Friday, July 29, 2011

Why Blog?

I've learned a valueable lesson. If you're going to put your life "out there" you have to be willing to "take the heat." I've never been afraid to stand up and speak out.

There was the time when I was in 4th grade and a high schooler on the bus was picking on a kid and I let her know she needed to back off. Can you believe she tried to bully me too?! I was half her size but I wasn't scared. I had a big enough mouth to fend for myself. (I hear those chuckles...)

In 7th grade, still a rather small kid, I went head to head with a classmate who was at least a foot taller. I didn't like how much she cussed and felt the need to confront her. She felt the need to slam me up against the lockers. I did not regret following through on my conviction. (I would later call that "bully" friend in high school.)

I knew long ago if I was going to speak out and stand up, I would be put under the microscope. From everything about my changing hairstyles to my choice in clothing, to the judgment for a decision or stance I may take. It seems there's an opinion about everything, and because I was seemingly sharing my life, people weren't afraid to share their thoughts about my life.

What I also know is how cruel we can be. There were the statements - from Christians - who questioned my faith in God as to the reason I wasn't getting pregnant. There were those who judged that I not be on stage in a beauty pageant - ahem, scholarship competition - because it could ruin my testimony. There've been the naysayers and the stone-throwers...and through all of it, I decided to start this little blog to share MORE of my life.

Why, you may ask? Why blog? Why share? Why am I taking off the mask, letting my guard down, revealing the window to my soul? Surely these can be deeply private and personal messages between me and the Lord. Certainly I don't think that what I am learning is meant for everyone. Nor am I telling you to take what I say to the bank and expect your full refund. I share because God has given me a word - He's given me a song - He's given me a spirit that thrives on seeing others come to know Him intimately and personally.
I know that even me - and the struggles I'm facing - aren't all going to be revealed. There are still things too private, too personal, too painful to share. Judge if you want. Make assumptions if you must. But know that you really don't know. That is between me and Him. I am so glad He knows the private places of my heart...and loves me just the same.

I love this quote from Becky Harling, "God can use your story to help others, ... when we understand this it helps us move beyond the pain so that we can see the beauty that can come out of horror...you are more than your hurts..."

So, I blog. To tell my story. To share my pain - some of it. To let you "in" on the real life and struggles of a woman seeking God and sometimes failing and missing miserably. (Okay, more times than I care to admit.) I heard Beth Moore say, "Let God turn your trial into your testimony."

You may not like or agree with my blog, and that's okay. (I'd ask not to be slammed up against the lockers again, please.) But I do pray that with whatever God lays on my heart to share, He can us it to bring beauty. I am a living, breathing example of being "more than my hurts."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Heart of Holiness

"Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy." Leviticus 19:2

He beckons me. Holiness is my goal. But how am I, a victim of fallen flesh, to be like a perfect and holy God?
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" Jeremiah 17:9

What I know is that if I don't let Him help Himself to my heart - the hidden parts and all - I may experience the terrible possibilities that lie within. I cannot achieve true holiness with this darkness lurking inside.

He calls me out: "Those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart.... For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts..." Matthew 15:18-19

If my heart reveals the "truth" about me, then I'd rather keep those things hidden away. Yet my Omniscient God can't allow it. He knows my thoughts, sees my comings and goings, and even reveals the darkest depths of my heart.

If holiness is synonymous with godliness, I must get to the heart of it all. Pushing past the darkness; burning away the chaff; revealing the depths of my heart; replacing the evil with purity.

"Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness." Psalm 29:2

So I give to Him - I give Him myself, my broken, tattered, used and corrupted heart. I give Him my faults and failures; my pain and turmoil. I give Him my successes and accomplishments and the things I'm proud of. I give Him my praise and the glory due to Him. I give Him my bleeding, wounded heart and He gives me the beauty of His holiness.

Holiness, holiness is what I long for
Holiness, is what I need
Holiness, holiness is what you want from me

Take my heart and form it
Take my mind and transform it
Take my will and conform it
To Yours, to Yours, Oh Lord

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Poor, Poor Pitiful Me

Hi. My name is Carrie and I'm a shopaholic. I admit my love for shopping - but I cannot deny I am a bargain hunter! I don't buy anything that isn't on sale and the clearance racks are usually my first target. I need to feel like I got a good deal. I don't see how much I spent - I consider how much I saved. I cannot pay full price for something, it just isn't in my DNA. I don't need the brand names, I just need a great bargain.

As much as I love to shop, I have recently learned it's all just "stuff." To have your house and most of your worldly possessions stripped away will quickly teach you not to put stock in the "things" of this world. To hear Christ say "Blessed are the poor in spirit..." (Matt. 5:3) is a comfort considering the intangibles I face. I possess a "poor me" attitude more often than I'd like to admit. But this is certainly not the "poor in spirit" He was talking about.

