Prayers as Big as You

Grant me the faith to pray for miracles.

Stretch my heart to believe for healing,

For restoration of relationships that others would write off,

For Your perfect will to prevail sooner rather than later.

Open my eyes to see

The visions You have promised to reveal,

No matter how dark the path

Stretching before me.

Calm my heart to bend toward Your own,

As I rest in the assurance that all will be well,

Even when tumult surrounds

And chaos swirls with deafening force.

Grant me a heart that chooses to believe

You will deliver and keep my children,

To trust for prodigals to find their way back home,

And for grace to have the final say over sin.

Increase my faith,

And teach me to wield it with wisdom

As I plant my feet steadfastly in Your strength,

Determined to outlast the enemy of my soul.

Give me the courage to offer prayers
As big as Your love and Your power.


Grace to the Hesitant

The book of Jude warns of many things but wraps up with one of my all-time favorite scripture verses reassuring me that Jesus is able to keep me through this fleeting, albeit sometimes challenging life and present me to God without sin. When all is said and done, Christ utterly and eternally triumphs, inviting me to do the same alongside Him. Now that is reason for rejoicing, indeed!

However, another couple of verses from this same author have been pricking my conscience lately. It is a call to show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. To be gracious toward those who hesitate in believing the reality of this God-story that, in many ways, does seem too good to be true. Even though it is.

Verses 22 and 23 encourage believers in Christ with the following directive:
And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives. (NLT)

The Message by Eugene Peterson paraphrases it this way:
Go easy on those who hesitate in the faith. Go after those who take the wrong way. Be tender with sinners, but not soft on sin.

There are many folks who “hesitate in the faith,” and I have joined them far more times than I care to admit. Each of us must journey the path to God for himself, and each of us has struggles uniquely his own. Some obstacles seem glaringly obvious, while others are much more cunning in their masquerade to pull us from the truth that is found in God’s  Word.

A plethora of lies tempt us to leave the path of salvation and walk in ways that dishonor our Savior, and many of us still struggle with sins, neglecting the power given us to overcome our former way of living. If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you know this new nature in Jesus is free for the taking, yet sometimes difficult to grasp. And even harder to hold onto.

What do we do when we encounter fellow-Christians whose spiritual fruit appears less than appealing? The world would tell us not to judge, that tolerance is the only thing demanded of us. Others would say to judge the person only by their seeming less-than-ripe or rotting spiritual fruit, never mind if their heart is wavering back and forth seeking firm footing on which to stand. But Jude points us to a better way as he encourages us to show mercy while exerting effort to stop the person from sinning any longer.

We are encouraged to be patient with folks who are faltering as they hesitantly test the waters of faith. I daresay we’ve all had our own shortcomings of belief ourselves, which is a good reminder to be gentle and kind in our dealings with others. We are not to ignore or overlook the sin that is obviously a part of their lives, but rather, we are to pursue those who are wandering, tenderly seeking them out instead of writing them off. Welcoming them with open arms and an open heart of acceptance and love, the same as we have received from Jesus.

Hate the evil acts of sin, yes. But always, always love the people who are trapped in them. They are making these unwise choices because they have been tricked, deceived by the enemy of their souls. We would never punish a blind man for stumbling over a rock he did not see, so in the same way, we are called to be gentle in our dealings with those who are still struggling to find light in the darkness. Indeed, may we be ones who introduce them to it.

I pray we follow Jude’s directives and live a life of love as recipients of such undeserved grace at the hand of our Lord. Let kindness rule our hearts as we partner with Christ to lead the way to salvation in His name. May our light shine to illuminate the darkness as we patiently allow the eyes of others to adjust to this gift of God-life for all.

May we tread carefully, navigating the path between the weak and the willful with caution and with great love.

After all, sin is the only thing God hates.

May we follow His lead.


Undo and Remake Me

The sad truth is, we want a God to save us without changing us.

No expectations of growth, no undue responsibilities tugging us toward maturity. Just salvation that costs us nothing, a free ticket to heaven without the transfer of holiness within.

