And Then I Remember…

And then I remember…

This statement is at the bedrock of my day-to-day faith. Those times when living this Christian life doesn’t seem miraculous or remarkable in the least. Just mediocre and mundane. Just laundry and car pools and schoolwork and the endless assembly line of to-dos.

And then I remember…

I remember the stirring of a young girl’s heart rushing into the outstretched arms of a Savior.

I remember the moment Jesus became real to me for the very first time and for the scores of “first time” moments that have occurred throughout my years.

I remember the miracle of healing touch as a shortened leg stretched out to catch up with its partner, and the thick, insole insert was removed from my shoe and ceremoniously dumped into the trash can.

I remember the bubbling of Spirit’s presence coursing through me, spilling out with sheer joy in a high no earthly drug could offer.

I remember being convicted of sin and of righteousness, gently turned to yield to a better way.

I remember the untold times when peace has stilled my quaking heart and calmed my racing thoughts with the simple truth of I AM being known in me.

And as long as I remember, I am held.

Steady.

Firm.

Grounded.

Graced with the faith to hope and believe still.

IMG_4558This I recall to my mind, therefore I have HOPE. – Lamentations 3:21

A Judgment of Life or Death?

Judgment causes death. Every single time.

The more I considered the above statement, the stronger the urge grew to war against it.

“Not so!” my heart replies. All judgment does not cause death. God’s judgment brings life – resurrection life which follows the death of all that must be destroyed.

While I can concede there is a harsh and horrid judgment of death poured out upon the Cross of Christ, there is also the merciful judgment of life overflowing from an empty grave. A judgment that beckons me toward truth and light, inviting me to partake of all that is pure and good.

This judgment declares me not only innocent, but holy. A merciful judgment proclaiming my value as daughter and bride, beloved of the Lord, partaker of life eternal.

Rising in the wake of an anguished “Father, forgive!” crests the powerful command of “Come forth!”

ressurectioncrossandemptytombAnd I, once bowed and crushed by the weight of sin’s judgment, now shed these grave clothes at the sound of His calling and step forth as one set free.

Set free by the audacious act of an undeserved yet purely righteous judgment.

I stand the ransomed victor.

Not because all judgment causes death, but because a Savior’s judgment sweeps across the ageless realms of glory and speaks on my behalf, “Arise and shine, My Beloved.”

In that moment of chains breaking and tombs cracking open, I gasp in awe at the glory of His judgment, savoring the first taste of new life that dawns with this beautiful realization.

It is freedom that becomes me.
And it is judgment that gives me LIFE.

 

Why Write?

I have a confession to make.

I am a logophile.

I simply LOVE words.

I love to study their origins, searching for hidden treasures tucked within the original translations. Scratching beneath the surface, looking for more. Squeezing life from letters as one might clench a lemon simply for the joy of making lemonade.

Words well-written draw me into their depths, inviting me to discover new things about myself and the world around me.

Stories flowed from pencil tip quite naturally when I was a young girl, and words still flow, albeit now they are more often written in ink or typed upon a keyboard pad. But instead of flowing naturally, they are sometimes yanked from the center of my heart, kicking and screaming in their efforts to remain hidden. To return to their confines. To avoid exposure.

Because sometimes words hurt.

Sometimes the truth hidden within scars the heart that holds it.

Sometimes it would be much easier to allow the pen of my soul to remain still.

Silent.

But that would be a dishonor to the Master Storyteller.

And so I write.

I write so I remember.



I write to build memorials of grace and truth that rise like monuments across the pages of my life.

I write to express gratitude to the One who makes all things new.

I write to encourage myself to walk freely in this precious gift of Life which I’ve been given.

And somewhere, in the midst of the raw and messy, I write in hopes that my words will provide an altar for others. A sanctuary of worship. A place of rest where it is safe to connect with another soul. With a Savior.

And so, I will continue to piece together the words within, threading them tenderly upon the tapestry of my life.

For myself.

For others.

For His glory.

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Today’s post on WRITE was prompted by Five Minute Friday. You can join us here: http://www.lisajobaker.com/five-minute-friday. Be blessed!

Worn Out

For the soul-weary saint whose prayers continue long after the sun sets at the end of each day…

Worn Out…

…like a favorite pair of jeans, soft and form-fitting, but ready to split in all the wrong places at any second.

