Monthly Archives: October 2011

love stretches the soul…

Love stretches the soul.

When was the last time that love stretched your soul? Reached inside your heart and pulled it outside for exposure, for adventure, for remembrance, for renewal? How long has it been since you left the safety of your carefully constructed, four-walls in order to explore the world that’s been waiting for you just beyond the back stoop? When did love last remind you that your world is too small, too guarded, too inward, too stuck?

Love stretched my soul over this past week. Love carried me some 500 miles northwest through stormy weather to land me safely in the arms of a friend who’s been walking this journey with me for nearly twenty years. She’s a native to the small town where I spent a few of my yesterdays… five years’ worth of my yesterdays.

Our friendship began on a hot summer night in the sanctuary of my small church. Parents from the church and the community had gathered to hear about their children’s adventures during our annual Vacation Bible School. As part of a follow-up program designed to target un-churched families, we visited several homes in order to extend personal invitations to come and worship with our growing congregation. One of those homes belonged to my friend, Juanita. From that moment forward until today (nearly nineteen years later), I don’t suppose she and her family have missed many Sundays at that church. That’s a lot of Sundays, friends. And while I’ve not actively worshipped with her for most of those nineteen years, we’ve shared an active friendship throughout the course of that time.

Some told us that our friendship wouldn’t last… that miles and time would be enough to separate the deep bond that we share. They were wrong. Yes, miles and time have separated us in a way that neither of us wanted, but our friendship is just as real and certain as it has always been. Last week’s visit held the proof. It was as if (you could probably finish this sentence for me)… we’d never been apart.



We laughed, cried, ripped up the roads down through Amish country. We stopped for cheese bread, apple fritters, and chocolate-covered peanuts and raisins from Walnut Creek’s Coblentz Store. We dined on broasted chicken from Der Dutchman and roast beef from The Amish Door, as well as shared a table of tortillas with three of the Drake sisters (Juanita’s sisters). We even caught a viewing of Courageous. Yes, we crammed a lot of living into a few days, and then we hugged our good-byes at the airport.

It’s never easy saying good-bye to my friend, and this time around was particularly difficult for me. I’ve spent a couple of days mulling it over, and here’s what I’m thinking.

Love has stretched my soul. Love moved me beyond my borders and landed me smack dab in the middle of humanity. For the first time in a long time, I spent a few days living in the real world—a world separated from the safety zone I’ve carefully created for myself over the past year. Last week, I exposed my heart and made it vulnerable to outside influences. In doing so, I became painfully aware of how closed-off I’ve become. It’s not a good fit with my heart.

God didn’t save me to bury me. God saved me to release me. To release Him. To be a soul so stretched by the power of love that a kingdom bridge between heaven and earth might emerge as a footpath for those who fill up my days. For those who linger with me through the dark nights. I want to be that bridge… God’s active participant in the world. A heart anchored in heaven, yet a heart unafraid to linger a while longer in the setting I’ve been given.

Love is a game-changer, friends. God’s stretching love for us changed the world and forever planted a bridge between heaven and earth so that we might find the footpath that leads to home. If God had remained closed off to his world, kept his Son safe from the world, then you and I would know nothing of grace and heaven. God would be there, and we would remain here. As it is, Love came down, planted a cross, and secured a forever for each one of us. Loved stretched far and wide, long and deep, encompassing a world-view that best fits with God’s heart. Two thousand years ago God hit the roads with his Son and his story, and now he’s entrusted us with the same mission.

Love stretches the soul. Indeed, it has moved me to a better place this past week. Love put me in the path of humanity in a way that best fits with my heart. As I move forward from here, as I try to put traction to my thinking, I do so knowing and believing that love is a strong motivator for change. Love has the capacity to stretch my soul and to put it within arm’s reach of great, kingdom influence. It has the capacity to do the same for you.

Would you be willing to allow love to move you to a deeper place of surrender, a deeper place of influence this week? It’s time for some of you to come out of hiding, plant your feet and your heart along the footpath of humanity in order to stretch the influence of Jesus outward to those who still need to hear the greatest love story ever told. In doing so, you’ll be stretched… perhaps uncomfortably so. But all worthy love stories… lasting love stories… are stretching ones.

Reach deeper, friends, pull harder, stretch further… all for the love of Jesus this week. You are God’s game-charger in this world. Even so, keep to it. As always…

Peace for the journey,

trash day…

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24).

Sometimes we don’t have to pray this searching prayer from the psalmist in order for us to know the offensive ways of our hearts. Sometimes we just know. Sometimes it’s just that obvious.

Let me explain.

