Sunday, August 2, 2009

New Treasures in Unusual Places

One of my favorite things in life is reading books. There is almost nothing better to me than this. And yesterday, Patricia brought me to a new bookstore, called Mardel in Cedar Park. It turns out, sometimes they have great stuff in the suburbs...who knew? I certainly don't intend to stay in the burbs forever, but it has it's perks.

I'm not sure how long we stayed in the store, but it felt like a couple of hours. Among my most favorite finds is the "Super Bargain" section. But this isn't like other bookstore's "Super Bargain" section. They actually had awesome books...FOR $5! Among my finds yesterday which I am excited to get started on are:

Girl Soldier: A Story of Hope for Northern Uganda's Children
Singing Through the Night: Courageous Stories of Faith from Women in the Persecuted Church
Having a Mary Spirit: Allowing God to Change Us from the Inside Out
Unshaken:A Novella About Ruth
Redeeming Love, by Francine Rivers

The last of these I've read before, and it's been a while. Great book, and since it was only $5 I figured it was worth owning! I'm also reading, Boundaries: When to Say Yes, When to Say No To Take Control of Your Life, given to me by one of my friends at Austin Lifecare.

I really wish I had more to write today. But recently, I've not felt lead to write as much. There are sometimes in my life when it is hard to communicate what God might be doing in my heart. It's a little confusing, and hasn't yet come to fruition. Some days are frustrating, some days are full of joy and peace and most days are somewhere in the middle. But I know my God never lets go of me I know He is dear to me and never lets go of me. I know I can't make it through any day without Him, but what He is accomplishing in all of this I'm not sure, but I know He promises that it will bring Him glory and it will be for my good. So, I hope that on your own journey of life and love you experience this same intimacy with Christ in your life. Because whether or not I'm writing about what's in my heart, Jesus is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

I find that daily, He is making my relationships richer. My life richer. My daily journies with Him richer. My hurts, worries, and fears richer. It is often painful as I am forced to see how selfish I am and how impossible it would be for me to overcome this without Christ. This, my friends is a rich life, this is my journey of life and love....

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I love you, Mary J.!

I have to say, nothing cures a pity party like Mary J. Blige....I'm feeling so ridiculously awesome about myself it's unbelievable, and I don't mind telling you that. It's a good today! Thank you, Mary J.! And for those of you who haven't heard her album, the Breakthrough, today is the day you should go and do that.

Psalm 16

Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I said to the Lord, "You are my Lord; apart from you I have no god thing."
As for the saints who are in the land, they are glorious ones in whom is all my delight.
The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods.
I will not pour out their libations of blood or take up their names on my lips.

Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.

I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
Even at night my heart instructs me.
I have set the Lord always before me.
Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Therefore, my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
My body will also rest secure because you will abandon me to the grave,
Nor let your holy one see decay. You have made known to me the path of my life;
You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Peter's Cure for Enduring Suffering

I'm pretty sure I stole this from someone somewhere, but when I was writing in my journal I failed to mention whom, so please forgive me for stealing, but it is beautiful and something I need every day right now. I was reading through some of my old entries and I had worked my way through this passage in 1 Peter Chapter 4. Regarding suffering:

1) Expect it
~(vs 12) Beloved, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as thought something strange were happening to

2) Rejoice in it (both now and later)
~(vs 13) But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.

3) Know that you will be blessed and have God's Spirit
~(vs 14) If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

4) Evaluate why you are suffering and do not be ashamed
~(vs 15 & 16) If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name!

5) Understand that God's judgement first begins with His children.
~(vs 17) For it is time for judgement to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for
those who do not obey the gospel of God?

6) Entrust your soul to God and keep doing what is right no matter what the cost.
~(vs 19) So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their FAITHFUL creator and continue
to do good.

“In your presence is fullness of joy, at your right hand are pleasures forever more.” Psalm 16:11

“All my empty dreams suddenly lost their charm and my heart began to throb with a bewildering passion for the wisdom of eternal truth…My God, how I burned with longing to have wings to carry me back to you, away from all earthly things, although I had no idea what you would do with me!” -Augustine


If God has ever loved you enough to set you free from something REALLY big, then you know how much work it takes, and how exhausting it can make oneself. Or in my case, multiple REALLY big things. And this is where I find myself today. Full of joy, and standing in full assurance of God's promises to me, but exhausted because every waking moment is a battle.

