Passion for His Fame

Bring Him Fame

So let this love be like a fire
Let our life be like a flame
Fill our souls with Your desire
Let our passion bring You fame*

There was a time I took a spiritual gifts test through my church. I wasn’t caught off guard by my strengths, but I was pleasantly surprised to see a few previously low-scoring areas move up a little bit. Honestly speaking though, there were still some areas that were just plain low … pretty deficient actually.

I literally came up with the lowest possible number on Worship. And really, it’s because I don’t have a lick of natural inclination, talent, or skill when it comes to musical expression. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t still be a “Worshipper.”

We all have a tendency to let our natural bent define us.  Does that mean that we can’t excel as well in the areas where we naturally fall short though? I know the Lord delights in my gifts, but is He bummed out about me in the areas that I’m not dominating in some spiritual awesomeness?

One day, I went to a sandwich shop, picking up lunch with my kids. The guy behind the counter making our lunch had a black eye patch covering one of his eyes. It looked just like a pirate patch. I noticed it and was inwardly cringing as my 2 year old would not take his eyes off of this man. I was terrified by the possibility of what he might say.

And then he pointed. With a chubby innocent finger, he pointed straight at the man and said, “Cool hair. Cool hair Mommy.”

The knot in my throat loosened as I sighed relief and noted that indeed, this man had a head full of really awesome looking dreadlocks.

In that moment, I heard the Lord clearly say, “You may think I’m taking note of your shortcomings when I look at you….but really I’m admiring the things I love about you. I am delighting in you, and so often you think I’m staring and picking you apart.  I don’t misjudge you my love, it is you who are misjudging me.”

Why do we worry that the Lord would focus on our deficiencies? Or even more, that those areas of shortcoming would disqualify us from any service of Him?! That I’m not “gifted” in an area, or that I fall short isn’t a hall-pass to be sedentary. It’s like we think that we have to be fit to even join the gym…that our skills and life have to be in order to serve in certain capacities.

Yet…YET, I hear the Great Qualifier say to me…to us, “My sweet ones, I delight in you. I don’t notice that you can’t sing…I see the worshipper inside of your heart. So come, and worship…I delight in all of YOU.”

Let us allow our passion for Him to bring fame to his name. Let us rely on the wonder of Him to fan the flame of Christ’s work in our lives…not any ability of our own to excel in certain giftedness. “Every good and perfect gift is from above” anyhow.

Let’s allow our lives to receive the gifts… only to point back upwards to Him. And let us NOT allow that upward gaze to stray back earthward onto what we do or don’t do well. All to His glory….ALL to His glory.

Our natural ability cannot define our response to Him. I don’t have to lead worship, to be a worshipper. He sees the beauty in each of us, and even in our weaknesses, HE makes us strong.  He doesn’t notice our eye patch my friends, He’s admiring our cool hair.

But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Cor 2:9-11

*Lyrics from Jesus Culture, “Burning Ones” 

Post from the archives–Authored by Logan

Fields of Faith

 ship in harbor

I’m in a season of some hard things right now.  Big things…hitting my closest group of friends.  We’re dealing with a lot of loss, a lot of tossing waves, a lot of hard questions.  It’s not an easy time in my personal close sphere.  But I am so thankful for this group of people that I do life with.  They are exactly who I’d choose to have around me to weather storms.

Thankfully also, I know God is a bigger picture kind of guy.  So I’m doing what I can to stay close to his heart …to hopefully, eventually, peer through the periscope that has a fuller view of the world above the waves.

I keep thinking on something that the Lord showed me when I was in Bangladesh via a word for a friend.

One day in a village with the Food for the Hungry staff, we did a devotion and read these verses in Matthew 8.

23 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25 And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27 And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” 

My friend, Daniel, and I talked afterwards and he said how he loved that in these verses this time, the Lord showed him that our faith will bring about peace and calm.

My response… “and the good news is that for us, it only takes a mustard seed of faith to even move mountains.”

“I want more faith,” he said.

“Yeah, so do I.”

And along a walk back from meeting my sponsored child with Food for the Hungry, we came across a field of green plants with beautiful yellow flowers.

mustard field

“What kinds of flowers are those?” I asked our translator.

“Oh those?  Those are just mustard plants.”

I ran over to a plant and broke off a pod.  I’ve never seen mustard growing before.  Surely these pods are where the seeds are?  Is this even the kind of mustard I’m thinking of?  The kind we grind into paste and eventually mix with vinegar to put on a hot dog at home?  The same kind that reminds us that just one tiny seed is all the faith we need to move entire mountains?  Or is Bangladeshi mustard something different?

mustard hand

I opened the pod to find probably 30 tiny seeds.  Just one pod with 30 seeds?!

If all it takes is 1 seed to move mountains, then here we stood with a pod of 30 seeds in our hands.  And before us spanned a field with tens of thousands of pods on thousands of mustard plants.

It wasn’t lost on me that we’d just asked the Lord for more faith just a few hours before.  And here we stood with fields full of faith stretched before us.

I emailed Daniel later and said, “All it takes is one mustard seed, but today God gave you a whole field.  I think that whatever mountains in your life you’re wanting to move, you’re going to be able to move them.”

And I find myself thinking on the same thing now as the seas of this life are rough, and I need the faith to see them calmed.

“Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.

For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” – Matthew 17:20

Afterall, the Lord let me see that field too.

The truth is, he has fields of his faithfulness around the bend for all of us.  I wonder though, are we looking for them?  Are we recognizing them for what they are when we stumble across them?

Open our Eyes Father to see with your eyes.  Open our eyes to see above the storms, and through the waves, to the beauty that you have for us.  Give us greater faith, but let us not be discouraged that our grain of faith may seem small to us…afterall, you pack a lot of punch in one tiny grain.  We love you Jesus, and we want more of you.

**What storms has the Lord calmed for you lately?  When has he increased your faith to see them calmed?  And when was the last time you asked the Lord for something and instead of just giving you even the blessing of a double portion, he unveiled a whole field of his goodness before you?  Share with the community in the comments below?  We’d love to hear how he’s calming storms and moving mountains in your life.

Ship Printable Source, Photographs by Daniel C. White

 

Get Real….

Well friends, I’ve done it again…I’ve bitten off more than I should chew at once!  I mean, I’m chewing on all the life that I have stuffed in my mouth right now, but it’s one of those kind of bites where there’s too much meat, so you chew and chew and chew…like a cow regurgitating it’s cud because one time down just isn’t thorough enough.

Amidst planning Allume 2013, hosting over 100 people at my home this past Friday for a Christmas party, preparing to head to Bangladesh with Food for the Hungry in a month, and being wife and mommy (which alone are a mouthful to chew), we’ve just put our house on the market in hopes of moving just 2 doors down.  It’s a lot…and it’s all during this holiday season full of general hustle and bustle anyhow.

But you know what is interesting to me in the mess of all this craziness?….Somehow in all the chaos, I actually haven’t lost sight of my Jesus.  And the fact that he came as a teeny tiny baby and landed in the midst of a world full of more chaos, has brought me peace in the moments that I steal away.

I’ve been wondering what it is that has kept all of these distractions in my life from actually truly distracting me from the Lord lately.  And I think that I’ve realized that I’ve reached a point in my life where I’m just in such constant communication with my heavenly daddy, that I just haven’t lost sight of him.  He’s just here. He’s just real.  And, I remember Ann Voskamp said, in a wonderful illustration at Allume, that we’ll know we’ve gone too far when we can no longer hear his voice.  He’s the reason that all this stuff in my life is happening anyhow, so I guess I find myself talking it through with him on a regular basis.  His voice is right here beside me.  

And lately, I’ve found myself lingering on and enjoying the thoughts of my Jesus as that tiny baby in a manger, and the hard journey that his mom and dad had to make, on a donkey, to a far away land, just to be counted.  

Isn’t it true that we all often embark on journeys in life sometimes just to be counted?  But what if, like with Mary and Joseph, in the midst of heading on our way to make our mark in the world, the God of heaven shows up to us in the fullness of gentleness and purity…in an unexpected place?  What if, on our way to matter, on our way to count, the King of heaven and earth descends and is born to us in new ways?  What if in this time and place….he goes from being the God of heaven…to the in-the-flesh, prince of the earth in our own lives?  What if… on our journey to matter, instead of seeing a God who’s high up in the sky…we meet the real Jesus?

“What is REAL?” asked the Velveteen Rabbit one day… “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When [someone] loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. 

“Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand… once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”― Margery WilliamsThe Velveteen Rabbit

There’s beauty in what is real.  There’s beauty found in a dirty stable with smelly animals and a tiny soft baby in a manger.  There’s beauty there because it’s real.  Most of us can’t relate to the lavish life of a prince or princess.  But we can relate to the dirt and muck of real life.  And it’s that real life that our Savior chose to invade.  He entered this world in the harsh reality of a cave full of animals, and it’s STILL true of him that he intersects with us in the midst of our muck.  Once he’s real to us….He can’t become unreal again.  And once we’re real with him, we begin to see that we can’t be ugly to him because he understands.  And…it lasts for always.

“It’s a thing that happens to you. When [someone] loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real”

What if friends, this Christmas season more than ever, we let Jesus become real to us?  And what if, we allow ourselves to become real  with him as well?

 *Image credit: The Velveteen Rabbit

Go Fish

So, Allume has passed, and I’m still finding myself pondering some of the same things that the Lord has had me pondering for months now. Much of it, I shared in my session at Allume on Blogging as Discipleship.  I’m going to share a few snippits from that session below, but if you want the full on thing (complete with Monty Python impersonation) then you can download my session, along with the whole bundle of almost 30 other incredible speaker sessions HERE!

*          *          *

I’ve always been a people person. I am an extrovert if there ever was one, but I think the proverbial “lights came on” in my mind when I realized something years ago about myself.

I love a good party. I love to plan them to the enth degree….to decorate…to create atmospheres and environments where people can just come and have a good time.

Christmas Decor

I’ve been decorating for Christmas, as I’m sure many of you have been as well.  We’ll host a Christmas party this year at my home again, and so the decorating gets amped up a notch.  It’s even more fun to go to great lengths when you get to share it with others.  But… as much as I love to create and prepare, in the end…none of that matters to me as much as the people who walk into my home. When the first person walks through my door, worrying about the environment is done…and the people are what’s important to me.

And my blog needs to be the same way….

The blog has to be about the people reading. And whether we have 50 followers of 500,000, we ALL have the opportunity to impact lives.

When we blog, most of us all have little buttons on the side somewhere for all the myriad ways that people can follow us. They can follow us on Pinterest and see what we think is beautiful or interesting. They can follow us on Twitter for little snippits or links to what is going on with us in 140 characters or less. They can follow on Facebook, or subscribe to receive our posts in their email. We welcome “followers,” and sometimes it can even be easy to get hung up on if we have enough of them or not.  A disciple is by definition “a follower…a pupil of a teacher.”  But my question to you, and to myself is, “What are we asking people to follow?”

Jesus said in Mark 1:17, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” So if we’re following Jesus, wouldn’t it be fair to assume that our blogs would reflect that somehow?

I’m not saying that means we should all write devotional or spiritual blogs all the time either. Some people are gifted to be able to do that all the time, but some of us are called to make disciples other ways too.  

They say that people are the happiest when they’re giving themselves away. So I want to encourage you to give of yourself from your areas of giftedness. Give of your talents, and your passions, your wisdom, and your struggle….give them all to the glory of the King. Invite people into your journey…into your creativity….into your elements. Chances are if you’re blogging, you’ve got a few followers….and whether you realize it or not, you are making disciples.  We have the privilege of sharing our journeys, our daily living, the funny, the mundane, the beautiful, and even the hard….all to the glory of our King.

Our lives tell our stories, and I believe that the world needs to see what authentic journeys with a loving God look like. The journey is the guts of a story and what makes the testimony in the end hold weight.  It’s following one story that starts in the hard of here and ends in the peace of there. And the thing I’ve realized is that what God does in one life…in one journey, he can do in thousands.

We write. And we have a voice that has the capacity to reach farther than voices have been able to travel in all of history.  And, there are hungry people out there. People are hungry for authenticity, but not just a boldness without a filter….people are hungry for what is real. People are hungry for a journey that leads them to peace and truth in the end.  

Jesus himself said “Follow me..and I will make you fishers of men.” People are following….so the question then is “Where are we leading them?”  And if somehow in the end, they don’t catch a glimpse of what it means to be discipled….to be led in love….then what are we doing?

My dear friend Kristen Schell said to me in a conversation before Allume when we were talking about fishing for men, that “the call is to be fishers…the Lord will provide the catch.” We are simply a conduit ya’ll. The glory is to the Lord and so is the haul.   The question is, will we drop our nets?  

Fishing boat

 

Image Sources: 1)My living room from www.LifeforDessert.com, 2) Fishing Boat on Flickr

Make Way…

A Lonely Walk to the Ocean
I was on a phone call the other day with a wise new friend.  Somehow in the conversation, my friend brought up the words from Psalm 77 about how the Lord makes a way where there was none.

I’ve been thinking about those words quite a bit since.  That day even, I knew I had more to chew on with those words…the reminder that God doesn’t need a way that makes sense or is obvious to get us where he wants us to go.

For some reason I ended up reading through some old devotions and came across this one, written just a few days after we lost our baby, Fisher, in March of this year.

Then, there it was…Psalm 77, staring back at me…not fully copied and pasted within the margins of that post.  Verses 1-15 shared.  A lament to the Lord.  Words like “weary, rejected, disturbed, faint, and forgotten” speckled throughout the psalm that spoke to my soul in such relatability.  I got it.  I felt that way.  And I found comfort too in remembering that Jesus had felt that way on the cross as well.

As I read back through though, I realized that the part I’d shared, through verse 15, was so applicable to me at that time, I managed to overlook the rest of the psalm somehow in my grief.  I saw the promise of the Lord in verses 11-15, the reminder that God is a redeemer, that he works wonders and is good, but I missed part….until just the other day.

I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.
Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is great like our God?
You are the God who works wonders;
you have made known your might among the peoples.
You with your arm redeemed your people,
the children of Jacob and Joseph.

Psalm 77:11-15

It wasn’t until my friend mentioned it, that I went back and spent some time with the rest of that psalm…

“Your way was through the sea,
your path through the great waters;
yet your footprints were unseen.
You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.”
Psalm 77:19-20

Here I am now, 8 months later, realizing that God parted waters and made a way where it seemed that there wasn’t one.  I came to the edge of a vast ocean, hemmed in by the life chasing hard behind me…my own version of a vengeful Egypt hot on my trail…threatening to overtake me if I didn’t keep moving.  So I did….I kept moving….towards an ocean of impossibility.  Putting one foot in front of the other, worrying about just the next step I had to make…I crossed over.

Here’s what I wrote to my friend after the Lord revealed this all to me last week:

“I’m on the other side of that ocean now…and He’s closing those parted waters back over.  I see how I got here, but I can’t go back there to the other side again.  I see how his promises have made a way where there shouldn’t have logically been one, and now when I look back, I see that other side, but in between it’s filled in with his goodness.”

