That’s Clearly the End…Right??

mountain path 1Last year I had a dream that I was a passenger in a bus driving on a mountain road. The brakes went out and, straight ahead, there was a wall of a mountain and nowhere to turn. The chaos and swirling panic focused into a sharp moment of clarity – I knew in my head this was the end.

The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him,
And delivers them.
Psalm 34:7

I actually love dreams like this these days. There’s been a shift. Instead of surrendering to feelings of fear and despair, I find myself burrowing into my center. Into inexplicable peace and strength. I started praying for miraculous rescue. When we reached the side of the mountain, the road didn’t lead us to an unavoidable and disastrous end. Instead, it opened up and continued up the slope.

I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron.
Isaiah 45:2

Maybe that was a miracle. Or maybe the road was always there and I just couldn’t see it from where I was sitting.

This dream was brought back to my mind yesterday as, yet again, something looked completely hopeless from my point of view. I do this way too much. I get focused on how things look without realizing I am only seeing a sliver of reality, filtered through my own past experiences and my own understanding. Lord help me break free of myself!!

He guards the paths of justice,
And preserves the way of His saints.
Proverbs 2:8

I am thankful that He still speaks to us. That He uses words and methods we understand. That He reminds us of past lessons. That we are not alone here, and there are perspectives other than our own. That His truth is bigger than any one of our perspectives. I’m seeing more and more beauty in relationship.

In the Gentleness of Wisdom (James 3)

gentle waterRighteous indignation. You ever get that feeling that you are right, and that something you see is wrong? That, in fact, you are SO right and it is SO wrong it is your moral obligation and duty to stand up and make a scene about it? Or at least throw a few passive-aggressive thrusts of disapproval toward the offender? You know, just to make sure they are aware they are off track.

It’s everywhere – we get in debates with each other about it, write blogs about it, post awesome little jabs on social media about it. Because, in our understanding, we’re very clearly morally and maybe even scripturally right.

When Jesus was arrested, one of his best friends pulled out a sword and started swinging. In a fit of righteous indignation, Peter cut off another man’s ear. In the midst of walking into the next chapter of His mission, Jesus pressed pause to heal what had been severed by the hand of one trying to protect Him the wrong way.

From one perspective, it seems almost noble of Peter to stand and defend his friend and a ministry he believed wasn’t finished and a truth he knew to be right. Those are all good things to feel passionately about. The problem is that his response was based on his own circumstantial understanding, his own wisdom. His methodology damaged the very thing that would allow the offender to hear the message he (and the one he was defending) wanted to convey. In fact, James the half-brother of Jesus would later call wisdom which twists the truth to fit your own perspective arrogant, earthly, natural, and demonic (James 3:14-15).

Oh man, I can relate to Peter. Way too often I find righteous indignation flaring up in my heart and, out of my own wisdom and understanding and desire to declare the truth I see, resort to an abrasive and ear-cutting approach. I walk around with a mouth like a sword that’s a little too quickly unsheathed. Here’s what I am learning – Heavenly wisdom does not require or justify beating anyone over the head with anything to win an argument, or killing a person or groups of people (physically OR verbally) to protect or defend the truth.

If the end result is further damage, we are tapping into the wrong wisdom.

There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword,
But the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Proverbs 12:18

I’ve been stepping into awareness of this truth for a while now. When I started seeing the potential to harm others (especially unwittingly) with my words, I got better at holding my tongue long enough to process where I’m speaking from.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue.
Proverbs 18:21

There are times I think I’m doing great by keeping my silence..but I’ve come to realize there is a much deeper issue at play. If my heart is producing judgment, separation, and death, I am not seeing through the right perspective.

Just like Peter, I don’t see the whole picture. But Jesus does, and He came saying this:

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

His desire is not that we simply avoid speaking death over each other, but that we actively speak Life into each other. This is not completely resolved for me – I still catch myself peeking at life through the lens of bitter jealousy, selfish ambition, and arrogance (James 3:14) – so I’m thankful He has shown this to me today. I can be more vigilant about guarding my heart.

