Saturday, March 28, 2009

It's NOT a Dirty Word.

I found myself in this unusual place again today. That's been happening more and more lately, I'm not sure what to think about it. I know I have choices about wherever I go, but I also know there is always this bigger picture about how doors of opportunity come to me. But that's not really what this blog is about, perhaps another day.

I did, however, see something today because of where I was and it gave me stop to ponder.

I was watching this man and woman dance. There was loud music playing and it was this very festive atmosphere and the woman walked up to where the man was and suddenly he grabbed her by the hand and started to dance with her. They weren't a couple, just friends, but it was clear he was a good dancer.

He grabbed her by the hand and started to lead her across the floor. He took her and spun her under his arm and pushed her out from him, then pulled her back in. There were moments where it was absolutely beautiful, but there were lots of moments where it was really clumsy and awkward.

The difference in the moments were glaringly obvious. It was all about her willingness to allow him to lead. When she would relax and just follow his bidding, it was graceful, joyous even. It was enticing to watch, it made you want to be a part of it. You couldn't take your eyes off of it. Even if he seemed to make a misstep, if she let him lead, they never lost their rhythm.

Then there were moments where it seemed like she was questioning what he was trying to do and her resistance would rise, instead of relaxing and following she would tense up her arms, stop moving her feet and try to take back control. It would almost look like a hand to hand battle. It changed the entire dance, everything became strained and awkward. It rang of the worst of the displays on Dancing with the Stars. Watching you would half turn away and watch only from a side glance and cringe in anticipation of the stumble, you could see it coming.

It took me immediately to a deeper thought. At the time it made me think of just being married. As a Christian woman there is this word that I have heard over and over again, submission. I've also seen lots and lots of other women, both Christian and non take incredible offense to the word. I think it stirs some fear from deep within that "submitting" is the equivalent of devaluing oneself. Since the days of Gloria Steinem "submission" has become a dirty word.

So herein lies the rub... submission is undoubtedly a command of the Lord.

"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything." Ephesians 5:22-24


"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord." Colossians 3:18

So here's the thing I noticed as I was watching the dance, when they were dancing together, and she allowed him to lead, it was her that my eyes were drawn to. She was the one who looked so beautiful and joyous.

Later when I saw them dancing separately on the dance floor, I wasn't struck by any exceptional dancing talent. It was only when they danced together, he the clearly stronger dancer, that they both looked their best. When she danced and let him lead, there was a freedom that I saw in the dance, and in her eyes. It was beautiful.

It made me think. I never feel better about my marriage and my family than I do when Neal is clearly leading. When he leads our home and family, I feel safe, I feel confident, I feel joy. When I let him lead in our dance of life, I feel freedom and peace. Even if he takes steps different than I think he should, if I trust him and let him lead, it comes together, but when I fight and resist him, that's when we stumble and falter.

The thought occurred to me, what if I was watching another pair dance, not a couple of people who had never really danced together before, but a pair who were partners for a long time. It makes me think of like ice skating partners, or famous dancing duos like "Fred and Ginger," the longer they dance together, the better he becomes at leading, and the better she at following, so much so to the point you can hardly tell the two roles apart, they can seemingly anticipate one another and move to the same rhythms so well, that you almost never see a stumble apart from outside disruption, like a crack in the floor or a broken heel.

I thought to myself, isn't that God's plan for marriage? Isn't that the beauty of submission? I think it is.

I can hear the muttering and groaning already... "yes, but when my husband doesn't this, or my husband doesn't that... then do I still have to submit?"

You know, I think we as women spend far too much time wondering and worrying about what he should do instead of just focusing on our own steps. Like I said, even when he wasn't dancing perfectly, if she just let him lead, they never lost their rhythm.

