Friday, April 29, 2016

Certain of Jesus

Hey gals,

I've been thinking a lot this week about Identity, and wanted to share something that the Lord etched into my mind and heart as I was processing questions related to "What Will I Be?"  "Who Have I Become?"  "How Will I Become X?"  

These thoughts have stemmed from conversations with some of you about the boundary lines of life, trying to figure out our unique, individual identities in the midst of families, or preparing for marriage/engagement, etc., or simply trying to discern next steps in our careers or professional/personal interests.  

1 John 3 says "Beloved, you are God's child NOW; and what we WILL be has not yet appeared; 
but we KNOW that when He appears, we shall be like HIM, for we shall see him as He is."

Of this, Utmost for His Highest writes, 

"Certainty is the mark of the common-sense life: gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life.  To be certain of God means that we are not uncertain in all of our ways; this is breathless expectation.  We ARE uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of GOD.  Immediately, we abandon all to God, and do our duties, and He packs our lives with surprises.  We are not uncertain of God, but uncertain of what He is going to do next.  When rightly related to God, life is full of spontaneous, joyful expectancy.  Leave the whole thing to Him -- it is uncertain how He will come, but He WILL come.  Remain steadfast to Him."

It is truly His grace, but lately I've been feeling such a tremendous sense of peace and joy in knowing that I can be so certain of who God is, His love, His wisdom, His power, His desire to bend and bless, His heart that knows each one of us so so intimately, and His kind, perfect timing.  Am I uncertain of certain circumstances in my life?  Of course.  We all are!  I don't know the outcome of the current chapter, let alone the chapter 100 pages ahead in the story of my life.  BUT, I can live in joyful, free, spontaneous expectancy because my Father is the most certain thing I can ever depend on.

Also, it is so comforting to think that as we live in the present reality of being God's child - His beloved, protected, blessed child -- we can live without fear of the future of what we will be.  What we will be hasn't yet appeared -- and the future is HIS.  But we know that the point isn't about our own Identity.  The point is that we are becoming more and more like Jesus, the author and perfecter of our lives and faith and legacy.  And one day, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He truly is, and what our lives were in light of His glory and plan and love.

Thinking about this has brought me to tears this week.  The kind of heart tears that ache in your chest, because I just can't get over the fact that God would give us such certainty and hope in Him in the midst of a dreary, uncertain world.   I am so worried sometimes about my future, my career, whether or not God will bring me a husband, what I will be TOMORROW, if my dreams and visions will become realities. But all Jesus wants is for us to give Him our hearts TODAY, and find rest in His love and provision and daily bread.  

Still, I dream, and wrestle, and desire what He isn't giving me right now, and everything can feel so scary and uncertain sometimes.  "Leave the Whole Thing to Him."  Really, Lord?  The WHOLE thing?  Can't I just peek around the corner of uncertainty and see what is going to happen?!  And at the end of the day, I know what He is calling me to do.  Lay it down, every single day. Worship Him, His certainty, His goodness, His perfect power and ability to come through at the last minute when I need Him to the most.

Lauren Daigle sings this amazing song called Once and For All.  

God, I give you what I can today,
These scattered ashes that I hid away,
I lay it all at your feet.
From the corners of my deepest shame,
The empty places where I've worn your Name,
Show me the Love, I say I believe!
Help me to lay it down, 
Oh, Lord! I lay it down

Oh let this be, where I die -- 
My Lord, with Thee, Crucified.
Be lifted high, 
As my kingdoms fall.
Once and for all, once and for all.

There is victory in my Savior's Laws,
In the crimson flowing from the Cross,
Pour over me, pour over me.

Oh let this be, where I die -- 
My Lord, with Thee, Crucified.
Be lifted high, 
As my kingdoms fall.
Once and for all, once and for all.

I love you all, and pray you have a restful, faith-filled weekend in the certainty of the Father.

You can hear the song at this link:
Once and For All

Sunday, March 27, 2016

I want to smell good, and strong!

Reprinted from a letter from my dear niece, Emily.

Friends and family!  Happy Easter.  I pray the Lord filled you with Hope today as we remember the new life we have been given in and through Christ.

