Friday, December 10, 2010

House of God

There's a fellow who goes to my church who is a giant of a guy--at least I feel like a dwarf when I stand beside him. He's got some fascinating tattoos and piercings and a giant-sized heart too. All week long he works with homeless and destitute people. He drives a fair bit to get to our little church to sit in a traditional wooden pew within spitting distance of men in suits and ties.

It's human nature to prefer to hang out with people most like ourselves--people who dress like us, think like us, and like what we like. Christians could possibly be the worst offenders when it comes to this. I asked my friend why he chooses to come so far to hang out with people he could easily judge as being "stuffed shirts". His response thrilled me: I feel loved here.

The human race may have descended from one man, but they're an irregular, variable, and quirky lot--just the way God planned it.

You are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple.
(1 Peter 2:5a)

Living stones, not bricks. Each one completely unique, not out of the same mold.

Sometimes we act like His plan is to build His home out of uniform bricks and we try to squish everyone into the same mold. We seem to think it'd be more comfortable and it probably would be more tidy, but it wouldn't have the same kind of allure. A master craftsman knows how to emphasize the beauty of individual stones. The finished product is breathtaking and one-of-a-kind.

There's a special kind of mortar required to hold all these irregular stones together. It's not tolerance. Tolerance is the best idea humans could come up with and it's a noble one, but it's mere cotton candy compared to the real thing. "God's love in us..." (I Cor. 13 MSG) is the real deal. It's something supernatural and amazing, not of our own strength, but of our choosing to align ourselves with His will and His thoughts. He regards each unique "stone" as created in His image and worthy of His love.

You are members of God's family.
Together, we are his house...and the cornerstone is Jesus himself.
We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord.
Through him you...are also being made part of this dwelling
where God lives by his Spirit.
(Eph. 2: 19-22)

That "unconventional" stone that's been making you uncomfortable is exquisite in the eyes of the Master. He may have plans to chip away the odd corner, but that's His job and His motivation isn't to make you more comfortable--He wants to enhance the natural beauty of that "stone" and thereby make His home more lovely. He feels the same way about you: you're beautifully unique and an essential part of His home.

Don't you realize that all of you together are the temple of God
and that the Spirit of God lives in you?
(1 Cor 3:16)

I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters,
by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ,
to live in harmony with each other.
(1 Cor. 1:10)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Good Gifts

This afternoon my husband and I had a quiet, kid-free hour together so we started plotting and planning what we'll get the kids for Christmas. We brain-stormed different ideas, weighing one against another, picturing each of our unique children and trying to imagine what would best suit each one. It was fun. We had a sense of joy driven by an unspoken anticipation of Christmas morning and the moment when they'll open their gifts...

We have a Father who has been planning delights for us before the world was even created. (1 Peter 1:20) He knows exactly what you like. He knows that you're unique, and not quite like any of His other children. He knows the desires of your heart that you've never even told anyone else. Way back when He was dreaming up snowflakes and the Grand Canyon, He had you and the desires of your heart in mind. He smiled as He planned treasures for you.

It's not all "spiritual stuff" either. He created you body, soul, and spirit. He delights in all the parts of you and has blessings that touch every facet of your being.

Sometimes we can't believe that He has amazing gifts stored up for us because we're nursing resentment about the gift we didn't get. Like the monkey trapped with his hand in the jar we need to "let go" so we can receive the good gift planned for us.

Sometimes we have a hard time believing such things about our heavenly Papa because our experiences with humans have taught us not to expect too much... I bless you with knowing the truth about the abundant nature of your Heavenly Father.

Live in anticipation of receiving good things from your Papa. Anticipation is not whining or demanding, but an alert trust that His plans for you are good. When your anticipation meets the longing of His heart to heap blessings on you amazing things happen!

Every good gift and every perfect present
comes from heaven;
it comes down from God,
the creator of the heavenly lights,
who does not change or cause darkness by turning.
James 1:17 GNT

Monday, November 22, 2010

Inches to Miles

"Can I just read one more chapter and then turn out the light?"


"Can I read two chapters?"

Sigh. "I give you an inch and you take a mile! One chapter and turn out the light."

It's a dialogue that's been repeated throughout generations. My parents said it to me and I've said it to my kids. I give you an inch and you take a mile! Perhaps it's because we were created to long for more.

I met a pretty girl with long brown hair and a pain in her heart. I wanted so badly to tell her that God loves her, but how do you do that with a complete stranger? What if I did and she was angry? What if I couldn't find the right words? I begged God, "Please let me tell her that You love her. Please make the way and give me the words."

He did and it was amazing! She didn't yell at me--she simply got tears in her eyes and walked away. I knew Truth had touched her heart. It was enough. I wanted to shout with joy: "Wow!! That was fun! Can I do it again?"

Immediately good manners collided with my heart's longings... You didn't even thank Him for answering your prayer! I give you an inch and you take a mile! However, those thoughts weren't from Him. He was delighted. He gives us a taste of His glory just hoping we'll want more. In fact, He challenges us to press Him for more.

What do you want? Name it: Nations as a present? continents as a prize? (Psalm 2:8 MSG)

Ask and you'll receive. (Matthew 7:7)

He's able to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. (Eph 3:20)

What is your heart longing for? Ask! He dares you... He's hoping the answer will leave you longing for more.

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart's desires.
Commit everything you do to the Lord.
Trust him, and he will help you.
Psalm 37:4-5

Saturday, November 13, 2010


My father was born in an occupied country. Life was lived as the enemy dictated. Hunger and anxiety were constant companions. All of that was normal, the only life he'd known. He remembers enemy soldiers taking the little food they had and soldiers sleeping in their barn. He remembers huddling with his father against a wall while bombs were being dropped all around. The only life a five-year-old had known until one day...

The best memory, the one that's poignant and stands out above all others, is of the liberation celebration and his first piece of chocolate. A whole bar of chocolate wrapped in shiny gold and blue paper--all his. A smiling Canadian soldier in a green uniform. Music playing. Girls in white blouses and orange sashes. Exuberant joy! A whole new beginning.

Things didn't change overnight. Reconstruction took years, but the atmosphere was transformed by freedom.

We too were born into "occupied territory". Restlessness, dissatisfaction and anxiety are normal. Most live according to the dictates of the enemy. They've heard that a Liberator came and signed a Freedom Proclamation, but they don't believe it. There's so much evidence to the contrary. Collaborating with the enemy seems like their best hope of satisfaction. Some believe, but they don't think they'll experience freedom until "someday" and so they huddle in darkness hoping to survive until the Liberator returns.

Others have seized the Proclamation and claimed it as their own. They are shouting and waving it around, singing songs of freedom. This Resistance band is determined use the weapons provided by the Liberator to push back the enemy, to be part of the reconstruction, and to live according to the truth of the Proclamation regardless of evidence to the contrary until the Liberator returns.

May you be like the little blond boy receiving with wide-eyed wonder the shiny morsel of gold-wrapped truth that Freedom has come. Taste its sweetness. Be revived and celebrate. Declare it to those still sitting in darkness--He has come! Your freedom has been won!

