Friday, October 31, 2014

31 Psalms That Meet Me in the Mess - Why I Shout For Joy


My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you-I, whom you have redeemed.
Psalm 71:23

"I just want to hug you and tell you how brave you are for being so transparent.  I know it's not easy to be so open."

I had just shared part of my ugly story with a group of women at a nearby church and a few of them approached me after the meeting to ask questions or share pieces of their own stories.

I shook my head gently as I said, "How could I not be?  God has done the most unbelievably incredible things in my life.  I'm so passionate about it, I can't keep quiet."

And that's where I am today.

Y'all.  Can I just tell you?  I wish we were sitting face to face somewhere with a warm cup of coffee.  I wish we had hours to just sit and exchange.  I want you to know my story, and I want to know yours.

Where have you been?  Where are you going?  How has God turned your life upside down?

The way He moves and blesses and stands is just awe-inspiring.  I've had a front row seat to the glory of God.  He made the blessing of redemption so real and thick that it's almost tangible.

My husband and I both found ourselves in a state of hopelessness.  Our marriage was broken, full of distrust, faithlessness, and dirty.  On the edge of signing papers, we were spun around so fast we almost didn't know what hit us.

God granted me a positive answer to so many of the prayers I laid with on sleepless nights.  He redeemed.  He took back what was lost.  How could I not share that?

No, it's not easy to talk openly and honestly with strangers and family alike about matters that come out of your most private struggles.  But it is so worth it.  It's worth the hope that it gives to others.  It's worth the tears I see slide down faces who have endured similar heartache.  It's worth the smile I see when I say, "God is good."

I am saturated with joy and I will shout and praise for I have been redeemed.  We have been redeemed. 



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Thursday, October 30, 2014

31 Psalms That Meet Me in the Mess - The Attention of the God of the Universe


Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath! (NLT)
Psalm 116:2

In recent weeks, we've been having a bit of a problem with our four-year-old.  He is overly aggressive, demanding, and just downright disrespectful.

While talking it out with another mom of young boys, it was suggested that he may simply be grasping for more of my attention.

I strive to be very intentional about letting each of my kids know how deeply they are loved and cherished, but it is a possibility that it gets lost somewhere between me and my boy.

Whether or not this is the root of his aggression is yet to be seen, but my analytic and meditative nature kicked into high gear over Psalm 116:2.

The visual of God actually bending down to listen to me has been carved onto my brain.  What a beautiful picture of attentiveness and engagement.  Our heavenly Father stooped so that no words are lost between my mouth and His ears.  The God of the universe leaning in close so that not a crumb of emotion, affection, or urgency is dropped.

I never have to worry about whether or not God is paying attention to me.  I never have to do a song or dance to get Him to glance my way.  I don't have to fight the rest of the world for His engagement.

Thank God, because I would surely lose that battle!

Matthew 10:29-31 lets us know that His eye is on the sparrow.  If we are more valuable than the birds,  how much more does He focus on me?



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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

31 Psalm That Meet Me in the Mess - Idols on the Throne of God


For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens.
Psalm 96:5

Idolatry.  Not really something we talk much about in the church these days.

Mostly because the word, idol, conjurs up images of carved wooden figurines and large golden statues made from melted earrings and such.  Handmade items given a holy value and placed on a pedestal to be literally worshipped. 

We don't see a whole lot of that in modern America.  

But to be honest with you, idolatry is still running rampant like a virus in our culture.

Priscilla Shirer defines an idol as:

"Anything in the visible, created realm that begins to operate in a role 
that should be reserved for God."

Anything in your life that takes precedence over God and His hand in your life.  Anything that weighs in more heavily than the Holy Spirit's voice in your heart.  Anyone or anything that causes you to compromise your beliefs.

For me, it was the love of my life, my husband.  I put him on a pedestal and raised it so high that he disappeared.  It didn't matter how much God pursued me.  Mr. Layden began to define me.

When I thought I might lose him, I thought I would also lose my safety, sanity, and security.  I looked to him to make me happy when I was down.  I looked to him to protect me when I felt threatened.  I looked to him to make me feel beautiful when I didn't like what I saw in the mirror.  I valued his opinion above all others.  Including God's.

God used our separation to break me of my idolatry.  True to His jealousy, He removed the very thing I attempted to replace Him with.  When I hit the rock bottom of loneliness, insecurity, and feeling unlovable and undesired, I realized I had a decision to make.  Will I leave my husband on the throne where my heavenly Father belongs?  Or will I surrender to the only one worthy of my worship?

When we give hours to Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest only to fall asleep five minutes into our bible study.

When we consistently choose our boyfriend over small group meetings, mission opportunities, or sunday morning services.

When we fear the opinion of others so much that we hush our passion for Christ while in their presence.

When we hold back the ten percent we are called to give because of our fear of not having enough.

Money, guys, social media, phones, and approval can all very easily slide into the role that should be reserved for God.

