Wednesday, October 19, 2016

He Knows.

So Leslie Knope is still on my brain. And Psalm 139:14: “I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” First of all, do yourself a favor and build up your faith by reading Psalm 139. The whole thing, it’s not long. Here, I’ll put it right here for you:

“You have searched me, Lord, and You know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down; You are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue You, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before, and You lay Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”even the darkness will not be dark to You; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to You.
For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in Your Book before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—when I awake, I am still with You.
If only You, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
They speak of You with evil intent; Your adversaries misuse Your Name.
Do I not hate those who hate You, Lord, and abhor those who are in rebellion against You?
I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

What a God, right?! What an amazing God Who is with us in the heights and depths and the faraway places. No such thing as “too high” or “too low” or “too far away”. What grace!

Even more grace-filled because it comes after the Verse that is both terrifying and thrilling: “You know me”.  Whoa. He knows me. Those things I want everyone to know about me, so I heavily advertise them. And those things I want no one to know about me, so I hide them. All of it.

And yet… “Where can I go from Your Spirit”. Nowhere. And not because He wants you to “face yourself”, but so that His hand will guide you and His right hand will hold you fast (verse 10).

So that He can be the Light in your darkness. That is why you can’t get away from Him. Because He wants to bring light to you! Again, what a God! What grace!

And then Verse 14. Do you? Do you know full well that you are fearfully and wonderfully made? We love to say this Verse about babies and write it on cards for baby showers along with Verse 13, but do we believe it still applies? I mean, after a little history under our belts, some wrong roads chosen, some sin committed, some regret lodged in our brains, do we still believe it?

When is the last time you praised Him for it? That’s what it says, right? “I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made…” If not, why not? Because you don’t feel so wonderful? Because you feel like you don’t have the right to because you flawed the original design? JOIN THE CLUB SISTER. That’s all of us—that is our story, that is our song. We messed up. We stained ourselves. We did it.

So, wait, does that mean we can no longer praise Him for being fearfully and wonderfully made?  I don’t think any one of you would look me in the eyeballs and say yes to that. And still, many days, our praise stays locked behind closed lips.

And yet, “You know me”, comes first.

He knows.

And that is enough.

Enough reason to praise Him. He knew beforehand that you would mess up. He knew you would blow it. He knew you would blow it before you came to know Jesus and soak in His forgiveness, and He knew you would blow it after that glorious moment.

“But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Romans 5:8

He knew alright.

Would you take some time and praise Him today for being fearfully and wonderfully made? Yes, YOU! And me! I am fearfully and wonderfully made, with my dorky love of all things binders. With my advertise-able assets. And with my more numerous unbecoming and embarrassing faults.

All of me. He knows all of me. All of you. He knows all of you.

And YOU are fearfully and wonderfully made. Go on and praise Him for it.

Love you all!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Binders, Anyone?

Jason and I have been watching Parks and Recreation. HILARIOUS. I mean, seriously. To have a 20-minute time block where you just laugh and laugh about pure silliness is refreshing. Can I tell you that I love Leslie Knope? For many, many reasons, but I will only explore one. One is all that is needed.

THE BINDERS. Binders upon binders. She has a binder for everything that comes in her head, in her life, in her work. Did it happen? Then it’s in a binder. Might it happen? Then it’s in a binder. Just last night we watched the episode where someone made a comment about not voting for her because she didn’t seem like someone you could go bowling with. This impacted her. So what did she do?

That’s right! A BINDER.

I love this. If you know me, you know I love this. Everyone made fun of poor Leslie—binders aren’t cool, binders are for the people who stay home on Friday nights and do—what else?—make binders. But you know what? It worked for her! And she was successful doing something out of the ordinary in terms of her culture. Yes, I am totally about to spiritualize Leslie Knope.

