12/29/12

morning promises

My alarm woke me up this morning to Will Reagan & United Pursuit. I am naturally a morning person, so smiling when I wake up is not unusual for me. My first thought is usually, "I LOVE MORNING!" (Not an exaggeration.) But my first thought this morning was a little different.

One of my favorite promises that God has been fulfilling in my life recently is that He is all I need.

Sometimes I start to look at who's getting married, who's having kids, who's making more money than I am, who's driving a better car than I am, who has family living near to them, etc. And I wonder at God, "Why haven't You blessed me with all of these things?" And I feel discouraged and discontented and a little sad, like maybe there's something wrong with me or that I'm not as "treasured" or "valued" or "deserving" as someone else.

And once I've thought these thoughts, I've taken my eyes off Jesus.

Because here's the thing about Jesus: He gives.

I'm not talking about the Pollyanna "glad game" where you make a list of all the blessings you have been given (which is a very good thing to do).

I am talking about finding everything and all in the One whose love and grace goes deeper and fuller than any person or thing ever could.

He gives us Himself.

There are a lot of things I want, and a lot of things I don't understand why I don't have. But here is where that Will Reagan & United Pursuit song comes in:

I take all those things that tell me I am incomplete, that tell me I am not where I could be or should be, that tell me there's more that I could have, and lay them at Jesus' feet and pray,

If I give it all to You, will You make it all new?

Because He does. He has. He continues to take what I give Him and make it into something I would not have designed for myself. Sometimes that means giving Him something I really want and telling Him that I trust that whatever He gives will be better.

And it is.

Because when He gives you Himself, it is far better assurance that you are treasured and valued than if He were to give you every blessing on earth.

I do not comfort myself in my "losses" but counting all the blessings He has given me. I allow Him to comfort me and show me that there is no loss when I find everything I need in Him.
"The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy." - Psalm 11:7

12/24/12

Heavenly Peace

So here I sit on Christmas Eve morning, just me and my peppermint candle and my coffee and a kitten who hasn't recovered yet from stepping in my coffee.

I've been awake for hours, struggling against feeling nervous about tonight's Christmas Eve services, struggling against feeling homesick for my family 500 miles away, struggling against feeling anxious about all the things that will be left undone until after Christmas.

When our worship team went caroling at a nursing home last week, one of the residents requested "Silent Night." My grandpa loved that song. I would sit on the edge of his musty bedspread and listen as he picked out the melody on his guitar. I still smell his room whenever I hear that song.

I love these words:

With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord at Thy birth

There's a song by Sojourn that says that man can praise God more than the angels can. And that redeeming grace is why: Jesus came with redeeming grace, and we've been redeemed. Heavenly hosts sing "Hallelujah," and we, even more than the heavenly hosts, have reason to sing.

I don't know if it's "Silent Night," but I know my grandpa has been singing praises at Jesus' feet for the past 4 years. And I love when we sing on earth just as earnestly as those who are in the very presence of the One who redeemed us.

Praying you will be filled with heavenly peace at the reality of the presence of God through the birth of Jesus. Merry Christmas.


11/10/12

Refining

There is much to be removed,
so much that has grown in the wrong way,
so much that has hardened into permanent architecture.
And some are branches that can be burned,
while others are walls too high and thick for merely fire
but beating,
ripping away,
crumbling structures I grew safe behind.

O, more grace.

And in Your light I see their gnarly shapes,
protruding ugly fingers that grasp to conquer more,
always more,
never satisfied to possess pieces of me
but wanting the whole.
And I plead with You to come in deeper,
before I am consumed by nothing but what I have allowed to consume me,
and rescue me.
O jealous and gentle God,
whose every blow reminds me that You are good,
let emptiness reign but for a little while.
Fill all where You have removed with Yourself.

O, more grace!

I can stand only because I know You are not finished
until I look like You.
May I not beg for it to stop,
the pounding in my ears from being hammered into Your likeness,
but instead cling to the sound of Your assurance
that You are answering me,
saving me,
fighting for me.

O, more grace.

11/3/12

Praise in Pain

To those of you in pain, I've learned something pretty important.

Time does not heal.

Entering another relationship does not heal.

Finding new friends, throwing yourself into work, picking up a new hobby - does not heal.