Even now, I feel tired and am tempted to go take a nap, but I know I won't. Instead, I am going to share a little about what God has shown me lately. He has displayed His full gospel in me. First, what a doubtful sinner I am, primarily longing after the things that I want instead of waiting patiently for the Lord to bless me with every beautiful gift. And how prone I am to wander away from Him. How after all this time, there are still so many dark places in my heart that the Lord wants to shed light on and set me free. And this is the first place we must all come to, a realization that God is holy and perfect and that we will never find full satisfaction apart from knowing Him. In Him is all light, and all goodness, all radiance-it's where I find my true self. Because this body is shadowed with the taint of this earth, and Satan is constantly looking to steal from me everything that the Lord awards me. And many days, I feel defeated.

But one of the dearest scriptures to my heart has been 1 John 4:4 and Hebrews 7:25,

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

And friends, that is the best news I've ever heard. When I am to weary, tired or defeated to fight for myself, my Savior fights for me. When I am not strong enough to endure, the one who is in me endures for me. In Him is all the strength I will ever need. And His arm is not sure, He doesn't leave a work have done. No, He is able to save COMPLETELY.

But in the end of battle, I know the rest and sweetness that will come to me through Christ Jesus. Acts 3:19 is one of my most favorite scriptures,

Repent then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.

Do I have a role in God's healing and ability to set me free? Yes, to repent, to turn my face to the Lord's. And what does He do? Purifies me, wipes me clean, heals me, and brings the sweetest refreshing one could imagine.

In the meantime, God shows me how beautiful I am because He desires me. He created me and He has called me:

Redeemed of the Lord
Sought after
God's delight is in me

It's a process, I'm walking through it. I'm striving with all my might towards the Light, and He is meeting me. My life is His word. The Hope of Christ is my anchor to my sould, firm and secure even when I am not. His grace is STRONG. His mercy is new every morning. He has called me, He is faithful and He does the good work in me that He promises to finish. God is greater than my heart, and he knows all. My delight is in Him.

I was darkness, but He has made me light. Now I am light in Jesus Christ my Lord. Everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible.

If anyone else is struggling with a place of darkness or bondage, I encourage you to turn your face to the Lord. Endure. Press through. Press into Jesus, for He will not fail. And know that freedom is comes at a price. Christ accomplished it on the cross, and it is a free gift, all we must do is accept. But in this world it is not easy, and it takes work.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes, not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." -Galatians 5:1

P.S. The photo is a picture of a Zambian sunset.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Say My Name, Bastian!

For those of you who were big geeks and remember the Never Ending Story reference. I was actually never a huge fan, but this was my brother's FAVORITE movie when we were growing up and I had to watch it...alot...over and over and over again.

But on to the exciting news...Noah can OFFICIALLY say my name now! It was a very big day in the Flenniken/Brown household...big. While Patricia, Krysta and I were taking Noah for a walk tonight, he finally managed to get out....


Big deal...I have been waiting for so long (make that 9 months now)! Praise the Lord, no more "Goga." And only one day late for my birthday present!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Willy Wonka

I love watching Noah grow in independence. As the big two and a half year old now, He can most certainly do "almost anything" by himself. Tonight, he wanted me to watch WIlly Wonka with him (he LOVES Willy Wonka). And so do I, so it works least until 24 came on.

Uh hem, anyways. It was very humorous. He would be thrilled, squealing, delighted one minute and the next, something in the movie would make him afraid. He would instantly run and plop himself in my lap. Yes, plop. Sometimes he would just sit, other times he would lean back and relax on me (making it difficult to breathe, I might add-even though he doesn't weigh that much) and other times he would nestle his head in my neck and just lie there. And yet other times he would pretend as if he were not really scared and just kind of sit next to me with his hand on my leg. At that moment, I thought that there was nothing so precious as a cute, sweet little boy running to me for refuge. Truly, made my whole day, and I was already having a pretty good one.

