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

Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Wet Map

Sometimes I find it difficult to write about tender moment here. I find myself feeling shy about blogging moments that are so sweet, so special, so painful, so... wordless, really. And yet, I know that my journey in writing has significantly impacted my lessons-learned. My Father has used the act of writing itself as an integral avenue to solidifying experiences.

And so I write. I just can't help myself. Like St. Augustine said, "I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write."

***
I wept today. I cried buckets of tears. My body wracked with emotional pain as I wept over the map spread out at my feet. I wet the map with my tears and cried out to my kind Father to "Shine!" How long did I even pray? I don't know. Time stood still as I prayed from Psalm 67 ... I cried with the words and asked my Father for His work.
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face sine on us...
so that Your ways may be known on the earth, Your salvation among the nations!
May the peoples praise You, God!
May all the peoples praise You.
May the nations be glad and sing for joy!
I wept for the lost and for the oppressed. I wept for the nations that have little, if no, witness. I wept for the children, the women, ... the nations. I cried for the peoples of the earth.
I prayed for those hidden, quiet places of hearts and homes where God's Spirit shows up! I prayed for those conversations over tea, the dreams, the book found, those Internet moments... clicking on a Christian link ... I prayed. And, I wept and I interceded.
And, as Michael Card sings, "I cried just one of His tears".

"So open my eyes and open my heart
Grant me the gift of Your grieving
Awaken in me the compassion to weep
Just one of the tears of the world."

As I cried, on this cloudy, dark,grey day, the sun peeked through and literally shone through the window onto my prostrate body... As I asked Him to "Shine on the nations!", the sun poured forth warmth. Light lit the small prayer room. In that moment, I knew He heard. He saw. I was, indeed, weeping His tears. I was allowed a glimpse into the tender heart of Jesus, the One who ever lives to intercede!

He is the One who was slain! And with His blood He purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation! (Rev. 5:9) These tear were from Him. He, the One who sees! Creator Father's tears. Jesus Intercessor's tears. Holy Spirit's groan-tears.

I knew in that moment. He does see that mother and her child in that hidden place. He does see that girl lost, scared, and confused. He does see and love exceedingly more than I do.

So I wept today. And, I hope it won't be the last time. It was a gift. It was a moment too painful and too sweet for words. ...but, still, I write about it and offer it here for His glory, because it was from Him! The gift of tears and a wet map.

Remember and Go

I have written before about spiritual amnesia. I think I have another case of it today. I hope it isn't catching!

For years now, I have practiced the rhythm of "taking spiritual retreats". My husband and I look ahead at the calendar and pick a day (or even a few days) that would work. We schedule it for me. We schedule it for him. And, then we give each other the gift of silence and solitude. We say to each other, "get out of here and spend time some time with Jesus".

So, my 'scheduled day' is today. And, in a few hours I will pack up for the day and head out to be with my Lord. My husband will take care of the house, the kids, even schooling and caring for dinner. I can just be.

Even though, I have done this a thousand times... how many years now? Even though I have a thousand moments of sweetness logged away in my journal, my memory and my heart; EVERY time, without fail, I struggle with going.

Is it simply the enemy fighting against this discipline? That is very possible!
Is it simply because I am a recovering control freak and still sometimes struggle to leave my children, my "responsibilities" of home and schooling?

Is it a case of spiritual amnesia? I do remember in my head that my times away are always good, albeit not always easy, but always good. I remember that my husband is a fabulous father and dad. I remember that solitude and silence does feed my soul. I know in my head I need these. So, what am I forgetting? What am I fearing? Why don't I want to go?

Is it a fear that He won't show up? Do I really fear sitting there twitting my thumbs? Is it I fear that He will "show up" and put His so kind finger on a sin issue!? That can be painful. And, I don't love pain.

I don't know.

What I do remember, though, even as I type... is that I always feel similarly before getting away with Him. And, I also remember that I am always glad I did go. I remember this and so I go.

For, I know and remember now that sitting at His feet is never a waste. And, so I go. I remember now that life and busy-ness and house and home can leave my soul tired and full of noise. Silence is a good thing. Solitude is solid ground. Silence, solitude and sitting is a good place for pruning and fresh growth. And, I do long for fresh growth. I remember these things... and I go.
The best ground, unfilled and neglected, soonest runs out into rank weeds. A man of knowledge that is either negligent or uncorrected cannot but grow wild and godless. ~Joseph Hall (1574-1656)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fractions and Faith


I love describing big theological truths and deep spiritual experiences to my 9 year old son. It does something to the lesson that makes it very real.

While explaining what God is teaching me to my 9 year old, I seem to grab the lesson more significantly and plant it deeper in my heart. I feel similarly when I write a blog post. Just the act of writing it down (or more accurately typing it), makes the lesson more real. It settles down. It becomes more solid somewhere within.

This morning I attempted to explain my significant Sunday lesson in trust and surrender. It had been a profound silent, journaling time with the Lord. I hadn't put it into verbal words yet, but wanted to share with my family. So, I began to explain that God had opened my eyes and my heart wider to trust and faith. God had been showing me that I could trust His love and surrender to Him, His care.  A lesson of deep trust.  

