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Sunday, March 27, 2005

Easter Blessings

I wanted to share a precious poem my oldest princess wrote today. Hope it blesses you as it has me.

Not Easter eggs
It's Jesus Christ
He died so we
Could have a new life
He rose again
So that in us
A new life may begin


Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world

Behold the nail scarred hands now raised in victory

Behold love

And rejoice

Friday, March 25, 2005

Come and sing

I remember my chains
My days in the sand
The bruises and blisters
My heart's barren land

Father, where are you?
Through tears I can't see
Will you deliver?
Come. Rescue me.

My child, listen closely
I'm speaking to you
Remember My nails
Remember the truth
You are forgiven
You are set free
You are My child
Come sing to me

How can I sing?
The notes are all wrong
I don't remember
The words of our song.

The song has since faded
Like the days of my youth
Father, come quickly
I'm hungry for truth.

Come home, Beloved
Come rest, My child
I'm your safe harbor
Come sit for a while
Come let Me hold you
Pour out your life's song
Be still and listen
Here you belong

Every note to your story
Was perfectly placed
By My hand of mercy
By My hand of grace
The deserts, the victories
The wandering days
All hold together
In My embrace

Come child and listen as I sing over you
Come and discover our song's complete tune

Come child and listen
Come seek My face
I AM your longing
Your hiding place
Come let Me fill you
Come and drink deep
Come home, precious child
Come sing with Me.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

The Place of Grace

Last post I promised to share how the escape from the fear cycle is looking in my home. Here goes...

Imagine with me for a minute. Picture your favorite stuffed animal ~ one you loved all the fur off of when you were little or one you've seen somewhere and longed to hold. Mine's an adorable black bear cub with soft fur and chocolate eyes that fits perfectly in my arms for a hug. Once you have a picture of whatever your favorite stuffed animal would be, pretend it's your heart, something very near and dear to you. How would you treat it? Would you hold it close to you and protect it? Would you toss it across the room for someone else to play with? Would you hand it over to your husband or your kids? Would you hide it away so no one could see it?

What do you think Jesus tells us to do with our stuffed animal heart? Give it away? Nope. In fact He says the opposite: "Guard your heart for it affects everything you do." (Proverbs 4:23)

So how does this relate to getting out of the fear cycle? Good question.

Answer: it's the first step. Guard your heart. Take personal responsibility for your heart because it affects everything you do. Protect your teddy bear.

All too often we hear that we're to give ourselves away for the sake of the gospel because we have so much truth and people need us to show them the light. Maybe you've interpreted that like I did and felt guilty because what you had to give was never enough. Here's what I thought that meant using my teddy bear as an example of how I handled my heart:

People saw my teddy bear, thought it was adorable, and wanted to hold onto it to help them through a tough spot. So because God made me with a deep desire to share the truth and a sensitive heart that longed to help, I allowed people to borrow my bear for a while. It felt good to know I could help; I could comfort those in need. The problem came when I wanted my bear back, when I felt a little tired and needed to rest. But I'd let go of it and the other person became dependent on it to make them feel okay. And I became dependent on them taking care of my bear. So what did I do?

I listened to religious sounding words that told me to pour myself out without showing me how get filled. I listened to guilt inducing words that told me I had so much to give I shouldn't have needs of my own And if I did, I was selfish. So I let others smother all the fur off my bear. Then they threw it back to me and wanted me to fix it and give it back to them.

That's where I was a few weeks ago. With a tattered and torn teddy bear and nowhere to go to get it fixed. I thought God wanted me to keep giving myself away and I was hurt that when I did it didn't really help others and it depleted what little I had. Others needs and my needs were a bottomless well that I felt guilty for not being able to fill.

Then the people at the Marriage Intensive spoke an interesting word of truth. Yes, the Bible does tell us to be poured out like a drink offering, to give and it will be given to us, to comfort those in need, to consider others better than ourselves. But the truth that's so often not given at the same time is that I can't do any of those things unless I am perfect like Christ. (Matthew 5:48) In the Greek perfect means "complete" not the highest standard of having all our ducks in a nice religious row like I've been told to work hard to do.

In other words, I'm to give only after I’m complete. But I'm left with an impossible situation if I don’t know how to get complete. All I've heard on how to get there are nebulous words like "be perfect” “be filled with the Spirit" "rest in the Vine" "depend on Jesus to live His life through you."

Maybe I'm slow. Because I thought I was doing those things, but it never worked. I prayed more, served more, read more, woke up earlier to do even more quiet time, and all I felt was exhausted.

