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Big God

 

The small, golden statue sat immobile on my roommate’s shelf—its eyes boring into me while I studied, laughed with friends, and slept. When Victoria was away for more than a day or two, I spun her statue toward the wall—gratefully tossing a shirt or towel over its broad, grinning face.

I didn’t fault my friend for seeking meaning…for expressing her faith…for her belief in a religious system so unlike my own. But the miniature, man-made deity set my spiritual nerves on edge when we shared the same space.

As a young Christian with limited personal insight, I didn’t realize that I harbored my own set of little gods. Like a modern-day Rachel (Genesis 13), I covertly questioned the power of an unseen and inaudible Almighty God and–in an effort to feel more in control of my seemingly directionless life–I tucked away my personal idols for safekeeping—away from prying eyes.

While my friend proudly displayed her minor god, mine was disguised in the regular, day-to-day of young adult life. The lesser idols—a desire to please family or friends and an inward-facing, struggling self-image—were rarely noticed or, they adopted more acceptable labels. Rather than seeking approval? I was dedicated. Instead of severely limiting the food I ate? I had great self-control.

As the Father began to teach me about the woman I am in Christ, the shackles of unintentional idol worship started dropping off one by one. Slowly, year-by-year, I’ve begun to realize how big God really is.

He has healed miraculously. He has rescued regularly. He has protected inexhaustibly. My God is able!

There are still times I fashion God into my image—the picture of a small God smiling benignly as He sits idly by on a bookcase—and the worries, concerns, or priorities of this world threaten to grow into a something greater than they should be. Then? I return to the promises of scripture…prayer…the counsel of a trusted mentor. And I am reminded that a manufactured idol has never given its life for someone; a self-created god never offers peace.  Only Christ–the  One who left a tomb standing barren–is a big enough God to do these things.

Scripture and Questions for Reflection

Exodus 15:11

Who compares with you among gods, O God?
Who compares with you in power,
in holy majesty,
In awesome praises,
wonder-working God?

 

Complete this sentence.

*Complete this sentence.

“God is too small to take care of my (finances, children, health, ______________”).

*Is there an idol you’ve hidden away? Have you allowed any area of your life to have more value or importance than Jesus?

LIVEFREETHURSDAY-300x300

His pockets were hanging heavy–pulling at the waistband of the aqua swim shorts. Shells nearly burst through the white netting as his small legs carried him along the water’s edge—taking him first in one direction and then another like the miniature sanderlings sharing the beach.

“Look, mama!” Ben’s tiny hand wrapped itself around another sandy treasure—shells of all shapes and sizes now shining iridescent from the washing of water. Scampering toward the place we’d located bags, towels, and sunscreen Benjamin carefully unloaded the contents of his sagging trunks into a plastic orange bucket.

“Ohhh…aren’t they beautiful?” my little boy whispered. And gently, he added each shell to the growing collection—precious, cared for treasures.

sea-shells-1235586_1920

In recalling this moment, I begin to wonder…what do I treasure? Where do I find joy? Does the beauty of God’s creation thrill my heart?

I have to admit that I’m often so consumed with the day-to-day of managing life that I forget to live. I don’t always notice the small things—that day’s gifts. The sunrise. The smell of rain on a chilly day. My child’s smile.  I overlook some of the things I should notice. A friend’s kind remark. An encouraging comment on Facebook. My husband’s warm embrace.

So today? My prayer is that I will delight in the little things—that I’ll start each day with the intent of gathering and collecting those things that matter eternally. My own precious treasures.

What about you, Friend? Do you need to stop managing and start living? What sort of heart collection will you focus on this moment…this day…this week?

 

Scripture for Reflection

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17)

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! Psalm 100:4

LIVEFREETHURSDAY

 

 

Just Four Words

Six years ago, he stood watch over army operations from behind a wall of sandbags and barbed wire. Launching the drone from the remote desert site, the man noticed something unusual on the monitor. Leaning in close, his pulse quickened as he realized the gravity of the situation. Lives were at stake!

Without hesitating, he made the call.

Don’t fire! Do. Not. Fire. Civilians at risk! For what seemed like an eternal moment, there was no response.

Then, finally, with hesitation another voice answered. Sir? Are you sure?

