Dead No More

Have you ever been running towards something, feeling like you’re chasing the dream you’re meant to have, but feeling dead inside? Something just isn’t right. Your heart tells you it’s what you need to do, what you need to have, but there’s a tiny bit inside you that is cringing and you’re not sure why. A few years ago I started running from my marriage. It seemed like the only option for me at the time, the only way out of the drowning feeling I was overcome with. I moved to a new city several hours away and started my own life, pursuing the things that I ‘knew’ would make me happy. By the time two years had passed, I had achieved everything I thought I wanted. But still…something…something was wrong. I felt dead inside. I felt like I wasn’t achieving anything, like my life didn’t have purpose, like I was an empty shell. I had what the world was telling me I needed but I wasn’t satisfied.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins… Ephesians 2:1

Through my sins, the multitude of them, I had died. My soul was shriveled and lifeless, even if my body seemed vibrant to those around me. The meaningful part of me, the true Katie, had passed away leaving a wandering and lost shadow of who I had been. God knew though. He was watching and waiting for when the time was right. When I was ready, he opened my eyes and made me see the mess I had left in my wake. Even though I had destroyed my life, he has helped me in the last two years to heal and grow and become a woman that is an even better version of what I was before. He has made me alive again, passionate, enthusiastic, full to the brim of purpose in him. Lately, there has been overwhelming temptation to go back to certain aspects of my previous life. It has been so hard to remember that, even though some of God’s promises have yet to be fulfilled, I am where I should be. Satan has been reminding me of the ‘fun’ I had before and that I am ‘missing out’ on it now. But if I truly believe in the Bible, I should truly believe that I was “dead in my transgressions”. When God took me back and opened my eyes, I felt a physical reaction. I could see clearer, I could hear clearer…it was as if I had stepped out of a fog. So why would I go back to being dead? Why would I purposely and intentionally deny the death I felt then and the life I feel now just for a temporary fix? Temptation does that, it pulls you into a lifestyle that seems fun and exciting or maybe even safe, only to actually kill you slowly and turn you into a hollow version of what you once were. Sometimes temptation makes sense. Sometimes Satan dresses like an angel, a rescuer, that seems like it will pull you out of the mess you’re in. Sometimes people you trust encourage you in the temptation. I believe that we know. Even when we say we haven’t heard from God, we know what he wants us to do. It might not be a huge, bellowing voice, it might just be an unsettled feeling in our spirit, but we know what God really wants from us. And going in another direction, is never worth it. We have to decide. What are you following? Who are you listening to? Who are you obeying? And I’ll be honest. At this point, I am grudgingly being obedient. The temptation seems much more fun and actual makes sense to most people around me. But the point of my life isn’t to make sense to the people around me. It’s to glorify God and to live a life worthy of my calling. By God’s strength, not my own, I refuse to be dead any longer. I refuse to believe the lies, I refuse to deny the full life that God has placed in front of me. So help me God, I will wait for his promises.

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Are You Pretending?

Are you living for God or just pretending?

I look back on my life and realize that for the majority of it, I was keeping God at a distance. He was a part of my life. But just a part. He was there, but just on the sidelines. And, at the time, I saw nothing wrong with this. Why should I pray about what job God wanted me in? I would make the decision and, obviously, since God knows everything, it would be in his plan. He would have known ahead of time what decision I would make and, therefore, it was all just up to my choices. Right?

I was a Christian, I went to church, I prayed often, but it was more like I was talking to God and not talking with God. He was basically my Genie In A Bottle (link to Christina Aguilera’s music video…just kidding). He was a Being I called on when I needed help and when I didn’t need help, he was a very distant thing.

Not only did I not see anything wrong with this way of living out my Christian walk, I saw many things wrong with the opposite way of living out a Christian walk. I heard of people who asked God what he wanted them to do in the daily, no-brainer, decisions (what job to work at, who to date, where to go for lunch, IF they should go for lunch…) and I thought this was ridiculous. These people didn’t have their own brains, God created us with freewill for a reason, they were too weak, they were too dependent.

