Monday, July 28, 2014

JUST CALL ME JACOB


Jacob is an interesting character.

One meaning for his name is "leg puller."

Of course this doesn't mean that Jacob was a practical joker.

Although, he and his mom pulled a pretty good *switcheroo* on good ol' Isaac.  (Which seemed like a terrible thing to do to an old blind man, right?!)

And do I even need to mention the whole fiasco where Esau traded his birthright for a yummy bowl of stew?  (Though I think Esau takes the blame on this one).

Maybe Jacob wasn't a practical joker, but he was rather sneaky, don't you think?

However, I do love how the Bible doesn't pull any punches when writing about some of our beloved characters.

This is the family tree from which the Messiah will be born??

God is outrageous, if nothing else!!


So, Jacob.

The above facts are interesting indeed.

But the reason I like Jacob is for another reason.

He wrestled.

You know, the whole scene with Jacob's nighttime wrestling match is a bit mysterious.  And yet, every time I read the account, I strangely feel this inner sense of excitement, of anticipation.  Almost unwillingly, a smile sneaks to my face.

Why, I wonder?

Part of it is definitely because I feel that my faith journey is this sort of wrestling match.  A match in which my faith battles my feelings, in which I strive to hold on to it in spite of life's adverse circumstances.

But, there's something else.

It's this – the whole scene is rather intimate.

One-on-one with God

(Or the pre-incarnate Jesus, or an angel, or at the very least, a God-ordained emissary sent with a purpose.  Commentaries vary on this opinion – and in the end, to my thoughts, it doesn't perhaps matter…)

I like the idea of a wrestling faith, for it fits the way I am.

But this year, the Year of JOY, I am finding that the struggle is evolving into something different.

Instead of struggling against God, I am actually striving to find Him.


So, let's discuss this – and I'm going to talk about it in two parts.  For this is what I see – the fight and the aftermath.


The Fight:

The word struggle implies making great physical effort to fight.  To make a valiant effort to overcome difficulties.  To writhe to escape.  To thrash about.

Yup, that describes what this faith wrestling has felt like.

In the Biblical account of Jacob's story, we can see our own struggles against fears, darkness, loneliness, inadequacy, vulnerability.  We can identify with Jacob's empty feelings of powerlessness, exhaustion, and relentless pain.

But when we strive in our own might, our own power fails.

I can't tell you how much I have wanted to escape the turmoil that this year has brought.  I am tired of troubles, and wearied by contending for a good "faith attitude" in the midst of them.

I honestly feel like my spirit has been in a *winner-take-all* tussle with God.

Do I want to win?

Well, yeah, sometimes I think I do – IF it means having a restful respite from all the tough stuff for a while.  (Writhing to escape?  Yes, a perfect description…)

But if it means losing something from God, then no…

And that is where the pivot point is happening for me.


In my mind, there's two kinds of surrender.  There's lying on the wrestling mat, pinned underneath the overpowering hand of God and crying out, "OK, OK, 'Uncle,' you win!" – which is a begrudging *giving up* concession to the greater power of His might.

And then there's the other kind.  The kind that says, "Lord, I cannot fight You and win.  I don't want the fight anymore, I want You."

Frederick Buechner, one of the most read authors by Christian audiences, characterizes Jacob's divine encounter as the "magnificent defeat of the human soul at the hands of God."

Yes, that's it.

When Jacob fought God in his own strength, he was only able to forestall God's intended purpose towards him.

But if God had chosen to unleash His full power, Jacob would have been crushed.  So, somewhere in the early hours of the morning, something changes in Jacob.

This is where the second part begins.


The Aftermath:

Somewhere along the line, Jacob's life and character moves from reliance on self to reliance on God – the One who moves from "divine Antagonist to Friend."

Can you imagine what it would be like if God fought against us with all of His might?

(Don't – it's scary!)

But, just as He did with Jacob, God mercifully restrains His hand.  His way of overcoming us is through love.  Some have said that the only way we can "defeat" God is to reject Him.

Well, though not a defeat in the true sense of the word, it is a way to thwart Him.

God, our perfect God of perfect love, wants to win us by our choosing to yield to Him.

This is what the wrestling is about.  We must be weaned from our dependence on self.  It must be broken, hobbled, and defeated.  Only then, when we accurately perceive our weakness – only then, can we grab onto the Hand that will infuse us with His mighty strength and power.


This is what I am learning about my wrestling.

Though I desperately want the *bad* to stop – it isn't worth it to me to lose the blessing in order to achieve it.

And what's the blessing?

Knowing God – in an ever more intimate way.

This is where my turning point has come – I am moving from wrestling to wanting more of God.

