Friday, June 17, 2016

When the Heart Writhes

"The devil is really not the countertype of the Lord Jesus in the plan of man's salvation, but he is the countertype of the Holy Spirit whose function is to convict unto repentance or reprove the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.  The devil counteracts this conviction."  (study notes from my Hebrew/Greek Bible)

Not only is there zero conviction of sin in our land, there is zero awareness that people are even sinning.  The sin has become celebrated and paraded, excused and tolerated.  The sin is beginning to look like the norm.  The sin has come upon the land as a dense fog, overtaking everything with its murderous grasp.  The sin has darkened all, so much so, that we can't remember what the light looks like.  There are small torches, where You, Yahweh, reside in the souls of Your children.  May it be enough to point towards holiness, "This is the way, walk in it!"  Bring back conviction, Holy Spirit.  Bring back holiness.  We don't deserve it and it is possibly too late, but I will cry out anyway.

My heart writhes in anguish as I behold less and less of You in our land.  Compensate and reveal Yourself more and more to me and to those who seek Your face.  Give me wisdom in the secret.  Give me glimpses, no not glimpses, let me full on behold your glory, your goodness, your grace in these times.  Don't let me miss You when all comes undone.  As they snuff You from our land, shine brighter and brighter through Your vessels.  Help us represent You well. We will need a heap of grace for the beauty of Christlikeness as fear and terror surround.

Put a hedge of protection around all we hold dear.  Please come down and show off, Lion of the Tribe of Judah.  Manifest Yourself so that all will believe.  I saw You in a dream.  A lion.  Pounding in the tall grass, mere steps from the open field where You'd no longer be shrouded or hidden or only partly known.  You were almost upon us.  Your righteous roar beckoning all to worship You.  Unveil Yourself, King of Kings.  Whether we know it or not, it is You we long for.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Slow Die

Having a blog with a very small readership is a plus in many ways. I don't feel obligated to post all the time.  I don't feel like I need to do something fancy in order to keep my audience.  And, I feel more freedom to post whatever is on my heart because this place feels secure.

Today, I want to talk about our nation.  Starting last June, God starting talking to me about the United States of America.  He hasn't stopped.  I want to do a small recap of what He has been saying and then talk about what may be on the horizon.  The title of this post is "The Slow Die" and hints to the grief I have felt since last summer.  I literally have felt like I am watching someone die (like I did with Herb.)  I frequently burst out into intercession and tears, all the while feeling like death is inevitable.  (At least the death of what we as a country used to be.)

Recap:

1. Amos and the plumb line (God said our nation is so far out of the true vertical that the collapse could not be prevented.)  God showed me these verses a couple of days before the infamous marriage ruling.  A key verse in Amos 8 says, "The long summer of God's patience has finally come to an end and there has been no harvest of repentance." God's heart is always that we would repent so He can relent from sending judgment.  This is His heartbeat, but one year later, we have still not repented.

2.  God punished the own apple of His eye (Israel) for her transgressions in order to purify her. No nation is exempt from this.  For some reason (arrogance, I suppose) we assume Americans will never experience judgment.  We are sorely wrong. 

3.  The words "war, famine, and disease" have been on my heart for this year.  I never realized it until this year, but when David ordered the census and then repented, he got to choose his own consequence, which was war, famine, or disease.  He wisely chose to fall into the hands of the Lord and not men, for He knew God was merciful.  The Lord sent disease.  (Lord, let us fall into your merciful hands and not man's.)  See 2 Samuel 24

4.  I've had the image (in my mind and through an actual experience) of glass shattering, breaking into so many pieces that it is beyond repair. 2 books of the Bible (Jeremiah and Isaiah) allude to God breaking the people like pottery so they cannot be made whole again. Without repentance, we are on this path.

5.  The handwriting is blatantly on the wall.  Our sins are not even hidden anymore.  Instead, they are celebrated, paraded, and legalized. Our nation has been numbered, weighed, and divided.  (see Daniel)  Last summer, God searched our nation with lamps, showing us how ugly we were.  He showed us how far we strayed from His heartbeat.  We turned up our noses and declared that we want nothing to do with Him. We have forsaken the God of our Fathers.

6.  I've had the word "ruin" on my heart this year.  In Joshua 6, the Israelites went forward to attack the city, Ai, without God telling them to go forward.  They in arrogance, assumed they could win.  They did not.  Defeat comes when we go outside of divine instruction, which has the potential to end in ruin.  Guess what "Ai" means?  Ruin.

7.  God told me He would manifest Himself as the Lord of Sabaoth this year...the Lord of Hosts...God of Armies.  Another word is, Jehovah Tsaba, the Lord our Warrior.  Everything and every person belongs to Him.  He is God over the multitudes and will sway things exactly how He desires, whether it be man, beast, weather, or starry host.  He will show off His glory this year.  The question is this:  will we recognize Him if He comes as a lion instead of a lamb?

8.  God led me to study the metal "brass" in the Old Testament and its significance.  It symbolizes judgment.  (The good news is that all who look to the Son of Man and believe shall not perish!)

New:

1. I look at our narcissistic Presidential options whose statements and lifestyles declare they have no need for God.  Judgment is here.  God has turned us over to what we wanted. Our own depraved minds have desired the options we have.  In His grace, early on, God offered us a righteous choice in Rubio (and a couple of other guys.)  (Righteous, not because he is perfect, but righteous because of the Savior's blood that covers him.)  We, as a whole, thumbed our noses at this option.  Thank you, Father, for graciously offering us a good choice.  Have mercy on us for flat out rejecting it. I believe the election is meaningless.  I believe there is no man or woman that can set us on the right path to America being great again.  The only thing that will make us great is the Holy Spirit of God moving on us in power so that we fall to our knees in repentance.  Jesus Christ is our only hope.

