The illusionary problem of spiritual gifts

I am reflecting…

As an introvert, reflecting comes quite naturally, because us intros tend to experience something and then let that experience float around in our brains for a good length of hours and moments, days and vivid dreamed filled nights before we settle what we believe about it.  We can take that thing and dunk it over and over, trying to scrub out every spot before we finally wring it out for good and hang it up to dry.  And somehow that’s where it finally makes sense to us, where from the clothesline stretching from the left to right in our brain we can see it all sorted out.

So I have been reflecting for just over a week now on a little trip I took with some dear friends down to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to the Convergence of Word and Spirit Conference hosted by Sam Storms and Bridgeway Church.  We joined a few hundred Word-empowered believers and allowed our hearts to be cracked wide with the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit.  There we were, strangers in the flesh, yet a tangled kin of Spirit, doused in a fountain of truth,  refreshed and renewed with a pervasive sense of awe and the blinding beauty of God revealing this one truth:  spiritual gifts are not bad, nor are they a problem, they are indeed, very, very good and the body of Christ needs them.  Without them, we are fractured, sick, limping along, as we rejoice in half of the whole, two-thirds of the threefold manifest presence of God and somehow we are weakly satisfied. We are a giant Jenga game with foundational pieces yanked out of us, waiting to collapse.

Now, be sure that before I went to this conference, it is not that I thought spiritual gifts were bad, nor did I think they were a problem, and until a year and a half ago, I just sort of thought I could get along fine without a few of them, but my heart ached a different story.  It’s not that many of us who run in reformed circles don’t believe that these spiritual phenomena happened in the book of Acts and the New Testament letters inspired by this same Holy Spirit, and still occasionally do…things like prophecy, tongues, healing, miracles, words of knowledge, etc., It’s just that they haven’t seemed to “fit” into the way we do church and relationships within the church.  Sure we pray for healing, but how often do we persist in praying for healing while we lay hands on a sick brother or sister over and over for as long as it takes, or even pray for the gift of healing that we may be used within the body of Christ to edify the whole body so that some who are sick may become well and they in turn are used to build up this fractured and fragmented body of believers?  Sure we all get “hunches” about others, or rhema words, but how often do we pray about the hunch and specifically ask God to grant revelation to our hearts about a brother or sister that once delivered, will penetrate their hearts with the boundless affection and reckless love of God for them?  Possibly even changing the trajectory of his or her life?  How often do we press into pursuing this gift called prophecy as Scripture commands?

This conference was,

 manna….for our starving souls.  This was honey for the bitterness that had spread to unknown depths of our hearts. This was a rich healing oil that softened skepticism. This was a wellspring of water for the fallow ground inside of us that only yielded certain fruit that was used to the drought.  But just as God is a multi-faceted God of variety, diversity, color and beauty, figs and bananas, pineapples and kiwi, strawberries and blueberries, melons and pomegranates,  so we are to be a people who are living so in step with the Spirit that as the body collectively comes together we are an eye-catching banquet of fresh, sweet, nurturing, soul-sustaining fruit, to one another through the use of spiritual gifts.  

I remember once when I had pneumonia, I was probably the sickest I have ever been in my life and I decided to eat a pear that had been ripening on my counter top. I don’t eat pears often, even though I think they are really good.  I just live my life without them much of the time, until I got sickAnd I was sick! So sick with a temperature of 104, that the only thing that sounded good to me was a pear. As I bit into that pear, tears instantly rolled down my cheeks.  It was as if I had never tasted anything so refreshing and sweet at the same time, and in-between bites, through sticky-sweet lips, I gave uninhibited praise to God!  It was like I had never tasted anything so revitalizing in my entire life!   True story.  Yet I can’t help but wonder if this is how it is with the church much of the time.  We think we are getting along just fine without some of God’s most precious and refreshing gifts to us….until we fall sick.  Sick with backbiting, pride, busyness, complaining and grumbling, numbers dwindling, apathy for the lost, divorce, adultery, pornography, isolation, addictions, complacency, abortions, legalism and worst of all Pharisaical hearts….and all the while we are among those in need of the manifest presence of God like oil and wine upon our shriveled and imprisoned souls.  Yet we are strangely satisfied with bananas day after day, offering each other another banana when we could be offering one another wine made from the finest variety of grapes, raisin cakes, apples, blueberries, and pomegranates in order to restore the body back to health.

Well, I was one of many who was privileged to attend such a banquet.  I attended a feast of the finest fruit with exquisitely wrapped gifts set amongst this bountiful harvest. This was love wrapped in human flesh, and I have never been a part of something so filled with the splendor of the King.

Those of us who came, simply came with open hearts and received.  We brought nothing in exchange.   

I left Oklahoma City with a more deep…expansive view of God in the fullness of His intimacy between Father, Son and Spirit.  The sky was bluer, the trees more ablaze in their autumn brilliance, the worship music angelic with melodious sounds crossing over from an unseen realm.  I left with an insatiable hunger to continue earnestly pursuing and desiring the spiritual gifts, and especially those I had once sadly thought were no longer needed like prophecy and healing.

I do want to be clear, even though I confess to a time where I did not think we had much use for the gifts, the funny thing was that I still believed and still operated in them from time to time, just not on a consistent basis.  I am grateful God has rekindled them and set a fire in my heart to cry out for more of who He is and seek His manifest presence through these gifts.

The morning after I returned from the conference I awoke with tears.  Tears of wonder as my heart refused to leave this attitude of awe and worship. How could it?  I had just witnessed deaf people healed, pervasive migraines healed, words of knowledge for people, people receiving the gift of tongues and the gift of healing.  A very intimate word was spoken over me that the woman delivering it could not have known about me, because it had only been between God and myself before.  I witnessed pastors hardened to the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit through spiritual gifts repent.  I watched men rise to their feet repenting of not being leaders in their homes. I heard the most beautiful sound as people around us sang in tongues and it served only to enhance my worship experience as tears rolled over my cheeks and dampened by sleeves.

and so much more!

So here I am, reflecting.  This morning I awoke to a thought piercing my right brain like a dagger, the problem with spiritual gifts is not the gifts themselves, but the people they are given to. Not very profound, I know, as many who have written about the gifts before me have stated. Yet, here I am attempting to make sense of a very controversial, often avoided, sometimes misguided, and all together divisive subject within the Christian community.  You see, I have been on a sort of quest the last year and a half.  As I look back, I am not even quite sure how I happened upon this alluring journey except for a small flutter of a deep inner stir that pricked my conscience and gave way to an almost deafening echo in the deep caverns of my groaning heart. That echo made everything within me, at the top decimal of the voice inside my head say, ‘There has to be more…”  It was the same voice that months earlier echoed in prayer over and over, “If you are the God of Job, then just as sure as you take away, you restore, show me that you restore, Oh God.”  He was faithful to answer that prayer then and has been ever more faithful to answer the bottomless echoed prayer in the pit of my soul that yearns for what it was made for: to truly know as much of God and His glory that this human frame traced by the finger of Holy can bear. 

