Category Archives: Searching in Friendship

Joy

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Many generations ago, simple shepherds watched over their sheep on a hillside on just another night.  Suddenly, the light of impending Joy dazzled their humble lives – and lit up all of history.

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:9-11.

Yesterday we returned from a snow trip to Vail. We are tired, but we hold a new collection of white-dusted memories.  Tonight we light the candle of Joy.  It is a pink candle.  In advent tradition, purple is a somber color, pregnant with heavy meaning.  But pink is exuberant, overflowing with life.

Joy to the world.  The Lord is come…

…Let earth receive her King…

…Let every heart prepare Him room…

…And heaven and nature sing…

…And heaven and nature sing…

…And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

As tiny snowflakes dance over Vail, we abide under the jagged nearness of the Colorado Rockies.  We eat, sleep, play, rest, connect under its untamed shelter.  Nothing sings God’s glory like a wild mountain range coated with falling snow.  Nothing invites childish glee like an expanse of fresh powder.  Heaven and nature sing.  In the midst of Advent season, we roll away together for the simple purpose of enjoying the sweet wonder glowing in a snowy day.  Let every heart prepare Him room.  Snowball fight, flying intertubes, snow angels, hot cocoa, gondola, hot tub.  Joy to the world.

Immanuel-God-With-Us sought us in our heaviness and lifted us into freedom. The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned. Mt.4:16.  He burst through His own grave to save us from ours.  It is a gift too great, too infinite, to bear on fragile shoulders.  Why, O why do we not crumble back to dust under the weight of it?  Always and only because the Gift is wrapped in Grace.  The proper response to Incarnation is infinite, overflowing, staggering, explosive, rollicking JOY JOY JOY JOY.

…Joy, unspeakable Joy, an overflowing well, no tongue can tell…

We are human, and therefore composed of dust and breath.  We cannot live on the high plane of Joy to which the gift of Incarnation forever beckons.  But we can, and ought, to revel in earthly Joys.  We should pursue them wholeheartedly in God’s name and to His glory.  (Snowball fight, flying intertubes, snow angels, hot cocoa, gondola, hot tub.)  Simple family laughter is a profound form of worship.

…Joy, unspeakable joy, rises in my soul, never lets me go…

What do you do to light the candle of advent Joy?

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Forgiver

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And I don’t have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way You love us. O how He loves us.

How He Loves. John Mark McMillan.

I was not expecting to blog about the night, so I only had my iPhone for pictures.

Last night Super Friend Kristen and I went to Glen Eyrie Castle for a worship event.  (Our husbands stayed home together with the little ones to, as Dreamy Scott says, watch Tim Tebow resurrect the Broncos franchise and bring hope to millions.)   Fike and Dana (friends, worship pastors, Integrity artists & songwriters) invited us to be a part of a special night in their ministry.  This event honored the union of Integrity Music with David C. Cook Ministries – a marriage of two luminous ministries. A sea of songwriters and worship leaders cleared a space for an intimate knot of God-seekers to invest 2 and a half hours in sacred praise.  Fike and Dana, Jon Egan, Glenn Packiam, Brad Parsley, Jared Anderson, Travis Ryan, Kathryn Scott, Jennie Lee Riddle, Paul Baloche, Leslie Morgan, and more and more and more.  We gathered in a small room. Every seat occupied by a soul raised in wholehearted worship.

Fike, Dana & Travis Ryan leading worship, while I snuck iPhone pictures from the back of the room.

I wept when Fike and Dana, alongside Travis Ryan, led us in worship. My heart brims over with sweet delight as I see God raise up my friends to a precious role that fulfills their anointing. We went to honor our soul knit friends. We experienced more than we came for. (Isn’t that what happens when we access Infinity?) We received bone deep renewal.

