Category Archives: Searching in Ministry

Simons

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Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them. Luke 17:4

Luke the Evangelist records a special piece of Jesus’ story in chapter 7 of his gospel.  Jesus, a blue-collar itinerant preacher, attended a refined dinner party in the elegant home of a Pharisee named Simon.  These cultured men surely believed that a rough carpenter must have been overwhelmed by the grandeur of their important world.

A scandal ruptured the glittering event.

A woman in that town who had lived a sinful life (Luke 7:37) flagrantly interrupted the dignified meal.  She rushed into the formal affair, threw herself at Jesus’ feet, and broke open a vase of expensive perfume (surely the wages of her harlotry). She bathed his simple feet in the liquid fragrance.  She wept so profusely that her tears mingled with the perfume, and then she wiped the mess with her undone hair.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

Then Jesus, who was more than a prophet and knew every detail of her sordid story, answered the hissing implication of Simon’s legalistic heart.

“Simon, I have something to tell you.”

   “Tell me, teacher,” he said.

   “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred coins, and the other fifty.  Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

   “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

Turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 

You gave me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss my feet.

You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with perfume. 

For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven…Your faith has saved you.  Go in peace.”

This is my very-super-extra-forever-favorite gospel story.  I can scarcely read it without welling up with my own tears of scarred surrender.

So, why, O why, do I who have been forgiven so much struggle with all of my weak heart to forgive so little?

I am this sinful woman.  I have sinned as deep as the ocean.  Shame has torn me apart.  I have absorbed the ache of rejection. I have known the sweet and shaking power of a grace so abundant that it toppled strongholds with soft yet shattering whispers. I live at His feet with trembling hands, hiding behind a battering ram of mercy that sets me free.  I love Him much because He has forgiven me much.  Yes.

Yet, to my shame, I have not forgiven my Simons.

I write this out of exposed confession, not justification.  I grieve my own self-righteousness.

I forgive weakly, palely.  I forgive like a bloodless ghost who comes back to haunt my own pocked past with deathly whispers.  Remember when she said that….What did he mean by that?…..How can she justify that….?  

Forgiveness is the giving, and so the receiving, of life.  George MacDonald.

Forgiveness raises the dead.  It pumps life into corpses of fallenness.  It puts meat on the bones of forgotten spectres.  Forgiveness redeems and resurrects lifeless relationships and empty characters.

So I memorized these verses and I will repeat them every day this year as I pray to be a Forgiver, like Jesus.  Lord, make me a Forgiver, a Grace-giver.  May I look at my Simons with the same merciful release with which You look at me.  I choose to forgive seven times seventy times, forever, because forgiveness is the life-giving Way of the Cross.

Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

Hebrews 12:14-15

This is the Year of Forgiveness

Hope

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It is good to wait silently for the salvation of the Lord. Lam.3:26.

Tonight we welcome advent as a family.  Advent is defined by purposeful waiting for a sure Salvation, certain but not yet grasped.  Advent is hope promised but still deferred. In Advent tradition, the Christ-child, the Savior, is nearly come, but He is not here yet.

Jack lights the Candle of Hope, his posture strong yet shy as he navigates the flame.  He catches Daddy’s eye in awe as the blaze licks the wick, catches, flares, then settles – Hope newly aflame.  

This week God ignites a fresh flame of hope.  My past four years were a crucible, characterized by crushing failure, aching loss, relentless opposition, piercing judgment, intervening rescue and infinite grace upon grace.  My life became a long season of Advent, of hope-certain-but-not-yet.  My fragile humanity crumbles to fragments, but I am safe, upheld by divine mercy.  I lived in dust, waiting, hoping, for my God to someday lift me out.

It is good for a man to bear the yoke 
   while he is young.

 Let him sit alone in silence, 
   for the Lord has laid it on him. 
Let him bury his face in the dust— 
   there may yet be hope. 

Lam.3:27-29.

Today is a step into Hope.  It is my first day officially back on the women’s ministry leadership team at church, the same church that released me four years ago.  The enemy of our souls snarls and snaps, but Living Grace is my everlasting Hope and I am undone by His neverending cascades of loving favor.  My role on leadership is quiet writing for a season as the Lord builds a new vision in the women of our church.  God is birthing a dream within in our team for a deeper teaching ministry to women, so I will create a Bible study curriculum scheduled at this point to launch in Fall 2012 at Vanguard Church.