The look on my 9 year old's face was priceless. Confused. Questioning. I could just see his brain-wheels turning. All over his brow was written his non-verbal question, "Haven't you learned to trust God already? Haven't you surrendered to God before?"

Responding to his quizzical brow, I reminded my sweet son of our recent homeschooling lessons on dividing fractions. Remember, I said, that I taught you how to divide fractions two weeks ago?

And, then, I said, last week, you said to me... "Mom, I know you have taught this to me before; but, can you please show me again?"

And, of course, we sat down again and learned it again, right? i reminded him. He nodded in acknowledgement. And then, just last Friday, I needed to teach it to you it again, right? Do you remember?

And, do you remember, I said, when each time I taught it ---each time!--- you "got it". Remember that moment when you KNEW how to divide fractions!? ...That ah-ha moment? Remember that moment, son?

He smiled and a light flashed in his eyes... he was getting it now!

Well, our Christian lives are like that. We learn things like trust. And, faith. And, love. ...God shows us just like I showed you the fractions. And, each time... each time!... there is a moment when we "get it" and we feel like we finally know!! And, those moments are special and sweet. And, in those moments we do know. And, each moment we do know even more, even better than we did before.

But, the reality is that we will revisit those concepts again and again. We will re-learn and have to be shown again. And, our kind Father is very patient in His pursuit of teaching us these important lessons.

Son, I am guessing I will have to teach you how to divide fractions at least one more time. What do you think? He smiled with a nod and a, "yep".

And, my 9 year old boy, understood Mommy's ah-ha trust experience with the Lord on Sunday. And, I suppose I understood it a bit more too.

May I learn it again and again Lord! Keep teaching me, I pray!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Public Toilet Thankfulness

Thankfulness. Real, deep, genuine, heart-thankfulness has been a sweet pathway to joy these past few weeks. It is amazing what "hunting" for daily, ...even mundane..., gifts and blessings has done in my life and heart. I am loving it!

My daughter looked at me last week and said with a smile, "Mom, you aren't like this normally!"

Confused, I responded, "Like what?"

"Happy!"she said.

And, she is absolutely right. Happy is not a word that would normally describe Stephanie. Not that "sad" would describe me exactly either. But, for better or worse, there are many words to describe me... some very positive words and some negative words. Happy is not one of them. Happy would not likely make it on anyones' "Describe Stephanie"-list.

But, that is changing. I feel it. And, one of the many ways/tools that Father has been using to change this is my daily hunt... looking for gifts of love from Him.

I realized what a huge difference it was making in my life the other day when I was suddenly sick with a stomach issue. After spending some significant time in the grocery store toilet, I drove 20 minutes and stopped for much needed errand at the post office. In desperation, I had to *very quickly* make my way to a the public toilet in town. (maybe all this way-too-much-information... sorry ;))

There I was sick... quite sick... on a public, cold toilet and I found thankfulness welling up in my mind and heart. I kid-you-not, I found myself so thankful and making my "list". I was grateful that there WAS a public toilet. I was thankful that it was clean (ish). I was thankful that it had toilet paper. And, that there was no one else using it!

And, this genuine heart-thankfulness wrapped that sick day in a deep joy that wouldn't have been there but for the hunt... the discipline of looking hard for grace, gifts and blessings!!

So, here is my list... or a part of my list... from this past week. I keep counting, making my way to 1,000 and beyond.

#249. a public toilet.

#255. friendly neighbors

#257. Answered prayer again.

#259. Incessant, happy bird song, they will not be stopped!

#263. Reading in bed snuggled-up together.

#269. A sky full of stars.

#273. A new "favorite" spot to go and pray.

#278. New recipes.

#279. Watch a diligent bird find sticks to build his hidden nest.

#281. Naughty puppy after strewn trash all over yard, her hilarious feigned repentance.

#286. That hilarious look my son gets on his face when he is watching Tom and Jerry. He is just tickled.

#288. A phone call made on my behalf, in love.

#301. Hot coffee in a bowl, laughter with friends, fun night out.

#305. Soft pjs

#316. The powerful name of Jesus.

#321. The bread.

#322. The cup.

#329. His wounds that bring my healing.

Thankfulness. Gratefulness. A heart that is thankful... NOT in a trite way, but in a true and genuine way. To see all of life as a gift. All of life as grace. Continue to teach me, Lord Jesus.

I am sharing my list on Mondays with a bunch of others... to read other lists or join the adventure, go to www.aholyexperience.com

Worship is a complicated idea. Arguably, it’s what we all do, 24 hours a day (regardless of what we’re worshipping). ~Derek Webb

Seeing Red Jam

I am counting. And, I love it!

In my attempt to train my heart, mind, and soul to see more of God ...and give Him all of me ... I have been making a list each night of all the things I am thankful for. Counting each night. More than just a "thankful-list", really, I am attempting to see all the things in my day in Him, around Him, about Him. The big things, the little, and the mundane. Can I see Him more in my day?

