Monthly Archives: September 2011

Tuesday Take-Away on Friday {1 Chronicles 28:20-21}

Scripture reading is a fantastic discipline for the Christian, a privilege as well. As I open up God’s Word and crinkle the pages beneath my fingertips, I almost always hear the heartbeat of God ringing in my ears. I didn’t always hear it. In my younger seasons, I didn’t know to listen for it. With years of practice and personal need as my compass, I now view the Word of God as a necessity rather than as a reference guide. Certainly, it is a reference guide, but as reference guides go, they stack alongside other referencing material and can easily be covered up by the latest, greatest “must-have” being touted on the Christian market.

Nothing can replace God’s Word. It isn’t just seasonal, topical, historical, and practical. It’s so much more, so much so that on any given day and with any given scripture, God’s Word is applicable … right where we are. Certainly, a verse taken out of context may yield very little application to our current life circumstances. However, by digging a little deeper into God’s truth, thinking a little longer about it, and applying it a little wider, we harness the power behind that particular scripture to do a transforming work in our hearts.

Along those lines, I came across these two verses in my quiet time this morning. Really, they came across me, but I won’t quibble about their arrival. I’m just blessed to call them mine.

“David also said to Solomon his son, ‘Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished. The divisions of the priests and Levites are ready for all the work on the temple of God, and every willing man skilled in any craft will help you in all the work. The officials and all the people will obey your every command.’” (1 Chronicles 28:20-21).

What’s my take-away? How can this be applied to my heart in my today when it’s obvious that these verses were meant for those who would build the temple of the Lord nearly 3000 years ago? Here are a few thoughts I’m thinking:

  • God is still building his temple, and he’s using my life, alongside the lives of other believers, as his building blocks.
  • There is work to be done. I have been assigned as a co-laborer in that work.
  • The work will require my strength, my courage, and my faith in the face of fear.
  • God is with me in my work. He will not fail me nor forsake me.
  • The work will be completed.
  • There are others who are ready to help me in my work—others with the necessary tools, craftsmanship, and commissioning from God to bring about a completed work through me… in me.

As I linger over these thoughts, I realize that every one of them is important to my heart and my thinking if I am to move forward in this season. Every one of them must be believed, must be applied, and must be harnessed as truth if, in fact, God’s work is going to be most fully accomplished in my life. A breakdown at any point in this trajectory of understanding will, more than likely, leave my assigned work as is—undone and unfinished. And while God can use even that—my incompleteness—I’m thinking it would be far better to finish this race in tandem with his desires. I want nothing more than for God to finish in me that which he began in me on a hillside 2000 years ago. I want to go home to him as a completed work of grace.

How about you? As you look over and consider these thoughts, where does the breakdown happen for you? I challenge you to open up these verses in your own Bible, open up your heart as well, and linger with God in your deliberations. These two verses just may be the encouraging word you need to move you a step further down the path of your completion.

Be blessed in Jesus this weekend. As always…

Peace for the journey,


When Cancer Comes Calling…

She called me to tell me that her cancer had returned. Truthfully, neither one of us thought it had gone anywhere, but we didn’t mention it. Instead, we just held the moment together. Paused long enough to breathe in and out a time or two and then continued in our conversation. Inwardly, I was gasping for air … careful not to fill the moment with my fret. It wouldn’t have been fair to her, to her news, her disappointment, the painful reality that was about to unfold for her … again.

More chemo. More testing. More spreading of the disease she’s fought against so valiantly in the eight months I’ve known her. I don’t really have the words to give to her. She doesn’t need empty promises or half-truths based on sentimental notions. She certainly doesn’t need false hope or a casual toss of faith-speak in her direction. No, she needs more. Something solid, real, tender, and truthful. A safe place to place her trust. A refuge in which to plant her seeds of pain. A retreat from the cruelty of blood draws, intravenous drips, and the stale taste of poison in her mouth.

She needs a friend, and she chose me. Silently, I struggle for the right words, questioning my qualifications. How can I mend this one, love this one, help this one through the struggle this go around? There are so many of us, Lord. So many cancer friends.

