New Things

I have mentioned before that I love Ecclesiastes.  I know that this is not typical, but I find that the words written are often so close to my own thoughts.  One day, while reading in Ecclesiastes I came across this verse in 7:10.

“Do not say, “Why is it that the former days were better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this.”

When I first saw this I was puzzled, because one of my favorite things to do, especially this time of year, is to remember past times.  Not always in a good way, though.  I want to remember about “back when Christmas was fun…” or “good..” or “not lonely…”  You fill in the blank.  I started to realize how thinking this way causes me to think in a negative way.  Continuing to dwell on the past invites discontent and can ultimately alter my view of the whole season.  Instead of seeing my cup filled to overflowing, I see it lacking and wanting.

Taking every thought captive, even when it is about good things.  Examining my thoughts.  Boldness rising in my mind to cast out thoughts that are not adding to the joy and wonder of God.  We have the right to do that!

” Forget the former thing; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing?  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland”  Isaiah 43:18-19

God is always doing new things.  Before Jesus came to earth, God’s people had a set way of doing things and they thought they knew how God worked.

Then there was Jesus.  A new idea.

A baby born to a poor family that would be the Savior of the world.

A man who was homeless, who gave of Himself when, by the world’s standard, he had nothing to give.

And God, who, instead of stamping out evil with force and causing everyone to submit to Him, chose to send His only Son to die to show how much He loves us.

Sometimes we can get set in our ways, too…

Maybe Christmas doesn’t have all the people that we want to be there.  Maybe they have passed away or there is tension in some relationships.  Maybe there are lots of new faces.  Or you are used to hosting and you don’t get to this year.

Maybe, for the first time, you are alone this Christmas…

But God says, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now is springs up; do you not perceive it?”

Take all the expectations that you have consciously or subconsciously set up (for yourself or others) and give them a swift kick out the door!  Make them leave!  Because if they don’t multiply your gratitude, they have no business being there.  If they don’t cause you to see God as that much more awesome, they have to go.  Don’t aid in the enemy’s plan to destroy by giving them a place to rest in your heart and your mind.

Don’t let circumstances steal the joy of the season.

God doesn’t make mistakes and you weren’t forgotten of overlooked.

HE IS ALWAYS “making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland”.

The things that look hopeless to us, don’t look that way to Him.

Maybe you don’t feel joyful this Christmas because you don’t feel like God is making a way in you desert…

But He came to earth as a baby and lived in all our sin whether we feel like He did or not.

He died and rose again for us whether we feel like it or not.

And He loves us and is doing new things.  HE IS WORKING whether we feel like it or not.

Do you not perceive it?


I was washing dishes this morning.  A job I am growing to strongly dislike since I am the “dishwasher”.  I try to remember what Ann Voskamp says about the light refracting off the bubbles in the suds and how it is one of God’s gifts.  I smile and attempt to sing a song of praise.  Then, as I wash one of my favorite coffee cups, I am reminded of something Jesus said in Matthew 23:

25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”

I stop mid-verse and mid-wash and stare into my cup.  More prompts to look inward and deal with those ever-present heart issues.

For me it is trust.  Just trust…but trust is everything.  Especially with money.

When I was a teenager, before my parents divorced, in my mind I thought money was the solution to our problems.  It’s what was most verbalized as being a problem I think, although I knew there were other issues at hand.  I still held on to the idea that if we could just solve the money problems, then everything would be okay.  I even picked us out a house to move to.  White with burgundy shutters. It would be a downsize, but it was cozy and there was a beautiful Maple tree in the front yard that turned brilliant red in fall like the one we had in our house in North Carolina.  It was for sale and for many months I would purposely drive that way home from school, even though it was a little out of the way.  One day I drove by to find that it had sold.  I refused to believe it.  I lied to my mind for a few more months, and then the reality settled in that we would never move there and everything was not going to be okay.  Less than a year later, my parents separated and subsequently divorced.

