Monday, November 25, 2013

Valued and Cherished

Brennan Manning wrote much about
the transforming power of God’s love.
But he also wrote the following:

"This marvelous revelation [of love] 
will fall on ears that do not hear 
and eyes that do not see,
unless some other human beings
refresh the weariness of my defeated days.
We can only sense ourselves and
our world valued and cherished by God,
when we feel valued and cherished by others."
Glimpse of Jesus

Oh, the thousands of times that
friends have refreshed the weariness
of my defeated days!
We all have days where we feel
just a little bit beat up,
a little discouraged, a little down,
a little hopeless, a little like giving up.
Some days not so little.

I am so grateful that God promises never
to leave me and that He is there always.
On those days I can cry out to Him, 
and He brings that sense of peace 
in the midst of the storm.
But while I know this is always true,
I sometimes haven't been able
to sense that presence.
There are times that I have been 
overwhelmed and fearful.
Defeated days.
On those days, God graciously gave me
the gift of being refreshed by others,
extensions of His love, grace and mercy.
I am eternally grateful for those
who have been Christ to me. 

We have the power to make someone’s life better.
Without any cost, we can offer the gift of kindness,
the gift of encouragement, the gift of compassion.
We can say to someone, though our words and deeds,
“You are so important and I treasure you.”
Relationships are an eternal reward that
we get to build in our temporal world.

Let us think of ways to motivate
 one another to acts of
love and good words.
Hebrews 10:24

As we consider how to motivate one another,
let us remember the power of our words,
the power of kindness, compassion, forgiveness,
mercy, grace and love.
Let us intentionally let others know that 
they are valued and cherished by God.
want to see treasure all around me
in an even greater way.
Because what we treasure,
we value and cherish.
By valuing and cherishing others,
we can refresh the weariness
of defeated days
and point others towards
the love of God.
Our great privilege of living loved--
by God and others.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Perfectly Hidden, Always Here

The major themes of the Bible can be
expressed as adjectives.
"God is consistently seen to be:
merciful, gracious, faithful, forgiving
and steadfast in love." ~ Walter Brueggemann

These words aren't a scriptural address or 
parts of verses for memorization.
They are attributes seen by revelation,
and revelation is only gained as we
forge through life looking to see Christ.
We all have stories of loss, pain, trial--
things not working out like we hoped.
These are times when you don't care
about the different definitions of grace.
These are the times when all you want to know
is that God IS grace and to find that 
His hand is extended towards you.

You go from wanting to do everything right
so that God will love you
to knowing that nothing you will ever do
can cause God to love you more.
Because you have nothing left and
His steadfast love is haunting you.
And a shift takes place in your heart
that requires you to stop and receive
from this God of steadfast love.
It takes time. And life unraveling.
And the pieces coming back together
in ways you hadn't anticipated--
and often in ways you had not wanted.

You begin to sit down in the Beattitudes,
not because you are Christian and you should,
but because you are desperate and you must.
Happy are the poor in spirit, the humble,
who count themselves insignificant,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
All you know is poverty and insignificance,
but this  time it does not disqualify you.
You recognize you have been given a gift.
Because His mercy is haunting you.
You are on a journey, not to arrive at truth,
but to experience truth 
in a way that transforms you--
to be more like HIm, to be more His.
That which you have sought most
is that which you have always had.
"I am always with you."
He is perfectly hidden, and
the circumstances of your life 
are revealing His hiding places.

God, You are using my life to reveal
Your mercy, grace, faithfulness, 
forgiveness and love.
You are always with me.
You are always good.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

His Story

We are assured and know that all things
work together and fit into a plan for good 
for those who love God and are called 
according to His design and purpose.
Romans 8:28

This is bedrock, solid foundation,
for how we tell our narrative.
There is a God who walks with us
and has a plan involving good for us.
It is according to His design and purpose.
That is the thesis of our story.

For many, there is a fearful, awesome 
and beautiful collision taking place,
a collision involving reality and truth.
It is a collision of narratives.
There is the godless narrative that
even Christians get wrapped up in.
It is the story of life happening, 
things not turning out like we planned, 
of loss and death and pain.
It is the story of accumulating things
and going at break-neck speed,
and reaching and grasping and hoping
that it will all turn out ok in the end.

And then there is the narrative 
involving Yahweh, the God of creation,
the Holy Trinity--Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
not only witnessing the formation of the earth,
but actively present in every now moment.
We are familiar with this story;
we even bank all that we are on its truth.
But sometimes we get caught in the other.
For this one to be the dominant narrative,
we have to strip away all the false ideas
and the striving and the doing and 
the fear and the masquerading.
Because for many of us, 
these have become our reality.

But He is drawing us to Himself so that
we stop switching between narratives,
at least less than we once did.
When standing in the pressing tension
of what we thought and what actually is,
in the midst of feeling unworthy, angry,
shameful, discouraged and sad--
God says to us, "See, I am here in your midst."
Our union with Him becomes more important
than anything else we see.
We place Him back at the center of our story.
Which makes our story different and
helps others see their story differently.
"All things working together for good."
Even when things are really hard.

