Friday, June 29, 2012

oh, that you were so easily amazed!

I am one of often-hardened heart
But turn aside once and I'll play that part

A cowardly show or selfish eating
And find my close-compassion a-fleeting

Blinded with bitter cataracts so dark
Disparity in my eyes and His is stark

Cold and unimpressed with trifles
Shooting my soul with ignorance riffles

Disregard for His miraculous hand
Delicate pearls weaving invisible strand

On my sand behind waves He's traced
And oh, that I were so easily amazed

To be seen and known, sitting under a tree
Called by name and astounded to believe 

Would that I were flung-open to Gifts, even small
Drawn in reckless following - walk, run, crawl

To behold and bow in awe - struck dumb
Would that it dissolve the walls that make numb

By Jesus known and called and sought 
May I like Nathanael to amazement be brought

"When Jesus saw him coming he said, "There's a real Israelite, not a false bone in his body."
Nathanael said, "Where did you get that idea? You don't know me."
Jesus answered, "One day, long before Philip called you here, I saw you under the fig tree."
Nathanael exclaimed, "Rabbi! You are the Son of God, the King of Israel!"
Jesus said, "You've become a believer simply because I say I saw you one day sitting under the fig tree? You haven't seen anything yet! Before this is over you're going to see heaven open and God's angels descending to the Son of Man and ascending again." -John 1:47-51 (Msg)

Lord Jesus I invite you to amaze me.  I vow to respond appropriately.  Even in the "smallest" of miracles.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

grace upon grace

I think some things are ironically beautiful.  Spiderwebs (despite my aversion to their creators), pine needles, oranges, and this image in my head as I read my Bread: a stack of pancakes.

Fluffy and steaming. Even layers of risen batter. Enough for the family and even left-overs. Soft and creamy, just waiting for butter and syrup, or even a spread of jam.  Simply gorgeous.

Grace upon grace.  One gracious blessing after another.  And isn't my life a beautiful stack of pancakes?

I count blessings and even number them.  Today my journal says #1062 and I am still very amazed at the joy that comes in thanksgiving.  Here are a few recently-counted graces:

- the way You prune me and conform me to the likeness of Your Son, a process that will continue my whole life
- reading new blogs
- an early, quiet morning alone with You
- face-to-face conversation with C last night
- a big hug from T and the way he picks me up in it
- R's little laugh
- five young friends playing together for hours, and zero fights
- firefighters rallying together to put out blazes
- pink rose petals on the counter and another reminder of the tender, extravagant way You, Daddy, love me
- lives saved from the flames, though homes are sadly lost
-  "The life of the godly is not a straight line to glory; it's more like a dark and seemingly unknown trail through the mountains." -John Piper 
- updates from a husband whose wife recovers from malignant surgery, and his hopeful prayers for his sleep and her bowels 
- my mother-in-law who balks not at cleaning my son's vomit off the carpet with me
- air conditioning on a record-high day full of smoke in the air and on the clouds

Pancakes stacked high on my plate, and, Oh, Lord - thank you.  I am undeserving. Humbled that you would give to me again.  

"From His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace." -John 1:16 (ESV)

Jesus stretched out His arms on the Cross to buy me back from sin and death forever.  That alone was more than enough.  But the Father, who did not spare even His own Son, does indeed graciously give me so many more things. (from Rom. 8:32) 

And the only response I can find that is remotely appropriate: giving thanks.

Thank You, Father, for grace upon grace, stacked high on my life from Your abundance.  Forgive me for the times I fail to see how much you give me.  Forgive me for being an ingrate. Rescue me again from that hard heart.  Today I surrender in openness of heart, eyes, and hands.  I'm ready for whatever grace you give, be it refining, blessing, or hurdle-turned-opportunity.  My hands are reaching for that which you have for me today.  Your fresh mercy the very first grace this morning, and your protective Hand of peace the last tonight.  I am wholly Yours.  Thank You that I can call You mine.

Friday, June 22, 2012

... when hardness blocks the light

What to do with calloused hands ?

This morning as I fellowship with Him on the porch in the rising sunlight so precious and warming me through (I love only few things on this earth more than I love sunlight), I had a few souls quite close as they hammered and measured my neighbor's roof, calling out fractions and equations back and forth to one another in dizzying number-tornado.  Their hands are calloused by the work they do every day, and they are so skilled that I'm led to praise Him for such craftsmanship.  

