The Conclusion of It All

Just a few brief thoughts this morning. Do you have any idea what the term “Maundy” Thursday means? I didn’t! So allow me to share my new found knowledge:

Most scholars agree that the English word Maundy in that name for the day is derived through Middle English and Old French mandé, from the Latin mandatum, the first word of the phrase: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you”, the statement by Jesus in the Gospel of
John 13:34 (paraphrased from Wikipedia)

Jesus’ words there have been pooling in my mind all week, also the following words, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35)

Think of it! Today is the very day (some 2000 years ago) that we recognize Jesus telling His disciples the secret to evangelizing the world; the secret to complete obedience to Jesus Christ, the secret to all God wants from you.

It is love for one another. Look again. Jesus single commandment to His disciples: Love as I have loved you.

Also, it is in that love that the world will recognize us as His! It is in that love we find our own identity. 

I want to share one short devotional that I wrote recently for http://www.swagga4christ.com, as well as three songs that bring me to my knees. 

 

 

 

 

Short Devo: The End

“I finished the laundry!” My husband said.

“Now you can rest because there’s nothing left that you have to do!”

I cast a glance at the stack of clothes on the top of the washer. They weren’t folded the way I fold them. The didn’t look like they do when I’m finished doing laundry. I sighed. There was no way I could rest, the laundry needed a little more work.

John 13:1 says, “…having loved his own which were in the world, [Jesus] loved them to the end.”

When Jesus died on the cross, He said, “It is finished,” John 19:30.

The words “end” and “finished” have the same root word in the Greek: telos. Telos means: that by which a thing is finished, it’s purpose.

Jesus loved us to the finish. His love for us, shown by His death and resurrection, put to an end all of our works to please God or to earn His forgiveness. All the payment for sin that God required were finished by Jesus.

Think how it would hurt my husband’s feelings if I refused to accept his gift of doing the laundry for me and decided I could do it better myself. It is the same way with Jesus. When we think that we can or must do more to please God, we are actually saying that Jesus didn’t do a good enough job paying for our sins.

You only have to believe in Jesus. All the work is finished!

Be All To Me

Funny, I can go months at a time without writing a poem. Then, all of a sudden, one hits me and a few follow. Hope you don’t mind me posting another prayer-poem. 🙂

May God bless and keep you, Friends.

Oh Father, 
Increase my hunger for you. Screenshot 2014-04-12 13.55.44
Whet my appetite for prayer
And my tongue with intercession.

Greater in me,
Let your Life-breath swell my chest.
Illumine my eyes.
Weaken my resistance to your probing eyes,
healing hands and pure, fiery heart.

I want to know you and,
In knowing you to need you more.
I want to pummel you with questions,
Seek you for guidance,
Fear you with wisdom,
Love you with passion and an undivided heart.

Even in my frailty and oft distracted gaze,
I know, I know that you alone
Are sufficient for my days,
And more, more, more!

With answers to past troubles,
And light for distant paths,
Oh Father, when hungry teach me to feast on you.
When thrilled to glory in you.
When troubled to seek you and rest in you.
Be all to me.

Intoxicating

barbed-wire-on-a-stormy-day-1117143-mHow good of you Lord, to wrap another day
In pre-storm quiet and low-hung gray.
Sweet, tingly scent of fresh-cut grass
Hangs lazy, expectant in the air.
Silence pierced as with tiny holes,
By bird-song here and there.

The air is due for washing,
Pollen latent, clings to walls and walks where,
In minutes or hours, pure rain
Will leave them clean and bare.

How Good is God–Creator God!
To mold the world for me!
And add the redbud highlights as far as I can see.
Intoxicating beauty, I try to hold my breath,
And wish, as Joshua, “Sun stand still”,
Let worship resound in me!

In kind deference, God gifted me this world
While cold and undeserving my fists still clenched and curled.
But in this gift so undeserved,
He radiates Himself,
In quiet, sweetness, and cleansing rain.

Right here I’ve come to know Him,
Right here to understand,
The vastness of His love for me,
The perfection of His plan.

My soul awakes, revives to sing,
My fists loosen and relax.
For here within His goodness
Drunken by His beauty,
Mesmerized by love…

I give with abandon all I have
So frail compared to this.
But in all He has, He only wants–what I alone can give:
My trust, my faith, surrender,
My life to largest hands,
The ones who sculpted all this world,
This intoxicating land.

Artist Unchained

As a writer, I like to try on the title of “artist”. It sounds so free-spirited, edgy and unpredictable. It makes me feel colorful, unique and it frames my sheer looney-ness as something more respectable. But alas, I’m kind of a rule follower.

As a freed anorexic (a more appropriate term than “recovered” as it denotes the truth that I had nothing to do with it, and the fact that anorexia was indeed a harsh master), I have been practicing restraint in my physical exercise habits for years. Since over exercising was one of my eating disordered vices, health for me looks like moderation and sometimes abstinence.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean I don’t worry about exercise often, and stress about how much I should do, what I should do, if I’m doing enough and what workout will produce the best results. Thank God, He has protected me from myself and kept me from acting out on any of these fears. But I don’t want to just be physically healthy.