This is the turning point for Jacob, too.  I find this passage startling in its account:

"But Jacob said, 'I will not let you go unless you bless me.'
'What is your name?' the man asked.
He replied, 'Jacob.'
…'Please tell me your name,' Jacob said.
'Why do you want to know my name?' the man replied.
Then he blessed Jacob there.
Jacob named the place Peniel (which means "face of God"), for he said, 'I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.'"  (From Genesis 32, NLT)


It was at this point that Jacob was finally capable of receiving the full blessing from God.  Emptied of himself, weak in his exhaustion, awash in his own powerlessness, he finally recognizes God.

A God who has lovingly allowed the wrestling until Jacob yielded.


A commentary I read said it this way:

"…he needed to have his heart thus cleansed and softened, and then opened wide by panting desire for the presence and benediction of God; he needed to be made conscious of his new standing, and of the higher life budding within him; he needed to experience the yearning for a closer vision of the face, a deeper knowledge of the name – and then it was possible to pour into his heart a tenderness and fullness of blessing which before there had been no room to receive, and which now answered in sweetest fashion the else unanswered desire, 'Tell me, I pray thee, Thy name.'"

(Alexander MacLaren, commentary)


"…panting desire for the presence and benediction of God…"

Do you love this phrase as much as I do?!

Yes, it describes it exactly – I pant for Him, thirst for Him, hunger for Him, feel like I will literally die if I can't feel Him close.

I so need Him.

And it is this desire that is the goal of God all along.  He desires that we desire Himwith "all our heart, all our soul, all our strength, and all our mind."

We can be filled with God only when we are emptied of ourselves.  For this is when we are finally capable of longing for Him fully, a desire that God cannot help but satisfy, for we were made for Him.


God blessed Jacob only after Jacob asked to know His Name.

This has become the deep cry of my heart, too:

"Bless me, Lord, for I would know You."

As Charles Wesley put it, in his grand hymn on this incident ("Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown"):

"Yield to me now, for I am weak,
But confident in self-despair…
Wrestling I will not let Thee go Till I Thy name, Thy nature know…

My strength is gone, my nature dies, I sink beneath Thy weighty hand,
Faint to revive…and yet by faith I stand;
I stand and will not let Thee go Till I Thy Name, Thy nature know."


What beauty there is in our refrain, "I will not let You go."

Our lives were never meant to be easy.  And this is especially true when we attempt to "do life" in our own strength.

But despite our trials and tribulations, we are never without God's presence. 

His blessing ever follows the messy and chaotic struggle.


Wrestling matches lead to intimate encounters.

And when we cling to Him, the victory belongs to Him...and to us.





I will lift up my eyes to the mountains,
From where shall my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to slip,
The LORD is your keeper.
He will keep your soul.
He will guard your going out
and your coming in,
From this time forth
and forever.

























"Yes, he wrestled with the angel and won.  He wept and pleaded for a blessing from him.  There at Bethel he met God face to face, and God spoke to him – the LORD God of Heaven's Armies, the LORD is his name!" (Hosea 12:4, NLT) 

"Then he said, 'Let me go, for the day has broken.'  But Jacob said, 'I will not let you go unless you bless me.'" (Genesis 32:26, ESV)


"As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When can I go and meet with God?

...Why, my soul, are you downcast?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.  My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you...

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me...

I say to God my Rock, 'Why have you forgotten me?  Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?'  My bones suffer mortal agony...

Why, my soul, are you downcast?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God." 
(From Psalm 42, NIV)


"O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water." (Psalm 63:1, ESV)

"My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God." (Psalm 84:2, NIV)

"My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you." (Isaiah 26:9, NIV)

"I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land...Answer me quickly, O LORD!  My spirit fails!  Hide not your face from me..." (Psalm 143:6-7, ESV)

"'Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.'" (Matthew 5:6, NIV)

"For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things." (Psalm 107:9, ESV)

"'For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.'" (Jeremiah 31:25, ESV)

"He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power." (Isaiah 40:29, NASB)

"...he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.   For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, ESV)

"Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him." (James 1:12, ESV)



How do you identify with Jacob?  What are you learning in the wrestling?



Linked today with:

SHARING HIS BEAUTY, UNFORCED RHYTHMS, PLAYDATES WITH GOD, MONDAY'S MUSINGS, SOLI DEO GLORIA, TELL ME A TRUE STORY, UNITE, TITUS 2 TUESDAYS, TESTIMONY TUESDAY, A LITTLE R & R WEDNESDAY, WHOLEHEARTED WEDNESDAYS, CAPTURE YOUR JOURNEY, WHIMSICAL WEDNESDAYS, THREE WORD WEDNESDAY, TELL HIS STORY, WORD FILLED WEDNESDAY, WINSOME WEDNESDAY, COFFEE FOR YOUR HEART, WORDS OF LIFE WEDNESDAY, FAITH BARISTA, THOUGHT-PROVOKING THURSDAY, THRIVING THURSDAY, THRIVE AT HOME THURSDAY



BLOG = "Blessedly Leaning On God!"

