God – the Supernatural?

I had an interesting experience recently.  I began to pray something to the effect that Christians would be open to the supernatural.  Then all of a sudden I realized, mid-prayer, how ridiculous that sounded as it came out of my mouth – praying that we would believe that God could work in supernatural ways.

Merriam-Webster defines God as this:

1 capitalized : the supreme or ultimate reality: as 

a : the Being perfect in power, wisdom, and goodness who is worshipped as creator and ruler of the universe 

And the supernatural as this:

1 : of or relating to an order of existence beyond the visible observable universe; especially : of or relating to God or a god, demigod, spirit, or devil

2 a : departing from what is usual or normal especially so as to appear to transcend the laws of nature

The Creator and Ruler of the universe implies to me that He is indeed supernatural and completely other than man and our human ways.  

Why is it a stretch for us to believe that a supernatural being, the Ruler of the universe, could manifest Himself in unexplainable ways?  I’m not meaning to sound judgemental at all to those that believe that He doesn’t work that way any more or to those that are struggling to believe it.  I’m simply trying to look at it from a logical point of view.

I believe that humans are supernaturally created.  Our bodies are absolutely miraculous and shout intelligent design.  I don’t think there’s a chance we got this way by accident.

The earth and the universe are indescribable and so perfectly placed it’s undeniable to me that it wasn’t purposeful.  

These two things alone display that God is extremely supernatural in His ways.  They are are so beyond us.  He created something out of nothing.  He breathed life into dry bones and put a living soul in each being.  Seriously, how amazing is that?!

I believe He is far more capable of things than we think, and that He is longing to co-labor with us to display His glory in the earth.  The question is not “can God work supernaturally,” but “will we make space for Him to move?”

C.S. Lewis hits the nail on the head:

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

We are too full on the things of this world which leaves little to no hunger left for things of God – His supernatural ways if you will.  

Just to clarify:  I am not saying that we should merely seek after the supernatural for the sake of seeing unexplainable things and experiences.  My heart in this is for the church (the sons and daughters of God) to walk in the fullness of all that He is and all that He extends to His family.  We are co-heirs with Christ, walking with the deposit of the Holy Spirit inside of us!  Let’s not settle for less, friends.  There is always more to know and experience and discover.  We will never exhaust His love and wisdom and grace. 

Andy Byrd recently said:

“If you know how to do it, your dream’s probably not big enough.”

We should need God to come through for us.  We should need the Holy Spirit’s guidance and empowerment daily.  We should need more than we can dig up within ourselves if we are actually living a life of faith.  Our dreams should bigger than what we can accomplish on our own.  Where’s the faith in having goals and ideas and dreams that are within our limits?

May our hearts and minds be open to all that God is and what He does and not just the bits that we can make sense of. 

I personally don’t want to worship or give my life to a god that I can fully understand and put in a nice tidy box.  I need more than what I can conjure up and explain.  I need supernatural wisdom and strength and grace to make it through each day.  There’s gotta be more to God than what I see and know.  

His Word is filled with stories of His supernatural ways.

Think of Jonah being swallowed by a whale and living to tell the tale.

Remember how He led Israel by a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night.

Recall how He parted the Red Sea for His people when they were trapped by their enemies.

What about that time He spoke to Moses through a burning bush that didn’t burn up?

And how about when Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into a firey furnace and came out not even smelling like smoke, but the guards that threw them in died because of the extreme heat???

Then there’s David and Goliath (I Samuel 17), Daniel in the lion’s den (Daniel 6), Sarah and Abraham conceiving as an elderly couple (Genesis 21), Samson’s supernatural strength (Judges 13-16), Solomon’s gift of wisdom (I Kings 3), God extending daylight in order for His army to have victory (Joshua 10:12-14), and we haven’t even made it to the New Testament!

To me, I just don’t see how we can create a logic and a theology that says that God doesn’t work the way…well…the way that He’s always shown Himself to work even before He gifted all of His children with the deposit and empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

I sure as heck don’t have it all figured out, and I don’t really care if I ever do.  I just know that I want to get ahold of all that He is and what He does, as much as I possibly can.  He’s the source of life and peace and love and joy, and I want to dive as deep as I possibly can into those realities.  I want to really know Him, kind of like David did in the fields as a shepard boy and like Mary listening at Jesus’ feet.  I want to walk in step with Him and be a part of what He is doing each and every day, and that’s going to take something beyond me, something dare I say…supernatural.  

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Sometimes

Sometimes I get frustrated and overwhelmed with life.

I see the glass half empty.

Sometimes I feel alone.

