"I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write." ~St. Augustine

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

So much more than me

I get tired. He never grows tired or weary.

I get frustrated. His plans are never thwarted.

I get confused. He knows the beginning from the end.

I get irritable and rude. His love is steadfast, perfect and never rude.

I get stupid. He is perfect wisdom and know all things.

I get overwhelmed. He can do all things.

I get selfish. He ever lives to intercede for His people.

I get afraid. In Him there is no darkness at all. His perfect love casts out all fear.

Thank you Lord for being so much more than I can ever be. Thank you for doing that which I couldn't even think of...being more than I could ever imagine. Thank you for being higher than me, deeper than me, wider than me and beyond me. Thank you for being so much more than me.

"Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!...Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. ...You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you..." Isaiah 55

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Me, too, Bethlehem

Insignificant. Insignificant was the word he used to describe this little village, this little town in the hills of Judah. My heart soared the moment that he spoke the words... "the insignificant town of Bethlehem" From deep within, with tears welling, came my immediate response... "Me, too, Bethlehem!"

The minister said it was characteristic of how God worked. I know. Me, too, Bethlehem. He rarely chooses the most powerful people or the most beautiful places to use when He is working. Sometimes He does, but rarely. Rarely does God choose to invade the lives of the prominent, the wise and the gorgeous. More often He chooses the insignificant, the deaf, the dumb and the ugly. I know. Me, too, Bethlehem.

Insignificant was the town of Bethlehem when David, Israel's king, was born there. Still insignificant this little hill country town was when Jesus spent His first night on earth there. But, God chose it... visited it... and used it. Now Bethlehem is know across the nations and preached about among the unreached of the world. Bethlehem is part of that wonderful story. Bethlehem is famous now. Bethlehem is spoken of, sung about and visited often. Bethlehem is profoundly significant now.

Something insignificant becoming significant by God. I know. Me, too, Bethlehem.

Insignificant was this little girl. Small, quiet and unnoticed by most. Stephanie, unknown and unimportant. Sad and lonely was this little teenage girl that the Lord chose those many years ago... He visited... and is now using. Now she is profoundly significant... a dearly loved child of the Almighty King, a daughter, a saint, a servant of the Most High God.

Something insignificant becoming significant because of God.

Me, too, Bethlehem.

Monday, December 21, 2009


Ah! the beauty of a freshly fallen snow!

Yesterday's post talked about a book I have been attempting to read. The theme of this book is living a life of gratefulness or "prayerfulness". According to the author, this prayer-filled life is one of of awareness, one of "aliveness", and or wakefulness. It has reminded me of the importance of noticing and watching for the "gifts" that are all around me. I have been challenged to see all things as gifts-- everything is a gift. The author challenges one to live amongst even the mundane in surprise, awe and gratefulness.

It snowed last night and we woke to a blanket of white. Snow is not mundane! We are living in a moment of awe and wow! in our home this morning! The kids are outside playing in the thin layer of white that covers our garden. It doesn't snow here regularly, so we were not anticipating it... but we were hoping! In fact, we prayed and asked God for this gift. Maybe we should have been anticipating it?!

Last night I read from this sleepy book, my boring book, that has impacted me greatly! The author talks about true gratefulness as rooted in a deep trust. We are thankful for a gift when we trust (even just a little trust) the giver. A truly thankful response is spoken to a friend when the gift is handed to you... not after you have opened it. A truly grateful person is handed the gift and experiences a "thank you" of heart that precedes the knowledge of the gift inside. This is trust. Who cares that the size of the package is the perfect size for a bomb or a rotten egg... we trust the one who hands it to us and say thank you with perfect freedom. My friend would not give me a bomb or a rotten smelling egg! I expect good things are in this little gold wrapped package!

Ah! If we could transfer this to all things given by our Father, the Giver! If I could thank God for each thing that comes my way, without knowing the inside or the outcome... simply because I trust the Giver. I know He gives good things. I know that even those things that are difficult, ugly or "bomb" like in my life are given in love. Here is the rub. To be content in all things... whether in much or little. To be thankful in all circumstances and rejoice always. To look at suffering and rejoice... because we know and deeply trust the One who gives or allow, at least, the circumstances and suffering around us.

So, to stand in awe and gratefulness when looking at the new fallen snow, the rain, the hail, the wind and the mud... this is the challenge of the day. I want to see my Father's good hand in all these and more. Open my eyes, Lord, I want to see you today! Make me aware and awake all day to your gifts--- the good, the hard and the ugly. May I walk through my day today in a state of anticipation for Your gifts, for Your Presence and for Your snow!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Asleep sometimes

I have been reading a fascinating book on prayer.

