Become larger to carry more. The idea of capacity may seem so obvious, but I find it often trips people. Growth comes through discomfort. Our capacity expands through deliberate stretching.
The Lord has shown me many pictures about this. The nautilus outgrowing its chamber. A balloon swelling, taking shape as breath fills it. A pregnant woman’s incredible transformation as she grows a new life. In all these examples there is effort, change, pressure, even labor to see the fullness revealed.
God’s primary goal is to breathe His life into us like holy balloons. He desires to expand in us, expand His love, His image, His creativity and wisdom. His kingdom.
Think of Joseph saving the nation of Egypt and even his own people. Mary delivering the Messiah. Peter addressing the Sanhedrin. They had to each be pushed out of their idea of enough so that He might reveal His life through them.
We must be willing to be uncomfortable so that He might increase. So when we see circumstances outside of our control, what is God expanding in us?
Faith instead of fear.
Worship instead of whining.
Healing instead of sickness.
Kindness instead of gossip.
Be mindful of obstacles that would deter this divine renovation.
People lose touch with God, or don’t experience His presence, because they have crowded their lives with “foreign wives.” Solomon was the wisest and richest man on earth, yet he lost his soul because “his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord” and he was led away by his foreign wives.
“As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been.” 1 Kings 11:4
Make an effort to let go of lesser habits, affections, ideals to make room for greater revelation. Then, allow God to heal and test the revelation. He wants to be sure we own it, to have authority in the revelation He has given.
Pastor Bill Johnson tells a story about repairing a flat bicycle tire. He explains the process of repair is to first hold it under water to find the hole. Once the hole is detected, the tire is taken out of the water, dried and patched. Here’s the kicker. The tire is not put back on the bicycle. Instead, the tire is again held under the water. Why? To see if the patch held.
Bill says some of our circumstances reveal defects. They need to be patched. Some of our circumstances are us being held under the water a second time, as Bill says, “to see if the work of God held.”
It’s a valid question as you go through seasons of stretching to ask God, “are you repairing a hole in me? or are you testing to see if Your repair held?” It will help you so much to know that He is always working for your good. His main goal is that His life and Love will fill you and then flow from you.
We have to be fit to carry the Kingdom. We were born to become like Him.
I love this song as a great reminder. He is always working for us to be fully revealed in Him.
“C.S. Lewis Song” (click here to listen)
If I find in myself desires nothing in this world can satisfy,
I can only conclude that I was not made for here
If the flesh that I fight is at best only light and momentary,
then of course I’ll feel nude when to where I’m destined I’m compared
Speak to me in the light of the dawm
Mercy comes with the morning
I will sigh and with all creation groan
as I wait for hope to come for me
Am I lost or just less found?
On the straight or on the roundabout of the wrong way?
is this a soul that stirs in me,
is it breaking free, wanting to come alive?
Cos my comfort would prefer for me to be numb
And avoid the impending birth of who I was born to become
For we, we are not long here
Our time is but a breath, so we better breathe it
And I, I was made to live,
I was made to love,
I was made to know you
Hope is coming for me.
Hope, He’s coming
My first born, Salem, began her college adventure on Saturday. I have to tell you, as some of you mamas already know, this whole season of packing and preparing has stirred my heart on so many levels. I feel like a kaleidoscope of emotions. Turn the wheel ever so slightly and my emotional mosaic shifts into another beautiful picture of memories, regrets, sadness, excitement, pride, and hope.
I find myself remembering the smallest details about her childhood.
I find myself grading myself as a mom over the last 18 years.
I find myself recalling my own teen years, and college years.
I find myself missing her in the oddest of ways.
Walking in her empty room, still takes my breath away. (Yes, I smell her pillow.) But there is, deeper than all these feelings, an overwhelming sense of joy and gratefulness.
God is so big. So kind. So amazingly faithful. He will continue to be that. To her. And To me.
