Kindling

My family would go camping often while I grew up which always meant my mom’s creative cooking — campfire spaghetti anyone? But before we could eat her meals, we had to gather wood for the fire. Twigs, small sticks, dry leaves and grass, and eventually large sticks and logs were required to start and sustain the best fires.

As many outdoor-minded folks know, you don’t start a fire with the big logs, you start with the twigs. Then, as the flame catches and begins to consume the initial twigs, more twigs, leaves and small sticks are added.

The smaller twigs are rarely remembered when the larger logs are added to the fire, but without them, it is harder to start a sustaining fire.

Jim Elliot understood that reality. While in college he prayed earnestly, “God, I pray, light these idle sticks of my life and may I burn up for Thee.” He realized it was more about the purpose of the flame than the size of the sticks used to create the fire.

I wonder sometimes, are we trying to be the big log- the one that draws the attention of others, or are we willing to be used to start the fire– soon consumed by the flames and used for His glory and purposes, not our own celebrity?

How many of the saints and martyrs in their own lives were just a simple twig? Now, years, decades, and centuries later they have been shown to be spiritual giants. Why? God was able to build a consuming fire that caused a revival in a land, region, or country because out of their willingness to be the twigs.

O Best Beloved, Study the lives and ministries of the men and women who are your spiritual heroes. I would believe you will find many “idle sticks” willing to burn for God. 

Would you be willing to be the twigs? Quickly consumed, but used to sustain the fire that will burn brightly for the glory and purposes that only God may know.

. . . for our “God is a consuming fire” ( Hebrews 12:29).

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foundations

I once heard that the number of levels/floors someone has in a building will determine the depth of the foundation. When I see a building going up I look to see how high the company wants to build based on how deep the hole is in the ground.

As a believer, the same thing can be said for me. Do I want to be a Sunday Christian, with enough of a foundation to stand on, something sure for my feet, but not really enough to support great growth?

Or do I want to be a 24/7/365 kind of believer? Someone who wants to grow deeply in my faith, to grow closer and stronger in my relationship with God.

I want my foundation to go down to the bedrock because Jesus is my bedrock. He is the One on Whom and to Whom I lean, turn to, rest, and seek for everything I need.

If I am trying to build my life on something made by my own hands, I will fail. Every time. I have no ability to build something that will last for eternity.

But God does.

First Samuel 2:8 says it well, “For the foundations of the earth are the Lord’s; on them he has set the world. . . “

If I give my desires, my prayers, and give them all to God to build them into the very thing He will build, I know it will last. Just like the wise and foolish builders described in Matthew 6, if we build on sand it will fail.

If we build on the The Rock we will have a foundation that survives the wind, the rain, the trials and trouble this world hands out to us all.

My heart sings hymns with great regularity and the hymn that best describes this life we have is How Firm a Foundation. A hymn loved by both President Andrew Jackson and Elisabeth Elliot. May you be encouraged by these words today, O Best Beloved.

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?

In every condition, in sickness, in health;
In poverty’s vale, or abounding in wealth;
At home and abroad, on the land, on the sea,
As thy days may demand, shall thy strength ever be.

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

Even down to old age all My people shall prove
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne.

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

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focus, focus, focus

I am remembering how I love the Old Testament. Sections that seem so dusty and old suddenly come alive with the ways God moved among His people. As Jacob continues through the book of Genesis he has moments which show his deep heart for the God he follows.

Genesis 35 is no different. Jacob has just finished wrestling with the angel in chapter 32:22-32. He is no longer the same, he will limp for the rest of his life. But the limp is a reminder of his tenacity with God. In chapter 35 he shows his devotion. When Jacob was leaving Laban he crossed paths with his brother Esau, whom he had cheated out of the inheritance.

God protected Jacob during that time and now it was time for Jacob to create an altar in remembrance of God’s protection. Jacob built the altar on Beth-el, a tangible way to remember all that God had done.

But it wasn’t really about the altar, it was about the God he was recognizing. The El-beth-el the God he follows.

When we go to church on the weekends we can have a tendency to celebrate the building we are entering. The ministries and services our church may offer. We find ourselves celebrating the building “church” instead of the body of the Church. And the very God who created it.

As Jim Elliot said, “Lord, I want to be centering my interest on Thee, the God of the God’s house.”

