Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Praising God in the Process...

6:00 am to 11:30 pm.
That's usually about the length of my day.

I wake up.
I get ready for the day (which usually includes inordinate amounts of coffee consumption).
I go to classes.
I leave classes.
I have a meeting or two, or depending on the day, I work in the office.
I get lunch.
I settle in for homework.
I do homework.
I try not to fall asleep (most times unsuccessfully).
I do some more homework.
I get dinner.
I go back to doing homework.
And more homework.
Before I know it, it's eleven o'clock (lately, it's been more like midnight, or one o'clock) and I can barely keep my eyes open to do one more assignment, paper, or problem.
I brush my teeth.
I fall in bed.
I sleep.
I repeat.

My life has fallen into this depressing little pattern I'd like to call the mid-semester blues.
Most days I feel like I have just enough to give so I can get by and make it through another day.
Most days I feel a little like I'm just trying to stay afloat.
Most days I feel like I'm just trying to do enough for tomorrow instead of being present in the moment's of today.
Most days my prayer is simply, give me today my daily bread. 

Thrilling, right?!
I guess it does get a little more exciting than that some days. Like, last night my roommate and I decided to reward ourselves for our studying by playing a midnight round of Scrabble. It was more stress-inducing that relaxing, but it was well worth it.
Side note: I'm thinking about contracting my current life story out for someone to make a documentary on it. I'm sure it'd make millions. Ya think?

Any ways, back to the story here:

I hear people doing fun things outside my window, but I can't join.
Too busy. Too many things to do.
I'm invited to hang out and talk.
Got an exam and paper due tomorrow! Sorry, we'll have to push it back until I'm not so busy.
I haven't held conversations longer than five minutes with some of my best friends here in quite some time.
I'm unable to go home for my sister's baby shower this weekend because of the million and one things that have to get done.
And all day I keep asking God for just enough time to sit down in His presence to rest and talk. 
All day I'm crying out to God for a period of rest, a long period. A season of filling and revelation. A season where I can just spend my day in His presence, physically worship and learning more about Him.

But, right now that's not the season I'm in.
Right now, it's quite the opposite...and I'm thankful that God knows me better than I know myself. He knows what He's doing with me and why He has me here.
He. Knows.

A few weeks ago I was getting in my car to drive home for my sister's (first!) baby shower and I kept thinking to myself, boy, I wish I could just be there already. I've only got a day there and I hate to waste so much time driving. Hurry up, car. Let's get there! 

And, God so graciously reminded me in that moment that it's about the process. There will be MORE THAN ENOUGH time at the destination. But, for now I have an entire drive to praise Him, praise Him in the process.
And so I did just that.
I rolled the windows down, cranked up the worship, and praised God all the way up to Michigan.
The drive flew by, powerful and refreshing, and before I knew it I was there.
And God was right (fancy that!) there was more than enough time.

And tonight, as I walked back from my night class at nine, I was thinking about the unfinished (did I say unfinished? I meant, un-started...) reading due tomorrow which has taken a back seat to the the unfinished six page study guide for an exam I have tomorrow, which has taken a back seat to the research paper and lab project that was due today.
And I started to get a little (and by that I mean ALOT) overwhelmed.

But God is. So. GOOD.
As I sat here staring at the blank second page of my study guide, He reminded me to be a daughter that praises Him in the process, especially when it's a process I don't understand or particularly like. He reminded me of some wise words I heard a while ago: whatever you focus on, you empower.
Lord, help me to focus on You rather than the circumstances.

So, tonight, as it approaches 11:00 pm and I settle in for a few hours of studying and trying to keep my eyes open, I'm going to crank up the worship (hope you weren't planning on sleeping, roomie!) and I'm going to praise God in the process.
I'm going to talk to God about how the electron transport chain leads to the production of ATP and how many substrate molecules an enzyme can process in a second. (P.S. if you know the answers to either of those, you're more than welcome to share. :)) ) And then He and I are going to discuss deep philosophical things as I read and write about a book I have yet to actually start...

It's going to be a beautiful process full of worship, hope, and faith...

Yep, we're going to get there, friends....

Monday, September 2, 2013

A Faith Like Abe's...

I find myself saying that a lot lately.

Not in the "annoyed-taking-the-Lord's-name-in-vain" way, but rather in the quiet "oh-I-need-you","I'm-breathing-you-in", "please-hold-me-up" type of way.

What's been going on lately?
One word: change.

So much change. So many new things.
New people.
New job.
New dorm.
New classes.
New church.
New, new, new.

In the midst of all this newness and change I am trying desperately to cling to the same, steadfast, holy God that I know... but even He feels different.
Not moving.
Dare I say....stale?

I'm feeling kind of like a dry and thirsty desert plateau right now.
And this is a problem for me....a very BIG problem.

All I want to do is run and jump in a big, cold Jesus puddle and soak for eternity.
I want to go where God is moving and pouring out revelation and I want to be fed.
I want to be a part of a community that equips, trains, and pulls me closer to God and out of this plateau.
I want to be lost in God's presence rather than a mountain of school work.
I want to be able to read and understand the word, dissecting it piece by piece to hear God's voice.

And I simply can not figure out why I am here.
Because a lot of times, it's sure not where I'd like to be.

Please forgive me if this sounds like I'm whining and complaining.
If it helps, just imagine what God feels like when I tell Him this stuff All. The. Time.

But on a less whiney note: the other day I went to visit my sweet friend, Mikayla. We've known each other since we were in diapers and I am eternally grateful for the bond we have. She's one of the most incredible women that I've ever come to know and her love for God and His children is contagious. She interns for a ministry called Break the Grey and lives in a house with like twenty other interns.

After an evening of gabbing and driving around Fort Wayne, she and I sat in her closet, trying to get some peace and quiet to talk.
As I began to share my heart and frustrations with her, she pulled out her bible and flipped to Hebrews 11...a chapter God has been taking me to for weeks.

It's a chapter about faith.
Big faith.
Really big faith.

You should take a minute to go read it.
Seriously...go. Read it. I'll even make it easy for you. Just click here: Hebrews 11

Last week my boss read that chapter to me and said, "What would verse 41 say about you? By faith, Lauren.....what?"

And as we sat in that little closet, as melodramatic as it might seem,  God started to show me exactly what verse 41 would say.

