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

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Immanuel Spoken of...

They will call him Immanuel, which means God is with us.  (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23)

I have been loving the concept of "Immanuel" this Advent Season.   What a perplexing, amazing, mind-blowing, and comforting idea and Truth!!  God with us!

God with us in the waiting. God with us in the pain.  God with us in the tired moments and the moments of pleasure.  God with us in the mundane and the fun!  God is with us.

God is with you...  today.

God is with me.

I want to know and understand His Presence, His Thoughts, His Heart more...

As I have been enjoying and thinking on the concept of Immanuel, His Presence with us, I have been blessed by reading the thoughts of others...

I have said it before---one of the reasons I write is because I read.  Words touch me and move me.  The words of others sometimes make concrete the very ideas, concepts and streaming thoughts that swirl in my heart and mind.

So, today, I offer you a few pieces of bread from the tables of others.  ...from the places I have feasted this week.  Read with me and taste the beauty of God's Truth in these words.

From old-friends and family:

"God is a Person, and in the deep of His mighty nature He thinks, wills, enjoys, feels, loves, desires and suffers as any other person may.  In making Himself known to us He stays by the familiar pattern of personality.  He communicates with us through the avenues of our minds, our wills and our emotions.  The continuous and unembarrassed interchange of love and thought between God and the soul of the redeemed man is the throbbing heart of the New Testament religion"  ~A. W. Tozer

"To sense the presence of God in the Bible, one must learn to be present to God in the Bible.  Presence is not a concept, but a situation.  To understand love it is not enough to read tales about it.  Presence is not disclosed to those who are unattached and try to judge, to those who sense the story, not the pathos; the idea, not the realness of God.  The Bible is the frontier of the spirit where we must move and live in order to discover and to explore.  It is open to him who gives himself to it, who lives with it intimately."  ~Abraham Heschel

"God is not real to most of us because of our consciousness.  He is closer to our minds every moment than our own thoughts.  He is nearer to our hearts than our own feelings.  He is more intimate with our wills than our most vigorous decisions.  If we are not aware of him, it is not because he is not with us.  It is, in part, because our consciousness is so under the sway of other interests that it cannot turn to him with the loving attention which might soon discern him."  ~Albert Edward Day

"From the first moment of your spiritual life until you are ushered into glory, the language of Christ to you will be, "Come, come unto me."  As a mother puts out her finger to her little child and woos it to walk by saying, "Come," even so does Jesus.  He will always be ahead of you, bidding you follow him as the soldier follows his captain.  He will always go before you to pave your way, and clear your path, and you shall hear his animating voice calling after him all through life."  ~Charles Spurgeon

"He was not terrified.  One believing like him in the perfect Love, the perfect Presence, and the perfect Will of a Father of men, as a fact of facts, fears nothing."  ~George MacDonald, Sir Gibbie

"O Holy Spirit of God, visit now this soul of mine, and tarry within it until eventide.  Inspire all my thoughts.  Pervade all my imaginations.  Suggest all my decisions.  Lodge in my will's most inward citadel and order all my doings.  Be with me in my silence and in my speech, in my haste and in my leisure, in company and in solitude, in the freshness of the morning and the weariness of the evening; and give me grace at all times to rejoice in thy mysterious companionship."  ~John Baillie

Reposted from 12/16/2011

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Welcome to My World

Most people live their lives as if God is very far away.   Sometimes I do, too.  Do you?

I have been thinking a lot about the concept of  Immanuel.   ...God with us.

I remember my Old Testament professor reminding us that the Immanuel idea:  "God with us" was not always a positive concept in Scripture.  Sometimes, in fact, it was terrifying.  There were times in the Bible where "God with us" meant judgement and wrath.

But, the promised Messiah would be different... at least His first coming would be.  With the Messiah would come the forgiveness of sins.  Jesus was given His name, "God saves", for a reason.  He would indeed be "God with us" in the best possible way and He would bring salvation when He came.    He would come in humility and love.  He would come with peace, goodness, and righteousness---blessing was being held out for all mankind to respond to.  This is the Father's heart made flesh in the Son's birth on earth.

Emmanuel.  God with us...  What a thought!  In these last few years this Truth has become more and more sweet to my soul.  He is with us!

He is with me!

But recently there has been another aspect of this idea bouncing around in my head.  It isn't just that God came down and took the form of man.  He did that, yes, indeed   And, that alone is amazing!  But, still more... after His death and Resurrection He sent His Spirit to dwell within us.  He would come and be within His bride--- those that welcome Him in.

Immanuel:  God within us.  The "God with us" is no longer an idea that is tenderly right next to me, or outside of me in any way.  He can't be far off.  He is inside me!  This God, my savior God,  is within us.   He is within me.

I was particularly struck with the immensity of this Truth as I sang the popular song, "Welcome to Our World" by Chris Rice.   The words, "So, wrap our injured flesh around you.  Breathe our air and walk our sod.  Rob our sin and make us holy", pierced my heart as I listened and sang.

It isn't just that the Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us.  He went even further than just being among us.  He sent His Spirit within.  He wrapped my injured flesh around Him.  He breathes my air and walks my sod.  He robbed my sin and is making me holy!

His Spirit dwells within me as I sit at this desk and type these words.  He walks my sod!  My shoes... my carpet... my stairs.  He knows me that intimately.  This is the God Immanuel that I am in awe of today.  This is advent for me today.

God within me.  He is that close.    Can He get any closer?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Seeds of Love


Seeds germinate in the earth without me ever seeing the miracle.  A deep, powerful work happens  beneath the soil that produces beauty from these seemingly small, insignificant seeds.  The seeds sprout and grow and push through the earth!  Flower seeds produce beautiful flowers, grass seeds produce vibrant grass, and wheat seeds produce abundance of wheat.  It is amazing, really, when I take a minute to think of it.

Seeds of love... what do they produce?

I loved Ann Voskamp's  idea of planting "seeds of love" as a family and watching them grow.  We have adopted this idea for the month of December and we are having such fun!

In short, we put some dirt in a pot.  Then we found some grass seeds---tiny, tiny, tiny grass seeds.  We put the pot in a warm, sunlit spot and we water it daily.

...AND, then we add the seeds.  Little by little.  Day by day.

Each seed is planted quietly with silent, secretive, random acts of kindness and love.

...I put away her shoes that have been left in haste---I plant a seed. ...I make her bed---I quietly plant a seed.  ...I hang up his towel and fold her laundry---and I plant a seed.  These quiet acts of love have become "a game" of sorts in our home---a game with no competition, but with everyone winning!

What will each seed planted--each random act of simple love---do in our souls as we serve each other this month?

It has produced giggles and smiles.  It has brought tip-toeing service of a sister..."shhh, I don't want her to catch me!"

Will the grass actually grow in this freezing climate we live?!  Will the grass seeds produce a green, lush crop in our pot during this dark, cold month--- cloud covered, dark mornings, dark afternoons?  I don't know.  But, I do know that the seeds of love are already producing good in my heart.  I believe that these acts of love are indeed germinating in my soul.

Because seeds of kindness produce kindness.  Grace seeds produced undeserved, warm grace.  And, seeds of love grow and germinate into love.

