Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Longing Fulfilled

In Proverbs 13:12 it says "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life"

There were times in these last 5 years that I wondered if a longing would ever be fulfilled. I was too acquainted with hope deferred. I knew heartsickness. It seemed like one desire after another was awakened to be left unanswered. It hurt to awaken desire. Sometimes the disappointment was unbearable. In the midst of the struggles, my faith was tested like never before. Doubts that were hiding in my heart rose up to the surface. What did I really believe about God? What did I believe about how God felt towards me? Why did one longing after another go unfulfilled? Was it possible that a tree of life would ever emerge in my life? Was God holding out on me? I thought He wanted to give me the desires of my heart.

There were times I felt like I was fighting for my life, not in the physical, but in the spiritual. I came so close to giving up. Prayer after prayer left unanswered, or on hold, the ground was shaky. Would my faith hold strong? How do you continue to pray when it feels like you call God up, He has caller ID, He sees it's you and doesn't answer? How do you pick up the phone and call again? And what do you do with the verses that say things like "God delights in giving good gifts to His children"?

Why was I asking for these good, godly things that I my heart ached for to have Him say no? Did that mean I wasn't His daughter?

Somehow in the middle of the battles I found that mustard seed of faith to hang on and believe He was good, even when I could not see. 

He came for me. He rescued me out. He spoke tenderly to me of His faithfulness. He asked me to wait, to trust Him, to find Him to be enough. It was about my heart. It was about Him. 

Could I trust Him, even when longings were left unfulfilled? Could I still find Him good?

As I look back now, I am grateful that He waited. As hard as it was to be in that suspended place, as painful as the heartsickness was, I am glad He waited. I see so clearly now. Had He given those things I longed for at the time I had asked, it would have cost me, greatly. You see so much of my value was tied up into having those desires met. They weren't bad desires. They were good and godly. It wasn't the desires that were bad, but the motives behind seeking them. They would have become a crutch to me, giving me value, dependency, security and fulfillment. 

He knew that. He couldn't give them to me. He loved me too much. He wanted me to take refuge in Him. He wanted to give me value. He wanted to weed out anything that I would depend on. He wanted me to be able to enjoy them, not need them. There is a difference. 

I should not need anything but Him. He should be enough.

A much awaited longing was given to me today. It is so much richer, now. Because of the "not yet, I no longer need them to give me value. It is now, it can be a tree of life. So this is what that verse was talking about. How sweet is His love for me. Another sighting of God for my heart. How it must have hurt Him to watch me hurt, and doubt Him. All the while He was protecting me when I thought He had forgotten me. Oh, Papa, forgive me. I see now. It was love that made you wait. You never forgot me. You were protecting me. Thank you Papa, that you waited. Thank you for your great love. 

Oh the riches of His great love

Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

Be blessed,


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Ache of God

I am reading Lyric's blog, often and following along as she reads "The Beautiful Ache". The more I read her "blurbs", the more I think I'm going to have to buy that book. The concept is not new to me. I was first introduced to it with the teachings on Captivating by Stasi Eldredge back in 2003. 

For many years of my life I didn't know I even had aches. I covered them up with busyness and service. I was a good "Martha". I knew how to work for God. In fact I would say I was the "Queen of Striving". For some unknown reason the message I got through "The Church" through the years was to work harder for God, to do all you can do." I remember the messages that said "If you love God you will put Him first by spending 30 minutes a day in the morning having a quiet time." For many years I lived that out...living in guilt if I missed a day, trying to rationalize with myself when it was an "evening" quiet time instead of the desired morning one. I was the busy, striving, performing Christian woman. I did not ache...there was no time for aching. I didn't even know they were there. But God knew.....

God's isolation is the opposite of our isolation. He pulls us away to be alone with us in order that He might reveal more of who He is. We, on the other hand, isolate to hide who we are. I was never one to isolate. I didn't like being alone with myself. I stayed caught up in serving, unaware of it's isolation. I was not isolated from people, but from from Me being alone with, Me. God called me away to the desert to speak tenderly to me. He knew that I was so far from being in touch with who I was and who He was, that He had to pull me away. He removed all friendships in various ways and it was just me with God. It's love that draws you into the desert, deep, intimate love. He allured me there to speak tenderly to me, to turn my door of Sorrow into a door of hope, to remove the title of Master and replace it with the title of Husband (Hosea 2:14-16)

Alone with my kids, my husband and God, unable to serve in any capacity, I began to come to terms with the lie I was living. I had spent so many years working, trying to earn God's favor when all along He just wanted, Me. I couldn't give Him me because I did not feel like I was enough for Him. I was the older brother in the Prodigal Son story, working out in the fields trying to earn entry into the Father's house, when all along the door was open wide, waiting for me to just walk in and be with the Him. In the desert, He showered His words on me and told me who He was and who I was to Him. Life turned a corner for me. I am not the same.

