Sunday, December 26, 2010

God IS My Co-Pilot

I have to admit I don't like the bumper sticker that says "God is my co-pilot." It makes me think that I'm in charge and God is passively sitting there as a helper or the back up plan. This rubs my theology of Him being sovereign and omnipotent all wrong. However, last week my oldest daughter got her driver's permit and that has given me a new view of "co-pilot." Since I'm the experienced driver she constantly checks in with me as she's driving for instruction, encouragement, directions as to where to go, advice on how to handle a new situation, etc. I also am speaking wisdom into her regularly as the need arises, or even when it doesn't because I love her and want what's best for her and enjoy sharing our relationship with a new adventure/skill.

I guess if you view us as children of God having a new driver's permit in this skill called life, we sure need a co-pilot to love, guide, teach, comfort and encourage us!! We better live in constant communication hence we crash or get lost!! Now that makes a sovereign God a co-pilot because He longs for us to come to Him to show the way!! He's not the back-up plan, but the Author of THE Plan of Life and I am blessed when I listen and follow Him--He is the way, the truth and the life!!

SHINE--Calling and Timing

In reading the Christmas story in Luke this December, I was struck by many things...mostly relating to calling:
  • God's tenderness to Mary in taking time to explain what He was up to by sending Jesus through her (God choosing her calling based on who He had made her to be and communicating it to her)

  • Mary's response to God--abandoned trust (surrender to the call out of love for Him)

  • Elizabeth's miraculous pregnancy so the two women could encourage one another when the world may not have understood God's hand on their lives (comradery in the midst of the call)

  • Zechariah declaring that his son, John, would be called a prophet of the Most High (another calling that took decades to fulfill)
As Christians scripture teaches we have been called of God to know Him, to live for Him, to be transformed into people of His kingdom in this fallen declare He reigns basically! However, as seen in the Christmas story there is also a specific calling placed on our lives. One that only each individual can fulfill. The calling is unique and speaks to your heart...only you and God can wrestle through what it is that He is prompting. We can try different things but ultimately a picture will weave together that thrills your heart, is based on some gifting or set of experiences and honestly will feel bigger than yourself---think of virgin Mary, barren Elizabeth and the infant John! This is where we MUST draw increasingly near Him who is the giver and blesser of the call and not just focus on the call (or it becomes self seeking or a quick trip to burnout). We need Him desperately so we journey with Him to be refined, encouraged and refreshed, to grow in trusting Him, to seek His counsel, to see how He raises up comrades to accomplish the calling, etc. Don't expect others to always understand your calling as it might not be written in their hearts. That's ok, we should celebrate all the expressions of His Spirit. Here are some examples of callings I've seen in others lives: adoption of special needs children, gardening to provide fresh vegetables for others and spacious places for others to refresh, leading small groups to walk with God, helping others to decorate their homes within a tight budget so their dreams can be fulfilled, spoken or written words that encourage, teach or strengthen, leading others in worship, being a prayer warrior, hosting exchange students...To accomplish your calling means you need to be aware of it, fight for it and honestly guard it, in the sense of saying no to opportunities that might compete for time and energy in order to be available for that which God is doing in and through you.

So being aware of calling is half the story. The other half is timing!! John is a great example of this. His father prophesied his calling (Luke 1:76-77) at his birth which means he was probably aware of it his WHOLE life--what pressure! Yet what I find interesting is Luke 1:80 "And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel." Much can be gleaned regarding calling, the most important of which is preparation. John grew--physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. He became strong in spirit--I have to assume this means communed deeply with God as the true source of strength. He grew up in an odd place, the desert! However, this allowed him to be single focused and matured---walking with God in harsh conditions I'm sure did much for his heart regarding trusting God for sustenance, protection and companionship (remember his parents were very old when he was born, so its likely they died and he was living in the desert alone). John was willing to be trained in the desert and WAITED for God's timing to fulfill his calling. Luke 3:2-3 says, "during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John...He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins."

At the right time God prompted John to get going and how to fulfill his calling. So John went out with God's authority at the prefect time and started offering his prepare the way of the Lord! The harsh years in the desert prepared his character and relationship with God to help him stand in a hostile culture and offer salvation. Praise God for his calling, his waiting, his obedience, his offering, his message and ultimately the salvation that comes through Jesus...the whole point of a calling--that Jesus would be lifted high and others drawn to Him so His victorious kingdom advances one heart at a time, one offering at a time, one calling at a time in HIS timing!

What or who has God placed on your heart?? Ask Him...wait upon Him...then "arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you! (Is. 60:1) The darkness desperately needs your Light, His Light in you, freely and uniquely offered!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Emmanuel, God With Us

At Christmas time we hear a lot about "Emmanuel, God with us" and pictures of a helpless babe in a manger come to mind. Jesus, while born a baby and living a full life among humans thousands of years ago, is still alive among us because He is resurrected and ascended to the right hand of the Father. This should make a difference in our hearts when we pray. I've realized I come to God with requests for needs, change, confession and for His kingdom to advance. BUT I now see how I come to Him for things that seem positive or need His help, however I haven't had much history in coming to Him hurting. I kind of hide my emotions from Him if they are "negative". Wow, how fake for me to not treat Him as though He is with me, near me, seeing me, His Spirit living in me. I distance myself when I'm hurt, confused or mad and try to rationize the situation I'm I need to understand and get myself in order then I can come back to Him. He didn't go anywhere; it is me that withdraws out of pride, trusting myself to figure stuff out and honestly unsure what to do about feelings. Oh, the effects of the fall are so evident!!

