Thursday, December 31, 2009

Army of Praise

…the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

~Luke 2:10-14

An army.  A multitude.   A great number.  What do these words call to mind?

I see endless seas of faces, rows of uniforms, numberless figures.  Countless individuals.

It struck me recently, for the first time, that at the heralding of our Lord’s birth, an army of angels could not help but burst into worship.  They literally filled the skies with their presence and song!  Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God [Luke 2:13].
[For those more literally minded, I checked the actual definitions; military units are comprised of: Squad: 9-10 soldiers, Platoon: 20-40 soldiers, Company: 70-200 soldiers, Battalion: 300-1000 soldiers, Brigade: 3000-5000 soldiers, Division: 10000-15000 soldiers, Corps: 20000-100000 soldiers]

100,000. ~ An army.

Granted this is a human number.  Something we can quantify, something with which we can identify.  For perspective, I even had to take away from this value.  I have visited the Broncos’ stadium, said to hold upwards of 76,000; and for the purpose of this musing, I will use this quantification.  This is not, however a Biblically mandated, prescribed, nor described number.  It is merely a tool I am using to help me understand the magnitude of this passage. 

Can you picture 76,000 heavenly beings filling the sky with their radiant presence, their ethereal voices ~ all lifted in worship of the babe laying as willing, helpless sacrifice in a trough?  76,000 unable to stand idly by and watch as their king was born into human flesh.  76,00 bent on proclaiming His arrival on Earth.  76,000 desperate for mankind to see the gift they had been given.  76,000 pleading for us to recognize what they already knew.

The roar, the thunder, the magnitude of noise from such a number is palpable, infectious, deliberate.  These beings could not help but let the world know their king was amongst them.  They simply couldn’t help themselves.

What if we approached our worship with this kind of reverence?  If we couldn’t help but cry out to the world?  If we knew that we were joined by literally thousands of heavenly entities?  If every time we thought of Baby Jesus, His name was accompanied by the praise from a football-stadium of heavenly hosts.

Celestial beings couldn’t help but herald the arrival of their king into our world.  Let’s paint our faces, wear appropriate attire, dance and sing our hearts out for our King ~ Jesus, the Messiah!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Made for walking

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

~ Colossians 3:12-15


Yes, I know what you’re thinking:  Jen is blogging about shoes?  Jen? I’ll be the first to admit that I wouldn’t know a pair of Manolo Blahnik’s if they hit me in the head [I had to google the brand, to be sure I had it correct.  Side note: $1,500 for shoes?!  Are you kidding me?].  In actuality, this installment is more about choice than footwear.  About growing up, putting on our big girl shoes, and walking out our faith.

After reading Colossians 3: 12-15, let me ask you: how quickly do you forgive?  How patient are you?  How humble?  Frankly, how evident are the fruits of the Spirit in your life?  (Oh don’t worry, I’ve been asking myself these very questions of late; and the answers weren’t what I was hoping.)  For a moment, let’s just agree that none of us posses these qualities to their fullest.  So how do we go about getting them?  In truth, this process is a journey, very like a mountain climb, with the love of our life waiting patiently at the top.

First, we have to recognize that we can not attain these on our own.  Only the Holy Spirit can bring this fruit into our lives.  Once we are indwelt (through belief in and a life surrendered to Jesus Christ), we receive the fullness of the power of the Holy Spirit; in that, we are able to be completely transformed and therefore exhibit these qualities.  Secondly, we have to draw closer to Christ; through prayer, reading Scripture, and worship.  And the closer we come to Him, the more we yearn for Him.  In gaining intimacy with Jesus, He calls us to finally surrender everything to Him.  Our desires, our pasts, our emotions…everything.

We each are being called to deeper intimacy with the Lover of our Souls.  And we each are faced with choices:
  1. To heed this call and head up the mountain or stay exactly where we are – distant from Christ and His amazing love
  2. How to make the journey

Assuming that we choose to embark upon the climb up the mountain, we have to decide how to clothe ourselves for this trek.  We can select worldly garments; emotions or behaviors that look like the rest of the world.  We can opt for comfortable clothes; mannerisms that are familiar, well-practiced.  Or we can choose attire that reflects our journey; sensible actions, though seemingly out of place, that help our climb, ferry us closer to our destination.

We have to recognize our choice in this process.  We are not called to feel humble, forgiven, or loving.  We are told to clothe ourselves with these attributes.  To purposefully select and then put on these behaviors.  Like going into our closet everyday, we don’t feel shoes on our feet.  We choose what to put on.  And we have to keep our mountain climb in mind when selecting our footwear.

Looking like the world:  These shoes make me feel good.  No, they aren’t comfortable and yes, they hurt my feet.  But, they make me feel like I look good.  They’re my “I want people to think I’m put together” shoes.  My “notice me” shoes.

Pride.  Anger.  Bitterness.  These are emotions the world expects, and to an extent admires when we wear them.  When wronged, it makes sense to seek vengeance, to exult our selfish agendas over other’s needs.  To put ourselves first.

