And the Soul Felt It's Worth

Sitting in church this last Sunday we were singing the usual and expected Christmas carols. Having grown up in church I must admit that the majority of these beautiful classics I know well... most by heart even. However this last Sunday something struck me as we were singing Oh Holy Night. I confess though I know the words to this song, like so many other carols, I don’t KNOW the words like I ought.

Long lay the world
In sin and error pining 
til he appeared 
and the soul felt it’s worth.

This verse fell on my spirit like a rock. The idea of the hopelessness of the world’s sinful state before this Child, and the absolute reversal of humanity’s future fortunes with His arrival. Up to this point, the history of the world since the fall of Man had done nothing if not long for and desire... sin... destruction... its own doom. The world ached for it. As the carol laments, it pined for it.

And yet- He appeared! And the soul felt it’s worth!

What a line- that last piece. The soul of the world finally feeling it’s worth. Meditate on the meaning of these words- like Mary, heavy with expectation and promise, the soul of humanity which had known nothing but sin and error, death and decay- now beheld a glimpse of the promise of forever. The promised Messiah- come to give meaning, worth, and resolution to the aching world. That divine inspiration, supernaturally valued spirit, and treasured eternal spark within mankind was suddenly ignited into fire with this baby. What a marvelous thing!

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”
‭‭Zephaniah‬ ‭3:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Today dear ones take a minute to thank God for the hope that came with His Son. Christ came to give your soul worth- better yet, to give you meaning, to tell you that you matter, and to have you know that you are worth it. Jesus was born and was killed so that you may know how much you are loved and treasured. No matter what you’ve done. No matter who you are.

May this season awaken your soul to its worth under heaven and in eternity. Live as such dear ones! Walk as such! Love and be loved as such!

Living Intentionally Fearlessly Truthfully!
LIFT! and walk in your worth today!
~Bethany

(Oh Holy Night - lyrics Placide Cappeau ‘Minuit, Chretiens’ - music Adolphe Adam c. 1847)

Restless

What costly grace
That my life should be so transformed
Beyond that which is called comfortable!
My heart is so charged 
With a restlessness to serve You
And feel that rest
Which only laboring with You can give.
What consternation
That my life should be so full
And pressed about with demanding crowds!
My head is so challenged
With a restlessness to serve people
But not yet feeling that peace
Which comes from serving God and not man.
What confusion
That my life should be so harried
By priorities claiming my attention!
My heart is so consumed
By a restless passion for the needy
In conflict with the rest
That only the familiar bed can bring. What conflicting calls
That my life should be so circumscribed
By expectations exceeding any carnal capacities!
My compassion is so conscripted
By a multitude of hurting hearts
That restless distress wars with my weariness
Until I hear Your call to come away and rest.
What confounded chaos
That my life should so cease to be my own
In the household hubbub of castle values.
My heat of passion becomes constrained
By identifying with daily demands
Of restless childish things,
Until arrested by Your love.
What cacophony
That my puny life should be placed
So near the site of so much spiritual carnage!
My helmet still rings
From resistance to Darkness,
The Enemy of men's souls, When leading the weary to Your rest.
What cursed conformity
That my life should be so weak-willed
As to concede to the cowardly crowd!
My heart is so convoluted
In its denial and deceit, 
That restless pursuit of popular praise
Leaves me restless still.
What confident conquest
That my life should be so covenanted
As to be recaptured by Your power!
My holy hands become wholly Yours
As Sabbath rest and sacred yoke
Return me to the less traveled road,
The path of the Shepherd's rest.
What disquieting concentration
That my life should be suborned
By tortuous nostalgic caverns! My mind and heart restlessly cavort
In forests and fields of illusion
Until breathless they become captive
To the jealous Spirit of Truth.
What consummate conformity
That my life should be confronted
With "Babbler, Blasphemer, Beelzebub."
Such honor so fully Christ-like
Strikes me with mixed pleasure and peril
Until fruitful, flowing spiritual words
Attest to the Truth and rest His case.
What quiet counsel 
That my life should be thus counted
As discarded dung yet precious pearl!
My heavy heart is hardly cracked
From deep-set seeds of chapter and verse,
But, still, from it thrives the restless role
Of the servant, sinner, and saint.

Poem by my spiritual dad and mentor, David Heikkila ca. 1986

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.

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.

