What I Really Need

I’ve taken a bit of an unscheduled break from the blogosphere over the past couple of weeks, but this morning I ran across a hard copy of this post from a few years ago. As I read it again, I realized this is still exactly What I Really Need:

I don’t need …

—another great sermon or a good book

—a divine appointment or an important connection

—a word of encouragement or exhortation

I don’t need to visit  …

—a significant or sentimental place from the past

—an awesome anointed conference

—a wonderful church or prayer room

I’m not looking for …

—a mountain top experience

—profound revelation

—or even breakthrough

What I need is simple …

I need Him.

Only Him. I MUST have Him. I have to have Him.

Without Him, nothing means anything. With Him, even pain and loss become stepping-stones to greater joy.

Don’t get me wrong …

I’m eternally grateful for many great messages; good books; divine appointments; and encouraging words.

I’ve been deeply blessed by visits to significant places; by many anointed conferences; and by some amazing churches and prayer rooms.

I’ve been changed forever by mountain top experiences; profound revelations; and life changing spiritual breakthroughs.

But right here, right now …

My need … my ache … my desire … my longing …

IS FOR HIM.

To be with Him … to know Him … to see Him … to touch Him … to worship Him  …

To love Him.

I don’t need words. I don’t need a place. I don’t need an experience. I don’t even need an answered prayer …

I need Him.

I need His presence.

In His presence, this senseless world makes sense. In His presence, restlessness becomes rest. In His presence, impatience becomes patience, confusion becomes clarity, and heartache becomes wholeness …

In His presence is fullness of joy.

As I set my face and my heart to seek Him …

—I’m wooed by relentless love

—drawn by the fire in His eyes

—held by the silent embrace of His gaze

—immersed in the eternal glory of His Being

—both stirred and satisfied by desire too deep for words

I’m complete … I’m whole … I’m at peace …

I’M LOVED.

I’m ruined for lesser passions … my heart ravished by the superior pleasure of loving Him … lovesick with desire.

In Him, I have everything I need …

Him.

Beautiful Jesus, You alone satisfy the longing in my soul. There is nothing quite like the reality of being known by You and loved by You–and the privilege of knowing You and loving You in return. 

“I am my beloved’s. And my beloved is mine.  I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me.”  Song of Solomon 6:3 and 7:10 (NKJV)

“I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, If you find my beloved, that you tell him I am lovesick!” –Song of Solomon 5:8 (NKJV)

Thoughts on Being IN Love

Love is a powerful emotion.

Love is a powerful choice.

But lately I’ve been thinking about love not just as a wonderful emotion or as an intentional choice, but as a literal position. Because…

Love is also a powerful place.

I don’t know about you, but it seems like a lot of folks I talk to these days are feeling squeezed into some very tight places. It’s that “hard pressed on every side” thing Paul talks about in 2 Cor.4–when you seem to be out of options yet things are still coming at you from every direction. It’s a narrow, closed-in place. A place where you don’t feel like you have any room to breathe or anywhere to go.

I know a thing or two about that place. But I also know I don’t have to live in that place. Instead…

I can live in Love.

And Love is a broad and spacious place.

Recently I was at an event because a friend’s band was playing.  Early in the evening the musicians started spontaneously–and prophetically–playing.The presence of God was strong as we waited before Him. I knew that many people walked into the building that evening in a cramped and tight place, but with every note, I had this profound sense that God was literally expanding those tight spaces. There was a clear but unspoken divine invitation to step out of that place of being “hard-pressed on every side” and into a broad and spacious place of abundance.

A few minutes later, the band started singing a line over and over again that made the invitation even more profound … “In Your love – You have promised Your abundance.”

In His love, He has promised His abundance. In Love there is abundance.

And beloved, whether you know it or not, you are in Love.

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.- Eph 1:4-5 NIV (emphasis mine)

God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. – 1John 4:16 NLT

Being hidden in Christ means that we are literally, positionally, hidden in the place of Love. And Love is a broad and spacious place. “He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me (Ps18:19).

In Love there is abundance.

In Love there is freedom.

In Love there is hope.

In Love there is fullness of joy.

I know there is a lot going on for a lot of people. I know it’s real. I know it’s hard. I know it can feel like it’s choking the life out of you.

I also know that feelings can lie.

Circumstances can lie.

But Love is always the truth.

Because He is the truth.

He is Love.

Which makes us in Love.

And in Love is a very,very good place to be.

To Whom Shall I Go?

I’m still here, Lord.

I’m still here with You. I’m still here waiting with You. I’m still here waiting for You.

You already know this, but I’m not going anywhere. Whether You come through as I’ve believed–or even as I believe You’ve promised–I’m not going anywhere. To whom shall I go? You hold my heart in Your hands. You hold my very life together.There are so many things I am unsure of, but this I know …You love me. And I know, You know, that I love You. In fact, I can’t live without loving You. I can’t live without worshiping You. I can’t live without staying close to Your heart.

