The God Who Stoops

Lately, I find myself consumed with the “small” actions of God. I roll them over and over in my mind. On the surface, they seem rather menial. The God Who Walks. The God Who Runs. But my meditations are revealing new and beautiful depths of God. The kind of depths that draw praise from my lips and worship from my spirit and body. I am amazed by who He is and what He does and I am honored to share my recent meditation of The God Who Stoops.

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“The Shrine” by John W. Waterhouse

To stoop is to bend the head or body forward and downward. For example, one might stoop to pick something up or smell a rose. One might also stoop out of deference or submission descending from a superior rank, dignity, or status (Merriam-Webster). In modern language, we may be more apt to use ‘stoop’ to refer to lowering oneself morally, as in she stooped to adultery.

Interestingly, in my every day life, “stoop” is not a word I use or even hear. My first inclination when hearing the word was to apply it to the more derogatory definition. Naturally, when I read of God stooping, my curiosity piqued. Why did God stoop? Surely He never lowered Himself morally! He is the standard of morality. So, what does it mean when God stoops? If God stoops, should I stoop?

This meditation begins in the book of John, chapter 8, verses 1-11. I have always heard this passage referenced as the story of the adulterous woman. I’m neither a bible scholar nor a literary scholar, but I suggest this is a misleading title. At first glance, the reader (including me) presumes the following scripture verses are about adultery and the woman is the object or the antagonist of the story. In truth, as I dig into this passage, the woman plays the smallest role. The antagonist is religion. Jesus is the protagonist and grace is the theme. Perhaps this blog is better titled “The Grace of Stooping.”

At this time in history, the disciples are still struggling with Jesus’s identity as Messiah. To the world, Jesus has a reputation as a teacher. Unlike modern, western educators, ancient teachers in the east assumed a sitting posture to teach, though typically from an elevated platform. When I read this passage, I envision Jesus sitting in a slightly raised position in the temple when suddenly, religious leaders bring a woman into the court interrupting His teaching to initiate an execution.

I imagine the woman was terrified and feeling alone and isolated. All eyes focused on her. Perhaps there was pointing and murmuring as she faced her accusers and prepared for the worse. I can relate to feeling accused and isolated as fingers point and hurtful remarks are whispered. As the religious leaders demand this woman’s stoning, Jesus makes an interesting move.

He doesn’t hop on the condemnation bandwagon. Nor does He stand to protect or defend this woman from her accusers. Instead, He stoops. In silence. Jesus moves to a position lower than his students, lower than the religious leaders, and lower than the woman accused of stooping to adultery. I find this movement significant. From His conception — even before — Jesus lowered Himself from Heaven to elevate us into the Kingdom of God.

The first mention of Jesus stooping in this passage captures my attention and momentarily takes my breath away. It is a moment for awe as He physically demonstrates grace. The religious leaders didn’t recognize Jesus as the Son of God, the Christ. The disciples weren’t sure, either. But I know. I know that at this point in the story, the Christ, the Majesty who created the heavens and earth, lowers Himself beneath all others. I do not believe this was an act of submission or deference, but of confidence in grace and truth (and perhaps a bit of shock and awe!). This descent also draws all eyes to Himself, away from the woman, away from the religious leaders. He is now the center of the story.

As the religious leaders look upon Jesus, dissatisfied with his response (or lack of response), they protest and demand a verbal answer. “What say you?”

In response, Jesus straightens. He returns to His original position — His teaching position. Perhaps He even stands and is face to face with the religious leaders. The Greek verb used to describe Jesus’s “straightening” refers to the body as well as the soul. Not only is Jesus’ physical posture raised, but so is His soul. In this posture — a heavenward posture— He challenges their religious motivation: ”He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). In other words, test yourselves against your own religion. Would you survive your own judgment and condemnation? This question has the power to knock me down on my best days. It demands truth and introspection, not condemnation. Jesus never condemns.

Jesus again stoops as the leaders inwardly search themselves. One by one, they walk away until only Jesus and the woman remain. He straightens to His heavenward posture and speaks directly to her for the first time. “Did no one condemn you. . .I do not condemn you either. Go. From now on sin no more” (vv. 10-11). Don’t look back! Focus on Me and walk forward.

