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

Saturday, December 31, 2016

A Mother's Lament

photo source
I sent her off on a jet plane.

She is only going for a few weeks this time---a trial run, really.  Not the real launch.  Not yet.

In one big, true way I can see she is more than ready and it "feels right and good".  And, yet...
And, yet... wasn't it just last week that I was helping her eat, stand and learn to walk.  Wasn't it just yesterday that she was snuggled in or singing and swinging in my yard.

I keep saying it to friends, when they are kind enough to ask--- it feels like I am birthing again. It feels like labor.

Horrible, wonderful, productive, sickening, necessary and painful labor.  When you give birth to a baby, you know that this is "right and good" and you wait and watch in wonder.  It is "as it should be".  But, man---oh---man, does it hurt.  This has been my experience these past months as we ready our family to launch our first daughter.

As she walked away from us at the airport with bounce and confidence... I wanted to feel excitement and joy.  And, I did.  She is ready.  Mixed emotions swirl---joy, pride, peace.  But, what I feel most strongly is deep grief and sadness.  It is so hard to let go.  Tears came unbidden even in the very public airport.  They stream out, with little attention to the "appropriate" time-and-place.

Tears well up even as I type.  How do I do this with You, Lord?  How do I trust more and lean into You alone?  

When a woman gives birth her everything changes.  Scientifically we know that labor and delivery changes a mother's brain, her muscles, her hormones, her skin---it all changes.  Before I was pregnant, my hair was a light, bright blonde.  After birth, my hair quickly grew thicker and darker. All "young" toe-head blonde Stephanie was lost with this babe.

These babies.  These dear ones change everything.

And, now, I find myself in the same state.  Changing.  Watching, waiting, feeling the swirling anticipation and anxiety.  Eighteen years of my life with my heart, soul, and body turned toward her.  ...and now she walks away.  With beautiful, bounding energy, she prances away into the passport line.  It is as it should be.  Right and good.  And, it is deeply painful at the very same time.

I checked my phone yesterday way too many times; obsessed with wanting her "touch" via that whatsapp or messenger.

I close the door to her bedroom, so I don't have to look in to the empty as I pass by.

I struggle for the gumption to make our regular Saturday morning fun-breakfast; as if her not being with us makes it less than.       Ah... the pains of labor.

I read in Ann Voskamp's newest book, "I know a mother's labor and delivery never ends, and you have to keep remembering to breathe" and my soul shouts: Yes, Ann!  Yes! This is exactly what I have been saying these past months.  I will remember to breathe, Lord.  Breath You in---the giver of life, my hope, my strength and my joy.  

Breathe.  Just breathe.

"As long as I have life within me, the breath of God is in my nostrils."  Job 27:3

Watch and wait.
As with labor and delivery, good things are coming in the midst of the pain.
God things are around the corner.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

A Strange Song

We received hard news the other day.  My response was raw.

I was deeply sad, confused and angry.  I truly thought that God was saying "yes" to a particular request---and then He said, "No".  I felt like a bewildered and disgruntled child.  I felt duped.  The rug had just been pulled out from under my feet.

Had I heard wrong?  Apparently!

Only last month my mentor asked me, "How do you relate to God in your grief? Do you express it to Him?"  I had found myself dumbfounded with the question--- relating to God in the grief.  In the midst...

So much still to learn.

Ranting through the day, I gave it a go.  This concept of authentic and real interaction with God. With all of me---the real me.  These raw emotions.  Could I simply have them and communicate them honestly to my God? Could I, as David and Jesus did, express those hard emotions directly to my Father, in faith.

"Where are you God?"
"Why have you forsaken me?"
"Will you remain silent forever?"

Like my husband, who gently, gracefully and calmly listened to much of my rantings that day, God seemed quietly sitting with me.  Receiving it, but not responding.  Present.  Solid.  Okay.  God was okay.  His Presence didn't falter.  I didn't feel His wrath at my strong, ugly, raw emotions.  In my anger, I asked. I questioned.  I demanded.  I cried.  It wasn't pretty.

It certainly wasn't the first time---but, it was a significant step for me in being wholly and truly ME with God.  In the midst...  Raw and real with God.

Late in the day, standing at the sink and washing my hands in the warm water, my heart cried out, "Father..."  A cry of "Ugh.."  A deep sigh of frustration escaped my lips.

In that very instant, suddenly came the strangest song...

It was Elvis Presley.  (A caveat here---I simply do NOT always have a song in my head.  Rarely. Very rarely, in fact.  And, I certainly don't have Elvis in my head!  When even was the last time I heard Elvis?!)

In that moment, clear as day, Elvis was singing into my thoughts, "Love me tender, love me true.... for my darlin' I love you and I always will"

There it was---and I knew.  I knew, as surely as I was conscious of the warm water washing my hands, that this was God's heart speaking.

God was asking me, in the most tender way, do you love Me, even so?  

Job 13:15 "Even though He slay me, I will trust Him."  

He was saying, My love for you does not falter or shift.  All I ask in return is love.  Love me with all your heart, with your soul and with your mind.  

Stephanie, love me tender.  Love me sweet.  Never let me go.  Love me tender, love me long.  Take me to your heart---for it is there that I belong and will never part.  

This God.  This amazing Lover that offers Himself and His love to me, over and over.  For always. For keeps.  ...all He asks from me is to remain in that love.  He asks for my love. 

I am not told to understand Him with all my heart, my soul and my mind.  No.  I don't have to understand.  I don't have to agree.  I just must love.  

Yes, Lord, I love you.  I love you tender and sweet.  I am yours.  
All I want for Christmas is You!  

"We love because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19)

Monday, August 29, 2016

Do Not Despise His Word

photo source
Take a load off.  Sit for a while.  Rest... 

Sabbath is really, really important to God.  Plain and simple.  He makes no bones about it.  His commandment of Sabbath is uber-important.  Reading through the Old Testament, it would be hard to miss this clear theme.

I was struck again with this idea when reading in Numbers 15.  Throughout the Old Testament, God offers, over and over, a 'way out' or an avenue for forgiveness from sin.  In this chapter, He enunciates the pathway for recovery and forgiveness for unintentional sin.  And, then, BAM... right in the middle of the passage, we read about the "Sabbath-Breaker" who is to be put out of the camp and stoned to death.  No restitution is offered.  There was no-way back from THIS sin.  What, Lord!?  

Sabbath is clearly really, really important to God.  I wouldn't even attempt to count how often He reiterates this truth in the Old Testament; but, indeed, He does again, and again.  