Monday, July 21, 2014

CINDERELLA GOD


I like fairy tales.

I'm a sucker for happily ever after.

And Cinderella is one of my favorite stories.

The whole idea of rags to riches is appealing.  Even more so is the idea of a Prince Charming who sweeps you off your feet.  And wow!  He even scours the kingdom looking for you when you run off!

And oh, who wouldn't love the whole idea of a glass slipper made just for you – one that fits perfectly!  (Or any shoe that fits perfectly, right?!)

(Guys reading this?  Sorry.  Use your imagination and insert something that would be built just for you!  And maybe Princess Charming??)


I have to admit, sometimes in my walk with God, I want a fairy tale.

Real life is really tough sometimes.

And it sure would be nice to have things turn out happily ever after once in awhile, huh?

And this is where I realize what sort of God I usually want.

I want a God who comes to my rescue, and sweeps me off my feet.

I want a God who scours the kingdom looking for me when I run off.

I want a God who makes life fit me *just right.*

I want a God who makes all the bad stuff go away.


I want a Cinderella God.

Do you?

Of course, we know in our minds that life isn't always going to be wonderful. But sometimes, in our hearts, don't we wish it was?

And don't we sometimes blame God when it isn't?

I know I do.

Knowing that God can do anything, I sometimes really struggle with those times when He doesn't intervene.

Why does He let suffering happen?

Why does evil run rampant?

Why does He sometimes withhold His presence?


I sometimes feel like a modern-day Job.

Job was an everyman.  I think he asked and wondered about and battled the same age-old questions that confront every human being at one time or another.

The mystery of "bad"…

Sometimes this dilemma is even harder for me to deal with when I look at Jesus.

Shouldn't He have fixed everything?

He did, but still…

Even now, couldn't He fix EVERY…THING???

Truth be told, I want a comfortable God, with a shoe that fits *just right.* A life that runs smoothly, and a heart that never struggles with fear or doubt.

I want a God who answers prayers – my prayers – my way.

So often when I pray, God answers me in ways that I don't want.

I pray for more faith, and He allows more trials.

I pray for ease, and He allows testing.

I pray for peace, and He allows unsettling circumstances.

I pray for patience, and He gives me situations that require endurance.

I pray for comfort, and He pushes to develop character.

I pray for happiness, and He allows suffering.


This list could on and on – and you could add your own stuff to it.

For each of us struggles with wanting a Cinderella God.

But, God is not a fairy tale.

He is not a cosmic genie-in-the-sky.

He isn't worried about pleasing us, or fulfilling our whims.

He doesn't jump through our hoops, say "how high" when we say leap, or bow at our feet.

If He did, He wouldn't be God.

And even as much as I'd like to tell Him how to act, I'm really glad I can't control Him.

After all, I don't want someone in charge who has me for a boss!


I guess if I'm honest, I don't really want a Cinderella God.

I just want God.

God in all His mysterious, unpredictable, awesome ways.

And hey, He is a dream come true…

HE IS a God who comes to my rescue, and sweeps me off my feet.

HE IS a God who scours the kingdom looking for me when I run off.

HE IS a God who makes life fit me *just right* in His ultimate wisdom.

And though He isn't a God who makes all the bad stuff go away, HE IS a God who loves me and is working all things for good.

HE IS a God of purpose.

The One who lifted me from the dirty ashes of slavery, and invited me to the dance.  The One who desired to make me part of the Kingdom.  The One who knows me by name, and fashions me into something new and beautiful.


Jesus is my Prince Charming…

…and once upon a time, I asked Him into my heart.

Maybe the story isn't a bed of roses all the time.

That's OK – I know how it ends…

…Happily ever after.





I believe in the sun even when it's not shining.
I believe in love even when I don't feel it.
I believe in God even when He is silent.

(These words were found scrawled on a cellar wall where
Jews had hidden in World War II in Cologne, Germany)






"The LORD Almighty has sworn, 'Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will happen.'" (Isaiah 14:24, NIV)

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." (Jeremiah 29:11, ESV)

"Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand." (Proverbs 19:21, ESV)

"...the LORD's plans stand firm forever; his intentions can never be shaken." (Psalm 33:11, NLT)

"For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength." (1 Corinthians 1:25, NIV) 

"'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.'" 
(Isaiah 55:8-9, ESV)

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28, NIV)

"How great are your works, LORD, how profound your thoughts!" 
(Psalm 92:5, NIV)



What is something you grapple with - and how are you learning to love the actual God, and not your "version" of Him?



