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Not Always Merry and Bright

I so wish for life to be like a Hallmark movie. Love and contentment always win. The ending is tidy, happy and sealed in a pretty package accentuated with a red bow on top. But it is television, and so far from the reality, we inhabit.

I think that is one of the allures of Hallmark movies. They provide a magical escape from the tender truths that are indigenous to what we have always falsely believed is the happiest time of the year.

Pain wears many faces and holds no prejudices. It does not adhere to our calendars or circumstances. Maybe the agony shows up in the loss of a job, marriage, a parent, a spouse or the incredible heartache that settles in when we hear someone has to bury their child.

Broken people, broken families, broken worlds; they may all present differently, but fractured hearts are inherent to us all. The holidays as merry and bright as they are for many, are equally melancholy and bleak for others.

Life is incongruent to my desire for everyone to be happy, but I have learned this piercing lesson: happiness is a circumstantial frailty, not a gospel actuality. Without the assurance of our eternal inheritance, we stand here today poor, hopeless and lost. But it does not have to be that way.

A 1700s French writer captured something very tragic, yet I think significant in his last words. “And so I leave this world, where the heart must either break or turn to lead.” ~ Nicolas Chamfort

Sometimes our greatest challenge as we go about living in this world that is remarkable one moment and ruthless the next is continuing to engage. It is so easy to check out, but we are called to check in. It is so simple to let our hearts turn to lead, but we are called to be light instead. Is any of this straightforward in our climate of death, destruction, hatred, and hostility of unparalleled proportions? No, it is not effortless, but it is essential.

Dear friends, I know many of you are facing unspeakable burdens. My heart aches for you and throbs with you. Right now pressing in may be asking too much. That is ok.

We, unfortunately, have to drink from the cup of hurt before we can be quenched by the hand of The Healer.

God never forsakes us, though. One way He manifests himself is through our community. I pray wherever you find yourself today, the love of those around you warms, even if just slightly, the weeping heart inside you. Your internal song may never be the same, but this I know, someday your soul will sing again.

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Poverty, My Greatest Blessing

I love old, beautiful churches, so it is no surprise I was drawn off the busy streets of downtown Chicago and through the front doors of Fourth Presbyterian Church this past Thursday morning. Inside I sat down to enjoy sacred shelter from the cold and the hustle and bustle of what was going on outside the majestic doors, although that was not my motive for going in. I walked into the church wanting to experience Jesus and expecting I would. I had no pre-conceived notions what that would look like, but imagine my surprise when I found what I was unknowingly seeking in the eyes and embodiment of a homeless person.

After a couple of minutes inside, I broke through my fascination with the beauty around me, and I noticed near the front of the church a handful of people sitting on both sides of the middle aisle. I quickly realized they were homeless. They had come in off the streets to warm up and rest. I sat silently in the back just observing. God began to make something evident to me. I wasn’t there to watch homeless people in a beautiful church. I was there to remember one of life’s wealthiest truths.

There in that reverent church, I felt drawn to engage, so I walked forward and sat down next to one of the men. I said, “hello.” His disposition was gentle and relaxed. He was soft-spoken. It was apparent that he and his friends were broken, impoverished, homeless, needy, unclean and dependent for every need.

His eyes. I will never forget them. They looked sad but settled. They were sunken yet soft, wrinkled while welcoming. The story they expressed was foreign yet familiar.

This man and his friends bore no weight of expectations beyond shelter and rest. No schedules were taunting them, and no plans or unmet duties were daunting them. They just came as they were, destitute, weary and worn.

I sat there in clean, warm clothes seemingly not lacking, yet oddly I knew that even though it looked like the homeless people had nothing, in a different way they had everything, the most important thing, I need every day. A fresh awareness of the poverty of my heart is my greatest blessing.

As I sat with this man, I asked God to make me more like him. That sounds crazy, right? Not at all. I want to enter into The Lord’s presence fully aware that I am poor, needy, lost and unclean without a Savior outside of myself. I want to come free of distracting thoughts about schedules, deadlines, and duties, and for the love, thinking about what I will eat next! I want to come as I am, not as I feel I should be. I want to come aware of what is but more focused on the hope of what will be. I want to come empty of myself because it is only then I can be filled by my Savior.

These people were an exposed and unfiltered expression of me. I can dress up in my best smile, clothing, and accessories, surround myself with desirable things and people, but underneath it, and right in the middle is an impoverished heart that cannot be dressed up. It is destitute, broken, frail and in desperate need of a Shepherd every day.

Just like the people I encountered, I am a homeless heart wandering around grasping for places of shelter and rest because this world is not my home and everyday-everyday-I feel the ramifications of my exile.

The good news is this, though, I do not wander without hope or direction when I remember it is my poverty, not my perfection, popularity or “power” that yokes me to the love of my Provider. Neither do you, friend. Neither do you.♥️

And, this was the hymnal song that was on the board.

