‘For 50 years I have known in my head God loves me. For the first time I felt his love.’ A man shared this with me during a retreat focused on God’s presence and power. When we have assurance we are loved it changes everything about our life and those around us. The opposite is also true. Many of us aren’t sure, so we spend quite a bit of time and effort looking for love by earning it, comforting the wounds and suffering of not being loved and treating others accordingly.
When it comes to hearing God’s voice it helps to know what God talks about. Assuring you of his love is his main topic.
If you’re anything like me, you can spend most of your time talking to God for guidance. I asked God once what to do in a decision. All I kept hearing was: “I love you.” Great God, thank you, but what do I do in this situation? “I love you.” I love you too, but what about this decision? “I love you.” I finally allowed myself to soak in and receive his love and quickly realized how anxious I was and began to calm down and feel peace. Then, clarity about the decision came much easier. Shame and fear kill, steal and destroy relationships and life, and along the way lead to poor decisions. Perfect love drives these out like nothing else.
It’s why I think so much of Jesus’ ministry focused on offering a different version of what God was really like. If you listen to his teaching and actions the focus is consistently on ‘you think my Father is like this, but he is actually really like this…’ Take the story of the ‘prodigal son’ from Luke 15 as an example.
As a youth pastor, I noticed that with many teenagers who grew up in church I could say until I was blue in the face “God loves you” and it didn’t matter. Their glazed-eyed, spaced out look said everything: ‘I know, I know, Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so’. Each of them needed to encounter God’s love as real, experienced, felt.
But, how? If this is what God is talking to us about more than anything else, how do we hear and experience this more in everyday life? This is a big topic. I’m going to focus on two things:
- Believe and expect God’s demonstrating his love to you. This is only scratching the surface. It doesn’t address all the reasons we don’t believe, expect or have assurance of God’s love. For example, I developed a deeply rooted operating paradigm I needed to perform well to be loved, rather than perform (do the things I do, say the things I say, etc) because I am loved. Recognizing, healing and transforming this achievement-oriented, distorted view of love hasn’t happened overnight, and still lingers. And the degree I operate in it is the degree I keep myself from experiencing unearned, real love that drives out my fear. Another major obstacle for me was how emotionally shutoff I was. God could have poured barrels full of love all over me but I could at most only experience a trickle of it because my heart was so hard. That said, believing and expecting God’s constantly demonstrating his love is a great place to start (and end). It opens us up to receive what he is giving.
- Understand how you feel loved. So much of experiencing more of God in everyday life involves knowing who you are (and who you aren’t) and embracing this. Gary Chapman developed language for identifying five different ways people feel loved: words of affirmation, touch, gifts, acts of service and quality time (www.5lovelanguages.com). We each prefer one or two of these over the others and have assurance someone loves us when they speak our primary love language. God knows your love language and will speak to you in this way. For example, my primary love language is touch and quality time. It has taken me awhile to recognize this, but looking back over my life in relationship with God the two primary ways I have felt most loved and connected to him are when we spend significant amount of unstructured, unfocused time hanging out together, enjoying one another, just simply being together. And one of unique ways I experience God is feeling his presence physically in my body. I literally feel God’s touch, like being hugged, held, energy, warmth. He spoke to me in my primary love languages even before I fully understood them. It took awhile to embrace how physically affectionate God is and his desire to spend time together without a particular ‘to do’ to obey. A book that helped with this was Jack Frost’s Experiencing Father’s Embrace, among others.
So, try it out: believe and expect God to assure you of his love in the primary way you give and receive love. Remember from the previous post, God is near you right now, constantly talking (about his love for you) and designed you to hear him. Listen for and experience his love. And see what happens to you and those around you when you get so filled with God’s love it overflows out of you onto others, sometimes without you even trying or realizing it.
