Friday, December 30, 2011

Love. It Hopes.

We've all read 1 Corinthians 13 probably a gazillion times. Probably could quote it if you needed to. But just in case....
1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
 4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
 8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Sometimes the repetition of it causes it to seem mundane. It being love. Sure, sure, love is the "christian" thing to do. Yeah, I obey the law, I'm a good person, I give back, I'm honest, and above all I walk in love. Yep, check that off my good girl list.

Reading it today though. It seemed to mean much, much more. More then just doing what is right. I've often read that chapter and put the Father's name in the place of the word "love." You know, God is patient, God is kind, God never fails...

Isn't it wonderful that He never calls us to a standard that He, Himself does not meet? I love that about Him. He is love and all those things.

But today I remember that, yes God is love, but this chapter is written to me, the believer. I am called to love. Now that I have such a clear definition of what love is, that it is, in fact, more then just doing the "christian thing," I am, let's just say, humbled. Good Ole Paul, never one to mince words.

If I do not have love, I am nothing.

Nothing? If I do not have love I am nothing? For how long do I have to have love? At what point do I get to be not in love? How much bad can happen before I can get out of having to love. Love does not sound fun to me. Right? You've read the chapter. At what point do I get to say, "Nope sorry, that's enough of hurting me. I do not have to love you any more. I do not have to be patient. I do not have to be kind.I do not have to forgive you or even tolerate you any longer."??

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

All things?! But that's not fair! 

Love, it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered.

Forever? Forgive everything? All the time? Every time? Over and over?


I think that to have to ask those questions is kind of beside the point. I mean if you have to ask why or for how long then it's not really love in the first place. To say that I just can't forgive or that I just can't take it any longer, that I can not endure this one more day, is to really not be love in the first place. We're not called to try to love. We're called to be love. To have it. To have it as He does and He is Love with a capitol letter.

Love hopes all things.

Love. It hopes. Love hopes. It hopes? Isn't it interesting how between words like "it bears, believes, endures" are the words love hopes all things? Love bears all things. It picks up all those broken dreams, disappointments, and discouragements and carries on, bearing it all with dignity, forgiveness, patience and kindness. Love believes. It never doubts or fails to trust. It always endures. Do you know why? Do you know how it is capable of doing such hard things? You've figured it out. Love always hopes. It's that hope of change that makes capable endurance.

God. Is. Love.

And so am I. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Grace Bubble

I'm there again. In that bubble of grace. Towards the end of my pregnancy with Bret I experienced an unusually large amount of grace and peace despite my difficult circumstances. Our living situation was less then ideal, I had a 4 year old and a very active, big one year old that still needed help up and down the stairs and slept in a crib. As big as I was with Bret (He was born weighing in at over 10 lbs two weeks early), I couldn't take care of Alex and needed someone to live with us to help me. Also I had plenty of opportunities to worry about the delivery of Bret considering the complications Alex had when he was born. I suffered a great disappointment while Alex was in the NICU even though he was OK it was so difficult not to have him in my arms for those 2 weeks. It was kind of a miserable time, or it could have been if I hadn't have walked in such a grace and peace that could have only come from my loving Father.

One morning I was thanking Him for keeping me in this little bubble when He whispered such sweet, unforgettable words to my heart.

You're not in a bubble, you're in ME.

And so I was.

I'm there again. In what feels like a bubble of grace but what really is just the ability to knowingly experience being IN Him.

I'm in a tough spot now in my life but feel at complete peace and joy. I know He's with me. I'm with Him.

I hope you've all had a wonderful Christmas. It's tough after Christmas sometimes. If things didn't go quite according to plan, disappointment can hang so heavy in the air. Sometimes the beauty of Christmas is such a sweet distraction from this life full of pain and death that after it's over and the lights come down and the tree is put away all that's left is despair. Life goes on and Christmas can feel like a dream. I think of the poor and how for a short time people really do reach out to them. That's over after Christmas. No more turkey or gifts.

I thought it so thought provoking today while putting the tree away, listening to my daughter. She said, "Putting the tree up is so much more fun then taking it down." Cynically, I thought how life is so like that. We hang our hopes up along with the ornaments on the tree and while taking it down it can feel like life is crashing down along with it. We all know the reason for the season but what's left when the season is over? Let's move on from baby Jesus and remember Him as a man. The life He lived and gave. However things turned out for you this year, good or bad, we can rest knowing what is to come is glorious. All this will one day pass away and the feeling will be of one more powerful then a bubble full of grace. It will be life. Real life.

