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we can be bold

Photo credit: Jeff Rogers on Unsplash

Photo credit: Jeff Rogers on Unsplash

We can be bold.

“In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he has appointed heir of all things, and through wisdom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory, and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things through his powerful word.” Hebrews 1:1-3

We don’t have to piggyback on someone else’s faith. Our prayers to God don’t require a middle-man.

The One who created the universe, who sustains all things through his powerful word, has given us direct access to the throne of grace.

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

We have needs. Although we may not want to recognize or admit this, the fact is we all do. From provision for our basic needs, like food, shelter, and safety, to healing, both physical or emotional. Maybe we call on God in moments of desperation. Or maybe we pull back in fear or embarrassment because we don’t want to admit our failure to meet our own needs. Or maybe we just don’t recognize how great our God truly is. Rather than step up in confidence we shrink back in fear.

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 6:19,20

An anchor, as we know, is a heavy metal device used to connect a boat, or vessel, to the sea floor. A mooring is a specific type of anchor which will hold the vessel in place permanently. Made of either a large slab of rock or a barbed metal beam, it embeds itself into the bottom of the ocean where it grips and holds the boat in place through all kinds of weather, including the severest storm.

We shrink back in fear when we forget the One to whom our soul’s have been anchored.

We can be bold.

As the mooring grips the ocean floor through hurricanes and cyclones, rough waters and high winds, so our hope is connected, anchored, to the One who can calm the winds and waves, and who can hold us secure through the storm. Hebrews reminds us of who Jesus is. The author exhorts us to approach the throne of grace with confidence, and to remember to whom our anchor is set.

“Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest meets our need – one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.” Hebrews 7:25,26

Jesus, the anchor of our souls, lives to intercede for us. Jesus has taken his rightful place of honor and authority with his Father, and pleads the case of each believer, interceding on our behalf according to the will of God.

And he, our high priest, meets our need.

We sometimes struggle to articulate our needs, or out fear, shame, and pride, we withhold our needs.  But Jesus already knows…we don’t have to hide. Through grace and mercy we can approach the throne of God with confidence.

We can be bold.

We have been set free through the sacrifice of Christ, once and for all. We can be bold because we are anchored to the One who continuously intercedes for us. Our needs, spoken or unspoken, are known…and Christ meets each one.

Boldness may not come naturally to us, yet I find myself sitting a little bit taller, and a little bit more confidently, knowing that the One who can speak the universe in place through his powerful word is the same One who intercedes on my behalf. I will tie my anchor in Him.

I can be bold because of Christ.

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:19-23

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breathe

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“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10

Sometimes God says, “Breathe.”

Pause.

Stop doing. Stop with the self-reliance. Give yourself a rest.

Take a Sabbath.

Take a walk.

Put your phone away and your calendar and your e-mail inbox. We deceive ourselves into thinking we’ve got a handle on it…that we are in control…that one more extra thing proves our worth and value.

We’re good at doing, but we are not so good at being.

Being almost seems like laziness.

How much we don’t understand about what being really means.

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“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14

Be still in the knowledge that God is in control. Take each worrisome thought and lay at his feet. Take your daily checklist and place it in his hands. The frantic need to order your life will only leave you empty and weary. This is not the way God intended us to live. Racing through life is not really living anyway.

Being requires trust. To be still demonstrates intimacy with Jesus. Surrendering allows God to work on our behalf.

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“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

Life to the full. Abundant life.

Christ came to give us abundant life – a life full of his presence.

Breathe and rest in God’s abundant presence in the quietness and the chaos. Be still when the day is calm and when the storm is raging. The enemy tries to steal, kill and destroy that abundance with a cheap counterfeit of fullness. The more we do the better we’ll be.

And so, God says, “Breathe.”

Rest in his Sovereignty.

Let him fight your battles.

Be in his presence.

Breathe.

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Photo by SwapnIl Dwivedi on Unsplash

Photo by SwapnIl Dwivedi on Unsplash

There is no person on this planet, no authority, no government, no circumstance bearing its weight upon you that can keep God from bringing your life calling to its destiny.

