Wednesday, October 19, 2016

a felt difference

It is impossible to wake up and take one step out of the bed without seeing, hearing, or remembering something that is trying to get your attention.  If you are lucky, or maybe just more than human, there may only be one in the forefront of your mind, but for the majority the first opening of the eyes, the first sound that comes to the ears starts the assembly line track of responsibilities, needs, wants, distractions, and rabbit trails of the day.

Though a vague example to many, my deep in the throes of parenting young ones who watch cartoons self can, on countless mornings, hear in her head the deep overly dramatic voice of dear Mr. Pricklepants in the Toy Story Terror special saying "And so it begins!"  And so it does indeed, life in all its helter skelter, hurry scurry, hustle bustle beauty.

It never fails that by the end of the week there is a long list of items that were started and not finished, put on the back burner, or ignored completely.  Yes, yes it is not a secret that lists are my one weakness--please someone know that reference--but this time I am not referring to the tangible to dos of errands, appointments, and chores.  

Instead, I am looking on the inside, thinking about the needs of the heart and soul, of what should have been and always be the main event being purposely pushed aside or accidentally left in mid meeting because something else popped up in its way.

A like minded chat was had about such a thing during a visit with family.  Outside in the almost fall like weather of North Georgia, I sat with my sister in law watching the children play, and doing what good southerners do, listening to a football game.  

This specific game did not capture my attention too much as it was a Bulldog playing instead of my Tiger of choice, but nonetheless I understood her thoughts because had it been the other way around those shoes would have definitely been filled with my feet.

As it became a little more possible that there would not be success for her group of boys on the field she asked her husband in a not at all freaking out and demanding voice to turn off the radio so that she could just sit in peace because what was blocking it had disappeared.

Empathetic to her dilemma, we discussed how relaxing it was to NOT watch and listen to football games.  To be sure, there are some who are able to sit and watch with no spikes at all in blood pressure, and while I no longer passionately and lovingly scream at the TV since my children were old enough to copy the behavior, I completely understand the peace of finding out later.  

When you are told after the fact that your team lost you can feel disappointed for a moment and go about your day, when you are told that your team won you can feel elated, maybe watch a few highlights, and then carry on.  But being in the middle of the stress brings to surface those emotional distractions and already said rabbit trails that knock you off course for longer than I'd care to admit.

Likewise, it is for these reasons that I will never write about politics, or to forewarn, any trending topic.  To share a well versed and educated view means research, engrossing yourself in the issues. All responsible things to be sure, but somewhere a twist can happen and the desire to keep abreast of current events turns into a desire to prove another wrong, to shout with a louder voice to prove your correctness while proving another's error in judgement.

Please hear me when I say not every football fan is mistaken in watching a game live or even taped, not every citizen passionate about politics is trampling on other's voices in a desire to make their's heard.  One is not holding sin in their hand by showing enthusiasm for their interests, but when that interest overtakes their thoughts, when that topic drives them instead of the other way around, when the moment your eyes open it is the first thing to demand attention there is cause to step back.

There are monumental times in my life where I restrained from dealing with issues that needed to be addressed and where I pretended everything was ok when not so deep inside I knew trouble was growing faster than I could stop it.  

I have learned, the hard way of course because is there really any other, what avoidance is and it is safe to say that that is not the problem my heart is feeling today.  The issue instead is prioritizing.  What comes first?  Who should I be shouting about instead?

"The best thing I [we] can offer this world is a well tended spirit, a wise and brave soul" says Shauna Niequist in her most recent book, so why is it that instead we so often offer up haphazard, depthless, brief and careless versions of ourselves in its place?

The quick and easy answer is because the focus is on a million other things instead of the One True need.  This is a Truth that not many already believers can argue with and that other non believers might be able to understand easily as well, however as my pastor would always remind us hearing and understanding is only half the goal, there needs to be that conviction in your gut before that Truth comes out in your life.

Please say it's not just me?  However if it is, then let this be another step of growth along the path coming closer to Him.

My father-in-law spoke of it this way in the sermon we were able to hear on our visit this past weekend, "For us to hallow, or sanctify, His name means that we give God the supreme place, that we set Him above all else in our thoughts, affections and lives."