***This is part of a series on Hearing and Experiencing God in Everyday Life. Posts build on each other. Consider subscribing on the home page of gregmillikan.com to receive these posts by e-mail.***
Hearing God’s voice is something very simple that we have made complex. Simple doesn’t always mean easy. And something can be simple, but also very dynamic. My 1 year old has figured out how to take pictures and open (and delete) apps on my phone. It’s simple and intuitive enough for her to learn and do, but obviously there is much more to my phone than taking pictures up my nose.
In upcoming posts I want to share several things that have helped me understand the more dynamic elements of interacting with God in everyday life. For now, let’s focus on the simplicity:
- God is speaking to us all the time.
- He has given us the ability to hear.
- He speaks all kinds of different ways.
Let’s just stop there and notice something. If these statements are true, how would you answer the question: How do you hear/see/experience God? Really, take a moment to think about how.
This could involve looking back at times in the past you’ve experienced intimacy with God. Or you can pay attention to the things you do or even where you go and who you are with when you want to connect with God. And right now you may not even be consciously aware of ever hearing God or don’t have a language yet for answering a question like this.
If your experience is anything like mine we usually put the focus on what we need to do to hear God’s voice. People have various answers for this, from spend more time reading the Bible, spend more time praying, we even have a whole vocabulary for this from ‘quiet times’ to ‘devotions’. Surely there are things we can all do, general principles really, to help us hear God’s voice better, but what if we wait on those a second and just stay on these three statements?
I’m pretty convinced that if we agree with them, believe them, we will start hearing God’s voice more than we do now.
- God is speaking to us all the time (whether we are listening/paying attention or not).
- He has given us the ability to hear his voice. We are made for intimacy with God, so you in cannot ‘not’ hear him. And he is very, very near to us by the Spirit.
- He speaks all kinds of different ways to different people. So hearing God’s voice is unique to everyone and their personal relationship with God.
Often the issue is not “God, what do you want me to do?” but “God what do you want me to believe?”. We do what we believe. Our beliefs shape our actions and our expectations and subsequent interpretation of our experience. Which either reinforces or changes our beliefs. We are often so focused on behavior modification, or what we need to do to get something to happen we miss the significance of core beliefs and identity. More on this later…
For now, try this out. Agree with/believe these three statements and start seeing what happens. Whether you declare them out loud or meditate on them or whatever it looks like for you to believe them, see what starts to happen over these next few weeks.
And in future posts I’ll go more into what God talks about, what his voice sounds like and discernment (‘how do we know it’s God?’).
Fear lies. Always. We can split hairs here about the healthy biological response of fear that trips your adrenaline to allow your body to fight or flight and save you physically from a threatening situation. So, saving the splitting hairs for another time: If we feel fear we are being lied to and believing it. The best lies are slight distortions of the truth backed up by years of experience and reinforced by the cultural norms of the majority of people around us. In other words, fear is:
We wouldn’t be afraid if the lie didn’t seem so real. And just because it’s ‘real’ doesn’t mean it’s true. So we’ve believed it and agreed with whatever/whomever lied to us. Take a quick skim of Genesis 3 for a snapshot of how this inevitably plays out. Satan’s influence is proportional to how much we agree with his version of ourselves, others, God and life in this world. Or as famed quarterback Terry Bradshaw advised Russell Wilson, stay calm on the big stage of the Super Bowl like its any other game because the first place the adrenaline of fear and nerves goes is to your vision and you don’t see well and throw interceptions…interesting advice for life.
The most frequent command God gives people throughout the Bible is: “don’t be afraid, because I am with you”.
This tells us at least two things: (1) God understands our propensity to fear and (2) He thinks he has something to take care of it.
But, not believing a lie and choosing to believe the truth in various situations can be a bit of a battle—a battle where our peace is at stake and therefore the very presence and manifestation of the kingdom of heaven here on earth, as I described in my last blog post.
Just like a belt can keep your pants on, truth keeps your peace on (i.e. Ephesians 6:10-17).