Let Your Kingdom come, Lord. Come Jesus, come. 

19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. 

Colossians 1:19-20 NASB

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mosqito Juice

It's like scratching a mosquito bite. You know you shouldn't do it. But it feels better for a little while. It just itches SO BAD. Ugh.

You know that thing that happens, it's different for everyone. Something happens, someone hurts you, or embarrasses you or really ticks you off. And you just keep talking about it. You call all your girls and talk for an hour with each one about how horrible it is. Scratch, scratch scratch. It's so wrong but it feels so good. Why can't things just go the way you want? Why can't she just change?! Why can't I have my way? And it just keeps getting bigger.

Listen to what I have to say and agree and feel sympathy and tell me how wonderful I am. Scratch, scratch.

All of this righteous indignation. It feels so good for the moment, but all the while you're bleeding. Festering. I don't want to go into too much detail but lets just say there is bacteria involved.

That small mosquito bite turns into a huge disgusting sore. Ugh I hate the word sore, ick.  Don't get me wrong. That mosquito was totally wrong for biting you. It's no fun. Scratch, scratch.

Anyone else know what I'm talking about? Or am I the only one with huge mellow-drama and a bad attitude? I probably am (oh wait am I now being dramatic about my drama??)

Why do we fight it? Why do we push Him away in times like this?

One word. Sacrifice.

Because you already know there is going to be a measure of sacrifice, of surrender. You're going to have to give something up. That temporary gratification of knowing your right and having everyone agree with you and having your ego and pride all puffed up, it can feel so good for just a second. It feels good until you hang up. And then you're alone. With just Him. And the Holy Spirit. And They are working on your heart so hard core. And you know, no matter how justified you are, you can't hold onto it.

Just let go....

You know you should. Let go of that hurt, of that injustice, of that pain, of that excuse, of that justification...of that unforgiveness. I cringe at the word.


Let go of that power and pride and self-ness. Is it really what you want?

You're mine.

You're better then that. You are called to a higher standard. There's a beautiful story, a wonderful ending and that stuff is not worth it. Not even for a day. Not even for an hour. Not even for one phone call just to feel right.

Because your not. Not really. Not if you love Him. It's not about being right or wrong. It's all about love. Sounds cheesy I know. If you're in Him and in His love how can you walk out anything that's not love? How can you possibly feel right about anything when you are really nothing?

Isn't it beautiful that He doesn't let us stay there? In Nothing land?

Come to Me all you who are weary. Come to Me all you brokenhearted and heavy laden. I'm here in that darkness. I'm hear with you. Let Me carry that for you. Let Me be everything to you. Drink from this Cup and you will never thirst again.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Gift of Forgiveness

One afternoon, shortly after my second was born, I was resting in my room while my husband was working on some video editing for our church. He was working on the praise and worship service from the previous Sunday led by Chris Stewart. As I lay there resting, the music came to me. It drifted down the hall and into my room. the sweetest feeling overwhelmed me, covered me. It was like someone was literally handing me a gift and in my mind I saw myself opening that gift.

The gift that I received was that I could give up the unforgiveness in my heart. It was like a garment of forgiveness that I could put on. I felt a complete release of emotion. No anger. No...anything. I wasn't overwhelmed with love but I felt forgiveness for this person. It's been that way ever since. I really believe that it was a gift from Father God. How else can I explain it? One day I despised this person who had hurt and wounded me, who had perpetrated a great injustice towards me. The next minute I felt complete and total forgiveness. It was a miracle, a download from heaven. It's like He became this little handyman and crawled inside my heart, started ripping out bad parts and replacing them with new ones. Like that *snap* it was done. No effort on my part. I underwent heart surgery.

There have been many other things and people that I've needed to forgive since then and unfortunately it hasn't been as easy. The point is, the beauty is, Father knows best. He knows exactly what we need, when we need it. He knows if it's too big to do on our own. It would have been too big for me, letting go of that bitterness. But He met me, right where I was. It mattered to God that I wasn't walking in forgiveness. It hindered my walk with Him. And that mattered. It's beautiful, this love He has for us.

I started writing this blog months ago. I just didn't feel like it was the right time to talk about it. Forgiveness is such a tricky thing to talk about it. People have experienced truly despicable hurts and pain. Holding on to those hurts, reliving that same situation and burning again with anger seems like the only way to make the pain ease. How do I explain that it's better to forgive. But the truth is He can heal the wound all together.  Not that we ignore it or pretend like it didn't happen. It just doesn't matter any more. That's a hard thing to tell people when they are going through it. If someone would have come up to me and told me that I just needed to walk in forgiveness to this person and the pain would just disappear I would have had a hard time not slapping them in the face. But remember He's all about doing what feels like the opposite thing you should do. It's the inside, upside down Kingdom where you loose to gain. Where being with Him is all that matters. In His presence all those empty spaces are filled.