And I want to remind you my friends….that He makes a way.  He makes new ways.  He creates dry paths across vast oceans and rivers, walkways through deserts, and He forms rivers through droughtlands.

Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
-Isaiah 43:19

And those ways that he makes….they are better.  Because if I’d been Moses, I’d have hit the edge of that water and panicked.  I’d have looked around the dry desert and wondered how I’d fashion enough rafts for tens of thousands of people to cross an entire sea.  And I would have thought to myself that by all reason, sometimes there just isn’t a way.

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”
– Matt 10:27

“You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
Psalm 16:11

But, there is friends….with God, there is always a way.  Sometimes, we just have to take the steps forward into the “impossible” to walk on dry land.  Then, at some point in our journey, we’ll look back and realized that we crossed over a place where there wasn’t a way that we could see, and God has covered that place back over with his goodness and mercy.

Photo Credit: A Lonely Walk to the Ocean

Shalom at the Gates

I just have to share a really phenomenal thought that I recently heard.  It’s been rocking my world since I heard it…in a super-awesome-holy-spirit-infused sort of way.  I’m gonna make it short and sweet today, and let the word of God just do it’s thing.

In ancient cultures, the city gate was the place where pretty much anything of importance happened.  Most all cities had a wall around them that protected those within and kept the outsiders out.  So, the gate really became a hub of activity. Outside of the gates was where the sick were laid out.  Trials and stonings took place at the gates.  The elders of the city would meet at the gates. Commerce happened at the gates.  The gates were the heartbeat of the city.  Full of life, but also chaotic with so much going on all around.

The city gate is where the culture addressed the chaos of its people.*

The gate was a place that was anything but peaceful….anything but shalom.

The Hebrew word shalom (šālôm) is defined as a state of wholeness and security embracing both the physical and spiritual dimensions and relating not only to the individual, but also to entire communities and relationships among persons. **

The gates and culture were chaos, but then….then, friends, came Jesus.

“I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture… I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Jn 10:9–10

If the gate is the place where the culture addressed the chaos of its people, and Jesus came as the gate….then where there was chaos, we now know peace. 

And not only that…but where there is chaos, He asks us to bring that peace in his name.  We represent the Kingdom of Heaven wherever we go.  And where we go, we bring Jesus.  We carry His perfect shalom and can bring that peace into any chaos around us.  Thy Kingdom come…thy will be done…ON EARTH as it is in heaven.

So bring it friends….bring that peace with you.  Let’s address the chaos of our culture with the shalom of a Savior.

* Quote by Rich Butler, **reference, The Eerdmans Bible dictionary, Photo Credit: Bogle Photography

Lose the Fork…and Be The Part You Were Created To Be!

Friends,

Allume is done!  And oh my words was it fun!!!  I am truly humbled and grateful for the opportunity to serve all of you, to laugh with you, to eat and fellowship with you, and to encourage the things that the Lord is doing within this community!  Oh MY WORDS….I am beyond blessed to be a part of this incredible event and group of women.

I totally meant to have this post up last night or first, first thing this morning, but let’s be honest….I was so stinking tired and I’m just kinda banking on a little bit of grace from you all!

I don’t have a single picture from the entire weekend either….so our lovely picture above is from a completely impromptu word the Lord gave me during my breakout session.  Don’t ever underestimate the power of God to use even Monty Python for his glory!  And for those of you who missed the reference (and thankfully for me….the live impersonation of it), here’s what I want to say to each of you:

We are all parts of one body, and if we don’t operate out of the giftings that the Lord has given to each of us….then we become a useless trunk of a body….paralyzed by ineffectiveness at the job we’ve been called to do as a whole.  This is a community chocked full of phenomenal giftedness in different areas, and I couldn’t be more proud or excited to see how our Father will use our time together this past weekend to impact the world!

So a few fun takeaways that really stuck with me….

Grow your passions, and that will grow your blog.

Live your real life, not just your virtual online one…

You’re not just generating followers….you’re making disciples.

Get low and let your brokenness heal you.

And always….ALWAYS….eat your mudcake without a fork!

Love you all!

You can link-up your Allume posts here!

The Power of Hospitality

Friends, Allume is less than a week away, and I am SO looking forward to seeing so many of you!  Please…run up and tackle me with hugs!  I promise I won’t think it’s weird!

Sarah Mae very generously dubbed me the Allume “hospitality artist” months ago.  As we’ve all been working on various parts of the conference, and my job is particularly hospitality oriented, I thought I would share with you all what hospitality means to me…and more importantly, what I believe it means to Jesus.

I could honestly go on and on about biblical hospitality, and in fact have enough notes and research to lead an entire study on it.  I’ll spare you the months worth of info for now though and tell you this:

Hospitality isn’t just a spiritual gift given to some.  It’s more than being able to throw a fabulous party too.  True biblical hospitality is a demonstration of love for others.  And before you say you aren’t good at it…you should probably note that it’s pretty much a requirement for all believers.  We “practice” hospitality because we can always improve upon loving others well.

In case you were wondering, the word hospitality comes from the Greek word philoxenia which means, “Love of strangers.”

I love the verses in Hebrews 13:1-2 that say “Let brotherly love continue.  Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”  Perhaps as exciting to me as the idea of literally entertaining angels is the phrase, “let brotherly love continue.”  Part of the way we show hospitality is just to continue to love one another!

All throughout the gospels we see examples of Jesus and the disciples coming into a city and being “received” into the homes of the believers there.  And then there’s the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10…one woman all heart, and one hyper-disciplined…exemplifying that our hospitality should be a combination of service, loving, and giving of ourselves to one another.

Romans 12:10-13 says, ” Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”

One of my most favorite passages regarding what it means to be hospitable is in Acts 28.  Paul lands at Malta when he is blown off course in one of his missionary journeys.  The natives welcome him, and a man named Publius entertains him for 3 days in his home.  It even says that the natives showed “unusual kindness.”  It just so happened that Publius’ father was sick with dysentery and so while he was there, Paul visited him and prayed for his healing.  The Lord healed him, and then the rest of the people on the entire island who were sick came and were also healed.  When Paul left Malta, they supplied everything he could possibly need for the rest of his journey.

Did you get that?!  Random unexpected guests get welcomed in…and for THREE days at that?!  Before Paul’s time there is done, an entire island’s worth of sick are healed.  And… the biggest thing that the Lord has continued to impress upon me, is that when we usher in an atmosphere of hospitality, the Lord is pleased and we suddenly see Him show up in power.  We honor the Father when we honor one another, and as a result, he breaks out unexpected blessing right back onto us!

So here’s what I want to say about all of this hospitality in regards to Allume.  We’ve all been working our little tookis’ off to make sure that the upcoming conference is fantastic.  We’ve crafted, and dreamed, and created things to make the environment lovely.  The meals have been carefully selected to be delish (and will actually include some green vegetables this year)!  The space is well thought through, the gift bags delightful, and the i’s have been dotted and the t’s crossed.  But once we’re all there….let me say that those preparations and details will take a back seat to the fact that all of your lovely faces will be filing through the doors.  Because loving people is what true hospitality is about.

So don’t be surprised when the presence of the Lord descends in a mighty way as you are ushered into the conference.  Expect to be loved on, and expect to be blessed.  And just as Paul was refreshed from his time spent receiving the hospitality of Philemon (in Philemon 4-7), so we pray that you will be refreshed from your time at Allume.  And so friends, it is our desire that our time together at Allume will be marked by true biblical hospitality….of loving well both strangers and friends.

See you soon!

Photo Credit

Timeless

I just spent an entire week in Colorado for some counseling.  After a few hard losses, my husband and I realized that it could only do us good to spend some time and money investing more deeply into ourselves and our relationship.  It was phenomenal.  And that word, I’ll tell you, is an understatement.

While we were there, we were reacquainted with a concept that I’ve understood before, but the Lord really impressed upon me the importance of both employing more in my own life and also to share with you all as well.

It’s called “heart prayer” and it is the most healing and gentle way of seeking the Lord for things we may need to see or understand better.

The fact of the matter is that we all experience hurts in our lives.  And if we’re honest, most of the time, a person who hurt us isn’t the one who can fix what’s been broken either.  Sure people can apologize, and that may help…but really, there are times when we know we’ll never likely see an apology.  There are times too where it’s not a person, but a circumstance that brings pain.  Our Father is the one who wants to heal those places….he’s the only one who really can.

But Lord, where were you when______________?!  How could you leave me when I was _______________?! 

It’s so easy for us to think that maybe the Lord was some distant bystander to our lives sometimes….you know, those times when he seemed so far away.  When you lose a baby, or a spouse, or maybe you were abandoned as a child…perhaps you were abused, or neglected?  WHERE ARE YOU GOD?!  Where are you Papa?  Lord….are you there?

Time has passed though, so we have to move on.  We can’t change the past.  We accept it and we trudge along.  Right?

Maybe not friends.  Maybe not….

Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus… – (Acts 3:19)

Our circumstances won’t change, but we can certainly find peace.  It’s not what happens to us that will ultimately make the difference in our lives, but rather what we BELIEVE about what happens to us.  If we can ask the Lord to get our history straight for us…to sanctify our past and bring truth to the lies we’ve believed, we can walk in a place of victory where we’ve believed ourselves to have suffered defeat.

But, where was God when….?!

What if I suggest to you that He’s there now?  That place we’ve been asking about….the hurt we felt, the pain we’ve experienced, the confusion we’ve endured.  What if I told you that whether it was 20 minutes ago, or 20 years ago….our limitless, timeless God is there NOW?

 To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. – (1 Ti 1:17)

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. – (2 Pe 3:8)

    For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. – (Ps 90:4)

So go to that place in your mind.   That place that left you broken, shattered, and confused.  Go on…I dare you.  Go there in your mind.  But this time, instead of just going through the motions of what happened…stop, look around, and ask Jesus where he was right then.  Jesus….where are you now, in this place?

“I am with you always.” – Matt 28:20

Where are you standing Jesus?  What are you saying to me?  What lies have I believed?  Who do you say that I am?  Will you come Lord to this wounded place of mine?  Will you hold my hand?  Will you tell me the truth?

      The LORD your God is in your midst,
      a mighty one who will save;
                  he will rejoice over you with gladness;
      he will quiet you by his love;
                  he will exult over you with loud singing. – (Zep 3:17)

He’s there now friends.  He’s in that place.  And I can tell you…he’s not across the room either.  He’s holding you.  He’s walking beside you.  He wants us to know the truth about who he says we are, and he wants us to walk in the present with the truth of Him defining our pasts.

           “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.

– The Message (Hosea 2:14–15)

“The object of my greatest pain, can become the source of my greatest blessing.” – Corrie TenBoom

He wants us to invite Him to walk through those wounded places with us….again.  He was there the first time, but somehow we’ve lived rather believing a lie.  Time travel with Jesus in your mind friends….He is limitless.  He is timeless.  And, he will show us the truth about who He says we are and bring us healing.

It’s not what happens to us that will ultimately make the difference in our lives, but rather what we BELIEVE about what happens to us.

**I want to give credit for the references, ideas, and depth of insight into this concept to Crossroads Counseling of the Rockies in Buena Vista, CO.  Thanks to them, I’m seeing the Lord turn my own Heartbreak Valleys into Acres of Hope too.

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A Bird’s Eye View

 

I have heard this verse a million times.  “Walk by faith and not by sight.” (2 Cor 5:7)  But I can honestly tell you that until recently, I don’t know that I’ve grabbed onto it very fully.  I guess maybe I always think about life like a hike…that we trust where we’re walking without always having to know what lies around each bend.  Oddly enough, I’m sort of ok with that.  But recently, the Lord has been teaching me something different about this verse that I wanted to share.

As you all know, the past several months in my life have been a struggle to recover and move forward from my 4th miscarriage.  This past Friday was my scheduled delivery date.  It has definitely been a forward-moving crawl of progress, but I keep running into this place, this question… where I haven’t trusted what’s around each bend as easily as I have in the past.  And the root question that I know is at the heart of it all is the Lord asking me, “Do you trust me?”  I find myself honestly saying….”I’m not sure Lord….because look at all of this behind me.”

For the first time after 6 pregnancies, I’ve been afraid to go forward, not because of just what might lie ahead, but because of what I know has lined the path on my way to this place.  Loss…heartache…doubt.  And somehow, until this most recent loss, I’ve managed to outrun all of that stuff.  Like, when it finally caught up…it all came crashing down on me in one lump sum that has left me feeling afraid and confused.

In a counseling session last week (yes….I have been going to a counselor,) my friend and counselor reminded me of this verse from 2 Cor. And for the first time maybe ever, I realized that I had to stop listening to the eyes in the back of my head and still walk by faith.  I can’t be afraid to move forward just because of what’s behind.  I can’t stop trusting God because of some fear that he’s not good.  He IS good and I can trust him.

Then the Lord reminded me “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.  You are with me.”  Walking through the valley isn’t just about what lies ahead of us, it’s knowledge of what lies behind as well….and still choosing….CHOOSING to trust the Lord.

Yesterday, I found out that the baby for months we’d thought was a boy (because of an intelligender test I took) was, in fact, a girl.  At an ob appointment to just check in with my doctor and to talk about the future, I learned that our lost baby Fisher was an XX….girl chromosones through and through.  I have 2 boys, so this was pretty exciting news for me.  One, because now I know we’re not a boy factory, and two because in that realization, I saw how the Lord had answered some prayers for us.  From the start of the pregnancy and before, my oldest son had been praying for a sister.  And while I love my boys, my heart’s desire would be to have a girl in our family as well.  Had I known that even back in March, I think that I would have been angrier at the frustration of feeling robbed almost.  But….the Lord, in his kindness, saved that little nugget of information for me to see his provision….his answer to prayers.  And something about that knowledge made me feel loved…and empowered…and unafraid.  He’s been listening all along.

Every time I looked out the back side of our house yesterday, there was a red-tailed hawk perched on our children’s playground equipment.  Once on the playhouse, then on the climbing dome, and then the last time it was staring straight at me from the post of a half-built zipline platform.  I was talking to a dear friend at the time and was exclaiming at how close this giant bird was to our home…and how I felt like it was staring a hole into me.  She suggested that I look up information on hawks because sometimes the Lord speaks to us in different ways.  She asked how it made me feel, and my response….”somehow powerful.”

I did some random digging around on the WWW and came across this interesting thought:

One thing that all hawks have in common is the skill to move between the seen and unseen realms gracefully connecting both worlds together. Their acute vision compliments this ability and their discriminating nature keeps them out of harms way. The broader vision of the hawk allows them to see what lies ahead.

They move amongst the seen and unseen in grace and power. 

Suddenly, I felt the Lord telling me that I am powerful and that my broader vision of the knowledge of his goodness is enough to trust what lies ahead.  That walking by faith and not by sight is walking in that valley…and not fearing.  That walking in faith in full knowledge of what’s behind, but choosing to press ahead….that’s glorifying to our maker.  And ya’ll….that’s just downright empowering to me too.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  – Phil 3:12–14

**How about you….do you need to stop looking backwards in order to move forward in power and grace?  Would love to hear your thoughts!