So, if this happens to you, where you’ve lost your peace and are feeling fear, try this:
1) Hone in on the thought associated with the fear/anxiety or lack of peace. This will lead you straight to the lie you believe. At first you may find it easier to identify the situation, person, decision or memory of a past experience that started you feeling anxious. But, these aren’t the issue as much as your perspective (beliefs/thoughts) about them. So what are your thoughts/beliefs? Ask God, “what lie(s) am I believing?”
2) Identify the truth that confronts and overcomes/replaces this particular lie. The more specific the truth the better. This can prove challenging. One of the reasons we believe the lie is because we don’t know the truth that’s more real and compelling than the lie. We may know the truth in a hypothetical sort of way but not really trust it as real and applicable in our life, in the circumstance we’re in. Don’t be discouraged, discovering this is huge and crucial in having an effective way/strategy for battling the lie. You may need some help if you get stuck here from the Spirit, through Scripture, from others, even inner healing prayer of some sort and possibly even effective counseling. More often than not, rather than asking God so much “what do you want me to do?” its more important to ask God “what do you want me to believe (about you, myself, others, my circumstances, the world)?” Ask God and see what you hear.
3) Break agreement with the lie and choose to believe the truth.
- You can say something like “I break agreement with the lie that ______” or you can just laugh about it expressing how hilarious it is to believe something that dumb. Laughter is good medicine and joy is your strength.
- Meditate on the truth and choose to believe it. This can look lots of different ways, even saying out loud or in your ‘heart’ “I choose to believe that truth that ___________”. The idea here is that our thoughts and beliefs can be pretty habitual. Breaking the ‘habit’ of certain ways of thinking/believing is like breaking other types of habits. So whether it takes you 3, 7, or 30 days to form or break habits, immerse yourself in the truth. Also, because of what Jesus did on the cross and resurrection we have options about what we believe and can ‘choose’ our beliefs. Along the way remember that Truth is a person and trust (i.e. faith/belief) is built through the experience of relationship with God and others. So this isn’t just a rote repetition of truth statements, although that may be helpful, it’s about intimacy and living life with God. So it involves fasting from certain specific lies and all that they are reinforced by and feasting on the truth and all the experiences, relationships and stories that reinforce and affirm the particular truth you are having trouble believing.
4) And before you know it you’ll notice peace resting on you and being with you again.
The short version: Break agreement with the lie and choose to believe the truth…with God.
This can feel a bit unnatural and take some focus at times. Error heavily on the side of asking God to help you with all of this and doing it all with him, rather than using your own will power/strength. (Notice a theme here?) Soon enough you’ll know who you are, who God is and the schemes of the enemy and you’ll be killing giants with slingshots.
I’ve got this principle that the sooner you look for something after you’ve lost it the easier it is to find it. You can retrace your steps easier because you actually remember where you were the last time you had it.
The kingdom of heaven is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). This is a ringer of a verse and a great candidate for Greek word studies. Often righteousness gets minimized down to moral behavior rather than a larger picture of restoration to where things on earth are aligned with how they are in heaven. Peace, well that’s the thing I want to talk about that I keep losing. And joy, oh joy, sweet joy. I love joy. It’s key to so much in the way God operates, but in everyday life can be elusive at times. And all of this is ‘in the Holy Spirit’. In God’s presence…
Losing things is a daily, if not hourly reality of life in our house. Just take the twenty minutes required every time we leave to go anywhere as a family, primarily spent looking for shoes, ‘deedees’, ‘neenees’ and Winne the Pooh (special/comfort blankets) and recently every kid’s Seahawks hat. I have seriously considered getting 3-4 pairs of each of these items to increase the odds of finding them. Although inevitably three left shoes will not turn into a right.
Over years of doing this you become naturally more sensitive to keeping track of certain things. If I’m walking around the house and notice a shoe behind the toilet for example I stop to grab it and put it somewhere closer to a door for when we’ll need it. And like those classic matching memory games, I’ll keep a mental map in my head of where I last saw things in preparation for the recurring question, “Dad, where is my….?”.
“The same place you last left it.”
“Can you find it for me?”