___________
...a few weeks later, after writing this post...

They ARE growing!!!  Smiles fill our faces as we watch in wonder.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Menu of Choice

What we choose to eat matters to our overall health and well being.  We all know this.  Scientific research tells us that our physical, emotional, and mental health are all effected by the foods we eat---for good or bad.
We have a choice what we put into our bodies.  And, our choices matter.

God has given us choice in our spiritual lives, as well--- this is clear from Scripture.  He has given us a part to play...an invitation to join Him and His work in the world.  We are not robots, or trees, and we a not an animal led by instinct...  we have choice.

"Draw near to God", His word says, "...and He will draw near to you."
"Abide in My love", He tells us.
"Choose this day whom you will serve", His heart invites His children to choose life and love.

What choice will I make today?  What choice now, in this very moment?

Reading in Psalm 85 this morning, I was struck by Psalmist vocalizing his choice:  "I will listen to what the Lord will say...  He offers His people peace...and I will choose it... I will listen."

I will listen.   This is a choice.

When there are so many voices vying for our attention, we must make this choice each day.  I must make this choice...  what will I listen to?  Who will I listen to?

God has given us a part.  Is faith and peace and joy and grace a gift from Him?  Yes, absolutely!  Each one a free gift from His heart to mine.  Will He perfect my faith?  Yes, absolutely!  Perfecting faith is not my job; only He can do it, to be sure.  But, God has given us a choice. He has given me a part to play.

Like eating physical food, I really have no say in how well my digestive system does it's job.  This mysterious process happens within me, without my help.  My stomach works to extract nutrients and transfer needed things to my cells, ect.  I don't have much say in the process at all!  But, I do indeed have a choice as to what food I put into my body--- to aide in the process.  I have a part to play.  Certainly, if I cram my body full of junk or poisons it will disrupt the healthy, mysterious God ordained process of my digestive system.

So, I believe, is our part in the journey of our soul.  We have a choice to "eat" Truth and "feast" on God.  I have a choice to believe... rehearse what is True and turn my ear toward His voice.

No, I don't author faith---that is abundantly clear!  And, I don't perfect faith.  That is God's job---His job alone.  But, I can respond.  I can invite... I can share... I can feed my faith and his faith and her faith.  I can choose good "food" to aid in the God-alone-process of grace given, faith received and peace felt.

So, today I will choose to listen to what the Lord says to me.  He offers me peace.  What a sweet offer!!

I choose peace.

And, I will choose not to return to folly--- I will reject that junk food of "worry" or that diet of "fear". (Psalm 85:8)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Pain Rips

A rip and a tear.  That is what hearing about suffering does to my heart.

There is somewhere deep within my soul that screams, "No!!" in response to tragedy and suffering.   Almost a visceral response, a sickening feeling, and an ache deep within.  Do you feel it?  I was not made for this!  We were not made for this, Lord!  

When I hear news of a random shooting, or I hear of torture, or cancer, or adultery, or trafficking...  I want to weep and scream and escape all at the same time.  Something deep within my soul just moans, "No! Just stop the madness!"   

We were not made for this... the ripping and tearing and pain that happens in our hearts, our minds, and our bodies with pain and suffering.  We were made for something else.  We were made for life--- eternal life.  We were made for an unending love-connection with God and our brothers.  We were made for peace and freedom.    Not this.  

Not death, destruction, lies and corruption.  It isn't right.  It just isn't right.  And we know it.  Our souls, my soul knows it keenly.  

When Paul prays in Ephesians for the new believers there, he asks God to enlighten the eyes of their hearts.  How does a heart see?   What is it my heart is seeing right now?  Paul asks God to open the eyes of their hearts so that they can be aware and know hope.   Open the eyes of my heart, Lord!  

We just must see beyond.  We need to know hope.  

Hope. Is that the answer to this screaming tantrum my soul is having in light of current news reports of evil?   

Paul asks God to show their hearts the hope of their inheritance.  The children of God are heirs.    

Inheritance has both a "now and not yet" idea with it, doesn't it?  Even with a superficial financial inheritance we know this to be true.  The "now" concept of a secure inheritance brings the heir a freedom of living and light-hearted trust in tomorrow.   Simply by knowing they are an "heir" is a positive label and banner to be held high.  All things will be okay for this person---they don't have worry about tomorrow.  Just in this simple example of monetary inheritance, small "bumps" in ones finances don't bother too much---because, in the end all will be just fine.  It will all work out.  

I am an heir.  But, Scripture reminds me that being an heir with Christ, my brother, means that I have to share in His suffering (how do you think these shootings and sickness feel to him?).  But, being an heir with Christ also means that I will one day share in His glory.  I have a hope to share in glory---this is truly beyond me!  You, too, have this hope if you are Christ's sister or brother!  You are an heir.  

We have this hope for our future... I have hope for my spiritual, emotional and physical future.  I do know that all will be okay.  I can walk in peace with the banner of Truth over my heart and life.  And, I know that in the end all debts will be paid for and all "bumps" will be made right.  It does help to remember this. It does help to walk in the Truth of who He is, who I am in Him, and what His bigger plan is for the future...

All will be made right.  This is hope.  

Though, if I am honest, ...today...  Today, all is absolutely not right.  And, it pains me deeply.  Today I need a little more light, Father God, to open the eyes of this here heart.    Because today I just feel sad and angry.  I feel the rip and tearing of pain.  We need You to light our eyes and fill our hearts with hope of our inheritance of joy, peace, and Your glory!      

The crooked will be made straight.  (Isaiah 40:4)
Sorrow and sighing will flee away  (Isaiah 35:9,10)

"Make your Now the richer and deeper this Christmas by drinking at the fountain of Forever, it is so near." ~John Piper

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cycles of Control

There are lessons of heart that seem to cycle in and out like the tide.

Haven't we been here before, Lord?

On this blog, I haven't been shy to share about my issue with control.  Find your way to the subject "control" on the right and you will get a slew of posts...

In and out goes the tide on this lesson of control.

Have I learned things?  Yep.  Have I moved forward?  Yep.  And, back again?  Yep.  Ebb and flow.

One thing I would "love" to control... or at least I think I do, on one level, ...is faith.

I want to control faith.

My faith.  Your faith.  His faith and her faith.

...and somewhere deep within I "believe" that it is my fault that you don't believe.  Or, he doesn't believe.  Or, it is my fault that she is not further along in her journey.  Where does this come from, Lord?  Why do I feel this way?  Show me truth, I ask, Father.  

I talked with God about this very subject, yet again!, a few days ago.   I asked and I listened.  And, I asked again.   Instead of answers, I just felt confusion.  No response.  No whisper.  I just had brain-fog.

Why do I feel it is my fault, Lord?  Please, show me Your Thoughts about my heart... about control.  

Nothing.

So, in the early morning hours, I donned my warm jack, mud-stained boots and scarf and decided to go on a walk.  Fresh air.  I just needed to breath fresh air into my muddled soul.

As I walked... was it even 10 paces?... I had a light-filled thought waft across my mind:  you, Stephanie, are not the author and perfecter of faith.    