Linked today with:

SHARING HIS BEAUTY, PLAYDATES WITH GOD, UNFORCED RHYTHMS, INSPIRE ME MONDAY, MONDAY'S MUSINGS, UNITE, SOLI DEO GLORIA, TELL ME A TRUE STORY, TITUS 2 TUESDAYS, TESTIMONY TUESDAY, WHOLEHEARTED WEDNESDAYS, WHIMSICAL WEDNESDAYS, THREE WORD WEDNESDAY, TELL HIS STORY, WINSOME WEDNESDAY, A LITTLE R & R WEDNESDAY, WORD FILLED WEDNESDAY, COFFEE FOR YOUR HEART, WORDS OF LIFE WEDNESDAY, THOUGHT-PROVOKING THURSDAY, THRIVING THURSDAY, THRIVE AT HOME THURSDAY, EVERYDAY JESUS, HEARTS FOR HOME, GRACE AT HOME, LIGHT FRIDAY HIT LIST, FRIENDSHIP FRIDAY, ESSENTIAL FRIDAYS, WHATEVER IS LOVELY, MAKE MY SATURDAY SWEET, THE FRIDAY FIVE, SPIRITUAL SUNDAYS, COUNTING MY BLESSINGS, STILL SATURDAY, SATURDAY SOIREE, RECOMMENDATION SATURDAY, WEEKEND BREW, GIVE ME GRACE, SUNDAY STILLNESS


BLOG = "Blessedly Leaning On God!"

Monday, July 14, 2014

CARVED DEEPER


Life isn't easy.

As if that's a new thought.  (Captain Obvious and I are cousins??)

And sometimes it seems like the *hits keep on coming*.

You know what it's like.

Life can arrive so suddenly, so shockingly.

We are unprepared for the curveballs thrown at us.  And often, just when we are reeling from one life circumstance, another one arrives to knock us down.

Been there?

In the first six months of this year, I have pondered much about the process of refinement.  About why it's so difficult.  About why it's so important.

And sometimes in my conversations (rants, wails) with friends, I have often said this, "I'm just being carved deeper."


I got to thinking about that.  About the whole process of sculpting, and I got curious.  So I looked it up.  Here are the stages of creating a sculpture:


1)  The work begins with the selection of a stone for carving.   (Michelangelo claimed that his job was to free the human form trapped inside the block)


"As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world."  (John 15:19, NIV)


2)  The carver usually begins by knocking off large portions of unwanted stone.  (Energy is transferred along the tool, shattering the stone)


"And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you.  I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart." (Ezekiel 36:26, NLT)


3)  Then the sculptor uses other tools to refine the figure. 


"I will bring [them] through the fire and make them pure.  I will refine them like silver and purify them like gold." (Zechariah 13:9, NLT)


4)  Eventually the sculptor has changed the stone from a rough block into the general shape of the finished statue.


"Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity…" (Hebrews 6:1, NIV)


5)  Tools are then used to enhance the shape into its final form.


"But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit.  For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God's deep secrets." 
(1 Corinthians 2:10, NLT)


6)  The final stage of the carving process is polishing. 


"So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord." (2 Corinthians 3:18, NLT)


7)  This abrading, or wearing away, brings out the color of the stone, reveals patterns in the surface, and adds a sheen. 


"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." (2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV)



Can you see the parallels to the process of refinement that God does in our lives?

I especially liked what Michelangelo said – for it reminded me of how God is doing just that – freeing humans trapped inside of their sin.

But, believe me, the process isn't easy.  And many times, it's downright painful.


If you're like me and love The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, then you'll remember a particular scene from "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader."  A nasty and spoiled young boy named Eustace has made himself an obnoxious nuisance.  Selfish, whiny, lazy – he causes all sorts of grief for his fellow voyagers.

Until…

Until he finds the treasure trove of a dying dragon.  Thrilled at his newfound riches, he exults that he will never need anyone again.  But overnight, he turns into a dragon himself.

With a bracelet that is way-too-tight, and a heart that begins to understand (and miss) what it really means to be a boy, he tries and tries to scratch off his dragon scalesbut they always come back.

Until…

Until he has a rather startling encounter with the great lion, Aslan.


"'You will have to let me undress you,'" says Aslan the Lion.

The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart.  And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt.  The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. . . .

Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off – just as I thought I'd done it myself the other three times, only they hadn't hurt – and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been.  And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been.  Then he caught hold of me – I didn't like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I'd no skin on – and threw me into the water.  It smarted like anything but only for a moment.  After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm.  And then I saw why.  I'd turned into a boy again…"

(The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C.S. Lewis, c. 1952)


I love this scene, this moment in the story.  For though it makes me wince, and though it makes me squirm – for I recognize myself in Eustace – it also fills my heart with the thrill of unconditional love and undeserved grace.

Yes, the first step in being carved starts by tearing through those crusty layers of sin.  And through the blessing of salvation, we are made into something new.

