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All the way down to the ground

“Yet a God-box is still a God-box, no matter where you position it in your faith. Limiting our view of Him to the stupendous is not really any different from limiting our view of Him to the monotonous. He doesn’t exist only in the stratosphere of extravagant need. His ability comes all the way down to the ground, to the places we live on regular weekdays while working, playing, eating, and engaging in ordinary realities.”–Priscilla Shirer

His ability comes all the way down to the ground…

I think this is the part I’ve had a hard time recalling lately.  This is the part of the faith journey that makes an ordinary day anything but ordinary when I choose to actively observe or actively participate in it. This is the part where my spiritual eyes have the opportunity to tap into the holiness of every single moment.

It’s not just a walk to the mailbox.  It’s not just a drive to work. It’s not just a rainy Sunday morning. It’s not just a trip to the post office. It’s not just another load of laundry. It’s not just a morning car rider line at school. It’s not just dinner with the family.

All of the justs are opportunities to catch glimpses of His glory working in and through a moment of time.

And, sometimes, I feel like my heart shows up late to these moments. Or, in some cases, I have this weird hindsight feeling that a particular moment was almost close enough to touch but I zagged when I should have zigged.

I love the apostle Paul’s encouragement  to believers in Ephesians about being unified in Christ. And that, in him, we are are being built together for God’s dwelling in the Spirit.

 “My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. ” Ephesians 3:14-19 Message 

I love the reminder in this passage that it’s where our feet are planted that will matter most on whether we are able to “take in the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love.”  This is where any adjustments need to begin when we seem to be missing the moments all around us of God’s love bending down all the way to the ground.

Am I firmly planted on love today?

When our feet are firmly planted on love, when we make a choice to live, move, and breathe from this point, we begin to see how beauty can grow up in some of the most surprising places. When we start from a place of love, the mundane becomes extraordinary and full of holy treasures…gifts that won’t fit in a box but gifts that can forever transform a heart.

You are not under attack

You Are Not Under Attack

“Too often I hear you and others say, “I’m under attack” when the enemy is harassing you. That’s not a victory mind-set, and you should not go into battle declaring you are under attack. Beloved, the attack is under you.

The enemy is under your feet, and you are seated above him – in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. So change your perspective. Yes, the enemy may be attacking you, but you are not under his attacks – you are over them. Speak and act as if you believe that.” ~Evenings With the Holy Spirit  (scripture references Eph 2:4-6, Rom 8:37, 1 John 4:4)

As I read these words this morning I immediately thought of the words from Psalm 18 “they fall beneath my feet”

“I pursue my enemies and overtake them;
I do not turn back until they are wiped out.
I crush them, and they cannot get up;
they fall beneath my feet.” Psalm 18: 37-38

Psalm 18 was one of my go-to chapters in the early days of my recovery.  It’s about a big God going into battle with us and kicking butt. It’s about a big God fighting on our behalf, rescuing us, protecting us, sustaining us, saving us.

I love how the devotional I read this morning said “Yes, the enemy may be attacking you, but you are not under his attacks – you are over them. Speak and act as if you believe that.”

I could not agree more with this!  “Speak and act as if you believe that”

Psalm 18 contains much needed words of truth when the enemy whispers lies into your heart.

Here are some of the lies I listened to prior to surrendering my addiction and trusting fully in a big God:

You’re not that bad. You’re certainly not as bad as that person over there. You can control this. You can hide this and still live a good life. Once you figure out the why then you can fix the situation…just keep trying to figure it all out. 

However, true healing and freedom only happened in my life when I began to live and act as if the battle I was in was truly life or death. A life or death situation isn’t the time or place for excuses and delays. Excuses and delays during a battle could get you killed. In life or death situations you cling and hold onto the only One who is capable of saving you. You commit to turning up the volume on Truth because the truth leads you to freedom.

Amazing things began to happen in my own story when I actually began to act and believe my God was bigger than my attacker.

“…The One who is in you is greater than the one in the world” 1 John 4:4

Speak and act as if you believe that.

shackles break, pits are left behind, prison doors spring open

feet dance free

Beloved, the attack is under you.

