Tag Archives: faith

Still Moments – Surrendering to Something 

  A great reminder on this Monday morning…

“The fact is, if we don’t surrender to Jesus we’ll surrender to something else – to chaos or confusion, to the opinions of others, or to habits that we can’t control. We will surrender to something or someone.” Jack Graham 

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. (Romans 12:1 NLT)

Is Jesus alone enough?

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I am working my way through Alan Stadtmiller’s book, Praying For Your Elephants for the second time because of excerpts like the one above. Challenging, with substance and biblical backing and deeper than the fluff and “sound bites” that so many of today’s Christian books fall back on, this book has nailed my heart with conviction time and again.

Stadtmiller goes on to say, “Let me ask you a tougher question. It’s a question that makes people put down books that don’t make them feel good, but it is a question that must be asked. Is Jesus alone enough for you?”

I know my “church answer” to these questions but let’s be real and honest because this struggle is real and “church answers” aren’t always our heart truth. This is the place of scary-change-me-God prayers. The place of self-dream sacrifice so that we might live the life we were meant to not the life we’ve planned. So my answer is, I want Him to be. I want to be able to answer in heartfelt honesty -YES!!!

I challenge you today to sit with these questions for awhile. Spend some time just soaking in them.

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. (‭Philippians‬ ‭4‬:‭10-13‬ NLT)

Still Moments – Come As You Are

This Sunday the invitation is a simple one – come as you are. Wherever you are, in whatever condition you may find yourself. Let rescue begin…this is why it’s to Him I run.

Come out of sadness
From wherever you’ve been
Come broken hearted
Let rescue begin
Come find your mercy
Oh sinner come kneel
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can’t heal
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can’t heal

So lay down your burdens
Lay down your shame
All who are broken
Lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home
You’re not too far
So lay down your hurt
Lay down your heart
Come as you are
(Crowder, Come As You Are)

Walking On Water Or Drowning In It

  Eight weeks ago two things happened. I ran for the first time in 8 months (and not again since!) and the next day our basement flooded. Three inches of water covered our basement from wall to wall after a spring melt combined with a sump pump failure.  We were literally walking on water, watching the carpet (finally laid and finished in November) wave and ripple under our feet in response to our footsteps. Since then we have been hit with wave after wave of frustration, fear, and heartache. I have at times felt like I no sooner get to grab a breath before being broadsided by another wave that leaves me sputtering. 

Unexpected car repairs and unfortunate speeding tickets in the wake of the basement flood. Walking with family members through unexpected deaths, broken hips and surgeries, cancer scares snd mysterious illnesses, countless doctors appointments, another minor basement flood when we were hundreds of miles from home, job stresses, kid worries…crashing waves…sputtering breaths. 

This is what life looks like sometimes. There are days and weeks sometimes when it’s difficult to tell if you are walking on the water or just simply drowning in it. 

I think of Peter and the storm that he and the disciples were in the midst of when he got out of the boat to walk towards Jesus on the water. I am sure he was being pounded by the waves-it was storming! This, the waves and the wind were eventually what caused him to take his eyes off of Jesus and to sink.  

It’s where your eyes are focused as the waters pound you that makes all the difference between the walking and the drowning. It’s not the waves themselves. It’s an internal peace running parallel with the turmoil and strife that buoys your spirit.  Satan would love nothing more than to pull our eyes off of Christ in the midst of struggles. Satan is the founder of frustration and distraction. 

There have been many times over the last weeks when I have been worn down-by frustration, by fear, by the exhaustion of treading water. But I keep coming back to the morning after the flood and a promise that God has made.  We were exhausted and still facing a mountain of ruined, sopping wet carpet and padding and accumulated basement stuff that had to be hauled up and out and I had this one thought-God works all things-even basement floods-for good.  I don’t know what the good is going to look like in any of the pounding waves that we will face.

It’s been eight weeks…and while the waters have begun to calm I am still waiting on the good from the flood. I am looking for the rainbow and the olive branch. In the meantime we’ve been living like hoarders with all of the basement stuff packed into the dining room and music rooms, paths running through each room, and a towering pile of it in my garage.  Here is the bottom line, I do know that this is more about the process than the product. This is about the refining of gold, the structuring of faith. This is about the building of trust when nothing makes sense and everyday seems like a fight.  

God uses it all…even flooded basements. 

(And to all of my email recipients, He even uses the random deleted text that shows back up when you publish it!)