One time I had DEEP disappointment, anger and deep sadness in my heart when a ministry opportunity that had been a 4 year dream of mine took a turn for the unexpected and died. I honestly didn't know what to do about my emotions and stuffed them. They drove me crazy!! I tried repenting but somehow that didn't give the relief I needed because I kept carrying the situation close to my heart. Then breakthrough came when I let my hurting, disappointed heart be real with God. I basically had a 2 year old temper tantrum in a woods (where no one could see!!). I screamed, cried and all out expressed the emotions in my heart to God. It felt very weird, yet liberating. He is soooo infinite and amazing that He could handle all the pent up feelings that were tormenting my soul. The SHOCK to me was the all out joy that filled my heart afterward. I was laughing hysterically for a few minutes. He is so good to redeem everything we give to Him. Who would want to live without a Savior, a Comforter, a Counselor, a Constant Companion, a Father, a Healer...Thank you God for Christmas, God's gift of Himself.

Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:30

May JOY unspeakble be yours as you draw near Him who is with us, Emmanuel.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Last night was fitful sleep for me due to thoughts/accusations that kept running in my head. The trouble with vague accusations is that they have a hint of truth in them, but are intensified so that you believe them to be true and become entangled in them or living under them. It is not apparent at first what is true and what is not. However, a tree is known by its fruit---if heaviness, hopelessness, discouragement, etc. are the product then its a poisoned tree as the source (from the enemy). If there is lightness of spirit, hopeful, quick conviction that brings peace with repentance or any of the fruits of the spirit, the thoughts are from the true vine/tree (from God).

Last night I realized there was heaviness and identified the lie that was coming my way. I rebuked the messages in Jesus' name and asked God to give me peace. I also prayed for His kingdom to come in the areas I was being accused in. Peace did come eventually and I got some sleep and woke up with hope.

When I prayed at night, a picture of a toy called a transformer came to mind. These toys are kind of scary looking robots that can be bent and reshaped into something less terrifying, even useful like a car or plane. Its a step by step process that changes the ugly creature into the useful design. So it is with our hearts and minds. Its a step by step process to embrace what God says over what the flesh, the world and the enemy have trained us to believe. We are only transformed if new ground is gained, as we take dark, heavy thoughts captive and replace them with truth--to ultimately become who we were designed to be. I've noticed the arrows seem to come right before God is going to really work in your life--truly it is darkest right before the light comes--we must stand firm, knowing there is victory in Jesus and His kingdom is advancing.

"You were taught with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." Ephesians 4:22-24

There is a battle in our minds which control our attitudes and identity and ultimately our destiny. May you fight the good fight wielding the weapons God has given us and experience peace, joy and victory one thought at a time!!! "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be TRANSFORMED by the renewing of your mind." Romans 12:2

Dare to be a transformer!

Thursday, December 9, 2010


I love the Newsboys song "SHINE". In fact it has motivated me to step out for God at times when I've been hesitant in my heart. Several times when I've been on my way to speak at a retreat, God has allowed that song to play on the radio as an encouragement. Oh how well He knows me and encourages me!

I was on a personal retreat last month and ran into Zechariah 9:16, 17 "The LORD their God will save them on that day as the flock of his people. They will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown. How attractive and beautiful they will be!"

Since it is winter AND Christmas time, I've been inundated with seeing sparkly things---snowflakes, Christmas lights and ornaments, etc. Somehow they really catch my eye and are giving a little thrill to my heart. There is one ornament on my Christmas tree that moves slightly when the heat is on and pushes it back and forth--on our whole tree filled with 100's of ornaments that compete for attention, that is the one that attracts my eye at that moment due to the shimmer and movement. This is how I want to live my life--with the warmth of my savior that motivates my activity so that He might Shine through me---to sparkle in this land.

Hoping the presence of His warmth fills you and moves you to SPARKLE!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

God Is A Security Camera

This year my daughter and I ventured out on "Black Friday" for the first time. I was thrilled to buy the last special deal at Target--a Tom Tom GPS at over $100 off. I bought it for Chuck, so excited to have a huge surprise for him and at a DEAL! A week later, Chuck bought one online at an even better deal so I was forced to return my gift (still smirking that it must have been a great idea if both of us bought one!) I had 4 returns total to make at Target. The next day, I looked at the receipt from the return and realized the Tom Tom was not on the receipt, therefore I had no refund. I wasn't sure what to do...I began shaming myself for not looking at the receipt right away thinking there was no way the store would believe me without concrete evidence and the passage of time...I thought I would just have to eat the cost. It seemed only I REALLY knew the truth. I felt stuck. Surely the lady doing the return would remember my story and vouch for me---this gave me courage to at least call the manager although I didn't know how or why he would even believe me. His answer was simple...bring in my receipt and they will call up the film from the security camera from that time...if what they see on the tape matches my story, they will give me my money back. I always thought security cameras were to protect stores from profit loss, but I see now that its a two way street, they also protect customers from mistakes on the store's end also!! So today, I'm off to see a film with me as the main character in hopes of getting an oscar--my $80 back!

