Journal Stories

The Garment of Praise

James writes, “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” – 1:18

A reference to this very scripture explains what James 1:18 means is the book of 1 Peter which states,  “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light;” -2:9

To be chosen of God, to be loved by God without doing anything but be chosen, to be invited into his presence, to know his peace, love, mercy, and grace. It is a gift, it is a blessing, and something I know I could not afford. We are his glory, that through each of us he has the ability to show his power, his glory, his love, and his truth. That we may be the example of what it truly means to be changed by a personal relationship with Christ, in that we worship him in spirit in truth. We show this type of consecrated worship, love, and daily walk in the good times AND the bad times.

As I was sitting in church the minister got up and talked about how it is easy to praise him in when things are good, when you get that new job, when you past the test that works on the development on your spiritual character. It is easy to say to those who are struggling to trust in the Lord, to lean on him, and depend on him. It is easier to lift your hands and worship him with thankfulness when life is going great. On the opposite side of the coin is the hard season, the season where what you told someone to do in their hard season makes you sit down. You have to take time to think deeply about putting on that same encouragement. It is not easy when the storm is raging, when you can’t see in front of you. It is not easy when you want to know the outcome knowing that you have the opportunity to trust God whether the results are good or bad. You go through the emotions the ups and down of the journey now accepted.

The minister went on to say though as the rain is pouring, as the wind is raging, as the bad may get worse you have to get to a point to where you can praise your hands and say thank you Jesus, to praise his name, not because you want the situation to go away and that is how you wish it away. Not because you are doing your best to be a “good” christian and praise regardless of pain, grief, and the storm to prove how strong you are. No, you praise him because no matter what he is good. Your praise him because he as David says in my favorite Psalms, ” Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; for the Lord hath heart the voice of my weeping. The Lord hath heard my supplication; the Lord will receive my prayer.” 6:8-9 This is after he was honest with the Lord about how he felt and shared with him he watered the couch with his tears.

You praise him, and rejoice in him because he is not a God that he should be mocked, he keeps his promises to never leave or forsake you. Jesus continues the perfect work in you through the trials and tribulations, that you grow deeper in him as you learn to lean on him, as you learn to fall on the rock which is Christ Jesus. You begin to form a foundation that is not knocked down by winds or waves. Your hope, your anchor, your identity, your foundation, your life, everything is in Jesus and there is no fleeing from his presence. So while you are in Jesus to praise him is the only option, to rejoice in the valley with tears in your eyes, with even grief in your heart, with blood running down as you are in the fight, to be able to say thank you Jesus, to be able to look to the hill is the next step.

We are called to be real, with ourselves and God. We are called to grow closer to God through Jesus, we are called to experience a salvation that saves beyond your own life as you teach your children how to pray, read their word, and as they watch you in the storm. Peace, be still. It’s peculiar, it’s not normal to praise God in a devastating situation, but we are a peculiar people.

As I stood with tears in my eyes on the deck outside of my job not knowing if my dad had cancer or not, not knowing if the seizures would stop, not knowing why he was having the seizures in the first place, and on top of that he was on a ventilator. I stood there tears in my eyes, devastated, angry, lost, scared. I knew I couldn’t stay there and I began to just say, “Okay, Lord I trust you. You are in control, no matter what happens you are in control. I trust you, I trust you Lord, I trust you, I trust you Lord, I trust you.” Tears still streamed down my face and each time I said that I trust him strength came. Amen. It was more than words, I believed I could trust him even if I couldn’t see how the situation would turn out. Sooner or later  my perspective changed from pain, fear, and the unknown to thankfulness to be able to lean on him. I began to thank him.

I still didn’t know what was going to happen and the outcome is not the point, it is the journey in between the out come, it is the response in between the outcome. Amen. Regardless of the outcome and though I am believing for a full recovery for my father, what matters most is am I still growing in the one who chose me, chose to love me, and chose to call me to himself because in the end that is what matters, developing a relationship with him and going deeper. And as my father heals he is doing the same. Amen.

So it may be odd to you at first to give him a praise in tragedy, in hard seasons, and even in disappointment. Know  this though what you are apart of is not odd to Jesus, it’s not odd to the father, it’s apart of the journey as you mature in him. Day by day step by step. It’s apart of the journey to be real and to shift your perspective. Amen.

