Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Melody of My Heart {Guest Writer}

Today, I have a special treat for you! A guest post by my friend, Shanna Smith. Hope it blesses you today!
 
The Melody of My Heart

                “Ba-dum-bum-bum…ba-dum-bum-bum…”

                The less obnoxious “silk” setting of my alarm gradually shifts my thoughts into partial reality as my wandering hand finds the snooze just “one more time.” My squinted eyes make out the time, confirming the snooze has already been hit more times than I recall this morning. I turn over, my mind reluctantly buzzing through a list of things I should have already done during my snoozing slumber. My mind is telling my body to get up, but my heart is overpowering the firing of those neurons. Resentment sets in like cement on the mattress.

                “Everyone else is still resting, peacefully, sleeping away the morning. I deserve that, too, right?” My mind follows the beat of my heart, set at a selfish, sin-filled tone, steadily gaining strength.

                “Ugh. I NEED more rest. It is in the best interest of everyone involved to allow my mind and heart to be renewed, right?!” That steady beat of lies carries the time even more loudly, blinding me of His truth.

                Silk sets off again, and I finally decide to schlepp myself out of bed, unaware that the song of my heart is actually what is dragging me each step of the way.

                “By now, there is no time to sit and be still,” the beat fabricates its slanderous melody.

                The dissonance resonates through my heart, my mind, my words, my actions, stealing the joy and partaking of the opportunity to fill that slot with darkness.

                The days are filled with scores of melodies driven by the beat of self-importance and undiscerning lyrics. This consumptive, wreckful song plays on repeat.

                UNTIL…one day, when I hear the call of my Savior,

                “Awaken, sleeper! Arise from the dead and Christ will shine on you!”

                God longs to hear a melody in my heart for Him. How did I allow myself to slumber so long, to stay immersed in darkness until it blanketed me with its comfortable familiarity?

                This call to awaken in Ephesians 5:14 addresses Christians who are sleep-walking. Now that I am conscious and cognizant, I can see that the beat of my heart has led me astray. Lord Jesus, guide me to change the tone, to make melody with my heart to You!

                Music is a powerful thing. Studies show that simply listening to music activates the auditory, motor, and limbic portions of our brains, enhancing brain function, increasing psychological arousal, inducing a physiological relaxation response, improving motor coordination, and reducing muscle tension. Music is proven to be more effective in reducing pain and stress than prescription medications. It reduces the production of cortisol, a stress related hormone, and increases antibodies linked to immunities. Music produces a revulsive effect, gives a sense of control, regulates blood pressure and heart rate. The list of benefits of music could go on and on.

                It is no surprise that God, the creator of music, would include this beautiful gift in His Word. Music is referenced throughout Scripture as a means of worship, as part of coronations and events in royal court, to communicate emotions or recall particulars, feasts, and even a tool used by God to do miraculous things. The walls of Jericho fell at the trumpet blasts in Joshua 6. David soothed Saul during demonic attacks in 1 Samuel 16. Psalm 98:7-8 describes music arising from creation in praise to our Sovereign King, “Let the sea roar and all it contains, the world and those who dwell in it. Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy!”

                I am awakened. My eyes are open, and I can see the destruction left in the wake of my slumber. Psalm 139:16 reminds me that my Creator has seen my unformed substance; and in His book were written all the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them. How many of those days did God see in His book before He formed me that I would waste between wakings, allowing the worldly rhythm to drive the beat of my heart? Psalm 39:5 warns me that “surely every man at his best is a mere breath.” Let me waste not one more moment, not allow one more breath to be driven by melodies lost to myself.
family photo.jpg
Shanna Smith loves Jesus, her family, and life, in general. She is wife to super talented Jeremy and mother to three uniquely awesome children. She believes music (and chocolate) make all of life's moments better.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Whiter than Snow

{I wrote about this on Saturday, but wanted to get it on the blog, as well.}


All this quiet.

Snow covers the ground like a fluffy blanket of fresh mercy.  The fire silently offers each flame, a sure promise of Your never ending Presence.

Outside, I see a cross nailed into mortar.  Amazing Grace, indeed. 

