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

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Gone fishin'

I am out of town and out of computer range for two weeks... "See you" when I get back.

What WILL I do when I have a blog idea bumping around in my little head?!!??

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Words without meaning

Sweet words were spoken today.

Words being said. Special words. Sacred words.

And, yet they seemed to be spoken with no apparent meaning. These words, though full of life and beauty, were empty and lifeless. Special words were nonchalant. Sacred words were rote and read from a page.

Today, I believe, I witnessed what God said in Isaiah 29, "The Lord says: "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men."

I watched mouths moving without a heart involved and it saddened me deeply.

This morning I was privileged to be invited to a baptism service of a young boy, my neighbor. As his appointed "godparents" stood up in front of the congregation, they read from a piece paper many beautiful words of Truth. ...proclaiming who Christ was and the sacrifice He made on the cross. In a monotone voice and rote way they professed their personal acceptance of Jesus and they committed to raise this little boy to be a man of faith.


But, I know better. Simply put, they just don't know or love God. They do deeply love my little neighbor boy, but they do not love Jesus. And, though I am keenly aware of the fact that I cannot see their hearts, my educated guess is that their hearts are very far from Him.

Hearts far from Him. ... this grieves the Lord.
To worship Him just with words ... this angers Him.
To worship simply by tradition ... this deeply saddens my Father in Heaven.

When do I worship Him this way? I wonder today. When do I say words I don't mean... or act in ways that are not true to my heart? When, Father, do I worship you with my words alone? Or, "go to church" or "have my quiet time" simply because I always do... not because You deserve worship.


...not because I love to, long to, or I just must worship You!

Oh have mercy on us, kind Father. Our hearts are far from You! Have mercy on me, dear Father. Draw me near to You. Light again today the passion in my heart for You and for Your glory.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sunshine and Rain

Sunshine and rain.

Rarely do they go together. But, when they do... it is spectacular!

I sat today. A moment of quiet. While I waited for my children's lessons to be through, I sat in the rain.

The rain was pounding on the top of my car. The noise itself drowned out and interrupted the music coming from my CD player. It was a massive downpour. And, then, all of a sudden the sun began to shine. It kept raining. But, the sun was shining on the rain. While it poured, the sun lit up the rain all around me. It was remarkable.

God's amazing beauty and glory was shining forth that very moment. ...as the rain poured down.

I wonder if that is what it might be like when we "rejoice in suffering" or "count it pure joy my brothers when you face trials of many kind".

The dark, ominous, loud rain was softened and brightened... breathtaking and beautiful...

Is this what might happen to my sorrows, my trials, my disappointments?

Would they change colors and be radiant if I saw them through joyful lenses, a thankful heart, and knowledge of God's goodness and Glory.

What if I noticed His light shining on my pain? What if the sunshine, the glory of God, shone down on all my rain. Wouldn't it make my trials beautiful? Might there be rejoicing in the suffering, if the "rain" looked that beautiful in God's glory?

When the sun peered through the clouds and shone brilliantly on the rain today, I instinctively looked for a rainbow. I didn't see one. But, I knew that there was a real possibility that there was one... there could be one... there might be one any minute now!

... isn't that hope? What welled up in my heart that quiet moment in the rain was joy, awe and hope. What would this sunshine... these things... joy, awe, and hope do to my personal "rain"?

Sunshine and rain. God's beauty shining through.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Beautiful Laughter

Laughter filled our car and our souls. I laughed so hard that my stomach began to ache and my face was hurting from smiling. The laughter welling up within would finally begin to die down and one of my kids, or my husband, would say something even a little funny... and the laughter would burst forth with power. The car was booming with giggles and belly laughs.

I will say we do laugh a lot in our family. But, those moments are priceless and beautiful. Those moments are almost frozen in time. Frozen in my memory are the sounds, the jokes, the music of laughter from the back seat, the look on his face--- her face---, the "stop" that I yell at my husband through laughter so that the "laughter-torture" will cease. ... sweet and priceless.

I wonder what Jesus looked like when He laughed? What does God's laughter sound like?

Certainly He does laugh, right? He IS exceedingly joyful and happy. John Piper describes Christ, "as always indestructibly happy." And, Proverbs declares that He was beside God, the Father at Creation, "daily his delight, rejoicing before him always". And, again, in Hebrews Christ is described as being "anointed with God's oil of gladness". Gladness. Joy. Happiness.