I learned this kind of grace for myself from the letters of Brother Lawrence. He beautifully and aptly models how to forgive oneself, let go, and move forward. Only in this recent meditation have I discovered this was first the message of Jesus. I do not condemn you. Do not condemn yourself. Instead, sin no more and continue the journey with Me.

From the onset, Jesus embraced this woman with grace, while others sought condemnation. Jesus embraces us with the same grace today. It does not condone sin. To the contrary, grace offers life. “All that passing laws against sin did was produce more lawbreakers. But sin didn’t, and doesn’t, have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace. When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down. All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that’s the end of it. Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life—a life that goes on and on and on, world without end” (Romans 5:20-21, MSG).

I love that God stoops to lift us up. Surely, in those moments when the woman felt her life was at stake, her sole focus was on Jesus. As He stooped, her eyes lowered to follow the form of His body and as He straightened, her gaze lifted and her soul elevated heavenward. I learned from my husband the importance of looking up. When all else fails, look up. Look at the night sky and see the majesty of God. Then mountains fall into their place and giants fall to the ground.

One question remains in my meditation. If God stoops, should I? If the Creator of all life stoops to elevate the ones He loves, then who am I to take any other action. Jesus does not place me in the seat of judgment. He works with me to love Him with all my heart, soul, strength, and mind and to love my neighbor as myself. So, when I stoop as Jesus stoops, I am at once demonstrating grace to my neighbor and surrendering judgment to Jesus, the King and true Judge. This is the woman I want to be. One who stoops, who loves without conditions, and sees beyond appearance and past actions. I want my life to be a reflection of Christ doing only what I see my Father in heaven doing, no matter how small the action may seem.

The God Who Walks

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The Soul of the Rose, John Waterhouse

Over the last few months, I’ve been meditating on the actions of God, specifically as they relate to His love. Sometimes, I’m so focussed on the BIG actions or the fulfillment of BIG promises that I overlook the small and the simple acts of my Father God. This focus overflows into my physical relationships, as well. Time often reveals that the simple, small, and consistent acts are the most comforting, the most missed, and the greatest demonstrations of love.

For example, my loving husband makes me breakfast every morning. It is his pleasure to do this for me. If left unchecked, I could contort this daily practice into an expectation as opposed to an act of love. If I were to expect breakfast every morning, I would miss my husband’s heart. My focus would turn inward to myself and to my own satisfaction. God forbid! My hope and desire is to convey my love for my husband and express my thanks and joy in all that he does for me, no matter how small or how often.

I have the same hope and desire in my relationship with God. Yet, I take Him for granted. Let’s take walking, for example. It’s a simple enough act that I often overlook. The God who walks. So what? In the beginning, God walked in the garden. It was His delight — I daresay His pleasure — to walk amidst and with His Creation and His beloved, Adam and Eve. We all know the story. After the devastation of disobedience by His beloved, Adam and Eve hid from their Father. So focused on themselves, they were unable to share in God’s Presence (Genesis 3:8).

Whether it be fear or shame, I’m asking myself how often I follow in the shadow of Adam and Eve and hide from God’s invitation to walk with Him.

Enoch walked with God. This is all we really know of him. He walked in God’s pleasure until he was no more (Genesis 5:24). What a legacy! What an epithet! Noah also walked with God and through his obedience saved humankind (Genesis 5:9-22). Then, at some point in the Hebrew tradition, walking with God shifted to walking before God or walking in the ways of God. Until Jesus came. He brought restoration.

With the arrival of Jesus, we see the fulfillment of God’s promise to walk among us and be our God (i.e. Leviticus 26:12). Our God is a God who walks. I believe the invitation to walk with Him is perpetually extended, but the choice — the daily choice — is ours. Mine. Jesus invites everyone to come with Him. “Walk with me and work with me. . .,” He says (Matthew 11: 28-30, MSG, emphasis mine). “Watch how I do it.” This is an intimate call to His Presence. Watch how I walk. How I speak. How I love.