This world doesn't need doctrinal debates
or switchback narratives.
They need narrators that tell the story of a God
actively and benevolently involved in now.
A God who has a plan to work 
all things together for good.
A God whose motivation is love.
Because at His very core, He IS love.

"You can either keep digging the channel
or find the actual spring and let it flow
toward you, in you, and from you."
St. Theresa of Avila

He is our life source
and He is always good.
His life and His goodness
become our source of life.
And for everyone our lives touch.
That is the cry of my heart.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

SEE, I am with You

Sometimes we leave a comfortable place
and set out on a journey,
unsure where we are headed.
Whether we are aware or not,  
it is often a response to our heart's cry 
to find our true identity.

Jacob was on such a journey when he
left his homeland in search of a wife.
He wan't on some grand spiritual journey,
nor was he sojourning out of revelation.
He was doing life one step at a time.

He had walked about 40 miles when 
he came to a "certain place;'
he stayed because "the sun was down."
Sometimes our decisions are not spiritual ones. 
But it just so happened that years earlier, 
his grandfather Abraham had built 
an altar to the Lord right at that place. (12:8)
The Lord was already waiting there,
leading him all the way.
There is often way more taking place
than what we know.

The Lord appeared in a dream saying,
See, I am with you...
Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, 
“Surely the Lord is in this place 
and I didn't know it.”
Filled with awe, he said, 
“This place is so different! 
This is the gate of heaven.”
Genesis 28:17-18

We journey until we get to a "certain place,"
usually the place where we are 
just plain tired and at the end of ourselves.
It is at this "certain place" that God waits for us.
He says to us, "See, I am with you."
We have time to actually SEE that He is with us.
When we do, "the place becomes different."
It becomes "the gate of heaven."
This is the journey I am on.
It doesn't always feel all that spiritual.
Some days I am just putting 
one foot in front of the other.
But I desire to encounter Him
and hear Him say, "See I am with you."
I want to be so filled with awe
that "the place becomes different."
I trust that the Lord is leading the entire way.
He is both with me and waiting for me.
There is way more taking place
than what I know.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

A Time to Tear Down

A time to tear down, 
and a time to build up...
Ecc 3:3

We have a wooded area close to our home that
has had a subdivision notice posted for a long time.
Last month, they began clearing the property.
A bulldozer came in and ripped out every tree
and began leveling out the hilly landscape.
Every time I drove by, I lamented on how 
it was all being destroyed.
How it just looked ugly.
My daughter posted this picture on Instagram
and commented that sometimes 
you have to destroy before you can build.
It's the season many of us are in.
It's taking everything in me to keep that picture up 
and not replace it with something that looks 
less like destruction.
But we are not there yet.

Sometimes you have to allow God time
to break things down and tear them apart.
It is not always because the thing is bad;
it's that God is doing something new.
When God is doing a new thing, 
the old may simply be in the way.

But tearing down doesn't feel contextual.
During the process, it feels raw.
It can feel frightening and confusing.
Because it has always looked this way.
And now the familiar is being taken away.
We have to find a way to process the tearing.
Because tearing down doesn't feel good.

When all the contrasting seasons are listed,
there is no mention of a time to trust 
and a time to doubt and fear.
Whatever season we are in,
it is always a time to trust.
The time for building up will come,
I remind my heart and tell it to 
keep steady and keep trusting 
in His goodness and unfailing love.

Even when I must walk through
the darkest valley,

I will not be afraid,
You are close beside me.

Your rod and your staff reassure me.
Surely Your goodness and unfailing love
will pursue me all the days of my life…

This psalm is His eternal word of hope 
and it is more than enough
to hold us in this season.
Through the tearing down and 
the building up,
He is always good.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Like a Diamond

“When we are no longer able to 
change a situation, 
we are challenged to 
change ourselves.” 
~Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning

There are times when it is 
completely obvious that we are 
flat-out outta control.
We cannot change a thing 
no matter how hard we try.
We are in some sort of chaortic swirl and
all we know is that God is in control.
He is moving us to another place, 
a higher place, a place of growth.
After a whole lot of pressure.

God uses pressure to create, 
and everything He creates is beautiful.
When pressure is applied to carbon 
deep beneath the earth,
the diamond is formed.
God is continually at work to press us
into a greater likeness of His image.
If He is love,
then we are to be love as well.
It is not our natural formation.
Sometimes, the only way 
to get to a new place 
is to go through a time of pressure. 
If we endure, we emerge into a place 
of maturity and greater insight 
into the purpose God has for us.  
The pressure will have been worth it all.
Let it [pressure] do its work so you become 
mature and well-developed. 
James 1:3, 4
Lord, You are always in control.
I look to You and trust that
You are creating something beautiful
 as You apply pressure in 
the deep places of my heart.
Once again, I choose to look
from Your perspective.
To trust Your goodness.
Your goal is to change us 
to become more like You.
You are creating something beautiful,
something that looks a lot more like love.

Image: morganelizabethgilbert