Sometimes fascinating, I should say. It has been one of those books that I love about half the time and "hate" another half the time. At times the book is exceedingly boring and difficult to follow. Then it surprises me and whamo! a profound nugget of truth jumps off the page. There have been paragraph-long pieces I have written down because I have felt the weight of their truth. And, then, back into confusion and boredom I go... and so the reading has been with this book.

From this sleepy book, one particular theme has been bouncing around in my heart. I believe it has had a very practical affect on my life already.

The author talks about those moments in life where we are surprised or truly grateful--- those moments, you know, when you say "Wow!" at the sunset or at the rainbow.

You know those moments when our hearts are full and in awe at the newborn babe or the sweet smile from your child. He says those moments are actually more true and genuine prayer (or prayerfulness, he terms it some places) than most of our prayer-moments or daily devotional "prayer" times. I can't disagree.

I can find prayer times to be dull and distracted. I can find my mind wandering and certainly I am not often sitting in a state of "Wow!".

On the other hand, it is those unique "surprise" moments when I a feel most alive, most truly grateful and this, He calls true prayer.

The author suggests that in these moments we are truly awake, truly alive and truly grateful. In these moments we are not taking for granted the gifts that are all around us and in fact, the realization that everything good is a gift. It is in these moments we are truly grateful and are, therefore, praying.

The gratefulness that arises in those moments of surprise---the beauty of a noticed full-moon on a clear night---fill our hearts with gratefulness, which is indeed prayer. And from this state of prayerfulness comes or flows our "prayers" (i.e. our words). He states that the meal itself--- the actual eating and enjoying the tastes, flavor and food--- is more genuine prayer than the "prayers of blessing" we often say before hand. Maybe our prayers should come at the end of the meal!?

An important question comes with this very every-human-experience of surprise or awe. The question, of course, is to whom, or to what are we praying?

When the roaring beach waters catch our attention, or the news of a recovered loved one is heard, or the excessive, lavish gift from friend is given--- those moments of Wow! or gratefulness are what we all know. Where do we look when we have these moments and how often, how frequently, are we awake like this? If we begin to awake to the reality that all things are a gift. In truth, all good things are lavished gifts and opportunity for awe, then we too might live in a state of prayerfulness. We too may live awake.

As I looked around the room of our village church this morning, I was struck by this concept.

We have freedom to worship here--- a gift. We have people of all age--- a gift. We have music, a guitar, drums, a warm place to worship--- all gifts. And I had a moment of awe. I experienced a moment of awareness. I felt gratefulness that was, most certainly, prayer. I was awake and conscious of God. I was, in that moment, aware and more thoroughly "alive" than I had been on my walk to church that morning.

My other readings this week have been along the same line:
"God is not real to most of us because of the condition of our consciousness. If we are not aware of him, it is not because he is not with us. It is, in part, because our consciousness is so under the sway of other interests that it cannot turn to him with loving attention which might soon discern him. Did you ever encounter, on the street, a friend whose physical eyes looked at you without seeing you? You walked right up to him before the alien look on his face changed into one of recognition. Though actually in your presence, he was nevertheless as unconscious of you as if you did not exist. That is a persistent failure of the unemancipated consciousness. It can be so preoccupied with lesser realities that it does not sense the presence of the divine Reality surrounding and sustaining it. What makes life splendid is the constant awareness of God. What transforms the spirit into his likeness is intimate fellowship with him. We are saved-- from our pettiness and earthiness and selfishness and sin---by conscious communion with his greatness and love and holiness" ~Albert Edward Day
O Father awaken my heart to Your constant Presence. May I be aware of You and of Your gifts to me and may I live in gratefulness, prayerfulness and worship. Turn my attention to You throughout my day and wake me up when I fall asleep on my feet. Free my consciousness. Free my mind to be aware of You and may I, in all things, whether I am eating or drinking or praying... may I, in all things, give you honor and glory!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Feigned Repentance

Our puppy is now a bit over 3 months old and has already learned to pretend to repent. Do we, as humans, learn this as fast? She has learned and clearly knows that when the back door opens, she is to sit, stay and not bolt inside. We have practiced this, trained toward this and punished her when she has not complied. With both positive and negative reinforcement, this has been a daily training for the past 2 months. Daily we have worked on this and 9 times out of 10 she obeys the rule. She has shown that she knows what to do by generally obeying the clear rule: door opens... I sit, I stay and I get a treat and a "good girl". It has worked.