I am moved by God’s call to intimacy with Him. Who am I to walk with the King? I have no gift to offer. Even now I see the warmth of his invitation. “Come. Take a stroll with me. Let us talk of the things on your heart. Allow Me to impart My love, My wisdom, My grace.

And look! The King, the God of all, He matches my pace so that we walk side-by-side, stride-by-stride. Though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear nothing; for He is with me (Psalm 23:4). In fact, He will never leave. He will always walk with me. And when I pause or stray and become distracted with myself, He waits and whispers my name until my focus is once again completely on Him. Seek me first and all you need will be provided (Matthew 6:33).

Today, I rejoice in the God who walks. . .with me.

Part Two: The Joy of the Lord

Note: This is the second part of a two-part blog. Be sure to read Part One: The Least of These.

One of the reasons Manning’s discussion about love and “the least of these” pierced me so deeply and precisely is because I work for an organization focused on ministering to prisoners and their families. And in a few short days, I would leave for Honduras to encourage prisoners and our local partners in prison ministry as well as evaluate an evangelism program designed to introduce inmates to Jesus.

In the prison ministry context, we are notorious for citing Matthew 25:35-40, specifically verses 36 and 40. These verses are scriptural bedrocks to us.

‘I was in prison, and you came to Me. Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

You can imagine how ripe these verses were in my mind as I was reading through Manning’s Ragamuffin Gospel. Surely he isn’t speaking about me, though? After all, the “least of these” refers to those in prison, right? Or to those who are hungry, thirsty, strangers, naked, and/or sick.

When I entered Tamara prison to meet with a group of inmates, I was oblivious to the blessing that was in store for me: the tangible expression of the joy of the Lord. What is the joy of the Lord, anyway? I recently heard it described as “Jesus Over You.” For now, let’s use this definition.

In a small room crowded with more than a dozen inmates, all of whom were elected spiritual leaders for their respective prison wings, I beheld Jesus over several of them. I slowly breathed in the rich and deep smiles, the enthusiasm for Jesus, and the pleasure for these inmates to share their knowledge of and experience with Christ. . .in prison. I listened to them attentively as my heart stirred to silence. Perhaps the most moving encounter was with a particular inmate sitting not far from me. When the opportunity presented itself, he shot up and said (in Spanish),

“I must tell you this story. I am a leader in the Segregation wing [one of several prison wings that house inmates]. Before this program, we were allowed only one hour of sunlight and were not permitted to mingle outside of our cells. Now, the authorities trust us. We have one half day of sunlight and we are allowed to mix with one another outside of our cells.”

He couldn’t wait to share with me, with all of us, what Jesus had done. How Jesus had impacted his life. The joy on his face was indescribable. You might think his joy was for the increased sunlight or additional human contact, but it wasn’t. It was Jesus and Jesus over him. In that moment, I realized that he is not the least of these. I am. And the joy he carried, I wanted.

It’s one thing to see the expression of joy outside the prison wall where liberty abounds. It’s another thing entirely to see it behind the wall, in one of the most dangerous prisons in Honduras, where fear and corruption rule. The joy of the Lord is evidenced on the faces of those who have not only learned to be content in their circumstances, but walk in those circumstances with Jesus all over them (Philippians 4:11). Did you expect to find Jesus so evident here? I didn’t, but I should have. He forsakes no one and redeems all who are willing to receive Him. Yes, this is outrageous and undignified love!

I thought God sent me to bless and encourage others. The truth is, I was blessed by the work of Jesus in and through a small group of men their society had locked away. There is no end to the love of Christ! God sent me from the land of liberty to a prison in Honduras and challenged me: what have you to fear? I am learning that I have nothing to fear in God’s perfect love. I have only to rest in Jesus over me.

Holding the Door

It’s a new season! With every new year comes a renewed sense of goal-setting, excitement for new adventures, and curiosity for what the year might offer. There’s also the unique pleasure of turning our backs on the old year and brightly looking forward to the next. For many, the first day of the year brings the desire to spring-clean, release old (bad) habits, and start new things. It’s a time for change permanently marked by the calendar every 365 days.