  • One who’s just finished her chemo.
  • Another one just getting started.
  • A mentor beautifully gracing the stage of her Stage IV.
  • Another fourth grade mom swollen with lymphedema.
  • A farmer who buried his daughter—my friend—and who now wages the cancer battle himself.
  • One of my “ancients” struggling in isolation from the rest of them, from me.
  • Several of us in a holding pattern—caught between our last year and the year to come. All of us quietly wondering if maybe the cancer’s just napping beneath our scars.

Yes, so many of us walking the ribboned road. Trying to be brave. Trying to hold the banner of hope high so that others won’t worry. Trying to be friends, be comforters, be supporters, and be the hands and feet of Jesus to those who need to be touched by truth. It’s a weighty responsibility, yet one gladly accepted by most of us. One I willingly accepted just over a year ago.

Entrusted. Remember?

Every time I want to quit, want to pull away and pretend that I am someone without a story, I look down at my wrist and think on that word. That charge. That privilege given to me—to be trusted with so much. When I go there with my thoughts, I almost always go to my knees, and I say “yes” all over again to the story that is mine, come what may.

Cancer will always be coming for someone. Fifty percent of all men and one-third of all women will personally experience the disease at some point in their journeys. Cancer doesn’t seem in a hurry to retreat, so neither must I. It’s as simple and as difficult as that.

To stay. To stand closely to cancer. To straddle the fence with one foot in the path of healing and one foot in the path of pain, with faith as the sturdy post in between. I will not leave the wounded behind. I will wait with them; walk with them; wonder with them; weep with them. It’s what I choose to do, because I believe it’s what my Father chooses to do every time his children come crawling to the threshold of heaven extending their personal pain in the direction of his heart.

God never fills those moments with his fret. Instead, he offers something solid, real, tender, and truthful in return. He offers his presence. A staying, standing-close-by promise of personal involvement. Why? Because he was the first one ever entrusted with a story. A cross. A red ribbon embedded into his brow, tied to his hands, threaded through to his side, cascading downward to his feet. A ribbon that threads through to our hearts and that pulls tightly on his every time our tears shed their witness.

When we need a safe place, a refuge, a retreat, a friend … we have one in Jesus. Every time he thinks about us … looks down at his wrists and reads the truth written behind the scars imprinted there … he goes to his knees on our behalf and says “yes” again to the story that is his. A weighty responsibility to be sure, a worthy gain for all eternity.

Oh to be like Jesus … even a little bit!

There will be no quitting today, not for me. Just more of the road in front of me and more of the ribbon behind me. If you need to, grab on friends. I’m heading in the right and good direction. I’m heading home. As always…

Peace for the journey,

"Go back the way you came… "

“Then a voice said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He replied, ‘I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.’ The LORD said to him, ‘Go back the way you came, … .’” (1 Kings 19:14-15).


Go back the way you came.

I have no doubt that this is God’s message to me today. Perhaps to one or two of you as well. Thus, a moment of unpacking it with you if you, like Elijah, are…

  • exhausted from the well-fought battle against Baal on Mt. Carmel;
  • weary from trying to outrun Jezebel;
  • worn out from forty days and nights of wandering toward the mountain of the Lord.

Exhausted, weary, and worn. Anyone? So much so that you’re willing to say, “I’ve had enough, LORD… take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Modern day translation? “Even so, Lord Jesus, come and rescue me from my misery.”

I know. A hard truth to admit, perhaps even shameful to some of you. But I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’ve had a few days in the last 365 days when, like Elijah, the span between the pain that I was feeling and the peace of God’s mountain seemed insurmountable. Too far away. Too long in coming. Too high a climb. Too much of a requirement for the feeble flesh that holds my inward parts together. Times when the weightiness of the load that  I was carrying led to my collapse and my “Enough, Lord.”

Who of us hasn’t felt the chasm between our earthly pain and God’s heavenly gain?

I wonder about the motive behind Elijah’s trek to God’s mountain. Perhaps he came for clarification—for the defining purpose behind his next steps. Perhaps to be heard. Perhaps to claim “safe sanctuary” or to cry out “Base!” as I so often shouted as a child during a game of neighborhood tag. But just today, I thought about something else. About another reason for Elijah’s run to Mt. Horeb. Could it be that the memory of Moses’ ascent to Mt. Nebo was running through his mind as he came to God’s mountain? When God called Moses to the mountain, Moses made the climb knowing that he would not return to the valley of God’s people (see Deut. 32:48-52). Moses came to Mt. Nebo to die; perhaps Elijah came to Mt. Horeb with hopes of doing the same. Perhaps Elijah was ready to go home … to be removed from his struggles and to be at rest with his Father.

