Go Ahead. Yell.

Key Verse: I yell out to my God. I yell with all my might. I yell at the top of my lungs. He listens. Psalm 77: 1 (MSG)

My 18-month-old’s panicked cries reached my ears. As I reached the play room, two fear-struck eyes and little hands thrust out towards me, desperate for help. Immediately, I leapt over an array of toys in my path to reach her. I pulled her out of her wedged position, and felt her arms fling around me. She sealed herself to me like suction cups.

Her cries quickly subsided as I reassured my little blond-haired troublemaker. I lovingly warned her about her choices. Climbing onto the play kitchen and wedging herself into its plastic sink was not the best idea.

Much like my daughter I easily find myself in situations I can climb into but struggle to get out of. Even before the sun rises, I’m beating myself up for already losing my patience. I bite off more than I can chew. I am overwhelmed. I worry about little things yet fail to be present for the big things. In these moments, what we can be doing is yelling out for help.

In Psalm 77, where our key verse comes from, David expresses his gloom. He cannot sleep. He is beyond frustrated.  With everything he has, he cries out. He needs help and his sentiments resonate with me-“I’m over it. I am in trouble. Help.”

Psalm 77: 2a says “I found myself in trouble and went looking for my Lord.” How reassuring! Being in trouble and looking for God go hand in hand.

No waiting necessary. No need to have it all together. We can call out to God in our trouble.

Once comforted, my little one pushed away from my arms. Putting her down I left the room. A few moments later I peaked in on her. Her little chubby legs and brave heart had helped her climb onto the play kitchen and she was happily wiggling herself back into the sink. I grinned, knowing I would be hearing panicked cries in a few minutes and I would run to the rescue.

God is so gracious to do the same for us. No matter how many times we find ourselves in trouble, no matter how many times we yell out to him, God will always show up to rescue us. -ST

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Be Alert and Arise

 

What would it be like to be alert in an instant, to rise from deep slumber in one quiet, quick move and to hold the gaze of what is before you? Today I met a lioness. My heart beat quicker, my movements slowed and I was in awe.

I recently finished listening to Lisa Bevere enlighten me in her book Lioness Arising and my interest in lionesses has awakened. In her brilliant way of teaching and preaching all in the same sentence, this insightful author described the role and the character of a lioness. Her vision from Numbers 23:24 brought her own interest to the light and she shared her knowledge with diligent research and great application.

In Numbers 23, a man of God, Balaam, was asked by Balak a king greatly threatened by the Israelites to curse them. The Israelites, God’s chosen people, were blessed instead. Balaam recounts that God is with them and no evil would come upon them. Verse 24 declares “The people rise like a lioness.” As I have taken these words to heart in the past few weeks I have seen a change in my determination and my demeanor.

This morning, Camryn and I headed off to the Denver Zoo where I hoped to lay eyes on one, if not more, of the lionesses. When out, they are usually basking in the sunlight enjoying the usual 16 hours plus of sleep per day. After learning about these incredible female creatures, I quickly passed up the lions in search of the lionesses. Tucked in a smaller area was a slightly awake lioness. She was beautiful. She was a few feet from the glass, breathtaking in size and smoothness of fur.

Although there are so many who would prefer to see animals in their natural habitat, and I am no exception, the zoo displays God’s creation a bit closer and gives me a piece of heaven in my home town. Half forgetting my little peanut as she eagerly followed me, I spoke to the lioness. Something caught her eye and she was instantly alert. Thinking it was my little one, I picked Camryn up. Her eye caught mine and as I took a picture on my phone she sat up, then came to a full standing position.

Her eyes became piercing as she looked almost through me, maybe behind me, intently. Tears filled my eyes as I was overwhelmed. No one else was around to see my emotions. A little God moment just for me. I shivered and showed Cammie her big face, catching her glance again.

After working through this book on the role of the lionesses and the parallel to our role as women in the body of Christ followers, I had begun taking a stronger stand in my role at work. Last week I was intensely focused and spoke up for my team. My daughter went off to school, concerned she wasn’t as smart as the other girls. I went into alert mode, instructing her firmly her position in God’s family, our family and in herself. I went to my knees in prayer when I lost courage. By the end of this past week, I was weakened by comment someone meant as a compliment, being unsure if it was a good one. I became emotionally and physically tired and being alert seemed just too hard.

As I have been praying for renewal and discernment this week, the lioness arose. I am a visual learning and the confirmation from my Father in heaven came in the physical character of this lioness. She was just as beautiful, powerful and alert as I had envisioned after listening to Bevere’s book. This lioness’ held gaze connected my heart to the God who created me, the same God who has created her, for such wonderful things: to be beautiful, to be powerful and to be alert.

