Learning To Savor

Recently as I was thinking about how I could eat less and get my weight back under control, these words came to mind.

“Savor the flavor.”

I realized that often lately when I ate, I gulped food down quickly, not taking the time to enjoy the taste of it. This was one of the reasons I tended to eat too much and yet found minimal enjoyment or satisfaction from food.

I’ll admit I have a problem with emotional eating. People like me who turn to food searching for some kind of emotional fulfillment or comfort are looking to feel better from eating, but forget to taste the foods we consume. Too often we will even continue to eat something that doesn’t taste good.

As I’ve been savoring the flavor of food lately, I’ve lost five pounds. I eat less because I enjoy what I’m eating. Aren’t peaches amazing? I still eat sweet treats, but much less of them. Also, I’m looking to the Lord to deal with my emotional turmoil.

Yesterday I decided I needed to apply “savor the flavor” to my spiritual life. Often I consume large portions of Scripture and spend time with God in prayer, but I fail to consistently savor my experiences with the Lord.

I take Bible verses for granted instead of celebrating this fact, “Wow; that promise applies to me!”

Today I looked up “savor” in the dictionary. This is what I read: “taste (good food or drink) and enjoy it completely” and “enjoy or appreciate (something pleasant) completely, especially by dwelling on it.”

I long to dwell on a consistent basis more deeply and fully on the Lord rather than having quick or distracted times of prayer and fleeting words of worship—going through the motions of devotions.

The verse that came to mind as I thought about this is Psalm 34:8: “Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” (NIV)

Am I really tasting the Lord in my present walk with Him? What does that even mean?

In the Bible Hub commentary I read this:

“in calling us to taste and see this, the psalmist means that we should seriously, thoroughly, and affectionately consider it, and make trial of it by our own experience; which is opposed to those slight and vanishing thoughts that men usually have of the divine goodness. It is not sufficient that we find him to be a bountiful benefactor to us, but we must relish and take delight in his goodness manifested in and by his gifts, and in the contemplation of his infinite perfections and boundless love; and must be so convinced and persuaded of his goodness, as thereby to be encouraged, in the worst of times, to trust in him, and cast our care upon him.”

The conclusion I have come to is that if I’m doubting His goodness or wondering if He really cares about me, I’m not “tasting” Him, which I see as being in deep union with Him. The Word and delving deeply into it is key to becoming or returning to being more vitally connected to Him.

Jeremiah 15:16 one of my favorite verses about this pursuit. “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart…”

As I let go of doubt and allow God’s Word to penetrate the deepest layers of my soul, His promise is that I will have joy and delight.

I’m going to savor that thought for a while.

Here’s a song to enter into fully and savor:

“O Taste and See” by Brian and Jenn Johnson

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Hurt By God’s People

Not long ago I attempted to become more connected to people at my church.

Because of having to work every other Sunday, working 12-hour shifts, and traveling often, I’m unable to attend church every week. I can listen to church online, but that’s not the same as being connected to people.

A while ago I was involved in a Sunday school class. The people in that class were my points of connection, and whenever I attended the class I felt connected to my church again and could find out everything that was going on. Unfortunately that class has disbanded.

So recently I decided to go to a prayer meeting that meets on Monday evenings.
I felt awkward—like an outsider—because of my disconnection.

And then something else came to my mind as I battled discomfort when I first went to the prayer meeting.

A part of me wanted to remain disconnected because of traumas I and my family had experienced at church.

I brought this up in the prayer meeting, and instead of expressing empathy and saying, “We’ll pray that you get over your traumas,” people proclaimed, “you need to move on” and other trite phrases to that effect.

When I tried to pray about something I discerned was a problem in the church—racism–certain individuals said, “That is not a problem in this church!”—even though I had seen it in action in church members.

One even said, “Racism is not a problem in our society” even though this was in the midst of videos playing repeatedly on the news showing policemen killing unarmed black citizens.

More trauma.

So I stayed away from the prayer group and felt myself moving back from being connected to church people.

Even though I knew there was power in forgiveness and felt I had forgiven, for some reason the things that had happened at my church still tormented me at times. What happened at that prayer meeting weighed on my mind.

Then I realized why God allowed the moments of torment.

There are scores of Christians who have been traumatized at their churches. God wanted me to know how they felt and reach out to them with comfort them as I write about this issue. Even though the church is doing some things right, there is much that is wrong with the church and God wanted me to be part of making things right by speaking truth and being bold in praying and saying as He led.

