Category Archives: Uncategorized

Essential or Accessory

“Here is the truth: If you cannot see yourself, you will never see your need for me. You will only treat me like some nice and extra thing, like some tepid relative who sends fruit at Christmas…” The Listening Day, Volume 2

I love the analogy Paul Pastor uses in the devotional I read this morning. It’s perfect. When we fail to see our need then the gift and the giver become more like non-essential accessories in our lives. It’s nice and we even think briefly….”how thoughtful”…and then we move on.  The fruit gets consumed (or it gets placed out of the way on the kitchen counter, gets forgotten about and eventually goes bad) We toss out the rotten uneaten pieces and then life goes back to the way it was.

Yet, when we see Him as essential, not some nice and extra thing but the present of all presents...then His presence becomes the very air we breathe.  And there’s no living without it. We inhale and exhale the grace and the mercy and the second chances and the gratitude at every moment and every turn. We can’t shut up about it… because the oxygen is everywhere, over all, through all, and in all.  (Ephesians 4:6) .  We tell others about the day this breath showed up in our life, how it changed everything, how it continues to change everything.

This gift is the very foundation for our life and without it we know there is no hope for survival.

We breathe Him in; we breathe Him out.  We pour out our tears of praise at His feet.

It’s a strength…

“Your right hand upholds me and Your humility exalts me.” Psalm 18:35b HCSB

I find myself going back to particular verses in Psalm 18 quite a bit. It’s one of my favorites mainly because the words in it sustained me at one of the darkest, most confusing, most faith building chapters of my life.

I read the above verse again the other morning and the part which always amazes me is how His “humility exalts us.” Back when I was first drawn to the words in this Psalm, the translation I had was slightly different and read “You have stooped to make me great.”  I was instantly drawn to the image of someone stooping. It reminded me of a parent stooping to help a small child with a task they were still learning to master. It’s a gentle, patient, compassionate posture. It seems natural to use this type of approach on children who are still in learning mode… but for some reason we seem to use this posture less and less as we grow up.  This idea is completely at odds to what the world shouts at us on a daily basis in regards to strength.

Yet Christ doesn’t lift us, hold us, carry us with the kind of strength we are accustomed to. Instead, we are raised high because He stoops low.

It’s a strength clothed in weakness.

It’s a strength that doesn’t look only at its own interests but takes intentional interest in others.

It’s a strength that “makes itself nothing”, that gives up divine and royal privilege/position to be a slave and sacrifice for all. (Philippians 2)

It’s a strength that goes as low as it can possibly go in order to assure that nothing and no one could snatch us from His hand (John 10:28) or separate us from His love. (Romans 8:31-39)

It’s a strength where an innocent man is willing to step in between a firing squad and  a guilty man and insist… punish Me instead.

It’s a strength that cries out in its final hour “Forgive them!”…not words of condemnation or finger pointing but words full of love, reconciliation and healing.

Strength that stoops for you and me…it’s a strength humbling to think about.

“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.

 God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.” Ephesians 3:14-21 Message

The Spark

“When they observed the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and recognized that they had been with Jesus.” Acts 4:13

Sometimes surprise is the spark that opens our eyes to recognition.

And, it’s at that pivotal moment in time when we must make a choice.  What is our response when Truth sweeps into our circumstances, cups our face, and locks eyes with us?

Do we run? Do we reject? Do we deny? Do we make excuses and justifications? Do we go about our days unchanged… hell bent on keeping our feet planted on the path that we already had planned out in our minds?

OR

Do we look into the eyes of Truth, “give glory to God over what has been done”, (Acts 4:21) and allow our lives to be swept up into an adventure that takes us down a path we could never have planned out for ourselves?

Light upon light.

Wind upon wind.

Surprise upon surprise.

“All humanity finds shelter
    in the shadow of your wings.
 You feed them from the abundance of your own house,
    letting them drink from your river of delights.
 For you are the fountain of life,
    the light by which we see. “Psalm 36:7-9

“Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were staying.”  Act 2:2

One Scary God Idea!

