Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Holy Vision

"Pure as the sun!"

- Stephen Vincent Benet

Silently and smoothly, rain fell, soaking the not so dry ground and creating muddy puddles throughout our back yard.  If only my seven grandchildren had been visiting Papa and Mimi, they would have clamored to go out and test the puddles after the rain had ceased.  And while I would not have relished dirty shoes on my hardwoods and little hand prints on my walls, I would have savored the memories of their happy faces and squealing voices as they carelessly played.

Every potential memory pleases my soul.  When they are out of my tangible reach, it's effortless to dream of their arms about my neck or their sweet voices calling my name.  Each of my grandchildren has a space in my heart, and very few things give me greater joy than spectating as they laugh and pretend and interact with one another.

Celebrating the lives of my children's children is a holy gift.  They escort the presence of the divine into my life when they share their young lives with me.  Jesus said so.  "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these" (Matthew 19:14, NIV).

To be in touch with the pure heart of a child is to perceive the kingdom of God.  When our Father looks at us, he longs to see an innocent heart.  To be filled with divine purity is to radiate all that God is so that others around us are inspired, so that those around us are moved toward the cross. Whenever a soul is moved toward Calvary, she sees Jesus, she finds forgiveness, she knows love, she receives peace.  And so much more.

Do you long to see God?  Welcome purity to your heart.  Pray for it.  Seek it.  Grasp confidence in the arms of your Father.  Take a long gaze at Calvary.  Listen to Jesus' heart.  Rest as you absorb the sinless heartbeat of your Savior.  And, cherish the Truth and Beauty He gives your immortal soul.

Your immortal soul has wings....

ref. Matthew 5.8

Friday, June 27, 2014

Time Travels

Time has always rocked my world.  It has seemed an enemy out of my control, and as I moved toward one birthday after another, I wrestled with the whining wheel.

Clocks ticked.  Chimes rang.  Watches whispered.  

I felt far behind.

Where was I going?  What was I doing?  Where have I been?  What have I lost?    


What is your first reaction at the hearing of the word?  Are your thoughts positive or negative?  Do they reveal your own fear of time?  Concerns and questions are common to us all and lead to probing and soul-searching.  

I searched and searched again and again.


Father God grasped my hand and led me on a rocky journey that took me from fearing time to embracing time as a rare jewel.  He heard me whine enough.  He grew weary with my wondering.  I had constantly steeped my mind with anxiety-ridden questions and hopeless thinking.

"What have I really done for you, Lord?  What can I yet do for you?  Is there time...?"

I journeyed on a backwoods trail.  I looked at my past with joy, but I also looked with regret for not applying myself more to my faith.  My journey with Jesus was and is everything to me.

I have lived simply.  It has been hand to mouth, paycheck to paycheck, church positives to church negatives, ministry successes to ministry failures, peace to war, war to peace, and health to illness.

I am not and never will be a perfectly beautiful monument of faith, for scattered throughout my garden of life are broken pottery shards, tilled soil, vines that need pruning, and herbs that need planting.  Fleshing out faith and grappling with time is messy, gritty, and sharp.

To obey my Father's voice has always been my greatest desire; but, I have sometimes failed to have ears that absorb divine direction.  I am perfectly imperfect.

So are you.  And that's OK.  God loves us still.

After wrestling with time's negatives and their power, new thoughts, divine thoughts, moved me away from confusion to a new soul peace. Father God, after hearing me lament so long, spoke into my soul sweet truths that are altering my attitude and my course.

Our God is a God Who repairs, replaces, renovates, and reshapes. 

I was weighed down by the baggage of lost dreams, silly missteps, and broken promises.  I was a heavy soul.  The worry of past, present, and future pressed the life out of me.  I remembered words I was too shy to share, the pressing of prayers not prayed, the moments I should have said "No" or "Yes" to my children. 

The incessant rewinding's were a score for the enemy.  They provided a lovely field for the planting of his lies:

"You are not enough."  "You have wasted your life."  "It's too late...."


Our God is a God Who repairs, replaces, renovates, and reshapes. 

He responded to my wear and tear.  He had new words for me:

"You are enough." Practice self-forgiveness."  "Love yourself, too." "Give yourself the gift of compassion." "Trust me with your past as much as you trust me with your future."  "I love you just like you are."  And, "I love you enough to transform your mind."  (Read Romans chapter 12.)

By the grace only God can give, did I finally get the full picture.  Seasons I had counted as waste were times prepared by my Creator.  Before I was knit together in my mother's womb, he carved out barren places in my life, spaces only God could fill.

What I had perceived as wastes, Father God had meant for His pottery wheel. What I had perceived as missteps, He had ordered with divine power. What I had perceived as evil, He had determined good.  

