FIRST

 

Before I bring my need
I will bring my heart
Before I lift my cares
I will lift my arms
I wanna know You
I wanna find You
In every season
In every moment
Before I bring my need
I will bring my heart
And seek You

First


Lauren Daigle’s voice woke me up at 3:30 this morning singing these words from her song, First. How often do I go boldy before the throne of God with a laundry list of my needs and wants? Sometimes we use prayer like a drive-thru at McDonalds…  We give God our order and drive away with a bag of forgiveness and a side of grace riding shotgun and feel like we’ve done our prayer thing for the day! To quote the apostle Paul, “may it never be!” (Romans 3:4)

The way I see it, God doesn’t want my list anyway. He knows what I need already! What He desperately wants is my heart. Me. My self. My soul and spirit. My body and mind. ALL OF ME. In relationship with Him. See, that’s the beautiful thing about the heart of our God… He is never going to force us to come to Him. I can choose to follow my own path, doing my thing, and hoping everything works out. Or I can follow the One who created me, who knows how I work, the One who wrote the manual.

So this morning, even though my heart is heavy and full of burden for people I love and care about, I’m not starting there. I’m sitting here in my nightgown with my coffee and my hands lifted high, offering my heart to God. (In between sentences. ūüėČ) It’s His already, my heart, and I know that He will take good care of it. He can fix it when it breaks. He won’t ever lose it or misplace it. My heart is precious to Him. It’s in good hands. 

Click here to listen to Lauren Daigle’s First.


What color is love?

Maybe it’s the artist in me, but I LOVE COLOR!!! In everything… walls, dishes, clothes, sunsets, flowers… God has created the most beautiful colors imaginable, and some I’m sure we cannot imagine and will only realize when we reach our heavenly home. But this morning, I’m stuck on red. Blood red.

All night long, The Lord was singing the same words over me. I have a broken rib from a bike wreck last week (another story for another time) so I’m not sleeping well these days. Every time I woke to turn over or get comfortable, Chris Tomlin’s song¬†At The Cross (Love Ran Red) was singing through my head. And it won’t stop.

At the cross

At the cross

I surrender my life

I’m in awe of You, I’m in awe of You

Where Your love ran red

And my sin washed white

I owe all to You, I owe all to You

Jesus

My love can run blue if I’m lonely. Or yellow if I’m happy and silly. Or white when the momma bear comes out in me. And even pink and red when my husband is around. But Jesus’ love is that deep, dark blood-red. The red that flowed from his sides. The blood-red that flowed from his hands and feet as He hung on the cross. The red that mingled with His sweat as He waited for His Father to end His agony and take Him home.

And because His love ran red, my sin is washed white as snow. I am made pure and perfect in the goodness and grace of God’s son. A blinding white… A white that blocks out everything except the One who gave Himself up for me.

And I am forever changed. And forever grateful.

Click here to listen to At The Cross (Love Ran Red) 

Even So Come

I freed a butterfly yesterday. The poor thing was trapped in a spider’s web outside the kitchen window. Its wing had been caught at the top edge, just enough to keep it trapped but not enough to stop it altogether, so that it was more tethered than trapped. This beautiful creature would take off as if to fly away from its bonds only to struggle and flap its wings to no avail, rest a while, and then repeat the agonizing process again and again.

I couldn’t stand it. I pulled a pair of scissors out of the drawer and carefully opened the window. The butterfly continued its “take off-struggle-rest” cycle so that it was difficult to get the scissors in the right place. During a brief rest period, I was able to snip the strand of web that was keeping the butterfly stuck in the spider’s snare. In an instant, it was soaring high and fast, farther and farther away from its earthly trappings, finally free to be the creature God made it to be.

As I opened my eyes this morning, a line from Kristian Stanfill’s song, Even So Come, was singing over me and through me.

Every heart longing for her King

We sing

Even so, come

Lord Jesus, come

Come, Lord Jesus, and free me from this web that is keeping me from being the woman You created me to be.

Come, Lord Jesus, and free me from the tethers that hold me to my old life, my earthly life, my selfish and sinful life… Chains that bind me to what I can’t even see, yet they keep me from soaring toward all that you have waiting for me.¬†

I cannot free myself. You’ve watched me struggle to break free, and You’ve seen me worn out with the trying.¬†

You’ve welcomed me when I came to You for rest from the fight, only to see me return to the restraints and constrictions of my own choosing.¬†

Come, Lord Jesus, and sever the tie. Help me to rest in Your goodness and grace, Your mercy and unfailing love. Already, I give You the praise and the glory for it. There is none like You. Amen.

Click here to listen to Even So Come from Kristian Stanfill.

Drowning

I never learned to swim properly. I mean, I can swim… Just not well. I probably look like I’m trying to swim through mud rather than water. (I can’t say for sure, because I’ve never seen myself swim!) Let’s just say it’s a struggle and leave it at that. I look pretty goofy, too, because I have to wear nose plugs, goggles, and ear plugs. Without them, I feel as though I’m trying to save myself from drowning rather than swimming and enjoying the water. Not. Pretty.

