Tag Archives: life

I Won’t Relent

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The sun is slowly rising in the East over the Judean Desert mountains. I say slowly, but really it is rising at the perfect pace at which you sent it. The mountains are a soft, gray silhouette surrounded by a very faint blue into a pale, blush pink as the sky rises behind them. They’re ancient mountains, set in place since the beginning of time. Their shape may have changed over millennia, but their place has not. And just as they watched over Abraham close to 4,000 years ago, they watch over me now.

If the many stones and grains of dust could speak they would tell of a man and his family. An ordinary man with an extraordinary calling. A man of faith whose woman had many sorrows. They would tell of the bitter tears she cried and the strength of his embrace as he tried to comfort her. He was a man who acted in haste. A man who received forgiveness and through whom we all may receive salvation. He was a friend of God.

The sun continues to rise. Its colors are soft. Like sidewalk chalk sprawled across a residential walking path. They’re not quite the vibrant oil pastels smudged into a white canvas I was hoping for. But still, they captivate me. They hold my attention. And although I can see my breath before me and my skin is prickled with cold, I remain atop this balcony because I know before me is a lesson for the ages.

I breathe in the clean desert air as camels and donkeys sing in the distance accompanied by the crowing of a lonesome bird in harmony with a howling dog.

Today’s sunrise delivers a message to me. The sun rises in purity. It is not tainted by the opinion of the people it overshadows. It is 6:34 a.m. I’ve been sitting atop this sukkah awaiting its arrival for 15 minutes. And it arrived exactly when you sent it to.

If I stand now and say,

“Sun, I’ve been waiting for you for 15 minutes! You’re late!”

It doesn’t dim its brilliance, nor sink and inch and apologize. No! It continues to rise, never lacking one fragment of purpose.

If I prefer that it hold its rays another hour so that I can sleep in, it only continues to rise. It is defiant. It was sent on this day and at this time for a purpose designed by the God of the universe and it will not relent. And tomorrow’s sunrise is not affected by whether or not today’s colors and brilliance appeal to the desires of man.

You send it each day to serve many specific purposes: to give light and warmth and to cause life to grow and reproduce. And each day in boldness and radiant confidence it rises in pure unadulterated purpose.

My Lord, how many times have I hung my head, or slumped my shoulders, or hidden my tears, and turned from your purpose for me? And as I sit in this desert place where many a prophet heard from you, my mind still grows restless by the echo of old words.

“Your ways are too radical.”

“Your style is too emotional.”

“Your passion seems condemning.”

I stand before an unrelenting sun, yet I’m tempted to hide because of the opinions of man.

Lord, forgive me for digging my heels in behind this mountain. Forgive me for watching my surety die and for willingly burying it where it fell. You are the resurrection and the life. I implore you by your own mercies, breathe life upon it once more. I tune my ears to your voice and no longer to the opinions of man. Give me grace to rise in your time, surrounded by your brilliance, to perform your purpose in unmarred purity. I am yours and you say of me,

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.” (Jeremiah 1:5)

It’s 6:50 a.m. There she is in incandescence. Today her train is a soft, yet auspicious yellow. Tomorrow it may be blush, or violet. Regardless, she’ll be resolute. She’ll fulfill her purpose without hesitating. Just as I will.

 

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Longing

This week I experienced the loss of a friend. She and I didn’t have a history of many years of intimate friendship. We knew each other for four short years. In those four years, though, every one of our encounters was very profound. I always left her presence knowing that I had just been with a spiritual giant. As I write this I can easily recall the many confirming words of knowledge she’s spoken over me since my very first encounter with her.

She was radiant and intriguing, yet she was authentic and always approachable. She unknowingly played a major role in my restoration and healing. She came alongside me in my affliction and spoke life and vision into me as if God had opened up His mighty hands before her to reveal His plans for me. My journal is filled with her words and I walk expectantly in my call because of her obedience to speak the heart of God. She leaves behind an amazing husband, who is also awe-inspiring, and two beautiful, small children.

This past March I lost my grandfather and had the honor and privilege of officiating his memorial service. Two years ago I was graced to do the same for my grandmother.