…like a ragtag stuffed animal dragged everywhere for the comfort it provides.

…like a tattered Bible, pages and chapters falling into lap from so much reading.

…like my mother’s denim shirt filled with the fragrance of her person and her prayers.

…like rocks in streams, rough edges smoothed from the constant flow of life.

…like husband’s knee pads, scraped from hours of toiling in their protection.

…like the eyes of an old saint, wizened from years of so much seeing.

…like gnarled limbs of sheltering tree, protecting from storm and providing a perfect climb.

…like scuffed sandals encasing feet bruised from scaling remote mountain heights to bear Your name to those who have never heard.

…like cherished dishes, cracked and chipped from holding decades of recipes prepared with servant’s heart and hands.

…like an old screen door, filled with punctures and tears from the comings and goings of a full life.

…like aged hands, wrinkled and veined, used up in loving and caring for others.

Lord, if I be worn out, may it be from Kingdom living. A life wrung dry for Your glory, each drop lived with purpose and intent.

Teach me to walk as a child of light. Daring to shine in the darkness of a world cast in shadow. May I give my life as an offering to be used up. Every breath a prayer. Every prayer a plea for your presence to come and dwell in me, to touch lives through me.

Take my life and let it be worn out only for You.

…Children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the Word of Life.
…Yes, and even if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. (from Philippians 2:15-17)

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Pieced Together for Good

I’ve recently joined in the Five Minute Friday fun with a group of people who gather once a week to “just write” without worrying about getting things “just right.” After receiving the weekly prompt, we are turned loose to share our thoughts in just five minutes before posting and linking up with others at http://www.lisajobaker.com/five-minute-friday You’re welcome to be a part of it! Today’s thoughts are about Together.

TOGETHER

There’s a benefit to not going it alone.

Don’t believe me? Try riding a tandem bike or teeter-tottering at the park or playing ping-pong or checkers or football. And let’s not forget that it takes two to tango.

As much as there are days when I require some “alone” time, I’m thankful to be surrounded by others the majority of my moments. Because although alone can be blissful at times, it can also be, well… lonely. And hard.

Maybe that’s why the Bible encourages us to gather together so frequently. Because we need each other.

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor…

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken…

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ…

For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst…

We need the working together of the whole to produce something good. I NEED IT. I need the strength of others to bear up under the burdens of this life, and sometimes I need to help do the bearing. Somedays I need a together moment just to remind me that God is present. Right here. With me. Always.

Perhaps most of all, I need the constant assurance that I am together with God. In league with the Lord Most High. A sharer in this divine gift of salvation that holds me together and gives me purpose. A receiver of the working of grace as God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to his purpose for them.

The good, the bad, the beautiful, the broken.

God takes it all.

He gathers it together, pieces the fragments of my messiness, and births the beginnings of good into a happily ever after that only He could dream up. Not without pain. Not without purpose. Not without the joys and struggles. But a constant gathering nonetheless. Every broken, ordinary, amazing, anxious, peaceful part of me.

He takes me alone, then binds me together with Him to form something beautiful. Something GOOD. Something the two of us can enjoy for eternity — together.

Once Upon a Shattering…

Contrary to what the fairytales would have us believe, all stories do not begin with the fabled words, “Once upon a time…”

No, all stories begin with a shattering.

The breaking of a set pattern, an ideal of what life is supposed to be, a turning from the norm as we have thus far known or experienced it.

In the beginning, God spoke the words, “Let there be light,” and effectively shattered the empty darkness. With the power of His word, He obliterated the heavy blackness, piercing it with the brightness of day.

He shattered nothingness to bring about marvelous works of His glory never before revealed. Constellations and planets flung into space; sun, moon, and stars hurled across the galaxies, coming to rest in precise position to provide a perfect balance of light and darkness for the new earth He was creating.

With the brooding of His Spirit, He shattered the calm of the deep, bursting through the surface to bring to life a vast array of fishes and dolphins and whales of all shapes and sizes. Oceans teeming with life and motion and breaking tides upon the shorelines.