I woke up this morning with a lyric singing through my head from Casting Crowns. “Here I am, Lord, and I’m drowning in your sea of forgetfulness.” It’s got me thinking about drowning… That awful feeling I get in the water when I’m trying to swim. Panic. Fighting for air. Hyper-alertness and stressed out! See, the thing is that I only feel comfortable in the water if I have my feet on the ground and my head above water. If my feet can’t reach the ground, I want to be hanging onto the side of the pool… For dear life!!

Thank God that He doesn’t operate that way!!! If I’m going to drown in anything, I want it to be in God’s sea of forgetfulness. I want to be out in the middle of it with nothing to hold onto. In so deep that my feet could never hit bottom. Over my head, pulling me under, enveloping me in God’s everlasting love and mercy. The trouble is that most of the time, I end up just wading at the shoreline of God’s grace and forgiveness. I get my feet wet, maybe even up to my knees. I want to see it, feel it, know it’s there, but I don’t want to lose myself in it. I don’t want to let myself be swept out into the sea of His forgetfulness where I have no control and my life is in HIS hands.

Psalms 103:12 says that God has removed our sin from us “as far as the east is from the west.”

Here I am, Lord, and I’m drowning in your sea of forgetfulness

The chains of yesterday surround me

I yearn for peace and rest

I don’t want to end up where You found me

And it echoes in my mind, keeps me awake tonight

I know You’ve cast my sin as far as the east is from the west

And I stand before You now as though I’ve never sinned

But today I feel like I’m just one mistake away from You leaving me this way

Chorus:
Jesus can You show me just how far the east is from the west

‘Cause I can’t bear to see the man I’ve been come rising up in me again

In the arms of Your mercy I find rest

‘Cause You know just how far the east is from the west

From one scarred hand to the other

Thank you, Lord, for not letting me stay in the shallow end of your forgiveness and grace!! Thank you for Your beautiful scarred hands that draw me out into the deep end.

Click here to listen to East to West from Casting Crowns.

It’s Personal

The song in my head this morning has been there all night. It kept me from going to sleep. It was there every time I woke up, which was often, and it’s one of my favorites. These words humble me. The music forces me to sing harmony, and I can never get through this song dry-eyed. So rather than copying the lyrics in song form, I’ve written them as though I were speaking them, because that’s how I always hear this song.

How deep the Father’s love for us!¬†How vast, beyond all measure, that He should give His only Son¬†to make a wretch His treasure.¬†How great the pain of searing loss!¬†The Father turns His face away as wounds which mar the Chosen One bring many sons to glory.

Behold the man upon the cross, my sin upon His shoulder. Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers. It was my sin that held Him there until it was accomplished. His dying breath has brought me life. I know that it is finished.

I will not boast in anything…¬†No gifts, no power, no wisdom…¬†But I will boast in Jesus Christ,¬†His death and resurrection!¬†Why should I gain from His reward?¬†I cannot give an answer, but this I know with all my heart…His wounds have paid my ransom.

It’s personal, this thing Christ did for me. His death on the cross was not some grand gesture for all of mankind as a whole. It was God’s love for ME that nailed Jesus to that cross. It was MY life He was saving! Everything I am and everything I hope to be is because of HIS immeasurable love lavished on me. His wounds paid my ransom. I am free. Unchained. Unfettered. And forever grateful.

Featured image: the dogwoods have been spectacular this Spring in Kentucky. This picture focuses on the tree with the blooms as a bonus. If we focus on the tree on which Jesus died, the cross, we get the bonus of His love and mercy, His forgiveness and grace.

Click here to listen to the Selah version of this gorgeous song.

Click here to listen to the Phillips, Craig & Dean version.

Break the glass!

I’ve seen cardinals peck furiously at glass, almost fighting the enemy bird they see in the reflection. I’ve had mockingbirds on my windowsill, preening and keeping watch. But never a robin. Robins seem to me to be ground birds, or at least that’s where I usually see them hopping along, pulling at worms or whatever they happen to find in the grass.

There’s a robin on this same second-story windowsill this morning. Facing me, his long beak lightly kisses the glass almost as if he is testing the image to see if it’s real. After a time, he turns and looks out at the world, keeping vigil, slowly looking right to left. Then the whole process starts over again. This little bird has come and gone, repeating this cycle, 3 or 4 times in the last hour.¬†¬†¬†

I think, for some of us, our faith can be just like the robin and the glass. We face God, testing Him, pecking at His image to see if it’s real, if it can be trusted. If HE can be trusted. But we turn away and face the world, looking in all directions for something to sustain us. Finding nothing, we turn back to God and test His image again. The whole process repeats itself because there’s a glass wall between us and God Himself. We can see Him, and we want to get to Him, but something blocks us.