I thought I learned two things then.  1- I had better get my sh$t together because I sure couldn’t trust anyone else to, and 2- when you retreat to solace because you’re upset, but deep down you really want someone to come after you and comfort you and stroke your hair…yeah, that only happens on Little House on the Prairie.  No one really understands when you don’t want to “do church” anymore or when everything seems pointless.

While I know those are strong, hurtful words, that’s literally how I felt for more than a year.  It was not on account of anything my parents did to wrong me (they had so much of their own stuff they were going through) , it was a personal struggle.

Little did I know that because of the mistrust and the bitterness I let settle into my heart, I would never be able to hold my finances with an open hand.  I have to control it.  I have to whip it into submission.  It is not a desire for lots of money, it is just the need to have complete and utter security produced by my good decisions.  Not anyone else’s, thank you very much.  Me.  Just me.

So now, as we have 2 children and ridiculous medical bills and roof leaks and bills to pay, I find myself going slowly mad.  Every month (literally) that we have any extra that we could pay down some things, we have another unexpected expense that is almost the exact amount of our excess.  Month after month after month…

It has taken me a long time to see that God is trying to get my attention.  He is trying to draw that mistrust out of me by making me aware that I cannot always control things.  And it’s funny how sometimes I want to avoid God when I know it’s something big He wants to say.

I am not fearful of Him shaking my snow globe a little, I’m afraid of Him shattering my snow globe, causing me and everything I hold dear to come spilling out into the open…and I’ll have to rebuild my foundations.

That’s the crux.

He brought me to my knees a few days ago. I had finished my lesson for CBS earlier that day (of course I had compartmentalized it so as not to take it to personally) and I just kept feeling God tell me to go back and look at the lesson.  I didn’t.

Instead of going to the Source, I resorted to journaling.  I relayed all my frustrations to God on paper, leaving out no detail.  I then asked Him to give me the desire to seek Him in all things and to revive me and to allow me to have a clearer picture of Who He is.  I ended in praise and agreement with Him that He is in control and taking care of me.

It was late.  I wanted to read my novel, but God had been beckoning me to come to Him all day and I was only able to get so far into the chapter when I read this:

“A child blind from birth doesn’t even know he is blind until someone tells him.  Even then he has only the most academic idea of what blindness is; only the formerly sighted have a real grip on the thing.”*

My mouth widened as the realization hit me.  I have to have experienced something to know what it is like to miss it.  I had never trusted God with my money.  I had tithed and given, but it was on the contingency that we would always have enough.  And when that assumption was called into question, I jerked it back quicker than light travels across the room when I flip the light switch. And it has always been about money…and it had never been about trusting Him with it.

I jumped out of bed to grab my Bible and on the way I noticed my name tag from our women’s retreat back in March.  Pick up the tag, too, I almost heard Him speak.  I did and once I settled into my bed I flipped over the name tag to read the scripture that our pastor’s wife had hand picked and prayed over for each lady that attended.

“I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.” -Isaiah 45:3

So that I will know that He is the Lord!  I then went back to my CBS study and our memory verse stuck out boldly:

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
    to whom belong wisdom and might.
21 He changes times and seasons;
    he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
    and knowledge to those who have understanding;
22 he reveals deep and hidden things;
    he knows what is in the darkness,
    and the light dwells with him.” -Daniel 2:20-22

When would it end?  How long would I carry a burden that wasn’t meant for me?

Then I started to realize…when I feel that we cannot possibly pay our bills, I feel like that kid whose whole world is falling apart, who has no control to change anything. DEEP. SEATED. MISTRUST. 

I wept.  It’s been years since I cried that hard.  It was feeling the pain, but it was also feeling the joy that God was doing a miraculous work in me.  The ugly, gnarly vines of bitterness and mistrust that had wrapped themselves around my heart and were threatening to squeeze the life out of me were becoming weak and loosening their grip and breaking and falling away!

To top it all off, my pastor talked about finances the very next day.  He cited this scripture:

31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” Matthew 6:31-32

Praise Him!  Praise Him and nothing is for naught.  He can redeem every pain and misconception, for His glory.

