What do you want?

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When I look at the moon and the stars twinkling above, the tiny lights remind me that He is near.  There is no space between us.  When I look at the sun’s rays beaming through clouds in the morning, the streams of light speak of His power.  His hands are able to move all things in the direction of His will.  When I see still water reflecting the skies, I think of His peace.  He is never impatient and always on time.  Sometimes when I breathe, I see that He is right there giving me air.  He is our life line.

I don’t think that there is anything we want more than to be in His presence.  To be in His vicinity.  To be in close quarters with a God who never gives up.  Who is always working on our behalf.  Who, out of His own love, brings us deeper into a love affair.  A love affair with a God who is a Savior.  Who holds Eternity.  And, who, at the same time, holds our hands.  He is very, very big, but His love travels down to the smallest parts of our person.

He sees in our hearts the potential of what we can be.  Each and every day.  In each and every moment.  He doesn’t act in light of our humanness, but in light of His godliness.  He doesn’t act in light of left turns or rebellions.  He acts in light of who we are capable of being through His love.  He doesn’t act in light of our weaknesses, but in light of who He knows we can be when we are standing with Him.  He doesn’t act in light of us, but in light of Him. 

If you are able, slow down to the stillest, quietest place you can walk your mind to.  In that silent place, where color radiates in iridescent white.  Where a walk beside pure waters feels like a good journeys end, but does not end.  Where time has become a feeling a timelessness.  Slow down to that place and walk with Him.  And, once you have walked for awhile, ask Him what He wants for you. 

FF2 Aug 29

What hogs your space?

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I was driving my morning route today, and I was feeling pretty good.  Driving in on time, not too much traffic, nice blue skies, good music . . . but, the embarrassing, vain part is that I was primarily feeling good (i think) because I liked the way my make-up came out.  I have been fighting with this black Bobbi Brown eye liner gel . . . and I somehow decided that I got it right today.  After a few minutes, I have the feeling that I am feeling a little too good about the make up scenario.  I am starting to laugh at myself.  God knocks on my heart and says . . . Is that all it takes to make you happy?  So if you like your physical appearance, you feel good?  But, if that’s not the case, then what?  Right God, You are right this morning.  That’s when I smile and feel the real kind of happy in my heart.  The truth in love feels good.

We are so easily swayed.  The flesh is always right there waiting to drop in and hog the space in which your spirit resides.  I am thinking about my very private friend whose name I will not mention (except that she lives in Florida so as not to confuse her with any of my other very private friends living elsewhere).  She told me recently how she struggles with her mind going in directions that eventually cause her to question her purpose in this life.  As I watched her talk, I connect with her struggle and think about how often our flesh draws us away from the Spirit of the Living God.  Think about how powerful the coupling of the flesh and the human mind can be.  A thought leads to a thought leads to another thought and you, who are so closely connected to Jesus, are now questioning the purpose of your life.

Now, think about how powerful the coupling of the spirit and the human mind can be.  A thought leads to a thought leads to another thought and you, who are so closely connected to Jesus, are now scheming how you can minister to children on the other side of the planet.  Planning to send a note to a friend with an encouraging word.  Figuring out how you can give to a ministry more than you planned.  When my mind is in accordance with the spirit, I am overwhelmed with lists and lists and lists of good works that I can do in my home, in my community and for my friends.  My thoughts and lists of thoughts are so uniquely God that I am entirely confident none of it comes from my own silly brilliance.  My own silly brilliance is flattened by God ideas and thoughts.  So, why is it so hard to keep the mind and the spirit on the same team?

There is no doubt that you and I have enough to do to keep us busy until our final date with life on earth.  None of our to-do lists will squeak out even a moment for spiritual things.  The answer is intentional feeding of the spirit.  I rely on email devotions and note cards on my office wall throughout the day.  If I find myself veering away from the spiritual things that come my way, then I know that means I need to take a moment to read that verse, quote or devotion.  I need to remain intentional about feeding my spirit if I want to keep my mind connected to the spirit.  The alternative is losing my spiritual space to a hog called flesh.  The alternative is missing out on a whole spiritual world of opportunity.  God has keys to an extraordinary number of doors that we will never get to open unless we are intentionally letting Him into our mind.  So He can lead our spirits far away from that stinky hog called flesh.  Need I say more?

