Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Potter and Me

For those of you who aren’t poetry lovers, I’ve really been putting you to the test lately, haven’t I? I’m sorry. I do write a lot of poetry, but it’s not my intent to turn this into a poetry blog, as I realize that there are more people who are ambivalent toward poetry than those who really love it. But, I’ve spent my evening writing and so that is what I have to show for it.

I’ve been thinking about how Jesus is able to see past the hurt, pain and crud in our hearts and see the character hidden deep down that He created. Take Simon Peter for example. How many times have you heard a sermon about Peter that pointed out his many weaknesses – his impetuousness, his ability to speak before he thought, cowardice, etc., and yet Jesus renamed him Peter “the Rock” (Matthew 16:18). Jesus looked past his character flaws and saw the qualities that would be Peter’s crown and enable him to actually be the one to preach the first gospel sermon, leading the first Gentiles to a relationship with the Lord. He saw what Simon would become and named him accordingly.

I love the scripture Isaiah 64:8, it says, “Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” The following is what came out of my evening of pondering these things:

The Artist
Holds in His hand
A lump of clay
And with His touch
It is transformed
At first only the Artist’s imagination
Can see the potential there
Then the transformation
His hands move and form
Scraping and pain
As it’s molded
Into its intended nature
A stunning piece
Its charm unmistakable
To only the Artist at first
One day
Its unique beauty
Evident to all

The people around me day in and day out see more of my sin than I wish they did. They see the insecurities, the selfishness and anxiousness that is so prevalent in my heart. And God sees those things as well – but he also sees what I can become. I am a lump of clay in his hands and he is hoping to shape and form me into a useful and beautiful vessel, evident to all.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Spiritual Battle

During the past couple of years, I have become more cognizant of the spiritual battle that is taking place around us. I think the more aware of it we are, the more we are attacked. The Bible talks a lot about spiritual warfare and battle. Ephesians 6:10-13 says, “10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” The verse goes on to talk about putting on the full armor of God – truth, righteousness and faith. I love that verse. The spiritual battle is very real.

At times, I have felt like I was under attack. Those times have been very desperate, sometimes circumstantial, and always very difficult. It has been during those times of intense attack, however, that I have come to rely on God more completely. I wrote the following poem at a point when I was feeling particularly attacked.

I am in shock at the intensity of attack
I am surrounded
And in distress
My mortal enemy has studied my weakness
And attacked with passion
I feel helpless
Powerless to stand alone
Against this onslaught
The battlefield is littered with pieces of me
My heart bleeding
Until it feels as though
There should be nothing left of it
To hurt
And yet there is more pain
I extend great effort to stand
Bloodied and beaten
Wondering how to fight this enemy
Who seems to know every crack
Each flaw
I have no plans to surrender
That what little strength is left
Is somehow enough
For survival

The encouraging thing is that I did survive – and my faith stronger, and a little more refined, in that process. I am hoping for a peaceful season – less bloodshed in the future. This thought leads me to thinking about what I hope my next blog will be about…an amazing book I read by Randy Alcorn called “Safely Home”. It is a fictional book but is written using actual events that have occurred to persecuted Christians in China. My battles are very real and painful to me, but they are nothing compared to what the persecuted church worldwide is enduring. While you’re waiting for me to find the time to write that, read Safely Home – you won’t regret it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I'll Meet You There

I wrote a poem for my best friend. She’s my sister-friend – you know, the best of both worlds. We’ve known each other for about 18+ years now and we’ve shared some really good and very bad times together. She’s had a rough time the past year and as she’s tried to navigate her way through some tough life issues. It’s been difficult the past few months as I’ve felt her pull back and construct some boundaries that I wasn’t sure I understood. I tried my best to honor her feelings and yet struggled at times with feeling a bit rejected, misunderstood and even a little angry. Somewhere along the way, however, I realized that if I really loved her as a friend, that I needed to give her whatever space she needed to “order” her life a bit. So I’ve done my best to honor her new boundaries and sort of sit back hoping that our friendship wouldn’t be permanently different, but understanding that it was a possibility that it would be.

Several states separate us, but we got the opportunity last month to spend a day together, and it was so fun! We talked for hours, sang in the car, went for a walk and prayed…it was awesome. She sent me an email afterwards, thanking me for meeting her where she was at. I starting thinking about that….isn’t that what we really long for and need from all of our close friends? I go back to Proverbs 17:17 again, but it does say a friend loves at ALL times. I guess that means when we feel great about changes in our relationship and even when we don’t. I wrote her this…hoping to convey that of course I’d be willing to do whatever…because I love her and sometimes you don’t understand, but you hang in there anyway.

