Friday, December 30, 2011

Old and New

I got a new curio cabinet for Christmas to replace the one I lost in the fire. Because of the carpet being replaced at the time of the blaze, the contents of my old cabinet had been emptied and wrapped and placed in a box. When we examined the damage, my curio had landed face down, shattered and destroyed, so it was a true miracle and blessing to know that everything that had once been neatly displayed inside was saved from utter destruction. It was 8 months yesterday since the fire happened, and today I proudly displayed the prized possessions I'd collected over the years in my new cabinet. 

I unwrapped each piece and had to diligently clean ash and soot off of nearly every item. There are still permanent marks on some of the pieces - forever reminders of the fire that changed everything. After being packed away for almost a year, the smell of smoke still lingered. The hand-carved olive wood nativity I purchased while visiting Israel permeates the undeniable and unforgettable smell of smoke.

I carefully displayed each item, recalling the memory, person, or circumstance attached to each collectible. The first item I pulled from the box was an Amethyst Fenton vase. It had been Nanny's. We shared the amethyst birthstone with our birthdays only a week a part, and her love of purple was evident in her Fenton collection. It brought me to tears. The wave of emotion overcame me. Missing Nanny. Wishing she could see her great grandchildren and have spent Christmas with us like Poppy did. Recalling the fire and all this past year has brought. The destruction and demolition of one house. The building and starting over of another. Trials. Pain. Hurt. Loss. New Beginnings.


Today there's a new cabinet with a bunch of old and even tarnished pieces that hold new and old memories for me. On display, they hold no value to guests. But to me, they hold priceless memories of the past and hopeful promises for the future.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Joy and Peace

At this time of year, I see cards and ornaments adorned with the words "peace" and "joy."

"Joy to the world..." we sing.

"Peace on earth..." we hope for.

Both joy and peace acting as emotions can seem difficult to achieve. When circumstances seem to produce only disappointment and heartache, how can joy and peace abound?

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13

When we trust in Sovereign God, HE alone will fill us with joy and peace - despite our circumstance, no matter the things we face - we are able to overflow with hope. And HOPE gives us the belief that we can still anticipate, expect and desire more - something else - a change, regardless of our current situation.

If we lose hope, we lose the faith that keeps us expectant and, well, hopeful. While we wait, we can still be filled with joy and peace.

Joy - not circumstantial happiness. Deeply rooted in our faith in God, being joyful always - regardless of the situation.

Peace - being still before the Lord, experiencing His peace despite the storm that may rage around us.

Regardless of your circumstance. Despite your situation. May He fill you with joy and peace. May His hope abound in you, to the point of overflowing.

May it be

"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Luke 2:38

Mary's response to the angel is a reminder to me that our response to God could alter our role in His plan.

I've always heard the call to action to "see what God is doing and join with Him." Meaning, God's plan and purpose will be accomplished no matter what - and whether or not I'm a part depends on my response.

We see Isaiah ready and willing when the call came asking who would go and his response was, "Here am I, send me." (Isaiah 6:8)

In Luke 2 Mary had been chosen. She was specifically picked for this mission. And yet when the angel came to her, he didn't say she was ALREADY with child - he said she WOULD BE with child. If she had responded differently than "May it be..." I suppose there would be a different story to tell. But then again, I guess her response is exactly why she was the girl for the job. She had already found favor with the Lord. And yet in that moment she could have chosen her plan over God's.

Of course, it's a reminder we're given free will. We have the "right" to choose. But when we surrender our right to ourselves, laying down the flesh and taking on the spiritual, we not only get to join in with God's purpose, we can be invited. When God comes to us with His plan, we can be ready to respond, "May it be..."

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Everyone has Christmas memories. A special ornament that reminds you of a childhood craft project. A batch of baked goods that takes you back to familiar smells and tastes of your family kitchen. If you're like me, there's a number of them stored in your memory bank. And for me, today it was a song.

It was this time 12 years ago (gulp - I will not admit my age) when I was riding across the countryside of England with collegemates on a Christmas mission trip. Learning the proper etiquette of high tea and grabbing onto the lingo of saying "Cheers" instead of hello was not why we had come. Our ministry was in prisons. To inmates. Criminals. It was a ministry called "Within the Walls" and we sang Christmas carols and performed drama presentations to present the love of Christ - no better time than Christmastime.

One of the songs we sang was Phillips Craig & Dean "O Come O Come Emmanuel" and I heard it today and it took me back. England is cold and bleak at this time of year, but even colder was behind the stone walls and iron gates of the prisons. Even colder than that were some of the hearts that had seemingly turned to stone. But that's not the memory I went back to. Instead I was reminded of the warmth and love that we shared - and received - from convicted criminals who needed to hear of a Savior sent to change the world - their world.

I received several letters after that trip and one of them wrote:"Thanks for your concert and all the joy that you brought. Thanks for your spirits in your thoughts and as you sang. Thanks for reminding us that He still guides us above - even behind these walls. But most of all, thanks for reminding us we are loved. I thought I'd been abandoned for I know I've done wrong. But the Lord is always our Savior and now I know His love will keep me strong."

You might not be behind walls, but your heart may be imprisoned. You may not be locked up, but you may be searching for freedom. Maybe your Christmas memories aren't as pleasant. Maybe reminiscing stirs up emotions that are hard to deal with.

But at this time of year, with the reminder of this song, I'm also reminded He is Emmanuel - God with us - wherever we are, whatever situation we're in, no matter how difficult, regardless of our position.

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Is your heart held captive by the situation you're in? Are you mourning in loneliness? REJOICE! He is Emmanuel, God with us, Appearing to us.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Are the dark shadows casting gloom over you? REJOICE! He is Emmanuel. God with us, able to remove the shadows and clouds.

Rejoice. He is Emmanuel. No matter what you face. No matter what state you're in. Regardless of your circumstance. He is Emmanuel - God with you. Coming to you, O Son, O Daughter.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1R0ki-QTkmc

What are you waiting for?

I'm reposting a Note from 12/16/09 but something still applicable a year later.

I'm usually the one with the most Christmas spirit to share. I did put up my Christmas tree in mid-November. But lately, I've been wrapped up in the whirlwind of everything else that seems to be demanding my attention. I decided to start reading the Christmas story in an effort to remember it's not about gifts or parties or cards - or even feelings...and to truly CELEBRATE the season and all that it means.

Luke 2. It's all there - clear and simple. The Christmas story. As I started to read a bit further, I discovered an unusual part of the story that you don't normally hear sermons on. Verses 25-33.

There was a man called Simeon - "He was waiting..." (vs. 25) "The Holy Spirit was upon him..." (vs. 25) "It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit..." (vs. 26) "Moved by the Spirit..." (vs. 27)

He was waiting for the Messiah. But it wasn't as if he was just an empty shell waiting...he was hopeful and full of the Spirit. Waiting because of what God had revealed - what God had trusted him with.

As I've now had the joy of cradling my own son, I wonder how Mary felt kissing the face of God. SHE KISSED THE FACE OF GOD! What an amazing thought! All the ridicule, the heartache, the mortifying moments she faced being pregnant and alone...was it all worth it when she held her Savior in her arms and rocked him to sleep? What she had waited for...the promise of hope for all the world...had been delivered.

"But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." (vs. 19)

I asked myself today - what am I waiting for? Am I waiting for Christmas day to feel joy? Am I waiting until I buy presents? Send cards? Celebrate with friends or family? Am I waiting for a change? Am I waiting for a miracle?

