In The Storm

Things look a little different around here these days. There are trees, their leaves now golden-brown, bowed low to the ground along the highway. Ditches are deeper, wider. Cracks and widening gullies have appeared on the edges of the woods near our house. Water lines stain buildings in town. Gaps appear where trees used to stand and, in one spot, an entire row of pines has disappeared.

Hurricane Matthew may be long gone, but the evidence of it still remains. Our land is changed. We have been marked by the storm.

I know I’ve been absent here on the site over the past little while. I’ve been watching and waiting as this storm of contention continues to hover over our entire nation. I’ve been wondering what the long-term affects will look like…I’ve been wondering how our land will change…I’ve been wondering how my life will be altered.

We can’t control the storm or the changes time will reveal…but I’ve been thinking a lot about the landscape of my own heart in a time when wildfires of anger are hot and fierce, ignited by careless words…in a time when hatred and fear are raining down…in a time when the ground beneath us seems to be cracking under the pressure of it all.

My instinct is to find shelter, to avoid the storm as much as I can, to keep change at bay.

But I’m reminded, as I watch the constant flow of painful news stories, that Jesus willingly stepped into our storm. He came into the pain, into the sin-filled world, to bring His peace. He didn’t avoid the chaos, but pursued our hearts in the middle of it. He came into the mess of my mistakes so that I could know His life-giving love.

If I am following Him, I cannot pile sand-bags around my heart to maintain my own safety. If I am committed to loving people like He loves people, I have to be okay with exposure to the gales…and I CAN be, because I know that the Peace-Speaker, the One whom the wind and the rains obey, always holds my soul steady in His hands.

We’re all enduring a storm and, one way or another, we’ll be marked by it. But I don’t want to be marked by fear, apathy, anger, or confusion. I want it to be the Holy Spirit teaching and shaping the landscape of my soul as this season continues.

Instead of hardening toward those I disagree with, I want my heart to soften in compassion. I need to strengthen my resolve to become quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger, and the first to love. I want to tend even more diligently to these roots so that I am firmly planted in truth, immovable by even the fiercest wind. I want to remain bowed low in prayer. I want a deeper desire to intercede for others who need Him. I want to be more vulnerable, to throw up the windows and open the doors even as the rain pours and the thunder bellows — because I  want to be faithful to go into the world…into the storm…with the good news of Jesus Christ.

We are the children of God, the body of Christ, the citizens of the kingdom of light — so let us live unafraid and undeterred by the schemes of the enemy. Don’t let the cacophony of the storm persuade us to stop singing the song of mercy, grace, and redemption we have been given…it may seem powerful and overwhelming at times, but ‘all authority in heaven and on earth’ belongs to our Savior. His voice cuts through the chaos. His truth does not falter. His power and His love do not fail.

Our world will keep changing – but the One who holds its purpose remains steadfast.

He has entrusted us with the call to shine into the darkness, not just to light up our own safe circle…and we can follow where He leads us, knowing that there is no storm strong enough to extinguish the Light of Jesus Christ within us.

Knowing You are with us, we can boldly declare Your name to this world.  Knowing how You love us, we yield to the changes You make in us…conform us to Your image, Jesus, and let our lives glorify the Father.  Remind us, Lord, of who You are…in our hope in You, we can stand firm through every storm that comes into our lives.  

“Death could not hold You,
The veil tore before You
You silence the boast of sin and grave
The heavens are roaring
The praise of Your glory
For You are raised to life again

You have no rival
You have no equal
Now and forever God You reign
Yours is the kingdom
Yours is the glory
Yours is the Name above all names.”

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.  Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer…

 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble…

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – from Romans 12

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Prayer for the Brave

Help us to be brave, Lord.

Because You know us. The deep-down-real us. You know how Your grace has already brought us far from where we used to be. You know how Your love picked us up when it felt like nothing could help us, when every hope proved false and every answer fell through. You know how Your grace brought us into Your presence, how Your mercy forgave what we could not overcome alone.

And so You know how we want to follow You – wholly, without hesitation, with everything. We long, maybe in the quiet moments or maybe in every moment- to give over all of our lives for Your purpose. We wonder what it would be like to follow in the way the disciples followed. Theirs was a minute-by-minute journey. You moved and they followed. You spoke and they listened. You led the way, and without any guarantee of what might happen or where they’d end up, they walked with You.

But, Lord, You also know how fear tries to grow rampant in our lives. We are so often like Peter, eagerly running towards You…but knowing how the waves around us are wild and unpredictable, we change our minds. We want to retreat, to run backwards, to hide in the steady security of the boat we know so well.

What we forget is how You stretched out Your hand, immediately, and caught him when he faltered. Even though his faith failed, You didn’t. You picked him up and set him on course again. Even knowing that he would sink again, You pursued his heart.

Because You also knew that, one day, he would be inundated by Your Spirit. You knew that, in the fullness of Your presence, Peter would become the man You created him to be: a shepherd for Your people, a voice and a testimony to turn the world upside-down in Your name and power.

Here’s what I know: this is Your promise for us, too. “We all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” As we follow You, we change to become more like You. We become the men and women You created us to be…which is what we yearn for – to have every part of our lives redeemed, not one piece of us separated from You.

And yet we hesitate. We know the transformative, ever-creative, bigger-than-us ways of Your Spirit. Sometimes, we fear letting go of what-has-been. Sometimes, we are afraid to let go of who we think we are supposed to be. Sometimes, we forget that when You lead our lives into the Unknown, our only guarantee is You…and that certainty of You is enough.