In Numbers 15, we are given clarity as to why this Sabbath-breaker is punished.  His sin was deliberate, Scripture tells us.  Rebellious.  He had contempt for God's commands.  "He has despised the word of the Lord." (Numbers 15:31)

But what was he actually rebelling against?  What was He despising exactly?  What was offensive to him... this condemned man?  A day-off!?  For Sabbath is a day of rest.  No work.  A day for worship. Quiet.  Why in the world would he (or we) rebel against that?  

(Now, let me just pause here and make very clear that I believe, as a child of God and one covered by the blood of Jesus, I am no longer under the law.  I know and believe that Christ died for intentional and unintentional sin!  And His blood covers all rebellion, curses, iniquity, and transgressions... and every thing in between.  ...just in case you were worried.   But, that doesn't lessen the reality of God's heart and character being the same today, yesterday and tomorrow. So, I also believe, this conversation is immensely important.)

So, why in the world would this man rebel against rest, quiet and no work?  

Or, more poignantly, what do I resist or despise the gift of Sabbath?  

Ezekiel 20:12 says, "I gave (a gift!) them my Sabbath (note whose it is) as a sign between me and them that they might know I am the Lord (note the why behind the giving) who sanctifies them." 

In Mark 2:27 Jesus reiterates this theme that Sabbath is for men--- a gift.  Made and given for us... for our benefit.  Not a legal law to remain under, but instead a gift to receive.  Or not.  

When reading and sitting with this idea, I was struck by the end of the Ezekiel verse--- I am the Lord who sanctifies them. I looked up the word sanctify and found this definition:  "the state of proper functioning".  In the Webster definition it adds, for clarity sake, "a pen is sanctified when it is used to write"

I wrote down in my journal:  "pens are sanctified when writing.  People are sanctified when used for the purpose God intends---living according to His design. People are sanctified when living with God."  Sabbath is part of our proper functioning as human beings.  Part of our very purpose here on earth is to rest, worship, and enjoy God!  It is what we are made for.  

When I don't live in the rhythm of Sabbath rest, I am living in an unnatural way.  A rebellious way.  It is anti-human to work non-stop.  Sabbath is clearly very important gift from God to man.  

Do I despise it?  Fight it?  And, if so, why?  

Just sit for a while and enter His rest.  

Monday, August 22, 2016

A Long Journey

photo source
Life is a long, long journey.

Like destinations, there are many lessons that I wish I could just check off my list... and say I "have learned" this!  Been there.  Done that.

While certainly there have been lessons learned; I seem to circle back to 'same-old' places over and over again.

But, the one lesson that seems to be a reoccurring and reoccurring theme in my life is the lesson of "loved". I have both known it and not known it for many, many years.  For, "knowing" and surrendering-to-it are two very different things.

When I began this blog 8 years ago this very theme is clear in much of my writing---I wrote on my "Why Koodaigirl" page:  "I desire to live as loved".  This is still my same desire; and it only grows stronger, deeper, and more profound.  More hungry.

In the journey, though, along with the difficulties and struggles, we also have moments of great victory.  I have been seeing this victory lately in my life.  I can't really say when it began exactly; before time, it feels.  For God has been speaking to me of His love my whole Christian life.  All I really remember from my salvation day (at age 15) was a message about love.  I don't know what else Larry said that day... but, he said something very significant about the love of God.  That day I walked through the door of "loved" and have been journeying inward ever since.

These last months something significant has shifted.  I not only deeply believe, with all my mind, that God loves me (a profound gift He gave me about 10 years back); I now feel His love "poured out in my heart" (Romans 5:5) on a very regular basis.  Where I have felt it here and there for years, I am "knowing" this abiding love.  I am experiencing His love filling me.  This is no small miracle.  My physical healing 15 years ago was "nothing" in comparison to this battle won!

This knowing of God's love... to my mind AND to my heart is a great gift.  A gift I believe He wants to give all His children.

I have to admit it took many pleas from my wooing Lord.  He has used songs multiple time (the funniest was the 80's classic, "I can't make you love me.")  He has used dreams, people, gifts, blessings, and suffering.  And, He has many, many times used His Word.  "Do not harden your heart" was the most recent Biblical phrase that led me to repent of my hardening to His love and His rest---it led me to lean-in and open my hands.  (Why I harden my heart is another conversation to be shared another time!)

After spending the day with Him yesterday and enjoying this love---sitting with it, working with it, eating with it--- I lay in bed last night and had a memory flood into my mind.  It was of our first trip to visit Wales 7 years ago.  When I walked into the house we currently live in there was a sign:  "Loved".  Like a message from His Spirit to my soul, I knew then that it was for me.  He was, yet again, speaking love over me.

So, last night after seeing this memory, I said to the Lord, "Wow!  It has taken 7 years for me to be won over to this amazing love! Wow...You have had to work for me for 7 years like Jacob, Lord!"  

Instantly, I heard in my spirit, something akin to "Longer..."  

Longer, Stephanie.  

Yes, Lord, much longer.  Like Rachel.  I am Your Rachel!!  You worked for over 14 years for me to accept and receive Your love.  

I fell asleep relishing in the fact that I am Jesus' Rachel.  What a blessed thought.

In the morning, I woke remembering it with a smile.  I am the Lord's Rachel.  His bride.   His beloved.

But, even as I write this... right now...the word I heard last night still lingers and speaks.  Longer...  

I have worked longer for you...

"For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight... in love..." (Ephesians 1:4)

A very, very long journey for God indeed.

Another very significant song in this journey for me...  Video... a must listen.  :  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azBAF3dObps  *the whole album is awesome, by the way!!  

"I pray that being grounded and rooted in love, you might have the power, with all God's people, to grasp how high, wide, long and deep is the love of Christ and to know that love that surpasses knowledge..."  (Ephesians 3:18)

Monday, August 15, 2016

Over Me

I took this photo a few weeks ago.  I know it is horrible quality.  That is what you get when A) You are me taking most pictures and B)When the picture is taken with movement, low light, and on a cell phone...  but,  I couldn't help myself.

I just had to post it--- because, this picture has been beautifully hovering around my prayers lately.   And, not just the picture... but the true, real, beautiful moment that this poor picture captured.  This tender wedding scene, which I was privileged to witness, has been informing my walk with God.

As the music played gently, this groom danced slowly with his new bride.  He and she were utterly enraptured.  They danced this way through most of the song.  ...this sight speaks of deeper things.

Look at the picture again and imagine the scene.  Then look at the picture with THIS verse in mind...  "As the groom rejoices over his bride, so shall your God rejoice over you" Isaiah 62:5.

So shall God rejoice over you...  

I will sit with this amazing truth for another quiet moment.  I will take a minute to breathe-in this reality again today.  How does God view me?  His church?  ...you?

