Receiving Instruction (part 2)

I pray I am always honest with God, with myself, and with you – my reader.  I never want to represent myself here as having figured out the answers to all of life’s questions, and/or be walking in constant victory over all manner of trials and temptations.    Nor, I pray, shall I focus too much on the unanswerable questions of life.  Why do we always feel this need to have an explanation for the problems of life?  This world is broken.  Because of Adam’s sin, it doesn’t operate (at this time)  in the way that God originally intended. It seems I am always wrestling my thoughts to the ground to put down that one recurring question … “Why God?”

Photo by Sarah Vaughan
Photo by Sarah Vaughan

As I shared in Receiving Instruction (part 1), I had been looking back through some of my older journals and was feeling a bit discouraged.  But as my morning devotions ended, I began to notice that throughout all those seasons of challenge God was at work in me. He brought correction to my heart about prideful attitudes.  He gave light to ‘stinking thinking’ that needed to be brought into alignment with His word.  He taught me about the power of my words to either bring blessing or cursing into my life and the lives of those around me.  He renewed my mind and mouth through the power of His Word and Spirit at work within me.

And He also gave fresh vision to the dreams I wrote about years ago.  Back then, I was at the very beginnings of this journey I’m on to step into His calling for my life.    A little slip here, a little stumble there, but it certainly was fun to read my notes from along the journey, and thrilling to be able to point to a place in time as the very ‘birthing place’ of dreams I’m acting upon in 2014.

Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations. Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience.  But let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that you may be [people] perfectly and fully developed [with no defects], lacking in nothing.  (James 1:2-4)

With that revelation, and believing God has called me to rise up and step forward as a woman of influence, I concluded that these seasons of trial, while not issued by God, can be used for a higher purpose to “test” or “prove out” my character as a leader. And I began to ask different questions about some of the challenges I’m facing today – now viewing them from a higher perspective.

Who will I be when I feel mistreated or falsely accused?
Who will I be when I don’t get what I think I deserve?
Who will I be when prayers seem unanswered?  

The truth is, I don’t much like being pressed and tested!  And it usually doesn’t bring out my most alluring personality traits.  But I was reminded that if I want God to open doors of influence for me, I shouldn’t be surprised to find that more is expected of me (reference James 3:1), for He is not going to give me greater influence if I am not presently a good steward of, or influence upon, the hearts and souls that are currently within my circle of influence.

TEST:  a procedure intended to establish the quality, performance, or reliability of something, esp. before it is taken into widespread use.
PROOF:  able to withstand something damaging; resistant.

I like the way Max Lucado compares testing to the thumping process a potter uses when testing (or proofing) his pottery.  If it ‘sings’ when it is thumped, it’s ready.  I need to sing more, and thud less!

What has God called you to do that requires more of you?
What are you facing that requires the very best that you have? 

I’ll take a break here, allowing you time to ponder that question as it relates to your own life and circumstances.  And I do hope you will take the time to post a comment or share your thoughts below.  We don’t live in a vacuum and I don’t have all the answers.

Until then, be blessed!
Jenny

 

Receiving Instruction

myAKDxiIt happens to us all.  You feel a prompting in your gut about something, or a light bulb suddenly goes off in your head.  Sometimes you may have a full understanding of it, and immediately know what your response should be to that revelation.  But other times it may be more akin to catching a glimpse of something out of the corner of your eye, or hearing a snippet of an instruction – perhaps even just a single word or small phrase.  You may ask yourself, ‘Did I really see/hear that? What does it mean?’     Then just a few days later, you turn on the TV and come across a program discussing just that subject.   I’m describing those times when it seems like everywhere you turn, the same word/message seems to be coming at you –  from TV, to radio, to friends even strangers.

Some would say ‘the universe is trying to tell you something’.  But why listen to the universe, when we can instead seek understanding and revelation from ‘the God of the universe?’

Well, I’ve been having that kind of experience lately.  There are certain words/phrases and snippets of knowledge that have been peeking out at me from books, podcasts, and around the corners of my mind/understanding.  I’m hungry for them to unify into an cohesive understanding, and so as free time allows I have been setting aside quiet time to dig deeper, seeking His heart and His word for discernment and revelation.   This morning is one of those times.

“Leadership Is Influence: Nothing More, Nothing Less”  ~John Maxwell

From my journal
From my journal

In the course of my quiet time this morning, while talking with the Lord about certain challenges I’m facing, I paused to look back through some of my older my journals.  And in doing so, I was a bit surprised to see that I was writing back then about some of the same things I journal about now.  In some ways, that was a bit discouraging – because I would rather have read about former challenges that I now (in this present moment) have victory over.