But these are utterly ridiculous for climbing a mountain. Wearing them guarantees a fall, and a potentially debilitating injury.  I will be sitting on the side of the trail, not making any progress towards to the top, nursing wounds brought on by wearing these foolish shoes on a serious hike.

These emotions do more harm to me than not.  They may look good, in the world’s eyes; but they are slowly crippling me.

Comfortable shoes: These shoes reflect familiar patterns.  The ones we’ve been practicing for years.  Our behavioral habits that say, “I’m comfortable here.”  Doubt.  Insecurity.  Striving.  I know these; they’re well-worn, molded to my foot after years of wear.  At the end of the day, it’s so much easier to put these on.  When I’m tired, when I let my guard down.  When I am weak.  I turn to these out of habit.  They certainly don’t compliment any outfit I own.  I look silly wearing them in public.

And again, they are ridiculous for climbing a mountain.  Wearing these, every little rock or thorn will pierce my skin through the soles.  They will gather and hold brambles.  I could, possibly make it to the top of the mountain wearing these.  But it will take far too long.  I will be in constant pain; and I will despise the journey.  Most likely I won’t make it far.  I will be forced, by injury (whether minor or more serious) to abandon my climb.  To be stagnant.  And lonely.

Hiking boots: They really don’t go with much; they don’t attract attention of people around me.  I don’t put them on at the end of the day seeking comfort.  But in heading up the mountain, these are the shoes that will protect me from rocks, from hurting my ankles. They will give me traction and help speed me along my climb.  I won’t arrive at the top with blisters, or thorns hanging off the sides.  In these, I will see the vista promised me.

Forgiveness.  Love.  Humility.  Certainly not behaviors the world admires.  Each takes work; they aren’t as easy or familiar as our current habits.  And yet, choosing to clothe ourselves with these will bring us into a more intimate relationship with our Lord.

It’s our choice.  We must clothe ourselves appropriately.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

To emulate a king

If a small thing has the power to make you angry, does that not indicate something about your size? -Sydney J. Harris

I’ll admit it: I have an anger problem.  No, seriously.  Ask my husband.  It doesn’t take much to get my hackles raised, my claws out, and my teeth barred.  Some days, all it takes is me getting out of bed.  I have recognized this propensity in me for years; but, the closer I come to Christ, the more I find myself trying to overcome my weakness.  Anger hardly becomes a child of God.  Mercy, patience, gentleness, tender-hearted mercy; these are the fruits of a life lived with Christ.

I could use the Christianese phrase, “God’s not finished with me yet.”  Its cliché because it’s true; He’s not finished with me.  But that type of remark smacks of my generation’s amazing ability to duck responsibility.  [Did you catch that it’s my generation’s ability, not something of which I claim ownership?  Yeah, it’s rooted pretty deep.]  At some point, I have to stand up and say, “This is mine.  This anger is mine; and while I can’t handle it on my own, I need to start making choices that reflect my heritage ~ my heavenly kinship with the King of kings."  I need to start behaving as one who is a citizen of heaven.

But, HOW?

By first recognizing that I have a choice.  Not in the sense that I can control how I feel, but in that I can choose what I do with those feelings.  Secondly, I have to surrender everything.   Everything.  Things that are said to me, things that hurt me, things that happen within and outside of my control, things that rouse my anger.  Everything.

To illustrate this point, God preserved the story of King Hezekiah [2 Kings 19:9-37] for us to emulate.  (A very quick run down:) Hezekiah was king of Judah and was being threatened with invasion and destruction by Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, who had already conquered many other nations.  Sennacherib sent a messenger to Hezekiah insulting God, the Lord's sovereignty, and the beliefs of the Israelite nation [vv. 9-13].

The key to this passage is Hezekiah’s response; it is exactly what we are to do.  He didn’t kill the messenger, rouse the troops, and head out to battle.  Instead, Hezekiah physically took the paper on which Sennacherib’s threats were written and spread it out on the altar of the Lord [vv. 15-19].  Hezekiah praised God, who he knew was sovereign; and then he asked God to hear and see the insults of Sennacherib.  Hezekiah took everything that surely angered him (can you see him, shaking with rage at the audacity of the words written by his enemy?) and laid it out before the Lord.  Hezekiah turned his wrath into worship.  He surrendered, choosing to not act out in anger; instead Hezekiah chose to trust God with his emotions and the outcome.  [Which God did in vv. 35-37, without any further involvement from Hezekiah.]

So from Hezekiah, we can glean practical application ~ every time our anger is roused, whether righteously or not, we need to take it to the Lord.  Literally lay it before Him and ask Him to deal with it; deal with our emotions, deal with the situation, deal with us.  In this surrender, we find release.  Like Hezekiah, we can turn our wrath into worship.

All it takes is surrender.

He who angers you conquers you. - Elizabeth Kenny

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Hath not himself

“The angry man hath not himself.” - Joseph Hall


Of the alleged, deadly seven, it is the most justifiable, is it not?  To seek out retribution for what has been lost.  To make the guilty pay.