More importantly...do I trust God to do it?! Whatever it is I'm waiting for, do I trust He will? Simeon did. It had been revealed to him that he would see the Messiah before he died. And he waited. He waited longingly, expectantly. He waited with hope. And as soon as he saw him, he knew God's promise had been fulfilled and he said, "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, You now dismiss your servant in peace." (vs. 29b)

He knew God was faithful to fulfill His promise. And once He had, Simeon was ready to go. His lifetime spent waiting was all worthwhile upon seeing and receiving salvation (vs. 30).

Today I'm hopeful. I'm celebrating the joy of Christmas in my heart. Trusting that God will do what He's promised. And believing that while I'm waiting, I can be hopeful, filled, even joyful.

I pray, too, that you find the Sovereign Lord faithful, just as He has promised, to deliver His hope and joy to you this season.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Good Intentions

It's December 21. Four days til Christmas. I'm full of good intentions and all the things I've wanted to do:
- Bake bread & Christmas goodies for the neighbors
- Handmade ornaments for a few who had monumental happenings this year
- Personalized gifts for loved ones
- Homemade ornaments for Elijah's for buddies and teachers
- Photo gifts for family members
- Christmas cards for friends
- More decor for the house
- More ornaments for the tree
....

I've got just four days to make it all happen. And I must be honest with myself - it's just not going to all get done.

I'm full of good intentions...but sometimes I lack follow through. It's usually the result of taking on more than I can handle, juggling too much at one time, and inevitably dropping the ball somewhere along the way.

Is it a character flaw? I'd like to think not. I'd rather call it the result of being overwhelmed, overworked and overcommitted. Whatever the case, I still have to take responsibility for the fact that good intentions and well meaning thoughts don't equate to the heartfelt gift of love or appreciation I had wanted to share.

The truth is I can share the Christmas spirit without my baked goods or homemade ornaments or personalized gifts.  I don't need more ornaments on the tree or to mail out Christmas cards to be mindful of the reason we celebrate.

In fact, I'm starting to wonder...if Christmas parties are so much fun and giving gifts is such a blessing, why don't we do this all year long? Why do we have to cram the month of December with an abundance of activity to the point that any normal person couldn't possibly get it all done? There are 11 other months, right? What about a friendly game of dirty Santa during April showers? Or a cookie exchange in August? Could a personalized gift mean just as much - maybe more - in October?

With four days left before Christmas and 11 days before the beginning of 2012, I'm determined not to let unfulfilled good intentions result in guilt. Rather, I'm hoping the idea of "it's the thought that counts" can help extend the deadline beyond December 25th and well into next year...or at least until I can get the list checked off!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Weak

I sat tonight and read through letter after letter, all recommendations written by my staff. A tribute they'd worked so diligently to compile as I prepare to wrap up my tenure as Career Center Director and transition to a new phase of my life and career. Accolades of my leadership, compliments of my encouragement, testimonies of inspiration. In their effort to share how I had impacted their lives over the last 4.5 years, I was overwhelmed by the impact they've all had on me and the realization that followed.

By this stage in my life I know a lot about who I am. No, I don't have it all figured out. I just mean  I can look at you and tell you what I'm good at and what my limitations are. I can easily identify my strengths and weaknesses in relation to a situation (and not just the canned interview answer). I have a lot of vision and creativity but I'm keenly aware that the best ideas are worth nothing if there is no action plan.

As I read through their words of encouragement, I realized that where I thrive is helping people realize their potential and through doses of reality, criticism and encouragement, seeing them reach it.

But if I'm being honest (you know me...) then I must admit my failures and flaws. No, this is not me seeking an empty compliment or needing affirmation about an area of insecurity. This is me digging down deep and realizing even at my strongest and best I am nothing more than inadequate.

It's humbling, really, and I don't mean that in the sense that I need to acknowledge my lowly state. But when you're suddenly faced with the reality of someone or a circumstance pointing out your ugly flaw, you get hurt. Typically, defenses go up with impenetrable walls meant to shield from the darting arrows of truth that might seek to destroy the cover. Feeling the need to retaliate, the attack ensues.

You're insecure. Dart!

You're nothing. Dart!

You're incapable. Dart!

You're ___________ (Fill in the blank). Dart!

It's bloody. The wounds are deep, even deeper are the emotional scars that have been ripped open. You feel worthless and thoughts turn toward how you surely deserved the attack you have endured.

A weakness is the state of being weak, not strong, or lacking. But there's more to the definition. Just like a choc-o-holic says chocolate is her weakness, the weakness becomes the object of her desire.

This can be used for good...or for bad. If the object of your desire is something you shouldn't be seeking, then you must run. I don't mean just stay away. I mean take off clear in the other direction and get as far away as you can. Your weakness - "the sin" that so easily entangles - must become a matter of continual prayer and accountability to give it over to God.

But in acknowledging your point of failure, admitting your flaws, and seeking the Lord's power to perfect your weakness, the object of your desire becomes Him.

Is it easy? No. It's a daily - sometimes hourly or by-the-minute struggle. But through Him you too can be an overcomer and conqueror. Even in your weakness. You're going to fail. You're going to stumble. You're going to hurt. You're going to feel and be weak. You are. And now that you've admitted it, be ready to do something about it! Just remember, you're not alone. We're doing this together.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Perfect

Have you ever looked at someone's situation and wondered how they could make it through? You'd like to believe you'd offer as much grace and dignity if you were faced with the same circumstance, but the truth is you just don't know how you'd respond.

I will never forget a funeral for a nearly 30 year old man who died just months after being diagnosed with stomach cancer. With 3 small children and the fourth yet to be born, this young widow stood to her feet among a packed sanctuary of people there to honor and remember her husband. With children by her side and hands raised in the air, she stood and praised the Lord as the music swelled to "Give us peace". We weren't crying - we were all sobbing. Four children left without a father, one who would never even meet his dad. A young stay-at-home mom grieved for the loss of her best friend and life partner. A talented musician and godly example, certainly a life taken too soon. It just didn't make sense. And there she was - giving God the glory. It brings tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat just to recall that moment. Truly, she was given grace beyond what I can imagine.

"...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." Hebrews 12:1 (emphasis mine)

But does it work the opposite way? What about "the sin" that so easily entangles? I heard a sermon once talking about "the sin." You see, your sin isn't necessarily my sin. "THE thing" that can entrap me may be a non-issue for you.

Sure, you can stand back and judge an alcoholic when you yourself have never even taken a sip, but what about the way you binge on food you know isn't healthy for your body? You might wonder how someone could get trapped by the disgusting addiction of pornography but what about the habitual and hurtful gossip you continue to spread? One may seem like such a fool who's fallen into a pit of sin, but isn't there grace enough for even he? Even she? Even me?

That same grace extended to the widow at her husband's funeral to stand and praise God is not the same grace I will receive to overcome what I am facing. (Hang with me here.) Rather, it's the grace that God knows I need for MY situation.

"But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me." 2 Corinthians 12:9

Whatever my weakness may be - a problem, a difficult circumstance, a habitual sin, an addiction, maybe something out of my hands - His power is made perfect in MY situation. The recipe for His power resting on me is my absolute need of Him. I don't have to hide my weakness because I can boast - or proclaim - it is in that situation where I know His strength is with me. And not only do I get His strength, but His PERFECT strength! The same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead (See Romans 8:11).

