We were visiting friends in Tucson, escaping the freezing temperatures for a brief respite to the warmth of the sun and the warmth of a welcome. After a restful day exploring the wonder of the desert, we gathered together for evening prayer before turning in. A particular phrase of one of my friend’s prayer caught my heart and my imagination. “Father, sing your lullaby of delight over us”.
I used to make up songs for my children, singing lullabies softly to coax my young sons to sleep. Never remembering the correct words, I would make them up as I went along inserting their names often. I loved it. Turns out, they loved it too.
As I laid me down to sleep that night in Tucson, I asked God what his lullaby of delight over me sounded like.
My mind immediately flashed to holy moments from earlier in the day - sitting alone in the shade listening to the wind blow through the leaves of the eucalyptus trees towering above me, the sound like water, like the movement of life. I remembered the sound of the red tail hawks crying and calling to each other as they circled above their nearby nest. The song of quails and mourning doves and birds I didn’t recognize added their melodies – a living spontaneous symphony. Then all was quiet again save for the movement of leaves as another gentle rolling breeze sung its way through the magnificent swaying trees. Beautiful.
A holy song. A lullaby of delight.
I love walking our golden retriever, Oban in the hills behind our home. Oban is almost 4 years old now but still such a puppy. Yesterday, he decided that he did not want to go for a walk after all but wanted to play tug ‘o war instead! In goes the leash into his mouth…back legs
braced, front legs extended, head pulling and shaking enticing me to P L A Y! Ok, I know he was being bad, but he was so cute! We tugged. Back and forth and then running. He was so happy! I passed other dog walkers along the way who registered various states of disapproval. “Bad Mommy!” Oh well.
Then Oban and I went up into the hills where no people were walking, no dogs tempting and off came his leash. OH HAPPINESS! He loves to run and I love his boundless doggy joy! But then, Oban found something dead to roll in. What is it with dogs and dead things?
Oban plops onto his back slithering his body onto whatever gross thing he has victoriously discovered. Over and over he rolls, not wanting to miss an inch of his now stinky coat. He is savoring it, blissful as he covers his body with the scent of death. He wants to marinate in it, become one with the stench and returns to me only with the greatest of reluctance.
Rolling in dead things.
It’s easy to do.
When I sin, it is really tempting to identify with it, marinate in it, and roll around in it. It’s so easy to believe that being a sinner is the truest me and I might as well wallow in my sin and my self-pity. Having failed again, the liar speaks with such authority to my weakened heart, saying that a sinner is who I am and sinning is all I’ll ever do so go ahead and just stay here. Roll around in death.
Rolling in a dead thing.
But no, the scripture says, “The death (Christ) died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus!” (Romans 6:10,11)
Hah! I am not defined by sin! I am dead to sin and alive to God! I will not be like my dog that relishes the scent of death; I will be like my Jesus who is LIFE, LIFE, LIFE!
How will I do that? Well, in a state of God given grace, I pray to humbly and quickly repent of sin and then turn and set my mind on things above where Christ is. He is perfect. Jesus is the only perfect One. He is my savior! I am crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me! (YAY!)
When I fix my gaze on my ugly, smelly, sinful flesh, my heart spirals downward in despair. But our Jesus urges us to “Look up! Look to ME!’ I long to do that. To fix my gaze on my God, my Life, my Hope, my Love, my Jesus.
One of the ways that helps me to do that is in worship. As we enter the summer months, the pace of my life slows down a bit and affords me more time to gaze at my Savior and relish who He is. I hope you will have more time for that as well.
To help you, what follows is a worship set of various songs I have been enjoying recently. They help me to stay in the Truth. The truth of who Jesus is (Truth himself) and the truth of who I am to him. Which means who I really am. And who you really are, too.
I pray they bless you as much as they have blessed me.
