When God Shows Up

If there is a God, then why doesn’t He simply reveal Himself so we can believe?

I’m sure you have heard this thought, or something similar to it, throughout the years. It’s promoted in many modern films, discussed over a cup of coffee, or pondered when things go wrong. Why doesn’t God just show up so we really know He is there? Why does He seem so far away when the world is spinning so wildly out of control? Why? Why? Why?

The longer I walk this Christian path, the more I am convinced that, contrary to what the world would have us believe, God does not simply lean back on His throne twiddling His giant thumbs, waiting to see how well we maneuver through this life.

Story after story in the Bible convinces me otherwise. Story after story of friends who are familiar with God on more than a cursory level convince me otherwise. Even my own often-floundering faith convinces me otherwise as I recall both the significant and seemingly insignificant ways God has shown up in my life throughout the years.

While it might seem more obvious if God would appear in a burning bush like He did to Moses or come sweeping into our lives through a grand vision as He did with the prophet Ezekiel, there’s no doubt in my mind that God does reveal Himself to us.

God is much more active in our everyday lives than we give Him credit for. It’s just that sometimes we get too distracted to notice His presence.
Sometimes our own plans and longings get in the way and obstruct our view.

Sometimes we are so focused on just getting through the day that we hesitate to believe He is right there in it with us.

It’s amazing how many things keep us from recognizing that God is there in our most ordinary moments.

And so we content ourselves to envision our heavenly Father as an elderly gentleman, contentedly leaning back on a celestial throne watching the world spin with seeming indifference to the suffering taking place among its inhabitants.

And we could not possibly be in greater error.

Our God is a God who rises from His throne to shower His children with gracious compassion (Isaiah 30:18). He is a God who reaches into the depths of the oceans to rescue a wayward prophet (Jonah); who appears to Moses in the midst of a burning bush because He has been aroused by the desperate cries of the Israelite nation; who gives advice through the lips of a donkey in order to get the attention of a prophet (Balaam); who crosses the cultural gaps of gender, race, and religion to reveal Himself to a Samaritan woman living in a promiscuous relationship; who blinds the eyes of a persecutor of Christians  in order to open his eyes to the Light of the World, calling him to become one of the greatest preachers in history (Saul aka Paul); and the list goes on…

God is continually moving to bridge the gap between heaven and earth.

Sometimes He comes with a resounding shout; other times He whispers His presence.

But always He comes.

Revealing Himself to each of us individually.

Because He knows us.

He knows what will get our attention.

Maybe you would walk right by a burning bush, but stop dead in your tracks at a talking donkey. Or maybe He is much more subtle with you, using something as innocent and profound as a baby’s laughter or the beauty of a blossoming rosebud to reveal His presence with you, right where you are.

Here.

In the middle of your everyday life.

GOD seeks YOU.

In the midst of the millions, God seeks you.

What will it take for you to notice Him there?

mHF4UJ4Stop hiding… and let yourself be found.

 

 

 

Providing Presence

I just finished watching the attached video of my friend’s son Brady and his heart for a greater cause. I couldn’t help but think of how fitting today’s Five Minute Friday word of CLOSE was for what I had just viewed. I hope you will take the time to watch this powerfully moving video.

CLOSE: being near in time, space, or relationship.

Close calls us toward something or someone.

Close calls us to close the distance.

To draw near.

To be faithful to sharing the Hope that is found in Jesus.

It’s hard to see clearly from a distance.

It’s hard to experience the pain, the loss, the sense of hopelessness that prevails in another’s life unless we dare to bridge the chasm and come close to that person and their particular situation.

Close sees.

Close provides a presence

Close means that someone else is aware of our plight.

Close stoops down to visit us in the midst of our hopelessness and despair.

Close comes with compassion that moves us to action on another’s behalf.

Close reminds us that God is with us.

That eternity has moved in, drawn close to bridge the chasm of sin with the righteousness that only a holy God could provide.

Would provide.

Did provide.

Close steps in to nest among the finite pages of life, dusting hearts with traces of Father’s glory.

Daring us to give the gift of hope, to tempt others to believe that they are seen when they feel dishonored and devalued.

