Archives for May 2012

Surviving a Spiritual Funk

A spiritual desert.

A dry spell.

A slump.

A valley.

A case of the spiritual “blahs”.

A bout with spiritual depression.

A season of spiritual silence.

A lingering spiritual “funk.”

Whatever you call it, have you experienced one? Have you ever gone days, weeks, months, or maybe even years without knowing the soul-deep sweetness of repeated “wow” moments in God’s presence? Have you lost that “lovin’ feeling” in your relationship with Jesus? When you speak of passion for God and His Word, do you have to speak in past tense? Does God’s “still small voice” seem way too small, and His “unsearchable” ways way too hidden?  Are your quiet times way too quiet? Does the “overflow” of spiritual satisfaction that you once felt continue to elude you, seeming to always be just beyond your reach? You may taste it once in a while, but has it been a long time since you really feasted on it?

If so, than guess what – we have something in common. I’ve been there too, plenty of times. I know that frustration. I’ve cried those tears. I’ve felt that void. I’ve experienced that loneliness.

Would you think less of me if I told you I went a whole year without any consistent time with the Lord? What about if I told you it wasn’t in my distant past, but recently?

Is it okay to say that as a mature, Bible-saturated believer, I went months without feeling much of anything for God or His Word?

I hope so, because it’s the truth. It’s a chapter in my story that God has not given me permission to edit. It’s a real and vital part of the whole of my spiritual life. Did God cause it? I’m still not sure about all that. Did He allow it and use it to deepen my faith, suffocate my spiritual pride, and make me more like Jesus? Absolutely.

Spiritual “funks” can be caused by a number of things – trials, grief, major life-changes, sin, busyness, depression, chronic physical pain, or simply God’s sovereign choice to back off a bit in order to test and strengthen your faith. My most recent dry spell was caused by a major life change: the birth of my first child. I know that moms are supposed to look back at the first 6 months of their child’s life and feel lots of warm, fuzzy things and talk about how they’d give anything to have their teeny tiny baby back. I am hoping to get there some day, but I’m not there yet. Not even close. I’ll take a walking, talking, some-what self-sufficient preschooler over an infant any day!

I won’t get into all the details, but being a stay-at-home mommy of an infant rattled me to the core and had a major effect on my relationship with Jesus. After years of freedom to take as much time as I wanted to “marinate” in God’s Word and then pour out into the lives of women through Bible teaching, the all-consuming needs of a baby took me by surprise. In fact, they were a total shock to my carefully ordered system!  (It’s not that I wasn’t warned . . . I guess I just chose to ignore the haggard looks and smoke signals of the new moms who crossed my path. :))  Add to that the physical/emotional side effects of the postpartum hormones and sheer exhaustion, and you have quite a recipe for what the old timers called “spiritual melancholy.” Shepherd was about a year old before I started having a daily quiet time again and almost two years old before I started to feel the “fog” of spiritual dryness begin to lift.

I spend a good two years in a spiritual battle. The enemies – “life” and my own unsteady heart; the prize – joy; the weapons – we’ll tackle that in another post.  Some days I fought well. Other days I didn’t even try. Spiritual depression can be paralyzing of we let it. Sometimes I let it.

But thankfully, that’s not all. I’m delighted to tell you that this chapter of my life has a happy ending. This part of my story is redemptive. It doesn’t make me look all that great, but it testifies so beautifully to the sufficiency, steadfastness, grace, and “more-than-enoughness” of my Savior, which is the only reason I’m willing to share it.

If I were to give this chapter a title, it would be one word:  “Faithful.” In all the ebbs and flows of my spiritual affections, God has never changed, He has never left me, He has never forsaken me, He has never stopped speaking, He has never stopped working, He has never ceased to provide – He has never failed me. Not once. Not ever. And He never will.

 Whether I have the ears to hear, the eyes to see, and the heart to feel or not, I belong to a God who is more committed to my holiness, my wholeness, and the perseverance of my faith than I will ever be, even on my best days.

