Sunday, July 23, 2017

all the things, part 3- new promises

God woke me up Tuesday morning. I know because I was startled awake and immediately heard in my heart, "Meet Me."
I don't know about you, but I rarely talk to myself in my heart. I talk to myself in my mind, but I would never say to myself "Meet me," you know? I use first person when I talk to myself, but I don't say "me". I've never really thought about that until now, and I'm suddenly getting distracted with the exact term for that, because I know there is one, but I am sadly not a grammar savant and I have no idea what it is.
ANYWAY, He said "Meet Me," and I knew it was Him. And (as much as I wish this were not the case) I am not one of those people who wakes up at 5 AM on my off days to spend hours with God. I would love to get to that point, but for now I am too undisciplined and love sleep too much for that. I can count, probably on one hand, the number of times God has woken me up with the sunrise simply to spend time with Him (though I will say He REGULARLY wakes me up when I oversleep on school days- and can we just go WOW THANK YOU! for that because that's honestly amazing that He cares enough about me and my sweet lil school to wake me up in time to get there, even when I am selfish for more sleep).
Tuesday, I didn't know where to begin. I knew I needed my bible and some paper and a pen. I knew I needed to leave my phone behind. I sat out on the deck by the lake and had no clue what passage to turn to. I'm reading through the Bible with Casey right now, and felt strongly that I didn't need to pick up where he and I had left off. So, "where to?" was my question for several minutes. I pulled out a piece of paper I'd been scribbling on yesterday, flipped it over, and started jotting down thoughts.
The one that kept coming up was "You have only begun to believe Me!"
Again, the "Me" clued me in that this wasn't MY thought.
I suddenly remembered that at the end of the school year, I had started reading Isaiah on my own and never finished, so I flipped to where I'd left that little piece of paper, and found myself in the middle of a chapter. There was a very obvious line on the page where I had stopped reading in the middle of chapter 30 because the top half of the page was underlined several places, and past that there were no markings.
"Are you sure I'm supposed to start in the middle of the chapter?"
"Read."
And here's what I found:

"He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you. And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left."

There, in the middle of the chapter, I found a passage, or 'word' if you will, that felt so made for me right now. Just two days ago, my Sunday School teacher mentioned this passage and what a beautiful picture of the intimacy of Christ and the Holy Spirit it is. Not only is Christ one with us in our sorrow, but the Holy Spirit whispers guidance to us throughout it! And I hope y'all know how much I love it when a verse comes knocking at my heart over and over again. I love how personal that feels, and if that doesn't prove that the Word is living and active, then I don't know what does.
So even the simple fact that this was the second time I had heard this passage made me dewy-eyed.

And I think I had begun to forget how tender God is/can be. I know that working with the type of students and families I work with each day, it is too easy to feel like God isn't interested in us individually. It's easy to think that He is moving at the nice, mostly-white church across town that has money for cute children's musicals and a food pantry, and that He cares very little for a neighborhood you don't want to be in after dark. I know that is a lie, and that Satan is working hard to keep my eyes shut... but it's easy to feel like that's the way it is.

So many times these past two years, I have called, "Unfair, unfair! How could you let this be, God?" and felt like there was not much of an answer. Doubt and bitterness try to build up in my heart when Satan whispers in the silence after that question- "He must not care. He must be too busy somewhere else. I must be doing this wrong."

Somewhere I missed the part where He is being GRACIOUS to me at the sound of my cry! Not only does He hear it, He feels it. (I am a mess as I type this and realize how much He cares.) He pours grace on it. And IMMEDIATELY, as soon as He hears it, He answers it.
I don't know what that answer is or even what it sounds like, but the simple fact that it has already been uttered is such a relief.

And though my only food may be adversity and my only water may be affliction, He will not hide Himself anymore. He will not seem far off. On the days when I have nothing but tears to offer, He will be there, teaching me. He will be there, to be seen and noticed beside me. He will be there, to whisper guidance in my ear.

In the footnotes of my Bible, this verse is explained by saying, "Isaiah foresees the internalized law of the new covenant and the internal guidance of the Holy Spirit."
Y'all, Jesus wasn't even ALIVE yet, and God gave the word to this prophet that someday, our Teacher would be inside us. We wouldn't have physical stone commandments anymore, we would have His Word and Spirit within us.