“I’d rather have one God idea than a thousand good ideas. Good ideas are good but God ideas change the course of history.” Mark Batterson

I read these words the other day from Mark Batterson’s latest book “Whisper”. It made me think back on the season in my life when I was finally willing to leave life navigation up to the Lord. I was done attempting to “plan my own course.” (Proverbs 16:19) I had come to this conclusion in my heart: If God is who He says He is then why not give Him the benefit of the doubt? Why not choose to trust Him wholeheartedly? After all, the alternative hadn’t really been working out all too well for me. I had lost everything.  I had failed miserably at creating the safe, predictable little world I had desired to live in. My “plan” not only backfired…it basically blew up in my face and I was left with pieces of a life that needed to somehow be put back together.

And, it was one God idea, one scary God idea, that changed the course of my life in the most beautiful way.

It showed up as a whisper. “This drinking problem, Eileen…you need to give this to ME…completely.”  

And then my baffled response.   You’ve got to be kidding, Lord?  How?  If You truly know all my thoughts and all my desires… then You must know that I have NO desire to stop drinking. At this season in my life, You know that I want to drink more than I want You.

And the whisper responded:  then how do we change your desire? 

And my heart knew the answer: You pray for it, Lord.  I ask You for it, Lord.

And so, a God idea planted its tiny seed in my heart and this prayer became my battle cry for the next several months.  “Lord, make my desire for You stronger than my desire to drink.”  I prayed it through failure. I prayed it through hangovers…I prayed it instead of running away or hiding or justifying.  I prayed it through tears. I prayed it through anger. I prayed it through tantrums. I prayed  it on my knees in humble desperation. “LORD, make my desire for You stronger than my desire to drink!”  

And then one morning, my tired heart had nothing left.  “I give up, Lord.”

And that’s when it happened.  The God idea taking root in my heart, broke through out into the daylight. His vines grabbed my weary soul and wrapped me up in an unexplainable peace…and, at that very moment, the course of history was changed forever!

Empty

I keep going back to these words, words that kick off Volume Two of the “The Listening Day” by Paul Pastor. I thoroughly loved Volume One and asked my family for this next book for Christmas. And, surprise…it was under the tree! 🙂

“With everything you have,
Get understanding.”

I read those words and recognized them immediately as being from the Book of Proverbs, (Proverbs 4:7)

There’s profound peace that accompanies understanding.  It goes beyond having all the answers or knowing the answers to all the “whys”.

Understanding: It’s knowing the One with all authority. It’s trusting in His sovereignty and His goodness.

It’s following the breadcrumbs on the path… precious pieces of treasure…and discovering the Bread of Life Himself.

It’s arriving at His well with a bone dry bucket and discovering a fountain of living water so satisfying that we realize that empty was the catalyst that led us to this place of filling...we realize that barren wasn’t in vain, we realize that our Redeemer can use even our empty…to lead us some place beautiful.

**********

A few more random thoughts on my heart.

I think about the father who cried out to Jesus “I do believe! Help my unbelief.”  (Mark 9:23-25) He acknowledged his doubt, his less than desirable offering, his mustard seed faith, his empty hands… and our Great Healer picked it up and ran with it!  

I think about Thomas (John 20-25-29) the disciple who refused to believe that Jesus had truly resurrected until he saw the proof.  We see from this account that doubt doesn’t make someone a hopeless case but instead, it’s often part of the process of a person’s faith journey and faith development.  Our small, imperfect faith doesn’t hinder God’s BIG love for us.  Jesus will go to incredible lengths to “prove” He is who He says He is.

Jesus gave Thomas the gift of seeing His resurrected body, personally. He met Thomas where he was. He gave him the “proof” he needed.  I think Jesus is still in the business of giving our hearts the “proof” they need….if we have eyes and hearts desperately crying out: I do believe…help by unbelief!    

**********

I read these words last night about the prodigal son and love them:

“The prodigal son doesn’t return with a renewed love for his father. He comes back simply to survive. And his father is perfectly fine with that. God just wants us home. #grace  –Rick Villodas

Grace, indeed.  Jesus doesn’t require our rock solid affection up front.  The invitation is to simply “Come…be with ME”  It’s in His presence when hearts and lives are transformed!

**********

 

“I believe in Christ as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”–C. S. Lewis

Thought about a song I hadn’t heard in awhile.  Sharing it again here.