I had even thought of writing an article that had to do with my traumas. The title would be something like this: “Five Traumas That Made Me Want to Quit Church Life; Five Reasons I Stayed.”

One thing I know as a writer is that God allows me to have experiences that scores of others have, so I can write about them and bring hope. This is why God would not allow my hurts and heartaches to subside completely—because He wanted me to write more about this subject.

So many of the people who have been through hard times in church life have left the church and never returned. Some of have even turned away from God. I meet them on a regular basis. Some are my own relatives.

Not too long ago I read Wounded by God’s People; Discovering How God’s Love Heals Our Hearts by Anne Graham Lotz and more recently Soul Survivor; How Thirteen Unlikely Mentors Helped My Faith Survive the Church by Philip Yancey. These books helped me to feel connected to others who have been hurt in the church and to know that I am not alone. My delusion that godly people like Anne Graham Lotz would never be wounded by church people evaporated.

This is what she writes, “I too have been wounded by God’s people. Some wounds have been deeper than others, some seemed to come out of nowhere, some have been provoked by my own bad behavior, yet all of the wounds have been deeply painful. And they seemed to hurt even more when the wounders wrapped their behavior in a semblance of religion or piety.”

I realized that some of my rejections from church people were based on one of the reasons they rejected her—she spoke hard truths based on the Bible when people preferred lies and living like they pleased instead of in ways that would please the Lord.

So yesterday I went back to that prayer meeting. I realized Satan was trying to get me to stay away from church life, and my feelings about what the people in the prayer group said weren’t important. What was vital was me being in the prayer meeting praying about things they could not or would not see and perhaps to help them break through denial. I could also learn from them about the spiritual condition of our church and where prayer was needed. I could repent there of how I have fallen short as a member of the body of Christ. I could grow by being with people who viewed things differently than me.

When I first joined my church, God communicated that I was to be there to pray. For quite a while I prayed for an hour each week in the prayer room for our church, its leaders, members, and attenders. Then traumas that occurred in the church and in my family life drew me away from diligent prayer for too long.

But I’m back in the prayer room, and I’m back at my church with a determination to be connected. God healed one trauma (See last week’s blog), and He’s continuing to do a work in my heart in regard to my relationship to my church as I continue to pray.

I confess the sin of neglecting to fully answer God’s call to pray diligently for my church—to pray without ceasing.

Lately I’m being reminded that healing does not come from withdrawing from church life or holding on to bitterness or even trying to fix things in my own strength. God wants to heal each of us, but a saying that someone told me years ago holds true: “If you have been hurt by church people, healing must come through church people.”

When we leave the church or our connection to church people, we lose the opportunity for healing.

I want complete healing from the effects of traumas inflicted in my church life. The church is a place where hurt people hurt people, and I know that I will be hurt again. Also, I have to confess that I may have unknowingly traumatized others in the church. But on the other side of hurt is God’s healing. What a beautiful thing that is.

What about you? Have you been hurt by people in church? Are you ready to bring your hurts and heartaches to the Lord and receive healing and spread the truth about God’s healing power?

Will you join me in looking to the Lord–“…who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20 NIV)–for hope, help, and healing?

Listen to this song by MercyMe: “The Hurt and The Healer”

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A Miracle Happened Today

A miracle happened today.

When something this special takes place, a part of me doesn’t want to write about it because I can’t adequately put into words how extraordinary it is and how spectacular God is at answering prayer.

While sitting in church listening to a sermon about prodigals this morning, sadness welled up again in my heart for a special prodigal.

Then I saw a person across the church who had been rejecting of my prodigal while she was still walking with the Lord. Once again I realized bitterness had come back into my heart toward this person.

Not long ago at my women’s Bible study, we were encouraged to go to those we still felt bitterness toward and ask for forgiveness for holding on to it.

This person had come to mind, but how could I do this without making him feel bad? I thought. What happened was years ago.

So in church I decided to do what my Bible study teacher had taught us to do when we don’t know what to do. I asked the Father.

“God, how do I pray about this continued bitterness?” I wrote in my journal.

