Wednesday, May 31, 2017

When God Pays It Forward~

Some of the deepest wounds we encounter
are not from our enemies.

We can handle "enemy" blows
because we are
on our guard,
expecting nothing less.

After all,
they ARE our enemies.

The wounds our enemies inflict
might slow us down,
might set us back,
might mess up our plans
and mess with our emotions for a while,
but the emotional depth of the wound,
superficial at best.

the deepest wounds we encounter
come from the people who
and the places where
we expect it least.

Those who share the same color jersey.
Those who share the same company name on their paycheck.
Those who share the same pew.
Those who share the same address.
Those who share the same name and blood.

Wounds from those who supposedly have our back
leave us flat on our back.

Wounds from those who are supposedly our "support system"
reach all the way
to the marrow of our bones.

The recovery time and healing
for these kind of wounds -
days, months, often years long.

In our hurt and humanness,
we wonder why God would let this happen?
After all,
if He would have chosen to
He could have chosen
for things to work out differently.

Which in turn,
if we allow the Spirit to guide
our thoughts,
our recovery,
our healing,
will inevitably bring us
to Jesus,
to His suffering,
to the cross of Calvary,
and to this:

Why would God let this happen?
After all,
if He would have chosen to
He could have chosen
for things to work out differently.

Jesus came to save His people.
Every single person who ever lived
was created in His image.
We aren't the "enemy",
we are family.

And yet,
from His own people,
He received the deepest wound.

Betrayed by a kiss from Judas
who was in His "inner circle".

Pierced in the hands and feet
by you and me and
our sinful nature,
our selfish choices,
our pride and self-reliance.

And yet,
through this "deadly blow"
Satan was defeated
and God was glorified.

And, you and me -
we were redeemed.

Because what we often fail to remember
and what we are quick to forget is this:
Jesus is the redeemer.

No matter the wound,
our God can heal it,
and not only that,
our God can redeem it.

No matter the wound,
our God can use it for a Kingdom purpose.

We can focus on what's been done to us -
replaying it over and over and over again
in our thoughts,
in our words,
in our actions
we can focus on what God will do for us
and for others
through it,
in spite of it,
because of it.

So often,
when we have been wounded so deeply,
we yearn for justice to be done,
for revenge to have its way.

But honestly,
when we fully grasp
the redeeming power of redemption,
why would we want to settle for anything less
than God using our "worst wound"
for His absolute best?

Our healing is not found in
praying for God to "payback"
those who have hurt us.

Our healing is found in
releasing our wound to God -
through the power of forgiveness -
and praying for God
to redeem it,
and pay it forward
in ways that only He,
our precious Redeemer,

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,
with all the conviction and fervency
he can convey using mere words,
warns us of the
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.

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.

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,
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,
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.

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

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

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.
I want to see, Lord.

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

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

as plain as day
is a heart-shaped cloud.

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

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.

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.


This is the word my love had written.

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


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.

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.

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.

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,
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,
lady alike,
or beautiful.

I am a wretched sinner
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.

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.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

When You Can't Help It~

Even though we humans are so very different,
we can't argue the fact
that in so many ways
we are so very much the same.

Whether it's
Jonah running from God,
Gideon hiding in the wine press,
Moses trying to convince God he's not eloquent,
(on and on and on),
I have always found myself identifying
with those who have gone before.

And, truth to told,
I always seem to find myself identifying most with the "negative" character traits,
and very rarely with the "positive".

I, too, have been known to run, hide, and try to convince God I'm not eloquent.

How I long to be an Esther.
How I aspire to be a Daniel.

But, this morning as I messaged a friend,
I found myself identifying
with two of the disciples
in a way that left my heart pumping wildly
and my spirit on fire!

Our conversation went like this:

Me: You amaze me. And, inspire me. And, show me deeper and clearer who we can be when we fully surrender to Him. Thank you. Big hug, sweet friend. Love you so much.

Her: Awe. I say the same about you. I actually shared some of your story as a testimony in my Bible study about what a follower of Christ you have been this past year . . . with your willingness to follow HIM and bring glory to God!!!

Me:  More than ever I feel that all and everything is about HIM - absolutely all and everything. He's been SO GOOD to me and I just want everyone to know Him the way I am beginning to know Him. I want everyone to experience the difference in their life that He is making every moment in mine. How the world needs Jesus. What a heartbreaking reality that He is right there and so many don't even know Him. We have to fix that!!!!

That's when it happened.
As I typed that last sentence
my heart starting pumping wildly and my spirit was set ablaze.

And, amazingly,
(or maybe not amazing at all -
maybe this is what happens when God
gets ahold of you and radically changes your life -)
I identified with Peter and John
and their unstoppable desire to tell everyone about Jesus.

Then they called them and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot help but declare (emphasis mine) what we have seen and heard."
~Acts 4:18-20

It is this "cannot help but declare" that
led Jonah to Nineveh,
encouraged Gideon into battle,
placed Moses before Pharaoh.

It is this "cannot help but declare" that
keeps me typing away on my keyboard
and answering "yes" to invitations to speak.

