Category Archives: Searching in Worship

Preparation

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Prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Is.40:3.

I work fast and furious at the end of a long clamor of day hours.  My shoulders clench at what is still undone.  I mix gingerbread pancake batter, stir coconut milk hot cocoa, google advent verses, clean a bathroom that is simply too gross for me to have in my home for one more moment, tidy what feels like swamps of clutter, handwash dishes because my dishwasher is kaput (again. first world problems.)  My phone and computer blink as my inbox and voicemail bloat, unaddressed.  Unwrapped presents sit in piles downstairs.  Lucy needs a new winter coat before we leave for Vail.  The dog has not had a walk in days, and I neglect my writing.

I place the advent wreath in the center, the heart, of the dinner table.  I trace my fingers over the tiny porcelain baby Jesus. “Remember to remember Incarnation,” He whispers to me,”I AM the source of this season of swirling preparation.”

Jack and Lucy bounce at the garage door in anticipation of Daddy’s arrival.

The garage door finally rumbles.  The joy of Daddy’s homecoming lives daily triumphant in our home, resulting in a rousing game of CHASE.  Dreamy Scott kisses me hello, smiles into my eyes, but I see the creeping fatigue, the reckoning of endless hours. I recognize my story, too, in those weary eyes. This decade should be called the Tired 30s,” I remember sweet friend Kristen saying one night.  Yes.  We all live so tired from the effort of building a life worth rejoicing in.  It is hard work creating a safe place, beating back this fallen world.

CHASE reigns for a loud era of the evening.  Finally, we sit around the table, preparation finished, dinner hot and inviting. We eat and laugh.  Our shoulders relax; the tangled knots of stress fall away in the warmth of happy voices.

We light the Candle of Hope with a flare of fire.  We review our prayers of Hope from last week.  Then I hold steady the Candle of Hope while Jack tips the waiting wick of the new candle, Preparation, into the flame.  The Candle of Preparation – ignited by Hope.  We sit in silence for just a moment as we gaze at the glimmers.

“Do you know what preparation means?  It means getting ready for something.  What are we getting ready for right now?  Yes, right, Christmas!  Advent is when we remember to wait for God.  He is already here, of course, but Advent reminds us of waiting for the very best gift in all of history – baby Jesus.  Tonight we celebrate preparation, getting ready for Jesus.  We remember that is is valuable to work hard for something that has not yet happened, but will certainly come.” 

The candles gleam a circle of golden light dancing on the faces of the Three I love.  My heart turns over in the candlelight. I remember why I spend my days in constant movement.  I do it for them.  I look at Scott, reach out to touch his fingers.  He does it for us.  We are so tired from the busy preparation for the sake of worthy goals.  

We need the warm blaze of hope to redeem cold preparation. The fallen core of this world will not repair until the end of days.  Until then, we spin in endless cycles of renewal and dying. We live tired because all that is worth fighting for costs the best of who we are.  

My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. 
Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun. Ecc.2:10-11.

But Hope ignites Preparation.  I whirl, exhausted but happy, in ever-circling revolutions of entropy because I lift my eyes to the Hope of Incarnation. Immanuel-God-With-Us transforms our tired stories into a preparation for eternity, for everlasting worship, for celestial reward.  Christmas is a vortex of busy-ness, yes, and that will always be.  Beyond this season, simply living a faithful life on this side of eternity wears our souls ragged.  But living zealously is worth the effort, since our dead souls have been resurrected by Immanuel’s flame of hope.

A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? 

 To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness. Ecc.2:24-26.

Eucharisteo

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Giving thanks, this is an awakening — the breath of God upon the face, close and warm. Ann Voskamp.

Eucharisteo is Greek for Thanksgiving.

It evokes eucharist, bread-and-wine-communion, the absorbing and taking in of Christ.  We take communion to remember how He bled His new covenant of grace over our fatal wounds, our slow dying.  Do this in remembrance of Me. Luke 22:19.  Eucharisteo is a life of communion, a face turned upward to glory in forever-remembering.  Remembering has one pure result: eucharisteo, thanksgiving.  Read this, an invitation to be changed by a thanksgiving life.

Sometimes eucharisteo is a flame that burns purifying pain into a broken story.   It can be a sacrifice that feels too great to bear, a deep and holy offering from shaking hands.  I have walked that desperate journey (perhaps will walk it again).  I know, Lord, that in faithfulness you have afflicted me. May your unfailing love be my comfort. Psalm 119:75. 

