Dwell in Me

Seeking God in the Every Day


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Relating to God in 3 Basic Steps

A couple weeks ago we went to Colorado with my family. I don’t know what it is about mountains that reminds me so of God’s majesty. But I mean, wow! Love.

  
Which leads me to Trinitarianism. This was one of the courses I took this summer (and school’s out for a couple of weeks now!). This class has changed the way I think about God on a level I can’t even fully articulate. Talk about a God who wants to be in relationship with us! During one of our classes, while we were discussing this God in three persons, one of my classmates asked, “When we think ‘God,’ then, are we thinking of the Father?” And my professor replied, “When we think of ‘God,’ we should be thinking of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. That is who God is.” 

This is, of course, the logical conclusion of Trinitarianism–but I hadn’t ever connected it that way. 

And it’s changed how I relate to him–a God who is deeply relational in himself, a God who made us for relationships because he made us in his image. 

So that brings us back to a question I asked a long time ago (just shortly before our little man was born): How can we be in a relationship with God? What does it involve and how do we do it? How do we keep our relationship with God growing and fresh, flowing and not ebbing too much?

I think the first thing we need to realize is, by his grace, he wants to be in relationship with us. He wants this deeply and has gone to extraordinary lengths to make it possible. 

We can’t make it to God because we are so flawed in our fallen state and fallen nature. But God knew this and so he came to us. He became flesh and joined together with us in our humanity and offered us a way back. 

So step one to relationship with God is and always will be belief in his Son. And this isn’t some emotional feeling but a mental decision to trust that Jesus indeed was and is who he declares himself to be in Scripture and that his work on our behalf on the cross and in the resurrection has secured forever a path to salvation and relationship with God. 

But then what? 

It’s easy to take that first step and then keep on living like nothing has really changed. Or even to change your life by the power of the Holy Spirit but without taking it to a relationship level. 

Relationships are challenging. They do require a certain amount of work. And although God will never leave us, we certainly can do a pretty good job of forgetting that he is there. 

So, step two and three in our relationship with God are prayer/worship and Bible study. I don’t know for sure which I would put as two and which as three because they seem to go hand-in-hand. Both are necessary. In my life I know I have gone through phases where I emphasized one and then the other, but I believe it’s important to strive to incorporate both of these into our daily lives. 

We pray and worship as a form of communication with God (and to give him the honor and glory he deserves). Ideally, we should be telling God about ourselves (even though he knows everything already) as well as praising him and honoring and glorifying him. Our prayers should be a way to connect to God as we connect to other people we know and love. We want to recognize his involvement in our lives and let him know our thoughts too. And I would encourage you to spend time in prayer even telling God your anger, fears, and doubts, as well as your triumphs and joys. He is a big God and he can handle hearing about our disappointments. The Psalms are full of raw emotion being poured out to God. Is there anything keeping you from pouring your heart out to him? I’d encourage you to address that and work on getting to a point of authenticity in your prayer life. 

Bible study, I believe, is important in helping us get to know God better. Who is God? What has he revealed to us about himself through his Word? Scripture is such a gift from God and we should want to know all we can from it. 

Imagine if you were hanging out with someone and all you ever did was tell them the goals you have, what you want or need, your preferences and dislikes… But you never once stopped to find out anything about that other person. Would that be a relationship? You may as well be talking to a goldfish. 

We can do the same in our relationship with God if we aren’t careful. And while this won’t change his love and care for us, it is far from ideal. I think we can do better. I think a relationship with God can be the most rewarding and meaningful relationship in our lives–if we let it. 

So, to recap, we have three major steps to help us as we are relating to God: we need  to put our faith in Jesus, pray/worship, and study the Bible. I hope at some point to talk a bit more about what prayer and worship might look like and about good methods I’ve tried for Bible study (and maybe some others I’ve heard about). I talked a bit in a recent post about what it means to put our faith in Jesus.   So, in a meandering sort of way, maybe we’ll end up with some kind of series on relationships after all. Haha 

Enjoy the remains of summer. I’m enjoying my little break, too. And in two weeks: Hebrew! I’m really stoked about it, and maybe just a little scared. 

