Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Way Out


If you think you are standing strong, be careful, for you, too, may fall into the same sin. 1 Corinthians 10:12

In the last 24 hours I’ve discovered three of my mentees have fallen victim to the trap of sexual sin. Good, God fearing girls, leaders among their peers, respected young women. Girls who are strong in their faith now having to confess, repent, and suffer the consequences of their choices.

It breaks my heart. Not because I’m disappointed in them or angry with them, but because I know that all sin leads to death. Maybe not a literal death but a death of innocence, a death of dreams, a death of influence. When we choose to play with sin we will be burned.

I’m so thankful that two out of the three confessed. They want to be healed. And I’m learning that confession is tied to our healing. We need more of this in the church. More confession. We need to be people that are safe to confess to. We need to be people that are humble enough to confess to someone else.

But there needs to be more. I’m tired of the cycle of temptation, sin, and confession. I want to live in freedom. Freedom from sin. I want to live in obedience. To desire to do God’s will above all else. It is only the heart that is fully submitted to obedience that will ever be able to live in freedom.

It is possible. Not easy, but possible. Actually, by man’s strength it’s impossible. But thankfully He doesn’t ask us to be holy by our own strength alone.

But remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

God will not allow us to be tempted to the degree that we can’t stand against us. Good news that hurts. Good news because it means He is always faithful, always waiting to rescue us. It hurts because it means that every time I give in to sin it’s because I chose my own selfish desire over God’s way out.

In The Pursuit of Holiness Jerry Bridges writes, “We often say, ‘God hates the sin but loves the sinner’. This is blessedly true, but too often we quickly rush over the first half of this statement to get to the second. We cannot escape the fact that God hates sin. We may trifle with our sins or excuse them, but God hates them. Therefore every time we sin, we are doing something God hates. He hates our lustful thoughts, our pride and jealousy, our outbursts of temper, and our rationalizations that the end justifies the means. We need to be gripped by the fact that God hates all these things. We become so accustomed to our sins we sometimes lapse into a state of peaceful coexistence with them, but God never ceases to hate them.”

This world tells us that we should be able to do what we want when we want. It tells us to gratify all of our desires, encourages us to do so. But we are not supposed to be of this world. We are supposed to be set apart, a people holy unto the Lord. Urged by God to abstain from sinful desires so that He will be glorified.

Father, thank you for being faithful. For providing a way out when we are tempted. Help us to see the way of escape and choose it every time we face temptation. Help us to choose You! To say yes to You and no to sin. Help us to be Your holy people, set apart, free from sin, and fully obedient to You.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Do You Love the World?

One thing I miss about being a Children’s Pastor is teaching kids to memorize God’s Word. I have to confess, I’m terrible at memorizing anything, especially scripture. So teaching the kids memory verses helped me memorize them too. Our lead Children’s Pastor had the most amazing way of creating fun ways to memorize scripture and one of my favorite verses we taught the kids was 1 John 2:15 “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” I wish I could let you see and hear the dramatic way we would say this verse together.

Last week I was able to get away for an extended prayer retreat and spend a lot of my time meditating on a few verses, prayerfully asking God about how He wanted to apply His word to my heart. This is one of the verses that took center stage during that time. But I continued on to verse 16 “For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father, but from the world”.

Cravings

Lust

Boasting

Three things that will separate us from God’s love.

It’s easy as a long time follower of Jesus to skim through a list of sins that God despises and think we’re okay. But when I really took the time to think about these three things, I realized that I am overwhelmingly guilty.

The New Testament Greek Lexicon offers the following definitions:

Cravings-greed, destructive longing

Lust- desire for what is forbidden

Boasting- empty, braggart talk that trusts in its own power

I don’t know about you but I crave food for comfort, new shoes for a pick-me-up, I’m greedy for comfortable surroundings and abundance. I lust after getting my way; I long for approval, and pats on the back. And boasting? Well, one look at my Facebook page would confirm my continual boasting. My empty braggart talk.

God says if we love these things then His love is not in us. Why is that do you suppose?

Maybe because craving, lust, and boasting takes our eyes off of Jesus and puts them elsewhere. If I’m having a bad day I should turn to God’s word not brownies or a BOGO sale at my favorite shoe store to fill me up. If I’m feeling rejected and unloved my heart should seek out time in His presence not empty words from man. And if I’m going to dare to open my mouth to boast… why on earth would I choose to boast of myself when the only thing that’s good in me is Jesus?

When I choose the things of this world I fill my heart up with my wicked craving, lust, and boasting leaving no room for the love of God to fill my heart.

God wants us to be holy, just as He is holy. Yet, I live my life making excuses for my sin. Calling it “social media” instead of boasting. Or the new shoes a “treat” instead of greed. Don’t get me wrong. You’ll never hear me say Facebook or shopping is wrong. It’s my heart that’s wrong. Full of greed and in desperate need of God.

I want to be more desperate for Him than anything else this world could ever offer.

Lord, change my heart. Make me more like you!

“Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him. 1 John 2: 28-29

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Quiet


Psalm 46 gives an account of a season of trouble. It’s filled with words that communicate dire conditions.

…earth give way… mountains fall into the sea… waters roar… mountains quake… nations in uproar… kingdoms fall… earth melts… desolations…

And at the end of this description of suffering the Lord speaks “Be still and know that I am God”.

Be still? Be still in the midst of trouble and desolation? Be still in the midst of raging war and devastation? How do you be still when the world around you is crumbling?

Maybe the question isn’t how but why? Why be still? Why not run? Or hide? Or fight?

Pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. Prov. 4:20

God tells us to be still so that we can hear His instruction to us. Daily we are surrounded by trouble, maybe not “mountains falling into the sea” or “earth melting” but mountains of bills, laundry and deadlines. The kids have meltdowns, or make choices that cause us to meltdown! Daily we are faced with decision after decision that must be made. How do we know what we should do?