This is what the Lord laid on my heart:

HE IS (WAS) THE PICTURE OF THE FALSE CHURCH AND THE FALSE GOD WHO SAYS, “I WILL LOVE YOU IF…” (That’s how my own father ‘loved’ me.) WRITE ABOUT THE INCIDENT, ELAINE. I WILL HEAL YOU IN THE PROCESS. GOING TO HIM WILL NOT HELP. YOU WANT HIM TO APOLOGIZE. REMEMBER THAT HE DID WHAT HE DID OUT OF HIS WRONG IMAGE OF ME AND HIS INABILITY TO RECEIVE LOVE FROM ME AND PASS IT ON. FEEL BAD FOR HIM AND NOT BAD AGAINST HIM.

After the service I ran into someone who knew my prodigal, and I poured out some of my grief which had been stirred by the sermon even though the good news was that God would welcome her back the minute she turned around.

But still her turning around seemed impossible. And so did what I’m about to write. I confess I’m still having a hard time believing what’s on the front of my present journal: “With God all things are possible (Matthew 10:26 NIV). Today’s incident is moving me closer to being convinced.

As I talked in the hallway outside the bookstore, the person I had prayed about in church was coming toward me. We rarely crossed paths in our big church, and most of the time we attended different services. Also, I don’t remember him ever coming toward me while I was standing still. If I was in motion in the past, I could just move past him with a quick “hello.” And OK, I’ll admit it, I tended to avoid him.

The thought came to mind, God told me not to go to him, but he’s coming to me. Or is God sending him?

I greeted him warmly and held out my hand and shook his. As I did, something began to melt inside of me.

“We were just talking about my prodigal,” I informed him and said her name. I shared a few details, and the incident from the past naturally came into the conversation. Somewhere in the midst, the other person hugged me goodbye and walked away. I stood face to face with “the rejecter,” and I told him I had felt bitter toward him about his rejecting actions. As I spoke the words, I suddenly saw things from his viewpoint, and I had compassion for him. I repented before him about my bitterness and my placing some blame on him for my prodigal’s rejecting God.

I could not believe my boldness.

In the past I felt this person cared nothing about my loved one, but in the conversation I heard caring and compassion. He complimented my prodigal for the strengths he had seen in her.

In those few minutes together, God had begun to complete the healing in my heart. Yes, I believe He still wants me to write about it for a magazine to help others’ hearts to be healed, and for my healing to be utterly completed, but I felt free and refreshed.

And as this person walked away, he said, “Please give me her email address, and I will write to her.”

I wanted to cry.

Way back when after “the rejection,” I had asked him to please write to her to make things right between them, and he had refused.

As I rejoiced over what God did, I thought of what my husband and I had talked about earlier today–about the difference between watching church on the computer and going to church.

“If you don’t go to church, you miss the interactions with the people there,” I insisted, even though I often felt tempted after being hurt repeatedly in church circles to just become a cyber worshipper.

But if I had, I would have missed today’s miracle.

God is so good. And prayer does work—miracles.

“Forgiveness” by Matthew West

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God Is Not Against Me

“I am for you; I’m not against you!”

Those words poured forth emphatically from my car radio not long ago in a song sung by the group Hawk Nelson. Other songs I’ve heard in recent months gave the same message.

Whenever I hear a song that communicates God is for me and not against me, it touches something deep in my soul. I want to listen again and again to convince myself of this truth. Too often when circumstances turn out badly, prayers go unanswered, and people around me come against me harshly for minor mistakes, I feel God must be against me too.

After all, isn’t He perfect? People around me remind me repeatedly—and angrily–of my imperfections and how far I fall short from being the woman I long to be. Their rejections of me cause me to wonder, will God reject me too?

Yes, I do have a number of highly critical people in my life, but I’m also critical of myself.

Someone told me not long ago that I’m too hard on myself.

I realized it’s true that I can be hard on myself, and when I write it seems to come through. But that day God showed me there are many out there who are hard on themselves and stay in that place. I go there for moments at a time, and then God intervenes. Scores of Christians and nonChristians beat themselves up–sometimes for decades–where they are convinced “I’m unloveable,” and “God is not for me; He is against me.”

As I read a book about prayer recently, I was tempted once again to go to the place that declares, “God is against me.” The message the author put forth was, “I prayed these prayers for my family, and they were all answered.” My thought was “I prayed those prayers too, and they weren’t answered.”

Some of the prayers I’ve been praying for years can still be answered. For others it’s too late. The window of opportunity has passed. So I sat and wondered again, “Why did God answer her prayers and not mine?” It must be something you’re doing wrong, shame’s accusing voice whispered.

Or else God is just against you.

I don’t like to go to that dark place, but God keeps allowing it because so many others are stuck there, and He wants me to help them out.

