Planted by Streams of Water

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers. Psalm 1:3

I am visual and because of what I imagine when I read it, I love this verse.  Doesn’t your heart rate slow when you read this verse and picture that tree?

I read this passage this week and immediately thought “Lord, I feel withered.  I don’t feel planted by streams of water.  I don’t feel like a tree. I feel like a weed.” In that moment, I realized I had a choice – turn from this passage and believe that either this is not really true for Believers or that I am abandoned in my sin, or dig in and figure out why my feelings aren’t matching up with truth.  I realized, quickly, the context of this verse is that the person living deeply invested in the Word of God is the tree.  Ahhh – there is my problem.  I have been disobedient in that area.  So I returned to Him, and sought His presence, and began to feel the streams of water reenter my parched soul.  My perspective began to shift from inside this tiny life I live to the bigger picture of His grace and glory.

And I saw something in this verse.  “Which yields its fruit in season.”  I know from previous study that there is a symbolic meaning to fruit – and I know what this passage is trying to say.  But I also saw something else – another definition of fruit.

One of the MOST amazing things about this past year has been the private messages I have received via Facebook or email, particularly after I reveal some aspect of my terrible nature on this blog.  I have received confessions of weakness or sin from women and men who I’ve known throughout my life, small “me too” messages that reveal that I am not alone in my struggles.  I have received PRECIOUS notes of encouragement from people who have defeated similar sin and many people have joined with me and prayed for me.  I have had the great privilege of praying for, and maybe encouraging, some other people who are struggling alongside me as they have walked their walks with the Lord.  One thing I’ve realized – many many people wait with us on the Lord.   This waiting room is more full than I ever imagined.  But in the waiting room, if we’ll look around, is grace and true Biblical fellowship with other Believers, also waiting.  We can learn from each other.  We can relate to each other.  We can find lifelong friendships.  Amazing.

Another great thing about this time, since I have decided to speak out loudly about our desire to adopt and our desire to support adoptive and foster parents, a number of people have privately messaged me that God is calling them to adopt or foster.  Someone wrote today – it just thrills my soul.  That calling is a daunting one.  I read somewhere that only a very small percentage of people who investigate adoption actually adopt.  And I can understand why.  The process is sometimes confusing and challenging, and it is scary stuff to ask for the permanent care of a child from another environment – not because we fear the child, but often because we don’t feel worthy to handle the challenges that could be associated with adoption and we worry we’ll mess up everyone’s lives in the process.  So I get these quiet messages – “Do you think I could do this?”  I love getting those messages – I love that people trust me with that secret desire and I love that I get to, in that moment, affirm that what God begins in us, He is faithful to complete in His power.  During this past two years, we have gotten the amazing privilege of praying with people, encouraging people, and in tiny measure maybe even helping people do what God has called them to do.  It has been overwhelming and humbling.  When I get those messages, I shake from the honor of being a small part of God’s movement in their lives.

It has been priceless to me.

I wonder had all of my dreams, and my plans, come true in my timing, would I ever have known that community and that privilege?  Had it been up to me – our house would be on its way to being full of little people from around the world.  It is likely I would have been puffed up in my success and busy in my own pursuits, and I would have missed out on the joy of this avenue of true Biblical fellowship.

For that reason, I love this time while we wait.  We can’t adopt now, but we can encourage now. We can pray.  We can advocate.

So this week, when I went to the Lord feeling weak and lifeless, He reminded me that even in Fall and Winter, He is working to bring forth Spring.  And even if I get to be a small part of bringing forth Spring in the lives of others, it is worthy wonderful work.  If that is some of my fruit of this season, I’m in.  I may not be seeing fruit at this moment in our home, but I am seeing others bear fruit and joining with them in community.  Rock on.

So that was a sweet new definition of fruit for me, as pertains to the Psalm 1 passage.

