Beauty Collision

Last night I drifted off to sleep with the words “Come to the water” on my brain.  I thought they were song lyrics. It’s highly fitting I would currently have these words playing on repeat.  I’ve been helping to organize and plan for our annual creek baptism which will take place this afternoon. However, due to the weather, as of this moment, it’s still up in the air whether this next step so many folks in our congregation have chosen to take will take place at the actual river or indoors.

This morning I woke up and, during my quiet time, I tried to find the song melody that contained the words come to the water.  In my search, I realized that last night my heart was actually thinking of the “Oh Come to the Alter” by Elevation.  That was the melody on my heart, but mind had replaced alter with water.

O come to the altar
The Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ

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

However, in my search this morning, I came across another song I had never heard before called “Come to the River” from The Rhett Walker Band.  Don’t you love when that happens?  When you are searching for one piece of beauty and stumble, instead, across entirely different beauty. 

A beautiful collision. 

Lord, today, whether we end up coming to the indoor (alter)  or coming to the outdoor river.…I know You will be there rejoicing with all the people wanting to tell the world of the treasure they have found! 

As a coworker reminded me again last week.  “Let’s just keep the main thing the main thing.”

“My restless heart, oh led me astray
To my selfish pride, I became my own slave
But you placed a thirst in me, with no drink in sight
Cause I could not see, till I saw through Your eyes”

One of “those” moms…

Some days you make right decisions. Some days you make wrong decisions. Some days the choice is hard. What IS the right decision?  This week my mind has been overly consumed with this topic.

My son left for a 7th grade trip with his honor’s class on Monday. They were making the 600 mile trek to our nation’s capital.  They’ve been anticipating this trip all school year. Sean started running a fever Sunday afternoon…but no other symptoms. When he climbed into bed later that night he was feeling okay but when his alarm went off at 3:00am for his 4:00am departure Monday morning, his fever was back. Again, no other symptoms.  We had to make a quick decision. We called his teacher for some guidance. What do we do?  We ran through the scenarios. Could this just be a 24 hour bug? What if we keep him home and by Tuesday he is feeling normal again and misses the entire highly anticipated trip? What if we stick him on the bus with a bottle of Ibuprofen for the 12 hour bus ride and he feels fine when he gets there? What if we put him on the bus and he doesn’t improve in 24 hours and… we’ve stuck him on the bus with a bunch of other people??

Folks I was one of those moms.  I stuck my fever induced kid on a bus and sent him on his way…(But with the understanding if things got worse my husband or I would be hopping in our car to retrieve him.)

As far as I can remember, I’ve never had to make a decision like this before.  My husband and I usually err on the side of extreme caution. Partially because neither of us are natural risk takers and partially because Sean is our only child and every thing we do is trial and error. It’s not like my parents who had two other kids to “practice” on before they got to me…okay, I’m kind of kidding…but not really. 🙂  With one child you don’t get do-overs to “get it right” with siblings number two or three. Okay, in all seriousness, I do know there are no practice rounds when it comes to raising our children. We get one shot at raising and caring for every single one of them. We make the best decisions we can. And that’s all we can do. 

Earlier this year we used caution when Sean developed a fever and we decided to cancel a trip to Nashville. For Christmas, we had surprised him and gotten him concert tickets to his first real concert. He was disappointed he couldn’t go, but it was the right call. He felt miserable for over a week with flu-like symptoms, coughing, congestion and runny nose.

It’s Wednesday and Sean has now been an Ibuprofen packing tourist since our quick pre-sunrise decision on Monday. When he’s taking the medicine he is fine but when he isn’t, his fever returns and he begins to wilt. I just spoke to him on the phone. He is feeling okay this morning and still has no other symptoms. And, so far…no fever this morning. YAY!  I still have no clue whether this was the wisest decision. It was definitely not an ideal way of taking in the sights in Washington DC but he did tell me he is having a good time and is glad to be there.

Once again, to all parents out there, I’m sorry for being one of those moms. 