In the "dance" of life, we will all find our perfect rhythm, if only we will allow the Lord to lead us. He after all is the Designer of the dance. He knows every step, and has created the rhythm. When we learn to submit to His leading and direction, we find freedom, and in that freedom, we find strength and peace. For the husbands, submitting to the Lord is how he learns to lead, by the example set for him. As a wife, I learn the joy of submission, the freedom in giving up the control by trusting first in the Lord, and then learning to put that same trust in my husband. And when each of us, our lessons better learned, comes together, our dance is beautiful, you can hardly take your eyes off of it.

Although I cannot for the life of me get my husband out on a literal dance floor to lead me, I am grateful the he is the partner the Lord has chosen to lead me through the dance of a lifetime. Anyone who knows me knows I am a strong minded and a strong willed woman, and yet I find comfort and peace in knowing the roles both Neal and I have been given by God in our marriage. It is for Neal to lead, and for me to follow, not silently or foolishly, but with mutual respect and love. We have not perfected the dance, but our Instructor continues to grow us both and when we stumble, we stumble together, but when we move to one rhythm, it is beautiful and brings glory to our God.

Even the simplest of dances can be beautiful when each partner knows his and her part. The Musician plays the music, a partner to lead, a partner to follow, the song made more beautiful by the display, the partnership strengthened by the experience, a beauty to behold, a privilege to participate.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

"God Speaks?"

I saw this question recently, or at least I think I did, I suppose I could have dreamt it. But it was written in response to something I had posted or written, on one of my blogs or my Facebook page; I have been pondering it ever since. Don't misunderstand me, I wasn't pondering the answer to the question, I have no doubt about that, I was pondering that it had been asked.

I don't know the beliefs of the person who I think wrote it, but it had sort of an "LOL" (laughing out loud) feel to it when I read it, which is sort of the common response you get from quite a lot of people at the thought of a God who speaks, much less one would speak to any one of us personally. So being one of those people who has absolutely no doubt in their mind that God does indeed speak to us, and speak to us clearly and personally can always make life a little interesting.

Even as I write this, contemplating who amongst my friends and acquaintances might stop by and read it, causes a moment to ponder. Some of them I already know think me a bit of a Jesus freak, so I figure it will simply confirm the "freak" moniker for them; others who so far seem to perceive me as a relatively astute person, I wonder if it won't send that viewpoint of me a bit askew. I consider the possibilities of it for a moment, but then I realize that the importance of the answer is far more important than my reputation.

What really surprises me is how many people within the body of Christ find the concept of a God who speaks to them personally hard to fathom. The love of the sacrifice they get, the passion of the cross they accept and understand but then somehow they choose to believe that a God so full of love and compassion for His children would for some reason choose to leave them lonely and wandering in His silence. It's hard for me to comprehend.

So, in answer to the question, "God speaks?" I reply with a simple and profound, YES! Absolutely, God speaks! He speaks to His children just as much today as He did to the prophets of old. In fact I believe He is speaking all the time if only we would listen. And I would dare to say whereas in the days of the Old Testament when He kept His voice to be heard by a small and chosen few through the priests and prophets, today He longs for all of His children to listen for His voice in expectation. He wants to speak words of encouragement, words of inspiration, words of wisdom and direction and words of hope. If only His people would listen with expectation.

There is a story in the Book of Kings that I love (1 Kings 17-19). Elijah was a mighty man of God. He walked closely to the Lord, in fact He was so near to the heart of God that He is one of only three people in all of time who did not die but were raptured into heaven. (I think it's three, even though I can only think of two of their names right now.) Anyway, I'm sliding off topic here a bit. Back to Elijah, he was a prophet.

He was perhaps the only prophet at a very evil time in history. Most or all the other prophets of the One and true living God had been killed. Jezebel had seen to their demise. Coming out of hiding for his own life was sought Elijah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to present himself to King Ahab at that time. And there ended up being this huge standoff between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. At the "word of the Lord" Elijah went and presented those prophets with a challenge to prove whose God was real.

It's a wonderful telling of God and His faithfulness. You can find it in chapter 18 of 1 Kings. I'm trying to give you the reader's digest version as I can, let's just say they set up this huge competition where Baal was given all the "head starts" and the true and living God was put at a serious disadvantage, but God showed Himself true and alive, and it cost the prophets of Baal their lives, dying for a god (note the little "g") who didn't even show up to the game. Jezebel was ticked. In the moment Elijah was filled with faith, and his faith was honored in spades.

