Lifegiving

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Have you ever wanted to run? And just keep running, as far and as fast as you were able? You had no idea what you were running to, but you knew what you were running from…

Me, too.

I won her book in a give away on a friend’s blog site. I was so ecstatic that I had won. The book came in the mail and I immediately ripped off the wrapping and started to read. Good stuff.

Mm hmm……I’m liking this…. and then…….

I stopped.

Ouch.

She was treading a little too close to home for me. I set the book down…and didn’t pick it back up for at least 3 weeks. I stared at it on my bedside table. I saw my bookmark sticking out of the top, showing me exactly where I had left off. I didn’t dare touch it.

Not yet.

Recently, I was angry. Does anybody else do anything around here besides me? Doesn’t anyone else see this?  Why am I the one that is supposed to have all the answers? I don’t know. At that point I didn’t even care. Unforgiving. It was a hard and barren place to be pitching my tent.

Frustration.

Lord, I can’t take care of one more living thing. I don’t want too. When do I get to do what I want to do? Not enough time. Not enough money. Not enough energy. Not enough. Not enough. Not enough. I was threatening to boil over with the resentment that I was carrying around with me.

That book was still there. No way. I wasn’t reading that book. Not by that Christian author. Her story, in many ways, was similar to my own. I was afraid to read on…to see how she had allowed God to handle the hard parts of her life. We all face the hard parts, don’t we? The hard parts are different for each of us. What might seem such a small thing to one, might be devastating to another. I won’t go into detail, because quite frankly my frustrations aren’t what is important. The point is, we all are broken and living a life that on some days we just can’t handle. Can I get an “Amen?”

Does anyone else ever have this issue? Do certain books touch you so deeply that you feel God put them in your hands, ON PURPOSE?

God knows that words are important to me, and I’m amazed how He puts just exactly what I need to see, in my path.

” That night I sat, broken, at my small kitchen table. I cried out to God for a lifegiving touch. I pleaded with my Savior to heed my case. He brought me to Isaiah 58. Here was an intense dialogue between seemingly righteous people and the living, holy God. These so-called lovers of God had been fasting and praying, yet they saw no supernatural move on God’s part. In this convicting passage, God blasts their false humility and goes on to say the following:

‘Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen…to loose… to untie…to set the oppressed free…. to break….Is it not to share…to provide…’  Isaiah 58:6-7

I knew God was speaking directly to me. “But, Lord”, I said.  “What if I can’t do it? What if I will never be happy again, what if I fall apart, or worse yet, break apart? What if I fail?”    —Tammy Maltby from her book Lifegiving  p.75

She goes on to explain her perspective change, how God spoke to her through His word. She understood that He was asking her to release her life to Him. To say  “yes” to His walk.

Reading this caused me to ponder, how many times, as Christians, do we go through “the motions” (sometimes grudgingly) only to realize that we are in desperate need of a new heart? Sigh. God is a masterful heart surgeon. He cuts away that which is not needed….that which is dead and not usable. After the hands of the Great Physician have touched a heart, it can be made new. And vital. And strong once again.

His touch can be life giving.

Bring The Rain

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I woke up this morning to hard rain, beating against the house. A dark, wet Monday.

We need the rain here.

Everything looks clean when rinsed with rain.Lush. Moist. Life giving.

I know there are people in our country that long for a good, hard rain.

Dry cracked ground. Brown. Hot. Dying.

The rain would be a gift. Please rain.

Instead there is fire. Burning. Licking flames. Destroying all they had.

In other parts of the country, not long ago, hurricane rains ravaged.

Swollen creeks and rivers washed away all that was.

And they were left with nothing.

Rain. It’s the same, the world over…

The amount, is what changes things.

“…The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
   may the name of the LORD be praised.”  Job 1:21  NIV

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I’ve been thinking of a blog post that I reread recently. It was written by Sara Frankl, an (in) Courage writer, who died this past Saturday night….from a harsh, and unrelenting disease that robbed her of living a “normal” life.  Her words echo back to me from a post written a couple of years ago. The rain reminds me of it…

“But like Chan pointed out on page 114, people in the Bible who wholeheartedly followed Godwere far from perfect, yet they had faith in a God who was able to come through in seemingly dire situations.” I always believed I had that faith… but mine was a faith of conditions. I had faith He would take care of me, but I assumed that meant I would be cared for with good health. I had faith that I would prosper, and assumed that meant my career would follow a good path. I had faith that He wanted the best for me, and assumed that meant my life would unfold in a way I envisioned.

