7.06.2014

{overwhelmed}

After months of planning, dreaming, talking, saving, we arrived at Hilton Head Island. In the middle of a horrendous downpour. Unable to do the anticipated mad dash to the beach, we instead unloaded, unpacked, and headed to the grocery store to buy what we would need for the week. By the time we got back to our villa and had supper it was no longer raining, but it was also completely dark.

Despite the late hour, I still wanted to touch the beach... to see the ocean... even if by a moonlit sky. We were only a short walk over the boardwalk away, after all. And it had stopped raining. And it was our first time ever at Hilton Head. And my first time ever to see the ocean... and so we went.

As we walked across the boardwalk in the dark, I thought about my only other attempt to visit the ocean. I was eighteen years old with a friend of mine. We set out on the road for Virginia Beach, only to have the transmission go out on our car in the middle of the night in West Virginia. Days later with a brand spankin' new transmission we headed on... only to arrive in Virginia Beach in the middle of a tropical storm that had all local beaches closed. We spent one night within walking distance of the ocean, yet I headed home never having laid eyes on it.

This trip would not be the same. Come storm or high water or late arrivals- I would see the ocean. And not just the glimpse we could catch from our balcony... I wanted to touch it. To take in the enormity of the OCEAN... to gaze out over the endless waters and marvel at the fact that God measures all of it in the cup of His palm. I wanted to be overwhelmed... by the ocean, by the beauty of creation, by my God.

As we neared the ocean, the remnants of the evenings storms were still palpable in the air. The wind was rushing into our faces, making the perfect towel-cape blowing scenario for an eleven year old boy.  Yet within me was a growing unease. We passed only four people on the entire boardwalk. We saw no lights and heard no other voices in the night air. The roar of the waves grew louder. And with clouds overtaking the moon, darkness closed in on us as we stepped from the boardwalk to the beach. 

Jim, having been to the beach many times marched onward toward the waves. Tali, flashlight in hand followed close behind. Zach stood with me on the beach path for a few minutes, then seeing that nothing swooped in and swept away the rest of his family, he joined his sister and dad further down on the beach.

And I stood, frozen. The ocean was so LOUD. Why didn't I realize it would be so loud? A short distance away I could see the white waves crashing against the shore but other than that there was only the black of the night sky meeting the black of the water.  With the wind howling around me, darkness surrounding, and the roar of the ocean overtaking my senses… I was gripped with fear.

A couple came stumbling toward me as my family giggled a few yards down the beach. “Be careful!” the guy laughed… “you’ll get lost!” The girl picked up where he left off telling me about their nighttime adventure strolling the beach. Their words were full of joy… and yet they drove the stake of terror deeper into my heart. Lost?! The couple wandered away, giggling and holding hands.

“Let’s come back tomorrow” I called out to my family. They were straying too far into the darkness for my liking. While I couldn’t really see the ocean, I could feel it’s power and immensity. I was overwhelmed in the purest sense of the word. I was paralyzed with fear and terrified for my family to go any farther on the dark beach.

My son ran by me, towel over his head and flying behind him in proper fashion. Tali investigated something with her flashlight. Jim called out for me to come join him. But my feet would not move from their spot at the end of the boardwalk. Fear was gripping me, growing from a nagging concern deep in my heart to an overwhelming anxiety and confusion. I couldn't make sense of anything, it was all so unknown. As hard as I strained into the darkness I could only see black with a bit of white foam interrupting sporadically. 

Once, it took a storm to keep me from realizing my dream of walking in the ocean. This time, it took only my own fear of the unknown. I was 37 years old, standing on the shore for the first time in my life, and I was terrified. 

As I stood there, I could hear God whispering... teaching. I had come to the ocean to see His face, in a way. I wanted to TOUCH the immensity of the ocean that He holds in the depth of His palm. I wanted to look farther than my eye could see and know there was STILL MORE… that the waters went on and on and on and on. That they went down to depths I can't even imagine… just like this God that I love. Just like this God that loves me.

But we want to meet God in the bright light of day. In the comfort of a church sanctuary, or in the blessing of a new baby. We don't want to meet God in the darkness... when confusion and chaos abounds and all we hear is the roar of His power.

How many find themselves frozen at the end of the boardwalk when God is right there. Unable to see clearly, we don’t know where to step, or what this journey will require. How far can we go and be safe? How far can we go and not get lost? What if it overtakes us? What if it literally overwhelms us, sweeping over our heads and requiring everything? What if?

I looked at my family’s reactions to the exact same beach in the exact same dark with the exact same wind blowing their faces and the exact same ocean roar assaulting their ears.

My husband, having been to a beach at night before knew that there would be soft waters at the edge to warn you that you are close. He understood the gradual slope of a natural beach, and how far one would have to go to get even knee deep in the dark waters.  If he feared, he did not show it. He trusted what he knew about the ocean and the beach… and he marched confidently toward the waves.

My daughter, flashlight in hand and close behind the one she knew would never, ever lead her into danger didn't register a hint of fear either. She had a bit of light in her hand to illuminate her steps immediately before her, and was close to one that she trusted.

My son, hanging back at first. Pacing fearfully… yet anxious not to miss out on a single adventure this vacation had to offer. Waiting to make sure dad and sister were okay- then running with abandon around the beach.

They were not hindered by fear, at least not their own.

They were not hindered by fear, until I called out to them to return. Until they heard it in my voice, despite my chipper “let’s come back in the morning, when it’s light… We can come back when we can see and explore”… I am certain they all knew from my frozen stance on the beach that mom was not comfortable with this scenario. Not one little bit.

They were not hindered by fear, I until hindered them with mine.

