Saturday, March 8, 2014

Angry Prayers & Delayed Promises

Psalm 94:12-13 - Blessed is the man whom You chasten, O Lord, & teach him out of Your law; that You may give him rest from the days of adversity, until the pit be digged for the wicked.

I've been working on some Bible study notes this morning, and in that way that God sometimes works, He has been speaking to me too.

I've had a sort of tough week, with lots of angry conversations directed at God. (Judge me if you want. It works for Him, apparently. I'm still here.) So, for anyone who reads this blog, the question will arise: Just what are you so angry about?

Here it is:
I'm a little worn out with being tested.

I'm seriously worn out with being lonely.

I'm exhausted from watching people who have hurt me prosper while I'm still struggling.

I'm physically sick of WAITING.

I'm suicidal wondering if ANYTHING, EVER is going to CHANGE? FOR ME? For the BETTER?
(For those who take me too seriously, no you don't need to contact a therapist. I'm not in danger of taking my own life, but I'm not too proud to admit that I've wished for death a time or two. I'm in good company with some others in scripture: Moses, Joshua, Elijah, David, Job, and the list goes on...)

Occasionally, I'll get a well-meaning friend who sends me a message wanting me to be positive and worried that I might be depressed. He or she just wants me to count my blessings and focus on the positive, and there is much merit in what is said. I take it in and appreciate it, every time.

But they aren't living my life.

They haven't lived my last 20 years. My guess is that it's been a while since they've spent a few days without speaking to another person. I have that reality every few weekends. It's isolating, and while I've had some profound promises from God, I can't see them yet. Several years ago, I reached the place where I decided they weren't even real promises. I decided to lower my expectations and just live with what I had expecting it never to get any better.

Over the past few months, God has been challenging that viewpoint. I decided to believe things WOULD get better, and I started looking for signs and saw a few. And then came this week...and those angry conversations. :)

Now, if I were a better blogger, I would be writing this after the answer comes and it would be a tale of triumph. Alas, I'm not a better blogger. I'm me, and my long-awaited happy ending still ain't here... but I can say a thing or two about what I know.

I know that I have grown this week - He has been teaching me through the chastening. God has once again reminded me that my faith needs to rest in Him, not in what I see. He has reminded me that I don't need to be afraid to ask for what I want. He has reminded me that I am His child, and that there will come an appointed time for it all to "get better." He has reminded me that trust is important, and that what I am experiencing right now is all part of His plan to make me into someone who reflects His light.

In the meantime, I'm learning to live today without concentrating (i.e., worrying) too much on tomorrow. Those of you who know me know that this is pretty much killing me...but maybe dying out to self is something I need to do anyway.

'Til the answer comes... :)




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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Audacity of Hope

Earlier today, I had a conversation with a dear friend, & she asked me a thought-provoking question: "What is it that you want the Lord to do in your life?"

My first response felt honest ("I don't really know, just His will."), but the true answer cut pretty deep...I was afraid to tell the Lord what I wanted, because I was terrified that He wouldn't answer, or that He would say "no." There have been so many disappointments that hope feels like a luxury somebody like me just can't afford.

But tonight, I have placed the desires of my heart & my soul before the Lord. Noelle, David, & I prayed about what we want God to do for us as a family, & I asked my children to pray with me about His will for our lives & the future I would like to see us have. It is the most terrifying & liberating thing I have done in years - to be so completely exposed in vulnerability - to admit that as much as I DO want His will above all else - I also want some specific things in this life that I've never had. To trust that God won't say "no" without walking me through it...

For so many years, I have lived with "just enough" - with the manna, meal, & oil of His daily provision. But the end of that season is coming, & by faith I will live out His promises in Deuteronomy 28:1-14 & Jeremiah 29:11. This is my year of abundance & the "expected end" of a very long drought is overtaking me - EVEN NOW when I cannot see it - in Jesus name.

Deuteronomy 28:2 And all these blessings shall come on their, & overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God.

