Praying For Those That Persecute You

“A heart that does not aim at its enemy_s eternal joy is not the full-orbed love that Jesus demands.”Absolute carnage – we see it on the television screens almost daily. Blood shed at the hands of evil-filled humans, who methodically plot to kill, destroy lives and wreck the hearts of families in a million pieces.

Flashing body tolls on the news tickers – shake our cores. With every new body count our souls grow heavy like a kettle ball. We think of the scene of terror – the thumping palpitations of the hearts exposed to such wicked acts.

What fuels such anger and malice? What motivates the hearts of man to carry out such violent deeds? Has the serpent ravaged this world to the point of no return?

We, as Christians, pray fervently: LORD, let your light shine in the darkness. May your love transform this wild hate!

Yet, the terror seems to intensify – and we find ourselves like King David crying out (like in the Psalms) in deep, dark desperation.

We say,

How long, LORD, will the wicked, how long will the wicked be jubilant? (Psalm 94:3)

Faced with death tolls rising – it’s easy to lose heart. I find myself asking questions, feeling defeated and utterly broken when it appears that evil is prevailing. Lives – young and old – lost at the hands of hate are such a tragedy.

I cry to the LORD, “didn’t you tell us that you overcame the world?” and I tend to forget the portion of the scripture that tells us – “in this world you will have tribulation.”

He has told us – no, assured us – there will be dark days.


When reflecting on so many terrorist attacks across the nation (most recently in Barcelona, Spain) the words of Jesus instructing us to “love our enemies and pray for those who persecute you” flashes across my mind. (Matthew 5)

To be honest – this verse stings my heart as I think: Have I adequately been on my knees crying out for those that seek such destruction? Why let my heart feel defeated when I have not spent time in my war room claiming the lives, controlled by the evil one, for Christ!

Instead of feeling lost in such heartbreak and mayhem, as a Christian, I need to do what Christ has called all believers to do – pray for those who persecute you and persecute others.

Honestly, this is a tall order. Yet, as John Piper so eloquently wrote,

“A heart that does not aim at its enemy’s eternal joy is not the full-orbed love that Jesus demands.”

If you feel compelled to – please join with me in praying for those that seek carnage:

Father,


You are the redeemer of souls. You can turn a heart of stone into a pumping, soft vessel. Today, I pray for my enemies, the ones that would seek my destruction simply for loving you and the sacrifice you made for us. Speak to their hearts, LORD. Show them your true glory! You liberate those who are captive to sin and under control of the evil one. So, I pray today loose the chains of those harboring ill will toward anyone who stands contrary to their outlook on life. Hold their hearts in your nailed-scared hands. Reveal to them the love you displayed on the cross and the true joy that can be found in you! Wherever in the world they may be – appear to them in dreams, visions through the actions of others – so that they may know the true way in which to walk!


In Jesus’ Name – Amen.

He Captures My Heart With Lines of Love

woman poetry

Words – His are beautiful. I gawk at the prose. These sentences are the only ones truly that can send chills down my spine and empower my footsteps. He captures my heart with lines of love, and once I digest his manuscript, I will never be the same.

It alters me – for the better. My complexion is clearer, eyes brighter and my mind fully aware of the riches rooted in such a Miracle Maker. You’ve heard it said time and time again – the Bible is God’s love letter written just for you! And how silly not to open a love letter and take in the beautiful text that tells you of its steadfast love for you.

The start of the chapter of John in the Bible is simply stunning. It states,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.” – John 1:1-4

God is the Word. Let’s think on that for a moment. He is the Word – how powerful. By taking in his breathed lexis – we are getting to know him, his person, completely. How amazing that God has served as scribe and is holding out his love to both you and me. This should set a fire in our bellies and the sense of affection should permeate our bodies like a brewing blend of loose leaf teas.

The longer the tea bag sits in the cup, the stronger the tea. The more God’s word saturates our minds, the clearer our grasp on what’s important to Him and the stronger our prayers. – Joni Eareckson Tada

The more I read of my Redeemer’s goodness – the bigger sense of affection for him seizes my spirit. My whole soul is held captive by his glorious nature; but, this captive is not imprisoned in the worldly sense. She does not wear stripes and sit in chains. She is made free in him – because God is life. She is given wings and a new celebrated name – Child of God, Crown of Splendor, Beloved Daughter, His Workmanship…

I want to delve into the richness of my Savior’s Words – much like I would study my favorite author’s quotes and manuscripts. God, the Father, is the divine author of life and salvation. He is the reason for my waking breath in the first hours of sunrise. He is the cause of my humble strides on concrete streets.

