Thursday, June 30, 2016

When You're Tired of the Fence~

Have you ever tried it?

If you have, you know there is no easy or comfortable way to do it.
Perching yourself on a fence, that is.

And because perching is uneasy and far from comfortable,
once you have perched,
you don't stay perched for long.
You either hop off this side of the fence,
or that.
And you soon discover, middle ground isn't an option.

"You know how you can tell if you really love God?"

My husband and I talked about this a lot.
Loving God.
Being authentic in our faith.
Walking the walk, not just talking the talk.

"It all comes down to the fence,'' he would say. "If you truly love God, you just can't do it. There is no way you can love God and sit on the fence. You can try, but you'll end up miserable. With God, you either have to go all the way or not at all."

He knew what he was talking about.
He, like me, (and I'm assuming you, too, possibly)
had tried sitting on the fence more than once.

Trying to love God and love the world.
Trying to say "yes" to God and say "yes" to temptation.
Trying to please our Savior and please self.
Trying to be fit for God's kingdom and fit into our culture.
Trying to have one foot in each place at the exact same time.

Straddling the fence.

"Nope.  If you truly love God you can't do it.  You'll be miserable."

And the miserable we feel in this place of half way in and half way out, must be the same kind of miserable God feels as he watches us fence sitting, teetering this way only to totter that way.

I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! 
~Revelation 3:16

And, I can't help but think of the passage of scripture that was so precious to my husband.
The chapter he would turn to each and every time he had tried to sit on the fence.
The words that became to him
a cry of surrender,
a cry of stepping back onto the God-side,
a cry from his heart that God heard each and every time
he cried out in his fence-bringing misery.

Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Oh, give me back my joy again;
you have broken me -
now let me rejoice.
Don't keep looking at my sins.
Remove the stain of my guilt.
Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Renew a right spirit within me.
Do not banish me from your presence,
and don't take your Holy Spirit from me.
~Psalm 51:7-11

David knew all about fences, too.
And, he knew all about the misery straddling them can bring.

Thankfully, though,
David,
and my handsome honey,
knew all about the God who is waiting by the fence.

The God, who,
when we realize the error of our leaning,
the sin of our straying,
the misery of our wandering,
is waiting to take our hand and help us off the fence.

The God, who,
when we cry out for help,
when we cry out for forgiveness,
when we cry out for nothing or no one to come between us and our Lord,
comes to our rescue and draws us unto Himself.

The God, who,
when we come to our senses and come to Him,
washes us clean,
restores our joy,
and promises to never leave us or forsake us.

Have you tried it?

If you have, you know there is only one way to do it.
Freeing yourself from fence sitting, that is.

Cry out to God -
the very same God who
chose to take his place high up on a wooden cross
so you and I
can find our way down off the fences in our lives.

His love for us sets us free.
Our love for Him will keep us free.

"Love the Lord your God
with all your heart and
with all your soul and
with all your mind and
with all your strength."
~Mark 12:20

Love God
in all ways,
at all times,
always.









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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Seeing God Between the Words of a Conversation~

The conversation was short, not more than maybe a minute long.

I was at a reception following a funeral of a precious friend. As I made my way around the room, saying goodbye to the family of this beautiful lady, an old acquaintance touched my shoulder from behind.

"Hi, Stacy."

"Hello."

"I knew you fell out."

"I'm sorry? Fell out?"

"Fell out of church." And with that statement, he looked at me and shook his head as if to say, "shame on you."

"I may not attend church here anymore, but as far as falling, the only falling I have done, by the grace of God, is falling head over heals in love with Jesus."

Not knowing what to say next, the conversation turned to my husband.

"How's Steve?"

"He's fine. He's perfectly fine. He passed away a few short months ago."

And thankfully, before the conversation could go any further and take any more turns, another person approached me.

Later that night,
as I climbed in bed,
I thought back on this short snippet of time and the words spoken to me.

I thought about how,
if this conversation would have happened years or possibly even months before,
I would have been rattled by it.

How the thought that I "fell out" of church and somehow "out of God" would have had me feeling offended, lashing back, and trying to prove my "spirituality".

How someone asking about my husband would have brought tears and any other response except the one that flowed out of my heart and mind without me even thinking about it -
"He's fine. He's perfectly fine."

How falling head over heals in love with Jesus had changed everything.

When you have Jesus,
truly have Jesus -
not religion,
not church,
but the Lover of your soul,
you don't have to prove it.