So one would think that coming off of an experience like that one Elijah was on top of the world, faith-filled and full of confidence. One would think... but that wasn't the case. Afterwards, he actually kind of panicked. Jezebel sent him a message he was going to pay for what had happened with his own life, and suddenly his confidence in God seriously waned. He didn't want to face another day with Jezebel on his tail and even prayed for God to take his life and then decided to take a nap. God sent an angel to feed him, and then he took off and hid.

After he had been hiding for a while, 40 days or so, "the word of the Lord" came to him again. And that word was a question to Elijah. The Lord wanted to know what you might be asking yourself. "What are you doing here, Elijah?" And that's when Elijah started whining about how they wanted to kill him.

So he (Elijah) said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.” 1 Kings 19:10

So God responded.

Then He (God) said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. 1 Kings 19:11-12

See, here's where I think the problem lies, people are busy listening for God in the wind and the earthquakes and the fires, and the God who speaks wants to speak to you and me in His still small voice, to a quiet and settled heart listening for Him in expectation.

I'm not speaking necessarily of an audible voice you can hear with your ears alone, although I have no doubt God can and has spoken this way (on the Road to Damascus with Saul/Paul) which interestingly enough is where God sent Elijah after speaking to him, but again, I digress.

In my own personal life I have only heard the voice of the Lord so clearly that I thought I actually heard it with my ears. Interestingly enough it was before I actually understood that the Lord was a God who speaks to His children. But I have many times in my walk with the Lord "heard His voice" in my heart, like the time He told Neal and I to fight for Ethan because he was our son, or when the Lord gave me both Ethan and Victoria's names. I heard Him when He told me not to fear for Victoria's health anymore because she had been healed. I was sharing with a friend today about the time the Lord told me to give my very precious bible to a rude guy who was mocking God at a Harvest Fest. (That was a hard one to obey.)

There are times when I have actually just heard His voice in my head. When it came to giving my bible away I actually argued with Him, he kept saying it over and over. "Give him your bible, give him your bible." I finally acquiesced when it became a thundering, "NOW!" Victoria's name came to me as I was reading a passage of scripture, when I was still waiting for her to even come to be. When He spoke Ethan's name to me it was almost more visual that auditory. There is no set formula to hearing the voice of the Lord other than expecting that He will in fact speak.

As it happens, the Bible tells us that in the latter days the Lord is going to be speaking more and more. “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions." (Joel 2:28) I believe if we are not yet actually in those latter days, we surely are right on the cusp of them. Are we a people who will be listening? I don't think it has ever been more critical than now that we are.

We must remember it is not in the earthquakes, fires or wind that we will hear His voice, but rather in the stillness, in the quiet.

Jesus, Himself, promised we would know His voice, and that He would speak to us in order to lead us.

As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.
But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.
John 10:15-16, 26-28

Are you listening? Are you listening in expectation? The Lord longs to speak to you. Perhaps it is a word of hope or encouragement. Maybe He is longing to give you the direction you desperately need. Perhaps it is a word of rebuke, trying to draw you back from a wandering road you have chosen to take. Whichever the case, if you truly serve the Lord, you serve a God who speaks to His children... if only we will listen.

If you don't know this God of whom I am speaking, I encourage you also, find the stillness and listen. You may just find He is calling out to you also, calling you to repentance, to His salvation, calling you home.

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." Hebrews 13:8

The Lord who spoke to the prophets and priests, speaks to us today. He longs to be heard, in expectation and confidence. It's getting hard at times to follow Him, He wants to make His presence known, to lead you, his sheep, because He is in fact the Good Shepherd, not one who stands back at a distance and watching you fumble and falter, but one who walks among you, moves amidst you,calling and calling, gently directing you, directing me. Be still, know He is God and listen for the still small voice.