Those Darn Cravings

Cravings are a daily challenge in my life, like the craving for dark chocolate. I have to manage that one and a few others so I can keep losing and relosing the same five pounds  that are my old “frenemies.” After the Lord helped me quit smoking in 1987, I thought I’d never meet the likes of those overwhelming cravings again, but then along came Downton Abbey.

We usually think of cravings in connection with things that aren’t so good for us, but there are some good ones out there. I have never, ever craved the healthy green stuff that tastes like my front lawn, which I force myself to drink regularly, but in the days when I did regular aerobic workouts my body did actually crave more of how it felt when I did that.

Yearnings, cravings and longings tell a lot about us — where we’ve been, what we’ve tasted, and even what we’ve been deprived of.

When I read the words of the priest who wrote “My soul longs and yearns for the courts of the Lord,” and “My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God,” in Psalm 84:2, I wanted to know why he felt all that.

This is one reason I love to read the Psalms so very much; the expression of sincere human passion lurks in every nook and cranny!

Why did this writer hunger so for the house of God? And what is it like to have one’s heart as well as one’s flesh sing for joy? Because we all know what it’s like to sing the words from a heart that is not really joyful at all, or even bored, or even pretty disappointed at God.

Stained Glass and PewsThese are some of the many words in Scripture that blew away dry doctrine and left me unsatisfied with the status quo of religious experience in my early days of being a Christian. Words like these made me jealous, as they should, for an authentic experience of life with God so compelling and nourishing that I had to have it on a regular basis. I went looking for that experience, and I found it in the Holy Spirit. When I received Him fully into my life and began paying attention to His faithful Presence, everything changed.

How did that happen? The Spirit gave me daily tastes of the real love and wonderfulness of my heavenly Father and Jesus. They’re addictive. They’re nourishing. Their fellowship gives, and never takes away. They’re happy and they love me! God’s sheer goodness and the pleasantness of His Personality blow away the competition for my craving button.

Many things are addictive in this life, and we all have them in some degree or another. My prayer is that you all could all have the opportunity to be addicted to JOY because of your experience of the Living God.

Psalm 84 (2) – Longing and enJoying

Okay, on to Verse 2 of Psalm 84!

My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the Lord; My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God. (Psalms 84:2 NAS)

At first glance a simple little verse, but ponder it a little, and it opens up a feast of truth for my soul and spirit! I hope it will do the same for you.

First, it really gets my attention when David says something in two ways, because he WANTS that emphasis to not be lost on his audience: He starts out with “My soul longed… for the courts of the Lord.” But no, that’s not enough! Because he then adds, “….even YEARNED for, the courts of the Lord.” Okay, it worked on me; I see that second phrase, and involuntarily tilt my head in the same way my dog does when I say something he doesn’t understand: What? What? What are you saying?

So I dig down into the Hebrew words in my nifty NASB Strongs Bible app, and discover these are NOT mere synonyms, these words “longed for” and “yearned.” Not even close! In fact, they cover the range of desire that goes from 30 mph to 120 mph in 6 seconds! Because the first word just means “Yeah, I want that.” But the second word actually means “to be consumed by, swallowed up in, done in by…!!” Wow.

So David essentially says, “I want you, God….. no wait, I want you more than anything! I can’t think of anything else. Wanting to be near you has eclipsed every other desire in me. I’ve got to get to where I can be near you!” And David doesn’t stop there, he tells us what happens as a result of that yearning, when he gets to the courts of the Lord, to the place where he can know God more: both his mouth and his heart are singing for joy!

So, now we get to the good news and the bad news. The good news is that this is a wonderful place to be: to have a heart singing for joy — not because Daddy made you go to church and singing is what you do there, or because the choir is doing a cantata and you have to practice your part — but because you are so full of joy you’ve gotta sing about!

The bad news? It’s the sinking realization, “Gee, I don’t know how to get there.” I know exactly what that is like. I’ve witnessed the unbridled joy in people like David in the Bible, and heard numerous other witnesses in the Bible speak of loving God, yearning for God, wanting him more than anything — and realizing, I don’t know how to make my heart do that…. I don’t know how to fill myself with passion for this invisible God. I believe IN Him, I want to be that full of passion for him, but I honestly don’t know how to get there! How do you make yourself feel passion?

But I have the answer for you: I discovered it in my prayer place years ago. It is simply confessing the truth. It goes like this: on the knees, before the Lord, saying, “God I want to love you like this, but I don’t know how. I don’t want you like David did… but I WANT TO WANT YOU LIKE THIS. PLEASE HELP ME. Holy Spirit, fill me with this kind of love and yearning for God.” Because it occurred to me in a moment of enlightenment, the Holy Spirit is our helper, and what is He here to help us do, if not to love this God we cannot see, with all our might?