Mighty Breath of God Jesus Culture Come Away
One Thirst (feat. Jeremy Riddle & Steffany Frizzell) [Live] 7:05 Bethel Live Be Lifted High (Live)
When I Speak Your Name (feat. Kari Jobe) 5:28 Klaus Glory
My Home Is You (Live) 6:48 Darrell Evans Trading My Sorrows - The Best of Darrell Evans
More Than Ashes 5:54 Tim Reimherr Let the Weak Speak
Fill Me Up 6:25 United Pursuit Band EP
The Fragrance of Your Name 6:40 Cory Asbury Holy
Faithful to the End 4:14 Cory Asbury Let Me See Your Eyes
Great I Am 5:35 New Life Worship Great I Am - Single
Holy 6:36 Matt Gilman Holy
Yeshua (Live) 7:37 Will Reagan & United Pursuit Live At the Banks House
A friend’s daughter is turning 16 and asked a few friends and family members to write her a (short) letter about their memories of being sixteen and perhaps a little advice…here’s mine. I dedicate it to all the young women reading this…whatever their age.
Sweet Sixteen! What a milestone! Hooray for you! On my sixteenth birthday, I got my driver’s license. Now that was sweet. Sixteen is a year of transition and wonder and enlargening circles and increasing freedom and more deeply stepping into the lovely young woman you are.
When I was sixteen, most of the girls I knew had entered into the fray to attract a boyfriend. A date. An invitation. A kiss. A something. (Is it the same for you?) An intangible grid shifted in too many hearts around me (including mine) which gave an enormous amount of weight to the young men while robbing it from the young women. What did “he” think, say, do, ask? Those were the engrossing questions. What had begun in elementary school, increased to obsession in middle school, and became defining in high school. Girlfriends were sacrificed on the altar of “I’ve got a boyfriend, now.” Friendships that may have lasted for years were set aside in the interest of a relationship with a boy that may have lasted barely a few months or even days. You know it happens.
Something internal inside of too many of us handed away our self worth to the cutest boy who made our heart skip a beat. Yikes. When I was in high school, I accepted this. It can be a girl thing. This valuing boyfriends above girlfriends thing.
But you are not a girl. You are a self possessed, loved, and cherished young woman. Still, you are living in a world of girls. So guard your heart. Who you are is the most valuable treasure you possess. Be vigilant against handing away your self worth to anyone else. Male or female! You matter! Your heart matters! I still have girlfriends from high school. But…not any boyfriends. Friend boys. Yes. Boyfriends, no. (My most important friend boy from high school is now my husband!)
There is only One who can tell you to the core of your being who you are. And He has spoken and He continues to speak. Through creation, through His Word, and through the life, death, and triumphant resurrection of His Son. You are priceless. You are immeasurably loved. And nothing and no one can ever change that!
Enjoy being 16! Soak it in! There is the temptation to “rush” it…to rush life in the looking forward to the all that is coming. But I encourage you to savor it. Relish it. Stay in it. Be present to your own life and to the stage you are in; the glorious, wonderful age of sixteen!
Happy Birthday, dear heart! You’re marvelous.
your aunt Stasi
I stopped making New Year’s resolutions a few years ago. Now, I do like to dream but the resolution thing never seemed to work out for me. At the turn of this year, however, I decided to get more organized…with meal plans and grocery shopping in particular. I didn’t call my new, stay with the program, don’t try to figure out dinner at 5:30pm plan – a New Year’s resolution.
But it was.
I made my lists. I asked input from my family about what dinners they would like. I made a two week menu plan and posted it inside a kitchen cabinet. Ta da! And it has helped! It has. Mostly.
Until a week or so ago when I got bored with the menu. But hey, it lasted more than a month! That’s at least two weeks longer than any of my previous “get my life under control” plans. And I am not scrapping it. I’m just taking a little break. Really.
The line from the song Only Grace by Matthew West that goes“and if you fall, get back up, get back up” keeps playing in my head. I love that song. All those coachy, pep talking, life affirming messages of how it’s not about how many times you fall…it’s the getting back up that counts. They’re true!