I actually don’t remember thinking that I should try it their way, I just remember my mindset: They’re stupid, I’m not, I’ll do it my way. Brutal.

My mom always told me I had to learn things the hard way. She was rolling her eyes when she said this, just like I’m shaking my head as I write this.

When I assess my Christian walk, I realize that I used to pretend to be a Christian. I was going through all the motions but there was no change of heart, barely anything different about me than a non-believer, and certainly no passion for the Lord. If someone had asked me “Do you love God?” I would have said “Yes, of course!” but inside me the words “But no one is actually in love with God” would repeat themselves.

The dictionary’s definition of ‘Christian’ is: “a person who has received Christian baptism or is a believer in Jesus Christ and his teachings.” Was I a believer of Jesus Christ’s teachings? I would have said I was.

In Mark 10:21 Jesus tells a rich man to go sell everything he has and then he will have riches in Heaven. He tells the man to do this, and then to come follow him. I was a believer and a follower of Jesus, but there’s no way I would have been willing to sell everything I had for him…

Matthew 16:25 says that whoever loses his life will gain it. There was no way, when push came to shove, that I would be willing to give up my…anything…for God. Give up your life? God isn’t really asking you to do that…

God will provide whatever you need, clothes, food…whatever it is, he will provide. But you need to get a job, make sure you’re earning good money, advance in that job, make sure it’s one you’re passionate about. And if you don’t do this, you’re lazy. God will help those who help themselves. Right? Um, no. Not what the Bible teaches, actually. Check it out in Matthew 6:26. (As a side note, I Googled “God will help those who help themselves” and…well…Go Google it, see where this saying stems from…).

If I was really, truly, living a Christian walk, loving God and believing his commands, why was I not living like I believed him? Why was I nodding my head to his teachings but yet my thoughts were whispering something different? Why weren’t my actions reflecting what I was telling the world (ok, not the world, but a select few, which in itself should have been a clue)?

I was pretending I believed what I had been taught since I was born, but really, I didn’t actually believe God would do what he said he would do.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Matthew 11:28

No, actually, what I need is a good nap, not some “quality time” with a God I rarely hear from.

If only I had taken the time to just try what the Bible was telling me! If only I had taken that quality time with God instead of the nap. I would have realized that the rest God is talking about goes deeper than just resting my eyes. It satisfies and stills the very depth of my soul. The root of my foundation is quieted. My need is met, not just temporarily satisfied with a band-aid.

I don’t want to pretend anymore. If God says move, I will move. If he says speak, I will speak. I have learned, the hard way, that when God tells you something he will follow you until you are obedient. And it’s not just because he wants you to listen to him, it’s because he knows that when you do listen to him, it will quench that hunger you feel inside.

I don’t want to pretend anymore! I want to see God work! I want to see his power in my life! I know now that when God is telling you to do something, all you have to do is take that one step of obedience and he will allow everything else to fall into place. He will do all the work.

Do you want to pretend you’re living for God, or do you actually want to do it?

You can start by opening your Bible daily. It’s just one simple step. God will cause a hunger in you that isn’t based on emotions but based on necessity. You will learn to crave him as you press into him.

Do it, I dare you.

Slow It Down

I’ve been learning a lot in the past couple years about how to slow. down. God has brought me to a place and pace where I am fully dependent upon him.

I used to be a Charger. I would get an idea in my head and just do it. If I had to wait for something I was instantly frustrated and anxious. I was like this with buying things, with life plans and goals, with jobs and with my social life. I rushed forward in everything. Taking the time to consider if it was the best idea would nearly kill me. If I couldn’t do something immediately there was a knot in my stomach and my mind was constantly reminding me that I was missing out.

