Where Joint and Marrow Meet

such a fine line
barely discernible
yet You see it all
as great divide
here where joint
and marrow meet

each nuance
fully known
the tiniest of turning
noted with care
whether toward or against
and in this separation
You stand steady
reaching out
to bridge the gap
closing the distance
with mercy extended
grace free for the taking

I strain
with greedy hands
stretching to grasp Your love-life
knowing any distance between
is of my own making

sometimes
mercy is a painful gift
to receive
its cost too high
its worth too priceless
to hand to spoiled child
yet You extend it still
and i need it so

here in mercy’s shadow
i bow low
humbled to be chosen
completely found out
yet so wholly loved
finding grace again
in this place of
deepest need
where the best of You
meets the worst of me
and freedom sings
its love song strong
once more.

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Give Way for Redemption

The past few weeks have found me praying for several friends for a variety of reasons. From prodigal children to medical needs to financial worries to any number of burdens being borne, situations have hit at random, yet with targeted effect. In the midst of it all, I have been reminded of the hope of redemption, and this hope has fueled my prayers for those I dearly love.

No matter the situation you may find yourself going through, the hope of God’s redemption is always present. Cleverly cloaked, at times, but present nonetheless. But because we cannot see His hand at work, we press and pull and tug and heave to struggle through each trial as if we can somehow fix it on our own.

Guess what?

You. Can’t.

You cannot force your adult child to make wise decisions. You cannot repair the physical heart of an aging parent. You cannot make money magically appear or somehow obtain job security for life. You cannot bring peace on earth or stop the division of racial tension or calm the present political upheaval. You cannot even count on breathing your next breath. So stop living as if you can.

Stop taking responsibility for things well outside the realm of your finite control. Instead, take your worries to your Savior.

Take your weary heart and your exhausted mind and your rapid-heartbeat fears and pour them out at Jesus’ feet. All of it. Let the mess puddle on the ground, bathed in your tears and frustration, as you empty yourself of every last ounce of hurt. He will help you bear it all as you rise again to release it fully into Father’s hands.

Then stand back and watch the miracle of redemption work its magic — breathing life, restoring ruins, cutting loose bonds of captivity, raising beauty from the ash heap.

Bringing glory from chaos is Father’s specialty, so give Him room to show off. Here. Here in the mess and the hurts and the hards of life. Let Hope have the final say as grace sweeps in to save the day and the souls of His own.

What God has spoken, He will do. His plans will be accomplished, beloved. No matter how unfinished they may yet appear. No matter how many days or months or even years you may find yourself waiting for His rescue to come. He will not be deterred in accomplishing all He has purposed.

As much as we try to figure things out, we really have no idea what Father is up to. The very situation which drains your strength and tugs at your peace is the very thing that can draw you closer to His side, if you let it. This trial that seems set to destroy you will, instead, be turned toward your ultimate good.

God is never caught off-guard, never bowled over in surprise by this circumstance that has left you spinning. Nothing can thwart His purposes. No heart lies beyond the reach of His mercy. No work of principality beyond His power to overcome. No sin greater than the grace found in just one drop of Jesus’ blood.

Not even this.

God is on the move, and the death grip of winter must yield to spring’s blossoms of life. So let the melting begin, and make room for the shoots of new to break free through the pressing.

Beauty will rise from the dust.

All that’s lost will be regained.

Miracles will happen.

Healing will come.

The plans of our enemy ruined, undone.

Give way for redemption, beloved, and let revival awaken . . .

Struggling to Unfold the Dratted Chair

charlie-brown-cruise-shipI recently stumbled upon this comic strip from beloved cartoonist Charles Schulz and can only conclude that Charlie Brown and I are kindred spirits. On the cruise ship of life, sometimes I’m still struggling to open my dratted chair. Forget the lovely view or the leisurely pace of life at sea. While everyone else seems peacefully resting, I’m tugging and gripping and fighting to unfold a place to plop.

It is in this struggle that I am oft reminded of the verse from Psalm 32:8:
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go,
I will counsel you with My eye upon you.

God does not throw out counsel haphazardly, nor does He give direction without knowing my position at all times. Not only does He know the final destination, but He knows my starting point and all of the obstacles, roadblocks, and detours along the way. He also knows how stubborn my heart can be in following His directives. Why? Because He sees me in every step of the journey.