How delightful to lick our chops at the thought of giving someone what’s coming to them; even in the smallest circumstance, a slight affront in conversation.  We roll possible scenarios over in our minds, letting sharp words and barbed truths hurl themselves at our aggressor, from out our mouths.  Putting the villain in their place once and for all.

Hardly Christ-like, though, is it?  Don’t misunderstand; Christ did get angry.  So angry that He over-turned tables, threw benches (Matthew 21:11-13, Mark 11:14-16, John 2:14-16).  He roundly rebuked those in need of it, His own disciples were not immune to His scolding (Matthew 16:22-24, Mark 8:32-34).  However, Christ never exhibited purposeful plotting of revenge.  He certainly warned people about the consequences of continuing in their present sin; He most assuredly told them where their path would lead them.  But He did not plan retribution; He sought reconciliation.  He wept for their eventual outcome.  His heart broke for their deceived states; and He carried the weight of their choices to the cross and to His grave.  Yet in His resurrection, even the most seasoned sinner has hope.

If Christ did not seek retribution, how then can we, as fallen, pitiful sinners?

Are we to ignore anger?  Pretend it doesn’t exist, that it is a part of this life to which Christ-followers are immune?  Is there truth in that?  Of course not.  In fact, Scripture tells us to “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26 NIV, emphasis mine).   Be angry.  That’s a command, second person imperative (e.g. the “you” preceding this sentence is implied).

So, according to this verse, I am to be angry for only a day, just so long as I’m not angry when I go to bed?  That’s the God honoring way to deal with anger?  Hardly.

The words “angry” and “anger” are two different words in the original Greek rendering.  The first “angry” is orgizesthe, meaning “to provoke, to make angry.”  This word is used in the passive voice, indicating that the action which causes anger is occurring outside of your person; it is happening to you, not caused by you.  The second “anger” is parorgismō, meaning “irritation or wrath.”  This is an internal entity, a noun in your possession, something you create or control.

Therefore, this Scripture is allowing me to feel anger, to become angry at something that happens outside of my control.  However, I am sinning if I allow myself to harbor anger, keeping it in my heart.  As Christ said, “what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.  These are what defile a person” (Matthew 15:18-20, ESV).

An example of this would be if someone were to wrongly insult my character.  Knowing that my character is being slandered, I am told by Scripture that I am to become angry at this affront.  However, mentally blasting the person responsible for this wound is a sin; to replay scenario after scenario over in my mind, point out all their faults, their “plank-eye” characteristics, is not Christ-like.

It’s holding anger in my heart that’s erroneous.  Making up the guest bed and letting it move in, that’s where the danger lies.  Because all too quickly anger rots, metamorphosing into bitterness.  Bitterness becomes the poison that taints everything else.  It is a poison which slowly kills joy.  And where bitterness is rooted in the heart, the enemy has permission to move in.  When we allow anger to fester, to feed bitterness, we hand the enemy property rights to a piece of our heart.  And where he is allowed to camp, he will defile.

So what do we do with the anger that we are told by Scripture to experience (Ephesians 4:26)?  Hand it over to the Lord; surrender it immediately, lest you surrender part of your heart to the enemy’s desires.

Greek transliterations and definitions taken from and

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Triple-braided cord

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.  If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.  Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone?  A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

~ Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

I have been increasingly interested in fostering genuine, honest, and transparent relationships with the people around me.  It is in this type of relationship, one is free to be his/herself.  To be loved regardless of your mistakes or slip-ups, to be loved through them.  To come out on the other side even stronger because your friends have pointed you toward the Lord, and you have grown because of it.  Knowing that what they said (in love) needed to be heard.  Knowing that when your friends have held you accountable to behavior modeled in Scripture, it is because they love you.

But they can’t hold you to that standard unless you let them in, into the dark places you don’t want to admit exist within your heart.  Unless you are willing to share with them your shortcomings and aspirations.

And when you are able to do just that, a community begins to form.  One borne of time spent together, transparent friendship, and shared experiences.  This community is not easily established; but once it is, it is not easily shaken.

So, I encourage you to ask these questions of yourself:

  • Do you have this type of community?  At least one relationship like that?

  • If you do, are you being open with the other parties involved?  Are they able to be vulnerable with you?  What would it take for you to foster this in your current relationships?

  • If you don’t, what’s preventing you from seeking out this type of community/relationship?

If you have some relationships that you would like to grow into this way, start asking and answering questions to further this process.  Ask for their stories, and share yours.  Ask about their fears and aspirations.  Ask about things in their lives that continually challenge them; share what most often trips you up.  One of my favorites is “what has the Lord shown you recently?”

This relationship will not flourish overnight.   But when it flowers, it is more than worth it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Who are we?

We have been given a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of dispair.  Through the righteousness of Christ, we are like great oaks that the Lord has planted for His own glory! ~ Isaiah 61:3

I was recently asked to share my story at a reunion celebration for Surrendering the Secret, as a token representation of where each of us has been and from what we have come through. However, in asking the Lord what to say, He reminded me that my story is not about what I've been through or work I have done, nor the works of others helping me heal this pain from my past. Instead, my story is one of many; each one meant to glorify the name of the Lord. Every redemption a praise offering to Him for healing this wound in His bride.