My heart brims over as I watch the Candle of Hope flicker on the faces of my favorite Three.  I rest in the glow of Advent, the long arriving redemption.  I remember the long trail of brokenness behind us.  I remember the bloody, battered talons we inserted into the Hope of God-promises through that long season of bitter gall.  I remember the joy of steadily dawning freedom shining over our recovery path.  Bless the Lord, O my soul, O my soul, worship His Holy Name.  Sing like never before, O my soul, and worship His holy name.  Matt Redman. 10,000 Reasons.

I exult that the Lord keeps His promises, that our Hope is eternally sure.  I revel in the grace of family in the glow of candlelight. I rejoice that God gives me a new voice to proclaim His brilliant glory to His beloved.

What do you hope for from the Lord right now? we ask each other in the Light of hope.

Lucy says, Blue and Pink.

Daddy & Mommy say, we hope that the Lord will alleviate personal and professional pressure & attack at work.

Jack, the little theologian, says this, I hope for faith, hope and love.

YES. And Amen.

Dreaming…

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Teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to be pure so that no one will malign the word of God. excerpted from Titus 2:3-5.

After a season of taut waiting, the heaviness over our family lifts.  We bask in the bloom of answered prayer, the God Who Sees, the One who resurrects glory out the ashes of fallen image-bearers.  Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few. 1 Sam. 14:6.  

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. Lam.3:22-23.

This is one fragment of newborn grace.  In September, I went to a leadership luncheon for Women Inspired, an organization formed this past June for the purpose of strengthening the seven pillars of every woman’s life.  Click here to browse the Women Inspired website for more detailed information.  At the luncheon, God opened my eyes to the soaring vision of this organization.

I want to be a part of it.

Women Inspired was born out of a group of leaders who chomp at the bit to invest in the lives of women on a journey with God.  Seven speakers, each one mentoring women through developing one of the seven pillars: identity, relationships, health, purpose, faith, hospitality, balance.   O, how I need support in those pillars in my life.  Members of Women Inspired receive access to one or more online mentoring courses through the pillar(s) of her choice.

I curl up on the sofa in my jammies, curving my hands around a hot mug of steaming tea.  I have so many questions, obstacles, needs.  I long for holiness; I need community to get there.  I balance my laptop and my Bible on my lap, type in my password, snuggle in.  I drink my tea – and Sandra Aldrich’s rich wisdom on the pillar of Faith.  Lord, thank you for this mentor, this insight, this enveloping love and grace.  Thank you for raising up these women for such a time as this in my life and the lives of thousands of unified women across the world.  We are a part of something staggering, something new.  

Want to join me?

A few weeks ago, Julie Gorman contacted me.  Julie is the Executive Director of Women Inspired (woot woot), and she is the speaker over the pillar of Purpose.  In a delightful serendipity, Purpose is the unifying thread running through our family right now. Dreamy Scott and I are anchored to the joys and terrors of walking unashamedly in purposeful mission.  We have discovered, to our naive surprise, that it is excruciating work, and opens up raw and unexpected resistance.  So when the Lord sends the mercy of an open door, like an invitation from Julie Gorman to join the Women Inspired team, I offer up a prayer of thanksgiving and squeal not-so-nonchalantly, “Yes!”

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 2 Tim.1:6-7.

Under the shelter of these seven godly leaders, I am on the team as the Church Liaison Director of Women Inspired.  My role will be to represent Women Inspired to local churches before the Colorado Springs conference April 27-18th, 2012.  I feel fairly sure that the walls of Covenant Presbyterian Church, Colorado Springs, will shake off of their foundations from the mighty influence of these amazing women of God and the ladies surrounding them, together seeking wholeheartedly to inspire each other to live out love, grace & wisdom.  And I have a mouthful to communicate to the churches of our city about the value of this precious opportunity for Colorado women.

I am in awe of what God is building through Women Inspired – an edifice of powerful, transforming grace.  Lord, thank You for inviting us into a vision as dazzling as this.  Bring us the women whose hearts need nourishment in these seven areas.  May we make You famous in Women Inspired – we worship You alone.

Questions about Women Inspired?  Let me answer them!

womeninspired.org

Tantrum

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And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 1 Kings 19:12.