I am not the author.  I am not the perfecter.  It is not my job!  I don't own faith, or give it, or create it, or grow it.  I am not the author and perfecter of faith!!

Okay, I know this doesn't seem too terribly profound to any of you readers... and certainly this wasn't "new" to me either; but, it was BIG.  With these words, came a God-filled ebb that crashed over my brain and enlighten the eyes of my heart!

With this thought came the sweet ebb of release and the agitation subsided.

Oh yeah!  Lord, I don't have to author faith in him.  Or, in her.  And, I don't have to perfect faith in me.  Or, them.  That is your job! 

Yes, Stephanie.  I am the Author and Perfecter of faith... not you.  And, yes, we have been here before, my sweet girl.  

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Get out of the car!

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It is truly amazing what a bit of time, a bit of space and whole lot of quiet will open up in the soul.

Why is it so natural for me to feel like a "bother", Lord?  What is this?  

This is where our conversation started.  Quiet and space---a special set aside time away with the Lord--- allowed for me to dive deeper, sit longer and listen.

I feel like I am always bothering people...  with my issues, my needs, my emails, my phone calls, my sharing, or my posts.  I know this is a feeling---not a reality---but, it is a strong feeling, Lord.  Why do I have this?  Where did this all begin, Holy Spirit?  Please show me...  

This isn't the first time I have questioned the Lord regarding my soul and my painful places...  I have learned this wonderful technique of listening prayer from a dear friend and mentor.  "Wholeness prayer" is what she calls it.  Simply put, God guides, answers and leads us forward to wholeness through prayer: a simple conversation.  And, I have seen such amazing victory in my life and the lives of many others using this type of prayer.

I often ask the Lord these kinds of questions about many areas of my life.  Why am I so worried about my health---so afraid of loss---so angry about this event---so drawn to this sin, Lord?  Where did it start?  Show me Your truth, Your Light, I ask.  Please show me You, God!  

Do you see a stuck place in your life?  ...ask the Lord about it.
Why am I stuck with this same response, Lord?  Why is this so hard for me?  And then listen.  Sit and listen.

What do you see in your mind's eye, what might His Spirit whisper into your heart, what Scripture comes to mind, or what memory floods?

Tell Him what you are seeing, sensing, feeling as you listen... converse with Him.  He is a real Person---a very real Counselor that knows you inside and out.

When did I begin to feel like a "bother"? Where did this start, Lord?  Or, when did I begin to feel this way?  

As I sat and listened, after some time, I remembered an event from my teen years.  I had visited a trusted mentor with a problem.  I had walked into their office and began to share, ...to cry, ...to vent.  During the time and even as I remembered this memory (these 23 years later), it became very clear that this person was agitated, annoyed and distinctly bothered by my sharing.  I don't know that they said so directly, with words... in fact, I am sure they probably didn't.  But, their frustration with my pain was clear and loud.   They were bothered by me, by my tears and by my sharing.  I was clearly "in the way".  A bother.

As I sat and thought over the memory, asking the Lord, "Show me your truth, Lord Jesus"  The memory continued.  I remember getting up from my seat, exiting the office quickly and getting into my car to drive away.  This isn't my imagination---this is a memory.  At the time, I remember thinking, very distinctly, as I buckled my seat belt, "Just shut up, Stephanie!"  Click.  Buckled in.  "I won't ever share like that again!", I vowed in my heart.

Hmmm....

I believe this is what the Lord wanted me to see...

As I sat with this image and the shame of the moment---deep shame, visceral shame flooded me at that time and even flooded me afresh as I remembered how embarrassed I was with my "behavior" (how dare I share my heart so vulnerably and smack dab in the middle of the day!)--- I asked the Spirit of Christ again, "Please Lord show me Your Truth, Your light.  What are Your thoughts."  

Even as I asked, I had a clear answer...  Get out of the car.  Unbuckle your seat belt and get out of the car! 

Get out of the car?  was my response to this thought.  Really?  Is this from You, Lord?  

It isn't what I was expecting, to be sure.  I was expecting something akin to, "You are my beloved daughter. I am always listening to you.  Or, I see you."  But, nope.  Get out of the car, Stephanie.

It took nearly 20 minutes and many, many times re-asking the Lord what His thoughts were...

Until I finally, in my mind's eye-now (not a memory), finally... with prayerful imagination, I unbuckled my seat belt and stepped out of the car.

In that moment, deep relief flooded my heart!  One moment of obedience and submission of spirit--courage to prayerfully "step out of the car" and bam!---peace.  Deep peace flooded.    It is hard to describe.

He knew that that moment in time---20 years ago-- I had made a choice of will to listen to the lies of the enemy!  The enemy of my soul had told me to shut up and stop sharing.  And, I chose to buckle myself into the lie.  Click.  Buckled down and silenced.

Yesterday, it was a response of my will, my spirit and my trust to unbuckle that lie...  and silence the Liar and Destroyer.  It was sweet release.

In my mind's eye, I saw myself... Stephanie, 17 years of age.... standing on the outside of the car.  Breathing fresh air!  Free. Free to be me.  To share and to keep "pestering" with my vulnerability and my weakness.  Free to cry.  And, free to play.  Free from the thoughts of that mentor, free from what they believed about me.

Free.

I am sure that I will still struggle with feeling I am a "bother" from time to time.  There are deeper places for the Lord and I to dive-into... in His time.  But, I will have this special moment of Light and Truth to take into the battle for freedom.

This freedom is only one amazing benefit from a bit of space, a bit of time and whole lot of quiet.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Give me a fat heart!!

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So, being described as "stout" is not a great compliment, right?  When someone says, "She is stout"... it isn't meant to encourage.  

I looked up the word in the dictionary this morning.  Stout means, "bulky in figure; heavily built; thickset; fat."  Okay, yep.... definitely NOT a compliment!  

But, this was the prayer of my heart this morning as I repeated David's words back to my Heavenly Father, "Lord make me stout!  Make my heart stout and bold.  Lord, make me stout-hearted!"  

Stouthearted is a very different thing, isn't it?!   

The dictionary has a second definition for "stout":  "bold, brave, dauntless, firm, resolute."  

Now, here are words I like!  

In Psalm 138, David is praising God for His faithful answers...  God has heard me!  And, then David worships with the words, "when you answered me, you made me bold and stouthearted"  (Psalm 138:3)

This is the answer to the cries of our hearts, my friends.  He listens, He responds, and His Spirit emboldens and strengthens us! 

Daily life can bring wavering for me.  It brings moment-by-moment opportunities to be distracted, discouraged and overwhelmed.  My heart feels, at times, to be unsteady, timid and insecure.  But, in His Presence I can be strengthened and brave!  He can (and wants to!!) make me bold and dauntless.  

Just to imagine my "heart"---my insides, my soul, my very being---as bulky and heavily built, makes me smile.  Yes, Lord, may I have a fat heart!!   

May my heart be fat-filled with Him and immovable with the rock-confidence in His love.  May I know His answers and His Presence so keenly that I am firm and resolute.  Make me stout, my Lord!  Make my heart stout in You!  


Friday, November 30, 2012

He is THAT close...

