I’m convinced that it’s God’s redeeming, relentless love that eventually cracks open the eyes to a heart
Once you see it; there’s no way to unsee it
Once you taste it; there’s no way to un-taste it
And those things that once only tormented you like thorns
become treasures for the trip
I can’t explain it
I can only embrace it
I was out on my run yesterday and was thinking again about how I’m often compelled to write about the same thing over and over. I’ve gotten to the point where I just go with it.
Lord, if I sound like a broken record, then let me be a broken record stuck on hope.
After hearing about the death of an old family friend this week, one of the first things that came to mind was the note my mom left behind for my family after her death. It’s the last few sentences that have stuck with me through the years.
“I am not alone. I have crossed over from death to life, and at this very moment, as you read these words, I am with my Savior, our Lord Jesus. I’ll be waiting for you here.”
I’ll be waiting for you here…
Those words encourage me so much. Those words are powerful, comforting and courage inducing.
You know… that person plans to cheer you on as you cross finish line…I’ll be waiting for you…
You know… that person plans to be at the airport to give you long overdue embrace as you get off the plane and arrive home again…I’ll be waiting for you…
This morning those five words made me think of this scene from my favorite movie, The Shawshank Redemption, when Red finds the red box and letter Andy left behind for him to find.
“I’ll keep an eye out for you, and the chess board ready. Remember, Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things and no good thing ever dies.” – Andy
I then had this thought cross my mind. Red had found a treasure buried in a field and that treasure was worth pursuing. For some reason this made me think of the verse in Matthew 13:44
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure, buried in a field, that a man found and reburied. Then in his joy he goes and sells everything he has and buys that field.”
Red “buys the field” that he found by purchasing a bus ticket, courageously leaving his old life behind, and grabbing hold of the hope waiting for him across the sea.
“All I know is I’m not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong”
I can’t shake the sense I’m supposed to write about this. Sometimes, in my quiet time, I’m hoping the Lord will place other words on my heart other than the ones that have taken root overnight. Sometimes, I’m just not sure how to share the words.
My husband’s work had a team outing yesterday afternoon to watch a Lookouts baseball game together. Family members were invited to join in the fun. It was my first experience with sitting in the comfort of box seats at a baseball game. It’s definitely like first class on a plane minus the warm washcloth to wash your face and hands off. 🙂 We enjoyed watching the home team win in the shade and under a fan. It was a pleasant and relaxing way to spend the afternoon.
It was also a nice distraction after hearing the news the night before of an old family friend who was recently diagnosed with tumors in her liver and rapidly declining. I shared this news with you all yesterday. Over the speakers, motivating and upbeat snippets of songs would play in between innings or at bats. One of snippets they played was actually a Building 429 song called “Where I Belong”. They would play it as someone went up to bat and one of their teammates was on base trying to make it home. Pretty clever, I think. Most of the time, the person in charge of the music would fade the music out and we’d only hear…
All I know is I’m not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me…
On one occasion when they played it and stopped it short again the little boy behind us continued to sing the final word of the verse…take this world and give me Jesus.
There was only one time during the whole game when they kept it playing longer and we heard the final word in the verse get played…Jesus
The final word is Jesus.
As I sat there taking in a relaxing ball game, I was grateful for the reminder again this week that even when the score seems lopsided or painfully unfair today, love wins in the end.
“For it is written:
As I live, says the Lord,
every knee will bow to Me,
and every tongue will give praise to God.”~Romans 14:11
I sat on my couch last night brainlessly scrolling through Facebook until I came upon a post from an old friend that jolted my brain back to the reality of life. The post was written by her husband, Leon, giving everyone who hadn’t heard an update on Susan. Susan went from feeling tired for a few days earlier this month to being diagnosed with liver cancer a week later. After spending 3 days in the hospital, she is now home on hospice to spend her final days with Leon and her beloved dog in the place where she loves the most.
After reading this news, I sat in disbelief, crying, as his words sunk into my heart. I reached out to Leon, left him a message and cried some more. I’ve broken down in tears multiple time in the last 12 hours as I think about these dear family friends and the hard and painful road they are now walking down. I want the Holy Spirit to give them that peace that only He can give. I want them to feel His presence in such a personal way that there is no doubt He is walking through this valley with both of them. I write these words this morning through tears.
I’ve known Susan and Leon since I was about 8 or 10 years old. I remember the first time they came to our house and being introduced to them. My dad and Leon worked together for years; Susan and Leon would often stay with us whenever they were in town visiting. They were several years younger than my parents. My mom and Susan became great friends. My dad and Leon were like their own little comedy show…they fed off of one another and always kept my mom and Susan laughing or just shaking their heads. Occasionally, after my mom’s death, Susan would share stories with me about my mom. I would love getting to hear about conversations she had with my mom.
When my dad had his life changing stroke in May 2012 that left him paralyzed and in a wheelchair, Leon and Susan would visit my dad on a regular basis and, sometimes, take him out to lunch… just to give him a break from staring at the walls of his caretaker’s home. They were the only local friends he had. My dad would often call each of us at random crazy times, not realizing that not everyone is wide awake at 2:00am. Susan and Leon made time to talk to him. Prior to my dad’s death, I would come home to Arizona for a visit and Leon and Susan would often meet me for lunch. We share a bond. My parents.