2.  Deception and deceit, deceit and deception.  The air is thick with so many lies, that I have to stay huddled in the only Truth I know, the Word of God.  Very few anymore have ears to hear and eyes to see.  We are the church that slumbers.  Wake us up from our selfish slumber, Lord!

3.  The absurdity of it all.  Boys in girls' bathrooms and the other way around?  I had no idea calling evil good would look so dad gum ignorant.  The real issue is this:  an attack on God Himself.  God created man and woman in His own image.  If Satan can confuse the issue or steal what God created, then the attack is on God Himself.  Satan wants the image of God obliterated from our nation.  This is what it all comes down to. 

4.  There is no shame.  We don't blush.

5.  If destruction comes, it is because we have not repented.  If destruction comes, then we need to see it as God's mercy, a last ditch attempt to have us follow hard after His heartbeat that offers life and not death. The worst thing in the world to happen is for Him to leave us to ourselves.

6.  The theme of division is heavy on my heart.  The Lord tore Israel into two parts right after Solomon's reign because he/the nation no longer walked in God's ways.  God raised up adversaries to do the work.  I keep thinking about Matthew 12:25 that says, "Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and no city or house divided against itself will stand." I see division in our land everywhere I look.  Sometimes, I wonder if this will manifest physically, in the land form, as well.  See 1 Kings 12

7.  We need to prepare ourselves for the fact that this election may not look like anything we have ever seen.  We need to be praying for the redemption and safety of the candidates.  We need to open our eyes and see the civil unrest that follows some of these people.  The hatred in our nation is only escalating.  Pray peace over our nation. Pray unity over our nation.

8.  We need to man the ramparts, so to speak.  We need to spiritually dress for battle.  We need to gather courage for the days to come.  We are at war, this is a fight against the spiritual forces of evil, not necessarily against flesh and blood.  Find a spot to sit daily with Jesus.  Know your worth in Christ. Do battle with your prayers!  You are the light in the darkness!  Your words have power! We must slough off the apathy that says that nothing is wrong!  Pray for eyes to see and ears to hear!

God longs to throw open the door and allow us to know Him deeper than we ever have before.  Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. Dig deep into His word.  Crush every idol.  Fear not; His blood is sufficient to cover you in all things. Jesus is enough for our sin-sick land.  Cry out to Him like never before.

There is a full reward waiting...choose Him above all things. I am reminding myself that He will never forsake me.  I am reminding myself that suffering is the shortest path to becoming like Christ.  I am reminding myself that all these swirling events will one day bring in the King of Kings and Lord of Lords to reign on the earth.

I would love to hear your thoughts about our nation and anything that God has revealed to you.  If you don't want to comment below, you can email me at ebstuart@conwaycorp.net

Monday, May 23, 2016

Like a River from Its Course

When I picked up "Like a River from Its Course," I didn't expect it to sear white hot into my soul.  After all, the story was not my own.  But, Kelli Stuart somehow made it mine.  Page after page, I smeared the paper with streaks of my own bleeding heart, a sacrificial offering to the beauty of story. The story refused to leave me pierced, though.  In the end, story is there, stitching up the wounds and gifting me with the word I dared to long for:  hope. 

Through my own story, I have found that suffering and joy always make the best dance partners. If I can make an incision into my own heart and let all of the joys and sorrows intermingle out into one grace swirled and bloody mess, then just maybe readers will get a taste of this Good Father who loves deeply.

Stuart does this beautifully.

While knee deep in the pages of WWII, I became each character, by some force outside of my control.  I am the fourteen year old, stripped bare and marched to the top of the killing ditch.  I am the soldier, doing the unthinkable in order to gain the elusive affection of my father.  I am the servant, throwing up my maggot infested rice.  I am the mother, wondering if I will ever lay eyes on my children again.

"Like a River from Its Course" is a roller coaster of an emotional ride that somehow left me quite satisfied. It left me better.

I couldn't be more proud of Stuart's debut novel.  She has a gift that only God above could ignite into flames. I look forward to what God births through her in the future.

Pre-order on Amazon today!


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

I am Gentile

I am Hagar.  I am servant.  I am cast out by my master, simply because I obeyed.  I am looked upon with contempt and dealt harshly with.  I am homeless, wandering the desert.  In all my affliction, who ever will be able to see me crying out in this wilderness?

God met me, the lowly Gentile there.  El Roi is my God, a God of seeing.

He tells me not to fear and points me towards the well of water.  He promises to be with my son and make him a great nation.

I am Rahab I am unholy enough to be labeled prostitute.  I am filthy, not ever capable of measuring up.  I am bold enough to deal kindly with the spies because I know in my heart the Lord has given the Israelites the land.  He is giving them my land.

I am offered a scarlet cord in order to escape.  I became part of the line that brought forth the Messiah.  I am the foreigner, now made family.  I am testimony that grace splashes over the sides of the bucket labeled Judaism.  Nothing can contain it.  All are free to worship Jehovah. 

I am Ruth.  I am childless.  I am widow.  I am foreigner.  I am hungry and wondering how I'll survive without my husband.  I glean the outer corners of the field, hoping for leftovers.

A kinsman redeemer takes notice of me.  I am now beloved.  I eat until I am satisfied.  There are always leftovers.  My husband speaks words of blessings over me.  I am the great grandmother of King David.  I am a picture of the greatest love story ever told.