You were dead because of your sins
and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away.
Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins.
He canceled the record of the charges against us
and took it away by nailing it to the cross.
In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities.
He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.
Colossians 2:13-15

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Delight in the Details

I have a friend who's dealing with some big stuff...the kind where healing has been a long time in coming and a sometimes painful process. She recently went out on a date with her husband wherein they'd gone to a restaurant, to a coffee shop and for a walk. When she got home she discovered that one of her earrings was missing--a special one given to her by her husband for their 25th anniversary. You can imagine her feelings--sometimes things have a way of feeling like the "last straw". The next day her husband went back to the city and retraced their earring at the restaurant or coffee shop. Would you believe it that he found it in a gutter between the two places?

This story reminds me of one of my favorite verses:

"The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
He delights in every detail of their lives.
Though they stumble, they will never fall,
for the Lord holds them by the hand."

(Psalm 37:23-24)

Life is full of big challenges. Sometimes they're the result of our own choices, sometimes the choices of others, and sometimes for no reason that we can understand. We'd love to be zapped out, rescued, "Beam me up, Scotty!", anything! We just want the pain to end. It's pretty normal to wonder at these times, "If God really cares..."

The glorious hope of the Gospel is that He does care. He invades our pain with kindness. While we wait for the answer to the Big Questions, He whispers of His love and delight in the small details of our lives. Rather than abandoning us to the consequences of sin, He sets us free, brings redemption, and heals our broken hearts.

His delight in the small details boosts my faith, renews my hope and helps me hold on. May you be blessed today by recognizing His love in the details of your life. May you be blessed with a desire to seek the face in the Father in the midst of the struggle.
May He give you eyes to see His goodness. As you dwell on His loving kindness, may your heart be infused with courage to hang on.

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
His mercies begin afresh each morning.
I say to myself, "The Lord is my inheritance;
therefore, I will hope in him!"
The Lord is good to those who depend on him,
to those who search for him.
So it is good to wait quietly
for salvation from the Lord.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Through the Eyes of Chirst

I have a poster hanging by my bathroom mirror. It's a beautiful work of calligraphy and it tells me Who I Am in Christ. I read it regularly and it's changed me a lot. It lets me know when I'm feeling down or discouraged because I'm believing a lie. The words on it release me from shame and insecurity.

I am God's child...Christ's forever from condemnation...cannot be separated from the love of God...can find grace and mercy in time of need...have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit...may approach God with freedom and confidence...

One day I was standing there, my peace disturbed by the actions of someone else, when I felt convicted to read those statements with the offenders name in place of "I". You see, these statements are true of everyone who has received by faith the work of Christ on the cross. With His blood He purchased this freedom for all of us.

_____ is a friend of God..._____ is bought with a price and belongs to God...______ has been justified..._____ is free from any charge against him...______ cannot be separated from the love of God..._______ is hidden with Christ in God...______ is God's temple...______ is God's coworker...______ is seated with Christ in the heavenly realm...

By the time I had read all thirty-three statements in this other person's name, I was humbled and aware of a much greater love in my heart than I'd had before. I'd seen them through the eyes of Christ. I was able to extend grace and honor--and it wasn't hard. My mind had been renewed.

In this case, I needed to let go of an offense. If confrontation had been required, I can't imagine a better way to prepare yourself than by reading this list with the other person's name inserted. Christ has paid such a high price for our freedom. He wants us to know who we are, and He wants us to relate to His other children based on who He says they are, not on how they behave.

Click here to see the full list of statements and scriptures about who you are in Christ. Study the supporting scriptures. Receiving it and believing it about yourself and others will change your life. Knowing that this is what Christ purchased for unbelievers will give you a greater passion to lead others into this truth--He thought we were all worth dying for.

YOU have been adopted as God's child...have access to God
through the Holy Spirit...
have been redeemed and forgiven...have not been given a spirit of fear,
but of power, love and a sound mind...are born of God and
the evil one cannot touch you...are a personal witness of Christ...
a minister of reconciliation for God...God's workmanship....

Therefore, accept each other just as Christ
has accepted you so that God will be given glory.
Romans 15:7

Friday, October 8, 2010

Letters from the Enemy

Have you had a letter from the enemy lately? I have. In fact, they're as regular as junk mail and many are as easy to toss, but once in a while you get one that has a way a grabbing your attention and you think it's actually for you.

King Hezekiah got a letter from the enemy too.* Even though it was written about three thousand years ago, it sounds a lot like the ones I get. The gist of the message is a two-pronged attack. First, will God really do what He says He'll do? (Brings to mind a conversation in a Garden...) Second, is "look at all the times I have conquered in the past". Clearly, in six thousand plus years he hasn't changed his tactics a bit--probably because they often work!

Hezekiah took his letter "to the Lord's Temple and spread it out before the Lord and...prayed." His prayer included an acknowledgment that the enemy has indeed succeeded before, a desperate plea for deliverance, and worship. And that's pretty much what we need to do with the letters the enemy sends our way.

After Hezekiah prayed, God made a promise of protection to him which concluded with these words: "The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven's Armies will make this happen!" How can we lose if we have the passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven's Armies! Sure enough, not even an arrow struck the wall of Hezekiah's city. God sent an angel to destroy his enemy.

If you have any letters from the enemy lying around, I suggest you follow Hezekiah's example. Go before your Father and pray. Strengthen your faith by reminding yourself of ways God has defended you in the past. Encourage yourself with testimonies from others. And praise Him. Always praise Him. You have His passionate commitment that He will come and save you.

They will fight you, but they will fail.
For I am with you, and I will take care of you.
I, the Lord, have spoken.
Jeremiah 1:19

*2 Kings 19, 2 Chronicles 32, Isaiah 36

Monday, September 20, 2010

To Know Him

We've been having problems with our well. The pump in our well, to be exact. In any event, the result is the same: no running water for a few days. Inconvenient but not a disaster. I knew it was only a matter of time until it was fixed. I had no doubt. My kids on the other hand had a few "what ifs". What if Daddy can't fix it? What if he can't buy a new one? What if the new one doesn't work.

All of their "what ifs" had no power to shake my confidence. You see, I know my husband. I know he has the skills and resources to do the job. I wasn't concerned with how he'd do it. I wasn't concerned that he wouldn't take care of it. Not only am I aware of his skills and abilities, I know his character. I knew that because of his love for our family he would be hard at work to meet our needs. It wasn't fun waiting, but my job was patient trust.

I want to have the same kind of confidence in my Heavenly Papa. He has all the power and resources necessary to meet our every need, but we often become distressed and cry out, "What if...?!"

The Bible is full of reasons to believe. In the Old Testament we see His mighty power to save, deliver and provide. The New Testament is full of His compassion, mercy, love, and healing. Every page reveals His character.
Our confidence grows as we become acquainted with His character. Inversely, it shrinks when we focus on the magnitude of the problem. A huge faith booster is telling and remembering your stories of what He has done and asking others to tell theirs.