But acceptance without sacrifice is not the way You work.

Salvation is free, but it is not cheap.

Being Your disciple is the best way of life, but not necessarily the easiest.

Lord, help me to receive what You offer on the terms You set instead of trying to barter my way through Kingdom-living. Make me more aware of You than my own infantile wants. More given to Your desires than constantly giving in to worldly cravings that leave me empty.

To not only live with You, but to live within You, wrapped up in Godhead deity. To press against and toward, leaning more upon Your word of truth than the frailty of my own understanding. Consumed with the servanthood of Jesus, mapped out for me to follow steadfastly.

Let me be fluid enough to turn easily, swayed by Your wisdom which wars against the policies of society’s pull. Keep me dependent on mercy, reminded always that my need for it is great but never beyond Your capacity to give. Let nothing entangle my heart more than this captivity of grace and truth working hand-in-hand to raise redemption high.

May the banner of Your love not just cover but conform me to Your image as You draw me further into Your presence day by day. Rescue me from the arrogance of thinking I am somehow good enough without Your perpetual intervention.

Unravel the lies within me to stitch a miracle of glory to Your name alone.

Undo and remake me.

But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from Him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God — truly righteous and holy . . .  And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. (Ephesians 4:20-24,30)

Do you ever find yourself making excuses for sinful habits in your life? I’m not talking about mistakes that you may fall into occasionally, but rather, a habitual bent toward an ungodly attribute that lingers even though you know it should not. Something that runs contrary to God’s will even if it might run according to society’s say so.
When we choose to accept the gift of salvation, we should also choose to align our lives according to its policies — the fact that we are given a new life in Christ. A life no longer under the authority of sin, but one given power to overcome the lust and deception to which we previously caved. If you are in Christ, you are a new creation. May you turn to God’s grace to live as such and find help in your time of need, a help to overpower the temptations that once drew you into godless living.
Let this new mind of Christ take over your old way of thinking about things as you surrender your desires to the Spirit’s sway. What habits do you need to turn over to Him today so you can walk in the freedom found in His life alive in you?


Where Earth and Heaven Touch

Mysterious One,
Take me by surprise.
Awaken me with the kiss of Spirit
Hovering near in every moment.
Startle me with the light of grace
Sweeping across these shadows,
A sudden realization of Your presence,
Ever present, always close beside.
Step into my moments,
Stir my heart to meet Your own,
Here where earth and heaven touch
In human spirit caught up with Divine.
Shaper of souls and of sunlight,
Unveil the glory of Your goodness.
Dance across my days,
Capture my attention by moonlight
As I move into Your kingdom rhythm,
Surrendered to Your leading.

Awaken me, O Keeper of Mysteries,
And reveal Your secrets.


The Toxicity of Indifference

There’s a meme that’s been popping up on my facebook feed recently, and it is one that breaks my heart. Not only does it sadden me, but the fact that it is being affirmed by fellow-Christians is what I find to be most disturbing. Its content is as follows:

I’m at the point in life where I don’t care about losing friendships or relationships.
I don’t even speak to some of my family, and it doesn’t bother me one bit.
People come and go.
I’m not here to chase anyone or beg for friendship and loyalty.
If you feel me and we vibe, then that’s what’s up.
If not, then it is what it is.
See ya.

Seriously? Am I the only one who sees the selfishness and the totally un-Christlike attitude of this statement?

If you have reached the point where you can walk away from family members and friendships without being bothered by the fact, then I fear for you. I really do. Because to reach a point of such indifference can only make me wonder how deeply you have embraced hurt and are holding on to bitterness in your life.

Now before you begin your rant against me, please hear my heart. I realize some of you reading this post have had terrible things happen to you at the hands of those who should have shown you nothing but love. I’m not making excuses for behaviors of abuse or malicious harm inflicted upon you by people who preyed upon your youth or innocence. But the above statement does not directly address those issues. It is thrown out with what seems to me as a flippant attitude of “whatever.” A “If you’re not good for me, then why should I care about you?” air of selfishness and disdain.

