Does He Really?

I’m reading the forward to Immaculee Ilibagiza’s memoir, Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust.  I’m overcome by this quote by Dr. Wayne Dyer:  “The laws of the material world do not apply in the presence of the God-realized.”

I have no idea what I’m getting into when I read Immaculee’s account.  It’s horrifying, shocking, and impossible to imagine.  And yet, in the midst of this woman’s battle to survive the genocide of millions–including her own family–she forgives, loves, and experiences God in supernatural ways.

She hides in a tiny bathroom with 7 other women for 91 days while killers hunt for her.  91 days.  In a bathroom smaller than a closet.  With 7 women.  What does Immaculee do?  She prays.  She receives comfort from a real God who really hears prayer, who really protects, who really directs, who really loves, and who really gives us power to let go of hurt and anger.  This God heals.     

Her material reality told her one truth, but God’s reality was something totally different.  

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Journal:  Let’s pray that we have the faith, courage, and love that Immaculee does. 

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What You Set in Motion Today

I’m listening to Francis Chan speak to a group of 5,000 folks.  He says, “Go do something that requires faith.”  I realize that every wonderful event in my life almost didn’t happen because of my being too nervous, too insecure, or too self-involved.  Marriage, parenting, writing, teaching, or moving to new places?  These things aren’t always easy, obvious, or natural.  

As I thought about that quote, I suddenly realized that it’s not just big and life-changing things that require enormous faith.  What about knocking on a neighbor’s door to start a friendship?  What about writing this very sentence?  What about even waking up this morning and choosing a good mood?  (Now that’s faith for me!) A very small act might create an avalanche reaction of beauty, joy, and change.  

I’m going to do things that require faith today.  It’s not just big things.  Waking up cheerfully might be my act of faith today. Who knows what I’ve just set in motion?

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Journal:  What am I doing that requires faith? 

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Just Look Up

Every time I feel lost in this new place, I just look up.

An enormous mountain rises so high that you can see it no matter where you are.  When you observe it, you immediately reorient.  You suddenly know which direction to go. 

I find myself desperate for that mountain.  With every turn in the car, I’m shifting in my seat, craning my neck to find it.  And then I relax.  “This is the right way,” I say.  I don’t even need street names anymore.  I just drive on with that mountain beside me, and I know I’ll make it home.

I’ll remember the simplicity of looking up to find a mountain as I continue in this journey of faith.  
 
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Journal:  What in my life has been a fixed mountain for me?

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Fling Wide Your Gate

Today in church, the pastor challenges me to “open wide the gate of my heart” to God.   I know that verb.   Open.  It means to remove obstacles and allow the kind of passage that makes an interior fully accessible.

Remove obstacles.  Allow passage.  I ask God to show me any obstacles that keep me from flinging wide the gate.  Whatever fear, whatever doubt, I want to live a life that gives Jesus full access.

A closed gate seems like safety.  It seems like protection and control.  But God awaits as the ultimate Protector–the ultimate Safety–who rushes in when I fling wide the gate. 

People who live with flair demonstrate that kind of vulnerability and that kind of trust.  They’ve made their lives fully available to the purposes of God–no matter what the obstacle.  They know that’s the safest place.  That’s the place of protection, peace, and provision.

I’m flinging wide the gate.

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Journal:  What obstacle keeps my gate shut?

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If Nothing Changes, Then I Don’t Either

I hate change.  It makes me anxious. 

This morning at Saturday Morning Pancakes, my neighbor (the one who showed me the lady slipper orchid)  reminds me that when I feel anxious, it’s my opportunity to have faith

I look at her as if she’s just reminded me of my own name.  Of course.  It’s so simple.  When I’m anxious about anything, it’s a bright flashing neon sign saying:  Opportunity to Trust God Right Here!

I’m anxious because I have to travel.  I’m anxious because I have to leave my environment and live in another one for a while.

As I explain all these anxieties, a boy beside me suggests that if the environment never changes, then a person cannot grow and develop.  He explains it all using a video game analogy.  You’ve got to move around!  You’ve got to change things up! He tells me how good it is for my growth and imagination to have some change.

So this thing (whatever it is) that’s causing anxiety?  It’s an opportunity to trust God.  It’s putting me in an environment for growth.  If nothing changes, then I don’t either.  And I want to change and grow into the woman God wants me to be.  That means welcoming situations that stretch me. 

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Journal: What’s causing anxiety in me, and how can I see this as an opportunity to trust and as an environment for growth?

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A Great Big Show-Off

This morning in the garden, I turn the corner towards my little peony plant.  Every time these buds fully bloom, I always think to myself, “Now that’s just showing off!”  A peony is just an over-the-top kind of flower.  What flair! 

Pink Peony in Full Bloom

I lean in to observe what seems just like all the popular ruching patterns I see all over skirts and shirts this season.  God indeed clothes nature in a kind of splendor we can only copy.  I look up that word, “splendor,” because I begin to recall how frequently it appears in Scripture.  It means magnificent, gorgeous, and brilliantly distinct.  I find references all over the Bible that we worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness and majesty.  I also learn that God says we are His “splendor” and that He displays His “splendor” in us

Peony Ruching

He shows off in us.  I even read that the splendor the Lord gives makes our beauty perfect.  

I finally recall when Jesus says, “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?”  


God is all splendor.  He displays that splendor in us.  When I look at peonies showing off, I remember a magnificent, gorgeous, and brilliantly distinct God who, in turn, clothes us with all we need to display that kind of splendor.  I want to open my eyes and see that splendor in every face I meet today. 