What doesn’t ever change—no mater what day it is—is the constant, ever present, ever accessible presence of God. Sometimes that presence is thick and tangible. I like to refer to that experience as a God Encounter.

This morning I walked briskly through the cold to reach my office building. From another path, an older, white-haired gentleman emerged about 100-150 yards in front of me. Our destination was clearly the same, though he was bound to arrive before me. When he reached the door, he opened it—as expected—and waited. He turned toward me and watched me approach with a hospitable smile on his face. His pleasant voice shouted, “I must hold the door for you. It’s not in my nature to close it.”

I drew closer and crossed the threshold where we exchanged the normal pleasantries and bid one another a good day. But as I continued walking through the building the love of God warmed me from the inside out.

Scriptures suggest we may encounter angels in the faces of strangers (Hebrews 13:2). Although I cannot say if this man were angel or not, I can confidently confide in you the words of God, my Father, in that moment. “It is my great pleasure to not only open doors for you, but to hold them open until you arrive and cross the threshold.”

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It’s the first week of the new year and I am five days into it. Already, I am overwhelmed by the vast love of God as each day unfolds new evidence of His presence. Today, I receive a powerful addition to my faith, for God has clearly spoken and promised his great pleasure to hold the door for me. What a God Encounter!

Hands

Living in PursuitAs I press deeper into the depths of Jesus, I am recognizing how much I compartmentalize God. As I study His human life, I am realizing how I deny God access to the mundane and ordinary aspects of my life (e.g. finances, employment, food, sleep, etc). I have a tendency to reserve Him for “spiritual moments.” Tsk, tsk. As if there is a moment in time that is not spiritual!

Oh the ways in which God speaks to His beloved! Yet, the sorrow that rises for the ways we discount His voice and attribute it to the natural or our own minds. Brother Lawrence, for those of you who know him, might instruct us that if we pursue unending communion with the Spirit, His voice will ring beautifully within and through us! I believe this whole-heartedly. In fact, my awareness of God’s desire to partner with me in life is growing by divine measure. However, there are also times the pursuit seems futile and spiritual senses are dulled. So it has been for me over the last week. How does one account for this? But God has been speaking ever so softly or I daresay despite my distracted and deaf ears.

In three Kingdom-moments–moments when the sacred and the natural visibly merge–the Living God has offered me three illustrations that I in turn offer to my readers.

  1. His Hands. I woke with a song. Perhaps you’ve heard that old country ballad, Daddy’s Hands. I haven’t heard it in years. As a young lass it always moved me with love for my earthly father. It still does and I promptly shared it with him! On this special morning as I woke with a song on my lips, I could hear my Heavenly Father singing to me. Remember My Hands when you have cried. Remember My Hands when My Spirit brought conviction. My Hands may not always seem gentle, but remember the Love of My Hands. After a week of praying for a Word, I broke for the expression of His Love. Joy immeasurable.
  2. My hands. The next day, He made a request of me. “Clinch your fists,” He said. I formed a small fist with each of my hands, fingernails digging in, knuckles white. Arms, shoulders, and back tightening. My whole body stiffening. “This represents your desire to cling to your circumstances. Your desire to solve your circumstances. Now, open your hands and release it to Me.” My mind and body relaxed. This is rest.
  3. His Hands. On the third day, He revealed His vast, strong hands atop my small, fragile hands. The Hands of God in tandem with mine. We must pause to breathe in the beauty of this image: A Father’s hands. Like a parent teaching a child to write or draw or a master craftsman teaching his apprentice, what love emerges from the hands on experience. What creativity is brought to life in the surrender of student to teacher. More than that, I am left with a new understanding of His nearness as He leads my open hands and whispers His encouragement and pleasure with me. Freedom.

I throw up my hands in surrender to the Living God and turn my whole being toward Him with a prayer of “let Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. The gates are open. The veil is torn. The Kingdom of God is here. Have your way in me.”

When I forget and my hands begin to clinch and my body tightens, may the Spirit bring these three Kingdom-moments to my memory. For with a closed grip, I can neither receive the friendship of God nor the friendship of another. I cannot offer my hands to help a neighbor in need. I cannot create. Worse, my hands are inaccessible to the will of God.