As if you need the definition of perfect...but indulge me. I think you'll like this!

Perfect - exactly fitting the need in a certain situation or for a certain purpose

Yes, yes, yes!  

Oh, praise the Lord! I don't have to be perfect. I don't have to try to attain perfection. I can admit my weakness and allow His perfect strength and power to rest on me. Now before I get away from "the sin" Hebrews 12 talks about, let's revisit the verse. 

Throw off what hinders you. This is a casting aside of your burdens, your cares, your problems, your sin.

Run the race with perseverance. You can't just sit on the sidelines. You must be willing to run. 

Then Hebrews 12:2-3 "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

Set your eyes on Him and Him alone. Let Him perfect you and your faith. Remember what He endured. Do not lose heart. Don't try to be perfect. Just let His strength be made perfect in you.

Keep reading Hebrews 12...verses 4-13 for more encouragement. Maybe part 2 tomorrow...

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Change is coming...

The wind is howling as I type. It was 60 degrees today despite the rain but the temperature has drastically dropped. It's cold and blustery. As in knock you down, blow you over. The winds of change signaling the onset of winter.

A few days ago I tweeted a blog by Clayton King that caused some heads to roll. I'm not trying to send any mixed signals or subliminal messages. It's true; there are things in life that will drain the life out of you and the only response should be to cut them off, cut them out, eliminate what robs you of your job and creativity. Anything that could pose as an attack or threat to your relationship with Christ may ultimately be something that needs to be cut out.

Then I read the short devotional below, words from God to anyone facing change:
SMALL STRAWS IN A SOFT WIND by Marsha Burns

"You have been in a time of old things coming to an end.  And, even though you cannot see ahead to know what is coming, you can trust Me to continue to shut the doors that need to be shut and to open the doors that need to be opened.  Do not be afraid, for I am with you to bring you into divine purpose and destiny, and I will fill the void in your heart and any sense of emptiness that has resulted from changes that are taking place, says the Lord.  Put your trust in Me."

Revelation 3:8  "I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name."

Here's what I need to say before anyone else freaks out. I know a lot of people who need to read Clayton King's blog because of people, addictions, situations or 'things' in their lives that need to be cut off. I also know a lot of people who need the above words as confirmation that this time of old things is in fact coming to an end with the promise of new things to come. There are people who need to be affirmed that doors will be opened by God and no one can interfere with HIS plan. There are others who may not be able to rest tonight without knowing the void in their heart will be filled. Do you hear me on this?!

I share from my heart. Remember "sharing my business without telling all my business?"  So what I'm sharing right now is real and personal to me for a lot of reasons, some known and some not. But it's also because I know people and I know their struggles. And in my own situations, trials and circumstances, I'm praying that somehow a lesson or word of encouragement that God gives me might also be a blessing to someone else. 

So whether you're looking at the enemy attacking your life and trying to muster up the strength to cut it off, or if you're waiting for the doors of change to fling open while your present circumstance becomes a thing of the past, this blog is for you. It's so you know there's hope in the midst of the devastation; comfort in the midst of pain. Really, it's so you know - whatever the circumstance - you're not alone. 

The winds of change are coming. A new day. A new season. A new opportunity. You must cut off anything that hinders you from being faithful to God so that He might have full access to your life - every part, even the flaws and failures - so He can make room for the new doors to fling wide open.  You can look change in the eyes and say you're ready.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Be Encouraged

A broken down car. An unfulfilled dream. A shattered relationship. A lost loved one. An unexpected illness. A disappointment. A failure. A broken heart. It seems the devastation is all around. And whatever form it comes in, you may find yourself at a place where you simply don't know what to do. Your situation seems hopeless. Your circumstance seems impossible. And what's worse, you just don't have the strength to go on.

Someone said to me, "I just need someone to tell me it's going to be okay." I hear ya, friend, I hear ya. Because in the middle of the storm you're weathering, you simply can't do anything but drown in your circumstance. Feeling every piece of your broken situation, the burden seems overwhelming.

My words alone offer no hope. My feeble insight is not life-changing. My story is not yours. Though my pain is real to me, I may not be able to relate to what you're experiencing. Still, I am here to testify.

"It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed." Deuteronomy 31:8

Whatever you're facing, He's right there with you. He's making a way. Though you're drudging through the mire and muck, He's already helped clear away the brush and brambles that would have prevented you from moving at all.

"My presence will go with you and I will give you rest." Exodus 33:14

Oh someone needs to know this! Sister, brother - His presence is with you! Even when you don't feel it. Even when you can't pray. Even when your heart is so downcast within you - He is RIGHT THERE! Ready to give you rest. Lean back against Him, feel His heartbeat, and breathe in His goodness!

"Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all His benefits - who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's." Psalm 103:2-5

Yes, you read that right. His ways are good and He desires to give you good things. He not only renews you, He redeems you! Oh, praise Him! He forgives and He heals. From the bottom of the depths of the pit you've fallen into, He reaches down not only to restore you but to adorn you with His love and compassion! I need to shout HALLELUJAH!!!

"I am about to do something new, even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert." Isaiah 43:18

And there it is. Claim His promise. Whether this is just a brief storm or if this is the fight of your life, you and I both need to be reminded that He is preparing us for His work. He is making a way where there seems to be no way. He is bringing new life where all things seem to have died. He is about to do something new!

Like I said, my words aren't magical but I pray with all of my own broken heart that you can bask in His goodness and give glory to His name even when all you feel is brokenness and pain. He IS faithful!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Real & Raw...A Prayer to Share


(DISCLAIMER: This is real. It's raw. It's from deep within my soul. And ordinarily something that leaves me so vulnerable wouldn't be something I share. But there are too many people who've crossed my path recently who are hurting, and well, this is for you, too. You may be like me - sometimes to a point where you're so broken, so hurt, so blocked, you don't even know what to pray - or how to pray. So this is for you, too.)

I’m trying to fight this feeling I cannot seem to overcome. It’s as if the enemy himself has a grip so tight I cannot escape, let alone breathe. I am held in the vice of my emotions – desire, emptiness, loneliness, brokenness, jealousy, guilt, disappointment, oppression, defiance, insecurity… I simply cannot get free. I want so badly to let go. I want to give up. I want to experience freedom. I want to know peace. On every angle, I can’t seem to make sense of reality. Once again I feel used and rejected. I’ve being taunted by the enemy and he’s seeking to destroy me. If he can’t take me down, he’ll stop at nothing short of devastating my spirit. What’s wrong with me? Why am I not enough? What’s wrong with God? Why is He not enough for me?

God, I need You. Only You. I want You to be enough. My all-in-all. My sufficiency. My source for whatever I need. My strength. I admit my failure. I admit my weakness. I admit my frailty. In my brokenness I come to You. I’m not seeking You in my need, I’m seeking You out of my want. I want You to be my everything. Nothing else. Nothing less. May You be everything to me.

There is no fear in love and perfect love – Your love – drives out fear (I John 4:18). May I allow Your perfect love to drive out all my fears. I am fearful of being alone, unwanted, unloved, unusable, undesirable. Fearful of rejection. Paralyzed by insecurity. Fighting so desperately for something that I can’t even tell what’s real.

I want my heart to only be devoted to You. You and You alone are my heart’s desire. You are my first and one true love. Help me get back to You. I repent to You. I confess my sin and failure to You. I confess every thought, every emotion and every false belief to You. I lay my life on Your altar and beg your forgiveness. Wash me clean. Help me return to You as my first and only love. Help me remember the things I first did with You as my God and my love (Revelation 2:4-5).

