Thanksgiving Table

Colorful maple leaves on wooden  table.Falling leaves natural ba

It had been a rough couple of days.  I was assaulted by thoughts, enemy thoughts that kept coming against me.  I was battle weary.  I felt confused and lost.  And got down on my knees to pray.  As I began confessing all my oppressive thoughts, I felt a strong command to my heart, “Remember the great table of the Lord.”  Oh yes, I thought, “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies” Psalm 23.  What is at this table of the Lord?  Truths.  Truths that when taken up and taken in, fortify us for the fight within.  These are not “visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads,” but correct thoughts of who God is.

I remember my grandmother’s table and a special meal served at her house.  It was a feast worthy of exclamation.  Fruit was fizzling in purple goblets and mere pats of butter had been shaped like roses.  As each dish was carried out of the kitchen and placed on the table, everyone seated exclaimed things like, “Oh my…” “Wow!”  “This looks wonderful!”  And it was.

But there is a greater table.  There is a table for weary and storm-battered souls.  Sit down in the presence of your enemies and eat there.  Feast on the richness of who God is.  Take in, and savor, what is true of Him and what is true of you:

God is fighting for you.  And he will win. (Exodus 14:14)

He loves you even when you feel terrible and unlovable. (Romans 5:8)

He knows right where you are, even if you feel lost. (Job 23:8-10)

He will never, ever, ever leave you, even if others do. (Hebrews 13:5)

Nothing will stop his persistent goodness and grace to you, nothing. (Psalm 23:6)

These truths give clarity.  They wipe away confusion about God’s nature and what he is able to do.  He’s deeply compassionate and all powerful.  These truths wipe away confusion about where you are and who you are to him.  You are under his watchful eye.  You are deeply loved, and never to be forsaken.  Exclaim over each of these revelations.  Thank God for each truth.  This is comfort food.  Sit.  Eat it until you are fat.  Then give thanks.  Give thanks that this food can and will, change your life!  Give thanks that in the light of these truths, you see the enemy’s lies for what they are, pesky flies at the Father’s table.

Romans 1:21 says, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God, nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened…”  What keeps our thoughts from becoming futile?  What stops our hearts from being dark?  Glorifying God (gladly exclaiming over who he is) and giving thanks to him.  This floods our hearts with light, which means peace, calmness, truth, and Jesus, because Jesus is light.  Do these things and your toughest battles are won.  Amen?  Amen.  Let’s eat.

 

 

“Unvarnished” (my journal 11/6/16)

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Dear Lord,

How beautiful that you would love my unvarnished heart!! I have worked very hard this week to polish my writing pieces for my website.  Last night, when Jake told me the pieces were “very good,” but that my journal entries were “the best,” I was hurt.  I worked so hard to be professional.  “I cannot work any harder,” I told you this morning.  I felt angry, at you Lord and him.  And then this morning I looked at my journal and thought– how beautiful that my husband would love the raw unpolished me, more than the polished me.  How beautiful that God would love my real, unvarnished self that pours out to him.  I realized I need to take my own medicine, my “wounds from a friend can be trusted” medicine.  To see how God and my husband are telling me a truth I need to see, how beautiful that God would love the real me.  “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

I feel God is calling me to post my journal entries on my website, I just don’t know how.  I fight it.  I want to revise, perfect and edit.  It is hard to be weak and trust his power, but it is his way.  And I must learn it.  Please show me how to do it Lord.

Jonah was mad enough to die that God was merciful to Nineveh’s sinners and removed the comfortable shade tree he was under (Jonah chapter 4).  I was mad last night that God was wanting me to remove something that I am comfortable with, my editing that hides my imperfections and makes me seem more amazing and less sinful.  But, God loves sinners.  God has mercy on sinners.  He does not like Pharisees, who create and follow a bunch of rules to look good.  This is who God is.   And his ways are right.  I must accept how he does things.  He is Lord.  And he is good!  See how good he is, “don’t spiff up for me,” “give me the real you.”

Last night I felt a “bitter root” going down in my heart, a bitter root that I will never be able to do “great.”  But this morning that root was pulled up by the Lord.  And I am so glad.  His yoke is easy, and his burden is light, and I must quit wanting to have my own way.  Now I have peace, because that is what being loved for who you are brings.  Thank you Lord.  And please help me to share this love.

I really feel like the Lord is saying to me, you can be a professional if you want, or you can be effective.  In being a “professional” I was trying to keep my own voice out of my writing, and have T. Keller’s voice or my Bible study leader’s voice, a more rational, and measured voice.  But the Lord told me “You have a voice” little bird.  Sing your song.  Use your voice.  (Like my friend Lola who writes, it would be sad if she tried to have a “professional” voice.  She is a refreshing young bird, singing in her accent.  That’s what it is, one true message- different accents.  Peace.)

