Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Ladders to Nowhere

For most of us, life involves a ladder.
We are goal oriented and 
reaching our goals involves climbing.
We think that if we just climb fast enough, 
we will eventually get to the top.
The enemy has constructed 
that matrix to keep us moving.
At the top, just beyond our view, 
 is another ladder propped up 
against another wall.
There is really nothing at the top.

It is like running a race and thinking 
the end is just ahead, only to realize 
it's just a bend in the road and
the end is nowhere in sight.
Discouragement sucks the strength 
out of our legs and the desire to run 
gets completely drained.

This isn’t about corporate ladder climbing.
It is about the cultural message 
which molds our thinking.
Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow.
But the message deeply imbedded 
into our being is centered around
our daily to-do lists, our five-year goals 
and our 10-year plans.

There is a communion taking place 
in the deepest places of the heart
that is not vertical in reach.
Deep calls to deep in the 
still waters of our soul.
And we often can’t hear it.
Because we are not sitting, quietly listening;
we are climbing, furiously reaching for places
which become more elusive as we go.
It's not like I have never thought about this.
There are times that I consciously
step off the ladder.
But I find myself stepping back on
more often than I want to admit,
by distraction and through habit.
I want to unlearn my climbing habits.
I want to sit down in still waters and listen.
Deep is always calling to deep,
and I want to be present in the exchange.
I don't want to miss a thing.

Lord, have mercy.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Not Going to be Moved

But none of these things move me.
Acts 20:24
The Holy Spirit had told Paul that 
he would face trouble wherever he went.
He said, "none of those things move me."
He told the church leaders to 
"remember God and the word of His love, 
which is able to make you strong and 
give you what you are to have."

I so want to be one who is immovable.
I am learning the difference between 
responding to life's joys and challenges
with real thoughts and emotions 
and being immovable in my posture of trust.
Being immovable doesn't mean that
I won't be moved in a general sense.
It means I won't be moved out of peace.

The enemy has pointed out that I am 
not good at keeping unmovable.
But God has assured me that 
it has little to do with emotion
and everything to do with posture.
He has been assuring me that 
He doesn't care if I bob on choppy waters.
He cares whether I trust the anchor, 
knowing it will not let me move 
beyond the tug of His reach.
As I meditate on these things,
the anchor holds me firmly in place.
A little bobbing on choppy waters
is just a normal response to 
the winds of life that rush through.
I will not be moved.
The waters are a bit choppy now and
the winds of life are coming in gusts.
I just may need to say this 
more than once.
His love meets my declaration
every single time.
He will not let me go.


Monday, October 28, 2013

Trusting the Paradox

Those who receive God’s 
overflowing kindness and 
the gift of His approval 
will reign in life.
Romans 5:17

Those who receive will...reign in life.
I am convinced this is one of the more
powerful promises the Lord gives to us.
The life in this verse isn't about breathing.
We don't reign by simply breathing.
We reign by allowing the life of Christ
to truly come alive in us through the Holy Spirit.

If we are to be those set apart, 
shining a light in the darkness, 
 a city set on a hill, 
then we must know how to reign in life.
We must know that God has equipped us
for the everyday, practical, 
feet-on-the-floor kind of living.
It is not talking about religious ideas,
or spending an hour each week in church,
or getting saved and going to heaven.

People are looking to see whether we are real.
They are looking to see how we handle "difficult."
How do we handle betrayal, rejection, offenses?
What do we do when it all looks broken?
Reigning in life is knowing how to resolve conflict,
solving problems that have no natural solutions,
 keeping marriages together that look hopeless,
leading by serving and laying down our lives,
staying in the game when we appear to be losing,
trusting that mercy triumphs over judgment.

