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

Friday, October 30, 2009

Sometimes it just stinks!

Sometimes living overseas just stinks! Actually, the word "sucks" comes to mind (not to be too totally offensive!). Sometimes this life call just sucks!

I talked to my sister last night. I love my sisters. This sweet sister is pregnant and I want to be near her. She told me about her current spiritual journey and I just wanted to be in the same room. I wanted to hug her.

I read a note from my dear friend today and I just wanted to cry. I could literally feel "missing" in my chest. My chest tightened and I felt just a bit sick. I miss her so much.

I drank coffee yesterday from a mug that I painted with my friend for her birthday. Why can't I just live next door to her and we could drink our coffee together... on the same continent! I just want to stop by her house and chat.

My mom is in pain. She is physically hurting and weakening. She needs surgery in this next year and I won't be there. ...I think of her so much. I want to help. I want to be a phone call away--- without calculating a time difference.

I opened an email from my sister-in-law and saw pictures of my cute niece. She is growing so fast, I can hardly believe it. I am missing it! She won't know Aunt Stephanie next time I see her and this... well, ... it sucks.

Sometimes this life of mine just stinks! What else can I say?

As I write this I am listening to Aaron Shust's song, My Savior... it is good for my soul right now.

I am not skilled to understand
What God has willed, what God has planned
I only know at His right hand
Stands One who is my Savior
I take Him at his word and deed
Christ died to save me this I read
And in my heart I find a need
For Him to be my Savior
That He would leave His place on high
And come for sinful man to die
You count it strange, but once did I
Before I knew my Savior
My Savior loves, my Savior lives
My Savior's always there for me
My God He was, my God He is
My God He's always gonna be
My daughter has had a dream more than once. In her dream, all the people she loves live in one big apartement building (or house). It is a happy dream! I have that dream too...
It is good to remember that God knows what it is to "leave" His place. He knows about missing people, separation, deep love for friends... He knows what it is to be a stranger, an alien, longing for a better country, a perfect home.
Thanks, Lord for music. Thanks for Truth, Father. It doesn't make it hurt less, or stink less... it just brings Your Presence into the pain.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Accidental Mess

It was upside down. I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe I had just made such a mess of the important project. It was upside down!

So, last night I sewed a badge on my daughter's Girls Guides Jacket. And, yes, after sewing it on nice and tight (to handle to washing machine), I realized that I had sewn the patch on upside down. Upside down!!! It doesn't read "100 years" (to commemorate the 100th year of Girls Guiding), it reads "sraey 001". This was a problem!

Will anyone notice? I think to myself. I tug at it a bit. Wow! I did that stitch really well (on the sewing machine, mind you!). Do you laugh? Do you cry? Do you throw something?

My daughter walked up to me about the same moment I was seeing my mistake and I showed it to her. The look on her face was a -"Mom, you MUST fix this!"-expression that was priceless. So, I dug around in our sewing kit for the stitch-remover-doohickey. I settled down in a comfy chair to begin the ripping process.

The stitches were in there tight! Why did I do them so small and so tight?? What was I thinking would happen to this little badge? What was I thinking? It was accidental.

And, so the ripping began.

It was a quiet moment while I ripped and dug and pulled and tugged at the little patch. In the quietness I asked God to show me Himself. This is what God is doing in my heart, isn't he? I began to think. There are wrongly placed ideas, identities, values and thoughts that have been sewn in deeply, tightly, and securely. For better or worse, as a child, my family patched my heart and soul with experiences, images and ideas that were upside down and backwards. An accidental mess was made in my heart, mind, and soul. Some of my painful childhood experiences were like badges sewn on upside down!

That doesn't belong there, my Father says! It should read, "Loved" not "unloved", He exclaims when looking at my heart! It should read "trust" not "fear", He says with His seam-ripper in hand. Father just sits down quietly and begins to rip--- one stitch at a time. Let's get those thoughts, those ideas, those values right side up! We need a new a new patch--- a new badge!, He says with a gentle smile and unwavering hands.