Then, other times, eucharisteo is as easy as breath.  Sometimes God dazzles us with grace upon grace, a heaping of YES and AMEN.  Sometimes His bottomless mercies shower like rain.  Then eucharisteo is an anthem of joy that rises from a dancing heart.  The Lord your God is with You, a victorious warrior. He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy. Zeph.3:17-18.

Then again, sometimes eucharisteo is sweet and still.  Sometimes thanksgiving is entwined within the sturdy fabric of daily rhythms, yearly traditions, simple fragments of a righteous life.  Often, eucharisteo is woven through roasted turkey, spiced cider, pumpkin pie.  The precious rituals of the fourth Thursday in November are not the true Thanksgiving, but they can be the tethers that anchor us to a deeper truth, a richer worship.

I wake early on Thanksgiving morning, linger over coffee and Matthew 1, the whisper of advent.  I grind wheat to make the first of the year’s batches of Christmas bread dough, a rich recipe that tastes like warm tradition.  I shape the dough into cinnamon rolls, dinner rolls and loaves – the recipe is bountiful, like the season.  Lucy and I don matching aprons.  She licks the honey spoon, eyes alight.  It is over 60 degrees in Colorado on Thanksgiving Day.  Dreamy Scott and Jack play football and soccer in the unexpected sun.  A quiet heart day, spent readying ourselves for a feast of thanks.

We eat late, as the sun sets, after a day of shining and play.  We pray over the five kernels of corn hidden under the napkins (hidden like so many jewel of grace that we do not see) in our salad bowls.  We remember the pilgrims who died by the scores in the terrible first winter with only five kernels of daily corn.  They still praised God, and He heard their cries, providing a way to future abundance.  True Thanksgiving is always a remembering worship of His Story.  We linger over conversation, pecan pie, mulled wine and football.  The Lord has blessed our family with a mighty blessing, and we remember the God who loves us with an everlasting Love.

Thanksgiving

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Remember God’s bounty in the year.  String the pearls of His favor.  Hide the dark parts, except so far as they are breaking out in light!  Give this one day to thanks, to joy, to gratitude!  ~Henry Ward Beecher

May your countenance beam Love’s Light in Eucharisteo, Thanksgiving.  May you praise Him with songs of Thanksgiving, for no drop of praise is ever wasted in the heavenly country.  May you consecrate your precious traditions with holy worship.

With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord: “He is good; His love toward His people endures forever.” And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord. Ezra 3:11.

May our Thanksgiving days be mighty shouts of praise.

Happy Eucharisteo Day.

“W”

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Therefore I am now going to allure her; 
   I will lead her into the wilderness 
   and speak tenderly to her. 
There I will give her back her vineyards. Hos.2:14.

It is 7:30pm.  Lucy recovers from a cold/ear infection.  She sleeps peacefully, her body abandoned to long hours of healing sleep.  Jack and Scott huddle on the couch, Wii controllers active and laughter abundant.  Hilarity ensues.  I zip up my puffy coat and slip outside.  It is cold and clear beyond the chill beauty of a November day.  Darkness slides over Colorado so early now.   I clasp Diva dog’s collar around her neck, tuck in earbuds securely and trod into the advancing night.

Therefore now I am going to allure her.

My lungs adjust to the glacial air.  Diva is restless.  She pulls on the leash, eager to exert the full reckoning of a pent up day.  I set a course beyond the neighborhoods, into the shadows of empty fields, where she can run freely, unfettered.  I turn up the volume on my iPhone.  Matt Redman, 10,000 Reasons.  An anthem of worship.  I lift my hands into the night sky, because I do not know how to listen to that song any other way.

I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.

We tramp through the fields as the temperature descends.  Diva zigzags through tall weeds and leaps over the deep cracks that form in untended ground in our mercurial state.  So many weather changes; the land expands, contracts, bulges and slivers in response.  I scroll through my playlist.  My eyes fall on this song.

I push play, bracing myself.

(This song is a boiling cauldron.  I fell to my knees when I first heard it.  God was healing me then, but He was breaking my bones to get there.  I lived in pieces.  This song was a bridge from my darkness to the Light of the One Who Sees Me.  I had not listened to it in many months, maybe over a year.)

As its haunting echoes pour over me in the fields, I weep.  But not because the song speaks to me.  Something is different.  Something has profoundly changed.