I’ll meet you there
In those places of fear, shame or weakness
Where you hide your heart and pretend
I’ll meet you where
God’s Spirit makes you whole
And the hope of a pure heart seems possible
I’ll meet you in prayer
Approaching the throne together
Hearts laid bare
Hands lifted high
Or face to the ground
Struggling to make sense of it all
I’ll be there
Walking together on life’s journey
The sweet taste of victory
And the bitterness of failure
It doesn’t matter which
I’ll meet you
Walk with you
And be your friend

I’ve learned a couple of important things about relationships along this crazy life journey. The only relationship we NEED is Jesus, every other person we love is simply a blessing and a gift. I know that seems very simplified, but I truly believe that. When I was 19 my best friend at that time died in a car accident. I really thought I was going to have a breakdown because she was the only one I’d ever completely shared my heart with. I didn’t. I just picked up a pen and started writing poetry and reading my Bible more. I had a few friends that I was very close to move away when I lived in St. Louis and I thought it would break my heart. It did for a while, but we’re still friends and now we just communicate differently. My husband stopped confiding in me and started sharing his life with people I didn’t even know, and then ultimately he just left. I remember thinking that I literally wanted to die. Not that I ever considered suicide, don’t get me wrong, because I didn’t. I just thought that death would surely be easier then the hell I felt I was going through. But I’ve survived, and in fact, grown closer to God and the friends around me more than ever. All of that loss along the way has helped me to have a little perspective I guess. I have always been fine after some period of grieving for whatever loss I was experiencing. God is the only relationship who hasn’t left me or changed in some fashion over the years. I wish I’d learned that lesson when I was younger because it could have saved me a lot of grief, and yet, I think the grief is where I learned the lesson. And so of course I’ll meet my friend where she’s at…isn’t that what God has done for me every step of the way?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The End Of Summer

This morning I’m a willing participant in my own version of the book Charlotte’s Web. My neighbors and friends down the hill from me have a little farm right here in the middle of suburbia and the animals are all waking up with me this morning. In fact, they’re getting rowdy down the hill and I’m wondering if Charlotte is spinning her web and they are all standing around having some discussion as I sit up here sipping my tea. I’m actually enjoying their company.

I’m on the porch again. I can’t seem to pry myself out of this old white chair. It’s a beautiful morning – a slight breeze is blowing, not a cloud in the sky and I’m reveling in the last morning of summer. This last week has been a fun one – I even took a day off and spent the afternoon at the pool with my kids and some friends. I used to experience days like that all the time before I had to go back to work, and I know I took that time for granted. I don’t anymore. I am grateful for every second of time to relax and just be… I believe God knew that I needed to somehow find time and a place (a.k.a my front porch) where I could unwind and sort of center myself. Everyone should have a spot – a place that is all their own where they find special comfort and moments to relax and a period of time that is just a bit slower and less structured. Summer is that time for us – our family schedule is so much more manageable and more peaceful.

When I was a stay at home mom, I loved summer with my children, but I did look forward to school starting. Summer was fun for about 7 weeks, and then it became hard to keep the kids entertained and happy and the house clean. That first week of school was like a little taste of heaven. I’d have my quiet time in the morning, go walk with my friend, go to lunch a couple of times, clean the house, run errands and still have a little time to read. Now, I dread the start of school. The alarm is set for 5:15 a.m., the evenings are filled with homework, activities, baths and stuff! It’s overwhelmingly busy!! I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned that I’m not what you’d consider a “Type A” personality, in fact, I definitely fall somewhere much further down the line. I’m not lazy, but I am one of those people that values having a little bit of time every day to myself to be quiet and still. That happens MUCH less during the school year. In fact, my porch may become a weekend longing more than a weekday occurrence.

And so…this morning I am sitting on my porch, listening to the animals causing a raucous down the hill, watching the sun rising, and enjoying that last little bit of quiet that I love. As summer is winding down, my porch will see less of me and I may be rambling a little less often. I hope not, because I’m really enjoying this little chance to throw my heart out to the world.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

My Favorite Verse

My favorite verse in the Bible is Zephaniah 3:17. It says, “The Lord your God is with you. He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”

Have you ever been with someone you really love – be it a spouse or a dear friend – and you so enjoy being together that you are just quiet…no words are spoken, or need to be, it is just companionable silence? Those are rare, but beautiful moments. I have a friend who loves to sit on my porch with me. Most of the time we talk, but occasionally we just sit and look at the birds or the bunnies playing in the yard and enjoy being quiet together. There aren’t any uncomfortable lulls, we are happy just being in the same place and we don’t feel the need to necessarily fill every second with conversation. God’s love is so amazing and we can feel so completely loved and comfortable with him that we are able to simply be quiet. The noise and chaos of the world is not prevalent. There have been occasions when in the midst of a time in my life that was particularly chaotic or difficult I have felt peaceful and quiet within my heart. I never felt that when I wasn’t walking closely with the Lord, but when I am in step with him, there is a peace that is hard to express. His love can quiet my soul.

