Tag: faith

Why This Spiritual Attack Is Not Against Your Finances, Your Health, or Your Car

The year I started writing words for the world to read, things started falling to pieces all around us. We encountered three bouts with the stomach bug in four months.  The kids were constantly rundown with various viruses.  There were financial strains, serious health scares, and much more.

We were about ten months into a sequence of unfortunate events when I heard a single statement through a static-blurred radio station while driving to the grocery store. I don’t remember who spoke the words or exactly how he phrased them, but the man’s message was this: “Satan’s not out to break your car, wreck your finances, or steal your good health.  What he really wants to do is cause you to doubt God’s goodness.”

I was three weeks into a very trying month – a month filled with one trial after another. . .

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4 Reasons It’s Ok You’re Not Where You Want to be

 

 

We woke to white flakes on kelly green grass, and the kids squealed like they’d never seen snow. I sat for a while and watched it flutter down like a gentle foreshadowing of what’s to come.  Like most things, the novelty won’t last.

The changing seasons are an ongoing reminder to assess my life, balance my priorities, and try to make certain that my walk with God and my walk with the people I love are where they ought to be. But that’s just the question: How do you really go about assessing the subjective parts of your life?

I used to think a time would come when I’d sense that I’d arrived to some sort of long-awaited destination in my relationship with God. There have been noteworthy moments – moments that impacted eternity – but for the most part, I find myself considering that I’m not yet where I want to be.

My late teens and early twenties were mostly just a scramble to keep myself afloat. My mid to late-twenties were sparked with radical enthusiasm and devotion.  And my thirties find me settling into a pace that mostly looks like faithfully fulfilling whatever is set before me, a scarcity of spiritual mountaintop moments, and long stretches of spiritual steadiness.

Watching the first snow of the season, I decide to extend grace to myself. I decide that it’s ok that I’m not yet where I want to be, and I remind myself that none of us will “arrive” until we stand before the throne of God at the end of our earthly lives.  I consider the reality that there’s not really room to judge anyone else’s journey, and this means I don’t need to judge my own journey either.

My journey has been imperfect, and my life remains imperfect. I blow it almost as often as I get it right.  I miss opportunities to extend kindness to others.  I search for patience, and it’s nowhere to be found.  I question whether or not I’m making the impact I hoped to make when I set out on the journey.  I forget to pray.  I complain about things.  I do the exact things I don’t want to do.

In light of all these things, it’s ok that I’m not where I want to be, and here’s why:

The One Who Made Me Will Bring Me to Completion

I can trust that the Maker who knit me together in my mother’s womb won’t quit on me. He’ll finish what he started.  He’ll bring the work of my life to completion (Philippians 1:6).

Grace and Knowledge Don’t Just Show up – They Grow

2 Peter 3:18 reads, “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord . . .” Every person is somewhere on a journey that leads either toward God or away from him.  Until we see him face to face, none of us have arrived to a perfected state or a perfected relationship with him.  What’s most important is that we’re continuing to grow closer and not inching ever so slowly away from him.

Endurance Leads to Maturity

According to James, trials lead to endurance, and endurance leads to a kind of maturity that leaves a person complete, lacking nothing (James 1:2-4). For this reason, we keep pressing through our imperfect lives and our imperfect relationships, and we trust that all of our trials will lead us to greater maturity.

God Loves Me As I Am

God’s love for imperfect people was proven once and for all at the cross (Romans 5:8). He loves me right now, at this step of my journey, just as much as he loved me in my wayward early twenties and just as much as he’ll love me on the day I enter my eightieth faithful year of walking with him.

