Butterfly Sparks Designs

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Believing is Seeing.


"Faith is to believe what we do not see, and the 
reward of this faith is to see what we believe."
 (Saint Augustine)

Waiting for answers.  Waiting for hope.  Waiting for peace.  

It's exhausting, isn't it?

It is in our flesh-wiring to default to "I’ll believe it when I see it.”  But how do I reconcile that with my faith?  Because if I believe what I say I believe, then my faith isn’t dependent on my sight. 

When I am preoccupied and focused on the circumstances in my life  instead of centering on the constancy of God and in Who God is, my faith-life becomes intermittent, at best.   

Stop…Go…Stop….Go

We can learn a lot from the Words that cut through the darkness.  In contrast to Moses, who "endured, as seeing Him who is unseen", the children of Israel did not believe until after they saw the evidence.  They still doubted God when they came to the Red Sea, but only when they saw God open the way, lead them across and drown Pharaoh did they believe

Then they believed his promises and sang His praise... (Psalm 106:12)

They led an up and down life because of this kind of faith, and we do the same thing sometimes, don’t we?   

The world says "seeing is believing," but the sight-gift that He offers us is SO much better.  He wants us to believe in order to see.  That is the reward of our faith.

So what about my seasonal blindness in my faith journey? Because let’s just be honest here…there are times when all I can see is the darkness. Sometimes, my cup doesn’t runneth over…sometimes, it’s just empty. How do I wait for hope?

How do I wait for hope when not even a glimmer of it shines, yet still refuse to grow weary and refuse to doubt God’s unyielding faithfulness to me?

How do I experience the pain of a gaping, vacant hole in my heart, yet still resolve not to allow any presence inferior to God to occupy it?

How did Job do it? How did Abraham do it on the road to Moriah? How did Moses do it in the desert? How did Jesus do it in the Garden?

When waiting for hope amid darkness, how do we "endure, as seeing Him who is unseen?” 

There really is only one way. 

To refuse to let go of our empty cup and remain convinced that God’s eyes see eternally further than our own. 

To remain steadfast in our belief that in His perfect timing and in the completeness of His love for us, He will unhide that which is hidden to our eyes

To wait with confidence to see what we believe

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Spills.

I have a friend who is a wonderful father to his children. His heart is contagiously passionate in its pursuit of God, and his vision for his relationship with his children is that it would reflect the person of God to them. It’s good stuff, and what a precious gift it is to his kids. Not long ago, during one of our long chats about everything under the sun, he said something that stuck with me.

He said that he knows when his parenting is “off” by his children’s reactions when they mess up. For example, when one of them spills something, do they immediately and urgently look to him to see what his response will be? Do their faces show fear? Do they tense up when they make a mistake or fail?

My friend explained that if his child looks to him immediately with fear or tension when they “mess up”, then he knows he is off track and outside of the type of father/child relationship he wants them to have with him, so that they can better understand…Him.  So that they can experience grace, the freedom to “be” the whole of who they are in his presence. That way, the transition to understanding their Heavenly Father isn’t so foreign.  

He’s teaching them that it’s not about performance. It’s about grace.

That is an incredibly powerful illustration. Because I don’t see God that way sometimes. When I mess up, I often tense up and look to Him with fear instead of vulnerability and trust. I view him in the human perspective (narrow and shallow), and not as the God who welcomes His prodigal daughter Home, arms wide open…

Every.


Single.


Time.

I know that God wants me to run to him when I mess up. I know the verses. I have the education. Heck, I could probably teach the class. But that’s all just useless knowledge if I don’t really believe that it's all true.

Far too often, I feel as though I will offend Him by entering His presence dirty, ashamed, trust-lacking, and empty. The Father of Lies whispers to me that I am separated from Him and I am excluded. I am ashamed. Guilty. 

Just as a little girl who spills her milk, when I spill out my sin, many times I am more compelled to run to Fear instead of running to the One who is Mercy for help.  For healing. For the forgiveness so freely given.