I am so in love with that kid!

Monday, April 20, 2009


Quote of the day:

"Happiness. Who needs the real thing when you can have it in a pill?"



My Prayer for Today:

Lord, I don't know how to pray for your will right now, but I want it give me the strength.

This is one heart that is so grateful to be redeemed.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

How Mission Exposes Our Heart

I just listened to an incredible sermon by Matt Chandler on how living on mission exposes the true state of our hearts and the things that we value. It was really crazy great. I have noticed this take shape in my own life over the years as I have learned to love and have a relationship with Jesus.

The more areas of my heart that I submit to God, and the more He uses me in my everyday spaces, the more I realize that I am like the Israelites of the old testament who groaned and complained about what they didn't have, rather than what they did. The Israelites that rebelled against God and chose to consume their time with things other than communing and meeting with the God that sought them. It's ugly, and it's taken away a little of that light-hearted happiness that used to characterize me, but I have been filled with far greater joy in my inner spirit. I feel more secure in my own salvation, not because of any works of my own, but because I know that my God is mighty to save and He made the perfect Way for me to come to Him.

But these deeper things will never be revealed to you while your sitting on the sidelines, waiting to get in the game. Those who consider themselves "religious" will never be led to true satisfaction, because their eyes are masked. They can't quite reconcile the cross with who they are, or were created to be. I can only say this because I have been there.

But I've also taken another Way, and know that much more is in store for me as I walk this road. It's a road with Jesus. My God who has become my Everything, and the pursuit of my life. But I never figured that out before I got in the game, and started living every part of my life for Him. And when you live for Him, you live for His people....every one whom He created. And that's hard. I need more than myself and every bit of love that I can muster up to do that most days. I literally could not do any of this life without Jesus. It's not everything I thought it would be, but the person He makes me is so much more than I could have ever imagined.

Alot of my thoughts feel blurred today, like I haven't quite reached the point of what I wanted to say. I feel that way almost every day. But to me, that's the mystery of Jesus. I will never gain full understanding until I am with Him in glory. And even now, what I do love and understand and yearn for of Jesus is not anything I have achieved in my own strength, but a reward from Him. And I don't understand it, but I love that I don't understand it. I love that I will spend the rest of my life trying, and I still won't quite get it. I'm so thankful that it's not about me, for Jesus says,

"Stop grumbling among yourselves, no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and i will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets: 'They will all be taught by God.'"

The sermon is podcasted from The Village as The Great Cause: The Call to Mission. Check it out.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


I need to write! I mean, do you ever just have so much in you, you just can't get it to come OUT? That's where I am right now, sitting on the front porch swing. And I need to rejoice ALOT, sing ALOT, dance some. Because there have been alot of really hard things for me over the last couple of years. And sometimes I just need to REJOICE in the times where the Lord brings refreshing. And the peace and refreshing He has brought me into the last few days is oh so sweet, sweeter than I could have ever imagined for myself.

Christ in me, the hope of glory!
Be my everything!

And that's how near He has been to me recently. I know He's God, and so technically He's always near. But I mean the times when I can FEEL His manifest Presence. I am consumed. I am so full that no words or song or dance could express what is in my heart. Consumed I tell you. And you know what? Jesus? He LOVES it. He has been my breath, my thoughts, my sleeping and waking, my hope, my heart, my joy, my Life, my tears, my smiles. He is IT!

I feel like a weight has fallen off.
My heart feels free.
And my spirit is restless for more of Jesus.

I feel like this thing that is rolling forward in my heart cannot be stopped. This passion, this consuming love and peace, nothing can hinder it. I am alive to live for Jesus. He gave everything for me. I am free to live, free to give, free to be. Free to love Jesus all I want, and all I can take. And be made complete.

