Thursday, May 25, 2017

When We Stop Realizing~

So often,
we think age equates maturity -
the older we are
the more mature we are.

And yet,
this isn't always the case.

An adult can be just as immature as a child,
if not more so.

The same is true spiritually.

We may have grown up in church.
We may have read the Bible through and through.
We may have hidden scriptures in our hearts.
We may even earn our living by serving in ministry.

And yet,
Peter,
with all the conviction and fervency
he can convey using mere words,
warns us of the
not-to-be-missed,
not-to-be-overlooked,
not-to-be-taken-lightly truth
in these two verses:

Therefore, dear friends,
since you have been forewarned,
be on guard so that you may not be
carried away by the error of the lawless
and fall from your secure position.
But grow in the grace and knowledge
of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
~2 Peter 3:17-18

Growth requires growing.

I know this sounds more than obvious,
but how often do we stop to realize
that if we stop realizing
we stop growing?
(Go ahead. Re-read that again. I'll wait.)

When we stop realizing how precious grace is.

When we stop realizing how undeserving we are of it.

When we stop realizing our ever present need of it.

When we stop realizing others need it, too.

When we stop realizing how often we fail in grace-full living.

And,
what about knowledge?

When we stop realizing hidden truths revealed by the Spirit.

When we stop realizing our need for intimate fellowship with God.

When we stop realizing knowing leads us to doing.

When we stop realizing we don't know it all.

Therefore, dear friends,
since you have been forewarned,
be on guard so that you may not be
carried away by the error of the lawless
and fall from your secure position.
But grow in the grace and knowledge
of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
~2 Peter 3:17-18

How do we keep from being carried away?
How do we keep from falling from our secure position?

We keep growing in the grace and knowledge
of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

No, age doesn't equate maturity;
steady growth does.

May we heed the words of Peter.

May we keep realizing our need to realize.

May we keep
growing in His grace,
growing in His knowledge,
growing up in Christ.









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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

When Religion Hurts~

Sometimes our greatest need
and our place of coming face to face with Jesus
and receiving His all consuming healing,
will be the very place that
separates us from the crowd,
leaves us on the outside looking in,
gets us thrown right out of the synagogue.

Sometimes our deepest wound
and our place of touching heart to heart with God
and experiencing His all consuming love,
will be the very place that
people question and pass judgment,
people turn their backs,
people completely miss the touch of God.

Not everybody will celebrate a healing.
Not everybody will rejoice a life set free.
Not everybody will recognize God's unmistakable presence in a life
or the work He is doing through a life.

And sadly,
sometimes,
it is the religious people of the day -
those who profess
to understand God best,
to know God most -
who miss God altogether.

And sadly,
sometimes,
it is the religious people of the day -
those who profess
to be doing in the name of God
and ministering in the name of God,
who misrepresent God altogether.

God seldom moves the same way twice.
His miracles are as unique and individual
as each unique and individual circumstance,
as each unique and individual person.

If we look for Him
inside the box,
within our neatly defined man-made rules,
we are sure to miss Him.

A man was born blind -
not because he or his parents had sinned
like the religious people of the day piously speculated,
but so through his need,
and God's surpassing greatness to meet this need,
God would be glorified.

When Jesus,
through spit, mud,
and blind faith on the part of the blind man,
brought sight where only darkness had been,
those walking in religious darkness refused to see
The Light.

Holding on to all they had to hold on to,
they couldn't see beyond
the traditions of men and their religious rules.

And despite the fact that not one blind person
had ever been given sight before,
the man healed  -
who had come face to face with Jesus,
who had come heart to heart with God,
who now believed this must be God,
was thrown out the synagogue.

No clapping.
No celebrating.
No rejoicing.

Only Judgment.
Only "We know better than you."
Only rejection.

For the man who was blind but could now see,
this was his second blessing.
For not only did he receive the gift of sight that day,
he received
in place of religion,
the gift of Jesus, Himself,
and he fell down and worshiped Him.

Living Christianity by a set of rules,
with an unchanged, religious heart
will always lead to judging others
instead of trying to save others.

Just look at the woman caught in adultery.
It was the religious people of the day
who brought her to Jesus for judgment,
who held the stones in their hands.

Just like this woman,
just like this blind man,
I've been in their shoes.

Maybe, you have, too.

When my greatest need
and my coming face to face with Jesus
and receiving of His all consuming healing
found me
separated from the crowd,
on the outside looking in,
thrown right out of the synagogue.

When my greatest wound
and my coming heart to heart with God
and experiencing His all consuming love
found me
questioned and judged,
turned on,
and my touch of God completely missed.