Perhaps all those things are aids, just as NyQuil doesn't take my cold away, but I hate facing a sick night without the temporary relief it brings.
I am sad and hurting. God, save me and protect me. I will praise God in a song and will honor him by giving thanks. - Psalm 69:29-30 NCV
Praising God in pain does not change the situation, it changes you.

Praising God in pain acknowledges that God is good, God is faithful, God is wise, and God is strong, despite the circumstances.

Praising God in pain professes that you trust Him; it affirms that your hope is in Him and Him alone. And hope in God is the only hope that will never disappoint (Isaiah 49:23).

Praising God in pain reveals a deeper level of gratitude, one that is built on who God is, not on everything that is going right in your life. 

A heart that is grateful is much quicker to heal than a heart that is bitter.
Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory. - 1 Peter 1:6-7 MSG

10/29/12

to you who wait

Yesterday a man at church told me, "You're missing your calling."

He had the best intentions, and he meant it as a compliment, and I am not so insecure that I believed him and changed my vocation to Circuit Rider, henceforth.

But his words have hung around the fringes of my thoughts the past 24 hours.

Just because I am not doing right now what perhaps I will ultimately be doing, does not mean that, right now, I'm not exactly where I'm supposed to be.

Sometimes I think we are in too much of a hurry to get to the Promised Land that we miss the preparation time in the wilderness.

But preparation time is just as much of a calling as destination is.

Maybe God's calling on your life right now feels like wilderness. 

Just because you're not called to live in the Promised Land right now doesn't mean that where you are is not still your calling.

Don't rush what God is building in you in the wilderness to get to the Promised Land prematurely.

And don't mistake the Promised Land as the only "calling of God," so that you feel as though you are missing something until you get there. Being obedient is a pretty high calling, and if you're obeying right where you are, then you're fulfilling your calling whether you're in a desert or swimming in milk and honey.
The Lord your God has blessed you in everything you have done. He has watched your every step through this great wilderness. During these forty years, the Lord your God has been with you and you have lacked nothing. - Deuteronomy 2:7 NLT

9/17/12

You Are What You Eat

I couldn't sleep the other night, so I googled Planet Earth in an attempt to find videos of Birds of Paradise. They're crazy. Then my roommate came in and of course I had to show her the male Bird of Paradise trying to seduce the female Bird of Paradise. It's like the SciFy channel, only real life.

My roommate and I then started talking about whether Satan has access to our dreams. We can change subjects really fast. And this topic led us to discuss, until 2:30 in the morning, the lies that Satan feeds us.

In my old apartment, there were burn marks in the carpet that left melted patches of stiff fibers in random parts of my floor. I distinctly remember kneeling next to one of these burn marks one day after work, crying. My friend, who had been praying for me over the phone, said, "Heather, what I just keep getting is that you're believing lies."

I struggle against believing lies every single day. My mind is a rarely-inactive battleground. Mostly the lies I believe center around the word "enough." I'm not good enough. Smart enough. Creative enough. Strong enough. I don't have enough to offer. Also, things like: They'd be better with someone else. I'll never overcome this. I'm not needed. If only I were like this, I'd be better.

Sometimes it's a lot easier to believe lies than to believe truth. For whatever reason. Maybe because we have a hard time distinguishing between what we feel and what is truth. Or because sometimes the circumstances seem truer than what the truth really is. Or maybe it's just easier to have a pity-party and go outside and eat some worms than to be challenged and grow in spite (or because) of it.

Psalm 37:3 (NCV) uses the phrase "feed on truth." I like to imagine God's truth as our sustenance; the fuel that makes us go, gives us energy, feeds our brains, strengthens our hearts and our muscles.

But you know what? I don't think Satan is ever going to stop feeding us lies. He's never going to get tired and say, "Well, I've told her enough falsehoods for the month of September, so I think I'll take a little break."

A friend in church pointed out yesterday that, in Psalm 23, God prepares a feast for us in the presence of our enemies. Satan may never stop telling us lies, but God will also never stop speaking and being Truth. It's up to us to choose which we feed on.

What lies are you believing? And how can you choose to feed on truth?

9/10/12

The Smallest Measuring Cup

I turned 25 last week.

