Monday, August 19, 2013

New Beginnings

 
"The Lord ' s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness."
Lamentations 3:22,23

Today is the first day of the school year for many. I have so enjoyed seeing all the "Back To School" poses pictured online this morning. You can sense the freshness in each one . . . . neatly cut, perfectly arranged hair . . . . unscuffed shoes, not quite broken in yet . . . . newly purchased school clothes, carefully tucked and smoothed . . . . that perfect backpack, long-deliberated-over and finally chosen, bursting at the seams with beckoning, blank notebook pages, unbroken crayons, and  shiny yellow pencils, sharpened and ready for action.
 
But most of all I have loved seeing the bright smiles and sparkling eyes of the children, their eager faces revealing the hopeful expectation of good things to come . . . . the fresh promise of  finding new friendships,  gaining new understanding, and exploring new ideas. Everything feels . . . . well . . . . new!  On this first day of school there are no thoughts of bad grades, lost homework, tardy slips, playground bullies, or rainy day recesses . . . . only the excitement of starting  all over again.

I have always relished the feeling of fresh beginnings.  Maybe it's because I was a teacher for all those years . . . . or maybe it's because I've fallen flat on my face so many times . . . . perhaps it is merely because I am hardwired as the eternal optimist . . . .  but I always savor the idea of starting over again. I'm a sucker for Monday mornings and New Year's resolutions.  I revel in the first blooms of springtime and the smell of newborn babies, fresh from Heaven. 
 
There's something exhilarating about leaving the staleness of yesterday behind . . . . pulling up that anchor that would have me remain in the past . . . . detecting the subtle stirring of the breeze . . . . raising my sail to full mast . . . . setting my sites on a new horizon . . . . and giving myself over to the will of the Maker of land and sea and wind and all things . . . .letting the wind of His Spirit launch me where He wills. 

"For in Him we live and move and have our being."  
Acts 17:28

I've been pondering that verse a lot lately.  In Him . . . . in Him . . . . in Him . . . .  that phrase repeats itself again and again in my spirit. What does it mean to be in Him? The Bible says this of  us who believe: 
 
"For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God." 
Col 3:3
 
"Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature:
 old things are passed away;
behold, all things are become new." 
2 Cor 5:17
 
Our modern day culture focuses a lot on doing, but not so much on just being . . . . on gaining recognition and position and possessions, but not so much on losing our life in the One who IS our very life . . . . on insisting on our own way, and not so much on relinquishing control to Him who IS the Way. 
 
What if we were to allow every day to be like the first day of school . . . . filled with anticipation of everything good . . . .  overflowing with His new mercies and grace . . . . joyful hearts trusting as a child does that it's going to be just wonderful?  What if we were to let go of our own stubborn wills and allow Him to take us where He pleases and continually pour out our lives to the world around us?  What if we were to fully realize all that it means to "live and move and have our being" . . . . our very being . . . . in Him? 
Poppa, help us to really know and experience the depths of this mysterious but wonderful life hid in Christ that You have promised us.  Thank You for the hope of eternal life and for making all things new. Thank you for enrolling us in your school of the Spirit, where each day is richer than the day before. 

 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Overcomer

 
 
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.
In this world you will have trouble.
But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33

Yesterday was one of those tough days . . . . you know the ones I'm talking about.  I felt overwhelmed and weak and wavering and overcome by unseen enemies. How did I handle it? I asked several close friends for prayer . . . . I crawled up in "Poppa's Lap" . . . . and cried . . . . and worshipped . . . . and cried . . . . and worshipped . . . . and let His great Love comfort me and settle my troubled heart. Sometimes you've just got to be His little child and trust others to stand guard over you while you rest and recover. How beautiful is the Body of Christ . . . . and how vast is His love for us. 

This morning I awoke bathed in His new mercies, with my much-needed cup of grace filled to overflowing. Since then I have been savoring  God's promises . . . . feeding my spirit with strength-giving nourishment, enabling it to once again take charge of my fickle emotions and line them up with God's Word.