Placing the bulk, the first fruits if you will, of our attention on God, our loving Father and Comforter, means He takes His rightful place in our lives.  He becomes Center Stage and those laundry list of items that come with life on this earth lose their neon signs demanding immediate attention or else. Even those stressful events or topics of conversation that some can not wait to argue about while others can't wait to hide from can be enjoyed or experienced from a place of peace, a place of compassion, because instead of your human heart leading the way, your spirit filled one is guiding instead.

There is a noticeable different in conversation, in heart's desires, in relationships, in blood pressure for goodness sake, when He is first.  It's not just a Sunday School answer, though it's a good one, it's a felt difference.

I sat across the table from a woman recently who in a mere ten minutes of sharing stories taught me more about following God's call in a life than the 34 previous years of mine. In a sentence, spoken with love, delivered with tears brimming, she said "There is no more perfect place to be than in the center of God's will"  I'll be unpacking that one for awhile!

My heart aches for many in this world, but none more than someone who doesn't know, who hasn't felt, the complete presence of peace that comes through Christ.  Regardless of the road you are walking, there is no more perfect place to be than with Him.

While we are all learning the same Truths from the same God, each of our hearts understands and is pricked by different things.  It's the amazing way He works, using our individual loves to bring us closer to Him.  Think about your hot button issues or your cold shouldered ones and place them lower where they deserve to be while asking Him to bring your attention higher where your spirit needs it to be.  It's not an easy task so

Pray for me, I'll be praying for you.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

delight in the desert

"I don't see the desert as barren at all; I see it as full and ripe. It doesn't need to be flattered with rain. It certainly needs rain, but it does with what it has, and creates amazing beauty." Joy Harjo

Do I see what she sees, do you? 
There is simultaneous appreciation and hesitancy when a topic presents itself among my thoughts.  It usually happens at the oddest times and then comes with a waterfall of sentences, bullet points, phrases to research, ways to connect one wayward thought with another until a large and impressive knot is formed weaving in and out of itself connected, tied together, not to be unraveled.  Even if the point behind the words is less than impressive to others, I am always stunned by God's ability to show me things through the process.  Very important and humbling for this destination hungry traveler.

I wish, oh how I wish, that these lessons more often came through Pollyanna glasses, happily smiling and seeing nothing but the good.  Oh how I wish they came through cheering successes, things you rave about, brag about, without a seconds hesitation because they look as good on the outside as they are for you inside.  There are plenty of devotionals in this world with a verse, a paragraph and a pat on the back to start your day.  I can be both frustrated and thankful that that is not what is asked of me because while neatly wrapped and tied with a bow is what our human mind desires, the understanding of the hard cleansed with the brutal sacrifice of a Savior is what our human hearts need.

Dry.  Empty.  Lonely.  Bleak.

The very definition of a desert, the desolate land, completely contradicts these words above that have intrigued my mind and caused more than a bit of reflection.  

No one can say they have not felt results of a dry season, have not seen the effects of drought.  In the physical land it causes the ground to become parched, water sources to dry up, fields to lose their ability to yield the fruit they were created for, animals to become lethargic. Desperate for water to revive them they give up and lay down waiting for the inevitable, scavenge and search, walking until they seek out their need, or look to their caretakers for the help they can't get themselves.  

Our hearts are no different.  A spiritually dry period can be much different than one filled with trials though there is hard in them both.  There will be times where, like the fields in a drought, you feel parched, dried and cracking, useless as the fruit you were created to yield can not soak in enough moisture to bloom.  Like the wildlife we are tempted to give up and take it lying down or scavenge our own way to gain some ground in the fight for survival.  But as hopelessness tries to prevail I pray the Hope within overtakes and instead there is the remembrance to look to our Caretaker for the help we will never get from ourselves.

Paul spent a better part of 2 Corinthians 11 listing the sufferings he has endured.  False imprisonments, beatings, stonings, shipwrecks, dangerous journeys, robbery, sleeplessness, hunger thirst, cold and exposure were not just bumps on the road, but daily life events.  One of these events would be enough to stop a sojourner in their tracks but for him these were far from a sign to stop, they were fuel to continue.  For the sake of Christ [he says] I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities.  For when I am weak, I AM strong.

