How We Get Home Again

Make me know Your ways, O LORD; Teach me Your paths.  Lead me in Your truth and teach me.  Psalm 25:4-5

                I love variety.  I rarely take the same route across town twice in a row.  I’ll see a street I’ve never traveled and say, “Hmm, I wonder where this goes.”  My husband laughs at me and calls me the ‘queen of back roads’.  But one thing I’ve discovered ~ It’s pretty easy to end up in unfamiliar territory.  It starts with a small detour and a belief that I can figure it out on my own.  Lost, I have to re-trace my turns but that is often difficult.  Before GPS, I had to stop and ask for directions back to the main road.

               Spiritual wandering works the same way.  I take a detour by substituting my need for God with other things.  I don’t make a course correction because the idols satisfy me for a while.  I feel good and I sense no impending crisis.  There are few clues that spiritual prostitution leads to a dead-end street.  I’m on a journey to no-where and end up  lost and far from home.

            My circuitous path is not hidden from God.  Though I am off course and disoriented, He has memorized my wayward excursion.  He remembers each fork in the road and each choice I made.  Though I’m feeling like a rat in a maze who can’t seem to find its way back, God knows the map. He takes me, in reverse, to each intersection in the road; allowing me to review my choices.  Wisdom is birthed as I understand where I went astray.  Choosing the right way the second time opens my eyes to the meaning of redemption for there is joy as the lights of home slowly come into view.

            Don’t you find that we often think we have strayed too far?  Making things right with God seems out of reach and the memory of our first-love feels like a distant dream.  We have forgotten that God’s arm is long and His mercy is deep.  He calls us home and offers a second chance no matter how far from our roots we have traveled.  The way back starts with humility and an admission that we’re lost.  The author, Brennan Manning says, “I cannot receive what the crucified Rabbi has to give until I stretch out my arms till they ache.”   

I’m so glad that You have consistently led me home when I’ve strayed, Lord.  I reached for You. On the journey back, You gave me wisdom in exchange for my foolishness.  Thank you.  In Jesus name, Amen

Crafting a Letter

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!  Psalm 119:103

Oh, the exquisite beauty of the scriptures.  They enlarge my spirit, they redeem my soul, and they bring healing to my body.  They minister to every part of me as a woman.  Without them, I just mark time and fall into a routine that has little eternal meaning.  But with them, I’m walking into the expanse of Eden’s restoration.  Are such words not sweeter than honey to my mouth?

Have you ever labored over a letter?  I have.  I keep a neat stash of beautiful note cards in the drawer of my desk.  I rarely purchase one with a commercial sentiment on the inside.  I believe that personal thoughts are so much more effective. My cards are saved for those special occasions when I know they will be opened by someone important to me.  Until then, they sit in my drawer because I can’t yet express what I want to say.  The message is too important to wing it.

 That person may never know the time that went into the creation of just those few paragraphs.  No matter what I write, I experience a kind of travail over what is conceived on paper.  If the recipient could know the thoughts and prayers behind the card, would they cherish the words more?  Probably so.  Yet, I’m realistic enough to know that some cards will eventually get tossed after several readings.  If my words were handled carelessly, it was out of ignorance.

Charles Spurgeon said, “Scriptures are the writings of the living God: each letter was penned with an Almighty finger; each word in it dropped from the everlasting lips, each sentence was dictated by the Holy Spirit.”  Would I handle the Word of God differently today if I knew He labored over each word from the beginning of time?  What if I could have perceived His heart beating fast, pen in hand, asking “How should I reveal myself to her?  What words of love will she understand?  What words of warning will prevent her from going astray to  face unnecessary pain?  What promises will she hang onto?” 

If only I could comprehend that each word has been carefully chosen, inspired by a foreknowledge of each saint who would read them.  They are for all of us, yet just for me as well.  That is the miracle of them.  Whatever word you need today, the Holy Spirit will lead you to it and it will be the word that brings life and sweetness.  Hold it.  Tremble with wonder.  Breathe deeply of its fragrance.

What about the words that bring conviction?  They are bitter at first but sweet after a season.

Today, I will not handle Your words casually.  Let them drip into my soul until I taste their sweetness.  In Jesus’ name, Amen

Swept Off My Feet

The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Psalm 9:9

I was three years old. After one of my bath times, I held out my arms to my mother. I wanted her to wrap me up in the towel she was holding. I longed for her to keep me warm and hold me close. I asked in my three year old language. “I want to come and see you.” I waited with arms extended. Time froze. But intimacy was not to be found in our family ~ even though kindness was ever present. I can tell you that they are not one in the same. My mother answered but without moving toward me. “Take a good look! Here I am.” I put my arms down. For how long? Another forty years! I concluded that my experience with God would be identical to my experience with my mother. A heavenly Father would also keep His distance so I better not ask for much.