By faith, Lauren left her family and friends and followed God's instructions to go to an unfamiliar place for reasons she didn't understand.
By faith, she stayed and invested herself for a year, taking little steps of obedience throughout.
By faith, she returned to her home town, rented a house, and did as God asked her to do for a summer...even though it made no sense to her.
By faith, Lauren packed up once again and returned to a town that was not her home, even though that meant her desires and longings had to be put on hold.
By faith, Lauren took a new job that paid far less money for far more work.
By faith, Lauren is holding tight to God's steadfast plan even though she has no idea what it is.

As Mikayla and I talked she kept telling me I was Abraham and I kind of just shrugged it off.
Yea right. I've read Abraham's story like four times this week, and the promised land and Huntington are two very different places.

And then God hit me with this:

This isn't the promised land.
This is a process. This is the journey to the promised land.
Duh, Lauren!

Abraham didn't just snap his fingers to get to the promised land and receive God's blessing of countless descendants. There was a journey he had to step into first and he spent years pursuing God's promises to him.
Thank you, Abraham, for teaching me such an awesome faith!

If verse 41 were about me, I think it would end a little something like this:
"But, God has yet to show her the promised land. So, by faith, she waits...."

And thus concludes my therapy session for the week. :) I hope it blessed you to read this as much as it blessed me to work through this and write it. And I pray that you find your Mikayla, because life is a lot more fun and a whole lot more bearable when you get to share it with friends like her. :)

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Spirit Knows No Time...

There are few things in this life that I can put all of my weight on, trusting that they're trustworthy and everlasting. In fact, there is only one thing.
And that one this is Jesus.

And, once again, He has reminded me of His total and complete trustworthiness, His adoration of me, and His everlasting patience and grace.

These last several months my heart has been really struggling with feeling out of place. And it only gets worse with time. I am so deeply passionate about intercultural orphan, elderly, and special needs care that walking around, doing very little investing in others and a whole lot of allowing God to invest in me, feels a little pointless and selfish.
Going to an expensive college, even though that's where God has asked me to be, doesn't feel like it is really doing me, or anyone else, any good. And I don't really like that.

These last couple weeks I had actually made up my mind that God didn't want me to go back to school.  made up my mind and decided that God finally realized He'd made a mistake. He finally realized I would be much more useful elsewhere.  
Thank goodness! The God of the universe had finally come to His senses...

And then the other day I was talking to God and asking Him what He wanted me to do instead of going to school, because obviously He didn't want me there (ya know, because it's not helping anyone and such). And, as we were talking, God told me something really smart. He told me that I was far too invested in this topic and that I couldn't hear Him clearly. He then told me to seek prophetic word on the subject.

So I did.
This last week I had a prophetic couple pray over me without giving them any background and they immediately spoke straight to the issue. And with their prayers came some supernatural impartation of wisdom.

The Spirit knows no time.
My spirit sees a door and knows that door is where God is calling me, but it doesn't operate in time, so it feels out of place. Even though God fully intends to open that door in His perfect timing, my spirit feels like it should be open now and is frustrated that it's not. But, my body and mind operate in the realm of time and they have a journey that God wants to take them through before He opens the door.

So good, right?!
Maybe God has better plans than me after all. :)

And because God is so good, He continues to reassure me that I'm right where He wants me to be.

My daycare job is great for a million and one reasons, but mainly because- as I attempt to lovingly care for lots of little, diapered booties- I find myself continually reminded of how God sees and cares for me as His child.

Yesterday, I was helping one of the little ones do a puzzle. We had maybe four or five of the inside pieces put together and she was trying to fit an outside piece into the picture, but the puzzle wasn't ready for that piece. She kept moving it all around the puzzle trying to force it to fit. And, as I could see the whole picture, I said, "Al, that's not going to work yet. We have to put some of the other piecs in first."

And then God hit me with those same words.
"Lauren, that's not going to work yet. We have to put some of the other pieces in first. Trust me, though, I can see the whole picture and it is going to turn out beautifully."

So, even though I don't understand why the door isn't open and even though I would so much rather NOT be going into debt at an expensive school, I am simply following God's call out of obedience and in fifteen days I will be heading back to a school I'm really trying to fall in love with.

But, in the meantime I am trying to live in the here-and-now. Last night I went to my parents and had dinner with them and my siblings (and my unborn nephew!!). I enjoyed playing poker, laying on the floor talking, and having like an hour long iPhone-lightsaber dual that had me really working up a sweat. (seriously, if you have an iPhone you need this lightsaber app!) I enjoyed having my brother come over and sleep in the guest bed to "protect me with his muscles" from anything that might harm me in the dark of the night. And now, I am enjoying sitting in my pajamas at noon, drinking coffee and watching a movie/blogging with my brother on a lazy saturday morning/afternoon.

Honestly, the here-and-now is looking pretty darn good. Sometimes I just need to readjust my glasses and get a better perspective and I am so thankful that God so graciously reminds me of how to do that.

Now, here's a song that makes me feel so honored and so unworthy all at the same time. Be blessed and encouraged and know that God has memorized you, knows you, and has a perfect plan for you that He is going to unveil at just the right time. He has purposefully put each star in the sky right where He wants it. How much more then will He take care of you?!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Cobwebs & Barn Fires....

I frequently say, "Wow! It's been a while since I last blogged."
But this time, after almost two months away from the blog, it is really called for. 

Wow! It's been a while since I last blogged! 
The lack of blogging is not because God has not been working in my life. In fact, it's quite the opposite. This summer, God has taken hold of me- every last part of my body, mind and soul- and totally shook things up. Honestly, there is far too much for me to even begin writing about, and most of it is a little more personal than I'd like to share with thousands of offense, of course. :)

This season has become a bittersweet, painful, and tender time of allowing God to clean out the hundreds of cobwebs that have so taken root in my soul. While it is unbelievably unpleasant and at times downright unbearable, God has continued to promise that a beautiful reward lies at the end of this season. I am clinging tight to His promise that He will not leave me in this place of being raw and so miserably undone. In this season, I am choosing to blindly follow Him as he cleans me out, washes me down,  and makes me more like Him. 

It is a day to day walk. 
Each day, God works on something new that has taken up an unhealthy root in my spirit. 
Sometimes it takes more than a day, sometimes more than a week. And some things it's taken two months...and we're still not there, yet. 
But, God. Is. GOOD. 
And I know this season is not in vain. 
Each time one of those ugly roots is cut off, I feel a little more of God's presence fill me. I feel a little less of myself. I feel a whole lot of relief. And I feel God's unrelenting love wash over me like never before. 

