The Wall of Hostility Has Come Down: Peace, Berlin and Loving Our Brother

He drove by in the limo once…. slowly enough, just so my Mom could brag about seeing her favorite president roll by with a wave. No matter your party, you respected the man. And no speech of his is more memorable than one given outside of his home country.

Standing in front of the Brandenburg Gate on June 12, 1987, President Reagan proclaimed that “the German question is open as long as the Brandenburg gate is closed.” Building up to it, with hope and promise and all the words we need today…he challenged the world and he challenged one man, and we all remember it.

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

berlin wall

It will fall, he said, because it cannot withstand faith…and truth. And who knew what truth really seeped through in those words. What walls of injustice we all would fight and climb and beat against.

Years later we watched men and women and children dance on that wall, and jump over to a life of complicated freedom. Freedom isn’t easy.

One of those women, Angela Merkel, jumped over the high stone wall into a future of leadership. She will celebrate the 25th anniversary of that date this Sunday as the Chancellor of Germany.

We never know who we are saving. What leaders we are raising. What presidents we are tending….when we reach across the walls of indifference and demand justice. When we act.

Dr. Ellen Charry knows about these walls of separation. The tension between Jews and Christians and the walls we construct when we don’t understand. We are always most afraid of what we don’t know. Fear breeds hate.

She challenged us, infusing her native Hebrew language with our own….our small group in our small town, to look across the walls and see what Christ has done. That if, in fact, we are in Him, we are ONE. As a Jew, she found Christ, the warrior and the lamb, the ONE who forges through walls and ushers in peace. Mighty, strong and gentle.

It’s this call we struggle with today: being gentle and fierce in conviction. Offering love and living in truth.

He’s the only ONE who can handle a government sitting on His shoulders.

“Remember….you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:11 –>)

We’ve all been far away. He brought us near – to God – to one another. It’s that one another we seem to fight most. Seems we think we can marry into the family of God and choose our relatives.

“For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier ——————–> the dividing wall of hostility, ….”

What if half the walls we erect are built because we wrongly identify the enemy? Because different looks wrong and unsafe. Because blame sticks better on the other side.

We only have one real enemy. And he’s not human.

Sure can look human, though, huh? A lot like me. (I’m thinking back to that freedom isn’t easy word) What we do with our freedom, our responsibility, to love our brother – even when our brother loves not —– will define our lives.

Will we build the wall again when it gets hard to live together?

See Christ, He put to death hostility, in order that we might be reconciled. In order that – we might be. We still get to choose.

Reconciliation to God calls for us to live side by side with our brother. 

I watched a short film once that made my stomach twist and my dreams heavy. A boy, young and idealistic, full of love, chose to crawl under the fence of a concentration camp to be with another boy he befriended. He intended to help that boy find his dad. It took great planning. He did so courageously. It just happened to be the day the Germans decided to gas the entire camp. We watched the Jews walk in a naked line to a small chamber and die. That boy died befriending the “enemy.”

Loving will cost us. Freedom will be hard. It is. —– But living within invisible or actual walls of hate and separation is just as costly.

I don’t fully understand it. I watch from the outside. Or maybe the inside. I see the hurt from a distance. I’m the one who must decide whether or not I will crawl under the fence, cross the tracks and do something costly myself for the gospel.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. (‭Isaiah‬ ‭53‬:‭5‬ NIV)

Our transgressions. Our iniquities. How often the gospel we try to make so personal is actually quite communal.

Can we apply the peace He offers us to the wounded beside us? What if the wounded is far away? Will we reach them?

Dr. Charry challenged us with this: “The rubble is at our feet. The wall has come down. What will you do about it?”

The Daily Bread is Before Us

She grabbed my hand and I felt something move into it. She said she was once a pastor’s wife. “Don’t say no – just take it. For you.” And with that, God used the hand of another to provide for me today.

It seems quite bold – the words Christ gave us.

Give us…our daily bread.”

How about “Would you, could you, will you…give to us?”

No. Jesus is showing us something here. Humility and boldness unite in prayer when the contrite heart meets the truth of God’s Word.

