My (Preferred) Alter-Ego (come find me here!)

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Thursday, April 30, 2009

wind-tossed, borne aloft, and loving the ride

I spent some time with the Lord yesterday meditating on John 3. It was one of those precious occasions when He and I were able to dialogue about the Word without interruption. I'd wondered why He'd led me to such a familiar passage, but had determined that I was going to sit there and listen until He showed me what was on His heart.

Yesterday was one of those balmy, breezy, sunny-with-a-high-of-75 kind of days that remind me of why I love spring so much. I had the windows open throughout my home, and exulted in the fresh smells pouring in around me as I sat in the middle of my living room floor and let the ceiling fan play with the pages of my Bible. I had just read this:

"...The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."

when a sound outside arrested my attention.

Glancing up, I saw the branches of the big, beautiful trees outside my front windows dancing together as an unseen breeze swept through. I was losing myself in delight at the crashing sound of the leaves when I heard the soft voice of the Spirit speaking to my heart--a voice I've come to love and to trust even when it's asked me to do difficult things. So it is with everyone who is borne of the Spirit.

I laughed at the pun, but continued to stay in an attitude of prayer until His meaning crystalized in my heart. He was talking to me about the forerunner/pioneer calling.

The branches on the trees outside were moving in response to the wind passing through. Although the breeze continued one for a few minutes, the initial burst of wind that disturbed the trees had already moved ahead before the branches began to respond. I felt the Lord telling me that this is often how it is in the life of the front-runners in the church. They are borne aloft by the Spirit, carried from place to place, but on so many occasions this anointing mandates that they relinquish their right to see the fruit of their labors. The nature of a forerunner is that by the time the ground they've covered begins to react to their influence, the Spirit has already carried them on to the next goal. While they may at times reap the harvest of someone else's labors, the nature of a forerunner calling is that it they must constantly stay ahead of everyone else, eyes locked on Jesus and preparing the way for the people running after Him.

So often in my own life, I have alternately become discouraged at the apparent lack of answer to my prayers, or silently raged as someone else reaped the credit for building on the foundation I'd worked so hard with the Lord to lay. However, the Lord is reminding me that to stop and wait for the branches to move only stalls my spiritual momentum and deafens my ears to the Spirit's cry, "Come deeper...higher....further in..."

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

i couldn't have said it any better myself...

.... so i won't. but here you go.

Unbeing dead isn't being alive. ~ e.e. cummings

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. ~ John 10:10

what do you believe, and how are you living?

Monday, April 20, 2009

ice house

The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice.
--William Shakespeare, Act IV, Scene 1, The Merchant of Venice

I’m Jonah under the shade tree, alone and miserable in my self-righteous diatribe. I’m the older brother of the prodigal son, hurt and angry that You promote humility over pride-laced constancy. I lay my complaint before You as judge and You weigh hearts, motives, purposes and desires in eternity past and present before rendering mercy. My clamoring flesh chafes under Your wisdom. I am not asking for justice, but for judgment. This mirror-me lurks just beneath the surface, teasing the corners of my dreams and waltzing with every unattended thought. This is the abhorrence waiting for me in every reflected space.

The questions scream on, erecting panes of bitter glass in a dome around me. Why did He...? How could He...? And the zenith—a delicate filigreed deception that shadows all light filtering through to my heart, Don’t you know He’s forgotten all about you? Even worse than the insidious claim that You are withholding from me is this assertion of indifference. At least withholding requires some emotion. Here, in this climate-controlled ice-house, my world is pristine and untouched.

That is, until a falling cross knifes through the haze, and suddenly I’m caught up in a bloodbath—heat, disorder, desire and passion all directed toward me. And there You are, utterly uncontrollable and ignoring my terror at feeling things again, one hand armed with hope and the other brimming over with love. Love. A love that is there solely for my benefit without expecting anything in return. A love whose face took on its most definite shape in the height of rage and the depth of grief. What other love would lash punishment onto itself to spare me? I long for something that is already in my hands.