Priscilla Shirer also says,

"When we can go to the drive-through window to get it, pick up the phone to order it, turn on the television to see it, run to the mall to buy it, or snuggle up on the sofa with it, it becomes easier to choose than God."

Can I just encourage you that God has not taken a bathroom break?  He hasn't asked empty sex, empty bottles, or empty bank accounts to keep his seat warm.  He is here in our midst and very much in charge.  He can fill your every single need with a depth that is beyond your imagination.

The question is: Who or what is sitting on the throne of your heart today?



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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

31 Psalms That Meet Me in the Mess - The Skies Pouring Forth Speech


The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.
Psalm 19:1-2


My husband and I often stop and grab each other's hands when noticing the sky at certain times of day. 

Sunsets are just incredible at our house.  The sun often slips down right in a clearing between two wooded areas, with crazy shades of purple and red splattered across the great expanse of blue.  I forget to breathe every time.

Sometimes it's at night as we are unbuckling three car seats and transporting three sleepy kids to their beds.  We pause right in the front yard to marvel at the clarity of the stars or the sheer size of the moon.

If the skies are pouring forth speech, what are they saying?  If they are displaying knowledge, what is it that they know?

I think I know.

The skies, the sun and moon, the stars, they all scream the glory of God.  Breathlessly they are saying, "Just look at this beauty!  This creativity is far beyond any you will ever encounter.  This...this...came from His imagination!"

How could we not worship that?  The magnificence is humbling.

Maybe I'm just a science nerd, but creation does that to me.  The vast variety of life forms and colors and environments just astounds me.  The fact that our all-powerful creator thought of all of this, formed it, and then pushed it into motion...

And not in mass production.  He considered each piece of creation as He formed it.  He detailed the lines and fingerprints in my husband's hand that I hold each time we marvel at what the He has done.

Lord, I am so small, and yet, you have made me so significant.  Thank you for your care.

How long has it been since you marveled at a sunset-painted sky or the stars against a black night?



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Monday, October 27, 2014

31 Psalms That Meet Me in the Mess - Your Bare, Broken Heart


Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll-are they not in your record?
Psalm 56:8

When words fail us, tears speak equal volumes.

It soothes my soul to know that the long nights I spent soaking my pillows and the long showers I took washing the salt away were not in vain.  I feel considered and treasured when I think of how those tears did not evaporate without notice.

The sound of the breaking of my heart was as worthy as any well-spoken prayer.  My heavenly father's heart breaks when my heart breaks.  He sees my anguish.  He is moved by my agony.

The tears of His children are never lost.  They are precious in His sight.

Our father can do miraculous things with a broken heart.  The next time words fail you, just know that He doesn't need your eloquence.  Just your bare, broken heart.

What was the last thing that broke you to tears?  Take comfort in knowing that He saved and cherished every drop.



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31 Psalms That Meet Me in the Mess - God's Cultivation of You


Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.
Psalm 126:5

Oh sweet Jesus, I thank you for Psalm 126:5.  

Sowing is labor.  Usually hard labor.  Your back breaks as you bend, your shoulders stiffen under a crushing weight, your knees crack as they give way.

You fight, you push, you struggle.  You persevere to see the work completed.  You endure to complete it well.

You cultivate and dig and turn up.  And all the while, you just barely grasp hope with the tips of your fingers.  It almost escapes you.  

You engage in a struggle with trust as well.  It squirms and writhes to break free from your resolve.

And when all is said and done, when perseverance has completed its work, songs of joy burst through the black earth and proclaim the glory of the giver of life.

Look what He has done!  Praise Him for the joy that is yours!  Praise Him for bending with you, shouldering your burdens, supporting your frame.  Praise Him for fighting for you when your strength ran away.  Praise Him for supplying your perseverance, endurance, resolve, hope, and trust.

Find joy in the product of God's cultivation of you.



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Saturday, October 25, 2014

31 Psalms That Meet Me in the Mess - The Praise of a Future Generation



Let this be written for a future generation,
that a people not yet created may praise the Lord.
Psalm 102:18

This.

This is incredible to me.  

It just brings into sharper focus that He knew me before I was born.  It blows my mind to try to understand the way God experiences time and space.  

It humbles me right to the floor to know that He made arrangements for me to glorify Him before I was even born.  The bible is a written record that affords me a precious opportunity.  Not only do I give praise for what He is doing today, but I can read and treasure how He has been moving since before the beginning of time.

I can read and understand that He is unchanging.  I can believe that He embodies the characteristics of patience, goodness, and faithfulness because every documentation in His holy word points right back to those truths.  It is affirmed time and time again.

I can praise Him because His goodness was written for a future generation.  The bible was written for my mother, for me, for my children, and for their children to come. 

For generations that have not yet been created.

Enter the jaw-dropping awesomeness of God yet again.



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Friday, October 24, 2014

31 Psalms That Meet Me in the Mess - A Pure Craving



My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh 
cry out for the living God. 
Psalm 84:2

Warm mug in hand, filled with coffee or tea.  Sunk into my bed or couch.  Oversized, fluffy blanket draping my shoulders.

