Monday, July 28, 2014

Para-sailers, Props, and Freedom to Walk on the Waves . . .

May the love of Jesus fill me, as the waters fill the sea -

Him exalting, self abasing, this is victory.

--Kate B. Wilkinson

The wind stole around us as we neared the ocean's edge.

And we left the stroller and climbed down to the rocks, near the delightfully-refreshing waves. 

It was a hot, sticky day, the sun smoldering, the air tepid and still. 

We walked here for refreshment and a change of scene before supper. My husband pushed Debbie along, her chubby legs swinging in the heat. 

I carried our two-week-old baby, trying to get used to the wrap that he was neatly tucked inside, thinking for a brief moment of the Middle-eastern women who wore their babies with such ease, the wrap an aid to help them with their work. 

I needed some help . . . 

And we touched our feet on the rocks near the shore and Debbie threw them into the great water one by one, her little self delighted in the splashes that followed. 

My husband skimmed shells over the waves and we watched while a para-sailer performed there in the ice-blue water.

I marveled at his skill, which was impressive and then a thought came to me-- "Jesus could walk on the waves without any equipment." 

And I looked into the sky and saw the great kite that carried his board and that aided him over the vast expanse of the ocean. 

There were sea birds, soaring in the sky near him -- without ropes, without props -- just doing what God made them to do -- soaring--next to that para-sailer in the wind. 

God gave them wings, and God created them to fly -- the God who also walked on waves and calmed the raging sea in the storm.

Sometimes I think that I need all of this "equipment" to do what God has called me to do--

At times when He is teaching me to walk by faith, I grow afraid and reach out for my great kite, for my strings, for my life-vest.

And although it is good to take precautions, to be prepared, sometimes I rely upon these things rather than upon Jesus, who would have me cast my self upon Him and let go of my "props". 

Now, I have nothing against para-sailers-- I only use them as an example here -- They are fascinating to watch-

And I have nothing against "props" to make life easier -- My Maya wrap has been an incredible help to me -- and so has my baby swing, my car-seats, and my daily cups (plural!) of coffee. 

But ultimately, I need to realize that it is Jesus who brings me through the day -- These things can be a help, but they are not the ultimate answer. 

And it's Him working through me that enables me to do anything that is worth anything, that has lasting value. 

When I try to hold onto my props, to my methods, apart from Him, it's just a performance. 

But His grace, His power working in and through us gives purpose. 

I want to exchange performance for purpose -- His purpose -- His will daily being worked out in and through me. 

I'd like to walk on the waves figuratively, taking His strength for each day--allowing Him to bend my heart and my will into the conformity of His purposes for me.

It's difficult for me to let go of my props, to walk by faith. 

It's easier to hang on to our ropes and our sail and our board. 

But when we do, we are lifted up, high into the great gust of His wonder and purpose, like the sea birds who dip into the wind and have no fear. 

His love enables us not to fear--

And to walk, to fly, by faith. 

But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint

Isaiah 40:31

3.By Paul Bril [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Monday, July 21, 2014

The Friend of Those Who Seek Him

To have found God and still to pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love.”
-A.W. Tozer

"I have heard people say that 'only doctrine is important.' Would they leave no room for Christian experience? Consider the preaching and the example of the famed Jonathan Edwards, used so mightily by God in the Great Awakening throughout New England in the 18th century. But you say, 'Jonathan Edwards was a Calvinist!' I know--and that is my point. Edwards was acknowledged by society to have been one of the greatest intellects of his time. Yet he believed in genuine Christian experience so positively that he wrote a well-accepted book, Religious Affections, in defense of Christian emotion. Charged by some that his revivals had too much emotion, Edwards stood forth and proclaimed that when men and women meet God, accepting His terms, they experience an awareness that lifts their hearts to rapture. What higher privilege is granted to mankind on earth than to be admitted into the circle of the friends of God!"
  -A.W. Tozer

And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”And he was called the friend of God.
James 2:23

"It is important that we get still to wait on God. And it is best that we get alone, preferably with our Bible outspread before us. Then the happy moment when the Spirit begins to illuminate the Scriptures, and that which had been only a sound, or at best a voice, now becomes an intelligible word, warm and intimate and clear as the word of a dear friend."
-A.W. Tozer

It was a sunny day. An hour before supper and my husband was home, so I tucked Elisha into my sling and we all four traipsed down our dead end street and into the woods.

A hot and sticky summer day, but the evening-coming brought a bit of coolness into the air and the deeper we went into the lovely, hushing trees, the more bearable the heat became, even with a warm baby pressed to my body.

All my life, our dead-end street has led into these woods, and so I knew that sometimes dead-ends aren't that at all, but may lead into something delightful and deeper--

So Debbie's little feet scurried down the paths and we all hurried to keep up with her and the dust stuck to our sneakers and the prickly branches to our clothes--

And we stopped along the way and watched the ducks swimming at a safe distance in the pond nestled in the trees and we heard the beautiful, unhurried voices of songbirds and saw an adolescent cottontail frisk across the path and looked up into the great expanse of the trees and saw the touch of the Creator over every bit and we took pleasure in His handiwork.

