Digging Deeper

Life is crazy. Seasons come and go, and even when anticipated, you never can expect all that unfolds. Some takes you higher, lifting your gaze beyond what you have seen before. Your heart soars with visions of brilliance that cannot be described with words. At other times, you are plunged into the depths of the valley seasons, far deeper than imagined. There, the darkness seems to take on a weight that presses on you physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Questions that were dormant now spring to life bringing internal controversy with  yourself and the Lord.

While certainly not over, these past few seasons have dramatically affected me. More importantly than all the shaking though, is my resolve to understand and receive the manner by which the Lord is walking with me in this season. It is unlike any season I have traveled, and yet, His presence remains. Slowly, yet with increasing clarity, I am coming to see the Lord with fresh eyes and with a deepening hope of His greatness and love that surpasses any and every event and circumstance of my life. I’m left with only gratefulness to offer Him, as all else pales in comparison. Ever deeper the Holy Spirit continues to dig in my heart to further enlarge the place of God’s dwelling within me. For that, I am humbled and undone. Thank You Jesus!

Season of Rest

For the past few months, I have been embracing a season of rest in many areas of ministry, particularly my writing. Though difficult, this time has been important to lay all at God’s feet, and to ask for fresh eyes as I look ahead in my journey.

One area I’m exploring in more significant ways deals with how to hold the emphatic promises of God for my life when my experiences continue to be the opposite. A challenge at best, I’m coming to see with deeper peace the reality that while God’s promises over our lives are absolutely true and unchanging, the application of these promises can change from season to season. That which I’ve experienced of a promise in different circumstances remains true, but may not come out in the way I anticipate at a new time and place in my journey.

In times as these,  I’m left with a choice. I can either believe that His promises have ceased or don’t apply in my current state, or I can begin another mysterious adventure to find the expression of His promises in fresh, new ways. While I still struggle a bit, I am trying to follow the latter, again throwing my life upon the alter of God and trusting His heart for my life. In the process, I can sense my faith being stretched and deepened in His ongoing goodness and kindness over my life.

If you find yourself in a similar place, I offer this blessing…”Father, I ask you to draw every person close to your heart where a new season of trusting has blossomed. Open their eyes to your veiw from heaven, and connect their heart to yours where they can begin to understand with greater sensitivity the abiding kind love you have for them and for their journey. Thank You. Amen.”

Shifting Seasons

I truly love the natural rhythm of changing life around me. The freshness that each day brings as articulated by nature’s vast array of color and form, continually points me heavenward regardless of my personal circumstances. Whether the start of new life in the Spring, or the growing dormancy in preparation for Winter during the Fall, each transition portrays a vivid portrait of our own lives.

Like nature’s seasonal changes, the shifting of life seasons can be filled with much unknown. We first experience upheaveal when what we came to experience yesterday no longer matches what we may encounter today. Expectations become confounded, and our bearings for what is “normal” go awry. Suddenly, we find ourselves “inbetween” two distinct worlds…that which once was, and that which can be.

Looking back, Jesus steps forwards from our circumstances to highlight the faithfulness of how He traveled with us. Doing so brings a peaceful relief to our hearts and many “Aha” moments where our eyes are opened to His intimate compassions and involvements that before remained unperceived.

Looking ahead, Jesus again stands before us, beckoning us to follow. Usually, the scene around him is not overly clear, while His presence is. I suspect that’s point. Our going forward remains more about being with him than it does about the particulars of what we will be doing together.

But want about the “inbetween” stage? Where is Jesus then? In truth, He remains by our side as before, encouraging us to lean into Him even more. He knows that shifting life circumstances can be unsettling, especially when it comes unexpectedly. In moments like this, He speaks to us with abiding encouragement to bring an enduring peace that empowers our heart to keep pressing on with His input.

“Help me Jesus to reach more for you than for the clarity of my circumstances when I experience the shifting seasons in my journey. Thank you that you remain faithful to me even when I wander away in search of the answers myself.”

