Our Children and the Firstfruits of the Gospel

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Okay, so my house has been full of much needed conflict lately. My children’s hearts and habits have been overtaken by weeds while our family experienced some hard months. Understandable but not healthy so… time to do some weeding. But yesterday as I sat on my back porch and actually slowed myself down enough to worship ( in Spirit and in Truth) I felt a call to higher ground in my approach of all this.

A little backstory:

Since last fall there has been an internal war in me. It is the war to break out of the culturally acceptable, deception ridden, unfruitful expression of Christian faith in which I’ve been raised. In short- I’ve been trying to actually measure my spiritual maturity by my obedience to Jesus instead of my ability to amass spiritual truths and talk about them. You know, actually preaching the gospel, making disciples, exhibiting peace, love and joy in my life- yeah, that stuff. It was in this context that my good pal Jesus started to speak to me through the Holy Spirit.

Don’t you think your children ought to be receiving the first fruits of this gospel you’re trying to preach? Ouch. Continue… Why do you discount the one’s who’ve professed to follow me as if they are not “real” disciples? Yeah. Still stings… You want to reflect my love into the darkness of this world; that includes your little one’s. Are they getting a taste of My Presence by being around you? Drop the mic.

I love my Father so much. Only He can say these things in a way that left me feeling empowered instead of discouraged. It completely helped me refocus my energy. My life isn’t supposed to be a series of checked boxes. It’s not about managing all the needs (and there are many). I want good character. I want to be obeying Jesus through the truth of my actions. I want to be a faithful steward of the home, life and relationships He’s given me. But that’s not the end game! We are created for worship. We are created to dwell with Him in a way that reflects light into the darkest of places.

Our children are part of that! In fact they are the front line of that. They are growing up in an angry and confused world. They have needs. They have souls. They need encounter with Jesus just like the rest of us. Are we bringing it to them? Or are we so lost in our responsibilities that we’ve forgotten how to carry ourselves in a way that make our children (and our neighbors) jealous for the Gospel. Do we show the magnificence of being known by God and knowing Him in return?

I’m going to keep on with the conflict in my house. It is a Holy War I am fighting for their hearts. But man, by the Grace of God, I am going to keep falling on this word. Asking myself, Am I carrying myself in a way that my children can start to get an inkling about the nature of God. Can they see light reflected in my posture or did I get lost in checking boxes today? You know, my kids get the first fruits of all my weaknesses (that’s just life as a parent). Shouldn’t they also get the to eat the first fruits of this great gospel of Grace I’ve received?

That’s what I’m going for today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She Brought Me Worship

pexels-photo-14548It was the hardest month of my life. There was so much pain and so many perils. My marriage was under siege. My sanity was under siege. My faith was under siege and I was losing strength for the battle.

 

In the process of everything a birthday got missed and so a few weeks late we tried to throw together something to honor our son. She accommodated the last minutes plans and brought her crew the hour long drive to our house.

 

It wasn’t exactly a pinterest party. We were unorganized, had forgot to fill out the liability forms for the trampoline park and I was up to my elbows in homemade meatballs in marinara because for some reason I thought that was a good idea.   

 

She ignored the tension, browned the meatballs, gently redirected me when I started spewing venom and then helped me put the whole mess away. All while her sweet daughter entertained the little ones downstairs.

 

Then, she looked at me and said “I brought you a gift.” She pulled a simple stack of white computer paper from her bag. “We’re going to worship.”

 

She sat down at my slightly off-key piano and 45 minutes later we were still singing. I had barely had the strength to lift my eyes most days let alone lift my voice. But she was like a plow. Like a lead dog breaking trail through thick snow so that I could follow. She helped me find my voice.

 

I sat, and sang. We sang together. Sisters, finding strength at the Father’s feet. She brought me worship. It was perhaps the thing I needed most.

Significance

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Okay, so it’s the middle of the night. I should be asleep in my bed getting much needed rest but instead I’m sitting here, jumping out of my skin with excitement. Why! Because God speaks!

