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Archive for the tag “God”

there is a way through

IMG_0813There is a way through, God said to me. I read the verses laying open in my lap again. For so long I felt these verses were impossible, ridiculous. I didn’t want to read them again.

“‘My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.’ Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, MSG

In the NIV version, it says, “I boast in my weaknesses”. I cringe at the words. What kind of person would say such a thing? A show-off? Why would anyone invite, glory in, celebrate pain and weakness? I’ve been in pain for far too long, I said to the Great Being. I’m looking to avoid hardship. I’m sick of weakness. I tried to ignore the herculean effort of a single thought that reminded me pain is guaranteed in this broken world. Where is the space for joy?

He rejoices because there’s a way through, God said again, His voice patient and kind—more than I deserved just then—unafraid, not put off by my bitterness. He learned to trust me, trust my redemption, he wasn’t afraid of the pain or hardship anymore, God continued.

Redemption—the word stuck in me. I know it well. I’ve been redeemed, saved, brought back to life, whatever term you want to give it. Before I was walking dead, now I burn hot with life. But Death hasn’t stopped trying to knock down my door and I have only one defense.

I am safe the minute I invite God into the dark, stinking truth of my weakness. Sometimes my invitation is a ranting shout of the ugly truth. Sometimes I wail it out, like a mourner. But each time, in my humble ask—my gut-level cry for His help and my faith that He will not forsake me—He comes.

Every. Single. Time.

He walks straight into the middle of my weakness, those broken places where my neural pathways are so twisted I can’t see reality right in front of my face. His hand reaches into the epicenter of those wounded places where I’ve been hurt deep. His scars heal mine.

I no longer have to be afraid of my hurts, habits, and hangups (as we say in Celebrate Recovery). They won’t overtake me. God will meet me in that moment. There was, there is, there always will be, a way through, He says again with full kindness.

There is great power in recounting those times God has broken through. What is a time God showed you a way through? Is there a place you wish God would step into?

living open-handed

IMG_0637Yesterday: I felt strong enough to challenge the big, dark thing creeping behind me, so I wrote—I feel like fear is eating me whole. Why this struggle? Why is this so important?

Today: The panic rose so high I couldn’t breath. I felt thankful for tears that came quick this time. They were the beginning of relief, they opened my soul wide enough to form words to You.  You spoke, as you always do when I lay it all out. Start at the beginning, You tell me. What is true?

God has not given me a spirit of fear but of power, love, and a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV)

I draw lines from power, love, and a sound mind, to their definitions—

power |ˈpou(-ə)r| the ability to do something or act in a particular way…the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events…physical strength and force exerted by something or someone

love |ləv|—I decided the dictionary cannot define it like You, my Great Love, so I recall this definition: There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear… 1 John 4:18

sound |sound| in good condition; not damaged, injured, or diseased…competent, reliable, or holding acceptable views

I have a two-handed grip on the throat of my life. The bit between my teeth is clenched so hard they ache and my toes dig into the dirt until my arches explode with pain of muscles unrelieved. I hold on hard to life because I. Am. Afraid.

I never knew it before. I should’ve had a clue every time I gloried in the things that didn’t scare me and laughed when they scared others.

The fear is buried deep down. I give it all kinds of other names—desire, discipline, hard work, responsibility, reputation—but its real name, too often, is fear.

Fear is another layer surfaced, one I had buried below the last layer You just dug out of me. How many more layers I wonder. What lies at the bottom of all this?

Today I’m thankful for sight. First step is to see, acknowledge. I see the fear and I’m asking you to help me live, two hands open flat. I want to live trusting You.

Do you struggle with fear? What shape does it take? How does it hold you back?

why so desperate for beauty?

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When Jesus is merely useful to me, I want Him to move my world. When Jesus is ultimately beautiful to me, it’s my heart that is moved – and this begins to change the world.” [Ann Voskamp]

I think of beauty and I feel great a sense of striving, angst, confusion and yet I have this great need to understand why I cannot let the question of beauty rest.