I guess this is why the news of Susan’s health has hit me so hard. Susan and Leon are like the aunt and uncle I never had.
Dear Lord, I lift Susan and Leon up to you today. Thank you for the way they loved my parents. Thank you for all the ways they’ve loved me.
God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever. ~Vance Havner
I remembered this quote again as I thought about a coffee cup I broke yesterday morning at work. I was hurrying along with an armload of items and the bag holding this cup slipped from my grip. I heard the breaking sound as it met the concrete floor. I knew what I was going to find even before peering into the bag. The handle had broken into several pieces. The cup itself was fine.
I thought about how often this happens when coffee mugs break. The handle of a mug is the most vulnerable section of the whole beautiful creation. However, even though we tend to toss these cups into the trash, the truth is, a broken handle doesn’t make a cup unusable.
Broken handled cups have seemingly lost their “curb appeal”but that doesn’t mean they can no longer serve the purpose for which they were created. A broken handled cup can still be filled up; it can still hold that which gets poured into it and out of it. A broken handled cup can still provide those who thirst…a drink.
Our broken, imperfect, and flawed journeys still serve a purpose. A life that has slipped from your grip and has broken into pieces very well might turn out being the most necessary (dare I even say most beautiful) part of the whole journey.
I wouldn’t want what works unless I’m also convinced that it’s true too. I need both.
I had this thought while reading through an article in my email inbox titled When They Ask “Does Christianity Work?”.
What I found interesting was the article explained how college kids growing up in today’s world aren’t necessarily asking “Is it true?” like students in the 60s would ask. Instead, the overriding question they want answered is “What can help me deal with my pain?”
The more I thought about this desire to find an answer to pain apart from or regardless of whether it’s true, it dawned on me why I’m so passionately against this method of journeying through life: I lived my life that way before and all it did was lead me down a dead end street. More on that thought in a moment.
I want you to imagine a scenario: What if you got married to who you thought was the perfect husband. He said all the right words. He treated you (at least from what you could see) the way you wanted to be treated. He was the perfect husband, the man of your dreams. However, 20 years into the marriage, you find out that all of it was lie. Your husband had only been playing a part, acting so to speak, to cover up the fact that he had a whole other family he had been spending his life with too. Yes, for 20 years the marriage “worked”. And, based on what you saw and what you were being told…you had lived a relatively pain-free, happy, blissful life up until this point.
How would knowing the truth change things? Would you want to disregard this new information and just continue on with this “workable” life? I hope the answer would be a clear no. Learning the truth changes things. When our eyes and our heart are opened to deception we begin to see that just because something works doesn’t mean it will lead us to the ending or the results we are desiring.
This is why what seemingly works must always be placed under the “is it true?” microscope.
After my mom died when I was 18, I ran from truth and went searching for things that could ease my pain and numb my grief. A decade later and I could sum up the journey with this familiar cliche… I had jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire. Yet, this journey ended up teaching me a life long lesson: Looking for what works apart from truth doesn’t last and will not supply the peace, joy, and love that your broken and grieving heart longs for. What works must always be joined with authenticity and truth or we might wake up in 20 years and discover our pain-free bubble has popped because it wasn’t built on truth.
“And now, here’s what I’m going to do:
I’m going to start all over again.
I’m taking her back out into the wilderness
where we had our first date, and I’ll court her.
I’ll give her bouquets of roses.
I’ll turn Heartbreak Valley into Acres of Hope.
She’ll respond like she did as a young girl,
those days when she was fresh out of Egypt. Hosea 2:14-15 Message
Some mornings I like reading scripture in the Message translation. Eugene Peterson has this way of painting a picture with words.
The beauty jumps right off the page.
Can you see it too?
There’s a sense of familiarity that comes over me when I read those words in Hosea
I can see my Redeemer in these verses
I can see His relentless
He leads us to a barren land
not to abandon us
not to punish
not to leave us for dead.
He knows the truth about our prone to wander hearts.
In a world
full of noise and distractions
is where our senses our heightened
It’s here where we can recognize His voice again
a love song…
serenading us back
back to that place of sweet surrender.
“When desire responds to grace it’s transformed.”
I heard that quote last night while watching an interview with David Bennett. David was once a gay activist who encountered the love of Jesus and his perspective and heart was forever changed. In the interview, he talked about something that has always piqued my interest. I’m paraphrasing here but it’s the idea that desires are available to us through a relationship with our Creator that transcend (or surpass) what we can ever fully understand or arrive at on our own. And, we need the love of Christ in order to comprehend it. There is something beyond, something that brings us more joy, something even better.
I feel like I talk about this quite a bit in this space, but I think it’s important because it was at that point in my own journey when everything shifted. I’m speaking about that season in my life when there was this tug of war match going on inside me. At the time, I could identify so strongly with the turmoil the Apostle Paul was feeling as he wrote the words he wrote in Romans 7 and the battle between the flesh and the spirit.