Generally speaking I stress over the bills, complain about the laundry, work frantically to meet the deadlines. I yell at the kids then cry about yelling at them. And at the end of the day I fall in bed exhausted dreading the alarm signaling the start of one more day of madness.

I read about being still and then look at the swirling chaos around me and wonderer… how?

In the New American Standard “be still” is translated “cease striving”. In the midst of this crazy life God’s wants us to cease striving, to be still. He longs to speak peace into our chaotic world. He wants to whisper wisdom into our question heart. He desires to speak words of comfort to our tired souls. But the swirling, tumbling noise of our lives drowns out the still quite voice of the almighty God who speaks in a still small voice.

“I have stilled and quieted my soul.” Psalm 131:2

I have stilled and quieted. Through a decision I choose stillness. Through an act of my will I chose quiet.

I spent this past weekend at the Monastery in search of quiet. In the hushed sanctuary of the chapel and on the banks of the quiet pond my heart was stilled and His voice became clear.

Sadly I can’t spend every weekend in the quiet safety of the Monastery. But I can spend at least a moment with a still and quiet soul. I can find at least a brief minute to turn off the phone and let the email go unchecked.

My heart yearns to hear Him. I am desperate to know His will. And so we have to be purposeful about being still. We can’t expect our calendars to magically clear or our kids to spontaneously be quiet. But we can create time to take a moment to sit. To listen. To know.

In the midst of this chaotic life I have stilled and quieted my soul… so I can hear the voice of God.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Uncontainable

One of the most traumatic experiences of my childhood was when Toto pulled back the emerald green curtain to reveal that the “Great and Powerful Oz” was nothing more than an ordinary man from Kansas with an elaborate special effects system. My heart sank when I realized that the Wizard had no real power and it was all just a façade.

As I got older I became a theater junkie. I was in the drama club in high school and spent lots of time behind the curtain. I loved seeing how a false reality could be created for the stage. Even now I find myself looking for wires and screens. Whether I’m at an off Broadway production in a theatre, a conference in a convention hall, or a concert in an arena I spend as much time looking for the illusions as I do watching the actual performance. Because I know… you just can’t believe everything you see.

I’ve unconsciously lived for years believing that most of life is like the stage. Very limited in what can be created and that what is seen is not necessarily what is real.

I’ve even been guilty of thinking that God is just like the Wizard of Oz. Pretty impressive but still just a man behind a curtain, limited by what He can do.

I don’t think it’s entirely my fault that I try to contain God. I think it’s just the reality of our human nature and our limited ability to be able to comprehend who God really is.

We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled. We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! 1 Cor. 13:9-10,12 The Message

Our minds simply can’t comprehend all there is to know about God.

And I supposed that if all the other things Jesus did were written down, the whole world could not contain the books. John 21:25

Our God is simply uncontainable.

The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. 1 Kings 8:27

Yet contain Him is exactly what we try to do. We try to wrap our minds around who He is and what He can do. We make statements about His character and His ways like we know His thoughts.

We look at a situation and deem it hopeless. We look at a circumstance and declare that it is unchangeable. We look at person and proclaim that they are too far gone. While deep in our hearts wishing that the man behind the curtain really was a Wizard.

We’ve been conditioned to believe that “Happily ever after” is simply the stuff of fairy tales. And that “All Powerful Beings” are resigned to movie screens. But the God we serve is not constrained by stories and scripts. He is not limited by time or space or imagination.

He is uncontainable.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. Isa. 54:9

Whatever we think about God, He is more! More loving and powerful and just and holy and big and grand. He is unfathomable! We just can’t wrap our minds around Him.

No matter how hard I look, I simply cannot find the wires, screens or effects. I’ve searched behind the curtain and have yet to find any illusion or pretense with God. He simply is who He says He is. The Alpha and Omega. Creator and Sustainer of all.

The uncontainable God.


Friday, May 27, 2011

Happy are Those That Mourn

Happy are those that mourn, for they shall be comforted. Mat. 5:4

I ran across this verse earlier this week studying for my Sunday School class. I have to confess, it’s caused me to pause and ponder for days now.

Happy are those that mourn?

How does that even begin to make sense? Isn’t’ the whole point of mourning the absence of happiness?


Will you join me at Broken Girl for the rest of the story?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Empty



Empty- adjective- containing nothing; having none of the usual or appropriate contents

“Hi, my name is Keri and I am empty.”

This is the declaimer that I wish I could say out loud when I meet someone these days. It would save us both a lot of trouble; me the trouble of having to act like I’m all good, them the trouble of trying to figure out what’s wrong with me.

There’s nothing “wrong” I’m just empty. I have none of the “usual or appropriate contents”. Oh, there are contents, just not appropriate ones. Where there should be peace, there is anger. Where there should be trust, there is worry. Where there should be faith, there is doubt.

I am empty.

Life, circumstances, trials, let downs… all have piled up and left me emptied of me. I feel poured out. Dried up. Out of control. With nothing left to give.

The reality is I’m legitimately not feeling good. My doctor has had (I threw it away yesterday) me on medication that is turning me into a raging hormonal lunatic (literally). Yet in spite of the fact that I have medically documented reasons for feeling out of control I still wrestle with guilt. I still believe that regardless I should be able to suck it up and carry on as if nothing is wrong.

But the simple truth is… that’s a lie!

I am not OK.

I am empty.

And that is OK.

It’s OK that I don’t have it all together. It’s OK that I might cry if you ask me how I am. It’s OK that I need extra sleep, or a day off of work, or a hug. It’s OK that my dishes are piling up and my kids ate sandwiches for dinner.

It’s OK.

I am weak, and tired, and frustrated, and worried, and empty.