He has already promised provision. He will meet our needs. We come to the Father in the Lords prayer and fulfill his call to agreement one with another in prayer - “Yes, Lord, you are my provider; I agree and accept your gift.”

The key word is daily. Isn’t our problem just resting in the day to day of His promises?

To ask Him to meet all of our needs now is to misunderstand the ways of God. So Christ invites us to remember. Always remember. At the table, in the Eucharist…and in prayer. The work is done. Only now receive.

Yesterday’s manna, when depended on – can spoil the opportunity for miracles. What miracles are on the other side of our drought, when we look to Him alone for the rain.

The Israelites began to forget: It’s not natural for manna to fall from the sky. After forty years – it became an expectation. A norm. They lost the eyes to see the miracle. Then it stopped.

What bread – what provision – what blessing – is lying at our feet with no recognition to the Father?

We come to the Lord’s instruction and thank God for being a our God today. We marry his prayer with the words of Paul: I know God will meet all of your/our/my needs through His RICHES in glory/in Christ/in all of Himself.

Give us, oh Gracious and Generous God – our daily bread. We acknowledge you are the giver of all good things. May we feed the hungry and find our strength in you alone.

This is a series on prayer. You may begin here.

Discovering Your Default Faith & Why It Matters

Schedules were rearranged yesterday to care for a sick boy. I brushed his hair back as he fell asleep, finally, exhausted from illness. The verse penned on my left hand, almost rubbed completely off, caught my eye. A reminder to go deeper today into the hidden places of faith we all have.

hand

I’ve taken a break from my #write31days for a few reasons. The biggest being I want my words to have integrity. I don’t enjoy slapping words down just to fill in the calendar, and I know readers appreciate content richer than I can offer half-heartedly.

Monday I began my daily prayer walk around my house. I stopped mid-walk and got real with God. But more than an honesty, I found a fear, a hesitance. I saw that I was approaching God as a lowly servant (which I am) to a high and lofty King (which He is) – but with an attitude contrary to what I know and profess about Him.

And I “walked” head-on into where the rubber of my theology meets the road of my faith.

What I know and what I believe, deep down, are obviously not the same thing.

Recently, I happened to define the difference for a class: To know is to understand; to have a clear and complete idea; to perceive. To believe is to accept or regard as true.

If you tell me God heals through prayer, I can completely understand what you are saying. It is quite another thing to believe it is true.

Beth Moore says, “We will act out what we believe, not what we know.”

If I don’t really believe, deep down, that my prayers matter, I won’t persevere in prayer.

If we really believed prayer made a difference, wouldn’t more believers be doing it? There is much discouragement aimed at the saints today in the area of prayer. I devote the majority of my study time to the subjects of prayer and spiritual warfare. I can say with no hesitance that oppression is the number one strategy of Satan for believers.

Oppression is often pinpointed to the core of what we believe about God. In my case, I found a deep-rooted seed that will take a persistent digging up to conquer. I too often judge God’s view of me based on my own limited human understanding.

I default to a God of judgement because I default that way with myself.

I can know and quote multiple verses on the character of a loving God, so why – WHY do I keep approaching Him as if He is my enemy? As if I’m starting over every day and need to slowly work my way up to some holy level and earn a spot at His table. It’s incredible, really, when your eyes are opened to deep-seeded beliefs.

I sat down in my living room and really thought about it. I don’t really believe, deep down, that God is totally for me, I thought. Why am I approaching Him this way?

My prayers have been hindered.

Then I thumbed through a devotional by my bed, and the last line said this: “To say God is for you means He is NOT against you.” Okay. So I remembered the sermon I heard a week ago on Romans 8, and I grabbed my Bible. Verse 1: “There is therefore, now, no condemnation for those who are in Christ.”

I’d found and confirmed what God needed to uproot in me. Though condemnation is the easy word, it’s not the deepest root. Most every problem is rooted here: unbelief.

I texted a friend and asked for prayer. I know to persevere, to change habits, to reform a belief system that will affect everything about the way I live my faith will take community.

