Ritual or Relational

Ugh, ugh, UGH! People can I just say that after what feels like a bazillion years of being a Christian and I still cannot seem to get this ‘daily devotional’ thing down. It’s not you, Lord… it’s me. There… I said it. I’m terrible at doing this particular part of the Christian walk well.

Now, don’t get me wrong- I do have my devo time, but I also have 4 littles (all under 6!). I do read my Word, but I also have <several> part-time jobs. It gets done, but geez! it never looks like I want it to.

I want my daily devotions to be different. I imagine everyone else on the planet has this lovely picturesque spot on a back porch, by a serene lake, watching the sun rise over the mountains in the background, sipping their perfectly temp’ed coffee, reading a well-worn Bible and journaling endlessly to God. Pinterest and Instagram make this seem attainable right? I long for those quiet moments… I want them so badly.

But reality is different from pictures- and while everyone else on the planet is sipping their lattes'- I’m getting in a chapter here and a paragraph there (dictated wholly by feeding and napping times), coffee (if I have time to brew any at all!) is cold (with no milk because I probably forgot to get some), I’m still in my pajamas (so maybe I have that in common with the above scenario), and there is no less that at least two children who need my attention. Later that night as I tumble into bed at God-knows-what-time I try to finish up my devos, do a bit of journaling (if I’m really lucky!). My Bible is well-worn… but mostly from crayon pictures and coffee stains, its taped on three sides with medical tape… filled between the pages with an inordinate amount of my kids’s church drawings and doodles. My scenery consists of my bed usually, exhausted (sometimes pleasantly, sometimes not), and I may or may not be still in my pajamas (the truth hurts people.) Though I try for better, more often than not, this is what my Jesus-time looks like.

I want more. I want better. I want to spend better time with Him- better interaction, better conversation. But more often than not, it just isn’t there.

Later in the night, it’s a guarantee that one or more of the kids comes upstairs and nestles in next to me. I asked my oldest one night why he was coming up and in his sleepy voice he said, “Because I just want to be with you Mommy.”

And just like that… I got it.

I don’t care that he’s sweaty and (usually) stinky (as boy’s tend to perpetually be!), I don’t care that he’s sleepy, I don’t care that it’s the middle of the night, I don’t care that we aren’t talking.

I just love that he’s come to be with me. The time doesn’t matter, nor does the place, or even how long he stays (often he’ll make his little way back down to his own bed). No, it only matters that we were together for a bit, that he chose and wanted to be with me for awhile.

Ugh. I just love that.

I guess God’s the same. He doesn’t care when I spend time with Him- only that I do. He doesn’t care what I’m wearing or if I’ve showered. He won’t notice if my coffee is cold (or even if I have coffee). He’s not looking at the scenery that I am- He’s too busy looking at me. Just like I will take any time alone with my kids that I can get, He craves whatever time I can give Him. No questions asked. He’s just happy to be with me.

I’m not a hassle to God, my presence is heartwarming to Him. Conversely He is never a hassle to me, and I need to stop looking at it like that. He’s no more hassle to me than I am to Him.

And that, my friends, is a very heartwarming thing. Maybe I’m doing this daily-devo thing just right. It may not be what the pictures look like, but it certainly is mine and I’m offering what I can. Thank you Lord for meeting me where I am, how I am, and loving me for who I am.

Counting Joy

Joy is an odd thing. It’s hard to get my head around this feeling at times because, as we all know, feelings are fickle. As humans are feelings are almost wholly dictated by circumstances- by what is happening to or around us. We are happy when things go well, proud of accomplishments, sad with loss, frustrated with adversity, angry with injustice. Our feelings, for better or worse, usually depend on our surroundings.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James‬ ‭1:2-4‬ ‭ESV‬‬

And yet, in this passage, Janes tells us to take joy in trials. It’s an odd encouragement, and not a little contrary to our natural instincts.

“Count it joy”.... choose joy, find joy; our brother is telling us to determine our feelings through resolution in our minds.... not BECAUSE of our circumstances but in SPITE of them. We have to look around, take in the atmosphere and decide how we’re going to feel about it. We can stop feeling recklessly and start choosing how we feel. We don’t need to be victims of uncontrolled emotions.

Yes, we can count hard trials as unfair, be offended, angry, frustrated- that’s certainly the natural tendency of our flesh. God has set us apart for something better however; we can count it joy that God has chosen to place us within a situation where He has plans to grow us.

Dear ones, every situation that is less than ideal is an opportunity to choose joy. To determine in our minds, intentionally, to FEEL joyful- regardless of what is happening. Better yet... BECAUSE of the trial. If we are to believe in the truth that in our weakness He is made strong, then we must also acknowledge that during these hardships His purposes are to magnify Himself through us.

We can’t do that mad. We can’t do that upset. We can’t do that bitter or resentful. We can’t do that with unforgiveness.

We can’t do that if we’re not counting these trials as joy.