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I wrote in a post last week about my desire to be known...

This morning the cry of my heart shifted just slightly...  I want to know you, Father!!  I want to know You!

As I sat in quiet, I read and I listened, ...this too was a deep desire crying out from my heart:  To know others.  To be known, yes please!  And, also, to know.

That is real connection, isn't it?  It isn't simply that I want my husband to know me--- I want to know him.  I want to understand him more, to "get him"---just as I desire him to "get me".

My friends.  My children.  My parents.  Yes, I want to be known by them.  But, I also want to know them well.  When we know each other, there is such a sweetness--- such tenderness.

Knowing each other brings connection and closeness.

God gives us this option.  We can know God.  What a thought!

And, since the beginning of time, God has been bringing Himself closer--- from Creation until today, He has been making Himself known.  Knowable.

I can know God. This delights my heart!

He knows me.  And, I can know Him.  We can be that close--- that connected!

As we enter the advent season, I have begun reflecting on the Incarnation:  Jesus choosing earth as His home for a short season.  Jesus, my God, coming down.  Entering a woman... walking on the earth.

But, He has been making Himself known since the beginning of time.  In creation, God's hand splashed color and beauty and order over the earth... He made Himself known to us!  Then, in early days of our history, God gave us His word as He whispered Truth through the pens of prophets and servants.

Then, He came closer...even closer than Scripture!  His son chose to remove Himself from heaven and put Himself in the skin of a man.  He walked and talked and ate with us.  He put Himself closer to me and you!  We can be that close!!

But, He wanted us to know Him even more still.  He offers to enter us!  He offers to Incarnate Himself in my very heart.  "God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts"  (Galatians 4:6)  Can you get any closer?!

Jesus Himself testifies that the Spirit of God---the Comforter --is even closer, even "better" still than His walking on the earth.  (John 16:7)

We can know God that closely...  that tenderly.  With simple belief in the Son of God, His Spirit enters us---Incarnates!---and comes that close to me.  He is that close to you!

You are known.

And, you can know God.  He gives us that option.  He opened up the way.  In fact, it is the cry of His heart!

That is the prayer of my heart this morning.  Lord, my intimate Lord, I ask that through Your Spirit I may know You better!  (Ephesians 1:17)

"Every prayer-filled day sees a meeting with the God who comes; every night which we faithfully put at his disposal is full of his presence."  (Carlo Carretto, The God Who Comes)

"You will find the living God in the pages of the Bible.  You will find him also just exactly where you are...  God has sent the Spirit of Truth, he dwells in your hearts.  There is no limit to the ways in which God may make Himself known to you. At every turn in our lives there can be a meeting place with God."  (Mother Frances Dominica, Prayer--quote found in a Guide to Prayer)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

I have a hangover

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"A vulnerability hangover" is what author and researcher, Brene' Brown calls it...

I have never been drunk.  So, I have never actually had a proper hangover; therefore, I can't say I know what one feels like.  But, I am guessing it isn't very comfortable!  I have heard a few stories and seen my share of instances.  So, I gather from the puking, purging and pounding-head that a hangover is never a positive things.

A vulnerability hangover isn't fun either.

Too much vulnerability... and you are destined for a sickening hangover!

Let's just say that each time I write a particularly vulnerable blog post---write something deep, hard, or ugly--- I experience the incredible urge to purge!

Within 2 hours of writing and "publishing" my post, I have this desire to go online and delete the post immediately.  Thoughts like:  "Too much", "too raw", "too weak"... pour over my mind.  If I resist the urge to "purge" the post, I then want to "purge" the blog...  "I just need to stop blogging".  "This is stupid".  "People don't want to read and hear this..."

And, if I resist the urge to delete my blog; then, the final 'hangover' symptom is to write a "nice" post.

There are nicer posts, right?  Posts that are true and right and encouraging.  I like those posts, too.  There are blog posts---still honest and real posts---about God's blessings, His gifts, His peace and His Word.  But, after I share one of my "I cried" or "I am in pain" posts--- I desperately want to get on quickly and write a "nice" post.  This last vulnerability-hangover-urge is an attempt to let you all know, "I am okay."  With a "nice" post, I assure you (and me) that "I am not in pain all the time".

I have resisted urge #1, and #2.  So, I am officially saying it now---without writing a "nice" post...

Readers, I am okay!

Did I need to say that?  I don't know.  But, the gut-wrenching urge within me was to communicate to you, my friends and readers, that I am not "the sick person", "the weak person", or "the messy person".  When the fact of the matter is... I am.

Why do I feel the deepest urge to write "I am okay... don't worry about me"?  Or, elsewhere--- other times in my life---why do I need to back away and tell you, "Please don't be bothered about me!"?

I am pretty sure it is because at some point in my life (probably more than one point!), I believed the lie that I am supposed to be perfect.  I am supposed to be "okay".  Not weak.  Not in-process.  Not a bother.  And, certainly, not messy.

Well, the truth is... I really am okay.  I am well.  And, happy.  And, at peace today.

But, it is also truth that I am a bit messy, too!!  Both.  And.

But, none-the-less, vulnerability and weakness are hard for me.   I talked to the Lord about this today--- can I just delete that post or this blog, Lord?  ... I felt prompted to keep on sharing, keep on posting, and keep on getting drunk on vulnerability.  Courage to share weakness is one cure to perfectionism!

And, so I "drink" the healthy carrot-orange-alka selzer juice concoction of this blog post to bring a little healing to my hangover!

That said, right about now I am feeling a bit over-vulnerable---tipsy, you might say----so give me about 4 hours and I will be sick with my vulnerability hangover from this post...

Friday, November 23, 2012

A Painful Conversation

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But you see, Lord...  I was supposed to be perfect yesterday.      

Silly thought?  Maybe.  But certainly my thought---my honest and deep thought ---that rose to the surface as I wrestled with a new health issue in my life that reared it's ugly head last night.

Anger, mixed with sadness.  Frustration, mixed-up with worry and fear.  ...my heart cried out to the Lord!

I am supposed to be well.  All better.  
I am supposed to be done with pain and suffering!  
I want health!  I want well-being.  I want to be strong.

...for you...  for your glory ...  Even as I thought it, there was a 'check' in my spirit.

As I prayed this prayer through tears, a gentle response wafted across my mind.  For Me?...  Really, Stephanie?  You want perfection for Me?

And then came a wordless impression that accompanied the tender question:  Do you want my best for you?  My best----  

His best.   After a 25 year journey through pain that was (mostly) healed with an operation June 2011, I have learned that sometime His best... His deep, loving, expansive best... comes through and in pain.  Pain is not a bad thing in-and-of-itself, I have learned.   Pain can be a gift.  God's best for me here on earth can include pain and suffering.  Like a wise gardener knows, pain can be pruning... and a tender cutting back---that looks to the outside as ruthless hacking!

Do you trust my boundless love for you?  Do you want my best for you, in you?  For My glory?  My glory in you, through you, for you?   

And, I cried some more.  And He met me with peace.

I want to be perfect, Lord.  I hate being weak and vulnerable.   I feel so afraid when I am weak and sick.  I hate being the "sick one".   I want to be the "well-one" for once!  