Dead Man Walking- One Year Later

So many things can change in a year, and somehow the struggle, while wearing a different mask, can still be rooted in the same place.  With Easter looming around the corner I needed this encouragement, this reminder. 

“Christ says ‘Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You.'” Why is ME so hard to give up?

Originally posted 3/13/14 – Just checking in today to see how everyone who decided to take the “Journey to the Cross” is faring now that we are one week in. As I have been studying and praying and listening I have come to a realization. God has been at work on me peeling away my layers of “yes, buts” and showing me that in this season of sacrifice, while chocolate was a nice thing to give up, unless it draws me closer to Him it’s just stuff. The sacrifice that I have been more and more convicted to lay over is that of self.

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Deny thyself. It was at the heart of the very first post of our Lent journey.

If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it. (Matthew 10:39 NLT)

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me. “Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But this is the very reason I came! (John 12:24-27 NLT, emphasis mine)

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:1, 2 NLT, emphasis mine)

Lead me to the cross
Bring me to my knees
Lord I lay me down
Rid me of myself
I belong to You
.

A.W. Tozer said, “among the plastic saints of our times, Jesus has to do all the dying, and all we want to hear is another sermon about his dying.”

Here are C.S. Lewis’ thoughts on this subject from Counting The Cost.

The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self–all your wishes and precautions–to Christ.

Christ says ‘Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked–the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: My own will shall become yours.’…

The goal toward which He is beginning to guide you is absolute perfection; and no power in the whole universe, except you yourself, can prevent Him from taking you to that goal. That is what you are in for. And it is very important to realize that. If we do not, then we are very likely to start pulling back and resisting Him after a certain point. I think that many of us, when Christ has enabled us to overcome one or two sins that were an obvious nuisance, are inclined to feel (though we do not put it into words) that we are now good enough. He has done all we wanted Him to do. And we should be obliged if He would now leave us alone.

But this is the fatal mistake… The question is not what we intended ourselves to be, but what He intended us to be when He made us….

Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you know that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of–throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself!

“Yes, but” cottages are cute and chocolate is so much easier…

How are you doing?

Still Moments – Get Personal

Here is a truth. Jesus did not die on a cross so that he could continue to speak to you primarily through some other person, movie, or book. Christ came and suffered to be known intimately by you and to open up the the lines of communication blocked by the fall of mankind. He came that He might speak mightily and directly to you. Scripture is clear when it says “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16) It does not say that we are to approach the throne standing behind a human mediator. ~Adam Stadtmiller 

Sometimes the writer needs to become the reader…and that’s exactly where I have found myself in recent days. This passage spoke so loudly and resonated so clearly in my cluttered mind. It’s reminder, profound in it’s simplicity. It’s message, intimate in it’s invitation.

Christ came and suffered to be known deeply by you. The throne God sits on is a throne of grace that will offer you what you need and allow you to receive mercy and find grace. 

If you have been running, maybe it’s time to just be still. Clear out the clutter and the noise, the self-help would-have, should-have banter, and get back to the basics.

From my heart to yours….

You know how sometimes, out of the clear blue, you get hit with lifememories…caught, unprepared and vulnerable. Yeah, me too.  As I was sitting, watching a stupid tv show and crying my eyes out, I was reminded of how much a heart can hurt.  I was reminded how hopeless days can seem.  I was reminded of my story, and why I shared it in the first place.  So, if reality has snuck up on you, and you find yourself with a broken and hurting heart, let me share a little love with you today.  My prayer is that God would speak to you though my story and begin to heal your wounded heart.

I have a stack of e-book codes for my book, Run and Be Still, from WestBow Press that have been sitting on my desk for a year.  Today, they are yours.  So, if you, or someone you know and care about, needs a little bit of love this Valentine’s Day, email me or use the contact form, and as long as I have codes to give, they are yours.

My Valentine’s Day gift to you, no strings attached.  I only ask that you read it…and let God do the rest.

