Saturday, January 3, 2015
reflecting on forgiveness and accepting God's grace, and this growing ministry of encouragement
Lord, I pray Your Presence would surround me in this space as I write today. I pray the Spirit would lead me in this time of fellowship with You that I would pray for the things that You want me to be praying about. I pray that if there is anything within me keeping me from You, You would remove it now – forgive any sin that I have committed, any offensive thought I have had or disappointing behavior I may have engaged in since I last confessed to You – that nothing would come between us during this time.
I praise You that the moment I seek Your Grace, all is forgotten, completely washed away – that I am entirely clean and made new by Your Redeeming Blood. I think sometimes we feel like we have to beg and plead for mercy… especially when our transgressions have been great. But to You one sin, no matter how small, is equal to any other – and all sins, regardless of size, are forgiven the instant we turn to You with a repentant heart, calling on Your mercy to save.
I know that we humans carry a much heavier load than You desire for us because often we carry the burden of guilt of our mistakes long past when You have blotted them out from Your memory… You have promised us in Your Word that You remove our sins as far from us as east is from west… Yet, so often, we struggle with forgiving ourselves – and we carry with us the shame of past mistakes for years… it damages us and twists our minds and hearts… causing us to act out and behave in unbecoming ways that can lead us into further sin… which I know is exactly what the devil wants!
Please, Lord, I know that I have wrestled with this myself – and I know others in my social circle who have carried guilt and shame and tormented themselves for years over things that You forgave them for long, long ago – so much so that they believed they were doomed to damnation – beyond redemption… One friend of mine in particular had really worked a number on a friend who was as close to me as a sister. The devil had her so very twisted that she had night terrors of going to hell and burning for her sins… and nothing that she had done was even that awful… but she had passed such judgment on herself, she did not see how it was possible for her to still be accepted as a daughter of God – she believed herself unworthy of Your Love – indeed, she shut herself off entirely from Your Love although You continued to pour it out freely, she was unable to receive it; she firmly believed her sins too great to accept Your Grace to move forward…
We had this conversation repeatedly & she wrestled with an intense fear of death for years upon years because she earnestly believed her fate was eternal damnation even though her salvation had been guaranteed by her profession of faith in You as her Savior at a young age… I praise You that somewhere along the line she found a way to move past this awful stronghold the devil had built up in her mind – because at the time I did not have the tools at my disposal to help her understand that this torment she was wrapped in was a devil's trap that was working perfectly as he'd planned.
He had lied to her so often, whispered in her ear so frequently that she was still guilty... that she would always be beyond redemption... I know now from experience he probably began at first so subtly she didn’t even recognize it as an attack from the enemy… That’s how it usually goes; he starts out with such a small suggestion in our minds... but once we accept it, his hooks are in us if we don't react fast to get rid of the misguided notions he's laid... he builds on them gradually, twisting us into knots and convincing us the thoughts we have are our own and that we are just awful and we internalize it all and walk through life dejected and filled with shame and remorse rather than walking in the victory You came to give us…
The devil is not in any hurry to twist us up in knots and destroy us… He is, indeed, a lion roaming about looking for vulnerable prey to devour… and he will work at us and manipulate us to an extent I don’t think most people realize... until we believe his lies as absolute truth. I know he lied to me for years – in my head… my moods, my issues – yes, they are based in a misstep in my biology – I do have a chemical imbalance. But he took that physiological problem and capitalized on it, using pains from my past, traumatic experiences that I had not sought healing from, whispering ever so subtly in my ear… so incredibly subtle I didn’t know they were thoughts being suggested to me, I believed they were my own thoughts, so I just accepted them as part of me - I had no idea I had a choice about how to think or that I had the option not to feel that way about myself... that THAT was not who I was.