The Call to “Come”

Dusk has come in all its glorious transition. Light fades and colors the western sky, as distant sparkles begin appearing. Soon, the darkening ceiling upon the earth is etched with stars of every kind. The moon slowly rises in the far distance, its own light contesting the growing darkness in the absence of the sun.

I step outside for a brief moment, looking for something I’m missing from inside. My attention fixed upon my search, suddenly something inside me stops. My heart awakens and that familiar hush envelops me. Forgetting why I was standing there, I move away from the house to take in the unfolding scene. Awed and filled with wonder, I wait.

Moments like these captivate me. I continually long for more of them as they represent those times of God calling my name. “Come”, He says, and at once, my heart is hooked. I usually wait for more instructions, and rarely it comes. Early on, this would frustrate me. But over time, I came to understand. The way I came to Him was not the point. Rather, He just wanted me to come.

Life for most of us leaves little to no room for responding to God calls. We practice over and over how to “react” to the shifting circumstances we encounter in life, most of which we would never desire. Yet, into the midst of these and other instances of our harried life, the Father likes to step in and extend His beckoning hand.

“Come”, He says.

“Now?” we respond, shocked.

“But I’ve got so much to do!”, we think to ourselves as conflict fills our hearts.

God’s call in these moments are intentional. Our lives are less about what we accomplish, and more about the journey we walk with Him together. Does He want us to accomplish and succeed? Absolutely. However, coming into His presence, especially in those unique moments of personal invitation, trumps the daily grind of normal living. Being with Him brings life as Heaven intends where relationship reigns supreme.

Watch for these moments each day and be prepared to act, regardless of what you face. In doing so regardless of what it will require, we will touch the Father’s heart as only we can. We each mean that much to Him.

Our Living Sacrifice

The altar of God. All kinds of images flood my mind, from bloodied cut up animals, to Isaac lying there white-faced, wondering what was going on.  The whole sacrificial offering thing seems mysterious, violent, and severely demanding, yet still a draw upon my heart.  I find myself wrestling between wanting to offer God the best I have, but knowing that most of what I have to offer is brokenness, weakness, and a realization that I have far to go.

I know that the time for actually putting flesh and blood on an altar has passed. Jesus, my blessed substitute, paid the ultimate price of His life and became THE sacrifice for my life. What could have been required of me He did. In the midst of this death, He gives me new life. The wonder of it all overwhelms me.

Still, the altar remains between me and God. The new instructions remain unchanged since Jesus left this earth – “Come with your living sacrifice.”  No longer does God want a sacrifice of death, but rather a “living sacrifice” of my life. Really?

A living sacrifice. The mere thought of a sacrifice that lives on seems strange. How does this work? One explanation can be summed up this way…

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering.” (Romans 12:1, The Message)

My everyday, ordinary life. How unimpressive that is. How could this represent the best sacrifice for the God-King of all the universe? Then it hits me. I’m viewing this all wrong. I’m trying to offer what I want to be a finished product, imagining the offering itself becomes the end action. But that’s not it.

God’s present altar between me and Him represents something different from that of old. Before Jesus, God’s altar served as the temporary fix to keep the door open for relationship with God. But since Jesus, not only has the door been removed so that access remains always open, but the altar has transformed. Once a place for life to be drained away for another, God’s altar now becomes that place where temporary, weak life can be transformed into eternal, strong life.  As such, the best I can now offer is in fact the fullness of my heart, both what I deem as good, AND especially that which I may want to hide of my weaknesses, failures and sin.

God smiles when I come to His altar bearing the reality of my present life in all its unimpressive glory. He awaits our coming, eagerly desiring to receive our living sacrifice so that He can unleash the transforming power of His grace. What I am when I come is not what I am when I leave. In the midst of my amazement, Jesus Himself awakens my heart with His joy that knows no end.

Don’t be afraid. Bring all that you own – your strengths AND weaknesses. God stands ready to embrace and change your life beyond anything that you can imagine.