When we keep our thoughts fixed on Him and His greatness our "what ifs" dissolve into peace. We begin to know Him. We can wait in confidence.

I don't know what you're going through today--it may be something I've never experienced, but I do know Him and I know He's worthy of your trust. He loves you beyond your wildest imaginings. What matters to you matters to Him.

Look up into the heavens.
Who created the stars?
He brings them out like an army, one after another,
calling each by its name.
Because of his great power and incomparable strength,
not a single one is missing.
O Jacob, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles?
O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights?
Have you never heard?
Have you never understood?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.
Even youths will become weak and tired,
and young men will fall in exhaustion.
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.
(Isaiah 40:26-31)

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Source and Supply

There once was a man whose son was tormented by evil spirits. His father was heartbroken and longed for his son to be healed. The father brought his son to the religious leaders and they debated the "whys and wherefores" of the boy's condition. He brought his son to the disciples of Jesus and they did their best without success. And then he brought him to Jesus.

"Have mercy on us and help us, if you can," the father pleaded.

"What do you mean, 'If I can?'" Jesus asked. "Anything is possible if a person believes."

The father instantly cried out, "I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!"

And Jesus healed the boy.

I love this story. "I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!"

So often we're paralyzed by an awareness that we don't believe enough, love enough, give enough.... And so we stay stuck in condemnation as though by feeling guilty enough we can in any way change the lack. This man had enough faith to come to Jesus, but also knew that there was still unbelief in his heart. He brought what he had to Jesus. It was enough.

We need to throw ourselves at the feet of Jesus and confess, "I believe, help my unbelief. I love, but I need to you to increase my love. I give myself, but I know I still have reservations--help me to give myself more fully." And it's enough. It's only by bringing what we have to Him that He can increase it. Our desire for more is irresistible to Him. What a merciful God we have!!

"I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns." (Phil. 1:6)

"Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end." (Hebrews 12:2a)

Our faith begins and ends in Him. Don't get stuck in feelings of self-pity, inadequacy, hopelessness, or shame. Relentlessly pursue God! He multiplies everything that is placed in His hands.

For everything comes from him and exists by his power
and is intended for his glory.
All glory to him forever!
Romans 11:36

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Deep Roots, Strong Trees

"Our roots only go as deep as they have to..."

I heard myself say this to a friend as we were chatting about the challenges of not having our usual supports of Bible study groups, etc., due to the irregular routines of summertime. I couldn't stop thinking about it.

Gathering together to encourage one another (Hebrews 10:25) is something we're instructed to do. It's an essential and wonderful part of being in a spiritual family. However, it's also easy to get used to slurping up the "water" that everyone brings and we're not so readily aware of the need for our own roots to go deep, deep into relationship with God. Trees with deep roots can better withstand storms and produce more fruit regardless of poor weather conditions.

Interrupted schedules can reveal the need. Sometimes our struggles are so great that the comfort of our friends isn't enough to sustain us.
The not-so-obvious blessing in this is that, in this place, there's great potential for something truly marvelous to happen. "If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you, says the Lord. I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes." (Jeremiah 29:13-14a)

Challenging times can leave us wanting to sink into despair or self-pity at the very time that we need to rouse ourselves to wholehearted seeking.

Seek with the passion of David: I earnestly search for you! My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water.
(Ps. 63:1)

Seek with the determination of Jacob: I will not let you go until you bless me! (Gen 32:26)

Seek with the desperation of Job: Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him! (Job 13:15)!

But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.
Jeremiah 17:7-8

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Declaration of...Faith

June is a crazy month for me... As a teacher and parent there's just a whole lot going on. It all screeches to a halt with a giant crescendo on the Last Day of School and I discover that I'm utterly exhausted. Flat. I long for sleep and when I'm not sleeping, all I want to do is lie around and read.

It's really important to take time to rest and relax--for our bodies, our souls, and our spirits. After a couple of days of rest, I was still feeling like I was carrying around a weight in my soul. I've learned that you can be weary in body without being weighted down in soul and spirit so I was motivated to get to the root of this. I picked up a piece of paper I have entitled "Daily Confessions of Faith". I began to speak out loud, "This is going to be a great day. God is guiding and directing my steps. His favor is surrounding me. Goodness and mercy are following me. I am excited about today. I am starting my day with faith and expectancy and I am anticipating good things..."

As soon as I began to speak, light began to flood my soul! Heaviness and weariness can creep in just because we have made agreements with the "facts" of our lives rather than God's truth. Confession of His truth breaks off the chains of heaviness! This is not the same thing as the power of positive thinking. The power of positive thinking rests in our ability to think up good thoughts, keep on thinking them, and somehow create our own reality. Success rests in our ability to do it. It's a counterfeit. The real thing is declaring what God has already said to be true. He said it, He promises it, it has already been created for us, we simply need to receive it. The power is of God rather than of us.

You can find all kinds of "confessions" on the internet. You want to be sure that you're confessing something rock-solidly based on the Word of God. I highly recommend Dr. Neil Anderson's materials. I regularly use his confessions Who I Am in Christ and 20 Cans of Success.

It's also important to "declare" your confession, to speak it out loud. Yesterday my daughter was feeling miserable. I encouraged her to go out onto the deck and shout, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength!" It was hard to do. At first all she could do was whisper, but when she declared it a huge smile filled her face!! The lie of discouragement was dispelled and truth brought freedom and joy!

"You will also declare a thing,
and it will be established for you;
so light will shine on your ways."
Job 22:28 NKJV

Monday, June 7, 2010


I was mowing the lawn for the first time this season when I moved a piece of plywood that was slightly stuck and, in the process, gouged my calf with a corner. It really hurt and didn't look so good for quite a few days. It's looking better today. I sarcastically observed that "it'll add to the beauty of that leg". For some reason I have a lot of scars on that one...

Like the one on my knee from 1979 that still has rocks in it. I should have obeyed my mom and not taken my brother on the back of my banana seat bike... My kids love that story. Signs that mom once blew it too--and it wasn't the end of the story!

This got me to thinking about the scars on our hearts. We seldom think of them as beautiful and sometimes there's a bit of shame attached to them, but there's tremendous beauty in the miracle of a wound that has been healed.

Sometimes we carry scars that are "almost" healed, but are still a bit red and sensitive and seem like they've been that way for a long time. It's not meant to stay that way. Pray for complete healing. Ask someone you trust to pray with you.* God will answer--He's invested everything in your healing. He's answered this prayer for me in many ways and there's no end to His creativity. Pray with expectation!

There are times when our hearts have been healed, but shame lingers. We think it's the story of The Stupid Thing I Did or The Awful Thing That Happened to Me. This is a terrible lie that can stop the flow of Life from us to others. The truth is that everyone has wounds, but we have a testimony of a glorious Savior who heals the brokenhearted and binds up our wounds.

A wound that has healed is a beautiful thing. It's a testimony, a story, that tells of a great Healer who gave everything so we could be healed. Stories of healing need to be shared...everyone around you is in need of that hope!