FF Aug 22

Thanks to Kaitlayn Bouchillon for this inspiring illustration of the word.

Unpublished

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By Sasha Katz

I ran across an anonymous quote – – We all have chapters we would rather keep unpublished.  I love this quote.  The more I think about this quote, the more I love this quote.  In fact, I was listening to the Wally Show  this morning and the contest was to judge who had the best mind blowing quote.  I am going to go with this one.

My assumption is that, most of you reading this, are ladies.  We girls have so many moments that we would be happy to claim unpublished.  The view my mom and husband got when I was pushing my first baby out. Must stay unpublished!  How about the time my ex-step grandma proceeded to pull out everything she could find between the cushions on my couch, including coins, stale chips, popcorn, popped balloon pieces and other moldy junk. She piled all the stuff she found in front of her on the coffee table – during a family party. How about on my 20th birthday when everyone was going around the table telling their very best story of me . . . and my nine year old brother told about the time I walked down the hall and “let it rip!” Really. Should have been unpublished.

Don’t judge my life to be easy or simple by these goofy better off unpublished bits. The real stuff that we don’t want published is the stuff wrapped about pain and shame. The stuff we do retakes of in our mind 100 times over. But the retake in your mind doesn’t take away the real thing that went down in your her-story.

I have to tell you there are not many people out there who have retraced their steps as many times as I have. I hate to think that there are many of you out there who have asked God to forgive them for the same thing over and over again for a full decade. I hope to think that it’s mostly me. But, at the ripe old age of 39, I have let it all go. God has let me remember each and every wretched, sinful thing I have ever done. Everything that I am ashamed of. That blasphemed His name. That soiled His spirit in my temple. That was hypocritical, selfish and self-serving. That deeply hurt others. Everything that made a mess of the real me He knows me to be.

In His grace, there was a purpose to all of my laundry lists. I had a cross over point some time ago. I realized that, if I would let Him, He was intending to wash my mind, spirit and soul of the part of the girl that had gone all wrong. Instead of folding my laundry and putting it back in my closet for me to wear again and again, He was separating it as far as the east is from the west. For as often as I could bring a sin to mind, He was there to send it off to the bottom of the sea. I don’t know how He does these mysterious, miraculous works in us, but He does.

I once read an author who pondered the hours Jesus spent hanging on the cross. The author proposed that the time He hung represented the time it took to forgive in advance each and every sin committed by humanity. In addition to the physical pain, imagine what it was like for Jesus to bear all of our sins. You and I know a little about that because sometimes we bear our sins on our own. We know how bad that hurts. I don’t think we can imagine what bearing all of earth’s sins feels like – – coupled with the physical pain. It sobers you. It tugs at the part of you that has the capacity to feel gratitude; it tugs at the part of you that has the capacity to be merciful to others. It tugs at everything about you that you wish went unpublished. Because you know He had to suffer to make you clean and new. To make the unpublished you, Published.

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This post was inspired by Connie Inman’s pin of the quote herein. Thanks Connie!

The Power of Impossibility

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By Sasha Katz

If you think about all of the times in your life that you were down, crushed, broken or hopeless, there is always a strain, grain or thread of impossibility.  Even when you force your hurt or beat up self to be practical, problem solving or option seeking, impossibility eventually strikes your potential plan and you are back to square one.  Like a deer in headlights, you stop when you come against impossibility.  There are circumstances in this life where change feels impossible.

We all have been there.  Impossibility comes in the form of lack of funds.  When I was heading back to law school for year two, my grandma wasn’t able to help me out anymore.  I had no ideas and no funds to cover the deficiency.  I was already working and my loans were maxed.  I had no more human capacity to make up the difference.  I sat with the financial aid counselor (who I had no idea was a believer) and she said that a man had left a trust fund to my school for scenarios like mine and she had the authority to give me what I needed for the year.  And, then she said – – Your Father knows what you need.  God blew out what I viewed as impossibility.

Impossibility comes in the form of relationships.  It was not that long ago that I determined that my husband and I would not see eye to eye on tithing to our church.  We had been fighting about it for more than a year.  My prayers seemed useless because our battle just heightened each time we went to war on the issue.  I think it was in the middle of one of our furious matches on the issue, that I was sitting at the dining room table, and a resolution occurred to me.  I probably yelled the resolution instead of suggested it the way the Holy Spirit had gently put it into my mind.  But, in any case, my husband yelled back, FINE (or whatever form his agreement came in).  Resolved.  Years of fighting pretty much resolved in one Holy Spirit moment.

