On Being Quiet

24 “Teach me, and I will be silent;

    make me understand how I have gone astray.

25 How forceful are upright words!

    But what does reproof from you reprove?

26 Do you think that you can reprove words,

    when the speech of a despairing man is wind?

Job 6:24-26

I think sometimes it’s really easy to believe I’ve got something important to say just because the Lord has spoken to me. I even heard a friend say the other day that if God speaks to you you must speak it out. I don’t think that’s accurate, though.

I’ve been in a season of “speaking up” and I think that it’s very important to do so when the Lord asks you too, but being quiet is also sometimes necessary. Being quiet means you can listen. Being quiet means you can trust God for the right opportunity. Being quiet means learning to be humble.

Being quiet is a faith building exercise in discipline.

Quiet is hard for me.  I’m an extravert.  I’m gregarious, bombastic even.  I’m enthusiastic about everything and I’ve always got an opinion.  Always.  So learning how to be quiet has been a new skill for me, but a necessary one.

Choosing to be quiet still communicates something.  Being quiet means I have nothing to prove.  I have nothing to defend, and I have no need to be heard by anyone.  It means that when I do choose to speak, I have something to say.

When it comes to speaking up, the Lord has been teaching me how to be more confident in my value to His Kingdom.  I don’t need other people to validate me or even agree with my perspective.  I don’t need to convince anyone of anything.  I can speak or be silent as the Lord leads, and not by my own assumptions.

Where my voice has “gone astray” in the past is when I’ve felt insecure.  When I’ve been afraid that no one cared about what I had to say, I felt the need to prove myself to them.  I felt the need to show them that I had important things to say, things that others needed to hear.

I don’t feel that way so much anymore.  

At the beginning of my journey toward choosing to be silent I would often pray that God would have someone else say what my heart ached to say.  I would ask God to empower someone else to speak up since I felt like no one would want to hear from me, or take what I had to say seriously. So sad and hard, but also humbling.

I learned that God’s words will not be silenced.  Often the ideas that the Lord had planted in my own heart did in fact come to life from someone else’s boldness to speak, but being silent in those days hurt me deeply.  It reinforced my own false narrative that even God wanted someone else to say what He had given to me.  

I’ve since realized that I put those restrictions on myself needlessly, but God was faithful to me anyway.  Silence wasn’t always necessary, but I hadn’t yet learned that what I had to say had value.  

We are all so varied and unique.  Each one of us has our own way of speaking, our own way of articulating our thoughts.  And when the Lord gives me something to say, then I must assume that the Lord wants me to say them.  He gives words to me to speak or write because He wants them to be “Daisy flavored.”

I was once a woman of despair.  I felt like no one wanted to hear my heart.  I even felt like God wanted me to be quiet.  But I was wrong.  God is good, and He is more than willing to meet us where we are, even when we are wrong, or maybe especially when we are wrong.  By doing so, He can lovingly guide and direct us to what is right.

As the scripture above says, in silence He can teach me where I have gone astray.  Only then will I know how to hear what He has to say, and obediently speak it out.  To speak boldly without discernment offers nothing.

Now I can confidently be still and quiet, but I can also, just as boldly, declare what the Lord has called me to speak.  Both have value.  I’ve been learning that being quiet often amplifies my words when I do choose to speak. 

Consider taking more moments of silence in your life.  Then sit back and see what God does. 

You Get Used to It

“You get used to it,” Jesus said.  

I’d settled into a folding chair inside the barn across from one of my horse friends, Loki.  She’s a giant Clydsdale paint that I’ve become acquainted with at the small farm I frequent on a weekly basis.  I’ve become pretty good friends with the three horses who live there, and because it was so stinking hot out that day, I’d asked Loki if she was as hot as I was.

And that’s when I heard Jesus say, “You get used to it.”

Now I’ve grown pretty accustomed to hearing from the Lord when I’m there at the ranch.  It’s just one of those places that’s so filled with the Presence of God that it’s palpable.  So, when He spoke, I knew there was a lot more to it than a simple comfort.  