And I know that these things are always true. But sometimes I get in the way of them. Or sometimes my reactions to other people get in the way. Lots of things get in the way. And I know the days will come again soon, where I will feel helpless and broken. Sad and desperate for this emptiness in me to be filled. Longing for HIs Presence to be so close to me again. ANd I will be crying again in the arms of my Jesus. For I know that nothing here on this earth will ever satisfy, and I will fight this emptiness for the rest of my time here. But Jesus will never fail me in my time on this earth. When I am broken, I am comforted and strengthened. I am desperate. And there is no better way to be than desperate in the presence of Jesus.

I hope that when those times return, I will cling to Jesus and remember how sweet it is to walk with Him through everything, and the reward that comes when I do. I pray that future times of refreshing will be sweeter than the one I am in now, and that I would trust Him more in the next trial than I do right now.

But right now, I am full. So full. So full I'm going to burst.

Luke 19:39-41

39Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples!"

40"I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out."

41As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it

I Wish I Had Written These Lyrics

I am stealing these lyrics, I repeat...I am stealing these lyrics. I wish I had written them myself, but for now they will have to speak for me so much of what God has been producing in me recently.

There's a cry in my heart
For Your glory to fall
For your Presence to fill up my senses
There's a yearning again
A thirst for discipline
A hunger for things that are deeper
Could you take me beyond?
Could you carry me through?
If I open my heart,
Could I go there with you?

For I've been there before,
But I know there's still more.
Oh Lord, I NEED to know you.

What do I have, if I don't have you Jesus?
What in this life could mean anymore?

You are my....Rock
You are my....Glory
You are....the lifter of my head

Take my life, let it be
Everything, all of me
Here I am, use me for your glory
In everything i say and do
Let my life honor you
Here I am
Living for your glory

Seek ye first the kingdom
Seek ye first the kingdom of my Lord

This world is not enough for me;
This world is not enough for me;
You can take the world, just give me You...
Just give me You
All I have is You
All I want is You

Could you imagine a better love story? I am so thankful that I have a Lover so great. Who loves me deeply, perfectly, and just as I am. In His presence I know that no matter where I am in my walk, I have been made perfectly. Not on this earth, but I am the image of perfect, and in His presence I can rest in my imperfections because He loves me exactly where I am...right now...without stipulation. I'm not under a microscope, no one is watching me, I don't care how I've messed up that day. I'm not condemning myself for the wrong things I said or the wrong actions I took. I'm just resting. Knowing, that the image I was made in will one day be fulfilled in Glory. But not by my own perfection, by the blood of Jesus. I can't wait to see Him face to face. When the perfection I long to be a part of will be made complete.

I never fail to be amazed by the fact that God created me for Him, to boast His glory. He created me FOR Him, to manifest His glory. And while He uses me as a light to the world, my soul is so beyond satisfied. I know I am delighted in, extravagantly. The one thing every little girl dreams of. I am Loved! My Jesus is rejoicing over me! He SINGS over me! Oh Jesus, I love you. I can't wait till you come for me again.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


One of my most favorite verses recently has been Acts 3:19.

"Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord."

And I am so thankful for those times of refreshing, but I am so tired of needing them so frequently. I am so tired of doing what I do not want to do and not doing what I want to do, as Paul says. Every day, I enter this constant battle. I literally feel pain in my heart when I sin and do not focus on what Christ has given me to do right now. But often, I still choose not to do it. Often my thoughts, heart and affections turn to all of the things I really want in my life, and if I'm not careful, they can consume me.

Romans 7:21-23
"So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.

So, this is the life of a lover of Christ. How do we ever do it? So many times, I try to live this life in my own strength, and I realize it more and more every day. Every day that the Lord reveals more of myself to me, I am forced to the same conclusion as Paul, "What a wretched man I am!" But today, as I take an escape from life, and from the world, and sit with Jesus, I am reminded.

Jesus=the one who saves, because Jesus was sent to save us from our sins. Because I was an enemy of God, and there was nothing I could do in my own power or strength to get to God.

What I noticed in Acts chapter 3 that I had never fully understood before was this:

In the beginning, John and Peter give a crippled beggar the gift of Jesus and the man is instantly healed. The bible says, "the man's feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk and jump and praise God." As they walked through the temple, called Beautiful, all of the people were astonished and came running to them. Peter addresses the crowd,

"Men of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus' name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see.