When I lost my husband,
God led me to my laptop.
Raw, honest words of grief
poured freely from my heart and out through my fingertips.
But, always - always - always -
woven between each and every word
were the precious words whispered to my heart by His precious Spirit -
words affirming, reminding and giving testimony to
the healing presence,
the faithfulness,
and the all consuming love of my God.

In every word I wrote,
in every breath I took,
in every tear I cried,
He was the ALL that was
upholding me,
sustaining me,
guiding me,
blessing me,
carrying me,
refreshing me,
restoring me,
healing me.

God opened my eyes
in my time of greatest need and deepest wounding
to see His presence
and to witness His glory as never before.

Only those around me missed it.
They completely missed.

This - seven months after losing my man.

"We don't think you're handling the death of your husband right."

"Oh, what makes you think that?"

"We read your writing. You need to agree to grief counseling or you are terminated immediately."

But like this man who was once blind but could now see,
my rejection was my second blessing.
For not only did I receive the gift of knowing God as never before,
I have and continue to see God use
the very words He gave me,
the very words that poured from a heart of grief
to heal and comfort,
to mend and bind,
to encourage and lift up those
all around the world
who are brokenhearted.

The very words
that got me thrown out of ministry at the church where I worked
have become my ministry.

My greatest need and deepest wound
have been used by God
to glorify my God
in ways I could never even think or imagine.

Healing and a testimony for a blind man.
Forgiveness and a testimony for a woman caught in adultery.
Comfort and a testimony for a widow making her way through grief.

Religion minus the love of Jesus - judges, hurts, and rejects people.
Jesus minus the man-made rules of religion - heals, saves, and restores people.

Yes, I've been in their shoes.

And like this man who was once blind but could now see,
and like the woman who was caught in adultery,
I, too,
with praise and thanksgiving
pouring from my heart,
fall at His feet and worship Him.












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Saturday, May 20, 2017

If Only~

If only they would have known.

And yet, from their very actions,
it is very clear,
they didn't have a clue.

The one they thought would stand with them,
stooped passively to the ground and
began writing in the sand.

The one they thought would listen to their accusations,
knelt silently in their midst and
began speaking to their hearts.

The one they thought would dole out judgment,
stood in this temple
now turned into a make-shirt courtroom and
began revealing again
why He was here,
why He had come,
why He had placed upon His divinity, humanity.

"He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone."*

"Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath not man condemned thee?"**

"Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more."***

And this, yes - this:
"Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man."****

If only they would have known
the heart and the mission of Jesus.

If they had,
these seekers of judgment and condemnation,
never would have taken this disgraced lady
and placed her at the feet of the God of all grace.

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; 
but that the world through him might be saved.
~John 3:17

If only they would have known
Jesus doesn't seek to find our faults and expose them to the world;
Jesus seeks to find our hearts and expose us to His love, forgiveness, and grace.

If only they would have known
Jesus isn't a judge; Jesus is a Savior.

And while sin abounded that day
in the lives of all that were present,
(all except Jesus, of course)
only one found grace.
Only one found forgiveness.
Only one left free and whole.


If only they would have known.






* ~John 8:7
** ~John 8:10
***~John 8:11
****~John 8:15








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Friday, May 19, 2017

I Want to See~

As soon as I turn the corner, I see him.
White cane in hand,
he taps his way along the sidewalk.

The tilt of his head in my direction
lets me know
he has "seen" me, too.

As I slowly drive past,
I try to imagine life in his shoes.

Guided by touch.
Navigating through life by way of sound.
Living each moment without truly seeing all that the moment holds.

To not be able to see a sunrise.

To not be able to stand atop a vista and take in the view.

To not be able to gaze into the eyes of a child.

To not be able to read a hand-written letter.

To not be able to see your own reflection in a mirror.

As I make my way on down the street,
heading back into my own life,
I steal one more view of him in the rear-view mirror.

And, I see it.

The face of this man is not only sporting darkly tinted glasses,
but also a smile.

I pause in my heart and wonder.

Is it possible to be blind and yet still see?
Is it possible to see and yet be so very blind?

Hear this, you foolish and senseless people,
who have eyes but do not see,
who have ears but do not hear.
~Jeremiah 5:21

Do you have eyes but fail to see,
and ears but fail to hear?
~Mark 8:18

Vision.
It is so much more
than seeing what is in front of us.

How often do you and I walk through life blind?

Guided by fear.
Navigating our way through life
by way of earthly cares and concerns,
insecurities and doubts.
Living each moment without truly seeing all that the moment holds.