The Bible tells us that it is appointed unto men once to die. This is the unavoidable truth. We were formed in our mothers’ wombs by the hand of God, and from the time we take our very first breath our life here on earth is destined to come to an end.

There is a wide spectrum of emotions that death evokes in me. The first is usually shock.

 

How could someone who was here one moment, be suddenly gone in the next?

I tossed and turned at that very question the night of my friend’s death. The next emotion I walk through is sadness. I ponder the times we had together and I ponder the days my loved one will not be around for. The final emotion usually lingers a bit longer. It’s one I was surprised by the first time I experienced it. After the initial shock and the expected sadness, I experience envy.

I know that sounds strange, and trust me, I never mean to sound morbid. But, I’ll never forget the deep anguish I felt four years ago when my unborn daughter died in my womb. I grieved a gut wrenching grief. I hurt from the top of my head to the very bottoms of my feet. I shook my fists at God in anger and asked, “How could you?!” But when the pain and anger had dissipated I found myself left with envy. Jealousy.

I envy the saint who has passed from this life into eternity because in a split second they pass from this world into the presence of the one I love deeper and stronger and more passionately than I love any one else in all of heaven or earth.

I know there is much argument over whether a person moves immediately into the presence of God or if they sleep for a while. We do know one thing, though, and that is a person will close their eyes in this life and open them in the next. I will not care about how long my eyes were closed because I will finally be home.

I love my life. The Lord has filled my life here on earth with so many blessings. I get to spend my days with the most amazing little girls. God’s given me the most extraordinary man as my partner in doing life. And He grants me the opportunity over and over again to see the grandeur of the world He created and to adventure in it. Yet, I can’t deny that there is a longing deep inside of me to physically walk and talk with my God. And He longs for the same thing with me. He created us to be with Him! He created man and set him in the garden of His delight and then, the Bible tells us, He physically walked with him. It was not the intent of God to ever be separated from man. And since The Fall He has been consumed with fulfilling His promises in order to be with us again.

            “Don’t be so heavenly minded that you’re no earthly good.”

I’ve heard that said a hundred or more times. The problem, however, is that this idea is nowhere to be found in the Bible. In fact, the messages found in the Word are quite the opposite. For many of the great men of faith it was revelation of God, His son Jesus, and His Kingdom that ignited a fire in them which would cause them to set their people and ultimately the world aflame.

Moses met God in a burning bush and spoke with Him as a man speaks with his friend.

Isaiah saw the Lord high and exalted and the train of His robe filling the temple. He saw the Seraphs circling the throne crying out “Holy, holy, holy!” This revelation caused him to fall on his face like a dead man, opened his eyes to his sin-saturated humanness and caused him to answer “Send me!” when God asked “Whom shall I send?” I imagine it was the memory of this revelation that gave him the courage and the boldness to stand before a wicked and depraved generation over and over again and declare the words of the Lord.

Twelve men forsook their careers, their families, their homes, and any chance at ever again living a safe and predictable life to follow a carpenter. Why? Because they saw the face of God. They looked into His eyes and heard His voice. They experienced heaven and they and we would never be the same because of it.

Jesus himself said, “I can only do what I see the father doing,” and “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the father.” He didn’t come to establish an earthly kingdom, but a heavenly kingdom.

And John, the beloved apostle, the Revelator, while banished to the island of Patmos was given first-hand revelation of things, which are to come. He heard the voice of God, which sounded like a trumpet. He turned to see the voice of the one who spoke and beheld the son of man. He was dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

How could he ever, from that day forward, live any other way than heavenly minded? He couldn’t. They couldn’t! And they didn’t. They and every single one of the great heroes of our spiritual heritage lived with their hearts and minds and actions focused on heaven and this has served humankind very well. They didn’t attach themselves to the fleeting things of earth. They lived as citizens of heaven, sojourners longing for home and the face and embrace of their beloved, father, friend, master, king, and God.

This same longing is at the core of every soul ever to walk the face of the earth since the beginning of time; in both the righteous and the unrighteous.

