Advent Week 4: The week of love

Yep, Christmas happened two days ago. I thoroughly enjoyed (and also kind of stressed out) the last push to celebrate. Every year we try to do better at scheduling… and this year was okay, except that I kind of burned out Christmas Eve morning after taking care of a sick emotional little girl, trying to make too many cookies and attempting to make it to church for my favorite Christmas Eve service. Let’s just say we didn’t make it to church and took a nap instead. And then on Christmas Day we drove across the mountains, chasing the tail end of a snow storm, to visit my mountain family in Paonia (see pictures below).

I really do love Christmas. I love that it brings all sides of my family together to celebrate. I love that we spend time thinking about how to be generous to each other. And at the risk of sounding cliche, I really do wish I was better at showing love, grace, peace and generosity all throughout the year (and not just the Christmas season).

My last week of Advent devotionals were all about love.

“Why do we love? When we have a complete understanding of love, perfect love displayed for us in God’s gracious giving of His Son, the outpouring of love upon others is not only justified, but instinctive. We love because He first loved us.” – 121 Advent Devotional, YouVersion App

And

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” – 1 John‬ ‭4:11-12‬ ‭ESV‬‬

But the thought from my week of love-focused Advent devotions that really caught my heart was the idea that God’s love (and the love we are called to emulate) conquers over all earthly forces, including human emotion, which so often uses love to disguise pride and self-seeking.

Of course we read 1 Corinthians 13 at weddings, and in a lot of dating books, etc. And the Bible talks about love a lot.

“God’s love is self-giving and sacrificial. He gave Himself on our behalf (John 3:16). God’s love is unconditional, it is given to us when we do not deserve it (Romans 5:8). God’s love is eternal (Jeremiah 31:3). God’s love is powerful. God’s love heals and comforts but also serves as our defender, His love defeats the enemy on our behalf. God’s love is life changing (1 John 4:19). Nothing can separate us from God’s love.” – 121 Advent Devotional, YouVersion App

But how do I learn to love with God’s conquering love? My heart dwelt this week in the mystery and powerful force of the love of a God Who has committed and sustained faithfulness to our human race despite often complete rejection, abhorrences and cursing of the God of the Universe by said created people.

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.” – ‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭31:3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

His everlasting love came to fruition in the manger babe, and love ultimately won that first Easter morning. His challenge to me (and all of us) is to love this world with the same love, starkly different than the world’s love. I am commanded to love void of self-motivation, and above and beyond the fleeting emotions that flourish from my desire to be loved in return.

Honestly, I’m not sure how to love this way. I want to defend my heart, stick up for what will be the best for me and my family at all times. Hopefully I will learn more this year about God’s path of hope, peace, joy and love, and not just in a Christmas-card kind of way. May I be willing to see God’s heart for all people and situations, and to act out of the genuine paradigm of the Father. May I be led by the Holy Spirit, anchored by hope, sustained by joy, and guided by peace. And all of these things also for you.

Advertisements

Advent Week 3: Jingle Bells, Light and Joy

Okay, so really.

Sometimes the jarring difference between reality and the Christmas songs we hear all throughout the holiday season feels like a punch in the gut. And this year, I am stunned by the stories of sadness happening around me. Friends with parents dying, mothers with sons facing extreme illnesses, financial strain, job loss, depression, stress…

I was driving home Thursday night from my very last final for this semester of grad school, just kind of humming along to whatever song was playing in my head at the moment, when a wave of compassion washed over me. I felt led to pray. I mean, really pray. And as I was telling the Lord about all of the heavy things on my heart, my questions and anxieties for my community and for myself, He reminded me of the manger scene. I found myself in the middle of the birth story of Jesus, juxtaposed with scenes from Jesus’ entire life. God called His Son Jesus, Immanuel, God With US. This humble King would shoulder all of the worst sorrows and atrocities we could ever even imagining happening… He experienced them all, and sits next to us with tears in His eyes as our hearts become heavy with the cares of this world. But He doesn’t stop at just empathy. Jesus proclaims joy through every phase of His life. And not the jingle-bell type of joy that puts a warm glow in our hearts (seriously, though, when Elleanna sings “Jingle Bells” or “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” you can’t help but smile!). The joy Jesus drinks from is the sustaining type of life force that propels Him to the Father through all circumstances.

