Monday, February 10, 2014

Having my Cake

"The Word of God is daily bread, not cake for special occasions."

Does anyone read ever these Christian cliches and just go blah blah blah, yeah, I know, whatever.

Well, I do.

Or, I did before God humbled like He sweetly does.

You see, it hit me one day-- I am in the Word daily but it's not always my nourishing bread to be digested and broken down and absorbed and spread throughout veins as fresh vitality.

No, I often treat the Word, and those shining treasures known as His promises, as I treat real-life cake at my worst times:

an indulgence that I just don't deserve and shouldn't treat myself to too much of.

Writing that, I think, isn't that so warped?
But I know that it's a real soul-sickness and I know I'm not alone in that.

How I wish those lies would just know the victory!

Ah, but they have.
He reminds me of this one great thing.

He reminds me that ingesting His Word, breathing in God-breathed, refreshing fountains of truth and peace as they are-- it's what He died to enable for me who has been graciously made His daughter.

That I, the starving sinner, could eat and be filled and more filled and blessed satisfied by entering His presence without restraint,
all thanks to that rugged cross and that beautiful Savior.

Why would I deprive myself of this,
Why treat these promises as indulgent cake not to be touched by the likes of me?

Did I forget that Jesus came mighty to save and touched me anyway,  in my disgusting mess,
made a way by His blood and His pain and His sweat and His wounds,
that my wounds, my cancer called sin,
that it would be healed,
and that healing known in full by promises gifted graciously over and over.

Will I let the pride, the lies, the self-induced pressure, the doubt, the fear,
will I let these things be the barrier between me and my treatment,
between a starving soul and its daily bread
and a King from the glory He is more than due?

I will not, no, not any longer.

It is not cake, and but it's just as sweet.
It is freely given, free to be believed and nourishing,
and with Christ, it is not too far above me, but for me as I am, and for His glory unending.

What a Savior,

what a gift,

what a feast to be had in His presence inhaling His exhale strewn across ancient pages,

and I will lap it up, like I'm meant to,
believing it fully, and partaking in it unrestrained. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Enough with Enough -- Part II

It's wild how God works when our eyes are closed,
when there's no way we could possibly have a clue what He's doing,
and He surprises us in splendid shockers that never cease to humble and save.

Just after I had been beckoned by my Lord
through that beloved Bible study,
through heart to heart with a dear friend,
through humbly breaking, bending the knees, and returning to the one place that really matters,
the one place that is the wellspring that splashes and thunders with victorious life in all the driest desolate places: His love.

He surprised me when I least expected it.

Exposed wounds from the weapons of legalism
those lies telling me I did not do enough ministry,
 did not do enough good deeds,
to meet some special checklist that qualifies me to be on some other silly level of super spiritual Christian.
Try harder the lies urged try harder because you're just failing. God's just not glorified in You.
What an awful accusation when that's all you really want.

Then surrendering all this to Him, God showed me it's by His power, and the grace of dwelling in His love, that great things get done for His glory and His kingdom.
And I need not, cannot, do a thing.
Literally, He did it while eyes were closed and the mind was lost in dreams and the breathing was slow and soft.
Yes, He did it while I was sleeping.

Sleeping there in my dorm room, buried in brightly colored comforter and pillows, I felt a gentle shake from that new sweet sister that had just moved onto my hall.
"Rachel?" she whispered gently, "If it weren't important, I wouldn't wake you. Sorry."
"What's up?" I garbled, surely groggy and less than glamorous for such an occasion to glorify God.
"Do you know any Bible verses about God's will for you life?" she asked from her half broken heart, "Because I think God might have put us together in this hall for a reason, since you seem to be mature in your faith."

Did she know that I had been struggling,
that I had made myself a vulnerable mess just hours ago at my Bible study pouring out all the things I needed to figure out, to be healed from,
that I was in that dry season all those Christians always talked about, that I was SO far from "getting it?"

