More About Surrender

Near the beginning of my prayer class recently I wrote in my notes what I feel is my hindrance from the Holy Spirit…and that is Surrender or submission.   I love the Lord with all my heart.  I know God is in charge and I am not.   I struggle with giving up the perceived feeling of control.

Then my teacher said  “Baptism of the Holy Spirit is a response to our Surrender”.  I thought he was going to point me out and call me by name!
It hasn’t always been like this.   25 years ago I preached in a Lutheran Church on Holy Trinity Sunday (the week of annual conference/synod convention).  I remember being blessed and fully filled with a vision of how the Spirit had been working in me.   Shortly after when I was married and had children, I became frightened and overly focused on being a good parent and my responsibilities that I felt ill-equipped for.   So much so that although I knew God walked with me, but I had to be focused and did not have time or trust to work with God on my fears.
Fast forward to where my youngest is now 18 and has refused to cater to my obsessive worrying and need for control.   I could not hold on to my facade.

Philippians 4:6-7 New International Version (NIV)

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.

This scripture became absolutely my only choice over what seemed completely impossible.   It is the recipe for peace.  And yet I still cringe at the word surrender.   I don’t go willingly.

Harvest Bashta is a worship leader and has a song about “signs and wonders” that I planned to re-listen to on the way home from my class.  It was actually her other “Song of the Lamb” that pointed out surrender.  If you Google her main phrase “May the Lamb receive the reward of His suffering” you will find that the phrase comes from a story about two Moravian missionaries as told here:  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moravian_slaves.
It is a story of complete surrender.  Lord, create in me a desire for complete surrender.
This revelation for me came right ahead of my mother entering her final stages of life on earth.   The following morning I got to sing praise songs with her, pray over her and shed a few tears as she surrendered her tired, pain riddled body to the arms of our loving Savior.   My memories of that time help wade through the pain of getting to see and talk with her.
Surrendering to Christ is not giving up.   It is victory.   It is moving forward so that God can make all things new, including a reluctant, fearful, follower.   Let it be dear Lord, let it be.
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When this race is over, it is just the beginning

The title is another great quote from my friend Vicki Bunke.

Recently I became aware that I clearly have a problem with surrender.   I wrote down the words “Perfect Submission” with the intent of a big raspberry (PLTTTTTTTT!), sarcastically admitting to myself that it is something I don’t have.   Even worse, parts of me just don’t want it.   I don’t like the idea of handing over control…..even if I never had it in the first place.   What a mess I am.

Here is some more great wisdom from Vicki Bunke

“Ever notice that the pictures we use to represent someone surrendering look a lot like the pictures we use to represent someone being victorious? Who would have thought that surrender is an effective method for victory? Who wins by surrendering? History books are not written about those who waved the white flag, but about the conquering heroes and nations. We grow up daydreaming about being the champion, the victor, and the overcomer. No one dreams of being the one who grows up to surrender. But it is exactly to this very thing that Jesus calls us. In fact, He makes it pretty clear that unless we are willing to surrender everything, He won’t be able to do much with our lives.” — Vicki Bunke

Ouch.   He won’t be able to do much is right.   My pastor explained it as

“I see us laying something (a burden or something we ‘need’ to control) in His arms but refusing to let go of it thereby restricting Him and us from dealing with it. Likewise we ‘surrender’ our lives to Him but still hang on enough to interfere with His plan.” — Rev. John Freeland
I’m sabotaging myself.    And just like with fear and prayer, I must find a way to “let go and let God” if I want to progress at all.

 

And i do want to progress.   What is in store for me as a surrendered servant is far, far better than a fearful, untrusting, so called follower.
Lord I desire to put my full trust in you.  I want to surrender to you and live fully in Your will.    When I don’t know how to move, I will come to you to direct my path.