In every movie with a desert setting from Star Wars to Fievel Goes West, countless Cowboy films to classics like Lawrence of Arabia, there is a search for an oasis, a watering hole, a place that gives life in the midst of the dry and desolate.  Once found, life inside you changes.   There in that place with life giving water, you find peace from the fear, you see hope instead of doubt, you feel revived and eyes that once only saw the barren land can focus on the beauty in the hills and valleys among the dunes.

I can see the desert as full and ripe, I can see the amazing beauty it creates, but I can't see it on my own.  I need the Hope promised, I need the eyes of Christ to see that [He] will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. [He] will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. Isaiah 41:18

On my own all I see is sand, all I feel is heat, in Him I can see the land of the living and the good He brings to it.

Praying for you in your desert places, pray for me.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

I can wait

As always, I am sitting and praying and believing there is another set of ears in need.  Praying and believing that there is another heart desiring these words put forth somewhat humbly, somewhat insecurely, somewhat confidently sure that the thoughts do not come from me alone.

But today, making eye contact with the blue eyes staring back in my direction is essential. Reminders are needed. Truth is needed.  Hope, above all else, is needed.  Of course that could be said for everyday, necessary for everyday, but there are times where not one more minute can pass until that salvation you are working out requires some extra fear and trembling.

A couple years ago, after smiling at so many others' posts, I downloaded the Time Hop app.  Eager to enjoy smiles and tears of joy from past pictures of my baby boys who aren't quite babies anymore, I soon realized that I had no control over what from the past would make its way directly into my vision. 

Sure there were those lovely memories of cute babes and fun times with friends, but every so often a memory was triggered that did not bring smiles or immediate joy.  In its stead would come pain to a heart unable to handle the unwanted surprises.  After a week, pressing the uninstall button gave back a little memory space on my phone and started my days with less unexpecteds and a lot more peace.

Last week, Zach had a different experience with those memories involving social media sites, and his was one that I have not been able to get out of my mind.  Technology brought to his attention a photo he had posted of our church's first Sunday in its new space six years ago.  Captioning the photo were the words "I can't wait to see what God has in store for us."

I can wait. That's all I could think. I could have waited.

Because, spoiler alert, that beautiful place full of loving people closed its doors almost exactly two months ago.  Because within those years of growing in grace and wisdom and knowledge of God, among those years of serving together to help the unchurched, dechurched, teens, and homeless, friendships ended, betrayals hurt, marriages were broken, arguments were had, loved ones died, and longed-for children never made it into the world. 

If I knew what was coming, my caption would have read, I can wait.

There have been many a time in life where focusing on the hard times and the unwanted events has taken precedence.  We like to keep hopes high, to assume that the only thing coming up in the road is sunshine and happiness, cool breezes and sweet smelling flowers, laughter drifting in and out of fondly remembered moments.

When there is an inevitable bump, or in some cases a gigantic precipice followed by a seemingly infinite chasm in the road, all other previous moments are inconsequential in our minds. The only things that takes up all the precious space are the challenges, therefore blocking out the beauty beneath.  That evil one, man, he earns his name.

Many a time I sat at a table across from my pastor as he patiently heard my heart full of hurts, fears, and doubts, and on occasion, successes, growths, and dreams.  Many words were taken straight in and hung on to, but one phrase was written as to never be forgotten: "just because the outcome was negative, doesn't mean it was a wrong decision."

Let that simmer a minute.

Why does that assumption always find it's way back in? Why does it feel as if hard means bad, uphill means unnecessary.  Second-guess girl rears it's head again as past decisions are critiqued and Trust slips to the background, letting self take center stage.  To place your Trust in Christ, to believe that God truly is Good and in Control, is to submit to the bumps, peaks, and valleys, to keep your eye on the Horizon and see that though circumstances change, though you change, He never changes.  

