Restoration

“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

 Psalm 23:1-3

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It never was about arriving in Santiago for me. I wanted to go on pilgrimage. I wanted to exercise my faith. It was always more about the journey than it ever was about the arrival. Don’t get me wrong, as I walked into the plaza in front of the Cathedral, I was overwhelmed with emotion. I was elated and exhausted both physically and spiritually. Upon a pilgrims arrival to the Catheral, it is a tradition to climb up behind Santiago and give him a big hug, so I did just that. It was a special moment at the end of my journey. But I am not confused. I know that walking 500 miles and receiving a compostela earns me absolutely nothing. Jesus paid it all. What I have in my shepherd is everything to me. Nothing in this life will ever compare…

“Faith is not clinging to a shrine but the endless, tameless, pilgrimage of hearts.” Abraham Joshua Hershel 

There were many pilgrims who walked into Santiago and were dissapointed to see the old Cathedral covered in scaffolding and in the midst of reconstruction. Several people have asked me if I was dissapointed. I wasn’t. It was precisely what I had been learning and seeing all along The Camino. I saw it in the many of the old churches that I had visited, prayed, and worshipped in on my journey.  God’s church is in desperate need of reconstruction.  His children are in need of restoration. I saw it in the beautiful golden cathedrals. I saw it in his beautiful wandering people. I see it in my own mirror every single morning. The most amazing thing was, I couldn’t always feel Him in the churches along the way, but I always, always, could find Him there out on the road, walking, and talking to His people. He was there at the dinner table one night sitting across from me with a young soldier from Ireland, who just the night before told me he wouldn’t believe in a God who allowed children to suffer from cancer and the atrocities of war. He leaned over to me the next evening and in a whisper asked me if I really believed he was worthy of redemption after all the horrible things he had done. I told him that “Jesus believes you are and He has already done it.” He then proceeeded to pull a St. Jude’s medal from underneath his shirt and told me he was a lost cause and then he cried when I told him he was wrong.  He was there in the pouring down rain, on a muddy road to Santa Domingo, with a girl from Denmark who asked me why I was walking. After I told her, she told me that religion was just something they “do back home and not someone to believe in.” I told her that I thought that was sad. She agreed with me. So many people, so many stories… He was there with the old Spanish abuelas who would take me by the arm and lead me to my hostel when I would arrive in town, lost and tired from walking all day.  He was there when I was alone on the mountain tops and he was there on the long, hot, meseta. If you listen hard enough the rocks really do cry out. He was there listening and answering my prayers every single morning. I would pray for just enough strength for one more day. There is no way that I walked those 500 miles by myself…

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The question I was asked most by people was, “If God is so good, why doesn’t he do something about war, famine, poverty, hate, illnesses and broken relationships? It is the age old question isn’t it? I do not know if we can truly understand the answer on this side of heaven. But this is what I trust and believe in because I trust and believe in Jesus. He did. He created us, and then He sent his only son, flesh of his flesh, blood of his blood, to restore us to himself, so that we could stare love right in the face and accept that love and choose to share it with others. Love is always a choice. God let’s us make that choice. He is not some great puppetmaster in the sky making us dance for him. He let’s us choose to dance for him and with him. He nevers forces us to do anything. The kind of love that he offers to us is not a love any of us can truly understand. We are told by Jesus that we must love others more than ourselves. It is a crazy, radical, upside down kind of love that we have a hard time accepting for ourselves, much less give away to others, especially our enemies and that is exactly what Jesus Christ calls us to do.  He tells us if someone strikes you on the cheek, turn and offer them the other. He says that if someone steals your coat, offer them the shirt off of your back. He reminds us it is easy to love those who love you back and almost impossible to love your enemies, unless you look at them through the eyes of a Savior. He tells us the first will be last and the last will be first, that the rich will be poor and that the poor are already rich. He tells us we are blessed when we mourn, and that the meek will inherit the earth. He tells us that we are to give mercy and grace to everyone, because that same mercy and grace was given to us for free. It cost us nothing. It cost Jesus everything. God doesn’t need us. He wants us. He is calling us back to himself. He wants to restore us.  I looked up the definition of restoration and this was the first one that I found:

Restoration: (noun)

  1. The action of returning something to a former owner, place, or condition.

The church ceases to be the church when it becomes a museum. After walking into Burgos one afternoon, I passed a pilgrim named James on my way to visit the cathedral.  He asked me where I was going. When I told him I was going to see the church, he replied, “that isn’t a church, it’s a museum. They want money to get in.”  Sadly, he was right.  God doesn’t need another museum. God doesn’t want live in the golden cathedrals and be placed on an altar to be admired from a distance. He wants to live on the altar of our hearts. He wants to reside inside of our souls. We are his design, his workmanship, we are his beautiful temples and it is here that he desires to be. He wants us to be a living sacrifices. I know, it is alot to take in. We live in a world that tells us to be the exact opposite of who God created us to be. If it feels good, do it. If you want it, buy it. Get the bigger house, buy the new car, make more money because more is better. We live in a prison of our own making. God doesn’t want prisoners. He wants His people to come home.  He wants to restore us to the people he designed us to be.  He wants the church to be filled with his people of one mind, one heart, one soul. The church is just a building until it is filled with God’s people, singing out as one. One church, one mind, one faith, one God.

Jesus was a pilgrim, he was a great walker…

” After his sweat-stained, fly swatting, foot cracked trail life in the dust and the grit of the Near East, the hiking God made his way through the hills of Jerusalem. The roads would have been busy; it was peak pilgrimage season. It was a journey home. He had been born just a few miles away in Bethlehem, and the temple was the house of the old tribal deity he called father. Betrayed by a fellow traveler, his journey seemed to end. But things are not always as they seem. Indeed, in the weird kingdom that Jesus spoke of, things are never as they seem. Three days later there was a great beginning.”  

“The Sacred Journey” Charles Foster

What we are doing on the way home matters. And so the journey continues…

 

 

 

 

 

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The Truth about Serendipity

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“”Unless you leave room for serendipity, how can the divine enter?  The beginning of the adventure of finding yourself, is to lose the way.”   Joseph Campbell

I am a lover of words. I love the word serendipity. I love the way it looks written on a piece of paper. I love the way it sounds rolling off the tongue. It is a cool word. The definition of serendipity is “a fortunate happenstance or happy accident”. Even the definition is awesome. In 2004 a British translation company voted the word “serendipity” as one of the top ten hardest English words to translate. I like that too.

I am a planner. I want everything to be perfect. I can seriously relate to the story of Martha and Mary. I mean really; Mary needs to get up and help right? Jesus is at their house and Mary is just letting Martha do all of the work. This is the perfect illustration for me. I have spent so many times trying to create the perfect meal,the perfect Christmas,the perfect vacation,the perfect family. So much in fact, that I have often missed out on a perfect moment.  I am tired of it. I am in desperate need of some room in my life. Some space and some time and some stillness. I read it and I believe it…

“Be still and know that I am God…” Psalm 46:10

I don’t want to miss out on the chance to sit at the feet of my Savior. If I don’t leave room for God in my life, how will I ever find Him, much less hear Him, and trust Him, and believe Him? It is so much easier to say I believe in God than to actually believe Him. I have wasted so much time worrying about my needs being met that I often miss out on the fact that they already have been taken care of. Everything that I could ever need or want I find in Jesus.

Something is changing inside of me. I am feeling the need to unburden myself of myself. So I am going on a walk, a pilgrimage, God willing of course. I found myself overplanning, making lists, over thinking, and that is when I came upon this quote and a fascination with this idea of seredipity. It got me to thinking. I need to stop planning this trip and just go.  I need to leave lots of room for Him. I have been lost before and He always finds me. He always shows me The Way…

“…I am the way and the truth and the life…”   John 14:6

So I am going. I am trusting. I want to walk worthy. I want to walk with Him. I can feel my fingers being pried open from around the dream that I have ever so carefully woven and created for myself. He is telling me that what He has for me is even greater than anything I could have ever imagine or plan. He is calling me into the future. He is beckoning me into the unknown. He is prying open my hand and placing his within it. He is holding my hand and He is saying come;  lets go for a walk…

It Rains. He Reigns.