Glenn Packiam spoke a simple devotion in the midst of the night. A blind man, Bartimaeus, sat by the roadside, begging. Bartimaeus heard rumors about Jesus, rumors that whispered, Messiah?  Promised Son of David?  Can it be? Jesus, the heart-seer, acknowledged the blind beggar.  What do you want me to do for you? Jesus asked Bartimaeus (Mark 10:51).  Glenn made a profound point.  Bartimaeus had a choice. He could have responded with a practical request. Money. Food. A home.

Instead, he asked for a Miracle. He asked for something divine, a request that could only be fulfilled by the Messiah.

The blind man said, Rabbi, I want to see. (Mark 10:51).

Glenn challenged us. When was the last time we asked God for something only He can give? Something celestial. Something worthy of God.

I feel a shaking in my spirit.  A dividing line.  What do you want me to do for you?  He asks me.

I kneel as we fall into worship again.  Lord, for what shall I ask You?  You invite me to ask for a God-sized dream.  I could ask for a practical request.  The advancement of my calling, the resolution of professional troubles at Jaxon Engineering, a baby.  I am Bartimaeus, blind to so much of my world.  Lord, open my eyes to Your glory.  For what shall I ask?

It shoots across my mind like a bullet.  Forgiver.

Worship surrounds me, overcomes me.  I am on my knees.  Forgiver?  I ponder what it means.  And it slays me.  Child, if you will ask, I will answer.  

So, reeling, I pray.  Lord, make me a forgiver.  A releaser.  Give me this rare gift.  Make my heart slippery, so that it cannot hold onto regret and bitterness, so that all the fallout of fallenness against me slides away into the ocean of your grace.  Open my clenched fists.  Make me a grace-giver, like You.  

Shaken by truth, God-thoughts invade me.  What if Forgiver becomes my name?  What if I just choose, today and forever, to be a Forgiver, a Releaser, a Grace-giver, like my Jesus.  What if I stop looking at the wrongs done against me and instead choose to see who I am?  What if I filter every interaction by my identity as a Forgiver?  What if I never look back?  I breathe it in.

Easier said than done, you think?  I no longer believe that.  I think it is a simple choice.  Perhaps I make that choice seventy times seven times.  I forgive you because it is who I am. Because of Who He Is. We are Forgivers, my Jesus and I.

So I knelt in the Presence of God and His worshippers and opened my hands, let so so so much slip away.  Not for the sake of my dreams, or even for the freedom it will surely produce, but as an offering to the One Who Sees Me, who invited me to ask for something only God can do.  That is my request, that I be a Forgiver.

Embrace

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Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; 
though war break out against me, even then I will be confident. Ps.27:3.

The Lord showed Himself mighty this week.

Have you ever experienced conflict?  Deep gashing conflict, conflict that carves grooves in a soul?  We have.

Have you ever betrayed someone?  Have you flung the full weight of your fallenness on another soul and then watched it crumble under the blow?  I have.

Have you ever felt the sword of another’s betrayal?  Have you ever trusted someone with your darkest stories and believed that they would truly SEE you underneath, only to watch them, (slow motion, over and over), turn the trust into a weapon to flatten you? I have.

Conflict is sometimes ugly and always hard.  We were made in the Image of God. Therefore, we were made for Love.  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Cor.13:4-8. All of the conflict embedded in my lifetime has oozed from a failure to Love, on my part or others.

This week, four people (who broke each other) sat in a living room with apple cider (or decaf) and pumpkin bars, looked each other’s depravity full in the face, and…

forgave.

A time to embrace.  Ecc.3:5.

The gates of hell shudder under the holy weight of Forgiveness, which is the most unnatural and therefore most divine of sacred offerings.  There is nothing on heaven or on earth that shines God’s favor like the full extent of true forgiveness.  To unshackle someone who is bound to you by a debt they can never repay?  To be released from the manacles of guilt and condemnation?  To finally shed the chains? Sweetness unlike any other.

Forgiveness is the final form of love. Reinhold Niebuhr.

A few months ago I told someone, We are in a conflict with (Names) and we are not going to be able to work it out.  The relationship is over, likely forever.  