Today we returned to the same beach by the same boardwalk. The wind is blowing in my face as I type these words. The roar of the ocean drowning out the squeals of nearby children.

But it’s entirely different in the light of day.

The ocean has not changed. It is still immense. Powerful. As I waded out in it this morning, waves crashed over my head and I cried out with delight. Psalm 42:7  immediately came to mind… “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.” Literally His waves and breakers swept over me. And in the Light… it was welcomed and beautiful.

Before we know God… before we have His Light… He is so much. The power and the might and the majesty is just… too much. It is too dark and too frightening… too awesome. And we are overwhelmed. But if we would trust one who had walked before us, or take with us a tiny hand held light from His Word, or look to those running with abandon even in the unknown of His presence… maybe then we would have the confidence to step out of our fear and into the enormity of who He is.

Having met the ocean in the light, I’m curious what my response will be if we return tonight. I have a feeling that, having known the Light I will now have the confidence to explore even in the night.

When I came to the Lord, it was initially terrifying. I looked into my sin stained life and knew… the requirement would be high. I knew that He wasn't a God satisfied with a portion, but that in time, He would want it all. Everything. But, like the sun rising in my life I could see His beauty. I could see both His immensity, and the gentle way He crashed to the shore… the gradual slope of the beach into His depths. Even how, if we plant ourselves in beach chairs a safe distance from the crashing surf… He will eventually make His way to us with His rising tides tickling our toes.

Last night as we returned to our villa, not having touched the ocean, the Lord asked me if I was willing to trust Him in the dark, as well. To trust Him in the unknown… to trust Him in the dreams He has planted in my heart. To know that He is the same God at night as He is during the day… to take my knowledge of His gentle surf into the darkness with me. And to TRUST.

I wonder, reader, where you are in your experience with God? Is He still an overwhelming unknown? Take comfort in the scripture that says “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”… know that as He did with me, on this beach last night… He will meet you in your fear, and begin to teach you the unsearchable truths of His Kingdom. Also remember that this is only the beginning of wisdom- He never desired that we would stay in this place. Rather He tells us that perfectlove casts out all fear! Take a step into the unknown, and then like dawn His light will begin to shine over your life. You will see and know the wonders of our Lord…

Or maybe you are like me… you have been walking with the Lord for some time now. You have known His miracles and seen His good works. You have seen His hand of protection and providence in your life. You have learned to trust Him in the light… but now the path before you is uncertain. It’s big and frightening and it seems as though it may overtake you. He wants you to be reminded today that He is the same God in the dark as He is in the light. He is the same God in the day as the night. He is the same God who met you in your first adventure on the beach, and He is the same God that will be there when your dream is within reach. He is the same.

Don’t let your fear tell you anything differently. Don’t let your fear cause you to focus on the roar of His power and miss the gentle tickling of the surf on your toes. Don’t let your fear convince you that the darkness will win. Don’t let your fear hold you captive at the end of the boardwalk.

Don't let your fear hinder you. 

Don't let your fear hinder the ones you love.

I wish this tale was one of a family who, in their excited first night at the beach, giggled and ran along the shoreline. How we got lost… and then found our way again. How we made memories that first night that will last a lifetime. But instead, my fear caused us to turn just shy of the ocean and return to the safety of what we already knew. I let my fear keep them from a memory, hold me back from putting my toes in the ocean...

Today we get a re-do. Today we sit at the beach and enjoy the surf and take in the wonder of God's
handiwork. Today, I stood at the edge of an endless ocean and cried tears at the enormous beauty of it all. Today we played in the surf and napped at the waters edge. Tonight we can walk to the beach again, and take with us the knowledge of what we saw in the light. I can step into the unknown confidently, taking with me the lessons learned last night.

We don't always get a re-do in this life. Friends, don't let your fear of the unknown you paralyze you at the end of the boardwalk. Don't let the dream you can't see clearly fade into the distance as you return to the thing you have already known. Don't miss out on adventure with our great, big God because His power seems so overwhelming in the darkness of this life.

Step into the sand. Let the enormous power of the ocean meet you with gentle surf. Take it all in.

Don't let fear hinder you... or the ones you love.




6.15.2014

{when you miss your dad}

I was a little girl who looked at her daddy with all adoring doe-eyes. He loved me well, took me under his wing when the father the world had assigned to me threw me away… he could do no wrong in my eyes.  I would stand on the top of his cowboy boots and straining my neck to look straight up into his eyes we would dance around.  He could set up a tent in the dark of night by only the lights of our pick up truck.  He could embarrass my mom as we made our way through 3D (remember that store?) in ways unimaginable to most families. We laughed. A LOT.

Once, we were on our way to family church camp, and the hood flew up on the bus completing obstructing the windshield. Everyone on that bus remembers with laughter how he stuck his head out the window and calmly guided us to the side of the road, hopped out, tied the hood down with a rope, and then got back in- all without breaking a sweat.

That is the super-hero daddy that I knew.

Looking back, I know that he didn’t get it all right. Looking farther back into his past I know that he flat out got some things very wrong.  But my memories are so full of joy, that my heart cannot rest on the mistakes for very long.

I am not one to get caught up much on dates on the calendar. Since he passed away, I note the date that marks the anniversary of his death, and of course his birthday… but generally I have said that I miss him no more or less on those days than any of the other days of the year. Father’s Day comes and goes year after year with very few “woes” to me and my daddy’s girl heart because I’m busy celebrating the amazing dads still here in my life- my husband, step-dad, father-in-law and countless others.

No, it’s seldom a holiday or anniversary that causes that dull ache in my heart to split open into a sharp pain. But that doesn't mean I don't have them... it's just that, for me, they creep up at the most unexpected times.

