Tuesday, April 29, 2014

For the Forgetful


If you’re anything like me, perhaps you too understand the sheer panic of realizing you completely forgot the butter.   I say panic because by the time you realize you’ve forgotten the butter, the guests are set to arrive in 30 minutes, and the cake should have gone in the oven 10 minutes ago.  Thus now you’re not only running late, but you’re also without one of the most crucial ingredients to ensure a beautiful, fluffy, softly textured cake that will leave your guests ooh-ing and ahh-ing and referring to you as a little Martha-in-the-making.  Hence the flustered panic.  Perhaps you’re a much better woman than I am and receive the small setback as an opportunity to grow in humility, welcoming your guests without a sweet treat.  Often in my case, however, situations such as these do not provoke me to humility as they ought, but instead cause my pride to surge to an all-time high -- right along with my heart rate.

“Setbacks?  We don’t do setbacks.  We don’t do failure.  It’s on.  Google?  Butter substitutes...  Applesauce?  Check.”  

The cake is in the oven, you begin to whip up the icing, when...
powdered sugar.  
Where's the powdered sugar?
"You've got to be kidding me."

At that point, if I'm walking in the Spirit, I tend to receive it as a lesson from the Lord that evidently I'm finding my identity in both my baking abilities and the approval of others.  "Thank you, Lord, that my value is not found in whether or not I can remember the whole list of ingredients at the store nor in whether or not my house guests find my cake to be the tastiest treat they've ever experienced.  My worth is found in the righteousness of Christ.  You are too good to me!  We'll just serve the cake without the icing, and it's going to be totally fine.  Thank you, Jesus, for the peace only you provide -- butter or no butter, icing or no icing!  After all, there is always room to be creative!"


Orrrr you know... the alternative... I choose to walk in the flesh and violently throw the whisk across the kitchen, only to make a mess everywhere and wind up weeping on the kitchen floor or yelling profanities in my head at the stupid cake and the stupid list and the stupid ingredients.  

If only I were kidding... :)  Maybe you can't relate to the butter saga, or perhaps you can.  Nonetheless, one of the realities about the world we live in is that we aren’t perfect, and thus one of the many repercussions of our imperfections is that we have a tendency to forget things.  We can have entire conversations with people and realize at the end we’ve completely forgotten their names.  We forget who was the 22nd President of the United States of America. We forget the capitol of Kentucky.  We forget the passwords that correspond with 1 of our 287 internet login ids.

Test dates, appointments, birthdays, anniversaries...  You name it.  We can forget the most important of details sometimes just because we’re forgetful and other times because we are so consumed with ourselves that we fail to think of anything or anyone else.

Sometimes we even forget who we are.  We experience difficulty and persecution and are quick to forget that all the suffering we face here on earth is only light and momentary in comparison with the eternal joy and glory we will experience with Jesus one day in heaven.

But if I’m really honest... what I forget more than anything else is the Gospel.

It’s almost laughable.  I wake up and spend time with the Lord almost every single day.  I work for a ministry and share the Gospel quite regularly.  I spend just about the entirety of my days talking to girls about who Jesus is and how He has changed my life. And yet the message I need to be reminded most is... who Jesus is and what He has changed my life.

God is so gracious to show us in the Bible that we aren’t alone in our forgetfulness.  Part of our sinful condition as humans is that we are prone to “forget” who God is, His Word, and how He has radically provided for us, delivered us, and changed us forever.  So it makes sense that throughout the Bible, we see people -- individuals and entire groups alike -- for whom God provides mighty victories, conquering armies and thousands of enemies on their behalf.  And the next day they forget Him completely and start worshipping idols as though He never existed in the first place.

Take Noah for example.  Back in his day, everyone had forgotten about God and were only doing awful things all the time.  God’s heart was filled with pain when he saw what had happened to the world He created and loved so dearly.  Disease, death, and destruction were rampant.  Noah loved God, which was somewhat an oddity in itself because no one else seemed to the time.  Perhaps you know the story.  One day God came to Noah and said, “People have filled my world with evil, death, and destruction.  I must stop them.  We’re going to build an ark.  A storm is coming, but I will rescue you, I promise.”  So by the grace of God, Noah built an ark and loaded up with two of every kind of animal and his whole family.


It rained for 40 days and 40 nights and God washed away everything that was destroying the earth. Finally the rain stopped. The sun came out, and everyone was so excited. The first thing Noah did was thank God for His provision and fulfilling His promise to rescue them.  (God is always, always faithful to fulfill His promises.  He's not like anyone else we know!)  Then first thing God did was make another promise to never destroy the world again.  He put a rainbow in the clouds as a sign of His promise and plan.  Though the evil would return because of all humanity's sinful condition, God planned to make a way to save the world through His very own Son -- Jesus.

We read all of this story in Genesis 9:1-17.  Three verses later, just after all of this has taken place -- God saves Noah and his family from the flood.  Noah praises God and glorifies Him.  God promises never to destroy the world again.  And what does Noah do next?  He plants a vineyard and gets so drunk he ends up passed out, naked in a tent.

The very same man who God chose to be a part of His plan to rescue the world gets inordinately wasted just after praising and thanking God for what He’d done for them.

How often do I identify with Noah?  God has provided for me more times than I could ever begin to count, and yet I’m so quick to either take my eyes off of Him and begin to pursue worldly things again... Or I look back at what He has provided for me and think to myself, “Wow!  I did such a good job.  I’m so great.”

I completely forget that it is by God’s grace alone that I have experienced any victory over sin or any joy in my life whatsoever.  


When I forget, what I know to be “true” in my head is not actually real to my heart and whole being. For example I may acknowledge intellectually that God is my provider, yet in my heart I feel as though I must provide for myself. We may know in our heads that God loves us for who we are not for what we do, but we live as though we have to earn God’s love and approval by the way we act and perform on a daily basis.

In his book Judges for You, Tim Keller explains it this way, “Our hearts are like buckets of water on a very cold day -- they will freeze over unless we regularly smash the ice that is forming. Though we know truths about God, we can very easily lose the sense upon our hearts of their reality. We know them, but we don’t taste, or see or feel them. Therefore the other things -- idols -- become more real to our hearts, and we serve them instead.”

While it may seem obvious, the remedy to our forgetfulness is to remember. 

In 2 Peter 1:3-9, Peter reiterates the importance of remembering the Gospel.

"His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.  For this reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.  For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins."

Take an honest evaluation of your own heart...

Is your heart full of faith or fear?
Virtue or dishonesty?
Knowledge or ignorance?
Self-control or instability?
Steadfastness or inconsistency?
Godliness or worldliness?
Brotherly affection or selfishness?
Love or hate?

So often, my heart is full of fear. I walk in instability rather than self-control. I fix my eyes on worldly things and not godly things. I am quick to respond in hatred and not love.

Why?