Never are we beyond the sight of our heavenly Father. No matter how our circumstances may tempt us to believe otherwise.

Like a loving and patient parent, God is there, remaining vigilant in His watch. Never slumbering, never ceasing in His continual care over us. Stooping to draw us close with compassion when we stumble over our own feet. Rising to lift us up, again and again. Gently staying flailing hands struggling so hard to do things our own way when His way remains open and clear.

Too often I can be like Charlie Brown when I’m faced with any number of life’s scenarios — I can’t even get the dratted chair unfolded! I twist and tug and squirm and pull in every direction except the right one. Exerting all my energy and determination to conquer a task that has grown in mammoth proportion by my insistence on doing things “my way,” I fail to notice the one way to easily accomplish the goal before me. Too impatient to listen to wise counsel, I grit my teeth and fight against the instruction from above until I finally persuade myself I will never be able to open the chair and enjoy the view. No matter how many times I try.

I choose to live as one deceived, convinced I have somehow been overlooked. Unnoticed. Unseen. Uninvited. Everyone else can sit and soak up sun’s rays on the cruise ship of life, but I may as well confine myself below decks and curl up on the hard floor. It’s obvious I don’t belong with the rest of the folks who have things all together.

Whether succumbing to a pity party or continuing to fight and wrestle to unfold my chair, I’m basically just giving in to spiritual amnesia. Forgetting the One who sees me wherever I am. Neglecting to turn and ask for counsel from the One who knows all things and is willing to patiently instruct me, even though I’m so unwilling to listen.

All it really takes to unfold the deck chair of life is learning the secret of pulling in a particular direction. A direction always leaning toward the Father-heart of God.

If you find yourself in a position somewhat like Charlie Brown’s, I encourage you to join me in remembering the truth that you are really not the only one struggling to find your place. You’re not the only one who feels alone and on the fringes of a life that is passing you by. You’re not alone in this mess of humanity futilely grasping for a respite.

You’re. Not. Alone.

You are watched over by a God who sees you where you are. A loving Father who offers His counsel with clear vision for every step before you. A wise Daddy who knows all you really need to do is follow His instructions to unfold your chair and rest in His presence.

Will you heed His voice and trust His counsel for you today?

ferry-1524267_960_720FOR REFLECTION
Can you ever relate to Charlie Brown, struggling to even begin something that others seem to have already accomplished? Are you tempted to overexert yourself in trying to keep up, or are you more likely to give up altogether? Contrary to how it may seem at times, you are not overlooked. You are noticed and you are loved by a Creator who knows you well. God has the wisdom you need for any given situation, and He is willing to share that counsel while keeping an ever-vigilant eye upon you and your surroundings. What will it take for you to begin to trust Him with your circumstances? What areas may you need to address and be willing to change in order for Father to help you unfold your chair and enjoy the view of His presence more fully today?

The Truth About Speculations

Don’t be lured away from Him by the latest speculations about Him. (emphasis mine)

So read the words from The Message’s referral to Hebrews 13:9 – a reminder that speculations and truth are not the same thing. Yet we are continually tricked into thinking it is so. Especially where Jesus is concerned.

The most obvious difference between the two is that speculations are alterable. Truth is not.

Speculations can morph and change at the whimsy of our feelings as we attempt to mask our desires with a righteous appearance. Seeking a stamp of approval for our wayward actions, we coerce truth to conform into an identity more appealing to our misguided wants. But rewriting the reality of Jesus and His truths is as futile as pushing the proverbial square peg into a round hole. It doesn’t work.

ONE CANNOT TAKE A SKEWED BELIEF SYSTEM AND FORCE IT TO FIT INTO GOD’S PERFECT PLAN.

Jesus is not open to speculation. Who He is never changes. He continues to be Who He always was. And so does His truth.

There’s nothing new under the sun. The same snares are set to catch us as surely as they were hundreds and thousands of years ago. The same temptations tug us to redesign morality, calling evil good and good evil.

But renaming it doesn’t change it. It just changes us, and not for the better.

In a world where all is glitter and glam, it’s tempting to be lured away by shiny packaging. It’s easy to want things to be true when they sound so much more inclusive, when they give way to “rights” and “equality” and “freedom” for all to do as they deem best, no matter the repercussions to society at large or individuals at heart.