As if all this wasn't enough of a promise for the upcoming school year, there is more! In verses 23-26, Isaiah describes many ways in which God will give bountifully.
"He will give rain for the seed with which you sow the ground, and bread, the produce of the ground, which will be rich and plenteous."
He has promised me plenty.
He has promised me growth. 
He has promised me roots. 
He goes on to say there will be lots of livestock that are healthy and keep the land healthy, there will be an abundance of fresh water in the mountains, and "the light of the moon will be as the light of the sun".
He has promised me light. 
In verse 29, He promises a song, and gladness of heart.
He has promised me joy and a song. 
In verse 30, He promises His voice will be heard and His arm will be seen. At the end of the chapter, He promises a fight against evil, and ultimately, victory.
And I love what it says in verse 32, that the Lord will strike his enemies "to the sound of tambourines and lyres." Guys, wouldn't you know that I use tambourines in my classroom regularly? Lyres not so much, since they're an ancient stringed instrument (similar to a harp)... but I find it HILARIOUS that He promised these things thousands of years ago, already knowing that in 2017, a little music teacher in Jackson, Mississippi would just cry her eyes out at the thought of His victory being to the sound of her little babies trying to keep a steady beat with a tambourine. My footnotes also comment that this means: "The role of His people is simply to celebrate."
I don't have to do any fighting or toiling. I can just celebrate the victory He already has!
He has promised me His victory.
Finally, in verse 33, Isaiah states that a "burning place has long been prepared" for his enemies to be destroyed. Once again, my footnotes give an astounding fact here that was the final nail for me, proving that this is the exact word God had specifically for me this morning. This 'burning place' is Topheth, "a location in the Hinnom Valley where Judeans had burned their children in sacrifice," that would ultimately be used to destroy those against God. 
He has promised me justice.
And, guys, I know this is a brutal word I'm about to say. I do not wish harm upon any of God's children, lost or found, but I believe in His justice and His purpose, and this verse makes it clear to me. 
For too long, these parents have been sacrificing their children. 
I wish I had a different way to put that, but I don't. 
This is not to say that every parent in Jackson or at my school is a terrible parent, an enemy of God, etc. What I mean is that our generation in general, and my school specifically, cares so much about making their children 'happy', or making their children 'like' them, or their own personal comfort, that they forsake basic spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical needs. Our parents sacrifice their children's well-being for their personal happiness, whatever that looks like- drugs, sex, money, notoriety, less busyness, etc. 

There are so many things wrong with their priorities, and so many ways their children suffer because of that. I could point fingers all day and list examples for pages on end, but at the bottom of all of that, our struggle is not against these parents. "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." 

I am tired of this generational curse of parents who sacrifice their children. I am so ready for this to be burned away. I am so ready for these demons' and evil spirits' temporary dominion over this neighborhood, this city, this state, this country, this world, to be over. 
And I know God is promising that this year, that victory will continue. People will continue being freed! I may not see it firsthand yet, or ever, but I BELIEVE THAT THE FIGHT IS WON.

When I look at all the things He has said that morning, my first reaction is to draw back a little bit. It seems like too much to believe. It seems like too big a promise.
But I go back to what he said at 5:45 AM- "Child, you have only just BEGUN to believe Me!"
And here He is, offering a huge chance to believe Him and feel a little crazy and giddy for it.

I have these promises as an opportunity to continue believing God, for bigger and crazier things than I've seen yet. Pray with me. Believe with me.

(rewind to all the things, part 1 or part 2)

Scriptures and songs on my heart today:
"You know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed." -Joshua 23:14

"Because of Your promise, and according to Your own heart, You have brought about all this greatness, to make Your servant know it." -2 Samuel 7:21


"You will say in that day: 

I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my songand he has become my salvation."
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day: 
“Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exaltedSing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriouslylet this be made known in all the earth. Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.” -Isaiah 12

"Pull me a little closer, take me a little deeper- I want to know Your heart, I want to know Your heart.

Your love is so much sweeter than anything I've tasted- I want to know Your heart, I want to know Your heart." -Closer, Amanda Cook

"Your love's not passive, it's never disengaged, it's always present, 
it hangs on every word we say.
Love keeps its promises, it keeps its word, it honors what's sacred, cause its vows are good.
Your love's not broken, it's not insecure, Your love's not selfish, Your love is pure.
You don't give Your heart in pieces.
You don't hide Yourself to tease us." -Pieces, Amanda Cook


"Let the King of my heart be the wind inside my sails, the anchor in the waves, oh He is my song.
Let the King of my heart be the fire inside my veins, the echo of my days, oh He is my song.
You are good, good. You are good, good. 
And You're never gonna let, never gonna let me down." -King of My Heart, John Mark McMillan


"You are who You say You are.
You'll do what You say You'll do.
You'll be who You've always been to us, Jesus. 

Our hope is in You alone.
Our strength in Your mighty Name.
Our peace in the darkest day remains- Jesus.

This we know: we will see the enemy run.
This we know: we will see the victory come.
We hold on to every promise You ever made: Jesus You are unfailing!

...We trust You, we trust You. Your ways are higher than our own.
-This We Know, Vertical Church

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