I've also had a hard time blogging because of this season. Everything I start to type just sounds cheesy or overdone. So as lame as it sounds, a gift you might want to consider giving to someone, or even yourself is the gift of forgiveness, one of the greatest things you can do right now in this, the season of giving. I wouldn't even think to type such a thing if I hadn't myself already experienced the precious gift. And if it feels too big, or too hard, all you have to do is want, to want it. It's ok not to want to forgive someone. Just want Him and He'll give you exactly what you need. There is always enough grace and strength for you, and more love then you can ever imagine.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

God of Elijah

Yesterday we read about the God of Elijah in our Jesse Tree Advent book. The Scripture reading comes out of 1 Kings 18:17-39. It may seem long but please read it with me today. It's one of my absolute favorite stories in the Bible and is well worth your time. AND/or you can listen to one of my most favorite songs of all time. I posted the link below the Scripture.

17 When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is this you, you troubler of Israel?” 18 He said, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, because you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and you have followed the Baals. 19 Now then send and gather to me all Israel at Mount Carmel, together with 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”
 20 So Ahab sent a message among all the sons of Israel and brought the prophets together at Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people did not answer him a word. 22 Then Elijah said to the people, “I alone am left a prophet of the LORD, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men. 23 Now let them give us two oxen; and let them choose one ox for themselves and cut it up, and place it on the wood, but put no fire under it; and I will prepare the other ox and lay it on the wood, and I will not put a fire under it. 24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD, and the God who answers by fire, He is God.” And all the people said, “That is a good idea.”  25 So Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one ox for yourselves and prepare it first for you are many, and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under it.” 26 Then they took the ox which was given them and they prepared it and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon saying, “O Baal, answer us.” But there was no voice and no one answered. And they leaped about the altar which they made. 27 It came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, “Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened.” 28 So they cried with a loud voice and cut themselves according to their custom with swords and lances until the blood gushed out on them. 29 When midday was past, they raved until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice; but there was no voice, no one answered, and no one paid attention.
 30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” So all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD which had been torn down. 31 Elijah took twelve stones according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, “Israel shall be your name.” 32 So with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD, and he made a trench around the altar, large enough to hold two measures of seed. 33 Then he arranged the wood and cut the ox in pieces and laid it on the wood. 34 And he said, “Fill four pitchers with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” And he said, “Do it a second time,” and they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time,” and they did it a third time. 35 The water flowed around the altar and he also filled the trench with water
36 At the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word. 37 Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that You, O LORD, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again.” 38 Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The LORD, He is God; the LORD, He is God.”

I really love this story for a couple of reasons, actually a lot of reasons but I'll only give you a few. First it's totally epic right? I would love to see it play out on a big screen. I love that Elijah is just a man. He's just this guy that the Lord spoke to and who chose to listen. He had regular human issues. He had plenty of self doubt but when it came down to business he was so hard core. I think that Elijah must of had a thing about fire, after all wasn't it he that rode away in a chariot of flame off to heaven?

I love that this story shows the awesomeness of God. God. Is. Dramatic. If you have a problem with people who are dramatic you may want to familiarize yourself with a bit of the Old Testament because we serve an over-the-top God.

It seems that God loves to use just regular people who are seemingly all alone. Elijah, Moses, Noah, Jesus, all these men were utterly alone, everyone had turned against them, mocked them even. But they all had these huge, epic experiences. Elijah called fire down from heaven. Moses stood knee deep in the water and parted the see with nothing but his faith and his staff. Noah built that ark all the while being mocked and laughed at. In all those stories God showed up and He showed off. Part the sea?? Flood the entire earth?? Send fire from heaven? I could go on and on. King Hezekiah stood at the wall of his city and looked around at the hundreds of thousands of enemy soldiers that God had destroyed in one night without the help of one single human.


The most epic and incredible story ever. God, Himself born on this earth, grew to be just a man. Then He gave Himself for me, while I denied Him and His love. This is real life. This happened. It's not just a story.

Do you believe it? Because if you do, you have to believe that one day something similar to this story of Elijah will happen again. He, the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel is going to show up again, in a powerful and consuming way and on that day, every knee will bow and everyone will say "The LORD, He is God; the LORD, He is God!" OH I CAN'T HARDLY WAIT!

