Renew In Me

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You chose us, even before the foundation of this world was laid. Your love doesn’t come and go. It doesn’t change. Your compassionate heart is faithful toward us. Your purpose for us is unshakeable.

You are steadfast. Firm and unwavering.

How I want those words to describe my faith, my love, my heart.

I want my heart to be undivided, wholly Yours.

Let no distraction turn my eyes from You. Let it be Your approval that I am after, unswayed by anyone else’s opinions of me. Let my own desires be re-shaped until I can say to live is Christ, to die is gain. Let my ambitions be wholly displaced by a life lived for Your glory. Let every sin that tries to trip me up be cast aside, every thought put under obedience to You. Let every doubt be replaced with trust. Let my ears be closed to fear and open only to Your voice.

Every time, Lord, and in everything–I want to say: I choose You.

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The One You Can Trust…

Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you…He will never let the righteous be shaken.-Psalm 55:22

There are no cares too small or insignificant. There are no cares too big or too complicated. There are no lost causes and there are no too-far-gones. He doesn’t think you are infringing on His time. He doesn’t think that you should be strong on your own and have it all together. He doesn’t think that your fears are silly. He doesn’t turn away from your tears.

He will never turn you away.

So what will He do when you cast your cares on Him?

He will listen. He will sustain (strengthen and support) you. He will be near to you. He will deliver you from your fears. He will steady your heart and renew your mind. He will be your peace. He will be the sturdy foundation, your safe refuge, your joy. He will work all things together for your good, according to His purpose…because He is the God of redemption, the God of mercy, the God of all power and might. No matter what the cares in your life might be and no matter how big they seem to you—NOTHING is impossible for God.

He loves you, friend. Your life matters to Him. You matter to Him.

So may we choose to trust Him – to rely on Him. May we lay everything down before Him, holding nothing back. I hope we can understand and hold onto the truth, soul-deep, that He is all-sufficient…always good…and forever-faithful.

“Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to You, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I…”

“Surely God is my help; the Lord is the One who sustains me.”

“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge.”

“Power belongs to You, God, and with You, Lord, is unfailing love.”

(Psalm 61:1-2, 54:4, 62:5-8, 11-12a)

Tuesday Morning Prayer

“Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You. Show me the way I should go, for to You I entrust my life. Rescue me from my enemies, Lord, for I hide myself in You. Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; may Your good Spirit lead me on level ground.”

-Psalm 143:7-10

Wearing Wildflowers

This is a day…(maybe you’ve had a day like this before?)…when I wake up feeling sad. No particular reason, no specific thing wrong…in fact, everything is normal. Everything is fine. But my heart is heavy and my eyes quick to fill with tears at the slightest little thing gone wrong. Emotions are at flood-level, apparently, and any rain causes overflow on a day like today.

In the early-morning gloom of the living room, I bend to knees and fumble through words to God. Finally, I admit – I feel at a loss right now. I feel empty.

Why should I be discouraged? I have only blessings in my hands. I have only gratitude to give.

Please help, I pray. Because this day is Yours that You have given. I don’t want to spend it feeling like this.

Words surface. “He has sent Me to bestow…a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” 

And I read  “Is anyone crying for help? God is listening, ready to rescue you. If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there. If you’re kicked in the gut, He’ll help you catch your breath. Disciples so often get into trouble; still, God is there every time.” 

Every time.

Then a plea in David’s words: “But let me run loose and free, celebrating God’s great work, every bone in my body laughing, singing – ‘God, there’s no one like you! You put the down-and-out on their feet!'” 

I do not feel like there are laughing bones, veins of joy, heart-beats of celebration within me…and I cannot run free with my round-and-round worry-thoughts, my shoulders draped in dark clouds.

But my eyes take notice – David says, “I bless God every chance I get; my lungs expand with His praise.”

Every chance, every breath – he lives thankful. Pursued, tormented, adored, empowered, alone, mocked, envied, prosperous, mourning, rejoicing…in all things, he lives to praise.

Worship, he says, opens door to all His goodness.

Deep breath, mind made up to lift this shadowed mind up to Him in the middle of the sadness, in the middle of the heaviness.

Because even when I feel like I am in the center of despair, He is still God. 

His Word is still solid to the core; everything He makes is sound inside and out.

So I say thank you, to the Lord who sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord enthroned as King forever. For He gives strength to His people; the Lord blesses His people with peace.

I say thank you to the giver of mercy, the light of the world, the One who says – ‘Let it be’ and it is.

Can thank you be enough for the Savior?  For He already carried this kind of day for me, this spirit of despair, for He “took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows…the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him and by His wounds we are healed”. He bore it so that He can lift me up, take this burden from me when it falls into my hands. 

I remember this and the way He loves, how He says “I’ll never forget you. I’ve wiped the slate of all your wrongdoings. There’s nothing left of your sins. Come back to me, come back. I’ve redeemed you.”