So shall God rejoice over you!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Claws and Horns

Photo Source
When God created Adam and Eve, He made them naked.  Utterly and completely naked.

I have been thinking of this today as I ponder and I think about my pride.

Pride can take on so many forms---some more detectable than others.  We all see, hear, and notice the gregarious boaster or the person who is verbally desperate to take credit; that type of pride is shown forth clearly and tastes awful to most onlookers.  But, what about the pride that is a still-small-voice of judgement in our hearts towards others.  "They really should do this..."..."That is so wrong"...."She is so immature"... "I can't believe he said that"... This pride is deep and insidious; causing shame within and without.  This quiet pride of self-righteousness--- the assumption that I am "above" or "beyond" or "separate" from you....  What about this pride?

Father, have mercy.  

Or the kind of pride that is self-indulgent and self-obsessed.  Sometimes masking itself as insecurity or even "humility", this pride leave self as center.  Physical self, spiritual self... either way "self" becomes primary.  We just can't help but think of ourselves---our comfort, our health, our wholeness, and our security.  This pride also gets labeled as "not thinking ever about myself"...because we are "constantly thinking of others".  But, in reality, we are most deeply thinking of ourselves.  For if our children are happy, then we will be happy.  If our co-workers are happy, then they will like me and I will be okay---  All this "service" of others can indeed only be, deeply, about ME.

Father, have mercy.  

Or, the pride that insists (usually internally) on "my" rights.  We might like to call it justice or righteous anger.  But, who, really are we defending?

Father, have mercy on me.  

And then there is the pride that desperately seeks to place blame elsewhere.  Anyone but me!  This pride is desperate to shine the damning light on someone else---anyone else.

I have been thinking about our nakedness:  Human nakedness.  It has struck me that God did not create humans like he created most every other creature--- he gave us no thick skin, no warm coat, no horns, no hoofs or claws, no poison or venom.  We were not given any armor.  God gave us no physical defenses.  We are a deeply dependent and needy beings.   We are vulnerable.  We were, on purpose, created naked.

But, let's be honest...  we really, really don't like this about ourselves!  We have tried from day-go to cover ourselves.  Once our eyes were opened to evil, in fact, we ran and hid and began pointing our fingers "to her" or "him" or "it".  Let me tell you, God, why it isn't MY fault!  Ah... the naked was now shameful.  Shame is such a painful reality of our now-nakedness.

We create our defenses: our armor and claws---of all sorts and colors.  One of our favorite weapons against this shame is pride; for pride is a nice thick shell.  It yells and screams out to the world "I am okay" and "Don't mess with me!" "I have no needs".   Pride...our covering---our claws and horns.

But, indeed, that is not true.  God created us, you and me, naked.  Naked and unashamed is God's heart for us.  For, He alone is to be our shield, our fortress, our strong rock and our substance. God alone is my defense!

Father God, have mercy on me.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Can't Quite Reach It

Photo source
There have been many thoughts and lessons from Leviticus lately.  I continue to find myself amazed at God's kindness in His Word and His revelation of Himself.  How often, though, have I also found myself utterly confused in this book?  Sitting with the confusion, turning not away from God in doubt or frustration, but turning toward Him to engage with Him, has been the key to this journey.

A wonderful thought:  don't turn away from God and wonder.  Just turn toward Him and wonder. Stay curious.  Why I don't do this more often in all of life?  Maybe I will now...

It makes sense, right?  If my husband's words or actions confuse me it is best ask him directly about it... not to "make it up as I go" and try to figure him out.  Instead, I can just ask him, "I am confused.  Why did you say that?  I don't quite understand you. Can you say it another way?"  Or, "Tell me more about how you think about this/or that?"  My husband's reply will give me another clue in understanding him, his words and his actions.  

So, why not go right to the source?

Why, Lord, do you say that a baby calf and it's mother cannot be killed on the same day?  What is your heart here?  Why do you one minute command your people to stone the man who blasphemed your Name... and then the very next verse you tell them not to take the life of a human?  I don't get it. What is Your heart here?  Would You tell me more?  

The discussions have been far, wide and deep.  There are possible questions and dialogue within every verse!  Often I don't get an answer; or not exactly.  Instead I might have a thought, another verse, or a clue to more of Him.  And, sometimes, I get "nothing" (or what I perceive as nothing).  I had total silence for days on the calf and cow question!  (smile)  But, that is okay, too.  If my husband can continue to remain a mystery to me after 23 years of marriage---certainly God can and will!!  

Recently, there has been a lesson lingering that I just haven't been able to grasp;  like a floating "answer" or knowledge that is just out of my reach.  With clues and words and sitting for days waiting, I have been asking Him about holiness (in all it's Levitical appearances).  And, the answer to the why and what and tell me more behind all this holiness seems to be dancing right on the edge of my consciousness. I believe God has been whispering, but I can't quite hear Him and can't quite understand what He is saying...  

Until this morning... When I picked up another book.  

What a gift the community of God is to us!  We need each other.  This morning, my brother Larry Crabb's written words reached out and grabbed the lesson that God had been whispering all week to me.  His words in 66 Love Letters were an invaluable help to me this morning.  

This beautiful book is Dr. Crabb's journaling his own journey through Scripture; one book at at time.  Wanting my own, unique journey with the Father, I had decided not to read Dr. Crabb's journal until I finished mine.  I read and finish the book of the Bible, then I read Crabb's journey through that book---my modus operandi for this adventure. 

Crabb's words and insight were like a long arm reaching out to grasp that which God has been saying to me for days.  

It's not for this blog post to write here what God has spoken to my heart. What I will say is this...  I am hungry for more!!  I cannot get enough of God's Word and engaging with Him about His thoughts, His heart and His Self.  

What I do feel compelled to say here is this...  Keep asking Him.  Keep reading.   Give it time and sit with it.  Don't leave the conversation too soon.  Keep wrestling.  And, involve the community you have--- your friends, your spouse, your kids.  Read other good books.  And, keep asking.  He is ever ready to show more of Himself to you!  

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Surprised by Joy

photo source
I love it when God's Word surprises me.   It doesn't matter how many times I read it, or how much "theology" I have studied or adhere to...  God's Word often catches me off guard.  It has happened to me so many times these past weeks as I have been reading through Leviticus.  But, one instance in particular, has stuck with me.

The people have been given instructions on how to draw near to God through sacrifice.  They painstakingly follow all the law, to-a-T.  Moses notes again and again, "they did everything the Lord commanded".   They are truly acting as an obedient and faithful bunch these Israelites, right?!  (I think it is really interesting that we miss this truth when we talk about how lame and unfaithful the Israelites are... aren't we all just such a mixed bag!)