Life is full of wait, a word and a lesson I have been called to ponder upon. To rush it is to miss the moments on the way.  God is working, always working, and as exciting as new beginnings are, the journy through them is equally as frustrating, equally as full of desires to quit, to cut and run.  Instead of saying I can't wait to see what He does my answer is instead that I can wait.

I can wait.

I can wait as he renews my strength so that I can run and not be weary (Is. 40:31).  I can wait and keep his way, knowing that I will be exalted to inherit a place in His kingdom (Ps. 37;34).  I can wait because He is good to those who wait for Him, who seek Him (Lam 3:25).  I can wait for the promise of the Father (Acts 1:4)

So I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope [Always Hope]; [May] my soul wait for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. Psalm 130:5-6

There will always be that desire to jump ahead, to see what is coming up, to be expectant of the future, and that is ok. But don't miss what happens in the middle. Don't be in such a hurry for what's next. Don't waste the wait.

Pray for me as I try to relish the waiting, I'll be praying for you.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

venture out, come home

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”  ~Mark Twain

The exact moment I came across these words is unremembered but the encouraging, challenging, and to be honest a bit convicting feelings they left will not soon be forgotten.  Framed on our wall surrounded by photos of transcontinental and worldwide adventures, Mark Twain's challenge stands, reminding me that while I am dearly loved I am small in comparison to the great big world God created.

I married a thrill-seeker, an adventurer, a roots had never grown down too deep mover, a traveler and experience collector.  He married a homebody, a lover of familiar comforts, a rooted Southern girl who originally couldn't bare to be transplanted too far from her original bed, one who longed to see but feared to venture out.  We are a perfect clash, an iron sharpening an iron, forcing one another to go out and to stay home.  The dance of balancing these two is rarely an easy one, sometimes not a pretty one, but always one that ends up, one way or the other, glorifying the One who is authoring the way.

As an introvert, quiet and alone is not just a wish, it's a necessity.  There are many who flourish in the midst of the bustle, and there are many others who can only step into the bustle because they have learned they first need to flourish in the still corner.  However, with it comes the temptation to stay in the corner of safety and solitude, inviting people into my world occasionally but stopping myself before stepping into theirs.  

There is often such a fine line between understanding the needs of the person God created me to be and the sinful heart that overtakes and thinks it knows best. 

Lest you extroverts think you're off the hook though, my personality may not allow me to completely understand enough to speak directly to your needs and struggles, but it could be easily argued that as courageous as it is to be on the go, there is courage in staying still as well.  In the quiet and stillness He speaks to you.  I pray you seek out the quiet to listen.

There have been multitudes of new locations sought, new experiences had, and new people met and better understood these past twelves years of adventuring with my other half.  And the things seen have changed me.  There have been large bustling cities full of lights and voices, homey neighborhoods and towns, quiet serene fields where we were the only ones around, mountain tops encompassing views from hundreds of miles beyond, amazing man-made feats of engineering, awe inspiring cliffs framing divinely created sunsets, and much more.  And whether joyous or difficult there will be things seen that cannot be unseen.

When you venture out I guarantee you will be uncomfortable.  You will see distressing things.  The intimacy of the customary is gone. Stripped you are of your natural habitat, and open you are to the unknown.  Things that your eyes and mind deliberately block out when navigating the well trodden roads, now have to focus on everything in their path ensuring that you can see where you are, ensuring that you will see who else is there as well.  

I have prayed during these times in the past and will continue both for myself and others in the future that blinders will not be put on but that light will shine on the uncomfortable to cause compassion to grow in the heart.  If we believe the Truth that we can not flee from His presence (Ps. 139:7) and we believe the Truth that The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps (Proverbs 16:9) than we must believe that the steps we take and the things we see are divinely orchestrated and instead of ignoring them we must allow them to seep into our heart and ask how they are to change us, make us different.

As harsh as this may sound, the assumed and true anguish of others is not there to make you see how much you have been blessed but to stir your heart to be a blessing to others.  Perspective is a miraculous thing.  Seeing the hardships around can absolutely produce a thankfulness within your soul that might not be achieved any other way, but if your only reaction is to mutter to yourself "well at least what I'm dealing with isn't that bad" or the tried and true, southern hand on heart, whispered through pursed lips and teary voice "I am just so blessed" then there is a point the size of this world and beyond that you are missing.  