Impossibility comes in the form of loss.  I didn’t know this pain until my dad died just before Christmas of 2009.  We spent some time talking about legacy at our couples bible study this week.  It brought me right back to my dad and my memories of losing him.  Right now, I see his clear blues eyes looking into my eyes of the same color, not just on the day he walked home to the Lord, but on every intimate occasion throughout my life.  There were moments during the first year after his arrival to heaven that stopping the radical tears and pain seemed to be an impossibility.  His blue eyes and the healing of the loss of them took the gentle hand of the Lord washing over me, the wise counsel of my mom and time.

I don’t know exactly what impossibility looks like for you.  I have impossibility even right now.  It stops us in our tracks and pushes back the mind and heart as you search for ways around and through impossibility.  I also don’t know what your break through looks like.  I don’t know what mine looks like either.  However, I have learned that it is beyond me to know how it is that the Lord plans to make possible what is humanly impossible.  And, really, it doesn’t matter how many times in a life that we face impossibility – – when it appears, it is real.

We certainly have the option to believe that He does impossible things rather than the hopeless alternative.  We have the option to let those close to us pray for us and minister to us.  We have the alternative to talk to the God of impossible things.  And, even if our prayer seems feeble, useless or powerless, if our prayers sound insufficient, small minded or limited, they are worthwhile and received by the God who planned from the beginning of time to take you to the other side of impossible.

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The Greatest Love Stories

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By Sasha Katz

A few weeks ago, I was walking over the bridge looking at the reflection of the morning sky in the canal. In my heart, I thought about the moment God made the creative decision to put reflection on the face of the water. My thoughts about His motivations caused love to overflow in my heart. Creation is the expression of His love. I am water-logged with thoughts about the expressions of His love through creation.

For a long, long time, I have been in love with the romance and depth between Ruth and Boaz. I shut my eyes and think of what it was like for Boaz to wake up with Ruth on the surface below him. Where she was waiting for him to see her. To accept her marriage proposal. In the blue glow of midnight. I think about the months before as she walked Boaz’s fields collecting barley. Under his promise that she would be safe in his meadows. Their love story began in fields where Boaz first noticed Ruth. I have to think that the fields brought out the golden amber in her skin. I have to think that she glanced at him through the waving field that was the distance between them. I think about their love in light of blue of night and amber of day. We express our love in the midst of His creation.

Ten years ago I read Donald Miller‘s Searching for God Knows What. There is this mind blowing chapter that envisions Adam and Eve’s love story. He suggests that Adam was a sort of lonely naturalist naming and categorizing the planet’s animals for about 100 years before he met Eve. All that time, Adam did not find someone like him that he could connect with. When Adam finally sees Eve for the first time, Miller describes that Adam was seeing a person who was like him, only more beautiful, and smarter than him in the ways of relationships. He must have thought to himself that she was perfect, and after a few days of just talking and getting to know each other, they must have fallen deeply in love. This is all among God’s creation. They fell in love in the midst of His creation.

Driving one afternoon, I listened to Dr. Bob Barnes and his guest ponder woman as night and man as day. It’s a deep thought that just like the Spirit hovered over the waters and carved out darkness and light, He carved out of His image woman and man. Just as he named the light and darkness to complete the first day, He created Adam and Eve to make something really good together. Something complete. Out of His creativity and love.

Miller says that sometime after Adam and Eve fell deeply in love, he must have gone on a long walk with God and thanked him. When Boaz expresses his love to Ruth for the first time, he called her blessed of God. That’s a kind vertical and horizontal gratitude. When I look at the sky’s reflection in the water, I am humbled and inspired and amazed and entirely grateful for the expression of His love in creation.

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Thank you to Tony Gill for Sunflowers at Arne.
I am also inspired by photographs of captured moments of pure love

Check Yourself

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By Sasha Katz

I’ve been thinking about what my church means to me. In the believer’s life, meeting together in the presence of God matters. The happenings that take place, together, in His house, form our faith, cleanse and wash us. We are encouraged in the place called church. Whether love and good deeds are poured out on to you in His house or whether you are drawn to act yourself, this is the place where we are genuinely motivated to do God’s work. This is the ideal description of church and truly defines, for me, my church experience.