Four decades later, in my forties, I had a vivid dream that healed my soul. I was a child in a dirty blue dress.  I was standing in the middle of a bombed out city like Berlin in WWII. Rubble all around me. It was post-war and I was lost, not knowing where to go or what to do. Way down the street, there was a man kneeling in the dust. He was facing me, down on one knee. Looking at me intently, he opened his arms to me in invitation. It was Jesus. That day, in my dreams, after much deliberation, I ran to the refuge of His embrace. I came with all of the baggage of my past story. Shame, rejection, self-doubt, and disappointment. I came out of hiding. Since that day in my forties, I’ve been internalizing what Jesus is really like. His love is not like any person’s love. It is perfect, divine, healing, and safe.

Take in the beauty of His heart another way. The name of the LORD is a strong fortress; the godly run to him and are safe. Proverbs 18:10

I can be a Christian all of my life and still be shy of God’s love. I dare believe that some of it is true – but in the places I’ve been burned most – I doubt that He can be trusted. Oh, but He can. He’s kneeling. Inviting. Reassuring. And He’s patient. I need not run in any other direction but to the One waiting at a respectful distance.

Thank you for sweeping the girl in the blue dress off her feet. Amen

Save

What Color Is Your Life?

Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me. Psalm 119:133

  Consider the footprints of your life. How steady have your footsteps been?

Parents and caregivers give children definition. That’s a lot of power to hold in your hands. Children are born as empty canvasses. Comments made to them define how they see themselves for years to come. They can be rightly defined, wrongly defined, or in the absence of interaction, not defined at all.

It is the role of a parent to see how his child is naturally bent in order to reinforce the ways in which God uniquely created them. Their spoken observations do this. “You really like red, don’t you!” “You are always the first one to help others.” “You must be a leader because others quickly follow your great ideas.” Think of how many observations are given to children in just one week. Compile these over the course of their formative years and you have set up a child to know himself and have a vision for the future.

Just as good comments set up a child positively for life, bad comments set them on painful detours. Because children believe what they’re told, they may never have another opportunity to really know themselves as God created them unless they allow His Word to correct all the previous bad messages. God will also be gracious to send them new truth tellers.A child was born to dream and he quickly discovers if his dreams will be affirmed or criticized. If it’s the latter, if he believes his dream is stupid or inappropriate, he will drive it underground and never bring it to the table again for consideration. Because a child wants to please, he will morph into what gets him love and approval. How many doctors should have been teachers? How many teachers should have been musicians? I’m convinced that precious few find their calling.

The only thing worse than wrong definition is no definition. Adults believe that children should be seen and not heard. At family gatherings, children are relegated to a children’s table; not because of space, per se, but because there’s no perceived value in interacting with them. In this parental void, children have no idea who they are. Their lives consist of obeying a set of rules while aching for real relationship. They become doers with no sense of being.

I am one who grew up with a beige internal world. My soul resembled a model home where everything was painted a neutral color. But here’s the thing ~ the walls of a purchased home aren’t meant to stay that way. At some point, someone will buy the house and make it their own. Rooms will be personalized. Artwork will be hung. Beautiful colors will accent rooms. A child without definition can’t decorate his life.

The life of a child of God is rich with definition and color. David says that God keeps our feet steady and that the iniquity of others words and actions need not shape our lives. At the end of the day, no matter how much damage has been done, God steps in at our spiritual birth to assume the role of Father. He heals any disfigurements. He whispers away false accusations. He redefines, recolors, restores, rejuvenates, realigns, and puts our feet on the path for which we were created. Our lives have rich purpose – both externally and internally. We end up doing what had been the point all along ~ each of us living a life that gives glory to God.

I am bound to You and You father me perfectly. Your Word gives me more definition than I’ll ever need in this lifetime. Thank you. In Jesus’ name, Amen

 

 

God Shining Through Me. Why Wouldn’t I Want That?

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.  Psalm 143:10

 If each of us is a container for the Spirit of God to live His life, why is He not on full display through the people of His church?

I’m convinced that life is one long series of choices where I choose whether or not to quench the Spirit. He speaks; but then I turn my ear toward more enticing voices. He suggests; but I ignore His suggestions and adopt something that promises instant gratification. He begs obedience; but I procrastinate and then live in perpetual guilt. He woos me to behold Him in all His glory; but my desire for him is dulled by the lights and glitter of Babylon.