But as the years progressed and I lost more and more of what I thought defined me, as I found myself in the hospital, unemployed and on disability, I realized that being a servant meant all or nothing. A line was drawn in the sand and I had to choose my fear, or I had to choose to completely trust Him. It had to be an all or nothing choice because one cannot exist if the other is true.” —- Sara Frankel (Gitzen Girl)

If you’d like to read her entire blog post (and I recommend it!) you can zip over to it here.

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*I am thankful for Sara. A young woman who knew Jesus, had a servant’s heart, and reached out to others far beyond the confines of her home.

*I am thankful for words that touch me.

*For a God that understands.

*For a life that is not perfect, but is enough.

*For times that bring me to my knees, so all I can do is look up.

*For rain. Glorious rain.

*For water that brings life.

*For friends far and wide, although we may never meet in person, whose words touch my soul.

He Makes All Things New

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“Every saint has a past and every sinner a future.” –Sixteenth century poet

What beautiful words. And aren’t we all a work in progress?

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I thank God, when I come to the end of my road…it’s not really the end of me.

Jesus is new beginnings.

I thank God He didn’t allow my poor choices of the past…to define my future.

God is sovereign.

I thank God that my mistakes are only part of me… they are not ALL of me.

God is all knowing.

I thank God that His forgiveness, although undeserved, is abundant.

Jesus is love.

I thank God that He is holy and just… yet full of mercy.

God is compassionate.

I thank God that when I chose to turn away from Him… He never turned His back on me.

Jesus is patient.

I thank God that during my times of anger or indifference… He stood firm.

God is the Rock.

I thank God for second chances…and third chances…and fourth chances…

Jesus is the One that makes all things new.

I thank God, when I understood it was Him that I needed…

He is the One that said, “Come to me“.

I thank God that He is worthy of all my praise…

God is the One that hears me when I pray.

I thank God that He can and does make beauty where none existed. That He brings back to life, that which was dead.

God is a miracle worker.

“For nothing is impossible with God.”  Luke 1:37 NIV

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What are you thankful for?

His Healing Touch

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The Father of Lies, whisperssssss……..

Faintly.

Subtly.

Barely, perceptible.

The words scald the heart. White hot.

You are not enough. You never were. You never will be.”

And the heart leaks from the pin pricks of the lie

Deception slithers its way into the holes left behind…

as the life blood leaves one drop at a time.

Wounded and bleeding.

Worn down and worn out.

Wanting.

Then the miracle happens.

Jesus knows and sees the bleeding heart. Nothing is missed as He surveys the scene.

But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

He sees the wounds. He gently touches the scars that have formed.

And He goes about the work of healing.

But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me. “Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”   Luke 8: 46-48

His hand touches the holes left in the heart. He repairs with the skill of a Master Surgeon.

With each stitch He breathes Words of Life…

You are wanted.

You are worthy to Me.

You are fearfully and wonderfully made.

I knew you before you were even born.

I have plans for you.

I love you.

You are chosen.

You are beautiful.

I bought you for a high price.

You are one of the redeemed.

And the Great Physician said…

“It is finished.” John 19:30

 

Simple Acts Of Faith

Child 1

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Simple acts of faith…it’s the topic we are discussing today over at Faith Barista.

Simple.

Acts of faith.

When I hear that phrase this verse comes to mind…

Mark 10:13-16 ESV

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.

Children are pretty simple. They usually wear their feelings on their sleeve, right out there in the open for all to see. They can say the most profound things in the most common of ways. Many times God has used the voices of young children to talk with me. Children haven’t been around long enough to become cynical, or hardened by the world. They accept things, they adapt, they love…right where they are.

Simple faith.

There is a reason that Jesus chose to speak of children in these verses…an example for us all.

Throughout my life, I have had the honor and privilege of witnessing simple faith. Through children. Family. Friends. Even strangers.

“This is the best job ever!”—me at 17, excited to get the opportunity to be a camp counselor with developmentally disabled adults (even then, God was sowing the seed in my heart and giving me a passion for this population)

“Would you be interested in being a special ed. teacher is a small town in Scott County, Tennessee?”—my college professor who had tracked me down over 500 miles and several states away

“Mommy, don’t cry. This is just Daddy’s body in the ground. Daddy is with Jesus right now and he is happy.” — The faith of my 5 year old son as he stood at the graveside of his Daddy.

“Mrs. S, the policy you thought was canceled, wasn’t. We’ll be sending you the money soon.”– A phone call to the newly widowed, faith that God would provide for me in a miraculous way.

“Mrs. S, those people in the buildings are hurting. It’s very sad. Can we pray for them?” — The faith of my second grade student, after she heard about the attacks on the World Trade Centers.

“I forgive you”– said to someone who never apologized, and having faith in God as One who heals.

