A Tightrope & The Nice Glass…

Maybe I should have named this post: What An 18 Year Old Woman-Girl Can Teach You.

She slept so soundly while she was here. But a gentle nudge to her foot brought wide eyes and a smile. I wondered, this light sleeping mother/grandmother that I am, how does she do it? Though her faith is not yet mature, it has been put to the test. And I think she deep sleeps because child-like faith reminds ‘He is always watching over, no need to worry’.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear” (1John 4:18 NIV)

One day found us at the Treetop Trek. I had always thought a zip line might be fun, but the trek part? Not so much. She was excited saying ‘I will, if you will with me’. Seriously, I must not have paid attention to the video online or I would have never, ever said ‘Yes’. The ‘easy’ course picture showed a girl 10ish or so – how hard could it be? Twenty feet up, okay. Thin wood planks strung thirty feet across to the next platform, umm, alright. Each ‘element’, as they called it, got scarier. Soon there were no side ropes to hang on to. But when we came to the tightrope, yes a tightrope like the ones we see on TV, all I could do was stare.

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” (Ephesians 6:18 NIV) There is no ladder down, no one to help you. Seriously, what were the people who ran this thinking when they put my gear on me? So, yeah, I prayed all kinds of prayers and made lots of requests. Mostly ‘help’, ‘please’, ‘don’t let me fall’. The delight on her face when I joined her at the next platform was worth the fear surging through my body (I think).

On our last day together we ate breakfast in a fancy hotel restaurant. Her sweet tea was served in a stemmed water glass. ‘I’ve never drank from such a nice glass.’ The comment left me undone for a few moments. How had I come to take this special way of being served iced tea as common place? And then I wondered, what about the most special cup: the little plastic ones with the grape juice passed down the aisles to remember Him – Jesus.

We can’t let special become ordinary (1Corinthians 11:25 NIV).“This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Sometimes a trek of faith and a cup of remembrance are necessary to remind us that this life is not ordinary, it is extraordinary at every turn, we sometimes just need to see it with 18 year old eyes.

 

Grace is Messy…

Grace. I’ve been dwelling on and in, and turning over and over this precious gift/responsibility for some time.

I’ve noticed is it is often extended to me, and I often withhold it. Truth, hard truth. I’ve learned that God gives it freely, but it is only mine when I accept it. Comfort, unlike any other. I’ve grown in it when I choose to open-hand-give-it and leave my judgment/condemnation behind. There I find confirmation, affirmation, God blessing.

Yet it is a messy thing. When wronged I so want to point it out, shout it out. When I wrong another I so want to justify it, give my reasons. When facing my failure I want someone to make it all better. When facing the consequences of someone else’s failure, I want to take control. But the gentle voice reminds: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” (2Corinthians 12:9b NIV)

Ahh, weakness. Our weakness forgets that life is a mess of laughter and let-downs, of dreams and dreads, of freedom and fear. Yes, I am weak in accepting those collisions. When laughter turns to see hurt. When dreams of goodness fall on piles unworthiness. When freedom gives way to bondage of fear. It is in those times I need His power. And there it is again, g-r-a-c-e. “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2Corinthians 12:9c NIV)

When Christ’s power rests on us, grace flows more freely. For we are freed from our small strength and sustained by the workings of His mighty hand. As His grace flows through our veins the Holy Spirit helps us forgive ourselves. As we move beyond our faults, we see those of others more tenderly.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (2Corinthians 4:7 NIV) The treasure of Jesus, and His grace, resides in our frailty. So our messy grace-giving is made beautiful in His powerful hands. The more we give away, the more we have…

 

 

 

Wipers…

I hear this commercial every now and then talking about how cars didn’t always have wiper blades. A small accessory on today’s cars, but without them we wouldn’t get far in a heavy rain on the highway.

When the children were young, a fun treat was to take the car through the automatic carwash. When the hoses sprayed full force, we were in a watery world unable to see any direction. Once when the foam covered each window, they sat wide-eyed in the back seat. Next came the powerful jets of water. A small voice in back said “It’s ok, just turn on the wipers.” And so it was, when the wipers started we could see our way out.

“Regrets land on the windshield, but then comes the wiper of prayer.” Max Lucado As a mom of three grown children, wife of thirty-three years, and having lived the first twenty-five years of my life not knowing God, regret is not a stranger.