All this applies to when I lose my peace. The peace the Father has given me through Jesus by the Spirit. There is a mystery to this peace, in that it transcends all understanding (Phil 4:6-8). It’s a real presence, an actual substance that can be even be felt and interacted with and given away to others. It can actually rest on us. It creates a mindset or perspective toward ourselves, others and our circumstances, cultivating wonderful emotions or feelings which flow from this mindset/perspective. It is also creates a reality of unity, alignment, a shalom, where there is not conflict, bitterness, war, unforgiveness, etc in relationships between people, with God and even in nature/creation. This word resonates at a personal, inter-personal, social, national and international level. All that to say there is a lot to it and it is powerful stuff.
And this peace, well, sometimes I lose it…sometimes a lot of times. I’ve even gone through seasons in my life where I’ve so lost it I just live life functionally without it. Not fun…for me or for others around me, particularly those dependent on me.
Recently I notice pretty quickly when I’ve lost it. It’s been a bit more like walking around without pants on…I can only get so far without my peace on before things get awkward. And that old principle rings true: the sooner you look for something you lost the easier it is to find it.
So, I’m going through my day and something happens and I lose my peace. I start seeing/hearing, interpreting and reacting to things through a perspective different than God’s. I quickly replace this peace from heaven with fear, which leads to control, which usually involves moving quicker in my actions and my thoughts, treating myself and others with less love and making dumber decisions. Anger starts popping out at others, served up on a platter of ‘shoulds’. Nobody really likes getting ‘should’ on, so I create ample opportunities for others to lose their peace. And then somewhere in the midst of it I look down (or at my thoughts, actions, how my body is feeling, what’s happening around me) and notice I don’t have my peace on. Ah, if only it was as socially unacceptable to walk around without peace as it is without your pants.
So, I retrace my steps, which usually means my thoughts and try to find where I left my peace. I usually find it without too much trouble. Inevitably something happened or an interaction with someone or just some memory or thought and I lose my peace. Sometimes I have to look around quite of few corners I turned and decisions I made and look under multiple things my peace got buried under. And often while I’m looking I say out loud, in my head, where I know God can hear me, “Dad where’s my peace? I lost it.” “Can you find it for me?” And we’ll go looking for it together.
I mentioned in my last post that Ali is starting a blog. It is up at www.aliincali.com. It’s titled “Parenting, Prophetic and the Presence” and her focus is on awareness of and experiencing God in the everyday stuff of life, even nonstop, sometimes mundane, daily life spent parenting.
Realizing God’s is ‘in the room’ with us, that we can hear God’s voice and even experience his presence has changed everything for Ali and I. But we’ve both found ourselves surprised how easy (and confusing) and normal (but not always natural) interacting or being ‘with God’ in the everyday stuff of life is. It often means more a change in perspective, identity and expectation then necessarily behavior modification, attendance to church programs and effort (religious or otherwise). And God is closer, kinder and wilder than we often think.
We’re most excited about what this all looks like in everyday life, in jobs, relationships, daily moments and decisions, etc. So these blogs focus on us doing and learning this ourselves, with a little extra on my blog on the specific research I’m doing. So, take a look at www.aliincali.com and look back here for future posts on experiencing God in everyday life.
Ali and I have been shifting a few things around in terms of blog posting (hence the few months hiatus and no posts). The dust has settled quite abit after the last year and a half of transition, and this site has served as a catch all place to share what we’ve been up to as a family and in our move, work, funding, etc. Now we’re making a slight, subtle shift of using this blog for me to focus in on what I’m doing in my research and Ali is starting a blog soon to be launched titled: Parenting, Prophetic and the Presence of God. More on this to come.
For now I thought I’d mark this shift by briefly describing what the research I’m doing on the way people tangibly experience God’s presence (manifestations of the Spirit) is all about. I think the simplest way to do this may be sharing a link to Dr. Crispin Fletcher-Louis’s blog post where he describes my research from his perspective. Click on this link to take a look: http://www.humanidol.com/blog/the-153/bill-johnson-tom-wright/ . Thanks for your interest and support!
