Thursday, August 18, 2011

Signs ~

I used to ask for a sign to believe in
But He never gave me a reason to ever doubt Him
(Jason Upton)

The other day I woke up with these two lines rolling through my mind, and I started to think about the song they stem from.  One of my favorites, definitely. 

The song, Give Me One Reason To Doubt, was written by Jason Upton, and without a doubt, the point of the rest of the lyrics address humanity’s tendency to second guess the authority of Jesus Christ as Messiah and King.  That, however, is not the direction I’m going with this, so I’m going to just take those two lines and explore something that has been on my heart for awhile.

Why is it that we play the role of Gideon with the fleece?  I’ve done it more times than I care to recall, but the thing is, I’m not sure why.  Is it because I doubt God’s direction in my life?  Do I need Him to prove something to me? 

There is a struggle that engages us all.  It’s a fight that encroaches upon all of us, and if everyone were honest, we’d all admit that sometimes the battle is easier than others.  It is the war we wage with the flesh.  That carnal nasty side of us that the enemy so often tries to use in order to drag us from away from our relationship with the Lord.  It’s ugly.  Sometimes it’s REALLY ugly. 

Now, I could go into great detail (many have - pages and pages, book upon book, thesis upon thesis) about the weapons our great Father has given us in order to help in with our individual struggle with the crucifixion of the flesh.  I, however, want to bring out something entirely different.  I preface it by disclaiming that, my purpose is merely to raise some questions and get some people – myself included – thinking about our intent.

I remember part of a message that my Pastor gave while I was in the final stages of my schooling in Pensacola.  I don’t remember the whole thing.  Actually, I don’t remember much of anything else.  You see, I’m a visual person and once I get struck with a mental image, I am completely distracted.  Anyway, he said – in my own words summarizing – If God tells me to do something, my only response should be to snap my heels, say ‘yes, Sir’, and carry out orders.  I resound, YES!

But how many times have I questioned?  I don’t know.  In my heart, though, I can’t say it’s out of disobedience, disrespect, or self preservation.  Not always, anyway, and I repent for the times it has been.  Most of the time, though, I don’t knee-jerk into action.  At first, this really REALLY bothered me.  Why don’t I jump and ask questions later?  Why don’t I take what He gives me and run wild with it? 

What I now write could very well provoke an onslaught of criticism, but, from my heart, it is sincere.

I don’t believe it’s out of disobedience that I wait – sometimes asking for a sign.  It’s because I have so many times impulsively jumped before I had full and clear direction.  I knew where I was headed, and I plowed ahead.  Sometimes I ask for a sign so that I can confirm in my heart that I’m following the specific direction of the Lord.  It’s out of a desire against disobedience. 

A younger me would have pushed and pushed without fear or restraint, but the older me waits and makes sure I have a clear path, unwavering peace, and a spirit of willing obedience.  I long to please the Lord!  I hunger to fill Him with joy.  And I have had to repent more times than I can number for the times I moved ahead without seeking Him more thoroughly first. 

Let me add this, however.  I know firsthand, the closer I am in my relationship with the Lord, the more I know His heart.  And the more I know His heart, the more I easily identify His voice from the millions of others that cloud my earthy head.  And the more easily I identify His voice, the less I have to question when I hear it. 

So, it may be that needing to ask for a sign is
A)    An expression of desired obedience, but also,
B)    A sign in and of itself that I need to pursue more, draw closer in, and engage. 

Just some food for thought…..

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Do you ever feel like you're desperately craving meaning?  Purpose?

I do.  I feel that way right now. 

I look at my life and for some reason it feels empty.  I know it's not.  I mean, I have this great investment that I'm making in my children, my husband, and my church.  But could it be more?  Could I do more?  How many times have my children been talking to the back of my head because my face has been planted toward this monitor that's in front of me now. 

(Disclaimer made - they're all sleeping right now, so I'm not neglecting anyone to bear my soul).

This was such a huge revelation to me today.  I had to work from home today, and it's great that I can do that when I must, but it has kept my attention very focussed.  Just a little while ago, Evan was having a war with his castles and knights, and he kept trying to tell me about what good guys were left, and what the bad guys did.  Here I sat, monitor in front of my eyes, answering him without looking at him.  All at once I was heartbroken!  Really heartbroken!  I was multi-tasking my son. 

It was like it hit me all at once.  One big ugly second had me understanding exactly what I was doing, thinking about how often I do it, and being completely ashamed.  I stopped.  I turned and focussed as he told me that Obi-Wan had beat up Darth Maul and Batman died when he tried to tear down the castle.  His blue eyes danced as he obviously 'ate up' the attention.  Why don't I do that so much more often?

I don't really know what's going on.  I just know that my life feels like it's a bit empty.  There's a change I need to make.  A few steps I need to take, and I'm not exactly sure of what they need to be yet.  I just....

.... I just.... I want my life to be significant.  Not because I want to make a name for myself, but because I have this burning need to invest in people.  It's so difficult to explain.  I look over my time, and how I spend my time, and I wonder how much of it is self-serving.... and how much of it is Kingdom serving. 

I have a gut feeling about where this is headed, but I don't want to put the cart before the horse.  I'm going to wait on God, keep on pursuing, and pray.  Pray about the path, the turns, the shifts, and certainly pray about what this is inside of me that is starting to whisper about the winds of change...