 

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Out Of The Way

I went running last night with some girlfriends.  This is a feat in itself because we’re totally a rag-tag bunch of wannabe runners.  As in, we’ve signed up for a 5K and none of us currently run.  So really, I should say that I did a walk/run if I’m being honest.

As we were panting running down the road, we were talking about how there are times in life when we want to keep helping, but sometimes feel like helping may even mean moving out of the way.

I don’t know about ya’ll, but I want to help people.  I want to fix when there are issues.  I want to give where there is need.  I want to encourage where there is doubt.  I want to make things right when they seem wrong.  But the truth is that there are things that I can’t fix, and needs I can’t meet, and doubts I can’t silence, and wrongs I can’t right no matter how much I want to.

Sometimes, just sometimes….maybe when I’ve exhausted what I know the Lord has called me to do…I just need to move out of the way.

One of my friends said, “Something we’ve realized over the past few years, is that we should never stand in the way of a wrestle that someone needs to have with the Lord.”

Remember awhile back when I wrote about the wrestle?  I had to go back myself and read it, and the Lord reminded me of something when I did. 

He reminded me that there is blessing in the wrestle.

And I started thinking that despite our best efforts to want to help others sometimes, we just might be getting in the way of the wrestle that the Lord needs to have with them in order to give the blessings he has in store.

I so often think back to Jeremiah 29:11….He knows the plans he has for us to bring us a hope and a future.  But the thing is, he said that to his people when they were in the middle of a wrestle with Him!  It’s when we have to lay flat on our face before the Lord and need him in ways we’ve never needed him before that we find him! 

We find him!

Sometimes…oftentimes…probably even most of the time, in the lives of others (and in our own lives if we can be that honest with ourselves,) we need to quit trying to fix and control, and realize that there are just gonna be some things we need to work through with the Lord.

Certainly, the body of Christ is meant for the encouragement, support, and edification of one another.  So please don’t hear me say “live and let live” here.  I think what I’m trying to communicate is that if we’re not careful, we can either come to a place where we can’t walk without a crutch, or we become a crutch to someone else, and then are in the way of a necessary wrestle with God.

Perhaps we find ourselves in financial distress and need to wrestle to discover Jehovah Jireh, God the Provider.  Or maybe we find ourselves amidst inexplicable chaos, and He wants to introduce us to Jehovah Shalom, God is Peace.  Maybe it’s a season of sickness and we need to encounter Jehovah Rapha, the Lord who Heals.  It could just be that whatever it may be, He wants us to surrender it all to Him as Adonai, El Shaddai, and El Elyon…our Master, Lord God Almighty, and Most High God.  Because he knows just where we are, and just what we need.

And he is kind.  He is good.  He is gentle…and faithful.  He is generous….extravagant even.

Another of my friends said at lunch the other day, “He is seldom early, but never late.”  He shows up.  He always shows up.

We do not have a God who will stand us up.  Who will humiliate us or torture us.  He is kind…and good….and gentle…and faithful.  He allows us to co-labor with him here on this earth….but we all know, that not much gets done when there are too many cooks in the kitchen.  I’d rather have a meal from a master chef, than a bunch of first week culinary students.  Wouldn’t you?

**Are there circumstances in your life where you may need to move out of the way in order to allow someone else to have their wrestle with the Lord to find Him him/herself?  Have you allowed yourself to become a crutch in an effort to prevent hardship for another person?  Have you inadvertently created a crutch for yourself of someone else?  I’d love to hear from you who you need the Lord to be (what you need from Him) in order for you to move out of the way for someone else, or to let someone move out of the way for you.

Photo Credit: United Nations Photo

Bless Her Heart

So, I’m from the South.  The land of sweet tea, grits, and Southern drawls… sticky summer nights, and minding your manners.  And when I say “minding your manners,” I’m not just talking about putting your napkin in your lap at dinner.  It’s a different culture down here.  Here in the Bible belt, it’s easy to sense people minding their manners even in a prayer session.  Around these parts, the joke is that, as long as you say “Bless his/her heart” with a phrase…it gets to count as a sympathetic word.

But get this…. “Lord, help Betty Lou…That woman is mean as a snake….bless her heart.  And Jesus, we submit Billy Bob to you…That poor man just can’t get control over his addictions…bless his heart.”

Yeah….it’s rude.  It’s a cover.  A big, fat, fake excuse for gossip.  And it does nothing for a person but tear them down.

Now, it may not be that obvious as my exaggerated version above, but we’ve all done the same thing whether we want to admit it or not.  A “Lord help my husband be a better _____________.”  Or, “Jesus, my sister is making me crazy….give me patience to deal with her.”  You know what I’m talking about.  Prayers out of exasperation.  How about this, “Father….my children are out of control….help me handle them well.”

Last week I wrote about calling out the greatness in others.  As I read through the comments, I really loved what a gal named Barbie said about it all.

“I’ve always been taught to call out the greatness in others, calling forth those things which aren’t as though they are.

And I’ve been wondering if that idea is something that Christianity today has really taught us to do?  I don’t know about you, but for me, it’s a relatively new concept.  It’s only been for about 4 years that I’ve even realized that we have the authority, given to us by Christ Jesus, to do this.  To speak something into existence….or out of existence for that matter.

So if you’ll be so kind as to let me speak really candidly today, there’s just something that I wanted to share that has revolutionized my life and my capacity to pray for people.  It’s simple really, but before I learned this, I think I often felt myself struggling to pray well or to even know what I was praying for sometimes.  Today I want to share with you something I learned, that around my circle, we call “praying in the opposite spirit.”

I wish it was easier to pray for people well sometimes.  Especially those situations with the “hard-to-loves” in life, it can be a struggle.  Our flesh can so easily rattle off all the things that tick us off or get under our skin, but to really pray for someone, we should be releasing blessing over them.  If all we’re doing when we pray sometimes is having a complain-fest to the Lord, then we’re missing the point and allowing the enemy to stick his big ugly foot smack in our sight-line of Jesus.

So let’s just say that Betty Lou really is as mean as a snake.  She’s unkind, and her words are full of venom.  She walks into a room and because of poor self esteem, she picks someone out to focus on tearing down.  And boy does she rip into that poor soul.  Oh she disguises it well though.  She’s arrogant and proud…but of what you don’t know.  Every word out of her mouth is a lie.  But, smooth words and a big smile pretend to hide the meanness she’s fully intending to sting…but sting she does…over and over and over.  Betty Lou gets under your skin.  She makes you angry.  You just don’t like Betty Lou.

So when we pray…we might be tempted to focus on all of those things I just listed above and basically after rattling them all off, we essentially just ask God to change her heart in a quick summation at the end.

But friends, we are daughters of the King.  And so is Betty Lou.  As citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, we are entitled to it’s benefits.  Benefits that Jesus paid for on the cross, and fruits that come from the Spirit of the Living God.  Things like love, joy, peace, patience and so on.

So this whole praying in the opposite spirit thing….it’s kinda like the concept of binding and loosing found in Matt 16:18-19.

“on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it.I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

I’ve often noticed that this verse is used to just bind something away from us…to remove away things that are bad….depression, anger, pride, etc.  But if all we do is bind, we’re on the defensive against the enemy.  We’re reacting…not being proactive on the offensive.  When we loose though, that’s when we ask heaven and all it’s benefits to come down here to the earth.  As Kingdom citizens, we’re binding away the works of the enemy and then releasing the benefits of heaven to invade the earth.

So Betty Lou….when we pray for her, it’s so easy to think of the things we don’t like. So, so easy.  But what if when we pray for her, we name the things we don’t like, but only to bind them away….and then we go one step further to release the blessings of heaven onto her as well.

Father, I lift Betty Lou before you.  In Jesus precious name, I bind unkindness from her lips.  Father, I ask that you release the kindness of Jesus over her.  I pray Father that she begins to understand your kindness towards her and as a result, she desires to share that kindness with others. Father, though Betty Lou may struggle with self worth, we declare that she is valuable to the God of all Creation.  You sent your son to die for her, and I pray Father that she can slip into the righteous garments that you have made for her.  You call her beloved child, and I declare that she will begin to understand that her true identity lies in you and who you say she is.  We declare that the lies of the enemy to cause her to question her value must cease, in Jesus name.  Father, I ask that in your kindness, you release a spirit of humility over Betty Lou.  I pray that her lips will speak truth, and where lies have come forth before, we declare that the attempts of the enemy on her speech must stop now, in the name of Jesus.  Father, you love Betty Lou.  You sent your son to die for her just as you sent him to die for me.  We are all sinners in need of a Savior, and I pray Father that Betty Lou is drawn into communion with you through your kindness over her.  I pray Father that she feels your gentleness over her and that her spirit is softened because of your goodness poured out upon her.  She is your beloved child.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Now tell me that you don’t like Betty Lou better now after that kind of prayer for her?  For real….when we can find the things we don’t like and come up with the opposite to pray for someone, it’s amazing the blessing we suddenly find ourselves able to release over someone.  Talk about calling out the greatness?!

Instead of just praying for an end to selfishness….let’s release selflessness, compassion, sympathy.  Instead of words about pride, let’s speak out humility and a tender spirit.  Instead of addressing harshness, let’s ask for gentleness, mercy, love.  You get where I’m going here?  And if you’re having trouble, get on Thesaurus.com and go to town with some antonyms.  If you think Betty Lou is mean, put that in the search box, and then you pray the antonyms for her…generosity, kindness, unselfishness.  Once you start, you’ll be amazed how much easier it is…and how much differently you’ll feel then too about Betty Lou.

Anyhow, I know this is a bit different from the normal devotionals that you’ve come to expect from me, but it’s something I’ve just been wanting to share with you all for a long time.  Because the truth is, that when we learn to pray for one another well, we learn how to love one another better too.

So let’s get out there and start praying in the opposite spirit!  Let us be marked by the blessings we release, and the benefits of heaven that we call into existence!

*What do you think?  Have you been doing this all along, or is this a new concept for you too?  I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments, and revelations in the comments below.

Image Credit: Someecards.com

Call Out The Greatness

Three times over the past month I have heard the phrase “call out the greatness” used with regards to building others up.  Once it was in the context of marriage, once in reference to training our children, and once regarding other churches within the body of Christ.

Third time is a charm… but being the obtuse individual that I sometimes am, I have finally caught on that there’s something the Lord has for us with this idea.

Calling out the greatness in others

Marriage is hard.  Anyone who’d tell you otherwise either still has on the rose-colored glasses of early marital bliss, or is lying.  One of many places where we are challenged and learn to die to selfishness in our lives, marriage puts pressure on ourselves and on our spouses.  We all bring a suitcase or two of baggage into it, and sin and flesh whisper deficiencies into our ears….shortcomings of our own and of our beloved’s.

And child rearing…training…raising…  The only people who seem to know all the ins and outs of raising perfect children are those who’ve never actually raised any.  It’s hard.  It’s a blessing.  But again….selfishness creeping around every corner, expectations of behaviors and attitudes that should be….it can be a sticky place.

Let’s talk too about the church itself…ourselves.  The judgements we all hold deep in our hearts, if we’re being honest, about even other believers.  That church is so showy, that one is too rigid, those people have too much freedom, some put God in a box, and others don’t seem to have any boundaries.  You know what I’m talking about….we’ve all thought it.  Self righteousness telling us that the way we know church to be is the only right way.  We nit pick other denominations, and choose sides, and in doing so, we weaken the whole body.

But what if in marriage, and in raising kids, and in living truly as one body of Christ, we call out the greatness in one another instead of focusing on the deficiencies and differences?

What if, instead of nagging our spouse about being such-and-such kind of leader in our marriage, we begin to call out the things he does well?  What if instead of complaining that he never cleans up the dishes, we randomly speak life into him about how proud it makes us to see him work diligently on the yard?  And, instead of moaning about lack in some area, we make efforts to promote him for the places where he excels?  What if he’s impatient, so we begin to speak patience into his life…and pray patience over him?  What if we call out the fruits of the spirit in our spouse….call them into increase and greater existence?

With our kids…it’s the same thing?!  Instead of chastising my son for antagonizing his little brother, how might things change if I heap praise upon him for his gift of making others feeling important and included?  Instead of calling a child bossy, what if we instead recognize and cultivate the hearts of young leaders who learn to take charge with Godly purpose?  Instead of pushing the shy into uncomfortable places, let’s honor the humility and meekness.  Let’s speak into our children the life-giving virtues we pray so diligently for them to posess.

And the church…let’s definitely not be remiss on this one.  Instead of comparing the virtues of expository teaching versus spirit-led storytelling to choose the greater, let’s honor each place and person for the giftings each posesses.  Instead of thinking that one place has it figured out better than another, or getting caught up in minor rib issues, let’s applaud what each different body does well.  Let’s be thankful that those who need deep expository teaching have the option to get it…and not to be forced into a sound and lights production on Sunday mornings.  But by the same token, let’s honor those places that may be more “seeker-friendly” for their ability to draw people in and create an environment of comfort as they ease newcomers into understanding of life in Christ. 

Shakespeare was right…”Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.”

As believers, we cannot be afraid of greatness.  According to Christ, we are born great….we are the workmanship of the God of creation.  We achieve greatness the closer we get to Jesus.  And, greatness has been given to us through faith in Christ, so let’s walk that out as we thrust it onto others.

Let us be a people who love…and in love, we speak life, we give life, and we change lives. 

Let’s call out the greatness. 

 

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. – Philippians 2:1–4

Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. … May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.  – Romans 15:2, 5–7

 

Journey To The Top

“Ever wonder where you’d end up if you took your dog for a walk and never once pulled back on the leash?” ~Robert Brault

My family went to the mountains for a couple of days this weekend. The weather was a glorious 20 degrees cooler than at home, and the sounds of crickets and tree frogs lulling me to sleep was just the peaceful respite this soul needed.

On Friday morning, we decided to take a short hike up to a rock face that overlooked the lovely mountain town of Highlands, NC down below. We started off with the end in mind. We weren’t 100ft into the 3/4 mile hike when my 2 year old stopped to pick up a “cool rock.” To me it looked like a piece of gravel, because it was, but to him, it was something valuable. Another 100 ft and we were stopping again…this time for a curled up dead leaf…wildly valuable goods indeed. Our pace continued like this…starting, stopping, starting, stopping. I could feel the tensions rising from both my husband and myself as we exchanged glances that said, “This is going to take FOREVER!”

We tried picking up the pace, we tried making up games to get our kids to “race” up the trail, we even tried pointing out things that would seem more interesting farther ahead of us to create a sense of rush.  Nothing worked.  So, we started and stopped and started and stopped.

About halfway up the trail, the thought occurred to me that I’m awfully glad God isn’t so impatient with me as we walk along this road of life.  He lets me stop and mill around…smelling the proverbial roses, if you will, along the way.  He lets me pick up a nugget here and there, and if I find value in it, he lets me keep it.  He doesn’t rush, or push, or try to trick me into going at a pace that makes me lose sight of all that’s around me.  He stays in step, encourages me that there’s so much more ahead, but then allows me to make the pace.  He knows what amazing things are in store, but he’s not going to try to force me to want it either.

