Don’t Lose Sight of Light

Booster cables have become very important for my travel plans this month as unanswered car troubles have left me stranded in the funniest places. Although, it hasn’t seemed so funny in the moment … Inconveniences rarely are appreciated int he moment. Similarly, in any room, it can be easy to see inconveniences and frustrations and completely miss the light in a space. We often take light for granted – although we could do nothing without light.

Christ is Light.

Without Jesus, we are powerless.

I recently drove home after a day with inconveniences, car troubles, and frustrations – and while I drove, I recognized my misplaced focus. I had lost sight of light – and the moment I lose sight of light, I power right down.

I remember meditating on light in Nazareth Village one year ago in Israel…

I was given a gift there, a small clay lamp with a tiny wick. Jesus would have ignited lamps like this in the same way that he ignites and consumes hearts today with light – with goodness that blazes. There are certain aspects of our purpose and our lives that we question; however our call to be light is never a matter of confusion. God is clear in His word that we were made to be light in the world. The flashflood of God’s good presence is not meant for us to keep to ourselves, and we will not experience the fulfillment God intends us to until we let light shine through us. As we make space in our lives to experience more God-light, we will be compelled to let our own beams be a signal of God’s Kingdom on earth. It begins by choosing to see God’s light, and by choosing to believe that He is a God who sees, who cares and who acts mercifully towards us. This light knowledge and heart belief changes the perspective we have of our circumstances. We can see more clearly, our days don’t feel so blurred and we can help others do the same. We cannot offer what we do not have. May our own experience of God’s unrelenting light create hope for everyone we encounter today.

 

Who Am I?

One year ago, I stood near Caesarea Philippi. It was November, Christmas was around the corner – and I remember asking myself, who is Jesus – really? 

That night I lay awake, and began scrawling in a notebook…

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” – Matthew 16:13-16 NIV

Near Caesarea, up in the in high hills intricately crafted niches are the remnants of pagan idols that once invoked the worship of many in Jesus’ time. This was the place that Jesus chose to bring his disciples to ask them a pointed question, “Who do you say that I am?” Only Peter spoke with bounding heart knowledge, professing that Jesus is the Son of God, Messiah, King. Jesus intentionally asked the question in this place, where many humans came to search for truth – and were deceived to believe that by giving themselves to stone idols, there, they could find truth, meaning and purpose. Today Jesus, who travelled the birth canal, who slipped under the currents of the Jordan, who crafted the cosmos, bounced upon a stinking donkey through noisy hosanna palm branches, and poured blood stains down the same streets as he travelled to skull hill one week later … God who died – to offer you a white heart slate … God who came back days later on the Galilean shores to announce fish breakfast to the disciples…Fish breakfast of all things! This Father-God-Spirit-Son asks you today, “Who am I?” He asks you in the midst of bustle, and He asks you in the moments when you begin to offer your heart to idols that will not satisfy – money, acceptance, power, happiness. He asks because He knows that unless He is your First Love – You will never be satisfied. He doesn’t stand far off from the state of your heart, even when your own search for truth and and meaning leads you to false idols – No He enters in, He gets your attention, and He asks kindly, “Who am I, to you?”

Thankfully, Jesus has not changed since I wrote these words. He is the same yesterday, today and always. When you go to God, you always know who you will find, you always know where you stand with him – but you rarely know what He will do. This is the greatest adventure.

Restore My Soul

 Sisterhood happens anywhere the Gospel lives. It is a way of life that flows rich out of Gospel blood, Gospel love and Gospel grace.

But sometimes we forget the Cross-message: You are enough in Me. And I am enough for you. Rest here.

We are restored by His love and we reclaim Our Identity. The Gospel leads us to reclaim our position in Him and we STAND.

Security.

Togetherness.

Authenticity.

Named Purpose.

Diversity.

Close your eyes for a moment and experience the word picture David has painted for the children of God that has comforted hearts for centuries and guided the bravest through vast stormy waters.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. (Satisfied – room for all)
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.[a]
He restores my soul.

Rest …
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, (perfect love casts out fear)

Reflect …
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;

David reflects, even in the presence of those who hate him, there is a feast prepared!
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Declare: I have more than enough. I refuse to live with a poverty mindset

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

Believe: I expect good things. I Hope in Him. I am replenished.

Living with a restored soul involves rest and reflection and results in replenishment.

