Break The Agreement

Have you ever experienced a moment where all of your senses are heightened, as if there’s a supernatural awareness or panoramic perspective of all that’s going on around you? I’m in a moment like that now. After several days of hard rain, I’m curled up on the sofa, and the Spirit of Jesus is all around. Through the second story window, being pressed by a gusty morning wind, I see trees of the purest Spring green, heavy with moisture from the drenching rains of the night. My attention turns to a few curious little cardinals perched on our bird feeder, determined to take the last of the sunflower seeds wedged within the splintered wood. Suddenly, two little cats spring to their feet to take a peek, their tails curved in attention. I’m clutching a fresh cup of coffee: the steam touches my face, and my glasses turn foggy at the first sip. It’s quiet here, except for the squall of thoughts determined to cut through the silence. It’s a gift really…to have all of your thoughts seemingly gathered into one room. But don’t get me wrong. On any given day, there’s a team of feelings and emotions, perceptions, ideas, dreams, and scenarios that swell up against me. Today, it’s the comfort of God’s creation and the awakening of my senses that carries these thoughts into new light. In 2 Corinthians 10, verses 5 and 6, Paul encourages the church to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” [NIV]. The Message...

Revealed and Concealed

It was early on a Saturday, and the sun, burning through the morning mist, was slow to rise. Truth…there wasn’t much rise in me either. Sleepily, I rolled over, back towards the light, and fell into a heavy sigh. It’s been my experience that even seasons of unrest gain energy and peace in the light of a new day. That’s why mornings, to me, are special. Light brings so much promise, hope & joy that I find myself walking from window to window in our home, chasing it. But, this day, I didn’t even want to get up. Somewhere in the night, I had been robbed, ravished by something…or so it seemed. For days after this, I pushed through, as we often do. Every now and then, when thoughts would catch up to me, I’d remember what I felt & notice that it was still there, amidst all of the busyness. When Monday came & kids were sent to school, I sat down in the quiet with Jesus, and found myself in the pages of Luke, chapter 18, about the rich young ruler. This is a story that I knew well, but my eyes kept circling back to this particular part of verse 23… ‘When he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.’ [esv] What Jesus told the ruler (to sell all of his possessions) was just about the last thing he thought he’d hear; and it made him sad. My spirit was jarred at this! The thought came to mind, ‘the man pitied himself, and you do, too.’ I sat, and I thought, and...

Show Up For The Fight!

“A great multitude [a huge force] has come against you from beyond the Dead Sea—there’s no time to waste…” [2 Chronicles 20:1-2] Having received this intelligence report, Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, was aware of the significance of the threat against his people. Conscious of his own frailty and the weight of his responsibility as leader, Jehoshaphat set himself to seek the Lord. [Pause] At first glance, it may appear that this account in 2 Chronicles is just another example of a leader putting their trust in the Lord in preparation for a battle. Yet, we’ll see that Jehoshaphat’s attitude under the weight of such a threat is worth paying attention to. First, we see his immediate devotion to the Lord in the word “seek” in verse 3. This word, which becomes a beautiful thread throughout King Jehoshaphat’s reign, means to discover God’s will in “worship.” While I consider Jehoshaphat’s posture in a moment of impending doom, I compare the gravity of this threat to my own life and the ones that I love. I think of a dear friend who has just been diagnosed with cancer, and the weeks and months of therapy and surgery to come. I think of another whose husband has lost his job. I recall the face of a precious sister who recently lost her baby and a conversation with another friend who is grieving the choices made by her daughter. I think of those who have been emotionally and physically abandoned. I consider those facing battles in secret. I contemplate my own struggles and how they take a toll on my mind and my...

