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  

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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.

Feeling Nostalgic

I haven’t been posting a lot lately. My thoughts and attention have been elsewhere. I can only do so many things and do them well, so I’ve learned not to force the areas that don’t seem to be flowing. I have a very high value for being intentional with my time and resources, and it is for exactly that reason that I haven’t been showing up here too often. I have a couple projects that have been on my heart for a while and in the little “extra” time I have, I  know it is more important for me to keep moving forward with those things. I  want to make sure I’m moving with Him and only going where He’s going and less posting seems to be the direction … at least for right now.

Writing has always been an important part of my journey–and in the last five or six years, blogging has been one of my primary outlets. Even though things may ebb and flow, I can’t imagine ever stopping completely. Although there have been many, many (did I say many?) times I’ve questioned why I bother to continue to spend so much time and energy pouring out my heart and soul with words, the truth is I would continue to do it in some fashion even if the words I wrote never touched another soul. I  would continue to  write for me.  And even more …

I’d write for Him. 

I’ve been feeling really nostalgic about that fact lately. This morning, I was thinking back on the very first poem I ever wrote just for the Lord. Twenty years ago this month, I encountered the love of God for the first time. I mean I really experienced His love. I felt it. And in the midst of such overwhelming love, there seemed to be only one reasonable response–to give Him my everything. Prior to that I believed as much as I understood, but sadly that wasn’t much. I’d had a few significant moments with Him prior to that time, and I’ve had many, many, many since then. But that night twenty years ago was a marker that changed the course of my life. I’ve never, ever regretted the decision to trust my whole heart to Him. Never. Ever. Not once. And although almost nothing since then has gone as I might have imagined, I can honestly say I’ve continued to fall more in love with Him ever since.

I look back on that time and I know that was truly the beginning of my life in Him. To say I’ve never been the same is an understatement. He took a desperate, depressed, weak and incredibly broken young woman and made me strong and whole in Him.

In keeping with the spirit of my nostalgic feelings, I wanted to share the the poem I wrote for Him shortly after that first revelation of “the love of God that passes knowledge”:

Forever My Life is Yours

Pain and fear have long since been
Embedded so deep in my soul
Only my loving Savior’s gentle embrace
Brings the courage to finally let go

Lord, You’ve counted my tears, You alone understand
Such compassion I’ve never known
Yet so undeserved is this mercy and grace
And the incredible kindness You’ve shown

You call me ‘child,’ cradle me in Your arms
And speak to my heart with love
Promising me that You’ll never leave
And healing me with Your touch

I praise Your name for the miracle of faith
That has made my heart truly believe
One by one the chains of my fear will fall
As the light of Your love sets me free

Lord, You know my heart, all that words can’t express
How I long to give You more
And so, my loving Savior, my precious Lord—
Forever, my life is Yours

The line that continues to hit my heart is “One by one the chains of my fear will fall, as the light of Your love sets me free.” I didn’t know it at the time, but I was making a prophetic declaration over my own life. It was a good word :-)

I  know He will love me forever. There is still such profound peace and comfort in that knowledge. And — whatever twists and turns life may take — whatever I am or am not doing — whatever I am or am not writing — wherever His presence leads — now, always, forever …

My life is His

God IS good … all the time

God is good. Really, really good. All the time. Really.

I wrote a post a few days ago about some of the things I know to be true. The fact that I am absolutely convinced of God’s unchanging goodness probably should have been at the top of the list. I know it like I know my name. I know that I know that I know–God is good. I don’t know that there is anything that could ever convince me otherwise …

Because I’ve experienced His goodness for myself.

When your heart has been undone by mercy — when you’ve gazed into the most penetratingly beautiful eyes in existence and and found nothing but acceptance and love — when you’ve been amazed by His faithfulness, astounded by His kindness, and awestruck by His glory — well, it is pretty hard to conceive that God could ever be anything other than exactly what He is — always good.

But I also know that not everyone is convinced of God’s goodness–and that makes me very, very sad.