And my bible.

My sweet, treasured, falling-apart bible.

It's an image that soothes my soul.  A place that I long to be.  

When I spend time alone with the Lord, I do many different things.  I read the scriptures that are so preciously recorded for me.  I read the commentator's notes.  I pray through them.  Sometimes I journal.  Sometimes I get down on my knees.  Sometimes I follow a bible study that another soldier for Christ has written.  Often, I sing.

But one thing is always the same.

I am never sorry for the time given.  I always come away with a filling sense of companionship.  A loved-on feeling.

This deep connection makes me yearn for the courts of the Lord.  He is with me all day, yet I can't wait to get back to a place of undivided attention between just He and I.

My flesh needs Him.  It cries out.  I crave Him in the purest way.  And I hope that I always feel this way.  It saddens me to think of a day that my passion may fade.

Do you crave time alone with the Father?  Do you ever feel a quiet time is your most pressing priority?



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Thursday, October 23, 2014

31 Psalms That Meet Me in the Mess - Peace Washed Over it All


In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.
Psalm 4:8

I had an excruciating decision to make.  And everyone knew it. 

Not only did they know I was at a crossroads, they all knew which turn I should take.  The only problem was, they didn't all agree on the direction.

My agony spilled over into my children.  I was tense, harsh, impatient, and not fully engaged.  An entire bag of jellybeans graced the floor and there was a horrifying trail of toilet water coming from the children's bathroom.

My phone harassed me with texts and calls, all loved ones who knew what was best for me and wanted to make sure I made the right decision.

I was tormented.  My stomach turned, my hands shook, my head ached.

But a simple prayer while standing at the kitchen sink washed peace over it all.

"Lord Jesus, you know the turmoil inside me.  You know the decision I have to make.  I know that you calm the storm and you make your will known to your children.  Please help me, Father.  Please. Please."

The phone stopped.  The children quieted and even laid down for an afternoon nap.

But even more importantly, the storm inside me quieted.  A new thought (a decision) entered my mind. It seemed so simple and obvious, but in my chaos, my lens was smudged and my perspective was skewed.  

When the revelation of His will graced my mind and heart, sweet, clear, easy peace enveloped me.  I soaked in the best sleep that night.  I rested easy because the Lord alone allows me to dwell in safety.



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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

31 Psalms That Meet Me in the Mess - The Gift of a Rebuke



Let a righteous man strike me-that is a kindness; let him rebuke me-that is oil on my head...
Psalm 141:5

"That was rude.  You shouldn't have spoken to her like that."  Years ago, my husband rebuked me for my short temper and sharp tone with a restaurant hostess.  

He was right, but I was annoyed.  By him and her.

Can I be honest?  I do not like to be set straight.  When someone tells me I'm doing it wrong, I get defensive.  

I jump to extremes.  They think I'm a person.  They think I make poor decisions.  They think I'm an inadequate Christian, mother, wife, human being.

But Psalm 141:5 lends encouragement for us to allow other God-lovers and God-fearers to have a word in our lives.  This scriptures nudges us to humble ourselves to the wisdom and concern of others.

Genuine godly counsel is a gift of relationship.  It is a gift of love.  When you hold deep relationship with another human being, it is according to design that we spur one another on to greatness for God's glory.

If you enjoy a rich connection with another child of God, please do not resist their discernments. 

It can be edgy, rough, uncomfortable, or downright painful.  But, if they are truly spirit-soaked and seeking your best, you can trust that God is using them to mold you to His will.

Other believers in your story are often instruments in the hand of God.



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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

31 Psalms That Meet Me in the Mess - Fearing God in His Favor

The waters saw you, God, the waters saw you and writhed; the very depths were convulsed.
Psalm 77:16

The authority and power of God never ceases to enthrall me.  Psalm 77 speaks of the day that God parted the Red Sea.

The Israelites had escaped from Egyptian slavery and were being pursued by hundreds of Egyptian warriors.  In a moment of panic, hopelessness, and confusion, God made a way when there appeared to be no way.

He parted the waters of the Red Sea and allowed His rescued people to walk across on dry land.
Daunting walls of water on either side.  Walls that could tumble at any moment and envelop the Israelites in a liquid grave.

The bible doesn't express it, but I imagine a roar of wind and water.  I imagine tears and trembles and the holding of breath.  I imagine total and absolute terror.

I imagine Great White Sharks, Giant Sea Turtles, and other marine life approaching the walls, sliding along the boundaries like a larger than life aquarium witnessing God's glory and simultaneously multiplying the fear in the hearts of the Israelite people.

What I don't have to imagine, is the fact that the Israelites came face to face with the unshakable truth that their lives are in God's hands.  Oxygen filled their very lungs by the order of the almighty.  Their hearts continued its life-giving rhythm because of a never-sleeping creator.  Their children's frail bodies were kept in tact and full of life because the most powerful entity of all existence was holding up walls of water on either side of them and holding back the enemy.  They had their very being because of His favor.