But beyond the possible hard and unfamiliar, there will be scenes closer to home.

When you venture out, looking at the new and unfamiliar, you will ironically see so many beautiful things and people that are quite familiar.  Mother's pushing babies in strollers listening to the oddest of words their toddlers are spewing out, women and men rushing to work, people cleaning, building, cooking, serving.  Tourists staring at a new environment trying to navigate, trying to take it all in. Locals rushing by maybe somewhat callous to the too familiar charms of the city in which they live.

All the feelings of comfort that come from a well known environment exist in the neighborhood next door and in others halfway around the world.  We all are living in communities, placed there by a divine plan to intermingle, to seek out the bustle or grow on the outskirts of it.  We are not so different, there is a common thread carefully woven by a great Designer that wherever you are can remind you of home.

For me and my introverted self, the best thing about venturing out is the reminder of how I love to come home.  But come home Changed.  Each time away presents opportunities for new growth, better understanding, pricks of the spirit.  Then I go back home ready to jump back into the life He's given bringing in this new knowledge, renewed Spirit, and new desires to be better at and expand His influence in my everyday.  Pushing me onward all the while bringing me home.

The imagery of the prodigal son comes to mind.  There are many ways to extract meaning from that one story and while on the relationship side I relate much more to the older brother than the prodigal, on the seeing the importance of home I am in tune with the prodigal all the way.  At the end no matter what experience came before, he knew the place he needed to be was home in the safe and loving hands of his Father.  He came home having seen and experienced much more than he ever imagined, more than he might have ever wanted.  He came home changed.  He came home knowing that there was one place and one place only he wanted to Abide.

Venturing out puts to death exactly what Mr. Twain claims it will but it also brings about a Light in Life that nothing else can when you see that the venturing out is also a way to see that home is not a brick and mortar or wooden box that houses all your belongings.  Home is a Father who loves, a Son who saves and a Spirit who guides.  That is where I want to abide.  It feels like home to me.

Pray that I always want to come home to Him, I'll be praying for you.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

what you are given

There is something about being around small children that will cause you to question your sanity. They do not have to have come directly from your body or call you mom, nor does it need to be the same sweet small person following you around.  All that is required is for one or more to be a constant part of your life in some form or fashion. The continued presence of such small people with their energy and words and lack of filters and impulsiveness and overall beautiful not at all self-controlled thirst for life and the actions that are produced from that miniature minded carpe diem philosophy effects your brain cells in a way that causes them to flit away almost without being noticed until you try to speak an intellectual thought without time to process your words before they are let loose.

As a former babysitter, dance teacher, school teacher, and now mom, there have been a slew of wonderful children in my life and therefore a mass exodus of brain cells that once had my back when attempting to produce intellectual thoughts.  Now, and I am hoping you can relate, phrases will at times just spill out of my mouth that cause me to literally stop in my tracks and truly wonder if I have in fact finally gone crazy.  The carefree teenager and young adult mind of this mid thirties woman never imagined I would utter the phrase "We do NOT wash our hair in the toilet."  Never imagined I would stand in confusion trying to discern why I would have strung any of the commands together that I had just given and what on earth did they mean anyway.  I have felt, on more than one occasion, much like Ernest T. Bass learning to read and write.  Nohuntbewareopenandclosenocredit can sound like more Shakespeare than the times when my words come tumbling out in a hurried directive towards a blonde boy or three.

Then, there are those purposeful nonsense words you say, ones that can only be uttered at children for fear of losing your adulthood membership card when said aloud to anyone over 4'6".  Just last week while sitting in the lobby of our youngest's preschool, the other parents and I giggled to each other when hearing a lovely teacher sing a song to her three year olds about flushing the potty and washing their hands.  Every part of me was thankful for her desire to remind and teach about proper hygiene, but that sing song direction initiated a waterfall in my thoughts of phrase after phrase I and others have used to teach and remind depending on the situation at hand.

The one phrase that came before any others is one I guarantee you have heard and possibly said, not only to a child but maybe even to yourself.