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me,
for the LORD has anointed me to
bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted
and to proclaim that captives will be freed.
He has sent me to tell those who mourn
that the time of the LORD'S favour has come
and, with it, the day of God's anger against their enemies.
To all who mourn in Israel,
he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
that the LORD has planted for his own glory.
Isaiah 61: 1-3

*You can send me a private message if you'd like me to pray--I'd love to pray for you.

Friday, May 28, 2010

An Audience of Angels

When I was a child someone told me about the "great cloud of witnesses" (Hebrews 12:1). Somehow I got the idea that angels and people who had gone to heaven before me were watching over my shoulder and keeping track of all my mistakes. This was a fear-filled thought because no one knew better than I how often I failed to do things perfectly. I'm pretty sure I got that idea because it's not an uncommon thought...

The truth is so far more glorious and exciting. First Peter 1 tells us that our faith is on trial. It also tells us that "God is protecting you by his power" (v. 5), "that your faith is far more precious than mere gold" (v. 7) and that "it is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen." (v. 12) Words like "protecting", "precious", and "wonderful" are not words to inspire fear, but hope!

How is our faith being tested? In the opportunities to believe that God has good plans for us...even when things look like they're falling apart around us. (Jer. 29:11) In the opportunity to forgive, not because someone is sorry, but because we've been forgiven. (Matt. 6:12) In the opportunity to sing praise to God when we feel like we're surrounded by a challenge much bigger than we are. (2 Chron. 20) If you pause and consider your life for a minute, you'll know where this particular trial is for you right now.

In the moments when we're facing these struggles it's easy to feel weary, condemned or insignificant, but if angels are watching "eagerly" because "it is all so wonderful", we can be encouraged that something very huge, amazing and eternal is happening when we lift our hands in praise and confess God's truth in the face of difficulty. It's breathtaking to think that the angels who stand in the presence of God are eagerly watching the seemingly mundane events of our lives with excitement.

May God bless you with hope and encouragement and the knowledge that He is protecting you by His power!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Extravagant Love

Watch what God does, and then you do it,

like children who learn proper behavior from their parents.
Mostly what God does is love you.
Keep company with Him and learn a life of love.
Observe how Christ loved us.
His love was not cautious but extravagant.
He didn't love in order to get something from us
but to give everything of himself to us.
Love like that.
Ephesians 5:1-2
(The Message)

Ever have one of those days where you get a bit of a wake-up call on how much room you have to grow in the love department? Even with people that you really, truly, genuinely love. I recently had one of those and then just "happened" across this verse. God's really cool like that.

Our lack of perfect love can hurt those that we love most. On this particular day I was teetering on the thin edge of condemnation and despair. How can we grow in love? A perfect love is humanly impossible. It can't be achieved just on the strength of willpower alone--who hasn't discovered that?

God's spirit is never condemning--He gently offers conviction and the promise that He can make something beautiful out of our messes if we'll offer them to Him. This verse doesn't slam us with "smarten up and love like God" but rather gives keys to greater love: watch what God does, keep company with Him, observe how Christ loved...

Again, I am reminded that determination to get it right isn't enough. An intimate relationship with the source of perfect Love is the answer. When my heart is filled with the awareness of His great love for me, I'm safe to love "extravagantly" and without fear of not "getting something for myself".

My heart has heard you say,
"Come and talk with me."
And my heart responds,
"Lord, I am coming."
Psalm 27:8

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

He is With You

My son has recently asked to be read to from "the real Bible" instead of his story Bible. This works for me. He likes stories about mighty men of God and so I've been going through picking and choosing--starting, of course, with my personal favorites! After David, there's Joseph. His story never ceases to amaze me. To be mocked, betrayed and falsely accused and yet remain faithful to God qualifies him as a hero in my mind.

Joseph's story is quite familiar... He was the beloved son of his father which provoked jealousy in his older brothers who sold him into slavery. In Egypt he was elevated to head slave in the household where he served. His master's wife falsely accused him of trying to seduce her and his master threw him into prison. In prison he helped some men who promised to remember him to Pharaoh, but promptly forgot all about him. He eventually interpreted some dreams for Pharaoh, was raised to second-in-command and rescued Egypt and his family from starvation.

While reading this morning a phrase jumped off the page: "The Lord was with he served in the home of his Egyptian master." And again, "The Lord was with Joseph in the prison and showed him his faithful love." (Genesis 39:2, 21) There were thirteen years of "setbacks" between the time that he was sold by his brothers and then raised to Pharaoh's right hand, yet "the Lord was with him" in slavery and in prison, all the while preparing him for a great task.

How easy it is to believe the lie that we've been abandoned by God when we find ourselves in difficult circumstances or simply numbed by routine! Maybe we don't consciously believe we've been abandoned, but we live as though He is absent, our hearts unaware of His presence.

How did Joseph overcome bitterness and discouragement? I'm sure there were many lonely hours when he must have wrestled with these giants. We don't have Psalms recorded for Joseph like we do with David, but he must have been able to strengthen himself in the Lord. We know he was faithful in the daily tasks given to him and that this faithfulness raised him in favor with his masters and eventually led him to Pharaoh's court--this is not the legacy of one languishing in depression.

I'm inspired to be faithful in the humble tasks set before me today, to accomplish them with the awareness that "the Lord is with me" and that His favor will increase in my life through faithfulness in the little things. (Luke 19:17) I don't want bitterness and resentment to cripple me. I want to say with Joseph, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good." (Genesis 50: 20a)

May you be blessed with an awareness of God's presence in your life today. He will never abandon you!

"For God has said, "I will never fail you. I will never abandon you." So we can say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?"
(Hebrews 13:5b-6)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Three Rs for a Clean Receptor

I have an electric kettle for boiling water. It's the kind that has a base that gets plugged into an electrical outlet. The kettle part can be lifted off the base without dragging the cord along. There's a little button in the bottom of the kettle that fits onto the base to transfer the electricity. I've had it since I was boiling water for baby food and it works great. Most of the time. Turns out that if you lift the kettle from the base while the switch is still on, a small electrical arc is formed and somehow leaves carbon on the little prongs. If I continue to misuse the kettle in this way, the carbon builds up and the electricity is no longer transferred. There's absolutely nothing else wrong with the kettle--it's ready and designed to function. There's nothing wrong with the electricity. There are 120 volts running through the cord ready to do the job. The only problem is in the receptors.

We're a lot like that kettle. We're designed to receive God's love and be used in powerful ways. His love is available to us in immeasurable abundance. Sometimes our receptors get messed up. That "carbon" builds up between our ears when our thoughts aren't in agreement with God's truth. Believing a lie can keep our hearts from receiving the truth of His love. It's there. We just don't "get it".

One of my favorite verses about the love of God is in Romans 8:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us
from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (vv. 38-39

Someone recently pointed out to me that our past is not in this list of things that cannot separate us from the love of God. I can emphatically say without hesitation that our past cannot separate us from the love of God--that's the whole message of the New Testament! What we believe about our past can, however, prevent us from receiving His love. It's not a love problem, it's a receptor problem.

