Faithinflipflops

Living simply, loving deeply!

Archive for the tag “prayer”

Dark Night of the Soul

I know most of the time I come across as positive and that everything is always going well. After all my blog is named “Faith In Flip Flops”! What’s happier than summer and flip flops?  This is not Sunny and Happy Heidi. This is raw. This is real. This is me. I do not know if I will actually publish this or not on my blog. I am transparent but this is even deeply personal for me.

I was up all night crying. I rarely do that. I can count on one hand the times I have done that (the death of my mom, my dad, and my brother are three of them). I cry easily when it comes to things that move and inspire me, but not from pain and anguish. I hate the empty feeling that envelopes me when I am all cried out. So I avoid at all costs.

Last night was triggered by a discovery that is quite personal and not really important to the story. The trigger is just what re-awakened a part of me that has been lying dormant in me for years, the broken part – the part of me that is so full of pain, hurt, anguish, and anger that it makes it difficult to breathe. It is the part of me that drove me to party in high school before I encountered Jesus. It is the part of me that drives me to find comfort in food, spending, and every other self-sabotaging behavior that helps me keep the pain at bay…to keep it from crashing over me like a tsunami.

Last night was a dark night of my soul. It came so suddenly and unexpectedly.

 

All I want to do is withdraw from people and life and lick my wounds.

I have been on this journey to wholeness my whole life. And as God has peeled off layer after layer, He has brought me peace and comfort. But He has never brought me healing.

This past year has been a journey of overcoming self-destructive behavior, especially in regards to food and how I treat my body. The attacks have intensified this summer. Our church is currently in the midst of a month long season of prayer and fasting. My last time of an extended time of prayer and fasting (a complete food fast for 40 days back in 1999) led to one of the most difficult seasons of my life. I haven’t really fasted consistently since. I know what it brings to the surface. And it ain’t pretty.

I feel so broken and helpless. And crazy.

While showering this morning, I had a moment of clarity. This broken part of me cannot be healed. God can comfort and bring insight, but the pain, hurt, and anguish is real and has had a real impact on my life.

Sidenote: I come from a denomination whose theology believes in healing. I believe in healing. It is a gift of the Spirit. But the reality is no one gets out of here alive and no one gets through life unscathed. When God heals it is for His name sake and out of compassion. This me-centered Gospel Western Christianity has embraced is frustrating and does not work in most parts of the world.

Back to the shower…the realization that this part of me cannot be undone, or healed, or erased. It has to be faced. I thought of Jacob from the Bible who wrestled with God. I read the story again this morning.

Jacob’s name means deceiver. He was a deceiver. His whole life he had consistently made poor choices and done some shady things. He betrayed his twin brother Esau. The story finds Jacob having to face his brother in the morning. This is the first time in years encountering him since he betrayed and screwed Esau over (with the help of his mother).

Jacob truly thought his brother could kill him the next day and rightfully so. He sent everyone and everything else ahead and he stayed in camp by himself for the night. And wrestled with God. All night long. Jacob would not give up.  When God saw this (Jacob’s tenacity) and that He could not win (God couldn’t win? What an amazing thought)…He gave up. Scripture says God had to say to Jacob, “Let me go”. Jacob insisted on a blessing before letting God go. Before God blessed him, He asked Jacob “What is your name”. Jacob had to say “Jacob”. Basically, Jacob stood before God, dripping sweat, bloody, hip hurt, scared, and tired and he confessed, “I am a deceiver”. He didn’t hide it from God. He was honest and raw. God changes his name from Jacob to Israel, from deceiver to one who fought with God and man and won. How do you beat God?

But God also marked him. He touched his hip. Jacob had a limp from that day forward. So he would remember. The pain was a reminder that the deceiving part of him died that night…that dark night of his soul.

Everyone knew Jacob’s deceptive ways.

Jacob could have blamed the way he grew up. He grew up in a dysfunctional home. His dad favored his brother, Esau, because he was a hunter and a manly man. His mom favored Jacob and pitted the two against each other. But he didn’t play the blame game. He was a deceiver because he chose to be. And God brought Jacob to the end of himself so he could rename him.