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Lessons from Seminary

I am so blessed to be in seminary! I am more sure than ever that this is where I’m supposed to be right now. I was so nervous, and frankly I had a bad attitude about some of the classes I’m required to take for my degree. I’m interested in the academic study, and wasn’t looking forward at all to classes like “Spiritual Life” or “Evangelism.”

I had my first Spiritual Life class last night, and I’m happy to say I’m a convert. I LOVED it. It promises to offer so much spiritual growth. True, it’s not an academic class, but as my professor wisely pointed out, there is little merit in gaining academic knowledge if the heart and soul are getting left behind. Throughout the two-hour meeting I could just feel the Holy Spirit working in my heart, changing my perspective. What great joy! My evangelism class is tomorrow, but I’m looking forward to it now. I just have a completely differnt attitude.

Coffee Love

My professor, Bruce Fong, is also a dean at the Houston campus of DTS. More importantly, he is a man with an obvious heart for the Lord. He imparted so much wisdom in two hours–and half of that time was spent going over the syllabus!–that I could probably write three different blog posts based on the insights gained through him in one class. I feel so blessed to be in this class, and before yesterday I was absolutely dreading it and expecting it to be a waste of time. Amazing how God can change a heart and attitude so quickly!

One of the things he talked about was the importance of asking for things in Jesus’ name. Jesus says,

“Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” (John 14:13-14).

But what does it mean to ask for something in Jesus name? There are plenty of things I’ve asked for that I haven’t gotten in the end. And I always add, “In Jesus’ name I pray” at the end of my prayers. I had never thought that I may be missing a key element.

What Dr. Fong said last night is that we are good at asking for things, but not as good as asking in Jesus’ name, in his character, in line with who he is and his goals for us, as one who walks closely with him. As my professor said, if we ask for something because we want it for ourselves, we aren’t asking in Jesus’ name. But if we can become like Jesus in our prayers, we will see our prayers answered out of his divine power (2 Peter 1:3-4).

Wow.

To ask in the name of Jessus, I need to grow more in my relationship with him. I need to seek to know what he wants and what his goals are for me and for my life. And then I can be confident that what I ask will be given to me.

I am glad to have this new insight to guide me and help me grow in my prayer life and in my relationship with my Lord. And I am feeling confident that he will answer my request that I might grow deeper roots in my faith this semester. Praise the Lord!


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Contemplating Tragedy

I’m feeling ill-equipped to speak about the things weighing on my heart. Do you know this fallen world we live in is a world that tolerates violence and pain? It’s a world where the police–who should be protecting and defending our communities–become a force that divides them, that devalues life. It’s a world where people can be more concerned about private property destroyed–which is indeed a bad thing–than about life lost. It’s a world where people can look at the death of a person by the hand of a police officer and come out choosing sides: the police or the victim.

And, yes, I’m writing about the events that have occurred in Ferguson, MO, over the past few days. But the sad thing is, I could be writing about so many other cases of lost life at the hands of our police officers in other towns and cities around the country.

And in Ferguson we are seeing–rightly, I think–outrage over the loss of life. Over the way the death was handled. Over the missing information and missing details that still haven’t come to light. I’m not saying that the looting of stores was an acceptable response to this death. And I’m not saying the rioting and burning in the community was an acceptable response to this death. Nor do either of those events serve to honor Michael Brown, who was killed Saturday. But it seems right that the community would gather to honor the deceased and to protest the organization responsible for his death.

I know plenty of people saw the death of Micahel Brown and thought to themselves, he probably deserved it. And here I have to disagree. Two pieces of information have been published that–if true–make the “he deserved it” line of reasoning invalid: 1. Michael Brown was unarmed at the time of the shooting and 2. Michael Brown was backing away from the police officer with his hands in the air. Frankly, even if the second piece turns out to be false, it’s difficult to understand how an officer with a gun–and presumably other means of self-defense, such as a club or a taser–could justify fatally shooting an unarmed person.