Last weekend I went to a conference (not normally my bag of tea). The speaker asked the question “What is your deepest root? Down deep… what is it at the very, very deepest place?”I really wasn’t sure how to answer that question. I had vague impressions but I couldn’t put words to them. I did manage to write one word in my journal though- fear.

But fear of what? 

I would not consider myself a fearful person. Honestly, I’m quite a reckless person. My children climb crazy high in the trees, I eat food that’s been left on the counter all night, you know- that kind of hard core rebel living. No, but seriously, I’m not afraid of much, speaking, heights, snakes don’t bother me (in fact I love them). But I could tell that there was something down there. Something I was afraid of.

Isn’t it interesting that we don’t always know our own hearts? We act like we’re so powerful; like we’re so wise but we can’t even explain how our major body functions work let alone our complex emotional make-up. I think it’s hilarious how much we don’t know our own selves most of the time. BUT GOD DOES!

The last couple days a tension has been brewing. A heaviness in my soul and it started to zap my strength. Last night it came to a head and I retreated to my side of the bed where I spent to evening exhausted and quite unsure of what I was feeling. I wish I could tell you that I stormed the gates of heaven and pleaded for my victory. I didn’t. I finished the second Harry Potter (for the second time) and rolled over to go to bed. Still, I knew that He was the answer and so before falling asleep I said “LORD, I don’t know what’s going on. I need you.”

“Twas grace that taught my heart to fear. And grace my fears relieved.”

Have you ever thought about that line before? I didn’t think about it till just now  but last night as I was still trying to pretend I had strength (this was before I resigned to my bed) my husband was playing some worship music. I noticed he didn’t know the above lyrics and they stuck out to me. Twas grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved. And that’s exactly what Grace did as I was sleeping last night.

I had a dream. I’ll spare you the intricate details because honestly dreams never come out the same when you try to repeat them. However the point of the dream was this I was questioning if I was really special. As I questioned that I opened my bible and right there, in a strange section between the Old Testament and the New Testament I found an account with my name. I woke up wondering if I should write down the dream. As I debated there was a small knock on my bedroom door. Number four was up. The cat had not been taken out of his room and he needed my services to remove her. I knew it was God getting me out of bed so I could write down my dream.

And as I wrote it down it all started to click. THIS IS WHAT I’M AFRAID OF! I’M AFRAID I’M NOT SIGNIFICANT!!

At my deepest place, is the fear that I’m not special. It was like a light switch went off. So many of the unhealthy things I do and feel started to make sense. The need for constant affirmation (way more than normal). The discomfort of being in a crowd (not in front of). The need to be the best at everything. The hatred of “fitting a mold”. The chronic self-awareness. The chip that I carry on my shoulder. So many things in my heart went PING! Oh my Word! This makes so much sense.

But here’s the gold star sticker!

He didn’t leave me there. My dream didn’t just expose what was wrong. Grace my fears relieved. He exposed the root by speaking to it. He CHANGED IT. I could see it as I was laying there trying to go back to bed. The long tap root going down the page. The words on the root first reading “Am I Significant?” then shifting and rearranging to reads “I AM SIGNIFICANT.”

Why? What makes me special?

His love! He knows my name. There is a record of me in His Book! It is not because I’m talented, or successful, or attractive, or of great character. None of those things determine my significance! Right now I am 40 lbs overweight, have some goofy, red, box-dyed hair and have spent the last three months laid out with major depression so bad that my husband has had to completely take over running the house. I do not have an active ministry. I am not doing a very good job educating my children. And in general I’m not making a lot of useful contributions to the world.

IT DOESN’T MATTER! Not in so far as my significance goes. I am loved by Him. I am treasured enough that He speaks to me in the night watch. When I don’t even deserve it because I was off binge reading Harry Potter while my husband tucked five children in bed. He loves my because of His goodness. Not mine!

No, I don’t want to slum it. I’m not looking for an excuse to stay in my bed for another three months. In fact I’ve been trying desperately to get out of bed. I’ve been taking pills, and supplements, sitting in front of light boxes, cranking out all sorts of classical music, watching my diet (I eat flax seed on my toast now- yes, I eat gluten. Stop. Don’t go there right now. Stay with me). The list could go on. I have spread sheets and apps to track all my steps, moods, bodily functions, water in take.

