Sunday, June 30, 2013

Hear Your Bride

And now I've never been so sure
Of anything before
Like I am in this moment here with you
Now for better or for worse are so much more than only words
And I pray everyday would be the proof
That I mean what I say when I say I do

I sang the words as I stood beneath a giant oak tree. The sun setting behind me, a summer breeze blowing through my hair, the setting couldn't have been more perfect. I looked out among the crowd who had gathered, anxiously waiting for the bride to make her grand entrance. I stared at the beautiful backdrop that would become the altar where a couple would pledge their lives and their love and become one. I put my whole heart into the notes I bellowed as tears filled up my eyes. This was all so real. It was tender. My heart swelled as the music soared across the field.

I recalled a time when I would attend weddings and sit with silent skepticism as I hoped and prayed the couple truly knew what they were getting into. I used to fear for them, wondering if they'd truly be happy, questioning if love could be real. I used to hope they were standing there in naivety and ignorance yet praying their reality wouldn't be devastating.

But not now. Not this time. This was different.

This time I had joy. There was something real, something pure that I could believe in. It was the hope of what I had always held onto and now knew to be true.

Come Thou Fount
Come Thou King
Come Thou Precious Prince of Peace
Hear Your Bride
To You We Sing
Come Thou Fount of Our Blessing

I sang the words louder and stronger than I'd ever sung. It seemed fitting that less than a day later, the same bride and groom who stood at the altar and exchanged vows last night walked forward to kneel at the altar of the church and be prayed over this morning. Tears filled my eyes once again as I worshipped.

"My heart's cry, Lord, hear Your Bride. I'm here. Standing here with hands lifted, heart raised, offering all of me. Lord, I've been the innocent and pure bride. I've also been the heart prone to wander. I've been the heart out of tune taught to sing Your Grace. Lord, now I sing to you a new song, where my heart has found a home."

For your Maker is your husband—
the Lord Almighty is his name—
Isaiah 55:5

How many years had I claimed that verse? How many tears had I cried as I prayed for The Lord to meet my every need? Now I was crying tears of joy, no longer pained and rejected. No longer hurting and hardened.

I stood knowing I would stand again as a bride. Knowing I would bow my heart and pledge my life. Knowing God's will with hope and joy and calling upon His blessing to come.

I will betroth you to me forever;
I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
in love and compassion.
I will betroth you in faithfulness,
and you will acknowledge the Lord.
Hosea 2:19-20

Hear Your Bride to You I Sing
Come Thou Fount of Our Blessing



Tuesday, June 18, 2013

60 Seconds

I just ate lunch at the M word. Before you cast judgment I am already hanging my head in shame. In some ways I feel like I cheated on my company, considering I'm still on the clock even though I was running through the drive-through on my lunch break. Don't worry cows, I didn't get a burger.. I know all my juice plus friends are having a freak out right now thinking about their mummified chicken nugget and fries from 14 years ago. Don't worry- I'll double up on gunmies.

I waited my place in line in the double drive-through. When it was my turn I pulled up to the speaker only to hear a girl on the other end ask, "Can I help you?" Her tone was short. I suddenly felt like I was a nuisance and even though I knew what I wanted to order I was slightly taken back by her wondering why I was there. 

"Um, I'd like to place an order," I told her. 

"Go ahead," she instructed me pointedly. 

I told her what I wanted and her response was for me to check the screen. 

"It's correct," I said. And I was instructed to pull forward. Good thing I have experience with drive-thrus otherwise I could have been stumped. 

When I pulled up to the first window, I found myself greeting the cashier and asking how he was. 

He looked away as if he hadn't heard me and focused on the screen while talking to me (I think) to confirm what I had. I told him that was indeed my order and handed him my payment. His only words back to me were to give me instructions on the hour glass timer he handed me To "see if we get your order in 60 seconds or less."

I normally feel rushed to throw my wallet back together and put the receipt somewhere (usually the floor board). But I dropped both my card and the receipt as fast as I could and I immediately became distracted by the timer. I tapped it, shook it, and admittedly attempted to see if I could make time move faster. It kept time with its trickle of grains, ignoring my attempts. As I waited I could hear the girl over the speaker asking others behind me if they could be helped. Just once I was waiting for some smart aleck to answer her by saying "yes, I need a lot of help but I don't think you can help me." Why hadn't I thought about that sooner. 

