Psalm 37:7a

"Be still and rest in the Lord; wait for Him and patiently lean yourself upon Him." Psalm 37:7a

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Utter Extravagance

Ephesians 1:15-19 (Message) "That’s why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus, I couldn’t stop thanking God for you — every time I prayed, I’d think of you and give thanks. But I do more than thank. I ask — ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing Him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is He is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life He has for His followers, oh, the utter extravagance of His work in us who trust Him—endless energy, boundless strength!"

I have to admit that lately, I’ve struggled with focus… with clarity… with purpose. I find myself just going through the motions, just putting on my game face, just surviving one day at a time. I can honestly say I’m not depressed, I’ve just been emotionally numb... coasting along in nuetral. So when I found these verses I was reminded of what God’s track record is in my life, and the work He continues to call me to... and well, let’s just say I felt a bit overwhelmed and extremely inadequate.  The Father occasionally has to get my attention by pulling me away from everything that separates me from Him, the good things and the not-so-good things. And I am learning that this is actually a GOOD thing. And it always amazes me that I am so easily distracted from the very thing that fills me with joy… HIS presence in every area of my life. It’s obvious when I have forgotten to look for Him in my every day, because on those days I am insecure, inward focused and unable to hear His voice. I don’t feel alone, but I do feel isolated.

As I meditate on these verses, I question if I ever grasped “the immensity of this glorious way of life He has for His followers”. One thing I've learned, the enemy loves to see us doubting ourselves… questioning our worth, our uniqueness, and ultimately questioning the “One” who actually calls us His own. In those moments, and on those days (or entire seasons) we miss out on the “utter extravagance of His work in us”. When I look back over the last 4 months and consider what I may have missed out on, my heart is heavy, and I recognize what has taken place. In the particular version of scriptures I shared above, it tell us that “endless energy and boundless strength” is waiting for us. Wow, I would love to be able to say that those words describe what I have been experiencing recently! But obviously... I can't!

Why would I ever choose NOT to acknowledge what is available from the Father… the utter extravagance of His work in me that’s only available when I trust in Him? I realize that this place I find myself in comes down to a matter of trust... and the last four months spent just putting in my time comes down to trust. So I’ve just been going through the motions because I am choosing not to trust the Father.  

Sooooo... why would I want to miss out on a season of endless energy and boundless strength? Honestly, it truly isn’t a matter of wanting to miss out… it is a matter of choosing not to see that which He has called me to. The enemy loves to render me emotionally numb and ineffective because it keeps me from seeing the Father’s utter extravagance… and experiencing this glorious way of life He offers me.

As I read these verses again and again, I begin to crave anew that which has been missing in my life. Today I am asking for the very thing Paul talked about in these verses: TRUST. And I encourage you to pray that the Father will keep “your eyes focused and clear, so that you will see exactly what it is He is calling you to do”. When we do this, we will grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life He has for His followers.  And I am convinced that, when we recognize the utter extravagance of His work in us who TRUST Him, we will once again experience the endless energy and boundless strength that He provides. 

How could we NOT want in on this amazing gift from the Father!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Seeds & Weeds In My Fields

Recently I’ve started my days in the book of Matthew.  I’ve been listening to those familiar parables many of us know & love.  It’s interesting how the Lord will spoon feed His stubborn children another full, satisfying meal using the very same words… only 10 years apart. Yet, He reveals completely new truths about Him & often about ourselves.  I used to believe that every passage had one specific truth & all who studied it would gather the same exact wisdom.  But reality began to sink in this morning that previously on my journey, the Father had led me to those familiar verses… He had quietly whispered a different nugget of wisdom, just as powerful… one that I had specifically needed for that time & place. Truth is… the time spent in His word today, digesting the meal He had prepared for me, will prove to be just as rich & refreshing, & is meant to give me new insight & discernment.  I am reminded that the truths I gained the first time were only tidbits of the wisdom He had in store for me. 

had read it many times, contemplated its meaning, even meditated on this parable… the one beginning in Matthew 13:24. Jesus said the farmer had sown good seed. Then the enemy came in during the night & planted weeds while his servants were sleeping. When the servants found the weeds growing up along with the wheat, they asked the farmer if they should go out to the fields to pull up the weeds. But the wise farmer said they must wait, for in the process of removing the weeds, they might hurt the good seed too. He told them to allow the seeds & weeds to grow together… & when it was harvest time, the weeds would be removed first, & then the wheat could be safely gathered.

Isn’t this a great reminder of our everyday lives? Often I get so distracted by weeds the enemy has planted in my life that I spend all my time & energy trying to contend with them, instead of focusing on the good seed that the Father has planted around me & in me. How much joy have I forfeited being distracted from God’s best while trying to deal with a “weed or two”. I know one thing for sure, weeds can come in many sizes & varieties. Sad as it is, some weeds are planted in our lives in human form. And I admit, they can occasionally suck the joy right out of me. I allow them to distract me from enjoying the Father & celebrating His presence. Whether they show up in my neighborhood, my workplace, my church or my Facebook page, the Father wants me to turn my gaze away from them & back to Him. Some weeds are only revealed in my attitude, & often cause my heart to become “ugly as sin”… so to speak. I fail to recognize those weeds until I see them in the light, after spending much needed time with Jesus. But even “ugly” doesn’t always turn my eyes away immediately, & I can become bogged down in the muck of despair in a quick moment. (can anyone else relate?)  Oh yes… other weeds can be quite delightful to have around… & I tend to question my “good judgement”, thinking perhaps I am being too critical of something that appears to be harmless. (so not true) I admit right now that the enemy has become quite good at deceiving me like that.