This is significant to my heart. Through having to make a very hard ministry decision recently in which only I knew the complete details and had to seek God for direction, I was a bit ashamed or awkward at having the truth but not sure how, or more IF, I could vocalize all of it due to it involving multiple people, mulitple factors. I found myself circling with all the facts and sin lurking at every corner---anger, bitterness, sorrow which led to doubt, etc...I just couldn't break free even though God had clearly spoken about the earlier decision and I was confident of that. I realized there must be something more than this situation, probably a place of bondage since I couldn't let it go and kept replaying what I wish people knew, trying to defend myself in my mind. I, in fact, had myself "on trial". As I invited Jesus to speak to this place in my heart, He reminded me of several memories from high school that were similar, where I knew the truth but had no way to defend myself publicly or make the truth known which put me in very awkward positions or even caused others to question/malign my character--this ultimately produced a layer of shame on my heart which also led to lack of confidence. He is healing these circumstances and memories with His presence by showing me the damage to my heart at that time since I didn't come to Him with it. Resting in Him knowing the truth is setting me free as what was once hidden is now in the open with my Savior. He's reminding me "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. " John 8:32 and "Those who look to Him are radiant, their faces are never covered with shame." Psalm 34:5

By getting my eyes on Jesus with these situations I am being set free from shame, and I recognize a new strength birthing in my heart...its called courage. Courage to speak up, to defend my heart (and my pocket book with Target) and to keep my eyes on Jesus to remain radiant and not hiding in shame because He is a camera with a lens into my heart.

Since He is our security camera---may His tender eyes that are on us ALL the time gives us security. He knows us best and delights in shooting new film as we live life together with Him, but He is also desiring to hit replay on the dark places of the story to shed light that brings healing, restoration and freedom.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Life As A Pile of Legos

Living in an imperfect world worshipping a perfect God can be a bit trying on our hearts. Somehow our heart gets caught in the middle of trust in our perfect God coupled with the disappointments and trials of walking out our faith in a fallen world. The Age of Reason makes us logical--A+B=C always, we grasp for understanding in our simple human minds when things don't go as we plan or we get hurt or disappointed. Eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden doesn't help our faith because we would rather grasp for understanding of the facts and weigh what we perceive as true and not true than cry out to God for comfort and enjoy His presence (His original design!).

Recently during an incredible ministry disappointment I was saddened by the fact that my trust in God seems so dependent on things ending the way I expected when I started down a road that God was leading to. When God led a completely different way at the end, it was easy to follow, but hard to comprehend. Hence, my circling over the facts only produced discouragement because there was no "logical" explanation without blame or shame. As I asked God for a picture or something to give peace, I pictured a pile of legos. As children play with legos, they build dreams from their hearts. However, that creation can come tumbling down due to: a poor design, the cat pouncing on them, a loving parent asking for them to be cleaned up because its time for the child to go to bed (rest is a need but builders don't always look after their needs!) or tearing down for the sheer desire to create something new or different. Somehow this spoke to my logical brain and released it from having to be so linear in my is way more complex, there are multiple factors at work all the time (the world, the enemy, the flesh, the redeemed heart, and God are all players). Just because a dream comes crashing down doesn't mean its over for good. Just like kids, when the legos tumble, there is crying and a time of grief over the disappointment and loss, but they still own the legos (the building blocks of dreams), so at some point in the future, they can be brought out again---maybe with the same children or a new group, maybe a similar creation or something completely new with wisdom gained from previous creations. There is freedom in letting go of that original design, because the building blocks were not destroyed, just given opportunity to be rearranged.

Be thankful for the dreams (the building blocks), no one and no circumstance can take them from your heart. Be thankful for who God made you to be, to be the keeper of the dreams/desires from Him. Don't let logic make you cynical and give up!!! Be thankful that our God is so sovereign, so creative and so able to be multifaceted regarding our dreams. By focusing on who He is in the middle of loss gives hope that one failed attempt or even several is not the final product!! As you delight yourself in the Lord, may He give you desires in your heart---maybe determination and perseverance for old ones as He confirms, or completely new ones...either way, may strength, courage and hope by yours as you choose to trust in our PERFECT God in the midst of our imperfect world and wait on His timing!

"Trust in the Lord and do good...Delight yourself in the lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun...If the Lord delights in a man's way, he makes his footsteps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand." Psalm 37:3-6,23,24

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Hugged by God

Psalm 16 has ministered to me all summer in so many different ways. Now this fall I'm finding my "structured" little life has been hit with a whirlwind of change--settling my in-laws into assisted living, enrolling my oldest daughter in a charter school (2 weeks into the school year), God saying to leave our church to look for another, Chuck's job search and even the postponing of Unveil--this all has my "safety net" of structure and expectations totally unraveled. I feel exposed and yet protected, uncertain and yet more sure than ever of the One I'm following, I feel rather upside down and CANNOT let that lead to doubt of where He has led so far in the midst of all these changes nor can it detract from knowing He has a path and a reason for it all.