To not be able to see the heartache underneath the smile of a dear friend.

To not be able to see the sin in our own heart.

To not be able to see God's design for our life tucked into the trials and disappointments.

To not be able to see the strength we possess because Christ lives in us.

To not be able to see the blessings of today because we're stuck in the past and worrying about the future.

To not be able to see God in the everyday moments of our day.

Oh precious, Lord. I want to see.
I don't want to stumble through life
only catching a glimpse of You here
or a brief view of You there.

I want to see You in everything,
in all things,
in the WHOLE of my life.

Touch the eyes of my heart, Lord.
Remove all that hinders me from having a clear view.
OPEN. MY. EYES.
I want to see, Lord.

Arriving at my destination,
I step out of my car.

As I walk along the sidewalk,
I look up,
and,
I see it.

There,
as plain as day
is a heart-shaped cloud.

God's healing touch has already begun,
and I smile.










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Thursday, May 18, 2017

When You Are Totally Immersed Deep Within~

Sometimes we only see the teeniest, tiniest glimpse of what God is doing.
Other times, in retrospect, we see the enormity of what God has already done
and is continuing to do
and it is more than we could ever have hoped, dreamed, or imagined.

"You should start a blog."

Words from my sister in 2009.
Not knowing what a blog even was,
and not being a writer,
her words seemed more like a funny joke than a sensible suggestion.

"Really, you should."

So, I did.

Now, here I sit, almost midnight, almost 8 years later.

And while I know all that Heartprints of God has always been and will always be is
God-orchestrated, God-inspired, God-fueled, God-given -
the past 15 months here,
in this space,
have been for me, personally,
an absolute life saver.

So often, when God calls us "into service"
we think we are the ones ministering to others
when God, Himself, is using our willingness and our obedience
to minister to us.

For me,
during this "wilderness season" of grief, transition,
and an "alone" unlike I have ever felt before,
God has used this precious place
to meet some of my deepest needs.

He has used comments, likes, shares, messages, emails
and prayers from you, my faithful readers,
to fill my heart with a renewed sense of hope and purpose.

"Oh Lord, where would I be without Heartprints of God?
What would I have to fill my days and
what would I have to satisfy this insatiable need
to tell others about Your goodness?
For 25 years, I have been in ministry.
I've been in classrooms and churches where
I've been able to use my God-given gifts to minister to others.
But now, Lord.
Here in this wilderness place.
What would I do without Heartprints of God?"

These are the words that poured from my heart tonight
as I washed my face while getting ready for bed.

And not surprising to those of you who know me or
those who have read here for any amount of time,
tears followed.

Tears of thanksgiving.
Tears of praise.
Tears of overwhelming realization that
those 5 words - "you should start a blog" -
were for such a time as this.

And then, this -
the realization that if we are willing
when we hear God say,
"Really, you should"
and we do,
there is nothing He can't do through us.

I'm not a writer -
but here in this place,
God writes through me.

And these past 15 months,
God has used this place not only to
(I pray) encourage you,
but to encourage me

He has used this place not only to
(I pray) comfort you,
but to comfort me.

He has used this place not only to
(I pray) draw you closer to Him,
but to draw me closer to Him.

He has used this place not only to
(I pray) fan the flames of your faith,
but to fan the flames of my faith.

He has used this place not only to
(I pray) help you find your purpose
and your place in and through Him,
but to help me find my purpose
and my place in and through Him.

He has used this place not only to
(I pray) provide companionship,
fellowship and a sense of
you-are-not-in-this-alone to you,
but to provide companionship,
fellowship and a sense of
you-are-not-in-this-alone to me.

"Oh Lord, where would I be without Heartprints of God?"

But thank God, I am not without.
I am totally immersed deep within.

And, I thank Him with every fiber of my being,
from the deepest place of my heart.
For where would Heartprints of God be
if it weren't for my God who meets me here?

And I thank you.
For where would Heartprints of God be
if it weren't for you who join me here?

How can one lady be so extremely blessed?

I don't know.

But, I am.
I most certainly am.

"You should start a blog. Really, you should."

Oh, I am so glad God did.











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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A Captured Thought~

A captured thought.

That's what it was.

There, written right next to the verse,
the thought of my man
as he thought about his God,
captured in black ink
on the now-yellowed pages
of his Bible.

And, instantly,
his thought about his God
captured my thoughts.

So much so,
that I put the Bible down,
picked up my laptop
and googled the word he had written.

It's not that I wasn't familiar with this word,
I was.
It's just the word lover in me knows
there is always more to a word
than first meets our eyes.

