Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Strength and Joy

Human strength fails. It falls apart, bringing us crumbling to the ground with it. So where is this power we have in God? When we've been trusting him, keeping our eyes up and find ourselves still falling?

Isaiah 41:10 "fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

How is it that at the moment we are looking up we can still feel like we're falling. Our God wants to strengthen us...but somehow me must learn how to let him.

Digging into the scripture I see it again...something I've known but I can't remember. The key to strength is there. The key to letting him empower - thanksgiving.

Eucharisteo - to give thanks to God, is how we let God fill our lives with his dynamic power.

Colossians 1:11-12 "May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light."

I see the connection and it makes me curious - the words there, "strengthened with power" is the word we get dynamite from.

This power is explosive and big and powerful.

And it's directly connected in Greek to the giving of thanks "eucharisteo".
Nehemiah 8:10 says it too... "...And do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength."

This word "joy" is Chedvah - meaning rejoicing, gladness, joy. In Greek they would use the word "chara". And Chara is the root word of Eucharisteo - to give thanks.

So this power that we long for - this dynamic filling of God - is joy. We need joy. His joy is not just a by product of our faith, it's the power inside of us. Trudging through life, hoping to receive back our joy isn't going to work. We're going to have to find it, and plead with God for it. Because without it, we fall apart.

Strength is Joy.

And joy is found in us giving thanks.

Life is hard, and giving thanks can be hard to come by. I don't want to be a person of thanks only on thanksgiving or special occasions because I want to be filled with this strength each and every day.

And there in giving thanks "eucharisteo" - that is where I find the key to what to give thanks for...because in the middle of that word is another root. "Charis" means grace. And grace is all around me - if I can learn to see it.

This dynamic strength, it's all about having joy (Chedvah, chara), which comes from giving thanks (eucharisteo), as we stand in awe of his grace (charis).

So again, I pull out my list of his gifts, and I write it slowly thanking him again and again...for the ways he loves me.

#653 The hard things that make me pause, and turn back to you.

And the count continues...counting my way to 1000 more gifts and joy overflowing.

Monday, September 14, 2015

A Lesson at Wendy's

I have an unhealthy/healthy habit of taking my two dogs to Wendy's and eating french fries and a frosty. It's unhealthy in that, yes, we're eating lots of greasy fries and a sugar loaded sweet. At the same time, it's healthy for me - it's a time for me to unwind, enjoy my dogs, and somehow re-energize in the quiet.

Lyric's big brown eyes begged me for a taste, and I could feel Rusty's stare burning a hole in my head. And yet, I withstood those adorable eyes and withheld the very thing they desired most. The thing I planned on giving them...but not quite yet.
We bypassed McDonald's on our way to Wendy's in search of better fries. McDonald's is notorious for their cold salty fries, but we have found that at Wendy's we can get fries that are nice and hot and moderate on the salt.
Of course, I'm sure the dogs' don't see the value in searching out the best fries. And as they were waiting, somewhat impatiently, they couldn't understand why they had to wait...The fries were fresh and very hot...what I consider the best, and the dogs couldn't help but drool over the smell. But to my dogs, the best simply meant waiting. And once the fries had cooled off and they got to dig in, I'm certain that they still did not understand the wait. After all, I had saved them the pain of burnt mouths, but they had no idea.
As I savored our treats, I had to ask the question "Am I willing to pass the mediocre for the best God has for me? And am I impatient with him when I have to wait, somehow believing he's withholding something from me unnecessarily?"

There are some things in life that are okay, just like the McDonald's fries, that maybe I would choose out of desire to get it quickly, only to be disappointed when it's not the best. Things worth waiting for, just like the hot fries, sometimes require a lot of patience. Frustratingly I don't always understand why I have to wait, even when looking in hind sight.

