Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thankful Thursday: Family

"But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve...But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15

Strong, skilled hands built it to last. Every beam and stainless steel bolt driven by love for his grandchildren. Standing tall and sturdy, I wondered how we'd ever take it down when they grew up--too cool or too big for it.

After countless swings and slippery slides, secret forts built with sheets secured with clothespins I think it's time to disassemble. But no. Instead it becomes the teenage hangout and quiet conversation spot.

Standing underneath that sturdy frame on a cool autumn day, twenty-two years of memories wrap warm around me. My son's image smiles back at me from that familiar swing--blond hair, the same overlapping front teeth, that familiar twinkle.

I call my granddaughter by her auntie's name. Wasn't it just yesterday that I pushed my daughter way up high? We sing silly made-up songs, listen to songbirds and slide down that sheet of stainless steel--all connected in love.

That's how God forms families. When we include him--invite him to build our family foundation--he fastens us together and builds us to last. From generation to generation he promises to bless those who honor him.

"His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation." Luke 1:50

Today I breathe gratitude for:
  • Godly foundations
  • God's images in our faces
  • Sturdy hands who built in love
  • Children who still love coming home
  • Generational blessings
  • Silly, made-up songs
  • Swinging and sliding
  • Building forts fastened with clothespins

Monday, October 24, 2011

Stepping Into Our Role

"And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work."
2 Corinthians 9:8

She leaped onto center stage unabashedly and sang her heart out in the middle of Doolittle Park. This grandma, proudly looking on from the circle of park benches, noticed her granddaughter's delight and confidence in her own performance. 

Bending low at the waist to her audience of one, I couldn't help but wonder, "What if we all stepped into our God-given roles with such free abandon?" What if we stopped worrying about what other's thought of us, what we looked like, or if we were holy enough? What if we just stepped into our role with fearless abandon--without questioning God? What would that look like? How would that change us? How would that affect others?

If your like me, when God asks you to step onto center stage, you hesitate and ask God if He's mistaken, "You talkin' to me, God?" Then, you spend weeks, months, years maybe asking for confirmation. I think confirmation is necessary to make sure you're in sync with God's will, but when you know that you know...then enough already...step out in faith and obedience. Stop feeling self-conscious and keep your eyes fixed on heaven. He will direct your paths.

I say this knowing these decisions to follow God are difficult because although He leads, sometimes His path, His way is difficult. Stepping into our God-given role  might look different than the all-American dream of a house, two cars, 2 1/2 kids and a dog. It might mean giving up the American dream and living uncomfortably on faith day by day.

I don't know what your role looks like, but I do know we all have a role to play in God's big story. What's your role? Have you ever thought about it? Have you ever asked God what part he wants you to play? If you know, what's holding you back from leaping onto center stage?

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

Friday, October 21, 2011

Journey Towards Healing: Shedding the Old Labels

" will be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow." Isaiah 62:2

Penny welcomed me into the neighborhood that first day.  Although complete opposites, we remained best friends until the day I moved. Her size and personality overshadowed me but I didn't notice until some boys pointed it out.

Pedaling around the new housing development we rounded a corner where these boys played football on their side lawn--Penny leading, of course. "Fat bannana, skinny bannana! Fat bannana, skinny bannana!" they taunted until we disappeared out of sight. My eyes dampened, my face flushed embarassment and my heart wounded. They labeled us without permission.

Isn't it like that when we fall victim to unwarranted heart wounds of any type? Wounds usually occur without permisson and instantly label us--fatty, skinny, stupid, clumsy, ugly, abandoned, unwanted--fill in the blank_________.

Thankfully, God offers us a new name when we surrender our wounds to Him through His Son, Jesus. He fully restores our hearts, removes those labels we never asked for, and gives us a new name. He did that all the time throughout history and continues to do that today. Abraham (high father) to Abraham (father of many nations), Sarai (contentious) to Sarah (princess), Simon (he has heard) to Peter (solid rock), and Saul (asked for) to Paul (humble).

Are you ready to shed your old label, your old identity and put on your new name in Christ? Why not spend some quiet time today asking God for your new name. What is it He calls you? Is it blessed, beloved, beautiful, creative, strong, graceful? 