What kind of beauty do you want? I paint on lines, soften the blush, rub my lips against the thick color. I look in the mirror and feel happy and beautiful until I remember I must walk out into the sun and move along with the lines of people. I can’t look the man across the counter in the eye now. I’m afraid of what my made-into beauty will be to him, to them, to me. I feel naked, more exposed by my enhanced layer. I hear a girl must protect herself nowadays. Beauty is a cross to bear, said one teacher. She made me wonder what turned her bitter.

Beauty does things. It’s an invitation. But I can’t seem to control whom or what it invites. What does it mean to ‘put on my face’? Is my beauty a target or a celebration? When my strong man is beside me I feel it is safe. I feel full of beauty as it was intended, I think. But alone, I am not prepared. I have not learned how to form my limbs into a weapon to fight the armies of critical thoughts and dirty wants that have twisted what beauty was first created to be. So for now…

I feel more comfortable in my brown wren feathers. I am woman. A mother whether to children or to my passionate work. My feathers are my covering. Like the mother wren, I blend in and protect the life I have given birth too. But shouldn’t life beget life? Am I hiding the invitation to an antidote than can raise souls up from the dead? The feathers remind me of sky and forest and mountain. The places where I feel you most vividly, the places where I want to stay. I like to forget the horrors here sometimes. Are you here too? In the concrete, in the images, in the suggestion-laden streets. I hold tightly to the art of blending in. It is my secret talent. A shield. I call it a virtue.

But some days I’m tired of my mouse, brown feathers, their under-appreciated beauty. I lust for the power of persuasion. It is a kind of birthright. I want them to wish they had been enough for me. I want them to feel shorter. I want them to work and sweat just to gain enough presence to swell into my space and make themselves worth my eye contact. So with bared teeth I paint on lines, soften the blush, rub my lips against the thick color. I know somehow it can’t be right. But I walk out daring them to know I cannot be touched. I am as cold and beautiful as marble. They will not break me. I forget my desire for the Creator, that He is the key that unlocks the fear of this broken mess here on earth.

Why beauty? Of all the things you could have made? It’s brittle inspiration. It is a fragile declaration that there is more to life than just the mortal. Only an immortal code imbedded in our cells could cause such deep desire to feel and to be beautiful. Why must the line of beauty be taut? One step left is white, one step right is black. Why is the search for beauty desperate? Why is the need for beauty insatiable? How does one kind of beauty wreck us and the other lead us to an indescribable picture of You?

You. When I see You clear—no critical chatter humming in my ears, no twisted truths floating like cataracts in my eyes—I see beauty that is strength and heaven. I fall in love with the beautiful ways you restore me. So gentle, like I am a great work of art that has suffered the ruin of time and neglect that is as sure as time on this earth. You believe I am worth restoration. You, so soft, you can absorb every sickening thing humanity has ever done. And yet here You stand, strong as ever, full of life in such a way I never dreamed could be. You are beautiful. You make me beautiful. And I think, my Love, I want—now more than ever—to stand in all my restored beauty and tell them…

Here. Is. The. Way.

Dear women, I think now is a time to have a discussion of beauty. What does it mean? In your everyday what do you think of beauty? Do you hate it? Wish for it? Believe you have a hold of it? There are a million things to say about beauty and a million ways to look at the purpose of beauty. Do you believe it’s critical? Let’s start the discussion.

marking the moment of God

Altars are a memorial to the place where God meets us.” [His House Fellowship]pile-of-stones

What can I shape with my hands that will stand a memorial of the place where you met me? My creations turn to dust in this oxygen bound atmosphere. So instead I pick up immortal words and shape them into a hallelujah.

Let the sound of the words reverberate through the hollows. Let them be a sliver of light on darkest night. Let them draw together the hallelujahs from a hundred souls, rolling them together until the sound is an unfettered roar with a steady thrum running through it’s core. There is hope, life, unmeasured grace for the most undeserving soul. Together our hallelujahs breath collective, Messiah.