God in His mercy and power showed us a better way. Four people who love the Lord more than our own pain and our own self-justification chose to walk in it.

Have you given up on a relationship lately? Have you refused to offer grace?  Have you lived condemned and afraid?

Me too.

And there I would remain still, if not for the kindness and severity of a deeper mercy.

As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Col.3:12-14.

Do not grow weary in doing good.  For in due time you will reap if you do not grow weary. Gal.6:9.

Alabaster

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There is an appointed time for everything.  And there is a time for every event under heaven – a time to embrace and a time to shun embracing, a time to search and a time to give up as lost.  from Eccl.3.

We have been asking questions about broken relationship.  How do we know when to throw open our arms to a hard-fought embrace and when to drop them in acceptance? When to hold on to a lost treasure and when to let it go with a benediction?  It is easier for one of us to search, and for one of us to give up as lost. Which is the way of the Cross?

Definition:  Forgive:  to give before or ahead of.

Wounds heal or fester.  When my children cry from their little bodily injuries, I pour oil on their hurts and tell them, Be brave.  It will get better.  God made our bodies to heal. When we break and are broken, I hear Him whisper over me:  Be brave.  Give before and ahead of.  I made your heart to heal.

Resentment is like a glass of poison that a man drinks; then he sits down and waits for his enemy to die.  Nelson Mandela.

Fear is the enemy of forgiveness.  Fooled me once, shame on you.  Fooled me twice, shame on me.  Right?  To let go quietly, behind closed doors, in a cocoon of self-protection, that is one thing. But to reconcile in the Light, to joyfully restore, that is something else entirely.  It is a breathtaking risk, because there is always the possibility that wounds will lacerate us again.  Trust, forgiveness, fear, danger, restoration.

Don’t worry whether or not they finally understand you. Love them and release them. Life feeds back truth to people in its own way and time—just like it does for you and me. Sara Paddison.

I have taken my wounds and sealed them in a jar.  Perhaps we all have.  Now what do we do with the jar?  Some broken treasures cannot be salvaged this side of eternity, and that is the deep sadness of this fallen space.  Sometimes we need to greet and acknowledge that reality.  Sometimes moving on is the greater grace.  A time to give up as lost.  Other times we are called to put the full weight of trust on restoration. We may choose, each of us, to give before and ahead of, to gamble our hearts in order to gain them back.  A time to embrace.

Which time is this?

Forgiveness is giving up the possibility of a better past.  Unknown.

There once was another woman who held a sealed jar.  A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.  Luke 7:37-18.  This broken woman offered the wages of her sin to the One who considered her alabaster offering a precious gift instead of a symbol of her wicked life.  She broke open her pain at His feet, gave it to the One who forgave her, who gave before.  

I am that woman.  I have broken others and been broken in return.  I deserve rejection but desire grace.

I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little. Luke 7:47.

What happens before and after forgiveness?

Love.

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,  does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. 1 Cor. 13:4-8.

With her broken offering, she reflected His Divine Love. It is not trite to proclaim that Love is always the answer.  Love is the banner He has hung over us.  Love is the triumph of the strong saints.

Love is also the dividing line of wisdom.  As we all circle our important questions, we should ask, Is it more loving to embrace or to shun embracing? To search or to give up as lost?  To do this or to do that?  That is very hard. The way of the Cross is sparsely populated because it is a bloodbath of Self. 

But that is not the end of the story. Love cannot stay buried.  Many waters cannot quench love, nor will rivers overflow it; if a man were to give all the riches of his house for love, it would be utterly despised.  Song of Solomon 8:7.

I do not know the resolution of your story, and I am still seeking mine.  But I have learned that if I seek a resurrection of something I have lost, I must first seek Love.  Love will either redeem it or give us something better.  Love will lift up our faces as we break open our alabaster offerings, and declare, your many sins are forgiven because I gave before and ahead of your story, because you desire and receive my Love, because you love me more than your flawed treasures. Now go in peace and continue to Love and Forgive Much.