"I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it." Revelation 2:7

Oh God, as we spend time in solitude today, peel away our old identity wrought in pain and woundedness. Breathe on us Holy Spirit, wash and cleanse us by the blood of the Son, Jesus. Whisper our new name over us, oh God, and open our ears to hear and our hearts to believe. May we continue to walk upright in this new identity--one given by You, our Creator. Amen.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Journey Towards Healing: Restoration

"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." 1 Peter 5:10

The act of forgiveness does not magically erase the years of pain or instantaneously heal our heart wounds but it does realign our hearts with God's. Forgiveness gives us a heavenly perspective that dissolves barriers and  makes restoration possible--restoration of our  relationships, our hearts, and our God-given dreams.

Relational restoration takes time and both parties must be willing to work at this. Complete restoration may not be possible, especially if betrayal was part of the break down. Rebuilding trust is difficult work and in our humanness, forgiveness may have to be extended more than once.

Heart wounds leave scars. This side of heaven, no matter how much time has passed, or how well we've healed, our scars still show. But did you know scar tissue is the strongest tissue in the body? Scars remind us not only of our wounds but more importantly that God healed--restored and made new.

In Madeleine L'Engle's book, A House Like a Lotus, her character Polly O'Keefe says, "There isn't anything that happens that can't teach us something, that can't be turned into something positive. One can't undo what's been done, but one can use it creatively." This is how God makes all things good. He takes our pain, our scars and makes us stronger. He intertwines the desires He's placed deep inside our DNA with our scars and makes something good--if we let Him.

Facing my father--offering him forgiveness face-to-face--took months of courage and constant reminders from the Lord. But oh, the sweet walk of forgiveness can never be replaced and I am so glad I stepped out in obedience. That simple but difficult act not only restored a relationship but released God's blessing of creativity in my life that had been locked up for years. He's placed opportunities in my life beyond my imagination and birthed a ministry of encouragement that is at this moment still a work-in-progress.

Forgiveness is a step of obedience and must precede restoration. Withholding forgiveness builds barriers between you and the other person but also between you and God. Although offering forgiveness takes time and courage, it's the only thing that breaks down those barriers and opens us up to the flow of God's blessing and restoration.

Paul reminds us, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" 2 Corinthians 5:17. Won't you allow God to make all things new?

Oh Lord, thank you for your mercy and forgiveness through your son, Jesus. Thank you for restoring us and opening heaven's gates to us. Help us in our humanity, to offer forgiveness to those who have wronged us, in obedience to your will. Restore us one to another and open up the flow of heaven's blessings in our lives. Amen.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Journey Towards Healing: Identify Your Heart Wounds

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts." Psalm 139:23

No one wants to read how perfect your life is. It's not real or attainable. People want to know that your heart's been wounded--just like theirs--and you bleed red. And, if by some miracle you find healing, a way to soothe the pain--then lead the way to The Way of healing.
We carry wounds merely as citizens of earth--Paradise gone bad. The once perfect world created by God's spoken Word, circumvented by proud, scheming, lying Lucifer. Mankind's disbelief in God as Truth and his belief in Lucifer's lie led to disobedience. His actions wounded us all. Generations later, we still wear the scars of that decision but so removed from Paradise, identifying those wounds proves difficult.
The first step toward healing is knowing where you are wounded. Where do you bleed? What holds pain? For me, growing up in a broken family wounded me. It's wasn't anything I did or caused but it was my life. And for decades, unable to identify my heart wounds, my heart oozed pain that affected everyone around me. 
Then God.
Angry from hitting walls--spiritual, financial, relational--God met me. He asked me, "Do you want to be healed?" Honestly, I wasn't sure. It meant letting go of my identity, my victim mentality--putting on humbleness and walking hard steps of obedience. But through it all God's grace, mercy, patience, and compassion strengthened me.
What about you? Do you want to be healed? Will you let God show you where your heart wounds lay? Are you ready to turn the corner and change paths?
This week, won't you join me as we walk this journey toward healing together?
Today, find a quiet spot where you can listen for God's voice. Ask him one question: Lord, where am I wounded? Allow time to hear his voice. Write down what you hear and allow healing tears to flow.
Dear Lord, our hearts are wounded--hold years of pain suffered. Show us where our wounds lay. Name the wounds and in doing so, bring your healing waters. Wash over our hearts, cleanse us from the poison of pain, neglect, and lies. Your word says, "{You} heal the broken hearted and bandage their wounds" {Psalm 147:3}. Today, Lord, I ask for healing. I want your healing.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thankful Thursday: All Good Gifts

"Every good and perfect gift comes from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1:17

We traipsed well worn orchard rows searching for harvest and found apple limbs bent low, heavy with sweet, juicy, red fruit ready for picking.

We walked straight open rows dotted with pumpkin orange beckoning dreams of grinning, candle-lit jack-o-lanterns--round and plump, long and thin--on darkened neighborhood porches.

