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Archive for the ‘Introduction into me’ Category

Prayer of Acceptance
Gracious God,
I give thanks for the gift of your love and mercy which knows no end. I
give thanks for Jesus Christ who lived, died and rose again that I may know true life in his name. Today I confess my sins, all the actions, and attitudes that keep me from loving you and loving others.
Lord have mercy and forgive me for those things I have said and left unsaid.
Lord have mercy and forgive me for those things I have done and left undone.
In the knowledge of your mercy, I confess Jesus as the Lord of my life and my savior.
I turn my life over to You today.
Please make me a new creature through Your Holy Spirit and change my heart.
Help me walk in Your ways as You reveal yourself to me.
Thank You, Jesus, for dying for my sins.
I accept Your gift of salvation today and confess that You are Lord.
Amen

“Said and left unsaid…done and left undone…”

I have readily considered laziness a sin and its’ association with “left undone.”  I have also known cursing and pain-causing language to be sinful–“said.”  The “left unsaid” I’ve considered the times when I coward from what the Spirit asks of me to speak.  The “done,” I’ve considered the busyness that distracts me from what God asks of me, or actions that are defiant to Him.

Today I realize, sometimes God asks us to speak, to hold our tongue, to act, or to withhold from action and be still.  But the counter can also be said, sometimes the enemy asks us to speak, to hold our tongue, to act, or to withhold from action and be still.

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight so that you may be able to discern what is best, and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11)

We must learn to discern the voice which directs us–an awareness and ability that grows from knowing the love of God.

This lent I have devoted myself to the discipline of simplicity–offering myself, especially, in words said and unsaid as clay to be reformed by the touch of Christ’s redemption.

This past week was midterms.  In the past weeks, we have cared for friends who are mourning losses in their immediate families.   Last week, we met our month’s financial pot for the month.  This week finally seems to be the end of months-worth of frustration to change my name, join bank accounts, change health insurance plans, and meet many other adult-newly-married responsibility tasks.  And we have begun to truly shape one another as man and wife in discussing points of growth and affirming opportunities met in beautiful ways.  We’re being shaped in the tension for sure.  But I must also admit, there have been too many moments–lasting much more than one moment–where I spiral, allowing tasks to get the best of me.  I have been overwhelmed.

The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Amen.
Reinhold Niebuhr

Overwhelmed… Simplicity… These appear to be two sides of the same coin.  Makes sense that one who battles feelings of being overwhelmed would be challenged to stewardship and surrender in the act of simplicity before the Lord.  So here I am in the midst of remodeling.

You are sovereign Lord! And You will always be sovereign, Lord.  There will never be a time when You are not sovereign.  You are and will always be sovereign above all things.

Being overwhelmed means that the doing becomes unbearable.  There is too much to do, we simply cannot be.  Peter Scazzero challenges us to self-reflection, confession, and acceptance of the process of sanctification as he admits–to which I am also guilty (p.58):

We attach our wills to the belief that someting less than God will satisfy us.  We think if we just accomplish that one big goal, then we will really feel content and good about oursevles.  We will be ‘finished’ and able to rest.

It is out of being that our doing has purpose.  Being, then doing.  Being becomes doing.  In being with God, we are moved to action–doing for God–and not the other way around.

Overwhelmed is to be overpowered with an excessive amount of anything; overcome, especially with superior forces; destroyed; crushed; covered or buried beneath a mass of something as floodwaters, debris, or an avalanche; submerged; or, overthrown.

Ever felt overpowered by an excessive amount of responsibilities calling out for your attention–tasks that keep you from simply being, that beckon you to ‘finish’ before you can rest?

I sure have.  I know the tools that I teach others, yet, sometimes the tasks seem to be relentless prison guards.  Sometimes they even disguise themselves, claiming to be the very thing that would honor God, yet, in my obedience to the task, I find myself distant from and desperate for God.

“There is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain.” – Jesus Culture

God may challenge us, but He would NEVER lead a child to suffocate or drown on their own.  Separation from His children is NOT God’s desire.  Doing and being overwhelmed by the doings can lead to separation from God–where we are no longer attuned to His voice but are commanded by the perceived need to complete tasks.

“Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Jesus says, “You will be able to bear the load I have for you.”

