Friday, April 18, 2014

TGIF

TGIF!

We wait for it, anticipate it, look forward to it all week. For most, Friday is the first indication we've made it through another week. Another week of school, work, responsibilities coming to a close. It usually comes with a sense of accomplishment, a feeling of relief that the weekend is within reach. 

It's Friday. It should bring celebration and rejoicing but on this Good Friday it brings a different kind of feeling. I'm reminiscent, reflective, contemplative of what this day represents. 

"It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. When he had said this, he breathed his last." Luke 23:44-45

It seems ironic to reference this day as "Good Friday," but it comes as no surprise that simple research reports that Good Friday is a day of prayer, repentance and reflection to meditate on the agony, suffering and ultimate sacrifice of Christ's death on the cross on this day 2000 years ago. 

It doesn't necessarily come with "celebration," but rather commemoration of what Christ did - the cost of my sin, the sacrifice He endured, the exchange of His life for mine. 

If ever there was a Friday to look forward to, today is the day. We honor His life, His death on the cross, His sacrifice. We know today marks the beginning of the biggest weekend there ever was. If ever there was a weekend to look forward to, it is this weekend. It is looking forward to what we know comes on Sunday. Thanking God it's Friday takes on a whole new meaning when we know that Sunday is coming!

TGIF...Thank You, Lord, for this day. This Friday. This Good Friday that serves as a reminder of the cross you endured. This day that brings your life on earth to close yet represents the resurrection and the gift of eternal life that is ours to come. This Friday that stands in remembrance of the suffering when You chose to take my place. This day when You traded Your will for God's plan. This weekend when You overcame death. Yes, TGIF!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Do you see me?

I can see you hurting and I know that you're in pain...

To the one who's in the thick of the battle, court dates and lawyers, bitter fights and gruesome accusations. The divorce is inevitable. Your heart is breaking over the children, the love lost, the choices made, the destruction that follows. I can see you hurting.

To the one whose heart is breaking, wrestling with all the things you were told, every word you bought as truth, now somehow trying to convince your mind and your heart that this ache will go away. Your loneliness is suddenly magnified. Your singleness once again identified. I can see you hurting.

To the one who is yet again undergoing tests, waiting for results, visiting doctor after doctor, and enduring appointment after appointment, praying for wisdom with treatment plans, praying for an even bigger miracle. Your strength and faith is to be admired, yet I can see you hurting.

To the one who is waiting, yet another month goes by and disappointment comes once again. You've cried tears too many times. You wonder why God would give you this desire without giving you a child. You endeavor such a private, painful struggle, enduring all the questions of unknowing friends who wonder when you're going to have a baby. I can see you hurting. 

To the one who finds yourself with an unexpected pregnancy. You certainly didn't see this coming. You know this baby is a gift from God, but you're having a hard time understanding His plan in the midst of all that swirls around you. I can see you hurting. 

To the one who sits alone, wondering if your marriage will ever survive. Hope and prayer seem too far gone for you at this point. No one truly knows the ache in your heart and the depth of the distance that's grown between you. It would take a miracle now, and that's the only thing you hold onto. I can see you hurting. 

To the one who feels too far from grace. Your burden is laden with guilt, weighing you down to the point of paralyzation. You wonder how forgiveness could ever be yours. You feel too far beyond His reach, too covered in sin to ever be redeemed. I can see you hurting. 

I've been there too. Hiding the silent pain you endure, wrestling with hope, prayer and reality. Trying to make sense of your circumstances, and trying to find the strength to make it through one more day. 

You are never beyond His reach. Your burden is never too much for Him to bear. This is the point, at the very pit of the valley you find yourself in, where you look up and let The Lord take over. Your miracle may not come right away - and it may not come the way you expect or are praying. But rest assured this is exactly where He gives you the strength to make it one day at a time. He sees you and He knows - the pain you're hiding, the tears you silently cry. 

He knit together the very heart that is crushed within you. He formed the very spirit that is now too weak to carry on. He breathed life into the flesh and bones that seem to be failing you. 

He sees you hurting. He knows you're in pain. He sees every tear and knows every ache in your soul. He sees you, He knows you, He created you, He loves you and He has never left you. 


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Just One Touch

"Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, "If only I can touch his cloak, I will be healed."
Matthew 9:20-21

Just one touch. That's all she was after. Whether she wasn't brave enough, not feeling worthy enough, or simply not able to press beyond the crowd, she wasn't even face-to-face. She approached Him from behind seeking one touch. 

Just the edge. Other translations refer to the hem, the fringe, or even the tassel. Just one tassel. One thread of his garment. Just the very bottom - the fringe that most likely resulted from wear and tear. All she needed was one shred of His garment. 