It was a beautiful day.

And as we walked home and Debbie skipped a bit ahead, I knew a freedom in my soul that could only be the Great Father drawing my heart.

So many, many times I have walked through these woods and known doctrinally that the Lord is with me always, but this time, as at other times in the past, I knew a special sense of His presence with me -- the Holy Spirit speaking to me, drawing me near, touching my mind as I enjoyed His creation and yes, whispering His love to me.

Because He is a Person. And sometimes I can become so caught up in "doctrine" that I forget that He is a Person-

Doctrine is important. Because without it, the Person of God only becomes Who or what we imagine or want Him to be.

Doctrine puts flesh on experience and experience puts life and blood into doctrine and the two mesh and meet and become one and we are made alive in Him, in the living, breathing marriage of our faith.

Pure doctrine takes flight in the experience of divine Love.

And many times, especially in the more Reformed "camps" of thinking, we become afraid of "experience."

We shy away from the mystic writers and pride ourselves in "common-sense" Christian living, based upon the practical principles of the Word.

We are so carefully cautious that we become mummified and half-frightened specters of orthodoxy.

Vance Havner said, "Christianity is neither a corpse nor a ghost."

And it is a beautiful paradox that our minds and hearts can be engaged without being mutually exclusive of the other in our relationship with Jesus.

The more we love Him, the more He will reveal His Word to us. The more He reveals His Word to us, the more we love Him.

Christian "experience" when grounded in the Word of God is not something to be afraid of, but rather embraced.

Because doctrine without experience makes us into bloodless, lifeless corpses, and experience without doctrine makes us into unstable, flighty mountain-top-moment seekers.

We are driven by doctrine and softened by the experience of that doctrine being practically worked out.

One doesn't cancel out the other.

For a long time, I have enjoyed reading more supposedly "mystical" Christian writers--Andrew Murray, Oswald Chambers, Lillias Trotter, Thomas A'Kempis, and Ann Voskamp, among others.

Sometimes, these writers are "discouraged" within Reformed or more Conservative circles of Christianity, and though I believe that we need to use prayerful discernment as Christians (and feel hesitant when more emphasis is placed upon experience itself and not girded by sound doctrine), I also believe that it is an equal danger to become so "wary" of any Christian experience that we become spiritual stones -- all lovely and polished but dead on the inside.

I was encouraged when I discovered that A.W. Tozer (known for his incredibly solid doctrinal foundation) was a lover of the mystic writers.

I was delighted to discover this quote in his biography.

"Martyn Lloyd-Jones recalled, 'Dr. Tozer and I shared a conference years ago, and I appreciated his ministry and his fellowship very much. One day he said to me: 'Lloyd-Jones, you and I hold just about the same position on spiritual matters, but we have come to this position by different routes.' 'How do you mean?' I asked. 'Well,' Tozer replied, 'you came by way of the Puritans and I came by way of the mystics.'"

That I can be unshackled to experience God without fear is freeing to me.

Because our beings, our souls were created for a relationship, not a religion -- for a warm, intimate connection with a Heavenly Abba Father and with the Son who bore our sins in love and with the Spirit who enlightens and instructs and teaches us.

They are One -- and one with us -- through the believing, trusting orthodoxy of experiencing God -- deeper and deeper into the vast "forest" of the wonder of Who He is -- a realm of trees and streams and birdsong and loveliness that cannot be fully explored or explained in this life.

Because our relationship with Jesus is not a "dead-end street," but an experience of entering in -- into the great realm of all that He is, all that His precious Word communicates that He is.

And He is precious, a friend of those who seek Him.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Journaling for Joy

I touched the soft, leathery cover of the little book.

My hands lingered there, the unique scent of new paper and fresh ink inside its pages.

Another journal.

It had been so long; it felt like so long.

So long since I jotted down my thoughts every morning and penned the prayers folded in my heart upon paper.

Journaling has been a part of me for so long and my absence from it made my heart grow fonder towards it.

I realized that my last journal entry took place somewhere around the time that Debbie was born--almost two years ago now--and I missed it, longed for it, really.

But things get busy and time and cares take over and there is duty and the pleasure of writing in a journal took a backseat in my priorities.

I've filled a lot of journals in my day . . . around 40, I think, the last time I've counted.

I've always found it easier to express my thoughts through writing, to hash out my emotions, to voice my silent prayers.

The pages of those journals have held my deepest desires and cares, the perplexities of my mind and the crying of my heart out to God.

They are dear books to me, every one, and I am grateful now that I invested the time into transcribing my thoughts down upon those pages.