Once they had crossed safely to the other side, all it took was a swipe of Moses' staff to bring the waters back down.  Back down and on top of every single Egyptian horse and rider who had pursued.  Of all the warriors that bared down on the fleeing Israelites, not a single one survived their foolishness to test their mightiness against God.  

Exodus 14:30 records how the Israelites saw the Egyptians' dead bodies on the shore.

If that doesn't invoke your respect, check your pulse.  

Even crushing waters obey His slightest whim.

That's how my fear of God is defined, my friend.



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Monday, October 20, 2014

31 Psalms That Meet Me in the Mess - Complacency From Comfort


Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief. - Psalm 142:1

Israel was God's chosen people who reduced their love affair with God to be "on-again-off-again."  They have a bad reputation for their cycle of basking in the goodness of God for so long that they took it for granted and forgot about God completely.

God, in his mercy and patience, faithfully came to their rescue at each turn in the cycle.

I wonder how often this rings true in my own life.  When saturated with ease and comfort, I creep into complacency and indifference to the hand of God in my life.

Shouldn't the opposite be true?  When my life is so intensely blessed, shouldn't I sing His praises?

Oh, human nature, you plague me so.

God knows my heart so well because he formed it himself.  He knows my tendencies.  He knows my slippery slopes.

He keeps me at arm's length of my comfort zone most days because He loves my fixed eyes and reliance on Him.  He never lets me go without, and yet usually provides just enough at just the right time.  Never in surplus and never in advance.  And for that...I will be grateful.



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31 Psalms That Meet Me in the Mess - A Story That Saves



Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story-those he redeemed from the hand of the foe.
Psalm 107:2


Evangelism can be a scary thing.  The word itself makes me uncomfortable.

It conjures up images of door to door salesmen, paper tracts, and condemnation.  I'm just not a fan.

I'm a firm believer that love demonstrated inside of a relationship (no matter how deep or shallow) is the best way to introduce non-believers to Jesus.  

After all, when you show unassuming, genuine love to someone, you are demonstrating exactly who Jesus is and how Jesus is.  It's not shouting, bible throwing, or shoving facts down their throats.

It's hope after her abortion.  It's a car full of groceries after he has lost his job.  It's free babysitting for the single, exhausted, frayed and torn single mother.

When you come alongside someone to support, encourage, hold, and love, you open the door of opportunity to share your story.  And as a Christian, Jesus is the star of your story.

Penn Jillette, an atheist and one half of an entertaining duo called Penn and Teller, says this about sharing faith:

"How much do you have to hate somebody to not prosthelytize?  How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible, and not tell them that?"

Ouch.

Even those who don't believe in our precious creator can see the ugly black void in withholding our story, withholding our passion.

As Christians, each one of us has a beautiful story that begs to be told.  It's the best way to introduce (or re-introduce) a fallen world to Jesus.  Who can you share your story with next?



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Saturday, October 18, 2014

31 Psalms That Meet Me in the Mess - Focus Fades the Rest


I keep my eyes always on the Lord.  With him at my right hand, I will never be shaken. 
- Psalm 16:8

To focus on Him when all around me is screaming and clamoring for my attention, my worry, my agony.

"Look at me! What will you do about me?" Cries the insecurity.

"Don't let me go!" Demands the broken heart.

"You think you can lay me down, but I will be here until the end." Whispers the mommy guilt with a smirk.

They surround me and all I can see are their ugly faces darting and dancing in a tight circle around me.  Some days they seem to cloud and blur everything else.

But when I catch a glimpse of Jesus through a part in the crowd...oh sweet Jesus.

When I catch a passing notion of Jesus, I cling to it.  I set my eyes to focus on His power and calling in my life.  I see favor, provision, healing, and hope.  His presence alone frightens the agony away.

When I'm aware of His awesomeness, the troubles that are seeking my life fade into faintness.  His approval tells me I can stand tall.  His love gives my lifeless body warmth.  His forgiveness tells me I can breathe. 



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Friday, October 17, 2014

31 Psalms That Meet Me in the Mess - Preparation Before Transplantation



You transplanted a vine from Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it.  You cleared the ground for it, and it took root and filled the land.
Psalm 80:8-9


Have you ever cleared a place for a flower bed?  Earlier this year, my husband and I spent days clearing and preparing the beds in front of our home.  My mother-in-law even came and spent a whole day helping me get them just right.  We chopped down, we ripped out, we cultivated.

You see, the flower beds around our home hadn't been used or cared for for years.  So there was a lot of work to do.  When we finally had a blank slate of perfection, we set to establishing the new plan.  Pavers here, petunias there.  We actually transplanted quite a few flowering plants from my mother-in-law's flower beds as well.

As meager as it was, I was quite proud of the finished product.  I stood near the end of the driveway to get a better, wider view of the beautiful canvas we created.

But it would have been fruitless, ugly, and pointless if we hadn't begun the journey with preparation.