Thursday, May 5, 2011


I didn't actually remember that today was the national day of prayer until I was headed to my office for the day.  I thought it funny.

In my quiet time this morning, I was reading about the importance of being connected to God.  Not just knowing about Him.  We know that.  I know it.  Still, sometimes I find that it's so much easier for me to talk about Him, write about Him, read about Him, than it is to pray. 

Worship and pursuit is just that.  It eliminates the 'about' factor, and plunges us to the 'engage' factor. 

Still, in all the time I spend in musical worship, I fight to spend time in simple prayer.  Why does that have to be so hard?  For believers, I think it works like this....

Prayer is hard to forget but difficult to remember.

We all know how important it is, but at the end of the day, so many of us take our left over, just before we doze, time - label it as prayer - and slip into unconciousness. 

Here's another factor - Job's friends spent chapter after chapter advising, analyzing, and discussing his situation.  None of them prayed for him.  What's up with that?  It was after Job's engagement with God that his life began to recover from it's devastation.  Isaiah keenly points out that there is no justice because  there is no prayer.... 

I read that this morning.  I'd read it before, but it struck me today in a new way. 

Our family has been going through a hard time.  It involves a lot that I won't go into here, save this comment - I have felt like we have been under an onslaught of attack and there has been very little reprieve for quite some time.  This morning, I woke up at 5am with a tugging on my heart that I needed to pray.  I've been sick, so it was a struggle to encourage myself out of the bed.  When I finally sat down on the couch in my usual quiet time spot, I realized that I distant... weak.... and honestly powerless.  Almost immediately I began to remind myself of the importance of prayer.  The power of prayer.  The need of prayer. 

And then I felt my mind justifying my lazy attitude about it.....WHAT!?  I could hear my own words (spoken to my children countless times) "Your focus needs more focus."

There is no justice because there is no prayer.
I read it again and again. 

And then I heard that today is the national day of prayer.

How appropriate.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


I don’t understand why we have this idea that grace is nothing more than a simple giant eraser that merely wipes away all of our mistakes, short-comings, and sin.  It’s convenient.  But, in my view, misinterpreted. 
Does grace clean us up?  Absolutely.  Check out Ezekiel 16 for a great depiction of that. 
Is grace a point of conversion, marking the transition of a person from darkness to light?  Yep.  Acts 15:11.
But what about the vast number of scriptures that demonstrate this principle:
Grace is the strength of God given to us in order to live holy.
I’ve done a little search, and by no means do I intend to make myself out to be a celebrated expert on this topic.  But I’ve found passage after passage that clearly points to the fact that we are given grace so that we can live holy, pursuing God in relationship.  Our actions will then reflect that grace within us. 
Here are some great examples:
Luke 2:40
The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.  
(this is obviously talking about Jesus – who never needed the grace of God to remove or erase His sin or failure.  Being human, how did He do it?  The grace of God was upon Him)
Acts 4:33
And  with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. 
(The application of grace in this context obviously points to the fact that the abundant grace that was upon them is what empowered them to give testimony of Jesus with great power.)
Acts 6:8
And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great  wonders and signs among the people. 
(This is pretty self explanatory – it was grace and power that allowed Stephen to perform great things.  In context and solitarily, ‘grace’ cannot be referred to in this passage as the single application of the removal of sin.  It empowered Stephen.  A great example of the fact that grace NOT ONLY cleanses from sin, but empowers us to live holy – pursuing God and His plan for our lives).
Acts 13:43
Now when the meeting of the synagogue had broken up, many of the Jews and of the God-fearing  proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, were urging them to continue in the grace of God. 
(The ‘continuing’ in the grace of God doesn’t imply that they are expected to continue in sin, applying grace for erasure.  On the contrary.  Scripture is clear that once we are cleansed from sin, we are expected to never go back to it.  Why go back to death when we have been made alive in Christ.  It is grace that empowers us to continue in the grace of God)
Moving on to the Epistles –
Romans 1:5
through whom we have received grace and  apostleship to bring about the  obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name's sake,
(“grace and apostleship” – if you know what an apostle is, you know that apostleship doesn’t come from the ability to continually erase sin.  Who were the Apostles?  What did their lives look like?  How many died for their faith in Christ?  Were they glorified men who enjoyed the finest things in life or did they sacrifice everything for the sake of the gospel?  We know the answer to that.  Obviously, according to this passage, the reception of grace is what empowered them to bring out the obedience of faith!  GORGEOUS!)
Romans 6:15
What then?  Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!
(No commentary needed here.  Plain as can be.)
Romans 12:6
Since we have gifts that  differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith;
(So – track with me – each person is unique.  God created all of us to serve a specific purpose in His Kingdom.  Remember the scripture about the body of Christ?  Not everyone can be a hand.  Not everyone can be an eye.  We all have our own purpose.  And the gifts we are empowered with differ according to the grace given us.  If grace was merely an application of the removal of sin, how would it differ between all of us?  How would you apply this passage?  How would each of us exercise it differently from another?  After all, isn’t all sin, sin?  Think about it – we are given grace (according to the above) which empowers us (with the gifts/tools we need) in order to accomplish God’s purpose in our lives. )
1 Corinthians 15:10
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. 
(Clearly the grace of God that was with Paul empowered Him to labor more… )
2 Corinthians 1:12
For our proud confidence is this: the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you.
(I love this!!!  It was through the grace of God that they conducted themselves in the world.  POWERFUL!  Grace empowered them to live as witnesses of Jesus in the midst of an unbelieving world.  Do we not live in an unbelieving world?)
2 Corinthians 9:8
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed;
(And again – no commentary necessary here.  We obviously are expected to live defined by every good deed.  We’re given abundant grace for THAT purpose.)
Alright, this post is getting very long, so I’m not going to belabor this point.  It is enough to say – God expects us to live holy.  An act of grace removes sin from our lives, purging the foul grime out of our soul.  But it is not a one-time-deal.  We know that.  The confusion comes into play when we apply what it means to live by grace.  Does it mean continual removal of sin?  Sure – we all sin.  We all have fallen.  Nobody is perfect.  BUT as Children of God are we expected to live our lives defined by habitual sin, and habitual acts of repentance and erasure?  By no means! 