You see, the problem is not the gifts themselves. Because they bear the mark of God, they are derived from God who is perfect.  He is wholly good.  He is the essence of  beauty yet to be discovered by human eye.  He is not surrounded by love or the efficacy of love, but is love.  He is not the kind of earthly love between humans, but an altogether pure and holy love.  He is wisdom and He is power.  He spoke and created all intricacies of life and cells and chromosomes and molecules and atoms and vapor and energy and light and sound and arteries pumping blood and oxygen.  He speaks and mountains quake and seas roar.  He tells the lightning where to strike and stores up frost and winter in storehouses laden with snow. He watches the deer give birth and commands the morning.  Day to day pours forth speech and night to night reveals the knowledge of who He is.  He is perfect.

We are fallen and born into sin.

And so we, in our fallen state, receive perfect gifts from the Father of lights with who there is no variation or shifting shadow, and it is we who shift and hide in the shadows. It is we who have not revered who God is and emulated what He is like when it comes to these gifts. We unwrap them and like spoiled children discard them, set them on a shelf in the back of our closets because we have so many other churchy things to choose from that the gifts can completely fade away and never even be missed. We have a myriad of ministries, organizations, charities, bible studies, small groups, events on the church calendar to fill our time. We have Christian friends who support our views and our high esteem of the Word while we ignore, neglect, despise and even mock some of the most beautiful work of the Spirit among us through spiritual gifts instead of cherishing Who they represent and why they are given.

They are given so that we might love well.  They are given that we may be sustained through power until Christ returns as we build up the church.

You see, sandwiched between the two most explicit chapters on spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12 and 14) is what is commonly referred to as the “love chapter.”  Often used at weddings as the scripture reading, it has lost its original and inescapably purposeful intent. It is used to describe the way the gifts are to be expressed.  If the gifts are an expression of God’s love towards us, then they should be sought and expressed within the same vein of love to which they extend from.  As I stated earlier, the problem is not the gifts but the fallen race, us….people when we don’t understand what Paul is saying to us in 1 Corinthians 13,

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogantor rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

What Paul is stating here is that without love the spiritual gifts are useless, but with love, they will do exactly what they are designed to do and that is to build up and edify the church in love (1 Corinthians 14:12).  That is why we are told over and over and over again throughout scripture to love one another.  Because when we do and when we earnestly pursue the gifts in love for one another, something explosively beautiful happens!  We become an unstoppable army in the eruptive power of the Holy Spirit.  The sick are healed, the oppressed are set free, the blind see, (spiritually and physically), we fall more in love with Jesus as we see His presence, power,and agency flowing through His body and we are more energized to serve and love one another and our neighbors.

I don’t think the church will stand in the tumultuous days ahead without the all empowering presence of the Holy spirit and a people equipped with the spiritual gifts we have been lacking.  I, for one, alongside my reformed charismatic friends, will, “pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that I/you may prophesy” (1 Corinthians 14:1).

why’s and wells

I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” ~ John 16:12.

Sometimes there is more depth of soul to be explored and stretching of spirit to be drawn out in the not knowing…

positioned in a posture of trust…

while we wait.

It is here in this position where heaven’s secrets find themselves absent and silence from above stays voiceless that we press in to a love that needs not bring forth language as we know it, but rather an experience our souls crave.

Our finite minds say with Job, “Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him…” (Job 23:8), but our hearts, if stayed on Christ, will begin to understand what words cannot comfort. There is a deeper layer of us that speaks a tongue only a holy union understands.  A dialect of soul and Spirit bringing about a saturating assurance, a satisfying tranquility; the result: a quiet and composed soul that has climbed up into the lap of the Father. (Psalm 131).

Here the compassion of our Abba-Father will cradle our unsettled, disquieted hearts.  His Daddy arms will wrap our soul in strength and swaddle our spirits in hope.  His tenderness will massage through our bruised marrow and soften us with a soothing balm of healing oil.  His nearness will cause the delicate hairs on our weary necks to be rustled by His breath as we lean back against Him and breathe….and while we rest upon His bosom our hearts will sync to a hallowed, unrushed, soothing beat.

This is a place of sacred silence with the Master. This is a place that savors a slower pace, for hastening an answer will only breed anxiety.  This is a place where strivings cease, for all of the searching will only lead to answers that belong to another day, another trial.  Each one holding a unique and different revealing of heavenly purpose. This is a place where our reaching and groping are tamed and our weary muscles find rest.  This is a place where our “why’s” become deep wells overflowing with the character of Christ.

What if all the words we needed to know were the words of Christ that held back what He longed to say to us for another day?  Can we be content with the compassion He extends to us in the not knowing, knowing that if He were to tell us our souls would cave from the weight of the answer? If He told His disciples they could not bear what He wanted to say, could it be that we, too, may be unable to bear the weight of His words in response to our restless inquiries and unsatisfied longing for an answer?  What if it’s His love and grace and mercy that restrain the words we long to hear Him speak?  Even demand.  Would His answer in the moment satsify…

or pierce deeper? 

But if we sink our frame deep into His unchanging character,

then maybe this becomes a posture that seeks His presence more than His answers

and then His answers begin to take on a different form and shape then all of our daring to question and guess could conjure up.  Oh beloved, we have gone far too long making up answers for the High and Holy, for some things belong to God alone, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” Deuteronomy 29:29.

You see, loves, there is a place, a place to meet with Christ day after day, longing for more of. just. him.  

a place to imbibe. him.

a place to stay…endure…


linger longer…

attracted to his scent…

inhaling the fragrance of. him.

This is a place where abiding becomes like breathing and questions of His presence and His faithfulness fade into the thickness of his jealous love.

His jealous, intense burning love.

So when we think our souls cannot bear the weight of our current trial, our anxiety and despair, and our confusion and finite thoughts of God leave a rattle in our soul….that bruises us on the inside…

and we cry out, why won’t you answer me???   

Oh but loves, KNOW THIS:

He is answering with soundless speech as He offers so much more in the quiet intimacy He extends to us in the waiting.  His heart is that we know Him; His goal to transform us. And while we book-end our questions with truth and let His love silence our screams, our whys begin to dig those wells that will hold more of Christ than we could ever know… if we knew.


the stir

There is a stirring in the places in me I’m not sure I have always felt.  Do those places even exist?  I mean, is there really a place between joint and marrow?  Soul and spirit? And if so, who has permission to invade the uninvade-able? to pierce through the unpierce-able? To penetrate the unpenetrate-able?  Its like every breath I breathe travels to places I will never see but only feel and fingers tremble as I press down on keys of plastic forming words birthed out of the stir.