A pastor recently mentioned to me that we often miss a big part of the prodigal story. When the Father looks upon his son, just before running to him, he is filled with compassion. Interesting thing is….when you are full of something, there is no room for anything else.

God has no room for condemnation. He is full of grace.

And I don’t know what took me there, but I came upon Galations 2:20, one of my first memory verses years ago. All these years I looked at it as something I needed to do. “Lord, crucify me.”

But just like the Spirit – in just the right time – on just the right day – to provide a whole new revelation. It actually says, “I have been crucified with Christ.” Have been. Done deal.

So now Christ – right now – already – lives in me. So Christ, the Son of the Living God, is there, approaching the Father through me. I can truly stop approaching God in fear because I no longer live…but Christ lives in me. And He had a pretty great prayer life.

I think we all have them: default beliefs. When the waters rise, what we really believe comes out. It’s important here, in these places – to run into the truth. To face what we see about ourselves head on.

We bring our questions and thoughts to the Word, and let Him sift the untruths. It matters that we know AND believe that God is love, so we can freely love others. It matters what we really regard as true, because we will act on it.

How we perceive God is how we will portray Him.

I’m thanking Him, moment by moment, that all who are in Christ have passed from death into life…and we will not be condemned. John 5:24

 

 

 

 

7 Ways to Live Intentionally in Your Places

live grace

 

Ask for Names

There is just something about hearing your name. It’s personal. You are named. So is every other person you meet or see. They need to hear their name. Watch the countenance of a waitress change when you ask them their name instead of yelling, “hey, you.” Watch the checkout person smile when you read their name tag and ask them how they are. Names matter, and it matters when you acknowledge…and then work to remember names. For those you will see again, write down their name when you get to the car. Keep a notecard in the car….so you can say hello to them again when you see them…by using their NAME. See what happens when you love people this way. My husband taught me this. He lives it well.

Pray on the Go

The most Spirit-empowered prayers I have whispered happened off the cuff. When you drive through the neighborhood, pray for peace and God’s kingdom to reign. Circle your child’s school and pray for guidance and wisdom and favor. How many times have we missed opportunities to see into the needs of others by not asking the Father to speak to us? Pray for your mailman as he drops by. Ask a friend, “how can I pray for you today?” When prayer becomes your intentional daily practice with people, you will go through your days differently. Don’t wait for open hours to pray; it may not happen today. Talk openly and listen intently. Think of the 3 Keys: Look, Listen, Speak. Look beyond what you see with your eyes. An angry person is hurting. Listen to people talking. They often are saying something different than the words you hear. Speak life. People need it.

Then Tell Them About It

People don’t know you are really praying for them until you tell them. Consistently, genuinely and intentionally. I’ve found a great way to encourage teachers (who need so much encouragement) is to write a series of notes over time. Make one simple statement to people: “I am praying for you. Then follow-up and follow-through. Let them know weeks later, “I am still praying for you.”

How often do you think most people receive a note specifically asking them what someone can pray for them about? Choose someone in your life today who needs prayer and decide to let them know – in different ways on different days – that you will be standing in the gap for them.

Give an Unexpected Gift

Don’t wait for Thanksgiving or Christmas to offer a gift. Kindness is most noticed when it is unexpected. Gift gifts to your child’s teacher when there is no holiday obligation. Send a basket to the owner of your local store thanking them for serving you. And when we do this for very small things – showing people we care that they are in our lives – they remember it.

Follow Your Holy Discontent

That issue in your town that causes the most frustration can actually ignite the most fuel in your spirit – when you choose to act. What grabs your heart the most just might be the one place God is calling you to serve. Serve there. Don’t be afraid to say no to other things when you are willing to give a BIG yes to God in at least one area. Choose to do one Big thing REALLY well. Your town needs your voice, your service and your heart.

Acknowledge the Unnoticed

I wrote a note to an assistant to the director of the bus routes for my childrens’ school. The next time I spoke with her over the phone – not knowing her at all – she spoke to me like a close friend and told me how much it meant to receive that. Some people NEVER get thanked. Find them. Look for the people who sit by themselves. Have you ever tipped the water boy at your restaurant? It’s one of my favorite things to do. Ask your waiter who cleans the table and get a tip to them. The people in the background help run your town, your church, your business. They are not in the background to God.