The callouses on their hands reminded me of another kind of callous - that which appears on a child's hands after too many swings on the monkey bars.  A few years ago I was a recess aide, and therefore the go-to for many children who brought blisters oozing and callouses deepening to my eyes for healing.  And what can one do for that?  Only a brushed kiss (I know, it's a little gross to kiss the playground-sweaty hands of a strange child, but what can I say, I'm a kid-kisser; it's just what I do), and the only fix I knew to offer: "No more monkey bars for a while. Take a break. Go play something else."

And then Jesus sweeps me away in memory of other callouses ... on the hands of my dad.  My dad was a machinist and his precious hands that held me and touched my freckled, soft cheek were so very rough.  Dry and cracked.  Often wounded from one bang or another cut from sharp metal in the shop.  And the callouses on his palms and fingertips - I've never seen any so thick, so deep, so hardened by time and work and use.  Oh how I loved those beautiful, leather-ed hands.  I don't ever remember retracting from his touch; I only remember wanting to be held. 

I stop my memories for a moment to catch my breath and my grief... but it's not tears today.  

And the Spirit pushes me into the recesses of my mind once again.  I remember putting my soft white hands around his first two fingers, and that's the way we would walk everywhere together.  The little girl remembers it was that way because my hand was too small to hold his whole hand ... but adult years make me wonder if he held me that way, not for my inadequacy, but for feelings of his own.  Did he offer only what he thought I could bear, for fear more of his roughness would be too much?

And callouses stand in the way of some things very precious.
He said, “Go and tell this people:
“‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
    be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ 
 Make the heart of this people calloused; 
    make their ears dull
    and close their eyes. 
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
    hear with their ears, 
    understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”   - Isaiah 6:9-10 (NIV)

Blinded eyes, squeezed shut.  Deaf ears, plugged with calloused fingers.  Closed to truth, unperceptive and un-receiving.  Headed for doom and darkness. So far away from the Light.  

This was me.  Once before I knew Christ, and even to some degree again since, a time or two.  

And is it true hopelessness, or is does Light truly penetrate every darkness? 

"Only to the eyes of unbelief does the devil have the upper hand" -John Piper

And what can one do for that?

Stop doing the thing which causes the hardness.

God's people had chosen to live in darkness and practice it and even work in it daily.  Their sin became the very job and desensitizing, hardening profession of their hearts.  They were so blinded, so numb, so deaf that their only hope to find belief again in the healing light was to stop.

Callouses can be important for work, and God can use a carpenter's or a machinist's or a gymnast's callouses for His glory as work is accomplished with excellence.  But callouses of the heart are another story.

If my recess kids want soft, tender hands that don't blister and bleed, they're going to need to choose to stay away from the monkey bars.  

Likewise if I want to keep a soft heart, I'm going to need to stop heading into the darkness and seek with all diligence that which is light.  Even in the chapters of our lives when God has us in a pit.  Our only choice is to look up at the light and wait to be rescued.  Even when it seems like sin consumes and tempts and feels precious... our only hope is to open our hearts, lift our eyes to the blinding sun and look once again, pull our hands away from our ears, empty them of all self-serving control, and raise them to God for His healing kisses.

And what better salve than that?

God, here are my hands, and here is my heart.  I choose to stop the work of sin that hardens me.  Heal me, I ask.  

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

it's hard to believe in what you can't see...

Wouldn't it be easier to believe God if we could see Him?  I've got to admit, that would be nice for me.  To be able to see Jesus, or at least an Angel of the Lord ... I'd be unwavering, I just know it.  How could I ever doubt His goodness or faithfulness again if only I could just see Him?  And sometimes I find jealousy or envy in my heart of the disciples and early Church who did see Him.  They touched Him.  They heard His voice flowing through human vocal cords, vibrating their tympanic membranes and entering cochlea. And oh, for just one chance to hold that Hand ...

But as much as I long for that (and One Glorious Day, I know I will have it), part of me knows I would be robbed of a greater joy that is faith.  "We live by what we believe, not by what we can see." 2 Corinthians 5:7 (NCV).  Though I cannot see His physical hand, I count it grace and blessing that He opens my eyes to see the work of His hand every day.  To feel His touch in the way the sunshine warmly caresses my face and arms.  To see His provision in the cereal on my kids' spoons.  To hear Him singing over me in the songs of cardinals, blue jays, and robins in my yard.  To experience the way He loves me in the arms of the people He gifts me.  It's no less Him.  In fact, perhaps it's even more. 

Jesus replied, “Do you believe because you see me? Happy are those who don’t see and yet believe.” -John 20:29 (CEB) 

Am I indeed happy that I can't see Him?  That I get to walk by faith instead of by these cornea and retina? Could there be something even stronger, even more evident, than seeing? 

