now no

As my twenty-fifth “birthday” approaches I am reminded of how far I have come in my relationship with God.  Much like the woman at the well in John 4, I felt that I was not deserving of joy and hope because of all the wrong I had done in life.  I could list all of the “bad” decisions and choices I had made and all the ways I had failed.  I felt so unworthy of anything positive.

And then, July 16th I had my own “meeting with Jesus at the well” and I realized I was worthy– worthy of His love.  I could receive His grace, healing, mercy, and forgiveness.

Since then, I have come to see the many layers and ways that Romans 8 has been proven true again and again… like waves covering the shore, I have been covered by this Grace.  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. (v. 1 & 2).

I have been set free.  Free from the hurt and shame, the sorrow, the guilt, and pain I have caused others and others have caused me.  

Just like the woman at the well who went running into her village calling out to her neighbors to come and meet the man who told her everything about her life — and loved her anyway –I have felt that lightness of being, the baggage and chains have been removed from my heart and soul and I now walk with my head held high.  

Not for what I have done, no, but what He has done for me.

“my chains are gone, I’ve been set free, my God, my Savior has ransomed me, and like a flood — His mercy rains, amazing love, amazing Grace.”

–Chris Tomlin–Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)

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the artist

I am not an art expert, I like different pieces of work, different artists and periods, but I couldn’t specify one artist from another just by looking at his or her technique.  Of the pieces or artists I like, it isn’t so much the technique they used to create their piece, it’s the emotion I feel when I study it or see it.

Recently, an author described God as an artist, an idea that intrigues me.  I am familiar with the description of Creator, but an artist?

An artist experiences a passion for something or someone and responds to that passion by photographing, sketching, or painting the emotion he or she experiences.  I think of Dorothea Lange whose Depression-era photographs moved a nation, or the skill of Ansel Adams to capture the beauty of the wild regions of America.

The painting styles of Georgia O’Keefe, Vincent Van Gogh, George Seurat, and Edgar Degas have created emotions in those who study their works for decades and even centuries.  Those who study them extensively see the sweep of the brush stroke, the occasional fingerprint in the paint of the artist.  Each piece is unique, one-of-a-kind, never to be fully duplicated again.

The more I thought about God as an artist, the more the idea fits.  He created all things, trees, sun, moon, stars, mountains, oceans, fish, birds, animals, and people.  Each creation has its mark of the Creator, each item is unique, similar-but-one-of-a-kind, never to be fully duplicated again.

Scripture is clear, we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).

And then there are these words from Isaiah 40:26, Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.

And so many more passages, many in Isaiah, stating the Creator as amazing, incredible, and unsurpassed by anyone in the past or in the future.

The more I think of God as an artist, the more I like it.  Each one of us bear His signature, if only we would look to see it.  Such an amazing perspective.

everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.  (Isaiah 43:7).

 

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old-fashioned

As our family adjusts to living in the country again, we find ourselves having to remember how we used to do things.  My husband and I have decided to not have wi-fi/internet for the first month or so and it is interesting to see how often I will pick up my phone when I am bored to scroll through my Facebook newsfeed or check posts on Pinterest. It isn’t a bad habit, but I find myself with time spent and nothing to show for it.

So, I have decided to be old-fashioned and go back to reading books by my favorite authors like Shauna Niequist, who encourage and challenge me. I have started to journal again, for no one but me alone. A time to be still in my chaotic world.

I have not gone on an electronic fast officially, but I can see the merit in it.  Letting go of the constant buzzing of phones, laptops, tablets, and televisions to have empty hands to release the hurry and embrace the quiet.

I watch my teenagers with their phones, faces lit by the blue light of the display, texting friends, watching videos and scrolling time away.  This fast of sorts at our new house is reminding them that there are other things to do, productive things.  With hands empty of phones there are wood-working tasks being accomplished and soccer being played with our hammock as a make-shift goal.

My devotional reminded me of this verse in Psalm 37, it carried the nugget of truth I am finding in my simplicity.

Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart. (v.4)

Being still is good for the spirit, the soul, and those around me.  I am grateful for this reminder today.