 

Embracing the Elephant

RecentIy, I stopped by the cafe area at church and spoke briefly with one of our coffee volunteers.  In the few minutes that we chatted, our conversation went deeper than most conversations will usually go in a whole days worth of conversing with someone.

I like those kinds of conversations the best. I love when you can by pass a lot of the small talk and get to the soul talk instead.  I love when you get to unexpectedly hear a part of someone’s story. I love when you discover a common thread.  What a gift.

In our brief conversation the other morning, we talked openly about death and grief. It was a refreshing conversation.  I discovered that we had both lost our moms at a young age. Her dad had died at a young age as well. In our conversation, we both expressed our frustration with the fact that the majority of people in life seem to avoid conversations about death. Which, by the way, has always seemed odd to me since it’s the one thing we as humans all have in common. We both admitted that even though others avoid talking about these hurts (especially as more and more time passes) the ones who are grieving would still love to talk about, be asked about, and remember their loved ones.  People think that mentioning the name of the loved one will open an old wound or make the griever sad but what they don’t realize is this lost loved one is always on the griever’s heart. The griever doesn’t forget.  The elephant, so to speak, is always in the room.

This transparent conversation I had with a volunteer last weekend was just what my heart needed.  I was reminded of some words I shared on my blog last year after my dad died in a post called Waves and Elephants

Today I know…I don’t have to stop talking about loved ones after they die. When my mom died there were times when folks would avoid the conversation…thinking if they didn’t bring it up, it was, somehow, the polite or loving thing to do.  Years ago, I took this to mean that I shouldn’t talk about or bring it up anymore either. I thought since others avoided the topic, then I should too.  I know differently today.  So I will talk about it and bring it up as often as need be.

Grief doesn’t heal when you sweep it under a rug.  It took me a decade to learn that the first time around.

Today, let’s not pretend (and I’m guilty of doing this too because sometimes it’s the easier more convenient route) that the grief elephant has left the room when you converse with a friend who is journeying through a valley. That elephant?  It’s there. It’s always there.

 

 

that which is faithful and true

I turned into psycho mom this morning when my scatter brained middle schooler forgot about something school related until just before heading out of the house to head to school. Then we hopped in the car and we saw this and I apologized to him for over reacting and flying off the handle. Glad “mercies are new” not just every morning but every moment too. Dropped son off and then heard on the radio about the massacre in Las Vegas. Got to work and texted my son to apologize again and to remind him how incredible he is. Sigh

I shared those words and that picture on Facebook yesterday morning.  Several friends commented with some grace-filled words. It happens to all of us. I know how you feel. We aren’t perfect and we all have moments when we lose it. 

This morning, I was skimming through the online devotionals on YouVersion and trying to choose a new one to read.  And wouldn’t you know, out of the hundreds and hundreds of options available, I opened up and read a sample from one titled “Evenings With the Holy Spirit.”

New Beginnings

“You can have a new beginning. It doesn’t matter how many new beginnings you’ve had before. Don’t believe the lie that you can’t have any more. Jesus’s work on the cross paved the way for another new beginning and another and another – as many as you need. Our Father’s mercies are new every day…”

The scripture references at the end of the devotional came from Lamentations and Revelation

“Because of the Lord’s faithful love
we do not perish,
for his mercies never end.
 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness!
 I say, “The Lord is my portion,
therefore I will put my hope in him.” Lam 3: 22-24

“Then the one seated on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new.” He also said, “Write, because these words are faithful and true.” Revelation 21:5
 

Two things stuck out to me about these passages.

First, I love how the Lord reaffirms this Truth in my life and in my story. His mercies are new every single day. His great love and His grace has paved the way for each and every one of us.

Second, I never noticed the second part of Revelation 21:5 before.  “He also said, “Write, because these words are faithful and true.”

I know those words weren’t directed towards me but as a writer they truly had a way of reaffirming my heart this morning of the reason I am compelled to sit down and write…
because these words are faithful and true

I then went back and read Revelation 21 in context.

