Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Cost of Abiding

The thermometer read 6 degrees this morning on the Oklahoma plains and the weatherman told me that it felt like 10 below zero with the windchill factored in.  That's cold!  I've spent the morning getting my home ready for those that will gather in it's warmth tomorrow, which will be a full day of the door opening with tea and coffee being poured, scripture opened, and prayers offered, a day that for this keeper of home is delicious and wanted.  Im checking things off my list so that I can spend the afternoon doing something that is like medicine to me.  As soon as the last chore is checked off I will sit with a cup of steaming sweet and spicy tea and all of my seed and plant catalogs to plan my flower and vegetable gardens.  There is something wonderful to me about doing it on a very cold and wintery day, the wonderful part is the dreaming of the faces of pink peonies, yellow sunflowers, and blue hydrangeas dancing in my yard come spring and summer.  And there is the thought of baskets filled with red tomatoes, cucumbers, and herbs.  It all paints a picture in my mind that is quite delightful.  If it was only as simple as dreaming it up, planting a seed, and it would be exactly as I see it in my mind.  Any of you that have done gardening know it takes work.  Sometimes even growing a tomato in a pot in Oklahoma is difficult!

We moved to a different home a few weeks ago and even as we were remodeling my eye was on the garden area in the backyard.  It hadn't been tended in over five years and yet the sprinkler system had kept everything green and growing.  Everything, even the weeds were healthy!  So I started the process with some professional help of removing what needed to be removed and only keeping a few things that could stand the extreme pruning.  Extreme pruning....there's a mouthful.

The word ABIDE has been a word that Father has been tattooing on my heart for years.  You will always find the word somewhere in my home, not for anyone else but for me, to serve as a reminder of what my posture is to look like in the divine relationship.  Abiding is dwelling, living, making a home in Him and Him dwelling, living, and making a home in me.  John 15 is usually loose in it's binding in most of my bibles.  There is something that we often don't like to talk about but it comes along with abiding and that is pruning. Pruning is the cutting, scraping, and separating that happens in an effort to cause something to grow and to produce more.  It's costly.  It seems painful to me to go and chop off the top of something that has growth, but it has to be done for more growth.  I talk almost weekly with someone who is being asked for something or sensing Father is wanting them to step away or lay down someone or something. Maybe they can see the scars of past pruning on my life, for sure it's a part of my story, I pray they see the growth that He has brought about as well. It's real and it's painful and yet what it produces is more of Him and more abiding and that is beautiful.

What is it for you?  What is that thing or that person that has become an idol to you, that you hear the Father gently saying, "it's time to let me cut that off".  Maybe it's something that you are pursuing harder than God and he is prompting you that you need to let Him do some surgery before more growth will happen.  Its a new year, a time to hit the refresh button but in so doing it will require participation with the Master Gardner, for new growth to happen in this new year.

Below is a story that I always think of when contemplating what my abiding looks like and what the cost of pruning will result in my life.  I also attached a wonderful message from Pricilla Shirer that is on the message of separation which looks a lot like pruning!

Always learning.....
My cup overflows,

Once upon a time, there was and Old Grapevine Branch.  He had been growing in the vineyard for a very long time and his fruit was the biggest and sweetest fruit around! People came from far and wide to taste his fruit.  The Young Branch beside him looked up to him and said, " I want to be just like you when I grow up.  What can I do to have fruit as big and sweet as yours?"  "Tell me what I have to do and I promise to be committed!"  The Old Branch said, "Be Willing".  The Young Branch thought, "that's strange...be willing"?  The next day, the gate opened and the gardener walked in.  The gardener bent down and on one knee reached into his back pocket, pulled out what looked like sharp scissors, and moved toward the Young Branch's friend down the row.  The Young Branch watched as his little friend cried, "No, no, why are you doing this to me?  Haven't I been sweet?  Please, don't cut me!"  The Young Branch looked up at the Old Branch and asked, "What's happening....why did the Gardner do that? Is it because he didn't like her?" The Old Branch replied, "No! What you just saw proves that the gardener loves that little branch very much."  The Little Branch replied, "Oh, is it because my friend did something wrong and the gardener is punishing her?"  The Old Branch answered, "NO. Your friend is being pruned.  Not because she was trying to do things wrong, but because she was trying to do things right.  Not because her fruit was not sweet but because the gardener wants it to be even sweeter."  The Young Branch replied, "Well, you don't have to worry about being pruned.  You have the sweetest fruit in the garden!"  "Oh, I want to be pruned!"  the Old Branch said.  "You what? It must hurt, and you're going to look bad."  The Old Branch chuckled and replied, "Yes, it is quite uncomfortable.  But it is necessary.  You see, my young friend, I have a fungus growing on my underside and that no one can see.  Pruning will keep me healthy.  So when the gardener comes to prune me, I won't pull my leaves back.  I'll lift myself high in the air to make His job easier.  And always remember, the very fact that you're being pruned means you will bloom again."  Just then the gardener stopped by the Old Branch, and the Young Branch saw the old branch raise his leaves high up in the air.  He heard a snip, and the Old Branch lay on the ground...all except for the nub.  Then the gardener turned to the Young Branch.  His little leaves were shaking, and tears rolled down his side, but with every ounce of strength, he raised his leaves high in the air, looked up into the gardener's face and said, "Kind and gentle gardener, I'm willing."