Battles come so unexpectedly in this life! One moment we are walking in the joy of His favor and blessing, enjoying Him and all He has given . . . . then . . . . out of nowhere . . . . a storm of Biblical proportions looms overhead, blocking our vision, impeding our movement, threatening to knock us down and blow us completely away. 
 
What then are we to do in these inevitable, unavoidable battles?
 
Knowing that our Champion has already defeated every foe once and for all . . . . realizing that we can't follow in His footsteps without meeting some of those foes along the way so that we may learn to enforce His victory on the earth . . . . believing that He has already given us ALL we need to overcome in the situations that He, in His sovereignty, is allowing us to face. . . . All these things keep us moving firmly forward through the tough times . . . . through the bad reports . . . . through the long, dark nights . . . . through the stormy seasons . . . . without doubting His goodness or wavering in our faith, even if we are still sometimes trembling in our boots.  
 
Then . . . . reminding ourselves that we are fully clothed in Him . . . . knowing that it is impossible for Him to fail . . . . we force our gaze away from the circumstances, focus our attention on His throne, and attune our ears to hear the battle plan.  We hold up the shield of faith and the sword of the spirit and we stand  . . . . and we stand . . . . and then we stand some more . . . . and we face down our enemy in the strength of our LORD Jesus Christ . . . . Captain of the Hosts . . . . Mighty Warrior King . . . . and we know that in Him we are more than conquerors . . . .
 
and Poppa smiles . . . .
 
and the enemy loses . . . . again . . . .and again . . . . and again . . . .

and Poppa laughs! (Ps 2:4)
 

"And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb
and because of the word of their testimony,
and they did not love their life even when faced with death."
Revelation 12:11

Friday, May 17, 2013

Convergence

 
 
All flesh is grass,
And all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.
 The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever. 
Isaiah 40:6b, 8

 
I love it when God sends me flowers!

He knows how I cherish their unexpected arrival in the middle of an otherwise ordinary day. They burst onto the scene . . . . adorned in vibrant beauty . . . . releasing their intoxicating fragrance . . . . changing the atmosphere with their very presence.

Like Moses at the burning bush, I just have to stop whatever I'm doing and take it all in. . . . savor the experience fully . . . . graciously receive the costly offering they have lavished upon me, understanding that their moment of fullness has come . . . . that their destiny has now been fulfilled. . . . and that the time of their fading has begun. The two lives intersect for a moment in time, and each is changed by the other. . . . Their convergence is now complete.

God sent me a special flower today . . . . His gift to me was delightful, and though the encounter was brief . . . Her fragrance lingers still, even interrupting my sleep.

I had dreaded and put off a much-needed doctor's appointment for a couple of weeks, but I had promised myself that today was the day. The waiting room of our local rural health clinic is always packed wall-to-wall with weary souls, and today was no exception. I chose my spot in the crowded room and unpacked all the diversions I had brought along to distract myself. I settled down into my bunker and prepared to endure. To think, that in my narrowness of heart and self-absorption, I came close to missing out on the wonderful gift that was being delivered just for me . . . .

She walked in the door a short time later. I looked up from my iPad, smiled, and said, "Good Morning."  Noticing that there weren't many empty seats, I cleared the place next to me, and she sat down. There was no apparent common denominator between the two of us . . . . our ages were from different decades . . . . our skin colors were of contrasting hues . . . . our fashion styles clashed dramatically. . . . based on first impressions, it is likely that our social circles differed, as well as our bank accounts. But . . . . nevertheless . . . . in this most dreary, routine, and unceremonious setting . . . a moment of divine convergence was upon us. 

