Father and Son

I have always loved the story of Abraham and Isaac. The story of willingness and sacrifice and reprieve and provision, captivate me. After all, isn’t that ultimately the journey of every faithwalker? But this week God challenged me to reread it, in His narration, with His thoughts, through His eyes and, most of all, in regard to His heart for His beloved.

Abraham was ready, I felt sure of it. Patiently, he had waited for Me to send Isaac, and daily I watched his love for his son and pride over him grow. I delighted to see that My friend was pleased, but much rode on the faith of My beloved Abraham, a faith that I had to test for its surety and steadfastness.

He was out observing My creation, strolling among his people, eyes always trained upon his boy. He marveled aloud to Me as he watched Isaac pull back the bow how very grateful he was over the gift of his son. It was in that moment of thankfulness I chose to make My request, in the glow of his joy.

“Abraham!” I called.

Immediately he answered, “Yes, Lord! I am here.” The look on his face was eager to speak, eager to obey, age had not changed his youthful expectation, but I had the highest price to ask of him.

“It’s time,” I commanded. He seemed confused so I continued, “Take your only son, Isaac, now and go to Moriah…” I waited to finish as his smile hesitated, “…and take him and offer him…”

Abraham’s eyes took on a look of disbelief even as his soul screamed out to My heart not to finish the thought, but his obedient heart waited for Me to finish.

“Offer his as a burnt offering on the mountain of My choosing.”

His head fell, his grown man lips quivered, but his resolve was not shaken. He trusted Me. I felt it and I read it from his heart even if his lips could not utter it.

I watched the next morning, early, as he loaded up his donkey and assembled his entourage, Isaac, the most prized possession by his side as he led the way. Each day was a litany of praise to Me, stories of my goodness and faithfulness shared with each footstep closer to the unspeakable. Isaac never seemed to question Abraham’s frequent affections and head rubs. Abraham was making the most of the three days, three days I ordained for them to say goodbye. I’m a loving God, I could have chosen any mountain, but that one had significance to this sacrifice and to My own, and I wanted this for them.

When they made it there I observed intently as Abraham settled his servants and gave them directions and a time frame in which he would return. I watched as he swallowed hard while Isaac said his goodbyes. Then, I watched as Abraham placed the bundle of wood upon Isaac’s shoulders. As he did so, I felt the scars in My own back ache.

“This is necessary,” I whispered into the ear of My beloved, but all he felt and heard was the whistle of the wind.

In his own hands, Abraham carried the fire source and the knife. His grip on its handle was weak almost begging the slightest force to rip it from his hands, but his obedience carried it nonetheless. Isaac wondered often as he observed the elements of sacrifice that a significant piece was missing – the offering. He questioned his father, but he could not bear to tell his son and so I heard him say with spoken words, “God Himself will provide.” He had no idea the revelation of those words. I could feel the cries from Abraham’s bosom asking if there was any other way? And, My own voice echoed through the ages in his acceptance, “Nevertheless, let Your will be done.” Years evaporated and generations passed away as I beheld Abraham telling Isaac to be still as he bound his only son. I watched Isaac struggle and question, begging for understanding. Abraham was silent but in his heart he called out to Me declaring My name for all generations and with each name a work of goodness that preceded it. He, like his son, was begging Me to hear his cries, and I, too, remained silent. Would he recall My favor thus far? The promises I had made? The nature of My faithfulness?

I observed the Accuser reminding him of his failures, of his sins, planting doubts of My character and My affections for him. But, I encouraged Abraham to recall My love, My grace, My kindness despite what wrongs he had committed. As the Accuser started in again, I held up My hand to silence him. I tired of his lies, his attempts to discredit Me and to discourage those I love. Besides, something greater had My complete attention, Abraham reached for the knife.

All eyes in heaven stood in observance of this moment. I had issued a command, and only I could choose to undo it. A tear escaped My eternal eyes as I watched my beloved hold the knife high. Faith that once trembled from his lips now held firm in his love for Me. My heart was full! Abraham was declaring his love for Me! I had asked him to do the unthinkable, and still he chose My will over his own. Time stood still as I observed this gift. – the love he showed Me as he held a knife to his son – his beloved as he was Mine.