Exercise programs, skin care regimes, regular quiet times, nutrition protocols, getting rid of clutter, no more late fees, scripture memorization…don’t we all have such good intentions?!? They are good! And we are human. We fall. We fail. We don’t return the phone call. We misplace the tax receipt.
We’re going to be alright!
The falling and failing in the tiny ways and in the monumental ways really are teaching us important lessons if we will be open to learn them. Even before the phoenix rises from the ashes and is still covered in soot, there is good happening! Think mercy. Think grace. If we can be kind to ourselves when we don't live up to our own desires, we will be much more able to be kind to others when they don't. Or can't.
Think of diamonds. Formed far beneath the earth’s surface (get it – you can’t see it happening) and under the perfect circumstances of pressure and heat…they rise to the surface through volcanic eruptions. Sheesh. I’m thinking there’s an analogy here.
I’m not motivated to make dinner tonight. It is just not going to happen. I’m sure I can find some spaghetti in the pantry and boiling water is going to stretch the capacity of all I can muster. But I will try again. In every area where I seem to continually fall and find myself back on the ground…for what may feel either like a moment or a millennia. Diamonds are being formed. Formed in the beauty and context of grace.
Getting back up. Really soon. ~Stasi
Addicted to doesn’t mean the same thing as dependent upon. But it’s close, isn’t it? If I’m addicted to alcohol, my body will crave it, my mind will demand it, my cells will cry out for it. I need a drink in order to cope, to feel better or to feel nothing at all. Or, at least, I think I need a
drink. I believe I need a drink. I turn to alcohol to help me, to save me. I depend upon it to do what it has done in the past…offer a momentary sense of relief.
Or maybe it’s not like that at all. Maybe, if I’m addicted to alcohol, I am in a cell and it is my jailer. I need air, I need food, I need water,… I need to survive but in order to do that I must get my jailer’s permission. Alcohol holds the key that must be unlocked if I am to live. I am its slave, its prisoner. I have no choice. I am captive.
Or maybe that doesn’t even come close to describing the bondage. When a person is addicted to something, they truly feel helpless to be free from it. Powerless. Unable. Somewhere, the friendly face became a tormenter. Enjoying something became needing something. Needing something became shackled to something.
Pornography. Food. Drugs. Alcohol. Sex. Gambling. Spending. Escaping. You name it.
My friend had been sober for seven years before the pain in her sons life overwhelmed her to the point that she returned to an old “lover” for comfort. At a wedding reception with her, I noticed the wine glass by her plate. “Are you drinking?”, I asked. “Yes!”, she answered with defensive strength, “it’s helping.” It’s helping. Alcohol or any other addiction may not be the answer but it is an answer. When the pain becomes too much, it can feel so much saner to run from it. But when we run from our pain, we run from our healing.
After another eight months gripped by the familiar hell of alcoholism, my friend has been sober now for two weeks. And two weeks is a miracle. Heck, one day is a miracle. She is receiving the grace to stop running.
I need grace as much as I need air. No, probably more. I cry out for grace. I am utterly dependent upon God’s grace. And he promises that his grace is and forever will be sufficient for us.
Though we can be utterly dependent upon God, we can’t be addicted to God. God refuses to be put in a box. He will not respond, show up, or come through for us in the way we want every time simply because he is too brilliant for that. He outsmarts us. He is a PERSON who wants to be known, loved and worshiped. Not controlled. Not addicted to. But pursued. Depended upon. And proven stronger than our addictions time and time and time again. One miracle following another, day in, day out. Healing upon healing. Grace upon grace. Glory to glory.
I read on Yahoo news recently about a woman (Ms. Warden) in North Carolina who is spreading the word from her Subaru that Jesus will be returning on May 21st of this year. Another ministry devoted to deciphering the scriptures teaches that he’s coming back in 2016. I forget the exact day. December 23, 2012 is also a day being offered up for Christ’s imminent and triumphant return as is May 14thof this year.
From the Spokesman-Review: “It’s a very jarring thing to be told you have five months on Earth,” admits Warden, 29. “That may interrupt any earthly plan.”