Still Frame

{The Vision} I looked out to see sheets of green dipping into valleys where early morning shadows hovered over the moist earth, only to build up again into curved slopes where wind curled and crashed over the top. From my mind’s eye, the hills stretched up, each touching the horizon in sequence, continuing into an infinitely of wide-open space. Eyes closed, I’d take off running towards the skyline, tension in my arms and the wind at my back. {The Backstory} I spent most of my childhood, until age 13, on a single street in rural North Carolina. Summers were my favorite. I’d wake up early, pick out mismatched clothes from my beloved pickled oak cabinet, and hurry out in search of the morning. A pasture bordered one side of our house. The rusty barbed wire fence, overgrown with prairie grass, separated us from a few cattle, occasionally grazing. The pasture, though small, would not only become a backdrop for some of the first conversations I’d have with God, it would appear as a still frame on a reel of memories, long after my family moved away. God knew that certain events in my life would crush me. He knew that I’d believe things about myself that weren’t true: that I would compare myself to others. Was I enough? Was I too much? He knew that I would strive to please, and how heavy this self-made mantle would become…with anxiety, panic, and exhaustion. He knew that I would make decisions, albeit with good intentions, in order to gain control. He knew that others would betray me, and how many sleepless...

Tell It To My Heart

Remember that 1987 hit, the one by Taylor Dayne, ‘Tell It To My Heart?’ (I bet you’re looking it up now.) It’s like most other catchy 80’s tunes with a sticky chorus that’ll have you singing for days…or, in this case, decades. Anyway, I break into song in random ‘doings’ of the day, mostly when I’m alone. Recently, up to my elbows in dirty dishes, this was my little chant. It hit me. As of late, I’ve felt a real sense of losing in life. Just not dealing well, ya know? I typically deal with things in my head. I love ideas and information and putting lots of ‘stuff’ up there and reading and asking questions and seeking answers. And, I go to God. I really DO. But, my heart has been so, so heavy. Somewhere between the head and the heart, things just got spacey. It’s maddening. It came to a boil months ago. I had one of those hard conversations; you know, one of those ‘talks’ that are easy to put off, until you realize that they are inevitable. And it was GOOD. But it was HARD. And I was emotionally exposed. No amount of head knowledge or wisdom or experience can lift a heavy heart. I know this because I tried. Out of sheer determination, I TRIED. I still couldn’t be free. The heart. It’s like the emotional drum of the soul. Beat, beat, beating and longing and wishing and hoping and refusing to let go. I can decide in my head all day long NOT to be disappointed, hurt, or offended. But….Ohhhh my heart. I...

Right In Front Of Us

I’m notorious for placing things on tables and countertops only to forget where I’ve put them. When I ask my husband or one of the kids to help me look, they spot them right away (of course!) Often, whatever I was looking for was right in front of me… For as long as I can remember, I’ve had big passions and dreams. Yet, I’ve lived with hesitancy and a strong sense of reservation about them. Whether it’s fear of doing the wrong thing at the wrong time, or pursuing something selfishly, insecurity, or assuming that it’s not from God…over time, I’ve put those ideas and dreams to rest. With each passing year, particularly the last 3 years, I’ve noticed that the greatest passions of my life are more persistent than ever. As 2016 was beginning to close, around November-ish, I felt something stirring there…in that dream place where all of my wishes and hopes have been tucked away. One Sunday when I was sitting in church, this came to mind… “You’ve always had to be pushed.” It took me off guard a bit, but knowing myself, I accepted it as a thought from God concerning me. My response? “Well, I figured you’d push me when the time was right, God.” That day began a string of conversations and ponderings between God and I that eventually led me to Matthew 14. It begins soon after the meal for 5,000 was finished… Jesus tells the disciples to get in the boat and begin moving over to the other side (of the sea of Galilee). Jesus then went to pray alone. “Meanwhile,...

Out Of The Running

It’s been a year, and I vividly recall the light-hearted conversation that turned to dreaming and everything from gluten-free foods to writing and fashion. There we sat, two thirty-somethings, coffee in hand at Starbucks. My friend, Sarah B. —she’s something. She is courageous and funny and easy to enjoy. Yet, what seemed to wrap up our chat that day was this: as we discussed the dynamic among women — ambition, insecurity, feeling unimportant—all the feels — she shared something with me. In the moment, when plagued by jealously, insecurity, or the temptation to compete or compare, a friend of Sarah’s speaks this declaration out loud—she lifts up her hand (kind of like a witness in court…think: I solemnly swear ;)) and says, “I take myself out of the running for…” I couldn’t have imagined how this phrase, so simple, would weave itself into conversations and temptations over the coming months. God was up to some stitching, and the degree of detail would leave my heart feeling a little pricked. Most of us are familiar with some form of the following scripture, taken from Hebrews 12, which refers to a long-distance race, with Jesus as our example… “…to strip off every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily and cleverly entangles us, let us run with endurance and active persistence the race that is set before us [looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus…” {verses 1,2 AMP} The Message version puts in plainly— “study how Jesus did it…how he entered into this all-out match against sin, and finished!” Friends, this is what...

