Hungry?

In a dry and dusty season, my soul starts to feel as parched as the land. Looking around my garden, I am noticing more and more plants starting to wither and die. Down the road, the once bright green fronds of the tree ferns are weighed down with a suffocating coat of grey dust. After really good rain in December - the first month of our summer - we had a little rain early in January, followed by virtually no rain in February and March is shaping up the same. As I posted earlier, the promise of rain a week ahead slowly dissipates into the actuality of an all too brief shower, or less, a vague sprinkling.

IMG_1839.jpg

The cooler weather brings some relief and balmy dry days should be a joy, until the impact of these, day after day, start to show up. And because we are now having to buy water trucked in to fill our tanks, we are a little choosy about where we use it. 

And meantime, the weather continues to reflect our own waiting time: waiting for the change in our season, too.

Over the last week or so, God has been nudging me again though.

"What do you want to show me, Father?"

I am reminded of a picture God gave me a couple of years back. It was a little confronting, seeing Jesus at my feet, attaching sandals. They were like those of a Roman soldier, with laces tying up around my calves. He was making sure they sat comfortable and flat, but were firm. My reflection at the time was that they needed to be on firmly to give support and protection for a long journey, to give strength and longevity to my stride.

Looking back, I know that there have been many times I have wanted to give up, wanted to let go of the dream. "Perhaps I heard you wrongly, perhaps I am just a daydreamer. Perhaps we should be going in another direction." Each time I have felt myself nearing that breaking point, as I have sought His face and heart again, I have come away strengthened, encouraged and refreshed, at least enough to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I realise that I have needed the spiritual footwear that Jesus gave me.

Even more recently, another picture has come to mind. 

As we enter our third month without sufficient rain, I have been reflecting on the promises of the beginning of the year: 2018 will be a year of great moves of the Spirit; the word I felt God give me, "ANTICIPATION"; of a new season of abundance. However, it feels as though we are getting the exact opposite. The ministries I am involved in are very quiet, longed for breakthroughs don't seem to be coming, and meanwhile our society seems to be going down a ever darkening spiritual path.

What is going on God?

In the last couple of weeks, I have had two other pictures that, even as I have shared them, have found me bubbling with anticipation and hope again.

The first was to do with the quietness I was sensing in the Spirit, like nothing was happening. I was reminded of stories from people who experienced the tsunami in Indonesia and Thailand. Suddenly everything went still and quiet as the water disappeared way out to sea. This is exactly what I am sensing - what appears to be a quiet withdrawal by God. But it is what comes after that brings the sense of anticipation - the water comes back in force, in power, overwhelming everything in its path. However, in this case, rather than being a force of destruction and death, God's tsunami brings cleansing and new life. 

In among this, is a sense of God almost holding His breath, waiting for the right moment to bring in the winds of change. It reminds me of Bert in Mary Poppins: "Winds in the east, mist coming in, Like somethin' is brewin' and bout to begin..." It's like the hushed stillness before a storm.

The other picture is more of a challenge. It started with a series of thoughts about being hungry. The first was about not being so hungry you will accept anything to answer the hunger for more. This was specifically about being so hungry for a move of God that we accept what is good rather than what is God. 

The second part of this was about our hunger for God.

The challenge that came to mind was that even while I am in this place of waiting for the answer to the promise (just like Abraham, really),

how hungry am I for God?

Do I look for other things to fill that space? Do I look for ways in which I can make the promise come about?

The picture I got here was of a person travelling through the wilderness or desert. We might start out with all the things we think we need to make our journey comfortable, pleasant and even survivable. Like when I go camping - I like to take all my comfort supplies: extra blankets, hairdryer, tasty snacks, all the clothes I think I might possibly need, plenty of books...

However, if we start to run out of sustenance and water, the other things start to lose their appeal. When we are struggling to keep going, the excess baggage starts getting left behind. We start to understand what is really important to us.

I sense here that God may allow us to go through periods of difficulty, where things don't seem to be going the way we would like, when we get to the point where we are so weary that we really start to question and examine what is really important to us. I think that it is in this place where

we discover what we have given higher precedence than God.

Is it our way of life? Is it our job or career? Is it even the needs of our family? Our kids? Our spouse? Our ministry?

I am wondering right now, whether sometimes God makes us wait until all those things lose their place of preeminence, and in our hunger for God, get put back in their right order. When we get so desperate for a touch of God, for a move of God, when we realise that all the other things are meaningless and unimportant without Him, and we lay them down, we move into a place where we stop trying to manipulate Him.

I found this Spiderlily randomly growing in my garden - as I looked at it, I noticed gold glitter on its petals. In the midst of drought, God's glory continues to shine out in His creation!

I found this Spiderlily randomly growing in my garden - as I looked at it, I noticed gold glitter on its petals. In the midst of drought, God's glory continues to shine out in His creation!

What He really wants is not our conditions, bribes and manipulations: "if you give me this, do this for me, I will serve you", or even the more subtle desires of the proof we want of His love for us, when we desire certain blessings, no matter how faith-filled and 'for-His-glory" they may seem.