God had other plans for Elijah. God has other plans for me, and if you’re reading this today, he has some further plans for you.

Go back the way you came. As hard as it seems, go back the way you came.

Back to the desert. Back down into the valley where Jezebel lives. Back to the forty days and nights of having to depend on God to fuel your heart, your thoughts, and your stomach for the ministry season yet to come. There’s more work to be done. More people who need the witness of your story. More strengthening of the remnant that remains behind.

Go back the way you came.

This will be, perhaps, one of the hardest God-given directives over your life. But it is God’s directive to give; yours to obey. In doing so, you will be given what you need to make the descent off of God’s mountain and to live in the valley below. Your earthly work is not over, friend. You must keep to the faith that you boldly proclaim. Mt. Horeb, Mt. Nebo, Mt. Heaven will come to you soon enough. Until then…

Go back the way you came, carrying God’s kingdom with you as you go. As always, may God’s peace for the journey be your portion as you take your next steps of faithful obedience. I’ll meet you in the valley where we can confidently live out our purposes beneath the protective shadow of our Father’s mountain.

STRONG… {the Word of God has spoken}

My son came home early from school one day this week. Allergies and a corresponding headache were to blame. I quickly developed a headache of my own when I realized the mountain of homework that resulted from his premature departure from the classroom.

Ugh. Big Ugh. Guttural Ugh.

Homework and I are not friends. It is a constant drain on the energy in our household, most of us boasting a few scars from the woundings that have taken place over the years. I’ve been through the fifth grade with my children three times now. Four if you count the first time when I was a student in Mrs. Hitch’s classroom at Wilmore Elementary. Images of having to wear a red velvet dress and white sandals for a speech contest flash through my mind. So does the image of Mrs. Hitch disciplining me for chasing Robbie L. around the classroom in order to pounce on him for teasing me about said dress. Unlike my son, I didn’t have an educational learning issue—just a people one. I’ll let you decide which is worse.

But I digress. Back to homework, to a poorly feeling boy, and to his mother who was less than thrilled about completing missed assignments. We started with the easiest—Math. Worked our way through the worst–History, Science, and Language–rounding the bend with Bible. Yes, Bible. Our kids attend a Christian school. Having never worked through a Bible lesson with him before, my curiosity was peeked. The day’s lesson?

Bible tracts. What they are, how they’re used, and the overriding hope and purpose behind a small piece of paper that is easily transferred into the hands of total strangers. The lesson emphasized the powerful effect of a tract by citing examples of real, life-changing encounters that have happened as a direct result of a tract being received. The lesson also made mention of the fact that, with these examples, few words were spoken between the individuals in the exchange. Simply a transfer of material between two hearts, two hands. The question for the student (and for this less than cooperative mother/teacher) was, “What does this tell you about what’s written on the tract?”

Both of us sat with the question for a few minutes, and then I asked my son again.

“Jadon, if this small piece of paper, written with a few words from God’s Word, has the power to change a heart and lead a person to surrendering his/her life to Jesus Christ, then what does it say about the words on this tract?”

He thought for a long time. I could tell the wheels were turning in a right and proper direction, and then he responded … better than I thought he might.

“Strong. They’re strong words, mom. If they can change a heart, then they are strong.”

Lesson learned by a boy. Lesson re-learned by a grown woman.

Powerful and effective is the Word of God, strong enough to stand on its own, with or without my own words alongside. God’s Word doesn’t need my words to make it true, to make it right, to make it worthy. Sometimes fewer words from my lips is the better course of action when it comes to the dispensation of God’s truth. Sometimes human dialogue, wordy platitudes, and self-impressed knowledge can hinder truth’s progress. Sometimes it’s just better to let the strong Word of God breathe.

Strong. There’s strength there, friends. When was the last time you released God’s Word into the air, into the heart of a loved one, a family member, a stranger and let it breathe without your manipulation?

