Nature Calls

“From the beginning of the world, men could see what God is like through the things He has made. This shows His power that lasts forever. It shows that He is God.”

God delights to show His love for us.

I marvel over little things. I like to sit for long spells and watch nature, the hues of butterflies and dragonflies, the many facets of a bird’s wing, and the slow creeping of a secure turtle. As I watch them I am reminded of my Creator…of the intricate way that He has designed me, of the many facets of His personality that make up my nature, and in Him I can keep moving, knowing that I am His.

When I fail to take these moments, I can miss His messages of love.

We try not to be selfish. We try not to want to feel good, happy, comforted, or secure. We know for the most part that others are going through far worse and have experienced the unthinkable. We are constantly reminded of wars and rumors of war whether in the world or in homes or dear precious bodies. The darkness of the world slaps us in the face day after day after day after day. But, is it wrong to seek those moments for our selves? Is it selfish to need to be reminded that He cares?

God created us to seek Him.

When we seek Him we cannot help but look within. It’s when we look within that we see the many places we are lacking. We realize with infinite reality that we can’t change our circumstances, but we can change our attitude. And, when we find ourselves there, seeking Him, conversing with Him over the marvels of nature, we realize that what moments before might have seemed the biggest most depressing acknowledgement in the world, is actually one of peace.

He didn’t create us for ourselves.

Just the fact that we draw in breath day after day is evidence of our life’s purpose. No one is here by accident. Recently a friend of mine had triplets far too early. All three babies were delivered, but one lived only for a while. We might be tempted to get upset. What was the purpose of that, God? That life was in vain. But, we would be wrong. The reason thelittle guy died is because he was subjected to toxins and bacteria that his brother and sister were not. He kept them safe by blocking the birth canal, taking the sickness into himself to spare his siblings. They are alive and thriving today. His little life had great purpose for them!

He loves us.

We can’t neglect this all-important fact. As much as you love the person/thing that you love the most and cannot fathom what it would feel like to love more…multiply that by infinity…and that’s but a fraction of how much God loves us. Can’t fathom that? Nope. But, it’s true. His Word tells us that His love “endures forever.” Endure is pretty intense word. It means that it doesn’t give up. It means that it tolerates anything. It means that it stands firm in the midst of any adversity. And it means that it is on going!

He is for us.

I’m not trying to stroke your ego or mine. But, as I was listening to the heart of God this morning in my own very hurting heart, Hespoke this to me. “I am for you.” We gloss over this. We take this lightly. That, too, has deep meaning! He is for us means more than that He will fight for us. It means that He “takes the place of, works on behalf of, in respect of, concerning, and in spite of,” us. Let that sink in. Because sometimes we need to know that He fights for us, but more often than not we just need toknow that He is for us…and He is…remember His love?

Every time I take the time to look at nature, I see Him…and I see what I need to be more like. I also wonder what they know, these creatures that seem to have the simplest lives? Do they know that they have a Creator? Do they know that we can see evidence of Him through them? Do theyknow that as they simply flutter by our hair or squirm on the ground, we hear our Father whisper His love? I think they do. I also believe that He created them not just for His good pleasure but because in His enduring love, He purposed them for us…to remind us…we have purpose, too.

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I follow Jesus not Dan Cathy

I’m most likely gonna lose friends and followers, but I’m okay with that. Really. I’m not here to be popular. I think it’s important to speak, irregardless of backlash. We need to think about what we are doing.

In the last two weeks Christians have been in an uproar. First it was the tragedy in Colorado, and now it is the great Chick-fil-A ban of 2012. What is happening to us? I only ask because I’m concerned. I’m concerned that we are more eager and energetic to spread an agenda than to spread the Good News.

While people are still struggling with PTSD and packing up memories of precious loved ones, we feel the need to reiterate our “right” to bear arms. We have made their tragedy into a call for arms? Really? How is that fair? How does that matter? How is that helping those left picking up the pieces after we’ve commented and tweeted it to death? If we spent more energy on our knees and interceding not for our safety and rights but for their pain and healing and eternal hope in Christ, we might actually be answering our call, fulfilling the great commission, sharing love not debating fire arms.

Wait.

I’m not finished.