“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!” Jesus said. “Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven.” (Luke 6:22–23)

From my advent devotional this week: “So no more let sins and sorrows grow. Though the battle rages for a few short decades here, and we experience many losses along the way, fix your eyes on the joy ahead. Rejoice! Nothing in this world can undo or even diminish your joy in Jesus. No sin and no sorrow can separate you from him and the everlasting happiness he brings.”

 

Our joy streams from belonging to the Lord, the stability of our identity, the hope of the world, because He offers us life beyond this world. Our joy is an act of trusting God’s goodness and wisdom, even when rampant shootings terrify our children, cancer takes our mothers when they should still be here for many more years, and families fall apart. I’m not trying to fix all of our problems with one small blog post, but I am exhorting myself to chose the empowering joy of the Lord. And it all began with the angels who told of the joy of Jesus coming to shepherds, wisemen and eventually the entire world.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God,which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:4-7

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” –  Romans 15:13

From our Zlaten family Christmas this past week

Advent Week 2: Peace and Flourishing

This week my academic thinking and my faith musings intersected in an interesting way. As I’m working towards finishing up my third semester as a Ph.D. student, of course I am writing a flurry of papers (not to mention all of the papers I have to grade… ahem).

One of the papers I have been working on is for my moral theory philosophy class. In this paper I am working to define virtue ethics as a moral theory, and compare and contrast it to other theories, etc. Now, keep reading… I promise not to get too technical here. One of the major components to virtue ethics is the value of promoting human flourishing, as in, focusing on what we were made to do and be, and establishing identity through the virtues – character, humility, etc.

In all of my devotionals this week on the advent, the very same word of “flourishing” was mentioned over and over again, but this Biblical type of flourishing is definitely quite different than a virtue ethics context. Many of the moral philosophers we read this semester completely rejected any ideas of a paternalistic being or society structure that would instruct them on navigating this world in the “right” way. And one of the most frustrating parts of moral philosophy… is that in modern times, many ethicists have recognized that all ethical theories have holes, and there’s no way utilitarianism, kantianism, pluralism, consequentialism, and even virtue ethics can solve all of our issues. So in a sense, why even be moral?

Throughout my entire semester studying ethics at such an intense level, I find myself deeply thankful for Jesus, the King who came to bring peace to this world and establish His upside down Kingdom in the middle of all of our humanistic mess. The ethicist’s are right; worldly paternalism is controlling, demeaning and does not promote flourishing. Worldly paternalism is an ugly distortion of Father God, whose plan for flourishing and peace is centering freedom, bedrock hope and truly seeing people as they were created. This Father wants our existence to be not just the absence of conflict, but peace flowing from good whole lives built in partnership with God.

Our faith in the redemption of Savior Jesus, the washing of our souls by His forgiveness, brings us peace (Romans 5:1). Jesus is the Mediator between us and God, restoring relationship between us and our good Father whose dreams for us outshine anything we could ever dream for ourselves.

From my Advent devotional this week: “God desires a kingdom of peace, of righteousness, of joy for all in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). God has created us to live in peace and to reflect the God of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33) that we serve with our lives.When we live in peace, God is glorified because He is the God of peace. We reflect Him through peace, but we also receive lives of good, of flourishing. This is why peace matters!”

This week, may I embody what it means to step out in faith and embrace God’s flourishing peace. May I do this by seeing the world as He sees the world; the humble King who came to serve (and not be served), the One who knows the depth of each heart and loves us just the same.

SnowyDrive2

Our snowy drive last Christmas over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house!

Centered on Hope: Advent Week 1

This past week during our Sunday service at Hope Boulder, Adam Bradley challenged us during the lighting of the first Advent wreath candle to purposefully pursue hope. This tiny word confers trust, waiting, looking expectantly to the future, and desiring. As he challenged us to think of what we are hoping for in our own lives, I was struck by the realization that I have not taken time lately to dream…to find those confident expectations. Overall, gratefulness for my family and the goodness of God does frame me; however, the darkness of this world has a way of creeping in unnoticed and changing my vision, especially when I am on an intense rollercoaster. This season has been stormy to say the least, and I’m not sure I’ve learned how to really let the hope of Christ anchor me.

So this week, that’s what I set out to journey towards, yet again. I’ve been pouring through several Advent devotionals on the YouVersion app (if you haven’t downloaded this free Bible resource, check it out!), and I’ve also been working through the 24-7 Prayer Advent 2015 series (http://24-7prayer.com/theword15).