People ask me if I feel older, and I do. Not because I've had a birthday, or because I pay my own bills, or because I fall asleep at 9pm, or because my joints hurt. (Though those are all valid reasons to feel old...er.)

I'm coming to realize that the older I get, the better life gets. The stronger my friendships become. The more I learn about myself. The more I see of the character and qualities and attributes of God.

Maybe, as a kid, you get to have a larger percentage of fun and don't worry about as many things. But you also, as a kid, don't have the capacity to actually acknowledge and be grateful that, at the time, the fun things are outweighing the worrisome things. And fun taken for granted is not long remembered.

On Saturday (my birthday), my friend Katie, over tea, said to me, "In comparing life to measuring cups, you are the smallest measuring cup."

It made me feel young, obviously, because I'm still nesting in four larger measuring cups (if you count thirds...which, let's be accurate here, folks, because baking is a science). But it also made me excited to grow older, because the older you get, the fuller life gets. The more you know. The more you experience. The more you can hold.

My life is pretty full right now, but I'm only the smallest measuring cup. I'm looking forward to growing.
Just as each day brims with beauty, my mouth brims with praise. - Psalm 71:8

8/30/12

Celebration of Discipline

When my alarm went off this morning, I sat up in bed and said, "You have no discipline, and you need some."

Apparently my subconscious had been lecturing me in my sleep.

The other day, I got this fortune in my Chinese fortune cookie:


At first I thought, "This is awesome."

But the thought that followed directly afterward was, "No, I won't." 

I would love to be an accomplished writer, but, even if I am a talented writer, I will never become an accomplished writer, because I don't write. Because I have no discipline. I only write when I'm inspired, when I feel like it, when I want to.

Just because my room is clean doesn't mean I'm disciplined. I just like to clean. If I hated to clean and my room was clean, then I'd be a disciplined person. As it is, I'm very, very poor at doing things I do not want to do.

I've quit a lot of things in my life. Ballet, gymnastics, playing the piano, playing the flute, public school, choir, Business Management, boring novels. I'm pretty undisciplined. Especially...when it comes to eating.

A couple weeks ago I told my boss I'd save him some Cheez-Its and he said, "Can you? I know you. If there's food in front of you, you'll eat it."

I can't even take offense at that, because there's nothing false about that statement.

(But I DID save him some Cheez-Its. So...step one on the road to discipline.)

Discipline's biggest enemy is self-justification. If I can justify something in my mind, I have overruled discipline. I want to eat 7 cookies. They have oatmeal in them, and raisins. Hello, healthy. I went running this morning, it's fine. I haven't eaten this many truffles in, like, three days. So it's like a treat, really. If you think about it. Really.

God has been telling me a lot recently about discipline. Discipline is what it takes to grow. Discipline is what God uses on us to help us grow, and discipline is what we institute in ourselves to help us grow.

In what areas do you want to grow? Reading more? Praying more? Thinking of others more? Eating less? Buying less? Being more generous? Being less selfish? Being a better cook?

In case you simply need some encouragement: Take some steps to discipline yourself. (Tell me this, too.)

Write out the names of those you want to pray for and tape it to your shower to pray through every morning.


Fill out one of these calendars for 100 days, each day checking off the same three habits (or disciplines) you really want to be a part of your life.

Stop eating 7 cookies.

I'm not willing to sacrifice growth and character for comfort and temporary satisfaction.
He will die for lack of discipline, led astray by his own great folly. - Proverbs 5:23

8/18/12

Soon, but Not Yet

New seasons. Aren't you glad we have them?

Soon it will be autumn. Soon there will be football. Soon there will be pumpkin cupcakes. Soon I will snuggle into bed and wake up in the dark and drink tea while wrapped in an afghan.

But summer has been full: Of days lying beside the pool in warm, easy sunshine; of early morning runs through still-sleeping neighborhoods and just-awoken sprinklers; of homemade fruit smoothies with blackberry seeds stuck in my teeth.

I'm thankful for new seasons. I'm thankful for newness.

The same is true in life. There are seasons, and sometimes I'm very happy to see that the one I am in is ending, and a new one's beginning. Not immediately; perhaps it starts with just a sniff of air that smells more like crisp leaves than mown grass, or a sky that looks a little clearer and colder than rippling and blazing hot.

