Tag Archives: devotional

On the Edge of a Cliff…

I had let my blog die. I knew it and I was ok with it. After all, life is busy and I have other projects I am working on now…. right….?! And yet, as I sit here on this beautiful Sunday morning, I am compelled to write. I don’t why but I must.

It was just a few weeks ago, I went with my husband and his family to pick blackberries about an hour away from us. I love blackberries. One of the sweetest, juiciest treasures of summer. However, picking them comes with a price. They grow on large thorny vines that seem to sometimes want to reach out and grab you. You cant pick these little purple jewels without getting scratched and poked. Also, they grow where there are scary little creatures like rattle snakes and spiders and scary big creatures like bears. Finally, they like to grow near water in what is otherwise a fairly dry area. So as you can imagine you often have to get into some interesting places to gather them.

It was in one of these interesting places that I found myself. I was teetering on the edge of a bank above a creek, my right hand in a leather glove grasping one of the long and pokey vines and my left hand snatching up any blackberry that was in reach. It was in that moment I was struck with my own bravery. As a child/teenager/even young adult, I would have NEVER found myself in this place. IF and I mean IF I had even had the bravery to go anywhere near this set of circumstances, I would have stayed as far back from the edge as I could have and only picked the easy to reach berries. So what has changed? How was I suddenly able to do something that I had never been able to do in the past? The answer is really nothing. I didn’t sit and work myself into being able to do something that had once scared me… I didn’t even stop to pray… All I did was go. HERE IS THE KEY… For once I didn’t lead with my own fear. In fact, I didn’t even let fear enter the picture. As I hung precariously from that sandy bank, my bucket full of berries, I realized that I had jumped some kind of personal hurdle.

I don’t mean to say that I now have no fear. It is truly one of my biggest struggles. Fear. Fear of people. Fear of circumstance. Fear of situations. Fear. BUT when I realized that a moment without fear was actually freeing I began to change. I still have so far to go… but I need to change. I have often in my life overcome a fear and found myself in interesting situations. (other stories for other days) However, I now realize that I don’t just want to have to work beyond my fear, I just want to be rid of it all together. I want to find myself with people and in places and discover that I didn’t have to convince myself of anything and instead I just didn’t lead with fear at all.

Throughout the Old Testament, we read about the Army of God being brave warriors. Over and over again that is how they are referred to. They were just brave. They didn’t lead with fear rather they approached terrible situations with courage. They knew that God was guiding their path and that is all they needed to know. It kept them moving in the right direction. 1 Chronicles 19 discusses one of these very times.

So why is this important? We often use fear as a descriptor of personality. “Oh, it’s ok she is just shy.” “So and so is very timid.” “That’s just how introverts are.” However, God has not called us to be fearful. Instead He says, “Be strong and courageous.” If we are supposed to pattern ourselves after God’s Son, I fail to find a time where Jesus was fearful. Fear is an emotion, but fear CAN become sin. When fear keeps us from relationships, keeps us from moving, keeps us from going after the things God has from us… fear is sin. If God says… “Hey, here is where I need you. This is what I have for you.” And you say… “Uh, I can’t do that. I might get hurt, I might be rejected and I don’t know what happens next and that’s not within who I am.” We are in direct opposition to God.

Recently, I spoke to our youth group about how often we try to justify our own sin to make it so that it doesn’t really “look like sin.” We looked at David and Bathsheba. When David (the “man after God’s own heart”) knew he messed up, rather than seeking God’s forgiveness, he looked for ways to make it seem like he hadn’t sinned at all. He tried to justify his own sin. To justify just means to to make something right. But once sin has entered the picture the only way we can truly make it right it through the blood of Christ. Otherwise, we continue to allow that same sin to stand between us and God. For David this meant that he had to hit rock bottom to the point of murdering another before he realized that God was truly the only one who could justify what he had done. And God was faithful.

And so God can be faithful to me. And to you… What is it that you often try to justify on your own, but in the end it just stands between you and God’s best for you? Truly, I cannot be brave without God’s equipping and His love and grace for me.