He. Is. GOOD!! 

Tonight,  as I was driving home from a trip to the grocery store and a sweet dinner with my brother, I saw large billows of black smoke coming from a road nearby. My stomach dropped. I knew the road well, and knew it had to be a house or a barn. I quickly turned the corner to see that it was, in fact, an amish barn completely engulfed by thick, orange flames. It was a fire bigger than I had ever seen in my life and as we drove by you could feel the heat through the car, even though the fire was over a hundred yards away.
After passing, I slapped a quick turn, racking my brain to see if I could help in any way. Fire trucks were on their way and ten or so neighbors and passerbys were out of their cars and houses filming the scene.

 (just for reference, I fought the urge to go up to each person that was filming, rip their phones out of their hands, throw it into the fire, and then usher them away from the the most Christian way, of course....but I refrained. Thankfully, God has taught me self-control. ;) )

Anyways, back on track, Lauren. The family of the burning barn was in the neighbors yard, looking miserably overwhelmed and distraught. I thought I could jump out and go comfort them, and just about as soon as I did I looked down the road to see about twenty to thirty amish men, women, and children biking and running to the family's side. My arms rippled with goosebumps as I admired the God-given community come running when their brothers and sisters were in need. 

This fire has stuck with me all night. It's literally tearing me up in side. And I haven't been able to figure out why until just a few minutes ago. 

I am that family. 

I am sitting here watching God destroy a lot of things in His Holy fire. 
I am overwhelmed and distraught, waiting for the fire to just be over, but knowing that even in this He has purpose and is so incredibly Holy and good. 

And the beautiful thing is this: God has placed a community of people around me who have willingly run over the hill to be by my side to encourage, comfort, and facilitate all that God is doing. 

And the even more beautiful thing is this: at the end of the fire, a new barn gets to go up. This time God is the architect who so graciously and lovingly knows exactly what beams go where. He knows exactly where to drill and hammer. He knows exactly what materials I need. He knows it all. And He is promising to make me a new and better barn. 

And, boy, does that sound good. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Did I Just Get Married?

It's official: my computer has dust on it.
When I'm not on it everyday for classes and whatnot, I just don't really use it...and I hate to admit it, but I start to neglect this pretty little blog that I have.

But, fear not. I have things to share!
For those of you that are frantically searching this post to see if I actually tied the knot, look no further:
No. I did not run off and get hitched. 

But, boy, somedays it sure feels like it.
Except, my new "groom" is a six foot tall, beautiful woman who loves to cook, make her own clothes (she's literally doing that as we speak), and talk about Jesus all. the. time. 

I know this is a strange analogy, but in these last two weeks I've gotten a crash course in what I presume marriage would be like.

I'd just like to preface this blog entry with this: this was tough to write, simply because it's exposing a real struggle that Liv and I are facing. I was very intentional about her being a part of this entry so that we both approved of what was being shared. So, just know that this is not me whining or taking jabs at her, but rather our mutual assessment of what's been going on and who we each are.

I'm sure marriage is a wonderful thing, but I know the first year is one of the hardest for a lot of couples. It's a blending of two worlds and all that mushy-sappy-tough stuff.
But imagine this: my "courting" period was about five months.
We met.
We went to St. Louis to an awesome conference.
We fell in love with God.
God started to unveil a friendship.
We started pursuing Him and ministering together.
And God has been growing our friendship ever since.
And then we got a house and moved in together...

....and we realized how little we really knew about each other....

It has been a blending of two completely different worlds, mindsets, personalities, and backgrounds. In our spiritual walks, Liv and I are so similar and understand each other so well.

But in the earthly realm she's whimsical and I'm calculated.
She naturally makes messes and doesn't mind them, whereas I can't stand them, try to avoid them, and will clean up every small ounce of one if one happens to be made.
She can bounce from topic to topic and I like to process one thing at a time.
I love to think and she loves to verbalize.
She loves to start ten things at once and doesn't mind if some of them don't get done and I have to do one or two things until they are finished.
She gets her rest from an empty house and I can't stand one.
I'm intentional and careful with my words and she says things freely and without much thought.
She's black and white and I'm grey.
And the list goes on...

That's how we would each describe our personalities.
Obviously, they're very different.

God carefully and specifically designed each of us exactly to his liking, knowing just how he would use each of our traits and quirks for His Kingdom. But, we are not perfect. Neither of us has reached a place of Christ-likeness, and we have some serious flaws that God is working on. And sometimes that's hard to remember.
Really hard.

I'll be humbly honest, there are so many moments where I get caught up in the way I'm doing things that I refuse to accept that there are other ways. I get annoyed because we can't communicate effectively. Or I get frustrated because she isn't doing something "right" (which I narrow-mindly define as my way).
For the last week or so the two of us got so caught up in making our lives work and mesh that we kind of forgot the fact that we are supposed to be operating in and for a different, much less stressful realm called the Kingdom.

So today we went out to have some coffee and DTR.

(For those that don't know what a DTR is, it means Define the Relationship. It usually occurs at some point in one's dating relationship and is pretty self explanatory. You sit down and talk about where your relationship is headed. Obviously, that's not really what we intended for our coffee date to be, but it seemed a lot like one.)

As we sat and talked today, we realized how much we had lost the vision. The day to day things had affected our attitudes to the point that neither of us was really putting in much effort. Here God has entrusted us with a house and a summer full of plans and we were selfishly caught up with ourselves and what we each wanted or didn't want, liked or disliked.
Needless to say, our talk was long and full of repentance, apologies, and reassessing. And honestly, I think God's plan looks a lot different than I originally thought, but He is God and He gets to plan whatever He wants. It's my job to follow, not to make the plans and sometimes not even to understand them.

So here we are.
Two really strange and unlikely "newlyweds" who are now at a point that they have gotten over themselves and realized that they are not enough to make this thing work. If this summer is about us, then it's not worth it.
We are ready for God to step in and take control, pulling each of us into something far greater than we could have ever imagined.
As we live in the natural, it's not always the easiest of times...but God didn't call us to live in the natural. He called us to live in the supernatural. He called us to live in His Kingdom, relying on Him rather than ourselves.

Lord, help us as we learn how to do that.