Why does it seem like the longer I walk with Christ, the more I try in my own strength to heal myself? I thought it was supposed to go the other way. When Jesus first found me, my faith was so simple and easy. Why now do I try to make it so complicated? But, I realize now that God doesn't want our faith to be simple and easy.

Nope, what He wants more than anything else in the world is for me to need Him, every day, in every thought, action or word. He wants me right there, with Him. And when I let Him, He is glorified. When God does the work, it's really not about me at all, although He is growing me in Christ-likeness and preparing me for His will.

And now, I have more of an appreciation for Acts 3:19 than I did before. Jesus words are clear....REPENT! Stop trying to be in control, stop seeking other lovers. Be deeply grieved when you do, for when I repent and turn to God, it is He that wipes away my sins. It is the Lord that brings the times of refreshing. I can't do any of it on my own, but the sweetness I find at the end of the road that Jesus' leads is like honey to my soul.

Only Jesus can bring complete healing.
Only Jesus can refresh my soul, and make me whole.
Only Jesus...

May this Easter be a time that we all reflect on Christ and who He is.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

I Am From....

I recently followed a list of random blogs to one in particular of a woman that goes to my church who works with refugees. She mentioned a book that talked about how it is important for refugees to remember where they came from, to remember who the Lord created them to be, not as a typical working white class American, but who they are in spirit and heart. Part of how she helps refugees to do this is to write a poem about where they are from.

I liked this idea. I started thinking about how most days, I feel like a refugee. Someone set apart, feeling like I don't know this world, and like I was made for something greater. That the Place I came from looks very different from the world I see in front of me everyday. Although the routine feels familiar, the canvas looks nothing like I remember. And it feels lonely. So painfully lonely. Sometimes little pieces of my dreams are chipped away at day by day, and I have to hold so tightly to them. To fight for the treasures in my heart. So, I thought I would write my own I Am From poem...

I Am From...

A place where joy and laughter is treasured
And practiced often.
A place of freedom and adventure
Taking off on the bikes all day,
Splashing and following the
Ripples of the creek.
Lots of cousins and family
A land of dress up,
Where I was treasured
And called beautiful.

Where imaginations were encouraged to go wild
A place of unconditional love
Of loving discipline
Puddle splashing in rainstorms
Sitting on the porch
Picking up pecans
"Forts" made of old beat up sheets
A place where music thrived
And creativity roused

Neighborhood get-togethers
Children laughing
Hide and Go Seek
Red Rover
Jumping on the trampoline
Various bumps and bruises
That spoke of an adventurous life
Where dreams were made real

Where life is simple
and uncomplicated
Love given freely
and Love accepted freely
Love unquestioned,
Love unconditional

What happened to that world? My heart longs for it, and more. So much more.

Broken Pottery

I am definitely stealing this from Beth Moore, but it was so beautiful I couldn't think of a better way to rewrite it.

He is Jesus.
The One and Only.
Transcendent over all else.
To know Him is to love Him.
To love Him is to long for Him.
To long for Him is to finally reach
soul hands into the One true thing
we need never get enough of.


Take all you want.
Take all you need.
Till soul is fed.
And spirit freed.
Till dust is dust.
And Face you see.

Jesus Christ

He is all you need.

Now back to my own words. Never has there been a name sweeter or more important to me than His.

No other name has the power to break down the walls of my heart so instantaneously or bring healing so immediately, or comfort so closely. When I am hurting and I think it impossible to climb out of the darkness, He meets me in His goodness and glory. When I think I don't have the strength to endure, I receive grace and power to endure anyways.

It makes me question how we don't speak His name to each other more often. His name is life to me, I'm desperate for more of Him. I'm craving for Him to satisfy me until I am even more in need of Him. And although i realize that this is a season of my life that I've needed Him like no other, I pray that longing will always be as necessary as it is today, right now.

And as I've served and loved some of the most broken and hurting women and children I've ever met in both America and Zambia, I have had the opportunity to witness His name at work. I've seen a mother of three, whose husband has just died, abused by her mother, jobless, broken and living in absolute poverty lose it over the name of Jesus.