Today I find comfort in the words of Oswald Chambers:
"Blessed are the poor..." The first principle in the kingdom of God. The underlying foundation of the kingdom is poverty, not possessions; not making decisions for Jesus, but having such a sense of absolute futility that we admit, "Lord, I cannot even begin to do it." Then Jesus says, "Blessed are you..."
If you know me then you know I don't hide my feelings and the first thing I must admit is I have reached that point. The point in which I've said, "Lord, I cannot even begin to do it." The pressures. The obstacles. The barriers. The difficulties. The heartbreaks. The disappointments. I cannot begin to do it...on my own. You see, the rest of Matthew 5:3 tells the poor in spirit "theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. What I lack in this world - be it physical, emotional or mental "gain" - I can rest in knowing I will achieve in eternity. But before we even get there, the poor in spirit are called "blessed." 
It's not about my pity party. It's not about the martyr syndrome. It's not about being destitute. It's not about being neglected, rejected or alone. In fact, it's not about me at all. It's about my spirit that admits I cannot do it on my own. My spirit, not being broken down, but being broken to the point of being poured out. My spirit, poured out to spill over the goodness of a great God. The goodness of a great God who promises that in my broken, poured out, empty state, He will bless me. Poor, Poor BLESSED me!  

Monday, July 18, 2011

Lover of my Soul

"Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love." Revelation 2:4

It was a sermon about a month ago that I still can't shake. It rocked me to my core. Conviction. Had I lost my passion for Christ? Where was the burning desire for my Lord? Was I truly seeking Him first and only? 

Last week I wrote about an unfailing love. The kind of love that 1 Corinthians 13 admonishes us to have - the love that never fails. It seems humanly impossible because we're capable of failure in our fallen flesh. But in the perfection of Sovereign God, He proves His love never fails.

What I'm grappling with is the reality that in my fallen state, this perfect God would in fact love me. The unthinkable - to love the unlovable.

Who I am is Whose I am. Not because of what I've done, but because of what He's done. Not because of who I am, but because of Who He is.

And this perfect God wants to be in a relationship with me. ME, a sinner. A failure. He looks not at the external as the world sees, but He looks inward and loves me.

He sees the darkest corners of my heart - and He loves me.
He knows the deepest secrets I will never tell - and He loves me.
He understands my faults and failurues - and He loves me.
He knows my thoughts before I think them - and He loves me.

I think it would be fair to say we've all "fallen" - whether it's fallen into sin or fallen away from the intimacy with Christ we once enjoyed. But I am beyond humbled to know that I've never fallen out of His embrace. Jesus, lover of my soul. I am a girlie girl who loves every part of the romance. So often I've felt the pain of its heartbreak, rather than the joy of its embrace. So to think and know that God, my God has given me greatest romance I could ever know...it takes my breath away. Angela Thomas says it best:

“He comes in His great love to rescue the one that He adores. He takes her into His arms and quiets every fear. He gives her the grain that feeds her emptiness. He puts a hand over her mouth when she begins to claim she’s not worthy. And then He sings. I picture the dance and being held close and God whispering in my ear His songs of love. Wow. I am swooning. God picks me up, holds me, and sings gentle love songs over me. He looks into my soul and sees the question. Before I can even ask it, He tells me He thinks I am beautiful. He feeds my starving soul with the food of his love.”

To be satisfied with Him. To be overwhelmed by Him. To enjoy His presence, bask in His love. To be secure and protected under His wing. To be wooed and pursued and cherished by my Savior. I revel in God. Let me return to my first love. God, my God, lover of my soul.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Unfailing Love

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, Oh Lord."

It is a scripture I learned as a child but now it has become my prayer. Over and over praying for my words to be his words and the deepest thoughts and feelings in my heart be pleasing to Him.

Today I am meditating on His word, basking in the richness of His promises. Oh how I love His word! It is true His word satisfies the soul as with the richest of foods.

I admit that being on vacation I haven't dedicated my R&R time to bible study. So little did I expect Him to speak to me so clearly through His word. Psalm 143 is living and breathing in me today.

     1 Hear my prayer, O Lord;
      listen to my plea!
      Answer me because you are faithful and righteous.
    2 Don’t put your servant on trial,
      for no one is innocent before you.
    3 My enemy has chased me.
      He has knocked me to the ground
      and forces me to live in darkness like those in the grave.
    4 I am losing all hope;
      I am paralyzed with fear.