I sit in Barnes & Noble, creamy Earl Grey tea steaming next to my left hand, my Bible unfolded to 1 Kings 19 as it has been for days as I drink it into my parched spirit, over and over.  I have started this paragraph & deleted it – many times.  I do not know what to reveal, what to protect.

I will speak frankly.  I am in the midst of a bloated, messy, bloody temper tantrum with God.  

I beg Him to intervene for my justice, for my calling, for a redemptive outcome in a whirling vortex of circumstances over which I have no control.  (Child, perhaps My redemption will unfurl in an unexpected way.  I see you.  Do you see Me?)

I hesitate, because there is much at stake.  I want a specific outcome, a safe outcome, an outcome that costs something but not everything.  We may step into the redemptive healing of the outcome we believe is right; but we may not.   We must simply wait to see.

Lord, there is no sin in the outcome I desire.  We have been through so much pain.  We have seen Your glory.  You have done the work. Please do this for us.  

Beloved, I know all of that. Will you trust Me with it? Keep your eyes on Me.  I see you.  Do not look to the right or to the left.  Do not look at the rocky ground beneath you or the swarm of hoverers around you.  Look up at Me.  I see you.  

1 Kings 19 tells the story of Elijah’s heart after a staggering miracle God had done through him.  Elijah had challenged 450 prophets of Baal to a battle of worship.  They lost.  Elijah commanded the convicted Israelites to kill every one of the pagan prophets, effectively purifying God’s people from corrupt worship and lifting a (literal) drought on the rebellious land.  The rains fell on the parched land after the pagan slaughter, washing away judgment.  A clean start for God’s people.  All because of Elijah’s faithful obedience to the God of Israel.

Did Elijah rejoice wildly in the work of God?  Did he throw a giant party?  Did he kneel in thankful worship?  Did he relish the healing that God had done through Him?

Nope.

He threw a bloated, messy, bloody temper tantrum with God.

Huh.

Queen Jezebel (boo. hissss.) threatened to kill him for murdering her prophets.  Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. 1 Kings 19:3.  He fled to the desert, where he flung himself under a tree in empty turmoil.  He came to a broom tree, sat down under it, and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough Lord,” he said.  1 Kings 19:4.

Yes. Elijah is my homeboy.  A mighty work of God, followed by a mighty big fit.

God’s response?  Judgement?  Lightning bolt?  Stern reminders of the miracles for which He had consecrated His beloved prophet?  Get your head back in the game, Elijah!  Stop being such a baby!  Maybe you aren’t cut out for this……

No.  None of that.

As a Father has compassion on His children, so the Lord has compassion on us; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust. Ps.103:13-14.

The Lord sent angels to serve Elijah.  He tucked him in for days of restful sleep.  He asked him for his grievances, then listened to his heart. His God spoke over him in a gentle whisper, the only language that a defeated Elijah was able to receive in those cloistered moments.

Then the Lord showered Elijah with grace. In those quiet whispers, God promised Elijah a smoother path under the leadership of his life.  He promised him a partner, Elisha, a companion in his lonely mission.  The grace of leadership, the grace of community, the grace of a God who sees us in our most desperate hours and shepherds us with tender strength and intervening mercy. 

Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.  1 Sam.14:6.

Right now I sit under the broom tree. I have had enough, Lord. But I fix my eyes wholly on the God of the gentle whisper, my Jesus who remembers that I am dust in a fragile vessel, merely earth and breath.  My eyes fill with tears as I remember who I am and the cost to redeem my broken life.  I bow before Who He Is, my El Roi, the Strong One Who Sees Me (Gen.16:13), who knows me, who shelters me and speaks tenderly to me.

Spill out your temper tantrum, beloved.  You are safe with me. But lock eyes with me – and trust me.

Yes, Lord.

What does He whisper to you?

Clearing

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Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Is.30:21.

I have been blog-silent for almost a week.  I sat down to write last night, but the words did not fit together. Rolling my eyes, I snapped my computer shut at 11pm.  I sat still on my couch for a moment, massaging my temples.  Then, this – You aren’t writing your heart.  You are filling space.  That is not My calling for you.  

I do not want to write empty words, but the words that mean something to me right now are unfinished.  They are disconnected strands.  I think I might see the tapestry that God is weaving, and it is dazzling, but so far unresolved.