A few weeks ago I awoke to the light peering over the dark, reaching through glass as a curious blink interrupted streams of love and light, color and heat.  The gaze was love, the blink birthed interest…

who are we that You should take notice of us?

That your dawn should awaken us?  That Your spirit should stir us and bring to life what we thought we had lost, or what was yet to be called into existence?  Like those places.… There was a time, forgotten by most, remembered by some, clung to by others, that You walked in a garden on a bed of soft color and as your knees imprinted earth, your hands scooped up dust and let it run and sift through the very fingers that would one day drive out demons as Your Kingdom came close.  Those hands formed our very lives…..every intricate cell, nucleus, chromosome, and You touched us there in your fashioning…your handiwork, your artistry.

You. touched. US. there.

We felt the hand of God knit together joint and marrow, trace the outline of our soul and join it to our spirit….stitch after stitch…

and then you breathed.

It was Your breath that stirred everything within us and we sprang from earth’s dust to a living, breathing image of You.

We felt the triune joy and drank the threefold love.  We danced inside the Holy circle and knew You.

Death we did not know.  Pain, inconceiveable.

Only us…

stirred into motion,

made to dance, fashioned to feel depths of love unleashed from your fountain riding on the rhythms of Your heart.

And this was us and You.

And then the stirring and colliding of our perfect union was fractured and our bodies collided with dirt as we lay dead. Darkness played the chords of a solemn death march because we wanted to be like you instead of the simplicity of enjoying You and what you had made us for, and the major lift and minor fall composed only chaos. The notes screeched and screamed and perfect harmony was shattered by lies laced with truth.  Our hands reached for knowledge and our mouths tasted evil.  Our dance fumbled and fell outside the Holy circle.

And your heart grieved so…..

You closed your mouth 400 years.

We became a people of pain and death, sorrow and despair, clawing at the dirt, attempting to rise from our graves.  We became his….the enemy’s, held captive to do his will. 


You stepped down out of heaven.

Love kissed earth again in the form of Your Son and the vibrations of Your Power, presence and agency, flooded through our graves. Your Word proved true….Emmanuel was here. 

There were some who were compelled to follow you and others who scorned you, yet you kept loving, teaching, healing and driving out death and oppression and the kingdom of God came close again.  We touched you, saw you…

smelled you…

those who could not resist you had no where else to go and left all for this awakening LOVE.

You told us to repent and believe and to keep believing even when you had to go…

even when you had to hang off a crooked and splintered cross so Your blood could run out of you over us and restore us to the dance.  That blood conquered death and pain and our bondage and captivity and the sin that killed us.

They laid you in a tomb and thought they’d seen the end of you. We could get on with our oblivious slavery and wallow in our shallow graves where we had found our comfort….inhaling the stench of death we no longer recognized.

But power from heaven gave-way in a mighty thunderous quake and the stone shook loose as you rose from death with a mighty shout calling us out of our graves and into light!

You stayed with us and told us to wait until we were CLOTHED WITH POWER FROM ON HIGH. A greater baptism was coming, one of fire and Your Holy Spirit.  So we waited and gathered together in upper rooms and sought Your face in one accord.  Your faithfulness to remain true to Your glory met us with tongues of fire, boldness, and an unstoppable love of the Spirit.  The promise was fulfilled.  Your Spirit poured out on sons and daughters.  Signs and wonder followed those who believed, not to make much of us, but to make much of You!

Over time, we forgot you…our spirits were dulled by religion, lies laced with truth once again…our hands seeking for knowledge, our mouths tasting evil….this way seemed right to man.

The “good news” became old news and somehow we were bored to sleep because we forgot how to live out Your Kingdom in us. We forgot the same power that raised Christ from the dead is within us!  We let unbelief twist its way into our hearts and we were cut off from the vine, and the very energy and life of Christ in the Spirit was quenched and drowned out.  The Healer no longer healed….or if He did it was rare and miracles are really no longer for today, or so we were taught.  Those who were in prison remained in their chains.  The sin-strugglers, stayed beaten and weary in the cycle of confession and sin on a shame-sealed lock-down.  It seemed the enemy had us where he wanted us. We were easy….

Except for the stirring…

The stirring in the places that cried out for the exact representation they saw of the Father in Christ throughout the gospels and all through the New Testament, Acts of the apostles and righteous men and women…the signs following those who believed….and the stirring breathed hope and spread through a community of believers…believers hungry to see our God renew His wonders in our day and breathe us back to life again!  We began to dream dreams and speak with new tongues, heal the sick, and above all love like we ourselves were drunk with the new wine of His love.

We are thirsty, Lord.  So thirsty, the places between are joint and marrow, soul and spirit are aching from our self-inflicted dehydration.  Remind us who the church is called to be!

Built up into the fullness of God,

flooded with the presence, power and agency of Christ through His Spirit…A place where people are set free from anxiety, depression, addiction, loneliness, healed whole in spirit and body, made alive in love and transformed by the renewing of our minds as we remind one another to put on the new self in Christ and let the very words of God, through the Bible divide and pierce through joint and marrow, soul and spirit… awakening those places that are to be filled up with Him until we all grow up into the fullness of Christ together, embracing the HOLY SPIRIT that is a power we cannot know or strive for apart from Christ.  

So now, “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you by the laying on of my  hands, for God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:6.

light up my eyes

How long, O Lord?  Will You forget me forever?  How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul? and have sorrow in my heart all the day?  How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?  Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;

Light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death…

But I have trusted in Your steadfast love ; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.  I will sing to the Lord because He has dealt bountifully with me.” Psalm 13

Sometimes things light up…and sometimes everything looks grey.  What is grey?  I guess in simplest terms it is a shade mixed from stark colors of black and white where things make sense on either end of the spectrum, but grey…grey just hangs like a mist over a left-over wintery lake, where shifting ice gives way and warns of danger, yet beauty and life lie undiscovered beneath. Remember, just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean there isn’t life teeming and circling underneath the ever so slowly moving layers of frozen.

Us humans, in our flesh, don’t much care for grey.  We have a tendency to become depressed if things remain grey for long.  We are bent toward wanting an answer that lights up against our blackest night like burning balls of fire hung by the Stringer of stars in patterns that catch a breath of wonder and glimmer against downcast eyes.  Or we want a light so bright and white to illumine our way like the backdrop of ancient scrolls making life-filled words come alive on a page where Love speaks and breathes through Scripture.

