A Morning Story

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Confession: I woke up cranky today. I was impatient with my kids, griping about what they had or hadn’t done and short-tempered with inanimate objects like a box of cookies that wouldn’t easily open while I was packing lunches. I was stomping around and sighing deep and bitter sighs over an accidental apple juice spill when the Holy Spirit tapped me on the shoulder and reminded me that it wasn’t my kids’ fault I stayed up too late and then overslept as a result of it. It wasn’t my kids’ fault that I was feeling anxious about spending most of today in a dentist’s chair (). It wasn’t my kids’ fault that I hadn’t gotten my ideal morning routines done, but it certainly was MY fault that I was behaving badly and starting their day off with Grumpy-Mom. He reminded me of gentleness, patience, and self-control. He reminded me that it is my job to teach them what it looks like to reflect Jesus even when emotions don’t measure up and circumstances aren’t perfect.

I stopped fighting with the uncooperative box of Oreos and apologized to my children. Without hesitation, they forgave me. They were sorry I was having a hard day and they wished me a better morning. They loved me so well in their compassion. Their kindness humbled me — and showed me a glimpse of God.

This is His way, to not only forgive – but to forgive with abounding love and mercy, encouraging us to move forward in His grace without condemnation lingering on our hearts. His forgiveness is whole and His redemption power fully covers our sin.

So, all that to say- if you happen to have started today or this week (or even this year!) on the wrong foot — stop. Take a breath. Make the apologies you might need to make, to your people and to the Father. And then move forward in His grace and in the unfailing kindness of His love. Know you are forgiven and it’s the next moment that matters. Leave behind what has been and press on, trusting that He is ever-transforming us into His image if we keep surrendering our hearts, our minds, and even our crankiest of mornings into His keeping.

I am grateful today for mercy. I am thankful for love that keeps on loving, never giving up on us.

“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness.”
-Lamentations 3:22-23

Lay It All Down

There are arms always open to you. There is always One who is listening. There is always a place to find rest.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”-Matthew 11:28-30

You Came

It’s not labeled as a Christmas song, but the words of this song are Christmas to me…

He came. Jesus came when I needed Him. He woke up my heart and breathed life into my soul. I couldn’t walk out of the tomb of sin and shame on my own, I couldn’t unbind the fear that kept me from moving, that kept me stuck in the darkness…

He unwound the fear with perfect love, set me free.

He sang over my life and loved me with whole and perfect love until I began to believe what He said about me: that I was wanted. Cherished. A daughter of God, beloved. He loved me into days like this one, days when I can dance through my house with joy, wild and uncaring about awkward limbs because it is my heart that is leaping without worry, without shame….because it is His song that moves my feet and my voice.

The Light, the glory, the holiness of the Father…it’s given to us, revealed through this Savior whose selfless, all-encompassing love led Him into Bethlehem…to the cross where He took my pain, my sin, my death and gave me righteousness, strength, and life  — life overflowing and never — never, ever, ever — ending.

Can we know how deep, how wide, how long, how high His love is?

Didn’t He begin to show us when the virgin glowed with expectation, when a baby leapt in the womb of the old, when the wedding feast was saved, when the net was filled with fish, when the bellies where filled with lunch, when the blind eyes opened clear and full of wonder, when the deaf ears heard music in the wind, when limbs helpless and frail strengthened to running, when demons ran back to where they belonged, when life was called from death, when He carried the cross in our place, when the tomb stood empty and the upper room was filled with Spirit?

He comes to our need, our miracle-working, beyond-expectation, mightiest, nothing-is-too-hard God.

Turn our fear into faith, God — help us to see who You are again – again and again, let our hearts burn within us until we know that we stand in Your presence.

He has life enough, love enough, joy enough, peace enough, grace enough, healing enough, power enough — for me, for you, for every one who will ask for Him to come….for every one who will believe Him.

We begin in rags, we begin broken, we begin alone and orphaned, we begin hiding in shame, dead in our sin, slaves to our fear.

But Jesus came.

And we come out of the grave, blinking in His brilliant light, washed white and purified…we come out of the grave, free and unfettered, wearing beauty for ashes. We come out of the grave, a child of the Most High God. We come out of the grave, made whole. We come out of the grave, loved. We come out of the grave, alive.