God, I do not wish to drown.  I do not wish to suffocate.  If I am overthrown, may it be that I am overthrown by You–humbled by Your reign.  If I am overwhelmed, may it be by Your presence.  If I am overpowered, may it be by Your strength, Your power.  If I am submerged, may it be in Your Word, Your Truth.  God, I surrender.  I want to know You more. 

I know that when I am overwhelmed I have either consciously or unconsciously chosen to prioritize tasks, the doing, over my surrendered being with God.

“For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose” (Philippians2:12).

We can examine what is according to His good purpose by knowing God and knowing God’s Truth as it is written in Scripture.  Anything that is not according to God’s good purpose we can then distinguish as not from God working in us.  If it isn’t God who is working in us when we choose doing, who is it?

 God is not a god of confusion.  Who would want to inspire confusion in us? Satan and his army. Remember: God is omnipresent and can be with you wherever you are and with all people where they are.  Satan does not hold such power nor authority.

That means as we are made in God’s image, standing as God’s children we can choose to bow our knee and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and as we do, we submit ourselves to God, aligning our will with His, and surrender to God working in us “to will and to act according to His good purpose” (Philippians 2:9-12).

  • What does my life show? I do more than I be right now.
  • What do I desire? I desire to know God and to do only which pleases God.

My life does not show the desire of my heart… perhaps, then, it is not my heart that dictates my actions, but my mind…

“Take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Dr. Caroline Leaf discusses the neuropsychology behind taking every thought captive.  She suggests it takes 21 days to replace the thought.  Let us feed and be filled by Your Word, God. That we would have the strength to persevere, to endure as we begin this process of sanctification in our minds.  I hope to be able to discern, to choose ‘God work in me, so that You may do in me that which is according to Your good purpose’ over what seems convenient or stressful and needs relieving.  Remind me, God, that You are all I need.

 The process of renewing our minds:

For twenty-one days…

Admit: Acknowledge the toxic thought

Quit: Eliminate the toxic thought by focusing on the healthy replacement thought, denying the unhealthy habit

For the following forty-two days…

Beat: Stabilize the strength of a healthy replacement habit to beat and remove possibility of regrowth of the eliminated toxic thought

The result: The natural choice in our unconscious stems from our restructured healthy habit, NOT the toxic thought life that once was.

Steps to take with honest reflection…

  1. What do I prioritize?
  2. What does God prioritize?
  3. What keeps me from being with God (admit)?
  4. Sit with God and learn the surrender of those very things that keep us from Him (quit)
  5. Allow God to renew Your mind, that His Spirit may be known and adored by Your spirit–rejoicing always and praying without ceasing as you make choices to live a life of love–honoring God, self, and others (beat).

Let’s be the Bride of Christ–doing from our being.

God, I want to live an uncluttered life.  Simplify what is of me and what is of the enemy.  Rebuke his grasp.  Overwhelm me with Your presence that all else may fall to ruin.  You are all I need Lord.  I believe in Your renewing power.  Cleanse me, O God.  Make me more like You.  Might my image of You grow to be truer and truer each day I spend with You.  I love You, Jesus, Amen.

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Today represents both the birth of one grandma and the death of my other grandma.

My Grandmother Reva actually received the best birthday gift possible 53 years ago, a son.  However, 10 years ago, my father was unable to celebrate, when his birthday bore the responsibility to care for his wife whose mother had passed away the very same day.

So today my mother created a tribute album for her mother, my Grandmother Marjie.  My grandmother continues to be the person I attribute much of my character to.   Before Christ, she was the person I aspired to reflect the image of most.

Legacies are tricky to me.  I know it sounds harsh.  But, to me, legacies most often times are the boasting of a person’s name and achievements.  I have written on legacy before, and know that I desire to leave the legacy of “home matters;” the difference is, that legacy does not need to be attached to my name.  Rather, it is one that parallels the refuge of God’s wingspan as an eagle protecting His children.  It is a legacy that recognizes the purpose and ability God has established in me.

Another reaction to today’s contrast of events also seems to lack compassion, but has been reflected on in prayer and is worthy of sharing in transparency.  The simple task of memorializing a person’s death, considering anniversaries is not something I planned on partaking in, until my mother’s tribute was sent to me.

My grandmother passed when I was 14, a freshman in high school.  The moment I had freedom in driving, I began to spend more time speaking with her at her burial ground than I did speaking with my parents at the house.  It was about a year and a half later that I received the Lord in my life, and that stopped.

