Category Archives: Walk with Him Wednesdays

When Advent Doesn’t Go As Planned {31 Days to Holistic, Christ Centered Living Day #12}

We go on a nature walk–all five of us girls–through the tall, thick brush of the edge of our backyard. After tripping and pushing through weeds and briars taller than us, we finally come to a clearing with beautiful pines reaching up to the sky and patches of late afternoon sun streaming through forest green spiny branch shoots and pine cones.

I boost Lorna up next to a maple and she pulls down some branches with blood-red leaves and we snap them off for our mantle. We pick up pine cones and find a furry baby cedar tree that will be perfect for our Advent tree. So, after we come back to the house for a saw, we troop out to the woods again and cut it down and bring it into the house to our buffet table in the dining room.

We set the miniature tree in some water and my oldest asks me if we can all watch Nativity Story together. I sense her pure heart in her desire and I want a heart like that,

a heart that wants to behold Christ’s birth, to slow down and really see. But I am too busy with laundry, cooking supper, baths and making Advent ornaments to make it happen.

One evening when Mr. Simmons is at home after working a lot of overtime for a few weeks and being away, she asks again because I have promised we will sit down and watch. We all do baths, put pajamas on and eat supper and then we light our candle on the advent wreath and do our devotion.

We are way behind because we have forgotten to do Advent everyday and the babies are whiny and don’t want to sit still and my pre-teen crosses her arms in defiance.

I try to be patient and I read in low tones so they will listen and somehow, with an extra dose of grace, we make it through.

Then we finally sit down all together to watch the movie that depicts the Savior’s coming. Immanuel- God with us, a baby come to save the world.

When the baby is born and Joseph holds Jesus up in the glorious light–the Star of Sharon–streaming down on them as if from Heaven, something that is not from this world swells in my heart and the hot tears boil over.

When the first Magi places the gold in front of the baby and says, “Gold for the king of all kings,” I think of this majestic king, only a babe sleeping in a feed trough for animals.

Then the second Magi steps up and whispers, “Frankincense for the priest of all priests.” and the tears threaten again as my head fills with the image of this High Priest who will rip the veil into for me, who will go before the Father and will intercede on my behalf and will make clean all my filthiness.

Lastly, the third Magi comes forward–the one who had trouble believing in the Messiah–and he lays the gift of Myrrh on the ground where Mary is holding the baby. “Myrrh to honor thy sacrifice,” he reverently speaks it, his face betraying his obvious awe and faith.

But this is really what hits me: when the lonely shepherd leans over to see and touch the baby, the Christ-child, the gift–he pulls back in hesitation and Mary tells him softly,

“He is for all mankind,” and hands the baby Jesus over to his empty arms.

Now the damn breaks, my throat burns and the well of emotion rolls hot down my cheek.

I look over at Husband and see his eyes moist, and I glance at my oldest daughter, her eyes transfixed on the screen.

She is just taking all this in.

Simply beholding.

Yes, I want a heart like that–one that simply beholds, simply looks to Christ with the awe and faith of a child.

And I think–though I feel that I have failed at Advent and we haven’t been committed to the devotions every night and we forgot to hang the ornaments every day, didn’t plan a trip to a soup kitchen to ladle out food to the poor–

still, I think how far we have come and maybe, just maybe our Advent isn’t a failing one after all.

Because I want a child-heart that seeks Him, born this happy Christmas morning! Isn’t that the whole point of it really?

The point isn’t for us to do it perfectly, because we never will attain that. But it is a successful Advent if in our waiting and beholding, in our quiet devotion times and in our loud, boisterous, kids-running-around-the-house-breaking-things times–if in all of this we really *see* Him.

Come and let us behold Him like little children. Let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!

Join me at Ann’s for more thoughts on Advent and preparing for Christmas?

Advent: Preparing For Christ’s Coming {31 Days to Holistic Christ-Centered Living–Day #11}

Dishes in dishwasher and it humming and quietly grinding away, night has fallen and we all happily scrub counter-tops, light pumpkin-scented candles and put cereal boxes and banana peels–the remnants of the day–away.