I am
the unlovable
the ugly
the rejected
the overlooked
the unchosen
the bitter and weary and oh so exhausted because I am never quite good enough
the lost

A hand (ever so handsome) reached out and pulled me to His heart.  I lingered long enough for the old me to wash away.  It all changed.  The Love Story changed everything. 

Now, I am
the beloved
the beautiful
the accepted
the chosen
the peaceful and at rest and oh so relieved that another's 'good enough' covers me
the found.  Forever and ever found.

"Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me--a foreigner?" Ruth 2:10

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Bitter Prophet, a Mercy Loving God, and the Miracle of Miracles


I love the book of Jonah.  Something I'd never considered was that when Jonah fled, he had more reason than I'd ever dreamed.  Jonah knew prophecy.  The prophet Hosea was before Jonah's time.  He had penned that the Assyrians would be used by God as an instrument of judgment on Israel.

When God told Jonah to visit Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, Jonah's heart shouted no.  His running legs were proof.  Jonah was a Patriot.  He loved his nation and wanted to do everything in his power to keep it from future doom.

Jonah believed the prophecies and took matters into his own hands, trying to change the plans of the Almighty. Jonah balked at the idea of the Assyrians repenting, because they would still be around one day to destroy the northern part of Israel.  Jonah was running from the Word; he wanted his enemy flat wiped out.  He did all he could to thwart God's plans.

Jonah ran.  Jonah boarded a ship.  Jonah did all he could to escape his God that was more merciful than he could stomach.

God started providing.  God provided a violent storm at sea.  God provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah whole.  God provided a vine.  God provided a worm.

Even when we run, we can't escape the provision that points to the Holy Glory of the Provider.

After being bathed in the stomach acids of a fish, Jonah bitterly enters Nineveh.  For a single day, Jonah announced, "In forty days, Nineveh will be wiped out."

I'm thirty eight years old and I've missed the biggest miracle of the book until now.  The biggest miracle was not that God chased after Jonah in his rebellion.

The biggest miracle was not that the storm went silent the moment the sailors threw Jonah overboard.

The biggest miracle was not that God sent the perfectly made fish at the perfectly assigned time to swallow Jonah in such a way that would not harm him.

The biggest miracle was not that Jonah was able to survive in the belly of this fish for three days and three nights, the stomach acids not eroding him to mere bones.

The biggest miracle was not that the fish vomited Jonah up on dry land instead of the middle of the deep.

The biggest miracle happened in the hearts of over one hundred and twenty thousand people that believed Jonah's message and repented from their sins.  A fish god was one of the many deities that the Ninevites worshiped.  Don't you know they paid extra attention to this prophet bleached in the stomach acids of a fish!  Don't you know the stories of him being spit up by a fish onto the shore had them talking!  They clothed themselves in sackcloth, from the beggar all the way up to the king.  They fasted.  They didn't just acknowledge their sins against the one true God, Yahweh, they turned away from them.  Every single person of Nineveh turned away from their evil lives.

The most precious miracle in the book of Jonah is that God turned the hearts of countless beloved souls over to Himself, using only a bitter prophet as His instrument.

Grace was the miracle that day.

Thousands of Gentile souls, all His.

What about the words of Hosea, that had prophesied Nineveh to be the instrument of destruction for Israel?

Those came true.

The Assyrians were used by God to bring utter destruction to the Northern Kingdom.  Apparently, the repentant hearts didn't bleed into future generations and they were once again defined as a fierce and cruel people.

In mercy, God (all over again) sent a prophet to their land.  His name was Nahum.  Nahum was on the scene a century after Jonah.  He predicted their doom, but the Ninevites would not listen this time.  The book of Nahum teaches us that God will always forgive repented sin, but He refuses to condone sin that continues.  The Assyrians later fell to the Babylonians.

God sets up kings and deposes them. He sets up nations and allows them to fall.  He does all of this based on the apple of His eye, his beloved Israel.

I look at my beloved nation, America, and wonder how it will all shake out.  Will God miraculously allow us a Jonah-Nineveh moment when we repent of our sins as a whole?  Or will we be like the Ninevites during Nahum's day, who refused to hear His warnings of judgment?

God deals with Gentile nations all the same:  He will always forgive repented sin, but He will refuse to condone sin that continues. 

His mercy longs to envelop us.  Will we choose repentance?

"If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned." Jeremiah 18:7-8

Monday, April 18, 2016

Beavers, Motherhood, and the Art of Building Dams

 

When beavers gather twigs, mud, and branches, they do the most random thing with it.  They throw it into the rushing waters.  One would think that every piece would be carried away, but God gave beavers the instinctive ability to engineer the materials in just the perfect way.  When beavers build dams, their materials don’t succumb to the mighty river.  When beavers build dams, just the opposite happens:  their collection of branches and muck actually slows down the flow of the river. 

Motherhood is a sacred gift.  When I was younger, I thought I had all the time in the world with these babies.  I didn’t realize the collective moments would go faster and faster.  When Asher came three years ago, I knew better at how deceiving the daily clock could be.  I cherished each moment, knowing it would be my last run at mothering a newborn and baby.  I was right.  Time didn’t mind its manners this time around, either. 

Here is my gathering of twigs in an attempt to slow down the river that is carrying my babies…my young men…into adulthood.  This is my simple collection of random pieces of wood thrown into the rushing waters in an effort to create a pool of remembrance amid the mighty roar. 

{Asher, 2 years, 11 months, and 20 days}
 
Asher loves to lick.  He will come up to me and either lick my shirt or my arm.  Instead of telling him he isn’t a puppy, I just give him a kiss right back, knowing that I’ll blink and he will be too big to sit on my lap like a lap dog, licking away. 