Guilt, shame, and a sense of failure can seriously clog up our love receptors. They're all based on lies--Christ paid the price for every sin and every failure. Yet, we often see the consequences of past choices and it's easy to come under the weight of a sense of failure or guilt. There really is a way to be free.

Repent. Renounce. Release.

Whether we've robbed a bank or lost our temper, we can confess our sin and the penalty has been paid with the blood of Jesus. Maybe you've already repented--most of us know enough to do this, but we continue to carry the weight of shame, guilt, or a sense of failure. It's generally easy to see that wrong choices we've made have hurt people and affected lives. What's may not be so obvious to us is that God is a Redeemer and He can make something beautiful out of the worst mess. In fact, it's a promise. Depression, despair and darkness are tied up in believing that this is not possible.

This is where the "renounce" comes in. The dictionary defines renounce as: to refuse to follow, obey or recognize any further. We need to renounce the lie that our failures are greater than His power to redeem. We need to renew our minds by filling them with God's promises of redemption. It takes faith to hold onto these promises until we see them fulfilled.

Release. This is the word I use to describe the "letting go" process of putting my messes into His hands. He alone has the power to redeem. He wants to redeem. In fact, it's His nature to redeem. I don't know exactly how it works, but I've seen it happen so many times--when I finally get to the point where I release things into His hands, changes begin to take place. It's almost as though I've been in the way as long as I've been hanging on to my sense of failure.

And so these three Rs get rid of the "carbon" on the receptors and once again the power of His love can flow through our lives. Living in the light of His love we find that, indeed, His yoke is easy, His burden is light, and His joy is our strength.

He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord's favor has come,
and with it, the day of God's anger against their enemies.
To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
that the Lord has planted for his own glory.
(Isaiah 61: 1b-3)

Friday, April 16, 2010


What do you think of when you think of "friend"? Your answer will have a lot to do with your personality and your love language.

The first thing I think of when I consider my close friends is that they know what I'm really like and they love me anyway. They've seen the good, the bad, and the ugly (Literally--think green facial stuff at sleepovers.). They know my imperfections but love me and honour me as though I'm always at my best. They call me on stuff and give me a boot in the you-know-where when I need it. They make me laugh at myself and challenge me to use my gifts when I might regard those gifts as "less than" or insignificant. I feel really safe when I'm with my friends. I count them as my greatest treasures after God and my family.

On Easter Sunday I was perusing scriptures about the effect of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I thought on the following verses for a while:
God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him,
the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.
He was handed over to die because of our sins and
he was raised to life to make us right with God.
(Romans 4:24-25)

My heart was filled with awe and worship as I considered all that Christ willingly suffered so that I could be right with God. What an incredible gift. I was aware of His kingly majesty and how His nature is good and holy.

I read further on:

So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship
with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.
(Romans 5:11)


Of God.

I was overcome by the intimacy of that phrase. To be made righteous and right with God is an immeasurable gift--to be friends of God is so personal.
He didn't go through that tremendous suffering just so I could be ransomed--though that's gift enough!--He also wanted me make me His friend.

He wanted to make us His friends.

The Lord of all creation, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the One who formed mountains, designed a platypus, scattered stars, and created laughter wants to be your friend. He likes you. The fact that you're not perfect isn't news to Him. (He took care of that for you.) He wants to be with you. He wants to laugh with you and comfort you. All that a true friend is, that's what He wants to be for you. The sacrifice that Jesus gave makes it possible. Rest in His love, rejoice in His gift, receive it!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

He is Risen!

He is risen!! It's all about hope.
"It stands to reason, doesn't it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he'll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to Himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he lived in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ's!" Romans 8:11

Read it again. And again. It's all about hope. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is in you. He was dead. No heartbeat. His body mangled and torn. And the Spirit of God made Him alive again. That same power "lives and breathes in you". That power is greater than any darkness. Greater than fear, anger, depression, anxiety, strife, division, addiction, name it--He is greater and He lives in you!!

If you don't feel it today, if your heart is weary and discouraged, call on Him. Praise Him. Declare that He is Lord. Don't let go of Him until you see the freedom you long for. It's been paid for and it's yours!

He is risen!!

For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many.
But even greater is God's wonderful grace
and his gift of righteousness,
for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death
through this one man, Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:17

Friday, April 2, 2010


I've had an epiphany about crackpots. It seems so obvious now that I had no intention of blogging about it, but the urge hasn't gone away... Maybe, just maybe, there's a reader out there who has also failed to recognize glory in a crackpot.

Perhaps I should clarify: crackpot is My Unauthorized Version for what The New Living Translation calls "fragile clay jars". The apostle Paul wrote,
"For God, who said, 'Let there be light in the darkness,' has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves." (2 Corinthians 4:6-7)
Shockingly enough, whenever I read this verse I thought it was all about me! I'd read it and think, "Yep, if you see anything good in me at all, it's definitely because of God." And it is about me, but that's not all. You see, God has placed His glory in others around me and sometimes I miss it because I'm distracted by the imperfections or pottiness* of the vessel. Some pots are terribly cracked, some are just odd, and some don't think much of the shape I'm in either!! There are so many things that can seem more obvious than the glory that has been placed within.

God relates to us on the basis of what Christ did for us, not on our worthiness. As His hands and feet on the earth, He wants us to relate to each other the same way. I've definitely failed in this many times. And you know what? I'm pretty sure I've missed a few blessings because of it.

I've had to do some repenting and I've had to ask God to give me eyes to see the glory in some "fragile clay vessels". I love how He's willing to help us do what He wants us to do! I've noticed a difference already. I think when we relate to crackpots in a way that's honoring some of the cracks get healed--in us and in them.

*in case you didn't know, "potty" is British for "slightly crazy" :-)

Monday, March 22, 2010

He's Pleased When...

Our friend's head hung low, his shoulders were slumped and his eyes told of the fears he was fighting. He was facing a medical test and was afraid of all the "what ifs" the future might hold. The giant was very real. It was one of those times when you absolutely know how good it is to be part of a family. We gathered around him to pray and encourage and to share our strength and faith.

I saw him again yesterday and remembered that test results were soon due. He told me it was going to be a week longer than he'd expected until he got them. Yet, he was standing there with head held high and clear eyes and I realized that I was seeing faith in action. The Holy Spirit reminded me at that moment that faith is what pleases God. I said, "God sees your faith and it pleases Him. He's looking at you saying, 'There's my son. He trusts me.'" I was amazed at the effect of those words on him and his wife!!

How radically, powerfully, transforming would it be if we lived in the awareness that our Papa is pleased??
"It is impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that He exists and that He cares enough to respond to those who seek Him." Hebrews 11:6 MSG
Do you believe that He exists? Do you believe that he cares enough to respond to your seeking? Is He your source of hope in a difficult situation? Then He is pleased!! Your Papa is pleased because you're trusting Him and He knows that He has a good plan for you if only you'll trust Him.