In a season of spiritual dryness, the words of God are Living Water. I feel revived. This is a gift of revelation and insight for myself and my circumstances. Still, I offer them to whomever else might need an encounter with the Hands of God. Remain in pursuit. Continue to seek the Lord or even wrestle for His blessing. His faithfulness is beyond our comprehension and for this I am thankful!

Disfigured to Beauty

In the moments God moves upon us, we are hard-pressed to not pause and give Him our full attention. Surrender renders the greatest reward; for, in surrender we know the kiss of God.

Today, in a moment with God, He overwhelmed me with compassion for the broken, specifically the deformed. There is an incredible story of Jesus touching a leper in the Matthew 8:1-3. From the first reading of this passage, it was not the healing power of Jesus that impacted me, but His willingness to touch. A leper. Outcast. Untouchable. Unacceptable. Disgraced. Disfigured. What attention he must have drawn from onlookers as they scurried away and hid their eyes so as to avoid contact. How the children must have pointed and screamed in disgust. Perhaps even laughed.

I think of this leper and what he must have felt. How hard it must have been to walk in public, in daylight. He must have feared the reactions of those he might encounter remembering the countless times people ran from him or ignored him altogether. A life in hiding, afraid to be seen. What a poor existence, robbed of experience, relationship, and joy when the world around you continually devalues you and labels you ugly and unworthy. Such imposed shame is crippling.

Yet, Jesus, unafraid and full of love, dared to do what no one else would even consider. He reached out His hand to touch the untouched. I believe it was the mere touch that healed. What power therein lies. Love passed from flesh to flesh, spirit to spirit. I can only imagine the moment Jesus’s skin connected with the leper’s. The moment they made eye contact. What joy and freedom must have erupted from deep within this man who’s beauty had never been realized until that second.

Love is the Beauty of the Soul

Disfigurement, like beauty, is more than skin deep. Many of us hide an inner disfigurement suffering the same feelings of shame and accepting the same labels as did this leper. I am one who has struggled to overcome an inner leprosy. In my pursuit of Christ, I am overcoming. Unlike the leper, or one who suffers from physical deformities, healing of inner disfigurement is not always instantaneous as results cannot be seen with the naked eye. In truth, this kind of healing is a progressive process of awareness. The healing is already complete. The journey is becoming and receiving who we are to Christ. Loved and accepted.

In this season of advent as we celebrate the Holy Child who was born for us as Savior, I celebrate His finished work of beauty in me and in all those around me. Like the leper, I have been touched by the hand of God, healed and made whole. I am learning I am beautiful and without deformity simply because He says so.

To all who hide their faces in shame, fear not. To all who have believed the lie that they are the ugly duckling, fear not. You are a swan and you are free to fly. Christ’s finished work is the revelation of His beauty in us. Allow Him to connect with you, flesh to flesh and spirit to spirit. See the love in His eyes as He looks upon you. Dare to see your reflection.

Love is revealing one’s beauty to themselves. This is what happens when we are touched by God. What happens when you touch someone?

In Pursuit: Journey to Abandon

Note to Readers: As someone recently pointed out, it’s been several months since my last blog. Why, you ask? I’ve been writing my first book entitled, In Pursuit: Journey to Abandon. Look for it to hit the market in last spring/early summer 2014!! Now that my first draft of the manuscript is finished, I hope to share some “teasers” with you in the near future. Get ready!

As I am writing this book, I have been struck by the interest and reaction from those with whom I have shared the endeavor. They predictably pose two questions: 1. What is it about? 2. What is it called? Both are easy questions to answer as I have been meditating on this book and its contents for nearly 7 years. A better question might be, what took you so long?! In truth, though the story has been in development over these many years, the circumstances of my time, spiritual maturation, and conviction to write it have only just aligned.