And the cop-kills-kid story differs even from the Trayvon Martin tragedy in one crucial way: training. Police officers are (or should be) trained in how to appropriately manage bad situations. Police officers are trained in how to use the weapons with which they have been entrusted. And police officers are trained in the law. As tragic as the death of Trayvon Martin was, his killing “in self-defense” was the act of an untrained neighborhood watch patrolman, not a police officer who should have known better. This is not to justify the killing of Trayvon Martin, but to say that the police should be held to an even stricter standard.

Heinous crimes have been committed in this country, but even the mass shooters and serial killers are entitled–by no less than the 7th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution–to have their day in court. Whatever Michael Brown may or may not have done, it’s hard to justify his execution without trial. Such acts are the stuff of vigilantes, and have no place in the American legal system, and no place among the police officers who are expected to protect and defend their communities.

My prayers go out to this family, and to the community of people who lost a friend and loved one on Saturday. And I pray that we will see changes in how the police interact with people in this country; that we, as Americans, will not tolerate unnecessary use of force from one person to another, especially from people in authority. A badge and a gun doesn’t free a man to enact justice as he sees fit; instead, it should hold him to a higher standard of decency.


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Seeking God’s Most Excellent

It’s easy to get emptied when you overfill. When the days have too much, and the nights are too active, and the moments that you should save for peace, for quiet, for prayer and reflection and time with the Father just slip right away, never fulfilled, never seen again.

Saying no to the good to welcome God's Most ExcellentAnd you look back at a week’s worth of busy and wonder, how did I get here?

And you look forward at a new week’s worth of busy and ask, is there a way to do this differently?

And sometimes, being able to fill your heart and your love tank–and your love’s tank–means saying no. Sometimes it means stepping back, resting, waiting. Sometimes it means taking time for the really and truly important things: for quiet, peace, prayer. For long walks with your husband and those wild dogs of yours, for journaling and enjoying the days and hours and minutes God’s given us before they all run into months and years and we can’t remember.

And sometimes it seems like you’re being selfish when you do this. And don’t we all struggle with that? And how do we establish boundaries that are worth establishing? And how do we say no to the fun things, the “good” things, to gain God’s most excellent instead?

We can fill up. And we can pour out. But it’s hard to pour out when we don’t fill up first. And so I’m learning. Sometimes, we just have to stop. And when it’s nigh impossible to figure out how to stop in an ever-spinning world, I don’t know what to do. Except to pray. To say no. To wait on the Lord. And to know that His ways are not our ways, but they are better.

Even when better is hard to understand and even harder to define.

TIME

Every Friday, Kate Motaung provides a prompt for “Five-Minute Friday“: Write for five minutes only, no editing, no rewriting. This week’s prompt is “Fill.”


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Defining ‘Good’

“Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Psalm 34:8

What is good?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. How do I know if something that happens to me (or around me) is good or bad? Is it even possible to know the difference this side of heaven?

Maybe this seems a pedantic question. Or even a semantic one. But I think there may be real spiritual implications in how we define this one little word.

As with many words, we can be a little loose with our language sometimes. How often have you said something was amazing or awesome–even though you know that these words can truly, deeply, only apply to God? And what do you love? Do you love your spouse? Your shoes? That great movie? Clearly we don’t mean the same love for all things.

So, I’ll start by refining what I’m talking about when I ask this question. I’m not talking about what tastes good, what looks good, what feels good–these are clearly things open to interpretation and different for each person. I can no more determine what tastes good for you than you can for me. It is a matter of personal preference.

I’m also not talking about clear, defined standards set forth in scripture. I don’t need to debate whether God is good–in the most complete and intrinsic sense of the word. And I don’t need to debate whether no one else is good. Jesus said as much. (See Luke 18:19, “‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good–except God alone.'”) Similarly, I’m not asking if creation was good or bad–as God declared all things good when he made them. That was before the fall.

I’m talking about how we evaluate the things around us. How do we view our life circumstances? Do we view them all on the basis of personal preference–if it feels good (or bad), it must be good (or bad)? Or do we view life circumstances and the trials and challenges and sufferings in light of scripture?

In Romans 8:28, we see that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.”