But the crazy thing is… when I let down my guard, when I let people see the empty, needy, hurting part of me, when I confess my weakness I am not judged. Instead I am loved. Overwhelmingly, unconditionally loved.

It’s as if my transparency opens the door for love to poor in and fill up my empty heart.

I have never felt so empty.

I have never felt so loved.

Can I ask you today… How are you? Are you empty? Are you trying to pretend like everything is all right when really inside you just feel dry? It’s OK. It really is OK if you are hurting and in need. You’re sisters are here to love you. Overwhelmingly and unconditionally. Can we love you today?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Disappointment and Longing

The last forty days I have purposefully cut out distractions (TV, books, social media) in order to focus more time and attention on God’s Word and prepare my heart for Easter. As I have quieted my heart I have felt an awakening in my soul. A longing for more of Him.

This weekend was the culmination of my Lenten season and I was so looking forward to Easter Sunday worship. As we pulled out of the church parking lot only one word came to mind to describe my feelings about Easter worship… disappointment. Don’t get me wrong, we attend an amazing church filled with people who genuinely love the Lord. I don’t think it was the church’s fault I felt disappointed. In two decades of following Jesus I can’t think of one Easter service that I’ve attended and left feeling satisfied.

Easter morning I couldn’t stop thinking of Johnny the Brave, a sweet 8 year old boy with an inoperable brain tumor who got to go Home last Thursday. Johnny got to spend Easter Sunday worshiping at the very throne of God. And I have a feeling no one standing in Jesus’ presence with Johnny felt disappointment.

When I think of Johnny worshiping at the feet of Jesus and me stuck here in this fallen world where sin and suffering reigns I realize why my heart longs for more. It’s not better songs, or more compelling music, or deeper sermons that my heart aches for. It’s HIM! His face, His voice, His presence.

“But our citizenship is in Heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Philippians 3:20

In the heart of every child of God is a longing that this world can’t satisfy. Every joy that causes our heart to swell is a foretaste of eternal glory. And every hurt that causes our heart to ache is a reminder of a coming day that will be free from sorrow.

Yet, instead of embracing the longing for our eternal home we distract ourselves with earthly entertainment. Filling our days with diversions to keep our minds occupied with anything other than Him.

Which leaves me with the question, what am I to do now? After forty days of purposefully quieting my life to listen to Him can I go back to the way things were? I could. Easily. But I don’t want to. Don’t get me wrong, I want to resume my routine of sitting on the couch with my popcorn and remote control. But not at the expense of losing this longing in my heart. Not if resuming the noise of life brings about the quieting of His voice.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jer. 29:13

If I seek Him with all of my heart I will find Him. Not with a divided heart, but with my whole heart. And that is my greatest desire, to find Him. To see Him face to face. But until that day comes I want to spend my time here seeking Him. I want to embrace the longing in my heart for Home, and not allow myself to be distracted any longer by the things of this world.

What a day that will be,

When my Jesus I shall see,

And I look upon His face,

The One who saved me by His grace;

When He takes me by the hand,

And leads me through the Promised Land,

What a day, glorious day that will be.

Monday, April 18, 2011

This Is What Dreams Are Made Of

If I had to sum up the last 60 days of my life I’d have to go with “roller coaster”. I’ve traveled through the depths of despair, to the highest mountain top, and back several times. Our family has got to be one of the healthiest families I know, but 2011 has been filled with illness for us. And not just passing around the cold or flu bug, this has been more of the visiting hospitals and running test kind of stuff, which makes a momma’s heart tired. I’ve been stretched to trust Jesus like I never have before. And in the midst of this intense period of suffering there have been overwhelming blessings as well. Dreams that I’ve hidden in my heart for years have come true.

Like this one. There in the middle of that beautiful group of ladies is Beth Moore, my hero. And on the very left is my smiling face hugging my dear friend’s neck. Yep. I finally got to meet Ms. Beth. And I’m overjoyed. We had a 3 minute conversation that will be permanently etched in my memory, and she spoke words over me that I have asked God about for years, confirming the very secret desires of my heart. And yes, she really is that cute and sweet in person.

Then there’s the real God-Sized Dream come true. My first book. {pinch me please!}

I remember when I was 10 years old and moved from St. Louis to Arkansas. My heart was broken because I was leaving my sweet Noni. She promised that we would write each other. And we did. I wrote her letters and short stories and poems. And she read every word, telling me over and over again that I should be a writer one day when I was all grown up. Several years ago I stood in the ICU holding her hand and we had our last conversation. I did all the talking. She was in a coma, but I’m pretty sure she heard me. I told her that I was going to take her advice and write a book one day. I promised her that I would. When I held this book in my hands for the first time I thought of my dearly missed grandma and how proud she would be of me.

And... my amazing friend Jennifer and I are also in process of setting up a new blog community. It's a place for those who's lives are broken, tattered, beautiful, or anywhere in between. {it's a work in progress, so patience please! :o)}

All this has me thinking about dreams, and how many times along the way I’ve wanted to just throw in the towel. It’s hard stuff, chasing dreams. Especially big God-Sized dreams. I get so tired sometimes, and I can very easily convince myself that it’s just not worth all the sweat and tears.

One of the things that Beth Moore talked about this weekend was how at the end of Paul’s life he said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”. Paul had an assignment from God, and he faithfully lived his life chasing that assignment. At the end he finished well. I don’t want to live with regrets. I want to run my race well. I want to chase the dreams God’s placed in my heart. It may be hard, there may be suffering involved, but it is so worth it!

Are you chasing your dreams?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Refiners Fire


I think we would all say that we’d like our lives to reflect the goodness of God. I don’t know about you, but I find myself guilty of wanting that reflection to involve my life actually being “good”. For me God’s goodness means that I’m happy, everyone’s healthy, and all the bills are paid with some left over.