I’ve forgotten who Jesus is and what He TRULY accomplished on my behalf. Not in that I literally forget -- as though I’ve never heard of Jesus before in my life -- but I find myself living as though I have functionally forgotten the character of God.  When I find myself forgetting the Gospel, I have to be reminded -- over and over and over again. It’s the Good News that SAVED us in the beginning and that continues to strengthen our faith and draw us closer to the Lord each and every day.


I have to remember the Good News that though I was dead in my sins, God made me alive in Christ.  Though I have failed the Lord in every way possible, though I have sought my own glory, though I have willingly enslaved myself to fear and anxiety and so many masters of this world, the Lord loved me enough to send perfect Jesus to pay the penalty for my sin.  He made Him who knew no sin to be sin, so that in Him, we might become the righteousness of God.  Jesus took upon Himself all my rage, all my bitterness, all my distrust, all my anger, all my selfishness, all my pride, all my insecurity, all of my evil.  He took on all the injustice the world would ever experience, so that all who place their faith in Him would be freed from sin and death forever.  Jesus truly did rescue us!

But the best part about the Gospel is that Jesus made a way for us to be made right with God, so we could know Him intimately and experience a personal relationship with Him.  All love, all hope, all grace, all peace, all joy, all victory, all consistency, all stability, all closeness, all freedom is found in God through relationship with Christ.


Even now in thinking on the truth of the Gospel, my heart is refreshed.  My heart is full, remembering who God is, what Jesus has done for me, and why I can trust Him implicitly with everything.  No matter what earthly things I lose or receive here in this life, God has already provided everything I could ever need in Christ.  No matter what earthly things I lose or receive here in this life, God already provided everything I could ever need in Christ.  

So in those moments my heart is full of fear, I must remember Jesus.  Because when I remember the Gospel, in reading God’s Word and reflecting on what He has done for me, all of my fears cease.  He fills me with faith to believe He loves me, He is protecting me, and nothing will pluck me out of His hands.  I don’t feel the need to be dishonest and pretend to be better than I really am because I know that I’m a sinful mess but I have been saved and redeemed and made new by Jesus.


When I remember the Gospel, my ignorance and confusion subside because I know that God has given me the Holy Spirit who will impart to me His perfect wisdom.  When I feel unstable or out of control, I remember that the sovereign God of the universe holds me in His hands.  He has made me His daughter because of what Jesus has done on my behalf.  He imparts to me His power and has freed me from the powers of this world.  When I lack desire to follow through with commitments, I remember that Christ has committed to me forever and it is by His strength and His grace alone that I can lean on Him in order to run the race set before me with endurance and joy.

When I deeply yearn to pursue worldly things, I remember that because of what Christ has done, I no longer have to be entangled by the things of this world.  As illustrious and glorious as they may seem, nothing compares to the glory of knowing Jesus as my Savior and closest friend.  I want to pursue holiness and be like my perfect big brother Jesus.  When I lack brotherly affection, I remember that I was at one point an enemy of Jesus.  I wanted nothing to do with Him.  And even still, He initiated with me.  He pursued my heart.  He saved me.  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  In thinking about how overwhelmingly kind Jesus has been to me, how could I possibly withhold kindness from another?

And finally when my heart feels nothing but hatred and anger and bitterness, I remember that had I been there when Jesus was about to be crucified, I would have denied Him three times like Peter or laughed at Him -- He claims to be God?  Yet as He was dying on the cross, He said, “Forgive them, they know not what they do.”  He has shown me unfathomable love, when I have had nothing but contempt in my heart.  I think about how much He loves me, and I can’t help but want to love others.  I can’t produce the love on my own, but as I surrender my hatred to Him, the Holy Spirit is so faithful to change me and fill me with the very love of Christ himself.


As we dwell in the truth of the Gospel, it will change our lives.  As we walk with Jesus intimately, spend time in the Word, and allow the Holy Spirit to minister to our hearts, we are reminded how much the Creator of the Universe loves us.  As our minds are renewed with His truth, and the truth becomes not only real in our heads but our hearts, our lives will change.  We will be full of steadfastness, brotherly affection, love, and so on.  But it isn't because we just try to be steadfast or loving or godly.  We can trust with faith that Holy Spirit will produce those things in us as we fix our minds on the truth and remember the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


God enjoys you.  
He delights in you! 
He's singing over you.

*

Lord Jesus, help us to remember the Gospel.  May we constantly remember that though we had nothing to offer you, you loved us SO much that you saved us.  You rescued us.  You made a way for us to know you in Jesus.  Thank you, Lord, for forgiving us of all of our sins and making us new.  Thank you for being our protector.  Thank you for keeping us close to you.  Thank you for never giving up on us.  Thank you for loving me even when I was unloveable.  Thank you for changing my heart of stone.  Thank you for being my best friend, my protector, my provider, the perfect Father, and the steadfast anchor of my soul!

Friday, April 4, 2014

For the Brave, Fearful, Confident, Insecure, Hopeful, and Hopeless Alike

.
Her story began where most stories begin -- somewhere between the beginning and the end.  She sat at the foothills of the mountainside, filled with hope and wonder of all the possibilities that lay before her.  All the weeds looked like flowers to her -- beautiful flowers she'd love to pick and place on the window sill just above the kitchen sink.  They were lovely in every way.  Even their imperfections seemed to be filled with a sparkle of glory.  As she lay in the lush, green meadow and gazed up at the skies above, she marveled to herself, "They've all said it's the roughest, toughest mountain they've ever climbed, but it couldn't be that bad.  Not for me, at least."

The height of the mountain seemed like simply a small hill to her young eyes.  "Why, I'll run up that mountain!  No, no, I'll dance up that mountain!  I'll skip and spin and play and sing, and perhaps I'll even make it up before dark."  She stood up straight, threw her knapsack over her shoulder, took a deep breath, and began the ascent without a fear in the world.

Our hearts are often like this.  Invincible.  Irrefutable.  Unchangeable.  Nothing can stop us.  We're ready to jump in with confidence and joy in our hearts -- new jobs,  cities, marriage, families, places, spaces, homes, projects, the list goes on.  We begin the summit of the mountain only to realize that a few steps in, the adventure wasn't exactly what we thought it would be.  We grow weak in the knees and immediately find ourselves doubting our once unassailable hearts.

"Hmm... This is not quite what I would have expected..."


Although our stories never seem to play out the way we expect or plan, occasionally along our journeys, we expect a den of bears when to our surprise, we happen upon a soft-flowing stream and a large oak tree.  Other times, we expect a land of jewels and treasure, fortune and fame, only to find our feet quickly falling into the depths of sinking sand.

We hope to work hard and find ourselves with no motivation.  We hope to enjoy life and find ourselves in the pit of despair.  We hope to be married and find ourselves single.  We hope to find joy in marriage and find ourselves miserable.  We hope to love our jobs, but suddenly we hate our lives.  We hope to be beautiful, worthy, and desirable yet sooner or later we discover that nothing is ever good enough.  All our efforts are in vain.  We hope that one day the relationship will be healed, but there has still be no sign of reconciliation.  We hope for the cancer to be gone, the marriage to be restored, the debt to be paid, the depression to turn to joy...  And yet the reality is sometimes the cancer returns.  The marriage shatters into pieces.  The debt results in bankruptcy.  The depression leads to death.

