Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Cousin Lovin'

Since Eric's bro and his fam live roughly 1000 miles away, we only get to see them once or twice a year.  We soak them up when we get the chance! 

The Act of Creating Through Photography

Yesterday, my beautiful sister in law, Kelli, penned these words about how creating can be an act of worship.  Personally, I resonate.  Sometimes, I have such a desire to create something, that it almost consumes me.  I tend to find release in writing and photography.

Yesterday, my nephew, Sloan asked me how I got so good at photography.  I told him it was because of a prayer I prayed a long time ago. "Lord, help me see people the way you do.  Help me capture the essence of each person that reflects your glory."  When I hold up my lens, I pray that I would get a glimpse of how each person looks like their Creator.  Sometimes it is the laughter in a child's eyes.  Other times it is the strong bond between a father and daughter. And at other points it is the absolute purity of a four day old baby. 

In photography, I aim to create a glimpse of the beauty that has already been created. Like this.

Strong emotions rise up in me when I see this picture.  I see the mystery of baby Annika, knit perfectly, wrapped in her mother's womb.  Wonder consumes me as I try to picture what God has created her to be.  I see the lovely and yet fierce protection of a mother. I can taste the desire to protect your young against anything evil.  And, finally, I see a God who is tender. He cradles us all just as Kelli cradles her baby girl.

In photography, I desire to create small glimpses of just who the ultimate Creator is.

Thursday, July 10, 2014


I have thought a lot about repentance this week.  Then, I actually did it.  Repented.  Gosh, that word is hard to type.  It is so unpopular, even in church circles.  We children of God tell ourselves we are covered by grace, which is a beautiful truth, but we seem to take it to the extreme and say that our actions or hidden thoughts don't matter since we are redeemed.

I think that is a lie from the enemy!  If we are harboring sin, we are living in complete bondage....even if we are saved!

I've always had a passion for Believers to know their identity in Christ and to walk in freedom.  I think maybe the first step towards that is the "R" word.

REPENT (turn from all sin)

Repentance ushers us straight back into the Father's arms.  It thrusts open the front door and allows us to return to God.

It takes a whole lot of humble pie to ask the Spirit to search your heart and see if there is anything in there that might bring Him grief.  I should know, I stuffed my face with every last bite this week.

The shocking thing was the Spirit revealed areas where I didn't even know I was struggling.  Sin definitely likes to hide in darkness.

In Hebrew, the meaning of repentance is to return and to feel sorrow.  In Greek, it is to think differently about something.  We ask God to search our hearts, being willing to think differently about something inside of us.  We choose to call it what God calls it and to turn from it and feel sorrow over it.  Humble Pie.

I was reading in Zechariah this morning.  Not your typical go-to-Bible-book but really good!  He was a prophet.  It was 20 years after the return from Babylonian exile. The people were just plain tired and discouraged.  Their progress on the temple had been halted.  Taxes were out of control.  The people had concluded that theirs was a "day of small things"....they figured God had abandoned them.

Zechariah steps onto the stage and gives the word of the LORD:  "Return to me, says the LORD of hosts, and I will return to you...return from your evil ways and your evil deeds."  (Zech. 1:3-4)

Zechariah (his name means:  "Yahweh Remembered") wanted the people to know that God is indeed moving, in fact, Zechariah is even given a vision of angels who roam the earth on horses and report back to give God constant information.

To prepare their hearts for what God was about to do, God told the people to repent.  Turn. Run back into His arms.

He tells them that all the obstacles they have faced in the past in their attempts to rebuild will flee.  They will not rebuild with might or power.  They will now rebuild with the outpouring of God's spirit. 

Isn't that what we all secretly crave?  We want to see God move in a fresh way!  We simply want to behold Him!

It starts with repentance.  And it starts with me. You.  The believersThen the world.

So, back to my humble pie.  While going through Anne Graham Lotz's seven days of prayer, she had a section that defined certain sins.  Normally, I would have not associated myself with most of the ones listed, but some of the definitions did an uppercut straight to the gut. 

Ingratitude: Neglecting to thank God for an answered prayer or a blessing. I repent.

Neglect of Bible reading: Keeping the Bible closed, or reading it without focus. I repent.

Unbelief: Doubting who God is and what God has said. I repent.

Prayerlessness: Spiritually chattering, daydreaming, and fantasizing instead of fervently praying. I repent.

Unconcern for the lost: Leaving evangelism to the “professionals.” I repent.

Hypocrisy: Pretending to be more spiritual than I am, or anything I am not. I repent.

Pride: Impressed with my own reputation and accomplishments; offended and resentful when someone else receives more attention. I repent.

Envy: Jealousy of those more gifted and fruitful and recognizable than I am. I repent.

Critical spirit: Finding fault with someone because he or she doesn’t measure up to my standards. I repent.

Slander: Telling the truth about someone, with the intention of causing others to think less of him or her. I repent.

Lying: Making a statement, exaggerating, or inferring something that is contrary to the unvarnished truth. I repent.

Cheating: Not doing to others what I expect or demand them to do for me. I repent.