“Abraham!”

He didn’t drop the knife, “Yes, Lord?” Determination shook his frame.

“Stop! His arm slowly dropped its position, confusion, quickly replaced with relief, washed over him.

“Don’t touch that boy!” All of heaven was rejoicing in his love for Me! “You have shown you honor and respect Me! You were willing to sacrifice, without holding back, your son, your heir.”

I had situated the ram – spotless and pure – a most fitting offering – in the bushes beside their makeshift altar. I caught My breath as Abraham quickly unbound Isaac, clutching him to his chest and thanking Me for My provision. Together, they situated the sacrifice on the pile of wood. I touched the engravings in My hands, the scars that symbolized the name of every soul willing to be saved, and I smiled.

“ No, my friend, my beloved. I would never ask you to give up anything that I haven’t already sacrificed for you.”

Heads bowed, knees bent, I listened as father and son praised My name for their provision, but what I had truly provided was more than a ram but the Lamb of God – for with the sacrifice of MY son, I would fulfill My promise to Abraham, for I AM Jehovah Jireh. I AM the Lord who provides.

If the shoe fits…

Dreams.

They hold so much meaning, and God-given dreams have the power to impart knowledge, wisdom, and determination where you might otherwise be lacking. There are a few dreams I have had in my life that have in seasons sustained me, but the most remarkable one, the loudest speaking, the most powerfully compelling one I feel the need to share.

As I opened my eyes to a sun washed yellow morning, the bed seemed crisp and cozy. I liked it there, it was where I wanted to stay, covers over my head, snuggled into a pillow, blanketed in peace. But something urged me to sit up, so I stretched and smiled and let my legs dangle to the side of my bed. Immediately, I saw them. Big black men’s shoes several sizes too large. I was confused. A Father figure stood beside me beckoning me to put them on.

“No.” I didn’t actually say it, but my body language communicated it.
Silently, I argued and pointed dramatically, “Do you see the size of those?!”

He merely smiled and with gentle authority pointed towards the shoes.
I looked at the shoe and pulled up my foot, inspecting the difference in size, thinking to perhaps show Him that there was no way my small foot would fit. He wouldn’t have any of it. He coaxed me off the bed and onto the floor. I stood still, frozen, staunchly unmoving. He wasn’t deterred, nor did He wait. He placed me in the shoes. I looked back at Him helpless, watching how the shoes engulfed my foot. Not only did they not fit, I could have fit a whole shoe-clad foot inside them!

“Walk.”

Did I hear Him correctly? He pointed ahead of me and urged me forward.

“But, I’m gonna stumble! I’m gonna fall! I’ll walk right out of the shoes! They do not fit!” I was crying and pleading, I could not do this thing!

“Walk it out until they fit.”

Those words encouraged me. Something broke within my spirit and I found myself moving forward. He walked behind me and assisted me each time I stumbled and fell and all the while encouraged me onwards.

That seems crazy huh? That we could actually walk something into fitting us? But, there are things in my life that I have been led to do that just don’t fit. They don’t feel right, they aren’t looked at favorably, and they just leave me scrambling for that big, sun-soaked bed.
And I’ve been tempted to throw the shoes off, move away from anything resembling a life-form to an island where I can declare a law which states, “No shoes allowed!” Only, I can’t. Because the minute I reach down to release myself from their burdensome awkwardness, His gentle voice speaks, “Walk it out until they fit.”

“But you don’t understand!” I wail. “They look at me, they don’t like my shoes, and question where I bought them or if I should wear them at all! And they have another pair, they say they are the ones You intended for me, and the thing is, Daddy, they fit!”

He is silent.

“Wouldn’t it be easier, Daddy? To wear the shoes they have? Wouldn’t it be easier, more comfortable to just put these clodhoppers in the closet and run instead of stumble all the stinkin’ time!”

Then He speaks, “Easier? Yes. Comfortable? Yes. Would it make them happier with you, less unsure of Me in you? More favorable toward you and My work through you? Yes. But, will it strengthen you? Will you trust me as much? Would your faith believe the impossible and your heart hear My voice beyond the noise? Would you be empowered to stand for Me against the flow no matter how the great the cost? No.”

