Sometimes I get inspiration for a blog and I have to wait for time to write it. Today, inspiration hit in such a strong way that I literally couldn't get home from church fast enough, dropped everything, and had to immediately start writing. Couldn't even stop long enough to change clothes or start lunch preparation. Thankful for a husband that understands the "gravity" of what I'm feeling just by looking at me and the few comments I made on the way home. He is running interference by keeping the kids occupied and fixing lunch. Thank you Kev!
Sometimes you hit dark, dry spells where you try to reach out for God and feel empty hands come back. You know you love Him and he loves you without a doubt, but there is a disconnect. Try as you might, you just can't always feel the closeness you need. However you KNOW that if you hold on tight, the day comes. Days like today (and even the past several days), you KNOW without a single doubt that he HAS been hearing you and has really held you in the palms of his hands all along.
For so long, we've struggled with feelings of isolation and feeling alone in the journey we are on. Most specifically in our roles as parents and the choices we are making for our families. Our burden to raise Godly children and lead lives of Godly influence has changed us so drastically that we've been beaten down by the "world". Knowing without a doubt that God has called us on this path and is daily changing and shaping our hearts to be more like Him has created such an urgency in us that we can't sit still. Unfortunately, our hearts have broken so much because people just don't "get" our choices and some have been downright cruel. Sticks and stones....you know the saying. We'll words DO break and hearts do get damaged. For those of you that are on this journey with us and are feeling the same "pull" we are, PLEASE do not give up. PLEASE do not back down. Follow God's leading. Stand out and be a "freak" as we are described. It's WORTH it!
I had a total breakdown last night. I was completely tired of fighting this battle of living a life set apart, of being in the world, but not of it mentality. I had that temporary lapse of thinking I just couldn't do it anymore. Just the simple act of attempting to watch a movie turned into such an emotional issue for me. At the age of 35, I didn't feel comfortable watching a movie that the world says is appropriate for my 13 year old daughter. Coupled with the fact that people are battling our "lifestyle" and were succeeding at "hurting" me, just broke me.
Then enters God.; AS my heart was breaking and my "flesh" was at it's weakest, when I was ready to say "it's just not worth it anymore". He reaches out and picks me up and carries me to a place that is one that only HE can provide. Knowing we are on the right path, knowing that our choices are one's that God has ordained just wasn't enough at the moment and after the last several days that we've had. We as a couple and I as an individual, just brokenly surrendered it to God. We told Him how we knew that though we weren't as successful as we always needed to be that our hearts where in the right place and that we were moving in the right direction, but that we needed him to take our doubt and bury it. We needed him to just confirm to us that He saw our struggles and that He was still in control and that He hadn't forgotten us. We told Him that if we were on the wrong path and needed to turn around, to tell us. I needed tangible confirmation that I was moving in His direction and not on the wrong course. He provided & He provided abundantly.
I left the house yesterday morning in tears and broken over an issue. We did our normal early Saturday AM Farmer's Market adventure and I enjoyed it, but my heart was heavy. The moment I walked in the door, I had an email waiting from a friend that knew NOTHING of the battles I was facing. THE email was like salve to a burn. Completely out of the blue and it unexpectedly touched on the very issues that my heart was heavy over. God provided.
We had some very serious discussions with our children and they said some things that lead us to believe that we were on the right path. We spent the day with no agenda and let the rest of the world go away. God provided.
A neighbor called Adriana to come over that she had something she wanted to give her. That "something" was 7 pairs of jeans that were only worn once, designer brands that we couldn't justify buying and fit her perfectly. Along with that were several shirts and an entire bag full of books for the boys. Peyton has an insatiable desire to read right now and knowing what a struggle that was in the beginning, it left me speechless. God provided. He provided tangible needs & intangible confirmation that my soul needed.