In your gratefulness for what God has done when he met you in a moment of impossible need, what have you done to mark the moment? And in your everyday what is a thing you or a place you go that acts as an altar, a place where you open intentional relationship with God?

And there they stood; those priests carrying the Chest of the Covenant stood firmly planted on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan [river] while all Israel crossed on dry ground. Finally the whole nation was across the Jordan, and not one wet foot. When the whole nation was finally across, God spoke to Joshua: “Select twelve men from the people, a man from each tribe, and tell them, ‘From right here, the middle of the Jordan where the feet of the priests are standing firm, take twelve stones. Carry them across with you and set them down in the place where you camp tonight.’”…a stone for each of the tribes of the People of Israel, so you’ll have something later to mark the occasion. When your children ask you, ‘What are these stones to you?’ you’ll say, ‘The flow of the Jordan was stopped in front of the Chest of the Covenant of God as it crossed the Jordan—stopped in its tracks. These stones are a permanent memorial for the People of Israel.’” [Joshua 3:17 – 4:7]

walking in the fight

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work, so that you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”  [James 1:2-4]

Awake my soul. You are living. You were created, one spinning thread of molecules at a time, by the Great Creator. Awake. You were chosen to live. Your purpose is to bring life. The act of each day is your fight. It is your test. It is the step by step that will harden your muscles and make you ready for the next fight.

Practice living:

Wake. Say good morning over brewing coffee and pull out Bible and pages. Release the unseeing truth. Ingest His always-good, wise, perspective. It is the real truth. It will heal. It will give strength.

Draft the day’s bits and pieces. There is a war to be fought. It will be done one hour at a time.

Shower. My body is yours. I honor you as I honor me. Sit at the desk with a fresh face and a lighted candle. It is my reminder. It is a prayer. Work with built in hard stops for air, for walks, for stretches or strengthening, for prayer. It is the five minutes that will fuel the many hours.

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My fight is to live. To do what I was born to do. What I dream of. To use my hands, my head, my heart without letting fear grip me, paralyze me.

What’s your fight? Has God given you the steps to work through the fight?

[This picture will lead you to Ann Voskamp’s Grace Plan. God chose to speak to me about living my life through this. I share it with you. It’s not a must, merely a thought or potentially an inspiration. ]

before the dawn of time

 

image[This post is inspired by Ann Voskamp’s #TheJesusProject. Click on the picture to discover more.]

 

Before the dawn of time, C.S. Lewis writes. I feel a comfort knowing that you were there before me, before people and pain and sky and trees. That you stood unshaken in the dark void, dreamed and spoke. Solid words like a great oak door. The words were a part of you, pieces of you. Rock-steady. The words were good and true, just like you. Just like the words you speak today. Their truth, their goodness do not turn void. You spoke, the words hovered beside you, ready for the next command. Ready to do your bidding. They formed mountains and countless souls with immortal dreams.

Thousands upon thousands of words make up your being. All the good words, true, just, noble, kind, gracious, loving words. They are the bread of you. They hold a fraction of your form, but enough to blow my world apart. They are the words I stand on, lean on, hold hard and tight. They are pieces of you and when I feel alone and afraid I speak the words with my thick tongue and challenge my soul to touch each word as it runs by. I speak your words until my soul remembers and I can walk again.

I will hide your words in my heart, so I can walk and not grow faint, run and not grow weary, soar on wings like eagles. With your words I can fix my eyes on you, put on my hands around your face, see only you in the good, good times when I want to run ahead alone, and in the bad, bad times when I think my heart will stop beating. You are my rock and my fortress, my strong Deliverer. I have grafted your words within me and now they make up pieces of me.

What words of the Great Creator do you hold close to your heart?