Lies adorned with brightly-colored ribbons still hold death inside. Poison still kills the one who consumes it, no matter how decorative the bottle from which it is served.

Be careful of reaching for privileges which are not a part of Truth’s offerings. Flee that tug toward unrighteousness even as you stretch to lay claims to the beauty of promises that are yours for the taking. Revel in this joy found in kingdom living, even when its truths go against everything the world is peddling.

We were made for better things, beloved.

This world, in all its smoked-screen glory, is not our eternal home. So let’s cease living as though it were. There’s no need to conform to its “insider” status when the only “in” we really need was given through the ripping of temple veil.

When it comes to truth, no speculations are necessary.

Jesus loves me, this I know.

This is truth.

And this truth is needed by all.

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Are you ever tempted to skew truth to make it more palatable? Do you find yourself excusing immoral behavior (of your own or of others) because tagging it “sin” seems somehow offensive? Are there areas in your life where you need to adhere to truth, even when it goes against what others are peddling as tolerance? Ask God to help you see clearly as you navigate the difference between truth and speculation. He has promised to give wisdom to those who seek it. May you determine to do so in every area of your life.

A Year to Gather

Unbeknownst to me, I’ve been a part of¬†http://oneword365.com/ long before it was trendy. Basically, instead of making a long list of New Year’s resolutions (which most likely will be ditched somewhere around the fourth week in), participants are encouraged to choose just one word to guide them throughout the year. While this official tribe of online one-worders came into existence in 2009, God and I have had our own little wordfest going for much longer than that.

Unlike the people who choose a word to intentionally apply to their lives, I’ve more often fallen into the word God has chosen for me. Sometimes the word made sense right from the beginning, other times I was a little slower in putting it all together. But come it did, ready or not.

The themes throughout the years have encouraged and stretched me in a variety of ways. Some words have been positive, others not so much so. Like the year soul-weary continued to tug at my heartstrings — a desert year of bearing many burdens and stumbling blindly through prayers and heartache while learning to cling desperately to Jesus through it all. Then there was steadfast — a more positive word to be sure, one that grew me in both strength and tenacity There was even the baffling word travel as an overarching theme I felt was to be applied to both my husband and me. Surprisingly, that year found us skipping the country in trips to England and Haiti and Africa and Mexico. Whew! The words have continued to come and go with each passing year, being fulfilled in a variety of ways, but always reminding me of God’s faithfulness as He walked through each one of them alongside me.

This year the word is gather.

With Jesus’ reminder that he who does not gather scatters, I enter this year with a no-neutral mindset. I can no longer light a lamp only to stick it under a basket, dimming its glow. Instead, I’m being prodded to shine a little more brightly and to invite others to experience the glow alongside me (flickering though it may be).

This year I am gathering.

I want my home to become an anchor for friends and strangers, alike. A place to steady and return to the quietness within each soul who enters. I want this to be a safe place where realness can happen and love can stand strong. Lasting. A gathering ground for young and old. Where strangers become family, and family stays friends.

May this dwelling provide space to breathe deeply and freely. To laugh until stomachs hurt. To cry until tears are spent. To talk late into the night. To pitch a blanket on the floor and linger long, sharing stories of yesteryear and dreams for the future. May this be a place of acceptance, while still challenging us all to become better image-bearers of Jesus. Where trust and love run deep and wide enough to cover all wrongs. A place where we grow up and together. Facing the good and bad times with this precious tribe of family, related by bloodline or not.

While I want to fling the doors of my home wide, I realize gathering comes in a variety of ways and places, sometimes stretching across the miles to wrap people in my prayers when they are beyond the reach of my arms. This past week has been one of gathering in that way:

Gathering a brokenhearted friend close, listening to her pour out her tears and her pain across phone lines, praying all the while for God to give her strength in a situation that makes no sense.

Gathering a young man and his family whose lives have been altered by an in-school shooting, multiple bullets tearing into his body and the surrounding community with hurt and fears.

Gathering the young shooter and his family, asking for hearts to be turned to Jesus and for love to be extended in supernatural ways.

Gathering a friend’s aging parent, requesting healing while holding them all close in my heart.