I am humbled to be able to be amongst those who know the tremendous blessing it is for each fo us to hear our redeemer's voice through Surrendering the Secret. This sisterhood is comprise of women from our early 20's to late 60's. We are your pew mates, your friends, your daughters, your ministry leaders, your pastor's wives, your Bible study teachers, your sisters. We come from strong Christian upbringings and non-believing homes. We have experienced abortion as long ago as 30 years, or as recently as 2 days prior to finding our Surrendering group.

  • One out of every 4 pregnancies conceived in the United States is terminated through abortion (about 1.2 million per year).

  • In more than 14 metropolitan areas, abortions outnumber live births.

  • More than 30 million abortions have occurred since 1973.

  • Approximately 45% of women seeking abortion today have had at least one prior abortion.*

We each have hidden from our pain using drugs or alcohol, relationships, eating disorders, perfectionism, our earthly children, careers, image manipulation, our church persona, even service to our Lord. Yet for all that hiding, we felt separated, distant from God. Alone. Like we were the only one not able to look our Heavenly Father completely in His eyes.

  • 92% of women who've had abortions experience emotional deadening

  • 86% experience anger or rage

  • 86% fear others finding out

  • 82% experience intense feelings of loneliness or isolation

  • 63% experience denial

  • 58% battle nightmares

  • 56% develop suicidal feelings

  • 53% engage in drug abuse

  • 39% have eating disorders**

Until whatever initially drew our attention to Surrendering the Secretunsettled something inside of us, so that our spirits would no be quiet.  Because in our hearts, places we might not have even admitted to ourselves, we knew God had something to say about our past abortions.  So we make that phone call, get into a group, and then some of us try desperately to get out of said group.  Eventually, we make it through the doors, wearing our masks of "I'm fine;" but underneath we are broken, frightened, and ashamed.  We spend time in God's Word, the only thing that will set us on the path to His healing.  As the weeks progress, we peel off layer after layer of the shame we endured, the lies we've believed, the anger we buried, and the pain we cling to.  We surrender all of our secret to Christ, until we kneel at the foot of the cross, ready to finally trade our past for the promise of His future.

And then, what initially brought us to this group is no longer what defines us; nor does it bind us in sisterhood now.  We are now defined, along with every believer, as a beloved child of God through Jesus Christ ~ a holy people redeemed by the Lord for His glory (Isaiah 62:12).


**Layton, Pat.  Surrendering the Secret: Healing the Heartbreak of Abortion. Lifeway Press, 2008. pg. 45

Monday, September 14, 2009

I will

“’As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down,’ declares the Sovereign LORD. ‘I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak’”
Ezekiel 34:12, 15-16 [part]

I am a bit of an English nerd (thanks, Mom!). While I’m certainly not an expert, I do like my modifiers in the appropriate places. And, yes, I am constantly seeking metaphors. I read and then re-read sentences to gain meaning from their construction, their tone, their choice of words. I could literally spend hours on one or two well-turned phrases, extracting their full depth and enriching their meaning.

For example, the above Scripture is one of my favorites (yes, I do say that a lot ~ guess I really just love God’s word). At first glance it tells me that GOD Himself cares for me. HE says so, “I myself will tend my sheep;” and I’ve learned HE doesn’t flippantly say, or not say, anything (Ezk 34:15). This passage does not say, “I’m sending my angels in descending order to look after my sheep depending upon their righteous living. The martyrs warrant archangels, the prophets and missionaries get cherubim and seraphim, while the rest of you sinners can look out for yourselves.” No! The Sovereign LORD says, “I myself will tend my sheep.” GOD will personally search for the lost, retrieve those who wander, and heal the hurts of those wrecked by sin. GOD, who spoke the entire universe into existence, is personally looking after you; searching for you, calling you back, desiring to heal your wounds and strengthen you.

Amazing, isn’t it? You might have noticed that HE doesn’t just say that once. GOD says, “I will” five times. In case you didn’t catch it on the first read, HE reiterates that fact ~ in five separate instances. The Almighty GOD will personally tend to you.

The other part of this passage that I love is the use of the word, “will.” Notice the word is not “did;” GOD’s Son, Jesus Christ, did die for all the sins of the world ~ past tense. But the Creator of the Universe chose “will” to describe His relationship with us. This word shows futurity ~ it is going to happen. It denotes habitual action ~ something that is repeated again and again; then, now, & tomorrow. And it indicates an inevitable tendency ~ the action [or verb] following “will” is certain to take place.

The Sovereign LORD does not forgive us once & then abandon us to our soul-destructive tendencies. Instead, HE teaches us that it is HIS character, HIS very nature, to keep rescuing us, keep finding us, keep healing us. Even if HE has to take us back to the day of clouds and darkness to do so. And HE will continue to tend to us for all eternity. For we are HIS and HE is ours!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

HALO rescue operation

Some time ago (or perhaps not that long), my husband tested for the opportunity to become a member of one of the most elite combat rescue teams in today’s military ~ USAF Pararescue, or PJ’s as they are more commonly referred to. He passed of course (though some sources say the failure rate is upwards of 80%); but chose marriage over combat, much to the distress and fury of all his drill instructors. Since then, I have held a minute fascination with the mindset of these men, willing and capable of putting so much on the line. Daily. Without hesitation. In fact, they long for it.