You're probably wondering why the title of my e-mail is so random...and bazaar.  I suppose it's because I have been thinking about SMELLS all day long.

The smell of french toast frying in the cast iron skillet this morning as I awoke in my parent's guest room to the sound of little feet stomping downstairs.  The smell of coffee.  The smell of poopy diapers and baby powder.  The smell of sugar, and the lemon-ricotta cupcakes.  The smell of sweat as we did a killer Abs/Arms Kayla workout before church. The smell of mint as I brushed my teeth.  The smell of my Mom's luxurious Michael Kors perfume :)    The smell of pork loin roast sizzling for lunch.  The faint scent of flowers sitting on the granite countertop.  The smell of rain coming.  The smell of Nora's amazing potato-leek gratin baking.  The smell of feta and tahini in my salad.  The smell of our delicious red wine.  The aroma of the kids' dirty shoes and feet after their Easter Egg Hunt.  And the funny moment when Mom says to me on the way home from church, "Em, how many sprays of your Chanel Chance perfume did you put on!?  I mean, it smells amazing, but it's a little over-kill...!" ;) 

Smell is so powerful.  They say that smell contains the strongest 'throw-back ability' to your memory, and that it can often lead you right back to the pinpoint of a specific moment.   I believe it.  This past week, I had this weird flood of memories to my Oma's perfume (she died this week 15 years ago) while in Macy's, Tim (my ex-boyfriend's exact cologne) on a man I passed in the street (weird), the faint scent of cedar and rose lotion in my Grandmother's house while I visited her this week, spices that reminded me of Africa (cardamom, etc.), and a host of other memorable smells...

Sometimes I marvel at the uniqueness of smell among the senses -- if we hear or smell something somewhat far away, it draws and allures us towards itself (unless it is a skunk), because we are curious and HAVE to SEE what is going on.  In a lot of ways, Smell is a sense of Faith, not sight at all.  If we smell something lovely from someone's house, or a fire-pit going, we trust (from afar, without seeing) that something nice is taking place, or in progress.  It draws us in, and towards the object from which the scent and aroma is forming.  We can't SEE smells, but we can associate them with a thing, a person, an object, a food, etc.  I remember my Oma's house in Saybrooke -- she would have me over on Sunday nights for "minute steaks," little baby potatoes with tons of butter, green beans with nutmeg, and applesauce (chunky, please).  I could hear the vent outside her kitchen under the awning as I came up the back steps, and my mouth began watering as I smelled those steaks sizzling in her fry pan.

But, aromas can be over-powering at times, right?  Especially if it smells bad, it is just a complete turn-off.  Like the smell of arrogance or anger.  My brother-in-law is amazing at picking out perfumes and colognes for specific people -- and, there's nothing worse than a bad perfume that just doesn't smell good on you, right?  You have to pick the right scent - for yourself.  Or, that crazy Bath and Body Works lotion that came in like "Seabreeze" and "Juniper" and "Dazzle-berry," and we were all so proud of smelling like, well, extremely ridiculous :) Even good aromas can be over-powering.  Have you ever been inside of say, Shake Shack or some big American restaurant, and the oil being fried is so so strong, that it turns your stomach, and you lose your appetite, because even though you WANT to eat those fries, you know the oil is such a strong smell?  Or, we pass by those guys who have on SO much cologne, we think, "Geez, I know you want to leave your scent behind to attract the ladies, but I got the message already -- from 10 feet away!" :)  

Where am I going with this?  2 Corinthians 2:14 says, "But, thanks be to God, who IN Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us, spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.  For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved, and among those who are perishing.  To one, a fragrance from death to death, to the other, a fragrance from life to life.  Who is sufficient for these things?  For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's word, but as [wo]men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God, we speak IN Christ....such is the confidence we have towards God -- not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be minsters of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit.  For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."

