God IS Good, and He will draw us to Him

Journal entry of 25 August 2014

So, I've been saying all day today that I'm going to write this. So, I'm writing it. (Happy, God? . . . Good. lol)

Last night, I attended the first night of the Kingdom Culture event at Hidden Valley Worship Center. HVWC is the laboratory where the Lord taught me who He truly is . . . the things I've read so far in the first four Lectures on Faith are all familiar to me because of what I've heard preached in this place. This is the church where I received the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, when a visiting pastor laid hands on me, prayed over me (including putting into words some things I was experiencing at that very time that I hadn't yet been able to put into words) and then said, "Be filled!" This church has been the place where I can come before the Lord and pray and worship without thought for what anyone will think, where I have been prayed over and healed, where I have been snatched from severe depression through the prayer of three incredible prayer warrior women. I've had experience after experience that has shown me that they operate in the Holy Spirit, according to the mind and will of God.

The worship portion of their services has always been super powerful in my life. From the very first service I attended, coming up on three years now, I have been filled with the Holy Ghost over and over as I've worshipped with them, in music, prayer and shouting praise. (Psalm 100)

Just over a week ago, I mentioned to some friends online I was feeling heavy-hearted. Well, you could definitely call it that. I had been brought down to absolute desperation, feeling so overwhelmed and powerless, so distant from my Lord. The love of my husband couldn't pull me out of it. During two of the days at the end of week before last, I cried out in desperation over and over, "Jesus, where is Your comfort? Where is the comfort You said You would send? Jesus . . . please . . . "

And I heard no answer.

Nothing.

So I held on, because that's all I could do . . . just hold on through the incredible darkness of that time. Too many little people depend on me for me to do anything else. I KNEW Jesus heard me. I had so much evidence, such an overwhelming preponderance of experience that He hears me. Always. I just didn't know why I was feeling the way I was, why the depression had come back with such a vicious vengeance, and why He wasn't banishing it when I cried out for relief, why I couldn't hear His answer.

A week ago yesterday (which was two Sundays ago), I went to the morning service at HVWC. It was the first time I had seen any of that part of my church family in more than two months, between my own LDS leadership calling me in, family visiting, our trip to Utah and further south for Denver's talks, etc., and oh, how I had missed the strengthening, the invigoration, the refreshing in the spirit I receive when I'm able to go and worship there. I got there late, missing every last bit of worship. But the sermon was like it was designed wholly for me--even down to one point where Pastor Chris really got his preach on, leaving his notes, preaching according to the spirit for a few minutes, detailing exactly what I had been struggling with over the last few days, what had been running through my mind as recently as the early morning hours that very day as I struggled and journaled and wept.

After the service was over, I said hello to a couple of people, chatted for a minute, gathered my things up, and as I made my way down the aisle, I stopped to say hello to Sharlene, who has been such a blessing and good friend to me. Then Naomi walked over and said hello. We were joined by Donna, and as we stood there, Naomi looked at me and said,

"Would you like to pray with us for our county?"

I said, "Sure."

Then the four of us, Naomi on my right, Donna across from me, and Sharlene on my left, began to pray.

Naomi led, praying first. Then Sharlene. Then Donna. I knew I was there to add my faith and agreement to what they said, but wasn't moved to pray at all. It was beautiful prayer, and I felt so grateful to be part of it. When Donna finished, there was a pause, and then Naomi began praying again. For me. Totally unexpected. As Naomi began her prayer, she said "God, I just pray protection over Annalea," and I felt incredible heat on the crown of my head, as if a high-wattage heat lamp had been turned onto me, as though Jesus came and laid His hands on my head, the strength of His presence radiating steadily down throughout me as the praying continued.