Be all I need. Let me give You my heart. Remind me of who You are. Remind me of who I am. Not who I try to be on my own, but who You sovereignly created me to be (Psalm 139). Let me have a heart after You. May my heart be purified to be Your temple, Your dwelling place. I lay myself, my dreams, desires, failures and flaws at Your altar. I seek to know and do only Your will. I know I will put this on the altar 1,000 times and pick it back up 999 times. Help me to resist. To rest. Be still (Psalm 46:19). Secure. In who I am in You. I must abide in You. Apart from You, I can do nothing (John 15:5).

May my soul find rest in You alone, and may my hope come from You (Psalm 62:5). I voice this prayer to You and ask You to hear. Protect my life from the very real and present threat of the enemy (Psalm 64:1). Lift me out of the pit and set my feet on the rock. Help me stand firm and give me a new song to praise You (Psalm 40:1-3). I am making You, Lord, my trust (Psalm 40:4). You are my hiding place. Protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance (Psalm 32:7). Be close to my broken heart and the spirit that is crushed within me (Psalm 34:18).

Help me forget what is behind and strain only toward what is ahead (Phillippians 3:12-14) – even if I don’t understand, see or know. Help me learn to be content in any and every situation – to do everything through You who gives me strength (Philippians 4:12-13). I cannot do it alone. Hold me and all things around me together (Colossians 1:17). Let me live that I may praise You and may Your word sustain me (Psalm 119:175). I claim Your hand to help me because I am choosing Your precepts (Psalm 119:173).



Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giving Thanks

It's Thanksgiving Eve and I am enjoying a lazy morning with a delicious cup of dark roast mixed with peppermint mocha creamer. The rain woke me up last night, among other things. Things bearing heavy on my mind.

I have much to be thankful for: home, family, job security, health, provisions for daily needs... So many recent events and situations have helped reshape my perspective as to what's really important and what to place value on. Certainly I've learned that everything on this earth is temporary. It's all just "stuff" and quite frankly, we could all learn to live with a lot less "stuff."

Even so, as preparations are being made for turkey dinners, I am plagued with the knowledge of individuals who will spend tomorrow alone. It seems to me that on a day meant to "give thanks" being in solitude must strip away any feelings of gratitude.

The bible talks of giving thanks...

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. I Chronicles 16:34 (repeated multiple times in scripture)

Cry out, “Save us, God our Savior; gather us and deliver us from the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name, and glory in your praise.” I Chronicles 16:35


Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name. I Chronicles 29:13

I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of the LORD Most High. Psalm 7:17

(For the director of music. To the tune of “The Death of the Son.”) A psalm of David. I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. Psalm 9:1 (David's son had just died!)

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. Psalm 100:4

Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind... Psalm 107:8 & 15 & 31

I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation. Psalm 118:21

Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? I Corinthians 10:16


...as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many. 2 Corinthians 1:11 (I saw this lived out as people prayed for our adoption and saw God answer those prayers. MANY gave thanks on our behalf because of our little boy.)

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. I Thessalonians 5:18

There are nearly 50 verses that talk of giving thanks, but in most instances the person giving thanks was purely and utterly to thank God for who He is. Not what He had done. Consider David in Psalm 9, giving thanks to the Lord, being glad and rejoicing, singing praise to his name...even in the midst of his grief over his son. Could I sing praise to God and rejoice in the midst of such sorrow?!

The act of giving thanks in scripture wasn't dependent on circumstances. Surely, we are to give thanks for that which we've received. To say "thank you" and show gratitude should be a natural response for blessings or answered prayers. But what about the act of giving thanks to God, no matter what you're facing, whatever is going on around you, even in the quietness of your solitude, when no one else is looking and your soul is grieved within you. Are you thankful then?

When you haven't received the answer to your prayer. When you've not been granted the miracle you've been hoping for. When you haven't been given the blessing you're seeking. When God seems silent. When you feel alone. Can you thank Him for who He is?

See what Psalms 119 says:

"Sustain me according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed. Uphold me, and I will be delivered; I will always have regard for your decrees." (vs. 116-117)

"Let me live that I may praise You, and may Your laws sustain me." (vs. 175)

Sustain me and I will live...live to praise Him. What does that mean?

Sustain - to endure, bear the weight, to support, to keep a person, mind or spirit from giving way.

Today I hope you can find a reason to be thankful. If you're ready to give up or give in, let Him sustain you. Let Him uphold you. Let Him deliver you. May you live to praise Him as He bears the weight of what you carry; to keep you and your spirit from giving way through whatever circumstance you face. And all the while, give thanks with a grateful heart - not because of what you lack, but because He never does. Because He always is. Because of Who He is. Give thanks.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Let Go (Part 2)

You may have read the last post and wondered what was going on. I can now make it known that on Friday I accepted a new position at Liberty. What will I be doing? Well...it's a brand new position with Graduate & Online Student Affairs, working as the assistant to the Director, handling student conduct and care issues for graduate and online students, developing a small office into the growing needs of a huge population of students, teaching online classes...and who knows what else!

I'm exchanging my Director's title for an Assistant one. I'm turning in my 12x15 private office for a 10x10 cubicle. I'm relinquishing my staff and personnel to become the supporting staff. I'm choosing business casual and leaving the business suits hanging. I'm pulling out of the "limelight" of class presentations and speaking for special events and handling most communications via the internet.

I admit. It's a really weird feeling. I woke up the day after nearly panicked and praying I hadn't made a mistake. So let me take you through the journey God lead me on.

Wednesday night I thought "No way. I'm not taking it. It's 5 steps backwards in my 'career.' I love my job. I'm good at my job. This isn't for me." And then Thursday morning I started reading in my quiet time and sensing God working on my heart. By the afternoon, I was distraught. I opened up my bible. Psalm 23. "The Lord is..." He is everything I need.

And then I read the phrase in Oswald's devotional: "When Jesus says, "Come," I simply come; when He says, "Let go," I let go; when He says, "Trust God in this matter," I trust."

I sat in my office and couldn't stop crying. As if God was sitting right there with me with His hands around me, I knew. I sensed. I felt. His presence. His peace. His persistence. You know when you hear people say "It was as if I heard the Lord speak to me"? Well, I was having that experience. I didn't hear a voice. I sensed it in my spirit. I knew this was His message for me. "Let go. Trust me. I'm going to take care of you. Leave the details up to me."

And so...I took the job. Probably one of the most difficult decisions for me. Ever. In my heart of hearts I could have made my career at the Career Center. But what I've chosen is to let my number one job be mom. See, the new position will give a different kind of schedule and flexibility and pace that doesn't cause me to have to be the boss of an office or a staff - all things I've thoroughly enjoyed - but all things that have certainly taken away my time and energy from what is most important - my family.

I can tell you, I'm still going through a "grieving" process. This is a huge transition. But already I've seen God blessing my obedience and faith, providing new and different opportunities (more on that to come!).


This is a journey. Thanks for coming along with me. Thank you for your support and prayers. I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Let Go

"It's one thing to go through a crisis grandly, yet quite another to go through every day glorifying God when there is no witness, no limelight, and no one paying even the remotest attention to us." - Oswald Chambers

I've gone through the fire. Literally. I've gone through trials. Defamation. Allegation. Accusation. Testing. Trouble. Obstacles. What I'm facing now isn't a crisis, necessarily. But it's testing to see what I'm made of when no one else knows, when no one is paying attention, when quietly, privately I am walking through this. "This" will make so much more sense in a few days when I can openly share. For now, it has resonated so deeply within me that it seems as though a gong is going off with a ripple effect of vibrations that I'm still not sure I fully understand.