…For his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.
~Jesus, Luke 6:45

This is what heavenly wisdom looks like. It requires diligence, intentionality, patience, selflessness, and lots and lots of hard work … but it’s definitely going to be worth it.

Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.
James 3:17-18 (MSG version)

He Will Bring You Back

peaceinchaos2

Life!! Slow down!! I wish this was over and I was in Tomorrow already!!

I’ve been saying a combination of “Hurry up and slow down” my entire life. Just like everyone else on the planet, I have wanted more time to do what I love, to be with who I love. Every day throws its own agenda at me and, quite honestly, some days the only thing I feel certain of is that I cannot do it. I just wish for Tomorrow.

I have a lot going on in my life…I have two+ jobs, two (soon to be five!) very active and awesome kids, two (soon to be four!) pets, a home, a ministry, treasured friendships that I try my best to nurture well, and now praise God a dream-come-true man who has chosen me too. As a person who likes to either do things with excellence or not at all, life feels pretty extreme sometimes. There are ALWAYS at least five things tapping on my shoulder or pulling on my sleeve.

There is another connection in my life that is even more essential and vital to my day. It’s one that keeps me grounded and at peace and helps me avoid choosing “not at all” on a daily basis. Because I don’t like to limit it and because I rarely have the time I’d like to devote to it, it is almost always the first to get postponed. The more often I choose to postpone it, the easier it is to postpone it again…because at that point I feel like I need even MORE time for it. Oh how I love having hours to spend alone with the Lord – where we connect and He speaks life back into my spirit. Speaks peace into the chaos.

Life is just so full! No matter who you are, or what season of life you’re in. Whether you’re organized or not. Whether the distractions pulling at you are healthy or not. We have a choice every day to put Him off or turn to Him. This morning I was reminded that when I turn to Him with my whole heart, He is there to welcome me back.

When you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey Him with all your heart and soul by all I have told you today, then the Lord your God will have you return from where you were held. He will have loving-pity for you. He will gather you again … Even if you are driven to the ends of the earth, the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back.
~Deuteronomy 30:2-4

I have a tendency to get caught up in the chaos of my life, good and bad. Sometimes the thought of reconnecting with the Lord is really overwhelming to me. Sometimes I’m ashamed there’s a disconnect at all. Sometimes it feels like I’ve put Him off too many times, or that I will never have enough time to return to the deep, constant connection we had in the beginning of our walk together. But then He pulls at my sleeve and whispers:

I have loved you with an everlasting love;
    I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
~Jeremiah 31:3

I’m thankful He continues to tap on my shoulder and pull on my sleeve. I am thankful for His passionate and patient pursuit of my heart, and that He calls me into peace in the midst of chaos. I love the way He can magnify one second together to fill everything.

He Sees Me in White

wedding-dress1

What an exciting and miraculous time!! I have found a (healthy, loyal, patient, funny, hardworking, honest, giant hunk of a God-loving) man! He is so FINE! We both love spending time together! We are making plans to spend the rest of our lives together! These are truly the most joy-filled words I’ve ever written.

And yet…there’s been something just under the surface I haven’t quite put my finger on. A tiny twinge of shame every time I post a picture of us on facebook. I am almost embarrassed at how wonderful he is, and how blessed I am. But more than that…I feel so unworthy of his love. I have never been so “watched” by people who love a man before. I mean, the man is surrounded!! I felt the same way when I met Jesus (no pressure, honey). The more I watch for their approval, the more inadequate I feel.

You know…it’s possible there are a couple people who are thinking along those lines – that he could be better loved elsewhere, and are less than thrilled to see us choose each other – but I’m pretty sure almost all those thoughts are coming from one head. MINE.

Like I said, this little thorn has been hanging out in the periphery where I could barely see it, but this week it can hide no longer. This week, I’ve been tasked with finding The Dress I’ll wear to meet my husband. He wants it to be white, to celebrate the fact that we have both been washed and made whiter than snow (Psalm 51:7), and because what we have together is pure and belongs to the Lord. As I have struggled to pick one…it hit me. My man sees me that way. Jesus sees me that way. Why don’t I??