God, make me brave so that I can be the person you have called me to be. I want your exceedingly abundantly for my life. I want the fullness of all of the things you have for me. I want to thrive… not just survive. Amen

Bonus: This song is the beat of my heart right now… maybe it needs to be yours too. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Hi-VMxT6fc

creation’s testimony…

As the Christmas holiday passes, and we enter the long winter months ahead, I am reminded of the significance of the winter season in my own life. While many around me dread the snow, I look forward to it. Every time the snow falls it is as if there is a freshness and a newness that comes along with it.

This morning I found myself remembering a December several years ago. The trees were laden with the white of winter and it was as if everything around us had been transformed. It was not at all unusual for my family to be found out on snowmobiles when the snow was like this. The trails were smooth and the scenery was breathtaking. On a cold evening of this perfect winter we set out for a late trip into a backcountry hot springs. We had packed our sleds with the things we would need for dinner and a late night swim. The trip could not have been more perfect.

However it wasn’t the time spent in the more than century old log cabin eating dinner by the fire, nor was it the hours we spent soaking in the pure spring water that made an imprint on my soul. Instead, it was the return trip that would, in a sense, change me. In order to get home we had to cross over the top of two summits. The first was well traveled and known by many. The second was a bit off the beaten path, and that night, there was not another soul to be found on that part of the mountain. As we came to a clearing near the highest point of the trail, we stopped our snowmobiles and sat in the quiet. The sky was completely clear and black. In it there were more stars than the eye could comprehend, and as the full moon shone, the snow reflected the twinkling of the stars as a million tiny diamonds scattered in front of us. Perfection.

I have often tried to dissect that experience. Even though much time has gone by, I am left in awe of the Presence of God I experienced on that late night.

The Bible often talks about God’s creation and how it interacts with its creator. In Psalms the writer talks about the fields being jubilant and the trees of the forest singing for joy (Ch. 96) In Luke Jesus’ disciples are caught up in their praise of God as Jesus enters the city. In fact the Pharisees ask Jesus to rebuke the disciples for their overt display, but Jesus responds, “I tell you if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:40) The disciples had seen God move in such miraculous ways that they couldn’t help but give Him the Glory. However, had they chosen to keep quiet… God’s own creation would have cried out proclaiming the greatness of God.

If then all of God’s creation is aware of His greatness, how much more should we, who are created in the very image of God, be ready to sing and dance and praise Him for the great things He is doing in our lives? We can choose to keep quiet, or we can choose to let people know that our lives are what they are because of who God is.

That cold winter night, it was as if God’s own creation was pouring back everything that it was to bring glory to its Creator. And that is what I want. I want those who look at me, and the work that God is doing in my life to be aware of who receives the Glory for the great things they see. I want a testimony of God’s greatness to seep from my very being and back into the heart of my Creator.

inside out…

My life to this point has been a strange journey of intersecting paths.  In some ways I have loved every moment.  Learning. Growing.  However,  there have also been moments that I would have rather run over, skipped over, jumped over.

I have been back in my beautiful hometown for the weekend.  I am quite sure that my mountains have missed me. One thing I know is that I have missed the loveliness that I am surrounded by while I am here.  McCall’s crowning glory is its lake around which the town is centered.  If you were to drive into town from the south, you would come up over a little knoll and suddenly the lake would be in your view.  Each time I experience this picturesque panorama my breath catches and I am immediately transfixed by the sight.

This weekend we arrived just as the summer is taking her final bow and the autumn is making its arrival.  Most things are still green and crisp, but every now and then a tree who has already put on its red or yellow colors peeks out.  It many ways it is as if these little trees have been hiding a secret behind their green foliage and they cannot wait another second to share their beauty.

Time is a funny thing.  It can give us fresh perspective on old situations.  I will be the first to admit that high school was not my favorite time in life.  I can remember just wanting to get out.  To run away as fast and as far as I could.  And so I did.  For a long time, I didn’t understand the need I had to run.  However, as the years have passed I now feel like I have a firm grasp on my adolescent feelings.