He loves each of us where we’re at, and he’s bringing us to completion. We’re simply called to keep pressing toward him.

~~~

We run through the morning snowfall together, and the kids catch flakes on their tongues and spread their arms wide in a display of awe-struck freedom. They’re wild with life and joy, and I suppose I could learn a few things from their childlike enthusiasm.

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When Where You Are Is Not Where You Hoped to be

 

It’s a brisk autumn morning with frost on the lawn and the kids and touching it with tiny fingers and a sense of awe that somehow slips away as years slip past. I’m staring down the face of a question that’s been echoing in my mind for twenty-four hours now: Where are you?

This fall has been marked by big bumps along the usually smooth road of our lives – bumps that make us step back and appreciate the simple things of life, bumps that make us grateful to still be here together laughing and crying and kicking soccer balls across wide spans of green grass. This question – where are you? – doesn’t loom like an accusation.  It simply invites me to step outside the momentum of my days and honestly assess what’s driving my life.

This question presented itself last week when I admitted that I was afraid – afraid of what the future might hold, afraid to take the next step toward a goal, and afraid that more than one of my dreams might be on the verge of collapse. It presented itself again yesterday morning, when a friend sent a text with this very question staring at me through the screen on my phone, and it arose two more times as I watched Christine Caine share a message online.

It’s the question God asked Adam in the Garden of Eden after the apple was eaten: “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9)

God knows everything, and God knew where Adam was hiding. Is it possible that he asked this question so that Adam might step back and take a long, hard look at his situation, honestly assess it and give words to it?

Adam answers, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself” (Genesis 3:10). Adam answers honestly: Afraid, naked, and hiding.

The Lord responds by first cursing the serpent who deceived Adam and Eve. He then speaks difficult words for the two people who once walked in unbroken fellowship with him: He tells the woman that he will multiply her pain in bringing forth children and make her desire for a husband who will rule over her; he tells the man that the ground is now cursed because of his sin, and in sweat and toil he will eat from the ground, and it will be filled with thorns and thistles.

I read these words while Christine Caine preaches about following the Lord, and I give thanks for the price Jesus paid on the cross. The curse of Adam is that all die, but in Christ, all shall be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:22).  Jesus literally paid the price for sin by becoming the curse for us (Galatians 3:13).  He reversed the ugly scene in the garden through the sacrifice of his life.

Because of Jesus, I have confidence that when the Lord asks, “Where are you?” I can answer without a fear of condemnation. There is no condemnation in Christ.

And so on this morning, frosted window panes soaking in the dawn’s first rays of golden sun, I admit to the Lord exactly where I am. I let the sun warm my face.  I receive the truth that he loves me exactly where I am, and he promises to shine light on each step of the path in front of me (Psalm 119:105).

Some of us are afraid today. Some of us are naked and ashamed.  Some of us are filled with regret, sorrow, grief, pain, and dismay.  There is grace for all of these things.  We are simply asked to come.  We are called to draw near – just as we are – and trust that the one who began the work within our hearts will complete what he started (Philippians 1:6).

I close with a question today: Where are you?

It’s not a question about where you’re pretending to be. It’s a question for the silent moments of the day when you’re alone with your thoughts and you let yourself be honest about the circumstances of your life.  Are you too tired to keep going at this pace?  Are you hurting?  Are you indifferent?  Have you grown cold and hard?

Will you trust the Lord to meet you in that place? He already sees.  He is present.  It’s for your sake that he poses the question.  Will you let him step in and work within?

~~~

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When Life Takes a Detour

 

Bekah was born on a clear November evening. As mothers do, I remember that day when we turn the calendar to the month of her birth.  I remember the way the oak trees along wolf creek beamed with tawny leaves, glowing radiant orange beneath the setting sun the night before she came to us.  I remember the contrast of kelly green fields of clover against the leaf-strewn wood line, and I remember thinking she’d never arrive.

Preparing to welcome our firstborn to the world felt mostly like one giant detour in the plans we had made. I planned to continue teaching right up to my due date.  We planned to vacation in the summer.  I planned to continue leading Bible studies, ministering to teens, and dedicating entire weeks of my life to youth retreats and mission trips throughout the pregnancy.  I was sure I’d be able to keep running until at least the seven-month mark.

None of that happened.

It was a detour that hurt. I felt like my entire life had been taken away.  I was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum – severe pregnancy sickness – and forced to an immobile position on the couch or in bed throughout much of the pregnancy.  So much for running, mentoring, and teaching.  It all had to stop.

It was a crushing detour. So many of the things that were closest to my heart were taken away, and I was forced to simply rest – alone with my thoughts and my nausea.

What do we do when life takes a detour? What happens when all of our best-made plans are suddenly stripped away?

Looking back, I’ve realized that often, what I thought was a detour was actually the destination God had ordained for my good.

