Thursday, November 11, 2021

The Testimony of Broken Chains

Recently I did a prayer walk in my city. I felt the whole walk like He was opening my eyes to notice things. One of the things I noticed was a chain laying beside a trash bin. It led me to pray that the Lord would break the chains of bondage (the bondage of addiction/sin/captivity/depression/mental illness/poverty/etc.) in our city. I prayed for total freedom leading to awakening and gratitude. I heard these song lyrics as I prayed, “You’re waking up my soul and it’s my joy to thank You!” (Upper Room & Cody Lee). When God breaks us free and heals us, we feel such overwhelming gratitude that it leads to praising Him for that freedom. 

Anyway, I snapped a pic of the chain next to the trash can. It stirred me to think about how we need to make sure we allow the Lord access to all of us - our mind, heart and spirit - for full soul-healing and not just physical. While we can have a chain of addiction (or whatever bondage) severed we are still in need of deeper soul healing that drove us to addiction in the first place. So I began praying for that deeper ministry in lives that are breaking free from bondage. 

But I didn’t like seeing the chain lying there - I wanted no trace left behind. I wanted to pick up the chain and throw it in the trash! It seemed ugly to me.  But the chain  was purposely bolted to the concrete beside the trash bin. That image remained with me throughout the day. Then I heard a random song by Steven Curtis Chapman on the radio later that afternoon… Remember Your Chains. Some of the lyrics follow: 

There's no one more thankful to sit at the table
Than the one who best remembers hunger's pain
And no heart loves greater than the one that is able
To recall the time when all it knew was the shame
The wings of forgiveness can take us to heights never seen
But the wisest ones, they will never lose sight of where they were set free
Love set them free

So remember your chains
Remember the prison that once held you
Before the love of God broke through
Remember the place you were without grace
When you see where you are now
Remember your chains
And remember your chains are gone

So maybe that chain that I wanted to throw into the trash bin has some purpose after all. It’s like my eyes shifted from seeing a picture of bondage to seeing a picture of freedom. The chain’s broken but visible. It may look ugly, but maybe it’s a good reminder of how He leads us out of  bondage and into freedom.  Maybe it’s a good reminder to remain humbly committed and submitted to our Savior and Lord. There’s that tendency to forget or drift…though let it not be so with us.
He shed His blood - all of it - to break the chains and set His people free. The only trace left behind is evidence of freedom we now walk in. What’s left is a testimony of salvation, healing, redemption and restoration. There is no one more worthy of our worship, so start dancing upon those broken chains and let a freedom song burst forth. Worthy is the Lamb that was slain. To Him be glory and honor and praise! 

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”          Luke 4:16-21 NIV


Thursday, August 19, 2021

To College He Goes

 I have shed tears a little at a time as I prepared to send Benjamin off to college.  I guess you could say I grieved in stages. I was hyper-aware of how fleeting time was transpiring all throughout his senior year. 

I was overjoyed to watch him spend time with friends, laughing and just being “a kid”. I shed tears with him as he walked through his first broken heart. I witnessed his resilience through the Covid era and all that was lost.  I treasured so many moments up in my heart as I witnessed my baby boy becoming a man. 

Logically I knew this day would come. I recognized the fact that it’s what we are supposed to do as parents…prepare them and send them forth. I know it’s a special season he’s entering and that he will learn and experience so many new things that will continue to develop and shape him. I know he will meet wonderful people that will become his tribe. 

What I can’t deny is the sadness of knowing he won’t come down the steps each morning and plop down next to me in the kitchen. His jeep won’t be parked out front ready for the next adventure. I won’t hear him say “I’m going to meet the boys for lunch”. I won’t hear the play-by-plays of his day. He won’t sit on my bed and unpack his thoughts or ask me to scratch his back. 

I think for me it’s the inability to see his face as he reads a funny meme or laughs at a GIF…not watching his face as he processes something hard. It’s this space of not being able to see up close what he is seeing and experiencing like I have up to this point. 

I have a new season of waiting. Waiting to hear his voice. Waiting to hear stories of new adventures. Waiting to meet his new friends and hear how old friends integrate with the new. Waiting to hear about professors and classes. Waiting for him to decide what and when he wants to share. 