“So what You’re saying is…?”

“Walk it out.” Oh, that smile. Oh, that overwhelming peace that outdoes the purest yellow light of any sun-washed room! Oh, that loving glint in His eyes that undoes every fear in me.

Maybe this is you… Maybe the shoes He has for you are a little clunky, or maybe they are tight and uncomfortable and need some breaking in? This I know, you alone know the path He’s asked you to walk, and in the end, it isn’t about what others thought or what they believed, it is completely about your obedience – to the hardship, to the pain, or to the rejection. Allegiance requires big steps, unashamed trust, and a heart that only needs One yes.

So, if you see me stumbling a little, wearing shoes that aren’t trendy or anything YOU would ever wear, understand that you aren’t meant to, because I’m wearing the footwear my Daddy picked especially for me!

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The Elected

Today is the day after the vote, and nothing has changed.

This doesn’t surprise me.

I was talking to God about this, and He reminded me of this verse:
“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

God did not say:
“…If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and select them a new governmental leader to restore their land.”

And yet, that is what we believe. We believe that if we seek and pray He will appoint someone else to do the work. This has never been so, and will never be. The truth is we aren’t comfortable with the idea that He has appointed us. We often look for ways out of our appointments.

We are burdened for a need in our lives or in another’s and so we beg off prayer. Pray for me, pray for this, pray over them… I am guilty. This takes the responsibility off of us. This allows us to look to other things, when obviously God has called our attention to those things.

We are tired of abortion and the taking of innocent lives in heinous and barbaric ways. But, are we supporting organizations that vehemently oppose those acts and reach out instead to help the mother understand the value of the life she carries inside?

We hate to see the impoverished; in fact, so much so that we struggle to call them poor. We make comments about laziness and living off the government, but are we lending them a helping hand? Are we showing them theimportance of work and allowing them the opportunity to serve?

I could go on and on…this list could be never ending. But, I am not here to point out what’s wrong with us. I want us to see what is right with us! What God purposes us to do, regardless of who is in charge.

Isaiah 63:1-2 says: “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.”

That same Spirit that anointed Jesus is on His elect. We who are His are ambassadors, and as ambassadors we are chosen to continue the work that He started. That is good news!

As long as I have been praying and seeking God, this is what I have found – Prayer is the exercise of faith…the results are born in our hearts, out of that obedience. So as we pray we must remember that just as Christ declared as He took the stand before the people to announce His election, we too are called to do those same three things:

Bring good news to the poor – What is that good news? It is good news that the impoverished in Spirit don’t have to remain that way. Through Christ they are offered abundant life…That Christ’s economy isn’t based on the economy of man. That what they lack others have, and it is our responsibility to freely share.

Comfort the broken hearted – There are many of these, daily they grow. We aren’t called to stand on a soapbox and declare all the wrong things they’ve done to get there, we are called to sincerely comfort them, aid them in their suffering, and offer hope and life.

Proclaim freedom for the captives and release for the prisoners – We all can feel the chains or cage of some prison. Whether it is a literal holding cell or one of the mind and heart or the limitations of thebody. We all have the propensity to be captured by something. But, God says we have freedom through Christ! We must proclaim that.

Our circumstances may never change…in fact, they could get a lot worse. But, as Christians our election is sure! We know what we have been called to do and what it will take to heal our land…and it isn’t the promise of a Christ-friendly government. It is the promise of an abundant life in Christ…one that doesn’t look around for what we can get, but looks earnestly and urgently for what we can give.

The greatest empires always tumbled. The powers that be are now the powers that were. Nations have fallen, and wars have always been tragic. But, this election that we have isn’t about the “State of Affairs” it is about the affairs of the heart, it’s not a proclamation of the “State of the Union” but about the state of being unified. This is a Spiritual election that refuses to sit idly by and pray for others to do the work, but it is an anointing that says, “You are the one that I have chosen. Be my ambassador.”

In the end, it isn’t about who is elected. It is about what we elect to do.

Today is the day after the vote, and in my spirit, something is changing.