(Now, I am personally unable of doing what they do; of enduring what their families are asked to endure. And in no way do I intend any disrespect to them with what I am about to say. Imitation is the truest form of flattery; I hold them in highest esteem, which is why I aspire thus.)

The motto of PJ’s is: “That others may live.” Their symbol, a parachute backing an angel holding the world, is called the “angel of mercy.” Their objective: not "seek and destroy" (Navy Seals), but "seek and save" ~ to rescue pilots downed behind enemy lines and safely return these servicemen to their home. They willingly hurl themselves out of planes, directly into the enemy’s territory, to find, give medical attention to, and lead to safety those who the enemy has crippled with hostile fire; at very immediate risk to their own lives.

Spiritually speaking, we as Christians are at war. Our enemy is prowling, devouring brothers and sisters from our very ranks, as well as those who have yet to receive salvation. He is bombarding us daily with hostile fire; sometimes with arrows, sometimes Howitzer rounds.

Effective and accurate though the enemy may be, we serve a God who hears the cries of His afflicted children. For one wound in particular, He has anointed a group of women, whom I am humbled beyond measure to count as my sisters in arms, to act as spiritual PJ’s for women captured by the enemy. This sisterhood is comprised of women leaders and prayers involved in the study, Surrendering the Secret: Healing the Heartbreak of Abortion. The captives, post-abortive women, have been downed behind the enemy’s lines, wounded and wandering, aching for hope, and yearning for rescue.

The Surrendering the Secret sisters (the STS, leaders and prayer warriors alike) take up the sword of the Spirit, don the full armor of God, and launch themselves directly behind enemy lines to lead wounded captives to freedom. During the course of this rescue mission, STS families are subject to spiritual warfare unparalleled in the common church. Marriages are attacked, children are targeted, emotions leveled with landmines, and the spirits of these women are accosted on all sides; they become battered and weary. Yet none would trade a day of this battle for hundreds of peace; the goal far too important; the task too worthy; the Commander too glorious to deny. These women fight for, tend to, cajole, and sometimes even carry their downed sisters through the enemy’s landscape (their pasts) to the vista of the cross. And when the cross is reached, the captive women exchange their shackles for the redemption of Christ. The rescued become fellow sisters, no longer behind enemy lines, but free.

That others may live ~ in the fullness of freedom in Christ!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Beauty Irrevocable

Today I sent my little girl off to the first grade, a milestone in any book. True to our parental duties, my husband and I subjected her to the obligatory photo sessions, both at the house and as we arrived at school. And my precious little girl was more than happy to oblige. She sashayed around the house in her new shoes and skirt. She admired her hair in the mirror. She happily struck pose after pose with her new backpack and lunch box. And her father told her, with each flash, that she is beautiful; she should be a model. Her amber eyes danced with the delight of knowing she is beautiful; and that someone else recognizes this truth.

Later, as I was uploading said photographs, noticing for the first time how much of a young lady my daughter has become, my reminiscing stopped short as ice filled my veins. How long does she have until she, too, becomes a slave to the lies? The time when she looks at pictures of herself, sees her reflection, and doesn’t see beauty? When, instead of delighting in her own skin, she picks herself apart; mentally ticking off features that don’t fit the fashion magazine mold. Ten years? Twenty? Two?

Because that day comes, doesn’t it ladies, when our father’s compliments (if there ever where any) aren’t valid or enough. When we unknowingly switch from casual delight in whom we are, to constantly striving to be what we never will. If only I had a body like that model…If only I was as creative/successful/organized as she…If only someone would notice me.

I worry because to some extent, it happens to every woman. It could be merely life, the sum of our personal experiences, convincing each one of us that for whatever reason, we are lacking. It could be society; the media an easy target for bearing the weight of parental and personal responsibility. Or celebrities; people so lost in darkness they can’t even find their own hearts. (I can’t condemn Miley Cyrus for her recent dance any more than I can fault a solider for the gaping hole in his chest left by a mortar round. Her world, perhaps in a more immediate sense than mine, is full of a darkness so virulent it devours innocence.) Though closer to the truth I think, is the deception of a master illusionist. One bent on the annihilation of generations. A slanderer who repeats our failures to us, reminds of us the things we are not; and tries to make us forget the things that we are.

And slowly, we trade our “if only’s” for lies. When I have a body like that model, I will be beautiful. When I am more creative/successful/organized than she, I will be happy. I will find someone to notice me, at any cost. And even more slowly, we sacrifice ourselves. We stop eating; we frantically try to control who others think we are; we push our children to be what we never were; we allow unthinkable horrors to be inflicted on our hearts. We give ourselves in ways that steal our already fragile beauty. We deny the truth that is in us in exchange for scattered moments of the fleeting semblance of the girl we once were ~ delighted with being beautiful. With being the girl God created her be.

