Wednesday, April 30, 2014

James 2 Memorization...

No. I'm not finished with it.
Not even close.

James 1, I got. There were weeks that took a little more 'work' than others did, but for some reason James 1 was easier to commit to memory than James 2 has been. Maybe it's because I've been more overwhelmed with ministry obligations since beginning James 2. Maybe it's because the end of the school year for this homeschooling family is ALWAYS overly busy and full of distractions. Maybe it's because I've been overwhelmed with caring for my Bradley the last couple of weeks. Or maybe I'm just not putting my all into it. No matter what is at the heart of this, I'm thankful that I desire to commit this Word to heart and mind even though it's just not clicking.

So, as of this week, I'm supposed to have memorized verses 1-13 of James 2. It will come, I hope. Even if I spend my summer doing nothing but memorization exercises and prayer (like that would be a bad thing!) It will come.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Life Got Hard

It isn't so much that one thing is going horribly wrong.
And it isn't so much that nothing is going right.
But we get caught up in the happenings and the comings and the goings. There's a lot that needs to be done. And so we just bustle on through, working on it all with diligent hands. But with each intentional act of love and life, our hearts empty a little more, working until they're empty. If we're not mindful, if we're not watching and listening, we just keep working. Busy hands but empty heart. We may not feel empty until we're far past empty.

And that's where the threat truly lies, where the enemy will sneak right in. Knowing you're running off of fumes, he'll just throw in his own toxic gases. And before you know it, you're numb. You don't feel the empty and you can't see the threat.

Last week was Holy Week. Passover. The great sorrow and mercy of Good Friday. The hope only found in the risen Christ of Easter.

It started off like a Holy Week typically does. Remembering the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The God who passed over our inequities with a purpose and plan yet to be fulfilled. We remembered how the prophecies and feasts pointed to The One to come. The promised God Man. The One who fills emptied hearts.

The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you...

The week began with that simple reminder. The promise of the blood that covers our souls, making us new, passed over, redeemed. Breathing hope. Lighting the way for the celebration of the week ahead.

And then life got hard.

That big, strong man of mine, he just goes and goes and goes. And he pushes through and does all that he needs to do. He's got a large load to carry - seeking Him first, serving this family we have, and caring for the flock. He's got strong arms though, so it's ok. But even sometimes the strongest of arms can't hold themselves up. And that's where we were. In the middle of a disease that hadn't plagued him in years, ravaging his insides and seeking to destroy. Scary reminders of the first time it hit, the words still ringing through my ears...

He could have died in that bed.
He could have died... 

No destructive plague will touch you.

Proactive as I am, my protective nature takes over. Doctors and medicines, rest and remedies. Prayer. Lots of prayer. We attack this plague now, this destruction shall not touch him. And I keep going, busying my hands but all the while becoming victim of that emptied heart. And the busier I get, the less I see it emptying. And then it's too late, and I'm going off of fumes... toxic. 

Who's septic now?

Steady heart, let us find what is good to be filled with. 

The husband, healing, preaching the message of the Gospel. Sharing on that good day, a great hope of the long awaited Passover Lamb. Hanging. Hurting from the lashes and hurting from the spikes driven through bone and marrow and hurting from the hurts that we still ache with today. That blood that covers all sin, passes over, just dripping down the tattered body of the Passover Lamb, covering the wounds and staining splintered wood... We break the bread and drink the cup and remember the sacrifice so great. We sing our praise from broken and emptied hearts. We leave that sanctuary knowing that the blood wasn't just spilled, but it was forming hope of a resurrected God Man to come. And Sunday comes, and we sing praise of the promise fulfilled, resurrected and walking in a beautiful glory that my mind simply can not fathom. To be that broken woman so desperately in need of mercy and grace, to be the first one to behold Him in all of that glory... 

I am that broken woman. And I do so desperately need that mercy and grace... Can I even stand to take one glimpse of that glory though? This emptied heart needs to be filled but these drab eyes can only see so much. The glory is blinding and I can just barely see.

So, here we are, nearly a week later. And that big, strong man of mine is still bound to the bed. Hurting. 

God... we are begging for healing here. 

And me? I'm just trying. I'm trying so hard (maybe too hard) to be filled only with You, to not fall prey to the sly deceit of the one who would fill me toxic. So that these hands can serve him, and serve them, and serve Him. And my arms? They're weak. Like I said, this is a large load to carry. And my big, strong man, he can barely hold himself up right now. So he needs You. And I desire to help him carry this load, and I need You.

God, how I need You.

But... this is exactly where I need to be. 