This is a great message from Pricilla Shirer, Its an hour long so get you a cup of tea, your bible, and some pen and paper and soak.

                 Going Beyond Ministries with Priscilla Shirer - A Place of Separation               

Monday, August 14, 2017

A Tattoo On My Heart

Have you ever noticed when God wants you to learn something He seems to remind you of it over and over?  Maybe it's a life lesson, a biblical principle, or a verse that He desires to become apart of your story.  It's like He tattoos it right on your heart so that it becomes a permanent part of who you are and how you respond to life. Have you ever been asked to go someplace, to do something, or to walk a difficult path that you thought utterly impossible or didn’t make sense? Or maybe you find yourself in a place that isn’t comfortable and you’re searching for a way out. You know the places, they are steep and hard to get your footing.  The Lord has pressed Habakkuk 3:17-19 on my heart for years. It's been over ten years ago that He first took out his needles and began the heart tattoo that has become a permanent mark.  Especially verse 19, "The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds feet, and makes me walk on my high places"

I shared the following story five years ago but the Lord has brought it again to my mind along with the verses and steadfastness He is desiring to produce in me through difficult circumstances.

We were about to plant our lives overseas and decided to take our kids and our future son-in-love to Yellowstone and the surrounding area when I first felt the needle prick. I was feeling the uncertainty and insecurity that comes from taking a leap like that.  We also were leaving our daughter behind in college, that was hard on this momma.  I sat by a babbling brook one morning and my eyes fell to the words in Habakkuk.  I thought about what it might mean that God would give me what was needed to walk on my high places.  On the same day that I read those words the following drama unfolded and He taught me. My family likes to rock climb so we searched for some kind of rock face that they could climb. We stopped at the ranger station and a kind ranger directed us to a place that we could climb that was off the beaten path. He was careful to tell us that a grizzly bear had been in the area and that we would need to make a lot of noise going up, that was to keep bears away…I guess? We found the place, it was one of those places that has a sign-in and sign-out sheet at the entry point of the trail, just in case you sign in and don’t sign out they will come looking for you or what remains of you! Off we went on a narrow trail that snaked up the side of the mountain. The trail was only wide enough for one, so we looked like a parade going up the mountain. Every once in a while someone would recognize that we were being too quiet as we navigated the trail. They had obviously had a thought of a grizzly bear and would break out in a song like This Is The Day and clap their hands loudly. We would all laugh hilariously and sing along. When we arrived at the face, the kids noticed that the face was loose and they would have to climb without ropes or tying in. They would take three steps up and then slide down a bit, regroup and go again. Jim didn’t think I should try it, which made me laugh because I don’t think that thought ever entered into my mind! So off they all went three lunges forward and then slide down. I was standing on a narrow ledge with a drop off of about twenty feet below me, a raging river at the bottom of the ravine and a mountain face on the other side that my family was creeping upward on. It then hit me, I was alone and what about the bears?! Great, Jim really wasn’t thinking about me having a hard time climbing, he was using me as bear bait! I sang, clapped my hands, watched my family and prayed for them as they struggled to navigate the rock face. All of a sudden my family froze, a mountain goat had scampered out on this face that literally had very little angle to it. I know he had to be thinking what are these things clinging to my mountain?! That goat must have been stunned, because he stood there long enough for me to get my camera out and take a picture, then he scampered away effortlessly. I was delighted and couldn’t believe how wonderful it was. I knew what God was teaching me, He would give me the footing necessary to climb whatever path He placed me on. My family continued to struggle to get their footing and made it to the top. I realized that they were able to see things from the top that I was never going to see from the semi-safe ledge below. Although the climb was difficult, as proof by the torn clothing, dirt covered, scraped and bleeding family that returned to me…it was all worth it! The climb, the exercise in endurance, and the view from the top all evoked elation in my family.

