Friday, March 29, 2013

"Why Are You Downcast?"

Why, my soul, are you downcast
Why so disturbed within me? 
Put your hope in God!
For I will yet praise him, 
my Savior and my God.  

- Psalm 42:5 NIV

Today I was thinking about why I love to post quotes or thoughts on my Facebook and Twitter accounts.  It is definitely not because I think I have arrived in my faith or my walk with God.  Actually, I do so because I am weak without Him.  To post online is a place for me to practice declaring truth despite how I am feeling.  A place to join in with others who are on their own spiritual journey. 

For me, to be apart of the internet community through the various social venues is a place and a way to remind myself (and hopefully encouraging others) of the truth - of how much God cares about each one of us despite our pasts, our mistakes or our sin that would try to haunt or torment us.  God's grace is always light because Jesus died to carry these heavy burdens for us. 

"For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light." 
- Matthew 11:30 NLT

I love King David in the Bible.  He is one of my favorites.  He wrote many of the Psalms.  This one quoted above in particular is one of my favorites. Well, they really are all my favorites.   Because David is just so darn real.  Honest.  Transparent.  He holds nothing back from God.  He processes his heart, his anger, his fears, his frustrations, his depression with God and he always ends up turning His heart around to be focused on the truth of who God is and who God is for him personally.  Who God is for David.  Who God is for you and for me.

In the Psalm above, we find David doing the same thing.  He was speaking to himself, to his soul and asking himself - "why are you downcast?".  Today's language?  DEPRESSED.  

So often, in the midst of our daily living - life and circumstances can weigh us down.  It could be sickness, disease, cancer, constant horrific pain, financial problems, a divorce, a death in the family, the loss of a relationship, a lost child or friend.  So many things can act like bricks weighing down our souls and bringing us to the place of despair or depression.  Those places then act like prisons - seeking to keep us contained and feeling hopeless or lost.

We end up putting our hope in those things (or people) rather than in God ... when God is the only One who can deliver us from the weight of those burdens even though our circumstances (or those people) might not change.

We must allow God's Spirit to arise within us and declare the truth of who God is, what He can do and what His promises are for us specifically.  As hard as it might feel to press through the darkness surrounding our circumstances we have to begin agreeing with God's Word over ourselves and our futures.  We have to trust God is for us and no weapon formed against us will prosper .... no matter how big that weapon might look or feel.  We must trust God to go before us to slay any giants that would seek to destroy us. He is big enough to do so.

In the last three years, I have had a serious neck/spine surgery and was in bed for four months recovering.  Following that,  I had multiple more minor neck surgeries with nerve ablations.  And then last year I had brain surgery for something called Chiari Malformation and I had part of my skull removed in order to decompress my cerebellum. 

Again, I was in bed for another four months recovering and a good year before I began to feel better.  The healing process took awhile.  Waiting and rest were words that became a part of my daily vocabulary.  Learning "To be Still and Know that I am God" was a part of my momentary experience.  Psalm 42:10.

For over two and a half years as I went through all of this, I lived in constant, horrific physical pain.  Due to the compression on my brain from the Chiari Malformation, I struggled with other issues as well.  There was never really a day that I did not feel as if I was going to die from trauma of pain going on in my head from the blockage of spinal fluid going to and from my brain. 

In almost every moment of every day, I had to declare to my soul ... "Christ, you are mine and I am yours, save me!!" ... just as Marthin Luther kept praying in the movie "Luther" as he was being tormented by Satan.  

This simple prayer was the only declaration I could make in my season of suffering.  It was my way of telling myself - that in the midst of such unspeakable pain, I could do nothing more than to give my life to Him no matter what the outcome would be in my physical body. 

My life passage is Philippians 3:7-11, so I knew if I truly wanted to experience the power of His resurrection life flowing through me, sharing in the fellowship of His suffering and death was a part of that spiritual journey.

I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. 

For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ.  For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.  

I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. 

I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!  

- Philippians 3:7-11 NLT

I am not sure what is going on in the depths of your being this Easter weekend and where you need a fresh wind of hope ... but I know God does.  Agree with Him and ask yourself, "why are you downcast, my soul"?  Explore what is going on in your heart and tell God about everything that is stirring around inside of you.  He already knows it all anyways.  Journal, cry, draw - open those deep places to Him.  Forgive anyone who has hurt you and repent of any place where sin has begun to consume your life. 

Then boldly tell your heart and soul to put it's hope and trust in God! Keep declaring God's Word over you and keep praising Him despite how you feel.  Why?  Because the Word of God is alive and active.  It can pierce through our hearts and bring a fresh wind of hope into our lives. 

For the word of God is alive and active. 
Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 
- Hebrews 4:12 NIV.