I began making a list a week ago. This idea is not a Stephanie-original, of course!! And, the basis of my list has been encouraged along by author Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience. And, I believe it is indeed training my eye.

For, yesterday, as I spread the red jam on the pb&j sandwich, I delighted in the deep red color and made a mental note to write it on my list that evening. And, that is a change. Maybe my soul, my mind and my heart can be trained to see Him more!

Currently all life, for me, is not all about Him. And, I know that I miss Him more than I can even imagine. And, I want that to change. Not because I think it "should"... for the million "shoulds" in my life have been more damaging than helpful. But, I want it to change, because I love Him. I believe it is my love for Him that drives me to want to know Him more, see Him more and be more aware of Him. For, I believe, that in Him I move and breath and have my very being! (Acts 17:28). I truly believe that He wakes me each morning and He beautifully shepherds all my day. And, so I want to see Him more.

So, in an attempt to train my mind to be aware.. I am making a list. One week has passed and I just wrote #67. Isn't that fun! 67 times this week that I saw Him, His beauty, His gifts, His touch!

Can I just share a few...

#1... warm hugs from my sweet children

#2... a tender kiss from my husband, just because.

#6... a comfy pillow.

#13... my daughter making pancakes on her own-- and yum ones, too.

#21... good family movie about courage, honor and hope.

#27... a quiet moment to read.

#35... a kind email from a friend.

#38... bright red jam on my peanut butter sandwich.

#46... hot coffee

#55... worship with my team

#61... acts of obedience seen today in my children.

#66... a protective growl from my sweet dog.

These are only a few of what I "saw" this week. The voice of God in my life. The messages of my loving Father spoken, felt, seen and experienced this week through sweet gifts. For God does speak--now one way, now another--though man may not perceive it. Job. 33:14

And so I attempt to train my mind and to work that awareness-muscle that can be so flabby! And, with a little effort, I am seeing Him more. And, I am more thankful today!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Still Here Today

A simply beautiful day! The sun was shining and I had a few moments quiet. So, I went for a walk... and found a "perfect" place to sit.

As I sat down, my attention was immediately drawn to the beauty of a large, old willow tree. I watched and enjoyed this beautiful old weeping willow tree. Stunning, it stood in front of me. It's base wrapped in the dark leaves of an ivy plant, climbing upward. How long had this tree stood here so magnificently?

Almost as instantly as my mind was drawn to the tree, my next thought was, "Oh! I hope they don't cut it down!"

This thought came unbidden, but it was quite pronounced in my head. A very real thought. It was almost a fear. Just a very real response to the tree standing before me. What a funny thought, I wondered to myself,almost laughing out loud at my odd thought. Why would this be my first concern, my first "feeling" or response to the beauty of this age-old willow?

Is it all the moves and transitions that I have experienced in my life, as a child and an adult? All the change? Is it that, Father? It is true I have never seen 'one' thing, one special place, for 25 or 30 years. I don't know what it might be like to see the same tree, or same house, every week for 40 years. And, I have longed for this. Somewhere deep within, I do want this desperately. And, at times, I have felt I have missed something. I have missed the beauty of familiarity and normal.

As I mused and prayed about this, it felt clear that--yes--- this was indeed a very natural Stephanie-way-of-thinking. I know that I am often waiting, I suppose, for the "other shoe to drop" or the hard, difficult, the painful that is lurking around the corner. I know I am often waiting, almost unconsciously, for the good to be taken from me. A natural childlike response that doesn't want to enter-in to those good, sweet moments... because... well, because they will disappear or be lost, and that would hurt. And, so, I have just let them pass by and go unnoticed.

Don't connect to the now-beauty, right? Ignore it, let it pass and don't hold on or enjoy, because that protects. This can be a knee jerk response of my heart. And, I know it isn't True and Right. And, I know this isn't Father's heart for me.

But, now what, Heavenly Father? What is Truth and Right? What healing might You want to bring?

I have a pretty good idea of where this came from, where this became a natural pattern of thought for a young, little-girl Stephanie. I know from my reading, my research, and past counseling that this is par-for-the-course for any child of divorce or children who faced significant trauma. And, that is part of my story.

But, now what, kind Father? I just want to enter-in and enjoy a simply beautiful day, and this age-old tree!

Figuring out where it comes from is good. Really, really good and important. But, moving forward means bringing that response, those knee-jerk responses, into the Light and having them transformed by the Truth. Now what, Father? my heart whispers. What do I do with this natural, "will I get to see this tree ever again" feeling, or the "will it too be stripped away from me" fear.

No answer came that beautiful day. But, the conversations began. A conversation, I suppose, that God and I have been having for many, many years. We, God and I, began talking about this issue again ...and we walked in it through the week. Thinking. Praying. Asking.

Yesterday, I went back to this perfect spot. I sat down on the sun-warmed bench, head raised to take in the sun's rays... and then I remembered the tree. There it was before me, still there. Beautiful and the same. And, in that moment, I knew the way forward when I saw this beauty before me.