His words right now slay me.  There is nothing better than toddler-speak.  “Ah, don’t tick me!”  I lean in to tickle his baby soft belly and he screams, “Ah!  That ticks!!!”  His favorite line at the dinner table is, “It’s too tasty!”  This means that he doesn’t like the food.  Asher will scrunch his nose and utter our new favorite line. Another adorable line is when he wants me to carry him after his bath to go find clean clothes.  “Hode Jue.”  I don’t care what it does to my back; I’ll hold that one until he stops asking.  Tomorrow, the river will carry him towards better grammar, but today I will relish in these precious phrases. 

Yesterday, Asher painted the bathroom walls with his stuffed animals that had been dipped into the toilet water.  Right now, he is sucking on his big toe.  Tomorrow, he will once again choose to pee in his terry cloth training pants instead of the potty.  It’s probably a good thing that toddlerhood sails straight down that glorious river. 

{Sam, 10 years and 7 months}
 
I love to peer down into my ten year old’s baby face, all splattered with brown freckles.  I breathe in childhood and exhale innocence.  Sam exudes comfort.  He is easy to be around and never judges a soul.  He is my gentle giant, my kid who dwarfs everyone else out on the soccer field.  He cried the hardest when we had to put our golden retriever down.  Hysterically.  I am pretty sure God gave him an extra big heart to go with his extra-large frame. 

When baby-niece-Addison came for a visit, he wanted to hold her the most.  He still asks for a baby sister.  He has a special affection for little girls. They melt him.  It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if God gave him six or ten daughters one day.  He would be a great girl-Daddy. 

Hearing him play “Amazing Grace” on the guitar while I am cooking stirs up something deep inside.   Coming from a rich gospel music heritage, I see God’s imprints of harmony and melody on this third born.  His laid back style doesn’t love to practice for hours on end, so teaching him to be diligent with a God-gift is in the works.  One of the sweetest parts of motherhood is seeing the splatter of gifts on your children and watching them develop, hopefully, for the purpose of glorifying the Giver. 

Perhaps it is selfish, but I do hope the river carries Sam towards the musical worship of Jehovah.
 

{Eli, 13 years and 3 months}
 
The sweetest end to my days happens in Eli’s room.  He still loves for me to tuck him in, pulling the red Arsenal blanket up to his chin.  We make sure his favorite animals are close by…Dave, Bruce, Shifu, and Kipster.  Some nights I pray, and other nights, he talks to our God.  I like it better when he does.  His ever present joy seeps into his Abba adorations and it always makes me smile.  I have a feeling that God smiles, too.  

If Eli only had one gas to breathe, it would be soccer.  If he only had one food to eat, it would be soccer.  If he only had one pillow to sleep on, it would be soccer.  I’m worried he might change his middle name to Messi.  Center midfielder is his position.  In many ways, it can be the hardest position, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.  Good midfielders have to be feisty, smart, and creative.  That sums up my second born to a T.  Center mids have to be able to see the field in a visionary way.  As this soccer-sight develops, I pray his ability to see continues to develop in the spirit realm, as well. 

I love that Eli will tell me details.  If I ask about his day, he will tell me that a teacher gave him a snack (little charmer,) that he ran a 5:35 mile in track, and that he invited another person to join their project because that kid needed a place to go. 

Eli’s river is named Delight.  No matter what God gives him to do, I am sure it will be done with joy.
 

{Cade, sweet 16 in less than 2 months}
 
He’s making me cry buckets right now, and he doesn’t even know it.  It’s hard on a momma’s heart when that river starts moving faster and faster. 

Saturday, I birthed him all over again.  The pain felt like it, anyway.  We hopped in the swagger wagon and I drove him around to various businesses, looking for summertime work.  I took him job hunting.  (I just need that to sink in for a bit.)  As we drove, the labor pains got stronger and stronger and I fought the tears as I pushed out a one hundred and forty three pound young  man.  I put him in a slingshot and sent him off to manhood.  Just like that. 

Shockingly, what was birthed was beyond my imaginations.  All of the prayers, spankings, crying out to God for wisdom on raising him, begging God to pour out His favor on this firstborn, the late night vomit fests, the math and history/baseball and basketball competitions…it all seemed to come together in a moment of exhale.  What a precious, wise, kind, Godly, funny, and uber-intelligent young man he is.  He is a joy to be around.  I know not everyone can say that about their teenagers.  I’ll call myself one blessed Momma.   

Watching Cade play high school baseball has been so much fun.  He usually gets to start the JV games in center field.  A center fielder covers more grass than any other position.  I wonder how much grass he will cover once he graduates…what college and calling will whisper his name?  I’ve lost track of the amount of hours he has put into this one passion, so seeing him get to live out his dream has been so satisfying.  I’ll wash blue and white uniforms all day long just to see that grin on his face. 

We bought his first tie.  Red with blue dots.  Timeless and steady, with a hint of fun.  Just like him. 

I trust Cade’s Maker.  I trust Cade.  Float away, young man…float away.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

My Soccer Loving Boys



















Goodbye Savannah Girl

We said goodbye to our girl Tuesday, April 5th. It was time to put our sweet Savannah girl down, our beautiful 12 year old golden retriever. Years ago, we brought a puppy into our home that snipped at the boys and we quickly got rid of that said puppy. We prayed God would give us the right dog for our family.

We heard David and Dee Callison's golden, Ellie, was having a litter, and we jumped on board. I remember the day we picked her out. She was the darkest of auburns and the ...fattest of fats. God knew I needed a squishy little girl to love. She was the best thing for our 4 boys. As toddlers, they would steal the bone straight out of her mouth and she would just lick them in response. She would even let them ride her like a horse.

