Completing a Holy Circuit

One by one we reluctantly set down our stuff, our marked up Bibles, scribbled notes, half filled cups. And one by one, we laid down our capes and our crowns. We don’t need them here. Not with this group. With this group we are no longer Super Woman. We are not Queen of this domain. No. We come as servants. We come eager for the Word. We come ready for change, for healing, for grace.

One by one, we sit down at the table, weary from the world.

One by one, we experience the prompting of the King.

One by one, the walls fall and the truth springs forth from our hearts through our lips.

One by one, in this group, we confess the hard things. The things we’ve been stuffing down. The things that haven’t yet been uttered even to our Heavenly Father.

One by one, the Father leads, the Spirit guides, and we, the servants, surrender, completing the Holy Circuit.

The power and might of the Spirit hovers and fills, covers and forgives.

One by one, we are finally able to breathe. Just in the confessing, the speaking aloud, we are finally able to breathe.

IMG_0967One by one, the scales blocking the truth fall away.

One by one, the chains break.

One by one, darkness is claimed and light takes its place.

One by one, we are released.

The confession, the true confession each of us speaks allows the Father’s plan to unfold in our hearts.

Thank you, God, for the power in confession. Thank you, God, for this Holy Circuit from You, through the Spirit, to your servants.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

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Go and Be With My People

My health status is in a day-to-day flux. Yesterday was good. I woke up with energy to make my family breakfast. I felt well enough to go out to lunch with my husband. Throw in a couple of loads of laundry, and it was a good day.

Today? Today is different. My alarm went off in time to get ready for church. “I am teaching Sunday school tomorrow morning,” I declared to my family the night before. “Let’s set our alarms so we make sure we are there early so I can get ready for my class.” Laying my plans out there without doubt of the day to come.

Sunday morning came, my alarm sounded. My energy low. Fatigue high. The battle in my mind began. Do I stay home? Do I go and not teach Sunday school? Do I go and try to teach? The kids are 4 and 5 years old and full of energy. The lesson will include games and projects requiring a fully engaged and healthy leader. God…is that me today? Can I really do this today?

I feel the pull….Go and be with my people.

But, God, I am so tired…

Go and be with my people.

But, God, they are preschoolers…

Go and be with my people.

But, God, I am having difficulty standing up today.

Go and be with my people.

But, God…

Go and be with my people.

Walking into church, I am greeted by a warm, familiar face who knows my physical and emotional battle. She knows because just days prior she was in the women’s group at church where each woman courageously shared a current struggle they are facing. Not the usual, “Hi, I am Lisa, I have gone to church here for 11 years. I have a husband, 2 kids and 2 cats…” No, none of that surface level stuff. No, more like, “I am Lisa. I have struggled with anxiety, am currently struggling with depression and am in the process of testing for a kidney transplant.” How’s that for real? Woman after woman shared hard things. Woman after woman cried. Woman after woman opened up their hearts. And, woman after woman loved on the one next to them. Go and be with my people.

After the hug and encouragement from the saint who greeted me, I headed up the stairs to my classroom. My 13-year-old daughter, also my teaching assistant, rushed up the stairs to see what she could do to help in the classroom. Scanning the lesson, she determined which parts of the lesson she would lead. Choosing the parts which require action and preparation, she relieved my concerns. Go and be with my people.

Then come the kids. One by one, they entered the classroom, each flashing me a smile, some offering a hug as well. The delightful energy and happy chatter spread to my soul. One by one they took off their shoes and became comfortable in our little classroom. I watched the kids build with blocks. I laughed at the funny greetings they gave each other. I marveled at how tall they were becoming. Go and be with my people.

Time to sit down in our circle for prayer and the Bible lesson. “First of all, I need to tell you guys, I am just not feeling well this morning,” I share with the 4 and 5 year olds. A couple sets of concerned eyes met mine.

One little one in particular looked up at me in a very solemn way, “Teacher, can I pray for you?” Others joined in, “Yes, I want to pray for my teacher, too.”

One by one, they offer their prayers of thanksgiving and their requests. I hear, “Thank you, God for my teacher. Please help her feel better today. Please heal her, God. Thank you for healing my teacher, God. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”

My eyes are dripping now. My heart is bursting out of my chest. These humble, faith-filled prayers are the culmination of what my heart needed this morning. Go and be with my people. 

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I am aware that some of you reading this have not had this experience at church with God’s people. I share this to encourage you to keep searching. There are so many churches. But, also, you will not find this type of fellowship unless you take the risk yourself to open up and allow God’s people in…to know you, to encourage you, to love you. Go and be with God’s people.