For example, in 2010 I was responding to a prompt to ‘step up’ as a woman of influence/leadership, and had crafted a “Statement of Purpose” for my life inspired by John Maxwell’s book “Developing The Leader Within You“.   Oh, to read the enthusiasm and faith displayed in those 2010-2011 entries.  God was leading me, teaching me, I was being challenged and also changed.  I was letting go of (at least in part) the insecurities that had kept me ‘living small’ and was daring to dream of things impossible for me to achieve based on my own qualifications.

Then life happened, and it rather grieves my heart to say that some of the same fears and insecurities that I was writing about conquering back then are still stalking me now.  Oh, yes, I’m now much quicker at dismissing them as falsehoods (issued direct from the pit of hell) but in truth – I have not entirely “broken up with fear” as I so boldly declared in my journal back in 2010.  Fear was alive and well in my life throughout 2012 and a good chunk of 2013.  Which is why I (again) declared a Break Up with Fear in 2014!

Or what about all those entries pouring out my heart during seasons when I felt persecuted by unfair circumstances, or under attack in some area of my faith-walk.  In some cases, it was exciting to later read an entry about a fresh revelation or victory seen – but there were also plenty of entries that sounded a lot like my writings in recent months.

I’m going to pause here because otherwise this would be a very lengthy post.  Please check back in a few days for part 2, and while you’re waiting please take a moment to leave a comment or two.  Have you ever heard the same message coming to you through TV, radio, etc?  Or have you ever looked back to old journals, diaries, or photos/videos and what were your experiences?

See you again in a few days!

Be blessed,
Jenny

 

911 (Part 2) – When The Enemy Is At The Door

I hope you enjoyed Part 1 of this post.  Thankfully, it turned out that my imagination was the enemy that day.  But not all my enemies have been imaginary, and a few of them have been terrifying.

My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen on me.  Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me.  I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!  I would fly away and be at rest.  I would flee far away and stay in the desert; I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm.”  (Psalm 55:4-8)

There have been times when I’ve found myself standing toe-to-toe against an enemy that (seemingly) had every advantage over me.  I am reminded of a small apartment, and a summer afternoon about 20 years ago.  I had a restraining order against him, and yet there he was – on the doorstep, trying to kick-in the door while screaming horrific things.  I had dared to stand up against him, and he was livid … and I was near paralyzed with fear!

TERROR:  a very strong feeling of fear

TYRANNY:  cruel and unfair treatment by people with power over others

OPPRESSION: unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power

I yelled back that I was calling the police.  Whether I did, or didn’t, I can’t recall.  I do remember sinking to the floor and curling up into ball, wishing I could somehow just disappear. But instead of disappearing, from somewhere deep within spoke a stronger voice (the voice of Himself, my Lord and my God), telling me to GET UP! To STAND UP!

This is a challenging post to write, but perhaps not for the reasons you think.  Sure, when I pause to reflect on darker days, I’m somewhat saddened by the life I had back then.  But praise God, I’m not that woman anymore, so it’s not the memory of those days that makes this a challenging subject.  It’s the awareness that you, the reader of this post, might at this very moment be under a full-on attack by your worst enemy (flesh-and-blood, or spiritual).   Or perhaps you have fought and have emerged the other side of a battle (physical, emotional, or spiritual), and now bear the wounds and scars from all that was inflicted upon you during the fight.   In either case, here you are – reading this post.  And that, beloved, deserves reverence in my writing.

Spiritually speaking, we all have an enemy that is constantly trying to ‘take us out’, and the simple truth is that the more of a threat you are to him, the more vicious and strategic his attack.

But now, this is what the Lord says—he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.  For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cushand Seba in your stead. Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you..     (Isaiah 43:1-4a)

I’ve been blessed to know several spirituals “Oaks” in my life, men and women whose faith is unshakable and can face even the most violent storms of life with barely a blink of the eye.  These are the people I like to surround myself with, and these are the people I turn to for comfort and support when I’m facing an impending fight or am battle-weary during a long and drawn out conflict where victory seems to be elusive.

Now back to my story.  At that point in time, my enemy (who I now realize was not my ex, but the evil that was controlling him) seemed so much bigger than I was capable of dealing with.  And in truth, he was – which is why I’m so grateful that all God asked me to do at that very moment was to GET UP and STAND!

And so I got up.  I took a stand.  And my God stood with me!

