calling out from the heart

Each one of us is born with an inherent cry in our heart for connection.  A connection to people, a connection to creation, a connection to our Creator.  We have it from the moment we are conceived until we draw our last breath. Some of us ignore it, or set it aside to fill later.  Some try to fill it with fleeting things, temporal, material things– things that will not last.  Others recognize the cry as the cry of any child for a parent– our Heavenly Father. We cry out and He answers– every time.

The other evening I was filled with the overwhelming desire to cry out to my Heavenly Father to just praise Him and find joy in His presence in my heart.

The next morning I woke to this view–

And the Heavens declare the glory of the Lord

  And the Heavens declare the glory of the Lord

I couldn’t help but think it was a response to my singing to Him the night before.  Immediately, this song came to mind from Rich Mullins.  May you hear the crying out in your heart today for your Heavenly Father and may you hear His answer of “I am here, my child.”

Well the moon moved past Nebraska
And spilled laughter on them cold Dakota Hills
And angels danced on Jacob’s stairs
Yeah, they danced on Jacob’s stairs
There is this silence in the Badlands
And over Kansas the whole universe was stilled
By the whisper of a prayer
The whisper of a prayer

And a single hawk bursts into flight
And in the east the whole horizon is in flames
I feel thunder in the sky
I see the sky about to rain
And I hear the prairies calling out Your name

I can feel the earth tremble
Beneath the rumbling of the buffalo hooves
And the fury in the pheasant’s wings
And there’s fury in a pheasant’s wings
And it tells me the Lord is in His temple
And there is still a faith that can make the mountains move
And a love that can make the heavens ring
And I’ve seen love make heaven ring

Where the sacred rivers meet
Beneath the shadow of the Keeper of the plains
I feel thunder in the sky
I see the sky about to rain
And I hear the prairies calling out Your name

From the place where morning gathers
You can look sometimes forever ’til you see
What time may never know
What time may never know
How the Lord takes by its corners this old world
And shakes us forward and shakes us free
To run wild with the hope
To run wild with the hope

The hope that this thirst will not last long
That it will soon drown in a song not sung in vain
And I feel thunder in the sky
I see the sky about to rain
And I hear the prairies calling out Your name

And I know this thirst will not last long
That it will soon drown in the song not sung in vain
I feel thunder in the sky
I see the sky about to rain
And with the prairies I am calling out Your name

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wrestling with self-righteousness

Rarely does something make me more angry than when someone is trying to prove a point by pointing out all the things that another person did wrong.  I feel my shoulders lean in like a guard on the line ready to protect the quarterback, my jaw sets, and a whole set of vocabulary fills my mouth, waiting to call out what I “really” think of the other person.

It makes me mad because I am hurt.  The sense of not being valued, of being treated as stupid, foolish, or some other discarded piece, fills my heart and if I allow it, my eyes fill with tears.

Whose measuring tape am I supposed to be standing next to each day?  We as human beings are some of the most fickle creations God made.  We choose to lean to one side or the other based on the popular agenda. It feels like a roster call of “Who do we hate today?” My heart aches at the loss of grace, the loss of mercy, of second chances.

When self-righteous comes into a situation Godly-righteous is shoved out the door.  When we use what we think is “right” instead of what God says is “right” we miss the mark entirely.

He has shown you oh man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8). 

To act justly-– doing what is fair, showing equity toward others, protecting and defending the innocent, those who cannot defend themselves.

 To love mercy–giving a second chance to someone instead of bringing “down the hammer” to prove the person was wrong.  Odds are they already know they were wrong.  It could be coming alongside the person and guiding and directing them to the right way, or it could be showing compassion for them.

To walk humbly with your God— in someways, this should be simple, in others, it is probably the hardest part of the verse.  We aren’t God. We don’t have omnipotence, omnipresence, or omniscience, but God does.  We need to remember Who is in charge, Who we follow, and why. 

God calls us to put ourselves behind Him and others in front of us, to remember it isn’t about us, our wants, our desires, but about Him.  His plans are perfect.  Perfectly planned, perfectly timed.  When we remember to seek Him first everything else will fall into place.

So when self-righteousness comes to put someone “in their place” we need to recognize the place we are standing.  Is it in front of someone wagging our finger at them?  Is it behind them pushing them into something God has not prepared for them to do or not yet called them to do– but we know “it will be good for them?” We need to remember to check our place. Where we need to be is walking alongside our brothers and sisters, sharing the journey, watching the path ahead, learning, listening, loving compassionately, and serving each other in Christ.

Then we will truly be living out Micah 6:8.

 

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names

I like to study my family tree and family histories.  I love the stories, the connections, the depth and breadth of how a family is woven together.  One of the things about family trees are the common and uncommon names given to each child.  Each person who bears that name bears the image of the family tree, the heritage of those who shared the same names in the past.

