May 2, 2011

Dear God, Are You There? It’s Me, Traci.

Ignored – much like this blog for the past month. That’s how I’ve felt. Surely I am not alone. I think each of us comes to a point (multiple times) in our faith walk where you feel like you’re at a crossroads. It may not be anything dramatic but there you stand clueless about where to go next or how to take one step forward.

If you’ve been there for any significant length of time you may begin to feel like living at the crossroads is normal. The danger in that is that we can forget to pray or seek the Lord. You “know” the right answers that God will come through and reveal in His timing but do you really believe it? Have you gone to Him and asked? How often do you and God have a heart-to-heart?

I was convicted when I read Isaiah 65.

“The Lord says, ‘I was ready to respond, but no one asked for help. I was ready to be found, but no one was looking for me. I said, ‘Here I am, here I am!’ to a nation that did not call on my name.’” Isaiah 65:1

“…For when I called, you did not answer. When I spoke, you did not listen. You deliberately sinned – before my very eyes – and chose to do what you know I despise.” Isaiah 65:12

How convicting! God wants to give us an answer. He may be waiting with clear directions but instead we forget to ask! How many times do we confide in friends and self-help books but forget to go the One with the plan? In our impatience, we run ahead and take matters into our own hands – often deliberately sinning in the process. We also then run a risk of damaging God’s perfect plan for us.

It is not easy to wait – but in the process, talk to the Lord. He is ready to respond. He’s anxiously awaiting your attention. Run to Him.

Image Source: Google Images

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April 1, 2011

Puzzle Pieces

Occasionally, in the late afternoon I step out of my office and into the activity room (I work at a senior center). I enjoy spending time with program participants and have grown particularly fond of “Alice” (not her real name). Alice is a feisty, determined (read sometimes stubborn) elderly woman who is a die-hard puzzle queen. She often invites me to help her tackle whatever 500 piece puzzle she happens to be working on that day. Truth be told, I’ve grown to love these moments with her.

In the time I’ve spent with Alice and our puzzles, I’ve noticed something. Alice’s determined nature often finds her forcing pieces into places they don’t belong because in her mind they “should.” She will push a piece into another and become so focused on one area of the puzzle she misses the obvious pieces that lie just off to the side.

Image Source: Flicker

This made me think of how often I try to fit into a piece not designed for me. It doesn’t mean those pieces aren’t good or a part of the larger puzzle but they aren’t the right fit for me. God designed me to be unique and He has a plan for my life – a plan that fits into His larger plan.

How often do we become so focused on one area of our lives that we miss the right piece of the puzzle that’s lying off to the side? Have our outlooks become so myopic that we can’t see what else is out there? Are we so unwilling to wait that we force ourselves into place because we “should?”

Like so many, I struggle with waiting but finding the right fit will be worth it. I want God’s best. I hope you do too. As you wait, consider embracing your uniqueness. Who are you? How are you gifted? What are your talents and passions? And whose are you? Where is your identity? Have you placed it solidly in Christ?  If you are made new in Christ, what do you know of His character? Allow the Lord’s character to sustain you, provide you hope, and give you peace.

Whatever you’re waiting on  – wait for the right fit. The puzzle will come together in His perfect time.

Philippians 1:6 “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ.”

March 29, 2011

Star Gazing

“When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.” – Persian proverb


Have you ever noticed how much junk gets in the way of hearing God or seeing what He’s trying to teach you?

Busyness.

Relationships.

Work life.

Even ministry life.

And have you ever experienced what happens when He yells your name and says STOP!? Just stop. Listen to him.

Where did you allow yourself to be surrounded by a fog? Where did the enemy creep in and say a crammed schedule was ok because it was full of good things? Or, whisper that if you just read the umpteenth book on spiritual life, you could control the great sense of guilt you carry with you? Of if you just worked hard enough at your job, it would be enough?

