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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Hope Rising...

They are powerful things.
Especially when they are yours.
In the midst of tough circumstances... in the battle with the things that bring pain into our lives...

There is hope.

As I drove home this morning, with the sun shining, and the breeze bringing with it the promise of warmth to sooth the parts in me that have been cold.... I was gently reminded of that hope.

The glimpses that God keeps giving me.
Like the sunshine today, right in the middle of our cold and unusual weather for this part of our world.
The sudden rains... the wind that snaps with a bite that runs clean through your cloths leaving goose bumps and thoughts if you will ever get warm again.

I usually love the cold weather. I relish it.
I don't take kindly to heat and the feeling of utter stickiness and the wanting to get out of my skin that it usually makes me feel like.
But today.... and during seasons when the cold in my life has begun to take it's toll....
I long for days like this.
To walk outside and turn my face up.... letting the sun lights rays just penetrate to the very core of my being.
To run with a knowing that much like today, my life holds more than just the constant storms that have seem unending and relentlessly beating down my door.

We have been through many storms in our lives.....
My family and I.
We have weathered them together.
Huddled as one on our little boat of life... that at times has felt so small and so daunting, unable to withstand the wind tossed waves breaking constantly over us all.
Today I have this picture of us... huddled together... arms wrapped tightly around one another... beginning to lift our heads up....
Eyes beginning to look up.... to see....
Feeling the light on our faces as we glimpse out at the sun just beginning to rise out from our seas.
We are still grasping tightly... holding on.
We are still waiting... and praying... and keeping each other closer.... almost afraid to let go....

But last night.....
As crazy as this sounds, I once again was reminded that I will soon have to let go.... again.
And it brought me hope.
As I took that drive home today, I realized that with this next letting go moment... that something has shifted.
It feels almost physical.... it will be in mere weeks to come.
And I'm not sure if I'm ready yet.... but God has made the choices for us.
He has called one of us out of our little huddle... and with that release of our arms that have been surrounding one another for almost a year now.... we are all going to be forced to straighten our stance a little.
We will need to be ready for what God is calling the rest of us to as well.
It isn't about just one of us... it has always been about all of us.
Us and Him.

And as He showers me with His hope... His redemption... and His whispers of more... I am once again reduced to tears.

What does the future hold?
I don't know.
I dare to hold my breath for it.
Unable to speak of it... unable to hold out for more of what I truly want from Him.
What He has promised to me... to us.
But I am.

Today... because of what He did yesterday....

I can feel it rising.
Like the sun over our storm tossed waters....
Glimpses of what is to come...
And the knowing that He has so much more in store for us.

As I begin today....
As I decide to allow myself to take in what it is He is at the forefront of....
I am hoping for you too.
That you will feel it.
And that this time it won't just be about us looking out...waiting...
Wondering for when....
But that we will begin to see it as our reality.

What He has promised He will do.
He Will.
If we let Him.

Because He isn't a God who forgets.
He isn't a cold statue that sits and waits for you to bring things to Him.
He comes to us....
He sees us hoping... coming... 
And He runs to meet us.
With arms outstretched.
And what He has prepared for us....
We can't even begin to imagine.
Not in our wildest dreams.

I am hoping for more....
And I am letting it rise....

Will you?

.... until another tomorrow.


"But because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
 9"Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments;" Deuteronomy 7:8,9

God gave this verse to me when my oldest daughter was a baby.
I was struggling with fear and torment.
I had forgotten His promises... and my hope.
At a women's prayer meeting that my mother in love took me to, I got this word.
And I have been holding tightly to it ever since.
That was years ago....but I know...
He is faithful.
Don't forget what He has promised to you today.
I want to encourage you to lift them up... bring them before your King... cry out for all that you are trusting Him for....
And let the hope rise......

This song has been ringing through our home... through our cars... and through our lives....

I pray it blesses you today....
I hope you will let it.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

What I Was...