I know, Stephanie...  

Oh Father!  But, this might not be for today...  Right? Father, maybe this desire for perfection is not for the now.  Or, at least, not for today.  

My strength is made perfect in your weakness, my sweet girl.  

Your strength...  Your perfection, Lord.  Oh!  I have so much yet to learn about You.  ...

There are many, many things I know in my head.  Things I can write here or preach next week at Bible study.  True things.  Right things.  Some of these things I know well in my heart, too.  He has brought them home to me and they sit in my gut---informing my days with peace and wisdom.

But there are other things... other Truths... , many other True things that are harder to swallow depending on the day.  Depending on the hour.

I still have trouble seeing You, knowing Your Presence, in the midst of pain, Father.  

Yes, ...yes, you do, Stephanie...

So, I ... have further to go in this lesson...  higher up, deeper in.  I do want Your best.  I do trust Your loving hand.  

...And, surrender did come this morning.  Real, deep, honest surrender to His Love and His best did happen in my heart.  This surrender, too, was a moment of His grace...  

Because, My grace is sufficient for You, Stephanie (2 Corinthians 12:9,10)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Known


I so long to be known.  I want to be well known.

The more I am getting to know myself, the more clear this truth becomes...  I just want you to know me.  That is the cry of my heart.

Please know me.

And, I think this is a human cry---or at least a common one!  For most people, if you ask them about themselves (or something that interests them), they won't stop talking.  If you can get someone to share even a bit about themselves, it opens a flood gate of conversation. Generally humans want to share themselves--- of course in safe places--- but, they want you to know them.  I want you to know me.  The deep bits and the surface bits... the mountains and the valleys.

Have you ever seen the glow in the eyes of a young child?  When you get down to their level and look straight into their eyes, asking and inviting them to keep sharing their thoughts,  "Tell me more about that!"   We seem to come out of the womb wanting to communicate who we are, what we are feeling, and what we think about this and that...

It is why we share our thoughts about politics, about the traffic or the weather.  It is why we are desperate to tell people about our achy leg or our bad night's sleep.  And, when someones remembers or follows up about our painful shoulder:  "How is that feeling?"... we feel loved.   We feel known.

Or, at least, I feel loved.  And, known.

On the flip side, I realize I get hurt when I perceive that someone doesn't want to know me.  When they are too busy, or two preoccupied to really listen or to remember to ask.  I realized this morning that when I am not pursued, or asked, or "cared-for" in this way, ...somewhere deep within me I get hurt.  It is a "little-girl" kind of hurt.

I feel unwanted.  Devalued, maybe.  Do you see me?  Do you even want to know me?  

Maybe this is an old wound from childhood---when I felt too young, or too quiet, too ugly, too stupid or too unimportant to be remembered or asked after.  Pushed aside.  ...what I felt or thought or saw was not as important as the big "other" people around me.  What they are thinking and feeling trumped my thoughts and my experience.  I don't know.

Early this morning I became aware again of this ache.  I felt unsettled and asked the Lord, "What is it, Lord?"  Why is my soul unwell this morning...? 

I just want to be known
.  The thought bounced around my head.  I want to be thought of and valued.  To be noticed.  Seen.

Then my eyes fell to Psalm 95:4, "In his hands are the depths of the earth.  The mountain peeks belong to Him."

The depths of the earth.

We just studied the layers of the earth in science yesterday.  Did you know we have never actually seen beyond the earth's crust?  No human.  No scientist.  No actual instrument has touched the center of the earth.  (or even come close!) We haven't seen the mantle and the core.  On one level, we don't really know what is down there.   We have never made direct observations of the earth's mantle.  Now, we do have much data that explains what is beyond the dirt upon which we walk. We have solid and trustworthy hypotheses and indirect observations that describe the depths of the earth.  But, we don't know.  We can't dig deep enough.  There is no drill to go that far---it has been unreachable, because of temperature and pressure.

But, this He knows.  The depths of the earth are known to God.  He holds them in His hand---he can see them, touch them, manipulate them, care for them and crush them if He wills.  He holds them.  He knows.

I know you, Stephanie...  His loving Spirit whispered into my soul.   You are known...



He knows you, too, my friend.  He values.  He sees.  He hears your heart's cry.  You are known.  

Saturday, November 10, 2012

What Light can do!

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It was just a moment in time.  The beauty left as quickly as it came.   And, I saw it!!

As I began my walk yesterday morning,  the sun was rising quietly behind a blanket of dark clouds. The grey-covered sunrise, brought shadowed light to the town I live.  It was morning indeed, but it was a dark morning.  But, as I climbed the stile leading into the field by my home, the sun's strength suddenly burst forth in radiant splendor.  Blasting through an opening in the sky it shown with dazzling beauty over the fields and my town.  There was an instant, spectacular glow that is hard to describe with words.

From darkness to light in one instant!

When I saw it, all that came to my mind was, "Oh, Lord, what light can do!!"  The grass was a prettier green color than I remember ever seeing it!  Every field marked out by hedge rows was lit and on display.  I could see everything for miles.  Gold and orange light transformed the morning in an instant.

In that moment, I worshiped my God and asked Him to display His light in me with such brilliance 

And, then... as quickly as it came... it was gone.  It was just a moment in time.  What light can do!!

The remainder of my walk was a dialogue with my Father in Heaven.  What clouds---thoughts, actions, beliefs--- block out Your light in my life?  What are the dark things that hinder You shining in and through me--- making me more beautiful with Your Light.  Teach me, Father.  Lead me forward in Truth, Holy Spirit.  

He tells us that through our relationship with Jesus, we are transferred from the Kingdom of Darkness into the Kingdom of Light.  His Light is ours for the taking!  We are, in fact, children of Light.  But, He also warns us that we need to walk in that Light!  ...we can, indeed, grieve and cover and hinder that Light from shining in us and through us.

Are there certain thoughts and ways in your life that might be hindering His Light in you?

When I let certain lies, certain attitudes, and certain actions in to my life... the beauty can leave as quickly as it can come.   I just need to see it!

Give me eyes to see it!  Give me an awareness of heart, Lord Jesus!  

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Following Him into the kitchen, too...

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I have had a particular image bouncing around in my head for a while now.   This picture came to my mind again today, as I was praying.  How do I describe what I see?

Shall I give-it-a-go and try to describe my imaginings?

In my mind's eye I see Jesus walking into my kitchen and I am following Him.  I follow Him into the kitchen and watch Him pull up those long draping sleeves and dig His hands into my sink full of soapy water.  Dirty dishes.  Then, I follow Him.  I pull up my sleeves, dig my hands in and wash those dishes.   Together.  We finish the dishes and then He turns and walks into my hallway... headed for the closet---the vacuum cleaner.  I follow.  We vacuum.  Together.

Like two oxen plowing a field, we are yoked together.  Beautifully bound in unity, we work together as one. His strength making all compensation for my weaknesses.  His wisdom directing our work.   His Presence bringing Light and Joy and Peace.

Him and me.  Bound together because of His gift of grace and my choice to follow.