"Jesus turned and saw her. "Take heart, daughter," he said, "your faith has healed you." And the woman was healed from that moment." Matthew 9:22

Her faith had healed her. Through the power of Jesus Christ and the faith she certainly clung to, the suffering she'd endured for 12 long years was instantaneously healed from that very moment of her great exchange with Christ.

It's a nice story to read. One of distinct faith and awesome power, but in the present day I wonder if we can find the application for ourselves. Do we seek Him so directly? Do we believe with wholehearted faith that just one touch, just one fringe would be enough to provide the healing we seek? Do we have faith that such an encounter would instantly and dramatically change our lives? 

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30

When we cast our burden on Him, when we take His yoke, it is a spiritual transaction. We must acknowledge that He is sovereign and in control of our lives. The outcome is ultimately up to Him. The faith in Him is up to us. We make a spiritual exchange, lightening our own burden by taking on the rest He promises. When we give Him our burden, we relinquish the responsibility that we are somehow in charge of things beyond our control. 

We may not find instantaneous relief from the suffering of our circumstances, but we can immediately receive peace and rest from Him at work in our lives. Just one touch from Him, just one heart pursuing Him so directly, just one moment, just one exchange of our burden for His yoke that is light. 

Reach out and touch His hem. Seek Him. Be willing in faith to exchange your burden for His peace. He is just one touch away. 



Tuesday, April 8, 2014

My Delight

"Delight yourself in The Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4

Oh yes, Lord. How many times have I prayed this to you? Too many times for me to recall, I've come to you with the desires of my heart. 

Your word says... That God-breathed scripture I've read over and over, underlined and even prayed gives me full access to You with my heart's desires. Right?!

I feel it. I can almost feel the pity party getting ready to start. I am, of course, the hostess and will be donning my crown of whining complaints. He is nonetheless the guest of honor, invited by my beckoning prayers to tell Him over and over again what it is I desire and why I want Him to "bless" me with an affirmative to my requests.

"Whom have I in heaven but You? Earth has nothing I desire besides You." Psalm 73:25

Oh dear. Oh no. That simply... I've gotten it all wrong. 

Oh Lord, I haven't been desiring YOU. I'm upset. Confused. I don't understand. I don't know why there would even be this desire placed in my heart if it's not YOUR WILL! Take it away! Remove it completely! Replace MY desire for what I want with a desire for ONLY YOU.

"My flesh and my heart may fail but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." Psalm 73:26

Yes, Lord! It is so true of me! My flesh is willing but weak. My heart is full but often overwhelmed. Be my strength. Be my vision. Be my desire. Be ALL that I seek, need, ask or desire. Be everything to me. Be my everything. 

"Delight yourself in The Lord..."

I missed it. I skipped right over it. I jumped way ahead to what I want, what I think is best, what I choose, what I desire for myself and my life. Take me back, God. Take me back to You. Take Your rightful place as the desire of my heart. You are my delight!


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Killing Time

I was killing time. Leisurely browsing and enjoying a few moments when I wasn't actually rushing here, there and everywhere. 

I felt as though my random stop was being utterly blessed when I found a literal steal on some household items that we could really use. I was so excited about these finds I think I might have been skipping to the register. Don't mistake my enthusiasm for being in a hurry. I certainly was not. 

There was only one register open without walking to the opposite end of the sore so I chose to wait despite 5 people already in line. After all, I was killing time anyway. 

I could sense someone in line behind me as I waited my turn. I admit I was somewhat zoned out until I could hear the person huffing and puffing, heaving huge sighs of impatience. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the person peering around me trying to see how many people were ahead. The foot started to tap. I sensed my own self getting annoyed, not at the wait, but at the one behind me unwilling to wait. Then out of the corner of my other eye there was more peering an more sighing. 

I was at the point where I was debating in my mind. Do I turn around? Do I say something to her? It wasn't really my place but now the man in front of me was aware as she was causing such an obvious distraction with her hurried antics. I refrained from an out loud outburst that would remind her we all would get a turn. In the very beginning when I first realized her hurry I contemplated letting her in front of me. At this point I had fully decided I would take my rightful turn in line and even make pleasantries with the cashier. 

It was my turn to have my items scanned  and I made small talk with the lady ringing me up. We talked about the incredible deal I was getting and both agreed it was quite a find. I took the opportunity to glance back at the rushed person who had been behind me. I took a quick look at first... Then did a double take as she recognized me and I knew exactly who she was. FROM MY CHURCH. 

"Oh hi," she said. 

I smiled and said hello back. She must have been embarrassed because suddenly she was joining in the conversation about my purchase. 

I wished everyone a wonderful day along with the reminder to, "take time to enjoy this beautiful day."

I didn't care if she knew that I knew she had been so impatient. I didn't care if my reminder was inappropriate, it was certainly warranted. 

By the time I got to my car I knew that I could have just as easily, and most certainly have already been, that impatient and hurried woman. "Dear Lord, help me not to be so impatient that time starts to kill me."

