It Is What It Is… Or Is It?

It is what it is.

How many times have you heard that statement recently? Possibly spoken by a fellow-commuter on your way to work, or maybe by a well-intentioned friend trying to encourage you to keep your chin up. Unfortunately, “It is what it is,” is not the most encouraging of statements. Nor is it exactly biblical, which calls into question our ready acceptance to use it so frequently as a means of coping in life.

It is what it is… when we shrug our shoulders in indifference and allow it to be so.

It is what it is… when we neglect to factor God into the equation.

It is what it is… when we fail to rise in faith and speak truth into a situation — the truth stemming from God’s word on the matter instead of our own shortsighted interpretation, which, let’s face it, is all too often ruled by our deceptive feelings.

God has capabilities far beyond our ability to understand or to imagine. And while we may be content to throw our hands into the air and cave to the melancholy attitude of “Whatever,” God  simply raises His holy voice and speaks to things that are not as though they are.

— God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did. (Romans 4:17)

God, who gives each of His children a seed of faith — tiny though it may be, it has the potential to cast mountains into seas.

God, who has seated us with Christ in heavenly places, giving us all we need for life and for godliness.

God, whose very nature has taken up residence inside each person who believes.

God, who continues to draw us to build up our faith, a belief that is certain of things hoped for and hopeful of things unseen.

No matter how calmly I attempt to accept otherwise, all these things seem to fly in the very face of “It is what it is.” Faith throws a curve ball at that concept, believing God and His word despite overwhelming odds. Faith stakes its claim in Jesus’ strength, standing on the pitcher’s mound and staring down the most seasoned of Satan’s batters. Faith does not ignore the circumstance, nor pretend no conflict exists. Instead, it shoulders the weapon of confidence in Christ and hurls the word at the devil’s worst.

And slowly, sometimes even covertly, there’s a slight shifting in the atmosphere. A subtle transfer of something ambiguous, but present nonetheless. A turning of heart to see things from a different perspective than what others would naturally assume. A turning from our own near-sighted emotions toward a greater Source than the obstacle before us. A declaration of Jesus’ stance and our place in His kingdom as we seek out a better way than could ever be presented by approaching things with only the insight from this natural realm.

Against all hope, faith continues to believe. No matter how seemingly unthinkable victory appears. No matter how tired we are of being disappointed… again. No matter how hurt we have been. No matter how futile it all seems.

While the world sits by and idly watches life happen, a child of faith intentionally rises and becomes a partaker of Christ’s presence, making things exist where once there was only the deserted and barren. Planting seeds of righteousness in places where anxiousness and fear threaten to rule the day. Weeding out tendrils of doubt and unbelief again and again. Sowing grains of love into soil deep, trusting something of worth will sprout in its season. Patiently waiting and cultivating and checking for growth. Season after season after season…

Giving time for a given time, trusting something wonderful will become where once there was nothing.

Life from death.

Beauty from ashes.

An oak tree of righteousness from the weakest sproutling.

When seen through kingdom eyes, life is not always what it seems. It is what it is… except when it is not. Then it becomes a work of glory to the One who is worthy of all glory.

That battle you’re fighting? That seemingly insurmountable obstacle looming before you? That floundering marriage which seems almost certain to crash and burn? That prodigal child who appears to run farther and faster from home the more you appeal to him to turn back?

It’s not over, my friend. God has still not had the final say.

God, who calls those things which do not exist as though they already do — He’s still in this with you. Right here in this messy pile of hopeless and futile. He’s gathering up the shards, scraping together the ashes of a life burnt and spent on idols. And He’s turning them all toward home.

Piece by piece, splinter by splinter, renaming and speaking life to the most marred of souls. To the weakest of faith. To the most difficult of circumstances. To the most broken of human hearts.

God is not finished creating life, yet. He’s not done making beautiful things. And because He ‘s not finished, friends, neither are we.

It’s time to rise up and live like we believe it.

It’s time to take deliberate steps toward training ourselves to think differently. To think truthfully.

It’s time to alter our course of action from complacent acceptance to a holy indignation against the enemy who has been making a playground of our lives and our relationships for far too long.