As I ripped the badge off my daughter's jacket, I tore a few holes. I was careful. I was slow in the process... but still, a few holes remain from the ripping. God has been ripping seams and stitches of my life out for a while now. The process has been painful at times and a few scars remain. Many of my badges are right side up now, thank you Father! Yet, there are still a few to go.

I will now sew the patch right side up on my sweet girl's jacket. It will look just fine and yes, I fixed it! When she goes to her Girls Guiding meeting she will wear a jacket with a badge rightly placed... and placed with much time and love.

"God makes all things beautiful in His time. What God does endures forever. Nothing can be added to it or taken away from His work in our life." (Ecc. 3)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Rough winds

Wind has a truly amazing power. The plant I hung on the hook outside was knocked off and on the ground.. the hook itself broken from the event. The bird feeder was askew, empty of all seed. Our electricity had been precarious when the winds kicked up. Sealed up safely in our home we could still hear the sounds of the wind whipping through the town. Almost scary sounds... It is amazing the power of wind.

I journeyed this morning through an exercise in Alice Fryling's book, The Art of Spiritual Listening. This book has been used greatly in my life. I opened it this morning with anticipation. I was not disappointed. She directed me to the all familiar passage in Mark 4 where Christ takes his disciples across the water. Apparently, Christ falls asleep and a great squall comes up. Early in our journey through this passage Fryling asks us what a "squall" is... I didn't have a ready definition in my head. I could imagine one. I knew it had something to do with wind. Strong, violent wind.

At some point in the journey she asks us to sit quietly, imagining our lives as a boat, and then she asks us to discern what the "wind" is in our lives. What is that powerful force that swells up? What is that which threatens us, rocks us, and brings instant fear somewhere deep within? My answer was immediate. The answer within me was ready. I know what the winds are in my life.

The answer isn't "busyness"... a busy schedule is the waves, breaking over the boat and nearly drowning me sometimes. The answer isn't insecurity, pride, frustration, or fear... those are the my boat "rocking". No... my "winds" are expectations. Those MUSTS... or SHOULDS... in my life, coming at me at high speed.

When I look up squall in the dictionary I find that it most definitely has to do with winds... Squall is defined as a "sudden, sharp increase in wind speed". This describes my heart-life a bit. I don't feel the pressure of expectations all the time. They just come up! I am going about my day, or sitting quietly before the Lord in a devotion time and BAM--- a sudden, sharp increase in wind speed. Oh!, I think, I haven't called so-and-so, Oh! I need to do such-and-such, Oh man!, I never did this-and-that, Oh yeah!, I forgot to write whoze-it.... And certainly this squall is accompanied by the thoughts or perceived (made-up or assumed) expectations of the person(s) I am letting down because I haven't called, written, or done. And those are the main gusts... expectations. Oh! The winds pick up speed rapidly in my heart.

The to-do list gets filled up, the schedule "figured out" and adjusted... these waves get quite large and begin to threaten my boat. And, then the fear, the worry, the pride, the insecurity, and the real annoyance--- my boat is now rocking!!

Fryling asks a poignant question that opened my eyes not only to my winds, my waves, and my boat--- but to my attitude. She asks, "What did the disciples say to Jesus before He calmed the storm?" As I read prayerfully the answer was as plain as day, "Teacher, don't you care..." Do you care, Lord!?

I get mad at Him somewhere deep within when I feel those waves and the rocking of my boat. Don't you care, Lord! You have me here! You gave me these responsibilities! You made my weak body! I can only do so much, Lord, you know that! Don't you care?!!

Christ stands and up rebukes the winds. "Shut up, expectations!" "Be still, busyness and planning!" "Be quiet, you musts and shoulds!", He says. My rocking boat begins to calm again. He rebukes the wind and the waves first and then... He rebukes His disciples. Steph, why are you so afraid?! Why do you listen to those winds and hear scary sounds? Do you not yet trust me, Stephanie? Where is your faith? So easily lost... I almost hear dissapointment in His voice. Or is it compassion?