I saw a picture a week or so ago that gripped my heart. I can’t even remember what series of mouse clicks led me to that particular picture because it was on the type of argument-inducing site I typically try to avoid. It was a picture of three little boys — from somewhere in Africa — who were clearly starving. The picture was hard enough to look at, but what made it even more heartbreaking was the caption:

“Try telling them God is always good.”

Quite the accusation. I’m sure the person who created the meme felt they had made a compelling and effective case against God. However the problem, of course, isn’t God …

It’s us.

God is always good–but man is not.

In Genesis 1 God gave us stewardship over the Earth. He’s never taken it back. As Creator, He created enough — enough natural resources, enough time, enough wisdom — enough of everything. On top of that, in Jesus, we have supernatural resources. God hard-wired us with some pretty amazing creativity and resourcefulness — so even our natural accomplishments can be quite remarkable — but we don’t have to stop at natural accomplishments. On this side of the cross, we can live supernaturally by accessing the very same power that raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus not only overcame all sin and sickness, He actually defeated death itself. And we are co-heirs with Christ. Talk about having everything we need!

So what’s the problem? Why is there still such lack in so many places? Why is there so much turmoil? Why is there so much sickness and disease? Why is there such depravity? Why is there so much darkness?

I think that maybe, just maybe, our collective long-term unbelief has a little bit of something to do with it?

Instead of accusing God by wringing our hands in hopelessness over the state of the earth and wondering how He could have possibly let this happen, maybe we should step back and ask some better questions:

What am I doing about it?

What are you doing about it?

What are we, the Church, doing about it?

What do we already know God wants? What has He promised? How can we partner with Him in what He’s already promised to do?

Everyone doesn’t know God’s goodness because we haven’t shown everyone His goodness. I can’t do that alone. You can’t do that alone. But we — the collective we, the Church — can and should.

We must.

I’ll be honest, I have no idea why God reveals Himself to certain people in certain ways and why He doesn’t reveal Himself to others in similar ways. I don’t know why some people seem to have endless opportunities to experience His love and others seem to have precious few, if any. But I do know His love is for ALL. I do know that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. And I do know that those who seek Him will find Him.

I don’t know how. I don’t know when. I don’t know where. I just know they will.

Because I know He wants to be found.

I also know that life on “this side” isn’t the end of the story. Not even close. And in the end, no one will accuse God of injustice. No one.

Righteousness and justice are the very foundation of His throne. My sense of justice will never, ever be higher than His. My goodness will never, ever be greater than His. My mercy will never, ever be deeper than His.

But when I abide in Him–it can be the same as His.

And that is what the world needs … a Church that abides in Jesus. A Church that looks like Jesus. A Church that acts like Jesus.

A Church that loves like Jesus.

Because He is good … all the time.

The things I KNOW to be true …

I think a lot of things. I have a lot of opinions about a lot of different things. Most people do. (Or at least I think they do!)

Thinking is a good thing. We weren’t created to be robots or automatons. We are unique, thinking, feeling creatures. We all ought to learn to think critically and we all ought to learn to think for ourselves. It is good to be a thinking person. At least it is until you start to confuse what you “think” …

With what you “know”.

There is a difference. We don’t actually know that everything we think is true–but sometimes we act as though we do! Never is this more evident than in areas of religion and spirituality.

A lot of people think a lot of things about God. A lot of people think a lot of things about the Bible. A lot of people think a lot of things about how we should interpret certain passages of scripture–and they also think a lot of things about how we should apply them. I think a lot of those things are good. I also think a lot of those things aren’t so good.

But that’s just what I think.

And, whether you realize it or not, a lot of your own dearly held beliefs are just that: your own beliefs and thoughts. They’re not always what you know–sometimes they’re just what you think.

But here’s the deal — when life gets hard — when life gets messy — when life seems to be spinning out of control — it’s not your opinions that matter…

It’s what you know.

What you think often changes with time, but once you know something — once you’ve experienced it — once you know that you know that you know — it endures.

Many years ago I latched onto a simple but profound spiritual truth that I’ve returned to again and again in times of doubt and confusion:

Hold fast to what you know to be true.