I feel like I did back in 1998, January through June, as I was longing for my groom.  Betrothed and sealed as his, I was ready to wake up to his smell.  I wanted his kiss to be the last thing I tasted as I drifted into dreams. 

I feel that now, with You, Lord.

You purchased me, and I long to see Your face. 

Will tears make their way down my cheeks as I behold perfect, audacious love?

Will I start laughing and never be able to stop?

Will I simply lie against Your chest, capturing the cadence of a heart that withheld nothing in order to bring me to this place?

I am Your Bride.

My insides are giddy in anticipation of what You’ve prepared for me.  You died for me.  I’ll never lose the wonder.

Do You long for me like I long for you?

Father, please send Your Son to gather up the elect…to gather His Bride…to gather me!

Please delight me.  Ring the wedding bells.

I felt so heavy Friday afternoon.  Some weight had settled onto my frame, causing restlessness and sorrow.  Not a thing in the world was wrong and I was looking forward to some much needed time away.  Why the ache, Lord?

Winter storm Jonas was making landfall in Washington D.C. and the East coast.  Over two feet of snow fell hard and fast.  The name “Jonas” can mean “destroyer.”  It can also mean “sign.”  I think about its variation of the Hebrew name, Jonah, and how this prophet was sent to warn the evil people of Nineveh of imminent destruction.  Jonah’s message was simple:  repent or be overthrown.  Shockingly, everyone from ruler down to slave believed God and turned to their Maker in mourning and repentance.

God is always longing to be merciful.  He is always sending signs to grab our attention.  His mercy is boundless. He will do whatever it takes to wake us up before time runs out.  Even through a blizzard.

He thunders through each perfect, spotless flake.

This can be you.  I can make you whiter than snow. Allow me to wash you in my crimson and remove every single impurity.  I long for you to be mine. Won’t you repent?”

Do you long for Him like He longs for you?

The Waking Toddler

Ear infection after ear infection. One round of tubes was not sufficient, so back to surgery we go tomorrow.  I wonder if Asher ever feels well.  Can he even hear, this constant state of feeling like he is in the ocean as the fluid rises and rises?

I'm in my rocker, soaking up God's words as I hear his door open.  He is his Momma, needing a little time to wake up.  He runs to my ever open arms and finds his spot under the nook of my chin.  I have older children.  I know these sacred moments are fleeting.  I slowly inhale his Johnson's and Johnson's hair and will him to stay this age forever.

He nestles in and I hold on for all I am worth as we rock, me giving love pats to his squishy hind parts.

Love bursts from every pore and each hard memory of poop in the tub, defiant No's and toys askew fades into oblivion.

God made us Mommas to love hard.

Love hard, we will.


 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Brass


Image result for moses serpent
 

While in college, I pursued a degree in English for one reason:  I totally loved literature.  I got my license in secondary education and dreamed of teaching kids to love literature as much as I did.  After Eric and I married, kids came quickly and I decided staying home was my heart’s desire above all else. 

I wondered though the years if my degree was a waste.  Hindsight is always best.  I can now see that God was using my college years to train me how to study His Word, the ultimate piece of literature. 

Allegory, typology, metaphor, foreshadowing, imagery, theme…all these things trained me to see not just the larger picture, but each minute detail that pointed to the whole.  Names, location, and time period all mattered.  Meaning was everywhere, if I could just discipline myself to look hard enough.  Treasure waits if we know how to dig! 

We worship a God of order.  Not a single name, moment of time, or detail is random or out of place.  There is skillful design to each book, each chapter, and each word.  The sixty six books are inseparable, each adding a layer to the love story of a Father who would stop at nothing to get His children back. 

I love the details.  In photography, I love the macro.  I want to show off not just a field of flowers, but the single piece of pollen on the stamen of the sunflower.  It’s the collection of perfect details that showcases the glory of such an amazing God. 

While studying the book of Numbers in the Old Testament, there was a passage I couldn’t fully comprehend.  Parts of it made perfect sense while other parts seemed thrown together haphazardly.   

The Israelites had been rescued from Egypt.  They were wandering in the wilderness, grumbling and ready to return as slaves.  God wanted them to trust His heart.  Their grumbling against His perfect plan and perfect provision brought about the release of poisonous snakes.  Many were bitten.  Many died.  

