Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Dirty Sheets

I was so mad I was shaking. I grabbed a corner of the fitted sheet on my bed and I ripped backward, yanking it off the mattress with exaggerated force. I nearly smacked myself in the face. But no matter. You might think this is just about changing the sheets on my bed, but it's much, much deeper than that.

You're wondering why I'm mad. What on earth happened that has Cara so ticked off? I'm ticked at my adversary who calls himself an angel of light, fancy pants Satan. That's who I'm mad at. I'm sick and tired of his lies and how he makes me fall for them. I may have eaten his brownies yesterday, but today I'm throwing them up and I refuse to eat them again.

Let me back up. Yesterday was a bad day, y'all. Like, a really bad day. I don't want to be this honest, but something is urging me to--probably because someone reading this needs me to be this honest. So I hope you won't discount me after reading this. I'm so unbelievably human...

Ten months ago my husband and I felt God asking us to leave his solid job in the city and move our family back to our home town...where there is basically no market for his expertise at all. Seriously. It's the reason we moved to the city in the first place four years ago. So why on earth would God ask us to move back? Because of family, that's why. We felt the deep conviction that our children need to grow up closer to their grandparents, and that we needed to be a part of the church here. My husband had a spark of a dream to start his own business, and somehow it seemed like the time was right to do it. We were scared, but we felt like God was lining everything up and asking us to jump. So we did.

God did some cool things over these last 10 months, but it has also been incredibly stressful. Not knowing where your grocery money is going to come from is a little bit humbling and if I'm honest, angering. We are not incapable people. We are not uneducated, and we are not fools. But as these months have passed, the funds we started with for the business have slowly dwindled. A few months ago we felt God answer in a big way by sending a sizable contract our way, and so my husband rejoiced, did the work above and beyond expectation, and then waited for the payment from his labor. The Bible says a worker is worth his wages. I believe that. But four months later, with no payment from his labor, you start to wonder if the Bible is true. (Insert whatever heartbreak, frustration, unbelievable circumstance you are going through here and you understand what I mean.)

Anyway, yesterday was a day where all of these hopeless feelings, frustrations, worries, anxieties, dashed dreams, you name it--they all hit the fan. We were covered in poop. I could not seem to reel myself back in from the slope I was tumbling down. I became down right angry with God. I said it. I was not just angry, y'all--I was furious! And I told Him about it. Several times. I recounted the ways I have called on Him, believed Him, trusted Him, followed Him with my whole heart...and yet here He was ignoring me. Rude.

Yesterday I heard all the right lies at all the right moments, and they all sounded like truth. He is not good, He is not faithful, I cannot trust Him, He does not care, He does not answer. The Psalms say "I cried out to the Lord and He answered me!" Was I crying out wrong? Was I not loud enough? (You do not want to see my prayer journal entry.) I felt like He was flat out ignoring me, and it was getting me seriously riled up! I was not asking for a million dollars; I was asking for provision, plain and simple. Let me insert here that we are NOT starving, and no one is coming to take our house away...or our cars. But it's been hard, and the harder it gets, the more things break and the more the kids need things, and get sick, etc. And the less business comes in.

Pause. I'm not writing this so you will feel bad for us. I'm seriously writing this because somehow we Christians aren't honest with each other. And when YOU have a day, a week, a month, a year--for crying out loud--where you feel THIS way, you feel alone. And I don't want you to feel alone.

THAT'S why I'm writing this. That, and I like to watch Satan eat dirt. It's a win win. ;)

As if all that weren't frustrating enough, though, here's what really got me ticked off. Reading "Anything" by Jennie Allen, I have surrendered a lot of things in my heart. I have asked for God to reveal His plan for us, to guide us to His Will, rather than our own. In the midst of reading it, He brought back a dream that I've had on my heart for about 5 years (I can't be 100% open just yet about this, but I'll tell you as much as I can), and this dream requires us to be financially stable. It will require us to have extra money. See where I'm going with this? He has even been quite specific with this dream in the past month in extravagant ways that cannot be coincidence.