When things start to go wrong I pull back, shut down, run and hide. I question God. Why would He allow suffering to come into my life? Doesn’t He know that I want my life to be a reflection of His goodness? And how can people think that God is good if my life is bad?

Doesn’t God want me to be happy?

The truth is He doesn’t. He cares a lot more about my soul learning to trust Him than He does about me being “happy”. And so, He allows suffering.

I often get asked “How can you know if this is a test from God or a trial from Satan”? I’ve wrestled with that thought myself. Often asking God “is this from you or the enemy”? But now I wonder if that even matters.

Job suffered because of Satan’s attack on his life. But before he attacked he got permission from God. Peter was sifted by Satan and denied Christ. But before he was, Satan asked God for permission. Paul’s thorn in the flesh was left there by a God who wanted to keep him humble. Abraham’s faith was tested by God.

Trials from Satan or testing from God the goal is the same, to strengthen our faith. It’s about us coming to a place of surrender and trust in the midst of suffering. And when we come to that point, that’s when God’s glory is revealed in us.

It’s easy to talk about suffering well for God’s glory. It’s another thing to actually do it. It’s one thing to read passages like 1 Peter 1:6-7

So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though it is necessary for you to endure many trials for a while. These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold -- and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold. So if your faith remains strong after being tried by fiery trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”

It’s another thing to truly be glad when trials come. When the doctor’s report isn’t good, when the bank account is empty, when your kids are suffering can we trust God then?

Well, that’s where I’m at right now. And I have to admit that there’s been very few cheerful moments. In fact, there have been lots of tears, and questions. But at the end of the day, the cry of my heart is still the same… that my life would reflect the goodness of God. Even here. Even now.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Plowing Season


It's Spring. Planting season. Time to break up the fallow ground and prepare soil for seed. I love the smell of freshly turned soil and the feel of dirt under my fingernails. It's hard work sometimes. Especially after a hard winter when the ground hunkers down on itself in hopes of holding off the bitter cold. But it's worth the effort required to break up and turn over the cold barren earth. It's the only chance of having anything grow.

It's a bit of a different story when you no longer find yourself in the position of the gardener, spade in hand, but instead realize you've become the soil. Barren and packed down. Hardened by the winter's harsh chill. No longer in control of the plowing but now having to yield to the Master Gardner's plan.

It's painful stuff, being plowed. And sometimes I question the Hand holding the plow. Because I so often forget... the tilling isn't for pain, but for fruit. The spade piercing the dirt and turning everything upside down isn't for chaos, but for growth.

And so, instead of questioning the Gardner as to why He's plowing me, I have another question for Him...

God, what do You want to plant in me?

Because I have a feeling whatever He chooses to plant will be beautiful. And that beauty will be worth this pain.

"Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, till He comes and rains righteousness on you." Hosea 10:12

Friday, March 25, 2011

Clean Hands



At the end of David’s reign as King he gathers the people together to commission his son Solomon to take his place as King of Israel. He also charges Solomon to build a dwelling place for the Lord. David had spent years gathering together gold, bronze, and cedar in preparation of the building of the Temple, and now the time has come. He asks the people if they too will give to make a house for God. And they do. In abundance.

As David sees the generosity of the people he bows his head and prays a beautiful prayer of thanks to God. And there, in the midst of his prayer is one line that won’t leave my mind.

“I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity.” 1 Chron. 29:9-10

Lately I’ve noticed a trend. In America. In the church. We are obsessed with controlling behavior. We live and die by a list of rules. Behavior modification controls our every waking moments. As followers of Christ we are bombarded with lists of dos and don’ts.

Don’t get me wrong, rules can be good. God has a list of rules Himself, and I’m pretty sure He wants us to follow them.

But it’s not ultimately about following rules. I know plenty of people who’ve never committed murder, adultery, or stolen anything. Yet that doesn’t mean they have integrity. That doesn’t mean their heart is pure.

In Psalm 24 David asks the question “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place?” Is it those who “follow the rules”? No, it is those with “clean hands and a pure heart.” It is those who walk in integrity.

Proverbs 23:7 says “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”

It is our heart, not our hands that is our problem. If we want integrity, if we want clean hands, then we must first have a pure heart.

So, why do we spend so much time trying to control behavior if the problem lies in our hearts? Putting a password on our computer will not control our lustful desires. Pouring out the alcohol will not rid us of our longing to self-medicate. And biting our tongue will not rid our hearts of selfishness and pride.

The problem lies in the heart. So what do we do? How do we cultivate a pure heart? Psalm 24 continues “Such is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek your face O God of Jacob”

Pure hearts are birthed in those who seek Him. Who are persistent in getting ahold of Him. Who, like Jacob will wrestle through the darkest of nights and hold on to God at the expense of all else.

David was intimately acquainted with God. He knew that God tested the hearts of man. He also knew what God hoped to find, integrity.

Thousands of years ago David hoped that through his integrity and through the integrity of his son they might build a Temple that God would be pleased to inhabit. And now, here, today, God is looking for another Temple He can dwell in. The temple of our hearts.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

So long, farewell...



I tend to be a bit slow on the uptake most of the time. Thankfully God is over-the-top patient with me and keeps sending the same message over and over and over until I get it.

Well, I got it. And me getting it means saying goodbye to you, my friend. Oh don't worry it's not forever, and it's not really goodbye even. Just goodbye in our electronic form of communicating.

For several years now (I told you I was slow) I've had the inkling of a thought of going without books, TV, facebook, etc. for a season and limiting all input from the Bible ONLY. I've always been too stubborn to actually do it. And honestly the thought makes me break out in hives and sweat a bit.