The girls settled down with a movie, I think about Mr. Simmons coming home as I shower. I look forward to kissing him at the door and wonder what I will wear.

I feel a little like a love-sick teenager as I anticipate his coming, a little like the bride waiting for her bridegroom,

a lot like the church, the chosen bride of God, waiting for Christ’s coming.

Through all of it they held out.
The elect–those Israel children that told Moses they would rather go back to slavery under Pharaoh than to be desert-wandering–they waited so long and through much arduous toiling and slavery, through much miserable oppression–they just waited.

For generations and generations they waited. Each and every old man waited in exile for his ransom, His Saviour, and in his death, when no Saviour had come, he told the story to his children again of a Saviour, a shoot that would spring up from the stump of Jesse, as the scrolls foretold.

He would tell his children as they gathered ’round, of Immanuel, God with us, God that would come to them, these children held captive by sin.

“O come, O come Immanuel and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lowly exile here
until the Son of God appear
Rejoice, rejoice!
Immanuel shall come to thee O Israel”

And when Mr. Simmons finally arrives, my hair still dripping, I kiss him and all six of us gather tight on the couch and light the candle on the advent wreath.

We let the candle burn bright in the dark room, God’s bright light, the only pure light shed upon our dark hearts.

And His perfect plan unfolds, all of us gathered ’round, waiting, just waiting for the story of the Saviour

and we hold out for the promised birth.

And we wait for our ransom, and we wait for Him to come and bring our freedom.

Immanuel. God with us. We wait for that.

We wait in the lonely season, in the dry desert. And it is here that we meet Him.

And we know Him as Immanuel.

I shift my gaze and see a little one falling asleep by the table that holds up our advent wreath, our waiting. And children touch one another back and forth and the baby wanders around while Mr. Simmons reads from the bible and I wonder if this lighting of the candle, this waiting, this beholding is helping at all.

I grow a little frustrated underneath my weak smile and I see the sin in all of us.

I see how that it will never be perfect here. We will never fully know God here in these sin-filled bodies. I silently pray in my heart for deliverance for us all.

And I wait. And I hope for Him to come. I shift my gaze again and in the dark we all feel Him here.

“O come thy rod of Jesse, free
thy own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell they people save
and give them victory over the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Immanuel shall come to thee, oh Israel.”

Please watch the video below of “O Come, O Come, Immanuel” with scenes from Nativity Story:

And this one a beautiful song by Christy Nockels, “Waiting Here For You”, if you would like to listen in worship?

I wasn’t able to link up with Jen at Soli De Gloria this week since I didn’t do a Monday post, but I wanted to share her post, a vlog, because it really touched me. You will certainly be blessed if you would like to click on the link below…

Join me at Ann’s today for more ideas and inspirations on preparing for Christ’s Coming?

also at Emily’s…

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: 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:

Hope In the Barren Desert

In a season of doubt, in the barren desert, who can hope? Trouble’s gloomy expression, my default, what do I have to offer?

That’s the thing my pride doesn’t want to admit–it depresses me that I am depraved and worthless–but if I allow myself to embrace it and accept God’s grace, it is freeing–so I admit, I have nothing–I come to the table with nothing.

And if I come to the table with nothing, knowing I have nothing to offer God, then I am poor in spirit.

And isn’t the only way I can learn to be or to become poor in spirit–to know that I have nothing to offer–isn’t it through suffering?

But oh–this body–this sick skin I live in does not like to suffer.

“…And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Rom. 5:2-5 (emphasis added)

And hope does not disappoint…

I am always so afraid within the fragile, confused walls of my heart that hoping will disappoint me. Why don’t I just take the hope being offered me? Why is that so hard?

Why would I choose to not believe? Like the man who, seeking help for his son, when confronted by Jesus about his lack of faith, said to Jesus, “I do believe; help me with my unbelief!” I am this man. He and I are the same. Jesus sees straight through me, and I am undone and I beg him to help me believe. I beg for help.