Anyway, Psalm 16 gave some comfort as to the "structure" my heart needs--I noticed two things being "at a right hand" in Ps. 16--vs. 8 says, "I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken."
and again in vs. 11 "You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

So I pictured whose right hand is talked about in each verse---God is at my right hand and being filled with joy in His presence with the pleasures at His right hand---these verses "work" best if you picture facing God so He is at your right hand and then you are at His right hand where His eternal pleasures are--an embrace or hug really!

As each of us grows in intimacy with Him, may living in His embrace truly be where we dwell as His beloved and then we ARE NOT shaken and we are on the path to LIFE filled with joy from His presence. Consider yourself hugged by God!!!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Another Lesson From My Sheepdog

Kody, our sheepdog is now 7 months old. At first he was incredibly timid and super quiet as he observed all of our activities. It seemed he wasn't quite sure what his role was. As I've blogged before, he had trust issues from being a stray. Now as he's grown in trusting us, his personality is really coming alive. My favorite quirk of his is his morning "routine". After being in his kennel all night, he is sooo excited to see us in the morning. After going "potty" outside he comes in the house and grabs the first bone he sees and energetically wanders from person to person hoping for an invitation into a lap. This is such a special time for me as he just exudes happiness through all of his moaning, wheezing, and constant wiggles. Its like he's filling up on our love to be brave the rest of the day. As he has come to trust us, he is growing in his "glory"--being a sheepdog, which translates into guarding his "sheep"--us, his family. He has been offering his glory in barking at strange noises, greeting new people to make sure they are safe, playing fetch and quietly laying on our porch "on guard".

This crazy, love-filled morning routine makes me desire similar in my morning routine with God. To be so excited to be in His presence for the shear delight of it, knowing He delights in being with me as well. A time just to fill up on who He is, who He says I am, and grow in trust and Christ-likeness. All of this is so I can grow in love, freedom and confidence. Out of that I can offer more of who He created me to be for His glory and enjoy more LIFE that is truly life.

"And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord." 2 Corinthians 3:18

"The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." John 10:10

How is your "morning routine"? May you be transformed from glory to glory as you draw near Him who loves you most. May His kingdom advance as His glory in you is offered out of a heart full of love and life. What would the world be missing if you did not offer your glory?

Friday, August 20, 2010

He Is At My Right Hand

For a few months I've been meditating on Psalm 16. It speaks of deep dependence on God--His refuge, doing only His assignments, the joy of His counsel and security found in Him alone...All of this so that we might know the true path to LIFE!!!

Even in light of all that, it still seems like I don't know where to "place" God since I can't see Him. I KNOW God is active in my life, but I can be independent minded and feel on my own at times. Recently I was really struck by Psalm 16:8-9

"I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure."

That's it He's at my right hand!! I can picture the back of me with a man in a white robe on my right with his arm around my shoulder and we are walking along a path. This also makes me think of "His yoke is easy and this burden is light"--like I'm yoked to Him in fellowship and with his gentle arm around me, not just some ox with a hard wooden yoke on my shoulders!!

This really helped when I was stirred up with a myriad of decisions I needed to make regarding my children's education. Why is it at night that this all stirs up and robs me of the sleep I so desperately need?? Anyway, as I was stirred up I pictured Jesus with His arm around me. This relieved my burden as I prayed, giving it to Him and telling Him I trusted Him to show me, to lead me and to walk beside me. I think I was stirred about three times that night, but each time I pictured Him with me and gave Him the burden and I was able to roll over and fall asleep.

So if I were to rewrite Ps. 16:8-9 based on this it would read something like this:

When I remember to place the Lord before myself, I am reminded that His arm is around me and we can walk the path together so I don't need to worry. This makes my heart glad (and relieved), may my tongue rejoice and give Him praise...AND I can even sleep at night!!

Transformed Like a Butterfly

I was going through a time where there just seemed to be weight on my heart. No real reason, just weight. I spent some time in prayer...spent some time confessing and also asking God to remove the weight as it was getting oppressive. Its was a sweet time with Him.

That night I had a dream that I was being bent backwards into water at the edge of an ocean by a man in a white robe. As I came up out of the water, I placed my hands palm side up in front of me. The man in the robe placed a monarch butterfly in my cupped hands.

The heaviness is though something really was washed away and replaced by transformation. A butterfly is transformed from a caterpillar to a lovely, graceful creature that can flutter, soar and rest to drink nectar. This is what I desire in my walk with Jesus--to rest in Him and drink deeply from His life giving Word, the nectar that truly satisfies. I long to flutter and soar with grace and beauty that inspires the world. And with Jesus, any burden is light just like holding that almost weightless butterfly in my hand!

Deer Tracks

This summer I've been trying to live out the saying, "variety is the spice of life." Being middle age I've realized I've gotten into old familiar patterns and life has a way of becoming boring! One weekend away with friends to draw near God, I applied this saying...asking God to expand my natural way of doing things and to Father me throughout the weekend to draw near Him and to add variety.