But today it was clear. I'm stressed, overwhelmed with lingering illness in our home, work stuff, deadlines... and on and on. I'm desperate for peace. Yet I fill my life with noise. Could it be possible to hit mute? To silence all the other voices and spend a season listening to Him and Him only? I plan to try.

Today marks the beginning of Lent. Forty days of anticipating Resurrection morning. Forty days of reflection on the Cross and the empty Tomb. Can I prepare my heart in quiet?

To be honest, I don't know that I can do this. I'm an information junkie!!! I'm physically attached to my iPhone. My DVR is one of my closest friends. I have lots of friends in ministry and love listening to their podcasts. For Pete's sake, I work in radio! But it's time. It's time to stop the madness and purposefully focus my heart on Him.

A wise friend wrote an amazing post yesterday that was the proverbially straw that broke this camel's back. If you have a few minutes it would be worth your time to read.

And now... I bid you adieu... Until Easter morn.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Rose



My left hand holds a tiny crimson bud. Tightly closed, petals wrapped in and on each other. Glorious scarlet bursting forth into life. Sweet & fragrant in my hand.

“Innocent as a rose” The metaphor repeats through the ages of time.

Innocent and Pure.

But what of innocence stolen? What of beauty marred? Of purity defiled? What, when the thorn pierces flesh and causes crimson blood to spill? What then?

The rose crushed and bruised. Broken by the grasp of evil. Plucked too soon. No longer destined to open, spread petals, releasing fragrance and beauty and pollen and life. A rose plucked, drying, shriveling, shrinking in slow death.

Can the rose be restored? Can she be reattached, unbruised?

“I am the vine, and you are the branches” He whispers to my soul. But what of branches severed? What of innocence cut off, cast aside, trampled underfoot?

Who would want the dying plucked rose?

“And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in

for God is able to graft them in again.” Romans 11:25

There is One. The Gardner, skilled at making things grow. He wants the severed rose. Longs for her even. He wants her not for the ash heap, but for life and beauty. He wants to cut the vine, mar the healthy and slip in the broken. Bind it up with tape and water. He cuts open the vine and binds life to death, transfusing Himself into that which was cast off.

And she heals.

And she grows.

And she opens up.

Releases her fragrance, pollenates her world.

He cuts the vine… He cuts the vine…

Father, graft me into You. I don’t want to be cut off, tightly closed in on myself. I want to blossom. Open up. Shine. I have persisted in unbelief. Forgive my foolish, faithless heart that has believed that You can’t heal the severed rose. Place me in the vine! Thank You for allowing Yourself to be broken so that I can be healed.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Greatly Shaken

The last seven days have been a roller coaster ride for our family. Monday night I took my son to the ER. He had been sick with a virus for about a week and I was worried he was dehydrated. He was. They started him on fluids but when he didn’t improve they decided to run a few more tests.

I knew before they came in to tell me. Call it mothers intuition, or the grace of God, but I knew that my faith would be stretched before they gave us the test results. When the doctor came in to tell us they wanted to transfer us to Arkansas Children’s Hospital to meet with a pediatric neurologist and oncologist I was uncharacteristically at peace. A verse I had memorized years ago flooded my mind and stayed with me for days.

He only is my rock, my salvation, my stronghold. I shall not be greatly shaken. Ps. 62:6

In that moment, facing the unknown I had to decide. Is God good or not? Could I trust Him with my son? Could I trust that whatever the outcome, He knew what He was doing.

The answer, without hesitation is YES! God is good. And He loves me. And whatever circumstances I face that reality will not change.

Not that my resolve was unwavering. The mind is a terrible thing that can vividly imagine the worst possible outcomes, especially when mixed with sleep deprivation. Minute by minute I had to take my thoughts captive and choose to trust. But He is so gracious, and so kind. And so very near to those who call on Him. And He was there with us in that hospital. He never left our side.

We were transferred to ACH (which is beyond amazing, by the way). More tests, more waiting. There are about 5 really scary things that could have been life altering for us. Thankfully none of those were the cause. After 24 hours at Children’s the doctors started talking about sending us home. With very little medical intervention Joshua’s body began to return to normal.

I told the doctors he had a lot of people praying for him. They just looked at me like I was crazy! I am! So is the God I serve! :o)

We are home now. Trying to return to “normal” whatever that is. Joshua is getting better every day. And I’m so thankful.

So many of you have prayed for him. I can’t tell you how thankful we are for your prayers. God heard, and has graciously answered.

Thankful~
Keri

Friday, February 4, 2011

Snow and Graveclothes














As I sit here a blanket of snow covers the world. Softly, silently wrapping us in beauty. As each snowflake dances its way past my window pane by heart settles in, content, and my thoughts turn to Mary and Martha. Martha, busy serving, working, doing. And Mary, settled in at the Saviors feet like the sweet winter snow.

And my heart is torn. Between these two women. The two roles they played. Neither bad, but the one was better. That day at Martha’s house Mary chose the better. I, like Martha, choose the good. I choose to serve, to keep busy, to do. Never time to sit, to soak, to marvel in the beauty.

So Jesus, patient, gentle Jesus, sends the snow. And the whispered “slow down, be still”.

And I am.

He sent the snow to Martha too. Only it didn’t settle in drifts, it wrapped in death. Just as the white flakes settle in to still me, strips of white linen wrapped lovingly around the body of the beloved brother stilled Martha’s heart as well.

“When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.” John 11:20

Martha, with a house full of company, with a funeral supper to prepare, with guests to attend to, leaves it all and runs to Jesus. And in her world, wrapped in white silence, He redeems her. He receives her. And Martha chooses the better, she chooses Jesus.

She has grown. She has learned.

And here in this holy moment, this moment of second chances Jesus speaks, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” “Yes, Lord, I believe.” And she does.