When Jesus physically walked the earth over 2000 years ago, He said, "Come and follow me".  And, they did.  James, John, Peter, and Thaddeus...  they followed Him.  They watched Him and did what He did, with Him.  They ate together and slept next to each other.  They walked and talked and did.  Together.

Bound together because of His love and their desire to be with Him.

And when Jesus physically left the earth, He reminded these friends--his followers--- that He would always be with them.  Always Present.  Always near.

Today, He reminds me.  Me, His friend, His follower... He reminds me that He is always with me.  He offers me Himself---His very Presence.

Come and follow me, Stephanie, He says to me today.

He invites you, too!  Follow me into your kitchen, your schooling, your phone call and your errands.  I will be with you always!  

"As for me, the nearness of God is my good."  (Psalm 73:28)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Small Efforts


"The repetition of small efforts will accomplish more than the occasional use of great talents." Charles Spurgeon

I read this quote this morning and thought, "Now, that is mothering summed up in a nut-shell!"  Parenting, really.  Life, actually!  

Repetition?  Yep.  Laundry.  Laundry.  Laundry.  Dishes. Dishes. Dishes.  Hugs.  Hugs.  Help with schoolwork.  Making of meals.  Night-time tucking little ones into bed.  Daily repetition.  

And, all these things are most certainly "small efforts" in the scheme of life, history and the world-at-large!  

Repeated.  And, small.  

But, I know Charles Spurgeon is on to something here.  I hear Truth and encouragement behind these words.  I do believe that these small things matter.    

Small things are only missed when they are lacking, aren't they?  When the "small efforts" are not made---we call this neglect.  But, when the small things are done and dusted, we take no notice.  

What do these things "accomplish" in the Kingdom of God?  I am not sure I can articulate the what, exactly.  But, I do know they have meaning.  It matters that my kids are well hugged, well-listened-to, well taught and well fed.  It matters that I answer that email.  And, it matters that I smile at my neighbor and stop to talk to that sweet lady on the street.  

Small.  Repetitive.  Yep.  But, strangely important.  

So, off I go to make some small efforts!   Off I go to make much impact with another load of laundry, another sink full of dishes, and another math lesson to teach!!  May it be for Your Glory, Father!  May it accomplish much for Your Kingdom!   

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Alive. Powerful. Fresh

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It never ceases to amaze me!

The Power of God's Word.

His Word is so fresh and alive and active...  Today it woke me up like a crashing, cool wave!

Groggy, half dazed I slowly dragged myself out of bed this morning.  I was awake... but just barely.  And, I had wanted to sleep in!  But, I was awake.

Something within my soul beckoned me out of my warm, comfy bed this morning.  Early.  So, I turned off the alarm-not-yet-rung and dragged myself out of bed, quickly donning my thick warm sweatshirt in hopes to preserve some warmth from my bed.

Coffee.  A cookie.  Slippers and a blanket to cover my legs.  I sat down in my special chair, for that quiet moment with the Lord.

To be honest, I was still groggy.  I hadn't even had a sip of the coffee yet, or a bit of the cookie.  And, I had little expectation.  ...little thought really---half awake.

I opened His Word and read my "assigned" reading for today.  ...it was just routine at this point.

"The heavens declare the glory of the Lord..." (Psalm 19)

Whamo!!  

How else do I explain?!  Bam!!  The life, the breath, the emotion, the sweet Truth that hit my soul like a massive wave---and in an instant it woke me up.  I was awake!  Very awake.

I had read that very verse yesterday, too.  It was good.  It was Truth... but there was no "Bam!"  His Spirit had quietly nudged me with a different portion of Scripture... a quiet whisper, a tender tug.

But today... Wham!  

I am so glad I headed that call, the beckoning, this morning.  I am so glad He gave me the ability to drag myself out of bed.

It never ceases to amaze me.  The Power and the Life that is in Him.  The Breath that is in His Word.    All I did was show up.

Friday, October 26, 2012

It is never easy.

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It never is easy.

To forgive.

When the pain has been real, and hard, and deep... it is never easy to forgive.

My sweet girl is learning.  And, so am I---alongside her.

"I don't know if I am ready to forgive her", she responded with tears.  She was responding to my question, "Can I help you? Can I help you forgive her?"

...if I am ready.  When are we ever really ready to let it go and to lay it down?  Are you ready?

Sometimes we just have to choose.  And, that is never easy.

"But she hurt me...", she explained, not protesting as much as asking me to understand.

"Yes," I replied, "if I was in your shoes, I would be hurt too."

Forgiveness isn't needed unless it has hurt.  Forgiveness is only really necessary if injustice has been done.  Where there is wrath and judgment rightly earned, there and only there is forgiveness really forgiveness at all.

I think, as Christians, we push too many of these hurts under-the-carpet of "brotherly love".  "It isn't really that big of deal", we might say.  Or, "they didn't mean it".  Or, "I am just being over sensitive."  In this, we don't actually forgive bad behavior, instead we ignore it or excuse it.  Which would be a great tactic if it worked.  But, it doesn't.  We push it under-the-carpet and then it actually grows mold, stench and bitter roots under our carpets.  These things---even these little things--- must be acknowledged.  ...before God.

I am not talking confrontation here.  I am talking about acknowledgement---to the One who does "get-it" and the One who is perfect!

So, she did it.

My sweet girl.  She told God that she had been hurt.  She told God that what this girl had done had been painful and wrong.  ...even if this girl was totally unaware.  How common is that true?  Most those hurts we push under the carpet are hurts that the perpetrator doesn't even know they have done.  ...but, they still hurt.

Those sticks.  Those stones.  And, those words have hurt.

And, they can be forgiven.  And, they can be covered by brotherly love!  But, they need to be acknowledged and held up before the Lord of the Universe who sees all.

She told God how she felt.  And, then we asked the Holy Spirit to show her what He thought about the situation.  We asked the Holy Spirit what He would say about them... both girls... both she and her friend.  What did He think?  And, with revelation came peace and compassion.  With His Voice came release and the ability to forgive.  To bless.

We ended our prayer time with my girl initiating blessing over this friend.  "I bless her, Jesus.  Pour out Your blessing on her, I ask."

And, the heavy hurt was lifted.

It still makes her stomach churn just a bit when she thinks of it, she said to me today.  Of course it does, my girl.  Of course, it does!

But, keep blessing.  ...keep asking for His blessing on this friend's life.  And, though it isn't easy.
It is good.  It is very good.

To forgive.




Monday, October 22, 2012

His enough is enough

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I read the news.  I hear the stories from a friend.  I read that email.  I hear about this conversation.  And, see that picture.  I wonder after his health, her heart, his marriage, her walk with the Lord.  And, my heart can become heavy---filled with concern.

...In this world pain, sin, sickness and sorrow swirl around and within.  With uncertainty and ambiguity as normative, I need to be reminded of Truth... regularly.  And, I love tools that help remind me.

A while back, I started to  "require" myself to sit down periodically throughout the day... to sit, to be still and to worship.  I have it on my "to do" list (isn't that a bit silly?)  I put it there to "check off" each day--- did I sit and worship today?  Did I stop and find the quiet today?  I attempt this most days and it has become a sweet rhythm-of-quiet to a full, and sometimes, loud life.

