Altars of Grace

I felt strongly led to repost something I wrote last year. I’m not sure why, but I’m going with it. Blessings!  

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FALL SIDEWALK

To journey toward holiness is to walk where the sidewalk never ends. And the path is littered with altars along the way — altars of remembrance and altars of sacrifice.

“Here…on the left…this is where God remembered me and met me and parted the sea for me.”

“Over here, on the right…this is where I laid down my Isaac. There was no thicket, there was no ram.”

 ”And up here just a little bit…this is where God got a hold of me and blinded me. And it took awhile for the scales to be removed, but then I was able to see.”

These little altars are mile markers of progress on a path that will take a lifetime to travel.

As you walk along the path, you are showered with grace. Grace falling like snow into blankets of insulation. Grace falling like rain bringing water to a thirsty soul. Grace shining like the sun and illuminating His glory. Grace falling like fall leaves, where the slightest hint of the wind brings them to submission and piles them high where it’s all you can do not to just JUMP in without concern for bugs or spiders or slithering enemies.

Grace.

Holiness is unattainable without it — yet it is given, not demanded. We cannot demand the snow insulate the earth. We cannot demand the rain hydrate the soil. We cannot demand the sun illuminate our face. And we cannot demand the wind to shake loose the dry leaves from its branch.

For the leaves only fall when the Spirit blows through them. And their fall is gentle and silent, not loud and demanding.

Grace does not give permission to remain unholy.

Grace does not give permission to remain unholy. (tweet)

Instead, grace is the bumper along the path of holiness…that path where the sidewalk never ends…that path littered with altars…grace is piles of fallen leaves and banks of snow and pools of rain, guard rails that keep you from falling over the edge.

When unholiness beckons and summons you like the enemy of Wisdom, go to your altars. The altars of remembrance and the altars of sacrifice…stop on your unending sidewalk and visit them. Remember the things the Lord has done for you — the miracles He performed, the rams He provided and the sight He restored.

Lay back on them like they were lush, green pastures and use them to restore your soul.

And after you have waited on the Lord and renewed your strength, get back up again and continue walking forward toward holiness. Soak in the Spirit as it blows grace all around you, assured it will guard you, should you stumble.

“The ways of right-living people glow with light; the longer they live, the brighter they shine. But the road of wrongdoing gets darker and darker — travelers can’t see a thing; they fall flat on their faces.” (Proverbs 4:18-19, The Message)

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Blooming

HYDRANGEAS

I posted this as a note on Facebook a few weeks ago, and just really felt like someone might need to hear this. If that’s you, be encouraged. God is so pleased with you.

These hydrangeas live at a nearby vacant house. Each summer, I walk over and clasp my hands in pleasure over their vibrant cornflower color and massive size.

These flowers, they bloom and stand tall and beautiful even when they aren’t tended to, and so do many others all around our wild and natural neighborhood. The small ones, the large ones, the unnoticed ones, the ones no one is pruning or cultivating or replanting — they continue to live.

And not just live — they thrive.

In those hidden places and the unknown places there’s no one to notice. No one to watch them grow and see their progress. No one to watch the first unfolding toward the sun.

Does that matter? Should they stop blooming?

I wonder if they bloom just for God, for His pleasure. I wonder if they notice whether or not they are seen and appreciated by human eyes…and if they do, do they care?

After all, they are just doing what they are called to do.

Bloom and bring beauty to the world they live in, even if it goes unnoticed.

Friend, you are a blooming flower.

Standing tall and boasting vibrant color and intricate beauty. Does anyone notice you? Are your biggest and brightest moments missed by human eyes?

It doesn’t matter.

Bloom for God, for His pleasure. Not caring if anyone notices, because you are just doing what you are called to do.

Bloom, my friend. Bloom and bring beauty into the world you live in.

“Kindness, peace, love—may they never stop blooming in you and from you.” (Jude 2)

on coming out of hiding

butterfly

I’ve come back here, to this place, many times over the past few weeks. And I’ve sat and stared at a blank screen and felt a complete range of emotions. Exhausted, overwhelmed, frustrated, bored, lonely, fruitless.

I thought my little break was a chance to take a breather from the chaos of the striving and unwind a bit. To cocoon, if you will…give myself place to regenerate.

And then, one fine morning as I savored my coffee, my husband said I needed to get over it.

Get over what?