While I was running away from my marriage and from God, my life was rush rush rush.The schedule went a bit like this:

  • 6:00am Workout
  • 8:00am – 4:30pm First Job
  • 5:00pm – 10:00pm (or 11pm, 12am…1am…) Second Job
  • Social Life whenever I could squeeze it in
  • Boyfriend somewhere in there
  • Family on some Sundays

 This schedule was five days a week, if not six, and when I wasn’t working I was trying to maintain a social life, family life with my sister, brother in law and niece, and somehow fit a relationship in there. Mornings I wasn’t working I would still aim to go for a run or to the gym or to yoga…I couldn’t relax enough to even sleep in.

I rushed around, I conquered, I accomplished.

And still, I was restless. There was something that just wasn’t connecting the dots. Something was missing. It was frustrating! I was doing all I could do! I was doing everything I wanted to do!

Be still and know that I am God.

Psalm 46:10

If you are unable to be still, there is something wrong. I realize there is the scheduling and the attention that families need and just can’t be avoided, but if your schedule is to busy to fit in time with God, you are filling your schedule to full. If, when you do make time for God, your spirit is restless and anxious, you are to busy.

God gave me everything I thought I wanted. I traveled, I had a man that fit my criteria, I had a social life that was fun and constant, I had a cute little condo and jobs that I had only dreamt of before. But still…I wasn’t able to be still. I wasn’t satisfied, my insides were churning, I wasn’t content

And then God came and stole my heart. I turned to him and gave up everything I thought I wanted and it was exactly what I needed.

Now, life isn’t an anxious striving towards happiness. It’s a peaceful and constant surrendering towards a relationship with God. It’s simple, but not always easy. It’s reminding myself that even though the world pounds you on the head with messages of accomplishment, education, financial success, fitness and fashion and popularity…That simple is better. Resting and being peaceful with God is exactly what our spirits need.

God doesn’t want us to be busy, he doesn’t want us to be anxious. He wants us to be peaceful and restful in his presence. To develop a relationship with him. To spend time with him. It was only when I started to do this that the deepest part of my soul became still. That’s the only way I can describe it. The very root of me, my soul, was at home when I was in community with God. When I cut out all the unnecessary rush, I felt like I was where I was supposed to be.

If God speaks in a gentle whisper, how are we supposed to hear him when our lives are busy and full of noise?

Action Plan:

  • Start Small. When can you set aside five minutes to spend with God? Write it on your calendar, put a reminder in your phone. Take specific, intentional, time with God. Create a plan to make this time consistent.
  • What is one thing you can cut out of your schedule in order to slow your pace of life down?

 The world tells us that in order to be successful and feel whole, we need to stretch ourselves thin. But what our souls are aching for is a place where we can sit and give up our worries and be still.

 

Pace of Life

The pace of life. Do you allow life to take you at it’s own pace, or do you determine the pace in which your life moves forward?

Normally, we tend to think that busier is better. Maybe not rushed, even though some people like this pace, but active. When we sit still, it’s either because we’ve been forced to (tell that to my injured knee!) or because it’s a rare break in the steady stream of visits, errands, lists and demands.

Have you ever paused to ask yourself what pace God wants you to move at?

Every. single. time. my schedule gets to full, God reminds me to slow down. I begin to think that, yes, maybe this time, God wants me to stay busy in order to send money here or witness there. It all sounds good! My intentions are, for the most part, to bring God glory in this busyness. But just when I’m settling into my new, busy schedule, God pulls the rug from under my feet and shows me that he wants me to slow it down. He reminds me that even though it might make sense to earn a lot of money, that’s not his plan for me right now. Another gentle reminder that I need to lean on him more heavily because that is what he’s there for. Another reminder that he doesn’t intend for me to be too busy to minister in the fields he’s put on my heart.

When I look for verses about the pace of life, I find ones like:

“Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10

“He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters” Pslam 23:2

“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength” Isaiah 30:15

Jesus even tells Martha that she should be more like Mary and just sit and enjoy his presence.