Which leads me to the Chick-fil-A Ban… I am APPALLED at some of things I have seen Christians post about how this ban has made the restaurant cleaner and safer and a more friendly environment since the liberals are gone. What?! What are we doing?! Have we become so obsessed with our agendas that we have lost our hearts for the lost?! I’m not saying all liberals are lost, but posts like that imply it.. They also imply that unbelievers are dirty, filthy, intruders and we should rid ourselves of them. Hmmm. Who is intolerant now? I wonder if we spent as much time feeding the hungry and homeless as we have pushing this fast food establishment we might reconnect with what Jesus came to do?

Here is the hard truth (or rather two of them):
1. Jesus would not have carried a gun and wouldn’t have encouraged the disciples to fight to keep theirs. In fact, the one time we see warfare face to face with our Savior, He scolds the sword wielder and replaces a man’s ear.

2. Jesus would not eat at Chick-fil-A unless He had been invited for some nuggets and waffle fries while speaking to a few thousand people about how none of that is important.
This is the same Lord that said “Give unto Caesar what is Caesars” and “Man shall not live by (breaded chicken) alone” (okay.. He didn’t say that, but you get my point.)

Yes. The world is an icky place. Yes. We are doing somethings He would not condone. Yes. We are at the mercy of free will everyday. That’s why He made the statement,“In this world you will have trouble, but take heart for I have overcome the world!” We are overcomers.. THROUGH CHRIST. Our agendas are merely preferences… They are our security in a fallen world. But, when we cling so tightly to our securities that we abandon the lost, we have missed His point! We can fight until our voices are gone and every last one of us is dead, but what are we fighting for? Who are we fighting for and who are we fighting against? The upstanding role of our religion, or the broken heart of Daddy God?

Who do we follow -Jesus or Dan Cathy or anyone else we pin up as a poster child for religious agenda?What is more important – Our rights or His sacrifice? What is more Courageous – to make a world that we are comfortable in or to love unconditionally in an uncomfortable world?

I can’t answer for you, but I’m speaking love instead of debate. I’m not jumping on a bandwagon just because I see a cross. I’m trusting in Jesus and I’m letting my light shine, and if I get gunned down for it, well, somebody fought for that.

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Untangled

The other day I woke up and didn’t want to get out of bed. Laundry was piled in all corners, stacks of miscellaneous items littered the house, and dust a mile high (a slight exaggeration) coated my fan blades. I put my head under my pillow and tried to hide. Too much. It’s too much. I was completely overwhelmed.

In my attempt to hide, God spoke to me. “Clean your house.” I know that could have been my conscience, after all, I wanted to be lazy, but it was the words that followed that made me sure of the Source. “You’re life right now represents your house. Clean up the physical world, and it will straighten the spiritual.” I know that sounds weird. It sounds like something hokey that someone would say as they faded in and out on a cloud of reality and dreams, but I felt it. Deeply. And despite my weakness and absolute dislike of the task at hand, I got up with resolve to clean my house.

I started with laundry, the least daunting of the tasks before me. I enlisted the girls to help. If we each did our part we could have it done in no time. The kitchen was looking better, the living room was straightened, and Lily’s room was tidy and neat (there are indeed perks to having a child who is slightly OCD). Then, I walked to Maddie’s room. She was on her bed, listening to her iPod. Nothing had changed.

Resisting the urge to scream, I told her to get up and clean and that she wasn’t going to be able to leave her room until it was done! She didn’t like that idea, and in a huff and true preteen attitude, she swept her arm across the top of her counter and watched it fall to the floor. I gasped! Then I watched as she got down on her hands and knees and started sorting through her stuff, finding a place for each and every item. Her method didn’t make sense but the result was the same.

She had a pile in the corner that she reserved as “trash.” I was relocating it to a trash bag when I found a wadded up mess of jewelry. Costume jewelry. I looked at it and considered throwing it away. It had little to no value, and I doubted I could make sense of it. It was overwhelming tolook at much less to consider unraveling. But, at the point I was going to toss it, I heard His voice again, “Overwhelming? Worthless? Take the time to unravel it.” I knew it would take time. I was on a mission to clean and this was going to take precious time that honestly I didn’t have. But He beckoned.