I want to experience complete freedom from anorexic fears. I want to be free from thoughts like, “I have to exercise this much. I am not allowed to eat those things, or at those times, or in these places.”

Come to think of it, my eating disorder was nothing less than a list of rules. Put that way, it seems ironic that I seek freedom by asking God to give me another set of rules. Rules and regulations have a certain appeal. They call to us with the promise of a secured outcome. If we follow these rules, we will get these guaranteed results.

At one time it was, “If I follow these rules with my diet and exercise, I will have the body I want.” Recovery offered me the possibility of real freedom; freedom to experience my body as God’s beautiful art, to indulge in creativity and spontaneity. Or, I could try to harness recovery and manage it by a list of rules. “If I do certain things, then I will not be an anorexic, but I also won’t get fat.”

The Bible says the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace. In Isaiah, we’re told that God keeps in perfect peace the one whose mind is set on Him. And we also learn to take our thoughts captive to Christ – not be captivated by them.

My mental merry-go-round has been in overdrive for the past couple days. As I walked the dog this morning, I brought those thoughts in chains to my Father.

“Lord, I want to be completely obsessed with you. I know that’s impossible as long as my heart is divided and distracted by so many thoughts of exercise. Please, please free my mind.

“It would be easiest, Lord, if you would just tell me what to do. Can you give me a rule book? How about something like: I should never run more than so many miles, only do bodyweight workouts, follow a certain program for a certain number of days, etc. Can you just lay it all out there for me?”

Abba didn’t answer the way I thought He would. Instead, He took my mind through a maze of reasoning based on Scripture, that led me to a place of peace, however not at all a place like I had imagined.

“Daughter, Why do you ask for rules? You want to know what’s safe and predictable. You want to know what you should do in order to achieve those things that you believe will make you happiest. 

Your body is not a means to an end. Your body is a means to me. I have given you a body to fully experience the joy of relationship with me and with others. Of what good is all your exercise if it does not bring you joy and it is not achieving an end that I require of you? You have no need for all those things such as flat abs and thin thighs, and manipulating your body to obtain them does not bring you joy. Why then are you doing them?

I will not give a list of rules because I want you to discover what brings you joy. What about arms reaching, legs stretching, toes wiggling, lungs swelling, heart pounding? What of those things brings you joy?

Since the dawn of Grace, the gift of eternal life though my Son Jesus, man has searched high and low for a rule book, a law, to guide him into my favor. It does not exist. My grace covers even your workouts. 

Move in freedom. 

Rest in peace. 

Do not demand a list of rules that does not exist. 

Do not demand a law that has been fulfilled. 

Yesterday is gone, 

Tomorrow may never come. 

This is the day that I have made. 

Rejoice and be glad in it. 

 

Question: Do you follow a list of rules for your workouts and diet? Why? What if you threw them to the wind? What, if anything, is good about having rules to follow?

Unidentified Calling

How many times have I told you God? I’m not cut out for  this! It almost feels like you’re that parent with pie-in-the-sky dreams for his kid, ambitions for Jonny to be a star baseball player when all Jonny wants to do is learn the guitar. 

I am a self-aware people pleaser. I’m not an entrepreneur or a risk taker in any capacity. I don’t like failure or rejection and I can’t handle large uninsured investments of my time, money or emotional energy. Yet, here I am, holding the second rejection of my manuscript in as many days. What makes you think I’m supposed to be a writer? 

If I didn’t know myself so well, I’d assume that I’m just fool hardy, a glutton for punishment, cocky and pretentious to think I have a story to tell and a ministry to fulfill through the written word. But I know I heard you. I know you put me up to this. 

Just the other day, I was thanking you for finally revealing “my calling”. But now, as I evaluate the outcome of my obedience, I think you’ve got me all wrong. It’s so hard, Lord! I really don’t want to sit in this uncomfortable space of waiting for and listening to you, of pressing on and stepping out in faith again and again. Can’t I just do something cut and dry, trudge along in a rut carved by some previous, daring saint? Is there just a “good Christian” to-do list I can follow?

I prayed this prayer under my breath, not too sure that I want God to hear me. I mean, I don’t want Him to give up on me, to relinquish His great plans for me, but I’m so tired of living in limbo. It feels like none of my projects find any closure. I’m still waiting for feedback from publishers, waiting for the answer to prayers about our family’s future, waiting for that phone call to be returned, waiting for the support group I lead to grow, waiting for the magazine editor’s response, waiting for some affirmation that my life is bearing any fruit for my Father, that I’m on the right path, that I’m doing something right!

God?

Except for this uncanny pressure, like His thumb between my shoulder blades gently propping me up and pressing me forward, I wonder if God really doesn’t hear my whispered prayer. He’s been mysteriously quiet today. But He didn’t chide me for my fears or mock my frustration. He only lay upon my heart one thing: “[Do not] get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time [you] will reap a harvest of blessing if [you] don’t give up.”*

I’m pressing on.

I am blessed to work with, write for and count as friends, dozens of other authors. So, I take great comfort in their humble stories of rejection letters and their gutsy determination to press on.