Romans 15:13 New International Version (NIV)

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Homework:   The story of the writer of the hymn “I Surrender All”  https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/history-of-hymns-i-surrender-all

Continue reading “When this race is over, it is just the beginning”

When Not Enough is More Than Enough

There is much for me to love about the holiday season.  I’m fortunate to have family I love, no one has died recently or around the holidays, and each year I gain new understanding about Christ’s birth and how it impacts my life today.

There is also much reason to really struggle with this season.   It’s the season of abundance and there never seems to be enough money for big expensive presents.    There is not enough money to spend on special food…not enough time to cook it all.    It’s a season of excess and it all seems like gluttony to me.

                    noun    habitual greed or excess in eating.

I can’t keep up.   I can’t compete.    I cannot represent my full love with a budget that barely dents towards a requested luxury item.   It’s not enough.

But God says His grace IS enough.   Will I go into Christmas Day filling inadequate and unnecessary?    No.   I am a child of God and I will love as best I can, and greet others with a warm welcome and genuine fellowship.  I will do what I can.

John Wesley says it best:   “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”   Just do your best.    Don’t stress.  Don’t overdo.

And be grateful for those who share their fellowship with you as well.  This year I was blessed at a wonderful staff luncheon.  The food and fellowship was plentiful.   We were all gifted with a book that will guide us into the new year and maybe our entire direction in life.   It’s Divine Directions, by Craig Groschel.

Master the decisions that will make your life everything God wants it to be.  Every day we make choices.  And those choices accumulate and eventually become our life story.

Even Teddy Roosevelt said it well   “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

It’s a busy time of year.  I’m working full time, commuting in Atlanta so lots of time in the car.  I am recovering from dental surgery (expenses, and healing).   And yet I will share with thought, word and deed my love, admiration and appreciation to my family and loved ones as best I can.  I will do what I can to make a welcome home with tasty food and good fellowship for anyone who wants to share.   I will enjoy quiet down time with peacefulness and not feel guilty as I reflect and appreciate God’s abundant grace this past year.

And I will take hold of God’s reminder that “…..“My grace is sufficient for you, for power[a] is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”      2 Corinthians 12:9 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Amen.  Thank you Lord Jesus.

Comfort and Joy and hope that does not disappoint

Yesterday I had almost become consumed with grief. I have been praying for several friends and it felt like sadness and gloom was abounding. I went to Chapel and I talked with God begging for mercy. We sang songs of rejoicing and Immanuel, but the sadness still filled in the air.

The meditation was about a phrase we have come to use often, even without fully understanding the implications of saying “It is what it is.” I had viewed that statement as facing the truth, or accepting reality. Sometimes it is necessary to face the issue for what it IS. The problem is that what it is does not mean the end. It is not final. Even death. IT does not have the last word.

Yesterday in my heart I was preparing for more news that the cancer had spread for a dear, sweet child who just wants to live and be happy. Why, Lord? It’s too much. It’s not fair. Also, a spiritual mentor friend announced a sudden move that surely means an unplanned job change, and stress and strain for him and his young adult children as they continue to adjust to life after the death of their wife/mother from cancer. Where is the mercy?

Yes, you are here with us Lord, but we are sad and troubled. But that is only part of the story. There is more to the story, thanks be to God.

This is the season of tidings of comfort and joy because our HOPE comes from a baby, our King and Savior who came to earth to show us everlasting love and forgiveness. And He will come again.

This scripture keeps coming before me again and again. I guess because I seem to forget it and need to be reminded. This morning I discovered Romans 5:3 is the Verse of the Day in my Bible App.

Romans 5:3-5 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Hope does not disappoint. It is NOT what it is. Or even if it is, it is not the end of the story.

There is good news. The cancer has NOT spread right now, and there are great plans underway for more living and more happy times. There are days to look forward to. For my mentor friend, there are opportunities for new ministry and reaching people who are eager to hear God’s Word and witness a life of humor, passion and faith lived out by one who continues to persevere despite facing dark times.   His ministry continues to reach people and make an impact, and the legacy of Heather Hagler is that God IS glorified and her joy as a follower of Christ continues to spread and grow.