I knew that I needed to be thankful, today, TODAY, that I was seeing it again. Here it was, again! Today, beautiful and majestic and the same. I was getting the chance to see it today!

...And, it hadn't been cut down. That fear had not been realized or become real. It was still here. And, I was still here today... and I was thankful. In deep gratitude, I was able to enter into this moment, today's moment, entirely! And, I could thank my Father for this now-beauty. And, my heart felt free and happy. And, I soaked in the beauty of God in that moment.

As I soaked, and praised, and thanked, one more Thought came to my mind... "and, Stephanie, don't worry about tomorrow". Do not worry about tomorrow... today has enough. ...

Okay, Father. I can trust You with tomorrow! And, I can thank you for today. Thank you for today... this moment of today.

Entering in the now and not worrying about tomorrow. I have freedom to release the fear, the control, the wondering about tomorrow. And, with this God-filled revelation there is some Light-filled healing that is going on in my heart! And, I can thank God for today. ...the now.

My husband is fond of saying, "Tomorrow doesn't even exist. It isn't real." This moment, this now-moment is the real. And, for the real-now I can be thankful. The tree is still here today. God is still here today. I am still here today.

And, today is simply a beautiful day!

**just one of the tools He is using to teach me about this now-beauty and how to be grateful for today... watch and enter-in.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Keepin' on Counting

I keep counting the gifts, the blessings and the kindnesses of God. I am on my way to 1,000.

What a sweet way to look at my every day! I have been blessed by the discipline and challenged by the difficulty to keep it going in the day-to-day, ...every day.

#160. My computer.

#161. My blog, a place to process.

#162. Other blogs that encourage.

#163. Hands dirty, nails black, while planting trees.

#164. Watching my daughter work hard with joy.

#170. Old recipe remembered and loved!

#175. Pain dulled by good medicine.

#180. Sharing food with a neighbor, just because.

#184. A hilariously, silly, prank shirt worn for a laugh.

#189. Layers, upon layers to keep warm.

#193. Songs that remind of truth and grace. ...and make me cry.

#195. The crunch sound of an apple.

#209. Soap to clean with.

#212. Little girl in heart-dotted tights.

#230. A huge moon shines brightly through the trees and into my window.

#236. An afternoon nap. and earplugs.

Thank you Father for your daily, ...moment-by-moment, gifts to me.


... I am counting with many, many others at www.aholyexperience.com

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Different Sort of Healing

photo source
"The pathway is broken and the signs are unclear. And, I don't know the reason You brought me here. But, just because you love me the way that you do... I am going to walk through this valley, if You want me to". ... the beautiful song lingers in the background.

Tears roll down my cheeks as I fry the eggs and listen. I can't see very well, anymore, as the water fill my eyes and spills out. Using my dishtowel I wipe my eyes, so that I can flip the egg and pop the toast from the toaster.

I had pain again last night. Difficult, debilitating pain that kept me from sleep. Father, what am I supposed to do? Clearly, I haven't been healed... Has the reaching out done me any good, I wonder.

But my wonder only lasts a short moment as the song continues to minister to my soul, my mind, my heart... "It may not be the way I would have chosen... but, you never said it would be easy. You only said, I'll never go alone." ...my heart prays with the song. Tears continue to roll as my children pound down the stairs and into the kitchen for breakfast.

Sweet-girl enters, sees the tears and comes in for a hug. Questioning on her face, she hugs tight. I enjoy the embrace, hand her the plate of eggs and tell her, "Mom has 'momma pain' today". She knowingly smiles with compassion in her eyes and then hears the song in the background. ...and hugs me again.

And, I whisper into her ear the words of the song, "You only said, I'll never go alone!".

I ask them as they begin to dig-in, Can I start it over again? Can we all listen together?

We listen together. A holy silence as we eat. They let me just listen and eat eggs while tears roll down my cheeks.

The song continues as we all listen to it's closing. "When I can't hear you answer my cries for help, I will remember the suffering that your love put you through... and I will go through the valley if you want me to."

Ann Voskamp in her book, One Thousand Gifts, writes about the well known "healing of the lepers" story (Luke 17). She discusses the healing that takes place for all ten lepers.... their physical healing or "cleansing". And, she writes about the second kind of healing that happens to the one that returns. Jesus says to this one thankful-returnee, "Your faith has made you well".

Wait a minute, here! But, I thought they were already healed, she wrestles. In this journey of discovery, she shares about this Greek word, "sozo". This "made you well" that Jesus speaks is a "sozo-healing" (Luke 17:19). This word apparently wears the meaning of "made whole"; a healing that points to a deeper, fuller, soul-kind-of healing. This sozo healing is received by the one thankful leper on-top of the physical cleansing already received.

I am moved and realize that I have been asking for healing... thinking all the while of the first type. I want physical healing. But, as I sing true surrender over fried eggs, "I will go through the valley if you want me to", I realize I am receiving healing. Deep healing, "sozo" healing.