“We’re all okay. God had his hand on us.” — After my car hydroplaned and slid sideways on the interstate, totaling the car, but not hurting us at all. (Less than a mile up the road there was a steep vertical drop off, if we had hydroplaned and went off the road there we would have been killed.) Faith that God is in each moment.

“Father I can’t find what I need. Can you please help me? I know this is a simple thing, but I really need your help!” — after looking and looking for various objects and then, there they are ……this has happened numerous times. Faith that there is nothing too small or too big for God to handle.

“We say we trust God. This is a circumstance where we will have to prove it. God promises to take care of us and provide for our needs.”— Paraphrase from my husband, after he lost his job of 22 years. Faith that God is Jehovah-Jireh and will supply all our needs.

Lord, I know you have a plan for me. All the doors to opportunities seem to slam shut. I trust you because I know you have promised me hope and a future.” — When in the midst of finding my niche’, faith that God has a plan for me.

“Look at that beautiful double rainbow!” —- Standing on the front porch with the family, enjoying God’s promise.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1 NIV

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What are some of the simple acts of faith that you have encountered?


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Keeping The Faith -Part 2

A new notebook and pen

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Here’s the topic:

How is God challenging you to keep faith fresh?

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Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Philippians 4:8  NIV

The everyday is difficult. Chaos reigns. Bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people. It doesn’t make sense. Life is hard for everyone. It is easy to complain about all that isn’t.

I was heading into the hard, dark winter months when I read about a book called One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I’ve blogged about her book before and have given it rave reviews. The truth is that book helped change my perspective. I’m not perfect, never was, but this book caused me to look to the One that is…and always has been perfect. I believe God used the words of this humble woman, to draw me back to Himself.

How can I be thankful in the everyday? How can I look at moments in life and appreciate them for what they are? Not needing the excitement of the world, but the calm assurance that I already have all I will ever need, in Him.

I have been on a journey of “eucharisteo” for the past six months. A journey that has encouraged me to look at each day with my eyes wide open, in order to see all the things that God has blessed me with. It has given me a vision for the things that are true, pure, lovely and admirable, and through that, it has given me a clearer vision of God and His Son, Jesus Christ.

Don’t get me wrong, focusing on the good is not easy. I wish it was. I struggle on some days more than others. Why is it easier to keep a mental list of the day’s problems and complaints than it is to choose to focus on the times that give us a glimpse of what Heaven will be like?

In the meantime, I journey on. I thank God for all that is good. All the moments that matter. All the things that He has so richly blessed me with. With each of the “thank you’s” I draw closer to Him.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.  James 1:17  NIV

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Relationship Is Important

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At Faith Barista this week we are discussing the question, “How do you spend time with God and experience spiritual rest?”  Click on the Faith Barista graphic on my right side bar to find out how others experience rest.

All good relationships require communication. If I want to have a better marriage I need to spend time with my husband. We need to talk. Laugh. Cry. Be goofy…..together. If I want to maintain my friendships I have to find time to get together. Chat on the phone. Walk together. Talk together. If I want my relationship as a mother to be nurturing to my children, I need to take time to find out what is important to them. I email family and friends. We keep in touch. We reach out.  Without communication…without sharing… relationships die. Sometimes the death is long, slow and painful. Sometimes not.

I make time for the relationships that are important to me.

My relationship with God is no different. Some people would question me with, “How can you have a RELATIONSHIP with God? God is all about religion…and rules…and church.”  My reply is that God, and His son, Jesus are ALL ABOUT relationship. Yes, Jesus came to this earth in the form of man BECAUSE of relationship. God wants relationship with me, not because He NEEDS too, but because He WANTS too. Even though I have been a Christian for many, many years I am still in awe of the fact that the God of the Universe wants to know me….and even more importantly He wants me to KNOW Him.

Sometimes all I need to do, to experience spiritual rest, is to talk WITH Him, the one who knows me most intimately. I commune with the One who knows my heart.

Father,

I long for peace and rest

From You, who knows me best.

I stumble through my days

turning from Your gaze.

I am full of pride

thinking I can hide

all my stress inside

far from You.

Forgive me Father.

I am so stubborn.

I need rest.

Rest for my body.

Rest for my soul.

I need You.

Thank you for your provision for me.

As I draw close to You,

You draw close to me.

And I can rest in Your love.

Amen


When Life Is Hard

Smelling the roses 1/365 days

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I’m finished with chapter five of One Thousand Gifts.

It was a difficult chapter.

Painful, even.