I've seen a drug addict, completely strung out, begging for love her. And I've seen her come to tears and receive joy and peace because she was told that Our Lord is close to the broken hearted. That Jesus sees her as beautiful, desirable and honored, precious and wants to restore her life to rightness with her Savior.

I don't know what happens to alot of these women when our lives go their own directions, but I can't help hope that just a small dropling of Christ's ultimate love will down the road turn into a beautiful rainstorm, and all His glory will be poured out on their lives.

And I'm thankful that I have Jesus to heal and restore my own life. Because more and more everyday, I realize how broken I really am. As the psalmist says, "I have become like broken pottery." And that's where He meets me, everyday. Slowly but surely, putting me back together. You are beautiful, Jesus and I love you.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Real St. Patrick

Click here to read the story of a man who gave his life to barbarians so they could know Christ...

Also, Thomas Cahill's, "How the Irish Saved Civilization" has been on my to read list for about two years.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

God Grew Tired of Us

This is one of the most fabulous documentary's I've seen. Perhaps it is because it so vividly depicts the African culture, or because it makes me long for heaven, or because their culture inspires me to how all lovers of Christ should live while here on earth. But I highly recommend it. I believe there is also a book, which I will probably be reading but haven't yet. But I am thankful for my time in Africa, and for the friends I've met there. Because they have enlarged my vision of what I want my own life to look like. I want to live not only for Christ, but for others too. So here are some of my dreams that I want to share with you.

1) I want to be married one day. I don't always think things will be bright and rosy, but I want to be in this mission that Christ has placed in my heart with someone. And I want to love others with someone. I want the way we love each other, and those around us, to be a beautiful reflection of Christ.

2) I want to have babies. And I want to adopt babies. I don't know how many, but I do love me some children.

3) I would one day like to own a big house, and invite a few singles and a family of African refugees to live with me and my family, and make a bigger family that shares culture, Christ, suffering, happiness and fun. I want to live that picture of heaven while I am here on earth, and beg the Lord to one day give me that opportunity.

4) I want to have lots of people around, and make them breakfast and dinner...everyday. I love to cook, and feed people. And I love community that happens around a yummy meal. I want to celebrate life in Christ, everyday with the people I love the most.

Call me simple. There is not a greater dream to me in the world. I want to bring a very tiny piece of heaven to earth.

Sunday, March 1, 2009


Yesterday I was reflecting on how blessed I am, and how much favor the Lord has been bestowed upon me. Sometimes in walking through the deserts of life, we forget the immense periods of blessing and those times in life when God has been so clear and extravagant in His love towards us. I try my best to write them down, so that I can go back and read them, but that skill still has much to be perfected.

Thank you Jesus:

1) The incredible joy, love, wonder and awe that is stirred in me when I read about the nations, watch international news, or read stories from international missionaries. AND of course, when I reflect on my time in Zambia. There is nothing more beautiful than cultures coming together under the name of Christ.

2) That God has given me an incredible career where I am able to love and bless people in a personal, direct way. And that it FREQUENTLY requires me to clothe myself in humility. That my boss is a fellow believer and that my job actually seems like an extension of ministry because I know I work with people who see my office as a mission field. Thank you Dr. Garza, and thank you Kathy (you are beautiful) for being such an encouragement to me everyday.

3) For my own biological family that loves me unconditionally and is there for my every need. Thank you for laying down your own lives to serve me.

4) The incredible joy and gift it is as a single to live with a family that LOVES Jesus and wants to make Him an everyday part of their life. That through them, God has done something new in me. He has moved my heart towards marriage and love of family that I had not previously known. And although those desires are still wanting in my own life, I thank God for showing me the beauty of them through this family. Greg and Patricia, thank you for being such a beautiful example of Christ in your marriage and parenting. Thank you for taking me in as one of your own, you will never know how you have blessed me!

5) To Krysta, Kelsi, and Kayla. Thank you for being the sisters I never had. For loving me everyday with your beautiful smiles, hugs, notes and laughter. And for allowing me to love and encourage you. I pray for you often, that you would know the complete and utter joy of being satisfied in Christ.