Second window. My turn. But before I could even fully approach the window, I saw a hand thrust outside it with a drink and straw. She was waiting for me before I had even arrived. Fast service, indeed. But she looked annoyed at me and I thought maybe I was in trouble. Then I remembered she was serving me and I didn't know her from Adam so I reassured myself I'd done nothing wrong. I was putting the drink in my cup holder and turned around to see her shoving my bag of food in my face with one hand while the other was outstretched with open hand. I gave her back her timer, glancing first to ensure there was still time remaining. As soon as she saw that, she smiled. Only the smile was at the timer and not at me. I guess the goal of the day was pleasing the timer and not the customer. 

Am I being harsh? Maybe. What's harsh is that less than an hour later I'm feeling the affects of why I don't eat fast food. 
But The way I see it is if you've only got 60 seconds (or less) to make an impression, is the goal speed or is it courtesy? I'd rather be treated like a human, a worthwhile person, than an accomplishment. My food was hot and fast. But it didn't make me feel any better. 

What about you? What kind of impression can you make in 60 seconds? I'm challenged not to treat people like an accomplishment, but rather like people. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Not Perfect

He's handsome. He adores me. He serves me. He loves me. Unconditionally and so much more than I have ever experienced. He's sincere and genuine. He gives me foot rubs - almost every night. He does the laundry, cleans out my car, and always opens the door for me. The minute he walks in, he greets me as if he truly missed me. He caters to my emotional needs and is more than sensitive in handling my emotional scars with care and concern. He appreciates even the smallest things I do for him. We laugh. We have fun. We genuinely enjoy each other. We share common interests and can always have fun together, as long as we're together.

The list could go on and on... But there's one very important thing I must add. He's Not Perfect. Oh yes, you heard me right. And before you think I'm about to beat him up, let me explain a few things.

I'm not perfect either. I'll never have the perfect life. I believe I'm blessed to have this man-of-many-qualities in my life, but he will never be perfect. And you know what else? We'll never be perfect for each other.

We're not perfect. Far from it. We're human. Fallen flesh. Capable of failure. True to form, we disappoint each other. We don't "have it made" and we haven't been given everything we thought we were missing in life previously. What we have been given is grace, forgiveness, and a lot of growth from life lessons that have taught us a few things. (A few lessons learned the hard way, I might add.)

Let me put it to you this way. What we both know and admit is life has surely not gone as planned. And while we both also believe and trust we are seeking after God's will and following His leading in our lives, we also know the path that led us here has been riddled with thorns. We've gotten lost. We've fallen. We've tripped over our own two feet getting in the way. We've also been led astray by good intentions.

While our story may feel like a modern day fairy tale, we aren't setting ourselves up for the expectation of "happily ever after." We know, from experience, that what we share is sacred and must be treated as such. Happily ever after isn't what we want. Pursuing the Lord, building on the foundation He's planted, and journeying together is what we seek.

We know things aren't perfect. We know imperfect people cause hurt feelings, frustrations, misunderstandings, and lots of opportunities for failure. We know it takes work, perseverance, diligence and faithfulness. We also know that past wounds create additional areas that require special attention and care. And just because we know, doesn't mean we always do. Because we aren't perfect!

I'm thankful, and I probably wouldn't be as grateful had I not first traveled the twists and turns of the weaving, winding path of circumstances and disappointments that led me to this point. It's taught me to appreciate and not take things for granted. It's helped me recognize my deeply selfish sin nature while shining a spotlight on the areas I need growth and transformation. It keeps me humbly on my knees, realizing I still fail and miss the mark, despite having come by things "the hard way."

The Lord will perfect that which concerns me;
Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever;Do not forsake the works of Your hands.

Psalm 138:8

Each day is an opportunity to glorify God with our lives, but there's no such thing as a perfect life. Please don't think I've got it made. Don't wish you were in my shoes. You haven't walked the path I've traveled. I'm not perfect. Neither is he. We are two imperfect people who make up a testimony of a loving, redeeming God, perfecting that which concerns us. He is still at work as He continues to clear away the chaff of the past and mold our future. We can't predict what may come, but we know it won't be perfect. So we'll cling to the lessons we've learned along the way, and the deepening of our faith as we travel together. Imperfectly.


Friday, June 14, 2013

Take it Back

Hello my name is regret
I'm pretty sure we have met
I'm the whisper inside 
That won't let you forget

Ever met? I most certainly have. No formal introductions needed here, we seem to be well acquainted. 

There are moments in life you wish you could have a do-over. Things you wish you could change. Circumstances, if given the opportunity, you'd certainly choose differently because you know the outcome when choosing another way. You'd do anything to take it back. But it doesn't work that way. 