I’m certain. Do not pull the trigger.

If you say so, Commander.

 That day dozens of lives were rescued—because one soldier responded to the words of someone with a broader vision…more knowledge…a better understanding of the circumstances.

Like the officer following orders have you ever doubted the wisdom behind someone’s request? Do you sometimes whisper internally—this doesn’t make any sense? What is he thinking!?

 

trustpic                                                                         

 I have to admit I sometimes find myself voicing these same words as I pray. I don’t understand, Lord. Why are you asking me to do this…trust in this way…follow you here? And my heart and mind struggle to see the larger picture.

When my little boy was born physically handicapped? The moment my daughter stopped breathing? That time God wanted me to love people who were intentionally hurtful?

Why would Christ ask me to follow Him…trust him…expect more in these situations? Because in both the calm and in the midst of the storm, the Grace Giver will do “abundantly more than you ask or imagine”. (Ephesians 3:20 NIV)

I may not understand life’s landscape. But Jesus? He doesn’t just know the beginning from the end—He is the Beginning and the End.

My fear or worry may threaten to overwhelm a barely-there faith. But the Comforter and Advocate who lives within–a gift from heaven–counsels with the truths I so easily forget.

Can you relate, Friend? Do you hear yourself repeating the same questions I’ve asked? Do you, too, sometimes wonder about the way in which God is directing you to respond to difficult–even painful circumstances?   Are you struggling to understand how He can work through the hard of your situation?

I want to challenge you. Take a chance! Christ makes himself known in the smallest expression of faith and the expectancy of belief. Let’s live what we believe!  Just four words can change your life and mine…if you say so.

Scripture for Reflection

Luke 5:1-11

Ephesians 3:14-21

Phil. 4:19-20

John 14:16-17

 

 

LIVEFREETHURSDAY

Looking forward to a day enjoying the mid-summer beauty of Colorado, my parents and I chatted casually.  We spoke of aunts…uncles…jobs…and my two spirited, live-wire little boys.  As if their mention alerted me to the sudden quiet of the picnic area, my head banked almost involuntarily from left to right.  Ben? Check.  Connor?  Oh. My. Goodness.

When Connor was small, he was the gregarious, adventurous sort who required the oft-dismissed-as-a-diminutive-torture-device “safety leash” in airports.  (I know…I know–some of you are violently opposed to its use.  But, please, be merciful in your criticism. You can only understand if you, too, had a Connor.)

He was the toddler who bypassed every child safety toilet lid and managed to circumvent the double-locked, baby-proofed front entry door to cavort happily on the sidewalk in nothing but his itty-bitty birthday suit.

At the tender age of three, Connor managed to launch himself–and his trusty hobby horse, Cocoa, from our top flight of stairs.  Thankfully, no animals (or children) were harmed during the recording of the family video.  

Naturally, any time my sweet boy was quiet or escaped my view–well, I silently panicked. Inhale.  Exhale.  Inhale. Exhale.  (Who knew lamaze would prove useful after childbirth?)

Quickly assessing the situation, I rallied the troops. The family dispersed with each of us calling out for my nursery-school scamp.  Becoming more desperate with each passing moment, my mother’s heart rejoiced at the sound of Connor’s tiny voice answering mine. “I’m up here, mama!”

Surveying the row of cliffs in front of me, I finally noticed Connor mounted at the edge of a massive, sandstone rock.  There he stood–victorious and proud in a pair of 5T shorts and his favorite Elmo shirt–while I had to push past the fear lodged in my throat to speak.

“Connor.  Don’t move!  It’s very important that you don’t move!  Mommy will be up there right away.”

The next words Connor spoke have continued to define much of his life.                           “Don’t worry, mom.  I’m not afraid to die.”

On the other hand, I have nearly always lived my life–well, cautiously.  Some people fly airplanes or climb the highest peaks.  I religiously review the safety rules in the “front pocket of the seat back” any time I fly the friendly skies. I adore swimming in the ocean–if my husband is by my side–and while the idea of a Caribbean cruise is romantic, I’m afraid the bottle of Lysol in my hand (to ward off unwelcome stomach viruses) and the orange-vest-turned-accessory (Did you ever watch The Titanic?!) would dampen the mood.