Remember my tattered teddy bear heart? The one full of guilt for not being enough? Here's what I learned: It's not enough. Doesn't that feel better? No, it didn't to me either. Not until I heard the rest of what my Heavenly Daddy was saying. Before being poured out, giving myself away, and putting others first, I had to take care of myself (Philippians 2:4) by finding my completeness in Him.

To do that, I had to go back to the two greatest commandments. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself."

What does that look like?

It looks like curling up with my teddy bear and spending time in the Father's arms.

That means always holding onto my teddy bear and protecting it~ taking personal responsibility for its care and not hoping others will do it. It means hanging out with God to get full~ all my heart, soul, mind, and strength loving God. And then I can share my teddy bear heart with others as long as they treat it well. If they don’t, I still have my hand on it so I can pull it back and run to God. In other words, spend time with God to get full and spend time with God to stay full. That’s how you guard your heart.

Love God by obeying His command to "Come to me all you who are weary." Love God by spending time with Him and taking care of someone He values with His life~ YOU.

In your emotions: get information from your feelings, listen to your heart, and talk to God about what you hear.

In your spirit: hang out with God and listen to what He says about you.

In your mind: feed it with healthy things.

And in your body: rest, exercise, and eat well.

Talk and listen to Him, enjoy His creation, listen to music that inspires you, read books that draw you closer to God, play, laugh, exercise, eat healthy; spend some time doing whatever fills you. Then you'll have something to give. Then you can love others as you love yourself because you've spent time letting your Heavenly Daddy love you. "We love because He first loved us."

Last time I shared a little about how to empty your heart of the fears and messages that fill it up and wear you out. That's part of taking personal responsibility for your heart: taking your tattered teddy bear to God and letting all the memories and pain out and paying attention to the messages the enemy scribbled onto your heart through the pain. Then let God sing His truth there. He has so much good to say about you.

The other part is what we talked about today, taking care of your teddy bear heart by spending time with God. Love Him by letting Him fill your heart, spirit, mind, and body. Then you can love others as yourself.

Getting filled by God, taking care of your heart, is the best gift you can give.

Jesus did it. (Luke 5:16; John 12:36)

You can too. (Romans 15:13; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

And when you do, your teddy bear heart will be a place where grace abounds.

What a great place to be!

Monday, March 14, 2005

The Fear Factor

No worms or worse to eat here, unlike the TV show. :-) But I do want to share some interesting stuff I'm learning about fear...

Did you know fear is one of the most powerful motivators around? Consider how it affects your life. It may be a grab-you-by-the-throat, heart-stopping fight or flight response. Or it may come packaged in a little different wording. How about stress? Worry? Annoyance? Feeling uncomfortable? Wanting to run and hide? Sleep all day? Or a drive to work harder and better and smarter?

Did I miss anyone?

Not me. I learned this past week that I have lived most of my life with a very defined set of fears that drives every encounter I have~ from my spouse and children to people at church. I also learned my husband has his own set of fears that, like me, started way back when.

And I'm far from alone here.

Imagine a circle. At the top are one person’s fears, they feed into that person’s learned coping mechanisms, which interestingly enough slam into person number two’s fears, which feed his/her coping mechanisms and on around the circle slam right back into person number one’s fears. Nasty cycle.

Here's an example of how it looks in my home. My precious princesses fail to listen to my instructions about the level of noise in our home (which I'm convinced exceeds OSHA regulations) and I have laundry to do, mail to deal with, a ringing phone, a full calendar, and three meals to fix and/or clean up after. Before this past week my way of "handling it" was to yell and do a whole lot of disciplining in order to stop the pressure in my cranium and calm myself down. Enter my husband who makes a comment about how he has a ton of work to do and begins to download about his day. My stress level rises and I'm feeling drained. This hits hard at my fear of failing. So I get angry and snap at my husband about my hard day hoping he'll hear me and help me see that I'm not a failure. My anger and demanding him to make me feel better hits hard at his fear of inadequacy and he withdrawals. I hear the message from his withdrawal response that I've failed and we continue to trip through this cycle into more and more hurt.

Before last week we'd tried learning about love languages, reading more and more scriptures and marriage books on how to improve our communication or redeem our coping mechanisms, trying to build fun into our marriage, trying to lessen our commitments, or one of the least effective: finding more places to serve in the church.

Nothing helped. And in the long run none of it will truly get to the heart of the problem no matter how hard you try.