Earthen crust was shattered with the creeping of roots taking form, rising into stalwart trees and life-giving plants to sustain the wonders of this world in the making. Flocks of winged birds hovered in their branches, shattering the quiet with their songs of praise before lifting in unrestrained flight, wings outstretched and soaring. Herds of gazelle broke across the open fields with pounding hooves turned loose to run with graceful abandon, joining the conglomeration of creatures now filling the barrenness.

Most miraculous of all, the breath of life exhaled upon hardened clay, shattering dusty particles to form a work of wonder called man. Image created by hands of the Divine daring to soil themselves to bring forth this most treasured creation.

Molding, breaking, and molding again. A perpetual work in progress through the ages as generation after generation rises from dust into life, then flows back into dust only to rise to life once more. Shattering the belief that this world is our eternal home.

Like the earth in which I live, so too, a shattering marks the beginnings of me.

God created a form in the darkness of a womb where no form was. He shaped and molded and grew me into His likeness, then expelled me from the confines of that darkness with a breaking of water and a shattering of the protective covering in which I had dwelt for months. New life, born through the shattering of all that had been known to me, would continue to be made known to me year after year as I followed the path stretched out by His hand.

Through the growth and maturing of days morphing into years, there are a myriad of shatterings that mark our paths.  A constant breaking from the patterns of life. A pull to move beyond the confining expectations thrust upon us by others, and those held firmly by ourselves.

It’s easy to look at the moments of life – each with its own joys or trials – and deem one worthy and the other somehow lacking. But grace is everywhere, really. Even in the shatterings. Perhaps, especially there… if we would only live with eyes open to see it.

Every bit of our days plays into something. Something yet unknown. Something large. Something hidden from the whole.

Somewhere in it all, there’s a pattern of shattering aching to birth new life. A beautiful array of roses and thorns and leaves and stems, all reaching to consume and contain a beauty we ache to grasp. To breathe it; hold it closely; crush it tightly. And release it lavishly into the shattered world in which we live. Every. Lovely. Hurting. Moment.

All of it matters.

All is necessary to produce the purpose of the whole beyond the fragments. Every seemingly disjointed, unnoticed, unworthy piece.

Every broken.

Every shattered.

It’s all the making of me.

Every moment a page in the story of creation, and it’s worth the read.

Once upon a shattering… God turned an empty nothingness into a creation of wonder.

Once upon a shattering… you were spoken into being.

Once upon a shattering... you were redeemed and called into your purpose as Light-bearer.

Once upon a shattering… death was conquered in victory.

Once upon a shattering… God will speak yet again.

Once upon a shattering… every broken thing will be raised into newness and life.

Once upon a shattering…  the old will be obliterated by the timeless splintering of HOPE.

For all eternity.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus… let the shattering begin.

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The Laundering of My Heart

I’m jumping in with a group of writers to take the Five-Minute-Friday challenge. Basically, we are given a prompt, then turned loose to write for five minutes before posting to a link and sharing our raw thoughts with others. Want to join us? Click here to check it out: http://lisajobaker.com/five-minute-friday/

laundry:


noun: clothes or linens that need to be washed or that have been newly washed

I remember years ago during a women’s meeting at church when we all were just making small talk. The icebreaker question of the day was, “What’s your favorite household chore?”

My answer was the “laundry.”

I couldn’t help but smile when someone innocently asked, “What day of the week is your laundry day?”

As the mother of five young children, I quipped, “Day of the week? Well, how about Every Other?”

Laundry was one of the chores that was never-ending. No matter how many little jeans or shirts I’d washed and hung out to dry, then folded and tucked away neatly in drawers, there was the continuing pile filling the basket the moment I emptied it.

Dirty clothes always needing washed the minute I cleaned them.

Kind of like my heart.

Some days it seems I have more “dirty laundry” than others, but thankfully, I have a Savior who continues to care for the issues in me that need to be cleaned. In fact, I wonder if He doesn’t somehow take pleasure in the task – perpetually cleansing the stain of my waywardness and making me fresh and new. Rejoicing in extending righteousness to me once more.

No matter how many times my basket overflows with filthy rags, I am certain to go through the wringer of God’s grace. This great exchange of redemption as all is made right. And I can’t help but wonder if God enjoys this divine laundry process as much as I enjoy the simple task of washing clothes.