It seems like the choices that I’ve made have amounted to nothing.

Sometimes old wounds rear their ugly heads and remind me that I’m still broken.

I want to isolate and hide myself instead of being vulnerable and reaching out when I need help.

Then, by the grace of God, I take a small step.  Risk my pride and cry in front of friends once again.  I put one foot in front of the other and continue on.  Still feeling a bit battered and worse for wear.

Then, as I’m doing something as mundane as cleaning up and organizing, I find myself overwhelmed at the Father’s goodness and mercy and grace over my life.

While looking through a box of saved letters, cards, sticky notes and random notes of encouragement from the past 6 years He began to fill my heart up with thankfulness and joy and hope once again.

Sometimes we need to remember.  We need to remember how far we’ve come and how much we’ve grown in the process.

We need to believe once again that the heartaches and scars have been worth it.

Sometimes we need cry it out and let His love fill our hearts afresh.

This doesn’t mean that all the pain and uncertainty goes away.

It doesn’t mean that we minimize our feelings and shove the loose ends under the rug.

It means that we give Him space to realign our thinking with His.  We allow Him to adjust our heartbeat to His while we rest in His ever assuring, capable arms.  It is in this place that He strengthens us in our weaknesses.  He puts things into proper perspective.

The giants don’t seem quite as big anymore.  I mean, they’re still there, but not nearly as intimidating as before. It’s like we’ve been given a supernatural boost of endurance to take that next needed step.

Sometimes we forget who our God is.

Sometimes we forget that we are His beloved children.

Sometimes we need a reminder of what is ALWAYS true.  We just tend to be a bit forgetful and far too easily swayed by a few waves.

Thank God that when I’m feeling emotionally overwhelmed, He isn’t.

When I’m feeling weak and broken and insignificant, He knows just what to do.

Sometimes we spiral and need to be reminded to just be.  

“Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.”

Hunger

Merriam-Webster.com defines hunger as this:

Hunger:

  1.  a:  a craving or urgent need for food or a specific nutrient
     b:  an uneasy sensation occasioned by the lack of food
     c:  a weakened condition brought about by prolonged lack of food

  2.  a strong desire :craving<a hunger for success

It is more than a peaked interest in something.

It’s a need.

It’s a craving.

It reveals a lack or weakness and shows a strong desire

I recently read an article on a 13 month starvation study that began in Minnesota in November of 1944.  This study revealed alarming data about the short term and long term effects of hunger and starvation.

Ancel Keys said “Rather than focusing simply on the nutritional requirements for re-feeding a starving person, he wanted to offer insight on how starvation (or in this case, ‘semi-starvation’) alters “the changes in motivation, then the behavioral consequences of the physical changes, and finally, the emotional, intellectual, and social changes which so profoundly influence the personality.”

I’m looking at this and mulling over how it might connect to hunger for certain things in our own lives, not just in the physical but regarding the spiritual as well.

We crave power and influence.

We need affirmation from people to feel valuable.

We’ll do almost anything to have more money and possessions than our neighbors.

Why?

I believe part of it is because we are craving after what we’ve had a taste of.

If I’ve never heard of chocolate or tasted it, it would never be something that I went to the grocery story specifically to buy.

Exponentially so in a Western society we live in a modern day culture that stirs our appetite for sex, money and power.  The media is constantly feeding us messages that we aren’t skinny enough, that we’re not desirable, that we must prioritize ourselves above others and that we deserve to instantaneously receive everything we want at no cost to us.

Our appetites are whetted for the carnal.

It all sounds so promising.

If we just get that new car or that boyfriend THEN it’ll all come together and our lives will be meaningful and we’ll be okay with who we are.

If that person would just apologize, then we could let go and move on and feel better.

We hunger after validation, vindication, relationships and all the things society promises will correct the discontent in our hearts.

This is what we have been fed.  This is what we’ve been programmed to hunger after.  Most of us don’t know any better, and we’re all too easily satisfied.

Unless…

Unless we’ve had a taste of something sweeter.  Unless our appetite has been awakened and re-wired for something more satisfying.

Hunger motivates us.  When we’re hungry for food, we do what it takes to satisfy that desire.  It becomes a priority to us.  We lay aside other things to meet that need.

What would it look like to hunger after the things of God?  And how can we actually increase our amount of hunger for more of Him and His kingdom?

Like the article states, physical hunger alters things in us.  It alters our motivations.  It can cause us to have emotional, social and intellectual shifts that actually influence our personalities.

I belive that as we begin to get a taste of what will actually fulfill, sustain and satisfy us  we will be changed.  Our priorities will shift.  Our social life will look different.  Our emotions and our mind will be renewed as we feed upon the truth of God.

