Monday, December 28, 2015

The Hot Sun

Frosty the snowman knew 
the sun was hot that day
So he said, Let's run and we'll have 
some fun now before I melt away.

A shift in the atmosphere can shift everything.
Frosty saw that “the sun was hot that day.”
And he knew...he knew the shape
of things was about to change.

I know this seems a far fetched Christmas analogy.
But that song somehow helped things make sense.
It's been a long challenging season of change.
I thought the "snowman thing" was going to last forever.
But seasons change. And so does the shape of life.
It looked one way. But the "hot sun" changed it up.
There's many of us in this season...
maybe a melting away of a dream,
relationship, career, community, hope.
Things look like they have melted away,
but really they're changing shape. 

If  the “hot sun” has changed things up,
we rejoice still. His goodness, His peace, 
His life come anew during this season.
In the shape of a babe, a Savior was born.
He is continually coming into the world;
He is continually changing the shape of things. 
It's called resurrection. 
The Easter promise born on Christmas day.

As seasons shift, the melted away things 
are not the end of the story. 
The entirety of hope came
in the shape of a babe.
And that changed the shape of everything.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Season of Grace

Get away with Me 
and you’ll recover your life...
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

I love this translation of Matthew 11:28.
We can learn the unforced rhythms of grace or 
live with the relentless demand of stress.
It’s our choice.

Getting quiet and hearing His voice
guide us to the rhythm of grace.
We can get used to the “push back,"
the stress that wants to force its way
into our lives. Every day.

Stress results from the tension that 
comes from living in this fallen world.
It’s how we can react to life’s challenges,
which come more often than we'd like.

The unforced rhythms of grace diffuse stress;
those rhythms help us recover our lives.

Being quiet helps our hearts beat 
in rhythm with grace.
Peace and grace spring from within, 
but they can’t help but flow out.
Maybe that’s what people are longing 
for this Christmas season--
incarnational grace and peace.
If we are ever to represent the gospel,
we must start there.

Becausemore than big screen TVs.
More than Black Friday deals.
More than discounted sheet sets.
People want to know that there is
mystery behind the swirl, 
something more than holiday frenzy.

It's not about saying "Merry Christmas."
It's about incarnating His grace, 
demonstrating His peace 
and expressing His love.
In the center of a world gone crazy,
He comes. Today as He did then.
It’s “the dawn of redeeming grace."

Let’s be that message this season.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

We Have Enough

"I am not being unfair to you, friend."
Matthew 20:13

In the parable of the vineyard workers,
those hired last received a full day’s wage.
When the owner called in those hired first,
they expected to be paid more.
They weren't, and they became discontent.

It appears they had been set up.
If they had been called in first,
they would have gone away satisfied.
But they were allowed to observe 
what the others received.

Oh, the problems that develop when
we look at what others get relative to us.
The employer could have made sure that
those workers didn’t see what the others got.
But he did it on purpose.
And hands that were content five minutes
earlier were suddenly discontent.  
In this day where everyone’s “blessings"
are posted and publicized,
we are often like those first hirelings.
Social media can set us up for comparison.
In the parable, comparison revealed the heart.
When we see the favor and blessings of others,
do we become discontent with our own scarcity?

“The opposite of scarcity is not abundance;
it is simply having enough."
Brene Brown, Rising Strong

This is a good season to remember that
we don’t need to have what others have;
we don't need to do what others do.
We have enough.

“He is not being unfair to us, friends."

Monday, November 23, 2015

Thanksgiving: Radically Defiant

Thanksgiving is a radically defiant day.
In the middle of a season defined 
by short days and long nights, by
things appearing to have lost all life,
by days that likely have seen 
pain, loss, and disappointment,
we sit around tables and give thanks--
for what we have and for who we have.
It is a symbolic day of declaration:
 grateful regardless of circumstances.
Sitting around the table being thankful
is a wonderfully defiant act.
Much in culture is the opposite of that spirit.
The new “pre-black Friday” trend, for example.
We step out of being grateful that our needs
have been satisfied to declaring that
our wants are found wanting.