I then had a lightbulb moment during this struggle when I realized nothing could or would fully change unless my desires somehow shifted. The only obvious problem was…I didn’t desire to change. Duh! I even vocalized my lack of enthusiasm to the Lord. I remember being so angry and I came to Him kicking and screaming. However, I was also determined to bring my anger and questions to Him and not stomp off mad or turn a deaf ear. (I had already tried that technique for a decade and it hadn’t led to anyplace good.)
The only hope I was willing to cling to during this challenging season was this: I truly believed the God who created me deeply loved me and wanted His absolute best for me. There was something inside me that knew He held the picture of this perfect plan even if I couldn’t understand it fully or see it clearly. Placing my trust in the only thing I did believe about God changed how I began to pray. My prayer became “Lord make my desire for You stronger than my desire to drink. Lord, change my heart.”
My desire for a drink did not magically go away, but eventually there was this beautiful, profound moment in my story when His desire transcended my desire and I experienced a peace and a calm like I had never known before. It was the something beyond, something better that I had been searching for all my life. He did it!
“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. ” -Ephesians 3: 14-21
Sometimes, I get this feeling that the Lord uses rain showers on Sunday morning to remind me of His sovereignty, to remind me that He has this amazing track record of doing His best work through inconveniences and adversities.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
and your ways are not My ways.”
This is the Lord’s declaration.
“For as heaven is higher than earth,
so My ways are higher than your ways,
and My thoughts than your thoughts.
For just as rain and snow fall from heaven
and do not return there
without saturating the earth
and making it germinate and sprout,
and providing seed to sow
and food to eat,
so My word that comes from My mouth
will not return to Me empty,
but it will accomplish what I please
and will prosper in what I send it to do” – Isaiah 55:8-11
I wrote those thoughts on Sunday morning before heading out for yet another rainy day of worship. The next morning, I found myself in John10. It’s in this chapter that Jesus declares to be both the door to walk through and the shepherd to follow. His sheep will walk through this door and follow this shepherd because they will recognize the sound of their shepherd’s voice when He calls their name. It reminded me of the last portion of the verses I shared above.
“so My word that comes from My mouth
will not return to Me empty,
but it will accomplish what I please
and will prosper in what I send it to do” (emphasis mine)
I love the reminders and assurances in these verses. The words that He speaks have a purpose and that purpose will always prevail, always accomplish and thrive.
“For the word of the Lord is right,
and all his work is trustworthy.
He loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of the Lord’s unfailing love.
The heavens were made by the word of the Lord,
and all the stars, by the breath of his mouth.
He gathers the water of the sea into a heap;
he puts the depths into storehouses.
Let the whole earth fear the Lord;
let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.
For he spoke, and it came into being;
he commanded, and it came into existence.” Psalm 33:4-9
As I sat here thinking about the power and purposefulness of His words, two more memories came to mind. First, a post I wrote last year about Jesus calling out Mary Magdelene’s name the morning of the resurrection. It may not have been raining that day, but Mary’s heart was certainly swarming in a sea of cloudy despair. And, then, Jesus calls her by name. Mary!
Here’s an excerpt:
Then Jesus responds “Mary!”
I’m trying to understand why this one word response from Jesus means so much to me. That single word response is overflowing with heart gushing love and anticipation.
In the middle of her pain, Jesus calls Mary out by name. He doesn’t respond by saying “It’s me, don’t you recognize me?”
No, Jesus cuts right to the chase. He calls His child out by name and, instantly, Mary’s heart hears the truth and responds.
This scene actually reminds me of how Jesus tells us He is the Good Shepherd and we are His sheep. The shepherd calls his sheep by name and the sheep recognize His voice.
“The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” John 10:3
He calls his own sheep by name…
Can you hear it too? There is so much love packed into this one word! I can almost see Mary standing there, full of despair, and then hearing her Savior’s voice calling her out by name. And, if this were a scene in a movie, we would see a flashback scene of Mary’s journey with the Lord. We would see the moment she encountered Jesus for the first time, the moment her life went from captivity and torment to freedom and joy. The moment this once demon-possessed lady knew, with complete certainty, who was King over her life and Lover of her soul.
The second thought that crossed my mind was these song lyrics.
“He called my name, and I ran out of that grave.”
It’s interesting to think about how, on the day of resurrection, Jesus walked out of that grave and the first thing He did was call Mary out of her grave too. The storm of uncertainty was over and she stood there, heart fully alive, basking in the sun.
“Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:19-20
Maybes are the mustard seeds that move mountains.
Because you have so little faith... but truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as.…
It’s about more faith not bigger faith.
We need more maybes
more moments of loosening our grip on what we’ve always believed to make room for what could be
more moments of looking beyond what we can only comprehend with our eyes
More faith not bigger faith
Because it’s not about the size of our faith but the size of the One who had the power to speak the tiny mustard seed into existence and breathe life into the tiny.
Like grains of salt or grains of sand.
One tiny grain of salt won’t salt an entire meal.
One tiny grain of sand won’t make a whole ocean beach.
We need grain on grain.
Small piled on top of more small.
We need buckets spilling over with small.
We need grocery bag armloads of perhaps.
We need hearts bursting with maybes.