God’s plan for you will be accomplished.

The enemy might try to hijack it, but God wins. All.the.time.

One of my favorite statements made by Jesus in the Passion story is the one he made during a conversation with Pilate under the intense duress of interrogation:

“Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have the power to either free you or to crucify you?”

Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.” John 19:10,11

The hand that shapes your destiny is under the authority of Jesus Christ. It is only shaping, not commanding.

People think they are in control. And it may feel like the world is tearing your dreams apart. Yet, when we can recognize that, even in the face of death, God’s will prevails then we don’t have to struggle and fight, defend and power up. We can rest in God’s faithfulness. Your day is coming.

The shaping is sometimes painful and lonely.

Think about Joseph. A dream that had to go deep into the pit before it could shine brightly in the sunshine, was so often being shaped by careless and hurtful hands. In the midst of all the pain a destiny was unfolding.

God controls the hands that seemingly have control over you.

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20

Your destiny might be incomplete without the harsh shaping.

Joseph’s dreams were only a snapshot of the greater destiny God had for him. He saw greatness. But the greatness that God was going to reveal to Joseph was more than a high place of honor and leadership. It was greatness that began through suffering, betrayal, hopelessness and pain. The shaping of his destiny was at the hands of his jealous brothers, the Ishmaelites, Potiphar’s wife, a prison warden, a cup bearer and a baker, and the Egyptian Pharaoh. Joseph saw very little reprieve in the shaping process. And yet, in the end he recognized God’s hand in every heavy and hard moment. His greatness was to make God great. His destiny was one that would glorify God.

Your shaping may wound. Your dreams are only a partial view of the fullness of God’s destiny for you. If you can remember that God is the ultimate authority over the shaping of your life, then you can take the wounds with grace, peace, love and forgiveness.

In the meantime, pray for the hand that shapes your destiny.

Do not expect to feel like doing so, but do so anyway. And don’t pray for justice, as I so often am tempted to do. Pray that God would be revealed to that person in authority, that government leader, that circumstance beyond your control. And pray that as your story unfolds God’s glory will shine bright.

Remember, God is the one who commands your destiny.

Trust his authority over the shaping.

And rest in his faithfulness.

your joy is coming

“The nights of crying your eyes out give way to days of laughter.” Psalm 30:5, The Message

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Your joy is coming.

Most of us have journeyed through what might be called a wilderness season, or personal desert, a time of grieving, or a period of brokenness. There are a lot of various terms for personal/internal suffering.

While the world is full of lots of good (even if we have to look really intentionally in order to find it), it is also full of lots of pain. And if you have lived for half a second in this wonderful world, you have experienced the reality of its curse.

I don’t know about you, but when I’ve walked through the painful side of life I’ve more than frequently asked, begged and pleaded with God to PLEASE take me out of the situation. Can you relate? And even while I know that there is some kind of character development at work during these not-so-lovely seasons, I still try to bargain with God to find a lesser uncomfortable path for me to learn such valuable lessons. Through my little peep hole view of life I can’t imagine that suffering is truly the only way to grow. I imagine there could be a short cut, or a Disney version of my present pain. “C’mon God! Let’s add a little pixy dust to this situation, please?”

And God says, “No.”

When I was delivering Jackson I remember telling the nurse, “I can’t take another one,”  as I was entering (unbeknownst to me) the final contraction before I pushed his eight pound body out. The joy, relief, exhaustion and peace I felt, only seconds after the most intense period of labor, was indescribable.

At the peak of the delivery process, I wanted to find another way to get through it…a less painful path to receive the joy. I didn’t think I could handle one more contraction.

And then came the most powerful moment in the entire experience, reminding me of how worth every discomfort and every tear was as I cradled in my arms this fresh from the womb, heavenly smelling baby boy.