And now, a goofy picture...just because. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Two Girls and a Lake House...

It's hard to believe that these past nine months are done and I'm now standing in front of three months of summer. I look back on the person I was nine months ago and I chuckle.
She had no idea what God was about to do in and through her.
She had no idea how much God was going to change her and reveal himself to her.

And as I look past these next three months and try to put myself at the end of them I hear those exact same things rolling through my mind.
God isn't done here.
In fact, He is just getting started.

At the beginning of the year-when all I wanted to do was move home, go to community college, and live on the same road as the rest of my family- a lady across the road from my parents passed away and her children put her house up for sale.
I had always adored this cute, yellow lake house and I specifically remember walking past it one day and saying, "God, I want that house. That's all I want. I thought I wanted to go to school, travel and serve you, but really all I want is to live right there in that house."
To which I heard God clearly speak and tell me, "I can give you that, but that's not where you will stop. I have much greater plans for you and that is not where you will stay."
So, obviously, I brushed that off and continued going to school.

Of course at that point, I had no idea what lay ahead of me in the next eight months.
I had no idea that in April I would go to a conference with my friend Liv and that we would both get a vision for us to become interns at my church, get a place together, work, and be active in ministry over the summer.
But that's exactly what happened.
So, as she and I stared at this huge and daunting vision for our summer we started to chip off little pieces.
See if an internship is possible, find a place for her to work, find a place to stay, figure out if we can afford this, figure out if this is rational....and the list goes on....
As things started to fall into place, the only thing that still felt unbearably daunting was finding a place to live. Apartments were incredibly expensive and most wouldn't do a three month lease. People within the church offered to lend an extra room, but we held tight to the vision that God had given us for living in a place of our own.

And then I remembered my conversation with God earlier in the year about the little, yellow lake house. He said "...that's not where you will stop." But, before that He said "I can give you that."
"I can give you that."
"I can give you that."
"I can give you that."

I don't know if you heard me when I said that apartments were expensive and way out of our budget, but I will say it again. Apartments were expensive and way out of our budget.
So the prospect of an entire, furnished house was basically a joke.

I prayed about it for a few days and it continued to rest at the forefront of my mind, so rather than praying about it, we started praying for it. For two weeks Liv and I prayed and fasted for the yellow, lake house. With about a week before we had to move, we decided it would probably be best if we called the owners to see if they would want to rent it, even though it was on the market for sale. And also to see if it was something we could fathomably afford.

So I called.
I never mentioned a price, but we talked for a while and she said she would get back to me. I expected it to take several days before she called back with a decision, but within a few hours I got a call back and we had the house....for half the price of what an apartment would have cost, might I add.
How God did that, I'm still trying to wrap my head around.

So here I am-
sitting in a beautiful, little lake house and waiting for Liv to move in this evening.
All I have is oatmeal, popcorn, tea and about 3,000 spices in my cupboards, but I somehow had enough to feed myself and guests last night. I leave the room when I find a spider because no one is here to kill it for me. I am overly protective of all the antique breakables and I have a mini-panic attack when my sisters daycare kids come storming through the house. I barricade myself in the bathroom when I hear a strange noise, because I'm convinced that a murderer has just broken in.
Honestly, I'm not sure how this is going to go. I'm in some new territory and I have no idea what this summer holds, but I do know that it hasn't even begun and God has poured out His blessing and favor upon us in an incredible way.
These next three months are going to be an adventure, for sure! But I'm pretty confidant in the man behind the wheel.

Now sit back and enjoy this view with me.....

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Miracles, Signs, and Wonders...

A few weeks ago my friend Liv and I got this great idea to go to a conference called Miracles, Signs, and Wonders.
You'd think that going into this conference I would be expecting huge, extravagant, miraculous things being performed by wild, Spirit-filled believers....but I wasn't. To be honest, I'm not sure what I was expecting.
Something a little more normal I suppose.
Something subdued and peaceful where everyone just loved Jesus and when they bumped into each other they'd be miraculously healed and pixie dust would sprinkle over them and they'd giggle and lift their hands in soft, quiet, meditative worship.

Okay, maybe not quite that extreme, but you get the picture....
And as I walked into the church on the first day and took my seat I slowly began to realize I was pretty far off base with my expectations.
I come from a fairly charismatic church, so I'm used to a pretty expressive worship.  But then Kevin Dedmon came out and spoke about the power of laughing over desperate situations.
Yes, laughing.
I was oh-so-confused.

I watched as people were doubled over in laughter at seemingly nothing.  "Amen!" "Come on!"and "WOAH!" were flying around the church every few seconds. People would stand, jump, scream, shake, fall....and the list goes on.
Needless to say, I was a little out of my comfort zone.

The first day came and went and I left quite a skeptic.
I knew the Spirit was powerful!
I knew He encountered people!
But this?
Making people act drunk and, for lack of a better and nicer term, CRAZY!?
Was that the Spirit? The same Spirit that was living in me on a daily basis???
I just wasn't so sold.

I'm pretty sure this was the point that God smirked and said, "Challenge accepted."

Day 2 came and Patricia King spoke an amazing message that brought no clarity whatsoever.
They moved into a time of worship and then they did an alter call for something or another. I watched as people flooded to alter and were slain in the spirit (for those of you that are like I was and don't know what that means being toppled over and pinned to the ground under God's power).
This "being slain in the Spirit" was one of the things I questioned the most. I watched as people fell to the ground and I couldn't help but doubt.
They are doing it just for show. 
They think that's what they're supposed to do. 
It's all a mind game. 

And as I sat in my chair and doubted what I was seeing I heard God give me a little challenge, "If it's all just a show and a mind game, then go down there and stand."
Challenge accepted.
We now had me challenging God and God challenging me...obviously, we all know who is going to win here.

I walked down the aisles and made it to the alter and I stood there.
I'm standing.
I win.


Down I went.
Into a row of chairs.
And eventually onto the ground.
And, judging by the massive scuffs on my boots, apparently everywhere else.

People continuously came and prayed over me and I have never in my life felt such power coursing through me. My entire body felt like it had electricity running through it.
My mind ran in and out of visions and reality.
God spoke so deeply and clearly to my soul that I could hardly hold myself still.
Some incredible things happened as I laid there on that floor, slain under God's mighty power.