One Word 2018- Early But Right on Time!

As I dropped my son off at school one morning last week, I was handed this note with a small candy cane attached. I read the note before pulling away from the curb. The words sweet surprises captured my thoughts. Sweet surprises. The words floated around in my heart like an autumn leaf dancing gently in the air before settling upon the earth.

I drove on to work for a day filled with meetings.  During our afternoon meeting, one of my coworkers, Alfred, prayed before we began our brainstorming session.  It was these words that once again danced like a leaf…”Lord, surprise us.”

Surprise us!

And, at that moment, it hit me.

Lord, is that my One Word for 2018?

*********

Later that evening I shared these words on Facebook:

I think I might already know what my One Word will be for 2018! Never shows up this early. Gonna let it marinate for awhile. 

And then the next morning, the title of this blog post caught my attention 
The Surprise Gift That Came From My Failure
It was written and shared by the same co-worker who had prayed those words before our meeting the previous afternoon: “Lord, surprise us.”

Here’s a excerpt from that post:

“Isn’t this just like our Father?  Constantly FOR US.

We’re beating ourselves up about how we’ve missed it again.  We’re expecting discipline or correction or something.  Something we know we probably deserve.  And instead He comes in and says again: “Hey, I AM FOR YOU. I am with you. You are precious to me, and here’s a surprise gift from Me!”

I’m not sure when I will ever figure this out… how personal He is, and how FOR ME He is. 

He constantly takes my lack and turns it around…  how He takes my missteps and re-routes them to His glory…  Amazing grace!”

*********

Surprise...here’s the official definitions:

to strike or occur to with a sudden feeling of wonder or astonishment, as through unexpected-ness 

to come upon or discover suddenly and unexpectedly

I love how my One Word showed up on the scene for this coming year. Out of the blue and unexpected, early…but right on time too!

Surprise showed up as a surprise!  Sometimes I just shake my head over the beauty of it all. God’s love is intimate and personal and perfectly crafted and tailored for us.  Well done, Lord. Well done!

*********

A surprise will often lead to us to our knees in worship. 

A surprise is unexpected.  Mary didn’t expect to be visited by an angel or to receive the news of being pregnant and carrying the HOPE of the world. Luke 1:26-38

Saul (now Paul) didn’t expect to hear the Lord’s voice while being blinded by a light on the road to Damascus. Acts 9:1-9

Peter didn’t expect so many fish (let alone any fish) when Jesus instructed him to cast the net one more time. Luke 5:1-11  (This just “happened” to be the topic of last week’s message at church.)

Surprises will also bring us to our feet in praise.

Like the lame beggar at the Beautiful Gate expecting to get one gift, but gets another gift instead, one that far exceeded anything he thought possible. Acts 3

Like the prodigal son and his joy-filled father. The son expected a punishment but the delighted father threw a huge party instead. Luke 15:11-32

Like the lady who arrived at the well on a routine, ordinary day. She arrived in search of water for her bucket never expecting to be filled up with a water that would never run dry. John 4

We could go on and on. Story after story of the surprising love that our Savior pours out on us!

“But me he caught—reached all the way
from sky to sea; he pulled me out
Of that ocean of hate, that enemy chaos,
the void in which I was drowning.
They hit me when I was down,
but God stuck by me.
He stood me up on a wide-open field;
I stood there saved—surprised to be loved!” Psalm 18:16-19 Message

Lord, help us to have eyes to see the surprising ways in which you love on us!  It’s all around us. Open our eyes. Open our minds. Open our hearts.

The surprise of the underdog succeeding
The surprise of the weak made strong
The surprise of receiving acceptance rather than rejection
The surprise of beauty in the middle of a mess
The surprise of wholeness in the midst of brokenness

The Grinch, and the moment he realizes the true meaning of Christmas. He hadn’t stopped Christmas from coming; it came just the same! 🙂

Us when we realize again that the tomb is still empty
the debt still paid
Love still came
Love still won.