Lately, I realized that maybe journaling should be a priority -- at least for me, in my walk with the Lord.

Something that I began to do, since I really started "heavily" journaling, was to incorporate it into my "Quiet Time" with the Lord in the morning.

Instead of just dashing my thoughts on the paper or merely relaying events, I wrote my journal as a prayer.

It became prayerful journaling-- a part of petition and intercession with the Lord each morning.

It became one of the greatest helps to me in my walk with Him.

I would recount events that took place, situations, fears, pleas for guidance and direction and lay these before the Lord in my journal.

Later, I would be able to look back and see the mercy of the Lord tracing through all of these things--and praise Him again and again and again.

I would try to begin the each journal entry with a Bible verse or passage that I had read during my Quiet Time, or sometimes a quote that had touched me in my devotional readings--George Mueller, D.L. Moody, Oswald Chambers, Charles Spurgeon, whoever I was reading at the time--

I cannot overly emphasize what a blessing this prayerful journaling has been in my life--and it didn't always have to be a long, drawn out journal entry--sometimes just a short, heartfelt prayer towards the Lord, asking Him for His wisdom and guidance for the day, praising Him for who He is, rejoicing in all that He has done for me.

So recently, I took it up again.

I'm not able to journal as regularly as I used to, but I find that if I take the little fragments of time that the Lord gives, I can write a few brief sentences here and there.

My babies take most of my time, but there are little bits and pieces in-between, and it's worth it to me to pull myself out of bed a little earlier than the time when they wake up to spend those quiet moments in prayer and in reading my Bible -- sometimes I'm just too tired -- when I've been up most of the night and I need that extra rest -- but many times, if I really want to -- I can, and it always refreshes me and makes me more ready to face the long day.

Now, I've added journaling back into those quiet moments.

And I hope that in the future, the Lord willing, when I am gone, that my children and grandchildren will read them and "recount to each other the wonderful acts of the Lord."

This hope brings me joy.

So I take up my pen.

You might find me on these link-ups:

Strangers and Pilgrims on EarthThe Modest MomWhat Joy is Mine, Yes They Are All Ours, Missional Call, A Mama's Story, Mom's the Word, Rich Faith Rising, Time Warp Wife, Cornerstone Confessions, Mom's Morning Coffee, So Much at Home, Raising Homemakers, Hope in Every SeasonA Wise Woman Builds Her Home, Woman to Woman Ministries, Whole-Hearted Home, A Soft Gentle Voice, My Daily Walk in His Grace, Messy Marriage, My Teacher's Name is Mama, The Charm of Home, Graced Simplicity, Children Are A Blessing, Mittenstate Sheep and Wool, Imparting Grace, Preparedness Mama, A Look at the Book, Essential Thing Devotions, Count My Blessings, Beauty Observed, Christian Mommy Blogger, Renewed Daily, Soul SurvivalGood Morning MondaysOakhill Homestead

Monday, July 7, 2014

Hummingbird Grace

Some people say that the hummingbird is a sign that a loved one is near . . . 

But I see the hummingbird as a reminder of God's grace. 

It was a tumultuous week, a week where everything changed and things were turned upside down. 

I felt overwhelmed. 

I was overwhelmed. 

A difficult labor and the healing process to follow, a newborn to take care of, a spirited toddler waiting for me when I arrived home, clamoring for attention and order and love. 

And my body was raw. My emotions were raw. I felt like I was slipping in and out of reality and just trying to hold on, ready to plunge over the cliff of chaos. 

Just hold on. Hold on to Jesus. 

I was sitting in the backyard. Near the hummingbird vines that my Mama planted. 

She likes to see the spritely little visitors alight on the warm pink flowers and drink their sweet nectar. 

And I held new life in my arms while my little daughter played in the grass and I felt like I couldn't do it. I felt weak and I felt weary and I was in physical pain and I felt utterly exhausted and inadequate.

And I watched as a tiny hummingbird alighted on a waiting flower. 

This thought came to me--only a little grace. Even a hummingbird-sized amount of God's grace would be enough. He is rich in grace. Even a small amount of His grace covers my inadequacy, my weakness, my fears. His grace is enough. And He is a great Store of grace. 

I took heart. I rallied my emotions, my shortcomings, my perplexity. And I handed them to the Father of all grace, who is rich in mercy. 

I am not enough--but in Him I have all the grace that I need. 

My sister's words come to me like fire and a spark of hope--"If we were never overwhelmed, how would we learn to rely upon Him?"

I want to rely upon Him. I want the fullness of His grace, rich, warm, life-giving in my heart. 

So I cling to Him. I take one step at a time. I learn the lesson of the hummingbird, the tiny, fiery creature who drinks the sweet fullness of every flower. 

The sweetness, the strength of His grace filled me and He carried me through as I held on to Him--

The God of all grace. 


Photo Attribution: 
1.prorallypix / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)  

2.Bill Gracey / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)