Category Archives: the practice of faith

31 Days to Holistic Christ-Centered Living–Day #8: Faith With Works Is Pure Grace!

I pour over all the faces of children, a sea of them, hoping to get a glimpse of him.

He is our sponsored Compassion child, and his name is Rohan.

We had supported him four years ago through a children’s ministry, and then when our pastor left the church and moved back to California, we also left and began a new journey. The children’s ministry was halted, and so the support for Rohan also discontinued.

I have thought of him once in a while, but with so many mouths to feed ourselves on one income, and almost losing our home twice, we had not given much thought to supporting Rohan or any other child. Until now.

Ann Voskamp’s writing and speaking and going to Equador for Compassion children–children who are orphaned, or whose parents are barely able to feed their children and the children work instead of attending school or church–this has really touched me and sparked something within.

I also read about the poor, sweet, mal-nourished babies and children on Katie’s blog, about the men with alchohol addictions and the mothers who need someone how to teach them how to love and take care of their babies, need someone to teach them about Jesus and His redemptive, saving grace.

When I know that it is all about God, His glory and not mine, the suffering that He went through for me and for every child of His on this earth, how can my response be to do nothing?

My only right response to the suffering on that sacred tree must be to reach out–not just vertically, but horizontally.

This is something I’ve known for a while now, but it is really starting to sink into my heart, pounded in by the nails on that heavy beamed cross.

So after not being able to find my sponsored child, Rohan, I called the Compassion people and asked where he was. They told me that his family has moved to an area where there is not a Compassion program. My heart almost stopped beating in my chest. This was worse than I was expecting–I was hoping to hear that he was continuing to receive support.

But then the voice on the other end told me something I didn’t know. He said that Rohan’s family moving is good news–this means that they have probably moved where there is better work for the parents, or more family for a better support system for the children. My heart sang at this news.

As I hung up the phone, I thought about our other sponsored child in Africa. We picked her picture up at a concert this past summer. She seemed to speak to me, look straight through me with her beautiful eyes, pain peering out.

Her name is Deliphine and she is the same age as Ivy. The kind folks that took down our information said that we would receive something in the mail soon to begin our sponsorship.

Nothing ever came. This sweet African girl is still waiting on us. After months of battling illness, and feeling my way around in a fibromyalgia fog, I found clarity of mind enough and I found her–the packet we brought home with us sitting on top of the fridge all this time.

Something has been stirring within, deeply, deeply stirring. I feel God waking me from my slumber. I want to call and find out if we can re-start the sponsorship process for this precious girl.

I want to do more with the grace that has been given me, more with the blood that has been shed for me than just sit here.

If faith without works is dead, then I have been faithless. But He is faithful. He keeps pursuing me, and He keeps pursuing you, and He is pursuing and loving all of His creation, and He is using even me.

I want to go, be poured out as an offering, to be laid out, bare, roots surging straight deep to the well of God and the gospel of His grace and naked branches stretching out and reaching them, all of His children and straight up to the Heavens in worship.

Please join me at Ann’s for more reflections on faith:

And if you would like to follow here as I follow the Compassion bloggers in Equador this week…read their stories?

Compassion Bloggers: Ecuador 2011

and also at Emily’s for Imperfect Prose Thursday:

31 Days to Holistic, Christ-Centered Living– Day #7: What My Faith Rests Upon…

The beginning to this story is here

I look up, rain pouring in my face, and I cannot see well.

It’s dark and all I can see is Him. But I don’t know what He’s trying to say.

So many voices, and at times like this, I just want to draw my family close, my little ones under my wing, Husband over me, covering, and I want to just shut out the world because the cold winds, they blow right through, and how to make it stop?

Can I buy a window to keep that kind of force-gale wind out? But I know God said to us in His word, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27

So I know that I’m not meant to stay this way, cocooned up, wrapped warm, no matter how much I think I need the comfort, for His children are hurting.

He has only allowed me to draw close like this, because He is about to branch me out, open, like bare oak tree branches, hands naked, reaching up, raised high in the sky in worship.

And when I can’t make sense of all the hurt, pain, and rejection, and when I don’t understand why I am not accepted in some circles, why things feel awkward and hard with those loved ones when I want things to be fluid and loving, and my world feels off-kilter, like it’s great big orb has fallen clumsily off it’s axis and everything is sliding…then what does my faith rest upon?

Because really, when I am slammed with reality, the truth is, it isn’t about me, and my hurt, and my pain, or even needing to keep my world on it’s axis, yes, even, for the sake of my family.