Many say this is an attack on the family.
But even more it is an attack on gratitude,
on contentment, on peace.
No amount of “pre-black Friday” savings 
is worth compromising those.
Staying "seated" for an entire day
of Thanksgiving is such a good idea.

Whether we shop or don’t shop,
may we find ways to stay seated this season.
We cultivate thanksgiving in the quiet,
gratitude for the grace and mercy
He offers in abundance to all in need.
We never have to leave our place 
of rest to go in search of these.

"And always be thankful…" ~Col 3:15

Thursday, November 19, 2015

His Strength Equals My Days

And as your days are, 
so shall your strength, 
your rest and security, be.
~Deuteronomy 33:25

This promise assures us that we have
the right amount of strength for each day.
Strength is great, except that it often
comes through the doorway of weakness.
And although we know this verse by heart:
 “When I am weak, then I am strong,"
it is easier to recite than embrace. 
In reality, weakness often convinces
us that all is not well.

We can feel weakness creep in
when the valleys dont go away,
when drudgery seems insurmountable,
 when tasks are many and hours few,
when nothing looks like we thought,
when disappointment, failure, loss
or frailty overwhelm our hearts.

Our spirits must inform our minds that
appearances are not always honest.
There is strength for every day,
and not every day looks the same.
He has appropriated the right measure
of strength needed for each circumstance.
“As this day is, so will my strength be."
Oh my soul, trust Him in your weakness.
He has never let you down.
If you peek behind the wall of weakness, 
you find Him soldering together
strength, rest and security.
When these three are one, 
it looks a lot like peace.
We need some of that today.

His strength is fully grafted into this day.
My incredibly weak self finds
great peace in this gracious gift.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Living Breathing Light

His breath filled all things 
with a living, breathing light—
a light that thrives in the depths of darkness...
It cannot and will not be quenched. ~John 1:5

From the beginning, He was defined as light.
His breath filled, and continues to fill, 
all things with a living, breathing light.
Oh how dark it all seems sometimes.
But His light "thrives in the depths."

This is our hope today, a day where hearts
are grieving and minds are reeling from
senseless acts of darkness and evil.
The smallest amount of light will overtake
total and complete darkness.
Today, I have lit some candles to remind me
that His light is living and filling all things,
even things dark with depravity.
This light will never be quenched.

And they remind me to pray continually for 
all those affected by this horrific act of terror.
That His mercy, grace, and healing will fill
hearts with the knowledge of His love, 
a love that wins over hatred,
a love that wins over evil.

He came in darkness at the beginning.
He comes again today, filling all things
with a living, breathing light.
Lord Jesus, have mercy

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. 
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. ~MLK, Jr.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Extravagant Love

Observe how Christ loved us. 
His love was extravagant. 
He gave everything of Himself to us. 
Love like that.
Ephesians 5:2

When we strip it all away, 
the Christian life is about extravagant love.
As we enter this holy holiday season, 
I'm aware of how easily it gets
to be about everything else.
We can make everything out to be small
nit-picky pieces of things that don’t matter.
Like red cups and holiday words.

But it really is about extravagant love.
It’s about extravagant giving that has
little to do with money or material things, 
although love can, and often does, use both.

I understand the arguments about cups.
And maybe there is a bigger story.
But His love transcends all that; 
we have the Holy Spirit living in us.
As you love Me, I will love others through you.

Do I allow Him to love others through me?
No one is going into a certain coffee shop
to experience the love of Christ; 
that is not in their mission statement.
But Christians, filled with the Spirit,
can share that wherever we go.
We can show His love through a smile, through 
buying someone coffee, leaving a tip, giving a
sincere thank you, or a word of encouragement. 

Last holiday season, a woman
behind me in line bought my coffee.
It was’t that I needed her money.
But It had been a hard day,
and I sensed God smile at me through her.
I can't remember the design on my cup,
but I obviously remember the kindness
that pointed to His love for me. 

The one holding the cup has an ability 
to express the love that is Christmas.
It has nothing to do with the message 
or lack of message on the cup. 
It's about loving Him so that 
He might love others through us.

