Brielle's birthday celebration was nice. It had an unexpected twist; We were going to simply cut her a cake at home, get some sodas, and give her presents. And then at church, we're invited to another birthday party for a friend of ours, and we ended up merging the birthday celebrations and spending the afternoon w/ the pastoral family. More people to sing "Happy birthday" to Brielle (which made her grin), and she got a few (but AWESOME) extra presents too! The kid's behavior today at church and at the party wasn't uncharacteristic for toddlers (active, all over the place) and yet they were really well behaved today in that I seemed to finally have caught their attention and they listened to me. I was happy that Brielle was not THAT whiny in the sense that once she started (which was often), and I talked to her and asked her to stop crying, she exercised self-control. It spoke volumes to me because it's like Joyce Meyer says in the Women's Bible Study we're doing (Never Give Up), you CAN change your behavior. A 2 year old can do it! I was beaming with pride for Anakin too. Not just today either.
My biggest regret this year has been that I don't have a camera! I take pics with my phone but that's not consistent, or good. I count on other people to take pictures, and my friend Tina did, but then I need to wait until Tina (or Angela, or Donna, etc) can have to time to unload their cameras and get their photos to me. Not to mention I haven't had a decent photo op with my family yet. Since my baby shower thru today there is loads of pictures floating in other people's home and I don't have them. And I want them for my personal keepsakes, and to share with my loved ones. It's important to me. I want a camera (and a good camera too! I'm desiring one with video capabilities as well as photo, but digital so I can upload and share online).
God has kind of showed up in my life this week a little bit... out of the ordinary. He's always there (duh) and that's key in the concept of a personal relationship with Jesus. But this week - towards the end of the week, it felt like He was a bit more tangible than He had been in my life for some time now.
I felt gagged since my last post until now. Like I really couldn't spit out the words to pray. I had prayer burdens. I had the earnest desire in my heart to pray. I had the time and the energy to pray every day. I couldn't get a word out. It was like, "God knows, and He knows better than I do, so why say anything?" In a lot of ways I felt trapped. Trapped by the recovery process of my recent surgery. Trapped by the children. Trapped by the snow. Trapped by the lack of personal resources. Trapped by finances. Trapped by the hopelessness of all the things that were SCREAMING at me to get done but I didn't have the physical energy or capability to do it. And obviously, in moments like these, I DON'T blog.
Which means something happened.
After going through a high fever, terrible aches, swollen tonsils, and painfully sleepless nights, one morning I started to pray. Before the sun was out, before the kids were up, before Paul stopped snoring. And the minute I started talking I also started crying. I said, "Lord, THIS is the reason why I haven't really wanted to pray. I knew I would cry. I didn't want to cry. I really didn't want to deal with these feelings, and I certainly didn't want to open myself up to FEEL those feelings. But eventually the desire to get out of the trap overcame the desire to keep all my emotions on an even plane. And after everything was said, I was done. I felt a good kind of emptied out, like all the nasty stuff was out and all that was left was hollowness, which gave me peace. Then I carried on with my day.
The day showed me that God is faithful. I saw Him, in small ways, already moving to answer my prayers by either causing small changes or giving me the strength and patient endurance to wait on Him. And I am DESPERATE for so many changes my dreaming and longing for it keeps me up for hours when I could be sound asleep.
Then this Sunday at church, the moment service started, something different took over me. I found myself having a hard time concentrating on the words in the Hymns because I wanted to cry. And the words themselves were ministering to me volumes as I sang them! We sang a Hymn called "My Anchor Holds", and it blessed me to really consider that I have anchored myself to Christ - there is no storm, no matter how bad, that would cause me to lose my grip on Him because He won't lose His grip on me. And I wanted to cry just in worship. At the same time, I felt tension. Tension that you could slice with a knife. But I looked at the congregation and the congregation was in worship. It was like the Holy Spirit was moving in a quiet way, bringing confirmation and encouragement in every detail. I did notice that when we were sharing prayer requests, everyone that asked for particular prayer was trying to hold back tears (and some were more successful than others). So there was no visible animosity to explain the tension. And the tension was almost making me nauseaus. So I went to the altar and I began to pray for the gifts of the Spirit (watch out! There's a soap-box paragraph coming soon to a blogpost near you). I asked God to manifest the gifts of His Spirit to help us handle effectively what ever it is our congregation was going through... I certainly had no idea what was up with the tension in contrast with the spirit of worship. All I know is that's why we need the manifested gifts of the Holy Spirit - to have someone pray in tongues and address the need right on by the help of the Spirit who knows everything. Then if God chooses to keep that prayer a personal matter and doesn't necessarily want anything in the congregation to be put on the spot, that prayer is between the person and God. Or God sends the gift of interpretation so that the church can be enlightened as to what's really going on in the supernatural and we can war effectively. Or a completely different process is for someone to receive the gift of prophecy, or of special knowledge, and have that person be revealed to by God what is going on in the "secret", and then maybe give the person the instruction to share, or to intercede in private with the Lord. I'm not saying any of these gifts had to fall on me. I'm also not saying that there was something shady about my church or the congregation - I'm talking about supernatural battles. If you don't believe in demons, or the power of darkness, then NONE Of this makes sense. But Scripture says that these things are indeed there, and we "do not wage war as the world does". It's not about a physical fight of arguing or calling out, insulting another believer. My church has the most awesome demonstration of the fruits of the spirit and agape love with each other that I have ever seen. But if you do believe that there are demons, even though we can't see them, how are we to rebuke them and cast them out by praying based only on what we see with our natural eyes? We need the manifested gifts of the Spirit to pray against these forces that oppress the church, so that the people can overcome in victory. I myself really don't like participating in intercessory prayer in all circumstances because I need to know if God really wants me to pray for that? And in that way? Prayer is powerful! Much more weightier than "be careful what you wish for". And God cannot be manipulated, and He will not answer a prayer that is inconsistent with His character, His Word, or His will. I don't want to pray resisting God, I want to team up with Him and pray the things He desires in His heart.
