Love is a Battlefield

battlefield

One of my favorite places to run is the Chickamauga Battlefield. I’ve written before about one of the reasons why I love running in this location.  You can read that post here. There’s something significant to me about finding beauty and enjoyment in a place that once held so much pain and destruction. It reminds me of redemption and if you’ve been reading this blog long enough then you know I kind of have this soft place in my heart for anything redemption related.

Now, on a completely different note, another thought typically pops into my brain when I’m out in the battlefield. I’m a word girl so words tend to cross my mind in ticker tape fashion. I was also a child of the 80s and songs (good or bad) from that era are embedded (unfortunately or fortunately) forever into my memory. When I’m in the battlefield the 80s song titled Love is a Battlefield by Pat Benatar will often cross my mind.

When it came to mind this weekend, I couldn’t help but think how true that statement is in the context of how Jesus fights to reign in our hearts. His love for us truly is a battle and our heart is the field or the ground that Jesus desires to claim victory over.

The other morning, as this thought was percolating in my brain (and, yes, I chose percolating because I happen to be drinking coffee) these words started playing in my ears.

“I’m lifting up my hands
I’m laying down my arms
God, take me as I am
God, take over my heart” I Surrender All

We must lay down our arms (our weapons) if the Lord will ever be victorious in our hearts. The battle is won when we choose to surrender to Him.

And then, like a flood, the lyrics of other battle songs rushed through my mind…

“Kneeling on this battle ground
Seeing just how much You’ve done
Knowing every victory
Was Your power in us” Never Once Matt Redman

“I know who goes before me
I know who stands behind
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side.”  Whom Shall I Fear Chris Tomlin

Troubles surround me, chaos abounding.
My soul will rest in You
I will not fear the war, I will not fear the storm.
My help is on the way, my help is on the way” Always Kristin Stanfil

Here’s what these lyrics help me to keep a firm grip on…

God’s past faithfulness in my life.  I can look in the rearview mirror and remember that surrender wasn’t a death sentence...it was an invitation for more life…more life than I could ever have imagined.

God’s future faithfulness.  No matter what trouble stretches out in front of me, He assures my soul that this surrender was not a one time deal.  He fought for me then. He fights for me today, and He will fight for me tomorrow too.

God’s faithfulness when the wheels come off. No matter how strong the storm is around me, no matter how much it takes away, I can find rest and safety in the shadow of His wings.  Nothing reaches me without first going through Him. He has the final say…always.

This Quote Makes Me Squirm

confusion 2

“Let your need for clarity be the reason you lean into confusion.” Dan Rockwell

I read this leadership quote as I scrolled Twitter last week. Do those words make anyone else squirm?  I squirm because they are true. I squirm because leaning into confusion is often a painful (yet necessary) path we need to journey down in order to make progress in life.

Even though there’s a part of me that feels uneasy reading those words there’s another part of me that loves those words. Why?  Because so often in life the truth can hurt before the truth can heal.  

It’s easier to say “that doesn’t make sense” and simply walk away or shut down. We can remain in “control” when we choose this path.  It’s harder and requires vulnerability and humility to plop ourselves down in the middle of all the unanswered questions and say “I’m sticking around to understand…even if I have to walk through some valleys of pain in order to get there.”

Yet, I’ve learned through my own journey that running away from confusion just delays and prolongs the pain and confusion. The answers and solutions I am looking for are most often found in the one place my heart would rather avoid.  

Where do you need clarity?

What uncomfortable situation or relationship do you need to lean into in order to find that clarity?

Taking a Drink of Glory

sunrise

Jesus said to her, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” – John 11:40 

This was the comment Jesus made to Martha right before he brought her brother, Lazarus, back to life. I love this question. Those words stir up such a hopeful anticipation down in my soul. And that hope wells up to the surface, it pushes through my lack of faith. It brings my doubting Thomas tendency right down to its knees…and for the briefest of moments my soul grabs hold of that glory.  I cup it in my hands and take a drink. It fills me up, a weary traveler who is witnessing the most brilliant sunrise…one you wish would stay stretched across the morning sky forever…GLORY!

I started writing this post this morning while listening to Set a Fire. “Set a fire down in my soul that I can’t contain that I can’t control. I want more of you, God.” It’s the prayer on my heart today.

Lord, remove any stones in front of ours hearts today and bring what’s dead to life again. Give us more of You. More overflows. More sunrises. More moments and days and years and seasons of believing and seeing Your glory on fire in our lives and in the lives all around us.  

******

PS…After writing this post, I took my son to school. On the drive back home I heard this new song from Passion Band, Remember. Thank you for the reminder, Lord!