Eventually your soul will catch up with God's Spirit in you.  It might not be overnight, it might even take a long season for suffering to do it's work in you. But do not give up hope or the discipline of declaring truth over yourself or your loved ones.  If you are too weak spiritually to do it - find a friend to pray Scripture over you.  Remember, God's Word is alive and active and has the power to tear down strongholds or anything that is trying to set itself up against you!  It is your offense weapon of warfare (Ephesians 6).

"For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."  - 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NIV.

Trust God in the midst of your suffering and allow His Holy Spirit in you to firmly plant you in His Word.  Let it become the bedrock within you.  You will become immovable in Him when His Word is alive in you. 

If you are not a Christian, and you want to be - He is ready to come into your life and give you fresh hope. He is knocking on the door to your heart.

There is no fancy prayer to pray, no method to follow - just with the simplest and purest prayer from your heart - ask Jesus to come into your heart and life and boom - He will! 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

You are Courageous!

A few months ago,  I was doing this wonderful lady's make up.  As I was working with her,  she asked me if being a make up artist was my full time job.  I told her no, that I did make up for fun but my real passion was working with women who had been hurt or broken by life in some way.  I explained to her what I did as a spiritual director, teacher, pastor and prayer minister. I shared with her how it was my passion to see the broken places in people's lives being brought back to LIFE.

As I shared this with her, she began to share with me her life story.  The things she had been through in life were so horrific.  My heart ached deeply.

As she shared her story, God began to whisper to my heart.  He said, "Lori, tell her she is courageous and I see her as courageous".  In my heart, I started to argue with God.  Not always a good idea to argue with the One who created the heavens and the earth - but, I did.

"Lord, she will think I am nuts if I just blurt that out.  And besides, I don't know if she believes in you."  God, however, kept nudging me.  He really, really wanted her to know this.

The woman kept sharing the details of her past.  The more she shared, the louder God's prompting got.  She had told me she walked away from God because she believed he didn't care about her or the details of her life.  She had felt that God had abandoned her in her time of need.

This was when the God got really, really stern with me.  He said again, "Lori, TELL her she is courageous".  So, after another few moments of going back and forth with the Lord,  I obeyed.

So, I took her by the face gently and looked into her eyes and said, "I am suppose to tell you that you are courageous".  Immediately, she began sobbing.  Not the gentle tears, but the deep heart ache sobbing.  Her mascara was running down her face.   It took her a few minutes to stop crying.  I told her that God had wanted her to know that He saw her as courageous.

Once she could catch her breath, she then followed up to tell me that her mom, who just passed away a few months ago, use to tell her she was courageous all the time.  She told me that she had been aching in her heart to hear that word again.  To hear her mom tell her one more time, "you are courageous".

By this time, I was crying.  Only God in His infinite love and knowledge could have known what that women needed in the depths of her being.  She needed to know that the God who created her was still beside her.  And that although she had walked away from him, He never EVER would walk away from her.

So, in the middle of the store where I was working at the time and doing her make up, we prayed together.  She surrendered her life back to Jesus Christ and God's presence washed over her like a gentle, comforting and safe blanket.  The God of all comfort was present to her in her grief.

I left that day in awe of my God once again.  In awe of His voice and in awe of His ability to meet with people in the midst of their pain and suffering.   God is a God who cares about every detail in our lives. And although we might not feel Him or sense His presence, we have to choose to believe the truth that He will never leave us nor forsake us - despite the difficult journey we might be faced to walk through.

"He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. 
When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us."
1 Corinthians 1:4 NLT

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Delayed Obedience

Today marks another attempt at blogging.  I have tried to start various blogs in the past ... however I think my brain struggles with ADD and some perfectionism.  Mix in a little disobedience as well.

With the thought of starting a blog - so many thoughts and questions would roll around in my head.  So many topics I am passionate about.
  • I love God.  
  • I love people. 
  • I love helping people connect with God.  
  • I love leadership and learning.
  • I love coaching and mentoring people.
  • I love make up.  
  • I love skin care.  
  • I love all things feminine.

There are so many things I am passionate about that I always get stuck with the BIG question - where do I start?  What do I write about?  What do you want me to share God?  What do I want to share?  What do people want to read?  All these questions would bombard my mind until I would just decide it wasn't the time to start.

So,  how do I incorporate all these aspects of who I am and what is in my heart into one simple blog?  Well, because it just seemed impossible, I have put off obeying God for three years.  Yes, THREE years.

In April of 2010,  while we were on a trip in Positano, Italy, God put it on my heart to start a blog.  He made a very simple request.  He just asked me to "speak to the ocean".  Ocean meaning the internet.  But that simple request, left me with so many uncertainties that I failed to step out in blind faith - believing He would fill my mouth and my laptop with words as I stepped out in faith to obey Him.

"To be a pencil in God's hands" as Mother Teresa would say.

Today,  God's lesson to me is once again, "obedience".  If you or I want to see the miracles of God in our lives we have to be willing to respond to Him when He asks.

"If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully keep all his commands that I am giving you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the world." Deuteronomy 28:1 NLT