There is black where we see white.  And there is white where we see black.  But grey mixes the two and we sigh…and we slump…and hope is deferred.  Is there a purpose for the grey?  Is God speaking in the grey?  Is the God whose heart is wild with color still speaking in the grey without stark answers?  Is hope really deferred, or is the grey a time for hope to build?  Is there beauty in the grey?  What if there are long seasons of grey where answers are deferred and strength and flesh fail?  How do we navigate back to the colors of a holy promise and the colors that reflect off the throne where the Ancient of Days reclines?

May I suggest to you that grey = waiting… and there are many promises given to those who wait upon the Lord:

“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31.

“No eye has seen, nor ear has heard the things that God has prepared for those who wait for Him.” Isaiah 64:4.

“I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord! Be strong and let your heart take courage! Wait for the Lord! Psalm 27:13-14.

“The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him!” “Lamentations 3:25.

“Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.” Psalm 33:20-21.

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning” Psalm 130:5-6.

All of these Scriptures point to the steadfast love of the Lord and his indescribable goodness in the waiting.

Could the waiting mean that He is preparing something so beautiful and full of wild color that He is going to blow us away with how good He is when the waiting is over?

Are you doing your part in trusting that He is good in the waiting?  Are you being strong and courageous going from strength to strength as you press deeper into Him and rest in the unanswered grey season? Is your soul seeking all that He is and all that He commands in obedience in the waiting?

Fire makes grey ashes.  It consumes and purifies until there is nothing but soft silky grey. It is suggested that volcanic ash is good for us. If there are health benefits in the material ashes, would you believe there are gifts in the spiritual ashes of trial and suffering?  Maybe your grey season is a time to search your heart and ask our God the consuming fire to consume anything that hinders your trust, your allegiance, your hope, your unbridled worship and pursuit of Him.  You see the gift of grey may be a merciful outpouring of God’s steadfast, chasing, hounding love for you! Are you still worshiping the God of the grey?

Or your season of grey may be God speaking, “You think you’ve seen the best of me?  Oh no, child, my best is yet to come, you have no idea!

You see, if we are truly gazing at the beauty of our God in and through the grey, He will light up our eyes in expectancy of how He plans to move and where He plans to lead us, and what He plans to show us.

Have we gotten it wrong? Are we crying out to a God that seems like He is floating somewhere untouchable and unattainable above the grey?   Is it possible we have lost hope in the God who loves to reveal Himself to us through His power and Spirit? Have we forgotten that one of the promises of the Holy Spirit was to bring the comfort of Christ Himself?  The love of the Father, Himself?  (John 14:26).  Don’t leave the Spirit out of the grey.  When God promises to work ALL things for good according to those who love Him and He has called to become more like Christ (Romans 8:28), that promise is prefaced by the penetrating power of the Holy Spirit groaning through us in prayer on our behalf for those of us who have lost our words in our season of lingering grey.  Our grey has clouded our sight, and hung like lost hope over the dim wicks of our souls….

But something is stirring in the grey….like the ripples of melting water under massive blocks of ice…and when fire burns off the dross… gold coming forth out of the furnace of testing and refining out all impurity….mighty wind separating the chaff from the wheat…  This is a WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT and it must be done for power to be perfected in weakness.

He is near.  Oh Beloved, Holy Spirit, draw near, remind us who you are.  Let wonder roar in the heavens and vibrate through Your Spirit in our hearts and bodies here on earth.  May we feel your presence, let loose Your groans, and wait for You to show us what our eyes and ears have yet to behold!


Held Always,


how voting your conscience should seek the common good

I am NOT political.  It is difficult for this lover of words, derived from Hebrew and Greek, strung along in sequential sonnets to think critically about foreign policy, national debt, immigration, social reforms, declining infrastructure, inequality, the 2nd amendment, and the right to privacy encompassing a woman’s right to choose since roe v. wade, etc.  This is not to say that I do not have opinions, even strong unshakeable opinions, but rather that it takes a great deal of effort on my part to get the creative right side of my brain to merge through the corpus collosum of this eight pound sphere of bone and matter sitting atop my frame, with the more analytically inclined problem solving left side.  For the sake of this blog, I will do my best to think critically and exercise the left though I will not comment on most of the above.

I’m not sure that there has ever been more uncertain times in the history of America, but God has something all together different to say to the uncertainty of our hearts at this pressing time:

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.  But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.  For that person  must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” James 1:2-8

America is facing what could be her most troublesome trial to date in the history of her freedom, formed within the constitutional pages of liberty, governed under a free electoral system characterized by formal equality of rights and privileges, otherwise known as democracy.

If you are an American…if you have been given rights and privileges such as are uncommon to the surrounding world, but grievously taken advantage of by many who tread this free soil, then you should feel the weight of this massive trial impending America’s future in the upcoming election.

The original meaning of the word “trial” in the above passage translates from the Greek as: “an experiment, attempt, proving.  The trial of man’s fidelity, integrity, virtue, constancy.  An enticement to sin, temptation, whether arising from desires or from the outward circumstances.  Of the condition of things, or a mental state, by which we are enticed to sin, or to a lapse from the faith and holiness.  Adversity, affliction, trouble; sent by God and serving to test or prove one’s character, faith, holiness.  Rebellion against God, by which His power and justice are as it were, put to the proof and challenged to show themselves” (

It is hard not to immediately recognize words such as fidelity, integrity, virtue, constancy, the condition of things, lapse from the faith and holiness…adversity, affliction, trouble sent by God. But the most frightening and significant thing I read in the above definition is “Rebellion against God, by which his power and justice are as it were, put to the proof and challenged to show themselves.”

There is much I could say about that last sentence, we will start there and work our way back.  The rebellion against God in America that has inflicted her with this present trial upon her in this upcoming election, either causing her to fling herself into a deeper tailspin of rebellion, sin, death and destruction or in desperation turn from her transgressions, repent and cry out to the God of the universal expanse that even if He found one….she may find her pardon, is at the root of whether we as American’s can be wise in “voting our conscience.”  Some are comforted by this overused phrase in the last few months, finding it a springboard into an ocean of wisdom as they seek the face of God through the tidal waves of uncertainty and drink up all that He offers to aid them in the upcoming agonizing decision of the soul that plays itself out in the conscience.  Others find the above phrase lacking depth and discretion granting American citizens the permission to just vote whatever feels right, off the top of their heads, without taking the time and effort to wrestle through articles, listen to debates, no matter how frustrating and repulsive we find them, and most importantly to pray and search the Scriptures to find what God would say on this historical scale of checks and balances. Both views are right.

So I will start with wisdom.  I am not a theologian.  I am not politically inclined.  I am a seeker of wisdom and daily cry out for the fear of the Lord.  Here is what I believe He has given me even though this is the last thing I ever thought I would blog about in a million years.

