"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!

photo source
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!!

photo source
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!  


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