Close shows up and reminds us of love.

Close pulls us all together and reminds us that we are one.

Called to the Cause: http://youtu.be/jhQJRsJUoTQ

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* This post was written in conjunction with Lisa Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday and the challenge to write for five minutes on a one-word prompt. Click here to join us: http://www.lisajobaker.com/five-minute-friday

 

 

Fish Smarts

My husband is a fish-whisperer.

True story.

With the frigid winter temperatures we experienced over the past few months, my hubby was a little worried that some of his fish might not have survived such a cold snap. Now, you have to understand something about Jon – he loves watching his fish. Apparently the fish love him, too, as attested to by their excited behavior at seeing him when we took a walk by the pond the other evening with our son and daughter-in-law.

Jon was delighted to find a passel of multi-sized fish swimming near the water’s edge. I seriously think it was the highlight of his day. All that worrying, only to find that his friendly flock had braved the pond depths through the wintry months. The smile on his face was a small thing, but it warmed my heart to see him enjoying something so simple as fish swimming to water’s surface. Apparently the fish were equally excited to note that my husband survived the cold winter, too. When Jon moved, the fish moved, matching speed of fins to the pace of his step as he skirted pond’s edge.

Even though there were three other people standing near, only Jon had the fish’s attention. When he moved away from the water to get some food from the shed, the fish hovered in place, awaiting his return. It mattered not that my son, who is of strikingly similar stature to his dad, began to walk along water’s edge coaxing them to follow. The fish held their position, refusing to shadow the movements of Josiah. Not until Jon returned did they leave their silent sentinel, once again moving to trail after my hubby as though none of the rest of us existed.

His presence was all that drew their attention. His image was the only one they followed. No matter how deceptive my son’s shadow may have appeared, the fish were wise enough to notice the difference and were not about to be foolishly baited. No pun intended.

If only I would be so wise.

When it comes to chasing after the false images Satan dangles on glinted hook before me, I all-too-easily take the bait and end up ensnared on his line. Forget the wisdom of Solomon; just give me fish smarts. Eyes that remain fixed upon the One who is worthy to follow. The One who seeks my benefit and provision. The One who leads me daily toward the place of nourishment and growth.

If only I would stay in step with Him.

Moving when He moves.

Remaining fixed and stable when He lingers in one place.

Trusting that His presence will be there to provide for me day after day, even when it seems we’ve been separated for a season.

Refusing to follow Satan’s imitations, no matter how much they appear to mimic my Lord’s movements.

Growing to know Jesus enough to detect the nuances that are His alone, and longing after His presence that is sure to come.

You know, a gal would do well if only she had the smarts of a fish…

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All of My “Everys”

You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in Your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. (Psalm 139:16)

In reading verses so familiar, it becomes easy to skim the surface, bypassing the heaviness of grace found resting within their lines. While the familiar is comforting, it can also be taken for granted far too easily. Or worse, overlooked completely.

Slowing down to ponder the words penned within a particular psalm or phrase, provides opportunity to soak in the truth that was purposefully placed within the pages of Scripture for my benefit. And for my Father’s glory as He makes Himself known to me in ever-increasing ways. Securing me in His love a little more each time I recall His faithfulness.

Today I have been reminded of the constant and continual presence of my Creator’s care and watchfulness. Before I ever drew one earthly breath, God was there. And He continues to be there in every moment of my living. Not a sigh of joy, nor one of sorrow, escapes His notice. Nothing catches Him off-guard or takes Him by surprise. All is known to Him.

All of me is known to Him.

All of you is known to Him.

Every thought.

Every scar.

Every word.

Every reaction.

Every stretch and growing pain experienced in this life is held within His providence. All is examined and cared for by His hand.

All of my “everys.”

No matter how challenging or how peaceful the day, He encompasses us with love at all times, resting His hand of favor upon our heads. Speaking words of blessing – expressions of His presence and encouragement to strengthen the most faint of hearts.

Protecting. Leading. Guiding. Reminding us of our value… and of His own.

Every day of our lives is recorded in His book. Though to us, the story unfolds page by page, chapter after chapter, He knows it all from beginning to end. No hidden secrets. No surprise plot twists. Just a known adventure made specifically for us.