“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”  Ecclesiastes 1:9.

The above verse should be of great comfort to us wisdom seekers, after-all, it was penned by the wisest man who ever lived, King Solomon. A man who could have had anything he wanted as King yet asked that he might be granted wisdom knowing the weight of a nation’s welfare was upon his shoulders. (See 2nd Chronicles 1:10-11).

So if there is nothing new under the sun, then surely the weight of this imposing trial before us as American’s has not surprised God, nor should surprise us.  The question is not to be “what if…” fill in the blank.  But rather, “what now?”  What can I do now, Lord, in wisdom and trust as I navigate through the messy avenues of my conscience that often lead me astray, but ultimately were designed as a map to lead me to a knowledge of You and your will?

And as always wisdom is found when asked for in faith.


“run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, look and take note!  Search her squares to see if you can find a man, one who does justice and seeks truth, that I may pardon her” Jeremiah 5:1.

Similarly, we find earlier in Scripture, Abraham pleading with God to spare His judgment on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18. (I would encourage you to read the chapter in its entirety.)  Abraham humbly and boldly goes before the Lord on behalf of the two morally wicked cities, Sodom and Gomorrah, in an attempt to intercede, beg, cry out for God’s mercy to triumph over His judgment. He doesn’t have to go see for himself the wickedness of these cities, there is no justifying their sin, their depravity, their perversion and stark defiance and blatant rebellion towards God.  He knows it exists and he has nothing left to do but, in trembling and fear, approach a Holy God.

“Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, while Abraham was still standing before the LORD.” Genesis 18:22.

I will give one last example as it refers to having a knowledge of national sin and its solution:

Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged.   Why will you still be struck down?  why will you continue to rebel?  The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.  From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and raw wounds; they are not pressed out or bound up or softened with oil…if the Lord of hosts had not left us a few survivors, we should have been like Sodom and Gomorrah…When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings, incense is an abomination to me….I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly…when you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.  Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause…And I said, ‘Woe is me! for I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Isaiah 1:4-6,9, 12-13, 15-17,6:5.

In the above passages we see faithful servants of God seeking people of justice and righteousness who may be found throughout the land, but they don’t stop there.  They have humbled themselves before a mighty, all powerful, God of justice and mercy and they cry out for the common good of the nation, city, infrastructure of community God has appointed them to, and include themselves as among those who need to repent. So what insight can we glean from these scriptures that will guide our conscience in this present trial?

The wisdom is both collective…and deeply personal. 

  1.  Collectively, there are strength in numbers.   This is helpful to us, as Christians, when we are told that 25 million of us passively sat at home in the last election. Whether this was due to pride, hopelessness, or an unwillingness to seek the common good of our nation because our conscience led us to reason that neither candidate fit our parameters of personal preference in the next
    Commander in Chief, we can see how this rule of thumb in voting our conscience hurt us rather than helped us as a nation.
  2. Jesus said, “where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am with them” Matthew 18:20.  This is a simple solution to the weight of this trial upon our conscience. Are we humbling ourselves and praying together? Are we setting aside differences of opinion, having hard conversations, searching the scriptures to see what God would say rather than what our BIG feelings say, and wrestling these things out together in corporate and private gatherings of prayer?  Are we gathering together and praying for the common good of our nation, our neighborhoods and communities, our governing authorities over legislative branches?  Or have we forsaken the fellowship of prayer and the deep communion with Christ and one another that brings an unshakeable forging together of a people prepared, steadfast and immovable in the greatest commandment to love God first and to love our neighbor as ourselves.  We cannot love our neighbor if we do not seek to love God first and to obey His commands.  When we humble ourselves and pray and gather together to seek the common good of our neighbor we cannot help but vote, even if we elect a fool. 
  3. What is the common good?  Here is where it hits home at the deepest level of our conscience, and thus is why voting your conscience can be good if used in the most basic sense of the word “conscience.” The conscience was designed by God to discern between what was morally good and what was morally evil. Here is a quick definition of the Greek word “conscience,” as found in Hebrews 9:14.  The conscience is referred to as the awareness of the the soul  distinguishing between what is morally good and bad, prompting to do the former and shun the latter, commending one, condemning the other.   So we can see that the conscience was to be used as a tool in helping to guide our decisions at the most basic level of right and wrong. This wasn’t meant to be difficult, in fact, God wasn’t trying to make things harder for people to be in tune with their consciences. Romans 1:20-32 reminds us that “His invisible attributes…have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world…so they are without excuse.”  What this means is that the goodness of God was put on display for all to see and understand through His creation.  However, the introduction of sin into the world, through our own sinful desires condemned us and made all of us prisoners of an “evil conscience.” We needed nothing less than blood to cleanse them, and not just any blood, but the blood of a spotless lamb; the blood of Christ, the one who knew no sin, to become sin, so that in Him we may become the righteousness of God” 2nd Corinthians 5:21.  And, “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” Hebrew 9:14.  Since we were able to “perceive” the invisible attributes of God that were morally good, we are without excuse.  I do not mean moral in terms of human morality, though that is but a dim reflection of our humanity as image bearers of our glorious God .  I don’t want to be responsible for clouding your image of the God who is triune, and within that holy circle of three, is at the same time wholly good and wholly love.  He is not the most good, or the most love as if there are limits of these attributes as we assign them to humanity. But rather He is only good and only love even in His judgments. If our consciences, therefore, being cleansed by Christ’s blood are able to perceive God as inherently good, then we can begin to search His heart in terms of what it means to seek His common grace for the common good of this nation.

I am sure I am losing you by this point, but if I could wrap this up. I would tell you to “vote your conscience” if you are a Christian, but encourage you to wrestle with what is morally good and morally evil.  Here are three things that may be helpful in governing your conscience:

In God’s goodness He is:

  1. Pro-life; knitting together each tiny image bearer of Himself (Psalm 139:13-14). He is against every form of murder and for 43 years America has bore the guilt of blood-stained hands and feet in the legalization of Abortion in roe v. wade. Take heed the warning of Proverbs 24:11-12, “Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.  If you say, ‘Behold, we did not know this,’ does not He who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will He not repay man according to His work? If you vote for Hillary Clinton, the blood of the unborn will stain your conscience before a Holy God.
  2. A God who holds the marriage bed between a man and woman in highest honor as a reflection of Christ loving His bride the church. God created marriage.  He is for marriage.  Marriage makes beautiful the laying down of one life to serve the other and together follow the commands of God, to be fruitful and multiply and show the world that as a people who hold true the familial infrastructure created by God, we become a beacon of hope and a blanket of warmth to those who have suffered the breaking down of this institution of marriage and family.
  3. He is a God who hates these seven things: There are six things the Lord hates,
        seven that are detestable to him; haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes,feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a person who stirs up conflict in the community (Proverbs 6:16-19).