Together we talked for an hour,
and in this blessing she shared with me the things troubling her heart,
and we poured over scripture,
and felt healed wounds by knowing where to go together-- right to our Daddy's embrace.

That message I'd heard just hours before at a Bible study that seemed so perfectly catered to fit the time I travel through now?
Well guess what-- it's a perfect fit for her too.

Because we all need to dwell in the love of Christ,
to be made small there
and allow Him to accomplish,
Him to work,
Him to get great glory,
Him to be enough,
and nothing else seems to matter when you realize that one glimmering eternal treasure is yours forever.

After all of it, and I'd turned out the lights to slumber once more, I found myself wildly smiling,
heart racing at the joy that the Lord had renewed in me,
all I could do not to laugh crazy to myself,
that the Lord had shown me I do not have to do a thing but dwell in His love,
and He does the rest.

Literally opening up opportunities when I'm in the epitome of not trying: sleeping, for goodness' sake!

For when you dwell right there in His love,
and nothing else,
no expectations,
no condemnation,
no accusations,
no qualifications,
and when "enough" is only used to describe His grace,
and when legalism finds its place to die right there with all the other sins, right there on that cross,
well it's wide open for Him to work in wondrous ways.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Enough with Enough- Part 1


One word encompassing the chains around my heart, chains of lies linked by fortified "not-enough's."

I don't care enough.
I don't love enough.
I don't suffer enough for the Kingdom's cause.
I don't live for Him radically enough.
I don't do enough ministry.
I don't donate enough money.

I don't know about you, but I've had enough of the word, "enough."

That enough,
it robs me of the very joy of my salvation,
that salvation where the "not enough" is replaced by "My grace is enough,"

and I hate that darkness without joy in Him, because that joy, it's everything.

And where do you find the strength when knees are weak and you're fighting, fighting to cling to this legalism that has tricked you into thinking you can earn that "grace enough" by beating the soul tired with the "not enoughs?"

You let the knees bend and break.
And you get back to the enough that will produce grace upon grace that becomes more than enough.

Like Paul said in these sweet words:

"When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 
 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.
I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.
Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him
Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.
And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.
May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. 
Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think."
Ephesians 3:14-20 (NLT, emphasis added)

It all just comes back to loving Him, by His power.
I cannot make myself fall in love with Him.
I cannot convict myself to figure out some new way to surrender to Him.
I cannot produce a great big divine calling.
I cannot produce my own joy in salvation.

But my strength will come from His power, His understanding of His miraculous crazy over-my-head unsearchable endless unconditional love.

Dwelling there, loving Him, it's really the enough that's worth it, the only one that counts or lasts.

Dwelling there, loving Him with all I've got, 
not letting the vital truth found in His love get lost in my aimless shuffle running from one qualification to another that proves that I love a Savior for all to see,
nor do I lose it in the frustrating focus on the big plans for the future that I just can't get a handle of, swelled up by pride, driven by fear of not being enough for God when I graduate college,

no, I'll be small with Him right here,
let God be big,
let God do the convicting,
let God do the working,
let God do the loving,
and let God be glorious!

What a great place to be. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

When it Rains

From the start it's a losing game without God.

Oh, if we don't have Him as protection from the very start, any efforts of ours, they're in vain.
They're inevitably whopping failures, brittle to break, never strong enough to save.

I awakened to this truth in a tidal wave of water droplets pouring from the sky in the early darkness of the 530 am alarm. Headed out to get a morning workout in, armed with my tiny pink umbrella, feeling awfully accomplished at my preparation for the precipitation predicted.

One step on my own to battle the elements.
Literally, the first step out the door,
my very best defenses in the form of a $5 umbrella
cracked right in half and turned to helpless and hopeless in the drenching downpour.

"Daughter, could you ever really do it in your own power?"

That's what my Father God says to me in that humbling, soaked moment in the flood.
Just like that Great Flood washed the earth of the wicked, the swollen droplets crashed across a heart polluted with efforts of my own, trashed with condemnation abundant for not doing enough.