Before I know it, especially on exhausting days, I’ve turned my gaze from what is “good seed”… those blessings from the Father that are meant to nourish my soul. Sometimes… I get so consumed with my efforts of “dealing with weeds” that I don’t even notice my appetite for God’s best is almost non-existent. This in turn, renders me quite apathetic to His loving invitation. He invites me to come alongside Him & experience the best He has planned for me on this amazing journey called life. Again, I confess that I too often feed my soul with the weeds… & I am left empty… & powerless… & useless to the One who has created me to be His hands & feet, right here in this hungry, starving-for-love world that I live in. How this must break my Father’s heart…

I’m convinced that few of us can be completely rid of the weeds in our own “fields” (and in our hearts) on a daily basis. Try as we might, the weeds will always be there & the enemy will always try to distract us from enjoying what the Father planted in advance. So starting today, & hopefully until Jesus returns, I will strive to carefully tend to His “good seeds”… and I will also strive to be grateful that He has generously planted such an abundance of them in my life. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

In That Moment

Have you ever been in “that” place? You know… that overwhelming, exhausting, empty, grieving place? Were you grieving for something or someone you once had… and found yourself struggling to admit that you still desperately wanted them in your life for that moment in time?  Did you silently ask all the wrong questions, until finally, you realized that the One who loves you most has all the right answers?

Often I have struggled to truly live in the “present”. I hold on to the sweetest memories, and sadly, the bitter moments of the “past”, the very things that crowd out the joy of the Father’s presence in the “now”. I have quietly struggled with what isn’t… instead of being openly thankful for the reality of what is. I have wrestled with that ongoing fear of what might be waiting for me some place down the road, instead of celebrating what Jesus Himself has invited me to experience in this place… the very place He has led me to right now.

So often, just before I've picked up a pen and paper,  my scribblings have begun with a desperate cry, one full of questions … and pain… and unrest. And yet Jesus meets me right where I am. I find myself wrapped in His arms, His Holy Spirit quietly whispering His promise of peace and mercy, and then He invites me into His rest. It is in that moment that I allow Him to fill up the empty places left in my soul with Himself… His presence, His love and His joy. Yes, I am even filled with His joy in this weary moment and in this foreign place.

If you look on my poetry page today you will find something I wrote years ago. As I sat at my Mom’s bedside for almost 5 weeks, painfully watching her breathe what might be her last at any moment, I watched her struggle and found myself struggling… knowing in my heart that she never wanted to be on life support. But I listened to my Dad tell her that he was longing for the day he would take her home & cook for her & care for her once more. And in that dark place, I found myself desperately asking Jesus to give me a little more time with her. But right there in my selfishness, in my pain, in that place of unrest… He began to fill up the empty caverns in my soul with Himself… with His presence, His love, His joy and especially His rest. As I released her into His waiting arms, I exhaled and I relaxed… and then I relinquished my own weary grip.

It was in those weak and weary moments that He revealed to me this truth… that it’s not necessary for you or I to be strong enough to hold onto Him. He is the One who holds tightly on to us. I am discovering that so often the Father allows the emptiness, the exhaustion, the grief for this very purpose... that He might draw us to Himself. And in that moment we will experience what it feels like to “rest in His grip”. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Hard Questions

As I sat in the home of some good friends of ours last night, ate dinner and fellowshipped with three other couples, WE began to watch a video series called “Radical”. I was overwhelmed with a new reality. It is the reality that, although I am extremely blessed to know Jesus personally, I am also responsible to live out the life of a Jesus follower. Now… I know this shouldn’t have been a “new” reality. The sad truth is, in our church culture today, we often assume that all we have to do is say our prayers, attend church, love God and try to be nice to others. It seems so simple when you look at it that way. The problem comes when you realize that believing in Jesus and being a follower of Jesus are radically different. The lesson began to unfold with a few simple, yet challenging questions…

1) Do I believe what the Bible says about the church?
2) Do I believe what the Bible says about the lost?
3) Do I believe what the Bible says about the poor?

WOW. Just WOW is all I can whisper right now. As we began to consider what the disciples were asked to do when they became followers of Jesus, and when we began to discuss what those in other countries today are being asked to do as followers of Jesus, it became very obvious that our American culture has “dumbed down” our calling to actually be obedient to the words Jesus spoke about following Him. We have conveniently accepted the lie that all we really “have to do” is be a good person… most of the time…

If we would spend just a little more time reading the “words of Jesus”, we might find out that there really is more to being a “follower of Jesus”. We might realize that we have been called to be HIS hands and feet to a lost world… to so many people who are watching and waiting to see if we live out what we say we believe. This is admittedly overwhelming, and yet it is also inspiring for me to ponder! If we really LOVED the lost… and if we really LOVED the poor… and if we really looked like the church that scriptures described so beautifully, how would our lives be different? What kind of RADICAL changes might need to be made in our life in order to reflect Jesus to this lost and hurting world around us? Can we truly be recognized as a Jesus follower by our actions today, or yesterday, or last week, or last month?   Based on our daily choices, will others be drawn to this amazing Jesus that we claim to follow?