Holding on to what you think to be true doesn’t do much of anything for you when you’re being tossed to and fro in a sea of confusion, contradiction, disappointment, and doubt. But holding fast to what you know to be true pretty much changes everything. What you truly know–what you know that you know that you know—is the anchor that always holds firm.

Philippians 3 is one of my all time favorite chapters in the Bible. One of my very most favorite verses in that chapter is one of the simplest. After Paul lists all his (very impressive) religious and intellectual credentials, he tosses all that aside and summarizes his life’s goal in this one heartfelt cry:

That I may know Him …” (Phil 3:10).

That’s been my cry too. I don’t just want to know a bunch of stuff about God. And I don’t just want to think a bunch of things about Him–even if they’re good and true and amazing things.

I want to actually know Him.

The word Paul uses in Philippians 3:10 is the Greek word “gnosko” (which, by the way, is the same word he uses in Ephesians 3 when he prays that we might “know the love of God that passes knowledge”). Gnosko has very little to do with intellectual knowledge (thinking) and everything to do with revelation and intimate experience. Gnosko is knowing that you know that you know (that you know that you know that you know!).

Fortunately, God planned to answer my cry to know Him long before I ever uttered it. Here are a few of the ways He’s revealed Himself in my life — a few of the things I gnosko — a few of the thing things I know that I know …

  • I know that I once was lost but now I’m found–I looked to everyone and everything before I knew it was Jesus alone who saved me
  • I know that at the cross it was finished–I am forgiven, healed and delivered by the blood of Jesus–I’m perfect and complete in Him
  • I know that I am a child of God–fully accepted and delighted in by a loving Father
  • I know that He made a way for me to enter the most holy place and that I’m invited to boldly come before Him anytime, anywhere, and in any condition–I’m always welcomed with open arms–there is NO separation
  • I know the love of God that passes knowledge–and I know nothing will ever separate me from His love
  • I know the peace that passes understanding and that in His presence is fullness of joy
  • I know I will gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and dwell in His house–forever

These are some of my anchors.To me, they’re not fairly tales or wishful thinking. They’re not contingent upon what anyone else thinks or what anyone else says. I feel no need to prove or defend them to a single soul. I don’t care whether or not they make sense to anyone else and I don’t care who “thinks” they can challenge the intellectual integrity of any of these statements. That’s because they’re not just statements to me.They’re not just thoughts …

This is my enduring reality. This is what I know. And whenever the things I “think” are being shaken (which they often are) …

I’ll continue to hold fast to what I know to be true.

What about you? What are the things you know to be true?

Still Here … With You

Here I am, Abba
It seems I start so many prayers this way
Maybe because this is my one constant
I’m here with You
And even more amazing
You’re always here with me
There is such deep comfort in that knowledge
You are the God who is always present
You are the God who is always near
You are the God who made a way for me to come
… so I do

Here I am, Abba
I’m not sure about much of anything else
At least not today
Maybe not tomorrow either
But this one thing I do know
I’m here with You
And You’re here with me
Forever

Here I am, Abba
So help me to truly be here
Wherever here may be
Help me to be present
To be present in my now
Because that’s where You are
You are the I Am
You’re not dwelling in the past
I can’t find You yet in the future
You are always now
So I want to be here now with You
Quiet my thoughts
Renew my mind
Restore my soul
Cause the beating of my heart
And every breath I take
To be in perfect alignment with Yours
Right here, right now

Here I am, Abba
I don’t want to think about what isn’t
I don’t want to think about what was but is no more
I don’t even want to think about what should or could be
I just want to think about You
I just want to hide in Your embrace
I just want to rest in Your love
And from that place of perfect peace
I want to lose myself again in the beauty of what is
Because You are
Now, always, forever
You are
And forever You will be
… Everything I need

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

A week or so ago I had the opportunity to do something that, for a variety of very specific reasons, scared the heck out of me. I knew it was a door the Lord opened and He was asking me to walk through–it just didn’t make a lot of sense. Since I’m not in the habit of saying no to Him, I said yes. Although the decision itself was fairly easy, the time leading up to to the actual event wasn’t particularly easy because I was pretty convinced the whole thing was going to be one colossal  train wreck. However, just as I was about to give in to a place of fear, a thought occurred to me: No matter how things went–wonderful, terrible, or any variation–I was going to wake up the next morning and still be His. He would still be with me and I would still be with Him. We would have the very same relationship. I would be just as in love with Him and He would be just as in love with me.