But these [just] glimpses of newness give me hope to finish out the season I'm in. It's okay that the sweat will still run down my legs, for now, because soon I know I will be wearing sweatshirts and Sketchers and homemade knitted socks.

Soon, but not yet.

In the meantime, let God do what He does in the season that's right for it. Let Him bloom the flowers when it's right for them to bloom. Let Him wither the fig tree when it's right for it to wither. Sometimes He puts you in the fire, but to walk through it in your own strength simply leaves you charred at the end of the day. He doesn't desire charring, but refining; transforming; renewing; always with hope that this season won't last forever, and a new season is coming.

And He gives us seasons because no one knows better what is needed to grow you than the One who created you.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. "The Lord is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him." - Lamentations 3:22-24 ESV

8/15/12

Pigeon's First Day of School

My roommate and I have a pigeon nesting on our porch. In the words of my roommate: "She did a crappy job. Look, there's like a bush growing out of the side."

So Pigeon and I stood (well, Pigeon sat...on her eggs) on the porch and waved goodbye to Courtney as she headed to her first day of school. She teaches music to 900 kindergarteners. You can understand why she wasn't exactly boarding a rocket ship so she could get to school quicker.

This week, some of us Vineyardites took school supplies and lunch to two neighborhood elementary schools. We prayed over them and blessed them. We gave them chewy oatmeal walnut raisin cookies (through which I was also blessed). And I thought about how important prayer is; how important it is to be aware that God is with and in and around and before us, at all times of the day, and that that fact lends a much bigger picture to the work we do in our measurable hours. And that, my friends, gives us joy.
Success waits upon cheerfulness. The man who toils rejoicing in his God has success guaranteed. - Charles Spurgeon
I lose sight of the bigger picture, and I think that I'm serving this person or that chair or this piece of paper or, worse yet, myself. All of those "masters" will only leave me empty and spent and exhausted at the end of the day, and very, very lacking in joy.
If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. - 1 Peter 4:11
Bringing God praise is a much bigger picture than cutting and folding paper, than sitting in a cubicle, than teaching playground rules. And serving God, to bring God praise, in the strength God provides, is an attitude-changer when it comes to serving others.

I prayed these words over my roommate (Pigeon was not involved in this portion) today, and I pray them for myself today, and I pray them for you today: May you know the joy that comes from serving the God who created you and in bringing Him praise, even when the tasks [for the moment] might seem joyless.

Happy first day of school, from my family to yours.

8/10/12

Summitting, Now Hang Gliding

I was feeling pretty professional, very business-y, with my iPad and iPhone and Styrofoam cup of not-so-great coffee. But then I propped my feet up between the chairs in front of me, and when someone came and sat in one of the chairs I tried to pull my feet out before he could see, but my left foot got stuck. I tried to unstick it but I couldn't, and I started to panic because his elbow was getting close to my toes. So I slipped off my flip flop, leaned forward, and literally yanked on the stubborn shoe from side to side until it came free, like pulling a 300-pound man up a cliff on a rope. Karen, my coworker sitting next to me, laughed so that she almost snorted, and I realized I wasn't very professional at all.

But sitting for two days (in the Global Leadership Summit) and listening to intelligent, experienced, smart, witty speakers speak about leading, success, personal growth, responsibility, and Jesus, has left my mind full and stretched and ready to process, chunk by chunk.

One thought: God is working 24/7 on building His church. He knows it is the hope of the world. He loves it as His bride. And He has given me, little old me, a role in building it. Holy cow. The extreme privilege, honor, and blessing of this profundity has rocked my attitude, motive, and humility (or lack thereof). I am merely called to join a God who is already at work. This shakes me out of whatever prestige I thought I had (how silly of me!) and makes me feel honored to answer the call, yet even more eager to honor the One who calls.

Another thought: The world needs better female communicators. 

Finally: It definitely matters today how you receive criticism, instruction, and tutelage. You do not know what God might be preparing you for in the future. Soak it in! Be a sponge. Let that be your mantra, and don't worry about appearing foolish or unskilled. Nobody who humbles himself to learn from someone wiser will ever end up foolish.

I have lots more to process. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to learn.

Let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. - Luke 22:26b ESV