Because the heart of the problem is the heart.

When your heart is full of fears and messages that got written there when those fears started, you have no room for truth to permeate and heal. It's as if your heart is full of hard packed dirt. Water will get rid of some of it, but that takes time. So while you try hard to wash your mind with truth and “do better” and at the same time ignore the dirt, more dirt, more heart messages, get added.

Messages like "I'm a disappointment." "I'm unlovable." "I'm a nobody." "I'm a failure." Messages that feel so real you can taste your tears.

And that's where the healing begins. With your tears. Those watery things that you try to wipe away as you shove those messages and fears into a dark little box hoping that’ll stop the hurt. But the enemy is in charge of the darkness there and is thrilled when you keep shoving things into it.

So the answer lies in bringing those messages into the light, feeling the fullness of the pain, and climbing up into God's lap and letting him wash away the lies with His whispers of truth.

Simple. Not easy.

It hurts. A lot. But I promise it won't leave you crumpled into a heap when you drag the fears and messages into the light. The opposite will happen. You'll start down the path of true healing.

I'll share next time what this fear cycle escape is beginning to look like in my home. Lots of Kleenex and time with the Lord is truly doing a new thing in my home. And it's awesome to see.

I shared with you in my example one of my fears~ failing. One of the deep, deep messages written on my heart from many sources and places I failed was this, "I'm a disappointment." I worked hard to prove that wasn't true, struggled to believe it wasn't true, and failed miserably.

Want to know what worked?

Hanging out with the Lord. Listening to my heart and then His heart toward me.

Want to know what He said?

"Come home, Amy. You are my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased."

And then He sang me a song.

Listen closely....

He's singing over you too.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Checking In

Ever had God pour so much into your life that you have to take some time to sit with it and process? That's where I am right now~ processing and soaking in all the amazing things God has revealed.

For those who have wondered where I've been... here are two links worth checking into.
This is where I've been the past week and a glimpse into some of the awesome things God has been writing on my heart.

Before I head off to bed to practice some good self-care, I want to leave you with a thought to ponder...

Listen to your heart... God has so much good to write there.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Drops of grace

I've been struggling to find something to write about lately. Not because I have nothing to say, but because what I want to say hurts. Because right now, life hurts. One glance in the mirror and I find myself in tears. And in silence.

When my precious princesses are in bed, my life is filled with silence. A loud silence that shouts of empty promises and painful realities. It wasn't always that way. There were days not long ago when I'd sing with my girls or sing with my favorite CD's. But the past few months I haven't done that much.

Because singing hurts inside.

It invites me into a longing for something I don't feel and want desperately.

Love. And words. Love spoken through words and words filled with love.

But I can't get the songs that touch my soul out of my head. Not completely. And three in particular keep ringing through my brain. One is from my all-time favorite musician, Steven Curtis Chapman. In "Much of You" he sings, "I want to make much of You, Jesus. I want to make much of Your love. I want to live today to give You the praise. That You alone are so worthy of."

My heart sings this song in the morning. Then by midday I'm trying to ignore those words because I've failed to live them more than I care to admit. But even as I type this, God's whispers, "My mercies are new each morning." I'm slow to risk believing that. But each morning the song still comes.

Another song that is teaching me truth and binding my wounds calls to me in the times of failure. Casting Crowns "Voice of Truth" yells at me over the waves that this storm I'm in is in His hands. Even more, "this is for my glory" and "I will soar with the wings of eagles, when I stop and listen to the sound of Jesus singing over me."

Jesus sent His disciples into the storm. And so, He sends me. Right now I'm holding onto the promise that this is for His glory. I hope my heart catches up soon.

The last song is by far the hardest for me. Rich Mullins sings in "Let Mercy Lead" that I should, "Let mercy lead. Let love be the strength in your legs. And in every footprint that you leave, there'll be a drop of grace."

Therein is my biggest struggle. To love. To let mercy lead. To listen over the storms of silence that reign in my home and speak love instead of returning the hurt and pain. I want my footsteps to leave a drop of grace wherever I go.

And so I allow myself to listen to the Voice that calls to me through these songs. The One that invites me into a longing that only He can fulfill. A longing that is filled, at least to a small degree, as I let mercy lead.

He calls me to love those whose acts are unloving.

He calls me to long for a reconciliation that scares me as much as it draws me.

He calls me into the storm.

He calls me to praise Him. To sing.

And so I will.

Because He loves me.

And with every tear-filled footstep, I pray I will leave a drop of grace.
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