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It’s the little things

I’m concerned. It seems like God’s children are losing their purpose. They are getting so tied up with doing they are neglecting the gift of being. I have heard more often than I can let slide the words, “I feel like I’m wasting my time. I’m not sure I’m fulfilling my calling.” Okay, side-note: I have also had that thought. And, it bothered me. The truth is as we look around us, there is more and more to do. I think we get overwhelmed. Those of us that feel we need to take on every task or mission that is set before us are worn out, and those that are just dwelling in grace with an air of apathy are missing out. There is a balance. That balance is His Spirit.

I don’t think we put enough confidence in this gift, the gift of the Spirit. We are trying to do things on our own, when He does indeed have a plan and a purpose for us, and it isn’t some huge mystery that He has hidden and requires a treasure map and a key to unlock. More than that, it doesn’t necessarily mean fame and money and popularity. It’s absurd to think that, and yet we do, if we are honest, think that our obedience will bring about blessing in all it’s worldly forms.

Sometimes the simplest acts of obedience bring eternal blessing. I keep hearing “I need to show more love,” “I need to give more,” “I need to spend more time with my family,” and the same sweet souls that are saying this spend time dreaming up expressions of grandeur when it’s so much easier than that! Let’s break that down.

“I need to show more love.” Then make love the over-riding thought in everything you do. If you need a refresher on what “love is,” check out chapter 13 of 2 Corinthians. Love always requires compassion. Seeing others as more important than you. More love will require more of you, put simply. It will require sacrificing what you want for what they want. It will require more work not less. It will require giving when you are more comfortable with receiving. It will require becoming less as His Spirit in you takes over. If you want to show more love, make this your prayer: Father, today show me how to love like you love us.

“I need to give more.” Ok. So, do. The excuse is often that we don’t have the means or the time, well, that’s part of the gift. Instead of taking those clothes to the consignment store, find a family that lost everything in a house fire, or a church that takes up collections, or simply donate it to Goodwill. If you have been holding that pamphlet from World Vision or Compassion International in your hands and thought, “Maybe I should..” Do it. You will be surprised how quickly you get accustomed to that small amount deducted monthly. There are any number of gifts we can give…be creative, and make this your prayer: Father, today show me who I can help, and give me the willpower to assist them.

“I need to spend more time with my family.” This doesn’t require you to plan a 7 day cruise. This can be as simple as instituting a “family night.” Cook their favorite foods, or order them in for those that don’t like to cook. Pick out a game, a movie, or put up a tent! If that isn’t your thing, go out as a family to eat…no friends just family, and visit, talk, share. You will be surprised how much more inclined they are to talk when you are investing in them. Incorporate mother/father/daughter/son dates. These are great! My youngest loves this! She already gives me the stink eye because I married her daddy before she could… who better to show her how to act on a date and how she should be treated than her daddy? Sometimes these one on one moments of investment open up more communication and affection than you will ever discover talking over your laptop or texting to their iPods. There are a million different ways to show your love for them, to give them more attention and to spend time with them all at the same time! Make this your prayer: Father, help me to make time for my family. Prioritize my life to invest in them, and give me grace to deal with the drama. ☺ (Maybe that last part doesn’t apply to you as it does me.)

Maybe you are wondering, “But, what of our purpose, our calling?” This is our calling. God sets aside two things as the purpose of mankind in various forms and places in the Bible, but it boils down to basically two things: Love God and love others. In that order, and with intensity! Whatever gifts you are given – and there are any number of gifts that we each possess – He placed them in you to do these two things. And when you love others and share His attention and affection with them, this is an act of worship!

So don’t get bogged down in the world of “success” and wondering if you are missing something more. Instead rely on His Spirit inside you that beckons and impresses and inspires. Listen to that still small voice, and as you do you will realize that it is louder than you ever realized, and you will feel your life swaying with its energy, and as you give into the current and power you will find that you are doing better. You are loving better. You are giving better. You are spending valuable time with those that are your family. And, as a reward you will see that the world around you is doing better…your circle of influence is more peaceful, more enjoyable, and more fulfilling. One simple offering at a time, and your purpose will be made complete even if you never do anything spectacular! Who defines spectacular or grand, anyway? The God who came to earth in a feeding trough and died on a splintered cross, was buried in a borrowed grave and gave over the Good News to a ragtag bunch of fishermen and sinners. I think He knows better than us.