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Next time you are at the grocery store and you see a mom give in to her 2 year old throwing a tantrum, buying him the candy he wants-don’t judge because that is probably me, or has been me or will be me. Don’t judge because you don’t know what that mom has been through that day, night, or week. You may not realize that her husband has gone for an extended period of time. Or that she has been up cleaning up puke all night the previous 3 nights before. Or that they just moved to this new location and she is feeling lonely and isolated. I know from experience because I have been that mom and I am also the queen of judging.
We recently had the stomach flu come through our house. It started while my husband was gone on a 10day trip. He joined in the “fun” a mere 3 hours after returning and got so sick it took him a week of not eating and sleeping to recover. So with six people in the house it took us over 12 days of someone constantly well…having the stomach flu…I’ll spare the details. On one of my many runs to the store to buy more electrolyte enhanced water (thank you Trader Joes, since my kids refuse pedialyte), crackers, kefir, bananas, apple sauce etc. my 3 year old threw a bottle of kefir out of his cart (sarcastic thank you to Trader Joes for having little carts that my kids think are the best thing ever and best used as race cars). He happened to narrowly miss the elderly woman standing next to us. Needless to say she was not amused. She was even less amused as she watched the following:
My son proceeded to throw himself on the floor and declare he needed 2 kefir bottles and they both had to have a blue lid (his favorite color). “Not fair,” chirped my daughter, “if he gets 2, I want 2.” In a finer moment of parenting I would have given them choices, “you can have a kefir or a yogurt container”. But on this particular Tuesday I was exhausted and in a hurry. So my son got 2 kefirs in his cart and my daughter got 2 in hers. We are now set on kefir until the end of June. In fact if you had seen their carts at the checkout stand you might have thought I had a problem. They EACH had 2 bottles of water, 2 kefirs, 2 yogurt containers, 2 bunches of bananas and 2 bottles of sprite. My son likes to have two of each. My daughter values “fairness”. And I could not deal with conflict. I just needed something to help the other 3 Millikans at home get better.
I could write post after post on ways I judged others then had to “eat” that judgment. I’ve cloth diapered and used disposable diapers. I’ve made my own organic baby food and bought baby food. I’ve homeschooled, sent my kids to public school and sent them to private Christian school. At one point I had 3 kids under the age of 3 and I used to think it irresponsible to have too many kids too close in age. So why? Why do I keep judging others? I think we judge when we don’t know others stories, their hearts, their vision. We judge when we are feeling fear, insecurity, and inferiority. When we judge we put up a wall between ourselves and that other person. Judgment is in so many ways the opposite of love because rather than connecting to someone we disconnect, stand on the outside and look in. In law, the judge is supposed to be completely removed from the situation.
We end up judging not only others but also ourselves. As I sat down to “unwind” this evening I found myself on Facebook and Instragram and before long I was feeling woefully inadequate compared to people who looked like they had enjoyed a better, healthier, fitter, “funner” or more productive day than I did. One mom was showing a picture of her new and improved biceps from hours of working out, another mom was posting recipes comprised solely of ingredients from her garden, another was out with some friends at a movie—they all looked so much more….well better than me. What had I done today? A text from a friend encouraging me snapped me out of my social media induced coma and I realized here I was again—comparing and judging both others and myself.
The Christian story is so amazing because the One who was The Judge came to be judged, on our behalf. Rather than standing at a distance He became one of us—he embodied love and perfect love, casting out fear which has to do with punishment and judgment. Now by the same Spirit rather than stand in judgment and fear I can love. And really this starts with me. Am I ok with who I am and who God has called me to be?
Being a mom has been the most humbling process and probably taught me more about living in love rather than fear, than anything else. And the most amazing part is that I have a Heavenly Father who does not judge me, and longs to love me in such a way as to cast out all fear. And that is what I want to do for my kids and for those around me.