The first challenge I received was recognizing what keeps me from spending time in God’s word. Anxiety, a relentless graduate school rhythm, and exhaustion from my pregnancy easily become my excuses to operate from a mind-numb paradigm.

Lord, still my heart and mind. Make your Word come alive to me again.

The focus of this year’s 24/7 Prayer Advent series is The Word, as in The Word made flesh through the coming of Jesus, and how each page of the Bible breathes God’s Son. The Word discerns me, challenges me, builds me, strengthens me, guides me. Spending time in the Word is spending time with Jesus. The first Advent video tackled Ephesians 6:10-17, discussing what it really means to be armed with the Word. The sword referenced in this passage is a machaira, a very short sword (like a dagger). It was used in close combat, but it was also used for self-surgery. If a soldier was hit with an arrow, he would stop and perform self-surgey with this short sword to prevent infection (and death). I was struck by the analogy Paul presented in Eph. 6:10-11; it is my responsibility to be aware of my battle wounds, and to get to know the Word so well that I can use it as my short sword to cut out the lies of this world. The word “Rhema” is also used in this passage, conveying a hope that the Holy Spirit will bring specific promises of the Word to help root out these lies. So I am not responsible for the surgery and healing, but I must take the first step in sustaining the influence of the Word in my life so that I have an arsenal to face this world.

Lord, may Your Word by my life blood; may I fully experience “Immanuel, God with us.” 

My second line of inspiration this week concerns the song “O come, O come Immanuel.” The advent hymnal devotion on YouVersion expressed this hope: “As you wait for Christmas this year, as you wait for God’s help in the stresses and pains of your life, as you wait for Christ to return and bring us Home, you can use your Advent month not just for shopping or killing time till the festivities. Sing this hymn with confidence – God keeps his promises. Sing this hymn with hope – your future will be better than your past.”

Lord, restore my eyes to see the hope that you offer this earth, even as the world seems to be falling to pieces. May we find true peace in the freedom that You bring. 

So I’m working on these ideas of trusting in God’s hope, and recognizing my responsibility to pursue God’s heart and word. It never ceases to amaze me how in each season, God asks me to trust Him in new ways; as my plates keep spinning and He gives me more blessings and responsibilities, may I still remember the child-like faith and pure hope found in the manger baby. He really is God with us, the true light of the world.

ChristmasTree

My little family last Christmas (2014). We’ll have to snap some current Christmas season ones soon! (And yes, that is Nans’s famous upside-down Christmas tree!)

15 Years Later, My heart still sings

Music surrounds many of my life moments. From my daily consumption of multiple hours a day across all genres to vivid memories of poignant melodies marking epochs of my life, music infuses the very way I think. I sing songs to remember scriptures, and I am pretty sure I can sing every single word on the Spice Girls’ “Spice Album”… still. I have cassette tapes of me and my neighbor Natasha creating our own DJ radio shows where we would listen to the radio to catch the exact song we needed and then record that segment onto the tape in the middle of our 8-year old rantings. My mom tells stories that I would sing at the top of my lungs all throughout the grocery store, singing “Gory! Halle-uah! To the King!” when I was only a few years old.

I’m not sure I can even estimate the impact music has had on my life. I know so many Broadway songs, and Disney songs, and jazz songs and pop songs and oldies. Through all of my life, music has offered me rhythms for each season.

The best account I can give, though, is how my heart is stirred through worship music. Turning 13 marked quite a time in my spiritual walk. I remember our youth leader, Dee, at the Church of God in Grand Junction, encouraging me to try leading worship for our youth group. I had just started working on chord charts on the piano, and I definitely loved to sing. Over the next few years, her influence of intimacy with God, falling in love with the Word of God and showing me how God’s faithfulness would steady me through all of my teenage years completely changed my perspective on worship. From that time, I began to see vivid pictures of who God is, and I began to experience His steadying peace. I definitely could be a very dumb teenager. I definitely hurt people along the way. But overall, I remember feeling so protected by my relationship with God. I would write songs, pour over His Word, and I would find shelter in times of worship with Him.

The second youth group I was a part of expanded my connections and challenged me very much as a musician. We had a bigger band, we worked on more modern music, and we were encouraged to keep going deeper with God. I learned a lot about music, and leading a band with Matt Voss at the First Assembly of God youth group, and the whole band we had together. Remember going to Washington D.C. to play for Nationals?