When my heart cries out for an answer to the question, “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me?” (Ps. 42:5);

When, in a moment of gut-wrenching honesty, I dare to ask, “Will the Lord reject forever? And will He never be favorable again? Has His loving-kindness ceased forever? Has His promise come to an end forever?  Has God forgotten to be gracious?” (Ps. 77:7-9);

When the deadening silence and emotional uncertainty gives birth to a question I never thought I’d ask: “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” (Ps. 22:1);

When “I cry by day, but [God] does not answer; and by night, but I have no rest” (Ps. 22:2);

When my heart is “embittered” and I am “pierced within” (Ps. 73:21);

I choose to hold on for dear life to the one thing I know will never changethe steadfast character of my fiercely faithful Heavenly Father. Though my flesh and my heart may fail, God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Ps. 73:26)!

For the next couple of weeks, I’d love for us to explore this topic of “surviving a spiritual funk” together. I will be blogging as much as I can about it, and I’d love to hear your stories of God’s faithfulness in your own desert seasons, and the highs and lows of your own fight for joy. If your chapter doesn’t have a “happy” ending yet – if the picture of God’s perfect sufficiency still isn’t crystal clear – that’s okay. The purpose of this series to is help you get there.

God’s Word offers sweet, soul-soothing hope for spiritually depressed hearts. So, pour yourself a warm cup of coffee (or several – this may take a few weeks!), add way too much of your favorite creamer, and let’s “marinate” in all that sweet, soul-soothing hope together.

 

Such WERE Some of You {Another 1 Corinthians Sneak Peek}

I’ve been busy working on the Becoming a Woman of Conviction in a World of Compromise study of 1 Corinthians again this week, so I’m letting some of that do double-duty by posting another sneak peek for you. In September, you will have an opportunity to do the study with me online, or (if you live in the Brandon, FL area) live at Bell Shoals Baptist Church. You’ll be hearing lots more about that as it gets closer, I promise. In the meantime, would you pray for me and for this study? The deadline to have the workbook written and ready for formatting is fast approaching and I’ve only written two out of seven weeks. Ha! (I choose laughter over tears . . . most days.) If only I could write, play trucks, cook, clean, pay bills, menu plan, and hang out with my husband all at the same time. 🙂

The following is application of 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, focusing in on verse 11: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”

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I’m a big fan of room makeover shows. Do you remember TLC’s Trading Spaces? “Two rooms, two sets of neighbors, two designers, two days, $1,000 each.” I was addicted, folks! (And  I’d still give anything to have Laurie Smith come work her magic in my home!) But whether I loved the finished product or hated it, I always thought to myself, “There’s no way that’s going to last.” What may have looked good on camera wasn’t very likely to withstand the wear and tear of real life. One thousand dollars may be enough to redecorate a room for a TV audience, but it takes a much bigger budget (and a lot longer than 2 days!) to permanently renovate a room so that it stands the test of time.

Christianity is not a spiritual room makeover show. God is not interested in merely redecorating our lives; He wants to renovate our lives. He’s not in the business of making us better versions of ourselves. He’s in the business of total transformation – of gutting all the old stuff and re-making us into the likeness of Jesus (Rom. 8:29). The price tag on that renovation? Nothing less than the precious blood of Jesus (1 Peter 1:18, 19)!

To use another metaphor, salvation isn’t some spiritual version of plastic surgery – it’s a heart transplant! The message of the gospel is not that God accepts us in all our sinfulness, forgives us, and then leaves us in our sinfulness with the command to do the best we can at being nice Christian people. The message of the gospel is that God accepts us in all our sinfulness, forgives us, and then indwells us with His Spirit so that we might live lives that are radically transformed from the inside out!

We’ve got to put an end to the line of thinking that Christianity is merely cosmetic; that life in the Spirit is some lofty notion to discuss in Sunday school but has little bearing on our everyday lives; that Jesus is some kind of divine self-help guru sent to improve us rather than a Redeemer sent to save and transform us. That’s nonsense! You and I have not just been saved from sin. We have been saved to an entirely new life in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17)! The Corinthians had pretty much forgotten that, and I’m afraid many of us have as well.