The Thorn

I’ve been studying about Thorns this week…not actual thorns on rose bushes and other such deceptively beautiful plants…but flesh thorns, those things that stick and fester and cause us to doubt everything God created us to be. They take on many names, you have seen them if not felt them: molestation, rape, insecurity, fear, abuse, infidelity, abortion, abandonment, sexuality, depression, or divorce. In just a matter of minutes, in most cases, they stick fast, and there they are, to be contended with or not.

I have dealt with my thorn for almost 30 years. A thorn I didn’t have any control or say over, and a thorn that was innocently thrust in. But, a thorn is a thorn, and so year after year, phase after phase, situation after situation, that same thorn poked and throbbed and tortured me. Yes. TORTURED me.

During this week, I felt its jab again. Because, we are after all studying thorns, and mine for so many years has been so real, so evident, so deep. So, as I do, when I see the evidence of the thorn I take it before God. This week, He taught me something that I have been too scared or too ashamed to see before, something that I want to share with you.

For years, I have pictured myself, as a little girl pouting before almighty God and showing Him my thorn. It would stick, I would hurt, I would cry and take it to my Father…and show it to Him. A year ago I did this, and He reached for it. I finally extended my hand far enough and held it out long enough that He grabbed my arm gently and pulled it to Him. I watched in admiration and humility as this thorn that had been giving me so much pain for so many years, was being pulled out! He dried my tears, danced with me, and instructed me to move forward and make a difference.

That boldness wasn’t without opposition. You see, for every step I moved to make a difference and to share what I had learned, the enemy met me with discouragement and fear and a greater attempt to discredit me and what God had called me to be. I wrestled with that, and every time, though knocked down for a moment, he discovered I wasn’t down for the count. So he dug deeper, and sent that fiery dart straight into my scar from my thorn.

Wounded, brutally broken, I nursed my thorn again. Angry and disappointed, pointing that finger at God, He offered to hold it. I pulled back, afraid. What if it hurt more this time, what if the thorn was bigger, what if it had never been removed at all, but only hidden? So, I held it out to Him, only to show Him with a pout that I was hurting yet again.

Yesterday, in my prayer time, I tried to show Him my scar, but He wouldn’t look at it. It’s a really strange feeling to be vulnerable before God and feel that He is disinterested. So, I dropped my hand and kept at my work, figuring I had done something wrong. Then last night, He spoke to me. He spoke to me in a picture, my picture, our picture.
I saw Lily (my 8 year old) hurting, crying, pouting holding her hand, looking at it. Her Daddy came up and asked her what was wrong, and she showed him her finger, “It hurts; it’s my thorn.” He reached for it and she pulled back, “NO! It’ll hurt worse! You’ll hurt me!” He stooped down and reached again, “Can I please just see your hand?” Defiant and crying, she pulled her hand away and told him no. Then seriously, he reached out for it again, “Honey, you have to trust me.” She looked at him, considering this request, but convinced that only she could effectively nurse her wound, she attempted to pull the thorn out on her own. Watching her, and sympathizing, he wouldn’t be dismayed, “Can I show you something?” Lily still holding her hand slowly raised her finger, cautiously. “Where is the thorn?” he asked. Confused she grabbed back her finger, “It’s…” He smiled and picked her up and placed her on his shoulders.

This morning, I woke up and understood. It’s GONE. This thing that I have tried to nurse, and I’ve been trying to understand, and I’ve been showing God for sympathy, is actually gone. The pain that I feel is real, but it isn’t the thorn. It’s a result of the thorn, one of the effects of the thorn, but the thorn itself… it was removed a year ago. So, today I have two choices: I can keep holding my hand, pouting over a wound that is healing and a thorn that is gone, or I can go forward in the truth that My Father can be trusted…and what He says is true, and He doesn’t undo what He has done, and He is lifting me up. After all, He showed me, I am on His shoulders, and the beauty of it is, His shoulders are broad enough to carry all of us!