Mercy grows from a love devoid of self. My own human jealousy struggles that You feel this way for everyone because I have yet to grasp that personal love does not diminish in the face of corporate love. Tune my heart to know the height and depth of Your obsession with me, that I may too hold fast to a lens of mercy.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

where are the heroes?

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate. ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

I've been meditating some what James calls "true religion" in his book--to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world. The word used for distress here is "thlipsis" which is also translated "tribulation" and "affliction." It is the same word that John used when he spoke of the saints coming out of great tribulation in Revelation 7.

It's interesting to me that James would draw such a comparison. Could it be that God views injustice to those who cannot defend themselves on the same level as physical violence? I would argue yes. Jesus made it very clear in Matthew 23:23 that justice ranked as one of the top three most important attributes of the law, right alongside kindness and a dependable character. The crux of Jesus' mission statement (quoting Isaiah 61) revolved around freedom for the oppressed. This God of compassion and abounding in love, who unleashed upon Himself the fullness of His own divine rage so that we would no longer have to bear the burden of the law and the pain of separation from Him, despises injustice.

I think sometimes we have a tendency to push the concept of "free grace" too much. No, God does not want us to live under condemnation, and yes, salvation is a free gift and not one of merit. I would never want to try and argue that anything we do could make us deserving of the sacrifice Jesus paid for us.

However, God is intimately tied up with our works. In the first four chapters of Revelation, Jesus dictates letters to seven churches in Asia, and He begins each letter with the same phrase: "I know your works." The final judgment at the end of time is also one that considers works, although the final deciding factor is whether the individual embraced the gift of salvation.

What it comes down to is closeness of relationship. We don't become intimate with someone without becoming involved in what stirs his or her passions. Just ask any parent who sits through fifteen of his or her child's soccer games. The point is not whether the child wins or loses the game--it's about the parent communicating, "Hey, you're valuable to me, and I'm going to make what is important to you a priority."

When the Father judges all things at the end of time, He's not going to be looking to see if our works justify us before Him. We've all already failed that test. His concern is relationship. His question is, "Did you love me enough to get involved in what matters to Me?"

Grace is free, and yet it isn't. We only prize that which costs us something. To preach a passive grace that does not require action on our part devalues its status in our lives. When I open my mouth to stand for integrity in the face of popular opinion, it is my ultimate expression of love. In doing so, I acknowledge a relationship that is more important to me than the esteem of men, and I overwhelm the heart of the One who loved me enough to do the same.

Friday, April 10, 2009


yesterday afternoon found me chatting with a friend who's recently been going through a tough time. for a month, it's seemed as though she's been running full tilt into a stone wall in her prayers, with no discernible change in her circumstances. she said something that struck my heart, if for no other reason than that i've been there myself so many times. "it would be easier if i just had some hope of things changing, but i don't."

hope. it's almost a double-edged sword. hope for something (or in something) can motivate us to face another day when a broken heart would try to immobilize us. a hope that comes from God sparks life. however, we also set ourselves up for a season of crushing when we misplace our hope.

i've often thought Romans 5:5 didn't always ring entirely true. any woman whose doctor has nixed her dreams of having a child knows that hope deferred makes the heart sick. that for which we hope most earnestly also has the power to disappoint us most. what do we say when hope does disappoint--when the rain drenches us despite our speaking to the storm and we are left praying, "Jesus....i did what You said. now what?"

the king james version of romans 5:5 reads that hope does not make us ashamed. the greek word used here is kataischynō, meaning to "dishonour, disgrace, to put to shame, make ashamed." there is a world of difference between disappointment and disgrace. i'm disappointed when the company discontinues my favorite brand of lipstick, or when my soccer team fails to win one of their games. disappointment covers a spectrum of emotions, all the way up to heartbreak and depression. it is no minor emotion.