Let's argue about how to do that better. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Everyday Turbulence

"Hold me in Your arms and 
never let me go.
Show me that the storm
is already below.”
Alie Byland

Flying back from Jersey on a Saturday night,
the attendants were asked to be seated--
right in the middle of serving dinner. 
The pilot said, “There is a storm well below us,
but we may still hit some turbulence."
I am not a huge fan of flying,
and even less of turbulence, so I knew
I needed to find my place of peace.
Breathing in His presence and 
releasing anxiety helped me keep my focus.
It wasn’t long before the air was smooth again.

The next day, I heard the song above,
with the connection only 12 hours old.
The Lord reminded me that even when storms
are well below us, we may still feel the effects.
And they may produce an anxious heart.

Turbulence usually comes out of nowhere, 
in the middle of doing routine life.
Flying smoothly and then not so much.
It can be a few bumps or some serious rocking.
If we give in to fear, well, that can take over
pretty quickly. So we take our thoughts captive.
Taking our thoughts captive
is not a one-time thing.

Jesus helped the disciples with the waves;
He helped me with the wind.
"The wind and waves still know His name."
He always spoke in parables so that we
could make the application wherever it applied.
Not every minute of this day will be smooth.

The wind, the waves, the everyday 
moments of life…still know His name.
We steady our thoughts and keep our peace
while waiting for the turbulence to pass.
He is with us--
our great calm in the midst of any storm.

I will never leave you 
or let you be alone.

Hebrews 13:5

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Not the End

I love when November rolls around.
Our two month obsession with
Halloween is finally behind us.
I am not against Halloween.
Its just that in some ways, it feels like a
cultural celebration of death and darkness.

Even nature seems to join the celebration.
Flowers have withered and dried, and
once colorful leaves are turning brown
and dropping to the ground.
It looks like death is winning the day.

There are things in my own life seeming to 
mimic all this, dreams that seem to have 
withered and dropped to the ground.
But it’s important to remember that
darkness and death are not the end.
They are the signposts to rebirth.
And to the mystery of resurrection.
During this season, 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.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Longing for the Sea Again

If you want to build a ship,
don't drum up people to collect wood
and don't assign them tasks and work,
but rather teach them to long for
the endless immensity of the sea.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I sat in church yesterday, and 
I hadn’t been for a while.
Over the past year or two, our church 
has gone through many changes.
The pastors are gone, most of the people
are gone, and the sense of identity is gone.
I sat there, taking in the worship,
trying to figure out who I was in this place.

It’s devastating when community breaks.
These relationships were among
the most important that I had.
I got saved in this church, 
and right from the first saved breath, 
I knew that I loved Jesus so much.
And everything began out of our desire
to serve Him with all we had.
But at some point, the yearning for the sea
got snuffed out by ship building
and managing sailors.
We had some magnificent looking ships and
our sailors were top notch.
We played by the rules because rules
ensured success. If we do X, we will get Y.
And it was all looking pretty spectacular.

Until the curtain got pulled back.
And it became clear that it was 
looking more like the city of man
than the holy temple of God.
And it all came crashing down.

There is so much pain in crashing down
cities and ripping apart relationships.
But in the pain, God’s steady hand 
stayed extended. He held us tight. 
Can we get back to when this was really
about the love of the sea?

So as I stood there, I could still feel the pain 
of a community left in shambles. 
I stood there not knowing where I fit.
I stood there not even knowing IF I fit.
But I also stood there knowing that
it really didn’t matter.
Because God was leading us all
on a journey back to Himself.

And I looked around, grateful for
the faces that were still there.
They are solid extensions 
of the grace that is Christ.
God has allowed us to step away and
sort through the rubble of devastation.
He points to things that needed to come down.
And reminds me that unless He builds it,
its laborers work in vain.