Today severe wind whips snow violently through our city. Dreamy Scott sits on a plane to (of all places) Oahu, Hawaii for a meeting.  In a few minutes I will bundle myself and my kids in snow clothes and shovel away the blizzard’s heavy droppings that coat my driveway and walkway.  It will be hard work to clear a path. Sometimes blogging through an unfinished story is like that.  Truth and life buried under a pile of emotional weariness.

We emerge, a bit dazed, from a week of intensity, both exhilarating and excruciating.  The Lord is building an edifice of grace in our family, our church, our city; but it is hard work to clear the heaviness and find the way. We slog through phone calls and meetings as we sort through how the Lord wants us to move forward into the clear calling He has on our little family.  Dreamy Scott and I shrug blankly some moments, then bend our knees, listen, act.  The Enemy (who mistakenly believes he has a claim on us) creates obstacle after obstacle, blinds us with smoke screens, fills us with doubt.  We choose to let it fall beside the path.  We set our faces like flint, confident that if we keep our eyes on our mission, the Lord will clear a straight path.

I want to share details, but they are not yet clear.  The picture is not in focus; it is fuzzy, bleary, but drenched in sparkling grace.  That is why I tried to write empty words last night. Instead, I write vague ones (for which I am sorry), but they are my heart.  I will tell you more specifics as the Lord pulls the pixels together.

Yesterday I spoke with Julie Gorman; new friend, lovely woman of God and Executive Director of Women Inspired.  We dreamed together, prayed together, planned together.  (As the Lord clears our vision and shows us how to build Women Inspired in our city, I will record it here.  I hope you will join us.)  She prayed these words over me:

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Is.30:21.

How could she know that that very verse has been life and breath to me over the past four years as He asked us to do hard things for His glory and our healing?  I have not thought of that verse once this week, so her reminder was a lightning bolt of mercy.  It was not only Julie who spoke this verse’s invitation to faithful surrender; it was the Holy Spirit, reminding me that underneath the heavy wreckage of dreams deferred and reborn, there is a pathway to glory.  He keeps His promises; He whispers the way to hearts attune.

Sometimes we live in seasons of unfinished stories that crave the kiss of Isaiah 30:21. Perhaps these are merely opportunities for a deeper grace, pathways into a mighty work of God.  He will clear the way before us.

Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. Is.41:10.

L’Chaim

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Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?  Mt.20:22

All of my vices are liquid.

(Disclaimer: Before I come home to an intervention from concerned readers, no, I am not an alcoholic. I am a glass-of-wine-with-dinner/occasional-girls-night-out-margarita kinda gal.) 

In the early mornings, I creep downstairs to wrap myself in God’s Word and my grandmother-in-law’s heavy knitted blanket.  I cup my hands around a steaming mug of milky-sweet coffee, immerse myself in Truth, and settle my place in the day ahead.  The snug cup suspends me in a moment of quiet reflection that infuses me with life for the whole day.  An opportunity to soak in warmth through the curved comfort of a hot coffee mug.

The late afternoons are the hardest part of the day.  My children derail in obedience or kindness at some point in the hours between 3 and 5pm.  My patience deflates as my evening expectations inflate.  I fold laundry, cook dinner, pick up clutter, set the table, parent relentlessly – while hungry and exhausted.  I remember that I am dust during those hours of wearing thin.  When Scott gets home, I sometimes pour us both a glass of red wine – a jeweled invitation to release the long hours of carrying office and home on weary shoulders.  An opportunity for renewal over a stem glass of California red blend.

Sometimes we spend evenings with friends.  We laugh, joke, relax, relate, tell stories, listen and enjoy each other.  We order tableside guacamole and margaritas all around (on the rocks with salt) as we greet the simple happiness of a eating a meal with people who just like each other.  An opportunity to knit strands into a tapestry of relationship over a salt rimmed margarita glass.

The cup that we hold and lift we must drink.  Henri Nouwen.

Drinking has power to infuse life or death.  A coffee break, a pre-dinner cocktail, a toast, a wine tasting, a tea party.  To refuse a drink communicates lack of value; to accept is an offering of goodwill.  I am aware that my daily coffee and the occasional cocktail do not give health to my body, but they breathe vigor into my soul through what they represent. They are invitations to a deeper, richer life through meaningful rituals of liquid life-giving.