It’s passing an amazing bunch of wildflowers on the road and thinking “Dad so would have stopped to get a bouquet of THOSE for mom”. A thought that I haven’t had for years, but seeing these giant purple blossoms brought that pang of remembrance and longing. Telling Zachary stories of many a wasted hour picking “weeds” we saw as flowers with my dad, more often than not while we were on our way somewhere and already running late. Pulling over with Zach to grab a picture (my version of a bouquet)… and thinking how much my little man would have loved my dad. How much Papaw Joe would have loved this kid and his quick wit. How loudly he would have cheered at football games. The shirts he would have made that said "Tali & Zach's Grandpa"... he was just that kind of guy.

It’s sitting on concrete benches at the Bicknell ball park as Jim coaches our son, remembering sitting on those very benches as dad coached the little “Mets” ball team (they were just as uncomfortable as a ten year old girl as they are now).  Watching him out on the ball field in his coach’s shirt, jeans, and cowboy boots cheering on the little guys on his team with everything he had and arguing unfair calls even more energetically. 

could I have sat any closer to him?
It's glancing over my shoulder from that concrete bench and pointing out my childhood home to the friend sitting with me. A little gray house on a corner, close enough to the ball park that we could enjoy rocket pops and fun dip all.summer.long.  I think about playing Frisbee in the field across the street. Learning to ride my bike in the road right behind me. The swing that sat outside that house and played such a prominent role in our happiest summer nights. Fireworks set off on the Fourth of July.  And this feeling creeping in that it’s not really fair that he was never able to see a single one of Z’s games, or Tali’s dance recitals. Oh the bouquet of flowers he would have brought her! I imagine a few weeds stuck in for good measure…

It’s walking through a thrift store and catching sight of a wagon-wheel clad couch… you know the ones, brown and cream and orange with dark wood trim in all of their early 80’s glory. It’s remembering sitting with your hero on just such a couch as the record player crooned the words to “Rose Colored Glasses”, your daddy singing along in that out-of-tune way he had about belting out his favorite songs.

It’s driving down the road with my knee. Spinning donuts with Jim and the kids on an empty parking lot after a snowstorm.  Seeing the way my brother smiles, cocking his head to the side with a glint in his eye that must be genetic.

Or last night, as I photographed a bride in white dancing with her daddy. The way that they looked at one another- a daddy’s girl all grown up but still looking into the eyes of her hero.  And wishing I could have had that memory. Wishing that one last time, I could have kicked off my shoes and stood atop his cowboy boots and twirled around a dance floor. A princess, and the man who made her feel that way…

Most of the time, when I think of dad it is with a happy smile and joy in knowing I will see him again. But occasionally, it is like this feeling of longing and what-if and missing out.  I am learning, that’s okay. For years I have choked back these feelings of sadness. I have pushed them at arms length for fear that the feelings would actually overwhelm me, overtake me. But Jesus is teaching me that, even in this, He is my strong tower. And that the only way to march through the waves is to let them hit you. As my sweet friend, Lauren, reminded me this week... our Father is a good one who will lift us at just the right time, so that the waves don't overtake us.

Maybe you are missing someone like that too. Take heart, dear one. Take heart that our Heavenly Father understand our grief. He understands the pain of separation from the One He loves. And like any good Daddy, he holds us in these moments of grief. He weeps with us, and whispers gently words of comfort and love and understanding.

He doesn’t want us to stay in this place, but He does want us to be honest with Him about it. To ask Him why, tell Him we don’t understand, to lean our heads on his ever-strong chest and let Him catch each tear that falls. He wants us to trust Him when the waves feel strong... and at just the right time He will lift us... or even better, He will part the sea and let us walk through on dry land.

Would you let me pray for you?
Father, oh God... Abba... I thank you that you are a good God and a good Father. I thank you that you come right where we are, that you meet us even in grief and sadness. Lord, I pray for those who are hurting tonight, for those who, like me, are missing their daddies. I pray Lord that you would be near to the brokenhearted, as your Word promises. I pray that you would be near to this daddy's-girl-heart tonight. I am thankful to know that in Jesus, we have a Savior who knows exactly what we are feeling, that He also wept, and that it's okay to rest for a while in our feelings. To actually FEEL the things some of us have kept at arms length. I thank you God, that you are the lifter of our heads... would you keep our eyes focused on your goodness, your mercy, and your love. Would you remind us of the great hope we find in eternity, and the great reunions that will some day take place? Would you mend hearts tonight? Catch tears? Would you capture us up in your arms, and dance with us atop your ever strong, ever steady feet? I thank you, Father, that all that you are... you are for each and every one of us. In Your Son's beautiful Name I pray... AMEN.

For more on how our Daddy God holds you in your grief:  a daddy's love
To read more about my daddy, and how he loved me: tale of a father's love

6.10.2014

Learning to run my race

My husband and I watched with great anticipation as our daughter took her place on the track.  It was the first track meet of the season, and she would be running the second leg of the 4x100m relay. The gun sounded and her friend sprinted toward her, the baton was handed off, and Tali took off. Well, she sort of took off. She looked every part the runner, her stride was long and beautiful, her back was straight, her arms were pumping appropriately... but it looked as though she was running into a strong headwind no one else was experiencing.  The kids from other schools quickly pulled away from her in that 100m and when Tali handed off the baton to her teammate, they were solidly in last place.

Our kids have not necessarily been ones who excelled at everything they put their effort to, but they have usually been near the front of the proverbial pack. This sinking to last was a new feeling for Tali.. and for mom and dad cheering from the crowd.