Due to the consistency of these two questions and the subsequent reaction to my answers, I thought it prudent to offer explanation to my readers. To the first question of content, I generally reply, “it’s my story with Christ.” I confess I enjoy the humorous facial expressions that follow. They seem to imply, “what’s so special about you?” I often wonder if there is a further, unspoken question of my arrogance. After all, why write a book about yourself unless you want people to notice you. In truth, there is nothing special or remarkable about me. The story I tell is less about me and more about God. This is God’s story; His activity in and through me.

I grew up in Christ with the lovely description of God as the Author of our lives. He holds the pen and beautifully writes each page. These stories of God working in and through us are proof of hope, peace and life everlasting. According to the book of Revelation, they are also a great weapon against our spiritual enemy (reference Revelation 11-12). Lastly, I suggest that our stories with God are evidence of His existence and His love for every human being. Don’t believe me? I invite you to join me through the pages of this upcoming book to see His beauty and majesty alive and active in one woman’s life. My life.

To the second question, I chose the current title long before I started writing. However, noting the confusion regarding its meaning from those who inquired after it, I spent many hours in meditation determining whether or not it should change or remain. Ultimately, I chose to keep the original title for its depth and richness. I offer a detailed explanation of its meaning here.

Journey to AbandonIn Pursuit is a reference to my soul-ministry, the ministry of my heart and soul. The development of this personal and vocational ministry is explained in the last part of my book. In short, it is a lifestyle of living in pursuit of and for Christ while embracing His unending pursuit of us. Imagine Michelangelo’s detail of “God Touching Man” in the Sistine Chapel (a remarkable and profound work to see firsthand!!). I draw the image of this pursuit from Philippians 3:12 where the Apostle Paul declares that since he has not yet achieved the end, he “press[es] on so that [he] may lay hold of that for which also [he] was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.” What is the end or the proverbial it that is so desired by Paul? What is the “that” he desires to lay hold of? Simply, life with God, both in the now and the hereafter. Paul pursues the Presence of God as Christ Jesus first pursued him with the offer of access to the Living God.

The tagline of the book title, Journey to Abandon, evokes within me the depth of my pursuit as well as the means. Journey, of course, references the spiritual journey. It holds additional personal significance as I have traveled and trekked/backpacked all over the world. Many of you are no doubt familiar with the phrase, “it’s not about the destination; it’s about the journey.” There is more truth to this statement than I can adequately relay here!

My inquirers seem to understand the title with little explanation until we reach the word “abandon.” Here lies the point of greatest explanation as we are most accustom to using abandon as a verb that engenders a negative connotation. In this case, however, I use the word as a noun that beautifully describes both the purpose and delight of the creature (humankind) as well as the heart of the Creator.

According to my beloved MacBook Pro’s dictionary:

Noun

  1. give up completely (a course of action, a practice, or a way of thinking)
  2. cease to support or look after (someone); desert. . .leave (a place or vehicle) empty or uninhabited, without intending to return
  3. complete lack of inhibition or restraint

ORIGIN late Middle English: from Old French abandoner, from a-(from Latin ad ‘to, at’) + bandon ‘control,’ based on late Latin bannus, bannum (see ban1). The original sense was ‘bring under control,’ later ‘given to the control of, surrender to’. . . 

The second of these three definitions is perhaps the most common use of the word. Let’s consider definitions one and three and how they apply to us spiritually.

Living in abandon for God means giving up human perspective and drive (e.g. will, desires, hurts, offenses, pain, etc) and exchanging them for His. It is living without inhibition, living in freedom without restraint or obstacles that might keep us from pursuing God. Even better are the references to the origin of the word. Abandon for God is giving Him control, surrendering to Him, allowing Him to fulfill His plan of glory and greatness through our lives. It’s giving Him the pen along with the invitation to write. Another application worthy of consideration is God’s abandon for each of us. He comes after us without inhibition or restraint freely lavishing us with love and blessing, if we would but receive. The Scriptures are filled with stories of His love for us and His desire to fill us with abundant life. Truly, we were made for abandonment in the most positive sense of the word. Abandonment of our ourselves for God as well as His abandon for us.