Until the moment I walked into the Family at North Coast Church, my grandmother was the guardian angel looking after me.  I had not known the Holy Spirit, and so she was the nudge I followed.  It was her life I emulated.

But that stopped. And I believe, rightfully so.

I respect the Jewish tradition of leaving rocks on the tombs of loved ones deceased.  But with Christ, I see freedom of souls.  The body buried in the ground no longer traps my grandmother, so why visit her there?

Within the last hour I was given a new perspective.  Thank You, Holy Spirit!

As the title suggests, today marks the day of my grandmothers birth.  Today, nearly 80 years ago, breath entered her lungs and she cried for the very first time.  She was embraced by two parents and entered life with a name attributed to her by her parents.  The celebration of birth, of life.

BUT it also is the day of my grandmother’s death.  Different lady, different bloodline.  Today marks the day her spirit entered into eternal life in the presence of Christ and His everlasting people.

I wrestled in the beginning of grief, years ago, whether my grandmother truly lived a selfless life of service for the betterment of people or as an act of serving Christ in them.  I gave up, recognizing that God had not given me the ability to understand.  So I faithfully set it aside and pursued His character, His life, reflected in my own living.

That was until just this hour.  Now, there is a peace in me assuring that she has life, eternal life, in God’s presence.

I am very grateful for the life Paul lived as an example of a man, surrendered before the purposes of God’s placement in His life.  I am very grateful to have read the burnout and struggles Mother Teresa experienced with her own faith as she served the lowest of the low in the Indian caste system.  I am very grateful to have lived over a decade under the leadership of my grandmother and seeing her humbleness in service: both in providing and receiving.

Their legacies point to the glory of God.  In their confessed weaknesses, His strength was made known.

Honestly, this was far from the hardest part of my day today.  Stephen, the man who God has placed as my partner in ministry, led me in worship tonight.  Especially in our wavering, we will continue to lift our voices:

“I love you, Lord:”

I love you, Lord
And I lift my voice
To worship You
Oh, my soul rejoice!
Take joy my King
In what You hear
Let it be a sweet, sweet sound in Your ear

Lord, as we consider the lives of those who continue to breath, and those who have left this earth, may we see their goodness as the blessings of gifts and experiences You poured out onto them, and worked through them.  May everything we see as good lead us to praise Your name.   May our sorrow in grief lead us to lean into Your comfort, into Your counsel.  Thank You for being present and for continuing to teach me, even 10 years later to view this day in a new perspective.  This day is incapable of overcoming me, rather it is a day You continue to reign over.  Thank You Lord, that I cannot fall.  I’ve stumbled, but Your strength has provided rest when I am too tired to consider anything more.  I carry on to lift Your name, sovereign King of all.

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I am undeserving, truly undeserving of these blessings today.

from dropping off a friend to witnessing her spoken word come to life: the visual backdrop

From dropping off a friend to witnessing her spoken word come to life… And this, this was the visual backdrop to it all

Words hold so much value and leave an impression that lingers longer than any smell or touch I’ve experienced.  The sound of a word, a stream of words that encourage the Spirit within me, draw me nearer to the vision Christ lays before me.

I was honored by spending my day accompanying a church, now new student friend through a full day’s itinerary of orientation events.  We’re guilty, we ditched some sessions to pursue our own need for discussion over home-cooked food…twice.

During dinner, she uttered the words, attempting to ease me by saying “I’m not speaking this over you, but I see him coming out of nowhere.”

Thanks God, two hours later and there I am, accidentally, and he came from nowhere.  Not saying this is it at all, but it speaks so much to the power of listening, of believing, and proclaiming the truth God reveals to us to share with one another.

Prophecy, the spiritual gift/super power he actually chose as his “if only” and he himself was the revealing of a spoken word come to fruition.

Joyous laughter is the only method of payment I have to offer tonight.  For God truly is Almighty in provisions for His chosen children.

We’re loved. Be encouraged. Truly, be encouraged and encourage others as you know Christ moves you to press on.

Within 6 hours…I landed a job (same position I held in CA before moving, utilizing my certification right before it is expires)…my parents booked my dream vacation for (most of) our family…and now…I have a date.