I can truthfully say that the months of hyperemesis were a destination of sorts. Throughout those months, I learned that my worth is not at all related to what I can produce or whose life I can make an impact upon.  I learned that God loves me relentlessly even when I’m too sick to engage in any sort of spiritual discipline.  I learned that it’s ok to need other people.  I learned that if all I had left in this life were Jesus, he would be enough.  It wouldn’t be easy.  But I’d make it.

Toward the end of the pregnancy I made a list of 102 things I learned through the sickness. I’m not sure where I put that list.  I’m pretty sure I made it with the hope that God would see all I’d gleaned from the experience and spare me throughout the course of future pregnancies. (I was sick the second time too, so apparently the list didn’t accomplish the entire purpose I had hoped for it, but that’s ok.)

The experience reminds me that life often seems to move in the opposite direction of what I had planned or hoped. Sickness comes – sickness more serious than hyperemesis.  Dreams are crushed.  Plans are shattered.  But God is still good.

And sometimes the detour is actually the destination. Sometimes we fully believe God called us to climb to the top of the mountain, and we do everything we can to get to the summit.  When an unforeseen valley springs up between the foothills and the summit, it’s easy to wonder where God’s at in the valley.  And when the valley winds through the mountains and eventually leads to an entirely different mountaintop, it’s easy to wonder what God’s purpose is.  It’s easy to wonder if we heard God wrong.

But often, we heard God correctly from the beginning. He simply wanted to show us the first mountain to get us moving in the right direction, and he knew all along that he would lead us to the valley that redirected the journey.  God does this.  And we can rest in knowing that when we seek him with our whole hearts, we will find him (Jeremiah 29:13).  He will lead us on the journey.

Watching Bekah barrel through a leaf pile in the yard, seven years feels more like a week.  And I’d take that detour all over again for this one mountaintop moment with her.

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Sarah Frazer

This post is shared on two blog link ups. Thank you Kelly and Sarah!

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Why Life’s Pressure Points Are Some of the Greatest Gifts

 

There’s a giant sycamore tree by the creek. My hands are feet from touching when I try to reach around its pale bark in some sort of earthen embrace.  What captivates me most about this tree isn’t its size; I’m most captivated by the angle at which the giant grows.  It leans at close to a 45-degree slant, deeply rooted in the earth and dropping yellow leaves far into the creek.

The tree is along the path we take when we hike behind the house, and it’s a reminder of several spiritual truths in my life:

Be Careful about Judging What You Don’t Understand

The creek is lined with dozens of straight-standing sycamores. They are gallant and honorable.  Their bark shines silver in the autumn sunshine, and they bear the glory of their Maker.  Interestingly, not one of these trees is as large as the slanting sycamore.

One by one, we’ve watched as the tall, straight trees topple to the ground in violent wind storms and crash, uprooted, in microbursts that rip through the valley. Somehow, the slanting giant remains firmly rooted, bearing fruit in season, year after year.

I’d be quick to label this tree less worthy than its straight counterparts. But time has proven that this tree is deeply rooted.  This reminds me to be careful not to judge what I might not fully understand.  What’s visible on the outside doesn’t often tell the whole story.

In the same way, man looks at outward appearances, but the Lord looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). We’re wise to remember these words.

Everyone’s Journey to God is Different

Something about trees reaching toward the sky reminds me of seeking the Lord. This tree reminds me that we’re all on a journey toward knowing God more, and no one fully arrives until we see him face to face.  While there are pivotal moments along the way – black and white moments of decision – no two paths look exactly the same.

The friend who has very little conception of God is at a different place along the journey. We’re called to walk with one another, encouraging one another to draw closer.  And just as no two trees in the forest are exactly the same, no two paths are ever identical.

Adversity Produces Strength

I’m not sure what caused the giant sycamore to lean as it does, but it’s safe to say that this tree faced adversity that caused it to grow sideways. It’s often the most difficult trials of life that strengthen our character most.  Hard times hold the potential to shape us into the image of our Creator.

The financial struggles, the seasons of illness, the lost jobs, and the shattered dreams hurt. They also strengthen us and conform us to the image of the One who endured hardship for us.

The Call to be Set Apart is a Gift

We’ve often walked the trail past the sycamore and noticed other hikers standing in its shade, marveling at its slant, and sitting at its base. This tree stands out among the other trees of the forest.  It is set apart.