Somewhere in our walk, I felt my throat loosen and the tension ease.  I held out my hands to collect the treasures my kids found along the way…rocks, and ferns, feathers and flowers, and even a snail shell.  And when we reached the top, we had more to enjoy than just the view…we had the collection that had been made from the things we gathered along the way, the items that told the story of where we’d been on the way to the top.

And suddenly, I realized that the journey was just as important as the destination….that the journey holds so many gifts for us too.

      You make known to me the path of life;
      in your presence there is fullness of joy;
      at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

~ Psalm 16:11

 

       Lead me in the path of your commandments,
      for I delight in it.
     Incline my heart to your testimonies,
      and not to selfish gain!
      Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;
      and give me life in your ways.
~ Psalm 119:35–37

 

      And I will lead the blind
      in a way that they do not know,
      in paths that they have not known
      I will guide them.
      I will turn the darkness before them into light,
      the rough places into level ground.
      These are the things I do,
      and I do not forsake them.
~ Isaiah 42:16

 

We too often forget that I think….that the journey sometimes holds as much wealth for us to collect along the way.  That the destination in itself is only part of the gift.  We want to rush and get to the end. We want a fast-food life…where we get what we want, how we want it, and immediate delivery too. But that’s not really what we want is it? I mean, a meal from a lovely restaurant where we wait and delight in the passing of time will almost always surpass the stuff in a paper bag from a drive-thru…in both flavor and experience. 

That’s the life that I want.  The one with the amazing view from the top, coupled with the treasures from the journey.

And sometimes we even have to be reminded of our own inspirations…

 that “This life is our only dessert….too brief, too sweet, and too delectable to hurry through.”

– Ann Voskamp

Feast or Spoil?

Our freezer stopped working yesterday.  Our deep freezer.  You know, the one chocked full of meats bought in bulk, extra spaghetti sauce, the casseroles I doubled for a “rainy day”, a handful of Kashi and Healthy Choice frozen meals for when my Hubs is gone, giant bags of fruit for smoothies, veggies, and more.  Yeah….that freezer.  The one that was packed to the gills.  It seems to have died, or decided to take a break from cooling for awhile in this sticky, South Carolina, summer heat.

All of the meat thawed.  It was amply cool, but completely thawed. 

So, after a few moments of panic over the thought of losing a few hundred dollars worth of food, we decided to make lemonade out of lemons.

We sent an email to a boatload of friends this morning, and tonight… we had an emergency feast.

And a feast it was too.  I roasted pheasants, grilled pork tenderloin and chicken breasts, made fruit cobblers, and yellow rice.  Our friends brought more amazing sides and desserts…Tomato Panzanella salad, fresh fruit, green salads, pasta salad, banana cream pie, and more.  We probably had 30 people over…on a whim…an emergency whim.  And it was fun!

And as we cleaned out the freezer, I got to thinking how this process today reminds me of life so often.

First, there’s some sort of upset.  An emergency, or things break, and all the goodness contained within is threatened by looming spoil.  And we have a choice.  Do we cry and throw it all away, or do we allow the Lord to use it to create something entirely better out of the contents?  Do we take the mess and invite others in to make a feast out of what could have gone wrong?  Do we engage community and opportunity to serve out of our mess?  Or, do we chuck it all out and sulk about the massive waste?  Do we allow lemonade to be made from the lemons?  Or better yet, do we look for ways to make the lemonade?

When we were cleaning out the freezer, I’m sorry to say, that stuffed at the very back, my husband found something from 2007.  Ok, ok…I’ll be fair….he found a few things that were way too old to eat.  Years too old.  So, we threw them out once they’d been examined and we determined them useless and spoiled.

And that got me to thinking too about how often life throws us a thawed freezer, and we’re forced into a call for an emergency feast.  But, before we can even feast, we have to remove all the contents, and determine what’s worth keeping and what isn’t.  What food is good to eat, and what had no business being in there still anyways.  Old baggage that just got shoved behind newer stuff and needs to go.  Old wounds that we’d forgotten we even had…but still need to be dealt with.  Sometimes, we unearth things in the midst of one crisis that lead to an overall cleansing which wouldn’t have ever happened if the freezer hadn’t died. 

Sometimes, the mess is the very thing that brings community.  The mess is the thing that brings a feast.  The mess is the thing that allows us to start fresher again.  Sometimes….maybe sometimes….we need a mess to spur us into those places.

And I don’t know what mess you may be dealing with in your own life, but I do know that if we allow it to spur us into deeper community, and feasting on His word, and cleaning out old baggage….it’ll yield a cleaner heart, joy in the mourning, and life where spoil could have ruled.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,  casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.  Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.  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.  To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Pe 5:6–11

      I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up
      and have not let my foes rejoice over me.
      O LORD my God, I cried to you for help,
      and you have healed me.
      O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol;
      you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.

       Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints,
      and give thanks to his holy name.
       For his anger is but for a moment,
      and his favor is for a lifetime.
      Weeping may tarry for the night,
      but joy comes with the morning.

      As for me, I said in my prosperity,
      “I shall never be moved.”
      By your favor, O LORD,
      you made my mountain stand strong; 

Psalm 30:1–7

I love the way the Lord showed me this illustration, as I have so needed to understand some of the mess of my life over the past few hard months after our baby died in March.  I love that in our mess we can seek him and find deep blessing and cleansing. 

* How about you?  When was the last time the Lord thawed the freezer of your life?  What did you learn?  How did it go?  What do you need to clean out to start fresh?

Nothing Never Happens….

 

Marlon – “It’s not ok!  I promised that I would never let anything happen to him!!!”

Dory – “Hmmm….that’s a funny thing to promise.”

“What do you mean?”

 “You can’t never let anything happen to him, because then nothing would ever happen to him.”

We drove home from vacation today and were in the car for 11 hours.  For about four of those hours, we allowed our kids to watch movies.  “Finding Nemo” was the first choice, and from time to time, I’d catch a few silly one liners.  Then I heard the above exchange and it made me stop and think.

And if you really want to pause about it, the conversation between these two little fish happened from inside the belly of a whale.

Hmmm….that seems kinda familiar huh?

Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the belly of the fish,  saying,

                  “I called out to the LORD, out of my distress,
      and he answered me;
                  out of the belly of Sheol I cried,
      and you heard my voice.
                  For you cast me into the deep,
      into the heart of the seas,
      and the flood surrounded me;
                  all your waves and your billows
      passed over me.
                  Then I said, ‘I am driven away
      from your sight;
                  yet I shall again look
      upon your holy temple.’
                  The waters closed in over me to take my life;
      the deep surrounded me;
                  weeds were wrapped about my head
                  at the roots of the mountains.
                  I went down to the land
      whose bars closed upon me forever;
                  yet you brought up my life from the pit,
      O LORD my God.
                  When my life was fainting away,
      I remembered the LORD,
                  and my prayer came to you,
      into your holy temple.
                  Those who pay regard to vain idols
      forsake their hope of steadfast love.
                  But I with the voice of thanksgiving
      will sacrifice to you;
                  what I have vowed I will pay.
      Salvation belongs to the LORD!”

 And the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land.

Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying,  “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.”  So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD.  (Jonah 2:1–3:3)

 

“You can’t never let anything happen to him, because then nothing would ever happen to him.”

Sometimes I wonder if we’re so consumed with never having anything bad happen in our lives, that we blame God when bad things happen, or get mad, or just go about our own plans to try and rectify things ourselves… and in the end, we miss the point of the whole shebang, or worse, we miss jumping into opportunities for greater redemption. 

Now, I don’t believe that God does bad things to people to teach them a lesson.  It’s not in his character to do so.  You may disagree with that theology, but I don’t believe he inflicts suffering on his people to “teach us a lesson” or to “make us stronger.”  I do believe that he allows things to happen, but that’s different than doing it.  Anyhow…massive theological sidebar that I won’t get into now….but no matter where you stand on that, it’s hard to deny that if nothing ever happened to us, then often times, nothing would ever happen to us.

Oftentimes, ministries are birthed from pains.  Crusades are born from a desire to see change.  Revolutions endeavor to make life different.  Revivals happen when people recognize their own need. 

Things happen when things happen.

Not that to consider what God might do with our struggles or joys necessarily changes our perspective on them entirely….but really….What might God do with us when “things happen” in our lives?  Think of the possibilities?!

Jonah went to Ninevah….AFTER he spent time in the belly of a whale.  And while I’m sure Jonah probably wouldn’t choose to have a re-do of that experience, his second chance at Ninevah saved the entire land.  The people repented and God relented.

Things happen….when things happen.

Doesn’t it make you wonder what our great God will do with each of our “things?”

      But they do not know
      the thoughts of the LORD;
      they do not understand his plan,
      that he has gathered them as sheaves to the threshing floor.
      Arise and thresh,
      O daughter of Zion,
      for I will make your horn iron,
      and I will make your hoofs bronze;
      you shall beat in pieces many peoples;
      and shall devote their gain to the LORD,
      their wealth to the Lord of the whole earth. (Mic 4:12–13)

I love what this commentary had to say about this…

“And thus it is here; the nations are gathered against Zion, as soldiers into the field, but God gathers them as sheaves into the floor, to be beaten to pieces; and they could not have been so easily, so effectually, destroyed, if they had not gathered together against Zion. Note, The designs of enemies for the ruin of the church often prove ruining to themselves; and thereby they prepare themselves for destruction and put themselves in the way of it; they are snared in the work of their own hands.” **

*Would love to hear your thoughts on that below!  I love that the Lord gathers for good, what the enemy intends to gather for evil.  How do you feel about the idea that if nothing ever happened, then nothing would ever happen?  Whatcha thinking?  Do tell….

Photo Credit – from Disney’s Finding Nemo

** Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: Complete and unabridged in one volume (Mic 4:8–13). Peabody: Hendrickson.

Sandy Feet

sandy foot

God is so big.

We all know he’s big, and all-knowing, and powerful, omniscient, omnipotent, and probably a few other omni-prefixed words too.  Lately though, I’ve been reminded that even in his bigness, he cares about the little things too…the teensy tiny things even.  Things like ants, and dew, and mustard seeds, and hairs on our head, and grains of sand.

      “Four things on earth are small,
      but they are exceedingly wise:
      the ants are a people not strong,
      yet they provide their food in the summer” – Prov 30:24–25

      “I will be like the dew to Israel;
      he shall blossom like the lily;
      he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon” – Hosea 14:5

And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. – Luke 17:6

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God.  Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. – Luke 12:6–7

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.  – Ps 139:17–18

I’m at the beach with my family this week.  Today my 2 year old was playing in the surf, and as I sat there watching him, I found myself noticing the thin layer of sand which was stuck to the bottom of his feet.  The thought occurred to me that no matter how hard I’d try, there was absolutely no way that I’d be able to count those grains of sand.  No Way.

But God knows the number of sands on a beach.  He’s the only one who knows…and the only one who can fathom it.  He knows the numbers of hairs on my head, and on my children’s heads, and on your head too.  And I’ve found myself just sitting and ruminating on this Biblical concept that I’ve known since I was a kid, and thinking how unforgotten our details are to the King of Kings.

Our details are not forgotten….

In fact, our details super matter to the Lord.

It’s not a new thought….just one worth remembering.  One I need to remember; that when even my tiny details are important to the Almighty…I am assured that the bigger things are sure not going to be left untended either.

Photo Credit

The Wrestle

I gotta be honest with ya’ll.  I feel like I’ve got nothing to offer by way of great spiritual perspective right now.  I should…oh I should.  I’ve fasted, I’ve feasted, I’ve focused, I’ve cried, and I’ve tried….and still….I wrestle.

A friend said to me the other day, “Logan, I bless you in your wrestle.”

And I’ve been thinking about that.  What it looks like to wrestle well with God?  Not turning away, or running away, but just an all out roll-on the-ground-because-I-can’t-seem-to-figure-it-out-but-have-to-get-back-close-to-Him wrestle.

It’s not a piddly thumb wrestle.  And it’s not a looks-fancy-but-is-really-fake-blood WWF-style wrestle either.  This is like a little boy wrestling with his dad….learning how to really fight, but truth is that you never learn how to fight well if you don’t learn how to wrestle well first.  You never learn how to overcome if you don’t hang in til the end.

My boys love to wrestle with their dad.  As soon as my husband walks in the door, both of my little guys are nagging him for “a wrestle.”  Tossing on the ground, rolling around, pinning, squishing, squeezing, and sometimes even not-so-comfortable wrestling.  In our house, we call it “Domination.”  And daddy always wins.  But my boys still love to play.  The more they play it, the better they get at in, and some day….they’ll dominate my husband.  They’ll come out on top in a wrestle because they will have learned how to do it well.

It’s ok to wrestle, my friends.

I’ve been reminded lately that even Jacob, the father of a nation, wrestled with God.

And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day.  When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.  Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”  And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.”  Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” – (Ge 32:24–28)

After his wrestle, God gave him Jacob new name even, Israel.  He redefined him and set him on a new course…a Father of a nation that is still called by the same name today.  God BLESSED Jacob because of his wrestle…because he didn’t give up….because he hung in the fight all night long, and he wouldn’t let go until he saw the blessing at the end of it.

And later….somehow it seems that even Jacob, when met with another rough time, had forgotten who he was.  So God piped up again to remind him.  He reminded him of his new name, Israel….and reminded him of the destiny and blessings on him because of that wrestle.

God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Paddan-aram, and blessed him.  And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So he called his name Israel.  And God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body.  The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.” – (Ge 35:9–12)

So while in my own life, I’m still asking questions….still crying out in the middle of the dark night even 3 months later…still tearful in my inability to understand or feel like I’m moving far enough past the hard place where I started, onto the higher ground where I want to be….I have to know, that when I hang in there, when I continue to pursue God….there IS blessing in the wrestle.

There is blessing in the wrestle.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.  Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,  and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.  In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;  and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,  praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,  and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel,  for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. – (Eph 6:12–20)

**When was the last time you found yourself in a wrestle?  What did you learn?  Did you hang in until you saw the blessing?

Original Image Source unknown

Riding Tandem

So, the 21 day Allume fast drew to an end this past week.  I was forced to finish a day early because I went out of town to a conference, but felt that the Lord had released me, so it was fine.

And this week, I really just have a few things to say about the fast…but what I’m really wanting is to hear what you all have to say about it in the comment section at the end.

I never did get a clear cut answer to the question I was asking of the Lord.  I’m a black and white person most of the time, and I do love a hard cut answer…for better or worse…and that’s just not what I got this time.  In a lot of ways what I was asking was gray I suppose, and it’s pretty much stayed that way.

It’s not like the Lord left me high and dry though, by any stretch of the imagination.  He restored some little hurts in my marriage.  He’s given me more grace and patience with my kids.  I’ve gotten my creative drive back too.  And I heard some good things from Him during that time.  His voice was everywhere, and it was good.

Parts of it were hard though….like some kind of soul detox.  And maybe that’s what I needed…Purging my junk and allowing room for Him to begin to rework in those places.  One day I’ll know, but for now, I’m more at peace in the knowing and not knowing…which is definitely a step in the right direction from where I was before.

.  .  .

