We’re Not Home Yet

With all the current falling away from Truth, it is wise to remember that the ways of a fallen world do not determine our destinies. We are under the authority of a loving, eternal God who does not flinch or waver from who He is. No kingdoms rise or fall without His notice. No mandates of governments slip through unaware.

In the grip of a world at war with itself, we would do well to see the battle as more than a tug-of-war for “rights.” It is a conflict for the souls of men, a battle between good and evil. The same armies are still at odds, generation after generation. And while the struggle seems long and fierce, in light of eternity, it is as brief as the crash of an ocean wave upon the shore’s edge.

One splash, and it is over.

Do not be surprised when the tide turns against truth and morality. Do not be dismayed when the waves of persecution begin to whirl across the sands of your world. It is to be expected, after all. You can check your Bible if you have any doubts. God’s truth has always come head to head against Satan’s lies. And while it is frustrating to see and hear of abuses against followers of Christ, it actually makes sense when seen through the eyes of good and evil. Why would Satan war against other belief systems that turn hearts from Jesus? He has no need to mislead those who are already being misled. But to oppose truth and righteousness, that is where the battle has and always will be.

To war against the justice and mercy of an unrelenting Savior is Satan’s only hope to twist the fate of men and warp their God-breathed destinies.

In keeping with the thoughts of C.S. Lewis, it is wise to remember that we are  “born into a world of death, violence, wounds, adventure, heroism and cowardice, good and evil.” Instead of reeling in surprise from this fact, we would do well to prepare for it. To arm ourselves and our children for this battle of light versus darkness and to rise in courage in the midst of it.

“Since it is so likely that they will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.”

We cannot escape the conflict, nor can we shelter our children from the brunt of humanity turning away from morality, but we can rise in heroic bravery and love against it. Instead of following the crowd, we can follow hard after the One who has walked in this fallen place and overcome it victoriously. We can look to the King who has promised that all things will be set right in the end, even when the “now” seems so very dark and hopeless.

Fear not the rise of evil, beloved, but fear the Victor of the war and walk in righteousness. Redeem the times — your time — with truth and love. Act justly; love mercy; walk humbly with your God. And above all, rejoice that this world is not our home. We are just here for a moment. So make the most of your moment, and occupy until He comes.

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Sucking the Life out of Living

It was another morning on the beach. Another day of nearly 12 successive walks on the beach. Sand, shore, shells. Run, chase, walk, breathe. We stomped through shallow pools while the high tide pulled the ocean away from below our feet, and I considered every beautiful analogy the ocean offered.

Everything, great and small, points to Him, to beauty, to imagination. Stories are in every element of creation and nature, and if I’m tuning in, I feel like I see and hear them all.

And instead of feeling the usual overwhelming sense of gratitude toward the great analogy played out around us, I was irritated.

I was annoyed that the ocean was so big, and I was so small. I was annoyed that I looked at shells and saw my heart. I was angry that watching my daughter chase birds made me think more about a blog entry instead of her.

I am prone to always dig below the surface in my own life. Sometimes this is beauty. Sometimes it’s distraction. I admit, there are times I end up extracting another meaning out of a situation simply because I am unable, unwilling or too bored to experience what is actually happening.

I wonder how different my words and relationships would be if I stopped viewing all things through the spin of my wild mind.

On that beach, while my daughter chased birds, I told myself to forget about the extra meanings and possible metaphors. I actually shook my head and closed my eyes and told myself to listen, and breathe, and then watch and experience.

Extracting is good. Mining for the deep things is a hard and necessary work. Sometimes I need to look at the world around me and realize that God is still speaking through the work of His hands. I want to notice how interwoven and connected everything is.

And sometimes I want to just get dirty feet, feel the heat of the sun and notice how my daughter’s curls form perfectly on her shoulders on a humid April afternoon. I need days full of her crinkled nose and storytelling. I need to pay more attention to the words I say to her instead of the words I’m writing inside. It’s all happening so fast, I think. While I’m mentally adding and erasing metaphors, I’m accidentally erasing myself from my own story…
(excerpt from The Organic Bird the Blog)

Have you ever read something and felt as if you had taken a sucker punch to the gut? That’s similar to my stomach’s reaction after  reading the above wisdom from a fellow blogger. It was if she had seen into that part of me that I try to hide from others – the truth being that I do try to hide from others. My heartbeat melded with her words:
I admit, there are times I end up extracting another meaning out of a situation simply because I am unable, unwilling or too bored to experience what is actually happening.

I escape. I hide myself in words. If things are devastating, I’m attempting to take away a hidden meaning – my mind racing with metaphors to link the pain with purpose. If things are joyful, words are tumbling within me straining to be released in a blog to match the blessing. And sometimes I am simply bored – so my mind disconnects, fleeing into its own world of swirling similes and ponderous paradoxes, aching for pen and paper, instead of  being there. 