Every moment of our lives has been laid out with me and you in mind, designed to overlap each other’s stories. Line upon line of grace and redemption, intersecting and joining the scenes to meet and complete a larger tale. Weaving friendships, and heroes, and heroines, and yes, sometimes even villains to be triumphed in the end.

As limitless as the number of grains of sand upon the seashores, so are our Father’s thoughts toward us. Even when ours toward Him are all-too-often lacking. He does not operate by fair rules of play, but gives, and gives, and gives again. Never growing weary in His care. Never becoming exhausted by our neediness or weakness. Never slackening His hold upon our lives.

Always and forever, perfect in His love.

Right in all He does on our behalf, even when we struggle to view the good and true hidden beneath the ugly and marred.

May we be granted eyes to see our Savior’s hand of beauty resting upon us in all things. May we have grateful hearts filled with thanks and able to express it when life feels so very broken. When we are overwhelmed, may we be overcome by the Spirit’s presence, trusting the traces of nail-scarred hand reaching out to save the day. To save us, as we lean into His touch and know that He’s got this.

From beginning to end.

And every moment in between.

All of our everys, for all of our days.

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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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When it Hurts…

Please pray for me. However the Lord may lead you to do so. I need it.

This is the note I woke up to find in my inbox this morning. No details of the situation were included. Just a request for God’s intervention.

Just an SOS from a hurting friend.

Please pray for me… I need it.

Prayer is needed.

For broken hearts. For lives rushing headlong toward situations that seem they can only turn out badly. For children who are neglected. Marriages that are unstable. Lives crushed from the weight of so many unanswered questions. Hearts heavy from too much hurt.

And in the midst of my prayers for a friend who is hurting, I was reminded of a simple truth:

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When it hurts, run to God.

And so I did.

And I am.

And I will continue to do so.

For my friend.

For myself.

For all the unknown trials and burdens that are yours to endure in this moment of living.

When it hurts, run to God.

Then stay there until the burden is lifted.

Until God’s peace intersects with the point of your brokenness.

Until you sense the presence of a Savior who has borne each of your trials upon His own shoulders.

Until you rest in the care of the One who can carry it all.

When it hurts, run to God.

Allow nothing to keep you from the Keeper of your soul.

Run past the doubts.

Push through the obstacles that block the way to His presence.

Run with faith, believing that God is with you in your journey.

No matter how long the road may seem.

No matter the number of doubts that tempt you to cease trusting.

No matter how much it hurts.

Run until you reach His throne and find His grace when you need it most.

“So let us come boldly to the throne of  our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” ~ Hebrews 4:16

 

 

It’s More Than a Pipe Dream

A few weeks ago, I heard a Christian leader share that there was a movement of people wanting to go back to the “old ways.” He justified this statement by telling of the current trend of churches in his area that are purchasing pipe organ extensions to place on keyboards. While I am unconcerned as to what type of instruments you may prefer to be played during your local church’s worship time, I cannot help but wonder about the truth of his statement. Is it really that folks are wanting the sound of a pipe organ over a keyboard, or could it be that there is something much deeper in the longing?



Perhaps what they are really longing for in a gathering of Christians is not so much a particular sound as it is a Presence. A Presence that manifests Himself in unconditional love and transformed lives. Could it be that the real thing missing in the lives of many of today’s Christians is not so much the absence of a particular style of worship or rituals, as much as it is an authenticity toward living a LIFEstyle consistent with the Gospel?

You don’t have to look further than most Christian families in America to see that our influence over the culture is becoming absorbed by the culture itself. The statistics themselves attest to the alarmingly high rates of divorce and infidelity among believers. Work ethics of Christians are not proportionally higher than anyone else’s. Our busy lives are just as full of extracurricular activities that pull us away from each other. And our morality is slipping day by day as we tolerate behaviors without truth.

Perhaps saddest of all, our power to overcome the frustrations of life seems just as diminished as that of the regular Joe next door.

Where is the abundant life of which Jesus was talking?

Where is the sacrificial living?

Where is the Christian who will go the second mile when he has only been asked to walk one?