I tried to get up a few times, but to no avail.
So, I just laid there and let the Spirit wash over me.
Eventually, people stopped praying...and the alter got quiet except for the rolls of laughter coming from a lady laying on the ground beside me.
I tried to get up, but couldn't.
So, I just laid there some more.
....and then some more....
....and then a little more....

After almost two hours of laying on that floor I was finally able to sit up.
The church was pretty much empty.
People had all left for lunch.
Liv sat next to me on my left and this laughing lady was rolling around on my right.
She'd been belly laughing for two hours.
TWO. HOURS! Ummm...OW!
Nonetheless, her laugh was incredibly irresistible and contagious and before long we had joined in.

So, there the three of us sat.
One a stranger and the two of us blissfully bewildered at her laughter.
I'm sure it was quite a beautifully strange scene.

From that point on, God changed me.
That Spirit, the one that threw me on the floor and sent electricity through my veins for two hours, is the one that is living in me at this very moment. It is the same Spirit that is living in me as I check out at the grocery store or sit in class. It is the same Spirit that fills me during worship, even in this traditional and conservative environment.
That Spirit's power is in me on a daily basis and I have been given authority to use it to advance the Kingdom.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Texas Sized Footprints...

For spring break this year I journeyed to the wonderful state of Texas with my beautiful cousin Alesha.
My great aunt and uncle (basically my third set of grandparents) moved down there this last fall and it was time for me to make good on my promise to come visit them.

I wish I could describe to you how incredible they are.
I don't have enough time or space to do that, though.
So, take my word for it...they are incredible. 
These last few years they have seen some rough times...some really rough times to be exact.
And yet, through it all they have praised God and allowed Him to be their rock and strength.
I can not even begin to tell you what incredible role models and mentors they are in my life!

You could say I was a little excited to go spend a week with them!

Leading up to Texas (and all throughout this year, really) I've been struggling with trusting in God's provision. It's not that I didn't trust Him per se ...but I just never felt fully provided for in this earthly realm. I felt like God's calling carried a bigger price tag than I was going to be able to come up with.
And I think that was kind of His point.

As a result of my skeptical trust, I rarely found myself giving freely of my money...if at all.
And for weeks before my trip I kept hearing God tell me to prepare myself for a lesson in His provision and giving.

Great! I am already feeling a huge financial burden, God! The last thing I need is for you to ask me to give all my money away to someone on this trip. Please just don't ask me to give away all my money. PLEASE. 

So, I budgeted. And I use that term loosely...because it's really hard to budget when you don't really have any money to work with.
But, I budgeted anyways. And I set aside so much for gas and so much for meals....and so on.

Our first meal of the trip was payed for by my lovely mother who came down to Huntington to say farewell. Alesha and I left the tip and chalked it up to a nice start to our vacation.

And then we began the journey.
After twenty hours of driving, we hit a little speed bump and had to make an unforeseen pitstop at a hotel. That's not in the budget God! We can't afford this! 
So, we found the cheapest motel we could find (note to self: saving money on a hotel is not always worth it) and we crashed...or at least we tried to. With the fighting out back, the dirty sheets, and the broken heater, it was all we could do to get a few hours of shut eye that night!
The next day we had a meal with a friend who lived nearby...once again, the tab was picked up and we were left with the tip.

And then we drove some more….and some more….and some more.Eventually, we made it! Safe and sound.

We went out for dinner…ironically enough, to Texas Roadhouse…in Texas. As we got ready to leave I went to pay for my meal, only to find my wonderful Papa had already payed. Our conversation went a little something like this.“Papa! No, please. I can get it!”“It’s already done, Lauren. You’re taken care of.”“Well at least let me leave the tip.”“Nope. It’s already done.”“Well, you’re not going to pay for things this the whole trip!”“Okay, maybe you can pay tomorrow…”“Okay.” 
Silly me. So naive!

The next day we had the same conversation…and once again, he won. Day in and day out, he continued to pay for meals, tickets, gas…everything. From that first night to the moment we left I don’t think I payed for a single thing. Not. One. Single. Thing.

Of course, their financial provision was an incredible blessing…but it also revealed to me that lesson God had promised me. Through their generous giving God simply reminded me: I will provide. If He has called me to it, He has a plan to see it through.

And as I’m piling up a mountain of school debt, struggling to pay off the last of my car, and feeling called to take a trip this summer that my part-time job simply hasn’t given me enough money for I hear God saying the same words of my Papa,“It’s already done, Lauren. You’re taken care of.”

There He is, standing at the end of my life, knowing exactly how He is going to provide in this tiny, minute little situation. He’s already payed the whole bill, tip and all. No amount of “speed bumps” or pitstops are unforeseen to Him, nor do they throw Him off. He knows exactly how He is going to provide.

So, I’m going to praise Him for the provision He has already planned…whatever that may be!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Broken, but Rejoicing...

Almost one year ago I walked into Loving Hearts Babies Home in Uganda, Africa. It was maybe my third or fourth day in the country and I had met my fair share of adorable and lovable babies, children, and orphans.
But, I will never forget walking into Loving Hearts and laying eyes on this little man, Jonathon. Something about those big, brown eyes hit me and screamed for me to come pick him up....which, of course, I DID!
I've never fallen so in love, so quickly. Every free moment of my time at the orphanage was spent rocking, feeding, and cuddling this precious little guy.
He couldn't talk, walk, or sit up by himself. He hardly ever smiled or expressed emotion.
And yet, he taught me so much about the orphaned heart, and, in turn, my own heart and the Father's love for His children.
For a little over two weeks I bonded with Jonathon.
I honestly can't think of words that would accurately express how in love I was with this boy.

And was time to go.
Back to the states.
Back to "normal" life in which I didn't get to share the love of the Father with sweet, little orphans every day.

To be honest, it was hard....but not as hard as I thought it would be.
I said goodbye to all the little kiddos, saving Jonathon until the last.
I rocked him, snuggled him, kissed him.
And I whispered my love and the love of His Father in his ear.
Then I tucked a cute little teddy bear I had brought as a gift into his bed with him and I said goodbye.

The end.
...but, it wasn't.
Secretly, I had a continuation of this story already played out in my mind.

Me adopting him was out of the question because Uganda has pretty strict adoption laws, but trust me I thought of trying.

BUT, some incredible friends from my church were adopting, specifically a little boy from that very orphanage. They had yet to be matched with their boy, but I had already planned it all out in my head.
Jonathon was theirs.
He was the one they were going to be matched with.
I just knew it!

