Water That Cuts Through Stone

Water That Cuts Through Stone

Maybe the world isn’t as dependent on my super powers as I think.

Maybe the best thing for everyone is that I fall short. That I crumble in a heap of regret and frustration. And as I land in a pile, I accidentally activate the hidden switch that opens the secret passage of power.

If I had been successfully hitting my goals I never would have found this place.

My best skill and greatest success don’t even compare to the power I find here.

So I enter this private room, this secret world.

And I get down on my 50-year-old knees and access divine power.

Ann Voskamp says, “It’s not what you do every now and then that changes anything, but what you do *every day* that changes everything.”

The incessant drip of water cuts through stone. Drop by drop.

I’m thankful for the experience and encouragement of wise people to help me persist in prayer. Paul Miller offers practical encouragement in “A Praying Life.”

His prayer card system helps me activate the secret power of incessant, persistent prayer – that changes everything.

I’ve taken 3×5 index cards and put the name of a person at the top. As I pray for them individually, I ask God to give me the main topics that He wants to address in each life. They range from character traits to specific Scripture to getting braces. I write down about five or six on each card.

And my little tools are ready.

I pick up my stack of cards each day, take off the rubber band, and lift these beloved ones to the Father for a minute or two on each card.

Drip, drip, drip.

How thankful I am to join God in the mystery of prayer! Somehow He makes His power partly dependent on my prayers.

It reminds me of when the angel spoke to Daniel. “Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer.” Daniel 10:12

So the power of prayer- and the tool of index cards- fills me with hope.

Hope that little by little, in a way that I don’t understand- my loved ones will experience the love of Jesus, find joy in their work, and maybe get braces.

An incidental by-product of these private times of intercession- my heart becomes more closely knit to my Father’s heart.

And I’m filled up with the wonder that this is what I’m made for. I’m made to deeply connect with God.

Maybe that’s part of why He created prayer in the first place. That he may connect with me on the deepest, unseen, spiritual level. The place too deep for words. Where the Spirit translates our tears and sighs into intercession.

“May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10

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Love Is Slow

Love Is Slow

“Hurry sickness” is a thing.

Trust me, I know.

I rush to make green lights.

I snag aisle seats so I can get out fast.

I scrutinize grocery store lines, placing bets on the fastest one.

Evelyn Underhill said, “On every level of life, from housework to heights of prayer, in all judgment and efforts to get things done, hurry and impatience are sure marks of the amateur.

Ah. It’s the opposite of my instinct. Counter-intuitive. If I want to mature my soul, I must resist the urge to hurry.

Do my kids notice if I’m listening to their stories with half a heart because I’m so efficiently multi-tasking?

Do I put off a date with my husband because the calendar is brimming, and my to-do list is dizzying?

Do I feel a pang when my son wonders, “Mom, do you have time for me to tell you about the book I’m reading?”

Love is slow.

I can’t dive into conversation with humans or God and hit those deep, sacred moments if I’m nervously monitoring the clock.

It’s hard to pull out of habitual hurry. It’s so engraved in my soul I hardly notice it.

“But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.” Psalm 131:2

John Ortberg challenges you and me to earnestly combat life-sucking hurry.

His suggestion: choose the long line at the store and the stop light.

Maybe I should plant myself in the center of the row and snake out of the building like an ordinary person .

Sounds. Like. Torture.

Not to mention a reckless waste of time.

It seems like the Kingdom of God is best measured intangibly. I’m not able to chart the effects of time spent worshiping God.

Impossible to count what happens when I meditate on His Word. Or when I join His heart in prayer for the humans that He loves.

When I spend precious minutes playing games with my kids or hanging on the couch with my husband.

It feels like faith to practice the discipline of slowing.

I long to pass the slow lane and get to work three minutes faster. Resisting that urge is a little way of proclaiming that I’m not the most important thing. The world can thrive without me.

May my soul be as a weaned child within me. May I cease the clamor and striving. Lord, help me to grow up.