Here in Psalm 80, the author is metaphorically describing how God saved Israel from Egyptian slavery.  He removed them from the hands of their oppressors and re-established them in a land of freedom and abundance.

What grabbed a hold of me was the essence of preparation.  

The scripture takes care to mention that "you drove out the nations" and "you cleared the ground for it."

Preparation.

So often I forget that God has already gone before me.  He is meticulous to make sure the way has been prepared for me.  

That woman that I am supposed to speak to about Jesus?  He has been preparing her heart for months to soften to my words.

The larger ministry that is stirring in my heart?  Every misconception, joy, and adventure of my marriage has been knitted together to make me pliable enough for the calling.

The teenagers that I will have one day?  I can only assume that some of the back talk and attitude that I get from my four year old is preparation for that!


More often than forgetfulness, I am impatient in the task of preparation.  I'd rather see the finished product now.  I'd rather get on to the good stuff.

Yet, I know that if the foundation isn't well-rooted and established, I will crumble under the weight of good things.

Thank you, Lord for tedious preparation.  Thank you for your patience with me. 



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Thursday, October 16, 2014

31 Psalms That Meet Me in the Mess - The Greeting of Gratitude



Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. - Psalm 100:4

My four year old likes to greet his grandmother by asking where her ipad is.  He skips the kiss and hug.  He's not concerned with gracious greetings like, "Hi, Nani! How are you?"

Nani: "Hey sugar!"
Jonah:"Where's your ipad?"

I consistently have to redirect him back to manners, and selflessness, and respect.

He's four.

But I wonder how often I am like that with my heavenly father.  Do I bring my urgent requests, drop them at the door, and run on to more important people and things?

Psalm 100:4 is an awesome reminder for how we should approach and greet our heavenly father.  Let's begin with gratitude!  

I have had countless moments of such complete anguish that I could think to do nothing but cry out to God for mercy.  Thanksgiving eluded me.  But, through my most abrasive struggles, I learned that a greeting of gratitude not only shows respect and love to my Father, it also gives me a different lens to view my plight through.

My prayers become more of a cry of faith and a hope for His glory, and less of a complaint or doubtful whining. 

Lord, I am so blessed for all you have done for me up to this point.  You have never left me lonely or in peril.  Your love for me is astounding.  I find myself here, once again, at the point of destruction.  I writhe with guilt, anger, depression.  Will you rescue me once more?  Will you shower your love and mercy on me?  Restore my soul, Father.  Wrap me in your arms and comfort me.

Gratitude can do miraculous things for a heart that is in despair.  The proper start sets the course of the journey.



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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

31 Psalm That Meet Me in the Mess - Blessed Though Sinful



Blessed are those whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit. - Psalm 32:2

When I fire away in an attempt to heal my own wounds...thank you Lord for Psalm 32:2.

When I use gossip to cover my own insecurities...thank you Lord for Psalm 32:2.

When my impatience snaps me and I spew out damage...thank you Lord for Psalm 32:2.

When my pride becomes large and ugly and blots you out of sight...thank you Lord for Psalm 32:2.

When my addiction to human approval takes priority over your approval...thank you Lord for Psalm 32:2

When my tone is too harsh and my volume too loud...thank you Lord for Psalm 32:2.


When the last little head nods off and the weight of the day descends with guilt, I can hide under my covers and hear...

"Blessed are those whose sin the Lord does not count against them."



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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

31 Psalms That Meet Me in the Mess - Part 2 of Waiting is a Place Where Heaven Meets Hell



In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. - Psalm 5:3

{Part Two}

I'll just be frank, waiting sucks.

After the prophet, Samuel, anointed little shepherd boy, David, to become Israel's next king, nothing fancy happened.  Do you know what David did the very next day?  He went back to tending sheep.

He waited for decades to take the throne.  

I'm getting all "squirrely" just thinking about it.

After my marriage hit rock bottom, I waited for months before I began my ascent back out of the pit.  I wanted to start work right away.  I knew the best plan of action.  I knew my role, I knew my husband's role, and I was ready.

But God made me wait, and I just didn't understand why.  I knew that God was for my marriage, and I was so passionately willing to do whatever it took.  I cried out, "What's the deal?" when He whispered to my heart, "Wait." and "Be still."

But as I mentioned yesterday, some of the most beautiful and priceless growth happens when you pause and let God do His thing.

In those months, I developed in ways that I could never put an appropriate value on.  Patience, long-suffering, and gratitude were are characteristics that strengthened within me.  I became a better wife and mother.  A better woman overall.

And my husband changed as well.  God so perfectly arranged people, places, and events to bring him exactly to the place he needed to be to receive me and my developments.

It's kind of like labor and delivery.  It wasn't easy, but I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.  Given a second chance, again I would wait.


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Monday, October 13, 2014

31 Psalms That Meet Me in the Mess - Waiting is a Place Where Heaven Meets Hell



In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. - Psalm 5:3

Last fall, I read this verse at just the right time.  I was in a mess, and being asked to wait.  I wrote this in the margin of my bible: "To wait expectantly - Oh so difficult." Along with the date.