America, seeking the common good of the this nation under the common grace of God who sends rain on both the righteous and the wicked, means to consciously and critically think through the moral issues of our day that found their origin in a Holy God who has the power to heal and restore or judge our “Rebellion against Him, by which his power and justice are as it were, put to the proof and challenged to show themselves.”

Ask yourself, “Is there a candidate that may hold the tiniest shred of hope to implement the return of America to integrity and virtue?”

A closing personal note to end on…  It is no secret that I could not choose the lesser of two evils in this upcoming presidential election.  In my heart of hearts I saw evil as the driving force behind both campaigns. Both candidates have acted immorally, unjustly, and given themselves over to blatant rebellion against God in their pasts and even in their present standing before Him. However, If I serve a God of life (who Jesus is referred to over and over throughout the scriptures) and who is for life because He is life, and if I serve and love a God who created the beautiful image of marriage in the most sacredness and purity of Christ’s love for the church between a man and woman, and If I know and love a God who desires to restore and heal wicked nations and commands His followers to “seek the welfare of the city He has appointed them to…”(Jeremiah 29:7), in order that they may enjoy the goodness of God and his blessing in that city, then I have to vote for the one who stands for the policies that most reflect God’s heart.  I have to have the wisdom to see that the candidate who has surrounded himself with conservative advisors and spiritual leaders will bring the most hope for America and trust that under those God has appointed to advise him, he will humble himself under the mighty hand of God should he be elected.

If your conscience has been cleansed from dead works, fellow believer in Christ, seek wisdom. Pray together. Lay down your pride, and vote.

Held in steadfast love,





Autumn epode

I seem to come most alive when everything else is dying.

“Day to Day pours forth speech…” and I am windswept, said I.  Swept on Love like gliding leaves on ethereal gales of Spirit breath.  “Where are they going, Lord?” said I.

My eyes can scarcely hold this great canvas of Autumn.

Where in this season death blazes

image image

burning amber, rust, crimson, blood, and currant. I smell and taste colors…nutty maple absconds upward from the blazing death under my feet, still wet with a layer of left over night.

leaves of gold dip and sway on spheres of light cascading through arms of elms and oaks standing unashamed in their appointed nakedness.

“They’re going to feed the earth in its rest” said He.

“I speak and they turn…

They turn and they die…

I breathe and they fall…

They fall and they feed…

preparing the earth for new birth.



And so it is with those I’ve called, they radiate Me most in dying to self, and going where I appoint them….

low, in service to something greater than themselves…

and when they fall…

on their knees….and pour out their hearts before me, fallow ground in stony souls is made rich in fertility of truth and hope.”

“I am windswept on my way to death, said I.”





Maybe you left slopped milk on counters from small hands you were rushing…

Maybe your beds laid open in a mess of twisted sheets and hiding socks…

Maybe wet towels and smeared mirrors are what were left to welcome you when you returned…

and empty refrigerators…

maybe ugly words from closed minds echoed their taunts as you walked through open doors and forced your lips to curve…and pretend…

that you wanted to be there. 

But you didn’t.  

Maybe those old vibrations of grumbling moved from simmer to boil in a heart ready to spill judgment and opinion when you saw them…

“oh no, new people up front…I was hoping for decent worship music today….something I can relate to.  How am I supposed to worship to new voices?  Just one more thing to distract me…”

But then…

I wonder if you felt it?  That Voice without sound that collides with all the other voices and leads them out of their labyrinth of searching into His holy center?

Did you get there when a common choir of different backgrounds, and religious rote joined forces of voice to exalt and lift up on high the name of Jesus?

In His lavished grace and richness of mercy did He set you free to worship His holy Name?  In His kindness did He lead you to repentance of spirit quenching distractions and sins lifting the burden of worldy pulls so that your heart rose

to the entrance of the King?

Cuz He was there, you know?   When did you notice Him?  Was it when the multitude of the people sang like never before, Bless the Lord oh My soul?

Did you sing like never before? 

Or was it when the mix of tones and rhythms of joyful sound through soul-knitted love in brothers and sisters felt a collective eager expectation of the One who promised to return for His bride on that glorious day?

Or maybe you felt it when slain love sang to you from a splintered cross where rusty nails broke through His body and a dirty spear tore open his side so holy blood could gush over you…..

and you can’t remember ever feeling so

awakened…and alive.

Maybe you noticed it when fear fell off and shattered on holy ground at His feet in the middle of proclaiming you were no longer a slave to fear…and the pieces of that fear  cowered in shame as all the saints proclaimed a mighty truth and believed it….

for the first time.

Maybe your sea was split, in the echo of a thousand voices, a mix of us and angels right then and there and you were liberated to raise your hands in worship in full acceptance of the valiant promise that…


Did you want to scream it and shout it from the mountains?  Did slain love sweep over you like a mighty rushing wind and you couldn’t help but reach higher to our High King of heaven with human hands desperate to touch His heart?

Were you set free from self-preservation, fear of man, and pride as you worshiped with self-less abandon.  The kind that wants every cell to be moved into a motion of worship spurred on by His blood flowing through our veins….

Did His spirit unravel you and you wanted to give way to His pressing presence that gently persuaded you to your knees?  If you didn’t,

will you go there next time, with me?

Can we go there together, church?  in humble worship, before our King, surrendering it all and tossing aside every weight,

worshiping the only one who can set us free to make us


You are free to raise your hands!  You know you want to!  You are free to fall to your knees because His presence is too much and you just want to wash His feet because your tears are the only language you can find to express your love in that moment..


image image image image image imageimage.

Maybe you thought you might shake out of your skin because you trembled at the holy weight of glory resting on us…

Maybe its because you heard His mighty roar calling you home and it struck the two chords of love and fear so loudly within your heart the whole of you shook….to your core.

Oh church!  Be free! lay it all aside, sing, shout, tremble, weep, fall on your knees in the presence of Him!  It is sweet incense, a sacrifice of praise, and it reaches the tender ear of our ABBA Father and He is pleased to come near.

and then…

LIVE LIKE THIS EVERY WAKING MOMENT! Like there is no higher pursuit, no worthier chase….

cry out to Him day after day, More love to Thee, My Jesus, more love to Thee!  Ignite my heart to Thee and Thee alone!  Set a fire in me that cannot be tamed!  Grant thy servant boldness to proclaim your gospel unashamed!  May I live and breathe Hope and Love until my dying breath!

Consume me in your dazzling splendor!  That I may radiate Your light, your heat, Your shining love!

