Thursday, October 29, 2009

Let the Waters Rise

I love this song!

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name. You are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you."
Isaiah 43:1,2


Ana Maria is an 11 year-old Colombian girl living in Bogota with her father, her step-mother and family.

A few days ago, my mother shared Ana Maria's story with me which she heard from a concerned neighbor.

This little girl lost her mother when she was only four years old. Her dad later remarried another woman with several children. The step-mother has made Ana Maria's life a living hell.

In Bogota, the houses are built very close together. You can often hear what happens on the other side of your neighbor's walls, especially if it's loud. Every house has a back patio separated from the neighbors by a cement wall. So much of what goes on in Ana Maria's house is overheard by the neighbors.

From sunrise until late into the night, Ana Maria is forced to work like a slave, cooking, cleaning, doing all the household work with her step-mother yelling at her all day long. She was removed from school earlier this summer and kept home to work. Sometimes the neighbors hear the sounds of violence and fear that Ana Maria is being beaten.

There have been times the family has left the little girl alone in the house without food. The neighbors have called to her over the patio wall, offering to take her food. But she was too afraid to accept, fearing the family would return and find her eating.

The neighbors on both sides have called the police several times as well as the Colombian version of child protective services. But when they arrived, the family was able to hide any evidence of abuse. So nothing has been done to help Ana Maria and she remains trapped.

Please pray for this little Cinderella that God will rescue her. My mother has a contact at the Colombian child protective services that she hopes will be able to do something. Pray that God will open doors quickly and get Ana Maria into a safe place, and that justice will be done.

"He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes who were too strong for me.

He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me." Psalm 18:16,17,19

Monday, October 26, 2009

Looking Up

We are so small.

And yet so precious and deeply loved.

These problems and challenges that swirl around our lives loom huge and threatening.

Yet it is all an illusion.

They are merely a wisp of smoke, easily blown away by the breath of God.

But the waiting for that is the hard part. Because in the waiting, we can lose vision, lose heart and lose hope.

Sometimes all that is needed is to look up.

For me, giving thanks helps fix my gaze on the One who is sovereign over all. The One who conquered death and conquers death in all areas of my life.

Thanking Him for these gifts:

  • being abandoned - because now I know the One who is always with me and will never leave me nor forsake me
  • being rejected - because now I know what it feels like to be wanted and accepted for who I am
  • being unloved - because now I know the Love that never fails
  • being accused - because now I know my Shield and Defender, the One who speaks on my behalf
  • being poor - because now I know my Provider who supplies all my needs
  • being misunderstood - because now I know the One who truly gets me and delights in me
  • being heartbroken - because a broken heart placed in the hands of Jesus is healed and becomes strong and able to love with freedom and courage
  • being betrayed - because now I know the Faithful One who has earned my trust
Sometimes God's greatest gifts come in unexpected ways.

"The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD's bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor." Isaiah 61:1-3

holy experience

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Falling Forward

As mothers, we worry about our kids. We worry that they will have all they need, that we are raising them well, that their hearts are being cared for, that they are learning to love God and follow Him. The list can go on and on.

It's tough being a parent. It's even tougher trying to do it on your own. Sometimes my heart just aches for my kids and what they're going through. I want so badly to kiss it and make it all better. But some things are too big for that.

There are days (like today) when I do it all wrong. When, despite good intentions, I just plain fall flat on my face. When I end up looking my kids in the eye and admitting I blew it and I'm sorry. They are always so gracious and forgiving.

But it weighs on me, my failures as a mom. It's disheartening to see myself adding to the pain and frustration, instead of alleviating it. Dropping off my kids at school, I drove home feeling discouraged and low. I could hear the Accuser coming in with criticism and judgment. Sometimes I listen and take those thoughts to heart (which doesn't help at all.)

But this morning, I asked my Father what He has to say. He said I tend to look at things close up, isolating each incident and making a judgment from that. I'm like a child, learning to walk and getting discouraged because I fall down. But He looks at things differently, from a long-range perspective. He isn't alarmed when I blow it from time to time. He sees my heart and He sees where He's taking me. He knows how He will use even my failures to accomplish His work in me and in my kids. He's not afraid of my weakness, because His strength is made perfect in weakness.

In grace, it's okay to trip and fall. Because in grace, when you fall, you fall forward.

"He tends his flock like a shepherd. He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young." Isaiah 40:11

Monday, October 19, 2009

In the wild

For several weeks now, the weather has been unseasonably hot. But this past weekend, things cooled down finally and Saturday was simply gorgeous. My kids and I drove out to a nearby state park to spend the afternoon enjoying nature.

It was a perfect day for a hike.

We were trying to be serious hikers,
but kept getting sidetracked with all the natural beauty around us.

We encountered a little more adventure than we anticipated.
This was the snake I stepped on.

Yeah, I stepped on a snake. (!!!!!) My daughter and I were walking along together, looking around, when suddenly she yelled, "Snake!" It was too late, I was already stepping on it. Miraculously, I stepped on its head. I jumped back and there it was in the middle of the trail, looking a little stunned. We backed away and took some photos. The snake lay there, poised to strike. We edged past it and headed back to the trail head where we discovered that it was most likely a pygmy rattlesnake -- not deadly, but certainly venomous.

About an hour later, it started to sink in that I STEPPED ON A RATTLESNAKE! I am so thankful for God's protection!