"18-19Here it is in a nutshell: Just as one person did it wrong and got us in all this trouble with sin and death, another person did it right and got us out of it. But more than just getting us out of trouble, he got us into life! One man said no to God and put many people in the wrong; one man said yes to God and put many in the right.
 20-21All that passing laws against sin did was produce more lawbreakers. But sin didn't, and doesn't, have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace. When it's sin versus grace, grace wins hands down. All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that's the end of it. Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life—a life that goes on and on and on, world without end." Romans 5:18-21 The Message Bible 

How often I have missed it.
The wrong doing... mine, not knowing... or understanding, because I failed to do things God's way.
And as clearly stated... there is no grace in that.
How often in my own life has it been done to me?
Failed grace?
And how often has it been my undoing?
The offense.... the hurt... the indelible mark that someone else's wrong choices or decisions have inflicted on my heart?
And yet.....
I am called, by grace.... to grace.
It's not an easy concept to grasp.
It's not even an easy concept to speak of or say.

It comes out weighty... breathless.... and delivers a punch to our advisory that we don't understand nor can we fully grasp. Because if we did... we would exercise it's worth far more.

I have experienced many things in this lifetime. My lifetime.
Hurt beyond measuring... and wounds deeper than my own knowing.
God has been intricately working with me. 
Taking apart and unpacking, with surgical precision, pointing out the lesions and fault lines that could potentially de-rail everything that I have been working so hard toward.
I have to be honest, that these are the places that He has had to stop, let me catch my breath, and breathe slowly through.
It is in the places of forgiveness and grace.
Unmeasured.... and undeserved forgiveness and grace.

To the one who knew what they were doing... 
To the one who didn't.
You see, in God's eyes.... they are all the same.
Offenders... are most remarkably.... candidates for His grace... His mercy... and most importantly for His love.
And I haven't understood the importance of my role in all of it. In all of this.
I have the potential to release... or hold on.
I have the power to begrudge... or loose free.
It doesn't mean that I am condoning... it doesn't mean that I am saying that what they've done is okay.
What I am saying is this....
"God I choose to let You have Your way. Not mine. Lord, I allow room for Your grace, Your forgiveness, and Your justice. I am going to let You do what only You can do in this and all situations. Conviction where it's needed. Restitution's where it's needed. Restoration in the waste lands. And reconciliation where I can't see a way for it."

I may struggle with it.
I may have to pray that prayer fifty times a day...
But like so many other things in our lives... like so many other decisions that we choose to make on a daily basis.... the outcome doesn't just rest on us. It isn't just about what we are feeling at that  moment, or what we see as just or unjust.
It will affect our futures... it will affect our relationships... it will affect how we view all other offenses and wrongs in our lives. 
It will affect our friends... our family... and for me, most importantly, it will affect my children.
How they see me live my life.
How they watch as I walk through tough circumstances and how I face them, and deal with them, will teach them lessons far greater than those that I just spout out of my mouth.
They will see for themselves... they will weigh in and try to understand what it is I am trying to convey....
That the same grace that I was given.... I have to give.
The same unfavored and undeserved forgiveness that I have been dolled out.... I have to return.
Not as the person I was.... but who I am. And who I want to be.

I am not perfect.
There are days when the heaviness crowds in and the grace is pushed out.
There are times when my anger and frustration override His still small voice.
Even in the moments when I want to shout.... "What about justice!?"
His response continues to floor me... perplex me... and ultimately humble me to my core.

As I read His Word, it is as if I can hear Him say.....
"You didn't deserve My grace.... but I gave it. And I keep giving it to you."
"You were wretched... dirty... and unclean. And I picked you up, washed you, cleaned up your mess and made you beautiful for everyone to see."
"You were unworthy... unwanted... and drowning in your own misery. I picked you out.... chose you... and made you My own. I have adopted you, and made you Mine."
"I have done all of these things..... and so much more that only you and I know about.... I have given you more than you deserve."
"So why then not my justice and yours instead?"

It is not easy.
This grace thing.
This forgiveness stuff.
It is unwarranted.
It doesn't even feel right most times.
If God is so just... then why not see things in my favor? Why not justice for my cause?

And it always comes back around to this... to one thing... to One person...