If the grace of God is within you, know this: you are empowered to live holy.  So do it.  Imitate Christ.  Live Christ-like.  God has given you the awesome tool that enables you to do great things for Him.  Grace will set you on a high place, and grace will keep you there.  You don’t have to fall.  You don’t have to sin.  We all should be striving toward holiness, and it’s grace that empowers us to get closer and closer every day. 
Further than that – grace within you can accomplish great things!  And giving yourself to sin – using grace only to wipe it away is one of the most heart-breaking things I can think of. 
Pursue God.  Live holy.  God will empower you to do it, but you have to do your part.  In Jesus words – Go and sin no more. 


Let me start by noting that I’m not a widely respected scholar in the Theology of the various attributes of mercy.  I don’t have memorized all of the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek terms that refer to the subject of mercy, nor do I boast the ability to comprehend the full depth of its ramifications on the life of the believer. 
I simply share what I know… and I’m confident that others know more… and others know less… but all of us do well to keep the principles of God’s grace and mercy in the front of our minds.  After all, it’s by God’s mercy and grace that we’re given the opportunity to breathe, and eat, and live, and read, and study… you get the idea. 
On to the principles of mercy.
In its purest form, mercy is being free from the punishment we deserve.  It is favor when we deserve shame.  It is freedom when we deserve prison.  One of my favorite passages about mercy is Isaiah 55, and it clearly displays the gorgeous result of mercy to those who are attached to the father.

      1"Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters;
         And you who have
no money come, buy and eat
         Come, buy
wine and milk
Without money and without cost.
      2"Why do you spend money for what is
not bread,
         And your wages for what does not satisfy?
         Listen carefully to Me, and
eat what is good,
delight yourself in abundance.
Incline your ear and come to Me
         Listen, that you may
         And I will make
an everlasting covenant with you,
         According to the
faithful mercies shown to David.
      4"Behold, I have made
him a witness to the peoples,
leader and commander for the peoples.
      5"Behold, you will call a
nation you do not know,
         And a nation which knows you not will
run to you,
         Because of the LORD your God, even the Holy One of Israel;
         For He has
glorified you."
Seek the LORD while He may be found;
Call upon Him while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way
         And the unrighteous man his
         And let him
return to the LORD,
         And He will have
compassion on him,
         And to our God,
         For He will
abundantly pardon.
      8"For My thoughts are not
your thoughts,
         Nor are
your ways My ways," declares the LORD.
as the heavens are higher than the earth,
         So are My ways higher than your ways
         And My thoughts than your thoughts.
      10"For as the
rain and the snow come down from heaven,
         And do not return there without watering the earth
         And making it bear and sprout,
         And furnishing
seed to the sower and bread to the eater;
      11So will My
word be which goes forth from My mouth;
         It will
not return to Me empty,
accomplishing what I desire,
         And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.
      12"For you will go out with
         And be led forth with
mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you,
         And all the
trees of the field will clap their hands.
      13"Instead of the
thorn bush the cypress will come up,
         And instead of the
nettle the myrtle will come up,
         And it will be a
memorial to the LORD,
         For an everlasting
sign which will not be cut off."
The question begs – to whom does this apply?
The answer is in the passage itself: “Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the LORD, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.”
Mercy is an abundant, free, fantastic gift for those who are willing to lay down the things that hold them back from a deeply engaged relationship with the Lord.  Mercy is real.  It’s powerful.  And it’s for all who choose to accept it.  It’s not for those who only want the benefits of God without a commitment to God.  He clearly states that it is the result of a ‘covenant’… so, by nature, it is therefore a commitment from both sides that is required. 
What commitment have we made to God?  Have we offered flippant empty promises that are nothing more than bargains to get our own way?  Do we expect God to move Heaven and Earth on our behalf while we barely inconvenience ourselves for Him? 
To me, the greatest demonstration of mercy in this passage is – “Seek the Lord while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near.”  It’s the same as Revelation 4 where John sees a door that is standing open and hears the voice saying “Come up here.”  The invitation of our great God to engage in relationship is the absolute greatest act of mercy He could show.  We are privileged to seek Him because He will be found!  He wants to engage with us!  We who boast of our own wisdom while we quote that His ways are higher than our own… We who focus on such temporary meaningless priorities….  We who find it so easy to pursue selfish agendas…. We who understand so little….  He wants to show us things.  He wants to teach us.  He wants to reveal His great mysteries to us if we’ll just pursue…
What mercy.  Not only are we saved from an eternity of suffering – but we are extended the hand of fellowship.
What mercy.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Grace...and Mercy~

Everyone could use a little grace in their lives. 