I confess sometimes when I move back to believing God is against me, I can turn to things of this world for comfort instead of going to God to receive truth to come against that lie.

One of the places I go to repeatedly is to food. That’s where I turned in a difficult childhood when those who were supposed to love me instead were against me—sometimes in cruel ways–and it seemed God was against me too because He wasn’t protecting me.

A better place to go for comfort and truth is to God’s Word. There God convinces me that He is for me, and that He will never turn against me—no matter how many times human beings do.

Here are just three of the many soul-calming words I read recently:

The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17 NIV

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:28

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 (my life verse)

Recently I woke up, and God whispered to me about certain people in my life. “They don’t mean to be mean.” Once again I was reminded they acted out in hurtful ways because of their own hurts. Sometimes I’m the one hurting others because of my pain.

The bottom line is God is not against me. And He’s not against them. He loves us all. The challenge is to continue to love like Jesus even when others don’t act loving toward me, or they make incorrect negative judgments about what I say and do.

I often pray that I want to be like Jesus. And isn’t that what happened to Him? He was the most loving man that ever walked the earth, and yet people judged Him harshly and were mean to Him, even to the point of killing Him.

He did not let people’s mistreatment of Him or harsh circumstances change how He viewed His relationship with the Father. And He did not stop loving people.

Lord, help me to do the same. Help me to remember today and every day that You are for me. You are not against me.

“Drops in the Ocean” by Hawk Nelson

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My Desire: A Soul on Fire

Recently I worked with a fellow songwriter putting the chords to a song I wrote a number of years ago on the National Day of Prayer.

Also I’ve been hearing two songs on the radio that have to do with the same subject: a soul on fire.

Sometimes I say the prayer, “Lord, I want to be on fire for You.” I see this as having a passion for the Lord, putting Him first, fully obeying everything He calls me to do.

I confess some days my passion for the Lord wanes. Weariness leads to letting the flesh take over, and I go through the motions of living and serving. It seems I lose my vital connection with the Lord. I’m listless instead of listening to and for His voice.

I see Christians around me in this same condition.

The song I wrote back when is a corporate prayer to the Lord to relight the fire in our souls.

Light our fires, Lord.
Our embers are burning low.
Bring Your holy flame;
burn away our shame
and set our hearts aglow.

Light our fires, Lord.
We’re sad that they’re so dim.
Give us Jesus’ fire;
renew our desires,
so we can honor Him.

As I’ve been contemplating this whole issue, I realize that being on fire for the Lord ties in with being filled with and led by the Holy Spirit. After all, the Holy Spirit came to the apostles on Pentacost in the form of flames. When I’m on fire for the Lord, I’m letting the Holy Spirit take the lead. When my fire is growing dim, my flesh has taken over.

Do I dare say the prayer again, “Lord, let Your fire fall on me. I want to be a soul on fire for You?”

There is a cost to this prayer. Pain is involved. Here are some verses that have to do with fire.

“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.” 1 Corinthians 3:11-14 NIV

These verses speak of our works being judged on “the Day,” but it has been my experience that as I pray, “Lord, let Your fire fall,” He uses His holy fire to judge my works now and to burn away anything that is not of Him.

On the other side of this process, my passion for Him is renewed.

So today, Lord, I ask You to let Your fire fall into my life. Burn away anything that is not of You. Let my passion for You be renewed, so that I’m living my life fully for You. Let Your holy fire free me, so I can be all You have called me to be—a soul on fire for You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

How about you? Is your heart’s desire to have your soul be on fire for the Lord and to serve Him with all that is within You? Will you dare to say a prayer requesting that from Him?

Here are three songs on the subject. The first two have been playing on the radio lately, and the third is a worship song I sang often in church years ago.

“Soul on Fire” by Third Day

“Start A Fire” by Unspoken https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HY3mpbE9SJ4

“Let Your Fire Fall” by Paul Wilbur

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While I Am Waiting

I heard the song “While I Am Waiting” by John Waller on the Christian music channel on my TV recently.

Once again I thought about how many circumstances in my life involve waiting. I also thought of how far I’ve come in my ability to wait on the Lord without panicking and without feeling that I have to try to speed things up and take matters into my own hands.

Yes, for short periods I slip back into these wrong actions in regard to waiting, but I’m making progress.