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I sat in the service on Christmas Eve, smiling down into the pages of my journal while I quickly wrote down the words that the pastor was saying…

“Happiness comes from what happens.

True joy comes from Jesus.

What is happening is always changing.

Only Jesus is constant.”

It is a season of change for me. What is happening in all of our lives is constantly changing. I am finding great joy and peace in the truth that only Jesus is constant. As I grow older, there is more of Him and less of me. It is a gentle letting go and He is in all of it. We lit the candles and sang…

“All is calm.

All is bright.”

I woke up this morning, got a cup of coffee, my bible, and sat in the Chistmas tree lit room and waited. I waited for that feeling. You know the one, that sentimental, melancholy, day after Christmas letdown feeling. It never came. I decided I would go for a walk. It was a little cloudy, but it wasn’t supposed to rain until later in the afternoon so I headed out. Two miles into my walk, it started to rain. It started to come down hard.  Standing there in the pouring down rain I was faced with a decision. Do I keep walking? Do I turn around and head home? I would be soaked either way. As I stood there trying to decide, This song came on my ipod…

I will not take my love away

when praises cease and seasons change

While the whole world turns the other way

 I will not take my love away

I will not leave you all alone

When striving leads you far from home

And there’s no yield to what you’ve sown

I will not leave you all alone

I will give you what you need

In plenty and in poverty

Forever, always, look to me

And I will give you what you need.

Raindrops or perhaps they were tear drops were streaming down my face as I pulled my soaking wet hood tighter and just kept walking. It rains. He reigns. There is unspeakable and constant joy in Jesus. He never ceases to amaze me.

Something Blue

Happy Anniversay to two of my favorites :). Such a sweet day

Dry Bones and Promises

“O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the crannies of the cliff, let me see your face, let me hear your voice,  for your voice is sweet and your face is lovely.”

Song of Solomon 2:14

I had read somewhere that we should not only be praying for our own young children, but for their future spouses as well, so I set about praying for a boy I had never met. I prayed that God would mold him and shape him into a young man who would be worthy of such a treasure. I prayed that he would grow and make mistakes, the kind of mistakes that would teach him to be the very best husband possible for my daughter. Even before he walked in the door, I already knew that he was the one. The boy that I had been praying about for most of my…

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Forgetful

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I keep forgetting to remember you were nailed upon that tree.

I keep forgetting to remember that your blood was spilled for me.

The sky grew dark, the veil was torn, forever I am free.

How can I be forgetful and so blind?

When will I see?

I keep forgetting to remember it was finished on that day.

I keep forgetting to remember that You are the only Way.

So I will go and I will walk ’til I can clearly see.

I’ll walk my way back to the girl you meant for me to be.

I keep forgetting to remember.

But still, you love me so.

How can I deny you?

You have called me.

I must go.

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27

Wake up Call

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“And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter temptation. The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak.’ ”  Matthew 26:40-41

I have often slept when I should have been watching. I know how badly the disciples must have felt after Jesus was crucified. They slept when they should have been praying. They rested when they should have been watching. I am sure that if they truly understood what was going to happen within those next few hours, none of them would have been able to sleep. It makes my heart sad to know that I would have been sleeping as well. I have “slept” through so much of this life…

I have “slept” in my busy-ness while my parents were still alive. There was so much to do with my own family and certainly there would be plenty of time to spend with them…later…on another weekend…at another dinner…at another get together.  I was mistaken…

I “slept” through my own children’s childhood. There were bills to be paid and chores to be done, facades to be built, and secrets to be kept. I never imagined that they would grow up so quickly…

I “slept” when my husband was drowning in a sea of depression and addiction..I wish I had prayed for him then as much as I do now…

I “slept” in my own fear and doubt when I had no idea how I would ever be able to maintain a business and a home long enough for my children to grow up and graduate from college and be able to move out and take care of themselves…

As I grow older, I don’t sleep as well as I used to. I thank my God and my Savior for that. I am beginning to wake up and see things more clearly now. I am able to see things as they truly are. I am awakening to the truth that being alone doesn’t mean being lonely. I am awakening to the fact that although the world tells me lies, I don’t have to listen. So much wasted time… It is all so much clearer in the rearview mirror. God’s plan has always been better than my own frantic agenda. This has not been an easy truth for me. It’s hard. But I have also become awakened to the fact that it’s ok not to fully understand or know how exactly how this story ends…how my story ends…how our story ends…Because I can be beautiful, worthy, and forgiven for sleeping when I should have been watching…because He did that for me.