I know that God stuffed His infinite and unfathomable Self into human form, and though some saw Him, it was only in part.  Because He is this image, but He is also beyond it.  He is like wind, like rain, like fire, like oil, like the stars and so much more than we could ever understand (Isaiah 55: 8-9). 

Yes, Lord.  I am happy to know You sans vision of You. To feel Your hand in mine by way of another, more spiritual, sensory input. Yes, Mary was blessed to kiss Your feet.  And I count myself at least as blessed to know Your Being through my faith, passed to me from Your Spirit, if not even just a little bit more.  May belief be my sixth and strongest sense, as I know you more every day.  If you show me Your Glory, I'll perceive it.  This, my vow today.   

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

is cleanliness next to godliness?

Well, I do love a clean house.  Mine or anyone else's.  I feel unrest in the midst of clutter, and when the dirt and stickiness and crusted-on-food-nastiness fills my environment ... well, peace is fleeting, to say the least.  Many of my pet-peeves have to do with some kind of un-clean thing in my house, and I'm willing to admit that a mess can scream louder at me than any two-year-old.

And you'd think given that about my personality, my house would be clean more often than not... but you'd be wrong.  Most days, my house (and therefore, my heart) is a wreck.  Toilets un-scrubbed, papers and trash un-sorted on my desk, carpet un-vacuumed,  and floor un-swept and un-mopped.  I used to think I was the only one, but years and friends have taught me I was sorely mistaken.

And so I make many efforts toward physical cleanliness, because I'm so very protective of my peace.  Time management can help a little with that.  And so can kids who are older than five, and oh, Lord, I'm so thankful for their increasing ability and initiative.  But, the Father is also teaching me a bit today about spiritual cleanliness. Clean-ness of heart and soul and hands.

In my daily reading God walks me through Acts 14 and 15, and it makes me long for that kind of church body.  The growing, praising, sharpening, cleansing kind.  I'm asking God how I can personally be like Paul and Barnabas - so full of faith in Him.  When they traveled from missionary work and evangelistic church-planting back to the saints in Jerusalem, the most powerful part of their testimony was the same as that of our testimony today: God turns sinful lives into the redeemed for His good.  I know nothing more powerfully praising, nothing more Christ-glorifying, than a life changed.  And, just as I spoke to a dear sister over the phone yesterday while she drove back across the country from a tumultuous "vacation" with her family, "God is still in the business of changing people."

"And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith." - Acts 15:8-9 (ESV)

This version implies the faith that makes all people clean comes from Him, because so often we feel like faith-failures, and I know I'm not the only one.  But being a Christ-follower means being a Christ-depender too, and the faith we so desperately need to hold tightly in our hands is out-sourced from His own hand.  Our hearts cry give me faith so that we can put it in Him, and what can result from that kind of exchange, except holding hands with Him (Isa. 41:10)? 

Faith cleanses our hearts.  Faith in a good God (Psalm 116:5) who gives us good things (James 1:17) and works even the worst mess for our good (Romans 8:28), because we trust with faith - given into our hands and washed over our entire selves.

Lord, I want more faith from Your good hand so that my heart can be clean. I trust in You alone, Jesus to do this for me.  I want this kind of cleanliness - a heart cleansed and pleasing to You.  Hands purified and ready to love.  My soul adorned to be your pure bride. Only You can do this for me, Spirit.  Hold my hand, Father.  Today and every day hereafter.  I'm Yours.

Friday, June 15, 2012

I'm not tough... but it's all good

When identity is fleeting, what in the world can we hold onto?

The more I talk to people and learn wisdom in social exegesis, I'm convinced that many of us are walking this life on a path of identity crisis.  I know I've been fighting to figure out and define who I am.  And not only to know me, but to be me.

Maybe I'm the only one.

Nah.  I know I'm not.

Since I can remember, I've struggled with trying to be what I'm not instead of being content in what I am.   Resisted the person underneath.  The light He put in me I've tried to snuff or change, and Oh, Lord, I'm so sorry. I'm not exactly sure why I've wanted to be different than who I am, but I suppose the why isn't the point.  Insecurity is the result regardless of the reason.  

Frankly, I'm done with trying to figure that out.  I'm ready to move on.  Ready to live out of the light that burns inside my heart, ready to turn over the leaf of false and reveal authenticity.