May I trust You enough to go slow.

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The Real Me

The Real Me

I’ve gotten pretty good at honing my image.

It’s not that I’m trying to deceive you. I guess I just want you to like me.

But in my need for human approval I push down the real me. And, more tragically, I lose interest in the “me” that God is fashioning.

As Henri Nouwen put it, “When we start being too impressed by the results of our work, we slowly come to the erroneous conviction that life is one large scoreboard where someone is listing the points to measure our worth. And before we are fully aware of it, we have sold our soul to the many grade-givers. That means we are not only in this world, but also of the world. Then we become what the world makes us. We are intelligent because someone gives us a high grade. We are helpful because someone says thanks. We are likable because someone likes us. And we are important because someone considers us indispensable.”

My image-driven Facebook world is the perfect way to mold myself into the “right” image. I fine-tune the nuances of my words and edit my pictures and measure my success by number of likes.

I pause and wonder if that image is the real me.

“I will walk with integrity of heart within my house.” Psalm 101:2

Within my house. The doors are closed. The makeup is off.

It’s not the stuff I post on Facebook.

It’s the way my mind wanders. It’s how I respond to my kids when they are sick, and I am exhausted. It’s the tone I use with my husband when I feel misunderstood.

There is great freedom in laying down the image. Great freedom in being my messy, sinful, struggling self.

“I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Those living words resonate. They breathe hope in me.

I bare my true self to Him. As Oswald Chambers challenges, “Am I willing to reduce myself simply to ‘me,’ determinedly to strip myself of all my friends think of me, of all I think of myself, and to hand that simple naked self over to God?”

The real me.

Jesus is here.

Funny that  I keep forgetting. Everything would change if I remembered that He is here. I would lean in and talk to Him and listen for Him and slow down and savor Him. I would be different. This spiritual discipline of “practicing the presence of God” is a game changer. A life changer.

It seems so simple. Just remember that He is here. Why is it so hard?

The ancient wisdom of Brother Lawrence encourages us to persevere in this discipline little by little. That’s what makes up integrity of heart. Little tiny choices. They add up into the character of a human.

“He does not ask much of us, merely a thought of Him from time to time, a little act of adoration, sometimes to ask for His grace, sometimes to offer Him your sufferings, at other times to thank Him for the graces, past and present, He has bestowed on you, in the midst of your troubles to take solace in Him as often as you can. Lift up your heart to Him during your meals and in company; the least little remembrance will always be the most pleasing to Him. One need not cry out very loudly; He is nearer to us than we think.”  ~Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God.

Tender Jesus, You are here! Actually right now. Here.

Thank You.  Amazing Love.

I am Yours.

Help me to slow down and acknowledge You. That I may hear You. And walk in obedience and the delight of being Your daughter.

For this moment.

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Fool’s Bench

Fool’s Bench

The Fool’s Bench is actually a place of honor.

It’s the bench in the church lobby where we wait for our friends.

Oh, beloved friends!

That they would meet Jesus in this place. Just like I did so many years ago.

It feels embarrassing to still be standing there after the service starts and nearly everyone has scuttled to their seats.

But how could I abandon my post? If there’s a chance they’ll show up, I will stay.

This Sunday I sit in a pew and carefully save two aisle seats for my seeking friend and her guest. She has started coming to church recently, but she is conflicted.

I guard the spots protectively. Hopefully.

The pastor is preaching about how Jesus chose the humiliating task of washing feet. He exemplified the humility of love.

I smile. If Jesus can wash feet with great love and humility, I can hold spots in my pew and my heart for those who aren’t sure about Him.

There was a time when I wasn’t sure about Him.

Now I know Him. And He is mine forever. What do I have to lose?

“Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.”
Psalm 73:25

So I will wait.

And I pray for Jesus to draw these wandering, wondering ones to Himself.

Honored to remain a fool by a bench.

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The Foolishness of Wise Men

The Foolishness of Wise Men

A silent, brilliant beacon of hope pulses in the sky.