There is hidden meaning in this title with significance only to me. Along my journey, my pursuit of Christ and His pursuit of me, I endured a season of abandonment, isolation, and loneliness. I was abandoned in the sense of the second definition above. It was through the seeming desertion of people I dearly loved, admired, and respected that I entered the city of Abandon, a new place, built and inhabited by the Presence of God. In this city, I reached new heights and depths of intimacy in Him. I let go of a false sense of identity to embrace a new, chosen identity in Christ. In the city of God, I thrive. I live a renewed, redeemed life rich in the grace of God. Here I am known and accepted as daughter. Abandon is my home. From here, I travel the world with a story to tell; a story of love and mercy; a story of God and my journey to abandon.

Though this book describes my journey to date, it is not my end. However, if it were to end today, I rest in the peaceful acknowledgment of a life well-lived and pleasing to God. His pleasure is not in what I have done or haven’t, in what I have accomplished or haven’t, but in His work and His accomplishment through the Cross. It is my honor to write of the love of God in my life. It is my hope and prayer that readers of this exciting journey will be inflamed with their own stories of God.

Write them down. Share them. Let your story be a mirror of God and an exclamation of His glory. Amen.

Thoughts on the Trail

There is a journey before us. A journey to Christ. A journey in Christ. Over the last few years, I’ve come to realize that life is more than the journey. Life and faith are about who accompanies us on the journey. Jesus. Even more, the knowledge that the path we follow is not futile engenders a new drive and motivation to persevere and pursue Life all the more. For where is life except in the presence of God? He is Life. Source and Sustainer. He is the journey.

A ministry, a lifestyle is birthing within me. Get ready! As Paul encourages the Philippians,

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12-4).

I want my life to echo Paul: I live in pursuit of the One who pursues me. I press on no matter the trial or tribulation for there is a greater hope and a greater blessing.

I encourage all to join me. Let’s not focus on the trial, but focus on the trail God has set for us to walk upon. He has promised to plant our feet. We will not slip. We will not be swept away in the storm or burned in the fire. He will make the way level for us. Along the way, let’s stop to rest and admire the beauty of God’s Creation from mountain to mountain beholding the lushness of the valleys.

Live with me in pursuit of the One who pursues us!

Foundation

Someone once told me that a father’s role is to affirm and a husband’s is to confirm. There is “nugget of truth” in this statement that resonates deep within my spirit. What is the difference between affirming and confirming?

affirm – state as a fact; assert strongly and publicly

confirm – establish the truth or correctness of (something previously believed, suspected, or feared to be the case); reinforce someone in (an opinion, belief, or feeling)

They are similar in definition, but closer inspection and meditation yields how vastly different they are. One is the foundation (affirmation); one is reinforcement of that foundation (confirmation). As we all know, without a solid foundation, nothing built upon it will stand. I daresay we have all had this experience, either personally or with someone else. No matter how much we try to encourage or support, it cannot be received. Why? Because there is no foundation.

Another “nugget” I fondly adhere to is belief precedes behavior. Similarly, our beliefs are the foundation of our behavior. Before behavior will change, belief must change. We often address poor behavior backward. We address, punish, or react to the behavior (AKA the symptom) and rarely dive deep enough to discover the why or the belief behind the behavior (AKA the root of the issue).

From our earliest moments of cognition, we are influenced by all that is around us. Unfortunately, many of us grow up with a misunderstanding of who we are; an unawareness of who created us and for what purpose we were created. Our foundation is laid upon this misunderstanding and we are, subsequently, unable to establish healthy beliefs about ourselves and/or the world.

Women, more than men, seem to have the greater battle with identity. Perhaps this is a gross generalization, but it has been my experience nonetheless. We battle a barrage of lies thrown at us daily.

I am just a woman.
I have nothing to offer.
I cannot support myself.
I need a husband.
I need a man or someone else to feel good about myself.
I am no good. I am impure.
I am all alone.
I must surrender my purity to be accepted. To be loved.
I need to be skinnier. My hair needs to be a different color.
Only pretty women are successful. I’m not pretty enough.
I have to give up my dreams. My dreams aren’t as important.

These are just a few of the lies. Most of them tick me off! Not a healthy foundation. Sadly, there is plenty of confirmation to reinforce this negativity. We see it on the streets, in the movies, on television, in magazines, from our friends, and sometimes from our family.