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).  So if the Son has set you free, then you are free indeed (John 8:36). 

May we experience Jesus as the Grace-Giver.  May our gaze not be fixed on our “spill”, but on the One whose mercy absorbs it.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Settled.


It’s so easy to find ourselves far away from true connection to the freedom given through God’s grace.  How quickly we can move from a place of being settled in God’s grace to striving to earn it. Indeed, I often fall into the trap of striving to prove to God that He made a good choice when He chose me. I become utterly exhausted from performing before I know it. 

Maybe it’s just me, but isn’t it funny how a mindset can gradually creep in and take residence in your heart without your realizing it? Only when we truly stand in His presence are we able to realize the difference. As my heart cries to God, asking Him to “let freedom settle in me”, I begin to let go of me. Only then do I realize how far away I have drifted from dancing in the freedom of His grace. 

There is a true and authentic beauty that is only derived when we are settled in our freedom in Christ. Our intimacy with Him deepens. Our countenance relaxes. Our gait softens and is less hurried. We are more compassionate. Our words are more calm, sincere, and edifying. We are better listeners, friends, spouses. We are no longer judging ourselves or others in our own internal courts. We are at rest. But most of all – we receive God’s grace when we are living in the truest form of freedom that we find only in Him. 

God is faithful to remind us that the freedom we find in Him is always there for us to receive…always. We simply have to accept it. Receiving God’s grace is not something I’m especially good at most of the time.  But when I let go of me, I can dance with an unabandoned heart, as it receives the freedom given by the One who holds it.

Now, go out there and dance.  Freedom rocks. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Alabaster.

New Year’s Eve, 2011.  In excruciating pain and having been bedridden for weeks, my heart was broken.  Like window panes falling from buildings during a deadly storm, I felt my dreams shattering all around me…one by one.  "Will the cancer come back?  Will I ever walk again?  Who will take care of me? What if…?"

Then, I heard the gentle whisper. 

“Praise… 2012 is going to be all about Praise.”

That’s such a “God” thing to do, isn’t it?   I mean, come on.  Seriously?  To give me a word like praise on a night like that. 


That was seven months ago.  

Seven months. 

And still this whisper… praise … 

It’s there.  All the time.  

I do offer a heart of praise to Him…and often.  But mostly in my private prayer and worship time.  What about this public voice God has given me to praise Him through writing, speaking, and teaching?  In this season, when I start to form words to share…well, I can’t find them.   They’re gone, or hiding at best.  

At the urging of a dear friend, I have been inviting Him to meet me in my imagination…in the place where He created me to create for Him.  

In my daydreams and nightdreams and in those few moments every morning as I cross over from sleep to awakening, I yearn for Him to meet me there.  And He does.

It was so sweet, the first night He met me in my dreams.  For months, my sleep had been tortured and I couldn’t remember the last time I slept deeply through an entire night without intense physical pain or unrelenting nightmares.  So, I finally mustered the courage to ask Him to meet me there.  

He did.  And everything was different.

A safe and familiar setting, we stood together in my living room.  I invited Him to go for a walk with me.  We walked to a shoreline and looked out across the horizon.  To my right, I caught sight of a small, white box lying in the sand.  At that time in the dream, I didn’t think much of it.  We talked about a lot of things on the walk back home to the place where I felt safe.  There, we stood in my living room again, and He asked me what I was holding onto so tightly.  I was surprised and caught a bit off guard as I looked down.   

There, clutched tightly in my hands, was the white box that I had seen earlier on the beach.  Growing frustrated (and a little spooked), I told Him that I didn’t understand and earnestly asked Him to explain.  He spoke only one word. 

Alabaster.”

I grew more agitated, as I needed Him to explain it to me.  

“Wait, don’t go.  I still don’t understand!” 