 

Harvest

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Therefore, behold, I will allure her, bring her into the wilderness and speak kindly to her.  Hosea 2:14

Just now, I put groceries away, served my children lunch, unloaded the dishwasher, fried bacon, milled flour.  Yesterday at this time, I did this:

We launch out early, coffee hot and expectations soaring, wheels rolling forward under the shadow of the Colorado Rockies in search of joy entwined with harvest.  We spend the day gathering what has ripened under burning skies, where seeking roots have gorged on intentional moisture, where farmers foresaw the promise of growth and nursed it into being.  Colorado is high desert, where both beauty and growth is rocky, pocked with dry crags.  Green shoots of spring and rich abundance of autumn are hard-fought here.  These farmers open their gates to us, who are reaping what we have not sown.

Grace is the only air that isn’t toxic.  Ann Voskamp.

I breathe it in, grace-air, in the company of those who have wrapped me in it over the long drought of my hardest years.  We spend the day harvesting more than pumpkins and berries – laughter, friendship, memories, joy, tradition.  It is a day of passing over. The burning beauty of summer abates into a fruition, a gathering, a harvest of grace.

For those who are bone dry from the glare and heat of summer, take heart. The jeweled ripening of harvest is awakening.  Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. Gal.6:9.

The Harvest

I will sow her for Myself in the land. I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, and I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’

Hosea 2:23.

Inspired

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We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thess.1:3.

I woke up laden, weighed down by heavy burdens.  God made me a sunshiny morning person, but some days I wake up with a groan and lay still for a moment with the covers over my face.  Then the calendar starts talking.  Do you ever have those days that spit out a black and white obligation, and then that obligation transforms into a colorful prism of grace?

I did this…..

The Women Inspired Luncheon, in Tammy Maltby’s home, shot through with glowing Holy Spirit connections.  This is me ………

…..smiling as big as my face can stretch as I soak in the wisdom, the kindness of faithful women in a gracious home.  Each precious lady in sweet Tammy’s home glows with Love’s light.  Each is a leader, a lover, a servant to the women of this city.

These women……

….are unfurling a banner of mentorship through Women Inspired.  Julie Gorman. Sandra Aldrich.  Tammy Maltby.  Lorraine Pintus.  Leaders whose hearts are brimming over with God’s dream to mentor women through seven core areas of their lives. Please click here to learn more.  They invited us to be a part of connecting women with this extraordinary ministry.

Yes please.

April 27-28th, 2012.  Be inspired.  Click on the link above to connect your heart to these precious women who long to truly see you, and only then, help.

Like a bone dry sponge suddenly immersed in fresh water, I soaked in inspiration from each fresh conversation with a remarkable lady.  I basked in the company of women who impact this city with God’s heart.

Lord, thank you for pouring life into my spirit today through your Beloved. Thank you for blessing this community with strong women who breathe faith, hospitality, health, identity, relationship, purpose and balance into their spheres of influence.  Lord, I have so much to learn about being a leader, a lover, a servant.  Thank you for these precious relationships to mentor and love me.  I place myself under the banner.  

Me = inspired.

PS.  A special thanks to the lovely Tiffany Stuart, whose photos I diabolically pirated from Facebook because all I had was my grainy iPhone at the luncheon.  Thanks for being prepared, lady!

Grace

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If anyone is preaching to you a gospel other than the one you accepted, let him be condemned!  Gal.1:9.

This year I am reading through the Bible with a group of rock star ladies from Vanguard Church.  We are the Journey Girls, a little band of women who made a mutual commitment to read the greatest love story ever told in 356 days.  (We have a facebook page, so we are legit AND connected.) Many of the women are reading straight through, but Dreamy Scott and I (he is not a Journey Girl, but he’s allowed to read the Bible too, we decided) are on a different plan.  We, being iChristians, put One Year Bibles on our e-readers.  We read a bit of the Old Testament, a bit of the New Testament, a Psalm and a Proverb or two together every night before bed.  Its a splendid system and we might just do it again every year.  Thank you, iNation.