 

Fix Up My Heart and Use Me O God

The Lord has been relentlessly laying Psalm 51 on my heart each day for weeks. First, He was guiding me to read it each day. Then, He brought other people to me sharing wisdom from the beautiful Psalm. And, then finally I began meditating on it and thinking about it in my own words…something I love to do with Psalms. I love the simplicity and rawness of this Psalm. David is so honest and vulnerable about his sin and  his need for God. I also love how the Lord takes our confessions, cleans us up, and then uses us to love and teach others.

I am so sorry for turning away from you, God.

Please forgive me by your great mercy and love.

Clear away all my sin and ugliness.

Wash away my wickedness.

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For I know my sin is evident, and the worst is that I have sinned against you, Lord, and gone against your commands.

I was sinful from my first breath, born of sinful parents.

Certainly you want faithfulness for me — deep down in my heart.

You enable me to understand what is truly wise.

Grant me a supernatural cleansing from the inside out so that I am as pure as new fresh snow.

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Let my heart receive your joy,

Let the weight of my sin give way to your forgiveness.

Turn your face from my sins and look on me in your grace and mercy.

Out of nothing, make my heart pure, O God, and renew a faithful spirit in me.

Do not separate me from you or take your Holy Spirit from me.

Revive me with the joy of your salvation and give me a humble spirit to carry me.

Then I will be able to help teach other sinners about you and they will turn back to you.

Save me from my punishment, O God, the God who saves me.

I will sing of your righteousness.

O Lord, open my mouth and your praise will flow out.

You do not desire for me to bring you an earthly, material sacrifice.

The sacrifices you desire from me are a broken, humble spirit and a remorseful heart.

O God, You will delight.

In spite of my failures, have mercy on my family and bless them.

Provide a hedge of protection around my family, keeping evil out.

We will let you in to humble hearts and offer you endless praise.

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Who is Like You?

The following poem is really a compilation of “who is like you” questions I wrote each morning for the last few weeks during the beginning of my quiet time. I have really been encouraged to be in awe of the Lord God Almighty. My response to this awe is to ask the Lord, who is like you? The answer? None other than the Lord. 

Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? Exodus 15:11

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Who is like you, Oh Lord?

Who is like you, waiting on me, listening with patience and kindness?

Who is like you, pouring out endless grace and mercy?

Who is like you, filling my days with purpose and focus?

Who is like you, Oh Lord?

Who is like you, steady from beginning to end?

Who is like you, holding my past, present, and future?

Who is like you, full of power, strength, and sovereignty?

Who is like you, Oh Lord?

Who is like you, Father to the fatherless?

Who is like you, protector of the weak?

Who is like you, guide to the blind?

Who is like you, Oh Lord?

Who is like you, a King in a manger?

Who is like you, humble and meek?

Who is like you, born to sacrifice?

Who is like you, Oh Lord?

Who is like you? Oh, who is like you?

 

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From Pity to Gratitude

Groggy, quiet, and contemplative I enter my prayer closet this morning. Holding my hot coffee in one hand, I open the closet door with the other hand. Upon opening the door, I am filled with defeat from a night of tossing and turning with doubt and hopelessness.  Yet at the same time, I remember Hopeful Expectation, the promise the Lord keeps whispering.

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I enter the closet, overcome with envy, self-pity, and discouragement. Envy over the moms who have children that can get themselves ready in the morning. Envy over the children who got ideal starts in this world. Envy over kids who are able to hold two thoughts in their minds and complete those tasks. Pity for myself for the elaborate measures I take to help my kids follow simple routines. Discouragement over the lack of progress seen.

Stepping into the closet and then plopping down on my pillow, I begin my seeking. Matthew 7: 7, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”  

I come filled with ugliness, but seek the Beautiful One. I come filled with doubt, but seek the One filled with answers. I come full of myself  but leave filled with His Spirit.

As I begin my study and prayer time, I am reminded of how Jesus taught the disciples to pray in Matthew 6:

This, then, is how you should pray:

‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
 on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
 And forgive us our debts,
 as we also have forgiven our debtors.
 And lead us not into temptation,
 but deliver us from the evil one.’

 

I remember my Father in heaven who leans in to listen to me, who meets me there before I even awake. I remember my need for Him and His ability alone to meet my daily needs. I remember His heart to forgive me (even my stinking pity party) and my need to forgive all those around me. I remember to seek Him to deliver me away from the temptation of self-pity.