Naomi reached out and put her hand on my right shoulder, continuing to pray. She declared peace and healing and strength, and so many other things. The Holy Spirit grew and grew, and the love of Christ filled me and overflowed. I began to tremble, first my throat, then my hands, then my legs, as Naomi continued to pray healing and restoration over things that I had been struggling with, things she had absolutely no way of knowing anything about. (I hadn't seen or talked to her in two months--nor with with Sharlene and Donna.) Sharlene reached out and put her hand on my left shoulder, praying next. She prayed over different aspects of my struggle, releasing in my heart healing and forgiveness and so much more that the Spirit placed on her heart to pray for me. And the love of the Lord grew and grew within me and my own gratitude grew exponentially. My bff LeAnne came up behind me and put both hands on my back. Donna reached out and put her hand on the top of my bowed head as she then prayed in turn, again, praying words that she had no way of knowing I needed, but that addressed yet more aspects of my struggle, and that ushered in yet more of the healing and comfort for which I had cried out in the depth of my despair.

The desire to fall to my knees, and then upon my face, was nearly overwhelming. I was kept standing only because I was circled about by these women, whose hands supported and steadied me. I was so full . . . and I was healed. The darkness, gone. I was once again filled with the presence of my Jesus, and I knew that He answered my cries as soon as He could; that for whatever reason, my body and spirit had been weakened to the point where I couldn't receive on my own what He needed to give me, and so He gathered these women together to do the work I needed mortals to do, to bridge the gap I was too weak to cross, to be His hands and His mouth for me. And I broke down completely, sobbing at the incomprehensible mercy and grace and love that Jesus extends to us . . . that He extends to me. That He would save me, who am so miserably error-prone. Who would let my own devotions slide, amongst the busyness and demands of life, to the point where the enemy could isolate me, and, like a circling lion, prepare to devour me. I had been encircled about with the chains of hell--of separation from God--and I was set free, covered instead in His loving presence.

Yesterday evening, a week later, I worshipped in that same sanctuary. I was having a wonderful worship experience, full of so much joy and rejoicing. Then they began to sing "I'm a Lover of Your Presence," and LeAnne (who was on the worship team) began to sing. (If you can, go start that playing while you read the rest of this.)

"Let this be a sacrifice
let me dedicate my life
to worship You

Let this be a sacrifice
let me dedicate my life
to worship You"

Suddenly something broke open in my chest, and I started to sob. The song went on:

"I'm a lover of Your presence
I'm a lover of Your presence
I'm a lover of Your presence"

The feelings of gratitude, humility, of utter helplessness in the face of my situation, and then being snatched from it by the Lord's own good pleasure came rushing back, and I could finally fall to my knees for that, and pray. And the song continued:

"A passion's stirring deep inside,
You're all that really satisfies;
we worship You"

"We're lovers of Your presence
We're lovers of Your presence
We're lovers of Your presence
And it's all we want to be,
it's all we want to be"

And then kneeling wasn't enough. The enormity of what Jesus had done for me, of the price He paid to gain the victory He had won, the sweetness of fruit of it in my life, a sweetness above all that is sweet, sent me to my face, once again crying out, but this time in love and praise and utter amazement at the extravagant riches of His love poured out for me.

"I was made for love,
I was made for love,
I was made for loving You
I know that I was made for love,
I was made for love,
and I was made for
Loving You"

I don't think I've ever been more vulnerable, or more safe, than I was in those minutes, as I sobbed out my gratitude and my love for Yeshua, my Jesus, my Beloved God. It wasn't a performance, a demonstration for anyone to see. I wasn't doing anything that isn't well-known in that place during worship. That sanctuary truly IS a sanctuary, where the Holy Spirit directs all things.

Today, I now know just a little of what Denver feels like when he says, "I'd really rather NOT be doing this." I'd never consider sharing something like this in a forum as public as this. One-on-one, when prompted, no problem. But this honestly makes me (the written word over-sharer) a little antsy. I'm sharing these things with the desire in my heart that it will touch someone, and open a heart to be touched by the Living God more than ever before. The things that happen in the scriptures when the presence of an omnipotent God collides with mortal flesh are accurate. It's not an overly dramatic culture, or a different cultural expression of spiritual experiences. The Lamanites weren't a more sensitive genetic strain, prone to to fainting spells.