Thankfully, there is a greater foundation and One who is willing and waiting to lay it. One who has already laid it. Jesus, our Cornerstone. When we look to God for our foundation, we discover our true identity. We discover Truth.

I am created in the image of God and created with purpose (Genesis 1:26).
I am the apple of His eye (Zechariah 2:8).
The King desires my beauty (Psalm 45:11).
I am wonderfully made and I am always on His mind (Psalm 139).
There is a plan and purpose for my life. I have God-given dreams (Jeremiah 29:11).
I am never alone (John 14:18, Hebrews 13:5-6; Jeremiah 29:13).
He can use me. He wants to use me (1 Corinthians 1:26-30).
I am washed, cleansed, purified (John 15:3).
I am free (Isaiah 61:1-3; Luke 4:18).
I am righteousness. I am holy (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 1:15-16).
I am blessed, chosen, adopted, accepted, redeemed, and forgiven (Ephesians 1:3-7).

These are just a few Truths! With considerable rejoicing, I declare that our affirmation lies in the Living God. No one can take that away. These are words straight from the mouth of God. Whether the world or men confirm these or not, the Word of God remains forever (Isaiah 40:8, 1 Peter 1:23). It is fact and God asserts our identity “strongly and publicly” as we live our lives in pursuit of Him. The beauty and true “nugget of truth” is this: The Father affirms our identity in Him and the Husband, who is Jesus, devotes His life to confirm it.

Oh that we would stop and listen and let the Truth of God pour into us and take root!

I Am Jerusalem

As I often do when reading scripture, I immerse myself. I mentally and sometimes emotionally see myself in the scriptures. In other words, I dive into the words (no pun intended!). How does the verse or passage relate to me and/or my journey? What is God speaking? What would He have me see? Know?

Reading Psalm 79 the other day, I fell into the first verse! Want to come with me? The water is nice and warm!

O God, the nations have invaded Your inheritance;
They have defiled Your holy temple;
They have laid Jerusalem in ruins.

Under the Old Covenant, Jerusalem was the city that housed the Holy Temple (God’s dwelling place) and was often used synonymously with the Temple. In the New Covenant, the Apostle Paul tells us we are the temple of God (1 Corinthians 6:19).

You are Jerusalem. I am Jerusalem. I am a holy temple. God dwells within me. I am Jesus’s inheritance; the reason He surrendered His flesh on the cross. With this in mind, as I read the first verse, I was struck by its truth. The nations, that is, the world (or flesh or kingdom of darkness or the rulers, the powers, the world forces of this darkness, the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. . . Ephesians 6:12) has invaded God’s people, defiled us, and left us in ruins. That is, IF we continue to choose the world over our Savior.

We were/are all prisoners at some point. Jesus came to set us free!! To give liberty. So, I say yes to Him because He said yes to me. I cry for others as Asaph cried, “Let the groaning of the prisoner come before You; According to the greatness of Your power preserve those who are doomed to die” (Psalm 79:11). Give Life eternal!

Since reading this Psalm, a new song has been on my lips and in my heart: I am Jerusalem. God dwells in me. Below is my attempt to capture this song through a bit of prose.

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem
Holy City of God
Where the Divine dwells.

Dust blows through your ruins.
Dry bones and voices whisper of death.
The old has passed away.

Where is the new?
I look to men. I look to the earth. I look to the heavens.
Where, O where is Jerusalem?

“Shake yourself from the dust, rise up,
O captive Jerusalem;
Loose yourself from the chains around your neck. . .”

You are defended and saved for the sake of the Living God.
Man cannot rebuild. Only He.
You are chosen, ransomed, set free.

In Passion, the veil was torn.
Now You are with us, among us.
We are Your people.

Behold, You are making all things new.
Your glory fills the new Jerusalem.
I am alive with Your Presence.

Here, Your temple stands.
Dwell in me,
For I am Jerusalem.

No longer does sacrifice appease You.
Only a broken and contrite heart,
Humbly I offer.

Rebuild the ruins, O God.
Breathe into me.
I am Your Jerusalem.