Thursday, May 27, 2010

Better is One Day

I just came out of a season of clarity. I heard God speak and followed His direction. I felt as though I was moving and breathing in His will and I was confident. I may have even voiced during this season my fear a day would come when I'd no longer be able to hear Him.

During that time, I assumed not being able to hear God meant I had stumbled out of His will. Silence meant I was unfaithful or just too far away. I understood if anyone was straying, it was me, not God. But I didn't want to be far away from Him.

I remember the day I started praying and realized I couldn't hear a response. The voice, which had been so prominent, so powerful, was gone. And I panicked. I stopped dead in my tracks, swearing not to take another step until I heard His voice again. I was afraid.

And then I remembered a prayer my youngest sister prayed over me before leaving for Africa. A prayer saying: even when I could not hear His voice, I'd know the Father's character enough to be able to follow Him anyway.

I fought for a while, holding my breath, waiting for divine instruction. But Abby's prayer echoed in my ears and I turned my focus to the way I knew God to be - what I knew, without a doubt, He wanted of me.

So I took a tentative step forward.

And another.

So here I am.

Friends, I still see the Father everywhere I go. I see the work of His hand and His light in other's eyes. I stumble across Him in our everyday world and I am amazed at His love and provision.

But I still can't hear Him. Not the way I used to.

I want to worship and follow God because of who He is, not just what He does. I want open eyes to see His children the way He does and be able to teach them about Him. When I can't hear Him audibly, I want to hear the Father in His word. I want to pray without ceasing.

At worship tonight, I had the thought: perhaps God had taken a season of my life to work on my spirit and was now teaching me to look beyond myself. To see Him in the things I have no control over, the things I don't need to interpret.

I begged Him tonight to talk to me. Even if it was the still, small voice... any word from Him would quench my thirst. Maybe I'm wrong, but I thought I heard Him tell me I was small. And I needed to be still.

Then we began to sing a song. Which triggered a thought of how lucky I had been to experience a season of spiritual clarity like I have. I wondered how many people live their whole lives and exercise great faith and never receive clear signs and directions from God. My heart resonated with the song.

Better the one day I had with His voice in my ear... better one day of feeling His presence... than a thousand others with anyone else.

So I will continue to take steps forward. Recognizing how blessed I am to see where He has been. I pray for open eyes, to learn to see Him in new ways. Hoping I will be found pure and blameless and will grow to know Him so well that even when He's quiet, I will know which way to go.

Monday, May 17, 2010


We do not save people.

I was standing in the produce section of Kroger tonight when my littlest sister's phone rang. She immediately started crying and my first instinct was someone had died. I tried to get her to tell me what was wrong and she couldn't get words out. I finally got very stern with her (I was scared at that point) and she pulled the phone away from her wet cheek.

"Papa got saved yesterday".

You have to understand... my grandfather on my mom's side is a tough man. I remember him as the racist, judgmental, harsh man who took me out west in a RV and made my parents take me to the doctor for my scoliosis. A man who loves his little wife (my step grandmother) more than anyone, chews doublemint gum and kisses on the lips. He's who Abby looks like. And he was not a part of our lives for years because... above all else... he's just stubborn.

But, from a distance, I have watched something change in him over the years. And what has changed in him, has in turn effected his entire family. He softened. He reunited with my mother and walked her down the aisle. He retired to a farm in eastern Kentucky where he has taught my little sister to take care of the horses she figured out she loved on her own.

But still, one of my most vivid memories of Tony was standing in the driveway of the Long Avenue house and watching him hit the hood of his truck and tell my mother that we'd wasted too much time in church already.

So I'm not sure what happened. Because I certainly haven't been as diligent as I should have been about praying for him. But I remember when Abby started spending weekends out in Elliott County, telling her that maybe that's why she was supposed to be there. Maybe Abby's life would be a witness. I'm not sure I believed it.

It's a good thing people's salvation does not depend on my faithfulness.

