Broken Praise (12/2016)

This is a poem I wrote for my Church’s annual Christmas Eve Candlight Service this year. I’ve been writing and sharing a poem since I was in my early teens. 

This year, I finally found my inspiration on Christmas Eve when I was at my grandparents. (It’s become a bit of tradition for friends to ask when I finally wrote it. This time I was in the car heading home from my grandparents, less than an hour before I needed to be at the church.) 

My grandfather said something that kept going around in my head. He was speaking of his mother, my great grandmother, who would nearly shout when praying. When he asked her why she always prayed so loudly, she answered, “I am so insignificant. I have to shake the rafters in heaven so I’m heard.”

It was something that itched my brain. Because that is the beauty of God. God doesn’t need your shouts to be heard, he listens to that quiet plea in the depths of the silence, when you have no words, he still hears you. The angels are said to rejoice when someone comes to Christ (Like 15: 10). That there is so much excitement in heaven that the very angels share it with each other.

We humans are not insignificant. God is so eager to have that relationship with us, that his messengers understand and rejoice with him when one comes back to him. We are not insignificant to God, we don’t need to shout. He hears us.

Broken Praise  (RKG 12/2016)
The rafters shook in Heaven today.
A shout was heard as the angels came
Rejoicing at the foot of Heaven’s throne.
Martyrs cried out with joy and saints danced with the Heavenly host.
The angels celebrated as Satan groaned.
Another one found is Satan’s loss.
The rafters in Heaven shook today.
The barest whisper of sound swept through Heaven with the force of a hurricane.
It had the power to close the gates of Hell and throw open the pearly ones.
It snatched from Satan’s grasp, one so lost that she found the light.
Her breathless plea, a whisper of hope, shook the rafters of Heaven today.
Lost in fear, betrayed by man, she took a leap and found faith again.
Never alone, always held, Emmanuel, God with us.
The Shepherd gathers his lost sheep, one by one.
The rafters shook in Heaven today.
A shout rang out and angels rejoiced around the Heavenly throne.
His cry was heard in the darkened room, despair so thick trying to suck him in.
But light abounded and darkness fled, salvation found, peace within hand.
A warrior’s cry so loud within his broken whisper, that demons quivered in fear.
Abused and hated, homeless and hungry, he took a leap and grabbed the hand of Salvation.
Never alone, always held, Emmanuel, God with us.
The Shepherd gathers his lost sheep, one by one.
The rafters shook in Heaven today.
The power of a broken praise that can heal hearts and find the lost.
Amazing the grace when love is given and hope restored.
The angels rejoice and martyrs cry with joy when one more is snatched from the grasp of Hell.
When Satan groaned, life is found.
When a birth foretold, and death chained the beast, Heaven’s rafters shook and a curtain tore, the joy poured out no longer contained.
Angels stood amazed as the Gospel was told, the love found in the act of sacrifice too great to bear.
My prayer so loud in my chaotic mind, shame pushed aside and grace found.
No longer condemned, I stand free.
I, I, shook the rafters in Heaven today, pleading to be taken out of the pit to live in the light of righteousness.
O come, O come, Emmanuel, take my hand and pull me free. Set me on the mountain high, out of this pit take me now.
Break the grasping talons of Satan now, shatter my chains, no longer enslaved.
Coat me in the sacrifice of love, wash me in the river of life, let me live in your perfect light.
My broken praise, my gift to you.
My rejoicing joined the angels today, as I was found in the darkness.
My Shepherd led me forth to the light, to drink deeply of the never ending life-giving water, never to thirst again.
The rafters shook in Heaven today.
Satan raged while the angels rejoiced.
I found my God when all was lost.
The gates of Hell slammed shut while Heaven celebrated.
One who was lost was found.


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A Crossroads on a Precipice

We all make plans. Even those of us who like to shoot from the hip and make rash decisions, ultimately make plans. I think it’s built into our DNA to plan for the day and our lives.