Does your life story have an obvious “but” in it? Does is contain something to the effect of, “I used to be _________________, BUT then I met Jesus and I’ve never been the same!” Is the “but” in your story evident to everyone around you? Does it magnify the beauty of the gospel and the worth of your Savior? Is your former life really your former life?

But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified” (v. 11). By the grace of God, that is who you are, sweet sister. Because of Jesus, your story has a “but.” It’s time to start living like it. No more compromise! It’s time to make purity an absolute priority.

Book Club: Twelve Extraordinary Women, Video 10 (Martha and Mary)

Oh how I long to be known as a woman who “chose the good part” (Luke 10:42)! LOVED this chapter!

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Marinate this Summer: Host a Playgroup with a Purpose

Can you believe that May is almost over?! With summer right around the corner, I am going to be putting together some “Marinate this Summer” posts to help you be intentional about keeping Jesus at the center of all that fun you’re going to have.

One would think that having a more relaxed, laid-back schedule would make soaking in God’s Word easier, but in my experience it’s the total opposite. “Relaxed and laid-back” doesn’t necessarily equal “free time all to yourself.” (If you’re a mom, it definitely doesn’t!) And even if it did, I would be much more likely to indulge myself in some Food Network than nourish my spirit with Scripture.  Just sayin.’

If we are going to live Bible-saturated lives this summer, we’re going to have to do it on purpose.

I want to help you do that!

So here’s my first summer suggestion:  Plan a playgroup with a purpose.

Choose 2 or 3 friends who have kids with similar ages and invite them to your house each week to play. Instead of chatting it up about the latest gossip, your favorite TV shows, the crazy things your kids have done lately, or why your husbands can’t seem to get the wet towels in the laundry basket . . . talk about the Bible.

Pick a book of the Bible or a Bible study workbook, work through the assigned reading/questions on your own during the week, and then come to the play date ready discuss the highlights.

Yes, you will be interrupted 567 times. No, you will never get through all of the material.

It won’t look anything like a “real” Bible study group. But that’s okay.

Your goal is not to finish the study (you may not even finish very many sentences!). The goal is to walk through this summer hand-in-hand with some sweet sisters in Christ who will hold you accountable to be in the Word every day, encourage your heart with Scripture, and refresh your soul with Christ-centered conversation.

Here are some tips for a hosting a successful playgroup with a purpose:

  • Keep your expectations really low and be flexible. Don’t fool yourself into thinking this is a Bible study per se. It’s a playgroup. You’re just choosing to be intentional about what you talk about as you facilitate your children’s play time.
  • Clearly outline the reading/homework plan from the get go. Type it out, e-mail it, Facebook it – whatever. Just make sure that everyone knows what to read and when.
  • If all the children are pre-school age and younger (i.e. high maintenance), keep the playgroup small.
  • Plan ahead. Have snacks, drinks, activities, etc. ready to go so that you don’t have to use your “chat’ time on that kind of stuff.
  • If the children are a little older, let them watch a movie in another room. Make it fun by having popcorn and maybe a sweet treat.
  • If you only have 3-4 kids in the play group, consider pooling your money together and hiring a high school girl to supervise, entertain, and feed them for an hour while you meet each week. You will still be there to interact with your kids as needed, but this will minimize the interruptions.
  • Choose a book of the Bible or a Bible study workbook that is “summer friendly.” In other words, this is not the time or the place to work through Revelation or tackle a 10+ week Beth Moore study.
  • Plan 3-4 discussion questions to talk about when you gather each week. You MUST structure the conversation a bit or it just won’t happen – not if you are having to wipe bottoms and break up toddler fights in between thoughts.
  • Try really hard to pray together. If you have little ones, you will have to pray with one eye opened, but give it a shot. As moms, we try so hard to cultivate special summer memories. What better memory to etch in the minds of your children than that of you and your girlfriends on your knees before the Father!
  • Encourage authenticity. Make your “playgroup with a purpose” a place where your friends can be real and honest . . . a place where God’s truth can intersect real life, not the life we sometimes pretend to have.
  • Did I mention that you need to keep your expectations low and be flexible? Yeah, that’s REALLY important.
  • Last but not least, have fun!