Sometimes, God seems harsh.  It’s in these times that He wants us to know about the seriousness of sin and just how costly it is.  Sin will be judged. 

{A righteous and Holy God demands it.} 

But, God’s heart towards His beloved people was always about perfect provision.  Please, let me feed you manna.  Please, let me sustain your clothing.  Please, let me provide a substitution for the judgment of your sin. 

{A loving and merciful God longs to provide the substitution.} 

In mercy, God had a plan for the curse of snakes.  He instructed Moses to make a brass serpent and set it on a pole, so that whoever looked upon it would live, even if they had been bitten. 

My mind is spinning.  Why a brass snake on a pole lifted high for all to see? It seems so out of place and ridiculous. 

Brass is the least of the metals, especially in comparison to silver and gold.  The word is “nechosheth” in Hebrew.  Brass represents the spiritual filthiness of fallen man.  In the Bible, brass symbolizes judgment.

The snakes were sent as a consequence to sin.  Every snake that hissed and let forth its deadly venom was a reminder of the sinful murmuring against a Holy God. The snakes symbolized sin.   

The pole was to be set high for all to see. It was more than likely in the shape of a crossbeam, so the snake could set on it.   

It all seems like such an odd picture.  What on earth is the point of such an image? Why on earth would a serpent and a lowly metal point to my beautiful Savior on the cross?

John 3:14-15 says, “In the same way that Moses lifted the serpent in the desert so people could have something to see and then believe, it is necessary for the Son of Man to be lifted up—and everyone who looks up to him, trusting and expectant, will gain a real life, eternal life.”   

It took an act of faith to look at a brass serpent on a pole and expect to be healed.   

It takes an act of faith to look upon a man on a tree and expect everlasting life. 

The perfect man took on the sins of the world to serve the wrath and judgment of a Holy God.  He hung on the tree as my sin. He was foreshadowed as a serpent made of cheap metal because my sin was transferred to Him on the cross.

The gospel was made known in the wilderness that day.   

Free Substitution is possible. Have you accepted the only gracious Substitute that satisfies the wrath of a Holy God?  
Image result for jesus cross
 
“Oh, the depths and riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God…”  Romans 11:33a

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Broken



For a solid month, I was broken and didn't even know it.

On the 4th of July, I started a game of soccer with my premier league player.  Incoming and CRASH as the ball slammed into my hand while I had averted my eyes towards the toddler.  Premier league kids kick hard, you guys.  My hand immediately swelled and I did my good-girl-best to keep the slew of cuss words from exiting my mouth.  Why does pain have to be part of the dad gum curse? 

Thinking it was just a jam, I went about my vacation and re-entered life, hoping all was fine.  Changing diapers, carrying buckets of laundry, and unloading sacks of groceries all brought tears to my eyes as I cringed in pain...but I just knew I would eventually get better.

For a solid month, I didn't know I was broken.

My injury was hidden, wrapped in layers of skin and muscle.

The first step to healing was acknowledging that something really was wrong and that my body couldn't fix itself this time.

I've thought a lot about our souls and how they can fracture, shards shattering from the whole as unexpected pain hits full force.   Often, we carry this brokenness around without even realizing we are indeed, broken

There is a balm in Gilead,
to make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead,
to heal the sin sick soul.
 
Perhaps the first step in healing for our souls is to allow the Healer into the deepest ache.  The first step to healing is admitting we aren't getting better on our own.  The first step to healing is mustering the courage to admit we are indeed, broken.
 
The injury of our souls is hidden, wrapped in layers of unforgiveness, pride and anger.  We must allow this Physician to shine His light and prescribe the only remedy...Himself. We are meant to be whole.  He wants us whole.
 
He is the answer to every broken thing.
 
 
"Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for thou art my praise."
 
Jeremiah 17:14

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Spiritual State of our Union






Two nights ago, I listened to our God-appointed national leader discuss what he believes to be the state of our country.  I respect his position of authority and I believe he is there only because God has allowed him to be there.  But, I didn't agree with his words.