So I persevere, and I stay in my context…I don’t run away. I hope for a better way to live this life, the way Christ would. And I hope for a better tomorrow in that great, glorious kingdom where for eternity there’ll be no more pain or suffering.

But in the midst of illness, in the middle of God-forsaken, barren desert, and long nights of pain and sin too grotesque to mention–when my spouse and I have reached our fleshly limit and can bear no more suffering, when we lash out at one another in bitterness and grief, how can I hope? When all seems lost to the human eye, tell me, what then?

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from the place from which I carried you into exhile.” Jeremiah 29:11-14

This, in this barren desert, in this wasteland, this is when I rely on God’s plan, not my own.

This is when I surrender my emotions and pain-feelings in the moment–this season–and relinquish all to Him.

I allow Him to write the story of my life and I trust, and I hope in Him, my Father, my only true one.

I say “Yes!” to God! Yes, Father, I will hope, I will trust in your plan and your promise for my life, in the midst of circumstances that don’t feel like hope–I will persevere, I will trust and by your grace, I will hope–only because the blood ran for me–only by your grace.

And it is because of that bloody, sacred tree, because You were the ultimate sacrifice, because you laid down your body, that I have a hope.

You prayed for a way out–you asked, begged God in the watch hour, ’til sweat and blood–brought forth by physical distress–oozed from your pores. You still said it–though you were tormented in your body, mind and spirit, though you hoped God would pass the cup from you–you said, “Thy will be done”, and you went to your death, praying and believing that if God sacrificed you, splayed your body out, tormented on a skin-splintering, bone-crushing cross, then He has not put more on you than you can bear, and His glory is shining greater than you can see in this moment of flesh and blood.

And because You did this–not easily, like rain filling a puddle, but with flesh-grueling pain, more like Earth’s crust breaking and shifting, a violent, hurculean rumbling force in it’s wake, exerting it’s force against the grain of nature, destructive to man’s way, transforming what was naturally in place by fleshly law and rule, and breaking down walls, ripping the veil from my face, ripping away the sin-barriers that keep me from you–because You did this, because You went before me, and I haven’t endured anything that you haven’t already endured, I have a hope.

I have the hope of glory–the only hope worth having–the hope that when I come out on the other side, all that is broken will be whole, all that is painful will be beautiful, all that is mournful will be joy, and all that is weeping will be gladness and all that is suffering will be at rest.

Some scripture to meditate on–it’s a little long, but worth it–as I went through this scripture today, it really ministered to me–I pray it does the same for you:
*all emphasis on scripture has been added

“Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring–not only to those who are of the law, but to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.” Rom.4:16

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

“…And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Romans 5:2-5

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we await eagerly our adoptions as sons, the redemptions of our bodies. For in this hope we are saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” Romans 8:18-25

“Even youths grow tired and weary , and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:30-31

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

“When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.”…Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. …We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 6:13,14,19-20

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be made like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.”

“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18

Join us at Ann Voskamp’s site for The Practice of Hope, reading other Christian sisters’ and brothers’ struggles and insights…

also linking up with Imperfect Prose:

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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Forgiveness at the bloody tree

It is hard to write about forgiveness, isn’t it? Well, it was for me. I couldn’t think of what to write, but it came to me in a whisper…”You can’t write about forgiveness, because you are locked up inside…you are afraid…YOU have glacier-sized, Titanic-sinking unforgiveness and bitterness and your heart is like an open grave.”

WHO can understand how to forgive? I think I have forgiven, and it all comes rushing back, needles threading my senses, wound open and seeping.

All these failings, all these tears, all this anger at myself, at people and loved ones who hurt me, these thoughts and fears that tear me up inside…make my world collide, a kaleidescope of pain.

How did I get here? Is He really mighty to save? When it is 1 am and I am all alone with the sin (failings, gracelessness, hurt, destruction) of the day, and I feel the damage deep–stirring deep within–when I have walked this desert ’round and ’round for all these years–have cried all these tears, banged fist on table and on His chest–the very chest of God–and pointed my finger at Heaven, said “WHY?”–is He the Comforter then?