Right now I am swimming in the depths of Job.  Have you read Job lately?  It is a wild storm story, wave upon heavy crashing wave of turmoil and chaos, swirling madly into a vortex with a center deep and still.  It is a book of ferocious mercy.  Some scholars believe that Job is an allegory, a parable about how to suffer righteously.  I remain unconvinced.  Job is too turbulent, too complex to be an allegory.  It is too raw.  Parables are straightforward, one-dimensional.  That is just fine, because parables exist to teach moral lessons.  Job has no moral lesson – except grace.  Grace is, at heart, the opposite of a moral lesson.  Grace is undeserved.  Job was a man who raged against the full power of earth and hell in order to plant his embattled feet on grace. Have you read Job lately?  Read Job if you are fighting to believe in grace.

The story of Job is this:  Satan presents himself to the Lord with a taunt:  There is none righteous.  None who seeks for God.  God replies, Have you considered my servant Job?  And thus begins the story of fathomless loss in a righteous man’s life.

Satan, with God’s permission, takes everything – Job’s livelihood, his reputation, his wealth, his glory, his family, his health.  He is left with a smoldering crater of a life, a body pocked with festering boils, a decimated wife who urges him to curse God and die.  And his friends.  They started well. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud…Then they sat on the ground with him for 7 days and 7 nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.  Job 2:12-13.

If they had stopped there, I might believe that Job is an allegory.  Just skip 38 chapters, land on Job 40 and tie it all up with a big red bow.  The end.  Job = good guy, bad life, God intervenes, God re-blesses because we have all learned a valuable lesson here.  Ta-DA!!

But instead, those three friends open their mouths and they spew out the same graceless razor-lies that the people of God speak over each other to this day.  This much suffering must have a cause.  A good and gracious god would not allow this unless there was a reason. There is no smoke without fire – let me help you trace the lines of sin in your life.  Then god will fix it all.  Let’s control and manage this suffering together, because, somehow, this is your own fault.  Has anyone flattened you with that before?  Worse, have you rolled over anyone with it?

Lies.  And Job, bleeding his shattered life, rejected their self-righteous vapor with the vigorous fist of a passionate faith.  Weeping in agony, Job railed against his suffering, against his friends, even, at times, against God.  He begged God to kill him, to vindicate him, anything to escape the teeth of loss and grief that were chewing him alive. Yet Job knew that God was not punishing him.  He rejected the cobweb lie that suffering = condemnation.  He held on to his integrity; he gripped the mercy of God with tentacles of trust.  When Eliphaz smugly oozed, AsI have observed, those who sow trouble reap it. Job 4:8, Job countered, He who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the Almighty. Job 6:14.  Boo-ya.

Job’s friends clung with hooked claws to their cracked theology for 38 long chapters & 3 rounds of dialogue.  They believed that we earn either suffering or reward.  No room in the Inn. Paying customers only.  No room for undeserved suffering. Therefore, no room for undeserved mercy. No space for grace.

If you say, ‘How we will pursue him!’ and, ‘The root of the matter is found in him,’ be afraid of the sword, for wrath brings the punishment of the sword, that you may know there is a judgment. Job 19:28-29.

What brings the wrath of God?  Those who oppose grace.  If anyone is preaching to you a gospel other than the one you accepted, let him be condemned!  Gal.1:9.  God’s ire flames against those who preach against a merciful salvation.

Do you have any of Job’s friends?  I do.  It hurts.  So I have a choice to sink into their expectations or stand, like Job, under the shadow of my Redeemer.  For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold Him, and not another.  Job 19:25-27.