Infinite

These past few months have found me living in a 6th grader’s world. Even for the mama with less of a ‘math/science mind,’ it hasn’t been so bad 😉 Truth be told, the academics are a walk in the park compared to the social scene (hand over my mouth). That’s clearly a story for another day. Like many of you, our mornings are busy. While we prepare as much as possible the evening before, there’s always part of the morning that feels harried. Needless to say, coming back to a quiet house after school drop-off is kind of a beautiful thing. This morning, as I’m clearing off the kitchen counter, this question comes to mind, and with it, a message… Why don’t you ask for more? Almost simultaneously, I catch a vision of a rubber band, pulled in opposite directions, tight and thin in the middle. Then this word: Divergent. My thoughts turn to my son. He’s been sharing with me about plate tectonics, and how they crash and slide up against each other, making bulges along the sea floor. We’ve also discussed how the plates pull apart, in a divergent boundary. All of these thoughts swirl through my mind in a matter of seconds, but my wonderings suddenly stop when I realize that this is a picture of my prayer life. Though I speak often about the importance of prayer, and the power within, I hold back. In the fabric of my being, there’s a tendency that is woven so deeply there, it is often unnoticeable to me. That tendency? It’s all about ME, and it can look...

Driving Force

In a few shorts months, we’ll have new neighbors next door. The constant knocking and sounds of heavy machinery are proof of that. Even now, as I type away, there’s demolition and reshaping of the land within feet of our front door…mounds of heavy dirt and boulders building up a boundary next to a new foundation. Amidst the toiling and tending taking place, my mind is set on its own about-face. A few days ago, I came across this question as I was reading, and I’ve not been able to move past it since. Am I living in such a way as to allow for deep transformation in my life? While living is breathing, it’s also a mind that exists and is alert to, persistent, and ongoing in the pursuit of becoming something. Ultimately, this “mindset” will be the posture in which we live and perceive God. Transformation can begin here. Even so, John Piper explains that for many Christians, change involves behaving differently…maybe changing the to-do list of the flesh to the to-do list of the law. This becomes the alternative that they hope will change their minds and bring transformation. “Because people are having real, and helpful, spiritual experiences in certain areas of their lives—such as worship, prayer, Bible studies, and fellowship—they mistakenly believe that they are doing fine, even if their relational life and interior world is not in order. This apparent progress then provides a spiritual reason for not doing the hard work of maturing. They are deceived.” [Peter Scazzero] [reflect] Like many, my life is buzzing with Christian activity, filled with extraordinary people and...

Trouble With the Joy, Joy With the Trouble

When we’re there [on the battlefield], we only see a small portion of the field in front of us. Given the unpredictability of a raging battle, one is apt to complain…suffer, or feel hopeless. And, it may appear that we lose many battles there, allowing the enemy “to have temporary and apparent triumphs.” {story told by John Piper}. With this in mind, consider how Paul addresses the church at Thessalonica… In imitating us (referring to Paul, Silas, and Timothy), you imitated the Master. Although great trouble accompanied the Word, you were able to take great JOY from the Holy Spirit—taking the trouble with the joy, the joy with the trouble [1 Thessalonians 1:6 The Message]. Given the visual of a battle and the message from Paul concerning joy with the trouble, I’m shaking my head. Admittedly, joy is the very last thing that I feel when I’m losing or feeling defeated. Yet, lately, I’ve been surprised that despite really hard stuff, I’ve felt a sort of calm contentment deep in my bones. In acknowledging that it’s there, it remains unrecognizable. And, I’m strangely happy. It’s perplexing at best, and my conclusion is that this must be the indestructible joy that comes from a grace not of this world, because my capacity for joy and contentment is so very confined. Is it possible that I’m actually experiencing joy with trouble? I believe so. When I look to Jesus, I see that while he was a “man of sorrows, well-acquainted with grief,” [Isaiah 53], he was also a man of immeasurable joy and gladness. You see, gladness doesn’t mean that there...