Leaving in Dark…Returning in Light

see too

I’ve had spit on the brain for the past several days. I shared with you all the reason why in my previous post, When Spit Hits the Ground. Ever since writing the title of that particular post, I keep thinking about the story in scripture of a blind man whose life changed forever after encountering Jesus. I’ve written about this story before but, in the past, I’ve focused more on the verses where his sight is restored and then the crazy interrogation he receives from the Pharisees. I’ve always loved the once blind man’s response to all the questions.  “Whether or not he’s (Jesus) a sinner, I don’t know. One thing I do know:  I was blind, and now I can see!” (John  9:25)

“I don’t know. One thing I do know:  I was blind, and now I can see!”

I love those words.  They’re honest. Sometimes, we have no idea how Jesus was able to come into our situations and heal, transform, make new, or redeem…but the proof is in the pudding.  And, that encounter, that one thing, has the capacity to capture our hearts forever. 

But let’s back up to the part of the story in John that’s been on my heart ever since I heard the spit sermon at church.

“As He was passing by, He saw a man blind from birth.  His disciples questioned Him: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” Jesus answered. “This came about so that God’s works might be displayed in him. We must do the works of Him who sent Me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work.  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” After He said these things He spit on the ground, made some mud from the saliva, and spread the mud on his eyes. “Go,” He told him, “wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means “Sent”). So he left, washed, and came back seeing.” John 9:1-7

After reading this, I did a little research on why Jesus might have spit before healing the man. I wondered this because we know that on many instances, Jesus simply used his words. (“Take up your mat and walk” John 5:8)  Jesus didn’t “need” the mud or the spit in order to heal. I discovered that Scripture references three occasions where Jesus used spit prior to healing someone. Mark 7:33  and Mark 8:23 are the other instances. I also discovered that one of the plausible reasons why Jesus did this is because during that time period and in that culture saliva was often seen as a valid treatment for blindness. “Since the people of that day had a high view of saliva’s healing properties, Jesus used spit to communicate His intention to heal. Those being healed would have naturally interpreted Jesus’ spitting as a sign that they would soon be cured. ”  -GotQuestions.Org

“Jesus used spit to communicate His intention to heal.”  I tend to agree with this explanation.

It makes sense to me.  Jesus was, after all, always coming down to our level to illustrate a point and to communicate His message more clearly.  Once he communicates His message it is then up to us to receive the message and listen to instruction. I wonder if this is why Jesus instructed the man to go away and wash in the pool before he was completely healed?  A part of receiving healing is doing so with a heart open and willing to listen to instructions.  It becomes our choice as to whether or not we listen to instruction. The blind man could have refused to go to the pool. He could have come to the conclusion that Jesus was a quack and just walked away. I have to wonder if anyone else had ever tried to use spit on this man before and it just didn’t work?

I like how John makes a point of telling us that the pool Jesus asked the man to wash in means “sent.”  Sent is part of the man’s healing journey. This reminds me, again, how Jesus is our example to follow. Jesus was sent by Father to give us life, we have life through Him when “we” (the ones in need of healing) accept and receive His healing and are then sent by Jesus.

I’m not sure how to end this post other than to say I’m glad this encounter is included in the Bible. It reminds me that so much of receiving healing from Jesus requires us to have a heart willing to receive. It also reminds me that, sometimes, (most of time) we don’t have all the answers as to how it all happened. Like the once blind man, we can’t dot all the “i”s or cross all the “t”s but we do know ONE THING for certain, we were blind and now we see.

When Spit Hits the Ground

spit

“God came to dig through the snow and show you which way is up.”

As I listened to the message at church last week, I jotted down those words in my notes.  We’ve been in a series called Contrary to Popular Belief and looking closely at the Sermon on the Mount. To illustrate a point in last week’s message, our pastor shared an interesting life saving tip if ever we were to find ourselves buried in an avalanche.

After tumbling down a mountain and being thrown in all different positions, it’s impossible for an avalanche victim to know for certain which way to begin digging in order to find freedom from the snow covering them up. The life saving tip?  Spit.

Though our hearts and minds sometimes deceive us, gravity won’t.  Spit will always fall in the direction of the ground. Spit will give us a clear and accurate answer as to which way we need to begin digging in order to reach safety.  After listening to this story, I kept thinking,  “Lord, I’ve been on this earth 43 years. How is it that I’ve never heard this story before?”  I love hearing and learning new things like this. I love how simple stories like this can hold such important life applications for us too.

I may never find myself trapped in an actual snow avalanche, but I have most certainly found myself (during some dark and cold seasons of my life) trapped in one of life’s many treacherous avalanches. The storms of this life have buried me before. The consequences of some bad decisions and choices have snowballed out of control before. I have tumbled painfully down steep hills before. I have known the panic of feeling trapped, with seemingly no way out.