Loki stood in her open box stall, her giant head stretched beyond the stall door, looking at me, quite content with the temperature over 100 degrees.  I’m not used to that kind of heat at all.  Sweat dripped across my forehead faster than I could wipe it away with my shirt sleeve.  

“You get used to it.”  

The Lord was speaking to my heart and I was all ears. I’m certainly not used to the heat!  Air conditioning is my friend and to me the heat seems like a terrible, terrible thing. To Loki, though, it was just another hot day in a series of hot days that would come and go in time.  

I’ve gotten used to a lot of things in my lifetime.  Air conditioning for one, and vacations, and food on the table.  I love church services and coffee dates with friends and wifi and smart phones and cable tv.  I’m definitely used to all of that.

But I’ve also gotten used to depression that lasted for months at a time, knees so bad I can barely walk, and constant chronic illness.  I spent three years bleeding to death because surgery was even more life threatening.  I got used to anemic fatigue and low oxygen concentration and blood transfusions and doctor’s visits.  I got used to slowly dying a little more day by day by day.

Sitting in the heat that day with Jesus made me uncomfortable, but I noticed something else, something beyond the discomfort.  I felt joy.  I really liked sitting there with my friend, Loki. It’s like my therapist is always saying to me, it can be both.  I can be uncomfortable AND happy.  I can be in physical pain AND be at peace.  I can be brave AND be afraid.  I can hate the heat and love being with that horse. God made us complicated and that’s a good thing!

Two years ago I decided to stop bleeding to death and get the surgery that would likely kill me.  Like I said, I’d suffered for three years bleeding to death and getting transfusion after transfusion just to stay alive.  Tests showed a lot of problems going on internally.  Logic told my specialist surgeon that I likely wouldn’t survive the surgery.  He only finally agreed to do it because I’d had so many blood transfusions that my body was going to start rejecting the blood I was getting and that would kill me.  

So, in the summer of 2019 I had the life saving surgery that would likely kill me and I survived.  I spent a month in the hospital, weeks in the ICU on a ventilator, and months in rehabilitation afterwards, but I lived.  

I now like to think of the Summer of 2019 as the time when I decided I no longer wanted to just get used to being sick and dying.  I wanted to live.  My scripture verse in that season was Psalm 118:17 “I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord.”

For so long I thought I had to suffer to experience God’s full power and love.  After all, He’d gotten me through so much and Jesus did say no servant is greater than his Master.  But it truly is a work of God to live abundantly all the time.  To live in trouble and peace.  There is a time and purpose and a season for both.  

For everything there is a season, and a time for every [a]purpose under heaven: 2 a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; 3 a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6 a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; 7 a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8 a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

I got used to being in a season of suffering.  It was all I knew how to do.  It’s how I survived, and I’m so thankful for that.  I know the Lord was with me in it, for better or worse.  I was used to trauma and torture and ruin, and God was with me in it.  Always, always with me.  But now I’m getting used to something new.  

Behold, I am doing a new thing;

    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

I will make a way in the wilderness

    and rivers in the desert.

Isaiah 43:19

So how hot does it have to get to move beyond the discomfort and into the joy?  Do you have to like the heat? No, but you can learn from it.  And you can be thankful for air conditioning and thankful for a Savior who’s with you in both.  

For me, sitting in the heat for a while with a big, beautiful Clydsdale is totally worth it.  But now I know I don’t have to live there.  I can be thankful for the air conditioning.

In My Mind

In my mind.

Rubbed raw and brutal like burlap and salt on exposed wounds.

In my mind they fly

A tumult of debris in the hurricane of yesterday

Rubbing raw moments when hope was abandoned, when love became a tiresome and deceptive fear

In my mind.

When sex was rage and pain and blood and fear and loss.

No innocence left at five years old when hope was not a word I knew

In my mind. I listened and cried and waited.