While I wait, I trust God will keep him. I know He sees his every move. I just sort of have more of a distant view through a window now and that’s hard to accept. I will accept it…but it’s the tears rolling down my cheeks that are my usher into the acceptance of the new season. 

The Helper

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” John 14:26

In a couple months, I’ll be sending my firstborn off to college. Some of you may know how that feels, while others just imagine it as you change the diapers of your littles. It’s not like I’m sending him to another planet nor is it like I’m sending him to something dreadful. It’s college! Yet I know a change is in the wind for our family unit and I honestly just grieve that a little. Seeing our kids leave the nest is natural and necessary, but I know I’m going to need God’s help as I navigate this new normal.

We all need help sometimes. Even Jesus sought His Father’s help and often went to a quiet place alone to pray and seek His will. As Jesus, in anguish, sank to his knees in the Garden of Gethsemane, He prayed for Father God to take the cup from Him and for God’s will to be done. It was at that moment, the Father sent an angel to strengthen Jesus (Luke 22:43). What a good Father! What a beautiful picture of the Father’s heart providing for His child. He knew Jesus needed help in that place of anguish, so He released a helper. As we catch a glimpse into this tender moment between Father and Son, can you sense that God wants to be there for us as much as He was for Jesus?

I think one amazing quality Jesus possessed was His ability to receive from His Father, and because Jesus knew how to receive, He also learned how to give to His followers. In John 14, Jesus shares about the coming gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus saw the sorrow and confusion in the disciples' eyes as He forewarned of His death and departure. He knew there were future generations to consider and was aware of all the enemy would dish out to them, because Jesus also experienced it. He knew we would need a Helper!

God never asks us to do anything without Him. How comforting that He sees, He knows and He provides. How wonderful to know we have full access to a loving Father. We can ask daily for a fresh filling and He loves to give it. His Spirit empowers, comforts, teaches, and reminds us what Jesus said and did for us. Remembering truth is vital as we continue on life’s journey. We need His truth in our marriages, our parenting, our workplaces, our homes - our everything. And just as we don’t withhold good gifts from our kids, He doesn’t withhold from us either (Luke 11:13).

Where do you find yourself needing some help? Maybe you are having a hard time in your marriage feeling like you can’t get on the same page. Maybe you are having a hard time being patient with your two year old. Maybe you are living in a place of isolation because you’ve been hurt, but you are longing to establish some deep friendships. All of these things can make us feel defeated before we even start to address them. Let’s get into the right posture as we move forward...on our knees and hands open expecting the Holy Spirit to come alongside us. Expecting He will help us, teach us, guide us and equip us. And knowing He’s enough for everything we will ever face. 

The Helper. The Comforter. He is more than enough for all of us. 

My Good Shepherd

 “The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing.”

I lived half of my life without knowing or following the leadership of the Good Shepherd. But when I was 24, I encountered Him in a tangible way and began what is now a 24-year relationship with Him. I have encountered the valleys and the mountaintops. I have needed His robe of righteousness, healing, peace, love and the fulfillment that only comes from living attached to Him. I have seen His hand protecting me, providing for me, and His heart loving me and blessing me. He is a GOOD Shepherd. 

The more I ponder what David penned in this special psalm, the more I see a picture of salvation in it by a God who is fully engaged with us. Each verse leads you further into God’s plans and purposes. Each verse exposes His heart to save His people and to dwell with us.

We read the elements of Psalm 23 throughout the Old Testament. The Lord pursued Adam and Eve after they sinned. It was The Lord that led His people out of captivity and into the promised land. He was the cloud by day and fire by night. It was The Lord that repeatedly saved them from their numerous enemies, and taught them how to live obediently to remain in that blessed state of salvation.

In the New Testament, we see the ultimate way He revealed Himself as a Shepherd ushering His sheep to salvation. Jesus (God wrapped in flesh) is The Good Shepherd in John 10, laying down His life for His sheep. He held fast to His Father’s words, ways and plans. He conquered the enemy and rose victoriously from the grave so that we could dwell in the safety of His care. Great is His faithfulness, for He is still shepherding us! 

“Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:20-21

God is still supplying everything we need to be saved, healed and delivered. He has always been the provider and always will be. Salvation is His gift to His people because He values us. He created us for a relationship with Him. He wants us to live life in His presence, fully becoming what He designed us to be. We were made to reflect Him in this world and He takes perfect care to make sure we are successful in that endeavor. Every word in Psalm 23 reveals who He wants to be for us through all of life. David saw it from the time he was a shepherd and all through his kingship, leaning into the fullness of relationship with Him.

I encourage you to ask the Holy Spirit to guide you through these beautiful verses of Psalm 23. No matter what life has thrown at you, He is enough to save, heal and deliver you. To Him, you are completely worth it, so much so that He gave up His life for you. That, my friends, is love. And isn’t it what we all truly long for? To be known fully and loved fully? The Good Shepherd is the only One who can fulfill us and usher us into a place where we lack nothing. He is enough.

Oh Jesus! I need You as much today as I did 24 years ago. You saved me then but You’re still saving and transforming me. I depend on You for my joy…my peace…love… I know from experience that You are the ONLY ONE for me! Love You!

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Shake Off the Dust

And so the word of the Lord [regarding salvation] was being spread through the entire region. But the Jews incited the devout, prominent women and the leading men of the city, and instigated persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them forcibly out of their district. But they shook its dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were continually filled [throughout their hearts and souls] with joy and with the Holy Spirit. Acts 13:49-52 AMP

The disciples had plenty of reason to complain and feel under the weight of negative mojo or uncomfortable circumstances. I love the visual of shaking the dust off! My take on this is we can’t carry the weight of other’s decisions or beliefs on our shoulders. We can deliver His message/His word but ultimately it is not our job to persuade or enforce it. We deliver the Good News. We offer the Bread but can’t force someone to eat. We can only live in such a way that others SEE the fruit of a life with Jesus. That others might see that He is good and that He is worth pursuing. That He’s real and near and relational and satisfying.

Maybe some of us need to prophetically shake off some dust from other’s unbelief, disapproval, negativity or criticism. Maybe. Maybe shake off the offenses that we can’t help but come in contact with. Shake it off! Don’t get bogged down in other people’s opinions too much. Honor others, but don’t take on their junk. 

When there are many words, transgression and offense are unavoidable, But he who controls his lips and keeps thoughtful silence is wise.  Proverbs 10:19 

Our job is to listen to the Lord and do what He says. Period. If we are abiding in Him, then we know we are where He wants us, and the overflow from that abiding is saying the things He would have us say and doing the things He would have us do. John 15 discusses our need of being attached to the Vine - and especially in the amplified version, it uses the phrase “remain vitally united” to Him. We live rooted in our love for Him and His love for us.

That’s where I want to live! Sign me up! May each of us be filled and refilled daily with more and more of the Spirit and with JOY in the midst of disarray in our world. I believe it’s possible. I believe because Jesus displayed this and so did His disciples once they received the gift of the Holy Spirit and began ministry.

They came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit; for He had not yet fallen on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus [as His possession]. Then Peter and John laid their hands on them [one by one], and they received the Holy Spirit.  Acts 8:15-17

Father God, we ask for YOUR vision. You have revelation You want to bring to us. Revelation of Your truth. A deeper revelation of Your love for us. Today, we want to encounter You. We want to sit and soak in all that You are willing to reveal to us. We want to sit in a place of humility that You alone are God. To be still and know You. Help us to ask questions like, ‘What do You want me to know? What do You want me to do in my current place. How can I share Your heart with others today?’ And help us to sit and listen for awhile. You require some devoted time to just be together. Not in search of answers but in search of Your heart. God we love You and want to know You intimately and grow in understanding. We want to devote our whole selves to You. Holy Spirit come and rest on us and re-fill us.  May we be able to live in this place of union and open hands to all that You have for us... 

“And the disciples were CONTINUALLY filled with JOY and with the HOLY SPIRIT!”  

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Say No to Offense and YES TO JESUS

If there is one thing I think most people can agree upon, it’s that change is hard and transitions can be scary. The “new” tends to carry a little bit of unknown territory, and with that, a little bit of apprehension. While lots of people love new things, they don’t always love new seasons or major changes. I love a new pair of shoes, but I don’t always embrace a life change. It’s the fear of the unknown. We can’t always see what’s to come...