Because yesterday, my grandfather and a step-great-aunt and a cousin once removed and his girlfriend (... try and follow that...) all accepted Christ.

What happened?

I told my mom, who was crying on the phone as I walked through the aisles at Kroger, that I guess someone did die after all. Because isn't that what salvation is after all? A dying to ourselves? Forsaking the old life for the new one?

I got to listen to Abby process it all out loud with more understanding than any other fourteen year old I've ever met... she talked to my mom about how she's not good at sharing her faith. And I laughed, realizing how often God uses people who aren't good at things for His purposes.

Just so we don't get mixed up and start thinking we had anything to do with it in the first place.

Abby and I walked out of Kroger then, right into a sunny rain shower. And I looked up as I was about to cross the parking lot... only to be stopped in my tracks by a rainbow.

A rainbow that stretched across the sky - arcing overhead, ever color visible.

I stood there like a fool in the rain, squinting against the sunlight, staring in awe at this huge promise stretched across the sky.

We took pictures with our phones and loaded up the groceries and hopped into my little station wagon. And I got to pray with my littlest sister. Specifically for the heart of my step-grandmother who was the only one not to surrender her life yesterday.

When Abby and I finished praying there in the Kroger parking lot, we opened our eyes and the rainbow was gone.

In my ears, I can still hear Abby's prayer. That this family, which is just so big and so bold, would be able to change a small corner of the world. Thanking the Father that none of His children ever grow too old...

We are never too far gone.

I started to pray God would continue to love on our family. But I was stopped mid-sentence by what only could have been the celebration of the Heavens, and I knew God didn't need any prodding. He'd been waiting for a while for this child to come home.

Angels are singing tonight. The Kingdom just got bigger.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Bride of Christ

I got to witness something beautiful today: perhaps one of the most meaningful weddings I've ever attended.

Save the bridal party and the family, I was one of the people who'd known the groom the longest. As I walked into the chapel this afternoon, my mind was flooded with thoughts. I was connecting the dots. Recognizing the paths we'd all taken to get us there today.

And as the doors opened and his bride walked down the aisle, I saw Jesus in the groom's face. I saw a transformed man who has helped change my life radically. I remember hearing him tell me about her for the first time. The night after their first date. The night he realized he was in love. When he went to go pick out engagement rings. But I also remember the first time I heard him talk about his love for God. And about God's love for him. I remember watching his life be ignited by faith.

After the ceremony, a few of us walked down the hall and "went" to church.

As I sat there in the midst of a large group of people, I was overwhelmed with symbolism.

Isaiah 62:5 says as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so our God will rejoice over us. And I find myself praying we would walk down the aisle and Christ's face would light up... just like that.

May we would be found pure and blameless. May He recognize us as His own. Loving us... pleased with us.

I know God was glorified today by the union of my friends. The holy metaphor, which was played out for us, points to Him as long as they live in love.

What a great story.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Loneliness creeps in. Seeping in the cracks. Only a little bit at a time, but enough to disturb my sleep, invade my quiet thoughts. Loneliness - a missing of something I may have never had at all, wanting someone to share my life with. I have forgotten, quite honestly, what it means to be in love. One day I will have to relearn.

I struggled this morning, bogged down by this feeling. I spent my drive to work talking to my Father, knowing that I was losing control of my emotions because it had been so long since I'd taken them to Him. We are in constant conversation, but I hadn't dedicated time in a while. I knew that He allowed this feeling of loneliness for a reason...

A dear friend would suggest later that God lets us feel the loneliness to remind us to look up. To look towards Him (from where does our hope come from??).

The clouds rolled in this afternoon, threatening rain on our game night downtown. I looked up at the sky, my heart still heavy.
"Fill my empty places," I prayed. "Keep this desire in me, but teach me how to seek You when this loneliness hits. Make me the right person. And please... break through those clouds."

I looked out of the window of my little station wagon then. Just to watch the black cloud overhead split open and sunlight pour out. Rays of light, piercing the darkness.