Resolved, I sat on the floor, Maddie having left and taken up playing with her sister and friends, and began to inspect the lump of chains. Slowly but surely the mess began to make sense. I figured out that it was an entanglement of four necklaces and a bracelet. In the stillness, I found it a challenge to find exactly how each chain made it’s way around the other. And, as each kink released and the wad looked more like a tangle, I felt a sense of accomplishment. It took a full thirty minutes to have each chain unworked and set aside. At the end of that time, I smiled. The time had been worth the work, but where was the reward? Not that I needed one. Those minutes had been spent working out my own tangles, thinking through my relationships and ministry issues and finding peace in the midst of it all.

I heard His voice, and paid attention to the pictures He showed me, and it became clear that all too often we are ready to be rid of the mess. It seems to us far easier to throw it away when it doesn’t fit just right. We base the value of something on itseffectiveness to us, and if it isn’t working then it’s lost its value. Sometimes the work seems too much for the results we are seeing, so we are tempted in our discouragement to let it go. We give up. We want to find another easier, more simple calling or relationship that doesn’t require as much of us. When we can’t see the outcome and all we see is the lump it doesn’t feel as important to us. But, it is important to Him.

My story isn’t over yet. My lesson wasn’t complete until a few minutes later, I had moved onto something else (cleaning up my jewelry box actually), when Maddie came into her room and saw the necklaces. “Mom! I’ve been looking for those forever!” She lit up and I resisted the urge to tell her that she almost threw them away. As she walked off singing some melody, I heard His voice again, “Don’t give up…what you are untangling is the very thing you are looking for…and I promise the joy she feels right now is nothing compared to the joy that is coming.”

I don’t know what that means. But I believe it was His voice, and I know exactly what He is talking about. It would be easy at times to throw in the towel. To simply be and do and not worry about everything else, but that isn’t what I’m here for…and I refuse.

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Love deeper

I spent a few days on a tall hill, a mountain in Arkansas, appropriately named Mt. Moriah. It’s the third year in a row that my dearest sisters in Christ and mentors and I have made the trek, and each time we have been blessed with life-changing lessons. This year was no different. Some of us met discipline, and some of us expected discipline but received grace.

It was in the midst of a rain storm on the top of the hill when grace met me. I was desperate. I was there to lay my life on the altar of sacrifice, to see His face and to walk away dead but alive. I sat in the middle of the circle, begging Him to rid me of myself, to show me my sins, and to scold me for my failures. Only He was silent. If I could put the moment into words, we had a staring contest. Both of us looking at this altar and neither of us moving, only waiting for the other to. Finally I made a spiritual rush, took my place, laid out on a table, arms spread wide, fully submitted, waiting for lightening. It didn’t come. If God would “tsk” at us, this was that moment, and in my heart I heard three words, “It is finished.”

I sat up and listened.

“I love you, Leslie. You don’t have to get it to receive it. You don’t have to understand it, but you have to accept it.” I imagined Him looking me in the eyes as the lesson continued, “You spend so much time apologizing for your failures, and pointing out your flaws to Me when you don’t really get that I don’t see you through those things. You wait for my wrath, the same bitter cup of wrath and judgment that my Son drank in for you. He drained that cup. It’s empty. My justice was satisfied.”

I swallowed these Truths, and listened for more.

I am love. And, I love. Everyone. It’s hard for you to fathom, but I have just as much love for you as I do the most despicable ofcreation. I love the murders, the pedaphiles, the adulterers, the thieves, and I long for them to know this!”

I considered that as I recalled the scripture verse in Ephesians: “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

How wide: You can’t escape it. We try. We cling to a million different things in the hopes that they will meet our needs, but they don’t and as far as we run, we find ourselves surrounded by His love.

How long: There is no breaking point. God doesn’t say, “I love you to this point and then you are on your own.” Our strings break, our patience thins, but His love goes on and on and on.

How high: You can’t attain it. There is not a bit of good that you can do that earns His love. It’s like building a tower, no matter how high you go, no matter how many materials you possess, you aren’t going to reach the end of it.