Let’s Pray:

Lord I just pray for leading in guidance in for those this hard season. This season of learning to lean and trust in you Jesus. I pray Lord that as we continue on in this hard season that we begin to praise you for who you are and the you are in control no matter the outcome, knowing that you are good. I pray Lord you continue to show up, and meet our need as we commune daily with you. I pray these things in your name, and thanking you for this prayer being already done and worked in the minds and hearts that need it Lord including myself. I thank you Lord for your peace, your clarity, your grace, and your presence Lord. I thank you for you healing, I thank you for your goodness, and your love. I thank you for who you are Lord and I thank you for what you have done so far. I praise your name. Amen. 

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Stories

Olive’s Ocean

Olive opened her door and slowly edged her way to more ground behind her house nearly to fall off top of the mountain. She’d had nothing more than clothes on her back as she walked down in the valley to the seaside. Barefoot she felt the sand beneath her toes and the cool water as it rhythmically met her toes. The soft blue sky beamed as the sun softly warmed her skin. Looking to her left far in the distance was her tree made paddle boat.

She smiled as the wind continued to whisper a sweet anthem to her. Taking a deep breath she knew it was time for her coast on the ocean. Walking over to the boat she saw the sun cascade over the forest that led her back to her home. Her heart warmed once more as she pushed the boat forward and jumping into it heading out to sea.

Olive always looked back to the forest, she always looked to the shore paddling farther and farther away. She paddled past her first marker as her surroundings where filled with cascading trees. The foundation below her seemed to flow her in the right direction. She let go of the paddles and drifted with the current laying down her head facing the sky above. She’d been on the mountain top for awhile, she was ready for rest and her way through the valley to shore was not a long walk.

She always heard God’s voice on the mountain, she always felt his spirit leading and comforting her. She could still feel the humming running through her. As she heard the water around her she closed her eyes and went to sleep.

Rapidly waking up she felt a cold around her. Sitting up she turned to see the shore. Thick clouds covered her view, looking above full rain clouds gathered and looking forward thick clouds billowed toward her. Fear enveloped her as she reached frantically for the paddles to paddle back to shore, her grasp left empty finally looked down to see that the paddles gone. The thick clouds that billowed toward her moved more rapidly and doing her best to  cover her face she lay in fetal position screaming. It began to rain heavily  as she entered the cloud, the waves harshly swayed the boat up and down.

She could not see, and closed her eyes as the rain continued to fall. She tightened more into the fetal position as her heart dropped. Anxiety numbed her even more, her screams no longer served a purpose and the soft leading voice of God was no longer present. “Where are you?” She thought to herself. “Lord, where are you? I don’t feel you?” she spoke aloud. Opening her eyes to clouded darkness she sat up in the boat moving her drenched hair out of her face, she wondered where he was. She looked back to see if she could recognize where she was, she couldn’t see anything. Her fear and anxiety turned into anger as she yelled, “WHERE ARE YOU?!?” Tears blurred her eyes as she continued to yell in the distance before her.

The rain stopped suddenly. Silence crept in. Olive stood in the boat swollen eyes, heart beating fast. The current and bellow of the waves calmed and she was alone. She felt defeated. She laid down once again and whispered, “Where are you…” She closed her eyes in the attempt to calm herself. The waves continuously moving her forward. As she fell asleep she shivered.

Olive didn’t know that day she’d be far from what she considered comfortable, she did not know that though she was at the edge of the mountain top she’d never have the chance to go back and experience the mountain top again.

The boat harshly hit a jagged  rock waking her up in a slight panic. Sitting up she wiped her now hurting eyes. She was at the shore, her heart leaped with joy. She got out of the boat and ran to the forest she once knew, she fell to the dirt and cried out to God a praise of thanks. As she began to walk through the trees she noticed that the leaves were greener, the fruit was abundant. and the trees stood tall and firm. “This is not home.” Olive thought to herself.  She was lost. Falling to the ground once more defeated she groaned and cried out, “Why is this happening to me?” She felt low of herself as she regretted even going out on the ocean that day. “I should have stayed home… I should have slept longer, I should have…” She punched the soil below her.

“Don’t do that…” Jesus stood before her. Looking up with tears in her eyes she shook her head, “Where have you been?” “What do mean?” Jesus answered. “I’ve been going through a literal storm and you where no where to be found. How can I trust you, how can I trust you when you don’t show up. Why do I even need to trust you? I was fine on the mountain top. I felt you talk to me, then.”  Standing, olive wiped her eyes once more with her soil covered hands.