Gathering to rejoice over new babies and answered prayers alongside my plea for others to be gifted with grace, to have their tears wiped away and their hurts vanquished by a loving Savior.

While I want to gather folks into my home, it’s not always possible to do so, but I can always, always gather them into my prayers. And in this way, I am gathering them into the presence of Jesus, as well. Taking them before the throne of grace and pleading alongside them in the spiritual realm.

A gathering of souls united by the Soul-keeper Himself.

This year, I’m determined to gather others and look for hope together. Standing in the gap to draw loved ones near. To hold close and for keeps those forever friends who live far from me. And to make new ones, too. Planting seeds and letting roots grow deep, no matter if they be transplanted to places abroad. This is a place to be held, whether near or far.

This is a place of gathering.

Where souls are anchored, yet simultaneously strengthened to set sail on open seas.

Where hearts are filled and heaviness is lifted.

And peace is large and grace is free for the asking.

Yes, let this be a year of gathering.

Together.

15241897_10211548192128768_7907168030091590567_nFind your tribe for 2017. Join in the one-word challenge @ http://oneword365.com/

One Stone at a Time

Dashrath Manjhi lived in a remote region of northern India as “an outcast, a landless laborer who had to trek across an entire mountain every day, just to reach the farm that he worked on. It was a treacherous trek, and led to accidents often. His people needed help, there were lives at stake every day. He decided, if no one would help his people, he would.”

Desperate for safe access across this massive obstacle, Dashrath took on the grueling task of creating a 30-foot wide road through a 300-foot tall mountain, with only a hammer, chisel, and crowbars. Each day, he would work on the farm to provide for his family, then he would turn his efforts to chiseling a way through the imposing rock. To make a very long story short . . .

“After 22 years, Dashrath Das Manjhi, the common man, the landless laborer, had broken the¬†mountain: he had carved out a road 360 feet long, 30 feet wide. Wazirganj, with its doctors, jobs, and school, was now only 5 kilometers away. People from 60 villages in Atri could use his road. Children had to walk only 3 kilometers to reach school” (quotes taken from http://www.thebetterindia.com/18326/the-man-who-moved-a-mountain-milaap-dashrath-manjhi/ )

This story makes me wonder what Christians could do if we truly began applying faith and action to the mountains looming before us. Oh, I know we may not live in impoverished areas far removed from adequate medical facilities, nor do our children have to traverse precarious precipices to attend school. But make no mistake about it, there are dangerous mountains in our midst. The enemy of our souls has set his sites on destroying the relationships of families and friends and basically every human being on planet earth. None are exempt from his ruthlessness.

In the words of author Sarah Bessey:
. . . But as the people of God, we have a choice: we either make excuses or we make the mountains move, one stone at a time, one after another after another. Radical faith looks a lot like faithfulness, and look at what God can do with that.

We make choices to make mountains move by remaining faithful.

We make mountains move by purposefully placing our hands to the task of obliterating the obstacles, one stone at a time. Stones that are moved in a variety of ways right here where we live when we choose to stand firm against failed marriages by loving our spouse for life. Stones that shift as we tug the hearts of prodigals toward home by remaining unconditional in our love, persistent in our prayers. Stones that topple when we encourage a sick friend with our presence, doctor appointment after doctor appointment. Stones that unsettle when we refuse to walk away, even when everyone else would.

Radical faith looks a lot like faithfulness.

It looks a lot like living our lives for Jesus with an open invitation to others. An invite to gather, to be welcomed, to belong right here, because this is where Jesus is. Right where we are.

Moving mountains looks a lot like loving my husband and my family and myself and my coworkers and other Christians and those who don’t believe a word of the Gospel message. Moving mountains comes through embracing the whole world, from continent to continent, without borders. Creating a place where everyone can be who they are, yet still become all that God has for them to be — a place where acceptance and repentance and belief flourish side by side.

And the most amazing thing about this whole process is that grace covers all of it, and God does something beautiful. One life at a time. Faithful act after faithful act. One kind word built upon another. Soul by soul.

Stones are cast by the wayside as forgiveness is released and absorbed, restoring life after life to Father.