It’s such a strange juxtaposition–this place of being so sure, yet so unsure. I’m filled with great faith and anticipation, yet so frequently tempted to give in to the weariness that threatens to consume my soul. I’m filled with such sweet peace and contentment, yet sensing the deep shadows of fear and worry lurking about ready to pounce at any given moment. I’m filled with an abounding and certain hope, yet hard pressed on every side by the taunts of past failures and disappointments.

But it really doesn’t matter all that much. Because, after all, to whom shall I go?

You are my answer, Lord. You are my choice. Not just my first choice–my only choice. Now. Still. Forever. I choose You–just as You chose me. You are my only plan. My only path. My only provision.

My only hope.

Oh I still plan my way at times–lots of times–but You always faithfully order, and sometimes reorder, my steps. For that, and for so many other things, I am eternally grateful. That’s just it, I am grateful, Lord–for so much. I know You know that too. This place I’m at–it’s not about ingratitude. It’s not about failing to recognize the beauty and blessings right here and right now. It’s not about a lack of faith. It’s not about discouragement or doubt. And it’s certainly not about depression or even oppression. It’s about one thing and one thing only …

TRUST.

So I will, Lord. I will trust You. I choose to trust You. With all that is within me, I choose trust and I choose rest. I choose to rest from my works. I choose to rest even when it seems like everything in me (and a whole lot outside of me) is constantly screaming at me to DO something. But what can I really “do” Lord? Except turn my gaze,once again, fully upon You.

After all, to whom shall I go?

You alone have the words of eternal life. You alone are life. You alone are my life. I am Yours and You are mine. It’s enough.

It is enough, but it’s not the end of the story. Because You’re not about enough–You’re about abundance. So whatever abundance looks like in my life, Lord …

I’m still here. I’m still here with You. I’m still here waiting with You. I’m still here waiting for You. 

I’m still here believing. I’m still here believing You will do what only You can do.

After all, to whom shall I go?

Confident

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Phil. 1:6 NIV

Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.  Heb.12:1-2

Let go. Lay aside every weight. Fix your gaze on Him. What He starts … He will finish.

In this, you can be confident.

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. 1 John 5:14-15 NIV

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  John 15:7 NIV

Trust. Rest. Abide. You will ask according to His will … and it will be done for you.

In this, you can be confident. 

Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise. Heb.10-35-36 NKJV

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thes. 5:16-18 NIV

Endure as seeing Him who is invisible. Rejoice. Pray. Be grateful in all things. This is His will   … and you will receive the promise.

In this, you can be confident.

Lord thank You for the confident hope we have in You!

A Time to be Quiet

“There is a time to be quiet, and a time to speak.” –Ecc 3: 7

There is a time to speak out.

There is a time to share and to declare. There is a time to process and to profess — a time to explain and to express –a time to understand and to be understood.

There is even a time to shout from the rooftops.

But there is also a time to be quiet.

There are times you need to let go of all human effort to “figure it out” and let God be God — times you need to let Him do what only He can do — times you need to put your full weight on His understanding because any further attempt at explaining or “processing” is of no help whatsoever.

There are times when words become a barrier. Times when they become an almost irresistible temptation leading to a place of unbelief — or to a place of ingratitude — or to place of confusion and complaining. Really, sometimes, they just lure us to sin.

This is the place I find myself right now.

It’s a place where I need to stop talking for a moment and be still. It’s a place of quiet — a place of listening. It’s a very vulnerable, yet a very hopeful place. I sense it is also a  very important place. It’s a place where I don’t need to hear my own words anymore–and no one else needs to hear them either.

And, honestly, I really don’t need to hear anyone else’s words right now.

I just need to hear His.

So I’m letting go of my desire to be understood. I’m laying down any temptation I may have to explain or defend myself. I’m sacrificing my far-too-frequent habit of verbal “processing” and I’m rejecting any tiny remnant of the idea that I need to prove anything to anyone.

Instead I’m going to prove Him.

Because, ultimately, I don’t need anyone else’s understanding. I need His. I need Him. I need to listen to Him. I need to lean into Him. I need to trust Him.

I need to believe Him.

“Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him” (Ps 62:5 NLT).

My hope is in Him. It’s not in finding understanding. It’s not in finding agreement. It’s not even in finding empathy or encouragement.

My hope  … my expectation  … my  trust …

Is in Him.

He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. My victory and honor come from God alone” (Ps.62: 6-7).

This week as I reflect again on the beauty of the cross–on the work that only He could do–I resolve to focus on the  victory He won without the tiniest bit of help from me.

If He defeated death, is anything I’m facing too hard for Him?

Of course not. So instead of wasting another breath trying to sort it all out …

With all that I am, I will wait quietly before Him.

 

When Lazarus is Dead …

“Lazarus is dead. And for your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there, for now you will really believe.” –John 11:14-15 NLT

Funny how a particular passage of scripture can speak to you deeply through the years, but then one day you hear it as if you’ve never heard it before.

You see it like you’ve never seen it before.

You understand it like you’ve never understood it before.

This happened to me recently with the story of Lazarus. I’ve long cherished the hope contained in this story. God has spoken to me deeply through many different parts of the story, at many different points in life. I’ve even written about it (several times, actually) beginning years ago.

