Category Archives: freedom

on cleaning out your culvert…

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” –Proverbs 4:23

It’s been four months since Hurricane Matthew swept through our little neck of the woods. Beyond losing our power for a few days, there has been no lasting, negative impact to my family. There has been, however, a niggling reminder of its existence each time I take a walk around my neighborhood.

There are several man-made ponds in our community, connected by culverts that keep the water freely flowing amongst them. Since the hurricane, one of the culverts has been muddied up and blocked by debris. The city maintenance crew shows up now and again to poke a stick at it, but the flow of water has mostly stopped between the ponds. Accordingly, the water has grown stagnant and murky.

Something tells me it’s going to take more than a poke to get the water flowing again. It’s going to take some getting down and some getting dirty, some hands on, digging in the mud to clean out and clear up the mess that Hurricane Matthew left behind.

As it goes with the culvert in my neighborhood, so it goes with my heart.

Every now and again, a hurricane blows in and around my spirit, muddying it up with debris. The water flowing in and out of my heart gets plugged up by the ravages of the storm. An occasional poke and prod of faith does precious little to release the debris clogging up my veins. A poke and prod may temporarily bring some relief, but eventually, I have to be willing to do more in order to remove the obstruction. I have to dig a little deeper, get my hands a little muddier, so that I might, once again, feel and know the free flow of water in and around my spirit.

What does that look like practically speaking?

Well, for me it begins with the wisdom of King Solomon. I must take better care of my heart, both in feeding it and guarding it. I’ve not been very good at my feeding and guarding in recent days. Instead, I’ve been stoking the fires of my faith with an occasional poke and prod of Jesus. Accordingly, my heart feels stagnant … muddy … full of the world and its rubble rather than full of something better, something cleaner, something freer. Someone finer.

The good news? I know how to unclog the drain to my heart.

I must eliminate the debris, even if it means my getting deep into the water to do so.

With God’s help to guide me…

• I will guard my heart most fiercely in the days to come.
• I will diligently feed my soul with truth (God’s Word), not lies.
• I will live in a posture of quietness before the Lord so that I might most clearly hear from his heart.
• I will yield to sacred road blocks, and I will merge when the lane is offered.
• I will “circle the wagons” as it pertains to those who are allowed to speak into my life.
• I will reserve the greater portion of my emotional and physical energy for my family, my friends, and my students.
• I will keep my eyes fixed on the finish line instead of the cheering (and sometimes jeering) of the mob on the sidelines.
• I will start and end my day with Jesus and offer up ten thousand prayers in between.
• And I will remember that all of my “wills” are weakened if not tethered tightly to the pull and prod of the Holy Spirit.

Perhaps today, like me, your heart’s been clogged up with the debris of a recent hurricane. I don’t know if anyone’s come around to take a look at your mess yet, but if you’re reading this, maybe you could consider this a prod toward cleaning up your culvert? You might get a little dirty in the process, but once you’re free from the junk, the flow of water between your heart and God’s will begin again.

Be well, friends. Live well. Guard your heart above all else. Truly, God means for it to be the wellspring of life eternal. As always…

Peace for the journey,

80% written in red …

Quietly, she approached my desk and inquired about her quiz grade. I perused the papers in front of me and found hers.

“You made a 76.”

Her distress was apparent, burying her head in the palms of her hands. Normally, a 76 wouldn’t warrant such a response from this student, but today was different. When I asked her as to the reason behind her tears, she quietly responded, “My momma told me she was going to give me a whippin’ if I got anything lower than an 80.”

A smile formed across my heart; not because I was happy about her grade or her distress but rather because I know her precious momma and just how liberally the word “whippin’” gets thrown around down here in the South. I don’t think her momma would have whipped her for 76, but the threat was enough to spark a reaction in my student’s heart. I leaned over my desk and whispered to her, “What grade would spare you a whippin’?”

“An 80.”