The best part about this is that our Heavenly Father meets us within the storm. “...do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." Nehemiah‬ ‭8:10‬ ‭ESV‬‬

And just like that, we have supernatural strength in the midst of the mess. Joy of our Lord glorifies Him and strengthens us as well. We only need to determine in our hearts to feel it- to know it. And by knowing Him, we can always know joy... no matter what.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans‬ ‭15:13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Dear ones may I leave you today with the dictionary’s definition of joy. Meditate on its wonderful implications when viewed through the lens of the Joy of the Lord.

1a : the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires : delight. b : the expression or exhibition of such emotion : gaiety. 
2 : a state of happiness or felicity : bliss. 
3 : a source or cause of delight. joy.

Lord, Please Kill Me!

Lately I’ve been walking through some really, really tough stuff with several dear friends of mine. I’ve heard all of them, sometimes repeatedly, cry out to God for death. Sometimes out of physical pain, sometimes out of emotional and mental anguish, but all the time out of coming to the end of themselves. Their screams to God are harsh to the ears and have been heavy on my heart. It is impossible to not cry alongside them in their pain, frustration, and confusion. More than I care to count have I sat within the midst of their ashes with them as we’ve sobbed out to Christ together.

The hurt is real. The cry is real too. These dear ones certainly want death. They are at the point that death seems the only answer.

What is crazy is that in every.single.one of these cases… God has answered them.

The Lord has, indeed, killed them.

I’ve seen it happen, right before me eyes. Their prayers were answered. They’ve died with me sitting right there next to them, sometimes in my arms.

Little by little, the pieces of themselves decayed and rotted away- putting to death all that was evil and sinful within them. God has crucified their flesh, burned away their sins, purified through fire and water their souls. These women certainly died… in every way one can die and still stay on this side of heaven.

These deaths have been REAL. They’ve been painful, they’ve been filled with screams, terror, blood, sweat, and tears. Great sadness and grief occurred. Loss was involved and identities changed. Death- of any kind- is always hard and it always hurts. It is never easy.

And yet each of these sisters is alive. To this day they have breath in their lungs and blood pulsing through their veins. They LIVE! Out of their anguish and prayers for death, God in His great mercy answered their prayers… and yet not in the way they were wanting or expecting… He answered better. He answered more completely. He killed them that they might finally live.

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galations 2:20 ESV

These women are new creations. Some are not even recognizable anymore because of how completely the Father has changed them. He radically killed them in order that they may live. What a savior! What answer to prayer!

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Romans 6:3-11 ESV

What a marvelous Savior we have. Only God could answer our prayers for death and bring life to us at the same time!

A Prayer for Fear

Lord, I fear so many things- pain, losing my children, the unknown, my future, the depravity and violence of this world. Money problems, marital fights, a sick friend... you name it, Father; in dark days, during hard times, I find myself fretting too much.

God I know you tell me in your Word not to fear. In fact You actually say “do not be afraid” 70 times. Over and over again You’ve laid out what not to be afraid of, who not to be afraid of.

And yet I do. I fear so much... too much.

Forgive me Father.

You have hedged me in, You lead me to quiet waters, You restore me. You know my comings and goings. You have the best plans laid out for me. I will remember Your faithfulness in my life better, the safety and security You give me. Help me to call to memory Your good works towards me. Help me to not fear the storms around me nor the arrows that fly at me.

Lord You have taught me a better way- a way of fearing that leads to righteousness. You have instructed me how to fear BETTER. You know I am prone to worry, anxiety, and trepidation so You’ve given me a safe place to put that fear in- in You. You desire me to fear You. How marvelous a thing! God You are so good to me, you don’t demand I not fear at all, rather you demand I learn to fear rightly, wisely, and You only. You give my fear a safe outlet. Teach me in this way Lord!

May I fear better! May I fear not the things or situations or people of this world. May I stand in awestruck wonder and amazement at Your Self- on my knees, hands open in surrender, eyes fixed on Your glory, and heart filled to the brim with reverent fear.

Amen

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” Proverbs 1:7 ESV

The Naked Truth

“I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.”
‭‭John‬ ‭17:15-19‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Truth and Lie meet one day. Lie says to the Truth, "It's a glorious day today!" Truth looks up to the skies suspicious of Lie's comment, but ultimately sighs... for the day was really beautiful.

They spend a lot of time together, Lie mimicking Truth's behavior and mannerisms. Lie was very much taken with Truth's garments, her countenance and grace. The two ultimately arrive beside a well. Lie tells Truth, "The water is very nice, let's take a bath!" Truth, once again suspicious, tests the water and discovers that it, indeed, is very nice. They undress and start bathing.

Suddenly Lie comes out of the water, puts on the clothes of Truth, and runs away. Alarmed and stunned, Truth comes out of the well and runs everywhere to find Lie and get her clothes back. Yet she cannot recover them, nor can she catch up with Lie- for Lie is quite fleeting and rapidly moves. Truth cannot stand the feel of Lie's clothing, they are old and rotted, unfit for the World's eyes. So Truth is left naked.