I wondered how she would do as her team came across the finish line in last place. Worried I watched for a crestfallen expression, slumped shoulders, all the symptoms of defeat... and instead I saw Tali skipping and laughing across the infield to meet the rest of her team. I observed her joking with friends on the bleachers between events. I watched as she went to help other runners with the starting blocks. She was just fine.

As we marched our way through track season, very little changed. Tali did occasionally get placed on the fastest relay team for her school, which meant despite her running-into-a-headwind-technique she still managed to pull a couple of blue ribbons with her team. She remained steadfast and faithful to track practice, despite the fact that when I asked how it went she would answer "awful!" with the biggest smile.

So at the last meet of the season, I knew what to expect. My friend had joined me to keep me company and to cheer Tali on. I warned her about the headwind, and she laughed with me when it came to pass. Another event and much of the same.

That's when the social-worker-I-care-about-feelings rose up in my friend and she asked "How is she doing with all of this".

"All of what?"

"All of this, you know... not excelling at something" (<--- which is a very nice social-worker-i-care-about-feelings way of saying losing). 

I paused. And I realized... she's doing really good with it all.

Actually, she is excelling at... being mediocre (at best)... sticking with something that is HARD... maintaining a positive attitude even when she isn't clutching a fist full of blue ribbons or hearing her name over the loud speaker.

And sitting there with the cold wind blowing and a thick quilt over my legs at a junior high track meet, I realized that this is the very lesson the Lord has been teaching me for the last eighteen months. How to run my own race, even when I'm not hearing my name announced over the loud speaker or earning blue ribbons. And even more, how to run the same race... when I am receiving those things. 

A few years ago, with a heart bursting full of words and encouragement and love of a Savior, I started this blog. I wrote the words He placed on my heart with abandon and joy, and I was simply amazed anytime someone would comment or click or share. I never expected to be a "big deal", I was just loving the race that He had me running and that it included something I loved so much. THIS. Writing. Sharing His truth and grace and love. Encouraging.

But somewhere along the race, I started looking to the right and to the left. I strained my eyes to look at the runners ahead of me, and glanced over my shoulder and those behind... and the comparison game began. I became obsessed with the numbers on the stat screen.  My heart wanted to walk in humility, I refused to self-promote beyond a single share on facebook, but I could feel the tightening of pride when others were more "successful" than I... and envy would make a strangle hold on my heart. I found my eyes darting toward the crowd and wondering how many of those eyes were on me, cheering for me... or were they all looking to the one finishing so far ahead? And then, when I heard my name... my heart would pound with the ecstasy of affirmation.

As I became jealous for the attention of others, Jesus became jealous for mine. And because He is a good God, faithful even when we are not, He stepped in and saved me from myself.

The writing stopped. The teaching paused. And a break began.

You guys, I am writing this from the most raw place that I can. I am raising my hand and saying "Hi, my name is Becky, and I am a recovering approval addict". I am admitting that I lived in a place of jealousy and fear. My eyes had strayed from Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith. My mind was no longer fixed on the one that promises perfect peace.  I dared not dream big for myself, for fear of failure. What would people think if... I dared not dream for ME, because the dream she was walking in seemed to be working better.  I was a mess of contradictions... I wanted affirmation in the small things but was afraid to walk in the actual call on my life for fear it would look like pride.  I knew that in all things I was nothing without Him, I didn't want His glory for myself, just a little affirmation from man so I would know I was on the right track. As it seems to be with all things in me, that need for a little grew to to a need for a LOT. And I didn't even know it!

Over the last year and a half, He has been refocusing my attention. He has turned my eyes back to His and reminded me that only His affirmation matters. He has taught me that false humility is really pride, and that genuine humility only comes from hiding oneself deep in His heart. He has healed wounds I didn't even realize were there, and has offered me a whole, unblemished, unwounded heart.

He has loved me well. And gently. He has cheered me on from the stands as I ran... and failed. He has taught me to look to Him at that moment with a smile on my face and genuine joy in my heart and mouth the words "I tried!!!"  He has calmed my heart with the quiet whisper of "well done" when I doubted the step I had just taken. He has winked with a smile when that thing done in secret, stayed in secret. He has beamed when I cheered a teammate across the finish line, or held the starting block for her so that her footing would be sure as she takes off.

His plan had not changed... and for me it still included this... Writing. Encouraging. Sharing. But He had to push the pause button to teach me how to focus on Him and Him alone, so that I can be free. So that I can be free of the affirmation addiction I found myself spinning in. So that I can be free of need for approval of man. So that I can be free of fear of man. So that I can be free in Him, to say and do whatever He would call me to- as crazy as it sounds or seems or is. So that I can be free to cheer on others who are running faster than me. Achieving things in this world, and receiving the affirmation of others, and my heart can well up with genuine JOY and say "you go girl!"

Just as Tali hopped in my car that day, bragging about the super fast time her friend had run in the 100 meter.  I asked her as we pulled out of the parking lot how she felt the season went for her and the answer came with no hesitation, "really good... Mrs. Dillon told me that I have improved a lot this season" and she proceeded to rattle off times that demonstrated her personal improvement.

And there it is.

My daughter went into this track season knowing that she would probably be running at the back of the pack. And she was okay with that. Her goals were to stay in shape, and to improve on her personal times during the season. And she did. Because she kept her eyes on her own race, and didn't bother with comparing herself to her friends who were created to run. Had she started looking around played the comparison game, how long before discouragement set in? 

My friend, set your eyes on your own race. Trust the path that Jesus has you on. I promise you, it isn't going to look like my race, or her race, or his race... because He is a creative Creator and He has laid out a path unique to you. It doesn't matter if others hear the cheer of the crowd for something you wish you could have done as well... because your Father is still in the stands screaming like crazy because He knows... He knows what your time was yesterday and last week and three years ago... He knows how far you have come!! And so He has a giant foam finger with your name on it and He is chanting YOUR name with abandon. Keep your eye in your lane, and run the race set before you, and no matter how long it takes you to make your way around that track when you [finally] do, He will greet you at the finish line and with a hug whisper the sweetest of all words "well done..."