Warden may be making the most attention-getting end-times prediction now going, but it’s hardly the first: In the year 1000, hysteria over Jesus’ return so captivated medieval society that crops went unplanted and criminals were freed from jails.
In 1988, Edgar Whisenant published “88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988.” When the year passed with the material world still intact, he followed up with “The Final Shout: Rapture Report 1989.”
The world has heard lots of dire predictions in the past. No wonder most are skeptical and find this kind of declaration to border the realm of crazy.
However, many if not most biblical scholars well versed in the prophetic believe that the generation who will be alive when Jesus returns is alive now. They may be twenty years old. They may be two. They do not know but they have my attention. Because we do know that Jesus is returning. He actually is coming back. And he urges us in the scriptures to be alert and ready. Which begs the question, how then are we to live? How are we to be ready? What would change in your life if you knew, really knew that Jesus would be coming back to earth in all of his glory in a mere 140 days? How would you live differently? What would your prayer life be like? How would it alter the way that you are seeking first his kingdom?
I don’t know the exact date of Christ’s return. I don’t know if I am going to be alive when he breaks through the Eastern sky or if I will have already crossed over. I don’t know if I am going to see him face to face in thirty years, thirty days or thirty minutes. I do know that I am going to see him. And I want to live my life today and increasingly in a way that not only makes me more ready for that longed for moment but makes other people more ready as well. Don't you?!
The fact that Jesus is returning is really good news. REALLY GOOD NEWS!!! Oh, Jesus, help us to be increasingly alert and ready. Help us to know you more deeply as you truly are. As we know you more truly, we love you more deeply, long for you more eagerly, and can't keep ourselves from winsomely telling others about how utterly marvelous you are. Come Lord Jesus. Even so!
Christmas is an invasion. Not just the kingdom of God invading the earth, but God himself, invading the earth. In Person. Oh, how I love this!
I went with a friend to her church this past Sunday, this fourth Sunday of Advent. I went hungry for the holy. Knowing this is a particularly good church, I was excited and expectant…ready to encounter Jesus. The singing began. I can’t call it worship. Darn it. It was singing. Before the last song, the worship pastor had a “word” for the body. It’s was a pretty common word. I’ve heard it before. So have you. It went along these lines.
“The LORD is a warrior. All battles are His. You are not meant to fight. Some of you are inviting the battle into your life by fighting. God wants you to surrender and rest in Him.” Raise the white flag. Don’t engage in warfare. God doesn’t want you to do what he said to do in James 4:7 or in 1Peter or in Ephesians. The armor of God thing…don’t need it. Don’t bother. OK, I’m ranting. The “word” was as unbiblical as it was unhelpful. (And lest I make the same mistake he did by speaking in sweeping generalizations, yes, there are times when we are not to fight, the battle is not ours and we are to express our faith completely by resting in God…and yes, there are times when we cannot fight and need the body of Christ to intervene on our behalf…and yes, fighting is not striving…oh – how we need an intimate walk with Jesus!)
As I listened to the man, who is a good man, I asked…”Is this for me, God? Am I taking on battles that aren’t mine to fight?”. No, he says. And then I wondered…where are the people who need to hear a word like this? I haven’t met them. I’ve seen and encountered and experienced a lot of fear and passivity. I haven’t encountered a bunch of warriors out there swinging the sword of the Lord around willy nilly looking for fights that aren’t theirs. But these folks must be out there somewhere because a lot of pastors and teachers are telling them to stop it.
The pastor came up after the final song and began to give his very Biblical message. It was about how Jesus’ coming in the manger was actually an invasion. About pulling back the curtain and looking at Revelations and reading the account of the dragon waiting to devour the child. It was about the bigger picture, the larger story, the miraculous breaking into this world. HOORAY!