I don't wait well.  

In fact, I think waiting is a place where heaven meets hell.  It is so excruciating for those of us who already know what is best, those of us who like to be in control, and those of us who lack patience and self control.  

And yet, waiting can be a space where the most priceless and beautiful growth happens.

Nate Pyle says this:

"Not once have I danced around our house shouting, 'Yeah suffering!'  Instead, in the midst of pain and hurt, I am actively expecting God to do something.  I don't know what.  I don't know when.  But I am expecting the God of resurrection to heal us.  I am expecting God to restore us.  I am expecting him to redeem this situation.  I am expecting him to do this and so I will be actively looking and waiting for him to do something.  I believe expectant waiting can only happen when we exchange our feeble platitudes for an authentic faith that engages God with the full brunt of our emotion and pain.  Only then can salvation be seen."

What are you waiting for today?  Has it been a difficult phase of life for you?  What helps you to wait well?


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Sunday, October 12, 2014

31 Psalms That Meet Me in the Mess - A Faulty Cornerstone



The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone, - Psalm 118:22

The cornerstone is the first foundational stone set when building a structure.  It determines the position of the structure as all other stones are set in reference to it.  It provides the example and alignment.

It is a valuable and significant member of the body of a building.

I am definitely not cornerstone material.  If I were closely examined to see if I were worthy of such leadership and reliability, I would be rejected just as the stone in Psalm 118:22.

And yet, God has made me a cornerstone anyway.  That doesn't say much about me, but it does speak volumes about God.

You've heard it said that God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called.  Well that's me.  So not qualified.  A better description of me would be "faulty."

His power is so infinite that He's not afraid of my impatience or my pride.  He's not hindered by my lack of faith.  He's not put off by my distrust of Him.

He doesn't stop short at the sight of my weaknesses and decide to use someone else for the task.  Instead, He smiles and whispers, "Perfect. Perfect for a job such as this."

I have been called.  I have been charged as a valuable and significant member of the body of Christ.

How about you? How have you been called in spite of your weaknesses?


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Saturday, October 11, 2014

31 Psalm That Meet Me in the Mess - Infusing Him Into the Culture of Our Home



We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. - Psalm 78:4

I wish I could be a fly on the wall in your home.  I'm fascinated by the way other people raise and organize their families.  Each and every house on the block is a different culture in and of itself.

Do you spank your children? Do you have pre-planned dinner discussions? Do you study the bible as a family?  What are your Christmas traditions? 

I love taking bits and pieces from other home cultures and infusing them into ours.

One thing that is definitely a part of our culture is the teaching of who God is.  I'm still getting the hang of it, but I try to take advantage of hidden opportunities to instill in my children who God is and how He is.

On the ice cream, time-out, sibling rivalry, trips to the park, grocery shopping kind of days we work God into our conversations, our disciplines, our joys, and our rewards.  My goal is to make His presence always known in our lives, not just a part of our lives.

And on the bigger days like Christmas, Easter, and even Halloween, we are intentional about how we define the celebration and explain symbolism.

I want my children to know the wonders He has done.  Maybe even when they're old enough, we will share some of our darkest hours, for the sake of the glory of God.

Share with us! What is something you do with your family (no matter what stage of family you are in) that makes you who you are?  I'll go first.

At Christmas, we set up an advent wreath on our kitchen table.  We light candles and do devotions every night for four weeks leading up to Christmas day.  It helps us to stay grounded in the true meaning of Christmas on a daily basis when our focus is easily spread thin between plays, programs, caroling, buying wrapping paper, finding the perfect gift, etc.

Your turn!  Leave a comment to tell us about your family traditions or family culture!  It could be as small as walking your kids home from school every day, or as big as a holiday tradition.




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Friday, October 10, 2014

31 Psalms That Meet Me in the Mess - Rest For One Hot Mama


Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. - Psalm 62:1

Band competition, birthday, just-over-the-state-line shopping trip, middle school homecoming, volleyball senior night, meal planning and grocery shopping, and an unexpected trip to the pediatrician...

My week so far.

All that stretched out over seven days may be just a blip in your day planner, but for me, it was quite the circus act because I did it with three occupied car seats in the mom-mobile. 

There is no "running in to grab milk real quick." 

There is no casually buying a ticket and watching a beloved teenager in your life compete in his or her passion.

When we arrive at our destination, I have already meticulously packed a diaper bag full of snacks, drinks, and other distractions to keep them satisfied.  But, when I slide the van door open, both two-year-olds have ditched their socks, shoes, and bows.  One has snot running, the other has the remnants of snack time in her hair.  The four-year-old has spilled his drink and is crying that someone will think he wet his pants.

"Can I bring this toy in with us?"  "Sure, but if you lose it, that's it.  It's gone."

Although I'm attempting to break my record best time, It still takes an inconvenient number of minutes to locate all articles of clothing and make everyone presentable again.