When you read stories of Jesus’ life on earth, I don’t believe you will ever see a hectic schedule, a plate with to many responsibilities, or a rushed pace. The point of Jesus’ life was to build relationships. He didn’t rush, he asked people to stop what they were doing and follow him. He told them that he would provide the water and bread of life they needed. He took time in the early mornings to talk to his Father.

The point of our lives, the very thing that will satisfy the depths of our soul, is to pursue a relationship with God. Having a busy pace to our lives usually means that our priorities are out of balance. It usually means that quiet time with God is either overlooked or, if we have made time for him, it’s quickly forgotten once our busy day gets started.

The last thing we need is to forget what God has spoken to us or even the feeling of his presence. He is what will help us through the day! He gives us the strength in tough situations, he shows us what to say when a friend needs the right words, he helps us to be patient, he reminds us that he is in control, he takes worry and anxiousness away…If we miss out on getting to know him and spending time with him each day because our schedule is to full, we will see our day quickly going downhill. Simply, we can’t afford to put God on the back-burner and busyness makes this happen more often than not!

Action Plan:

  • Ask God if there are things, commitments, habits, thought-processes, in your life that you need to pause, if not remove completely, in order to slow down.
  • Think about your relationship with God. Are you making it top priority each day? If not, where can you make space for a few minutes with him? If you are already, how can you limit distraction during this time?

 

The world makes us think that giving God time instead of achieving and conquering and accomplishing whatever it is that our human nature wants will not be as fulfilling. Even when we have tasted a bit of Godly fulfillment, it’s easy to be convinced of this. Let’s be honest about what this truly is: This is satan lying to us about God in order to drag us away from the potential God created us with.

Let’s make it a goal to slow our lives down and to allow God to show us what he thinks is important and erase what the world tells us is important.

Aside

In order for something to be good, it needs to be new. Isn’t that what our culture teaches us? Second hand, cringe. Trying a relationship again, nuh-uh. Even working at an existing relationship to make it better isn’t something that is accepted or even encouraged.

New is best. New, shiny, exciting, that’s what is going to make you excited!

Divorce is accepted because there’s no way the wrongful person will change. Move on, improve yourself and find someone you deserve. Hashing through the same old arguments and expecting that person to have a change of heart is just putting yourself through unneeded torture. People don’t change and there’s someone out there that will accept you for who you are, that will give you what you need and that will love you in the way you need to be loved.

I was reading in Ezekiel last night, flipping through my highlighted verses, and skimmed over Ezekiel chapter 36.

On the day I cleanse you from all your sins, I will settle your towns, and the ruins will be rebuilt.

Ezekiel 36:33

I’ve read this verse many times. Over and over. I just love how, regardless of how many times you read something, new lessons always pop up.

Isn’t it interesting that God didn’t tell the people “I will build a new city for you, I will give you the homes and land of your dreams!”. Nope, he said “You’ll stay where you are and I will rebuild your towns and all the ruins around you”. I wonder how many people heard that and thought “Drag, I totally wanted to move somewhere new. This rebuilding stuff will be a lot of work…”

This land that was laid waste has become like the garden of Eden;

Ezekiel 36:35

God’s plan wasn’t just to rebuild their lands to their former glory. It was to completely renovate them. To make them so beautiful that people noticed and that they would compare them to the garden of Eden. God’s plan wasn’t to give them back what they had before, but to give them a place that they had only dreamed about. A beautiful, lush land. A place where they had pure relationship and interaction with him.

God is into restoration…but more than that, he’s into transformation. If you obey God, if you return to him, on that very day, he says, he will cleanse you and he will resettle your towns and rebuild your ruins. I love the end of verse 36:

I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it.

Ezekiel 36:36b

It’s a neat practice to put accentuation on different words in a verse. If you put accentuation on the second ‘I’, it shows that GOD will be the one that works, HE will be the one that does the rebuilding. If you put the accentuation on “will”, it shows that God WILL do it! He has said it and he won’t back out of it! God never goes back on his word, he never changes his mind, what he has said he will do, he WILL do!