Worship4 Worship 8 Worship5 Worship6 Worship7

My family moved in the middle of my senior year of high school. This was really hard at first. I remember listening to the radio A LOT and being somewhat moody. It was hard to be re-planted. We came back to the church I had gone to in Longmont when I was in elementary school. I joined the youth group and began playing with Lori and Jesse. I also joined the college team… and ended up meeting Matt… (although at the time, I would have never considered dating him. We laugh over this a lot now. I had a lot of growing up to do. I am very glad we didn’t date until much later.) Here, Mark Lopez pushed me to grow as an encourager in worship leadership.

When I moved to Tulsa to go to ORU in the spring of 2006, a huge relationship with God shift happened in me. I was on my own in a lot of ways, but still very much a part of a community bent on finding Jesus. Yep, there was a lot of hypocrisy, and some crazy “spiritual” experiences that I wish to not repeat again. But I also found the anchor of God’s Word and many rich friendships. Even though I tried out for all of the “official ORU worship” avenues and never made the cut, I kept singing. And leading. And offering peace. My dorm room eventually had a piano set up in it, or I would play with my friend Rachel. And by my last few years, I would lead worship for the group of girls I helped lead in our dorms. Even in the midst of being crazy with school, the tumultuous ocean of my heart being broken, and then not knowing where I should go after graduation (BIG World changer has never been my path)… I can still look back and thank God for healing my heart over and over again, and giving me peace. I was also introduced to the concepts of liturgy and growth through worshipful contemplation at my church in Tulsa (Saturday Night Community Church), where “sacred” blended with “secular,” and a depth of the Word brought worship to light for me in many new ways. I also became passionate about the Burn movement and 24/7 worship… I remember pounding away many late night sets at different churches with either no one or maybe 1-2 people in the world, experimenting with singing spontaneous prayers and scriptures. And I also remember many homey nights at house church with Kelbert and Symon. They always offered up genuine examples of personal, spontaneous worship and encouragement.

When I moved back to Longmont after graduating from college, I had to be redefined… yet again. I worked with Mary Jean for a year of the Tent Longmont. We hosted quarterly worship nights, and helped network the church of Longmont. Ultimately I was very sad when this did not continue, but God set a new tone for me through that experience. He gave me a heart for connection with all types of Christian faiths in worship, and He really began to open doors for us to guest lead at different churches all around the Front Range. We always seemed to come in when other worship leaders (or churches) just needed a break. And God’s peace flowed through us. He continues to use us in this capacity, and I love it!

A few months after college, Matt and I started dating. We began to play music together, and found such an amazing connection as musicians (and…well… as lovers too). I can honestly say that worshipping with Matt flows naturally. We are united. We flow so well together. And I wish we would step back and do this more. When we struggle with peace in our home, it is so easy to get caught up in the stress and “logic” of fixing situations. I long for my desires to change… that I would remember the simplicity of sitting at the feet of Jesus and resting in Him, instead of being consumed by the weights on my heart. Adulthood can do some strange things to me.

We ended up leading worship at Summit Foursquare church here in Longmont with Ted Vail and Jeremy Girard. And then after we were married, we decided to help Ted with a church re-plant in Boulder… Hope Boulder. For the past (nearly) five years, we have helped lead worship in Boulder. I have fond memories of candlelight Christmas services, and of branching out a lot in integrating the Word into worship. I have become bolder in how to encourage people during a worship service, and in how to hear what God says about how He wants to connect with people. Thanks, Lisa, for mentoring me through what it really means to commit to a group of people, and contend for their understanding of the Father… day in and day out. Thanks, Shane, for your passionate heart and willingness to believe yet again that God will move.

Worship2 Worship3 Worship1

Enter motherhood. The sleepless nights, the incongruity of rhythm and schedule… nearly two years later, I am still trying to figure out worship… again. I often feel distracted and disappointed in myself for not finding more time to spend on my own in worship. Even in the midst of this time, where I don’t often “feel” the presence of God, I have received startling reminders of His grace. As I come out of my teens and 20s, such emotionally charged times marked with possibilities and wondering “Who am I?” I can now say I have entered into more of a time where God has steadied me and has shown me who I am both through experience and His Word. And yet at times… I still wonder who I am… in the middle of being a mom, and a wife, and a graduate student, and a writer, and a worship leader… and just plain me, in the middle of all of those roles. May I continue to seek grace over harsh self-inflictions. May I continue to let God speak to me and guide me through all seasons, even if that speaking isn’t as passionate as my 15-year-old self writing my own songs of passion and love. May I learn how to write songs again from where (and who) I am now. May I remember that God is still close to me.