There is a woman hoping for her body to be healed, accepting that drastic surgery may indeed be required. She is tired of pain and discomfort. She is weary in the waiting, so ready for life to be restored. Hope does not disappoint. God WILL heal. Today is a day for living in that hopefulness as best we can. Today is a day to testify. Hope does NOT disappoint.

Worship & Prayer

So earlier this year I discovered (finally) that God is working on me to tear down walls that keep me from fully encountering His presence.    It’s not a good feeling to be open and vulnerable, so I developed some pretty strong layers to keep my emotions at bay during worship.  I wanted to grow in head knowledge, but leave my heart alone.  It’s complicated.

Thus when I get touched during worship, quiet streams of tears roll down my face and I have tried to what my dad used to say “dry it up!”   It’s kind of embarrassing.   Like crying at a McDonald’s commercial……Get a grip!

But tears are one way God has been trying to open me up and embrace the feelings of releasing stress and handing over my burdens.    Once I accept the emotions, then I can begin to FEEL what my brain knows about a loving, caring, God of grace.  And I can worship God with freedom and a desire to let Him see my gratefulness and awe for Him.  It’s a beautiful thing that I still haven’t fully grasped….but I’m getting there.

Then there is growth in prayer.    Lord, have mercy.   The freedom to rant and ramble and praise and beg to a merciful God is an overwhelming experience of merging the mind and the soul in a glorified voice.   I know this and felt this all at once with my brothers and sisters in Christ at a healing service.

There is power in prayer.  There is a celebration with fireworks when God’s people call upon Him to heal, restore and give hope.   There is comfort even in the middle of God’s mysterious ways in knowing that all things work for good for those who are called according to His purpose.  There is hope.   And hope does not disappoint because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit.

In the healing service I attended there was music….like a free form hymn-sing led by a pastor who belted out praise songs and lifted us all up to offer thanksgiving and honor to God.   There was piano music that set an environment of hearing and feeling the power and presence of Jesus himself.   There was the word of God presented with new light that brings new meaning to words heard many times before.    There was communion offered for each and every soul to know that God sacrificed His son for each one of us.   There was forgiveness, remembrance, and renewal.    There was and is power in the blood.

There was anointing with oil, the laying on of hands, and a community lifting up both simple and heavy burdens, speaking words of peace, acceptance, forgiveness, love and hope.   There was physical transformation as the prayers were lifted up with no boundaries of time or place or judgement or doubts.

We worship a mighty God who delights in our offering of time, and respect and honor and trust.    If you have barriers keeping you from encountering God with all that you have, pray that God will continue His work in you.   He never gives up.   He never lets go.

All honor, glory and praise be to God our Father in heaven.   Amen

 

 

 

Words are important

God is alive and shining on us.  He wants a relationship with us and for us to be all that we can be.   Many days I am so wrapped up in my “agenda” and worries that I cannot hear and do not listen for God’s direction.

Yesterday was not one of those days.   Or even in my own neglect, God was loud and clear.   On the way into work I listened to “On Being” with Krista Tippett on NPR.  The topic was the writings and work of Abraham Heschel, a 20th century Jewish Rabbi and social change agent.   I heard many wonderful insights and quotes, but I was struck by his teaching about how words are important.   God spoke, and the world was created.   Later that day, my coworker, who had also heard the show, asked me if I knew of Heschel’s work.   She is inspired by his book called “The Sabbath.”   Later that morning my friend Jedi Pastor Ken posted a graphic that included a quote by Heschel:  “God is of no importance unless He is of supreme importance.”  Simple, yet profound.

Then I was able to listen to the sermon by Rev. Jody Ray, in the middle of the series called “Love is a Verb”.   The point of this sermon is that words matter.   They can create life, or death.

