Deep in the Heart of Man

This morning, the neighborhood children call me over to a huge, gaping hole in the earth.  Construction workers have dug down so deep, you can see sewage lines exposed.  With this rare vantage point, we peer into the secret inner workings of our town.  Even under the most beautiful lawns and gardens, excrement flows. 

It’s not very pretty.

I think about sewage in the human heart as I remember the truth in Ecclesiastes 7:20:  “Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins.” 

I can’t escape the reality of sin today.  On this day, I cry on the bus with others who sit in complete silence as they think about innocent boys abused; as they think about authority figures they mistrust; as they think about a beloved coach who said he wished he’d done more; as they think about their own angered response in rioting.  

I go back and peer inside the hole with my daughter beside me.  This is the truth about our hearts.  This is why we so desperately need a Savior

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Thank you for praying for our community today.

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Someone is Looking for You

Last night, my youngest asks me to tell her stories of when I was a little girl. 

“What kind of stories?” I ask.

“The ones when you get lost and someone has to find you,” she says.   

I’ve never told her a story like this.  But that’s the story she wants to hear:  a little girl lost and then found.  

Sometimes I think we can tap into the one great True Narrative just by asking children the kinds of stories they want to hear.  The story I tell her is the greatest story I know.  A girl was lost–desperately and hopelessly so–but a great God was looking for her and wouldn’t let her go.  He searched long and far and wide.  And he left clues and messages and little gifts along the trail to remind her of the way home. 

I was lost but Someone was looking for me. 

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Journal:  Children love stories of lost and found, and they love hide-n-seek.  What other stories do children love that reflect the great story of God seeking after us? 

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Higher Than I

This morning, I lean down to look at all the rocks by my apartment. 

I remember the plea of the psalmist in Psalm 61: 

“Hear my cry, O God;
   listen to my prayer.
 From the ends of the earth I call to you,
   I call as my heart grows faint;
   lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been my refuge,
   a strong tower against the foe.”

I need a rock that is higher than I.  It’s a strange expression.  To me, it’s another reminder that God delivers me from myself.  He’s higher than self.  I can hardly believe it, but I learn that God refers to himself as our Rock over and over again in Scripture.  He’s the rock that is higher than I!  The Lord says in Isaiah: 
 
“Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it.
   Let him declare and lay out before me
what has happened since I established my ancient people,
   and what is yet to come—
   yes, let them foretell what will come.
Do not tremble, do not be afraid.
   Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago?
You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me?
   No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.”

I need to remember that today. 

For several days now, I’ve been complaining.  Nothing’s going according to plan out here in Colorado.  As I walk around the apartment this morning, I know I need supernatural power to get out of this funk.  Nothing corrupts living with flair like complaining, and I just can’t talk myself out of my bad mood.   And then I feel guilty for my mood because so many other women all over the world would trade their lives any day for the kinds of comforts I enjoy. 

Oh, Lord, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I! 

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Journal:  Do you ever feel like you just need to be free from yourself? 

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Things Worth Writing Down

I’m sitting in a lecture hall, listening to a seminary professor teach on the book of Romans.  I bring a journal with me (the one the Italian Mama gave me before I left for Colorado).  I reserve this journal’s pages for the most special things–ideas worth keeping–so I can remember my summer experiences.

I think I might record two, maybe three, pearls of wisdom.

I fill eight pages.

I go through the ink of two pens.

It’s because it occurs to me once again that this whole life of faith is miraculous.  I’m listening to supernatural, impossibly beautiful things here.  Apart from God, I have no choice but to embrace a self-centered existence, doomed to conflict and despair.  If I did as I pleased, I would have probably destroyed myself long ago.  But when I surrendered at last and bended my will, I found the kind of freedom that doesn’t make sense.  It is a miracle how God interacts with us.  I can’t figure it out. 

Living with flair means I fill journal after journal with wisdom that never gets old.  The miracle is new every morning.

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Journal:  What’s the last bit of wisdom you wrote down?

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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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Darkness Turned to Light

I don’t know much about photography.  I’ve never taken a class, and I don’t use a fancy camera.  All I know is that taking pictures has become a source of joy and flair.  Just yesterday, I realize that what photographers do best is capture the light.   We have a whole day to observe the light. 

Morning Sky and Cherry Blossoms

When I look at the light all day, I see the world differently. 

Purple Flowers in Afternoon

Tiny Spider Web at 3:00 PM

Hello, Late Afternoon Little Bug

Cherry Blossoms as Sun Sets

Twilight

There’s a gift to receive because the light shines.  Even when dim and hard to discern, there’s a gift.  As I think about the radiance of God today, I remember that a life of faith means I’m a photographer setting out to capture the light.  I open my eyes and see His radiance.  That light reveals truth and guides us to beauty, to hope, and to salvation.   The prophet Isaiah writes: 

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,
   along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
I will turn the darkness into light before them
   and make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do;
   I will not forsake them. 

With camera in hand, living with flair means I set out in faith that God can turn any darkness into light.  I look through that lens and see it today.  We are not forsaken, and any rough places will be smoothed.  The result?  Radiance!  Beauty!  We are not forsaken. 


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Journal:  Is there a darkness today that God will turn to light? 

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A Passage Through Thorns

On the way to the vernal pond, I notice how we can’t even approach it unless we pass through the thorns.  There’s no way around them. 

These thorns tangle and form a crown above us. 

This Easter, I think of the passage Christ paves through that crown of thorns he wore at the crucifixion.  And today, that beautiful resurrection means I enter in, and I’m free. 

A paradise awaits, but I have to pass through the thorns. 

 
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Journal:  He is risen indeed!  Have I walked through that free passage, marked by the crown of thorns?   

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My Easter Tantrums

I could chronicle my life in tantrums.

Two years ago, I demanded new Easter dresses and complained that we didn’t have reservations at the expensive place where all the neighbors have Easter brunch.  Can you believe it?  We were miserable in those dresses, and we changed into our shorts and t-shirts and ended up having a brunch of juice and popcorn out in the woods together.  Easter rose up in my heart that afternoon.

Last Easter, God reminded me of his grace when I witnessed a flair disaster.  It was a great Easter, and I didn’t even think about dresses or brunches or new hats and shoes.  We didn’t need any of it.   I actually woke up this morning thinking about how far I’ve come

But just now, I find myself complaining to my husband that he didn’t get the Easter Egg Coloring Kit.  I fall apart because we haven’t colored our eggs yet.  I actually raise my voice.  I’m throwing a tantrum about coloring eggs.  I thought I had come so far! 

I apologize to my husband and children, and as I stand in the kitchen, worrying that Easter’s not going to be good enough because the cookies aren’t right and the eggs aren’t colored, I let out a huge sigh and cry out, “I need the real Easter!  I need it so badly.” 

The real Easter is Jesus rising to save us from ourselves.  And just when I think I’m finished with these tantrums, I find the old self oozing out.  I’m glad it did.   I won’t ever not need Him.  I won’t ever be strong enough, mature enough, or wise enough to not need Jesus.  

I need the real Easter!  I need it so badly.

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Journal:  Will I find the real Easter?

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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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