I remember the months and years I spent fighting to be free.  I recall the lies that enslaved me, the dark memories that flooded my broken mind, the terrible dawning awareness of my chains.  I thought I was going crazy, that I would never recover.  I shook with fear that I was beyond redeeming.  I filled my mind with Truth, my days with Light, but darkness often felt stronger, like it slowly seeped past fragile defenses, like it might coat me with slime and drag me back to insatiable strongholds.  Freedom was so slow in coming.  I feared it was lost to me forever.  No way to recover innocence.

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Lam.3:19-21.

Then the Light grew stronger, brighter.  It overcame the darkness, one chain link at a time.  Slowly, implacably, the Lord blazed a banner of redemption over a broken life.  It happened so slowly, so naturally, that it had been long since I recalled that story.

This is a beautifully broken song.  It sings life over the wounded seekers.  But it is not my song anymore.  It is a song about the way I was, not the way I am.  Perhaps my heart will access its power again for other wounds, but for now, it is a past tense song.

There I will give her back her vineyards.

Tears fall, then evaporate into pure joy – a raucous worship.  The Lord laughs over me, I have done the work! “Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this daughter of mine was dead and is alive again; she was lost and now she is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”  Luke 15:24.  I scroll through my songs to Counting on God by New Life Worship, a reflection of now-not-then.

This I call to mind and therefore I have hope: 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.3:21-23.

I revel in a moment, a lifetime, of victory.  A “W” in the Win Column.

I breathe thanksgiving this day that I am a W.

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.

Passages

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These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. Deut.6:6-9.

We gather around the table for the first holiday family night of my favorite season of the year’s rhythm, November 1st through January 1st.  We pass into the season of tradition. We set out our Thankful Jar, empty for now, poised to be filled to the brim with Eucharisteo, offerings of thankfulness.

Thankful Jar

We eat breakfast burritos and banana bread.  Lucy consumes the white fleshy sweetness of her apple slices, abandoning the gnawed-out red skin.  But when I give her a whole apple, she only eats the skin.  Why is that? I wonder as I contemplate that hollow apple skin.  I run a strand of her hair through my fingers as she curls up next to me.

We tell each other the Pilgrim story.  Jack speculates that the Mean King who denied his people the right to worship might be Nebuchednezzar.  Or Herod.  There are so many mean kings, Mommy.

Lucy scribbles on a scrap of paper and drops it in the Thankful Jar.  She lifts her eyes to my face, meets my eyes, smiles shyly.  I gather her, hold her to my heart.

Thanksgiving is not a day; it is a life.  It is not a tradition; it is an offering.

We assign roles for the activity.  Jack and Lucy want to be Pilgrims so they can sail on the Mayflower.  Pilgrims get seasick on the Mayflower, you see, so they throw up over the side of the ship.  Their eyes dance as they volunteer to be Pilgrims.

The Mean King tells the Pilgrims they cannot worship God in their own country. BOOOOOOOO....

On the Mayflower, the Pilgrims worship, then barf. From seasickness.

The Pilgrims can finally worship God in peace! They joyfully thank God!

We act out the simplified story in silliness, the language of childhood memories.  We take grainy pictures on our iPhones, because finding the good camera would mean leaving that happy room for a few minutes.  We hug and act silly and laugh and eat and play.

As they kneel after safe Mayflower passage to the new world, Jack offers a prayer.  Jesus, thank you that I can worship you now.  I gaze at my children in posture of worship and my heart brims over.  Eucharisteo. Greek for Thanksgiving.  Our hearts expand and contract with the very Thanksgiving that we hope to instill.

All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. 2 Cor.4:15.

What a gift that the passage of truth between generations is also a passage to deep and abiding relationship.  Lord, may we walk in Thanksgiving through this season and beyond, amen.

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!

Cocoon

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It is finished. John 19:30

My journal has a hard-cover, which I do not like.  I prefer spiral bound, so I can fold the cover around itself to open up each white blank page.  This journal cost me $24.95 at Barnes & Noble, which is silly, because I can buy journals at the grocery store for about $4.99 – paper-covered, spiral bound, fat journals just the perfect size to carry with my Bible.  But this one is special.  I bought it because of the quote etched on the front, which brought me to tears when I read it for the first time.  And many times after that.

Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.

That journal holds a record of my world-overness.  The world breaks every one, and afterwards many are strong at the broken places.  Ernest Hemingway.  This fallen place broke me in pieces and it is all recorded, raw and tear-stained, under the shelter of the caterpillar promise.