We each are beautiful; a poem written by God, painstakingly crafted to His ideal version of who we should be. We must remember this. We must sow this truth in the hearts of our daughters; into the minds and onto the tongues of our sons. We must combat each lie with truth.

You are beautiful. You are wonderfully made. You are God’s idea of what you should be.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Healthy Living in a Fast Food Culture

Hebrews 5:14 "But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil."

I pondered the health risks of American culture recently, with my kids tucked in the back of my smaller SUV; eagerly anticipating yet another quickie meal from an international food company. Passing deep-fried potato strips to my children to reward them for finishing their quasi-meat patty, I felt the familiar wave of parental guilt. The kids love the drive-through. I find the overall convenience highly enticing.

But, as a mature adult, I know better. I know that a burger and fries aren't ideal for their little bodies. I know that I'm setting them up for poor eating habits as they grow. I know that I should be feeding them organic, locally grown, healthy foods. But I frequently choose laziness. Why? Because I'm too tired, or too bored, or too distracted.  Or frankly, unmotivated to cook. So we hop in the car and head off to procure a meal. And while it's not healthy, it is still technically food. It satiates. Hunger subsides for a while. The kids are still growing; they have energy. But this is not how God designed them to be fueled. And as the mature person responsible, I know that.

The Happy Meal Project: artist Sally Davies photoraphed the above food as it sat on her table every day for 137 days.  See the slide show here; but don't expect to rush out any time soon for a fast and easy meal.

In a culture where immediate gratification rules supreme, I am not surprised by my tendancies towards the easy life.  Even in the context of spirituality.  I frequent Bible studies hosted by local churches; my growth housing shelves of workbooks to that end.  Each a testament of the video guided curriculum, a semester's worth of instruction in the Word.  Someone else's message prepared and packaged neatly for my quick ingestion.  But why does it feel like spiritual fast food?

What if I relied entirely on just that for my spiritual growth?  For my life?  Eventually, wouldn't my system become accustomed (even toxic) to that which initially satiated me?  A meal prepared entirely by someone else; to their particular tastes and moods.  Convenient ~ yes.  A means to procure nourishment ~ again, yes.  Though eventually, I believe the spirit seeks more; that to which Hebrews 5:14 refers.

Each believer, becoming more mature in their faith is told to "train themselves" by "constant use" (Hebrews 5:14).  This means that as we mature in our walk ("Christianese" for: reading the Bible more, getting closer to God through conversations, and looking less like the world and more like Christ), we are required to dig deeper into God's Word ourselves.  This must be a daily practice; not for others, but for ourselves so that we may be able to digest the heavy passages of Scripture alone with the Spirit.  We have to be willing to examine the seeds planted by others, to tend them as one does a garden.  To identify when they are ready for harvest; and to pluck them at just the right moment.  We have to learn how to prepare these truths as one does a delicacy: paying particular attention to the greatest nutritional value.  And we have to savor these lessons, garnered not from others but from the literal sweat off our own brow.  The nights spent mulling; days  exhausted in patiently waiting for fruition.  We each are called to figuratively plant, harvest, and prepare our spiritual gardens.

I am not saying that a believer should avoid collective Bible studies; quite the opposite!  A mature believer (and you know who you are), should not rely on these to feed your spirit.  Whomever the teacher on the video or behind the podium, the Holy Spirit is calling you to a deeper, more meaningful relationship.  Filling in blanks in a workbook is like eating hamburgers from a drive-thru.  They fill you up; but they do nothing for your health.  You are the only one, after daily training yourself on the Truth, who can recognize when the easy, neatly packaged lessons aren't enough.  When you have to dig deeper, put forth more effort.

That's when you give up the spiritual drive-thru for a Holy Spirit inspired garden.

Here's an article that explains how to begin a vegetable garden

And just for fun, here's an animated short entitled "What if Wild Animals Ate Fast Food."

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Out of curiosity, I recently visited Wikipedia and found 29 songs listed with the title, "Stay." Stay. There is an ache, whatever the genre, in that single word. A desperate plea. An admission of some other over-arching emotion. Love. Fear. Loneliness. The need for companionship; for witness to our fragile existence. Don't go. Stay.

I am not immune to that ache. I have known it's many forms. I have been overcome and I have been victorious over this state time and again. My days now are filled with a joy and purpose I for so very long thought impossible. However, of late it has been my heart's cry. I have been privy to a particular healing group, a sisterhood of women who have sought truth in face of their darkest moments; women who have knelt before the cross of Jesus Christ and traded their shame for His righteousness. And I have seen God work miracles in their hearts. He has brought springs out of parched ground and gardens from wastelands (Isaiah 41: 18-19). Upon my sisters, He has bestowed a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. And we each walk away, displaying the LORD's splendor (Isaiah 61:3). I have literally seen these transformations weekly. I have been transformed.

Therefore, it stands to reason that I would not readily walk away from this holy site. But circumstances are commanding my respite. Some, frankly, are quite joyful ~ a fellow sister will stand in my stead and I am praising GOD for the chance for her to bear this witness and toil in this blessed vineyard as well! Some are near and dear to my heart; and some are, seemingly, just life. But as I watched the light from 13 candles illuminate the dark corner of a room, I said to my Adonai, "You can't ask me to walk away. Don't take this from me."