I feel Isaiah’s joy as he says, “High heavens, sing! God has done it! Deep earth, shout! And you mountains, sing! A forest choir of oaks and pines and cedars! God has redeemed Jacob. God’s glory is on display in Israel!”

And don’t I have the same praise? God has redeemed me! God’s glory is on display in this very room…in my front yard…in the sky stretching out its cloudy arms of praise…everywhere I look, His grace and beauty are on display.

Lifting my eyes, I know where my help comes from — this God, who made heaven and earth.  His strength begins to hold my heart and it is lighter within me. I choose to open up this day to Him, knowing His goodness unchanged, and He begins to shine His light into the dusty corners. The emptiness begins to fill with peace that I couldn’t find for myself.

He is greater than these feelings that change with the day, with the circumstance, with the tide of emotion. He is sure and steady, constant in all His ways.

When I wake on days like today, I cannot trust in my own frail emotions. I will not put trust in the power of darkness to lead me. Instead, I will say of Him – He is my rock and my fortress, in whom I trust. I will say that the Lord is good and His mercy endures forever…yet (even while this is hard, even while fear fills me, even while night goes on) yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior!

Trusting in His unfailing love, I will not be shaken.

Every promise here, every redeeming hope – it is mine and it is yours. I don’t know if you ever feel despair on your heels, your heart growing heavy – but, if you do, choose praise. Choose trust. Maybe change won’t feel instantaneous, but trust anyway. Because He promised to take the spirit of despair and replace it with a garment of praise. He promised that His joy will be our strength. Sometimes we have to stop clinging to the familiar garments of darkness, letting go and lifting our hands to Him, letting Him take the sorrow and wrapping us instead in His light. Sometimes He lets us walk in the heaviness, knowing how our faith is strengthened when we can understand that He is sovereign in the good and the bad. But the night will not last forever. He always brings morning, in His time, and with it – joy.

Let me say again, this time with David…

I bless God every chance I get! My lungs expand with His praise! 

I live and breathe God; if things aren’t going well, hear this and be happy: Join me in spreading the news; together let’s get the word out. God met me more than halfway, he freed me from my anxious fears…when I was desperate, I called out, and God got me out of a tight spot. God’s angel sets up a circle of protection around us while we pray.

Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see – how good God is. 

For every one of us who trust in Him,  this is how He writes our hearts – hope and a future of running free, heart and bones and breath singing to Him —

You did it: You changed wild lament into whirling dance; You ripped off my black mourning band and decked me with wildflowers. I’m about to burst with song; I can’t keep quiet about You. God, my God, I can’t thank You enough!

Will you lift your heart to Him, no matter the day you’re in? Will you stop what you’re doing and offer Him praise?

How great is our God, sing with me-
how great is our God, and all will see
how great, how great is our God!

 

*Scripture references are from Psalms, Isaiah, and Habakkuk*

Psalm 29 (awe on a Tuesday night)

“Ascribe to the Lord, O mighty ones, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; worship the Lord in the beauty of His holiness.
The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders over the mighty waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon. He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightening. The voice of the Lord shakes the desert; the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forests bare. And in His temple all cry, “Glory!”
The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever. The Lord gives strength to His people; the Lord blesses His people with peace.”
-Psalm 29

On Falling…

Poor Vinny, my dish-soap-dispensing waiter, had an unfortunate sprawl earlier this evening.  

It has been that kind of a day. I had my own trip and fall this morning, albeit a less literal one than poor Vinny’s.

I have no one to blame but myself. For a moment, I ignored the whisper of the Holy Spirit and put all my focus on me. What followed? Bitter words that sparked and flew, tainting the hours with their acrid smoke and scars. Even stamped out, these words still leave the soot of regret. There is still pain from the heat and shame of the too-quick surrender to that fleshly desire to prove I was right.  

I wasn’t right (and I knew it!)…but instead of humbly admitting my mistakes, my pride went raging into battle…proving nothing but the truth of James’ declaration that the tongue is a ‘restless evil, full of deadly poison.’

And so I failed to show grace and I neglected the cause of mercy…and found myself in desperate need of both.

Shame tries to send us into hiding (remember that first couple diving for the first bushes after their disobedience?) and so I really wanted to grab the bag of powdered donuts off the shelf, put on comfy pjs, and put all of my attention into an Iron Chef marathon. After all the hope I had for this week, all the good intentions…how could I slip up so easily?

Yes. Hiding sounded great.

But then…a still small voice reminded me of words I typed only a few days ago…”But I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, 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…

I looked around my house, at my kiddos, at the bag of donuts. Succumbing to a day of wallowing in regret and prideful self-pity would not get me out of this mess. It would only compound the problem in my heart, keeping the focus all on me.