That thought sustained and strengthened me. Even more it silenced the taunts of the enemy and gave me peace. And sure enough, once I got through it (and it wasn’t even such a train wreck, ha ha!) the next morning He was still right there with me.

Sometimes it is the simplest things that are the most precious and profound. For me, the constant knowledge of His faithful presence and acceptance is absolutely priceless. Since my relationship with Him is the most important thing in my life–and since nothing can ever separate me from His love–I can walk boldly through any door He opens knowing I can never, ever, lose.

Never. Ever.

So here I am, Abba. Still here with You … now and forever.

From His Heart to Yours: October 4, 2014

My grace is sufficient for you …

 –2 Corinthians 12:9

I love you, beloved. I love the unique you—the one-of-a-kind you that I created you to be.  You were made for love—and as you become more and more secure in My love, you will begin to see the unique and personal ways I work in YOUR life. I have purposes for your life that far exceed anything you’ve ever hoped or imagined. And My plans for you are always good! You are perfect and complete in Me—you lack nothing. Never compare your life to anyone elses—only you can be you. And I like you! It’s true that there are many, many differences in life circumstances from one person to the next, but always remember that only you have absolutely everything it takes to be you. You have everything you need to fulfill your part in My plans and purposes—a part no one else can ever fill. Even your unique challenges and heartbreaks are redeemed in My presence. Often those are the very things that allow you to display the goodness of My grace to the world around you in personally profound ways. Your life is sweet and pleasing aroma to Me, beloved—don’t despise what I love. Even your deepest places of weakness and failure are simply invitations to lean into My strength. Be you, My love–you’ll find that you’re very good at it. And in that place of truth and authenticity—you’ll  also find My grace to always be sufficient.

♥♥♥

You’re one of a kind. Really! We all know that in theory, but sometimes it’s hard to imagine that God really did create each of us individually and uniquely. When we fail to fully embrace who we are in Him—we deny the world the joy of seeing that specific glimpse of His heart and character. Because despite all our unique traits, we are all still created in His image. 

I long ago realized I will never be the “best” at anything … except being myself. When I let go of trying to meet other’s expectations—and especially when I let go of trying to meet my own expectations—I find tremendous peace and freedom in that place of authenticity. What’s more, there is always sufficient grace and strength to simply be who I am.

There’s grace for you too. So let go and live your life—you’re the best you there will ever be!

Father, thank You for creating me in such a way that I can uniquely reflect the beauty of Your face to those around me. Help me to fully embrace everything You’ve created me to be. May all the unique circumstances of my life—even the very hardest things—continuously point to your glorious redemptive nature. ~Amen.

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

“Love Letters” are simple messages from His heart to yours, posted at the beginning of each month. To read others, click here

Before the Throne of God Above

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea
A great high Priest whose name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me
My name is graven on His hands
My name is written on His heart
I know that while in Heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end to all my sin
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me

Behold Him there, the risen Lamb
My perfect spotless righteousness
The great unchangeable I AM
The King of glory and of grace
One in Himself I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ my Savior and my God!

I don’t consider myself to be much of a theologian, but I do love God’s Word. Even more, I love the God who is the Word. That’s why Bill Johnson’s frequent saying: “Jesus Christ is perfect theology” is such a profound anchor for my understanding of the character and nature of God. Because, theologian or not, I deeply appreciate the need for a proper grid through which to understand His many “great and precious promises.” I guess that’s why this particular hymn touches my heart so deeply–these lyrics are the grid.

Every time I hear the song, I’m struck by how beautifully and perfectly the words capture the essence of my perfect Savior’s, perfect sacrifice. Wherever I’m at, however I feel–I can always look up. So can you. We can look into the eyes of the One who made an end to ALL our sin–now and forever. Because our lives are hidden in Christ–now and forever.

What a beautiful, unchanging–and perfect–truth!