The only time I am more than willing to drown out everything that competes with the Spirit is when I suffer. My need of Him is stronger than my need for things that offer little consolation. Stripped of everything that used to matter, Jesus is in full view. His voice is clear and merciful. “I’m here!” His invitation is gracious though I don’t deserve the welcome He extends for this prodigal’s homecoming. As I sink into waves of mercy, He proceeds to say what He has said across the ages to repentant sinners. “Go and sin no more.” Of course. How could I think of doing less after such a lifesaving encounter!  And yet I do.

Are you in great need today?  Need is a gift because it focuses our eyes on the One we need but rarely depend on.  Like you, my greatest God-moments were experienced in fiery trials.  And like you, my dullest spiritual experiences were lived in the ‘valley of no need.’  The truth is ~ I am always in great need but shy away from asking God to show me exactly where.  My pride tempts me to pretend that I’m stronger than I really am.  Then, self-sufficiency quenches the Spirit.  I lose.  My world loses.

Show me my need, even when Your conviction burns.  In Jesus name, Amen

Healing From Destructive Words

As for God, His way is blameless; The word of the LORD is tried; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.  Psalm 18:30

Truth and love are always paired in the context of the Gospel. God speaks that way and as His child, I am asked to communicate with others like this too. Truth can be brutal but when wrapped in love and kindness, it does not injure. It instructs. But how many have claimed to be truth tellers in the name of Christ only to do long-term damage to a child or young disciple. Even the most seasoned Christian can be brought low in an instant by reckless words spoken without grace.

The only cure for the deep pain of others’ words is to allow God to speak the truth in the context of love and tenderness.  I must be willing to disown hurtful words and no longer have them define me in any way. These injurious comments should be dealt with severely at the cross, in prayer.What do I do with the hurtful attitude of the one who originally spoke it?  I ask God to remove the injury of their intent.  If their comment came with anger or revenge, Jesus will deal with the spirit that came with the words and cleanse me from all their effects.

For each of us who has sustained damage from the words of another, I must isolate the words, reflect on them, examine the damage and then talk to Jesus about it all. I must own any sinful reactions I had to their sin against me. Anger, revenge, sharp retorts, etc.. How do I heal? Here is a prayer.

“Lord, nullify the effects of these comments under the power of Your shed blood. Take these words from my mind and my heart.  Remove the arrows that wounded my soul so deeply.   Make it as though the words had never been spoken.  I forgive the person who spoke them and give up my right to take revenge.  I put this person in Your hands for You to rule righteously.  Arise on my behalf.  Hear my prayer.  Hold me, breathe over me, kiss my heart with Your living Word and may I live in abundant life.  Lord, I stand today on Your promise.  “The Sun of righteousness will arise with healing in his wings.”  Malachi 4:2   Because of Jesus, I pray…Amen

 

 

Picking Through My Past

Deep calls to deep at the noise of your waterspouts; all your waves and your billows are gone over me. Psalm 42:7

The waves of trouble that passed over the head of this psalmist have, by his own admission, passed through the hands of God first. In speaking to God, he labeled them ‘your waves.’

The theological precedent is set. All the troubles of my life have also passed through the hands of God. Satan was given permission – not free reign! God ached with the evil that would ensue but triumphed in the redemption that would follow. Knowing that God was ultimately in control was a comfort and the peace of that knowledge has only grown with the years. I once feared becoming a sad old woman who never made peace with her past but today I can say, with years of hindsight, that I am struck by the kindness of God.

I can muse endlessly about my yesterdays. As I rehearse my choices, I play the ‘what if’ game. What if I had chosen differently and been spared the consequences? What if I had trusted others wisely and escaped betrayal? What if I had been born into another family and dodged the wounds of childhood? What if I had chosen another career path and done what I dreamt of doing instead of what others expected of me?

Focusing on ‘what ifs’ bring torment. I never stop to consider how each wound ultimately saved me. Each piece of suffering sent me further and further into the abyss from which there was no escape without God. To finally wrap my arms around my Savior was worth any price.

What piece of thorny history are you resenting today? Perhaps the past keeps repeating itself and you believe that you deserve what’s happened to you. Whether your suffering is due to poor choices or the result of injuries others inflicted, the results are the same. Bruises of the soul are invitations for God’s saving intervention. Every thorn is a saving thorn if it leads to the arms of God.

I don’t want to re-live any of it but I have lived long enough to see You reveal the treasures of the darkness. I wouldn’t change anything. I can trust Your sovereignty ~ past, present, and future. In Jesus’ name, Amen