My sons are home for Christmas. This makes a mother’s heart very happy. I am cherishing them and this time. Last night, we went together to see the movie Tron. Spoiler alert! It is a movie about a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue! Sound familiar? It is a story about a Creator and things going wrong, and the battle between good and evil and the good needing to be rescued. The Gospel was in there! Someone knows we are in a battle between good and evil and that we are required to rise up.
At the theater, we were sitting behind a row of teenagers. A gaggle of them. About twelve young men and women reeking of marijuana. And I do mean, reeking. I could see them as well taking swigs out of the bottles they brought in knowing they had smuggled in alcohol and my heart broke for them. They were a bit loud. A bit rambunctious. A bit irritating and a bit smelly.
I watched the movie but I also watched them. After the movie, I wanted to talk to the young woman sitting in front of me. I lingered. I went to the bathroom. I prayed. I hoped and expected her to come into the bathroom. See, I was once that girl. But the invasion of the kingdom of God broke into my life and I have been rescued. I wanted to tell her that she could be rescued, too!
She didn’t come into the bathroom.
When I finally came out, there was the whole group of teenagers standing in a circle. My sons were over by the door waiting for me and I hesitated…looked at the group, looked at my sons…and then completely compelled by the love of Christ, I walked up to their circle. “Did you enjoy the movie?”, I asked. Yes, they most emphatically did!
I told them that I had been sitting behind them. That I saw and smelled how totally stoned they were…that I saw them drinking too. And then I told them, a few things that I hope will haunt them beautifully. I told them that part of the movie was true. That there is a Creator and his name is Jesus. That I was like them at their age but I had been rescued. That there is another way to live. A better way. That sometime in the future they may remember the words of the crazy lady after the movie…it may come back to them. And I hope they remember the name Jesus and that they are so very deeply loved.
They were amazingly silent and sober as I spoke. One young man said thank you before I left with longing in my eyes. Some of them laughed as soon as I got a few steps away. Of course they did! But oh God, may they remember.
I don’t do that often. But I pray to do it more. To follow Jesus and obey. To speak what he tells me to speak. To love. To offer. To risk. To invade.
See Jesus has passed the baton to us. The scriptures say “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force. (Matt 11:12). It is an invasion. An invasion is active. An invasion is strong. Yes, the kingdom of God is advancing and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. But the kingdom of God is not advancing from a silent, surrendered couch.
Submit to God. Resist the devil. Take your stand. Fight the good fight. Let the invasion continue. Yes and amen and a happy, holy and merry Christmas to you and yours!
I had my first Christmas miracle today! I was in and out of the DMV in less than 20 minutes having secured the new license plates I needed! (The originals were stolen off of Sam’s car). I’ve been praying lately that I would see God in new ways. Praying for a spirit of wisdom and
revelation to know his love more deeply and truly; to see into the spiritual realm more clearly and to walk with Jesus more intimately. The shortness of the DMV line was a gift. I see that. The heart rocks God continues to shower me with are gifts. I see them as revelations of God’s unconditional love for me. The ease and depth of conversation around the dinner table with my family…love it. Recognize it as a gift from my Father’s hand. Needing to fight for our sleep, love and pray through a weight of oppressive warfare, battle through a pervading sense of disqualification…haven’t seen those as gifts. Standing against the seemingly endless accusation from the enemy; not enjoying that. Needing to call child protective services, listening to my friend cry as she tells me of her husband’s betrayal, learning of the latest drug bust for herion at my son’s school…having trouble recognizing Jesus there.
But he is there. Jesus not only reigns. He is reigning. Not only did he live, he is living. He came. He is coming still. Now. Today. In all moments. And soon, He is coming in the moment we are long awaiting…on a powerful white steed, with justice in his heart, and a flaming sword in his hand. Halleluia.
Many of those I care for are in times of deep trevail. They are needing to stand against the world’s tide and the enemy’s assault and rely on God in ways that are difficult but ultimately so very good. Gee wiz, we all are, aren’t we? And sometimes, it gets confusing and tiring. But the fruit, oh the fruit, of pressing into Jesus in the midst of the sorrows of life is pure gold. Not only for the good of our own deepening faith but for the fellowship of believers cheering us on and the eyes of the world that are always watching. Like Joseph, we will come to say, the enemy meant it for evil, but our God – the God of the resurrection – meant it for our good and the saving of many lives.
