This is Tender…

Fragile – not a word I like to use – about me. After all I am a strong woman, right? Truth is: far more fragile than I want to admit, than my ‘pull up your bootstraps’ attitude can handle, but not more than my God can hold together.

We go about our days doing those things the day requires – keeping house, tending children, encouraging friends, loving husbands, fulfilling work requirements, and all that tugs and pulls and must get done. And we forget. Forget that it’s ok to be fragile in the doing.

“My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17 NIV)

It is in the secret brokenness of our spirit, the often unseen contrite heart where pieces feel like they will never be whole, that God does His work. From these places others can draw near. No longer held at a distance by our ‘strength’ but drawn into the wonder of God’s work in the tapestry of a life lived surrendered.

Jesus always did a tender work in those he touched, spoke with, cried with. His words never fail to heal – “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)

In the end this is what we’re all searching for. Rest from the acts of terror that invade the news stories, rest from the heartache of death and sickness, rest from the striving for more. Ever watched the work of the artist weaving a tapestry? The weaver sits behind the tapestry seeing all the knotted mass of threads and occasionally peaking through to see the reflection of the tapestry as she makes progress.

Right now we see the mass of knotted threads. A weak reflection of what can be is occasionally glimpsed, but the Weaver is working. Patiently, tirelessly, and oh so tenderly the Father uses each temptation succumbed to, every prayer of forgiveness, all the trials and triumphs – woven together by His tender mercies. Someday we will see perfectly the beauty He made from our fragile souls.

Til then this is tender: “Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14 NIV) Little child, your fragile is a work of art in the hands of the Master.

 

Sometimes Too Much…

Lately everything seems like ‘Too Much’.

So much we want to do. So much we have to do. Then comes a wrinkle. You know the wrinkles – unexpected guests, unexpected illness, unexpected travel, unexpected stuff. Then the much of life we want to do and have to do, seems like too much. Is there peace in all this? Are there answers for the how?

Truth is, I know there’s peace, but I don’t have the answers for how to fit all this stuff of life in. Ever have one of those weeks where the calendar looked fairly empty, then find yourself on Friday wondering what happened? The days were so filled that even the few things on the calendar were a struggle.

Time for a time out. Aha – that’s always the answer. Time out – outside of the To-Do list and appointments. Inside the presence of God. “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him.” (Psalm 62:1 NIV)

It seems like an oxymoron to say we will find more time and get more done if we will make dedicated time to spend with God. I don’t know how it works, I just know it does. You know how you like spending time with your children and want them to like spending time with you? It’s the same with our heavenly Father – He loves quieting our hearts, He adores when we love spending time with Him.

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” (Proverbs 16:3 NIV)

Sometimes what we thought those plans looked like may drastically change, but when we’ve taken time out beforehand, we succeed. Not the way the world sees success, or our spouse sees success, or even how we may envision success. But when we commit to the Lord “whatever” we do, we go about it wanting to please Him. Then it can be well with our soul, resting in doing everything we do as for God and not for man.

Easier said than done? You bet. But the more we go about the much of life by turning to God first and foremost, the less the much seems to overwhelm. “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes form Him.” (Psalm 62:5 NIV)

 

 

Not Fading…

What’s your most valuable possession? Jewelry, cars, home? Antiques, artwork, memorabilia?

Two thousand years ago perfume was a highly valued item. Extremely expensive, not owned by many. The ingredients to make it were scarce and pricey.

“While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came to Him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as He was reclining at the table.” (Matthew 26:6-7 NIV)

Imagine the scene. Those present hurled their accusations: ‘how dare she’, ‘what a waste’, ‘it could have been sold and many poor taken care of’, ‘what’s the matter with her’.

I’m trying to picture Jesus there among poor and rich alike, followers and non-believers, sincere and hypocrite, praisers and scoffers. The whole room must have smelled heavenly. And the giver was surely frozen in place wondering ‘oh no, what are they going to do to me’.

“Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured the perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.” (Matthew 26:10b-12 NIV)

That would have turned attention back to the Who and away from the what in an instant. Now all present would be turning over the word ‘burial’. Jesus is going to die? Not one there understood how very imminent that humiliating and torturous death was – only a few days away. The purity and amount of perfume that washed over Jesus’ hair, skin, and clothing would not have faded for a very long time.