The sad thing is we often take half-truths and twist them just enough that even the “good” things in our lives become a distraction and even an idol. Sometimes it takes going into a dark season to remind us to look for the light. In the darkness, we remember who we are and can find truth if we look for it. God wants a relationship with us. He will allow us to go through times of darkness in order to call us back.

Are you willing to give up the junk? Even the “good” junk in order to draw nearer to Him?

Will you ask yourself who you are and who you belong to?

Will you stand for the truth?

Can you see through the darkness? Do you see the light?

Shed the fog and cling to the light.

 

March 23, 2011

Come Awake!

Every time Matt Maher’s “Christ Is Risen” comes on the radio, my heart stirs a bit. There is so much joy in knowing what is to come!

1 Corinthians 15: 43 “Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They will be buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength.”

vs 54 -58 “…‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.

So my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.”  (Emphasis mine.)

There is nothing to fear if we know and claim Christ. He has risen from the grave and conquered death. May our souls stir and leap for joy when we remember that He has conquered death.

Come awake!

Come awake!

We are one with Him again!

Praise God this Lenten season when we are reminded of what He did to conquer the sting of sin and give us victory over death!

March 22, 2011

Spring Rains

It’s finally Spring  – and with it comes the promise of new beginnings. Fresh starts; a turning of the page; and grace. Sweet grace.

But also hope.

Hope. (Insert pause – breathe it in. The reality of it.)

The spring rains have come. Yesterday I sat looking out my window and thought of all being washed away by a beautiful spring storm. God brought Hosea 6:3 to my mind.

Hosea 6:3 “Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him. He will respond to us as surely as the dawn or the coming rains in early spring.”


(Image Source: Flickr)

It’s an inevitable part of spring that the rain washes away the dirty remains of winter. The air seems a little sweeter and smells of the promise of new life. It happens every year. It’s a sure thing. God’s response is the same. He will respond. Why we doubt that He would respond is foolish because it is a sure thing. We must press on to know Him – to crave Him. How are we to hear His response if we are not seeking it? Are we even listening? Or are we so busy grumbling about our current situation or are we too focused on ourselves to even hear His response?

Be reassured that God will respond as sure as the coming rains in the early spring. Let us know Him more deeply and listen to His voice. He is near. There is hope.

March 14, 2011

The Big “D”

The Big “D” and I don’t mean Dallas (or divorce). (Forgive the Mark Chesnutt reference.) I mean doubt. I’ve grown up in Christian circles. I accepted Christ at age six. I went to Christian schools, surrounded myself with Christian friends and even worked at a Christian company. All this to say, I’ve noticed something – doubt seems to give Christians the heebie-jeebies (yes, that’s a very technical term).

We don’t mean to do this to each other but many Christians don’t know how to respond when other Christians find themselves doubting faith. Somehow we expect non-Christians to doubt but not Christ followers.

Generally, I think many Christians see doubt as a weakness. I’m not sure I’ve seen enough evidence in Scripture for me to tell you it’s good, but I can say it’s healthy and normal.

Why?

Doubt challenges us to deepen our faith.

Doubt prompts us to ask questions that we might have missed the first time around.

Doubt motivates us to examine who Jesus really is and who we really are in light of what he did.

Doubt forces us to our knees and to the Word.

While mulling all this over, it dawned on me one day that so many faith greats have doubted or royally messed up. Yet, God still used them to achieve great things, draw them closer to himself, love and redeem them.

Doubting Thomas – needed proof that Jesus was alive and he did spend an abundant amount of time with him as his disciple.

David – there was the whole Bathsheba incident and yet, he is still a man after God’s own heart.

Peter – denied Christ three times and still God built the church upon him.

Remember these things as you or your fellow believer finds themselves with doubt. Come alongside of them. Extend grace. Be patient. Encourage honesty and openness. Pray for one another. Love each other. Remember God can use each of us – even the doubters among us.

