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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

lessons learned: I Kings 19

 
When you are brave…praise

When you witness a miracle…watch

When you exalt the One true God…glorify

When you are pursued by the enemy…trust

When you are afraid and run away…remember

When you are alone…notice

When you are without hope and decide to give up…fight

When you are visited by One from above…observe

When you are given heavenly food…enjoy

When you are supplied strength for the road ahead…depend

When you are walking in a strength not your own…thank

When you are on a long journey…rely

When you are questioned by the Lord Himself…consider

When you are filled with righteous indignation…examine

When you receive instructions…heed

When you hear the wind, feel the earthquake and see the fire…stand

When you hear a sound of gentle stillness…listen

When you are led to the wilderness…abide

When you are told to move…go

When you are given promises…claim

When you must pass on your legacy...give

Thursday, May 21, 2015

18


It was a steamy hot day.  May 17th marked 18 years since that day when everything changed.  The preacher and the dresses and flowers and food were all set.  We said I do, drove off to the beach, and began the most beautiful journey of our lives. 

We had no idea what we were doing.  We were kids, but we were kids in love.  The minute I saw his dirty hat and saw the way he looked at me, I knew.  But that’s really all I knew.  Now, almost two decades later, I’m in awe of all that living so many days side by side is teaching us.

18 years.  That’s a lot of days.  What does 18 years require?  A lot. 

It requires:

being honest, painfully honest, and forgiving when you’re not 

putting each other first, and forgiving when you don’t  

discussing and understanding, and forgiving when you can’t 

using your words to build the other up, and forgiving when you haven’t

loving and sharing and engaging when you’re spent, and forgiving when you won’t 

holding your tongue, and forgiving when you didn’t

It takes a lot of laughing and explaining and confessing and listening.

It takes a lot of words: difficult words, angry words, loving words, confused words, funny words, grace-filled words, forgiving words, misunderstood words, clarifying words, encouraging words.

A lot of coffee, pancakes, hammocking, cover stealing, teeth brushing, back scratching, sleeping in, late nights, over sleeping, stubbed toes, oh sh@!s, which shoe?’s, I like burnt cookies’s, grocery, laundry, busy, boring, bike rides, we should pray’s. 

A lot of smiles and frowns and tears and whispers and shouts.  A lot of I love you’s and a lot of I’m sorry’s.  So many I’m sorry’s.  A lot of this is difficults’s and more God is good’s than I can count.

I love being married, and I especially love the man I married. 

But I don’t wave the number 18 as a badge of pride.  It is a banner of hope.

Hope that good things are ahead, hope that staying is worth it.  Marriage can be difficult and requires a lot, but it gives so much more.   
 

dust

Yesterday was quite the day.  Unfortunately, I can't count the number of days like it on one hand or two hands, or two hands and two feet. There wasn't anything unique about this day--no bad circumstances, just a bad mood.  I was mad about so many things, I couldn't even name one.  I was short with my husband and distant and unavailable to my kids.  I find that I use being busy and unavailable as a mechanism so no one has to deal with my junk.  And so I don't have to deal with them.  If I am busy, I'm not forced into conversations that I don't want to have;  I don't have to listen or answer questions or help with homework.  Busyness is a wall that I erect to avoid engaging.  It was one of those days.  You're familiar with these days, right?

Here's the difference between the way my loving Father deals with me and the way the enemy would like things to go.  The enemy accuses me, turning every situation into my failure.  He wants me to have a vague sense that everything is wrong, especially me.  He says I am justified in my anger and sin and that I am guilty and without hope.  There is no way out because this is just how life is. I read once that he puts personal pronouns on these accusations so they seem like accurate thoughts I'm having about myself:  "I'm really failing at this...my kids don't care...they don't even need me to engage...this is awful...it's pretty much what I deserve.  They will need so much counseling..."  Do you see where this is going?

Oh, but the words of my loving Father...
His conviction is more specific: "Heather, you were rude and selfish yesterday. You were spending the day with self-preserving walls up.  Apologize to your family." 

This is the difference between accusation and conviction.  One is from my enemy and one is from my Father. One way leads to death and one way leads to life.

Satan takes my sin and makes it a declaration of who I am, "You yelled, you are a failure."

God puts His finger on my sin and points me back to Him in confession and repentance, "You yelled, apologize and allow Me to pluck that out of your life.  Draw near to me and I'll give you strength and the fulfillment that you are looking for." 

I sin, He convicts, I confess and repent, He restores and draws me closer.  I cling to Him in dependence. This is sanctification.  Facing the truth of who I am, confessing, and relying on Him to change me brings intimacy.  And this cycle happens again and again.  To think that I should be further along, or I should be past this, is pride.  This holy God who loves His children knows how weak we are, He remembers that we are only dust (Psalm 103:14); He knows that I am and always will be a sheep and He is and always will be my Great Shepherd.  His relentless love doesn't leave us in a ditch but frees us from condemnation and accusation to live under the Freedom Banner that Jesus waves over us.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

face to face

It was the first spring in our new house.  It was the first time I had a yard.  I knew, when we moved in a few months before, that blooms were somewhere dormant in the winter ground, but I had no idea how many bright surprises were waiting on us that spring. 