If I could add to the definition of church, I would include the word refuge. I think about my dad dying and how impossible it initially felt to grieve in the midst of my regular schedule. For weeks, there were only two places I could cry – – as I lay in bed at night or during Pastor Clay’s worship on Sunday morning. Only two places. I needed the church to be my grieving place and it was there for me.

I also think about the early days of my marriage and the downright spiritual attack I was beat up under by some of our extended family. If you’ve ever felt you may not be able to fully hold on to yourself, that was me. At my worst times, I sat in church holding onto my arms debating with myself if I could keep soundness of mind. Time after time, He built me up in His house. His strength empowered me to grow up in Him. It is occurring to me right now that if I hadn’t chosen Him as my pillar of strength at that time, I would not be the woman I am now.

Another time in my life, I did not want to give up my dream to be a stay at home mom. Through a turn of events, God allowed for me to be a full time working mom. There was only one place that I was able to entrust the daily care of my kids – – that is my church. I remember feeling like the church was an umbrella that I could remain safely under while the storms and showers of life come down.

I hope you catch my sentiment for the church. I hope you catch the meaning for me and, I desperately hope for all of us, that we can hitch our lives upon a Rock.  But, because we are human, God’s wonderfully perfect institutions, including the church, suffer sometimes. Mostly, or only, because of us. What has prompted me to think about what my church means to me comes by means of a self check.  Just a few months ago, our pastor resigned as a result of multiple affairs and numerous acts of sexual immorality (via pornography).  As the dust settles, there currently exists for me a sadness.  The subtle sadness is kind of like an envelope wrapped around a letter that holds really good news.  You’d like to open and throw away that envelope once and for all, so you can go on sharing the good news . . . but that darn envelope.

The upside of my self check is that I am glad to know that my love for my church was not wrapped around my former pastor.  It wasn’t wrapped around the popularity of his person or sermons.  God made Himself self-evident through the pulpit.  I am thankful that God is God.  I don’t feel lost under the loss because of that.

Self check yourself.  Wherever you meet with other believers under the umbrella of God, check your heart.  Why do you love His house?   Is it because your faith is built?  Are you washed by the word?  Are you encouraged to love and do good deeds?  What is your definition of church?  We are all prompted in times of change to check our self, but I think it’s better to check ourselves in the normal course of life.  What human heart could not use a check anyway?

July 19 FF Hebrews

 

The Vows of Friendship

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By Sasha Katz

I don’t know what your sins are. I don’t know what you regret or what mistakes you have made. I don’t know who you have pretended to be. I don’t know what mirrors you have avoided in your life. I don’t know what truths you’ve trampled for your own self-interest. Only you do.

It is the condition of your own heart that enables you to know what lines you’ve crossed. It’s your knowledge and understanding of what is good and evil that allows you to acknowledge your transgressions. Truth is not easily found if the heart is clouded by grey. The truth of your own sin is not evident without a certain amount of light revealing the motivations of the pulsing flesh inside you.  The weight of your mistakes, transgressions and sin doesn’t fully come down until the light beams in.

The magnificent thing about God’s light is that when He reveals sin, His light doesn’t magnify the transgression. He amplifies Himself. The sight of Him calls you to turn away from the sin. It’s His kindness and love that leads us to repentance. I think that’s why we can believe that, once repentant, He separates our sins from us as far as the east is from the west. It’s by no works of our own, but Himself.

I know that you know what your sins are. Your regrets and mistakes. What you have pretended to be. The self reflection you have avoided. The self interest you have promoted. I know that you know because I also know the depths of my own heart spattered with transgressions and mistakes. The upside of our reciprocal imperfection is that it can become a baseline for our friendship.

The invitation, first of God, and then to one another, is the true gift of friendship – – where the acknowledgement of our baseline of imperfection – – grows us to be real and genuine. Where you can with Christ, in confidence, lay down your life for your friends. That is the place where what I know about me and you what know about you collide in holy way. It’s the type of friendship that supersedes what I have done and helps me be who I was made to be. That is vow of real friendship. That is God’s invitation and I pray that you and I, dressed in all of our imperfections, take it.

Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit. Psalm 32:1-2

. . . God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance . . . Romans 2:4

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:8.

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13

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Thanks to Walking on Sunshine for her Sunday Scripture that was my inspiration today.