She believes that life must be lived in Him. That silent, cold, white worlds are not without hope. That even in death there is only one place she longs to be. Sitting with Jesus, at His feet, holding His hand.

And so it is with you and I; the ones who have chosen the good, and neglected the best. The ones who have lived by our own rules, holding tight to our own ways. The ones who feel frustrated, and worried about many things. We too are invited to come. To find words of life. To find healing. To find love.

It’s snowing harder now. As if God in Heaven is throwing a party for his precious child, I can hear Him beckoning me to come. Come and sit, come and worship. Come dance with the King. For soon, so soon, spring will come and the grave clothes will melt away into summer.

And we will live. Truly live.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Heavy

My friend wrote something yesterday that has led to a flurry of emails. Can I share my thoughts to her this morning with you?


Jennifer,

It was a late night for me last night. On the phone with a dear friend who is trying to fight the “monster”. You and I have fought that monster too. That voice that paralyzes hope and holds captive joy.

Today the Lord led me to Psalm 40. And it’s comforting, but still… you know when you’re at that point where comforting words just aren’t cutting it anymore? We need a breakthrough, Jennifer!

Today my heart is heavy. For her, for Johnny the Brave, for my own sick kiddos at home, and zero sleep for this mom. For dreams that seem too big to ever be real. For teenagers whose moms don’t love them. For girls willing to do anything for love, and are living with regret and shame.

Today is one of those days when the weight of this fallen world is tangible, and hard to carry. I know I’m not meant to carry it. He is. My job is to simply lay it all at his feet. And pour out my tears on Him, much like Mary did.

Today I'm learning to Let Go and Hold On!

~Keri

I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be astounded. They will put their trust in the LORD. Oh, the joys of those who trust the LORD, who have no confidence in the proud, or in those who worship idols. O LORD my God, you have done many miracles for us. Your plans for us are too numerous to list. If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them. You take no delight in sacrifices or offerings. Now that you have made me listen, I finally understand -- you don't require burnt offerings or sin offerings. Then I said, "Look, I have come. And this has been written about me in your scroll: I take joy in doing your will, my God, for your law is written on my heart." I have told all your people about your justice. I have not been afraid to speak out, as you, O LORD, well know. I have not kept this good news hidden in my heart; I have talked about your faithfulness and saving power. I have told everyone in the great assembly of your unfailing love and faithfulness. LORD, don't hold back your tender mercies from me. My only hope is in your unfailing love and faithfulness. For troubles surround me -- too many to count! They pile up so high I can't see my way out. They are more numerous than the hairs on my head. I have lost all my courage. Please, LORD, rescue me! Come quickly, LORD, and help me. May those who try to destroy me be humiliated and put to shame. May those who take delight in my trouble be turned back in disgrace. Let them be horrified by their shame, for they said, "Aha! We've got him now!" But may all who search for you be filled with joy and gladness. May those who love your salvation repeatedly shout, "The LORD is great!" As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord is thinking about me right now. You are my helper and my savior. Do not delay, O my God. Psalm 40

Will you pray with me today?

Father, today is one of those days that makes the heart ache. Trouble and heartache surround us. Pits, mud and mire hold us captive. We are poor and need. But You, O God, You think about us. What am amazing thought! You know. The hurts, the worries, the questions in our hearts. You have not forgotten us. You have not abandoned us. You have loved us, and love us still, today, in this moment. So here it is, God. All the burdens of our hearts. We lay them at Your feet. We let it go, give it to You. Will You rescue us? Will You hold our hearts? Will You hear our cry? Will You come and set us free? We invite You to show off. To show us Your glory. To grow our hearts in these moments of suffering. To make us more like You. Come quickly, Lord and help! Our only hope is in Your unfailing love!


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Rest

Someone, somewhere started preaching the message that if we were balanced we would be happy. For years now I’ve tried to walk the tight rope, spinning my plates and striving to stay balanced. And can I be honest with you? I’m so over it.

I’m sure whoever started the “balance” message was well intentioned. I’m sure they were feeling stretched too thin, pulled in too many directions, run ragged. And in an effort to regain a little control went searching for balance.

The problem I see with “balance” is that I don’t really find Jesus setting that example for us. Jesus was extreme. When He fasted it wasn’t for a day or so, it was for 40 days. When He prayed He didn’t just recite nice poetic words, He sweated blood. When He loved He didn’t just love His friends, but the prostitute, the tax collector, the demonic. When He said He wanted to provide a way for us to be brought near to God He didn’t just invite us over for tea, He hung naked on a cross and took the burden of our sin.

Jesus was extreme. Fully engaged. Wholly immersed in every moment, every activity.

Recently I’ve been wrestling with the concept of “rest”. God commands us to rest. Yet, I don’t think I have any idea what it means to rest in God. Lazy? I’ve got that down. Rest? Not so much.

Today someone said to me that the purpose of rest is to be refreshed and renewed in His glory. Vegging on the couch is not rest. Getting my 8 hours of shut eye is not rest. It’s not about balancing work and leisure. Getting rest requires us to be purposeful. It’s a decision we make to position ourselves to really be with Jesus. Our rest should be extreme. Fully engaged. Without distraction. Enjoying Him.

My mentor has an amazing way of painting visual pictures of what my heart is wrestling with. She told me that a lot of times we find ourselves chasing after Jesus, running to keep up with Him, striving to be doing His will. Resting in Jesus, however, is like climbing on a sled and letting Jesus hold the rope. We’re still moving, still going with Him, still busy about His work. But like a little child tethered to a trustworthy dad we can simply enjoy the ride.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of running.

I think I’m ready to rest.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Land of Not Enough

In the book of 2 Kings there is an obscure passage where the newly anointed Prophet Elisha finds himself in the Land of Not Enough. He arrives in Gilgal to discover there is a famine. No other description was given of Gilgal except that one word: famine. No other description was needed.