Just because God is promising you the Promised Land, doesn’t mean that this land will be a new place for you. It doesn’t mean that it will be somewhere different. It could very well be that God’s promise means that such an immense change will take place that you won’t even recognize your current land. That it will be everything that you could have ever dreamed about and more.

I want you to know that I am not doing this for your sake.

Ezekiel 36:32

He is restoring your land, he is building your garden of Eden, not for your sake…but for his. This isn’t about your glory, it’s about his. Everything you’re going through is about bringing God Glory. Your life isn’t about making you happy or making people notice you, it’s about bringing people to the recognition that God has given us everything we need and is the reason our lands have been restored and transformed.

If you are praying for transformation in your life, for restoration, God will do it. HE will do it. You need to step back, to be still and allow him to work. He will transform your life, your lands, your marriage, your children, your parents, your job…whatever it is, into something you never expected it to be, into a garden of Eden that people step back and notice. Not only will God be the one to do the work, but he will do it. He has promised and God doesn’t make false promises. Be patient. Don’t set boundaries of time. Give God space to work and with the time you would have spent worrying and making demands, spend that with God instead and you will be amazed at the changes you’ll see around you.

Aside

Freewill. That’s a hard thing to explain in a Christian life. We have been given freewill, that’s part of the uniqueness of being human, a feature that God purposely put in us. But freewill means that we can choose to do what we want, when we want, how we want…and potentially live with the consequences, good or bad.

This could mean though, that we subconsciously tend to think of God as an errand boy. A force that picks up the pieces behind us and deals with how we have decided life should go. We often get confused about God’s roll in our minds and hearts and how his influence in our daily lives actually leads us to decisions and choices that without his direction we would not have come to. Because this just wouldn’t be true ‘freewill’ would it?

The bible says that God directs our paths, that we might make our own plans, but that it is his plans that ultimately come to pass (Proverbs 16:9). God is in control of every single little detail in every single little persons life. He has set out the times for us, Acts 17:26 says, the exact places where we will live. He’s not piecing the puzzle of our choices together in order to clean up a mess in our wake, he’s directing our every step and thought in order to bring us to a specific place. A place where we acknowledge him with everything we do, a place where we realize that without him we can do nothing, a place where we give him all the glory…a place where we have relationship with him.

We need to be careful about how we think about freewill. The world teaches us that we are entitled to freewill, that it is our right. But (a) we aren’t actually entitled to anything and (b) true freewill is following the path that God is setting out for us and knowing that the best choice is to follow his direction.

When I was running from God people would often ask me about my hometown and at the end of my reply I would always, without exception, add “But I’ll never move back”. And every single time these words would come out of my mouth, a little voice in the back of my mind would whisper “God’s going to make you move back”. God was working in my life, directing my path, allowing me to make certain decisions that would lead me to know that he was the only satisfaction I would find…he was gently directing my steps back towards his throne. It didn’t matter what plans I made for myself, he was putting desires in my heart and setting my feet in a certain path in order to bring me back home.

I lay in bed one night and God called my name. He asked me, once again, to pick up his word and start reading again. And so I did, but I told him, point blank, I would only read one verse a day. That’s all I had time for. But God knew, he knew that once I picked up that bible he would flood into me and I wouldn’t be able to stop reading after just one verse. He knew that he would put a hunger in me, such a strong desire for him, that it wouldn’t be quenched with just one verse.

In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.

Proverbs 16:9

You can make your plans, tell God how it’s going to go, but God already knows. He has lead you to that spot, he’s allowed and placed everything in your life to lead you to every decision you’ll ever make. And once you stop fighting him, once you allow him to take your hand and lead you in his way, you will see that it’s so much better than trying to forge your way through the mess of life.