"He died for the sake of all so that those who are alive should live not for themselves but for the one who died for them and was raised.  So then, from this point on we won’t recognize people by human standards. Even though we used to know Christ by human standards, that isn't how we know him now.  So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!"  - 2 Corinthians 5:15-17 (CEB) {emphasis mine}

And to live out of who I am takes courage.  Sometimes it's downright scary to open my heart and bare my soul.  But I can no longer recognize myself by human standards.  I need to see what God sees.  And in order to walk on the path Jesus paved for me with His death and resurrection so I could be free (Rom. 8:2), secure (Rom. 8:38-39), sacred (1 Cor. 3:16), important (1 Cor. 12:27), bright (Matt. 5:14), God's child (John 1:12), able (Phil. 4:13), redeemed (Col. 1:14), and more...I need to be brave.   

"But what if they don't like the real you?" hisses the filthy snake.  Though I've engaged in that conversation with him many times, today I raise a hand, stomp a food and retort, "No!"

Jesus's strength covers my weakness, and He defends me.  I'm strong in Him again today.  If they don't like ME, well, too bad for them.  "Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant." - Galatians 1:10 (NLT)   I live for the One who made me.  He can make me strong for that kind of living.

And yes, I can be strong, but, no, I'm not tough.  Because that's not me ... though, Lord knows I've tried.  Built walls and attempted many things to prove a lie.  And how impossible is that?  No, I'm not the tough one.  Longing to be didn't change me. Striving for toughness and pretending only ended up hurting me more.  

I'm the sweet one. Compassionate. Gentle of heart. Vulnerable. Tender.  I'll be honest - if you wanted to hurt me, you probably could.  Which is why I need the protection of my God and my husband.  In the provision of God's covering, I am hidden and safe (Psalm 18:2, Col. 3:3-4)   But, even if people hurt me, I won't stop being the "shining with fame" free-flying bird God made me to be.  I'll be healed and I'll soar above.  I will choose to live out of the ME that my Father created.  I choose to trust that He'll keep me safe in His Hand.

So, who are you?  And how can you live out of your true identity, and be you ... nothing less?

Father, let us be true.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

things God gets credit for...

I think about heaven quite a bit.  Wonder about what it will be like for eternity keeps me seeking His Word for more answers, and then leads only to more wonder.  Similar to the way the Apostles' boldness led them to ask for even more boldness (Acts 4).

When I see God working around me and in me and through me, I'm filled with awe at His great love.  I ask and wonder how He can love me so individually and care for all of humanity at the same time and in the same capacity.  Wonder leads to awe and awe points back to wonder, all of it is building a great pile of love in my soul.  I ponder what to do with that huge pile mounding over in me.

I'd really like to give it back to Him and I ask Jesus, how?

Don't you love the way He answers?

"Amen! (So be it!) they cried. Blessing and glory and majesty and splendor and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and might [be ascribed] to our God to the ages and ages (forever and ever, throughout the eternities of the eternities)! Amen! (So be it!)" - Revelation 7:12 (Amp)

This verse at the bottom of my prayer journal yesterday was such an amazing, page-leaping Word that jumped into my heart and stirred up a response of praise.  Not coincidentally, the song pouring from my playlist and my lips at the same time I read it was anointed.  When in heaven for eternity, this is what we'll get to do - give it all back sufficiently.  Everything He's poured into us, every miracle, blessing, measure of love and grace - we'll be able to love Him back.  With our forever.

And of course we can start now.  We can give God credit and ascribe praise to this Amazing Yahweh for each and every blessing (Father, you've given me so many, and for them I praise you), all glory (which You alone have always before held and will always contain, an especially divine quality, the unspoken manifestation of God)highest ever majesty (Jesus, you are the King above any king, and my allegiance is only Yours), beautiful splendor (Spirit you captivate my every sense), grandest-scope wisdom (what You know spans every depth and highest space, draws my curiosity to seek more of You), and thanks (oh, Lord may I never leave my thankful heart unspoken, undeclared), magnified honor (Your worth and value are immeasurable, and Jesus -You are the precious price, paid for my soul), strongest power (without which I am incapable, but You, Spirit choose to work through my weakness for Your purpose), and might (because it won't be enough to declare it once, we must again sing that You are powerfully strong).

I try pray this aloud each time I speak in front of people: LORD, you get every ounce of credit for everything.  I don't want any of that. And let it be so again today.  He alone is worthy.  Look to Him and fall in worship.  Practice today what you will do forever.

Respond to His great Love.   