I reached for my red pen, marked out the 76 and replaced it with an 80. Our eyes locked, and we shared a tender moment as grace rained down to replace shame. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt that kind of joy – being able to erase what’s earned and, instead, to replace it with what’s free. I was reminded, once again, of the trust I’ve been given this year—to live my life wide-open before these young lives and to set the stage for, what I hope to be, futures lived with Jesus and with a rich understanding about his love, grace, and unmerited favor.

This moment arrives to my heart, too, as fresh grace—a red pen held in the hand of the Master Teacher who is willing to erase my whippin’ and, instead, grant me my reprieve. When my dignity (and my behind) is held in the hands of the Master, I can always count on grace. Not that I press the issue of my “76s”, serve up my “less” when I could do better; that would cheapen the gift. But on those days when a 76 is all I have to give, well, I can trust my Teacher to cover the rest of it, be it four points or more.

I don’t know if my student will remember this day in years to come, but I hope that she does … not for my sake but for hers. That somewhere down the road when she’s tempted to think that her good isn’t good enough (that a whippin’s coming because she’s failed to meet some standard) she’ll think upon today and remember that she’s worth more than what she deserves.

She’s worth God’s Son – a cross, some nails, a grave, and all hell – all because he loves her and has called her enough.

The red pen is in his hands, and he has changed her grade. He’s changed mine as well.

Grace. It looks good in red. It feels even better. As always …

Peace (and grace … and freely flowing red pens) for the journey,

my 48th year

I’m turning forty-eight this week … again. Let me explain. For the past year, I’ve been telling folks that I’m forty-eight. I’m not kidding. Somewhere in the madness of this last year called My Life, I lost a year. So when my birthday rolls around on Thursday, really I’ll have gained a year. Make sense? Me neither. Safe to say, I have another twelve months of being forty-eight, and it’s likely to be my most productive year ever since I’ve been granted these extra 365 days of fruitfulness.

Ah . . . the blessedness of an extra year! I know. Not really, but it’s a delightful consideration, is it not? To wake up and realize you’re not as old as you feel?

Somewhere along the way, I stopped counting my years. Candles on the cake (after nearly five decades) don’t garner as much enthusiasm as they once did. Turning double-digits and turning twenty-one were milestones met with eagerness. Back then, I had an entire world in front me. At forty-eight, there’s a whole lot of world behind me—a lot of life lived, enough experiences had, mistakes made, memories collected, and highlights celebrated to fill several dozen scrapbooks.

How much more can there be?

So much more.

Consider the possibilities of an extra year. With an extra year I’ll be able to . . .

  • Have the conversations I meant to have.
  • Write the letters I meant to write.
  • Make the calls I meant to make.
  • Pray the prayers I meant to pray.
  • Give the love I meant to give.
  • Send the gift I meant to send.
  • Drive the miles I meant to drive.
  • Invest the time I meant to invest.
  • Do the work I meant to do.
  • Pursue the dreams I meant to pursue.
  • Speak the truth I meant to speak.
  • Plant the seeds I meant to plant.
  • Share the fruit I meant to share.
  • Afford the grace I meant to afford.
  • Offer the apologies I meant to offer.
  • Extend the kingdom I meant to extend.
  • Enlarge the Jesus I meant to enlarge.

Indeed, a delightful consideration. With all of these extra days added to my year, I’ve been granted the rich benefit of more—a second chance of sorts, a way to re-invest my energies and my heart in the right and good direction. There’s nothing to dread. There are only opportunities to embrace. Another year, when cast in the light of sacred potentialities, is the gift that keeps on giving long after the cake has been eaten and the balloons have deflated.

This is the blessed do-over of my 48th year. I’m so grateful for another opportunity to live the life that I meant to live last year and to do so alongside the Giver of Life who graciously grants me this privilege.

Don’t dread the candles, friends. Instead, count them. Remember them, and then get busy living the life you mean to live. I’m so honored to share my 48th year with you . . . again. As always …

Peace for the journey,

on trial …

Tough morning; tough night. And I don’t like tough nights. Every now and again, one comes along, and I have to wrestle my heart out before Jesus. I bring the load I’m carrying, the heaviness that’s weighing on my heart, and cast it all at his feet.

What now, Lord? How does this fit into what we’re doing here together?