It’s time to speak to what is and tell it what it will be — in Jesus’ name.

In faith, believing for those things that are not, as though they already are…

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Trusting in the One who is our hope…

10984493_1042704852407311_5634547423337835838_nNo matter how long it takes.

(Photo credit to Cheri Thompson)

Sand Dollar Wishes

I hate to burst the bubble of those who think following God is a somber affair. But I will. Because I simply love the fact that Father makes me smile and even giggle when He shows up in the middle of my life.

In keeping with the line from the children’s song God Knows About Everything, I continue to be reminded that: “He knows what I think before I think it.”

Walking along the ocean’s shore yesterday, this truth was reinforced in a personal way.  While I love the joy that comes with discovering all manner of shells and sea creatures, by far, my favorite findings are sand dollars. There’s something about their delicate frame that fills me with wonder, and when one breaks open to spill forth the contents of porcelain-like doves hidden within its depths, I’m reminded of the peace that God nestles deep within the core of my spirit.

The first day of vacation, God allowed me to find a solitary dollar hidden in the sand. The second day, another. The third day, there was yet another lying in wait for me. As I rounded the sand bar on the fourth day, I found myself thinking, “Well, God, I’m assuming there’s one out here for me again. Not that I believe You owe me anything. But because You’re my Father, I guess I’ve come to expect that You will bless me with it. I hope that’s okay.”

The words were still processing themselves through my mind when I looked down and saw a white sand dollar lying at my feet. And as if to just outdo Himself, there was another resting nearby. I smiled and gratefully scooped them both into my hands while thinking, “Thanks, God. But You know… the small-sized ones are my favorites.” And once again, on the tail-end of my thoughts, I glanced down to see a small, dainty sand dollar resting in the waves. A few feet ahead, there was another equally small treasure. 

Show-off.

I love when God does things like that. Shows off, I mean. As if to remind me that He is always beyond my expectations. A bit larger than I think He will be in my life. Going further than my tiny desires. Challenging me to trust him bigger. To believe for more. Not in a selfish manner, but in an I-believe-You-are-far-more-capable-than-I-give-You-credit-for manner. All to grow me in my faith and cause me to praise Him for the sheer wonder of His greatness. To thank Him for the joy of His presence in my ordinary moments. To acknowledge that He is much more aware of me than I imagine. Even down to the fact that He knows what I think before I think it.

He knows. And He chooses to meet me in the midst of my desires.

The simple sand dollar wishes of my heart.

I continued my walk with songs of praise cast upon ocean waves, words and melody pouring forth from a heart overwhelmed by the goodness of a God who is not only my Savior, but my Friend. A Father who delights in sharing my thoughts and providing for my childlike fancies, just to prove that He is listening. That he cares about the things which bring joy to my days.

Retracing my steps back along the sand bar, I wasn’t really expecting to find any more sand dollars where my feet had already tread. Or maybe I was. Because I did. Two more treasures nestled in grains of sand beneath the receding tide. And just in case I missed His awareness, Father drew my attention to the dry beach several yards inland where others’ feet had passed mere minutes before my own.

Shining white in the summer sunshine, there was another sand dollar glistening atop the surface. And another.

I could no longer contain my laughter. The giggles bubbled to the surface as I acknowledged Father’s not-so-subtleness. Hidden in plain sight. Making it obvious for these finite eyes to view eternity’s appearance in my temporal surroundings.

I’m thankful for these moments. These times when God is so utterly present. Releasing treasures one after the other, as I scurry to scoop them up as fast as I can.

These moments bring more than just a few seconds of joy. They become memorials erected in the recesses of my mind, tucked away for those times when His hand is not so easily seen.

These sand dollar wishes are not swept away with stormy gales, but become building blocks of faith in the foundation of all I believe. Treasures kept, to be pulled out and cherished when life happens and circumstances are not all sunshine and gentle ocean currents.

It’s almost comical that something so delicate and fragile as a sand dollar can become something so strong and enduring in my life.

But perhaps that’s the miracle of faith itself – when something as fragile as my belief in a God who knows me from the inside-out becomes the bedrock of all that I build my life upon.