One afternoon I was drawn to go for a walk in the woods during a gentle rain. Wrapped in a blanket to stay warm, I was enjoying this new experience...I found myself singing "mercies are falling, are falling, are falling...mercies are falling like a sweet spring rain". I was just delighting in the carefree activity, the worship, the warmth of the blanket as though God's arms were wrapped around me.

I asked God for some visual symbol or picture during my walk so that I could have a "momento" of this precious time with Him that would sink deep into my heart to KNOW He is indeed always with me. In a few paces I walked through some mud that was covered with deer tracks. Indeed my soul was yearning for God as a deer pants for water! Also made me think of a favorite book "Hinds Feet on High Places". I asked God if I could see two deer to symbolize Him and me walking through life together...I ventured on hopeful that two deer would be awaiting me around every turn of the trail I was on...desire...expectancy...hope...

I returned to the house I was staying in thrilled at the deer prints and thinking I was being a bit demanding for the two deer. I was just thankful for the intimate time with Him and the deer prints which satisfied my heart..

The next morning I was sitting at the breakfast table with my friends and we were sharing the highlights from the weekend. I looked up and there on a shelf above the window were two statues of deer!!! I burst out laughing. Hinds feet on high places, literally!!

I love how God knows me, sees me, gives good things and has a sense of humor!!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Strong Tower

"The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe." Proverbs 18:10

This past weekend I experienced the blessing of a strong tower in several ways. I was sitting in the heat of the day drawing, however I was in the shadow of a tall tree and I was not hot nor sunburned from my time outside. The song "He is my strong tower" went through my head and it got me thinking how God is refreshment in the middle of the heat of life.

The next day, I was reading my Bible under a tree when it started to rain...first a few drops and then a steady rain. I was not wet at all due to the shield of the tree. Again, like God sheltering us during trials.

An awesome storm blew up that evening. I was staying in a cottage that didn't have a radio or anything to find out news about this storm, so I prayed. Later I found out a tornado did go through near the town. I was kept safe in the house and protected from natural disaster. Again, my God is my protection in the storms of life.

These three tangible times of being protected and even refreshed help me really experience the truth of the verse in Proverbs...truly He is all I need!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Life in the Pasture

As an American hard work and independence are what the culture breeds into us. This tends to make our hearts into work horses or race horses--always working, always running. However God says to "Be still and know that I am God." (Is. 46:10) I like the RSV which says "Cease striving and know that I am God." Stillness and rest feed the heart and awaken it to God's presence and His still, small voice. Its hard to hear a whisper in the midst of a storm!!

There was a time in my life that all ministry, friendships and familiarity was removed from me due to a move and some other events. Honestly I was a little depressed feeling like I was put out to pasture and of no use. However, God started working in my heart to show me He had actually brought out into the pasture for my own good--to nourish me deeply with good food and stroke my overworked horse muscles with rest. As I contemplated Ps. 23, "He makes me lie down in green pastures" I realized I didn't even know what was good for me and He had to make me lie down for a while. So what felt like being put out to pasture was actually Him pasturing me for my own refreshment, health and life in Him as well as WITH Him.

Chuck (my husband) has a big project at work this week. He had several problems he was trying to work through. Nothing was coming no matter how much time and energy he put into it. As he rode the train home, his mind was given some rest from the situation and also the space to free it up to really think. Presto...the solution came to him after a half hour of rest.

Rest, beauty, quietness, space all feed the soul so it can flourish and we can finish our race here on earth well. Have you eaten or lied down in the pasture recently?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

God's Garden

I just finished rearranging my perennial garden. I have sore arms and legs to prove it. I have sandy soil which means there are few nutrients in the dirt and my plants end up being smaller than expected and dry out easily due to the water running right through the ground. With each plant (about 100), I dug a large hole and filled it in with two shovels of black dirt before setting my plants in to take root. To top off my project (literally and figuratively), I spread dark brown mulch on the surface of the whole garden. I asked myself why? Well, to make it look better, to keep the weeds down and to help with moisture retention--all so the roots would have the best possible conditions in which to grow, knowing this is what causes the blooms I'm after. But why did I pick dark brown. Well, I have to admit I think I was trying to make it look like I have rich soil all over the garden.

Our hearts are a lot like the flowers in my garden. We start out planted in poor soil. With God's help, those roots must be dug up and placed in rich soil for real life to spring forth, for real transformation to occur. If we are just learning about Him and gathering facts or going through the motions of what we think a Christian is, then we are really just spreading mulch on the garden of our heart; making it look good on the outside, but really there is nothing deeper. Or we can focus on the blooming--wanting to be seen by others and getting our identity there. There still will not be the BEST yield of blooms because our roots are still in poor soil and eventually the plant will wither and die due to burnout. Jesus told us to abide in Him. This means to draw from Him much like roots in soil and not just "mulching" the surface, nor trying to blossom without internal nutrients. Whatever our roots are growing in, that's what is providing the food for growth. Real change happens internally when places in our heart that are sickly or altogether dead or dying are uprooted. These roots are dug up by conviction of sin and repentance, recognition of lies believed that are contrary to what God says, or seeing the wounds that cripple us. By taking them to the expert Gardener, He will place them in the life sustaining, rich soil of His Word to bring truth and life. His presence will tenderly care for the plant through replanting, pruning, fertilizing and watering so that healing and growth can produce blooms. This involves time investment, sometimes pain and for sure an emptying to be filled with something greater and then its time to BLOOM from the inside out!!