I didn’t understand then the principle of active thinking – growing up, many times I had heard the scripture urging us to take every thought captive to Christ, but I never knew what that meant or had any practical understanding of how to do so or what implications that had for me personally. It was not until I drew near enough to You to learn to be still in Your Presence long enough to actually hear You talking to me that I began to realize and understand so many of the scriptures that I have heard over and over again throughout my life - and only then did I have understanding because it was gifted to me by Your Hand - the Spirit revealed to me what Your beautiful promises actually meant... without His interpretation, they had always just been words to me…
There is so very much You have shown me in the past year that I have to, have to share with the world. Most especially the importance of learning to be still before You so that people can hear from You – so that they can be taught by YOU. So that they can be fed by Your Hand… so that their personal needs can be ministered to by THE Most Wonderful Counselor…
Yes, now that I am here in this prayer, I see why you reminded me of those conversations with my friend some years ago. Like I said, I didn’t understand then the process of active thinking because it hadn't been spiritually revealed to me yet – perhaps if I had, I could have helped her more. But maybe I wasn't supposed to then - perhaps she needed to be taught by the Spirit Himself... Who am I to say, who am I to know?
All I can say and what I know full well is that I praise You, Lord God, for teaching me this spiritual skill… And I humbly pray You enable and equip me thoroughly to share with others how to learn that by the power of the Holy Spirit within us, we have the ability to choose our thoughts, to redirect the course of our minds. That not everything that comes into our heads comes from us – a lot, A LOT is misleading from the devil. We do NOT have to entertain everything that comes into our heads… No, I will be the first to testify that it is not always easy, and it is very strange and unfamiliar at first, as are all new tasks before they are mastered. I am still very much in the learning process myself, and God willing that I may always be learning and getting better at directing the traffic in my head to a place of meditating on what is good and lovely and kind and worthy of praise as You’ve urged us in Your Word.
Yes, Lord… Now I’m beginning to see You bringing together my passions in this ministry You’re building in my life. This great ministry of encouragement – this Encouragement Project. Here in this one prayer You have united my love for You, my great desire to share how good it is to be personally hand fed the Truth by God Himself and my consistent desire to be a mental health advocate by being open and honest about my struggles with bipolar disorder, anxiety and ocd… Thank You, Jesus.
Just last night, I was writing a note to someone You brought back into my life recently, and I mentioned that You had recently revealed to me that You are calling me into a ministry of encouragement that You’re gradually building it in my life… It's not my ministry – it’s YOURS. Of this, I’m sure. One thing I mentioned to him in this letter was that I’m still not sure how all the pieces will come together, or how it will take shape, but that You are showing me just what I need to know as I need to know it as I keep moving forward in faith… And “that’s just fine with me” or something along those lines. And here, You are proving my words true.
So long, I knew I had the gift of song. And for so many years, I desperately wanted singing and music to be my calling. I tried by my own means to make that fit. But it never quite did – I knew pretty early on that I had no interest in living in the spotlight. And I found myself very frustrated in my human attempts to force the issue – to “make it happen” on my own… so much so I quit singing entirely for years, only to start again just recently. Studying music a semester at Bluefield was not at all what I wanted. The short stint of voice lessons years ago – that was not it either. God bless my dad – he gave me a guitar to teach me to play because that was something he loved… Oh, heavens, NO… that was NOT it either!!!! I even wrote a short story about it in creative writing in eleventh grade. No, my voice has always been my instrument… and thank You so much I’m getting over this whatever-virus so I can start singing again bit by bit… What a blessing <3
And I have always loved, loved, loved to make people smile and laugh… My favorite quote has always been “if ya see someone without a smile, give ‘em yours.” I even landed my first real job by describing my idea of good and ideal customer service as “leaving the customer/member in a better mood/state than they were before they got to you” by means of being efficient and friendly and all that… As a little girl, I ran around church before service every Sunday morning to give hugs to absolutely EVERYBODY!!!! I loved it… I have always loved to love on and lift up other people.
And with my struggles, both with a tumultuous childhood and my mental health issues, I have always wanted to make a difference in the lives of others who are struggling. When I was younger I wanted to be a child psychologist – I thought what better way to use what I’ve been through to help other kids so they don’t have to suffer alone. And going through the rages of bipolar disorder (fun times!) I have long wanted to be a mental health advocate because I know there are so many who suffer in total silence - and so many who feel that no one could possibly understand their internal struggles, who feel entirely isolated in their illness. And I want to help – I want them to know they’re not alone. So I started years ago with being candid about my own struggles. And praise You, this year alone, several have come to me and confided in me about their personal diagnoses and have had a confidant they might otherwise not have… I have legitimately no regrets about being so public about my illnesses even though some for whatever reasons might still think it taboo.