Steel wool scraping away the rust of abandoned steel, twisted metal, fortune lost, potential extinguished.

In my mind where yesterday and today and tomorrow are jumbled together in frenzied footsteps and screams in black night.

Rubbed raw cheeks, burning eyes, a snow bank, a motorcycle, a tent

In my mind blowing away like glowing embers from a campfire, faerie dust fantasy.

In my mind so many words I do not know,

Pictures painted all at once with watercolors that run together and blur everything to numb dark and muddy gray.  Nothing but a stain.

In my mind.

Enter age like dried flowers, beauty and fragrance gone to memory, tight and lost and distant.

Blank pages filled with dark smears of tears and rage and fire.

Thick legs hold up what horror has melted like pure white snow into mud.

Pale body, mottled with scars, carries jagged stones in its fragile shell.

In my mind this sack of skin and blood and tissue and bone, leaking and torn and putrid, burned.

Worn down to sackcloth and ashes, mourning life lost.

In my mind a life fully spent, waits to finally, blissfully come to its end, come crashing down, come undone, come home.

Wicked thoughts despised, repressed, regressed, rubbed raw.

Through a glass dimly.

In my mind I tried.

Eyes of fire burn it down. No more raw, splintered metal.  No more rusted ruin extinguished, thirsty.

I am thirsty, in my mind.

Rubbed raw revelation, trickling down in a miniscule sliver of silver water that flows from within the pound of flesh fulfilled.

In my mind these heavy stones, these lumps of pummeled appendages grasping and scraping and wheezing

Cough one more breath as I lay dying.  Heart compressed into diamonds as many as the stars in the Heavens to share.

Forever treasures feasting, filling, finding one more breath again and again. One more drop of blood to move through this not quite corpse.

In my mind.

Champion’s crown of victory revealed in final breaths that never cease.  Always one more. That trickle of silver gleaming diamond water that grows and feeds and fulfills.

Sustain this bag of bones and flesh and blood.  Permeate.  Initiate.  Exonerate.

In my mind. Abundant life. Words on pages intangible.

Rubbed raw, relentless, but still one more breath.

Always one more breath, oh Breath of Life, oh River of Living Water.

I drink and drink and drink and life unfolds from this lump of mud and decay and death.

In His mind I am healed, refined, undaunted, vigorously restored, courageous, resplendent.

And in my mind, alive, renewed, I dance.

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust

7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 2 Cor 4:7-11 (ESV)

My earthen vessel isn’t cracked, it’s smashed.  It’s smashed to dust. And I admit that for a long time I thought there was surely something wrong with me. I felt victimized. I felt wronged.  It wasn’t fair.  It wasn’t right.  I’ve been abused.  I’ve been ravished.   I’ve talked to God about it a lot.  

“But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8 (ESV) 

If He’s the potter and I’m the clay, then why do I feel like dust? 

Did you know how dust becomes clay?  

“Clays form from millions of years of mineral erosion. Mountains break down into boulders, boulders into rocks, rocks into pebbles, sand, silt and eventually, when the silt reaches a certain size of fineness, an amazing transformation occurs. Instead of just being a loose mix, the fine particles manifest an attraction for water and each other at a molecular level. Clay can be thought of less as a material and more of a behavior, the phenomenon of very finely eroded minerals to agglomerate.” (Webb, Patrick “From Dust We Come: A Look at Clay.” Traditional Building. Feb 14, 2017 https://www.traditionalbuilding.com/opinions/a-look-at-clay)

Today as I began to write and lament about my suffering, the Lord reminded me of a vision he’d given me a few years ago. I saw a beaten and battered up old vase sitting on a pedestal.  Light showed through the cracks and broken places and cast an intricate pattern of spider web designs across the walls.  The room was lit up by them.  

