July 28, 2016
"Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love."
I realized I am having an affair.
A love affair with money. Forsaking the requests for attention by my first love for the demands of my mistress.
Who has my attention? My desire? My obsession? What is the subject of my thoughts and worries, my plans and hopes?
Is it You?
Chapters 4 & 5 of II Chronicles detailed how Solomon used up so much precious metal in the building of the temple that He
DIDN'T COUNT IT.
An earlier chapter states that He loved you.
When was the last time I gave to you and didn't count it up? Didn't pay attention to every detail of exactly what I gave up? When someone has your heart, that's how you treat them. You're not counting. Anything they want, anything they need: "Yes, take it, it's yours, because I am yours, completely."
You certainly don't meet their requests with: "no, look how much I've already given you." Not when they have your heart. When they have your heart, they have everything.
"Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
I know I have yours. You gave it freely without ever looking back.
"He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not, with Him, also freely give us all things?"
That's what someone who really loves acts like. Someone truly in love...
I have been pondering Solomon's request for several days. He asked for wisdom and You acclaimed him for it, and so I have assumed that's the BEST thing one could ask for.
But as I watch his story unfold, as he raced after wealth and power and security and wives and holdings...I decided that was HIS story.
This is mine.
I do not want my own wisdom. Lest I lean on it and run after other loves.
I want to love You.
So give me an enduring, deep, aching, paralyzing, burning, freeing, lasting love for You, Lord.
I want to love nothing else in your place. I want to remember that I don't need what I think I do so desperately.
You asked me to follow You, and I cried "but what if it uses up my entire savings account?!"
"where your treasure is..."
100% of affairs make you miserable.
They are poison to a heart intended to beat for one alone.
"You cannot love both God and money."
That which most occupies my thoughts...THAT is what I love.
"Do not worry..."
Sweet whispers from the One who would see me be free from the blackmail of fear; who would take me into His arms again without hesitation though my loyalties have once again proven false.
I have been in a panic - pleading with You to make this okay by giving me more of another's love.
You must feel spit upon.
Give me more of You, Lord. If the savings account goes empty, You may have it. It is yours. I am yours. If I never become anything more than what I have already been, grant me this: that I grow closer to You. That I learn to truly love you,
having counted the cost, and yet...not counting at all.
July 13, 2015
"Lord, through all the generations, You have been our home."
It is strange to be here again. The Northwest. Bluffs nearby, blue mountains in the distance. Dusty roads, barbed wire fences, and a raised eyebrow from the gas station clerk when I question her suggestion to refill my water bottle out of the bathroom tap. We're not even to Oregon yet; I never expected the terrain to affect me the way it does: like something deep, buried inside me has been awakened.
It's more stored emotion than specific memory, but here it is within me, taking in the landscape and feeling familiar. Feeling like all these years moving on, growing up, getting a tan and a taste for salt water didn't just help me through a new season. In a way, they made me forget this old one, full of rodeos and catching frogs and wandering through flower-filled meadows with a bucket around my neck for bugs and my hair askew. Full of riding my bike to school, building snow forts, and never feeling unsafe. Full of a million adventures on a thousand different backdrops that somehow found no limit to their variety though they all played out on the same ten acres.
Everybody changes when they turn thirteen. Probably not everybody loses all their landmarks that same year. At the time, I didn't regret it; my childhood wasn't shameless and I was ready for beaches, palm trees and a fresh start. But, so eager, straining ahead for what was next, I think I never processed what I was leaving behind. Who I am did not begin at Galaxy Middle School with my first set of friends that stayed put for more than a year - though I felt like it did. Who I am began here. And as I watch the scenery roll by out the passenger window, deep green pine trees on a mountain ridge, mustangs tossing their heads in the breeze, dusty vehicles, and the shining, ruddy eyes of people who breathe fresh air...they all tell me that it is worth remembering.
It's an ache that I wonder about. I wonder if this is the ache for origins, for home, for where I truly belong. I wonder if it is in us all and it only takes the right scenery to awaken it.
In Nehemiah 1, the cupbearer pleads with the Lord, "Remember, I pray, the word that You commanded...'if you return to Me, and keep my commandments and do them, though some of you were cast out to the farthest part of the heavens, yet I will gather them from there, and bring them to the place which I have chosen as a dwelling place for my name.' " (Nehemiah 1:8-9)
It's a promise to the people of Israel long ago, but something about being scattered far abroad, and yet gathered back again resonated with me.
Almost 12 years to the day from when I first arrived in Florida, I pulled out again. This time, married, even closer to being an adult, headed toward missionary training, and embracing a step toward many unknowns. This time, without so many questions about who I am, and yet I find them surfacing once again anyway.
And I realized a similarity: Israel and the church alike, in the end, You gather your people to Your name and it is home.
I wonder if these are deeper rumblings that will resurface as I first take in the landscape of Heaven. I have not been there before, just as I have not before taken in the vistas of Southeastern Montana. But maybe, just maybe, when I open my eyes that day, what I see will be familiar, though for so long it has felt so far away.
For I know You. I know your name. And in You, who I am has its deepest, most certain roots. And as Your name dwells in me, so it dwells there, flooding every crevice with warm, inviting, unimaginable light. So this place and I will be kindred, just as something in my soul will always feel at home in the Northwestern terrain. And though it is new, it will not be foreign, for it has been a part of me all along.
Your word renews visions of a home to come, where I dwell physically with You, face to face, and begs me pay attention, for it is worth remembering.