Believe it or not, I didn’t cry as we drove off. We didn’t understand it necessarily, but we were ready. All of us. And there was a very real peace that passes understanding.
Before the big day, God laid on my heart to capture some of the pearls He had given me. I kept getting a holy ping of “have I told Salem _____ yet”? It would wake me up at night.
These deposits, these pearls of wisdom, are aptly named since pearls are something very beautiful created out of great anguish and agitation. They had come at a high price. And although most teens get tired of hearing “one more thing” from their parents, I wrote her letters anyway. Smile. But then, I felt compelled to share with you the modified versions. His pearls are for us all.
The first Pearl was about our gifts poured out on the feet of Jesus in the same way the woman poured out her best from the alabaster box.
The second pearl is about Pressure.
When I was in college I was broke. And alone. And eager to please an incredible professor. I am not sure which of these factors clouded my judgment. Maybe it was the combination of all three. But I took on the formidable role of the editor of the yearbook, the editor of the newspaper, taking full time classes and working at least 30 hours to keep my tuition discount. Don’t be impressed. The story doesn’t have a happy ending.
“We have this treasure in earthen vessels
to show that this power is from God and not from us.”
Unlike the Olympians we are celebrating, I spent years feeling worthless, disqualified and inadequate. All through high school people told me I had “lots of potential,” however, I didn’t really have a clear vision about what to do with this supposedly budding possibility. So years after high school and college, with a life in ruins, I felt all my potential had resulted in nothing more than dried up, broken rubble.
God found me in this broken state. Because He is so kind, He set about to repair me, to mend and heal. Even redefine me. God began telling me who I was in His eyes. His dreams about me. More than just some haunting, ever needing-to-be proven potential, God told me He dreamed of how His power could complete the work He began in me. He was moving through me, with me.
He washed off the disappointment I felt from myself and others. He washed off fear of failure and even the unwillingness to try. He redefined my idea of success. He had to because once I began to produce, my eyes were constantly looking for others’ approval.
God made things really simple for me. He said that all the gifts and callings in me were put there by His hand. Yes, there were natural talents from birth. But He had placed things in me that could only be accessed and released through Him, in relationship with Him.
I told Him I didn’t understand. So He gave me the revelation of the alabaster box.
I so relate to the story in Luke when a sinful woman anointed Jesus. She had been completely overwhelmed and overhauled by the love of Jesus. She wanted to express her love and devotion so she poured costly perfumed oil on his feet and wiped it with her hair. You know the story, I am sure. The whole room was changed by her act of abandoned worship.
But here is what Jesus said to me:
Jana, your computer (it was a white iBook then) is like your alabaster box. Use your computer like oil to be poured out on Me as an act of worship. As you love on me, others may see your devotion and smell the aroma the perfume, but it’s for Me. I love it when you love on Me like this. I’ll change the room. You focus on Me.
What’s your alabaster box? Art. Sewing. Cooking. Math. Engineering. Or like we have seen lately, gymnastics, swimming, or diving.
I can tell you there was a shift from that day forward. It has taken a lot of pressure off my need for approval. Now, when I sit down to write or prepare, I present my alabaster box to the Lord. I ask Him what He wants to pour out of it. Simply put, whatever comes out, it’s for Him.
The oil of my devotion is for the One who gave me a new life. A life that’s not just full of potential, but full of His power.
Verse adapted from 2 Corinthians 4:7
My family and friends were at a restaurant playfully bantering, as is our custom. We are a lippy sort of crowd with (mostly) good-natured jokes and jabs flying often. After one such mother-daughter volley, my Very-Ready-To-Go-Senior turned to her friend and said, “Only six more months. I only have to listen to this for Six. More. Months!” The whole table erupted in a knowing laughter. Including me. Except as suddenly as we laughed, tears started falling from my eyes. I mean, falling. Like rats jumping from a sinking ship. The laughter turned into this weird, awkward “Mom are you okay??”