And for some reason, we all have our own opinions about what grace actually is.  It surprises me.  Most of us think of it like a band-aid that takes away our faults, failures, and shortcomings.  Just apply ‘grace’ and watch the sins you’re responsible for vanish like a cat scratch with some Neosporin. 

I’m sorry.  Does that sound critical?  I don’t mean it to.

I guess what frustrates me is the idea that the wages of conscious sin – you know, the choices people make when they know they are wrong, but are so determined to do it anyway – mean nothing.  So many people believe that just a few verses of Amazing Grace, a few minutes dwelling on how stupid those choices were, and a few minutes apologizing (knowing that it’s entirely possible that they would do the same thing again), will cause their rebellion to vanish into the portals of history, never to be heard of again.  In my life, I’ve been guilty of exactly that. 

But is that really what grace is?  A band-aid?  Neosporin? 

Now, before anyone emails me with a long list of Scriptures quoting the removal of sin, please understand that I know.  I know that grace is nothing we deserve.  And I know that God loves to remove our sin.  I know that, as children of God, we don't have to wallow in self-pity, subjecting our physical bodies to sacrificial practices that abuse ourselves in penance.  And quite frankly, this is not a post about the act of repentance and the point of salvation. 

I will say this, as a side note, that I think the American Church (and I suspect many other countries, as well) would do well to recognize the impact of conscious sin, and would definitely benefit by a greater understanding of the selfishness that triggers it.  Sin is a deadly thing, and is not to be handled with trite flippancy.  It's not a list of 'don'ts', but rather, in it's simplest form, is independence from God.

But that's for another day, another time.

GRACE is not MERCY.  And MERCY is not GRACE.  They are not interchangeable terms that cover our failures and wrong choices. 

Yes, both are free.  Yes, both belong us as gifts through the favor of God.  Yes, both are applicable in our lives in terms of the effects of sin, cleansing of sin, and living lives defined by holiness.  But their applications to the Child of God are both necessary in their unique characteristics.  GRACE is not MERCY.  And MERCY is not GRACE.

In the next few posts I’m going to explore the truths God shares with us about these two powerful, foundational principles.  For now, I leave you with the words of one of my favorite songs through the years….

Once there was a holy place
Evidence of God's embrace
And I can almost see mercy's face
Pressed against the veil
Looking down with longing eyes
Mercy must have realized
That once His blood was sacrificed
Freedom would prevail
And as the sky grew dark
And the earth began to shake
With justice no longer in the way
Mercy came running
Like a prisoner set free
Past all my failures to the point of my need
When the sin that I carried
Was all I could see
And when I could not reach mercy
Mercy came running to me
Once there was a broken heart
Way too human from the start
And all the years left it torn apart
Hopeless and afraid
Walls I never meant to build
Left this prisoner unfulfilled
Freedom called but even still
It seemed so far away
I was bound by the chains
From the wages of my sin
Just when I felt like giving in
Mercy came running
Like a prisoner set free
Past all my failures to the point of my need
When the sin that I carried
Was all I could see
And when I could not reach mercy
Mercy came running to me

Sometimes I still feel so far
So far from where I really should be
He gently calls to my heart
Just to remind me

Mercy came running
Like a prisoner set free
Past all my failures to the point of my need
When the sin that I carried
Was all I could see
And when I could not reach mercy
Mercy came running to me
(Lyrics by Phillips, Craig, and Dean)

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Freight Train~

Last night I had a really crazy dream.  There was a tornado, and it was eating up everything.  It wasn't one of those wide ones that just stays on a steady path... it was skinny and wild.  And it was after me. 

Now, normally I would admit that a tornado like that is pretty scary in and of itself - but this one was much more frightening - if that's possible.  It was after me.  It had intent... and motive... it was a wild, violent, deadly, harrowing storm... that was pursuing me.

Everywhere I went - every direction I turned - it pursued, and at one point I thought I discerned a wickedly malicious face in the midst of the wind and debris.  I ran left... it followed... I turned... it turned... I scrambled, and it gained on me. 

I was losing, and I knew it.  There was no way to outrun, outsmart, or survive in general.  Just as I was beginning to feel it's claws at my heels I relinquished my ability to defend myself at all... and then I woke with a start.

My chest was heaving with the breathless fear of terror.  I looked around my room - silence.  I listened to see if there was thunder, or even rain outside, thinking that maybe my mind was just associating external sounds with imaginary imagery.  There was nothing.  I breathed a deap sigh of relief and laid my head back on the pillow and, after seeing 4:30 on the clock next to me, I closed my eyes for just a bit more rest. 

It was a train this time.  And not just any train.  It had a face that seemed to personify evil.  Brow furrowed, wicked smile, and the most evil scream that I'd ever heard.  I looked down and I was standing in the middle of the tracks, and it was racing directly for me - and it wasn't far away.  There was no time to act, no brief instant for an instinctive jump to the side... I saw the face, heard the scream, froze in terror, and it was upon me... when again I woke up, just as it would have engulfed me. 

"What is going on?!" 

What was even more eerie was the fact that the train was one that's on a cartoon my children watch every morning.  Now, lest you think I feed my children's brains with evil stalking trains before they navigate their day, please know - THIS is the train they watch...