It was an honest reminder to me today. I pray it will be to you, too. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

30

It's been 30 years.

30 years ago today.

You know how much I love birthdays and celebrating, so I couldn't rest my eyes tonight without acknowledging today, March 31.

It's my spiritual birthday. The 30th anniversary of the day I asked Jesus to come into my heart. I was 5 years old. I can still recall kneeling beside my bed. I can recall coming home from church just desperate to talk to my mom. I knew I couldn't wait one more minute. I have this fuzzy picture in my mind of the scene. A moment frozen in time that would change my entire life. 

As I watch the childlike faith of my own 5 year old as he deals with his own belief in God, I can more clearly understand what my own mentality must have been at the time. 

I've spent the vast majority of my life knowing and trusting in Christ as my Savior, and then pursuing a relationship with Him as Lord of my life. I wish I could say that has happened without fail, but I'd be remisce if I didn't acknowledge the times I've fallen, gone astray, lost my way. There's parts of the journey where I can look back and see how my faith increased, how my eyes were fixed on Him. There are other marks along the way that indicate my fallen flesh and faulty faith. Yet through it all, one thing has remained and that is He's never let go of me. 

This day, March 31st, 1984, was the day I gave my heart and life to Christ. It's the day eternal salvation became mine. Though I've stumbled and lost my way, my soul will never be lost from the grip of grace held by my Savior. 

Everyday is a day my life has been marked by this life-altering decision to follow Christ. To know Him as Savior and to place Him Lord over my life. Not just to claim the gift of salvation during one prayer some 30 years ago, but to forever change my life each and everyday for the past 30 years...and for the rest of my very existence. 

Thank You, Lord, for saving my soul!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Covered

I sat in silence. The sun hadn't quite yet made its appearance. It was a cool spring morning, early and peaceful. I'd been awake for awhile and not really sure why my head and my heart could not find rest. Thankful for the extra time, I was looking forward to concentrated, uninterrupted time alone with The Lord. I was not prepared for what was to come.

It started with overwhelming conviction. Layer upon layer peeled back as light revealed darkness. Unconfessed sin. Regret. Guilt. Past mistakes. Recent failures. Carnality that still exists. It came as a flood, overwhelming me and knocking me to my knees. There I was. Covered in nothing but disgrace. 

I wasn't prepared for the anguish my soul would feel, the tears that so easily flowed. I think one of the most gruesome things we face as believers is the moment we come face to face with the mirror God holds up before us and reveals to us how wrong we were about ourselves. It's that time when we had thought we were doing "okay" - when life seemed to be going smoothly, most things were uncomplicated. Living without any apparent need, no desperate situation that requires a lot of attention. Feeling as though most of your choices and recent decisions are following along God's plan. Time with Him becomes more of a routine or habit, not a time where we actually hear from Him. Not today. Not this time. I was covered in it. 

Then He reveals things as He sees them. Maybe something from the past. Maybe a situation you had never thought was wrong. Maybe an emotion, reaction, interaction, encounter. Something you missed, overlooked, didn't handle correctly, or flat-out disobeyed. Something you might not have been aware of but now staring right back at you is undeniably left undealt with. 

I was overcome with all of these. It wasn't just one thing - it was a host of them. I was overcome with emotion. Ashamed at myself. Asking God for forgiveness. Praying for Him to burn away the chaff, to remove all signs of carnal flesh and continue the sanctification process in my life. 

There's nothing sweeter than the grace that He brings after these moments of raw openness before Him. When you sit before The Lord and He brings to light everything that has fallen outside of His perfect will, it is the most humbling and catastrophic feeling. You are stripped of every accomplishment, every compliment, every high and lofty thought you once held of yourself. Broken down to nothing, wondering and questioning how He could even love a wretch such as me. At that very point of brokenness is where His lavish love extends arms of grace and mercy, stretching out as they once did when He paid for each and every sin, then wrapping around you with a covering of redemption and forgiveness. And there I was. Covered completely by His grace. 

Make no mistake, we do not sin just to receive forgiveness. Yet in the moment we realize how much He loves us, it helps bring an understanding of exactly why He paid the price with His own life. 

In the midst of these tender moments with my loving Savior, this song began to play on the radio. I had been unaware of the radio until the moment I heard,

He is jealous for me, loves like a hurricane, I am a tree
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy
When all of a sudden I am unaware of these afflictions
Eclipsed by glory and I realize just how beautiful You are
And how great Your affections are for me

Oh, how He loves, yeah, He loves us
Oh, how He loves us, oh, how He loves us
Oh, how He loves

Yes, truly. There I sat with all my afflictions eclipsed by His magnificent glory. Bending like a tree beneath His mercy, realizing His beautiful love for me.

Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed me white as snow. 

Here I am. Covered.