*Quote taken from Stephen King’s book IT

Their hearts are far from Me…

Well, in reading my Bible today- which, I confess has not been as big a part of my life as it should be recently- I ran across this scripture in Mark 7 where the pharisees ask Jesus why his disciples do not wash their hands before eating, as is tradition.  Jesus replies:

“Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
    their teachings are merely human rules.’[b]

You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”

Honestly, I have read this scripture many times and did not give a lot of deep thought to it.  When I finished Mark 7, I then flipped over to Isaiah 29 (which I am also reading through) and guess what verses were there:

13 The Lord says:

“These people come near to me with their mouth
    and honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me
    is based on merely human rules they have been taught.[b]

One of those “sit-up-and-listen” moments where you jerk yourself out of methodical motion and shake awake.  When you realize that God wants to speak and He has gone to the trouble of making it painfully obvious.  Then, what might be embarrassing coming from another human being, is delightfully honoring.  He wants to speak to me and He is making sure I know it!

Human traditions…not bad in themselves.  But do I let preconceived patterns order my days?  Where my life should be a song of praise, I settle for just going through the motions.  A few complimentary scriptures skimmed at dawn, hasty prayers asking for blessing and protection.  Fully confident that these few liturgical slurs will surely endow me with sure footed service to my Creator.  That I will be thought of as blessed.  Revered even.

But am I willing to be made small to show His bigness?  Am I willing to be humiliated so His mercy can be displayed?  Even unlovely so He can show how His love reaches everyone, even to me?  Do I value the perceptions of others over the plans of God?  Then I am reminded of another scripture:

“If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.” I Cor. 13:1-3

By love, I think this scripture means the love of God.  Real love.  The I-would-die-for-you-kind.  And sometimes that love isn’t perfectly manicured.   Sometimes it’s letting people see the part of you that is less than perfect.  The dark places we try to cover, the dirty places.  Letting it be known that we sin and need grace.

Sometimes when I seek God’s will, I simultaneously seek beauty and honor for myself.  As though they go hand in hand.  But sometimes it’s out of ashes that beauty rises.  And out of hardship and despair that honor is born.  That I would seek Him first and leave the details to Him.  No more self-made honor and synthetic beauty, but a trust in God so deep that all I desire is His glory, even if it is to my own detriment on earth.  And I can say this in confidence because I am promised eternity with Him in Paradise, no matter what occurs here.  Because the place He has prepared for me will be more beautiful and honoring than any place or thing I could possibly attain here.

Here are the lyrics to a popular Lauren Daigle song that I think express the heart of what I’m learning.

Before I bring my need
I will bring my heart
Before I lift my cares
I will lift my arms
I wanna know You
I wanna find You
In every season
In every moment
Before I bring my need
I will bring my heart
And seek You first

More than anything I want you first

Before I speak a word
Let me hear Your voice
And in the midst of pain
Let me feel Your joy
I wanna know You
I wanna find You
In every season
In every moment
Before I speak a word
I will bring my heart
And seek You

You are my treasure and my reward
Let nothing ever come before

I want to seek you first

The Olive Tree- Part 2


“Excuse me!”, a man barked as he pushed past her, jarring her from deep thought.  She watched as he proudly strode into the inner part of the temple.  A place where only men could go.  He pulled his covering over his head just before he vanished through the curtain.

Years ago, she would have burned with anger at this sort of treatment.  Especially from a man.  A pompous, arrogant hypocrite.  Pushing little “inconveniences” aside to go and “worship” God.  Even now, she felt the rise of emotion inside and quickly closed her eyes to pray.  Pushing away the dark insinuations of self-entitlement and pride.  After all, what did she have to be prideful about?  It was He that had saved her…

She kept waiting for the first one…the first blow of the first stone.  It seemed the voices in her head were louder than the voices of the crowd.  She put her hands over her ears, but it did not help to silence them. “You deserve every stone, you worthless piece of trash! This will put you out of your misery!”

She didn’t know which voices were real and which voices were in her head.  She would later discover that they were both very real.

A part of her was relieved that death of sure.  She was tired of being tired.  Until she met Him.