After the speech, I shuddered in fear, wondering if destruction was right at our door. The arrogance was literally seeping through my television screen.

Perhaps I am wrong, but I don't remember hearing God's name mentioned even once...not even an obligatory God Bless America. The lack of Jehovah seemed to set the tone for the whole evening. 

There were certain comments I totally disagreed with.  I don't believe our economy is strong and durable.  I don't believe we speak out and stand up for the weak. (How do we explain the continual slaughter and selling of baby parts?)  I don't believe that we are building up ISIS to be something they aren't...I believe they really do threaten our national existence.

But, what really bothered me more than anything was his proclamation that the State of our Union is strong.  Loud, raucous applause erupted after this final proclamation and I curled into myself, wondering just how deceived We the People really are.

We have been in a free fall since last summer and there seems to be no desire for repentance.  I believe the spiritual state of our country will rule all areas.  If we are weak spiritually, then we are weak in everything.

The tone of the evening is that We Are America and We Are Indestructible.  He literally said that "No nation attacks us because they know that's the path to ruin."  Pride always goes before the fall and that is the real reason I believe the state of our union is in utter chaos.  It is God alone that has allowed America to be blessed and protected all of these years. When humanism replaces that Good Father, the Bible says a fall will surely result.

There is a minor prophet named Obadiah that speaks of a country named Edom, which came from Esau's line. 

In a vision the Lord God showed Obadiah the future of the land of Edom.[a]
“A report has come from the Lord,” he said, “that God has sent an ambassador to the nations with this message: ‘Attention! You are to send your armies against Edom and destroy her!’”

“I will cut you down to size among the nations, Edom, making you small and despised.

“You are proud because you live in those high, inaccessible cliffs. ‘Who can ever reach us way up here!’ you boast. Don’t fool yourselves! Though you soar as high as eagles, and build your nest among the stars, I will bring you plummeting down,” says the Lord.

“Far better it would be for you if thieves had come at night to plunder you—for they would not take everything! Or if your vineyards were robbed of all their fruit—for at least the gleanings would be left! Every nook and cranny will be searched and robbed, and every treasure found and taken.

“All your allies will turn against you and help to push you out of your land. They will promise peace while plotting your destruction. Your trusted friends will set traps for you, and all your counterstrategy will fail. In that day not one wise man will be left in all of Edom!” says the Lord. “For I will fill the wise men of Edom with stupidity. The mightiest soldiers of Teman will be confused, and helpless to prevent the slaughter.

10 “And why? Because of what you did to your brother Israel. Now your sins will be exposed for all to see; ashamed and defenseless, you will be cut off forever. 11 For you deserted Israel in his time of need. You stood aloof, refusing to lift a finger to help him when invaders carried off his wealth and divided Jerusalem among them by lot; you were as one of his enemies.

I'm not saying the exact same thing will happen to America, but I do believe that there is a pattern in scripture that is always fulfilled:  intense pride always precedes a great fall.

Pray for our nation?

Thursday, December 31, 2015

America {No Longer Beautiful?}


On this last day of 2015, I wanted to give a small synopsis of the last six months in regard to the spiritual state of our nation.  To say that I am heavy hearted would be an understatement. Over the months, I have found myself with tears streaming down my face, literally grieving a nation that was once called "The Beautiful."  When I look around at the nation as a whole, I see anything but beauty.  If beauty is absent, then God's blessing on our nation must be, as well.  He is the only one that can bring true beauty upon a soul or nation.  Nations aren't beautiful because of the landscape but because of the truth and freedom that radiate from the inhabitants.

As a whole, we are not free.  As a whole, we are not true.  As a whole, we are not beautiful.

At the end of June, God started showing me things regarding our nation.  I had the audacity to ask what was on His heart and He was faithful to show me.  Regarding our nation, God made it clear that our nation was so far from the true vertical that collapse could not be prevented.  The book of Amos talks about the plumb line, if you want to study this concept.

In August, God showed me that our nation is similar to Babylon when Belshazzar was ruler.  Daniel (whose name means "God is my Judge") deciphered the strange handwriting on the wall and told him the kingdom had been numbered, numbered, weighed, and divided.  Read Daniel 5 for further study.