On our drive home I thanked God for withholding those things that might burn me and only giving them to me when He knows I'm ready. I know that He understands things I'm completely unaware of.
Tonight I learned a valuable lesson while contemplating - to trust in His timing and wait for the best...and I'm not planning on stopping this habit anytime soon, healthy or not.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Why I Won't Attack You If You See Fifty Shades of Grey

To see or not to see Fifty Shades of Grey...Is that the question? As I look towards this holiday, I'm struck by the fact that, in the theaters, there will be the war of opinions. There will be a "choosing of sides" as people choose to see Fifty Shades of Grey or Old Fashioned. There will be looks of disdain, and incredulous laughs. And the irony of it all? The irony is that February 14th is to be a day of celebrating love. And we're making war.

War has started even before the movies come out. One glance at the comment section of most blogs and articles will show you terse words, pointed fingers, and pride in opinions. I don't dislike the sharing of opinions. Anyone who knows me well can attest to the fact I love a good-natured debate. What I don't enjoy is how hearts are turning against one another, in most cases against people we don't even know!

What do we hope to attain through attacking one another or proving our point? Do we think that attacking another person's opinions will actually change them? I have yet to see that work in any case.

We must come face to face with the fact that when a person chooses to see either of these movies, their choice is rooted in their world view. Attacks do not convince a person to change their world view. It causes them to stand behind their cause in the face of threat.

I have greatly enjoyed reading the opinions of many different people for or against this movie. I value their well thought out opinions, because it provides me with a greater ability to understand their world view, and the world views of others like them. For those interested in the opinions of others, I encourage you to read the thoughts of others. Respect them. Consider what they have to say. Make your own opinion. But don't attack another for theirs - I'm calling for respect, not agreement.

Because of my own world view, I choose not to see this movie. I won't look upon those who choose to see it with judgmental eyes. On matters of opinion, I will debate but I will not fight. I will disagree, but I will not judge. I don't expect to change your world view, because only you can do that.

So this Valentines Day, I choose to love rather than wage war.

Thursday, December 4, 2014


There's this quieting of the soul that happens. When the mind is opened to thinking again. The defense mechanisms fail, and somehow you're glad. The defense against thinking, it seems safe. Yet it's a poison that leaks into every part of your soul. Wherever it goes, a paralyzing numbness follows. 

Our hearts are fragile things. With it enters pain and brokenness. This rendering in two, we dread it, we hate it, avoid it at all costs...yet what it costs is our very selves.

A breath of fresh air fills my lungs as my heart comes alive again. And I see it...with my heart sealed off, stuck in the deepest corner, I can't truly live. And I long to truly live.

You see, Jesus said it clear...that He is the life (John 14:6) . The only way...and he is my only way to truly live. Because in the moments he made me, when three came together in a huddle of hearts to give me life He linked my heart to his (Genesis 1:26) . And it's only when my heart beats in sync with his that it beats at all. And I am alive.

I laugh, the relief coursing through my veins. I'm alive! Truly alive, awake.

 This beating together, I see through his eyes. He shows me the world, just as he sees it. But what he grieves him. (Genesis 6:6) And as my heart beats with his, it grieves mine too.

Gasping, I reel back. This beating with his heart, it's brought my heart to life. Like water to a parched land. I knew the joy and peace. The giddy happiness. But now this sorrow and pain. And He whispers to me soft. That this is living alive. Because when you live with a heart that's closed, everything around you is grey, lifeless. But when you live with a heart connected to his, beating in time, you get to see a whole rainbow of colors. But you also get to see the black and white. Because in order to taste joy you must know sorrow. In order to live, you must die. (Romans 6:3-4).

And this is why I guarded my heart, why I hid it so deep. Because it hurts to live awake. To live with a kingdom outlook requires me to see how much this world is hurting. How it needs the One I have. How many hearts are not beating because they are locked away in the grey like mine was. God is banging on the door, calling out for them to simply listen for a moment. And I hold my breath, heart pleading that they will listen. Because I know that desperation. And I know the heart gone cold. And it was only grace that brought mine back to life, that reattached my heart to His.