The regret lingers and transforms into haunting guilt. I can't change what's been done. But I can pray for it to change and transform Me. The only hope I have is the redeeming power of a loving and gracious God. It is the power that raised Christ from the dead, so I can rest assured whatever second chance I'm hoping for, He offers it. What I was hoping I can re-do, I can be assured He can redeem. More than just the situation or circumstance, He redeems our lives and refines us in the process. 

I can't take it back. Oh, I wish I could. 
Even when my memory relives and replays what I could have, should have done differently, my all-knowing and sovereign Father casts whatever it is as far as the east is from the west and remembers it no more. If only my memory could be wiped clean. 

Those ghosts are what Satan uses to keep me defeated and discouraged. And it's easy to let him win. We wrestle with the darkness. But God offers light, healing, forgiveness, and love. Unconditional love. And that is something you can trust Him to NEVER take back. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Let Us Pray

"Be anxious for nothing. But in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God." Philippians 4:6-7

Sure, every "good" Christian prays. We take our requests to God, we let our petitions be known, and we seek answers from Him. So often I beat myself up or feel guilty because I know I should pray more. So why don't I? Do I just not make time? Do I forget? Do I intentionally neglect it? What am I supposed to pray about? What do I say? What am I missing?

It seems in crisis I have no trouble at all going to God with all my troubles and seeking Him to work and move. But I was convicted of using prayer as an emergency response. If it's not my crisis I'm praying about, then it's someone else's. All the things others around me might be struggling with that I think I can make my concern so I have something to take to God. After some self reflection and a compelling series of messages on prayer, I've come to the realization I'm treating prayer all wrong.

Prayer is entering into the presence of God. When I go before Him, the only thing I should be concerned about is who He is, His Godness, His Holiness, and savoring the mere privilege I have to approach Him. Not with my requests, but with the intent that I am to become more like Him. By spending time in prayer, I remain in His presence and get to experience who He is as He shapes me to become more like Him.

It doesn't mean I can't make requests known to Him. The Creator of the Universe wants me to bring Him the things that weigh on my soul but He asks me to cast my cares upon Him. And then leave it. It becomes my responsibility to give it to Him once and for all, allowing Him to exchange my burden for His yoke that is light. All the while I get the privilege to rest in His presence, knowing He's working it out for my good.

It's not my concern how He answers. It is my responsibility to know Him and become more like Him. So the issue isn't whether I pray enough. It's about spending more time with Him, being still in His presence and becoming more like Him.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Rest

I'm not a very good "sick" person. I have a hard time sitting still, so when illness has knocked me down, it literally becomes a battle to force myself to lay still and rest. I don't like to just sit around. I feel lazy. There seem to be a million "other" things I could be accomplishing.

I had planned to knock out wedding details this weekend but that just wasn't a reality. I pushed myself as hard as I could on Saturday, only to reap what I sewed Sunday. I was down for the count and the only thing I was going to accomplish for the day intended for rest was, well, rest. I took in a couple of good movies on Apple TV and knocked out a few levels of Candy Crush. I even managed to grade a few discussion boards. But repeatedly I just had to take breaks, close the computer or iPad and...rest.

Why is it so hard for me to just be still? I literally have to be reminded, "Stop your mind. Just rest." Oh...yeah...okay...that's a good idea. It takes a conscious effort for me to stop letting my mind run, stop thinking through lists, plans, details... It sometimes seems like it requires more effort to remember to stop and rest then if I just let my mind keep running.  Shew! I'm tired just thinking about it.

And I guess that's the point. We all need rest. We all need to recharge, refuel, reprogram. Being sick reminds me of all the things I can't do because my body just forces me to stop. That frustrates me, but it reminds me I'm human. It reminds me I'm dependent. It reminds me to rest.

Now, on the flip side, when I go on vacation - I go on vacation. The only reason for having a phone on vacation is for taking pictures. I don't care about email, texts, calls, or anything else. I want a quiet beach, a good book, and a long day in the sun. There are several count downs going on and one of which is the Caribbean beach that is calling my name. The sand in my toes, the sun on my face, the wind in my hair. Make no mistake, I am ready. Which reminds me...I'm actually not ready. Even last night I remember waking up and making a mental list of all the things I'd need to pack, clothes to wash and get ready, airline approved bottles to switch all my cosmetics into, oh my...there's a lot to do...

I also have to remind myself I'm not superwoman, superhuman or any version of "super" at all. As dedicated and driven as I am about things I'm passionate about, I'm just as big of a procrastinator about the things I don't care so much about. Just last week I was cramming to meet a deadline that I'd had all semester to do. Typical. So maybe this isn't about learning to rest, but learning to re-prioritize. I should probably make a list of all the things I need to rearrange in order of importance...