6) Dr. Garza and his wife had a fundraiser for their trip to the Dominican Republic. Even though it was quite chilly outside, I had the privilege of sitting on their lawn, listening to three amazing musicians: Gina Chavez, Aaron Ivey and of course Dr. Garza's band. It was a beautiful night of praise and worship of our King, and I find myself so thankful to live in a country where we can express our love for God loudly and openly without persecution.

7) I am even thankful for the many deserts I have walked through over the last year and a half. Although difficult, and through shedding many tears, I have been ruined for Christ. Let's take a look at the word ruined. It means, "a person at the wreck of his or her former self, the act of destroying totally." Every day, Christ continues to destroy what is lacking in purity, unholy and displeasing to Him and rebuilding the ruins of my heart and mind. And so it is, Christ wants to totally remake each of us into something that is a beautiful reflection of Him and I am thankful that although sometimes painful, He never lets go of me.

8) For my beautiful community, who are extravagant in their love for me. Thank you for continuing to point me to Christ, lifting me up in prayer, encouraging me, and making me laugh. I love you all so dearly.

The list could go on, but I fear it might go on forever. In recounting God's blessings, how could I ever doubt His goodness to me? How about you, how has God favored you recently?

Oaks of Righteousness

I LOVE Sundays. Sundays are my days. Every other day it is my joy to pour out all that I am to hopefully radiate the glory of Christ where ever I go. But Sundays are completely and wholly mine. My time to meet with God, be romanced by Him, enjoy Him and find myself in Him. There is nothing better than being behind closed doors with the Lover of my soul. And as an additional bonus, I have the house all to myself today because Patricia and Greg went on vacation, the girls are with their mom and Noah is at Aunt Stacy and Uncle Trent's.

Today I have been reading about God's planting. Isaiah 61 says,

"They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor."

I stopped to ponder exactly what it meant to be an oak of righteousness. Honestly, God comparing me to a tree doesn't exactly make my heart quiver with excitement (even though I am a naturalist and do love trees). And a descriptor of righteousness doesn't quite seem to fit most days. But that last part, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor made me want to leap out of my chest. The word display and also splendor in Hebrew is the word Pa'ar. Here are some of the definitions: to embellish, beautify, adorn, to glorify, to be glorified, to bring honor, give honor, to boast. Can you believe that? God's extravagant love. It never ceases to amaze me. He makes me beautiful. He adorns me with honor and glory. Not my own glory, but His. He boasts about me. He brags about me and shows me off to people. Then I began to think this verse maybe didn't sound so bad. So, I decided to look a little further.

Isaiah 60:21
They are the shoot I have planted, the work of my hands, for the display of my splendor.

Psalm 1:3
He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does, he prospers.

Jeremiah 17:8
He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."

I love God. He says that I am like an oak of righteousness. That my soul is a deep well submerged in Christ. My roots grow deep, and at their deepest place they are fed by the Living spring. And that Living spring never dries up, even in times of trouble.

It's not easy to lay down my life every day for Christ, and to give Him Lordship over all of my thoughts, longings, desires, fears, worries, and anxieties. But when I do, He promises that the favor He produces through my life will not wither, it will be ever producing because He is planting in me the display of His splendor. I love the verse, it has no worries in a year of drought. I find myself consumed by daily worries at times, and it is a miserable place to be. In the presence of Jesus, in complete surrender is when I find quiet rest. He is faithful to create this in us because He wants to be glorified. He wants His splendor to be displayed. Because His beauty is perfect beauty, and it shines forth.

How about you? How does it create worship in you to know that God plants you as an oak of righteousness? What does it mean to you that He is the one that does the planting? Sit back and enjoy the work that only Christ can do.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Secret Riches

I love the book of Isaiah. The more I walk with God and grow closer to Him, the more I can relate to the poor inhabitants of Israel who could never do anything right. They disobeyed God, they worshipped idols, they were unfaithful, and God repeatedly corrected and scolded them. But right in the middle of all that, God also restores them...over and over again. This book speaks to the deep rebellion that lies in the heart of every human, but also shows the bigness and overwhelming nature of God's love for us. He is long suffering, and His love is patient. It never ends, I am never too needy for Him. Never too broken for Him, and never to zealous over Him. I am always enough in God's eyes, just as I am right now.