The best way I know to demonstrate faith is to praise Him while you're still waiting to see the answer to your prayer. Every declaration of His goodness is an expression of faith. I have a favorite quote from a pastor named Mark Buchanan that goes like this: "Praise is an act of defiance and faith, a bold refusal to allow the trouble that surrounds us to be greater than the God who comes to meet us!"

May God bless you today as you trust and seek and praise. May you be encouraged to know that your Papa is pleased with you, His beloved son or daughter.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

More Thoughts on David Facing Goliath

I don't feel I can leave last week's post without a few more thoughts on David facing Goliath. There are several note-worthy characteristics about David that impress me in 1 Samuel 17. I have a feeling that they may have something to do with his courage in facing the giant and that we might want to possess some of them ourselves if we're going to have the same success.

I am in awe of the way David wasn't intimidated by the scorn and accusation of his brother: "What are you doing around here anyway? What about those few sheep you're supposed to be taking care of? I know about your pride and deceit. You just want to see the battle!" (v. 28) I don't know if he could have been any more insulting! The fact that his brother misunderstood, judged, insulted, and mocked him didn't shake his confidence in what he believed God called him to do. Joseph faced the same challenges. (Genesis 37:8) In fact, I've noticed that it's not unheard of for believers (brothers) to criticize or scorn those who dare to say a giant can be defeated.

This was a critical moment for David. His response, "What have I done now?" shows frustration, but it didn't slow him down much because he kept on in his pursuit of destroying the giant. He didn't argue with his brother until the brother was persuaded. He didn't get bitter and resentful (and those were some pretty heavy-duty insults from someone close to him). It doesn't appear that his confidence in his calling to conquer was shaken one bit! All the way through this chapter we see David repeatedly being told "facts" as to why the giant couldn't be defeated. David simply perseveres and declares the greatness and power of God.

A change is noticeable when David faces the king, the God-appointed authority. The king himself didn't think the giant could be defeated or that David was capable of the task. (v. 33) This doesn't cause David to give up. Rather, he humbly explains his confidence in the God who saved him from other enemies
(v. 34-37). His humility is impressive. He doesn't brag that past victories qualify him, but expresses faith that the same God will help him now.

David also respectfully attempted to do things according to the king's directions by wearing the king's armor. But somehow, even in his youth, he knew better than to try to fit into another person's image and mold of what he should be. (v. 39) He knew what God had gifted him to do and when he stuck to that the king blessed him and God honored him.

"Obviously, I'm not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ's servant." (Galatians 1:10)

These reflections lead to a few questions for would-be giant slayers:

-Are the insults and scorn of others hindering me from my calling?
-Am I scorning or encouraging my brothers? (Hebrews 10:24)
-Is there unresolved bitterness or lingering resentment toward any of my brothers? (Matthew 6:14-15; Colossians 3:12-15)
-Am I more focused on worshipful obedience than the opinions of others? (Acts 5:29)
-Am I respectful and under the authority of God-appointed leaders? (I Peter 5:5-7)
-Am I humble and aware of my hope being in God rather than my own strength? (Psalm 73:26)
-Am I at peace with the gifts God has given to me or am I trying to be like someone else? (2 Timothy 1:6-7)

"I pray that God, the source of hope,
will fill you completely with joy and peace
because you trust in him.

Then you will overflow with confident hope
through the power of the Holy Spirit."

Romans 15:13

Monday, March 8, 2010

Facing the Giants

I'm a morning person. In the evening I can be anything from dopey to downright irritable. Ever since I've been a mom I've treasured my quiet time in the morning before the kids get up. My son's a morning person too and, no matter how quiet I am, he often joins me in that early morning quiet. When he does he asks for the same story. Every time. David and Goliath. Lest you think I'm some kind of extraordinarily saintly mother, I will confess to my heart sinking when the pitter-patter his feet invade my quiet, but I've valiantly turned from my choice of reading to I Samuel 17. It's come in handy lately. As I've pointed out valuable lessons from the story to my son, I've been preaching to myself...

Lately, his temper has felt like a giant bigger than Goliath. I face giants of anxiety. We've talked about the size of the giant and the size of the boy and the size of the stone that felled the giant. How was it that a boy with a stone was able to conquer a giant? The answer is in David's declaration: "I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven's Armies...Today the Lord will conquer you and I will kill you and cut off your head!" The only size that mattered was the size of the God in whom he trusted. David knew that he had to do his part, but it was going to be the power of God that would destroy His enemy.

David knew God. How did he know Him well enough to dare to defy a giant that had older, more experienced men shaking in their boots? In the years leading up to this day, David had been shepherding his father's sheep. A pretty mundane life, indeed. (Do you feel like your job/life is pretty mundane sometimes?) He had a lot of time on his hands where his mind wasn't too occupied and what did he do with it? He meditated--focused his thoughts--on God. He worshiped and praised God. A reading of the Psalms of David show that he saw God in everything around Him (Psalm 145 is good example). He knew about God's character because he was focused on all that God could and did do. When it came to facing an enemy David knew what God could do. He was more in awe of God than the giant.

Giants have a way of blocking out the light and even drowning out all other sounds. Yet, when David faced Goliath not even the roar of the giant's taunts could drown David's confidence in the Lord of Heaven's Armies! All those years of building intimacy with God prepared him for this day when a giant was defeated and whole nation was liberated!

Giants are inevitable. Intimacy with God is optional. I want to be more like David.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.
No one can snatch them away from me,
for my Father has given them to me and
He is more powerful than anyone else.
No one can snatch them from the Father's hand.

John 10:27-29

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Does He Like Me?

"Mom, do you think God likes me?"

Big, earnest eyes were begging an honest answer. The little guy has been through a challenging couple of weeks, learning difficult lessons about decisions and consequences and self-control. Giants for the best of us, much less a little boy. After failing yet again, an important question surfaces: I believe God forgives me, but does He like me?

My parenting experiences have given my a much deeper understanding of God's Father heart. We're imperfect parents and we love our kids so much--how much greater is the love of the Perfect Father? (Luke 11:11)

My love for my son hasn't lessened one bit as he's been experiencing this "learning curve". If anything, I'm more aware than ever how much I love him. There's nothing I wouldn't do right now to help him over this hurdle. How much more our heavenly Father...? He went to the extreme lengths of sacrificing His Son to make a way for us imperfect, fumbling children to be reconnected with Him. Everything about the life of Jesus expresses His huge yearning for relationship with us. His Holy Spirit is freely available to us to comfort and encourage and strengthen us as we face "giants".

And then there's the whole discipline thing... It's tough to let my son face the consequences of his decisions. Not rescuing our kids from consequences has required greater strength than lots of other things I've had to do. How much more our heavenly Father...? I think I understand a little more of how much it must make His heart ache when choose to ignore the commandments He's given to us for our own well being. How often has He had to endure our whining and acting like a victim when what is happening is simply the consequence of our choice to ignore His way and choose our own? It's definitely an act of profound love to let someone you love suffer from the consequences of their choices. (Hebrews 12:5-11)

As the perfect Father, God can do so much more than we earthly parents can: He can redeem our messes and make something beautiful come out of them if we'll surrender to Him! (Romans 8:26-30) Everything about His nature is redeeming, restoring, and reviving.

