Monday, July 29, 2013

Hearts open

My heart opens out and up, and I glimpse the wonder of God working in my life and the lives of others.

Why do we hurt? Why do we get bitter? I've been learning, and I've been giving thanks. Giving thanks to God helps us to trust God. We thank him for what he is doing and what he has done, and seeing all of his mighty works in the past gives us a hope for more mighty works in the future. So I thank him for the hard, the painful, the bitter. And I open my heart to Him and to what he's doing.

Hearts with complete trust in God are soft hearts, because hearts that trust in him have the Spirit's heart beating with their own. And it's in this syncing of heart beats that we come to life.

And it's the failure to sync that kills our hearts. It's the failure to keep trusting the Lord that causes us to fall apart. I take a breath, and see distrust in my own face. A distrust that He really can work out everything for my good. A distrust in his plan...and instead of falling into myself, I try to allow my heart to fall out to God and to others.

I don't like being vulnerable, and living with an open heart is the last thing that comes naturally. If I shut off my heart and refuse to allow anything to phase it, my heart feels protected. But that's when bitterness and pain creep up on me. And I fail to see them, or if I do, I refuse to stop them.

Living in freedom, living fully, is about allowing God to work in and through you by reaching out to others, and most importantly, up to God. When I trust God to live through me, and to heal the brokenness inside of me, I can open up to others. It's not about me. It's about God. And so I have nothing to fear in living with this heart that is open.

It hurts. It hurts to live open to the people around you and allow them to see you. But in some ways, it's a good pain. But only when you're allowing God to shine through. On my own I am dirty and ugly. I am the undesirable leper who becomes beautiful when He heals me. When my heart trusts in him, I am healed. And isn't it in my weakness and brokenness that God's greatness comes through? My bitterness turns to love. My hurt becomes my understanding and compassion. In the hands of the Almighty, every thing in me, and everything that has happened to me, turns out to be a blessing to me and to others. And I am beautiful. 

And it's in loosing control of this crazy heart that I learn that God is already in control. And I realize that controlling these emotions is simply a distrust that God can work through them. And without them, I feel dead. And I know that with the pain, it's o.k. to cry out with God and say "My God, why have you forsaken me?" But instead of asking I push away. And wasn't that what the thief did? Was not distrust on his breath. And the other man? Wasn't it the question on his lips that brought him to God?

And I ask "why?" and his all consuming love comes and soothes the breaks, and he puts me back together. And then I see it clear - to trust in the Lord with all of my heart is what will make me whole. And thanksgiving is how I learn to trust. And I continue to write my own one thousand gifts. And I already see the change.

I give thanks constantly, and I learn to accept all things as grace. And my heart begins to come back to life.

Monday, July 15, 2013


Thanksgiving - we are to be filled with it. And I know this. I know that Christians are constantly told to be thankful, and aren't we as children taught to always thank? And aren't we taught to thank after what has been done, and never expected to thank when told "no"? And is this really the right way or is it the world's view? Thankfulness when getting what we want, and anger when we don't? And we think we're entitled, and didn't Adam and Eve do the same?

I look to scripture for this, for a picture of what it's like to give thanks. And I drop my eyes and my heart grows weary. We've been taught the wrong way all along.

To give thanks - what does it mean? I read the words of Ann Voskamp and I try to grasp it. That we are entitled to nothing and that all is grace. And that when all is grace, we can give thanks for everything. And we must look at the world through his lenses - and we must be in awe and then thanks begins to form. But it takes looking. It takes acknowledging.

I start with the first people, in the beginning of Genesis. And I begin to see a trend through the entirety of scripture. In the beginning why did Eve sin? Instead of a heart full of thanksgiving for all of God's grace around her in the garden, her heart turned cold with thanklessness. She heard the whisper of the serpent, she heard him ask why God was with-holding something that belonged to her. Instead of Grace, rights consumed her.

I know that I would have fallen prey just like Eve. When I don't think I have enough, when I feel others are taking advantage of me or my time, when I don't see God as enough. That's when thanklessness creeps into my heart an inch at a time. And I didn't even know it, and now it claims my heart and squeezes out the light. And there's no release from this dark outlook on life and God unless I give thanks. And I don't want to give thanks. It seems meaningless. 

What does Romans say, and how much of myself can I see...

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

And I read it slow and I read it again. And won't you really read it with your heart with me? I can put my name in for "they". And the Israelites share this in common with me. It's not that we don't see God. For even without his word, we see him at work in all of creation. And I refuse to honor him - I don't credit to him for everything around me. As though their are accidents. And not seeing him as the one who gives all these amazing gifts, I refuse to give thanks. My thanksgiving comes with our nation and at our feast we go around the table saying we are thankful for....I usually say my family. And is it that I struggle to come up with other things because I don't see other things as grace? And my thanks feels empty because it's not a part of the way I live and so it is not a part of my heart.