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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An Open Letter from God

Do not fear! I am with you. I love you and walk with you. I will never leave you. Situations and circumstances may change, but I will never change. Lean on me for strength... I will strengthen you for every task. For I go before you. I will not leave you. I know every desire of your heart. I want to be the  JOY of your life. I will satisfy your every need and desire in my perfect timing. I will anoint you. I will show you when to speak and when not to say a word. I love you. You are mine. The plans I have for you are great! Trust me. Every step you take I have already gone before you. Let my shoulder be the one you rest your head upon. Lean on me completely... Do not worry- just trust and pray. Tell me everything. I will guide you and give you wisdom. The things that frustrate you... Tell me and no one else. I will give you insight you need to find resolution. Know that I see you and haven't forgotten you... You are not alone. I am here, closer than you think... As close as your next breath. Do you really need me? Why do you wait so long to find me? Why do you run to others? Am I not faithful? I will be faithful to you... You must first look and want my faithfulness. I've placed you here for this time, this season, at this location. I know it's too much for you to do on your own... But I never intended you to do it on your own. Depend on me. I am here. Lean on me. I will do the work if you'll just be willing to let me. I want you to hear my voice as clearly as you hear me right now. I want to tell you things, but I need you to listen. I need you to find more time to be still before me. When you draw near to me- I will draw near to you... That's when you will hear and find me. You want to hear me... Are you listening? You want to see me... Where are you looking? You want to touch me... Are you reaching? You want to please me? Why do you look for others approval? Transition is coming and I have great plans for you. Yield to me and I will do great things through you and in each area you touch. Do not grow weary, but depend and lean on me. I love you and I am closest than you'll ever know. I know the burdens and worries in your heart. I'm taking care of them one at a time. I'm preparing you for what I've planned and my timing is perfect. You can trust me and put your guard down with me. I know what you really carry, let me carry it for you. Don't forget to dream. Continue to seek new visions, more creativity and ideas for what's ahead. I'm going to move and I am going to use you! I will give you favor and I will do mighty things. I've already started using you in ways you do not see! Trust me. Depend on me. Rest your head on my shoulders and I will carry you. I love you so deeply and I want you to remember that I am closer than you realize. I'm in your heart. I know your insides and outs... I know you deeply, but I want you to know me in the same ways. I love you,

Abba

 

(given to me with permission to share by anonymous)

For When You're Stuck

We returned recently from full-time, front-line mission work at Camp Barnabas and though it was an incredible summer I’ve been feeling stuck. Actually run over and then left to dry... in the rain... might be a better description. I’m just spent. Spent and stuck. Stuck and spent. Feeling like there’s nothing else to give and yet too much left over. Spiritually God knocked this summer out of the ballpark- and I got front row seats to His show. He even called me on stage a few times to participate. It was spectacular. People found Christ, dozens upon dozens were baptized, demons were exorcised, and people’s faith grew stronger and mightier. I couldn’t have asked for more. I felt as if I should be walking- no swaggering- out of camp with my head held high, my Bible worn through, my voice singing praises, and my cup overflowing. After all, it was all GodStuff right? And yet I’ve been stuck in this weird, post-victory void; one that both leaves me exhausted and yet feeling guilty that I’m not handling the celebratory victory very well. In fact I’m pretty much sucking at it.

Ugh.

I’ve been in need of some encouragement of late. I desperately needed to hear God tell me it was okay to feel this way, that He understood- even if my feelings are counter-intuitive to the situation- maybe especially because they don’t match the season.

And then I happened upon Elijah. After his epic spiritual victory over Jezebel’s priests in 1 Kings 19, we find him running, alone, hungry, tired, and afraid... spiritually Stuck. So much so he asks God to die right then and there (fortunately I’m not personally <there> but man I can relate!)

God met him right where he was- alone, discouraged, restless and yet exhausted...

“And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, "Arise and eat." And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, "Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you." And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.” 1 Kings‬ ‭19:5-8‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This struggling and depressed prophet, one of the mightiest in the Bible- rested. When Stuck, God sent sustenance. He gave him rest, He let him lie down, He fed him and gave him shade. His angel actually came a second time to revitalize him again.

I love that. I desperately needed to have permission to rest and be a bit overwhelmed at the past battles. God knows me... as He knew Elijah... as He knows you.

What a relief! What a thought! What grace!

Sometimes I have a tendency to struggle against my Stuck. I look around and I think I’m doing it wrong- and that pulls me down even further. And yet, there is grace even within the quagmire of being spiritually Stuck- whether it be metaphorical or physical- God allows His servants rest, rejuvenation, and revitalization.

So, dear one, if you’re feeling Stuck, take heart and know you’re not alone. Jeremiah encourages us, even in the Stuck, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for 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 ‭40:28-31‬

End of An Era

My first-born, who started Kindergarten this year, informed me earlier this month that he had twenty days left of school. I was caught off-guard since we were still solidly in April… and, let’s face it, I birthed him last week. Or at least it feels that way. Ugh! It continually amazes me how quickly time flies. I look back at the many years before we had kids and wonder (not rarely) what the heck did I do with all that time!? I know it felt busy during that season, but knowing what I know now… I literally could’ve established world peace with all that time sans kids… But I digress…

My son will soon be in first-grade and in my mind, into legit, big-kids school. (I realize this actually occurred this current year... but #denial) It’s the end of an era. A short-lived one, but one all the same. He is super excited, and my momma heart celebrates along with him. May has hit!