I am awake now. I am sure I will fall sleep again. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is so very weak. There will come a day, probably sooner than later, that He will once again have to reawaken me. Until then I will keep my heart set on that glorious day when He no longer has to.

2 a.m.

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It’s 2 a.m. I’m on my knees, reeking of sin, forgive me please.  The more I try, the more I fall, away from grace. Please hear my call.

I want to know. I want to feel. Convince me God your love is real. I want to burn. Please quench my thirst. Please show me how to put You first.

It’s 3 a.m. my mind won’t stop. I focus on my ticking clock. I need to feel like others do. Please  help me put my faith in You.

I need to know. I need to feel. Convince me God your love is real. I need to burn. Please quench this thirst. Please show me how to put You first. Please show me how to put You first…because if You don’t my heart will burst…

July 2011

Because sometimes it is just good to look back through old prayers and ponderings and remember just how much He loves me.

Good Courage

 

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“So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.”  2 Corinthians 5:6-7

When I was a little girl I loved a grand adventure. Days off from school were often spent outside riding bikes, playing in the creek, walking in the woods, building forts and running in the rain. Now that I am older, not that much has changed. I still love to wander, to drive, to hike and find a place in the woods, on a beach, on a mountain top, by a river or waterfall where I can just sit and feel God’s presence without any distractions. It is in these quiet moments that I come to know Him better. Where I can be still and listen until His spirit overwhelms me and fills my soul with His glorious presence.

I am a sojourner. A wanderer. A traveler. I go. I search. I look for something more…

As a teenager I longed for you, Lord, in all the empty spaces, in all the lonely places. Wishing on a million stars, “Star light, star bright, the first star I see tonight…”, wishing for love that could be equal to my own distorted version of such an earthly affection. You had so much more for me than I was capable of comprehending. I wished for you in fields of dandelion, blowing wishes into a thousand clear blue skies. As I grew older those wishes became prayers but prayers aren’t always answered the way we want them to be.

 In my early twenties I wandered in my rebellion. I was a wayward daughter searching for her Father, even if I didn’t know it at the time.  In my thirties I searched within a marriage,  a husband, and a home, to fill the gaps within my soul. I thought that children would satisfy that longing. I was blessed with a beautiful girl and fun-loving boy. Being a mother came closest for me. But children soon grow up and are filled with longings of their own. It was never their duty to fill those spaces inside of my heart.

It never stops. This sentimental, happy, sad, looking for something feeling deep within our souls. But one day something changes and sadness becomes gladness. I realize what I have been searching for, who I have been waiting for all along. I long for home. I long for You. I may never become fully aware of who I am, but I know now whose I am. This world will never fulfill my deepest longings or my secret desires. I will never fully understand it on this side…so I long for home…

“Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.” 2 Corinthians 4:8

I can’t explain it, but I do long to share it, the peaceful contentment that comes from knowing that there is more than this. You are more than this. To know you and to be known by you is more than enough. My soul was made for you Jesus.

“For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient and the things that are unseen are eternal.”  2 Corinthians 4:17-18

Contemplating El Camino

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“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have their hearts set on pilgrimage.” Psalm 84:5

I am too scared to go. My son Branden had agreed to go with me but he is already hedging. I do not think he will come with me. Can I be brave enough to go alone? I would walk for 5 weeks for 500 miles across The French Pyrennes and across Northern Spain on  pilgrimage. It is so far out of my comfort zone.