Even before our conversation began, I sensed the invisible, yet undeniable connection that already existed. . . . I heard the distinct rumblings of "deep calling to deep".  Within a few moments, we had both flung wide the doors of our hearts and begun to simultaneously spill out the contents.  It was if we had been waiting for this moment in time to be able to release what had been held back. Life and truth, beauty and pain, shared experiences and lessons learned came rushing in torrents out of the two streams . . . . from two different perspectives . . . . from two different worlds . . . . yet now converging as one in a beautiful, cascading River of Life, so that one was lost in the other. I drank thirstily and unashamedly from her, and she from me.

It was such a lovely time, and I heard the sound of my name being called all too quickly. I stood to leave, but was compelled to turn around to embrace her for a moment. Sometimes you must simply bury your face in the bouquet to absorb all of it's essence. Poppa had so perfectly orchestrated this exchange, and it was hard to see His beautiful flower begin to fade from my sight . . . . But it's purpose was now complete . . . . two lives intersecting for a moment in time . . . . each forever changed by the other.
 
I completed the scheduled lab work that had brought me here this morning, paid my bill, and re-entered the front lobby.  I quickly scanned the room for the familiar face . . . . but, just as I had expected, she was no longer there . . .   I wished I had asked her name.
 
As I stepped outside into the morning sunshine, I was surprised to find her out on the front walk, stretching her legs for a bit.  My heart leaped for joy!  We once again eagerly connected, each expressing our thanks for the newly shared friendship. 
 
I said my final goodbye, began to head toward my car, and then suddenly remembered . . . . "Oh!  By the way, I am Melody . . . . What is your name?" I asked as I turned back around. 

"Lily", she replied, "my name is Lily." . . . . Of course . . . . big smile . . . . savor the moment . . . . take it all in.

I love it when God sends me flowers!


Now thanks be to God
who always leads us in triumph in Christ,
 and through us diffuses the fragrance
of His knowledge in every place.
II Corinthians 2:14 


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Letting Go . . . .



Today was an odd day . . . . not sad or depressing or disappointing . . . . just a little disorienting . . . . or RE-orienting, maybe?

I had prepared myself ahead of time for change. I had purposefully fixed my mind on the many blessings in my life; I had reached out to some whom I felt might be struggling today; I had kept my heart in a state of thanksgiving. I realize now that I had been bracing myself for some unseen tsunami that I sensed might come from nowhere and sweep me away, never to be found again.

Today, on this first Mother's Day since her passing, I found myself alone in my mom's almost empty house . . . .wandering around the now unfamiliar rooms, stopping to bury my nose in her Youth Dew bath powder, running my fingers through some of her clothing still hanging in the closet . . . . desperately searching for something familiar to cling to. I found nothing. That house is just a building now and, strangely, I felt like an intruder there in that place I once called home.

Today was an important milestone in my life . . . .a day for burial . . . .a day for letting go . . . . a day for moving on. This was a day for plunging myself down deeper into the heart of Poppa God to gulp from the bottomless wells of His grace . . . . a day for flinging myself violently into all that He is and allowing myself to be swallowed up completely in His all-consuming Love.

Today, I learned anew that He is more than enough for me on any day, through any season, and in any situation. He is not only my Father, He is now my Mother. He is my Husband, my Best Friend, my Everything. My identity comes not from being someone's child or mother or wife or friend. My identity is not related to my hometown, my career, my possessions, or even the gifts He has given. My identity comes from Christ alone. Everything else will pass away . . . . all else will be shaken, burned up,  vaporized in an instant.  He alone is my Life.

Today was a very good day . . . .

"Whom have I in heaven but You? 
And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.
My flesh and my heart may fail, 
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."
Psalms 73:25, 26 NASB

"For you have died 
and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, 
then you also will be revealed with Him in glory."
Colossians 3:3, 4


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Once Upon A Time . . . .

Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them. 
Psalm 139:16

Ye are an epistle of Christ . . . . written not with ink,
but with the Spirit of the living God;
not in tables of stone, but in tables that are hearts of flesh.
2 Cor 3:3




"What kind of Love is writing my story to the end.. . . With Mercy's pen?"

