Sunday, July 20, 2014

notes to self from a mountaintop

I need to write this down, this letter to myself, because right now I am standing on a small mountaintop. From here, I can see clearly. From here, I am close enough to heaven that I can feel it. I can feel God's presence, can hear him without interference. I am blessed, so blessed. It's not that I don't have any problems at all, because of course I do. It's not that I don't have heartache and sorrow, because I have that also, and in fresh measure. But I also have this deep sense of joy.

I told my guardian angel, Pastor David Silvey, that I think I'm going to be okay now. I think I'm going to be able to quit flopping around on the beach. It's like I finally figured out, I'm a fish, and my home is in that ocean of faith. That is where my oxygen is to be found. (I realize you may not get that if you haven't been following my blogs for a fair amount of time, but trust me, it makes sense.) My faith feels unshakeable.

And I do believe that is true. I do believe that I will be okay now. But I also know that as wonderful as it is here on this mountaintop, eventually I will find myself back in the valley, might find my way obscured by the fog, and surrounded by the trees I may not be able to see heaven at all..... It makes me sigh, just the thought of it. Or even worse, what if I were to get caught up in one of those spiritual battles that rage down in the valley? I like to think I won't. But it's happened before, so just in case, I wanted to write this to myself.

First, Self, read the blog right before this one, about the experience that catapulted us to this mountaintop to begin with. And then, just listen to me. God is real. We have met him, have walked with him and talked to him and felt his presence. There is no way to say he is not real. That would be like saying Pastor David isn't real. We know him, too. We have met him and have talked to him, and most times if we send him a message or something, he will answer. But if one day, Self, we went on a trip to somewhere where there was no internet or cell phone service, we could stand outside and yell, "Pastor David, where are you?" and probably he wouldn't answer. But just because he didn't answer doesn't mean we should doubt his existence. It just means that we have moved into a place where we are temporarily unable to communicate with him. It is the same with God. If one day we wander into a place where we are unable to communicate with him, that doesn't mean he doesn't exist. It just means that we need to get ourselves back to where we are supposed to be.

Here is the other thing. The message of the gospel is spiritually discerned. If you can't wrap your mind around it, that's not a big surprise. In 1st Corinthians, Paul says, "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.... For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." (1 Corinthians 1:18-25) Faith is a gift of God, and it's a gift we have been given, self. So use it.

In all my fighting and battling and struggling, all my "kicking against the goads," I have slipped and slid, and I have just ended up causing untold damage and injuries not only to myself, but also to others. For myself, I might be able to live with that, but for others, and particularly for my children, I can't. It's all for nothing, because God has always called me back. I have never really gotten away, and I don't want to get away. Even when I am apart from God and think it would be impossible to get back, I never stop wishing it was possible. Why do I allow myself to be pulled into this battle? I don't know, but it's got to stop. The other day, Pastor David told us about the prayer he prayed: "God, you know I love you more than anything. But you also know I'm a knucklehead sometimes. So God, just please. don't. let. me. go."

I prayed that prayer myself this week. I know he won't let me go anyway. If there is one thing I have come to firmly believe, it is that once you are God's, you are God's. But let's just make it easy, Lord.

I have found myself in a good place. Lift Ministries, a tiny place in Hayward right now, but destined to grow I'm sure, filled with a bunch of the most loving, humble, spiritually mature and discerning people I could ever hope to find. Not a place for the faint of heart, unless that is the faint heart wishes to be fortified! It is a place where I can plant myself, grow, be held accountable.

God, I'm yours, and that's all I want to be.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

why continue believing?

Anybody who reads this blog or who knows me is aware of the fact that faith and belief have not come easily to me. I have found myself filled with questions and doubts. While I believe that atheism is irrational in the face of the reality of the universe (how can something come from nothing? when did time begin and when does it end? what is at the end of the universe? and how on earth does my cell phone ring when you call me no matter where I am?), still when you get right down to actually believing in God ... well, that can be a bit of a stretch also. And miracles? Jesus fed how many people with a couple of loaves of bread and a few fishes? Yeah, right. The Bible can be a difficult book to understand, and without understanding it can be a difficult book to believe.

So the question is, why keep at it? If faith and belief twist me into such pretzels, why not just give it up and be at peace? Well, the answer to that is pretty simple. It's because God keeps calling me. From the time I was very young, God has called to me. He has put a desire for him into my heart which never disappears, even when I find it hard to believe, even when I don't believe.

Not too long ago I had experienced a real breakthrough in my faith. I can't remember exactly what it was because I didn't write it down, lol. I was thinking about taking a step of commitment and had just had a conversation about joining the church I have been attending. Then out of nowhere it was like a big bat came along and knocked me off my spiritual ground. I didn't really know what to do about this. I was avoiding God, avoiding church, avoiding reading the Bible and pretty much everything else. I was still hearing that call, so I started looking around, wondering if there was another way to do this that didn't require quite so much "faith." I wondered about some people I knew of who called themselves Christians and yet definitely followed a different drummer. How does that work, I wondered? Well, I resolved to find out. I resolved to remain a Christian even if I followed a different drummer. So I posted this on Facebook. I am a Christian. I may be a good Christian or I may be a bad Christian, but I am a Christian, and I am not giving up. You must know that I posted this with every intention of continuing after that different drummer.

That wasn't what happened, however. In fact, I was completely surprised by what did happen. It was as though God had just been waiting for that word, regardless of what I was thinking when I said it. God answered, "YES! You are mine!" And he swooped down and swept me off my feet and into his arms, and he laughed and laughed and spun me around and around in joyful circles, and when he set me down I was not the same because I had felt down to the center of my being the touch of God, the love of God. His laughter echoed in my heart and filled me with joy in his tangible presence, in his church, his people, his word.

So this is the answer to why continue believing in the seasons of doubt. It's because deep inside I know God's reality, because I have met him, I have felt his presence and his love. I have heard him speaking to me. Do you wonder what God's voice sounds like? I think it sounds like a memory. Have you ever had the experience of hearing something and the next minute wondering if you actually heard it? A bump in the night, a step on the stairs perhaps? That is what the voice of God sounds like, a memory, an echo in your thoughts. I have heard him telling me to do certain things and he has never led me wrong when I listen.

In my life, I have been judgmental. In my previous incarnations as a Christian (within this life, of course), I have been a judgmental Christian. I could look at another Christian and turn my nose up because they obviously weren't really getting it. In general, love and compassion and even empathy have been little flowers that have fought through the weeds in my life, poking their heads up only as life has pruned my heart and soul, opening them up so I could see, so I could feel. In my struggle with faith, I hope only that it gives me more of a heart for others. I know it appeared to others that I wasn't quite getting it, and I wasn't. But I can tell you this, God loved me in those times as much as in the times when I have faithfully served him, and God loves all the other imperfect people in the world, and he longed for me to yield to his embrace, just as he longs for you.

Of course it is a challenge to believe in something you cannot see, although I have to point out that we do that every day and take it for granted. We believe in cell phones and telephone signals, and we believe in this darn computer and internet through which we are so amazingly communicating here. We believe in existence at all, which is the very biggest mystery, that out of nothing and nowhere at no time everything all came to be and ended with us. But the reason we believe is because we can experience these things. We can experience God also. But he understands when we have trouble. He will meet us where we are, but he is a gentleman. He waits for our permission.

This song has been on my playlist, but it came to my attention the day God was spinning me in circles and dancing with me. I loved it because it says, "Lord I find you in the seeking. Lord I find you in the doubt..."

Love you, my friends. Have a glorious day.