How glorious the poetry of the King! May his truths take root in our hearts and minds; and, may a desire to absorb his faithful, freeing Word pervade our lives!

For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ – Acts 17:28

Joy – The Kind That Slaps You in The Face

joy slappingJoy – the kind that slaps you in the face with its wet, cool goodness on a steamy summer day. Lapping up the earthy stream from the water hose, I want this joy to infuse my being with nourishment and rejuvenating relief.

He stills my spirit and waters my weary heart. Like a child that cannot wait one second to plunge into the deep blue pool, I want to drive into the joy of the Lord. Discarding the life preservers on the side of the concrete oasis, I will trust in Him – to protect, defend and enable me in depths of life.

“The joy of the Lord is your strength.”—Nehemiah 8:10.

He fills our hearts with not just gladness – but complete delight. That is the kind of joy I want to feel. The sensation that encapsulates the deepest happiness and comprises the guttural laughs of relatives reliving precious memories late into the night!

“You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.” – Psalm 4:7

True pure pleasure comes in the presence of Christ. The pleasure that you felt as a child, running soaking wet through the sprinklers in the lawn! That fresh cut grass sticking to your toes and calves – clinging onto your body as you run from tree to tree.

May your goodness and joy cling hold of my life today and always, God! Cover me with your brilliant blooms of new life and enliven my spirit. I don’t want to splash in the warm puddles, heated by your favor and blessings; I want to dive headfirst into the wonder and majesty of you.

As I enter into your beautiful presence, fill me with your complete joy.

A Cloud in the Canvas of Your Masterpiece

cloudA brush of a cheek, silence and sheer emotion; I feel you near to me, God. Crouched in a corner of dust with frayed dress sweeping up the speckles of soil and sustenance that coats the wooden floorboard, I gaze into your eyes that lock with mine.

The pools of color entrance me. They are like vortexes of pastels and hues of flashing lights. I cower in the beauty of your complexion. You are an exquisite painting. My grubby hands are longing to touch the texture of you, sweet Savior and learn the technique of your grace.

You are the master painter, and I – the muse. Teach me Lord – the wonder and elegance of your art. I am a novice desiring to stand in the shadow on your cloak of swirled colors. Touch me with your brush strokes of genius that I might learn the mercy and splendor of surrender and self-sacrifice.

The waters saw You, O God; The waters saw You, they were in anguish; The deeps also trembled. The clouds poured out water; The skies gave forth a sound; Your arrows flashed here and there. The sound of Your thunder was in the whirlwind; The lightnings lit up the world; The earth trembled and shook. – Psalm 77: 16-18

Comb my hair with the gloss of your glory. May I look to you and be able to fix my eyes on your absolute grandeur and grace.  For I desire to paint with your vision of the horizon.

Oranges, pinks and purples – may I outline my future in only the holiness of your glow. Savior, cover me in the sunrise of your blessing and the sunset of your righteousness. Flinching my eyes, I feel the warmth of that love.

I’m bathed in the sunshine of your loving-kindness. To be a cloud in the great canvas of your masterpiece, I call out to the Maker of All.

Mold me, use me – I want to be a star flickering and fuming your radiant light.

Splashing in Pools with Gravel Bottoms

pool

How vain to think this swirling world is destiny. How shallow to dress in wrinkled velvet made by men and twirl in a crown fashioned from the dust. We place trust in riches buried inside mountains wide and deep; yet, scorn the heavens and doubt the sun that lights the sky.

We hope in freckled flesh and splash in pools with gravel bottoms. All while the ocean is moaning in the distance and calling for precious feet to touch the saline water caps. The supreme wind is echoing, “Come.” (Matthew 14:29)

Eternity – we miss it when our eyes are seeking cracked plastic toys. Why do we reach for the broken and discarded treasures buried in the soil cemetery of the backyard –when new life is extended in love marred hands?

We must cling on to the new birth and hold the sapling ready to bloom in the breeze. This ripe green plant awakens our senses and weaves into the crevices of our parched and parceled souls. It’s a gift, and we’ll miss it if we continue to be captivated by light bulb clad beauty – dangling on city streets.  Those light bulbs pop, char and fizzle out.  They will never endlessly illuminate.

Forever. Don’t you feel the arms of forever hovering over your life? We must be still and listen in the night.  In the quiet – you will hear him. He will sing with gentle tones and wrap you in the dust of the brilliant shooting stars.

He whispers, ‘I loved you at your darkest (Romans 5:8). I have chosen you and have not turned away from you. Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will give you strength, and for sure I will help you. Yes, I will hold you up with My right hand that is right and good.’ (Isaiah 41: 9,10)

Won’t you blanket our sleeping bodies with your ironclad armor polished by the celestial! May my spirit take flight in the scent of your goodness. Pervade my body, Most High. I kneel before you,  and in doing so – find myself on the marble floors of your throne room.