And the reaching hearts, those who hear the call and long to be rescued, I know they try in vane to grab onto Jesus. I desperately want them to know that it's not about hanging on to Jesus, or trying to find him in the dark. It's about letting go, to quit striving. And I tell my own heart quit trying to grab on because I will grow tired and weary. What then? And I don't have to hold on. All along He has been holding on to me. Deuteronomy 33:27

I try to stop flailing and grasping. And the more I try, the more I fail. But as my heart beats with his, I learn his rhythm. So I let go and fall into love. And I allow the Comforter to soothe my heart. And I find it's about focusing on his rhythm that gives me heart a steady one. To focus on His heart calms my own.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Dodging Fast Balls

Life is full of hard decisions, upset schedules, hectic days, long months...One fast ball after another. Most days the ball hits you right in the face, and it's all you can do to catch your breath before the next one comes. Some days you can actually duck in time as it goes sailing by your face, but eluding the next ball is even harder still. Then there are days when you see the fast ball in slow motion, and when you hit it, it soars so far that you wonder how you did it.  Most often for me, I get hit smack in the face. I've never been good with balls, whether it be a soccer ball or life fast ball. I have been blessed enough to dodge a few, but actually hitting them seems few and far between.

So many things tell us that life is suppose to be grand and beautiful. That each new day is the start of a new adventure. We've got bookshelves full of how to books, telling us how to enjoy our vacation to the full, how to create fun memories with those around us, how to make a holiday more special. Do more of this, buy more of that, do more meditating, think happy thoughts, make yourself look on the positive side. And we nod, and say "I can do that!" and we try. I've seen some people succeed on doing those things, and others (like me) who have finally quit trying...but whichever category we fit into, it seems like we all have the same outcome. It simply doesn't work. We aren't happier. Even when these thoughts come from Christian sources, there's something about our hearts that simply doesn't grasp the concepts, even if our minds do.

Sometimes we are so afraid of feeling deeply, that rather than experience joy and sorrow, we trade it for a weak form of sadness and a shallow happiness.  We think that, in so doing, we are shielding our hearts from great pain. What if shielding ourselves from great pain in emotion, is actually creating more pain in numbness?

You've heard the phrase, "pull yourself up by your boot straps". We've all been told to get back up, dust ourselves off and keep going, because you can do it.  All I want to do is lay down and kick my feet and yell and scream. I think at times, we all want to do that. Our sinful nature that caused us to do that as children was no more alive than it is now. We all have days we simply don't want to give grace, don't want to do the dishes one more time, don't want to get out of bed. We all want to scream "I don't want to!" Yet we still go back. We trudge though life, slinging mud as we go. We get filthy, truly believing that getting through life and getting out clean and joyful are antonyms. 

But I'm telling you God washed me, and he says that he only needs to wash my hands and feet, that my whole body doesn't need another bath. And just like Peter, I want him to wash me completely because I'm not sure I got clean the first time. And I easily forget how he comes and washes my stinky, dirty feet. How he's not too much of a King to get down on the ground to touch the feet that have trudged through unnecessary mud. I shake my head in wonder, my head still shaking 'no'. 

But how do I not? How do I not trudge through mud, how do I not get hit by those fast balls, how do I not get frustrated and forget the graces and see things as ugly, and not except those gifts that are somewhere around me? How do I not close my eyes, when closed eyes protect me from all the things I fear. How do I slow down. Stop. Listen. And feel the water rushing over my feet, making them clean. And does the washing ever really stop, or is he working on it now, even as my head shakes a stubborn 'no'. I don't know how to stop this unending cycle, this torrent that makes this sacred ground into mud. The scary thing is, sometimes I Don't Want To!

 I read the words of John, I see the storm through his eyes. My heart searches for reassurance... I want to see Jesus through the eyes of 'the one Jesus loved', because surely he sees clear?
John 6:16-21 : That evening Jesus' disciples went down to the shore to wait for him. But as darkness fell and Jesus still hadn't come back, they got into the boat and headed across the lake toward Capernaum. Soon a gale swept down upon them, and the sea grew very rough. They had rowed three or four miles when suddenly they saw Jesus walking on the water toward the boat. They were terrified, but he called out to them, "Don't be afraid. I am here!" Then they were eager to let him in the boat, and immediately they arrived at their destination!