Kevin and I spent some very late hours discussing our hearts and our brokenness. The unbelievable intimacy of such conversations was something I didn't know if we would reach again after having struggled with so many issues in previous years. It showed just how very far we had come by trusting in God. The prayer that followed and the DEEP sleep of peace was priceless. God provided.
Before Kev & I had that discussion, I was having trouble calming my spirit and was so unsettled that I was searching blogs and trying to refocus my mind on what I knew it needed to be on. I remembered a specific blog that I hadn't read in many months, but I couldn't find the link because it was on our previous computer that crashed. I contacted the friend that introduced me to it, she "just" happened to immediately respond and as soon as I opened the page God jumped right off the computer screen. (OK, figuratively speaking that is!) There was a link to a song I had never heard even though I like the artist. The video broke me (which is what lead to the heart to heart with Kevin). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yU2drg8FtBg The song was a direct link of my own feelings and not a coincidence that I found it when I did. God provided.
This morning God provided. It was the most tangible things I've ever experienced. Few times in my life have I ever felt such a direct line connection to Him. Having attended First Christian Church for almost 3 years, today's message from Jason was the most God given directly to us that I've EVER witnessed. Our seating allowed me to see him during the worship and pre-message activities. I leaned over to Kevin and whispered that today was going to be a great day because I was watching Jason. I could tell he was having a hard time containing himself, that he just couldn't wait to get out and start talking. For anyone that knows Jason's style of preaching, he never slows down and you best just hold on tight because he is going to cram pack all he can in those 25-30 minutes. HE did not disappoint & God must have had a direct link recording of last night's conversation because he covered it POINT by POINT. It was all I could do to sit and listen because it was as if God was sitting directly beside me telling me ALL these things He wanted me to know and was wrapping his arms of comfort and peace like I've NEVER felt before.
NOW....with all that said (told you it was lengthy!!!!!)....here is the message and what it meant to me.
I knew ahead of time that we would be learning from Galatians 5:22-23 (fruit of the spirit) because of our Congregational study book for scripture memorization. I was already excited because I had wondered what "new" twist or new spin he would put on it because of his very practical way of preaching. WOW...I was totally unprepared for what was to come!
It was all about culture and how culture has changed us all. How it has taken us down such a different path. A not pleasing one. Agreed!!!! He prefaced his sermon with a description of two sides. We are either influenced by one or the other. One side is that of "weeds" . Its an influence that is filled with hate, darkness, guilt, pain, destruction. The power of hate. The other side is the "tree". It is the side of absolute agape love. It welcomes you no matter what, it brings peace and grace. The tree obviously also shows the death of God's son and the life that He gives. The power of that tree can't be contained.
Our culture has changed our views of God and our views of sin. It's more "comfortable" for the world to call someone a "wild child" instead of acknowledging the sin or the sinner aspect. We've become a culture that doesn't see sin anymore. We live in a mentality of "let your heart be your guide" or "just do what makes you happy". The tree brings freedom in Christ; weeds bring slavery. Weeds focus on rising up the corporate ladder more than on their families. Weeds focus on making sure that their Jr. High kids and High school kids are popular instead of Holy. Weeds don't consider what they watch on TV or which movies they watch as important. Weeds don't see the value of modest dress. Weeds don't recognize the sexual images that are portrayed in media as a problem; they have become accustomed to it so much they don't really "see" it anymore. Weeds see true Christians as closed-off and narrow minded because they are following "rules".
The important question to ask yourself is are you going to be influenced by the weeds or the tree? Are you aware of the hold that the weeds have on you? Are you going to step out and be an influencer of the tree or let the "fads" and popularity/culture grow the weeds?
He used an apple and a doughnut as an object lesson. For many people, that doughnut looks much more appealing than the healthy apple. We know that indulging in the doughnut will cause health problems if we do it too often. It may taste good at first and our desires may crave it, but there are consequences. If it "tastes good, spit it out". Though you can draw physical/health lessons from that description....he wanted us to focus more on the spiritual aspects. Sin may taste good and look harmless and actually makes us feel great temporarily, but there is an ultimate price to pay for it.