You get what you get and you don't pitch a fit.

Its usefulness in the situations in the lives of children is countless.  Its lessons valuable.  Be thankful for what you are given.  Be content.  Do not compare what you have in your possession to what is in the hand of the one next to you.  Have self control in your reactions.  Do not pitch a fit over something that has just been handed to you free of charge.  Adults have uttered these words for so long that children will say them to each other, say them to themselves, and if the said grown up is honest, they have had to turn this phrase around on themselves as well.

In daily life on this world, it is a helpful rhyme that gets quickly to the point and nips many things in the bud before tantrums arise, but somewhere along the line, this quick child-rearing colloquialism can at times shift the view of who God is in our lives.  I have caught myself equating God with a teacher passing out suckers at the end of the day, reaching into the bag with no rhyme or reason, and handing out what happened to be in His hand to the next one waiting in line all the time reminding me that I get what I get so don't pitch a fit.

Forgive me for my doubt of your perfect plan.  Forgive me for my lack of Trust.  Forgive me for forgetting at times the Truth of who and what You are, Creator, Omniscient, God with me.  Forgive me for not remembering your Love.  For not remembering I am your Special Possession.

For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13)  He is intentional, specifically designing your heart and life to work out His good for the Kingdom.  He is not random.  You do not just get what you get.  You get what you are given.  You get what He gives.  

What He gives is abounding Love (Ps. 86:15), divinely orchestrated gifts from the Spirit (1 Cor. 12), every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3), a holy life --not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace (2 Tim 1:9)

And even better--maybe not better but just as amazing--is the fact that we are told to ask, to make our heart known, then sit as the peace of God that surpasses all understanding guards are hearts and minds then to Trust what comes next because the Lord is at hand. [paraphrase of Phil 4:5-7]

Semantics are important, different ways of phrasing can truly change how a person responds to your instruction or advice, but this is more than semantics, this is better understanding of who God is in your life and who you are because of Him.

We don't get.  We are given to by an Almighty Father.  And we are given so that we can give in return.

Everything you come across in life is ordained and allowed, nothing comes as a surprise to the one holding you in His hands.  It will not all be easy, but it will not all be hard.  It will not all be what you may have requested or imagined, but it will all draw you to Him in life altering, heart altering, magnificent ways.

Your world may even fall apart, but I promise it will get rebuilt.  Slowly or quickly, painfully or peacefully, pieces will come together and what was once crumbling will be made strong when it is built on the Cornerstone.  And you can use all of it to advance the gospel (phil 1:12) and to declare His glory (Ps. 96:3).  

Don't think about what you get, think about what and who you have been given.

Praying faithfully for you today, pray for me.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Remind me to pray

I wasn't planning on writing today.  Yes, I know Wednesday is my day, the day I set aside all the to-dos no matter what and try to put into words the thoughts that seem to just float around in my head until they are snatched up and tailored to make sense. But not today, today was a day when the no matter whats mattered a little more than normal. 

Tomorrow evening a group of people who have each left a piece of their heart in Romania are gathering at our home to fellowship with and love on the family God used to draw us there.  This loving missionary family and it's many branches are in the US from RO and we are eager to hear the hardships and successes being faced and to assist in filling them up with love so that they can overflow on those so very far away when they return.

Because of this, I had pre-warned my mind that no thoughts were going to be processed today so it would get a little rest, but amidst the cleaning and fall decorating my eyes kept glancing from one object to another and my mind decided it wasn't on vacation after all.

To anyone who knows me well, they know that decorating is one of my favorite things.  It is a hobby that brings me joy, relaxes me, and gives me a creative outlet.  I still have not figured out how to convince my friends to really make good on the request that I come in their homes to help reorganize, rearrange, and redecorate, but one of these days I will hopefully sucker at least one into it.

Though there is an ongoing list in my head of items I'm searching for, I never know when that one special treasure is going to to pop out at me.  While I love the typical spots like Target, Homegoods, and Hobby Lobby, my favorite places are full of once loved and forgotten items or even better, another's free trash that can become my treasure.  The items in my home that bring the biggest smiles are ones that have a story beyond factory to store shelves.  They have either been through something, seen it all and then some, been unearthed from piles others thought were filled with nothing, or been created with the two hands of a loving friend or family member.

