Can Circumstances by Holy?

Recently I felt like my life came to a screeching halt when I heard the news of a life changing diagnosis for a dear friend.  Not long ago, I was overcome by drama as mothers of teenagers often are. I fight for bravery in the face of the unknowns of my future. Will things be okay? Where is God in all my wonderings?

Jesus said that I will have trouble in this life and life has proven this to be true. But there is a theme that began in the Old testament and has continued to be woven into the New. It’s one of the many threads that tie the two testaments together and it is this: The Lord will be with you.

Continue reading at Gathering Place for Sisters in Christ.

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What’s your miracle?

miracle puffs 6-2

I have a tendency to make this whole God-life thing about me.

What I need.

What I’m doing.

What I pray.

How I live out his precepts.

How I expect his promises to be fulfilled in my life.

How I interpret God’s word.

How I need a miracle…yesterday.

I read about miracles in the news and in missionary letters and I marvel to think that the miracles I read about in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John really and truly do happen today.

The thing? Miracles are for us, but they’re about Jesus.

I look at Mark 10:46-52 and identify with the blind man.

He was desperate for an encounter, an engagement with Jesus so he began shouting his name: ‘Jesus!’ How many times do I call out his name because I am desperate for an engagement with Jesus in my circumstances? Often….

But then this man: blind, calling for Jesus does something else–he references the truth of Jesus’ identity: The Messiah. He emphatically declared who Jesus was.

Do I just call for Jesus by name or do I reference his identity?

Prince of peace= peace for uncertain times

Mighty Counselor= comfort for the weary and worn

Bread of Life= sustenance for the journey of life

River of Life= true satisfaction

I need a savior, absolutely I do, but I also need peace, comfort, sustenance, and satisfaction. And they can be found in the One man who gives sight to the blind.

When Jesus passed by the man, he stopped and asked this question: ‘What do you want?’ The man simply states: ‘I want to see’.

If Jesus were to ask me what I wanted I would have a mile long list with requests ranging from my family loving him to financial freedom to what our future will be.

But what if I stopped and simply said, ‘I want to see.’

I would be like the blind man who didn’t just receive his physical sight, but received spiritual sight.

Sometimes we are so deep into life and our circumstances that we don’t know we are smack dab in the middle of a great big story of grace. Wouldn’t it be amazing if I could see a bit of that story?

So today– let’s ask to see and open our eyes to God’s grace in our lives. It might be merely recognizing the blue sky and clouds, the blooming peonies, the dandelion bouquets, the smiles on your babies, or the fact that you took a deep breath before you dove into life.

I will be praying for you to see the miracles unfolding before you today!

 

Why our words matter

sweet words 5-16

Words matter.

Big time.

I have kept a journal for as long as I can remember. I would start one and write feverishly for a week or two (that’s about as long as my consistency lasted) and then it would dwindle down to every once in a while for a  vomiting  venting session between my pen and I.

The thing was, whenever I would go back and read what I wrote, my cheeks burned with embarrassment. I would rip the pages out and start over. But the same thing kept happening.

I threw a lot of garbage away. So I would quit journalling, but then I would start up again and the same cycle would continue. I would write nonsense about the weather and the weeds growing and doing the dishes and my angst with people and my insecurities and it would turn into another vomit/venting session. Time would pass and I would take a trip down memory lane and flush with embarrassment as I considered my words. I would either hide the evidence or rip the pages out and start again.

Until one day I started thinking: ‘Do I want my kids reading this garbage when I am dead?’ The answer was a resounding ‘no!’  I didn’t want my kids to just know about the ugliness in my heart. I wanted them to know how my garbage met Jesus and changed me for the better.

How could I turn my rambling journal thoughts about the messiness of my heart into an honest portrayal of a woman bent on living and loving and serving God while staying true about my struggles, but not staying in the struggle?

This became my quest.