A faith that steadies itself in the fanciful sand dollar wishes of my heart.IMG_2865How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. ~ Psalm 139:17-18a

Steadfast

There is One who steadies my heart with His unwavering promises. Who does not change. Who does not lie. Whose word is His bond – true and perfect and eternal.

Everything shifts and moves. My heart, most of all.

Seasons twirl in and out, seeming to dance faster with the passing of each year. Moments spin by, ticking off second after second.

Through it all, God stands fast, anchoring my soul and holding me close.

But let’s face it, sometimes faith doesn’t feel like faith. Sometimes it feels like nothing.

So what do we do during those times when truth doesn’t feel true?

When hope seems elusive?

When joy plays hide-and-seek, and you’re tired of searching?

It’s hard to hold on to what is real when all seems upside-down and backwards. And no matter how much I wish it weren’t so, sometimes faith doesn’t feel like it should. No goosebumps. No ethereal ecstasy. Just numbness.

But still there, nonetheless.

Overriding this feeling of nothing, faith remains. That constant companion overshadowing the smallness of doubt. Or its largeness.

Readjusting itself to remain in my line of vision, faith bumps against despair, deftly positioning to capture my attention. It persistently pursues, vying for my devotion until, step by tentative step, I answer its beckoning call.

Though my heart still lingers near the tempting allure of unbelief, I choose faith. Again.

Because I really do believe God dwells here in the tension between the reality I see and the truth I know.

God has given us the gift of His presence, and we get to take that with us. In the known and familiar, and in the unknown and the awkward. In the times of peace, and in the unsettling moments of the downright hard.

Faith beckons. Asking me to trust, inviting me to lean into the very Presence which fills the universe yet chooses to rest in the confines of me. This is the God who lavishes grace upon grace. And I am invited to join Him in each living, breathing moment. Even when it feels like gasping for air.

It is all a part of learning to love deeply. Learning to trust in this tension between the now and the not yet, between the heaven that is promised to come and the earth that is my home for this moment. For such a fleeting moment.

So I will answer the call of faith and choose to believe in its goodness.

Trusting it will remain true and sure. Even in the nothing.

Steadfast“In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil…” (Hebrews 6:17-19)

Capsized

This is not like walking on water. Peter asked to come. He chose to step out of the boat. Not me. I was on a journey only to find my boat capsized and my survival instinct fighting its way to the surface.” (from Just Adela)

Capsized.

Upset.

Overturned.

Upended and careening.

All leading to this spinning wildly out-of-control.

One minute life is going along fine; all is smooth sailing. With the suddenness of one phone call, disaster hits. Storms of gale force strength unexpectedly spring up, overturning our boat, sending us careening headfirst into disproportionately large and terrifying waves.

Engulfed and enraged, we cry out in panic.

“I didn’t ask for this!” our terrified hearts argue.

Oh, I saw you walking on the water, Lord, but unlike Peter, I am content to watch from the safety of this boat. I’m okay to just go along for the ride. I don’t want to get my feet wet. I don’t want to struggle against drowning in this ocean of hurt surrounding me. These swelling seas threatening to swallow me alive.

But here we are nonetheless.

Flailing to rise above the surface in this ocean of sorrow.

And though we can see the Savior’s face beckoning us through the waves, He seems so far from reach.

Sinking. Sinking. Slowly slipping further and further beneath the surface of this suffocating grief. Wishing to simply fade away with the next wave, yet still instinctively fighting for survival.

Overwhelmed, yet not quite willing to be overcome completely.

Holding out for a glimmer of hope.

Holding onto the promise that is Christ.

Trusting beyond what our finite strength seems capable of owning. Uncertain and questioning. But believing still.

Here. In this chaos where all seems lost and hopeless.

It is here, in the very powerlessness of me, that I am rescued by the Divine.

Pulled from the waves to walk with You. Tucked once more in the safety of Your embrace.

Rescued and raised to live beside You in this moment of hurt as You bear the brunt of this raging storm.

Unhindered by the howling winds. Undaunted by the desperate child clinging so tightly to You.

You stand victorious.