Sometimes the call to be set apart in our lives feels too difficult. Saying no to things others deem acceptable and standing firm in a shifting culture isn’t easy.  But the call to be set apart isn’t meant to be a burden.  It’s meant to be a gift.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss writes: “I learned early on that to be ‘set apart’ is not a punishment; it is not an attempt on God’s part to deprive us or to condemn us to a cheerless, joyless lifestyle.  It is a priceless privilege – it is a call to belong, to be cherished, to enter into an intimate love relationship with God Himself, much as a groom declares his intent to set his bride apart from all other women to be his beloved wife; to fit into the grand, eternal plan of our redeeming God for this universe; to experience the exquisite joys and purposes for which we were created; to be freed from all that destroys our true happiness.”

And so, as the tree slants hard, I remind myself that the pressure points of life are often the greatest gifts of all.

Reference:   Holiness, The Heart God Purifies, Moody Publishers, p. 33-34.

 

 

Thanks to Arabah Joy, Kelly Balarie, and Missional Woman for sharing this post!

https://arabahjoy.com/category/grace-truth-linky/

http://missionalwoman.com/

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Six Promises for When You Feel Abandoned by God

 

Caleb stirs from his nap with red eyes and a cowlick that stands straight up in salute to the sun or praise to God – I’m not sure which. I always wondered why mothers of boys let their little ones run wild in public with hair sticking out in every direction.  Now I understand.  Little boy hair does whatever it wishes, and no amount of water, saliva, mousse, or hairspray can tell it otherwise.

We descend to the living room, and the slow and painful process of his awakening takes place as I hold him on my lap. We read books and watch blue jays on the lawn.  We’re half way through Corduroy’s saga of the lost button when Darrell’s white truck pulls into the driveway, and Caleb’s off my lap in seconds, pounding on the window to welcome his father onto the property after a long day.

After the welcome hugs and cheers, I kiss the guys goodbye and slip into my walking shoes for a little bit of time out of the house. Like clockwork, Caleb erupts into primal screams.  “No!  Don’t leave me, Mama,” he yells.  “Don’t leave me!”

“I’ll be back in a half-hour,” I assure him, but he’ll have none of it.

I come back from every walk, and yet he fears this might be the one time when I don’t return. I kiss him on the head again and leave, despite the crying.  It’s best to just get on with it.

Walking down the road, I’m struck by the parallels between my son’s thoughts and my own thoughts. I recall a dozen times when it felt like the Lord had completely forsaken me: that race I lost, that bad breakup, Bekah’s medical condition, forty weeks of sickness – twice, the day the car broke down at the bridal shop with my baby girl screaming in the backseat, and more.

Things don’t go my way, and I’m prone to find myself wavering. I’m prone to wonder.  Prone to leave the God I love.  But his promise is this: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).  Why do I, like little Caleb, doubt that he means what he says?

I think long on this as I walk, and I list the promises for the hard times:

God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28).

Nothing can separate me from his love (Romans 8:38-39).

He will go with me through the high waters and the fires (Isaiah 43:2).

He won’t withhold what is good from me (Psalm 84:11).

He is close to those who are brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18).

He will use these fiery trials for his glory (1 Peter 1:6-7).

I’m suddenly struck by the reality that I often live like I don’t believe these promises. I live like they count for the struggles and trials of others but not for my own.  What if I actually lived like I fully believed every word that proceeds from his mouth?

I would have less fear and a greater capacity to love. I would give freely and store up fewer treasures on earth.  I would encounter an abundant kind of life that I’ve been craving all along.

Returning home, Caleb has forgotten about the meltdown that took place when I walked out the door. He’s chasing his dad and his sister around the yard with delighted squeals.  I kiss him on the head and go inside to finish cooking dinner.  The comfort of resting in these promises feels like an invitation to sheer joy.

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This post was shared as a part of a link-up at Fresh Market Friday.

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When the Next Step Feels Scary

 

It’s late August, and the ironweed boasts deep purple blossoms among fields of green and gold. We stand at the end of the driveway with anxious hearts.  I honestly believed I’d be more nervous than our extroverted five-year-old, but it seems she’s the one with the jitters.  We review the directions to her classroom for the third time, and I remind her to focus on eating her sandwich at lunchtime and review the importance of washing her hands in the restroom.