But reading it again recently took my breath away. Not only did it fill me, once again, with abounding hope, but it also filled me with something else …

Gratitude. 

It filled me with gratitude for the privilege of waiting.

Jesus could have kept Lazarus from dying, but He didn’t. It certainly isn’t because He wasn’t invited into the situation–He absolutely was. No, He waited for one simple reason …

He waited because He loved them.

Of course I’ve seen that before. God waits to move in certain situations because He wants to do more than we’ve originally asked.  It’s not that He’s not answering–it’s that He’s answering in a different and more astounding way. It’s a timing issue. We’ve probably all heard teaching along these lines. Maybe we even believe it.

But for me, this was different. I didn’t just “see” it this time. I knew it …at a whole new level. I knew it at a whole new level, because, well, I’ve known waiting at a whole new level.

I’ve seen an awful lot of hopes and dreams crash and burn in my lifetime–particularly over the last seven or eight years. It seems there have been so many that not only do I not have time to recount them, I don’t have the heart recount them. It has been such a long and ongoing process, that I finally got to the point where I pretty much gave up on ever resuscitating my lost dreams. I buried Lazarus and moved on.

Well, that was the plan anyway. It worked for a moment or two.

It worked until my heart was stirred again with reality of resurrection life. It worked until I understood–really understood …

That to experience resurrection, you need to first experience death.

If you want to understand that all things are possible with God, you need to actually be faced with the impossible.

If something is just sick (or broken, or rearranged, or shelved, or delayed, or whatever) it could … possibly … potentially … conceivably … get better naturally.

But when something is DEAD–well, when something is dead–there is nothing–that’s right NOTHING–you can do.

You can’t try a little harder. You can’t come up with a list of steps to success. You can’t make your own reality. You can’t say or pray just the right words. You can’t conjure up just the right amount of faith that will obligate God to move.

You can’t DO anything.

But He can.

And that is the point.

The point is that sometimes–because He loves us–He waits.

He waits so we can believe.

Really believe.

“Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (John 11:40).

Yes, Lord–that is what you told me. And I absolutely do believe–just as much as I’m able right here and now. But I thank You for also allowing me the privilege of waiting. For allowing me the privilege of waiting so I can really believe. So I can really believe like I never have before. Because You’ve always known my heart, Abba, and You know how desperately I long to see Your glory.

It’s time.

“Lazarus, come forth!”

 

From His Heart to Yours: March 20, 2015

… That in the coming ages he might  show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

 –Ephesians 2:7 NIV

Beloved, you’ve long known the sufficiency of My grace–you’ve spoken of it, you’ve believed it, you’ve faithfully stood on its truth. But now I’m inviting you to simply watch and receive as I reveal a new depth of My grace that far exceeds anything you have yet to taste or even fathom. I am about to impart to you a far deeper understanding of the incomparable riches of this grace I have so freely lavished upon you. Saying “My grace is sufficient” will no longer be a declaration of faith and truth to help you stand firm in the midst of opposition–rather it will be a shout of praise proclaiming the unfathomable riches of My abundance to you!  You’ve done well, little one, to faithfully lay hold of grace, but now watch and see as My super-abounding grace … lays hold of you.

♥♥♥

Grace. Always wonderful, always sufficient, always amazing, grace. Where would we be without grace? It’s by grace we’re saved. It’s by grace we stand. It’s by grace that we’re held together. And it is grace that will ultimately lead us home. But do we really understand grace? I mean, do we really get it? I don’t know that I do.

I love grace. I’ve laid hold of grace. I’ve embraced grace and I need grace. But I’m not sure I truly understand the abounding riches of grace He has lavished upon us in Christ. And I’m not sure I ever will … except by grace.

I’m so glad, because that means I can’t do anything to earn a greater revelation of grace. I can only receive it. I can only receive it as a child–simply opening up my heart and hands before a kind and loving Father. A Father who always longs to do so much more than I can hope or even imagine.

I have long counted on God to meet my needs–and He has never failed me–but I feel Him tugging on my heart to believe Him for more of my wants. So today I’m simply taking Him at His word and opening my heart–just a bit wider–to the One who does immeasurable more than all I can ever ask or dream.

Abba, I want a greater revelation of the incomparable riches of Your grace. I don’t just need grace–I want a greater revelation of grace that goes far beyond what is necessary and sufficient. I want to know the riches of Your super-abounding grace. I want EVERY blessing and gift that it cost You so dearly to purchase for me. I want absolutely everything You desire to give me! So I come to you as I am. And who I am is Your child. And this child is opening her heart and hands to receive from You in ways I never have before … because I know You are the Giver of every good and perfect gift. In grace, please, lavish the incomparable riches of Your grace upon me. ~ Amen  

******************

I haven’t published one of these in awhile, but once upon a time “Love Letters” were simple messages from His heart to yours, posted at the beginning of each month. To read others, click here

Heaven in the Hallway

“When God closes one door He opens another, but it can be hell in the hallway.”

I’m not sure where the quote originated, but the first time I heard it, I chuckled. It was an “Oh boy, can I relate to that!” kind of chuckle. Honestly, I think most of us have been able to relate to that statement at some point in our lives.