“I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  I also saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband.

Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away.”

Again, these verses prompted some more thoughts.

First, I immediately noticed the words, “God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them…” I was reminded of how the word dwell was the word on my heart one day last week and I wrote a post about it.

Second, I thought about the senseless, horrific killings in Las Vegas. In times like this, I cling to the promise and the faithful and true words that one day “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more”

I can’t explain this tragedy. There are no words for evil like this.  But I can, however, keep my heart and my eyes focused on that which is faithful and true. 

The Happiness Hoax

If all the energy we spent on chasing happiness was instead placed on intentionally getting to know Jesus as our closest and always accessible friend and confidant, what would the impact be on our attitude, outlook, and level of contentment?

I ask this question not because I always get this choice right. I don’t. I still, sometimes, get caught up in running after the world’s standard of happiness and quick fixes and gratifications. And yet, each time I do, I learn the same lesson over and over. That way over-promises and under-delivers… which eventually results in discouragement, discontentment and emptiness.

So I ask the question again.

If all the energy we spent on chasing happiness was instead placed on intentionally getting to know Jesus as our closest and always accessible friend and confidant, what would the impact be on our attitude, outlook, and level of contentment?

I came to give you life abundant. I am joy. I am light. I am chain breaker. I am fountains of cascading hope. I am healer. I am love. I am peace. I am bread. I am streams of living water.  

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11: 28-30 Message

Dwell

Lord I love the house where you dwell, the place where your glory resides. Psalm 26:8

I read that verse earlier this week and, immediately, an old memory from nearly 15 years ago came to mind.  I could recall sitting in a small group leader’s living room, a guitar strumming, and a group of us singing a song together. I paused and waited for the memory to fully form. At first I could not remember the words to the song; I could only hear pieces of the melody.

I know from past experience to trust the melody when the words aren’t there to grab onto.  And, slowly, the words did come back.

How lovely is your dwelling place
Oh Lord almighty

One thing I ask
and I would seek
to see your beauty
To find You in the place
Your glory dwells

Better is one day
in your courts
Better is one day
in your house
than thousands elsewhere

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Then yesterday morning,  it was this verse that stood out to me from my devotional reading.

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory,the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

The word glory has always had a way of capturing my heart’s attention but this week the word my heart seems to be lingering on is dwell. 

I love the reminders this week that wherever His presence is, then His glory is also present.  There is never a time when the Lord and His glory aren’t a “team.” Glory is His character and His nature. We find Him… then we find His Glory, the splendor of His holiness, as well.

While out on my run yesterday morning, I thought about how the Lord, in all His glory, chose to come down to us, to walk among us, to not only make a way for us…but to be the way for us, to love us, to die for us, to make His home in us. Emmanuel…God with us.  

His mission from the very beginning was to dwell with us and to be our home.

Better is one day
in your courts
Better is one day
in your house
than thousands elsewhere

I thought about one of my favorite Psalms “You protect me with your saving shield. You support me with your right hand. You have stooped to make me great.” Psalm 18:35

The Lord, in all His glory, stoops down for us.

“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 your inner being through his Spirit,  and that Christ 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 Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that 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

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness. Psalm 29:2

Lord, may they sing about what you have done,
    because your glory is great. Psalm 138:5

Shout to God for joy, everyone on earth!
     Sing about the glory of his name! Psalm 66: 1-2

“Your love is a symphony
All around me
Running through me
Your love is a melody
Underneath me
Running to me
Your love is a song”– Switchfoot

Broken Things and Broken Bread

“But if it’s true, You use broken things then here I am Lord, I’m all Yours”

It was these song lyrics that were playing on repeat when I woke up during the middle of the night. I listened to the song again this morning and then thought about a beautiful quote from Mike Foster I recently shared again on Facebook

“I am just a broken man writing about another broken man who said 2000 years ago he deeply loves broken things.– Mike Foster

Foster’s quote made me think about the ways Jesus tells us in Scripture how he “deeply loves broken things.”  The first example that popped into my mind was the Sermon on the Mount.