It is well with my soul. Somewhere deep within, I am expanding. My faith in His goodness, His love, His plans is growing and I feel more whole today ...with the tears ... than I ever have. I feel His Presence and know His touch. Pain or no pain. I am healed within ...deep within. He is healing me, just as I asked when I "reached-out" to touch His hem.

I still don't know what is ahead of me as far as my body is concerned. But, somewhere deep, I feel certain of His love and His care over me. I sense that peace which surpasses understanding. And, this is sweet.

So, although the pathway is broken and the signs are unclear, Lord. I will walk through this valley if you want me to!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Good Medicine

Today is Red Nose Day in the UK. A day for laughter, silly behavior, and fun. It is a day where people do funny things, all with the purpose of bringing joy to a place where needs are great. A fun, laugh filled day to raise funds and give money. What a great idea!?

Our world needs relief. Comic relief. And, comedy, ... good comedy... , does bring relief, doesn't it? Laughter is good medicine. Laughter is good for the soul. "A cheerful heart is good medicine" (Prov. 17: 22).

Today in honor of "red nose day" my friend came to our daily prayer times wearing a very silly shirt. His shirt, and his proudly wearing it for comic relief, brought immediate laughter. My stomach hurt while I laughed. Good clean laughter. Good clean fun. Relief through comedy. What a blessing!

Something just feels right when we laugh together. Something just feels good when I watch my kids "crack up"... their faces twisted and their mouths open, heads back. ...laughing.

My family read this morning in Nehemiah 8. Ezra brings the Word of God to the people. They all listen intently. The worshiped and lifted their hands in praise as they heard. Then they all bowed down and received God's Word with reverence. And, then they all repent and weep. What a sweet response to the Lord! Worship. Humility. Surrender. Repentance. Weeping. Doesn't it just seem a fitting and right response! And, I believe God was honored that 5th century day.

And, then,... a possible surprise of anyone who reads this passage... "Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” He tells them to go and have a party. Go, he says, and celebrate! Go and enjoy! Isn't he telling them to go, eat and be merry! Laugh.

We spent our morning prayer time asking God to bless us and others with joy and laughter. We asked God to open our hearts and minds to an eternal perspective that allows us to "laugh at the days to come" (Prov. 31:25) We asked that this joy, this laughter, would be our strength and our dignity.

When my eyes are open and I am looking, watching, for God's comic relief, I don't have to go far to see it.

*That look my puppy gives when she is curious, head cocked to one side...

*that laughter that erupts at the dinner table from my 8 year old son when "a sound" comes from our bodies ... (he can't help himself but laugh!)

*that silly dance that my husband did while getting the chicken out of the refrigerator last night.

*the chase that happens in my tree outside, one bird chasing another. Diving, bobbing, calling out. It is funny to watch. It is funny IF I am watching and looking for it, I should say.

...light-hearted laughter. Comic relief.

Lord teach me to see more of You! All of You! May I worship you with all my self. ...my hands held high and my face bowed down. With weeping and laughter, may You receive all my praise and worship today!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Groaning in Pain

The earth groans and so does my heart.

Pictures to scroll through. Just hit the "next" button if you dare. Picture after picture of devastation. People's lives turned upside down and futures unknown. Pain and suffering for the world to watch. I scroll through... how many more can I even look at ... and water fills my eyes.

The earth groans and so does my heart.

It isn't difficult to look back even a short distance and see in our "rear-view" memory the destruction from other such events. Other too-powerful waves and floods. Other quakes. And, wars... oh! the never-ending wars and evil crime committed daily. Just today I read a headline about a man convicted of multiple torture-related murders.

The earth groans and so does my heart.

My unbelieving friend spoke to me yesterday of our overuse of the planet. I don't disagree. Is this why we are seeing "more" tsunamis and earthquakes she wondered out loud. She spoke of the "earth groaning" without really knowing what she was saying... but, she too was groaning. And, so am I. How do you even begin to speak about such things?

Today, as I scroll through the pictures with pain, my heart doesn't ask, "Why?!", though. Not today. But, instead my heart groans, "When?". Lord, Jesus, When?...

When will You, Almighty Creator, Kind and Everlasting Father, ...when will this end? When will your justice roll down and your mercy fill the earth?

When will You, my Savior Jesus, my Lord, my loving Brother, ... when will you return on that white horse? When will You collect Your bride and wipe all our tears?

When will You, Holy Spirit, revive the dead and breathe into the rotting bones... when will You breath and call Home your Church?

When will You make all things new? When will the groaning end... and all things be made right? When, Father?

For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. (Romans 8:22)

Come, Lord Jesus, Come!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Thankful God said No

God said "no" to His Son's plea. And, I am so thankful!

Jesus wept and struggled ...and began to bleed. All the while, He asked His loving Father to, "take this cup from me". And the Father said, "No".

Oh! How thankful I am that He said "no" to this prayer. In His "no" to Jesus... was His "yes" to the world.

In the beautiful study, "Contemplating the Cross" (my Lenten study), the author asks this question: What would your life hold today had Jesus dashed "the cup" to the ground and refused to drink it? What if Jesus had said "no" to the Father?!