Make me love-drunk in the wine of that great Wedding feast.

Our Beloved is awakening and drawing out our love…

Run after Him and take as many with you as you can!

“So I will bless you as long as I live, In your name I will lift up my hands” ~ psalm 63:4.

“Let my prayer be counted as incense before you and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice” ~ psalm 141:2

“Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord! Lift your hands to Him for the lives of your children…” -Lamentations 2:19.

“Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension” ~ 1 Timothy 2:8

“Then Ezra blessed the LORD the great God. And all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground” ~ Nehemiah 8:6.

“We lift up our heart and hands Toward God in heaven…” ~ Lamentations 3:41.

the gospel for dogs…cuz we all need a Master

I adopted my dog, Ezra, in sin.  No, really…it was sin. Ya see, my faithful pure-bred, tri-colored, English Setter, Luke, had passed away after we had almost reached the ten year stride together. Sometimes blood thickens and stops a beating heart.

Strokes just happen in old age… or any age.  Luke managed to survive three that week before the last one crept itself into his sleep and slowly swallowed up his last breath.

He died on a Thursday….

the floor boards beneath his still body felt warm with his lingering left over heat when I found him like that.  Peaceful, in his bed.  I had visited him earlier in the pitch of the night around 1 am, “Lukey?” His old tired head lifted slightly as he reassuringly peered out his one patched eye, the one that marked him since birth making him the irresistible pick of the litter, as if to say, “I’m so glad to know you’re still here…thank you…” I knelt low to kiss his familiar face, tell an old friend that love and faithfulness had grown sweeter in me over the years we’d been together, and press into hear his heart through familiar fur and beloved dog scent. I told him I would see him in the morning. But the morning brought sobs and instant loneliness.


I fell asleep on the couch later that week and dreamt that those old familiar rapid sniffs at the end of a wet nose against my cheek were waking me. But when I opened my eyes he was gone. I begged the goose for another dog.  Luke had been my companion as a stay at home mom for ten years. He and I waited side by side for the kids to shuffle and a bumble through the door every day after tired teachers said goodbye and janitor’s sweeps swayed through halls. Luke was always ahead of me on this.  If I saw him sitting by the door, eyes locked on the cu- de-sac in front of our house, I knew it was time for the kids to arrive. Sometimes we baked cookies together as we waited.  Luke would jump off the couch as soon as he was on to cookie scent, usually at the first mix of warm butter and sparkly granules of sugar.

And so it was too painful to think of baking cookies without two sets of paws waiting to scamper after run away chocolate chips, irresistible deep eyes that could hold a thousand word vocabulary with each blink, twitch and extra fur-skin on furrowed brow rising and falling to the inflections of my voice, right there at my side, in every room, at every hour of the day.

So the rain bird and I set out exactly one week after Lukey’s passing to adopt a dog we had found in secret against the goose’s wishes.  We had kept this one quiet alright, and set out on our journey to fill our aching senses of touch missing silky fur, sight missing ignorant cuteness, smell missing that inoffensive odor of dog that becomes more desired than disdained to dog lovers, and sound missing a language only dog lovers understand spoken and exchanged through howls, yips, growls and barks.

and we found this…


pitiful as he was, well, being last and all.  The rest of his siblings had already been chosen, but not Ezra.  Here he remained…caged, all day, every day, having already been returned from a prior adoption that just couldn’t keep him. He had tasted freedom, only to be returned to what seemed to be a hopeless future.  That is, until we set our gaze on him.  He was simultaneously adorable and incorrigible.

Turns out the dog we had researched and traveled over an hour away to adopt, just wasn’t going to make it back to the shelter in time from spending a few days with his foster mom, but if we wanted, we could certainly take Ezra.

Pitiful and playful…lumpy and loveable. If nothing else, I felt like his name was meant for us, Bible lover that I am.  I knew Ezra was a minor prophet, but I didn’t know just what mysterious meaning his name held.  I’m big on meanings of words and names.  They seem to hold foundation and base to the soul behind a name, either steadying it or affirming its proneness to falter. And the original meanings of words, well the richness runs deeper than the sound or use of our language we so often take for granted or unskillfully use.  Words and names give authenticity to what the heart is speaking. If we use them too casually or idly, it’s an indication the heart could use some digging and tillin’ about it, fallow as it is.  If we think…if we pray… before our words have a chance of getting ahead of our tongues and slip too quickly out between the thin space of our lips, they can speak life and truth leaving a legacy about us. A rich, gospel infused legacy.  So this little lumpy guy Ezra, well his name means, “the Lord helps.” I guess that rang true for Ezra that day we adopted him, sinful as it was going against the gooses’ wishes.

I’m not downplaying that sin. With my incorrigible pup in tow, I found it to be more of a grueling challenge than the comfort I was seeking in a new companion. I almost gave up on poor Ezra.  Through tears, I begged the goose’s forgiveness and vowed to continue the arduous task of caring for this lump of nothing but naughty. Five years later, the goose still isn’t crazy about Ezra. The goose complains, “he barks too much!”  I say he is just doing his job, what he was created to do.” But praise God He can redeem all sin for His glory so we are free to live and love in a mysterious swaddling of grace. A grace to care for animals passed on to us through the Creator’s heart, an assignment if you will. Like the first one he gave to the first man, Adam.

And so it is with Ezra…the dog I purchased and adopted in sin, God has used to teach me more about Himself and it goes something like this:

I am Ezra’s master and he is the creature.

I chose him in sin.  God chose me while I was dead in sin (Ephesians 2:5)

I adopted him and I lavish love on him. Heaps and heaps of love he could never earn.  I am adopted (Ephesians 1:5, Romans 8:15) and He lavishes love on me (1st John 3:1).

I loved him from the moment I saw him and knew he belonged in our family.

I provide for all his needs, physically and emotionally. He never has to worry about a shelter, food, comfort,

perfect care… My God supplies all my needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).

Ezra’s eyes are ever on me filled with trust. Yet he still fears me leaving and suffers separation anxiety, even though I will never leave him anywhere like he was left and torn so irreversibly from his mama.  In fact, I reassure him that I love him several times a day. My choosing Ezra was a sort of promise and covenant sealing the adoption. And because of that covenant, I am responsible for Ezra and his needs and comfort never go unmet.

Does this sound familiar, beloved?  It should!  Read Ephesians 1: 1-14 and remind yourself of these heapings of unafforded grace.