This has been one of life's most monumental weeks for me. Six months after the fire, the house was complete and move in day was just 5 days ago. "How's the house?" everyone asks. It's beautiful. But I need you to know - it's just a house. I've learned to not hold tightly to the things of this world. After God taught me this lesson through the loss of most every worldly possession, He saw fit to test my faith and obedience again.

Here's more from Chambers' (same devotional as above, November 16): "If you are properly devoted to the Lord Jesus, you have reached the lofty height where no one would ever notice you personally. All that is noticed is the power of God coming through you all the time."

So today I found myself asking, "Am I wrapped up in getting noticed? Or making sure God gets noticed?" Reading Oswald's words from today's devotional nailed me at my core: "When Jesus says, "Come," I simply come; when He says, "Let go," I let go; when He says, "Trust God in this matter," I trust.

Yes, He is absolutely wholeheartedly testing me on that statement. "Let go," He was saying to me. Would I trust? Would I really take this step of faith? Would I walk away from the limelight and what appears to most as something that doesn't make sense? Taking a step backwards, letting go, trusting God...that's where I'm at.

And I'm here to tell you the journey is only just beginning. I don't know where He's leading or what He's doing. But I know that whether a simple act of obedience or a giant leap of faith, the power of God IS being produced in this weak, but willing, vessel!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

This Is Me

No really. It's time we have a heart to heart. 

You've seen me on stage. You've heard me belt ballads. You've seen me raise my hands in praise. You've watched me give speeches and presentations. You've seen me poised and posed in front of most crowds. Depending on how long you've known me, you may have been one of the "lucky" ones who watched me turn and smile and walk across stage in my heels and evening gown. (For those who didn't see my pageant days, you may now be having an "ah-ha" moment as things are starting to make sense about me.)

For the most part, I'm an open book. I've put my life out there because so many feel they know me that I felt they really needed to know me. But as one recently said of my blogs "You share your business without telling all your business." Thanks. I like to think it's a skill I've perfected. I'm good at hiding things. I'm good at painting on the smile (after all, I was first runner up to Miss America...indirectly, but that's another story for another day!).

What you don't see - and may never - are the insecurities deep down in my soul. And why on earth would I be sharing this with you and exposing my vulnerabilities?!

Being "on stage" or "in the public eye" for my job, church, and ministry are somewhat by choice and somewhat by design. But because of these "positions" people have ideas about me. I've heard everything from "She has it all together" to "I can't believe how fake she is." We've talked about this before - the comments about my outfits, hair, makeup, weight, the image others have of me and the perceived image they think I have of myself.

Today I'm here to share something profound. Are you ready? Here it is...

I AM HUMAN.

A life. A heart. A soul. A daughter. A wife. A mother. A sister. A sinner. A leader. A servant. A dominant personality. A people person. A people pleaser. A wounded soldier. A scarred believer. A guilty prisoner. A set-free captive. A God-seeker.

Who I am at my core is who God made me to be. There are parts of my personality I can work on and pray through, and there are other strands of my DNA that are just a part of my makeup.

I say things I regret. I do things I wish I could take back. I hurt people. I disappoint others. I fail. I fall. I aim to please and sometimes drastically miss the mark. I seek to serve and sometimes unknowingly ignore a need.

A dear friend handed me Beth Moore's "So Long Insecurity." I'm barely through the second chapter and she's hit me square between the eyes. Oh, this book is for me. This quote sums me up to a tee:

"We need a place we can go when, as much as we loathe it, we are needy and hysterical. I don't know about you, but I need someone who will love me when I hate myself. And yes, someone who will love me again and again until I kiss this terrestrial sod goodbye." - Beth Moore

That's it. That's me. I want to know someone will love me even when I hate myself. I'm needy. I can be hysterical. (Boy oh boy, can I be hysterical.) I've been guilty of looking for my security in all the wrong places. I've known my strength should come from the Lord, but sometimes I've had my own pity party in my weakness.

I beg of you - hear me on this - don't look at me and judge. Don't look at anyone and judge. Whether you have this idea of someone who seemingly has everything together or if you're casting the stone on someone's sin, please look deeper. Just stop to think that behind whatever exterior you see there is probably an insecurity, a wound, a scar shoved down so deep you might not even be able to touch it.

Here's what else you need to know. I am drawn to people but if what you like about me is "me" then I will surely disappoint you. (Do I need to repeat the list about all the ways I fail?!) But here's what else I can tell you. I give you my heart. My broken, shattered, even powdered heart. I've put myself out there and I've been crushed to the point of being pulverized. I've given of myself only to be rejected and betrayed. Why. Not I, but Christ...

My life is not my own. What is woven deep down into my genetics is who God created me to be. Flawed and all, He put this life on His earth as someone who seeks to bring Him glory. If what I do hurts you, I'm sorry. If what I say offends you, forgive me. If what you feel is anything less than loved and wanted, sometimes I know not what I do. But hear this: As much as I fail, and fail others, I serve a God who never does. Great is His faithfulness and all glory to Him!

I pray today you see me -  not "me" in my fallen state but the "me" He's created to share what HE can do!

"If a person attracts through his personality, that becomes his appeal. If, however, he is identified with the Lord Himself, then the appeal becomes what Jesus Christ can do. The danger is to glory in men, yet Jesus says we are to lift up only Him." - Chambers

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Fight or Flight

(This blog is dedicated to those who love to read all of my business without me telling all of my business. You know who you are and you know I love you dearly!)

Fight or flight. It's the natural human response to a lot of things. Fear. Rejection. Pain. Obstacles. Challenges. Trouble. Disaster.

The "fighters" determine not to let the opposition get the best of them. It becomes a part of the challenge to prove yourself not just a fighter, but a winner.

Those in flight aren't making a statement of being a coward. It is just the opposite reaction to flee from the trouble, avoid it at all costs, don't get involved more than you may already be.

I can honestly say I don't have a default. I've had my fair share of reactions to both fight and flight. But in the loneliness of my pain, sin, despair, hurt and confusion, whether I choose to put on the boxing gloves and take on my opponent, or if I do whatever I can to avoid the conflict and confrontation, I am left robbed of any real resolution.

A few months ago I wrote a blog about crying and letting myself finally feel the emotions I had suppressed. Even in my state of "fight" I tend to emotionally detach. Call it a flaw, call it survival. Whether through conditioning or DNA - or maybe a little bit of both - handling the situation has never been a problem for me, but feeling throughout the process hasn't always produced great results so I've built a wall around my heart so as not to get hurt.

But what I'm learning now is that brick by brick I can take down that exterior. Layer by layer I can remove the covering that seeks to protect my wounded and scarred heart. You see, I'm just as guilty of causing myself pain. It's not only the fault of others. In my attempt to flee the situations, I've robbed myself of all emotion and all opportunity to find peace in a resolution. In the battles I've picked to fight, I've usually taken the defensive and not offensive position, still leaving me in a mostly helpless state. This somehow seems to result in me eventually finding myself retreating, left to lick my wounds and console my hurts.

