Author Archives: Eileen

Morsels for the Marathon

 “This is eternal life:
that they may know You, the only true God,
and the One You have sent—Jesus Christ.” John 17:3

I loved the reminder at church last night of the true definition of eternal life.  It’s not getting to heaven; it’s knowing Christ. Knowing Christ is the ultimate treasure.

I smiled when I heard this theme of God as our treasure being woven through the message. My #OneWord for the year seems to be popping up everywhere I look and everywhere I turn… and it’s only February!

Eternal Life: It’s not a destination. It’s a relationship that can start today...on this side of the pearly gates and streets of gold.  Truly knowing someone requires that we commit to being in relationship with them. We journey with them. We spend time with them. We value them.  We can not truly come to know and trust someone unless we make the choice to carve out intentional time to get to know them.

Last night, I picked up another beautiful breadcrumb.  That’s what I like to call “God-incidences”

I’ve said it before but it came to mind again this morning.  Jesus is the Bread of Life ( John 6:35). If this is true, we will see the breadcrumbs of His goodness scattered along our paths. Every single morsel is significant. Every single morsel provides nourishment. Every single morsel sustains us and gives us energy for the next step.  Oh, my friends, look for the breadcrumbs today! Come, taste, and see!

“Taste and see that the Lord is good. How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!” Psalm 34:8

“Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are blessed,
for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6

“All eyes look to You, and You give them their food at the proper time.”  Psalm 145:15

even you

I have instructed you today—even you—
so that your confidence may be in the Lord.  Proverbs 22:19

It was this verse and the two little words sandwiched in the middle that captured my thoughts this morning.

even you

There is something about those two words that serve up an additional heaping of hope to my heart. Those two words are like scoops of ice cream on a slice of pie. The verse would have been fine without them but with them…double delight!

I have instructed you today—even you—

Sometimes we read verses or stories in scripture and we forget that the lessons, the love, the promises, the truth, the discipline, the forgiveness, the hope, the redemption talked about apply to even us too. 

The question we hear Moses and David ask the Lord comes to mind.

Who am I, Lord?

But Moses asked God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”  Exodus 3:11

Then King David went in, sat in the Lord’s presence, and said, Who am I, Lord God, and what is my house that You have brought me this far?  2 Samuel 7:18

Who am I, Lord, that you would use me?
Who am I, Lord, that you would instruct me?

And then our hearts count all the reasons why we are unqualified, ill equipped, or unworthy.

But just as the Lord reminds Moses, He reminds us today too.

When I AM goes before you—even you—
When I AM sends you—even you—
When I AM instructs you —even you—
When I AM equips you—even you—

Hungry Roots

“Until the unlimited, unbridled, and unrelenting love of God takes root in your life, until God’s reckless pursuit of us captures our imagination, until our head knowledge of God settles into our hearts through pure grace, nothing really changes.

Everything changes, however, as we awaken to our union with Christ. It’s then (and only then) that we come to personally experience ourselves as the “most loved” of God.”– Fil Anderson

I read this quote a few days ago. It’s been rolling around in my brain and heart ever since.  It’s beautiful.  It’s truth.

Roots are vital to life and growth.  A life dies without a healthy root.  A root must cling to its source of life.

Even if our faith is as small as a mustard seed, Jesus promises us…that is enough.  (Matt 17:20)

Even if our ever doubting hearts must come, cry out, confess and acknowledge over and over …I DO believe…help my disbelief!  (Mark 9:24) Jesus reminds us…that is enough.

It’s His love doing the transforming.

It’s His power being perfected in our weakness.

It’s His grace that takes our tiny willing hearts and moves a mountain.

A surrendered heart that hungers and thirsts for the Giver of Life is all the strength we need. (Matt 5:6)

Shallow, superficial, going through the motions head knowledge does nothing to transform a life or a soul.