Where is the power that is supposed to make all things new?



I believe that what people are looking for is not so much a return to the “old” ways as it is to finding a real relationship with lasting impact. Now, I’m not trying to set up a legal list of dos and don’ts concerning Kingdom living. (Obviously that did not work out for the scribes and pharisees, so why not learn from their mistakes?) Nor am I suggesting you live aloof from others for fear of being corrupted by a sinful nature. In fact, I believe quite the opposite to be true — it’s time to get messy for Jesus.

All throughout Scripture, you will find Jesus hanging out with “sinful” people, those who were considered the “unworthy” ones, the “outcasts,” the “less-than-desirables.” But Jesus didn’t party with folks to no avail. He impacted lives by His presence.

He lived in a way that drew others to Himself — in a style that the disciples were called to emulate. In a style that we are called to emulate. A style that changes lives.

But this type of living takes devotion. 

It takes intentional choices.



It requires a removal of self and an invitation to let Jesus come in without stipulations or restraints.

It takes a purposefulness in choosing God’s way over our own so that He may increase in us in startling ways.

Ways that are different than simply listening to a pipe organ pound out hymns of praise.

Ways that challenge us to rise up and pound the love out of life even as we offer ourselves to be poured out for others.



Real Christianity is an offering.

It’s placing ourselves at another’s disposal, even at the cost of our own inconvenience.

It’s loving enough to risk being hurt.

It’s living open-handedly enough that we are assured of being taken advantage of, yet living beyond caring that we are.



Real life in Jesus is dwelling in a state of continual metamorphosis.

Allowing the old life to be overcome.

Changed.

Transformed.

Made new.

Bit by bit.

It’s choosing to clothe ourselves with the garments of praise as we put on the characteristics of Christ.

One thought at a time.

In a way that is noticeable.



It’s a journey that will take a lifetime of REAL living with REAL people in REAL circumstances that stretch us beyond ourselves and our own power time and again as we rely upon a REAL SAVIOR…

All the way to eternity.

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Enjoy the Ride!

There’s a video that has recently gone viral depicting a car salesman taking a test drive with an incognito Jeff Gordon. Pretending to be a nervous driver, the professional Nascar racer hesitantly pulls from the car lot with the salesman riding shotgun, only to rev the engine and careen through the streets much like he cruises the racetrack. Unfortunately, the unsuspecting salesman is unaware of Mr. Gordon’s true identity. With terror-stricken expression and words filled with expletives (thankfully “bleeped out”), the salesman makes it known in no uncertain terms that he is not appreciative of the ride.

When the full-throttle joyride is finished and the car safely returned to its place in the lot, the salesman bursts from the vehicle intent on “calling the cops.” Gordon immediately begins to explain that it is a prank, revealing his true identity as he removes his disguise while assuring the man,” It’s okay. I’m Jeff Gordon.”

As soon as the salesman realizes that he has been “had,” he looks at Gordon with a large smile on his face and asks, “Can we do that again?”

Whether or not the video was staged (as some are claiming) or truly an impromptu incident, there is still much to be learned from the salesman’s recorded reaction.

My first thought upon watching this video was: It’s funny how quickly perspective can change our attitude.

Once the truth was revealed, the salesman immediately wanted to take another ride with the very man whom he had just seconds earlier accused of being an “idiot.” I can’t help but think that, given the opportunity, his second car ride would have captured an entirely different scenario.

Funny how our perspective changes when the Truth is revealed.

How quickly our mind is calmed when we realize Who is truly in control of our circumstances.

I must admit, there are times in my life where I have been duped into believing that God was absent, or at the very least, clothed in disguise. And I have ridden in the passenger seat screaming like the terrified salesman, certain that my life was careening out of control, while I prepared myself for a crash-and-burn ending.

Sometimes, God does seem to cloak Himself.

Sometimes He seems to come into my life in ways that are so unassuming, I assume He is absent.

Sometimes He shows up in ways that are so unexpected they are barely recognizable as being from Him.

Instead of simply stepping into my circumstances with obvious glory revealed, He seems to sneak in, subtly daring me to trust Him. And much like the panicked salesman, I plead, “Stop! Let me out!”