And what can separate us now from the love of Christ?

... I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8: 38-39 

“He’s Never Failed & He Won’t Start Now”

After the unexpected impact of Hurricane Matthew in our area, planned and unplanned days out of school for my kids, and a family trip…I am finding my footing again in a return to regular rhythms of life.

I am thankful for the routines, for the quiet corners of a day and moments to spend with Words that bring peace and life….especially because things feel hard right now. There’s a level of anxiety around us that is palpable.

This darkness tries to pull us in, this sinking feeling strong in this time when discord tries to win the day.

But, again — as many times as it takes — again and again and again — “I will stand my ground where hope can be found.” Again and again and again, I will put my trust in the Light that conquers darkness. I will put my faith in the One who is the Prince of Peace, the One who has already overcome. When I am uncertain and afraid  — I will sing praise. I will stake my life in His love.  When I feel helpless and small, I will remember that authority over nature and time, nations and governments, the church and our future, my family and my heart — it still belongs to God. It always has and always will.

In this time when everything feels mixed-up, I know that this is what I need: Prayer. Time to listen. Time to read His words to us. I need to see the world by His Light, by His truth.

On that note, I’ll pick up our daily readings again tomorrow…we’re in Genesis, walking alongside Abram.

For tonight…I think that the most useful and true thing I can say to myself and to you is this – it’s His presence that we need.

Forget the noise and the answers flying around and the dire predictions and the stress of what has been and what will be — let’s get away, find even just moments of silence, and turn our eyes to Him. He is our help. 

We need Him.

I pray that we will knock and find the door swinging wide open….listen and hear the still, small voice….lay down the burdens and pick up peace…

Father, we come to You.

 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. -Psalm 121:1-2

My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.
-Psalms 73:26 

 

 

 

Together We Follow: Genesis 8

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Dear friends,

On the hardest days it helps if I write to you like this, a letter to sisters and brothers walking through this life with me. I am here, sitting in my dining room and watching the rain fall outside. The limbs of our pine trees move with the wind; the road has a layer of water covering its dark asphalt.

I don’t know where you read my words, but I know that we share this same sky, the same wind, the same rain that falls.

And we share the sorrow of everything that is happening around us.

The news is hard these days. So very hard. It is hard to even keep track of all the wrongs being done, all the pain felt, all the violence that circles our earth.

All through my news feed on twitter, I keep reading these questions: how long? When will things get better? God, where are You?

I wonder if Noah had some of the same questions. We will read today how the days on the ark stretched on and on after the 40 days of earth-shattering torrents. In total, he and his family spent over a year in the boat, with the memory of what had been, the unknowns of the future. I wonder if they began to doubt their rescue would come. I wonder if they begin to wonder if God had saved them from the violence of their time and from the storm only to leave them alone to figure out how to survive. Don’t you think, being normal men and women like us, that they asked – how long, God? Where are You?

Answers came– because God remembered Noah. He had never, not for a moment forgotten him. In His timing, the flood receded. In His timing, this family stepped into a new life and a new covenant–God promised that He would never flood the earth again . Despite the evil of man’s heart, He gave His word that the seasons would go on and life would not be destroyed. He already knew that sin would grow again in the descendants of Noah. He wanted to give a way of heart-change, of full redemption.

So where was God? He was there, cradling the ark among the mighty waves. He was there, teaching Noah to trust Him even in the silent times. He was there when Noah stepped off the ark, the feat of starting over ahead of him. He was there.

So where does this leave us? In this time that seems like an endless cycle of pain, where is God?

He is with us. Emmanuel–God is with us.  We can take this truth even deeper – He is in us. When Jesus left this earth after His resurrection, He did not leave us alone. He did not leave us as orphans. He did not leave us powerless. He sent His Spirit to dwell within us.

When God sent the Holy Spirit, He was showing us-I am not going anywhere. I am Your teacher. I am your comfort. I am with you. I am your power to push back darkness, to undo what the enemy has done.

So where is God?

Church…body of Christ…brothers and sisters…He is in us. We are alive in Him; in Him we live and move and breathe. He has given us His authority and His ear. We are sons and daughters of God, given all that we need to live in His image and to give others this hope of redemption, beauty for ashes, a day when all will be made new.