The God of the God’s house. 

What do we focus on in our lives? I know that sometimes I can focus on the churches I have attended, some are known by name all over the country. Some are only known in the towns where they are located. But is it about the name of the church? The name of the pastor? The worship leader?

Or is it about the God of the God’s house, the God of the Church?

What is our focus?

O Best Beloved, let us remember to fix our eyes on the God we claim to follow and not the building in which we meet.

May our eyes be ever fixed, focused on the God we love.

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hearts and bodies

I have been reading The Journals of Jim Elliot as part of my devotions in the morning. His heart’s cry to honor God above everyone and everything is helping to kindle the fire inside me.

One entry described Jacob leaving Laban and how Rachel secretly stole her father’s household idols. When her father caught up with Jacob, Laban searched throughout the bags and baggage to find them. Rachel said she had her monthly cycle and she could not stand when her father came into the tent (Genesis 31:33-35). 

In reality, she was sitting on the idols and didn’t want them discovered.

Rachel blamed a physical issue for not standing, when it was actually a heart issue. Jim Elliot wrote, “Rachel gave a natural cause for not rising to be hospitable to Laban. Have I ever, Lord, because I am concealing idols within, given physical reasons for not rising in Thy service” (p. 17)?

Have I said I was too tired, too busy, lacking the skills, to be able to rise to serving God in some way or another?

I say with my mouth that I want to do things for God, no matter what they may be, but then, I come up with excuses to not do them when given the opportunity.

Dear Ones, one day will have to give an account of our actions and our inactions. When we focus on the idol we sit on, instead of the God we  claim  to follow, we miss out. 

We may miss out on the blessing He wants us to be to another person. 

Or the lesson He wants us to learn. 

Or the clarity we may have been praying to receive. 

O Best Beloved, join with me in prayer- 

Father God, open my eyes to the idols I am sitting on. May I see them for what the are inanimate shapes capable of nothing but distraction from You- the One True God. May I cast them away and clear my heart so it can be filled with You and by You for Your purposes. Amen. 

May we remember the words Jesus spoke in the Garden of Gethsemane and heed their caution. 

Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38).

 

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Wouldn’t Be

I sometimes wonder if we would be so quick to spout our opinions if we knew another person’s story. In the last few days, a person who is dear to me, shared on social media her view of a hot topic social issue.

I was shocked how quickly my heart went to my throat. I felt an ache in my chest from her words. I wondered if she knew how her friends were touched by that very issue.

My friend, whom I treasure, may think her words were empowering, but in reality, they injured. My friend’s perspective was that this issue is a “needed action.” I wonder if she knew that the same “needed action” if it had been successful, would mean that I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t be a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter. I wouldn’t be her friend.

Dear Ones, we seem to have forgotten to listen with our ears, our hearts, and to listen with compassion. Instead, we seem to listen to another person only to give us time to plan and prepare a rebuttal. We have become a society of “spouters” and have forgotten to be a  society of thinkers.

When we pass judgment, we miss the opportunity to love, to engage, to embrace others as Jesus did. When we strive to push our ideas, views, and opinions ahead of the heart, life, and story of other people, they lose value and worth in our eyes and hearts.

If we decide someone is “less than” what we have set as a standard, we miss out on the purpose God has given to each of us. We miss their story. We miss the opportunity to be used by God to impact their lives for the good.

O Best Beloved, let us remember that when we speak, post, or comment, our words will strike deeply in those we are friends with in life. We have been cautioned by James to watch our actions because what we do will have an impact on those around us.

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires (James 1:19-20).

Our actions, our decisions, have the ability to build up, to help grow, to help encourage people. Or our words can tear apart people, friendships, families, devaluing the very person who was created imago Dei.

What would our lives be like, our communities, our world itself, if we wouldn’t be so quick to devalue human life?

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Captivating

I remember the first time I realized how much I loved my husband. We were newly engaged and I had just introduced him to the women I worked with at my church.

 The women, all older “mom” and “grandma” types were asking him questions and trying to get to know more about him. I had stepped away for something and when I came back I saw him look over at me and I went weak in the knees. He was so cute, so smart, so amazing. 

I couldn’t believe we were engaged and I was going to be with him forever. It overwhelmed me. Being his fiancé and then new wife, I was captivated by him and felt like the luckiest woman. 