When I cannot see clearly, I don’t trust the One who is in control.

Would that I could always see Him as He is. That I could readily recognize His presence and note His hand at work, moving and directing all things for His purposes and my ultimate good. If I really KNEW He was there, if I really TRUSTED His ability to steer me safely through every curve, wouldn’t I be more apt to enjoy the ride?

Today is the perfect day to take God at His Word.

Though we may never fully learn to see God as He is on this side of eternity, we can still trust Him. Instead of holding on for dear life, we can loosen our panicked grip of control and ask for a second chance to “enjoy the ride,” knowing He is more than able to navigate safely through every obstacle confronting us.

The next time you feel as if your life is careening out of control like a runaway Camaro, take a closer look at the Driver.

Chances are, He bears a striking resemblance to a certain Savior you may know.

Then simply sit back and enjoy the ride with the full assurance of knowing you are safe in His nail-scarred hands.

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All the Night with a Light of Fire

In the daytime also, He led them with the cloud, and all the night with a light of fire. (Psalm 78:14)

Father God,
I thank You that Your presence never departs from Your people. Throughout the Exodus, You led the children of Israel by day with the cloud of Your presence shielding them from the hot, desert sun. And all the night, You warmed them with the fire of Your Spirit. You were ever before them in a tangible, visible way – yet still they wandered. As does my own heart, though You are never far from me.

You provided water from earth-baked rocks, rained down manna from heaven, and emptied quail from the corners of the winds, proving that You are Jehovah Jireh – the One who provides. Yet still, Your people tested You in their heart. Determined to remain discontent, although their every need was provided at Your hand, they asked for the food of their own fancy.

And I can’t help but wonder at the propensity with which I do the same thing. Why do I continue to want something other than what You have deemed is best for me?

How well I can relate to those stumbling, doubtful, desert dwellers.
Always looking for something beyond what is needed.
Hesitating to walk through passes to which You have miraculously gained me entrance.
Doubting that You will be in my tomorrows when You have never once lifted Your presence from my todays.

In spite of all that You have done for me, I still so easily forget. Forfeiting my faith in exchange for unbelief, then left wondering why my days are consumed in futility. Fear raises its head, looking to devour any vestige of hope. And I am bewildered by how quickly all has seemingly turned against me.

Until I remember.

Until I remember…
… the works You have done on my behalf.
… the wonders You have performed to protect me.
… the ever-present power of my very exceeding God.

Until I remember…
… that You are my Rock.
… that the Most High is my Redeemer.
… that You are ever-faithful to Your covenant of love with me.

Until I remember…
…that You remember I am but flesh, a breath that passes quickly.

And in my remembering, I choose to forget the pain of this moment and release my hurts into Your keeping.

I refuse to look at the circumstances looming before me as larger than the Lord who lives within. I choose to lift up my head and wait for my deliverance, though Your presence seems hidden from me. I remind myself that You are for me, never to leave me abandoned to solitude, to the choices of others, or to the trials of this life. I choose to believe that what You have promised, You will do. Whether I see Your hand at work or not.

So I cling to the Ancient of Days.

In the calm and through the storms, I will fasten upon Your mercy and declare Your faithfulness.

I will linger where I last encountered Your presence and wait for You there, even as I hide my hope in You.

And all the night, I will look for Your fire to warm this darkness.

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Overflowing

How can the ocean be so full?
Ounces and pints upon multitudes of
Untold gallons of sea water.
Always moving with the fullness it contains.
Sometimes violently thrashing,
Other times gently caressing the shores.
But always in motion.
Always full.
Never lacking.

Lord, make me an ocean of Your presence.
Fill me with the glory found in knowing You.
Move me
To brush against others
With the waves of Your glory
Rising within.
Never stagnant.
Always flowing.

Erupt Your glorious presence from the
Depths of my being.
Move me with purpose,
Steadily closer to Your heart
And to others
With wave after wave
Of Your glory poured forth
Upon dry, sun-baked souls.

Release the glory
Contained in earthen vessel
For Your glory.
Caress the world
With violent grace
Poured forth from this life
Overflowing with You.

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