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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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The Best Is Yet To Come

Last week I had the great honor to speak at my grandmother’s funeral service. I wanted to share a short piece of that with you. As I was preparing yesterday, God led me to 2 Corinthians 5:1-5. After reading that verse I felt prompted to read the message version. This is a portion from my message today. I hope you find encouragement here.

2 Corinthians 5:5-1: The message version says~ For we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we’ll never have to relocate our “tents” again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less.

Family, friends, I know some of your tents are worn and weary. Life has been hard, but if you are a follower of Christ, we have this great hope that is not an earthly aspiration born of this world but an eternal assurance brokered by The Savior of the world.

Be encouraged today that the best is yet to come. Because of this great inheritance we have been given, we can leave here today knowing that we are not saying goodbye, but see you soon in paradise.

Whatever you are facing tonight friend, God is in the midst. He is going before you and working in ways you cannot begin to imagine. You never walk dirt roads alone. Ask Him, seek Him and find Him. He is waiting to give you rest. You are loved.

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I Will Try Again Tomorrow

Yea, it is the end of one of those hard days when you feel beaten, battered and bruised, sometimes literally. Your heart has been spun up and wrung out.  Emotions have swirled through your body like a tidal wave leaving you feeling washed out, weak and worn.  You have been fighting all day for this person, praying like the persistent widow for that situation, enduring physical pain necessary for healing, and filtering waves of grief and gratitude that amidst it all, curiously still co-mingle.

There is finally a lull of silence with the parting of the sun; your soul settles slightly, and you know you must choose to either concede or conquer the day’s chaos.  Then comes a gentle reminder that you aren’t in this alone.  He’s in the midst of your pain.  He is present with your people, and he is bigger than that situation.

At the end of days like this, I am so grateful that the Psalms are in the Bible.  Many days I am living them as sure as I am breathing; crying out for relief, reassurance, direction, strength and forgiveness.  Then, when the commotion begins to settle slightly I reach deep within to find despite it all gratitude, thanksgiving, worship, and redemption slowly start marching along to the beat of my broken heart.  I take a breath, and each one becomes a little deeper, a little deeper, and finally I enter a state of ailing rest, remembering that tomorrow, should she come, holds new mercies, strength, grace and fuel for the road ahead.

Today must be released to the past, and it is then when I hear the soft but resolute roar;

I will try again tomorrow!

And you friend must courageously commit also to engage again tomorrow with a fresh mind and hopeful heart!  You are loved.

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The Secret Is Christ In Me

fullsizeoutput_57e7Good morning weary friend.  I know the road you are traveling feels lonely, exhausting and at times unbearable.  Sometimes you are so ready for peace and it feels like God is not answering your plea for help.  This week The Lord has been reminding me that often I am more disappointed and disillusioned by the failure of my arrangements than His answers. He is answering, but probably not within the parameters of the controlled, nice, tidy box I frame those answers in.  His plans are so much higher than we can imagine, and silence does not mean absence, but very often action. It is in the reticence of our trials that the resurrection is awakening.  Just remember, not to put that outcome in a box; God does not fit there.  Keep looking up.  Take the next right step and remain faithful.  I love this quote and hope it encourages you this morning:
The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.
Elisabeth Elliot, Keep a Quiet Heart
You are loved!

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Prayer For the End of a Weary Week

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Father, sometimes the end of a week meets me worn.  Your gentle Spirit woke me at 3:30 this morning as you sometimes do. Wide awake and atypically alert, I asked because I knew you had a message for me.  That message was; my battles belong to the Lord.  How easily in my flawed self-reliance I forget to release those battles from my modest hands into your masterful ones.  Remind me God that it is not my capabilities, but yours, that determine outcomes.  As the battles are yours, so are the victories and the seeming defeats.  Sometimes in my myopic vision I feel conquered.  Gift me with remembrance that I am never overcome when I allow you to battle on my behalf.  In all the strife I face, that my friends face, give us the grace to resist self-security and rest in Savior sufficiency.  Too often in my urgency to resolve I engage from a stance of me against Goliath.  I am more than ill-equipped God.  Give me an unshakeable confidence in you that enables me to lay down my weary weapons and surrender my battles to you.  Amen

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Jesus Holds Our Little Lambs

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Yesterday was a difficult day for me as a mom. Some days our hardest job is remembering that God does not get it wrong-ever! In no circumstance is this a harder fight than circumstances involving our children. My son suffered a traumatic brain injury last July. His cognitive recovery has been a struggle. School is a struggle. Life is a struggle.

His neuropsychologist and case manager spoke with me about considering placing him on a life skills tract as opposed to a diploma/college track at school. He is in the ninth grade. The doctor said his cognitive scores place him within the category of a life skills track. These were very tough words to digest. I tried to put my best armor on and let the words bounce off of me, but the tears were tougher, and they won out.

The emotions are still raw from that tragic day. I think they always will be. A sight, a sound, a smell, a memory; they can all trigger a rush of emotion that no amount of effort can contain. My son is forever changed. I am forever changed. Our family is forever changed. This is not all ominous news. Change chiseled from crisis forges character, perseverance, deeper faith and so much more. The fruits born out of frustration are often some of the sweetest.

My son is not a victim, and I refuse to be either. Once we take on that role we put limitations on ourselves. We also maximize our sufficiency and minimize the soverignty of our Savior. I am sad that the circumstances are as they are. I hurt, I ache and at times I worry about the future. In all my fleshly responses, a voice keeps echoing in my head, BUT GOD. That is my life preserver friends! Test scores are indicators, but they are not dictators. Doctor’s opinions are assessments, but they are not absolutes. I much prefer the infallible provisions of My Provider to the fallible predictions of man.

I don’t know at this time what our decision about our sons’ school track will be. I am not ready to make that decision, nor am I ready to confine him to the limitations of a label. Labels we put on things are typically stickers. Over time, they are prone to fall off. I choose not to rely on labels, I prefer to rest in the hope of providential plans.

Yesterday I heard this quote from my friend, Julie Sparkman, of Restore Ministries. During the third session of her bible study series, Unhitching From the Crazy Train, she said, “Getting under the yoke with Jesus does not give you a different life; it gives you a different way of doing life.” Those words spoke so poignantly to my heart.

No matter what obstacles you or I are confronting today friends, our hope does not rest in the what of our struggle. It resides in the Who of our surrender. That is great news! This truth is a rest for our weary souls. Will you fight to reside here with me? Jesus holds our little lambs.

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Exhortation for the Exhausted Today

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Exhortation for the exhausted today:
Pain, fear, worry and sadness are not the absence of a faithful heart. They are the evidence of an alive soul. Faith is not built by the abolishment of feelings but authored amidst the presence of much pain where the determination to choose to trust in the plans of our Savior, not our situation, persevere.

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Weary Hearts

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For weary souls and feeble hearts, remember this today:

It isn’t in the midst of great times and a carefree life that God comes after hearts. Nor is it within the paramaters of easy that souls become dehydrated enough to thirst after Him, and the living water that only Jesus can offer.

No matter how much you are hurting, or whatever circumstances you are enduring, God is working much more in and through your pain and frustration than He ever could your happiness.

Fight to believe that, and speak that truth to yourself repeatedly until it gives you rest!