I am not saying that I have this approval thing all figured out. But He has been confirming again and again and again that this is where He wants me in this season. Writing. Sharing. Encouraging. He has calmed my heart with the promise that He loves me enough to strip away anything that becomes a distraction, even ministry. So I can put words to screen and offer them to you... all the while trusting HIM. He's letting me throw my hat back in this ring, and I'm going in knowing that I may be running around at the back of the pack... and that's okay. Because I hear my Daddy cheering from the stands, and that's all that matters.


For more on keeping your eyes on Jesus and breaking free of affirmation addiction:
Bob Sorge, It's Not Business, It's Peronal 
Jennifer Dukes Lee, Love Idol
In addition to God's personal voice speaking to me, these books were instrumental in awakening my heart to the truth of God's jealous love for me, and the empty promise man's affirmation holds. 

11.12.2012

devo//so this is LOVE

1 John 2:7-11
Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.
Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. 10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 11 But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.
I have been praying over these verses all day. What, Father, would you have me to say.

Yes, the command John writes for us, it is both old and new. This command to love God and to love our brothers, it has been the desire of God's heart since He spoke and the universe was formed. The command to love God, and to demonstrate that love through our obedience is strewn through the Old Testament. Instructions to care for the widow and orphan, to love one another, to care for our neighbor... we find this throughout scripture as well. It's also new in that Jesus took it to a whole new level- who is your neighbor? Love your enemy! Forgive one another, and seek forgiveness! And do all of this with the power of the Holy Spirit He sent to take up residence in our hearts... He doesn't just give us the command, but He equips us to actually do it.

Yes, I can't say that I love God and then also hate my brother. That makes sense. Love comes from the Light. The Light is Love.

All true, but there is more. There is another layer here. Help me uncover it Father. What would YOU have me to say? To share? To teach? To learn? What is there that I am not seeing?

I have read the study notes in three different Bibles. I have sought His face, His voice. I have prayed. I have contemplated. I read the passage in several translations... and then, as so often is the case, the Message spoke right to my heart... another layer...
Anyone who claims to live in God’s light and hates a brother or sister is still in the dark. It’s the person who loves brother and sister who dwells in God’s light and doesn’t block the light from others. But whoever hates is still in the dark, stumbles around in the dark, doesn’t know which end is up, blinded by the darkness. (vs 9-11).
Do you see it? Do you see it right there in the middle... It's the person who loves brother and sister who dwells in God's light and doesn't block the light from others.

I want to be a Lightbearer. Not a Light-blocker. I want to dwell in God's Light. Live right there in it's warmth. Welcome it's uncovering of the darkness in my heart. I want it to shine in me and through me and spill out onto others.

And what does that look like? What does dwelling in the Light look like? What does not-blocking-the-Light entail???

Love.

It's the person who loves....

You see, one thing I know about God is that He is love... and that one cannot grow closer to Him without growing in their own capacity to love. You invite God into your heart in a greater and greater measure, then you are inviting Love into your heart in a greater and greater measure...

and it will be evidenced in your life.

it will shine in you and through you and spill out on onto others.

Your love for God is evidenced in your love for your brother and sisters. And this love does not block the light from others.

I'm going to take it a step further. Because the Jews of Jesus' day got all tripped up on the language used... who is our neighbor, Rabbi? And then Jesus set everything they knew on its ear. As Christians we do the same thing. Even today, seeking His revelation on this passage, I searched out the meaning of "brother" here... who is our brother?  Is He just talking about other Christians here? Our brothers and sisters in Christ?? After all the New Living Translation actually says "but hates a Christian brother or sister" in verse 9...

But I can't shake the feeling that defining our brothers as just those who think like us... is... so narrow. That if we were to ask Jesus "who is our brother" He would tell us a parable that would set everything we understood on its ear.

That we aren't just called to love those who already know Jesus because... frankly, that's not the way Jesus Himself loved.

Jesus specifically sought out the homes of the sinners, the tax collectors, the cast offs. He met up with the woman at the well, on purpose... He met her right where she was and He loved her right out of that place. He didn't wait for her to "come clean" before He offered her the Living Water. He loved her first, exposed her sin later, and a whole town was won in the end.

I wonder, when we say we want to love like Jesus, look like Jesus, be His hands & feet & heart... I wonder... if it shouldn't look like this?

I want to tread carefully here. I want you to hear my heart on this...

Because I really do believe that the love of Jesus is a radical love, and so the love of Jesus flowing through us should look a little crazy, overwhelming, radical... and a little less like judgement.

I say this with caution, because I am not a "judge not lest ye be judged" kind of person... I know that read in context that this verse tells us we need to be a lot more concerned with walking in holiness ourselves so that we can see and help our brother with the speck in his eye (check it out, that's really what it says). More on that in another post, perhaps.

This is my heart tonight... this is my heart for the lost, dying, hurting, broken, not-knowing-Jesus world...

They will never be won by a picket sign. 

Or a picture of an aborted fetus.

Or a pointing finger.

Or an "us vs. them" mentality.

This world will only be won by His love.

I may stumble my way back to church out of a fear of Hell... but it's only a discovery of His love that will keep me there. 

And since the lost aren't listening for His voice...
they can only know His love as it pours into us, through us, spilling out of us onto them.

Even when they are waist deep in the sinful life.

And this love does not block the light from others.