Here are a few links that have bolstered my spirit:

Chad Allen, by means of Mary Demuth and her humble honesty about failure even after you’ve “made it”. Here’s a priceless one, a cup of tea for the weary creative’s soul. I shared it once before and I’ve Pinned it so I can find it over and over, but just so you don’t miss it: In the Ditch.  And here’s board where I keep scraps of possibilities. Hopefully you’ll find brain stimulation there too. And one more, By Anne R. Allen, with enough wit to put some saucy back in your key strokes and determination to defy discouragement.

In the next several posts I’m going to be “going deeper”. That’s something the Holy Spirit  has been etching on my heart lately. I’m not completely sure what it means, but the more that I explore it, I’m finding it applies to nearly every aspect of my life.

I have a tendency to cast a wide net. I reach farther, do more and often give up quickly on the things that seem to have the least potential. Then it’s off to the next interest, praying this ambition is more promising (honestly, praying that maybe I found God’s sweet spot for me). Anxiety wells the longer it takes for an effort to blossom. Pure fear takes over when God seems to tie my hands behind my back. Wait He says, kneel here until your knees wear a deep indentation in the carpet.

What are the things that make you question whether you’ve heard God? What were you completely sure of yesterday, that you’re less than convinced of today? How do you know if you’re on the right track? What if you’re not?

*Galatians 6:9

Stilled by Silence

Silence
Lights the fuse of smoldering, quiet fear.
In chaos lay dormant all my fears.
Of nothing to say, no value to add,
No wisdom to offer.
Beneath layers of chatter and sketches,
Of Bible study books and tattered journals,
Lay a heart so searching,
Now papered with proof of fearful efforts.
But one fell-silent swoop
One hour of hands tied, lips sealed, eyes wide
And I am stripped of pretense.
And I am afraid.
But I am listening.

A Place Called Home, For Now…

“Father, I’ve found a church I like here. They have a women’s group that meets at the perfect time on Wednesday nights. Other doors to get involved are opening right and left. I get so excited, God, and then I panic. What about when we move?”

As a nomadic, military spouse, I hate one question: “What church do you belong to?”

I can handle, “What church do you go to?”, but the concept of belonging…somehow that doesn’t seem possible for me anymore. 

In our nearly eleven year military career, my husband and I haven’t moved as much as some. I’ve lived in four states; my husband has lived in four states and three countries. At our first two duty stations, I dug in quickly. I grew up like a good, church girl, having a church membership with my family at the same building for years at a time. My parents taught Sunday school classes, I went on trips with the youth group, sang in the choir, attended and then helped to lead vacation Bible school. 

It felt like the right thing to do as a married adult, to carry on those traditions in a new church home. But that’s just it, it didn’t feel like home. As if uprooting my irises, un-hanging all our pictures and garage selling the least sentimental gifts from last Christmas isn’t enough; as if bidding farewell to my biological mother and father and sisters isn’t enough, now ever few years I am supposed to say farewell to brothers and sisters in Christ that I have sat with, served with, eaten with, laughed with, confided in and studied with. 

No, I’m not sure I want to belong anywhere. But then, not belonging feels terribly lonely. 

I lifted my pen from the journal page, flipped the notebook closed and stood. My petition and fears now lay at the foot of Abba’s throne. It was up to Him to show me what to do about this inviting church. 

Later that day, I listened to a sermon by Paul White as I cleaned the bathrooms. 

“We have a lot of transience here, and it’s tempting to wonder why our church numbers aren’t constantly growing. To many, that would signal that we’re doing something wrong. Why are people leaving?”

It was almost an aside to the message, but he believed the words were for someone. That someone was me. 

“But I believe Christians are sent out. People are supposed to leave. The point is not to build a big church, but to equip and encourage people in the love and grace of Christ and send them out to share that with others, even within other churches.”*

I love how God often hammers a point home by repeating it through many sources. The next sermon on my iPod was by Ed Young, so I let it continue to play in the background. 

Ed spoke on evangelism, the urgent need for believers to be all consumed with sharing the love and rescue of Jesus Christ. He quoted from Matt 28:19, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,”.

In the original language, Jesus said to the disciples, “As you are going…”. This going out to the nations (and states) is an ongoing thing. I am not called to establish a home in one location, but to be a tent-dweller (2 Corinthians 5:1), uprooting my tent pegs every time the Spirit leads, just like Moses and the Israelites followed the cloud by day and fire by night. (Num. 9:21)

The Holy Spirit tapped my shoulder one more time, to reinforce His point. That evening, as I poured over this new church’s website, reading their mission statement and distinctives, my eyes snagged on this phrase:

“We don’t want you to ‘join the church’ so your name can be on a list or in a database somewhere. We want you to experience the awesome adventure of finding real life in Christ and helping others find it too. Our end goal is not for you to become a member; we want you to partner with us by choosing to Live Big, Love Big and Give Big.”

That was it. I can hammer in a tent peg here and get busy serving with a diligent, nomadic, enthusiastic, committed body of Christ. I may not be here long. Within a year or two, I’ll likely be pulling up stake, uprooting my irises and giving the remaining contents of the fridge to my neighbor. But for now, until it’s time to get going again, I belong.