That second sentence, it catches my attention, I pause long. I see myself in that situation...I see that situation in my life. That moment you actually hit the fast ball, you're standing on your rock, Jesus Christ. I'm seeing the graces, thanking him, and extending them to others. I know for a fact I'm where he wants me to be, and that he has a plan.
 Hoping he'll come back before that next hit. I see the sun going down, that next obstacle in my path coming swift, and rather than stay on that solid rock, I go back into the mud and hope to make it till I can find a new rock to stand on, another experience of God to keep me safe for a moment. In heading into the mud on my own, I try to step lightly and not get so covered in the mud, but on my own there's no way to keep clean. My moments are getting crammed with things I have to do, decisions I have to make, people I have to please. As the chaos surrounds me, my heart is no longer trusting, and I can feel myself slipping.
And just like the disciples, I experience my own gale, and my seas grow very rough. And I grow afraid. No longer looking for Jesus, the only thing I want, is to get to the other side. You can taste the panic, the tears surface. You feel all alone. And like the disciples, instead of turning around, I keep heading strait into the storm, not going moments like this, but hours...even days. The disciples had been fighting their storm for at least 6 or 7 hours when they finally looked up into the face of Jesus. And relief? It doesn't fill them. Fear does. And not just a small amount of fear...they were terrified. 

In the midst of our storm, how easy is it to doubt if the God we see now, is the same one we had communion with before we jumped into our day? What about the Jesus who met with us that one morning we actually took time for devotions. Kind and welcoming, the one who washed our feet. After doing everything wrong, after yelling at the ones we love, neglecting the things we should have done, ignoring the graces, and complaining through our day, are we afraid that this Jesus we see now is someone else?

What if we listen to his voice? What if we grasp on and hold tight to his word. The word that says I am the I AM. The one who reassures of who he is, who displays how he is the same even when his children sin? That's when we become eager to have him close...and we arrive at our destination. 

I write down the scriptures, I post them around. I see the ship in my bathroom, the one that always gets dusty, and who has time in this crazy life? And I smile at the fast ball that I actually get to hit this time. Breathe. It's okay. It's only when I let the torrents of shame touch that dust that it becomes mud. And I thank God that he holds those torrents back when I see dust as simply a reminder...a grace. That dusty ship becomes a great reminder, to invite God into my boat and be thankful that he dusts me mud.
And wasn't our destination really not a place, but to be close to him?


Friday, April 4, 2014

Bowl fulls of Grace

I can hear the fridge humming away, the computer making little noises. My unwashed bowl sits here, and in my mind I try to make it disappear. If only that worked on dishes, among other things. But, they don't, and in some ways I'm glad that I can't make my messes disappear.

Living life surrendered. Well, it's a beautiful thought. And one that many people say can't be done. At times, I have to admit that I kind of agree. When have I really surrendered? And actually lived that way for an extended period of time? The idea seems laughable. Sometimes, a lot of times, I feel that God has to lift my face - to lift my eyes up to his. And when I actually lift up my eyes without fear, the eyes of grace that meet mine - they tell me that I am made worthy.

"The LORD upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down." Psalm 145:14 ESV. The LORD, my Yahweh. The one of power and love. YAHWEH of the old testament, and of the new. The creator of my very soul and heart. He is the one who catches me as I fail, and raises me. 

A precious little girl in my life, only two years old, has this concept down. She lifts up her little hands to me, completely trusting, relaxing in my embrace.

If only we could look to God with those eyes of trust, relaxing into the grace. Oh to have childlike faith!!!

"He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor. "For the foundations of the earth are the LORD's; on them he has set the world."

Do you realize dear one? Do you understand dear heart of mine? The Lord picks us up, those who come to him in our brokenness, and he puts us in places of honor. The foundations of the earth, the very things he has set in place, on those he has set the world. And even though our world has it wrong so much of the time, honor does not belong to those who have it right all of the time. But to the humble and broken who come in humility - those are the ones who truly have it right.