Generally, when she is punished (a stern "no" or a loud sound), she bends her head and starts to roll into a submissive position. This is normal dog behaviour and a good sign. It is quite cute, actually and we all want to smile and lavish love on this repentant sight. But, today it was less amusing when she took the lowered-head position, tilted as if to fall into the submissive state and then with strong perseverance (and still in the "half-submissive-position" pushed her way through the door). It was as if she was saying, "Yes, I know I am not supposed to do this... I know I am making a bad choice... but, I really must. I have to. I just can't help myself." But, she says with her actions, "see, do you see... I am submitting" (and rebelling at the same time!??)." Of course, her submission wasn't even close to real submission. It was a strangely human-like rebellion. Her actions clearly stated, "I will pretend here that I am obeying; but, really, I am making my way and doing what I want to do. But, look at me... I am a good girl-- I am so very sorry as I do it!"

Doesn't it sound like the good-'ol phrase, "better to ask for forgiveness than permission".

Feigned repentance. It is quite a sad and pitiful thing to watch. For our puppy put herself in a submissive pose, but actually was rebelling with purposefulness. We humans might say, "Yes, I am sitting down; but, I am standing up on the inside." Oh! How we have perfected the art of feigned repentance.

Repentance means that you see the wrong and turn from it. Any movement toward the sin, or the disobedience negates all real, genuine repentance. This is true of our pup and very true of me. How often do I say "I am sorry" to my husband, but hold within somewhere an "buy really this is why I had to say this to you" feeling in my depths. "I really have the right to be angry like this, I think to myself... but on the outside I am apologizing for my rude behaviour or angry outburst.

We bow our heads, say our "sorry" and persevere forward in our own way... whether it be thought or deed.

When I know what I ought to do and do not do it... when I know what I ought not do and yet do it--- all somewhere deep within trusting, or assuming, or presuming upon the grace of God. This is a pitiful sight. Like my sweet pup who bows her head in repentance as she disobeys with gusto...

Lord, may I feel the weight of my sin and know Your thoughts about my deeds, my heart and my thoughts. May I have true repentance and turn from my sin. May my submission be genuine and my I be aware of my rebellious ways.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Unexpected Path, Unexpecting Town

Oh Little Town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie...

They missed His coming.

The whole town of Bethlehem missed His coming. They weren't waiting for Him. Those that were waiting thought His coming would look so very different than it did. They slept through the whole thing! God does this. He uses unexpected paths and ways that surprise. He uses odd or different means to accomplish His end.

Reading in Psalm 77, I am struck by these different means. "Your road led through the sea, your pathway through the waters---a pathway no one knew was there!" (v. 19 NLT). His roads, His ways, His direction ...was through the water. The Hebrew words in this verse speak of an inconceivable and unknown way. Steps that are unknown. His footsteps were not perceivable. His steps were unknown. His path was unexpected and not knowable. He led them through the water, for crying out loud!!! Through water... Certainly this was a pathway that no one knew was there! He used this unexpected path.

How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given...

He came to earth as a baby. Silently, He slipped in. An unexpected path. ...footsteps unknown. A way they could not see. Quietly He made His entrance.... announcing His arrival to only a few shepherds. His arrival was discerned and perceived by only a few. He came to His own, but they knew him not. They did not recognize Him. They did not perceive, expect or detect His coming. They missed Him.

O come to us, abide in us, Our Lord Emmanuel!

The deeply sad thing is that while the people of Bethlehem missed His coming, they suffered greatly because of it. Herod killed their children because of Christ's coming. Actually, Herod killed their little ones because of a star (another unexpected path!)---and the testimony of a few foreigners. Herod's soldiers killed their baby boys in His desperate effort to stamp out the coming of this King.

The families in Bethlehem lost their baby boys and yet missed the opportunity to worship the Messiah that would rescue them from this hateful, sinful, and messed up world. They missed the abiding blessings of seeing the Chosen One that may have helped, even if just a little, to handle the grief and loss that came upon this silent, sleepy town. They missed the abiding of Emmanuel... the hope it may have brought their distraught and grieving hearts.

God uses unexpected paths and hard-to-understand ways. May we not miss Him! May I not miss Him and take the opportunity to worship this Messiah. May I not miss the blessing of bowing down to a King that will rescue me from this sinful, wretched world! May I not miss God's unexpected ways. May I follow Him through the waters, through His odd and strange paths... like a sheep following a good, kind Shepherd. (Ps. 77:20)

No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him, still
The dear Christ enters in.