I thumbed through that journal recently, aching all over again as I remembered.  All that was broken, all that was lost, all that we tried to hold onto as the Lord allowed it to scatter away.  All the self-righteous poison I poured out on those pages, vomiting my vindictive rage on the battleground of an empty page instead of spewing words to God’s Image-bearers that I could never take back. Thank you for holding me in, Lord, for gathering me in strong arms and listening to my voice.  All the prayers and Scriptures that I clung to as tears fell, blurring my vision, distorting the written words with bubbled droplets of a broken heart. All the epiphanies, the healings, the explosions of piercing Truth from the tender heart of God, the violent collisions of faith and fallenness, the million moments of transforming grace.  Manna.  It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Everyone is to gather as much as they need.’ Exodus 16:15-16.  The journal holds the record of my long, dark cocoon years, when the Lord lifted me out of the life I thought I wanted and wrapped me in a deep grace, an infinite healing, a safe and holy transformation.

Another One, long ago, dwelled voluntarily in a dark cocoon called Death.  His body twisted and bloody, his skin pierced and ragged, His head bowed under the full weight of the madness of this spinning, savage planet. God, wrapped in flesh, was crucified.  He hung ingloriously on a cross.  A cross is a spiritual symbol to us, but to the Roman culture it was ugly and rough, like an electric chair or a hangman’s noose.  God became a curse.  A life of dust, a death in agony.  Then they buried Him in the same dirt out of which He created our race of image-bearers.  The end of God.  All of hell howls in triumph, gibbering in dark victory.

Until….

The cocoon twitches, then rumbles, then…….splits open.  Resurrection.  Death could not hold Life in.  Life surrenders to death, only to defeat it.  That is the cycle of the Redeemed.  We all die every day, sinking into the fallenness of this place, then He finds us, reminds us of the Cross and of the Empty Tomb, and it strengthens us, empowers us. We rise up.  We remember who we are.  We are the Remnant, the Chosen Ones, the Covenant Bearers, those who open our arms to Grace.  We are the saints of God.

The hidden transformation of the cocoon is a process for us.  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror. 1 Cor. 13:12.  We live out our own reflection of the resurrection story, perhaps over and over, in our lifetimes.  We bleed our own stories, distorted and unfinished, so very different from what we wanted them to be.  Who of us can see the earthquake coming? Who notices the tiny cracks and foresees the fault lines of what will be?  None of us.  But…

It is finished.  John 19:30.

Take heart, for (unlike this particular saint) the Cross is a finished work.  All is ours, whether in heaven or on earth, for we are among those covered by the caterpillar promise, the resurrection covenant.  Jesus Christ died, was buried, and burst through the gates of hell.  He redeemed our tattered stories and knit them into the tapestry of grace. We do not bear the weight of unfinished sin, but the weight of heavenly glory.  All was resolved at the Cross.  All is grace.

Live in grace.  Record your story under the promise.  Set your face on the Cross.  Live under this shelter:

It is finished.

The Resurrection Promise


Sands

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My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. 
   When can I go and meet with God? Ps.40:2.

On Tuesday, I spoke with a lovely lady who spends hours a day in Bible study and prayer. The pages of her Bible are scrolled with tiny writing; the thoughts, prayers and study notes of a woman who lives her life it the precious Words.  Her Bible is covered in plastic wrap to shelter its ragged binding and tattered pages.  Every other week I sit next to this woman in Women’s Bible Study and I stare, mesmerized, at that Bible.  I barely know this beautiful saint; I just met her a few weeks ago.  But I am knit to her heart because she is head over heels for the Word of God, just like me.  I asked her about her time with the Lord and she told me that she immerses herself in Him for hours a day.  She journals, prays, reads, worships, studies.  Hours.a.day.

As I drove home from Bible study, my children bombarded me with NOISE.  Ok, friends, my kids are just LOUD.  They ARE.  I clenched the steering wheel and disciplined my mind to listen to their little voices, to engage their little hearts.

When I got home, I fed them lunch, switched over a load of laundry, picked up toys, unloaded the dishwasher, cleaned up lunch, put Lucy down for a nap with stories and prayers, wiped down counters, let the dog out.  I thought about my Bible study friend as Jack clamored for my attention.  I thought about spending hours a day with the Lord.  I looked down at my little man, five years old, face upturned with expectancy in his shining star eyes.

So I spent my afternoon in worship.