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How easily we get lost in them, discouraged. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.” (Isaiah 41:10a NIV) God was speaking to the descendants of Abraham – today that is you and I if we know Jesus. For Paul tells us in Romans 9:8 that it is the children of the promise who are God’s children. The promise is Jesus.

So when those nagging feelings of ‘should haves’ or ‘shouldn’t haves’ crowd my vision, my hope is found in turning to Jesus with the wipers of prayer on high speed. “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16NIV)

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Amazing, when I lift it all up to God in prayer, He reminds me that yesterday has no hold, tomorrow isn’t yet – it’s today and He is here. In the verse above Isaiah finished with: “I will strengthen you and help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10b NIV) Jesus sits at the right hand of God, now and always, praying for you and I.

So in my wide-eyed wonder and with a small voice I offer ‘It’s ok, just turn on the prayers.’ And so it is, for my good – and yours – is being worked out through all things. Keep those wipers going.

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Pull Your Knife…

 If you ever find yourself in the presence of a mountain lion pull your knife, lock eyes, and stand your ground.

Pastor Larry Adams recounted the story of someone who researched these animals and was caught off guard on one of his ‘field trips’. As he told it, the last thing you want to do is run. They can run a lot faster and turning your back is the most vulnerable position. The lion paced back and forth, back and forth for several long minutes, but when he wouldn’t avert his eyes, the lion gave up and retreated into the forest.

“Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7 NIV) Or the temptation, or the wrong motive, or giving up.

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Pull your knife: “Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” (Ephesians 6:17 NLT) When satan whispers his lies, pull out your sword, the Word of God, for it is truth and he will slither off. When temptation has turned your head, put on your helmet of salvation, knowing that nothing compares to what Jesus has in store for you.

Lock eyes, stand your ground: “Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.” (Proverbs 4:24-27 NIV)

Stand your ground, lock your eyes on the Word, don’t turn and run. God meets you right where you are, an ever present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)

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This life will present itself like a mountain lion many times throughout the years. It is powerful and it can be deadly. But the lions of this world cannot stand in the face of the Almighty God. We cannot confront them in our own power but Epheisans 6:10-18 gives us all the instructions we need to defeat the lions. Lions of loss, fear, health issues, failure. We may walk through the storm, but we are never alone in the storm.

What is your lion today? Bible, steady gaze, immovable – that’s Jesus in you, with Him you will never fall.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.” (Ephesians 6:10 NIV)

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Lead Rubies…

Rubies, a precious jewel, second only to diamonds in hardness and much rarer.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an expensive jewelry fan – but when looking in jewelry store windows, I have always been drawn to these red beauties. And then I found out it is very rare these days to get a true ruby. Most are lead-filled or otherwise compromised. A real ruby of size would be very costly.

No wonder Solomon said this about wisdom: “She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her.” (Proverbs 3:15 NIV) And believe me, if anyone had a lot of rubies, it was Solomon.

When Solomon took the throne of his father, David, the Lord spoke to him in a dream telling him to ask for whatever he wanted from God. Solomon recounted his father’s faithfulness, and asked for a discerning heart, to be able to distinguish between right and wrong. And we are the recipients of God’s lavish gift of wisdom to him.

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God has written lessons throughout His Word using what we consider ‘precious’ or ‘valuable’ here on earth as comparison. In speaking of all this stuff of life we have to endure, He said: “These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine…” (1Peter 1:7 NIV)

All the rubies and gold will someday be consumed and laid to ash, but our faith, that stands the test of time, will be held up as more precious than all these combined.

And yet not even this can be accomplished by us – “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:9 NIV) Wish it was a big box with a loopy bow on top? Open it up and be consumed by faith, so there is no room for doubt? Yet it comes in baby steps, in packages we would rather not open. Packages of hard stuff: sickness, financial hardships, death, and many other ugly things that we would rather keep the lid on.

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Through these comes the gift of faith. Don’t know about you, but when things are easy, I don’t think about trusting Him as much. But when the battle is warring, I’m grasping for all the trust I can get. Looking for it at every turn.

And, surprise, when I look back from the other side of grief or worry – I see faith was right there with me. Not mine but His – His faithfulness in my faithlessness. A big ‘ol gift dwelling in me by His Holy Spirit. Who needs rubies? I’ve got God who adorns me with more than all the world’s treasures!