We found fields of heavy yellow heads--autumn's last blooms--turned heavenward, always following the sun that at dusk bow their heads in thanks.

These good and perfect gifts shared in crowded orchards or open fields or around family tables come not only from the hands of the sower, but from the Giver--the One who made the seed and caused the fruit to grow. Our God and Creator of all good things.

On this Thankful Thursday, let's not only thank God for his good gifts but turn our attention away onto the Giver--the Maker of all good things "who does not change like shifting shadows."

Thank you Lord for your beautiful gifts. May we accept them with open arms for our enjoyment as you intendend. Accept our praise as we lift up our hands in worship to you, as the Giver of all these good and perfect gifts. Amen.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Book Review: Close Enough to Hear God Breathe

Greg Paul in Close Enough to Hear God Breathe: The Great Story of Divine Intimacy drew me in immediately with his storytelling prose. Paul captures and holds his reader's attention with his personal yet common-to-all life moments while answering the ultimate questions: Does God love me? and Where do I fit in God's story?

While I found his stories captivating, his topic and strategy were reminiscent of John Eldredge's, Epic (Thomas Nelson, 2004). It was difficult for this reader to restrain from this comparison since I've read all of Eldredge's work. Unlike Eldredge, his creative prose struggled with passive voice that interrupted the reader's rhythm.

However, from Genesis to Revelation, Paul creatively weaves God's love story throughout his own making God's love reachable, intimate, and real. His choice of imagery from life to death, common to all humanity, is especially powerful and worth the read. But, if you're a fan of Eldredge you may want to skip it.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Off the Mountain

"For with you is the fountain of life, in your light we see light."

While I sat silent on that mountain top, the Light pierced darkness hidden deep within my core. Fearful, I wanted to run but Light's love spoke no condemning words. Rather, Light washed forgiveness, healing, hope over me--offered reconciliation.

Light tore the veil between heaven and my hell--revealed his plan to make good--offered me a part, if I agreed. Basking in the Light, I hesitated, knowing my "yes" meant scaling down that mountain top back into the valley.

Jesus took Peter, James and John to the mountain top to pray and God's presence overwhelmed them, even frightened them as Jesus' God-glory shone. And there on that mountain, the disciples witnessed God's extraordinary revelation through Moses and Elijah, heard God's voice and His plan for world salvation through Jesus. And Peter's first words were, "It's good for us to be here. Let's put up three shelters..." (Luke 9:28-36). Let's stay here in the memory of this magnificent, extraordinary, heavenly vision!

But, Jesus knew they had to scale back down the mountain, go back into the valley. For there, among the ordinary is where God's vision would become Truth and Salvation born.

Taking vision to the valley is most difficult. It serves up humbleness and sacrifice but all is born from God's vision through God's grace for God's glory.

Where are you today? Have you met God on the mountain top? Are you basking in the memory of His vision or are you scaling back down toward the valley where that vision can be realized?

Lord, thank you for revealing yourself to us, offering heavenly vision, inclusion in your great plan for good. Let us not shelter ourselves in the memory of your vision but give us the strength, the courage to scales back down toward the valley to bring your Truth to life. Lord, in all we do may we bring you glory. Amen.

"The next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met him." Luke 9:37 (NIV)

Monday, October 10, 2011


"Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end." Ecclesiastes 3:11

 Normally I revel in solitude, soaking up uninterrupted free time doing whatever my heart desires. But this time, I wish Peter were here rather than deer camp. And the funny thing--he feels the same.

Maybe because Future stares us down hard, lately--threatening Death's cold breath on our shivering necks. We feel frail Auntie's loneliness, longing for Uncle. We watch Father gasping, search for Father lost and hear Mothers weary. All tired of struggled life--yearning for eternal life.

The mirror reflects our own aging. Gray hair, wrinkles, stiff joints and creaky bones tell no lies. And though we know God holds our future, our humanity cries at thoughts of loss--fails to wrap our minds around unknown, unfathomable God-places.

Solomon wrote "{God} planted eternity in every human heart but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end" (Eccl. 3:11).

So here we are-- living between here and there--feeling homesick.  We long for the face memorized, the heart warm, the unspoken thought known, the hand clasped before dreams--each other.

And we long for God, too--separate and together--knowing He's all that matters when we're living between here and there. Living homesick.

God is all that matters.