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Laughing Along With Sarah

plansChickens are really noisy but I think I might prefer the noise to the silence. (Read my last post, A Tangled Mess and Chicken Thoughts to understand what I mean.) The tangles are working their way out though.  However, each provides questions for which I have no answers. Do you have a list of questions that you don’t have answers to? Are you left wondering how God is going to work out the impossible promises He has made for you?  Is God pulling you out of your comfort zone into the faith-filled unknown?  Let’s see…yes, yes, yes.  God does some of His most profound work in the silence when we don’t have all of the answers.  It’s where we, or better yet He, is really able to get to the heart of the matter…for me, I am finding, it’s a matter of the heart.  And sometimes the heart just doesn’t understand…

It’s appropriate I suppose that Valentine’s Day is coming up and I’m digging into matters of the heart. Coincidence, timing, societal influences, who really knows? What I do know is that everywhere you turn there is talk about love and my intention is not that this turn into some God-loves-you-Valentine’s-Day-post. If you’re struggling with the question of God loving you this is not the post for you.  Please read Love Is In The Air.

I get that God loves me. I know this and I rely on this daily. That box has been checked. But my heart is crying out right now and what it’s crying out for is the need for a plan (says my type A personality.) There is no problem that can’t be solved with prayer, a good plan, and a checklist. (Again, my type A personality). Right now I have no plan and the only item on my check list is Pray. Not a bad list but the song that comes to mind is, “A Little Less Talk and a Lot More Action.” (Possibly not an appropriate song choice in this instance but please forgive my chicken-pecked thought process.)

Sometimes faith is doing.  Sometimes faith is sitting still and answering questions honestly with “I don’t know.”  For me, the second is (obviously) the harder of the two. What I do know is that I am not in control, no matter how many times I try spin it some other way. God has never asked my advice or opinion, although I have given it freely at times. He doesn’t need me to tweak His plan.  What I am being reminded of, learning on a whole new level,  is that when God draws you out in faith, you don’t always get to see the full blueprint of the plan. Most often you don’t see the full picture, that’s why faith is, well, faith. It calls us to stand fast on God, not the circumstances we find ourselves in. This is living in freedom, although my heart doesn’t always see it that way.

I would love to tell you that I am living bravely in the Matthew 6 promises and not worrying about a thing. The reality is while I am living in them, it looks more like a panicked clinging to them while constantly wondering how. In these days I find my  heart easily aligned with Sarah in a story from Genesis 18.  Maybe you can also relate…

God had promised Abraham and Sarah a son. But try as they may it wasn’t happening in a timely fashion, so they helped the plan along a little bit.  Instead of Sarah and Abraham having a son, Sarah’s plan became to have a son through her servant Hagar. She convinced Abraham of this and a short time later Abraham and Hagar indeed had a son, Ishmael.  Then, having taken the plan into her own hands instead of leaving the heavy lifting to God, Sarah becomes jealous and things get a little messy (Doesn’t this usually happen when we try to go it alone and make something happen? Things just don’t work out the way they should.) Sarah forces Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away. But we serve a God who is full of mercy and grace and second-chances for allowing us the opportunity to get His plans right.  Despite their own failed attempts at growing their family and fulfilling His promise in a round about way, God reiterates his promise to give Abraham and Sarah a son. This time he gives them an indication that it will happen within the year.  Sarah, who is now very old, is eavesdropping on this conversation between Abraham and three heavenly visitors.  (Unfortunately although I could pretend otherwise, I totally get Sarah’s response to this reiterated promise.)  Sarah laughs.  Here she is, hiding behind the tent flap and she overhears this bit of news and she laughs to herself, thinking of all the reasons that it is impossible for she and Abraham to have a son. Sarah doubts God in the reality of her world. But it gets better. The Lord calls her on the carpet asking, “Why did you laugh? Why are you questioning my power? Is anything to hard for The Lord?” And Sarah’s response? She denies her behavior, saying “I didn’t laugh.”  Sarah plays dumb. Does she not realize who she is dealing with?  God knows her heart, her desires, her dreams, and her struggle to believe.  I can just see her, wanting to disappear under His gaze, her cheeks burning with embarrassment.  First she doubts and then she denies it…matters of the heart.  But guess what? Sarah and Abraham, at the age of 90 and 100, have a son.  God delivers on His impossible promises.

Human and flawed, I can easily find myself with Sarah, listing all of the reasons that the impossible it just that…impossible. Laughing in disbelief at dreamer’s dreams, afraid to believe it might be possible.  But our God is so much bigger and I think sometimes it is so easy, in the face of our realities, to forget that. It becomes easy to become impatient in the face of waiting on His timing, to take matters into our own hands, to try to fix it.  But I am reminded of some of my very favorite verses…

Moses told the people, (as they faced the impossible situation of the Red Sea on one side and an advancing Egyptian army on the other) “Don’t be afraid.  Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today.  The Lord himself will fight for you.  Just stay calm.” (Exodus 14:13-14)  Stop! Knock it off!  Quit trying to save yourself and do the impossible. Are you going to swim?  Are you going to fight? It will not turn out well for you. God has a plan so get out of the way and let Him work!