What might it looked like if the Father had said, "Yes" to His beloved Son's painful request? Or what if Christ had refused obedience and submission to the Father's will?

What if He hadn't died on the cross that day? In other words, what might my life look like without the cross?

There are no words, really, that describe what I might have been; or, WHO I would have been? What I might have become, or done, or how I might have lived ...without the Savior's blood shed on the cross... the images come streaming in. And, they aren't pretty!!

The physical consequences alone could have been extreme; but, the emotional and spiritual consequences of a "never-shed-blood" scenario are staggering. What the Father has done through His Son's blood in my heart,my body, my mind, my soul is immense!!

My Father's "no" to Jesus was a resounding "Yes" to me!

Yes! to forgiveness and grace. Yes to relationship and connection. Yes to intimacy. Yes to eternity.

Because of His shed blood and because of His drinking my cup of sin--- I am who I am. The freedom I know. The peace I experience. The wholeness and the rightness of mind. The blessings. The joy! The health of soul. ...And, on the list goes.

All these and so much more! I am deeply thankful. Words simply are not sufficient to express the thankfulness that wells up in my heart today! And, so I just say, "Thank you, Jesus" and share a few points from my gratefulness-list. For, I keep counting!!!

#119 New baby lambs drinking from their mamas.

#123 The beautiful sound of a running brook. Like a happy song.

#127 Invitation to a party!

#131 The Father's amazing grace that covers all my sins and heals all my diseases!

#134 Laughter and fun creating a "solar system" replica to cover our wardrobe door.

#138 Wind. Powerful, almost scary-sounding, amazing wind.

#143 A date with my son. Flying gliders and eating ice-cream and quiet moments of snuggles.

#146 My dishwasher.

#149 Hearing my husband's voice on the phone.

#156 My man returns home after a work-related trip. Just his presence fills me with joy and peace.

O Jesus, my sweet Savior, I am so thankful. Words fall short. I can't say all that is in my heart! Thank you. Thank you, my Jesus. Thank you!

How many are your works, O LORD! Psalm 104

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Remain and Watch

He asks His disciples to "Remain here and watch with Me."

He asks them to remain and watch. Just stay here, He says. And, keep alert.

I am a "do-er" extrodinarre. Really, I am. I can be very efficient and can get things done quite effectively. I can "do" very well. And, I "do" a lot ... most of the time, really. Always moving, working, cleaning, ordering, fixing, ... always "doing" something or another.

In contrast, I am not a "just-be" extrodinarre, that is for sure!

I can sit still. And, I do make time to sit. And, I even like to sit with the Lord or in quiet. But, even in my sitting... I am pretty much always still "doing". There are truly very few moments when I am just being. Actually, I am not entirely sure what that might look like.

I want to learn more about what it might look like to just "be" with God. To just remain.

But, Jesus asks His friends to "remain here" and "keep watch". So, they weren't to just remain... they were to remain AND keep watch. This encourages my heart.

For years I have prayed and longed to grow in my ability to remain in Him. He has so kindly told me, "If you remain in me, I will remain in you!". And, the very thought of knowing ...living in... the reality of Him in me, is an incredibly inviting thought. And, so I have wanted to learn to remain.

It is good to know that it doesn't necessarily mean to only sit still and be. I am realizing it also can incorporate my "doing" ... for I believe that I am an do-er extrodinarre to His glory and because of Him!

But, in reality, though, ... I, very much like the disciples, "fall asleep" and "can't keep watch for even one hour!" I drift. I sleep. I focus all my heart, my mind and my efforts on the task, on the doing... not Him. Not on Him, at all. The truth is that I "do" a lot... most really ... without any real remaining. Or, at least, no real aware-remaining, or purposeful remaining.

He wept drops of blood and His disciples were totally unaware. Totally unaware of what He was feeling, praying or experiencing ... they slept. And, I "sleep" off and on all day. Totally unaware of what Jesus, my ever-interceding brother is feeling, praying or experiencing. I forget. I drift. And, I sleep. ... all the while I keep "doing".

So, He is asking me tonight to remain in Him and keep watch... And, I am asking Him, tonight, to teach me to remain in Him and keep watch. Teach me, Jesus to see what You see, to feel what You feel, to experience what You experience. Teach me to remain in You.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Heavy Sin Instructs

The heaviness of my sin weighs on me today.

As I laid in bed last night and thought through the day... my judgemental thoughts, my selfish ways, my pride. I pondered, as well, the words spoken that hurt my son. And, I grimaced ... literally blushed in embarrassment at my own sin ... as I thought about my gluttonous rampage through the bag of pretzels. Was I just trying to comfort my tired mind and body? Oh! those tired-temptations! It would be wise to ask for His special help in those moments. If I would only learn!

I laid in bed and watched, like a movie, the sin that filled my day.

"I will bless the Lord who guides me; even at night, my heart instructs me." Psalm 16:7

The heaviness of my sin weighed last night. It instructed me. He guided me on my bed last night. And, it was painful.