Maybe infertility isn’t intrinsically good. But maybe it’s been good for me.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

If I am living in light of eternity, and living as a sojourner and alien in this world, then what is good and what is bad is going to take on a new meaning. What causes pain or suffering or temporary discontent in this life may be bringing me closer to God. What I see as “bad” and what causes suffering may be integral to developing my relationship with God. And does that not make such events–or at least the repercussions of such events–good?

The world is full of evil, don’t misunderstand me. And the devil will play his games and work his tricks to try to pull us down. But I would submit that if we are living life in view of eternity, we won’t be fooled by the devil’s schemes. We can’t be brought down into the pit of despair when we know that God is truly for us (Romans 8:31).

Bad things happen. I’m not saying that bad things are good. But if we believe, if we trust God in everything, if we do not fear the world because we aren’t of this world–even the worst things can be used for good in our lives.

And so I ask again–can we define what is good? Because I don’t think I can trust my instincts. I think knowing what is good for us and what is bad for us is impossible this side of heaven.

And what are the spiritual implications of not being confident in our definitions here?

There is one who knows. One who knows that the difficult childhood you went through directly relates to your acceptance of the Son. One who knows that the wealth and prosperity you received in this earth did nothing but distance you from himself. One who knows how to bless us–even when that blessing includes a baptism by fire and trial and pain–so that we will truly know him. And since he knows and I don’t, I must choose to trust him and trust his direction for my life–even when it goes against my hopes or plans or sense of what is good.

All the “good” things this world can offer us are really bad if they pull us away from God. All the “bad” things in the world that push us on our knees and draw us to God and Christ are a gift to us. When I’m with God, if I have any care whatsoever about this life I’m living now, I’ll not be surprised to hear him say, “That trial of infertility? I allowed that in your life. I did it because I love you, and because I knew it would draw your heart closer to mine.” And what response can there be to that but a heartfelt thank you?

So I give up on trying to value my circumstances. And I say, why not thank him now?

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith–that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:7-11)


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Thanks and Thanks Again

Are the holidays really upon us already?

I can’t believe Thanksgiving is next week. And Thanksgiving is late this year–so I should be ready for it, right?

I feel like this year Thanksgiving is more important, more meaningful to me than it’s been in the past. I say that because gratitude has never been a strength of mine. Oddly, seeing so very clearly what I want but don’t yet have has helped me put words of thankfulness to so many blessings. Including the disguised blessings–like infertility itself.

As God has been revealing more and more of his character to me this year (and by that I mean that he has opened my eyes to himself, not that any of his character was ever hidden or anything), I feel so thankful for all that he has given. I am so thankful that he loves me and that he knows me and has an appointed time for everything. For everything in my life and for everything in the lives of everyone. How enormous is the power of our God? How far reaching his strength? How phenomenal his sovereignty? And how great his love?

I was struck recently by this verse, and I am so awed by the Father’s love for me!

In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” (Jesus speaking, John 16:26-27)

I can’t put words to it. All I can say is thank you. Thank you. Thank you, over and over.

It’s a hectic time for me right now. DH’s grandparents are visiting and we’re working diligently with his grandfather to transform our office into a library (we’re building shelves!). I spent the better part of yesterday staining the counter tops we made for cabinets that we installed last week. It’s so exciting to be working on this project and I can’t wait to have it finished.

And since DH’s grandfather is overseeing and helping with the work, we are so blessed to have this time to spend with just him. They live in South Carolina, so most of the time with Grandpa is also with Grandma and the aunts and uncles. It’s such a wonderful blessing to have time with just him (not to take away at all from the blessing of time spent with the whole family…). In the past few days we’ve heard stories we’d never heard him tell, and we’re getting to know him better. We are so blessed! (Did I say that already? It’s true though!)

Grandpa and my father-in-law are coming to our house again this evening and will be staying through the rest of the week. And next week is Thanksgiving. Please forgive my sporadic posting habits! I have so many things I want to write about. Things God has been teaching me lately and some things I need to dig into and do some self-reflection on. Things like whether I’ve really made 2013 a year of fruitfulness–and trees. Things about the overwhelming power of the Holy Spirit within me that I can and must access to ward off the devil’s attacks. Things about God’s perfect timing and what he’s teaching me about his promises. Friends, I have so many things to write about, and so little time. But I know that God has given me the exact amount of time to do what he has called me to do each day. So I will trust that God has already ordained when the words are supposed to flow from me, when I am supposed to publish these things for his greatest glory.