This is where true filling comes. In the broken, humble heart, the heart seeking what is good to be filled with. Seeking what is good, and true, and noble, and right, and pure, and lovely. Seeking the Holy. Begging and broken, in need of strength and filling.  

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 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 40:28-31

Yes, this is exactly where I need to be.

Father, may You be glorified in my emptiness. Fill me so completely, overflowing with Your Spirit, goodness, mercy and truth. And please, guard my heart like only You can, so that when I run empty again (in my weakness I do this too often) only You are where I turn for a refill. Life gets hard, but You overcame life, death, and the grave so that I may be filled with You and You alone. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Wrapping up of James 2:5-7


A few days ago we wrapped up the memorization of verses 5-7 in James 2, which says...

 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?  But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?  Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?

Before jumping into that, I have to back track a bit to last week. It all just flows together.

I wonder if sometimes we go through passages like these first seven verses in James and think to ourselves "Well... that's obvious!" Really, I've met very few Christians who actually scoff at a poor person entering the church. BUT then I think a little harder and I realize that this is truly just all too common and the evil judging we do is actually just a matter of the kind of church we're in. Because, like it or not, this happens everywhere, at least every now and again. Now, I am not saying EVERY person in EVERY church is guilty of this ALL of the time. What I am saying is that we've all done it. Whether it's the second glance we give the person that walks into our traditional church wearing jeans, or it's gaze that won't linger away from the person that walks into our casual church with track marks scarring her arms. In those moments, even if it is just for a moment, we discriminate and fail to see another person who - like each of us - was created in the image of God.

The point in these verses is that appearance does not necessarily reflect the condition of the heart. Can appearance reflect the heart? Yes. But even someone who the world could define as tastefully dressed can have a heart that is far from Christ. And, as the verses above share, who the world may define as poor is not necessarily who God would define as poor. Often the poor of the world are the ones who realize just how blessed they really are. And the thing is - we know this. We just allow the world to shade our eyes with what we should define as good and right. 

As it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one... - Romans 3:10

Really, none of us are good or right. We're just grace covered. Even with our grace covered souls, sometimes our minds forget that those in the worst of (worldly) circumstances are often the ones who recognize most the need for a savior.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Wrapping up James 2:1-4


So, we're finishing up the first two weeks of memorizing the second chapter in the book of James, which says...

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? - James 2:1-4 

Sounds pretty simple, right? Don't show favoritism. Embrace the rich, the poor, the people in between. Welcome everyone and make everyone feel welcome. Over the next few verses James continues to expand on what he's teaching here. So I'm just going to let that sink in for now and dig into it fully later, after going through the next week.  

Besides, my brain isn't up to giving words to write today anyway and it seems silly to force it to happen. No need to ramble on.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Taking in one of those "God moments"

He never fails to amaze me. I’m never actually surprised when these things happen, because I know Him. I know that even He cares about seemingly trivial details like these. And it’s amazing. And then, when taking in the joy of these moments, I am hit with the bigger picture - the unending faithfulness. The impact these seemingly trivial details can have on the lives of people all around us... and on us... the calling that is bigger than we sometimes may see. Hope eternal. Lives renewed.

We’re not done.

We’re not done walking out in faith. That’s a daily call. Where will our steps take us today? Tomorrow? We seek and serve and grow. Churches are planted and missionaries are going, going, going. Feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. Touching the broken. Embracing them in loves strong hold, a hold that doesn’t let go.

He doesn’t let go.

And I’m on this call. And you’re on this call. We all are called to take these steps, daily, to walk into loves strong surrender. We are called to run into His open arms, taking hold of hands along the way and showing them the way. Hands of the hurting and the hungry and broken, bringing them with us into loves strong hold. Who are you holding hands with? Who is He calling you to hold?

Keep my heart humble, my eyes open, my ears hearing, and my feet willing to walk in the steps of Your perfect will. I’m not done. Send me.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. -1 Peter 5:7

Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust him, and he will help you. -Psalm 37:5 

Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. -Proverbs 16:3

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Let it rain

Part of memorizing the book of James, for me, has been to recite each day what I have learned - often several times - from memory. Without fail, each day, something within what I'm running through my mind or mumbling on my lips will strike me as new.

I love that about this Word of truth. I love the way it continually speaks newness and life into my soul. Refreshing. Cleansing.

Like a rain that washes away all the built up dust and dirt. A rain that brings growth and new branches, new leaves and new blossoms. Growing in Him, growing up. Remembering where you've been, dreaming of where you're going, resting in where you are.

Yeah, it's kinda like that.

So let it rain.

This past week I began James chapter two with verses one and two. Since they flow right into verses 3 and 4 for this week, I'm just waiting until next week to wrap them up (because that is what makes the most sense, at least to me.)