When you have Jesus,
truly have Jesus -
not going through the motions,
not pretending or "playing church",
but a deep, intimate, heart to heart relationship with Jesus,
you can trust His heart
even when you can't understand His plan.

When you have Jesus,
truly have Jesus -
and He truly has you -
it changes everything
because it changes you.

Yes, the conversation was short, not more than maybe a minute long.
And yet, in this brief moment of dialogue, God spoke to my heart in the most beautiful way.

"You are mine, sweet daughter, and I love you.
I'm so glad you "fell out" of religion and fell in love with Me.
I've got you in the palm of my nail-scarred hands.
You can trust Me.
I'm your Abba Daddy and I am working all things for good."









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Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Relentless Longing~

So many times, we look in the wrong place to find the freedom we so desperately seek. 

The way a person struggling to lose weight heads to the refrigerator. 
The way a person struggling to pay off a credit card debt heads to the shopping mall. 
The way a person struggling to stay sober heads to the bar. 
The way a person struggling to be loved heads to the home of an abuser. 
The way a person struggling to be free from sin heads straight into temptation.

We long to break loose, 

long to break free, 
long to proclaim victory, 
and yet time and time again, 
we find ourself sinking in the quicksand of the very thing we are trying to escape. 

We long to turn away, 
turn over a new leaf, 
be done once and for all, 
and yet over and over 
we find ourself back in the grip of that which won't seem to let us loose.

If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.
~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery

A desire to escape the sandy shore, 

a yearning to launch out into the deep, 
a hungering to finally be where only dreams have gone, 
a nonsatiable longing to experience the freedom of life on the sea - 
this is what is most needed in a ship builder. 

Not wisdom to design a ship. 
Not knowledge of which wood withstands water the best. 
Not craftiness with a hammer, a saw, and some nails. 
(Although, each of these would be helpful). 
A nonsatiable longing.

If you want to "build" a new you, 

don't look for a formula, 
don't search for a self-help book, 
don't devise a plan or plan a strategy, 
but rather long for the only One who can fill the immensity of the void in your heart. 

This is what is most needed for a change of heart. 

Not wisdom about a healthy diet. 
Not knowledge of how to balance your checkbook. 
Not an understanding of how old habits can lead to reaching for a bottle. 
Not a realization that hurting people hurt people. 
(Although, each of these would be helpful). 
And most certainly, not religion.

But rather,
a deep desire to go beyond that which holds you back
to the very One who longs to hold you. 


A relentless yearning to finally be free
of that which holds you in its grip,
to be captured by the very One who will never let you go
.

A hungering and thirsting for the only One
who can truly satisfy the desire of your heart.


A nonsatiable longing for a Savior, for a Redeemer, for a Healer.

Jesus said, “I tell you most solemnly that anyone who chooses a life of sin is trapped in a dead-end life and is, in fact, a slave. A slave is a transient, who can’t come and go at will. The Son, though, has an established position, the run of the house. So if the Son sets you free, you are free through and through."
~ John 8:34-36 (MSG)

He reached down and drew me from the deep, dark hole
where I was stranded,
mired in the muck and clay.
With a gentle hand, He pulled me out.
~ Psalm 40:2a (The Voice)

He set my feet on solid ground
and steadied me as I walked along.
~ Psalm 40:2b (NLT)

For no temptation (no trial regarded as enticing to sin), [no matter how it comes or where it leads] has overtaken you and laid hold on you that is not common to man [that is, no temptation or trial has come to you that is beyond human resistance and that is not adjusted and adapted and belonging to human experience, and such as man can bear]. But God is faithful [to His Word and to His compassionate nature], and He [can be trusted] not to let you be tempted and tried and assayed beyond your ability and strength of resistance and power to endure, but with the temptation He will [always] also provide THE WAY out (the means of escape to a landing place), that you may be capable and strong and powerful to bear up under it patiently.
~ 1 Corinthians 10:13 (AMP)

Jesus answered, ‘I am THE WAY and the truth and the life."
~John 14:6

Blessed are the ones hungering and thirsting as to righteousness,
because they will be filled-to-satisfaction.
~Matthew 5:6 (DLNT)

He has quenched their thirst,
and He has satisfied their hunger with what is good.
~ Psalm 107:9 (VOICE)

A relentless longing for the Lover of your soul . . .~♥












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Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Blessing~

Sometimes,
when you've been blessed with a blessing as far back as your memory can go,
you don't truly realize or fully comprehend the blessedness of your blessing. 

Eyes that see. 
Roofs that cover.
Meals that satisfy.
Families that love.