God has a plan.  If I can hold on to that certainty – and sit on my hands, my heart will be stilled and quieted in the one item on my list – prayer.  That is a promise…

A Tangled Mess And Chicken Thoughts

magicRadio silence…and where to begin.  There are so many thoughts flying around in my head right now, so many changes around the corner.  I can’t even begin to fathom.  I have this tangled up knot of thoughts and feelings and emotions and “what ifs,” and worries, and fears, and dreams.  I have been trying to untangle it, following each thread to see where it may lead.  Then I have these stray thoughts that go flying through my head like chickens, squawking and flapping and making a huge ruckus, distracting me from the progress I had been making on untangling the other mess. (I don’t know why chickens.  I am telling you, I am a wreck.) You see, this is what happens when you set a “wow” goal at the beginning of 2015 and find that God isn’t going to waste anytime getting to work – on you and for you.

Let me back up and see if I can untangle at least one thought line for you. I don’t usually buy into New Year’s Resolutions.  Mine usually occur in the back-to school-season. (That’s when I make my grand plans for all the Good Things I am going to accomplish as we transition from summer chaos to school day chaos. Er, I mean school day orderliness…sorry random thought thread.) But this year I did kind of jump on the band wagon with a nod to setting a “wow” goal.  And that’s when the wheels began to come off of the comfortable I had set up for myself and the knot started compounding exponentially and the chickens came to roost. (Read A Reflection…A Resolution for my “wow” goal inspiration.)

Have you ever felt like you were a spectator in your own life? Over the past week that is exactly where I have found myself. I gave my “wow” goal to God at the beginning of the year and figured we would have a nice, steady, 12-month, slow and measured movement to it’s completion.  Instead, I have found myself quickly face to face with “wow” and God. Major career change, a brand new business opportunity-maybe, and this huge blank slate (optimistic) or hole (pessimistic) that I don’t know what I am supposed to do with.

I know (in my head) that to live in obedience we go when God says go. Abraham didn’t know where he was going but God told him to pack up and move out and he did. (And this wasn’t just taking a walk around the block. He had tents and animals and people and all of their stuff that they packed up.  He left behind everything that he had known, aka comfort and safety.) Abraham was on a need-to-know basis with God which meant only seeing as far as the next step and even that was cloudy for him at times.  That scares and exhilarates me at the same time.  This is what faith and complete dependance on God look like.

Unfortunately, no matter how much I want to respond like Abraham, I feel more like Jonah. Jonah didn’t want to go. I was ok with just kind of going.  I wanted both, safety and following in faith and I had lots of excuses, just like Jonah, about why I couldn’t just step out.  But when God say go, you go.  And if you don’t He will take every excuse away and kick you out anyway.  So now I am kicked out and I don’t know where I am going.  Make sense?  It makes no sense and perfect sense at the same time. That’s why I am a tangled up mess with chickens running around in my head.

Who knew that God moving could be so terrifying?  But there is another side to this.  And this is the side that has kept me from losing it altogether and quiets the chickens.  I am not alone and this is not my plan to figure out. Outside of my comfort there are amazing things waiting for me.  God-things are waiting for me!

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’  These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.  Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.  So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries.  Today’s trouble is enough for today.”(Matthew 6:31-34)

These are Jesus’ words meant for comfort and instruction. His promise to us.  I am learning to live in what author Nicky Gumbel calls “day-tight compartments.” One day at a time.  As Corrie ten Boom put it, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of sorrow; but it empties today of strength.”  We are called to change our ambitions and priorities and take on a new set that are both exciting and challenging: “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

Being on a need-to-know basis is shaking up everything that I knew and 2015 is going to be an adventure. This…this “wow” thing that is beginning to take shape is not at all what I thought or expected, but it is leading me directly into the presence of Jesus.  There is so much more…more to say and share and discover but it’s still all tangled up.  Will you adventure with me and see what surprises lie in the great unknown?

How is your 2015 going?