And so, sisters, be renewed today in your own beauty, your own power in the Spirit and alertness to what God is calling you to be. Whether it is nursing your baby, providing for your family or alerting your heart to a new calling, arise. Be like the lioness, for our Father is the Lion of Judah and we are his.

Best Intentions

It’s the first day of kindergarten and I wanted to be on it. With my alarm set for earlier than my “pre-kinder” life, I planned on making my oldest lunch, brewing coffee and spending a few sweet moments with my Jesus. Three hours before my alarm sounded my youngest made herself known, followed by her sister. When the alarm startled me awake from a rough dream, both girls were asleep, snuggled in on either side of me. Although a practice I am nervous about, today was an exception. We all needed a little mommy time before the morning light shown through our west facing windows. With best intentions gone out the same windows, I hit snooze only to anxiously anticipating the morning’s kindergarten drop off instead of sitting at Jesus’ feet.

Our best intentions often fall to the wayside as reality makes a move on our day, our lives and our relationships. Peter, a guy in Jesus’ crew, comes to mind as a man who had all sorts of best intentions. He made efforts to keep the children from Jesus because he believed Jesus was too busy. He send a crowd to find their own food instead of seeking God’s provision. He walked on water with a great amount of faith until his nerves took over and he sank. He cut off the solder’s servant’s ear in full zeal on the night Jesus was arrested only to deny him three times before the morning dew settled.

If we are not careful we can judge Peter for being so lousy at follow-through or failing in his attentions. If I judge him, I would be judging myself. My best intentions fail constantly, yet God invites us to experience his new mercies every morning and his grace in the mean time. It’s nothing deserved and nothing warranted by my behavior. It’s just who I am invited to be as a Jesus follower.

Jesus doesn’t stay dead. He came back to life and went to his disciples. Jesus had offered Peter a life as a Jesus follower with no collateral attached. But, I think Peter thought he had blown it just one time too many. So he did what he knew best. He went back to being an average fisherman.

Jesus showed up for breakfast while Peter is fishing. Like I said, Jesus offers new mercies every morning. When Peter realized that Jesus was calling to him from the beach, he rushed (swam fully clothed) to the beach to meet him. Can this remind us that a Jesus follower, like Peter, does not mind being messy in the presence of Jesus. Jesus, right on the beach, offered Peter his mercies once again in the form of fire roasted fish, heavenly smelling bread and a renewed relationship. (See John 21 for all the details.)

And so tomorrow, with a renewed heart and the sweetness of his mercies, I will attempt my best intentions once again. When I sit at Jesus’ feet with my cup of coffee, before my children stir, or fall on my face trying, Jesus will be ready to meet me with new mercies for breakfast and his gentle whispers of best intentions he is bestowing upon me.

Enjoy being at Jesus’ feet with new mercies! Lamentations 3:22-23

-ST

A forever home

I have been in my current position at Children’s Hospital for 8 years in March. I love it and I am constantly growing and changing. I just transitioned to my forth immediate supervisor and I have had two managers. My supervisors have been moving to new positions within the leadership structure and most recently I have moved to working primary during day shift. Work is a constant change, isn’t it?

We are close to moving Maggie and Camryn to yet a new childcare routine. This one being Daddy when Mommy is at work at least until the summer and Matt is preparing to change his work and embark on a new adventure. And so we find more changes for our ever changing lives.

We moved from being a couple, to a family of one, then added a dog, and now we are a family of four with a dog. Currently, we are working on re-homing our dog. With the girls’ allergies (okay, mostly Maggie’s but if her sister is anything like her, Camryn’s cough seems very familiar) it is time for our large hound to find a new home.

This weekend we met another potential family.  I went through yet another afternoon of advertising my dog to them while at the same time interviewing them to see if they could qualify to be the forever home for my dog. It’s a harder process than I thought it would be. It’s an emotional experience. It has caused me to stop and think about what it means when we commit our lives to Jesus and are welcomed into a relationship with God.

When we are in Christ Jesus we are his and he is ours. There is never a moment when he would every say: I’ve had enough; you are too much for me; it’s time to re-home you. Our relationship with God will look different from year to year as we grow, as our lives change and as we experience his grace more and more. But, the minute we choose Jesus, God gives us his forever home.

Let’s go to the Israelites in the dessert. For forty years they are been in the habit of remembering God and forgetting him, of praising God and complaining to him. The new generation had taken over and God was still with them. God had been constant, although threatening to bring his wrath for their disobedience, God turned his ear to hear the cries of Moses and pressed forward with his people. And so, they reach the Jordan River to pass into the promised land, the land promised to Abraham years and generations before. Joshua 1:9 finishes out Joshua’s pep talk about obeying and being strong in leading his people with this: Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

That sounds like a God who stays. That sounds like a home that will last. We do not need to worry about being re-homed because our circumstances change. We can settle in. We can be strong and courageous because he will not leave us. It may take a while for us to believe this truth and to experience that he stays, but he will and he does.