And yet, this dream is impossible where we sit right now. I go to church and work with the children, and we sing about how nothing is impossible for God, and He delights in doing the impossible. I cry and I ask Him if it's true. I feel Him say yes...and yet, our circumstances say something different. And it feels like He's just being cruel. (Can you relate?)

I went to buy some groceries yesterday, and I used a gift card I'd received for my birthday, and it freaking wouldn't work at the register. I almost had a melt down. It finally worked the third time at the service desk. Whew. You probably can guess how sweet and Christian I was in my mind during those long few minutes. Oh how weak I am, guys.

Anyway, yesterday sucked. But this morning as I chewed God out in my prayer journal, I mean poured my heart out to Him...I saw something. I had written a prayer several days ago asking God for integrity, humility, patience, obedience, courage, and passion like Queen Esther. What the heck was I thinking?! I even wrote that He could break me to build me up again to make my character line up with Him. Y'all, I obviously was experiencing a serious lack of common sense in those moments! But here's what I saw. God does answer prayer. He answered that one. Dang it. Why THAT one, Lord?! So I asked for this! I literally asked Him for this. Sigh.

And then something else hit me: The children's songs ARE right. God does do the impossible. He does delight in shocking us. He is faithful. He CAN do anything. He is "Super Big." He is super strong, super wonderful. I closed my eyes and I saw the chasm between where I am and where He wants to lead me, and it was so deep and wide. And scary. And it grew before my eyes in my mind.

And that's the point. God is widening the gap so that what He does IS super big, super wonderful, super impossible. I'm shaking writing this, because I'm scared honestly of just how big that gap is going to continue to become. But steadfastness is what the purpose is right now, today, this week, this month. And I am so weak in this area. But "My God is big, He'll do anything big or small" is playing in my head, and I am going to believe it. I am choosing to believe HIM, to trust Him, to keep my faith even when it doesn't make sense.

If God doesn't come through, then He is a liar. And I don't think He wants to be called a liar, do you? He will prove Himself faithful, and I have to stand on that. I want you to know I'm writing this BEFORE He comes through. It's easy to say this stuff after He proves Himself. I'm choosing to say it before He does, when I don't even see a speck of His provision in the distance.

"For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised." Hebrews 10:36

"And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him." James 1:4-5

Back to the sheets on the bed. As I stripped the mattress, I thought: Isn't this exactly what I must do spiritually? Strip the filthy sheets in my heart? I can't lie in doubt, discouragement, hopelessness any more. No, I won't. I am going to get angry at the REAL enemy. And I won't continue to lie down on dirty sheets. I'm going to strip my heart of the filth, the anger, the hopelessness, and let God wash them His way. I don't know how long it'll take, but I am purposing and positioning my heart right now to receive and learn what He wants to teach me.

And I hope my honesty here helps someone. It's ok to be real, to be honest. We don't have the ability to be churchy all the time. God can handle your anger at Him, your clenched fist. But don't refuse to loosen your grip. I realized today that if my fists are clenched, they can't receive anything when He does decide to give it.

Peace of Christ to you,

Monday, October 3, 2016

Mighty Man Woman of Valor

There is something about Gideon that I absolutely love...he walks into the picture with a bit of reluctance, with an unfiltered attitude of “Wait a minute, what did I do to get dragged into this mess?” If you need a refresher on Gideon's plight, basically the Lord has once again become frustrated with His nation and their disobedience toward Him, so He has sought the help of someone whom (I believe) He knows will obey.

How did the Lord know Gideon would obey? Aside from the obvious...ahem, He's God...I think we can look at the beginning of the story for the answer. In Judges 6:10 the section concludes with, “But you have not obeyed my voice” and is instantly followed by, “Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide if from the Midianites.”

This is actually a really big moment for Gideon, even though it looks minor and of very little significance. The Lord has chosen Gideon to defeat the Midianites—the nation Gideon's dad had told him to beat out wheat to hide from. Gideon was in the act of obedience and his obedience certainly was not something fun or something that would set him on the path to stardom.