however, disgrace--shame--takes it further. disgrace can mark a person in a way that disappointment never does. it reflects back on the character of the person. one who is disgraced cannot separate himself or herself from the specific circumstance. while disappointment cuts, disgrace brands.

i love the final "thought" that strong's interpretation of the original greek gives. it says: "one is said to be put to shame who suffers a repulse, or whom some hope has deceived" (my emphasis added). hope can blind and deceive us--but the hope that is from God does not. this is what paul was saying. hope that springs out of trial for the cause of Christ does not disgrace us because God's hope is not deceptive, and because He overwhelms us with His love through the Holy Spirit to take the sting out of any disappointment we may face.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

i *want* to spend time with You, Jesus, but my world's upside down

just about anyone familiar with ihop in general and dana candler's teachings specifically is familiar with the story of mary of bethany. mary was the sister of lazarus who chose to sit at the feet of Jesus while her sister, martha, stressed out in the kitchen. mary poured out her life and her inheritance to wash Jesus' feet at dinner one night.

so often, we hold mary up as the paragon--the one we want to be like. we compare the sisters and find that Jesus (gently) rebuked martha and told her mary's choice to sit with Him was best in luke 10. mary was the more spiritual one.

the problem is, most of the time i've felt that i've had more in common with martha. don't get me wrong--i love spending hours in the Word and in prayer, listening to the song of the Lord over my life. however, when i sit down to spend time with Him, the enemy immediately floods my mind with the dishes i need to wash, the sheets i should probably change, the laundry that's piling up, that function at the church for which i need to bake cookies, and the fact that i need to take my car to get the oil changed. shouldn't spending time in the secret place be something i always want to do? is it really supposed to take that much effort?

the truth is, our flesh is always going to fight to maintain the discipline of a "quiet time" walk. it may be easier in some seasons than in others, but a walk with God--like any other relationship--takes effort, dedication, and work.

last night i was reading about mary and martha in john 11, and felt a tugging at my heart. Jesus and His disciples traveled to bethany because lazarus had died. although the sisters had called for Jesus to come earlier before lazarus died, Jesus purposefully waited so that His disciples would see His miracle and believe in Him. when they approached the home, both sisters ran out to greet Jesus at different times with the same reproach: "Lord, if You'd only been here, lazarus would still be alive."

what truly blessed me, though, is that while mary's plea tugged at Jesus' emotions and moved His heart, martha received the revelation.

Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” ~John 11:20-27
mary knew the Lord and had spent time with Him, and yet martha was the one who got to make the statement of faith. when peter made this same declaration in matthew 16, Jesus pronounced a blessing over him and called him a rock. Jesus loved martha. He wasn't comparing her to mary's standard of intimacy with Him. He didn't love mary better, even though mary prioritized time at His feet. no--He had revelation for martha too, even as encumbered as she was with running a home. and the revelation that He gave martha was something that came straight from the heart of the Father.

i don't always get it right. sometimes i think i have the heart of a mary, but the schedule of a martha. i feel pulled in fifteen different directions--spread so thinly that the cracks show through the veneer. and that's okay; He rates me on His standard for my life, not on someone else's.

Monday, April 6, 2009

get it all out

have you ever felt like you were "too much"--like you're saul standing at least a foot taller than the crowd around you and trying desperately to hide? i often think we've bought into this concept of what a Christian should be. we package relationship with Jesus in a neat little box and then tell ourselves that we should squelch anything that might threaten to spill over the sides. we tell ourselves that if we're not calm and controlled, we're not operating in the fruit of self-control; and to an extent, this is true.

sometimes i feel like i'm this fractured person. while i love order, quiet, and a good book, i also love dancing in worship and shouting with laughter when i'm with my friends. people have commented on the grace with which i carry myself ever since i was a little girl, and yet i routinely walk into walls and trip over things that aren't there. i like dogs, but don't want one; i appreciate vivid colors, but mostly wear black; and i have essentially no athletic stamina, but exult in the feeling of the wind in my face.