The noticed a silence in the crowd.  The voices in her head became louder, screaming obscenities and curses.  Through the sun’s setting glare she saw the form of a man.  He seemed to have some effect over the crowd…and over the voices.  The screaming became almost unbearable.  Suddenly, a still louder voice yelled over the screams.  “What do You want with us, Son of God!!”

“Wonnnnnng!” The sounding of the gongs broke her line of thought again.  It was time for the evening readings.  She walked toward the inner room, and sat at the steps on the outside.  She listened to the scribe read from Isaiah.  His bland, monotone voice suggested he had read the passage several times before.

I foretold the former things long ago,
    my mouth announced them and I made them known;
    then suddenly I acted, and they came to pass.
 For I knew how stubborn you were;
    your neck muscles were iron,
    your forehead was bronze.
 Therefore I told you these things long ago;
    before they happened I announced them to you
so that you could not say,
    ‘My images brought them about;
    my wooden image and metal god ordained them.’
 You have heard these things; look at them all.
    Will you not admit them?

“From now on I will tell you of new things,
    of hidden things unknown to you.
 They are created now, and not long ago;
    you have not heard of them before today.
So you cannot say,
    ‘Yes, I knew of them.’
 You have neither heard nor understood;
    from of old your ears have not been open….

But her ears had been opened…opened to His voice.  The screams had stopped and she had felt emptied.  She was not sure what had transpired, but the voices had left.  She felt a great relief.  So light for a woman about to lose her life…

The Olive Tree- Part 1


She stepped between the white archway leading into the temple where the olive tree stood planted firmly in the courtyard.  She relished the cool stone under her feet.  A breeze rustled the leaves in the tree and cooled her skin after the lengthy walk.  It was worth every step.  She always felt closer to Him here.  She regarded the tree thoughtfully, so much symbolism in something so common in Jerusalem.  Peace.  Not just any peace, but God’s peace.  What the dove had brought back to Noah on the ark to let him know the time was right.

With the sensation of the coolness still under her feet, she closed her eyes and let her mind drift to a time when she was not so cool…

The sand burned her bare feet and hot, sandy wind whipped her hair.  Sand stung her eyes.  She had run through the city trying to escape her attackers.  She knew she deserved what was coming to her.  She knew she was condemned.  Exhausted and ashamed, she gripped the hot sand in her palms and tried to prepare for the inevitable.  She was alone, she was guilty.  “Worthless!” someone yelled from the crowd. Yes, she was that, too.  “Filthy harlot!” someone called out again.  Others agreed with angry shouts.  She just wanted it to be over.  She knew where she belonged.  Even before she chose this particular lifestyle, she never had quite measured up.  She has always been a little too loud, a little to opinionated for a girl, too strong willed.  Never yielding to her mother and father, never submitting to a husband, and of course-never yielding to the God of her people.  She just couldn’t make herself fit in.  Besides, many people she knew who wanted to enforce the law on everyone else, had a hard time keeping it themselves.  Many men she had known over the years–well, more than known casually, intimately rather–had admitted to beating their wives when they did not submit.  Well, that wasn’t for her.  She would rather be the harlot they came into after they had rid themselves of anger.  At least she got to choose who she let into her bed.

Never once had she tried to justify it.  She knew it was wrong, but some things were worse than others.  Oh, they shunned her enough on the streets while the sun was up, just like now, but it was as different matter entirely when the streets were empty and the moon cast it’s sensual glow through her window.  As much as she was told how beautiful she was, she knew she was dirty.  It was confirmed with every hateful glance and ugly name muttered under the breath of a jealous wife.  It was in the way a man averted his eyes to the ground when she walked by.   These were little reminders of how she would always be a mistake.  This time she had been caught with Ramoz, an outcast of sorts.  No one cared if he took the fall.  Hence why she was now about to be stoned.  Better to go out free then to live bound by laws she couldn’t keep anyway–still, she was afraid.