As I mentioned previously, I am in need of great deliverance from myself. From my selfishness, from control, from all my own wants and be fully surrendered what God would have for me. And I honestly don't know what that is right now. The one thing I know that God always wants is my heart, my affections, and He spoke it powerfully through Isaiah today.

Isaiah 45:2-3

I will go before you
and will level the mountains;
I will break down gates of bronze
and cut through bars of iron.
I will give you the treasures of darkness,
riches stored in secret places,
so that you may know that I am the LORD,
the God of Israel, who summons you my name.

Some of the biggest mountains God must level are the ones surrounding my heart. The strongest bars of iron and gates of bronze are the defenses I've built up to protect myself. But more and more, I am learning that God is the one who needs to hold the place of defender. Not my own efforts at protecting myself, but allowing God to defend all of my vulnerabilities. There is so much more that He wants to show me and bless me with that my own defenses keep me from receiving

And you know what God promises me? That He will give me the TREASURE of darkness, that my inability so see anything except how much God desires me is His blessing. That tears, mourning and sadness can be beautiful. Because it is in these times that I will find the riches stored in secret places that I might not have ever seen otherwise. All so that I may know that God knows me by name, knows me intimately and beautifully. So I may know that in Him I live and move and have my being. From him comes strength and honor and beauty.

Have you ever experienced the beauty of darkness?

The Dark Night

Writing flows from my heart in times of hurt. And friends, it has been a season of suffering. Richard Foster quotes St. John in his book, Celebration of Discipline when he speaks of the Dark Night of the Soul. I have recently been taking the practice of solitude very seriously, which for those of you who know me is quite the contrary to my nature. But in that solitude, God is moving. It's not a happy time, but it is a time that I can praise the Lord for being the Lover of my Soul like no one else.

Foster says that when we practice solitude, inevitably we will enter this dark night. St. John describes it like this,
"the darkness of the sou puts the sensory and spiritual appetites to sleep...It binds the imagination and impedes it from doing any good discursive work. It makes the memory cease, the intellect become dark and unable to understand anything, and hence it causes the will also to become arid and constrained, an all the faculties empty and useless. And over all this hangs a dense and burdensome cloud which afflicts the soul and keeps it withdrawn from God."

Foster goes on to say that it is necessary for during this time every distraction of the body, mind and spirit must be put into a kind of suspended animation before this deep work of God upon the soul can occur. It is like an operation in which the anesthetic must take effect before the surgery can be performed. During these times, Bible reading, sermons, intellectual debate-all fail to move or excite us. I feel that his words adequately describe my soul at this moment.

I can very much relate to this right now. Of course, the Word of God is still able to speak to me and comfort me and my love and worship of my Savior is no less. But after a season of being used and used by God where His light shone out from me, I now feel unable to be used. My light is quietly burning inside my soul, but it feels like it is shining only for my Lover. No one else can see what He is doing inside of me. I don't understand it. I often experience sadness and dullness, but even in this I find hope and rest in the most unusual way. It is often hard to believe that this season will one day produce a fruitful harvest of goodness in my soul. But because I know my God, I know that He will bring fruit and I'm quite certain that it will not be just for my benefit, but that He will once again allow me to pour out my heart and life to those around me. I've never experienced a season quite like this. I thank my God that He loves me enough to draw me away from every distraction, to whisper His love and sufficiency to my ear. I wish I could say this is a season that I have welcomed, but that wouldn't be true. I've fought it, and I've fought it to the end, to the point that I have been wrestled to the ground so that the Lord may perfect and complete His good work in me.

A couple of more thoughts...St. John sums up the dark night in this way,
"Oh then, spiritual soul, when you see your appetites darkened, your inclinations dry and constrained, your faculties incapacitated for any interior exercise, do not be afflicted; think of this as a grace, since God is freeing you from yourself and taking from you your own activity." I need freeing from myself more than anything else...let it be done as you say, Lord. More on God's perfecting work next post....