Psalm 34:8 “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!”

 

The Smell of Christmas

Today I want to share a raw piece of my heart, and a part of the downside of my life that you won’t see from my social media highlight reel and others that have found themselves going down a more off-beaten path.

There are two sides (at least) to everyone’s story.

Let’s never forget that.

I was recently attending a wedding in Singapore and the 8-course evening wedding dinner was well underway when I decided I needed to stretch my legs, go to the restroom and take a break from the loads people. This is quite normal for me at big events or parties. My introverted side kicks in, and I need a little quiet time and reflection alone so that I can recharge a bit and go back in and enjoy the rest of the evening.

I was on my way back in to the celebration when an unannounced smell invaded my senses.

Christmas.

 The dinner venue was at the Gardens by the Bay, and they were setting up for the holidays. The walk from the bathroom to the dinner venue shared the airspace with a section of the open gardens, and they were setting up a huge Christmas tree.

I couldn’t leave. I needed to smell this smell…well…forever if possible. Memories came flooding back, and I began thinking back over past Christmases and thinking about being in Asia this Christmas instead of at home. The tears began to well up. I kind of tried to hold them back, to keep them under control. After all people were walking back and forth behind me, and there I was leaning over the edge of the walkway in a floor-length black dress and heels trying to breath in as much fir tree as possible while I had the chance, all the while trying to keep my thoughts and emotions under control.

I finally decided not to stifle and stuff. I needed to cry. Like really cry.

I didn’t want to wander too far off so I just went around the corner and up the stairs.   I spotted a large stand of sorts with 3 flower arrangements on top.   I initially thought I’d just sit on top, but then people could still see me. And at this point I wanted the filter off and the freedom to release.

So behind the stand and onto the floor I went. Sequins and heels and all.

And I cried.

Honestly, sometimes it just sucks when you miss those familiar faces and places and takes and smells from home. What’s almost just as hard is that a lot of times there’s no one physically present that can relate and grieve with you.  Those are the tricky, upside down feeling times where leaning on Jesus is essential.

This time this year these little moments seem to be a bit more frequent than I’m comfortable with. With Fall, Winter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year all jammed into the span of a couple of months the longing for the special flavors and moments that my heart crave just aren’t as easily accessible as I’m used to.

I want boots and scarves and flannel and live Christmas trees and all things pumpkin.  I want to see trucks with 4-wheelers loaded into the truck bed and camo covered men at the gas stations, and yes, I’m even missing the sound of football games coming from the TV (thanks, Daddy), but most of these things are out of my reach in the ways that I long for them.

Thanksgiving hit me hard in a lot of ways. A wonderful American family invited me over to celebrate. There was a mix of nationalities around the table, but the family’s traditions and dishes mirrored so much of my own family’s. Several times that day I had to leave the room to blow my  snotty nose and dry my unrelenting river of tears. There was such a bitter sweetness in it. Missing home and family but also being filled with thankfulness for the Father’s thoughtfulness, faithfulness and provision in every area of my life.

I was in awe of Him.

I grew up with a family that did this well – inviting others into our home. My parents have always loved on everyone that’s walked through our back door and made them feel at home. There’s always room for more at the table. Being the recipient of this kind of love and hospitality all over the world has made me increasingly appreciate that. I believe I’m reaping the benefits of what my parents have sown.

So I encourage you this holiday season to love on the “strays” around you.   Send a card to that friend that took a job away from home and doesn’t have the luxury of being nestled in their treasured familiarity this Christmas. Even if someone isn’t overseas for the holidays, even if they’re only one state away from their roots, believe me they are craving to be included and loved on and seen.

God is just so faithful. That’s all there is to it! It’s a part of Who He IS.

Through all the highs and lows one key thing I’m learning is that HE IS HOME.

“Jesus said, ‘Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for My sake and for the sake of the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.’”

Mark 10:29-30

When Push Comes to Shove

Knowing something in our heads is much different than truly believing something.  I’m actually surprised at myself sometimes by the things that bubble up, from somewhere deep, deep down inside of me.

I know so many of God’s truths.  It’s super easy to read a Scripture or echo one, but it’s a different thing altogether when we’re face to face with situations where what’s rooted in our hearts comes unexpectedly into the light, and it doesn’t match up with what we say is truth.

Our initial reactions have a way of revealing what’s in our hearts

We’ve stepped out in faith before and seen God move our “mountains” and pave the way before us, but when we’re settled in and comfortable and change comes into our lives abruptly and unwelcome why is it so easy to put up a fight and default to unbelief and fear?