I want to be this life-giving fragrance and aroma to my unbelieving friends and family and co-workers.  I want to smell of kindness, love, sincerity, hope, faith, peace, joy and freedom.  I want to smell of patience, and truth, and generosity.  I want to smell of confidence, because Fear is stinky.  I want to smell of worship, because idolatry is putrid.  I want to smell of trustworthiness, because deceit makes us sniff trouble.  I want to smell of unconditional Love, because selfishness is like trash that needed to be taken out yesterday.  I want to BE the aroma of Christ.  Did not Mary anoint Jesus at Bethany, with a pound of expensive healing ointment, and anoint it on Jesus's feet?  The whole house smelled of the perfume, John says.  The disciplines could only think of the cost and the waste of this perfume.  But, Jesus smells a beautiful fragrance of love, and sees not a drop of waste in her action at all.

What does this mean for us?  How in the world, do we like Mary, pour out our best - our most cherished perfume - on others?  I've been thinking lately about how it isn't a waste to invest in the pouring out of our best perfume and not hoarding it for ourselves.  Imagine if someone bought you the most expensive perfume from some exotic place off the island of Tahiti, and you cherished it for yourself, enjoyed it, used it with moderation, etc., but always kept it a secret from others, and NEVER shared it.  But, then you realized that all of those little samples weren't cutting it in your outreach and evangelism, in terms of being the Aroma of Christ?  They just weren't 'rubbing off' on those friends and family you want to see come to Christ in the way you expected.  Should we not then open up our exotic perfume, and pour it out with complete freedom and joy, knowing that not only does the Lord see our faith, love, and sacrifice, but that He will reward us for pouring out our best to others?

You see, the thing is, the smell of life isn't of us. The aroma we spray and wear every day is of Jesus himself.  I'm sure the disciplines wondered if the Tomb would have a horrific smell after three days when Jesus emerged from his grave.  But, Jesus smelled of life, and freedom, and everlasting joy.  And, somehow, in the triumphal procession of our daily lives, we are spreading this incredible fragrance EVERYWHERE - on the bus, on the metro, in our office, across the bus-stop, by the beach, across the dirt roads of Africa.  Not only to fellow believers, but to those who are literally perishing, and rotting away in their sin, and despair and pride.  Would we not think it silly if someone wore a scent called Walking Dead? :)  Of course!  But, the fragrance of life would always smell best/better than the one of death.  And, wearing that fragrance, we act sincere, committed to the Gospel and His Kingdom, and in the sight of God, we speak in Christ, with confidence.  Our sufficiency to be evangelists - to co-workers, our children, your husbands, your friends - is rooted in God.  And, to seal it all off, we have been given His resurrection power in the Spirit!  

Why do I say all of these things?  Because for some time now, I've sensed God's Spirit prompting me for action and emptying of self-protection.  I never in my life seasons have been surrounded by so many dear and new friends who don't yet know Jesus, that I want to see come to Christ in this lifetime, that are seeking/questioning/searching. I ache for them, I cry for them, I pray for them.  It's the dear friend I've known for 5+ years who sees the hypocrisy and the limit of the law, but doesn't yet want to embrace Grace in Christ, because he knows he'll have to leave behind so many cultural paradigms.  The girl I've just been introduced to through another friend who is asking questions about how to become a Christian and join Redeemer, that comes from a broken Jewish family.  My yoga instructor who is spiritual, but accepts all religions, but grew up in a charismatic church that turned her off to the Gospel as a young girl in the Mid-west.  My friends out West who are searching for answers in their marriage.  My co-worker whose wife is a Catholic believer, but he isn't, and he is yearning for a deeper faith and genuine relationship with God.  My other friend who is exploring Christianity with her Christian boyfriend, but whose parents will ostracize her from her own family if she converts to Christianity from being a Muslim.  

The list goes on and on.  I must admit, I feel a daily battle in my soul as I wake up and fight for what I believe on the streets of DC and in the corners of my office. Situations have arose in the past several months where my faith and belief in Christ has not only been questioned, but where I have also been disappointed in my own "dullness" to provide sound, clear, articulate answers in the very moment of questioning.  Or, where I have felt the scent of the world drawing ME towards itself, yearning for me to come find out what aromas I haven't yet smelled that I might be missing out on.  And, yet, I am yearning for this aroma of Christ to be so sweet - so attractive - so alluring - so memorable to these friends, that they keep coming back to smell more of the goodness and glory of God...not because of my own words or actions or evangelism, but because I am allowing Christ to fill the room of my heart with His fragrance, and allowing it to seep out into my countenance, actions, words, smile, kindness, listening ear, compassion, and example at large every day.