For the most part, in high school, people generally knew who I was at my core, that my faith was a huge part of who I was, and I even believe that I was well liked because of who I was.  But, I felt much like the green leaves on a fall tree; like I needed to- had to, express the beauty that I held within, and I knew that at that time in my life, my small town of 2000 wasn’t the place I could do that. Thus, my move allowed me to grow and to change and to experience for myself  my insides on the outside.  How liberating and life changing this was for me.  Now, instead of containing who I am within myself, I love to share with others; that I am who I am because I am “fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14) I cannot wait to express the things that make my heart beat to those who will listen. I think for this very reason, now when I come “home” I am alive.  Gone is the girl who was suppressed and hidden by the place that she lived.  Instead, there is perspective, vision, and hope for the future revealed by the very place that once held me back.

In 1 Corinthians 4:2, Paul says, “Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”

Paul is encouraging the people in the church at Corinth to not hide the Truth that is God’s Word.  Rather to share it plainly.  He wanted them to be bold in expressing who they were as a people of faith, holding nothing back, letting there be no question.

So, today, I encourage you today to look at your life.  Who are you?  Are you excited to share those things that make you “you” with others, or do you feel the need to hide it?  Do you walk boldly forward in who you are? Are you letting your insides out?

(NOTE: I have recorded a companion video for this blog. You can find it here —> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ChXH5Zmp44 )

the right words…

We live in a world that bombards us with words.  Words from the media, words from our jobs, words from our loved ones.  Whether they are written or spoken, words can carry a great power over our lives.  Just think, with one phrase “I now pronounce you man and wife,” people can be married.  With the words “The Oscar goes to…,” an actors professional life can be altered forever. And then there is the infamous Donald Trump phrase, “You’re fired!”

However, we must also consider the words that go unspoken.  Sometimes the implied, the assumed, the subtext, can carry even more weight than the words we actually dare to utter.  I think of a time (many years ago now) when I sat drinking coffee with a friend. We had spent most of that Sunday afternoon together, and I knew that there was something she wanted to say but was for some reason holding back.  Finally I asked, “how are you REALLY doing?”  She looked at me and there was only silence, but in that silence I knew she was hurting. No words NEEDED to be spoken in that moment. Nothing HAD to be said.  The very silence made evident that my friend just needed my presence at that moment and that was all.

As you can imagine, I take great stock in words.  I measure the things I write carefully, and I store the things that are said to me even more carefully.  For me, the things I see leave an impression in my heart, but the things that I hear (good or bad) will last with me forever.

Mark Twain once said, “A powerful agent is the right word. Whenever we come upon one of those intensely right words… the resulting effect is physical as well as spiritual, and electrically prompt.”

So, how do we find the “right” words?  How can we be sure that the words that we speak are the words that need to be spoken?

Each summer I have the opportunity to teach swimming lessons to many children.  As you can imagine, as with all situations involving children, there are often some memorable quotes that I take away with me.  In one of my more recent preschool classes I had a sweet little girl named Natalie.  She is one of those children that smiles at you the moment that they see you, and you can’t help but smile back.  An infectious happiness.  Natalie had never taken swimming lessons before, but she immediately took to the water.  Each skill I taught she attacked with great enthusiasm.  She would blow bubbles in the water, kick her legs, and even jump to me, in the deeper water, from the side of the pool.  On the fourth day of lessons, however, Natalie froze when we went to the far end of the pool.  She was not going to jump in no matter how much I encouraged her.  I hopped up on to the side of the pool, put my arm around her, and tried to comfort her as she trembled.  Finally, after much coaxing she admitted, “If I jump in the water, I die.”  Caught completely off guard, I didn’t immediately know what to say to her, but her fear was obviously very real.  I allowed her to just slide into the water that day, and we finished our lesson.