I started thinking of the names God bears, too.  Elohim is Hebrew and one of the most common uses in the Old Testament, the word means “God.”  Another word I have often heard and used is Adonai which means “My Lord.”  One of my favorite names of God is El Shaddai, which means “All Sufficient One” as God is sufficient to care for me and for all of my needs.  He is worthy of my trust, my faith, and of being followed.

Each one of these names of God shows some of His character, Who He is, how He moves and works in each of our lives.  When we know the character of God, we can see why we can trust Him, His purposes, His plans, even when we don’t understand why He is moving in a certain direction.

 

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fragility

We live in a world that looks to the lions.  Those who are champions, running into the burning building to save those who have been in peril.  We celebrate them in the news, on our own news-feeds, in emails, on magazines.  If a person is strong, then surely they must be looked up to and put on a pedestal to inspire the “mere mortals.”

Then I look at Scripture.  Moses had a speech impediment. Jacob had a limp after wrestling all night with angels. Jeremiah showed signs of depression in his writing.  In the New Testament Peter often responded with brashness that came with consequences.  Paul had a thorn in his side.  Each of these men who have been held up as an example for our faith had a weakness.

I started thinking of my contemporary heroes.  Corrie Ten Boom was middle-aged before she began the ministry that would fill the second half of her life.  When many are thinking of retiring, God was calling her up to the plate to start playing in the majors for Him.  She had served Him faithfully prior to World War II but, it was out of the weakness of humanity that experienced so much death, hate, and hurt, that God called her to speak of the Life, Love, and Healing that comes from the Cross.

I think of Elisabeth Elliot, who lost not one, but two husbands, one to a spear and one to cancer, and instead of curling up in heap, she stepped out in the sorrow, the brokenness, and uncertainty to continue to share the story of God’s faithfulness.

Then there is Amy Charmichael, Elisabeth Elliot’s hero.  She was a missionary who served in India for fifty-five years sharing the Love of Christ.  Amy was initially going to go to Asia to serve, but physical illness drew her back to Ireland.  And through God-designed events, she was eventually called to India.

Or a dear friend of mine, who now stands in Heaven with these amazing people. Helen Killian who came from Ireland to the States, then was called by God to the Philippines to serve. While there, she developed cancer.  Came back to the States, recovered, and went back to Ireland to serve for a few more years, until God called her home.

Each one of these people, had their own battles, their own frailty and fragility.  But God used them, anyway. And in some ways, because of their weakness.  Through their weakness God’s glory was celebrated.  It wasn’t the strength of the man, it was the Strength of the Holy Triune God working through them to draw others to Him.

What an incredible blessing each one of these people were to the lives they touched.  The blessings we will never truly know until the other side of Heaven. How did they do this? Through Faith, trust, perseverance, hope, and the Truth of the God they served.

Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:28-31

 

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never enough

Each day I strive to spend time with God, reading devotionals, meditating on the words I have read, hoping to steep my soul in them and carry them around during the day. Some days this works, other days one would think I never knew of God’s grace– my heart feels stained, ugly, and steeped with disappointment, sadness, and so on.

When this happens and I catch myself on this negative trajectory, I close my eyes and take a moment to re-center my heart on God.  There are times though, when I wonder when will God say, “That’s it! I am sick-and-tired of having to forgive you for this thinking?  When are you going to get it through your thick head that this behavior needs to stop?” 

I wonder, will there ever be a day when God says, “Enough! I am done with you! You keep blowing it, keep sinning, keep withholding mercy from others, keep expecting people to live up to expectations you aren’t even living up to every day.  I am done — stop coming around and pestering me.”

And then, like a sweet breeze from Heaven I hear, “Oh sweet child, how could you think I would ever turn from you? My Son died for you, you have called to Him as Savior and have been cleansed by His blood since that very day.  There is nothing you will ever do, no sin you will ever commit that will make me say ‘Enough.’  I love you, you are precious in my sight and I cannot deny my own.”

My heart soars at the idea that God will never reach the point of enough — not with me, not with you.  Not with anyone who seeks forgiveness and through God’s strength and the help of others turns from the very sin they confessed.

We as human beings spend too much time trying to measure ourselves against each other. Well, at least I don’t act like that.  This kind of thinking reminds me of the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18:9-14:

 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable:  “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Our measuring stick is the Son of God and His Grace gift on the Cross.  If God says to us that He will never reach Enough then maybe that is how we should treat each other and ourselves.

Give grace, receive grace, show mercy, love, kindness, forgiveness, keep no more lists of the wrongs done to you, let them go– just like God did with you.