It seems as late that every day arrests my heart in fresh ways over God’s faithfulness. More times than not, I’m left overwhelmed, stirred so deep in my heart that I have few words to say. I am growing to really love this experience with God, while at the same time wrestle with how challenging it is. Why my wrestling? The way He walks it with me defies most of my expectations. Maybe you experience the same.

I realize now that much of my understanding of His faithfulness is based on His answering the circumstances of my life, especially in my favor. Problems, trials, failures and the like became the scene of when I expect His faithfulness to manifest the greatest. I take Him at His promise that He will work it all out for my good and truthfully, He does. But He always takes me further. For in other times of my life, He simply stands by me, watching the circumstances envelop us like a dark and ominous cloud. I expect a reaction from Him like the one rising within me. However, there is none, except a gaze into my eyes from His own. Without words and any response to our circumstances, I hear His unspoken desire – “Hang on to Me.”

In these moments as His invitation fills my heart, I begin to notice something extraordinary. That which I thought was overwhelming of my situation now grows smaller and fades into the consuming light that emanates from the union we share. Suddenly, a truth dawns upon my heart. His faithfulness to remain with me IS the answer to my circumstances. Experiencing life as He designs is not dependent upon what I encounter, but flows from the union I accept of His offering. Whether situations are difficult or easy, overwhelming or manageable, He promises to be faithful to me and our relationship we share.

As I grow to better understand this promise, I am slowly grasping more of His heart for me in the midst of all I face. Whether He leads me to walk through my situations or chooses to remove them from my path, His faithfulness to hold onto me becomes everything.

The Rest We Need

We’ve all been there. Day after day we awake with our constant companion. It sits on our chest when we lay down, suffocating our experience of peace and hope. In the day, it rides on our shoulder like a backpack full of rocks.  The whispers of its voice become the constant hum in the background of our hearts. Every decision we encounter carries its flavor, as if everything has been contaminated. Our contemplations are fruitless in seeking relief, and to expect a casting off becomes more and more a distant song that plays only to tempt our downcast heart.

Weariness and heart burdens are plagues upon our active, and fast-paced society.  Both  are real and obviously effective, as some days seemed marked by each of them in more ways than others. Over time, we learn to cope with their presence, never really gaining relief, nor expecting a life beyond them. It is here that we embrace the lie – “just move on” everyone says…”it will get better”. But better never comes, at least like we hope for.

Certainly life brings times when we are weakened by the journey and troubled by the burdensome weight we carry, whether self-imposed or received from others. But in spite of this reality, there is another truth that is greater. I wonder if we’ve missed it because we expect to do something ourselves or change the circumstances to gain the rest we seek? What if the answer lies not in something we do, but in someone we lean on?

Digging his feet into the soil of the earth and facing the growing crowds of Palestine, Jesus stood contesting the ways of our realm with the supernatural power of His own. I imagine every face he saw told a story that only he could hear in the deepest sense. Some were filled with joy, and some shared the heart wrenching pain of burdens too great, and tiredness too chronic. Into this tide of discouragement, He spoke…

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28, NLT)

The answer for our weariness and burdens lies not in doing something different, creating a new environment or even in running away. No, true rest comes in the embrace of a person who cares, loves, and esteems your life. Like you, He too has been weary and burdened by weights. He knows the experience of it at every level of his being – body, soul and spirit. However, it was His own Father’s love that brought the confident rest He sought, and now He offers the same to us.

No experience of weariness or burdens will ever grow stronger than the overwhelming influence and power of Jesus’ presence. He IS life, and His life IS greater. Everything bows before Him, even weariness and burdens. The light He brings reveals that each are only meant to be short-lived, as true life comes with joy, love and peace.

The invitation circles the globe every second. Jesus stands before us, arms opened wide, ready to embrace our tired and troubled hearts. His rest comes not as a answer for our present questions, but as a new vision for our life. We were fashioned to live in and through His rest, even in the midst of difficult times.

“Come to Me,” He calls to our hearts. Will we respond?