Natalie’s mother and father approached me after class, obviously concerned with the fact that their daughter had a new found fear of the water.  I quickly relayed the story to them, and as I did, I saw understanding flash across the father’s face.  Just the day prior, he had purchased a new video game for the family.  In a portion of this game, if the main character falls into the water he dies, and then the player must start over.  He explained to me that Natalie had been watching and had asked why they had to keep starting over.  Her older sister had said, “well if you fall into the water you die.”  Something so harmless at the time, spoken in explanation to a child, had stuck deep in the heart of little Natalie, and taken a great toll on her.

Matthew 12:35-37 says, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.  But I tell you that men will have to give an account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.  For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

While the anecdotes I have relayed are meant for illustration, I can’t help but to begin to ponder the things that I say on a daily basis.  Am I saying things that will be ultimately harmful or helpful to those around me?  Do I speak the words that I speak with flippancy or sincerity?  Am I willing to accept the ultimate and eternal repercussions for the words that come out of my own heart and into the hearts of others?

through a lens…

My perspective on life has been shaped by so many things.  Experiences, people, places.  Every moment along my life path has added to my little bundle I carry with me.  And, that little bundle works as a filter for how I experience new things.

Last week I was visiting a friend of mine in Oregon.  We always have great moments together.  I knew before I even left on my trip that I would come home with things to write about.

This particular weekend was unusually cool in the Portland area.  Every  morning I would sip my tea and watch the sun rise in between Mount Saint Helens and Mount Hood. And, every morning I would watch as the low clouds would slowly moved in covering the sun.  Every day there was the threat of rain and every day the sky cleared without follow through.  Finally, on Sunday, the sky opened up we were in the midst of a classic pacific northwest rainstorm.  If you have not experienced a storm like this, you should put it on your list of things to accomplish.  The rain drops in the northwest seem bigger.  The puddles seem wetter.  The storms seem longer.  It is one of the things I love.  To sit and watch the rain fall.  However, there is one small thing I would rather avoid when the rain comes, and that is driving.  Driving in the rain scares me to death.  I would rather do just about anything else.  In fact, my friend and I have a running joke that I would rather drive in a blizzard, and she would rather drive in a down poor.  While we laugh about this, there is a reason these things ring true in our lives.

My growing up years were spent high in the mountains of Idaho.  I don’t think I ever fully appreciated that beautiful community until I was an adult, but now I look back on that place with more than a fondness.  I think it is the place my heart will forever call home.  The summers are filled with fishing and camping and wildflowers.  And the winters, the winters are filled with everything “snow.” It is not uncommon for my hometown to have 6ft of snow on the ground and another snow storm on the horizon.  The days are short and the months are long, but the snow brings a sense of loveliness and quiet.  I never once considered that some people may not relish the thought of driving in these conditions.  After all, I spent more of my first year of driving, sliding on frozen roads than I did cruising on dry pavement.  (There are great stories to be told about that first winter of me driving… maybe at another time.)  However, this same friend in Portland cannot understand how I care to venture out in a snowstorm.  When she comes to Idaho to visit me in the winter, I do all of the driving.  Our differing life experiences have molded our perspectives on what is “normal” or “easy” or “better.” Two different lives, two different experiences, two different perspectives.

I feel that often in life when we encounter those with opinions that are different than our own, it is our immediate reaction to prove them wrong, to show that we are the ones who are right.  We forget that people have had life experiences that have shaped who they have become.  And while some of that perspective may alter their vantage point, there is great reason as to why they are where they are and why they think the way they think.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know ho to answer everyone.”  Colossians 4:6

My faith is deeply rooted.  It IS so much of who I am.  I see life through the lens of my relationship with my Heavenly Father.  I tackle problems and seek direction through the Word of God.  I know where I find Truth.  However, if my conversations with others (who have different life experiences) lack grace and true richness, there is nothing to be gained.  If I cannot listen as well as I can speak then I have accomplished nothing.

