Coffee Not Condemnation

There was absolutely nothing I could do that would separate me from His love.

In my quiet time this morning, I was taken back to a sweet season with the Lord when I was learning how that statement wasn’t just a nice sounding sentiment but a truth that I could claim.

It was during a chapter in my life when my heart made a commitment to run back to the Lord regardless of how many times I would fall down or stumble. I was done attempting to navigate my own life; I was done settling for where that road always took me.

I resolved that shame would no longer be the loudest voice, it would no longer convince me insanity (doing the same thing over and over and expecting different result) would eventually work. I had listened to that dreadful, oppressive, insane, voice for years and had finally realized that that voice didn’t lead towards the freedom I desperately desired. That voice wanted to kill and destroy me.

After my heart took this much needed stand to run to Him even in the midst of sin, I thought back on the countless mornings I would show up on His doorstep…again… with an alcohol induced hangover.  And, each time I did, I was somewhat surprised that I didn’t encounter a lecture or that famous disapproving look that dads give you when you screw up. He never grew weary of me and the condition I would show up in. Instead, it was more like “come inside, my sweet Child, I’ve started a pot of coffee.”

As rough as that season was in my life…there was something that prompts me to look back on it today with such humble fondness. I could never repay Him for all the times He opened the door for me and, instead of condemnation, He handed me cup after cup of His love.

This morning these encounters with the Lord made me think of Isaiah 1:18

“Come now. let us reason together,”
says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they will be as white as snow;
though they are as red as crimson,
they will be like wool”

I still love this about the Lord…His no condemnation approachable-ness. This is how we can know if the voice speaking to us is His or not:

His Truth, no matter how uncomfortable or painful it might be to hear at certain seasons in our life, will always be wrapped in a thick layer of grace. ALWAYS. His Truth will always lead to a place of more freedom, not less …more joy, not less.

“So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:

They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.
We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.” Romans 8: 35-39 Message

Bird Brain

“Time keeps on slippin’ slippin’ slippin’ into the future.”

I sat on my couch this morning still half asleep sipping my coffee and those lyrics found their way into my brain. How appropriate. If “spring forward” week had a tagline that could be it.

I had also just looked at a 10 year old memory on Facebook of an interview I had done with my then 5 year old son. 10 years. Wow. Life seemed different back then but I can’t really even put my finger on how life was different.

Oh yeah…that’s right…I was younger and the time change didn’t make me as grumpy as it does today. 😉

For some reason, I looked up the lyrics of the “Fly Like an Eagle” song this morning and one section caught my eye:

I want to fly like an eagle
To the sea
Fly like an eagle
Let my spirit carry me
I want to fly like an eagle
Till I’m free
Oh, Lord, through the revolution

I think the one line I would edit (if I had any right do so) would be “let Your spirit carry me”

Heck, I know where my spirit has carried me in life and the destination felt more like a bird cage than soaring freely in the morning breeze.

After having this thought, I opened up my laptop and started a new online devotional called “Live by the Spirit” by John Piper. These verses, right out the gate, resonated with me:

“Now God has revealed these things to us by the Spirit, since the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts, except his spirit within him? In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who comes from God, so that we may understand what has been freely given to us by God. Corinthians” 2: 10-12

There really are just two choices: Trust and lean on ourselves and our own understanding or trust and lean on Him (as Proverbs 3 tells us).

And, of course, more song lyrics filled my brain again. “Blackbird singing in the dead of night. Take these broken wings and learn to fly…”

…and as soon as they did, I thought about the message from this past weekend at church.

“Brokenness can lead to openness.”   So very true!

And openness can lead to broken wings that learn to fly.  

Lord, break us today.  We want to fly.  

The Big Reveal in our Small World

This morning I thought more about the countless and sometimes very personal ways the Lord will display or reveal His glory to a single person or a group of people. I first read, again, the account of Nathanael meeting Jesus for the first time. Jesus revealed His glory to Nathanael in such a deeply personal way. Nathanael asked Jesus how it is that He knows him and Jesus simply responds, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” (John 1:48) and then Nathanael’s immediate response is “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

I’ve always wanted to know more of what Nathanael must have been thinking about in that moment alone under the fig tree right before Philip invited him to “come and see” Jesus for himself. Was he praying for wisdom or direction or answers? Was he crying out for help? I don’t know, but Nathanael certainly knew, and his decision to accept Philip’s invitation to “come and see” changed the trajectory of his life forever.

Jesus “revealed His glory” to Nathanael and, yet, it was so drastically different than the way He revealed it just a few short verses later in front of a crowd of people at a wedding when he turned water into the best wine people had ever tasted.

“Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee. He revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him.” John 2:11

I love this about Jesus. I love that He will reveal His glory in seemingly insignificant moments along the path just as powerfully and beautifully as the big, public moments. I was reminded of the Winter Snow song again by Audrey Assad.

“Could’ve come like a mighty storm
With all the strength of a hurricane
You could’ve come like a forest fire
With the power of Heaven in Your flame

But You came like a winter snow
Quiet and soft and slow
Falling from the sky in the night
To the earth below”

I love that Jesus doesn’t need a big crowd of people around to display His glory. I love that He desires to display His glory even if (at that moment) only one searching person actually sees Him, believes Him and embraces Him. It fascinates me and humbles me that the God of Universe will bend down so low and touch a single receptive heart like this. In a strange way, turning water into wine is almost expected from a big God…but speaking to and loving a single soul sitting quietly under a fig tree…that’s a miracle!

Show us your Glory today, Lord.  “Let every burning heart be holy ground!”

Roads That Lead Us Home

On the drive to work this morning, I thought quite a bit about my dad. He’s on my heart for several reasons. Tomorrow would have been his 79th birthday. He died 3 1/2 years ago on my 44th birthday. This past weekend my sister-in-law lost her father too. Anytime a loved one or a friend loses a parent, my heart hurts for the ones they’ve left behind and I also think of the passing of my own parents. I guess that’s pretty normal.

This morning, I thought again of how different losing my dad was from losing of my mom. Four years before he passed, my dad had a life altering stroke and was never completely himself again. In so many ways, we grieved the loss of him long before he left this earth. It was a strange and heartbreaking process.

Prior to my dad’s stroke he was a fiercely independent, “young” 72 year old. My dad was a private man and I could never quite figure out where he stood with the Lord. After his stroke, it was hard to find anything good coming out of a situation that leaves a person bedridden for four years. However, beyond what my natural eyes could see, I began to see this sucky situation with my spiritual eyes: my stubborn, independent dad was now God’s captive audience. He had lots of thinking time, lots of alone time, lot’s of time to ask questions, lots of time for much needed, long overdue, tug of war matches with his Creator. I prayed about this quite a bit: redeem even this, Lord!

As I thought about this process again, I remembered a conversation I had with his caretaker, Frances, about 3 months before his death. I blogged about it at the time.

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A few weeks ago, I called Frances as I was driving home from work and she told me that my dad had been talking with God all day long. As soon as she said this, my heart was filled with hope. My dad never talks to God.

After we hung up the phone I began to pray. Lord, nothing is impossible for You. I hope my dad was talking to you and I hope you were talking to him. No one is so far gone (not physically, not spiritually, not mentally) that God is unable to reach them.

“I once was lost, but now I’m found.
Was blind, but now I see.”

Could it be, Lord, in our lost minds, we are truly found? Maybe the route to redemption is that ridiculous. Because Jesus has a track record of showing up right in the middle of crazy, right in the middle of impossible, right in the middle of our hopeless looking circumstances. He enters our chaos and invites us to calm. He enters our pain and covers us in peace. In our gaping lacks we discover overflowing love.

Speak to us, Lord. Meet us in the crazy and offer us the cross.

And I will say it again and claim it again today: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”

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A few days before my dad passed, he told his caretaker that he wanted to go home. Frances assumed he meant his home he had to leave when he had his stroke, the one he had begged to go back to every day…for years. Yet, when she asked him if that was the home he was referring to he responded, “No…I want to go home.”

This morning I had the image of Lieutenant Dan, a character from the movie Forrest Gump come to mind. I thought about the scene where Lieutenant Dan “made his peace with God.” For some reason, it reminded me of my dad and the road that ultimately led…home.

Leading Us Out and Guiding Us Back…

I woke up this morning with a couple of thoughts rolling around my heart. First, was the name of the new series kicking off at church tomorrow morning “Ezra: The Way Back”.  Second, I thought about mouse holes. I know this seems random but let me explain.

Years ago, as this prodigal daughter painfully made her way back to the Lord after running in the wrong direction for years, I sat down one morning during my quiet time and the image of being stuck inside a house with seemingly no way out came to mind.

During this same morning the Lord led me to 1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

The part that struck me that particular morning and offered me hope was, first, that my circumstances were not unique. They were “common to man.” I was not alone. And, second, this verse gave me the assurance I needed that when I was tempted he would always provide a way out.

It’s as this point I remember seeing the image of me being stuck inside a house and, all of a sudden, my eyes (and my heart) came across the way out. I suddenly saw this little ray of light coming in through this small hole in the wall and I knew, right then, that would be the way out, that way would lead to the freedom I was desperately looking for!