#listening #believing #daringtohop

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Space Between Healing and Being Made Whole

Recently, I was asked by a good friend to come and speak at a singles' conference. There were so many positive and uplifting things I WANTED to say, but as the conference approached, the message that I felt impressed to give was intensely personal and painful. I'm sharing it here, and I can honestly say it is the hardest thing that I have ever written...it also contains the most truth. This time, as is so often the case, those two things go hand and hand.

As someone who has not lived an easy life, I've always found great comfort in stories - there is something comforting about knowing that I can have an expected ending in a relatively short period of time. And so very often, when my life is at loose ends and I can't see answers, I find the answers I seek in Bible stories. In January 2010, I faced a dark period of testing - one that put a mirror up to my very soul and revealed a deep brokenness I had not known was there. So, to the Bible I went...

For the first time, I began to notice something about the stories of healing I had heard since I was a child listening to my Mamaw Warrell read them to me. From that very early time, I had known that Jesus was a healer, but I had never noticed how different those healing experiences were for the individuals between the pages of scripture. First, I went to Matthew 8:3-4 and Jesus healing a leper - a leper who walked right up to Jesus and said, "If you will, you can make me clean." Jesus replies, "I will, be clean." BAM! The leper is healed. That triggered the old Sunday school memory of the ten lepers, so I flipped over to Luke 17:11-19, and there they were. Ten lepers healed, but then there was that one leper...the one that came back and gave thanks. That one leper, he was MADE WHOLE.

There it was, the little detail that had been nagging at the back of mind. Why were some lepers healed, and that one leper MADE WHOLE? I seemed to remember my Sunday school teacher talking about the one leper "giving thanks," but my leper in Matthew 8 was thankful, and he didn't get made whole. One thing I knew: I wanted to be whole. Not just HEALED. WHOLE.

So, I went looking for answers. How did the people who were MADE WHOLE get that way? Where was the answer? I traced them across the life of Christ. In Matthew 14:36, anyone who touched the hem of Christ's garment was made whole. In Matthew 15:28, the woman who asked Jesus for the crumbs He would give to a dog received wholeness for her child, and in Luke 8, both the woman with the issue of blood (touching that garment again) and Jairus' daughter become whole.

By this time, I was asking The Lord where I could purchase the hem of His garment. I had been "thankful." I had engaged in "praise." I was busy with "church" and "church activities." None of those held the key. So where was it?

Clearly, in reading the stories, one thing stood out. Jesus told each recipient of wholeness, "Your faith has made you whole." But I couldn't wrap my mind around that either. That first leper? He had faith! He told Jesus that he KNEW that a touch would heal him! So, it had to be a specific KIND of faith that led to being whole. In prayer, I wrestled with God, asking Him where I would find the answer.

See, by this time, I had figured out that there is a space most of us never think about: the space between healing and being made whole. Healing is an act of Christ alone. It is sovereign, and He doesn't need US to make that happen. He can heal of His own power and His own might. We don't even need to have faith for that to happen. But being whole? That doesn't happen at the moment of healing. It happens when the power of Christ is mixed with a specific kind of faith -the faith of ACTION: the faith that DOES SOMETHING. THAT'S what those who were made whole had in common! They DID SOMETHING! For the woman with the issue of blood, she touched his garment; for the one-out-of-ten leper, he returned to give thanks; for the Canaanite woman, it was witty repartee mixed when a good dose of gumption, for Jairus, it was going out to find a man called Christ when hope seemed lost...

Then I went back to the drawing board. I felt like I had plenty of "action." I was teaching Sunday School, in the music department, videoing services, working with the youth...I was involved in so much "church" stuff that I met myself coming and going at the church doors. So, what was I missing? I didn't understand yet, but I would. All my movement wasn't action. It was just movement.

It was during this time that I found the 58th chapter of Isaiah, and I discovered the key to being made whole.

Isaiah 58:6-7 - Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him? that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?

That was a selfless sort of action I wasn't entirely familiar with. The 10th verse clarified it even more:

Isaiah 58:10 - And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul...

And there it was - the secret to being made whole. To become whole, you must first be empty, but not just any kind of empty. You must pour yourself out to those who need it most - those that no one else is willing to touch.