You’re beginning to understand.  I. Am. Not. Brave.

And through the grace of God, I choose Jesus anyway.  What do I mean? Following Christ is not all sunshine and roses.  Jesus and the apostles were straightforward about the cost of walking the narrow path.  There was no nuance, hidden agenda, or carefully prepared marketing plan.

Good bye easy street; hello rocky road.

The scriptures are almost dire–

 “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

and

                      “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”               2  Timothy 3:12

So…why follow Jesus?  Because, dear Friend, there is something far greater than living for self or deflecting momentary judgement by a broken world.

This Christian journey may be filled with peril.  There will be an Adversary.  But, there is the guarantee–of knowing Christ more fully…of living life deeply…and of sharing Hope.  Even those of us who lack bravery can find courage in the beauty of such a promise.

Will you join me?

Scripture for Reflection

What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ… (Phillipians 3:8)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A heart-rending scene in the movie Forrest Gump elicits uncomfortable emotions every time I revisit the movie. Why? Because I relate to Jenny—the young woman who returns to her family home only to be reminded of the pain and destructive secrets experienced in a place that should have been one of innocence and laughter.

 

Not Enough Rocks.pngPausing, Jenny leans almost involuntarily toward the ground where her hand wraps itself around something solid…indestructible. Determinedly, she hurls a rock at the faded, abandoned home in the distance. Glass shatters and one rock after another finds its mark—again and again–until Jenny presses her heaving body against the earth in exhaustion.

“Sometimes,” her companion laments, “I guess there just aren’t enough rocks.”

Do you find purchase with those words, dear Friend? Can you understand how deep a wound this woman may have experienced?

And you—what about you?

Do you carry around scars, too? Maybe your hurts grew in the promising relationship of marriage. Oh, the hope you had the day you pronounced your love for one another. Now, perhaps, the dreams have all but disappeared and you wonder if your aching heart can bear the loneliness any longer.

Or, it could be that the dreams you held for your child have been destroyed. An imposter stepped in and occupied their place—substance abuse…depression….a precious one’s death.

Maybe your hurts were borne in a moment of a friend’s unwarranted betrayal…a workplace disagreement…or, perhaps, even at the hands of other Christians.

Oh, yes. The pain is real.

But what I know? Throwing rocks will not relieve the ache. The stinging words of retort meant to shame our offender…the dissolution of an unfulfilling relationship for another…the temporary solace found in a habit turned master—none of these “rocks” provide lasting satisfaction.   Instead, these stones will hang heavy like a weight—gradually pulling us deeper into resentment…remorse…regret.

But The Rock? He is the place of refuge…restoration…renewal. If we just unfurl those tightly curled fists and allow the rocks to tumble to the ground—each bitter thought and every cry of the heart—our faith will grow bigger, our hope greater, and our love deeper.

Scripture to Study (Genesis 38-46)

Consider Joseph’s story.

Because he was his father’s favorite, Joseph’s brother stripped him of dignity, threw him into the bowels of a pit, and sold him for next to nothing to slave traders. Remarkably, Joseph survived—and he survived without allowing hatred to implant itself in the dark places of his heart.

Instead, Joseph chose forgiveness. Beautiful, undeserved forgiveness.  

Joseph decided upon generosity. Life-giving, beyond expectation liberality.

The one who had been cast aside offered grace. Bountiful, unwarranted blessing.

 

-How do you imagine you would have reacted in Joseph’s situation?

-What is your response to those who have caused wounds in your life?

-Do your thoughts or actions align with the truth of who God says He is?

-What one step can you take today to let go of your grasp on a past hurt?

 

 

 

woman-570883_1920I vividly remember standing beneath the wooden doorframe of my bedroom–terrified of the imagined evil lurking in the five inches of space beneath mattress and covers. I stood…weighing the options. The risks? Certain punishment if I refused to quickly locate myself beneath the warmth of sleep-inducing blankets or—to my impressionable mind—possible capture by whatever monster or boogie man lurked beneath the confines of a seemingly innocent piece of furniture.

At the tender age of four or five, Shadow had become a thing of nightmares and illusory power.