The feeling that it’s not worth it, not worth doing. Not worth writing.

Oh. That.

His words pierced a place I didn’t even know I was masking.

And the tears that projectile’d forth across the ottoman were proof that what started as a valid little break might have morphed into a foundation upon which I built a wall to hide behind.

Because the truth is, I haven’t felt like it’s been worth the effort. In most areas of my life, it feels like my efforts have brought forth so very little results. And so, like most times in my past, I gave up and ran away. I ran away from my own desires and heart and pathway to God.

Does anyone else do that too?

It’s funny, though, how God doesn’t let you quit though, even when you want to. How His whispers and inklings and nudges and prods interrupt your previously scheduled apathy and stir something inside of you.

– Like when your husband tells you to get over it and expects to see you have written something. Soon.

– Or a friend you haven’t met in person feels prompted to email you and conveys how much your writing has ministered to her and her Bible Study, and to be encouraged.

– Or another friend you haven’t meant in person prays for you and physically mails you a card with, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

And in three fell swoops, the quietly-erected wall crumbles and into a heap and the truth shines brightly despite tear-stained vision.

How can I not believe He is for me??

I’ve allowed the results to determine my success, not the process. And oh, the lies we believe when we focus only on the results! God doesn’t care about the butterfly flying as much as He cares about the transformation that takes it from a crawler to a flyer. And what charges Him about us is not the end result, but the transformation that takes us from dead to alive.

Because the reality is, results will happen eventually, anyway. Just His way. His timing. And…His definition of success.

It’s taken me the past few months and this process of trying and failing and cocooning to realize that my heart’s true desire is for the process. It’s the continual being in the process of that brings me closer to Him, more connected to Him, dependent on Him. And it’s been necessary for me to go through this quiet process — not so God knows where my heart is, but so that I can know it for myself.

So I’m committed to not quitting. To getting up and dusting myself off and coming out of hiding. To walking through another process with Him.

Oh, and writing again.

What about you? Do you need to get up and come out of hiding, too? I am committed to being the friend you’ve never met who will cheer you on and hold you up when you need it most. And I am believing in your transformation, wholeheartedly.

Here’s to flying freely, my friend.

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In the Quiet

DANDELION SEED-2

I’m in a weird place that I don’t know how to articulate, and I don’t have a clue where this post is going. So I’m going “old school” and just writing…writing to see if I can figure out what the message is in the process.

God and I used to write like that together a lot — I’d wrestle with something I couldn’t identify, and I’d finally feel ready to figure it out and I’d sit and write. And through the process of writing, I’d have my “eureka” moment and God would respond and I’d cry, and then the peace would flow all over me.

I miss those days.

I miss those days of writing for pure personal joy and contemplation…writing as a way to solve the riddle, finish the prayer, propose the question. It never started out as platform-building, or followership-growing or subscriber-list-gaining. It was always a method — a discipline that helped me draw in to God and closer to His truth and this method — this discipline, this process — was the cup of His hand. It’s where I always was and wanted to be.

And slowly over the last year or so, I’ve scooted up out of the center of His hand and onto the edge. And the process became a chore, and the end result became more important than the means, and I really miss the means.

Oh, how I miss the means.

In the past few weeks since I heard the no from the publisher, I’ve been in this place I haven’t been in a while. It’s a good place — a great place, actually — but it’s been different for me. I suddenly don’t feel like I have a whole lot to say. Or I do, but I’d rather keep it to myself…or chew on it more before just banging out a post for posts’ sake.

And the marquee in my mind scrolls over and over and over,

“Where fears are stilled, where strivings cease…”

And those little two words there on the end have become my only prayer. I want to be where strivings cease. And the last year has been striving — a whole lot of striving.

I’m so tired from all the striving.

This writing-platform-building-book thing…it’s a lot of work. And I want to work hard, I’m not afraid of working hard and I know it’s necessary. But the fine balance between hard work and striving is really blurry, and tipping into the flesh side of striving is so. very. easy.

And I’ve fallen into that side a lot. Too much, in fact.

Lately I’ve found I haven’t been as interested in what’s on Facebook, or lining up tweets in Hootsuite, or planning my posts ahead of time. I haven’t been pouring over others’ blogs or checking up on what’s the latest tweeted article. I’m not coveting every spare moment to pour into what’s good for the brand.