But this! This right here! This has me wanting to run into the bedroom and shake my husband awake and say. AH! I GET IT! I am LOVED BY HIM! That is enough. I never need to stand out in a crowd again. I never need to be the best at anything. I never need to make sure my voice is the one that’s heard and that everyone is giving me my due recognition. I’m FREE! I can just be loved!

You know, if you get hit by a car tomorrow; if you’re a quadriplegic for the rest of your life and the only contribution you make is to your adult diapers that someone else has to change… you are still special. You are still unique and wonderful to Him. The world may never see it. Don’t require them too. The one person who matters most; the grandest, highest, most omnipotent and sensational Force in all the universe (or multiverse if you roll like that) made you. He looks at you with intrigue and numbers the hairs on your head. He even rescues you from your own rebellion because “He delights in you!” (read Psalm 18)

I am so blown away right now. So giddy with the love of God. I am just shell shocked that He takes the time to tend to my little dysfunctional heart. Not in begrudging obligation but in patient delight. Not because I’m worthy but because He is! I just can’t get over it tonight. I hope you won’t be able to either.

 

Touching God

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Today my son and I took a walk. The arboretum near my house is gorgeous, even in early spring. We worked our way along side the little stream that cuts through the prairie grass with him usually lagging a step behind me.  At one point I felt his fingertips against the small of my back. They lingered until finally I asked (not being able to see him) “what are you doing?”

“Walking with my eyes shut. I know that if I am touching you I can’t go off course.” 

So it is with God. At times, the season is blinding. We neither know the path, nor can see ahead to anticipate it. But if we reach out and touch Him we will never lose our way.

 

 

*Image Available At https://pixabay.com/en/michelangelo-abstract-boy-child-71282/

 

 

Hope and the Word

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But he knows the way that I take;
    when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold…

Job 23:10

In an instant there was Hope.

Hope has been a fleeting friend this season. It seems I only catch frantic glimpses of her through the emotional bracken. I almost see her but then she’s gone in the mist and bog. It’s been ugly (real ugly). We’re happy to say God is faithful, but I sometimes find  faithfulness means bringing to head circumstances that force us to deal: deal with our pet lies; deal with our cowardice; deal with the sicknesses we’d rather ignore.

Why does He go after this with such violence?!

Because they keep us from seeing Him; and when we don’t see Him- we die. Like a patch of grass that never sees the sun. There’s just mud when it rains. No growth. So, right now that’s where I am. In the muck and mire of a mind and heart that has large patches of permanent shade. And (I reiterate) it has been ugly.

I don’t think the ugliness alone has made it so hard to hope. Rather it’s the fatal equation of (ugly hard) + (significant time).  A surgery can be done in hours, but it takes weeks to heal. If it’s a major surgery it takes months. And sometimes after “healing” there is still rehabilitation- like physical therapy. For full health to return you’ve got to go through all the little steps of retraining muscles and stretching and all that… stuff. The soul is as much (if not more) the same. God can come in and do a major work, but that’s often the start not the end.

He is in both the wounding and the healing… but it takes time.

Time can make it hard to hope. Past failures can make it hard to hope. Fear can make it hard to hope. It is simply hard to believe (at times) things are going to be different on the other side of all this pain. The good news is the faithfulness of God doesn’t just manifest in confrontation but in comfort as well.

That little verse sitting at the top of my browser window was a sweeping windstorm of comfort. And with it Hope came into view. Her beaming face glorious with the promise of a better day on the other side. Her strong arms braced for the war to get there and her hands, without callouses, wiping the grime from my face. Onward. Keep moving forward.

This is really hard (most worthwhile things are). This is tedious. This is ugly. At times it even seems ambiguous but just one word from His mouth can soothe the pain. Words as simple as “He knows…” He sees this hard way and “hard” isn’t where this story ends. He is doing something and when it’s all done I will shine. It is for my good. It’s going to be okay.

