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)

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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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All the Truth I Need

Here’s to another Five Minute Friday post where I link up with other writers over at Lisa Jo Baker’s blog to write for a brief five minutes on the word prompt for the day. Join us at http://www.lisajobaker.com/five-minute-friday.

Truth

Jesus loves me, this I know…

It’s the one constant that holds me steady when this world careens and shifts like a Tilt-a-Whirl gone wild.

Jesus loves me, this I know…

Truth — the only thing strong enough to silence the accusations of not enough. Not good enough; not thin enough; not enough curves; not enough talent; not enough beauty; not enough intelligence; not enough worth. Simply. Not. Enough.

I find myself role-playing the part of Joshua from the vision found in Zechariah 3. Opposed by the accusations of Satan, I stand in the filth of all my sins. Lies would have me believe I am abandoned, condemned, alone, solitary.

Until Truth rises to stand near.

Jesus loves me, this I know…

And the Word of Truth speaks in my defense, moving to plead my case; rebuking my accuser; silencing the lies.

Jesus loves me, this I know…

Reaching across the expanse of time and eternity, arms outstretched on Calvary to bridge the gap between us.

Jesus loves me, this I know…

Removing the filthy rags of sin I’ve worn like a second skin for far too long.

Jesus loves me, this I know…

Clothing me with robes of His own righteousness, beautiful garments He has spun Himself. Covering me with grace upon grace. Silencing the lies for eternity.

Jesus loves me, this I know…

And that is all the Truth I need — for today, for tomorrow, and forever.

a7c8bd4bd58749a8ffa850dc4bd9f7b2                                                                   Yes, Jesus loves me…

The Good News is…

This week I received an email from my adult daughter (slight pause while Mama attempts to wrap her mind around that seeming oxymoron – when did my children become adults?). In her typical storytelling fashion, my “little girl” filled me in on the most recent happenings of her life with a series of “good news/bad news” statements. Similarly to the famous Fortunately/Unfortunately word game often played, her sentences ranged from the disappointing to the humorous as she began each one “The good news is…” and finished with, “The bad news is…” As I read and rode the emotional roller coaster of her words, I couldn’t help but smile at her closing remark:

“The good news is… Jesus is taking care of me.

…And there can’t really be any bad news as long as that statement remains true.”

If I ever doubted proof of my daughter’s maturity, she placed all questions to rest with her confidence in a God who promises to sustain and carry her through life’s ups and downs. She knew the truth, and she was able to speak it over her life and hold onto it with a faith that is grounded in grace. God’s grace.

The perspective of a life held and kept by God’s goodness is what holds and keeps us through the twists and turns of this battered highway of living.

I’ll admit that sometimes it’s difficult to look for the seemingly obscured good when the bad is so glaringly apparent. It’s hard to hold onto hope when wave after wave of disappointment and hurt crashes upon the remnants of a solid foothold of faith, threatening to dislodge it completely. It’s a constant challenge to fix our eyes upon the One who remains a bulwark of safety and refuge through it all. But it’s necessary.

While the invitation to “seek the Lord” is general, the actual act of doing so is personal. Choosing to believe in God’s goodness above everything else in my life. Inviting His Presence to fill the present – no matter what seems to be warring against me. No matter how much I’m tempted to believe He has somehow “gone missing.”

Like the Psalmist in 27:13, the truth is: I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.

When broken down from the Bible concordance and lexicon definitions, this verse can be paraphrased into the following:

I would have lost heart and fainted from exhaustion, had I not believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  I would have languished from the madness of it all, unless I had trusted in the Lord’s support, positioning myself to behold and joyfully consider the beauty of my eternal God – Jehovah, the Lord – the One who nourishes and revives me.

Life can be exhausting. Relationships, circumstances, work-related stress, family crisis, sickness, abusive situations… the list is endless. The temptation to “languish from the madness of it all” faces us time and again as “bad news” continues to hit. BUT when we position ourselves to remember Father’s goodness and consider His beauty, our perspective is righted, and we are revived by the staying power of the Most High. Nourished by the goodness that remains in the midst of a world at odds with its Creator.

No matter your current circumstance, if you are in Christ, then you can join your belief with the truth of my daughter’s sentiments:

The Good News is, Jesus is taking care of me…

…And in light of that one solid truth, all other news pales in comparison – no matter how “bad” it may seem.

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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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Be of Good Courage

Most of my life I have not lived brave, but I have wanted to.

As I read the above words penned by Angela Thomas, they resonated deeply within my heart. For as much as I wish I were courageous, I’m not nearly as bold as I would like to be. As much as I desire to run headlong into the battle with sword at the ready, the truth is I allow any number of things to make me hesitate. Things like insecurities, fears, distractions, labels, interruptions, responsibilities, expectations, deception, duty, disobedience, excuses, lack of self-control, the common, the ordinary, and the overall feeling of somehow being less than.