Secure.

Shielding and sheltering the one who trusts in You with such miniscule faith.

Constantly, forever enough.

Here, in this ocean to which You have called me.

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Faith: A Working Grace

Have you ever prayed earnestly to God only to be disappointed by the answer with which He replied? When you were soooooo wanting to hear a “Yes,” and instead heard a “No,” or, at best, a “Not Yet”?

I daresay if you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, then you have most likely been the recipient of a disappointing answer from Father.

What are we to do when God speaks in a way that is contrary to our desires?

I hate to admit it, but I’ve often thrown in my lot with the hesitant prophet Jonah and fled to my own version of Tarshish when God was asking me to go to Nineveh. (For the complete account of Jonah and his not-so-stellar performance, you can search the Bible under the chapter titled by his name.)

When asked to do something other than what Jonah had hoped would be his commissioning, he ran in the opposite direction. jonah-coloring-pageVerse 2:8 in the prophetic book reminds us clearly that those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. By deliberately choosing the path of disobedience, we let loose of God’s mercy and simultaneously surrender the blessings He desires to bestow upon us.

The people of Judah experienced a similar reminder in the book of Isaiah when they failed to even consult God, and instead chose to turn to the Egyptian pharaoh for their comfort and protection. “For without consulting Me you have gone down to Egypt for help. You have put your trust in Pharaoh’s protection. You have tried to hide in his shade. But by trusting Pharaoh, you will be humiliated, and by depending on him, you will be disgraced.” (Isaiah 30:2-3, NLT; emphasis mine)

It’s amazing how quickly we can find ourselves clinging to “worthless idols” even knowing that God alone is the One who is consistently faithful and patient with us. Instead of consulting Him first when faced with a conflict or decision, we scramble to latch onto something tangible – even though it’s all a mirage alongside the truth of God. Hastening to our personal “Egypts,” we find ourselves hemmed in and seeking shelter in small places. Turning to our old ways of reasoning and rationale, we seek safety where none is to be found.

Not only do we forfeit the grace that could be ours, but we are disgraced by the very things in which we seek to find solace. Left to our selfish wanderings, we are ultimately left humiliated.

Alone and without faith.

For faith is nothing more than a working grace.

Without faith working in our lives by love, all else is worthless. Compared with this priceless gift, all other things are of small value.

This week I watched a friend of mine choose to allow grace to have its way, and I am confident that her faith will grow because of her decision. When faced with a choice to obey a “no/not yet” answer from God when her heart was longing for a “yes,” my friend chose to throw in her lot with God. She chose the hard path of obedience when it could have been easy to slip down a selfish slope of disobedience. Though she is still struggling to align her emotions with her decision, I can’t help but believe that, in the end, she will be grateful for her wise choice. Regardless of how the full scenario plays out. Because when it’s all said and done, choosing to say “yes” to God grows our faith and releases the fragrance of grace in our lives as we are led more fully into His will and His love.

Sometimes we are asked to take a step of faith –  even when our emotions are warring against the “want to” of obedience.

And that’s where working grace steps in: to lead us where our own desires never would.

The next time you are faced with a decision that is battling between your wants and God’s wishes, I urge you to be careful that you do not “forfeit grace.” It may seem difficult to do the hard thing in the moment, but it’s better to arrive at your Nineveh upright instead of upchucked.

Rest assured, God will get us to where He wants us to go. I hope you make it there fully in faith and fully graced… without the stench of a fish’s belly clinging to your clothes.

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Receiving the Mystery

I hunger for filling in a world that is starved. ~Ann Voskamp

These words ring true as they bounce and resonate within my heart and mind. I am consistently seeking to find fulfillment where empty is the offer of the day. And as I look around me, it is easy to see I live in the company of others who are searching for the other that is not. Seeking redemption where sin abounds. Looking for safe passage to escape this void of empty.

To find the other requires breaking away from this illusion of all.

It means my feet must intentionally turn from the too-easily-consuming ways of this world and run toward God’s tugging on my heartstrings, even when His pull seems less than gracious.