That's the beginning.

And then, the rest of the process begins.

God has a way of shaping those He loves.  Sometimes He uses a big old chisel and hammer, knocking off huge chunks of *self”* – ever earnestly desiring something better than what we settle for.

At times, after this process of "de-chunking," we might be tempted to think we have *arrived* in the walk of faith.  We might be tempted to think that we are spiritually mature and complete.

Ah, pride cometh before a fall?!

For then, the Lord does deeper work.

He begins chipping away at the deeper stuff, the stuff that's more ingrained inside of us, the stuff that we might not even be fully aware of…

The flaws that lurk and remain.


I look again at the stages of sculpting (specifically #5, 6, and 7):

Enhancing the shape into its final form.

Polishing.

Abrading, wearing away.

Bringing out the color, revealing patterns, adding sheen.


This is what the Lord is after – deeper work, more detailed work, painstaking work, loving work.  

Work that is after the final product – looking like His Son.


You see, there's a big difference between what we think is a *finished product* and what God wants.

For instance, there's a big difference between:

Not being selfish – and dying to self.

Thinking about others – and serving them.

Reading the Bible – and thirsting for God.

Saying prayers – and communing deeply and intimately with God.

Loving God – and putting Him first in all things.

Having faith – and trusting God.

Talking the talk – and walking the walk.


As much as it pains me (both figuratively AND literally!), I do want to look like Jesus.

But it isn't going to come easy – for it does NOT come naturally.


And so, life happens.

Sometimes suddenly, sometimes shockingly, and sometimes when we're already knocked down.

We are promised that it will happen this way…

"Dear friends, don't be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you." (1 Peter 4:12, NLT)

"'Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.'" (John 16:33, NLT)

But, if we so choose, we can look at these circumstances in light of what the Lord is trying to accomplish through them.

He is creating a thing of beauty – a sculpture that resembles His Son.

Something that is detailed with all the light and shadows of life.  With all the rough spots smoothed out.  Highly polished and shining in glory.

A living sculpture that is made in the image of The Sculptor.

Sounds wonderful.

Sounds difficult and painful.

But worth it.


So, bring on the mallets, and chisels, and hammers, and rasps, and files, and sandpaper, Lord…

Create in me something beautiful…

Something that looks like YOU!

Carve me deeper.





 Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
Lead me
in the way everlasting!



"When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child.  But when I grew up, I put away childish things.  Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.  All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely." 
(1 Corinthians 13:11-12, NLT)

"Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.  And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure." (1 John 3:2-3, ESV)

"Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.  For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.  And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory." (Colossians 3:1-4, NLT)

"...He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you."  (Philippians 1:6, AMP)



How are you being *carved deeper*?



Linked today with:

SHARING HIS BEAUTY, PLAYDATES WITH GOD, UNFORCED RHYTHMS, INSPIRE ME MONDAY, MONDAY'S MUSINGS, TITUS 2 TUESDAYS, SOLI DEO GLORIATELL ME A TRUE STORY, UNITE, TESTIMONY TUESDAY, WHIMSICAL WEDNESDAYS, CAPTURE YOUR JOURNEY, A LITTLE R & R WEDNESDAYS, WHOLEHEARTED WEDNESDAY, THREE WORD WEDNESDAY, TELL HIS STORY, WINSOME WEDNESDAY, WORD FILLED WEDNESDAY, COFFEE FOR YOUR HEART, WORDS OF LIFE WEDNESDAYS, THOUGHT-PROVOKING THURSDAY, THRIVING THURSDAY, LIGHT FRIDAY HIT LIST, EVERYDAY JESUS, THRIVE AT HOME THURSDAY, HEARTS FOR HOME, GRACE AT HOME, FELLOWSHIP FRIDAYS, FAITH FILLED FRIDAY, FRIENDSHIP FRIDAY, ESSENTIAL FRIDAYS, WHATEVER IS LOVELY, SPIRITUAL SUNDAYS, COUNTING MY BLESSINGS, MAKE MY SATURDAY SWEET, STILL SATURDAY, SATURDAY SOIREE, RECOMMENDATION SATURDAY, WEEKEND BREW, SUNDAY STILLNESS, GIVE ME GRACE


BLOG = "Blessedly Leaning On God!"

Monday, July 7, 2014

STRUT YOUR MUTT


I love small towns on the Fourth of July.

I love our small town.

Our mountain community put on quite a show!  Featured events included an arts and crafts show, a pancake breakfast, a deep-pit barbeque, a pie-eating contest, music, dancing, sidewalk vendors' booths, and food and drink galore.

And oh…what a parade we had down the main street of town!

With all the small town participants you could imagine!

The parade started with a little old lady playing "The Star-Spangled Banner" on her violin.  Just precious!  The grand marshal was Smokey Bear.  (Which, by the way, is his original name, not Smokey the Bear – trivia tidbit free of charge).