In the midst of the desert the aches began to rise up within me. For the first time that I can remember my heart was aching with longings and desires that almost took my breath away. Why did it have to hurt so much to awaken desire? What was I supposed to do with them now that they were awakened? As the aches came I began to identify with God's heart at a deeper level. Did He ache for me like I ached for intimate relationship with others? I ached to live in intimacy with friends. I longed for companions who knew my journey as I knew theirs. I still ache for that. Life seems to keep everyone running ragged, living life, doing all the "stuff" with no real time to go to deep places of the heart with others. Where is the time or energy for deep, heart relationships, you know where you really let people know your joys and struggles, where you are hurting.. It makes me ache. Does God ache for me like I ache for deep heart friendships?

Some days the aches are stronger than others. The loneliness I feel, as the longings unloosed in my heart are left unfulfilled, are days that I identify and connect a little deeper with the heartbeat of God inside. I realize just a bit more that this place is not my home and that life is not as He had longed for it to be for me. And in the midst of pain, loneliness, heartache, I am comforted. He knows, He sees, He understands. It's in the aches that I realize that those things I ache for, are the things He longs for too. The aches of God within are a powerful force to be reckoned with, not to run or hide from, No they are there to drive me into His arms where He waits to speak tenderly to me. Where He holds me close and tells me how His heart aches too.

"Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. Hosea 2:14



©copyrighted 2008 by Julie L. Todd

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Can You See God's heart

Something I've discovered is that God often gives me glimpses into His heart through my own frustrations. Take for instance when a teenage daughter blames you for the anger in her heart. After all it's your fault that she feels the way she does. Somehow, somewhere you didn't do something....at least that's what she says. The words come flying out, "you don't care about me!" How could she think you don't care? You've spent years giving all you had to give for her, doesn't that count for something? The thing is in that moment of her life she is struggling to know that you care. Have you changed the way you feel about her? No, it's not you who has changed, it is what she is hearing and believing, something coming from inside her. 

How often have I played that game with God? Circumstances come that bear down on us and I can hardly hold my head up. Where is God anyways? And how could He possibly care about me at that moment? The questions and doubts rise up and hit hard. Maybe He doesn't care about me. Maybe His absence in these circumstances is proof. Did God change? No, He is the same. He never changes. He has been there all of my life and before that even, caring for me. 

Does He care? Is there some place that He has proven that He cares? Is there some word, some truth that I can call to mind? Does the cross mean anything? How many times does God have to prove to me that He cares? There is no greater sacrifice than Christ laying down His life for me. So, why do I accuse Him? Because I don't know inside myself that I am worth caring for. It's not about God. He is blameless. It's about ME.

Then it hits me, what I am doing with God is what my daughter does with me. It takes me to that place of never wanting to accuse Him again. If my heart is good towards my daughter ALWAYS, then there is not doubt that His heart is good towards me. It's not His heart that is in question. It is my beliefs...those lies buried underneath the surface that have been hidden, tucked away in a dark place. 

Today one of my daughters came to me to talk to me of her own frustrations. She's made some bad decisions in her life that affected her. She's learned alot from them. Now younger girls are coming to her to talk and seek counsel. She warns them of the problems. After all she learned the hard way. She didn't listen to the warnings. They aren't listening. She's frustrated that they don't listen, yet she identifies that neither did she. We sat and talked awhile. God showed up. I told her that often during these times you can get a greater glimpse of God's heart. Could she get an idea of how God feels by what she is feeling? Does she see that He tries to warn people, but they don't listen? What does it do to His heart as He watches us make those choices that He knows will hurt us, ignoring the warnings? What are the treasures of God hidden in the dark places of this frustration?

She contemplates for a few minutes and then it hits her. God feels the same way she does. Her heart connects into that place of understanding and communion with God and the treasures begin to unfold for her.

Glimpses of God's heart in the midst of the darkness are riches stored in the secret places.

"I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name." Isaiah 45:3



©copyrighed 2008 by Julie L. Todd

Sunday, January 6, 2008

I Saw God Today

I saw the most endearing thing in church today. There is a sweet young couple that sits in the same place each Sunday. They are fairly new to the church. The husband had found us online and had been following the church for some time. He finally decided they should attend so they started coming. They are both rather quiet, though I believe she is more quiet than he is. They have a little girl about 3 or 4 years old. She's a beautiful petite woman. She came to our women's Christmas dinner and you could tell that it was a bit much for her. Yet she faced her fear and came amongst women she barely knew. My heart was drawn to her and the quiet, gentle spirit within.