It sounds horrible and awful, and it is.  This is not as it should be, but it is the honest reality of the broken world in which we live.  We attempt to make our ascent to the high places with great expectations, only to find that the ascent is much steeper than we ever could have imagined.

We find ourselves holding on for dear life, envisioning a future of safety, security and freedom.  "If only I had this job...  If only I made that much money...  If only I could take that adventure...  If only I were single...  If only I were married...  If only we had children...  If only we could move...  If only we lived in that city...  If only he were smarter...  If only she were kinder...  If only I was thinner...  If only..."

Then.  Then I would be satisfied.  Then I would truly be valuable.  Then I would truly be worth loving.  That would be my saving grace.  That would solve my problems.  That would be the answer.


Occasionally the if only's pick us up and move us a few feet forward.  They seem to satisfy.

But they never truly solve our problem.

Sooner or later we find ourselves back in pit of despair, looking, praying, hoping for the next best thing. 

We are -- or I suppose I should say I am -- so quick to place my hope in the things of this world.  I am so quick to think that the things of this world will satisfy the deep needs of my heart.  And yet no matter what it is, it always seems to leave me longing for more.  Nothing is ever enough.  No city is big enough.  No home is clean enough.  No piece of cake or cup of coffee, no number on the scale, no amount of money, no dress from Anthro, no amount of attention from a boy, no perfect schedule ever truly satisfies.

Yet time and time again, I buy into the illusion that perhaps this time, perhaps this is what will truly satisfy...  I seek and fall and seek and fall and suddenly I'm clinging onto the cliff's edge.  And by God's grace, He brings me to my senses and I realize my need.  I realize my depravity and cry out in hopes of being saved.


"Lord Jesus, I need you.  I thought I could do it on my own.  I thought my way was best.  I have sought the things of this world.  I have looked to everything under the sun to satisfy me.  I have served so many masters.  Each one seemed to possess such illustrious splendor yet each time, I found myself enslaved.  I'm saddened, Lord.  This world is so broken.  I am so broken.  I cannot save myself.  I am so weary.  I am so tired.  I want to cry out that I have lost hope, but Jesus, I can't help but believe that you are my last hope, my only hope.  If you could ever forgive me.  If you could ever save me.  I may seem to have everything, but I have nothing at all.  Jesus, I want to turn from my sinful, self-seeking ways and give you control..."


And suddenly it seems as though the clouds burst forth and the heavens above, for He appears.  In perfect power and absolute glory, He comes, the valiant one, Faithful and True.  He saves me.

"My daughter, your faith has made you well.  

You are forgiven and free.  You no longer have to be as a slave to the things of this world because when you called upon me, I made you mine.  I have set you free, and if the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed.  Sin and death no longer have power over you, for you belong to my kingdom.  I give you grace and abundant life.  But there's more.  Though you will not see me in the flesh for some time, my power will be in you forever.  For I will give you the Holy Spirit who will come to live inside of you, who will impart to you my joy, my peace, my love, my strength, my goodness, my life.  I will never leave you or foresake you.  In this world you will face trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.


Believe in me.  Trust in me.  Place all of your hope in me.  In my promises you can rest assured.  My Word is completely trustworthy and true.  The things of this world will fluctuate and change, but I will remain forever.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.  I love you and desire for us to be one, just as the Father and I are one.  My mercies are new each morning.  My steadfast love shall never depart from you.  You are mine.


I have rescued you today, and I will be with you forever.  I will not disappoint.  Though you will surely weep and mourn on this earth, I will turn your mourning into dancing, your sorrow into joy.  I give you beauty for ashes, festive praise for despair.   Dwell in me.  Hope in me.  Place all that you are and all that you have upon me.  I am the God who sees.  I am the God who saves.  I am the God who redeems.  I am the God who can restore the most hopeless of situations.

No matter what you face today, because you have called upon me as Savior and Lord, of this you can be sure: there will be a day when all the sad things come undone.  There will be a day when I will wipe every tear away from your eyes, when death shall be no more.  Neither shall there be any crying nor hurting nor pain anymore, for the former things shall pass away.  I am making all things NEW.  You will be united with me.  
In my presence there is fullness of joy forever more!"


Our hearts hear those words and ask, "Could it be so?  Could it be so that in spite of any and every adverse circumstance we face, we could experience peace and joy and hope?  Could it be so that though I've sought everything under the sun to fill me with the hope and peace and joy and satisfaction I long for so deeply, it could all be found in Jesus?  Could it be so that God loves me?  Could it be so that Jesus wants to have a relationship with me?"

Praise God it not only could be so, it is so!

It is the best news in all of the earth!


Jesus endured the cross, disregarding its shame and is now seated at the right hand of God.  He was mocked and beaten and tortured and crucified -- though He was blameless in every way.  He paid the penalty for our sins, so we might know His deep, abiding, saving, perfect, powerful, redemptive love for us.

In the beginning, God created the world, and it was good and perfect in every way.  Adam, Eve, every tree, every animal, He created them and called them good.  They lived in perfect harmony and intimacy with one another and God himself.  But one day in the garden, Satan pursued Eve and made her question the character of God, "Does God really love you?  Does He really have your best interest at heart?  Can He really be trusted?  If God really loved you, He would have given you ______.  You know better than God.  Do what is right in your own eyes."  She questioned the authority of God, chose to do what was right in her own eyes, and exchanged the truth about God for a lie from the enemy.  As a result, perfect communion with God was broken, and sin entered the world.  Nothing would ever be the same again.

Death, darkness, and despair had entered the scene because Adam and Eve decided not to believe God at His Word and determine for themselves what was best.  This broke God's heart because He loved them.  How could they not believe Him and choose to follow another?  And yet we find ourselves in the exact same boat today.  How often have I sought to exalt myself above Him?  How often have I considered my own plans better than His?

But God, being rich in mercy, love, and grace, made a way for us to be made right with Him again through Jesus.


He sent His one and only Son to live a completely perfect life on earth.  He never sinned, always put others before Himself, always trusted God, always glorified God.  He lived the perfect life we never could and took on the punishment for our sins, for what we earn for our sin is death.  Jesus bore the wrath of God and experienced separation from God -- though He didn't deserve it at all.  We did.  And three days after He died, He rose from death, thereby asserting His lordship over all -- including sin, death, and the grave.  He endured the cross, disregarding its shame and shamed death and the enemy himself.  For nothing can withstand the power of God.

And it is written that if you confess with your mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe in your hearts that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For in believing in Jesus, we recognize our sinfulness and our deep need for Him as our Savior.  Furthermore, we admit that though we've tried to go our own way, we desire Jesus to be the Lord of our lives because we believe in His authority, His character, His trustworthiness, and His love.  He alone deserves lordship over all.

And when, by God's grace, we place our faith in Jesus, He saves us.