Anyway...  they have been obedient and have followed the path God has set up for them.  In response to these acts of sacrifice, "fire came out of the Presence of the Lord" (Leviticus 9:24).  Stop for a minute and just imagine this in real life.  We have seen enough CGI to work our imaginations around fire coming out and consuming the offering.  Loud, Hot, Red, Fast, ...terrifying, right?

But,... the people are not scared.  They are not filled with fear.  This surprised me.

In Exodus 20:18, only moments ago in the narrative, God speaks to the people from the mountain. They hear His voice as thunder and they are terrified and afraid.  They ask that He never do that again! They remain at a distance and say, "Don't have God speak to us or we will die!" (v. 19)

But, not here.  Why?

No, the people's response to this hot-burning-up-consuming-fire of the Lord is joy.  Joy fills their hearts!  Surprised by joy...

I was surprised by joy.

They see the fire and they are filled with joy and they fall down to worship.  I can't help but think that the joy welling in their hearts--- which brought them face down ---brought a wonderfully delightful smile to God's face.

I don't think He was surprised by it---that is what He made for us.  Fullness of joy in His Presence... No, God isn't surprised.

I can just picture it... seeing Him in my mind's eye:  God smiling; pleased and blessed.  They are worshiping Him rightly (if just this once) and they are responding to His presence with joy and awe. For weeks this passage has spoken to me of the Father's heart.  What He might really want from my sacrifices, my worship, and my drawing near to His Presence:  Awe-filled wonder and joy!

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him..."  (Romans 15:13)

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Always a Way Out

Photo Source
As I approached the book of Leviticus, I must be honest...  I was a little wary.  My journey slowly through the Old Testament, looking for the Father's heart, has (up to this point) been such a delightful blessing of revelation and awe.  I have seen God's heart time and time again in these first books and have enjoyed getting to know Him better as we journey through His words together in conversation.

But, Leviticus...  hmmm...  I  must admit it took me a week---maybe it has been even two weeks---to even attempt the first "crack" into the book.  Who really wants to read Leviticus?

Lord, show me Your heart here...  

I shouldn't be too surprised to find, though, that actually I have already had a beautiful glimpse into the heart of God in this book.  I really believe God loves this request---show me You, show me Your heart!

As I read, I am struck over and over again at God's provision.

He knows people.  He knows His people very well.

He knows what we will do and what we need.  He is obviously keenly aware that we will sin---both intentionally and unintentionally.  It is just taken for grated.  It is like He is saying, 'Of course, they will, that is why they need me!!'  So, He gives them "a way out" right from the beginning.

Our faithful and compassionate God!!  Slow to anger and always ready to love...  He sets up a system ready and waiting for us to sin.  We will.  And, He knows this.  ...so He gives us a way to make amends.

Just finishing Leviticus 6 yesterday, it struck me how often I had read this phrase in the passing six chapters:  they will be forgiven.

They will be forgiven.  Now and in the future, this is the heart of God for His people.  For me and for you.  He always offers a way forward.  He always opens the doors for repentance and forgiveness.

I am amazed by the grace in which I stand (Romans 5:2).  Feet planted firmly in a deep puddle of grace, I have been forgiven.  I have placed my hand on the head of the suffering Jesus, my sacrifice (Leviticus 4:4) and I am saved!

It is never too late to walk forward and turn again to Him.  This is His heart.  It has always been His heart.  Don't be wary any longer.  Journey in.  Take His way out, today!  He knew.  He knows you will sin.  He offers a way-out and waits with love...

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Missin' the Miraclulous

Photo Source 
At least three times a day I might just miss a miracle.

From fork to mouth, often without really thinking deeply about the realities of provision, I eat.  I know (somewhere solid and certain), in my head, that God has provided this food for me.  His provision is a gift.  But, how often is that provision a miracle?  How often do I miss the miracle of His gifts?

Reading together as a church Sunday morning in Mark 6:30-44, we were reminded of this truth of miraculous every-day-provision.  Jesus sees a hungry crowd and His very hungry disciples.  He knows they are in need.  Jesus sees this, not with disdain or as a bother, but with compassion.  He gets it.  He gets it and then He does something about it.

"He knows you need these things!"  (Luke 12:22-34)

Jesus takes a few loaves and some fish and feeds at least 5,000 mouths.  All the while, the crowd is told to sit down and eat.  Eat and enjoy!  Be satisfied.  So, they do.  They sit and have a nice little picnic, food slowly-but-surely distributed among them. In reality, they don't have a clue what is going on behind the scenes.  We get no indication that they are told that Jesus just miraculously expanded a few loaves of bread by, at least, 1,000 times.  They just miss it.  Hand to mouth provision and they don't see a thing.  They just eat.

Sitting comfortably, eating until they are satisfied... they simply enjoy a meal.  They enjoy a miracle and haven't any notion that heaven just moved and laws of nature shifted to provide the food that warms their stomachs.   They miss the miraculous.

How often are the heavens shifting for my belly, I wonder?  ...for my hunger and my thirst?

I don't want to miss it.  Open my eyes, Lord.  I want to see more!  Help me to see Your miracles every day.  Help me to walk aware and in awe of your daily provision of bread.  You are my good, good Shepherd.  

"Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth."  ~Jewish Prayer

Thursday, June 23, 2016

He Tells a Different Story

Photo Source
The nature of our lives--- our work and our connection to so many people around the world---allows for a pretty consistent slew of bad news coming across our desks.  We jokingly look at each other sometimes and talk about the all too common feeling of dread when hitting the "send and receive" button in our email program.  What will we hear next...

Bad news.  

No one likes to hear it.  Feelings that accompany bad news are numerous, depending on the situation and how close it comes to us, the feelings come in degrees---sadness, grief, anger, disgust, worry, fear, hopelessness...  just to name a few.  Bad news can feel like a punch in the gut.  We don't like how bad news feels.  But, we keep hearing it.  ...and yes, we all keep reading the headlines and the news.  Like going back into a painful situation time and time again, we keep turning on the television to hear more or to listen to it again.  And, again.  Why?   Why do we do this to ourselves, I wonder.  

This morning I was struck when reading Mark 5:35-43.  In this passage, a desperate father is standing before Jesus asking for Him to come and heal his dying daughter.   While he is still standing with Jesus, some men come and tell Jarius, the father, terrible news---horrific news.  "Your daughter is dead", they say.   What might Jarius have been feeling at that moment; that gut-wrenching moment?  I can only imagine.  Truly, this must be the one of the worst possible pieces of news a person can receive--- death; the death of someone you love.  