He was doing the mundane because it was what was required of him, and then the Lord showed up and spoke something slightly absurd over him. “And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, 'The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.' (Judges 6:12 ESV)

Pause. The word VALOR means: “Great courage in the face of danger, especially in battle.”

Gideon was beating out wheat! There was no battle yet. There was no need for courage. Not yet, but the Lord knew there would be. God knows what is tucked around the corner, what we will be slammed with in three days, in six weeks.

What I want you to hear is that God assigned Gideon's title of COURAGE before it was actually needed. God told Gideon that He would be with him, while Gideon just wants to know why his people have been oppressed. Because this hiding provisions from the bully isn't exactly delightful. And the Lord later says to Gideon, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” (Judges 6:14 ESV)

Woah. I don't know if you caught that, but I think we may have a bit of a sassy angel of the Lord here! Gideon had just finished filing his complaint to the angel of the Lord and slightly sassing him (I'm not certain, but I don't think you're supposed to do that), and so the angel seems to be saying, “Look, who is greater than the Lord to send you out? No one, so go do it!”

Long story short: Gideon obeys. It's quite miraculous because he actually ends up defeating the Midianites with a whopping 300 men. The reason I'm bringing Gideon up today is because I noticed something beautiful that I wanted to pass on to you.

Don't we all want to be courageous? But maybe we want to be courageous without that situation that actually requires the courage. If only, right? But the comforting thing is: God will not send us into battle without equipping us first.

He is pouring courage into you today that you'll need tomorrow.

We can be women of valor in the school supplies at Target. We can be women of valor while we are monitoring time out (again), while we carpool, at the gas station. Being obedient to what is required of us in this very moment, in this very day is sometimes the most courageous thing we can do today. And the more we do those seemingly mundane things, the better opportunity we have for God to call us to something even greater around the bend. We are Women of Valor because we have obeyed in the small...so it's likely that we'll obey in the big. And today, God is equipping you with the courage you'll need for that bigger battle that you are not yet fighting today.

As you obey your impatient, rude boss...you're a mighty woman of valor.

As you drive your son to the soccer field and ask again if he has his soccer ball and his water bottle...you're a mighty woman of valor.

As you keep your head up at the grocery store even though strangers whisper and jeer at you because of some rumor going around that cuts your character down...mighty woman of valor, you hold your head high. The Lord knows your heart and He knows what is around the corner, He knows what you are capable of with His help.

Gideon defeated the Midianites all right. They got so confused, they basically folded. It was a one in a million shot, and Gideon killed it. I don't know what your Midianites may be. A broken marriage, a wayward teen, a financial crisis...it might look impossible. And maybe technically it is. But I'm learning that God kinda likes to show off and win when no one else is cheering for Him.

I'm heading to go make breakfast for the three little sleepy heads in my house, but that's not all I'll be doing today. I'll be obeying the Lord in the ordinary, building courage and valor for the extraordinary that could show up next week, next month, next year. And that's what you're doing today, too. So go with courage and destroy your Midianites because the Lord has sent you, and He doesn't lose.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Peace Produce

Well, my first update on our negative neighbor has come much quicker than I anticipated! But it's a good one!

I was mowing yesterday in the early evening--the part of the yard that is close to the dreadful fence, the breach that Wendy crossed on that fateful day! So as I made laps around, I couldn't stop glancing toward the neighbors' house, which I knew was either going to make me very angry or cause me to feel compassion for them. One thing about being God's kid is that He likes to talk to you, even if you are honest and don't really want to hear from Him in the moment and would rather sulk around in your kiddie pool of misery and bitterness!

I kept feeling this nagging on the inside that maybe I sorta kinda got a little bit hot and maybe I sorta kinda shouldn't have. And if you've ever felt that way, you may agree that it's a rather uncomfortable feeling. I knew that I needed to talk to God about it and see if He wanted me to get rid of any feelings I was carrying around (but boy, they sure were justified feelings!). So sure enough, when I asked Him if maybe I let my anger grow a little much and needed to ask forgiveness, the answer was a quick YES. (Don't you hate when that happens? You might ask God a question for weeks and not hear anything and then you ask Him something you don't want the answer to and He yells it at you right away!) So I started asking Him to forgive my anger and replace it with love for her. I asked Him to give me a new heart toward her, to help me see her the way He sees her.