My life was not and is not void, vain, or useless.  Neither is yours. They were and are fertile soil tilled by the Gardener's hands.  A fresh field for learning about eternity and divine sovereignty.

Because Jesus is real and good and caring, He joys in giving us a fresh window of time.  He does not provide a do-over.  He gives us new vision.  We have a new window of understanding our experiences and time.  The seasons we count dull God declares good. Seasons that seem oil and water mix beautifully in our relationship with the Lord.

For, seasons are crafted, steps are ordered, and time is sown with thousands of seeds.  Parts small and smaller all create a lovely tree, a planting of God's glory.  You are that tree, beloved, when you give all your times, past, present, and future, to your Creator's hands.

You're a tree replanted in Eden, bearing fresh fruit every month, Never dropping a leaf, always in blossom.

from Psalm 1, The Message

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Are you a "broken-winged bird?"

They lie beneath the rubble of ashes, tracked sand, and soiled shoes.  They float like clouds, moved by the winds of our creativity.  They are both marvelous and frightening.  Hot or cold.  Each has a center, a core that was birthed in our hearts, and that center can gush like a rambling river.

Dreams are a rambling river.

In their river, we sometimes swim, sometimes wade, sometimes barely survive.  We can sink in their waters and struggle to find our way to the surface.  Frightened, we sometimes think we'll never even dip our toes in their waters again.

But, we do.

Dreams can be lost, found; rich, poor; worthy, proud; soft, loud; believable, achievable; minuscule, ridiculed; empty, full, unattainable, selfish, or painful.  Yes, they can hurt us and cripple us, leaving us, according to Langston Hughes, like a "broken-winged bird."

 Dreams are personal.  They are intimate.  They are owned.

When Jesus walks with us in their waters, our own dreams are swallowed by an ocean of divine Love. His sacred being brings the cleansing, healing flow of God's agape presence.  Grace and mercy then overwhelm our dreams and soak them in hope and faith.

Or, the presence of Jesus carries them away like the sands of the sea, as He prepares a new space in our souls, a place for old dreams renewed, or a smooth, empty place for new dreams.

Whether dreams are aged or newborn, they beckon choice, the choice of offering up or clinging to. Offering  up our dreams is a sweet sacrifice of giving to Jesus for His molding.  Clinging to them with our flesh fixes our heart on something(s), which is never God's choice for us.  Choosing to cling sends us to a cycle of struggling against the Holy Spirit.  It feeds self and is an endless war leading to weariness of our total being.

Yes.  Even God-given dreams can become idols we worship rather than God-pleasing paths of service.

Clinging makes us weary, and we wonder at our weariness as we face the same struggles again and again.  Will we continue to strive and tire, or will we finally give in and rest?

I have noticed when I give in to my body's cry for rest and accept Father God's limitations, I eventually rise up in physical and spiritual renewal.  When I give in to the Father's heart, my soul rests.  Romans chapter 12:1 and 2 tells of that rest.  God's word brings us to light, and that light pierces us through and transforms us. 

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. 

To offer our dreams to the Father is a holy sacrifice that pleases him, and pleasing God gives us peace.  At peace with our Father God and our dreams, we become new creations.

We are found.  We are home.  We are full.  We overflow.

With such peace and transformation, we are never the same.  As we walk in the Father's light and let him control our lives and dreams, we are changed from the inside out.  God chisels away at us til we one day see our reflection in the mirror, and realize that it resembles the Master of our destinies.

We have dreams because we are new.  And we follow our dreams with a heart of worship so that in our newness, we find wholeness.  We are healthy.  We are not a heavy log floating aimlessly in roaring waters.  We swim with smooth strokes. We are not a poor, broken-winged bird. We can fly.  We glide through the air with peace-filled souls.

Our flight takes us to our Father's loving arms.

Our hearts cry to be like Jesus rather than to have _______________ or be_________________.

Are you a broken-winged bird?  If so, you have hope.  You can be healed and fly again.  And, your nest will be a quiet place of rest in the presence of the living God.

Thus, I offer you a challenge.  Thank the Father for your dreams, then lay them on his altar of sacrifice.  Let them stay.  Do not disturb them from their place.

Find rest in your decision to let them remain and stand fast.  Believe your Father will give you his best.  He will breathe life into the dreams he gives you.  And, those dreams cannot be washed away, nor can they fall to the ground.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Easter Soul

"...that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death"
Philippians 3:10, ESV 

The Easter season can speak life to our souls.  Dogwoods bloom.  Azaleas are full of pink and white. Tulips and daffodils bless the landscape with yellows and reds.  A look out my window gives me pause to praise the One who is the author of all living things.