I had an image of what I had been doing for years: filling my vessel and then "pouring it out" right back into the church building...where the people needed it the least. And all the while, there was a lost and hungry world outside that was DESPERATE for the flowing water of the spirit. And I was too busy pouring myself into GOOD things, but not the things that would truly and completely empty me out - empty me of my past, my pain, my problems - and allow Him to fill me anew.

As I continued to read Isaiah 58, the principle became so very clear. The space between healing and being made whole can only be filled with one thing: emptying yourself out to those in need: POURING OUT, so that that God can fill you again...making you whole. The rest of the 10th verse reads:

Isaiah 58:10- ...then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as noonday.

58:11 And The Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.

58:12 And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, "The repairer of the breach, the restorer of paths to dwell in..."


The power of being made WHOLE is in finding an identity beyond your brokenness. It is not something Christ can do for you. It is process He participates in, but you are the key. When you take your pain and pour it out - pour it out on the needy and oppressed - then, He can make you whole. And you can plant the seeds that will become those who will build up the wastelands of our world, those that repair the breaches in a world that has become so divided that people who have not known great pain cannot span the gaps.

There is power in brokenness - the power to be made whole. Pour out, pour out, pour out...and allow Him to make you whole...


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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes...




It's funny how life works. When we are teenagers, we simply cannot WAIT for the next big change. We constantly want everything to be DIFFERENT and NEW. We crave it. We long for it. New...different...exciting...even a little dangerous...

As a former teenager (though one who has been in recovery for 20 years), I remember those feelings vividly. I was as thrill-seeking and ready for the next big thing as the next person - maybe even a little more. But there are some days, I look in the mirror, and I have to wonder this: What happened?

The thrill-seeking daredevil that loved drag racing, rock climbing, drifting down a river full of white water on an inner-tube, and jumping before I counted the cost has been replaced with...fear. Fear of change. Fear of trouble. Fear of - and this is the big one - risking the "okay" that is for the "what if" that might be...

What happened? Well, it's really not that complicated. I became an adult and developed the need to control things, to make things easier, better, and most of all - reflective of MY desires! How can I demonstrate my competency as an adult if I can't control my own life - every aspect of it, in fact? Well, friends, that is where the ultimate fallacy lies. I can't. And the very idea that I could is arrogant in the extreme. And once a supremely logical mind has been faced by a fact like that one, there is only one thing left to do: HOLD ON TO WHAT YOU HAVE AT ALL COSTS!

And so goes the transformation from daredevil risk-taker to timid scaredy-cat. Since I can't control the changes of the future, I will try to keep things from changing. Some people will tell you that never works, but I would contend that it often can...at a high cost. You will maintain, but you will forfeit your future.




Now, at this point, if I were a superior blogger, I would have THE ANSWER TO ALL THIS. I'm not a superior blogger. :) I can only offer this:

Isaiah 42:9 Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.

He tells us, in His way, in His time. I want a "play-by-play" action plan. He says, "Trust me." I want an instruction manual. He says, "Seek my face." I want it NOW. He says, "Wait." I say, "Why?" He says, "Because it will make you who you are destined to become."

I have a good friend who keeps telling me I just need to learn to watch things unfold. I keep telling my friend I'm no good at that. God keeps telling me, "You'll learn...

Taking this journey one day at a time.....In Christ....





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Location:Canton, Mississippi

Saturday, July 20, 2013

I Am the Planting of The Lord

Isaiah 61:3-4 To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of The Lord, that He might be glorified. And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations.

I haven't exactly had an easy life, and this hasn't exactly been an easy year. When I wrote an entry at the end of last May entitled, "The Night Before Everything Changes," I had no idea just how prophetic that utterance would become. Almost everything I took for granted has changed over the course of the last eighteen months, and that was on the heels of a decade that had also brought cataclysms of changes in my life. So, I'm familiar with change, I'm familiar with pain, I'm familiar with disappointment, and I'm familiar with the way it feels to wake up one morning and realize that you just have to make the best of things and start moving forward. :)

Which brings me to why I love this verse so much. Every once in a while - if you are a true student of the scripture - you will find yourself peeking out from the pages in the most unusual places, and this morning, as I read, I found myself again. There I am, in the dead center of this passage of Isaiah. I may never be a Deborah, or an Esther, an Abigail, or a Ruth...but I AM the planting of The Lord.