It is hard work to move mountains, and often it is lonely work. Perhaps you’ll feel abandoned and wonder if anyone even notices the amount of stones you’ve removed thus far by just showing up and going about your work day after day. You will most likely get hurt in the process, and you may even receive some wounds that leave scars. I guarantee there will be times you want to give up and walk away from the task before you. Moments or days or even months at a time when you’ll fling your hands into the air and want to quit.

But I pray you don’t.

I pray you stay.

I pray you stay beyond the hurt, and hold steady throughout every trial. Because though moving mountains is hard work, it is also a beautiful work. And one worthy of God’s kingdom.

For those who move mountains are among the hopeful.

May we always live as such and share the gift with whomever stumbles upon our path. And when they stumble, may we be the first to cast aside a stone or two and help them rise to their feet and continue onward as one beloved.

May we show the world what radical faith really looks like as we determine to love and remain faithful.

Day after day.

And always.

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Living Blind, Deaf, and “Dumb”

If only we had eyes to see and ears to hear and wits to understand, we would know that the Kingdom of God in the sense of holiness, goodness, beauty is as close as breathing and is crying out to be born within ourselves and within the world; we would know that the Kingdom of God is what all of us hunger for above all other things even when we don’t know its name or realize that it’s what we’re starving to death for. We glimpse it at those moments when we find ourselves being better than we are and wiser than we know. We catch sight of it when at some moment of crisis a strength seems to come to us that is greater than our own strength. The Kingdom of God is where we belong. It is home, and whether we realize it or not, I think we are all of us homesick for it.
— Frederick Buechner

Eyes to see; ears to hear; the wits to understand — if only things served to the fullness for which they were created.

Too often I remain sightless and deaf to the things of God, my mind devoid of comprehending the lengths and depths of grace amazing and wild. Ignorant of this Kingdom power ever-present within me. Unaware of each moment filled with the potential of miraculous. Overlooking the wonder of Spirit breath granting me my own.

eye-913966_960_720I confess, sometimes I live oblivious to the very Kingdom into which I was born.

Though it’s what I crave most, I search for filling beyond the borders of God’s sphere of blessing. Heedlessly starving for the very Spirit which cries out: Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink – even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or milk – it’s all free! Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good? Listen to Me, and you will eat what is good. You will enjoy the finest food. Come to Me with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life. I will make an everlasting covenant with you. I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David. — Isaiah 55:1-3

Where God gives thirst, He gives grace. Where God gives grace, He gives thirst. It is a wise person who understands this. Who knows what it is she sorely needs. Who realizes the blessing extended before her with the invitation to come and lay claims to it.

The gifts of the Kingdom are things offered as such no price can be set, yet they are bought and paid in full through the mercy of a gracious Savior. Eternal covenant purchased with blood and love.

Let proud eyes bow in humility, then lift their gaze by grace to stare into the face of such love granted without limits. Let deaf ears hear the message of salvation and freedom come for one and all, and accept its truth into soul’s depths. Let understanding arise and stake out this wisdom of being fully known and welcomed into this Kingdom come to men. This Kingdom residing in the form of Jesus Christ who purchased, promised, and disperses it to all who will believe.

Blessed is the man who thirsts and comes freely to the well of the Living One. Who realizes this covenant of Kingdom Come is here. Within us.

If only I lived to the potential of this promise yearning to live itself through me. If only I served Him to the fullness for which I was created. If only I had eyes to see and ears to hear and the wits to understand . . .

The Kingdom of God is where we belong. It is home, and whether we realize it or not, I think we are all of us homesick for it.

There’s no need to live as one homesick, beloved. Come, let us return to the Lord and discover all the unfailing love He has promised! May we find our way back to Father’s heart — to home — and live the reality of this Kingdom come to stay.

FOR REFLECTION
Do you ever find yourself living as one blind, deaf, or dumb to the kingdom of God surrounding you? What are some specific ways you can begin to take notice of God’s active presence in the everyday moments of your life? Maybe it is as simple as opening your eyes in the morning and whispering an invitation for Jesus to lead you throughout your day, Could it be you need to purposefully thank Him for the gifts already present throughout your seemingly ordinary life? Or perhaps you need to realign your thought processes to match up more closely to His truths. What life patterns might you need to adjust in order to more fully grasp the reality of His kingdom at work in you today?