What do the disciples say to Jesus after He calms the storms?, Fryling asks... They say nothing. What can I say? Oh, yeah! I forgot who You are Lord!! Oh yeah!, I forgot who I am because You are with me!! Oh yeah! I forgot Your power, Your love and Your Presence! I forgot Lord!

They look at each other in a half surprised, half wondering way--- Who is this! Who is this One that we are following!

Winds have power, yes... but the Lord of Heaven and Earth, my loving Father, made the winds and the waves! I can trust Him in my boat. What would it be to actually be able to sleep with Him in the boat? What would my life look like if I trusted Him so much that I saw the squall and just layed down next to Him to sleep?

This sweet journey ends with an exercise that brought peace and enlarged my soul to fit a bit more faith this morning. She says, "Set aside some time to sit with the verse, 'Be still, and know that I am God' (Ps. 46:10). Repeat the verse to yourself, leaving off one word at a time. Be quiet and prayerful as you sit in God's presence. Spend a few minutes with each phrase...
Be still and know that I am God
Be still and know that I am
Be still and know that
Be still and know
Be still and
Be still
Be
Oh Lord, lead me forward in rest and stillness in You. May I know You more so that I may trust You more. May I know that you are the "I am". May I know that you can do all things... May I be still. Oh, loving Father teach me to rest.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Bitter Sweet Prayer

Prayer is bitter-sweet.

I had the privilege to spend a week praying. Hours and hours of prayer. It was really amazing to spend that much time in concerted prayer for others. Really sweet.

When you open your heart up to God and spend such time in worship and intercession, His nearness becomes more significant and sweet.

Our first few days praying were simply sweetness. Worship. Intercession. Thanksgiving. ...Sweetness. Peace welled in my soul. Love for those for whom I was interceding washed over me and filled me up. Sweetness.

Prayer is sweet and bitter. I had tasted sweet. Bitter was next.

You can't assume that when You enter in, stand before the Holy Throne with confidence (which amazingly God invites us to do!), that you won't at some point fall on your knees and say "Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty." (Isaiah 5:5). We must fall on our knees and see our sin.

On day four of praying, I was there. On my knees I was calling out to God... I am so unclean! I was seeing my heart in His light. I was deeply grieved, disgusted and ashamed. Day four is when I began to taste the bitterness of prayer.

Was it spiritual warfare? Yes! Was it my own flesh rising up within? Yes! Was it God's Spirit, God's word, piercing deep within my heart, my soul, my mind? Yes.

God was at work in my heart! ...The enemy was at work against my soul. My flesh was rising up against my softening spirit... Oh, what a difficult day! What a dark night! I couldn't ignore that which God was allowing me to see in my own heart.


Dark moments, "dark nights of the soul", have been the testimony of many that have gone before us in this journey of prayer. I spent one night in darkness. And, His mercies are new every morning.

I could almost see myself as the woman caught in adultery... afraid, accused and yet, sensing His love, His forgiveness, His grace. Hearing Him say to my soul, "Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin." (John 8:11)

As I surrendered to God, confessed my sin, grieved for my sinful condition, stood firm against the devil and washed myself clean again by His grace... I found God's nearness again. (James 4:7-11) Oh what sweetness!

Bitter and sweet...

Lord may I learn how to pray more. Teach me, Jesus. May I continue to know the sweet and bitterness of prayer. Work within me, Lord. Work through me, Lord. Thank you for forgiveness, Your unfailing love, Your compassion, and Your mercies new every morning.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

No Monkeys but a Smile

Today I saw no monkeys on my walk. I went out in expectation. (see why I expected to see them from my entry yesterday entitled "Monkeys and Thomas") My eyes were fixed upward, looking intently for the monkey family I watched yesterday. No monkeys. I saw no monkeys today and it made me smile.