Oh Holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend on us we pray!

Cast out our sin and enter in,
Be born in us today!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Fit for a King

A gift fit for a king.

We were handed a scrap piece of paper and a pen. The assignment given was to write down one item we would be willing to give. We were to write it and place the paper into the gift box as a present for Jesus. This item was to be important to us, of high value. This item was to be a gift fit for a king, fit for the King, to be exact. We had just read and discussed the story of the Magi. They had searched and searched. They had come prepared expecting to find the King and to give Him gifts of great worth. They worshipped and gave Him valuable gifts.

As we sang Christmas songs, each one in the room took time to think a moment. At differing speeds, hands began to scribble on the scrap. We weren't being asked to "really" give this item away; but, we were asked to think of it as if it were real. What would you bring to this King as you bowed before him in worship?

Midway through the second song, my 7 year old son motioned quietly for my attention. When I caught his eye, he held up his piece of paper to show me what he had written. He was careful to show only me. In clear writing was one word. It said "Rocky". My heart was filled and a smile was instant. Rocky. My son wanted to give Jesus his Rocky.

Sweet Rocky is a raccoon that has gone everywhere with us. He is a very well loved stuffed toy that has seen his better day--- too much love, I think! This dear toy has traveled on many airplanes, taxis and trains. He has slept with my son in the many, many beds. He has ventured from country to country and from State to State. Rocky the raccoon has been lost and he has been searched for ...and Rocky has been found. This animal has been with my son through most of his life and he truly loves Rocky. Rocky is highly valued.

In bold letters his paper said "Rocky".

I was moved by my son's surrender of this deeply loved friend. My heart was full and my eyes as well. I believe that the Lord smiled tonight. I believe that my Father in heaven was moved and singing over this beautiful gift. I believe that His heart filled and He was truly worshipped with this act of simple scribble on a piece of paper. I believe that Jesus would see this as fit for Him, the King.

Rocky the raccoon, a gift fit for the King.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Wouldn't that be great!

Wouldn't that be great!, he said with excitement.

We had just finished putting up the Christmas tree, eating dinner and watching a Max Lucado video about Christmas. Throughout the video the bug, cartoon characters (Hermie and friends) have multiple conversations with God. They speak to God and He speaks back to them in a sweet, strong voice. As the video came to a close and the credits began rolling, a thought that had been rambling in his mind came out of my 7 year old son's mouth with a blurt, "Oh! Wouldn't that be great if we could just talk to God like that and God would talk back!" Strangely enough, I had had a similar train-of-thought bouncing in my head throughout the video.

The thoughtless and immediate, almost palatable, group response to my son's statement was, "Yes! That would be sooo cool!" And then there was a second internal "stop" in my spirit as I "yes!-responded" with my mouth. Wait a minute! Can't we talk to God like that and hear from Him?! Isn't that what we see throughout Scripture? Isn't that what a relationship with God is? ...Speaking with Him, hearing from Him, interacting with Him? Isn't that why I wake so early on these cold, dark mornings to sit before Him? Wait a minute! Yes! We can. I can. I do.

I turned to my son in a third, now verbal, response and put my hand gently on his face. "Oh, but son, we can! We can talk to God that way and He does respond", I said. The look on his face was priceless. His look was a mix of hope and doubt... His look was, "Really!" and "Really?" all mixed up. My husband chimed in and agreed with my statement of assurance that we could have a vibrant, interactive, conversational relationship with God. It was a sweet moment. This isn't the first time we have had this discussion with our son... but worth a re-visit in that teachable moment.

We revisited the topic after church today. As we ate lunch we all four discussed how God speaks, how we know it is Him, and what His voice sounds like. We all were able to share moments of hearing from God. My son shared that as he has been reading in Exodus lately, he has been struck with how much faith Moses must have had in God. He shared that while reading it he has beenfeeling like he needed to grow in his own faith and trust of God. Was this God speaking? he ventured. Yes! We all agreed.

I shared that sometimes when reading a passage of the Bible, a word or a phrase would just jump off the page and touch my heart. I shared that sometimes it was encouraging and sometimes it was convicting. Was this God speaking? Yes! We all agreed.

My daughter shared that sometimes when she is singing a song about the Lord, she is filled up with so much joy she will burst. Is this God speaking? Yes! We all agreed.

My husband said when he asks God what he should be studying or preaching that a certain verse or a certain passage of the Scripture comes to mind. Is this God speaking? Yes! We all agreed.

