Monday, March 31, 2014

30

It's been 30 years.

30 years ago today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank You, Lord, for saving my soul!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Covered

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here I am. Covered. 




Saturday, March 22, 2014

Hopelessly Hopeful

"I know how confused you sometimes feel - and how much you long to find the way forward. You have tried so many different things; you have been so hopeful at times. Yet your hope-filled paths have led to disappointment." Jesus Today

Lord, I make such messes. Out of anything! I seem to have this natural instinct that requires me to get involved. Why must I be in control?! I confuse myself thinking I am helping when really I'm wreaking havoc on whatever I touch. You've seen it happen - over and over. Make no mistake, everything was done with the very best of intentions. I wish I didn't have to recount the times I've looked back and realized how my own actions, my own interjections, my well-meaning efforts seem to be the very thing that diverted a path, caused a ripple effect, developed the snowball that turned into an avalanche, or flat out led to disappointment. I'm ashamed of myself. 

"I want you to know that I fully understand how hard your journey has been. I also assure you that I can bring good out of every bit of it." 

Lord, do You mean it?! Even for me? Even after the mess I've made? Even after the failure I've faced? Even after the destruction I've caused? Can it be true for even me? Can you make something good out of this? Even this?

"This is the way of wisdom: trusting Me no matter what happens in your life. It is through trust that you follow Me along the right path." 

Oh yes, Lord, I can now see this to be true. You've been guiding my steps, leading me even when I was "hanging out in the hallway" waiting for doors to open. Even when I was trying desperately to bang down doors to make them open. 

"There are many things that seem random or wrong as you go along your journey. Yet I am able to fit them all into a comprehensive plan for good - My Master Plan." 

Sovereign Lord, You are most worthy to be praised! There are still things that seem unclear, things I can't yet make sense of, and yet I also can look back and realize how You're weaving it all together. There are glimpses of Your Master Plan unfolding, promises being fulfilled, and Your Sovereignty working it all together for my good. It's humbling to even know You're at work, despite my own interferences, yet I praise You! 

"From your limited perspective, your journey may be confusing... However, from My limitless, big-picture perspective, I am indeed leading you along straight paths."

Through it all, You are good! No matter what I've faced, You are my God. Faithful even when I am hopelessly faithless. Lead me, Lord. Make straight the very twists and turns I've stumbled upon and caused for myself. Allow me to rest beside still waters when I grow weary. Help me look back and see the single set of footprints and know most assuredly You have carried me. I am hopelessly helpless, yet hopeful in You.


Friday, March 21, 2014

Soar

The first full day of spring. Here I sit on the back porch, enjoying the warmth of this 60-degree day, soaking in the sounds of birds churping, the rustling of branches in the wind. There's a few blossoms on a budding tree revealing hints that this new season of birth and growth has arrived. It's peaceful in my little cul de sac. 

In magnificent form, I caught a glimps of a bird with impressive wingspan soaring across the backyard. It circled back around and I could see with certainty the majesty of its flight, taking ownership of the sky, gliding on the wind and expressing itself with ease and grace. 

But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31

Several times this week I've attempted to write. There's something so tragic, so detrimental, I've not even been able to express it. Truthfully I didn't think it wise to share, yet I couldn't figure out how to even process the situation and all the emotions that came with it. 

I'm enjoying the peacefulness of this day, thankful for the reminder of God's presence and the peace that passes all understanding even in the midst of sorrow, pain and grief. In the middle of inexplainable tragedy there's a calm that comes from knowing Him even when we don't know the answers or the whys.

I don't have to worry about growing weary. I don't have to fear growing faint. There are times I think I simply can't or won't make it. There are times when as sure as I am of my weakness, I know I will most certainly stumble, fall, fail, give up, lose heart, lose hope, lose strength. 

Though I grow tired and weary, though my strength gives out, though I can't even think straight, though I don't even know what to feel, though I can't make sense of the swirling emotions, though the mountains be shaken, though my flesh and my heart may fail, despite all of it, I'm given the promise of taking flight, soaring with such grace and ease as that eagle who just circled the trees. Riding the wind with strength. Giving way to the breezes and using them to empower flight. When my hope is in The Lord, trusting fully, faithfully surrendering to Him, I don't have to worry about giving up or giving in. My strength is renewed even when I feel like I can't go another second. When I can't take yet another step, He gives me wind to let me soar. Rising above the uncertainty and gaining not just clarity but soaring to new perspective as I draw closer to Him. 



Sunday, March 16, 2014

Present in the Present

I'm sitting in a quiet house watching the sun come up in the distance. It's been beautiful shades of purple blended with oranges in perfect ombre fashion. Everyone is still asleep - including the big ball of fluff nestled by my side. He's usually letting all his puppy energy out after a full night of sleep but there's a sense of calm that I'm soaking in.

The sun is starting to glow with a magnificent light. It's brilliance so bright I can no longer stare directly at it. I love my chair that sits beside the double window giving a perfect view of each new sunrise, each new day. 

There were highs and lows yesterday. A special event brought some stressful moments and I wasn't sure if it would be pulled off successfully or not. But that's all in the past. I cannot control or change what has already taken place.

Tomorrow is a looming threat of what's being called the St. Patrick's Eve snow storm. Yes, I did type snow. In Virginia. In the middle of March. (I married a boy from Maine who is used to this - but I can wholeheartedly say my newsfeed reports everyone adamently objecting to this forecast. Including me.) But that's all the future. I cannot control or predict the weather, or anything else that is yet to come.

12When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” 13“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

Judges 6:12-13

Learning to be present in the present. Not worrying about tomorrow. Not rehashing yesterday. Realizing that God's presence is with me in my present. So often I'm looking for wonders and signs - the big miraculous things that I am hoping to come - and I miss His presence in the moment I'm at here and now. Like the sunrise that is now bursting forth with rays breaking through the window and casting such a glare, I can barely see the screen to type. Or the peacefulness of this calm morning while everyone still restfully sleeps. Or the fact that I am alive today, living and breathing, walking and moving. It should be cause for me to pause and ask Him what He has planned for ME - not what I expect from Him. 

I am naturally a planner and big-picture thinker so my mind doesn't just skip ahead, it lunges forward in what seems like a voyage to infinity and beyond... I leave my own present to worry about not just tomorrow, but the next week, month and year. Will there be snow? Will there be school? Do we have enough groceries to get us through? How will this impact the entire week? What about the rest of the school year? 

Just yesterday I sat on the back deck discussing plans for 2015 and worrying about something that isn't even a real scenario yet! I was so caught up in what I am trying to plan that I missed the cool breeze blowing through my hair. I was so wrapped up in what I am trying to figure out that I missed the warmth of the sun heating the day. I was so distracted by something that isn't even a reality at this point that I had lost the enjoyment of our family picnic outside. 

A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.

Psalm 90:4

One day is like a thousand years to an Omnipotenti, Omniscient, Omnipresent God. This one brief little flash of a day that I am about to wrecklessly discard of because I'm worried about tomorrow or still lingering in yesterday. If I were to truly realize that this day is so brief and yet so rare and I'm only been given it once, would I stop worrying and planning? 

Casting all my cares on Him and learning to be present in the moment, realizing that life is happening right in front of me. Forgetting what is behind, I can't change that anyway, learning from the past and using it to direct the future, I press on toward the goal - just as scripture tells me to do - but not without realizing that today - right here, right now, in this very moment - I am learning to live in the present.