I heard the message loud and clear.   I like to think that I can speak words that inspire.   Sometimes I do.   But I know that I have also spoken words that offend, cut down and convey a message of doubt and  inferiority.   Mostly I feel the need to warn or make suggestions to my children.  “Behave.   Be careful.   Don’t stay out too late.   Get some good rest.”    One of my children has resorted to just responding with the opposite.  “No, I plan to be wreckless, mom.”   Is there a better way to say, “I love you.   Make good choices.   I’m praying that nothing bad happens?”     Maybe just like that.   The worrier mom is afraid that something bad will happen, and I will probably attribute it to them not making good choices.   But I see where that projects “I don’t trust you” or “I think you might make a stupid mistake.”

Another way I use my words is to leave room for negativity.   When someone asks “How are you?”, I respond with “I THINK I’m okay.”   I have to leave room in case I change my mind or if I suddenly don’t feel like things are okay.   So who am I doubting now?

Sometimes things are not shiny, happy.    Sometimes bad things happen.   But my faith tells me that God is with me and that no matter what happens, He will carry us through.   And if it is my time to leave this earth, I trust God will still lead me.

May the words of my mouth convey HOPE and TRUST.    May my words bring LIGHT and LIFE.   May people hear the LOVE of Christ in thoughts, words, and deeds.

 

 

 

Progressing

I am trying to progress in my spiritual walk.   Well I would LIKE to, but I’m not devoted to do the work.  Well, I think I am devoted, I’m just very slow in processing God’s Word and internalizing His message for me.  And yes, sometimes I am just plain oblivious to hearing His word.

For many years now I have been getting irritated with myself for attending worship or chapel services and I although I try to sing with my full voice, I end up getting emotional and the tears start to roll, and if I try to ignore it I’ll just end up coughing and stumbling over words and I just stand there in a blubbery mess of emotion.   Am I an overly hormonal old lady?    Why can’t I control my emotions?    I do think singing praise to our father is worth feeling emotion, but it’s like something is trying to tip me over and I don’t like that feeling.

Yesterday, it was finally pointed out to me.   It’s God, trying to tip me over, empty me of myself, so I can fully embrace His presence.  Yesterday morning I was reading a devotional in my Bible App.   Here is what it said:

IN ORDER TO HEAR MY VOICE, you must release all your worries into My care. Entrust to Me everything that concerns you. This clears the way for you to seek My Face unhindered. Let Me free you from fear that is hiding deep inside you. Sit quietly in My Presence, allowing My Light to soak into you and drive out any darkness lodged within you.    From Thomas Nelson’s Jesus Calling® 10th Anniversary Expanded Edition [2014] [Sarah Young]

Hello?   My emotionalism is God helping me to release all my worries.    I hold in my stress.  Ask my blood pressure!   I feel like “life is hard, put on your big girl panties and deal with it!”    And I don’t know how to just lay down my burdens.  And who am I to just dump my stress on Jesus like He hasn’t got enough to deal with.    How rude.     How wrong of me.    If I truly understand how God planned for ME, and all of us to live and grow and prosper, I realize I MUST lay down my stress, my fear, my need to control and let God envelop me in his love, grace and acceptance and if I truly do that, then I really will cry at the release of it all.

So now I know WHY I cry at worship (even though Jen Carozza’s voice and John Carozza’s music can easily bring me to tears!).    And then Pastor McMichael’s message brought it all together.

The message featured the wisemen visiting baby Jesus (Christmas in June? Why YES, thank you!) Transformative worship requires

+ a desire to come meet Jesus
+ bringing your BEST as if you are working not for man but for the Lord
+not returning the same way as you have been changed by the power and presence of Christ working in you!

I can’t wait for my next opportunity to worship God.   I’m gonna sing and cry, and try to sing some more.    I’m gonna present my burdens to God and let HIM work in me so that HE will shine in and through me and I will not leave the same because I will be transformed.   Thanks be to God!   To God be the glory!