One tool I have been using during one of my daily "sits" has been the beautiful worship moments created by Pray as You Go.org...  you really must visit and have a listen.

Today, the song used leading into worship was Bach's Cantada 82.  The words sung are "Ich habe genug"... Translated:  I have enough.

I have enough.  My cup runs over...  

Taken from the story of Simeon in the gospel of Luke, the words of this Canatada speak of a soul that is at rest in God.  They remind us that in Him we have enough.  He is our enough.  When we have taken Jesus within and walk in His love, we have enough.

Enough.

Each day the struggle begins with the feelings of "not enough".  Do you ever feel it?!

 ...not enough sleep.  ...not enough time.  ...not enough energy.  ....not enough strength or not enough faith or fun or clothes.  ..."not enough" is the continual cry of our day.   "Not enough" is the mantra and the music that plays amidst the pain and sorrow and busyness of our world.  But, it isn't Truth.  

Today, I am reminded of Truth.  He is enough.  The Lord is my shepherd and I have all I need.  All that I need.  I have enough.  My eyes are lifted, my heart is resting.  



Bach's Cantada 82:
I have enough,
I have taken the Savior, the hope of the righteous,
into my eager arms;
I have enough!

I have beheld Him,
my faith has pressed Jesus to my heart;
now I wish, even today with joy to depart from here.

I have enough
My comfort is this alone,
that Jesus might be mine and I His own.
In faith I hold Him,
there I see, along with Simeon,
already the joy of the other life.

I have enough.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

As Common as a Rainbow

Again, today, I saw it and it was breathtaking !  Stunning.  From the faded reds to the strong yellow and blue to the flighty indigo... a rainbow stretched itself beautifully over our town.

I was awed.

In my awe, I found my heart turning in worship to God.  Thank you, Lord!  The beauty of the rainbow brought thanksgiving.  As I was thanking Him for His Promises, I was instantly struck with the fact that all those around me, those walking with me on the road, were missing it entirely.  A gorgeous, full-spectrum rainbow was just over our heads and they took no notice, as far as I could see.  Did they see it?

And then the thought came to me, a slight whisper into my mind... It has become common place, Stephanie.  

Currently, we live in a place where it rains a lot.  This means, of course, that we have lush green and flowers and frequent rainbows!  Frequent rainbows---imagine that!  I grew up in a city where rain, lush green, and flowers were scarce... and rainbows---well, I don't think I saw but one in the whole of my childhood.   So, I am still awe-struck when I see a rainbow.  I still feel a childish sense of jubilee and I eagerly go looking for them when it rains on a sunny day!

It has become common place...  the words swam around in my head.  A rainbow.  ...common place?  How can that be??  The Promises of God... common place.

And, then it dawned on me,  My promises have become common-place here, too.  

Here in this lovely place where I live, God's promises and His Word were once primary and central.  God Almighty once awed the people of this nation.  God's Truth once penetrated hearts and changed lives.  But, now they are no longer core to my neighbors and my friends.  They are indeed just common, ordinary, and easy-to-walk-by...  All too common.

Jesus loves you...  "yeah.. yeah... whatever...  I know... I have heard it all before!"

Familiarity breeds contempt, we have heard it said.

The promises of God's Presence.  His salvation.  His death on the cross.  His resurrection.  Here all these are as commonly "known" as the rainbows, the flowers and the rain.  And, most people just walk right by them---and ignore them.  They miss them entirely.

These beautiful, deep, life-changing Truths go without notice... without awe... without any emotional or life-impact.  What a tragedy! 

And I wonder even as I write this...  Stephanie, what Truths, ...what Reality... has become common place to you?  

Father, may the Truths of You, the Reality of who You are and what You have done for me... may they awe me again today!  Father make these Truths of Your Word take my  breath away and bring deep thanksgiving in my heart.  May grace and mercy and love and holiness never become common place to me.  

Monday, October 15, 2012

Where exhaustion can take me...

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There is a powerful urge that I feel sometimes... a voracious appetite.  Do you ever feel it?

In recent years, I have become more aware.  Rather than just following it without thought, I am finally becoming more conscious of this drive, this hunger.  I catch and  "see" the signs.  And, I am starting to see what triggers the feeling.  

The hunger?  Simply put, I just want to eat.  And, then I want to eat more.  Something a little sweet.  Something a little salty.  Now, I want something more that is sweet... and on it goes. The desire is strong.  The pull can be intense.  I can go (mentally or actually) scrounging through the kitchen and find myself something tasty to bring relief to the "hunger" within.

Am I the only one?

My husband assures me that I am not alone in my hunger---although his voracious "eating" doesn't include food.  He is driven or pulled toward media, he explains.  He just wants to watch, or to research, or to read random news articles.  But, he too is aware of the drive and the intense pull.  We aren't alone in this drive to numb, to relax, to calm, to get-back-to-equilibrium.  We just crave different things to fill the hunger...

What do you crave?  

I do know my triggers...  at least in part.  I have written before of my tired temptations.  For instance, I know that when I am exhausted---physically, emotionally or spiritually---I can find the lure-to-numb really inviting!  I am still not quite sure where I learned this pattern---when did I learn to go to food to feed the emptiness that exhaustion can bring?  But certainly, when I am tired... I want to eat.  And, I want to numb.  The question I have been asking is why?  and when?  

Does the food actually give me a burst of energy?  Maybe.  Or, does it give me comfort?  Maybe even a bit.  ...a learned comfort, at least.  But, does it give me what I really need in those tired moments?    Most definitely not.  The interesting thing is that my drive to food is never satisfied and if I indulge the cravings... I am never satisfied.  I never find rest, peace or equilibrium when I eat to fill that void. In fact, quite the opposite happens!  Filling this "hunger" with unnecessary food often produces a cycle of frustration, annoyance and irritation with myself.  

What do I truly need in these moments??   I need rest.  ... rest.  I need rest and peace and equilibrium.  I need Jesus.  

The very Person of Jesus is the obvious answer to my true needs.  His Presence offers me rest.  "Come to Me, all you who are weary...and I will give you rest", He says. "The peace I give is from Me...not like the world's peace", he invites me in.  He is my manna, the Bread of Life that will nourish.  In Him I can find filling and satisfaction.  In Him I have found fullness!  

This powerful urge within... may it draw me into You, Lord Jesus.  May I receive from You all I need!!  Change the "natural" and automatic response within me to run to food and other things... may I learn to run to You and find my rest in You alone.  

Where (or to who... or to what) do you go when you are tired or exhausted?  

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Choose to Hope


Did you know that hope is not an emotion?

Did you know that hope is a choice, a learned skill, a cognitive process and way of thinking?*

Emotion plays a part in hope... we can feel hopeful, of course.  Or, we can feel hopeless.  But, hope is a way--an avenue we can take-- hope is a way we can choose to think or not think.  It is a choice.  It involves our will and our minds... and, even more important it is fueled by our spirits and hearts.

I am utterly fascinated by this thought tonight as I continue to read Brene Brown's The Gifts of Imperfection.  Certainly and deliberately not a Christian book, her research and her conclusions are chalked full of deep insight and God's Truth.  This delights me!