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Tears

Large trees in snowy climates are designed to drop their branches when the weight of falling snow gets too heavy for them to bear. It is like a dance planned by a Director that is out of the trees control. The Choreographer knows exactly when the branches need to release pressure so they don’t break. Our tears are a lot like that, also. They are not on our timetable, and that can be both frustrating and sometimes awkward. Like the beautiful tree branches, though, we were designed by God in such a way to let go of building burdens so we may bend but not break. Isn’t it amazing that our Father was so attentive to every little detail, even the timing of our tears? He crafts exactly when they will fall so He will be there to capture them all. He is holding you amidst your burdens today, friends. He is the Creator and the Caretaker of every last tear. Rest in His arms today. You are loved.❤️

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Show Us Your Glory, Lord

As I was walking to the beach in hopes of catching a beautiful sunrise about an hour ago, I was singing these words from a song, show us, show us your glory, Lord. God showed off for me as He often does! This photograph, (totally raw and unedited), is evidence that every new ending and every new beginning, although sometimes painful, beholds great beauty. Be encouraged, dear friend. If you are confronting a difficult transition from old to new, there are better days ahead. Forgetting is often impossible, but choosing where to focus our attention and perspective is not. Tim Keller says everything given was necessary and everything withheld was not. The former things, realized and unrealized, have fashioned a wide portion of the person you are. Purpose is a predecessor of praise. Pursue the purpose in every ending and beginning knowing that grief and gratitude co-mingle in this life and peace, joy and hope within you will reside. Lord, help us remember your work never needs editing, even when we think it does! You are loved, friend! ❤️

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Not What We See, Whom We Know

Sometimes saying it is well with my soul guts us to our core, even still, we can say they will be done. It is not well because our circumstances are favorable, but because our Savior is faithful, and we have experienced His character enough in the past that we trust Him with the present. Lord Jesus, present us a faith that is constant, not circumstantial. Sometimes we are The Israelites, needing to see to believe. As we walk through the hills and valleys, help us remember you are the same yesterday, today and forever, (Hebrews 13:8), and when that truth reigns in our hearts, we can persevere. Whatever you are confronting today, friend, I pray you keep believing not in what you see but in Whom you know. You are loved.

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God Will Make A Path Through

If you need hope today, remember this, Then Moses raised his hand over the sea, and the LORD opened up a path through the water with a strong east wind. ~ Exodus 14:21

God may not remove your “Red Sea,” but as He did for Moses and the Israelites, He will open up a path and lead you through it.

Trust Him for that provision today, friend.

You are loved.❤️

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The Commission is at Hand

Dearest friend,
We are children loved by a good Father without comparison. He has anointed us with a unique mission, in unprecedented times. The Father chose us for this moment in time that can be difficult to reconcile because it is a marriage of both beautiful and brutal. Because of this, it is necessary for us to love fearlessly, believe scandalously and hope without compromise. What mission has He entrusted to you today? May we all be good attendants of His holy assignments. Scandalous belief says that we have all we need to succeed today so do not look ahead for the commission is at hand.

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A Delicate Yet Decisive Wind

As I was sitting outside in silence for a few minutes, the most subtle scene grabbed my attention. The wind blew my back patio gate back and forth before resituating it in a different direction. I was immediately awestruck by the thought that the wind, although invisible and in this situation barely audible, is so powerful. The gate is steel, and the wind was not blowing hard; and because of the weight of the gate, it would appear only movable by human hands. The wind, however, delicately yet decisively, rearranged its coordinates in the most humble manner. God is like that, friend. He may be invisible but never idle, always capable of shifting that which seems stagnant. By nature, we want to take charge because the inconspicuous illusion of control deceives us into believing in our sufficiency. Although you cannot see God, and maybe you are standing under circumstances that bear the weight of the world, do not concede to what you see, cling to what He says. Your Father is able, and when the time is right; He will change that which appears concrete. Ephesians 3:20, Isaiah 60:22.

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The Inherent Word of God


While the grievous news of the world may be watered down, weeded out and written to suit fleshly desires, the good news of the Gospel cannot.  God’s Word comforts me and gives me true hope, but honestly friends; it also disturbs me because I cannot manipulate it to accommodate the sin that so easily entangles me. When I begin to change, rearrange or “modernize” the Gospel, His Word becomes corrupted by my will; and I make God in my image rather than Him making me in His.  If I am not disrupted by The Word of God, then He is not God in my life.

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Backdrops For Blessings

Manna for your moment from my yard. Notice that every individual dew drop is distinct in its resting place upon the rose. This picture reminds me that like the rose catches the rain, God catches every tear. He compassionately holds each one with singular significance and gives them shelter until the Son tenderly wipes them away. God never wastes your tears. Sometimes they are tokens of joy and sometimes pain, but not one goes unnoticed or falls in vain. Every part of who you are matters to Him. When you feel the least loved or lovable, remember that like the dew finds respite upon the flower, we find refuge in The Father; and hope accessorized with faith whispers, moments when we feel bruised are backdrops for blessings.🌹