Jesus drank a harder cup.  He lived an extreme life as he threaded His mission into the hard skin of this fallen place.  The voices worshiped Hosanna, then spat Crucify Him within hours.  Jesus spilled his liquid love on the dry pocks of this savage earth, leaving a wake of controversy and adulation, scandal and worship.  He absorbed it all, not as a martyr or a hero, but doggedly, simply, missionally.

Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?  Mt.26:42.

What cup has the Lord poured for you?  We have an opportunity to merge our missions with His, to drink His same cup of salvation to the dregs, spilling life and love through our obedience.  Right now I sense that my Jesus cups my face in His hands, reminds me to look only at Him, catches my eyes as I try to pry them away. Do not put your eyes anywhere else but on mine.  Stop looking for personal justice, because I have a mission for you.  Will you walk in it?  Will you drink the cup I offer you?

Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?  (Mt. 20:22)

Can we willingly swallow injustice, abuse, suffering, loss and death for the sake of our mission? Can we take in a full portion of fallenness now for the hope of glory? Can we nourish ourselves with self-denial?  It is not wrong to drink the cup of joy with gratitude, but there is a deeper, more hidden grace in the cup of suffering.  Mingled together, they are Life, the cup of salvation.

What shall I return to the Lord for all his goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.  Ps.116:12-13.

L’Chaim!

Hoverers

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Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. Rev.14:12.

Today I finished a crucial segment of God With Us.  This research and writing process is an exhilarating adventure, a gift of intimate grace.  The dwelling places of God in the covenants have captivated me forever.  When I am immersed in writing, eyeball deep in commentaries and notes, several internet windows open as I swim in glistening waterfalls of fresh revelation, I am worshipping every second.   Life bubbles up in my spirit, a clear fountain of cleanness and purity, washing me new from the inside out.

I walk away from my computer, and darkness falls on top of me.  In an instant.  Its like clockwork right now.

Attack.

I suddenly panic, like a million narrowed eyes are fixed on me, claws extended; dark presences held at bay by a fragile thread that might snap in an instant.  They are going to get me; I’m going to fail; I can’t do this.  A sticky film of imminent failure and loss hovers close to me, like mosquitoes buzzing behind citronella flame on a muggy day.

Accusation.  They got to me before, they can do it again.  This is the most effective lie.  It stops me in my tracks every time.  I failed before.  They will find a way to get at me again.  I should just stop now and give up……

When I asked the Lord to remove the Dark Hoverers, He sent me to Psalm 101.  Its a simple Psalm, written by David.  It is a Psalm that celebrates a holy life.  I will conduct the affairs of my house with a blameless heart. I will not look with approval on anything that is vile. Ps.101:2.  Walking in straightforward piety will not remove the spiritual attack, but it is a way through it.  I can choose to be holy and simple whether my heart is filled with elation or dread.  We urge you to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands. 1 Thess.4:10-11.  

Isn’t this the goal of the Christian life?  To be holy?  To be intimately acquainted with God? Again, as I have written before, my goal is not to fulfill a mission, but to walk humbly with my God.  I can do that in a million little ways on a daily basis, from folding Scott’s laundry to praying over my children in their beds.  This Bible Study is just like that.  It is always and only a way to pursue my Jesus, to be Mary at His feet. Whether it blesses anyone else is beside the point; it blesses me.  It brings me into His Presence, where there is fullness of joy.  I need nothing beyond that; it is the height and depth of joy.

How has the Lord brought you through spiritual attack?

Falling

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Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge Him.  Hosea 6:3.

Today I worked on God With Us, the Bible Study I am writing about the dwelling places of God woven through the covenants.  I wrote about Eden, about innocence, about what was lost to us there.  I am learning that writing a Bible Study is a poignant experience.  It carves grooves in me, like whip-wounds.  Every writer learns to “show not tell.”  Instead of spoon-feeding content, great writers create a compelling space for readers to find their way to a meaningful truth.  Writing this Bible Study takes that concept to an even more naked level.  I must simply present passages of Scripture, give a simple background explanation, then take my hands off of it. It takes restraint, because I feel like this is “my truth.”  It feels vulnerable to release it to simplicity, because, O, how I desire the Holy Spirit to ignite in you what is consuming me.  To know the covenant God who has literally shaken heaven and earth to simply be with us.  To secure ourselves to the the anchor of Promise-God who has made all of history the chronicle of one phrase:  I will be their God, and they will be my people.  God is dazzling.  He is luminous.  Knowing Him overwhelms me, and it is this particular piece of His story, the covenant dwelling places, that has captivated me with breathless wonder.