Seasons of transition can be difficult. Seasons when the old is gone but the new isn’t quite yet. Seasons of waiting when nothing really makes sense. Seasons when you know the place God led you to earlier has dried up, but there is no clear sense of a new assignment. You can’t go back to what was, but you also can’t see the way forward.

I’ve been in one of those seasons for what has seemed like a very long time. And sure enough, it was hell in the hallway …

Until it wasn’t. 

Until I stopped waiting and started living.

Until I stopped pining for what wasn’t and started focusing on what is. 

Until I learned the secret of contentment in any situation.

Until I realized I could bring heaven right into that hallway anytime and anywhere.

Does that mean I’ve given up on going forward? Or that I’ve stopped believing for “more” or for the fulfillment of God’s specific promises? Of course not!  If anything I’m more convinced than ever that God is up to something beyond anything we can hope or imagine. I’m more convinced than ever that He has a specific place and a specific purpose for me in His plans.

Because I’m more convinced than ever that He is who He says He is.

And who He is doesn’t change regardless of the season. Who He is doesn’t change regardless of how long we wait. Who He is doesn’t change regardless of what does or does not happen in any given situation.

So these days I’ve decided to just start dancing in the hallway. I’ve decided to sing, to praise, to shout and to rejoice–right where I am–because my God is good all the time.

I won’t lie and say I rest in that place of His goodness all the time. It is still a daily choice. Sometimes it is a moment by moment battle. Sometimes (probably far too often) I fail. But I have learned it is possible to live in Heaven’s perfect peace anytime and anywhere …

Even in a very long hallway. 

Resurrected Hope

Hope.  That sometimes elusive, always essential, element of human life. I’ve heard it said that we can live for weeks without food, days without water, and minutes without air—but we can’t live a second without hope.

Yet life is unpredictable. It is filled with situations that we simply cannot control. Hardships of every shape and size — sickness, unemployment, broken relationships, betrayal, divorce, wayward children, addiction — even death. Despite our very best efforts to hold on, at one time or another, most of us have seen the unthinkable happen and have watched our hopes slip away and die.

Many years ago that very thing happened to a little family—two sisters and a brother—living in the town of Bethany. Their story is found in the eleventh chapter of the Gospel of John.

This family knew Jesus well—He was a frequent guest in their home. They had obviously heard of His miracles, and had no doubt seen many first-hand. But notice that their close relationship with Jesus did not insulate them from personal tragedy.

One day the brother, Lazarus, became extremely ill. The sisters sent word to Jesus saying, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”  They knew Jesus loved them, and they believed—they hoped—He would come to heal Lazarus. Instead He responded in a way that to our human sensibilities seems a bit shocking. If you cut to the chase, you can basically sum up verses 5 and 6 by saying that Jesus loved them … so He stayed away. What? He stayed away. And while He stayed away—Lazarus died.

So did the family’s hope.

Then, after it seemed far too late to do any good at all, Jesus showed up. Although their manner was different, both sisters said exactly the same thing to Jesus when they saw Him.  “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”  How often do we say that same thing? “Lord, if You had been here, my world wouldn’t have fallen apart.”  “Lord, if You had been here, I wouldn’t be in this financial mess.”  “Lord if you had been here, my husband wouldn’t have left me.” Just fill in the blanks for your own situation. When things don’t go the way we think they should, we cry out, “God, where were You—why didn’t you come?”

Yet sometimes He doesn’t come—because He loves us. 

There are times it may look and feel as though God is indifferent to our needs and unaware of our suffering. But nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, when we grieve, so does He. When Jesus went to the gravesite with Mary and Martha, He wept right along with them—even though He knew what He was going to do!  We often misunderstand His intentions, because His ways are so different from our own. Sometimes He waits to answer, because in spite of our pain—and even in spite of His own pain for us—He loves beyond the moment.

He loves eternally.

God will come. His faithfulness is a part of who He is. But He doesn’t always show up on our time table. At times He waits precisely because He loves us. He comes when it brings Him the greatest glory—and us the greatest good. Sometimes that means He’ll come long after our hope has died and is rotting in the grave. But the Author of Life is never limited—not even by death. Often, the longer He waits … the more staggering, amazing, marvelous and miraculous His ultimate answer will be.

That was certainly the case in Bethany.

After Lazarus had been in the grave four whole days, Jesus spoke three simple words that turned tragedy into triumph, “Lazarus, come forth.”  And Lazarus did—grave clothes and all!  What was dead—made alive. What was lost—restored. There was no flash, no thunder, no trumpet blast … just three simple words. God spoke, and it was.

That can happen for us too. Even after we resign ourselves to the loss of our dreams.  Even after we begin to settle for less than what we once believed possible—convinced that God has denied our prayers. But then, after it seems far too late, Jesus shows up. He speaks. Suddenly tragedy is turned into triumph, and hope is resurrected … eternally. Because when something has died and then risen again …

It lives forever.   

“I AM the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die.  Do you believe this?”—John 11:25

Do you believe this? Hold on. Today may be Friday … but Sunday’s coming.