As the engine of the school bus groans its visceral call and carries my precious firstborn to the care of people I hardly know, I’m surprised I don’t cry. Instead, I walk quietly back to the house with thoughts of her little brother asleep in his crib.  It seems this transition to kindergarten is simply a necessary part of the progression of her life, and I’m at peace about letting it unfold.

The evening is a different story. Exhausted from her first long day in the classroom, the child I’ve enjoyed for the past five years is nowhere to be seen.  Instead, an exhausted shell of a little girl crashes onto the couch with demands about juice and absolutely no desire to comply with any of my motherly requests.  She wakes up an hour later with frantic tears about the moment she couldn’t find the classroom and how scary it was and how she doesn’t want to go back.  My heart breaks just a little.

A year later, we’re staring down the face of first grade, and little Bekah is excited and only slightly nervous. She can’t wait to see the familiar faces, deliver a gift to last year’s teacher, and dive into all the fun that awaits.  I find myself remembering how scary the step into kindergarten often felt for her and how sometimes, there’s just no way around the next frightening step.

I wonder if this is how God’s people felt after wandering in the desert for four decades. They finally reach the gateway to the land he has promised for them, and the formidable Jordan River lies between the people and the land they will call home.  Joshua, their fearless leader, proceeds to command the Levites to step into the water.

These are the holy men who have been carrying the ark of God toward the Promised Land. They are set apart for special service.  They literally carry the presence of the Living God.  And they are called to step into the flowing waters of the river.

I wonder if this step was scary. I wonder if they questioned the command and if they hesitated.  They were well aware that God had the power to move the water, as evidenced forty years earlier when Moses raised his staff and the waters of the Red Sea parted.  But the waters of the Jordan showed no signs of parting, and yet they were asked to step into the river.

Sometimes we’re called to step into the next assignment before we see a comforting amount of evidence that God is working in our midst. Sometimes we’re called to step into the water when there’s no sign God’s going to part it.  Sometimes we’re called to step into a new place of ministry or a new season of life before we have confidence that God really will make a way.

While we’re not to make unwise decisions without consulting God, there are times when we must take the first step without knowing the final outcome or even seeing the immediate provision.

Feet in the swirling water, the Levites held the ark. They watched, as after the first step of faith, God performed yet another miracle with the water.  He drew the river back and provided a way across the Jordan on dry ground.  They simply had to step out in obedience for the miracle to take place.

Starting kindergarten is a large life event, but for those of us who have conquered the challenge, it now seems quite small. But we all face challenges on the horizons of our lives.  Often, the best thing we can do is pray it through, ask God for direction, seek wise counsel, line it up with the Word of God, and when all of these steps confirm the decision, step out in faith.

And so we lay out the clothes for the first day of school this year. We pack the backpack and stock the cupboards with small containers of applesauce and granola bars.  We pray for Bekah’s teacher and her classmates and the children who will be her close friends.  And we step into the water.

 

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When He Speaks Your Name

 

I remember it with the poignancy of yesterday. I’m fiddling with the latch on my green Care Bears lunchbox, when Mrs. Nagel gently encourages me to take a step to the left.  It seems I’m the juxtapose member of an otherwise pencil-straight line of kindergartners.

I’m missing my mom like it’s nobody’s business, and this whole mess of leaving her for approximately 3.5 hours a day is just about more than my five-year-old heart can take. I have no idea how I’ll ever get married and leave the house.  But I leave that thought alone and just try to swallow the tears that rise every time I think of her throughout the long half-days in the kindergarten classroom.

The colossal correction from Mrs. Nagel triggers the tears again, and I gulp hard, staring at the Care Bears and the rainbow on my lunch box. That’s when I hear the word.  “Stacey,” she says it gently, and somewhere behind the words, I hear all the love in the world, and something about her voice reminds me of my mom.  But it doesn’t bring tears this time.  I look right into her eyes, and I see a kind of compassion that wraps me comfort.

When she says my name, I know she sees me. I know she sees my heart, and she’s telling me it’s alright.  It’s all going to be ok.  We’re going to get through this, and she’s going to walk with me.

“No tears now,” she softly says, touching my arm tenderly.