the life of king david blesses me. he was just so very human, so utterly ordinary, so unfettered in his emotions. that last one is my favorite--he was a man given to passion, an emotional roller coaster. often, he would run the full gamut of emotions in a single psalm, going from begging God to rescue him, to reproaching himself for doubting, to speaking forth his confidence in the goodness of God. he carried authority, fought bravely, danced with wild abandon, and cried out in anguish. and God liked him. even beyond loving him (something we often devalue--afterall, doesn't God have to love us?), God liked being with him. He never chastised david for being "too much." david's life was wild, messy and unrestrained, and God liked it that way.

i'm firmly convinced that God likes drama. history shows us that He has a record leaving things until the last minute to prove Himself. just ask the israelites trapped at the red sea. messiness doesn't scare Him.

it scares us.

we walk in and try to suppress emotions--like the priest rebuking hannah when she was mourning before the Lord. "there, there--hush now. everything will be alright."

and yes, it's good to practice self-control. we cannot be a people ruled by our emotions, who come and go on a whim. paul tells us that the race we run is one of endurance and steadiness. if i run away from conflict when my emotions dictate, i never grow. but at the same time, i'm learning that God doesn't try to hush me when i run to Him in pain. i used to think that was cruel. what loving God would watch me shake in grief without trying to stop me? i'm finding that it's the most loving of all. He lets me purge all the poison in the emotional wound before bringing healing, like a loving father rinsing the dirt out of a cut before applying the band-aid. i can cry, scream, laugh, wail, shout, or groan until my soul is satisfied without Him wandering off to find something else to do. no matter the length or the volume, He's there, and He's not intimidated.

as cliched as it sounds, my point is this--take it to Jesus. david gave praises to God because He carries our burdens every day. He didn't fashion us to be pack-horses, weighed down by all the "stuff" that comes along. He's the only one whose shoulders are broad enough to carry that. and He doesn't mind a messy transfer. after all, Jesus tasted the heart of anguish in a blood-soaked, lacerated death by choice.

Friday, April 3, 2009

has it really come to this?

i'm sitting at my desk staring at a can of sunkist. there's nothing like reading the nutritional information and ingredients to make you rethink reaching for that soda. what's funny, though, is that i would never have thought to read the label had i not noticed the little advertising plug on the front saying: "orange soda, with other natural flavors." natural flavors. ha! would someone please do me a favor and explain the difference between natural and unnatural flavors to me? if something tastes like dirt, is it a natural flavor? i think i need some clarification here....

it's funny how we as Christians fall into that pattern sometimes, though. we cover our imperfections in attractive packaging. often times, the area in life that we try to dress up the most is where we fail the most. the sad thing is, no matter how much we try to sell ourselves, the image will always collapse under the slightest scrutiny if there is no underlying substance. and more often than not, we don't have the character to back up our blustering. it's easier to talk than to change.

if you will permit me to poke just a little more--we tend to come down the hardest on other people in areas where we know we fall short. it's the old adage, "those who can't, teach" in a vicious life application. for example (hypothetically):
  • i hate about myself that i struggle with indecision, so i scornfully zero in on anyone who shows the slightest bit of hesitation;
  • i like to try to manipulate the lives of others around me, so i always suspect everyone of trying to control my life, even when they're just making a simple suggestion;
  • i secretly struggle with an addiction to immoral internet sites, so i soundly chastise the girl in my youth group who's admitted to reading a harlequin romance novel;

and so on. (laugh if you want, but one of which i'm frequently guilty is ranting against spelling/grammatical errors of the "their/they're/there" variety--that is, until i make them, myself). we make excuses for our shortcomings even as we judge others. we slap the secrets under the church label and pray nobody will look too closely.

unfortunately (but really, fortunately), Jesus told us that what we say in secret will one day be shouted from the housetops. our pretty labels will fall away, our clever packaging will crumble, and we will stand before the One who we never really fooled with our feeble masquerades. it's better, then, to fall on grace and seek to be clean before He pulls back the curtain.