The lessons of God's presence are always surprising me. He reminded me this morning that even when I look for Him, I won't always see Him. He is always there... Always present... always at work. But, He reminded me that I may not see Him each time I look. And, that is okay. Today I knew the monkeys were there. I didn't inwardly doubt their existence as I had been doing the days previous. I had seen them! They were most definitely there! I smiled because in the presence AND the absence of the monkeys, God had a lesson for my heart. I smiled because He is always speaking to me when I look for Him. I smiled because the hidden monkeys were eating, jumping or grabbing branches somewhere...


I want to look more for God... all day. I want to keep my eyes fixed upward and out, looking intently for Him. I want to expect to see Him and I want to trust Him when I don't.

When I pray, I want to know that He is working. I want to trust His constant, faithful work in my life and in those I pray for. Reading this morning, I feel upon this statement that just added to this recent theme: "Prayer cannot be measured on a scale of success and failure because it is God's work---and God always succeeds" ~Michael Casey

Lord teach me to look out and up. Lord keep speaking to me. May I hear Your voice all day long, in power or in stillness. When you shout or when you are still, I want to hear You.
"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen!" Ephesians 3:20,21

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Monkeys and Thomas

I saw monkeys today. I watched a family of monkeys swinging from tree top to tree top. Just hanging out in the trees, they would jump, grab a branch and sit for a while. I watched them with a smile on my face.

The area surrounding our hotel here in Hong Kong is beautiful. The grounds are a labyrinth of pathways through a green jungle. Scattered along the pathways are signs indicating that there are monkeys. The signs tell you about the monkeys and how to behave if you encounter one. I chuckled the first time I saw the sign, "Really! Seriously, are there monkeys here?" We are in the middle of the very populated city- for goodness sakes! From the moment I first saw the sign, I doubted that there were actually monkeys. As the days have passed, I have walked the paths many times. I have never seen a monkey. So, now my third day without a monkey-sighting and my doubt has been confirmed.

This morning I was reading about Thomas and his encounter with the Lord after the resurrection. He tells the disciples before he sees Jesus that he will not... he will not believe, unless... Resigned doubt. Sure and certain disbelief. I can just see him looking at the other disciples in a half chuckle and half judgemental annoyance, thinking, "Really! Jesus was here?!" I mean he was dead for goodness sakes!

I was convicted as I read this morning that I have a doubting heart. I doubt, even as I pray, that God is at work in people's hearts. I know enough about man's heart (my own) to know how stubborn and resistant we can be. I also know that we must respond to God. I know that our part is release, surrender and response. But, even as I pray for it, I have a deep seated doubt that God can actually do anything to change a stubborn heart. As if He can't overcome our hardness. I see stubborn hearts. I see unresponsive brothers and sisters. I ask God to work and can't see, necessarily, when He is and when "it's not working!".

Now mind you, yes, I have seen Him do this time and time again. I have seen His miraculous work in the past in many hard hearts. I certainly have seen Him work and do the exact thing I am doubting Him about. Thomas had seen Jesus work miracles. Thomas had seen Jesus raise people from the dead. Thomas had seen. I have seen. And, yet we doubt.


Jesus said to Thomas, "Stop doubting and believe". He also reminds Thomas that he is blessed because of his belief... but even more blessed are those that believe and don't see.

The vibrant life of the unseen work of God. As I pondered these phrases,... stop doubting and believe. ...blessed are they who believe and have not seen. ...a vibrant life of the unseen work of God..., I set out on my walk to continue my conversation with the Lord.

I walked and passed the sign again. There it was. The monkey sign. Without any thought, I doubted it. I passed it almost with a wisp of unbelief... I had totally written off the monkey thing. There were no monkeys on these grounds. I was a bit like Thomas... I won't believe until I see it!
And then there they were. As plain as day I saw a pack of 5 or 6 monkeys. Just hanging out and swinging in the trees! The smile that immediately formed on my face was an "ah-ha" moment of sorts. The smile accompanied the thought, "Put out your hand and touch my side, Thomas". Stop doubting and believe.