Within this treasure trove are a handful of special keepsakes, specifically chosen to remind me of one thing, to pray.  More than souvenirs, these have been taken from special places and purchased from special people and their point extends far beyond home decor.

Leaning on a wall in our entryway is a solid wood door covered in layers of paint.  This door came from the home of a woman forced to leave her home after it had been condemned, a woman living in an area of town ravaged by drugs.  This door stands still not only for looks but to remind me of the families struggling because of addiction, of the children being raised without the basic needs we so often take for granted, of hearts that need healing.

On a shelf in the living room is a watercolor print made by a dear friend, Never Ceases is its infinite reminder.  The picture faithfully sits to remind me to pray for her and her husband as they serve as missionaries in Bogota, as they struggle with the joy and sadness that mixes together when you know you are answering a call in your life but are having to do it so far away from family and friends.

The words are there to remind me to pray for myself and others who need to be reminded that the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end.  They are new every morning, great is His faithfulness.

Next to that sweet and beautiful reminder is a metal square with a number and a beautiful white engraved plate.  The number was taken from a home in Romania. This home that looked like it was beyond repair, has now been turned into a two story orphanage, Laney's House, and almost ready to give a loving home to abandoned girls.  Oh how I want to remember those young lives in prayer.

Next to it the plate, handmade by Romanian hands, waits there reminding me to lift up those hands working for it's very life and the lies they are trying to support.

Each of their purposes is great and they do their job faithfully and without complaint, but there is a different truth that happens more often than not.  I walk right by.

Daily, I pass by the beautiful solid wood door, brimming with stories of happiness and heartache, and I do nothing.  Daily, I stare at a shelf filled with beautiful things made for beautiful purposes by beautiful people and my eyes glaze over, recognizing nothing.

Objects are wonderful reminders, when you remember them.  My heart may have the best of intentions to lift others up but on my own I will fail every time.  My heart needs more than visual reminders of a people in need, my heart needs compassion for those people, an ache of love and longing only available through the righteousness given to me through Christ.

Because of Him I am a new creation and because of that I am Holy and Dearly loved and am able to put on a compassionate heart (Colossians 3)

Without the compassion shown to me over and over again from my dear Heavenly Father, I would have no ability to show compassion to another and compassion is a key ingredient when praying for the needs of another.  Compassion fuels your heart's ability to love, to sympathize, to want to help, to want to understand, and to know that there is Hope in the end because the compassion did not come from me it came from and through a Perfect Unfailing Love.  And when I try yet again to remember everything on my own and fail again when I forget everything on my own, that same compassion is what reminds me that I too am in need of the same love, and that I too have it unfailingly.

I don't know how you remind yourself to pray or who is on your heart full of desire to lift up, but I do know that you can't do it alone.

I am praying for compassion to make its way in.

Pray for me, I'll be praying for you.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

time won't heal

There is no desire to ease into conversation today.  There are occasions when before delving into the depths of a hard topic one will attempt to soften their audience, like the pleasantries exchanged in a phone call or meeting before the desired point is finally mentioned.  Then there are times when you are talking with someone so familiar that the hard and deep is what comes up first so that the way is cleared for the pleasant things to come at the end, if there's time, and if there's not no harm is done because you know conversation will be happening again soon.

You are my familiar friends, and though I love the pleasant that can come up, I am more resolved now to dive straight down.  Every word written and every post shared is in a desire to say things out loud. To give voice to distress, to longings, to hurts, to doubts, to love, to comforts, to peace, and to Hope, in a desire to encourage and let you know that you are not alone.  This remains true even if the audience is one person.  If just one understands God in a truer way, sees the love of Christ in a purer way, feels guidance from the Spirit in a more familiar way then it is a job satisfactorily done.  Just one sheep.  It's what Jesus said the shepherd would leave every other one for, if I can not be satisfied with the same then I am not following after Him.