Finding the Worship in Laundry and Deadlines

I search through New Year quotes looking for my toe-hold of meaning, something I can use to dig into this first month of the year. But instead I see, running rampant through pages of ‘inspiration’, tired reruns, hopeless striving.

So I ask God, where do you want me, and then I try to shift my focus.

So thankful for God-With-Us. So thankful for new beginnings… this year, this month, this week, this day, this hour, this minute, this second… because my life is lived moment to moment and if I am honest, I truly need HIM in each moment.

As I work out what it means to do the dailies of life—laundry, manuscripts, lawn care, deadlines, supper on the table—with Him, I see this isn’t a list of To Do’s but actions of worship and faith.

In caring for myself and others I honor Him. And in being faithful with the ‘little’ and ‘much’ I have been given, from the jar of flour on my counter to job I hold, the work is not in vain. He placed all these things in my path and I am thankful.

I acknowledge my broken humanity. I see what needs to be done in my soul and in my life, but I lay down my To Do’s. I ask Him to come into my moments. This New Year I draw a line between acts of faithfulness and acts of striving.

God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).
He’s all I’ve got left.

Lamentations 3:22-23

What’s been hovering in your mind as you step into the New Year?

LOVE doesn’t disappear

Love is a vast topic. It’s as epic as the Great One himself. My dad asked me if I would be writing another post on love, and I told him I wasn’t sure I had any more to write. But, God wasn’t done…

I woke up tired. It was a mental/emotional tiredness that started last night. I thought I needed to hide out for twenty-four hours (or more) to get myself back on my feet. But I had a list of things that needed doing. I knew I should spend time with God to reorient my compass. But it’s the last thing I wanted to do. In fact, I had an inkling, scratching at the base of my brain, that God was disgusted with me.

I managed to wrestle myself into a chair with a devotional book. I picked a book I knew would tell me how much God loved me. It was the safest bet. If God didn’t want anything to do with me, at least I could make myself feel as if He still wanted me. I started reading…

“Even if you’ve fallen, even if you’ve failed, even if everyone else has rejected you, Christ will not turn away from you. He came first and foremost to those who have no hope. He goes to those no one else would go to and says, “I’ll give you eternity.””

I’m human. I woke up tired. But intrinsically I felt worthless as the fatigue set in. I hated myself for it and believed God was upset with me too. I play this game, if only I had—scheduled better, worked harder, eaten healthier, exercised—then I wouldn’t be here, feeling overwhelmed and in need. But the devotional by Max Lucado went on, “Only you can surrender your concerns to the Father. No one else can take those away and give them to God. Only you can cast all your anxieties on the one who cares for you.”

Suddenly I knew I had to reach out. My fears and anxieties seem so small and human I thought God would want nothing to do with them. But they had broken me down fully. What if I broke the silence I’d cemented myself into? I’m disgusted with me, I told God. I’ve worked so hard and I’m not done, but I’m too tired to go on. I wanted to do something for You, but here I am, tired and needing Your help. I feel lost without You, but I’ve done nothing to deserve You.

Love doesn’t disappear on the bad days, He said.

Maybe that’s true, but I don’t love other people or myself like that. I don’t tolerate bad days. So I certainly don’t deserve this love.

How will you learn to love if I don’t love you well? I don’t subtract love for each of your faults. 

His words sliced straight through me, cutting deep into the knotted roots of my lies. Those lies have kept so much of my heart deadened for years, but His words are bringing me back to life. Today I’m another step closer to becoming who He created me to be. There’s so much glorious freedom in coming alive. The more He heals me the more I want to be in the business of taking His Love to a dying world.

What’s something God has said or done for you that’s changed how you think or act?

 

love is: “immortal as immaculate Truth”

Part 2…

The seven years are up. My soul feels a little softer, a little worn in that good way that makes things more beautiful. Often I wake up with an aching to process my life, to face the good and the bad. And so I’ve begun a little ritual of sitting out on my porch in the mornings and speaking to God. He is helping me sort it out. As Henry Nouwen says, “in prayer we slowly experience a reorientation of all our thoughts and feeling about ourselves and others.” 