Then, there is the double stroller.  Sometimes it won't unfold and I'm biting my tongue to keep from teaching my children awful words.

Once I strap the girls safely into the stroller, the crying begins again.  One toddler has snatched the other's cup, the second toddler snatches out her own bow and throws it into the parking lot where it inevitably falls under someone else's vehicle.  The preschooler is now whining because he is too big to ride in a stroller.

At this point, I am one hot mama.  I am sweating and we haven't even made it into the store/gym/pediatrician/what-have-you yet.

I will spare you the details of what happens once we are actually inside our destination.  It gets ugly.

When our task is complete and we are on our way back to the van once again, my hair is a hot mess.  Snot is running freely and I have streaks of it on my shirt.  The four-year-old is crying because he lost his toy.  We are down to one bow and I'm carrying three shoes in one hand.  The snacks are gone, the drinks are gone, and we still have three more stops to make.

Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I cry, but I am always exhausted.

These are the days that Psalm 62:1 really comes in handy.  Rest, Lord.  Rest for my soul.

Sure, my body is tired from the weight of a 40 pounder and two 20 pounders, but what I really crave is rest for my soul.

I need mental and spiritual restoration.  Thank you Lord for this incredible gift!  When all is settled and my mind can ease into its comfy yoga pants.

An affirming conversation with my husband.  A cup of coffee and a good book.  Pinterest and a texting marathon with my best friend.  Heck, even an early bed time is just the ticket sometimes.

He knows exactly what I need.  Even when that need is simply rest.  He knows my limits better than I do.  And as long as I'm not hell-bent on stretching the limits, He orchestrates it so perfectly.

When hubby offers to cook dinner, when the kids play together quietly and contently, when the wee hours of the morning are filled with no other sound than the tapping of my macbook keyboard.

Are you in need of rest today?  Ask our Father to orchestrate the kind of rest that fills and restores.  Pray Psalm 62:1 back to Him.  He promises to know what you need and take full pleasure in giving it to you!



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Thursday, October 9, 2014

31 Psalms That Meet Me in the Mess - The Struggle is Real



...we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance. - Psalm 66:12

I've mentioned before that it is too easy sometimes to just brush over certain scriptures, especially if you grew up a church kid.  You've heard some of these phrases so many times that they become cliche.  Like a biblical cliche...you know...the stuff Christians like.

I was lost, but then I was found.  

I've been saved.

God is your ever-present help in times of trouble.

I get it.  I was born into a Catholic home, switched to Pentecostal Holiness in elementary school with a little Methodist thrown in every other weekend, and finally made an adult decision in high school to settle with non-denominational.  That is, until I became a member of a Southern Baptist Church about three years ago.  (I'm not as big on denominations as I am the community of the church, but more on that another day.)  My point is, that I've heard it all.  I grew up a church kid.

Psalm 66:12 is a gem of scripture that required me to take a second look.  Dig a little deeper.  Stop to meditate on it.  Make it real.

We went through fire and water?  A visual just hit me like a ton of bricks.  

How many times during my separation from my husband did I feel like I was drowning?  How many times did I feel like I had been burned beyond repair?

Have you ever lost yourself somehow in the ocean or a swimming pool?  That realization that you can't breathe is terrifying.  Being fully conscious of your surroundings (either the thrashing of waves, or the laughter of others splashing nearby), but knowing that you will soon lose that consciousness if someone doesn't come to your aid.

Have you ever been burned?  I've only suffered small burns from cooking and clumsily lighting candles and such, but I can only imagine in my mind what it would be like to be trapped and suffering inside a burning building.  I can only imagine it would be a place of terror and hopelessness like drowning. 

This is what the author of Psalm 66 is visualizing as he gives open praise to God about his salvation.  He's endured unspeakable trials.  He has walked through horrible, awful phases of life. 

And yet, it says, "but you brought us to a place of abundance."  *Deep Breath*  Now that hits me like a ton of bricks as well.

He guides us down these breath-holding, gut-wrenching paths with strength and gentleness, and walks us out into a clearing of abundance.

Real life is no fairy-tale.  Infertility, infidelity, and chronic illness are not things that we deal with flippantly.  The struggle is real.  Thank God, we have one who will never, ever, ever, ever leave our side.  And He's not just there for emotional support, either.  He works all things together for our good (Romans 8:28).

If your struggle is so very real today, I would like to pray for you.

Lord, your grace is the single most adored gift we have ever been given.  We thank you for the enormous blessings of this life that you have given.  But life here in this foreign land can also be really, really hard.  You know our struggle is real, Lord.  Please give us supernatural strength to endure and thrive.  Please give us wisdom at every crossroads we come to in this place of darkness.  We thank you and love you.  It is in your precious son's name that we live and move and have our very being.  Amen.


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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

31 Psalms That Meet Me in the Mess - Boasting All Day Long



In God we make our boast all day long, and we will praise your name forever. - Psalm 44:8

My four year old is going through quite a boastful phase.  At the last Sunday dinner with my in-laws, he announced that he could hit the ball farther than anyone else at the kids' table simply because he was just awesome.