Watching my seven grandchildren is also enlightening.  Excitement fills their innocent faces with glorious hope of a once a year event.  With ear to ear smiles, they are already hiding eggs, carrying around their Easter baskets, and counting the days til Sunday.

Seeing the many blooms and watching happy faces remind me of life.  And though Easter is a time for lovely photo ops, egg hunts, and pretty dresses, the voice of eternal life roars above the throngs of these many joys.

I must hear his voice of beauty.  I must feel his life-giving presence in my soul.  I must see Jesus.

I must see him clearly.  I must draw close enough to him to hear his thunderous words of life.  I must walk the Via Dolorosa and find his friendship there.  I must be conformed to Jesus' death so that I can know his life.

Jesus' life is in us and awaits us at every turn.  Because he gave everything and was the epitome of obedience to the Father, we have everything and can follow him in that same obedience.  And with great smiles of courage, we can live in innocent hope and praise him always.  

Such rest of the soul does not grow from a particular spiritual formula or positive confession.  This life of hope and praise is birthed in our death to self and a new creation of self that we find only in Jesus' identity.

May your life be filled with soul peace.  May your vision be cast to your risen Lord.  May this Easter be filled with the joyful reality of Christ's resurrection life, which fills you and flows through you. 

Peace, Grace, Love,


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Soil Surrender

I love to dig in the dirt and get my hands in the soil.  To watch as one, tiny plant becomes part of the Father’s landscape is a feast of wonder.  More amazement comes from beholding a portrait of an entire garden and realizing it is an artwork, not only of an earthly gardener, but also of the master Creator.
My journey with Jesus shares much with the love and labor a gardener places into her soil.  I often have to dig to prepare my heart so that I can grow into stillness or rejoice with illumination.  It takes precious investment of time and requires work, as I surrender to the Father and allow His holy hands to tend the soil of my soul.  His tending is a humbling experience, and it provokes a change in my personal lifestyle, which is only lived by God’s gift of grace.

After walking with Jesus for a number of years, I am finding, more and more, that with the Trinity, quality is much more important than quantity.  Spending hours with Jesus is good, but so much more important is soil surrender - giving my whole self to the hands of my Gardener.  Being relinquished to him.

I'll never forget the time I first heard the word "relinquishment."  I was a young wife and mother and often grew disillusioned with my role as a pastor's wife and as a mother.
According to The Free Dictionary, http://www.thefreedictionary.com/relinquishment, relinquishment means to give up or abandon; to let go; to surrender; and, my favorite, to cease holding.

Relinquishment is the key to walking with Jesus.  It is the path to the Lord's path.  The more I give up of myself, the more I experience peace, hope, faith, love, and all the enduring qualities only he can give.  Relinquishment is abandonment of my own and reception of God's own.

Father, help me to listen with intention, to give less of my voice and hear more of yours; to be less focused on doing and more focused on being; to let you lead me to your word, rather than allowing the selfish desire for knowledge to rule me.   
As a teen, I had an inspirational poster on the wall of my soft pink bedroom.  The poster had a lovely picture of a large, ravishing tree, with the following scripture from Colossians 2.7:
Just as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so go on living in him—in simple faith. Grow out of him as a plant grows out of the soil it is planted in, becoming more and more sure of the faith as you were taught it, and your lives will overflow with joy and thankfulness.
Those words from Colossians became the anchor of my young soul.  I meditated on them daily and have never forgotten them, and they are yet my mainstay because of their prolific truth.  I often find myself telling my Gardener, as Simon Peter did long ago, “Where in the world could I go but to you, Jesus?  You are the only One Who has anything worthy to offer me.  You are the only way to eternal life” (John 6.68, my paraphrase).
Father and Creator of life, place your hands into the soil of my soul and create in me a well, wherein my roots will run deep.  Lord, give me grace to yield to your tender care so that real peace will reign in me and real life flow from me.
“Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me” Psalm 42.7, NIV.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Mama, Me, & Stretching

...I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn't think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,
My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.
Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.

~ 2 Corinthians 12.7-10, The Message

“Oh, Andrea, I can’t; I can’t; it hurts.….”  My mama’s call not only struck chords in my ears, but also bore holes in my heart.”  She was in severe pain, suffering the agony of a broken hip.  I squeezed her hand and told her she could. That she had to.  She had to do as the physical therapists told her or she would not get well.  

Later that day, I spent moments in reflection.  I thought of how my fingers had brushed through Mama's white hair, my lips bent to her ears, and my hand grasped hers so tightly and Mama’s grasped back.  