Surprise us with Your greatness, Your goodness, Your grace.
Surprise us with Your comfort, Your presence and Your peace.
Surprise us with Your Redeeming Love

The Tear Catcher

I cried this morning. I hadn’t yet taken my second sip of coffee and tears showed up unexpectedly.  On a side note, this might be a personal record for me for the quickest I’ve ever cried in the span between feet hitting the bedroom floor in the morning to the moment I’ve had tears rolling down my cheek.  Geez.

I opened my laptop to read today’s devotional and Facebook was on my screen.  I scrolled down and saw a sweet picture of a Facebook friend tenderly embracing her elderly mom. You couldn’t see her mom’s face just the backside of her head, snuggling into her daughter’s chest.  And, almost instantly, like someone flipped a switch, the tears left my eyes and poured down my cheek.

If I had to diagnose these tears I would say it’s just a daughter who longs to hold her elderly mom, who aches for what never was, who longs for one more glimpse, one more conversation with a gray headed old lady, to see her smile and to hear that laugh again. Oh that laugh!

I cried for a minute over the beauty and the pain of it all and then opened my devotional for the day.  These were some of the words I read.

Luke 2:8-20

“…there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.”

Shepherds were among the first to hear this good news. There was nothing special about them. They were at work. The setting was mundane. These details are important.

God comes to you where you are. He doesn’t make you dress up. He doesn’t give you an address on the far corner of the world, where He can be found. He finds you. He comes precisely to the place where it seems he is least likely to come.

And when He comes, you know it. ”

********

“God comes to you where you are..He comes precisely to the place where it seems he is least likely to come.” 

I think this is what I love most about our Comforter, Healer, Rescuer.  He meets us where we are. And most of the time, the places where He is willing to meet us will surprise us. He meets us in the routine and in the ordinary moments of our life. Why would a King come here? We think to ourselves. And His humbleness, humbles us.

He also meets us in our pain and in our tears. That’s what fills me with the most awe about this relationship we have with the King of the world. This is why I can cry over a picture and those tears are not just full of sorrow and sad chapters. Instead, they’re soggy breadcrumbs that lead me back to my King.  He’s there, in the midst of my tears. I know this.  Not one drop leaves my eye without Jesus kneeling there by my side, His nail pierced hand stretched out, catching each and every one.

Treasure Trackbacks for 2017

The other morning, I was reflecting on my One Word for this year and God’s faithfulness.

Here’s a portion of the blog post I wrote at the beginning of 2017:

My One Word for 2017 kind of took the scenic route to get here this year. 😉 I was reading a devotional earlier this month about Jesus coming to earth to restore all things and the word restore caught my eye. Here are some definitions I pondered as I studied the word again.

bring back (a previous right, practice, custom, or situation); reinstate.
return (someone or something) to a former condition, place, or position.
repair or renovate (a building, work of art, vehicle, etc.) so as to return it to its original condition.

As I thought about this word restore, I realized that “storing” comes before re-storing…if that makes any sense. I then immediately thought of a passage in Luke 2:19

“But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. Luke 2:19

Do you see that? Mary “stored” all these things. Everything she saw and did and experienced…she held these things close to her…like treasure.

In fact, some translations of this particular verse use the word treasure instead.

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

This year, 2017, is the year to re-store treasure. Like Mary, I want my heart to be a storehouse for this treasure.

“All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Him.” Colossians 2:3

*********

As like so many of the One Word journeys I’ve been on, I encountered plenty of lessons and challenges along the way.

Like the reminder at church last February of the true definition of eternal life.  “It’s not getting to heaven; it’s knowing Christ. Knowing Christ is the ultimate treasure.” Morsels for the Marathon 

Like songs that crossed my path that pointed my eyes back to Jesus.
HERE and HERE

Like lessons tucked away in scripture and devotionals HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE

********

The ultimate goal of a storehouse is to eventually distribute the goods that are in the storehouse. It’s a surplus of inventory that is brought out at the appropriate time.

When I think of Mary treasuring these things in her heart, I think of the surplus of love and truth filling up her heart.

Then I had this thought:

We store it to pour it.

We store His love, we store His Word, and we do this for the ultimate purpose of pouring it back out again.

******

After this time of reflection, I went to work for a scheduled time of prayer and worship with some of my coworkers. The song we sang together reminded me of the thought I’d had earlier that morning.  This surplus of stored treasure is meant to be poured out.