I probably like to plan a little more than my average friend. I like to know where I am going and how long it might take. Throughout the last few years I have had a plan of where I think I’ll end up in the long run. Chaplain in a hospital. It’s why I thought I went and got my Master’s, it’s what I’ve seen myself doing for quite awhile.

Now, it seems as if God is starting to reveal a different plan.

When we get so caught up in our little charts of how our lives will go, we tend to lose the awareness of how God is doing his own planning. Right now, God is removing my blinders.

I have made the decision that I will be going to the first ever Joni and Friends’ Global Access Conference and I think I’ll get a better grip on where I’ll go from there.

To be honest, the idea of change scares me too death. I hate the idea of failure. I’ve had so many of shakes with failure in school, even though I was able to surpass that thanks to God. The idea of possibly walking away from a solid job to do a ministry that doesn’t pay? The idea of trusting God to provide financial care?

Nope, no reason to to be worried.

So I continue to pray and ask that God reminds me continually that the only thing I need to be concerned about is doing God’s will. Right now, I am continuing to work as I get ready for February’s Conference and spending more time on my knees as I wait for God to show me the rest of the road before me.

I’m stepping onto the crossroads on¬†the precipice. Indiana Jones’s style, the crossroads- well, bridge- is invisible, and it’s got to be in trust and faith Indy

that I make that first step. It’ll be a doozy, but I know it will ultimately be worth it. Just got to force my foot to move first.

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And as always, prayers are desired as I make that step. ūüôā

Check out this amazing conference that will be held in California! Global Access Conference

Hard Won Victories

“For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate.”- Romans 7:15 (HCSB)
I think there is a misconception in the church today that if we just pray hard enough over a difficulty/sin in our lives, God will just make it disappear. 
Take an alcoholic for instance. Say the man wants to change his life and finally let go of the bottle. Do we tell him to just pray? Or do we give him steps to change his life?
Throughout the Bible when God tells his followers to NOT do something, he provides something good to DO instead. When he takes something away, he provides that which is good to fill that void. It is supposed to keep us from sinking back into bad behavior.
Paul does a wonderful job of showing these examples, giving us basically an instruction manual that gives us steps to change our lives. For example, character change:¬†Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.–Ephesians 4:31-32¬†
Nature¬†abhors¬†a¬†vacuum. Due to science class, we’ve heard this thought numerous times. Visualize the jungle. Man comes in and clears it out, readying it for farming. All trees, climbing plants, and grasses are gone. Only bare soil remains. Something holds up the planting, perhaps the man gets sick for a month. When he finally gets back to the place he cleared, already the soil has sprouted with grass, the fast growing vines are creeping out of the surrounding jungle, and even the roots of trees are showing where there once was just rich soil. The jungle is notorious for the speed in which it reclaims that which has been taken away from it.¬†
The body and the soul also abhors a vacuum. When we attempt to take something away from our lives, something¬†has to take it’s place. We see this when a smoker attempts to stop. There’s a reason why many smokers start to gain weight after they quite, because where once they had a cigarette hanging from their mouth, now they are filling it with food. Trying to fill that empty space where the cigarette once was. Many smokers are now avid gum chewers because they need to keep their mouth busy.