Less than what I would like to be.

Less than the courageous daughter whom God calls me to be.

And as I lean into the lies, the chains slip silently into place, subtly wrapping about my wrists and ankles until I am held captive and immobile in the face of fear. Caught in the very web Satan has woven about me with words that make me question the truth.

Because living brave begins with Truth.

Interestingly enough, according to the Bible, the truth is that bravery is not an option.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid nor be dismayed for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9, emphasis mine)

Perhaps courage is not an option simply because God knows that without it, we would fail to implement any other spiritual practices. It takes courage to be in the world yet not assimilated to it. It takes courage to love your enemies and to pray for the very ones who persecute you. It takes courage to fear not. It takes courage to love one another at all times. It takes courage to walk away from the known and familiar and venture into a new way.

Make no mistake about it, a life of faith is not for the faint of heart. Nor is it for those who think they stand in their own strength. For God calls us to rise up and be strong in good courage. And if there is such a thing as good courage, that makes me wonder if there is not such a thing as bad courage.

The longer I thought on it, the more I became convinced that not all men of courage are men of good courage. Some run toward danger because they care not for life, while men of good courage run toward danger to preserve life. Their love overcomes their fear as they rise to the challenge again and again, battle after battle, because they believe love is worth the risk. This is the goodness of courage at its finest.

This is the goodness of courage that comes from being strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. This is the courage that it takes to believe God will overcome every obstacle in my life and raise me to walk boldly before the throne of grace because of HIS goodness, and not at all because of my own.

Good courage begins and ends with truth.

And if I believe that a person who follows hard after God can become brave, then I must believe that I can be that person. I must believe that His Spirit will turn the tide of deceptive words meant for my demise into a wave of victorious truth, freeing me to walk in courage as He wills. And as I believe, I step into truth. A truth that exchanges those lies – word by word – and allows God to rename me. Bold. Intrepid. Daring. Dauntless. Valiant. Fearless. Noble. Confident. Steadfast. Resolute. Secure. Adventurous. Overcomer. Courageous.

Brave.

Brave enough to turn the “I want to” into an “I will.”

Brave enough to be free.

Brave enough to be fully me in Christ.

Brave enough to live this day in good courage – with sword held at the ready.

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Stronger for the Breaking

January has been a month of breaking. On so many levels. In the last few weeks, it seems as though every time I turn around, something or someone is breaking. Broken vehicles, broken covenants, a broken furnace, broken finances, broken relationships, a child’s broken health, friends broken by the separation of death and the finality of suicide, broken promises, a home broken into, and hearts simply broken by too many bad choices. And in the breaking, I have felt nearly shattered.

The light within has flickered with the steady waves of disappointment until all I can do is pour my heart out to my Father. And even then, my words have seemed too many or too few.

It’s so tempting to approach God on my own terms. So hard to keep from leaning upon my own wisdom, from interjecting my own short-sighted desires into my prayers. It’s so easy to let my tongue rule my heart instead of allowing God’s Word to rule them both.

For in the breaking, there is not only the desire for healing, there is a host of hurt, anger, disappointment, frustration, and a myriad of other less than holy traits that long to break free in me. And though I know what is right and what God desires from me, there is a heart that still so easily wants to succumb to the unholy. There’s still a yearning to turn to the “dark side” of unbelief.

HOW can God possibly fix all this brokenness? How can this shattered, ground-into-the-finest-of-dust brokenness ever be anything other? How can something good come from this wreck of humanity left bleeding and gasping for breath by the wayside? How will restoration find its way into so many broken places? Into so many broken people?

And that is when His Spirit reminds me to think upon His Word. To once again turn to those long-forgotten promises that have withstood the test of time and trial. Those ancient paths that have guided me through other broken places, other times when my heart was wont to crumble in despair. And into the stillness of a heart prostrate before His throne, He speaks truth yet again:

A bruised reed He will not break, and a dimly burning wick He will not quench; He will bring forth justice in truth. (Isaiah 42:3)

And I grasp at this truth that is known in the depths of my soul. I cling to His mercy… and find it strong enough.

For though these temporal trials crash against me, they cannot overwhelm the Lover of my soul. And in resting within the hand of the Most High, I am held. Held above my sorrows. Held securely. Held in favor.

And that dimly burning wick? It is kindled once more by the breath of the Creator who first breathed it to life.

The glowing grows with remembrance of the One whose gentleness restores me.

Bruises bathed with healing balm of heaven’s glory.

Brokenness rebuilt, beautified from the inside out by Hands that crafted the universe.

A heart set free, though circumstances remain.

Because I trust in the One who heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Because I choose to rest in the mercies of the One who remains constant always.

Even when I’m broken. Perhaps, especially then.

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