I wonder if the scent of a freshly-cleaned heart is as satisfying to God as the scent of line-dried apparel is to me. That springtime fragrance that reminds me of home no matter where my feet may be in the moment. That luring smell that makes me want to snuggle up against my husband beneath spring-fresh sheets; or wrap a baby in a clean, fluffy towel and hug her close; or simply draw in a deep breath as I bury my face in the newly-clean scent of a shirt that is now adult-sized like the toddler-turned-man who calls himself my son.

If there’s one thing that is guaranteed, I will always have dirty laundry that needs to be cleaned, both physically and spiritually…

Good thing my laundromat is open 24/7.

Grace Enough

Recently I’ve been reminded that there is no formula for approaching God. I used to think I had to have it all together before I dared to draw near the Almighty. As if.

I used to think I had to prepare my heart before entering His presence, weeding out all the garbage so I would be clean enough to enter the foyer of the Kingdom. I used to look at my heart and hope that it would somehow fly beneath the radar of holiness allowing me to slip near God undetected.

Much like the woman in Luke 8 who reached out to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe, I thought I could somehow steal near enough to grasp a bit of God-life without being noticed. Without having others stare. Without having God look at me and know I was there, in all of my bleeding, gaping brokenness. Because if He saw me attempting to hone in on His power – me, with all my sins and failures – I feared I would be rejected.

The fact is, I can never reach the point of being “good enough” for God. I can never be holy, or righteous, or blameless to the extent that I would ever deserve to approach Him.

And yet, I can.

I CAN.

Because the Gospel message is a shattering of all the formulas. It flies in the face of all man-made expectations. Our feeble attempts to somehow work our way into God’s favor. There are not enough keys to spiritual discipline that will guarantee us the right to be called His children. There’s no number of prayers or acts of contrition that will pay the price of our penance. There are no 12-step programs in the Kingdom of God – and there’s definitely no way any of us can stay “anonymous.”

There’s only GRACE.

The grace of a God majestic enough to enclose all of heaven and earth in His eternal hand, yet merciful enough to reach into that same hand and carve my name upon it. For keeps.

The Gospel is a message of love large enough to cover the empty broken of this whole, wide world, yet personal enough to notice one trembling reach of desperation straining for a touch of the Master’s hem. And respond with healing for our chasms of aching need.

The message of grace is one that ripples across time and eternity, preparing the way before us so we can simply follow the trail and wind up in His mercy. With every step and breath of this life, we can move closer to His own. All it really takes from us is accepting the gift He extends and repositioning ourselves closer to the One who extends it.

In short, the message of the Cross is a story of a Savior who died to make us enough.

Who defeated death to give us Life.

Even when we weren’t good.

If you’re struggling to believe you deserve all the grace God has to offer, you can stop struggling. It’s fact. You can’t.

You can NEVER be good enough to deserve the life that Jesus came to give… but you can have it anyway.

Because it was never yours to earn; it’s only yours to receive. No matter how broken, weary, or hopeless you may be. No matter that the world has told you there’s no way you can ever be made whole.

Truth is, His grace is enough. And if you reach out and take it from the nail-scarred hand that is offering it, you may just find your name inscribed there. There, beneath the blood stains of a life poured out to set you free.

Free to walk in the grace that is yours because God says you are enough.

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Breathe. Just Breathe.

How many breaths will it take for the old to be uprooted and a new heart to be formed in me?

When I stumbled across these words in a blog post last evening, I couldn’t help but smile at yet another reminder from Father to “just breathe.” It is quite obvious that I am one of the slowest learners on the face of planet earth when I have to be reminded so very often to do something that should come naturally for one of God’s own. Constantly, I hear the gentle stirring in my spirit, “Breathe, Barbara. Just breathe.”

Why does something as elementary as breathing require such focus and effort?

Because I forget it’s all about grace.

Grace for me. Grace for others.

God’s grace.

Too often I find myself in panic mode when the waves of life come crashing down, forcing me beneath the surface, pressing heavy upon my spirit lungs. Desperately, I attempt to hold my breath until there is a calm between the white caps, a brief moment when I have a chance to gasp a much-needed respite before the relentless tossing begins anew.

And the Spirit within my own nudges me with the reminder, “Don’t hold your breath. Don’t suck in oxygen so desperately that you cause yourself to hyperventilate. Just breathe. And trust that My grace will be there.”