may Jesus make you transparent and faultless in His eyes today. no one else's opinions really matter anyway.

bless you all!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

and i thought they just bounced off the ceiling....

i have to admit, i've spent way too much time this morning trying to figure out what my costume will be for tomorrow night's themed game night. 70s night was comparatively easy--i put on a pair of flair slacks, a multi-colored shirt, tied a fringe belt around my forehead and called it a night. david's fuzzy blond wig, eric's greased-down hair and lorri's owl glasses definitely took the cake, though. this week presents a bit more of a challenge. i have an idea...but i'm not sure yet if i can pull it off. we'll find out (and yes, i'm purposely being vague to protect the surprise factor). i'm kind of hoping we give "apples to apples" a rest and pull out pictionary or charades this time. we're getting a little "appled out." hehe.

despite (or maybe because of) these flights into attempted creativity, my thoughts continue to dwell on a "ditty" the Lord gave me this morning. i'm not sure if it first began turning over in my spirit while i was asleep or after i awakened. the message is simply this: "when i call Your name, i know You answer."

i know it's a simple thought, but how often we over-complicate life. i was talking to a friend of mine yesterday about how we (in corporate church) are guilty sometimes of talking little ones out of coming to Jesus simply because we can't believe they're sincere. we all but dissuade them from answering altar calls because they can't reason through all of the ifs/ands/buts like we do. and salvation is all about shades of gray....right?

or is it really that simple? is it really just a matter of "i cry and He answers"? are we the ones that miss out because we are too afraid of taking Him at His word?

fear. it always comes back to fear. i'm afraid to risk trusting Him--why? because i don't want to look foolish if He doesn't do things my way? or even more than that--because i don't believe i deserve for Him to do what He promised? but then, God doesn't act based on our merit or on what we deserve...does He?

i think that's why david was able to walk in such closeness with God as He did. the psalms prove that he understood God answers us for His own sake. it's not that i move God to respond to my pleas based on the intensity of my prayer, the number of my tears, or how many days i fast. God is close to the broken-hearted, and He listens to the cries of the oppressed, yes, but He answers for the sake of His Name.

God has a reputation for being strong and mighty to save, and He guards it zealously. when i pray to Him, i know He hears me and i know He answers. it's that simple.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


so i'm up to my ears in boxes....again. i have moved at least once every two years for as long as i can remember. my mom asked me recently if i ever wanted to get an actual sofa instead of having a futon, and my initial reaction was to wonder why on earth i would do that. futons are lighter and easier to move.

pete grieg wrote this amazing article (for lack of a better word) called the vision; when i first heard it several years ago, my heart "zinged" at the following phrase:

They are mobile like the wind, they belong to the nations. They need no passport. People write their addresses in pencil and wonder at their strange existence.

there was something captivating and romantic about the life of a nomad, and it called to me. a season of sojourning. so it is with everyone born of the Spirit. amen.

but it's a lot harder to remember that when sweat is pouring down your back, your hair is in your eyes, and you've smacked your hand with a hammer for the fifth time hanging pictures that you know you're just going to take down again in a few months. it's easy to lose sight of purpose, then. when you're struggling to slide a mattress through a door frame that doesn't want to cooperate, it's easy swear that you'll never do this again.

one of my mentors brought a refreshing perspective in conversation yesterday. she was talking about a ministry in the city that doesn't have a permanent place to meet--and is considering rotating around to several churches during the week. "what a wonderful opportunity to be able to go in and salt these bodies," she exclaimed.


Jesus called us to be salt and light; in His kindness, He answers the "yes" of our spirits even when our bodies complain. each transition in my life has expanded my circle of influence. every new face has a new story, and is a new opportunity for me to teach and to learn.

i'm thinking about opportunities today--maybe you're facing a job transfer, getting laid off or moving home from college for the summer. regardless of the circumstances, the question that remains is this: are you "salting" as you go?