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We often, in the throes of the wilderness, underestimate the significance of those moments. We are desperate for a way out. The pain blinds us of the purpose for the present suffering. We search for a way to numb the pain…to soften the blow.

We forget that our joy is coming.

And yet, it is in these dark days that the most significant inner transformation begins to take place, if we allow it to. If we can hold off on turning to our coping mechanisms, or clinging to our self-help devices, and instead lean more deeply into Jesus, the sorrow we are presently suffering will transform our hearts into joy.

Running from the pain only gives temporary relief, and oftentimes keeps us locked into the difficult season far longer than God intended. So instead, press more vigorously into the arms of Jesus.

The inner transformative work that God is doing in your most painful moments is the work that is creating the very person he intended you to be.

The only way to become is to be broken.

Your joy is coming.

God is already crafting the next chapter of your story.

Let him transform you from the inside out. Allow this painful season to cultivate in you the character that will make you shine most like Jesus.

Your weary head won’t hang low forever. I do promise you, your joy is coming.

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“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me-watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30

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Grace is not something we can talk ourselves into.

We can not live out grace by our own sheer will.

Grace is the product of inner transformation.

There is no self help book, no “live your best life” seminar, no path to success in three easy steps way to cultivate a grace-filled life. A grace-filled life is evidence of a Spirit-filled life. To walk in its rhythm is to keep in step to the melody that God has composed through time in his presence.

Inner transformation can only occur, in my belief, through pain and struggle.

Keeping in step to the rhythm of grace is to keep in step to the heart of God.

We become weary when we try to manipulate our minds and our hearts to live God’s way without God doing the rhythm keeping. How often do we rely on our own self-sufficiency, our strong-willed abilities to change thought patterns, and completely miss the peaceful melody that God is trying to teach us in the middle of our struggle?

Eventually we burn out.

We hit a situation beyond our control.

Graceless and weary, we find ourselves empty. The music we have composed from a self-centered heart lacks meaning and melody, rhythm and grace.

Draw close to God.

Lean into him.

Learn his ways.

Discover his heart, and allow his heart to impact and transform your heart.

Allow God to use the struggles and pain and hurt and discouragement you face to produce in you real and sustainable grace.

The song that God is composing in your life will be far more beautiful, far more meaningful, far more heavenly as you learn to keep in step to the rhythm of his grace.

where can i go?

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, you right hand will hold me fast.” Psalm 139:7-10

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Encompassed in silence, and we perceive that there is no end to the night, we often assume that God has abandoned us. In these moments we are quick to believe that we have gone too far, or that where we are God won’t go.

But…there is no out-running, out-pacing, out-doing God. Wherever he leads us, we can be confident that he has already gone before, and is present. His presence is continuous. His presence is definite. His guidance and oversight are sure.

Even in those moments when it seems there is cloud coverage creating a barrier between heaven and earth, God is still very much with us.

“…you have laid your hand upon me.” Psalm 139:5

From conception God’s fingerprint was pressed into each one of us. He has laid his hand upon us. He has ordained and set apart each day and each experience of our lives. We are not accidental. We are not an afterthought. We were created in the very image of God. And he has laid his hand upon us.

Woven in and out with great detail before our eyes blinked open for the very first time.

With such care and such consideration were God’s plans formulated. Not one hair on our heads unaccounted for. And not one second of our lives misjudged or misled.

Where you are is no accident, just as your very life is no accident.

Where can we go?

In the depths, we hold onto the eternal, unchanging and holy God. He is true, he is constant and he is faithful.

In the heavens, we cling to the God who transcends time and space, and find refuge in his mercy and grace.

On the far side of the sea, he is our guide, our lead, the light illuminating our path. And when our feet step on a path they have never walked before, and when we wonder if this is too far, can I really go this distance, even there…yes, even there

“…Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast.”

this journey of today

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21

Photo Credit: Gaylon Wampler
Photo Credit: Gaylon Wampler

I don’t always understand the journey of the day.

The sideways paths, the detours, the moments that slip away.

But I know the One who holds the hours in knowing and capable hands.