Yesterday working through a study for Lent, I read about the cross. The study asked me to contemplate the cross and ponder the difficulty. I was to think on what Jesus might have experienced. Yesterday as I prayed, I was drawn to think on His loneliness. What isolation He might have felt? ... I wondered and prayed.

Today, with a heavy heart, I remained in "Day 1" Lent lesson... it wasn't time yet to move on. I knew I needed to contemplate the cross again. The question still lingered. There was more to remember. ...more to wonder about.

Today, I thought of my sin. I thought of my sin yesterday and my sins of the past. And, I thought about the sin of the world resting on my Brother's soul... my Jesus' body, His mind, His very-self carrying those sins. With tears, it wasn't hard to imagine my Savior wincing and saying, "My soul is overwhelmed to the point of death!".

And, I wondered if the carrying of sins alone would have killed him without the cross. Would that grief broken his heart and brought death without the nails?

Tears came this morning. Replacing yesterday's dry eyes, I contemplate and cried. My heart was wounded this morning. I wept and deeply repented. I feel the grief even now as I write.

And, maybe this is what Lent really is all about. Maybe I finally "get it" or maybe I am getting closer to getting it. I don't know.

There are times in life when you keenly, not just intellectually, but keenly become aware of that you know VERY little. This is one of those moments. I know very little about what Jesus did for me that day. I know very little about that grace... that amazing grace that saved this wretch. I know very little about His new, daily, fresh mercy. Today, I realize how little I know.

And, I also am aware of how desperately I want to know more. I want to know Him more, ... His suffering, His forgiveness, His grace, His love and His mercy.

The concept that I don't have to walk weighed down, is a sweet-sweet thought today. I can carry His yoke and His burden is light. He has taken this heaviness. He bore this sin, ...this darkness that lingers in my not-yet-fully-sanctified heart. This sweet grace is good new for me today.

Did I just become a Christian today? Was I just now saved? ...does it ever feel that way to you?So fresh, so new, so beyond what you "knew" yesterday. Today IS the day of salvation. Thank you, my Friend. Thank you, my Brother! Thank you, dear Jesus.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Creations shouts Thankfulness

Thankfulness... Creation speaks it out naturally.

The river by our house sings it.

The new buds of spring come forth carefully with humility... almost awe. One pink beauty bud bows it's young head.

The waves on the rocks shout. The rocks tumble and voice a loud "Stomp" symphony-of-sorts as they rattle and rock with each new wave. The cliffs silently sit and worship just by being. Just being majestic and beautiful.

Thankfulness... Creation speaks it naturally. I don't. But, I am learning.

#101 Nerts card game with my husband and kids.

#104. Feeling at home here, ... finally.

#105. Watching my daughter worship. Beautiful.

#111. Daddy and kids clean up after dinner. I sit and read.

#114. A puppy that never wants to stop playing. ...again? she says with her wagging tail.

#116. Good, lasting, long-faithful friendships.

#117. Speckled-freckled little sweet boy on my lap. Kissing those "kissing dots".

Thankfulness... He provides opportunities for me all over! May I see them more today!!

I keep counting. I keep training my heart, my mind, my very being to see. Train me, Holy Spirit. Lead me into all truth, I ask

Friday, March 4, 2011

Acceptance NOT acquiescence

For weeks now I have been reaching out and asking God to heal me. And, for weeks, I have been wrestling with what this faith might look like. Father and I have had many long, good, sweet conversations about faith and about hope for healing. What might it look like for Him to heal me?

The divine faith I felt a few weeks back... that "woosh" of faith, left after the first day. The super-filled-feeling of faith came in a very real instance; and, then the road has been one of trusting, asking and reaching out. The fight to keep faith, to keep hoping, and to be expectant has been difficult. But that is another blog, I suppose.

Last night I had pain. I had significant pain last night. And with pain came discouragement and sadness. Okay, my heart lamented, it is clear that He didn't heal me! The barrage of doubt and hopelessness assailed my heart and mind. Intense was the disappointment and doubt. Did I really even hear Him at all that day? Did He call me to reach out in faith?

In my journal I wrote, "Fear, worry, sadness, doubt, and anger all crouch at my door. They nudge me, they poke my heart!"

Oh! the struggle of faith and hope. How is it that one keeps hoping, trusting, believing that all things are possible... while at the same time accepting from the Father's hand pain and suffering, which He does allow and He uses (clearly in Scripture)? The tension of knowing that today, today!, I could be healed AND today He might allow pain... that tension is beyond-words difficult to hold. It is so much easier to slide to one side or the other rather than stay strained in the middle of it.

This morning His word to me was like a light into this darkness. This morning as I sat, as I listened, as I looked and asked Him for His truth ... He spoke deeply and directly to my heart. His words jumped of the page and slapped me in the heart. Awakening me from the slippery slope of discouragement, He awoke me with a kind slap. A kind, love-filled discipline came out from His word and to my heart.

Jesus says to Peter in Matthew 16:15... or does He say it to Stephanie (I could swear this was written for me, spoken to me this morning!) ... "But, what about you? Who do you say I am?"