And, there is always, always, always
more to the words in God's Holy Word
than first meets our heart, too.

Depth. Richness. Insight.

A thought just waiting to be captured
and illuminated by the precious Holy Spirit.

Dignifies.

This is the word my love had written.

According to TheFreeDictionary.com dignify means
1. To confer dignity or honor on; give distinction to
2. To raise the status of (something unworthy or lowly); make honorable

Dictionary.com defines dignify like this:
1. to confer honor or dignity upon; honor; ennoble
2. to give a high-sounding title or name to; confer unmerited distinction upon [emphasis mine]

Turning my gaze back to my husband's Bible
(one of my most precious treasures on this earth!)
I realized,
yes,
his thought had completely captured
the depth,
the richness,
the insight
tucked deep into the words
found in the first few verses of Psalm 103.




Dignifies.

Yes, this is exactly
(and amazingly and unbelievably)
what our God does.

He places upon us unmerited distinction as His children.
He gives us a high sounding title and name - Children of God.
He raises our status from a lowly sinner to an heir of God and a joint-heir with Jesus.

He dignifies us.

I'm so thankful my husband wrote down
the thought that captured his attention
as he read these verses.

His thought,
captured mine.

In fact, I'm still sitting here
captured by the thought
of  how His lovingkindness and His tender mercies
do indeed bring so much dignity
to me,
to my life,
to my hopes and my dreams,
to my past, my present, and my future.

He. Dignifies. Me.

He. Dignifies. You.

Selah (Pause and think about that)

Yes, pause and think about that.

Let it capture your thoughts, too.

Because if you do -
I have a feeling,
just like me
as I turned the page
and continued feeding and digesting on His Word,
you will find yourself
sitting a little taller in your chair,
holding a little higher your head,
and living out a little louder
the words of this Psalm:

Bless the Lord,
Oh my soul;
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name.








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Sunday, May 14, 2017

This, I know This~

There's not a whole lot
I know a whole lot about.

But, this -
I know this.
In fact, I consider myself an expert.

I know the heart of a mother.

As a teacher and administrator for 18 years
and a Director of Children's Ministries for 7,
I have met and known an incredible amount of mothers.

From sitting with our knees tucked up under our chins
in chairs designed for those much younger than us,
to standing outside my classroom door,
to late night phone calls,
to notes left behind on my desk,
to prayer requests and prayers prayed together on bent knees, -
I have been face to face with
the heart of a mother.

From mothers who
never finished high school and
felt so ill-equipped to be a mother,
to mothers who
had diplomas and degrees and yet,
felt so ill-equipped to be a mother.

From mothers who
with humble eyes bent low and hands outstretched
asking to borrow money from me until the next pay check
wondered how not having enough was
shaping their child,
to mothers who
having "more than enough"
wondered how their affluence and easy life style was
shaping theirs.

From mothers who
were divorced and broken
trying to find their identity
while helping their children find theirs,
to mothers who
were stay-at-home-housewives
trying to find their identity
while helping their children find theirs.

From mothers who
wanting only the best for their children
felt over-controlling, outspoken, and out of line,
to mothers who
wanting only the best for their children
felt too-passive, easily manipulated, and out of control.

From mothers who
had lost a child
through miscarriage, death, or divorce
feared the future with one less,
to mothers who
expecting yet again
feared the future with one more.

The heart of a mother.

It is giving, sacrificing, loving, caring, mending, nurturing, correcting, listening, instructing, molding, yearning, desiring, lamenting, pondering, inspiring, empowering, encouraging, teaching, releasing, embracing, refining, defining, determining, questioning, believing, hoping, willing, and unrelenting,

In the heart of a mother,
I have seen the heart of our Heavenly Father.

A heart that will stop at nothing
for the good of her children.

A heart that will give its all
so that all might be given
to her son and to her daughter.

A heart that
even if it costs its own
will give and give and give.

Yes, I have seen and known
the heart of a mother.

And, It. Is. Beautiful.

If the heart of a mere human,
flawed and imperfect as we are
can be this beautiful,
how beautiful still is the heart
of our Heavenly Father?

I'm not there yet,
because the vastness of His heart
is unfathomable, incomprehensible, without boundaries or end.

But the more I
sit with my knees tucked up under my chin at His feet,
or stand in His presence with hands lifted high,
or kneel before Him with humble eyes turned down and outstretched hands,
the more I come face to face with His heart.

No, I'm not an expert
on the heart of our Heavenly Father,
but from the glimpses I have seen,
It. Is. Beautiful.

It. Is. Beautiful. Beyond. That. Of. A. Heart. Of. A. Mother.