Condemnation is a wretched load to carry, one of Satan’s favorite weapons. If he can get us to discredit ourselves, continually demean ourselves regarding the sins from our past, then he has accomplished what he’s set out to accomplish—to steal, kill, and destroy.

Steal our testimony.
Kill out witness.
Destroy our fruitfulness.

This is the enemy’s goal for any soul who’s known the cleansing work of the cross. The cross is powerful and beautiful, the undeniable witness of a Father’s love. It is a grace unspeakable and full of glory. The cross trumps our sin. Period. But every now and again, a tough night comes along, and the devil finds his opportunity to put us back on the witness stand so that we might plead our case for a mercy that’s already been given. My case was resolved at Calvary. So was yours. Accordingly, we should no longer take the witness stand on our behalf. Instead, we should allow Jesus Christ to do what he came to earth to do.

That doing? To be our saving grace. This is the crux of our faith—the heart of the Christian life. Christ has taken our place as the accused, and he is far more equipped to handle the case against him than we are in handling the enemy’s case against us. And so, this morning, I step away from the bench and walk down the courthouse steps as a free woman. What the enemy has meant for evil, God has resolved for his good and for his kingdom through the power of his cross.

Friends, if you’ve had a tough night like me, maybe even a tough season where you’ve felt the weight of the enemy’s condemnation pressing heavily upon your heart, you can unload that heaviness today. Give it all back to Jesus, place it in his capable hands, and live your freedom.

Share your testimony.
Live your witness.
Sow generously; reap fruitfully.

This is God’s goal for all of us who’ve known the cleansing work of the cross.

Amen. So be it.

my Father’s world, not the government’s . . .

From where I’m sitting this morning, I see the witness of the changing season. The tree that hedges my bedroom window is beginning to sharpen in color, while surrendering a leaf to the wind every few minutes. I could stare at it for hours. What rich beauty there is in monitoring God’s creation! How foolish I’d be to try and override his seasonal preferences. How presumptuous I’d be to keep the beauty all to myself.

This is my Father’s world. One walks in dangerous territory when one tries to take the reins away from him.

When we try to manipulate God’s creation by cutting off access to an ocean or to the color of fall so brilliantly displayed in his mountains or even to the ground where men laid down their lives for freedom, we’re walking a dangerous line. When control becomes an issue, God takes issue.

Who are we to play games with his waters, his trees, his land? With his words he spoke them into existence. With his words he can easily remove them. What must he think of our posturing and our pride?

How foolish we are. How bold we’ve become. Little gods running around, idols fresh off the assembly line from the factory of Man Knows Best, all the while under the watchful eyes of the God who knows best and who must (if he is prone to laughter and tears) both chuckle and cry at the absurdity of it all.

He is not unfamiliar with this script. He’s read it before, seen it play itself out on the stage of history time and again. Man trying to control one another; man trying to control God. And while the former might actually come to fruition on occasion, the latter will fail every time. Man cannot take away from God what has always belonged to him.

This is my Father’s world. And while our view of it might currently be limited by barricades and police officers, God sees it all. No one, no law, no amount of power and pride can block his view. From his vantage point, it is clear what we’ve become.

We’re no longer one nation under One God but, instead, many nations serving many gods. Let’s be honest. Let’s call it for what it is. We’re a fractured people, broken down and woefully off track from our beginnings.

I cannot change the climate in our nation’s capital today, any more than I can amend the hearts of mankind. But I can pray for the climate and amendment of my own heart, and I can do so while surrounded by the seasonal witness of a fall tree that isn’t affected by the seasonal shifts of man’s need to control it.

Together, the tree and I and our Creator will work it through. It’s enough to carry me forward, maybe even enough to carry you as well. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the foolishness of man today, might I encourage you to find a window view or find an undisturbed, unmonitored path in your community and take a walk with the Father in his world? What you will find there will make sense to your heart and bring peace to your spirit.

May the rich and certain witness of fall be the rich and certain witness of God’s enduring, unchanging, and formidable strength in your life. He sees from above what man is trying to prevent from below. Nothing can block us from his view.

Peace for the journey,

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