Trust that My grace will be there.

As much as I know from experience that God’s presence will calm my heart and carry the day, I still have the propensity toward panic. When trials come, my initial reaction is to gasp and flail instead of breathe and ease myself into His loving arms.

I still have the tendency to forget about grace. A grace that consumes all the flaws in me with all the holiness that is His own. No matter how many times I come to Him with the same struggles, the same temptations, the same sins wrapped around my soul.

Breathe, Barbara. Just breathe…                                                      

Inhale God’s presence… and exhale the old way of living.

Take on His life… and give up your own.

One. Breath. At. A. Time.

How many breaths will it take for the old to be uprooted and a new heart to be formed in me?

I figure it will be just enough breaths to take me to the final stop on this side of eternity. And that next breath? Well, I imagine it will, indeed, be heavenly.

Until then, I choose to breathe. Even though I’m sure to need reminded again. But that’s what grace is all about.

Reminding me of who I am. And Who He is.

And that, my friend, is enough for my next breath… and my last.

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A Messy Covenant

The word covenant has been interrupting my thought patterns recently, as surely as the living out of it has been interrupting my “regularly scheduled life.” After nearly 25 years in a marriage covenant, I’m still an active participant in this binding agreement with my husband, and sometimes this agreement leads me to acts of service that are… well, messy.

As an excavator/contractor/floor-covering specialist/jack-of-all trades, my husband’s range of employment in any given week is quite diverse, and because this is the busy season, Jon has been running himself on nearly 15-hour workdays. Since he has yet to figure out the DNA secret to cloning himself, this week has also been one where I have stepped into the title of “administrative assistant” (which sounds much more prestigious than the less glamorous title of “gofer”). I have literally placed myself at Jon’s disposal, dropping whatever I’ve been working on to aid him in running errands. Driving places, fixing meals, mowing lawns, loading and unloading tools, planting a garden for his friend, completing paperwork, filling fuel containers, digging mud from backhoe tires… In short, I’ve allowed my husband’s needs to take precedence over my own.

Which could very well be the key to a marriage covenant. Or any other convent that is lasting.

Allowing another’s needs to take precedence.

Let’s face it, sometimes we do not care for others well. Instead, we attempt to serve others according to our own needs. In ways that we prefer, even when those ways are not particularly helpful. Too often we remain unwilling to do what the occasion truly calls for.

IMG_3105Yesterday, my marriage covenant called for me to get messy as I worked alongside my husband to remove a clay-like substance from his backhoe. (FYI: Digging sticky pond clay from a backhoe is not the typical romantic setting we ladies dream of, but after 25 years together, my husband has yet to figure that one out. Which could be the reason for the soft shovel pat across my rear while I was bent over prying mud with a crowbar. Lucky for him my crowbar was firmly stuck in the mud.) But I digress.

Sometimes covenants call us to messy places. Places far removed from candlelight dinners and flowers.

But places that hold us together for the long haul.

As much as I hate to admit it, more often than not, it is in the less-than-glamorous places of our marriage where we have found love growing the most rapidly. In the movies, it’s all about the wooing and winning, the wining and dining, the romance and the ambiance of magnificent sunsets. In real life, covenants are sealed in the trenches of shared labor, unselfish motives, and a lot of sweat and tears. I’ve come to find that my heart is knit more strongly with Jon’s when I’m working alongside him in the dirt to help lighten his load than when I’m dressed to the nines and seated across a candlelit table for two.

The truth is, my husband loves me messy. He loves me when I’m serving him in my tiredness – as attested to by the haircut I gave him and the grilled cheese sandwiches I prepared, both after 9 p.m. (those who know me well can appreciate that sentiment). He loves me when I follow him outside after a much-needed shower and sit beside him in the gathering dusk. When he looks at me with my messy hair, and comments on how pretty it is. In complete sincerity. And after 25 years, I find myself falling in love with him a little more. Simply because I love the fact that he loves me in all my messiness.

And I can’t help but wonder if maybe I win his heart a little more fully each time I’m wiling to serve him in this mess of daily life. When I come alongside him and allow myself to be stretched to do those things I’d prefer got done on their own.

When I love him enough to get messy…

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