Back to my life verse -> “See I am doing a new thing.  Now it springs up.  Do you not perceive it??”  (Isaiah 43:19)

I have been working on my writing about Nathanael (John 1:46) and realized that I was being like him (prejudiced about how God would show up).  Wow.  It’s amazing to me that I think I can so clearly understand what God is doing or not doing and then He blows me away by showing me that He is the best story writer and that His paths are “beyond tracing out”  -but He gives me a glimpse and I am amazed how He shows me once again “my eye is on you sparrow.”  “Trust me!”

Lord, I repent.  You are God, your ways are better, and higher, and my ways are small.  I really do see through the glass so dimly.  Thank you for what you have shown me today.  I worship you.  You are a Divine Weaver of Wonders.

 

Wounds You Can Trust

 

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“Wounds from a friend can be trusted.”  Proverbs 27:6 NIV

When I was in college, a writing professor returned one of my papers with some remarks that were critical and upsetting.  I was living with my parents at the time and couldn’t wait to show the paper to my father, certain he would join me in my outrage.  When I returned home my father was working the night shift, so I left my paper on the kitchen table with a note that went something like this, “Dad, can you believe how this professor has criticized my work?”

The next morning I saw that my father had read my note and left a reply.  There in his bold handwriting were the words “Dana, I have read your paper, and I think your professor has made some valuable comments.”

“Valuable comments!”

I was mad.  And crushed.  I fumed around the kitchen muttering things like, “I thought you loved me!” and “Whose side are you on anyway?”

My tantrum lasted most of the morning.  And then it began to fizzle.  How could I argue against my father’s love?  How could I question whose side he was on?  On many occasions my father had sacrificed his own time to sit and help me write papers for school.  Often he had spent time talking with me about my future.  He helped me choose a college and was paying part of my expenses.  He was my academic cheerleader.  Why would he hurt me?

Love demanded it.  My father knew if I went to school with a hard and arrogant heart I would never become the person I could be.  He knew if he hurt me for a moment he could help me for a lifetime.

Our Heavenly Father loves us dearly.  Sometimes he will tell us tough things.  We should accept those things with a humble and teachable spirit, trusting that he is working for our good, even when it hurts.

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, 

and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,

because the Lord disciplines those he loves…”

Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best;

but God disciplines us for our good,

that we may share in his holiness.

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.

Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace

for those who have been trained by it.  Hebrews 12:5, 10-11 NIV   

 

 

 

 

 

Faith Training

bigstock-131917565The movie Miracle tells the story of how our 1980 US hockey team won an Olympic gold medal against all odds.  Coach Herb Brooks, knowing both his team and the opponent well, led his players into a season of difficult training.  He wearied them with long hours and demanding drills.  At one point he subjected his players to such a grueling workout that those watching questioned his methods.  Even his own players doubted his affection and were tempted to quit.  Though no one understood it at the time, Herb knew what He was doing.  He was training his players to hang tough with their opponent, preparing them for ultimate victory.  Herb’s team chose to trust and persevere.  And when it was time for the big game against an enemy that had long ruled the ice, Herb’s players beat the odds, got the gold, and gained honor for their country.

Being on God’s team is not always easy.  In fact, sometimes it’s difficult to understand the hardships we suffer.  But, it is through these very hardships that God is working to form in us what is most precious and valuable to him and his kingdom- real and tested faith.  With this faith we overcome the world.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith of greater worth than gold… may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.     1Peter 1:6-7 NIV

Learning to Serve Humble Pie

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On my writer’s Facebook page I once compared myself to a cook and my writing pieces to simmering stews.  Stews that I taste and test, as I try to understand what should be added, or altered, in order to make each one… perfect.  Months have passed since I shared that.  And now my so called kitchen is full of writing pieces that have never been served up.  What each piece needs to make it just right is a mystery to me.  Imagine if this were physical food, and I had a family or group of friends to feed?  Imagine if I stopped putting meals on the table in my home, because I couldn’t get each dish to turn out just great.  That would be ridiculous.  And sad.  And that is where I have been.  I am sorry readers.  I have missed serving those of you who have pulled up to my corner of God’s table.

So now I am thinking…. wouldn’t it be better to serve something instead of nothing?  Does a dish need to be perfect in order to nourish or comfort?  Have I been prideful– afraid to give and serve with my weakness showing?