In this place of hunger, all our motives lie bare and exposed for the self-seeking that they are.

In this place, where we find that none of them really mean anything without Him, then maybe we are really ready to serve, really ready to lay down our whole lives, every aspect, to pick up our cross and follow Him.

And maybe then we are ready to go on that next step, where He really does get ALL the glory and we are lost in His Shadow, and there we are found whole, holy and wholly in Him. 

He's never going to stop!

Relentless.

This is the word that came to mind as I stood out on the rocks at the edge of the ocean.

I have always loved going to the beach, but particularly ocean beaches. There is something innately attractive in the raw power of nature. Spending the weekend in an amazing house where all the windows looked straight out at the ocean in the middle of winter holds its own attractions – being cosy and warm (with the fire going), watching rain rush across the bay chased by bands of sunshine and the accompanying parade of rainbows is soothing to the soul and refreshing.

However, standing at the edge of the ocean on one of our long walks, with the pounding of the huge waves upon the rocks, I felt a little intimidated. You hear stories of people standing that little bit too close when a freak wave comes up and they are claimed by the powerful force of the ocean.

As I stood there, I felt God saying that this is His creation. Think about that for a moment. Dwell on it.

God created this powerful, relentless, cleansing, refreshing overwhelming force that is the ocean.

When we create something from our own imagination, it generally reflects something of ourselves; how we think; who we are. So it is with God. His creation, as we reflect on it, as we dwell on it, tells us much about Him.

The ocean often speaks of His power and might, but 

the power and might of the ocean is dwarfed by His power and might.

His power and might become inconceivable to me at this point. A bit like Job, when God tells Him all the things He created – who are you to question Me? We too are dwarfed by comparison, even with all our self-importance and belief in the significance of what we do or don’t do.

But in the midst of this reflection comes another thought, a reminder. God’s power is not about Him being a megalomaniac; it is not about control, coercion, or even competition.

His power is in His love.

The waves of the ocean this weekend have been relentless – even as one breaks, the next one and the next one and the next one and the next one just keep coming. We cannot think to hold them back or even influence them one iota. God’s love and the power of His love is even more sure. Whether we acknowledge it, are able to accept it, or even want it, His love toward us is relentless. What we do with it is up to us.

For some of us, we like to sit up in the house on the hill. We can watch from there, but the roar of the waves is heavily muted by the glass and the impact of the ocean is almost negligible to us, other than the enjoyment of watching it ebb and flow and the beauty of its raw power. But we don’t want it to change us or cause us any discomfort, so we stay where it is safe and comfortable.

For others, perhaps we like to get more up close and personal and a brisk walk along the beach is more our scene. We can hear and feel the pounding of the surf, smell the salt and the seaweed, connect with the impact the ocean has had on the environment, bringing beautiful gifts of shells and soft sand for us to enjoy the texture and colours. We can explore at the edges, rugged up against the chill and being careful not to get our feet wet.

Today I was reminded of my own tentativeness towards God’s raw power. Part of me was ready to dive in for a swim in that beautiful ocean, even though the water was only an icy 15 degrees or so and the wind chill was fierce. The idea of stripping off and feeling the refreshing, cleansing, invigorating power first hand was somehow very attractive. Standing on that rock watching the waves pound and their spray rise metres into the air, though, I felt that little finger of fear as well. If I fell, if I was washed in, would I too be pounded into the rocks? Would I be hurt, damaged, broken?

I think that we all have times when we hold back from God because we sense His power and the fear rises up that we may lose something of ourselves that we value or want to hold onto (like our dignity, or control!), or worse still, that we might feel pain and even find ourselves broken.

Looking back over the past couple of decades, there are a number of times where I see that I was in that powerful ocean, being taken places I had no control over, even feeling quite pounded and at a number of times, completely broken. While I can’t say that they were great times, there is a point at which I am glad I went through them. There is a point where I found that pushing into and past the pain brought me to a new place, a place where I have been remade, renewed, refreshed. And while I may have felt I lost my dignity at times, it has still been worth it.*

Even as I write, I am reminded of giving birth. My daughter was born after a long labour, in the end with the assistance of forceps. At the point of birth, there were around 10 other people in the room, all watching what was going on - talk about losing your dignity! However, all that fades into nothing with the new life that was birthed through that process. It is the same with us as we go through the process of letting go of our control and allowing the relentless power and force of God’s love overwhelm us again. What is birthed through those times is invaluable.

In ministry, we often work with people in the process of letting go of stuff that has been their protection and helped them feel in control. Moving through the process of forgiveness and release to the other side can be really scary and painful. There is no guarantee when you are in that place that it will be better on the other side. As much as I know it will and experience with so many others has shown this to be true for them also, I can’t prove it to you. You have to experience it for yourself.

Are you ready to stop and allow God’s relentless love overtake and overwhelm you?

*If you are interested to know more of my journey through this, why not check out my book, "Handing Back Control".