I've tried to make a pretty garden by just adding mulch on top to give the appearance of beautiful life, but the flowers on the plants tell the true state of my garden. Next year I'm hoping for a bumper crop of flowers and much growth due to the time and investment I made this summer. Now the plants need time to rest, deepen their roots and draw up the nutrients to grow into a lovely, colorful garden.

Our hearts need rest and time to draw richly from God's spirit to blossom into all we were meant to be. There are no short cuts to growth. Believe me I've tried in the garden and in my walk with Jesus! Just as I'm expecting my garden to be more glorious next year, so my heart is becoming more glorious for Him as I abide and grow to reflect more of Him, my true life source.

"And we who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." 2 Cor. 18

How about your heart--are you focused on your bloom or your roots?!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

He Loves Me

Feeling a bit fried this week. I've signed up for too many things out of guilt and not God's prompting--ok, I've learned my lesson about heeding His still, small voice. If He's not in it, neither is His grace to carry out well intentioned plans!!

Feeling kind of sorry for myself, I asked God for some inspiration for my heart. RIGHT as I was finishing asking, I heard the loudest "chirp" coming through my window from the bird feeder. It was an indigo bunting. He's a favorite friend of mine from nature whom I haven't seen for over a month. Truly it was a gift from the lover of my soul. God owns the universe and He ordered a "special delivery" of an indigo bunting to thrill my heart as a love gift from Him. This brought a smile to my face, a tear to my eye and a wellspring of gratitude to my Eternal Bridegroom who sees my heart and knows what I love.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Lessons From Our Sheepdog

A few weeks ago we got a dog, "Kody", that is a mix of two sheep dogs (border collie and blue heeler). Since we got him from the humane society, we don't have any history of his short 4 month life. It seems he could have been a stray or on his own for a while for a bit because of the way he scavenges for food and his longing for affection yet uncertainty with trust. Observing his behavior toward us, especially when it comes to food, makes me think of my heart toward God at times.

We have adopted this little fur ball into our family and long to shower him with love and treats. At first when we gave him a treat, zing, he was off and running, quickly munching his snack. It was like he didn't trust us enough to stay near with such a precious morsel. When we brought him his meal of good grade dog food, he seemed more content searching for chewed gum that my 5 year old evidently has littered the yard with. He just can't fathom that he is cared for, nor recognize the good food versus flavorless gum (perhaps that's what he survived on when we was ownerless) The gum is familiar food and the healthy stuff is foreign to him. As time has passed and trust has grown, he now receives the treats and stays near as though to enjoy it together. As far as meals, well, he is eating his share of dog food but I don't think he'll ever give up his gum!!

Like Kody, we have been adopted into God's family after wondering the world scavenging for life wherever we thought we could find it. I know God longs to lead me and give me good things. But like Kody, as soon as God's treat is given I can be off--longing to receive direction or understanding from Him but not so sure how to linger in His presence for the shear delight of it. As I draw near and worship and listen to His still, small voice, I find that that is the tastier treat--the very presence of my true Father. I am giving up my "gum"--things like the approval of others, service for the sake of being seen and appreciated (as opposed to Him leading and opening the way for His glory), critical thoughts that steal much of my joy, fear of the unknown, etc. I have chewed on these so long, it can be hard to give up because they are so familiar--praise God that Jesus came to give me life that is truly life with joy, freedom, peace, love and all the fruits of the spirit. Truly His word, His presence, His truth is the real meal. May Kody and I quit looking for chewed, flavorless, lifeless gum when the Master's hand has something so much better!!!

Hindsight is 20/20

God never ceases to amaze me at His leading. When I seek Him and listen to His promptings, I find myself being led to some pretty counter-intuitive decisions. Take the addition of our puppy as an example.

Chuck and I had promised our daughter, Amber, a puppy for her 13th birthday seeing as animals is one of her "glories". She set out researching and decided she wanted/must have a smooth coated collie/German shepherd mix. She found a local breeder (do mixed breeds really need a "breeder"?) When we got discussing this as a family, we realized those dogs are gigantic for our rather small house that seems full to the brim with 7 people living here 24/7 already! Her spirits were crushed when we told her we didn't think that size would work well--is this how parenting is suppose to work when you're trying to bless your child? Her next choice after searching some dog rescue sites was a 3 legged blue heeler/border collie mix. I had some concerns about health,etc. and Chuck just had a flat out "no"--another tear session. Logic would tell us that the end of summer would be the best timing with our planned vacations, etc. Perhaps she just needed to wait.

The following day, Monday, Amber, while crushed in spirit, realized that the 3 legged dog was helping her see what her true desire was concerning a breed so she prayed (unknown to me) for a blue heeler/border collie mix that was young. The next morning the kids and I were having a devotion with Psalm 16 and we were discussing God making known the paths to life. I asked what paths are we at the beginning of that we need God to show us which is the path to life? The dog was an obvious one. We prayed, then the idea to check the humane society website came to mind. Popped up before our very eyes was the most adorable puppy AND the guess at his breed was border collie/blue heeler!!!! We went to see him and well, the rest is history!!! We now own, Kody, a four month old mix who is the smartest dog I've seen and can't get enough love, attention and belly rubs.