But let me tell you, I had no idea how quickly He would delight in answering that prayer!

I rounded the field I was mowing once more and I saw movement to my right. Here she came on her four wheeler up my driveway. I thought, "Oh boy--here we go! Lord, give me strength and patience and please guard my tongue!" She came to a stop and pointed at me to come to her. I killed the engine of the mower and reluctantly peeled myself off the seat to go see what punishment I needed this time!

She had a 5 gallon blue bucket sitting on top of the four wheeler, and the closer I got to her, I realized she had brought something to me in the bucket. I waved and said Hi as I reached her, still not completely sure of what on earth she was about to say or do!

It may be that new heart I prayed for, but y'all, I swear she almost smiled at me! She pointed to the bucket and said, "These are terrible tomatoes, but I wondered if you'd want 'em. I was just going to throw them away."

I maybe could have wet myself with excitement! I didn't care how terrible those tomatoes were, I wanted them! Look at that--peace tomatoes!

I took the handle of the bucket and lifted it off the four wheeler as she said to go put them in something else and bring her bucket back. Yes, ma'am! I literally ran up to the house to grab a container for the peace offering (I mean, I didn't want to take too long and make her mad, right?!). I laughed the whole way. God absolutely cracks me up! I dumped the tomatoes into a different bucket and then hurried back to her. Kate and Caleb had kept her company while I was gone (I'm sure she was delighted about that!). Caleb told her, "We keeped the dogs away" to which she almost smiled and said, "Thank you."

I handed the empty bucket back to her and said thank you probably 29 times. She isn't much for social banter, but I learned several things in the next few seconds that are very useful and will indeed help me love her more. She actually said, "I shouldn't tell you this, but just below those trees is a garden spot. My mother gardened it for years when she lived here." I grinned and pressed for more information, just to be sure, you know. "On the other side of those trees?" I asked. "Yes, all you have to do is break it up. I don't know why I'm telling you that." I can't figure out why she wasn't supposed to tell me about the garden spot! Maybe she's worried I'll have a better garden than her one day? LOL! But she did tell me, and that seems like a pretty solid neighborly thing to do, don't you?

She is funny, y'all. She's so serious, and I realized that it's like she couldn't figure out why she was doing something nice. It was against her will, I think. But something made her come over and be nice. :) She shouldn't tell me about the garden spot, and the tomatoes are horrible ("I don't know what the h*** is wrong with them this year" she said!), but she did tell me about it and she did bring tomatoes!

Isn't God funny and also really nice to us? I hopped back on the mower to finish mowing after she left and I could not stop grinning! I hoped she wasn't sitting over there watching me and thinking what is wrong with that girl?! God answers us when we ask Him for help, doesn't He?

I'm thinking of 2 Chronicles 7:14-16 "...if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time."

Wow. I know that's a little out of context, but I also believe the Word of God is living and active and relevant in all situations and can speak of many things at once and at all times. I think God was asking me to be humble, and almost the very moment I obeyed and humbled myself and prayed, He answered me with tomatoes! Tomatoes! Ha! You might think that was just a coincidence, but I don't believe in coincidences! I believe in a sovereign God who is alive and listening and who has a sense of humor!

I rode around the next half hour thanking Him and saying, "You sure do like her, don't you, Lord? All right, all right--I like her, too."

"And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace." James 3:18

 Peace of Christ to you,

Monday, July 11, 2016

Mountainside Mayhem and our own little Ninevah

Okay, okay--I may have deserted you for a time, but I'm determined to bring you back into the loop with this post!

So, we have moved to the mountainside, and let me just say: God is so good to us! Our entire family absolutely loves it here! We are still wrapping our minds around the way God brought this place to us out of thin air and with a big grin landed it squarely in our laps! Thank you, Lord (and my parents who hugely helped us with this dream!).