There’s two ways to get what you want. Either push your way towards your goals and fight your way to the top or allow God to take control, lead you and have the peace of mind that whatever happens is in his hands. Either way, in the end, you’re going to end up just where God wants you. You might as well just surrender your life to him, it’s so much more simple.

A man’s steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand his own way?

Proverbs 20:24

 

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

 

I’m working my way through Exodus. It’s been a couple months in this book and I’m on Chapter 5. Go me. I’m not a slow reader, but I have so many books on the go that it’s hard to finish one reading project before I start another…there’s just so many great books out there and so little time!!

The other night I was laying in bed, starting my reading for the evening, and I decided that Exodus would be the chosen book. It wasn’t quite what I was thinking I needed that night, but I felt like I should.

Ever heard that saying “never should on yourself”? I love that saying, so true. But this time it was a good thing that I should on myself.

Chapter 5. Moses has been told by God to go to Pharaoh and tell him to release the Israelites. Aaron goes with him and between verses 1-21 they present this idea to the king of Egypt.

God was pretty clear, he said he would release his people if Moses went to the king and asked him to release them. So when Moses did this, when Moses was obedient to God and Pharaoh didn’t release them…he, instead, made their lives so much worse…the people turned on Moses saying “May the Lord look upon you and judge you!” (vs. 21).

Imagine, this strong, confidant man who has seen a flaming bush in the desert, who has clear and obvious instruction from God. Who has seen his stick turn into a snake, who has witnessed water turning into blood. This man goes before the king of all of Egypt, a king he can see, he can hear and who rules and punishes before his eyes. He can physically touch this king. And he takes this bizarre idea to this king, this idea that everyone would have thought was crazy, and truly believes that Pharaoh will release an entire nation of people because of it. But Pharaoh doesn’t. Matter of fact, he does the opposite. He punishes the people. He makes their lives impossible. He sets expectations that can’t be accomplished and then he beats them when they aren’t completed.

And Moses is confused, hurt even. Why would God do this to him? Why wouldn’t God do what he said he was going to do?

We all know the end result of this story, Moses presents this idea to Pharaoh several times and finally, after it seems like it just couldn’t get any worse, the king releases the nation of Israel.

God didn’t give Moses a timeline. He gave him instructions and a promise. Moses knew what he had seen, he knew he wasn’t crazy, he knew that God existed and had spoken to him. He knew what he knew what he knew. God had told him he would release the Isralites and so he kept going forward in faith, knowing that God would complete his promise.

God doesn’t promise that life will be easy in our obedience. He doesn’t promise that there won’t be suffering. He doesn’t promise that it will happen in the timing we expect. But what he does promise is that he will complete what he has started. He promises that he will be with us every step of the way and he promises that he will show himself when we need it most. All he asks of us is that we continue to do what he has asked of us, even when it doesn’t make sense. Even when there is an entire nation shouting insults at us, asking us to leave them alone…we answer to God. Not to the people around us.

Did you wonder why I put that line in there “He can physically touch this king“? Because sometimes, when we look around and see the disobedience of those around us or lack of movement, we see what is happening in the physical world, we forget that what we can see with our eyes has nothing to do with the work God is doing in the spiritual realm. You can see what is around you, you can’t see God, and some times, most of the time, it’s easier to trust what you can see rather than trust what an invisible God has told you.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

Hebrews 11:1

God asks us to walk in faith, to trust him and to not pay attention to what we can see with our physical eyes.

“For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

Romans 8:24-25

God works in and with the impossibilities. He works beyond what we can see with our eyes. And he wants all the glory. He wants to bring us to a place where all we can do is give credit to him. Where there is no other way that we succeeded other than by his hand.

God will do what he has said he will do. It won’t be in our timing. It won’t be how we expect. But he will move mountains, he will set the captives free, he will bring us to the land he has promised and he will show us miracles along the way.

Our God is good. Our God is loving. All we need to do is be obedient, put one foot in front of the other, listen, breathe, walk with him and watch him work. He has never promised that it will be easy, but he has promised to carry us through.