When I’ve flung so many words, took it out on those who don’t deserve, innocent little lives are hurt and those who are the cause go unscathed–is He the God of vengeance and justice then?

Why does it always seem that way? Like David, when he asked God why his enemies flourish while he suffers? I think David had a sensitive heart, and he held it inside–maybe he found it impossible to be tougher in that pit-place.

He went down there and he ached and wallowed in his misery. I wonder how long it took him to see that he had to forgive himself, and the enemies who had caused him pain?

****My dad after triple bypass open heart surgery–I’m so glad

that he is still with us, that I forgave, and that he asked

I need someone to tell me–HOW do I forgive when the pain swims around in my head, it pounds with the echos of the years…and the older I get…the louder the voices pierce and torment.

As I find myself lost and discover that it is these voices of pain that are causing me to lose my way, these voices that live with me every day…when friends, family, everyone I trust disappoints, when I am told that I’m not good enough, and I hear it over and over–from the most precious ones of Christ who are supposed to help support, uphold, and advocate–how do I let go? When the answer to every prayer seems to be “No”?

When in my grief, sorrow, and pit-dwelling, I blaze a path of destruction through my home, and my tongue lashes out bitterness and not grace and not once, but habitually and it is in this place that I can’t seem to get hold of myself–is He near then?

And this tugs at me from deep within…from where the throbbing pain lives…from within the walls of the throes of childbirth–an agony carried with me–my burden–the pricking thing that I can’t let go–won’t drop. It smarts and shoots and my stitches come undone, and I’m a mess all over again, and the cataclysmal blame massacre ensues.

When will I be free? Why did God allow this hurt? Why does He let it continue and why does He not stop them? Will He let it break me? I think I’m too easily broken–and I see the pity and disgust, maybe disdain in eyes. Is that the result He wants–for me to be completely broken and despised like His Son?

Maybe, maybe, that is His purpose.

“God does all these things to a man, twice, even three times, to turn back his soul from the pit, that the light of life may shine on him.” (ref: book of Job)

“It will be (God’s) personal agenda to make sure you are miserable enough in that…pit to where you are ready to say ‘I’m ready to do anything to get out!'”

“I beg you to see that your enemy has a tremendous investment, not only in digging and camoflouging a pit in your pathway, but also you should tumble down, and in convincing you to stay there after you fall in. (Satan) knows in this pit you will feel powerless to stand up against him. There you are vulnerable to him and out of the way.”

“I felt like there have been times He (God) said of my own life, ‘How much fire do you want me to turn up in this place? How hot do you want this to get?'”

–Beth Moore, on Life Today talking about her book, Get Out of That Pit: Straight Talk about God’s Deliverance

So strange that I already KNEW this…I mean, I have the theology…I understand in my head that all things come from God–the good, the bad, the in-between, the desert times, the trials and hardships–I understand it in my head, but will someone please explain it to my heart?

Maybe, just maybe, the only way that I can have it be understood in my heart, let go, quiet the echos of pain that follow me, and forgive–really be free of this thing–is to lay it at the foot of the cross. And maybe God is saying to me–“How much fire do you want me to turn up in this place?”

Maybe He is turning up the fire so that I will claw and dig from my pit toward the foot of that sacred tree.

That sacred tree…Oh how precious, oh how I cherish that bloody tree, where the One Man hung for all the world to despise…all for me, for me…all so I can find forgiveness.

Not only that, but He did more for me–in the cross, I find all of my answers–He IS Comforter, He IS a God of vengeance and justice. He IS mighty to save, and He is near. And I must leave it all, right here at His feet.

I pray that I can grasp this concept and live it well that my children will live it even better, offering forgiveness to one another easily….

And maybe a little forgiveness for me as well:

******Lilly at 7 mo.

Below is a video of Darlene Zschech singing “At The Cross”–if you would like to watch–it is beautiful–captures this idea in song… Listen to the words and just let them wash over you…

Another video Here with good truth in it…I needed the truth found here this week–just soaked it in, and I encourage you to as well, especially if you are struggling with forgiveness…

You can go over to Ann V’s site to see more stories like this, or share your own…