The vision could have ended there for me to know that God was working and making beauty from my brokeness, but God had more to show me.  A huge sledgehammer suddenly came down and smashed the vase, but instead of extinguishing the light, an explosion of vibrant colors filled the room. The walls around it could not contain it, and they crumbled into dust as the light and colors filled the world outside with unimaginable beauty as far as the eye could see.  

As I recalled the vision this afternoon, I heard God say, “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”

There’s my dust. 

I thought back to the Garden of Eden.  Ashes to ashes, dust to dust was a consequence of eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God had warned Adam and Eve about it, but they didn’t listen.  

Yet I know I’m not suffering the consequences of my sin because I’ve chosen to eat from the tree of life through Jesus instead of the tree of slavery to my own debauchery.  My consequences got paid for on the cross. 

What I’m carrying are the marks of an enemy who hates me.  He hates me because I chose Jesus instead of death.  I chose to eat from the tree of life.  I called BS on the serpent’s lies. 

I think of Jesus, and why He chose to go the cross, and why He called His disciples to do the same.  “And he (Jesus) said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’” (Luke 9:23 ESV) We saw Jesus carry His cross. He couldn’t even do it by himself, he needed help!  It was excruciating, horrifying, and brutal. But necessary.  

Jesus came in the flesh to show us that the pain of this world and the death that it brings doesn’t have to be eternal.  He came to show us that we don’t have to suffer the consequences of Adam and Eve and their bad decision.  We can choose for ourselves to take the fruit of life offered by Him. We can choose life. 

It’s a necessary step, suffering.  It’s the consequence of an evil serpent throwing a tantrum because Jesus has offered us eternal life. Jesus knows that road well. He faced those consequences, too.  He did it for us. He submitted to Satan’s tantrum and said, “Give me your worst!” and Satan obliged Him.  

Jesus’s life wasn’t pretty, and it ended brutally, but resurrection followed!  Jesus gets the last word.  Jesus is the Word made flesh.  And the Word cannot be overcome.  It is life and it is beautiful, and he carries the scars on his own resurrected flesh just to remind us of that.  What a gift.  I’m so thankful for it.  

If I’m to follow him in all things, then I must be willing to accept the crushing with the hope that it will bring resurrection life.  Not because God hates me, but because the world does, and God is not content to let me suffer in vain.  There’s got to be beauty that comes from it, or there’s no point in living at all.  

Jesus showed me that because He experienced it.  He laid down his life willingly so that I could see that all the suffering the enemy could throw at me in this world would not be the end of me.  Because He conquered death, if I follow Him in life, I too shall stand upon the wreckage of death and proclaim eternal life through Him who saved me from it!

Ashes to ashes.  Dust to dust. Dust to clay. Clay to life in the Potter’s capable hands.

Hold Me

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Mark 4:35-41

Jesus likes a good nap as much as I do.  But nobody wants Jesus taking a nap in the middle of a storm.  Like, Dude, we know you’re God and all, but hello, there’s a storm and we’re probably all gonna die, don’t you think you ought to take a nap later?!  

I get it.  The disciples were scared.  Of course they were.  Because it looked like Jesus didn’t care about their needs, or their lives, or their troubles as much as he cared about his nap.  

You’ve been there, haven’t you?  In those times where you feel like God doesn’t care.  Like He’s too busy taking care of other more important things, or that he’s so far removed from you that He can’t even see the storms you’re facing, what with all the angels and clouds and harps and stuff being all distracting up in Heaven.

But that’s just not God.  

Jesus and I have been talking a lot about this lately.  Storms are such a common part of my life.  If it’s not one thing then it’s another.  Health.  Finances.  Kids.  Jobs.  War.  Famine.  Strife.  Why isn’t God doing something?!  It’s like He’s asleep on the job.

So, the other night, my husband and I were faced with one of those big scary storms. See, we always get a little stressed out when it’s forecasted to rain a lot.  Back in 2016 our basement flooded and it traumatized us a little bit.  We’ve taken steps to keep the basement from flooding, but we still get antsy when the forecast calls for a lot of rain.  