The good news?  Gravity doesn’t lie when we’re trapped under whatever avalanche might be weighing down on us.  It points us in the direction of truth, freedom and a spacious place to plant our feet again!

I’m sharing the whole message below.  Take time to watch!

 

Breadcrumbs to Your Doorstep

My son awoke about the same time I did this morning.  He was eager to jump out of bed to see how much snow had fallen through the night. It was just a dusting but he hoped it would be enough for a couple of sled rides down the steep hill in our backyard.

It’s the 23rd day of the month so I opened my Bible to Psalm 23 and read the familiar words as my son snuggled up next to me. I can’t read these words without thinking about my mom. They were some of the last words my mom ever said to me, right after her joy-filled eyed locked with my fear-filled eyes and she told me this…”You don’t have to worry about me. I’m going to be fine.”

I’ve written about this moment quite a bit on this blog.  It’s a defining moment in my faith journey and one my heart and mind have revisited countless times over the last 24 years.  It’s a gift I carry with me. I continue to learn lessons and find encouragement from this moment no matter how many times I unwrap it.

As I unwrapped it again this morning with Sean by my side, a prayer stirred up inside.

Lord, I hope the last words I say on this earth leave behind beauty like the ones my mom left for me. I hope the last words I say to my son become a gift he can unwrap too. I pray they encourage him. I pray they are breadcrumbs that lead him to Your doorstep. 

The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I lack.
 He lets me lie down in green pastures;
He renews my life;
He leads me along the right paths
for His name’s sake.
Even when I go through the darkest valley,
I fear no danger,
for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff—they comfort me.
 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
as long as I live.- Psalm 23

PS… Just enough snow to sled on!

snow

How a Persistent Pup Reminds Me to Hold On


 

Rooney-hope
He stays in this hopeful position most of the day. Always ready in case any of his people get bit by the play bug.

Yesterday, after sharing the above words along with this picture of my dog, Rooney, on Facebook, I started thinking more about the beauty of hope and living life expectantly. This picture adequately reflects the kind of hope I want to possess as I fight the good fight of faith. (2 Timothy 4:7)

I desire a faith and a hope that doesn’t give up, always perseveres, and waits with alert expectation.  

The first piece of Scripture I found myself reading this morning is in Romans 5: 1-5

“Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” 

A few more verses flooded my heart this morning while thinking about the importance of fighting this fight of faith and keeping a firm grip on this hope we’ve been given.

“Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening…” 1 Samuel 3:10  We show up expectant with ears and hearts ready to receive and to learn.

“I do believe help my unbelief…” Mark 9:24 We show up humbly. We don’t let our doubts and our mustard seed moments of faith keep us from approaching the cross for the answers and the peace that we desperately need and desire.

“As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more…” Psalm 71:14-16
We hold on through the dark. Because we know, no matter how painful or senseless life can sometimes feel, this hope of His Glory wraps itself around hearts and minds and points us to the Truth that is bigger…bigger than what our eyes can see and our minds can comprehend. 1 Corinthians 2: 1-16, Isaiah 55: 8-9

Lord, help us to keep our eyes fixed firmly on You today.  Help us to position our hearts so we are ready to receive whatever You desire to teach us.  Continue to help us to live with a sense of relentless expectation that you are indeed up to something good…something so much bigger than we can fully comprehend.  

Gulps of Grace

Holy

It was a challenge to jump out of bed as soon as my alarm sounded this morning. I typically love 5:00am wake up calls. And, most of the time, my mental alarm clock has already gone off inside and I’m eager to start the day.  Yet, this morning, it took me a few extra minutes for my heart, mind and body to catch up with the idea.  My bed was cozy and warm and the air around me was cool. My brain was already swimming with a list of tasks.  I whispered a short prayer   “Lord, help me to serve You today” and, with that, I willed myself to put my feet on the ground.

I noticed something about this morning’s prayer. It differed slightly from the mornings when I’m eager to get out of bed.  On those mornings, my one sentence prayer is a much more enthusiastic question…”Lord how can I serve You today?”  But today’s prayer was simply a request for help.

I started my coffee in the coffee machine and felt compelled to listen to a song before diving into scripture.  My heart needs to be reminded, Lord.  Two songs came to mind Here’s My Heart, Lord and Holy.  I guess it’s a David Crowder kind of morning.  I opened my laptop, inserted my earplugs, and turned on Holy.