I don't know that we can really know 
what it means to reign in life
until we have come to a place where
our natural self is no longer able to reign.
Where it looks like maybe 
loss is greater than gain,
and death is stronger than life.
Jesus tells us the most paradoxical
and counterintuitive truths:
we find when we lose
and we live when we die.
In this place, we must fall upon the mercy, 
forgiveness and grace of God.
Our only other option: simply breathing.
His arms catch us in our fall upward,
 and we are free to let Him
love us and live His life through us.
Reigning begins in this most
uncomfortable place of weakness.
May we recognize that our 
sense of loss and death
is actually the pathway to reigning life.
There is a raw reality confronting us,
asking us if we will trust the paradox.
Loss and death are not the end of the story.
Those who receive His kindness and 
overflowing love will reign in life.

Arise, Jerusalem, and shine like the sun;

The greatness of the Lord is shining on you!
Other nations will be covered by darkness,

But the Lord will shine on you;

The brightness of His presence 
will be with you.
Isaiah 60: 1,2

Thursday, October 24, 2013

According to His Greatness

Sometimes breaking out of the familiar
can awaken our hearts.
I stumbled upon a couple of verses in the 
1899 edition of the Douay Rheims Bible that
captured my attention and refreshed me with truth.

Thou lovest all things which Thou made: 
O Lord, who lovest souls,
how good and sweet is Thy spirit!
Book of Wisdom 11:23, 24

For according to His greatness,
so also is His mercy with Him.
Sirach 2:23

I have been desperate to know in a deeper way
that "He loves all things which He hast made,"
 "His spirit is good and sweet,"
and "His greatness equals His mercy."

These days, I am finding myself at 
challenging intersections of
"the way I always thought it would be" 
and "the way that it is."
These two scenarios can be 
just a bit off center or galaxies apart.
They have the ability to rock our world.
The Bible is full of men and women
who confronted this same reality--
and we can draw great encouragement
from their struggle and doubt.
They weren't always victorious along the way.
But we know that God was.

Whether God intended things to be 
the way they are or not, 
He will use our circumstances to train us.
There are facets of His character that 
we can only get to know as
we dismantle all the scaffolding,
all the props and false securities.
Where we no longer have to 
prop up, protect or promote.
In this place of vulnerability,
we can grow in our knowledge of HIm.
Growth is the defining mark of life,
and growing in our knowledge of Him
is the most important growing we do.
Knowing God results in every 
other kind of understanding. ~Prov 9:10
I am in need of some understanding today.

In His great mercy, He is leading us
into the knowledge of His goodness.
Sometimes the appearance of goodness
gets taken away that we might
recognize the eternal goodness of
the One who is forever leading us, 
forever loving us,
forever with us.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Not the End

As a culture, we are drawn to darkness.
The dark and the dead grab our attention.
Our two month obsession over the holiday 
we call halloween confirms this,
with revenues expected to be over $10 billion.
The haunted house industry, costumes,
yard decorations, party supplies,
horror, zombie, vampire books and movies
all contribute to this 
cultural celebration of darkness.

Even nature has mimicked the theme.
Summer flowers are withered and dried,
and once colorful leaves have turned brown
and dropped to the ground.
It looks like death has won the day.

It is actually part of human nature to be 
comfortable with darkness and death.
After Jesus was buried, the three women
went to His tomb "while it was still dark."
They were not afraid to go into a tomb in the dark.
But it says that when they found Him gone,
"they fled trembling, bewildered and frightened."

Resurrection is mystery.
It is so important that we remember
darkness and death are not the end.
They are the signposts to rebirth.
While our culture is currently glorifying death,
the Lord is wrapping every dead looking thing
in light, declaring over it, "Not the end."
Whether it is a dead looking tree
or a dead looking dream,
He comes to remind us that
everything is about resurrection.
Within the dead looking thing
lies the mystery of what will yet be.
It is not the end.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Drainage Ditches

Every day, we navigate between the things
that drain us and the things that replenish us.
Our health--both spiritual and physical--
is contingent upon how much time
we spend in each of those areas.