I certainly appreciated his presence in our town, and his well-wishing admonitions about fire prevention.  After all, it's only been one short year since we were evacuated for 4 days after a huge wildfire threatened our town and our home.

That's why I also appreciated the next entrants in our parade – a rather impressive showing of local and county fire engines, trucks, and emergency rescue vehicles.  At one point, I looked down the length of the parade, and there were like 15 vehicles in a row.  I call that reassurance, my friends!

Might I just add that I had way too much fun gathering up candy thrown from various cars and floats and kids who walked the street.  I made my acquaintance with something called an Atomic Fireball – basically, a cinnamon candy on steroids!  Let me tell you, combined with the homemade jalapeno sauce that I later ate at lunch, well, my mouth was on fire the rest of the day.

Where was Smokey when I needed him?!

A highlight of the holiday weekend was the several events sponsored by some local animal rescue organizations.  All sorts of animals were up for adoption.  OK, yeah, I felt really sad for the faces, but I know that these animals are safe – these organizations are no-kill.

There was a contest for the Mr. and Mrs. of our town – a sort of canine homecoming king and queen event.  I must mention here that the mayor of our town is a Dog, elected into office by a very dog-friendly town!  He was around all day, with his tie on, spreading goodwill and possibly a few licks.

And, there was a special parade called, "Strut Your Mutt."  

Only dogs with…ahem…*mixed* heritage could enter.  I loved that!  A big to-do to honor those lovable creatures who bring us such joy.  Not Winchester Dog Show candidates, but real down-to-earth guys and gals who make up in adorableness what they lack in pedigree.

In all, a great time was had by all!!


So, I've been sitting here thinking about my blog post.

What on earth am I going to write about?  

And as I've been contemplating, I just couldn't stop thinking about the "Strut Your Mutt" parade.  First of all, I loved the title – I'm a sucker for rhyming! And second, I loved the idea of treating some otherwise "overlooked" doggies as special.

And then I remembered a recent conversation I had about judging other people.  About how I try not to do that because I've made so many mistakes in my own life.  How I try to extend grace to others because I realize that I am no better than the next person.

That I am a sinner like everyone else.

And in the course of the conversation, I mentioned the conversation that Jesus had with some high-and-mighty Pharisees.  This is what He had to say:

"But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, 'Why does he eat with such scum?'

When Jesus heard this, he told them, 'Healthy people don't need a doctor – sick people do.  I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.'"  (Mark 2:16-17, NLT)

And then I said, "I know I'm a sinner.  And I'm glad I know."


So, what's this have to do with the "Strut Your Mutt" parade?  

It's this…

I know I'm a mutt.

When we read the Bible, we see that Gentiles were considered pariahs. Not born into the chosen race, they were thought to be impure and heretical and not deserving of the benefits and blessings that God bestowed on the Jewish nation.

Not purebreds, but mutts.

Until Jesus.

And then, in a shocking display of overarching love and grace and acceptance, Gentiles were given the chance to join the Kingdom.

I'm not sure that we of the 21st century can conceive of how audacious (and disturbing) this new covenant truly was!

God was now including *mutts* – curs and mongrels – into the blessed privilege of becoming His children.

Shocking!

However, as a person who is now granted an inheritance into the Kingdom of God because of Jesus, I am so very glad to claim my place in the parade!

I count myself lucky to be totally aware of my lostness without a Savior. I'm glad to fully acknowledge that I didn't deserve His salvation, but that I was granted it anyway.

I KNOW that I am a sinner.  And I am grateful to know that I was "sick with sin" until the Great Physician came along.

The Savior of the World, God Himself, sat down with "scum" – and that would include me.

I know that I am much more comfortable sitting at the table with the outcasts, the disenfranchised, the miscreants, the bedraggled, the strugglers, the screw-ups.

For in my Master's eyes, I am now righteous.


So, friends, let's go out this week in all our *muttness* and live out the very Good News that we are now part of the Kingdom.  Let's celebrate the fact that we have been rescued and adopted.  Let's praise Him for the truth that we are now counted among the privileged children of God.

Let's continue the work of inviting others to sit down at the table, and join in the parade!

Yeah, let's go out there into the world and "Strut Our Mutt!"





Strutting can be hard work! 



"'If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do?  Won't he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost?'" (Matthew 18:12, NLT)

"'For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.'"
(Luke 19:10, NLT)

"'…the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them.'" (Luke 9:56, NASB)

"'For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.'" (John 3:17, NIV)

"Then Peter replied, 'I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism.  In every nation he accepts those who fear him and do what is right.'" (Acts 10:34, NLT)

"'There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.'"
(Galatians 3:28-29, ESV)

"But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God." (John 1:12, NLT)

"For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God."
(Romans 8:14, NLT)

"For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life.  For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge (to reject, to condemn, to pass sentence on) the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him."
(John 3:16-17, AMP)



In what ways do you still struggle to accept God's acceptance of you?