God has ordained time to slip away like sand streaming through our fingers.  We have so little of it, so few moments to redeem for glory.  O how I long for more time to spend at Your feet, Lord, to be Your Mary, to soak You in.   Those days will come, both on earth and in heaven.  Someday my little ones will be big ones, and these long, loud, endless days will seem like vapors in the wind.  But today is not that day.  Today is the day to make cupcakes with Spiderman, to read Lulu’s Shoes yet again, to sort through the laundry basket to find a clean dishcloth, to take them upstairs for another round of discipline, to spend my quiet times begging for infinite grace to sustain my motherhood.  These are the years of double portions of manna.

In Psalm 27:4, King David whispered a dream to the Lord:

One thing I ask from the Lord, 
   this only do I seek: 
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord 
   all the days of my life, 
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord 
   and to seek him in his temple. 

David ached to dwell intimately with God, to spend every moment in awed worship in the shelter of the dwelling place of God.  But God did not ask David to be a priest. David was a King.  David carried a banner of leadership unparalleled in redemptive history. David’s heart was in the temple, but his life was in the palace.  

Lord, give me wisdom to know where to spill my sands of time.  Lavishly on You, lavishly on the Three who share my home, sparingly and with wisdom everywhere else. Thank You for the plastic-wrapped Bible and for the smears of icing on smiling faces.   Make a way for those of us whose hearts are in Your presence but whose lives are in the sands.  

Pilgrimage

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Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.  Ps.84:5.

We chose almost five years ago to stay at our church where I did this.  The aftermath was a beautiful and a terrible shattering.  I lived frightened as I watched a life scatter away when the sinews of my strongholds were laid bare.

I tried to hold them all, but my hands are weak against the gusting of hot winds.     There is a kernal of dying in me – an ambivalence that calls to fragile escapes.  

God engulfed me in mercy during my season of sifting.  He stooped down to rescue me when I shook with fear that I might be broken beyond fixing.  He saved me, healed me, spoke tenderly to me.  He invited me to be brave, to live in the Light.  Foremost of all, He covered me with an everlasting atonement long long ago, on a Golgotha cross, long before a scarlet L exposed two opposing futures:  grace vs. performance.  

Grace or performance?  Nothing divides the two like facing what grace really means.  When Jesus bore the ugliness of my sin, His heavenly father turned away in sickened disgust.  As Jesus hung on the Cross, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Mark 15:33-34.  That should be my darkness. Those should be my words, my shuddering loss as God forsakes me in my sin.  Have you ever lived the ripping agony of really looking at your lost soul? God, literally, could not for the life of Him leave us in that aching void without reaching for us.  He paid the wages of our sin so that we would never feel what He felt in those three hours of darkness.  

In Old Testament times, the temple was the dwelling place of God.  I have chosen and

The temple in Jerusalem

consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there. 2 Chron.7:16.  In those days, God’s beloved had to journey to the temple to be in the His Presence.  Pilgrims would walk a treacherous journey to seek shelter under the holy covering of the temple.  They offered costly sacrifices and desperate prayers from needy hearts.  They knelt at the altar in the outer courts, soaking in the intimate Presence of God for those precious moments.  Their sacrifices, of course, did not wholly redeem their sin.  They were merely symbols of a Sacrifice yet-to-come, foreshadows of the Cross. Those pilgrims did not come to the temple to buy salvation, but to throw themselves on God’s mercy.  They were on a pilgrimage of grace.

Blessed are those who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. Ps.84:5.

Today the temple is no longer a building, but a spiritual presence.  For we are the temple of the living God. 2 Cor.6:16.  

I am on that same pilgrimage.  I do not journey to a temple made with human hands, but to a sanctuary within my own heart.  I have firmly decided to live out my days under the shelter of grace.  Will you be a fellow pilgrim?  As we come out of our seasons of sifting into vistas of peace, there will still be those who appeal to us to prove ourselves, to demonstrate that we deserve a second chance.  We could respond with increased effort, but it would be chasing after wind.  Simply put, we do not deserve a second chance.  I deserved the depths of hell long before my sin was exposed, and I deserve it still. Striving means nothing in the beating heart of Grace.

All my stories are about the action of grace on a character who is not very willing to support it, but most people think of these stories as hard, hopeless and brutal.  Frederick Buechner. 

The beauty of grace is that it transforms.  If we walk a pilgrimage of grace, it will change us.  We will become more holy, more loving, more courageous, more deeply steeped in the intimate Presence of God.  We will develop a face set like flint on our mission and eyes that see only the One who Sees Us.  My steps forward in grace have been the safest and holiest I have ever taken.  It is the adventure of a lifetime.

Will you walk a pilgrimage of grace with me?