I admit. There have been times recently where I've lost all hope. My fear has paralyzed me. I've been knocked down by those seeking to destroy me - the enemy that seeks my life. I'm encouraged to know that no one is righteous, praying not to be put on trial, but reminded that HE is faithful & righteous.

5 I remember the days of old.
      I ponder all your great works
      and think about what you have done.
    6 I lift my hands to you in prayer.
      I thirst for you as parched land thirsts for rain.   
7 Come quickly, Lord, and answer me,
      for my depression deepens.
   Don’t turn away from me,
      or I will die.

The days of old. His works. Regardless of the circumstances, remembering Him and what He's done certainly brings me to a point of praise and seeking Him all the more. I recall His works and deliverance and I come before Him again, seeking.

8 Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning,
      for I am trusting you.
   Show me where to walk,
      for I give myself to you.
    9 Rescue me from my enemies, Lord;
      I run to you to hide me.
   10 Teach me to do your will,
      for you are my God.
   May your gracious Spirit lead me forward
      on a firm footing.

As I seek, His unfailing love comes. As I seek, He guides. As I seek, He rescues me. As I seek, I pray for Him to show His will. I pray for Him to direct my steps. I pray I do not slip.

11 For the glory of your name, O Lord, preserve my life.
      Because of your faithfulness, bring me out of this distress.
   12 In your unfailing love, silence all my enemies
      and destroy all my foes,
      for I am your servant.

Preserve my life! After the enemy seeks to destroy me, after I've grown weary and depressed from my circumstance, after I've sought His love and will for my life - I can claim His faithfulness to deliver me! He will silence and destroy my enemies. Those who seek my life will not win. There may be pain, there may be suffering, there may be consequences...but He is faithful and His unfailing love will preserve me! To keep me safe, to protect me from harm, to make my life lasting for His glory.

Scripture tells us love doesn't fail but if you've lived long enough you've surely experienced heartache. You've felt the disappointment of being hurt, wounded, unloved. You may have been rejected, unwanted, or betrayed. Maybe you've experienced the joy of love only to experience the pain of its withdrawal. What I'm reminded of today is the love that God's word speaks of. His unfailing love that only He can give. He is faithful and righteous. His unfailing love comes to me this day, this morning. I trust in Him and pray to Him as I seek Him to guide me. Giving myself only to Him and experiencing His unfailing love.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Psalm 23

It may be one of the most familiar passages quoted, recited, put on plaques, hung on the walls and recognizable to even unbelievers.

The 23rd Psalm - a song about the Lord who is the great shepherd. A song about where and how He leads. A song about His protection and deliverance. A song about His comfort. A song that boasts of His promises and  supplication.

Even so, I have to pause for a moment to be reminded that among all of the promise and supplication and protection and deliverance...The Lord is...

Simply and complexly, the Lord is...
The Lord is my all-in-all.
The Lord is alpha and omega.
The Lord is my sufficiency.
The Lord is my light and my salvation.
The Lord is my life and my refuge
The Lord is everything I need beyond just supplying for my needs.
The Lord is my God, my rock and my fortress.
The Lord is Almighty, Sovereign and All-knowing.
The Lord is for me and no one can be against me.
The Lord is my deliverer and King.
The Lord is Creator, Elohim.
The Lord is Jehovah.
The Lord is my kinsman redeemer.
The Lord is lover of my soul.

The Lord is...

Yes, He is my shepherd and I shall not want. And because of that great fact, I can also claim the Lord is. He's whatever I need Him to be whenever I need it. The Lord is mine and mine to claim. And in this beautiful truth, He's yours too. I don't know what you need Him to be, but the Lord is!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Justice for All

Life has trouble. Disappointment is inevitable. Heartache happens. People fail us. The reality of our mortal existence seems bleak, no doubt. Our fallen flesh craves the attention and the self-inflicted martyrdom we claim as victims. We want what we're owed. We demand equality and fairness and justice. Yes, justice. We seek what is rightfully ours.

But I'm also aware of my own ability to fail. My own flaws that cause pain. My ability to hurt and disappoint. Yes, people have hurt me. Yes, situations have happened to me. Yes, I've felt like the victim at times. But what about the disappointment and heartache I've caused my perfect and righteous Father? What about the justice He should be demanding? Oh how I praise Him for not treating us as we deserve! (Psalm 103:10)

Praise. Can I be in this state of hurt and confusion and still offer praise?

"Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name." Psalm 103:1

I admit. Whether I'm feeling guilty for my failures or feeling sorry for myself because of those who have failed me, it is sometimes difficult to praise with all my being. But it's there. Deep down in my soul - the words I have hidden in my heart, the promises I memorized even as a child. A sacrifice of praise, right?