Through all of my seasons of worship leading, I have newly defined what God means when He asks us to worship (and ultimately what it means to lead in worship). He calls me to surrender to Him, to acknowledge who He is and praise Him for all He has done. To be worshipful means to be thankful. I lay down the all-consuming thoughts of life and mediate on who He is. He speaks truth to me and my lens of this world changes. I’ve lead for hundreds and empty rooms. In leading, He calls me to bless and pour out His truth, through scriptures and prayers and songs that lead people to know Him more, and to honor Him.

It hit me this month – 15 years ago was the first time I led worship. Thank you to all who have mentored me and walked along side me. God has used you to cultivate me as someone who honors the King of the Universe in a genuine, heart-felt way. For this, I am humbled and grateful.

15 years later, my heart still sings.

Covering my Skin (and my heart)

Twenty-nine of us filed into the clothing bank at Denver Rescue mission. We were there to help DRM tear down an old room set up and organize clothes. But first, we were told to pick out a pair of pants and a shirt. This would be our uniform for the next four days, with no option for showering. The room that seemed so huge and full of possibilities just a few moments before that announcement seemed to  shrink as all of the ladies glanced at the single rack of women’s pant options. Fashion needs downgraded to what-can-we-actually-fit-into needs.

The next day we began our morning at Zion Baptist Church, a 149-year-old African-American church. Everyone was dressed to impress, with beautiful matching hats to brightly colored dresses and suits. We slid in with our backpacks and “homeless” clothes, ever so aware of how we stuck out in the sea of worshippers. The people were the sweetest and most welcoming and went out of their way to talk with us and get to know us. It is amazing how self-consciousness still lingered in my heart, even in the midst of such welcome.

Outside of the church, we were given a packet of information for a scavenger hunt and told to fast and give away our lunch. As we walked to the nearest bus route to get to our neighborhood destination, our small group of five began to feel the heat. Even in a white t-shirt, the sunshine bore into my skin as we continued walking and waiting to catch different busses. Our scavenger hunt was all about finding resources available to people in need, and it was a lesson in opening our eyes to understand where people come from and why they do what they do. Homeless people spend an average of 3 hours a day in line, we were told. I believe it – just waiting for busses over the course of the day took at least an hour and a half! We were told to pick up cans and research how much money a recycling center would give us. Less than a dollar per pound of cans is minimal compared to the work involved, especially when hauling those cans means several bus rides across town. We were told to research minimal cost of living in Denver verses minimum wage. The stigmas in my heart began to melt.

My natural reaction is to judge and say “Hey, why don’t these people want to change? Can’t they see that all they need to do is get a job and move on with their lives? Look at all the resources available to them!”

Yes, there are resources. But the number of beds available compared to the number of people that are homeless in Denver is astounding. And the rules and regulations and the heart behind some of these resources feel like binding red tape. And even if someone is offered a leg up, do they have the basic resources to really follow through with the job interview or the ability to pay for that rental situation? How can compassion even bloom in these scenarios?

Compassion is more than emotion. Compassion is propellant into action. I still fail at this, and my heart grapples for how to really respond to need. Do I really trust God to one day make all of this right? To partner with Him and do my part? What is my part anyway?

Another time on our scavenger hunt, we stopped at Safeway to fill our water bottles. As we walked to the back of the store, people slid to the sides of the aisles to let us pass. As we entered the restroom area, a family with a young 6 or 7 year old girl was waiting too. With wide eyes she stared at us and pushed her body to the back wall. When it was her turn to use the restroom, she walked past us, holding her nose. Shock raced through my veins. And then shame. How often have I judged by clothing? How often have I stopped to not understand? How often have I placed labels on people? Too many times.

On our way back from the scavenger hunt that Sunday afternoon, I sat next to a small little guy. He was surrounded by several very full bags and he was wearing many layers of clothing. He also could barely focused his crack-strained eyes. I asked him if he was hungry or thirsty and when he emphatically said yes, I gave him my lunch. This opened the door for a small, guarded conversation. He has been in Denver for three years (the same amount of time he has been dating his girlfriend). I inferred that he is now only 12 or 13 years old. His voice hadn’t even changed yet. And if he isn’t directly homeless (I am pretty sure he is though), his parent(s) definitely do not know where he is or what he is doing as he solo cruises the Denver bus system. Injustice rages in my heart this time. How can we as a society allow this to happen – how can we give 12 year olds this option to be on the streets? Yes, I understand a lot of teens run away. But where is the breakdown happening between getting them home or finding them a new home for them? And where does this breakdown happen in me? Would I make room in my family and fight for such a child as this?