Carrying The King of Kings

donkeyToday I cannot help but dwell on that dirty, young donkey that our Savior rode through the streets of Jerusalem. That clueless donkey was a conduit for and carried our Price of Peace through the crowded streets.

What a beautifully unique picture of grace and humility.

Vibrant green palm leaves under the donkey’s feet, he trotted along with a rider of the deepest mercy and grace.

Wonder if this little animal held his head up high? Do you think his hooves made a louder clanking sound carrying the Christ?

They brought the donkey and the colt to him and threw their garments over the colt, and he sat on it. Matthew 21: 7

Thinking on this donkey, I am bit envious of him. The Lord rode upon his back! Talk about a grand mission in life. I wonder if he was born for that reason – to carry the King of Kings! He was birthed for such an awesome mission. Can you imagine the cries in the streets and the joyous faces in the crowds! To think – this little colt was a part of showing off the Savior and Redeemer of the world. How magnificent.

You know, we are all like little donkeys in this world. Christ has given us his Holy Spirit and light. If we believe in him, this illumination is within our hearts. Therefore, just like the donkey, we carry the Lord of Lords.

No, we cannot feel his physical weight on our backs; but we can feel his goodness and kindness inside our hearts. After all, God has told us that we are the ‘light of the world.’And, he has given us the better deal – he carries our burdens and makes our loads light.

Let us trot ahead and hold our heads high – we carry the truest Light of Life within us. Hosanna in the Highest.

Book Review: Bittersweet – Shauna Niequist

bittersweetI have wanted to read this book for quite some time, and I finally got the opportunity to do so on a long plane ride to Texas over the weekend.

This book kept me company, along with my cute tumbler of Southwest airlines hot tea.

The cover was the first thing that drew me to this book. The vivid picture of a chocolate surround by sky blue was enticing to say the least. Yet, the fervent summary caught my attention as well.

The author writes, ‘Bittersweet is the idea that in all things there is both something broken and something beautiful, that there is a moment of lightness on even the darkest of nights, a shadow of hope in every heartbreak, and that rejoicing is no less rich even when it contains a splinter of sadness.’

This book reads more like a journal – every few pages, a new story would emerge. However, each story fit together like a brilliant, cozy patchwork quilt. It’s definitely the kind of blanket that hugs you and keeps you warm on those snow days.

Niequist is open and honest with her readers touching on topics like loneliness, miscarriage and the feeling of being broken and hopeless.

Though she talks about motherhood quite a bit in this book, it’s not just for new moms. All you single ladies will read and enjoy ‘Bittersweet’ as well.

Friendship is also a central theme. She loves to host parties and her love of wholesome food, laughter and camaraderie is weaved throughout the pages.

I love that she offers her readers hope in her beautiful book. She truly hits on the topic that ‘We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair.” {2 Corinthians 4:8}.

God is in control and he makes his children, cracked pots, into beautiful serving plates full of an abundance of fruit. We are patched up cisterns full of wine and the Lord’s goodness.

Thanks Shauna for this heartwarming, honest and poignant book.

Check out the author’s additional books, here.

Don’t Look Back. You’re Not Going That Way.

ImageThe past haunts many, many people. We dwell in it. We hide ourselves in that murky outhouse of regret and breathe in past mistakes.

If you are anything like me, you circle back through right and wrong choices and try to play them out differently in your head. Rectifying the problem in your mind; but, somehow, bearing that guilt and apprehension in your heart.

Let’s remember – we are flesh vessels. We are tangible clay pots that can break and crumble in the elements of this world. Dry winds beat on our frame and freezing rain encompasses us with its ice tentacles. It is natural to feel despair when our flesh wins out.

However, dear heart, it is unhealthy to dwell in past mistakes and regrets. This actually holds back your effectiveness. Don’t let tears be your food, like the Psalmist in Psalm 42:3.

We are told to – ‘forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead!’ {Philippians 3: 13-14}.

Today is a new day – it’s a new day to strive to be like Christ and sprint toward the goal in the shining distance. Don’t look back. I think of Lot’s wife in this situation.

She and her family were living in one of the most sinful cities – and God gave them a chance to get out. Yet, there was one stipulation. They were told to ‘flee for your lives! Don’t look back…’ {Genesis 19:16}. And, as the story goes, Lot’s wife looked back and became a pillar of salt.

Of course, it is important to learn from our mistakes. We all make them – and there should be some learning involved there. But, it is detrimental to live in those mistakes. In Christ, you are not defeated – and you carry within you the light of him.