And I breathe in gratefulness. And peace.
It doesn’t take away the pain.
But there is grace, and mercy,
and the faithfulness of Him who is bigger
than the circumstances of the past.
He reminds me that there is a
future and a hope as I follow Him.
We are getting ready to head out to sea.
And I can already smell the water and
feel the salt air on my face.
It is well with my soul.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

That Yellow Sign

I am becoming more aware of the need to
"life" my thoughts. Minute by minute.
I have found myself in drainage ditches 
a few too many times. 
And they are hard to get out of.

Every day, thoughts fly at us. 
I watch how quickly batters must decide  
how to handle 100 mph pitches flying at them. 
They practice that over and over. 
They figure out what’s not working,
 making adjustments to get it right.

Often my thoughts come at me like that. 
Just this morning, not awake all that long,
I identified a battle with discouragement, 
comparison, and disappointment. 
Not big battles. Just a thought or two 
that flew in to greet the day. 
I realized I needed to do some adjusting. 
It comes down to fixing our thoughts on 
things that are true, beautiful, gracious. 
These are not our go-to thoughts, 
so we have to practice. Over and over. 
There's change-ups and curve balls.
We have to identify what's coming.
And make adjustments.

Our health depends on handling 
speeding fast thoughts. 
We have to practice like it matters-- 
because it really does.
My health recently took a hit, and
I'm convinced it was partially because I allowed
my thoughts to drive fear for many years.

The Holy Spirit holds this sign up every day.
“Keep out. Drainage Ditch."
I am trying to hear in yellow that I might
choose wisely from here on out.
His mercies are able to make all things new.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Breathing Prayer

"There are days, or nights,or long stretches 
of weeks or months or even years,
when breathing is the only prayer we’ve got.”
Deidra Riggs, A Holy Experience

I wish I hadn’t needed to write this
down the minute I read it.
It would have meant that it didn't
resonate with every part of me.
But it did and I did.

I used to know that there were
long stretches of days, even weeks
that required deep breathing.
But recently I have come to realize that
those stretches can become years.
And even more recently,
I am okay with that.

I used to feel guilty that I am still
in the midst of a breathing season.
When moving through challenging seasons,
part of you keeps insisting that you
move on and get over it.
And you have to do both to move forward.
But that’s not the whole point.

Sometimes God is engineering changes
in our DNA that requires time and trust.
All we can do is surrender to the season
and breathe our way through transition.
However long that takes.
He works in my darkness and in my silence
to bring His great light and peace.
He is changing me in the deepest places, 
and breathing deeply is my surrender
to all He is doing.

I echo the prayer and declaration in one of 
the greatest worship songs ever written:

Let me breathe the air of heaven.
I will live this life through Your eyes.
When I come I won't be a stranger,
for You have kept my life
in the way of the Lord.
"Air of Heaven," Jay Hallstrom

Monday, September 28, 2015

More Time Than We Thought

About two years ago, I wrote a post
about a season of tearing down,
a tearing down that needed to happen,
but one that would effect so many things
that I had invested my life in for many years.
I wrote that tearing down takes time.
Today, almost two years later, I am somewhat 
in disbelief that the process is still not over.

And in addition to things still in tear down,
other things have simply been in transition.
Change, like growth, happens slowly--
until one day we see that
everything looks different.

Tear downs and transitions can make us
feel disoriented because what we have
always known is no longer the same.
Whether its a change in our community,
relationships, family, health, or finances,
it takes time to allow new forms to emerge.
Regeneration is a slow process.

I compare my two years to Josephs ten,
and I cant fathom what he went through.
And God used it all for Joseph's good.
My focus has to be locked on Gods goodness.
What I choose to focus on is 
the most important decision I make
every single day.

Through tearing down and building up, 
through familiar and transition seasons,
He is always good.
This hope is the anchor for our souls,
keeping us safe even when 
the waves are tossing us back and forth.
We who have run for our very lives to God
have every reason to grab the promised hope
with both hands and never let go.
Hebrews 6:18 

There are many things we need to let go
as we move through change and transition.
Every day I need to make sure
I never confuse the things I hold onto
and the things I let go.
This promised hope that God gives
is one we grab on to for dear life.
What are my hands holding onto