“Is this real LORD? Are you sure…I just, this isn’t what I envisioned. Are you sure?” “Yes. Remember when I spoke to you through your sister.” “Yes Lord, I remember.”

Lord, we thank You that You speak and make Yourself known among Your people.  Continue to encourage us everywhere we go.  May we help to make You known among the nations, among the people of every nation right where we are.  Send us as You please, but if here is where You’ve called us, lean in a way that presses us to tend the ground, prune the vines, and water the highest branches.  Your fruit is succulent, the flowers blossoming, the sky–an angelic display before our eyes.  We look to see Your face amongst all people, we yearn to recognize Your presence in every task, as we stride to serve You with excellence.  May we be people of integrity Lord. You my God are deserving of sons and daughters who live genuinely, generous, out-pouring lives for no other reason than to glorify the very name of JESUS.  Praise be Your name forever and ever, Amen.

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This summer I was able to play chauffeur for a brother in Christ who served Christ’s children through the non-profit of my church.

I found myself exposed to Christian and secular rap/hip-hop, and since his departure have continued to digest the intensity of expressed thought and feeling through the poetry.

On a drive we were not intentionally quiet for any partcilar purpose–that I was aware of–I caught on to a lyric “and this will be my legacy,” and asked him, “what will be your legacy?”  I asked with a concept, a predisposition, but wanted to clarify that my prayers, my words of encouragement, my actions had been supportive of his call, in the right way, right direction.   I wanted to know if he was expressing his true self, or if like me, everyone had the wrong idea.

This morning, this morning I know I want to leave the legacy of:

Home matters.

Strange thing is, I never felt safe at home.  How should I know how to run a home? I don’t have a husband or children of my own.  Why should I have the audacity to tell parents to spend intentional time at home with their kids, away from electronics, and to tune into what their child needs, supply proof that their needs are being met, and patiently, gently show that they are safe in your arms, with your compassionate love..

Tonight I have been invited into the home of a dear friend, to join family dinner at a scheduled–predictable and consistent–time.  She sent me the text of “6:30” nothing more to it, and I found myself screaming “Yes! She knows how to love her children.”

Why? Well, I’m in an intensive Trust-Based Relational Intervention workshop this week and have been addressing issues and treatment for families of foster/adoptive children from hard places, post-placement.

Dr. Karyn Purvis makes it so clear, a child’s sense of safety does not depend on your perception, your knowledge that there is plenty of food, no shortage of water, that their bed is their own and no one will intrude, that your hugs can be firm but controlled…that you offer them safety.  Rather, it has to be “felt safety.”

I don’t recall much from my childhood, and most of the stories I can quickly tell may be one or two sentences, with very little adjectives, that have been brought on by others telling me of my past experiences or self-analysis of pictures from the time.

I had reasons, I did.  But in an exercise labeled “Ouch” where one partner wore gloves of velcro and touched the face and arms of the other, I relayed to the class that it felt “soothing.”  Does that make sense to you?  It sure shouldn’t, and yet it means so much.

I’m understimulated because I still, to some extent, don’t feel safe with touch.  Through the past decade of my life (at least), I have learned to cope…predominately in ways I am not proud of.

I inflicted the pain and discomfort on myself that I felt from others, so that I had control.  I attempted to calm myself in ways that did not overlap with a sense of touch that I associated as bad, but that were actually worse (looking back).

Why am I sharing this?

I don’t want us walking around in fear for our own safety, nor for the unknown boundaries others in our lives may have or require.  But I have been living with perameters for some time now, and the journey of discovery where they are, when they were built, and how to safely remove layers of bricks at a time, or maybe it is one brick at a time, is a difficult one.  I wish we all had someone we really truly felt safe with, a community of someones to walk along side us through.

But really, that is where and when Jesus came into my life.  So I am grateful and will continue to lean on Him as I explore this new chaos of my reflective life, to not allow it to shape the way I interact with kids in my future life.

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I opened my phone to a text from a rare sender, extremely rare, my grandmother.

Confused by the content, I gave it some time before looking at the news.  The message was an expression of worry for my life and the lives of my friends who may have been victim in the Lafayette theatre shooting, although there is a great distance between where I live and Lafayette.

My next emotion: a slight anger.