So when we feel You call…but there is no road-map or itinerary in sight…Lord, we pray like a father prayed long ago – “we believe; help our unbelief!”

We don’t know what the next step looks like. We don’t know what this new season or place or mission will look like…but we know that Your thoughts toward us are good, to give us a hope and a future. We know that You promised to never leave us or forsake us. We know that You told us our needs would be met, our lives safe in Your hands.

Let our knowledge become our action and our reality, the deep-down roots of Your unshakable Kingdom in our hearts.

Let us live Your truth, let us speak and sing and sink into Your Word, soaking in Your living water until the only seeds that grow are of faith and bold belief in Your promises and provision.

We know it won’t be easy. We know there is a cost and a cross we all will carry.

But You carried it all first…and Your arms steady ours as we build Your kingdom.

“Therefore, we do not lose heart. Thought outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Yes, You are our one guarantee – our Life, our Love, our Peace, the desire of our hearts – help us to be brave enough to believe this, Lord, to take You at Your Word and to find that You are true. Help us to understand in our very bones, in every bit of our being – You are faithful. If we never leave our known places, if we never yield to Your Spirit, if we never move to follow – we will never know how present and how trust-worthy You are. Help us to take those first steps and to find You there, Your strength filling the void of our weakness, Your power lighting up what we have been given until it shines brighter than we ever could have hoped for…for Your glory, for Your honor, for Your praise.

Lord, we want to wear Your name. Not ours. For only by Your name can people in this world of ours be set free…be healed…be rescued from their sin. Only in Your name is there Hope.

Help us to press forward, to leave behind the old habits and securities, the knowing-what-to-expect in favor of expecting You as we obey. It is life-shaking to give up our control. But it is also life-giving – for “the old is gone” but “the new is here!”

You are the better-than-we-can-dream, the strength of our hearts, the portion we have been freely given, the hand that reaches out to catch us when we fail.

Lord, help us to be brave as we put our trust in You…help us, as we follow, to steady our vision…to look only at You.

“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” –Hebrews 12:1-2

Note from A Self-Prescribed Time Out

I confess that I am writing this to you from inside my bedroom closet. It is one of those evenings in which my children, who have been blessed with extraordinary volume in their little bodies, are running around at full-speed. They are having a great time together, but it has been an errand-y sort of day and there are things weighing on my mind…so, here I am, listening to them from (sort of) afar and taking a little break before we get ready for church.

Sometimes, friends, we need a moment to re-focus our hearts toward Jesus and just take a few deep breaths.

It’s the middle of the week. Maybe your own mind is full of worry and what needs to be done. Maybe you are busy and tired. Maybe you are facing problems that you have no control over…maybe you are waiting for answers to come, for the pain to ease.

I don’t have any easy solutions for the issues I can see in my own life or for the difficulties you might be facing.

But – as two well-loved disciples once said – what I do have, I give to you.

I have this – Isaiah 53, which gives us a Savior who took up our pain and bore our suffering…a Savior who endured punishment to bring us peace, who was wounded so we could be healed.

I have Hebrews 7:25, which tells me that this same Savior ‘always lives to intercede’ for us…He who ’empathizes with our weakness’. Yes, because of Him – we may ‘receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need’.

What I have to give you is the truth that Jesus is with you in the chaos, in the pain, in the every-day of your life. He understands the emotion, the weariness, and the struggle. So many times the New Testament talks about how Jesus had compassion on those around Him…and He still does. In Him, you find a friend who will listen, a safe place to pour out your anxiety and your fears. In Him, you find a constant companion who will not ever walk away from you or leave you in your despair. He is like His Father – close to the broken-hearted.

In our hard times, we can’t make a wish and see the problems disappear. But we can bring it all to our Savior, who suffered so that He could bring us peace in a broken world. He took on our pain so He could help us bear these trials, here and now.

So let this be the reminder to me and to you…He is ever-near and ever-ready to listen.  His grace gives us what we need to keep going, to keep hoping, to keep joy no matter what. He sustains us. And when we are weak, He gives us His strength…fresh strength, strength that never grows tired or weary.

He is there, with you, and He isn’t going to leave you alone.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.-Psalm 73:26

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eyes on Him

Forever Reign (Hillsong Live)

You are good, You are good
when there’s nothing good in me.
You are love, You are love
on display for all to see.
You are light, You are light
when the darkness closes in.
You are hope, You are hope;
You have covered all my sin.

You are peace, You are peace
when my fear is crippling.
You are true, You are true
even in my wandering.
You are joy, You are joy;
You’re the reason that I sing.
You are life, You are life;
in You death has lost its sting.

Oh, I’m running to Your arms,
I’m running to Your arms.
The riches of Your love
will always be enough.
Nothing compares to Your embrace;
Light of the world – forever reign.

You are more, You are more
than my words will ever say.
You are Lord, You are Lord,
all creation will proclaim.
You are here, You are here;
in Your presence I’m made whole.
You are God, You are God;
of all else I’m letting go.

Oh, I’m running to Your arms,
I’m running to Your arms.
The riches of Your love
will always be enough.
Nothing compares to Your embrace.
Light of the world — forever reign.

My heart will sing
no other Name —
Jesus, Jesus!

Oh, I’m running to Your arms,
I’m running to Your arms.
The riches of Your love
will always be enough.
Nothing compares to Your embrace;
Light of the world — forever reign!

Holy, holy, holy is God our Master, Sovereign-Strong,
The Was, The Is, The Coming…
To the One on the Throne! To the Lamb!
The blessing, the honor, the glory, the strength,
for age after age after age!
~Revelation 4: 8, 5:13