High places are not easy places to get to usually. They are often rocky, difficult, and you fight to know how to keep your footing or what to cling to.They require perseverance, steadfastness, and wisdom to navigate.  Sometimes there are scrapes, bruises and blood accompanying the climb. The high places in our lives are the places that the Lord desires to take us. And although difficult, it is usually in the climb that we know Him more intimately as He teaches us things that would not otherwise be learned. All high places are meant to bring us to Him and ultimately to worship. My high places are not your high places. The difficult things that have come in and out of my life probably don’t look the same as yours, but we all have them. Cancer, chronic illness, marriage problems, a wayward child, infertility, financial ruin, loneliness, broken relationship, all of these and more are steep and rocky terrain, yet paths He asks us to navigate. His promise to us is to be with us, to guide us, and to equip us for the climb. Even when my climbing looks like taking three steps forward and sliding backwards or just hanging on, digging my fingernails into the dirt to cling and keep my footing. He knows the way I take. I never dreamed I would pray that God would make me like a goat, but I have! He continues to add ink to this heart tattoo and I continue to learn what it means to live and respond out of His truth.

Ever climbing, clinging, and learning

Habakkuk 3:19 The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on my high places.

Job 23:10 He knows the way I take; When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A Quiet Heart

I just have a few words running through my mind this morning, but they seem to be running deeper through my heart.  Like a deep stream of water moving ever so slowly, yet still moving forward, and full of life.  Most of the time deeper is better than faster. My thoughts are about keeping a quiet heart. Elisabeth Elliot, (one of my mentors from afar) compiled a book of her writings on the subject and I've picked it up again after 15 plus years.  In it she typed these words that she had written in 1947 while at Wheaton College;

Lord, give to me a quiet heart
That does not ask to understand,
But confident steps forward in
The darkness guided by Thy hand.

Remarkable is the fact that she penned those words with no idea of what was in front of her.  The world needs those of us who know Jesus to be women of quiet hearts.  Hearts that are stilled and unruffled no matter what we are facing.  To be certain we all face the same things the material and or occasion just looks different in each life.  Disappointment, discouragement, uncertainty, loss, loneliness, and heartaches come to all of us, usually with no invitation on our part.  Quietness of heart comes to the woman who knows her God, who faces those un-welcomed guest with the theology and truth of who God is in the midst.  Realness here, take the time to feel the weight of each, grieve loss, and wrestle with what is being taught and pushed into your heart. It's not ungodly to be discouraged or to wrestle, there is a danger in thinking so.  The danger is that we become those that slap some God-statement on it and never suck all the rich truth that Father is wanting to implant because we don't want anyone to think we don't have it all together.  No on has it all together, hence the reason we all need Jesus!

A quiet heart is a heart of unbroken intimacy.  A heart that when the things of life press in says; "I don't understand but things I do know are; God is good, God is in control,  God sees all, and He will accomplish what He has planned for me." even when it doesn't feel like it! When times like described above hit, I actually have to rehearse these things out loud to myself.  Women with quiet hearts are women of abiding intimacy that face life with the truth they know about God even when they don't understand.  Always learning theology deeper and deeper rather than over and over.

I have been walking this out the last few weeks in my own life and heart, figured some of you have as well.....

Always learning,

Friday, March 3, 2017

Broken and Spilled Out

Broken  and Spilled Out.....

The words hit my heart fresh again as I approach this season of Lent and ponder the brokenness and the spilled out giving of my Savior.  All the while pondering what it looks like for my own life to be broken and the things that need to be broken off.  Self-centeredness, idols, desires, agendas and dreams that are rooted in me and not in Him.  What does it take for my life to become broken bread and spilled wine for those around me to taste and see that He is good?  And, do I want that? These are questions to marinate in for the next 40 days, really for the rest of my days.

In conversation with a heart sister this week we talked about the tension we live in.  The tension between what we know is of God and the brokenness that is around us that seems to consume most of our attention.  Maybe that's it!  The tension that I despise most days, that is between what I know about God and His goodness and the broken pieces and people, and the tension between what I know I should do and what I do, is really intended to be the instrument to break me.  This tension is to cause me to run in desperation and surrender.  The broken interruptions in my life, the lives around me, and in our world is the very pressure needed to get me to the end of my thoughts of being able to fix it or take care of it.