Carry Your Pass Card

Most days, everyone just needs a pass. We need a do-over. That person who pulled out in front of you probably is not your major enemy. That rude clerk needs grace like you do. And on some days, those closest to us can be out of character – just like us. We are all works of progress in need of redemption. How much frustration could be released if we chose fewer issues to fight. How many mountains are we really willing to die on? Most things that cause so much frustration are very small indeed. Someone in your path – today – needs a pass from you. Offer it freely and with love. Let someone be angry. Check your judgements at the door of your mind and hand out your pass card. Say in your mind, “Me, too, brother. I’ve got a lot of work to do.”

“Above all, LOVE each other DEEPLY, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8

 

 

 

 

Begin Again: When You’ve Lost Prayer & Hope & Life

I remember on one of my darkest days asking God to swaddle me. I had swaddled the babies so many times by then. It was, at the time, my greatest need. I could feel the need physically to be held so tightly by someone greater and stronger than me. This was the only time during that year that I felt the presence of God come down and warm me while I lay there, knees to my chest in the corner of my bed.

I had never really known depression before.

One day I went out for lunch with my husband. I told him I was just surviving. I can remember how heavy my chest felt as I said that. I thought I might drown. My whole body felt as though it might literally give out.

They say what is deepest will rise to the surface on your harder days. I found anger most of all, and lack of fruit. The verses about branches and vines and being thrown in the fire caused me to truly question if I could call myself a Christian. But the hardest part for me was the loss of prayer and intimacy with the loving Father I’d always known. I doubted His goodness, and it was my greatest disappointment – in myself.

I picked up an old copy of Prayer, by Richard Foster. I didn’t even believe the words anymore. But I kept reading, and picking it up again. Something in me could not settle for the doubt that was covering me.

This is a sign of prevenient grace: when sinful souls hunger for God.

What finally, truly freed me was this: I gave myself permission to live out the season.

To let the questions have their full effect in me. To speak them out into the thick air and let them hang there. Though I wanted so deeply to be fixed and go back to what I felt before, I could not. I didn’t pretend. I didn’t hide. I had the church remove me from the list of corporate prayer leaders.

What do you do as a minister when people look to you for faith, and you have none at all? When they still call to talk about fasting and you don’t remember the last time you prayed?

I was honest. I let them walk with me, into my unsteadiness.

I needed to begin again.

We need to give people room to stretch into a new place with God. Room to struggle and ask the hard questions, without rushing to answer them ourselves. Because it was here, in this new and unknown place of doubt that God deconstructed and rebuilt a heart for Him. I thought I was waiting for Him…but He graciously waited for me.

The idol of knowledge needed to die. So many idols did. I finally offered my need to have all the answers down at the cross. What came forth from my dark night of the soul was a whole new place of faith.

Maybe the darkness of doubt is the primer….for a faith that sticks.

faith that sticks

The life that Jesus offers is found in the most unexpected places. In ordinary tangibles like bread and wine. In the heart of the prodigal, hurting from sin, but willing to look up and see the Father, waiting.

And even in death. For the seed that dies will sprout new life. The soul who dies in Christ will live.

“Today is the perfect day to believe and begin again.” - Ann Voskamp

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I’m linking up with the High Calling today. This is part of a series on prayer. You may begin here. Segments of this post were taken from previous posts I’ve written on my experience with depression. May you find the light of His truth and know you are loved today.

No Other Thing, Lord

Grace, grace, grace to a debtor

Means all I have I owe.

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What debt I owe

What sin I’ve lived

But whence He comes to save

Be still oh soul

At passion’s edge

Flee thee from the grave

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Dare I ask in such a state

Is there room at the cross for me?

Where I can go to the higher life….

One less lived for me

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The line is drawn

The waters near

It’s go or stay behind

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The cross is there

I see it plain

What cost will I not pay?

