Friday, February 28, 2014

Heart Cry

In the heart of every woman is this longing to be loved.

But when a woman feels unloved, she will cling to something.  Sometimes it is an unhealthy relationship, sometimes a career, maybe a child, a hobby, or even social networking.  This striving for love shows itself in various forms, but is never truly met until her soul nestles into God.

I ordered a music DVD for our youth retreat, seeking a particular song on the call of God.  With that song came another, one simply titled, My Hope.  As I watched, I knew we had the ending for our first session.  Here are some of the words.

Nothing will change, if all the plans I make are wrong
Your love stays the same, Your light will guide me through it all
I'm hanging on, I'm leaning in to You...
(by Paul Baloche)

And I thought of Leah, my hero.  Her heart was wounded, weeping for lack of love.  Plans had gone wrong and she was caught in a life long conflict, one that would not end overnight.  She tried so hard to gain her husband's approval, anything that would turn him towards her and nothing worked.

Finally, after giving Jacob his fourth son, Leah named him Judah for she said, "I will praise the Lord."  (Gen. 29:35)  I see no indication in Scripture to tell us that her situation changed, or that Jacob began to truly love her, only that Leah had reached a place of joy.  She at last found the secret of contentment through her pain . . . trust in a sovereign God expressed through a grateful heart.

These two women of the Bible, Leah and Rachel, leave our modern day soap operas in the dust.  Rachel is often placed on a pedestal, but I don't see it that way.  True, Rachel had a knock out body, bedroom eyes, and most of all, the love of her husband.  Yet, Rachel held onto her father's idols with a heart divided and was filled with ugly jealousies.  And to top it off, Rachel was barren.  (Gen. 29:17,30,31)

But God is able to redeem wasted years . . . if we will look to Him.

Nothing can reach the end of all Your faithfulness,
Your grace is with me, through every shadow, every test
I'm hanging on, I'm leaning in to You.  
(by Paul Baloche)

This is why I love the Bible.  It's message is so current, so real.  The more I study, the more I am blown away by the character of God. 

In her later years, Leah joins a fight better left alone.  I'm reminded of our own heart's tendency to regress.  Leah cannot resist the battle of her sister and stoops to join in.  But at the end of their lives we see a faithful God who is able to untangle the mess.  Leah is buried with the patriarchs, a great honor.  And through her son Judah, comes the promised Messiah.

I was going to end there, but then thought, "What about Rachel?  Was there hope for her story, one which seemed so sad, holding its own share of wounds?"  But there it was.  Clear and pointed.

Rachel died near Bethlehem, giving birth to a son she named Ben-Oni, meaning, "son of my sorrow".  But Jacob renamed him Benjamin, "son of my right hand."  (Gen. 35:16-19)  And from Bethlehem came our Savior, the suffering Messiah, who through His death brought life overflowing.  A root out of dry ground . . . beauty from ashes.

You are my Rock, when storms are raging all around,
You shelter me God, I'm safe with You on solid ground,
I'm hanging on, I'm leaning in to You.  

I don't know where You'll take me,
But I know You're always good.

My hope is built, on nothing less,
Than Your great love, Your righteousness
I will not walk another way,
I trust Your heart, I trust Your name
I'm holding on to You...
(by Paul Baloche)

Our youth retreat has come and gone, but I can't get over what God has shown me in these Scriptures.  He continues to bless me through His Word.

I love it that this song is not sung by Paul Baloche alone, but accompanied by a woman.  God cares deeply for the heart of women and knows our unique struggles.  Maybe it is you who needs these words today.  I plead with you to hear the heart of God through this song.  Click on this link, My Hope, and turn your heart towards the Lover of your soul.

However impossible your situation, know that it is not beyond the reach of God.  He can redeem wasted years.  Lean hard into His love.  

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Moving Forward

Spiritual work takes physical energy.  And though the mountain top experiences are invigorating, the climb to that point is strenuous.  But the view from the top is so worth it.

Yet, life is lived in the valleys and the trek down is fraught with dangers of depression and temptation.  I experienced both this week as I sought to unpack and put away a retreat weekend.

I'm reminded of Elijah who experienced God's great victory on Mt. Carmel.  Afterwards he ran a supernatural sprint to keep ahead of the drenching rain, this rain no one had seen for three years.  But right after that experience, Elijah was depressed and exhausted.  God's remedy was very basic; sleep and nourishment.  (1 Kings 18-19)

I did a lot of sleeping this week.  Then for the first time in forever had a weekend where we did not have to prepare a lesson, an activity, or an event.  I almost forgot what leisure was like.