One day, as I sat on the couch folding laundry, I looked out the window to find the most vivid pink flowers.   So enamored that something beautiful might actually be in my yard, I didn't notice the filth on the window, only the vibrant color lining the yard.

My eyes shifted after a few seconds, and I saw nothing but the dirty window.  I soon forgot about the trees as my mind began to wonder why those windows were so dirty. Traveling...busyness...my young children...there were many excuses but I was still embarrassed at the sight of them. Trying to look through that filth, I looked once again at the trees.

Words that I had read earlier in the week quickly came to mind, In the same way, we can see and understand only a little about God now as if we were peering at His reflection in a poor mirror; but someday we are going to see Him in His completeness, face to face. Now all that I know is hazy and blurred, but then I will see everything clearly, just as clearly as God sees into my heart right now.     1 Corinthians 13:12.

A poor mirror.  When I look at God it is as if I am looking at His reflection in a dirty, defective mirror. The knowledge of Him, whether surface or intimate, is only a glimpse of who He is--only what He's revealed to me.  Even when I've experienced Him in a way that I feel my heart might explode, it's an exponentially small amount compared to his greatness.  My view is limited because I am limited. 

Imagine an ant on the shore of the ocean.  He stands in awe of what he sees and what he can experience and yet the massiveness of the ocean is barely comprehended by our little friend.  He is overwhelmed even by his small view.

What we know of God's love and grace and holiness is like a small puddle while His full character is more grand than all of the seas.  He not only loves me, He loves me with His unrelenting love; He not only gives me grace, He gives scandalous amounts of grace; He is not only holy, His holiness is so beautiful that it would strike me blind if I saw its fullness.   He is more loving, more grace-giving, more holy--He is immeasurably more.

My spiritual vision can be hazy because I am looking through my flesh--through my sin and brokenness.  And while God has redeemed me, His restoration will only be complete when I am physically in His presence.  So until then, He allows me to know Him through Christ, to understand Him, but with a limited understanding.

There are times when I shift my focus and only see the dirt.  I see my own sinfulness more than I see Him.  I might begin to lose sight of Him altogether, and my weakness and brokenness appears larger than life.

The challenge is to look at Him even if it is in a poor mirror or through a dirty window--to trust that the One I'm looking at is the same One who is cleaning away the dirt so that I might see Him more.

When God looks at me, is it through that same poor, hazy glass? The blood of Christ shed for me declares a loud, No.  He sees me clearly and completely.  He knows me, small finite thing that I am, and loves me.

One more thought that I can barely contain--a day is coming when I will see God just as clearly as He sees me. I will know Him as intricately and intimately as He knows me--every detail, every thought, every motive, every intention.  No more questioning.  No more seeing glimpses of who He is. I will see Him in His completeness, face to face.

we wait


We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield.

In Him our hearts rejoice,for we trust in His holy name.

May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord,

even as we put our hope in You.

Psalm 33:20-22

We wait.  We may wait patiently or we may learn patience along the way, but we wait.  We may wait quietly or with shouts, but still we wait.  

 We hope.  We hope, not for what we can see, but for that which remains in the not yet.  We hope for the unseen, for hope that is seen is no hope at all. 

 We trust.  We trust in His holy name--in all that He is.  We trust a faithful God who has proven Himself.  We trust Him with our hearts, our very lives, because He does not disappoint.

We pray, we beg, we pour out, we lament.

We lay our longings at the feet of a good God, and we wait for the time when our desires and His purposes intersect.

 When our questions overshadow trust, we give our questioning hearts to Him--this God who walked and sneezed and cried and died and LIVES, this God who put on flesh to save us from our unbelief.   

When we dance with doubt and mistake impatience for a friend, He makes up the difference and all the while is changing our heart, aligning it with His own.

When we are shocked as the brokenness below the surface is revealed, we look closer and find Him there, already knowing the depths of our soul, already refining and restoring.   Although we are just getting acquainted with our weakness, He knew the extent of it before we took our first breath.  He knew He would be our Great Substitute before we knew Him.  He knew He would be the source of our ability to wait and hope and trust.

 While we wait, we see the banner of these words, wanting them to be our own: 

Yes, Lord, walking in the way of Your truth, Your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.

When this declaration would be a lie--when we want answers more than we want Him--we ask Him to refine this self-focused, short-sighted heart of ours.  That He wouldn't relent until our heart reflects His.