We store it to pour it.

“It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise, pour out our praise”

“My lips pour out praise,
for You teach me Your statutes.” Ps 119:171

Chapped Skin, Weary Souls, and a Savior

I never thought I’d be writing a blog post about Vaseline but, I guess, it doesn’t surprise me either. Nowadays, I just go with it and see where the path will carry me. Honestly, if dirty feet can be a topic then why not Vaseline?

I have a small round and metal travel size container of vaseline. I bought it in the Spring of 2016. I misplaced it awhile back but came across it again not too long ago and put the container back in my purse. Each time I go into my makeup bag to retrieve some balm for my dry winter lips, I think about my dad. I bought the container at a Walgreens in Arizona while visiting my dad. It would be my last visit with him. He would pass away just five months later. I had no idea that that particular visit home to see him would be the last.

For some odd reason, it’s comforting to pull this Vaseline out of my purse. There’s relief and comfort in that jar, not just for my chapped winter skin but for my chapped winter soul. It’s comfort that shows up and speaks directly to that part of my heart that never stops grieving this side of eternity. The part of my heart that knows death and sorrow is a part of life but equally knows, with a deep assurance, that one day it will cease. No more pain, no more tears…our healing journeys complete. No more cracked skin, no more cracked and weary souls.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

“Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
Oh night divine, Oh night when Christ was born;
Oh night divine, Oh night, Oh night Divine.”

Lies That Lead Us Astray…Tears That Bring Us Home

I had the beautiful opportunity to share a portion of my journey with a group of ladies at a Christmas gathering over the weekend. After the talk, I had a young lady come up to me and thank me for mentioning that one of the dysfunctions (along with with many others) that led to the ending of my first marriage was verbal abuse. She shared with me how she had been in a verbally abusive relationship not too long ago and how so many people have a hard time recognizing it as abuse. We also talked about how this abuse simply becomes “normal” and a “way of life”. Doesn’t everybody get called horrible names when they have an argument? Isn’t that just part of fighting, to sling hateful and degrading words at a person that you claim to love?

Yet the truth is…NO. As a matter of fact, it is not normal. It is not healthy. It is not a behavior that any human being should ever sit back, settle for, and think “well, that’s just the way things are.”

Fear will make us do crazy things sometimes. Fear tells us that we don’t have any other choice.  Fear will often tell us to venture down a particular road when we never imagined we would ever find ourselves walking down that road.  Fear will even tells us that the road we are on is as good as we could ever hope for.  Fear tells us to settle for the way things are (no matter how uncomfortable or painful it might be) because it’s most certainly easier, less painful, and less scary than venturing out of our comfort familiar zones.

Fear tries to convince us that simply existing and making it through another day of settling is actual living.

Fear is most certainly a liar.

Fear is also a thief. Fear robs us of the hope and joy of the better life that Jesus promises is available to everyone.

“A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” John 10:10

I’ve shared this quote from Seth Godin multiple times but it came to mind again this morning. “If you think you have no choice but to do what you do now, you’ve already made a serious error.

The challenge for today:  Refuse to settle for anything less than His best for you. Keep your eyes and your heart focused on the One who knows this best path even before you step foot on it.

One of my favorite things about the Christmas season is that I become more keenly aware of the great lengths Jesus (Emmanuel) went in order to be with us. I am reminded that someone who would go to such lengths to rescue us is not going to give up on us or abandon us part way through the journey.  He is fully committed and that never changes… no matter how broken, how scared, how lost, or how unworthy we might feel some days.  The rescuing is all HIM; we just grab on and refuse to let go.

*******

Yesterday at church, I was talking to one of our connection team volunteers and another attender.  We got on the subject of fear and how the enemy and his lies will lure us away from the truth. The connection volunteer told us about a new song that recently resonated with her called “Fear is a Liar” by Zach Williams.  As she told us about the song, tears fell from her eyes. As I thought back on that special moment yesterday morning, a quote I shared at the event on Saturday came to mind again.  Several folks have shared it since the event, so I wanted to share it again here.

“My brokenness is a better bridge for people than my pretend wholeness ever was.” – Sheila Walsh