Why, exactly, does Alesha Leveritt deserve that distinction? Allow me to explain...I know ashes, I know mourning, and I know heaviness. I know them better than I would ever have chosen. In fairness, I should be depressed, or at the very least bitter and angry. And allow me to confess something - if it were all about ME, I would be all those things. I'm not superhuman, and I have every tendency toward human weakness. I'm probably weaker than most. But above and beyond who I am...HE IS. And Christ within me has taken the ashes and made something beautiful. He has taken the mourning and given me joy. He has taken the heaviness and made me glad.

I am the planting of The Lord because every time I smile when I have the right to weep...every time I refuse to give up and post some ridiculous painful rant for all the world to read...every time I wake up and just keep moving forward...EVERY TIME, I am a living testament to His righteousness, His power to restore, His power to heal, and His ever present help. For every moment I have not fallen apart...HE IS, and because He is, I continue to stand, and I will work out His commission...I will work to rebuild the waste places and repair the desolations of the former generations, because that is what He has called me, the planting of The Lord, to do...




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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Peppermint Parables: A Tribute to Bishop Jerry & Sis. Sandra Dillon


                Today on my way out of morning service, I watched my pastor Jerry Dillon speaking to two young boys, probably around 11-12.  They shook his hand, answered his questions, and looked at him expectantly.  And then he did what they were expecting…he winked and said, “I’ll go unlock my office in just a minute.  Lots of good stuff waiting in there.”  The expression on their faces changed.  One young man jumped in the air, while the other executed a pitch-perfect fist-pump and said, “YES!”

            It’s just peppermints and jelly beans – not something that boys would normally get that excited about.  I should know.  I’ve been the recipient of a peppermint every time I have seen Bro. Dillon during the past 35 years.  Camp meeting, conferences, Sunday evening services, random encounters at a restaurant, at a friend’s wedding…it doesn’t matter.    Whenever he gives me a hug and reaches out to shake my hand, it isn’t really a handshake; it’s a sacred rite: the passage of the peppermint.  Understand, though, that it is about MUCH more than peppermints. 

            There is a lesson I learned from the age of 2 – a lesson that those boys are learning as well – about love, consistency, and the heart in tune with that of Christ.  When I was a toddler, I KNEW there was a peppermint waiting in his office.  When I was a teenager, I KNEW that answers to my (MANY) questions were waiting in that office, along with my peppermint.  When I was a twenty-one year old woman grieving the loss of her father, I KNEW that compassion was waiting, keeping my peppermint company.  When I was at the end of my rope and had no idea what move should come next, I KNEW that wisdom was waiting, and a peppermint too. 

            Those little boys are learning.  So are my children.  Bishop Jerry Dillon uses those peppermints as beacons, and they send out a message to every person he has ever encountered:  You will never get beyond God’s love…or mine and Sis. Dillon’s.  You will never be without a home…you are welcome here, no matter what.  My door is ALWAYS open, and wisdom is waiting, along with a peppermint.   YOU matter to me.  YOU are important.  YOU are worth my time. 

I love you, Bro. and Sis. Dillon, and I owe you more than I can every repay. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What I See When You (Don't) Say "Mississippi"


What I See When You (Don’t) Say “Mississippi”

 
So, now we are the “landmass”? 
Perhaps you should use your eyes as much as your voice…
 

You say we are ignorant.
I see a people who have produced the most profound literary voices of the past century.
Where’s your Faulkner?
 

You say we are mired in poverty.
I see a people who are poor, but they still manage to give more to charity than most other states.
How’s your record?

 

You say we are lazy.
I see a people who have worked together to rebuild after Katrina’s devastation.
Where were you?

 

You say we are backward.
I see a people who embody what it means to move forward.
Which direction are you going?

 

You say we are a hotbed of racism and hate.
I see a people who have spent the past generations rising up, changing what was to what can be.
No, we haven’t arrived, but I can’t help but wonder…
Have you?

 
You say we don’t matter.  We’re a landmass.
I see Mississippi, and I stand proud.
Who are you?