Father,

Thank you for your Word. Thank you that it isn’t just information in a book. Thank you Holy Spirit that you take this Word and you speak it afresh to our hearts when we need it the most. That you comfort us in the confrontation. That you are a living God. Not dead. Not dormant. Not stagnant. You speak. You work. You listen. You rescue. You know. Thank you. Help us to hold on through the weary seasons. Help us lift our eyes and see Hope standing there in the midst of pain. We’re never alone in this way we go. You see us. You are watching. We will come through when You are finished having your way. Help us to trust You and surrender. Amen. 

*Photo Credit: Rewat Wannasuk

 

Devotions

woman-happiness-sunrise-silhouette-40192.jpegGod is light. He is warmth for the soul. He is the Comforter.

Are you weary today? Are you confused? Are torrents of drudgery and fear swirling around your mind? Is anxiety sitting on your chest; telling your heart when it can and cannot beat?

Draw near. The frozen cold of icy winter thaws with the nearness of the sun. Let Him love you today. All good must come from love. Otherwise we only strive. But Love sets us free. Free from self, free from fear, free from the hold of this life.

Let Him love you today. Don’t try to fix it all. Don’t just look for advice, or tools, or principals to live by. Look for Love. He loves You with a deeper love than you will ever grasp. It’s a penetrating love. It  is a transforming love. He will turn Confusion into Clarity. Fear into Faith. Anxiety into Authority. He will take the weak ones and make them strong. The uncertain and make them brave.

He will take orphans and make them heirs to the throne.

This is the love of God awaiting us each morning. Wrapped each day in new mercies for us to unpack. To behold. It is the wonder of a good God. A humble king. A loving Father.

There is no force on earth or in heaven like the Love of God. It His essence. Nearly a supernatural energy piercing through the dullest gray of our heart- our broken state.

He has made himself available to all, to any. He bids you come. Lay your head on that impossible chest that beats with mercy for the little ones. Let truth and grace be arms that wrap themselves around you. Listen to his heart and feel shake from you all the chains that so easily ensnare.

This is love. This is peace. This is joy. This is strength. This is God, who was, and is and always will be.

Miracles

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It is perhaps one of the greatest impossibilities of this life that God permits himself to be doubted.

So often I read the scriptures and a scoff at the duplicity and blindness of the characters sketched there. They were so nearsighted somehow- so unreliable in their character. Nations of them, beholding God and then, fallen. Even the great fathers of the faith could be characterized this way.

But, I’m coming to see that it is easy to miss miracles when you’re the one in the story. Like Ebeneezer Scrooge explaining away his Christmas ghost as a bit of undigested meat. I always thought that miracles had to be unmistakable. Like, impossible, to doubt. Every now and then you get one of those but truly I have found that in almost every situation there is room to doubt.

And it exposes my heart every time.

Faith is a liberating reality. It sets the heart free from burdens it can never actually bear but the down payment is steep. Its humbling and uncomfortable. It can even appear irresponsible at times. Might I look the fool? Even out of my mind? Certainly, to put all eggs in the God bucket… well giving Chance the credit sure goes over easier. But it’s not chance. And I know it.

The last three months of my life (perhaps longer) have been a series of miracles. The last twenty-four hours the most recent of them. No doubt I could publish them all here and it would read with such certainty- such finality. Wow! That is amazing how God speaks and… ” But I can promise you, each amazing God story I write here, or on some other platform, had room in our hearts to be doubted. To be diminished.

We get to choose. We get to choose whether or not we believe that God is so omnipotent, and so creative, and so ridiculously invested in our lives that He comes down and inserts Himself into our broken existence and makes miracles. We can listen for Him to speak and act or we can trudge through like this is all on us and you know what… He’ll let us. He won’t force himself down our throats.

I believe God is amazing. I believe He still speaks in dreams, He still talks to hearts and He still is going to finish what He started. There are miracles if we want to see them. And there is a lot of room on either side to doubt if we’d rather do that.

I don’t want to.

Romans 4:3 

What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”[a]