Today I cried while reading the story of the fall in Genesis 3.  At Starbucks.  Tears fell on the pages of my Bible.  I have read it fifty thousand times.  I just read it to Jack a few weeks ago. But after mulling over the deep significance of covenant in Eden and the unbroken intimacy of innocence that will never be mine or my children’s, I was overcome.  The loss of Eden is the saddest story ever told.

What can I do with you, Ephraim?  What can I do with you, Judah?  Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears. For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.  Like Adam, they have broken the covenant – they were unfaithful to me there.  Hosea 6:4,6-7.

Today, as I immersed myself in Eden, I felt God’s grief.  I heard the deep cosmic shudder that tore all of history asunder.  Sin.  Rebellion.  The ugly reality that we are broken forever, beyond hope, if not for grace.

Come, let us return to the Lord.  He has torn us to pieces but He will heal us.  He has injured us but He will bind up our wounds.  Hosea 6:1.

From Eden onward, all of us have ached infinitely.  We all feel what existential philosophy calls angst, or fundamental anxiety at our inability to un-fall.

The Scream, a portrait of angst by Edvard Munch

Every Christian should mourn the fall of man.  Without self-righteousness, because I am willing to bet the farm that all of us would have done exactly what Adam did.  After all, we were made in God’s image, but not with God’s authority. Sticks in your craw, right?  It does mine, sometimes.

None of us will ever be innocent, but we will be redeemed.

Our covenant God has made a way through the falling.  Covenants provide an unfolding structure.  They are the stepping stones that lead to the Cross.  And with each covenant, God still dwells with us, in spite of what we have lost.  From Eden to the Promised Land, from the Tabernacle to the Temple, into the hearts of believers, God has always made a way to be with us.  He loves us.  Love makes a way.

  We all are falling. This hand there falls.
  And look at the other: it is in all of them.

  And yet there is One, whose hand,                                                                                                 infinitely gentle, holds up all of this falling.          

  from Autumn, by Rainer Maria Rilke

Evening

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This weekend I took a cake decorating class with Super Friend Kristen.  Here is my very first attempt at a professionally decorated cake:

DUM DA DUM!!!!!!!!

I’m Ok with it, because there is no way to go but up.

I will keep you posted on my cake decorating adventures.  The pressure is on, because Super Friend Kristen is a domestic MANIAC, so I, who am domestically average, will make it my mission to strive to keep up with her cake decorating-wise.

Dreamy Scott left this afternoon for a week in Alaska, so the kids and I had root beer floats on the patio. I don’t have a picture of it, so I am including a picture from a few weeks ago that pretty much captures the spirit of the evening.

Previous adventure, same amount of fun, at Lulu's frozen yogurt

The kids are in bed and I have a few precious hours to myself.  Yesterday I received a Bible Study I ordered from Lifeway, Kay Arthur’s Covenant: God’s Enduring Promises.  I will mull over this thick, pithy study as I continue to shape the Bible Study I am writing, God With Us, about the dwelling places of God unfolded through the covenants.  I start Covenant tonight.  I joyfully anticipate this study, because Kay Arthur is a luminous Bible scholar and I sop up her teaching with an awed and grateful heart. I have so much to learn from it.  I will work through it in my quiet times while I incorporate appropriate slivers of what I learn into God With Us.

Will you pray for me as I dive into Covenant and cultivate God With Us?  Sometime soon I will post about the intimate adventure of my personal journey into the covenants; how the dwelling places of God unfurl in an endearing and majestic arc through covenantal history.  I invite you into my Holy of Holies, where the Holy Spirit has immersed me in tidal wave depths of worship and insight that have changed me forever.

Dream

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For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began. 2 Timothy 1:6-9

Tomorrow I leave for a conference.  Proverbs 31 ministries offers the She Speaks conference every year for Christian women speakers and writers.  I am a teeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeny, tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiny bit SUPER.EXCITED.  My bag has been packed in my room for over a week, which was kind of because we were going on vacation and I did not want more chores to do when we got home, and also kind of because I have tried on a LOT of outfits for the conference and I did not want to forget which ones rocked.