I nod. I want to tell her I’m trying not to cry, that we’re on the same page, that I’m on board, and that we’ll get there.  Instead I just nod my little head and clench my lunchbox handle with two hands, eyes straight ahead.  I’ve got this.  I’ve got this standing in line thing, and this getting on the bus thing, and this leaving Mom thing.  We’re gonna make it.

We did make it. Mrs. Nagel and I soared through kindergarten together, and by the end of the year, the tears were a rarity.  Her kindness and gentleness walked me through the hard transition.

This is the memory that comes to mind when I read the account of Mary, searching for the body of Jesus at the tomb. Her grief is deeper than that of a kindergartner missing her mom, but it is grief, nonetheless.  She has come to anoint the body of Jesus with oil, and something about the act feels like a comfort to her.  She has lost him, but she focuses on what she can now do for him in his death.

She arrives at the tomb to discover the body is gone. Double grief.  Not only is she grieved over his death, she’s now distraught over the fact that someone has taken his body.  It’s disturbing.  It’s disheartening.  It’s terrible.  Someone is going to rob her of the final consolation of at least giving him a proper burial.

That’s when it happens. A gardener comes to the tomb beside her.  She glances at him, then begs him to tell her where they might have put the body.  Her mind is racing, and her eyes are blinded to the reality that this is no gardener; this is the very Lord she vehemently seeks.

She doesn’t know it’s him until he says it. He says her name, “Mary.”

I imagine the tone. It’s direct, yet filled with compassion.  It’s an assertion that he sees her.  He sees her heart and her desperation.  It’s an assertion that good things are coming.  Surely, he knows the awe that will fall upon her when she recognizes him.  Surely, this brings him joy, and there’s anticipation in the proclamation of her name.

She recognizes him the moment he says her name. She responds, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher).*  And from that moment, everything changes.  The redemption of humankind is at hand.  His body was not stolen; he is alive!

The scene reminds me of Mrs. Nagel’s gentle proclamation of my name – of the day she saw into my heart and reminded me we’d get through it. It also stirs in me a deep longing for the day when I stand before the throne of God and hear Jesus speak my name.  It reminds me of the way he drew me to himself as a young girl.  It reminds me that just as he knew Mary by name, he knows my name.  He is watching, waiting, and walking with me through this season.

Jesus knows your name too. Imagine the day he looks into your eyes and speaks your name.  The day will come for each one of us.  Let’s live with prepared hearts, waiting, longing, and anticipating the day he calls our names.

 

 

*John 20:16

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The Morning Invitation

 

A fine white mantle of fog rests on the fields at dawn. I went to the deck to retrieve the coffee cup I left outside overnight, and it seems I’ve encountered God on the journey.  I sink onto the damp patio chair in the corner of the deck, and the chill of the dew on my bare legs feels like an awakening.  An awakening to what is uncomfortable and raw – real and tangible.

Dew on flesh. Fog on young goldenrod chutes.  This earth breathing life and promise and hope.

It’s so exhilarating that I fill my coffee cup inside and return to the chair with a jacket and my Bible. I forget the bookmarked app on my computer – the one that tells me what to read each morning, and I open tattered pages to Psalms:

Let the field exult, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy Before the Lord, for He is coming, For He is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness And the peoples in His faithfulness. (Psalm 96:12-13)

I close my eyes and drink black coffee. I consider what it will look like to live this day as a woman who honors God and lives with the expectancy of a bride, waiting for her groom.

I think of the words of Jesus: ““You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27).

His words ring true. Loving God must come first.  Have I kept it first?

Before anything else, my life is about my relationship with God. It’s about drawing close to him and growing in relationship with him.  I am deeply convicted as I reflect on what my prayer time often looks like.  I’m convicted that I’ve spent too much time asking for things, praying for direction, praying for ministry needs, and praying over priorities.

While all of these things are important, what is most important is that I learn to rest in God’s love. What’s most important is that we grow in relationship through these quiet, set-apart moments.  My life is primarily about this relationship with God.  The way I carry his love to the world is secondary.

A mourning dove coos, and I realize I haven’t kept the first thing first. I’ve put praying for direction above basking in his affection.  Looking at the fields, it’s all so clear: He wants to wrap me in his tender affection like the fog that shrouds the fields at dawn.  He wants to cover me in the warmth of his love and stay together in this place.