Throughout scripture, I see people suffer trials, and then come through with God at their side. And they have learned something more, or so they hope. And we all mistakes in this race, and we detest the hard hills when we feel we are running at too high altitudes and we can't breath for all the pain. But the truth is, we are getting stronger. We are seeing God in all his provision, and it helps us to give thanks as we feel a release from the struggle. And this thanksgiving is this fresh air and we feel alive. And I wonder if we gave thanks even during the climb, if our lungs would be full of God. And perhaps the run wouldn't be as hard. And we could actually finish well.

And Jesus shows me how to give thanks. And he shows me when. It's not after things have been resolved. Sometimes God wants us to give thanks, and then the resolve comes after.

41 So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, "Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 "I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me." 43 When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth." 44 The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go."

Jesus gave thanks before Lazarus came forth. And he gave thanks before he broke the bread and fed the thousands. And I only thank after? And perhaps it needs to be a thanks for God giving what's best, instead of thankfulness for answers we like. And can we teach this to our children? Teach them to live in a state of thankfulness for all things. For the vegetables on their plates, and the "no's" of life? Because a "no" simply means a yes to something better. 

We can only live the way we were created to when we start saying "no" to thanklessness, and when we choose to say no to the serpents lie.  When we thank God for everything around us, that is when we glorify him because that's when we see him for who he is - James 1:17  Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

And isn't this truly surrender? Excepting everything as a gift and letting go and keeping our eyes on God, and giving thanks? 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Striving, surrendering, falling apart.

My mind gets caught on all the does and don'ts of Bible study book keeps telling me to work out my salvation. I want to hind under a pillow, to hide my face of shame and failure.

Philippians 2:12-18

12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18 So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

I lift up my head when I hear the words "children of God" I look up to God. 

I can not work out my own salvation...not on my own. I fail miserably every time I try. And from around me I can hear voices of Christians around the world yelling accusations.  They say I've not tried hard enough. That I have not submitted myself entirely. That I don't read my Bible enough....It's never enough. 

I remember the phrase that I repeat to my damaged heart by the hour - "look out and up" Look out to others and up to God. And as I do my perspective changes. Instead of hearing these accusations I hear desperate cries for help. Because these same people are just like me...they are falling apart and they need to know that God is the one who puts together the broken pieces. They yell because they see these faults in themselves. They cry out because not even these things are enough. And I know what they need - for God to be enough.

God is enough. He's enough to work in you and to save you. And my tired body gives up the fight. And his arms hold me up because I can not stand on my own. And that is when I read those verses again and say - obedience starts when you learn to give up the fight and allow God to fight for you. 

It's in that moment of complete failure that God says "just love me". And the greatest commandment to love rings true. "for it is God who works in you" and he will work to create a masterpiece when your heart is consumed with love because love breaks down barriers. And isn't that truly the problem? Isn't Paul telling us to allow God into every part of our lives. And isn't my greatest hurt surrounded by walls and isn't it soothed when God's love and mercy surround it.

And here stops the striving, because in God's love the walls are broken down. And I'm freed to live in complete freedom and obedience. And how could I grumble when my eyes are focused away from myself. And I begin to shine. I shine through the cracks of my brokenness and his love pours out because it can do nothing else. 

So I take the step of surrender, and I open my heart. This love consumes and I am whole.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The breathing

A life of blessing, I breath deep and breath out. Every intake of air a blessing, every out breathing a praise. Because every breath I take is a gift, and every response must be thanks. I recognize the gifts, and I give thanks. And it becomes a mantra. And what a blessing it is to have a reminder that is sustaining me.
Blessings and praises. These are the way of life - the breathing in and out. And we can't truly live unless we have these. Heartache takes away my breath. It makes breathing painful. My eyes search for any blessing, my heart gives thanks for the unseen blessings I can't see.
Mistakes and hardship are a part of the Christian life. I've been told this many times. That's it's a characteristic. My heart rebels against the idea. I breath in and out.
The heartache that makes you take a sharp intake of air, the stress that overwhelms and you breath slowly out. Longer intakes, longer out takes. And I see a pattern. A pattern that God created into our very bodies. More blessings.
It's in the hardships that we must breath in - to truly overcome, we must see God's blessings. We must breath in his blessings, and keep praising him. We breath slow to stay calm - we take long breaths. Christ sustains us as we number our blessings and when praises never cease on our lips. These are the breaths of our souls.