So, adding to the idea that something is pursuing me, I now have to reconcile the fact that the 'something' could be an otherwise harmless and even good thing.  WHAT?

Two dreams, and an overwhelming sense of foreboding, started me thinking along the lines of ~ WHY.  Why is something pursuing me?  Why is it that in both dreams I was completely unable to get away?  Why were they both actually pursuing me?

The Bible is clear in it's representation of our enemy.  1 Peter 5:8 says that he's like a roaring lion, seeking to devour.  It's not like he's just out there patiently waiting while I go about my life.  He's not sitting back, watching, awaiting the moment I screw something up on my own.  He's actually seeking...  he's pursuing....  and his goal? - to devour.  Hello, tornado.

And what's up with the train?  Yeah, doesn't the Bible also say that he appears as an angel of light? (2 Corinthians 11:14).  That leads me to evaluate - what is in my life that appears to be beautiful, but is actually deceptively seeking to attract my attention away from the Lord.  Now, before I get a flood of emails about the fact that no one can ever take us out of the hand of God - know this... I know.  But I can't count how many times I have felt the something encroaching upon my engagement to God. 

I mean, really, how many times have you sat down to have a quiet time, and all of a sudden - things go haywire?  Or, building a business has become so time consuming and attention captivating that you struggle just to keep your priorities right?  I have.  I remember that phrase - "The good is always the greatest enemy of the best."

But there is good news -
2 Timothy 4:17 states "But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was rescued out of the lion's mouth."

In my dreams, I woke just before the moment of despair.  Just before I was completely engulfed - there was a rescue.  Read it again - rescued out of the lion's mouth. 

That means I was in the lion's mouth in the first place.  That enemy knew me, targeted me, pursued me, attacked me, and clamped his wicked razor sharp teeth on to me.  I was hopeless to prevail on my own, and powerless against his ferocity.  UNTIL I WAS RESCUED....

So for today -

Hold on ~ help is on the way...

Friday, March 25, 2011

Affection is NOT cliche...

I believe in God.
I believe He is who He said He would be.
There is nothing more real - and nothing more sacred than the moment I get to meet with Him. 

There are times when He is silent, and I learn in that.  And there are times when He floods my heart with revelation, and I learn in that, too. 

Sometimes I'm overwhelmed with Him and cannot praise Him enough - or repent enough.  When He reveals part of His character to me, I find that Isaiah's words resonate in my heart and I feel the filthiness of my most righteous acts in comparison to the gleaming purity of His holiness. 

I love Him.  So much that sometimes I find myself weeping in desperation just to be with Him.  There is no one who loves as deeply, as greatly, as unconditionally, ... as honestly as He does.  His mercy stretches father than I could possibly imagine, and His grace is so much bigger than I can comprehend.  But why?

Why is He jealous for me?
Why is His love like a hurricane for me? (John Mark McMillan)
Why has He sought me like a precious jewel, like a lost treasure...
 - when so many times I have pursued my own agendas and asked Him to align Himself to my plans...
 - when I pout and cry and rage when I don't get my own way...
 - when I demand understanding and refuse to accept it...
 - when my pursuit is singed with fleshy desires...
 - when the time I give Him is inconsequential...

God demonstrates His radical affection for me in plowing beyond my expectations, the filters of my mind, and my experience as He pours His great love into my heart.  And what have I given in return?  What have I offered?  I can honestly say that I wake up every morning with a desire to pursue the plans of God for my life. 

But... what would happen if I pursued Him?

Isn't that what life is supposed to be about - pursuing God?  It is. 

All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.  How many times does Scripture reference the fact that God will bring about His purpose in our lives if we just seek Him?  My mind is almost immediately innundated with passages and phrases....

 - Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.
 - I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord... plans to give you hope and a future
 - The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps
 - And what about the ENTIRE sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7) that talks about the focus of man - his perception, his worries, his approach to life...

So - what would happen if, for today, we pursue God alone.  Do we believe He is strong enough to accomplish His plan?  Can He do it without us stressing over it?  Does the overwhelming attitude of Scripture lead us to the frustration of stressing over His plan, or do we REALLY believe that the pursuit of a deeper relationship with God is His primary plan for our lives? 

Does not the plan of God for our lives naturally develope (and our character, ability to listen/follow/obey, and our integrity) when we simply pursue a more openly honest engagement to Him?

I suggest that it does....

Monday, March 21, 2011


I hate not having answers.  It drives me crazy.  If I ask a question, it's because I'm looking to add information to a specific train of thought...

Is it a control thing?  I don't think so.  It's more like a processing issue...

And now I'm processing the desert. 

You know, I have books about this.  Books and books - and books about this place.  They talk about Moses and his trial as a shepherd in the desert after having run away from Egypt.  And they talk about David as He waited - after having already been anointed - as the next king of Israel.  And Jesus' experience immediately following his baptism. 

I've read them all.  I thought I had it all figured out.  I rationalized and filtered everything I would do through the theories of logic, doctrine, and spiritual awareness - and yet I find I'm ill prepared.

I've always thought of the desert as a place of waiting... learning patience.  I figured I'd just sit and wait for God to move.  I could do that.  Stand firm and wait.... I never realized the endurance that actually requires.  The desert is so much more than a lonely place.