He has given us His weapons to demolish the strongholds of the enemy, to stand firm against his plans of destruction.

 He has given us His love that lights our path and shows us how to love each other. He has shown us the power of unity.

He has made us one body.

This is it. This is when we fall to our knees and stand in this gap to pray, even as Jesus prays for us. This is when we let our love speak louder than the hatred the enemy is spilling everywhere, every day. This is when we act out of faith instead of fear.

Are the waves high? Is the storm fierce?

Yes, we know that it is – but our Savior walks on water. Our Savior can calm the storm with one command. Our rescue has already come!

Our Savior is the One who says – yes, you will have trouble in this world. But take heart! I have overcome the world!

Has He forgotten us?

No.

Let us not forget Him. Let us not forget who we are in Him.

Let’s commit to love, to hope. Let’s commit to kindness. Let’s commit to prayer because prayer matters. If not us – if not the children of God who have been set free by His power and ransomed by His love – then who will declare His love to a world that needs it? Who else will love their neighbors as themselves and pray for their enemies?

This is the time for us – the Church – to let the Light of the world shine through us.

This is my reminder and yours– the darkness does not ever, ever, ever overcome.

Don’t be afraid to shine.

Love,

Christie

Genesis 8 

But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and livestock with him in the boat. He sent a wind to blow across the earth, and the floodwaters began to recede. The underground waters stopped flowing, and the torrential rains from the sky were stopped. So the floodwaters gradually receded from the earth. After 150 days, exactly five months from the time the flood began, the boat came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. Two and a half months later, as the waters continued to go down, other mountain peaks became visible.

After another forty days, Noah opened the window he had made in the boat and released a raven. The bird flew back and forth until the floodwaters on the earth had dried up. He also released a dove to see if the water had receded and it could find dry ground. But the dove could find no place to land because the water still covered the ground. So it returned to the boat, and Noah held out his hand and drew the dove back inside. After waiting another seven days, Noah released the dove again. This time the dove returned to him in the evening with a fresh olive leaf in its beak. Then Noah knew that the floodwaters were almost gone. He waited another seven days and then released the dove again. This time it did not come back.

Noah was now 601 years old. On the first day of the new year, ten and a half months after the flood began, the floodwaters had almost dried up from the earth. Noah lifted back the covering of the boat and saw that the surface of the ground was drying. Two more months went by, and at last the earth was dry!

Then God said to Noah, “Leave the boat, all of you—you and your wife, and your sons and their wives. Release all the animals—the birds, the livestock, and the small animals that scurry along the ground—so they can be fruitful and multiply throughout the earth.”

 So Noah, his wife, and his sons and their wives left the boat. And all of the large and small animals and birds came out of the boat, pair by pair.

 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and there he sacrificed as burnt offerings the animals and birds that had been approved for that purpose. And the Lord was pleased with the aroma of the sacrifice and said to himself, “I will never again curse the ground because of the human race, even though everything they think or imagine is bent toward evil from childhood. I will never again destroy all living things. As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.”

Take Courage

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Keep hoping. Keep trusting.

He who has promised is faithful.
His goodness is sure.
Step by step, He gives us exactly what we need.

So we take these words of Jesus and we hold them close- “Do not be afraid; just believe.”

We wait on Him and He gives us the strength and courage we need for this minute, this hour, this day.

Help us to know how near You are, Lord. Help us to understand again how deep and wide and great Your love is for us.

Help us to see, all over again, how Your love never, ever fails.

the One Who Holds Us

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Even when uncertainty runs through our days, we can rest. We still have peace. We still have hope.

Even we don’t know what happens next or the whys of it all, we DO know the One whose heart is always for us…the One who is steadfast. Unchanging. Unshakeable.

His word endures. His purpose endures. His love endures.

And so we rest, secure on this foundation that does not move and in His love for us that does not falter. We have peace in His plans, even when we don’t yet know them, because His compassion for us is unending. His ways are unerring. He sees behind us and He goes before, working all things for our good.

Our hope is in Him, in who He is — our faithful Father, holy and true and powerful.

So lay down your burdens, heavy-hearted ones, and let Him take care of your tomorrow.

He doesn’t let us down. He doesn’t forsake us. He doesn’t fail.