So, goodbye wasn't that hard.
It was more like a smirky, "see ya' later..."
...because I thought I had it all figured out.

But, let me tell you....I did not.

Since leaving I have continued to pray and have firmly believed that somehow Jonathon would be matched with this family and that I'd be able to watch him grow up in their loving, wonderful, and Christ-filled home.
I was positive that was God's plan.
In fact, just Thursday night, I sat and talked with a missionary who had just spent time in Africa and she shared about a little boy she grew so close to while she was there. Her story reminded me so much of Jonathon and I. But, unlike Jonathon, her little boy was reunited with his parents, so the likelihood of her seeing him again was slim.
I prayed that God would somehow work a miracle and unite this perfect family from my church with Jonathon.

But, God's ways are not my ways and His thoughts are not my thoughts...and He had a different plan.

Friday, I was sitting in a class when I felt my phone go off.
Usually I don't check my phone during class, but for some reason I did...maybe out of boredom (it was a particularly dry day in perspectives on literature) or maybe, subconsciously I knew I needed to.

So, I peeked at my phone to find a picture message.
I couldn't see the picture, but I could see the message was from this beautiful momma of this "perfect" family for Jonathon, and the message read: So sad. I'm fighting tears. Do you follow ARM (the ministry that Loving Hearts is under) on Facebook?

My heart sunk.
Something had happened.
Something bad.

I wanted to look at the picture to see what it was, but  I waited to get back to my room to open the message...just in case...

Please, Lord, just not Jonathon. 

I walked into my room and skipped looking at the message all together.
I got on ARM's Facebook page, going straight to the source.

And there before my eyes, was exactly what I dreaded.

A week ago Jonathon had fallen and hit his head pretty hard.
The orphanage thought he was okay, but Thursday night around 10:00 o'clock, Jonathon passed away.

Just like that.
From bumping his head.
His sweet, little, precious brown head....

Needless to say, I had a mini breakdown...(and by mini, I really mean full blown sob-fest.)
I was crying and praying and crying some more...

How could this be Your plan, God? 
This wasn't the way things were supposed to happen!
From bumping his head? Really? Did anyone even take him to the doctor? Was he in pain and no one knew? 
How is that even possible? If that happened in the states, he never would have died!
It something like that happened, there would be lawsuits of all kinds! 
God, I was supposed to see him again! 
He was supposed to be adopted into this perfect family!

And then, in the midst of my tears, I heard what words were coming out of my mouth.
"Lord, You are still sovereign. Even now, You are still holy."

My own words hit me full force.
Yes, even now...even when I just want to scream and yell at God and question His plans...even now, no matter the circumstance, He is still so Holy and so incredibly Sovereign.

God has a much bigger plan in place here- one that is far greater than the one I had played out in my mind.
And now, just as I had asked, Jonathon is dancing in the presence of his perfect family...because there's really no more perfect family than the family of the Father.
So, even though my heart is broken, and my plans and dreams did not play out the way I hoped, I will rejoice in knowing that sweet little Jonathon has made it home to his Daddy and is no longer living as an orphan of this world.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

God is Gold...literally. (Part II)

Click here for Part I

That's the God I serve. 
That's the God that loves ME! 

My worship of Him is not so that I get tingly feelings, but to praise Him for His unimaginable holiness.
I don't come to Him to get things, feelings, or supernatural experiences.
I come to Him to get Him.

I don't come to him based on whether or not He is showing up in cool ways.
I come to Him to worship. 
I come to Him to simply stand in awe of His presence. 
He is Holy, Holy, Holy. 
A Holy I can't even fathom or explain.

Duh, Lauren! 

So, as I sat in reverence of God I just prayed to enter into His presence and worship.
No strings attached.
No expectations or limits.
Just worship.
Because He's WORTHY.

And after quite a while I put away my books and decided to go to bed.
I walked to the bathroom and took out my contacts and I got what I thought was a head rush.
Gold sparkles started falling all around me and I blinked several times to clear my vision thinking I was seeing things.

But the gold continued to fall.
I jumped back from the counter and started looking around the bathroom.
Gold sparkles were falling everywhere.

WHAT?!  Who does that?! Who shows up in gold dust?!
God. That's who.

I stretched out my hands thinking some would land in my palms, but it just fell through.
So, I just stood there...completely unsure of what to do.
I honestly wish you could have seen this scene play out. I'm sure it was pretty entertaining!

And after maybe thirty seconds or so, the gold dust stopped falling and not a drop of it was left.
....and I just kept standing there....still totally unsure of what had just happened.
I walked out of the bathroom and had a conversation with my roommate that went something like this:

Me: "Clarissa..."
Clarissa: "Yea?"
Me: Uhmm...
Clarissa: "Yea?"
Clarissa: "Lauren?"
I tried to come up with some words that didn't make me sound absolutely crazy, but nothing came to mind, so I just turned around and walked back into the bathroom.
Clarissa: "Okay. Nice chat!"

I was literally dumbstruck.
I had no words.
God just showed up as sparkly gold dust....
....after I had just told Him that I wanted to worship Him for who He was, not the things, feelings, or experiences that He could give me.
What would you say??

Moral of this story: God does what He wants, when He wants, and how He wants.
He is Holy, Holy, Holy and He deserves my absolute adoration every second of every day.

If you're looking to experience God's supernatural abilities, my best advice for you is this: STOP.
Stop looking for what God can do for you and start worshipping him- simply worshipping who He is, how holy and deserving and wonderful He is.
In the words of one of the incredible speakers at Urbana, David Platt, "We don't come to Jesus to get things, we come to Jesus to get Jesus."

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

God is Gold...literally. (Part I)

Lately I've been on a journey of pursuing God in the supernatural.
The more I read the bible, the less I understand Him...and I LOVE it!
I want a God that I can't explain, define, or limit, and, for so long I have been able to do all of those things.

Like I said, I have been pursuing God in His realm instead of mine, but for the last few weeks I felt like I wasn't seeing much of Him.

I was also struggling with busyness.
School, work, and my social personality had taken me into a level of busyness that was distracting me from the King.
Yes, I lived my life for His glory and I adored Him with every breath I took, but I was failing to have intimate time with Him in prayer and in the Word.
I wasn't retreating and allowing Him to fill me because I had so many other things to do.