Taking a deep breath Jesus reached out his hand, “Olive, follow me.” Taking his hand Jesus lead her through this new found forest. “Where are we going?’ She asked confused.

“Do you trust me?” Jesus asked. “I don’t know… I don’t want too…” Olive though still held onto his hand. Jesus stopped in his tracks, turning to Olive. “Why don’t you want to trust me?” “C’mon Jesus…” “No, why?” Rolling her eyes she opened up, “It’s not that I don’t want to trust you, it’s the fact that I don’t want to need you, like I do right now. I don’t understand, I didn’t need you this much when I was home, I didn’t need you this much when I was doing my own thing. Yes, you were leading and guiding me but I had a say in something.”

“It’s okay to need me and your need does not have to depend on the length, depth, or height of your storm.  Your not needing me does not depend on how great things are in your life. If you are to have a Lord in your life you and I can’t be it. I’m here to be that, if you would allow me, I can be that for you, if you would allow me to teach you I will show you how to trust me, but I have to trust you allow me to do so. So you won’t forget about me on this path, that you will not let go of my hand. Olive will you let go of my hand? Will you abide in me as I abide in you?” Jesus gazed intently in her eyes. Shaking her head yes she gripped his hand tighter. Looking back she could see that it was beginning to storm again washing her boat away. Jesus swiftly walked with her through muddy waters, fallen tree branches and tall bushes. Her bare feet felt the foundation transform from muddy waters to solid ground.

Jesus slowed down as he lowered his head, as they entered a branch arched tunnel, leading them to an abundant dwelling. Sitting down on the soft moss covered ground he let go her hand. She was in awe in all that she saw, the food that she’d look for but found to be of scarce supply was now abundant, all that she needed was there. Laying back though still cloudy it was as if the sun was shining down on her as it did when she laid back in her boat. “Jesus?” Olive looked over at him as he gathered fruit. “Yes Olive?” “I’m sorry for asking where you were.” Jesus continued  quietly gathering fruit. Sitting up Olive got up and helped Jesus gather the fruit. They sat fruit in between them apples, oranges, mangoes, grapes, blue berries, red berries, strawberries. As she began to eat Jesus caught her off guard. “It’s easy to trust me on the mountain top isn’t it?” Scoffing she looked at Jesus and shook her head yes. “It is one hundred times easier to trust you… and you know what actually, it’s like in those moments I don’t need to actively trust you because things are so good, you know.” Jesus grabbed an apple and looked at it. Wiping her hands on her dress she lay back once more. “So when are we going back? You know, back to my house?” Jesus laughed lightly tossing her an apple. “Abide in me as I abide in you…” Jesus got up and began breaking off some branches around them. She looked at him, and looked around where he’d brought her. She’d thought he’d never show up, she thought she’d never make it in the storm and even as the storm persisted she was covered.

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Journal Stories

Habitation in Jesus

I sat on the bed reading to my mother Psalms 91. I was directed to read this in the amidst the crippling fear that did it’s best to come back into my life. Psalms are like balm to wounds and are sweet reminders. This particular Psalm is packed from beginning to end.

As I was reading I came across this particular verse.

Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. -Psalms 91:9-10

When I first read this, I stopped reading because this verse hit my mind directly. This verse cut through all the fear that was doing it’s best to take root in the heart of my mind. You know it says we are to cast all of our anxieties onto the Lord in peter, but in the verse prior to that we are to humble ourselves more of a consecration of our heart to him so that he may do what is his will in our lives.

So this fear that I had was not only challenged but softened into truth. Immediately when I thought about habitation, I thought of being on a boat the waves are raging in the midst of the storm and being able to sit there and as we are shown in Psalms 1 that we are to meditate on God’s word. Being able to sit there drenched and go within picturing a cave in the side of the mountain that leads to the most rich habitation filled with color and greenery and healthy soil, knowing that is where Jesus lives. Knowing that him making a home in me through is holy spirit gives me access to make a home in him through a deep, abundant, and developing relationship with him on this side of heaven.

It sounds like a dream.

It sounds like a fairy tale.

It sounds like the garden of Eden.

It sounds like it is easy to get there.

Sitting on my parents bed reading this Psalms, I reached as far and as I deep as I could into the word of God to hold onto something. To hold onto his truth. To hold onto hope, because not too long ago I was talking to my own father about going deeper in God. Not long ago we were talking about the future, and here I was with my mother and he now in the hospital sedated due to consistent seizures.