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no regrets

One day we will all stand before the Throne of Heaven to speak about what we have done and not done in our lives.  It could be a long list of things we did or a long list of things we didn’t do.  Scripture is clear about this Day of Reckoning, it will happen.  Somehow, I find myself not feeling as apprehensive as I would have thought.

I am striving to live my life with no regrets.  Oh, don’t be fooled, I have regrets for things I have done in my past.  But today is a new day, God’s mercies are new, I have asked forgiveness for these things (done and undone), and today- I will draw my line as a starting line to declare “from this point forward” I want to live a life of no regrets.

I want to stand on those mountain tops and feel the wind in my hair, throw my arms out to the sides, and take in the incredible rush of the moment.  I don’t want to sit in base camp and imagine what it will be, I want to experience it– first hand.

I want to love freely those who need to know they matter– which is everyone– I want to give of my time, my talents, my energies, and my gifts without concern of the return.  I want to share the Love of God and draw others to Him, not because of clever words or gimmicks, but because they will recognize the genuineness in me as I speak of the Truth of Him.

I pray I will have the strength to stand when others sit or never arrive.  I pray I will defend those who are defenseless, serve those who are forgotten–even if that service comes in the form of a touch, a piece of fruit, and a smile.

Our days on this Earth are numbered.  We don’t know when, we don’t know where, we don’t know how old we will be when we are called to that Heavenly Throne Room. One of the saddest things to see is something with that new shine and shimmer on it, still in the box, unused. I want to have lived a life that was used to its fullest.

Father God, use me.  Break me out of my fears, my what-if-it-all-goes-wrong thinking, help me remember that I am released from my past because of the Cross. I am a Child of the One True King, I pray I will live my life from today forward fearlessly without worry, but in Faith.  Trusting in You and stepping out in faith again and again.

Forever Your Daughter because of Your Son,

Amen

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intentions

We are probably all familiar with the adage, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”  And it is true.  If we intend to do something without actually following through it is worthless and ultimately, a waste of time.

The intentions I am thinking of today, is more of the why-I-do-what-I-do kind of intention. What is the purpose, the real reason, the meaning behind something.

I have recently be challenged that I want to be perceived as a polite, appropriate, socially correct person–even though I live in an area that is more blue collar than white, more cowboy hat/baseball cap, and more pick-up truck than anything else.

I have thought about this for some time.  I realized that my heart isn’t about being socially correct– I don’t know the right spoon or fork from another beyond the simple table setting.  But I do want to make sure my actions, my words, what is said and recorded for public hearing/reading doesn’t sadden the Holy Spirit.

As believers we are held to a higher standard, Ephesians 4:29 says, Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Why?  Because as believers we aren’t helping shine the Light of Christ if our actions are no different than those who are not believers.

How can anyone tell the difference if all we do is the same thing, speak the same way, etc.? Now, I am not being legalistic.  I have seen how badly that kind of life can suck the joy from you and from those around you that you may be trying to reach. I Corinthians 9:20 gives Paul’s perspective of this as he understood reaching those who were different, To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. In other words, Paul understood it was important to be set apart, but not so far apart that someone would think becoming a believer was unattainable.

So, I don’t share off-color jokes, images, or stories on my newsfeed.  I don’t chose to share every private detail of my life with people I have known as a person of authority, there is a line that should not be crossed and I do my best not to cross it.  Not because I want someone’s approval that really doesn’t care about what I am doing, but instead– I want to live a life worthy of the calling I have received.

God is my audience.  God is my purpose.  My intentions are clear, to Fear the Lord your God, serve him only (Deuteronomy 6:13)  or as Jesus put it in Matthew 4:10,  ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”   Either way, my desire is not to be a stumbling block that prevents someone from being introduced to the One True God.

 

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the next ones

I was reading in Prayer by Philip Yancey today, when he shared a story about Corrie Ten Boom, one of my heroines.  He wrote about how after her multiple strokes she was bed-ridden but had her helpers hang pictures of dear ones and missionaries on the wall so she could continue to pray for them (p. 275). I was so struck by her connection with lifting others up when she no longer could lift herself off the bed.

As my mom and I chatted I was suddenly struck with the idea that right now in Heaven, Corrie Ten Boom is celebrating the King of Kings with Amy Charmichael, Ruth Bell Graham, and Elisabeth Elliot.  It brought me to tears as I thought of these women who spent hours and hours on their knees for their family, friends, strangers, and people they may never have met.  Praying and interceding on their behalf.

I sobered quickly when I thought of this generation growing up today.  Who would be their intercessors?  Who is praying on behalf of the young men and women who are striving, seeking, and finding God in their youth and in their middle age?

Who is on their knees praying for their salvation, their struggles, their triumphs, their losses, praying for healing, praying for restoration of relationships, praying for the Love of God to flood their hearts and minds?