The soul is the same. There’s the saying that everyone has a God shaped hole in their heart, that we are attempting to fill. Some of us fill it by sleeping around, others with trying to make money, still others with gathering things. We all try to fill that hole. Even some believers are still caught in that thought that we are still empty. Instead of recognizing that we have the Holy Spirit, we still feel empty and need to be filled. It is our inherent sin nature that refuses to allow the Spirit to take over our lives.
This is why I think we do great disservice to fellow believers who are struggling with certain changes in their lives when we tell them to just pray about it. God’ll give you the victory.
I do believe God can take away a sin when we just pray for him to help. I’ve met with a few people who say that they had a particularly tenacious sin that they couldn’t seem to shake. Upon just praying (admittedly hard and focused) they were able to step away from the sin and never have it bother them again. Others back ¬†up the claim, saying that the sin changed their loved one’s character and after a retreat they came back totally different. So it is possible.
To the average believer though, it’s okay that we fall and struggle to get through some sins. It is natural. When someone says that ‘all you have to do is pray,’ it makes those of us who are continually fighting to get pass that sin feel maybe like we aren’t truly listening to God, or our faith is weak.¬†
THIS IS NOT THE CASE! We can be so wrapped up in God, so in love with him, and STILL struggle with sin. Don’t believe me? Go read King David’s story. That man was called a ‘man after God’s heart’ and he sinned continually and horribly. David broke the last six of the ten commandments in a grand way. The difference is that every time he sinned, he realized what he did and came back to God, humbled and broken.¬†
The thing I take away from this ‘hero’ of the Bible is that he was totally human and God loved him. He continually sinned, but God still loved him. David kept asking for forgiveness, and God always gave it.¬†
Why do we say God hates us when we slip? Why do we accuse God of not caring when we, ourselves, fall back into our old ways. God is still there, waiting for us to turn back to him. He knows that occasionally we will revert back to our old temptations, and he will use it to teach us his grace. 
Hard won victories have more power than easily given answers. I am more willing to listen to someone’s testimony of how they struggled and failed then finally succeeded, than someone who said that they just changed. The first person speaks more to where I am in life than the person who just easily changes.
Be careful the way you proclaim God and the power of prayer. Prayer is amazing, but it is not the magic genie. Prayer is your communication to God, and sometimes he takes you out of the quicksand of sin without you having to hold on to anything. Other times you must be the one to grab the rope and crawl out while God holds the rope steady. Neither is wrong and neither is the way every single person is going to meet God. 
Victory is yours. You just might have to sweat, bleed and cry a bit before you can truly proclaim it. And, perhaps your faith will be ever stronger because of it. You may also find that each time you find yourself slipping, you are able to stand up that much faster. 
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.¬†God is faithful, and¬†he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.–1 Corinthians 10:13