With all the studying, discussing, and acting to reconcile racial tensions and using my “privileged voice” to stand up for and support those who are deserving of respect and an equal voice, I immediately went to “why is she worried about an event that happened so far away and not those which happen here every day?”  The answer in my mind: “because the news only broadcasts the violence that affects the African-American population of New Orleans, of the south really.  She doesn’t see a threat to my life here.”

Unfortunately, my life is less at risk here than many others in the city, who are no more or less deserving of what haunts them day and night.

But this isn’t a blog about segregation, racism, violence, or even racial reconciliation.

For my personal life, for my testimony, it is much bigger than that!

Part of my life I lived ostracized, seen as a complete disgrace as I made the decision to disrespect everything my dad ever offered me.  I chose to be baptized, and that choice seemed, at the time, to end any hope of reconciling the family tension from the previous generation.  I chose to follow Christ, not as an intentional sign of disobedience towards my father’s family, but rather with the desire to become a part of a grace-offering Family.

Now, I see Christ’s Body as so much more, but am still very grateful for our first days together, as I was welcomed into His Family.

It actually wasn’t until I had fully read the Old Testament, as a Christian, that I understood the differences of beliefs and began to understand why my Jewish ancestors were so offended by my believing and following Jesus.  No one ever educated me on the religious standings and their differences of perspective and tradition, during my childhood.

Since serving as the Maid of Honor six years ago for a seemingly Jewish-scientology-like ceremony, then asking my Grandmother about Jesus as Meshiac versus Messiah, and finally tonight’s brief text exchange, I see there is spiritual reconciling for this family line.

I pray they die (when the day comes) with Jesus in their hearts, but for now am in awe that such kind words are shared, “I will love you always,” implying I cannot do anything that would deny myself her love.  That’s different.  She continued, “You’re so special the entire Demlinger and Shapiro family agree.”  (Shapiro, the ever so popular Jewish surname).

What this shows me, is as long as we live completely devoted lives, dedicated to working out what God wills for us, He cannot go unnoticed.  For unconditional love to be shown towards me, at this point in our family history, I know that God is involved, and that is stupendous! “Special,” might we all be known for the special presence that is within our temple.

Jesus we know You are present always.  You make Yourself known and felt by those whom love You.  We come before You, recognizing our differences.  Teach us, encourage us, provide us the voice to stand with our brothers and sisters.  With courage and humility, might we know when to listen, when to speak, when to sit, and when to act, according to Your will Lord.  We praise You for Your invitation into a Family of everlasting love.  It is unconditional.  Here we are Lord, Your servants await Your call.

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Does your ear ever ring at the sound of that word…the one word you so desperately long to hear?

Mentor(ing).

I still find it comical, when answering, “So how did you go from California to a Baptist seminary?” or “How did you end up here?”  It was one conversation, one utterance of breath really.  A need for servants in this city to care and encourage women to fight, leave, and overcome the ties of human trafficking.

Did I stay? Yes.  Am I involved? No, I pray for and with friends who are, but am not personally fighting for the abolition of human trafficking in this city, in any official role.

Rather, I jumped in, advocating for the voice of foster children.  A beautiful thing, truly, something I will always be prayerful and passionate about.

This too, I was never led to pursue.

Round 3…

“Okay, God, I get it.  I love serving you by discipling your children.  It was going to be the women, the girls, I thought.  But then, it seemed it was going to be a foster child.”  “Not now, not here.”  “Whom then, Lord?”

Within the week, I was offered two opportunities.

Both sounded the alarms in my ears, “………MENTORING…..” and “….MENTORING….” I heard little else.

I missed out on necessary information and ended up in situations I had not anticipated.  I didn’t want to call it what it was, but I grew bitter quickly.

“Mentoring, disciplining requires people Lord.  Where are these people?”

My tongue, again, that of a fool speaking when it shall remain still.

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear.  Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.  Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you.   As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart.  Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people” (Ephesians 6:5-7).

If I love to say, “I am free from my slavery to sin, and I have become a slave to righteous living, for I have chosen to obey Christ and the will of God” (Romans 6:16,18), then I must do just that, obey the will of God and work with enthusiasm as though I have the privilege to bow at Christ’s feet and wash them myself.

These files are not the mundane, these files are documentation of the will of God!

They aren’t faceless, sparse depictions of people, they are relationships forming, children of God joining together for the sake of His glory, discipling one another.

I might be the administrator of it, and not be a participant, but still God is being graced by this work.  I am His servant.