So I went to the Lord and I said, “Jesus.  Please don’t let our basement flood.”  

His response was beautiful.  He said, “Come and cuddle here with me in the boat.  Let’s have a nap together.”

I admit it wasn’t the answer I was looking for.  Not at all, honestly.  But this crazy nonsense peace fell over me.  I told my husband what He said and we literally decided to just go to bed and stop worrying about it.  I slept like a baby.  And in the morning everything was fine.  No flooded basement.

That’s who Jesus is. Getting us through our storms is what He does.

Jesus asked His disciples why they didn’t trust Him.  He’s God.  He doesn’t need to be awake to calm the storm.  He knows it’s raging.  He’s God.  And we are safe in His arms.  So safe.  But the disciples still marveled over Him.

“Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

So, that’s my question for you today.  Who is this Jesus? The one the winds and waves obey? Will you trust Him to lead you and protect you from the storms in your life? When he offers, will you go and cuddle into a good nap with Him the next time the storm clouds rumble and the waves rock you? 

Who is this Jesus? He is God. He is savior. He is yours to trust. Will you trust Him?

The Persistent Widow

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Luke 18:1-8 

I’ve often thought of the parable Jesus taught regarding the widow and the unjust judge.  For years the Lord told me that when I prayed for my husband to be saved that I was like the persistent widow, who refused to take no for an answer.  However, the Lord just now gave me a deeper perspective on that story, and I believe it is for all of us.  

I always assumed that the unjust judge was God in the story, but what if the unjust judge is the lost person and the unfortunate widow is us, and Christ is the ever present “go between”.  

If we consider the story from that perspective I believe we can see how our persistent prayer for the lost person prompts Jesus to act.  After all it is Christ who does the speaking to a man’s heart.  And the more time He spends speaking to that person, the more likely that person will eventually give in, which in turn brings the justice the widow is seeking.  And that justice, of course, is Christ, who carries justice against sin upon his own body for the widow and the unjust judge.  Wow!

I am absolutely blown away by the thought of this.  Our prayers are of paramount importance!  We must indeed be the persistent widow.  Pray pray pray!  Our persistence is powerful in the work of Christ to save the Lost.  We must never give up on seeking justice, even from the unjust judge.  He needs justice so desperately, and only Christ can truly give it.

Our prayers have power, and so do our words.  We must spend our time learning and growing in Christ, through prayer and petition, knowing that our prayers are being answered even if you never see the evidence of it.

I know first hand how hard that is.  But God is so gracious to give us the faith we need to trust Him in these things.  Our secret prayers.  Our audacious requests for the salvation of many, will never go unread or unheard by God.  Instead, our words, spoken in private to Our Daddy, bring about a gathering of angel armies to stand against the forces of evil that keep the Lost from hearing the truth.  We have that power within us by the Spirit of the Living God.  

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 3:20-21

Desperately Seeking Jesus

I think we can all agree that 2020 has been one of the craziest years in our lifetime!  Political polarization.  Racial injustice.  Riots.  Murders.  Masks.  Earthquakes.  Fires.  Flooding.  Volcanic eruptions. Zoom meetings.  

In times like this, we are all looking to God for answers.  But how do we hear Him?  What do we even ask him?  And what is His response?

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
    my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
    as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Psalm 63:1

Sounds about right.

We desperately seek Him.  We want Him.  We know we need Him.  We cry out to him and yet the air is dry and thick around us.  It doesn’t feel like it’s even possible to hear from God in this mess.

But here’s what David did in Psalm 63:

So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
    beholding your power and glory.
3 Because your steadfast love is better than life,
    my lips will praise you.
4 So I will bless you as long as I live;
    in your name I will lift up my hands.
Psalm 63:2-4

If I can’t feel God now, I will look for Him where I have seen Him.  I will remind myself of who He is.  I will remember that His Love supersedes all fear, all trials, all division.  I will remember and I will give myself to Him again.  Fresh with praise, I will seek the Lord and the promise of His unfailing love.