The Splendor of the Peony

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Journal:  What else do you observe that makes you laugh and say, “Now that’s just showing off”?

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Sally Smith Says, “You Can’t Fall Apart Over Things Like This.”

Last night I watch a woman, Sally Smith, standing in the rubble of her mother’s home in Joplin.  She turns to Anderson Cooper and says, “You can’t fall apart over things like this.”

I burst into tears.  Can you imagine your whole life crumbling around you and saying that?  What does she know that I don’t?  Sally Smith is firm in her resolve, smiling.  She picks up the pieces of dolls, trying to identify fragments.  Anderson asks her where you even start to build your life again after a tornado like this.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do, but it will work out.  It will.”

Anderson notices her t-shirt, and she says, “Life is good.  God does not give us anything we can’t handle.  I know His hand is in it; I’ve seen too many things.  We’ll be fine.  Saying good-bye to things is hard. . .

Anderson says, “You’re about the most optimistic person I’ve met in a long time.”

That’s when she says, “You cannot fall apart over things like this.”

Sally Smith has the faith, strength, and courage of a woman who lives with flair.  I just love her.  Will I ever be the kind of woman who can look in the face of disaster and proclaim the kind of truth that she can? 

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Journal:  When I’m complaining about any disappointment today, I’m going to remember Sally Smith in the rubble.  Where can you say, “You cannot fall apart over things like this”?

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Believing the Best

My daughters were flower girls in a wedding yesterday.   Their job was to follow the bride everywhere, keep their satin dresses clean, and smile.   I envisioned disaster the whole morning.  I could just see my youngest stepping on the bride’s train and sending her flying on her face.  I could just picture the oldest one stomping off in protest of having to stand still for the entire ceremony. 

I became a controlling, negative mother as I worried about their performance.  Those girls were going to ruin everything.

I imagined the worst.  I really did. 

But when the moment came, I turned and saw my girls walking perfectly down the aisle, casting rose petals left and right.  When I saw them standing still and smiling for 30 minutes, and when I saw how they gazed at the bride and floated around her like little angels, I felt ashamed at my own lack of faith in them. 

I’m a mom who imagines the worst instead of believing the best.  Something changed in my heart yesterday.  Instead of anticipating their failure, I learned to delight in those little girls.  I want to believe the best from now on.  Not just in parenting, but in marriage and in friendship.  And what about my relationship with God?  Do I believe the best instead of anticipating disaster? 

Living with flair means believing the best about people. 

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Journal:  Who needs you to believe the best about him or her? 

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The Text Message I’m Waiting For

The text will arrive sometime today.  I don’t know when.

All it will ask is, “What do you see?”

Today marks the beginning of the “What Do You See?” campaign on campus.  Students in the graduate student campus ministry receive a random text message from my husband every day for two weeks.  When I receive the text question, I’m challenged to do three things:

1. Look up and see who is around me.

2. Pause and pray for a few moments, asking God to open my eyes and to show me how He sees those who are around me.

3. Think about what God shows me and contemplate how that is different from how I typically see that person/those people.

I’m also challenged to record what happens–who I see and what I do about it–when I get that text.   

The last time I agreed to this challenge, I received the texts at the most inconvenient times.  Every person in my path seemed angry and unapproachable.  But I’d look down at my phone and see the question, “What do you see?” and pray for God to show me what He sees instead.

I found courage to stop my minivan and ask my neighbor how she was doing.  I turned to complete strangers in elevators and perceived them in light of eternity.  I looked up and saw the office assistant as precious to God.

In John’s gospel account, I learn that Jesus tells the disciples to “open their eyes” and see the fields are ripe for harvest.  Jesus tells the disciples to “open their eyes” right after His encounter with the Samaritan woman (who everybody saw as an outcast).  Jesus saw her differently.

I pray my eyes are opened today to see people as God sees them.  I don’t know where I’ll be when that text comes, but I pray I have the courage to love the way God does.  Eventually, I won’t need a text message to remind me to see folks in my path differently, but for these two weeks, I’m training my heart to love. 

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Journal:  What do you see as you read this?

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Loving by Faith

This morning, I remember the simplest of truths:  I love others by faith.  There’s a supernatural, unconditional, pure and deep love that God wants to produce in me for others (and myself).  But I cannot conjure it from my own flesh.  I cannot think or feel my way into loving folks that, for whatever reason, are difficult for me to love. 

And God commands I love others–especially enemies, especially the unlovable–with that pure and deep love.

Impossible!  Yes.  In my own strength, it is impossible. 

I pull a little booklet off of the dusty bookshelves.  It’s How You Can Love by Faith, by Bill Bright.  I flip through the pages, hungry for the truth there.  He writes:

“God has an unending supply of His divine, supernatural, agape love for you.  It is for you to claim, to grow on, to spread to others, and thus to reach hundreds and thousands with the love that counts, the love that will bring them to Jesus Christ. In order to experience and share this love, you must claim it by faith; that is, trust His promise that He will give you all that you need to do His will on the basis of His command and promise.”

Suddenly, I’m parenting my girls with the pure, deep love of God flowing through me.  I’m overwhelmed with divine love for my husband, my neighbors, my students, myself.

When God gives a command in scripture, He gives the power to fulfill it.  Living with flair means I enter, by faith, into that divine flow of agape love.  I love the unlovable.  I love the ones hardest to love.  I love in a way that counts. 

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Journal:  Bill Bright suggests I make a list of folks in my life that are hard to love.  Then, I choose to love them by faith. I’m to ask the Holy Spirit “to fill [me] with Christ’s love for each of them”, then pray for them and think of ways to tangibly demonstrate love to them.   Will I love by faith this week?   

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