This path of faith and fulfillment is one that requires stepping into the air, past the veil of confinement, and free falling into the wonder and beauty of being caught up with His glory. His otherworldly grace that is mine for the capturing. But this stepping and falling first necessitates a turning of heart. A revolution from the deceptive notion that all there is… is all there is.

Contrary to what we are so easily tempted to believe, more is to be found beyond this world’s hem. God is full and overflowing, coming to starved soul with the Body and Bread of Life and living. But those who crave its flavor must reach out for it. With faith.

When God’s newly freed people, the Israelites, gathered manna in the wilderness, they were eating of a mystery. What made no sense in the realm of the earthly was sustaining them, nonetheless, as they were filled with the inexplicable. And though they may have wondered over the miracle of their provision, they accepted the mystery from the hand of God. And they were satisfied.

Thousands of years later, and the mystery remains. Like the Israelites, I, too, am given this priceless offering – to receive what I cannot comprehend. A way of living in fullness when all appears empty. To accept the mysterious portions of this life.

Those moments that make no earthly sense to finite mind. Those pains that tug me toward doubting His goodness. Those times when I ache to clench my fists against all the empty and simultaneously beat upon the chest of too much.

Those days when I’m tempted to trip on the baffling and fall against what I cannot understand instead of falling into the largeness of grace.

It is here I am given the invitation to open hands wide and receive the mystery – allowing it to pass through sifting fingers as I look to the One who holds all eternal solutions, even when He chooses not to share those solutions with me. Who sustains and satisfies me in the middle of the unknown as I embrace the unsolved while skydiving through the rush of empty and broken.

And in this leap of faith, I defy the world’s logic as I am encompassed and filled. Plunging past the empty, I breathe in His presence and come up grasping new life. Content to live with the mystery.

Satisfied to leave the answers in His care while I busy myself gathering this heavenly manna – the Bread of Life, broken for me. 

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One Life to Lose

The Word of God, in reference to Samson, states: “Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.” (Judges 16:30)

Often when I read through the story of Samson’s life (found in its entirety in Judges 13-16), I find myself thinking, “Why in the world would God use such a selfish and lustful  man to perform such mighty deeds?” Then that thought is quickly followed by relief that God did use him, because it leaves room for hope for people like me.

It seems it was not until the end of his life that Samson actually began to “get it.” Only after he became a prisoner – completely stripped of his strength, humbled without his eyesight, and relying on someone else to guide him in his steps – did he call to the Lord in prayer. And even then, his prayer seems somewhat selfish. Kind of reminds me of… well, me. If there were not reference to Samson in Hebrews 11:32, I might question if he really had much faith in God at all. A question that, again, causes me to note a striking resemblance to myself.

Regardless of the motives of Samson’s heart, God answered his prayer by granting him the greatest victory of his lifetime. Yet this victory came at a price. It cost Samson his life.

Living victoriously comes at the price of dying.

And perhaps that, my friend, is what true victory is really about. Surrendering ourselves so completely into the Father’s care that it is as if we have died… so that we can live.

Lost so fully within the desires of God that we begin to find ourselves in His will in ways that we have never before experienced.

Trading our finite dreams, our pride, our way of doing things, our wants and wishes for something bigger. Something beyond this temporal world.

Something eternal.

Gaining great victory means that we must be willing to forfeit everything. Giving every last bit of our life for the sake of the Cross.

In the words of the song One Life to Lose by Laura Story, we may find ourselves coming face to face with this tug-of-war between living and dying to ourselves:

I’m torn again, between my pride, my old friend
And who You’ve called me to be.
I’ve sworn again, to lay it down, to bring an end
To this life lived for me.
For I’ve one life to lose, one chance to find
A newer, better me, the old one left behind.
For there’s one Lord who leads, though steep the cost.
I have learned when I am lost,
It’s there that I am found.

As frustrating and arrogant as Samson seemed throughout the majority of his life, I can’t help but think I might have liked the man he became in the end. A broken soul who realized his need for a Savior. A man lost, but found.

In this story, I am reminded that there is only One Lord who leads. And though the cost of following Him may be steep, it is so worth it.

For I have learned when I am lost, it’s there that I am found…

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