They will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine.
~Revelation 3:4-5

Like most lies we believe, there’s a tiny bit of truth to this one – I could never be “good enough” or do enough to earn the love Jesus has for me. There’s no amount of anything I could do that would make a man try to love me the way Jesus does. And there’s no way I can love this man as well as he deserves. These are simply sweet gifts that I can choose to receive, or not. To reciprocate with all I have, or not.

I am happy that the Lord continues to draw me deeper into love more perfect, revealing areas where I am walking outside His best for me and encouraging me to be more like Him. I am far from perfect, and I never want to go without hearing the words and nudges of the Holy Spirit. But OH. Lord forgive me for caring so much about what other people think about me!! For allowing the thoughts and feelings, real or imagined, of other people to influence the worth and value that He’s given me. I am chosen, I am redeemed, I am HIS!

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are Mine!
~Isaiah 43:1

What a beautiful reminder to keep my eyes on HIM and HIM alone. I get so excited thinking about what He’s done for me, what He’s doing in my heart and life, and all I want to do with Him. And I am so thankful to be able to experience those exact things with a partner here in this lifetime. Jesus has taught me what Perfect Love looks like, and I’m thankful to have the opportunity to give and receive it to the best of my ability. I love that they see me in white.

I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
~Isaiah 61:10

Sustain Me!

psalm-51

The other day, a friend noticed my sink wasn’t draining properly and opened up the cabinet to check it out. Ack! What had been so painstakingly organized just two years ago looked like a jumbled mess of garbage. Over the course of too many busy days, the extra razors or toothbrushes or mouthwash bottles had been tossed in there with full intentions to put them away properly… “soon”. I went through it all yesterday, and you wouldn’t believe how many good, important things I found. Completely unused, utterly forgotten.

It’s heavy on my mind this morning. That lackadaisical attitude is one of my biggest fears – I fear it creeping into my life, into my walk with the Lord, into relationships.

The joy of newness is sometimes overwhelming for me. I remember when I first met Jesus – there were times that I thought my heart was going to explode from too much joy. The intimacy of new salvation was so sweet, so strong. I intentionally cut out all distractions, intentionally listened for his words and nudges, intentionally gave him everything. I confidently knew I would never lose that intense connection. Sigh. How easy it is to get caught up in the routines of life and lose focus.

Restore to me the joy of Your salvation…
~Psalm 51:12a

Intentionality requires effort and is easily overlooked or procrastinated. This morning I am hoping that in two years, the doors of my house, my heart, and my relationships aren’t opened to find another mess of awesome but unused and forgotten treasures. I am praying for diligence, strength, and a willing spirit.

…And sustain me with a willing spirit.
~Psalm 51:12b

Untangled

knot

 

 

 

 

 

Hello stranger…it’s been a while.

Wow it feels good to step back on to this virtual hiking path. For almost 4 years it has been a place to share my journey, planting little flags along the way to remember where I was. This year I have done a lot less writing here – I’ve been off-roading and exploring things less easily shareable.

A friend calls it “untying the knots of my soul” – y’all, my knots had formed knots. And that’s ok. I’m becoming increasingly untangled.

The other day I experienced one of my most uncomfortable parental situations. I watched one of my children try to quiet a disruptive group without being offensive to the group, mostly through silent, smiling gestures. She was there through a shared affiliation, and she wasn’t contributing to the disruption, but it became clear that she had no idea how to improve the situation OR remove herself from it. [I’m not criticizing – sweetness is something she comes by quite naturally, ha!] I’m sure I didn’t handle this the best way, if there is one, but I pulled the mean mom card and asked her to come sit by me. It was hours before we had the opportunity to sit and talk about it, so for those hours we walked together in an awkward state of misunderstanding. She thought I was angry and disappointed in her, she was hurt and angry with me, she believed my intentions were to punish her. I finally got the chance to remind her of this underlying truth:

I AM ALWAYS ON YOUR SIDE.