No more wasting time just sitting around. This girl is a servant of the Lord, work is to be done.

Week 3 in this position, still without a present employer, and now I see a glimpse of what God has orchestrated.  Yesterday I was given the place, the hopes, the kids, the timeline of opportunity.   Connecting with individuals around this city, leading them to invest in a mentoring relationship with kids (little ones) and remaining with them through graduation.  Committing life to one another, as we have in Christ.  The vision was shared, and now I get to see it through.

I am advocating the need, and mediating the formation of these relationships.  This seems to embody each role, I previously sought, as one united theme.

This dreamer has been given the fingers to type, the ears to hear the phone ring, and the car to go into the churches and make this happen.

So, rather than rationalizing how I am removing myself from a position I did not see coming, I have a thankful heart with an appearance of gladness as I am able to pull resources in both roles and see this city come before Christ as His bride.

Disciples make disciples.  These are more than words, this is life opening up before me.

LORD Jesus, I want to plant seeds of sweet tasting fruit, of flowers that ooze with perfume.  Might my tongue be struck when it smites You and the work You are doing.  Lord, I know that I do not always know.  I recognize that I am still gaining understanding.  But I have no excuse to question You.  There is no such timing as perfect as Yours.  Thank You, for I hear the instruments, there are children everywhere shouting Your name in glee.  I pray for Your Family, Lord, might we come together as One Body, separated by nothing, joined by the blood You have already shed.  You are patient, my God, thank You for not giving up on this stubborn fool.  You continue to inspire the work that is produced by my living breath, and as Your servant, this work will be used in beautiful ways.  Glory is forever Yours!

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“She has been dreaming of this since she was 10.  This is a bucket list check for her.”

I found myself, practically whining, “Mom,” trying to quiet her from embarrassing me in front of our Costa Rican ATV guides.  Mind you, I had already perfectly jumped and rolled off (with scrapes and bruises rather than a fatal injury) my quad hours before.  If anything was embarrassing, it was that.  And I wasn’t embarrassed. Rather, I was frustrated that my incapability to make that sharp turn down a steep mountain ridge prevented me from manning my own ATV for the next hour.  Pride and disrespect, my downfalls.

Day two was my trigger.

Before setting off for Costa Rica with my family, I traveled from New Orleans to California (my parent’s home), with a prayer force behind me.  I had every intention of talking with my mom about her beliefs of Christianity, her desire, and the reality of her relationship with Jesus.  I wanted and want to know if my mom’s heart continues to yearn for intimacy with an all-knowing and loving God.

It didn’t happen. I used sickness as an excuse, but now I realize that it was my own weakness.  I was in my own way.  I’ve awaited a time to be physically present with her to speak boldly only the words the Holy Spirit leads me to reveal, and to have a patient ear with her, all while serving her in her desired way of intentional, devoted time together.  And now it passed.  My lack of obedience has not failed God’s ability to love my mother.  He continues to embrace her and call her loved, even though I was unable to deliver the message.

Perhaps, even, I removed myself (yes, in disobedience), with the intent of removing the ability to pridefully claim the responsibility and authority of bringing Christ’s name to her tongue.  But that is already a confession I’ve brought to Jesus and believed was redeemed by instilling the continual proclamation that He has authority over everything–her life, my life, and our relationship included.

On day three in Costa Rica, I was separated from my family and was given the opportunity to talk about family culture with a rafting guide.  Felix grew up going to the same school, living within the same block as his now wife and mother of his two girls.  He lives within 100 meters of both his mom and mother-in-law.  Every morning, he wakes up at 4 a.m. and heads to his mother’s house for coffee and breakfast before heading to work, because he knows it touches her heart to be able to serve him breakfast and later wash his kayak equipment.  He honors her by allowing her to continue the work she has always done in his life.

He spent 3 years of middle school in Florida (his only time away from this block his entire life). So when given the opportunity, I asked, “Did you miss your mom while you were away?” His answer surprised me.  He spoke of missing the ability to have a conversation with friends.  He wasn’t speaking of a longing to converse with friends in Costa Rica, it was his beginner-level English that prevented him from feeling apart of the community.  He noted the Cuban population, but primarily lived in Florida feeling he was one of very few Spanish speakers.  But just because he didn’t miss his mom doesn’t mean he is frustrated now spending every day trying to please her.  That was my first and ungodly impression.  He thoroughly enjoys it.  He seeks to please and honor both his father and mother.