As a wise husband of mine once said—comparison is of the devil, always. So the next time you watch a mom struggle with her 3 kids trying to buy toothpaste ask yourself: What she has been through today? If you are prophetically inclined ask Jesus for an encouraging word for her—even something as simple as—“you are doing a good job” can change someone’s day. Or if you find yourself judging you to be inadequate remember, the God of the Universe thought you were significant enough to die for. And ask Him—“who have you created me to be?” And then wait—because He has an answer that is better than we could ask for or even imagine.
This weekend I was holding Joy, fast asleep in my arms, by the lake close to our house and watching the 3 “big kids” swim and splash around. Yes in Redding summer starts in May…I don’t get to hold a sleeping baby as much any more because she can’t quite sleep through her siblings noise like she used to. She is 7 months old and has just started solid food. Somehow starting solid food is always a marker to me. Up until that point Joy has become the size she is solely dependant on me. It is crazy to think a year ago she was a wee one inside me and now here she is a laughing, cooing, drooling, teething person in my arms.
As I looked down at her I was struck at how weird it all is. I mean I can affect her growth and process dramatically. While pregnant, what I eat, drink, do affects her growth and health. A pregnant mother can even cause physical deformities through substance abuse. There is so much mystery surrounding the connection between a mom and baby’s health. Like for example How much coffee can I have before it affects her one way or another? Some doctors say you can have up to 3 shots. Others advise against coffee all together. Yet while it is true that she eats what I eat I can’t decide her hair color, eye color or height. I can’t mentally will her to grow…after conception she does that on her own. There is a process set into motion that is dependent on me and my body and yet completely independent from me. Both at the same time.
I wonder if that is sort of our relationship with God and bringing His Kingdom. In some ways we can dramatically change the outcome and yet in others it is completely independent from us. Yet without our participation could it happen at all? Without my participation Joy would not be born. Yet in so many ways I have very little to do with her existence. God works through me to bring about new life, but it is still God doing it. The flavor changes from person to person. The style changes. But it is still God. And ultimately we can opt completely out.
For example: I can’t actually heal people. But unless I pray for people to be healed God won’t heal through me. And if I don’t he won’t. But it isn’t dependent on me. Is this as crazy and confusing to you as it is me? And yet it is so beautiful and mysterious. The line between where I end and God begins becomes blurry because really I am in the process of becoming one with him. And so here I am with Joy in my arms. Up until this point all of her food and nutrition has come from me. And yet her little person is so independent from me. And I am so so so glad we chose to participate with God and that she exists. And in the same way I am so excited to partner more with God in bringing his Kingdom knowing that I have power to change things but that ultimately it does not rest on me, at all!
I just returned home after a 10 day ministry trip to Argentina as well as a church conference in Michigan. Trips like this provide excellent opportunities for hands on mentoring from a pastor 20 years more experienced than I am and to carry out my research on the different ways people experience God’s presence in an international setting. In the midst of all the highlights of time spent with pastors and leaders, seeing many types of healings and people encountering God’s love and presence in tangible ways, I was particularly impacted by my time with children and youth. Throughout our trip, I kept having kids aged five through teenagers requesting prayer from me. But, even more powerful was when they prayed for me. We all experience God in different ways, I happen to very tangibly. Like while visiting a 4th grade classroom at the church’s primary school. The kids gathered around me, prophesied and prayed for me. I could feel the electric-like energy of the Spirit for over two hours afterward. Then, on separate occasions an 11 year old girl and 9 year old boy prayed for me. Both times I was so overwhelmed with God’s presence I couldn’t stand up any longer. I also was able to activate them in praying for healing. Three different youth each took turns praying for a man seeking restoration of his eyesight. After one boy prayed he was able to distinguish colors for the first time. Another boy’s prayers made objects visible but blurry. After a third boy’s prayers the man was able to read signs and see people. God loves to move through his kids.
