Our friend’s baby died. My friend’s mom was cured of cancer and it came back. My mentor’s body has been diagnosed full of cancer. Your classmates were killed in a car crash and on the lake. Our friend was hit by a car and paralyzed.
These stories could represent a really Godless existence where any of us could/should look around in panic and wait for the other shoe to drop on us. We could live in a dismal state of depression and hopelessness and negativity.
Unless. Unless we heard the rest of these stories of how people were changed, healed, comforted. How they experienced God in the middle of these tragedies. How onlookers were impacted by witnessing ordinary people walking with God in terrible times. (I think of Missy, the little girl in The Shack, explaining how Jesus and the Spirit were so very close to her in the most horrible of circumstance.)
God’s goodness is a key factor to whole-hearted living. Without it, we life half-hearted lives scrambling and scraping to lessen our fears. And there is something weighty about this “favor of God” thing. He has been talking to me about favor for 13 years now. It began the day I found out I was pregnant with baby number 3.
I had one healthy baby, miscarried one unhealthy baby and was now pregnant again. I was terrified. Of all the things He could have said, He declared favor. He asked me to believe that I would see His goodness, no matter the outcome. Talk about stretching my faith…Then during my sabbatical, His favor became a foundational lesson to be fully embraced.
Favor isn’t based on circumstances. Favor is based on the heart of God and my willingness to receive it.
The C. S. Lewis quote comes to mind:
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
The favor of God is not a magic wand. Or a lottery ticket. It’s our inheritance.
And now we approach college, our newest scary season, with confidence in God’s goodness. Not because you are smart, which you are. Or your dad works hard, which he does. But because God is going to reveal his favor to us through this Abrahamic journey. When we were at orientation it became very clear.
One of the speakers quoted Deuteronomy 8:17-18:
You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.”
But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.
God gave your dad this verse 25 years ago. Then, it was a message about humility and to remember the Lord in in his work. But in recent years, the verse has been a demonstration of God’s desire to show favor and so “confirm His covenant.” As believers, we are part of an eternal pact.
Become larger to carry more. The idea of capacity may seem so obvious, but I find it often trips people. Growth comes through discomfort. Our capacity expands through deliberate stretching.
The Lord has shown me many pictures about this. The nautilus outgrowing its chamber. A balloon swelling, taking shape as breath fills it. A pregnant woman’s incredible transformation as she grows a new life. In all these examples there is effort, change, pressure, even labor to see the fullness revealed.
God’s primary goal is to breathe His life into us like holy balloons. He desires to expand in us, expand His love, His image, His creativity and wisdom. His kingdom.
Think of Joseph saving the nation of Egypt and even his own people. Mary delivering the Messiah. Peter addressing the Sanhedrin. They had to each be pushed out of their idea of enough so that He might reveal His life through them.
We must be willing to be uncomfortable so that He might increase. So when we see circumstances outside of our control, what is God expanding in us?
Faith instead of fear.
Worship instead of whining.
Healing instead of sickness.
Kindness instead of gossip.
Be mindful of obstacles that would deter this divine renovation.
People lose touch with God, or don’t experience His presence, because they have crowded their lives with “foreign wives.” Solomon was the wisest and richest man on earth, yet he lost his soul because “his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord” and he was led away by his foreign wives.
“As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been.” 1 Kings 11:4
Make an effort to let go of lesser habits, affections, ideals to make room for greater revelation. Then, allow God to heal and test the revelation. He wants to be sure we own it, to have authority in the revelation He has given.
Pastor Bill Johnson tells a story about repairing a flat bicycle tire. He explains the process of repair is to first hold it under water to find the hole. Once the hole is detected, the tire is taken out of the water, dried and patched. Here’s the kicker. The tire is not put back on the bicycle. Instead, the tire is again held under the water. Why? To see if the patch held.
Bill says some of our circumstances reveal defects. They need to be patched. Some of our circumstances are us being held under the water a second time, as Bill says, “to see if the work of God held.”
It’s a valid question as you go through seasons of stretching to ask God, “are you repairing a hole in me? or are you testing to see if Your repair held?” It will help you so much to know that He is always working for your good. His main goal is that His life and Love will fill you and then flow from you.
We have to be fit to carry the Kingdom. We were born to become like Him.
I love this song as a great reminder. He is always working for us to be fully revealed in Him.
“C.S. Lewis Song” (click here to listen)
If I find in myself desires nothing in this world can satisfy,
I can only conclude that I was not made for here
If the flesh that I fight is at best only light and momentary,
then of course I’ll feel nude when to where I’m destined I’m compared
Speak to me in the light of the dawm
Mercy comes with the morning
I will sigh and with all creation groan
as I wait for hope to come for me
Am I lost or just less found?
On the straight or on the roundabout of the wrong way?
is this a soul that stirs in me,
is it breaking free, wanting to come alive?
Cos my comfort would prefer for me to be numb
And avoid the impending birth of who I was born to become
For we, we are not long here
Our time is but a breath, so we better breathe it
And I, I was made to live,
I was made to love,
I was made to know you
Hope is coming for me.
Hope, He’s coming
My first born, Salem, began her college adventure on Saturday. I have to tell you, as some of you mamas already know, this whole season of packing and preparing has stirred my heart on so many levels. I feel like a kaleidoscope of emotions. Turn the wheel ever so slightly and my emotional mosaic shifts into another beautiful picture of memories, regrets, sadness, excitement, pride, and hope.
I find myself remembering the smallest details about her childhood.