I looked to Chuck for rescue. I didn’t even know what had happened in this blink of a eye. His eyes softened and he put an understanding hand on my arm. “Mama,” he said in a tender voice, “you gonna be okay?”
Oh, now I see why the rats were jumping! The ship WAS sinking. Sinking. “Sure, sure,” I choked out and immediately excused myself from the table to go cry in the bathroom.
Six months. My girl was going to be gone in six short months. I sat in the stall snorting and snotting and tried to remember the last time I felt this out of control of my own body. Oh that’s right. When I was pregnant. Then, like now, there was a human being inside of me wrestling to get out, and I was trying to maintain my own mental stability while someone else was literally trying pull the life out of me.
I just want to say, very kindly for the record, the parenting books lied. At the very least, they lied by omission. They never forewarned us of the painful parallels. No one ever explained how the birthing process didn’t end at delivery and this grown up launching hurts every bit as much as labor. Liars.
They neglected to tell us that the incredible tension between “within you, a part you” and “outside of you, a part of you” never leaves. Did you hear me? It never leaves. Remember the internal battle? How the warm fuzzy “I love creating new life” feeling warred against the “get this kid out of me” reality. I experience this same supercharged battle every day with my woman-child who is now kicking at the wall of my heart and home the same way she kicked at the wall of my womb.
I catch myself just looking at her like I did when she was a newborn. Of course she won’t let me hold her like I did then. But I try to soak her in, to capture every detail of how she has grown and changed, fully aware she is not done growing and changing. Only from here on out, I won’t have a front row seat.
Whew. There is that lump again. The out of nowhere lump in my throat that keeps catching me off guard. It beckons just like a contraction, a painful reminder that an inevitable life-change is on the horizon. And we are never going back to the way it was. The other day, I was making work plans for the fall when the “contraction” hit. I had to stop and swallow down some maternal wail because, for the first time in 18 years, my plans would not involve my daughter.
Here are a couple of God kisses for you mamas on the same heartwrecking roller coaster I am, and a little heads up for you mamas following close behind.
“There’s No Magic Formula.”
“I’m pregnant.” These words provoke either sheer delight or absolute terror. Sometimes a mix of both. They are words that have caused me to weep before the Lord in recent days. As I prepare for Undaunted and seek God’s face on His opinion of women, my heart has become more and more — what’s the word? — disturbed, burdened, awakened, even explosive with the call that we, as women, must rise up to defend our image of God. We must raise the bar on ourselves so that our daughters and sons might have better role models. Fasten your seat belt, this could get uncomfortable.
I could, and will, talk about the social blight of male promiscuity. I could, and will, talk about the responsibility of men to be protectors and providers instead of predators.
But today, I want to ask you, just how willing are you, as a woman, to protect and defend yourself, your fellow sisters, and the next generation? I see three topics where we are so politically-charged and biblically off-base that women have become more oppressive to women than the men.
Topic One: Let’s talk about abortion. Some prominent female authors I greatly admire speak of God and the beauty of women and yet they promote and campaign for women to have the “right” to their own body. I understand this completely.
It is the woman who is “trapped” by a baby. The woman whose body must “suffer” the contortion of physical changes in pregnancy. It is a woman who must “sacrifice” her dreams and goals because she has been “caught” in the act. It is the woman who often lives in poverty trying to care for children in single parent homes. We have to do something to “empower women globally” is the cry of pro-choicers.
However, instead of empowering women, have we have created generations of cowards? We have so lost our identity in God, so lost our personal responsibility to “above all else guard [our] heart” that we have actually fueled a hellish deception that women are victims and shouldn’t be penalized by sex.
“God is good,” I said in class Tuesday night. “Goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.” I said. Why? “Because I am with Jesus and Jesus is the Good Shepherd,” I said. I went on to explain that God is trying to build our confidence that His Goodness impacts every area of our life all the time. And then it snowed.
Enough snow to postpone an event that I have been planning for months. Ugh. My heart is busting with revelation. My team and I are all prayed up and armored up. We are chomping at the bit — and, the event is postponed. Really?