Beth Moore says, Some believers have the maturity to help free us from our grave clothes, and others just keep picking up everything we dare to shed and handing it back to us.  God Almighty has dressed us in dazzling white linen, bright and pure, which is the righteous acts of the saints (Rev.19:8).  Do not wear the clothes of the dead; stand in confidence, wearing the Redeemer’s living linen.  He has bought us back from the grave.  Stand, like Job, on living, breathing grace.

Pearls

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O taste and see that the Lord is good!  Ps.34:8

I write here of the crucible of my heart.  This blog is a record of my Search for Sanctuary, my seasons in the Holy of Holies where the Lord unravels and re-knits me, lifts up my head to shine under His dazzling glory, unveils my ugliness only to replace it with His reflecting Beauty.  It is an archive of intensity, which it has to be since my narrow soul-borders limit the amount of Infinity I can absorb and express at once.

But that is only part of my story.

My cake decorating class final exam. Bomb Diggity.

Like you, my life is mostly prosaic.  It is a quilt instead of a kaleidoscope, composed of colorful scraps but settled instead of tumbling.  Most days simply slip by, pearls falling from a string.  I live a simple life.  I take my children to the park. I wash dishes. I fold laundry.  Today I organized our office and stuck one of those sticky vinyl quote thingies on my family room wall.  I wear yoga pants, like, every day.  I am potty training Lucy and I hate it.  I bake.  I eat the same thing for lunch every day of my life (a hummus wrap) unless we have leftovers from dinner the night before.  My favorite possession is a toss up between my Keurig and my minivan. I walk my dog in the evening after I put Lucy to bed, while Jack and Scott play Wii.  We enjoy each other’s company. Jack and I never miss an episode of Thundercats.

We live a quiet humming life.

We are in the midst of storm years.  I have written glimpses of those years here and here, and of the results of mingled light and darkness in other posts. There is more that I cannot write because our pain overlaps the pain of others whose story I am not free to share.  There is still more after that that is Scott’s story.  We are a family under intense pressure.  We can allow that pressure to crush us or remake us, disconnect us or unite us.

It takes a few million years for time and pressure to transform graphite into diamond.  God is a God of miracles, so it takes Him only a lifetime.  For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Phil.1:6. During our season of sifting, can we not abide in that most blessed of words – happy?

This weekend we went to the State Fair.  Hand (lives) joined with our friends, walking in step towards a memory of simple fun.  Joy bubbles over as we see our children’s eyes light up at an ice cream cone dusted with sprinkles, mirrors that reveal their bodies distorted, the ferris wheel.  As the wheel takes the four of us around once more, Jack leans against Scott’s chest, “Daddy, this is my favorite day.” Scott and I lock eyes, smile, tighten our hold just a little bit.  We talk, laugh, circle the booths and rides again and again, dusk softly tucking itself in around us as the lights flicker on, twinkling rainbows that beckon us to do it again, come back for more.  So we stay until late, until their eyes are heavy and their feet are aching and they have flown into the night sky in the green airplane and the pink ladybug as many times as their hearts can hold.

I want my children to remember their parents as joyful people who lived a wild adventure of Love.  I want them to be surprised when I tell them (in a long time) how much we hurt during those years that God was sifting us.  I want them to remember popsicle juice sticky on their fingers and dance parties in the family room under the banner of the new vinyl wall quote I put up today: May Love be the Heart of our Home.  If I do it enough, will they remember me smiling into their faces, hugging them tightly, laughing at Daddy’s jokes?  Will they remember me happy?

I am a happy woman.  A cup of coffee from my Keurig in the morning, a twilight walk in an empty field, a morning at the zoo, a clean counter, a text from my husband in the middle of his work day.  These are my 1000 gifts, my pearls that slip into infinity with a kiss of grace.  Suffering and intensity are necessary as we navigate this place where the saints of God live until we are released to where we belong.  For now, we live on a tension line between glory and hell and we dip one way or another on a daily basis.  But over that line we can choose to create a cloister of joyful surrender, of quiet charity.  