When we find things like this blog on the interwebs, and we sit, lump in throat, and tears in eyes, and we realize that this world does not contain just us, as hard as we try to wrap cocoon ourselves in our comfortable home, candles, bible reading, and happy stories–we are somehow pulled out of our cocoon, out of skin, and we are asked to die on that cross with our Savior.

And we keep coming back to this place, which forces us to ask WHAT does this all mean? This journey, what does it mean? Here, where we are now–why are we here yet again, not in a church?

When we would love to indulge in just sitting in the pew, and be unseen, hardly noticed by anyone, God uproots us yet again, and has used this illness to do it. WHY do we have no desire to continue going to church to play the game–the game of social groups and accepted statuses?

Why do we shy away from church and steely sharp steeples, but want to run into the arms of God and homeless people and little children–orphans who need our help–orphans who just need someone to hold them, them sitting all alone, simply because there arent enough hands?

And yet, why havent we done something? Why are we still here? Is this called incubation? If that is what this is, it is pretty miserable.

But im learning to hate it less and less, to be angry with God less and less, and to give thanks for my circumstances more and more. Truly, this is a miracle straight from the throne room of Heaven. This is not something I can do on my own.

So I pick up the cross, bent low, and I carry it like He did, bent and broken for me, and I find my faith resting on that rugged, splintery cross. And where my faith has seemed more like doubt, and where it has been splintery and where winter has blown straight cold through, it rests on that heavy beamed cross–because that saving tree, it can take it all. And my redemptive God, He can make all whole. How I love Him! How He is my only rock, my only fortress, my only Hope, my only true joy!

When my faith is resting upon that cross, that sure rock, that strong foundation, I really can count it–all the suffering–every last hard blast of it–and call it joy.

And maybe joy looks like my bare oak arms branched out, roots deep in the ground, surging straight to the well of God and the gospel of grace and arms stretching to touch a little child in need of Him? Maybe this is how I worship? Maybe this is my only right response to the suffering on that sacred tree?

Maybe this is what my faith really looks like when it’s resting there.

I think there is definitely more to this that I would like to explore. I hope to write more tomorrow at Ann’s on Walk With Him Wednesday, so please come back.

Join me, if you like, at Ann’s for last week’s post on faith–im joining late!

And please join me as I follow the Compassion bloggers in Equador this week!

Compassion Bloggers: Ecuador 2011

31 Days to Holistic Christ-Centered Living: Day#4: What does my faith rest upon?

Water hits the dry soil and puffed faces of lavendar mums, and I tilt the basket at the mailbox so that the water seeps and doesn’t spill off onto the ground. Leaves shake and shudder, high and naked on their branches in the early morning dew and northern wind blowing south. They are strong, but even they will have to loosen their tightly clenched fist and give way to nature and God’s timing. The brown ones, already dead, a warm blanket for dormant hope, seeds of faith lying deep, they crunch underneath my feet, signaling the passage of time and it hits me. That Fall is already here and before I can really grasp it and hold it firm, winter will have blown in on an arctic gale and clutched my bones and these dying leaves with it’s icy grip, them just trying to hang on, me just trying to hang on.

I water, force-nourish, and I notice how the flowers refuse to drink, how they stand defiant, soil all clotted hard, and the water just slips right off, falls to the ground below, missing it’s purposeful mark. So I, persistent that the plants will drink, keep pouring, slowly, until the soil is softened enough to receive.

This is the way with me. I harden in my selfish desires and unbelief.

But He continues to lay my heart bare, to rip off the scales that blind me. He causes me to be in the pit-place that I loathe being in, but I am here, and I realize I have been ungrateful for what He has given. He uses this dark place to make me see.

I bow head and weep confession for my sin. When I’m ungrateful, when I complain and allow myself to be bitter, and I don’t give thanks, I’m saying to God everything He’s given isn’t enough. When bad things happen-when I am sick for two years and beyond, not knowing when I will get well–and I refuse to praise with grateful lips, when I refuse to worship with serving hands, then I stop the hoping and begin the hardening, and the refusing to receive His nourishing rain.

The rain may seem inconvenient with it’s downpour, and unrelenting, uncomfortable drenching, my soul shuddering cold, and how it makes everything spill over and I can’t control it’s containment, can’t restrain it.

It’s water washes out the hardened surface, carves new paths in my heart, forms the grand canyon in me, pushes out the impurities and guts the ugly and I ache–a cold wind blowing right through the gaping hole of me.

This is when my faith wanes. I callous up, and I clot my soil dry, make it so hard that no one can see what’s inside, and they can’t prod and pick at me.

This doesn’t allow His life-giving water in, the water that I will never thirst again by, but at least, my fearful mind rationalizes, they won’t get to the roots of me, laid bare for them to crush and eat away at my very core.