I also really appreciate your prayers. I felt you all praying for us last week.

Thanks. Thanks to God for this day, for my amazing and wonderful husband, for the many blessings I can’t put into words and the many that I am repeating and writing down. And for this little moment to write something. I relish these moments.


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Asking, and Still Asking

Do you ever feel a little bit phony?

I’ve been riding a bit of an infertility roller coaster lately. I guess it’s been for the past few weeks, maybe even over a month. I am just so ready to be on the other side of this. So ready.

I think I’ve also reached a place where I think I’ve learned my lessons. Yes, I’ve been blessed in a number of ways by infertility, not least of which is getting connected to some absolutely wonderful men and women who are sitting in this boat with me–or who have been. I’ve grown closer to God and to my husband. I’ve seen intimacy increase in both relationships in ways I never expected. I know I’ve gained a new appreciation for what I’m missing, that I’ll be more joyful and slower to complain when things are tough in pregnancy or after. And I’ve benefited in some tangible ways: I eat better (or at least know better and try to), I’ve eliminated some potentially and actually harmful substances from my skin care routine. I’ve begun some new habits that will hopefully help my house run a bit smoother once I get them all down. And these are all things that will be good for my coming children.

I wouldn’t take it all back. Really I wouldn’t. I’m grateful, honest-to-goodness grateful for the journey that has led me here. But have I learned enough yet? Because I really, really am so ready to move on.

And the phoniness? It comes out on here sometimes, when I want to look like I have things more together than I really do. Mea culpa. Seriously. And I feel it when I’m with the people who don’t know. The ones who ask me, at my Bible study, “How are you?” with that look that says, “I know there’s something hurting you” or “Are you really okay?” or “No really, tell me, how are you?”

And I’m so grateful to have these women who ask me with depth. They know. I know some of them know. I’m 29, I’ve been married almost six years, I live in Texas, and I’m a stay at home wife. They know. But they don’t pry, they just keep asking, “How are you?” and meaning it.

And I keep deflecting. Like today, when I told a dear friend that, well, I have to get my house cleaned for DH’s grandparents who are coming to visit. I do need to do that, by the way. My house is a complete disaster. And I’m not exaggerating (though I really wish I was!). And I know why I’m not telling them, why I’m not exposing myself in that way and why we’re waiting. And I think we have some valid reasons not to tell, beyond just protecting ourselves. So I’m not actually rethinking that decision. Just, I guess, coming to terms with the feeling of phoniness that likes to sneak in.

And then, there’s God’s word. And I read it and I so want some of these things to be true for me specifically, but I don’t know how to take the promises specific to one person, or to one tribe, or to one time and place, and call them mine. I don’t know if they’re mine. And truthfully, the only thing that makes me want to say they are mine is because they line up so well with my will. But in my head I know that God’s will is best.*

And I’ll keep asking. And keep seeking. But I’m not yet claiming. I don’t know if I can, or should. So here I am, God, still waiting. Waiting to hear what your promises are to me. Hoping that, like infertility, having a child is a good gift you have in store for me. And waiting for this trial to end. Please let it end.

Sigh.

Keep on asking and it will be given to you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking [reverently] and [the door] will be opened to you. For everyone who keeps on asking receives; and he who keeps on seeking finds; and to him who keeps on knocking, [the door] will be opened.

Or what man is there of you, if his son asks him for a loaf of bread, will hand him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will hand him a serpent? If you then, evil as you are, know how to give good and advantageous gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven [perfect as He is] give good and advantageous things to those who keep on asking him!
(Matthew 7:7-11, AMP)

With family in town from now through Thanksgiving, I’m not sure how consistent I’ll be (they are staying with DH’s parents, or I know I wouldn’t be able to do much blogging). I’ve been feeling so overwhelmed lately–not by the blog, but by other things–and I am striving to find balance. So, if I’m quiet for oddly long periods, please don’t worry. I’ll be back. I might be back tomorrow. But I appreciate your patience.