Something hit me the other day: You know we lost all of our possessions and home in May of 2013 in a whirling tempest (sorry, tornado--been reading in Jeremiah lately!). Well, Matt's aunt Karen said something to us on that shock of a day--before we even had seen the devastation--that I believe was prophetic and I'm so grateful to look back on it now. She reminded us of Job and how though he lost everything he owned and even his children--which we did not thank you, Jesus--the Lord restored to him everything in a double portion. The Lord has done the same for the Yakel family, y'all. We now own TWO homes after losing ONE home. He is so gracious, and it knocks my socks off!!

Anyhoo...there is this one little bitty problem, though. And that's why I'm blogging today. I have a feeling God is up to something either awesome or hilarious or both, and I thought it'd be a blast to drag you along on the journey...

Everything is absolutely perfect out here on the mountainside. Everything except this one little thing: our nearest neighbor. (I'm not at all concerned that she has Facebook or blogging, so don't panic about her reading this. Just trust me on that.) She's an older woman who we hope lives many many more years here on the mountainside, but as my husband noted, her ability to panic in minor situations could possibly be a slight health hazard. We'll have to do more situation assessment and get back to you on that.

Let me paint the mountainside picture from my vantage point for you, mkay?:

I'd say there is approximately 1 acre between our home and hers. (We have 10 acres in all, some woods and some farm, which is super funny because I had lamented to my husband only days before finding this place that my dream plantation would be 1/2 woods, 1/2 farm land! I love the Lord and His care for details, don't you?) Ok focus, Cara: I have two little dogs, one whom you know as Tornado Wendy, Wendy who survived the Big Windy, Wendy the Tornado Dog, Wendy the Weather Channel Celebrity among other titles! And also recently to enter the picture was Ginger Snap, the Easter gift. Ginger is feisty to say the least (she is none other than a Feist breed after all)! So, she's a hunter. Yep, a very very very speedy hunter. Did I mention, she's fast? And not exactly, shall we say, trained? ahem. The dog doesn't obey ANYONE. She is hilarious, though, and actually really cute.

See? Adorable.

Anyway, it's apparently NOT adorable if she wanders over into my precious neighbor's yard and asks the cats if they want to play. I didn't know this, but cats don't like to play with dogs. Who knew, right? Okay, so that unfortunate incident happened once. And believe me, I foresaw the calamity and doom that would be birthed from it and ran my posse right over to retrieve said adorable playful very very very fast disobedient dog. Of course this was no easy task, and I wish I had a video of my chasing the little devil around in circles yelling really loving affections at her the whole way. I finally caught her, patted her gently, and returned her to her fenced in yard. But of course not before precious neighbor came out and with shock and awe spread on her face, educated me on how expensive her cats are and that they may have just had a heart attack, which would be the end of her existence...or that's what I came away from the situation with. Moving on: Sweet Ginger Snap has not left her yard or gone over there since that day.

But y'all, yesterday was a fateful day, and you won't see this one coming. While Ginger Snap sweetly sat snugly in her back yard, Wendy the Tornado Dog somehow became disoriented while outside and horrifically and unforgivingly wandered over onto precious neighbor's back yard. Yes, she did. I actually watched this go down with the appropriate response of shock and horror on my face, and I promptly beckoned her back to safe ground, our side of the barbed wire fence. Let me insert here that if you don't know Wendy, well...I'll just show you and you'll probably guess what I'm about to say.

Okay, it may be hard to discern from this shot, but Wendy has a bit of a weight issue. She's fat, y'all. And lazy. I've never in my life seen her chase a cat. There's really no point in her because they won't give her kibbles. So, anyway, Wendy the Tornado Dog did not indeed chase a cat while her paws were on the other side of the fence. She was looking for me and most assuredly was in a mild panic attack since I was nowhere in her line of sight. Once she heard my voice, she galloped back to my presence where she desires to be anyway--not with fluffy cats.

I put her in the house, but I had a bad feeling Armageddon may be around the corner.

I was right.

I heard the engine of the side by side coming up the driveway and I knew I better either go get my husband or quickly dig a bunker to hide in.