My son just learned to ride a bike without training wheels.  We’ve tried other times to teach him, and it never went well.  He’d end up in tears screaming “I can’t do it,” and my husband or I would be angry and frustrated.  It was the pits.  But today….today, something different happened.

A couple of weeks ago, we went on a family biking trip for the day.  We decided to rent a child’s tandem bike attachment for my 6 year old because the terrain of the trail was too gravely to ride with training wheels.  During the early part of the ride behind my husband, my son’s inability to balance nearly wrecked them both several times and threatened to ruin our entire adventure.  But after a little while, he learned to trust his daddy.  His body and arms straightened up, his pace of pedaling steadied, and he was able to enjoy the ride.  The problem of trust that at first threatened to rob our entire family of a day of fun, eventually gave way to more fun for all of us.

So today, that balance he’d found from relying on his dad before was there.  The confidence that he could ride without the trainers remained.  And the first time he pedaled, he went all the way down the street without any help.  My husband had to run just to keep up.

And all of this biking reminded me of a poem I found in a book that I read my junior year in high school.  It’s not super profound, but sometimes I just like to be reminded that pedaling is all it takes to keep going.  That we can trust, because our Daddy knows how to lead…and teach us balance…and sometimes we can really sit back and just enjoy the ride.

The Road of Life

At first, I saw God as my observer,
my judge,
keeping track of the things I did wrong,
so as to know whether I merited heaven
or hell when I die.
He was out there sort of like a president.
I recognized His picture when I saw it,
but I really didn’t know Him.

But later on
when I met Christ,
it seemed as though life was rather like a bike ride,
but it was a tandem bike,
and I noticed that Christ
was in the back helping me pedal.

I don’t know just when it was
that He suggested we change places,
but life has not been the same since.

When I had control,
I knew the way.
It was rather boring,
but predictable . . .
It was the shortest distance between two points.

But when He took the lead,
He knew delightful long cuts,
up mountains,
and through rocky places
at breakneck speeds,
it was all I could do to hang on!
Even though it looked like madness,
He said, “Pedal!”

I worried and was anxious
and asked,
“Where are you taking me?”
He laughed and didn’t answer,
and I started to learn to trust.

I forgot my boring life
and entered into the adventure.
And when I’d say, “I’m scared,”
He’d lean back and touch my hand.

He took me to people with gifts that I needed,
gifts of healing,
acceptance
and joy.
They gave me gifts to take on my journey,
my Lord’s and mine.

And we were off again.
He said, “Give the gifts away;
they’re extra baggage, too much weight.”
So I did,
to the people we met,
and I found that in giving I received,
and still our burden was light.

I did not trust Him,
at first,
in control of my life.
I thought He’d wreck it;
but He knows bike secrets,
knows how to make it bend to take sharp corners,
knows how to jump to clear high rocks,
knows how to fly to shorten scary passages.

And I am learning to shut up
and pedal
in the strangest places,
and I’m beginning to enjoy the view
and the cool breeze on my face
with my delightful constant companion, Jesus Christ.

And when I’m sure I just can’t do anymore,
He just smiles and says . . . “Pedal.”

— author unknown

*Copied from Holy Sweat by Tim Hansel

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will standThe fear of the LORD leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm. – Proverbs 19:21, 23

**Your turn now.  What did the Lord teach you or do with you during the fast?  Please share your struggles, answers to prayers, greatest lessons learned, or any additional thoughts you’d like to add in the comments below!  I’m really excited to hear what the Lord has been doing within our Allume community!

Photo Sources: couple riding bike, child’s tandem bike attachment

Change of Plans….

Sometimes we set out to write (or do) one thing, only to realize that the Lord has different plans.

I’d been feeling like the Lord was calling me to write about legalism and not getting so caught up in law that we forget to pay attention to what the Lord is saying within our actual relationship with Him.  I started studying and pulling verses, and I kept coming across the same word…the same name.

Melchizedek

Melchiza-who?!  For real, I wish I could tell you that with the reading of his name came a whole flood of historical information and biblical data that I have stored in my little ol’ brain…but that wouldn’t be true.  I had to look the guy up and do some serious digging…and once I dug around, I realized that what the Lord wanted to say to us now has a whole lot more to do with Melchizedek than talking about being bound up in legalism.

Turns out that Melchizedek was the last of the priest kings.  He was a contemporary of Abraham, and up until his time, rulership was synonymous with priesthood. After Melchizedek’s reign, the throne was transferred to the descendants of Abraham.  The new kings were royal, but the priesthood aspect of a royal reign pretty much just ended with Melchizedek.  Abraham’s descendant kings eventually led to King David and then ultimately to Jesus, the long awaited reinstatement of the true Priest King.

The LORD sends forth from Zion
      your mighty scepter.
      Rule in the midst of your enemies!
            Your people will offer themselves freely
      on the day of your power,
      in holy garments;
             from the womb of the morning,
      the dew of your youth will be yours.
           The LORD has sworn
      and will not change his mind,
             “You are a priest forever
            after the order of Melchizedek.” – Ps 110:2–4

This explanation of Psalm 110 from a commentary I read knocked my socks off….

  • “Not only was there nothing in the position or character, personal or official, of David or any other descendant, to justify a reference to either, but utter severance from the royal office of all priestly functions (so clearly assigned the subject of this Psalm) positively forbids such a reference. The Psalm celebrates the exaltation of Christ to the throne of an eternal and increasing kingdom, and a perpetual priesthood (Zec 6:13), involving the subjugation of His enemies and the multiplication of His subjects, and rendered infallibly certain by the word and oath of Almighty God. – *1

Did you catch that?  The implications of all that came with Jesus begin restored as priest king and what that means for us?  As I was thinking on this whole priest king phenomenon, the Lord reminded me of this verse in 1 Peter (interestingly enough, the very book that Katie Orr is leading us in a study of here on the Allume blog!)

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;  for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God” – 1 Pet 2:9

Priests weren’t historically just the people set in place to keep religious laws…they were the ones appointed to set and maintain the spiritual tone of the land… To turn the people towards God and help restore them to a right relationship with God.  And, the kings, and queens, princes, and princesses….they ruled the lands.  They brought peace and waged war against evils.  Theoretically, their job was literally managing the state of the lands to bring about prosperity and order in the kingdom.

Do you get what that means when He calls us priestly royalty?!  All that it means?!

OH. MY. WORDS!

And in case you’ve ever questioned what your role here on the earth is…well, there you have it!  Our job is now.  Our role to play is now.  We start NOW.  We’re not just to bide our time here on the earth until His glorious coming.  We have a huge role to play, and not only that, but we have been invited into the most high order of royalty.  Priestly royalty.  Chosen by God, with the privileges and responsibilities of priests and kings.

So that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light…

How’s that for an identity descriptor?!

***Have you ever wondered about what your role is on this earth until Jesus’ coming?  Have you considered that you are, in fact, part of THE royal priesthood? What does that identity mean to you?  What does that mean to us as a community?  What does that mean for the world?  Join in the conversation in the comment section below!

**You can read more about Melchizedek in Gen 14:18, Psalm 110, and Hebrews 5, 6, and 7

* Photo Source
*1 – Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., Fausset, A. R., Brown, D., & Brown, D. (1997). A commentary, critical and explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

An Upward-Facing Window

I’m still waiting for my “a-ha” moment during this fast where everything in life becomes clearer.  But… I’m not so sure that is entirely realistic.  The Lord has definitely been bringing me into some places of peace on a few things, but there are other places I feel like I’m wrestling with more.

Here’s the thing though, the Lord is showing up.  I have to be honest and say that I’ve been surprised that it’s been in places I haven’t necessarily been asking about during this time.

He always shows up.

Sometimes though…it’s not like we think… or in the places we were expecting.

While some part of me wishes that God did answer just what I am asking, right when I ask it, the other part of me knows that is really just a terrible, terrible idea even if it did work that way.  To try to turn my amazing, bigger-than-my-finite-walled-box God into some genie in a bottle….well, that is just downright depressing.

I’m so glad I’m not the one holding my life in balance.  Most of the time, I can’t keep up with even the laundry my own family generates.  And the Lord, He doesn’t just keep a few spinning plates in balance, He makes all things possible.  He doesn’t ignore or forget our petitions either….His timing is perfect, and His ways are higher.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” – Isaiah 55:8-11

I love that part about the rain and snow coming to the earth.  Not only do they water the earth, but they make it flourish…and from that flourishing, seed comes….which in turn yields bread…which feeds His people.  It’s a process.

I am in process.  We are in process.

And, being confident of this…

that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. – Phil 1:6

He’s not done with me…

And nothing that ever happens in our lives (even that the enemy would intend for harm) will return void when we continually submit ourselves at the foot of the cross.  He redeems…He restores…He doesn’t give up on my process.

The not-knowing can be a scary place, but as a friend of mine reminded me the other day….the only window that was in the ark actually faced upward.  The only place Noah could look was up to heaven.  And I’m thinking the Lord probably had a good reason for designing it that way.  I imagine ol’ Noah woulda gotten a little overwhelmed had he been able to see the vast sea of endless waves around him for 40 days and nights.

No….God wanted him facing heavenward and trusting the One that got him on that boat in the first place.

I have a feeling that the Lord wants the same thing for us.

And in the end, we land on a mountain….with a rainbow of covenant streaming right over top….reminding us of His goodness.

His ways are higher.

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Unleash the Heavenlies…

Many of you know about, and are perhaps even participating in, the 21 day fast that I felt the Lord calling us to a few weeks back,  It began on Friday, and I have spent a pretty significant amounts of time just talking with the Lord since then…and praying.  Lots of praying.

My church is a seriously praying church.  Not to say that others aren’t, but I can honestly say that this particular body of believers spends significant amount of time in prayer.  And it’s this kind of prayer that shifts the atmosphere.  I’m not kidding, you can really physically sense a change in the air when these people begin to pray.  I love everything about it.

There was a missions summit at my church this weekend.  We went to meet and hear from some of our church’s global ministry partners on the work they are doing in other parts of the globe.  I wasn’t in the mood really to go, but my husband wanted to, so we did.

Isn’t it those times though, when God grabs you right where you needed it?!

I had a moment during the summit…it was that kind where your mind is taking almost a mental snapshot of a scenario. The entire  group of attendees gathered around and began to pray for a missionary from Haiti.  Everyone was praying…some quietly, some out loud…but all really pressing in to hear the Father’s heart for this missionary family.  Then, a missionary from India began to pray over the Haitian missionary.  He was praying in his native language…full of words I didn’t understand, but thick with the spirit of the Lord.  You could feel it.  And I thought to myself….this is what it looks like in heaven.  All of God’s people together…unified…with one heartbeat.

But, right now, here we are on the earth…wanting to bring His kingdom here.  Wanting to see His will be done HERE.  On earth as it is in heaven.

At one point, one of the missionaries asked that if out of 24 hours in each day, we could devote just 5 minutes to pray for India?

Five minutes is really not very much time.

In Daniel 9:4-19 , Daniel offers a prayer to the Lord on behalf of his people.  A missionary from South Africa read the prayer, but before he began to read, he asked for someone to time him as he read.  It took just 2 1/2 minutes to read Daniel’s prayer to the Lord.

And the thing that happened shortly afterwards in the scriptures, I’ve read several times before, but not given too much pause over it.

“Then behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. He said to me, “O Daniel, man of high esteem, understand the words that I am about to tell you and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you.” And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling. Then he said to me, “ Do not be afraid, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days; then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia. Now I have come to give you an understanding of what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision pertains to the days yet future.” – Daniel 10:10-14

This 2 1/2 minute prayer set into motion an EPIC battle in the heavenlies.  This angel who was sent to bring clarity to Daniel was detained for 21 days in battle.  And… it was so epic that Michael had to come help.  Even after the angel delivered the meaning of the prayer, verse 20 says that he and Michael are headed right back into battle when he leaves Daniel.

Our prayers have the power to unleash the heavenlies.

Did you hear that?

Our prayers have the power to unleash the heavenlies.

If all that can happen from just 2 1/2 minutes….imagine what can happen in 5?!  Imagine what can happen in 20?!  Imagine, my sisters, what can happen when we pray and fast for 21 days?!

“Prayer is not the least of things you can do.  It is the greatest thing you can do.” – Rich Hodge

*Have you ever thought about it like this…that even our 2 minute prayers can literally wage major war in the heavenly realm?!  And now that you are thinking on it….Well, what are you thinking?!

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An Indiscernible Puddle

 

I spent the past few days with my family at the lake.  Over the weekend, I caught 2 huge fish (with a piece of leftover sausage on my son’s kiddie fishing rod,) we’ve tubed and sunned, floated on gently bobbing waves for hours, eaten outside on a breezy porch, and treat of all treats, we’ve gone to bed early.  It’s been a fun time with my siblings and my own little family as well.

This weekend taught me a little something too… about swim diapers…  They don’t super work.

At all.

It may have been the moment where sweet and sunny arm-chaired snuggles with my little one on the dock suddenly transitioned to streams of hot liquid puddling in my lap that tipped me off.  Or perhaps it was the hip hold to spare his tender feet over rocky ground that left me with a moistened shirt and side that told me something might not be working.  Or maybe, maybe it was the moment where the not-yet-potty-trained 2 year old said to me, “I tinkle Mommy…I tinkling”…more aware of the puddle he found himself standing in than the actual sensation of the whole ordeal.  Whatever situation though, I learned that little swimmers are really just meant to hold in more “serious” business.  At least they generally do that.

One afternoon, I jumped in the lake for a quick cool-off before re-situating myself in my sun-soaked chair.  Moments after sitting down, my 2 year old came over very concerned and trying to lift me from my recliner…insistent that I’d “tinkled” in my seat.  It only took one look below to realize that he thought the puddles of lakewater below, from my recent dip, were in fact, an accident.

In an effort to straighten him out, we dipped his lower half in the water and told him to pay attention to how his bathing suit dripped water everywhere he went.  Much to his delight, he wanted more dips to create more puddles.  Oh…the games we play!

After this went on for a few partial dunks into the lake, he tired and then grabbed my hand to lead me to see a fish that had been caught and was swimming around in a baby pool.

It was then that his drips from the lake ran out, and we suddenly found ourselves dealing with a fresh new puddle…not of lakewater.

But honestly, who can tell what is what on a wooden dock?  Lakewater…pee….it all looks the same puddled on weathered woodgrain.  But this mama knew.  I knew that what had dripped down needed to be dealt with.  I knew that this wasn’t something other people would want to walk through.  So I cleaned it up….and cleaned up my little man too.

And I wondered to myself, how often do we dribble things that may or may not be safe for others to walk through?  How often in our lives do we put forth what may seem fine to the untrained eye or heart, but in the end isn’t something lovely or honorable?  Are our words kind and edifying?  Are our motives gracious and pure?  Or do we walk around making puddles in life that people may or may not soil their feet on…and we don’t make the distinction )even if we know the truth), because we know they won’t either?