So, does He like us even though we don't get it right all the time? I love the question because I love the answer! Yes!! "But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners... So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God." (Romans 5:8&11, emphasis added) He loved us when we were messing things up in complete rebellion--how much more now that we're seeking Him and His help? And friends of God? Wow. I like my friends a lot--even though they're not perfect.

And so I answered my son confidently, "Yes, buddy, I know He likes you. He likes you a lot!"

"For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs." (Zepaniah 3:17)
"For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust." (Psalm 103:11-14)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Thoughts on Forgiveness

A few days ago the memory of someone I hadn't seen for a really long time popped into my head. The nicest way I can describe this person is that they're a real pain in the lower posterior parts. (I apologize if that offends you.) This person didn't abuse me in any particularly horrific way, but they did hurt me a lot with their words and their actions were pretty unpleasant too. Just thinking about them made me want to give them a piece of my mind all over again. Ah! There was a clue that Jesus and I needed to have a talk about this. I thought I'd already forgiven this person and I had, but my gut reaction told me that there was more work to be done.

Jesus had a bit to say about forgiveness and He set the bar pretty high. How many times do we need to forgive someone who wrongs us? Pretty much to infinity. (Matthew 18:21-22) What if we don't forgive? God won't forgive us. (Matthew 6:15) (I find that one pretty terrifying since I need His forgiveness a lot.) When we let unforgiveness settle in it becomes bitterness and resentment. There's a whole lot about that in the Bible too and it's not good.

Whoever coined the phrase "To err is human, to forgive is divine" was really on to something. When it comes to forgiveness we really need the help of the Holy Spirit. The good news is that He's ready and eager to help us!

My thoughts on forgiveness led me to two conclusions: 1. When I don't forgive someone (or let go of my resentment) it's because I think they need to suffer a bit before I can be okay; and 2. I think that their actions can somehow thwart God's good plans for my life.

Romans 12:19 says:
Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, "I will take revenge I will pay them back," says the Lord.
So, if we're not willing to leave the "payback" to God, does that mean we don't trust Him, that we don't believe He'll do what He says He'll do? When I think very long on this verse I find myself wanting to make sure my own accounts with God are clear.

As far as someone else's actions thwarting God's good plans for my life... Well, actually, I'm the only one that can do that!! A good way to do it is by hanging on to bitterness and resentment. The promise about His good plans for us in Jeremiah 29:11 doesn't say anything about "unless...". Unless someone abuses you or lies to you or gossips about you or says horrible and hurtful things to you or doesn't appreciate you or disappoints your expectations... It's a given that some or all of those things are going to happen to you if you interact with broken human beings. The Good News is that we don't have to live broken and devastated because of them!

Jeremiah 30:17 contains a beautiful promise: "'I will give you back your health and heal your wounds,' says the Lord." Hurtful things that are said and done to us can definitely cause great sickness in our spirits, souls and bodies. God says He'll restore our broken places if we'll surrender them to Him: "I will give you back your health and heal you." This just makes me want to snuggle right up close to my Papa, be healed, and let Him take care of the bad guys.

Of course, we have an enemy who wants the poison of resentment to remain in our hearts. As humans with a capacity to remember things, it's easy to let the toxins creep back in. Jesus told us a really good way to take care of this: "Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you." (Luke 6:28) If we start to pray for blessing in the lives of those who hurt us, two really great things are going to happen. There will be no room for unforgiveness, and God will be answering our prayers for them. Let me tell you that there have been some people I've had to pray many blessings on before I no longer felt a twitch at the thought of them! Someone asked me if I didn't think it was wrong to bless a person who was intentionally living in sin? Well, a huge part of God's great blessing in our lives is conviction of sin. What greater blessing is there than to be free of the curse of sin? When we pray for God to bless them, we're leaving it all in His good and perfect hands.

Filling my mind with all these thoughts of God's goodness and His promises made me want to repent of the bitterness and to let go of the pain and the traces of resentment toward this person. If anyone comes to mind that you need to forgive, or forgive again, I pray that you will and that God will bless you with a great awareness of His love for you. He's got it covered. He'll take care of the junk. He just wants you to let it all go so that your hands will be empty of the stuff you've been hanging onto--with your hands free you can receive His gifts. He's longing to overwhelm you with His goodness.

(Please note that this post isn't about having healthy boundaries with unhealthy people, just about the heart issues.)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Blog About Fog

We live on the gentle slope of a hill that overlooks a valley and across to what the local, prairie-born folks call a mountain. It's just a small valley--maybe two miles across--with a road running along the bottom. The school bus comes along this road and I can see from my kitchen window when the bus is about five minutes away and can send the kids out at just the right time. For most of the last month we've had ice fog every day. It creates a beautiful diamond-encrusted landscape that sparkles when the sun burns away the mist. Many mornings we have been able to see this fog settled into the valley below us and it's impossible for me to see the bus coming until it's almost up the hill and to our house. I keep thinking about that bus driver down there in the fog...

She has no idea when the fog will end. She doesn't know for sure that when she turns the corner a breakthrough is just a half a mile away. It's thick--so thick we can't see the strobe light flashing on top of the bus. And yet, not far away, the sun is shining gloriously.

Fog is like that. Disorienting. Confusing. Discouraging. Endless. Unless we have a reference point outside of the fog.

"Fog" in our lives takes many different forms and lasts for different lengths of time. We're all facing different challenges. We have different prayers for which we earnestly desire an answer. For every one there's a promise in God's Word. That's the reference point to which we must cling. It takes faith to hold onto that promise. Faith is hard for us. We want answers and we want them now. But faith pleases God--not because He wants to see us suffer, but rather because He wants us to be at peace while He is at work.
"What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for will happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see. God gave His approval to people in days of old because of their faith." Hebrews 11:1-2
Hebrews 11 is a litany of faith in everyday people who faced challenges and believed what God said about that challenge. It's easy to think that they were somehow special and not like us, but a careful reading of their life stories quickly reveals that they were every bit as human as we are and some of them really messed up big time! Yet, they made it to this roll call of Faith Heroes and they were called those who "pleased God". Why? Because they believed the promise even when they couldn't see evidence of it's fulfillment. This isn't the same thing at all as the "power of positive thinking" because the Power rests entirely in the One in whom we believe!

It's easy to think that we don't have enough faith for the challenge we're facing. Jesus said that even faith as small as a mustard seed is enough. Hebrews 11:34 tells us of these heroes that, "Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight." It's in the process of believing and then receiving that our faith grows stronger.