I'm not here to tell you I've figured it out. By no means. I am still very much on this journey. I am guilty. I bear the scarlet letter of my sin. I bear scars. Some tell the story of how deeply I've been wounded by others. Some are reminders of my own self-inflicted injuries. I've endured consequences. Sure, I've always wanted God's will but I haven't always been seeking it. I've been given blessings. Unbelievable blessings.

I'm learning to be real. When I'm honest about my pain and hurt and failures - and yes, even my emotions - I'm realizing that others can be real too. When I allow people to see the faults, flaws and failures it seems to help us all realize we're just one breath away from the enemy's attack. And that, my friends, is where we circle back to fight or flight.

You see, this natural human instinct is built in us for a reason. What I am here to tell you is fleeing your emotions or circumstance is NECESSARY when it is an attack of the enemy. Fighting your opponent - only once suited up with your spiritual armor - is IMPERATIVE for your survival. Flee temptation. Flee the devil. Flee all hints of evil. Fight like your life depends on it (because it does) to protect your heart, your mind, your emotions and, above all, your character.

And remember this - whatever has happened, whatever you've done, however you've stumbled, whatever you've felt, know that God's only response is to run. He runs right to you no matter what you've felt or how you've fallen.

When God Ran

Friday, November 4, 2011

Paralyzed

Paralyzed - To bring to a point of helpless stoppage, inactivity, or the ability to act.

What has stopped you in your tracks? What prevents you from being able to move? What is hindering your ability to act?
"Refusing to act leaves a person paralyzed, exactly where he was previously. But once he acts, he is never the same." - Oswald Chambers

"Come to me..." He says in Matthew 11:28. It means "to act." It requires my action. Just like James 4:8 tells us, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." I must come. I must seek. I must move. In my state of helplessness, there is hope.

"The weakest saint who transacts business with Jesus Christ is liberated the second he acts and God's almighty power is available on his behalf." - O. Chambers

His power - not ours - is made PERFECT in our weakness. His power is available to you - the same power that raised Christ from the grave. With this I can respond, well equipped with my own inabilities perfected in His mighty strength and armed with the power to overcome even death. And so I come. Step by step. No longer paralyzed by my own inhibitions. Ready to move.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Miss Independent

It's true. If you know me, you know me. I can be stubborn. Hard-headed. I am determined. And yes, by nature, independent. Right now, though, Almighty God is stripping away the hard exterior layers of independence and revealing the vulnerable interior of insecurity. At my core I struggle. 

You may admire someone's apparent strength. You may even have a tendency toward jealousy over someone else's life, qualities, possessions or characteristics. You may also be so turned off by someone's demeanor or harsh exterior that you simply can't bear it. But I caution - don't be so quick to judge or be fooled. You've heard the expression what you see is what you get. But maybe in this case what you see and what you get isn't always what's inside.

God is teaching me about my own insecurities and my hard-headed determination to do it myself. (Ahem, yes, independence.)

"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me..." Galatians 2:20

Consider Oswald's take on this verse: "These words mean the breaking and collapse of my independence brought about by my own hands, and the surrendering of my life to the supremacy of the Lord Jesus."

Now I'm in trouble. You see, by my own hands I've built the walls of independence. Brick by brick I've constructed my boundary: pride, arrogance, selfishness, deceit, anger, bitterness, misery, worry...the list could go on and on but suffice to say I've created my own little place of independence where I refuse to let anyone in.

So here I am - clenched fists, knuckles white from the death grip I hold on my own independence. But let's be real - what I'm really clinging to are all my insecurities. The voices of my past. The haunting of my mistakes. The guilt of my sin. The reality of my failures. The shame of my pride. And I want to let go. How? One. Finger. At. A. Time. One brick at a time. Relinquishing my control. Until I get to the point that with wrinkled fist and frail hands I am still attempting to let go and Let God.

I'm so thankful it's in these desolate places that the Lord reaches into my soul and redeems my life. Despite my best attempts to isolate myself, He is ever present.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Remade

The Tenth Avenue North song goes..

There's a girl in the corner  
With tear stains on her eyes  
From the places she's wandered  
And the shame she can't hide
She says, "How did I get here?  

I'm not who I once was.  
And I'm crippled by the fear  
That I've fallen too far to love" 

It might as well be my testimony. I can't really say it any better. It's been a few weeks since I've written because what I'm feeling and experiencing is simply too raw and too deep to share. I've been that girl. The one feeling as though the pit I've fallen into was simply too deep for rescuing. Paralyzed by fear. Compelled to pray but at a loss for words. Recounting choices, replaying decisions. Wondering what's next. Seeking direction. Desiring God's will. Praying for peace. Wanting wisdom. 

The song continues:

But don't you know who you are,   
What's been done for you?  
Yeah don't you know who you are?

You are more than the choices that you've made, 
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,  
You are more than the problems you create, You've been remade.

Remade. To make new. More than the choices made - good, bad, reactions, in the heat of the moment, or well though out. More than mistakes - failures, setbacks, upset plans, even deliberate sin. A few weeks ago God gave me this verse in Ezekiel 36:26:
 

"Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh."

I'm breaking my silence today. Not because I have anything profound to share other than what I've experienced: God is the God of making all things new. Whatever your past. Whatever your mistakes. Whatever your problems. Whatever your failures. No matter what you're facing, He's bigger than your circumstance. Do you know who you are? You are His daughter/His son. His child. He has chosen you and called you by name. Your ransom has been paid. You've been redeemed by His sacrifice.

Call upon Him. Come to Him. Cry out to Him. Confess to Him. Be comforted by Him. Be redeemed by Him. Be made new. I don't know what you're facing but I know if my God can see fit to extend His unconditional love and exceptional mercy to even me, I know He can AND WILL do the same for you.  




Friday, October 14, 2011

Hot Air

It happens to be Friday as I write this. It's also "Homecoming" weekend and there's hustle and bustle on campus as preparations for Alumni and all the weekend activities fill this beautiful fall day. You can sense the excitement in the air. I admit. I'm a little "wired." It may have been the rather large <ahem> Grande Pumpkin Spice Latte I consumed. (I'd like to also note that E had his first taste of PSL and, well, as one friend said, "Train up a child in the way he should go..." :) He definitely enjoyed it!)

We even had a balloon artist and clown "pop" into the office. He handed out 9" deflated balloons and challenged us to blow them up. Simple, right? Wrong. The guys were making their best efforts and huffing and puffing. Being slightly competitive and feeling accomplished in my breathing techniques as a trained vocalist, I thought for sure I'd show them up. I asked for a balloon.

I huffed, and I puffed (no, I didn't blow the house down...) and nor did I blow the balloon up. I tried. And tried. And tried. Mustering up every last bit of breath support, digging deep from my diaphragm, all I could manage to do was make the flat balloon slightly full with a puff of air but it was nowhere near inflated.

Our trainer, the clown, said we had to forget everything we ever knew or experienced about blowing up a balloon. Any preconceived idea about how to blow up a balloon wasn't going to help us accomplish this task.

I kid you not when I tell you that with each failed attempt, I grew more and more light-headed. At the risk of passing out, I finally gave up, resolving that despite all the "hot air" I've been accused of having, I just couldn't do this.

There is a deflated 9" balloon on my desk. I could look at this reminder of my failed attempts and be discouraged in my inabilities. But - you know me, the eternal optimist - I'm going to hope it serves as a different kind of memory.