 

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hope in 43

I wrote yesterday’s post not knowing that today would bring more sadness and loss in my circle.  My heart feels like it is trying to hike in boots of concrete, each time I lift my foot the weight seems almost unbearable, yet I put the right foot down and lift the left foot, determined to continue climbing.

Two pieces of encouragement have helped propel me forward– a hymn and a psalm of sorts.  As I process the loss of a friend and co-worker, I find my heart crying out for hope. I need to believe that the sorrow of the past couple of weeks will not be all there is to life.  I need something to cling to and survive.

The words to this hymn resonate in my chest today, I need them like oxygen for my spirit.

1. My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
Refrain:
On Christ the solid rock I stand,
all other ground is sinking sand;
all other ground is sinking sand.

2. When Darkness veils his lovely face,
I rest on his unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
my anchor holds within the veil.
(Refrain)*

It may seem foolish to some to trust in a God I cannot see, but I see Him everyday.  My faith seeks Him like a tree’s roots seek water.  I cannot comprehend the brokenness in the hearts of mankind, but I know He is the Healer and that is why I lean on Him.

My other comfort comes from one of my favorite chapters, Isaiah 43. I find myself turning to these words again and again, when the world seems to crash about me. I find my comfort here.

“But now, this is what the Lord says—
    he who created you, Jacob,
    he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;”**

Knowing God is with me, no matter my circumstances, I can cling to the hope He provides. God is in charge– even when the world seems like it is in chaos.  I can go forward, even with concrete on my hiking boots, because I know He is there with me.

I don’t know your situation today.  Your life may be full of joy and laughter and all things good; it may be full of sadness, sorrow, and hurt.  I only know that God heals. He comforts. He brings relief to situations that are far beyond our abilities.

And so I hope and trust.

 

*My Hope is Built, Lyrics by Edward Mote, music by William B. Bradbury
** Isaiah 43:1-3 (NIV)
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true question

So much upheaval, so much sorrow, anger, hurt, and confusion has come across my news-feeds lately.

Loss of loved ones due to tragic circumstances, decisions from others that have far-reaching impact among numerous communities, so many hurtful words spoken, written, and read in the past week.  My heart aches.  I hear people ask, “How am I going to get through this situation?”  I wonder and shake my head, but I have few words of wisdom.

Today, as I read Jesus Calling I found some comfort from the chaos.  Sarah Young writes, “The true question is not whether you can cope with whatever happens, but whether you and I together can handle anything that occurs.” (p. 188, Jesus Calling, Thomas Nelson, Inc. (c) 2004).

The true question isn’t whether or not we can handle this whatever this is– it’s the point that we weren’t meant to do it alone.  We are called to a life of community and communion– community with other believers and communion with God.  When we take either out of our lives, we lose.

I cannot begin to speak about the decisions others make, I am not them.  They are not me. What I can speak on is the reality that I must choose each day to walk with God to deal with, handle, survive, and process all that my life will have to experience.

Sure I could choose to walk through life without God, but my true question is why would I?

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impossible

A year ago my family was deep in the chaos of trying to pack a house, sort through items to toss, donate, store, or take for our move.  It is hard to see back to that day and realize all the amazing things God has brought us to and through in the last 365 days.

Today’s devotional from Jesus Calling resonated with me when I read the words, “It is impossible to thank Me and curse Me at the same time” (p. 181).  I thought about all the times when I came precariously close to shaking my fist at Heaven and cursing God for allowing these difficult experiences in my life.

Now a year later, I am finding myself thanking Him for these experiences.  No, I am not blindly grateful for the difficult conversations, for the sadness and tears at saying goodbye to loved ones, or the upheaval of all the “what are we doing?” conversations I have had in the past year.

But.

But, I am grateful for the outcome.  I am grateful for the clear perspectives that have come from the difficult conversations, the “I never knew that…” parts that have come with it.  I am grateful for the joy of talking with people on the phone, seeing them when they visit, and sharing in the day-to-day activities through Facebook that weren’t accessible nearly twenty years ago when I first moved away.