Robbing God: Exercising my gifts or spending my time, money or energy on things that have a selfish goal, without asking God first.  I repent.

Fear: For being so afraid of what others think and say that I remain silent, hiding the light of Your Gospel under the basket of intimidation.  I repent.

There is a beautiful oasis on the other side of repentance.  It is called freedom.  It tears off the scales of eyes and allows one to truly see.  It takes stony hearts and makes them soft again.  It allows one to dwell in true security, safe from all attack.

The end of Zechariah paints a beautiful mural.  God has set up His Kingship in Jerusalem to once again dwell among his people.  He sets up his throne on earth to tabernacle amongst us. 

Return to the Lord and He will return to you.

"...if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.  Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place."  2 Chronicles 7:14-15
(italics mine)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Psalm 107 {When you are at your wit's end}

I've camped out in Psalm 107 the past couple of days.  I have dwelt there and pondered what God was really saying through it. On the surface, it is a psalm that calls us to praise God for His steadfast love. But, as I dug deep, I saw the ache behind the praise.

Psalm 107 describes four types of hurting people.  All groups are in some way or other scattered away from the Promised Land and feel quite isolated in their pain.  I spent some time yesterday praying for family and friends that have specific needs right now.  It dawned on me that all the people I prayed for fall into one of the four categories of hurting people.  I can honestly say that I have been a part of each of the four categories in some manner during the course of my life.

Here are the 4 types of hurting people:

1.  Those Who Wander in Barren Places

  "Some wandered in desert wastelands,
    finding no way to a city where they could settle.
  They were hungry and thirsty,
    and their lives ebbed away."

These hurting people are in the wilderness.  They wander around, hoping for security and the comfort of a true home (or what has felt like home in the past.)  I envision these hurting people as chewing off their cuticles and shaking their leg in a steady unnerving cadence.  Hurting people in the barren places are hungry for life and realize there is nothing in their power to create it on their own. They are almost frantic, wanting dreams realized or the comforts of the past to return. Their broken hearts feel homeless.

2.  Those Who Sit in Darkness and the Shadow of Death

    "Some sat in darkness, in utter darkness,
    prisoners suffering in iron chains,
     because they rebelled against God’s commands
    and despised the plans of the Most High.
     So he subjected them to bitter labor;
    they stumbled, and there was no one to help."

These are hurting people that have heard God's word to them and ignored it.  They have decided to go their own way instead of the way that leads to freedom and life.  Sin has shackled their wrists and they have become slaves to sin.  They are now prisoners to bitterness, anger, gossip, slander, pornography, unbelief, idolatry, pride, and whatever other tempting bait Satan has thrown their way.

3.  Those Who Suffer for their Own Folly

    "Some became fools through their rebellious ways
    and suffered affliction because of their iniquities.
     They loathed all food
    and drew near the gates of death."

These hurting people admit they have messed up but feel hopeless because of their sin.  They dwell in the "stupidity that results from turning away from God."  They are at the point of despair and refuse to even eat.  They believe the Enemy's lie that says since they messed up, there is no hope for them and God will forever abandon them.  In essence, they are ready to quit. 

4.  Those Just Living Life (Sailors Caught in a Storm)

    "Some went out on the sea in ships;
    they were merchants on the mighty waters.
    They saw the works of the Lord,
    his wonderful deeds in the deep.
    For he spoke and stirred up a tempest
    that lifted high the waves.
    They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths;
    in their peril their courage melted away.

   They reeled and staggered like drunkards;
    they were at their wits’ end."

These people hurt because tragedy has struck.  They were going about their normal business, trying to make a living, and a trial comes.  The Word is clear:  God is the one who sends the storms.  But, it isn't necessarily due to any sin on our part. When tragedy strikes, these people are shaken to the core and come to the end of themselves. "We knew not what to do, and could have done nothing if we had known it.  We were as men distracted, and felt as if destruction itself would be better than our horrible state of suspense.  As for wit and wisdom, they were clean washed out of us, we felt ourselves to be a nonplus altogether."  Spurgeon

These people are at their absolute wits' end and can't even find the courage or strength to grab another breath. 

I recognize myself in all of these categories.  Each one is so debilitating and feels so hopeless.

But, this is a song of praise! 

After each description of the types of hurting people, we are told that each group chose to do the same thing. Four times it tells us that each people group looked to the LORD:   "Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble and he delivered them from their distress." 

He led the wanderers by a straight way until they had a home.
He ushered the prisoners into the light and broke every chain.
He sent out his word and healed the fools. 
He made the storm be still and hushed the waves.

Perhaps what I love the most about His steadfast love is that He hears all of the cries of the brokenhearted.  The first and fourth categories don't mention that the people hurt due to any sin on their part.  The second and third categories make it clear that sin is what has led to all the ache.  God listens to all the brokenhearted.  There are no prerequisites for crying out to Him.  No matter what the broken heart stems from, His grace and acceptance are ready to deliver us.

When we are at our wit's end, we can cry out to the God who is ready to forgive, restore, satisfy, deliver, and bring to a safe haven.

He is El Shama
The God who hears me.
The God who hears you.

Lord, we praise you for your steadfast love.