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
    and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
6 when I remember you upon my bed,
    and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
7 for you have been my help,
    and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
8 My soul clings to you;
    your right hand upholds me.
Psalm 63:5-8

And my praise turns to meditation.  It turns to the recollections of faithfulness that have been the hallmark of my relationship with Christ.  At night my mind stops wondering about the world and rests instead in the peace of God’s unending faithfulness.  

It’s so hard to feel God when we are in the midst of worldly trials.  Pain and conflict or hard to surrender to God because our flesh isn’t going to stop hurting just because we trust God’s faithfulness.  

Yet, in the agony, in the tumult of the storm, God is still with us.  

As David began to reflect on who God was instead of what God could give him, he began to feel a praise-worthy peace in his soul.  God had proven himself faithful to David.  Always faithful.  David could trust that even though his situation was dire and his weary, desperate heart was parched with raw emotion and fear, God would remain ever faithful.

We can trust that, too.  Even with the world falling down around us.

The trials will not stop in this lifetime.  Not until Jesus returns.  So we cling to Him.  We hold onto His promises.  We remember His faithfulness in our own lives.  We look back on our journey and see His provision and salvation.  We see Him.  And we know that in our current struggles he will remain faithful, just as he always has. 

The riots.  The politics.  The fear.  The desolations of this world.  They don’t matter anymore to the one who finds his peace in the shelter of the Almighty.  God’s wings are broad enough to cover all who would seek refuge there.  

But those who seek to destroy my life
    shall go down into the depths of the earth;
10 they shall be given over to the power of the sword;
    they shall be a portion for jackals.
11 But the king shall rejoice in God;
    all who swear by him shall exult,
    for the mouths of liars will be stopped.
Psalm 63:9-11

And so we can rejoice.  God will have his way.  He is speaking.  He is acting.  He is doing all that He has always done.  He is faithful and His steadfast love is better than life.  So reach out your hands to the ones who are drowning, to the ones who are desperately crying out for salvation, and bring them to the Savior.  

Because at the end of the day, most of our questions to God can be paired down to this simple request: “Will you save me?”

And God’s answer is always, “Yes.”

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30

The God of Jacob

The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Psalm 46:7

I have put all my trust in the God of Jacob.  But why the God of Jacob?  Why not “The God of Israel”.  That’s the question I can’t stop contemplating.  When you stop and think about it, something very specific is being magnified in that verse.  It’s the God of Jacob who is my fortress.

Jacob came out of the womb holding his twin brother’s heel.  His mother named him Jacob because the name meant to grab the heel of another person, or literally to supplant or trick someone out of something.  And Jacob’s name characterized him from the beginning.

Let’s look at him for a moment.  What is Jacob known for?  He tricked his brother out of his birthright.  He tricked his father-in-law out of his livestock. He was lied to and treated unfairly.  He was terrified and hid from his brother for years out of fear of retribution.  And then he wrestled with God and demanded a blessing.  

So, to recap: Jacob was a liar, a trickster, a scaredy cat, and a control freak who thought it was perfectly fine to make demands of God, steal from his family, and hide and run away from his enemies.

And it’s the God of Jacob that is our fortress.

Is it sinking in yet?  The God of Jacob is our fortress.  The God of the trickster, liar, coward, narcissist, control freak is our fortress.

I’ve had a lot of conversations with God about how unworthy I am.  I get hard on myself.  I’m overly critical.  I’m a perfectionist that fails at perfection on a daily–no, hourly–basis.  To chase a rabbit for a minute, sometimes I think that the only reason God loves me is because of Jesus.  Seems like a fair statement.  

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21

So before Jesus I wasn’t good enough for God.  Right?  Not quite.  

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8

So, he died for us while we were his enemies, while we were sinners.  Before He died for us He loved us.  And we know that because of Jacob.  (And a million other people in the Old Testament who were equally awful.)  We know that God loves us before and after our salvation.  