Linked today with:

SHARING HIS BEAUTY, PLAYDATES WITH GOD, UNFORCED RHYTHMS, INSPIRE ME MONDAY, TELL ME A TRUE STORY, UNITE, SOLI DEO GLORIA, TITUS 2 TUESDAYS, TESTIMONY TUESDAY, WHOLEHEARTED WEDNESDAY, WHIMSICAL WEDNESDAYS, A LITTLE R & R WEDNESDAYS, THREE WORD WEDNESDAY, TELL HIS STORY, WINSOME WEDNESDAY, WORD FILLED WEDNESDAY, COFFEE FOR YOUR HEART, WORDS OF LIFE WEDNESDAYS, THOUGHT-PROVOKING THURSDAY, THRIVING THURSDAY, FAITH BARISTA, EVERYDAY JESUS, THRIVE AT HOME THURSDAY, HEARTS FOR HOME, GRACE AT HOME, FAITH FILLED FRIDAY, ESSENTIAL FRIDAYS, WHATEVER IS LOVELY, FRIENDSHIP FRIDAY, MAKE MY SATURDAY SWEET, FELLOWSHIP FRIDAYS, THE FRIDAY FIVE, SPIRITUAL SUNDAYS, COUNTING MY BLESSINGS, CAPTURE YOUR JOURNEY, LIGHT FRIDAY HIT LIST, STILL SATURDAY, WEEKEND BREW, SATURDAY SOIREE, RECOMMENDATION SATURDAY, SUNDAY STILLNESS, GIVE ME GRACE



BLOG = "Blessedly Leaning On God!"

Monday, June 30, 2014

21,000 DAYS


It's a significant number.

Let me tell you what it means.

I was reading a post the other day about the importance of walking with the Lord – and how it really doesn't matter whether it's only been one day or 10,000…

I got to thinking about that.

I've been a believer since I was about 3.  I just turned 60.  So, I calculated the days.  It's been in the vicinity of 21,000 days that I've walked with the Lord.

I was kinda shocked.

To try to put the number in perspective, I translated it into miles.  And that would be like walking 57 miles a day for a whole year!  (Which, incidentally, would greatly enhance my plan to lose a pound or two or twenty…just sayin').

21,000.

A rather long journey.

And an adventurous one.

It's been fraught with highs and lows mountains and valleys and deserts – storm and wilderness and drought.  Moments of faith aflame, and moments of parched doubt.  Soaring victory and treacherous failure.

All serving to weave a quilt full of the patchwork of my life.

All walked with Jesus.

OK, sure, sometimes I've lagged behind or run ahead – or even wandered off for periods of time.

But never, ever have I walked alone.

God's Word promises that.

But what about me?

I know that He is always with me…but am I still with Him?

It's no small question.

Plenty of people start out strong in their loyalty to our Savior.  But sometimes, somewhere along the line, life invades that Garden of Eden perfect picture of unity.

Something changes inside…

And the walk with Him is abandoned.

Some only leave for a season.  Some never return.  Some were never on the path in the first place, not really.

But what about me?

Some detours along the way, but I've been walking 21,000 days.

Now, please know that I am NOT bragging here.  This is no "accomplishment" on my part.  This is nothing to "brag" about.  If anything, let it be a testimony to the faithfulness of our Heavenly Father.

What did Paul say?

"If you want to boast, boast only about the LORD."

So, it is all Him.

And yet, there is a choice on my part, too.  For God is the ultimate gentleman.  He never forces people to follow Him, nor to worship Him.  He gives His awful and wonderful gift of free will, and then He lets us choose.

When I was but a child of three, I chose Him.

And I can honestly say I have never regretted nor abandoned my choice.

Yes, I am still with Him.

And this is a particularly sweet victory in the middle of one of the hardest years in my life.


So, what does it mean to stay with Him?

It means a lot of things.  I'm listing some of what it means to me…

Communication – talking to Him, crying to Him, ranting to Him.

Reading His Word – letting His words sink into my heart and permeate my thoughts.

Fellowship – joining with others, not neglecting the Body of Christ.

Worship – never forgetting His holiness and glory.

Praise – telling Him how wonder-full I think He is (even when I'm mad at Him – maybe especially when I'm mad at Him…)

Awe – never forgetting Who's really in charge.

Denying myself – yup, all that personal cross-carrying stuff.

Discipleship – following, always following, after Him.

Hope – Holding On (with) Perseverance (and) Endurance

And yes, JOY – Jesus, Only You.


I guess as I reflect on my lifelong journey with the Lord, this is what it means for me to walk 21,000 days.