Forget what is behind you and press on in his loving kindness. Jesus came to save the sinners and the lost, and sin is not pretty. Paul, one of the most influential for Christ, had a past filled with regret and guilt. Yet, he pressed forward and lived in the Spirit of the Living God.

Jesus came for redemption. He died to give life to sinners great and small. Walk forward and don’t look back. Flesh might hinder us – but it should not hold us back from walking forward on the trail blazed for us by Christ Jesus!

He says to me, “This is the way –walk in it.”

wing girlLord – you make the stars. And, I stand in awe every night looking up to the sky. Hands raised, I release my life to you. I’ve said it from the beginning – Father of Love, you can have me. I need direction and clarity Lord.

I see your shining light in the distance and everything within me wants to race to that light. It’s my utmost desire that your beams of warmth and radiance touch my skin. I want to glow with your Light of Love. Not my will – but yours Lord. Not my way – but yours.

I am a clay vessel, prone to mistakes and cracks. But, God – I crave to be a cistern of your holy water. Your goodness –fills up my life like the abundant bread you fed the five thousand. You keep giving and giving your goodness. And, Lord, I will continue to receive all you have to give me. I am overjoyed to breathe in your blessings.

I long to repay you in some way – for this overabundance! But, you hold my head in your hands and say, Daughter, I’ve already paid for you in full. Just walk in my truth. Love others. Love me.

Who is this Giver of such good things?

Does he not see my faults and flaws? Does he not see me stumble, fall and struggle?

Yet He says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9) He makes his daughter – strong and able. He lights a fire in my soul. And, I will stand for truth, even if it’s fading in this world like embers after a Christmas fire.

His wind of provision coats my tongue. And, I will speak though my voice shakes. For truth cannot sit idly by –it is meant to be exemplified! The banner of the Lord will go before me (Deut 31:8). He’s promised this. I want to dance in the parade of His endless direction.

He says to me, “This is the way –walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:12) May I be able to recognize his beautiful voice and follow my Life Leader into the garden of His endless grace!

my heart to yours

Christmas is Completely Empty Without Christ

Image

One of the most powerful images – of the true meaning of Christmas.

Christmas is Completely Empty Without Christ. This phrase hit me like a ton of bricks this morning. It literally just popped in my head, while listening happily to Christmas music and straightening my hair. The idiom weighed on my mind like a profound thought.

Yet, it’s really not all that profound.

Christ’s name is in the word – Christmas; however, we {and I am including all Christians here} have really commercialized this holiday.

The great present chase consumes our weekends. Getting to and from family homes is scheduled and fretted over {esp on icy roads and if across the country}. We decorate our homes from top to bottom in flashing lights and make sure the stockings are ready for that overnight candy drop.

We drive around neighborhoods and look at illuminated houses adorned with dancing snowmen. We sip on hot cocoa and laugh in fellowship or lace up those skates for a lap around the frozen rink. We think of Frank Sinatra, Michael Buble or Harry Connick Jr. Christmas songs and swoon over their voices.

But, where is Christ in all this hustle, bustle and fun? We sings carols of “the holiday season,” but forsake or just ignore the true meaning of why we give gifts to each other and travel light-years to be with our families on this one special day.

I know its cliché – and especially if you grew up in church; but, “you can’t spell Christmas without Christ.” That’s a song I used to sing as a little one. Somehow it was easier for me to digest this at a young age – and now, harder as an adult. Responsibilities consume us as adults – and we get lost in the all consuming checklist: work, travel, gifts – check.

But, I don’t want to lose sight of the baby that was sent to this world to die for me. We sing ‘O Holy Night’ – but, what a holy night it truly was! God entered this world as flesh and blood – and it was all for us. It meant redemption, forgiveness and relationship. We can’t place those gifts under a Christmas tree.

How loving – Jesus is the ultimate gift; yet, his birth was a gift to us. His first breath outside of Mary’s womb was the greatest gift. He gave us a gift on his birthday. Our Christ was born with a purpose, and that purpose was to save the souls of men and women.

I pray we look at our Nativity scenes with new eyes this Christmas. I pray we don’t buy into all this holiday politically correct mumbo jumbo. Christmas is not just a holiday – it the day our lives changed forever. It’s more than a little celebration of great cheer, where you roast chestnuts and drink that warm cider.

Christmas is a life altering date. It is the day that our Savior chose to be born into this world – to begin his ultimate mission – all for love. Let’s not forsake such a beautiful sacrifice. Let’s not get lost in candy cane gifts. December 25th means painful death. It means glorious life – and the greatest of all eternity with our Lord and Savior. Amen.

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  – Philippians 2: 9-11