He runs to us, embracing us and kissing us before we can barely even get the words out of our mouths.  He forgives all our sins -- past, present, and future.  He takes up residence in our hearts in the power of the Holy Spirit and adopts us into His forever family.  He gives us salvation and we become co-heirs with Christ.  He imputes Christ's righteousness to us; thus when He looks up on us, He sees the very works of Christ.  He gives us salvation, and we get to live with Him for eternity in heaven -- where there is no death or crying or hurting or pain anymore.  We will get to be with our perfect Father forever.


But the best part is that we are made right with God through Jesus, so we can know Him intimately.  God reated us to know him in a deep, intimate, personal way.  He created us to be His children and to experience abundant life with Him forever no matter our circumstances.  Because of Jesus, all our striving, all our seeking can come to a stop -- because all we've ever sought is found in Christ alone.  All love, all hope, all grace, all peace, all joy, all victory, all consistency, all stability, all freedom is found in God through Christ.  Jesus delights in you and made a way for you to know Him forever.  

I pray that truth fills our hearts with joy and hope to endure whatever lies before us.  To God be the glory for in His grace, He has allowed us and made us to be His dearly loved ones!  He has saved us, put a new song in our mouths, and given us hope forevermore!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

For the Giddy and the Heavy-Hearted Alike


merry, merry Christmas, ya'll!  The time has come.  The stockings are hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon will be here!  The packages have been wrapped with shiny bows and red ribbons and any crawling out of bed is now strictly forbidden.  But in a mere couple of hours, just after dawn breaks, we'll hear echoes around the world of, "Wake, wake!  Wake, Wake!"  Kids of all ages will joyfully gather near twinkling trees, as Mommy and Daddy stagger into the kitchen, "First, just one sip of coffee...!"

 I've always been partial to Christmas, as I'm sure many of us are.  There is something magical about it all -- the sparkly lights, joyous music, crackling fires, families and friends coming together, and the exchanging of gifts all in celebration of the birth of our Savior King Jesus.  Yet I've noticed my heart has been somewhat heavy the past few days.  How?  How in the world?  It's CHRISTMAS, for crying out loud!  I love Christmas.  Christmas is my favorite.  It's the most wonderful time of the year!


  So I've found myself asking, what is it?  How can we come to this most joyous holiday with the heaviest of hearts?

I feel like this is one of those moments where I would be sitting in a nursing home, seeking the wise counsel of an elderly couple.  I'm pretty sure they'd turn to each other, smile, and softly say, "Mmmm life..."

We all come to Christmas -- the season and the day itself -- with hurts and pains, hardships and brokenness from the past 358 days.  In some cases, we come to Christmas with wounds from the past 7,160 days -- maybe 21,900 days, you never know.  Some things perhaps we have dealt with, and other things we haven't.  So much is brushed under the rug or stored away in a secret glass jar which no one can touch let alone simply see.  While each individual's story varies at great lengths, I've lived enough (though very little at that) to know one cannot live too many days on this earth without experiencing sorrow.  Any number of days can result in any number of scars.  

We say hurtful, spiteful things to one another.  We act with contempt and arrogance.  We find our value in what others think of us and wind up feeling completely insignificant and insecure.  We allow anger and bitterness to control us.  We scour the world for any possible something that could satisfy our hearts' desires and sooner or later wind up eating from the same trough as the pigs.  We follow our own wishes, seek our own ways, desire our names are made great above all else.  We willingly destroy the bodies and minds we've been given under the guise of, "I just can't help it."  Alcoholism.  Sex.  Porn.  Drugs.  Perfectionism.  Performance.  We want what we want, when we want it, how we want it.  "My will be done," my life often seems to convey.  We vie for attention and recognition, and we're frustrated and confused when all that we sought wasn't quite what we'd hoped it would be.


Others say hurtful things to us.  Not only do others say hurtful things, sadly some people do very hurtful things.  The world hurtful doesn't even come close to depicting the depth of some of these deep-rooted wounds.  Physical abuse.  Verbal abuse.  Sexual abuse.  Rape.  Genocide.  Murder.  Neglect.  My heart breaks as the list goes on and on.  As if the brokenness we experience in our relationships isn't enough, we experience brokenness in our circumstances.  Unemployment.  Divorce.  Death.  Suffering.  Homelessness.  Hunger.  Cancer.  AIDS.  Poverty.  Terrorism.

Yet I still want to put on my favorite shade of red lipstick (Burt's Bees Rasin), my classiest set of pearl earrings, a brand new sparkly dress, and act like everything's "better than fine -- perfect, in fact.  I live in the Leave-it-to-Beaver house everyone wants.  I go to church every Sunday.  Yes, I have problems, but they don't affect me.  I make casseroles like Martha Stewart, workout with Jillian Michaels, lead like Margaret Thatcher, and serve like Mother Teresa.  And you know what, I'm married to a guy who looks like Ryan Gosling, works like J.P. Morgan, and lives just like Christ."


Again I picture the elderly couple -- they're holding back the laughter.

We know that isn't reality.

But gosh dangit, why is that so hard to come to terms with?  I know it's not the reality, but I want it to be.  I want to be fine.  I want to shut everything that's ever gone wrong in my life or the world around me in a cedar chest, stick it in the attic, take a deep breath for composure, and head downstairs to host the loveliest Christmas dinner the fam has ever seen.  But it just doesn't work like that.  I've tried, though it seems there isn't a big enough chest for the long haul.

Now I don't want to generalize because I have no idea where ya'll are at, but if I'm honest with myself, my frustration and heavy-heartedness aren't particularly rooted so much in the world's lack of perfection but in my neediness.  I'm so often heavy-hearted because I'm so needy, yet I'm so quick to deny my need.  "If I admit I need help with one thing, I might realize I need a lot more help than I thought, and I don't need help.  I don't need anything or anyone.  I'm self-sufficient, driven, and determined.  I'm fine."  False.  I'm in deep need.

As I am willing to admit my need, surprisingly the very thing I thought would constrain me, sets me free.  "Lord, I'm a mess.  I am weary and broken and sinful.  I'm so sinful.  I have broken countless times either the letter or the spirit of every one of God's Ten Commandments.  I am so often fearful, self-seeking, prideful, arrogant, rude, angry, bitter, selfish, selfish, and oh-so selfish.  I've been hurt by others, and I've inflicted hurt to others in my insensitivity and -- "


It's almost as if He stops me right there and takes me back to the field...

"And the angel said to them, 'Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.'"

And all of the sudden, everything else seems to fade further into the distance.  The sin, the pain, the suffering, the heartbreak and brokenness, they're all still there, but they're no longer at the forefront of my mind because He is here.  Jesus has come.  Our loving, faithful Father has provided an answer to all of the questions and problems and lies we've ever believed.  

Jesus.  

Though we were sinful, He came.  Though He knew we would mock and reject and disdain Him, He came.  Though He knew we would inflict pain upon Him to the point of death, He came.  In His deep, unfathomable love and grace, He came willingly.  

He came for us.  