It means choosing Him, even when I don't feel like it, even when I don't see my way clear, even when I can only sit in the middle of the road and cry.

It means choosing Him one day at a time.

And what of that choice?

Does it matter?

Oh my, yes.

It matters for me, this is without doubt.  But I also think it has huge ramifications in the spiritual realm.

What does it mean when we choose to stay with Him?

Does it affect the enemy of our souls?

Oh, indeed, I think it does.

My paraphrase of a popular thought:

"Be the type of person that when your feet hit the floor each morning, the devil says, 'Oh no!  They're up!'"

Lately, it's been more like me saying this – "Oh no.  I'm up."  As in, oh dear, it's another day.

However, even in that state of mind, I'm still choosing to follow the Lord.

And THAT, my friends, is what I think scares the enemy.


Job, sitting in a pile of rags, festering with boils, taunted by friends, and light years away from God’s comfort…

Even then – Job was SCARY!

This statement: "Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him…" (Job13:15, NIV)


Esther, willing to take a life-or-death stand against a treacherous enemy…

Even then – Esther was SCARY!

This statement: "And then, though it is against the law, I will go in to see the king.  If I must die, I must die." (Esther 4:16, NLT)


Paul, who was put in prison, whipped times without number, faced death again and again, was stoned, shipwrecked three times, set adrift at sea, and faced danger from friends and enemies alike….

Even then – Paul was SCARY!

This statement: "Just as it is written, 'FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.'  But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us." (Romans 8:36-37, NASB)


And, even though the thought scares me somewhat, I also want to be SCARY to the devil.

I want my faith to be intimidating to him.

My choice to keep walking on the Narrow Way might just be winning battles that I don't even know about.

Job never knew about the cosmic chess match happening in the heavens.

But when he chose to hang on to his faith in God even though he was angry and confused and suffering – I have a feeling that the heavens thundered, "CHECKMATE!"

Not that God needed any help from Job – but something happens when beings with free will CHOOSE to stay loyal.

Have you ever pictured the next moment?

I have.  I can see God look at Lucifer with a smile on His face.  I can see a defeated angel skulking away, with his head hanging low, muttering in disgust and frustration:

"Another human defies me."

Yes, let's do that.


So, it's been around 21,000 days that I've walked with the Lord.  And though the walk has not been easy lately, I'm still here.  Still choosing to follow.  Still loyal to Him.

And I am making trouble in the ranks of those who defy the Living God, and who would love to defeat those He loves.

Don't count me out.

I am still walking…





Whoever says he abides in Him
ought to walk in the same way in which He walked.

Following in His footsteps.



"Some nations boast of their chariots and horses, but we boast in the name of the LORD our God."(Psalm 20:7, NLT)

"In God we have boasted all day long, and we will give thanks to Your name forever.  Selah." (Psalm 44:8, NASB)

"This is what the LORD says:
'Don't let the wise boast in their wisdom,
or the powerful boast in their power,
or the rich boast in their riches.
But those who wish to boast
should boast in this alone:
that they truly know me and understand that I am the LORD
who demonstrates unfailing love
and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth,
and that I delight in these things.
I, the LORD, have spoken!'" (Jeremiah 9:23-24, NLT)

"As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world's interest in me has also died." (Galatians 6:14, NLT)

"I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20, ESV)

"Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever." (Psalm 23:6, NLT)




How many days have you walked with Him?  Do you think it makes a difference when you choose to walk with Him even during tough times?


Linked today with:

SHARING HIS BEAUTY, UNFORCED RHYTHMS, PLAYDATES WITH GOD, INSPIRE ME MONDAY, TELL ME A TRUE STORY, UNITE, SOLI DEO GLORIA, TITUS 2 TUESDAYS, TESTIMONY TUESDAY, WHIMSICAL WEDNESDAYS, WINSOME WEDNESDAY, WHOLEHEARED WEDNESDAY, TELL HIS STORY, WORD FILLED WEDNESDAY, THREE WORD WEDNESDAY, COFFEE FOR YOUR HEART, FAITH BARISTA JAM, THOUGHT-PROVOKING THURSDAY, THRIVING THURSDAY, THRIVE AT HOME THURSDAY, A LITTLE R & R WEDNESDAY, FELLOWSHIP FRIDAYS, HEARTS FOR HOME, FRIENDSHIP FRIDAY, FAITH FILLED FRIDAY, ESSENTIAL FRIDAYS, WHATEVER IS LOVELY, THE FRIDAY FIVE, SPIRITUAL SUNDAYS, COUNTING MY BLESSINGS, WEEKEND BREW, STILL SATURDAY, RECOMMENDATION SATURDAY, SUNDAY STILLNESS, GIVE ME GRACE


BLOG = "Blessedly Leaning On God!"