The God of Jacob is our fortress because God made a promise to Abraham and God doesn’t break His promises.  

 When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty;[a] walk before me, and be blameless, 2 that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” 3 Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, 4 “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 No longer shall your name be called Abram,[b] but your name shall be Abraham,[c] for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. 6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”
Genesis 17:1-8

The next time you think God isn’t with you because of what you’ve done, I want you to remember this one simple fact:  The Lord of Hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.  

And who are we?  We are made by God with an offer to accept the rights of God’s promise to Abraham.  God made a way for us (and we know that way to be Jesus) and in that we have salvation from our enemies, even if your enemy is yourself.  

The God of Jacob is our fortress. It’s liberating, isn’t it? 

Be Still

But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and on his law he meditates day and night.
Psalms 1:2

I’ve had a season of introspection.  I think a lot of us have.  Isolation in uncertain times does that to a person, I guess.  My thoughts have kept me from some things and for a time I beat myself up over it, but as I talked to others and listened to their struggles I discovered that I wasn’t alone in that either.  

Being alone isn’t as lonely as it seems, I suppose.

I could have gotten lost in my work.  I could have buried myself in a never ending pile of distractifying, unfulfilling, money making.  But I didn’t.  And I kind of hated myself for it.  Being unproductive with no excuse is definitely guilt inducing.

I could have drowned my fear and anxiety in the solace of sweets and baking and endless bottomless glasses of wine.  Let’s be honest, I did that a little bit, and then I felt a guilty about that, too.

I could have plugged my ears and stomped my feet and sang songs really, really loud until everything went back to normal.  Yes, I did that, too, and felt the sorrow of denial in the days that followed.

I started thinking about all the things I had been doing to try and be normal, to try and carry on, to try and adapt and take advantage of my time in lock down.  None of it mattered.  Like the false bravado of a little yapping dog, it had no real power to protect me, or soothe me, or heal me.  

Even the things I thought I could do for God seemed to fall short in my mind.  I wasn’t writing.  I wasn’t reading the Bible enough.  I judged my prayers as selfish and unsatisfying.  I beat myself up for not helping other people better navigate this crazy pandemic.

But I just couldn’t muster up enough of anything to do much.  I just sat there.  In the stillness.  In the nothing.  I didn’t want the fear, the shame, or the guilt.  I didn’t want to be busy.  I just wanted it all to be over! 

I don’t like pandemics, and injustice, and death, and unemployment.  I don’t like any of it. It’s not the Kingdom of God and I want the Kingdom of God more than I want anything, and all I can manage to do is say, “I can’t do anything about this, God!”

But there is value in the stillness.  God is unveiling it bit by bit.  “Be still and know that I am God.”  The treasure comes in surrender.

Beautiful, honest, end of myself surrender.

My meditations have become Jesus focused.  I started reciting Psalm 23 in my head over and over again every night when I went to sleep.  It’s led to better sleep.  It’s led to deeper trust.  Each time I recite it, I pray the words to the Lord.  I meditate on the truth of his love and steadfastness.  

I’m memorizing more scripture.  I just want it all in my head.  I want to breathe it in and live by it.  I know the Word.  I’ve been studying the Bible for years.  But I want more than that.  In my surrender I want to revel in the knowledge that Jesus is my everything.  

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14

The Word made flesh became the flesh made words, and in those words I have begun to meditate day and night.  

I need my Jesus and I found Him palpably again in the flesh of His Word.  I’m losing my desire to judge my inaction or the inaction or injustice of others.  I just soak Him up in myself.  I let Him be enough.  I let Him be everything.  His Glory, His Fullness, His Might is coming alive in me in a deepness I have yet to fully know.  

It’s hard to believe that such scary times could bring such a deep closeness with the Lord, especially since I honestly kept thinking about how miserably ineffective I had been in regard to my Christian walk.  I was so caught up in judging my inaction and insecurity, and judging my sporadic moments of faith and action as not near enough to prove my love to my Savior.  And yet His answer all along has been, “Be still and know that I am God.”