This morning, He changed my pity into gratitude. This morning, I entered my time with the Lord covered with stains. This morning, I left my time time with the Lord with one last whisper, “Lord, that I’d stay connected to you all day today, that this wouldn’t be the end. That it would just be the beginning of our day together.”

Thank you, Lord, for these children that keep me at Your feet…keep me coming back to You. Keep me seeking You for wisdom, peace, encouragement, and hope. Amen.

Hopeful Expectation

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But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
Hebrews 11:6

The Lord keeps whispering this phrase to me, hopeful expectation. He keeps lifting my eyes, my heart, my hope to Him with the promise that He hears, He cares, He protects. Everywhere I look, I see His promise of hopeful expectation.

In the promise of the changing seasons; the shorter days, colder temperatures, breathtaking color, all promising a change to come.

In the promise of sleep; the sun going down, the days activities ending, the weariness and quiet, all promising a time of rest.

In the promise of a rainbow; the sun amidst the gray rain cloud, a pause in the storm, beams of color radiating the sky, all promising a reminder of the Lord’s commitment and beauty.

In the promise of a Holy answer; the stillness of the room, the peace flooding my soul, the quiet whisper to my heart, all promising the Lord’s attention to my prayer.

In the promise of refining; the stirring of my habits, the Word rushing to my mind, the quieting of my mouth, all promising the Lord’s sanctification.

In the promise of growth; the new routines, the developing awareness, the repetition of positive behavior, all promising maturity in my children.

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Hopeful expectation. It’s everywhere. It’s in the look I can give my child in anticipation of her remembering the lesson and choosing what’s good. It’s in the tone when I pray with confidence, knowing the Creator hears. It’s in the conversation with my husband in anticipation of the Lord’s work in his life bringing him closer to Himself.

It’s the way the Lord looks at me. Sinful, selfish, stubborn me. Looking at me faultless. Righteous. Beautiful. Because of the redeeming love of Christ, He sees me with hopeful expectation. Through eyes of grace. Filled with compassion. Layering on the mercy. Hopeful expectation.

Dear one, what situation or person is the Lord stirring you on to look at with hopeful expectation? Have you made the choice to believe, to really believe the Lord rewards those who diligently seek Him? Are you on the fence? Can you, this very day, go to Him and ask Him to reveal His hopeful expectation to you? Oh, I pray, you do. I pray WE do look to Him in hopeful expectation

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He Who Dwells

Studying and personalizing Psalms is becoming a personal favorite for me during my quiet time. Taking each Psalm slowly, meditating on the words, studying their meanings, and then responding is filling my soul with goodness.

Isn’t that what a loving relationship entails…really listening and then responding? The Lord first loved us. 1 John 4:19 reminds us of that truth, We love Him because He first loved us. We have a choice to respond. When I read the Psalms, I feel an urge to respond to the Lord.

This past week, I studied Psalm 91 and then responded by putting the words into my own and personalizing it as if it is between me and the Lord.

Psalm 91:

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.”

Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler
And from the perilous pestilence.
He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.
You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.

A thousand may fall at your side,
And ten thousand at your right hand;
But it shall not come near you.
Only with your eyes shall you look,
And see the reward of the wicked.

Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place,
10 No evil shall befall you,
Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;
11 For He shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you in all your ways.
12 In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.
13 You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra,
The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot.

14 “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him on high, because he has known My name.
15 He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him,
And show him My salvation.”

My response:

I stay in the protection beneath God and find refreshing relief in my position under the All-Powerful God.

I will tell others about God, “He is my protection and place of security; He is my God in whom I rely.”

Without doubt, God will save me from the traps of the devil and from deadly evil.

As a bird protects its young, God will cover me and be my shelter; He will keep His promises and be my protection and defense.

Day and night, I have nothing to fear. The evil in the dark and the destruction during the day will not bring fear.

I will only see the effect of the trouble that passes  by me. I will not suffer the punishment the wicked suffer.

I will be protected if I rest under the Almighty God, and yes, I do rest under Him – death will not come to me or my family.

He sends his angels as a bodyguard for the faithful. His angels will carry me so that I can avoid even small evils.

I will march victoriously over opponents, even over the most powerful evil.

Because I am bound to Him and cling to Him, He will rescue me. When I call to Him for help, He will answer me and rescue me and provide satisfaction and…

ETERNAL LIFE. 

Amen.

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