Just as tears are an outlet for anger, sadness, and frustration; laughter is one physical outlet for joy, happiness, and contentment. And, certainly God created it in us. Yes, indeed, I do believe that the Son of Man laughed. What might it have looked like to see Him laugh?! I wish we had a record of it. I wish I could know what His face might look like or what His laugh sounded like.

When He laughed, did His side ever ache? Did His head fall back and His mouth gape open as He laughed? Did His laugh sound deep like a storm, like thunder or a crashing wave? Or, does God's laugh sound light and sing-songy like a bird? Or does He laugh like my son who laughs almost without sound... just air coming forth from His mouth? I wonder, Did He cover His mouth like I do when I laugh? or did He snort like my sweet daughter will do from time to time? What did Jesus sound like when He laughed?

I like to imagine it. It brings peace to my heart to think of my sweet Jesus laughing.

Did He laugh with us yesterday as our bellies hurt and our faces grew sore from smiling? I like to wonder what joy He was feeling as laughter filled our car and was medicine for our souls.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Same theme different dream

Cars speeding past me, honking and headlights flashing. Noise. Confusion. A near miss as I sit unsheltered and facing the wrong way on the road.

I awoke with a heavy heart. Again I found myself in the same, but different, dream. This theme! A theme that is following me into my sleep. In this version, on this night, I was trying to drive somewhere and kept getting lost. I couldn't find my way. I knew I was getting close and then I would make a wrong turn. I kept finding myself driving even on the wrong side of the road with traffic horns screaming at me as oncoming cars avoid my wayward vehicle.

Am I "off" somewhere, Lord? Am I wayward? As I sat before the Lord and brought Him this dream and the heaviness that accompanied it, I felt a tenderness in His Presence that was unmistakable. I sensed Him speaking again to me through the passage in Mark 8. But, this time the emphasis of the passage was not the "bread" or the earthy distractions. He was reminding me in a whisper of His Word, what He wanted to tell the disciples that day, "Be careful. Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees" (v. 15) Be careful, Stephanie. The yeast of the Pharisees is strong.


In my attempt, my strong desire, my passion for perfection and holiness I, too, can so often and so easily become a Pharisee. I can measure, like the best of them. And, keep track. And, make rules. And, punish and self-punish... just like the Pharisees. I can hide darkness on the inside with a whitewash on the out. I can give a burden to a friend instead of lifting the load. I can judge and calculate. I can "figure" and plan, like the best Pharisee.

In my struggle against sin, my personal sin. ...a wandering heart, a harsh word, a rude thought, an indulgent dive into food, a judgmental thought... In my struggle against personal sin, I can tend to punish myself and then start to "make rules".

I begin to write my very own "Talmud" and concoct my own interpretations and law...

I think the motivation is love. I think my motivation is a desire to be closer to the Father and "more like Christ"; and yet, in reality I find myself slightly lost, wayward and missing the mark... much like the misplaced car. Trying so hard to get to holiness and purity, I have lost my way. The law does not save. Simple as that. And, certainly, my own personal "laws" don't save either.

I must surrender. I must depend. I must release and fall. I must be raised only by Christ and cling to His cross. I must run to the gospel for strength and transformation. This is where I will find true freedom, I know. I must nail my laws, my plans, my "Talmud" to this cross. And, then I must stand in and on grace alone.

Grace alone. His righteousness alone. If I am to boast about anything, let it be in Christ alone. This is the road. This is the way.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Bread thoughts distract

Rushing in like the quick rising tide come the thoughts that distract...

...what should I make for dinner, oops, I forgot to pull the chicken out to thaw? Or, I wonder if those new pair of jeans I just ordered will fit?... Or I think the I just heard the washer finish, time to hang the laundry... or ... "better yet" I just can't seem to loose any weight... I really need to start watching what I eat... or.... I wonder what *she* meant when she said that?

All these "earthy" thoughts and so many more come rushing in... unexpected and yet un-deflected. They each rush in, take a seat and then stay awhile in my mind as I muse and ponder them during my "time with the Lord".

I am so bound to this earth. Wean me, Lord, from this earth... I prayed a few months back.

And yet, I remain so attached, so engulfed, so amused, and so drawn-in to the things of this earth.

On one level, I must. I live here. I cook. I clean. I eat. I sin. I interact with other humans all day long. And, I pound the pavement of this earthy-place day-in and day-out.

But attached? Must I be. Engulfed by? Must it be this way? Must my mind be taken away from prayer, from worship, and from contemplation by the thought of a pair of jeans. ... Must it be this way?!