What is your glass wall‚Ķ That invisible, yet very real, thing that keeps you from getting to the God you can see and Who loves you with an everlasting love? A past hurt that just won’t let you forget? A relationship you know God wouldn‚Äôt approve of so you turn away? An addiction that has you locked down, unable to break through the glass? Or is it the fear of breaking the glass itself? Of getting hurt in the process?

Break the glass, dear one! Power through and gut it out. Yes, you will get scraped up a little. You may even get cut, but Jesus is standing ready to hold you in His arms and heal your hurt. He has scars to match your own. He is watching us test the image in the glass. Don’t let Him see you turn away again. Break the glass! Tear it down and feel His grace and mercy.

Click here to listen to the song in my head, Cry Out To Jesus, from Mac Powell and Third Day.

“It doesn’t matter!” -Grace

I hear a voice, and He calls me “redeemed” when others say I’ll never be enough.

This line from the MercyMe song,¬†Greater,¬†woke me up this morning. Just this line. Isn’t it a wonderful thing that God calls us “redeemed” no matter what anyone else says of us? Even ourselves. As this line played on a loop in my mind while I went about my wake-up routine, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and said those same words…. Even ourselves.

I am my own worst enemy. I am self-everything… -Critical, -absorbed, -serving, -deprecating, -fillintheblank. Insert the word “self” in front of each of those words and many others. I have always been too quick to tear myself down. But that’s not what God says of me.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. -Romans 8:1

Like the song says, “there will be days I lose the battle. But Grace says that it doesn’t matter because the cross already won the war!” I love the full definition of the word redeemed at Merriam-Webster.com. Please read it and know that Christ has done this for you. And me!!!

Full Definition of REDEEM

transitive verb
1
a  :  to buy back :  repurchase

b:  to get or win back

2
:  to free from what distresses or harms: as 

a:  to free from captivity by payment of ransom


b:  to extricate from or help to overcome something detrimental


c:  to release from blame or debt :clear


d:  to free from the consequences of sin

3
:  to change for the better :  reform
4
:  repair, restore
5
a  :  to free from a lien by payment of an amount secured thereby

b (1):  to remove the obligation of by payment <the United States Treasury redeems savings bonds on demand>

(2)  :  to exchange for something of value <redeem trading stamps>

c:  to make good :fulfill

6
a  :  to atone for :  expiate <redeem an error>

b (1):  to offset the bad effect of

(2)  :  to make worthwhile :  retrieve

Please have a listen to this wonderful song, be prepared to dance. Greater.
Please click here to read Greater from a different perspective written in August last year.

The morning after

I love the morning after a big snow. Everything is blanketed in soft white, and all the world seems hushed and still. This morning, the sun is bright and it’s as though God bedazzled his creation with beautiful diamonds… Just scattered them across the top once He was satisfied with the way everything looked down here. After covering the earth’s scars with snow, and covering us with His forgiveness so that our old self is no longer visible, our precious Lord gives more… Little jewels of grace and goodness.

It renders me speechless and I can only stand at my window and stare. And thank God for His goodness.

The morning after
Jewels, diamonds on snow
A gift of God’s love

IMG_1099

Snowmageddon

We are in the middle of what some are calling “snowmageddon.” We have three inches on the ground this morning and 10 to 12 more expected before tomorrow morning. Outside my studio window, the sky is gray and it’s hard to tell where the sky stops and the ground starts. The wind is so strong, the snow is “falling” sideways… So horizontal to the ground, that I wonder how any of it is actually ON the ground. Somehow, though, it has covered the brown muddy earth with all its ugliness, and made it clean. White. Pure. God’s Gesso!

As a painter, I use a product called Gesso to prime a surface or to start over. It’s a thick, heavy-bodied, white paint-like substance that seals and stiffens the canvas, covering anything on the surface I’m prepping. Sometimes I’ll use it on a practice painting that I know I won’t keep or need again. It’s a do-over. I can start again with new paint, new colors, even a new medium to create another painting. Anything can become a canvas with Gesso… A nice box with a magnetic closure, a wood panel.

I once read in a poem
That when snow covers the earth
That it hides the world’s scars
And gives nature new birth
And they say when a
Man turns from sin to the Lord
That forgiveness like snow
Covers him evermore

I love the lyrics to this song. Somewhere It’s Snowing. Isn’t it a beautiful thing that, just like snow falls and blankets the ground with pure white, clean and fresh, the grace of Jesus covers our sin. It disappears beneath the forgiveness and mercy of our Lord and Savior, and we are made new. All of our dark, ugly, gray, broken, scarred imperfectness is gone beneath the blanket of God’s goodness and grace.

1 Samuel 16:7 says this… “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” If my heart is covered by the grace of Jesus, the blood of His atoning sacrifice, then my heart is fresh and clean before God when He looks on it. He sees the snow-covered beauty within me, and I think maybe what’s underneath doesn’t matter any more.

Click here to listen to Somewhere It’s Snowing by Lynn Michael Coffey.

Featured image… I took the snapshot outside my window just now, trying to capture the sideways snow.