I sat on the floor with one crying from the depth of her soul. Her own sin so shocking to her that she could not even speak. The wails and the moans that poured forth ripped through my spirit. And I was overwhelmed with love for her. Not because I am so good, or so perfect, or so holy... but because I asked God to equip me in that moment and that's what He gave me. Love. Why love? Because condemnation, in that moment, would have locked her in a prison of shame and guilt and fear... but love... oh LOVE BRINGS FORTH THE LIGHT. And she needed the Light then more than any other time in her life. She needed love.

Isn't that how Jesus loved?

But the church... oh we so often act more like the religious leaders who brought the adulterous woman before Jesus, ready to stone her.  Picking and choosing the sins to highlight (the man was not brought forth, as the law would have also required).  Pointing to her sin as much greater than our own. Carrying our picket sign against it.

But Jesus... He didn't join the crowd. No instead...
Jesus... forgave.
Jesus... loved.

And this love poured Light into her life.

I want my love to do the same thing. I want my witness to be one that builds up rather than condemns. I want my life to be one that doesn't block the light from others.

That's why my words on Facebook, and this blog, and I hope in my life reveal so much more about the things that I am for than the things I am against. Because when I speak out against abortion, there very well could be a woman at the table across from me, who has walked through that [some statistics show that as many as one out of three women are post-abortive]. I made that mistake the other day, and in my spirit I just knew that there was one in the room who was staring at her hands because she had been there... and that my words did not encourage, or build her up, or remind her how precious she is to the Father... but brought  feelings of shame and guilt and fear.

Oh, Father...Did I block your light?

One out of three. That is frightening on so many levels... oh those women! Oh how their hearts must ache! How their minds must wonder... "what if..."  One out of three. That means an anti-abortion message on my Facebook wall could block the light for as many as three hundred women. I'm not saying you shouldn't post these things on Facebook, or speak them in your life... I am explaining my own conviction, and why I don't [except when I do, like the other day, and then I don't feel great about it].  Because her life is as important to me as the baby that she didn't have. And so I want her to know the forgiveness of Christ. The mighty work He has done in my life. How precious she is to Him... How very precious... How wide and deep and high His love for her is... and I don't know that condemnation will do that for most women.

I want to meet her where she is and then love her out of that place.  I want to touch her hand and look into her eyes and have an overwhelming love pour through me.

I want to talk to my homosexual friend in a way that he knows I love him... from the depths of who I am... and when he asks what the Bible says about his lifestyle I want to answer in a way that brings hope. And truth. And love.

I want to meet with the girl in jail and have her know that Jesus loves her.

I want to sit on the floor with a sister waking up from her sin and let her know that God isn't done with her yet. That there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

I want them to know His love.

I want you to know His love.

Oh friend, whatever you have walked through. Whatever your history, or your sin, or your hang up, or your addiction....

Jesus loves you.

And so do I.
So do we.

Sometimes we just aren't sure how to show it. Sometimes it's hard to know how to take a stand for what is right, and still love the one that is wrong. Love the sinner, hate the sin... it's tricky stuff.

Father, oh Lord won't you help us know how to love? Won't you help us know when to speak, when to take a stand, when to use our voice to protect the voiceless.... and when to love quietly? When to be extravagant with grace? Lord won't you guide our words and our actions so that the world would know YOU are at work in our lives? Father give us a greater capacity to love. Lord please, please won't you dig deep wells of love in our hearts, and then fill us to overflowing with a light that pours out into this world! Lord won't you remind us that it is not our job to convict... only the Holy Spirit can do that! Only your Holy Spirit can change! Only your Holy Spirit can bring about repentance... oh but we can LOVE! Lord will you let your light shine in our hearts, casting out all darkness! Father will you make us a people who never, never blocks the light from others... Thank you for equipping us to this calling with the power of YOUR Holy Spirit.... in the name of your beautiful Son I pray...



11.05.2012

devo//be HOLY [1 john 2:1-6]


My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous.He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world. And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments. If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did. [1 John 2:1-6, NLT]
One of the most shocking revelations of my spiritual walk (we will talk more about my most shocking revelation in a later devotional) was that God actually calls us to live a holy life.

What do you think when you hear that word? Holy... What do you think when I remind you that this is the standard He has set for us, this is His calling. Holiness is the standard. That's what He wants from us.  That's what He sent His son so that we could have. Holiness.

There was a [long] time in my early walk when I would have argued with you if you would have told me this. Incredulously, I would have reminded you that we all sin. No one of us is perfect, none of us holy... After all, isn't that just what we talked about yesterday? How we all sin? How we all need Jesus?  We studied the Word that says "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us" [1 John 1:8].

But then I got into the Word for myself:

Be holy, because I am holy. 1 Peter 2:16
I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Leviticus 11:44
Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: 'Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy...' Leviticus 19:2
I am writing these words so that you WILL NOT sin. 1 John 2:1

It's hard to escape those words, isn't it? The God I serve is one that doesn't mess around. If He says it, He means it. It's not a suggestion, it's a calling. It isn't a choice, it's a command.

Don't you see, that's the reason that we need Jesus so much... because on our own we can't do it. I was powerless, powerless, to walk out of sin on my own. I could not walk away from fourteen years of addiction without His help. I couldn't change the patterns of my speech without His help. I couldn't rely on the truth without His help. For goodness sakes I couldn't even see most of my sin without His help. 


In the same way, we can't walk toward holiness without His help. Without Him standing at the right hand of the Father, advocating on our behalf. Pleading our case to the Father, shining His holy light on our repentant heart... He atones for our sins. Washes us white as snow. He puts His garment on us... His holiness. Not only that, He sends His Holy Spirit to live inside us. To be a voice guiding, direction, convicting, challenging, changing. We can't do holiness on our own... but the Holy Spirit can do nothing less than holy.