As I’ve been thinking again about waiting, I realize that in my waiting I’ve drawn closer to the Lord. I’ve matured. I’ve learned to worship in the waiting and trust God’s timing rather than attempt to get Him to submit to mine.

I can see today that the promise in Isaiah 40:31 is true:

“But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God] as eagles [mount up to the sun]; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired.” AMP

Another verse comes to mind when I think of waiting is Galatians 6:9, especially since John Waller writes that one of the things we must do while we are waiting is “faint not.”

“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”

Two other things in the song that we are called to do while waiting are serving and worshiping. My mind can say, “I’ll worship God when this waiting is over.” But as I worship Him in the valleys of waiting, joy rises up in me over who He is and all He has done in my life.

In hard times I can be tempted to back off from serving or just go through the motions. At times I try to convince myself I’m not qualified for Christian service because of difficult circumstances in my life that often seem out of control. Surely I should be able to do something to set them right.

I confess I try, but that is not my job. It belongs to God. Yes, I can do what He commands as I wait, but too often I want to command others to change, so circumstances will improve. At times God wants me to wait quietly. At those times I can slip back into thinking I should be doing something.

While working on my book about marriage, I found a quote about waiting that touched me deeply. It was written by G. Campbell Morgan who lived from 1863-1945. He was a British evangelist, preacher, and Bible scholar.

“Waiting for God is not laziness. Waiting for God is not the abandonment of effort. Waiting for God means, first, activity under command; second, readiness for any new command that may come; third, the ability to do nothing until the command is given.”

I continue to pray that I will embrace these truths.

As part of my marriage book I wrote I have a chapter about waiting. I list five things a wife who is waiting for her wounded/wounding husband to change can do. As I reread them I realized these can apply to any kind of waiting.

#1 Keep a journal.
#2 Pray without ceasing.
#3 Develop a grateful heart.
#4 Let God heal your wounds.
#5 Keep your eyes on the Lord.

How wonderful that God gives us assignments while we are waiting. From this song, this poem, and this list He gave me I can achieve much while I’m waiting for prodigals to come home, for loved ones to receive inner healing, for those I’m praying for to be saved, for me to become all God wants me to be, and for what God has called me to write to be published.

How about you? Are you weary of waiting? Remember that You are waiting on the Lord, and He is faithful. A time of reaping and rejoicing will come.

“While I am Waiting” by John Waller

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gjXBMC8-oM (from Fireproof soundtrack)

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Fighting the Good Fight

This life is a battle ground—not a playground.

I confess my heart often wants to reject that statement, which I’ve heard from many preachers over the years.

Fighting. I hate it. I don’t want to do it—even though I get dragged into it on a regular basis followed by this proclamation from me: “I don’t want to fight.”

The truth is I’m called to fight.

Lately I’m realizing there’s good fighting and bad fighting.

Bad fighting is when I contend with those in my life who reject me, disrespect me and resist the Lord, and I use their methods to fight back.

Good fighting is when I use the weapons the Lord has given me.

One weapon He’s given is prayer.

Years ago God gave me this truth to deal with times of conflict. “Pray instead of say.”

Too often I want to use words—sometimes harsh words—to straighten out the stinkin’ thinkin’ of those around me. This only makes matters worse, and the bad fighting escalates.

It’s not that I can never say anything, but the key is to say what the Lord leads me to say—not my own “wise” words or words generated from my negative feelings or me desiring to be in control. The good fight is fueled by faith. The bad fight is often fueled by fear.

When I looked up in two sections of Scripture information about this good fight I’m to be engaged in, some truths came forth:

–When I’m in the battle, it’s not my own strength I’m to depend on. It’s His.
–God will teach me to do battle.
–My battle is not against contentious people in my life. It’s against the enemy, Satan.
–My weapons are invisible.
–It’s important to be prepared for battle by putting on my armor.
–It’s vital to stay alert for the enemy’s attacks.
–Standing firm is an important aspect of fighting a spiritual battle.

“Blessed be the Lord, my Rock and my keen and firm Strength, Who teaches my hands to war and my fingers to fight.” (Psalm 144:1 AMP)

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle (recently I wrote about wrestling and rest) against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance…” (Ephesians 6:10-18 ESV)

OK, Lord. I’m accepting it anew. This life is a battle ground. Help me to win these battles I’m facing. Let me use your weapons and not my own. Remind me to depend on Your strength and not mine. And let me keep fighting the good fight until Jesus comes.

This blog was inspired by the song “Good Fight” by Unspoken

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