The injustices and suffering in the world are beyond vast. Heartbreaking. Overwhelming. Mind boggling. You know this. This earth has deteriorated horrificly. And it was to this world that Jesus came. Thank you God for coming!
And the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born FOR YOU a Savior who is Christ the Lord!”. (Luke 2:10)
His coming, his love, his pursuit, his triumph, his great goodness is the Christmas miracle that we celebrate; that opens our eyes, that keeps us breathing and moving forward. And so I decorate my house for Christmas and I still my heart to make room for the Prince of peace who has come and is coming again. I pray. I wait. I yearn. I ache. I hope. I believe. I ask. I seek. I bow. I worship. I surrender. I receive.
Come Lord Jesus. Even so.
Maybe hormones aren’t as bad as I think they are. Maybe they are my friend. I would like to declare a truce, better still, I’d like to make nice. To that end…a little note of appreciation to estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone. The likes of which make me crazy. Sometimes. But maybe I need to be thankful. No, really.
Men, you can read this if you want but this baby is for women. Yay women. Go women!
I have been getting my period for over forty years now. WHAT?!? Forty years. Geez am I old. Anyway, I have been getting my period since I was eleven years old. So then why am I so surprised when it comes? I have a killer headache for a day or two before the onset of my period. Certain places are tender. I want red meat. Preferably with cheese. Chocolate in large quantities would be good too. I have feelings…emotions…and then woa! OH! Well, that explains a lot. Who knew? Well, for one, my husband knew…
When I am near or around, say close to menstruating, the world in general and my world in particular is a dark place. I have no friends, no joy and no hope. These symptoms I have come to recognize at least as passing. I make no huge decisions during these hours. It would be best if I did not come over to your house to your prayer meeting, sales meeting, party, whatever during these hours. I have learned this. But there also is some truth that surfaces in my heart when my hormones are raging.
All of my feelings are not false. They are intensified. (This is the making nice, appreciating, hormones-aren’t-so-horrible part.) The injustices of the world beg attention, my attention. I am moved to act. This is when I write the editor or my Compassion child. Writing the oh so belated thank you notes happens now, too.
The hurt I feel at being judged and misunderstood by others goes beyond irritation to sorrow. A sorrow that I know I share with every other human being. A sorrow that incites me to pray for others. During this time of the month, the desire I feel inside as a woman for relational intimacy rises and will not be quenched by anything other than relational intimacy. Not red meat. Not chocolate. Not even movie theater popcorn. And this is difficult remember because in these moments I have no friends, no joy, and no hope.
During my cycle, I begin to wonder if I am always so self absorbed. Or is it merely my awareness that increases? My hormonal awareness of myself and others. (But mostly of myself…shoot.)
It can become a time of grace. Really! It can! Extending it, offering it and receiving it.
I turn to Jesus. And where did he go by the way? How far must I cry out for him to hear me? The faithful friend, the companion, the one who is closer than any other sometimes feels so dang far away. And then, hoorah, faith kicks in. Jesus didn’t go anywhere. Whether my estrogen level is off the charts or dipping below the equator, Jesus is right here!!! And HE GETS ME. Perfectly! All the time! He understands. Oh thank God.
And he aches too. For me and with me. He feels deeply all the time. ALL THE TIME! Oh, to be that alive! I’m not sure I could take it.
But I am growing in taking it. I am alive. With all the emotional roller coaster experiences and deepening faith that that entails. And perhaps I am never more keenly alive than when my hormones are raging. So thank you gang. Really. Truce.
Today, right now, I look to Jesus. I ache for him. And I eagerly cry out for his return. Come Lord Jesus! And menopause coming maybe wouldn’t be so bad either.
Told you this was for women.
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