1. THAT’S ME!!! I actually have many binders. You don’t know me. I have a lot of business. Everyone ribs me all the time. I have heard things like, “Oh, bless your heart,” and my personal favorite, “Oh. So, wait, this is like old school Pinterest? Like before Pinterest was invented? Like 20 years ago?” Yes. Yes it is.

2. IT WORKED! So what if it wasn’t cool or hip in Leslie’s world? So what if it isn’t cool or hip in my world? So what if whatever you are doing that works for you isn’t you-fill-in-the-blank-for-whatever-you-get-made-fun-of-for? What works for you works for you.  I know this for sure—we stay committed to what works for us.

3. Why, oh why, am I telling you this? You, who may have never even heard of Leslie Knope, bless your heart. Because it got me thinking, and I wanted to share. Someone wrote up Leslie Knope. And all through the television series, her character stayed true to the writer’s vision. Everything was “classic” Leslie Knope. I love it.

I was written by a Writer, too. He has a very specific vision to my life, and sometimes corny things like TV shows jiggle my brain in just the right way to ask me if I am living true to His vision for my character. What if Leslie took a hard turn in season 3 and wanted to be cool like Donna or smooth like Tom? Wouldn’t it jar us viewers?! Wouldn’t we say, “Nooooooo!! We want Leslie back! The real Leslie!”

I know, I know. The super spiritual among you are rolling your eyes. I get it. But for the rest of us: I’m watching your life. I don’t want you to be like Donna or Tom. I want you to be you! I want you to be authentic to the Writer’s vision of you! So rock your silliness!

Seriously—the Writer put things of Himself in you that He didn’t put in me! Yes, we should all have His characteristics in terms of the fruit of the Spirit. We should all be aspiring to walk in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. But how do YOU live out love? And joy—that’s the episode I really want to see. Give me a vision of what peace looks like.

Isn’t that how we learn? I learn from those who are different from me. Who live out God and His ways in a way I haven’t learned yet!

And I could teach you a thing or two about binders.

Have a great day!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Chase.

What if God just dropped down in the middle of your lunch with some girlfriends and pointed at one of them and said, “THIS ONE. This is a woman after my own heart.” After your heart restarted, you would start peppering this one with questions: What’s your secret? What do you do? How has this magical thing happened and how can I get Him to say that about me?!

This is what we explored at Glow this week. Because this has actually been said about someone in the Bible—David. And while I cannot pretend to know all of David’s secrets, I do catch a glimpse of his heart for God in Psalm 27. This is part of what he says there:

“One thing I have desired of the Lord,
That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord,
And to inquire in His temple.”

One thing. What thing? To always be wherever God was and to behold His beauty.

This kind of desire is not a fleeting wish—to David, it was something worth doing something about.

I know this because he follows it up with the seeking. “That will I seek…” Some versions say, “That I SHALL seek…” It’s a declaration! Because we all know desiring and seeking are two different animals. I can say I want, I want, I want—but if I don’t put feet to that want, those are just fleeing whims, certainly not all consuming desires.

I think this was an all-consuming desire for David. He wasn’t just going to sit around and tell you, or God, that he wanted something. He was going to seek it. Put action to it. Press toward that longing with his actions.

That pressing and drive takes commitment. Without discipline and commitment—That I SHALL seek—even my deepest desires will dwindle down to nothing. And all of a sudden I find myself living a life without desire, without passion for something, without hunger and thirst for God and His promise of abundant life.

Discipline is not a dirty word! Oh, no, I wasn’t telling you that, I was telling myself that. Sometimes my actions say that I expect everything to be handed to me. That I should just *poof!*, have a longing to be with God. But I’m not seeking after having that longing.

Feels sort of like a chicken and egg situation, doesn’t it? What comes first—the desiring or the seeking? In different seasons of my life, it has played out in different ways. But I have learned that the right feelings follow the right actions. Somehow, the wrong feelings arrive all on their own and try to lead me around like a slave to a master. But feelings are not supposed to master me. God, Adonai, is to be my Master. And when I actually put the right actions first, the seeking, the leaning, the pressing in towards God and His grace and love and mercy, I find that miraculously the desire is there.