I want to believe God. I want to walk looking for, anticipating and expecting His unseen vibrant work in hearts, minds and souls. I want to be okay.... secure in the fact He is working even when I don't see it. I can't see the product of my prayers... not very often at least. And, that needs to be okay. I want it to be okay, Lord. Just believe, He is saying to me. Believe that there are all sorts of things going on around you that you can't see... from the butterflies to the monkeys, from the conviction of sin to the welling up of joy and hope. I am at work, He says. Always. I am always at work! Keep asking, stop doubting and believe.

His word tells me, "I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him." (Ecc. 3)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Presence Opened Up

When God showed up to speak with the people of Israel, they were terrified and asked that it would stop. They didn't want the hear from God. It was too much for them.

When Isaiah saw the Lord in His temple, He fell down with a "Woe to me" and pleaded for mercy from this High and Lifted One.

Even Moses who met with God and spoke with the Lord as a friend, could not see His face. God told Him that His face would bring death. Certain death would come to anyone who would look on Almighty God's face. God Himself protected His friend Moses from His face. The face of God. The presence of God is an awesome thing.

And then the blood!... The important, beyond words important, death of Christ brought a change in our relationship with God. Because of the cross and the blood of Jesus, the face of God would no longer kill. Christ took that certain death when He took our sin.

And, now we can come boldly into the throne room. We can stand before this High and Lifted One with awe, yes, but with confidence, security, warmth and from a starting point of one loved and forgiven. God doesn't have to protect us from His face any longer. In fact, He put on flesh and blood and showed us His face in living color. We could look at Him, touch Him, and hear His voice.

We don't have to be terrified. We can be sure and secure in His love. His perfect love cast out all fear at the cross and it is in this state... as ones loved, that we stand before the face of God. What a gift! What an awesome thing!

Thank you Father for Your son! Lord teach me to live as one dearly loved. Lord teach me to live in awareness of Your presence. You come in power and in stillness. You come with shouts into my soul and with whispers into my heart. May I know You more today and come to You with confidence and boldness.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Stop talking

I talk a lot. We talk a lot. Words make up so much of our day. We read words, we write words, we listen to words, we say words. We talk a lot.

Tonight maybe I just had a taste of what Job was experiencing... just a very small taste... when his response to God was no-words. He was wordless. "I put my hand over my mouth," Job says in chapter 40. After seeing God, Job realizes he has nothing to say.

Tonight in worship, I had no words. He is beautiful beyond description. He is too marvelous for words.

How often I fill up my worship with words? We fill up the space with words. Both valuable words and babble. I fill up my prayer times with words. And... words are good. Words are a blessing... God values words, obviously. BUT...

Sometimes silence is necessary. I need to be silent more often before the Lord. I need to not only be still... but be quiet. Just stop talking. Listen. Worship. Just be quiet. Just stop talking.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Unaware

I watched from the window as a large, colorful, beautiful butterfly landed on the swing only feet away from my children while they played. They were deep in their "own world", engaged in a play-world that only they would understand. 
  
They were totally unaware of the beauty that had come to visit our garden.

My children love nature. They love all things green and alive. They would have loved to see the butterfly. They love seeing the birds come to our bird feeder and watching the snails find their way to our garden swing. They would have really enjoyed that butterfly. But, I knew that by the time I got outside, got their attention and showed them, it would have been long gone. 
  
So, I watched them as they missed the visitor. He came and went without notice.
  

As I watched this I was struck with how often we miss things. When do I miss beautiful visitors?
  
I live my life so often with my head down, my eyes focused and my hands at work, that I am certain I miss so many beautiful things. 
  
Today while talking with my husband, I happened to glance over his shoulder and saw (in broad daylight) the moon sitting in the sky. There was the moon, plain and clear, in the blue, cloud-dotted sky. "Oh, yeah!" I thought, "The moon is always there... even when I am unaware." The sun is still shining when the daylight has gone. The moon and stars are still in their course when the blue sky and light blur them from view.
  