And speaking of bringing forth spring – the Lord has been pruning me so that I can produce fruit in my parenting.  This wait has revealed in me some deficiencies that I needed to correct before I was ready to adopt.  About six months ago, I began to be aware of my inadequacies parenting my girls, in particular Grace.  It was like she was a mirror reflecting the worst side of my nature, and what I saw in myself was ugly.  It killed me.  I longed to parent her with grace and wisdom, and I knew I was failing.  So I prayed.  I begged.  I blogged.  And truthfully, my parenting style, and my sin nature, didn’t revolutionize overnight.  I started having more good days than bad, but sometimes the sin that so easily entangles would overwhelm me.  And I was frustrated.  I felt broken.  I knew my problem, knew some of my wrong thinking, but wasn’t sure how to correct it.  But in my chaos and confusion, the Lord was working quietly and perfectly. Over time, He weaved several seemingly small interactions together that have helped me see my purpose in parenting and helped me identify and correct much of that wrong thinking.  Through a verse, a couple of conversations with friends, some messages from Brandon Thomas, a note from a high school friend over Facebook, a couple of books, the Tapestry Adoption Conference, and the prayers and accountability of precious sisters in Christ, He spoke.  Today I confess that I am not perfect yet (Ha – I wish!), but that I am tapped into the source of change and everyday realizing the grace that is mine both for myself and for parenting my loves.  I am seeing, in Grace, the same struggle I face everyday, the struggle to protect and control what we see as ours, and finally I am feeling empathy for her, not frustration.  Loving, obeying, understanding, and dying to ourselves is not natural.  It is hard, lifelong work.  I am an adult with the person of Christ living in me and yet I struggle, but I expect my three year-old to get it?  It is terribly unfair.  So finally I am seeing that for what it is – sin in me that needs to be dealt with.  Thank you Lord for your refining of me for my and my sweet daughter’s sake.  Protect her Lord from my habitual sin, and continue to be a source of love and grace for my girls.

I remember after therapy realizing that there is power in the knowledge of our brokenness.  Sometimes healing takes work and often it comes later, but a great victory is won when we see ourselves as we truly are – in need of healing and help.  In that moment, we can turn to the Lord and confess our brokenness and He begins to heal.  That is why the enemy of our souls fights to tell us that we are okay, that our problems are always due to other people in our world.  The enemy wants us to believe “It’s all good.  Don’t sweat it.”  But the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin for our benefit, so we can become free.  And I am so grateful to God for that.  He could leave us to walk through life clothed in the stink of death and sin, unaware of our own stench, covered by the grace of His Son’s death but unable to live an abundant life.  But He doesn’t.  He has made us positionally pure in Christ, but He reveals Himself to us and reveals our sin so that we can become completely pure.

That is what streams of water is all about.  Filling with Him so there is no room for our sinful selfish ways until we grow taller and stronger than we ever could have grown in our own power.

Sign me up for that.

Adoration

I came home from out of town late last night so I got to go wake up the girls and surprise them this morning.  Grace gave me a big hug with a beautiful smile on her face and with total joy said “Mommy’s home!  Did you have fun coming home?”  Then when Bekah saw me, she started kicking and laughing and quickly climbed up on me like a spider monkey where she held on tight for about 20 minutes, hugging me and laughing.

I am adored by my girls.

In a way that I don’t deserve, in a way that is precious and humbling to me, in a way that brings tears to my eyes.  It is wonderful to be loved.

This morning I was thinking about how my feelings towards my kids often remind me of how the Lord must feel about me, and that it would therefore make sense that my kids’ feelings towards me should remind me of my feelings towards the Lord.  But I have to confess – I don’t know that I adore the Lord in the way my kids express adoration towards me.  I don’t know that I long for His presence when He seems far away, or delight when I am allowed to come into His presence, the way my kids delighted in me this morning.  It is a humbling thought.  He, after all, is deserving.  He has given me every good thing in my life.  He delights in me.  He created me.  He has rescued me.  He provides for me.  I see evidence of His goodness and His love everyday.  Only because of His grace do I exist.  Yet I don’t respond in adoration like I want to, or like I should.