My eyes fell on this paragraph in Ann Voskamp's book The Broken Way today,

"Interrupt comes from the Latin word that means to "break into".  Love is the willingness to be broken into.  There are never interruptions in a day only manifestations of Christ.  Your theology is best expressed in your availability and your interruptability and ability to be broken into.  This is the broken way.  This is all love.... I will only love as well as I let myself be broken into."

This love...it's His love. The love that is like a river that flows full, free, and with abandonment in a life and vessel of surrender, the kind of love that eclipses me and the kind of love that I cannot muster up.

I pray often, less of me and more of Jesus, asking for brokenness and a heart that spills out His love. Yet, how tightly do I cling to my own perceptions of how He will accomplish it?  The way of broken and spilled out comes by the way of the cross, with surrender, suffering, and yet screaming and demonstrating lavish love.

Still learning,

Monday, February 13, 2017

Life is Messy

We are constantly talking about doing life on life with each other.  Promoting the kind of living that goes way beyond surface, the kind of living that says, " I will enter in and walk beside you, no matter what it looks like".  God-like kind of living that communicates that we are not going to abandon you or leave you.  You can't shake me off by your behavior or words. We all long to feel that kind of love and commitment.  The one that Christ can only fully give and yet asks us to participate in by being His hands and feet to those around us.  Shouting the gospel as we offer a hand, a hug, a word of encouraging truth, a plate of cookies, a shoulder to cry on, and or a meal around our table. On the surface that sounds really beautiful doesn't it? Often it is, but often it isn't until we walk through.  The walking through often isn't even pleasant let alone beautiful!  Why?  Because life is messy.  Which causes us, who are hopelessly flawed and riddled with sin, insecurities, and in constant need of the gospel and direction ourselves, to be messy.  There are messes that I'm convinced will always be presented because of this human condition that is desperate for transformation from glory to glory.

People will choose their own way over God's way, resulting in a mess.
People will not desire wisdom, resulting in a mess.
People will make plans without considering how it will affect others, resulting in a mess.
People will be self absorbed and play the victim, resulting in a mess.
People will refuse to take responsibility for their actions, resulting in a mess.
People will desire to be in control, resulting in a mess.
People will be unwilling to wait, resulting in a mess.
People will self-promote and need to be dominate, resulting in a mess.

I don't think that we even make it a consideration when choosing our own way and believe that left one second to my own thinking, apart from the Spirit's guidance, I'm headed to the mess.  My assertion is that we should make it a consideration! We need transforming power.

2 Corinthians 3:18
"But we all with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory just as from the Lord, the Spirit."

Living translation...

"So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord.  And the Lord, who is the Spirit, makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into His glorious image."

Truth:  Everyone is transformed by what they set their gaze upon, what they worship.  If my gaze is focused on myself, my situation, or what I believe is my plight, then my transformation is self to self. Not helpful... If my gaze is fixed upon the Lord then my transformation is from glory to glory.  Because we continue to reflect what we are looking at. My ONLY hope.....

Knowing that I don't always get this right, I need grace to extend to others when they don't get it right.  Remembering that we/I have been entreated to walk in a manner worthy of my calling. My calling is to live out the gospel!  And in living out the gospel with others, I am to live with humility, (knowing Who is in ultimate control) and gentleness (velvet covered steel) that is coupled with patience (a long walk in the same direction even when it is tiring and messy), and make allowances for other's faults (recognizing they are doing the same for me!).  And, while I'm do that work hard at preserving unity with the Spirit's help (because I can't do it any other way!) for the purpose of bonding people together in peace. Ephesians 4:1-3

Still Learning....
Written with love and conviction.....

Monday, January 16, 2017

Spiritual Investments

I've been camped out in a passage of scripture over the past week.  Matthew 25 and Jesus' parable about the talents.  The man who owns property goes on a trip and entrusts his property to his servants in the form of money.  He gave his three servants different amounts based upon their ability.  The first two servants when he returned had doubled the money.  The third servant was afraid and thought he would play it safe, dug a hole and buried the money.  The man came back from his long journey to be delighted about what the first two servants did, taking risk and re-investing his money so that it would produce more.  He was furious with the third slave telling him he could have at the very least put the money in the bank so it could have earned interest with no risk, instead of out of fear burying it in the ground.  So many things Jesus wanted to push into the hearts listening and into mine in the past few days.