“For this reason I kneel before the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.  I pray that He may grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power in the inner man through His Spirit, and that the Messiah may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love,  and to know the Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge, so you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 

Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us— to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”  Ephesians 3: 14-21

Glimpses Through the Grief

“There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so. One must simply hold out and endure it. At first that sounds very hard, but at the same time it is also a great comfort. For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled one remains connected to the other person through it. It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness. God in no way fills it but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve — even in pain — the authentic relationship. Further more, the more beautiful and full the remembrances, the more difficult the separation. But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy. One bears what was lovely in the past not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within, a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I shared this post on Facebook a year ago and it came up again today in the “On This Day” memories. It was timely to read again today.  I’ve been thinking about my parents quite a bit lately. The loss of my dad five months ago agitated the grief scar of losing my mom. It rubbed at that ever present wound and a tender area was exposed again. It’s weird to be simultaneously grieving a loss from 25 years ago and one still so fresh. The grief journey has been different this time around. And yet, I’m beginning to see that there’s no way for me to really separate the two griefs. They’re both in the no longer here category.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve learned a valuable lesson from loss.  It took years and years to learn this lesson too. Time by no means heals all wounds. You never “get over it.” And then, you actually reach a point along the journey when you would never want to completely get over it…if getting over it meant forgetting the beauty too. Because, here’s the kicker, it’s those glimpses of beauty that seem to fill a grieving heart with joy. The “joy does come in the morning” over and over and over again.

The loss of a loved one shapes us, teaches us, grows us and reminds us of what beauty truly is. And like Bonhoeffer says, “a precious gift deep within, a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain.”

hidden treasure  

My #OneWord this year is treasure.  Today, look for the treasure tucked away in the pain. The One who holds the map is faithful and will lead you to it…over and over and over again.

“And on the road to beautiful
My seasons always change
But my life is spent on loving You
To know You in Your power and pain”
— Charlie Hall

Rejection on the Road to Beautiful

“You’re not good enough.”

Deciding how we allow those words to hit our ears, our hearts and our minds is one of the biggest lessons we must learn as we journey through life.

We hear or feel the weight of those words all the time.  And the reality is, those words are true. We are not good enough.  

Maybe we aren’t the best candidate for the job. There is someone more qualified or more educated than us.

Maybe we didn’t make that sports team because our skills and ability didn’t impress the coach like the other kids who did receive a spot on the team.

Maybe he doesn’t want to date you because you’re just not his type. You’re not what he’s looking for in a girlfriend.

Maybe you don’t get invited to the birthday sleep over because the rest of the girls in the group have decided that you’re just not cool enough.

Rejection, regardless of whether it’s merited or not, hurts.

Last week, my son tried out for his middle school soccer team for the second year in a row.  He got cut in the final round of cuts for the second year in a row. 49 boys tried out and only 19 made the team. I know my son must now navigate through those unspoken words swirling around in his brain and heart.

You weren’t good enough to be chosen.

Ugh. Just writing those words makes my heart sad. I, like all of humanity, have had to face rejection on many occasions in life.

If we’re not careful we can make the mistake of tying our worth as a human being to these acceptances or rejections we experience in life.

If we’re not careful we can make the mistake of thinking our identity and our value is determined by these external approvals or rejections.

Ultimately, our worth comes from our Creator who says, I have loved you since before time with an everlasting love. I have chosen you. You are accepted and pre-approved by Me.  Here and here alone is where your identity rests…beloved sons and daughters of the most High King.

You’re not good enough.  And yet, those words can sting.

I’ll say it again: Deciding how we allow those words to hit our ears, our hearts and our minds is one of the biggest lessons we must learn as we journey through life.  

Sean is already on a league team and will be playing plenty of soccer this Spring but he was still disappointed he didn’t get selected to play on the school team. I understand. We all love to be picked. It’s a good feeling to be chosen.

These were some of the words my husband said to our son after his name was not on this year’s soccer roster. “I know that making the school team was something you wanted and I know you’re disappointed…but just make this a part of your story.”  

The more I think about those words of encouragement, the more I love them.

There are more pages to turn, more sentences to be written. This is not where the story ends. 

The stories we are living are bigger than one rejection letter or one acceptance speech.  

What’s fascinating to me is that, yes, it’s these moments that make up a life (a story) but life is much bigger than a single moment.

Pain, suffering, rejection will always be a part of the story here on earth, it’s just not the whole story.  

This is what I love so much about the folks we read about in scripture. We find rejection threading itself through so many of the characters. And yet, we also see how rejection isn’t how their stories end.

I think about the life of Joseph. Talk about some serious rejections and bad breaks. He was thrown into a pit and then sold into slavery by his own brothers. Yet, that moment of rejection (along with others) was actually the catalyst putting him on the path he needed to be on.

I think about the prostitute cleaning Jesus feet with her own “I can’t thank you enough” tears. The Pharisees, like the rest of the world, shouted she’s not good enough.  But Jesus.  

I think of the prostitute dragged out into the city streets. Accusations flying and fingers pointing. We reject her…she is not good enough!   But Jesus.