So what do I do about that?  What happens when I want to love the Lord, want to respond in adoration, but find my heart cold?

This morning I went to the Psalms for answers.  The Psalms are often directly written to the Lord, and are full of praise and adoration.  Around that same time, a friend posted this on Facebook:

Mark 12:30 – Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT:
Read John 8:44. Satan wants to deceive you about God. If he can distort your idea of God, then beyond the shadow of any doubt he has you in everything else.

ACTION POINT:
What does it mean to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind? Start with focusing on who God is, not on what we want Him to be – we are HIS Creation.

I am so grateful my friend posted that – it was directly for me today.  So I look up these passages – and the entire passage of John 8 is a tough passage.  It is basically an argument between Jesus and the religious Jews in the temple about who is right.  Either Jesus is right and these people are whitewashed tombs, or the Pharisees are right and Jesus is a false teacher.  This falls into that “Jesus is either the Son of God, divinity in human form, or he is an evil, crazy, lying man” argument.  It really is true – there is no grey area with Jesus.  He can’t possibly be the “good teacher” so many people dismiss him to be.  Look at the passage in John 8.  Jesus uses some tough language with the Pharisees in this passage.  In verse 23 He says “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.”

So what does this have to do with loving God?  Well, there are three things that I have found are key in loving God:

To love God we have to know who He is. I love Justin because I know the great man he is when nobody is looking.  I love my mom because I respect the woman she is and aspire to be like her.  I love my dad because I know his heart and it is tender and good.  Jesus is saying in John 8 who He is.  We have to be good with that.  He is who He is.  He is unchanging.  He is God and we are not.  He is in control and He does what He wants for His glory.

To love God we have to be granted faith. If you look at John 8, verse 30 says “Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him.” Jesus is not giving a warm and fluffy invitation like we so often hear in church today.  He is saying tough truths about who He is and who God is.  And yet people are trusting Him.  It is because their eyes are being opened – God is showing them favor by revealing His son.  In that same crowd, many people heard the exact same words and thought he was a crazy, demon possessed man.  Their hearts were actually hardened.  Jesus, in verse 42, talked about this.  Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” Man this passage is hard to wrestle with.  We love Jesus because God is our Father.  It is a matter of revelation.  I really respect Billy and Cindy Foote, and I heard Billy Foote say one day that if we don’t love God, we better get on our face and beg Him to allow us to love Him, beg Him to grant us the faith and the love we desire.  We can’t conjure love, we can only be granted it, as a gift.

We can’t love ourselves, this world, or money and God at the same time. We only can serve one master.  Luke 16:13 says No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon (money). We are really simple people – we can only do one thing well at a time.  So we are either about God and His agenda, or we are about something else.

When I feel my heart is cold, I have to start examining what I do love.  Often for me – that is where the answer is.  I know God –  I know who He is and I love who He is.  I see Him at work around me.  I know I have been granted faith through no merit of my own but through His grace – I believe what others think is crazy and I base my decisions on an eternal focus and not an earthly one.  But I often will trade in my first love for something unworthy – I will often begin to serve the wrong master.

Revelation 2 describes where I am:  I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.

So today I am repenting of the love of self and the love of money and security that has grown in me.  I am repenting of this desire to be in control.  I am repenting of my cold heart.  I am remembering the mercy of my Father.  I am dwelling on all He has done for me, and I am repositioning my focus and my adoration on my Father, where it belongs.  So many of you do this so well.  I see your faith and your love for Jesus and it inspires me.  Please pray for me – that my first love would be renewed.  That I would respond to my Father with the adoration that He deserves.  I want to bring joy to His heart the way my sweet girls brought joy to mine this morning.  I want to delight Him even as I delight in Him.