Jesus came that we might know that when the Bible says God has loved us with an everlasting love, we can believe every word.  We can trust that God loves us more than we could ever imagine because He was willing to give up what was most precious to Him for the lousiest of the lousiest group of scoundrels.  Jesus came so we could know God and experience relationship with Him in the way He intended.


But the story doesn't end there.  With humility, obedience, and victory, Jesus came and lived the perfect life we never could.  He was fully man and fully God.  He never sinned, even though He was tempted by Satan himself.  Jesus genuinely loved people with His whole heart.  He always put His Father first, always thought of others before Himself, and was perfect in every way.  


Yet, He took our place.  It’s this idea of substitutionary sacrifice.  We're sinful, and the God says in the Bible that the wages of sin is death.  So that's the way it goes.  We deserve to die.  


But though we deserved to die, Jesus took on the punishment for our sin on the cross and bore the very wrath of God for us, so we wouldn't have to because He loves us.  We don't have to be perfect because Christ has been perfect on our behalf.  We are able to confess our neediness, and He meets us right where we are -- always -- because He didn’t just die.  Jesus died and rose from death. And in His resurrection lies the entire basis of our faith. He defeated sin and death and was triumphant. And if we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead, we are SAVED.  We have salvation -- the promise of life with God forever and ever and ever and ever.


As if that isn't incredible enough...!  Through trusting Christ, God has given us not only salvation, but He has flooded our hearts with His light.  He has made us new and adopted us into His family, where we have become sons and daughters of the Most High King.  He has given us the Holy Spirit to live within us, to assure our hearts that we are never, ever, ever, ever, ever alone.


 All the grace, all the forgiveness, all the redemption, all the security, all the comfort, all the peace, all the joy, all the stability, all the hope we could ever need and more is found in Christ.  God has provided for us in Christ everything.  We don't have to stuff all of our pain and sorrow and sin into our cedar chests and throw them in the attic, because Jesus identifies with us in our weakness.  He understands the depth of brokenness in our world because He experienced it Himself.  Our circumstances will constantly be in flux, but He will never change.  He is our constant.  In Him, we always find rest for our weary, hurting souls.

Because Jesus came, died, and rose again, we are forgiven and redeemed.  Our sins are washed white as snow.  We are made new, and God has given us the perfect big brother who never leaves, always protects, always provides, always encourages, always sacrifices, always serves, always saves, always teaches,  and always loves.  Christ has committed to sanctifying us and preparing us for our home in heaven until we greet Him at the pearly gates.  


Jesus told us the truth that in this life, we will experience trouble and sorrow, but to take heart, for He has overcome the world. Though we will continue to experience hurt and sin in the world, we now always have reason for deep, abundant joy!  Furthermore, He promised that there will be a day when all the bad things will come undone.  He will wipe every tear from our eyes, and death will be no more.  Neither will there by any mourning, nor crying, nor pain any more, for the former things will pass away.  For He is making all things new.

To think it all began in a manger...!



Turn on some Christmas carols, deck the halls with boughs of holly, sing sweet Silent Night because our Savior has been born -- Christ the Lord!  We were lost, but now we're found.  We were blind, but now we see.  Thank you, Lord, for the best gift we could ever receive.

Praying your holiday season is full of Jesus.
Take heart.  He's here.  He loves you.


Saturday, September 14, 2013

For the Fearful


Once upon a time there was a little munchkin named Cait.  She loved Barbies and nail polish, America and heaven, sunshine and flowers, boy and babies, family and friends, sparklers and birthday cake, nightgowns and puppies, Christmas and fairytales.  She liked to think she was the epitome of the American girl if there ever was one.  

When she was just a wee one, her momma and daddio took her to Sunday School where she heard about 
a man named Jesus.  

She knew He wasn’t just any ordinary fella, but He was the very Son of God.  She learned that Jesus came to earth and died on a cross because He loved her.  He died so that she could be set free from all her fears, all her worries, all her cares, all her concerns.  After three days of being dead, He came back to life.  He rose from the dead, so that all who believed in Him wouldn’t ever really die but would get to live in heaven forever in the great and glorious land for which they were originally intended -- together with their Father, unafraid, unashamed, joyous and peaceful, safe and secure, filled with love and compassion.

Little Cait so looked forward to the day she could be with Jesus.  She believed He was the Messiah.  She believed that He had saved her, and that He loved her unconditionally.  She knew He was mighty and powerful and had authority over the heavens and the earth.


Yet as she grew up, she noticed she was often afraid.

In fact, often may have been an understatement.

She was afraid of practically erryyyyyything.  She feared it all.  She was afraid of the dark, elevators, spiders, getting lost, Splenda, scary movies, diabetes, cancer, car wrecks, drowning, airplane crashes, tornados, mold, french fries, ticks, medicine, slip-and-slides, germs, hair nets, cockroaches, Fox News, mice, talking to boys, guns, gangs, and everything in between.

Cait was sometimes so afraid of getting sick that she made herself sick.  

She was afraid of what the other kids at school thought of her.  But even more so, she was often afraid of what God thought of her.  She worried that one day He might change His mind and decide he didn’t really love her.  She sometimes wondered if he’d ever simply stop loving her.

She was afraid He wouldn’t really protect her because she was too gross for Jesus to really love her.  She was afraid that one day the terrible, dark enemy would over take her and snatch her out of her Father’s hands.  She was afraid of her thoughts and deeply afraid of rejection.  She was constantly fearful that something was wrong with her, that she was unloveable, and suspicious that God couldn’t really be trusted.  She feared making decisions -- particularly making the wrong decision.  She was afraid that if she chose incorrectly, she would walk out of God’s will for her life and she would be removed from the house of God forever.


In her heart, she knew that God would never remove His love for her and that her fears were irrational and ridiculous and grounded in nothing but lies, but yet she was still afraid.

She lived in a constant state of anxiety -- her mind running wild with a thousand what-ifs, her stomach full of what felt like icky worms that rolled around inside her all the time, and her back full of tight knots that seemed impossible to get rid of.

She felt as though she was a slave to fear.  She served fear -- not God.  In her head, she knew God loved her, but in her heart, she often questioned how much and if His forever really meant forever.

Fear is a tricky thing.  It deceives you into believing that you must protect yourself.  It makes you think that if you’re aware of your fears, you will be safe from them.  But that couldn’t be further from the truth.  The more we think on our fears, the more fear begins to take root in our minds and quietly starts to destroy us.  It puts rolly worms in our tummies and a ton of bricks on our backs until we either vommmm or are crushed under the weight of it all.

What fear really tells us, is that we’re alone -- we’re never safe.  We aren’t protected.  We aren’t loved.  We’re gross, ugly, worthless, and headed for destruction.  We’re powerless and weak and fake.  Fear says, “God cannot be trusted.  He doesn’t really love you.  He’s not really with you.  You’re on your own.  Good luck.  This is war.  Do your best to make it out alive."

Fear leads us into a pit of darkness, a lair of despair.