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This morning, my quiet time took me to Hosea. It’s always funny when following His breadcrumbs lead me to small books of the Bible I’m not as familiar with…I always end up having to flip to the Table of Contents to help me find the page numbers. Anyways, here were the words I read this morning. They immediately made me think of the blog post I wrote last week called, “It Can Hurt Before it Heals”

“Come, let us return to the Lord.
For he has torn us,
and he will heal us;
he has wounded us,
and he will bind up our wounds.
He will revive us after two days,
and on the third day he will raise us up
so we can live in his presence.
Let us strive to know the Lord.
His appearance is as sure as the dawn.
He will come to us like the rain,
like the spring showers that water the land.” Hosea 6:1-3

As I meditated on these verses, the one that resonated most with me this morning was, “Let us strive to know the Lord.” Everything comes back and hinges on what we are striving for. These verses remind us that our goal and what we need to chase after more than anything else is “to know the Lord.”

Lord, there are lots of good things we can strive for in this life…but everything pales in comparison to this one. Lord, help us to desire this goal more than all the others. It’s this goal that always leads us out and guides us back to You.

What do you want me to do for you?

I’ve never been big into Valentine’s Day. I’m sure this indifference for the “day of love” stems from my childhood and listening to my dad always say that it’s just a day for card companies like Hallmark to get rich.

Yet, each year, I still have this desire to pick up my son’s favorite candy for him. This morning, I hid a bag of Sour Patches and a cookies and cream chocolate bar behind my back in both my hands and told him to “pick a hand.” He picked the left hand and I handed him the Sour Patches. I asked him to pick another hand. He picked the right hand but, by then, I had moved the chocolate bar to my left hand. I asked him to pick another hand and he picked the left hand again. I revealed the chocolate bar and handed it to him. Then, my son asked me if I happened to have anymore hands behind my back. 😉

For some reason, while I took my dogs for their morning walk and thought more about this particular day on the calendar, the question Jesus once asked a blind beggar came to mind. Jesus was walking along with his disciples and this man kept crying out to him. When the crowd around him told the man to be quiet, he cried out even more. He caused such a commotion that Jesus commanded the man be brought to him. “When he drew near, He asked him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” (Luke 18:40-41)

The man responded, “Lord, I want to see!” (v 41)

As I thought about this interaction, the more I realized that it’s such an appropriate story for the “day of love”. Whenever I read this account, I try to imagine how this scene played out. I can see the humble, persistent, desperate expression all over this blind man’s face. I can picture him standing in front of Jesus with tears rolling down his cheeks, his lips quivering as he answers Jesus’ question. “Lord, I want to see!”

I don’t know if I can think of anything more loving for the “day of love” than this. Whether we realize it or not, at the core of all our requests, of all our deepest longings, is this desperate desire to see. Each of us longs to leave the darkness behind and live in the glorious light of truth and grace! This is the love story of Jesus. He hears our cries and meets us in our dark worlds and asks us “What do you want Me to do for you?

It can hurt before it heals

The other morning I read through John 6 again. John is probably one of my favorite books in the Bible.

I think one of the reasons my heart is often drawn to read John is because Jesus, the Great I AM, in several different places through this particular book, reminds us of who He is. It’s hard truth that made his listeners squirm or even walk away.

When we try to rationalize the path we are on or the choices we make Jesus says: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father accept through Me.”

When we are tempted to have anything in life other than Jesus feed us or try to satisfy our deepest joys or sustain the longings in our heart and soul, Jesus says: “I am the bread of life. No one who comes to Me will ever be hungry and no one who believes in Me will ever be thirsty again.”

When we mistakenly follow the crowd down the wrong path Jesus says: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

When we are tempted to lose hope because all we can see is the seemingly endless valley of pain or despair, Jesus says “I am the resurrected life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.”

John is full of hard, uncomfortable truth.

Yet, truth will often hurt before it heals. I can say this because there have been seasons in my own life when taking hold of His hand and trusting Him as we walked through pain and hard truth together, hurt like hell. But, He has always, always, always been faithful. The dawn breaks and my eyes can see the sunrise again.

Jesus and Peter

This morning as I drove into the office I started thinking about Peter and how he is such a great reminder for us as to how easily we can take our eyes off of God’s faithfulness and focus too much on our circumstances. As I drove along I thought about the well-known account of how Peter once walked on water with Jesus.

Jesus, I’ve walked on water with You too!

Yet, still, just like Peter, there are times in my life when I easily forget this truth. I take my eyes off the One who calls me out upon the water and look at the impossible circumstances crashing all around me and, just like Peter…I sink. And, just like Peter, I need rescuing…again. Sigh.