A King has come.

And His star draws wise men.

They simply can’t sit in their Persian palaces. They must get up and go. Gather their servants and horses and travel 1,000 miles.

It looks reckless. Extreme. Foolish.

Paul said, “We are fools for Christ.” 1 Corinthians 4:10

But the worship of the wise men was deliberate and planned.

They studied the prophecy , and they studied the star.

They chose their response.

They planned. They packed.

They traveled days. Maybe months.

They stuck to their plan.

Their worship was costly.

Such a journey required extravagant time and money.

But the human heart is made to love Him.

When we land on Jesus, our hearts thrill. “Finally. This is It. This is Who I’m made for.”

And we long to worship.

Not just superficially. Deeply. Calling up the best and most valuable.

In the tradition of King David who wanted to build an altar of worship on Araunah’s threshing floor. Araunah wanted to give his threshing floor for the altar.

But David wouldn’t budge.

“I will not give to the Lord that which costs me nothing.”

Oh to be a fool for Christ! The exhilarating freedom of living for an audience of One.

1,000 long, costly miles.

They worshiped Him.

Face to face.

Their knees and hearts bending in awe.

And they turned around and went home.

No regrets.

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It Is Well

It Is Well

Though the money runs out before the paycheck comes in…. It is well with my soul.

Though political and social upheaval unsettle my world and even my mind…. It is well with my soul.

Though just the right job that suits my passions and my strengths eludes me…. It is well with my soul.

Though the corn dog casserole flips upside down onto the kitchen floor just in time for dinner…. It is well with my soul.

Though my unconscious, unrelenting commitment to self over others brings relational brokenness …. It is well with my soul.

It is well with my soul.

On the deepest level.

God fills the emptiness.

He imbues with deep, eternal purpose that which seems meaningless and futile.

He Himself pulses peace in the heartbreak of grief.

He radiates brilliant beauty in drab, dirty, darkness.

He supplies unnatural hope when it seems there is no way out.

He inundates abundance over the mean and meager.

When there is nothing left in me He blasts His mighty strength through my feeble weakness.

When anger wells up and threatens to lay waste, His arrows of humility and wisdom level my pride.

When daily living seems like endless drudgery, I light a candle. The single, brilliant white flame reminds me that He is right here. I can hardly avert my gaze. Relief and deep comfort.

May I continue to serve faithfully and gladly by the power of Your presence.

And so.

It is well with my soul.

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Worship

Worship

I pause my dishwashing and savor the old song.

“My son, my son, why are you striving?
You can’t add one thing to what’s been done for you.”

Classic Keith Green.

Brings me back 30 years!

Vivid memories of newfound life in Jesus wash over me.

Looking back to the days when I was alive– for the first time in my life. Reveling in awkward beginnings and church life and Jesus.

These lyrics pack fresh power for me tonight. Even now that I am a middle-aged mama with a husband and kids, a minivan and a dog. It’s good to remember my first love.

Why the subconscious, ceaseless striving?

I can’t add one single thing to the sacrifice of Jesus. Impossible that there is anything at all that would negate the need for His holy blood.

I know this. Of course, I know.

“But when I hear the praises start, my child…”

Ah, relief. My gaze shifts from me to Him.

A breath of fresh air as my yearning heart gives Him praise. The striving and the stress begin to roll away.

The striving ebbs, but the yearning flows stronger. Oh, how my heart is made for Him alone.

“My precious  bride
The day is nearing
When I’ll take you in my arms and hold you…”

We are the Bride of Christ. Yearning for our Bridegroom. To be held by Him– intimate and eternal.

The Lord inhabits the praise of His people.

No wonder the tears come, and I can’t squeak out even words of praise anymore.

He is here. Up close. And my heart brims with His nearness.

A few minutes of worship. I feel filled up, and a little sad. Bittersweet taste of Heaven.

Back to my work I go. Deeply glad to experience again that I am His.

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