The World, seeing Truth naked, turns its gaze away with contempt and rage, rejecting her outright. No one comes to her aid because they don't like the discomfort of viewing her stark appearance or the irritation she brings by her presence. Truth is uncomfortable to the World. Poor Truth returns to the well and disappears from view, ashamed of her nakedness, cold and alone.

Since that long ago time, Lie travels around the world dressed as Truth, masquerading as light and rightness, morality, and integrity. And the world blindly accepts Lie as Truth. The World sees the outer appearance, dressed finely and attractively, unaware and careless of what actually lies beneath the clothing.

To this day Truth can be hard to find, she must be sought with intention, found with discretion, and recognized by her appearance. She is most often alone, sometimes afraid, but always in the Right. Her nakedness can be jarring for those who aren't prepared for it, but the beauty and quiet strength of naked Truth will always overcome the darkest of Lies. (Adapted from the legend of Truth and Falsehood.)

Dear ones, today I challenge you to look hard at your hearts and discern the lies that you have bought into. I pray that God would shine His light of Truth, uncomfortable is it may be to look at, on the facades that the Evil One would have you believe. Seek the Holy One through the appearances of mankind and look upon the face of what Truths are in your life. Look for Truth with intention and reject whatever facade of false ideas have taken root.

Today I want you all to step out in boldness and comment below with a lie that has entangled you and then replace that with Truth. Be bold and fearless!

"Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ." Colossians 2:6-8 ESV

Jean_Léon_Gerome_1896_La_Vérité_sortant_du_puits.jpeg

Truth Coming Out Of Her Well

1896 painting by the French artist Jean-Léon Gérôme.

Praying God's Names- A Prayer of Commitment

To finish off our Praying God's Names series... let us end with a renewed focus on all that our great Father is. We have learned and praised Him, begged Him, honored Him over this summer. Now let us commit to Him as never before!  

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That Beautiful Space Between

Over the years the Father has brought more ladies into our little group. Women once alone, alienated, isolated, abused, broken, sinful... you name it... women set apart, pulled apart, living apart.

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Praying God's Names- Jehovah Shammah

Jehovah Shammah The Lord is There

You, my Jehovah Shammah, are the I Am is There – but where is there? As I look to your word, You are revealed. The answer comes.

You are there in creation as you make everything from nothing. You are there in the garden with Adam & Eve. You are there in the Ark with Noah. You are there with Abraham in the Covenant you make with him. You are there with Sarah as she delivers Isaac, the child of promise. You are there with Moses as he leads the people from Egypt. You are there in the tabernacle in the desert. Your glory is visible to all. You are there with the judges who govern & guide. You are there with David, a man after your heart. You are there with the prophets as they warn of judgment. You treasure your people and the pain of their idolatry tears at your heart. You promise forgiveness if the people repent of their wickedness & idolatry and return to worship you. You are there in your temple in Jerusalem – and then you withdraw your presence from the earth. You keep silent for over 400 years.

But, you return!

You are there in Jesus as he walks among us, as he sacrifices himself for us, as he rises from the dead & ascends to heaven. You are there in the disciples and apostles as they spread the good news of life in Christ. You are there in me. Because I have faith and repent, you redeem me and I am yours. Your Holy Spirit lives within me. You are there at the last battle when Satan & all evil are defeated. You are there in the new heaven & new earth when we fellowship & worship face to face for all eternity.

Yes, you are Jehovah Shammah and you are Here.

By Karen Guthrie January 14, 2009

Praying God's Names- Jehovah Tsidkenu

Jehovah TsidkenuThe Lord Our Righteousness

The heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. But you, oh Lord, have kept your covenant with us. Sacrifices offered cannot change the heart or make us acceptable to you, only you can do that.

You saw our failure and sent judgment. You are Jehovah Tsidkenu and in you there is hope. In your name are righteousness and the promise of grace.

In your grace we receive a new heart. We can be right with you. We can be more than good. We can be made straight. We can be what you say is right and good. We can live according to your standard.

You write your law in our heart, our innermost being. You forgive our wickedness and forget our sin. You remove our heart of stone and turn us to you. You give us a new heart and your Spirit to live within us. You enable us to walk with you, to follow your statutes and obey your laws.

You, Our Righteousness, gather us to you. You attend to us. You give us wise and able spiritual leaders. You take away all fear. You give us Jesus, who is the Righteous Branch, our Messiah. He is wisdom and justice. He will reign on the throne of David as King forever.

Though Jesus was made sin for us, by believing in Him we are made righteous in your sight. We are given a heart not made of stone. We have a new master. We are cleansed by believing in Him. By receiving Jesus, we are made right with you.

The heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked but you are our Jehovah Tsidkenu, the Lord Our Righteousness.

By Karen Guthrie January 7, 2009

Praying God's Names- Jehovah Raah

He feeds me the bread of life. He gives me rest in Him. He leads me to quiet water so I may drink of Him until I thirst no more. He restores my soul. He guides me in righteousness. I follow His safe paths. His sheep am I.

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