The wind would blow for a while longer, pushing that black cloud across the sky. I took my journal and headed to the park where I sat down for the first time in a few weeks and wrote out my prayers...

Recognizing the deep need in my heart to go and be with the children. To laugh and play in the streets. To be still for a while. To talk to my Father. Fulfilling those things washed away the loneliness. Not the desire for my own family one day. Just the threatening loneliness - suddenly overwhelmed by a love so deep.

So when sadness overcomes, when loneliness breaks in, when hopelessness sneaks by... I will look up. To Him, the One who has overcome the world. The One who gave me this desire in the first place. The One who made me with a plan in mind and who has been working diligently to get me where I need to be.

And He will break through the clouds. Raining down love, shining His light.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Morning Person

Forecast for today?

Sunny and windy.

My heart comes alive on days like these, when I'm not cooped up in a cubicle or hidden from real light. My heart rate slows down and the tension eases in my shoulders. I am quieter and I listen more. I know Him. I am a better person today.

I flew a kite and laid in the grass and ate lunch outside today. Everything I did was punctuated by the wind blowing... an invisible birthday present.

I look back on the past year and am amazed. More so than even New Years, birthdays are a time of reflection. I always come barreling to a stop and reexamine and evaluate and compare. It is my own personal day... who am I today?

The last twelve months have been some of the most painful, stretching, beautiful, messy, and adventurous of my life so far. The life I lead today is absolutely nothing like the life I led twelve months ago. Most of those changes, however, have been internal, and I wonder if anyone else can see them? I have a sneaking suspicion they can, since one of the things I rediscovered this past year was joy.

I stumbled upon joy and passion; I fell in love with Jesus and the inner city again and with Africa for the first time. I left one family and fell into another. I learned about risk taking and the gift of discernment and the power of prayer.

I allowed God to change me.

To tear down my walls and build upon a foundation He'd built years and years ago. It was a year of breaking, of demolition. He shattered my heart and salvaged the pieces. And I am a mosaic now... reflecting His light.

He was loud. He whispered. I heard the faintest of instructions and completely missed His blatant direction. I prayed the hard prayers and hungered for righteousness in a way I never thought I would. Running headlong into the fear of God and the unhealthy fear of never reaching Him.

I dared Him to do the big things. I asked Him to heal me - and He redeemed me instead.

He taught me about grace and patience.

He taught me about how He's going to have to keep teaching me those things until the day I die... because I just don't get it.

The community, which grew up around me this past year, has pushed me and stretched me and held me up when I couldn't stand on my own. They played such an intricate part in developing my faith and my courage.

This year I began to live a better story.

I let go.

God kept me here. Sent me to Africa. Gave me a loaf of bread. Showed me a dove. Stirred my heart. Broke my heart.

God stepped away and beckoned me to follow. "Come with me. Come to me. I have something to show you..."

He took my assumptions about myself - the things I believed to be truths - and He turned it all upside down. He took a boring story, a passionless story, a mediocre story, and He threw me headlong into the deep end.

But He taught me this past year that He will take care of my heart. To come when He calls. That I am a morning person. He rebuked the lies I'd been telling myself for years and reminded me that I belong to Him (that He thinks I am beautiful) and because of such a truth, I am capable of far more than I ever dreamed.

Daily I struggle with what I've learned and whether or not it has actually sunk in. Will I ever learn? I fall short. I am not good. I am wrong a lot.

I am learning to pray differently. To walk in conversation with Him throughout the entire day. To shut up and listen. I am learning just how much I can trust my own heart these days... and I am delighted.

My prayer for now is that our Father would make me competent and unaware. To forget myself. And remember Him and the ones He loves.

So as I dive headfirst into another year, I find myself full of gratitude. I am nervous, but not anxious. I have lonely moments, but a deeper realization of a plan He is fleshing out. A nagging sense of incompetency and a passion that outweighs it by a ton.

Today I am closer to being who God created me to be than I have ever been before.