Whew… on my face before the Father right now. Will you join me in asking the hard questions??? And then… be a true “follower of Jesus” alongside me. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

And my heart responds "Lord, I am coming."

This morning as I spent an extended time praying for someone else, who needs You desperately right now, my thoughts began to race, and I struggled with a little twinge of fear… fear that seemingly came out of nowhere. I am not one to easily be shaken like that, and I know without a doubt that fear does not come from the Father. So I immediately went back to some scriptures that I had read earlier this week, and realized that, at the time, I had no idea how much peace they would bring me. I had read in Psalms 27  “Yes, though an army marches against me, my heart shall know no fear! I am confident that God will save me.” And then a few verses later it says “Listen to my pleading Lord! Be merciful and send the help I need. My heart has heard You say “Come and talk with Me, oh My people.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.””

It amazes me how often the Father will bring verses to us in preparation for a future need. As I look back over my life and see His handwriting all over the walls of my heart and mind, I am reminded how often He spoke His words to me in advance, and they were exactly what I would need in the days that followed. I think back on the time I was pregnant with my second child, and I knew what to expect, especially since I had been scheduled to deliver by C-section, just like I delivered my first baby. And yet, just a week before the date, I began to struggle with fear. A sweet friend encouraged me to sing a favorite hymn or chorus as I was wheeled into the surgery room, one that reminded me of the Fathers love and protection. I quickly explained to her that, if I began to sing loud enough for anyone else to hear me… they would quickly put me out of my misery… and out of their misery too! Singing is definitely not a gift the Father chose to bless me with!

Alas, as I hung up the phone that morning 35 years ago, I began to pray for the Lord to take away my fears. Immediately He reminded me of the 2 verses I had just memorized in the Navigator bible study we were involved in at the time. First, Isaiah 41:10 tells usDon’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.” And the second verse was Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You.”  Having His words planted deep in my heart, I entered into that amazing miracle of participating in new life with absolute confidence in the God who speaks to us when we cry out to Him.

Just like He had provided exactly what I would need ahead of time 35 years ago, the verses in Psalms reminded me this morning of His provision once again. Just as the passage I mentioned earlier said, in Psalm 27, I am once again choosing to proclaim His words spoken to me in preparation, “My heart has heard You say “Come and talk to Me, oh My people”. And my heart responds “Lord, I am coming.””

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Just Another Name On A Page?

This morning as I read through 1 Chronicles 1-9 (Old Testament) I found pages & pages full of names. But sprinkled through these pages were a few random details that set some of those names apart. There were plenty of names listed with nothing else, no words recorded that would cause others to remember them. But for those names with “random details” included, there seemed to be a variety of reasons… and sadly, not all of them were positive. A few names were recognized for their faithfulness, a few others for their unfaithfulness. Some were defined by their focus on worldly accomplishments, and yet others valued for their godly wisdom.

What a sobering reminder that each of us will leave behind a legacy… and whether our name will be spoken with respect & affection, or with disappointment, or even apathy, each of our names will be included in someone else’s genealogy records. All of us have the same “important choices” to make, the same opportunities to influence others along our journey. But these are not necessarily the world’s idea of important choices, those that lead to accumulated worldly wealth or determine the prestigious circles we often strive so hard to be part of. The “important choices” I speak of are those we make in every day circumstances… such as, whether we choose to serve others or serve ourselves, or perhaps even more important, who it is that we that will choose to follow.

As I meditated on these scriptures, I wondered if my name will be written in the hearts of those around me… whether or not it is ever written down in the pages of a history book. Will my name, sadly, be just that – another “name” included in someone’s genealogy, but never remembered as a blessing to those who knew me? Will I be remembered as one whose unfaithfulness caused heartbreak? Will mine be one whose lack of effort to reach others with the love of Jesus added to the brokenness of a watching world? Or will my name be lovingly passed on to future generations as one who graciously loved others, and in loving, affected those who were watching? Did I inspire someone along this earthly journey to know and pursue Jesus, the source of that kind of amazing love? And in doing so, will my name continue the legacy that my Grandma Lettie passed on to me, a godly legacy of spreading “joy” and “healing” and “purpose” and “hope” and “rest”?

What shall we, who call ourselves followers of Jesus, do with this truth? Will we just become another ancestor, whose name is part of someone else’s genealogy records? A name that will not inspire others to actually carry on our legacy? Or will our name carry with it a legacy of loving God and loving others… one whose influence and inspiration encouraged them to watch for glimpses of HIS love along their journey? And, will they raise up yet another generation who will reflect a life of loving the one true God who actually loved us first! 

Oh, Father in heaven, grant me this one petition… that my name might carry with it a beautiful legacy, and not be just another name on a page!