I’m coming to notice more and more that May is quickly becoming the busiest time of year for almost everyone. Forget Christmas or the beginning of school… no, May has got the lock on extreme scheduling. It marks the end of so many things for people. Whether it be sports tournaments, end-of-the-year choir or music concerts, church classes coming to a close, graduation… you get the idea. May is the quintessential month of ‘ends’. It is always a bittersweet time as we put a period at the end of the chapter and turn over the page into a new season, a new pace of life, a new job, a new school or grade.

Like parents bemoaning their littles growing too fast, or graduates bemoaning their entry into the #adulting world… we all meet change with just a little trepidation and bewilderment. Excitement usually, fear commonly, and a healthy dose of faith always. The end of eras always causes a bit of self-reflection- looking back and what we woulda, coulda, shoulda while looking forward to lots of maybes, hopefuls, fingers-crossed, and unknowns.

Depending on what your view backwards looks like, I would imagine that most of us have our fair share of self-improvement ideas. Whether we have a short list or an entire Encyclopedia Britannica’s worth of corrections... know this- God’s got a new thing going for you. If this era has been too dark, too hard, filled with regret and shame, please know that God can turn this new season into something wonderful and promising. He can turn your dark and ugly into light and beautiful. You do not have to carry your guilt with you. Our heavenly Father loves to put His divine period at the end of an era and start another season full of His promises, hope, supernatural revelation, and anointing. While we may not just love to jump into the new and uncomfortable, God thrives in it. And He will cause us to thrive in it as well.

Romans 8:28 ESV promises, “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”

Be of good cheer as we turn over the calendar this month into what will be many ‘ends’. God is gearing up to do a new thing for you!

“Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.” Isaiah 42:9

Testify

It has been on my heart of late the importance of our testimony. Everyone who is in Christ has one, we know our own stories like the back of our hands... and yet so often we hesitate to share the story of our salvation. Scripture implores us to share our faith. If we know nothing else, no scripture, no verses, no words of wisdom... we still know our own Jesus right? Our testimony is our story- it's our own, personal love story with the Creator. We don't need to be theologians to tell it. We don't need to have massive amounts of scripture memorized to throw at people. We need only the guts to open our mouths and tell it.

Our testimony is one of God's most potent weapons against the enemy. Wielded through the mouths of the ones who lived these salvations, our testimony cannot be stopped. Revelations 12:11 says the word of our testimony conquers Satan himself! It is such an easy yet mighty tool in our arsenal for the kingdom. And yet, still... we do not use it as much as we should. Why?

Shame.

How often, even those of us who are walking in freedom, grace, and mercy hesitate to share what God has done because of the shame that our past still holds over us. Satan just loves to keep us living in the past right? And if it's not shame for what we've done... it's shame for what we didn't do. Anyone out there feel like their testimony isn't worth sharing because it's just not juicy enough? It's not littered with drugs or affairs, abuse or porn... so it's just not worth sharing?

Satan'll take our closed mouths either way. He'll convince us our past is too dark to share or too light to share. I would ask you today, do you view your own testimony through the lens of shame or the lens of victory? What's keeping your mouth shut?

"For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power, love, and self-control. So do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, or of me, His prisoner. Instead, join me in suffering for the gospel by the power of God. He has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not because of our own works, but by His own purpose and by the grace He granted us in Christ Jesus before time eternal. And now He has revealed this grace through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has abolished death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the gospel, to which I was appointed a preacher, apostle, and teacher.For this reason, even though I suffer as I do, I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day." 2 Timothy 1:6-12 ESV

We have to open our mouths dear ones! We have to share the salvation of Christ in our lives! We don't need a degree, we don't need a long story, we don't need to be saved x-number of months, we don't need to be a speaker, we don't need a juicy story. All we need is to tell what Jesus has done for us. Good, bad, or ugly. Like the woman at the well. Having been saved a hot-minute, she spoke the only testimony she had, which was a whopping eight words. That's it!

"Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, 'He told me all that I ever did.' So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, 'It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.'" John 4: 39-42 ESV

Our testimony is God's tool to use through us. All it needs to do is point people back to Him. He'll take care of the rest. So let us walk unashamed in the salvation He's provided and proclaim it from the rooftops. Whether it's X-rated or a very mild G, all are important, all need spoken... there IS someone who needs to hear yours today. Be brave, be bold, and speak up! Testify!

If you haven't read mine, please do here. I'd you to hear my story and learn about my Jesus!