Come, grow with me.

Teach me something. Let me show you something beautiful. Let's walk in love.

The wind is blowing and the Father has come close. Best day.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Two Trails

The trail had grown steep again. Narrow and rocky, sometimes it was hard to keep my footing. The trees rose overhead, breaking up the radiant light from the sun. We had only been hiking for a little while. My muscles were warming up, but my lungs were still full of air.

Just ahead I saw the trail split in two. One faint, leaf-strewn trail wound to the left and the other to the right.

I had come to crossroads such as these before. I knew what to do.

I shifted the weight of my pack on my shoulders and stopped. He had been walking beside me the whole time, so he stopped too. Although, this time, he didn't say anything. Just looked at me and then at the trails; sweat was beading on his forehead and light sparkled in his eyes.

"Which way?"

Confused, I frowned and shook my head.

"No, no. You tell me! Which way do we go? Right or left?"

He took a breath and shrugged. "I've been up both trails before. They lead to the same place. I will go with you, whichever way you choose. So you tell me. Left or right?"

I froze. As the sun passed over the canopy of leaves, I could feel its heat on my skin. I shivered. This was not part of the deal.

"But I don't know where I'm going!" I argued, straining my neck to see if I could see if he was right - that both trails went up to the summit.

"But I do. It's not like you're going to get lost. I told you I'd be with you. But I've seen both trails - they're nothing new to me. Beautiful. But not new. You're the one who's never been here before. So you pick."

"Which way is the right way?" I secretly wondered if he was tricking me. If one trail was full of steep climbs or muddy slopes. If one trail housed bears and lions and snakes. Was this a test? Should I already know the answer?

"There is no wrong way."

"But which way is RIGHT?" I was sure he was tricking me. He leaned forward, earnestness filling his eyes.

"Seriously, my love. You want to get to the next summit? Both of these trails will take you there. Both are beautiful in their own way. Let's go. Come on. I want you to decide this one."

I took a deep breath and took a step to the right. A few more steps and I was pretty sure I'd made up my mind. Why was this decision so hard? Why, after this whole journey, would he let me pick now? I just wanted to be told which way to go. I'd go that way, as long as he said so.

But no. There he was. Waiting on me. And I didn't trust him.

I stopped at the trailhead and peered through the foliage. The pit in my stomach wouldn't dissolve. The peace I was so used to feeling when I knew he was in the lead was gone... fear loomed over my head like a cloud.

I was making too big of a deal about this.

He was being patient with me, however, and he had followed me to the right just like he said he would. Maybe it really didn't matter? He had said both ways were beautiful. He'd seen them before.

He just wanted to go with me this time. Experience it with me.

As I looked over my shoulder I watched the light pass over the other trailhead. Casting beams of light on the sparse grass and pebbles. Faintly, ever so faintly, I heard a waterfall rushing in the distance.

"I changed my mind."

The words came over before I'd really realized they were true.

"Alright then." He smiled at me. Reaching out, he cupped my face in his hands. "There's nothing to be afraid of, you know that right?"

And I knew that then.

"Which way?" He asked as he turned around on his heels.

"That way," I pointed toward the left. Toward the sound of the waterfall.

"Let's go that way then!" He said excitedly. "You're going to love this - really, I'm so glad we're doing this together."

Monday, May 3, 2010

My Prayer

Put me where You want me.
To do the work I was created to do.
To be an extension of Your arm.

Reluctantly today I ask You would remind me I am nothing without You.
I don't like to be reminded of this, but I know I will get in my own way.
I will stumble and trip over my own feet if I let myself get ahead of You.

What I am, who I am, the Spirit residing in me is connecting with the Spirit who resides in the world.

My perfect life is a messy one.
The one You want for me is a glorious mess.
But that is what You do. Your trademark. Making beauty from messes.

I am called to simplicity.
To diversity.
To chaos.

You have burned on my heart a calling to get in the way.
You have given me a rough edge.
And evolved in me a compassionate heart.