There is coming a day when our yearning will be put to rest. What a day that will be! The Bible tells us that there will be no pain or death or disease. Jesus will wipe every tear from our eyes and we will finally be with Him for all of eternity. There will be no more discontentment or striving or longing. Every one of our desires and every one of His will be fulfilled. Oh how I love the day of His appearing! I want to hasten His return! The Spirit and the Bride say COME!!!

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Living for Eternity

Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.

I don’t know any more accurate words to describe the world’s most treasured book. I’ve heard it described as a “love letter” from God. And although each word is etched strategically to convey God’s love to us and for us, the words “love letter” are not the words God chooses to describe this ancient piece of history, prophecy, and literature. Nor does He refer to it as our “daily bread.” Yes. I recognize the desperate need we, as Christians have to eat of it daily. And, boy do I notice the difference in me when I don’t! But again, God never calls His word our daily bread. Nor does He refer to it as Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. Yet, it serves as thus. Rather He chooses to paint for us a picture of a living, breathing organism. God says that His Word is alive. This imagery gives me physical chills up my spine! His Word is alive! As I begin to view God’s Word as living, I can’t help but to travel back to some of my fondest memories, as well as those I’d like to forget, and in each slide-picture in my mind I now see the companionship of a constant friend, the Word of God.

God also chooses to give us the word picture of a sword. Not just any old sword, though. He describes one with two edges so that no matter which way it is used, it leaves the person penetrated and forever affected and scarred by its powerful blow. He also says that the one wounded would be laid bare before God and man.

Viewing God’s Word from this perspective has led me to recognize specific times in my life I have felt the piercing of God’s Word.

My earliest memory was around the time I received Jesus as Lord. I was only 4 or 5 years old, but I remember vividly my spirit responding to the Word of God. My Sunday School teacher was teaching us about the Apostle Peter’s restoration after Jesus’ resurrection. Three times Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” And three times Peter replied, “Lord, you know that I do.” And with Jesus’ final response my little spirit quickened by a divine piercing. “Then feed my sheep.” That moment and that story would be significant to me for the rest of my life. However, it wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties and pastoring young adults that I recognized God was calling me at 4 or 5 years old to feed his beloved sheep.

I will bear the scar for the rest of my life from the incision I received upon reading “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem…” In Psalm 122:6 when I was 19 years old. And I am a daily reflection of 1 Corinthians 1:27 which says, But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”

But there is one specific passage I have been inflicted with at a much deeper level than many of the others.

“All these great people died in faith. They did not get the things that God promised his people, but they saw them coming far in the future and were glad. They said they were like visitors and strangers on earth. When people say such things, they show they are looking for a country that will be their own. If they had been thinking about the country they had left, they could have gone back. But they were waiting for a better country—a heavenly country. So God is not ashamed to be called their God, because he has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:13-16)

 This is the one I have not been able to “shake myself awake” from since the first time I memorized it 16 years ago. It profoundly infiltrated every facet of my life to where I was left with no option, but to attempt to live it out daily.

I left home when I was 19 years old and never returned. Why? I love my mother and father and brother and sister passionately. I have the fondest memories of our God-allotted time together. But since leaving, the word home has not resonated with me as a physical, earthly place. I weep today because of the pain these words may have caused them over the years, but I receive comfort from my father’s words, which I have heard him speak on countless occasions:

     “I gave the three of you over to God.”

And I receive assurance from my Heavenly Father’s Words as revealed in the following story from Mark chapter 10:

17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’[a]”

 20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”

24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it isto enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”

27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

28 Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”

29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.

I shudder at the Truth of God’s Word realizing that He included the prospect of leaving children. This is where the sword digs deeper. And is that a scraping I feel as He divides my soul and spirit? Is it possible that I may one day drive or fly my most treasured valuables, my two daughters, to a far off place where we part with an all-encompassing embrace, a kiss whose memory I will try to draw from until eternity, and the most fervent prayer I have ever prayed? Will I repeat my father’s words?

I gave the two of you over to God.

 More weeping.