I know the truth in my head, but what comes up in my heart and my emotions doesn’t always match up immediately with that.

For the most part I make decisions out of my thinker side and not my feeler side.  Even though I may feel very passionate or emotionally attached to a situation, I pretty much immediately know the logical decision that should be made and thus my head usually wins out over my emotions or heart attachments.

In some ways I’m very thankful for this.  It’s generally my default and allows me to push forward through hard circumstances and enables me to make solid decisions that I don’t regret later.

But then sometimes, so out of the blue it seems, when my guard is down and I’m talking about something or I encounter a situation where what’s really in my heart comes flooding out, then I’m forced to see a disconnect.

It’s not particularly pleasing.

I’m also learning that it’s not the end of the world.  It doesn’t mean that I’ve screwed up and failed the test.  It means that I’m  human and I’m still in process…just like everyone else.  We will never “arrive” this side of Jesus’ return.  It’s a part of sanctification, a part of being formed into the likeness of Christ.

I’ve come face to face with these struggles lately in the midst of transition, of waiting, of seeking, and waiting some more.  Sometimes I get down on myself for not being where I want to be in my faith, for not having things all figured out and for doubting Him…again.

During these times we must strategically put our hope in Him.  We must be remembers of what He’s already done in our lives and use that to propel us forward into the next season.  He has never abandoned us before, so how could He start now?

It’s not in His character to break promises or be unfaithful to us.

Many people that I know are in quite intense seasons of waiting on the Lord and transitioning and stepping into unknown territory.  Some days we feel like we’re on the verge of drowning, gasping in just enough air to survive until we get swept back under the waves again.

We feel in over our heads and unsure of the road ahead.

I can’t promise that the path will be easy.  There will be heartache and pain and most likely more questions than answers.

But He’s proven to me yet again that He is faithful.  He is the One leading us and guiding us.

My heart is shaken when I look to the uncertain things of the world instead of into the steadfast eyes of my Father.  It is there, eyes locked with His, that the fear and confusion melt away.  It is there in His presence that I find peace and rest.

He didn’t go anywhere.  He didn’t change.  We just tend to get antsy in the waiting.

I’ve also found comfort and encouragement in community.  The enemy whispers lies to us that we’re alone and no one understands and that silence and isolation is the best solution to getting through these times.  It’s simply not true though.

Be encouraged, friend.  You are not alone.  There is a point to all of this.  We are being refined in the process.  We are growing and maturing and deepening our roots, learning to lean into Him.  So instead of fighting the process, let’s dig in.

There is hope.

“I believe (confirm, support) that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living!  Wait (look eagerly, expect) for the LORD; be strong (bold, alert), and let your heart take courage (grow strong); wait (look eagerly, expect) for the LORD!”

Psalm 27:13-14

 

Control, Trust and Our Little Boxes

My current car-less lifestyle has caused me to slow way down.  The previous two months I was running like crazy, sometimes coming and going from my place 5 different times a day.  It’s not my favorite way to do life, but I had briefly committed to more than I should have.  My life these past few weeks has looked drastically different, but I think it’s just what the Father intended. He’s sneaky like that.

Things have been bubbling up the past several months. My car breaking down (again) only 4 days after I returned from the U.S. seemed to be the final straw to me realizing that all of my self-perceived control over my life had been taken away.  Maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but it’s how I felt.

I never really thought that I needed or even liked to be in control, and in a lot of outward areas in my life I honestly don’t.  I can be very go with the flow.  I can adjust to new circumstances and cultures without a whole lot of difficulty, and I believe that I’m a fairly easy person to get along with.  When plans change I’m pretty adaptable.

But apparently there are lots of areas in my life where it absolutely drives me crazy that I am not in control, and the realization of that has been a bit of a tough pill to swallow.

This process has been wrecking me.

I like to know what the expectations are of me and be able to meet them.  I like to know the rules so that I can play the game and win fairly.  Dos and don’ts help me know if I’m doing things the right way and measuring up – to others standards, God’s and my own.  I prefer things to be straightforward.

The reality is that much of life and journeying with Jesus isn’t like this.  My 20s have been quite eye opening.

The more I know the Father, the more I don’t actually know, and things aren’t as cut and dry as I once believed.

God is not inside the box that I’ve created for Him.  When I look for Him there these days He’s no where to be found.

For a girl who’s been a pretty dedicated Christian for the past 17 years this has caused a huge perspective shift, worldview change and a major lifestyle alteration.

My black and white Christianity no longer exists.  That cookie cutter has been broken. All of those grey areas that I previously wanted to avoid don’t seem (quite) as scary anymore.  Believe me though, a few years ago they terrified me.