The woman was hot, guys. And possibly a little drunk, but that's beside the point. We were chewed out, threatened, pointed at, glared at, despised, told of the gun that will be used on the dog, etc., for a good solid 5 minutes (which is a long time when you're being verbally destroyed mind you!). I nodded and agreed that yes this was surely an atrocity and it won't happen again. I even asked her to forgive us, to which she was obviously quite bumfuzzled. She will NOT be tolerating or putting up with this ridiculousness. She simply will not, and that's that.

My in laws were present for the circus, and my hilarious father in law almost made the fatal mistake of trying to be friendly to her, to which my mother in law kindly brought him back over to safety by a stern warning to sit down in the lawn chair. He caught on and made it out safely, so don't worry.

So our family stood together and made a determination: we will not repay meanness with meanness. We will heap coals on her head with kindness instead. And this is why I thought you'd like to ride along on the adventure! God has such a sense of humor, I have figured out. He totally did this. He set this whole thing up, grabbed his popcorn and lawn chair and said, "Let's see how this goes down!"

This morning I read Jonah. Mmhmm. Jonah. No Compassion Jonah. Love that guy, bless his heart. He cared more about a plant than 120,000 people who were doomed to die. I'm just saying, God may be doing something here, and my Ninevah is a little closer in proximity than Jonah's was to him. I checked and there's no body of water for me to jump in and escape, so I might as well head on over with some homemade cookies probably, right?

We had planned to bake some cookies and deliver, but then the first time we met her, her first words to us were that she was coming over to say hi and be neighborly because she's not, but she just wanted to make sure we knew that snakes live on the mountainside. :D

Don't worry, I won't be sitting under a plant and calling for her destruction. I'll kill her with kindness. And it's sure to be a fun ride, so stay tuned!

"If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you." Proverbs 25:21-22

Peace of Christ to you,

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


I'm just gonna throw this out there: If you ask the Lord to speak to you, He just might do so through a piece of...trash.

True story!

I sat on my front porch (which I haven't gotten to tell y'all about yet--for shame!) and soaked in the spread of mountains before me, as I often do in the mornings. I nestled into my worn-in white rocking chair and scanned the carved horizon for a sigh from the Holy Spirit, anything He might be saying to my heart.

And this scratching noise caught my attention to my left. Kind of an annoying scratching noise, mind you. Not soothing. Annoying. I peeled my eyes away from the sanctuary-view before me to see a clear piece of trash on the porch beside me. It delicately bounced around, this way and that, tossed by the intruding wind of the morning. I acknowledged its existence and returned to behold the far away beauty of the Lord's hills.

Scratch. Scuttle. Scratch.

I found the piece of trash on my right side now, twirling at this point this way and that in a circular motion.

Fine. I'll watch you. 

It danced off the porch into the grass, then back onto the porch again, and when I thought it would blow down the whole length of the porch and be gone forever, suddenly it would jerk back toward me and come careening into my rocking chair abruptly. It must have circled my vicinity twenty times as I sat, now completely enamored by this little nuisance turned intriguing.

And that's when the Lord whispered to me:

That piece of trash isn't just a piece of trash. It's a lot like you, as a matter of fact.

Me? How?

See how it keeps swirling around, and just when you think the wind will cast it away forever, it somehow finds its way back? 

Yes, it's annoying actually.

So is my love. My love is fierce and it's unrelenting. And I will not stop using my love to show you that I have not thrown you away or cast you off to never be seen again. My love is a current that sweeps you up and doesn't drop you, doesn't cast you aside. I will keep using you over and over again. 

Because I love you and I see the value in you. 

You know, that piece of trash's dance was one of the most beautiful things I have seen.

Its cadence was love. 
Its choreography was surrender. 
It completely submitted to what it could not control.

God wants us to completely submit to what we cannot control: His love. His love is fierce and His love might take us places that are unpredictable, but He will never cast us off or throw us away. And tucked up into His love, though it may look bumpy, is the safest place you can be.