What does my faith rest upon in this dry, wintry gale season, blowing hard, blowing right through me? What does faith look like when I’m too cold to receive His rain? His grace?

I look up.

Come back for the ending here tomorrow?

Linking up with Emily at Imperfect Prose:

31 Days to Holistic, Christ-Centered Living: Jesus Saves!

I am trying to make supper, but do not have the ingredients I need, Little one keeps jumping out of the tub and running into the kitchen, sopping wet, and I know that Husband will walk in the door soon, and being the first day of the new schedule, I want to prove to him that I can do it. I glance sharply at the clock, wound tight with my endeavors to keep to the hands that race so quickly around the numbered face.

I break, sinful, weak creature that I am, and raise my voice to my daughter and scold her for almost burning the cookies–her love project.

I immediately see my fault. We’ve been here too many times before–I know this scene–I’ve messed up over and over–too much to not recognize myself in the mirror of her sad eyes.

She had gotten everything down, mixed it all up, determined, and when I came to help, she had proudly held it up to me, beaming, wanting my approval. She had done this, this love-serving, to please me. Why would I scold her when something in the plan goes off course?

I go over to her, try to drum up some emotion, try to feel this remorse, to be connected to the moment with her, but it’s too painful, and she knows, and I put my arm around her and say, “I’m sorry for yelling and being mean to you, you know?”

I know that I should open up more, let the emotion flow, share the gospel with her like I have before, about how this wretched mama needs the cross, but I don’t. Time demands of us to continue our tasks.

My eyes snap to the stove’s clock again. My head is spinning, like Earth rotating so wildly fast that it feels as if it’s standing still, the thoughts running fierce and intense like an ultra-marathoner.

“Didn’t I say I wanted to learn to live this holistic, Christ-centered life? Didn’t I say I wanted to learn and didn’t we make a schedule, Husband and I, to help me sleep better, wake earlier, be more present with the children, and didn’t we say reading time for everyone, Bible at the supper table every night and I want to nurture and I have desires deep down to please my family and make them happy.

Isn’t this what I’ve wanted since I first read “Stepping Heavenward” years ago and an idea came into my head?

That everything doesn’t have to be blinking lights, screens, and fast food–that we can really be present with one another, really talk, really serve–offering it all up to God as a whole–every intricate part of our lives–this is what holistic living means. That we can live slow.

What did it say–the quote I read in Ann’s book by bedside’s soft light?

“I slept and dreamt life was joy, I awoke and saw life was service, I acted and, behold, service was joy!”–Tagore

When my fourth was born, the milk would not nourish her and she was losing weight and it about drove this mama mad and the post-partum depression went untreated, and has caused stress-disorder in my body, says the doctor. So now I swallow down a pill every day to get back on track.

I stand there feeling like the schedule is on a runaway frieght train, and I will cave under all the pressure. My neck tightens and my throat begins to close in.

This is why I stay in the room, closed off all the time, the voice tells me. “May as well give up; you can’t do it,” the black angel says from his perch on my shoulder. “No point in making yourself this frustrated and causing a panic attack and causing everyone to be unhappy too–you should just throw in the towel.” His voice sounds like reason, like wisdom. It is true that if I continue like this, I will just get more ill.

I say out loud, “Oh God, help me.” Shane and Shane sings “Burn us up” on the little player next to the stove and I stare at the flame burning in the lit candle, how it dances furiously and licks the side of the glass.

I drop my head, in hand, rub temples and talk to Him, thinking of those three brave in the fire, when the King told them to bow to the idol, to reject their God, how they stood in the face of imminent death and said,

“O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18 NIV(emphasis added)

I want that kind of faith-to be brave in the face of death, to stare unmoving at the enemy of my soul, to say, “Burn me up” when I fear the destruction of my flesh, to not flinch in the storm of all the gospel might demand of me, what circumstances it might require me to continue to believe in the midst of.

There are martyrs who are dying for the cause of Christ overseas, there are orphans dying with no one to hold them while they are dying–they die alone. There is a child alone in the desert right now, wasting away with starvation. This makes me wonder why I can’t have faith in the middle of my daily struggles.

Why do I listen to the deciever when I know that Christ has already conquered him for me?

As I talk to God, head in hands, the miracle happens: His presence comes and breaks me.

I sob surrender to Him.

And I know at that moment that this is how I start living this holistic, Christ-centered, offering unto Him life: It is only through the cross of Christ that has conquered my enemy, Satan, and because not only did He conquer him, but Jesus is here, with me, right here in my need, clutching my hand in the fire, in my desperate moment.

All I have to do is cry out and surrender to the grace pouring over me. To the cross I cling…moment by moment.

I cannot comment back on my site–Google has denied access– in the meantime, please know that I read and bask in every encouraging word! Thank you for being here!