Just to clarify, I in no way mean that I don’t believe in absolute truth.  I 100% do.  There are many non-negotiables and straightforward Biblical teachings.

I’m talking about the grey areas.  The “room for interpretation” areas.  The preferences.  The cultural and societal norms of right and wrong and this way or that way.  Traditions that are taught as truth. Personal standards held up and imposed as the standard.

God continues to tear away at my precious box. He gently encourages me to keep opening up my hands and loosen my grip on those things that I can’t control anyway.

When I stop and look at it, He’s actually leading me into more freedom.

In the process it’s revealing my heart and showing me that deep down I still don’t trust God as much as I thought I did with particular areas of my life.

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are the fruits of the Spirit, of someone walking in step with the Father. When we find ourselves bearing the “fruits” of anxiety, worry, stress, hopelessness, depression or apathy we should pay attention and not let these things go unchecked in our lives.

For me personally, some of these “fruits” have highlighted my control and trust issues. I know that this is not how I am made to live. I am made for abundant life. Life full and overflowing. A life filled with faith and hope and love. A life of freedom and joy.   To love and to be loved for who I’ve been created to be.

We all are.

We have to decide who’s worth our trust. We must throw fear back into the pits of hell. We have to learn to lean into hope and faith.

Let’s let go of control and step into deeper trust.  Let’s wade through the muddy waters together and find out who God really is and how that changes everything.

Things most likely won’t turn out like we plan, but I have a hunch that in the end we’ll look back and say that it was worth it.

 

Slowing Down

A few weeks ago I was driving home alone after dark when suddenly my car decided to die.  It resurrected then died and then came alive enough for me to make it home and to the mechanic’s the next day.

And there it still sits.

This has changed my life up quite a bit.  For one, I’m walking tons more.  Yay for involuntary exercise.  I’m also taking local transportation, mainly the bus.

I will say that walking and busing and catching rides with people in lieu of driving everywhere is completely different.

IMG_0290

It takes much longer to get anywhere that I want to go.  The 10 minute walk from my house to the bus stop and then the 11 minute walk from where the bus drops me off to walk to work pretty much guarantees that I’ll be sweaty at the beginning of my day.  No worries.  Smelling like sweat is my favorite.  It makes me feel extra feminine and ready to face the day.

If only.

Honestly though, if this is the worst of my troubles then I’m doing just fine.  But there are pros and cons, just like most situations in life.

IMG_0224It’s inconvenient for sure. It’s forcing me to have to depend on others and ask for rides, which is not something I enjoy doing. I prefer independence and the option of riding with others instead of being dependent on people or feeling  like I’m being needy. That part has been hard and humbling.

Walking and busing instead of driving also provides a lot more opportunity to be observed and called out to by the local men. This part I do not enjoy. The emotions that surface in me from these encounters are things that I’ve struggled with immensely since I began traveling internationally, but I think that blog is for another time.

And yet there are many other aspects to this lifestyle that I quite enjoy.

I feel like my stress level has gone down significantly because I’m not fighting my way through traffic everyday and hunting for a parking spot. If I take the bus I can simply take a seat (if the bus isn’t too full) and relax until I get to my stop.

IMG_0268I get to people watch and take in the island. I can plug in and listen to a podcast or music. Walking and riding give me lots of time alone to think and pray, allowing me more of a space to press into some neglected areas of my life and reconnect with God.

I feel like I have been given a fresh perspective on Penang these past 3 weeks.

Interacting on more of a local level. Having conversations with aunties at the bus stop. Seeing little nooks of beauty on each street that I never noticed while hurriedly driving by. The smells and sounds and faces are more vibrant and real and within my reach and right in my face at times. It’s all a bit more raw.

IMG_0283It’s making me fall more in love with this place and with these people.

When you’re eyeball to eyeball with someone else it’s a whole new ball game. When you feel the heat of the sun and the sweat dripping down your back and then you wash away the dirt from your feet at the end of the day you know you’ve experienced a place on a much more intimate level than if you’d only driven around in your air conditioned car and looked out through the glass windows as the scenery and people quickly passed you by.

While I definitely still want a car I’m am finding a lot to be thankful for during this time.

IMG_0234This perspective shift has been refreshing to say the least. This experience is turning out to be beneficial to my heart and soul. It has caused me to slow down, breathe a little deeper and enjoy the details of my life.

I’m thankful for a Father who knows my needs and takes care of them, even if it’s not the avenue I would’ve chosen for myself. He is good, and I can rest in that.