Who is praying for the lost children?  Who is praying for the lost men and women who are just steps away from an eternity without God?

Who is interceding for those who don’t know God, who don’t even know there is a God in Heaven who sent His Son to die for them?

We do have some amazing women today who are Bible-teachers, who share, speak, write, and yes, pray for those I have mentioned.  But who is being trained up in the next generation?  Who has stood in the gap to hold out a hand to the younger ones to bring them up to see all that God is doing, will do, and can do if only someone would intercede?

Who?

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continuing on…

My collection of books is growing in my bag.  At present, I am reading five different books, a chapter or two in each almost daily.  It has helped me get grounded again after so much activity during the summer. I mentioned a couple of them yesterday, the ones I am reading to help me re-engage in what prayer looks like for me during this season.  The other books are literature, a classic novel and a contemporary one.

My purpose is to find the little moments to re-center, re-focus, and remember what my heart is like and how it was created and wired.

The more my heart awakens from the slumber of too much activity, the more I find myself reaching for the things that comfort me and grow me at the same time.  Which is why my book collection grows.  Most of my books are still in boxes due to the move and the renovation of the house. Right now, there isn’t a room that doesn’t have something going on it, whether it is re-wiring the room, peeling wallpaper, repairing cracks with drywall tape and joint compound, or storing boxes of stuff for the rooms in process– there is no place to “go” and chill out, relax, or refocus. I know this isn’t a forever situation, but it will take some time to get things into place.

So, I go for walks around the property, sit on the porch and play with the kittens, and read. I realize that my house is a lot like the way I am, personally.  Lots of activity inside, renovating old thinking processes, re-wiring the places that are worn out or just not working correctly anymore.  There are skills and talents that are in boxes waiting for me to complete some areas in my heart and healing, so they can be unpacked and displayed and used.

My prayer is that each day I will exhale out more of the way I “used” to be, the anxiety, fear, doubt, and worry I have carried with me for decades, and inhale the trust, the Truth, the reality, that I am a Child of God. He created me over 45 years ago, knitting me together in my mother’s womb, I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-16).  When I truly embrace this, living it out day-to-day, I will find my place of rest, my place of comfort–where I can relax and release any burdens I have carried.

It must be why these verses speak to me so deeply every time I read them.  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

And this is why I continue on, reading, reflecting, writing, praying, listening.  My God is speaking and I don’t want to miss a word.  His Word is Life.  And I want to live in Him.

 

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prayer

I am reminding myself what prayer means and how to pray.  I have given toss up prayers, fervent prayers, pleading prayers, and grateful prayers a lot lately.  But what I haven’t done is any kind of official prayer time in a while.  It has a lot to do with my schedule, a lot to do with my heart, and a lot to do with feeling like I suddenly don’t know where to start.

I have been reading through a couple books that have reawakened the sweetness and richness that comes from prayer and I find myself remembering what it was like to spend time in “fellowship” with God for an extended period.

One of the books is the devotional I have been reading and re-reading since last year, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.  It is great for a touchstone or re-centering in my day.  But to think that this small reminder is going to feed me all day is like thinking a half-piece of toast will carry me through the day until dinner.  I need some real meat and sustenance.

In all of the packing and unpacking we have done in the last year I came across a book I was given twenty-five years ago, as a new believer; Vance Havner’s Lord of What’s Left: Meditations of Hope and Inspiration. Each chapter is a reflective devotional that uses everyday events to remind us that this Earth is not our home and there is so much more to come.  It reminds me a bit of my grandfathers and the way they related stories in a simple, straightforward manner.

Years ago, a dear friend gave me the book, Prayer- Does it Make Any Difference? by Philip Yancey.  I have not plowed through the book, as I would usually, but instead approached it like a rich meal.  I read a few chapters and let them slowly process through my mind and heart.  Reflecting on his perspective of prayer and how it relates to all of us this side of Heaven has helped to unbend the places that have been out of shape due to life’s strains and struggles.

My desire is not to have a checklist each day where I can mark off that I have spent time in prayer.  It would be completely missing the point and purpose of prayer.  At the same time, I do not want to go backward to the way I used to pray.  My experiences are different, my season of life is different.  It would be foolish to think the “old way” would work.

So, I search.  I look for the simple ways I can relate and share my heart with God.  Closing my eyes while sitting on the porch, breathing in God’s presence and breathing out my stress, anxiety, tiredness, and even frustration.  I spend time in the truck, on the way to work, being still and listening to anything God may want to whisper to me for the day.

Prayer is the oldest way to connect with God, but it can be done in new fresh ways for me and that is the way I want to approach my relationship with God.  The heart needs to be made new each day and my communion with God should be the same.

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live (Psalm 116:1-2).

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13). 

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