What is our response to this? What is our response to a third of the God-head residing in us? What is our response to the love Jesus demonstrated on that tree? What is our response to His unending devotion to you?

Hanging on that cross, Jesus was totally, completely, entirely sold out in love for you...
How can our response be any less?

The free Miriam-Webster online dictionary has this listed as one definition of holy:
                      devoted entirely to the deity or the work of the deity

Hmmm.... But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. [v5]

Jesus, the one who died for me... while I was still a sinner... still a blasphemer... still an addict... still idolatrous... 

He looked at me in that filth and said "I want HER... for HER I will stand, silent, before these accusers... for her, for BECKY, I will carry this cross... for HER I will be spit on... for her I will watch the Father's face turn from mine... for HER I WILL DEFEAT THE DARKNESS... all for HER... I want HER..."

So how in the world can I do anything less than devote my life, my love, my heart, my passion entirely to Him and to His work? How can I possibly settle into compromise and then look Jesus in His beautiful face and say "you were only worth my 50%... or my 20%... or my 10%..." How? How can we? How can we give Him any less than our everything because, friends, He gave His ALL. Just for YOU.

And if I truly give Him my all... If I would truly, really, turn to Him every day, with every breath and rely on Him to guide my steps and my words... would He ever lead me into sin?

I write this to you, my friends, so that you will not sin. Show Jesus how much you love Him by actually doing what He says. Don't say with your mouth that you know God, and then doing everything you can to deny Him with your life. If you know Him, if you love Him... you will do what He has asked of you. You will love Him with your words. You will love Him with your actions. You will love Him with your money. You will love Him with your time.

How can we do anything less?

Father, I thank you for holiness. I thank you that you are not satisfied with your children living in the status quo, but that you call us to something better... something set apart... something that glorifies you. Father I know that we are helpless to do this on our own. Obedience is so foreign to us, God... So I ask Father that your Holy Spirit would penetrate our lives. That you would shatter our preconceived notions of what our lives should look like, and that you would make us a people who accept your plans as our plans... that we would allow you to guide us into the way of righteousness. And Father, in those times that we do fail, that we do rely on ourselves instead of your son, will your Light quickly shine into that sin so that we see it? Would we have softened hearts to accept your discipline? Make us a people quick to repent!  Let us live lives with holiness as our standard, each day be molded more and more into the likeness of your beautiful son... it's in His name we pray...

11.04.2012

devo//i need JESUS [1 john 1:8-10]

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. [1 John 1:8-10]
The Becky Boyles Paraphrase version of this scripture is: "If we claim we don't need Christ, we are just fooling ourselves. But if we wake up to our sin, and realize we can't get ourselves out of this mess on our own, He is faithful to send the lifeline- to cleanse us and purify! But if we think we can do this on our own, then His Word hasn't really broken into our heart with truth and we call Jesus a liar."

To summarize:
I need Jesus.

There are very few things that I know for sure in my life... but this is one of them. I need Jesus.

I tried this world on my own. Growing up in the church, I should have known better... but I didn't. One compromise led to another compromise led to another compromise and by the time I finally woke up in my mid-twenties, I had a list of sin in my life that would make you blush. Idolatry, addiction, perversion, drunkenness, lying, stealing... oh, I had done it all...

Realizing what I had become, I realized I needed to clean house. I needed to purify my life. I needed to set things right so that I could have a relationship with God. And I honestly did try really, really hard. I wanted to do the right thing, but the harder I tried to be good, the more defeated I became. I just couldn't do it.

Oh, I wanted to so bad. Remembering that time in my life brings tears to my eyes. The desperation in my heart. The hopelessness. The failure.

Why can't I just quit? Why can't I just put the pot down and walk away? Why can't I stop drinking? Why in the world did I tell that lie... again? I don't even WANT this stuff anymore? Why do I keep going back?

And then... a turning point. A moment in His Word that changed everything. It was January 18, 2005 and the Lord took me to words that convinced me the Bible was written just for me...

"I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." [Romans 7:15]

Never have words jumped off a page at me like those. Never. I flipped to the front of the book, I wanted to know who wrote these words... the Apostle Paul. The Apostle Paul!!!! Someone like Paul understood!? He knew!? He struggled!?

"For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out... Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it" [Romans 7:18b, 20]

Yes! I want to do the right thing... but I cannot carry it out... and now Paul is telling me that it's not really me, it's not Who I Am that keeps falling... it's the sinful nature in me. It's all those open doors to sin that I don't know how to close... Oh of course, realizing what I had become I knew I needed to clean house. I needed to purify my life. I needed to set things right so that I could have a relationship with God. And I honestly did try really, really hard. I wanted to do the right thing, but the harder I tried to be good, the more defeated I became. I just couldn't do it.

The problem was I... because I alone cannot purify, forgive, cleanse.

"Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God-through Jesus Christ our Lord!" [Romans 7:24b, 25]

Who can rescue? Who can clean house? Who can purify? Who can set things right? Who makes a way for relationship with God? Only Jesus.

And so, I turned it over to Him. I admitted the sin in my life to a spiritual leader, and slowly those things began to fall away. Things were set right. Temptations were removed. Strength came to endure the temptation that remained. I didn't wake up in perfection... but I did wake up in a state of sanctification... of being renewed by the Renewer. And when I failed, instead of being hopeless and defeated, I acknowledged that I fallen back into the old pattern of relying on me.

My friend, whatever you are struggling with in your life... you can't overcome it.. Not on your own. You need Jesus. When you find yourself in that moment of weakness... cry out to Him... He is FAITHFUL to answer.  His Word doesn't say He will cleanse you from some unrighteousness, but all of it. He doesn't offer to clean you up a little, but to purify you. 