Famine. shortage. hunger. lack. Not enough.

The people of the land were hungry, desperate, longing to be filled. They were famished.

And so am I.

Sitting here in my Land of More Than Enough. Surrounded by surplus. I too am famished. But not because of a lack of food, or clothing, or warmth, or shelter, or entertainment, or comfort. No, all of those I have in excess.

But there is a holy dissatisfaction. A deep, unfulfilled longing. A famine in my soul.

It cannot be quenched by routine quite times… it aches to feast at the banquet of His Word.

It cannot be satisfied in simple recited prayers… it must pour out under the waterfall of His presence.

In cannot be appeased in participation in a song service… it longs to be wrapped up in worship.

In the Land of Not Enough I am desperate to be filled. I try to appease the hunger in my soul. Work. Fun. Fellowship. Shopping. Eating. Volunteering. Performing. I try and try to fill the void. And yet, after all my trying I am still needy. Still hungry. Still famished.

A famine in my soul.

The people of the Gilgal came to Elisha and told him one simple thing. They told him they were famished. Elisha provided food for the hungry.

And they ate and had some left over. 2 Kings 4:44

They ate.

And they had some left over.

From famine to abundance.

From lack to surplus.

From needy to whole.

I too am famished. I too come. Asking to be filled once again. And my Jesus answers me with at sweet and confident yes. Yes child… you can be filled.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Mat. 5:6

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Pew Dweller

We passed in the paper goods aisle at the grocery story. She was wearing a bright red t-shirt with “Pew Dweller” in bold print across the front. Something about it bothered me, but I wasn’t sure what. Later that night I read this…

“When the Church retreats from the world, she becomes a fortress. She is seen as little more than an irrelevant, archaic, outdated, decaying institution on the fringes of society. Sadder still, she becomes filled with people who are of the world but not in it rather than people who are in the world but not of it. Now, this might sound like mere semantics, but there’s a big difference.” Christine Caine

And this morning…

“If the altar of our churches has become a place of celebration only and not a place of sacrifice, the result will be shallow, self-centered people filling pews that have no real intention of serving the Kingdom.” Dane Hall

I’ve spent a lot of years living my life as a “pew dweller”. My motives were pure. I loved the church. Loved everything about it. Church is where I felt most at home, most welcome. Why would I not want to dwell there?

But lately I’ve been feeling like I live in a bubble of Christianity. Like everything in my life is sanitized and safe. And I’m fairly convinced that’s not why Jesus suffered and died… for me to be safe.

Recently I’ve found myself praying “God, make me dangerous”. And it’s a prayer that scares the snot out of me. But I can’t quit praying it. I’m tired of being safe. And I’m insanely tired of the Enemy feeling like he's safe around me. I want to be dangerous to the kingdom of darkness. I want to disrupt the schemes of evil. Fight for the lost. Tear down strongholds. See the captives set free.

I want to be a part of feeding the hungry. Clothing the naked. Loving the broken. Healing the sick.

I want to be IN the world.

I want to be a light in the world.

No offense to my sister with the “pew dweller” t-shirt, but I’m bored with a faith that simply sits on a pew. I’m ready to “go into all the world and preach the gospel”.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Pennies

“That will be $4.71 please pull around to the first window.” I dug a 20 out of my wallet as I drove around to pay for my breakfast. The guy working the drive-through was in a good mood for it being so early, and so cold. He started to count back my change to me when he realized he didn’t have any pennies in his cash drawer. As he opened the new roll I heard him gasp. “Check this out” he said to me as he handed me my change. “A whole roll of brand new pennies. Aren’t they beautiful.” He asked.

And they were. Perfectly shiny. Without a scratch on them.

I thanked him, tossed the pennies in my change cup and drove away to finish my errands.

But I couldn’t quit thinking about those shiny pennies. I was their first owner. How would I spend them? What would I do with them? Where would they travel?

I reached out to grab one of them to examine it again. But instead of picking up one penny, I grabbed two. One brand new, the other obviously very old and dirty. Its coppery shine had faded to a dull brown. It looked almost sad next to the new perfectly polished penny. I flipped it over in my hand and read the date on it. 1973. The year I was born.

The old tired penny was as old as me. Looking at the two pennies I realized that the old one was a lot like me. Tired, worn, scratched and no longer shiny. I wished I was more like the new pretty penny.

Then I realized that wasn’t true after all. The old penny and I, we’ve been through a lot. Traveled the world. Experienced a lot of life. I wondered how many hands that penny has passed through. How many times it’s been counted. I wondered if it had been cherished or taken for granted. I wondered if it had bought candy, paid the rent, put gas in the car, bought lifesaving medicine for a sick child. One thing was for certain… that penny had been used!

That was clear just by looking at it.

I want to be used too. I want to be of use. To God. To His Kingdom. Like currency in His hands I want Him to be able to spend my life as He sees fit. I want to be life and hope to the world around me. Even if it means forsaking the shiny perfection of being new. Even if it means getting a few scratches and dings along the way.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” Isa. 6:8

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

The kids are all tucked in bed and the last of the presents have been wrapped and placed under the tree. All of the work that comes with being a mom at Christmas is done. Now, finally, it’s time to sit and reflect.

Christmas, to me, has always been about endings and beginnings. It marks the end of the year as we look forward to the new year, new resolutions, new promises. It’s a time to reflect on the past year and all that it held. Joys, sorrows. Saying goodbye to people we loved, making room for new friends. The struggles we survived, the surprises along the way. All of life wrapped up in memories, tucked away in our hearts.

I think God meant for Christmas to be reflective. After all, it was the birth of His Son that marked the greatest new beginning of all time. The end of silence was broken by a babies cry. Years of wondering were ended by the most wonderful gift of all. When Jesus came everything changed. The old things passed away, and all things were made new. This is the gift He offers us. New life.