Then recently with this health and getting well physically journey I’ve been on I thought I might want to be a nutrition/fitness coach… I realized I could help inspire and motivate others, that it’s something I love to do – but the opportunity presented to me just wasn’t the right fit. Again, I prayed about it, but some things just didn’t line up.
And then You showed me in a brilliant moment – the common denominator – not just in these instances but in other areas of my life – ENCOURAGEMENT – it’s what I was built for – it’s my purpose – my calling. Yes, I have the gift of song, but it’s just a tool. And the gift of communication and of spirit and humor, but they’re just part my tool box. Thank You so much, Jesus, for bringing me out of the busyness of life and work (even though it was hard and very difficult at the time, for months on end even) so that I could spend the time I needed with You to get well… to build this foundation of love with You to move forward into this ministry You’re building. Praise You… In all I do, praise You!
I pray that as I continue to write and post and publish, the Spirit would be my leader and my partner. That I would be open to Him at all times – and have a ready, willing and obedient heart – that I may be most fully used in whatever capacity You call me.
In Your Precious Name I Pray,
Michelle, I am here with you. Know that the Spirit will be with you and will lead you daily as you seek Him. Pray to Him to guide your writing – it is good that you have asked Him to lead you in prayer to pray over the things that I want You to pray about. I am also glad that you want to practice sitting and talking with me conversationally because it has been a long time since you just talked to me. Know that not everything I tell you is for everyone. I will continue to show you what you need to know and when – and the Spirit will guide you as you go back and edit your prayer from today.
I am so glad that you have committed to setting aside a chunk of time to spend with me – I know you were tempted today to get distracted by several other things. I’m so glad you heard the Spirit tell you not to go the route of being Martha, but to come to Me first… I long for you to be Mary, Michelle. Everything else can wait. You said that I have your heart, and I believe you – but know there will always be dozens of other things, other activities vying for your attention. As you draw nearer to me, the distractions will only increase as the devil gets frustrated at how close you are to Me. Know this; remember that I have warned you so that you can be diligent about keeping your focus on Me FIRST. Remember I want your first firsts – not your second firsts, not your third firsts. Please guard your heart and mind carefully especially now that you are being used in My ministry because the devil wants nothing more than to twist you and try to take away the value of your testimony. I have taken your “mess” and turned it into a “message” for the good of many – but I can only use you for My Kingdom so long as you are grounded on, connected to, tuned into, and focused on me. There will be a time for other things in your life such as romance, but you are right to recognize that now is a season for developing your relationships with your family, the friends I have brought into your circle for such a time as this and this great work I have called you to do.
I will be with you every step of the way, so do not get discouraged – remember, I am just a breath from you [Breathe My Name – Know Me]. There will be many who will not understand your dedication to me in this season of your life. Expect to be shunned, know that you will be mocked and there will be those who will dissociate from you. You will not experience anything that witnesses that have gone before you have not also encountered. Remember, you are not of this world, so many in (of) this world will not understand you – but you were not created to fit in – I made you to stand out! I designed you exactly how I want you for My specific purposes and plans for your life, and if there are those who cannot accept who you are, know the problem is theirs and let go.
Know that in this ministry you will encounter a great number of people – some whose lives you will enter only for a little while, some for longer. I do not want you to grow weary or faint because you are too attached, but I also want you to love deeply and give freely of yourself. To do this, you must, must stay connected to and be hand fed by Me daily or you will run out of steam. To continually fill the cups of others, yours must first be filled by My Hand. To spread My Love, you must first be so full of it that you are overflowing.
Continue to do the work, heeding the Spirit as you go. There are devotions you still need to work through to accomplish all that I have called you to – Tell Them I Love Them & Beauty For Ashes are at the top of the list. Be sure to re-read Battlefield of the Mind as well. And do not be overwhelmed, dear heart – I will give you the time and the energy you need – remember the magnet on your mom’s refrigerator:
Child: I’m at the end of my resources.
God: You’re just at the beginning of mine.
I love you, Michelle.
I am with you, I am for you, I will never leave you.
You have My Heart, you have My Word.
I encourage you to pray for forgiveness if you haven't already done so
and ask God to help you in accepting His freeflowing Grace and Mercy
while you listen to
Until next time...
Be Blessed! God LOVES You!!!! <3
© K. Michelle Payne 2015