Which gives me assurance that he controls all that today demands.

Help me to walk with peace in my heart and guard my mind with that truth.

This journey of today can not compromise the plans ordained by You.

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Leaving.

We all leave at some point in our lives.

We leave a job. We leave a career. We leave a home. We leave a school. We leave an activity. We leave a group. We leave a grade level. We leave an identity.

It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do…eventually, we all leave.

I made a commitment to myself and God, almost two decades ago, that when I leave I want to leave well. That includes every type of leaving. Have I always hit the mark? No. But I’m still striving.

I want to leave well.

I don’t know about you, but when I leave a significant place or season in life, I don’t just want to leave well, but I want to leave a legacy. I want to pass on something to someone that is substantial, important, meaningful and timeless. I want to know that what I did mattered. Not just what I did, but that who I was really mattered.

Sometimes we know. Sometimes we can look back on the files and charts and great success stories of accomplishment and achievement and gain sense of significance.

Sometimes we don’t know. Sometimes there isn’t much in the way of concrete evidence that something really good happened while we were there.

God has uniquely called each one of us to participate in his work in various ways, seasons and places. Nothing, typically, is permanent. And we are also called to do the task that he has pre-ordained for us to do. And sometimes that task is a hidden task, out of sight from onlookers and spectators. And sometimes the task is under a spotlight for all the world to see.

I think it is safe to say that many of us want to be the builder, and we would even prefer a little bit of that spotlight. We want to leave tangible evidence of our significance behind.

And sometimes God says, “No.”

David wanted to build the temple. He had established the city of Jerusalem as the worship center and capital of Israel. He had made Israel strong, defeating enemies from every side. He had brought peace to the land, and now he longed to give the ark of God a permanent dwelling place. His heart was sincere. He wanted to leave a legacy that would not just leave the nation of Israel with his imprint, but one that would glorify God.

And God said no.

Sometimes our legacy is not the sum of all we did and the works we leave behind, but instead it is the sum of who we were and how well we loved.

Sometimes God calls us to build a temple.

Sometimes God calls us to build a people.

Either way, it is good. It is well. It is significant.

We don’t own the work. The work belongs to God. And it is the outcome of our obedience. He places us in the process as he sees fit, then he requires faithful submission to his plan. In both the hidden and under the spotlight, God is working.

The legacy that I want to leave is one in which I can say, I was obedient to the call, and my part in the grand design of God’s plan, and fulfilled my role to the best of my abilities.

What is the legacy you will leave behind?

You are going to leave at some point in this journey. What will you be remembered for long after your work days are done?

Think about that for just a little while. Perhaps it will change the trajectory of your focus and lead you into something much more meaningful.

Leave well. Leave good. Leave loved. Leave with God’s favor, and you will leave behind the best legacy of all.

One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts. They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty, and I will meditate on your wonderful works. They will tell of the power of your awesome works, and I will proclaim your great deeds. They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.” Psalm 145:4-7

follow the way of love

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I really, really hate to admit this, but there have been times when people get under my skin. Please forgive me. But it is true.

I get irritated, frustrated and annoyed. Bent out of shape, angry and drained.  Offended and hurt, perplexed by their behavior. It festers deep under the skin like an itch that can’t be scratched.

Can you relate?

Have you struggled relationally with relationally-challenged people and wondered, “Why can’t you be more like me???”

I am going to go out on a limb and assume that I am not alone.

I think what causes me such pain in all of this is knowing how seriously Jesus takes our relational health to heart. Unity and harmony, forgiveness and grace are not just sprinkled in here and there throughout the Bible, but they are the fundamental building blocks for living a Christ-centered life.

And so, when I find myself perplexed by the behavior of another person, and when I allow that behavior to get under my skin, the discomfort I am feeling is not so much the itch that can’t be scratched, but it is the conviction of the Holy Spirit reminding me that I am out of God’s perfect will.