I will always walk with a bit of a limp – with pain and anguish that sometimes gushes out. But I take responsibility for the wrong ways in which I have tried to cover and appease the pain. The sinful ways. The ways that have left me empty and hurt and even more broken.

God has always been in the business of changing names. He changed

  •             Abram to Abraham
  •             Jacob to Israel
  •             Saul to Paul
  •             Simon to Peter (John 1:42)

All had broken, less than stellar pasts.

What would God change my name to? Am I ready to have my name changed?

I don’t know where I go from here but I am completely undone. The pain and hurt still come crashing over me in waves. I have to trust as every wave that is crashing over me, it is cleansing and taking the parts out of me that need to go. Following Jesus isn’t easy, safe, pretty, or graceful.

 

544669_4377761916771_1843397429_n

The waves crashing over the break wall at the mouth of the Vermilion River. Depicts how the waves of pain and anguish feel.

It is actually, at times, heart-wrenching, hard as a hell, and ugly. My ugly cry last night was not for weak of heart. My puffy eyes this morning are not attractive. Nor is my mood.

But it is worth it. I want the tenacity of Jacob or as my friend, Cristi texted me today, I want to be fierce, strong, and brave. I want to wrestle with God and win. Pain will mark that journey. No way around it.

I want to be like Peter and come to the conclusion he did, “Where else would I go? Jesus, you alone have the words of life?”

I may not know where to go but I do know the starting place even as frustrated, angry, and hurt as I am and that is to the foot of the Cross. I take my hurt, my broken pieces, and thoughts there. I find it ironic that I am leading our congregation in communion this Sunday morning.

I feel so ugly and insecure and trying to hide all of that at the same time as trying to fix it myself leads to self-destructive behavior. I want to be free. I want to be enough. I want to be valued. I want to be fought for. (How’s that for real?).

God has brought me full circle. It is 20 years since I graduated from College and went into ministry. For the most part, I have enjoyed every moment. It has been hard and messy but amazing and fruitful at the same time. I would choose it over and over again though it has cost me a lot.

Eighteen years ago, after a dark season, instead of admitting I was broken and wounded, I indulged in self-destructive behavior. I don’t want to do that again.

I have spent most of the day in the sanctuary of our church, setting up for Sunday, preparing for communion, and writing. I am reminded how much I need a tribe of people around me. I am thankful for Pastor Jim and my friend Cristi who have allowed me to be incredibly raw and real. I haven’t been fired yet. And especially Cristi, who gets my inappropriate way of talking about things. I am an open person but in my life, I have never experienced a friendship in which I can confess my sins, fears, and insecurities and not feel judged. Or have it used against me. That is what James was talking about in Scripture when he admonished us to confess our sins one to another so we can be healed. I am also thankful for another unexpected friend that has helped me through this season in ways in which they have no idea. Their impact has been immeasurable. I hope I can someday repay the favor.

Texting Pastor Jim I eventually said this, “God is good but He is definitely not safe”.  (From a quote from my favorite book by C.S. Lewis). He responded “No He is not safe and we are not either. I wore a T-shirt yesterday that said “Pursue peace – Prepare for war” words to live by”. He went on to say, “You are that kind of dangerous also. Don’t be surprised or over reflective of your weakness. Rely on your strength…it is what makes you dangerous”

asafe aslan.jpg

I now understand why King David wrote so many Psalms. He wrote himself off the ledge. I write myself off the ledge. Even in the midst of this, God is good and He is worth it all. And I am grateful He allowed waterproof mascara and foundation to be invented.

Advertisements

Missions

During college I had class 8 -12 and worked 1-9, five days a week at a drug store. I had Tuesdays and Sundays off and those days were filled with student ministry and homework. Life was full. I would get up early to pray, eat lunch after class and take a 15 minute power nap. Power naps are how I survived college.

We had chapel two times a week during college. There are very few chapels I remember from my four years at school but one in particular impacted me greatly. It was a chapel on missions. Since I first heard what a missionary was in high school I was enthralled with missions. I read books on missionaries (Bruchko and Peace Child are two I highly recommend). I loved hearing the stories of people leaving everything familiar to go overseas and share the love and life of Jesus. And that morning John Amstutz spoke in chapel. He talked about the 10/40 window and all the people groups who have not heard or experienced the love and grace of Jesus. He introduced me to one of my favorite authors (John Piper) and how to use the Lord’s Prayer to pray. I lost the insert for my Bible many years ago. It makes me sad because I would love to use it when teaching on prayer. It revolutionized my prayer life and is still the model I use to pray.