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Shortly after arriving to work, we came together as a staff for our weekly time of worship and reflection. Can you guess what the topic of the short devotional time was centered around? Peter. It was the other well-known account I love so much. Even after Peter’s multiple denials of knowing Christ on the night Jesus was arrested, the resurrected Jesus still comes to Peter, cooks him breakfast and simply asks him…do you love Me?  (John 21)

As I thought more about this beautiful exchange between Jesus and Peter, a few more of my favorite Peter memories came to mind.

I thought about a morning several years ago when I was driving home from the grocery store and came across a Lost sheep.

I thought about a Third Day song that played at a pivotal moment in my life during my early days of sobriety called “Can’t Take the Pain” It was at that moment, as I listened to the lyrics of this song that the depth of His love suddenly hit me. He not only went to the cross to endure the pain and the shame of my sins…He also willingly took the blame…a sinless man raised his hand and stepped in front of the firing squad…for me.

No, I didn’t see this one comin’
It suddenly snuck up on me
I can’t say you didn’t tell me so
I can’t say you didn’t warn me

Well I can’t take the pain,
Knowing that I left you
And I can’t bare the shame 
Of knowing I was wrong

But I’ll take the blame for everything that I’ve done
But I can’t take the pain of leaving you alone
leaving you alone

I was there when they accused you
But I guess I was too afraid
Not just once, and not just twice
But three times I denied your name

Well I can’t take the pain,
Knowing that I left you
And I can’t bare the shame 
Of knowing I was wrong

But I’ll take the blame for everything that I’ve done
But I can’t take the pain of leaving you alone
leaving you alone

I never thought I’d get
Even a second chance
But you’ve given that, and so much more
And then for every time I ever did deny,
You asked me if I love you
You know I do, Lord

So I’m off to follow in your steps
It won’t be easy, it’s safe to say
Only two roads I can walk on down
The one less traveled is the one you paved

But I can’t take the pain,
Knowing that I left you
And I can’t bare the shame 
Of knowing I was wrong
But I’ll take the blame for everything that I’ve done
But I can’t take the pain of leaving you alone
leaving you alone

Lord, you took the pain
Even though I left you
And you took the shame, and you made it all your own
Why’d you take the blame for everything that I’ve done?
Lord, you took the pain, you and you alone

You and you alone.”

Where are You staying?

“Again the next day, John was standing with two of his disciples.  When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look! The Lamb of God!”

The two disciples heard him say this and followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and noticed them following Him, He asked them, “What are you looking for?”

They said to Him, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are You staying?” “Come and you’ll see,” He replied. So they went and saw where He was staying, and they stayed with Him that day. It was about 10 in the morning. John 1 35-39

I was reading this passage this morning and the portion that stood out to me was the disciples question to Jesus when he asked them what they were looking for. Their response is interesting to me. The most pressing question on their hearts was “Where are You staying?” I’m naturally a nosey person (just ask my husband and son) so I think my first question would have been “Hey, Jesus, where are You going?!?”

I also think it’s human nature to be more curious about where someone is going rather than where they are staying especially when you see them on the move and you are following behind them. Yet, it appears the disciples cared more deeply about being with Jesus wherever he was instead finding out what his future trip itinerary looked like. It’s like their hearts just craved to be wherever He was and that was enough for them. At that moment, they didn’t need Him to turn the page. Their question gives me a glimpse into the posture of their hearts: Jesus, wherever Your resting place is, that’s where we want to be too. Where You are leading and where You are going isn’t something we need to know right now. Being with You and spending time with You is what matters most at this moment.  

Lord, let that be our heart’s posture too.

Where my Soul is at Home

I discover God’s greatness in weakness.

I discover His love in all the lacks laid bare.

The weight of His Glory finds me there.

It brings me to my knees in awe, then lifts me up in arms of grace.

It whispers to my weary soul.

I AM. enough.

My soul aches for this place.

This is the home it seeks.

I see it in the shepherd boy singing songs to his sheep on a starry night.

I see it in my sweet Savior’s “no crib for a bed” birth.

I see it in the father who cries out “I do believe, help my unbelief!”

I see it in Peter the Rock after fear had won and his faith had crumbled and he responds to Jesus’ repeated question “Peter, do you love me?” You know I do, Lord!

I see it in the prostitute who knelt down in overwhelming gratitude, washing her Savior’s feet with her own tears and drying them with her hair.

I see it in Paul’s humble and honest “I am a wretched man…who will rescue me!” admission.

I see it in a Sunday greeter serving others through her widowed tears of grief.

Oh Lord, it’s these broken blemish filled places where I can see Your son rise!

I can’t find it in procedures. I can’t see it in the polished to perfection shine.

I find it here.

Here in the midst of pain.

Here in the midst of holes.

Here in the midst of wrong turns, unanswered questions, and delays.

Here I am, Lord… speak…Your servant is listening.