I find myself seeing the beauty of the growth our family has had, the ways our boys have grown, the ways my marriage has grown.

I find myself grateful.

And so, I smile.  I smile at the craziness of the whole experience– who does this kind of thing?  Who chooses to pick up and pack up and move to a new place where no actual home has been selected, no guaranteed jobs are in place?  Hmmm.  Abram and Sarai come to mind.

I smile at the way we have chosen the difficult task of following God when we didn’t understand only to see on the other side all of the blessings.  The encouragement from people we didn’t know a year ago, who have learned our stories and been encouraged themselves by our steps of Faith.

There is nothing I fully understand about this process, but there is One I do know a little better. I could curse and shake my fist at Heaven and demand that God tell me what He has planned, but this adventure, this Faith journey wouldn’t be the same if I knew everything beforehand.

My love for God is so much deeper, so much richer, since I chose to walk with Him- in spite of the uncertainty, the unknown, the questions we have had from other people who do not and did not understand our decisions.

It would be impossible for me to curse God now.

And it would be impossible to keep me from praising Him as well.

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Looking up

Today, during the worship portion of our service, some of the younger children came up front to lead us in the motions to a song.  The youngest child kept looking to the oldest child to make sure he was doing the motions at the right time.  His face was shining with excitement, enthusiasm, and joy as he trusted the older child to lead him correctly.  I don’t think he looked out at us in the congregation once– his eyes remained on the one who would give him correct direction and not fail him.

Maybe because it’s Father’s Day, maybe not, but I find myself thinking of who I look up to, who my sons look up to, and who my husband looks up to for guidance and direction.  

As an adult, my examples have been famous writers like Corrie Ten Boom and Elisabeth Elliot, as well as contemporary writers like Priscilla Schirer and Beth Moore.  These women have stood in the face of trials and struggles and have come through with God’s wisdom, guidance, and strength because they chose to be obedient to God in their lives. 

My sons and husband though, as men, don’t talk about who they look up to and seek guidance from in their lives.  But I listen, I see who they spend time with, who they talk about, who they call for insight. They have godly men to talk with, to be challenged by, and encouraged by as their lives need it. 

My thoughts go to the young men and young women who are growing up without strong, solid, godly guidance.  Who is speaking into their lives, showing them that they matter, giving them direction and correction as they go through life? 

So many commentators of our society say we are lost, devolving, going off the rails, and that there is no hope.  But I don’t see that.  I see opportunities to change the direction of our society, to change the perspective– it just takes the time to speak into someone’s life, to be someone another person can count on, to be there, to listen, to encourage, to challenge, to love.  

Who is looking up to you? It could be your children, it could be your students, the kids in your youth group, your nieces and nephews… Are you speaking into their lives? Reminding them of who they are in Christ? Reminding them that they are precious and prized and valued and loved and treasured above all things? That they were created on purpose for a purpose?

If we truly believe that we are here on earth at this time to be God’s hands and feet, then how are we using them?  Are you using them to help build faith muscles in the the next generation or are you allowing those same muscles to atrophy from lack of use? 

Let’s build those muscles, let’s start being the kind of people that encourage others to look up.

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peeling

As we restore the house we have been peeling wallpaper to prepare the walls for painting. The house was built in 1910 so there are five layers of paper on the walls and at least three on the ceilings.  I have enjoyed the work, seeing the paper from previous eras, including the original paper from 1910.

As each layer is pulled back I have thought about how God takes us and restores us to what we can be with His love and attention.  The bare walls with all the opportunity, potential, and possibilities compared to old, worn, paper, left to time and neglect.

We can allow others to paper us with what they want us to look like, what they want us to become, or we can allow the Master Carpenter and Creator to make us into what He knows we are to be.

Beautiful, encouraging, refreshing, even pulchritudinous because of His touch, His ability to draw out of us what we never knew was inside.

We are created in His image (Genesis 1:27), precious to Him, (Isaiah 43:4), we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), we are His (Psalm 119:94).