Savannah taught Cade and Eli the power of prayer. As a feisty little thing, she loved to run away. They would cry out to God to bring her home. He answered every single one of those prayers. She was a low maintenance thing, only needing meds the past month and never once needing to use the restroom in the middle of the night.

If you ever came to our home, she was probably your welcoming committee. I have never ever seen another animal that loved people as much as she did. She just assumed everyone was her best friend.

In our old home, with our large backyard, she loved to go on a good squirrel chase. Snow was her favorite, partly because of the snow and partly because the boys were home to romp around with her. God created a lovely one in her, for sure.

As I cleaned up her quilt and bowls (with snot and tears everywhere,) I thanked God for the precious gift that she was to us. We couldn't have asked for anything better for those 4 boys. The emptiness in our home definitely reflects the state of our hearts. Yes, she was just a dog, but she was also our protector, friend, sister, and daughter. Who on earth will Eric trip over in the middle of the night, now?

We love you, Savannah.









Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Awake! {Decide today which master you will serve.}


There is a theme I can't escape.  It consumes my thoughts by day....my prayers moment by moment.

There will be a separation.

The remnant will go one way and the false look-alikes another.  When I look around, I see sleepwalkers.  We have no idea what is going on in the spiritual realm.  Just yesterday, the constitution continued in its death spiral as freedom of religion was stripped away in Georgia.  But, most didn't even notice.

Awake, awake!  Clothe yourself with strength!

It's only at harvest time that the wheat and tares are separated.  They grow in the same environment and even look the same.  The difference is that one offers life, seed, and food.  The other, death.  "There will be an end of this mixture in due time; the hypocrite shall not always stand in the congregation of the righteous; the wheat and the tares shall be separated 'in the time of the harvest.'"  Spurgeon

Awake, awake!  Clothe yourself with strength!

Nail down the stakes of your tent called faith. Strengthen what God has planted.  Seize the Word and ingest it daily.  "Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ."  (Romans 10:17)  Fear not and hold fast to the promises. Hold fast to the truth; it is our lifeline.

Determine today whom you will serve.  Modern American Christianity hasn't required much as a collective whole.  Christ won the mental battle of going to the cross while in the garden---before he was put on trial---before the bone laden whip cut off muscle and skin---before the humiliation of being stripped down---before the asphyxiation---before the weight of carrying such heinous sin.  The road to the cross was won in the garden in a moment of complete surrender.

Not my will, but Yours.

{Lord, give me grace to fall on my knees and cry out in complete surrender--Not my will, but Yours.  Give me grace to choose You above all, no matter how daunting the road ahead.}

Awake, awake!  Clothe yourself with strength!

It pleased our Good-Good Father to bruise His only Son by sending Him to the cross.  In Hebrew, Isaiah 53:10 reads something like this:  "It delighted the Father to crush, destroy, break to pieces, cast down, humble, beat to pieces His Son."

It brought the Father delight to humble His perfect Son so that you and I could be restored to His heart. 

Hard words.

What if it pleased the Father to break me to pieces?  What if my crushing is what brought Him the most glory?  Would I have faith to continue to call Him my Good-Good Father no matter what my circumstances shouted?

In the Sermon on the Mount, we see our Savior lay out the Beatitudes.  "Beatus" is Latin and means to be blessed and happy.  Jesus is telling us how to live a fulfilling, content, and joyful Kingdom-Life as we walk this earth that really isn't our home.

The beatitudes are a harsh juxtaposition against the world's standards of joy and success.

Poor in spirit?
Mourning?
Meek?
Craving Righteousness?
Merciful?
Pure in heart?
Creating spaces of peace?
Persecuted?

Then in God's Kingdom realm you are blessed.  You are even happy.

"Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account."  Matthew 5:11

Why do we in comfortable America shy away from verses like this?  Why do we snub our noses and say that surely God wouldn't mean such things for us...after all, we are His children!

We have watered down the gospel and forgotten that we are trying to be like Christ: the Suffering Servant who laid down His all.

When the separation comes, persecution may very well be right behind it.  Are we ready?

Awake, awake!  Clothe yourself with strength!

Persecution is simply this:  being wrongly treated because of our faith.  Yesterday, a bill should have passed in Georgia.  It would have simply allowed those in the religious workplace to exercise their faith in God by holding to the teachings of God found in the Bible.  Instead, now the religious leaders will be faced with either choosing man's law or God's. 

To think we are immune to this kind of treatment is either arrogance or apathy. When we are being faced with wrong treatment due to our faith, what will we choose?

Jesus paid it all.  All to Him I owe.

Today is the day of decision.  Decide today, while in the comfort of the garden, which master you will serve.

Awake, awake!  Put on thy strength!

"Then Joshua said to the people, 'You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the LORD, to serve Him.'  And they said, 'We are witnesses.'  He said, 'Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your heart to the LORD, the God of Israel.'  And the people said to Joshua, 'The LORD our God we will serve, and His voice we will obey."  Joshua 24: 22-24

Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday {The Falling Away}


Easter came fast this year.  I wanted to soak in more time in the Word and have a chance to figure out what on earth the boys will wear Sunday, but here it is.  In many ways, I don't feel ready, but God did honor my request of showing me something fresh amidst the holy pages where Jesus's death was penned. 

I've thought a lot the past few months about the end times apostasy (falling away) that occurs.  What on earth would drive those that say they believe in Christ to all the sudden say they don't?  Persecution?  Suffering?  Fear? 