That’s weird for me — I have to be honest. And my flesh rises up and tries to convince me this is a detrimental, irreversible mistake.

But in the process, I’ve enjoyed my moments. I’ve run with the sun on my face and stopped to feel the fresh breeze and notice…really notice…how electrifyingly blue the sky is. I’ve snuggled with my kids on the couch and inhaled day-after-shampoo’d hair. I’ve read books on the back porch by the fire, and gone to the grocery store every single day because I’m still not good at meal planning. I’ve drank coffee later than 3 pm just because I’ve wanted to.

And all of these moments have been wonderful and unhurried and full of supernatural peace, and I’ve loved them.

I guess I’ve been in the quiet, and I love it here…a place where strivings have ceased, at least for the time being.

I don’t know what’s next — I have a list a mile long of things I think I should be doing, a list of things I want to do, and a list of things I’d like to not do. But right now, it all feels too murky and too heavy and too much.

So I think I’m supposed to sit in the quiet for awhile longer and just be.

I don’t know the last time I’ve had a season of be.

In a walk where be still and know is the crux and paradox of what we believe, I can’t remember the last time I actually embraced it. Or rather, I don’t remember the last time I’ve given myself permission to embrace it.

So here I am, embracing be, and enjoying my moments. And I have no idea what this means. I don’t know if this means I’m taking a break from blogging and writing, or if I’m just in an overly-contemplative mood right now. I don’t know if it means God has another path He wants to place me on, or if I just need a breather from all of the doing.

All I know is this: I love this season of be, and be-ing in the quiet. I love coming back here — to the means and not the end — and embracing this process.

So here I’ll stay — cocooned in the center of the Father’s hand — until He pours me out as an offering and with an anointing, and tells me that once again I am free to fly.

Until then, my friends…here’s to being.

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Tethered and Soaring

JESUS-AMP-01

I live in a world of contrasts.

My mind is grounded and my spirit soars. My feet are in shoes of peace and my sword swings high. I feel lost and yet I’m found. I’m disappointed and at peace.

This beautiful dichotomy of high and low, bound and free, die and live, humble and exalt, believe and see, lonely and never alone — it’s a holy contrast that seems inconsistent yet makes perfect sense.

Do you see? Can you hear?

This Jesus-filled life explodes with beautiful contrasts and seeming contradictions…

run and walk

be and do

stop and go

yes and no

Psalms and Proverbs

virgin and mother

mortal and immortal

stillness and action

knowledge and faith

…and it always will.

What contrasts are you experiencing right now?

single and mama?

married and lonely?

yearning and quitting?

living and dying?

striving and failing?

hurting and healing?

disappointed and peaceful?

Can I tell you a secret?

Jesus lives in the AND. 

He’s the bridge from one side to the other. He’s how this contradictory life stays balanced. Our lives must be filled with contrasts because that is the exact essence of who Jesus is.

Jewish and Christian

human and divine

baby and King

convicting and graceful

dead and alive

heaven and hell

friend and brother

lion and lamb

old testament and new testament

Do you see? Can you hear?

Jesus is the AND.

The AND is not a place where a battle is to be fought, but is instead the place to rest — the place where glory awaits.

single JESUS mother

married JESUS lonely

striving JESUS failing

yearning JESUS quitting

living JESUS dying

stillness JESUS action

knowledge JESUS faith

Do you see? Can you hear?

He’s in the middle of all of it. Look for Him.

virgin JESUS mother

stop JESUS go

yes JESUS no

tethered JESUS soaring

be JESUS do

mortal JESUS immortal

Jesus is the AND.

And when you rest there — in the AND, the place where your faith is stretched — it all make sense in a wise and nonsensical way.

stretch JESUS rest

strive JESUS cease

pray JESUS listen

hurting JESUS healing

disappointment JESUS peace

When you rest there, you can let go and hang on. Both. At the same time.

Because He brings the perfect balance to that very situation.

Jesus is the harmony and the rhythm that makes this life one beautiful song. (tweet)

Do you see? Can you hear?

It’s one of the most difficult things to do…find rest in the AND. But when you’re striving and worn out and frustrated and feel like collapsing from the sheer exhaustion — that’s when it’s most necessary to stop everything and live in the “unforced rhythms of grace” (Matt 11:28, MSG).

beauty and ashes

joy and mourning

freedom and captivity

JESUS.

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