Saturday, my daughter got sick and so we both lazed around the house, going no where in particular.  It is strange that life can be placed on hold when it has to, the urgent made obsolete. 

I am tempted to linger at the peaks.  So often we seek experiences with God and expect He will do for us what He did for someone else, or what He did before.  But we cannot fit God into formulas or even our own experiences.  He continually calls us forward.

I'm reminded of another retreat, just last fall, where God brought me to a mountain peak.  The experience was not the same as last weekend, but it is still the same God.  That is the joy of walking with Him, life is never stagnant.  And as long as I am seeking the Lord, He will lead me up peaks and through valleys.  I know He is with me through both.

Every morning I seek the Lord in His Word, and there He calls me to come away with Him to the high places.  I love these alpine meadows of communion with Him, but the day calls and I must enter the valleys of laundry, dirty dishes, errands, cooking meals, sick children, and appointments.  But somehow these things do not loom so big because my heart has been refreshed in the Lord.

And the added bonus?  The Colorado sun has made its entrance into our valley, oh so soothing to the soul.  Winter's snow has been trumped by hints of spring, a reminder of God's faithfulness.  Winter never lasts forever.  All this squishy mud reminds me that spring's a comin'!  

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

If Walls Could Speak

We hung red plastic cups everywhere, each personalized with their name and a note . . . telephones to heaven.  If only it were that simple.

But wait.  It is that simple.  In fact, God is calling each of us by name, calling us to beauty in our brokenness, and joy through the midst of suffering.

Yet, so often we are not paying attention.  We walk around with our ears plugged, the noise of our hectic lives oblivious to God's voice.   The problem lies not in the speaking, but in the listening.

 This last weekend, we tuned our ears toward heaven, and God gripped our hearts.  His Spirit began to do His work.  Saturday morning the air was thick with His presence and by late afternoon it burst into flame as two of our young women put their faith in Christ.  This flame continued to burn throughout the evening while tears flowed soft and lives were dedicated to the Lord.  

The theme of our youth retreat was The Quest for Beauty, based on the examples of Leah and Rachel.  Beauty is such a delicate subject, one that is easily and often taken to lists of rules and legalities.  But God was not leading us to this outward aspect of beauty so much as to intimate relationship with Him.

If we took one thing away from the retreat, I wanted it to be this:  that God is madly in love with us and seeks our attention, wooing us to Himself.  If we answer His call, we will find the greatest fulfillment.  Beauty is the glow produced from this romance with God coupled with a correct response to our circumstances.  

At the start of each lesson we listened to a different song sung by four lovely ladies from The Celtic Women music DVD, Songs from the Heart.  Appropriate, as our study also led us to four women of the Bible whose lives were intertwined in a soap opera that only God could untangle.  We began with The Call and then moved on to The Divine Romance, and at last The Miracle, finishing with Beauty from the Ashes

Later, the guys returned to the girl's cabin for a combined worship service, always a glorious way to top off the weekend.  There we learned of beautiful feet, swift over mountains, to bear good news, who proclaim salvation, and who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!"  (Isa. 52:7)

And through these windows, the mountains gave us illustration of beauty.  Shrouded in thick clouds, their glory would seem absent.  Likewise, it is hard to find our way in the midst of pain and turmoil.  But as the morning wore on, the mist began to clear and the sun blazed brilliant.  So behind every trial, praise can distill the fog to reveal the beauty of the Lord . . . if we have eyes to see and ears to listen.   

I end this post with our theme song, a powerful illustration of listening for the voice of God.  I will include some of the words here, but to receive the full effect, click on the song title below and see if it will not touch your own life in a big way.

The same love that set the captives free
The same love that opened eyes to see
Is calling us all by name,
He is calling us all by name,

The same love that spread the heavens wide
The same love that was crucified
Is calling us all by name, 
He is calling us all by name.

He's calling
He's calling
He's calling us to the cross.

(The Same Love by Paul Baloche).

If the walls of our cabin could speak, they would say, "Surely, the presence of the Lord is in this place."   May God be praised. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Preparation Meets Presence

I was all comfy in my chair, blanket piled high, Bible open and notebook settled.  My pen flew furious, unaware of the fire dwindling down to coals, this fire that heats the whole house.  Suddenly, I realized the absent flame.  It needed immediate attention or it would soon go out.

I did not want to get up.  Couldn't I just holler at my husband to come down the stairs and throw some wood on the stove for me?  No, that would be lame.