The above line from Natalie Grant's song, Alive, captured my heart a while back, and I've been pondering the imagery ever since.

Who doesn't love a good book, with a plot that grabs hold of you on the first page and carries you away hostage until you've reached the last?  The story haunts your thoughts for days afterwards, and you find yourself fondly remembering each character, wondering what they are doing now, and longing to spend time with them again.  Silly?  Maybe . . . . but you avid readers know exactly what I mean.

Books have transported me to ancient lands and distant shores.  I have tasted both victory and defeat in battle, taken my stand for justice as I championed a cause, been rescued by valiant heroes from certain doom, and swept off my feet by my one true love . . . . all while never leaving my favorite chair.  I have been inspired to the point of tears at triumphs of good over evil, and I have been devastated with disappointment over the human condition as the villain gains the upper hand and causes darkness to hijack the storyline.

Have you ever stopped to consider what makes some books so enjoyable while others seem to flop? 

Most stories have the same basic patterns: a setting is established, a conflict emerges, things go right, things go WRONG, there is a final breakthrough (a victory or defeat), and a conclusion. As the tale unfolds, the positive attributes as well as the personality flaws of the characters begin to be revealed and they become either dearly beloved or adamantly hated figures to the reader.

When I discover an author whose book I love, I look forward to reading his other works, as well.  I especially love a trilogy or series that allows me to follow a character or family through several generations and periods in history.  It is intriguing to see how decisions made by earlier characters leave a lasting and irrevocable impact on the family or the situation being presented. 

I can only conclude that the author must ultimately take sole responsibility for the success or failure of the tale he is penning.  He alone controls every element, after all, so only he can guide it to a satisfying outcome. Once the writer has signed his name to the final draft . . . . once he has leaned back in his chair, smiled,  and whispered to himself, "well done" . . . . only then can he entrust his work to the printers and wait for the reviews.  His masterpiece is now complete.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Okay . . . . back to the lyrics, "What kind of Love is writing my story to the end . . . . With Mercy's pen?" . . . . 

What if the ultimate author of your life's story is Almighty God?  He is, you know.  When He created you, He designed a specific setting just for you . . . . the perfect backdrop against which the plot would unfold.   He placed within you the necessary elements of your personality that were to help weave the most wonderful adventure.  He planned  epic battles for you to fight and the enemy of all enemies for you to overcome and vanquish.  And, of course there is the unmistakeable thread of the love story of the ages, woven throughout the saga from beginning to end.  This unique work is the first of a series as well, with the decisions that you make affecting the characters in future sequels as yet unwritten.  This has all the makings of a great masterpiece . . . . right?

But wait . . . . what is this I see? . . . . With all of Heaven looking on . . . . God does the most curious thing.  Quite deliberately . . . .  without a moment of uncertainty or hesitation . . . . He reaches down through the ages and places the pen solidly in YOUR hand!  Rather than being merely a passive participant in this work, you alone are now allowed to determine your role and to decide how the plot will unfold to the ending.  Shocking!

The gift of the human will . . . . this is the most dangerous gift that God ever bestowed upon His creation.  With it, we love and follow Him completely one moment only to turn away and rebel against Him and His beautiful plan the next.   Why would He take such a risk?  Why were we entrusted with the power to break His heart?  There are hidden mysteries in this that will take an eternity for us to explore, but let's begin with this:  God is Love and love does not EVER insist on it's own way.  This God who is Love . . . . this Author and Perfector of our faith . . . .  has given us everything we will ever need to become who He desires us to be, but He will never insist, never force, never control.  Instead, He waits patiently . . . . bearing with us . . . . believing in us . . . . hoping for us . . . . interceding for us . . . . ever waiting and watching for that breakthrough in the plot, the place where the reader cheers and knows that the ending is now going to be outstanding!

