unlikely success story, which makes a heart sing. And the reason it ends the way it does is because the man in the story knew how to make a steady advance. Sixty-one year old Cliff Young runs an ultra-marathon, 544 miles, as his very first race… and completes it in his overalls and work boots… simply by making a steady advance. And Cliff finished BEFORE everyone else… 1st place… not by RACING but by simply taking one step after another. If you haven’t had the chance to read this story for yourself, please do so today. You won’t regret it!

(Click here to read: The Story of Cliff Young)cliff

While others run fast, you can just shuffle with perseverance” Voskamp writes. I agree. Maybe this is your moment to pull a “Cliff Young” and simply march on.

The Altar

We recently held a women’s workshop at our church titled ‘Altars That Alter Us’. It was a wonderful time of sharing and learning and growing together. As the Lenten season continues, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts from that weekend on Christ and on the sacrifices we can make in response to His, sacrifices of our heart.

Christ, the Altar

An altar of earth, of stone, of wood covered in brass.

In the Old Testament, an altar had to be physically erected and a sacrifice had to be literally placed upon it, a sacrifice that met the requirements of a holy God, a righteous God.

Today, the altar we come to is not man-made. It is simply a place, a place where we meet with God; when we are in His presence, we are at the altar.

And the sacrifice? Well, the ultimate sacrifice has already been made by God’s one and only son,

Jesus Christ, the only One capable of meeting the requirements of holiness and of righteousness.

So today, our times at the altar include quite a bit of liberty. Sometimes we come to the altar empty-handed, with nothing at all to offer, justworship needing to be with Him. And God welcomes us, because as a child of His, we are received just as we are. There is no judgment for us. It’s a safe place, a place of healing. The payment has been made and we can come freely, with empty-hands lifted high.

Other times when we meet with God at the altar, we do bring a sacrifice. It may be a sacrifice of praise or worship. It may be a sacrifice of thanks. Or it may be a heart sacrifice- the kind that some of you hear God asking you to make even now. A sacrifice of the heart. Heart sacrifices vary. But whatever that heart sacrifice is, it is something that you lay down and release at great personal cost.

Some of our heart sacrifices are losses, wounds, defeats that have been thrust upon us:

  • Being diagnosed with a terminal illness
  • Struggling with infertility
  • The death of a loved one
  • The loss of a job or a ministry position
  • Giving birth to a child with a disability
  • An accident that results in a major life-change
  • A financial reversal
  • A child who has turned his or her back on what we have taught him or her
  • An unwanted move to another home or to a different city
  • A desire to marry, with no life partner insight

A second category of heart sacrifices involves a personal choice, such as:

  • Letting go of personal expectations of myself or someone else
  • Giving up a cherished dream for a greater good
  • Recovering from an addictionYoung stressed woman sitting on the bed and hold her hand on her own head
  • Relinquishing our control over a child who is becoming an adult
  • Giving up my ‘right’ to be in charge of my own life
  • Surrendering my ideal life for the reality of what I actually have
  • Forgiving a person who betrayed my trust
  • Embracing God’s love when He doesn’t rescue my hurting child
  • Longing for a more ideal spouse, but staying in a difficult marriage
  • Believing that God’s promises are true when I am in a personal hell

At some time or another on our spiritual journey, each of us faces the challenge of laying down some monumental heart sacrifice at the feet of Jesus, at the altar. But truth be told, the Christian life inherently involves “losing our lives” as Jesus did. 1 John 1:5 says “whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.”

So if God isn’t asking you to sacrifice anything major today, take time to prepare your heart, because someday He will. It’s His nature to make us more and more like Himself.

Remember that He loves you just the way you are, but He loves you too much to leave you that way.

He wants to cleanse us, from the inside out, of all that is holding us back from perfect communion with Him.

Dear sisters, bear in mind too, that when you sacrifice something to the altar, to Jesus, you have to let go of it. Let –it – go. Because a holy purifying fire still comes to the altar. And if you don’t let go of it?

