Tuesday, December 29

New Year/Same You

I never got around to writing that Christmas post I SO wanted to write. The "God With Us" of Christmas is AMAZING to me. And, I was surrounded by it this year. Everywhere I turned, I was confronted with Emmanuel either in the worship of Him or in humanity's great need for Him. The fact that Jesus left His home in Heaven and came to Earth in FULL human form is nothing short of AMAZING. Don't you think there were prettier ways to save us? There's not a lot of "pretty" here on Earth in comparison to the perfection of Heaven. WE are a collective mess. But, His determination to REDEEM the ugliness of sin in our lives drove Him to come and live with us. "The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. And, we beheld His glory."

Maybe this concept was even more real to me this year, because my Fall was even uglier than it has been in the past. The year, 2015, is ending, and I'm not overly sad to see it go. You know what years past have held for me, and I'll agree that some have been tough. But, this year was ugly and tough in a way that I NEVER expected when 2015 began. On the EXACT Friday in August that I received terrible news 4 years prior, my family received news that someone dear to us was leaving our life by choice. And, while my devastation four years ago was met with a person ready and willing to dig in and WORK to restore and redeem our relationship, this relational break was met with distance and refusal to participate in any kind of restoring process. I have been devastated. I have been confused. And, in that trauma, I've hit the very end of me (I thought I'd already been there) and been forced to search even harder for clarity, vision, and a way out of the darkness. So, IT MATTERS TO ME that the WORD didn't just call us to light. He actually CAME to walk us to the light in HIMSELF.

Thank you, Jesus.

So, YES, this Fall was DIFFICULT! BUT... I'm ending this tough year in more JOY than I've even known, because God has USED what I would label a problem to lead me to MORE truth, MORE clarity, and MORE of HIM.

As 2016 begins, I'm extremely hopeful. I know and trust God is going to do HUGE things in me and in my family. I am BELIEVING that we are going to see NEW things in 2016.

"See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland."
Isaiah 43:19

However, the disaster that I've lived through in the past few months has taught me something about ME. I have a habit of looking for new when God may prefer that I look to make new out of the old. Earlier this year, actually I believe it was at the very start of 2015, I expressed to my counselor that I was experiencing such darkness. I couldn't explain it well, but what I said to her was that I'd leave me lengthy and worshipful quiet time with the Lord in the morning feeling refreshed and renewed only to walk into the kitchen and snap at the very first person that annoyed me. In other words, my time alone with God wasn't transferring into the life that I was leading with other people. Honestly, if that is the case, what's the point!? If my interaction with other people isn't TRANSFORMED by the power of the Gospel, I believe the power of the Gospel hasn't TRULY transformed ME!

Life is a process. Our God is a miracle working God, BUT sometimes we miss out on the miracles by expecting them to happen instantaneously. As I'm setting goals for this new year, I definitely want to cooperate with God to experience some NEW things. More than that, though, I feel called and persuaded to commit to SAME in a NEW way. I feel motivated to STEWARD WELL the relationships, possessions, and callings I already have SO THAT God can move in NEW and MIRACULOUS ways in MUNDANE and ROUTINE experiences. 

Yesterday, I went back to a sermon series that I listened to at the beginning of this year. It meant a lot to me then. But, I was afraid I didn't hear all that I needed to hear. I was right. The series was titled, The Power of Same. In it, Steven Furtick uses the John 15 command to remain in Me to challenge his congregation to spiritual disciplines that keep us GROWING in Him. Our tendency and human nature want to cut out, move on, start over when life hits rocky patches. It would be so much easier to label these times as mistakes and find an excuse to end it and move on. But, often, God allows us to LIVE in those difficulties FOR A TIME (sometimes a long time) to show us our OWN need to be pruned and developed. If I'm never forced to stick around when a relationship, a job, a situation, a church family gets difficult, I'll never learn the process through which sanctification and true growth occur in my own heart. 

As hard as life has been, I feel like blinders have been removed from my eyes. I no longer get up from my quiet time and feel all of the power leave me. I've stepped deeper into relationship with the Lord KNOWING that He brings that YUCK in me to the surface SO THAT He can expose it, heal it, and one day use it. The process may be ugly, but the outcome is beautiful. And, when He cuts back (prunes), it's always to produce MORE. 

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be EVEN MORE fruitful."
John 15: 1-2
Ouch! All branches are pruned. He cuts off the ones that bear no fruit, and that's PAINFUL. But, He says He'll also prune (cut back) every branch that DOES bear fruit so that it will produce MORE fruit. And, that's painful, too. I believe all of us would SAY we want to produce more fruit, but sticking around for the pruning proves to difficult to bear at times. I'm in, though. In the past four years, He's proven to me TWICE that the pruning will hurt (it's excruciating). The outcome, however, is COMPLETELY WORTH IT! 

Instead of asking God for NEW this year, what if we ask Him to produce MORE with our SAME as we REMAIN IN HIM. As the pastor stated, "Resolutions are meaningless without routines to back them up." Our God works miracles, but we get to participate in them. And, truly, doesn't the payoff mean more when we've actually had to participate in the difficulties along the way. Recommit. Refocus. And, TRUST AND BELIEVE that, in every situation,

"The ONE who calls you is faithful, and He will do it."
1 Thessalonians 5:24