The storm is real, and I closed my eyes and the waves began to get crazier and crazier. I sat on the boat drenched covering my head looking at the dark wet wooden board below my feet, tears in my eyes wondering why this was happening to me. Why did I have to experience this, why do others have all of their family and I don’t have mine with me when I go to bed at night?

Is this what being an adult is all about?

It was in these moments, in the questioning, where it has become all about me and I do my best to depend on myself to figure out why, where it is easier to not accept the journey than to accept it that I had to pause. Peace, be still…

Understanding and knowing that God is not some guy in a cloud that is looking down up on us and just controlling everything we do. That he is not so far away that in our pain he does not hear us. Understanding that he came closer through Jesus who was not void of pain and sorrow in his journey, that in the early morning we found Jesus away from the disciples praying to his father in communion and communication with his father. Understanding Jesus is alive and well still working on our behalf, still fighting for our the heart of our minds as we continue to grow in him especially in the storm. In understanding all of this, he becomes closer and this journey becomes one to be lived and not one to run away from, the life he has given you.

“Abide in me and I in you. When you abide and me and I in you you will bear much fruit, apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:4-6

I wanted to run, and I will admit there are still times where I want to, but even more so Jesus has called me to himself. Jesus has called me to more of him, deeper to himself. Jesus has called me to go from asking why is this happening to what would you have me learn in this situation. He has called me to consecration in the middle of the night. He has called me to loving and praying for those I’d want to hold grudges against. He’s called me to a higher standard and that looks like going lower and lower. Turning to him for EVERYTHING, in ALL things.

Habitation is not only a place to go, not just a place for you to live, it has what you need to survive there. As you look through at all the greenery, the colorful fruits you might be able to see clearly because of the tears, but as you reach for what you can for what you can see. As you depend more and more on Jesus, your tears will dry and you will began to see more abundantly not only surviving but thriving. We can make Jesus our habitation. Not outside things and not even people, but Jesus.

When it is hard and blinding tears come again which they do even in hope and healing, I ask Incline thine ear O’ Lord. I cry to the only one who knows the depth of pain and the depth of abundant life. Amen.

-Finding The Goodness

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Stories

Valley Living

As she walked tired and rugged, she came across a wooden cabin deep in the woods. A bed, desk, fire place, with kitchen stocked. She cleaned up from the rugged trail, it seemed she walked alone. Jesus knocked on the door and she invited him in. She hugged him closely surprised to see him. She walked past him to help him carry some stacks of wood inside.

He helped her unpack the rest of her things. She lay resting as he carved a piece of wood. She cried, laughed, and furies as she told him everything, the bad, the ugly in her journey so far. In the wee hours of the night, fire place crackling she shared with him her deep secrets, the ones she’d tell no one along the long venture, she told him everything. Her heart broke folding over again and again…

As she wiped her eyes she sat up hands in lap, she looked at him as he smiled and carved another groove, wood shavings slowly meeting the floor. “What have I done?” Shame and guilt over took her. Heart burning she tucked her legs close to her chest realizing all she’d said. Suddenly, he’d become unsafe for her…

“Lana…” Jesus looked at her with concern in his eyes. “Why am I here?” He asked. She coiled in tightly, “I. I. I’m not sure…” He lightly laughed and continue to carve away. She felt tricked by him, “You don’t fool me. I know why you’re here. To judge me, to see me for who I really am, all my struggle, all my temptation and sin to laugh and leave.” Wood savings only curled not falling to the floor, Lana’s heart beat fast tears brimming. Taking a deep breath Jesus put down his instruments. “Lana, come with me.”

Lana followed Jesus through the forest into the top of the mountain cascading with trees, clouds and waterfalls. “You see there?” She peered on her tip toes, “Yes I was there yesterday.” He looked at her as she continued to peer, “Me too…” She looked up at him, Jesus pointed out a far mountain top, “What about there?” Lana slightly smiled as warm memories came to mind, “I loved that place, though it was hard walk up. “ Then he pointed out several valleys. Lana’s heart dropped, “I really don’t want to talk about those…” Lana began walking down the mountain back to the cabin.