The fire will still come…

Relinquishing your ‘right’ to hold tightly to it… (whatever it is that God is asking you to let go of) is the most painful thing you will ever do. It’s an act of trusting God even if we cannot envision a positive outcome from it. But in the end, it’s the only way to show Him that He is our first Love. Jesus himself told us “If you love Me, you will obey what I have commanded.”  If God is asking you to lay a sacrifice on the altar, walk in obedience and prove your love for Him.

Stepping forward to be with God, stepping up to the altar, is the way we say “I need you, I want more of you, I love you and because of that, I need to give you (THIS). “

The altar is no longer an altar of earth, or of stone, or of wood, but it is an altar of flesh. It is found in a relationship with a Holy God. Wherever you find God’s presence is where you have found an altar.

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Lent – making time and space in our lives

to meet with God;

being in His presence

to prepare for what’s to come.

cross

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The two categories of heart sacrifices are taken from Carol Kent’s book When I Lay My Isaac Down, Unshakeable Faith in Unthinkable Circumstances.

A Vent On Lent

Complaints and self-congratulatory statements. Those two phrases sum up my most prominent childhood memories of Lent, the forty day period beginning on Ash Wednesday, that many Christian denominations use to prepare for Holy Week.

As a kid that did not participate in these practices, however, what I recall of Lent had nothing to do with any sort of “preparation for Holy Week”. Instead, it seemed that my peers were more focused on themselves than normal. I could not, for the life of me, figure out its true purpose. I remember thinking “so what if you can go for 40 days without eating chocolate? What does that prove?”lent

Looking back, I now realize that there were probably many others around me that celebrated Lent by focusing on prayer, repentance, and self-denial.… but they were doing it in such a quiet, humble manner that I didn’t even know it. My friends were the only ones that I heard discussing Lent. And, well, they seemed to use those 6 weeks to either complain about the things they had chosen to “fast” from (and were simultaneously craving – things like candy, or their favorite soda, or any meat…besides fish,) or to congratulate themselves on how well they were doing in not succumbing to the temptations they’d pledged to avoid (things like swearing, or speeding, or wearing jewelry). Does this sound familiar to anyone else??

If you’re just observing a religious tradition, it won’t serve any purpose except to prove that you can go without something for 40 days. Lent is to be a time of preparationwhen we make time and space in our lives to meet with God. A time to think about the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus, the Lamb of God, who came to take away the sins of the world (not the temporary sacrifice you may have chosen).

Rather than an observance, I want this season of Lent to be a true preparation time. I want to use this time to think on the sacrifice Jesus made on my behalf. To think on the love He has for us. To think on how I live my life in response to His great gift.  And when I make time and space in my life to meet with God, to think on these things, I am in His presence… preparing for what is to come!

“Rend you heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.” Joel 2:13

“Come to this place, come seek His face
Find the hands of forgiveness
Look into the eyes of grace
Run to redemption with tears of joy and pain
Let fire fall and purify our hearts
Come to the altar, come to His arms”

Tricia Brock

(Click HERE to listen)

Thoughts from Arnold Ytreeide on Lent:

  • Rend your heart. If a better definition of Lent exists, I don’t know what it could be…. The point of Lent, or any other time of spiritual focus, shouldn’t be to follow a set of prescriptions and rules, it should be to seek a deeper understanding of and commitment to God. It’s not a time to check off days on a calendar; it’s a time to rend your heart, to do some spiritual housecleaning, to take a long, hard look at what’s inside you. A time to allow God to show you the work he’s ready to do in your life.
  • Two simple tests you can use to check for proper motives when ‘giving something up for God’: (1) How many people do you tell that you’re giving up something for Lent? and (2) Is it purely a ritual for you, or a true act of devotion?
  • If you want to ‘give up’ something for Lent, how about selfishness? Perhaps you could spend these forty-plus days asking God to help you find the root of your own selfish motives, actions, and desires, and then cut that root. It could be the start of something revolutionary in your life.