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Note: I wrote this over 12 years ago. It was published as part of a newsletter for a ministry I was leading at the time so it has never been posted on my blog. I’ve been chewing on the story of Lazarus Recently, so I tracked  This down to re-read. Since i wrote it so long ago, I would definitely state certain things differently now, but I left it pretty much intact. I’m posting  it  after all this time simply because I believe “resurrected hope” is very much a “NOW” word for the Body of Christ. :-)

 

Stretching, bending, flowing …oh… and giving away free books

Cindy Kingdom First TV Photo1

So, um, this is a picture of me (yes me) being interviewed on TV. To be honest, I wasn’t terribly thrilled about the prospect.

I’ve always found it rather funny that I can pray for certain things, but then when God answers, somehow I manage to groan and complain about the way He answered. 

It sounds incredibly foolish when I read that sentence in print. After all, He is God. He is good. And He knows exactly what is best in every circumstance. So when I ask Him for things like opportunities to share His heart and for open doors that will lead to greater impact for His kingdom, I suppose it would be nice to actually thank Him when He provides said opportunities rather than grumbling that they weren’t the “type” of opportunities I had in mind.

Let’s just say He’s been stretching me in that area a bit lately.

But it’s good.

It’s good because …

I’m learning to bend

I’m learning to flow

I’m learning to just say yes without defining the parameters (for real!)

I’m also learning to be confident in Him–if He asks me to do something, my assumption is that He will equip me.

Because, after all, it’s not about me.

It’s supposed to be about Him.

It’s supposed to be about His heart, His love, and His kingdom expanding across the earth.

When I think in those terms, my hangups about the situation are really quite irrelevant.

So, yeah, I am being stretched, but hopefully I’m also bending and flowing with a bit less resistance these days. (It’s funny how you don’t think you are resisting Him, until, well, you are.)

The link at the bottom of this post, is a little bit of the public evidence of one of my recent s.t.r.e.t.c.h.i.n.g experiences. There is, obviously, a bit of a back story that led to me being a guest on a satellite TV show to promote a book I released over two years ago, but suffice it to say God has His timing and His ways and that is okay with me.

And, since Jesus seemed to think it was a good time to promote this little book, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to cooperate with Him just a bit. Which leads me to the free book reference in the title of this post …

For 24 hours, beginning Saturday March 7th at midnight, PST, the kindle version of The Key to His Heart will be available for FREE download from Amazon. 

If you’d like a bit more info on the book check out my book page, or watch the video below for a discussion on the subject matter. If you know of anyone who might be blessed by a free download of the book, please help me spread the word!

Happy stretching to all of you!

 

Forever Bound

I’m a prisoner of hope
I’m captive to grace
I’m bound by the strong cords of love
Yet I’m free
I’m gloriously
Wonderfully
Marvelously
Amazingly
Free
To be
Everything
He created me to be
In hope
In grace
In love
Because
I’m madly
Passionately
Head-over-heels
In love
With the One
Who first loved me

May my heart forever be bound in love to the One who set me free.

Happy Endings

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be authentically me-especially as it relates to what God has called me to in terms of the message(s) He has given me to communicate. As I was pondering these things, I remembered this post I wrote a few years ago. I think I needed to read it again …

Image result for happy endings in GodThis started out as a very different post. I noticed that my recent  writing “style” had been leaning a particular way. It’s not  that I necessarily liked it or disliked it–I just wanted to write something different.

I wanted to write something different because sometimes when I look at my own blog … when I see the lovely tranquil header … when I read the serene and spiritual sounding tagline and the many references to “faith” and  “beauty” and “simplicity”… when I take in the content of the posts …

Well, sometimes I just can’t relate. 

Yep, that’s right. Even though it’s my blog and I’ve written everything on here … sometimes I can’t relate.

I can’t relate because it all ends up sounding so dang spiritual. And frankly, sometimes  I feel about as spiritual as a rock. Sometimes–a little too often, really–“tranquility” “stillness” “simplicity” “focus” “peace” and “beauty” do not describe my mood or my life. Sometimes “stressed” “anxious” “distracted” “tired” “numb” and downright “messy” are far more accurate.

So I wanted to try something else. Something that might be a bit more relateable across a broader spectrum. Something that didn’t sound so darn spiritual and hopeful. Something, I don’t know, a little grittier.

Something that seemed more real.

So, um, ask me how it worked out.

Yeah, not so well. After spending a lot of time I didn’t have trying to get something to flow that was never meant to be uncorked in the first place, I finally gave up. I figured I’d try again the next day. But by the time the next day arrived and I got back to it …

He’d already gotten to me.

He = God. As in Father, Son, and Spirit. As in Jesus the Messiah; the Holy One of Israel; the Son of David; Lord of all  …

Yeah, that’s the one that always gets to me … Lord. As in He gets to be God and I don’t. As in He gets to be the One who invades everything I do in ways that are, at times, far less convenient and “relatable” than I’d like. But I realized again this morning …

I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

I wouldn’t have it any other way, because this IS who I am. He invades my life because I’ve invited Him to. The truth is I can’t be any other way, because this is how He made me.