Was I still afraid? Absolutely. Did things change overnight? No. Was I wounded in the battle?  Yes, but healing has come and I am now a more skilled warrior as a result of the battle experience.

Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and his powerful strength. Put on God’s armor so that you can make a stand against the tricks of the devil. We aren’t fighting against human enemies but against rulers, authorities, forces of cosmic darkness, and spiritual powers of evil in the heavens. Therefore, pick up the full armor of God so that you can stand your ground on the evil day and after you have done everything possible to still stand. So stand with the belt of truth around your waist, justice as your breastplate, and put shoes on your feet so that you are ready to spread the good news of peace. Above all, carry the shield of faith so that you can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word.  (Ephesians 6:10-17)

Armor of God
Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18)

In this broken world, you and I will encounter many trials and be called to battle against the enemy many times.   We may suffer some hard hits in the warfare; let us fight on. We may be tempted to ease up off that territory we were trying to overtake, considering it better/safer/saner to find contentedness in dry valleys than to press on to conquer farer pasture lands; let us press on.  We may be so terrified of our foe that we can barely manage to keep a grip on our weaponry; let us then STAND!  

Let us be found STANDING!   Snot-nosed but STANDING!  Weak-kneed but STANDING!   Bug-eyed but suited up in the Armor of God, and STANDING!  It’s His Armor we are wearing, and He is in the battle with us.  If we will be obedient to follow the instructions He gives, then when the dust finally settles – we can be assured we will be found STILL STANDING!

And that is how we grow from acorn to Oak, by standing and standing and standing until those roots-of-faith grow so deep and so strong that we then become a place of solace and refuge for others during their storms.

The song ‘OCEANS (Where Feet May Fail)’ by Hillsong UNITED beautifully describes the mystery of walking by faith when moving into deep waters.

When the storms of life come, may our roots prove deep!

Blessings,
Jenny

Only You!

I can’t stand it – I have to get this out!  Not all of it, because the story isn’t quite yet ready to tell … but I’m about to explode, so I’m going to share the next best thing!

This song came to me (approx. 2003) after a similar OMG experience!  OMG as in “Sweet Lord Jesus, why do you love me so much as to do that for me?” kind of thing!  And from the outpouring of gratitude from that OMG experience, this song came out of my heart and I’ve been singing it since to Him for years.

Only You
Written by Jenny Hopewell

Only You would do something like this Lord
Only You would do something like this Lord
For You are faithful, and you are good
And You look after Your children, like a good Daddy should
Only You, Only You would do something like this Lord
For me

Who Am I? (part 2)

When I was a girl, we had 4 fruit trees growing in the front yard. Since I was the youngest of 7 kids, guess who always got stuck picking up the rotten fruit that fell off the trees …  ME!

One day, while picking up rotten fruit, two kids from down the block came by and picked a few apples off one of the trees.  My behavior was terrible – I can admit that now!   But at the time, the only thing going through my 8 year old head was – that was MY fruit, and they were stealing it!

Of course, it wasn’t really my fruit.  It was my dad who worked day after day to pay for that house we lived in.  He mowed the lawn, he tended the trees, and he was the rightful owner of the fruit they bore.   But as my father’s daughter, what is his is also mine.   And so when someone steals from my father, they are also stealing from me.

I acted in response to the knowledge of who I was … daughter of the owner of the property, and rightful heir of all that was his.   I pelted them with over-ripe oranges.  (Oh the shame of that admission! LOL)

The same applies to you and me today. 

As our Father’s children, what is His is also ours!

For those of us who have been “adopted” into the family of God, what belongs to our Heavenly Father also belongs to us!   And we need to stop letting the voices of this world define our worth and value as people, and instead – let God tell us of our identity, of who we are, and who we were created to be!

As a young girl, my identity was shaped by the voices of people who told me I didn’t measure up.  I felt unwanted and unloved, with no voice, no choice, and no power.  As I grew into a woman, I repeatedly chose men who also treated me badly – because in the secret places of my heart, I didn’t believe I could expect any better.  But my life began to radically change when I began to listen to Gods voice telling me who I was.

Beloved, when you correctly understand your identity in Christ, who you are – and what is yours (the power, the authority, the dignity, the calling) as children of the Living God – it will change the way you think about yourself.  And that “right standing” will change the choices you make on a daily basis, and will ultimately change the course of your life, and the lives of your children and grandchildren.

And it all starts with how you answer the question “WHO AM I?”

(since 2011, Matthew West has put out a wonderful song entitled “Hello, My Name Is“.  Take a listen and start singing about your true Identity!)

Who Am I
Who Am I