I was so eager to get out of class and go pray for the nations. I skipped lunch and my power nap.

On my way to work, I sensed the Lord speaking to me (that may sound weird to some of you…heck, it sounds kind of weird to me). I felt Him telling me I could have anything I asked of Him. I thought of my work and school schedule and bills and other things but I knew all of that stuff didn’t matter.  I can still picture me driving down the highway. It was an audacious prayer of a Bible college student who believed she could change the world. I remember praying, “Lord, help the world see how good and loving You are…reach the people who need it the most and are the hardest to reach. And if at all possible, if it is not asking too much, use me.” And I prayed for a particular region of the world.

DSCN4549.JPG

Fast forward it 20 years. I have the amazing opportunity in November to go to Africa to be a part of this prayer being answered. There are 18 of us from our district going to a work our district started over 5 years ago. We will be in the heart of the 10/40 window. I cannot tell you how excited (and nervous) I am about going. I have all my shots, my visa application is in, and now we are preparing through studying, fasting and praying. God is slowly but surely providing my way and I am trusting the rest of what I need will come in when I need it.

There was another time I felt God nudging me to ask Him for whatever I wanted. And I am currently seeing the answer unfold before my eyes, years and years later.

I say all of that to say this: Prayer works. God delights in answering our prayers that our born out of our heart for Him and for people. Don’t give up. Both these answers to prayers have been over 20 years in the making. And both are being answered in ways I could have never ever have imagined. Keep praying. And pray for us as we go to Africa. May God’s love and grace shine through us.

 

 

The Arts as Worship: God is a Creative God

A couple of nights ago, I finally had an evening to paint. Life has been crazy (good crazy) and the next four weeks will be pretty much the same. So I try to work in at least one night a week of painting. It has become my happy place. My extended time with God.

I painted two pictures that night. The first one was for someone I know who is battling cancer. For several weeks I felt the Lord leading me to paint a picture for this person and while I painted, I was to use the time to pray for healing. It was a very special time. Scriptures that came to mind as I prayed and painted, I jotted down on a note card. When I was finished with it, I turned it over and wrote the Scripture references on the back of the canvas. I took it with me to the women’s Bible study I lead on Fridays and had the ladies pray over it. I know that sounds strange  but I really know that God is in this. I mailed the painting to my friend on Friday afternoon.

After I was done with that, I just painted a picture. I had no plans, no ideas, no thoughts. I just put music on and painted.

It ended up being a very bright TV. As it took form, I thought about the things that I would want people to see about me if they were watching my life, the things that are important to who I am as a person.

The Cross of Christ was central. I want people to see Jesus in me. I want to please Jesus in everything that I do.

I painted an open book. I want to be authentic. With God and with others. Being real and setting an  atmosphere  for people to be honest with themselves  and God is important to me. This was so fresh to me because at my Tuesday night Bible study that week, we had an incredible time of study and prayer and it was because the ladies were so open and honest about where they were.  True growth and freedom comes from authenticity. If we would stop lying to ourselves about stuff, God could really move and transform our lives.

I had painted a smiley face because I want joy always to characterize my life (as well as righteousness and peace….after all those are the characteristics of the Kingdom of God).

I also painted a heart. I want to strive to be kind to people. Kindness is such a rare trait. I want to be remembered as a person who was kind. Kindness stands out like a shining light in a society where rudeness and disrespect is applauded and encouraged. (Turn on any news channel)

The last picture was a cloud with the title of Bruce Springsteen’s song, Dream Baby DreamI don’t care how old I get, I never want to stop dreaming big things for God. I always want to be reaching to accomplish something bigger than myself…something that I could never do by myself – that the fulfillment of the dream could only come t0 pass with God’s help. I want His dreams for my life to be my dreams. I want my dreams to always bring glory to God. And I never want to get stuck in the dreaming phase…I always want to act on those dreams that I have so I can see them come to pass so that God can give me even bigger dreams. In my spirit, I hear the Lord says always “Dream, Baby Dream”. (God uses Bruce’s music a lot to speak to me). 🙂 And God will still be saying it to me when I’m 90!!!