And then last weekend I was talking with Ruth Ann, an incredible woman of faith who is leading a small group for me and some other incredible women.
I was talking with her about wanting God to reveal Himself to me supernaturally. I didn't mention the fact that I had been struggling to spend intimate time with Him, but God gave her the perfect words to share with me.

"I think we'll start to see more of God in the supernatural when we start to develop an intimate relationship with Him that says, 'God, I know you can do whatever you want, whenever you want  to, and however you'd like and I just want to meet with you however you choose to reveal yourself."

Sometimes He might not show up with fire from Heaven or big booming words, but I assure you that He shows up.
He wants daily, intimate communion with you and me, even though we are all completely unworthy.

Through Ruth Ann's words I realized that the two strongest desires in my spiritual walk, intimacy with God and revelation of His supernatural power, were connected.

So, last week I refocused my goal.
Rather than pursuing God's supernatural power and revelation, I pursued Him....just Him...however He chose to reveal himself.

I grabbed my bible and the book I'm reading, Crazy Love by Francis Chan, and I intentionally sat down just to be intimate with God and to spend time with Him.
I've read the first few chapters of Crazy Love a million times, but I kept feeling God direct me back to chapter one.
So, I obeyed and the words of that chapter hit me with a fresh revelation.

Chapter one is focused on the fact that we can not and will not ever understand God.
We can not exaggerate Him.
We can not define Him.
He is beyond Holy.
Our words can't even describe Him because He is so Holy.

For the first time in my life I read Revelation four and it hit me.
That chapter in the bible describes the throne room of God.
If you need a good reality (or supernatural) check, here it is!

 After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne.  And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald.  Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal.

And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. And the four living creatures,each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,
“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
    who was and is and is to come!”
    to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
    and by your will they existed and were created.”
 And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
    and by your will they existed and were created.”

This blog entry is getting impossibly long...and I know how much everyone enjoys a good cliff hanger, so marinate on this verse and I will be back with more soon. 
Trust me, this story is just getting good. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Just Let Me Speak...

There were so many more things that happened at Urbana and I just don't have enough space or time to write them all out. But, something incredible did come out of one of the many things that God laid on my heart during that conference.

After my encounter with the Holy Spirit (see previous posts for more on that story) I felt like God was continually putting it on my heart to speak. I didn't know how...or where...or when. But, I just had this constant feeling that He was going to be asking me to speak.

As I studied Acts I began to realize how many times it talks about people speaking boldly for Christ after being filled with the Holy Spirit and I continued to feel God laying that on my heart, "You will do that, too."
"Okay. Mhm. Whatever you say, God."

Maybe I shouldn't have been so sarcastic...

I was driving home several weeks ago to surprise my family. I love my two hour drives because it gives me uninterrupted time to just spend in God's presence. I was chatting with God about the upcoming conference being held at my church (Grace Christian Fellowship) and I was telling Him that I didn't think I would go this year.
I felt like it was going to be at a bad time.
It was more for a younger age demographic.
Eh, just not for me this year.

And when I got done telling God my plans, He let me in on His,
"You're going to go and you are going to speak in a revolving door session." (revolving door sessions are where four speakers each get seven minutes to speak before an air horn goes off and the next person comes up to speak.)

I chuckled and chalked that thought up to a miscommunication between God and I.
Surely that was just a passing thought.
Surely they had already planned out who their speakers were going to be since the conference was only a few weeks away.
Maybe God meant next year....

A few hours later I got online, only to find a message asking me to speak in a revolving door session for the upcoming conference.
Welp, I guess God knew what He was talking about after all!

So, obviously, I agreed.
And then I began preparing.

Little factoid about me: I love to write, and I've been told time and time again that I do well at it. I can write speeches that have you in tears or in stitches, or, on a good day, both. I say that not to boast, but just to give you some background in the fact that writing and delivering speeches has been a gifting of mine.

So, I began preparing.
I sat down to write out an incredibly well put together speech that would captivate the audience.
But, every time I went to put my pen to paper I was taken back to Acts and all the stories in which people were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke boldly without any preparation or forethought.
This nagging feeling started to creep up into my heart, but I tried to brush it aside.

"God, I could do a really good job with this if You'd just let me prepare!"
"But, then who's power would you be relying on? Yours or Mine?"

This wasn't going as planned.
I sat down a few more times throughout the next few weeks, trying to plan out what I was going to say...but every time I did I heard God tell me simply, "Just let Me speak."

I wrestled with Him a little longer before finally relenting.
"God, I won't plan. You can speak. But, please...just give me words so I don't stand up there like a fool with nothing to say."

And that He did.

It came to the morning I was supposed to speak and I looked at my empty journal.
"God, I don't doubt you...BUT, I'm just going to jot a few thoughts down on this page in case I get up there and don't have anything to say."
So I wrote down a few notes and tried to piece together what I was going to say.
I was a little nervous to say the least.
Going into something like this unprepared was just not me...but I think that was the point.

Just before the revolving door session began, we worshipped to the song Whom Shall I Fear by Chris Tomlin.
Incredible song!
If you haven't heard need to! Click here to enjoy it.

The lyrics started to resonate in my heart:
I know who goes before me. 
I know who stands behind. 
The God of angel armies is always by my side. 
The one who reigns forever. 
He is a friend of mine. 
The God of angel armies is always by my side...

In that moment God flooded my mind with a vision of angels pouring down the walkway to the stage and then covering the stage with their light. To my left stood General God who looked at me and said, "I've already claimed this stage for you. You have all you need and nothing to fear."

Okay, God. Let's do this.
My turn came, and I took the mic with nothing in my head and a few words scratched out in my notebook.
I took the stage, sat my things down....and I silently shot God a prayer, "Okay. I'm ready for your words."
And I began to speak...and speak...and speak some more.
I'm pretty sure I could have gone on for hours.
At one point, I looked at my notebook to see if I was saying anything I had written down and it was simply gibberish.
So, I just kept moving my mouth and praying that God would keep talking.

I prayed.
And I left the stage.
And I couldn't believe God's goodness.

As I watched it back a few days later I couldn't help but think,
Man, that was good...but I could have said it better and more powerfully had I prepared.

And then God spoke to me through scripture.
1 Corinthians 2:1-5 says:
When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God's power. 