There are times when relational disjointedness requires confrontation. It demands a conversation. When we are not seeing eye-to-eye, and offenses are being traded back and forth, then we need to approach that individual, in love, and have a heart-to-heart.

There are other times when hurt and brokenness can’t be resolved in a conversation. Perhaps the offender is no longer living, or they have cut you out of their life, or you are dealing with a person with deep emotional brokenness themselves, and they are not open to listening. What are we to do then?

And what about those individuals who work tirelessly to bring pain, slander, and insults to you because of your faith? Their words not only create an itch that can drive one to virtual insanity, but they wound, kill, and bring bitter tears. What can we do?

The salve for the un-scratchable itch, that thing that protects the heart from growing bitter and turning hard, and the bandage for the wounded soul is prayer.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Matthew 5:3-10, 44

Love our enemies? Pray for those who persecute us?

What?

Why?

Because it’s the merciful who are blessed.

Loving and praying do not excuse the painful or irritating behaviors that cut us deep and leave us broken. On the contrary. Loving and praying is the most effective way of rebelling against our own sinful nature which is wired to fight back and retaliate with the same pain and irritation. Loving and praying keeps our hearts pure and our minds steadfast.

How do we pray?

Joel and I just completed a class led by Dr. Dick Brogden where he taught each of the participants how to pray for those who have wronged us, hurt us, or simply drive us crazy. It is called the Mercy Prayer.

Lord, flood the one I am thinking about with your fulfilling mercy. Meet their every need as YOU see it, and draw them to yourself. Fill them with the Holy Spirit. Make Jesus real to them, and draw them to yourself.

I have started to use this prayer frequently in my daily prayer time. While the words themselves are not magical or mystical, there is definitely a powerful interaction that takes place between me and God when I pray them. Anger is diffused. Bitterness loses its stronghold on my heart. And love overwhelms. I’m becoming more merciful.

The kind of love that Jesus wants us to cultivate is not the emotional, feelings-based, warm-fuzzy-type of love. Jesus wants us to cultivate the kind of love that endures, is sometimes messy, and always producing in us His character.

Which means it requires sacrifice.

Which means that, instead of punching back, we pray.

Pray mercy over the ones who hurt you the most.

And follow the way of love.

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it is well

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

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Looking out of the kitchen window I see gray skies. The springtime rain is more of a mist falling from overlapping, dense clouds.

I feel at peace.

Through the overcast sentiment that today is giving us, I can still hear birds chirping and singing and bantering back and forth.

It is well.

It may seem an odd statement coming from someone who is not fan of gray, cloudy and rain – who prefers warmth, sunshine, and blue skies.

Still…overwhelming satisfaction.

Contentment isn’t about how many sunshiny days we get to enjoy, or having all of our ducks in a row.

Contentment is taking a deep breath and accepting the right now. Embracing what is, and looking at the world through the lens of gratitude.

Contentment is not perfection.

Contentment is perfect peace when it’s gray and drizzly and also when the sun is shining bright. It is not contingent on all is well in the world, but stands firm in that all is well with my soul.

A hug from Jasper that melts my heart.

A note from Sydney that affirms the hard work of motherhood in me.

Listening to Jackson talk about Africa and God’s plan for his life, reminding me that shaky seasons don’t mean the absence of God’s presence.

Watching Brooklyn open up and get into the nitty gritty of emotions, connecting heart, mind and soul. This girl is going to be okay.

And even when it all erupts and there are no hugs or smiles or warm fuzzy conversations…contentment keeps me settled and steadfast.

Because regardless of where this journey takes us, we can always trust in the absoluteness of God.

When dark clouds blow through your ordered and structured world…think on God.

When anxiety keeps you from sleep…consider what is true.

When you feel upside down…praise the living God.

When you are sitting in the drizzle and you’d much prefer the sunshine…remember what is lovely.

Breathe in grace. Exhale gratitude.

It is well.

When peace like a river, attendeth my way. When sorrows like sea billows roll. Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, “It is well. It is well with my soul.” Horatio G. Spafford

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