Progressively, my thoughts journeyed to the season of her fair hands brushing my hair for church and school.  How they touched my forehead with tenderness when my body was fevered.  How she took me to the doctor.  How she made biscuits every morning and took me to piano lessons.  I thought of how she told me I could….

In the stretching days of my youth, Mama was there to hold me. 

In the stretching days of her senior season, I was there to hold her.

The power of holding and helping my own mother created an immense well within me.  Tears easily find their way past that well and into my eyes and down my cheeks. 

As I now sit, touching the computer keys, she is in rehabilitation at a nursing facility.

I am in her house with my husband.  We are in her home.  Alone.  Without Mama.

She has many stretching days ahead of her before she returns to this sweet, small rancher that is surrounded by nature and quiet.  When Mama returns, she will not be the same.  Her separation and stretching will mold her anew, as she adjusts to living alone again.

I am like my mother.  I cry when I’m in pain.  I ache when I am stretched.  I scream when I think it’s just too much for me to handle, when I think, “I can’t.” 

I suppose we are all a bit the same.  In the frailty of our flesh, we cry and resist, whether we are being stretched in the physical or being stretched in the spiritual. 

Physical stretching is felt in the body.  Spiritual stretching is known in the soul and felt in the natural.

I truly do not know a time in my life when I was not being stretched by my Father.  And, so many seasons of stretching have included cries of doubt.  “I can’t, Lord God.”  “It’s just too much.”  “Please stop the suffering.  Stifle the pain.  Cease the Season.” 

And, into the depths of my comfort zone, He then breathes into my ear and soul, “You can “and reminds me of the Spirit-inspired words of the Apostle Paul, that God's strength is perfected in our weakness.

In one of the loveliest pieces of scripture given to us by God, Paul tells the truth about stretching and the key to surviving its agony.  Paul shared deep, godly truth that is hard to hear.  His response to his own stretching, “thorn in the flesh,” was one that challenges me today.  “I will most gladly rejoice in my infirmities….

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

"Ears" Are For Listening

"His hearing's fine.  All the tests are normal."  Our perplexity must have quickly shown on our faces.  The wise pediatrician looked at Jeff and me and replied before we questioned.  "Your son has selective hearing.  He's choosing what he wants to hear and doesn't want to hear." 

Yes.  We understood the kind doctor's words.  Our five year old son, Chris, had discovered an escape from unwanted words.  "Pick up your toys."  "Brush your teeth."  "Look at us."  Our imperative clauses were being ignored, not really unheard.

The visit to the doctor was revealing and healing.  Five year old Christopher understood he had been effective in the short term, but unwise in the long term.  A loving, short talk after leaving the pediatrician's office resolved the problem.  Our future imperatives were no longer ignored.  Chris chose to listen.

How's my hearing, Lord?

A still, small voice echoed through my soul in morning's soft light before I even pushed away warm, fuzzy blankets.  My momentary listening was soon smothered by daily demands.  The to-do's were not minimal:

Read the word with focus. 
Prepare my house for the market.
Do the church bulletin.
Fold yesterday's laundry.
Continue my 7th Year journey.
Study my Sunday school lesson.
Balance the checkbook.
Pay bills.
Care for my granddaughters.
Schedule doctors appointments.
And so on.

My lists are always written in black on the back of an index card.  Plain paper is very persuasive when its marks provide plans and structure for life.  These marks are good thoughts.  Words of needful things.

Needful:  what is essential, required, vital, imperative. 

We all have needful things.  Our conscious is too often overcrowded with what must be done.  Our Father, knowing our needs, equips us with wisdom, time, and gifts to fulfill all life asks of us.  Tasks that cry to us, body and soul.  Ideas that beg the lifting of hands, moving of feet, and investment of heart.

Yes, tasks cry. 

Their sounds are loud.  Boisterous.  RESOUNDING!

Beneath their boasts, lies the faint of still.  It is smothered, yet lives, and begs for listening.

How's my hearing, Lord? 

Teach me how to hear Your word though I am crowded with din of self and noise of life.  Teach me to savor Your whispers.  Teach me to select Your words, and to stop and embrace them, to hold them closely, write them down, meditate on them, and allow You to engrave their truth into my heart.

How's my listening, Lord?

Father, I ask for ears to hear beyond my temporal noise, for listening that will carry my soul into Your presence, and my own words to "Yes."
Grace, Friends,

A special thanks to Alicia Britt Chole, my friend and mentor, whose tireless work in The 7th Year is inspiring me to learn to hear.

"And the LORD came and called as before, 'Samuel! Samuel!'  And Samuel replied, 'Speak, your servant is listening.'”

1 Samuel 3:9-11