Please join me at Ann’s site for more reflections, ponderings on faith:

Child-like Faith

Faith, such a hard word to grasp, wrap my mind around. What is faith? The Word of God defines it as the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

To me, this means believing with no evidence.

What am I really saying to my Creator when I have lost faith? Lost hope? I am making Him non-existent. I am displaying no evidence of Him in my life when I am without faith. He is non-existent in my life and to others around me–only because I have fallen away, not because He has gone anywhere. They can’t see Him if I don’t have faith–they lose their way, and we are all following one another down a wrong path–the blind leading the blind.

Though I would never breathe the words, I say God doesn’t exist, when I shout and scream anger and bitterness at the world, and in a moment of frustration and hurt pouring out, I throw my hands toward Heaven and with much ungratefulness and unbelief say “Thanks a lot for all this”.

So how do I show faith? How do I make this untangible thing tangible? How do I grasp it, this imaginative, mysterious thing that is so curious that it seems unreal?

It is continuing and persevering in spite of circumstances that say “just give up–it’s hopeless”, persevering not only for myself, but for others.

It means staying with my spouse and lovingly building a marriage and life together that reflects Christ even when all seems broken and the pieces are scattered, and I don’t know how to pick them up.

When my flesh fails, and everything in the world says “give up on this relationship”, I persevere and the spirit of God in me rises up in faith…bonding me back to God and His goodness…always hoping, always believing the best.

I continue to pick up the pieces of relationships with my spouse, my children, and loved ones, even when damage seems irreparable, and in hoping for something greater in the Spirit, I flesh out His promise by holding hands and sacrificing my flesh until there is no more me and only Him.

Faith is a thing of the heart–not a thing of the mind. It’s something I feel, not something I know, and yet something that I continue to hang onto in my mind when my emotions are not feeling it. God plants a tiny seed in my heart, and then my mind begins to accept like a child, and then moves on to figuring out, testing out, and the more I know, the more I find out that I don’t know anything, and that I have to trust with my heart.

It’s funny, the believing, the faith of a child…how I naively told friends and strangers, that the reason I knew God exists is because I could feel Him in my heart and mind–I feel Him with me, in me, and working through me. I knew, there was a part of me that that knew, that I was small, ignorant, and insignificant, needing to learn more of the knowledge and wisdom of life–the experience of life. The sheer shortness of my years made me not a scholar.

Who was I to answer the biggest question all men have ever asked as long as man has existed?

Who was I to say that I knew the answer to knowing how God existed?

And yet, now as an adult, I realize that that this answer was not so bad at all, and I knew more of the important stuff then than I do now. Now it is easier to doubt God, now that I am “wise” and experienced in the world.

And I believe that is why Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say unto you, whomever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” Luke 18:17 (KJV) The NIV says: “Unless you come with the faith of a child, you shall not enter the kingdom of Heaven.”. This is convicting to me, straight down to the core of me. I swallow the scriptures down, and they splay me out, uncovered and naked, they reveal my true heart before Him, and I am undone.

I know that I can only come this way–like a child–unaware and unashamed of my nakedness, of my vulnerable heart–that is the only way that I can see and be able to follow Him, to please Him.

But what happens when those closest to us–family, our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ–hurt us and cause us to lose trust and faith?

What happens when we lose loved ones, lose our own flesh inside of us–our hope of new life? What happens when death comes knocking? Or chronic illness rears it’s ugly monstrous head and threatens to tear us and our home apart?

What happens when the church does not look like or behave like the scriptural body, the God-breathed sacred body of Christ?

What happens when we lose child-like faith because of the depravity, sin, starvation, dying, and injustices of the world while Christians sit back and throw wounding darts at one another?

What then?

Well, for me, God has to bring me to this place of breaking over and over. This place where He breaks down the calloused walls of my heart–callouses put there from the inflicted wounds of the labor, fighting and toiling that I must do while I’m in this world.

He rubs his oil in and dissolves the scabs and built up layers, and He cleans out my heart, restores my child-like faith.

The most amazing thing is that I don’t have to do it–His grace covers me, and it restores and redeems and reconciles me back to Him. I don’t have to do the work–I just have to allow the work to be done by Him, in me–like child, eyes round and wet-rimmed, looking upward, countenace shining trust, looking to Father to take care of everything. Maybe this is faith…the faith of a child.

A song for you…Don’t we all, in our severe, lack-of-child-faith depravity, need some soul-nourishing words? If you don’t mind, closing out the player’s music at the bottom and playing the video? And just ignore the blue dress traipsing around 😉 or close your eyes and listen to the words. If you can’t play the video, you can go here to watch.

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