And this is how He’s called me to communicate.

Life is hard sometimes. Really hard. Sometimes circumstances don’t have happy endings–not even close. Honestly, I’ve seen enough of “hard” to last a couple of lifetimes. Most of us have. But I’ve also seen something else …

I’ve seen Him.

And when I see Him, I don’t think about hard–I think about goodness. I think about grace. I think about hope.

I think about happy endings.

I may not always feel spiritual, but my relationship with Jesus and the reality of who I am in Him is not dependent on feelings or circumstances. He is who He is regardless of how I feel. And I am who He says I am regardless of how I feel about myself on any given day.

Who I am is His beloved. What He’s asked me to do is reveal His heart.

It’s really not that complicated.

He hasn’t asked me to be gritty. He hasn’t asked me to try something different. He hasn’t asked me to try to “relate” to as many people as possible. He hasn’t even asked me to try to relate to my own feelings! He’s simply asked me to be who Hsays I am and release the message He has entrusted to me.

That message is simply this:  In the midst of a crazy, mixed up, challenging and pain-filled world–He is good. He is hope. He is peace. He is love.

He is near.

And He is, and forever will be, the God of happy endings.

Perfect Steps

Image result for footstepsWe can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps. – Proverbs 16:9 NLT

Always
Faithfully
Relentlessly
Perfectly

He determines our steps.

He perfectly determines our steps in His intricately, amazingly, precisely perfect timing.

Plan away–but rest in the grace of His perfectly timed and perfectly ordained leadership.

Because He never fails.

Waiting at the Gate Called Beautiful

I recently ran across this devotion that I wrote several years ago. Since the Lord used it just recently to speak to my heart, I thought I would tweak it just a bit and post it here …


“Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 
– Acts 3:6

The man had been crippled since birth. Every day someone placed him outside the temple gate so he could beg from those entering the temple courts. He wasn’t looking for healing the day Peter and John passed by – he was merely looking for something to make him a bit more comfortable in his pain.

Um, ouch.

I recently heard someone preaching on this story and that point really hit my heart. Had the man given up on receiving the true desires of his heart? Had he been waiting so long and grown so accustomed to the way things were that he was just looking for a way to keep getting by?

I started thinking about some of the things I’d been asking Jesus for lately. Good things. Important things. But not always the best and most important things. Definitely not always the truest and deepest desires of my heart. 

Because, truthfully,  sometimes the “best” and “most important” things seem a bit too far out of reach. 

Not that I haven’t asked for them before. Not that I haven’t prayed every prayer I know to pray and done everything I know how to do to move forward in faith. But it hasn’t always worked out so well. And that’s the problem – been there, done that, gone out on that limb one too many times. I wouldn’t even know where to begin again, let alone how. So I’ve been asking for smaller things. Simple things to make life a little more comfortable right here and now.

But I don’t want to just settle for comfort in my pain – I want what’s best. I want ALL that Jesus’ sacrifice has purchased for me. As I started praying again and asking Him what I could “do” to ensure I didn’t settle for temporary comfort, He drew me back to the story in Acts 3. As I read the passage, I found a familiar answer:

The man didn’t do anything. He just kept showing up at the temple. And when Peter and John passed by, he looked up expecting to receive “something.”

I keep looking for something I can do. Jesus keeps reminding me of what He will do.

He is good. He doesn’t change. He is faithful. And He keeps his promises … even when we forget some of them because we’ve been waiting at that gate for such a very long time.

The man was no longer asking for his true desires, but God had’t forgotten them. All the man did was keep showing up. And he kept looking up … expecting to receive “something.”

I can do that. I can keep showing up. I can keep looking up. That’s all this man did and he got a whole lot more than he bargained for …

Maybe I will too.

********

I think this devo encouraged my heart when I read it again recently because I’ve been sensing that the Lord is awakening and stirring the dreams we no longer dream. It is a time of seeing answers to the prayers we no longer pray. Even when we forget–He doesn’t. So rather than beating yourself up for not doing what you can’t do–instead focus on what you can do. Keep showing up. Keep looking up …expecting to receive “something.”  Because “something” just might be whole lot more than you bargained for!

Pieces of My Heart

So I worked on this little project before Christmas and I sort of forgot to tell anyone about it.

Basically, I’ve published another book called Pieces of My Heart. It was fairly easy to put together because I didn’t really write anything new–it is a (somewhat) random compilation of stuff I’d previously written.

I like it.

I like it because I did this one for me. Most of it was written simply to express my heart to Jesus (the majority of it has been published on one of my blogs). It is filled with the stuff like to write. The stuff sometimes like to go back and re-read, because when I do, I remember how I felt when I first wrote the words and they draw me back to His heart again.

I  think that is also why I’ve been a little reluctant to share it. I gave some copies to a few friends for Christmas and I was tempted to just leave it at that. I’m really not all that sure it is the type of thing other people (other than those who know and love me) will be all that interested in.