If there is still sin in your life... stop looking the other way. Stop justifying it. Stop rationalizing and excusing it. And for goodness sake, stop trying to fix it on your own! Confess your sin, to God and to a spiritual leader (doesn't have to be your pastor, just a brother or sister you can trust, someone who can mentor you and hold you accountable). Face it head on with Jesus and watch the darkness flee. Sin wants us to hide, to keep secret, to deny... but the Light tells us that confession brings FREEDOM.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. [Romans 8:1]
For there is now... right now in this very moment... no condemnation! Set free from the law of sin and death!! Set FREE!!

I can't do that on my own, friends.

I need Jesus.

Purification... sanctification... is a process. It's not a one time event reading my Bible in 2005. It's been a constant leaning into Him ever since then. I didn't need Jesus just on that cold January day... I need Him every moment, every day. Leaning on Him, trusting His Spirit to guide... that is freedom. I needed Jesus yesterday when I was frustrated with my husband. I needed Him this morning when I wanted to sleep in rather than write this blog. I needed Him a few minutes ago when I wanted to gloss over the sin in my life rather than be transparent.

Are you letting Him shine His Light into the darkness of your heart? Into the corner you have hidden from everyone else? Are you letting Him purify your motives? Transform your mind? Guide your steps? We can't do this thing on our own. We just can't. And trying to... will just lead to frustration and disappointment and heartache.

I don't know many things for sure, but I do know this...

You need Jesus, too.

Father, thank you so much for opening my eyes to the sin nature in my life! And thank you even more for sending your Son to cleanse me, purify me, make me whole... Oh God I thank you that you aren't done with me yet! Father I thank you that you are not satisfied with anything less than holiness and that you have qualified us to live holy lives!!! Father show us where we have relied on ourselves, show us where we have tried to do it on our own, remind us this day just how much we need your Son... we love you Jesus! and it's in your name we pray...


11.03.2012

devo//FELLOWSHIP [1John 1:7]

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. [1 John 1:7]
Just before He went to the cross, Jesus took time to get alone in the Garden. There, on dusty ground he lay- pouring Himself out to the Father. Have there ever been such an intense time of prayer in all of history? The Son communing with The Father at the cusp of redirecting history. On the verge of making a way for us. As Jesus prepared Himself spiritually for the sacrifice to be made, as He readied His mind and His heart to become sin... He prayed for us.

For me, and for you. JESUS. Our Savior, our perfect sacrifice, the One who hears our every prayer... prayed for us.
I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me... May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you loved me. [John 17:21, 2]
Jesus could have prayed for anything here. He could have asked that we be prosperous, that we be world changers, that we win over many... but here, pouring Himself out in prayer from the deepest recesses of His Person... He prays that you and I should walk in unity, in fellowship with one another. 

Oh Father, let them be brought to complete unity- because THEN the world will know that you sent me, THEN the world will trust the report of their testimony, THEN the world will be changed, THEN our Truth will be made known, and your Name will be glorified.

Our communion with one another was so important to Jesus. He knew that this would be the thing that would set us apart from the rest of the world. He also knew that without unity, without oneness of spirit, without a single-minded focus on the work of the Kingdom... we are less. Our power is less, our prayers are less, our impact is less.

And so, when we truly walk in the Light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus purifies us from sin. Too many Christians focus only on the second half of that statement- they question how their sin-life has been changed, cleaned up, cast out by the blood of Christ... And certainly, we need to be ever mindful of those things...

But have you checked your walk with your brothers and sisters? Have you checked your fellowship with the church down the street? Have you checked your heart toward the sister that has fallen, or the brother that is more successful, or the believer that sinned against you?

Because if we are walking in the Light, we should be walking in unity. In fellowship. In oneness of heart and mind and spirit. Single-minded in our focus... Kingdom Minded.

Can we rejoice when another church in town enters a season of abundance? When the unchurched come through their doors and money seems to come easily? Can we celebrate without jealously?

Can we enter into mission with other Bodies without concern for whose name is at the top of the list of credits... or even better, not worrying if our name appears at all?

Can we forgive the brother or sister that has hurt us... simply because Jesus tells us that's what we need to do? Can we walk in unity with the one that offended? Or the one who seems to be more successful, in their lives or in their ministries?

What about the sister who has fallen? Can we join her in her pain, encouraging her spirit and lifting her head toward Jesus? Or do we shake our heads knowingly across a room at a prayer meeting? Do we speak in hushed whispers about that sin we are all just a compromise away from stepping into?

Unity was everything to Jesus. Everything. At this moment, when He was facing literal darkness... separation from the Father who is Light, becoming our sin offering... He asks Father that He would equip us to walk in unity... and not just for our own good, but so that the world would know.

Father, I thank you for the beautiful example of unity and submission we find in your relationships with your Son. I thank you so much that you have not left us ill-equipped for this call to unity, but that you have strengthened us through the power of the Holy Spirit to walk out this calling. That you have gifted us with submission, to think of others needs above our own. That you have transformed our minds into the minds of Christ so that we may be single-minded about the work of your Kingdom!!! That I can rejoice when another does big things for your Kingdom... because we are all ONE. Father would you strengthen our unity? Would you bring us into greater levels of one-ness? Would you convict our hearts of areas of competitiveness, jealousies, selfish ambitions? Will you show us areas where we have set ourselves higher than another? Will you give us the strength to forgive? The ability to meet another brother or sister where they are and lift them up out of sin? Thank you Father for hearing our prayers and for bringing our hearts in line with your will! We love you Jesus... in your name...