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Fix It…

I’m a fixer – I don’t want anyone hurting, sad, left out, wandering. And patience isn’t part of fixing – now please.

Many years – and life’s triumphs and defeats – have softened the edges of my ‘just do it this way’ attitude — mostly. Then I read: “Let your gentleness be evident to all, the Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:5 NIV) Gentle fixes more than all my ‘good ideas’.

Tender love endears. Quiet words hearken ears. This fruit of the Spirit, gentleness, is the way of fixing.

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“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.” (Matthew 11:29 NIV) Jesus ‘fixed’ many things while He walked the earth: blind eyes, deaf ears, dead bodies, illness, hard hearts. Yet each time in great tenderness – and often asking ‘do you want this fixing, this mending?’ (my paraphrase). Reminds me that what I see as broken may not want fixing, and it’s not to me to be the fixer.

If you’re a mother, you know this dilemma intimately. Not wanting our babes, young or grown, to walk the mistakes we did. And so we offer, not so gently, our advice or answers. Often without asking. Those closest to us, husbands – friends – siblings, should see things the way we do, right?

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“Gentleness is strength under control.” Elizabeth George Jesus was all powerful, able to fix anything – everything. Yet He never forced His will on anyone. The ability to fix something isn’t our license to make it so. When we trust God to work out all things, that is our gentleness, His strength in us – under control. Holy Spirit leading, us cooperating.

I want to turn my fixing into falling – at the feet of the One who is control. Letting go of my fear that things want turn out right, that something will go dreadfully wrong – trusting the One who is faithful. “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2Corinthians 4:18 NV)

Now that’s the kind of fixing that will make a difference – and give rest to our souls.

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What’s Best…

Lifetimes are spent trying to do what’s best, have what’s best, wishing for what’s best, planning for what’s best.

But if it’s doing, we’ll always fall short. If it’s having, someone will always have better. If it’s wishing, much time will be lost. If it’s planning, it’s usually exclusive to self.

These are hard things. We’re taught to achieve and strive and be prepared. But there is a master plan: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord,” (Jeremiah 29:11a NIV) Daily we miss it – some by never knowing Jesus, others by claiming Jesus but walking their own way, and others consumed in worry or the pride of their own plan.

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As part of a weary world of souls, how do we put away our ideas? “Many, O Lord my God are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you.” (Psalm 40: 5 NIV) Wonders are daily provided: newborn yawns, sun glistening rain drops, sickness healing, friendships growing. Wonders planned for you, for me – too often missed or considered ordinary.

“God always gives what’s best to those who leave the choice to Him.” (Author Unknown) So simple, so complex. I’m recalling the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. Too much of me is described. Give me all the good stuff now and I’ll take care of the rest, that’s the gist of the story. The young man goes off and not too long after has nothing left. Almost starving and without even a shirt, he is finally broken enough to return to the family he’s realized truly loved him. With a heart ready to change he makes his way home. What awaits him?

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Condemnation? No. Wagging fingers and should have known betters? No. “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.” (Luke 15:22 NIV) Not ‘go get him an old shirt til he can get a bath’, not ‘clean yourself up and then come in’. The best robe. For Jesus takes our filth, covers our nakedness, and welcomes us regardless the plans we’ve carried out.

So I’m thinking a lot of heartache can be avoided by letting Him choose what’s best and not strive after our version. “…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11b NIV) Hope for now, and a future secure in Him.

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If you stopped by because you read my devotion today over at Encouragement Cafe, WELCOME!   So glad you are here!

 

 

Power-Less…

Most of us will never find ourselves behind actual jail cell bars, but often invisible bars keep us locked up tight. Some of those bars are bad habits, some are past hurts, some are poor decisions, still more come from the illusion that we can control what seems to be out of control.

The state of our heart longs for freedom, yet it seems just out of reach. We feel powerless.

And the truth is: we are. But with the Holy Spirit dwelling in us and Jesus interceding for us and a Father who is the sustainer of all life defending us – why do we need power?

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The root of all of life’s messes is self. Self wants to do what self wants to do – surely in that there is freedom and power. And then the mess occurs. Locked in the prison self creates we cry out for freedom. Perhaps power-less is safer after all. Perhaps exercising freedom really comes in the form of knowing we can do what we want, but choosing to do what a loving God wants instead.