So take my hand

I need you, Lord

To guide me on the way

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What is left, Oh Lord

When selfish deeds are lost

But dry and empty offerings

Of straw and wheat and hay

So take them, now, for your glory told

And burn with fire away

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Oft I run to ocean’s edge

And dream of lofty praise

Returning to the endless chase

For which I long have grazed

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Yet paths you show, though cloudy gray

Are better than any dream

For peace and joy abide there

Each day I trust and glean

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Rather I would know not one

Of the days which lie ahead

But rather live day to day

And consider you my stead

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No other thing, not high or low

Can last the world around

But you, Oh Lord, my constant thing

Will last with grace abound.

The Prayer of Immediate Allegiance

I awoke this morning remembering. Dreams can be quite real. And whether it is a dream or thought, temptation comes in all forms at all times to destroy us.

It is the plan of all true evil. We should not take lightly the strategies of Satan to come after us in his roaring lion state.

The problem is that often we do not see the temptation as such. It looks quite good to us. The salesman has been at this for some time. He doesn’t just throw something in the water hoping a fish will bite. Satan knows our bait well.

From the very beginning, sin has been crouching just outside our doorstep.

sin

It is an act, not a feeling, which moves us into the immediate prayer of allegiance. We recognize with our minds – which have been dwelling on the truth of His word – that the idea or thought or dream was pure evil.

It is not good for us. Or our families.

It actually – this seeming small thought – runs contrary to everything you have been praying. He doesn’t offer the extravagant first. No. Satan wants a small bite so we will take another and another and another.

Do not be surprised when chasing the glory of God to be tempted to turn face.

“The old serpent will tempt you and entice you, but he will be sent packing by prayer, and if you do some useful work in the meantime, you will block his chief approach.” – Thomas a’ Kempis

So we pray immediately to rebuke the thought or idea, identify it as false and evil, and proclaim that God is the one true God. Whatever the specific temptation is, we speak opposite to it. If he is warring against your marriage, you commit your marriage to God and your work within. You thank the Lord for all He is about to do in that marriage. If it is against your business, you thank Him for favor and blessing and commit to make all decisions in integrity. If it is an old way – coming back around to entice – you claim victory over that area and thank Him that you find joy in Christ alone.

We whisper it before we feel it.

That is the immediacy.

We then take action to follow through: That is the allegiance.

To finish a prayer in the Word in this area, I often include;

Lord, I thank you that you are my fortress  and my deliverer, and you shield those who take refuge in you. (Ps. 18:30) I claim that you are the one true God, and there is no other. I have hidden your word in my heart, Oh, Lord, that I might not sin against you. (Ps. 119:11) Keep your servant from willful sin (Ps. 19:13) and surround me with songs of deliverance. In the name and power of Jesus who is the Christ, and for His glory, Amen.

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This is a series on prayer. You may begin here.

The Morning Star is Rising

The dawn rises with hope, fall colors spreading across the sky. Cool mist hanging over the water, like the crisp morning David and I braved the Canada cold with our thin gloves to glide along Lake Louise. We were the first on the water. Alone in a little canoe, the glory of God in the mountains.

mountains

Often He calls us here. Out of our warm beds into these moments. Our eyes beg no, a weary body wanting to lay still until a babe forces the uprising.

We often have no idea what gift lay ahead of the decision to follow.

The invitation may be soft at first. Then that warming of the heart gets warmer still. My eyes open and I recognize His prompting. “Come”

Today it seems to be a push into a simple obedience. No concern for outcome, only obey and see my goodness.

He always wants us to SEE His goodness. So we pray in agreement, “May I see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”

Our days are richer with this meeting of the dawn in the graces of His Spirit. What better way to speak our first words but,

“Good Morning, Holy Spirit.”

Prayer does not have to wait for the closet or the car or the moment in the mountains. It can find its roots in deeper communion. All communion is from Him, all relationships growing out from the central one. He is love.

“He wakens me morning by morning…” (Isa 50:4)

He is not the God of just another day. He wants each new dawn to rise in our hearts like a new promise – a faith in the God of all new things. He wakens our spirits and whispers. Talk to me. Keep asking. Keep praying. Then come, and see. See what I have made for you, today.