A Reflection….A Resolution

imageHappy New Year! What a great day for sleeping in and taking naps and football. Lots and lots of football! I have 5 sleeping boys in the basement, 2 sleeping girls upstairs, cinnamon rolls fresh from the oven and a steaming cup of strong coffee. 2015 is shaping up to be a great year! (Now if my Buckeyes can just bring home a win tonight!)

Today is also a great day for reflection and resolutions. Where have you been? Where are you headed?
Part A – A Reflection…
Wordpress put together a 2014 in review report for me, that as a numbers geek, I thought was pretty cool. Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 8,100 times in 2014. (Compare that to 4500 times in 2013.) If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 7 trips to carry that many people.

This made me think about a post I wrote last February, I Will Be A Subway Preacher and I went back and re-read that post and found it to be such a good reminder, especially today. Here is the reader’s digest version,

Start something…do something…be something. It’s a pressure I feel on a daily basis. One that I quite admittedly make much larger by my obsessing on questions like…Am I living up to my potential? Am I following God’s leading and teaching? What is God’s will for my life? Start something…do something…be something. My self-talk mantra.

I was ready to embrace Ephesians 3:20, “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” To infinity and beyond…God definitely knows how to accomplish the “big gesture.” This is the pressure I was putting on myself…Start something (big)…do something (big)…be something (big.) Instead I have felt like I was languishing, particularly in regard to my book and this nebulous idea of a “ministry.” But recently the sand under my feet has begun to shift and I am seeing things in a different light.

So I have begun pouring myself into the here and now instead of looking ahead to the future and waiting for it to happen. I need to throw out the idea of “ministry” by my definition and walk in faith. Maybe I will walk in place for a little while. Maybe I will feel like I am walking in circles but God is in control. He has me exactly where I am supposed to be right now. I can’t second guess that. Maybe someday we will jump on another train and head out, but for today I am going to grow where I am planted. And suddenly, I have found myself at peace in the subway.

Are you growing or are you spending your time wishing you were being re-planted somewhere else? Are you giving God your best in the here and now, wherever that may be? Have you placed expectations on God that He isn’t meeting and you find yourself frustrated? A lot of questions that dig a little deeper than we are sometimes comfortable looking. I have one last one…do you believe the words of Jeremiah 29:11? “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.” God has plans for us, sometimes they line up with ours, sometimes they don’t. But He knows what is best, His plans are for our good, even when we can’t see it and we don’t understand it. I challenge you to trust God to do what is best for you and to use you for His purpose and for His glory. And if you do, look out. You may get to experience “more than you could ask or imagine” and never have seen it coming!

Part B A Resolution…

I read this and was dually challenged to set a WOW goal for 2015…

A WOW goal is a goal so big that you don’t want to tell it to the whole world not because you fear you might fall flat on your face when you attempt it (although that is a factor) but because the enormity of it makes the goal very personal and close to your heart. A WOW goal is so big you can only accomplish it if God really did lay it on your heart and therefore He comes in and holds your hand every step of the way, picking you up when you fall, sending you words of encouragement when those voices of doubt say you can’t and patting you on the back when you make it one step closer.

A WOW goal…but you can only accomplish it if God really did lay it on your heart. To find it we have to release God of the expectations that we have for Him. Where, in the quiet and the stillness of listening, we are able to realize God’s dreams for us. These are many times a different thing than our dreams for Him.

This reflection and resolution could stand in stark contrast to each other…accepting “small” assignments and setting WOW goals. Not feeling like you are going anywhere but setting the moon as your destination. They come together in Isaiah 28 and it’s where I am able to begin reconciling the two.

Listen to me; listen, and pay close attention. Does a farmer always plow and never sow? Is he forever cultivating the soil and never planting? Does he not finally plant his seeds— black cumin, cumin, wheat, barley, and emmer wheat— each in its proper way, and each in its proper place? The farmer knows just what to do, for God has given him understanding.The LORD of Heaven’s Armies is a wonderful teacher, and he gives the farmer great wisdom. (Isaiah 28:23-26,29)

Timing…planting…and finally harvesting. Our WOW goal may not be recognized in 2015, but that isn’t the point. At least not for me. Having a goal, working towards it, and seeing it develop, step by step, one subway train at a time, only by the grace of God, that’s….well…WOW.

So set your goal and then cultivate it, tend it, and when the time is right it will be harvested. Just don’t lose sight of it in the smallness of the everyday.

Happy 2015!