Its like God saved him just for Amber. He was available for adoption the week previous (the day after Amber's actual birthday AND the day we were leaving for vacation) BUT he developed kennel cough and they had to treat him before he could be adopted. He was quarantined for a week to receive medicine and then became available the day after Amber prayed!! This is now Tuesday and we were going to Valley Fair the next day--not a good time to bring home a puppy with human wisdom. However, we had peace to move ahead. He did fine in the make shift kennel we made for him to stay in while we were gone the whole next day.

Three days later, Snickers, our 15 year old Sheltie started going down hill. We went to the vet and had to start making decisions about treatment vs. putting her down. After many tears, we did decide to put her down.

Human wisdom and all the websites would have told you to not get a new puppy on the heels of losing a pet. We probably would have heeded this. OR with the loss of Snickers, a new puppy could have seemed like we were getting another family pet. With getting Kody a week before having to put down Snickers, it was clear in all of our minds and hearts that Kody was Amber's dog and we were faithful to our promise to her.

Of course Kody won't replace the place in our heart for Snickers, but having him around sure helps heal some of the hurt and also shows us how much life Snickers had lost at the end, somehow justifying a bit having to lose her. We also realized how much bonding takes place during puppyhood due to their constant need of care and their overall goofiness. So thankful Amber prayed for a young dog as opposed to the convenient two year old, potty trained mature dog--we would have missed out on a lot of laughs!!

God is good. His plans far exceed my reasoning and understanding. I have faith that He does make known the paths of life that are truly life because He knows the future, all the details and He owns the universe. Oh that I would seek and trust Him more!!

Ode to Snickers

We had to put down Snickers, our dog of 15 years, yesterday. Wow, was it harder than I expected. Yes, the head says its the right thing to do, BUT then there's the heart!!! The heart screams, "No". I find myself asking why...why is it so hard to say goodbye other than the obvious! Part of me thinks its the moral dilemma of saying "ok" to death. Part of me feels the loss and separation. The mind can rationalize all it wants but the heart must speak for complete healing or we are only half living. I know with God healing more of my heart in recent years, there is increased joy but now I realize there is also increased pain. I wouldn't have a hard heart no matter what, this is just the reality of our God given emotions and heart!

As I ponder my heart, it makes me think of God's heart toward us. He created Adam and Eve to live in fellowship, in deep communion face to face that would not have an end. However with the fall, they and now we choose to live apart from Him. I know the thought of being without Snicker's presence brought on fear and loneliness. How must God's heart be, knowing we are separated without Christ from Him? Of course He has complete fellowship within the trinity, just as I have fellowship within my family, BUT still something/someone is missing. How gracious of Him to send Jesus to ransom, redeem and restore our relationship to Him. He gave us a heart to desire worship of Him, but how many will truly respond to the yearnings of the heart to be filled by Him and not humanly fill it with religion, addictions, busyness or just totally dismiss the longing and live half hearted? Praise God for His wooing us and working in, through and around us to open our eyes to Him. But are we willing to surrender, to come near just based on who He is and not what we can get? What a risk He takes to desire to love us and be loved in return. Even once we repent and believe in Jesus atonement, do we fully seek Him, desire Him, just enjoy Him and trust Him for LIFE? (John 5:40, 10:10,17:3, 26)

The flip side of my loss is the having to experience death. This is hard for the heart because it was made for eternity, not death and separation. This is the fruit of not trusting God's word. This pain I feel is one of the side effects of the fall. Why was it "easy" for Adam and Eve to seemingly choose this pain over LIFE? Well, because they had no clue what death was, so it was easy to dismiss God's warning to them that that would result if they didn't listen only to Him. How many times might God lead me to something that I don't fully understand because I haven't experienced it before or cant' see how it will work out with my finite mind? I realize I do the same as Adam and Eve, I doubt, circle in my head with rationalism or just dismiss His leading. I am not above my forefathers! Oh my limited heart that just will not surrender fully to Him in trust, knowing His ways are higher than my ways and that He truly is the path of life from the joy of His presence (Ps. 16:11). I want to know Him more that my trust might increase, that I might delight in Him alone and reap the blessings of obedience--taking Him at His word without doubt. I have been so blessed when I've stepped out based on His leading especially when I didn't have full understanding because it really was Him going before me and the dependence upon Him allowed me to rest, trust and love Him more.

It does help me to know Jesus was troubled when He was faced with His own death, even knowing He would be resurrected and ascended into heaven. He knew He would be taking the sins of the world upon Himself which would remove Him from His Father's presence. This separation was overwhelming to Him and He asked for the cup to be taken from Him, yet He surrendered to God's will and not His own (Mark 14:36). Death is not of the kingdom of God and yet its a very present reality in the fallen world. Yet, I grieve and live not as someone without hope---death has been destroyed and we have victory over the grave through Christ (I Cor. 15:26, 56-57)

I'm still feeling the sting of death but I know my redeemer lives and in Him is all the peace, joy, comfort and life that this grieving heart was created to enjoy. I also long for Him,
knowing His heart grieves when His children remain far off and don't draw near (Heb. 10:22-23)

Chicks and Hens and Jesus

Our hen hatched out some chicks yesterday--we still don't know how many as we can only hear the peeps because they are huddled under her wings and out of sight. I have been longing for this day/experience as I've been thinking about Luke 13:34 "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!"