Honestly, the whole thing feels sort of like an odd combination of both self-indulgence and sacrifice. Self-indulgence because I did it simply because I wanted to–there was no big higher purpose behind it all. On the other hand releasing it seems a bit sacrificial because this is my heart we’re talking about! It feels much safer to keep it to myself rather than take steps to share it, but  I’m feeling prompted to let it go, so that’s what I’m doing. If someone is interested, it’s there–and if they’re not, that’s okay too.

There is no real theme or consistent message throughout the book–except perhaps an ongoing longing to know Him and press into His heart. If you are looking for something with a beginning, a middle, and an end–this isn’t the book for you. I’ve subtitled it “Devotional Ponderings” because that about sums it up. These are the ponderings of my heart. There isn’t even a consistent style–there are some scripture meditations, a few devotions, some poems, some prayers, even a few simple allegories–along with a few I don’t even know how to categorize.  Some are super short, others fill several pages. All in all–pretty random! They’re not chronologically ordered, in fact they’re not ordered any way at all–they landed in the order I happened to pick them out.

I guess what I”m saying is that this book is not a comprehensive whole, it is a collection of pieces–pieces of my heart. Pieces of a heart that longs to know and honor the One who takes all of my pieces and makes me whole.

It is available on Amazon. If the various “devotional ponderings” I post on my blog happen to play a role in drawing your heart closer to His, I would be honored for you to have a copy. (It is available in paperback only–no plans as yet to release it on Kindle.)

Either way, may all the pieces of your own heart always find their home in His.

The Girl in the Red Dress

January is human trafficking awareness month. In order to help bring awareness in my little corner of the blogosphere, I’m posting this short (and very unpolished!) entry taken straight from my journal during my last trip to SE Asia.

The Girl in the Red Dress

She walked in
Seemingly full of joy
Bright red lips
To match her bright red dress
A cheerful hello
And a playful laugh

But there was a story behind that laugh–
One that held more pain than joy
One that brought this beautiful young girl
To this not-so-beautiful place
This place where she was bought and sold
So many times
Each and every night

I wish I knew her story
I wish I could sit and listen
I wish I knew who she was–
Who she really was
On the inside
I wish she knew she was loved
Really, really loved
And valued

But all I could do was say those things for a moment
Then move on to the next stop
Where there were more beautiful girls
In beautiful dresses
Being forced to do unspeakable things
Each one with a story
Each one trying to smile through the pain

Oh Jesus, please
Send those who care
Send those who will stop and listen
Send those who will help tell their stories
Because their stories
Their real stories …
Need to be told

**********

The most recent estimates indicate that nearly 21 million people are victims of human trafficking worldwide. Millions of those victims are trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation–many of them children. It is both a global and a local issue (yes, it happens here too). For information on what you can do, see this earlier post, or click on this video link from my friends at Exodus Cry.

Expectancy

“During those days, everyone was gripped with messianic expectations, believing the Messiah could come at any moment …” –Luke 3:15 tPt

Perhaps some of them had been around long enough to remember the stir some thirty years back. The rumors. The rumblings that Messiah had been born in Bethlehem.

Sure, it had been quiet since then. But some of them … some of them remembered the excitement. Some of them remembered the expectations.

Others weren’t old enough to remember. Or they weren’t around to hear the buzz. Or maybe they just weren’t dialed in or interested enough at that time. But now … now something was stirring again. Rumors were flying. Expectations were at an all time high. It seemed like everyone, everywhere was expecting the Messiah to burst on the scene.

And He did.

But He didn’t look the way they expected Him to look.

He didn’t do what they expected Him to do.

He didn’t play by their rules.

God in human flesh walked this planet. He did amazing and miraculous things — spoke things no one had ever spoken, did what no one had ever done, understood what no one had ever understood, loved like no one had ever loved — yet most people walked away offended and disappointed because He didn’t follow their plan.

He didn’t meet their expectations.

Expectations are tricky things (as I previously wrote about here). God is always good and He is always doing good–but that doesn’t mean the good He is doing always lines up with our expectations. In fact, it rarely does.

I think that’s why He has been teaching us the difference between expectations and expectancy. Expectations are contingent upon an expected outcome, while expectancy is simply contingent upon God being God.

And God is always good.

As we approach a new year, once again there is something stirring.The buzz is unmistakable.There is a rumbling in the air. Hope is beginning to rise. People are talking.There is a definite shift taking place. Expectations are at an all time high. People everywhere are expecting Him to burst on the scene.

I believe He will.

But He won’t necessarily look the way we expect Him to look.

He won’t necessarily do things the way we expect Him to do them.

He definitely won’t play by our rules.

God in human flesh is walking the planet–right here and right now. In you. In me. In us. And I think that–finally–we’re about (to begin) to learn what that really means.

I think we are on the brink of learning to walk in the amazing and miraculous things He prepared beforehand for us to walk in–that we’ll learn to speak like we’ve never spoken, do what we’ve never done, understand what we’ve never understood, and especially, that we’ll learn to love like we’ve never loved.

But here’s the deal, It will look and feel differently than anything we might imagine.

And when it does, I hope and pray we won’t walk away offended or disappointed.

Because while He may not do things exactly as we might be hoping or expecting Him to do them …

It will be good.  