In that moment I spotted the safe haven: a bus-stop overhang.
And I sprint with unusual focus, bursting with energy uncommon for such an early hour toward the one place that assures safety, shelter from the storm.

Even if the umbrella did work for a time,
the shelter is always there,
always works,
and works better than my silly umbrella could ever muster.

Isn't that what God promises when we run to Him?
When the bondage we face forms heavy droplets and crashes cold across our warmth, rips us from His comfort and turns us to our own effort in an attempt to fake cure the disease cured on a cross?

These efforts, they only name the broken, they only reveal the hopeless beyond repair.

But the Lord and His grace and love,
it's louder,
far better,
and immeasurably more impressive than the feeble things the world serenades the searching soul with.

Know where to run.
Choose the sturdy, 
not the small, gaudy, and useless pink umbrella.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Just. Jealous. Love.

"You must worship no other gods, for the Lord, whose very name is Jealous, is a God who is jealous about His relationship with you."
-Exodus 34:14 NLT

Sitting there in my bible study, my community of women, lovers of Jesus through and through, vulnerable, beautiful hearts,
and feeling just like some kind of heathen
As our teacher dug into that verse, the soul wondered, beat itself relentlessly,

"Why don't you feel more moved by this?

"The spark of this notion should ignite a fire, burning passion that squeezes tears out of tear ducts and a trembling of raw truth realized, falling to the ground, hitting knees."

"What's wrong with you?"
Rather than focusing on the jealousy of an endlessly gracious God,
I focus on,

How that realization stung. 

The realization that I was turning the greatest truth, 
that this jealous God, the one who could have nothing to do with me, 
who does not need me in any way, who knows I am smaller than a speck, more insignificant than a blade of grass, 
a sinner who continuously fails to reciprocate His great love,
in my sin a spiritual adulteress who is easily distracted by lies and diets and shiny appearances and some husband-man's supposed ability to make me complete and some achievements to keep me going and all the expectations of the world to obsess over

yet this God, He loves me madly anyways,

And I was turning that greatest truth into something I must earn, hold myself back from, another tool to condemn with.

How this love is something I shouldn't relish in,
just like the voice of that powerless disorder when it was the boisterous condemner as I stood before an ice cream stand, deep in bondage with it.
Just like that.

What a lie to believe, that I would turn a remarkable love like this into another tool to relentlessly beat myself silly with, whipping the spirit with expectations and conditions.

And there it hit me: God knew I would react this way to His unconditional love.
He knew I would twist it to a focus on myself rather than accept His sweetness, His grace.

On the cross, there, oh did He know.
Yet He said after hurt upon hurt,
as He modeled this story in Hosea after His love for the church, for the sinner, for me,

"So I am going to take her into the desert again;
there I will win her back with words of love.
I will give back to her vineyards she had and make Trouble Valley a door of hope...
and she will no longer call me her Baal."
-Hosea 2:14-15,17

So maybe He just wants my overwhelming joy when so often I feel like I should be shot down with tears and unworthy.
Maybe He is opening the doors of utter joy in Him, and He begs me, rescues me, runs across the threshold for me to enter into the love of Mighty to Save. 
Maybe He is longing for me to stop turning His love into another condemning liar, and to just take it, drink it in, swallow it up for what it truly is: unsearchable, inconceivable, delightful, satisfying love.

And realizing this freedom to live in this extravagant, nonsensical, scandalous love,
right then and there,
the contentment I'd been hunting for,
swinging from one single's ministry cliche to another to find some worth,
my heavenly Husband reminded me of our betrothal,
and I was sold out to His love,
right then and there.

No shame in indulging in this love,
no fear,
and for the hundredth time of preaching it to myself,


The romance I'd been looking for in wedding shows and Nicholas Sparks movies,
it's even better once you let go and just know it,
know it where it's real,
that it's in Jesus Christ, and there's nothing holding that love back,
nothing to condemn us for utterly enjoying it,
because it glorifies Him,
and there's nothing better than this love,
and it continues crazy like this,