So, for today I challenge you to consider what it is that shapes your perspective?  Are these lenses healthy or unhealthy?  Are there new lenses you could assimilate into your life, or are there lenses you need to shatter and dispose of?  Finally, do you have an awareness of the things in life that shape OTHERS so that you can truly have grace and a sense of richness in your conversations?

passionate sacrifice…

Have you ever just stopped?  Stopped in the middle of a crowded space, and simply observed? As you suspend your own moment, you can melt in to the background and watch the world as it scurries by.  People rushing from one place to the next.

As a self-proclaimed  “people watcher,”  I often do this very thing.  I see a tired young mother with several small, smiling children, and I wonder; “What is her story?”  I see a sweet old couple walking hand in hand, occasionally pausing to gaze lovingly at each other, and I wonder; “What have their lives been like?”  I see a man dressed in Armani and walking with purpose, and I wonder; “What is it that drives him?”  So many lives, so many people, so many stories.

My grandmother’s gardens are a labor of love.  For nearly 25 years she has worked the soil in the various flower beds.  Making sure that everything is just right for growing the many plants and flowers and trees. Last spring, a huge wind storm swept through the valley where we live, and one of her dear old friends, the tree on the corner, was completely uprooted.  It caused us all to feel a sense of loss.  Something that she had poured so many hours into now was laying helplessly across the front yard.  Nothing could change that moment.  All that was left to do was to have someone come in and remove the giant from its final resting place.

For quite some time after that day I pondered why it was that it grieved us so to lose that tree. After all was that not part of the cycle of life? Why is it  that still, when I look at that corner, it seems so empty?  Wasn’t that to be expected at some point?  And yet, I believe that the things that we are passionate about, the things that we love, the things that we pour our hearts into come with great attachment. To truly be passionate about something becomes a sacrificial pouring of ones self into an idea, a person, a project, a cause.  For my grandma, her gardens are a personal act of worship to her Heavenly Father.  It is something that allows her to feel a closeness with her Creator.  So, for her this act is MORE than worth the personal sacrifice that is sure to come along the way.

Thus, we must learn to count the cost of the things that we invest our heart and soul into.  What are the things in our lives that our worth our passion? What are the things that we are willing to feel a sense of loss over?

“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:20 &21)

I challenge you to stop.  Really stop, and not look at those whose lives are passing in front of you, but at your own life. This time, suspend the world around you and examine yourself.  What does the story of your life say about you?  How does the product of your passionate sacrifice matter in the end?

a place of stillness…

“Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side. Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain. Leave to thy God to order and provide; In every change, He faithful will remain. Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend. Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.” (Katharina von Schlegel- 1752)

Recently, the words to this old hymn have been pouring over my soul like cool running water. While my God is faithful and I am blessed, there have been moments where my soul feels as if it is in the midst of a storm. I find myself tossed about in a sea of uncertainty. And in those moments, the Holy Spirit speaks. “Be still Jennie, be still. KNOW that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

To truly KNOW that HE is God is a loaded idea. It begs for an attitude of faith without need for complete understanding. It is just something that we are to do. In that we can find rest; a “peace that passes ALL understanding.” (Philippians 4:7)

This morning I was meandering through our local farmers market with a couple of dear friends. They have been a great source of fellowship and unconditional love for me in the last year of my life. God dropped them right in front of me when I needed them most. We laugh together, we cry together, and we spend time praying for one another. As we walked together enjoying the smells of the barbeque, the warmth of the morning sun, and the sounds of people caught up in the company of each other, a breeze blew. In that moment I breathed in. There was significance. Nothing, has changed, and yet I could feel that peace. The peace of God. The peace that comes BECAUSE He is God.

I know nothing of what my tomorrows hold. (How many of us really do?) But for now, my soul is quenched and my heart is full. I will be still, KNOWING that God is on my side; pressing on toward a joyful end, where my Heavenly Father will receive the glory for all he has done.

So now, I ask you. Where does your peace come from? Where do you find your place of rest? Do you truly KNOW that HE is God? I don’t believe we ever will come to a place in our lives where this is second nature. I think our human self fights against this, but I do believe that in our every moment it is something we can strive for. And in each of those moments we can feel the sweetness of God rushing over us; a place of stillness.