It's a dangerous place...

It's a hot place...


Devoid of water, food, or nourishment of any kind...

And right now I am heavily feeling the danger, heat, malnutrition, AND lonliness that comes with this place. 

Standing firm requires more than just a decision to do so.  It requires a hefty amount of endurance in the midst of struggle.  It's a very hard place, and I can honestly say that I have underestimated it's assault.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

You know, the beautiful thing about David was that there were no false pretenses.  I have a feeling that he was the type of person that felt things very deeply.  His highs were really high, and his lows were really low.  Let's not indulge in the debate as to whether it's appropriate to live by our emotions - and let's move forward to the recognition that God made us as emotional creatures.  Do we base our decisions on our feelings?  Of course not, but emotions are not the curse of humanity to be shoved into the abyss of all things wrong with God's created.  And that's another post for another day.....

David was emotional.  David was also very precious to God.  We've heard it quoted hundreds, maybe thousands of times.  He was a "man after God's own heart."

To revist - the question that was left in yesterday's post was - what do I do when I'm already weary?

And the answer (cue trumpets - or shofar's if you like - parades of tassel dripping circus elephants, acrobats, and a really long drum roll...)


Enter Psalm 6 - written by David
O LORD, do not rebuke me in Your anger,
         Nor chasten me in Your wrath.
      2Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am pining away;
         Heal me, O LORD, for my bones are dismayed.
      3And my soul is greatly dismayed;
         But You, O LORD--how long?
      4Return, O LORD, rescue my soul;
         Save me because of Your lovingkindness.
      5For there is no mention of You in death;
         In Sheol who will give You thanks?
      6I am weary with my sighing;
         Every night I make my bed swim,
         I dissolve my couch with my tears.
      7My eye has wasted away with grief;
         It has become old because of all my adversaries.
      8Depart from me, all you who do iniquity,
         For the LORD has heard the voice of my weeping.
      9The LORD has heard my supplication,
         The LORD receives my prayer.
      10All my enemies will be ashamed and greatly dismayed;
         They shall turn back, they will suddenly be ashamed.

Do you know why I love this?  2 reasons.

First, David is gut-wrenchingly honest.  He's a warrior king, known for a monarchy that was unafraid of battle.  He surrounded himself with mighty men, and he didn't seem to know what it meant to shy away from a fight.  But here?  He's weeping.  He's broken and desperate....  That's honest.  He's vulnerable and weary, and knows the absolute truth that no one can help him but the Lord.  Our manly man is pouring out his heart in frustration, heaviness and discouragement.  To me, it makes him relatable.

Second, in an instant it's over.  Do you see it?  Look between verses 7 and 8.  In 7 he's wasted away with grief.  Sounds pretty weary to me.  And in 8, he raises up as strong, knowing that God has heard him in his weeping What happened?!

Matthew 11:28 - Come to me you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
Jeremiah 31:25 - For I satisfy the weary ones and refresh everyone who languishes.

And then there's my favorite...

Isaiah 40: 29-31
      He gives strength to the weary,
         And to him who lacks might He increases power.
      Though youths grow weary and tired,
         And vigorous young men stumble badly,
      Yet those who wait for the LORD
         Will gain new strength;
         They will mount up with wings like eagles,
         They will run and not get tired,
         They will walk and not become weary.

So what do we do when we're weary?  Nothing.  We wait.  In other words - stand firm.  God will refresh ~ God will surprise you with is peace and comfort ~ God will strengthen the heart of the broken.

And when He does it... it's not trite.  It's not a cliche.  It's miraculous.

That doesn't change my deep dark crevice at this immediate moment... but maybe it will in the next immediate moment.  Isn't that what the Lord did?  One verse he's wasting away and the next he's been filled with a power that supercedes all expectations.  It's like the passage in Revelation (20:7-9) where Satan has been released from his prison and takes the time to deceive the nations, gathering support from the 'four corners of the earth'.....  (obviously, this would take some time).... in order to make war against the Lord.  Picture it - they march on to war.  They come to the beloved city and they surround.  It takes 2 1/2 verses to build this picture.  It's intimidating.  Their numbers are enormous.  They've taken their time, gathered their resources and now they're mad and filled with evil.  Suddenly - fire falls from heaven and devours them all.

Did you get that?  1/2 a verse and everything that the enemy has spent so much time building is wiped out and eternity spins on the much awaited pivot.  It means that I can trust that there will be a "suddenly" that will soon invade this season, pull my heart out of this weary broken place, and will fill me with hope.  David was in the throws of despair.  We don't even know what the Lord did, but in less than a verse, God refreshed his spirit and David turned on the pivot.

I believe it with my entire being - God will intervene.  And I feel encouraged as I wait for Him....  He's coming.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

When You've Done All~

Have you ever been faced with a place in your life where you know that something drastic has to change?  I'm there. 

I can't explain it.  I don't know why I'm here.  I'm not sure how I got here, but it's a horrible ugly place.  Now, I know that as a child of God I have the wonderful privilege of being hated by the enemy.  Yes, friends, there is a very real enemy who longs for nothing more than to destroy you.  It's a wonderful thing to be hated by him... because it means I must be loved by God.  That's another post for another day...

And we know in our heads that life's journey is not about flat ground - but is full of 'mountains' and 'valleys.' 