Too often, though, it seems our fear of Shadow follows us into adulthood. While disguised in more grown-up form, we still tremble at its existence and our thoughts are filled with untrue or unfulfilled imagery that leads us from a place of comfort into the obscure illusion of “What If?”

The “What If’s” come in many shapes and may be different for each of us.

What if…my husband leaves me?

 What if…my child dies?

 What if…I’m really never happy?

 What if…this wound refuses to heal?

 What if? What if? What if?

 

Oh, dear One, the Shadow of What If is—and always has been—a robber of joy and imitator of truth designed to obscure the Light of Hope. We fight each dark pursuer—out of breath and in need of relief. Somehow, we’re certain a jab or swing in the Shadow’s direction will ensure some sort of relief. So we listen to Oprah…read books by Dr. Oz…try the newest diet trend…anything to help us battle the dark, elusive threat that is our greatest Fear.

But in so much of the struggle we rely on ourselves—forgetting the promises of scripture. Psalm 23 reminds us that even when we’re surrounded by a darkness so deep it casts death’s shadow, He is there! Even in the most frightening of times or the loneliest moments he guides…protects…comforts. He is the one who will manage our struggles and wage our battles.

Our futile attempts at Shadow boxing can cease. No more useless jabbing or dodging. Let’s give the battle to the Champion of hearts and souls—the giver of life, conqueror of death, and victor over sin and its effects.

 Suggested Scripture and Questions for Reflection

Read Psalm 23.

What dark valleys has God guided you through already? If your journey is taking you through a place filled with Shadows are you relying upon the Shepherd—or self? I know I struggle with this–vacillating back and forth.

As a gentle reminder to yourself about God’s abounding faithfulness and protection, reread Psalm 23. This time, replace each “me” with your name and “my” with the pronoun “her”.

A David Psalm (MSG)

23 1-3 God, my shepherd!
I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction.

Even when the way goes through
Death Valley,
I’m not afraid
when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook
makes me feel secure.

You serve me a six-course dinner
right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
my cup brims with blessing.

Your beauty and love chase after me
every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God
for the rest of my life.

 

An Uncommon God

We are, if we have chosen the good part, sitters at the feet of Jesus, just as Saul
of Tarsus sat at the feet of Gamaliel; Christ is to us our great Instructor  

–Charles Spurgeon

 

An uncommon God, He lived as a common man. Exchanging the beauty of heavenly glory for human flesh, Christ—the One who had strolled through the streets of heaven–walked the streets of everyday towns filled with common people burdened by common problems.

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He–who had known perfection–surrounded himself with the imperfect. He willingly gave up abundance for poverty, worship for rejection, and self for others.

hands-731265_1280Why did Jesus—who once stooped to breathe life into dust—bind himself to the earth…to men and women whose feet carried them further from truth and deeper into the deception of self…of false hopes and misplaced dreams…of willfulness and rebellion?

 

Because He knows what we are made of. (Psalm 103:14) And simple dust, once stripped of protection, shifts in the wind—sometimes mere inches while at other times it is moved completely from its place…drifting and unsettled. For hundreds of years, Dust had lived under the dark curse of sin–tossed about this way and that.

No one remained untouched. Suffering. Disease. Death. Corrupt men subjugated innocents to forced labor—stealing youth and hope. Outcasts—considered less than human—suffered in pain on the edges of the city while rotting flesh ached for relief. Human souls cried out to heaven and Jesus was the answer. And in becoming like the rest of us, God made clear the extent of his love for Dust.

 

A love so encompassing and grace-filled that He intentionally wandered from place to place—offering forgiveness, speaking words of love, and bringing the kingdom of heaven to aching, hurting people. And, unlike any other god before or since, the man named Jesus died to save Dust. The same feet—soiled and dirtied from travelling to the dwellings of Despair and Need—were nailed to the tree. Their blood flowed downward and marked the hill at the base of the cross. And blood and Dust became inseparable.

Jesus gave everything for this woman of dust. He gave everything for you, too, dear Friend. And at the nail-scarred feet of Jesus we receive the life of a common man and an uncommon God. 

Scripture for Reflection

Surely it is you who love the people; all the holy ones are in your hand. At your feet they all bow down, and from you receive instruction… (Duet. 33:3)

…and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. (Luke 8:35)

…but few things are needed–or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42)

 

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