These little moments are my cloister.  These connected memories are my charity.  Being Mary at His feet is my pearl of great price.  All is grace.

O taste and see that the Lord is good!  

What are your pearls of grace?

Mission

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Let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2.

The end of last week was painful.  Generally I absorb clashes, funneling them inward to mull over as my emotions settle.  This one has been hard to release, and I think I know why.

This conflict attacked my mission.

Of course the source of the conflict was not truly human at all, but the Enemy of Our Souls. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Eph.6:12. A trusted friend doubted me, and it annihilated me.  I slashed back with defensiveness and anger.  That was wrong.  I should have responded with peaceful confidence, acknowledging her heart but standing securely, serenely, on what I know to be true about my character.

The conflict is over, resolved, settled.  The Lord brought full truth and restoration. But it jolted me, and I was shuddered by aftershocks.  If this trusted leader could question me like this, then I am not safe.  Nobody will trust me or believe me.  I’m disqualified from ministry still, in spite of what God has done to heal and redeem me over the years. This is too hard.  I can’t handle this kind of personal and spiritual attack.  

I spun out, skidded into a murky ditch of self-doubt and self-protection.  (The enemy is not original, because His weapons have proven so effective.  Fear, suspicion, shame, loss, regret.)  

Then I started to think about Moses.  Other than Jesus Christ, Moses was possibly the greatest leader who ever walked the earth. His life was steeped in relentless attack.  Attack from his own people, as well as military attack from surrounding nations. Additionally,  can you imagine the ugly haze of spiritual attack that must have surrounded the man carrying the mantle of the deliverance of God’s people?

There was a time when God’s presence nearly left Israel.  Moses had left the Israelite camp to receive the covenant from the Lord on Mount Sinai, leaving his brother Aaron the deputy leader in his place.  Aaron promptly built a calf-shaped idol out of the women’s gold jewelry and led the people in a frenzy of pagan revelry.  Moses returned, the covenant cut in stone in his arms, and discovered God’s people in their wild betrayal. The faithful Levites swept through the camp, swords in hand, striking down their fickle comrades in cleansing judgment.  But God had more to teach Moses.

Depart, go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up from the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your descendants I will give it.’ I will send an angel before you and I will drive out the pagan peoples before you. Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, because you are an obstinate people, and I might destroy you on the way. Exodus 33:1-3.

Did you catch the great consequence, the unutterable tragedy?  I will not go up in your midst. God had already commissioned Moses to lead the people into the Promised Land, and God always keeps His word.  But the terrible faithlessness of the Israelite people caused God’s face to turn from them in righteous anger.  The solution was simple:  fulfill the mission, remove His presence.

What kind of attachment do we have to our missions?  I’m attached to mine.  My heart is set on it.  But what if I had the choice Moses did?  This was his response –

Then Moses said to the LORD, “See, You say to me, ‘Bring up this people!’ But You Yourself have not let me know whom You will send with me. Moreover, You have said, ‘I have known you by name, and you have also found favor in My sight.’ Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight. Consider too, that this nation is Your people.” Exodus 33:12-13.

Moses responded by begging God for intimate relationship.  He would not accept the fulfillment of his mission at the expense of God’s presence.  I fall to my knees in slain conviction every time I read this precious passage of Scripture.  It re-aligns my heart.  My mission is not my dream; it is God’s dream.  My only dream is to sit at His feet and bask in His presence.

Then God said this to Moses –

And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.”  Ex.33:14.

O, I weep even as I type it out.  This is what sustained Moses through his extraordinary life, hazy with attack, but flaming with God’s intimate presence.  This is what made Moses a remarkable leader.  He was a man who made God’s Presence his only mission.

I do not aspire to be a leader comparable to the monumental Moses, but I do desire to walk courageously and faithfully in my own microcosm of influence.  I will let everything slip through my fingers (He will catch it, and hold it to His glory) while I cry out, like Moses, for a deeper portion of my God’s mighty and tender Presence.