We can never live in the way we were created to live if we’re constantly afraid, for to be afraid is to believe that God is not who He says He is.  And if we don’t believe who He says He is, we can't trust Him.  We can't know Him as He truly is.


One day years later, little CaitCait found herself deep in the pit -- her mind felt heavy and darkened.  She was embarrassed because she knew she shouldn’t be afraid, but she was.  She’d finally had enough and cried out, “Lord, I’m scared.  I confess that I have trouble trusting you and really believing your love.  I can’t imagine a love like yours.  I can’t fathom it.  Jesus, I cannot continue to live as a slave to fear.  I am in desperate need of a rescuer.  Save me, Lord.  Rescue me from the darkness of my mind.  I cannot save myself.  I cannot fix myself.  I cannot heal myself.  I cannot protect myself.  I cannot sanctify myself.  I need you to rescue me, to save me, to free me from my fears.  Apart from you, I can do nothing.  Apart from you, I am nothing.  I’m a fearful, anxious puddle of a mess.  But Lord, I know with confidence this is not how you created me to live.  Speak to me, Lord.  Heal me, o Lord, and I will be healed.  Save me, o Lord, and I will be saved, for Thou art our praise.”

In the stillness and with the perfect breeze of His love, He spoke to the depths of her soul.  In His gracious, loving, perfect power, He drew her out of the pit of her fears and the futility of her mind.


He gently picked her up and sat her on his lap.  He quietly began to sing over her, "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.  You make me happy when skies are gray.  You’ll never know dear, how much I love you...  

I’ll love you forever.  I’ll like you for always.  As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.  When you walk through the waters, I will be with you.  When you pass through the rivers, the waves they will not over take you.  And when you walk through the fires, the flames will not touch you.  You are mine.  



My little darling, the last long months have been dark.  I’ve grieved as I’ve watched you give way to your fears and believe that I’m not with you, not protecting you, not loving you.  You were quick to forget that a daddy’s pride and joy is His baby girl.  Love bug, I didn’t have to adopt you.  But I did because I love you.  I wanted you to be mine.  I wanted to call you my own.  I made you mine, and it is my greatest joy to call you my daughter.


Fireworks, peonies, sunshine, rainy days, puppies, they're all pictures of how much I love you!



You’ve been afraid of all these things that aren’t real, haven’t happened, and will never happen.  You’ve been afraid that your sin will overtake you, but I tell you that as far as the east is from the west, so far are your sins removed from you.  You’ve been afraid that the enemy will destroy you and snatch you out of my hands.  Never.  Never.  Never.  Never.  Nothing in all of creation, nothing in the heavens above or the earth below will ever separate you from me.

I delight in rescuing you.  I delight in protecting you.  It's a JOY!  It's who I am.  
I am your Rescuer.  
I am your Protector.



Because you are mine, because you are in Christ, you never have to be afraid.  You never have to be afraid because I’m not going anywhere.  




It is in my identity to protect you, little one.  It is in my nature to keep you safe.  Don’t you see, sweet angel, I look upon you and see Jesus.  I look upon you and see the little girl whom I delight in comforting, for whom I sent my only Son to die.  I see the little girl whose tears I will never tire of drying, whose enemies I will ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS defeat.  I see my little writer, my school teacher, my sunshine, my princess, the future wife to my dearly loved son, the future mommy to my special, special babies.  I see the little girl whom I will fight for until the end of time.  


Take heart.  Breathe deeply and rest.  I love you.  Trust me.  Trust me with confidence.  Trust me with joy.  Trust me with thanksgiving and assurance, believing I am your protector.  You’re never safer than when you’re in my hands.  And guess what?  You’re stuck with me!!!!  No one can undo what I have done.  

When Jesus died, He broke the chains of any and all sin and death forever.  

Believe!

I know you have a tendency to believe there is something wrong with you or that there will be something wrong with you.  But it’s a lie.  There is NOTHING wrong with you.  You are a new creation, clothed in the robes of righteousness, possessing the very mind of Christ.  You are in my hands.  I am He.  There is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?  Remember not the former things or the things of old.  They’re but a memory.  




Believe me with all your heart.  You are FREE.  Behold the old has gone and the new has come!  Walk in the newness of life, my dear one.  The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever!  So if the Son has set you free, you shall be free indeed!  Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  They have been nailed to the cross and crucified there with Jesus.  He rose that you might have LIFE and life abundantly.  




Rejoice!  Give thanks!  And make music to the heavens, for though you were a slave, you’ve been set free.  

You’ve been brought from death to life, from darkness to light.  You’re safe and secure forever.  You have the mind of Christ.  You have no lack.  I am responsible for you.  I am your Father.  You are strong in Christ.  You are perfect in Christ.  You are more loved than you’ll ever know.  You are totally forgiven and redeemed.  You have authority over Satan.  You are dead to sin.  You are blameless, holy, and righteous.  You are radiant with light and filled with the Holy Spirit.  I am the Rescuer, and I am committed to you forever.  Remember, remember, remember, I’m with you always and to the very end of the age."



Lord, by your grace, we pray for faith.  Help our unbelief that we may trust you implicitly forever and ever until we jump into your arms just beyond the pearly gates.  Thank you that you're powerful.  Thank you that you're trustworthy.  Thank you that you love us.  We love you and can't wait for heaven.  Help us to tell others about you, that everyone may know the healing, perfect, freedom found in Christ alone.

Friday, March 29, 2013

For Those in Need of Prayer

These are prayers for the wounded, prayers for the warriors, prayers for the daughters and sons, prayers for the weak, prayers for the joy-filled, and so many prayers for those who find themselves in the depths of the pit.  Because when the day begins and when the day is done, what we need most is to be covered in prayer and as close to our Father as we can possibly be.




Lord, as we approach your throne this evening, we have nothing to offer.  You know.

You are the maker of all the earth.  You never grow weak or weary.  No one can measure the depths of your understanding.  You are faithful and compassionate and loving and pure.  You are the perfect Father who provides all comfort, all joy, all love, all peace.  All power lies in your hands.  You are our deliverer.  You have delivered us from the darkest pits of hell.  You give us beauty for ashes.  Your mercies are new each morning.  You are patient.  You are kind.  You do not boast.  You are not proud.  You are LOVE.   Your presence extends over all the earth.


You have no reason to accept us in graciously -- let alone listen to our pleas and fill us with the comfort we so desperately seek.  Father, you know our darkest parts.  You know our filthy impatience with your precious children who you love more than we could ever imagine.  You have seen us in our most disgusting hours.  You know our prideful thoughts, our disobedience, our idleness.  You know our distrusting hearts.  You know our jealousy, our bitterness, our hard-heartedness, our anxieties, our ridiculous fears.  You know our unclean lips.  You know that even our actions done in attempted obedience to you can be filled with impure motives.  You know our desire for the approval of others and the severity of our selfishness.  It's repulsive.  You know when we rise and when we sleep.  You know when we can't sleep.  You know our every tear.

Father, you know us better than we know ourselves.

And yet, in your abundant mercy and grace, you look upon us with love.