When God shows up, people fall down.

They pass out.

They speak in tongues and prophesy.

Injuries--physical and spiritual--are healed.

People fall to their knees, or upon their faces, and rise up new creatures.

Our bodies are marvelous instruments. When we use them in our worship, it allows the Lord to reach us in ways He simply cannot if we're sitting passively, just listening, or singing half-heartedly, or singing to anyone else besides Him. Our bodies are not only megaphones for the Holy Ghost, but they amplify our own ability to express ourselves before Jesus and reach out for Him.

God bless you all, as He has blessed me, a stubborn and prideful, lazy and foolish girl.

What Spirit are We of?

"When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem; and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him. But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" But He turned and rebuked them, [and said, "You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them." ] And they went on to another village." (Luke 9:51-56 NASB)
James and John loved Jesus. Tremendously. If you have a mother or father in the faith, someone who helped to lead you to the Baptism of Fire, you'll have the beginning of an idea of how they felt. Like good, loyal friends, they wanted an eye for an eye when the Lord they owed everything to was turned away, the Samaritans so blatantly breaking the laws of hospitality.

I love the Son of Man's reply, the reassertion of His purpose, and of the new law He gave to those that follow Him, in John 13:34-35:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
What are my responses, when I come across someone who does not make the same choices I would make? What is in my heart: a prayer for their well-being, or an avenging desire to right what I perceive as a wrong? (Does Heaven even see the offending thing as wrong? What does scripture actually say about it?) What spirit animates and motivates me? Is it the Spirit of Christ, that lifts and liberates, unstintingly generous in the outpouring of His love, or is it a different spirit, that entices me to demand conformity, or exact payment in kind for the perceived offense?

Father in Heaven, thank You for sending Your Son. Thank You for all He did, for all He offers. Thank You so much for the mercy and grace that supports me from moment to moment, and the absolutely free and open outpouring of Love, and forgiveness!, from You and from Him, that You offer constantly, all day, every day, to those who will open their hearts to receive it. Thank You for changing lives, for drawing all unto You, and for the beauty of Your work: to save lives. In Jesus' name, amen!

Here am I, Lord.

Reading something tonight about the last days opened my mind to be taught something really profound. All of these things could happen without great fanfare. We can be working on being diligent and receiving more light and knowledge, and go on to receive the Comforters . . . and even after all of that, we'll still feel like ourselves. We'll still have weaknesses, these thorns in the flesh, and Jesus will take the willingness of our hearts, the sacrifices we've made, and our repentant hearts that beat within these fleshy, marred veils, and use us to do service for Him beyond anything we could ever imagine.

Lord, I am so imperfect. So flawed. But . . . I love You.

Here am I.

Send me.

What do I truly seek?

So Jesus told them, “My message is not my own; it comes from God who sent me. Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether my teaching is from God or is merely my own. Those who speak for themselves want glory only for themselves, but a person who seeks to honor the one who sent him speaks truth, not lies. Moses gave you the law, but none of you obeys it! In fact, you are trying to kill me.” (John 7:16-19 NLT)

"Yes, I realize that you are descendants of Abraham. And yet some of you are trying to kill me because there’s no room in your hearts for my message. I am telling you what I saw when I was with my Father. But you are following the advice of your father.” 

“Our father is Abraham!” they declared. 

“No,” Jesus replied, “for if you were really the children of Abraham, you would follow his example. Instead, you are trying to kill me because I told you the truth, which I heard from God. Abraham never did such a thing. No, you are imitating your real father.” 

They replied, “We aren’t illegitimate children! God himself is our true Father.” 

Jesus told them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, because I have come to you from God. I am not here on my own, but he sent me." 