"Praise the Lord, O my soul and forget not all His benefits - " Psalm 103:2

His benefits. Is this why I love God? Is this why I praise God? Is this why I serve Him - to get something in return? Not at all. But it is a promise to me... Wait for it...

"Who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases." Psalm 103:3

Oh now I want to jump up and praise Him! His benefits to me - first forgiving me (Oh, thank You, Lord!) and healing me (Praise You, Father!). Not just my "diseases" of the flesh - but the diseases of a frail mind and wounded heart. What a mighty Savior!

"Who redeems your life from the pit..." Psalm 103:4a

Let's pause at the first part of this verse. I've heard Beth Moore say over and over that if God can redeem her life from the pit she was in, then He can redeem anyone. She's not fully disclosed the details of what sent her to that pit - or what sin she had to confess - or what past she had to overcome. But she fully claims the victory in Christ of his redemption. Do I believe God? Do I trust Him to forgive? Sure, I confess and claim forgiveness. But do I claim His rescuing redemption? To be redeemed means I've been bought back, recovered, cleared of my debt. Whatever pit you're in, His redemption is waiting for you. Even you.

"...and crowns you with love and compassion." Psalm 103:4b

Wait. As if forgiveness and redemption weren't enough, He adorns me? Even me. His love is everlasting. His compassion is unfailing. And it's yours and mine to claim.

Let's skip to verse 6: "The Lord works righteoueness and justice for all the oppressed."

There it is. The justice we've so longed for. It's ours to have - only, not ours to seek. It is justice through Him. He redeems us. He rescues us. He loves us. Then He claims justice for us. He brings His righteousness to replace my filthy rags. He restores me to an upright state. What I'm learning is the battle truly isn't mine. He requires my action and my faith and He is at work.

I'm so thankful His justice doesn't repay me according to my iniquities. I'm so thankful He seeks justice for those who seek to destroy my life. It's yours to claim too. His justice is for all. Just as His abounding love (vs. 8) and mercy are for each of us. With all of my being I can praise Him because of these truths.

You've heard it said, "It's always darkest before the dawn." The truth in that statement is best said in this Josh Wilson song:

Once you feel the weight of glory
All your pain will fade to memory

It’s just the hurt before the healing
Oh the pain that you’ve been feeling
It’s just the dark before the morning

Before the Morning - Josh Wilson

Friday, July 1, 2011

Ascend

The Psalms of Ascent...15 Psalms starting in chapter 120 that were sung on the Israelites' ascent to Mount Zion. The parallel is drawn for us today of the spiritual ascent we take in our walk with the Lord. Moving forward. Walking. Going. Growing.

It's movement upward. To me that's movement toward the Lord. It's movement toward a higher state. Not necessarily of fame or notoriety but a higher state of mind; a mind like Christ, if you will. Ascent toward His will being worked out in my life. Close enough with the heart of God that His desires become my desires. His ways become my ways. The unfathomable traits of Almighty God begin to take root in my own flawed characteristics that so often fall short.

What I also know is that the higher you climb, the further your fall can be. It's the natural law of gravity. (Don't worry - I didn't do so well in Physics so I'll spare you the science lesson.) Naturally, if you're at the top of the mountain, a quick slip of the foot could make a fall disastrous. I guess this is why I love Psalm 121:3: "He will not let your foot slip..."

I also notice a determination that must exist in me. In this journey - and don't forget, it's an uphill climb - I must play my part.

"I call on the Lord..." 120:1
"I lift up my eyes to the hills..." 121:1

"I rejoiced..." 122:1
"I will seek..." 122:9
"I lift up my eyes to You..." 123:1
"I wait for the Lord..." 130:5
"I do not concern myself..." 131:1
"I have stilled and quieted my soul..." 131:2
"I know that the Lord is great..." 135:5

It requires my action. It requires my faith. If I'm going to climb the mountain, I can't do it looking down. Why? Because looking down means looking back. Lifting my eyes upward is the direction I need to go, but more than that it's the Person I need to follow.

I must seek. I must wait. Sure, there will be stops along the way - it's a lifelong journey. There will be times I must move and there will certainly be times I must be still and quiet and wait.

While this upward movement demands my action and initiative, it also requires my willingness to submit. I cannot be concerned with the details of where this journey will lead. To the top, Carrie. Duh. It's either up or down, so decide.


The way may be tough. It might be a dangerous climb. It could quite possibly mean sudden death in the event of a fall. But I've been through the valley. I don't want to camp my tent there. I'm choosing to ascend.


Enjoy this BeBo Norman song as you climb.
I Will Lift My Eyes