I love how God uses painting to bring things out of me. I am so  grateful that He is a creative God. I am thankful for the arts and how they point us to Him. There is nothing like listening to the music and lyrics of a song that evoke in us powerful feelings or a wonderfully written book that leaves me in wonder that words could create such a vivid picture in our imagination or a movie that inspires us to be better people and consider another point of view or a dance in which the person and the music become one and tell a story without any words or a painting that speaks to each person differently.

So grateful for the many ways God created for us to worship Him and communicate with another.

Dreams, Painting, and Prayer

I have taken up painting. And I cannot believe how much I love it! Last fall I went to one of those classes in which friends get together and paint a picture. I had a lot of fun doing it and it was so relaxing. So this year as I was goal setting, I decided I would try painting on my own. I have this driving desire to keep my brain fresh. (And I’m reading a fascinating book on the brain and how you can create new grooves and stimulate different parts of it. I have said it before and will state it again…I am a nerd). I believe you keep your brain fresh by trying and learning new things. So this year it is painting.

My painting from class

My painting from class

Painting last fall in a class.

Painting last fall in a class.

 

I was a little nervous about making any kind of investment because I was not very good in art class in school. I was one of those who thought they could not draw a straight line. I even singed my hair once with the kiln in middle school art class. I definitely do not have the fondest of memories of art class (except 8th grade art…Mrs. Coton rocked!) It is funny how many of the conclusions we draw about ourselves we make as kids and teenagers and never go back to examine if we really came to the right conclusion or not.

I had drawn the conclusion that I was not very creative. I have come to realize that was a faulty conclusion. How I decorate my house, my love for writing and reading are signs of my creativity. I remember having a conversation with some friends and I made the statement, “I’m not very good at decorating. I don’t have that creative gene.” My good friend, Lesli said, “Yes, you are. You have a theme and it is very unique.” I was comparing myself to Better Homes and Gardens and other home magazines.

On my birthday this year, I went to spend the afternoon with my mentor and some other ministry friends. My plan was once I left there I was going to go to the craft store and purchase the supplies I needed to get started. As I told them about my plans, they were so encouraging. Have you ever had someone in your life that makes you feel like you can do anything? Harriet is that person to me. I am so grateful for her. As the four of them prayed over me a blessing for my birthday, I just knew that God was doing something. It was a holy moment.

This was taken on my birthday at Bill and Harriet's house. A wonderful afternoon!

This was taken on my birthday at Bill and Harriet’s house. A wonderful afternoon!

My first painting I attempted was a picture/vision I had during worship a few years back. I had the vision several times and so one day, I drew it out in my office. I hung the piece of paper on my wall to remind me of what my walk with Jesus should look like. I thought “one day I am going to get someone to paint this for me.” Who knew that person would be me!

My first solo picture!

My first solo picture!

When I started my first painting, I put on worship music and began to paint. I was so nervous that I was going to mess up. As I kept painting, I began to feel free. I realized that I could not mess up. It was my painting, my creation…it could be anything I wanted it to be and any color I wanted it to be. There was no wrong way. One of my favorite Bible verses is Ephesians 2:10 – it says, “We are (I am) God’s workmanship (His poem, His work of art) created in Christ Jesus to do good works so that we would walk in them.” That verse explains my first painting exactly. As God paints the story of my life, I am to walk in the good works He has prepared for me to do, always with the Cross before me. It was such a moving experience for me.

AS I have started a blank canvas and seen it come to life, the pleasure I feel is indescribable. I feel like I have caught a glimpse of the heart of God and how He feels as He is painting the story of my life. As He sees His purposes and plans come to fruition in me, that pleases Him.

My second painting was for niece, Madison. She saw my first one and said she wanted me to do one for her. She loves frogs so I thought I would surprise her and do one. Again, I put on worship music and painted. I spent two hours praying for her. Praying that she would know that she is God’s workmanship, that He has purposes and plans for her, that she would know how much God loves her. When it was done, I signed it and put two Scriptures on it that came to mind as I painted.

My lovely niece with her picture.

My lovely niece with her picture.