And so I asked God for the gifts of His Spirit for our church. because another overwhelming feeling I felt, as I was praying about the tension that I didn't understand, was heart break. Big heart break. I felt hurt by what was hurting the church (maybe not EVERY person, but it seemed like there were at least a handful that were hurting with a personal battle or other). I love my church. I don't want to see them beat down by sickness, abuse, unemployment, separation, or depression. I don't want them to be struggling by situations that distance them from their spouses, kids, extended family or friends. Some people would read this far and say, "Maria, that's just life". Granted. It's still heart break. And if there's anyone I can think of that gets personal kicks out of heart break, it's Satan. He is the root for sin. Sin is everything that separates us from God. God is love. Everything that isn't love, and isn't in line with the characteristics of love (patient, kind, not self-seeking, not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs... etc), is brought into this world by the archtype of Love Incarnate (Jesus Christ), which is Satan. God gave mankind the freedom of choice to let us as a species determine how much territory the kingdom of darkness can have, and we flung open the doors and let it become a global free for all. Even though God is there for the believers, to cover them so that darkness has no victory over them... and even though God is patiently waiting with arms wide open for those that are unbelieving... He's not going to take away our free will to create utopia here on Earth. As a result, the kingdom of darkness bleeds into the church (not by invitation) but like an oil spill in the ocean it can leak in and slowly start covering over everything until people "clean up" - pray, receive God's help in the situation, overcome it. Early detection is the key.
In that altar moment of all these things going on (and obviously, I could put them into words, because I did in prayer specifically and I'm blogging about them now), I just felt God closer than ever before. I don't run on every FEEEEEling. But it was like God was right next to my shoulder, whispering in my ear. And with no audible words I knew exactly how to pray. And I wept. Maybe I even wept MORE because God doesn't have to come that close to me. I'm not all that spiritual (opinionated, yes. indoctrinated, yes. spiritual? eh...). There's nothing about me that makes me deserve anything more than anyone else. And I was praying for God to move in everyone else... there's no evidence that He wasn't, but I can't blog what God was doing in anyone's heart but my own. And altogether, in prayer and worship, overcome by the burdens the church was facing to the point of heart break and at the same time overwhelmed by the awesomeness of our God and His love.... I cried of joy and I cried of godly sorrow. The godly sorrow wasn't anything personal this time, and it wasn't anything that needed to be repented of. It was just sharing in and truly allowing myself to feel what my brother and sister in Christ are going through. The joy was just... "Wow. God, I'm sitting here and having a moment with You. There's nothing particularly special about me but the God of the universe wants to sit beside me and have a moment with me. Wow."
It was very personal. And even with all that I wrote, I was still very peripheral and kept all the details confined to that moment. And what I did share I wrote because I want you to be encouraged in which ever way this blog can encourage you. God is here. God is speaking. I pressed in because I was straining to hear and so He drew closer so I can listen. HE WANTS TO SPEAK TO YOU TOO. I don't know what He wants to share with You. I just know He wants to sit next to you and put His hand over your shoulder too.
What He told me intimately placed me in a Facebook status where I could sing (along with Sis. Debbie):
Now You've won my heart... Yes You've won my heart
And I can trade these ashes in for beauty
and wear forgiveness like a crown
come in to kiss the feet of mercy
I lay every burden down
at the foot of the Cross.