Because in the end,
when God has found you at your end
and given you a new beginning in Him,
you cannot help but declare
what you have seen and heard.

You cannot help but tell of
His greatness and His glory,
His forgiveness and His compassion,
His power and His might,
His gentleness and His tender heart,
His comfort and His peace,
His wisdom and His knowing,
His love and His grace.

When God has changed you,
you want to change the world
with the same change that has taken place in you.

Yes, time and time again,
I find myself identifying with these ones who have gone before
because as different as we all may be,
when our identity is found in Him,
we become ONE.

ONE in Him.

Oh, that the world might be ONE.

Monday, May 8, 2017

When We are Too Blind to See~

I wonder how many times
we miss the miraculous?

I wonder how many times
we see a mighty work of God
only to gloss right over it
because we are too hung up
on the details,
on the way we think it should be,
on our own agenda,
on our own need to be right?

I wonder how many times
we stop what God is doing
because it isn't happening
the way we think it should be?

Call me a deep thinker,
but I think it happens more than we might guess.

And it usually happens,
to be honest,
when we are walking in self-righteousness,
instead of the love, grace, and truth
found only in Christ Jesus.

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had. Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in the condition a long time, He said to him, "Do you want to be made well?"

The sick man answered Him, "Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me."

Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up your bed and walk." And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked.

And that day was the Sabbath. The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, "It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed."
~John 5:1-10

Every time I read this passage of scripture
I am overwhelmingly aware
that the ones passing judgment on this man, -
lame 38 years (38 YEARS!) now made whole,
walking before them and no doubt happily carrying his bed -
are overwhelming unaware of the miracle that has happened
right before their very eyes.

Oh, they see he is healed,
but instead of standing in awe at the miracle that has taken place,
instead of rejoicing and celebrating with the one healed,
they are angry and upset.
Immediately, upon seeing him walking and carrying his bed roll,
they begin to judge him for doing "work" on the Sabbath.

And I can't help but ask,
"What is wrong with this picture?"

How can carrying a bedroll possibly trump what has just taken place here?

But, it does.
It is all these "religious" men can see.
It is all these "lovers of the law" are focused on.
It is all these who walk in "self-righteousness" know to stand on.

Not only is this healed man judged for doing what Jesus told him to do,
Jesus is also "condemned" for breaking the Sabbath.

Then they asked him, "Who is the Man who said to you, 'Take up your bed and walk'?" But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, "See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you."

The man departed and told the Jew that it was Jesus who had made him well. For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, an sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath.
~John 5:12-16

The very one who created the Sabbath as a gift to man,
now in violation of keeping it "properly"?????

Again, I can't help but ask,
"What is wrong with this picture?"

It's absurd.
It's ridiculous.
It's ludicrous.
It's unbelievable.

And yet,
it is the very thing that happens when
we become lovers of the law more than lovers of the Law Giver.

It's the very thing that happens when
we become lovers of self more than lovers of God and His people.

It's the very thing that happens when
we put our faith in our own ability to keep the law (self-righteousness)
instead of our faith in Christ Jesus. (righteousness by faith)

It's the very thing that happens when
we are walking in self-righteousness,
not in love, grace, and truth
found only in Christ Jesus.

We miss the miraculous.
We miss the rejoicing.
We miss the move of God happening in our very midst.
We miss Jesus.
We miss it all.

Only, we don't know it.

In our foolish pride we think we are doing the work of God,
when in actuality,
we are working again Him.

Self-righteousness always leads to pride.
Pride always puts us in direct opposition to God.

Therefore, it says, "GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD and HAUGHTY, BUT [continually] GIVES [the gift of] GRACE TO THE HUMBLE [who turn away from self-righteousness]."
~James 4:6 (Amp)

A man who has been paralyzed for 38 years can now walk and carry his bed!
A man who Sabbath after Sabbath after Sabbath was left lying by the pool,
on this Sabbath has been made whole.
And all these men saw were broken (man-made) rules.

I wonder how many times
we miss the miraculous?

I wonder how many times
we see a mighty work of God
only to gloss right over it,
because we are too hung up
on the details,
on the way we think it should be,
on our own agenda,
on our own need to be right,
on our own pride and self-righteousness?

I wonder how many times
we try and stop what God is doing
because it isn't happening
the way we think it should be?

Lord, forgive us.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Message in the Message~

I am finally beginning to understand why,
up to this point in my life at least,
God has always chosen to speak to me
in "inaudible" ways.

If He were to speak
in an audible voice,
I would no doubt hear.
But, I wonder -
would I listen as intently and as intentionally
as I do
when His Spirit is speaking
in unknown and unheard utterances in my spirit?

When His Spirit starts speaking
in a way that only my spiritual nature can understand,
it's not a message that is
easily heard,
instantly communicated,
clear and concise.

It is instead a message that -
like our God,
is multifaceted, multi-layered.

It is
a stirring,
a pondering,
a reflecting and refining,
a questioning and seeking,
a dissecting and digesting.

It is a leaning into His Spirit with my spirit
that requires stillness and prayer.
It is a hearing that requires my listening to be done
intently and intentionally.