I decided to be a ‘life-giver journaller’. I wasn’t sure what that looked like, but I wanted to be able to leave my journals as a life-giving gift to my lovelies after I died. So I bought a pretty journal because beauty inspires me. It was lavender pseudo-suede that I found on the end-cap of a discount store. I dated it and the blank page sat there, staring at me, mocking me, daring me to fall into the same ugly writing habit.

That blank page turned into a fledgling attempt at turning all my garbage and brokenness into an offering of praise. I would write verses that spoke to me and then an application for my life in my present season.

Yes, I wrote about the ugliness of my heart and the garbage would spill out, but this time I laid God’s word over my words and saw things through his lens. I said my truth and then I covered it with his Truth. 

And for the first time, my words became life-giving.

I wrote as a gift to my kids, but I also wrote to myself.

Encouraging my heart. Examining my heart. Exercising my heart.

Now, when I take a walk down memory lane, I see remembrances of the evidence of God in my life. I see how he showed up in my ugliness and messiness and insecurities and emotional brokenness and brought healing and life. Through his word in my words.

I don’t hide my journals anymore. I have one on a bookshelf, a couple others are kept on a side table by my favorite chair. They are there for me to leaf through and be encouraged. The current one is with my bible and comes out each time I open God’s word.

I write about the nitty-gritty stuff of my heart and life. I also write about the joys and triumphs. I write quotes from books that affect my heart. But mostly I write those books to be a gift to my lovelies to give life to their hearts and for them to see into their flawed mama’s heart as she struggled along loving them well.

Proverbs 16:24: ‘Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.’

How do you use your words to bring life? Is this an area you struggle in? If you are a journaller, do you have hidden journals that need to see the truth of God laid over them?

 

can you hear the silence speak?

silence speaks

There have been seasons in my life when I felt I couldn’t ‘hear’ God. It felt like he was far, far away. I felt abandoned.  I felt forsaken. There have been different reasons for those seasons of silence.

Once, I was wanting God to move on my behalf, but he was waiting for me to take a step of faith toward him first. He was asking me to do a hard thing, but I wrestled and argued with him. I didn’t want to listen so I didn’t. I refused to listen. If we choose not to listen to someone we eventually stop hearing them. They become silent to us. 

Another time I was bound up with anger because a prayer I had prayed had gone ignored. At that time I thought that if I ticked all the Christian ‘to-do’ boxes, I had a guaranteed ‘yes’ to my heart’s cry. This was not the case. I learned that the Christian ‘to-do’ boxes have a completely different purpose for our lives and do not include manipulating God to do as I wish.

Disobedience. Sin. Anger. These things have brought me through seasons when I believed that God had gone silent when in reality it was I who had plugged my ears. I was like the little child who clapped her hands over her ears and hummed real loud to drown out what she doesn’t want to hear. I am the one who had stepped away from his safety and refuge in my own grown up version of a temper tantrum.

But I have learned there is a different kind of silence. The kind of silence where God is calling me to sit quietly in his presence and let himself flow over me and into my spirit. The kind of silence that is comforting and refreshing.

In those moments, I am given a choice.  In that kind of silence I have an option of trusting him or trusting myself and what I think I know is best. It’s usually in those kind of silent moments that I know that if I step into a deeper trust with him that I will soon hear him loud and clear.

I need to do two things: trust him and dive deep into his word. I am a huge fan of the Old Testament. I love both the Old and the New, but I learn so much about my human frailty and God’s great big deep love for me in the Old Testament.

I read about the Israelites and I learn how they dealt with silence and how God dealt with them….

The Red Sea was an insurmountable obstacle.  As the Isrealites looked at the Red Sea before them and Pharoah’s army behind them, they determined it was better for them to live as slaves than to die free.

God split the sea for them to walk across on on dry ground.

While they waited for Moses to come down the mountain, they turned to Aaron and their own logic, and created a god because Moses was taking too long on that mountain.

God was instructing Moses on the way of life for His people.

Mankind is generally uncomfortable with silence. Mankind says silence needs to be filled. It is tempting to explain away the silence rather than pressing into the silence. 

What if the silence became our cue to tuck in closer to him? What if we asked for faith to believe that He is working and moving in ways that we cannot see? Will you tuck in close and trust?