I needed to offer a good, old-fashioned ‘I’m sorry’ to my Father and to the one I’d hurt with my outburst. And then I needed to ask Him to redirect my heart, my feet, and my day.

So I looked away from myself and up to Him. Knocked off my feet, this time in sorrow and humble crying out for help…and, out of His great (unfathomable!) love, He heard me.

“God is sheer mercy and grace; not easily angered; He’s rich in love. He doesn’t endlessly nag and scold, nor hold grudges forever. He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve, nor pay us back in full for our wrongs. As high as heaven is over the earth, so strong is His love to those who fear Him. And as far as sunrise is …

…from sunset, He has separated us from our sins.”~Psalm 103:8-12 (MSG)

The truth is that every single on of us will have a falling-flat-on-our-face day. Because we have not yet reached the end of our journey, when this battle with sin is forever done. We can have victory in the here and the now, through the help of the Holy Spirit, but we will not find perfection in this life-time…so what relief and gratefulness in knowing that the righteousness of my Savior covers me! What undeserved blessing to know that He is faithful…even when I am not.

“Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, Your faithfulness to the skies…”~Psalm 36:5

 So if your step wasn’t so steady today, please know that you are not alone and that your new day can begin now. He is faithful to forgive and to put our feet back on His path…so don’t hide and don’t run anywhere except into His presence and into His Word. When we fall and reach out to Him, He will pick us up again.

That’s how God’s Word vaults across the skies
      from sunrise to sunset,
   Melting ice, scorching deserts,
      warming hearts to faith.

 The revelation of God is whole
      and pulls our lives together.
   The signposts of God are clear
      and point out the right road.
   The life-maps of God are right,
      showing the way to joy.
   The directions of God are plain
      and easy on the eyes.
   God’s reputation is twenty-four-carat gold,
      with a lifetime guarantee.
   The decisions of God are accurate
      down to the nth degree.

  God’s Word is better than a diamond,
      better than a diamond set between emeralds.
   You’ll like it better than strawberries in spring,
      better than red, ripe strawberries.

  There’s more: God’s Word warns us of danger
      and directs us to hidden treasure.
   Otherwise how will we find our way?
      Or know when we play the fool?
   Clean the slate, God, so we can start the day fresh!
      Keep me from stupid sins,
      from thinking I can take over your work;
   Then I can start this day sun-washed,
      scrubbed clean of the grime of sin.

…May the Words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” ~from Psalm 19 (MSG&NIV)
   

Flying Lessons

God pursues us. It’s amazing, really, to think of all the ways His love reaches out to bring light into our darkness. Sometimes it’s the little things that speak most loudly to me…these days, I’m reminded of Him every time I step through my front door. Birds –cardinals, blue-jays, and other darlings that I don’t know by name –are everywhere in my front and back yard these days…and with every flutter of wings and chirp-tweet-chirps, I am flooded with awe that God is taking care of each little bird with His eternal wisdom and patient care.

My family probably thinks it’s a little odd that I’m so fascinated with birds. I bought a few pretty picture of birds for my bedroom (it helped that the paintings’ colors exactly matched the blue of our walls)  and I was so excited to find the sweetest necklace with a sparrow charm (see above picture) which I wear…almost every day.  And I guess they find me at the windows, bird-watching more than they think is normal. 🙂

But birds have a lot to teach me.

I love that birds don’t stress. The weather, the cats, the hunt for food…none of it keeps a bird up at night. They don’t fret about tomorrow. They don’t waste time regretting the worm that they didn’t catch yesterday. They don’t wallow in inferiority because that bird across the street flew higher than they did this morning. They don’t cower in their nest, worried that their wings will fail them or that their song isn’t good enough. 

Instead, they just lift their heads and soar.

They just open those beaks and sing.

In each moment they’re given, they just take flight and live.

And it’s beautiful to behold.

I want to be like the birds, content in being who the Creator made me to be.  Unafraid to step out of the nest. Trusting, at all times, that my Provider is able to take care of me. Able to share my song without hesitation because He created me to sing it…and resting in the shadow of His mighty wing without fear.  

What I really like about my necklace is this: the bird’s wings are outstretched and she’s joyfully flying with all her might…but, all the while, she is securely up-held, “hemmed in behind and before”  by the strength of the necklace connected to her. 

Just as, all the while, we are upheld by the strength of His love, His hand ever holding us fast.

From Psalm 139, verses 1-10…

You have searched me, LORD,
   and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
   you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
   you are familiar with all my ways. 
Before a word is on my tongue
   you, LORD, know it completely. 
You hem me in behind and before,
   and you lay your hand upon me. 
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
   too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit? 
Where can I flee from your presence? 
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; 
 if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, 
 if I settle on the far side of the sea, 
even there your hand will guide me, 
your right hand will hold me fast.