Sometimes,
it's not until you happen upon someone who,
as far back as their memory can go,
has not been blessed with the blessings you have,
that you suddenly realize the blessing that makes your blessing such a blessing.

Eyesight.
Shelter.
Provision.
Love.
(to name just a few)

Sadly,
so often,
blessings easily overlooked when present,
and yet so immensely desired when absent.

And, you wonder
how is it that you were blessed and they weren't,
how you never truly gave these precious gifts more than a second glance, a second thought,
while others have spent hour after hour wishing, dreaming, and speculating what it would be like
to have what you have.

And, you wonder why God would love you like He does,
why He would bless you as He has,
why He would pour into your life until your cup runneth over.

And, the answer that would come,
if you (and I) would sit still long enough to hear it,
would be this:

You have been blessed to be be blessing.
You have been given abundantly to
so that you might give abundantly from.

And, if you (and I)
would be gracious givers,
pouring into the world
the blessings we have received
from our most generous God,
we would start to realize,
the true blessing,
one we quite possibly have been missing since as far back as our memory can go,
is the blessing that comes when we,
like our God,
bless someone else.





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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A Life That Goes Beyond~

"Don't be hot, Beautiful.  Please, Baby.  Don't be hot."

As I started my car, turned on the air conditioning, and buckled my seatbelt, I felt like going anywhere, but home.

Four weeks of temperatures in the upper 90s,
plus home air conditioning that was refusing to "condition",
plus four months of living alone in an empty house without my handsome honey
had me wiping tears as I turned to back out of the church parking lot.

"Just do it, Beautiful.  Just ask them.  They won't mind.  Please, Baby. Don't be hot."

As I headed down the street toward my neighborhood, I could almost hear the voice of my husband.
And, in my heart's ear, it sounded sad -
so very sad.

Just knowing the way he loved -
the way he always wanted to protect me,
the way he always longed to make things right for me,
the way he couldn't stand to see me
hurting,
suffering,
struggling -
I knew it would break his heart if he knew I had been living in this heat with no air conditioning.

Back in May, before the weather ripped off its spring attire and started strutting its full summer look,
my neighbors graciously offered to service my air conditioner and get it ready for summer.

Only, when the weather finally did turn hot, and I turned my air conditioner from "off" to "on", nothing happened. Hot day after hot night, after hot day after hot night, I was hot. And yet, I couldn't muster up the courage to go next door and ask these kindhearted neighbors to climb back up on my roof.

What is it about asking for help that keeps us from asking for help?

Getting closer to home the radio reminded me of the forecast for the week ahead - triple digits.

And again, these words:
"Don't be hot, Beautiful.  Please, Baby.  Don't be hot."

Arriving home, I decided to put off going inside as long as I could. So, instead of reaching for the key to unlock the front door, I reached for the faucet and the hose and began watering some flowers along our front walk, praying all the while God would "make a way" for me to ask the neighbors for help.

And, that's when it happened. The gentleman of the house next door came out to do some watering of his own.  And, at that very moment, it was almost as if the love of my husband and the love of my Heavenly Father came together to give me the strong nudge in the back I needed.

Before I knew it, I heard myself saying, "Hi. I hate to bother you, but . . ."
And, just like that, a ladder was propped up next to my house, and my neighbor and his son were on my roof.

For over 2 hours they worked on my roof.  But, when the ladder was taken down, and the tools were all neatly tucked back in their toolbox, cool air was blowing through out my house.

And, I tell you all of that to ask you this:

Have you ever thought about the span of your life?  Not the time of your life between the moment you take your first breath and your last, but the span of your life long after you have gone.

Losing my husband has completely changed the way I view most things now. Before he passed away, I thought I wanted to leave behind a legacy.  Now, I am thinking more in terms of extending the span of my life.

Because you see,
a legacy is just that,
something you leave behind.

But, to extend the span of your life -
long beyond the actual living of your life -
this, this reaches out into the future even after you have gone.

The way my husband loved -
is spanning the chasm of death and reaching out into my today and tomorrow, even now.

Knowing the way he would feel about something,
hearing the words he spoke time and time again replay in my mind,
remembering the actions of his heart and what he would do if he was here to do it,
all of this and so much more
keeps showing up here and now, still, even in his absence.

Dictionary.com defines span as:
the full extent, stretch, or reach of anything
to extend over or across

The way my husband lived and the beautiful, faithful way he loved,
is still reaching into my today and my tomorrow.
And, I am so grateful.

More than this, though,
I am grateful for the love of my Jesus that spans this life and continues on for all eternity.