And so I got up.  Coals stirred, I placed the wood and settled back into my chair.  But the wood just sat and smoldered.  "Come on," I thought, "just ignite."  I didn't want to get up again to deal with it.   And so I waited.  Choking smoke began to build and then all at once, a glorious whoosh and the wood burst into flame, consuming the cloud.

At that moment, a realization came over me.  The fire was a picture of our youth retreat this weekend.  The coals represent the presence of the Lord gone before us, and the wood, the preparation.

Preparing the wood is labor intensive.  To burn well it must be cut down . . . split . . . reduced . . . splintered . . . broken.  But when preparation meets the presence of the Lord, the components are in place for God's fire to break out into flame.  All that's needed is the wind of His Holy Spirit. 

We prayed that God would meet us there, in our weekend, and He answered that prayer in a big way.

But there is more to this illustration.  I was reading from Numbers 15.  A man was caught gathering wood on the Sabbath and for that, he was sentenced to death.  It would seem a steep punishment for such a crime, and yet it reveals how crucial is this step of rest . . . of waiting on the Lord. 

It is hard to wait when smoke is building, to wait on God's timing. 

I am one who likes to be prepared.  I actually enjoy the labor of 'gathering firewood'.  And because of that, I often over prepare. 

Our wood stove is very efficient.  To obtain the correct airflow you have to shut the door.  It works opposite from your natural inclination.  Likewise, in our preparation, there is a point where we have to 'shut the door' and let rest.  We must stop gathering the wood and just watch while the smoke builds.

It is so tempting to open the door and mess with the wood or stir on the coals, but then the smoke burns your eyes, and the fire is delayed or sometimes, stopped altogether.  God is not controlled.  He brings the fire when and where He wills. 

I can think of no better way to describe our weekend than with this illustration.  God did more than I could ever ask or think and I hope to share that with you soon.  In the meantime, I'm going to rest, because maybe, just maybe, the glow of this last weekend was meant to warm your heart as well.  Stick with me tomorrow to hear "If Walls Could Speak". 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Prepare the Way

I scarcely thought about it being Valentine's Day until I entered the grocery store early this morning.  The flower section was swamped with men buying roses for that special someone.  And I thought about preparation.   

Arriving home, I was so encouraged to read from Numbers 13.  God told Moses, "Take it! The time is now.  Go in and possess the land."  Yet, God also told Moses to first send scouts to check out the battle plan.  Surely, God meant for them to be encouraged by the milk and honey, not deflated by giants.

As we embark on our youth retreat, I can see all God has done to get us this far.  The way has been prepared.  Now comes the fun part.  To watch as God's Spirit takes the reins and conquers.

Don't get me wrong, it is still not a walk in the park.  The battle rages intense.  But my prayer is this, "Come, Lord Jesus, meet us here this weekend." 

Isn't this beautiful?  This is what I get to see all weekend.  I never tire of looking at it!
 I am so excited for what the Lord has for us.  Even as late as yesterday morning, God came through with an ending for Saturday night's lesson, a climax of what we will be learning.  He is ever faithful, but does not always reveal these sorts of things far in advance.  Only when we need it. 

"Prepare the way for the Lord," was the message of John the Baptist, "make His paths straight." (Luke 3:4)   And it is still a good idea.  We need to prepare the way for the Holy Spirit to come and do His work. 

There is nothing so fulfilling or exciting as this divine romance between God and His people.  Though there is struggle in the journey, it does not compare to the joy set before us.  I have a song running through my head, and I think it sums up our weekend well.

Through our God we shall do valiantly,
It is He who will tread down our enemies,
We'll sing and shout His victory,
Christ is King!

For God has won the victory,
And set His people free,
His Word has slain the enemy,
The earth shall stand and see 
That through our God we shall do valiantly.

Summon Your power oh God,
Show us your strength as You have done before.  

(based on Psalm 108:13)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


The last few weeks have been intense as my husband and I prepared for our annual youth retreat.  Now at last it is upon us and I don't know if I'm going to be okay.  What do you do when it seems like the weight of a whole retreat is on your own shoulders?

You pray strong and hope builds, but God says no and the speaker you had planned falls through.   Then you realize that this speaker will not make or break the retreat, and that only the Spirit of God has the power to make it a success.  His presence is all we need.  By default, the task returns to me.