It is
a process,
a progression,
with revelation coming bit by bit,
until one final revelation
brings all the pieces together.

And, it changes me.

For months, God has been speaking to me.
For months, I have been doing my spiritual best
to hear and understand.

And then,
God placed these words from this quote in front of me:

God never gives us discernment in order that we may criticize, but that we may intercede.
~Oswald Chambers

In the time that it took to read these words,
God brought all that He and I had been
delving into together
over the past several months,
full circle,
to a complete understanding in my heart.

Just like that - I knew.

This knowing brought instant clarification.
And, this knowing brought instant confession.

Because you see,
not one, but over two years ago,
God gave me clear, unmistakable, not to be overlooked discernment.
I  saw.
I heard.
I felt.
I noticed.
I knew.

But, (and I am so shamed to admit)
I didn't intercede.

I. didn't. intercede.
(You have no idea how hard it is to type those words.)

How would things have played out differently,
if -
years ago when I discerned what God showed me -
I would have dropped to my knees in intercession?

What would be the results now,
if all the days then,
I would have been praying?

And this;
How it must have grieved the Father's heart
to have placed such a grave need in my heart
through His gift of discernment
only to have me respond to this need
in every way except prayer.

Yes, just like that - I knew.
This multifaceted, multi-layered message
that unfolded bit by bit,
layer by layer
over several months,
was unequivocally this:

God never gives us discernment in order that we may criticize, but that we may intercede.

And while the depth of this understanding
and the reality of all it encompasses
is too intricate (and private) to ever explain here,
the axis of the message God revealed to me
has to be shared.

Spiritual discernment is not given
so that we might pass judgment.
so that we might criticize,
so that we might even "know".

Spiritual discernment is given
so that we might intercede.

God calls you and I to be people of prayer.

How might things in our lives
play out differently if -
when we discern something -
we instantly drop to our knees?

How might things start to change
if you and I would start to pray?

"God, why did this happen?
You knew what was going on in this situation.
You even showed it to me, Lord?
Why are things such a mess?
Why didn't things work out differently?"

"They could have, my Child.
But, you didn't pray and intercede."

Friday, May 5, 2017

There Will Be Days~

There are days still.

Like yesterday.

As I walked out my front door,
I was greeted by a whole family of quail -
father, mother, and at least 15 littles
as they scurried from underneath my lilac bush
across the sidewalk and into my juniper bush.

Moments later, I caught Mr. Quail taking
a few for a walk in the neighbor's driveway
and was able to video the little ones trying
to make their way back to their home base.

Precious. Joy giving.  Smile bringing.

Later, as I poked my key into the mailbox
at the end of our cul de sac,
to my surprise,
everything in my mailbox brought a smile -
a card from a dear friend,
and a package of  "pampering goodness" -
bath salts, lip balm, bath soap, etc -
my prize for being the winner of an "Easter Basket" giveaway
a couple of weeks ago.

Precious. Joy giving. Smile bringing.

But, there are days still,
like yesterday,
when no matter how much
precious, joy giving, smile bringing
is happening around me,
or happening to me,
the tears still fall,
the grief still overwhelms me,
the missing my man still reduces me to mush.

A year and three months, yesterday.

A year ago, I wrote this:

Three months today.

You would love the slow and easy way summer is meandering in this year - 
cool nights and picture perfect days.

The turtles are out and about 
with some tiny, new additions to their ever growing family. 
The older ones come by the patio door quite frequently. 
Like me, I think they are expecting you to come bounding out of the house any minute now.

You'd be proud. 
In our annual "who can get more cherries, the birds or us?" race, 
I was declared the winner!

Sleeping without you 
still makes one night feel like a month long
and the moon, 
since you've been gone, 
strangely, has gone unnoticed.

I found a card I had written to you 
when we first started dating,
"until you, 
I didn't realize I was living my life in black and white, 
mute button on, 
and not fully tasting, breathing in, and experiencing life." 
Such truth in those words penned so long ago . . . 
now, without you, I am back to black and white. 
You took all the life with you.

You made everything and every day a special occasion. 
I think this is why I miss you so much.  
I loved dining on life with you. 
Thank you, baby.
Until we dine together again, 
I'm carrying all your precious love in my heart.

A whole year has passed
and yet,
I could write these exact same words again today.
(Although thankfully,
with everyday blessings like quail in your yard,
and the ever-healing love of God in my heart,
life is now full of color again.)

And even now,
as I try to type,
a steady stream of tears.

Some would probably tell me,
(because I've heard it before)
"We don't think you're dealing with the death of your husband right."

Oh, but I think I am.
I definitely am.

For in each wiping away of a tear,
there is also the lifting of my hand in praise and thanksgiving.

In each moment of remembrance and cherished thought
there is also the realization of just how very blessed I was,
how very blessed I still am.

And this,
there is always this:

How would I be deeply mourning such a precious loss,
if I had not first deeply experienced such a precious love?

I thank God in every moment of the hurting
and the healing.

And, despite what others may say,
despite what others may think,
I have a beautiful feeling,
for the rest of my life,
there will be days, still.

And, you know what?

I am perfectly fine with that.