Things are breaking around my house. The washing machine. The telephone. The remote control. The doorbell. My husband’s watch. My shoes. Unanticipated collapses in and around our home, small annoyances yet big enough to foster our frustration. Not big enough to move us past the point of reasonable responses but just enough to remind us that at any given point on any given day, breakage of temporal things can and does occur. Those breakages can be managed.

But what about the other ones? The breakages not related to temporal things but rather ones related to eternal hearts? Fractures that are not easily fixed, managed, or controlled? Breakages that occur because of the carnality that simmers just beneath the surface of our skin? What do we do with those collapses when they burst forth as “unreasonable and out-of-control”?

Last night I went to bed with some breakage. So did the other members of my household. Someone spoke breakage into someone else, which in turn began a chain of brokenness throughout our household. It doesn’t much matter how the chain began. What matters is the fact that breaking words have a strong tendency to spread like a virus. Before long, everyone is infected, and hearts begin to ache for the greater good they once felt—the greater good for which God created them.

We should know better. Live better. Speak better. A better way of doing life is what God desires for each one of us. When we don’t act on that better—when we deliberately choose to live as a people unchanged by the cross of Calvary—then we continue to live as a sin-sick people in desperate need of a heart’s examination.

To know that we need one … a heart’s examination? Well, I suppose that is a good starting point. So many Christians are walking around with blinders on, unaware of their simmering sin. Worst still are those who are aware of their sin yet are unwilling to do anything about it. Those who choose to linger with yesterday’s rotten, stinking garbage and who have somehow fooled themselves into thinking that stink doesn’t stink and that the flies gathering around are an indication of some remaining goodness.

Time to take out the garbage, friends. Time to pray the prayer, to acknowledge the sin, to put away childish things. Time to stop breaking one another with angry words, forced agendas, human manipulation. Time to work from the heart outward, rooting out those carnal tendencies that simmer just beneath the surface of the skin. Time to push them out completely so that our tomorrows aren’t filled with the stench of yesterday’s struggle.

This morning, I’ve taken time to collect the garbage of my heart and hauled it to the curb of Calvary. Laid it down before the Son of God and begged his pardon for my sin. It hasn’t been a difficult collection process for me. Some stink… some sin, is just that obvious, just that offensive.

Oh for a heart that is quick to notice the quickening truth of the Spirit of God within! Oh for a heart that is willing to listen to conviction, to act on that conviction, and to move forward with repentance and grace-filled renewal! What would it take to get us there, readers? What lingering sin is still simmering beneath the surface of your skin today? If you’re willing to open up your heart for examination, then I invite you to pray the prayer that the psalmist prayed so long ago, the prayer that I prayed just moments ago. It’s time to stop breaking ourselves and those that we love with the sins that so easily entangle us.

Search me, O God, and know my heart completely. Try me, test me, examine me under your microscope, and point out my insufficiencies. Make them obvious to me, Lord, and press my flesh to the point of releasing them once and for all to the cleansing work of the cross. This is the only prayer I know to pray today, the only prayer I want to pray today. You are my standard. You have called me to holiness. Only You can bring about a change in my heart. Humbly I submit it today for your sacred scrutiny. Lead me forward in the way everlasting—the path of eternal consequence. You are where I’m headed, Father. Save me from myself, and bring me safely home. Amen.


the truth about God…

 {“… longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”}

First things first. I wish I could gift each one of you a copy of Lisa Whittle’s new book, {w}hole. It’s just that good. That being said, the family budget only allows for two winners this go around, and those who’ve been chosen through are Tiffany @ Tea with Tiffany and Terri Tiffany. Weird that they both have Tiffany as a name. Congratulations girls. Please e-mail me your snail mail, and I’ll get these to you in swift order.

Now, on to a thought for the day. A question really. One that’s been simmering close to my heart these past couple of days, because my heart has been tenderly bruised by the painful realities that sometime accompany a heart’s vulnerability—a heart’s willingness to lay open for exposure without placing any conditions on how it may or may not be received. Problem is (whether we realize it or not), we almost always place conditions on such vulnerabilities. We long for certain outcomes, and when the outcomes don’t meet up with our initial expectations, we’re sometimes left with a deficit of hope.

“Hope deferred does, indeed, make the heart sick; but longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12).

Deferred hope. Who of us hasn’t experienced this kind of heartache at least once, twice, or fifty times in our lifetimes? When this happens, even as it has happened for me this week, we must practice our faith despite worldly contradictions. We must speak it, rehearse it, pray it, and read it until we finally, again, rise to believe it. If we are to recover from the searing pain of hopelessness, then we must hit our knees to the floor and reach out for truth. God’s truth. Not truth as the world gives, but the truth that truly is and that lives in the heart and witness of Jesus Christ.