I came home from Denver with bigger questions and wider eyes. I expect to see this city very differently from now on, not just as a place where I take my family for entertainment and fun. I expect to see angels on corners and realize that God is meeting vast needs, and yet there are still so many more. I recognize that my clothing and appearance have not only covered my skin, but also my heart. May I see with deep, penetrating eyes and not the quick glances (and the forgetfulness) of being busy.

My big take-a-ways from the trip:

– Ministry is simple. We conjure it up, elevate it, make it prideful and then expect many rewards. This weekend, I was reminded that there are no such rewards. God asks us to simply open our eyes everyday to the world around us, and be His hands and feet, and let the Holy Spirit comfort through us.

– I really do have time. I have believed so many lies, that my responsibilities are too great and my heart is too burdened to reach out.

– I have been walking in fear – fear of learning about homelessness first hand, fear of being moved to act by compassion (and not just resonating with those emotions).

– I am better together. When I worked on this missions trip with my Live One Life group, a discipleship group that has been meeting for the past two years, community flowed out of us and became our strength. We were able to move with one heart and one love. And we get to do life together still.

Image

Matt and I waiting for a bus together

Open my mouth and fill it

Image

Appetites. I have many of them. I crave advancement. I want to relax and have fun. I want to grow. And every summer, I seriously chow down on fresh Colorado cherries and peaches. 

I teach an Introduction to Mass Media class at the local community college here, and this semester our discussions often turned toward cultural demands and appetites, and how our individualistic me-driven society demands content when ever we want it and exactly how we want it. This, in turn, shapes the content that is produced, as well as segments advertising until in a lot of ways, we as individuals can shape the messages we hear and receive. We CHOOSE, and yet our appetites are incessantly ravenous. 

In an effort to shut out all of the segmented noise, I have started soaking in God’s Word with an old fashioned pen and paper and a real print Bible. I do not always succeed at this. Many morning my nearly one year old beats me to the punch, and there is no way I am trusting her to sit near my well-loved paper Bible. And some mornings when I sit down, I can barely stop my mind from spinning and rushing all directions at once. My appetite to learn loves the vast resources available to me, and my drive to connect and be social tends to command much of my time and heart. I say all this to point out a realization I experienced… 

I had planned to take the day off yesterday. I happened to wake up around 6 a.m. and I could not go back to sleep. So I decided to get up and start some devotions… and yet I could barely focus. I felt so shallow. Here was a gift of time, with a sleeping baby and husband, and I could barely even decipher what I wanted (or needed) to do to be restored. This thought saddened me. I know business kills dreams, but somedays, I have no idea how to stop it and better focus who I am and my efforts. I had a good chunk of time to do whatever I wanted (trust me…a VERY rare element in new-baby land!), and yet I realized that I didn’t even know what I liked or wanted to do anymore. 

This morning, God’s direct words to the Israelites in Psalm 81 jumped out at me in answer of this state of my heart: 

“You called in trouble and I delivered you. I answered you in the secret place of thunder… Hear, O my people, and I will admonish you… Don’t worship any foreign God. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” 

I open my mouth to many unfulfilling and addicting things. Yet when God says He will fill my mouth, He wants to fill me to the brim and cause thorough saturation with His blessings. He wants to fulfill His Word in me, and He wants to fill the earth with the awareness of His glory. He longs to fill us with His spirit. At my heart of hearts, I long to live from this filling, to choose this life instead of the many demands tugging at me. 

The Lord goes on to say in Psalm 81: 

“But my people would not heed my voice, and Israel would have none of Me, so I have them over to their own stubborn heart, to walk in their own counsels. Oh, that my people would listen to Me, that Israel would walk in My ways! I would soon subdue their enemies… I would have ged you with the finest wheat and with honey from the rock. I would have satisfied you.” 

Today, may we choose what really satisfies and nourishes us. Trust me, I rarely get this, but I want to. And I need to. 

Fill me up, God. Saturate my life with Your presence and fill me with Your spirit. 

(Check out “Fill Me Up” by Will Reagan)