 So we wait, we hope, and we trust, with the strength and joy that He gives, for the time when He is our deepest longing and His glory is our one desire. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

set free



I couldn’t get them out of my mind.  Over and over, minute by minute, day after day.  These thoughts, this movie reel of all the things.  The things I wasn’t good at, the things I had done wrong, my weaknesses, my sin…the ways I had failed and thought I had failed.  

I was putting on my mascara for goodness sakes—what was wrong with me?  “I’m not…I should have…I can’t believe I…I’m so…too much…not enough…”  They were all I could think about.  They were heavy.  They were persistent.

 I sensed a nudge to write them down.  So I wrote--things that are embarrassing to admit now, but these were my chains.  Pages. I was plagued with these thoughts.  As I skimmed the paper I had just filled I saw it—I was being accused. 

Then a moment I will never forget.  Words I had read days before were brought into my mind just as timely as a drop of rain on a drought-ridden land.

But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation

…Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,

because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.  For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh,


Imagine my delight reading these words—without blemish…free from accusation…no condemnation…set me free…what the law was powerless to do, God did…in order that the righteous requirements might be fully met in us.  Really?  No accusation?  No condemnation?  None?  Not even one?  Not even one.  I was not condemned, but set free.   Set free?  Completely free?  Yes, completely.  

I had been living under the accusations, believing that they were an accurate commentary on my life.  But they weren’t the truth about me at all.  The truth would have set me free, not locked me up. 

The accuser was my enemy and fed me this mixtape of self-focus and despair, making me paralyzed and hopeless.  He does that doesn’t he? He is never short supply of past sins, regrets, and misinterpretations of others’ thoughts and actions toward us. He glories in our inward focus and abhors when our eyes are lifted. He causes us to question God and His heart for us, painting all of life a dark shade of grey, trying to convince us that that’s life’s actual color.    

But these words, these life-giving words that began seeping in, were acquitting me.  No, not just acquitting me, they were exposing the mess that was my mind and shining the light on all that my Jesus did.  He took it all.  Were some of these true?  Sure, some were, but in Christ I was no longer identified, labeled, or even guilty for them.  In Christ, I possessed the perfect righteousness that was His.  It was unfair, really—this trade He made.  He took all of my weaknesses and sins—accurate or perceived, large or small, and traded all of Himself for it.  He traded the accuser's words that were bringing death for His freedom-words of life. He was condemned so I could be set free.  That’s hard to get, but in this moment, I got it.  He wasn’t just loosening the chains, giving me room to move around in them, He was cutting them into pieces giving complete freedom.


I’m not sure why living in this freedom feels like such a fight.  My mind drifts to accusations like these often, but this cycle of redemption brings sweet intimacy:  I see the mess, even live in it for a time—He reminds me of the cross, that He’s the chain breaker—the words that give life remind me that in Him I’m not accused—He draws me close—I live in freedom and awe.  I’m free.  And I am undone. Because He is undoing me.  This is truth, this is the truth we live in and invite others to enjoy.  He alone gives freedom and life. 



 

chasing shadows

Seek Me and you will find Me when you seek Me with all your heart. The words that brought such life and hope long ago echo in my mind.  They are as fresh now as when first uttered by holy lips.

If I seek the Lord, I am promised I will find Him.  I have many anointed words from those lips that give life.  I can read them for pleasure or instruction or knowledge, but when I read them and receive them with the desire to know The Author I find that those words will satisfy. 

I read and search and remember.  I bring the Author my questions and my weaknesses.  He gives me understanding of who He is, how He feels and thinks.  His heart is mine for the knowing.

With this knowing comes a life that is changed and a soul that is restored.  He gives purpose and fulfillment and the ability to love and know that I am loved. If I seek Him  

I will find what I'm looking for.

If, however, I seek something else--a feeling, a knowledge, a status, an identity, or any "thing"--then it will either elude me and I'll never find what I'm chasing, or I will finally have a grasp on it and will quickly realize I was deceived--that what seemed to promise happiness or purpose was only a lie.  I will realize that I was made to seek and find the Author but settled for an elusive shadow that had no substance--a false promise of fulfillment.

When I find myself wondering why my days seem so empty, why the "fulfillment" hasn't come, then O Lord, lead me back to You, the Only One worth my seeking and the Only One who can be found. 

Isaiah 55
Come, all you who are thirsty,
    come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
    and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
    listen, that you may live

my hiding place

In the shelter of Your presence You hide them from the intrigues of men; in Your dwelling you keep them safe from accusing tongues. Psalm 31:20


God is my refuge. He surrounds me with His love. I am free from worry or concern because I am in His shadow. Like hiding in the cleft of a rock when the storm comes, I hide in Him. I may see the storm, it may seem closer to me than anything else, but it cannot touch me. He is my Rock and my Shelter. He goes behind me and before me. My God engulfs me. He is my Strongtower, my Shield, and my Hiding Place. I am in Him and He is in me.

Lord, I hide in You today.