On and on went the discussion... talk of another person's words being used as the "voice" of God, the absence of fear or the physical presence of peace, or that small voice where you know the right or wrong way, or that "must" feeling of prayer for someone. What a joy this discussion was to my soul!

This is the Christmas story come to my home. The Immanuel that was promised in Isaiah came to earth as a baby. And, He lives in our home with us. God with us! Wouldn't it be great if we could walk with God, if we could talk with God, if we could hear Him talk with us!?!! Oh! Wouldn't that be great!!

Father, may we hear you more. You say Let he that have an ear hear what the Spirit says... let me hear you and see you more, Lord. You are God with us! You never leave us and you have given us your Spirit to guide us, to remind us of all truth. May I abide in you and walk in you and live in you today.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

So many books...

So many books... so little time. Or more accurate to the truth in my life, so many books... so little effort given to reading.

I sat down to read tonight. I have been "attempting" to read this book for the past 6 months and truly, I have loved this book. It has been encouraging, challenging and has honed my faith. I picked it up again tonight and browsed the "recommended reading" list in the back of the book. It was like a mouth watering menu at a favorite restaurant. The list from this trusted author was so inviting. I wanted to read them all! I marked them and now intend to add them to my "wish list" on Amazon. Ah!, my wish list. I have a book-wish list online and another one on the book shelf here at home. Books, piles of books, I wish to be reading.

It would be nice to say that I don't have time to read, but that wouldn't be true. I do have time to read. It isn't like I have a boatload of time to read, of course... but I do have time. I just so rarely choose to spend that time reading. If I devoted myself to reading and dove into that pile o' books, I know the dent I could make in the pile. If I simply gave 20 minutes here or and a half an hour there, I know I could make my way through that book wish list. And, I know my soul would be better off from the endeavor, as well.

There have been distinct times in my life when I chosen reading over other "less-soul enhancing" activities. I have made choices with my time to read and it has impacted me greatly. I am ready for that again. I am ready for a push from the Lord and a dive into this inviting menu of wish-books on my shelf.

So many books... so little effort given to reading. I want this to change.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Gift of a Dream

God spoke to my heart through a dream last night. He has used dreams a few times in my life. Last night I saw a picture in my sleep and woke immediately knowing it was from God. Interestingly enough, past dreams that I believe have been from God have mostly have been about my heart; and in particular, these dreams have been about my sin. Last night God spoke to my sin through a dream.

The details of the dream aren't important. The important part of this moment in my journey is the message that I woke up with at 2 am. I woke up this morning knowing (praying, actually) that I needed to be "wearing Christ". More specifically I needed to be "wearing" thankfulness, worship, joy and grace. It can be quite easy for me to "wear" complaint, discouragement, fear or judgement. I saw this in my dream. I believe God's hand was at work in my dream world and He was speaking loud and clear. Stephanie, clothe yourself in Me.

Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature. Romans 13

Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3

All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." 1 Peter 5

So many Scriptures come to mind and I am moved to begin afresh praying that I would put-on Christ each day.

The other (and more important) part of the dream and consequently the "knowledge" that I woke with... is that I need to put these things on, I need to "wear" thankfulness and grace, most specifically AT HOME. It is an easy thing to say that we are most real with those we love. It is easy to say that those we are closest to get the hardest, harshest and most raw treatment from us--- but it should not be this way. I was struck this early morning by the fact that my "wearing" of complaints and grumbling was most affecting my home. I was struck this early 2 am morning that I need to put-on Christ in my home, with my husband and with my children.

The beauty of last night is that God did not leave well enough alone. He had a follow-up discussion prepared in my daily reading this morning! I love that! This is what I read the morning after my dream:

"Accompany me to-day, O Holy Spirit, in all my goings, but stay with me also when I am in my own home and among my kindred. Forbid that I should fail to show to those nearest to me the sympathy and consideration which thy grace enables me to show to others with whom I have to do. Forbid that I should refuse to my own household the courtesy and politeness which I think proper to show to strangers. Let charity today begin at home." ~John Baillie

He says "forbid". Forbid, dear Lord, that I should be unkind, complaining, harsh or judgmental to my own family. Forbid it, Lord. Forbid that I should not show mercy to my children and my husband when you show me mercies new every morning. Forbid it Lord! Forbid that I not wear the grace and joy that You have bought with such a precious price!

It started with a dream... it was knowledge and conviction ...and then a mid-night prayer... it was an early morning reading... and now, yet, another prayer.

Thank you for the dream, Lord. Let charity today begin at home.
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