I find myself grading myself as a mom over the last 18 years.
I find myself recalling my own teen years, and college years.
I find myself missing her in the oddest of ways.
Walking in her empty room, still takes my breath away. (Yes, I smell her pillow.) But there is, deeper than all these feelings, an overwhelming sense of joy and gratefulness.
God is so big. So kind. So amazingly faithful. He will continue to be that. To her. And To me.
Believe it or not, I didn’t cry as we drove off. We didn’t understand it necessarily, but we were ready. All of us. And there was a very real peace that passes understanding.
Before the big day, God laid on my heart to capture some of the pearls He had given me. I kept getting a holy ping of “have I told Salem _____ yet”? It would wake me up at night.
These deposits, these pearls of wisdom, are aptly named since pearls are something very beautiful created out of great anguish and agitation. They had come at a high price. And although most teens get tired of hearing “one more thing” from their parents, I wrote her letters anyway. Smile. But then, I felt compelled to share with you the modified versions. His pearls are for us all.
The first Pearl was about our gifts poured out on the feet of Jesus in the same way the woman poured out her best from the alabaster box.
The second pearl is about Pressure.
When I was in college I was broke. And alone. And eager to please an incredible professor. I am not sure which of these factors clouded my judgment. Maybe it was the combination of all three. But I took on the formidable role of the editor of the yearbook, the editor of the newspaper, taking full time classes and working at least 30 hours to keep my tuition discount. Don’t be impressed. The story doesn’t have a happy ending.
“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”
Isaiah 40:1-2 NIV (1984)
Chuck showed me this verse right before I spoke one day. He knew my heart was breaking and full of shame. The speaker right before me had just spent the last ten minutes condemning women for having abortions. She did this broad sweeping character assassination of “those kinds of women.” I had not planned to share my testimony that day, but you can bet that I did. This verse washed off my shame. Again. As I read it out loud the Lord surged in my spirit and whispered that He had given me beauty for ashes, and a double portion instead of shame. (Is. 61) I needed the reminder that when God looked at me, He no longer saw a murderer but a Jesus-washed daughter.
The Lord brought this verse back up again this morning. Why? It speaks to a woman’s heart. I don’t know about you, but I think Mother’s Day is hard on women. For lots of reasons.
What women need on Mother’s Day is real comfort. We don’t need more mother-martyr sap and Hallmark pats on the backs about “where would the world be without a Mother’s Love.” If that were true, the world should be in a better state. It’s not our love the world needs. It’s God’s love we need and rely on.
I mean, thank you for the attempted affirmation. But what mothers need is comfort, from God and from others. We need to know that someone sees us and understands there are many different kinds of mothers in many different emotional places, rejoicing and mourning.
What if there is more to the snow? More than the cooped up crazies with kids or without, or the fear of lost work time, or the endless cooking and cleaning (or avoidance of it). Since God doesn’t waste anything, I wonder, will we tap into the holy lesson of the snow fest?
I was struck by this scripture out of Job the other night. (I know, Job? Really?) Continue reading
When I first saw these berries, I remarked to the Lord that they are like many Christians I know. So much potential and yet frozen over. Two days later, I couldn’t stop thinking about this photo. Then the Lord dropped his interpretation and (surprise!) it was very different from mine. He simply said, “The wait of glory.”
It’s not a spelling error. The wait of glory.
As I mull on this notion, my spiritual synapses ignite like firecrackers. Wait on God. Wait on glory. Believe in His glory. In me? Ah yes, the scripture, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” But hope? What am I hoping in? No, who am I hoping in? He is our hope. Dan-n-n-ng.
Whether we like it or not, there is a “waiting” in the life with Jesus. And it is holy ground. How will we respond?
Think of Moses as he took off his shoes. Why did God ask him do that? Continue reading
Imagine a dried piece of toast. That’s what my heart looked like coming out of the holidays. And I was so confounded by it.
I enjoyed such a rich time with my family and friends, a time for which I am so grateful and don’t take for granted. I don’t know about you, but families can be risky, so having a happy gathering is a big win at my house. Plus when your kids are home for two weeks, and your husband is on vacation, it generally means mom is not! But God answered my prayers that I would truly savor the times we had together. And we did!
Still when it was just me and Jesus again, the kids back at school, Chuck back to the office, the decorations back in boxes, I felt a little iced over. How can this be when we just spent a month celebrating God’s faithfulness and wonder?
Nevertheless. I was dried out. Iced over. Blah.
In the natural, winter demands protective measures. Covering pipes. Wearing warmer clothes. Increasing Vitamin D until the sunshine returns.
I’m finding the spiritual winter demands extra effort as well. The first step for me in warming up was understanding that I am not doing anything wrong necessarily. Continue reading
Christmas devotionals abound, I know. But God connected a dot for me last night and I thought you would enjoy it too. It’s about two women and their radically different responses to God.
Here’s a little context. Every year we do an assortment of Christmas celebrations.
Watch “The Nativity” movie. Read “The Advent” book. Attend a couple of musical presentations.
At one such event, there was moment when the characters acted out the fall of man, and thus the need for the Savior. In this particular drama, Adam exclaimed that Eve got them kicked out of the garden. He seemed bewildered, amazed, overwhelmed by her deception. (Never mind that the man was with the woman when she was tempted by the serpent.)
Call me hyper-sensitive, but there was something yukky about the script or delivery, as if everything would be hunky-dory if it wasn’t for ‘that woman.’ Continue reading