Jesus' reply to this situation is shocking.  All eyes are on Jarius in this moment; but, heads must turn quickly to look at Jesus when He speaks confidently and directly after the men bring the bad news. He tells Jairus a very different story.  In the passage, in fact, Jesus "ignored what they said" and encourages Jairus with these words:  

"Don't be afraid:  just believe" (Mark 5:36)

Jesus tells Jarius a totally different story--- He gives him different news.  

Going against the tide, against the "truth" and "reality" that everyone is seeing and testifying to, Jesus walks forward and says, "The child is not dead but asleep".    

This morning, as I saw this story unfold in my mind's-eye, I kept thinking:  What if when I hear bad news---horrific and terrible news--- what if, I looked to You, Jesus.  In those moments---those sad, fearful, sickening moments.  What if I turned my eyes immediately from the messenger (let it be men, email or television) and asked You, "What say You?"  

Jesus, what do You say about this?  What is the true story here?  

Might I hear something different from my Jesus, my Savior?  When I hear the hopelessness that is being broadcast over our world today...  what if Jesus is "ignoring" this bad news of despair and saying something different?  

Might I hear the whispering of His words...  "Don't be afraid... just believe"
"I am making all things new" (Revelation 21:5)

Jesus, tell me Your story---Your good news.  Tell me the True story today.  

Saturday, June 18, 2016

A Beautiful Gift

Photo source
I am a super practical girl.  My family and friends know this.  I guess that is why they offer me presents "with a purpose" which they know I will like---some of my most prized gifts being a kitchen mixer, mugs, a cast iron pot, a journal, and ipod speakers.  (Books and good music, by the way, do fit in this category... very, very practical, to my way of thinking!)  

Gifts that fit and fulfill a need...  these 'hit the spot' well with me.  

But, when it comes down to it, in reality, I am quite needy.  My awareness of my neediness has been coming awake for some time now.   I am needy.  As I inch my way forward through life, slowly gaining experience and insight into life;  I become more and more aware of this truth... my every-day-human-reality-needs.

I am hungry for so many things.  I long for love, grace, attention, quiet, peace, kindness, truth, and beauty---to name just a few.  Like the oxygen I need to breathe and the water that sustains me, so I also require so many other gifts to flourish in life---relationships, connection, belonging...  

God knows this about me.  He knows this about His people.  We are, indeed, a needy lot.  

Among the myriad of promises God utters to Moses in Exodus, He tells Moses that His very Presence will go with them.  "My Presence will go with you..." (Exodus 33:14)  

What a gift!  This idea is so wonderful and so full of hope.  With God's Presence comes the reality of cover, power, strength and provision.  But, that is not what God emphasizes in these verses---in this conversation of promise with Moses.   He offers something else with His Presence...  

"My Presence will go with you and I will give you rest."  


With His Presence comes the gift of rest...  Pull up next to God and you get such a beautiful gift.

I would venture to guess that if I asked most any room full of people this question, "Who would like or is in need of rest?"  I would bet that every hand would raise and a resounding, "Me!!" would sound with enthusiasm.  

We all need rest.  Deeply, we need rest.  Body rest... soul rest... mind rest.  

With His Presence, I find rest.  You, too, can find rest for your soul.  

I can enter in.  We can receive this gift.  We can sidle up next to Him and receive---or, at least, what He longs to give---is rest.  

"Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest."  (Matthew 11:28)  

What a lovely, very practical gift He gives!!  This practical girl is a happy girl.  

Friday, June 10, 2016

God's Status Update

photo source
Today Facebook asked me to "describe who you are".

Apparently this is a new feature Facebook added recently. (or, am I just totally behind the times...equally possible!)  Anyway,  I am asked to answer this weighty question by filling in a tiny square at the top of my page ...in 101 characters or less.

I sat a while and wondered what is most important. Who am I? What shall I say here to sum-up Stephanie ... in 15 words.  Where do I start?  Funny, these thing.

As I sat down to read in Exodus 34 this morning, I saw God's answer--- I saw His "describe who you are" post.  Succinct and to the point, (although, I am not sure He hit the 101 character limit) He tells us what is most important.  He tells us who He is.  

Who are you, God?  

"I AM compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet I do not leave the guilty unpunished.” (Exodus 34:6)

There are many words I could use to describe God.  If it were me filling in God's "describe who you are" box, what might I write?  Where do I begin?  Strong, Wise, Powerful, Eternal, Kind, Right, Holy,...

These are all true about Him, to be sure.  But, when He describes Himself in this instance... He chooses to start with compassion.

Some translations use the word mercy.  Either way, I am so deeply grateful that He starts with mercy!  He begins His description with compassion and grace.  Abounding love and faithfulness.

What a beautiful picture!  In these words, God Almighty reveals an incredible truth to Moses---and to me.  God's foundation, His very core ...the very center of "who He is" is compassion, grace, patience, love, faithfulness, forgiveness and justice. These are the words He chooses to use to describe Himself--- to reveal Himself.

Oh! How I want to know this God more!

Now that I have God's "describe who you are" section.  I wonder how He might fill in "where you work" or "what's on your mind"?  What would God's Facebook status be today?

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Hard Questions

Photo Source
"Why?"... she stumbled to formulate her question.  Sweet girl.

 She asked, with hesitation, as if unsure of the appropriateness.  Maybe she was wondering, 'Can I even ask such a question?' ...

"Why... do you think... why, would God allow you to have this long term illness?  Is there something... anything... is there a 'reason'?  What has He shown you?"

What a question!  What a beautiful, honest, appropriate question.  
We ask it all the time, don't we?  Deep in our hearts, we wonder. We hesitate to ask.  Why, Lord?  We want to understand.  We want reason behind pain and suffering.   I have asked this question about many things through the years.  Sometimes, I get 'the answer' (or an answer) and sometimes I don't.  A hard question.  No easy-come answers, to be sure.

But, when this young gal asked (who has her own long-term illness with which she must wrestle), ... when she asked...  I had an answer.   I knew the answer.

It surprised me.

It came so quickly to my mind and so clearly to my heart... that I just knew.  I knew ---at least---one of the reasons He has allowed me to suffer with pain, weakness, and illness (in varying degrees) my whole life.

It is my kryptonite.  That was the thought.  A funny thought, right!?

I am ...as I truly believe we ALL are...  a gifted, competent, strong person.   I am super-girl.  This illness has given me a gift--a huge gift.  

My answer to her was simple:  It is my kryptonite.  It reminds me most days that I need God.  I desperately, desperately need Him.  I have weakness and that is okay...  I have a strong God!  