Without so much as popping a vein or contorting his face, he inflated his balloon to the perfect capacity and then fashioned it into a cute little balloon creature. You see, the clown has perfected his art and skill. He let me try knowing I'd fail. I've been conditioned, falling prey to the belief that this balloon would be like every other balloon I've successfully inflated. How do you "forget" old habits? How do you "untrain" what you've always done? How do you "change" what you know?

The clown assured me that with just the air in his mouth he would blow up the balloon. He took the 9" of rubber and stretched it; pulling and tugging and increasing its size. And then he pinched near the top, about 2", and said just to focus on blowing up that one section. Bit by bit he blew up his balloon.

I know you might still believe I am, in fact, full of hot air but there is a lesson here. I'm not going to let my deflated balloon deflate my spirit. I can't, but God can. There is a Person who has perfected His skill. He is able to do exceedingly abundantly all that I ask or think or attempt to do on my own. I'm thankful for the reminder that sometimes in my own strength I come up with nothing but a bunch of worthless hot air!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Stuff Happens

I lost my wallet last week. It started with the realization that I could remember the last time I had it but beyond that, I had absolutely no recollection of the next time I had it. I panicked. I got upset. I freaked out - trying to retrace my steps. People kept trying to help me look or ask me questions about what I last remembered. It was as if the part of my brain remembering what happened to the wallet became BLOCKED - completely blank. I simply couldn't recall ANYTHING.

It got to the point where I knew I needed to start canceling cards. The debit card with the insurance money to rebuild the house was in that wallet. Someone ELSE might have been building a house and we'd have been, well, broke.

The next day I started to replace my things... I needed to get a new license but needed money to pay for it so I started at the bank. My debit cards were canceled but I needed photo ID to withdraw money. I flashed my Flames Pass (work ID) and got $20 after one of the tellers also verified he knew me. I ended up at the DMV where you should have seen the looks I got trying to flash a Flames pass there. "You have to have REAL documentation that says you are who you say you are." Um, yes ma'am ... but see, what happened was...my birth certificate and social security card and passport ... (well, you know...) they got burned up in the fire. My neighbor JUST SO HAPPENED to be standing behind me and she verified my story. (I know - standing in the DMV, one of the places everyone hates to go and it's like standing in front of the teacher and telling her for real the dog ate your homework.)

I still ended up not getting a real driver's license. All I walked away with was a piece of paper that says I can drive while I have to mail off to get my birth certificate, return back to the DMV to verify I am who I say I am, and replace my driver's license.

You have to laugh, really. At this point losing a wallet seems like a small thing. How it all connects to "other" things is slightly bigger. Sure it's a complication, but it's not the end of the world. I'm learning with each annoyance, nuisance, difficulty or circumstance I really don't have control over the "stuff" that happens. What I do have control over is my response. (Well, most of the time. ;) ) Even when I don't feel like I have control over my emotions, I have the ability to pray about my response and trust the Lord to take care of the rest.

Stuff happens. It doesn't mean I don't get upset. It doesn't mean I don't get frustrated. It doesn't mean I don't even scream or cry or pitch a fit. It just means I'm human, living life as fallen flesh in a fallen world...doing my best to serve and trust and glorify a Sovereign and GOOD God!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Shew fly!

Most days I enjoy a quiet and uneventful ride to work. The view begins to get better and better this time of year, as I venture down Candler's Mountain and watch the foliage be touched by fall's colorful changes. It is these quiet moments where I talk openly to God about my day. I love these intimate talks. I love that I can chat with Him like He's sitting in the passenger seat with me (after all, He is, isn't He?!). Some days I sing a song of praise to Him and some days I drive in silence trying to focus my mind for the upcoming day.

On this particular day I wasn't in a hurry and had a full 10 minutes of "extra" time. I was feeling good and ready to face the day and so my prayer time began...

"Thank you, Lord, for another day. Your blessings to me are beyond what I deserve. I am so grateful to You for..." BUZZ

Huh? I was in the middle of my thanksgiving to God when I was rudely interrupted.

BUZZZZZZ ... Ssssss... Hssssss.....Bzzzzzzzzz

My heartfelt prayer came to a crashing halt because of the fly now swarming my head. Surely my new Bath & Body Works scent must have been a favorite because the insect continued to land on my lotioned arms.

Swat! Swap! Shew! Shoooooo!

If you could have seen the sight - one arm frantically swatting at the fly, the other arm trying to maintain control of the wheel and the car. Eyes on the road, eyes on the fly, eyes on the road, eyes on the - where'd it go?! I hear it but I can't see...SWOOP! Ahh...I missed again!

It must have realized the imminent danger it faced, having so rudely intruded on my private conversation with the Lord. So it quickly flew out of reach and remained at the windshield. I could see the struggle ensue - swarming, flying, frantic - over and over flying into the glass, pounding its body against the see-through pane. No longer annoyed, I felt sorry for the little guy and decided to roll down my driver-side window - enough for the fly to have plenty of room to escape but not too much that it would ruin my freshly washed and styled hair (I simply wasn't going to let it ruin THAT too)!

Over and over it flew into the windshield. I started to talk to it, much like I talk to God, only it wasn't listening or understanding, "The window is open over here! Fly away. Be free..." No luck. I reached to swoop it toward the escape route but it was too far inside the dash and my arm wasn't long enough.

You know where this is going. Me in my feeble attempts to get to the "freedom" on the other side of the glass - I can see it, feel it, nearly taste it, but I just MISS the ROUTE in which I should take. I remain trapped - a prison by my own idiotic and futile defeat. I refuse to look around or see the help that's there. I say a quick prayer and, like the dumb fly, I repeat my blunder over and over - pounding myself into the "wall" of my circumstance only to end up with the same result.

My prayer ended differently today. Thank you, Lord, for the fly who taught me a lesson!

Monday, September 19, 2011

In Jesus' Name

There is a name I love to hear
I love to sing its worth
It sounds like music in my ears
The sweetest name on earth
Oh how I love Jesus
Oh how I love Jesus
Oh how I love Jesus
Because He first loved me!

It's a sweet sweet song and tonight my heart sings it. Even sweeter is His name, and tonight my heart rejoices in who He is.

El Elyon - The Lord Most High
Elohim - Eternal Creator
El Shaddhai - All Sufficient God
Jehovah Nissi - The Lord My Banner
Jehovah Jireh - The Lord My Provider
Jehovah Rapha - The Lord My Healer
Jehovah Saboath - The Lord of Hosts
El Olam - Everlasting God
Jehovah Shalom - The Lord My Peace
Jehovah Tsidkenu - The Lord My Righteousness
Jehovah Mekaddishkem - The Lord My Sanctifier

Who is He? He is I AM. Literally translated "Ha'shem" - The Name. The name above every name. The name which causes every knee to bow and every tongue to confess. It's more than the name we call - Jesus, Emmanuel, Ha'shem - it is the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent Almighty God we call upon. We call upon His name - we seek Him and find Him.

The Name. Lord of Hosts and Creator of all things - even fallen flesh like me. Lord of Peace in the midst of my storm. My Righteousness and Sanctifier to cleanse my filthiness. Everlasting God when my days are numbered. Lord Most High even when I'm at my lowest. My Banner and Protector no matter what enemy seeks to destroy me. My Healer and Provider despite my brokenness and frailty. The first, the last, beginning and end. But most of all He is my God and my Savior. The God who is, who was and who will always be. Whatever I need Him, whenever I call upon Him.

