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.

Making God Sing

The following is a Journal Entry from March, 2011:

I awoke to the Spirit singing to me this morning….a joyful song about dancing, and sadness fleeing away. I’ve awakened with music in my spirit before, but usually it is clear that MY spirit is singing to the Lord. But this feels really different, especially in light of the lyrics. Lord, can you really be singing that to me, about me? Usually I sing that about you. Can it be true that you were sad, and that I did something that turned your sorrow into joy?

The answer comes without hesitation, “Yes.”  

Then immediately to my mind comes a moment from the day before when my heart was pondering choices, and I quietly made a choice to trust God in something.

And I saw that in that moment I had turned from the Tree of Knowledge to the Tree of Life….for it is increasingly clear to me that we continually live in the presence of these two trees, or what they represent.

And I remembered also that there had been a noticeable strength present in me the rest of that day, a quiet strength of discipline. It led to some good choices, and I awoke happy about them. And that happiness overflowed to how I embraced my husband and how I looked forward into the day. And best of all, it made my God happy in me.

My pondering had been about some upcoming ministry time, and how, when I saw that I was reverting to old patterns of preparation — which looked like study, study, study, write, write, write, think, think, think — and then I remembered that when I had asked the Father how to prepare He gave me two simple instructions. I had been following them, though in a little sluggardly fashion — but then ADDING all that other stuff, stuff, stuff! And then I said quietly in my heart, NO. This time (because I’ve been here before, how many times?) I will simply trust and obey my Lord, and rest in His words.” It was a little quiet vow, made while dressing to go to a funeral, and then I walked out the door to attend that funeral and left that all behind to immerse myself in that occasion.

Here’s the cycle as I see it:

  • I make a little quiet choice to do it God’s way.
  • When He sees this, He undergirds me, filling me with strength to carry out His will.
  • In that strength, I go forward doing things that I ordinarily could not do, in my weakness.

I tell my disciples often, “I’m as weak as they come.” And it is true.  I make better choices when I walk with my God in His ways and abandon mine. More life comes. Rest comes to my spirit as internal struggle fades away. And I’m nicer to my guy. Everybody wins. And maybe, just maybe, God sings a happy song to me later to celebrate. Because if there’s anything I’ve learned about this God, it is that He is into celebration.

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.