"Why can’t you understand what I am saying? It’s because you can’t even hear me!" (John 8:37-43 NLT)

*************************

Who is my Father?

To whom do I turn?

To whom do I look?

From whom do I receive strength?

Direction?

Hope?

Confidence?

What are the fruits of my thoughts?

Of my words?

Of my choices?

My life?

Who finds them acceptable and pleasing?

Who do I declare?

Whose work do I do?

Do I feel a constant connection with loving, gracious, forgiving Jesus?

Do my prayers feel like conversations, or monologues to a silent room?

Does that connection flow out to those around me?

Do the names of men more often come from my mouth than the name of Jesus?

Whose words most often come to my mind, and into my conversation?

Whom do I quote most often: God or men?

Whom do I praise most often: Jesus, or men?

Whom do I thank most often?


Returning from speaking with Aslan: “Emeth came walking forward into the open strip of grass between the bonfire and the Stable. His eyes were shining, his face was solemn, his hand was on his sword-hilt, and he carried his head high. Jill felt like crying when she looked at his face. And Jewel whispered in the King's ear, "By the Lion's Mane, I almost love this young warrior, Calormene though he be. He is worthy of a better god than Tash.” 

Then Emeth said: "'Beloved', said the Glorious One, 'unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek.' And since then, O Kings and Ladies, I have been wandering to find him and my happiness is so great that it even weakens me like a wound. And this is the marvel of marvels, that he called me Beloved, me who am but as a dog.”  (The Last Battle, by C. S. Lewis)

Job Had A Midlife Crisis

Scripture: Job 13-14 NLT

“Look, I have seen all this with my own eyes and heard it with my own ears, and now I understand. I know as much as you do. You are no better than I am. As for me, I would speak directly to the Almighty. I want to argue my case with God himself. As for you, you smear me with lies. As physicians, you are worthless quacks. If only you could be silent! That’s the wisest thing you could do. Listen to my charge; pay attention to my arguments. “Are you defending God with lies? Do you make your dishonest arguments for his sake? Will you slant your testimony in his favor? Will you argue God’s case for him? What will happen when he finds out what you are doing? Can you fool him as easily as you fool people? No, you will be in trouble with him if you secretly slant your testimony in his favor. Doesn’t his majesty terrify you? Doesn’t your fear of him overwhelm you? Your platitudes are as valuable as ashes. Your defense is as fragile as a clay pot. “Be silent now and leave me alone. Let me speak, and I will face the consequences. Yes, I will take my life in my hands and say what I really think. God might kill me, but I have no other hope. I am going to argue my case with him. But this is what will save me—I am not godless. If I were, I could not stand before him. “Listen closely to what I am about to say. Hear me out. I have prepared my case; I will be proved innocent. Who can argue with me over this? And if you prove me wrong, I will remain silent and die. “O God, grant me these two things, and then I will be able to face you. Remove your heavy hand from me, and don’t terrify me with your awesome presence. Now summon me, and I will answer! Or let me speak to you, and you reply. Tell me, what have I done wrong? Show me my rebellion and my sin. Why do you turn away from me? Why do you treat me as your enemy? Would you terrify a leaf blown by the wind? Would you chase dry straw? “You write bitter accusations against me and bring up all the sins of my youth. You put my feet in stocks. You examine all my paths. You trace all my footprints. I waste away like rotting wood, like a moth-eaten coat.