No one knows what is to become of COVID. No one knows when it will end or if it will end or if another pandemic might lurk on the horizon. No one can say with absolute certainty what will happen if we all go back to congregating at restaurants and beaches and ball games. Leaders around the globe struggle to know and decide what the best thing is for regathering their companies/teams/congregations. What a weight they have on their shoulders. While some are eager to reopen and return to the new normal, many are not. Offense rears its ugly head as people’s differing belief systems and opinions crash into each other. But in all honesty, hasn’t that always been present? Offense is continuously on the menu, and for those who choose to eat of it, trouble comes immediately. It’s a giant foothold for the enemy of our souls. He loves when we take the bait and take a bite out of it. He knows it creates distance, isolation, grief, anger, resentment and bitterness. The opposite of what the Lord offers us.

So how can we navigate all this change and uncertainty without losing ourselves and without swallowing a bite of offense? For one thing, I think we have to know the core of who we are. We are LOVED. We are sons and daughters of a good Father. We are chosen, dearly loved, and set apart. We are the Church. We are His hands and feet. We are His ambassadors and Good News bearers. We carry His Presence in us. We have the same power that raised Jesus to life within us. We are His BODY! And let’s not forget that He is the head. He is our reason and our direction and our sustenance and the model of what (or WHO) we should resemble. 

If there’s one good thing I think can come from quarantine, it’s that there is an opportunity to devote more time to our Lord with less distraction. We can be praying and seeking His face and His counsel, reading His Word to discover our part in His story, discerning His nature and His heart for us, and reminding each other of our identity. Not our role, but our identity in Christ. Are we confident in our understanding that God forgives us of all our sins and leads us in the everlasting way? Are we established in our knowledge that God has plans to prosper us and to give us hope and a future? Are we taking advantage of the opportunity to engage with the ONLY One that can meet all our needs and give us true peace? If we truly know Him and His love and forgiveness - doesn’t that help us learn and practice showing others love and grace?

Earthly things are temporary - just like this quarantine (hopefully). He desires for our focus to be shifted to what He’s doing. What He’s saying. Jesus modeled this for us. He spent time in the wilderness, too! He spent time in isolation, too. He had to navigate all sorts of change and transition and uncertainty. But He did it all in union with Father God and Holy Spirit. He revealed to us the power that comes from that union. He was the Word made flesh...He lived the Word. He made it alive and active. Visible and tangible.

I don’t have it all figured out and have it all together over here. But I do think the Lord keeps reminding me of all these things to ENCOURAGE my brothers and sisters in Christ. You are not alone - not ever. He walks with you through the valley and wilderness. He abides with you. He empowers your spirit to rise up and lead you into His Kingdom. He offers a much better choice on the menu than offense or despair. He offers HOPE and JOY and PEACE...He offers HIMSELF. He is our portion...our inheritance...our everything. 


Thursday, April 2, 2020

Light in the Darkness

You will not be afraid of the terror of night, Nor of the arrow that flies by day (Psalm 91:5)

Anyone ever feel like your thoughts tend to hold you captive at night? When there’s no one and nothing to distract you from the fears that pace through the recesses of your mind? As darkness falls and I retreat to my bed to rest...those pesky thoughts that tend to lean toward fear and worry begin their race around my mind. 

Fear is a horribly unwelcome night especially. There have been times when I’ve laid awake letting certain thoughts take root and spring up into much larger problems in my mind. In the moment it’s hard to focus on anything else. 

But one night, during a season of worry, I woke up feeling like the Lord had something to say. I had finally fallen asleep and then woke up all of a sudden and grabbed my phone to start journaling what I felt like was a song. 

When night comes and the darkness settles round
Fear starts tapping at the windows of my soul.  
The wheels in my head  - they start to turn. 
Thoughts of how I failed come creeping in. 
I search my mind and heart for where you are.  
I press into you 
I press into your heart for me
I press into your love and it covers me.  
The tapping fear fades away 
And all I hear is a waterfall of peace.
Your voice on a breeze 
Speaking soft assurance
Your voice reminding me 
Of all I am and have in You. 
Reaching up to where you sit enthroned in majesty
Reaching up for the loving arms I know are waiting for me
And there I find the sweetest peace and satisfying love. There I find exquisite joy that keeps my heart full and strong. 