I'm sure you all have people in your own life like this too, and I want you to know that I am praying for you in all of your spheres of ministry and work - please feel free to share, and I will gladly pray!   I am so desperate, ladies.  I feel such a weakness these days to know what to say, when to say it, and how to say it to these people.  I know that everyone is hurting somewhere deep down, and perhaps it's that raw faint stench of fear and pain and loss and sorrow and insecurity that we must "triumph" over with our fragrance of life and healing and love.  If you think of it, please pray for me as well.  I am truly learning what it means to believe what I believe, but also to remember that God alone is the Redeemer, the Healer, the One who saves and opens hearts.  Please pray that I will be ready, that I will be patient, and that I will be surrendered to God's plan for these friends' lives.  Let us not grow weary of doing good, either, for at the proper time we will truly reap a HARVEST, IF we do not give up!

Blessings to you all this Easter Sunday - 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Resources for Bible Study

A lady friend at church has loaned, given, and passed along many study resources for me. One of them is a little book called How to Study the Bible, by Robert M. West. (Thanks, MaryAnn!) Good little book, covering some important topics...readying our hearts to study, various study methods, interpreting Scripture, and pitfalls (for example, a quote from David Cooper: "If the plain sense makes good sense, seek no other sense or it will result in nonsense.") His assertion that we always need to look at context, and not pull single verses out of their context, and that we always need to look at what the original author intended to say and mean, I thought was very good. Certainly a good reminder for our own studies.

At the end of this little book (it looks like one that you would find in a grocery store rack, small book) there is a list of Internet resources for Bible study, so I thought I would explore them a little. There are lots! And many of them are so exhaustive that you could easily spend days in each one.

So I thought I would report and pass along some of these resources to you, once or two at a time, and let you know about them.

This first one, is worth exploring. It has a study tool called Lumina, that gives notes on any Bible text, notes alongside the text about the original language (Greek, Hebrew) that looks pretty sophisticated, but which you might find useful for deep study. There is a section for Women's studies, and that looks very good, (bottom of opening page) adhering to the principles of Observation (What does it Say?), Interpretation (What does it mean?) and Application (How does it apply to me?) with a ton of different authors and study topics, both Old and New Testament. Some of these studies cover weeks, so it's not just light reading. At the bottom of the opening page, there is a link called "What's New" and that will lead you to sermons and writings, some of which are audio, so good to listen to while your hands are engaged (painting for me, knitting?, crocheting? for some of you, maybe)

I can't vouch for the doctrinal purity of all the content, but what I listened to and read seem spot on to me. I think you'll find it worth using.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

A Debtor to Mercy Alone

I've talked about the daily devotionals from Truth for Life before, how I like them so much.(You can sign up for them here.)I thought today's email was rich, such food for thought. Here is part of the message..."And more than all, the privileges you might have enjoyed, if you had never sinned, are yours now that you are justified. All the blessings that you would have had if you had kept the law are yours, because Christ has kept it for you. All the love and acceptance that perfect obedience could have obtained belong to you, because Christ was perfectly obedient on your behalf and has imputed all His merits to your account, that you might be exceedingly rich through Him who for your sake became exceedingly poor. How great the debt of love and gratitude you owe to your Savior!
A debtor to mercy alone,
Of covenant mercy I sing;
Nor fear with Your righteousness on,
My person and offerings to bring:
The terrors of law and of God,
With me can have nothing to do;
My Savior's obedience and blood
Hide all my transgressions from view."
I found a version of the song on YouTube that I thought was good. You can hear the song here:
A Debtor to Mercy

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A Comforting Thought

From my perch on the sixth floor, facing south, I get to enjoy both glorious sunrises (if I lean a little over the balcony), and beautiful sunsets. We have lovely sunshine all day through our two double sliders onto the balcony. Here is a little sunrise progression from the other morning:

 Still pretty dark, just starting to get light...

The sky had some lovely lavender shades in it, so much more stunning in real life. Our Father gives us these delights on a daily basis, always new, always a little different. How blessed are we?