We have raised chicks in a box with a heat lamp (a brooder) but this is our first time having a hen mother the chicks. I wanted to contrast the two as this is so relevant to our walks with Jesus and also Heart Revolution ministry--through our events God removes what keeps His children from coming under His wings so we might know Him deeper, trust Him and LIVE for Him--check out the comparison:

Raising chicks with a brooder (similar to being a non-Christian or a Christian who only knows the historic/factual Jesus, but not the LIVING savior)

The chicks are on their own, taken from their mother really, and placed in a sterile environment to satisfy their instincts. The owner of them has to force their beaks into the waterer to teach them to drink, or they would not know the water source. The chicks have a huge pecking desire and will peck anything from food, to bedding to feces--they simply do not know what to nourish themselves with as they do not know food from refuse! Some die because their crop gets plugged with bedding. When the chicks get bigger and are introduced to the adult flock, if it is done improperly, the adults peck the heads of the chicks and try to kill them. There is no mother to defend them from the "bullies" or any other enemy, so the chicks hide with their heads in the corner trying to protect themselves from being mauled--if they are pecked and live, they are scarred for life and the feathers never grow over that wounded place!

Hen and Chicks (taking refuge in Jesus, the living savior and listening for His voice)
Chicks with a hen have a consistent heat source to warm them coupled with a shelter from the storms--underneath her wings. The hen will lead the chicks out and show them what to drink and eat. With her voice she will cluck to direct them to something for their benefit or with that same voice gather them to herself when she sees danger--indeed she is a refuge, shelter and strength for the chicks, just like Jesus. AND she defends her chicks from the attacks of the other birds or any other enemy--they are fought for and protected because they are not on their own. Because they are led and defended, the chicks have the freedom to explore their surroundings--they don't need to hide in small, safe places like a brooder nor hide in a corner, unsure of their acceptance, just to survive.

Because of the loving care of the hen and the familiarity of her voice, the chicks are secure in their trust of her, run to her in times of trouble and can venture out to really LIVE knowing they are protected and fought for. The chicks feed on good food being shown what to eat so they are not choked or killed by something they shouldn't eat/find comfort or nourishment from. This is just like trusting Jesus has not left us abandoned, He is the mighty warrior defending us, He is the voice of truth that sustains us with rich nourishment and replaces the soul-killing lies from the enemy with truth so we might stand strong and come out of hiding or seeking comfort from anything other than our heavenly Father who longs for us to draw near, under His wings---

Let's run to HIM!!!!

Good Bye Pride, Hello Humility

I'm reading Ephesians right now and came to 5:1 about Christ giving Himself as an offering and sacrifice to God. A few days ago I read a devotional to my kids about sacrifice so I've been letting that word rumble around my head for a few days--do we really ask Him what sacrifices He would delight in us offering (not legalistically to make ourselves feel better, but that which He reveals as a means to draw nearer Him in obedience to His spirit). I asked God what He would like me to sacrifice---"Pride" came to my heart. That's IT--the heaviness on my heart is pride!!!. With a confrontation with a lady in my small group and the heaviness in my heart afterwards, I felt like I had failed but really, its PRIDE. Thinking I'm doing the teaching, convicting, leading others to intimacy with God, etc. That is the Holy Spirit's role and the other person's responsibility to respond!!!! I am to fix my eyes on Jesus and persevere in my walk with Him and declare His work/truth but the fruit is His. Its so easy to take ownership because our flesh is weak!!! This is also so close to the "its all up to me" lie I live under from the agreement I made when my dad died (it was my flesh agreeing with the enemy to put me in bondage to taking on more than is what God would have out of fear, feeling like I'm on my own, etc.--all to overburden me and to get my identity in duty/service and not Christ.)

Although I'm not an elder, due to God's calling I have been placed in leadership, so in a way first Peter 5 applies "be eager to serve(not because you must, but because you are willing), not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being an example to the flock...clothe yourself with humility."

Praise God for conviction of sin---good bye pride, hello humility!

Blessings to you this glorious day in His-story--He's on the move, may we open our eyes to see Him and follow!!!

Cleansing Fire

Isaiah 55:10-13

"As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the LORD's renown, for an everlasting sign, which will not be destroyed."

God says He replaces thorns and briers with pine and myrtle for His renown and it will not be destroyed! I was walking yesterday where a fire had burned up dried out cat tails on one side of the trail. The other side was not touched by the fire, therefore it had dried out plants from last year mixed with the new green growth of this spring. The new growth coming up on the side where the fire had been was so much greener and healthier than the side where there had been no cleansing fire--the growth was smothered and covered up by the death/weeds of last year. This reminds me of our hearts--sin, wounds, the bondage of lies all cover or crowd the life that is hidden in Christ. Oh, come cleansing fire--Father send your Holy Spirit to burn down all that hinders Your life in us.