Hurts have been center stage in many conversations with others recently yes in my life but also and mainly in the lives of many others.  Past ones resurfacing ripping open once thought-to-be-healed wounds leaving doubt and forcing reflection, present ones causing new wounds not delicately made, and the knowledge of future ones that will come because they are just impossible to avoid when certain life situations occur.  As no two lives are the same, no two hearts are the same and therefore no two hurts will be either, but the same Truths can be applied.  While the majority would always say they are rooting on the side of these same Truths, somewhere along the way we each may fall victim to the same lies as well.

For you and for me and for anyone else we come in contact with, lets talk about those lies, get them out in the open, shine the spotlight of grace straight into their ugly faces, and see Truth always instead of them.  Today there is a specific one I want under the heat of the lamp.

Time will not heal your wounds.

Though the saying has been around since the days of Chaucer, as he is the one credited for this somewhat well meaning string of words, it only takes a quick google search to see that while it is flippantly and maybe sometimes lovingly spoken to encourage or written in fancy script to decorate a wall, it--in my opinion and the opinion of many many others--is a lie that not only does not help but causes further hurt.

Time is only a manner in which we track how long a process is taking.  It aids our finite minds in keeping a count of the comings and goings of minutes, hours, days, months, and years.  Time on it's own produces nothing.  If we allow time to heal, what we are truly doing is sitting and waiting for a group of measurements to take away pain.  Believe me I understand what the saying means, but what I want to encourage you to do is look past a set of words strung together for a brief pick me up and instead focus deeper on what truly brings lasting healing.

When our bodies are scratched, bruised, and broken it does take time for them to heal but time is not what is healing them.  I have watched a cut on a finger more than once bleed, scab over, and then disappear as if never there.  Time did not heal that scratch. The amazing properties God gave our skin to replenish itself healed the mark.

If badly injured you wouldn't just wait for time to go by hoping for it to get better.  Waiting can cause your injury to become more severe.  Infections can set in, diseases can spread to others, symptoms can worsen, a small cold can progress into a life threatening illness if left untreated.  Letting time pass without assistance can do much damage.

Our hearts and spirits are the same way.

When we are wounded emotionally and spiritually, time will not heal our pain.  Rose Kennedy said, "It has been said, 'time heals all wounds.' I do not agree.  The wounds remain.  In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens.  But it is never gone."  

I am inclined to completely agree with her.  The mind will work that way, protecting itself, shoving things in boxes in the far corners, hiding hurts away, and if that is what continues the wound will never be gone, it will just stay hiding until something triggers it back to the forefront needing to be shoved once again into its perfectly labeled box.

However there is another way, the only way to have true healing, the only way to have the Hope promised to us; believing in, submitting before, and clinging onto the Gospel of Christ.

1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.

Please do not take this as a Sunday School answer, instead take it to heart just as if Peter himself was here speaking to you, pleading with you to not stay stuck in emotional hurts, to not doubt in the healing of your body physically, to not lose Hope in your heart spiritually. 
Jesus spent his life healing people's physical ailments so that he could get their attention and heal them spiritually as well.  He took care of bodies so that He could reach inside hearts. The heart is the place He wants more than any other.

We live in a world filled with hard, filled with bodies that are breaking down day by day, filled with hearts that are so lost and hurting that they hurt those around them as well, filled with believers and non believers alike who either don't know Hope or have lost sight of it.

Every life is different, every heart is different, every hurt is different, therefore every path to healing is different.

Rest assured, there is no timeline of healing.

One body or heart might take just a flash of a moment, one body or heart might take months and years of treatment or counsel, one body or heart might have to wait until they are no longer on this earth to fully receive the healing they desire.  There is no timeline of healing, but there is a sure Hope, there is a promise from a Creator who has never not even once broken one, that He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds and we can call out to Him and He will heal us and in our wait, no matter how long it may be, He upholds us with His righteous right hand.

Let time do what it was created to do, let it remind you that you are not where you were and you are not where you will be, that the present is just the present and a thousand of our days are a blink to the Designer of our lives.  Then Trust in the healing that comes from Him.  It is He alone that can do it.

It is quite a challenge to remember.  So...

Pray for me, I'm praying for you.