This is living for eternity. I am only a stranger, a visitor here on earth. I live looking forward to the day I find myself in the place I can truly call home. I have left homes, and mother and father, and brother and sister. I have surrendered material belongings and lived in scarcity. I have sat and feasted at the table of kings according to this world’s system, only to consume the meal of a pauper the next day; all for the sake of the Kingdom.

Please don’t misconstrue my words as arrogant or boastful. My longing is that I may never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died. (Galatians 6:14)

But rather, receive my words as an explanation for the seemingly unconventional way I live my life, and as an invitation to meditate on the same agonizing passages of scripture I have been wounded by.

In light of the clarity expressed in God’s Word and after contemplative surveying of my most prized possessions, I am faced with the same challenge every day:

     Will I live for eternity or will I live for today?

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Upon This Rock

Rainbow Falls Smokey Mountains, TN

I’m sitting on a rock in front of our destination – Rainbow Falls in the Smokey Mountains. Some of God’s most glorious beauty is before me. The atmosphere is clean as I breathe in the cold mountain air. My skin is lightly touched by the spray of the falls. And the roar of the waters join with the song of the birds and the rustling of the trees as a very light rain begins to fall.

My husband is doing his best to snap as many pictures as he can right before he slips, plunging his entire right foot into the icy cold water. He hardly gets upset! We are feeling so alive! And just beyond the fall I see soft, golden brown hair bouncing from between the trees. I hear child-like laughter as I glimpse two little heads bobbing up and down. My two daughters have made their ways past the falls and are now jumping from rock to rock, squealing with such delight. In one split second my heart transitions from pure rapture at the sights and sounds and smells around me to a biting sadness. I want to be with them! I don’t want to stay on this rock! I want to jump and laugh and not worry about falling. I want to cross the narrow log bridge without holding on to the rail. Why don’t I?

Why do I stay on this rock? The atmosphere is heavenly, but it was not created for me to simply gaze upon it. It was created for me to be a part of; for me to wedge my way into it becoming a participator of its splendor. It’s not a one dimensional picture book, but more of a pop-up. And I am to leap in it, to run and skip and laugh out loud. A rip-roaring, belly laugh! Why do I stay on this rock?!

I’ve concluded that it’s not because I broke my elbow when I was 7 years old, or because I was in a body cast when I was 8. It’s not because I broke my wrist when I was 19 either. It’s beyond the fear of physical endangerment. What is it then? Why do I stay seated on this rock?

I’ve resolved that it is decades of failures that keep me sitting here. Pounding in my heart are words spoken over the years that have caused me to question; and words held back that I desperately needed to hear. I’m planted here for fear of falling. I fear disappointing those I love most. What if I get up and run and leap and jump from mossy stone to mossy stone, laughing and roaring about and then suddenly fall. Will my daughters see that Mommy isn’t strong? Will they begin to view me as foolish? I am paralyzed, unable to move from this rock because of a lifetime of being told how I should behave and having pointed out to me what might be deemed ridiculous, unnecessary, and unacceptable.

In my paralysis my mind flashes forward to the next 60 to 70 years. I’ve so much life left in me. There are so many places for me to go. There is laid before me the gift of a stunning adventure. If I give these words and thoughts and fears permission to have their way I will find myself for the rest of my life gazing upon a one-dimensional picture book.

I’m reminded of what the Psalmist and King said in Psalms 27:13 and I become “confident of this: I will see the goodness of God in the land of the living.” A twinge of fight rises up in me. I don’t want to just see it. I want to participate with it! With fear and trepidation I determine, with a quivering heart, to Forget what is behind and strain toward what is ahead, to press on, even with shaky hands and wobbly knees  toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. With slight hesitancy and increasing determination I reconcile to throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and run, not tiptoe, but run and leap and jump with perseverance the race marked out for me.

Finally, I leave my rock to head back down the mountain. The rain is falling a little heavier. I cross the log bridge; this time hands-free. And up ahead I see the sweetest little head bobbing from rock to rock and I hear her angelic voice say, “Bounce with me, Mommy.”

Deep breathe. Release. Here I go.

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