God could be about ready to split the sea for you. He could be about ready to speak loud and clear. God could be doing a mighty act of deliverance. He could be singing songs over you. He could be calling you deeper into him.

Can you listen for the silence to speak?

 

beauty and belief

love

Beauty and the Beast. I love this story. I even loved the Disney version. (If you get a chance, though, look up the story in a book of fairy tales–beautiful). I use to know the music. I use to sing along to the track in my ’76 Thunderbird, pretending to be Belle as she finds understanding and her destiny in the most unlikely of places: the castle of a beast.

When I look into a mirror, I don’t see beauty, I see a beast. I see the woman who has a sharp tongue oftener than a gentle one. I see a woman who is prone to impatience. I see a woman who distractedly listens to her people while trying to read an article or book or facebook post. I see a woman with freckles that make her face look dirty, especially in the summer, when she fails to use sunscreen.  I see a woman who could stand to exercise more and eat less. I see a woman who failed at loving someone well. I see a woman who was quick to judge and slow to love. I see a woman struggling to love her neighbor.

I know that Jesus calls us to love our neighbor as ourselves. But let me ask this: How can I love my neighbor when I can’t stand myself? Why am I surprised when I struggle to accept my neighbor as they are when I cannot accept myself?

Do I try harder? Do I think positive thoughts? Do I re-imagine myself into a new being? Do I come up with a three-point plan to be executed to the best of my ability? Do I beat my breast and condemn myself in the hopes that that will produce more love for others?

Could this be approaching the problem backward? Love People, be kind to ourselves, love God. Or sometimes we try this approach: Work at loving God more so I can love people better. There is nothing inherently wrong with this statement. It’s a good and beautiful statement. But when we have to ‘work’ at loving God? But when we hate ourselves? When we despise ourselves? How does this fulfill the great commandment to love your neighbor as yourself?

I find this truth: My ability to love is directly related to my ability to know how deeply I am loved.

Loving others cannot be something that is a task I check off my list. The harder I try to love others, the harder it seems. But? What if I started believing the immense truth of how much I am loved by God.

1 John 4:19 ‘We love because he first loved us.’

Love is impossible without recognizing this truth. We don’t love God because we are commanded to love God. We love God because he first loved us and because of that first arrow of love to our hearts we are enabled and empowered by the Holy Spirit to love God with all our hearts, souls, mind, and body.

My ability to love others is tied directly to my ability to receive the TRUTH of God’s love for me. You see, when I reject myself, which is what I do when I condemn myself for my failures and my imperfections, I am rejecting the love of God for me and in me. I am setting myself up as judge and jury in my life and determining me guilty.

If we press further, we see that the judge has set us free through his son. Not to live and do as we please, but only to live and do as he pleases. And that, my friend, is receiving the love he has for you and me and then allowing that love to flow genuinely through us to others.

Sometimes we have to start small.

Sometimes we have to tentatively step out in faith and say–‘God, I love you because you first loved me. I am going to ruminate on 1 John 4:19 that says that I love because you first loved me. Any love I have for another person has to flow out of that truth.’

And then, I pray that we hear these words of God sung over us:

You belong to me, you belong to me, you’re mine through and through. You belong to me, my Child.’

It’s in my ‘beastliness’ that I reach for and receive God’s grace of his love for me as it flows over and through me. I find my destiny in the truth of God’s love for me. 

 

 

trails of grace

bridge with words

Trails.

Trials.

Both these words possess the same letters, but with a flip of two letters we have a whole new word.

Trials lead us to blaze new trails.

But sometimes trails lead us right into trials.

There have been trails that I have hesitated to follow because I knew they would lead me right into a trial. I could foresee that a particular path would not be easy. Trials weary me. Trials scare me. Trials require much of me.  Trials are hindrances. 