While pondering that moon in broad daylight, a thought came on me like a ray of light. I remembered Jacob's dream in Genesis. On his journey, Jacob rested his head on a pillow of stone. As he fell asleep, he had a dream. In the dream he saw angels and God. When he woke from this dream he says something profound, "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it." Genesis 28
  

Surely the Lord is in this place. And, I was not aware of it.
  

How often am I unaware of God's presence. How often do I miss Him. How often do I miss His sweet visits, His gifts... I get caught in my own "play-world" and I know that God, at times, has difficulty getting my attention! I know that He is always there... much like the moon, ever-present, but not always seen. How often do I miss His presence?

If my children had gone into the garden in search of butterflies they may have seen the sweet visitor. If I looked each day for the moon, would I see it? What if I watched and kept my head up... would I see God more?
  

Oh, Lord, I want to see You more. I want to be more and more aware of Your presence. Surely You are in this place... and I am unaware. Open my eyes. Open my ears and open my heart to see You, Your gifts, Your beauty.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

God's massive craft

It was a simple prayer. We were singing and praying as a team. Words of praise were flowing freely. The theme of the moment was thanksgiving for God and His creation. It was a sweet moment. The sound of the rain outside was a backdrop. Nature was singing background music for the moment of worship.


It was in this moment, that from the mouth of my babe, my sweet girl, came a simple prayer that moved my heart. A simple prayer that felt to me to equal the "holy, holy, holy" choir before the throne we read about in Isaiah. Pure and holy worship. She said, "Thank you, Lord for crafts! Thank you Lord that You made me to make crafts. Thank you that You love crafts! Really, Lord, You made the most humongous craft when You created the world. Thank You, Lord!" 


God's humongous craft... her very words of praise.


She was thanking God for Popsicle sticks and glue. 


She was praising God for pipe cleaners and bobble-eyes! She was seeing the green grass and purple flowers around us as the very scissor-cut-shapes of God. I believe His heart was touched. I couldn't help but smile in the moment and I believe He did, too.


God did do on amazing craft project, didn't he?!


He didn't use glitter and crayons... but, He used His voice, His presence, His words to glue all this together! 


One look at the strange animals on this earth and one can clearly see that God likes bobble-eyes and glitter! One look at a sunset, the mountains, the ocean and flowers and it is clear that He loves color! May we worship Him as the great Creator that He is. May we live our lives seeing His hand in the glued-on color of red, yellow and orange leaves of autumn.


This moment of worship was punctuated this morning as I read in Job 38, "Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades? Can you loose the cords of Orion? He not only created each star and named it, but He pulls them together in a shape, a beautiful, creative shape. He draws with the stars! That is an amazing, massive, "humongous" craft!



A simple prayer. May I pray so simply and have faith like a child.



Lord, I worship you today! The earth and all that is in it is Yours. You layed the foundation of the earth and You created the earth and the sky! You are a creative God! You are beautiful and deserve all honor, glory and praise. I stand with my daughter in simple praise. Thank you Lord for craft sticks, tape, markers and construction paper. Thank you that You provide these things not because we need them, but just because they are abundance and fun! We worship You with our crafts, our projects and our art!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Change of plans... change of heart

One phone call this morning brought major changes to my plans this week. Anyone who knows me well will agree that I am not Ms. Flexible. I don't naturally handle ambiguity, flexibility and change of schedule very well. You could say that I am Ms. Planned. I am Ms. Expectation or Ms. Schedule, but certainly NOT Ms. Flexible. But God does things in our hearts that make us more than we are, doesn't He!?! He changes us from the inside out and helps us to do what we can't do, feel what we can't feel and be who we can't naturally be (a paraphrased quote from Beth Moore's bible study on The Fruit of the Spirit). He makes the inflexible... flexible. By His grace, He does miracles of the heart... small-looking from the outside, but ginormous miracles of the heart.