I said that repeatedly and with variety the rest of the evening before she allowed it to penetrate her heart, which frustrated and frankly astounded me. Doesn’t she know that at this point?? Before I go further…I’m not saying I think she’s perfect and every other kid is wrong. I’m not pitting her against other people. I just mean that I want the best for her, and will act toward that goal, always. My actions were made in an effort to protect her, to teach her it’s ok to step away from situations that are not in her best interest. It was not a fun lesson for either of us, but I’m thankful for the chance to have that conversation. She is entering a season of increasing independence.

Today in my prayer closet (aka the shower), I was thinking about yet another personal situation which has left me confused, hurt, angry, and sad. I’ve been silently slushing through those feelings for a couple days now, and I finally asked God for a little help understanding. Guess what started playing through my mind? That experience with my daughter, of course. I have been walking hurt with no idea of the full truth, making assumptions based on my very limited perspective. Is it possible that the universe/God/my authority is really not out to punish me or withhold something sweet from me at every turn? Could he even be protecting me from (or FOR) something I simply can’t comprehend today? These thoughts rolled out, the weight of comfort and revelation with them, and then there was a tiny pause.

I AM ALWAYS ON YOUR SIDE.

I wonder how many times and ways he’s said that to me today waiting for me to hear it. Unlike me, he wasn’t jumping up and down or doing cartwheels or getting frustrated as it worked its way into my heart. God is beautiful and patient, and loves loves loves until we get it. Another knot untangled.

Nice Speck!

pointing-finger

I am so thankful for how messed up everyone around me is!

Please don’t unfriend me yet.

I’ve actually been sitting on this blog for a few weeks now because, while learning it, the rug began moving under my feet again. If you’ve gotten tired of hearing me say things like that…trust me. I get tired of living it.

I recently decided that I want a purer heart – I want to love better, learn better, do life better. I made a declaration of war on anything clouding up the vision of my heart. Purifying hearts is really not in my job description, so I prayed this promise, “If you show me, I will look.” I’ma be honest…I didn’t expect to need much time for this task.

I should know better at this point than to underestimate that prayer! Why I go into these exercises believing they will be fun or easy, I have yet to understand.

In the following days and weeks, I started seeing an explosion of ugly, awful, sad, hypocritical things…in you!! Well, not necessarily YOU, but you know, everywhere I looked. Witchiness and magical thinking in the church, paralyzing insecurities, heartbreaking patterns, narcissism. Oh man. Do you have any idea how much I want to pretend those things are just in “them”?

There they definitely are, but … and here’s where the rug starts spinning under my feet … they are just little tiny midgets pointing at giants in my own heart and soul. That I see them at all is important. That I see them first in others means I’m human. That I can now see them in me is the first painful but life-changing step toward freedom.

“Ask, and it will be given to you.”
[The way I read that today: “You’re welcome.”]
~Jesus, Matthew 7:7a

It’s taken me a few weeks to connect the dots between awareness of certain issues around me, and seeing that they’re also rooted (exponentially larger) inside me. These are not new things – they’ve been in and out there all along. They are just things I’ve been blind to.

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
~Jesus, Matthew 7:1-5

I hate that the only way I’ve been able to see gigantic stumps in my own heart is by first seeing a tiny speck in someone else’s, but that has actually been a huge part of this lesson. I’m learning the problem is not seeing someone’s speck, but failing to look at my own. 

These days when I see something unsettling, I don’t just assume I’m gifted at seeing everyone else’s flaws and weaknesses like I did once upon a time. Now I pause, I cringe, I look at myself even if it seems ridiculous, and I am thankful when a blind spot becomes visible.

So, while I’m not necessarily thankful we’re messy, I am thankful we have each other to rub against and learn from.

Iron sharpens iron,
So one man sharpens another.
Proverbs 27:17

And I’m thankful for another concrete example of answered prayer, even one that didn’t go quite as I was expecting. We will find if we sincerely seek.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”
~Jesus, Matthew 7:7

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