He “wakens my ear to listen..”

We listen. We look. We allow the Morning Star to rise up within us and shine forth. We begin our every day with communion. In union with Him. This act of sharing, intimate fellowship. It’s what prayer is all about.

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This is a series on prayer. You may begin here.

On Measuring your Days, Prayers, and Life in the Longest Yards

The days are long and the years are short. That’s what they say.

I just threatened my son again about taking his precious boots away. Because threatening is a great strategy with three-year-olds.

boots

Meanwhile I’m thinking of measuring my daughter with a tiny ruler for her costume. That shouldn’t take long. Inches add up either way, right. Who can find a measuring tape in this house?

Those days of long stretch out the insides of you running circles around raising them right. Deep breath to deep sigh, you just want them to catch it. To be the very best they can be. We want it for them. We believe.

Then the discipline of Fall break day one is about to break you.

We measure our success by how many of their moments fit into the good behavior category. The outward signs of learning; each choice of obedience.

Lord knows all my moments don’t fit there. But I was driving today, somewhere in between our shopping, cleaning and making a mess of the church errands – when I saw the bigger picture. The longer stretch of days.

How I’m looking forward to the silver crown of life and the wisdom I will only gain by getting there. You can’t hurry a good stew or make a boy child a man. Like the yeast in the best of dough, some lessons just need to rise up in us over time. And they will.

I hear my three-year-old daughter praying over her own food in the next room, by herself, and I know something is catching. This comfort with talking to someone invisible, but all around. This faith is something taught from someone else, and the choice to act on it.

And I peer into the long years ahead to see the fruit of this messy labor. They believe.

Can all the moments of quiet grace overshadow the screams of loud when my boy acted out again – and I did too? Can all the hugs and kisses last into the years while the rolling of the eyes fades away.

I think so. I believe in the long stretches of God’s grace.

I think God wants to teach us something in the longer spaces of time.

space of time

He wants to do a long work in us. Something deeper than can’t be manufactured on the fastest product line. He’s drawing my kids….me…to walk with Him and learn a little. Become…………….over time……… with Him.

It’s what I’m carrying into my prayer life. This new kind of faith in forever. How the prayers we pray actually end up in the altar box and wait there. They keep. Even in the answering. Waiting for their highest fulfillment: the offering. When all will spill out before Him like incense and help mark the end of days.

Time doesn’t restrict our prayers, even when we try to. So every prayer counts. And though I keep looking, looking, looking for that hand-sized cloud and the drops of rain, I can rest knowing my prayers stick with God.

I focus on the answer or the wording of the prayer itself. But what if I looked farther into the distance of time…….where, regardless of the words or the outcome, the struggle or the confidence, each prayer is a deposit into everlasting praise.

Our prayers are measured with the yardstick of eternity. Holding steady.

On the longer days of motherhood and prayer, I’m thankful He measures with grace.

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Hopping on the link-up with my bud, Meredith today. She’s writing on #31days of living like she’s dying – we all could use a dose of that. And I’m linking with Holly, someone born to be an encourager. Blessings.

 

I’m Deep in Love with You, Abba Father

When laundry is piling up, and the week is coming fast – what song – like this one, can call us to drop to our knees in the living room and remember WHY we are doing it all.

Deep in Love with You – by Michael W. Smith

———> My heart, it beats for you, precious Jesus.

I’m deep in love with you….Oh God.

A few days ago, the Spirit did something quite special for me during worship. I smelled something during the worship time that sent me back to my first moments of worship, when I first fell in love with God. I could smell the frosty drinks I used to buy at Falls Creek. I know it sounds funny, but that’s just how good God is. He’s inviting me back to my first love. I had a picture immediately of the worship tabernacle and my heart started burning.

Love on me. Come sing to me, He whispered.

All prayer is worship….and all worship can be prayer.

Sometimes we make prayer too difficult. We make life and faith and ministry so difficult when we try to figure everything out.

How refreshing to sing a prayer to Him, today, in the midst of daily life. And speak the words we were made to speak – those of worship.

I’m deep in love with you, Abba Father. So deep in love with you, O God.