Maybe we can replace power with purpose, perseverance,  prayer. Therein power and freedom collide. Even these are not our own making but liberally supplied by our Soul Lover: “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13 NIV)  “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” (2Thessalonians 3:5 NIV) “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV)

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This is my struggle this week. To surrender that which I can’t control anyways. To let the peace of God guard my heart and my mind. To persevere when I really just want to crawl under the covers.

“True freedom is not the power to do what we want, but the power to choose not to.” Pastor Matt Price Father, may our choices this week set us free because we choose Your power, Your freedom – we choose You.

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Measure Up…

Simpler times are those years filled with lining children up to see how much they’ve grown. Each half inch (or more) duly noted with a date. Some years seemed like they were beanstalks, some were slower.

Then comes the more complicated years called being adults. Always wondering: “do I measure up”?

The world keeps changing the bar, the standard, the enough. I’m reminded of this when others don’t think you or I measure up: “…I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of My joy within them.” That joy doesn’t depend on a constantly changing enough – that full measure isn’t something to wish for, work for, wait for. It is ours now – in full, for always, and all the work is done.

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Still, we are called to be ever watchful – not so we meet an unattainable bar, but so we don’t get tripped up. A dear friend shared such truth recently. She has lived in the same neighborhood thirty plus years and walks most of those days. She knows every crack in the sidewalk. Recently her shoe caught in a crack she had passed hundreds of times. Before she knew it her head hit the pavement. Trying to stand, she realized blood was trickling down her face.

A friend she was meeting saw her go down. There in an instant she helped her back home. Oh how it so easily happens to us. In our striving to measure up to someone or something we pass by our days so familiar and then the unexpected drops us down. Bloodied, we wonder why, how?

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“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1Peter 5:8 NIV) Not only that, this competitive world does too. More so, it’s just  fallen humanity. We will be bloodied at times. But just before this verse is a dear one we can count on. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” (1Peter 5:6-7 NIV) Right there, to lift us when we fall.

Perhaps we need to turn the measuring into mercy. Knowing that we will all stumble and fall, none are perfect. Fortunately for you and for me – there is a Savior whose perfection is ours and who stands in for us so we always measure up. So much so that the perfection of eternity is ours.

Do you know this Savior, this Jesus? If you do, you have more riches than all the world’s combined. If you don’t, He’s near at hand, extending His hand, reach for it and when you stumble, He will lift you up. That’s a promise.

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If you stopped by because you read my devotion today over at Encouragement Cafe, WELCOME!   So glad you are here!

Change Up…

I don’t like change – maybe that’s universal. There are the lucky few who thrive on ever changing ways, but for the most part, I think we like reliable ordinary.

Small changes are the most annoying: just when you find a great lunch place they go out of business or the perfect lipstick they discontinue that color. The big changes, those sometimes leave us trying to breathe right, not enough o-x-y-g-e-n.

Then it’s right there in Matthew: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3 NIV) That change wasn’t so painful – in fact, He does all the work for us. “And the Lord–who is the Spirit–makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.” (2Corinthians 3:18 NLT)

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Wait, first little children then His glorious image. What’s the connection? Little ones easily trust, want to please, find awe in a snowflake or a smile in a caterpillar. His glorious image in us is a reflection of us trusting Him, living His way, and finding this is what gives us awe and smiles in the midst of all the trials and pitfalls.

Reading Ann Voskamp’s latest book The Broken Way she said “There’s absolutely no tidy pattern as to who gets pain and who gets peace.” My mother often said “Into each life a little rain must fall.” No getting away from it. But the living it – changes us. Each step towards the other side, brings about a better reflection in us of Who we belong to.

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I came across this verse recently and thought wait, what? “When I awake, I am still with You.” (Psalm 139:18b NIV) It seemed so out of context. The verses preceding spoke of how God’s thoughts for us outnumber the grains of sand. That alone is mind boggling, but it ended with: when I am awake, I am still with You. I didn’t get it. Until I woke up the next morning and the first thing on my mind was a song playing over and over called “I Am Yours”…

“So I rest in your promises, I am sure of this, I am Yours”.Yes, when we awake, all through the night, through those crushing times, and in the midst of great joy – we are still with Him. Continue your change in us, Father, for with You change is good.

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