God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,
    for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
God blesses those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
 God blesses those who are humble,
    for they will inherit the whole earth.
God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,
    for they will be satisfied. (Matthew 5) 

I thought about how Jesus said that it’s not the healthy that need a doctor but the sick. (Mark 2)

I thought about the prostitute who poured expensive perfume all over Jesus’ feet. The Pharisees could only see the waste while Jesus saw the wonder and beauty of a grateful heart. (Luke 7)

I thought about the lady suffering with chronic bleeding who desperately pushed through the crowd just to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe. (Mark 5)

I thought about the adulterous woman caught in the act and the stones that fell out of the condemning hands as hearts, one by one, recalled their own imperfect stories. (John 8)

I thought about Lazarus and how Jesus wept over the scene. (John 11)

I thought about the thief on the cross and the promise Jesus made to him. (Luke 23)

I thought about Peter and the crowing roosters and, then, instead of serving him a life sentence of shame, Jesus served him breakfast (John 21)

I thougth about the last supper Jesus had with his disciples before going to the cross “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them…” 

 

“But if it’s true, You use broken things then here I am Lord, I’m all Yours”

Listening to the Stories

There is a point and reason for discouragement and setbacks. These parts of our stories are leading us some place good. If we are willing to open our eyes and ears, to follow and to learn, they will lead us some place good.  I had that thought come into my mind after dropping my son off at school this morning.

I have to believe this. This is the truth I cling to in my life.

It’s the truth that the God of the universe, the lover of my soul, is a good good God. That His invisible hand is always on the move… positioning us where we need to be.  And that positioning is designed for one purpose: to move us closer to HIM.

I believe this with all my heart. Now, Lord, help me to live, really live, like I believe it.  

As I was thinking about all this, the following passage from Matthew came to mind.

“The disciples came up and asked, “Why do you tell stories?”

 He replied, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn’t been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they’re blue in the face and not get it. I don’t want Isaiah’s forecast repeated all over again:

Your ears are open but you don’t hear a thing.
    Your eyes are awake but you don’t see a thing.
The people are blockheads!
They stick their fingers in their ears
    so they won’t have to listen;
They screw their eyes shut
    so they won’t have to look,
    so they won’t have to deal with me face-to-face
    and let me heal them.

“But you have God-blessed eyes—eyes that see! And God-blessed ears—ears that hear! A lot of people, prophets and humble believers among them, would have given anything to see what you are seeing, to hear what you are hearing, but never had the chance.”  Matthew 13:10-17 Message

These are the verses that stood out to me this morning.

“Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight”

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“Prayer is the only entryway into genuine self-knowledge. It is also the main way we experience deep change—the reordering of our loves.” ~ Tim Keller

I’ve been pondering this quote for the last couple of days.

I love how Keller replaces the familiar saying “reordering of our lives” with loves instead.  It’s a powerful statement.

Our affections (loves) dictate/guide our actions and our actions form and make up our stories (lives). If our loves are out of order then our lives will eventually follow too.

As I thought more about Keller’s statement, the following verses from Psalm 73 came to mind.

When I tried to understand all this,
it seemed hopeless
 until I entered God’s sanctuary.
Then I understood their destiny.

When I became embittered
and my innermost being  was wounded,
 I was stupid and didn’t understand;
I was an unthinking animal toward You.
Yet I am always with You;
You hold my right hand.
 You guide me with Your counsel,
and afterward You will take me up in glory.
 Who do I have in heaven but You?
And I desire nothing on earth but You.
 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart,
my portion forever.
 Those far from You will certainly perish;
You destroy all who are unfaithful to You.
 But as for me, God’s presence is my good.
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
so I can tell about all You do.

– Psalm 73: 16-7 21-28

Prayer is the only entryway into genuine self-knowledge.