But he just quietly stood there smiling, staring intently into my eyes, saying nothing more.  And then, all at once it started to make sense to me.  

I remembered her.

A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume.  As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them...Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you.  Go in peace." (Luke 7:37-38, 50 NIV)

The power of her belief in the one called Messiah compelled her to pour out her praise.   Her praise-offering was fragrant and extremely valuable.  Not only because it was quite expensive to buy, but her praise had come at the unmeasurable cost of her suffering.  Yet even at the rebuke of others, she poured it out without abandon.  

I stared at my hands, still clutching the little white box so tightly.  I understood.  I had been holding on to my praise.  And that’s where my words - His words -  live.  In my praise…held captive in that little white box. 

As I handed the box back to Him, I opened it.  The fragrance was so beautiful.  As He reached out to receive the box from me, He reminded me that He never takes something without giving something else – something better --  in return. 

“As you lift up praise, the weight of My glory will rest in you.” 

And that, sweet friends, is where the healing begins.  

Hallelujah!  

As you spend time in prayer today, ask God to reveal to you what is in your alabaster box.  Then, release it to Him, and receive the “something better” He has for you.  He loves you so much!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

It Just Doesn't Make Sense.

I wonder how little David felt when he stood up on that hill to face the giant Goliath. I can imagine that his heart was racing, and that he was fiercely shaking in fear. He probably felt that way until he felt the hand of God take his trembling hand as he pulled back the sling and the stone. David faithfully remained obedient to God. And God showed him that He was there.

I wonder how Abraham felt, when the knife in his hand was raised as he was poised to kill his very own beloved son. I can imagine that his heart, too, was racing, and that he was fiercely shaking in fear. He probably felt that way until he felt the hand of God take his trembling, knife-wielding hand and lay it down as a lamb appeared on the altar. Abraham faithfully remained obedient to God. And God showed him that He was there.

God is always there. He is there when victory seems impossible and out of reach. Just as He was the power in David’s sling, He was the calmness in Abraham as he walked up Mt. Moriah and raised His knife to kill the son he loved so much. And He is with us, as every detail that is undefined in our life right now becomes clear, and as He reveals piece by piece his direction and will for our lives.

Obedience sometimes just doesn’t make any sense. But obedience doesn't require understanding. And let's just be honest -- that's just plain hard to accept sometimes.

I don’t know about you, but usually if I can’t understand something it’s difficult for me to embrace it. Children torment their parents and older siblings with one word: "WHY?!" My parents taught me that I did not have to understand the "why" to obey the "what." And God is the same. My ways are not as high as His ways, and nor are my thoughts as high as His. He is God, and although I may not understand what He is doing, my heart must remember what it knows to be true in any circumstance. That He hung blameless on the cross for me – and because of that, every single moment of my life and every single “planned coincidence” made sense as of the very moment He took his last breath. When we don’t understand, we must remember that He is the God who understands.

When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known" (1 Corinthians 13:11-12, NIV).
My parents knew that as a child, I could not understand all of the implications and possible outcomes of my actions, so they set boundaries for me. I was to obey these, even when I did not understand why they were there. They did not do this to control me, but because they loved me. God does the same. God sees all of the implications and outcomes of our actions and words. We can not possibly comprehend all of His workings in and through us, yet we are called to obey Him.

So how do I obey what I don't understand? I do so by trusting the One who gave the command. Sometimes what God says is best for us appears to be the worst for us from our point of view. But at those times we have to trust that He knows more than we do and cares for us. He is the God who understands. "Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths." (Proverbs 3:5-6, NIV)

Isn’t this what a life of faith is all about? It is about putting our lives securely in the hands of God and resting in His commands. Sometimes, I have to ask myself if I am resting in them or wrestling with them. I must remember that even when I don't understand it all, He does. He is always there, and He never stops working on my behalf.

May we find our rest in that deep, unbreakable assurance and remain faithfully obedient, even when we don't understand.