Reminds me of His promises, "If you make the Most High your dwelling -- even the LORD, who is my refuge -- then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. . . you will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent." Psalm 91:9-13.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Morning Glory

The days have been fun, busy, fast-paced, filled with activity -- reconnecting, creating, organizing, running from place to place.
In the midst of the whirl, God and I have had only brief snatches of time together -- a glance here, a handclasp there, a hurried whisper on my way out the door.

The growing emptiness inside is a signal to me of my hunger for Him. It's time to shut out the world, set aside my to-do list, put on some soft music, lean back in my favorite chair and simply be with Him.

This glorious intimacy -- my heart's desperate need.

In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. Psalm 5:3

O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. Psalm 63:1

"Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10

This is what the LORD says -- your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; "I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go." Isaiah 48:17

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30

In the light of His gaze, I pour out my heart. Every worry, anxiety, longing, hurt, fear, insecurity is laid down. When my hands are empty, I sit in silence and wait. Peace comes in from the edges, imperceptibly filling my heart, relaxing my body, quieting my mind.

He speaks, and the words of Life sink deep, quenching thirst, satisfying hunger. This Love that gives without measure, lavishly, with no expectations. He undoes me with one glance, one word, one touch. In His unseen embrace, I have all that I need for today.

Who is this coming up from the desert leaning on her Beloved?
Song of Songs 8:5

holy experience

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

This Grace

Grace comes in unexpectedly.

When my heart is shrinking in shame at my own inability to do what I know is right, grace comes in and lifts my head to gaze into the eyes of perfect Love. Grace invites me to live in beauty, freely given without reserve.

When my heart is fiery, full of righteous indignation at the injustice of others, ready to rush in where angels fear to tread, grace is a cooling mist, quieting the flames and reminding me I don't know the whole story. Grace invites me to live in compassion and understanding.

When my heart is cold and hard, self-protective, building walls against continuous hurt and rejection, grace wraps warm arms around me, melting my frozen spirit with unconditional acceptance. Grace invites me to be myself and live delighted in.

When my heart is wary and afraid, mistrustful of motives, withdrawing in fearful isolation, grace walks in with coffee and cookies, sharing openhearted laughter and the joy of being known. Grace invites me to live in safety and intimacy.

Grace comes in offering freedom
to live,
to forgive,
to love deep,
to embrace an enemy,
to be known,
to hope,
to come home.

This amazing grace.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Find Your Strongest Life by Marcus Buckingham

I recently signed up to review books for Thomas Nelson Publishers. I'm loving it! They send you free books as long as you promise to write a review. How much easier could it be?

Anyway, I just finished reading "Find Your Strongest Life" by Marcus Buckingham. Marcus is a best-selling author and the founder of TMBC, a management consulting firm that helps leaders and managers capitalize on the strengths of their people. His mission is "to help each person identify her strengths, take them seriously, and offer them to the world."

Isn't that such a cool mission statement? Makes you want to sit down over coffee and let Marcus help you out. Which is exactly what he does in this book.

I've read lots of self-help books about discovering your passion, finding your purpose and analyzing your personality. But Marcus takes a very different approach in that he focuses on our individual strengths and how we use them in our lives. Included in the book is an invitation to take his online Strong Life test, which helps you discover the Lead Role you play in life -- the role in which you feel most authentic, in control and effective. These roles are identified as Advisor, Caretaker, Creator, Equalizer, Influencer, Motivator, Pioneer, Teacher and Weaver.

I took the test and discovered that my Lead Role is Creator. My results surprised me until I read the description of these roles. A Creator begins by asking "What do I understand?" As Marcus states, "For a Creator, there's nothing quite as thrilling as finding a pattern beneath life's craziness, a core concept that can explain why things play out the way they do, or better yet, predict how things are going to play out. You are a thoughtful person, someone who needs time alone to mull and muse and percolate." This is me exactly!

Another intriguing concept I learned from Marcus is that our performance is not the same thing as a strength. As he puts it, "your strengths are not what you are good at, and your weaknesses are not what you are bad at. Think about it for a minute. Don't you have some activities in your life at which you are extremely proficient, but which bore you to tears?" He defines a strength as an activity that makes you feel strong and doing it invigorates you. It's something that you look forward to doing and when you are finished, you feel authentic, connected to the best parts of who you really are.

After helping to identify your strengths, Marcus gives you some very practical guidance on what to do next and how to implement this information to make life changes. He also addresses how to have a stronger career, stronger relationships and stronger kids. I found his suggestions very insightful and helpful, giving me new ideas to consider.

On the whole, this was a very thought-provoking book and one in which I will read again to mull, muse and percolate over. I highly recommend it!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sunday blessings

It's been a good weekend and I'm thankful.

Loving these gifts:
  • cinnamon french toast on Saturday morning (prepared by a talented young chef)
  • snuggling with my kids watching "Fiddler on the Roof"
  • orange juice and lots of it!
  • restored energy and health for three weary bodies
  • Sunday afternoon naps
  • shooting hoops in the driveway with my son
  • brown-eyed girl dancing with joy
  • good news from faraway places
  • the smell of freshly mown grass
  • faith given freely when I've run dry
May the Lord show the goodness of His heart to each of us this coming week!

"You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God and I will exalt you."
Psalm 118:28