In September, God had me study the book of Ezekiel.  I learned about the concept of "searching Jerusalem with lamps."  Ezekiel was shown all of the abominations of his people.  The idea from God was that perhaps if the people SAW their sins, they would repent.  (He is a merciful God and longs to show mercy and grace!)  All summer long in our not-so-beautiful nation, God searched us with a spotlight.  He brought hidden sins out into the open (such as the Ashley Madison website.)  He showed us our blatant legalization of sin when we spit in His face regarding the definition of marriage.  He exposed Planned Parenthood and showed us that we not just abort His image, we sell it off to the highest bidder.  (An organization that despite their revealed heinous sins, we as a nation will still continue to fund.)  God also exposed our political allegiances when we decided to give billions of dollars to Iran in a nuclear deal.  We turned our back on Israel in that moment and Genesis 12 says the end result for us as a nation will be a curse.

At the end of the exposure of all of these sins, there was a moment I thought we might repent as a nation.  Look how ugly we have become!!!  Surely, we see that we are spiraling out of control and about to fly off of the mountain.  But, sadly, we did nothing.  Perhaps a few individuals repented (praise God!) but our nation as a whole has refused to repent.  We have become our own gods.  I am reminded of the book of Amos where God tells the prophet to look at a basket of ripe fruit.  "And he said, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A basket of summer fruit. Then said the Lord unto me, The end is come upon my people of Israel; I will not again pass by them any more."  {Amos 8:2}  God is telling him that judgment is inevitable.  There simply was not a harvest of repentance after all the warnings.

While praying for a new word for 2016, I was a little taken back by what He revealed.  It's the first time He gave me a word that carries so much weight.  But, with the weight of what He showed me, I am reminded that His glory (which means weight in Hebrew) will be showcased.  Isn't that what we long for the most? What we long for is not the right Presidential candidate.  Even if "our guy" gets into office, we know that the weight of the world's problems will still not be solved.  We need a Good King.  It's time for a Righteous Monarchy, where Jesus reigns in the visible forever and ever. 

So, whatever lies ahead in 2016, I am going to remind myself that all of the burdens...all of the tornadoes and wildfires and floods and earthquakes and wars and rumors of wars and hunger and disease and job losses and ruin and broken hearts and deaths scattered here and there...I am going to remind myself that all of these point to a Savior coming soon (very soon!) to make all things right.  The very earth is begging for His return. Shouldn't we, as well?

In 2016, I am going to force myself to rest in Jehovah Sabaoth, the Lord of Hosts.  "The Lord of Hosts is with us, though the earth be removed , and the waters roar; and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.  God is and must be ever sufficient for a ruined church as for a ruined world.  And the Church, because of the deposit committed to her, may need His help even more than the unbelieving world, which is yet so far from Him.  It is the Lord of Hosts who punishes His people for their unfaithfulness.  It is again the Lord of Hosts, who, when they have been chastened, smites their adversary and brings them help and full deliverance." The Names of God by Andrew Jukes.

If He were to slay us, would we still praise Him?

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015: Favorite Posts

I write for one main purpose...to force myself to remember who God is.  These posts helped me see Him this year.

Jesus Loves Me. This I Know.

The Ark

7 Years: The Wilderness

The Three Stories of Desire

Rain and the Finished Work

The Day Love Won

The Love of a True Friend

Elijah:  Just Like Us

Bridgewater

The Day that Sin was Embraced

Summoned by the King:  A Lesson in Delight

The LORD, the God of our Fathers

A Beautiful Inheritance

Exposure {Nothing is Hidden}

The Writing on the Wall

Repentance {Soften this Heart of Stone}

Beach Letters {Rend Every Last Heart}

The God of Provision

Dross

A Look at Betrayal

Dry Bones {Always, Always Hope}

Madigan {A Short Story}

Sight for the Broken and Barren

Treasure {Wisdom Calling Out}

Boy-Prayers

Writing with Meaning {The Art of Carving}

The Color Fade

Delight {2015 word of the year}



2015 was the year of delight.  It wasn't a word I would have ever chosen for myself, but God made it clear in December 2014 that it was the right word.  On the fourth day of the new year, our sweet Herb/Papa died and left us without his contagious laugh and Godly counsel.  Knowing the signs of grief personally, I found them written on our hearts for much of the year.  Disbelief, a bit of anger that things could have been different, shock, depression, coping mechanisms, laziness, apathy, endless sleeping...the list goes on.  Even when you accept the good sovereignty of the Father, grief is still a hard pill to swallow. 