I’m going to do some seeking this week. Action to light the flame of desire. I’m going to do the things I know to do—limit distractions, clear my schedule to spend some alone time with God, commit to read His Word every day. All the things I already know are good for me, things I already know bring me peace, things I already know give clarity and direction to my life. And I’m going to do those things believing they will be the kindling for the fire of desire that I WANT to have.  Because I do want to want it! I want to want to say one thing I have desired of the Lord, to dwell in Him, to dwell on Him.

Focus. That’s the discipline it takes for me. Not a sideways glance at Him every now and again, but a focus on Him so intent that I not only see Him when the world is shut off from me in my quiet time, but I see Him in my everyday moments. I see His grace at work in the hard things. I see His face in the people around me. I am so wrapped up in desire for Him that I behold His beauty in the sunrise and at the grocery store and while I’m paying my bills and working through my to do list. Because I really want to want that.

I want to dwell in God. Dwell where He is. And I want to dwell on God. Dwell on His love and beauty and majesty and all the good things instead of dwelling on whatever in this crazy world catches my attention at any given moment. So I’m putting some feet to my wants this week. This I shall seek. Go after. Explore. Pursue. Its certainly a desire worth chasing.

Have an amazing day!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Not a Single Thing.

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us." Romans 8:35

This verse was in my quiet time reading this morning. I've read this verse many times. Encouraged myself with it, encouraged others with it. But because God's Word is actually alive, because it is living and active, it came alive again this morning to me. Anew. Fresh. 

The word "distress" jumped off the page. Shall distress separate me from the love of God? Somehow it seems easier to say all the big things--persecution or famine or sword could never separate me from God! I say it loud with my hands high! Of course not!! It's a given! I believe this!

But, I have never experienced persecution or famine or sword. 

Distress? Hmmmm. See, that's an everyday thing. Certainly here this week we have had a lot of distress. Packing up and boarding up and getting out anticipating a monster hurricane. God will save me from famine and peril! Of course! I believe it! I believed it as we drove away from our home and prayed over it and left it in God's hands. 

But that distress--it seemed to drive away with me. As a companion. A passenger firmly belted in beside me. And while I know that distress will not cause God to separate Himself from me, I cannot say that I don't allow distress to separate me from God. While I could be experiencing His very real great love and peace in a hard moment, distressing--causing myself anxiety--separates me from that love and peace. It causes me to be separate from them because my attention and my focus and my mind and my heart are fully engaged with the distress. 

But--good news!--the love and the peace, it's there! After all, when you read on down to verse 38, you see that NOTHING--not one single thing--can separate us from His love. It really is available. It really is waiting. 

I'll be working on this the next few days. Want to join me? When distress comes, as it surely will, I hope to recognize it. I hope to say, "I see you there. And you aren't going to separate me from God's love this time. I'm going to march you right on to Jesus and experience the fullness of His love and the reality of His peace despite you. Even in the midst of you. My attention will no longer be super-glued to you." 

That is my hope, anyway. I know it's possible. Because Jesus loves me this I know, Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so. When He says distress can't separate me, when He says even in distress I am more than a conqueror in Christ Jesus, He means it. So I'm going to take Him at His Word. 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Run, Girl, Run

A couple of weeks back, I started my day off just right and I’m still thinking about it. I sat down with my omelet to catch a bit of news from the Today Show—the second hour, because some days you can handle all the bad news and some days you just want the fluff. After my fill of bad news for the week (wait, was it only Wednesday?), I waited for the fluff. The puppy dog stories, the happy Olympics news, and so on. And it paid off. I got to watch Dolly Parton sing 9 to 5 on my television. It was a party with me and my dog and my omelet. And so you can get the visual with me, she was singing in THIS:

If you know me well, you know that I wish I had the confidence of Dolly Parton, because I would totally wear this ensemble every single day. I’m not kidding.