We had a change of plans this morning. This change was not life-threatening or particularly important... no one died, no one was sick, no one was injured. These I tend to handle just fine. In the past it has been the smaller changes of plans, the need for small shifts, that have brought the most wrath from my soul! Silly, I know. But, none-the-less, me. So...the change affected my calendar for this week and next week. One phone call and many plans for the weeks had to shift. Normally,... naturally, I would be immediately agitated, annoyed and flustered. That is me. I have story after story to tell of my inappropriate heart responses to small changes in plans. Others that love me have many stories to tell, too! It isn't pretty. But, this morning was different. Amazingly different.

The call came. The wrench was thrown into the plan-wheel. The flurry of shifting, rescheduling and new plan making began and... I didn't in the least feel upset or agitated. I wasn't angry. I wasn't flustered and I wasn't annoyed. This is more remarkable than simple words on a page can communicate. This is victory. This is God's grace at work in my heart. Simply put... the response to the circumstance was God... God in me. Wow!

He really can make me who I am not! He really does create something from nothing! The call came. Without thought, really, I knew that the plan change was necessary and was certain somewhere deep that it was all within God's good plan. My heart experience was peace and calm. Our new plan making went without flurry or annoyance. Truly God's grace at work!

O kind, Father, it may be a small thing for anyone looking in... but, I know this is a huge victory. I see it and acknowledge Your hand. Oh, Lord keep doing these amazing things in my heart! I see Your grace, Your victory, Your light all over my heart this morning. I praise You for Your work in my life and ask for Your continued grace. I am reminded that You promise to complete Your work in me. I surrender my heart to You completely for continued work, for more changes, more grace! Thank You, Father for Your hand in my life. I ask You to continue to order my days, to plan my life and have Your way with me!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Simplicity is

I thought that life would be more simple. I really assumed that settling down in small town (in the middle of nowhere!) would allow for a simplicity of life and schedule. Our expectations never really play out as we hope or dream, right?

So.... life isn't really simple here. My schedule is full and my life is as busy and scheduled as it has ever been. Now, I must say, my schedule is essentially full of those things I think God is calling me to... a schedule full of teaching my children, prayer, worship, ministry calls and writing. It isn't simple as I would have defined it months ago and it isn't NOT busy. But, maybe, just maybe it is the simplicity that God called me to? I don't know.

As we began listening to God's call for this next season, my husband and I were very sure of three things: simplicity, prayer and ministry of the word. So if simplicity is a call from God for our lives ...then is something wrong? Why does my calendar looks so full each week? Either we are not fighting hard enough for it, making hard choices and setting better boundaries. Or, we need to redefine simplicity entirely. Maybe both. We are not always good at listening to His voice alone. We are pulled in so many different directions. The "voices" or needs of others can define our schedule too much as we attempt to make everyone happy or meet all the needs. This issue comes from within and fights against simplicity choices.

Simplicity also needs to be redefined. Somewhere in my heart or mind simplicity looks like doing nothing, or more time allotted to nothing... It looks like "not being busy". I am realizing that I am defining my simplicity in the negative. Simplicity is not this... and isn't that...;rather than defining simplicity in the positive. Simplicity is...

So, what is simplicity? And, what is God calling us to exactly. I am not certain of the answer. I do know that simplicity is a state of the heart and mind. A friend just wrote a piece on rest and I was struck by the quote she used,

“When I say Sabbath, I also mean an attitude. It is a perspective, an orientation. I mean a Sabbath heart, not just a Sabbath day. A Sabbath heart is restful even in the midst of unrest and upheaval. It is attentive to the presence of God and others even in the welter of much coming and going, rising and falling. It is still and knows God even when mountains fall into the sea. You will never enter the Sabbath day without a Sabbath heart.” ~from The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan

So simplicity is a heart attitude. It is a way of the heart. Simplicity isn't about not being busy, necessarily, instead it is about being busy with only God's tasks. It is listening to His voice alone and knowing what He would have you be about. As we watch Christ and others in the gospels we see that sometimes that busyness would look like going away to pray. Sometimes busy looked like sitting at His feet, listening, worshipping. Sometimes busy looked like going to one town or another, preaching and healing.