I believe that if I hadn't been allowed this suffering, I would have easily done life on my own. Entirely.

My pain and illness have been a key...  a pathway and a light along the path;   always leading me to my desperation for God.  Through the years of suffering, if I have 'learned' anything it would be my need of God:  as my Father, my Deliverer, my Provider, my Calm, my Shepherd, my Strength, and my Shield.  I, laughingly, admit that I can't even sleep without Him.  It's true.  I can't!

I have learned--- and continue to learn every day--- that His grace is truly sufficient.  (2 Corinthians 12:8-9)

After sharing this with my young friend, she said a profound thing,  "Wow.  That is almost the exact thought that has been growing in my heart these past weeks."  God has been answering her hard, awkward question, too.

Yes!  I am so glad you asked, sweet girl.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

My Golden Calves

photo source
I feel a deep, gut-level cringe even as I simply read the title to Exodus 32: "The Golden Calf".  It has taken me two full days to decide "it's time" to dive in.  Every time I open up the Bible, I can feel myself wanting to hide.  This journey through the Old Testament---looking for God's heart--- has been so rich and sweet.  And, I just know, this one is going to be painful.  Exodus 32 is going to hurt.  They are going to hurt God's heart.

God had been with them.  I have just read about Him delivering them.  He has provided for them over and over.  From Exodus 24 onward, He is speaking His words and His ways for them.

And, then... the golden calf.  

When I read the section title alone, I wince and think---What?  How?!  Why?  How did they do this? How did they so quickly turn?   I feel shame for them.  Shock.  Pain.

Less than 10 words into the reading... I get my answer:  How?  Why?

"When they saw that Moses was so long in coming down..."  (Exodus 33:1)

They were impatient.  Simple, as that.  They were tired of waiting.  Impatient.  Maybe, afraid. They just couldn't wait any longer.  Waiting for Moses to bring them God's words, they grew weary...

As I read these words, I am stopped in my tracks.  Oh!  Lord, how often...  how OFTEN, I get impatient.  I get tired of waiting, too.  Praying... asking... waiting... seeking...  and, I, too, grow weary.
My culture doesn't lend itself to carved calves from gold.  No, we do other things when we grow tired of waiting on the Lord.   My culture has other paths...  We push harder.  We do.  We do it ourselves.  We medicate.  We think.  We dig.  We plan and organize.  We figure and research.  We buy what we think we need.  We adorn.  We eat.  We drink.  We fill our minds with more.  And/Or, we just give up--- and turn on the television and numb.  Until, we get up, push harder and plan.  Or eat. And, drink.

Oh, how we must hurt God's heart.

...God has been long in coming down and answering my prayers...  

I do get tired.  Impatient.  Afraid...  will Moses ever come down!?  Will God ever answer?  "We don't know what happened to 'that guy'", the Israelites say to Aaron.

So, Aaron... or Google...  make me a god that will take care of me.  I need something here!
I can't wait any longer.

As I sit with the Lord, confessing my impatience to Him, my mind is flooded with verse upon verse... a whisper and breath of Truth bringing light to the moment...

There is another way, Stephanie.  There is another way...  

"Wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart"  (Psalm 27: 14)

"They that wait upon the Lord shall mount up with wings as eagles." (Isaiah 40:31)

"Let us not grow weary of doing good..."  (Galatians 6:9)

"Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him.  Do not worry."  (Psalm 37:7)

There are things I am waiting for and asking the Lord.  Help me, Lord, to choose the way of trust.  Help me to wait for You.  You, Faithful One, have always delivered me.  You have always come through.  Help me to wait for You.  

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Hangover Headache and Heartache

Photo Source
I have a hangover today.  

In this case it wasn't from a blog post, it was a *good* conversation that sent me internally puking.  I am reeling from a very real conversation and a "revealing" of some of my darkest yuck.  I shared my true self and now I feel the regret.  It still happens... regularly, these hang-overs---as I push into vulnerability and explore gut-honesty with myself and others.  

I chose it---and by God's grace, I will continue to choose it.  But, now I am feeling the consequences.  So, I re-post this blog entry from November, 2012, because I could easily have written it today.  


"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...

Maybe I will write soon about the blessings, growth and strength that have come with deep honesty and, the pushing into, vulnerability.   The benefits are innumerable and priceless, to be sure.  Maybe I will share...  but, today, I am just reeling a bit.  

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

What God Really Wants

Photo Source
What do you want from me?  

This is just one of the many questions swimming in our minds, often underneath the surface.

There are certain personality types that seek this answer more than others, to be sure.  But, as humans, we all do it--- to some degree---even if in different ways.

We look up after birth asking our mothers to tell us what they wants from us.  Each little face ultimately seeking love and relationship; we want to hear:   I am so happy you are here!  I just want you!  I want to hold you and love you and be with you.  

We long for her to say... I want you.  Just look at me, connect to me.  I love you.  

Certainly, we have all received varying messages from our mothers.  And we follow forward--- looking to our fathers, our siblings, our friends, our bosses, our spouse, our neighbors---asking similar questions. How can I please you and keep you happy?  How can I make you like me and/or respect me, or value me? How can we stay connected?  The questions vary depending on our make-up and uniqueness.

Essentially we are asking the world:  What do you really want from me?

Maybe it is just me.  But, somehow, I don't think so.

As I journey through the Old Testament, I keep looking for God's heart.  I want to know Him more.  I want to know what He wants.  Lord, show me Your heart.  What is it You want? What is Your desire? What is the purpose, the foundation, the goal of Your words, these stories, these commands and Your workings? 

Sometimes I find myself confused and ill-equipped to answer this question.  I don't readily know and I don't understand the "why".  I have trouble seeing His heart.  And, thus, the conversation continues.

Yet, there are moments when His heart's desire jumps off the page and shouts out with His words.  Loud and clear:  God tells us exactly what He wants and why He has done this or that...

In Exodus 29, I found such a place.

After very specifically enumerating the particulars of sacrifice, clothing and worship instruments, God speaks the "why" behind His orders.

"[After all this] Then regularly... there I will meet with you and speak to you and the place will be consecrated by my glory"  (Exodus 29: 42) 

What does God really want?  What is His purpose for all this?

He wants to meet with His people.

He wants to speak to His people.

And, He wants His glory to fill, to clean, to make us holy (consecrated).

He is setting it all up for meeting.  ...for dwelling and connectedness.  He wants to draw near.   We are indeed designed for relationship with Him.

In fact, He says it over and over.  He reminds them yet again in the next verses following that this is exactly WHY He delivered them from Egypt: "I brought you out of Egypt... so that I may dwell among you and be your God". (Exodus 29: 46)

God Almighty wants to be with us...  to dwell among us.  