The Gospel is a mighty fountain of Restoration. It has restored me…

My sweet grandma and I lie in her tiny hospital bed, eye to eye. Tears are spilling down her wrinkled cheeks. She knows goodbye is imminent. I don’t want her to leave me. We’ve recited it so many times … But in this helpless moment, hope is just beginning to flare – Hope is born in the darkest places…

And I say it out loud, “The Lord is my Shepherd…”

Her and I have said it so many times: On the gravel road during harvest time as the combines roar, before breakfast on the early morning after a sleepover, on the phone as I lay awake, sick, homesick and provinces away.

We’ve recited this so many times.

Now, I lay beside her and she is dying and in those moments of goodbye, I am stirred by a love message ringing loud. Her voice is too weak to join mine so I speak for both of us: “The Lord is My Shepherd … He restores my soul.” 

Her soul, mind heart and body; about to be fully restored.

Just as I am recognizing my own restored state,

Her new life in heaven.

Mine declared bold on earth.

Something about that moment releases me to rest in the love of God. To let Him be enough, and let me be nothing – Come as you are, He says. Empty vessel. Let Me Give Everything. You offer nothing. Only open your heart to receive my love.

If we do not have love, we have nothing. What about when we can’t feel it?

Bible Scholars say David was facing extreme anxiety while penning the famous Psalm. God had spoken great promises to David, but he’s stuck in the Desert.

We all have desert moments and anxious concerns … How will I pay these bills? Will I ever get a new job? Will I ever get married? Will my kids hate me forever? Will my circumstances ever change? Will I ever kick this addiction? Will I ever be able to tell anyone?

What do we do in those moments we have no strength to Rise, to STAND?

David feels like He cannot restore himself … He has forgotten His position.  

To reclaim His identity, David doesn’t say I AM. He points to who GOD IS, to him.

We cannot restore ourselves, and we mustn’t try. But we can reclaim.

God has already restored and will continue to restore, and we must reclaim.

Reclaiming is not about generating something new, building, creating or conjuring something up. Reclaiming is about recovering something lost. It is about restoring back to what was originally intended. In Eden.

“The Lord is my Shepherd.”

This reminding and restoring gives David the strength to Rise up and STAND.

When you find your identity in who God is, and you rest there, you are empowered to live Gospel Grace.

TO LIVE

Secure with the dogged refusal to believe the lie that you are not enough and you don’t have enough.

Together, standing in healthy, interdependent relationships – receiving grace from Calvary so you can give it lavishly.

Authentic so the whole world knows the Great Grace story is not for the perfect, it’s for those willing to receive it. To show up and be real. To be vulnerable. To be brave.

Named for purposes that are vast, creative and unique – trusting fully as you depend on God.

Inviting Diverse voices and perspectives to come sit at your table!

When David is restored, He shows others Who God is. This POSITION is the Great Commission.

David becomes the very fragrance of Jesus to thousands and thousands of hope-hungry men and women spanning centuries.

David’s words were the fragrance that filled that little hospital room as my grandma slipped from earth to glory.

As we are restored, we rise and stand, we become the fragrance of Christ for all to inhale.

… I remember my grandma’s withered hands. A pioneer’s daughter, a hard working mama, a Jesus-trusting woman. I remember how her hands reached to pull mine up in her final moments on earth – so that I could see love. So that I could Rise up and STAND.

Together, we are lifting one another to Rise up and STAND in position.

To live as restored, powerful people – at rest in Him.

 

Walk Slow

Every time He said the name of Jesus, his eyes welled up and tears of sopping gratitude slipped out. A new-comer to Canada, born and raised in India, Ben was on the journey of a lifetime. He told me about dramatically coming to believe in Jesus, in a country where most don’t believe. He had seen family members resurrected and lives completely transformed by the Gospel message.

I was in a rush that morning … and nearly missed this conversation with Ben…

Ben began to sense God urging Him to move to Canada, but that would mean quitting his job, leaving his family and everything He had worked hard to build in India. He was a successful business man there.

Even while He spoke, I kept rudely glancing at my watch…

After several months of stalling, Ben said to God, If you want me to move to Canada, you need to make it blazingly clear today. Before the sun set, a stranger approached Ben’s car, leaned in the window and said, “God has told you many times you need to move to Canada, now go!” 