Sitting on my back porch I soak in the richness of morning light coming over my fence. I feel Him with me. Lately He’s been using moments in my days to sharpen my vision. It’s becoming more and more clear that I had no idea what love really is. Up until now I would have told you that I loved and loved with intensity. The kind of intensity that meant I would go through fire for the ones I love. But, I think, love must be more than this.

It’s becoming clear that I don’t give love, nor do I accept it from anyone else. Love would leave me indebted. Love would leave me exposed. I think those are two of my greatest fears. But without love all these years, I find that I am barren. That the wall between me, my God, and the rest of the souls out there is not a wall of safety. It is isolating, soul sucking, creativity killing.

I was reminded recently that love is a verb. We must do love. Love is in the little gestures, remembrances, unheard prayers, difficult decisions, the willingness to stay. Love is a force of nature, just like the One who created it. It is unflagging. It brings hope, healing, kindness, truth. Love is the great romancer. It is radical. Contrary to human nature. Love takes great courage, perhaps the greatest courage.

 

“Is love a fancy, or a feeling? No,

It is immortal as immaculate Truth.

‘Tis not a blossom, shed as soon as youth

Drops from the stem of life— for it will grow,

In barren regions, where no waters flow…”        [ Hartley Coleridge ]

 

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

[ I Corinthians 13:7-8 ]

This post isn’t about how nicely I can write about love. It’s about putting fingers and hearts around the radically different way life is lived with love. Living love is the narrow road. But it is from the Great Love, so it’s by far the best road to walk. Lately I’ve been trying to practice love through the small gestures. My ungraceful attempts remind me of how unpracticed I am, but even my bungling attempts are so much better than nothing. Do you live love? Would you be willing to write some of the ways you love others?

 

the richness of lives undone

This is one part of a mini series about love:

“Love is a choice,” one sage soul said to me before I got married. I was too polite to argue with her but I knew, in the glowing light of my affection for my fiancé, that love wasn’t a choice. It was a magical feeling that would transform my life. How unromantic to choose to love! Love was blossoms and golden sunlight and all kindness. Love made life bearable.

I’ve been married for seven years and that one line of advice is literally the only one I can remember out of hundreds of well meaning words from other people. I never expected to write about love on this blog but God has been pressing his fingers into my heart and love is the topic of the hour.

Seven years. It’s almost ironic that this biblical number has become such a significant mark in the life of my marriage. I am no longer the woman I was on that blue-sky, October day, walking down the stone path in my wedding dress. He is no longer the waiting man in the black tux and tie. Today when our fingers touch there is more in that moment than simple maturing that comes with years. There is a knowing.

We are, and are still becoming, lives undone.

Seven years of being undone, to be precise. Seven hard years to redemption. In that space pain, disillusionment, anger, confusion, hopelessness, squirmed into every crack and cranny. Truthfully, I, the girl who dreamed of romance turned bitter. I stopped reading about love. I stopped watching sweet movies with happy endings. I pasted my lips into a tight line in front of young lovers. And I asked God why he would strap me into a lifelong commitment full of disappointment. I blamed my predicament on my husband, on my brokenness, on God. I saw love, life itself, as a fight. I was the weary soldier. And I was alone.

But God was present. He didn’t speak in shouts. That’s not what I needed. He didn’t cut long, unrelenting lines of truth in my soul. That’s not the way of love. He asked for surrender.

I want your heart, the Great Love whispered to me. He whispered this line over and over through those seven years. What I didn’t understand was that love could not begin until it began with Him.

I’d love to hear from you! Do you believe your heart is central to you and how you live your life or is it more superfluous? Do you trust your heart or believe it’s dangerous? Do you let anyone near your heart or do you hide it away?

Stay tuned for part 2…

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