He has entrusted His property to us; His Spirit, His Gospel, His gifts,His kingdom, His investments.  His investments in our lives come in many different sums.  As I was thinking through my life I easily listed the times and places that He taught me or invested something in me through the many people He has brought through my life, churches that we have been apart of past and present, and the teaching of biblical truth from men and women who have walked many years with Him.

I realized that it just isn't the great or victorious moments that constitute spiritual investment, but it has also been the trials that have been His investments.  The times of grief and loss, the moments of crossroads, and the five years of wilderness.  In as much as each caused me to cling to Him, know Him more, and make Him known more, it is His investment. Each grew and formed and produced more of Him.

Playing it safe out of fear is not an option.

Recognize Who's you are....bondservant of the Lord

Recognize what you've been entrusted with....
     natural abilities + supernatural gifting + spiritual investments = kingdom multiplied

Recognize the time you've been given....
     we are in the in-between, He is returning from His long journey, our one responsibility is to be doing something with what we have been entrusted with.

The investment is directed to everything kingdom; gospel, salvation, discipleship, church planting, growing the next generation, using our resources accordingly, living faithful,  and living holy.

Faithful is He who calls you, who will also do it.  1 Thessalonians 5:24 (that's a good word)

Thinking 2017 will be a year of investment and probably some risk........

Still Learning,

Monday, January 2, 2017

Noodles On the Floor and Dust in Cracks

Years ago we traveled to visit friends.  While staying in their home I would rise early put on the coffee and sit for a few minutes of quiet before anyone else would get up. One such morning I had my bible on my lap and coffee tightly held in hand (my favorite posture, pajamas still on of course!) when I dropped my pen.  Getting out of the comfy chair to search for my pen under the chair, I discovered something, spaghetti noodles! Now my friend was a great housekeeper and I'm sure she had done everything that a hostess does before guest come for a visit.  But there they were, hard, indicating they had been there for awhile, and stuck to the floor. They were cemented like a statue erected to stand the test of time, a monument to a busy wife and mom!  As quietly as I could I moved the chair, got hot water, and began the process of scraping, scrubbing, and prying those noodles off of the floor.  I never told my friend of my discovery, certain it would mortify her and get one of her children that had clearly had an accident with a plate of spaghetti but didn't clean it up completely, in big dog trouble!  I was reminded of this a couple of days ago when I found a layer of dust in plain site in my home. I must have looked at it a thousand times but somehow missed it every time.  Our entire family once again squeezed themselves into our little cottage over Christmas.  I had scrubbed and planned for days in preparation for these moments.  We laughed, we cried, we sang, we played, we prayed and we gathered around the table.  Those are the ingredients that make the gathering of family for this mamma. Now let me clarify, lest you are thinking a "little layer of dust"or "write your name in it kind of dust"... OH NO!  It was take your finger and scrape large whole families of dust bunnies up, use a broom, or better yet a vacuum cleaner to get it all up kind of dust!

A few things ran through my mind.  First, I need someone who sees better than me to clean my house! (Pretty certain that won't happen) Second, my kids probably all saw the dirt and just gave me grace, like I did my friend years ago. A perfect house and a perfect life really isn't the goal anyway, or it shouldn't be.  Third, it's okay to let people see our noodles on the floor and dust in our cracks. It's taken me a long time to come to those conclusions, but living in community with authenticity has resulted in such freedom and growth in my life, and in many lives around me as we walk out sanctification together, that I'm not going back!  Back to the days of painting a picture of what I want you to see or giving the appearance of having it all together.  Yep, it's better this way.  

Another thought that ran through my mind is how many times I looked at that dust and dirt and didn't see it.  How familiar we become with our own lives and the dirt we let lie in the cracks.  After all who will see?  Push all of that stuff in a closet somewhere and shut the door! It's a new year, time to do a little house cleaning spiritually, physically, financially, and emotionally. (And clearly some actual house cleaning for me)  Maybe now is the time or this is the year to ask God to move the furniture and get the noodles of sin, idols, and unbiblical thinking unglued from our lives.  Maybe today is the day to ask Him to clean out the cracks and crevices of our lives, you know the recesses that no one can see, but you and Him know they are there?  The dust and dirt of unforgiveness, hurt, and selfishness.

Oh Lord turn on the Light, search us and try us and remove the noodles under our chairs and the dust in our cracks.

One more thought that ran though this overactive brain of mine;  how He uses the mundane dailies to continue to teach this hopelessly flawed woman. That thought delighted my soul......

Happy New Year!

Always Learning,