What can I say? I love Dolly Parton. How many women do you know that stick to their guns about their marriage, their faith, their music, their rhinestone fashion sense for their whole adult life? She’s been married for 50 years. She’s dressed and sang like she wants for just as long. 
So I’m inspired by her today. And a lot of you, too. I have a friend who is amazing and beautiful and interesting and smart and there are a lot of things I admire about her, but here is the one that just blows my mind--she has taught the same aerobics class for over 30 years. WHAT?! I have trouble sticking to any exercise program for 30 minutes. I admire this because she loves it and it revs her engine and she feels alive doing it and it honors God, so she does it. She doesn’t check the cultural temperature before deciding if she should keep on being herself. She just lives the life God gave her, the way God made her, and glorifies Him doing it. 
I seriously hope you have women in your life like this. We all need them. If you hang around me or Glow any length of time you will hear me say things like this over and over and over. And you will hear or read this Verse over and over, as well:

Hebrews 12:1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”

Did you catch that last part? Let US run with endurance the race God has set before US. You run your race! It’s different than mine. I have to run the course set before me. But I am to run with endurance! And when I see you running yours, I get inspired! Our races are different. Sadly, we aren’t all called to wear fantastic rhinestone jumpsuits and have our own theme parks. But we all face hard things, and have crazy joyful moments, and have to climb steep hills, and get to see amazing new starts. So they’re similar, too. And when I see you tackling the same emotions and highs and lows as me, even though they come through different circumstances, it helps me. Motivates me. Pushes me. 

And judge me if you will, but when I see Dolly Parton sing 9 to 5 in all of her glorious sparkles, it gives me just the right amount of mojo to get my glitz on and get going.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are!

Have you ever read the opening chapters of Saul’s story? That’s what we talked about at Glow this week. It is remarkable. And familiar.

Here is this amazing guy—King Saul, before the King part. He is the son of a wealthy and influential man (1 Samuel 9:1). He is the most handsome man in all of Isreal (1 Samuel 9:2).  Yet when the Word of the Lord comes to him concerning his future, his destiny in God, he says these heartbreaking words: “But I’m only from the tribe of Benjamin, the smallest tribe in Israel, and my family is the least important of all the families of that tribe! Why are you talking like this to me?” 1 Samuel 9:21

Man. I wonder how many times we do that ourselves? God comes and speaks to us through His amazing Word and tells us things like “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” in 2 Corinthians 5:17. Or maybe “Christ has truly set us free.” in Galatians 5:1 Or perhaps Jeremiah 29:11 has leapt off the page for you: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

What great promises! What amazing things God has said to us! But then immediately we think like Saul—“But I’m only so and so from so and so…” “I’m just the smallest. The littlest. The least.”

Right off the bat, I relate to Saul! I, too, have spoken words like these. But I see that his words simply weren’t true. Because 1 Samuel 9:1-2 tell us this: “There was a wealthy, influential man named Kish from the tribe of Benjamin. He was the son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah, of the tribe of Benjamin. His son Saul was the most handsome man in Israel—head and shoulders taller than anyone else in the land.” Hey! He was somebody! THE most handsome man in Israel?! Son of a wealthy and influential man?! Why so insecure, Saul?

But of course I relate again. Why so insecure, Raina? Why speak small and tiny things in the face of the greatness of the Word of the Lord? I don’t know what kind of words you throw up in your mind when you read the great and precious promises of God for you, but if they are excuses as to why those promises couldn’t possibly be for you, then I challenge you to ask yourself why you do that. Because whether your invalidations are true or not, the Word of God is ultimate Truth. And insecurity can keep you from accepting God’s Word into your heart, and thus living it out in your life.

Those whispers of “I’m only so and so from so and so” have come to us all. Ever wonder why that is? For sure and for certain the enemy lies to us. Jesus told us this plainly in John 8:44 when speaking of the devil: “There is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.” 