Who is He to you?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Rend Your Heart

"Even now," declares the Lord, "Return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning." Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.
Joel 2:12-13

I've loved the Jimmy Needham song reflecting this passage, but I just now read it and fully received it. Rend. It's not a common word. At least not one I use everyday. So you know me - definition, please. 

Rend
1. to separate into parts with force or violence.
2. to tear apart, split, or divide.
3. to pull or tear violently (often followed by away, off, up,  etc.).
4. to tear (one's garments or hair) in grief, rage, etc.
The definitions could seem a little confusing, considering the verse is asking for hearts to be rent, or torn. He's asking them to pull or tear violently away from what causes them to stray. (The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it? Jer. 17:9) He's saying their "normal" way of life - the destruction and devastation seen in the previous chapter as a result of their sin -  should be torn away. 

In essence he's saying "Tear your hearts, not your clothes." In sorrow, in remorse, in repentance, return to the Lord. Why? Because He's gracious and will have mercy. He hasn't withheld every bad thing but His abounding love can be what He brings instead to the broken heart willing to repent and receive forgiveness. 

We know this from Psalm 34:18, "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." 

From David's Psalm of repentance we see that God doesn't deny a broken and contrite heart (Ps. 51:17).


Once again, I'm forced to find the definition. What does having a broken and contrite heart mean?
Contrite - caused by or showing sincere remorse, filled with a sense of guilt and the desire for atonement.
Did you catch that? Showing sincere remorse; a desire for atonement or reconciliation. 

So let's put the pieces together.

Rend your heart. Tear away from what binds you, ails you, hinders you, prevents you, blocks you, causes you to stumble, defeats you. This isn't just a gradual tear. This is not when you're sitting in church trying to quietly and discreetly remove the info card from it's attached and perforated edges. With steady and slow movements, you detach one little bit at a time so as not to disturb the pristine service or anyone around you. No. That's not the call to action here. This causes a ripping so intense, so violent, so life-shattering that it will leave you raw, hurting, even bleeding. The force will be so brutal it will surely leave a scar, but immediately it will cause you to do nothing but fall prostrate from the sheer pain wrenching your now bleeding heart. 

And just as you're left bleeding and nearly lifeless, you sense it. You know. The Lord is close to your broken heart. He's rescuing you. Saving you. Reviving you. Picking up the pieces and holding them in His nail-scarred hands. 

It is in this broken and contrite state where you desire healing and restoration. And so in His abounding love, He shows grace and compassion. He provides the pressure to stop the bleeding. The painful removal was necessary for growth and healing, but He will not let you bleed to death.

As Needham sings words coming from my Savior, "I don't need a grand display. Show me that your heart has changed. I don't need a show. Only just to know your own heart breaks." Oh, it breaks. It bleeds. But I rend my heart and I come.
 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sometimes my words aren't sufficient. So here are words from Oswald over the last few days. Be encouraged. 

It is not a matter of right and wrong, but a matter of God taking you through a way that you temporarily do not understand.

If all you see is a shadow on the face of the Father right now, hang on to the fact that He will ultimately give you clear understanding, and will fully justify Himself in everything that He has allowed into your life.

Even the very smallest thing that we allow in our lives that is not under the control of the Holy SPirit is completely sufficient to account for spiritual confusion.

Spiritual confusion can only be conquered through obedience. As soon as we obey, we have discernment.

God never forces a person's wil into surrender, and He never begs. He patiently waits until that person willingly yields to Him.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Free

"...and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all." Luke 13:11

Bent over. Broken down. Heavy laden with a burden. No, it hasn't been 18 years, but there are days when it's felt like that. How long have I wandered through life crippled? How long have I been oppressed by this burden? How long have I allowed this to keep me from "straightening up"?

There are all kinds of things one would inevitably miss if walking bent over. Hunched down, eyes toward the ground, not up. The amazing sky at sunrise or sunset. The tall trees stretching toward the heavens. The birds soaring through the air. Not to mention just missing the faces of the people who are all around.

Being weighed down to the point of being crippled. But of course! Being so burdened, so heavy laden, so overloaded - you can't move underneath it all. Being crippled by fear. Crippled by broken dreams. Crippled by fleeting hope. Paralyzed and unable to move.

But alas. The woman meets Jesus.

"When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, "Woman, you are set free from your infirmity." Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God." Luke 13:12-13

He saw her, He had compassion on her, and He set her free! Free of her ailment. Free of her burden.  Free of her crippling weight. He reached out to her. He touched her. And it happened. Not because she had earned it, or deserved it. Not because she had even asked for it. But because He saw her need and He freely gave.

And in that moment she straightened up - loosed from her weight, cured of her ailment, healed of her disease, free. Free from all the weight she bore - for 18 long and I'm sure insufferable years - so that she might straighten up and see. See what's around her. See the beauty of His hands. See His love and grace. See His miracle at work in her life. And see HIM...and she PRAISED GOD!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Working on Labor Day

It's Labor Day and I'm at work. The school doesn't shut down so we can choose to take the holiday the Friday before, today, or bank it for later but today I've denied myself a day of rest. It's the 9th month of the year and I have 11.5 personal days left to use in the next 3 months. I'm so stingy with my "days off." I'm always afraid I will need them later or something will come up so I want to save them for a "rainy day". 

Today in a blog from Steven Furtick, he cites Leviticus 16:31:
It is a sabbath of rest, and you must deny yourselves; it is a lasting ordinance.
What am I denying myself? Well, today I'm denying myself the opportunity to be curled up on the couch with a blanket and my kindle, maybe an afternoon nap, and a lazy day to myself. Wait a second. Back up. Let's be honest - I have a 3 year boy. There's no such thing as a "lazy day to myself." And while I love the thought of a good book, the truth is I have about a dozen of partially read books all started or browsed through with good intentions but no follow through. It's not that I don't have the ability to read a book in its entirety. But when those big brown eyes are looking longingly at me with the plea of "Mommy, you wanna come outside?" I just simply can't deny him. So yes, this is me denying myself.

Furtick gives another thought about the illusion that I have to work to keep the world working. In my "world" of the Career Center, I have tricked myself into believing this to be true. The reality is if I'm not here, not working, students will still get resume assistance, career counseling, internships registered and professional development training. In all actuality, my work isn't in vain but it certainly isn't because of me. Am I appreciated? Sure. After all, my job doesn't change lives, I do (affirmed by the "You Matter" campaign adopted by the University).

So if I take that to heart, if I change lives, then it is a part from my job, a part from my ministry, a part from my talents, a part from my skills, a part from my words...simply said, a part from anything I "do" but who I "am." Or rather, Whose I am.

So once again the idea of denying myself comes into play if I am truly His. If I want to follow Him, I must deny myself and take up my cross (Luke 9:23). What am I denying? My hopes, my dreams, my plans, my will, my efforts, my thoughts, my failures, my successes. Now before you think that sounds depressing, stay with me. Denying all of these things that I hold onto will allow me to make room for His plans for my life, His purpose for those around me, His strength perfected in my weakness, His righteousness replacing my filthy rags, His will being done. Taking up my cross may be the load I bear, the thorn in my side, the burden I've received, the trial I face, the temptation seeking to entice me, the persecution I endure, or the failures I've experienced.

So I'm at work today, denying myself a day off, saving it for another "rainy day" but learning a lesson in the process. I want to be in the position to deny myself of what I want and take up what He wants and follow Him. I'm thankful for a Labor Day at work.