I love teaching the Bible.  I mean, no, really, I LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE it.  A lot. The first time I spoke was 5 years ago.  I taught at the women’s retreat at Vanguard Church.  I was nervous, but also confident at the same time.  I cannot explain this, but I somehow could feel it in my bones that it was going to be, like, totally my thing.  Maybe the years of pausing in my quiet times to preach mini sermons into the still morning air was a bit of a clue. Perhaps you do not do that.  As I type, it occurs to me that stealth preaching might be super weird.  I remember the feeling I had as I held the microphone for the first time that weekend, speaking Truth from God’s Word to a room full of beloved, godly heart-friends at that retreat.  Those moments were transforming.  Speaking Truth out loud pulled me up into the throne room in pure worship, creating a space for me to offer to my King what I believe I was truly born to do.

Since that night, I have taught the Bible many times in joy and pain.  Three and a half years ago, God stopped my mouth for a season.  Read about it here.

The tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. James 3:6-12

It has been a season of intense breaking and rebuilding.  My character, relationships, affections, circumstances, hopes and expectations have been agonizingly sifted and carefully reformed.  I look back on the wounded woman I was 5 years ago and I weep at her transformation.  Whether that woman was gifted and called is not the point – she was broken beyond the healing of anyone except a healing Savior.  We all are.  And in her giftedness and her brokenness, that woman, today and yesterday, longed for nothing above the glory of her King.  In His unfathomable grace, He stopped me from teaching His word in an unworthy manner.  Praise you, Lord.

Now, I feel Him beckoning me to open my mouth again.

And I said: “Woe is me!  For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”  Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar.  And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”  And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”  Isaiah 6:5-8.

I feel waaaaaaaaaaaaay more terrified now than I did 5 years ago, because now I know how much is at stake.  Let not many of you become teaches, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. James 3:1.

Yikes.

I am afraid I will fail again, afraid that people will not believe in me.  I am afraid for the spiritual attack on me and those I love.  I am afraid I will suck.

But I can’t not do it.  For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Romans 11:29.  And to be honest with you, I have missed teaching.  I love it.  I am chomping at the bit to study and teach God’s Word again.  Something inside of me has withered and shrunk away as mine & the Lord’s attention have been on a deeper place, but it is not gone and I long to nurture that part of my heart again.

So here are some things I am doing right now to pursue my Dream:

1.  Going to the She Speaks conference.  While I am there, I will participate in a speaker evaluation group.  I will speak and be critiqued.  (In my mind’s eye, I see Randy, Simon & Paula sitting behind a desk – “Your delivery is too flat.”  “Why are you wearing red shoes?  This is THE BIBLE!”)

2.  Also at the conference, I will meet with two publishers to present a book proposal about……

3.  I am researching and writing a 10 week Bible study about the dwelling places of God revealed in the covenants in the Bible.  It is a totally rad and transforming truth from God’s Word that has impacted me in my personal study over this past year.  I am praying for an opportunity to walk through God With Us with a focus group in order to refine it and make it better.  More on that later…

4.  I am writing a blog.  You are reading it.  Would you consider subscribing to In Search of Sanctuary and recommending it to your friends?  Blog subscribers/followers make a difference in marketing analysis as publishers consider publishing a writer’s work.  The business side of publishing and speaking is actually pretty cool.  I’m digging it.

So, my dream is simple, but big.  I dream about teaching God’s word on a regular basis, at Vanguard Church (my home church which we love love love) and beyond.  Whether the Lord accomplishes this dream on a small scale or a big one makes no difference to me.  I can keep my mini sermons up during my quiet times if I need to!  I just want to teach His Truth because it matters.  It has saved my life.  It is manna in the wilderness, a record of His shining, redemptive love.  There is nothing like His Word with its piercing insight and tender wooing.  I have literally loved my Bible to pieces.  It is tattered, stained with fingerprints, spills and tears.  It is the lifeline for those of us who ache for a way through the broken crags of chaos and confusion.  It is a beacon of hope, a simple yet depthless mine of treasure.  To be able to speak its a truth with a voice of hope would be a gift too precious to release.

That is my Dream.