And then I see it in the Upper Room and the Garden and the Courts.  I see those twelve, beloved by Christ, who spent countless, precious hours with their Messiah, and they fall away

Part of that makes me shudder.  I seem to say, "Lord, I will never leave you or forsake you or shy away from your Name."  And yet, I wonder if I set myself up for failure with such haughty words.  Perhaps it is only God that holds us and keeps us??

Jesus says to Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane, "Simon, you went to sleep on me?  Can't you stick it out with me a single hour?  Stay alert, be in prayer, so you don't enter the danger zone without even knowing it.  Don't be naïve.  Part of you is eager, ready for anything in God; but another part is as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire."  Mark 14:37-38 MSG

{What if prayer in the garden would have armed the disciples with the much needed power to stay faithful?  Instead, they chose sleep.  How often have I chosen sleep?  Or apathy?  Or ignorance to what the situation really was?}

Judas arrives with a gang armed with clubs.  He betrays his Savior with a kiss.  Jesus looks at him and says, "Every day I was with you..."  This disciple handed him over for mere pieces of silver while all the other disciples cut and ran.  Every single one of the chosen twelve deserted him.

Peter had just hours ago blustered out arrogantly, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you."  All the other disciples repeated what he said.

This falling away of Christ's most beloved friends has sobered me right up.

If those that knew him best were quick to flee, then perhaps we aren't immune, either.

"These are all warning markers--Danger!--in our history books, written down so that we don't repeat their mistakes.  Our positions in the story are parallel--they at the beginning--we at the end--and we are just as capable of messing it up as they were.  Don't be so naïve and self-confident.  You're not exempt.  You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else.  Forget about self-confidence; it's useless.  Cultivate God-confidence." 1 Corinthians 10:11-12 MSG

I believe that those Christ redeems, He keeps.  I believe the Children of God will always be His children and will never lose their inheritance.  But, I also believe things could get tough enough that we could easily betray Him or choose not to associate with Him.  My newest prayer is that God would keep me faithful to Him above all else.  Above my comforts.  Above my expectations.  Above my safety.  I pray that He graces me with power to choose Him daily above everything and everyone.

Our illusion of a Christian nation has come to an end.  We are now the minority.  The hated.  The persecuted.  Lord, steel our faith before Satan comes to steal it.


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Lost Art of Meekness



To be meek is not to be weak

It is strength under pressure

It is not denying anger

It is controlling anger

Relinquishing to the One who can offer change

HOPE

Restoration

To be meek is to lower oneself

Humble

Humble

Humble

We always must come back to this word, humble

Pliable in God's hand

Lowly

Gentle

Lambs but not stupid beasts

Mild but not ignorant

Submissive to Christ but not blind

{Meekness is going to sit under your shade tree instead of lashing out at your wife.  It's giving your anger over to the Only One who can change her heart and then going back inside, filled with the love of a relentless and patient God.}

The meek are the strongest people on earth

The meek are satisfied with God being God

The meek are content

The meek surrender their own roar to the Roar of the Lion

The meek possess

The meek wait

and wait

and wait

The meek cast their votes and wait in anticipation of what a Holy, Just, and Merciful God will do with the collection

The meek refuse to be impatient

refuse to fret

refuse to worry

The meek forgive

The meek seek peace

The meek are promised an increase of joy

"The meek in spirit are like a photographer's sensitive plates, and as the Word of God passes before them, they desire to have its image imprinted upon their hearts.  Their hearts are like the fleshy tablets on which the mind of God is recorded; God is the Writer, and they become living epistles, written, not with ink, but with the finger of the Living God."  Spurgeon

Blessed are the Meek

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Why the Mourning Matters


Trump won another primary, another caucus.  He is winning even amidst the Bible toters, those that profess Christ.  These voters seem to not care that Trump has declared he has no need of God's forgiveness.  Voters are clamoring to usher in a narcissistic President who has blatantly said he has no need of God.  My head spins, but I'm not shocked.  God continues to give us over to a depraved mind; the proof is in the pudding.  We can no longer think with a sound mind.

My hope rises like cream:  we could repent; God could relent.

But, the downward spiral overtakes my hope.  I turn on the news and see how good is evil and evil is good.  If men feel that they harbor a female's soul, they can enter a woman's restroom.  Who is to stop a pedophile from stating he has a woman's soul and entering a girl's bathroom?  We have called ourselves gods and made our own laws.  We are truly a sick people in desperate need of a truth rescuing Healer.

In the book of Hosea, there was no knowledge of God in the land.  The people were destroyed for their lack of knowledge.  The knowledge fled when they rejected the truth.  God won't have to destroy us, we will destroy ourselves.  Without a vision, the people perish.  Perhaps God's judgment will simply be to let us continue down the spiral. 

Even in severe mercy, intervene, Lord.  We nee You to step down.

Mourning our sin filled land matters.  God is pleased with tears that fall for the loss of a righteous country. 

"We should be weeping.  We should be appalled, disgusted, shocked, and grieved in the depths of our hearts over our sin.  All our sin is treason against God.  Not just the prideful, lying, stealing, and lusting sins but sins of the tongue, sins of anxiousness, sins of bitterness, sins of partiality, sins of complacency, sins of jealously, sins of impatience, and sins of arrogance. We should grieve over them all."  Jared Mulvilhill

In Ezekiel 9, right after God showed the prophet all of the nation's sins, God tells a man to set a mark on the foreheads of the men that sigh and cry for all the abominations that have occurred in their land.  Those that had grieved over the detestable state of their country were marked and set apart.