“But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in and confidently rely on the loving-kindness and the mercy of God forever and ever.” Psalm 52:8

Soul On Fire

But I am sure that ever since I was a child, I have longed for transparency.  But, sensing my own own filth, my own dirtiness, I doubted it was possible for me.  I grew to hate what I thought was myself so much that I desired to bear it all before all so that there would no longer be the secretive, deceptive white-washing of my shame.  I now know that it was my sin I hated, my carnal self, myself without Jesus.  Then, however, I only felt trapped.  Wondering how long I would continue to hide the facts.  Convinced that I was by far the worst sinner of them all.

I had nightmares about fire and strange creatures dancing and writhing in pain.  Yes, dancing (as in celebratory dancing) and writhing with pain.  I didn’t even like my nightlight because I thought it looked like fire on the wall, but I didn’t want to be in the dark either.  I did not understand the implications at the time.  There are a couple of times I remember being by myself in a dark hallway or room and hearing someone whisper my name.

What had I done that was so bad?  I cannot tell you.  There is no singular event or particular, but I knew that I was dirty, and I didn’t know how to take a shower.  I worried that everyone would smell me and abandon me in repulsion. Even my own family.  The lies that I was worthless and a mistake began to sink their teeth into my flesh.  Several times I plotted how I would take my life.  Once I was able to hold my breath until everything began to turn black.  I was momentarily frightened by the power I had over my own consciousness and, for the moment, decided it was more desirable to continue with the charade than to end my life.  I know I was under 7.  I would, from time to time, tell everyone in my family that I loved them in preparation to no longer occupy this world.  Funny how I was convinced I would go to heaven even though I was so disgusting.  Once I remember making a “deal” with God that He could send me to hell if I sinned again.  I also remember getting in trouble with my parents for something.  My dad asked me why I did it, and I told him I had decided to give Satan a try because his deal sounded pretty good.  I may have been around 7 or 8.  I suppose, to my young mind, Satan seemed attractive because there were no expectations to meet.  No sense of failure.

I was not a “bad child” in the worldly sense.  I didn’t take pleasure in being unkind to anyone or bullying my friends.  In fact, if I perceived I had offended someone, I would often become very upset and chide myself saying things like, “You’re the worst person in the world.” and “How could anyone love you?”.   Ironically, I was often told that I was beautiful and kind and that I loved and wanted to please God.  As I have said before, I thought, “They must not really know me.”  I remember one lady that I really looked up to and respected saying, “You are beautiful on the inside and out.”  It was a huge compliment, but I was sure she was mistaken.  She didn’t really know me either.   But, for some peculiar reason, I wanted her to.  I wanted to really be known because I felt it would be liberating (even though I’m sure liberation was probably not in my vocabulary then).  I longed to be accepted and told that it was okay to be filthy, even though I desperately wanted to be clean.  I think I felt that if someone told me it was all okay, it would make me clean.  Growing up I purposely attached myself to people I felt had very low standards.  Low expectations.  In high school I took physical cleanliness to extremes from my food to personal hygiene.  I would sometimes receive compliments from friends on my high level of cleanliness.  It made me proud that someone was pronouncing me clean.  I reveled in the momentary victory.  It just wasn’t the right Someone, so the feeling wasn’t lasting.

My desire to be liked was labelled as “kindness” and “sweetness”.  Another successful facade.  Again, I was not a “problem child” or “troubled teen”.  I did my share of dumb things, but managed to never have a criminal record or become pregnant at 16.  All outward signs of inward sin and turmoil.  I became okay with my sin as long as it wasn’t recognized by others.  No sign.  No label.  No scarlet letter.  Just inward darkness and nothing I could do could pierce it.

To say that I had a moment of clarity and light would be a lie.

I developed unhealthy habits like binge eating and laziness.  I did go to school and work, but every event became about what I could do to please myself.  Even my “concern” for others was tainted my my own need to feel accepted and useful.

I couldn’t have been genuine if someone had paid me.

Not being able to unselfishly love and not feeling that anyone would love me unselfishly if they knew the real me, made it very hard to understand a God who could.  But I wanted to.  Oh how I wanted to.  I wanted to understand that being clothed in white in heaven didn’t mean that the white garments were just covering my sin, but that it had been cast far away.  That I was clean inwardly as well as outwardly.