My third painting I did was for one of my sisters. One of my favorite things I have is a rock she painted for me when I was 5 or 6. https://livinglovedlivingfree.wordpress.com/2013/02/04/these-are-a-few-of-my-favorite-things/ I thought for her birthday I would paint the picture that is on the rock. The time I spent painting it I used to pray for her. I spent the time thanking God for her, praying that He would bless her and that she would continue to grow in the knowledge of how much He loves her. And I signed it and put Scriptures on it. And now I know that I will be painting intercessory prayer paintings for people in my life that I am praying for. All I want to do is paint. I have my 4th one sketched out but I can’t show it on here because the person receiving reads my blogs faithfully. And I want it to be a surprise.

the sketch

the sketch

IMG_5827

IMG_5828

I love seeing a picture come to life!

 

The rock from my sister!

The rock from my sister!

 

The finished picture

The finished picture

I was thinking today what if I would have listened to my childhood/teen-ager self that said I was not artistic or that I couldn’t draw a straight line? What if I had been afraid to try? I would be missing out on something that brings me much joy. I also thought that most of the time we are our own worst dream busters. I would encourage you to try something new and do not let fear keep you from trying!

Help My Unbelief

 

In less than three weeks, I will be helping lead a team to Jamaica to do leadership training, some service projects, and outreach. In order to prepare, we have been having different team members and others write devotionals to encourage the team. This is the one I wrote today for the team. I thought it would be good to post on my blog. So here it is! 🙂

Matthew 28: 16 – 20 “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always to the end of the age.”

I have been thinking/meditating on this Scripture quite a bit over the past week or so. I find it interesting that Matthew included the fact that “some doubted”. These “some” were the disciples. They had seen the miracles, they had seen the resurrected Christ. But some still doubted. Even though they doubted, they still obeyed and went to Galilee like that they had been instructed by Jesus. That truly is faith. Obeying even when you are doubting.

This past week I have wrestled with some doubts. As I have wrestled through them in prayer, I know that God is true and His Word is sure. And that I will obey, go to the Galilees He sends me to. I will be like the man in the Bible, “I believe, but help my unbelief..” I love the fact that Jesus truly gets me and understands how I am made. And that He works with me and is patient.

Dear Heavenly Father,

I come to You, trusting that You hear me and that You are working in and through me. I pray that You will use each of us in Jamaica mightily. When doubts come in like a flood, we will give them to You and continue to obey knowing that our doubts and struggles do not make You any less powerful or any less God. We love You! In Jesus name. Amen

 

Prayer for Vermilion: Response to Psalm 122

In my last blog, I wrote about the psalms I wrote as a response to a study I had done on the Psalms of Ascent. Tonight I thought it was fitting to post the one I wrote for my city. I live on Lake Erie in a small town that has a river running through the middle of it. This winter has been brutal. Due to a recent warm-up and lots of rain, we are currently under a flood warning for our river.

Ice jam at a section of the Vermilion River.

Ice jam at a section of the Vermilion River.

We are actually laying on the frozen Vermilion River. I kayak at this actual spot in the summer.

We are actually laying on the frozen Vermilion River. I kayak at this actual spot in the summer.

What the Vermilion River looks like in the summer! Amazing!

What the Vermilion River looks like in the summer! Amazing!

Vermilion River in the fall

Vermilion River in the fall

Standing on frozen Lake Erie with the beach behind me.

Standing on frozen Lake Erie with the beach behind me.

Same lighthouse in the summer

Same lighthouse in the summer

DSCN1011

Haha! I told you it has been a brutal winter…eyebrows and eyelashes frozen!

DSCN0126 DSCN0129

frozen Lake Erie

frozen Lake Erie

IMG_2758

Lake Erie in the summer

Prayer for Vermilion

I was glad when God brought me back to Vermilion.

I am glad that my feet are planted here.

Vermilion is a beautiful place, with beautiful people

that needs God’s help to face the challenges she faces –

social, economical, and political.

I pray for the peace of Vermilion.

I pray for those that belong to You that live in Vermilion;

Prosper them, keep them, protect them.

May peace be within her borders

May peace be within the walls of our church

Because of the name of the Lord

I will seek and pray for the good of Vermilion.

Amen!

Summer will be here soon!

Summer will be here soon!

Post Navigation