"These pious few had witnessed against those abominations and had done what they could in their places to suppress them, but, finding all their attempts for the reformation of matters fruitless, they sat down, and sighted, and cried, wept in secret, and complained to God, because of the dishonor done to his name by their wickedness and the ruin it was bringing upon their church and nation."  Matthew Henry

Those that mourned were marked and spared.  The rest were slain.

I know that we as new covenant believers are marked by the blood of Jesus.  It is sufficient, praise God!  Such wondrous comfort we splash in, knowing we are marked and sealed as His.  That said, I wonder if God is still pleased when we mourn our sin and the sin of our land.  The Beatitudes would imply He is.  "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."  The sorrow we have for our own sin and the sin of our beloved country brings about the promise of comfort, because we know the Holy Spirit sees our mourning and wraps us up in His affectionate arms.  The heart anguish that rises to our good Father declares us as blessed, "makarioi," characterized by the quality of God.

We are like our blessed Savior when we weep over sin.  And there in no higher blessing than being like Christ. 

{A mourner's prayer:  Great and gracious God, beauty emanates from your pores and mercy highlights your eyes.  We have transgressed your ways.  We have called good evil and evil good.  Our tears fall endlessly; we can hardly see while driving.  Our hearts feel like someone threw a million pounds of thick mortar onto them.  We cast our burden for our nation onto Your shoulders.  You are Big enough.  You are Strong enough.  You are Gracious enough.  You are simply Enough for our sin-sick land.  We praise You for marking us and setting us apart.  We are the Remnant and one day, all the sorrow will fade.  Thank you for giving us hearts that break when Your heart breaks. Come quickly, King Jesus. We would love to see Enough manifest before our very eyes.}

Monday, February 15, 2016

Surrender to the Brushstrokes

Asher's eyes were the bluest of blues for a solid year.  The ocean depths called out to my soul; each cascade of rich hue reminding me of God's love for me, God's gift of one final child.  Blue often represents grace in the Bible and when I peered into his happiest of happy eyes, I drank grace in, straight up.

After his first birthday, the light in his eyes started swimming differently.  At first, it was just when Asher wore green, then more and more no matter the shade he donned.

The blue was being encroached by floods of the purest of hazels, the purest of greens.

I won't lie.  I wanted to kick and scream.  Where was my blue eyed baby that I had cuddled and nursed for a solid twelve months?  I liked him just the way God had made him; I wasn't looking for change.

My blue eyed baby was gone.  In that moment, I mourned not just the loss of blue hue, but the loss of mothering a newborn.  It would never come again.  Mothering babies was one of the greatest sources of joys these past decades and with a blink, the days faded into oblivion, only to be recalled with photographs and heart indentations.

Over time, as I continued to watch Asher's eyes metamorphose into what God had intended all along, I became quite smitten with the brush strokes of the Artist.  He had dipped His paintbrush into green, adding dimension and depth to the present blue, only to create the rarest of hazel oceans.  He grabbed a handful of light and splattered it across the irises, stepped back, and called it good.  The Artist changed the canvas, because it brought Him laughter and glory.  Apparently, Asher Tate needed more than one hue in those windows to his soul.

I reflect on this and am reminded of how much I hate change.  When I see that something is good, I want it to remain that way forever.  What I need to remember is that just because something changes, doesn't mean it is no longer good or purposeful.  The newborn turning toddler turning child turning teenager turning adult is all good.  The transitions may slay a mother's heart time and time again, but each change will bring new layers of color and dimension, purpose and grace.  Each transition will announce, "That is what the Artist has been up to!  That is who He has created my child to be!" 

We must surrender to the brushstrokes, sweet mommas.  The Artist can be trusted as a good father.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Remembering Kiley Elisabeth


Remembering Kiley Elisabeth 

Our toes are nestled deep in sand.  We point our faces to the sun, daring it to warm not just our bodies, but our souls as well.  We talk about the latest chick flick, The Family Stone.  Sweat invading, we run off to the waves, the sun taking us up on our dare.  We look for all of God’s tiny and perfect creations and then talk about how we can’t wait to stuff our faces with steamed shrimp and key lime pie. 

 The beach was always a safe haven for us. 

Eight years into this, and Kiley is still wrapped in burial clothes.  Layer by layer, I so badly want to remove each sorrowful piece of clothing until only the memory of her twenty four years of living remains.  It is hard not to be marked forever by the word suicide, and I want to undo that, even if it is only in my own mind.   

When I think of her, my thoughts still go to the day we lost her and the days that followed.  That’s the imprint that suicide leaves.  It not only robs your loved one, but also every single happy memory made until that moment.  It seems that Satan stole more than just her life on that tragic day in February. 

As Jon Bloom says, “Her life was undone in a moment by her own doing” that day.  The rest of us have been left in the aftershocks of the great quake. Even after eight years, the tremors still rock us to our core, always unexpected and always unwelcome.  The seism of our hearts surfaces no matter how much time passes; the repercussions are now a part of our identity. 

The sorrow reminds me of the heart condition called regurgitation where the heart works extra hard because the blood flows backwards.  My mind can’t ever seem to gain ground because I’m always being drowned in the backflow of ache. Trying to pull up the happy times becomes even more difficult as my memory seems to have died a quick death. 

But, today, I choose to remember the lovely, vivacious young lady that God dreamed up. 

These are just snippets, the memories that still rise to the surface like sweet cream in a sea of dying brain cells. 

What comes to mind first is the day she asked Jesus to be her Redeemer.  It is a precious memory, and one that has brought me comfort these past eight years.  I have full confidence that she resides with Jesus now, because of this day and the fruit that she bore in the years afterwards.  It seems fitting after eight years of hard memories that her redemption story would be first.  God’s grace on her was sufficient to wash her clean, even on February 13, 2008.   