I pray I will be brave enough to allow the Master to create in me all He knows I can be, to allow Him to pull back the layers of what others have said I am, to become who He says I am because of His Son, Jesus.

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Heroes

This past weekend my family and I began preparing our new home, where we will move to in a few weeks.  My parents came out to visit and deliver some of our gardening tools and other things we might need.  I didn’t check my news feeds much with all of our activities, so it wasn’t until Monday morning that I learned one of my heroes had passed away.

Elisabeth Elliot Gren passed away at age 89 on Sunday, June 14.  To me, though, it felt like I lost a grandmother, a teacher, a mentor, and a friend all at the same time.  I was surprised to find myself crying with the news, and yet, not surprised.

Elisabeth Elliot, as many knew her, became famous in Christian circles and around the world when her husband Jim, and four friends were killed while trying to reach an indigenous people group in Ecuador in January of 1956.  She would later retell the story in her book Through Gates of Splendor, written not long after the men were killed.  

She became a well-known and respected writer and speaker on Christian living and missionary work.  I own many of her books and in fact, it was one of her books, Quest for Love, a follow-up to Passion and Purity, that led me to say “yes” to my husband’s proposal. 

It wasn’t just her writing that impacted my life, it was her humility and honesty that I admired.  She didn’t pull any punches when she shared her heart and mind with her readers and listeners to her radio program Gateway to Joy.  At the same time, she didn’t come across as a “know-it-all.” Her faith journey took her through experiences many of us will never understand and it didn’t make her bitter. It made her better.  

Not long after I became a mom, I read one of her books called The Shaping of a Christian Family, about her family and the way her parents nurtured and trained up Elisabeth and her five siblings.  I decided it was time to write her a letter to thank her for her impact in my life.  I found an address for her and wrote and to my great surprise she wrote back– not a form letter, but on her personal stationery, to thank me for my kind words and to share a bit of encouragement to me as a young mom.  

Elisabeth Elliot is one of my heroes – a word I don’t use lightly- because she stood strong while facing incredible challenges, she saw amazing miracles, lived life honestly and loved her God faithfully.  It is an epithet I think she would be pleased to have describe her.  

In the letter she wrote to me, she included a prayer that I have long since memorized and find precious now, even more so, with her passing.  

Loving Lord and Heavenly Father, I offer up today all that I am, all that I have, all that I do, all that I suffer, to be Yours today and Yours forever.  Give me grace, Lord, to do all that I know of Your holy will.  Purify my heart, sanctify my thinking, correct my desires. Teach me in all of today’s work and trouble and joy to respond with honest praise, simple trust, and I stand obedience, that my life may be in truth a living sacrifice; by the Power of Your Holy Spirt and in the Name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, my Master and my all. Amen. 


Amen indeed. 

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where I am

One of my favorite books in the New Testament is Romans.  Paul writes to believers in simple terms, sharing his heart for fellow believers, the strong ones and the weak ones, the brave ones, and the timid ones. Paul wrote to them all to encourage them, challenge them, chastise them, and love on them.

The book of Romans is like an epic letter from a big brother who has left home, but still wants to share his heart with his younger siblings.  Just read the words below, his love for his brothers and sisters in Christ is so full and rich.

 We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.  Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”  For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had,  so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. (Romans 15:1-7)

I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another. Yet I have written you quite boldly on some points to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me  to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. He gave me the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:14-16). 

I read these words and find myself in near tears. Paul loved them and he also loved us– those of us who would come after, growing in the Grace and in Faith in Christ.  I have been busy in my day-to-day work and find myself exhausted at night.  My work is not physically strenuous, but it is mentally and emotionally.  I find myself looking over at my devotionals and it has been days since they were opened.

I chose not to scold myself, but I realize my heart and soul are feeling dehydrated –lacking the Living Water (John 7:38) I need to be strengthened and restored.

And then I read these words… 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)

And I breathe in and breathe out and find myself filling like a pool with fresh, clear, pure water.  I am refreshed, encouraged, and equipped to go forward.  From the desert to the oasis– with just a word spoken to my soul at the right time.

What kind of word do you need today?

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