Take the words from the Psalmist, he spends time recognizing and acknowledging the flaws in his character, behavior and thinking. Yet when he choses to stand in the presence of God he begins to understand. His affections changed, his priorities shifted. Once the psalmist took time to recognize his need, His mind and heart became focused on the truth of who he was in relationship with the Lord

He recognizes the benefits of staying connected with the life giver.

He recognizes that apart from the life giver he is completely lost.

He recognizes that our “living essentials” (heart and flesh) may fail but his God would never fail him. 

He recognizes this connection he has with the Lord is for his good.

He recognizes that this connection isn’t just for his good but is also equipping him to pass on and share with others the greatness of God.

************

Prayer helps to create readiness…entering God’s presence helps to create readiness. It’s through prayer when the master story teller quiets our hearts enough so that we can hear the story being told and the story being written all around us.

Help us to hear your stories today, Lord.  Create readiness in us.  Nudge us closer to You today.

the one who lifts up my head

The weight of oppression
the weight of glory

Both cause us to bend low
Both bring us to our knees

one from overwhelming burdens
one from overwhelming beauty

one negative and unwanted
one positive and desired

one shadows of unending sorrow
one rays of redeeming love

one full of weakness
one full of power, clothed in weakness

one a dead end
one an open road

freedom stretching far beyond what eyes can see

 

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 2 Corinthians 4:17

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 1 Peter 5:10

Lift up your heads, O gates!
And lift them up, O ancient doors,

that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord of hosts,
he is the King of glory!  Psalm 24:9-10

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the one who lifts up my head. Psalm 3:3

like the rusting leaves of autumn

This morning my quiet time reading took me to the throne room of heaven and to this verse in Revelation “Then I saw the One like a slaughtered lamb standing between the throne…” (5:6)

I read this and my heart followed the breadcrumbs appearing along the path. I thought about the strange beauty tucked away in this scene.  Our pastor described it so well in a Sunday message last year.

“Power is the slaughtered Lamb…power clothed in weakness.”

After that message, I wrote about that power and that victory.

In the throne room of heaven we see a slaughtered lamb…it’s the symbol of power and victory.

It can only be through the eyes of faith that an image such as this can bring joy and hope to a heart.  In heaven…the home of perfection…stands a bloody lamb.

It can only be through eyes of faith that we look at this image…awestruck…basking in the…beauty.  

Beauty?  How can that be? 

How can one look at such a sight and perceive beauty?  This incredible ability of our great God to take all that is “ugly”… all the pain in this world and all the suffering in our lives and redeem it fascinates and humbles me whenever I pause to think about it.

Pain, suffering and death is ugly…there is no denying this. 

Yet..somehow…when I think of this slaughtered lamb standing in the throne room of heaven I am filled with hope and joy…and life. 

Why?  Because… through Christ… death loses its sting.

“We’ll cast our crowns before Him like the rusting leaves of autumn now every chain lies broken…”  Those words are from a Rend Collective song called Finally Free. It’s actually my favorite verse in the entire song.

Our crowns are like rusting dying leaves. Can you see those crowns in your mind?

Autumn is one of those times in our lives when we gaze upon the beauty found in… death.

Think about that. Creation, all around us, is dying yet what our eyes perceive is the breath taking beauty in it all.

We even wait expectantly for it to arrive on the scene. We marvel at the bursting colors and watch the transformation from life to death. It brings joy to our hearts as we walk down the road and see those rusting/crunchy leaves dancing in the gentle breeze along the path. We celebrate the slowly changing colors and, like any beautiful season, we hate to see it come to an end.

And the good news we find in Christ is the beauty doesn’t end.  Death is just the beginning. There is more life, more breathtaking colors to come. We cast our crowns before Him like the rusting leaves of autumn now every chain lies broken.

They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,

    to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
    and by your will they existed and were created.” Rev 4: 10b-11

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Had to stop writing this morning and take my son to school. As we pulled out of the driveway, I heard these words on the car radio:

“I see the world in light
I see the world in wonder
I see the world in life
Bursting in living colour
I see the world Your way
And I’m walking in the light”

“We are perishing for lack of wonder, not for lack of wonders.” –G.K. Chesterton