Will this ever happen?  Lord, only you know. My 53 year old legs already hurt so badly when I get up every morning from being on my feet all day coaching gymnastics. It does get bettter once I get moving but I can feel it. I can feel my body slowly aging and getting older. I can see it every morning when I wake up and look in the mirror. But there is a trade off for that reality. I fully believe that what Paul says is true…

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” 2 Corinthians 4:16  

So there is that truth. It is everything to me because He is everything to me. People keep asking me “Why do you want to walk? What is the point?” I want to walk with God and talk to God. I exercise my body for health. I want to condition my heart and my soul to be closer to Him, to walk with Him every single day of my life. I want to walk more and talk less. I want to learn to be a better listener. I want to walk because I am too scared to. I want to walk because there are a thousand excuses that I have come up with not to do it. I am tired of making excuses.  I want to walk because it has been 7 years. 7 years since the bottom fell out.  I have forgiven. I have had a hard time forgetting. 7 is a number of significance in the Bible. 7 years is long enough.

 So the question remains…Will these bones walk?  O Lord, only you know. I just know that I am tired of being too scared.

Undertow

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“If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.” Psalm 139: 9-10

Some people call it a riptide or the under current. My mom called it the undertow. There were no warning flags on beaches of the Florida Gulf Coast back in the sixties. We swam at our own risk, playing in the crystal clear water in our white t-shirts and Coppertone slathered cheeks. We weren’t worried about sun burn or skin cancer. We were more than happy to to stay out in the sun all day and get a “little color” on our pale Georgia skin. After a long day at the beach we would walk back to the little beach cottage and shower off in the rusty old shower head out in the back yard. We would come inside with our stinging skin and sun burnt noses and my mom would rub our red hot shoulders with Solarcaine. She and Gammy would shake their heads and wonder why our soaking wet white t-shirts had not protected our skin from the hot Florida sun while we played and floated in the salty blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico. No, Mom wasn’t concerned about sunburn. She was always much more worried about the undertow. She would walk to the edge of the  water on a perfectly sunny day, stand there knee deep in the waves and shake her head and say “No swimming today girls. I can feel it. The undertow is too bad.”  My sister and I  would whine and protest but soon we would quiet down and reluctantly set about making sand castles for the afternoon. We would try again the next day and see if it had disappeared. It was a mystery to us, but we knew it was bad. Even though we couldn’t see it with our own eyes we knew it was dangerous. Mom told us stories about how the undertow could pull us straight out to to sea and how even good swimmers could get caught up in the current, be swept away, and drown.

Now that I am older, I am well aware of the danger of the undertow. The little sins, the unseen currents that exist in my day to day life. Even though I don’t always see them, I can often feel them pulling me away, deeper, far away from the safety of my Savior. It could be a casual conversation that suddenly takes a wrong turn, or a simple observation that turns into criticism or judgement…

I worry when I should be worshiping.

I talk when I should be listening.

I hurry on ahead when I should be waiting…

 When a swimmer gets caught in the undertow, the experts will tell you that you have to stop struggling or you will drown. Fighting against the current, you will become too exhausted to swim. They say that if you wait until the water stops pulling you, you will become free of the current and then you will be able to swim parallel to the beach and safely back to shore.

It sounds so simple. I know that it should be, but it’s not. I want to stay on the shore, building sand castles, blissfully unaware of the undertow. I struggle to be “good”. I fight to be “better”.  I am well aware of my sinful nature; I am drowning in it. I know I can’t do it myself. I have tried to save myself for far too long.

“It is the Spirit that gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are truth and life.” John 6:63

I can hear Jesus asking his disciples…

“…”Do you want to go away as well?”  Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go?…” John 6: 66-68

No, Lord. I don’t want to go away…to whom would I go?

My mom is no longer here to warn me about the dangerous undercurrent, but there are flags on the beach to warn me of the danger out in the water. The yellow flag tells me to be cautious. The red flag tells me to stay out of the water. The blue flag tells me it is safe for swimming…but I know better. I don’t put my faith in those flags. I know that it is always there, the undertow, the little sins, that will always pull me away when I least expect it. But I also know there is a Savior who believes that I am worth saving.  I am learning not to struggle against the current.  I am still drowning but it is different this time…