 

March 11, 2011

Stripped

God wants all of us. He wants us to come to him. Sometimes we are the ones that stand in our own way of a deep, authentic relationship with Him. But don’t worry, God can (and will) get our attention. He often does this by tearing down our walls. Removing (often quite painfully) idols in our lives or misperceptions of faith and who we think he is (or who we think we are). He does this for a reason.

Envision a brick wall destroyed. At first look, this might appear to be a tragedy but I assure you this is an opportunity. As you sit in the pile of bricks you have the opportunity to examine them before you put them back together. I’m not sure what your wall is all about but could it be about trust? Do you really trust Him or just kind of? What keeps you from trusting? Is it about faith? Do you believe God is good? Do you believe he has a plan?

Ask the questions you need to ask. God is big. He can take it. He knows already – you might as well tell him.

The Book of Hosea has been a great allegory for me in times of rebirth, rebuilding, and challenge in my own life. When God has torn my life to pieces, he has a purpose. He has my attention. He will heal me – but in a new way. He will heal me so that I might know him more fully and live abundantly because he has removed the rubble and built something even more beautiful. He will show each of us – as sure as the morning dawn.

Take heart when you find yourself stripped and laid bare before God. Cry out to him as he will heal you. He will heal in a beautiful new way if you let him.

Hosea 6:1-3 Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces; now he will heal us. He has injured us; now he will bandage our wounds. In just a short time he will restore us, so that we may live in his presence. Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him. He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming rains in early spring.

March 9, 2011

Unexpected Lessons

Have you ever noticed that in the times when you’re faced with an unexpected lesson or challenge that you learn the most? We can spend our lives planning away but it’s the things that seemingly take us off course where we learn the most. I’ve recently seen how stepping away from my own plan has allowed me the opportunity to experience God in an authentic way. I believe God calls us to experience his goodness. Psalm 34:8 is evidence of this in my mind.

Psalm 34:8 Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

During these unplanned times, we learn what it is to walk in freedom and grace because we realize we are not the ones in control – that job belongs to God and God alone. When we find ourselves stripped of our defenses (even the ones we mask behind the routines of religion) we are face-to-face with our true nature and our level of faith.

Do we choose to trust Him?

Do we choose to let Him cover us in His blood?

Do we let Him take the reins of our lives and lead us beside still waters?

The questions alone can unhinge us but do not stop asking them. Taste and see my friends. Taste and see that He is good. Experience His goodness all around you. In the mundane. In the pain. In the uncertainties of life. He is there. He is good. He wants you to come to him and know Him. See Him for who he is – good. And what’s more, He loves you. This good God loves you.

I hope each of you find yourselves facing an unexpected challenge – not because I wish confusion or distress on you but so that you would have an opportunity to draw closer to an authentic experience with the Lord and to know Him deeply.

 

February 16, 2011

You Are More

This song hit me today as I was driving into the office. How often do you and I know the right answers or deviate from the “right” path only to be faced with doubt, fear, and confusion on where we are going? There is hope. We have been remade. We are redeemed from our past choices, our intentional mistakes, rebellion, etc. We are more.

There’s a girl in the corner
With tear stains on her eyes
From the places she’s wandered
And the shame she can’t hide

She says, “How did I get here?
I’m not who I once was.
And I’m crippled by the fear
That I’ve fallen too far to love”

But don’t you know who you are,
What’s been done for you?
Yeah don’t you know who you are?

You are more than the choices that you’ve made,
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,
You are more than the problems you create,
You’ve been remade.

Well she tries to believe it
That she’s been given new life
But she can’t shake the feeling
That it’s not true tonight

She knows all the answers
And she’s rehearsed all the lines
And so she’ll try to do better
But then she’s too weak to try

But don’t you know who you are?

You are more than the choices that you’ve made,
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,
You are more than the problems you create,

You’ve been remade.

You are more than the choices that you’ve made,
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,
You are more than the problems you create,
You’ve been remade.

‘Cause this is not about what you’ve done,
But what’s been done for you.
This is not about where you’ve been,
But where your brokenness brings you to

This is not about what you feel,
But what He felt to forgive you,
And what He felt to make you loved.