I can’t comprehend your infinitely beautiful and perfect love
Oh I’ve dreamed dreams of majesty as brilliant as a billion stars
But they’re never bright enough after all

You are Holy
Oh Holy
Holy, Holy, Holy

I will sing a song for you my God with everything I have in me
But it’s never loud enough after all

You are Holy
Oh Holy
Holy, Holy, Holy

Heaven and earth are full, full of your glory, glory
My soul it overflows full of your glory, your glory
Oh blessed is he who reigns, full of your glory, your glory
My cup, it can’t contain all of your glory, your glory
Hosanna we are found after all you are

Holy
Oh Holy
Holy, Holy, Holy

I can’t comprehend
You’re infinitely beautiful

I’ve always loved this song.  It reminds me of how small I am. It reminds me of my need for a God who holds all the wisdom and strength I will require to make it from one moment to the next… from feet hit the ground time to head hit the pillow time.

Everything we need… found in Him and through Him.

Deep breaths.

Deep gulps of grace and more grace.

Lord, how can I serve You today?

As Long As I Live

strength

As I read through Psalm 116 this morning, these were the verses that resonated the most with me

Because He has turned His ear to me,
I will call out to Him as long as I live. (v 2)

The Lord is gracious and righteous;
our God is compassionate.
The Lord guards the inexperienced;
I was helpless, and He saved me. (v 5,6)

How can I repay the Lord
for all the good He has done for me?
 I will take the cup of salvation
and call on the name of Yahweh. (v 12,13)

I will offer You a sacrifice of thanksgiving
and call on the name of Yahweh. (v 17)

It’s incredible to me how one moment or season in time when our hearts finally grasp that it was God and not us can forever change the course of our life and our heart’s desire. This is why trying to make someone follow and trust Jesus is not my goal in life.  I can’t make anyone do this. I can’t get inside someone’s heart and mind and give them this moment with Jesus. They personally need to experience that a-ha moment. And that moment doesn’t come in a one size fits all package. (Thank goodness!) That moment can be big, small, loud, soft, full of healing or full of suffering… because Jesus enters our situations and meets us where we are. The only assurance we have (and the only one we need) is that Jesus has promised if we seek Him with all our hearts then we will find Him.  

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On the drive to work yesterday I heard a story about a 19-year-old girl who lifted a truck off her dad.  The truck was in the family garage and was on fire and her dad was trapped underneath it.  In this interviewshe said she felt like she had super human strength and when she lifted the truck it was like lifting a sheet of paper. We all have heard (and maybe some of you have personally experienced) how adrenaline can kick in and help a person through life threatening situations.  It’s truly incredible how our bodies are designed!  I’m thankful our Designer included this special feature.

After the story aired, the radio DJ asked listeners to call in if they had ever been given superhuman strength. They wanted to hear other stories. I didn’t call in but I did take a moment to remember my superhuman strength moment. In my case, it wasn’t physical strength; it was spiritual strength. And, it was the same moment when I knew that Psalm 116: 2 would be my goal for the rest my life.  

Here’s an excerpt from that moment.  You can read the whole story in my eBook:  

That morning was different from all the other mornings. I had a strength inside of me and calm inside of me that I had never known. It was like the Lord had reached down into the pit I had been trapped in for years and grabbed hold of my hand. This time I wasn’t going to let go. For the first time in the process, I was depending on His strength and not my own. He was fighting the battle for me. The months to come were by no means easy, but I had a BIG GOD fighting on my behalf.

Do you have a superhuman strength story?  I would love to hear it.

When Even Our Best Has Cracks…

fire

As I drove to work yesterday morning I was thinking about the day/week ahead. And, as I did, I found myself whispering a prayer of acknowledgement.  Lord, even my best has cracks.  

I know this prayer was triggered from the post I wrote last week where I shared with you the important differences I am learning between perfection and excellence.

I then thought about this funny, yet accurate, quote from Groucho Marx: “Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light.” 

Because of the word blessed, this Marx quote immediately made me think of the Sermon on the Mount. And, guess what? The message at church this past weekend was focused around The Sermon on the Mount. The message series we are currently doing at church is called “Contrary to Popular Belief”.

So much of what Jesus preached went against the grain and contrary to popular belief: the weak are strong, the last become first, turn the other cheek, find your life by losing it.

In many ways, I think this Marx quote could easily have been included in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5). I can see Jesus standing in front of a crowd and saying those words. Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light. It’s our lack, our not good enoughs, our failures, our wrong turns, our broken parts that invite us to take a journey to the One and with the One who is all-sufficient, more than enough, full of grace, redemption, and healing. Our cracks make room for this Light to shine into our lives and into our situations. Our cracks allow this Light to come in and do what light does best: illuminate that which is hidden or in the dark.  And once this perfect light begins to shine on our lack and on our need, we begin to understand that the crack isn’t really the part on which we need to fixate or dwell…because cracks can’t hold a candle to His consuming fire.  :-)

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us hold on to grace. By it, we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and awe,  for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:28-29

You’re a fountain of cascading light, 
and you open our eyes to light. Psalm 36:9 (Message)