And you know what else? The world may see a piece of trash in you, but that's not what the Lord sees. He sees beauty. He sees someone He can take on an adventure, someone He can twirl around. Someone He can create beauty out of where there was once ruin.

You aren't dispensable. You aren't worthless. No, you are beautiful, expensive, rare. And He wants you!

The God of the Universe, the One who knows all things, who made all things--that same God wants to sweep you up in the whirlwind of His unrelenting love.

The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you with his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.
Zephaniah 3:17

He sings a song of Love over you, and He asks will you twirl with Me?


Peace of Christ to you,

Thursday, November 19, 2015

God knows my name.

Do you ever think about your name--what it means, where it came from, if it really matters? What if you go by a different name than you started this life with? Did someone have to send God a memo so He wouldn't accidentally call you Gertrude when you've vehemently denounced that name and warned everyone to please refer to you as Trudy? ;)

But seriously, though. Sometimes I wonder because I was actually born with a different name than the one I now use. Well, they're spelled differently anyway. So God does know how to spell it, right? And my middle name is different--much better, by the way.

This morning while reading about the Resurrection of Jesus, I fell in love with this story about Mary and I realized just how deeply He knows our names:

I love Mary Magdalene. She isn't the most popular, the best all around, the most valuable player, the beauty pageant winner. She has dealt with shame, demons, and quite possibly with being the butt of others' jokes. But there's a particular passage in scripture that defies all these societal claims and labels that have been placed on her, and it's one of my favorites.

It's early, still dark outside--Sunday morning. Mary's heart has been broken--her Lord, her Rabbi, her friend has been ruthlessly slain. With her heart raw and in shreds, she carries the burial spices in the black of the morning--the sun still hiding behind the hills--expecting to add them to Jesus's tomb. Because that's what you do for the dead.

And Jesus was dead.

No angels had shown up and carried Jesus off the cross. It seemed that nothing extraordinary, nothing miraculous would happen after all. Not for Mary, anyway. When someone murders you, you truly die. The miracle did not come. Death had not been defeated, the odds had not been defied. All that was left was a cold grave with the most precious person she had ever known--the one who had loved her despite her flaws--laid inside. 

But the next few minutes will change Mary's life forever, no doubt. Mary finds the tomb stone rolled away, so she runs to fetch Peter and the other disciples to investigate what has happened to Jesus's body. 

He's been stolen! Who would do something so cruel?

And so scripture says she stands outside the tomb in shock and filled to the brim with grief. A new grief, one that cannot believe someone could add such insult to an already unimaginable injury.

"But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, 'Woman, why are you weeping?' She said to them, 'They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.' Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, 'Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?' Supposing him to be a gardener, she said to him, 'Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away'" (John 20:11-15 ESV).

Wow, so much to take in here. Mary is not looking for a miracle; she is looking for the dead. Maybe she doesn't even believe in miracles anymore. Her heart has been broken and she is empty. She just wants to get Jesus's dead body back so she can tend to it. Is that too much to ask?

But Jesus has saved His greatest miracle just for her!

"Jesus said to her, 'Mary.' She turned and said to him in Aramaic, 'Rabboni!' (which means Teacher)" (John 20:16 ESV).

Did you see that? Mary turned from the tomb and looked Jesus in the face and she didn't know Him. She thought He was the gardener, and begged this man to tell her where her Lord had been taken.

Her grief was so palpable, so overwhelming, that she could not even see the truth in front of her!

But there is one moment when she finally recognizes Him: 

When He says her name.

Oh, the beauty wrapped up in this one word: Mary! Jesus knows her name and says it in such a way that she also knows Him. I wish I could hear this exchange, to see the love on His face as His lips form the sound of her name! And what I wouldn't give to see her eyes widen and light up as she hears her name with such tone that no one else has ever used. I wonder if it sounded like singing.

Honestly, Mary seems to be a common name in scripture; the writers of the gospels differentiate her by adding Magdalene to her name, which also tells us where she's from. But Jesus didn't need to add that; He didn't need help distinguishing which Mary she was. And how extraordinary, how unique her name must have sounded when Jesus said it!