I wonder what those who mocked and tortured Him thought of the beautiful fragrance as they spit, slapped, whipped, and staked Him to a cross? No mention is made but I would guess that after all that transpired surrounding His arrest, torture, death – and resurrection – they would recall that smell for a lifetime.

Whatever happened to the woman who was so extravagant? “I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” (Matthew 26:13 NIV) The Holy Spirit made sure that the writers of the Good News told of this event. And Jesus does the same for you and me. We are remembered for our love for Him, our story is written in eternity, with as sweet a fragrance as though we had poured out the alabaster jar.

May your celebration of Easter this week find you thanking Him for writing your story – the good and bad parts – knowing that in eternity it is all redeemed and heaven is full of the scent of a Risen Savior. Happy, happy Easter indeed!

Heart Voice….

I did it again – and I bet you will say ‘Me too!’

I tend to run ahead of myself and worry about the unknown and how the ‘next thing’ is going to turn out. I lose sleep, I get short tempered, I tend to blame those I love the most for my failures.

This is me in charge. I’m learning, ever so slowly, that I really don’t want to be in charge. I want to follow, but not a fallible way. No, I want to follow in a sure way knowing that the One leading knows the way, knows how, knows me.

“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3 NIV) There it is again, trust. Oh I am so like the man who wanted healing for his son and said to Jesus “if you can do anything”. The disciples’ eyes must have widened, they had seen many miracles. ” ‘If you can’ ? said Jesus. Everything is possible for him who believes.” (Mark 9:23 NIV)  Then just like me – like you – the boy’s father cries out “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24 NIV)

Right there with the boy’s father. I do believe – but this? Can you do even this?

When faced with myself in the uncertain times, I don’t want to listen to my heart, as many would counsel. I want to hear the heart of Him who works out all things. I like that God is called our ‘Rock’. That solid foundation, enduring strength. Just remind me again that I can “Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal.” (Isaiah 26:4 NIV)

Easter celebration is less than two weeks away. Those who wanted to be done with Jesus, to move on with their agendas and their power games, rolled a huge stone in front of His tomb, secured it, set guards, and went and celebrated His demise.

But the stones that Jesus made, the guards He gave life to, the rulers He gave power to – they couldn’t keep Him from rising.

And our doubts don’t hinder Him either. Oh heart, listen to this voice, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b NIV)

I’m Sure…

I recall times as a child when mom would say “Are you sure about this?” Usually that meant she wasn’t so sure. Her daughter was wanting to do something she wasn’t certain was ok.

Uncertainty is always just around the corner in our crazy world. ‘If I could just know for sure, then I…” is no stranger. There are three questions that have absolute, certain answers:

“If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” (Romans 8:31b NLT)

“Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for His own?” (Romans 8:33a NLT)

“Can anything ever separate us from the love of Christ?” (Romans 8:35a NLT) Hard not to dance, laugh, sing, or shout – because the answers are so amazing.

Question 1 answer – “Since He did not spare even His own Son but gave Him up for us all, won’t He also give us everything else?” (Romans 8:32 NLT) Seriously – we can know for certain that since He would give His own Son for us, most certainly no one can stand against us. All things are ours, (maybe not the sports car or big bank account), but all things that matter – mostly eternity.

Question 2 answer – “No one – for God Himself has given us right standing with Himself.” (Romans 8:33b NLT) Accuse us all you want satan, world, neighbors. Your accusation is meaningless. For we have been made righteous because of Jesus. Our mess-ups will happen, but the Father sees Jesus – and we are precious to Him.

Question 3 answer – “No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” (Romans 8:37 NLT) No matter what, victory over it all. All because Jesus loves us – a love we cannot define in human words. Love that knows no conditions, love that simply says ‘You are mine’.

Are we sure about all this? Need a little more certainty? “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.” (Romans 8:38 NLT)

Worried about old age or cancer? Neither death or life can separate us. Worried about how things will turn out? Neither our fears or worries can separate us.

What about finances, children/grandchildren with severe illness, divorce, job loss, dementia, loneliness? Put your ‘what about’ right here: __________? Hear this: “No power in the sky above or in the earth below – indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39 NLT)

Tell the worries and what ifs: I AM SURE. Certain and safe, now and forever.

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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