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Singing Thanksgiving

The other morning I woke up from a rather uncomfortable night's sleep in a tent on the ground to the sound of dozens of birds singing and chirping.  The sun poured through branches to land on leaves, and mixed with the morning dew to produce a fragrant offering filling my nostrils and His with beauty.  I rolled my too-old-for-this body over to look up through the mesh at God's glorious sunrise and though my back screamed ouch, my heart and my voice sang thank You. 

About a year ago, the same friend whose lawn I awoke on gave me a beautiful book about giving thanks called One Thousand Gifts  by Ann Voskamp that literally changed my life.  In the pages she unfolds the love of God in the midst of painful life, and our gifted response of writing and counting thanksgiving in the every-day moments of God's all encompassing Grace.  In it she depicts how all is grace and when we see our gifts and THANK Him for them, we live as Christ did.  The new testament Greek word for this is Eucharisteo or being thankful for God's good grace.  And so I took her same challenge to count one thousand things to thank God for in my every-day life.  I must confess I should have been done months ago, but because of some dark sifting months during the winter, I've had some delays.  And thank You, Lord for forgiveness, mercy, grace, salvation, and a million second-chances as I fall and stand back up again.  Today I count on and my journal says #924.  Almost there.

Today as Father holds my hand and walks me through His precious Word, I look up through the mesh and see the healing beauty of thanksgiving again today in the book of Nehemiah.  Four times, actually, in chapter 12 alone.  In verses 27 and 40 the Hebrew word is todah - choir(s), thanksgiving, praise, sacrifices of thanks, thank offerings, and confession.  In verses 24 and 46 the word is yadah - to throw/cast, thanks, confess, give praise, give thanks, hymns of thanksgiving, glorify.

"For the dedication of the new wall of Jerusalem, the Levites throughout the land were asked to come to Jerusalem to assist in the ceremonies. They were to take part in the joyous occasion with their songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps, and lyres." - Nehemiah 12:27

 I confess my life is full of writing.  Writing is my craft, and actually #923 says I'm thankful for pens and paper to wield my talent for His glory.  But today I'm challenged to sing my thanks, in light of Nehemiah and David.  I'm not a very talented singer.  Not a Levite, choir member, or worship leader, not even on the worship team.  But I do believe God's presence inhabits the praises of His people, and more than anything in heaven or earth, what I WANT is to be with Him and Him with me.  So today I'm singing songs of thanksgiving, as well as counting and writing them.  I'm so thankful and may my song be a pleasing sound in His ears.

This bird sings thanks to Father.

Join me?

Sunday, June 10, 2012


A dear friend has been teaching me about the meaning of this word, showed me a prayer exercise on paper of how to take the distractions of your life out of the way of your relationship with God, and I use it more and more.  Because the distractions come so fast, so unannounced, so violently to steal my peace.  And I get angry at the distractions sometimes when my anger should be directed at the one who plants the worry and angst, and what causes me to sin is often disguised as "good intentions."  And I'm tired of good intentions with bad results.  I want God results or none at all.  Want Him to be the author and finisher of all I do.  Want to walk by the Spirit and keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5).

This week my husband shared the pulpit with me.  Incredible, humbling opportunity.  I take it seriously, just as I take everything seriously, and sometimes I take myself too seriously, but I don't take His truth seriously enough.  Don't walk in what I know.  On Friday I was preparing my part of the message, writing and editing through the words and it struck me that the words would come out wrong if my heart was not right, and as Isaiah, I cried out to God, "Woe is me, I am one of unclean lips [and hands, and heart, and mind too]."

I argued with my Father once again.  I can't do this, Lord. Of course you can, I'll give you the strength. I'm messed up. I need a coal to cleanse these lips, God. Alright, then consecrate yourself with worship. Just me, Father?  Yes.  I'll prepare you at the altar. But, God... he's busy on Sunday mornings. Who am I? Once again, child, you are who I say you are.  

My worship pastor led me in a song he picked with direction from the Spirit.  He sang it over me, and he sang it with me, and we sang together a song of consecration.  My husband prayed over me and read me truth from the Psalms. I was cleansed with worship and washed by the Word.

Consecration means to set apart, to sanctify, to wholly dedicate.  With His holy strength and cleansing Blood, He set my voice apart from sin, and sanctified me with music like a burning hot coal.  Touched my lips with it and made me new.  Made me wholly dedicated and dedicated me to be holy before Him.  Consecration at His altar.  I blush because to even write it seems like kissing and telling, it was that sweet.

"Everything God made is good.  We should not put anything aside if we can take it and thank God for it.  It is made holy by the Word of God and by prayer." - 1 Timothy 4:4-5

And what response from my heart?

Thank you.  I want more, Father.