His love,
a love that was born to die,
a love that spanned the width of a cross and the width of all humanity,
will forever be reaching into my today, my tomorrow, and my forever.

Knowing the way He loves,
grasping the way He feels,
hearing the words He speaks into my life time and time again,
remembering the actions of  His heart and what He would have me do,
all of this and so much more
is every part of every moment of every day of my life.

To make a difference while we are alive,
yes,
but to make a difference even after the sting of death -
this, this is the desire of my heart.

I want my life to count with every breath I take,
yes,
but,
more than this,
so much more than this,
I want it to count long after my breath is no more.

I want the way I love to count now,
yes,
but,
I want the way I loved to one day combine with the love of the Holy Spirit
and be the strong nudge that others may need to
ask for help,
pray a prayer,
pick up their Bible,
surrender their heart,
flee the voice of the enemy,
run straight to the arms of God.

I want words I have spoken in the past to remind someone who needs reminding that

"God loves you."

"God will always bless you with that which matters most."

"Nothing you can do will ever make God love you less. Nothing you can do will make God love you more. God loves you because He loves you.  It's as simple and as amazing as that."

"God's ways are perfectly perfect."

"No matter how many steps you've taken away from God, it only takes one to get back"

and then, propel them upward and onward into their future, ever closer to their Heavenly Father.

I don't want to leave a legacy behind me,
I want to love and live in a way that my life
spans out beyond me,
even when,
especially when,
I am only a memory.

I want my life to keep on drawing others into a saving knowledge of Jesus
all the way
up until
the very moment when
our Savior returns to take us home.








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Sunday, June 12, 2016

When You Hit the Wall~

Have you ever hit the wall?

You know.
You were moving forward,
making progress,
and then,
all of the sudden,
without any warning,
all forward progress came to a screeching halt?

No matter what you do.
No matter what you don't do.
Nothing seems to be able to propel you into a forward motion again.

It's almost as though you've stepped into an invisible puddle of super glue and you're stuck.

This is how I have been feeling for the past couple of weeks.
I feel as though I am in a spiritual funk.

Thankfully, I know my God is right here with me.
He, who is faithful, has promised to never leave me or forsake me.
I can still hear His still small voice,
and I can still feel the stir of His Spirit deep in my inner man.
God is here, but I can't seem to get lose from this "stagnant" place.

Tonight, wanting so desperately to step free and to get back to moving on,
I cried out to God.
As I opened His word,
His Spirit guided me here,
to these precious words:

"God, my shepherd!
I don't need a thing.
You have bedded  me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction."
~Psalm 23:1-3, MSG

And, I realized,
much to my total amazement and complete delight,
this place I am finding myself at
is a gift, -
a gift lovingly given to my by The Good Shepherd.

Because,
truth be told,
this sheep is tired.
This sheep is weary.
This sheep is worn.

This sheep has been trying to keep up with all the other sheep.

This sheep has been trying
to keep marching on
and fighting the good fight of faith,
to keep going and going and going . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

But,
honestly,
this sheep has no more get up and go to get up and go with.

But,
I've been trying to.

And, not only that,
I have been getting completely frustrated with myself for not -
for not doing,
for not accomplishing,
for not moving on,
for not arriving,
for. being. stuck!

In fact,
I've been so consumed with frustration in this "sedentary" place,
I have foolishly failed to notice,
much less partake of,
the lush meadows and the quiet pools of refreshment
God has so graciously placed before me.

I have failed to simply rest in this place and catch my breath.

And, I wonder about you.

How, maybe like me,
God has brought you to a "resting place".
And, maybe like me,
you are so blinded by your desire to move forward,
you are convinced this place of blessing
is nothing more than an unwanted spiritual funk -
a place to fight your way through and back out of.

Maybe, like me,
you've been so busy resisting the "pause",
you've failed to notice the blessing in this place of stillness.

Hear these words again:

"God, my shepherd!
I don't need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction."

Oh, these precious words.

Maybe, just maybe,
it's time for you and me to catch our breath.

Maybe, just maybe,
The Good Shepherd is treating you and me the way He always does -
with tender kindness, mercy, love and grace.

Maybe, just maybe,
our Abba Daddy is pulling us from the rat race of human existence and inviting us
to come and to sit at His feet,
to come and drink of The Living Water found only in Him.

Maybe, just maybe,
our Heavenly Father is not keeping us from,
but fortifying,
equipping,
strengthening,
and renewing us,
in the midst of.

Let's catch our breath.