Inward beauty, the broken make whole, this I know.  But how can I speak on the outward when I actually gained the pounds I intended to lose and when I need a haircut and the gray is showing and tennis shoes are what I wear?  The doubts whisper loud and clear, Who do you think you are anyway?
But I'm going to be okay because these four lessons from the lives of Leah and Rachel have come direct from the Lord.  And He says "it is not by might, nor by power, but by His Spirit" that hearts are touched and lives are changed.  (Zech.4:6)  So it is not up to me after all. 

In fact, God forbid that I should get in the way of what He intends to do.  And so I prayed a scary prayer . . . that God would make me humble because I know that He "resists the proud"  (James 4:6)  If I am to be an instrument in His hands, the very last thing I want is His resistance.

God has answered that prayer this week, but not in ways I like.  I guess I didn't expect it to be so painful.  Silly, dumb things, like spinach in my teeth, and falling down the stairs.  Not just a little fall, but all the way down.  I should have laughed along with the others, because, well, it was funny.  But I just wanted to cry. 

Then we were set to answer questions for an event, my husband and I . . . honored guests.  But the night before the event, we were given an emphatic "no".   There had been a misunderstanding and we were not so special after all.  Mind you, it freed up some much needed time, but still, my pride was hurt.

Furthermore, I lost something from last summer, something that belonged to a fourth grader, and so I prayed and prayed for God to help me find it, but never could.  Aren't I tight with You God?  Don't I know that You answer prayers like this?  And must I really look into those disappointed eyes every Sunday?  Eyes that send me on a guilt trip, that remind me of my failure?  Yet, even here there is grace, for at that moment Romans 8:1 was read, "there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus."  God was showing me through His 'no' that I needed Him, desperately.

Then, last week I tried hard to set up an appointment with some elderly folk.  A group of young girls were depending on me, but the old folks could not understand who I was or what I wanted.  Why can't my name be a Susan, a Beth, or a Tina, something crisp and easy to say, something familiar.  And why must I mumble and why do I have such a fear of talking on the phone?   The day came and went, and yet God was sufficient for my need.  He made it happen, just how He planned all along.

Finally, the materials had been printed for the retreat, content from the Lord, yes, but from my own heart as well, lesson plans I had written.  I spent a taxing day hunting down the components of a an illustration for my talk, but received a very wise 'no' from my husband.  All of the booklets had to be destroyed and reprinted because of one word I had written.  One word.   I should have known better.  And that illustration went into the trash. (I have since found better ones.)

I do hope that these lessons in humility are over for awhile, but even if they're not, one thing I do know.  I'm going to be okay because God is in control.  He is trust worthy, and He is able to do far more than I could ever ask or think.  I know the same is true for you as well.  No matter your struggle, you are going to be okay because our God is sovereign.  His eternal plan is set in motion and we are part of it.  We cannot always see it, but we can truly trust Him, for He knows what He is doing.

This post was written in response to a prompt at, "You're going to be okay because...", Coffee for Your Heart.  Click on the link below.  You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Real Living

As a pastor's wife, I've been to my share of memorial services.  They are not created equal.  Last summer I attended one that was perhaps the most sad of all.  Not a single flower, card, or friend appeared, save for a few distant relatives in search of money.  It was a strange feeling, that my husband and I knew her better than anyone there.  

However, yesterday we attended another, one rich with testimony.  It was made clear to me the difference of a life lived abundant verses one lived good.  God saves us from death to life, not from bad to good.  There is a vast chasm between the two.  And only when we pour out the gift He gives, do we truly live.  

When this man's identical twin stood up to speak, I was flooded with emotion.  After the service I talked to him, a man with the same voice, the same mannerisms, the same giving spirit of the one who had passed on.  It was the first I had ever met the man, but it seemed I had known him for years . . . surreal.  (And perhaps I felt some connection because my husband is also a twin.)

I know some people who breathe, but who may as well be dead, people who strive to be good, but fall short of joyful abundant living.  I hope that is not me, but I know I sometimes regress into that lie. 

Yesterday's memorial service made one thing very clear to me.  The servant who hoarded, who buried his talent in the ground, died with his talent.  But the one who took a risk and invested his talent, found that it multiplied and he received life overflowing.  (Matt. 25:14-30)

I am most fulfilled when I make use of my spiritual gift.  Yet, to utilize it, I must pour it out and empty myself, for God does not save us for ourselves.  Rather, He saves us to fulfill a great purpose, to bless the lives of others. 

My goal is not to 'live to a ripe old age', but to live with purpose, utilizing what God has given in fullest measure. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


My hands were tied.  I wanted to create, but lacked the skills to do so.  For a moment I felt like I understood the frustration of someone impaired, locked inside her body, without means to communicate what is on the inside.