Our lives change, our situations change and our dreams vary from day to day sometimes, but when we are God’s and he is ours, we are home for good.

I found this old hymn. I think I sang it as a kid. The first verse is sweetness to the soul. Loved with Everlasting Love by George Wade Robinson (1838-1877), music by James Mountain (1844-1933)

Loved with everlasting love,
Led by grace that love to know;
Spirit, breathing from above,
Thou hast taught me it is so.
Oh, this full and perfect peace!
Oh, this transport all divine!
In a love which cannot cease,
I am His, and He is mine.

Blessings and may you rest in the peace of your forever home.

-ST

Perspective

It’s the kind of morning I dread. The kind where you are supposed to be somewhere you are not. This happened to me a couple of weeks ago. I looked at the clock at 7:10 a.m. contemplating whether I should get up and spend a few minutes with Jesus before my girls wake-up or head back to sleep praying for a few more moments of rest. As I turned over in my bed my cell phone vibrated. My supervisor texted me.

“Are you on your way? You are on the schedule for this morning.”

Panic. I cannot stand being late let alone not being even remotely close to being where I did not even know I was supposed to be. I threw off the covers and started texting back as Maggie’s sleepy swagger rounds the corner from her room into ours. My Maggie is a creature of routine. She expects her mornings to be as she always has them. If not, give her ample warning.

“Quick, Maggie, we have to get to school. I have to be at work. Hurry.”

Her tears were immediate and she dashed back to her room, hiding under her covers. “This is not how my morning was supposed to go,” she wailed.

Thirty minutes later she was at school. It turned out that the schedule was wrong and I was not late, so I stopped for drive-thru coffee before heading to work anyway. While I slowed my heart and mind down on the drive I realized how often we view life in the same way Maggie viewed her morning. “This isn’t how my story (life) was supposed to go.”

We run from disappointment instead of allowing ourselves to find perspective in the midst of it.

Phillip Yancy in his book Prayer talks about perspective. We are small in comparison to the Milky Way which is small in comparison to the believed size of the universe. Job, the guy who went through more than his share of trials, never got answers from God. God reminded him instead of His vastness and His authority over all things.

“God needs no reminding of the nature of reality, but I do.” Yancy writes. He also talks of Paul who preached a similar message in Athens in Acts 17:24-28.

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needs anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being. As some of your poets have said, ‘We are his offsprings’.”

I believe passionately that God cares infinitely more for us that we could possibly care about every aspect of our own lives. He has not only done the necessary act to allow us to seek and to find him, but has lavished his mercies upon us morning after morning. He will continue to do so. We are not only creations, but we are made in his likeness. We are his offsprings and he desires us to seek him, to find him for he is not far from us.

So, my story may not be the way it was “supposed to go”, but in the midst of the disappointment and the smallness of who I am, I have a God who is bigger than I am. I have a God who wants me to seek Him and to find Him. He is not far from me. He cares more deeply about everything than my smallness can comprehend.

I believe that for you, too.

Lamentations 3:22-23 | John 3:16 | Genesis 1:27

-ST

 

David’s example

I have always had dreams…big dreams. Dreams that do not seem to be practical. Maggie and I have been watching Zootopia lately and talking about how the bunny had big dreams. She went against the stereotypes and the advice of those who discouraged her in order to follow her dreams. Judy, the bunny, announced to her little community that she would grow-up to be a police officer. Her parents tried to talk some sense into her. “It’s okay to have dreams as long as you do not believe in them too much.” Her mom informed her that happiness came to her father and her when they settled. She, of course, did not listen to them until all the odds were stacked against her.

Yesterday at church I was reminded of David’s story. Samuel, the great prophet of the Lord, was instructed by God to show up at Jesse’s home in Bethlehem to anoint one of his son’s as the new king. Jesse prepares his first seven sons, according to custom and instructions, to be presented. He overlooked and therefore disregarded his eighth son. He left David in the field tending his sheep.

When we feel disregarded, we can be tempted to diminish our dreams.

God made it clear to Samuel that none of these seven sons were to be anointed. (Read the whole story in 1 Samuel 16.) So David was summoned. The passage does not say if he had time to clean-up and be ready for the presentation let alone the anointing, but we do know that Samuel did instruct everyone to stay standing until his arrival. I can image the seven brothers were quite uncomfortable and disappointed through the whole process.