Paul boasted of things that 
drained him of his strength:
dangers, hunger and thirst, lashings, 
sleeplessness, extreme cold.
After all these extreme hardships, he says,
Then, besides all this, I have 
the daily burden of my concerns...
2Corinthians 11:28

The big drainers are obvious.
If we are under a lot of pressure,
if we are in a high stress season,
if we are sick or sleep deprived, 
we are well aware our strength gets drained.
But, "Beside all this...I have daily concerns."
It's those daily concerns that can get us.
If we aren't careful of how we manage those,
we wind up drained, weary and discouraged.
If those things just came with a warning sign.
Well, actually, they do.
The Holy Spirit warns us continually 
to keep out of drainage ditches:
talking negatively, thinking critically,
meditating on tomorrow's problems,
contemplating the "what ifs" of today, 
embracing the lies that parade as truth,
judgments, self-focus, unforgiveness...
The bad and ugly meet us every day.

Paul knew how to stay out of drainage ditches.
You’ll do best by filling your minds with 
things true, noble, reputable, authentic, 
compelling, gracious—
the best, not the worst; 
the beautiful, not the ugly; 
things to praise, not things to curse. 
Phil 4:8

Paul said that he "learned" contentment.
Those kinds of thoughts aren't our "go-to's."
I want to "learn" to replenish myself regardless
of what daily burdens or concerns confront me.
I usually can't control my circumstances,
but I can choose to keep out of the drainage ditch.
Your own ears will hear a voice saying,
This is the way you should go. Walk in it!

The Lord leads me with unfailing love and faithfulness.
Psalm 25:10

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

His Love is the Answer

Why am I discouraged?

Why is my heart so sad?

Each day the Lord pours 
His unfailing love upon me.   
Psalm 42:5,6
The unfailing love of God 
answers every question. 
When I don't have the answers, 
I can choose to trust Him. 
Through the years, my life 
has proven Him faithful.
He can do no other.
His name is LOVE.
His name is not like ours,
but a name that describes, designates
and defines His very essence.
When I question my purpose,
my choices, my decisions, my value,
my gifting, my ability, my future, my...
His love is my answer.
He says to me, 
I am love and 
you are the object of that love.
The end.

The psalmist honestly describes himself
as feeling discouraged and sad.
These feelings may temporarily describe us;
they are only wrong if we let them define us.
He concludes with "I will put my hope in God."
He repeats it all over again in Psalm 43.

Sometimes our doubts keep cropping up
and our declarations need repetition.
I can think to myself, "Why don't I just get this?"
And I look to the psalms.
They didn't always just get it either.
But they always found their answer in HIm.
The unfailing love of the Lord
is the answer to my every question.
Today is yet another day to 
prove Him trustworthy.
The steadfast love of the Lord
never ceases.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

He Will Never Leave You

I will not in any way fail you 
nor leave you without support. 
I will not, I will not, I will not 
in any degree let you down or 
relax My hold on you! 
Assuredly not!
Hebrews 13:5

A simpler version says:
I will never leave you 
or let you be alone.

Oh, that this truth would ever be with me.
His simple promises are our life.
He is with us.
I can forget this a thousand times a day.
He will remind me a thousand and one.
His mercy and His faithfulness
do not keep count of my forgetfulness.
He is always with me;
He is always speaking to me.
In case I would ever not get that, 
God identified Him as the Word.
His Voice not only permeates all space,
but it subtlety brushes across every face.
If we are still enough to know His presence.
Be still and know that I am with you.

He is with us when we 
celebrate blessing, enjoy victory, 
discover how to love and live in peace.
But also when, especially when, we face trials,
encounter sorrow, walk disconnected, 
hold our breath, decipher our darkness,
struggle to discern truth from lies.
His goodness and unfailing love
pursue us all the days of our lives.
Open up you ancient gates
that the King of Glory may come in. 

Each day is opportunity to allow 
heaven to intersect with earth--in us.
We are the living temples,
the jars of clay,
hosting the presence of our God.
He will never ever leave us alone.
There is no greater hope a person can have.
The Lord hears His people 
when they call to Him for help.
He has heard my cry for mercy.
The Lord is my strength and shield.
I trust Him with all my heart.

He is with me.
This great promise is my life.