The Spirit of God brought me to a passage in His Word today. Again, nothing new. But today I believe it was a fresh word from His heart to mine. As I struggled through the distracting thoughts of today... I remembered Jesus' words I had read last week. In speaking to His disciples in Jesus says, "Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened?... and don't you remember?" (Mark 8)

The disciples are in the boat with Jesus... ("their quiet time!" if you will). And, He attempts to teach them a heart-lesson, an important spiritual truth, "Be careful. Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees" (v. 15)

Immediately upon hearing His words, their minds go to the physical, the seen, the earth. ..."It is because we have no bread", they think... they worry, they wonder. Like Jesus is really that worried that they forgot the bread!! Or, like Jesus is really that worried about the few pounds I have put on, the chicken thawing, or the jeans that are in the mail. Why? Jesus asks them. Why? ...are you talking about bread!?

Why? Why, Stephanie, are you worrying about dinner or thinking about laundry. The laundry will be with you always but we have this moment together!! The jeans will fray and rot. Any food will do to fill your bellies! Why? ...Stephanie, why sweet one, are you still talking about bread?!

They missed the moment with Jesus on the boat. How many moments do I miss with Jesus? They missed what He was trying to teach them. Oh, my sweet Jesus, I don't want to miss your teaching moments.

I know my Father cares for all aspects of my life. I know He is thrilled when I talk to Him throughout my day about dinner dishes, laundry, and the flowers blooming in my yard. I believe this is key to my relationship with Him. BUT, there are times to sit and listen. Stop and focus. There are times to be quiet. "on your bed at night search your heart and be silent" (Psalm 4)

Silence those wandering thoughts, Stephanie, and don't miss what I want to show you here and now. Don't miss your time in the boat with me. Fix your eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. Stop for a minute and look at what is eternal, not the temporary (2 Corin. 4:18). Don't you understand? Jesus says to my heart today. Don't you remember?

Spirit of God, when those distracting thoughts, those earthy things, come rushing in... Oh Father, teach me to stop and listen. I don't want to talk about bread anymore!! I want to remember you feed the five thousand!! Turn the tide of thoughts and guard me from the flood. Teach me to focus and the hear You. Remind me of Truth and help me to understand! I don't want to miss those sweet, stolen moments with You in the boat.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Journeys and Dreams

I dreamt last night. I dreamt a lot. I had four very different dreams all with the same theme and the same ending...

I woke up tired. And in prayer...

In each dream I was trying to get somewhere, a very specific destination, and I just kept getting lost. Working hard and drawing on all my knowledge of the certain area I was dreaming about, I would make my way toward the destination and still find myself lost and the desired destination far-off. And, throughout each dream, and at the end of every dream, I ended up at the same starting place.


Frustration filled my night. The "starting place" was a fearful place, a bad place, but I wasn't afraid in the dream. I was just frustrated. Each time I would end up in that "same" place, I would feel utterly defeated, deflated and discouraged. "I am here AGAIN!?" And, I knew that "that same place" was so far from the destination I was so eagerly working my way toward... and then I would wake up.

I have been talking much lately with the Father, and those I who are close to me, about this journey of faith. Is it long, arduous, and utterly frustrating at times? Yes. Is it full of blessing, peace, victory and joy? Absolutely. Ahh... but it is both.

I am not entirely certain why this has been a recent topic of conversation for me and my Lord... maybe a "mid-life" mini-crisis of sorts as I look back now on 20 years of faith. Where have I come from? Where am I going? And, why do I often "end up in the same place". ...same sins, or at least the same roots of insecurity, pride, doubt, and fear.

Unlike the dreams, where I just couldn't seem to get anywhere... I couldn't move forward... this has not been my experience in my faith-journey. In fact, I rejoice in the truth that I have come a long way. Truly, I can hardly recognize the Stephanie of 20 years ago. In these 20 years, I have known significant victory, deep peace, and genuine joy. And yet, ... And yet. I have such a long way to go. The "destination" of holiness, awareness, and heaven feel far-off.

And, sometimes I feel lost along the way. And sometimes I feel tired. And, yes, often I feel frustrated.

But... as I fell asleep each time last night, I continued on. I pressed forward and "hated" that "same place". I kept trying and kept moving forward. And, so I do today in my faith journey. I will press forward and by grace alone I will arrive at my final destination! Thank you, my dear Jesus, for securing this truth and this hope!

"...to follow Jesus is to take the high road to Calvary. Littered along the Calvary road will lie skeletons of our egos, the corpses of our fantasies of
control, and the shards of self righteousness, self-indulgent spirituality,and unfreedom."
~Brennan Manning, The Signature of Jesus
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