I think that’s what I love about Christmas. The wonder of it all. The thought that no matter how hopeless a person or situation appears to be that there is redemption offered to us. It’s the promise, the grace, the splendor and majesty wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

And because of the hope of Christmas I sit here and think of tomorrow. Of what it might hold, for me… for you. What promise does tomorrow hold? What answered prayer awaits us? What joy sits on the other side of this dark night? When Jesus was born four hundred years of silence was shattered on a clear dark night in Bethlehem. And the world has never been the same. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

That is the gift I want this Christmas. The gift of the Word dwelling in my midst. The gift of Emmanuel, God with us. The gift of the promise of new life.

I pray that He will be your gift as well!

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Secret

Her name was Sam. And we were seated at the same table for the Chamber Choir’s Madrigal Feast. She was beautiful. Not necessarily in appearance, but in spirit. Externally, you would have noticed plain brown hair, average height, little makeup, simple clothes. But then Sam started talking to us. Her beautiful British accent flitting across the table as her eyes sparkled. When she smiled it wasn’t just with her mouth but with her whole being. We were all instantly drawn to her.

As we waited for the performance to begin Sam kept a running commentary. The food… delectable. The Wassail… divine. The décor… stunning. Her assessment of our evening influenced each of us around the table. Then suddenly a hush fell across the room and Sam grew silent. Slowly the Chamber Choir began their processional singing acapella of the Christ Child and a manger.

As their voices filled the air my attention was once again drawn to Sam. Her eyes were closed, face upturned and slightly tilted, a single tear made its way across her cheek. Completely unashamed she sat fully immersed in the emotion of the moment. In a word she was radiant.

And as I watched He whispered to me “she knows the secret”.

The secret of being fully engaged. Of living, embracing, savoring every moment. The secret of joy.

She was not aware of time, or schedules, or urgent emails waiting to be answered. She was not worried about bills needing to be paid, or concerned about her child’s grades. She was simply, completely there. In that moment. Focused. Enjoying.

And I was jealous. I wanted to feel her joy. Experience her rapture. Join her in abandonment. But I simply could not silence all of the other voices in my mind. Like icy winds they whipped through my mind. Schedules, deadlines, lists, chores.

I want to be more like Sam. I want to silence the voices that aim to distract me. I want to revel in beauty. Get lost in joy. Be swept up in wonder. Enjoy the moment.

And so… I shall.

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Psalm 34:8

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Rise up Shepherd and Follow



There’s an old African-American Spiritual that has been haunting me the last few days. The words have crept into my soul and wrapped their fingers around my heart. When I wake I hear their refrain. All through the day it echoes in my mind…

Leave your flocks and leave your herds

Rise up shepherd and follow

Can you imagine it? A cold hillside on a dark night. The lights of Bethlehem in the distant. The bleating of sheep all around. Small fires surrounded by weather hardened shepherds; nomads. I wonder if they were tired. If they missed home, or if the endless pasture was their home. I wonder how long it had been since they had heard the cry of a baby, felt the smooth skin of a child, heard the innocent laughter of a little boy. Calloused hands holding wooden staffs and wooly coats. That was their life. No women, no children, no roof over their heads. Only sheep, shepherds and endless sky.

Until…

there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Rise up shepherd.

Rise up from outside the city gate. Rise up from your comfortable place around the warm fire. Rise up from the routine of your day.

And follow.

Follow the star to the baby. Follow the baby to green pastures and still waters. Follow the Shepherd of your souls.

Leave your flocks.

And leave your herds. Leave the things you depend on. Leave everything behind.

Rise up shepherd. And follow.

And they did. They did exactly what the angel told them to do.

Yet here I sit. Clinging to the comforts of my life. Glued to the seat of my complacency. Deaf to the Harkening of the Angels. Afraid to follow. Afraid to leave the flocks & herds. Afraid to rise up.

Yet, still I hear the chorus repeat. Rise up shepherd and follow. And softly in the distance I hear my Shepherd call; rise up, child, and follow.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

All I want for Christmas is a Limp

My friend Jennifer and I have been a bit obsessed with Joseph and Jacob lately. They were dreamers. We are too. And yet, their path from dream to reality didn’t really go like either one of them had planned. Neither has ours.

Yesterday Jennifer texted me: I keep hearing this: You have been wrestling, but you’re not walking with a limp yet. Time to get alone like Jacob did…

It’s true. The last several months have been spent wrestling God. Wrestling with His word, with His dreams in my heart, with knowing Him more fully. But I’m still walking the same. Maybe not exactly the same, but the changes have been subtle. And frankly, I’m done with subtle.

I want more.

I’m desperate for more.

And in my longing for more of Jesus I keep hearing… wait. Get alone. Fast. Pray. Watch. Seek.

But it’s Christmas! Doesn’t God know that this is the busiest time of the year? There’s decorating and baking to be done. Presents to be purchased and wrapped. Family and friends to visit. I don’t have time for waiting, seeking, and certainly not fasting (seriously? Fasting during Christmas? That’s just crazy!).

And then I am reminded of what this season is supposed to be about. It’s supposed to be about waiting for a Savior. It’s supposed to be about preparing our hearts to receive the King. It’s supposed to be about a light shining in the darkness. It’s supposed to be about Advent.

Advent- an arrival or coming, esp. one which is awaited, a coming into place, view, or being; arrival:

In a dark lonely prison Joseph waited on God and a promotion. On a dark lonely night Jacob waited on God and a blessing. And in a dark lonely stable Mary waited on God and a baby.

What are you waiting for? Praying for? Wrestling God for? What is the Advent of your heart?

Are you limping yet?


So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hop so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob” he answered. Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.” Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” then he blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I say God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. Gen. 32:24-31