In all your special and moving moments with loved ones, has anyone ever sung over you? I remember putting my children to bed, or holding them in my arms, sitting in the rocking chair and singing them my favorite lullaby. I had one in particular that I sang to both of my girls. I was completely enraptured with their beautiful little faces and pure souls, and I sang over them. It felt magical.

I have a dear friend who is a singer/songwriter. In the midst of the most painful time in my life, she wrote a song for me about hanging on to God and continually believing in his faithfulness, even in the midst of turmoil and hurt. It was undoubtedly the most special gift I’ve ever received. She has sung it for me several times, but one time in particular, we were in a large room where she would later be performing, with this amazing beautiful grand piano. She sang the song to me, choking up – and eyes filling with tears…and I was equally moved and felt very loved. That was her hope, I believe, when she wrote the song – that I would feel special and my soul encouraged to remain faithful.

My Father is perfect. He has created the universe and all that lives, breathes and is around me, and yet this verse in Zephaniah says that he saves me, sings over me, takes delight in me and rejoices over me! This isn’t the sweet comfort of companionship, a mother moved by her newborn, or a friend singing to give encouragement – this is the Lord of ALL delighting, creating stillness and rejoicing over me! That, my friends, is what unconditional love feels and looks like.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Thought On Prayer

Today I’ve been thinking about prayer and how I have struggled with it, reveled in it, dreaded it, loved it…I could go on and on. I have had many different thoughts and feelings about it. I think I might have finally come to terms with it. I’ve viewed it so differently over the years that it is actually almost comical. It started as a child with, “Now I lay me down to sleep…” and now it’s become a lifeline to a relationship with my Lord. I’d hoped for that but wasn’t sure it would ever happen. I’m still so far from where I want to be, but I see it as something to strive for and I believe it is attainable. At times it means working my way down a prayer list. Other times it is as simple as sitting on my front porch watching the sun rise and singing a song of praise or writing a poem.

It’s hard to write “a” blog on prayer. Someone could write a daily blog on prayer and still not touch the subject – it’s huge and it’s mysterious. I honestly don’t think I’ll ever really understand it, until I’m face to face with God himself. How can we ever really understand the significance? I’ve seen a shift in my own heart though that has been encouraging. I am starting to actually believe in its power. I’ve been a Christian since I was a teenager and I’m just NOW getting this? I’ve seen it – I’ve really seen God moving in my life and the lives of others around me like never before.

The last three days I’ve had the honor of joining a dear friend of mine in prayer and fasting. There are some hard things going on in her family and she needs wisdom to make sure she handles it in the best way. The road ahead could be pretty treacherous…or not...only God knows. So we have prayed – separately and together. God is answering her prayers. He’s answering her just the way he answered me when I was in turmoil and wondering how I could possibly survive. I’ll tell you how I survived (and am still surviving) my chaos…prayer. I prayed in anguish and through tears so many times. God worked through those times and he worked through the prayers of many people who loved me enough to approach God on my behalf.

“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer…” 1 Peter 3:12 He’s loves me and whether he answers yes or no, He is listening.

Saturday, August 1, 2009


I’ve been thinking about friendships lately - how crucial and meaningful they can be. I love my friends…and I’m blessed with many long term and deep relationships. Someday I’d like to write a book about it, but for now I’ll just settle with a daily thought on a blog. Proverbs 17:17 is one of my favorite verses, it says, “A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity.” A short and simple verse that is on cards and plaques everywhere yet it’s so much more than a sappy sentiment. You really do see who your friends are when you come face to face with adversity. A few people run, but the ones that stay, they are the loyal friends that you always hoped for. I think I’ve come to understand the true meaning of friendship better. My friends have been AMAZING to me these past few years in particular and I feel I have gained a deeper understanding of God’s unconditional love for me along the way.

One of my friends, during the hardest time of my divorce, came over almost every night for about two weeks to help me pack up my house so my kids and I could move. She had worked all day as well and I know she was exhausted. One weekend a group of women from my church came over on a Saturday and helped me paint the inside of the house I was moving into. Another sweet woman watched my kids for me every day after school for months – and fixed us all dinner many times because she knew how tired I was. My best friend, who lives far away, opened her home to me a couple of times when she knew I just needed to be with her and out of the stress I was living in. I could go on and on with stories of how they rallied around me so unbelievably. They were the hands and feet of God to my children and I.

The unconditional love my friends have exhibited has given me a glimpse into the very heart of God. Believe me, I didn’t do much for any of them for quite a while – I was in survival mode for a long time. But it showed me so much about grace and love…and I understand more fully how God has loved me when I have had nothing of value to offer him except my heart. That’s it – just all of my heart. That’s why God wants us to have strong relationships – we show glimpses of God to each other.