I know I've given you quotes from Jan Karon before, but I just find some of the words in her novels so comforting. Here's another snippet that I just love, from Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good:

Father Tim speaks to a lady named Kim:
 " 'Let me pray for you.'

 'Please. I need help of any kind. I was raised Catholic, but somehow it never stuck. I couldn't imagine that God would be interested in me.'

' He's more than interested in you. It's a pretty radical notion, but he actually made us for himself, for his pleasure. He wants to hear from you anytime, about anything. Try to know that.'"
(bold and italic added)

Isn't that a comfort? That He made us for His own pleasure? And that He wants to hear from us anytime, about anything? Let's try to know that, and have a grand day in that comfort.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Thoughts on Romans 7

I've never had a real understanding of Paul's exposition about sin and the law in Romans.

Verse 7: Yet, if it had not been for the law, I should not have known sin. ...9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died; 10 the very commandment which promised life proved to be death to me.

Clear enough in the reading, we understand the words, right?
But maybe not really the meaning, not by experience anyway. I know I didn't.

But I got a personal glimpse this morning. I love Bible study, I really do, so when I was given a Bible study workbook that looked interesting, I thought it would be great to do. This particular workbook was first published in 1954, and things have changed a lot in Bible studies since then. I started to get into it, and felt this awful, but very real spirit of rebellion rearing it's ugly head. "You will, you will be expected to, you will complete, you will memorize, you will provide, you will master....." said the study guide. "Oh, I will, will I?" said my spirit. And caught myself short, realizing it was an example of exactly what I had been reading in Romans. The rebellion wasn't there, until the orders came.

Bible study writers that I've experienced lately make a point of identifying with their readers, give suggestions, give encouragement, offer urgent reasons why it's important to do this or that. This study simply assumes that you are in it for the work, and says "Here's the work! Do it!"

I thought it was an interesting revelation. 
Now I can go back to the study armed with this bit of realization, watching out for this rebellion (sin.)
I'll let you know how it goes.

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Parables

I've just finished reading a great book, called The Parables, by Gary Inrig. It's here, on Amazon.

And I wanted to share a couple of small excerpts.

" The parables calls us to know our God, to enjoy and to obey him. Over and over, I meet a God whose love is unending, whose forgiveness is unfailing, whose power is transforming, whose ear is attentive, whose reward is unmerited, and whose home is open to all who trust Him."

"Our world threatens to drown us in information; meanwhile, our souls thirst for wisdom. Our deepest need is a recognition of the grandeur of God in His grace and greatness.....May God in His grace give you a delight in His person, a passion for His glory, and a confidence in His love."

Imagine if we all had a real delight in His person, were delighted to spend time getting to know Him, delighted to spend an afternoon with Him, delighted to speak with Him, to listen to Him....may God in His grace give us this delight.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Our Names Are Safe

Since I am an avid novel reader from way back, and since I want my reading to be edifying, rather than distracting, I've been dwelling in Mitford lately, in the Jan Karon novels, and there are gems for the having.
This gem is from Shepherds Abiding, the 8th in the Mitford series.

"Someone had done a study with six-to-eight-year-olds, asking them to define love, and he'd run across the results on the Internet.

When you love someone, your eye lashes go up and down and little stars come out of you.
When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth.

He calls His sheep by name, and our names are safe in His mouth."

Isn't that lovely? Our names are safe in His mouth.

PS. Do any of you have suggestions for good Christian slanted novels or writers?
Let me know, please.


Saturday, January 9, 2016

Take my Life, let it BE

My Aunt Nel has invited me to contribute to this blog.  
I've been thinking a lot lately about Seasons of Life.  
I would like to propose this first post as Seasons, Part 1 - the state of Being.  
Seasons, Part 2 will follow on the State of Doing. 


Take my Life, Let it BE - 
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee; 
Take my Moments and my Days, 
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.

The song came up next in my Spotify playlist as I was driving to work this week.  Let it BE, Lord?  Really?  Why doesn't the song say, "Take my problems, let them go?"  After all, don't you want our seasons of life to be filled with joy, peace, clarity, direction, love, and everything wonderful in between...?"