Will you take this gift He gave you . . . . your own will . . . . this divine "Pen" . . . . and place it back into His loving Hand?  Will you trust that His version of your manuscript will be perfect in every way . . . . even if it unfolds in a direction that you would never have chosen?  Will you allow "Mercy's pen" to write your story to the end, just as the song suggests?  Will His name be signed at the end as proof of His final approval?  Will you stand before Him on that day and hear those cherished and long-awaited words . . . . "Well done, good and faithful servant"?  (Matt. 25:23)  Will you see Him smile at His finished work?

Only then will you know that you ARE the masterpiece that He had always envisioned . . . . Only then will His heart be fully satisfied . . . . And only then, beloved, will your own heart be fully satisfied. 


For we are God’s masterpiece.
He has created us anew in Christ Jesus,
so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Eph 2:10 (NLV)




Sunday, March 17, 2013

Broken and Restored


For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face;
now I know in part, but then I will know fully
just as I also have been fully known.
1 Corinthians 13:12
 
 

I dropped my hand-held mirror this morning . . . . the one I use when putting on my makeup.  As you can see in the photo, it fractured into quite a few pieces, making it difficult for me to complete my task.  At first I felt irritated as I tried unsuccessfully to find a way to accurately see my reflection. I kept getting a distorted view as I sought to try a different angle.

As I continued, memories came flooding back from a time when my life was fractured just like this mirror . . . . a time when my heart was not an accurate reflection of the God who loves me so . . . . a time when I had a distorted view of Him and myself and everything in general . . . . a time when I tried and tried to look at life from a different "angle" only to end up more and more broken. 

As these memories unfolded, my attention began to shift from the natural to the spiritual . . . . my attitude began to shift from agitation to adoration . . . . and my heart began to respond in the way for which it was created . . . . in worship of the One who heals the brokenhearted and sets the captive free.  Oh how I love Him, because I was that captive and He has set me free! She who has been forgiven much, loves much. 

I don't want to focus on all the events which resulted in my broken life. Let's just say that I have an enemy who has always hated and sought to destroy me.  For a time I believed his lies and built my life on that false foundation.  I loved God and wanted to serve Him, but my understanding of His ways was so distorted by lies that all my efforts were in vain.

I can remember reading Jeremiah 29 over and over again during those dark times.   This chapter contains the message God gave the prophet to deliver to His people whom HE had CAUSED to be led away into captivity for a season. He was encouraging them in their final outcome and promising that, if they would search for Him with their WHOLE heart, they would indeed find Him. I would literally burst into tears each time I read this as I cried out to Him in my misery, "But, God, I don't HAVE a whole heart!!!  How will I ever find you?!?!  Please give me a whole heart!!"

For years I looked at Him through this shattered lens, but I never stopped crying out for Him to heal all the broken pieces of my heart.  According to His beautiful design and His perfect timing, He answered my tearful prayers.  All along He had been carefully working all things together for my good . . . . I just couldn't quite see it yet . . . . It was the fractured vision, you know . . . . it blinded me to the truth.  But, there came a day when His incredible love was revealed to my heart in a way that dealt a death blow to all those lies!  From that time on, the restoration was quick and it was solid. His love NEVER fails!  The promises in Isaiah 61 became my reality . . . . beauty for ashes . . . . praise instead of heaviness . . . . everlasting joy.  What response can we ever have to Him . . . . the One who rescues us with His great love . . . . other than neverending praise and worship?!

May I encourage you today to bring your broken pieces to Jesus. Stop trying to hold it all together . . . . you never will without Him.  He is the One who understands brokenness more than any other man.  He was rejected, stricken, wounded, pierced . . . . BROKEN . . . . on our behalf that we might be whole and free . . . blameless, without spot or wrinkle.  Keep crying out to Him for a whole heart . . . . He is creating a masterpiece of your life. It will reflect His glory in a unique way . . . . one which He created for you alone to display.

And take time to behold Him daily . . . . in worship . . . . in His word.  For . . . .as we behold Him . . . . we are changed into His very image.  What an amazing promise!



But we all, with unveiled face,
beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord,
are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory,
just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:18