For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey,
and her speech is smoother than oil; 
but in the end she is bitter as gall, 
sharp as a double-edged sword. – Prov 5:3-4

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. – Phil 4:8

For those of you who intend to begin the 21 day fast with me this coming Friday, June 1st, I want to put a specific challenge out there that we all spend a couple of days in prayer that the Lord will purify our hearts and our words…so that when we drip….we’re dripping honey…that is as sweet as sugar and in the end brings life.  And really, for all of us whether we’re fasting or not, it’s true that out of the mouth flows the contents of the heart.

“What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them,  but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”                    – Matt 15:11

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to just be dry bones, or an indiscernible pool of urine on a deck in my life or in my walk with the Lord.  I want to bring a fragrant offering, to be full of life, and so lovely with the stamp of the authenticity of a gracious father, that no one would ever mistake me for anything else.

June 1st ladies….for 21 days.  Let’s let Him be the thing that fills us up, that brings new life, and reveals Himself to us in ways we haven’t seen before.  And He is enough.  He will be enough.  The manna of his goodness is daily my friends.  He doesn’t tarry, He always provides, and He always…ALWAYS shows up when we ask Him!

I am the Lord your God,
    who brought you up out of Egypt. 
Open wide your mouth and I will fill it. – Ps 81:10

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.  Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert”. – Is 43:18-19

Thanks to AshlieWrites for the reminder of this beautiful scripture from Isaiah in last weeks comments!  It will spring forth friends…the newness.  I picture a brook bubbling out of the ground and bringing life to all the places it passes through!  So too will we be the same as the Lord does His good work in each of us!  To share encouraging scriptures, words, or insights as we journey individually, yet together from June 1st-21st, use the hashtag #allumefast on Twitter.

I am excited to see how the Lord teaches and uses each of us as He draws us closer to Himself during this time.

So come Holy Spirit!  Come Lord Jesus, and fill our hearts, our lips, and our lives with the bread of Heaven.  You are the daily manna that we want, Father.  We know that we can trust you to feed us well, even in the desert.  You are good Papa, and we praise your Holy name!

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Dry Bones Come Alive

I’m in a dry spell.

As in, my times with the Lord lately are hard…when I’m having them at all.  I can hear him, but I have to really clear out my mind, my space, and my time to do it.  It just isn’t easy right now.

And trust…that’s hard right now too.  It’s not hard in all areas, but in some….I just can’t get there.  You know what I mean?

I realize it’s early still since we just lost Fisher a couple of months ago, but I keep wondering about trying to have more kids.  While theoretically I really would like to have another, I’m just not sure I’m trusting Him right now in that place.  I don’t know if I can start down that road of excitement, and months of puking and nausea, picking names and planning nursery decor again and risk it not working out again.  What it all really boils down to though is…. Do I trust Him?

I want to say “Yes!!!” friends….I really do, but I’m just not there when it comes to that part of my life again.  Can I trust Him with my money?  Absolutely.  Can I trust Him with my business?  Yep.  Do I trust Him with my family?  That one is coming hard right now.  It’s fear, I know.

And I know that “perfect love casts out all fear” (1 Jn 4:18) and that “no weapon formed against me will prosper.” (Is 54:17)  I know that I am “more than a conqueror in Christ Jesus and that nothing can separate me from His love.” (Rom 8:37-39)  I KNOW these things….but I’m having a hard time snuggling up to even the truths that I know that I know.

I’m just being honest here.

And writing devotions lately is hard too….probably because even though I really am devoted, I just don’t feel that way.

I’m not the first person to land in this place.  I’d be willing to bet that each of you has been in this place before too…and it’s likely that it’s happened more than once as well.  While I sure love to think myself “original”… I’m confident that I’m no anomaly on this one.

So what’s a girl to do when she knows God is close, but in some ways feels so very far?

I’ll tell you what I’m going to do.  I’m going to fast.

I tell you this not to make a big deal out of it or to draw attention to it.  I tell you, because I have a sneaking suspicion that some of you have found yourselves in a funk before and don’t know how to get out either.  I’m telling you because I know I’m not the first person who’s had questions that I can’t seem to resolve on my own.  For the life of me, I can’t clear enough mental clutter to cut to the chase and get the words that I need.  I tell you… because sometimes we have to clear out the clutter in a tangible way and force the issue of focus.

I’ll be the first to tell you that this stuff is hard.  And I’ve only super successfully done it a couple of times.  Cheating really just cheats myself in the end.

I KNOW I want more of the Lord.  I KNOW I want that trust to return.  I KNOW I need some answers to some questions.  And I KNOW that I can’t do any of that on my own.

I also KNOW that He will restore my soul. (Ps 23)  I KNOW that He will restore what the locusts have taken (Joel 2:25.)  But truth is, I just want to feel that again.  And sometimes to get things back right with a relationship, we just have to spend some time focusing on it.

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and propose that I’m not alone in this place right now.  That this well isn’t the only one that is having to dig deeper than normal for water.  That my dry lands aren’t the only ones out there….and that some of you need to get serious about finding communion with our Father again too.

So as a part of this Allume community, I want to propose a fast.  What you literally fast from is up to you.  I’m not exactly sure what mine will be, but for this go round, I already know it’s gonna be something a bit more drastic with food.  I have to really get before the Lord to determine what that will look like, and you need to do that as well if this is something you want to do.  HERE is a great resource if you want to learn more about fasting and different ways to do it.

For me, I need to restore relationship with myself and the Lord after a hard couple of months.  I want to hear clearly with regards to my family and what it looks like now and for the future.  I also have a dear friend battling stage 4 cancer right now, and I’ll be fasting on her behalf this time too.  There are a lot of reasons to fast….these are just a few of mine.

Beginning June 1st, for 21 days, I’m gonna do it ya’ll.  And I want to invite you to join me.  Fast and pray for whatever thing you need to get straight with the Lord in your own life.  And if this is kinda scary for you, you can do it and know you won’t be alone.

Allume is a safe place.  It’s a comfy chair.  We’re a community of women walking in the Light of Christ together…and sometimes it’s ok to admit that the light feels dimmer than normal and we want that thing burning brighter again!

Join me?

**How about you?  Is your spiritual life in a dry place?  Are you in a situation where you need more clarity?  Perhaps you need relationship with Father restored (or any earthly relationship restored for that matter?)  Do you need to kick off some clutter just to focus better?  Whatever it is, know friends that you’re not alone, and that this mountain you’re facing can be defeated.  Sometimes we just have to buckle down and start climbing.

Again He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.’
  “Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones, ‘Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life. (Eze 37:4–5)

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O LORD.
      At an acceptable time, O God,
      in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.  (Ps 69:13)
      Answer me, O LORD, for your steadfast love is good;
      according to your abundant mercy, turn to me. (Ps 69:16)

Yet even now,” declares the LORD,  “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.”  Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;  (Joel 2:12–13)

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”  Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.  (Ac 13:2–3)

  • I LOVE here how after a group of people were fasting together, the Holy Spirit used that time to give them clarity about the work He had in store.  Then, as a group, they prayed and sent off Barnabas and Saul to walk in their callings. Too cool!

“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,  that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.  (Mt 6:16–18) 

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A Heavenly Epidural

“Yes please, I’ll have the epidural….like, NOW!”

Lessen the pain of childbearing, right?  And then I ended up with a csection even after all of that.  And there was different pain because of it.

“And there will be pain in childbearing.”  It’s a part of that original punishment for original sin in Genesis 3.  Try as we might, medical science won’t ever really erase the pains of childbearing though will they?  I mean, if an epidural is all it would take to erase an original punishment, well, then it sure would seem that humanity would have outsmarted God huh?

Not likely.

Spend any amount of time with a group of moms, and at some point, the conversation will inevitably end up with a few sharing childbirth stories.  No matter if you dominated natural childbirth, or planned a csection, things never really do go exactly as planned.  Genders are a surprise whether you find out at 14 weeks or at 40,  jaundice or trouble breathing, cords wrapped around necks, or babies pointed the wrong direction….we have very little to do with what goes on with the miracle of life.  Sure, we can do things to make it better or worse…eat only organic and take fish oil every day, or make choices that would put babies at risk….but no matter what, things just don’t always go as we planned.

By this point in my devotional writing career at Allume, most of you all know that I lost my 4th baby in March, 16 weeks into pregnancy.  This wasn’t my first Mother’s Day spent with the “pain in childbearing” staring me down either.  Even with 2 sweet boys here on earth to celebrate, the 4 of mine in heaven are somehow closer feeling on this day where we celebrate motherhood.

And as I’ve processed these places of pain, I’ve realized that pain in childbearing isn’t just a physical thing…and it isn’t just for those who actually have birthed children either.

I looked up the word for pain used in Genesis 3:16 and it appears that in the original language, it also means “to toil or sorrow.”

Mother’s Day is such a celebration.  A day to be thankful for the mothers we have and to be thankful for motherhood we’ve been given.  But honestly, it’s a day where there is mourning for motherhood lost too.  Motherhood that try as some might, just doesn’t come.  No number of counting days or fertility treatments produce children in the end.  Maybe it’s pregnancies lost….or children gone before time seems fair or right.  Or when our own mothers may have passed….and we remember the love with them, or maybe it was a broken relationship with your mom and you just remember the lack of love.

Whatever it is, there is pain in childbearing.  There is pain in childrearing.  There is pain in the wanting, and the waiting, and the raising of our children.  It’s not just the physical.

But there is blessing to be found in all of it too.  Blessing beyond what I could ever know without walking through some of the pain.  There is blessing in knowing that these ugly looking stretchmarks brought forth life.  There is blessing in the days even when motherhood is overwhelming.  There is blessing in the community of motherhood, and there is blessing in the ministry I can have now even walking through the loss of babies.

Our pastor said in church today that “what God wants to do through us, He first wants to do in us.”

There is no job I’ve ever known more refining than that of motherhood.  No thing that has brought me to my knees more than raising children, and losing children, and trying for children.  There is no pain greater than this walk of being a mom, but there is absolutely nothing I’ve done that has blessed and challenged me more either.

And in the end, I hope and pray that the greatest blessing I bring to my children is to teach them diligently the ways of the Lord (Dt 6:7).  I want my children above all things to love Jesus.  But… what the Lord wants to do through me, he first has to do in me.

If I want to raise warriors, I must teach them courage from walking in it.  If I want to raise gentlemen, I must exemplify to them gentleness.  If I want them to seek out a wise and loving wife, I must show them first what that looks like.  We are the gateway to the way our children see the world…and the way they see our amazing God.

What God wants to do through us (in raising our children), he first wants to do in us.

Humbling….

      She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
Pr 31:26–28

Oh….to do that well.  To raise children who call us blessed.  To take the pain of childbearing and turn it into blessing by holding tightly to a Father who oozes goodness.

 The word “Redeemer” (and variations thereof…redeemed, redeem, etc) came up 141 times in the Bible when I looked it up.  He’s in the business ya’ll of taking even the original punishment and giving us new life.  There is no epidural that can redeem the pains of childbearing….but our Heavenly Father certainly can.

Happy Mother’s Day to you all. (even if it was yesterday!)

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Knitting Hearts, Praying Friends…

I went to the lake for an overnight this weekend with a group of girlfriends to celebrate my friend Christi’s birthday.  It was such a sweet time together.  I LOVE my girlfriends.  Love them!

I got to thinking too, how I have been really fortunate that in most points of my life, I have had at least 1 really dear friend nearby.  Many seasons, I’ve had several at a time…rich with heart friends.  That’s just not normal I don’t think, and the blessing of it isn’t lost on me for a second.

My friend Madison taught us all how to do the “Wobble”… some crazy booty dance where we lined up like a bunch of silly pre-teens and laughed til we cried learning how to do a series of ridiculous moves.  Next was the free-for-all dance party and more laughing.  I even broke out a real ace-in-the-hole when I shared the awesome choreography that Rebecca Kirkland and I made up in the 7th grade to Bobby Brown’s “My Prerogative.”  I bruised myself trying to bring it back to life.  Apparently, I’ve gotten too old for 7th grade dance moves.

Winded and barely breathing from hysterical laughter, we all toned it down a notch with some junk food and cozy chair conversation.  And when the hours really started rolling by and silly made way for more serious, we spent time just praying together.

It was Christi’s birthday, so we sat and listened to the Lord for encouraging words and scriptures for her.  We prayed over struggles we knew she had, we cried with her, we laughed with her, we lifted her up before the Almighty, and ya’ll…it was a sweet, sweet time.

How often in our lives, do we not literally stop what we’re doing to pray together for a friend or with a friend?  How often does a friend confess worry over something and we say “I’ll pray for you about that,” but then we both just go on about our day and maybe offer up a “Jesus, help her” later on?

I’m convinced that while silliness like doing the “wobble” and being fully myself with other people is valuable, there’s just nothing that knits hearts quite like praying together.

It’s the moment you’re floating on a massive party tube in the lake when you realize another friend is in an appointment at that same time, and you all close your eyes and lift petitions to heaven on her behalf as the waves bob you up and down.  When one of you struggles with self doubt and needs to move away from the group to be alone for awhile, and instead of sitting around and talking about her, you stop silly chatter and pray for the Father’s love to fall and reveal his pleasure over her in her time away.  It’s when that neck muscle that’s been bothering sends you to bed early, and your friends come get you to pray for the Lord’s tenderness to ease your muscle pain….Those are the moments when hearts knit tightly.

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.  Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.  Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.  Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.  Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.
(James 5:13–18)

“Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”  (Mt 18:19–20)

And my thought today, and my question to us all, is…. what makes you a good friend to someone else?  Do you truly pray for your friends?  Do you stop what you’re doing to pray with your friends?

      A man of many companions may come to ruin,
      but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Pr 18:24)

Are you loyal?

      Oil and perfume make the heart glad,
      and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel. (Pr 27:9)

Do you offer wise and godly counsel?

       This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.  (Jn 15:12–13)

Will you put the wellbeing of others before your own pride?

(After Peter and John stood before the Council,) “When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them… grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.  (Ac 4:23, 30-31)

Do you pursue the Father, speak with boldness, and pray expectantly together?

The silly dancing is fun.  The hilarious conversations are needed.  The junk food indulgence shared makes the guilt lessen a little too!  But it’s the time not just walking through life, but praying through life together, that I think really make friendships even sweeter.

Pray together… Praise together… Raise one another up before the Father… Confess together… and Believe for the impossible together, for with God, all things are possible.

Be the kind of friend you want to have.

Photo Credit : PassionateHomemakeing.com

Sweet Nothings

I know I’ve said before that I wish I was musically inclined.  I love music, and I am so inspired by the words and sounds that Father gives to others.  So often I find myself thinking, “I wish I’d written that, it’s JUST how I feel.”

This past week, I went to the most serene and stunning beach in Mexico for 4 days.  My sister won an amazing vacation in a raffle several months back, and the timing of the already-planned-trip really couldn’t have been better.  This was the view from our bed.

No, I’m not kidding.  F.R.E.E.  (Well, all but our food which wasn’t free.  Still though, ridiculous.) Won… for $20 in a raffle.  My awesome sis and brother in-law invited me, my Hubs, and my brother to join them on this trip.

After a few days in Mexico (sans kiddos), we headed back and joined our littles and my parents for a 3-day bluegrass music festival in the mountains of Western NC for the weekend.