You see, I'm a Doer. Every boyfriend I've had has told me that I walk too fast, and geez, Emily, why don't you stop and smell the roses?!  Is your life a chase? :)  To which I reply, "No, no!  I just have things to do, people to see, places to go, and dreams to fulfill!  I'm just so excited about the next thing!"

The next thing.  We are always looking towards or for the next thing, aren't we?  My Mom said I crawled at 7 months.  And when I learned how to crawl, I learned to walk at 8 months.  And when I learned how to walk, I wanted to climb up on the counters and tables and chairs to SEE and peer over the heights of whatever I couldn't see to catch a glimpse of what was BEYOND.  And when I finally got up on the edge of the counter, whoopsies!  I slipped and cracked my chin open and my Mom takes me to the hospital 5 times for stitches before the age of 5....because, well, I was a busy-body-being...

I scan back through the years, through my seasons of life, and not much has changed, I suppose.  I am still so good at running through seasons of life checking things off my To-Be List (I call it the "To-Be List" because there is a difference between the Identity-I-Want-to-Be List and His-Child-State-of-Being list.)  If I'm enjoying a season of life, I go 120% like a madman, living whole-heartedly and soaking it up, and driving myself into the exhaustion of production -- and then the season is over, and I look back, and wonder, gosh, maybe I should have stopped and smelled the roses more!  Or, if I'm despising a season of life like a child refusing his green peas, I shrink back in fear, despair, anger, bitterness, sorrow, and doubt, and beg God to get me out of this season, and just grin and bear it and pray-to-God-on-my-knees that I won't break and crumble and that somehow people will still think I'm confident and brave and getting things done and being a rockstar.

And, I chuckle because in every transition of life -- whether a joy or a trial -- in every ebb and flow of seasons -- in every break of the chapter to the next one where you feel like a Nomad wandering through the Sinai desert, hoping to stumble upon the next camp and the next cloud covering that God promises to provide -- I come right back to the same ole' question: Who am I really, Lord?  And, what do you want me to Be?  And what is my life?

In every season of life, I believe we must ask God this question, and let His Spirit answer quietly to our souls as we ponder our true state of Being in Him. This morning, He answers us in Psalm 90 by turning our gaze to David's discovery of the dwelling place we find in God through time, through every season. Bear with me as I slightly modify this passage so that the theme can soak into your heart:

"Lord, you have been my dwelling place in all seasons...from [season to season], you are return man to the dust.  For a thousand seasons in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.  You sweep them away as with a flood - they are like a dream.  like grass that is renewed in the morning; in the morning each season flourishes, and is renewed; in the evening, each season fades, and withers away.  For all our seasons pass away under your holiness; we bring our seasons to an end like a sigh.  The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength, eighty; yet their span is toil, and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.  So teach us to number our seasons (days) that we may gain a HEART of wisdom.  Satisfy us in the morning, in each season, with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice, and be glad all our seasons.  Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil.  Let YOUR work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to our children.  Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands in each season - yes, establish the work of our hands."

Some things to note about this passage:

1) In every season, we can rest in the fact that God is our dwelling place, the beginning and the end of our travels through seasons.  I'm not just talking about a physical dwelling place -- but a dwelling place for our minds and hearts, when they are scattered and detoured and dashing about for answers.

2) 1,000 years is like YESTERDAY to Him. We are so impatient, aren't we?!  God's Timetable isn't our own - to keep us in a season, or to move us on.

3) Our days are (yes, get over your wrinkles and gray hairs growing in!) passing away -- and their span is toil and trouble.  My Mom always said to me, "Most of life is lived in the mundane.  God's love and blessings and the joys we have in this world, family, friends, and loved ones make it extraordinary -- but most of life is pretty darn ordinary."  