I hope I don’t have to make snappy parenting decisions like this again for a while. My heart can’t take it.  I’ve been trying to rest on Philippians 4: 6-9 but I will be honest…when it comes to my child…it’s hard!  And yet, it’s certainly no fun living in a state of chronic second guessing and all the mental beatings I tend to give myself!

Just keeping it real today folks.

And trying, once again, to park my heart here:

“Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things. Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4: 6-9

 

The Rock

I came across this picture while on the search to find another picture.  Gosh, it brings back memories.  This picture was taken while my new friend Michelle and I were visiting with my dad for a few days in Arizona back in April of 2002. My friend had never seen the Grand Canyon so we hopped on a plane during Spring Break and ventured out West from North Carolina.

I look at this photo and my heart bows down in wonder.  This was the rock where healing began. This was the rock where the Lord began peeling back the layers of wounds and speaking words of love and truth to me.  This was the rock where the Lord began to teach me the most important lesson I would ever learn: HE was my ROCK.

Some background: The picture above was taken a year and half after the story I share below.  In that 18 months, the Lord had taken me on quite a journey.  At the time of this picture, I had been sober from alcohol for just four short months. Life was a whirlwind of beauty. I was awake again! I was experiencing a joy so incredibly immense that some days I thought I would burst open because my gratitude meter was truly off the charts. I had received grace upon grace and mercy upon mercy and there was no way I could repay such love.

Below is the story of this rock.  

A failed marriage brought me back to my dad’s doorstep in Arizona when I was 27 years old. I had just finished a decade of going from one failure to the next. It was a season of starting over. My only possessions were two dogs, a car full of clothes and kitchen pots and pans. It was hard to come home after living on my own for several years, but I needed to get back on my feet. I knew my dad would have a hard time treating me as an adult. I was his only little girl. After discussing my concerns with him, he suggested I stay in the “guest house.” This offered independence and privacy. Who could pass that up?

The guest house.

Though thankful for a place to live, I jokingly referred to my accommodations as the “shack out back.” It was originally a storage building that my dad had converted into living space. It had one large room which I used as my bedroom. In the corner of the room was a wood burning stove for heat. My new home also (thankfully) had a bathroom.

I knew this would be a special experience from the moment I moved in and discovered two dead mice floating in the bathroom toilet. During the winter, I would prepare a fire at night in the wood burner stove. After several trial and error attempts, I became pretty handy at making a fire that was hot enough to keep me warm at night but not so hot that I was breaking out in a sweat in my tiny living space.

My dad also had an extra microwave oven which fit perfectly on the small counter in the bathroom. I was able to cook my morning oatmeal, make my morning coffee, and shower all in the same room. That’s pretty cool, depending on your perspective. But this was a season in my life when I was deeply grateful for things we often take for granted. I was thankful for a bed. I was thankful for a bathroom. I was thankful for a microwave.

Every morning before the sun rose, my routine would be to stick a cup of water in the microwave and make myself a cup of instant coffee. Definitely not my first choice, but since I didn’t have and couldn’t afford a coffee pot, I was content. I would then take my instant coffee, grab my Bible, wrap up in a blanket and head outside. I always went to the same spot, a big flat rock which was perfect for sitting on and relaxing. Eventually, my dad started to refer to me as a rock lizard because he always saw me sitting on this one rock.

While I lived in the “shack out back,” I returned to that rock every single morning. I looked forward to this time of reacquainting myself with the Lord. After ignoring the Lord for years, we were now talking again on a daily basis. Some days, I would just sit quietly sipping my coffee while He spoke truth into my heart. Other times, I asked for advice or cried out to Him for wisdom. Even though it was a season filled with days of uncertainty, I loved sitting on that rock every morning.

Even though my world seemed to be falling apart, I treasured this time with the Lord.

Choosing to go to this rock every morning was the beginning of huge life change for me. It
was the beginning of a new journey and a new chapter. Failure will often bring you to a
crossroad where an important question must be answered:

Do I continue doing things the same way I have always done them or do I choose to
take a long, hard look at how I got where I am?

And every morning when I wake up today I still have a choice to make. I have to
decide:

Will I choose to go to the Rock? Will I choose to consume truth?