Galatians 5:19-21 are the "weeds" of sin. Verses 22-23 are the "tree". He pointed out something to me that I never really noticed. The word is FRUIT in the text. NOT fruits plural. I've memorized it as "fruits of the spirit" and usually the posters and bookmarks I've seen have it plural as well. It is FRUIT single. Fruit is love. The "fruits" of the spirit are all descriptive words describing love. You can't pick and choose which ones to exhibit. It's a package deal. If you can't exhibit all of those qualities, you need to spend more time at the tree! (GUILTY, GUILTY!)
- Many soldiers, especially those in WWII, wrote letters for their families before they entered the battle field. When they signed up as a soldier and to support the cause, they knew they were signing up for their possible death. As Christians, when we signed up for Christ, we signed up to die from our old selves and everything "weed".
- Our life with Christ is like an athlete, specifically a pace runner. Christ is setting the pace for us and our job is to keep in step with him. It's not to run faster or slower, taking different paths....it's to keep right in his stride.
- Fundamentals matter. Fundamentals lead to excellence. That means that saying NO to the world and their ideals do matter. It means raising your children to be holy despite what those around them are doing and how it makes you as a parent look. A successful athlete conditions and practices fundamentals; a successful Christian practices daily turning away from sin, even those the "world" may not even see as an issue.
- What you put in your body is what you end up looking like. It's true for food, but the focus is on spirituality. What goes in WILL come out. Fill your mind with "worldliness", then you lose sight of the tree and let the weeds begin to take over. EVERYTHING you do, REALLY matters.
- Don't worry about what this world thinks of you. THIS one really touched me. Don't worry about what the world THINKS of your choices TRACYE! When you get caught up in what the world (and the world means EVERYONE around you!) thinks, then YOU become part of the world. IF I'm so worried about what those around me think of what my choices are, I'm allowing THEM to overtake me and will end up with my faith being tossed about and questioning the path that I already KNOW that God has me on. Hello? Direct link from God!
- Finish Strong. DO NOT give up. He talked about how some of us are beginning to tire of the fight and battling discouragement for being in the world but not of it and how it leaves us feeling alone at times. Hello, again? Did he just really say the near exact words I had spoken the night before. So where I was ready to give up, God spoke and says DO NOT GIVE up. Finish Strong!
- Do not stop being an agent of change in this world. Whatever you do, no matter how heavy the load gets, DO NOT run back to the weeds. A transformation agent of Christ follows his fruit. Don't follow the world or weeds. The world is driven by culture and fads. If you let yourself be influenced by the world around you, you'll never be "popular" because IT WILL CHANGE and you WILL be left behind. It's TREND not TRUTH!!!! Thank you God for that reminder that I'm not trendy and I'm not trendy for a reason! TRUTH is what matters. It won't every change.
- TRANSFORM don't CONFORM. Stand your ground. In other words, if I'm having trouble with everything around me and not fitting in, God is leading me on the right track.
Thank you God for the most encouraging, comforting message that reached my entire being. Thank you for letting me know vividly that you are listening to me and you are seeing my struggles. Thank you for reviving the passion that I feel for the choices I am making. Thank you for letting me see that this path may be hard, but it is the RIGHT one for my family. Thank you. Simply. Thank You. Thank you for revealing more of me that needs to change to be more like you and for showing me which direction to go. Thank you for the worship that followed and the walls in me that came down. Thank you for letting me have the true heart of worship that I felt and for building more bridges and crushing more obstacles. http://http//www.youtube.com/watch?v=PH-snsXw1as Thank you for all the most incredible revelations of YOU that YOU are showing us as we try to be more about YOU and less about US! Thank you for your forgiveness and grace. Thank you for reminding us that we are TRULY free and not bound by the worlds standards. Thank you for loving me enough to not let me stay still or unchanged. Thank you for more than I could ever list.