Simplicity redefined may just look like listening to the One who knows His plans for me, good plans, and following His direction alone. Simplicity is resting in Him and hearing from Him.

I thought life would be more simple here. I thought it would just happen. I know now more than ever that simplicity is a choice. It is my heart. Am I "anxious after many things" or am I choosing the One needful thing... the One needful person. I moved to this simple place with a non-simple heart. I entered this Sabbath place without a Sabbath heart.

Sometimes I joke about moving to a cabin in Montana. Now, THAT, would be simple, I say! But, the problem remains that when I move... I move with me, I bring me along. Wherever I go, there I am. And where Stephanie is... there comes the multiple, complicated issues that she carries with her--- the shoulds, the musts, the voices and needs of others. Would Montana be any more simple than a little town in the middle of South Wales?

Oh kind, Father, thank you for this beautiful, simple place I live. Help me to learn to have a simple heart, a Sabbath heart. Teach me to rest in You alone and to listen for Your voice alone. Help me be busy with Your tasks for me, Your work alone, Your ideas and plans for my life. Teach me to be still, to have an undivided and simple heart. For Your glory, I ask you to teach me these things.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Coram Deo

I have been asked to lead a devotional time around the subject of "Coram Deo". When I saw the title of the session, my first response was ...huh? I saw the "Deo" part and knew it had something to do with God. But other than that--- I had no idea what the session was to be about, let alone how to lead it!

So, off to the Internet I went. Thanks to google I easily found Coram Deo. The definition of Coram Deo is literally "before the face of God".

According to what I read, it's general meaning encompasses our whole lives lived out in the presence of God, under His authority and to His honor. It is an awareness of God's face, an awareness of Him watching our lives, and an awareness of His sovereign presence. The legal definition for the Latin word coram is "to appear before". This term Coram Deo is calling us to remember that we appear before God. Everyday we appear before God. We live our lives before His face. We live under His gaze or in His presence.

The face of God.

I brought this phrase before the Lord and asked Him about it. The very first piece of Scripture that came to mind when thinking on this was when God showed Himself to Moses. He chose to show Moses His back because He told Moses that if he were to see His face, Moses would surely die.

To see the face of God would bring death. Me, an unholy, an unclean thing, cannot look at a pure, holy God without immediate judgement or death.

The face of God. An awesome thing. As I pondered this even for a moment a sense of awe and fear welled up in my soul. Moses saw the burning bush, realized when God spoke from it that He was in the presence of Almighty God, and he hid his face. Moses hid his face in fear of seeing the face of God.

Father, I cried out, I can't lead people to live before Your face! This is too awesome for me...

And, then, the sweetness of light shed into my heart almost as instantly as the fear had invaded. (As an aside, I do believe that both the fear and the light were from God's Spirit) My next thought was of verses that says Christ Jesus is the very image of God. He is the image of the invisible God, Paul tells us in Colossians. An awesome, awe inspiring, all powerful God is seen... He is displayed, a portrait painted on earth for us to see. Jesus is the replica of God, the picture of God, He is the see-able God. He is see-able. We can look on His face!

Ignorant disciples, sinful woman, dirty beggars and little children looked on His face, stood in His presence, touched Him and did not die.

This I can do. I can lead people to do this! The ignorant disciple that I am. The sinful woman that I am. The dirty, needy beggar that I am. The child that I am... I can look at His face. I can ask people to join me in looking at His face, remembering we stand in His presence always and ushering us into a better awareness of His gaze.

Thank you Father for Your Presence. Thank you for sending Your son to earth to show us Yourself. Thank you for being a touchable, a see able, and knowable God. Lead me into a better awareness of Your Presence, Your face, Your holy gaze. May my life honor Your gaze as You empower me to.

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