I think of how Jesus came to this earth to walk the road of rejection. You’re not the King we’re looking for. You don’t look the part…you’re not good enough to be our King. But the story did not end there!

All these accounts?  They are moments in a bigger, more beautiful story.  

In Christ, rejection doesn’t get to write the final chapter in our stories. In Christ, rejection can be used to bring us to where we needed to be all along…on the road to redemption. 

Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. 14 Above all, put on love—the perfect bond of unity.” Col 3:12-14

This Jesus is the stone rejected by you builders, which has become the cornerstone. Act 4:11

 

Real

“I pray Your Glory shine
in this doubting heart of mine
and all would know You
That You are my strength
You are my strength
You and You alone
keep bringing me back home.”
~Gungor

There’s incredible beauty in real.
Real lyrics.
Real people.

I listened to this Gungor song “Please Be My Strength” again this morning. It’s the way the lyrics show the tension between faith and doubt that I love most about this song. It’s the “I am weak and I desperately need Your strength” message that attracts and draws me in.

It’s the messy reality.  No fake images of a perfect walk of faith being portrayed.  No claims to have all the answers or have this life completely figured out.

That is what makes this piece of art burst and overflow with beauty.

His heart simply knows and holds tightly to two things: his need for help and where he needs to keep running for this help… over and over and over again.

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock in whom I take refuge.” (Psalm 18:2)

“Keep me safe, O God, I’ve run for dear life to you. I say to God, “Be my Lord!” Without you, nothing makes sense.” (Psalm 16:1-2 Message)

The Shadow of the Mountain

“God invites us into the valley. The question is whether we will accept the invitation. The valley will always be in the shadow of the mountains. The mountains, with their dramatic peaks and pillars to the clouds, will always appear more special to the world around you. Becoming a valley is truly humbling. And yet this is the place where the rain soaks deep and fruit is truly produced. The valley is the place of life. It is the place of kingdom power.”

I’ve been thinking about valleys ever since reading the words above. Last year I read Formed for the Glory of God by Kyle Strobel and loved it. When I saw Strobel had coauthored this book, The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb, I was eager to check it out.

So often my first thought when I think of a biblical valley, is a season of pain or suffering.  Psalm 23 comes to mind immediately.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”  (vs 4) 

But the quote above shows us how valleys are also those places of obscurity, places that often get overlooked or unrecognized because they don’t so easily come into view and/or capture attention like a mountainThe valley will always be in the shadow of the mountains.

And then I had this thought: Sometimes obscurity is a form of pain, suffering…death, especially if someone has no desire to be there. Humility will often find itself in a wresting match with Pride. Pride tells us we need the mountaintop acclamations and attaboys while humility and obscurity remind us there is more to living than gold medals atop a mountain.

There’s this tension, this battle that goes on inside us humans. We often desire or strive for the mountain life over the valley life. The valley of obscurity often seems far less glamorous and far less appealing to us than the majestic peaks.  And yet, nourishment, those things that offer us life…and life to the fullest…is discovered in the shadow of the mountains.

“God invites us into the valley. The question is whether we will accept the invitation. The valley will always be in the shadow of the mountains.”

 

 

Treasure Upon Treasure

We sung this song at church the other night.  It’s a beautiful song but it’s this last line I’ve been thinking about the most.

“Bear your cross as you wait for the crown 
Tell the world of the treasure you’ve found”

As you may have read, treasure, is my OneWord for 2017.  Early in January, I shared how the word this year kind of took the scenic route to get here. The word restore was on my heart but not restore as in “restoration” but rather re-store.  I shared with you the verse in the Book of Luke where Mary stores up all the precious moments she’d seen and experienced.

“But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them.”  Luke 2:19

I went on to share how I felt 2017 was the year to re-store treasure. Like Mary, I want my heart to be a storehouse for this treasure.

It’s interesting how this one word has multiple layers of lessons.  Not only am I being reminded that He is my treasure but I am also being reminded that I am a treasure to Him.  And then, that song verse I heard the other day reminds me that this treasure is to be shared with others.

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“God’s kingdom is like a treasure hidden in a field for years and then accidentally found by a trespasser. The finder is ecstatic—what a find!—and proceeds to sell everything he owns to raise money and buy that field.

“Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7

“There’s more: God’s Word warns us of danger and directs us to hidden treasure. Otherwise how will we find our way? Or know when we play the fool? Clean the slate, God, so we can start the day fresh! Keep me from stupid sins, from thinking I can take over your work; Then I can start this day sun-washed, scrubbed clean of the grime of sin. These are the words in my mouth; these are what I chew on and pray. Accept them when I place them on the morning altar, O God, my Altar-Rock, God, Priest-of-My-Altar.” Ps 19:11-14

“For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.” Deut 7:6

“Look at how great a love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children. And we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it didn’t know Him.” 1 John 3:1

No More Falling Shoes

Sometimes it takes having your back up against the wall before you become ready to make the scariest choice in life. In that moment, my eyes were opened. Something had to change. I could no longer live every waking moment in fear. I was living on high alert 24/7 …waiting for the other shoe to drop…and there seemed to be an endless supply of shoes.

I’ve never shared the above thought on my blog before. Those words have been tucked away from the world, in a book that never moved beyond the first 20,000 words. I reached a fork in the road and I wasn’t excited to venture further down the path the words appeared to be leading me. The pages contained too much vomit and not enough health and hope.

I’m not sure if it was the right choice or wrong choice but those book words were put on hold a year or so ago…not from fear of sharing them but from a desire I had to share words that uplifted and healed and not words that stabbed and twisted knives.

*******

I want others to experience what it feels like to be on the other side of the wall. And, ultimately, I want others to be able to drive down the road one day and have that feeling that they are NOW so far removed from the hell they once lived… that it almost seems unreal.

Now those words, I have shared on my blog before. They are from a post from a couple of years ago called The Unreal Feeling.

I bring this all up again because I recently discovered that more shoes had dropped and since I was on the “other side of the wall” and “so far removed”,  I wasn’t there to see them fall or feel their detrimental impact. My life continued on, uninterrupted. That popular meme going around the internet comes to mind: “Not my circus. Not my monkeys.”

Last night I was thinking about the world I used to live in exist in and gratitude swept across my heart again. Exist is a much better word than live because, back then, I wasn’t doing much living.

Fear is not conducive to living…only freedom is.

I am thankful for second chances. I am thankful that we can make the scary choice to jump off the rides that are headed towards jagged cliffs. Even though we know the consequences of that jump are going to hurt like hell, the pain turns out to be temporary and a lot less uncomfortable and painful than steep cliffs… or another storm of stilettos pelting us like shrapnel.

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For anyone who feels as if they are trapped with no way out, for anyone who is living in fear of what’s next, my prayers go up and my heart aches for you. Today, don’t believe the lie that you do not have options that will lead to healing and freedom. You do have those options and don’t you dare give up until you find the door that leads you there. Because I want you to feel that cool grass under your feet and that fresh air hitting your cheeks again.

 

Platforms and Parties

“Just know this: If God has all the same opinions your political party does, you’re probably not worshipping God.”

I read these words recently in a thought provoking post from Carey Nieuwhof

I find tremendous comfort in that statement. I breathed a quiet sigh of relief when I read that sentence for the first time too. Because, honestly, it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to park myself on one particular side of the political aisle and feel at home. For a long time now I’ve felt party-less.

Carey’s word reminded me that the truth and hope we seek and long for are not and will never be found by choosing one political platform over another political platform. We are not to place our faith on those foundations.  

I found myself in Psalm 119 this morning, reading portions of it in both the Holman translation and Eugene Peterson’s the Message.

 “God, teach me lessons for living
 so I can stay the course.
Give me insight so I can do what you tell me—
 my whole life one long, obedient response.” (vs 33-34)

I fail every day at keeping my eyes, my heart, and my feet consistently pointed and moving in the right direction. I get side tracked and thrown off course by all the other voices telling me what I should or shouldn’t do, what I should or shouldn’t believe.

“Put your hand out and steady me
    since I’ve chosen to live by your counsel.
I’m homesick, God, for your salvation;
    I love it when you show yourself!
Invigorate my soul so I can praise you well,
    use your decrees to put iron in my soul.
And should I wander off like a lost sheep—seek me!
    I’ll recognize the sound of your voice.” (vs 173- 176)

Dear Lord,

I don’t claim to know all the right answers or the right decisions.  But I do know this:
I want to know You better and by knowing You better…to love You better.

“My heart says this about You,” You are to seek My face.” LORD, I will seek Your face.” Psalm 27:8

 I want to love others better…with more compassion, more grace, and more mercy.

Keep my heart receptive to Your voice.

“By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35