A dear friend recently shared a devotional entry she had read about how we feel about God and His love for us. The writer shared that we could be captivated by God, if we allowed it. 

God’s great grace for us, His death and resurrection, all to have an intimate relationship with us. It is either an old story or a cherished story. We can be captivated by it or we can be unfazed. 

What in life has become some important that we tune out the worship we hear on Sunday mornings to scroll through our news feeds? 

What have we decided is worth spending our time on instead of spending our time in prayer for each other?

O Best Beloved, I don’t ask this to shame or guilt you. I ask it to challenge you, to challenge me, to look at our days and evenings too, to see what has replaced our first love? 

What decisions do you need to make to rekindle the excitement of spending time with God each day?

 What do you need to say no to, so you can say yes to God’s purposes and plans? 

Dear Ones, let us return to our first love and may we once again be captivated…

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never, no, not ever

Many of the people I have known over the years have said they think Christianity is just a list of “Don’t do” and do not realize it actually a relationship of amazing blessings and promises.

My B.C. days were full of worry, doubt, fear, condemnation, sorrow, and a sense of failure. When I first asked Jesus to come into my life, I looked at my Faith as a list of “Do and Do not.” And the list of “Do not” was very long.

It wasn’t until after I began to study the Bible that I realized the sense of freedom that comes from the words No, Never, and Not. Jesus showed me that while the world sees these words as stop signs, bars, and restrictions, we as believers can see these words with a spirit of excitement and joy.

We are not restricted, we are truly freed (2 Corinthians 3:17).We are truly free, we never have to return to the bondage and brokenness we knew before we knew Christ.

If you doubt this, O Best Beloved, rest in these words below.

Romans 8:1-2 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

Isaiah 54:17: no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the Lord.

John 15:13: Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Mark 12:28-31:  One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.

Isaiah 64:4: Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.

Acts 4:12: Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

Ephesians 2:8-9: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

Hebrews 13:5: God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Genesis 9:11: “I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

~Dear Ones, find courage in these words. The bars are broken, the doors are opened, the chains are gone. And we will never, no not ever, have to be bound again.

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flashlights and fires

I have had song lyrics playing in my mind for the past few mornings. It’s the same song, each time, Come let it, come let it, come let it shine. 

The words are calling me like a whisper to enter a secret place. I hear my heart turning to the words, uncertain if they were really spoken, uncertain if they should be trusted.

And yet.

Each morning as I pray for my husband and my sons, I feel the warmth of a fire long forgotten. My spirit is thawing and The Spirit is calling me back to light the fire I used to have burning strong inside.

Daily experiences have dampened this fire. Loss, death, broken relationships, hurting friends and family, all of it weighs heavily on me. Even our house, which we love, has tried to extinguish my joy and light, as we work to get it restored and repaired. I don’t regret our house. I just long to make it a home.

These little skirmishes tend to slosh water on the fire inside of me. I try to shake them off, dry them off myself, but it doesn’t always work. Nor should it.

Jesus calls to me, coaxing me to come, sit, listen, rest, and learn from Him how to live as light in a dark and broken world. The Holy Spirit calls to me, longing to bank the fire inside and coax the coals back into a flame.

I am ready. I miss burning brightly with my Faith. Life wearies, but Jesus restores. O Best Beloved, do you believe that? It’s true.

Life wearies, but Jesus restores.

Call to Him. To help you turn on your flashlight to light the way for those seeking Him.

To relight the fire inside you — the one you had when you first believed and couldn’t stop talking about all He had done for you.

So come let it
Come let it
Come let it
Come let it shine

Come let it
Come let it
Come let it
Come let it shine

This is the battle of our time, of our time now
We can’t afford not to cry, not to cry out
Shake the earth from the ground, from the ground
Rescue souls from the darkness around

So come let it
So come let it
Come let it
Come let it shine

(All Sons and Daughters, Come Let it Shine)

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Refrain and reframe

I love to people watch. It’s a weird past time, but I do it often. Passing people on my way to work I wonder what they are going to do that day, are they happy, are they carrying burdens? 

Today, while people watching, I passed a bi-racial couple and found myself surprised at my first thought. Oh! Well that was unexpected! I had to remind myself that it shouldn’t be shocking. 