You are more than the choices that you’ve made,
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,
You are more than the problems you create,
You’ve been remade.

You are more than the choices that you’ve made,
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,
You are more than the problems you create,
You’ve been remade.

You’ve been remade
You’ve been remade.
You’ve been remade.
You’ve been remade.

February 13, 2011

Father’s Love Letter

My Child,

You may not know me,
but I know everything about you.

Psalm 139:1

I know when you sit down and when you rise up.
Psalm 139:2

I am familiar with all your ways.
Psalm 139:3

Even the very hairs on your head are numbered.
Matthew 10:29-31

For you were made in my image.
Genesis 1:27

In me you live and move and have your being.
Acts 17:28

For you are my offspring.
Acts 17:28

I knew you even before you were conceived.
Jeremiah 1:4-5

I chose you when I planned creation.
Ephesians 1:11-12

You were not a mistake,
for all your days are written in my book.

Psalm 139:15-16

I determined the exact time of your birth
and where you would live.

Acts 17:26

You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Psalm 139:14

I knit you together in your mother’s womb.
Psalm 139:13

And brought you forth on the day you were born.
Psalm 71:6

I have been misrepresented
by those who don’t know me.

John 8:41-44

I am not distant and angry,
but am the complete expression of love.

1 John 4:16

And it is my desire to lavish my love on you.
1 John 3:1

Simply because you are my child
and I am your Father.

1 John 3:1

I offer you more than your earthly father ever could.
Matthew 7:11

For I am the perfect father.
Matthew 5:48

Every good gift that you receive comes from my hand.
James 1:17

For I am your provider and I meet all your needs.
Matthew 6:31-33

My plan for your future has always been filled with hope.
Jeremiah 29:11

Because I love you with an everlasting love.
Jeremiah 31:3

My thoughts toward you are countless
as the sand on the seashore.

Psalms 139:17-18

And I rejoice over you with singing.
Zephaniah 3:17

I will never stop doing good to you.
Jeremiah 32:40

For you are my treasured possession.
Exodus 19:5

I desire to establish you
with all my heart and all my soul.

Jeremiah 32:41

And I want to show you great and marvelous things.
Jeremiah 33:3

If you seek me with all your heart,
you will find me.

Deuteronomy 4:29

Delight in me and I will give you
the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:4

For it is I who gave you those desires.
Philippians 2:13

I am able to do more for you
than you could possibly imagine.

Ephesians 3:20

For I am your greatest encourager.
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

I am also the Father who comforts you
in all your troubles.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

When you are brokenhearted,
I am close to you.

Psalm 34:18

As a shepherd carries a lamb,
I have carried you close to my heart.

Isaiah 40:11

One day I will wipe away
every tear from your eyes.

Revelation 21:3-4

And I’ll take away all the pain
you have suffered on this earth.

Revelation 21:3-4

I am your Father, and I love you
even as I love my son, Jesus.

John 17:23

For in Jesus, my love for you is revealed.
John 17:26

He is the exact representation of my being.
Hebrews 1:3

He came to demonstrate that I am for you,
not against you.

Romans 8:31

And to tell you that I am not counting your sins.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19

Jesus died so that you and I could be reconciled.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19

His death was the ultimate expression
of my love for you.

1 John 4:10

I gave up everything I loved
that I might gain your love.

Romans 8:31-32

If you receive the gift of my son Jesus,
you receive me.

1 John 2:23

And nothing will ever separate you
from my love again.

Romans 8:38-39

Come home and I’ll throw the biggest party
heaven has ever seen.

Luke 15:7

I have always been Father,
and will always be Father.

Ephesians 3:14-15

My question is…
Will you be my child?

John 1:12-13

I am waiting for you.
Luke 15:11-32


Love, Your Dad
Almighty God

Father’s Love Letter used by permission Father Heart Communications
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1999-2010 http://www.FathersLoveLetter.com

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