A song that really got me thinking in the right direction was Casting Crowns “Who Am I?”

Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth
Would care to know my name
Would care to feel my hurt?
Who am I, that the bright and morning star
Would choose to light the way
For my ever wandering heart?

Not because of who I am
But because of what you’ve done
Not because of what I’ve done
But because of who you are

I am a flower quickly fading
Here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean
A vapor in the wind
Still you hear me when I’m calling
Lord, you catch me when I’m falling
And you told me who I am
I am Yours, I am Yours

Who am I, that the eyes that see my sin
Would look on me with love
And watch me rise again?
Who am I, that the voice that calmed the sea
Would call out through the rain
And calm the storm in me?

I am Yours, I am Yours
Whom shall I fear?
Whom shall I fear?
‘Cause I am Yours
I am Yours

“I am Yours”…that was something I had a hard time picturing, imagining, understanding.  Am I really His or is it contingent upon my performance?  Not being a disciplined person by nature and also having a short attention span, I felt as though I could not achieve or finish anything.  I remember, as a highschool senior, achieving somewhat of a routine.  I would run 2 miles on the treadmill in the garage every evening, shower, read my Bible and pray and then go to bed.  It didn’t matter how late I got home or how tired I felt, I felt incomplete unless I had done these things.  I became somewhat obsessive.  I felt guilty when I could not accomplish one or more of the items on the list and I eventually gave it up because I was tired of keeping it up.  I didn’t like the pressure.  (One of the reasons I never wanted to be on any sort of athletic team.  I couldn’t handle my failure negatively affecting everyone else.)  I remember how relaxed I felt and how I was able to rest easier after trying to achieve for so long.

I think it all goes back to motivation and the heart.  I was seeking meaning and fulfillment and self-worth and probably 20 other things as well.  Not understanding the height and depth and width and length of it.  Of this seemingly monotonous pursuit.  I still don’t understand.  Ecclesiastes is very close to my heart.  But I believe.  I believe that I serve a God Who is infinitely smarter than I.

My daughter recently asked me while listening to Third Day’s “Soul On Fire” why a lot of songs talk about fire inside you.  My mind went to the day at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples and it was as if tongues of fire touched them, enabling them to communicate the Gospel to other people groups in their individual languages. (Acts 2:1-11)

The Holy Spirit…a fire in our souls that leads and convicts and prompts and will not let us rest until we have picked up our intended cross and begin to obey our individual calling.

What I love about the Third Day song is that it says :

God, I’m running for Your heart
I’m running for Your heart
Till I am a soul on fire
Lord, I’m longing for Your ways
I’m waiting for the day
When I am a soul on fire
Till I am a soul on fire

Even the disciples of Jesus did not immediately become “on fire” when they first decided to follow Christ.  They had to wait.  They pursued.  It’s as if they said, “Lord, we may not understand.  We may have veils over our eyes, but we are coming after You.  We want to know You.  No matter the cost.”  And after considerable doubting and stumbling and mistakes and fear, they received His Spirit, when He decided it was time.

We wait for that fire to illuminate our souls and not only bring all to light, both good and bad, but consume us, so that is all we are…a fire for Christ in a dark world.  We are fully known and fully made clean.  Fully dead to sin and fully alive in Christ.  We allow our filth to be consumed by His brilliant, burning light.

I still struggle with really claiming the freedom and cleanliness.  I over think and over analyze.  I give my thoughts and reasoning way to much credit.  Sometimes all I can do to refute the lies is to say, “Lord, I’m running toward Your heart, until I am a soul on fire.  I know that You are the only One that can truly fill and consume.”