One of the best ways to strengthen and demonstrate our faith is to worship and praise God while we wait for Him to do what He promised. Praise has been known to tear down prison walls! (Acts: 16:25-26)

I pray that you will be encouraged and reminded of God's promises. His plans for you are good. (Jeremiah 28:11)

"God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God's inner sanctuary." Hebrews 6:18-19

Monday, February 8, 2010

Rest for Your Soul

I was recently having a conversation with a friend wherein we were talking about those moments in life when our shortcomings become glaringly obvious. Not a particularly comfortable place to find yourself and yet a moment containing a treasure. The comment was made that, "Boy, I have a lot of work to do!" It lingered in my mind and didn't ring entirely true so I had to give it some thought.

The idea of "having a lot of work to do" echos a bit of a philosophy of self-help, of I-can-do-it-if-I-try-hard-enough. However, I wonder if growing in God is like losing that after-Christmas weight? Can it be done if we follow Ten Steps to Becoming a More Mature Christian? Can we, by the strength of our own efforts and striving, overcome sin? Jesus said, "Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?" (Matthew 6:27) This verse is in the context of concern about natural needs, but perhaps it can be applied to our spiritual growth too. Can we, by our own efforts, add an inch to our spiritual stature?

What should our response be when we come face to face with the reality that we have some spiritual growing up to do? We definitely have choices to make. We can blame things on others or humble ourselves in repentance. We can choose to pick up our Bibles rather drown our discomfort in a novel, television show or shopping spree. We can make a commitment to spend more quiet time alone with Him. There are definitely choices we can make that will contribute to our growth. All these steps lead to the same place: an intimate relationship with our Savior. Therein lies our hope! In relationship with Him, light shines into the dark places of our hearts and reveals the root of things. We become acquainted with the sound of His still, small voice (I Kings 19:12) that can stop us from saying or doing things that we shouldn't. It is His Spirit in us that gives us "the desire and the power to do what pleases him." (Philippians 2:13)

Not long ago I was feeling overwhelmed by awareness of spiritual need in my life and knew that others were aware of it too. Shame and accusation were alternately whispering and shouting at me. I was definitely feeling discouraged when I came across a verse in Isaiah 46: "I will be your God throughout your lifetime--until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you." (verse 4) He made me. He cares for me. He will carry me and save me. He will complete the good work that He started in me. (Philippians 1:6) In that moment I found peace. Turns out that I didn't "have a lot of work to do" so much as I just needed to get close to my Papa who has invested everything into completing the work He began in me.

Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens,
and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you.
Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy to bear,

and the burden I give you is light."
Matthew 11:28-30

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

He Cares

Last weekend my husband and I attended a conference that is billed as "The Largest Equipping and Renewal Conference in North America". I do, indeed, feel more equipped and definitely feel renewed. Worshiping God with seven thousand voices raised in unison is an experience that feels pretty close to my best imaginings of heaven.

Ironically, I also found myself having a moment of uncertainty about the reality that God can be as intimate as I believe Him to be. In a milling crowd of seven thousand I was overcome by a feeling of insignificance. Not in a healthy you-are-not-the-center-of-the-universe way, but as a whisper of doubt. Seven thousand is only a small fraction of six billion. Is it really, truly possible that God is as involved and concerned about the intimate details of my life as I believe? Is the communion I feel with Him real or just my imagination? Alarm bells were ringing that these doubts were coming from a liar who is always seeking to steal our joy.

I'm comforted by the fact that King David asked these same questions. "When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers--the moon and the stars you set in place--what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?" (Psalm 8:3-4) King David also penned some of my favorite answers to this question: "O know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I'm far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head... You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can't even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!" (Psalm 139)

Lest we think that maybe David was just under some happy delusion when he wrote this, Jesus confirmed it in His own words: "What is the price of two sparrows--one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows." (Matthew 10:29-31) The very hairs of my head are all numbered? One look at my bathroom sink will confirm that this is a number that changes frequently! This tells us then that He's not just checking in with us from time to time, but is with us moment by moment just as David said.

Our small brains cannot comprehend a God so huge that this can be true about six billion people. I'm with David in saying, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!" (Psalm 139:6) Yet I know it's true.

I could relate many stories that confirm God is involved in the details of my life
and they would be interesting and faith-building, but not as personal as your own stories. If you're struggling right now with wondering if God really cares, I pray that God will send His Holy Spirit to remind you of moments when He has intimately touched your life. I also pray for a fresh revelation of His love. He wants you to know that He cares and part of the job of His Holy Spirit is to comfort you and "bring all things to your remembrance". (John 14:26 KJV) Today may not be the day that you get the answer to some of the struggles you're facing, but being reminded of His care for you will give you the confidence to hang on to your faith that He holds the answer.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Even Better

Last summer my oldest daughter asked for a specific ring for her birthday. We thought a ring was a good idea, but thought the one she was asking for was a bit much for a girl her age. We shopped a bit and found one we thought was just right. On her birthday we woke her in the morning with the sweetest little ribboned mauve box--sure to delight a feminine heart. As wakefulness dawned, her face lit up with joy and she seized the box and opened it. She paused and I knew she was feeling a moment of disappointment as she realized it wasn't the exact ring for which she had asked. Then she smiled and burst out, "I like it!! It's even better than what I thought I wanted!"

"It's even better than what I thought I wanted."

That phrase captured something in my heart. I knew as soon as she said it that I've discovered the very same thing so many times with gifts from my heavenly Papa. As finite humans, we're all acquainted with longing and impatience in waiting. We're probably all equally well-acquainted with attempting to gain what God has promised through our own conniving rather than waiting for His timing. We quickly learn as Abraham did (Genesis 16) that this never works out quite as well as waiting for Him to do things in His time and His way.

Psalm 37:4-5 & 7a says,
"Take delight in the Lord and he will give you your heart's desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you... Be still in the presence of the Lord and wait for him to act."

How do we take delight in the Lord? I'm pretty sure it's impossible to do if you view Him as a stern judge or an angry father. King David, who wrote this Psalm, had a friendship with God. In fact, when you read David's psalms you find out exactly how to delight in Him. "To delight in" means to "take pleasure in". David writes about God's attributes and all the amazing things He has done. It's obvious when he (David) does this that he's delighting in who God is and that it lifts his spirits when he is discouraged. When we focus on God like this it becomes easier to wait for Him to give us the desires of our heart because our minds are filled with His greatness and we are reminded that we don't need to worry about whether or not He has things under control.

I'd like to encourage you to put God to the challenge in this. Do you have a heart's desire whose fulfillment seems distant? Delight yourself in Him...commit it to still...and wait. I put this challenge to my Sunday school class one year and at the end of the year we had some amazing testimonies. In fact, a lot of them sounded like, "It's even better than what I thought I wanted!"

If you don't know where to begin in delighting yourself in the Lord, just borrow some of David's psalms--that's why they're recorded for us. Consistent worship like this will be the seed for your own private psalms of delight as you worship God for all his good gifts and confess (speak of) your confidence in His ability to take care of the things you've committed to Him.

"Don't worry about anything; instead,
pray about everything.
Tell God what you need and
thank Him for all He has done.
If you do this, you will experience God's peace,
which is far more wonderful
than the human mind can understand.
His peace will guard your hearts and minds
as you live in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:6&7