It hurts, when faced with the reality that life will never be easy. Not for me. Not for you. No one will get out of this life without struggle. Will I be thankful for what my life holds for me? Even when things aren’t going as I planned? As I had hoped?  Even when I sit at the bedside of a loved one who is dying? Even when I hear the doctor’s voice explain the diagnosis? When my child is sick? Or run away? Will I be thankful for all that God has done for me when I get the bad news? When my husband loses his job? When people hurt me with their words? When I feel robbed of happiness? Will..I…be…thankful….then?

I realize that some of you reading this might be thinking, “Well, she is a real bummer. Where are her funny blogs? I like her sense of humor. This stuff is depressing.” To those of you I reply with this….I do love to laugh. I enjoy telling a funny story.  Life is a joy. There are some times when the deeper things of life need precedence. When I need to think deeply. This is one of those days.I hope you will read my blog post with your eyes wide open.

On pages 84 and 85 I read the words that slammed through me like a deadly, powerful wind. My breath caught in my throat.

Ann Voskamp writes, “What will I lose? Health? Comfort? Hope? Eventually, I am guaranteed to lose every thing I have possessed. When will I lose? Today? How  much time do I have before the next loss? Who will I lose? And that’s definite. I will lose every single person I have ever loved. Either abruptly or eventually. All human relationships end in loss. Am I prepared for that?”

Tears stained my cheeks with wet. My breath was ragged while reading her words. Because…..I know they are true. A sob escapes my throat. So true.

Will I be prepared for the hard eucharisteo when that time comes? If I am learning the discipline of thanking God in all things now…daily writing down all the ways that God says ‘yes’ to me, all the proofs of His love, will I be ready to thank Him through the hard times? God is good today. God will be good tomorrow. God will be good for all the days after that. He does not change. If I love Him today when things are well for me, should I not love Him tomorrow, even when the news might change?

It is not an easy thing.

It is not easy when my heart bleeds. When my hopes are dashed. When my world is torn apart. When pain is so great. When I scream “the why’s” at Heaven.

God is good.

He is good.

He loves me.

He shows me His love daily. I am listing His thousand gifts to me….and when I get to the end of my list, I will list a thousand more. His love is eternal. On days when life is hard, I can look at my list and be amazed at each moment I recorded. He showers me with the moments.

On page 91 Ann states, “Without God’s Word as a lens, the world warps.”  (Matt. 6:22-23)  Yes. Yes. Yes!  Page 94..”When I realize that it is not God who is in my debt but I who am in His great debt, then doesn’t all become a gift?

One act of thanksgiving, when things go wrong with us, is worth a thousand thanks when things are agreeable to our inclinations.”

Saint John of Avila.


The Gifts For Today

Thank you *

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I am beginning my journey of gratitude. Writing down each of the things that I am grateful for. Giving thanks.

Each Monday ,and maybe some days in between, I will share my list with you. I ask that you join me in this endeavor, in saying thank you for your own gifts. (See my side bar with multitudes on mondays – one thousand gifts button)

#1 My God, My Jesus…for loving me. For loving me long before I loved Him. I didn’t deserve the love, yet it was given to me. Freely.

#2 My husband, who came to me by way of loss, has turned my life around and changed my life story.

#3 My son,  who I’ve had opportunity to love with all my heart, since before he was even born.

#4 My son and daughters through my marriage, that I have adopted in my heart.

#5 My health…though not perfect…is better than most. I’m thankful for lungs that breathe, a heart that beats, a brain that thinks, and a soul that sings.

#6 My family members who have loved me, in spite of…

#7 A mother who encourages me.

#8  The warmth of a house on a cold winters day.

#9 The way the lamp light puddles on the floor, near my reading chair.

#10 The smell of dinner cooking.

Don’t Expect Perfection

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Don’t expect perfection from me because it’s not going to be happening. Oh, I try. Sometimes, I find myself trying too much. Fretting over the coulda, shoulda, woulda’s of life.

There are days when I lament the fact that I am not taller. Or thinner. Or funnier. Or that I would read my Bible more. Or be more thrifty..or….or……or…… the list can go on and on, can’t it?

After I have my pity party, I come back to reality. I will never be perfect. I just won’t.

God knows that.

And that is okay.

As much as I don’t like to share my imperfections with the world, it is those very imperfections that draw people to me. It is the same with you.

This life is not about being perfect. Perfect is not attainable. Being real is more important.

It’s when I take off the “expectations”, and strive instead, to be the one that I was created to be, that things change. I begin to see the glory in the moments. I see God’s hand in my life.

My DNA says that I am unique. I am special. There is no one just like me. Not in all the world. That is pretty amazing stuff if you think about it.

God is pretty amazing…and incredible…and He really IS perfect.

And yet, He still loves me.

Imperfections and all.