It was as if God waited that night for sleep to reset my brain and then woke me -in the midst of rest- to speak life. I was able to hear His quiet message. A message that gave me direction. 

Press into Me. 

When fear attacks in the dark (both physical and spiritual) and you feel most vulnerable, press into Him. He is there...despite the voice of fear telling you He’s not. He is there. It is a promise He made us from the beginning of time. 

He gave the sun and moon and stars - bright lights that shine upon us - to assure us of His presence. To assure us that even in the darkness of night, He provides for us. 
Then God said, “Let there be light-bearers (sun, moon, stars) in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be useful for signs (tokens) [of God’s provident care], and for marking seasons, days, and years; and let them be useful as lights in the expanse of the heavens to provide light on the earth”; and it was so, [just as He commanded]. God made the two great lights—the greater light (the sun) to rule the day, and the lesser light (the moon) to rule the night; He made the [galaxies of] stars also [that is, all the amazing wonders in the heavens]. God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to provide light upon the earth,
Genesis 1:14-17 AMP

The [presence of the] Lord was going before them by day in a pillar (column) of cloud to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, so that they could travel by day and by night. He did not withdraw the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from going before the people.
Exodus 13:21-22 AMP

Our surviving and thriving in a difficult season does not depend on our strength or wisdom. It depends on following our Guide, whether we have a map or not. As humans we long for a map and a plan. We feel scared of the unknown. We want to see

When our kids were small, we placed nightlights in their rooms to comfort them at night. If they woke up, they could see they were safe in their room and find their favorite stuffed animal or pacifier. The small amount of light gave them just enough of a glimpse that they were safe in their bed. We have lamps that burn all night on our street. It’s a feeling of safety and comfort to those that live here. We can see what’s happening outside.

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; Give light (life) to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death, And my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” And my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken. But I have trusted and relied on and been confident in Your lovingkindness and faithfulness; My heart shall rejoice and delight in Your salvation. Psalm 13:3-5

When we experience difficult things, fearsome events, or general worry that we aren’t enough (as parents, as employees, etc.) we can make a conscious decision to turn away from fear. Easy? No. But the more I reject fear and turn to Jesus, it gets easier and easier. Holy Spirit will highlight His grace and provision. And He shows me He’s trustworthy and faithful. He is a shepherd that knows the way. Truth takes root instead of the worry (which are lies I was believing). 

Even the darkness is not dark to You and conceals nothing from You, But the night shines as bright as the day; Darkness and light are alike to You.
Psalm 139:12

Once more Jesus addressed the crowd. He said, “I am the Light of the world. He who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”
John 8:12

I find that so incredibly reassuring! Nothing is hidden from Him! He sees it all. He knows what was, is and is to come. “Seasons” don’t catch Him unaware. And He doesn’t have terrors of the night pestering Him. The Creator isn’t afraid, nor is He selfish. He let’s us in on it. He gave us Jesus as an exact representation of Himself, our Peace in the storm, and His Holy Spirit to continue helping and teaching us. 

And His appearance changed dramatically in their presence; and His face shone [with heavenly glory, clear and bright] like the sun, and His clothing became as white as light.
Matthew 17:2

This is the message [of God’s promised revelation] which we have heard from Him and now announce to you, that God is Light [He is holy, His message is truthful, He is perfect in righteousness], and in Him there is no darkness at all [no sin, no wickedness, no imperfection]. 
1 John 1:5

We have an incredible HOPE and LIGHT for our path that is only found in the Godhead. An incredible promise in what He’s done for us and gifted us with. He is our Light-refuge to run to and to follow day and night. When we receive this revelation of who He is, we are found...immersed in His salvation. And in turn we become an ambassador to the rest of the world. He even designated us as light-bearers. We are to reveal His nature and His goodness. We are to plant His Kingdom in confidence, knowing He will cause fruit to grow.

“You are the light of [Christ to] the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good deeds and moral excellence, and [recognize and honor and] glorify your Father who is in heaven.  Matthew 5:14-16

And one day, when we have overcome, and all is set right and made new, we will no longer even need the created light in this world, but only the Creator of light. He will be more than enough for all that choose to follow Him. 

And the city has no need of the sun nor of the moon to give light to it, for the glory (splendor, radiance) of God has illumined it, and the Lamb is its lamp and light.  Revelation 21:23