I feel like the Lord has grabbed my face with both hands and turned me to look straight into his eyes.  You know that lovey feeling you get right before the minister says “kiss the bride,” or when you watch a really great chick flick and the long awaited profession of love finally comes?  The moment when you can almost tangibly just feel the love?  That’s how I feel.

Loved….and Refreshed.

I had time to be still and He whispered sweet nothings.  And honestly, it’s not like He downloaded loads of great content to me either.  Jesus honestly just gave me a time of sweet nothings.  He didn’t give massive insight or explanation to my life lately, no phenomenal words to dump onto pages and pages of a book, just really nothing but the taste of His sweetness.

I didn’t try hard to hear either.  I just kinda soaked in the space, the place, and the love of a Father who knew 6 months ago that I’d need to fall asleep to his vast ocean crashing on sandy beaches this past week.  The same Father who knows the number of grains of sand on those beaches and hairs on my head also knew that I needed to feel His windy breath on my face and kiss of His massive sun on my cheeks.  My Papa who’s holding my most recent lost child in His lap in heaven now, dropped me in a little piece of his heavenly creation on earth.  Just because He loves me….just because He loves me.

I wish I’d written the words from this song…it’s JUST how I feel.  (Thanks Gungor Music for another perfect bit of poetry.)


And Your name is sweeter
Than the rain that falls upon
The face of dry and weary lands
And causes us to turn our face again
Your name be praised

And be lifted higher

There is no one
There is no one like You
No one like You

And every morning
There are mercies new
Your kindness
It brings us back to you *

So often it seems that we have a hard time allowing the Father to just love on us.  Maybe we forget that He loves us THAT much… and just like we want to love on our own kids for no reason, He wants to do that with us too.

I think the Beatles were right…sometimes “Love is all you need.”

No words, just hugs.  No explanations….just two hands on a face and a gaze of adoration.

Life on this earth is messy friends, and I’m learning to appreciate and embrace that our Father turns this mess into His beloved beautiful mess. He restores our souls. (Psalm 23)

He really does.

Maybe it’s time to stop trying to understand the things we just won’t understand this side of heaven.  Maybe it’s time to just let Him love us…love on us…and know that He loves extravagantly, because that’s who He is.  And He says that we are worth the cost of it all…of His only son.

Let His kindness bring us back…

When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

He loves us.  **

    For great is your steadfast love toward me;
     you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.
 (Ps 86:13)

Are you holding His face in your hands right now and looking lovingly up at your Papa?  Or are you pounding your fists in His chest?  If so, that’s ok too.  Maybe you’re on the other side of the room, holding Him at a distance….afraid if you get too close you’ll lose it….all the fake you’re holding onto goes crashing down and you’re raw and exposed?  Let me assure you, be raw if that’s what you need to do.  Cry and hit him in the chest til your strength is gone and you melt into those giant arms that hold all of creation.  Those same arms hold us, love us, and gently touch our cheeks and turn our hard-set face towards His with nothing but love in His eyes.

Image Credits: Beach View, Blue Valentine movie poster

Lyrical Credit: * Higher by Gungor Music, ** How He Loves – John Mark McMillan

Cease Striving…

Sometimes I wonder if God didn’t gave himself a serious pat on the back on the seventh day.

I mean really, no matter where you live, there is major beauty to be found in creation.  I don’t know about all of you gals, but for me, getting out in the midst of creation…especially in those places that really take your breath away, boy can I find the Lord there.  I see Him everywhere I look.  I feel His bigness in the majesty of creation, but His approachability in the attention he pays to every tiny detail.  And when I take the time to be still, I can hear Him especially well too.

My mother says that I have a tendency to “burn the candle at both ends.”  You know, to fill my schedule, stay busy, sometimes bite off more than I should chew (even if I CAN chew it.)  And, in all fairness to this stage of my life, it’s easy to do.  Small children, involvement in ministry, the occasional decorating job, and whatever other random thing I might decide to do can fill my time and if I’m not careful, wear me down.  When life throws you a curveball sometimes and really makes everything crazy, sometimes you have to do some serious regrouping, rethinking, asking, understanding, and reconnecting to begin to feel normal again.

Sometimes friends, things can get better with just a step outside your own front door.  But once in awhile, what you need is a vacation.

I’m about to take one.  The timing really couldn’t be more perfect, and nearly desperate after the month we’ve just endured.  To know that I have the chance to be still and listen in a beautiful place, well, that kind of time doesn’t come easily does it?

But the Lord tells us to make that time, and to use that time to find refreshment with one another and in Him.

He’s the still waters. He restores souls, and He says that sometimes what we need to do is to just “be still and know” that He is God.

Now listen, I’m not the person who jumps after a verse like the “Be Still” one to do a devotion about since probably everyone has heard it before, but I’ve found myself in a place of wanting to get my life back together.  To bust my tail to get my house in order after being bedridden for a couple of weeks.  I’m wanting to push really hard to boot camp my kids’ behaviors that have gotten more out of hand lately.  I want to get things done, and I am trying so hard to do it all.  I am kicking butt and taking names with my life this past week.

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
The holy dwelling places of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered;
He raised His voice, the earth melted.
The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold.

Come, behold the works of the LORD,
Who has wrought desolations in the earth.
He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariots with fire.
Be Still and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among thenations, I will be exalted in the earth.

– Psalm 46:1-10

I love that.  I love that before He says “Be Still,” he reminds us to behold His works.  That in times of trouble, we can literally look at creation, find a still moment, and know that the same voice that can be raised and melt the earth will whisper sweet nothings into our ears.  The same voice that spoke creation into existence and that makes wars to cease will restore my soul.

The NASB version of this verse is actually my favorite.  Instead of the “Be Still” version that we all know and love, it says “Cease Striving.”

Have you ever stopped to think that sometimes to really get life back on track and to hear our Father, “our very present help in time of trouble”, all we have to do is stop trying so daggum hard?  Stop struggling to figure it all out.  Stop fighting to make sense of sin and crud in the world.  Sometimes we need to just stop worrying about when the mountains slip into the seas in our lives, and be still…cease striving…just quit whatever we’re doing and KNOW.

I think it’s the Nationwide insurance ad that says “Life comes at you fast,” and it sure as heck does, but I love that sometimes all our Father wants for us to do is to take a step outside, look around, breathe Him in, and KNOW that He is God.  Slow it down and KNOW that He is good.  Cease striving… and find rest and restoration in knowing that He calls us His beloved.

It was the first devotion I wrote here…the reminder to simply abide in Him to truly bear fruit.  To not try so hard.  And here it is again…the same lesson for me, for us.  Any other busy gals out there who maybe needed to hear it again?  Yeah…me too.

I’m breathing easier though now, just knowing that I’m about to breathe easier.  The only plan for my vacation is no plan at all.   Remembering and knowing that restoration will come in the still…well friends, I think I’ll do that.  Be still and know (and flip over every 30 minutes just so I don’t sunburn.)

 

Image Credit

 

Set Your Spirit Free

“I like to be a free spirit. Some don’t like that, but that’s the way I am.” – Princess Diana

“To be true to myself, to be the person that was on the inside of me, and not play games. That’s what I’m trying to do mostly in the whole world…” – Janice Joplin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last week, I went to get my hair cut and colored. After almost a month of things in my life spiraling beyond my control, this was something I could actually change. My hair. Just my hair.

I called Sarah Mae on my way to the appointment to tell her my hair plans and shared my heart about something the Lord has been teaching me for about 6 months now. She condensed our conversation down really well in a video she posted on her blog the other day.

I’m not a stranger to chunky highlights or a little funky color, but I tell you what, my hairdresser would not do what I wanted her to do last week. She knew I’ve been in sort of a crisis lately, and she didn’t want me to do something I’d regret. I get it, I really do…but once in awhile, we really do just want to let go of the constraints holding us back don’t we? Crisis or not.

Several months ago, I got a tattoo. Something deeply personal to me, and based on some words the Lord has told me over the past 4 years. I got all crazy and put the thing right on my forearm…because no matter how much that I KNOW how the Lord feels about me, sometimes I forget and need a reminder. And I have to be honest and say, that the crazy act of even putting that thing in an obvious location has (for this southern belle who didn’t grow up where this form of expression is widely accepted) forced me to try to stop worrying about what others think about me and to actually believe what it says and means even more. (Ironic…huh?)

That I am…the Mother of Warriors…Wife of a General...Daughter of the King.

Some people have called me “free-spirited” since I did that even…got a tattoo. And I’ve wondered, since in all honesty I don’t feel that I wear that word well, what does the Lord want me do with that sort of branding? So I’ve been digging in His word to find out.

Can each of us be a free spirit even when we don’t think that we actually are?

The Free Dictionary defines a free spirit as “One who is not restrained, as by convention or obligation; a nonconformist.”

Man, don’t we all want a little piece of that action? To feel like we really do make the decisions we believe are right, to follow our hearts, to not be defined by what other people think? I don’t know a person out there who doesn’t want at least a little tiny piece of that pie.

And as Sarah and I talked the other day, I told her that what the Lord has been teaching me, is that to be a true free spirit isn’t just about some form of flower-child, flowy-clothing, tattooed or hair dyed outward self expression (even though those things may be fun for some), it’s about knowing who I really am, and allowing the Holy Spirit to flow freely through me. It’s about getting the fleshly me out of the way of a magnificent King, so that he can do his thing and allow my story to become part of a greater glory.

You wanna talk about a for real nonconformist though? A through and through free spirit who was so unrestrained by convention that he ticked a whole lot of people off? I’ve got one for ya, his name is Jesus. The ultimate in free spiritedness. And too often we lose sight of the fact that not only is He the one we’re following (a bucking-the-system-and-really-living-what-the-Father-is-saying kind of guy), but He left that same spirit here and made it available to each one of us.

Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (Jn 14:25)

John the Baptist even prophesied ahead of Jesus’ coming saying “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Wooo ya’ll….does that not run a victorious chill right down your spine?! He drops on us (a bunch of rag tag, regular ol’ conformist humans) the ability to be more than just our natural fleshly selves, He gives us the Holy Spirit…and the fire of heaven!

And it doesn’t matter who we are either. It doesn’t matter if we grew up in a VW van down by the river or going swimming in the summers at the country club pool. The Spirit of the Living God doesn’t care if we’re first born or last born, or from Los Angeles or Piedmont, North Dakota. He doesn’t care if we’re black, or white, or Asian, or Indian. We’ve all got the same Spirit inside of us when we accept Him as our Lord and Savior.

For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. – 1 Corinthians 12:12-14

Sarah Mae shared part of a beautiful verse from John 3:8 where Jesus was talking to Nicodemus and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again. The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

So, whether we’re rockin’ dredlocks and tattoos, or Ann Taylor cardis and a polished looking bob, we all can be free spirits, when we get out of the way and allow the Spirit of the Living God to work in us and through us.

Embrace your free spirit my friends…because He freely gave it to you.

If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Romans 8:13–17)

*Have you ever wanted to be more free-spirited? Is a fear of what people may think holding you back? If not that, then what? What in your life do you need to change to let the spirit of the Lord work more freely in you and through you?

The better you know who you are…the freer your spirit can truly be. So…what’s holding you back…Daughters and Sons of the King?

 

Photo Credit: Princess Diana, Janis Joplin, Link to Video “You Are A Free Spirit” on SarahMae.com

More Than Just Houdini…

I love the circus.  I’ve loved it since I was a kid.  There’s something mesmerizing about the blend of all the colors, the lights, the performers.  Something almost magical about it.

As I’ve gotten older though, the circus has held a new fascination for me.  The “tricks” I saw the performers do as a kid, make my stomach drop now.  The trapeze artists swinging high above the ground without a net, the guy on that crazy weighted cylinder thingy that I swear is going to get going too fast and he’s going to smash into the floor of the arena, the woman hanging from her teeth 40 feet in the air.  The death defying stuff scares the daylights out of me.  What if they really fall…what if the tiger really bites the guy…what if they really don’t defy death and they die right there?

That would pretty much end my days of circus-going.

Harry Houdini is often touted as one of the greatest performers to live.  He made a name for himself defying death.  “From 1907 and throughout the 1910s, Houdini performed with great success in the United States. He would free himself from jails, handcuffs, chains, ropes, and straitjackets, often while hanging from a rope in plain sight of street audiences. Because of imitators, on January 25, 1908, Houdini put his “handcuff act” behind him and began escaping from a locked, water-filled milk can. The possibility of failure and death thrilled his audiences. Houdini also expanded repertoire with his escape challenge act, in which he invited the public to devise contraptions to hold him. These included nailed packing crates (sometimes lowered into water), riveted boilers, wet-sheets, mailbags, and his most famous act, the Chinese Water Torture Cell, in which he was suspended upside-down in a locked glass-and-steel cabinet full to overflowing with water. The act required that Houdini hold his breath for more than three minutes.” *

Houdini died from an infection caused by a ruptured appendix on October 31, at age 52. In his final weeks, he optimistically held to a strong belief that he would recover, but his last words before dying were reportedly, “I’m tired of fighting.” *

For all the death defying that he devoted his life to performing…that’s all it ever was, a performance.  In the end, even the great Houdini couldn’t actually defy death.

Imagine with me for a second, a man hung on a cross.  Nailed onto wooden beams, suspended in the air for all to see.  The capacity to escape at his fingertips.  Angels could have been summoned in a second to heal his wounded hands and feet, to close the gaping hole in his side, and to lift him high into the air off of that cross.  But then he’d just have been a fantastic escape artist wouldn’t he?

If he hadn’t died, he couldn’t have defied death. Really and truly defeated it.  Plenty of people have challenged death, but to defeat it…well, that takes more than a performer.  It takes a Savior.

He didn’t just hop off the cross after an alloted time either.

Even Houdini could only hold his breath for 3 minutes.  Jesus was DEAD for 3 days.  But that wasn’t the end of our Father’s fight for us.

He was bound in cloths, and placed in the dark.  There was a borrowed cave, with a stone rolled in front of it that took multiple men to move into place, and there were armored guards in front of the tomb.  Even the officials remembered that this man, Jesus, had told them that He would defy death…

The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’  Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.”  So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard. (Mt 27:62–66)

When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.  And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.  And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?”  And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large.  And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed.  And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.  But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”  And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. (Mk 16:1–8)

Drum Roll please….Presenting….The ultimate death-defier …our risen Lord, Jesus Christ.

In that death he took it all.  He took our sins and he buried them in the tomb…the same tomb that He walked out of so that we might have life.  His death defying act solidifies God’s payment made for our sins.  It brings hope of eternal life, and “it gives us the power to live a victorious life.” **

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Ro 8:11)

And I wonder how often we think that we have to carry an albtross round our neck, or how many times we have stones we think can’t be moved from our lives?  Are there sins we think we can’t shake?  How often do we think we have to be a Houdini and defy something seemingly impossible in our lives, all by ourselves?