This is one of His deepest 'wants'.  THIS is what He really desires.

God reminds me this morning----  Stephanie, you ask how to please me?  How do you stay connected to me and make me smile?  Let me dwell with you.  Let me meet you.  Meet with me.  Listen and speak with me.  Let my glory fill you, make you holy and new.  

I just want you.  I want to hold you and love you and be with you.  
I am just happy you are here.  

"As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you." (Isaiah 66:13)
"Come away with me, my love."  (Song of Solomon 2:10)

Friday, May 20, 2016

I am Getting Larger Every Day

Photo Source
Do you ever get tired of the sin in your life?  I do.

I can feel small.  Narrow and dark.

Some days I wish I was just done.   Done with sin.  Finished. Completed.  Perfect.

I have this deep desire to be perfect and ...to be perfect yesterday, please.

But, alas, that is not how God works, I know.  He is the author...  writing our faith.   He is the perfecter---the finisher--- of our faith. (Hebrews 12:2) He is the one who is bringing it into completion.  (Philippians 1:6)

This truth jumped off the page and settled into my heart last week as I read in Exodus 23.  He reminds His people that He is indeed leading them and will bring them to the land.  He tells them that He, Himself, will destroy all enemies---all those that will cause them harm.  But, ...  BUT... He tells them,
"But, I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land will become desolate and the wild animals are too numerous for you.  Little by little, I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land."  
Little by little, I will drive them out... 

All these enemies of my soul... the sin, the pain and wounds, the flesh, the temptations, the devil... He is driving them out, to be sure!  And, He will complete His work.  But... little by little.

I have always seen this truth play out in my life.  The "distrust and unbelief" issue in my life that He has been driving out.  Little by little.  Do you trust me now?  Stephanie, now, do you believe me? 

Yes, Lord, I believe!!

Good, He says, that was the 'Amorites' of distrust.  Now let's get to work on the 'Hittites' of unbelief... and next year we will grapple with the Jebusites.  "I will be an enemy to your enemies.  I will wipe them all out completely!" (v. 20, 23)

He doesn't wipe our "land" clean all at once... because, well--- maybe... just maybe we can't handle it. We simply aren't ready to be that free!  I don't know.  "The wild animals are too numerous for you." He knows.  He promises to keep working.  He keeps watching and helping.

Until you have increased enough to take possession of the land...  He whispers.

He IS increasing us.
photo source

Augustine of Hippo once said, "Narrow is the mansion of my soul, enlarge it, Lord..."

He knows what I can handle.  He knows that the world and the devil prowl around like a lion looking to devour and steal; wild animals looking to pounce on my soul.

Don't be dismayed or discouraged.  God will take the land!  He is completing His work in me.  He does win in the end... and always, always, always I walk through it all with Him.  Led by Him.

Narrow is my heart, please enlarge it, Lord!  Increase my soul...  increase me and take full possession, Holy Spirit.  Have Your way, little by little, in my mind and heart and soul!  

Not perfect yesterday.  Not tomorrow, either.  But, by His grace, I am getting larger every day!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

I Can Only Imagine

There are just those moments in life when words fail to describe experience.  The feeling is so full, that words feel less-than.  I had one of those moments this week.  

I had the privilege to see Monet's Water Lillies at L'Orangerie.  I know.  The privilege, I promise, does not escape me! 
Photo source
I can hardly touch or grab words to describe how I felt the very moment when I entered the rooms that house these Water Lilly paintings.  I was not expecting it.  The feeling came upon me like a torrent.  Overwhelmed.  Awe.  Euphoria.  ...all I can say is that I just wanted to cry. With no sadness, only fullness and joy, tears came and welled through my very being.  

I was encountering beauty.  Pure beauty.  And, it was awesome.  Truly awesome.  
Purity and beauty entwined in fullness.  A surrounding.  A wrapping.  

Claude Monet not only spent 30 years of his life painting these scenes (take that in for a minute---30 years!); but, he also had the opportunity to design the rooms they would be displayed.  He created his lily garden with a painters eye... he painted these scenes for 30 years and then he designed the room they would be housed.  He was Creator from beginning to end...  

And it is awesome to behold.  Glorious. 

How often I forget that I, too, have been created in such a manner!   Created with such care.  

You, too.  

Him and her.  You and I and  ...every single soul around...  has been formed in our mother's womb.  We have been knit together and God is working out His good plans to form us into His likeness. 

He planned us.  He thought of us.  He is painting us.  He has housed us on display.  He has made us and IS making us glorious and awesome.  

But of course, we know... Monet is just a man.  Monet was only painting and giving us an impression of real things.  Every day.  Real things.  

Water.  Lilies. Trees. Light.  Color. Texture.  And, obviously, Monet is not the Creator of these things!  He who is the Creator of all--- the Maker of water, lilies, trees, light and you.  

I want to see more, Lord. 

What if I didn't take for granted the privilege of seeing Eunice at Church or Marie, the checker, at the grocery store?  What if I looked on with eyes of wonder and awe... these every day things.  Sam.  Becka.  Dave.  Olwen.  Ellen.  ...water.  lilies.  light. color and texture.  
In Awe....

Give me eyes to see more, Lord.  When I walk into church on Sunday, when I walk into the grocery store, or into my bedroom and see my reflection in the mirror.  Open my eyes to see the masterpiece you are working on, the vision of beauty and glory that You wish to display.  

For we are God's masterpiece.  (Ephesians 2:10)  I am His painting.  You are His painting!  Awesome. Glorious. Purity and beauty intertwined.  Woven.  Being made. On display...  

Can I see the Master's vision for her? Or, for you?   His vision for me?   He is making us glorious!  

I can only imagine.  

...it doesn't escape me that in my last post God was whispering "the glory of man is like a flower which shrivels in the sun and then gone".   In this post He is singing... You are glorious. Is it two sides of the same coin? ...pondering and praying here.  

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Remembering the Wisp of Time

While washing dishes, the music plays quietly in the background. Quiet songs.  Beautiful, gentle, peaceful; but, really, I barely take notice. Until, like a moment frozen in time, the words pierce through the myriad of thoughts in my head, "All flesh is like the grass.  The grass withers and fades.  The glory of man like a flower that shrivels in the sun and falls.  But, the Word of the Lord endures forever." (Fernando Ortega, taken from Isaiah 40).

The glory of man is like a flower...

I am listening.  Now, Lord, I am listening.  

While looking out my kitchen window at the fading tulips in my yard, I am listening.  Bowing and drooping and dying.   Their 'end' is clearly in the near future.