And the Spirit WILL answer you. I think I can safely say on His behalf, He LOVES to answer prayers like this. He did for me. He filled my heart with longing for God in the coming days and weeks. And over the years, if my love wanes, I go right back to the Spirit, and offer my wandering heart back to Him to be filled with longing for God. Longing comes, fills up my soul and spirit, and leads to more intimate times with the Lord. And that always brings the joy. I sing for joy because God is greater than my wandering heart, and my life with him flows out of His power, not my weakness — if I knock, ask and seek for it.

Yep, singing for joy, not because it’s time for choir practice.

Rocks In the River

A group of us women gathered for a retreat, and as He is fond of doing, the Lord surrounded us — literally — with the words and images and spiritual realities of what He longed to share with us. In this case, His subject was His living waters. As I prepared to lead the group studies there I knew we would focus on John Chapters 4 and 7, where Jesus speaks of streams of living waters that would flow into and go forth from those who drink of him — but the woman who booked the location for our retreat did not!  We landed in a cabin called Rio Casa — River House, at Tres Rios campground — three rivers — so named because the camp is bordered on three sides by three different rivers. One of those rivers flowed behind our cabin, just below the little hill we were perched on.

We had a glorious time there, in which we studied about the Holy Spirit’s role in our lives, exploring what life is meant to look like when one is a child of God that drinks from His Spirit. In the Lord’s power and faithfulness we all experienced renewal and healing, especially from weariness and wounds of the heart and spirit. We were thoroughly refreshed there, and some would say forever changed.

As we gathered on our final morning to worship the Lord, each of the women were radiant and lovely, full of new hope in the Lord’s love and goodness. As we went around the room and shared our “take-aways,” I rejoice in their new joy, yet knew from many retreat experiences what it would be like to return home and step back into the very things they had needed renewal from. “Lord,” I prayed, “do not let the tiniest part of their time with you be robbed, and please establish them firmly in what you have given them hope in.”

The Holy Spirit then drew us outside for our last half hour together, in view and earshot of the river. The Lord had us close our eyes and just listen. Only one sound broke the peaceful quiet of the morning — the lively waters below us. While the flowing waters were unrippled and silent both upstream and downstream from our cabin, a row of large rocks in the river there forced the water to bubble up and around and over, producing the little rapids and their happy notes. After we listened awhile, soaking up that soothing, playful sound, the Lord said,

“Notice, daughters, that it is the rocks that cause the river to make its music. Without the rocks there would be no sound.”    !!!!!!

We opened our eyes and smiled at each other, thoughts racing and playing across our faces, as what He said sunk in. The bubbly lifesounds we were enjoying were only produced as the water flowed around the rocks, which are OBSTACLES to the flow of the water. We quickly and collectively got the “Aha!” moment of understanding that these rocks represented our troubles, wounds, afflictions, weaknesses or circumstances. The fact that the water only produces its music as it washes over those obstacles, is a metaphor worth pondering. May the smiling Spirit who pointed it out to us at the river reveal its meaning in your life.

As for us, we returned home with fresh streams of living water in us, making our music of joy and thanksgiving to the Lord for the life He brings to flow over and around the rocks in our lives!

A Verb Looking For Its Object

In preparing for my most recent Women’s Retreat, the Holy Spirit taught me something new about surrender. Our normal concept of surrender to God is to give everything up, or lay everything down, abandoning ourselves, yielding entirely to Him — and this is certainly true. “But you don’t finish the sentence,” the Holy Spirit said to me…don’t say, ‘I surrender,’ say ‘I surrender to your love!'”

Yet another occasion to love being taught by the Spirit of Christ….He shows me things and connects things I would never have come up with intellectually or theologically.

Surrender is a relational transaction, always something or someone. Dictionary.com says of the verb surrender that it is used with an object, and means:

  1. to yield (something) to the possession or power of another.
  2. to give (oneself) up to some influence, course, emotion, etc.: He surrendered himself to a life of hardship.
  3. to yield or resign (an office, privilege, etc.) in favor of another.

For a Christian, the true object of our surrender is the Person who is the only truly good being, the unfailing lover, the one who died to give us real life. At a women's retreat.At that women’s retreat in the Michigan woods I asked each woman to fill in her blank at the end of the sentance, “I surrender to ________.”  A sampling of the answers:

  • I surrender to His goodness
  • I surrender to His rest
  • I surrender to His faithfulness
  • I surrender to His peace
  • I surrender to His grace

I invite you to fill in your own blank, and surrender anew to the Lord who asks you to yield all of your life and being to Him, and gives so much more in exchange!

Bless you in knowing your God,

Tonia