"He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears." Isaiah 25:8

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thankful Thursday: Creative Footprints

"You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it." Psalm 139:13-14 (NLT)

I arrived home from my class, Remember to Leave Your Footprint: You Were Created to Leave a Legacy (Mandy Adendorff, 2011) last night, to hear that Steve Jobs, founder and CEO of Apple, passed away.  Ironic. Steve Jobs' legacy reached through time and space, "To infinity and beyond!" some reports say, quoting Pixar's character, Buzz Lightyear. Where can you walk without seeing someone holding an iPod, iPhone, or an iPad? He thought outside the box and changed the way we think and live and do business. He changed the world.

It's easy to look at his legacy and say, "Wow! What favor he enjoyed." But did you know we're all favored? Did you know we're all God's favorite child? Just like a parent, expecting their second child, you wonder how you'll ever love this new child like the first. But, as he matures inside you, you grow to love him--the same, but different. It's like that between us and God. He loves each of us (His created) the same, but different. We're all His favorite child for different reasons.

We don't all have to be a Steve Jobs to find God's favor. All we have to be is us--who God created us to be. We're all born with the creative capacity to change the world.  Genesis 1:27 says, "So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them" (NLT). If God is Creator and we hold His image in our DNA then we have the ability to create--whether through technology, visual arts, music, writing, business...the possibilities are infinite.

Addressing the graduating class at Stamford University, Jobs said, "Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."

So, what's stopping us from leaving our creative footprint? What do we have to lose?

There's so much more to say on this subject of leaving a legacy. As I ponder and learn over the next few weeks I'll write more. Until then...

On this Thankful Thursday I am grateful for:
  • Being God's favorite daughter
  • Infinite creative possibilities
  • Dreams
"How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand." Psalm 139:17-18

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Finding God in Butterfly Kisses

"He prays to God and finds favor with him, he sees God’s face and shouts for joy." Job 33:26

Sunshine broke through gloomy rain and spread golden warmth all around. Under blue and white roofed tents the sleepy-eyed fair yawned morning. Quiet conversations broke the silent din and in midsentence God caught my eye on butterfly wings. The effortless beauty of Monarch flight above the sundrenched tents stretched a smile across my lips.

My heart whispered, "Yes, I see you God. Thanks for the butterfly kisses. I see you."

"Keep looking," he answered back. "I'm here, today. Come find me."

And I found Him:
  • in Ann's whispered words of encouragement. "I've prayed for you all year. Keep writing. Your book opens conversations with my little ones--conversations about family."
  • in Friends' embraces
  • in A stranger's lonely voice forming incomplete thoughts
  • in High-fives from little boys I once taught and hugs from little girls with painted faces wearing princess dresses
  • in Unspoken words of a dying friend whose love lives strong
Everywhere I looked--in every face--I found God.

Solitude is healing and necessary to replenish our souls in God's presence. But other times, God calls us to find him in the world and amongst people. Where has He called you to be today? Are you looking for Him where you are? Can you find Him? Do you see Him?

When you find Him, will you encourage our hearts and share your God moment with us today?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Stop, Look, and Listen

"Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don't try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he's the one who will keep you on track."
Proverbs 3:5-6 (The Message)

She's three and proud of her acquired independence evidenced by her newest phrase, "I can do it!" when we try to help. So, patiently we watch her wiggle into her jeans, struggle with collars, adjust her backward socks, and step into her black Mary Jane's with the wrong feet.  But she figures it all out, eventually, or asks for help to get unstuck.

Signs of maturity don't stop with dressing herself. On our weekly walkabout the neighborhood she prefers pedaling her musical car alongside us--fully engaged--rather than passively riding in the stroller. Her senses on high alert, she's learning to stop, look and listen for on-coming traffic when she gets to stops signs at our sleepy, suburban intersections. But, for those distracted times we're there giving verbal cues--feeding her independence while guarding her from harm.

In our walkabout with the Lord, we crave independence, too. And, patient God watches us wriggle throughout our day--struggling to place our left foot in the right shoe--until we get stuck and ask Him for help. Like a loving parent, He's right there alongside us when we face those big red stop signs--encouraging us to stop, look, and listen to Him before we meet life head-on at the intersection--yet never usurping our independent will.

Learning to navigate with God through this world isn't easy. It takes patience. Just like learning the rules of the road, we start young, small--like a toddler learning to ride her bike alongside their parent before they're trusted and ready as a sixteen-year-old with the family car. It takes time, patience, and yieldedness.

We first have to learn to:
  • Be alert -fully engaged with our surroundings and God's presence
  • Obey the signs- stop, slow, caution, curve to avoid harming ourselves or others
  • Look and listen- for God's cues before moving forward