God confirmed to Samuel that David was the intended one. Once anointed, the Spirit of the Lord came upon David. Can you image? In front of his brothers, in front of his father who had left him behind, the Spirit of the Lord came upon him. He was to be king…the king of Israel. And then, he went back to his father’s sheep.

In the midst of being disregarded, David was anointed into a position that was not yet available for the taking, but it was promised. Isn’t that how most of our dreams happen? We are called but then we wait, we prepare for what we know will happen but we have no understanding how it will happen.

We read later about Saul’s, the current king of Israel, introduction to David.

1 Samuel 16:18 One of the servants answered, “I have seen the son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the harp. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the Lord is with him.”

He has God-given dreams and he is tending his father’s sheep. He was discredited by his own father as king potential, anointed and Spirit-given. The passage goes on to tell us that David began working for Saul and then would go back to tending his father’s sheep. (1 Samuel 17:15) He did not enter into “king training” and he was not treated like royalty, by anyone. Samuel anointed him and left. No instructions.

He was preparing for his rule by being with God, by protecting his father’s sheep and being faithful. He continued to be humble to his current position, 1 Samuel 17:17. When David showed up to Saul’s war with the Philistines and Goliath presented himself, David understood who God was. He understood God’s glory. He understood his role. It wasn’t to claim the kingship. It was to allow God to use him for His glory. (Thanks, Chad Bruegman, for the great message yesterday.)

When God calls us to big dreams, He first calls us to Himself for the display of His glory.

Being called does not mean that we claim those dreams immediately, but we learn, grow and move towards God and His character so we will be ready when the stage is set and we step into the role we have been preparing for.

-ST

Worthy, part 2…a Mess

After Matt and I had been dating for a few weeks he invited me over to his apartment and I suggested I could bring stuff to make dinner. Of course I brought steak because I wanted to impress the man. We planned for the following Sunday evening. There is nothing like seeing how the guy you are falling in love with takes care of his place. Several weeks after our lovely evening, Matt told him he cleaned his small apartment for 6 hours before I arrived. I had been impressed by how clean it was. My take away…I was worth cleaning up for!

This year has brought some new decisions in our home. One has been to have a house cleaner about once a month. Cleaning stresses me and takes more time away from my girls than I want to spend. It is not relaxing or stress relieving, but coming home to a clean house has a way of rejuvenating our family and re-setting our priorities. It is a luxury for sure, one I do not take for granted. However, sometimes, if I forget until Sunday night that our housecleaner is coming on Monday morning, I run around the house picking up and driving my family crazy.

Matt asked the first week we had someone come why we needed to pick-up. “Isn’t that why we have someone clean the house?” No, I informed him. If we didn’t pick-up she would have no surface area to clean. Cleaning up the messes in my home is not my strong suit. I have a kitchen full of dishes while I ponder this thought.

When disappointment with ourselves overtake us, we hid our messes from Jesus.

It is true in my life. When messes I create in relationships, or emotions, that I deem ridiculous, stay on the forefront of my mind, or tiredness overtakes my ability to make wise decisions, I begin withdrawing from Jesus. I become disappointed with myself and I hid. I shove the mess into the closet and make life miserable while I quickly try to clean up clutter in my spiritual life before sitting down for a quick “everything is great” quiet time.

I hope you know the amazing story Jesus tells about the lost son in Luke 15. The son makes some bad choices. His life is a mess. He has made terrible decisions. He was far from home because of those choices. For our purposes, he was far from God.

Verse 17. When he came to his senses, he said “How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare and here I am starving to death.

To summarize the story (please read it on your own) he took the smelly (I’m guessing he needed a bath), hungry, tired journey home, preparing what he would say to his father. He had no assurance, in his mind, of how his father would respond. The father, on the other hand, was waiting for him. His father ran to him. He threw his arms around him and prepared a feast, calling him “son”.

The mess we bring to God pales in comparison to the measure of His love for us.

The son in our story tries to deny his worthiness. Verse 21: The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you, I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

A great posture of repentance to have when we approach the throne of God, but what I want us to see today is that the father did not reclaim his as his son because of that posture. The son did everything to make life a mess and took advantage of the father’s love but he remained worthy of the Father’s attention and affection. He belonged and he was lovable. His worthiness of being called son was never a question for the father.

And for us, our worthiness is not dependent on a put together life, a mess shoved in the closet or a full vulnerable view of who we might think we really are. We are daughters of the Father God, the Most High. As hard it is for our minds and hearts to absorb, let’s begin living like in that worthiness! When you find yourself in a mess, take it to Jesus right away so He can remind you “Daughter, let’s have a party and we’ll clean it up together!”

-ST