4) God wants to teach us to number / count / cherish / ponder / treasure our days.  Part of the state of Being God's child, His daughter, His loved one, His own, is being still and knowing that He is God - the God of our hearts, our problems, our desires, our sins, our days, our seasons.  I like the use the word cherish / ponder / treasure, because I think it isn't just about having a sober, realistic view of our days, and their fleeting nature -- it is about truly cherishing the present, and the present work that God is doing in and through us. Otherwise, He would have said, "Teach us to forecast our days." :) 

5) We cherish our days, THAT we may gain a HEART of wisdom. A lot of people are super wise - intellectually, mentally, in a worldly sense, in a professional sense.  Even men and women of God are wise as it relates to their head-knowledge.  But, in various seasons of life, are we letting God season our hearts...?  The deep seasoning of the soul is a process by which we allow God to speak into the cracks of our thinking and logic, and through trial and error, fault and failure, testing and trembling, we allow God to season our hearts with the beauty, and surety, of His wisdom and commands and law and testimonies and statutes (Psalm 19).

6) Lastly, God constantly promises to satisfy us with His steadfast love.  Steadfastness doesn't alter through seasons and changing circumstances.  

I want to extend #6 into something personal here -- my last boyfriend, for better or for worse, taught me a very valuable lesson in the art and vulnerability of love.  He taught me how to let someone love me, how to be cherished, valued, served, blessed, accepted for who I was without make-up, and loved for who I was in the ugliest moments when my true self came out.  I argue that this is hard for Doers and Type-A women.  We are good at loving ourselves, understanding ourselves thoroughly enough to comprehend how best to take care of ourselves, do things that make us feel good about our identity and body and career and status before God and man.  But, we aren't always good at being dependent, and letting God love us, our husbands love us, our families and best friends love us.  And, we must learn to be loved by others, by first letting God love us -- which requires BEING in His presence and open-hearted before Him; to give Him the time of day to declare His intentions towards us, His affections, His ardent and enduring loyalty towards us.  

My recent season of having a boyfriend ended about six months ago.  And, I have truly wrestled, like Jacob, to be vulnerable with God again, let alone a man someday in the future.  To open up my heart again and again, only to watch relationships be 'swept away like a flood' before my eyes, and sweet seasons end and the transition back into singleness happens AGAIN.  My heart shrinks back in fear, I close it up, and don't want to let anyone love me, even God.  I don't want to be hurt.  I don't want the pain.  I don't want the heart-ache or the loneliness or the hopes deferred...again.  

And yet, my Dwelling place is with God, and His with me.  And, so I meekly stagger back up to His throne and into His arms, and hold up my face with tears streaming down my cheeks, and say, Yep, Here I am again, Lord.  My messy self and my weary heart and my doubting mind and my distrusting thoughts towards you -- take my life, let it BE - AGAIN.  

BE yours, BE pure, BE holy, BE loved, BE resting, BE hope-filled, BE still, BE established, BE envisioned, BE healed, just BE.  And, through the past 10 years of this cycle, I have been blown away by God's steadfast love to accept my unveiled face and heart, raw and broken and tainted and bruised.  And despite my heroic (and foolish) attempts to mold my own identity of being in this life and figure out "Who I am," He says three words to me, season and season again -- You. Are. Mine.   

And, then I let all my hopes, dreams, visions, longings go up into the cavity of His love, and ceaseless Praise begins to flow out from my heart, because in the making of space for His love, and the letting go of my self-loves and thing-loves and doing-loves, there is a wide open plain for Him to consecrate me. To His covenant, to His promises, to His plan, to His timing for my present season, and future calling.  It's ironic, isn't it?  If we clench our fist tightly to hold onto all that we want to hold onto in each season of life, somehow everything seems to slip through the cracks of our fingers, even though we thought our hold was tight enough to keep everything intact.  But, if we loosen our grip, and open up our hands so that He can take my life and let it BE (whatever He wants), somehow He ends up filling our hands with more than we could ever dream or dare to have landed into our lives.

Oh, Lord, truly, you have been our Dwelling every season.  From season to season, you are God.  Establish us for your glory, and for our Good. Give us a heart of wisdom, as we number of seasons.  Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love.  Make us glad for as many days as we have felt afflicted or bruised or battered or broken down by the disappointments of hopes deferred, of longings unfilled, of trials borne, of Your will awaited.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Prone to Wander...

Oh, Father, let this be our confession and our fervent prayer:
 "O, to Grace, how great a debtor
   Daily I'm constrained to be:
   Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
   Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
   Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
   Prone to leave the God I love;
   Here's my heart, O take and seal it,
   Seal it for Thy courts above."