It. Is. Beautiful. Beyond. Description.

It. Is. Beautiful. That. We. Can't. Even. Imagine.

We see bits and pieces of it in the heart of a mother.

We see the height and depth of it on Calvary's cross.

But, one day -
one day we will see it face to face.

There's not a whole lot
I know a whole lot about.

But this-
I know this.

I can't wait to spend eternity becoming an expert on
the heart of our Heavenly Father.










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Friday, May 12, 2017

Who I am~

The last few days
I feel as though I have been riding through life
on a fast moving train
heading back in time,
instead of forward.

Trying to talk myself into
at least talking with myself about
what to do with some of my husband's belongings
led me to the closet in our spare bedroom.

The closet where
when my husband and I said "I do"
all the memorabilia of his past
and all the mementos of mine
became wed together right along with the two of us.

As I pulled out boxes
that hadn't seen the light of day
in almost 20 years,
each one was like a surprise waiting to happen.

His boxes held
photos of his journey through school,
family gatherings,
and those who had come before -

sports clippings and programs
from homerun hits, baskets dunked, and games won -

tiny cowboy boots, complete with little spurs,
and a baby memory book highlighting firsts -
and letters from girls in his past.

My boxes held
photos of my journey through school as a teacher,
best friends, and celebrations with family -

teacher devotionals, teacher gifts,
and so precious - teacher cards made with love and little hands -

my favorite childhood books, some favorite craft projects, college id cards -
and letters from boys in my past.

Admittedly,
the belongings in his boxes and mine,
evoked feelings from every single point
on the emotional wheelchart.

And I realized
like maybe never before
the immeasurable amount of life
that is tucked into a life.

Honestly.
It's incredible when you truly stop
and retrace all the living you have done.

And, I realized this:
I have gone through the entire span of my life,
(at least in relationships I've had so far)
answering to names that are not my given name at all.

My dad always referred to me as "Daddy's darlin".
My best male friend all the time growing up
and until he passed away at the young age of 33,
always called me "Lady Alike".
My college romance all through college knew me as "Precious".

And my handsome honey - to him, always, always, always - I was "Beautiful".

Darlin, Lady Alike, Precious, Beautiful.

And you know what?
When I was with my dad, I felt like his darlin'.
When I was with my best friend, I felt very lady alike.
When I was with my college romance, I felt precious.

And, when I was with my handsome honey, I felt beautiful.

In their eyes.  

They spoke it into me and over me and out through me.

The power of a name.

But, we all know,
the world isn't made up of only
fathers and mothers, best friends, college romances, and husbands and wives.

And, we all know,
sometimes,
as heartbreakingly true as it is,
it is our own parent or family member or supposed friend or lover who
instead of names of affirmation and truth
speak names of degradation, humiliation and lies over our life.

If we aren't careful,
it is easy to let the names placed on us by others
(good or bad)
become who we think we are.

It's why it is so important
you and I don't look for our identity
in a box of old love letters,
or old newspaper clippings,
or photo albums.

It's why it is so important
you and I don't look for our identity in
a promotion at work,
a gold medal,
a title behind our name.

It's also why it is so important
you and I don't look for our identity
in put-downs and insults,
in a rejection letter,
in a termination notice,
or divorce papers.

The items in these long hidden away boxes
reminded me of
where I had been,
what I had done,
who I had known.

But, they were not representations of who I am.

Because even I know
I am not always
the world's best teacher,
darlin',
lady alike,
precious,
or beautiful.

I am a wretched sinner
who (THANKFULLY)
has been saved by grace.

I am a daughter
of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

I am the apple of His eye.
I am His beloved.
I am His sheep.
I am His branch.
I am His heir.
I am His child.

My identity is not hidden in a box in my closet.

My identity is not what everyone around me sees.

My identity is not
my work performance,
my marital status,
my degree,
or even my height and my weight.

My identity is who I am in and through Christ.

My identity is who I am
in and through
the Great I Am.

Forgiven. Redeemed. Loved. Accepted. Complete.

And you know what?

When I keep my eyes on my Jesus,
when I walk in communion with Him,
when I allow Him to be my all and everything,
when I am in relationship with my God,
I feel forgiven.
I feel redeemed.
I feel loved.
I feel accepted.
I feel complete.

In HIS eyes.

If I listen,
He is forever speaking it
into me and over me and out through me.

Sometimes,
it takes a ride through the past
to remind us
(good or bad)
our past is not who we are.

Who we are
is who He is in us.

The rest -
the memorabilia and the mementos -
these are just icing on the cake of life.








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