If you allow people to so casually come and go in your life without a thought or care of repairing relationships, then what does that say about your own heart? Does it truly not bother you that family members won’t speak to you? Or that relationships are lost without fighting for them?

I know it can be hard to get along with siblings or parents or friends or really anyone who has walked up close with us for any length of time, but to hold on to those relationships should mean something to us. To pursue people with love and to opt to live peacefully with others should be a main goal of anyone who claims Christ as their Savior. Love is a central core to our make-up in the body of Christ. Indifference toward others should have no grounds on which to stand when we claim to follow Jesus.

Building and maintaining relationships is hard work, but it is also one of the most beautiful gifts we have been given this side of eternity. The gift of family and friendships and God-life breathing through each other, inhaling and exhaling grace and love and acceptance even through the pains of life is just that — a gift. Sometimes difficult to give, sometimes difficult to receive. But always a treasure.

Oh, I know it would be so much simpler if love came in forms that were easy to embrace — in the noble and pure and kind. But in reality, love shows up in the messiness of bruised knees and broken hearts and awkward caresses. Love stretches us to be kind to the loud-mouthed and offensive, to be grasped by dirty, little beggar hands reaching for help. Bankrupt souls clamoring to be noticed, desperate for attention.

Instead of protecting ourselves from the toxicity of relationships, what might happen if we determined to find love there instead? What if we were willing to look beyond the grime of beggar hands greedily grasping, and peer into the eyes of hurting souls? Would it change the way we see that difficult spouse or annoying sibling or unkind parent or caustic coworker if all were viewed as beggars for the love we carry within us?

Sometimes love cannot give back because its own pockets are empty. Sometimes poverty strikes out in anger. Or with indifference.  But I pray we don’t join the masses of beggars. I pray we seek to become prosperous in God’s character traits, instead. Living to become wealthy in love so we can give it generously, even to ones who may never return the favor. Even to the ones who will squander our love with no thought of us or our own needs.

In a world where unconditional love is in short supply, may we link arms with Jesus and scatter it liberally. May we accept the weaknesses of others and overlook offenses more readily each day. May we overcome the irritability which often accompanies love-giving, by looking to the relentlessness of God’s own love to fill the gap. In both ourselves and in others.

Instead of pursuing only those who flow with the same “vibe” as us (What does that even mean?!?), how about we pursue love with all mankind. Let us love through the awkward moments when neither party knows what to say or exactly how to respond. Let’s offer a cup of kindness to dirty hands extended, hoping to grasp a bit of respite. And let’s DO care, more than a bit, as we allow grace to rise within our own hearts and hold back the flow of provocation. Let’s invite peace to override the temptation of removing our presence from the presence of others.

It is a selfish person who walks away from relationships without a backward glance, but those who belong to Father stand alongside Him waiting on the dusty path for prodigal’s return, patiently hoping for love’s remembrance to stir the heart. Steadfastly looking for opportunities to pour grace upon thirsty soul soil, and not being surprised when it is quickly soaked up and needs replenishing again and again.

Let us join the ranks of Christ-followers who stand with staying power to see each relationship through to the end, who continue to scatter love and gather others as we ourselves have been gathered. May we draw near to family and friends with loyal love found in the shadow of Calvary’s cross. I pray we overcome indifference as we move to the rhythms of Savior’s heartbeat prompting each act of kindness, no matter how small. May love move from a novel idea to an expected deed as we bind the wounds of hurting hearts. Standing firm, yet giving sway to the needs pressing upon us.

Step by step, may we discover love through the ongoing process of knowing and being known. Choosing to place ourselves at Savior’s service, even when it means walking into the line of fire. Making ourselves vulnerable and willing to absorb some hurt. Targeted for love’s sake so others may know His name when they encounter us.

Let us remember that though love may be difficult in the moment, its purpose is far-reaching and timeless.

Difficult will not last forever, my friend, but love will.

So with that in mind. here’s to a different meme . . .

13230162_10209099524752636_301366347771920944_nTherefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s trespasses against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ: Be reconciled to God. God made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:17-21)


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

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.


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 . . .