Why? Was I so selfish that I wanted this only for myself? Did I think this wouldn't happen without me in the room? No. It was the fear that if I left this arena, I would loose this closeness, this intimacy with my Yahew Roi [the LORD is my Shepherd]. I was desperate not to loose this holy place, this level of relationship with Him.

"Stay!" My heart cried out, "don't go!" Tears soaked my prayers, my worship; my knees grew numb from begging. But eventually, I had to get up. Life wouldn't wait (my 3 year-old needed breakfast and he is very adamant about eating). Throughout my days, I kept silently insisting, "stay. Stay!"

And in His tender way, my Abba
took me into His arms, and wiped away my tears. He held me, He listened to my pleas, but He did not change His mind. His will was not bent to suit my desires. Instead, He told me of a time when another one of His children did not want to let go...

Paraphrased from Matthew 16:21-17:5, with personal commentary
Jesus revealed to his disciples that He would be put to death, a horrible death preceded by torture, by the chief priests of Jerusalem. There is a part of me that believes He did this not only to indicate His divinity, but to prepare those who loved Him. He was getting them ready for what was inevitable. Upon hearing this news, His disciples were frantic, most likely heartbroken. They pledged their lives in exchange for His. Peter even declared, "never!" Christ's rebuke was fairly harsh; but He never was one to pull any punches. Days passed without comment, though I assume that his dearest friends were still silently distraught. And He knew this. So, Jesus takes Peter, James, and John with Him to the top of a mountain for time alone to pray. Each man was probably thinking of this time as a chance to draw closer to Jesus, to soak up His nearness after such a distressing revelation. Up the mountain they went. During this prayer time, Christ is transformed into His heavenly glory; and He is met atop this mountain by Elijah and Moses. Why does this happen in front of Peter, James, and John? Maybe Jesus wanted to comfort them with the knowledge that He is the Son of God; therefore He knew what would take place and He had already made the choice to follow through ~ for the sake of every soul in the world. The disciples were astounded; some books say they were afraid, some say they didn't know what to do. And then Peter begs. Peter tells Jesus he will build three tents to house Christ, Elijah, and Moses ~ to keep Jesus there, in the temporal, in immediate contact with Peter. "Stay," is Peter's heart's cry. At that moment, the mountain is enveloped in a cloud and a voice from the cloud says, " This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him."

"Listen to Him." The implication being, "abandon your own plans. Follow His directions." Peter, who loved Jesus, didn't want to let go. He wanted to stay with Jesus in the closest sense. But Peter couldn't understand what Christ's death would accomplish. Peter couldn't know what plans God and Jesus had following the Crucifixion. In order to see the apex of all history, Peter would have to let Jesus go. He would be required to experience physical distance in order to have spiritual closeness beyond imagination. Peter would have to be obedient, in spite of his emotions. In spite of his heart. Peter heard the voice of God telling him to listen to Jesus. And Jesus was preparing him for a time of relationship which was beyond Peter's comprehension.

And so, my Heavenly Father showed me that I can not understand His plans. And sometimes, my heart's desire may actually stand in the way of those plans. Albeit unwittingly. So, He asks me to trust Him. Because whatever is on the other side is very much worth it.

Tonight, I kneel before my Adonai. I am letting go, Lord. Help me let go.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

What comes next?

Adonai ~ Lord Master

I am aware that God has placed a purpose into all our lives; a task that He has specifically for each of us. Adonai [Lord Master] is calling each of His children to behave as servants in furthering His kingdom; and each has been given a particular venue, task, and the specific order in which to do just that. In Luke 17:7-10, Jesus is speaking to the disciples about that very thing. Jesus reminds them that they each are serving God; and God will instruct them on what tasks to perform, in what order. This instruction makes it so the disciples can not boast in their ingenuity; but only say that they were merely doing the task assigned them by God, to the glory of Adonai. Naturally, the same holds true for us today.

My prayer is that we will each spend time with our Lord Master seeking His direction for the next step of our journey. I pray that Adonai, speaks clearly to our hearts; and that we are all attentive and obedient to His beckoning.

I am excited to see what God, our Adonai, has revealed in the hearts of His children, and where this journey will take each of us next!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Bent and smoldering

A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory. In his name the nations will put their hope.

Isaiah 42:3-4 & Matthew 12:20-21

Truth, while Christ promises will set us free, is sometimes difficult to even acknowledge and harder to bear. Particularly truth about our past sins and their consequences. We know that everyone has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God; and sin carries with it a death sentence. And while sin is sin, no one being any greater than another, some carry more immediate consequences. And those consequences, reactions to our sinful actions, can pummel us to the breaking point. Hurt beyond all reason; clothe us with pain seemingly insurmountable.

But another promise from our Mighty Creator, Elohim, is that He is gentle. He will not break those who are bent and bruised past what we think is possible for us to stand. When we are so buffeted that it feels like our flame has been extinguished, He will not snuff out our wick. He sent His only Son, Jesus to tenderly guide us towards justice and victory. It is through these trials that we will learn to place our hope evermore in Him!