He was treated more unjustly than either you or I can ever claim to.
He was beaten.... bruised... crushed under the heals of men that had no clue Who they were wounding with such abhorrent and excruciating afflictions.
In light of His pain... His suffering... His utter obedience to the Father to allow God's justice and not His own to take place.... our "things", our offences, our hurts and our grievances begin to take on a whole new light....
I'm not saying it's okay to do wrong things.
I'm not saying that we should be excused or excuse offensive behavior as okay or acceptable.
But... we do... have... to... forgive it. 
Give grace to it. And invite God into it.
To be willing to cry out.... "Abba Father. Not my will... but Your own." 
Just like Jesus did.
He sees the hurt we are experiencing... He sees the injustices being played out... and He wants to come... to rescue.... to heal... and to make right what isn't and what hasn't been for so long.
But we have to surrender it first.
We have to be willing to let go... and let Him handle it the way that is right. 
The way that is just.
The way that is fit for that particular situation that we are crying out to Him for.
But it is His way... and not our own.
We can't even begin to understand... not truly.
And I think it is because we know that He pardons sin... forgives graciously... and sets free the captive that we balk and choose not to let Him.
We see the offender as undeserving.... unrelenting... and not worthy of it all.

Let's be honest.
Because if I am... I can truly say that I know that this is the primary reason that I struggle with forgiveness at all.
It's not fair.
To let them walk free while I bear the scars of their afflictions. Making them my own.
It's not right that I have had to bear the burden of their incrimination's....

It's..... not.... fair......

And either were we.
When we mocked Him.... when we scourged His back with so many lashes that He was at the brink of death itself.
We didn't recognize who He said He was.... Who He is... and What He came to do on our behalf.
No. Instead we ridiculed.... we turned away... we partook of the handing out of His suffering....
We did that.
Our sin put Him on that cross.
We do it over and over when we decide that what He did on the cross wasn't good enough for us.
That is wasn't enough so that we can hold onto our offences... our hurts... and our justifications.
We are saying.... that it wasn't enough.

Is that what you are saying?
Is that what I am thinking?
I hope not.
But I know the terrible truth of it when I say, "I'm sorry God... I just can't. And I won't."
A harsh reality... but the truth all the same.

"I am so sorry Father.... I am so so sorry..... 
I haven't meant to shut out Your grace.
The grace that You have so generously shared with me.... that you continue to give me every single minute of every single day that I draw breath. Because I know that I need it.... without it... I   am   lost.
I am what I was.... and not who You have called me to be.
I am not allowing myself to walk in the freedom that you lived for. That you died for... and that you daily hold out for me to grasp onto."

I am going to make mistakes.
I am going to fail in ways that make my stomach hurt with even the thought of it.
I am going to fall... trip... and hurt those that I would never in a million years want to hurt.
And I want them to forgive me.
I want them to cry out to God for His help in understanding and love....
I want them to want to embrace me and not hurl me to the pit where I deserve to be.
Where their justice can be served.
I want them to look at me with grace filled eyes... grace filled love...and grace filled forgiveness.
Not because I deserve it... but because He came and modeled it for us first, and what it should look like.

The harlot surrounded by accusing shouts... rocks held in fists ready to be hurled... to exact justice that the law allowed.... To end what surely was her choice to begin with....

And there... right there... Jesus walks in....
He silences the crowd with these words...

 3The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court,
 4they said to Him, "Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act.
 5"Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?"
 6They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground.
 7But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, "He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."
 8Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.
 9When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court.
 10Straightening up, Jesus said to her, "Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?"
 11She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "I do not condemn you, either Go From now on sin no more." John 8:3-11

You and I are that harlot.

We do have to take responsibility for our mistakes.
We need to say and do the things that bring the restoration that God longs for us.
It is right to try our best to bring about peace in a un-peaceful circumstance.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." Romans 12:18

But nothing can erase what Jesus did... and what He calls for us to do.
The importance lies in the actions of living out our lives with grace and forgiveness at the forefront.

Is it easy? No. Especially not on our own.
But is it possible with first our surrender, and then God's strength and power in our lives to accomplish it? Yes.
IF we choose.
And if we do, it is there that the restoration.... and hopefully.... ultimately... the healing will begin.
The healing and restoration that only God can promise us... in the only ways that He can do it.
If He promises it.... We can stand on it.

It is what I am kneeling on today..... and what I am praying for with all of my heart.
So that I'm not what I was yesterday... the day before that... or even five minutes ago.
But allowing Him to change me... moment by moment.
Transforming my heart.
And making me more into the image of the One that I can only hope to emulate.

...until another tomorrow.


"4Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins,
         They will raise up the former devastations;
         And they will repair the ruined cities,
         The desolations of many generations." Isaiah 61:4 NAS Bible

"The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace." Romans 8:6