Teach me to be who I am.
To give, to love, to pray.
And nothing more.

To be content with who I am in You.
To not put on airs. (1pet.5:6)
To seek your guidance about where to put each foot.

May I worship You with my life.
To carry Your light to the darkness,
making a life out of remembering the forgotten.

This is not about me.
It is not about the ghetto.
This is not about the suburbs.

This is not about evangelism.
It is not about religion.
This is not about doctrine or denomination.

Forget authority.
Disregard so-called superiority.

This is about love.
"If I give everything I have to the poor, but do not love, then I've gotten nowhere," (1Cor13)
This is about Who loves us.

So put me where You want me.
To do the work You set aside for me to do.
May my hands and heart and words be an extension of Yours.

For I do not carry You anywhere.
I do not take You to the dark places.
I do not introduce You to the emptiness.

You are already there.
Hovering over the deep.
Waiting, from time to time, for us to make a formal introduction.

May our hearts break as Yours does.
Remind us what matters.
What counts as worthy in Your eyes.

Not commending.
Not importance.
Not attention.


Go ahead of us.
May we walk in Your footprints.
Be patient with us as we learn to love like You do.

May we learn what may be the harder lesson.
To accept Your love for us.
And to sink deep in the shadow of Your wing.

His Character

I can't hear right now.

I am straining ... cupping my hand around my ear. Come again?

I ask a question and all I hear is its echo.

I am filled with new desires and have been presented with new opportunities. I have been handed new responsibilities. And something inside of me has radically changed.

I am transitioning out of a season where God was vocal. He was blatant, tangible and hilariously obvious.

I am fighting in a way I have never fought before. Sensing this transition, I am filled with dread. The last time this happened, I felt so lost. The last time I began an ascent like this - trails and unmarked paths that took my breath and broke my body - I did all but lose faith. So I sense the way getting harder. I recognize the traits of a strenuous climb and I feel my fear rising.

But I am reminded.

I am not who I was.

I have been dramatically transformed. My roots have dug deeper, spread wider. I am more familiar with the face of the Lord, and my identity is more intertwined with His will than ever before.

So if the Father is choosing to be quiet right now, it is not because He is absent. It is either because I am being too loud, or because He knows I know Him well enough to follow Him regardless. To pursue where He has been.

Oh that I would be so familiar with His character that I would know how to live, how to move, even when my proverbial senses are impaired.

I have so much more to learn. The closer I draw to Him, the more I realize this. But without condemnation -- simply with an increasing desire to be more like Him, to know Him better.

One of the things I have learned is just how vulnerable we can be in a season like this. Satan prowls around like a lion, waiting to attack us in moments just like these. When we are so susceptible to our insecurities, when we so easily could give way to our weaknesses.

So I will be vigilant in calling the enemy out on his tactics. Recognizing his work and rebuking it. Understanding that all our extreme emotions are not prodded by him.... but the ones which attack, the ones that tear down, are his way to gain ground in our lives.

I hate being wrong. But just like before, I am beginning to realize that God uses my best laid plans to get me where I need to be. Whether to distract me, or to get me to take the needed steps ... He has never left me or forsaken me. And despite my attempts to always do right, be right, or sound right ... His will always prevails.

Because despite it all... that is my desire.

To be right in the middle of His will.

To be washed out with the tide - washed clean and rubbed smooth.

And even when I cannot hear, even when I cannot see, even when I really have no clue where I am going or what comes next...

I know my Father.

And oh, though I cannot hear You, I love you.
Though I cannot see you, I trust You.
All my heart desires is to be near to You again...
to rest in the shadow of Your wings.
To be swept away by the wind,
I want Your voice to ring in my ears.
My fingers to tingle with Your power.
Come close, come quickly.
May my prayers rise to you as incense...
Quiet me with Your love.
Reward my seeking with finding.
My knocking with answering.
Come, ready with a response, if not an answer.
In the middle of chaos, transcend with Your peace.
Kingdom, come.