Today, I remember Jesus perfect sacrifice on the cross, and how it came through his vulnerability, humility and nakedness.  I remember how Jesus told the apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).  I think there is something for me to learn about serving weak and trusting God to show Himself strong.

I want to learn to serve this way, to dish up this humble pie, and give what I have to offer even if eggs shells are in the mix.  And I want to encourage you to do the same.  Let’s not aim for our own perfection, but trust God’s.  Let’s count on God to add what we lack– that missing ingredient, that special sauce, His amazing grace that redeems every dish, and day.

Dear Lord,  We are small.  And weak.  We often don’t know exactly what to say.  And we hardly ever know perfectly what to do.  But here we are.  We want to get out of our kitchens, and our homes, and ourselves, and serve others what you have given us to share.  We are not amazing.  But you are amazing.  You have reached out and rescued us.  Thank you.  Please rescue what we dish up and do today, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 

The Most Beautiful Thing in the Room

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It’s a scene I won’t forget.  The party is winding down and I look across the table.  My dad and his 93 year old sister, my aunt, are sitting face to face and knee to knee.  My aunt’s eyes are shining and she is smiling.  She has never looked more beautiful as she listens to what my dad is telling her.  She is hanging on his every word.  I can’t hear much of the conversation, but I hear enough to understand what’s happening.  My dad is orienting her.  My aunt is forgetting a lot these days and he’s reminding her of things.  Things like their shared history and who they are to each other.  “I’m your younger brother” and “We used to….”  What strikes me is my dad’s kindness.  He’s done this for his sister before, yet he patiently does it again.  He’s fully present.  His efforts are wholehearted.  And most notably, his actions show that he doesn’t believe he’s missing out on “bigger” or “better” talks with others.  Beautiful.

The party ended.  And while there were many special moments that night, the one I can’t shake from my mind’s eye is that one I witnessed with my dad and my aunt.  I wonder why I keep coming back to it.  Then it hits me, and I know.  My dad is like Jesus.  And I am my aunt.  I get so easily disoriented, confused and agitated by things that happen in my world, unable to make sense of emotions and struggles inside my soul…  Then Jesus comes near.  And he patiently and kindly orients me.  He reminds me of our shared history.  Of who he is to me and who I am to him.  “I am the way” and “You are my child…”  He has the clarity I lack.  He speaks the truth I need.  And, the fact that Jesus could be involved in far more exciting discussions with much more interesting, influential and “on top of it” people, well… it melts me.  What other god acts like this?  Bends down and sits, face to face and knee to knee, with humanity?  Beautiful.

                 “Come… and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.”

                                                                                            Matthew 11:28 NIV

 

Are You a Stone Mover?

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In John 11, Martha is standing with her sister Mary near the tomb where they recently buried their brother Lazarus.  They had sent word to Jesus when Lazarus was sick, but nothing happened.  Moments passed.  Days went by.  Grave clothes were gathered.  The funeral attended.  The case closed.  Lazarus is four days dead, in fact, he is decaying, when Jesus arrives on the scene.

Jesus stands among the mourners and is deeply moved.  He is troubled in spirit.  And he weeps.  Then, he surprises everyone.  He puts a hinge in the atmosphere.  A door handle on things.  “Take away the stone,” Jesus says.  He is referring to the stone that is sealing the entrance to Lazarus’s grave.

What?  The grievers wonder.  That’s crazy, they begin to think.  Martha speaks up, saying what’s on many minds.  “But Lord, by this time there is a strong odor.”  Or in other words, “But Lord, this will not be pleasant.”  But Lord, what’s the point?  But Lord, too much time has passed.  But Lord, we were just getting used to life as it has turned out.  But Lord… don’t get our hopes up.

Jesus replies, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”  There’s a collective silence.  A pause.  A possible shift in thinking.  The glory of God?  Did he say we would see the glory of God?  In this situation?  The hinge might be used.  The door handle reached for…

“So they took away the stone,” the Bible says.

And when they did, Jesus called through the opening they made, and did something miraculous.  He did what only he can do.  He commanded that dead thing, the dead man, to live.

Who stepped forward and moved that gravestone?  Who stepped back and said, “I’m not touching that thing, you do it”?  Why didn’t Jesus move the stone himself?  And would Jesus have done the miracle, had the people not obeyed?  I wonder about these things.  And I wonder what this story means for me.

I think it means that what I thought was over, might not be over.  I think it means I should be looking for hinges and door handles– listening for that strange and awkward (yet clear and unmistakable) command of God.  I think it means I should be ready to move a stone.  Because a miracle awaits.

What have you prayed about and grieved over?  What grave are you standing near?  Are you a stone mover?

Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”   The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped in strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.  Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”   John 11:43-44 NIV