When we expose the truth of our past dark deeds, we may be so brokenhearted, so trampled by the enemy, that we feel as if even this exposure will break us. But God will not allow us to be ruined in our attempts at reconciliation with him. He will not let our past overcome His future for us. He will tenderly guide us towards His victory. So that through our brokenness, His glory is even more evident. And those around us will also place their hope in Him!

Though He is mighty enough to speak the universe into existence, He is gentle enough to keep even the most bruised reed from breaking. Whatever your heartache, He can heal it.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Love Story

In the past six months, I have felt God’s love move in ways I’d thought were reserved for only the most pious believers. He ransomed my heart, He allured me, and He lavished me with His love! And when I think about my life, I realize that it is a love story. Not ideal, but a love story nonetheless. I see places where my beaten heart was protected by my God; other times where my attention to Him was prodded by my pain. In both instances, He stood, ever ready, to hold me in His embrace and drown me in His love.

I ponder the women in my story, ranging in age from 20 to 52. And I see amazing, intelligent, and beautiful individuals created in the image of God. (Yes, even we women were created in HIS image.) However listening to their stories, much like mine, I hear something frightening. I hear the voice of the enemy. His breath is hot on their ears, his forked tongue speaking deceit and ruin into their spirits. Unequivocally, when women speak, they say, “I am not ________ enough.” Pretty, smart, talented, witty, pleasing, frugal, tiddy, strong, good, creative, industrious, brave…all these adjectives have filled in the blank. But the underlying theme is “I am not enough.” This particular weight, this lie from Satan’s lips, is the burden under which so many of us toil. Entire lives lived beneath the crushing burden of “not enough,” never realizing their worth.

So many of us know that God sent His only Son to die on the cross to pay for our sins (John 3:16 ~ For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life). This, according to John 15:13 (Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends) was the ultimate act of love. This is the Truth! In this truth we can have faith, we are given hope, and the very essence of this truth is love. (1Cor 13:13 And now, these three things remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love).

However, I believe that many of us take the story to end there; the ink dried and the book was snapped shut after the work Christ did on the cross. Yes, we acknowledge that we must accept this gift from the ancient past and even that we are to communicate to God intermittently through prayer. But as for the love story, it has already been written.

But the story doesn’t end there! That is only the preface. God yearns, longs, for an intimate relationship with each of us. One in which we are His focus and He is ours. And not a relationship with the “church body,” the plural form of “us.” No, God wants this intimacy with individuals. With “Jen” “Barbie” “Ken” or “Joe.” God loves each person as an individual and craves an intimate relationship with that individual, separate from all others.

What if we allowed our God to become the lover of our soul? Infinitely better than a fallible human soul-mate; He is the One who wants to allure us (Hosea 2:14), the One who desires our presence, the One who sees us for who we truly are (Genesis 16:13). Jesus declared that the greatest commandment is to “Love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all you mind and will all your strength (Mark 12:30). I believe that if we could move past the idea of the Grandfather in white robes, we might be able to see God as the desire of our hearts. A God we could love this passionately; and allow ourselves to be loved by Him in a very passionate, intimate way. That relationship, that intimacy is what we were made for.

Another reason I believe God wants us to be passionately loved by Him is the Song of Solomon. This book isn’t only in the Bible to tell us of marital relations and the importance of purity. In it, God invites us to desire a relationship with him that is like the 1st verse of Song of Solomon (Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—for your love is more delightful than wine). A relationship that is full of passion, longing, and love; a relationship in which we are His focus; and He is ours.

He is the God who calls out to our hearts, (Song of Solomon 2:10)

My lover spoke and said to me,
"Arise, my darling,
my beautiful one, and come with me."

Does God desire to be our lover? In Hosea 2:14, God says He will “allure [us]; [He] will lead [us] into the desert and speak tenderly to [us].” God says we “will call [Him] ‘[our] husband.” God also says He “will betroth [us] to [Him] forever; [He] will betroth [us] in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. [He] will betroth [us] in faithfulness, and [we] will acknowledge the Lord” (Hosea 2:19-20). Through Christ’s righteousness and compassion we are betrothed to God. Through God’s love, faithfulness, and justice are we His brides.

Because when we prostitute ourselves out to other suitors (worldly pursuits), HE is jealous, as a lover would be. Like Gomer in Hosea (Ch 2), we fill ourselves with idols of our times; and I am chief amongst you guilty of this. I have put myself above God, I have used alcohol, drugs, sex, food, worldly beauty, pursuit of knowledge, love for my husband and love for my children as replacements for God’s love. I have used good works, friendships, genuine attempts at piety, and even religion to fill in for the love of my soul. Every time I am let down. Because only God can sustain that kind of intimacy; where we are loved, valued, and delighted in every breath of our lives. He yearns to cherish us as His bride, to steal away like newlyweds excitedly exclaiming over every new discovery and reveling in every moment together.

Why can’t we be that in love with HIM?