Monday, December 12, 2011

For The Joy Set Before Us

Perspective. It changes everything. 

The word is really weighted isn't it? It means so many different things to me. When my daughter refuses to eat her dinner, I give her perspective. I tell her about all the starving children in the world.

When I start to have a bad attitude or complain about something I gain perspective when I remember I have hot water any time I want it and what a luxury that is.

When I feel proud about something in a less then healthy way I can spend five seconds in worship and gain some perspective. For truly I am nothing.

When I feel at the end of myself as a mom, that I just can not change even one more diaper, I can remember that eventually one day my children will be potty trained. For some moms with children who have disabilities they can not say that.


When life seems hopeless....

In my desperation and my lack of perspective He covers me with His love. When all of a sudden I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory and I realize how beautiful His love is. It all fades and time stands still and I remember my race. I remember the path marked out for me.

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV)

Time. Eternity. Perspective

I look down my telescope, through the tunnel of life and out to the other side.

I fix my eyes on Jesus. I see the prize.

12 Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you (Philippians 3:13-15 NASB)

Maybe it's partly the weather, I always get a bit crabby this time of year. The dull gray of daily life. I do not like the cold. I do not like the snow. I do not like the need for heat or electric blankets. I do not particularly enjoy the holiday season all that much. I especially do not like having rowdy children full of energy bouncing off the walls of my house with nowhere to go. I do not like green eggs and ham.

But I recently had the great pleasure of experiencing a divine attitude adjustment. Just as it says in verse 15 above, something in me was revealed. It was ugly. But praise Him for His grace. It is His mercy that exposed my wretchedness and forgave me. I can see clearly, at least for now, the joy that is set before me. Even though all around me is death and cold, and though I can not see it, still my heart believes that there is life. It is just below the surface. It is welling up and I know, will soon burst onto the scene. Take heart, oh my soul. Be glad and rejoice! Do you see it? Do you see the prize? What perspective! Joy to the world! He is coming!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Flesh Dog is Dead

Recently I was asked to recall all the areas of God's faithfulness to me. Like you, I'm sure, many things came to mind. I felt it necessary to blog about one thing in particular, this is mostly for my benefit but I hope it helps someone else recall His faithfulness too.

About 7 years ago (really 7 years?!!) I attended Domata School of Missions in Tulsa at Mark Brazee's World Outreach Church. During one lesson the speaker was talking a bit about his wife and her testimony. He said as a young adult she believed what she was told, that she had a "spirit dog" and a "flesh dog" and that whichever dog she fed the most, ie: reading the Bible/watching TV, going to church/going to a wordly party, would win when it came time for them to battle. Consequently, she lived a life always trying to "feed" her spirit dog but invetibly when she would fail she would feel worthless, condemned and unloved. No matter how hard she tried she would always end up doing the wrong things until finally she quit trying.

Then the speaker read from Romans 8:
9 However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. 10 If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. 

And Galatians 2:
20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. 

I don't know what happened to me in that moment but it was like I was brought to life. I'm sure most of you have heard the "spirit dog, flesh dog" story. I know there is a measure of truth to it. But when you live your life like I did, weighing every action, hoping your good deeds are enough that when you come to a cross roads the "spirit dog" in you will win out, it's all about works and worthiness and condemnation. I was set free as I listened to the speaker tell about his wife.

She learned that there is no great battle within herself. The flesh is dead. The Spirit is a live. We were crucified with Him, dead, buried, and we rose with Him and are now seated with Him. We didn't deserve it. Nothing we could ever do could make us worthy of what He's given us. Through Christ we were made righteous and because of that we are worthy. I'm worthy of this Spiritfilled life. I don't have to live in condemnation every time I fail. I'm washed in forgiveness.

When I think of the transformation that happened in me that day. It reminds me that I have a faithful God. 1 Corinthians 15:3 says that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. He laid out His plan in the Scriptures long before Jesus was ever born. It happened just like He said it would because He is faithful.

A few years ago (less then 7) I was at a women's retreat and in a small group one of the ladies spoke up. She shared that she had just learned that her salvation and relationship with the Lord had nothing to do with her worthiness. She had the same look on her face that I know I did when I discovered this truth. She said "He just loves me. I don't have to do anything. Out of that love I am moved to learn more about Him, to read His word and do those 'right' things."

There is no battle. If you've accepted Christ as your Lord and His Spirit is in you, you are a live in Him. That flesh dog is dead. The life which we now live in the flesh we live by faith in the Son of God, who in love, not our good works, gave Himself up for us.

Oh He is faithful.