I’m working on memorizing Psalm 46 right now.  I’d gotten the first part down a couple years ago and then gave up because, well, memorizing is hard.  I’m back at it now, though, with renewed trust that the meditations of my heart are now drawing me closer and closer to the Lord of Hosts.  He truly is my fortress and my strength.  I don’t need to do anything else.

10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Psalm 46:10-11

I’m the Girl Who Trusted Jesus: a Glimpse into My Missionary Dating Story

Twenty-six years ago I was a Christian but had never had any discipleship.  I had no growth.  I had no spiritual maturity.  I barely knew the Bible.  I was a good person.  I knew Jesus as savior and when I met a man who seemed to love God more than anything else in the world I married him.  And then I learned that the man I married was so zealous for God he was willing to do anything to prove it to him.  I married a zealous jihadist Muslim with a lust for martyrdom.

Two years later he came to Christ.

And that’s always what people remember when they hear our testimony.  See, I got so desperate for my husband to know Jesus as his savior, that all I could do was pray.  I literally had nowhere else to turn.  I had no background in apologetics.  I had no mentorship in my walk with Jesus.  I had nothing but the Holy Spirit of God within me and a passion to see my husband saved from eternal death.  So I prayed.  And I asked everyone who made eye contact with me to pray, too.

That’s what people hold onto.  That’s the part they remember about me.  They call me a mighty prayer warrior.  And a godly saint who prayed her husband to Jesus.

Yes, I did that.  But that’s not what I want people to know about me.  That’s not my story.  It never has been.

My story is about a girl who fell in love with Jesus when she was 5 years old but never learned anything beyond that.  My story is a girl who in desperation sought the Lord and He answered her.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me
    and delivered me from all my fears.
Psalm 34:4

I had nothing else.  Nowhere to turn.  No argument.  No help.  I had nothing but desperate pleas to the only One who had any power to do anything to help me:  Jesus.

I knew I’d made a mistake when I married my husband.  And no one ever wants to hear that part.  People who hear our testimony see the beauty that came from our ashes, but they don’t want to look at the ashes.  They want to see a hero when they see me.  They don’t want to see the broken girl that had nothing more to offer God than a broken and repentant heart and a desperate cry for help.

Sadly, stories come to me all the time from women who want to date or marry Muslim men in the hope that they can be like me.  This breaks my heart.  It should not be! 

Those two years before my husband’s salvation were the most painful and agonizing years of my life.  Dating a Muslim man or woman (or anyone who doesn’t know Jesus) is not the way to win them to Jesus.  It is arrogant and foolish.  You have no power to save anyone.  And neither did I.  It wasn’t me who saved my husband from Islam.  

Repentance and prayer.  That’s what invited my Lord into my problem.  That’s what got my Lord’s attention:  I came to the end of myself.  I gave up trying to fix the problem on my own.  I had a desperate need for His intervention.  I admitted I was wrong and I asked Him to fix it.  And He did.

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,
“In repentance and rest you shall be saved;
    in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”
But you were unwilling
Isaiah 30:15

I was willing to admit there was nothing I could do.  But so many people are unwilling.  The Isrealites referenced above were unwilling. Humbling yourself is hard. It means admitting you were wrong.  It means admitting you can’t do it on your own.

 But I beg you to try!  Humble yourself and recognize your helplessness.  If you can’t humble yourself, ask God to help you!  Only the Lord can save you.  Not only does He save us from our sin, He rescues us from our mistakes.  He guides us out of the pits we throw ourselves in and restores us when we put our trust and hope in Him.

That’s what I want people to know about me.  That’s how I want to be remembered.  I’m the girl who was willing.  I’m the girl who realized I could do nothing without Jesus.  I’m the girl who cried out for forgiveness and asked for help.  I’m the girl who trusted Jesus and I’m the girl who trusts Him still.  

Don’t trust me.  Trust Him.