The next day Ben began making arrangements and searching for work in Canada. Although other lucrative employment opportunities came up in the United States, Ben was committed to following in Faith. God provided a prominent position for Ben in Toronto and continues to lead His feet with purpose as Ben moves in faith…

Finally, my hurried heart settled, in the same way Ben settled his mind to move in step with God’s voice…

After deciding to move to Canada, Ben could not ignore the nagging thought he should be trained in Information Technology. He studied day and night to complete the IT training, and hardly read his Bible or did anything for anyone else during that time. Sometimes, obedience looks like being buried in books. He knew this was exactly what God was asking Him to do, even if it didn’t appear “Spiritual” to anyone else.

My priorities were rearranged that day by Ben’s story, and peace grew and resulted in my life from this conversation. To think, I nearly missed the restorative reminder to listen up, walk slow and live in peace.

Restored

“Bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.” – Isaiah 61:3

At the Sea of Galilee, there were lapping waves and flittering people, excited to see this sacred place of God. There were stories in the rocks, the waves and the geography that brought the Gospels to life. The lowest freshwater lake on earth is one of high and lofty significance for the Christ-follower. There is nothing outwardly glamorous about this small body of water, by simply taking a peek, you would never know of the supernatural power displayed here many times by God-Man Christ. The lake is only about thirteen by seven miles wide and long. Simple. Unimpressive. This sailboat was reconstructed when pieces were discovered in 1986 and have been replicated to make the “Jesus Boat” – a replica of the sailboat from the scriptures. It took time to restore it, but someone believed it could be done, someone had faith. Sometimes, it’s difficult to have faith. However, God is the faith giver and you and I, like the small sea, have a story marked by the Most High God.

Father, No situation is beyond your hand of ultimate restoration and there is no stronghold stronger than you. Give me faith to believer your rebuilding power, please continue to re-create my God-given story each day.

Be Found

“Peace is not found at a place, but by abiding in a person” – Ann Voskamp.

These words recently spoke to me from a friend’s plain old refrigerator door – how like God to use the ordinary to be extraordinary. So often, I live just wanting to arrive – but where exactly is it that I am trying to get? Daily, I have the choice to believe I am where I need to be – because HE says I am in Him. When I get focused on living and abiding In Him, I forget to worry about scurrying to arrive somewhere. Life becomes fulfilling and enjoyable just in the living. The dripping ice cream cones melt life into my soul and the Barbequed chicken tastes like provision from God. I can see the wonder of spray parks bursting with drops, giggles, and sun-scorched cheeky tikes become evidence of a blessed city. And all begins to feel like gift, and peace pervades, unhindered by wavering circumstances. God’s Spirit gives me power to develop a Godly mindset – and a Godly mindset is the birthplace of a liberated life in Christ.

Father, may your deep peace seep in me today because I am found in the one who formed the world –I can rest there – enjoy the spacious place you have made for me there – and as I find my feet planted In you, all fear fades… because you say it must… and peace remains. This is where I want to be found.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. – 1 John 4:18

Unfinished

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” – Romans 8:22

During our time in Israel we visited the Yad Vashem – The World Holocaust Remembrance Center. As we walked through the children’s memorial, the precious names of God’s created ones were read with somber respect. The memorial was dark, and candles surrounded us as we moved through the mirrors and flickering lights – each honoring one life. There were so many valuable, defenseless little ones killed during the Holocaust that names are listed for days without repeat in the memorial center. The memorial was built by a couple living in California. The couple had a son killed in a death camp during the Holocaust when he was only four years old. Four. The architecture of the center is unfinished, purposefully, to symbolize the incompleteness of such young lives. This effect conveyed a fragmented feel, incomplete. We too live much of our lives in a fragmented state because we experience pain, loss and death. I couldn’t help but think of my young friend Kelli who recently passed away unexpectedly at twenty-five years old. There is no pat answer or easy explanation for this kind of loss. This is because God’s plan is unfinished, the earth is in a state of waiting and groaning – it’s incomplete. We have the Spirit of God, but live in a world broken by the effects of sin and decay. However, the unfinished architecture of our lives is not the end of the story. We know that we are moving forward, we are going somewhere and instead of settling to be fragmented, we can decide to be constantly “In progress”, marching on towards wholeness as God brings His Kingdom to Earth in our hearts through His mighty Spirit. March on soldiers! Shalom.

Miracle Message

God has given one message.

The entire Bible is an expansive account that works to point to One Big Truth. We call it Gospel. Gospel means Good News. The Hope of the World.

What exactly is this good news?

The Apostle Paul spent his life focused on sharing the Mighty Message. He describes it like this:

“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel – not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” – 1 Cor 1:17

What exactly is this power?