But when you're in the valley, it's awful.  It sort of reminds me of those wilderness survival shows where the guy is trying to use ingenuity and a few scrap pieces in order to live until help arrives.  Yeah - that's where I've been. 

Right now, mines not really a valley.  It's more like the crevice that drops 100 feet into a dark hole below the valley.  The most frustrating thing about it is that I can't put my finger on what pushed me over that edge.  For months I've been reminding myself that Scripture shows us that God's favor rests on those who are obedient to Him.  It's clear in so many places - blessings follow obedience, and curses follow disobedience.  Curses???  That's such a scary word.  How 'bout this - 'consequences'.  Much better.

We get that.  Cause and Effect.  If - then statements.  Ball goes up, must come down.  If I don't pay taxes, then I will go to jail.  If you don't go to your college classes, then you'll be paying for your failure.  If the enemy hates me so badly - it must mean I'm greatly loved by the Lord.    

When I was in school, during my Old Testament Survey course, my professor opened my eyes to something I had been completely in the dark about.  There are different types of wisdom.  (Incidentally, he probably said it much more eloquently than I ever could). 

Basically - you have the standard wisdom of - ball goes up, ball comes down.  These are principles noted in scripture such as the beginning of Deuteronomy.  If you obey, God will bless you.  If you disobey, there are consequences.  It's the thought process that rose up in Jesus' disciples when they asked Jesus:

"Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?"

But there's another level of wisdom that we all have trouble understanding.  It's a level of wisdom that is deeper than rational scientific thought.  It says, ball goes up - and might hang out there for awhile, giving you the opportunity to recognize that God is in control of the movement of the ball in the first place.   It's the answer to the question:

"It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him."

So as I look around at the dark crevice below the valley that I seem to be in right now, I have to ask myself the question - is this conventional wisdom?  or is this Spiritual wisdom?  ...  I have searched Him out.  I have prayed and prayed and cried and cried, and I cannot come up with any answers as to why I'm in this place.  It's even debatable whether or not I have the right to question God like that, but along with being my sovereign King, He's also my Father.  And Christ my brother.  And in Jesus' pattern for me, He showed Himself crying out for answers, too.  Psalm 22:1 - "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?"

Do you ever feel that way? 
Is your valley(crevice) experience ever overwhelming and you can't put your finger on how you got there or why it seems you've been abandoned?  Do you ever get weary, waiting for the blessings and favor to show up?  You know they've got to be coming - you've been obedient - and it's a solid principle.  Sow good seed, get good fruit.  So you wait.... and wait..... and fight off the crows.....  You quote the scriptures to yourself to remind yourself that God is never late.  You recount all the times in the past when He has been faithful and come through.  But you're getting tired.  And those crows are relentless... and your body is sore from having to be so strong.  Your arms are heavy.  Your mind is heavy.  Your spirit is heavy. 

I could write something along the lines of - hold fast, help is on the way.  I could tell you of all the passages where God has demonstrated His faithfulness for others.  I could tell you of all the amazing things He has done in the lives of those around us.  People have told me all things things lately. 

If I'm being honest - I would say that it makes me more lonely.  I just keep thinking, He's worked - He's moved on the behalf of others - He's been faithful to so many others.... so what's wrong with me?  Why am I here alone in this smelly crevice that is dank and cold and ominously dark?  Why am I weary with no intervention?  I cannot win.... I cannot even fight anymore.  I know it's not my battle and victory would belong to Him anyway, but it doesn't even look like anyone is fighting at all.  (I think this to myself as the proverbial tumbleweed goes rolling over the top of the crevice, dropping dust and sand into my eyes as it rolls on by). 

Will God come through?  Of course He will.  But what, on earth, am I supposed to learn from this?  If I'm still here, what have I missed? 

The word says in Galatians 6:9 "Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary."  And again in 2 Thessalonians 3:13 "But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good."  But how???  How do you keep from growing weary???

I love Ephesians.  I really do. 
(6:13) "Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm...... (verse 14) STAND FIRM THEN..."

And then there's my favorite passage - Hebrews 12:3 - "For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."  That's fantastic!  Focus on Jesus who has endured so much more than I have.  Yes!!!

But what about the fact that I'm already weary?  We've established that the fighting off of the crows is just about over because every ounce of strength, focus, and stamina is just about used up.  And we all know that I can't up and climb out of this crevice on my own.  I'm tired.  I don't understand.  I can't rationalize what's happening... Hebrews tells me what to do to prevent weariness, but what about when I'm already so broken apart?......Where's the encouraging payoff to this post? 

It's coming.... tomorrow.  


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Pursuit in the Fire~

I really need to write a post about what it means to pursue when you are in the middle of the fire.  I'm there right now...  and when I come out of this furnace my first intent is to honor God with His victory.  For now, I'm walking this out.  I'm holding to faith.  I'm struggling and fighting off discouragement.  I'm trying to learn from those who have been here.  I'm crying at the feet of my Savior.  I'm filling my mind with all that I know He has been - and ...

I'm reminding myself that He's the same yesterday, today, and forever. 

I'm reminding myself that He loves me, and hasn't abandoned me... that the fire will not last forever - though it certainly feels like it already has.....  that He knows me, and loves me, and pursues me too. 

I'm reminding myself that I can't grow weary in well-doing, though it would be so easy to fall apart.... and that God has given me what I need to prevent that weariness - Hebrews 12-13, among others....... that, there is a reward for those who will diligently seek Him.