My son, a capable programer, were my hands and mind seeking to build this blog.  I liked to think of myself as the painter, and he the brush.  But it was more like the painter placing the brush into another painter's hands to convey the ideas of the first.  Did that make any sense?  Furthermore, how could I relay what I wanted when I myself did not know?   He became exasperated with my lack of satisfaction while I became angry for being so helpless.  

Meanwhile, my Bible reading was taking me to the end of Exodus and the start of Leviticus, that most dreaded territory of anyone's systematic read through the Scriptures.  Yet, God met me there, a proof that He can speak to us through any portion of His Word, if we are truly listening for His voice. 

There it was, clear as clear. "The LORD has gifted Bezalel, Ohoiab, and the other skilled craftsmen with wisdom and ability to perform any task involved in building the sanctuary.  Let them construct and furnish the Tabernacle, just as the LORD has commanded." (Ex. 36:1)  I then realized I had been clinging too tightly and needed to 'let my son construct'.  His skill and ability were hindered by my interference.   

Releasing control, I placed the outcome of this blog design into God's hands, trusting that He was big enough to enable my son to build.  The very next day, Tyler presented me with what you see now, and finally, I truly liked it. 

A few posts back, I said that I would share with you an answer to prayer.  This blog is that answer.  When I surrendered it into the Lord's hands, then other aspects began to fall into place as well.  The 'Glass Slippers' tab was never in my originally plan.  It just came to me as we were building together.  I believe God directed its placement.

The design is taken from the red rock slot canyons I love so much . . . and a lamp my husband built for me.  Each of my children created their own sand design inside a glass panel, which became the four sides of the lamp.  The light inside illuminates the sand, resulting in this glow of patterns. 

The red rock brings Mt. Sinai up present and close for me.  It is how I imagine the setting where Moses cries out to the Lord, "unless Your presence goes with us, we may as well not go up from here."  (Ex. 33:15)  Moses would not settle for an angel to lead them.  It had to be the Lord Himself.  This story has always held a sacred place in my heart.  And unless the Lord is in this blog, I may as well not try. 

It was a daring attempt, and a whole lot of challenge, going with such bold colors, but I think my son succeeded on doing a good job of it, yes?  I still have some minor details to work out, but otherwise the site is complete.  I trust it is reader friendly, original, and conveys the message well.  Thank you for your patience. 

Oh, and by the way, the name Tyler means "builder . . . resourceful, maker of tiles".   Just sayin'. 

"So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours."  Mark 11:24  

Monday, February 3, 2014

Strange Fire

Outside my window, the snow is falling soft, a quiet day for Colorado.  Okay, so it goes beyond quiet, to sad, and just downright humiliating.  What went wrong? 

Maybe they thought that to change their game would confuse their component, but I fear they only confused themselves.  As a Seahawk put it, "we got here on our defensive game, so why change it?  We will keep doing what got us to this place."  Wise words.  It seemed the Broncos changed their game plan and it killed them. 

I wonder what happened in practice the two weeks before?  Did they spend their energies on the wrong focus?  

I do not want to get caught in this trap, pouring out energy on futility.  How sad to strive and work towards what I think will accomplish the goal, only to end up chasing the wind. 

This reminds me of some guys in the Bible who also changed their game plan, Nadab and Abihu, priests of the Lord.  They decided to burn the wrong kind of fire, and as a result, were struck dead before a holy God.  Aaron, their father, was then instructed to distinquish between the sacred and the common.   (Lev. 10:1-2, 10)

I've been expending a lot of fire lately on ministry:  to children, to youth, to writing, and to my local church.  Good fire.  The work of the Holy Spirit kind of fire.  Yet, I'm concerned that I have treated my family as common, when God deems them sacred.  

Realizing the sacredness of my family gives me a whole new perspective on what I do at home.  When I wash dishes, do laundry, or cook meals, I am treading on holy ground!  But when I leave no energy for my family, then somewhere, I am burning strange fire.  When all is said and done, I do not want to have missed the game plan, expending energy for that which does not result in the desired end. 

I am still a Broncos fan, and will bear their shame right along with them.  Hopefully, the humbling has made us wiser. 

Go ahead, rub it in good, all my Pacific Northwest relatives.  You deserved the win, beyond fair and square.  And I admit, that lime green confetti was beautiful mixed in with your sea of blue.   But my life does not do or die based on my own team's win or loss. 

The game was only common.  There are more sacred things to spend my energies on.