Mom of the year, right here.

He also wants to be recognized first in any and all situations.  First to get dessert, first to get into the bathtub, first to go down the steps.  I often find myself simultaneously consoling and teaching because he so violently rushes to the door before everyone else that he falls or hits a door frame.

It's exhausting to feel like a broken record when attempting to teach humility to a pre-schooler.

But isn't that just like us at times?

I want recognition for great things I've accomplished.  I don't necessarily think its an awful thing to appreciate a pat on the back every now and then.

But, I wonder how often I have sought glory for myself when the whole sum of it should have gone to God.

During the toughest battle of my life to date, many praised my strength and faith.  But the truth is, that wasn't me.  The real me is prone to fly off the handle, make a bad situation worse, make war instead of peace, seek revenge, and find numbness in unhealthy band-aids.

Any trace of patience, faith, self-control, or wisdom that was seen in my actions was the stunning work of Jesus living in me.  These are all His characteristics, not mine.

Glory goes to God for the salvation of my marriage.  

Glory goes to God for the preservation of my testimony.

Glory goes to God for the depth of my relationship and love for Him.

Glory goes to God for my messy and beautiful story.

I will boast all day long in God.  I will brag, brag, brag on how awesomely worthy He is because I want people to talk about Him, be in awe of things He's done, and tell others His crazy beautiful story.

Do you ever find yourself longing to be first, recognized, boasted about, or in the spotlight?  Does it make you angry when you're given insufficient credit?  How much room does God have to be seen in your life?  Tough things to think about today.


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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

31 Psalms That Meet Me in the Mess - Set Fire by the Tongue



Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. - Psalm 141:3

Sometimes dangerous words slip out of my mouth like sneaky little ninjas.  I don't pause long enough to become aware of the damage I could be unleashing.  Other times, I intentionally send those ninjas out with a mission.

Go forth and destroy!  It's not until much later that I feel the weight of guilt over what I've said to or about someone.

Do you ever wish there was a tiny guard stationed just outside your lips?  One that could slash away at any untrue, hurtful, or inappropriate thoughts that fight their way out and are born into words?

James chapter three tells us just how dangerous the tongue can be.  It likens it to a spark which spawns a wildfire.  

Ouch.  How often have I set fire to relationships, self esteem, or opportunities to minister because of my reckless tongue?

It could be...it has been...a careless, judgmental word about the way someone else raises their kids or operates within their own family.

It could be...it has been...a disrespectful tone in a disagreement with my husband.

It could be...it has been...an irritated and potentially damaging reaction to a needy child in my home.

James chapter three also tells us that anyone who could be faultless in what they say, could be perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.  What does that speak to you?  To me it says, "Not gonna happen..."

Luckily for us...no, gracefully for us...the Lord does move and work from the inside of us through His Holy Spirit.  The fruit of that labor eventually makes its way to our exterior, including the way we talk.

A salt spring cannot produce fresh water (James 3:12).  But, if the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives, the spring will become less and less salty as we surrender our talk to Him.

Does your tongue have a tendency to set fires?  Ask the Lord today to mold your heart to look more like His, to mold your thoughts to look more like His, and to mold your words to look more like His.



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Monday, October 6, 2014

31 Psalms That Meet Me in the Mess - Raccoons Are Called To Praise Too


Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. - Psalm 150:6

This is the very last Psalm before the book of Proverbs begins.  It is a profound and sacred command.

And yet, the first thing I think about is a raccoon.  The scripture says everything that has breath...

Well, raccoons breathe.  So do rhinos and gnats.  Yes, gnats breathe.  I looked it up because I'm a serious writer committed to the spread of truth, not lies.

How do gnats praise?  Or sloths or box turtles?  We don't hear them singing "Oh How I Love Jesus."

But the Bible says let them do so.  Do you think lesser organisms are shamed and sinful because they don't follow the command to praise in our traditional fashion?

It brings to mind the different ways that man and woman praise the Lord.  Depending on your denomination (a sad divider), you may sing quietly, you may lift your hands, or you may dance.  You may even run.  Some shout the phrase in affirmation of their pastor's message.

Some can even use the phrase as an add-on like "Bless her heart."  Which is not what it seems.

If the Creator calls even animals to praise, who are we to judge the way someone else praises or worships?

I know that there are plenty of believers in the Kingdom of God who use the excuse of praise and worship to draw attention to themselves.  I also know that there is a time and a place for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1).  God is a God of order and not chaos or confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33).

But when it falls under heart-felt adoration and humility for what Christ has done for us, should it be subject to gossip, ridicule, or judgement?

I think God is heartbroken over the way his children sometimes treat each other.  Especially over the way they relate to Him.

Do you find yourself a tad judgmental over the way some believers give praise?  I regretfully have.  Ask God to give you fresh eyes to view all of His precious children including the way they communicate and praise our Heavenly Father.



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