The ultimate death defying act was performed over 2000 years ago, and when you believe it for yourself friends, when you realize that the stone was rolled and the veil was torn to give you full access to the God of all creation…you can hang up your act Houdinis, because the impossible has been done FOR YOU.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Ro 8:37–39)

Easter may have been yesterday, but don’t forget that it brings the reminder of freedom to all of our days.  What stones do you need moved from your life?  What “impossible” do you need to release to the One who makes all things possible?  The stone was moved, death has been defied, and we have been freed!  Give it up friends….because He gave it all for you.

Image Credit, * Quotation Source : Wikipedia, ** Quotation from Rich Butler

Bring It On

Today, against all human feeling, I commanded my spirit to rise up and praise.

Sitting in church last week was gut-wrenching.  I’d just found out, 16 weeks into a pregnancy, that my baby had died.  Listening to the praises drip from the lips of everyone in the room while I stood numb with a dead baby in my belly, was nothing short of awful.  Man, was it hard.

This morning though, I heard the Lord tell me “will yourself to rise up.”

And through streaming tears today, I did.

My spirit rose, and feelings, and hurts, and anger, and pain aside….I praised.  My spirit praised.

“That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” – Ephesians 3:16-19

My friend, Laura, was next to me… offering comfort just by being there and periodically squeezing my hand.  She knows what I’ve been going through.  She’s been journeying through life with me since long before my baby, Fisher, died.  And about half-way into the worship set, she leaned into me and whispered , “every single word is hard to say.”

She was right.  Every. Single. Word.

And I realized something today …

It matters that we will ourselves to praise… ESPECIALLY when we don’t feel like it.

I’ve shared lyrics from worship songs with you in devotions before.  Today though, every single word pierced my soul.  When I sang those words today against all feeling, I was forced to mean them.  There was no skating through today.  In my still-raw state, there was no ignoring that to sing them…I had to REALLY unpack what they meant.

The sun and the moon
They come out of their grave just for you
The dead man and the cynical too
They’re coming out of their grave
And it’s just for you

Cause the love of God is stronger
The love of God is stronger
The love of God is stronger
Than the power of death *

I thought to myself as the tears poured, that if the sun and the moon rise and set for Him…if they come from the places of deep to shine forth… if the dead and cynical rise for Him….then so shall I.  So shall I.

The love of God is stronger than the power of death.  The power of death that would threaten to strangle us with endless grief or sorrow if we let it.  It’s not as strong as the love that hung a savior on the cross for us.

“Don’t let the enemy win,” I heard.  “My love is bigger, stronger, more powerful, everlasting, enduring.  My kingdom come, my will be done, on earth AS IT IS IN HEAVEN.”

It’s not just about “thy will be done” with some nebulous and impossible-for-humanity-to-understand will governing us.  His will isn’t for us to be baffled or confused by…subjected to without explanation…some “goodness” that seems so un-good to us sometimes.  His original will was never for my baby to die, or for Eve to eat from that tree.  He made it perfect, and we messed it up.  Sin messed it up.  And now, the world is a cruddy place to be sometimes because of it all. But that wasn’t the original plan.

As for me and my house though, bring on the “as it is in heaven.”  Bring on His kingdom to the earth.  Bring on His will as he originally designed it…full of beauty and poetry and goodness. Here, NOW, on earth… as it is in heaven.  Bring on redemption and beauty from the ashes!

This week we celebrate Easter.  The days we set aside to remember his death on a cross…which would be nothing without the resurrection that followed.  He’s alive so that we can be alive.  Death couldn’t hold Him, and because of that, it can’t rule us either.

In her phenomenal study on the book of Revelation, the ever-insightful Beth Moore once said “if we go through nothing, then we have nothing to overcome.  We can’t overcome something that we never underwent.”

But friends, it strikes me now as I seek to overcome this fresh grief of loss, that I can overcome that power of death.  We can overcome the power of death, because we carry the power of the LIVING God who overcame it for us.  We don’t have to undergo death to overcome it.  He did it for us.

He did it for us.

Oh great love of heaven for us

Ransomed children we are His

Made alive now walking with Him

Evermore His Kingdom lives

The great beautiful rescuer, Jesus Christ

overcame on a tree all our sin

Death no longer maintains any hold on Him

We as well resurrected with Him

Promised ghost of love so Holy

guide in power all our days

Never leaving or forsaking

Constant in the trial always

Oh my soul rejoice, my soul rejoice **

 

“Your sun will no longer set,
Nor will your moon wane;
For you will have the LORD for an everlasting light,
And the days of your mourning will be over.” – Isaiah 60:20

“DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. 55 O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?” – 1 Cor 15:54-55

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

And that my friends, is plenty reason to rise up and give praise.

Sunrise Photo Credit, * lyrical credit: Dress Us Up by John Mark McMillan, ** Beautiful Rescuer by David Walker, Sunrise cross photo credit

Life Rewritten…

This has to be the hardest devotion I’ve ever written.  It’s one of those moments where you command your spirit man to rise up and praise the Lord…even from the depths of “when sorrows like sea billows roll,” and I have to say right now, things are not well with my soul.

I was 16 weeks pregnant this week, and at my appointment we learned that our sweet baby will not see this side of heaven.  If you want to read more about my journey and are prepared for the raw, uncut version, you can read about it here.  I’ll warn you though, it’s not profound, it’s not pretty, and it’s not full of wisdom and grace.

And right now, I have a lot of unanswered questions that I won’t understand til Jesus himself holds me in his lap and strokes my hair and tells me why He allows things like this to happen.

The past few days I honestly haven’t found much comfort hiding in the shadow of his wings, but what I have found comfort in, is Psalm 77.

My voice rises to God, and I will cry aloud;
My voice rises to God, and He will hear me.
In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord;
In the night my hand was stretched out without weariness;
My soul refused to be comforted.
When I remember God, then I am disturbed;
When I sigh, then my spirit grows faint.
                         Selah.

You have held my eyelids open;
I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
I have considered the days of old,
The years of long ago.
I will remember my song in the night;
I will meditate with my heart,
And my spirit ponders:

Will the Lord reject forever?
And will He never be favorable again?
Has His lovingkindness ceased forever?
Has His promise come to an end forever?
Has God forgotten to be gracious,
Or has He in anger withdrawn His compassion?
                         Selah.

Then I said, “It is my grief,
That the right hand of the Most High has changed.”

It’s not all that pretty either, but you know what it is for me?  Relatable.

And I’ve thought the past few days about how I’m not the only person in history to ever have felt deep grief…the kind where you ask the Lord…”Where the heck are you God?!”  And you wonder if He’s turned his back on you, and you can’t make sense of the junk that happens. But you know in your soul that He really hasn’t…because you know that’s not who He is even though it feels that way.

I’m digging deep here, and you know what the Lord is reminding me to remind all of us?  We’re not the only ones who have ever felt forsaken.

Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour.  About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?” that is, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?” And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.  And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split.  …   Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” – Matthew 27:45-54

In a couple of weeks we will pause and remember the moment that our Savior asked his Father the same question that David asked in Psalm 22, and that I have felt over the past few days.  “Why have you forsaken me?”  And somewhere in the deep, I find myself remembering that out of this darkness comes new life abundant.  It’s the story of the cross…and the story of redemption.

He brought His people out of Egypt.  He sent His son to live this human life and then die for us.  He even healed my 6 year old this week of a lifelong dairy allergy.  And He’s brought me out from the mire of this very same pain in the past.  He came, He fully lived this life, He felt forsaken, He died…and then HE ROSE….and rewrote the rest of the story.  So somewhere in there…I have to remember…we all HAVE to remember that He will rewrite the rest of our stories too.

I shall remember the deeds of the LORD;
Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.
I will meditate on all Your work
And muse on Your deeds.
Your way, O God, is holy;
What god is great like our God?
You are the God who works wonders;
You have made known Your strength among the peoples.
You have by Your power redeemed Your people. – Ps 77:11-15

Photo Credit: covenantoflove.net

It’s Time to Get Dressed…

Hey you…

Daughter of the King.

Yes, I’m talking to you.

The one who’s known our Father for most of your life…and you too…the one who just met Him yesterday.

He has a gift for you….for each of you.

It looks something like this….

Royal robes my friends.  Garments of silk and fine furs.  Hand embroidered for countless hours with crystals and jewels.  Trims brought in from all over the globe.  You touch the fabric and your skin melts into it’s softness. You try to grasp the beauty of it…and that’s still not enough.

And you think the prettiest you will ever look is on your wedding day.

Think again girl.

You’re clothed in righteousness.

And whether you’ve known the King for your whole life, or for just the last 5 minutes….you still get the same clothing my friend…the same robes of a princess.

He sees the same blood covering each of us who call him Papa.  He sees the same Savior who died for each one of us.  He sees the same Spirit of the Living God inside of each of us.

And let me tell you something.  There is no J.V. Holy Spirit.

Who among us hasn’t watched a movie where a surprise box from a worthy suitor arrives for the heroine, containing the most beautiful dress ever (in just the right size) and thought to herself…. “I sure wish that’d happen to me.”

Well look out your door my friends.  Pick up that ginormous heavy box on your doorstep and open it up.  No wait…sit down first.  This one’s gonna be a doozy.  This dress is the one you don’t even dare to imagine…the one you don’t even think you deserve to wear.

It’s time to change out of those raggedy clothes you’ve been wearing.  The ones you THINK define you.

They don’t.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:2

You’ve got new clothes and jewelry to wear.  Nevermind how comfortable you’ve grown in the old ones…they’re not who you are.  You’re destined to be more than those.  You’re more beautiful than those.

Ask me how I know?

He says so…

I will rejoice greatly in the LORD,
My soul will exult in my God;
For He has clothed me with garments of salvation,
He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. – Isaiah 61:10

So girl…quit jumping up and down in disbelief…or just staring at the box and keeping them there because they’re too extravagant to actually wear.  These clothes are yours.  Put them on.  Wear them out.  Seriously now…Wear. Them. Out!  And wear them like you mean it too.  Hold your head high.  No looking down at your feet.  The King picked these just for you. He designed them just for you.  And boy do you look beautiful to Him.

You are a Daughter of the Most High God.

Know who you are my friends.  Claim it.  Believe it.   Put on your robes …and Live like it.

But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. – 1 Peter 2:9

 

*Photo Credits: Royal Robes from  Lady Jane Grey Internet Museum, Crown of the Queen of Bavaria, Pretty Woman movie still

Do you believe that He calls you worthy? (Because He does my friends…He does.)  So… what’s holding you back from wearing the robes He has for you? 

Misjudging Deficiency

So let this love be like a fire
Let our life be like a flame
Fill our souls with Your desire
Let our passion bring You fame*

I recently took a spiritual gifts test through my church. I wasn’t caught off guard by my strengths, but I was pleasantly surprised to see a few past low-scoring areas move up a little bit. Honestly speaking though, there were still some areas that were just plain low..pretty deficient actually.

I literally came up with the lowest possible number on Worship. And really, it’s because I don’t have a lick of natural inclination, talent, or skill when it comes to musical expression. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t still be a “Worshipper.”

We all have a tendency to let our natural bent define us.  Does that mean that we can’t excel as well in the areas where we naturally fall short though? I know the Lord delights in my gifts, but is He bummed out about me in the areas that I’m not dominating in some spiritual awesomeness?

Recently, I was at a sandwich shop picking up lunch with my kids. The guy behind the counter making our lunch had a black eye patch covering one of his eyes. It looked just like a pirate patch. I noticed it and was inwardly cringing as my 2 year old would not take his eyes off of this man. I was terrified by the possibility of what he might say.

And then he pointed. With a chubby innocent finger, he pointed straight at the man and said, “Cool hair. Cool hair Mommy.”

The knot in my throat loosened as I sighed relief and noted that indeed, this man had a head full of really awesome looking dreadlocks.

In that moment, I heard the Lord clearly say, “You may think I’m taking note of your shortcomings when I look at you….but really I’m admiring the things I love about you. I am delighting in you, and so often you think I’m staring and picking you apart.  I don’t misjudge you my love, it is you who are misjudging me.”

Why do we worry that the Lord would focus on our deficiencies? Or even more, that those areas of shortcoming would disqualify us from any service of Him?! That I’m not “gifted” in an area, or that I fall short isn’t a hall-pass to be sedentary. It’s like we think that we have to be fit to even join the gym…that our skills and life have to be in order to serve in certain capacities.

Yet…YET, I hear the Great Qualifier say to me…to us, “My sweet ones, I delight in you. I don’t notice that you can’t sing…I see the worshipper inside of your heart. So come, and worship…I delight in all of YOU.”

Let us allow our passion for Him to bring fame to his name. Let us rely on the wonder of Him to fan the flame of Christ’s work in our lives…not any ability of our own to excel in certain giftedness. “Every good and perfect gift is from above” anyhow.

Let’s let our lives receive the gifts… only to point back upwards to Him. And let us NOT allow that upward gaze to stray back earthward onto what we do or don’t do well. All to His glory….ALL to His glory.

Our natural ability cannot define our response to Him. I don’t have to lead worship, to be a worshipper. He sees the beauty in each of us, and even in our weaknesses, HE makes us strong.  He doesn’t notice our eye patch my friends, He’s admiring our cool hair.

But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Cor 2:9-11

*Song credit – Jesus Culture “Burning Ones”,  Lenny Kravitz Photo Credit: Photorazzi, Flame Photo Credit – Courageous Loving Heart

 

Striving to Bear Fruit

 

 

When Sarah Mae first spoke to me about writing the devotion here at Allume, I was excited. I’m still excited, but I’m nervous too. It seems like such a legitimate thing to write. To be entrusted to encourage you all in your devotion to the Lord.

I love this opportunity for all that it is, but for some reason it has felt weighty to me and somehow a little paralyzing.

Sure, your devotion to the Lord isn’t my responsibility, and if the depth of our devotion is narrowed to simply once a week, then that’s not all that devoted anyhow, is it?

As I prepare to write, I find myself reflecting on a song by Gungor called “Beautiful Things” that we sometimes sing at church. The words ring in my mind over and over as I learn to really remember them and live in the truth of them….

All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make me new
You are making me new

I think on the words in John 15:4-5 that say,

“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. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

My friend and worship pastor, David Walker, recently said that “we live in a culture created to value fruitfulness over abiding in the vine.”

So often, and so easily, I think that we find ourselves striving to bear fruit. Striving to be devoted…to bring devotion to our children, to our circles. Striving…trying…making great concerted efforts to enact a passion for Jesus. And then we wonder why it seems so hard? Why we’re trying so hard and the fruitfulness is so hard to come?

We forget to abide. We forget to remain, continue, stay, dwell, and reside with Jesus. There’s no trying…the growth is in the being with Him.

He makes beautiful things out of us when we abide in Him. When we spend time with Him. When we commune with Him. HE makes us new.

And I find peace in that, and rest, and release.

I hope that this will be a place that draws you closer, as we don’t strive, but rather learn to abide in his glorious light more together.

I’d encourage you to quiet your mind, put on some music, and just ask him to come…to soak Him up like a sponge…to abide, and begin to see the ways he is making you new.

How do you find yourself striving for fruitfulness? When was the last time you spent time just soaking up more of Him, abiding in Him, resting in Him?

Photo Credit:  James Insogna

 

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