So, I'm learning to lean on the power of the Spirit and not on my own gifts and abilities.
I think there will come a time in which God is going to use my gifts to enhance the work of the Spirit, but I've relied solely on myself for too long and it's time to be completely dependent on Him for a change.

So, I'm learning to get out of the way.
I'm learning to let Him work, speak, and do as He pleases...and, unfortunately, it's not always the most comfortable route.
But, I guess God never promised that dying to oneself would be easy or pain free.
He did, however, promise that it would be worth it.

So, each day I die to myself a little more.
And, let me tell you, it's a painful process.

But, it ends in a beautiful victory of a Spirit filled daughter of God.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Holy Spirit (Part III)

God had my attention.
I was His.

And I wanted more.
I wanted so much more!

As I sat there continuing to pray with this lady...(sorry for continually referring to her as "lady". I don't remember her name, but to make her more personal we can call her Janice.)
So, Janice and I are continuing to pray together when I start to see something.

A fire, maybe?
It was getting closer...
Yep! Definitely a fire.

Almost as if on cue, Janice says, "Lauren do you see anything?"
"Fire. I see fire."
Even though our eyes were still closed in prayer, I could almost hear her smile as she said, "Yea! That's the Holy Spirit! Let's keep praying."

So we did.
We prayed.
And the fire came down.
It swept over my head and the burning came with it.
Every part of me was burning.
Janice's hand was on my shoulder and I think I mumbled something along the lines of, "Your hand! It's burning me!"
She laughed and moved it higher...but nothing could stop the burning. Every where her hand went the burning went.

It wasn't painful, but it was consuming.
It was cleansing.
It was renewing.
It was God like I'd never experienced Him before.

I could barely catch my breath as I clung to a little wooden cross that Janice had placed in my hands earlier.
My lungs could hardly keep up.
I could barely hold myself upright.
Tears were flowing and my nose was running. (Sidenote: at some point, I'm pretty sure I felt someone wipe my nose- Hey! I never said this Holy Spirit thing was pretty!)

My mind left me and my spirit began to speak for itself in a way that I had never heard before. Syllables spilled from my mouth in a language only God could understand.
And I wanted more.
Oh, how I wanted more!

I can't tell you how long I was there for.
I truly have no clue.
There was no concept of the outside world.
In those moments it was just Janice, Me, and God.

At some point the visions of fire died down and I sat up in my chair and looked at Janice with a look of pure amazement plastered across my face.
She sat there smiling back at me, and said, "Well it looks like you're not doing this on your own anymore! You were just baptized in the Holy Spirit!"

I wasn't even entirely sure what that meant, but I smiled- that was about all I could do at this point.
A guy came over and sat and talked with me for a while about what it meant to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. He explained to me all the things that the Holy Spirit does, and then he said to me, "Do you know how to hear the voice of God?"
"Umm..well, I've practiced journaling His voice and, ummm...."
"No," he said, "that's good, but if you asked God a question right now would He answer you?"
"No, I guess not."
"Okay, I want you to close your eyes."
I shot him a skeptical glance, but did as he said.
"Now, I want you to ask God out loud what He thinks of you?"
I opened my eyes and looked him over with a questioning glare, but he just smiled and told me to do it.
"God....what do you-" before the words even finished leaving my mouth an image of a rose came into my head and God began speaking so plainly through that single little flower. His words began flowing out of my mouth, bypassing my mind until my ears heard what I was saying. For several minutes God spoke and I sat there in awe of His power and love.
Then they explained to me what it meant to have a prophetic gift, and told me that God would be putting it into action.

And then they anointed me with oil.

Okay! So, to sum it all up we have...
Burning via an all consuming and imaginary fire: check!
Speaking in tongues: check!
Seeing prophetic visions: check!
Anointed with oil: check!
New revelation of God: check!

As I got up to leave the prayer room that day, I finally understood the words "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"

Yea, this was definitely a new me.
And God wasn't done yet...

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Holy Spirit (Part II)

Is it possible?
All these years, had I been worshipping myself instead of God?

Lets evaluate.

Did I kill myself trying to fit pieces of my life together?
Did I think that the things I did or didn't do would determine God's love for me?
In my head, no....but my life reflected a clear yes. 
Was I a victim of severe anxiety whenever I wasn't enough for a situation?
Did I secretly pride myself on who I was, where I'd come from, and what I'd done?
Unfortunately, yes....
Did I try endlessly to solve problems in my life and other people's lives in order to receive the glory instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to work in the problems and solve them for God's glory?
Ugh...definitely guilty.

This lady was on to something.

All of sudden the reality of this unrecognized sin I had been living in became all too clear and I doubled over in repentance before God.
How dare I.
All my life I'd been trying to make God look like me, when what I claimed to be doing was passionately seeking to look more like Him.

Tears came, my wind was gone, and all I could do was sit before God in absolute repentance.
God was so much more than I had ever even realized....or cared to realize, for that matter.
In that moment, and in these weeks that have followed, I realize how little I really know about God and how much I've made Him to look a lot like me.

One of the most sobering moments since that day at Urbana was when I was reading through Romans and came to Romans 9.  I know it's a little long, but read it. Its good stuff!

15 For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." 16 It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." 18Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. 19 One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" 20 But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?' " 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? 22 What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath--prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory-- 

This doesn't sound like the God I used to know.
What happened to, "God loves each of His children the same"?
Would God- sweet, loving, Daddy God- really create men and intentionally harden their hearts just so that he could display His wrath??

I would have just skimmed over this verse before, but, I reread it. I study it. I can't get enough of it.
Finally, God doesn't fit in my box.
Finally, I can't answer a question about Him.
Finally, I can't speak for Him.
And finally, I'm letting Him speak for Himself.

And the answer I feel like He's sharing with me is definitely not the one I would have chosen.
I hear God say,
Yes, I could do that.
I'm God.
I'm perfect in all my ways.
I am Almighty and Sovereign
and what I choose to do is perfect.
I could create objects just to display my wrath,
and I can and will do as I please.
And while you're on this earth,
you will never understand my ways."

Box? What box?
This God is one that just blew the box to shreds and is preparing to reveal Himself to me in a new way.
And. I. Can't. Wait.

So, back to the prayer room at Urbana....
I now realized that all these years I had been my own god,
and that I knew nothing about who God really was.
I had repented and emptied myself before God.
And now that I had died to myself, I needed something else to fill me.

And fill me, He did.

Stay tuned! The cliff hanger continues...

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