And a laugh raises up in my throat and I look around. This mess...I certainly don't have it right. The confusion in my heart and mind, no there is no order and correctness here. But our God, he loves this. He loves me in my mess. And His beautiful grace abounds all the more. 

I picture his grace all around me, tangible in this mess. The grace of a dirty dish and the food he has provided. The humming of the fridge is music to my ears. And it's not because of what I have. It's the very fact that it pleased God to give it to me. I am not grateful to have more than others. I am grateful because God presented me with a gift. 

He sees my mess, he sees the way I can not contain all these gifts he has lavished. And He knows that I was made for eternity, so how can I truly understand how to live inside of time? He never meant for me to. And the fact that I am okay with that - okay that  I can't do it on my own and lift up my hands for him to carry me through...that's what life surrendered looks like. 

This is Life Surrendered, God? My eyes burn. He never asked too much of me - in fact all he asked was that I receive the gift of his son shown through all these gifts around me. And that in excepting these little gifts, I've in fact accepted his son. It's so simple, and so beautiful.  

I have believed him, and in the moment I hold this dirty dish, this grace bowl, and accept it as gift, I have accepted his son.

And just as a small child is grateful for the smallest trinkets her father gives her, so I am thrilled with the gifts my Yahweh has placed in my hands. And through this lens of grace I see the smile spread across his face.

This is the Beautiful Surrender.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A society without pain or a life with choices?

Dear reader, you may be aware that my goal for lent was to strip my life of the things that distract me in order to focus on this question : Is God really real? Seeing the movie God's Not Dead brought me face to face with this question. And so I ask again, and I search.

When I talk to an Atheist, main topics include the question 'If God is real and good, then why does he allow horrible things to happen? If he does, he has horrible moral standards!'

My friend, does he have horrible moral standards, or are we at odds with our desire for freedom of choice and relief from any type of hardship?

Let's consider this in depth. You may be familiar with a book called The Giver. You may be interested to know that they are coming out with a movie based on this story. In this make believe society, all inhabitants conform to a way of life that they agreed on long ago, and of which they submit their children. In an effort to be unaffected by any type of pain, they agreed to live in a world devoid of anything that could cause discomfort. This world they created had no weather changes, so they would never be too hot or too cold. They were given jobs to do, so that no one could be without purpose. Assigning each family a boy and girl child, no mother and father would feel the pain of having no children, and no child would be homeless. With the elderly and unwanted going to 'another city', they would never experience the pain of death.

Would you want to live in this society? Before you answer, you might like to know what this cost them. With no weather changes, there children would never build a snowman or play in the sun. With no choice in jobs, they could not dream and explore. Being given two children, these parents would never experience the joy of a unique family of their own flesh and blood. With the elderly gone, they would not grow old watching their grandchildren grow up. These fabricated livelihoods protected them from immediate threats that seemed life ending, but stripped them of the day to day joys of living life to the full.

Even though we see this scenario in books and in movies, and are appalled by what we see, we still blame God for not creating this seemingly perfect society for us. Why does a good God allow all these things to happen? Why doesn't he protect us from all these things that plague our world? Using the same logic, I must ask, if God indeed created this society for us, would we be calling foul for all the things we were missing out on? We will have to sacrifice these experiences if we want a life devoid of pain.

We are asking God to essentially take away the pain, but in some way leave the experience. That is like going on a water ride to cool off, but requiring that you don't get wet. Or wanting to build a sandcastle, but not get your hands dirty. Every experience is made up of lots of little pieces in a puzzle, and when you start taking these pieces away, you will never have the whole picture.

God allows these experiences because he intends to leave our free will intact. He will not create a society like the one in The Giver, because rather than forcing us to conform to a belief and lifestyle, he invites us to freely choose his love. And when we freely choose, and allow our hearts to truly experience the world he has given us, then we will truly embrace the experience of his love.

Now it's time for you to choose. Would you rather a society without pain or a life with choices and experiences?