Only you, Lord, could forgive and redeem and restore us in the way you have.

You knew that our deepest problem in life would be our own sin.  And despite your deep hatred for sin, you have a love that surpasses any human conception of normalcy.  Your love for us is not normal.  It is supernatural.  It is holy and pure and perfect and basically incomprehensible.  Your deep love for us caused you to send your one and only son Jesus to this sin-ridden world.  And Jesus your sacrificial love for us cost you your very life.  Yet you chose to endure the hardship and the pain of the cross for us, that we might know you, that we might know your deep, abiding, perfect love for us.

You chose to die and willingly surrendered your life on the cross to set us free and make us whole and new and finally complete.

Jesus, I pray that we would grow to understand the depths of your love for us that you would have endured the most brutal, painful death that we might be restored and adopted back into your family.


Jesus, give us eyes to see our problems today in the light of the cross.  We have not yet endured hardship to the point of the shedding of our blood.  May we thank you for our problems.  May we thank you for our pain, knowing that you are refining us and sanctifying us into your image.  Lord, help us to believe that the result of suffering is joy.  Thank you that you would be SO gracious and loving to discipline us.  Thank you that you never give up on us.  Thank you that even when we kick and scream and cry and shake our fists in the air, doubting your perfect provision, you still love us.  Only you, Lord.

Thank you that you have provided, that you will provide, and that you are providing.  Thank you that your presence enfolds us on every side.

Father, I pray that you would help us to fix our eyes on you.  Lift our eyes from our circumstances and our feelings and onto you.  Thank you that nothing can thwart your purposes.  Thank you that you are faithful, God.  Thank you that we can trust you implicitly.  Thank you that in Christ we are made new.  Thank you that we are completely new creations.  Thank you that we never have to be anxious or afraid because we trust in your character.  Change our hearts of stone.  Help us to surrender our idols before you.

Lord, may we be men and women who desire not the affection and approval of others but men and women who rest solely in the truth that we are your sons and daughters.  May we be men and women who believe your truth beyond a shadow of a doubt, who trust in you in every situation, who laugh without fear of the future.

Make us into men and women who desire your will above all else.

Lord, may we be women who find our security in you, women who believe you at your word, women who trust you implicitly and completely.  May we find our identity in the fact that we are your daughters, clothed in the robes of righteousness.  May we rejoice that while we were dead in our sins, you came that we might have life.  May we breathe deeply in peace and seek first the kingdom.  Turn our eyes away from our circumstances and toward the cross.  May we be women who can't wait for heaven -- not for the absence of pain but the presence of our Savior.  Lord, change us.  Transform our lowly selves into individuals fashioned into your likeness.  May our greatest desire be to know you, to experience you, to learn from you, to feel your love, and to love you.  Lord, make me like Mary.  Make me like Elisabeth.  Make me like Jesus.

When we're homesick, when we're spit upon, when we feel the weight of our own sin crashing down upon us, give us your strength to lift our eyes from our circumstances to you.  Help us to thank you in times of difficulty, in seasons of pain.  Give us FAITH to believe that you will never leave us or foresake us.  Give us faith the size of a mustard seed to face our dark sides, our painful memories, our Goliaths, and our seemingly insurmountable mountains with confidence because we trust that you who began a good work in us will carry it to completion.



Lord, you know that all of the things we seek here on earth are merely an illusion of all you have to offer us.  Help us to recognize the idols in our life plainly for the false gods they are.  Constantly remind us and make us aware that no matter what we seek, you alone provide the comfort, love, peace, and security for which we search.

May we fall into your arms, Father.  May we be still.  May we breathe and rest and find comfort and peace in the truth that we have been adopted into the family.  We're a part of the party.  And nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing on the earth around us or in heaven above or even the grave below can separate us from the love of Jesus.  We are covered in your blood.  We are protected by your mighty right hand.  You are fiercely committed to us.  We will not be shaken for you are beside us.  Though the winds may rage and the walls may crash around us, you will sustain us.  Each morning, your mercies are afresh.  Your love alone satisfies.

We love you, Lord.  Thank you for committing to us forever with your death on the cross.



Saturday, November 17, 2012

For the Prodigal Sons and Daughters

we're almost there!  Thanksgiving Break is a mere three days away.  Let's be real here for a quick minute.  There were moments I had my doubts that this day would come.  The valley I've been walkin' through the past few months has been dark and scary, and whoa baby, there are plenty of moments I never want to revisit.  I literally have sat down time and time again to write, hoping that I would be able to make sense of all that has transpired the past five months.  Five months?!?!  Time flies.  And it stands still.  Oh the irony...!  


To give you an extremely brief synopsis, amidst moments of joy, a great deal of tears, lots of fabulous visitors, JOYFUL proposals, some laughter, adventures, a slight panic attack or two, a serious bout of DC depression, loneliness, insecurity, countless cups of coffee, good decisions, bad decisions, and lots of stress and frustration, I sit here on this November afternoon overwhelmed with the grace, mercy, and comfort that only the Lord can provide.

This morning I was spending time with Jesus when I just lost it.  It's so easy -- at least for me -- to let myself enter into the downward spiral of emotional ickiness.  Maybe you know how that goes.  I know it far too well.  The old pity party, I like to call it.  "I'm not this or that.  I will never be able to change.  I will never get it right.  I can't do it.  I'm a mess.  I feel so defeated."  All those stupid lies that Satan tells us over and over again in attempt to convince us that they're true.  That evil thing will do whatever he can to try and rip us out of our Father's hands.  Sick.  EW.  We hate him.  Jesus knew what He was talkin' about when He said that the thief comes to kill, steal, and destroy.  Why I oughtaaaaa....

But praise be to God, that JESUS came to BRING LIFE and LIFE ABUNDANTLY.


Because the last few months have been so challenging, I've had a really hard time believing the truth that we can be content no matter our circumstances.  In all honesty, I think I grew to believe it wasn't true for me in this situation.  Its funny, because I'm the girl who grew up believing and saying, "I could be content doing anything!!!  Whether I'm a trash lady or a flight attendant or a teacher or a momma, whatever I'm doing, I will always be able to rejoice because my joy and purpose comes from Jesus!"  

SMH... shakin' my head at myself right about now!  I'm a trip...!  Confident little Cait would be a little disappointed to see big Cait's lack of faith the past few months.  But the fact of the matter is, it is true that we can be content no matter our circumstances.  Our feelings our not our ultimate authority.  God is!  Heck Paul said from PRISON that he had learned to be content no matter what -- living in plenty or full -- because He could do everything through CHRIST who strengthened him.  I can't be content on my own.  I won't be.  When I'm working out of my own strength, no wonder I can't do it.  But with Jesus, wowza!  Imagine.  He can do more than we could ever imagine, guess, or request in our wildest dreams!