Rev Robert Robinson, 1758
Listen to the entire beautiful hymn here: (oh, yeah, push that volume button up, it's inspiring!)
Scroll down past the main photo, and give the video a moment to load up. Enjoy!

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Monday, January 4, 2016

Daily Devotional by Email

If you like the idea of getting a daily devotional by email, I've found one that I think is good, solid. This organization is called "Truth for Life" and you can investigate them by using this link : Truth for Life    The devotional this morning was about how well the Lord knows each one of us, (intimately, with deep affection, since before we were born) and how much we still have to learn about Him.

"The Sun of Righteousness shone forth, and we could not see Him. Heaven came down to earth, and earth perceived it not. Let God be praised, those days are over with us; yet even now what we know of Jesus is small compared with what He knows of us. We have only begun to study Him, but He knows us altogether."

The material is written by a pastor named Alistair Begg, and the footnote at the bottom says that it's revised from writings (Morning and Evening)  by CH Spurgeon, updated for us.

There are also sermons to listen to, and a blog to follow.
If you want the daily devotional, there is a sign-up form in the right bottom corner.
Just fill it in.

Good stuff!

Friday, January 1, 2016

No Room

As we look towards this new year, and wish each other Happy 2016, this snip from a sermon provides some sobering thought. So, wishing us all a blessed year of growing closer, being more fervent in our prayers, and being willing to be less, so that He can be more.

From a sermon by C.H. Spurgeon

I conclude with this point, that if you "have room" for Christ, then from this day forward remember, "The world has no room for you;" for the text says not only that there was no room for Him, but look--"There was no room 'for them,'"--no room for Joseph, nor for Mary, any more than for the babe. Who are His mother, brother, and sister, but those who do the will of His Father in heaven. So, as there was no room for the blessed Virgin, nor for the reputed father, remember from this time on there is no room is this world for any true follower of Christ.
There is no room for you to take it "easy," no, you are to be a soldier of the cross. There is no room for you to sit down "content with all your achievements," for you are a traveler, and you are to forget the things that are behind, and press forward to that which is ahead; no room for you "to hide your treasure" in, for here the moth and rust destroys; no room for you "to put your confidence," for "Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength." From this day there will be no room for you in "the good opinion of the world." They will count you to be rubbish; no room for you in the world's "polite society"--you must go on without the sophisticated, bearing His reproach. From this time forward, if you have room for Christ, the world will hardly find room for "tolerance" of you; you must expect now to be laughed at; now you must wear the fool's cap in men's esteem. The song that you must sing will be at the very beginning of your pilgrimage:
"Jesus, I my cross have taken,
All to leave and follow Thee;
Destitute, despised, forsaken,
Thou, from hence, my all shalt be."
There is no room for you in the world's love. If you expect that everybody will praise you, and that your good actions will all be applauded, you will be quite mistaken. The world has no room for the man who has room for Christ. "If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." "Woe to you when all men speak well of you." You are not of the world, even as Christ is not of it. Thank God, you need not ask for the world's hospitality. If it will give you a stage for action, and lend you for a short time a grave to sleep in, it is all you need; you will require no permanent dwelling-place here, since you seek a city that is to come, which has foundations; whose builder and maker is God. You are hurrying through this world as a stranger through a foreign land, and you rejoice to know that though you are an alien and a foreigner here, yet you are a fellow citizen with the saints, and of the household to God.
What do you say, young soldier, will you enlist on such terms as these? Will you give room for Christ when there is to be from this time on no room for you--when you are to be separated forever, cut off from among the world's relatives--cut off from fleshly confidence forever? Are you willing, nevertheless to receive the Babe of Bethlehem in? The Lord help you to do so, and to Him will be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Being Filled

“If thou could'st empty all thyself of self
Like to a shell dishabited
Then might He find thee on the ocean shelf
And say This is not dead and fill thee with Himself instead.

But thou art all replete with very thou
And hast such shrewd activity
That when He comes He says This is enow Unto itself - 'twere better let it be
It is so small and full there is no room for me.”

Madeleine L'Engle, A Ring of Endless Light
Read more quotes from Madeleine L'Engle