And then,
when the Good Shepherd is ready to lead,
let's you and me follow Him
all
   the
      days
         of
           our
               life.








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Thursday, June 9, 2016

Too Sacred for Words~

It's been awhile.

As my fingers brush atop the keys on my laptop, I feel as though I am home.

Writing - it's a sacred place.
This emptying of your soul,
assembling together letters and sounds to bring life and meaning to what sometimes cannot be expressed. Roget's thesaurus is a handy helper, but sometimes, even it comes up empty.
Sometimes, there are no words.

Only a stirring.
Only a groaning.
Only a fire.

Only a sacred connection between my heart and the heart of God Almighty,
and not a word in this world to type on a page to communicate
what I am thinking,
what He is revealing,
what I am feeling,
what He is ministering,
what I am learning,
what He is teaching,
what I receiving,
what He is pouring into my life.
So, my fingers are stilled,
my page blank,
while all the while,
my heart is overflowing.

Perhaps there are no words because this moment is one too sacred to be shared.

Maybe our time together, is simply that: OUR time - just my God and me.

Quite possibly, 
this time of communion between
The Creator and His created,
The Redeemer and His redeemed,                  
The Father and His daughter,
is one to be kept solely between
The Lover of my soul and His beloved.

In these moments,
when the words have vanished,
but His presence His undeniable,
I lay aside my keyboard,
I lay down my pen,
and I simply
abide.

And these moments,
these precious times of communion between my Lord and I,
are more,
so much more,
more than any word in this world can ever hope to tell.








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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

How to Win the Battle~

Of course I have no way of knowing,
no way of knowing at all,
the places,
the moments,
the situations,
the circumstances,
that make up your battle.

But, I know without a doubt,
without any doubt at all,
that you are in a battle.

And chances are,
you are not in only one battle,
but two or three or four or five.

It comes as no surprise that a soldier will find his or herself on the battlefield.
It's where soldiers are called to be,
and battling is what soldiers are called to do.
And, you and I,
if we are in the Lord's army,
are front and center,
smack dab,
right there on the front line.

But,
what we don't always remember,
and what we are often quick to forget is this:
The battle belongs to the Lord.
Always has. Always will.

Yes, we are called to take our position.
Yes, we are called to dig in our feet and hold our ground.
Yes, we are called to stand guard and defend our faith.

But,
when it comes to
the strategy,
the maneuvering,
the game plan,
the force,
the ability,
the victory winning power needed to be victorious in our battle,
it is all up to God.

Not you.  Not me.

And, if we happen to gain any ground,
if we happen to divide, defeat, and conquer,
if we happen to be declared the winner,
what we don't always remember.
and what we are often quick to forget is this:
The battle belongs to the Lord.
Always has. Always will.

 Not you.  Not me.

We are not responsible for the outcome.
Period.
God is.

Remembering this
takes the pressure off of us,
and it also takes the "praise" off of us.

Wanting so desperately to speak words of tribute about my man at his celebration of life service,
as well as speak words of life about the God my husband knew and served and lived his life for,
I prayed for God to work in me and through me
to accomplish His will,
to speak His words,
to shine His light.
God graciously and amazingly did just that.

A couple of days ago, I was able to share the video of me speaking at his service with friends who were unable to attend.

One friend sent me the following message:

I just had a chance to listen to what you shared about Steve. My friend you are much stronger than I. I don't think I could have done that. It was very beautiful what you said. He would be proud of you. You are such a great speaker and a great blessing to others. God has really blessed you. You can do mighty things for Him. May He continue to bless you as you serve Him.

I replied back with the following words:

I doubt very much that I am stronger than you. In the very heart of you is the strength that was in the very heart of me that day - God. I knew I had to speak about Steve and about choosing to live for God that day and I prayed God would give me the words. I didn't write anything down before hand - couldn't of written any thing down if I tried - and when I stood to walk up to the podium I simply prayed, "It's all you, God. Speak." And, He did. He knew I wanted nothing more than to be able to personally greet all 198 people who came to his service and to speak. And, he granted me both. You never know how you will react or respond in a situation, but I am here to tell you God is faithful and He will do in you and through you what you could never ever do on your own. I am living proof.

This is where the battle is won -
surrendering fully to what God is calling us to do,
then surrendering fully again,
to allow God to do what only He can do,
in us and through us.

We fight the battle
not in our strength,
but His.

We win the battle,
not in our strength,
but His.

And, we celebrate the victory,
not in our name,
but His.

This is how we win the battle.









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