When You’ve Ignored God

As you all know we moved out here last fall and we are still trying to get to know people…making friends. I was blessed to cross paths with my new friend, Alicia. She has the most hospitable heart! The first time we met I told her about Lost Without Him. Then she told me about a women’s fellowship that she started with some ladies in town. She loved to make a meal for them and just have a ladies night with no kids. But she wanted to give them more than that. Not just food for their bodies but food for their soul. I suggested that maybe I could come to her gatherings and introduce a topic centered on some biblical issue applicable to marriage, mothering and life. She loved it! So we set the dates and began to plan.

We just had our first gathering last night. Our topic was titled When You’ve Ignored God. I shared vulnerably from my own Christian experience the struggle to keep God a priority in my life. That awkward feeling of opening your bible after months or years of neglect.  How strange our words feel as we bow to pray for the first time in ages.  We look at our dusty bibles.  With heavy hearts burdened with more than we were meant to carry, we say, “Tomorrow. Tomorrow I’ll be better. Tomorrow I’ll open my bible.”  What if we didn’t wait till tomorrow? What if we just reached out to Him now?

I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. -2 Corinthians 6:2

We bring him our neediness, doubts, weakness and poverty.  We come hungry for what only He can give.  After we have tried to find it in so many other places, we return. Like the prodigal son we come back empty. Nothing to offer but a flickering torch.  And as the scriptures show…there is no shame in your returning.

Why did I stop praying?

Why did I stop opening my bible?

It most likely happened very subtly. Some overindulging in mindless entertainment here…a miss-placed priority there. Before you realize it, it’s been a while since you thought about God. A spiritual laziness sets in.

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” –Hebrews 4:7

I missed God so much. I really had to fight back my hesitation to just put Him on the shelf again. Many doubting thoughts and shameful accusations kept me from showing my face to God. Like the desperate father in Mark 9:22 says to Jesus “…if you can do anything…help us.”

Jesus answers him, “If you can? Everything is possible to Him who believes.”

The man exclaims, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

And that was the cry of my heart…help me overcome my unbelief!

At that point I asked myself a really important question.

“Bri, do you believe that Jesus died on the cross?”

(How silly, of course I believe Jesus died on the cross.)

“Then why do you pull away when he reaches out? Why do you recoil? Why are you hiding? Because if you believe that Jesus died on the cross then you believe that…

– the shame you feel is the reason he died.

            – He accepts you. All of your mess.

            – He is perfect so you don’t have to be.

            – life apart from Him is no life at all.

(Oh ya, that last one? Ya, I believe that one. I’ve experienced how empty my full life feels when I leave Jesus out.)

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” -Ezekiel 36:26-27

So I began to read my bible. And it did feel awkward to open my bible and pray when it had been so long. Like seeing someone that you have brushed off for a long time and you just don’t even know what to ask them about. It felt a little forced. But the more I read my bible the more we had to talk about in prayer. The more I prayed the closer I felt to him. I no longer felt so far away; far away from my husband or distant to my kids. I began to initiate life again, not just react to it.

One thing I have to guard against everyday is thinking too much of myself and too little of God. Everyday I need to “get over myself” so I can truly follow Jesus. Because when I look to him…Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never coved with shame. Psalm 34:5

What ever it is that has kept you from seeking God, you can always return. We don’t need to clean our selves up before we approach Him.

He washes our feet,

He covers our faults,

He forgives our wrongs.

This is why He came. He didn’t come to make bad people good. He came to make dead people alive. And I can certainly attest to feeling dead inside. We bring him our neediness, doubts, weakness and poverty. We come hungry for what only He can give. After we have tried to find it in so many other places soon He tracks us down and carries us home. And there is no shame in your returning.

(I prepared a 4-day devotional for all the ladies who came to our dessert night last night so I’ll be chiming in on those this week. A little more traffic than usual 🙂

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Let’s Not Over-Think This

“Don’t you quit now, Bri! Finish it! Just finish it!”

This is me talking to myself while running on the MoPac trail this morning. You see I have this problem sometimes. I get kinda lazy. I see the finish so I think I’m done (even though I’m not there yet). So I stop and walk the last 15 yards to my finish.   I love running! Not competitively though. I do it for fun. It’s relaxing for me. The moment you tell me I need to beat a time or a person I promise I will lose all benefit from the exercise.

In 2010 I was diagnosed with depression. Really scary time.  Of course I was able to find a good course of treatment; medication and some time with a counselor.   Everything I read told how good exercise was for my mind. I learned about endorphins and all the great benefits of regular exercise.   Tragically, this added information took all the fun out of my running. It was no longer for fun but for “have to”. All the magic of being outside, the sounds, the smells, the peaceful rhythmic breathing, the zone… it was gone. Disappeared into doctor’s orders. I thought, “Oh I guess its nothing special after all…just endorphins.”

I can be stubborn that way. It has to be my idea and my reasons. I don’t like to do something just because someone told me to. I know, really mature. My eyes are rolling with you I promise. My dear mother who raised this stubborn child knows exactly what I’m talking about. I think my husband might nod his head here too.

Sadly the divine was taken from another life-giving part of my life. Prayer. I absolutely loved praying. I believed in what I was praying about. I believed that God heard me. I believed that He would answer my pleas for people.

prayer

And I need to be anchored.   But then counselors and journal articles all told about the benefits of meditation and prayer. These experts told how good it was to sit quietly and clear your head. All good things. But with my depression/anxiety it is hard to sit alone, quietly and feel like it’s doing any good for me.   And there was no talk of the divine spiritual perspective of prayer. It became a time out and it became all about me. Already, my depression had me squarely focused on me and the last thing I needed was more me time.

It’s been five years since I’ve come out of the dungeon. And I’ve got to tell you, I am taking back my running and I am taking back my prayer. I’m so glad that exercise helps my mind, but I want the mystery. So I run like a child -before the battle scars of depression and before it was all about me.  I enjoy the sounds, smells, the rhythm and the zone once again. I don’t think much about what I’m getting out of it. I try to not think much at all. I just enjoy it. And when I want to burst with joy and praise my God on the running trail, I will!  And just be thankful and enjoy Him.  Even when other runners on the trail are thinking “I’d like to have those kind of endorphins”… I’ll still believe.

Think with me – but not over-think it 😉

Like me, was something stolen from you at the hand of depression?

What would you like to take back?

How did “over-thinking” it take your enjoyment out of it?

The counselor I saw years ago was not a believer. As I began to come out of my depression by telling her of the hope that Jesus gave me, she dismissed me – awkwardly.  Thank goodness the Lord had given me the confidence in that moment to realize that I was not a lunatic for my faith. The gospel is foolishness to those who don’t believe.   But I wonder if some of you came out of depression believing that your faith was just a crutch and not the very solid ground that your life stands on?

Lets cry out to God and claim it once more!

Dear Almighty God, We believe that you care deeply for us and long for us to be close to you. Help us Lord to cling to that. Let us not grieve the lost years and the lost fruit and instead look forward to what you have for us now. Lord we want to lavish in Your mystery and acknowledge Your power in our lives once more. We come back to you Lord, like little children sitting at your feet. All this in the sweet name of our Savior, Jesus. Amen.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure… –Hebrews 6:19

Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them. –Mark 10:14-16 (NLT)