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you (Exodus 20:12).

He accepts this commandment and believes God’s promise.

On day nine, I had a conversation that left me near the same. Leelander lives in a town of no more than 400, a town that requires off-roading for 25 minutes in order to get to, and owns one short-semi-truck hired for all deliveries.  He lives with his wife and two children, owns a steeple, and helps his father move the cows on the top of the mountain (his farm, 6 miles above the town, accessible only on horseback).  Jokingly, but genuinely, he shared, “when I need to reach them, I throw a rock at their roof.  One that won’t break anything.” His father and sister’s family both live within three houses of each other, and he has never left the town for any extended period of time.

The blow to my so-thought humble appeal:

On a Leelander-made hike to their private waterfall, he and I defined and spoke of the presence of psychological and spiritual concerns in the town. When we reached the top, he asked, “Are you Catholic?” speaking to the group–my mom, one brother, and I.  My mom quickly answered “Christian,” to which Leelander pointed to my brother, then me.  After my brow furrowed hearing my brother say “Christian,” I stated, “I’m Christian.”  I didn’t mean anything by it, but maybe I did.  I truly didn’t see the harm in identifying “I’m,” but my mom barked back, “I’m?”  My platform, if it did ever exist, was gone.

Again, I was faced with the reality: I separate myself from identifying with my family.  It is the weakness that keeps me identifying with the testimony of being the only Christian in my family. It is the arrogance that suggests I have a better path, which I do in Christ, but the path I have in mind, might be of my own imagination.  Sometimes, God is revelationary in my life (Romans 1:19) and my family is for a moment, completely surrendered before Him.  I’m not holding back.  But then, when the time comes to see the fruit come from this devotion, I raise my head and attempt to speak from my own throne.  I am not a god worth standing before.  I shall not be a god in my own life, and no good can come from me trying to speak my own accord in someone else’s life.

My challenge continues to be: Bow before the LORD in posture and in attitude as you revel in all He has done, is doing, and will do in and through you.  Through Him and with great compassion, a devotion to glorify Him will allow future witness of His splendor.

I continue to commit my family to the Lord.  I know that when given the opportunity again, I cannot distance myself from Him, but rather, shall cling to Him in every breath as to not speak highly of myself before my family. For they know my flaws, and my flaws are no kind of reflection of God who lives within me. Might they grow to delight in the fullness of loving and being loved by Abba, with Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Spirit.

I already had forgiveness in my heart, that was a beautiful wrecking and surrendering that happened years ago, and deepened months ago.  This trip, these 15 days with my mom, paps, and brothers taught me to genuinely love my mom.  It wasn’t a task or a duty, it was affection.  Completely and utterly out of compassion and gratitude for who she is in my life.  I am nearly sure, I have never felt anything like it before.

Father, You call us close to You.  We fall away and You call after us, leading us home.  You are a great and mighty warrior, a compassionate lover, and dedicated teacher.  Praise be to Your name.  I ask you to teach this stubborn heart how to speak wisely, with few words, in adoration of everything you show yourself to be.  Might I continue to believe in You with confidence, and believe Your every utterance to me.  Your promises are great, and are a reward far greater than I deserve.  I thank You Abba, for the example of Abraham’s faith.  I long to see peoples, as many as every grain of sand, come before You LORD.  I know that Abraham did not live the years to witness the fruition of Your promises, during his days on earth, and yet, He lived close with You.  He is human, and I am human.  You created us LORD to be reflections of Your goodness, and yet we fail You.  I praise You LORD that You are far greater than I am weak.  That You still revel and make Yourself known even when I defile Your very name.  I did not mean to LORD, but I know that through a wicked heart that strays from intimacy with You, comes spoiled fruit.  You call me to Yourself, and it is with You, that all Your beauty that is around me will be enjoyed.  I want to rejoice with You.  Please hear this cry, as I know You already have.  Shine the light Jesus, as You already do.  I want to walk with You all of my days.  Keep me from promoting myself before my family’s eyes.  They do not need to know of anything that is corrupt or disingenuous.  LORD I ask thee, might I have the discipline to be genuine, completely devoted to allowing them to see the wreck that I am and the magnificent grace You have shown me. 

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