Wherever there may be.

I can get so caught up viewing things through my own wild mind, that I forget to live the moment.

With my penchant to scratch below the surface, I suck the life out of living. I silence the beauty that is unfolding, forgetting that it is doing so wholly for the sake of being beautiful, not for the benefit of my writing projects.

It shouldn’t be so much work to enjoy life. But it is.

Because I refuse to simply let life happen.

As wonderful as this propensity toward words can be, as enlightening and freeing as they can seem, there is always the threat of too much meaning. A distraction from living life as it comes.

So today I am seeking silence. Calming my tendency to manipulate the moments with my thoughts, curbing my bent toward many words.

Today I am asking God to fill me with His presence as I rest my mind.

Today I choose to grasp life.

One beautiful breath at a time.

And who knows, rather than accidentally erasing myself from my own story, perhaps I will purposefully live it instead.

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Enjoy!

Enjoy Jesus today…

These three words were the final sentiments in a recent message I received from a friend. I couldn’t help but smile when I thought of how prophetic his words were for me. Unfortunately, enjoyment is not the term I would use to express my life at the moment. Weary would more accurately describe how my heart has felt. Not depressed. Not overwhelmed. Not anxious. Simply… weary.

I could not help but wonder if the lack of living out my friend’s encouragement might not be the very reason for some of that soul-weariness. Could it be that the best course of action to overcome my bent toward feeling weary would be to take his advice and simply enjoy Jesus today?

“Can it really be that simple?” my thoughts argued. Shouldn’t my focus be on serving Jesus? After all, there are so many  responsibilities to be fulfilled in the Kingdom of God. Shouldn’t my attentions be on helping others since I’m surrounded by so many pressing needs? Perhaps I would do well to concentrate on praying more since intercession is such a powerful weapon in tearing down strongholds…

Or maybe my friend was right. Maybe, just maybe, the most powerful way for me to live out the Gospel in this moment is to simply… enjoy Jesus today.

With my typical obsessive-word-passion-compulsion, I pulled up definitions for the word enjoy. After all, if I am to take said directive, I want to do so appropriately. As I perused the varied definitions for this verb, I came across the obvious ones like: take pleasure in; find satisfaction in; appreciate; etc.

I also came across modern terms like: live it up; go have a ball;  and my personal favorite: freak out on. (This seems to be the most fitting for my behavior as I am often found “freaking out” on any number of things that unexpectedly come my way, although most likely NOT in the enjoyable way to which this particular definition is referring.)

All silliness aside, the most accurate of definitions was likely the most simplistic, as well: take joy in. Imagine that – the most fulfilling way to enjoy is to take in joy. And that’s what spending time with Jesus produces. Joy. The lightness of spirit and refreshment of soul-happiness is a natural by-product of being with the Savior. Joy happens there because joy is present where freedom is found. And freedom is found where Jesus reigns.

As tempting as it is for me to get caught up in all the things that my learned behavior of Christianity has taught me to “do” to become an effective and mature believer, I have found my life is not changed so much by spiritual disciplines as it is from simply enjoying friendship with Jesus. Could it be that the most effective way to grow in God and to share His love with others comes from enjoying Him today?

When I think of people who make Christianity attractive, it is not the folks with a long list of dos and don’ts who immediately come to mind, but rather, it is the very ones who have a vibrant and living faith because they spend much time “with Jesus.” I have a friend who literally seems to glow with God’s love, and I know it is because she “lives’ with Him all throughout the day – whether she is studying her Bible or scrubbing floors. That is Kingdom living at its finest. That is what makes me want to know God like she knows Him. She has learned the habit of living in joy with Jesus. And it shows.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am NOT encouraging you to cease all Bible study, prayer, or service to others. But I AM encouraging you to place “enjoying Jesus” on a higher priority level if you have found yourself living with diminished joy. Why not set aside all those other obligations and simply have a ball with Jesus today? Stop freaking out about circumstances over which you have no control, and take a moment to freak out on Jesus, instead. It’s really okay, you know.

So go ahead.

Enjoy Jesus in joy today.

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How do YOU enjoy your relationship with Jesus? Please share your comments with us so we can enjoy Him, too!

Stubbing My Toes on the Holy

I’m a girl trying to see past the ordinary. I want to see grace in the mundane and humor in the plain and dig deeper than the surface of the things that I think about. I want to take off my shoes and stub my toes on Holy Ground. Maybe that’s why I’ve always loved going barefoot.

As I read the above words from the Stumbling Barefoot blog that I quite literally stumbled upon the other day, I could not help but think that I had found a kindred spirit. A barefooted sister searching for grace in the everyday. Groping for a glimpse of God alongside me as we stub our toes against the Holy, even if purely by accident. Seriously, it was like she was inside my head and pulling words from my own heart.