Many times as soon as the Word comes, the lies arise in our minds and drown out the promise. And when that happens, it’s like a barrier keeping the powerful Word out. An insecurity barrier. Listening to the lies more than the promise will lead to insecurity every time. 

So what’s a girl to do? Listen to the promise. Over and over. Make it louder. Because it is surer. It is truer. Raise up the promise at the first hint of doubt. Raise up the promise at the first feeling of insecurity. Raise up the promise at the first whisper of “but that can’t be for me”.

Psalm 93:1-4 in the Amplified version is beautiful. Here it is:

“The Lord reigns, He is clothed with majesty; the Lord is robed, He has girded Himself with strength and power; the world also is established, that it cannot be moved. Your throne is established from of old; You are from everlasting. The floods have lifted up, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up the roaring of their waves. The Lord on high is mightier and more glorious than the noise of many waters, yes, than the mighty breakers and waves of the sea.”

The Lord on high is more glorious than the noise.

Maybe you feel like Saul—the promise came, but all you could hear was the roaring of the waves. Remind yourself that the Lord is mightier than they are. The Lord is more glorious than the noise.

As Saul’s story goes on in 1 Samuel 9 and 10, we see that God, through Samuel, gives him sign after sign after sign that the Words of God for him are true. And still, when the time comes for the promise of God to be fulfilled for Saul, this is what happens:

“And finally Saul son of Kish was chosen from among them. But when they looked for him, he had disappeared! So they asked the Lord, “Where is he?” And the Lord replied, “He is hiding among the baggage.” 1 Samuel 10:21,22.

Now this, too, is familiar. How many times have I been found hiding among the baggage?! Hiding behind lies, hiding behind insecurity, hiding behind fear? Too many, that’s for sure.

But just like Saul, God knew exactly where I was. And just like Saul wasn’t disqualified for not being front and center, I haven’t been either. And neither have you.  We have a gracious and merciful Heavenly Father who sees you not only where you are now, which may or may not be among all the baggage, but He sees you with the end in mind. He sees all the Promises coming true over you, through you, in you. He sees the destiny coming to pass.

There is a law at work in the Kingdom of God—we see it clearly in Romans 11:29. This is from the Amplified version: “For God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable. [He never withdraws them when once they are given, and He does not change His mind about those to whom He gives His grace or to whom He sends His call.]”

Please stop right now and read that again!

Amazing, right?!

What a beautiful thing God does. He gives us all these gifts and callings and promises. And then He gives us free will to use them for His Kingdom, or not. But even if/when we don’t, He doesn’t rip them away. The gift has been given.

The call was still on Saul’s life! God didn’t change His mind just because Saul wasn’t running to the front of the line to accept it. God didn’t change His mind because Saul was scared. And whatever words or emotions or feelings you have had that don’t seem to “line up” with the call of God and the promises of God over your life does not disqualify you either.

God hasn’t changed His mind about you. You’re still the apple of His eye. You’re still the one He sent His Son Jesus to die for. He’s still crazy about you.

So come on out from behind that baggage. Don’t stay there just because it is familiar. 

Here’s one way you can break down that baggage of insecurity and begin to walk in the promises of God this very moment: Make the Lord more glorious than the noise. Because He is! Read the Bible. He has given you this Book full of good, good promises for your life! Make it loud in your life! Make IT more glorious than all the other noise. Find a promise—there are oh so many to choose from. And say it to yourself. Look yourself in the eyeballs in the mirror and say it. And remind yourself it is Truth. And because these aren’t your words, or the words of the enemy, but God’s Words, they are living and active. They are sharp and powerful. Say them loud. Say them often. Make them louder.

Here’s a good one to start with, I think: “…Overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:37-39

You say that over yourself over and over, because it is the truth about you! You can be secure in God’s love. Secure enough to come out of hiding.

Love you all!