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Yes it is true…I have been known to ask my kids to stop laughing and “do what they are supposed to do” which usually means be serious and get something, like brush their teeth, done. This last week it was heightened because Greg was gone and I find putting four kids to bed to be one of the most taxing processes ever. Yes even harder than law school. In fact it takes all 3 years of my legal training to try to negotiate my kids into their pajamas and bed. Because for some reason right around bed time they all start getting along fabulously, laughing, playing, dancing, singing and having a grand old-time. The problem is at that same moment in time I usually want to collapse on the couch with a bowl of ice cream and watch something on the TV.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the fact that Jesus says that we need to become like kids to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matt 18:3. My kids spend a lot of time laughing, dancing, singing and playing. Sure they fight and fight and fight again but it is amazing how much they laugh and how really little I do in comparison. And I’m not sure why. Am I too tired to laugh? Too busy? Too focused on the next thing I need to get done? Laughing is so present tense—in order to laugh at the joke, at the funny dance, at the silly noise I have to be focused on the present. And really truth be told I spend a lot of time thinking of what needs to happen next…
People have done research on how many times a day kids laugh compared to adults—300 times compared to maybe 10? That is a HUGE difference. Scientists have also done research on the medical qualities of laughter. We have a friend who recently was at the Mayo Clinic and was told by one of the doctors there that laughter is a good healing method. I know in the healing rooms at Bethel Church they use laughter to heal people—and as they laugh with and over people, people experience healing. And yet I will actually tell my kids to stop laughing and focus on what they are supposed to get done. I need them to produce not fool around. Why? Why do I need them to be serious? Why do I spend so much time trying to get them to be more like me as opposed to me becoming more like them?
I recently had another birthday and as I prayed about this next year, a little tradition I have, I think God told me to laugh more, sing more and dance more…essentially to be like my kids. So this year…when I am 36 I am asking God to instill in me childlike qualities and to remind me that sometimes bedtime can wait and dancing is really the only necessary response. Because my kids get it. They understand how to be kids. And Jesus tells us to be more like them. So while I get to train and equip them how to function in our world, and about who they are and who God is, they get to train and equip me on how to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. And right now that looks like laughing, dancing and singing…
Where does my peace come from? I’m in a season of life where I hear God promise me peace and joy. It sounds counter intuitive given that I have a 5 month old baby and 4 kids 6 and under. Just the number of socks I have to find pairs for is overwhelming. I could spend all day cleaning dishes and feeding people. I have found that having a clean and organized house makes me feel peace inside. It is some sort of calm in the midst of the relational chaos and the incredible amount of energy my kids exude through out the day.
BUT…having a clean house all the time feels nearly impossible. So recently I lowered my expectations to just a clean kitchen/dining area. The trick with even this is I have a 2 and 1/2 year old son who is in the “self do it” phase of life. As I type this he is sitting at the table next to me “eating” a pumpkin muffin–which means he is exploring what happens when he smooshes it, sticks his finger in it and when he shoves the whole thing in his mouth at once. He’s the only child I’ve found climbing the pantry shelves to reach the cookies hidden on the top shelf. Needless to say I could spend ALL day cleaning up after him and trying to keep him occupied enough to maintain some sort of order to our house.
I recently met a woman who moved here from South Africa 18 months ago. She and her husband and 4 kids moved here to go to the ministry school at Bethel church. A year after arriving (and a year after a vasectomy) they discovered they were pregnant with their fifth child. I asked her how she was doing, pregnant with 4 kids 6 and under! “Jesus’ grace is sufficient and enough to carry me through.” She said she was in tears a few days ago in the closet praying to Jesus, overwhelmed and exhausted. She spent 30 minutes worshiping Jesus and felt his peace, joy and energy rush through her body. “He gives me what I need.”