When it’s time for a walk all I have to do is say, “are you ready?” And Ezra runs to the door. I always use a lead with Ezra even though he doesn’t wander too far away without one, for safety purposes we need to stay connected. It is for Ezra’s good that he stays on the lead so he doesn’t catch a whiff of something tempting, set his nose to the ground, and ignore all of my commands, while instinct takes him further and further from boundaries of love.  Often during our walk I let the lead lengthen, but that isn’t always good for either of us, you see because Ezra gets easily distracted at all the fun whiffs and smells in the woods and so when the lead is long, Ezra tends to leave my side and wander off on a scent that creates tension in the lead.  He is no longer in step with me and force is needed to reign him in.  Other times, Ezra breaks our pace and rhythm by thinking he has to “mark” every little stem of a weed or bush there is instead of keeping in step with me and our destination on point.

I don’t know if you are catching anything I am writing about in terms of how we are all a bit more like Ezra than we think.  Isn’t it just like us to want to leave our mark on so many things, instead of staying focused on the one thing we were called to?  We just long to be accepted…noticed…remembered….

You see.  Jesus says, I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). We need to stay connected to the vine, in order to bear much fruit in Christ, in order to move freely to His rhythm, walking in step with Him.  In order to leave that gospel infused legacy, we need to abide in Christ…stay tethered…  If we don’t, we too, will end up lost in a world of wanderlust, fending for ourselves, outside the boundaries of safe grace we are free to walk in while we keep in step with the Spirit. But just as Ezra has this instinctual and unstoppable urge to follow any scent outside the path, we too, have an instinctual sin nature about us, that is easily distracted and pulls so strongly at our curiosity, that we tend to take our gaze off the Prize and chase after anything that seems to feel or look good here and now.

Scripture commands us to “keep our eyes on the Author and Perfecter of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:2).  But when we take our gaze off Christ, our hearts are attracted to far lesser things that promise excitement, comfort, success, money, love, fulfillment, even health and wellness, calling to us from the darkened woods on either side of our light-filled path with Christ.  Imagine,

the scent of money

or success,

or sports,

or status,

or an ungodly relationship,

or envying our neighbor or sister in Christ and her marriage,

being nothing more than the straggling weeds Ezra stops to sniff or leave his mark on along the way.

WEEDS! and if the weeds aren’t bad enough…he will stop to sniff out

dead, wet leaves….

the feces of other animals…

and the putridity of a half-eaten, rotting carcass, full of maggots…

These things actually smell good to Ezra!  He doesn’t know that they are bad for him, and can make him fatally sick.

They are deceiving….

And so it is dear fellow follower, if not for being tethered to Christ, we would be off full sprint through deep woods, only to our own folly and destruction.

What grace we experience tension on this tether! The tension ensures us that we are still connected to the Vine and that even though we are sin-driven on scents of deceiving pleasure, fruit will be bore as we become more and more disciplined along our journey with our Master.  And though we may lag behind when the hills are steep, the next go around on that same hill we will have found that we have gained momentum as we go from sniffin’ and a laggin’ to “laying aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of faith…” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Well that’s it fellow sojourners, I hope you enjoyed my gospel for dogs, cuz God can redeem even my sin of adopting poor Ezra against the Goose’s wishes and redeeming it in a story for His glory!

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Fat Tears

Fat tears fall harder…

as if they hold more weight…as if they came from a deeper well of stored up shouts and unkind words, silence and washed out wishes…

cowardly prayers dipped in doubt.

Some are yours. You know you stuffed them there. And others dove in before you could stop them right out your closest’s mouth. And together they rose higher and higher inside that pain well sloshing around a bit … unnoticeable as they were… like the lulled sloshing of waves against wet sand making something that had once left its mark disappear.

Like the familiar things that set rhythm and sweet safeness to a relationship. The mysterious things like the arched curve of two pairs of feet that tread miles of shore in step with each other.  Or deepened the imprints of a mattress with weight and heat side by side. Or someone you once knew and have missed every day even when you can’t really remember what you’re missing because what you think you miss is really an unanswered future wish.

sometimes these things get erased in the waves for a while.

Sometimes we don’t hear the sound or notice their disappearance until the big waves finally crash in,

….and so it is with fat tears.  They sort of just come crashing. They aren’t even nice about trickling  out eye corners or sliding down the high bone of our cheeks gracefully as if the destination they were aiming for somehow made the journey more glamorous. No.  Fat. Big. Tears….just fall hard and they fall fast. It’s like they jump off that tiny lower ridge trying desperately to hold them back, but their force is too great. Because if they stayed in that deep sloshing heart-well your spirit would drown. It doesn’t matter where you are when the pain dam breaks.  No, pain isn’t kind to social settings or polite enough to think of those it may make uneasy when they see it. Pain just stores itself up in that well reserved for things I’ve gotten over and things that aren’t supposed to matter anymore, and overflows when you least expect it.  You expected you were over this….

by now.

And you really thought you were.  But the fat ones,

they tell a different story.


Do you ever notice how someone else’s joy can deepen your pain? In a way that makes the most mature of us, the ones who have walked with Jesus more years than we singled it, barely wait to be able to see God and ask Him a thousand questions about our suffering. Yet we wait…

we wait more than the watchman waits for the morning  (Psalm 130).

we wait because no eye has seen nor ear has heard any God besides You who acts on behalf of those who wait wait for Him. (Isaiah 64:4).

We wait because there is transformation in the waiting. A glorious becoming…that looks more and more like Jesus as we behold Him…

through fat tears  (2nd Corinthians 3:18).

We wait because it renews our strength (Isiah 40).

we wait because Christ waited and God is long suffering towards us and wishes that no one should perish.

We wait without answers so the answers we were never looking for are found while we wait in the pages of His Word where our eyes fall on words like Hope, and Faith, that hold far more virtue than knowing why now.

We wait because waiting ignites prayer.

And prayer steadies the soul.

And in the waiting we find His faithfulness.  His faithfulness in a spouse who though may not understand us, and may be one of the closests who wounds us from time to time, still lets those fat tears fall..ten years falling and doesn’t seem to tire of them but gently prays to the rhythm of their dropping.

And in the waiting we learn that the joy well goes deeper than the pain well because His gaze feels hotter on us in our pain and His scent is sweeter to us…and we wake to that aroma that is thick and heavy and carries with it the weight of His presence.

Its warmer in the waiting because that robe of righteousness wraps us a bit tighter, and an unspeakable peace blankets us as the Holy Spirit wraps Himself around us like a warm autumn wind.

and in the waiting we once again unpack those heavy burdens, that stayed a bit too long this time, and hand them over to the One  who joyfully exchanges them for heaps and heaps of this thing called grace.

And grace raises our eyes until they are once again locked in perfect Love.

Those fat tears?  I suspect they’ll be back from time to time. Our theme that runs through our story here and now runs broken. But it’s a holy broken woven into a grander story, and it looks more and more like the One who holds every single tear in a bottle,

even the fat ones.