“God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified…” -1 Cor 1:22

I’ve always wanted to witness miracles. Lately, I recognize, they are everywhere.

Albert Einstein said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

Paul said, “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.”

What exactly is this message?

I have been talking about this “Good News” with one friend in particular for months. Her response to God’s Cross-Grace has been, “It just doesn’t make sense. How can I be accepted by God? The cross. Forgiveness. Freedom. I want to get it but it doesn’t make sense.”

Prayers paved the way for her to experience this good news…

On a summer adventure drive, she flipped open her smartphone to Paul’s words and read, “Christ Jesus who has become for us wisdom from God – that is – our righteousness, holiness and redemption” – 1 Cor 1:30

She read and said, “This means that I actually am given the rightness of Jesus? God sees me as He sees Jesus? I get it!” She laughed and said, “I get why they call it Good News now!”

Those words carry great power – they are living and active. They carry the message. The truth. The miracle.

Like a light switch – a shift took place and the same old discussion of the cross-forgiveness-and-grace became a True Tale of Freedom. Truth changes everything.

There was no new explanation – no new presentation – just True Words inspired by God. Miraculous.

The good news was not just heard – but experienced – and she felt free to live the best life on earth, that will stretch into eternity – connected to God himself by Love.

No, There is no catch. The Good News is that good. No guilt. No fear. No condemnation. The most amazing relationship designed to fulfill human hearts. Unconditional love – demonstrated on the cross – freely available.

The response I witnessed this week was a Miracle.

It’s a Miracle Message.

Gleaning Meaning

The top five regrets of the dying:

  • I wish I hadn’t worked so much.
  • I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  • I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  • I wish I had let myself be happier
  • I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

-The Guardian by Bronnie Ware

Everyone wants to do something on earth that matters.

You were created for this.

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  

The purpose of your life is to bring God’s Kingdom to earth. To bring justice and mercy to all the broken parts with your very own hands. This is a big commission.

“And what does the LORD require of you? To Act justly to love mercy…” – Micah 6:8

This doesn’t mean you need to feel pressure or be all-important…

“Walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8

 This doesn’t mean you need to be exhausted…..

Jesus says, “Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch up I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Yes, you can work towards big things while taking a real rest.

We weren’t made to carry life alone – we were made to thrive in collaboration. Scripture shows us how it’s done…

King Joash took on a mighty project saying, “Repair whatever damage is found in the Temple.” The project sat dormant and hopeless for 23 years before wise strategy was applied and the project thrived.

Success exploded when many were involved. Many were empowered to use their skills and contribute. Many took responsibility. Many had a voice. Many invested in the project and the initiative thrived for God’s glory. People lived with deep down Godly meaning, they accomplished big things, and no one needed to carry the burden alone.

While the building of projects and initiatives is important-

God always cares more about the building of people and relationships then he does about the building of buildings, projects or initiatives.

Love God. Love people. Bring justice and mercy to earth and do it humbly – in genuine relationship with others. This is how we can Glean Godly Meaning, live in joy with lightness of heart, while accomplishing mighty things for God’s Kingdom.

Generations after King Joash restored the Temple, King Josiah restored the temple again. This time, he followed the systems established during the time of King Joash that worked so powerfully and effectively – and the project was completed with ease. May we heed the wise advice those who have gone before us … may we listen to the regrets of the dying – each one wishes they had lived valuing people and relationships more.

We don’t just avoid this because we are busy, but relationships take work! They take some building. It’s through this building that God’s Kingdom comes and we glean lasting meaning. Love God. Love people. Bring justice and mercy to earth, humbly – through relationship with others. This is how we can live in joy, with lightness of heart, while accomplishing mighty things for God’s Kingdom.

Lean Right

“The problem is that everyone has these expectations of me, and then I feel like I have to fulfill those expectations for people to like me. It’s exhausting!” This week, these were the words of a beautiful teen girl getting brave and honest about her hopelessness.

I have certainly felt that way in my life. I know that others have too, because this summer, Sisterhoodyxe asked women of all ages to vote on the 3 most common ways women and girls feel hopeless right now in our culture. We want to shine hope for women and girls right where it is needed most. Voted number three was the topic: Traditional vs. Liberal Woman.

When it comes to fulfilling the role of a woman, traditional or liberal or otherwise, is there a right way to lean?

As my new friend spoke, I felt a burning passion to dig into the pages I profess as “Living hope” (The Good Book) and experience it, and spread it.