After years of running from the truth, I was now ready to hear and consume the answers
found in God’s Word. For years I made the mistake of looking for stability in my life apart from Christ.

What I discovered on this roller coaster journey was that nothing and no one is capable of being my Rock and my Foundation except Christ.

“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)

I am thankful I can now make this choice to run to my Rock and consume truth with a cup of
freshly ground coffee, brewed in my very own coffee machine!

Records of Hope

I love how a piece of art can both simultaneously speak or impact a whole group of people and a single person. I guess that’s one reason it’s beautiful. Scripture does this. Poems do this. Sunrises do this. Pictures do this. Songs do this.

I woke up with “I Have This Hope” playing on repeat this morning. I heard it playing not too long ago too. That’s okay.  I guess if the record player gets stuck on a song, I want it stuck (unswervingly) on the reminder of hope. Always.

So I got out of bed, grabbed my cup of coffee, and listened to that song again. I love this video I found on YouTube which accompanies this Tenth Avenue North song.

Not only does it show a cup of liquid manna from heaven but it shows an open locket.  I have a locket like that. It’s been passed down to every girl in my family since my great, great grandmother. Other than my mom’s Bible, her locket was the only other thing I wanted to make sure I kept after she passed away 26 years ago.

The picture above is my attempt to be creative and and recreate the YouTube video. 🙂

I have this hope and I can’t imagine life without it.

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess because He who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23

Play on record player. Play on.

Deserted Places

“Then a man with a serious skin disease came to Him and, on his knees,begged Him: “If You are willing, You can make me clean.”

 Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out His hand and touched him. “I am willing,” He told him. “Be made clean.” Immediately the disease left him, and he was healed.Then He sternly warned him and sent him away at once, telling him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go and show yourself to the priest, and offer what Moses prescribed for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”  Yet he went out and began to proclaim it widely and to spread the news, with the result that Jesus could no longer enter a town openly. But He was out in deserted places, and they would come to Him from everywhere. Mark 1:45

I was reading through the first chapter of Mark this morning and it was the last verse, verse 45, that caught my heart’s attention.

“But He was out in deserted places, and they would come to Him from everywhere.”

The thought I had was this: Jesus, you still log time in the deserted places. Not because You are forced there (like when You were walking this earth) but because the deserted places are where You know we’ll come looking for You.  

So often, it’s when we find ourselves alone or at the end of our ropes when we encounter His love. It’s in the empty, lonely, hopeless…deserted places when our eyes are opened and we come face to face with our rescuer. We can feel His arms lifting us up and giving us strength. We can feel His peace calming our fears. We can hear His voice rebuking the waves and reminding us….Child, I’ve got this!  And though our actual eyes may not be able to see the answer…our spiritual eyes have never experienced anything more real than this.  Hope in the hopeless. Peace in the midst of pain. Strength in the solitude.

Thank you, Jesus, for logging time in our deserted places. Thank you that we can come to You from everywhere. Thank you for waiting for us there and guiding us home. 

 

…on behalf of the one who waits…

“From ancient times no one has heard,
no one has listened,
no eye has seen any God except You,
who acts on behalf of the one who waits for Him.” Isaiah 64:4

What struck me again this morning after reading the above verse about this union we enter into with the Lord is the invitation (over and over) to be instead do, do, do.

He acts on behalf of the one who waits for Him 

Sure is different than that phrase you often hear people throw around:  God helps those who help themselves.

You won’t find that anywhere in Scripture. However you will find many instances where the Lord instructs us to wait, to be still, to rest, to abide IN HIM.

For the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has said:
“You will be delivered by returning and resting;
your strength will lie in quiet confidence.
But you are not willing.” Isaiah 30:15

Therefore the Lord is waiting to show you mercy,
and is rising up to show you compassion,
for the Lord is a just God.
All who wait patiently for Him are happy. Isaiah 30:18

Wait for the Lord; be strong and courageous. Wait for the Lord Psalm 27:14

But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience. Romans 8:25 

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. John 15:4

Return to your rest, my soul,
for the Lord has been good to you. Psalm 116: 7

“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

This is where our soul finds the peace and strength its truly needing and desiring.