Tim Keller says it like this: “Prayer is both conversation and encounter with God. . . . We must know the awe of praising his glory, the intimacy of finding his grace, and the struggle of asking his help, all of which can lead us to know the spiritual reality of his presence.”

This time is first about basking in his presence. The priorities, decisions, and requests will flow from this place.  I sit long on the damp chair and don’t do much at all.  I rest in him.

I think of the words of Mother Teresa in an interview with Dan Rather.

“When you pray, what do you say to God? Rather asked.

“I don’t say anything,” she replied. “I listen.”

“Okay. When God speaks to you, then, what does he say?” Rather tried again.

“He doesn’t say anything. He listens.”

Baffled, Rather didn’t know how to continue.

“And if you don’t understand that, I can’t explain it to you.” Mother Teresa concluded.

And so we sit. In the stillness.  In the newness of an emerging day, we sit in silent communion, and I don’t plan a single part of my day or seek direction over a single priority.  When the coffee is gone and the fog begins to lift with the silent chorus of a rising sun, I rise with it, and I’ve never felt more certain of what matters most.

 

 

Mother Teresa Quote with Dan Rather on listening to God and prayer

 

Keller, Timothy. Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (New York: Penguin Books, 2014).

Mother Teresa, quoted in Chuck Swindoll, So You Want to Be Like Christ? Eight Essentials to Get You There (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2005).

 

 

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How God’s Love Can Change Any Life

 

 

Bekah was born on a Tuesday, and nothing about the day really went as expected. I didn’t expect my water to break at 4 a.m., five days before my due date. I didn’t expect my body not to go into labor on its own, warranting an induction. I didn’t expect them to wheel me to the operating room after fourteen hours of labor. And when they pulled her from me, wrapped her in her striped hospital blanket, and brought her to me, I didn’t expect the violent flow of love to pour from me like it did. I didn’t know I was capable of that kind of love or that such love even existed.

I cried often throughout our first few weeks together, and while I hear it’s common to cry at every commercial and break down at every sentimental thought, I mostly cried because I couldn’t believe the love we shared. My desires to protect, nurture, and care for her were stronger than anything I’d experienced.

It was during those early weeks of Bekah’s life that the power of the cross captivated me in a new way. There was absolutely no way I’d send my daughter to die in anyone’s place. Ever.

The willingness of God to send his child to die for me completely transformed my perception of his love.

Throughout my life, I’ve battled with the feeling of not being good enough, lies that tell me rejection from other people means I’m less-than, and the ongoing feeling that I simply don’t measure up. Most of us face these thoughts at some time in our lives. Whether it’s the child who made fun of me on the playground in second grade, or the coworker who criticized my fashion sense in my fourth decade of life, the words of other people hold the power to inflict deep wounds.

For nearly a decade, I listened to messages from well meaning Christian leaders who spoke of finding our identities in Christ. They said things like, “You are a beloved child of the Most High God. You are precious and dearly loved.” All these words were nice, but while women around me cried and rejoiced at their newfound identities, it just wasn’t getting to my heart. And I knew it.

Things changed when I held my own child. I experienced love like I’d never known, and I came to the striking realization that God loves Jesus far more perfectly and deeply than I can love my precious child. He feels for Jesus the way I feel for my children — and more – and yet he sent him to suffer and die so I wouldn’t have to receive his punishment for my long list of mistakes.

The heart of my identity is this: God loves me so much that he sent Jesus to die for me (Romans 5:8). We all long for a deep encounter with the love of God, but let’s not get so caught up in seeking an experience that we fail to contemplate the truest thing about God. When I long for an encounter with his love, I simply need to step back and consider the cross. He loves me so deeply that he sent his Son to a place of agony for me. Encountering this truth is the quintessential encounter.

I don’t love anyone enough to send my child to suffer and die on a cross for them. How deep this love truly is. Understanding the depth of his love transformed my identity. When I begin to feel less than, left out, or not enough, I think of how much I love my children. Then I ponder God’s love for me, to send his child to die in my place. I know this is real love.

I know I don’t need to please others, measure up, or be someone others admire, because I am loved crazily by my Father.

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