I’ve heard this my whole life–when we are weak he is strong. But still I am trying to find peace in my circumstances, my mopped floors and clean counters. It makes such a difference to have peace come from Jesus because that can last longer than my floors looking clean (5 minutes) and can occur in any situation even one in which all four kids decide to start crying about something. Instead of controlling chaos in order to find peace, I can actually have peace in the midst of the chaos. I can do a puzzle on the floor with Anna even if the dishes aren’t finished. I can wrestle with the kids and then fold the laundry. I actually spend time enjoying my kids instead of yelling at them because they are messing with my peace (a clean house!). I know it sounds dumb and so simple but it can radically change my day, and my kids day when I allow my hope and peace to be in Jesus rather than in cleanliness and control. Not to say that we don’t find peace in our circumstances–we do, but how much more when I allow Holy Spirit to come into my circumstances and bring a taste of heaven-peace and joy! Relationships all of a sudden become more important than my to do list! My peace comes from heaven. But how?
I recently heard Jesus say that my kids need my presence more than anything else, just like I need His Presence. That my presence will bring peace and joy to them. Being present to them requires some internal stillness so I can listen and even absorb the noise/chaos they are experiencing. For example Eli just crushed Anna’s princess crown and Anna responded by throwing a book at him which knocked Sam’s water over on the picture he had been drawing causing him to start to scream and wake up Joy from her almost asleep state in my arms…where does my peace come from? Not from the order or cleanliness of the house, or the well behaved children I have, but it is at that moment I can choose to scream–”to your rooms all of you” (something not uncommon) or laugh internally at the craziness of the situation and help my kids learn how to restore trust, clean up messes and tend to each others hearts. My polished stainless steel fridge will not help me with the latter. So to God I turn from where my peace comes from.
Some would say that I have an over active imagination. This makes swimming in lakes and oceans sometimes a mental test for me. I start to imagine all the living creatures underneath me, then I imagine them swimming around me, and then before long they are nibbling my toes. This makes snorkeling a challenge sometimes. Greg is certified as a scuba diver–he loves to swim under the water, and take a look at all the different ocean creatures. It always takes me a bit to be able to relax while snorkling. At first, I can’t see anything, I’m so focused on not getting caught up in a current, or in making sure I can see Greg, and that there are no sharks within my vicinity. Sometimes I get so afraid and panicky that it takes Greg holding me by my hand and showing me the fish–the amazing, multi colored fish, creatures, coral etc. Then all of a sudden I’m on an amazing adventure.
I think that the Kingdom is a bit like snorkling. We’ve been invited on this amazing adventure to see God’s Kingdom here on earth. Some of us are content to just sit on the shore and have the waves of His Kingdom roll over our legs. We know that one day we will be fully immersed in heaven…and we have no expectations of anything more this side of death. Some of us want to venture into more than just a ticket to heaven, but we are so afraid of being duped, led astray, or being weird that we can’t see anything. Others of us are moving so fast it is like we are water skiing on the water and then frustrated that we don’t see fish. So we slow down, get off the boat and start treading water.
God has given us the tools to snorkel, or even scuba dive, to see into a world that we can’t with our plain eye. But it isn’t automatic…just because we are by the ocean does not mean we will see clown fish. Just because we accept Jesus doesn’t mean we will automatically see angels and hear God’s voice. We can tread water, have waves roll over us, or water ski on the water without seeing into the world below.
Just like knowing what is beneath the waves makes the ocean more interesting, knowing who else is in the room with us, or what God is up to makes my days more interesting. It takes practice, learning, much like snorkeling and scuba diving. It takes training my eyes and ears to see and hear things in a different way and moving in love not fear. Fear clouds everything. It involves living from love, not for love, from peace not for peace. The other day I was overwhelmed, tired and was driving to have dinner with some people. I felt empty. As I was driving I asked Jesus to help me get through the dinner. All of a sudden, I felt a gentle wave roll over. With it came peace. I relaxed. Another wave rolled over me. I breathed a little deeper. In a minute I felt rested, refreshed. Holy Spirit was with me and I was aware of another person in the room that I could lean on. It was as if instead of treading water I dove down under and became aware of a whole other reality…
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good. and this good God is with us and wants to show us a world that is better than we could ask for or even imagine–here on earth as it is in heaven.