Please be encouraged!  Satan wants you to feel like you are worthless and a without hope.  But there is hope, a glorious hope in Christ who makes us new and clean and complete.  We don’t have to surrender to our filth, only to Jesus who takes away the filth of the world.  He has already paid the price for us, He just wants us to willingly come to Him so He can pronounce us clean.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,  because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. -Romans 8:1-2

The Soul’s Eye

I think it is possible to see without seeing.  Or to enjoy something without really enjoying it. Like gifts.  Like talents.  Like blessings.   Especially the blessings I went through the valley for.  The one’s for which I should be the most grateful.  Seeing with the eyes doesn’t always equate to seeing with the soul.  The only part of us that is eternal.    Sometimes I am so focused and intent on doing life the way I think God would have me do it, that I feel I cannot stop and enjoy, or I miss how to enjoy, or I cannot see to enjoy.  Enjoy the blessings, that is.

I love the Proverbs 31 woman, but I strongly dislike her as well.  She has an uncanny ability to multitask on the long term and also stops to smell the roses (pardon the cliche’).  She prepares for the future because she can “laugh at the days to come”, but it also says “her children rise and call her blessed”.  They call her blessed…because she keeps a clean house and makes them food?  I think not.  I think they call her blessed because she takes the time.  Because she invests in them.  She gives her time and energy to ensure their well-being.  And all the while she has the laundry going (v. 13,21-22), dinner on (v.15), is super involved in ministering to the poor (v. 20) and, by the way, she has a full garden (v.16).  No wonder her husband has full confidence in her (v.11)!  Yes, it is definitely a love/hate relationship between me and this woman. It seems that she doesn’t just smell random roses, they are actually roses she planted!

I feel like being so easily distracted and having to concentrate so hard to stay on task can rob me of the joys of being a Christ follower.  I forget to look up because, after all, I do have to watch where I am going.  I have to look ahead at what is to come.  How do I realistically be in the Strong Tower of rest and security and be in the battlefield of life?  My inability to organize and multitask can  make me feel inadequate.  Like theirs something wrong with me.  Like I’ve failed. The gateway to depression.  The black hole.  The pit.  I know diet, sleep, and exercise profoundly impact my depressive tendencies as well as my ability to concentrate.  It is easy for me to fall into the trap of guilting myself for not carving out the time to exercise or caring enough to eat the right things.

But don’t we always fall short?

Isn’t that the ugly, beautiful reality of our mortality?  Of our hopeless, hell-bound humanity?

We are all Mary Magdelene, caught in adultery.  Our own thoughts condemn us and the stones begin to fly.  He finds us in the heat of the day, curled into the fetal position on the ground.  Our head in our hands.  All our wounds barred before Him.  We try to shield our eyes from the blinding Light.  He then does what only He can do.  He steps into that place between our head and our heart.  He appeals to our soul.  The eternal part.  The part that yearns for Him.  He enables us to see.  He steps between us and the stones of failure and self-loathing.  He carried all of those things on the cross so that we don’t have to.  By His kindness I am drawn to repentance.

Though the gates of hell may hunger for my soul, He stands firm and says, “Not this one.  She is mine.”

Just like I will never measure up to Christ, I will never measure up to His standard for the perfect woman.  I am not supposed to, but I am supposed to be transformed a little at a time.  Hopefully I am more like that Proverbs 31 woman now than I was 10 years ago when I graduated high school.  More than I was six years ago when I first said “I do”.  And hopefully I will become more like her still in the years to come.  But I am ALWAYS His.  Can I “see” without really seeing?  Certainly.  A lot.  I don’t know why I have these personal obstacles to daily do battle with, but He does.

Everyone has an idea of what they believe heaven will be like.  Or has a truth/fact about heaven that appeals to them particularly.  I imagine perfect peace and harmony (both figurative and literal).  No confusion.  No overwhelming waves.  No fear.  I wonder if there will be mountains and hammer dulcimers and old hymns?  I wonder if there will be cool, misty waterfalls and huge, moss-covered rocks?  If there will be seasons?  Fall leaves whisked away down a shallow river, momentarily catching on stones and then finding another path?

The thought of never having to fight the urge to wonder or be anxious stirs strong emotion in me.  To never be afraid or hurt or alone.  To never have to feel confused or overwhelmed.  My soul longs for it.  It longs for home.  After all, I am just a visitor here.  My Father is preparing a place for me.

My soul, wait only upon God and silently submit to Him; for my hope and expectation are from Him. -Ps 62:5