“How frail is humanity! How short is life, how full of trouble! We blossom like a flower and then wither. Like a passing shadow, we quickly disappear. Must you keep an eye on such a frail creature and demand an accounting from me? Who can bring purity out of an impure person? No one! You have decided the length of our lives. You know how many months we will live, and we are not given a minute longer. So leave us alone and let us rest! We are like hired hands, so let us finish our work in peace. “Even a tree has more hope! If it is cut down, it will sprout again and grow new branches. Though its roots have grown old in the earth and its stump decays, at the scent of water it will bud and sprout again like a new seedling. “But when people die, their strength is gone. They breathe their last, and then where are they? As water evaporates from a lake and a river disappears in drought, people are laid to rest and do not rise again. Until the heavens are no more, they will not wake up nor be roused from their sleep. “I wish you would hide me in the grave and forget me there until your anger has passed. But mark your calendar to think of me again! Can the dead live again? If so, this would give me hope through all my years of struggle, and I would eagerly await the release of death. You would call and I would answer, and you would yearn for me, your handiwork. For then you would guard my steps, instead of watching for my sins. My sins would be sealed in a pouch, and you would cover my guilt. “But instead, as mountains fall and crumble and as rocks fall from a cliff, as water wears away the stones and floods wash away the soil, so you destroy people’s hope. You always overpower them, and they pass from the scene. You disfigure them in death and send them away. They never know if their children grow up in honor or sink to insignificance. They suffer painfully; their life is full of trouble.”

Observation: I know that's a LOT of scripture, but honestly, it's important. Thanks for sticking it out. ;o)

In yesterday's reading, I saw hope in   words to Job in chapter eleven.  He was urging his friend to do what he had done in his own life, what had worked for him. "Stop worrying and defending yourself, trust God, and worship Him. Then He will pour blessings out on your life, and you can be happy again!"

But today, I heard Job's inability to grasp what his friend was offering. His misunderstanding of his friend's intentions, or the words he chose.  Job rejected that hope, and then went and ranted at God, feeling a healthy dose of self-righteous pity from his fleshly perspective.

The story of Job might be more like a midlife crisis.  His thinking may have been topsy-turvy with the whole "This is NOT what I signed up for!" that comes when life takes a turn that you really, really weren't expecting, did your best to avoid, and don't feel you deserve.  His friends, who love him, (Hello! They sat on the ground, silent, for a WEEK, people!), were offering hope and help as best they could, from their own perspective and experiences . . . but none of it reached Job, other than to prick and poke him enough to get him off of his rear and onto his knees.  Then he rants. He complains. He whines.*  And God starts doing cartwheels because His son is FINALLY opening up to Him, and is getting ready to listen.

*(I especially like 14:21, where Job complains about how when God strikes people down, they don't get to live to see their children grow up, and to see if they do well for themselves in life; I find it pretty hilarious Job would complain that way, when all of his own children were dead. It's like he was running out of things to complain about, and was repeating things he had heard others say, the way my children will when they're out of ideas, but their angst isn't yet spent.)

Application: This story of Job's is so much more complex than I ever thought before.  Up until yesterday, I thought the story arc went something like this: "Good man is tried with horrible, undeserved trials. His friends come to lord it over him, and judge him. He is humble, bears testimony of God's goodness, and God restores to him all he lost and more. The end."  But with the really difficult things adulthood has thrown at me, the way God has taken my life up, shaken it hard so I had to hold on to my marriage, my family and my faith, letting everything else fall away, has shown me a totally different story.  One where these trials bring out a weakness in Job that he learns to overcome. One where he is all tangled in his situation and despite the best efforts of the imperfect people that love him, can't "just get it right" or "get over it".

I also love how this new take on Job shows (again!) how, truly, God is big. So powerful. So forgiving. So purely patient. He has big shoulders. He can take our ranting, our raving, our complaining.  We can pound on Him until our strength is spent, and we can't hurt Him in doing it. He sees what we're going through, understands it perfectly, and has total mercy for us as we flail and thrash through it. And he LOVES it when we come and rant, rave, and complain to Him, because it means that we're paying attention to Him!

Prayer: Lord of Heaven and Earth, I love you. I just want to sing and shout to the skies my gratitude and my rejoicing when I stop and think about who You are, what You are, and how that makes everything perfectly and completely okay. Thank you for all You have done for me. For the way You love me without any reserve, without any failing. Because it changes everything. And I will never be the same. :o)