I was about thirteen when she was born again.  My family was not the “big church” type, but we occasionally found ourselves at Springdale First Baptist Church, a gigantic place for our country hearts.  The pastor was gifted at dishing out spiritual food, and sometimes, we were just plain hungry. 

We always sat in the balcony, partly because we didn’t want to be noticed and partly because it took a whole wooden pew to seat our family.  At the altar call, with Just as I Am in the background, Mom and Dad suddenly ushered us out of the pew and down the huge staircase.  I remember specifically praying that I would not trip on all those stairs.  Dad didn’t call me Lulu for nothing.  We smiled (and I trembled) in front of hundreds as they led us into a smaller room. 

Someone talked with Kiley and prayed with her and then with our family.  In hindsight, according to Mom, while in the pew, Kiley tugged on her sleeve and said, “I need to go down there.” 

This unabashed and indiscreet way that Kiley begged for her heart to be washed in Christ’s blood was a reflection of the bold character God graced her with.  Her character was always stretching the rest of us and calling us to a life laced with freedom and abundance. 

Even at the tender age of seven or so, she was not afraid like I was.  When she saw an opportunity, she grabbed it, even if it would stretch the faith and nerves of those around her.  I think my parents may have preferred that her “call” come in our smaller church or at home, but God knew that Kiley would always have a flair for the dramatic.  Bigger was always better with her. 

************************ 

During our cow showing days, Kiley’s fearlessness continued to shine.  

This was clearly shown the day she tied her big fat heifer, Coal Dream, to the rod iron fence.  We had to bathe our show cattle regularly, mainly to try and grow their hair and teach it how to lie correctly.  Kiley drenched one side of Coal Dream with the hose and was trying to get to her other side, but the 1200 pound gentle giant wouldn’t budge. Now Kiley wasn’t afraid of anything and she was determined to get her way.  She found the “hot shot” livestock prod that works well in getting stubborn cattle to move by zapping them with a little shock.  But, Coal Dream was soaking wet tied to a dad gum lightening rod.  I could tell you about the bellering of that poor animal, but you really need to ask my Dad to make the sound.  His vocal chords hold back nothing and you might find yourself in a hot mess of hysterical tears. 

At cow shows, I was terrified to talk to the cute cowboys my age.  But, six years my junior, she had them eating out of her palm.  Pigtails and hot pink wranglers, she walked around like she owned the joint, and since she bought a horse for $2 at the age of 5, I have a sneaking suspicion that she probably had a financial stake in the fairgrounds, as well.  The girl could get anyone to do anything for her, which came in handy when trying to carry heavy equipment. Wherever her feet fell, beams of light radiated in all directions. Sunshine, she was.  

************************ 

Even though she was fearless, I have deep imprints of longing to protect her.  Kiley was about as independent as a person could be, but there were moments when my big sister instincts kicked into high gear.  There was the time I drove her back from the farm.  On the old country roads, we came up on a large black snake.  In my opinion, all snakes were evil.  I ran over it purposefully but that wasn’t sufficient.  I put my silver Topaz in reverse and ran over it again. Back and forth I drove over the wicked beast, willing it to die so it would never harm her.  It didn’t matter that there were layers of automobile metal separating us from snake venom.  No one was getting bit on my watch. 

There was also the time when we lived a solid year in the outskirts of Shreveport, LA.  Being a 9th grader in a new school was torture, but when I heard that some girls in her class were threatening to beat her up on the playground, I about came undone.  New prayers for her safety went up nightly and God rescued us out of that environment soon enough. 

When her basketball days started, my protective instincts really kicked in.  I wanted to run onto the court and smash whatever girl knocked her down.  Each jammed finger, taped up ankle, or braced knee upset my insides.  She was a talented athlete, but it tore me up to see each injury and each tear. I probably needed to get over myself a little bit.  Good thing she was one tough cookie because basketball provided her with a scholarship her first couple years of college. 

************************ 

That breeze in her hair, though.  There was this one day that she was free above all others.  She had just bought herself a beautiful white convertible and she double dog dared me to take a spin with her.  I had two young children I needed to come back to, preferably alive, but that didn’t squelch her heavy foot as we sped away from responsibility.  We drove the back roads of small-town-Farmington, AR, the music full in our ears, screaming to hear one another.  She was unconfined and free that day as long curled locks of dark brown sugar flowed behind her.  In that moment, Kiley belonged to no one but her Maker and she was content in being who God had made her to be.  Her liberation seeped into my pores, a moment in time forever etched in my being. 

************************ 

There is an interval of time I long for, a moment where neither time nor death define our days.  It is our never ending fresh beginning.   I can almost taste it, hints of dark chocolate and the purest of honeys and perfectly ripe pineapples swirling around my taste buds.  Our toes are nestled deep in sand and our eyes are peering at the Son, since no sun is needed.  His light bathes us in warmth and we remember faintly that the sun’s rays were only a hint at the blanket of affection that was to come…that is here now.  His perfect love envelopes us both and we can’t help but to hum, “This is my story.  This is my song. Praising my Savior, all the day long.”

Kiley grabs me by the hand and pulls me to my feet.  Hand in hand, we run to the ocean, deep and majestic, pure and comforting.

We catch a ride on a pair of dolphins, her locks of dark brown sugar now clinging to her back.  Her smile is contagious and I start laughing.  We swear we will laugh all the way home.  Then, we gratefully sigh and realize we are already there.


 

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.
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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.