Earlier in the chapter he rebukes the Pharisees for demanding a sign and tells them the only sign He will give is his resurrection. Then, He asks Peter what people are saying about Him. Peter answers Him. And, then He asks Peter ..."what about you?"

Stephanie, What about you? Who do you say I am?

With Peter, and with tears, I say to the my brother Jesus, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!"

And He whispers, "Is this enough?"

Yes, Lord Jesus! Your resurrection. Your saving blood. You are the Son of God... and that is enough for me! I will not demand anything else from You! What You have done in my heart, in my life, ...on the cross .. is enough!! I say, YES! You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!

After this beautiful interchange this morning, I opened a small, tender book written by Amy Carmichael, Roses From Brier. Her first words in Chapter 3 made tears stream: "pain, like sin and cruelty, is the work of the enemy. If it were not so we should, I think, have no right to resist it." (p.27)

Yes! my heart cried. Pain and suffering are "not as it should be!". This death entered our Father's perfect world with rebellion and sin. It is not as it should be!! Isn't that what our hearts cry out when we hear of pain and suffering. And, I think He agrees!

And, yet, there is a "peace in acceptance" (p.27) that allows for the truth that our kind Father "shall sit as a refiner and purify us as silver" (Malachi 3:3). There is a surrender of heart and a trusting that releases our bodies, our minds and our hearts into a loving Father's hand and His will. We can say, "Be to me as You will. You are good."

But, Amy Carmichael points out, "acceptance is a word of liberty, peace and victory. But, it has never meant acquiescence in illness, as though ill-health were from Him who delights to deck His priests with health" (p. 28)

Acceptance but not acquiescence.

To release. To surrender AND at the same time to keep fighting, in faith, for wholeness and freedom. To keep faith, the reaching out-faith, that says, if I just touch the hem of His garment! And, with Job to say, "Shall I accept good from God and not trouble!"
This is the tension.

To, with Dylan Thomas, say, "Rage, rage against the dying of the light... Do not go gentle into that good night"... And to say, with Peter, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!" ...that is enough. To say both. Both at the same time... with a unified heart.

Jesus took Peter's statement that day as a statement from God. A statement coming from faith. And, still Jesus healed. The next chapter, in fact, at the request of His disciples, He healed. Being enough didn't mean He wouldn't do amazing things for His friends.

He still does heal. He still does offer other signs along side, "the sign of Jonah". But, Who He is and What He did at Calvary is enough sign. And it is enough for me today.

I accept what He has for me in pain. But, I do not acquiesce to this pain. I do not call it "mine" or own it as forever. I will keep reaching out.... with a submissive heart, I will keep reaching out!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Normal

It is amazing how seamlessly my perspective has changed.

What was once unfamiliar or even quaint about my new home, has become quite common-place or normal. When we first moved here, we had a family joke that called all our new experiences our "new normal". But, these interesting, sometimes odd and difficult, not-normal-things... we knew ... would some day be normal. And, now they are.

I have lived here now almost two years. I noticed on my drive to town this morning that everything around me felt, and looked, normal. Ordinary. Every day. I wasn't watching, observing incessantly, or trying to understand my environment. It just was. And, it was ... normal.

The fact remains that many things around me are not "normal" or average things that you might see in my home culture. There are difference in abundance here. There are things that a year ago I didn't understand or that would catch my attention as being strange, or confusing. The things haven't changes, of course! I have. And, my perspective has changed.

Now all those strange, odd or perplexing things feel ordinary and don't catch my eye. Normal. Every day.

I remember this same feeling in other places we have lived. I can distinctly recall the very moment I realized it when we lived in Turkey. After making my way to church on a the bus, I realized that not once did I worry about my environment, my language, my ability to understand... It had all become normal to me, average, and truly stress-less. I remember this in Turkey. And, today, I had that feeling here.

And, that is a comforting feeling. It feels "home-ish". It feels settled.

Today I wondered over this feeling and thanked God for it.

As I pondered, the question came to my mind, What normal thing on this earth would in heaven be "odd" or "confusing" or even "wrong"?

What feels normal in this world, to me, simply because it is common-place and ordinary? Simply because I have lived here for nearly forty years, what odd-non-heaven-like things just feel okay and normal?

I wonder what it might be like to come from heaven to earth. To tread and trek through the strangeness and difficulty of this earth... this sin soaked planet. A planet that seems so very normal to me, ...well, normal, a lot of the time. Did Jesus struggle to keep His perspective? Did the sinful, harsh, odd things around Him stop catching His eye at any point? Or was it always jarring for Him?

What do I look at everyday that I might never look at in heaven? And, why don't I blink... or feel shocked...

I do love that I feel settled here in this new country, this new place. I am touched by God with this important step in adjusting to our new home. I am grateful and I count it as one of my deep, significant, today-blessings.

But, I don't want to get too comfortable. May it all, all around me, this world,... may it never become too normal. May I never feel it "ordinary" to see that which shouldn't be seen... May the things that don't belong in heaven never become common-place or every-day in my heart. May these sin-soaked-earth-things always remain strange to me.

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