Today they sat right in front of us, two rows up. As we stood in worship the husband was holding his daughter in his arms. We were singing a song about wanting "with all our hearts to worship God", Out of the corner of my eye I saw this beautiful woman, weeping. Overcome with emotion, she turned to her husband and buried her head in his side. She began to melt in the safety of his arms as they encircled about her, holding her close while she wept. All three of them clung together, just holding each other. It was a picture of the Trinity, three huddled together in intimate relationship. As the music played on, the husband grasped her hand and they knelt together at their seats and he prayed. It was so touching that that tears began to well up in my eyes as well. How sweet, how tender. What a beautiful, intimate display of love.

And then it hit me. It was a picture. As I watched the compassion, tenderness and protection of this man with his wife, I realized that that is Christ with me.

Today a picture was seared in my heart and mind. Christ as my husband is endeared to me with a heart of compassion, tenderness and protection. As I come to Him and melt in His arms, He gathers me up, clinging to me as I cling to Him. As we kneel there together, He carries me up to the Father with words that lift me up in intercession before the throne of the one who loves me forever.

A woman's response in worship was a God sighting for me today.

Beauty unveiled in the heart of a woman brought life to my heart.

May it bring beauty to your life today.

"A cord of three strands is not easily broken" Ecclesiastes 4:12b
©copyrighted 2008 by Julie L. Todd

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

A Wrong Turn

You know what I love about God? I love that you cannot fail with Him. He doesn't see the things we do as failures. There are NO failures with God, only mistakes. And mistakes can always be made right. Mistakes are those things in our lives that are supposed to be our teachers. They don't determine who we are or what we are made of. They are the things that enlighten us as to what's right, wrong, good, and bad. When you make a wrong turn in this road of life, it is only a wrong turn when you don't go back and make the right turn.

Christmas night we were on our way home and my husband took a wrong turn. It wasn't intentional, he just read the sign wrong. Fifteen minutes down the road we began to notice things we had never seen before and realized we were headed in the wrong direction. Had we continued we would not have ended up anywhere near home. It was the wrong way. It would not lead us to where we wanted to go. So, we turned around and headed back the right way. It was no big deal really, it just cost us a few minutes.

That's how it is with God. When we make the wrong turns in our lives, it's an opportunity to realize that unless we turn around we won't end up where we want to go. The detour may have cost us something, we may lose some time, but it's not a irreparable loss. Unless we don't turn back, Ever. I don't think God sits around focused on the wrong turn we make. I think He's just happy to see us back on the path that leads to life. It's not God that condemns us, punishes us or chastises us 
for the wrong turn. It is another voice. The voice of the enemy, the voice of ourselves. God covers everything with His grace....even the wrong turns in life. 

What is it you tell yourself when you make a mistake? What you tell yourself is what you will believe. Often when I make mistakes I will find myself saying "you are so stupid". Am I really stupid? No, of course not, I just made a wrong judgment. I'm learning to catch myself and tell myself the truth. I am learning to cover myself with grace.

Joel: 2:13 "Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity."

I love that about God!

©copyrighted 2008 by Julie L. Todd

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The Old Has Gone The New Has Come

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, He is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come. II Corinthians 5:17.

Out with the old, and in with the new. The year has passed, a new year is upon us.

One of my favorite quotes I heard on a tape I was listening to is; "there are no longer good days and bad days, all are days of grace." "Some days you are given the grace to endure and some days you are given the grace to enjoy."

Last year was a year where more days than not I was given the grace to endure. I am glad to see a new dawn of a new year.

Seven is the number of completion, Eight is the number of new beginnings. Here at the beginning of a new year I am thankful for what has been completed in me. This year I have learned that if I do not love myself I will never be able to love others. It is what I believe and tell myself that I will live. God's love can and does flow into me, but it will never flow out of me totally until I learn to love myself as He loves me. I am anticipating a new beginning for the year ahead.

The old has gone, 2007, the new has come, 2008. May this be the year when I truly begin to grasp that the old me was crucified and now the new me, Christ in me, has come. May it be a year when the reality that Christ exchanged His life for mine is understood more fully and lived more deeply. I no longer have to live, He will live through me. The old lies, messages and beliefs of who I was are removed.. Now may the new truth of who God has created me, who I truly am, be revealed, fully.

2008, the year of new beginnings. May it be so, may it be so.

©copyrighted 2008 by Julie L. Todd