Tag: God

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.

 

 

 

 

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).

 

 

Pray Big Things for Your Little Ones

Friday isn’t my usual day to post, but I’ve been guest posting quite a bit lately.  It’s an honor to write alongside John Piper and other gifted writers at Desiring God.  The links below will lead you to these articles and a few more:

Desiring God:

Pray Big Things for Your Little Ones

God Carried Us with Promises: Five Truths Strong Enough for Any Trial

The Praying Woman:

Five Prayers Every Mother Should Pray for Her Children

Her View from Home:

To the Mother Who Feels Like She Doesn’t Belong

Christian Devotions Ministries:

The Promise for Your Affliction

You Are Cherished

Thanks for reading and sharing!  Have a blessed weekend!

Four Reasons to Ponder What Is Beautiful

 

A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul. –Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The awakening of spring feels like a rebirth of sorts. Something about the sound of geese overhead, the emerging jack-in-the-pulpit rising from black earth, and the pungent scent wafting from the once frozen creekbed stirs a sense of vitality in my soul.  I sense this rebirth speaks of some greater longing within me – a longing for heaven, a longing for the day when all things are made new, a longing for the face-to-face embrace with the One who created me.

Throughout the most stress-filled seasons of my life, pondering beauty has been my greatest source of relief. When college classes weighed on me, I pulled poetry books from the shelves of the library and memorized poems about leaves no step had trodden black.  When my teaching career was straining, I took walks in the bitter December afternoons – towering spruce trees ushering me into a canopy of protection.  When pregnancy rendered me immovable, Mom pulled the old green reclining chair from the porch so I could watch the wrens flutter from their box.

In this season, I can think of lists of reasons to join Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in seeking what is beautiful. Here are four motivations to ponder beauty today:

Magnifying the beautiful magnifies God

In every moment, I have a choice. I can magnify my problems, or I can magnify God.  The mouse pointer disappears on the computer, rendering my day’s plans inoperable.  In this moment, I can magnify my frustrating problem, or I can magnify God.  The kids are literally screaming at one another over who gets to load Lion King into our antiquated VCR.  I can magnify the fact that they’ve now screamed at one another sixteen times in two hours, or I can magnify God by remembering how grateful I am to be a mother.  The daily grind of my life is wearing me down.  I can magnify all the reasons I’m disappointed with my life, or I can magnify the many blessings.

Magnifying God puts my problems in perspective

The benefit of magnifying God in my life is that keeping my eyes on him keeps my problems in perspective. The immovable mouse on my computer changed my plans for the day, but it’s not as big of a deal as it seems.  The yelling kids are unnerving and frustrating, but this is part of learning to cooperate and relate with others.  I’m glad they’re learning to navigate relational frustrations in a safe place.  In the grand scheme of my life, many of my troubles are light and momentary.  Even the heavy burdens will be used for God’s glory.  Keeping my eyes on him reminds me to endure hardships with strength and courage.

We were created to crave beauty

Snow-capped peaks and waves crashing to sandy shores elicit responses of awe because we were created to crave beauty. Ecclesiastes 3:11 reads: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart . . .” We all long for the beauty of encountering God face-to-face. Until then, our hearts are set on fire with passion for him when we see the beautiful works of his hands. Encountering beauty through nature, the arts, architecture, and other people reinvents the awe we were designed to crave.

Gratitude elevates

Gratitude lifts our eyes above ourselves. Thankfulness displaces negativity.  Even the smallest flame dispels a room of darkness.  We’re called to give thanks in everything.  The more we count our blessings, the less we keep track of wrongs.  Gratefulness and grumpiness simply can’t dwell in the same space.

Wherever life finds you today, may you embrace the joy of the journey, find something for which you can give thanks, and keep looking up. The geese are northern-bound.

 

The Mystery of Life from Death

 

The lingering daylight leads us to the woods again, and I sink into a moss-covered log while the kids throw sticks in the water. The peepers have crawled from their winter homes and cry out for love, and something about the whole scene just feels completely alive and right in the most organic way.

I’m thinking about life and fresh starts, as the moisture of the sphagnum moss permeates my thin wind pants. It seems the rotting log is literally absorbing my weight, as I enhance the decomposition and press into the dirt. The moss is all around me now, sucking its life from the rotting log’s decomposing nutrients.

My mind shifts to Christ and his illustration about the wheat. There will be no harvest without a complete decomposition – a complete breaking – of the kernel of wheat. Life comes from brokenness. It’s the same with the moss. Because the tree gives of itself, the moss grows lush and abundant.

Christ took the bread, broke it, and gave it to his disciples.

Christ took the loaves, broke them, and distributed them for the multitudes.

He who loses his life finds it.

Take up your cross, deny yourself, and follow.

~~~

I think to the birth of our two children – the breaking that comes with emerging into the cold world. A mother’s body is broken on behalf of her child. I think of the cross. His body broken so that we might have eternal life. I think of every hard season in my life – dying to myself so that fruit might come. I count the reasons to embrace the breaking:

If we want him to make old things new, we must let him break the old to refashion the new.

I’m not who I was ten years ago, and I hope to be different ten years from now. It took breaking the old ways of life for God to reshape me into a new creation. When I longed for freedom from destructive behaviors, he broke me, so that I might be set free. When living in my own strength became the greatest obstacle in my life, he broke me so that I had to live in his.

If our hearts are never broken, he can’t reshape them to the image of his heart. If our lives are never surrendered, he won’t reach his hand in and reform that to which we still cling. It must be set at the feet of the cross and offered for his recreation.

His light shines through the cracks of our broken parts.

My life felt most broken when a long string of unwise decisions left me reeling with pain. Though I’ve been healed and transformed, there are parts of my story that aren’t fun to relive. I often find that he uses these parts to shine his light through my own story and offer hope to those who are dealing with the same struggles I once I faced. His light shines through the cracks of my failures, and he receives the glory for his redemption. Life springs from death.

Redemption awaits the broken, not the ones who assume they are whole.

We are all broken. Doing life on our own leads to striving, and striving leads to emptiness. Only the broken realize they need put back together. Only the broken realize they can’t save themselves. I spent many years living in my own strength, thinking my good works would earn my ticket into heaven. Only when I was broken – when I came to the end of myself – did I realize that I had no power to redeem my life. Only the sacrifice of Christ can redeem my life.

Because he was broken, we are called to lay our lives down as well.

Dying to my desires feels like the hardest kind of death some days. Sacrificing sleep to stay up and talk with a hurting friend, sacrificing meals because a fevered child is resting in my arms, and sacrificing my comfort so that I can invest in the lives of others feels like death. It’s only when we die to our own desires that we are set free to live for the benefit of others.

 

Regardless of where you’re encountering something that feels like death today, my prayer is that you’ll look to Christ. He knows about the sting of death, and he overcame it at the cross. Victory is coming. Until then, may we continue to lay our lives down so that he might live through us.