Do you have any thoughts or suggestions to add? Any questions? Comments are always welcomed!

Now go plan that playgroup! 🙂

Cloudy Days

A nasty cold is working its way through my house this week, which has left little time or energy for blogging between all the nose wiping, snuggling, and attempts at sleeping. So, I pulled something from my personal archives. I wrote this back in July of 2008 and it still rings so true in my life. (By the way, those of you keeping up with the book club, this crud we all have pushed that back too . . .I’m hoping to have the next chat up Friday or sometime this weekend.)

I recently spent a week with my husband, parents, and brother in Daytona Beach where our days consisted of essentially three things  – doing nothing, eating, and early morning workouts on the beach (to minimize the effects of the eating). Aaaaahhhhh . . . my idea of PURE BLISS!

One of the things I love to do each morning at the beach is sit on the condo balcony with a cup of coffee and watch the sunrise over the Atlantic. Usually, the skies are clear and the rising sun creates the most amazing masterpiece as it reflects on the ocean water. Sadly, things were different this year. Every morning that I woke up early to see the sunrise, the sky was full of clouds that blocked the sun. The sun was there of course, but the “wow factor” that I longed to see was greatly diminished by the looming clouds.

On a positive note, there were  a couple of mornings when the light peaked through little holes in the clouds creating beams of light that reflected onto the water. Not what I came for, but very pretty. At least all was not lost.

As I sat on the porch the last day of vacation, watching yet another not-so-spectacular sunrise, I thought about how many times my spiritual life has been just like those mornings on the condo balcony. God’s faithfulness to reveal Himself each day is as sure as the sunrise. He is an ever-present God who has indwelt me with His Spirit, so each and every time I kneel before Him in prayer, meditate on His Word, or join with fellow believers in corporate worship, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is going to “show up.” I expect it . . . anticipate it . . . look forward to it.

But sometimes there are clouds that block the view – the clouds of difficult circumstances, sadness, anxiety, disappointment, physical pain, stress, fatigue, and the list goes on. Some of these clouds are self-induced. Others are completely out of my control. Whatever the cause, these clouds can loom for a long time and diminish the “wow factor” that I long to experience when I meet with the Lord. God still “shows up,” it’s just hard to see Him through the looming haze of life’s valleys.

What hit me as I thought about the lousy sunrises I had seen is this simple truth: clouds eventually clear. They aren’t permanent. In fact, had we been able to stay another week at the beach, there is a very good chance I would have woken up to clear skies and gotten to see a gorgeous Daytona Beach sunrise at some point.

I would, however, have had to keep getting up early. Consistency and perseverance would have been crucial.

Are you in a “cloudy” season in your walk with the Lord? Did you set aside time to meet with Him recently, only to be disappointed once again that you didn’t “see” anything spectacular? My encouragement to you is this: Keep on getting up, keep on setting aside that time, keep on kneeling before Him in prayer, and keep on meditating on His Word. Make consistency and perseverance your two best friends.

You may not see Him very clearly right now, but He’s there . . . He’s speaking . . . He’s working . . . He’s protecting . . . He’s refining. Never forget that the clouds aren’t permanent. One of these days, they will lift and you will get to have more of those “wow moments” with Jesus that you have been craving for so long.

Until then, enjoy those little rays that peak through the clouds once in a while – those little whispers from above that you are seen, known, and loved by Almighty God. They may not be the masterpiece you anticipated, but they sure are pretty.

“In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.” Psalm 53:3 

What truth, promise, or attribute of God do you cling to on cloudy days?

 

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