So, here is my question for you. A fill-in-the-blank sort of pondering. What answers would you provide to the following statement?:

I know that God is ________________________, because ________________________ .

What one (realizing that there are many) characteristic of God is most relevant, most needful, most apparent to you today—one thing that you “know that you know that you know” about our God? And secondly, you know this to be true because… (try to be specific here using a particular example of when this particular characteristic of God was made evident in your life).

Why the exercise?

Because sometimes we need the benefit, the courage, the strength, and the testimony of other believers to buoy us along on our road toward deeper faith. I certainly could use your witness today. If you’re so inclined and have the time, I’d love to hear some truth about our God. As always…

Peace for the journey

A Choice for Wholeness–a review of "{w}hole" by Lisa Whittle

I read a book this weekend. I don’t usually do that … read a book in that short amount of time. It usually takes me much longer. I have focusing issues when it comes to reading. Tremendous ones. Rarely do I read fiction, and as it pertains to non-fiction, I really, really have to want to read a book before I make an investment of my time. In addition, I prefer to read material from authors I’ve grown to trust over the years—authors who can write, but even more so, authors who are authentic in their love for Jesus and for me. Most of the authors I read aren’t aware of my existence. So, how do I know they love me? Care about me? Want the best for me?

Sometimes I just know. Their care and concern for my heart as a reader is evidenced by the strength of their words… their story. And while I came kicking and screaming to this particular one—her story—I came knowing that her heart and her pen were worthy of my trust. Accordingly, I quickly dug into her words, and they have quickly taken hold of my heart. So much so, that a second read is a must. I fear I’ve missed some vital information the first go-around, but as first go-arounds go, this was a good ride. A hard ride. A necessary, painful ride, but a ride that will push me further along my road of healing.

Enter Lisa Whittle and {w}hole: an honest look at the holes in your life—and how to let God fill them.

I saw Lisa back in July at the She Speaks conference. In fact, as I was laboring to haul all my baggage indoors, she met me at the elevator and offered to help me to my room. I was grateful for her help, even more so for the gift of friendship extended to me. I don’t think she had a clue as to how vulnerable I was feeling that day. I was a sweaty, hurting mess just trying to find my place within that arena of 600 women—a place where I sometimes think I no longer belong. I don’t suppose I’ve ever felt so “under the radar” as I did that weekend. There’s just something about a gathering of Christian women that now triggers insecurity for me. It hasn’t always been this way, but life changed for me in August 2010—moved in and rattled me, shook me, challenged me, and frightened me. And while on any given day many people only see my confidence… maybe even prefer to see my confidence, few of them ever take the time to look deeper, ask deeper, live with the deeper shadows of the woman I now am. A woman just trying to leave her mark on this world, yet a woman who sometimes feels inadequate to do so.

Lisa Whittle is a woman who is brave enough to go deeper with me. I imagine she’s that way with most of the people she meets. She’s worked hard to get there. Authenticity doesn’t come naturally for most people. It takes years of shaping beneath the kindness, mercy, and certain prompting of the Holy Spirit to arrive at a place of genuineness, a place of wholeness. And while Lisa would probably be the first to admit she’s still on the journey toward wholeness, her witness speaks clearly to the transformational work of the cross that has come to her because of her willingness to bring her “holes” into the light of God’s love. You can’t miss it in her—wholeness. It’s just that obvious.

I love Lisa’s book for so many reasons, but none more so than for the hope that it has brought to my heart. A hope for wholeness of my own. A wholeness not based on experience, but a wholeness based on Jesus Christ. In one of the many particularly moving moments from {w}hole, Lisa writes…

“There’s something that happens to you when you wake up from a difficult experience and realize you are still breathing. Just as a colorful bud on a flower defies the weight of the heavy mound of snow it’s buried under to show signs of spring, so does the breakthrough of a new day prove its viability despite life’s deep complications. The decision, then, is whether or not to welcome it… .” (pg. 142)

Waking up. Still breathing. Not quite sure of my readiness to welcome it. Does it get any rawer, more real, and more authentic than this, Christians? How many of us are waking up to our lives, realizing that we’ve survived great horrors, only to find ourselves unable to move forward to wholeness? What holes in our skin serve as gaping wounds to our soul’s discontent? What salve are we slapping on them in hopes of suppressing the pain for another day? Wouldn’t it be better to really examine them? Bring them into the light of God’s love, even as Lisa has, and allow God to heal them with the truth of himself?