So often I, too, am straining my eyes to see past the ordinary in hopes of finding a glimpse of God in the mundane moments. Digging through what seems like mountains of dirty laundry in hopes that He has planted a seed of something that I can cling to in my everyday. Something that will grow bigger than the responsibilities that surround me, sometimes threatening to overwhelm me, no matter how precious my “quiet time with Jesus” was just a few sweet minutes before.

Because I need for there to be more to this life than just a list of obligations and appointments. I need to experience the Holy in the here and now.

And I realized that in stumbling upon Stumbling Barefoot, I did indeed stub my toes on a portion of Holy Ground allotted for me. God was unveiling one more piece of truth to fit in the puzzle of my life. He was reminding me that He is always thinking of me, ever aware of my smallest needs, even when I am not intentionally thinking of Him. Even when I am not expecting Him to bless me. And in this marvelous lesson of mercy, I am straining to look harder for the presence of His grace. Everywhere.

Because it is there.

The truth is, I will stumble upon the Holy every day of my life.

Sometimes that encounter will be joyful and exhilarating, and sometimes that stubbing will hurt. Sometimes God will choose to show up in ways that are painful, at least for a season. Like hoeing in my garden in order to sow a seed that will grow into a plant that nourishes me with its fruit, sometimes God must “dig” into my heart to make the site ready for His planting. And sometimes that digging is painful. But it is also necessary.

Unlike our human nature, God does not inflict pain in order to “get even” or “pay us back” for our wrongs against Him. His actions toward us are always motivated by love. A love that wants nothing more than for us to experience the wonder of His presence as we watch the seeds sprout and produce a harvest of love and blessings in our lives. He wants us to trust Him to bring the wonder through the pain of life’s disappointments and through the redemption of a heart drawn back to His side.

So I will choose to look for the wonder in the obvious and hear whispers of holiness in the everyday. I will pray for eyes to see and ears to hear the magic that is happening all around me. To stop overlooking and start experiencing life happening here – hope being realized right now – not just in the somedays still to come.

I will determine to tug the holy out of the ordinary moments that fill my days, to tease the light out of a darkness that encompasses my nights. To breathlessly wait for the sunrise that is promised even as I venture into the midnight hours of the soul. To listen for the whispers of a God who roars through my silence even when I live as one unaware.

I will trust in a Savior who sees me through the rose-colored glasses of Calvary’s blood.

Who loves me as though I have always been and will always be pure and innocent before Him – even when I am cloaked with the filth of a life lived in the streets of self-indulgence. I will grope for His goodness and cling to His grace as I stumble my way to the Holy Ground of Calvary and stub my toes against His glory as I exchange my sins for His forgiveness… again.

And that is enough to make me gasp with the wonder of the Holy for this moment…
and forever.

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Connecting to the Holy

Perhaps one of the most profound thoughts I ever heard recounted from a pulpit was something along the lines of, I was sitting with my friends on the back porch listening to Nat King Cole. It was a holy moment. Not your typical Sunday morning sermon notes.

Nevertheless, this thought has continued to stick with me throughout the years, bouncing between my head and my heart at the strangest of moments.

If my pastor friend can define listening to Nat King Cole as a “holy moment,” then what other simple things of life can be placed in the same category? It’s not like the famous jazz singer was noted for belting out worship music or for writing amazing hymns. So what justified this particular moment in time as being “holy” to my friend? More importantly, what “holy moments” am I overlooking every day of my life?

Sometimes we get the confused idea that to “be holy” means we must be cloaked in the brown garb of a monk and live in seclusion while reciting Scripture twelve hours a day. Sadly, we insist on doing something to make holiness happen rather than being in communion with God, regardless of what is happening. The hidden truth is that anything can be “holy” when God is in the center of it.

And since God exists in literally everything that our senses behold, then the truth of the matter is that all of life is seeping with the Divine.

But while it is easy to recognize the holiness of God in the sweet smile of a sleeping newborn, it can be much more difficult to notice God’s presence in places where life is troublesome or in people who make us feel uncomfortable. We tend to want to pick and choose where we believe God’s holiness will show up instead of choosing to believe that holiness appears wherever God is.

This morning, a friend posted a facebook comment that may well be the key to embracing those holy moments in life: Today, will you simply recognize your connection to Christ?

A simple, yet profound statement, indeed. The key in recognizing those holy moments is to be mindful of our connection to God… in every moment of living. To be grateful for the gift of the kingdom of God placed within these fragile, earthen vessels. Vessels formed to contain His glory and to experience His holiness with every breath of living.

And if that is the case, then truly holiness can be found anywhere.

At any time.

In anyone.

May we have ears to hear the call of holiness – from the first cries of the life of a newborn to the last death rattle of a saint.

And all the moments in between.

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