But this fire? - it's rather hot.  I actually had a dream that lasted all night.  It was a long night and every time I fell back asleep it was the same.  And when I got up in the morning it was the same.  It was a song - running through my mind.  Not even a song, really.  Just a phrase of a song.  It was like a creepy hook that played over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over..... the lyrics are:

You're not good enough
You'll never be...

This has been going on for weeks now, and I'm starting to get battle-weary.  I suppose that is the very essence of pursuit through the fire. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What I've learned...

There are a few things that I can say that I've learned about myself over the past few weeks.  And a few things that I've learned about life, too.  Next week I'll have a post that's pretty in-depth about the state our family has been in for the past couple of weeks, but I wanted to write something here...

Something specific...

Something of a revelation....

What is a revelation?  I think it's when your heart suddenly fully comprehends an increased depth about something that you've already known in your head.  I don't want to spend too much time here, but I'll give a quick example.  I know that God loves me - but I can point to a few specific moments in my life when it was a revelation to me.  At that time, it wasn't that I was ignorant - just that I wasn't able to comprehend or feel how much that God's loved touched every single area of my life.  When the revelation struck my heart, I was completely overwhelmed.  And I do mean completely!

Here's my something of a revelation - having a quiet time in the morning is a good thing.

Duh!  I know - everyone knows this.  I knew it, too.  Day after day I would hear the alarm blaring at 5am, and day after day I would lay there for "just a couple more minutes."  I'm ashamed.  I know it's awful.  I should be wired and fired excited to get up and spend a quiet hour with the Lord before my house turns into a bussel of chaos as we try to get everyone out the door for work and school. 

And if I exposed myself here, I would tell you that I actually do love that time.  Truly.  But I hate getting up that early.  I don't know what it is.

Anyway, these past few weeks I've made the commitment to 'crucify' the stubborness that wants to keep my head on the lovely feather pillow.  I've made strong determinations to do it.  And I have done it.  Steadily.  And I've found that this quiet little sacrifice has radically changed everything about my day.  You know, it's just a lot more Christlike.  Not that I'm boasting, because I know that there's a lot more Christlikeness that needs to develope in me - just ask my husband.  But I find myself leaning toward better reactions to life.

And then this morning happened. 

In all my stubborn determination to get myself out of bed, when for some reason I was exceptionally tired, I was late.  Ok, I reasoned.  Well, I won't get as much time as I wanted to - but I'll have plenty of time to pray for my husband, then my children, and then my ministry and business.  Out of bed I climbed - turned on Pandora radio to a Fernando Ortega station (perfect for the 5am hour!) and sat in the same spot on the same couch that I've been sitting when I meet with the Lord on these quiet mornings. 

Literally - as soon as I opened my mouth to pray, I hear footsteps.  That's the baby.... and then heavier footsteps... that's the young man.  Out they come, bright eyed and ready to go - the baby running a 102.6 fever, and the 8 year old with his Nintendo game system, wanting his little brother to play with him. 

Where does all that energy come from?  I usually have to PRY him out of his bed to get ready for school.  And before I could force my brain through that, I wonder why moment, the baby was spilling his apple juice on me. 

Ah yes - do you know what the grace of God is?  He gave it to me this morning, as I calmly and gently dried off, and sent them back to their room to play quietly so that I could have a few minutes alone.  It did not go unnoticed, however, that when the day usually starts off like that, it doesn't normally go very well.  I prayed quickly for my husband and children - and it was time to start the chaos routine. 

And then I realized - maybe I didn't have an hour this morning.  But the Lord has given me grace all day long.  Having that time with the Lord every other day has prepared my spirit to respond to life so that, even when that quiet time gets interrupted, I still can hold to the character that Christ is building in me.  I love that.

Thank you, Lord, that you have given me the opportunity to meet with you in the mornings.  And thank you that when things go haywire and it doesn't go the way it should, there is grace to help me through.  Because I have a relationship with you, I don't need to worry about mornings like today.  I trust in your ability to hold me near, even when the baby is sick and fevered when I've set time aside to meet with you.

You are not limited to my hour of prayer, and your hand is not held back ... my heart desires you!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Teaching the baby ~

Okay, so she's not really a baby, actually.  My little girl is growing up so fast, and last night was one of the times when I really noticed. 

The boys had gone to bed, and we were sitting on the couch together.  Just me and my girl.  There is a book that I have decided to read to her called The Power of a Praying Kid by Stormie Omartian, and this was our first night.  I would read awhile, and she would ask questions - all the while I could really feel the open, honest, reality of God's love and affection for her very present in that moment. 

We started talking about how precious she is to God, and I saw the tears welling up in her eyes.  I told her how much he loves her, and that he's always close to her.  She asked Jesus into her heart several years ago, but this was a new moment for her.  It was a revelation.  As we talked, I noticed her curiosity about God was incredible, but the things that really reached her were the personal, intimate things that He is to her.  When I told her that she could pray and He would always listen, even if she were praying silently in her head, she was so filled with joy that tears fell as she giggled. 

Have you ever been that overwhelmed with joy?  - so much that you laugh and cry at the same time?  I have. 

I sent her off to bed and when I stepped down the hall to check on her some minutes later, I could hear her whispering.  I smiled.  She was taking another step in her pursuit. 
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