‘These have come [all kinds of trials] so that your faith–more worth than gold,which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.’ 1 Peter 1:7

Faith. It is a gift from God. A gift. But it’s not a gift that we put on a shelf and wait for a special day to take it down and use it. Or to ‘re-gift’ it. Or to ‘repurpose’ it. Or even to ‘recycle’ it. No. It is a gift. For you and for me to use. Faith has a purpose and it is valuable and available.

My faith is worth more than gold, and it grows more in value with use. Your faith is worth more than gold and grows more in value as you use it.

Each trial is an opportunity for my faith to be refined and to be made more genuine. Who wouldn’t want that?  But who counts the cost? Could I be satisfied with mediocre faith or do I want the real, unmoving, firm kind of faith? Then I must welcome trials. Not that I am going to go create trials, but my perspective on trials should change.

To see it as a loving refining fire. To see it as an opportunity to prove to myself and the world that my faith is genuine. Why? So that Jesus Christ is revealed in my life and receive praise, glory, and honor.

In Genesis we meet a young man by the name of Joseph, who experienced a long, refining trail. His dreams, his integrity, and his faith did not keep him out of the the trials he experienced, but God used them to affect a miracle in the lives of his people.

Sometimes our trials are meant for a bigger story than just us and ours. Sometimes our stories are meant for someone yet to be. Sometimes our stories are for someone we may never meet. Sometimes are stories are meant for God alone to use as he sees best. 

May we greet each trial, with faith instead of fear? May we trust the heart of God that the trail that appears dark and frightening is really filled with treasured beauty that will be revealed as we take those steps of faith?

 

belief required

Belief.

We can say we believe, but do we? When the way grows rough and the storm looms close do we believe as much as we did when the way was smooth and the skies clear? When it feels like you cannot catch your breath because the waves are crashing with increasing ferocity, do you believe with the same amount of fervor as when the water was as smooth as glass?

This question comes up to haunt me in the night. It hounds me when I am trapped in shame. It challenges my desperation. It ramrods my pride.

Yet, belief was the key to the sick woman and the synagogue ruler. It was their belief that fueled their desperation. It was their belief that prompted their seeking Jesus. Belief fueled their reception of their personal miracle.

Belief.

There were those in the synagogue leader’s and the woman’s life that did not believe that healing could come. Think of the woman: she spent all she had searching for health through the hands of mere men and instead of getting better she grew worse. She was probably written off as a lost cause and there was no one left to believe that she would be restored. Think of Jairus: his daughter was still alive when he fell at Jesus’ feet begging for Jesus to come and heal his daughter, yet, when Jesus finally arrived, Jairus’ daughter was dead. There was no hope because there was no life.

There have been and probably always will be those folks in my life who challenge my belief in my Jesus. There will be those that will tell me to stop bothering Jesus with the request that obviously is dead. I have those kind of latent dreams that I wonder if they will ever happen in this world. But the dreams persist and I hear Jesus tell me, just as he told Jairus: ‘Don’t be afraid, just believe.’

In that statement, Jairus had to choose who he was going to believe. Would he believe his friends and family or would he believe Jesus? Can you imagine the single-mindedness of Jairus as he walked those last, long, short steps to his home? Can you imagine the battle within his heart and what his mind was telling him? His heart is telling him to believe and reverberating through his mind is the news that his daughter is dead. Whose voice will be louder? Jesus or the crowd?

This is the challenge that I face. Will I let Jesus’ voice be louder in my mind and heart or will I let the crowd of doubt and logic drown it?

It wasn’t logical that by just one touch of Jesus’ hem would the woman be healed. It wasn’t logical that a child could be raised from the dead. There is no human logic that could explain or support a healing touch.

But what part of Jesus follows our human logic? I have experienced a peace that makes no sense when I look at the circumstances in my life. I have experienced the courage to take the next step to tear down idols that prevent the people I serve from growing in their worship experience. I have experienced freedom from the approval seeking junkie I once was.

These things are unexplainable outside the power of the touch of Jesus in my life.Will you believe? Will you be desperate? Will you seek out the presence of Jesus in your life? If you can, if you will to, you might experience miracles in your life that defy our human logic as well. And that is a very exciting place to be.