Weary.

The battle.  You know the one.  It has been going on for weeks, months, years.  It has worn you down and stolen your joy and brought you to your knees.  It has caused you to doubt that God is listening, much less caring.  You want to run away.

Prayers bounce off the ceiling.  Hospitals, counselors, doctors, lawyers, they all are getting a piece of you but still the battle rages.  There is no end in sight and no assurance that there will even be an end to it on this side of the veil.  It has become very, very hard to hope.

Despair is chasing you down like a hungry wolf.  You don’t think you can run one more step.

How do we live like this?  How do we press on when we are pressed?  What forces us out of bed in the morning and keeps us moving when all we want to do is anything but what we are doing?

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Hope is like the sunset.  Always, somewhere, there is glory and beauty even though it may be beyond our line of sight.  The day has worn us down and we feel like it will never end, but then we look up and there…

in the distance…

brilliant colors creep up from the horizon and illuminate the sky as the day draws to a close.

Because every day does draw to a close.

Every day we are reminded to lay down our burdens and rest.

Our eyes take in the glory and, suddenly, we remember we are not alone.

The battle rages, yet we live.  Our hearts hurt, yet God draws near.  When we think we cannot bear it any longer, God rejoices at our helplessness because He can now help.  Our rescuer swoops in and lifts us up out of the pit and paints the sky a million brilliant colors and strengthens us for one more day.

One more day.

He is near.

Stop trying to fight alone.

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Bare.

I looked at her troubled face as our toddlers played on the floor.  She sat on the love seat, eyes downcast.  Life was not kind, her marriage was a mess, her little girl had sudden life-threatening health issues and it was all crashing down at once.  Our conversation had turned to faith and I tried to gently encourage her to pursue a walk with Christ.  From what she was telling me, it seemed she had an infant faith tucked deep in her heart that had been covered by layers of hurt and doubt and fear.  Her shoulders hung in defeat.

“Unless I can come to him naked, unashamed and free, then I feel I can’t do it.  I can’t go to church or try to be a Christian.”

It has been over a decade, yet I still remember that check in my spirit as the lie tumbled from her lips.

This is what I told her, and it is what I tell you if you are believing the same lie…

If you are waiting to have it all together before coming to Christ, then it will never happen.  He, alone, is in the business of restoration.  Never does he ask us to clean up before entering his family.  No, quite the opposite.  The Jesus who whispers your name is the same one who ate with sinners and tax collectors, who walked along the road with prostitutes and protected the adulterous woman.  He welcomed them and then, only then, did the process of “cleaning up” begin.  (Romans 5:6)

It is so important to understand the cleaning up only happened because of the new life they had been given.  Because they had been redeemed and set free, given a new name and a new identity in Christ, they could walk out who they were because who they were had completely and forever changed.  (Romans 6:7)

There is a saying that always made me smile…

We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.

When I read this through the lens of faith and in the context of the struggle to overcome habitual sin it takes on new life.  How often do we believe the lie that we need to “get it together” before gracing the doors of a church or even kneeling in prayer?  The enemy whispers that lie and makes it sound so logical…of course God can’t be around sin.  He will want nothing to do with us if we are filthy.  But Jesus…

Yes, Jesus is the game changer.  Jesus took on my filth and it was crucified with him.  Therefore I only need to come.  When I am weak, guess what?

HE is strong.

He has given us the Church, his body.  I may be a right hand, you may be a left.  Your friend may be a foot, your daughter may be an ear.  Separately we are a mess.  We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.  If I drop what my right hand carries, your left hand picks it up.  If my foot stumbles, you hear and call the left hand to reach down and lift me out of the mud.  God never intended us to walk alone, to trudge through life and constantly try to clean up our own messes.  He has given us the Kingdom, his family, a community that together represents the body of Christ.

You may begin your Christian walk not knowing the difference between Abraham and King David.  You may have no idea where to find their stories in the Bible.  You may  not even own a Bible.  But I do.  Those of us who have walked the road you are beginning for a few years now know what you are trying to learn and they will be so happy to teach you.  Many of us keep extra Bibles on hand just in case.  We are still learning, but what we learn we gladly pass down because it thrills us when the light of Christ shines for the first time in a believer’s eyes and watching you learn, watching you “get it” and be transformed is addictive.

You do not have to be able to walk into a church or a community of Christians without sin. You do not have to be bare to be redeemed.  You only have to come and surrender.  Change happens through the power of the Holy Spirit living in you.  Change happens through surrender.

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.  Romans 6:17-18

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Necessary Winter.

The morning dew is frozen on the still-green grass.  Winter has been delightfully late in the deep south this year.  Many of us have enjoyed the warm temperatures and even hoped that maybe, just maybe, cold weather will skip us altogether.

I drove my teenagers to school this morning, my heart heavy over hard news.  This news triggered memories of a precious friend who went home to Jesus almost five years ago.  I examined my life.  How would I be remembered if I died today?  In the difficult season of life this past year I have become so self-focused.  Often I find myself muttering, “I didn’t sign up for this.”