How deep: I think this is where we lose sight of His character most. We forget that His love can reach beyond any pit we find ourselves in. We think He can’t possibly want anything to do with us when we are struggling, tempted, or publically condemned. Or, more likely, we think He won’t redeem the greatest sin, the deepest obsession, the darkest evil. We doubt His love for the least of these. We gloss over passages that mention that Jesus spent His time with the “worst of sinners.” In our heads, we imagine tax-collectors and prostitutes, but it’s also highly likely they were murders and thieves, pedaphiles and molesters. I imagine with one look into His eyes, they were undone. His love was penetrable. He didn’t have to speak their sin, they knew who and what they were. He didn’t have to point them out because they were already pariahs. And still, His love reached deeper than that.

It’s hard for us to imagine. We stand in pride and say “Look at me. I am worthy before God because… “ and we rattle off a list of accomplishments, and God says, “So? I mean really, thanks for that, but if you didn’t do it for love, I’d rather you not do it at all.”

Love. There is a reason why it’s the greatest commandment and the greatest gift. When we set our selves free to love, we are free to live – without condemnation, without guilt, and without shame. When we spend more time thinking about what we can do for others instead of what we’d like them to do for us, then we really get the kind of love He is talking about. When you can look with the same endearing smile at the man that smells of urine and has no teeth as you can at the sweetest most innocent child, then I think we might be feeling it. When you can speak as encouragingly to the single mom stripper as you can to the stay at home mom, then you might be expressing His love.

I challenge you. Love deeper. Because, whether we get it or not, love is what it is all about. Nothing else we do matters, if we aren’t first, His love.

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I raise my Ebenezer

Tomorrow marks 2 years. Two years ago I knew God, served Him and understood Him as best as I could. I knew Him to be loving and faithful and kind and patient. We’d been through a lot. The worst and the best. I was His and He was mine and yet.. There was an element to our relationship that was missing. Up until 2 years ago, God functioned in my life, side by side, intimately but at a distance. There was Him and there was me and that was all I required.

Then July 3, 2010 my world flipped upside down! Not in the natural. In the natural, I was learning about the heart, about how you can never really know someone and how the heart can be deceptive. In the spiritual, God was stretching me.. And in His caution, in His desire to have me hear His voice and know it was His warning, He spoke through others. Oh my mind can play it off as coincidence… They just happened to call at the right time, they just happened to sense danger, but that’s a deception. It was so much more than that, because on that night God didn’t only speak to me, He spoke to Others, virtual players in the plot.. Whether they fully knew it or not. I realize this is cryptic. But, I mark this day as a stone of Ebenezer which pronounces loudly “The Lord has brought me this far!”

You don’t have to hear the details of my story (and no doubt it probably wouldn’t seem as harrowing a tale to you as it was to those of us that lived it face to face)… But what I got and what I need you to get is that God is not limited! Just as He did in the Old Testament, using others to profess His wisdom and guide His beloved, He still does the same today. You know. You’ve experienced it, but maybe like me until that night, you chalked it up as coincidence or random chance.. That the stranger at the bank would know your story without you sharing a word! Maybe it seemed possible that someone would text you and at just the right time with a divine Word that was just what you needed 3 days later? Maybe it’s logical that someone would appear at your doorstep the very moment you called out for help or a friend? Maybe. Or maybe it’s God. Heaven meeting earth not by random chance but divine appointment to say “I’m here. I see you. I love you. And I am for you.”

July 3, 2010 my God fought for me. In my flesh I was weak and tired and scared, but in His spirit I found peace and hope and rescue… Both in the natural and supernaturally. It was the time in my life where God became Daddy God, and I knew without a doubt He was looking out for me with hands that reached, hearts that were broken, and mumbling lips of intercession. It wasn’t left for me to wonder “maybe..” He made it clear. “This is Me!” and when I doubted He spoke louder by text, no less, “Would this Person know This?” baring moments only He and I shared. It was the night I received one of the strongest warnings of my life “Don’t open the door!” Words spoken to me by a caring friend a full month before that night! It was the night He showed me what would happen if I obeyed and what He felt about disobedience. They were a series of powerful moments I will never forget, can never forget… And they’ve led me here… 2 years later… Safely and far more open to His power and ways than ever before!

The verse I’ve come to cherish resonates in my heart tonight “His ways are not our ways neither are his thoughts our thoughts.” They aren’t! He is so much bigger, greater, patient, loving, gentle, powerful than we will ever fully know or can imagine! But on this day, I believe. On this day I trust what I cannot see and this day I remember what He’s already done, and praise Him for what He is yet to do! My SAVIOUR and my God!

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