"They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no more night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light." (Revelation 22:4-5)
April 2, 2015
"I, the Lord, have brought down the high tree and exalted the low tree; dried up the green tree, and made the dry tree flourish; I the Lord have spoken it and done it."
"Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor." (Proverbs 29:23)
"Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up."
My dad brought up James 4:10 while we were on a walk the other day. He said that He'd been thinking about how the Bible says "for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart
(1 Samuel 16:7); and that if that's true, when God asks us to humble ourselves in His sight...He means in our hearts. Maybe that's obvious, but it's a whole lot easier for me to seem humble that to be truly humble on the inside, in my thoughts.
In John 4, Jesus and the woman at the well discuss where people should worship. The woman brings up that her ancestors worshiped on the mountain in Samaria, and the Jews insist that one has to go to Jerusalem to worship. Then she asks Jesus' opinion. He says:
"The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him." (John 4:23)
Where does God want to be worshiped most? In us. In spirit and in truth: sincerely, in our hearts.
For that to happen, I have to stop worshiping myself. I can go to a place of worship and seem worshipful, but to truly worship God? I have to be humble before Him.
My pastor, who preaches excellent messages, tends to get a lot of compliments. One week he told us about a faithful elderly woman who would smile and pat his shoulder, then regularly tell him, "Stay low, Pastor, stay low." He said that was better for Him to hear than anything else.
Maybe I need to hear that a little more often, too.
inspired by Ezekiel 17:24
Stay low, for He can bring you high,
and drink from Him when you are dry.
And know that what He says, He means,
He'll do it all in spite of me.
In spite of weakness, small things rise,
when trusting Him, I fix my eyes.
And though I fall and run and hide,
His love is long and deep and wide.
And He is mighty to do things
that my small heart could never dream.
Stay tender, tender, then, my soul,
and watch Him work and watch Him roll
away the stone that sealed a tomb
where hope was lost, where death had loomed.
But He stepped back out into day,
and He took all my guilt away.
It should have been my death, my grave,
He took my place, my debt He paid
And never higher could I climb,
No greater riches could I find
than all that He bestowed on me
that moment when He set me free.
Stay low, my soul, you did not earn.
Be still, my soul, be still and learn
that all your work and all your might
was not enough to make things right.
But into darkness He brought light
and just asked you to hold on tight.
You trusted Him, He lifted you.
You trusted Him, and what a view!
Stay low, my soul, for all you've been
is not what you will be in Him.
Stay low and see what He will do,
for God does not depend on you.
There is no feat too hard for Him,
there is no wound He cannot mend.
Your expectations place on Him,
He's strong enough to carry them.
Then watch and see how high you'll go,
my prideful heart, when you stay low.
March 13, 2015
"My people have been lost sheep...
they have forgotten their resting place
...their redeemer is strong; the LORD of Hosts is His name." (Jeremiah 50:6, 34)
"There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.
Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest..."
Recently, our pastor was teaching on prayer and made a point that stuck with me: Lack of prayer in your life is not a problem with discipline, it's a problem with self-dependence.
It is so easy for me to wake up and dive into the list. So hard to recognize daily that it is MORE IMPORTANT to connect with Him.That talking to Him accomplishes more than all my striving and effort and time management ever could. Easier to listen to the pressures of the day loudly making an entrance from my planner and cell phone and the full sink of dishes, bustling onto my shoulders and making themselves at home, than to give an audience to that quiet need that cries for His high perspective and yearns for His easy yoke. Maybe because I want to think I can handle it. I have forgotten my resting place.
Just a few short weeks ago, I returned from a trip to Nicaragua, full of memories where we felt overwhelmed and we watched God attend to the smallest details: from the big adult concerns about HOW are we going to keep track of our luggage (15 checked bags containing the entire earthly possessions of my sister's family of 4) through a connecting international flight, customs, and Managua traffic) to the smallest hope of a 3 year old's heart that there would be animals she could play with in her new home. Again and again we were held in awe that this God we served did not just meet our needs. He knew our hearts. And as we walk with Him, he loves to delight us in ways that display how intimately he knows us and how lavishly he cares. My God is not a cheapskate.
I watched my sister's family leave behind everything they knew and all that they loved here in the states, to follow Him to this new place, so far out of their comfort zone. And I watched them enjoy it because as the leaned completely on whatever and however He chose to provide, He made it SO good!
Now we face a move of our own. 3 short months until we pack up our life here and make the transition to Missions Training in Missouri. And that's just the first step into a journey that will likely lead us far, far away from all that is familiar. We have prayed for many things. Solid, deep relationships here that will be a lasting encouragement as we face the challenges of overseas ministry; finances to get through missions training and cover our expenses when we leave the country and can no longer earn an income; co-workers we mesh well with; a people group whose hearts are hungry for truth...but have I prayed for a closeness with the God that is going to take us through it all?
As I watched Him meet my sister's family with everything they needed, and guide them through strange territory day after day, I realized: He is the only familiar thing they have here. And that is enough.
More than all the other factors, what I need the most is to cultivate a deeper and stronger relationship with the God who I will be walking with through all the changes to come. For if I am certain of Him, I can be uncertain of myself, and it's okay. When I am in tune with Him, I can tune out the pressures and the need to prove myself, and just rest in His unfailing loving-kindness toward me. Today and every day, I can choose to move through my day driven by the urgency of the task at hand, or settled in His promise that He will accomplish what's most important as I keep my eyes on Him.
"And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work." (2 Corinthians 9:8)