It will be so wonderfully, gloriously, and amazingly good.

Because He is good. He is wonderfully, gloriously, amazingly–and unpredictably–good. And what He has in mind is far above anything we can ever …

hope …

imagine …

or expect. 

May that knowledge fill us all with great expectancy.

Father, thank You for new years, new seasons, new beginnings … and for a great sense of expectancy for what’s to come. Thank You, Lord, for beginning to awaken our hearts to the beginning of the the beginning of the coming of Your Kingdom. Teach us Your ways Lord– help us to see with spiritual eyes, to hear with spiritual ears, and to not despise the day of small beginnings. This year grant us the grace to be fully satisfied with the abounding blessings that surround us right now, while at the same time awakening and stirring our hearts to press on to lay hold of everything You’ve promised. Help us to hold loosely to our own ideas and ideology as we embrace the new things You’ve promised. Your kingdom come, Lord, Your will be done–in my life, my sphere of influence, in my community, my country and in the world around us–just as it is in heaven. May this truly be a year of faith (beginning) to become sight as we learn to trust in Your unfailing goodness more and more. ~Amen.

Christmas Wishes

This Christmas I wish you …

Wonder. May your heart be captured again by the wonder of it all. By the wonder of the incarnation–the astounding and unimaginable reality that God became a man and dwelt among us.The reality of Emmanuel–God with us. May you be awestruck again by the wonder of a God who not only came–but of a God who never, ever, leaves.

And may wonder always lead you to worship.

This Christmas I wish you …

Peace. May the reality of His life in yours–and your life in His–give you an unshakable and unfathomable sense of peace in all circumstances. Peace that transcends your circumstances. Peace that passes understanding. Peace that endures.

And may peace clear your perspective and lead to perseverance.

This Christmas I wish you …

Rest. May you cease from all striving and take the the time to stop — to breathe — to savor each and every wondrous moment of the season. And may you also lay hold of the grace and strength to find rest even in the not-so-calm and not-so-wondrous moments. He is sufficient. His grace is sufficient. The weary still find rest in Him.

And may rest lead to the full and complete restoration of your soul. It is well.

This Christmas I wish you …

Hope. May your soul be anchored in the unfailing reality of His presence and His promises. He is near. He is for you. He is with you always. And even in those tender places where it has been especially difficult to hold on to hope, may you “against all hope, in hope, believe.”

And may hope bring the reality of heaven into your now.

This Christmas I wish you …

Love. His love. True love. Deep love. Abiding love. “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

And may Love lead you to life. Abundant life. Eternal life. The fullness of all He created you to be.

It’s why He came.

Merry Christmas!

Praying Big Prayers

I used to think I prayed big prayers~
…wild prayers
…outlandish prayers
…audacious prayers
…even scary prayers

But then I realized~
…the biggest
…wildest
…most outlandish and audacious
…and definitely the scariest
prayer I ever prayed is simply this:

Teach me to love
The way You love

It will take a lifetime

It will cost everything

At times, it will be harder than I can possibly fathom

But I can’t help myself

Because this Love
…this big
…wild
…outlandish
…audacious
…and yes, even scary, Love

Has captured my heart.

So Lord, please, teach me to love–the way You love. 

A Prayer of Thanksgiving

60 Things To Be Thankful For In Life

How can I even begin, Lord? How can I even begin to thank You? How can I even begin to thank You for who You are and for all You’ve done for me?

How can I even begin to  thank You for life? For love? For peace? For hope?

How can I express what’s in my heart? How can I explain how time in Your Presence has changed me–transformed me? How can I convey what You’ve done on the inside of me? How can I possibly communicate how You’ve completely rewired my thinking. How I’ve been conformed, just a little bit, to Your image? (Well, it’s a work in progress anyway.)

I’m not who I used to be Lord. I’m a new creation in You–yet more fully and uniquely me than ever before. How do You do that? How do You turn weakness to strength? Brokenness to wholeness? Mourning to joy?

What did You do, Lord? What did You do to me? What did You do to me all those years ago when I said yes? How did You flip that switch inside of me? How did You bring me from death to life? 

I don’t guess I’ll ever know. But I don’t need to. I don’t need to figure it out because I’d probably never understand it anyway. I just need to believe. And I do. I just believe. I just believe You. And I’ve never, ever been sorry I’ve chosen to believe. Never. Ever.

So here I am, Lord–filled with thanksgiving. Filled with gratitude. Filled with love. If I spent every single moment of every single day for the rest of my life trying to thank You for what You’ve done for me, it would never even begin to be enough.There aren’t enough words. There isn’t enough emotion. There aren’t enough forms of expression and there aren’t enough ways to show You.

So instead I’ll just be. I’ll just be here with You. I’ll just be here with You and rest my head on Your chest. I’ll just be here with You and let You hold my hand. I’ll just be here with You and gaze into Your eyes. And as I do, I’m even more thankful …

I’m thankful to know those simple acts of love and gratitude are all You’ve ever really wanted from me. 

Thank You for loving me first, Lord. With every breath  — now, always and forever — I choose to love You back.