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I’ve been revisiting  the following passage in Ephesians the last couple of days.

“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.”

The first thing that stood out to me was this love we are told about that surpasses knowledge.  It’s bigger than our minds can fully comprehend (or recognize) apart from Christ.  Just think about that for a moment.  There are some individuals in this world we would consider and even label smart. According to the world’s standards they may even be considered geniuses with off the chart IQs. And yet, those “smarts” according to this passage are not even in the same category as knowing the fullness of God’s love. God’s love goes some place beyond that.  It’s bigger, it’s wider, it’s longer, it’s higher than anything our minds can conjure up.

The second thing that stood out to me was to know the Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge hinges on being rooted first.  “I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend…” Roots are attached to their source of nourishment.  That’s where they get their strength.  And, apparently, that’s where they also find this surpassing knowledge of His love.

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So to go back to that first thought.

He acts on behalf of the one who waits for Him.  

When we choose to return and rest our roots grow deeper and healthier. It’s in the waiting where we discover a love worth depending on and a love worth placing all our hope in. It’s in the waiting we “become fully convinced that what God has promised he is also able to perform”  (Romans 4:20)

Humor & Hope Walk Hand in Hand

negligence

I woke up in the middle of the night last night and I emailed the above word to myself.  I knew I would forget the word by morning time and thought it might be a breadcrumb on the path.

Last night I had this interesting dream and the only portion I could remember was a scene where this lady was talking to me on the phone. Whatever I was doing in the dream seemed to be work related but I have no idea what my actual job was.  Anyway, the lady on other end of the line was letting me know of a situation where someone failed to take proper care in doing something and was essentially being “negligent”.  But, here’s the interesting part, the person’s name who failed to take proper care just happened to be Mrs. Negligent.  So, the lady who was talking to me could not share the information she had to share with me without breaking down laughing after every other word.  She kept apologizing…“I’m sorry, I just can’t…” 

It was the strangest dream but I was completely amused when I woke up at 2:00am this morning and thought about how tickled the caller became on the phone.  Even though the situation itself was serious, there was humor to be found.  

The only thing that I can think of that could have prompted my mind to have such a dream was a conversation I had with a friend at church last night. We were discussing her recent health issues and some pending test results that may or may not contain bad news. We concluded that laughter truly is one of the best medicines in situations we have no control over. When my friend shared how laughing was often her go to response, she reminded me of my mom’s decision to use laughter as arsenal in her weapons while she journeyed down the cancer road. My mom loved laughing and, at one point, decided to record a bunch of her favorite sitcoms. She would watch them because they gave her more opportunities to laugh throughout the day. Because even though the situation itself was serious, there was humor to be found.  

I think it’s safe to say this has always been my perspective in life too.  I always (eventually) seek the humor tucked away in the hell.  I can’t imagine journeying down some of the roads I’ve been down without laughter. Over the years, I’ve had friends, family members, and coworkers bring so much joy into even the darkest moments of my life.  They’ve lightened the load by pointing my heart back to Hope with the use of a little humor. 

So the question is….who in your life needs the gift of laughter today?  Bring it to them.

“He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with a shout of joy.”  Job 8: 21

“Our mouths were filled with laughter then, and our tongues with shouts of joy. Then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” Psalm 126:2

Unlocking the Mystery

I was reading in Colossians this morning and it was Paul’s use of the word “mystery” that captured my attention.

“At the same time, pray also for us that God may open a door to us for the message, to speak the mystery of the Messiah, for which I am in prison…” Colossians 4:3

Here’s Webster’s dictionary definition of a religious mystery:  truth that one can know only by revelation and cannot fully understand.

Paul’s life and perspective was forever changed one day on the road to Damascus. A mystery was revealed to him and he could never go back to before. He couldn’t un-see what he saw.  He couldn’t un-experience what he experienced. In an instant, his eyes were opened to the Truth of Christ. The path he was originally on (the one he thought was correct) was no longer an option for him. His feet and his heart were now firmly planted on another path.