I trust in the strength of God’s Word, and I am humbled by the privilege and charge that has been entrusted to me as a child of the King to share it with others. I may not always share it eloquently; more than likely I’ll stumble and bumble my way through the process. But in the end, God’s Word will stand. Not by my might, but by the power and strength of the Mighty One whose Word cannot be undone. Only realized as truth.

Realize Him, this weekend. Recognize Him. Remember Him. Release Him. He will do the rest. As always…

Peace for the journey,

this is my gospel…

 “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained.” (2 Timothy 2:8-9).

Quietly, she’s entered into my world. A month ago, I didn’t know she existed. But then she slipped in. Courageously and without pretense she came. Settled in close to my pew, even closer to my heart. And there she has stayed.

A single mom of a one-year-old daughter. Broken. Scarred. Frightened. Confused. Feeling like nothing, like forgotten, like trapped with nowhere else to run to but to church. No one else to turn to but to Jesus.

What courage she has displayed with her choosing—with the willing exposure of her heart to complete strangers in hopes of finding solace to replace the aggravation she has known. Something tells me she needs me. Something tells me I need her as well. And in the midst of all the needing, I search for answers—for a gift to give her beyond the customary hug and offer of prayer. I long to do more, to give better, to reach beyond safe borders in order to fix her heart and to remove her pain.

It is immense, her pain. Relevant and obvious. Tender and confrontational. One would be hard-pressed to miss it; still and yet, most will go out of their way to avoid it. Personal pain is hard enough to manage without taking on the pain of a stranger. So I tread cautiously, carefully toward her, creating a safe place for her to share her story. Bits and pieces are emerging to form a clearer picture. As they materialize, I hold them in my heart and try to make sense of it all. Try to manage my reactions; try to reason my responses. Try to figure out what I can tell her that might bring her one step closer to freedom. Try to get the words out of my heart that will usher her to the threshold of God’s hold. Try to give her truth. True truth. Not relative truth, but real faith-in-the-flesh God truth.

Jesus Christ.

This is my gospel. He is my gospel.

Jesus Christ, raised from the dead. Jesus Christ, descended from David. Jesus Christ, God’s Son. Jesus Christ, Son of Man. God incarnate. God made flesh. God with me, Emmanuel.

This is my gospel. My glad tidings and sacred proclamation of the grace that I have found in Jesus Christ. The good news according to the good Book that has led millions of souls down the path toward freedom to arrive beneath the threshold of God’s hold. This is where I begin with her—where the hug extends its witness beyond what is safe and customary.

The Gospel is anything but.

The Gospel is the most confrontational, exceptional, and beautifully dangerous word of truth ever received by and into human hearts. It is the one key to unlocking personal pain. The one salve to soothe suffering. The one road map that will point the lost toward home. It’s all I know to give her. The best I know to give her.

This is my gospel. This is my story. It will be enough to point her home.

What is your gospel, friends? Your story? Your truth? Will it be enough to point the broken, the scarred, the frightened, and the confused back to Jesus? Is the grace and freedom you’ve received as your own the same grace and freedom you extend to others? What life has settled in next to yours that needs the witness of something more than a customary hug or offer of prayer? When was the last time you spoke truth into pain … grace and mercy into brokenness? The last time you stretched your heart wide to include the heart of the hurting?

It’s not always easy to extend welcoming inclusion to others, especially when suffering your own personal trauma. But one thing is for certain. Pain isn’t going anywhere, nor are those who are most affected by its insistence. Pain is all around us and will continue its assault upon us until we’re willing to treat it with the truth of Jesus Christ.

The God who chose to make his dwelling with us.
The God who has suffered as we have suffered.
The God who willingly walked to the cross so that we might walk in freedom.
The God who rose from the dead so that we might, also, one day rise to him.

This is my gospel. A worthy truth. A worthy witness. A worthy Word for all seasons, painful and otherwise. Would you take time to examine the gospel according to you this week? Do so beneath the watchful gaze of the Gospel according to Jesus Christ. Find where you are lacking and strengthen your story. There’s a hurting heart, maybe even nestled in next to you on the pew, who needs the witness of God’s truth. No one can live it, speak it, and give it as well as you can.

Even so, get to it… keep to it. As always…

Peace for the journey,

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