I don’t suppose I’m the only one with some wounds. We are a holy lot, and where there is holiness, there is sure to be wounding. Wholeness doesn’t arrive without scarring. To be whole means that we have, at one time (maybe even this time) been less. Tonight I feel the profundity of it all—the cavernous holes that I carry with me—and the hope and wholeness that is offered to me through Jesus Christ, despite their severity. I don’t know how long it will take me to reach a place of wholeness. I don’t imagine there’s a usual, typical benchmark to gauge my progress. But as I close the pages of Lisa’s book, I believe I’ve taken a step or two in the right and very good direction.

Lisa wants God’s best for me. I just know it. She wants God’s best for you as well. God’s best? {W}holeness, Jesus-style. If you are willing to bring your holes, your heart, and your humility to Jesus, then I believe that he will bring his authentic, grace-filled restoration to your life. I’m believing God for the same. And while I’m honest enough to admit that I’m not sure how to get there, I’m more than ready and willing enough to try.

Thank you, Lisa, for giving us your story—your holes and your experiences. You’ve lit a spark of hope in my heart this weekend.

Peace for the journey,

movement wins…

Movement wins.

So whispered the Holy Spirit to my heart while I was out walking a couple of days ago. His strong encouragement came to me as I struggled to complete my customary three miles of moderate walking. In the last nine months, I suppose I’ve logged in nearly 700 miles. For the record, I’ve felt every one of them. There’s been some damage to my nerve endings as a result of the chemotherapy. In addition, my current medication, Arimidex, brings with it the side effect of joint pain … especially in the legs.

And so, there is this great contradiction that exists within my flesh—an inconsistency between what is reasonable and what is risky. Reasonable because, with a choice to forego exercise, I have a better chance of keeping personal pain at a minimum. Risky because, with a choice to work through the pain, it’s likely that I’ll “pay for it” the rest of the night—Epsom salts, hot baths, muscle cramps, and pain meds serving to salve my achiness. Thus, this discrepancy between reasonable and risky. Thus, two words from the Father in the midst of my deliberations.

Movement wins. Despite the pain involved, movement wins.

Movement moves me forward from where I was previously. Movement represents progression. Movement advances me beyond current stagnation and launches me down the path of heart-health. I know this to be true as I’ve witnessed my physical strengthening over these past months. Still and yet, what is true isn’t always an easy decision, especially when the decision is a guaranteed choice for additional pain. One really has to want to stay healthy when choosing risky over reasonable. Choosing the risky route can be a costly decision, but in the end, movement wins. So says God.

Could it be the same for our spiritual condition even as it is for our physical one? Is movement the key to securing the kingdom? Is risky over reasonable the only reasonable choice for our Jesus-hearts? Is a choice for more pain, more struggle, and more contradiction the way through to a break-through? To freedom?


From the very beginning, we’ve been a people of movement. First from God’s Garden. Every step since those initial ones, mostly ones taken in anticipation of finding our way back there. Without our forward progression, we stay put … stay anchored to known realities, unwilling to venture beyond safe borders, fixed parameters, and reasonable guidelines. Those who choose to linger there are often those who get left behind, remaining as is. Unchanged. Unmoved. Underdone according to God’s plan for victory. Instead of allowing their struggles to refine them—shape them and move them—they allow their stagnation to define them—keep them and limit them. When that happens, their hearts aren’t winning. Their hearts are subsisting.

I suppose it’s a good enough existence to live with … die with … move on home to Jesus with, but these days I’m not much concerned about good enough. Subsistence living has lost its flavor. I want to give my heart a good work-out, to push it to beyond its current limits, even though there is certain pain attached to those limitations. I want to walk another 700 miles with my heart exposed to the outdoor elements so that it can be moved and manipulated, stretched and strengthened by Jesus for his kingdom purposes.

Is this a reasonable choice? Not really. When has God ever placed reasonable demands at the feet of his children? Moving ahead with Jesus will be, perhaps, the most unreasonable movement of our lives.

Is it a risky choice? Most definitely. Not because God is not definite, but rather because the world says he is definitely not. And who of us isn’t easily shaped by the world? When we allow the world to dictate our choices, we forfeit movement. We risk stagnation. We live as lesser people.

Movement wins, friends. One step from where you are today—whether one inch outside of the box of your security or one foot beyond the perimeter of the garden you’re so carefully guarding—any small step of faith will be enough to move you forward. Reasonable? No. Risky? Yes. Painful? Probably. But in the end, a guaranteed win with the Father.

I need to move today. Maybe you do as well. Something tells me that the risk will be worth the reward. Someone reminds me as well.

Movement wins.

May God grant you and sustain you with his Peace for the journey as you move forward in his direction.

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