The book itself is one big story. God’s story of redemption. Redemption means to purchase back what was lost, or to atone for wrongdoing. I know this. I’ve heard this. But what does this mean for girls and women today?

In John chapter four, Jesus has walked a long distance. His dust stained feet and parched mouth have had enough of the journey. The land is dry and the well is hope. The Samaritan woman is there at midday. Odd. Only an outcast would saunter to the well in the scorching heat.

Jesus, tired human Jesus, has ordained this moment in his unmatched divinity. He knows her, and He sees her as no one else can – he sees her as she cannot see herself.

Jesus doesn’t see her defined by the cultural divide, her devastating divorce trail, or her isolation. Jesus is not bound by time – He sees vividly, like it was yesterday, when He crafted woman in the Garden with infinite affection and understanding. He didn’t only sculpt her physically, but he breathed his very essence into her, uniquely.

As his gaze meets the eyes of the woman at the well, hope stirs stronger than any well could contain. He offers her water that satisfies and He knows it originates back in Eden. It comes from his original intentions for her – it comes from the soul connection Jesus creates by His blood between woman and Jesus. Redemption.

He remembers weaving her heart uniquely and calling her Ezer kenegdo. Some have translated this name as “helpmate” or “helper.” When He named her, God did not think, “lesser”, “subordinate” or “servant” as some in our culture do. This name is used over 20 times in the New Testament and always refers to a powerful kind of help and rescue – In fact, God named woman after himself. In the Old Testament God is called Ezer kenegdo when he shows up big to help the Israelites fight a fierce battle. This is a warrior name and reflects the powerful heart God gives woman. The word Kenegdo implies she is equal to Adam, an equal support. She is not the same as Adam, but carries a unique expression of God’s image as woman.

Jesus looks at the woman at the well and sees Ezer, woman – created to be and feel empowered. He sees the Samaritan woman as beloved creation – he sees her weary eyes…. He looks at her and thinks: I made you to be Empowered. This is my redemptive work on earth, to remind you who you are, and to help you live as such.

But would she be brave enough to LEAN right? To LEAN right into Jesus? To really listen? He says…

Let your heart be seen … He tells her everything she has ever done. He knows the heart-design that is made to live transparently – and thrives when it does not hide in shame. After all, there is no shame in Eden. Even though this is uncomfortable for her, He reveals the truth of her wrongdoing – and tells her it’s ok to face the truth about her own life. She is more powerful than she thinks.

Examine your heart … He tells her that deep satisfaction can only be found when true worshippers will worship in Spirit and truth. It is never about where one worships, but how… In Eden, God’s goodness was known and felt and never doubted. The woman at the well would be able, through Jesus to feel His goodness by the blood of Jesus. She could know unfathomable love and experience fulfilling connection to God. She is more powerful than she thinks.

Accept the truth in your heart … He tells her that He is the Son of God, the awaited Messiah. Jesus remembers that He created Eden to be void of deception. He created her to trust Him fully and know Him deeply – when she does this, she will experience vitality… But He does not choose this for her … Because Choice is Empowerment and allows for authentic relationship and love… There is more power available to her than she knows.

Nourish your heart … Jesus goes on to say that his food is to do the will of God, and he recognizes that the Samaritan woman at the well had the choice whether or not to nourish her heart – because he created her that way – with choice. She can make choices that bring them closer – or put distance between them. He knows that eternal satisfaction is found in her intimate connection to Him – after all, this is what she was created for. She can choose to LEAN in to Jesus, to let her heart be seen, to examine her heart, to accept truth and to nourish her heart one choice at a time. This LEANING would lead her to experience an inner satisfaction that nothing could compare to… But the choice is hers. She has great power, Ezer.

As she chooses to “Lean Right” into Jesus, she need not worry about the women who abandoned her, or those who continue to judge her. They would be coming to the same well in the cool of the evening – she need not be offended. She need not be angry with them, she need not feel self-conscious, or hide in shame. She need not feel or act powerless. As she chooses to “Lean Right” into Jesus, she is empowered to bring change on earth as she was uniquely created to do. She, the weary and tired woman at the well, runs wildly to Samaria and chooses to speak powerfully, boldly and passionately about the goodness of God. Redemption is happening in her own heart – and she is empowered to bring God’s Kingdom to Earth so that others can have it too. This is the satisfying sweet drink of leaning right into Jesus. Freedom. Empowerment.