Hope is focusing on the unseen... and believing that it will be, or that it is.  That is essentially what faith is--- a  "seeing" of an unsee-able God, a hoping in an "unseeable" but very certain future; and it is a choice to fix our hearts and minds on Him, His Truth and His victory in the now and the not-yet.  This is hope.  This is faith.  I don't have to "feel" it necessarily.  I can choose it!... "I believe.  Help my unbelief" comes to mind.  (Mark 9:24)

The feeling of hopefulness then can closely follow the choice to hope.  We strike the match, we light the candle and warmth and glow follow.

According to research, this way of thinking---and the following hopefulness---produces resilience, wholehearted and genuine living.  And, to add to the beauty of this research... is that hope-thinking can be cultivated.  

What a great word!  It can be cultivated.  It can be grown.  We can cultivate hope!  We can choose to turn our eyes to the unseen and hope in Him!

I am not  naturally a hope-filled person.  Anyone who knows me well, knows the Stephanie-mantra, "The key to happiness is low expectations."  After pondering this concept of hope cultivation---I am more and more bothered with this mantra that has ruled my life for so long.  Helpful?  Yes, of course.  It protects me from disappointment.  A coping mechanism of sorts, to be sure.  But, I am wondering how this affects my view of God---
I want to choose and cultivate hope...  I want to choose today to have high expectations and hope in God.  He will be Present tomorrow!  He will come through.  He always has!  I can expect Him to lead and to protect and to show Himself faithful to me.

And, according to the research, do you know how we seem to learn it best, as well?  We seem to learn hope best "in the context of other people" (Gifts of Imperfection, pg. 66)

We learn to hope by being with and watching other people who hope and who teach us to hope by their consistency.   We learn to hope by experiencing faithfulness in friendship, consistency and healthy boundaries within relationships.  Other people teach us to hope.  I love this!  The Body of Christ--- the church, the family, the fellowship of "two or three"--- is the perfect classroom for practicing and learning the skill of choosing and walking in hope.

You can teach me! I can teach you.  I can teach my children and my children can teach me.  We can spur each other on toward "hope"!  We can invite each other into the joy of living within the feeling of hopefulness.

So, my friends, I issue an invitation to you!  Come with me and choose to hope today.  I say to you...  God Almighty is faithful.  His love is sweet and His Presence is filling and powerful.  He is and He was and He will always be...  Come in, walk one more step forward, enter into His rest today---taste and see that the Lord is good.


 (*according to psychology and the research psychologists, C.R.Snyder)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Too Far Into Love


"I am afraid..." she said to me, with almost a whisper in her voice.  Could she say it out-loud?
"I am afraid to take it too far.  I hear all you are saying about God's love for me... In fact, I think I have heard Him say it to me.  I hear it.  ...about living-as-loved... about who I am because I am loved.  But..."  

"But, isn't it possible to go too far?!"

I knew what she was saying.  I have known this hesitation.  

I remember saying almost the exact same thing.  I remember saying it and knowing it was wrong... and still saying it!  I remember feeling the hesitation or danger in this concept of unconditional, lavished love!  

I said it.  I did.  It wasn't that long ago that I said to my husband:  "There is a hesitation to diving in.  It is a dangerous feeling.  I mean, if I really--- I mean, really and truly--- believed that God loves me.  If I really trusted in God's love for my "okayness", my everything, my security...  then... who would keep me in check.  Wouldn't I just jump off the deep end of sin?  Wouldn't I be prideful and selfish?  Wouldn't I just 'let myself go' and 'rest on my rump'... doing nothin' for good or for God??  Who would keep me in line?" 

I know the hesitation.  I was there.  

We, as Christians, do get really good at being good.  ...doing what is right.  ...living by all the "shoulds" around us.  We perfect the act and dance the dance well.  Well,... sort-of.  At least on the outside---  at least outside our homes, outside our living rooms and bedrooms.  I think, we learn to put-on "loved" that is.  

Or, I did.  For a long time...  

Not that I didn't love the Lord.  I did.  Very much.

Not that I didn't grow or even move forward in my understanding of God.  I did.  ...but, still deep within I knew the truth.  I knew that there was something big missing.  I knew that deep down I really questioned God's love for me.  

And, I also knew that the idea of abandoned to love---left alone with only His love---felt a dangerous and scary concept.  ...would it be enough?  

"I am afraid.." she quietly shared with me today.  "Isn't it possible to go too far with God's love?"  

Now, I know.  I finally know!  I reallly, truly and deeply know that God loves me.  

....and I can whisper back to my fellow-journeyer, an invitation, "Trust me, my friend, you can never---ever---never go too far into God's love!  You can never push the concept of you as a loved-one, a beloved one, too far!  You just can't!"

Dive in.  Dive deep.  Swim wide and long!  Soak up the Truth of His love for you.  May it invade your very bones, your marrow, your bloodstream!  May His love fill every nook and every dark place within you!  With His love you can never take it too far...  

Friday, October 5, 2012

What do you see?

His Word reminds me this morning that day and night, He pours forth speech.
"The heavens declare the glory of God.  The skies proclaim the works of His hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech.  Night after night they reveal knowledge.  They have now speech, they use no words; and yet, their voice goes out into all the earth.  Their words go into the whole world!"  (Psalm 19:1-2)
Through His Creation, my God is always speaking!  He displays His glory 24-7 and always has done since the dawn of creation.   He is faithful to show forth Himself.  He is constant in His proclamation of His deeds.  To the whole earth He is accessible... He is on display!  He tells the world who He is with no words, but with a Voice!

If we would only look.  
...and see.  ...and understand.  

I wonder even as I write, what is He saying about Himself through the rain today?  What piece of His character, or what Truth is on display through the young calf I saw grazing in the field?  ...the mud I trekked through?  ...That smile on my daughter's face, the laughter in the kitchen, that chatter of birds, that rushing wind and sunlight breaking through the clouds...  what do they say? 

These created things speak.  What do they say?  

While God trained Jeremiah for ministry, He tells him to look and see...  "What do you see, Jeremiah?"(Jeremiah 1)  He invites him to simply look... and see.  

Jeremiah answers with a straightforward answer to God's question, "I see the branch of an olive tree." 

"You have seen rightly," God coaches Jeremiah, with encouragement.  Good job, He says!  You are doing well... okay, now... moving on...  

Leading Jeremiah faithfully and gently forward  He is teaching him to see and to discern.  He asks him to look and see... then He helps him to understand what is being "said" through this vision.   

This morning while on my walk, I was mediating on Psalm 19 and praising God for His constant, faithful voice through Creation.  And, then as if prompted by the Holy Spirit, I had this quiet thought... a question, really:  "Stephanie, what do you see?"  

I looked around me and then, in prayer, I responded, "Lord, I see building after building after building.  But they all look so quiet.  So dark.  So still."

In my mind flooded the thought, "Ah... but there is life within."   Life within.

"Stephanie, I am always working, even when you don't see it."  

Day and night He pours forth speech!  May the eyes of my heart be awakened and may I see... and know and understand.  Teach me, Father how to see and how to discern.  
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