“Lana…” Jesus softly called after her. She stopped in her tracks and turned around, “Lana I was there too.” Jesus put his arm around her and led her to a log right outside the cabin. As they sat he shared his heart,“The pain you feel, the temptation you face, the sin you are overcoming, the person you are, the quirks you have do not scare me away from you. I will always call you even more so. I will desire you to seek my face even more. In valley living, you’ll never scare me away.” Tears in Lana’s eyes she laid her head on Jesus’s shoulder shedding weighted tears, finally taking a load off, Jesus held her close.

The next morning Lana awoke, Jesus sat beside her finishing his creation. She rubbed her eyes, picking up a fresh cup of tea beside her. Lana shared more deeply, freely, and fully… Valley living, where growth happens as you sit in the tension. A tension that invites Jesus who digs deeper, fully showing you how he sees you and who helps you to discover who you really are.

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Journal Stories

Focus

To focus on your calling and purse it alone…

As a child our parents would go tell us to do something like clean up your room. We would go about huffing and puffing or some would just get to the task, but it was up to us to get the task at hand done. That was teaching us stewardship over our room, and the toys that we had meaning the possessions that was bought/ given to us by others i.e. our parents.

It’s written in the word of God that we are not alone, that Jesus will never leave or forsake us. That our task because we love God we will respond to that love through obedience. Our obedience is not a measuring stick or our love, it is stewardship of the love already given before we knew it. For it says in his word that knowledge puffs us up, but love, love makes us known by God. He sees us, he knows us. This stewardship of ourselves, and our relationship with Jesus helps us to build a solid foundation of who he is and who we are in him. Our identity who Jesus says I am, who God sees me to be, and the live words written that continue to speak beyond the page shapes who we are.

I’d forgotten who I was, I knew what obedience looked like and felt like and that was boring to me. Going down my own path now Jesus a consultant from time to time, his spirit a charging station and God who I avoided was what my faith consisted of. The task at hand which was very simple “write” was now mixed with gain social media followers, juggling 5 social media accounts at one time, doing my best to stay relevant, besides pursing my Bachelors of Arts in Psychology and working a part-time job, dealing with daily life, and wondering how to take care of myself through all of this. When you are trying to keep relevant on social media more than keeping yourself grounded in actual life. When you started this task as the means to help others not knowing that you need just as much help, could we say more. Yes this is me now.

Paul who has stolen my heart with his writing and understanding of Jesus writes a response to those to who choose examine him, his intentions. 1 Corinthians 9  In this chapter he talks about how those have a work tend to get provisions from the work they do. How someone who tends to a flock reaps their milk to drink. He says several other examples as well. He then goes onto say he does have the right to gain material possession from the spiritual things he speaks, but he does not, it does not matter. It is more to him that he preaches the word lives out what he is called to do, than to do it just to gain provision. He then shares with an open heart how he has become all things to all people so that he might have saved some. Meeting others where they are being love, showing Jesus, sharing the gospel. He goes on to asks the question of someone who is examining him would ask. What is my reward then? His response brought me to tears.

“I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in it’s blessings…” – 1 Corinthians 9:23

It’s deeper than that. It is always deeper than that. The call to clean your room. God’s call on your life through Jesus Christ. His love keeping you, not by your own doings. It’s all deeper than that. Paul had a foundation that could not be taken by anyone, because not only did he want to share the gospel, he wanted to come alongside those he met along his journey and kneel with them bringing them to Christ, coming to Christ himself.  At the beginning of the prior chapter it talks about how knowledge puffs up, puts you on a pedestal. In the prior chapter it talked about the topic of idols. When Paul healed as Jesus did many began to bend down and worship him. He had to correct them, and pointed them to Jesus, just as Jesus pointed us to Abba God.

Though knowledge puffs up, it is written that  love builds up.

“If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet as he out to know. But if anyone loves God, he is know by God.”

– 1 Corinthians 8:2

Focusing on what we are called to do and doing it on our own. What we are called to do should not isolate us in an unhealthy. It should bring us closer to our identity in Christ and others that are like us and those who are not like us who will remind us how of this love that makes us known by God. It should bring us closer to our knees in prayer for others and ourselves as we go deeper than what we are called to do because what we are called to do is deeper than just a task. It shapes and forms our character, it brings peace to chaos, it may cause stress because it is important, just look at Paul, being beat up, yet still preaching and writing from jail. Our calling brings forth the fruits of the spirit, as his spirit teaches us, why because it is bringing us closer to him.

 

That I may share with them in it’s blessings… to focus, not alone, with faith.

 

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