If I spoke to the graduating class…

On Friday, I will finally be walking across the stage to¬†receive¬†my long awaited Master of Divinity diploma. I am finally about to start a ‘new’ chapter in my life. What is on that next page I haven’t a clue, but I am eager to turn it. On that end, I was thinking about what I would say to my graduating class if given the chance. So I thought, maybe I would share it with you instead.¬†

To the graduating class of 2013, congratulations! You have finally made it! Take a deep breath, you deserve it.
Let us take this moment though to thank those who have helped us through this journey. Our professors who have spent so many hours offering us wisdom and praying for us, to the supporting staff that helped us make sure we stayed on track with our credits as well as dealt with the headache of loans. To our parents, spouses and families, who have sacrificed their time, their money, as well as putting their dreams on hold so that we can complete our schooling. To our churches, who have prayed over us, helped us perhaps financially, but also offered many chances for serving. These are the people who have helped us become who we are now. God has given us these people to guide us and sharpen us on our spiritual path. Remember to thank them for their presence in our lives. God has blessed us with these people and has used them to make us grow.
We have been forced to go through tests, trials, perhaps even a bit of tribulation to get to this point. We do not know what is truly awaiting us as we leave this school. There are the plans and dreams we have to change the world or at least our little part of it, but we do not know the grand plan of God. We have our ideas, but ultimately where will we land?
We might feel like we fail if we do not find the job of our dreams right out the door of school. Or we feel ashamed that we are only working ‘a simple service job’ when in fact that is a good job to have at that time. Just because we leave these halls with pieces of paper that says we are¬†Bachelors¬†and Masters does not mean that we earn the right to be given the perfect job out of the gates. We must sweat more, bled a little and shed some more tears before we can take our places among those with experience. We got the book knowledge now it is time that we gain the wisdom of experience.
We will learn by actively doing and we will be putting into use that which we know the¬†theory¬†of. We will learn humbleness by failing at what we think we are ¬†experts of, we will learn trust by relying on our fellow¬†laborers to complete their jobs. We will learn respect by working under demanding employers who don’t give us free passes because we’re Christians. We will learn the strength of our faith when we work alongside nonbelievers and we will hopefully learn to love God more.
Life is not easy. We do not have all the answers. There is only one person, one divine person who has all the answers. God does not just give us just the questions but the answers too. Every answer is in the Scriptures. We must study, learn and keep the answers deep in our hearts. God is in control of our lives. he might lead us to certain difficulties so that we can grow into the child that he knows we are.
We will fail. We will break. Some of us will stand back up and try harder, others of us will stay broken and become angry at God, as if he is to blame for what we are going through. He is not. We are sinners who cause more harm to ourselves than any other person. Sometimes we will fail to pay attention to God’s guiding, other times we will outright refuse to do what God wants much like Jonah did. But just as in Jonah’s story, God will work through us despite ourselves.
So I encourage you fellow graduates, life will be hard but it is worth it. Give it your all, because God will use you where ever you land. What might seem the wrong time and the wrong place for you might just be the right time and place for a miracle of God. You are a tool in God’s toolbox, make sure you are sharp at all times so that you can be used for his glory.
It isn’t about what I can do, or what you can do. It isn’t about how smart we are, how talented, how daring, but rather about what God is doing through us. It is all about him. We just have the blessing of being part of his plan. This should be a freeing knowledge. It is not under our own power that we will accomplish anything. We will get our strength, our determination, and our faith from God.
We cannot truly fail if we allow God to lead us.
Romans 8:28 & 30-¬†And we know that in all things God works for the good¬†of those who love him, who¬†have been called¬†according to his purpose…¬†And those he predestined,¬†he also called;¬†those he called, he also justified;¬†those he justified, he also glorified.
So, on this day of celebration, remember to give thanks for the work God has done in you. Give thanks for those he has put in your life, because they are the ones who sharpen you. Give thanks for the trials that will make us grow and for those things that will strengthen our faith.
We are about to walk into a new journey, it will be scary and it will be awesome. My prayer for us as we go forward is that we are ready, that we make ourselves available for God to use us to our fullest potential. It will be a wild ride and it will be worth it. Are you ready? 

Opportunities

God has plans for me. He has plans for you. God has plans for each person that has, is,  and will be walking on this earth. We were made for a purpose, something that only we can do, at that perfectly designed time. They might be world changing moments or moments that change one person. Each person has an extremely important  thing they must do, sometimes we complete that purpose and sometimes we do not.

God continually sets us into places where we can live out our purpose. I am in the process of trying to figure out if the opportunities that are being placed before me are truly what and how God wants me to work in fulfilling my own purpose.¬†I know WHAT God wants me to do, just not the HOW of doing it. My concern with this is that I do everything in line with God’s will, no matter my own fear. In the last three weeks possibilities have been thrown at me and I am in a daze.

I am desperately seeking prayer right now, from anyone who is willing to pray for me.

Trying to explain the concern I have to others who know me makes it seem as if I’m afraid- which I admit I am in some ways. But the true concern I have is that the opportunities that are being presented are truly what God has planned for me.

He has given me the passion for a topic that is rarely talked about. Now he is presenting me with the ways to get that topic out into the mainstream of communication.

God has plans for me. I just pray that I am truly hearing his leading and not others’ promptings.I am praying also that I work pass my own fear so that I don’t ‘refuse’ to hear God’s voice and what he is telling me to do.

Please join me in praying for this opportunity that has been presented to me. Pray that I hear God’s promptings clearly with no confusion and that others don’t play on my fear, making me question his promptings.

When more information is available and things are put in stone, I will let you know more.

Thanks for praying!

Psalm 32:8– I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.