That's why when God dubbed 2015 the year of delight, I was a little taken back.  Looking over the year, it seemed fitting.

I focused on one verse regarding delight..."Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart."  I fought for sweet solace with the Savior, knowing only His presence would fill the ache and void.  When you are down, it is hard to really "desire" anything, but I still desired to "see" God.  So, while delighting in Him, I would pray that He would fill my desire to "see" more clearly.

He allowed me to "see" starting in the late summer in ways I never have.  I guess the best way to describe that is through images or word pictures.  The post about the dross in the ocean was one example of that.  Many of these images are tucked away, unclear as to what to do with them.  I haven't always liked the message God is telling me through them.  But, I do believe He has answered my prayer and allowed me see in ways I never have before.  There is delight to be found in that...another level of intimacy with the Father.

There were tangible expressions of delight throughout the year, as well.  We celebrated Cade going to National History Day and the family getting to tour D.C. together.  (We equally celebrated not having to drag the 2 year old along with us, thanks to BeBe!)  We celebrated Eli's soccer achievements and his team making it to Premier League.  We celebrated Sam and his musical talents seen at his guitar recital.  We celebrated Cade making the high school baseball team.  We celebrated the A's brought home by all, but even more, their souls that have remained in tact after a season of grief. Finally, we celebrated the writing group I became a part of, as well as the friendship, laughter, and encouragement it has provided.

2015 was a year where sorrow took delight by the hand and asked it to dance.  They always made the best partners, anyway. 




Friday, December 18, 2015

My Sweet Family {and a Merry Christmas}

I never dreamed in a million years that I'd have only boys.  I just can't imagine being any happier, though!  Cade just made the high school baseball team, so I am officially a Wampus Cat Momma.  Eli had three teeth pulled yesterday and lost another the day before.  We have been treating ourselves to lots of smoothies.  Sam played "Away in a Manger" and "Joy to the World" at his guitar recital.  I'm so thankful to have a kid that loves music.  And Asher, well, that boy decided he might want to start peeing on the potty while at Toyota while getting our oil changed.  He went about seven times in a row.  The next day, we were back to diapers as if nothing had happened at all.  We might just need to move into Toyota in order to get him potty trained.

You guys, we started the year with death and we ended it with death.  It hurts to lose your favorite people.  But, I am clinging to the sweet times, and doing my best to remember that sweet baby God-boy that brought such joy. These are my favorite lyrics right now.  Merry Christmas from all of us.  We pray that you, too, can find the joy amidst the ache.

"Baby Boy"
by For King and Country

If you told me all about your sorrows
I'd tell you about a cure
If you told me you can't fight the battle
There's a Baby Boy who won the war
The war was won by a Baby Boy

Alleluia, we can sing it
Alleluia, Heaven's ringing
Alleluia!
Endless hope and relentless joy started with a Baby Boy

Oh, before that silent night
No Savior and no Jesus Christ
The world cried out so desperately
And the Baby Boy was the reply,
Yes, Heaven's reply was a baby boy

Alleluia, we can sing it
Alleluia, Heaven's ringing
Alleluia!
Endless hope and relentless joy started with a Baby Boy

See, the King is coming down
And He's here without a crown
The Baby Boy without a bed
Giving life back to the dead
And hear the angels shout it out
As the people come and bow.
Unexpected majesty
Alleluia, what a King

Alleluia, we can sing it
Alleluia, Heaven's ringing
Alleluia!
Endless hope and relentless joy started with a Baby Boy

Alleluia, we can sing it!
Alleluia, yeah, Heaven's ringing!
Alleluia!
Endless hope and relentless joy started with a Baby Boy
 


































 
{I am oh-so-grateful for all the above photos by Todd Owens Photography!}