Mary. That's all Jesus had to say. He knew her in depth, He knew her heart like no one else, and He could prove it just by saying her name.

And you know what? Jesus knows your name, too. And if you let Him, He can call you in a way that no one else is capable. If you let Him into the deepest hurts, the darkest truths of your heart, He can call you by name and make it sound like a brand new identity. He can put joy and hope and purpose right inside your bruised heart if only you'll let Him. He can replace your sorrow, your disappointment with the greatest miracle you've ever witnessed.

And in turn, we can say His NAME and mean it in a way some can only marvel at. Jesus was "Rabboni"--Teacher to Mary.

I want Him to be Teacher to me, and I want Him to say my name like that. 

Don't you?

 Peace of Christ to you,

Monday, November 16, 2015

At a Distance

This morning I noticed something I hadn't before while reading the account of Jesus's arrest and trial before his crucifixion.

It's one subtle little line, but it whispered to my heart with tremendous weight.

"Peter followed at a distance" (Luke 22:54).

I can just imagine this scene in my mind, the tension disrupting the velvety night, how Peter must have trembled and his heart must have hammered in fear-stricken anticipation. They were dragging Jesus away, and Peter must have been rewinding the events of the past week in his mind, meticulously searching for Jesus's specific words of warning about this very moment. Had he misunderstood Jesus? Was this really the way it would all end? Surely Jesus could not be overtaken! How would he get out of the officials' grasp?

Peter showed his fierce love for his Master and his hot temper before; but this time was different--more final. There were no more rehearsals or lectures; this was the big production and the final examination. Time had run out, and Peter was panicking.

I read and re-read that statement: "Peter followed at a distance" again and again. Could Peter have not followed at all? Could he have run off and hidden himself away, shutting out the reality of what was happening to his friend? Maybe in body, but I don't believe he could have in spirit. Because when you love someone so fiercely and your very purpose is wrapped in something--someone--you must follow. You must see what is to come, what is next.

Even if all you can muster is to follow at a distance.

I don't know what would have been done to Peter had he followed more closely. Maybe they would have arrested Peter as well. I'm guessing that was his fear. I do know that he had followed close enough that Jesus could later turn and look at Peter.

That just chills me. I cannot imagine the despair I would feel in Peter's position at that moment of gaping open exposure. He could not hide, and he had spent every denial afforded him by Jesus's own prophetic words. There was nothing left but to stand in the nakedness of the truth--he had denied his Lord, his friend.

And it had begun with him following at a distance.

I wonder if Peter had somehow had the courage, the boldness to follow on the heels of Jesus instead of at a distance, if he somehow would have mustered the courage to stand with Jesus? I wonder if he had not allowed himself to be deterred by fear, if Peter would have turned other hearts toward Jesus in those hours rather than calling curses down on himself?

Of course we know that this happened to fulfill Jesus's words that Peter would indeed deny Jesus three times. But what about us?

What if we had the courage to follow on the heels of Jesus rather than at a distance? What if I allowed His teaching, His leading to be enough authority for me to follow closely and obey fully?

What if I wasn't afraid of what would happen to me if I followed my Savior a little more closely?

Like Peter, I know I must follow because Jesus is who He said He is. I must follow because He has seized my heart and I am drawn to Him. Because I know the truth and cannot deny it.

But how closely will I follow? That, I get to decide. And so do you. How intimately do we want to see Jesus's works, His miracles, His plans? My heart screams that I want to experience them right on His heels! But my fear warns me to shrink back, to allow some distance for safety...just in case. Scripture says that even if I do follow at a distance, His grace is sufficient for that. He will look on me with love even if I am tangled in my fear and can only stumble along behind. Because He understands us and He loves us in our afflictions.

But how will He look on me if I break the heavy shackles of fear that slow me down, if I shake them off and run to catch up to His side?

Jesus, may we follow you fiercely, may we drop the heavy blanket of fear that weighs us down and run with the freedom and weightlessness that will propel us forward closer to your side. So we can hear your words up close, even your sighs and your gentle whispers.

May we follow on His heels and not at a distance.
Peace of Christ to you,