I saw the love and the unity of the couple and when they passed by, I caught the eye of the woman and smiled genuinely. I was happy for her, but in the beginning I was caught by the statistic of the couple. I had to refrain from categorizing the couple and reframe what I was seeing. 

Does that happen to you? We see something and or someone and immediately try to put them into a box, try to make them fit into what we know and understand. 

But what do we do when what we see, hear, or experience doesn’t fit neatly into a box?

A person in my life lives life with these boxes. Everyone, everything, every experience, must be tagged, marked, categorized, catalogued, and boxed up. If it begins with an A it must stay in that box, even if later it is really supposed to be in the H box.

 In trying to understand this person and love them like Christ, I struggle each time. 

I could play the same game, categorize this person as critical, judgmental, and bitter and leave it at that. But then how is that loving like Jesus? What does loving like Jesus look like? 

Jesus would meet someone, hear their story, and then challenge them to move to something better. Many of the people He met would accept the challenge and become someone, something different through His grace. Others, like the rich, young ruler and even his own disciple, Judas, heard the challenge and decided the category Jesus had for them wasn’t what they wanted. He offered them freedom if they would just embrace Jesus, but they decided the way their lives were was better. 

And that is what they did. They walked away from what God offered. They chose to keep the boxes, instead of refraining from living the same way and reframing their lives to see them as Christ did. They lost the blessing because they thought their boxes were better.

O Best Beloved, we are not here to box up people, we are here to be a part of setting them free. My favorite example of this challenge was given by Jesus as he read from Isaiah 61 in the Temple, even telling His listeners that what they heard was fulfilled in their hearing. 

Isaiah 61:1-4 :The Spirit of the Lord God is on Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of our God’s vengeance; to comfort all who mourn, to provide for those who mourn in Zion; to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, festive oil instead of mourning, and splendid clothes instead of despair. And they will be called righteous trees, planted by the Lord to glorify Him. They will rebuild the ancient ruins; they will restore the former devastations; they will renew the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. 

Boxes no more, they were refraining from categorizing others and themselves, they were now experiencing freedom. Their lives were now reframed by God’s Amazing Grace.

Dear One, are you boxing up people or setting them free? Let us pray for each other, that we will refrain and reframe according to God’s purposes and plans. 

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rocks in the pack

When I was in college, I worked for a Scouting camp in New Mexico. The main activity for the Scouts was hiking and each season thousands of scouts would come explore the Sangre de Christo Mountains.  It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to work there.

The scouts that would arrive often were with some of their best friends which often led to silly pranks and inside jokes by the time their treks through the mountains were over.

A common prank was to put rocks in the backpack of an unsuspecting hiker, to see how aware he was about the weight he carried with him. Some scouts realized immediately and the rocks were removed. Others would be oblivious of the extra weight until much later, when the pack was opened to retrieve the contents.

A dear one in my life has been carrying rocks in his backpack for years. Rocks that may have been put in his pack by another long ago, but have since been removed. My dear one still walks through life as if the weight is still on his back. The weight has slumped his shoulders, pulling down his spirit, his body, and ultimately- weighing down his very soul.

It doesn’t matter who put those rocks in his pack, what does matter is that Jesus removed the rocks, He removed the whole pack actually when my friend accepted Christ. I have watched the joy ebb right out of this person’s life, leaving a dry shell of what used to be overflowing.

My heart hurts for him. I continue to pray for Jesus to touch his heart, to fill him with the blessings of laughter, joy, peace, and contentment again. Something I saw in him years ago. But until he realized the phantom weight he carries is just that, a memory of what once was, he will never be able to stand tall and straight, as the man of God he truly was made to be.

O Best Beloved, what kind of weight are you carrying? Are they burdens you added to your pack, thinking they were your responsibility to carry? Are they words of cruelty or brokenness spat out by someone who wanted you to feel badly about yourself- when really it was the other person’s issue?

Dear One, turn out your pack at the Cross. Just dump it out, let the dust, the clutter, the junk, and the rocks land in a jumbled pile at Jesus’ feet and leave them there. You heard me, leave them there. 

Jesus has been wanting to carry these burdens for you since before you even knew it was there. Hand them over, take off the backpack, and trust Him to handle their burden (Matthew 11:30).

Trust Him. He will care for you.

 

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