I wanted to whine. Or be sad or complain. But the Spirit kept repeating a line from a song we did in worship Tuesday night. “You are good, good. Yes you are good. You never fall off of your throne. You are good.”
God is so good that He is sometimes preemptive. I see that He gave me the cure before the need. The answer before the question. Instead of a “whhhhhyyyyyyy??” I am looking for His goodness. He has raised a better question, “Lord what do you want me to do in the meantime?
Here is a short run list:
• Enjoy my kids in the snow. My final prep crunch time has turned into a crafting, cooking, laughing with my family time.
• Take a deep breath and let go. Again. He whispered ever so sweetly to me, “there is no pressure here.” Oh that’s right. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. This conference was about Him. He can move it if He wants. I can trust Him in the details of getting the word out and rescheduling. (By the way, New Date is March 4-5!)
•Take a step back and review. I can say a little extra time to pray, sort and refine really is a gift. He knew I needed that, I didn’t.
In the long run? More time to worship, to listen, to get the word out, to move out of snow windows. Who knows what else He has up His sleeve?
But He is good. All the time. So this weekend, I am going to snuggle up with the Good Shepherd and enjoy His snow. Hope you do the same.
If we aren’t careful, we will peer into the darkness and lose our hope. The mind-numbing pain of the death of a child or a parent. The squeeze of finances, even debting for Christmas gifts. Dreams not yet realized. Faith not yet rewarded. Healing not yet completed. World issues that rattle our core so that we break down borders or build up borders. The prophet Isaiah said it well, “Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like people without eyes. At midday we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead.” (59:10)
But God. With us. In the very breath-crushing moment of your day, in the ache, the groan, remind yourself, “A great light has come into the world and the darkness cannot put it out.” This moment, your moment, is why Jesus came. Your hopeless, helpless, overwhelming moment is why God sent His Son. His compassion made manifest through a baby.
I had this crazy encounter with God last week. The details don’t matter except to say that I was at my wits end. I had planted myself on my couch in desperation. I read my bible, I worshiped. I sat there crying, and crying out to the Lord, that I didn’t know what to do. I was hurting, and I needed to hear from Him. My heart was breaking and I knew I needed His comfort and His wisdom.
“How do I fix this?” I feebly said.
First came a wave of comfort like a blanket around my shoulders. Then came a wave of peace settling my mind and spirit. Then ever so gently came His reply.
“You’re trying to fix something. I am trying to heal something,” He said.
A Woman’s Rightful Place in the Kingdom. Women are asking questions about Undaunted. No, it’s not like Unhindered. Yes, it’s for women only. Audio will be available to share with your men No, this isn’t the standard party line about submissive roles. Yes, it honors God’s image of men. No, it’s not for wimps. Yes, it will challenge you, make you uncomfortable and just might rock your world.
Sounds audacious, I know. But sometimes God blows me up spiritually to such a degree that I know He means business.
Undaunted is a message that God planted in my spirit years ago and He now says is finally ready to be released. It is about freedom. It is about daring to follow God into the most oppressive environments, even the church. It is about taking up God’s divine weapons to live fully gifted, fully loved, fully seen in the world today.
It’s about what happens globally when women rise up to God’s ordained place in the Kingdom. So many social issues of the day are linked to the missing voice of God’s women. This is not feminism. Not a militant posture. This is an invitation, permission, to discover God’s heart for women. And how we all, men and women, will be better when we are in our rightful places.
Come if you are spiritually dying for more. Come if you are curious, doubtful, or leery. Come if you want to spend some time in the presence of God.
Let the Spirit speak to your heart about who you are, why you are, and where you belong.
January 22, Friday Night, 7:00 – 9:30 pm
January 23, Saturday Morning, 9:00 – 12:00 pm
Fuse Church, Kirby Road, Knoxville
Love offering event.
Beverages and light snacks served.