Mysteries:  They can drive us nuts and intrigue us all at the same time, can’t they?  And yet, a mystery compels our hearts and feet forward to find answers. Just think about the simple mystery of losing your car keys or your phone.  We become relentless in our pursuits to make that which is hidden…visible.

A mystery keeps us on the edge of our seats. A mystery keeps us alert and attentive.

Paul talks about this mystery on several different occasions in scripture.

“Listen! I am telling you a mystery: We will not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed,” 1 Corinthians 15:51

“On the contrary, we speak God’s hidden wisdom in a mystery, a wisdom God predestined before the ages for our glory.” 1 Corinthians 2:7

“He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure that He planned in Him” Eph 1:9

“Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel.” Eph 6:19

I love that there is mystery surrounding this quest we are on for knowing and understanding Jesus Christ. I love that it takes “detective” work to uncover the mystery of who He is. I love that the mystery is “revealed” as we commit to journeying with Him through all the questions. I love that open and receptive hearts is the only key required to unlocking the mystery.

The door opens. His light pours in and, like Paul, our feet our forever placed on a different path.

Surprising Beauty

“What treasure waits within Your scars?
The gift of freedom gold can’t buy.”

I’ve been reading and coming across several reminders this week of redemption’s beauty.  The song verse above kind of sums up this beauty for me.

treasure within a scar 

That’s the beauty.  The fact that the Lord doesn’t simply sew up wounds…which really is all we desire and ask Him to do, isn’t it?  We just want healing, Lord. But, He goes further. He offers us more than we even knew was available.  I think of Eugene Peterson’s translation of these verses in Psalm 18.

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

Surprised to be loved! 

Treasures are often tucked away in places we never imagined them to be and we stand awestruck.  How did you do that, Lord? 

So often when reading verses about pain or destruction and how the Lord comes in and breathes life back into our hopelessness we are also given the reason.

When people see this then they will know…ME

I was the one who rebuilt. I was the one who brought them up from their graves. I was the one who replanted and caused the barren land to be filled with crops again.  (Ezekiel 36 and 37)

And now, God, do it again—
    bring rains to our drought-stricken lives
So those who planted their crops in despair
    will shout hurrahs at the harvest,
So those who went off with heavy hearts
    will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing. ~Psalm 126: 5-6

Rocks & Wings

“I wonder. How well did Eve really know God, her Shepherd? She seemed so easily swayed by the enemy’s lies.

Why was Eve instantly gullible?

I believe that even though Eve knew truth, she wasn’t firmly grounded in truth. She knew what God “said” but never fully grasped Who He was—completely trustworthy and good. She didn’t understand He would never hold back any good thing from her.”

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I read these words this morning and immediately found my own story and journey weaved through them. Growing up I knew what God “said”. I went to church. I read my Bible. I even did a “read the Bible in 365 days devotional” one year when I was a teenager. During these same years, I stood in awe watching my mom’s faith and trust and love for “her Savior” become stronger and stronger—even though cancer was eating away at her body.

I recently shared with my son that it wasn’t until years later that I personally came to believe that God was completely trustworthy and good. I often describe those early years of my faith as “riding on the coattails” of my mom’s faith. She had “enough” for both of us.  She was my tangible. She was my rock.

And then my rock was gone. The “free” ride was over and my faith crumbled.  I quickly discovered I had no clue how to fly and navigate this faith journey without her.

To make a long story short, I spent the next decade or so of my life on a crazy, painful, humbling journey that ultimately taught be to grasp Who HE was—completely trustworthy and good.

It was His Wings I needed.  I had a rock to cling to again…but this time it was The Rock, a firm foundation, an everlasting, enduring anchor for my soul.

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“I call to You from the ends of the earth when my heart is without strength. Lead me to a rock that is high above me.” Psalm 61:2

“The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my mountain where I seek refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”  Psalm 18:2

“Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.” Psalm 40:31

“He will cover you with His feathers; you will take refuge under His wings. His faithfulness will be a protective shield.” Psalm 91:4