Reconcilable

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And the Lord will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail. Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; you will raise up the age-old foundations; and you will be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of the streets in which to dwell. Is.58:11-13.

I had a hard day yesterday.  I had two conversations that socked me in the gut.  Faithful are the wounds of a friend. Proverbs 27:6.  That verse is often true, but only when the wounds come from a faithful source.  Sometimes the wounds of a friend are simply crushing and unresolved, because they are not based on truth.  That is how it started yesterday.  Two conversations between us friends who love much but wounded each other because (for a few moments) we believed a lie about the other.

These conversations ended well, because we were faithful (not to each other for a few moments), but to SomeOne higher, SomeOne who reconciles.  That is Who He Is.  The Lord tenderly gave us eyes to see each other, to forgive, to believe, to redeem a situation that had a potential (for a few moments) to explode into shreds of mutual destruction.

Disaster averted.  Relationships reconciled.  Trust restored.

But today I feel vulnerable.  Today I feel the fragility of my own heart and the hearts of those who love me.  We love each other as best as we can, but still we have blind spots.  Intimate friendship is a gory risk, because there is always the chance that your wounds will become a weapon that will break your friend at her most vulnerable place, creating what divorce decrees baldly call “irreconcilable differences.”  Most friendships do not recover from those.

Last year our family waded through a bog of conflict with friends that we loved with all of our hearts.  But we failed them.  Then we all believed lies about each other and failed each other. The crater from that explosion has created terror in me.  So when I have conversations like the ones I had yesterday, a waterfall of fear and defeat cascades over me, leaving me flailing, afraid I will drown, grasping onto Truth like a life preserver line.

I have learned to be confident in that lifeline.

Trust

What got me through the big trauma is what will get me through the little one.  That’s why it is crucial to get through one well, with the Holy Spirit’s healing truth. God will always give us another chance to navigate our core traumas well. There is something in the fabric of creation that longs to unravel and repair that First Time, when the lie was implanted.  Maybe its an echo of Eden.  We ask Him, “Why is this happening again, Lord? Why do I feel abandoned (or unloved, or abused, or lonely, or rejected, or whatever) AGAIN.  Its not fair!”

What if, instead of trauma reinforcers, those repeats are an opportunity?  What if they are do-overs?  We all want a do-over.  What if this time we lay aside our old sin-pocked lie armors that have never healed us anyway?  What if we put on a new robe, a new pattern?

For me, instead of my old pattern of balling up like a self-protective armadillo, I yelled at my friend yesterday. Yep, yelled.  When I put it like that, it does not sound very redemptive.  Yikes. But it was an act of trust in her.  A way of communicating, “I am giving you the gift of trusting you with the full impact of what you are doing to my heart in this moment.”  And, just so you know, what I yelled did include one profanity, but the rest of it was true.  It moved us toward resolution.

It is my choice to still believe in friendships.  I believe that reconciliation is an offering of indescribable beauty.  When I can say, with wounds exposed, “You decimated me, but I forgive you. Furthermore, I choose to trust you with another chance to care for my heart in a better, deeper way,” I am being most like God.

Trust

That is an offering that we should not extend to everybody. Not because of bitter resentment, but because perhaps we have not seen evidence that they would be faithful with that offering. Healthy relationship always requires forgiveness, but I suppose that only the Holy Spirit can discern with us when to offer the gift of renewed trust and when to hold back. Some relationships are most healthy and life-giving from a distance.

So, today I feel blue because I am reminded of my frailty.  But underneath all of that, I feel confident in the Rock on which I stand.  I am sure that God has given me a do-over, not because He isn’t protecting me, but because He loves me.  He wants me to have check marks in the Win Column.

Plus the Lord in His tender mercy has truly given me friends, family and mentors who love me well and who are a delight to love back.

You will be called restorer of the breach, repairer of the streets in which to dwell. Is.58:13.

Do you have a do-over story?