These tulips have been a joy to me these past weeks.  I have become a bit addicted in my looking at them from the kitchen window.  Planted with care, over the years we have lived here, they bloomed this Spring with gusto.  A parade of color!  They really have brought a great deal of pleasure, delight and praise.  He truly does make beautiful things.

But, they are now fading.  A whisper of time, really.  Didn't they just bloom yesterday?  Here today and then they will be gone.  Their splendor and vibrancy will be a memory.

God reminds me today that this is true about me, too.  This physical body, this tent, is just like these flowers or like the withering grass.  Life here on earth only a wisp of time... only the first few chapters in the book of reality and life.

But the Word of the Lord endures forever...

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Directionally Challenged

photo source
It's been a joke in our family for years.  We laugh in agreement at the facts of the case... I am, indeed, "directionally challenged".   Regularly, my husband painfully and patiently explains the route, yet again...   Yes, I have been there many times.  But, no, I can't remember how to get there this time. Directions.  A great challenge;  extreme and laughable.  They joke that if someone set me down in the middle of my small town, I may have trouble finding my way home.  I'm not sure I am that bad. But, maybe.

That is why Monday was so remarkable.

My daughter and I were headed out to a new part of the nearest city.  Headed to a funeral, I was responsible to drive us there.  This type of scenario is a typical, big time "stress-trigger" for me. A general, low level anxiety and insecurity is commonly triggered by the unknown.  New things do this to me.  Can I do this?  Can I handle it?  A new place.  New directions.  New situation (I have never been to a funeral in this culture).  New people.  This has always been a recipe for overwhelmed, anxious, and/or afraid.  But, Monday was different--- markedly and remarkably different.

Something had changed and both my daughter and I noted it.  I just wasn't concerned or worried.  I could certainly feel the tension and reality of not knowing where I was going... and the newness.  But, that is all it was--- slight "normal" tension.  It just wasn't anxiety.  I didn't feel upset or uneasy.  I was calm.  I had the sense that we would make our way with no problem and all would be fine.  This, I know, is the way a lot of people simply live their life.  My husband walks through life with this foundational security. It is beautiful and admirable.  But, it has not been me.

Something had changed.  I believe there are profound moments in our God-journey where we can "see" proof from years of prayer and walking with Jesus.  Monday was that day!

Worry, calculation and 'overwhelmed' have been a constant companions these 40+ years; walking with me, since before I can remember.  I cope.  Sometimes I cope really well.  And, have learned many tricks and tactics--- most people don't have a clue my internal reality.  (Isn't this true for most of us?)  In 2009, I wrote a blog post entitled "What if I just stopped"---questioning and challenging this worrying bend in myself.

In fact, for as long as I have known Jesus, I have been bringing Him these worries... this overwhelmed "natural" tendency.  He has spoken for years, through a variety of ways, about this issue*.   Certainly, by His grace, there has been slow growth.  We have talked together about why I have this... from family of origin, personality to sin habits, God and I have been conversing and looking and digging.  And, I have been asking...

Suddenly, I was seeing something new.  Something miraculous had shifted in me.

His Word tells me that He is completing His good work in me and creating in me a clean heart---  I think I saw a beautiful piece of His work on Monday.  I didn't really DO anything to produce this difference.  ...just time, trust, leaning in, looking, confessing, and the silent, deep work of the Spirit.  "In the silence of the heart, You speak", Audrey Assad sings.  "You liberate me from my own noise and my own chaos...  You said be free... in the work of the Spirit---I cannot see".

He has spoken.  "Un-seeable" work done by this quiet Spirit.  Yet again, I am changed.  He has done it.  The unseen becomes visible.

Mom, your are not anxious and not worried.  You aren't questioning yourself.  You just seem calm. These were my daughter's words.  And, I was!

One of the most interesting moments in the day, though, came when I had to make my way home after the funeral.  Miraculously, I did so without any map, or directions.  For the first time in my entire life, I didn't feel directionally challenged.  We just made our way.  What!?  Was it the freedom in my physical brain to just work properly now without anxiety and worry to cloud and confuse? Was this also a part of the gift, the Spirit's change and work?

Laughingly, I tell my family, if I am no longer directionally challenged... what in the world will they tease me for next!

...Plenty other issues to choose from---to be sure--- no worries there.  (smile)

*a myriad of other blog posts on worry...

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Nearness in His heart

photo source
I heard God's heart today.  As I read, I could feel His tender hope, His desire for His people, and His intention:  "You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.  Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." (Exodus 19)

He had carried them.  He had brought them out with His own hand... "I carried you"... these words are so personal, so very close.  And, yet, they cannot draw near.  He tells the leaders to keep the people from coming too close.  Put up a barrier! God insists. (Exodus 19:12,21) If they come too close it will destroy them... they will die.  He must protect the people from His power, His holiness, perfection and glory.  It would be just too much; His holy Presence would devour them.  So, He must hold them off.  

But... can you just hear His heart to bring them near.  In fact, He tells them how.  Just obey everything I say, God says.  Simple, right?  He gives them a simple IF---THEN statement.  If you obey, then you will be mine.  I will make you a kingdom of priests, holy and mine. 

As I read this in Exodus, I realized how very familiar these word felt.  Where, Lord, have I heard these words before?  Of course,...yes, I know... I have read these exact words before.

A simple google search for "priesthood in the New Testament" and here we are---yes, almost an exact repeat so many years later.  Those words:  a priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession... 

"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." (1 Peter 2:9-10)

I just have to stop, be still, and read it again.  Once through. Twice.  Just take it in.  I stand amazed, once again.   God has done such a beautiful thing for us!

God's heart spoke it out in Exodus.  His desires expressed in Exodus now finalized and written about through Peter.  We couldn't accomplish it.  We want to... just like the Israelites who claimed, "We will do all you have asked" ...and then promptly didn't.  We just can't.  I can't.  Period. Full-stop. 

We couldn't accomplish it, so He did.  He did it for us.  He did it for me. 

A two way "if---then" clause and covenant.  He took care of both sides of the contract.  He fullfills the IF and He takes care of the THEN.  It is done. 

In this verse in 1 Peter, God is declaring this as done.  True.  Finito.  A finished reality.  You are...  He says. Once you were not...  and now you are... 

And, to top it off---with the help of google---I jumped over to Hebrews 4 and then to James 4. Because of Jesus, the head priest, we can boldly approach God's throne.  No more barrier.  No more warning.   No more holding-off.  ...quite the opposite, in fact.  Draw near, He says.  Come very, very close.  Be bold.  Walk right up and touch me!  Abide in me and I will abide IN you. 

I hear God's heart today...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...