So I'm sitting there thinkin, "Lord, you are so good, but I mean are you sure you wanna give me your strength???  You know me?  I don't know straight up from Sunday..."  ha It's a good thing God is so loving because otherwise I'm pretty sure otherwise he might've smacked me upside the head a few times by now.. Whoa babyy.. Some people only need to learn things once.  I have to learn them about 320,984,572,501,246 times and then some.   But in His incredible mercy and love, the Holy Spirit reminded me of this precious gem...

To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: "A man had two sons.  The younger son told his father, 'I want your share of my estate now before you die.'  So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.  A few days later, this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living.  About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve.  He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs.  The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him.  But no one gave him anything.  When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, 'At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger!  I will go home to my father and say, 'Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.  Please take me on as a hired servant.'  So he returned home to his father, and while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming.  Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.  His son said to him, 'Father I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.  But his father said to the servants, 'Quick!  Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him.  Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet.  And kill the calf we have been fattening.  We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has returned to life.  He was lost, but now he is found.'  So the party began."

I think it's one of my favorite pictures of God's grace.  We come before our Father, with our heads hung low.  "Lord, I have sinned against heaven and you.  I have been ungrateful and hard-hearted.  I have look to everything under the sun to satisfy me, and they only led to death and destruction and despair.  My tongue has spoken so many words of complaint and ..."  It's almost as if he stops us right there.  It's as though in an instant everything has been forgiven and cast into the sea of forgetfulness.

"Quick!"  He says with overflowing love and compassion, "Turn on some Christmas carols, and let's deck the halls with boughs of holly because my BABY GIRL IS HOME!  Where's the dazzling radiant silk?  Let's dress her in the finest.  Let me look at you.  Ohhh you're so beautiful.  How I've missed you!  Can I spin you?  I know how you love to spin...!"


He holds us, and when we are in our Father's hands, all of our cares seem to disappear.  We aren't afraid.  Our Daddy has everything under control.  

He says, "Don't look to your circumstances.  Look to me!  There will always be things in your life that will try to steal your joy -- people or jobs or even the nasty enemy himself.  But there is fullness of joy in my presence!"

He made us in His image and called us by name.

He knows the innermost depths of our hearts and looks upon us with love.  

He doesn't just see us as we drive to work each morning, He sits beside us.

He ordered His angels to protect us wherever we go.  

He's the Father that tucks His daughter into bed each night with a kiss on her forehead.  With tears in her eyes, she looks up at His loving face and says, "Daddy, I'm scared.  Please don't leave me."  He sits down beside her and brushes the hair out of her eyes and says, "I'm right here, sweetheart.  I'm right here.  You needn't be afraid.  I'm not going anywhere."  And He doesn't.  


He's the REDEEMER who can redeem every situation, who will leave no rock unturned.

He is our HEALER.  

He is LIGHT in whom there is no darkness at all.

He is perfect in His forgiveness and mighty in His power.

He saw his son coming home from a distance, covered in filth and guilt and fear.  And He ran to him with open arms.  "Prepare the best feast!  My son is HOME!"

He said, "I will be with you forever.  You will be my people, and I will be your God.  When the rivers rush all around you, you will not drown.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned.  When you deny me, when you walk in the darkness, when you run away, I will never give up on you.  I will be with you always and to the end of the age.  You are mine.  No one will snatch you out of my hands.  Not even the darkest powers of hell could ever take you from me.  You are MINE!  I'm never letting go.  I love you more than you'll ever know."

He is Jesus, who though He was God, came to earth and dwelled among us that we might know and see who God is.  He came to not be served but to serve.  In love, he took our sin and guilt and shame upon himself that we would be made new, that the veil would be torn, that we might be able to spend eternity with him in beautiful paradise -- knowing life as God intended it to be.


PRAISE BE TO GOD!

Basically I say all of that because it's true and because I just have so identified with the prodigal son lately.  I think I came to DC with huge dreams of making an impact on children's lives and sharing the Gospel and having so much fun and making "transformational change" in my classroom.  Um yaaa, it's so hard!!!!!  I see myself fail miserably almost daily.  I'm not anywhere close to perfect.  I'm the least of these -- public sinner number one -- saved by grace alone.  It's so easy to look at our circumstances and say, "Wow, I'm not making anything better here.  If anything, I'm making it worse."  But for those of you -- like me -- in new jobs or new places, we have to stand on the truth that God is BIGGER than our situations.  And we have to BELIEVE and TRUST that He knows what He's doing.  He put us where we are because He sees the big picture.  When we're lookin' at the Mona Lisa, we only see a nostril.  We're like, "Um, I'm sorry, what is this?  Lord, really?  What am I doing here?  Did I mess up? It must have been my fault.  I must have chosen the wrong job or moved to the wrong place.  Whattt!"  But He sees the whole picture.  He knows.  He's making a masterpiece.  Fortunately or unfortunately as it may be, masterpieces take time.  Patience, young grasshoppers... :)

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“There are moments in our lives when we are crying out for grace, not recognizing that we are getting it. We are not getting the grace of relief or the grace of release, because that is not the grace that we really need.  No, what we are getting is something we desperately need, the uncomfortable grace of personal growth and change. With the love of a Father, your Lord is prying open your hands so that you will let go of things that have come to rule your heart but will never satisfy you.  With the insight of a seasoned teacher, He is driving you to question your own wisdom so that you will find your understanding and rest in His. With the skill of the world’s best counselor, God is showing you the delusions of your control so that you will take comfort in His rule.  With the gentleness of a faithful friend He is facing you toward the inadequacies of your own righteousness so that you find your hope in His.” -Paul David Tripp


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Lord, thank you for the hope that we find in you alone.  Thank you for who you are.  Thank you that you are the Father who always welcomes us back with open arms.  Thank you that can redeem any situation.  Thank you that we will never make a mess to big for you to transform into a work of beauty. Jesus, thank you that you are love and grace and perfect in the way you care for us.  Lord, help us not to speak any negative words about ourselves or our situation or those around us.  But may we turn our eyes upon you.  May we TRUST in you always.  May we speak your truth over our lives daily.  Lord, I beg you to tame our tongues.  May we think of and speak of only things that are glorifying to you.  May we fix our eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen.  May we remember that today we're preparing for eternity.  Jesus, give us your eyes.  Soften our hearts of stone.  Make us like you.  Do not let us be conformed to the patterns of this world, but may we be transformed by the renewing of our mind.  May we hide your truths in our hearts that we will not sin against you.  Teach us to love your law.  Teach us to have grace with ourselves and others.  And on the days we find ourselves bruised and so weak we can barely make it into bed, give us the energy to rejoice and overflow with thanksgiving that this world is temporary.  Oh those pearly gates...  I can't wait to see you, Jesus.  May our hearts desire you alone.  Sanctify us.  Wash us by your word.  Keep us from the evil one.  Make us more like you.  Thank you for the hard times.  Thank you for the good times.  Thank you for everything in between.  And thank you, thank you oh so much that we only have three days until Thanksgiving Break!

Sweetest friends, be careful the words you speak over your life.  Cast all your cares upon the Lord and live in FREEDOM, trusting that He who created you will never leave you or forsake you.