“This is too hard.”

“I have no idea what I am doing here.  I am failing.”

Tears stung my eyes as I turned into my neighborhood.  The woods are beautiful today, backlit by the sun and the grass was covered in a million frost-diamonds that glistened and beckoned me to stop and get out my camera.

An inner voice spoke:  “Try, just try to capture this.  There is a lesson here.”

Last week there was a mosquito in my pantry.  I laughingly joked to my husband that we need a good, hard freeze to get rid of the critters.  Today, as I knelt down close to the frozen green grass I saw what I needed to see today.

The freezing days are necessary for us to truly enjoy the warmth of Spring.  If the “critters” are not dealt with…frozen literally to death…they will torment us with a vengeance and make it difficult to enjoy the beauty of green grass and dogwood trees.  We will be so busy batting away insects that we might be tempted to hide indoors.

So on this frozen morning, as I remember the joy on my friends’ face as she neared her last day, as I hear her voice saying, “God is so close, Jeanine.  I can feel His presence.  It is like nothing I have ever felt before,” I also remember that her joy, the light in her eyes, was the result of suffering.

As I pray for those who suffer today and as I look hard at my life and seek to remove the plank(s) from my eye I will choose to be thankful for the frozen grass, for the hard death of winter.

I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.  Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.  Revelation 3:18-19

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Safe

She sat in my living room, a cup of hot tea steaming in her hand.  Wisdom is etched on her face, almond eyes sharp and intense.  Her joy radiates from a place deep within, not dependent on circumstances or perceived safety but on the knowledge of who she is and whose she is.

“Do you feel safe there?”  I asked this question though I knew the answer in my spirit.  My visitor, my sister in Christ from a small country in the far East, looked hard at me.

“No.  I do not feel safe.  We have to be so careful.  They are taking over, beheading people.”  Tears sparkled in the lamplight.  She spoke as one with authority, with a message that needs to be told and taken seriously by the listener.  By me.

“The Christians in your country must be loud.  You must speak up or it will be the same here.”

Are we listening?

Her daughters live far from their mother, and she wants it that way.  She wants them safe, even though that means huge distances separate them and sometimes years pass between visits.  It means they cannot go home for Chinese New Year because they could end up unable to return to their new homes.  The world is hard.  Complicated.  Scary.  Unsafe.

This sister hugged me hard, repeatedly.  The kindred Spirit joined our hearts and I felt a loss when she walked out of my front door.  I cleaned out the teacups and sighed.  Her message resounded in my heart.

Is it safe to proclaim the name of Jesus?  Right now, in America, it is.  But in most parts of the world it is no longer.  The act of Baptism alone can bring a death sentence in many countries.  The discovery of a Bible can send a believer to prison.  Yet here I sit, in the comfort of my American home with a Chromebook at my fingertips.  I can tell you freely about the Savior of the world.  I can speak about Jesus and go to bed without fearing for my life or the lives of my family.  So speak, I will.

I am listening, dear sister.  And though I know that, no matter how loudly we proclaim the name of Jesus the Bible tells us that persecution is coming, I will do my part.  There is only one way to the Father, my friends, and that is through His Son, Jesus.  Any other way only leads to death.  Eternity, as I said in my previous post, is a word that feels like rest when I speak it but that is only because I know without a doubt where I will spend it.  Please, if you have not surrendered your life to the Savior and allowed him to forgive you and lead you from this day forward, do so today.  The sun is setting on this world but there is a dawn coming that will be more glorious than any human can ever imagine.

 

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Beginning Anew

I am a sucker for a sunset.  Maybe it is because no two are ever the same.  Maybe it is because I am not an early morning person so I don’t always appreciate the beauty of a sunrise in my pre-coffee state.

Maybe it is because the end means a beginning is coming.

That we are not guaranteed tomorrow is true.  At least, not in this life.  But so much more lies ahead than our finite imaginations can picture.

Eternity.

The word feels like rest when I speak it.

In previous writings I have been restless, trying to find myself.  Trying to figure out exactly what I want to say and why I am here in the cyber-world.  How do I glorify Him while writing about me?  In the words of Father Tim, “Therein lies the rub.”

There are a billion and one blogs out there.  (I guess now there are a billion and two.)  But I want this one to be different.  This time, I am looking up before my fingers tap away at the keyboard.  I am not writing on a schedule or for anyone else.  I am writing because there is beauty to behold in these woods.  I am writing with an eye looking ahead to eternity and choosing to see how God reveals glimpses of forever in the everyday.  So often I find myself looking down, weighted by the hamster-wheel that tries to entrap me, just taking the next step and forgetting to look up.

That is no way to live.

There is poetry in every sunset.  As a chapter closes on my day, a new one is opening somewhere yet unseen.  Somewhere in the vast parts of this God-formed world it is always sunrise.  Someday soon, in the indescribable beauty of the New Jerusalem, we will stand together before the Risen One.  I am writing forward to that Day.  May these words bring glory to the King.

Let’s begin, shall we?

Look up.