Call Upon the Lord

Call Upon the Lord

The song Call upon the Lord by Elevation Worship has been on repeat for a few weeks now (lyrics below).  I cannot get enough of it. I play it over and over again. Its theme will never get old, out dated, or worn out. Call upon the Lord and He WILL rescue and save; He WILL bring peace and healing.

“We need no other hiding place. Our hope is safe within Your name.” This is so beautiful. When we are tired, worn out or weary, Jesus is our hiding place.  His covering blocks out the noise, chaos, fear and uncertainty that the world relentlessly shouts. In His presence, we don’t have to listen to it. Our hope for safety, to be rescued, for healing and restoration, for receiving forgiveness and offering it to others, is all safe with Jesus. He won’t crush our hope; He restores it.  He won’t dash or mock our dreams; He planted them inside us and expands them and opens doors that only He can; He doesn’t withhold and punish; He died in our place, so we could have life with Him forever.   The hope and faith that He hears me, sees me and knows me; every single situation, wound, heart break and victory, which fashioned me into who I am, kept me hanging on through some heavy trauma and pain I have experienced.  Knowing that what He began He WILL sustain; knowing that Jesus has a plan and purpose behind my wounds brings hope. Those wounds are now scars, because of His healing.  I’m not anonymous, forgotten or forsaken.  In fact, I am so deeply known that I am free! Jesus’ name heals.  He alone is strong enough to save. There is power in the name of Jesus.

At His name “every enemy will flee, as we declare Your victory!” Jesus is our victory. He defied death, defeated the enemy of our souls once and for all, and He offers life to all who call His name. He is right there next to you, as you read these words. He is the breath in your lungs, the beat of your heart. There is nothing about you He doesn’t already know. No secrets with Jesus. He sees you; He sees me. He alone breaks down every stronghold we erect to protect and wall ourselves away from pain. He knows why those walls were erected. He was there. He watched us build them. The pain you and I try to hide with our walls, break His heart. Your walls probably look different than mine. A wall could look like pride, arrogance, self-reliance, fear, needing to be right, promiscuity, coldness, being shut off from others, sarcasm, humor, obsession with our looks, weight and appearance, and the list could go on. Jesus knows better than we do, why we felt we needed those walls.  He waits to be invited into our lives. He is a gentleman.  He doesn’t force Himself. Jesus will meet every need we have, even that niggling, ever present pricking, that we don’t fully understand; He does. He is enough.

In my own life, I have experienced healing and restoration from things so broken and devastated, I honestly never thought any of it could be healed or restored. I heard Jesus speak to my spirit and say words so similar to these lyrics, “RISE! Your shackles are no more, for I (Jesus Christ) have broken every chain!” He has, He did and He continues to do it. I found freedom.  Those lyrics mean so much to me. I am not sure I can accurately describe the beauty of it, the freedom, the peace and safety that I feel way down deep. I’m not sure it is describable, honestly, because we have all walked different paths and experienced different wounds,  but let me assure you, once you let go and allow yourself to experience His healing, you will never be the same. Yes, you will come face to face with pain, disappointment and fear, because that is life on this planet. But know that Jesus is right there with you, as close as your next breath and will cover you with peace that passes all understanding, if you allow Him in. If you ask Him, He will give you wisdom and guidance to navigate everything life will throw at you.  He will take your ashes and give you beauty, He will give you joy for your sadness and change out that robe of heaviness for a light and lovely garment of praise. It really is supernatural, and guess what? It’s a gift!

I would be honored to hear your stories of Jesus’ saving, healing, shackle- breaking power in your life, if you would like to share.

“I will call upon the Lord, for He alone is strong enough to save….”

Call Upon the Lord by Elevation Worship

We need no other hiding place                        All of the heavens and the earth

Our hope is safe within your name                Announce the fullness of your worth

This we know, this we know                            This we know, this we know

You promise never to forsake                          And every enemy will flee

What you began you will sustain                    As we declare your victory

This we know, this we know                           This we know, this we know

I will call upon the Lord                                     I will call upon the Lord

For he alone is strong enough to save           For he alone is strong enough to save

Rise your shackles are no more                        Rise your shackles are no more

For Jesus Christ                                                      For Jesus Christ

Has broken every chain                                       Has broken every chain

Jesus’ name will break every stronghold

Freedom is ours when we call his name

Jesus’ name above every other

All hail the power of Jesus’ name

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What-if…

We have been taught not to dwell on the “what-ifs” in life. That phrase has been given a bad rap, denoting negativism, unhealthy dwelling and rehashing of past regrets, mistakes, wrong choices and wrong roads traveled. I think every human alive can picture something in their past that caused them regret; saying “Wow, what-if I hadn’t…” If the what-if mentality is used to berate ourselves, dredge up old wounds and rehash unhappy parts of our past, I tend to agree we shouldn’t dwell there; unless we turn that statement into a positive and encouraging motivator for ourselves, as a chance to step out in faith and be a little risky. I don’t know that life was meant to be lived safe.

We all have dreams buried inside us. Sometimes those dreams are vague, ethereal ideas; a knowing in our soul that is our essence. It’s that feeling we get when we know we were made for this very thing we dream about. Instead of listing all the reasons why it will never work, you could never really do it, someone else could do it better, how about saying to yourself, “What-if I can do this and I am really good at it?” Hmm…what might happen? “What-if I step out in faith and take the first step and simply try?” “What if my soul sings with joy because I am finally allowing myself to do what God created ME to do?” “What-if there is someone out there who really needs me to step out and try?”

You might step out and you might not do it right the first time. You might get it wrong and have to re-start and re-think. There is not a thing wrong with that! But, what-if you did do it right? What-if just trying, brought you baby steps of success? What-if one day you look back, and instead of regretting that you never tried and lived in fear, you felt peace, freedom and so much satisfaction, because you are truly living out the special and unique spot God created just for you? I think that will be such a very sweet spot indeed!

So, what-if today, you decided to go for it, whatever that looks like for you? What might happen? The possibilities are exciting, exhilarating and endless! Courage and bravery, friends! You’ve got this, whatever “this” looks like for you!

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-26

Bike ride full of sensations and truth

I went on a bike ride yesterday morning. The first longer one I’ve been able to do in months, due to knee and elbow injuries. It was lovely and refreshing; full of an almost overwhelming amount of much missed sensations.

I am very much a sensation person. You know, someone acutely aware of the nuances of the wind, scents, sights, sounds or the absence of sounds. Sensations fascinate me and stir something up inside. Originally, I was going to make this a ride of new beginnings in the most physical of ways; starting off with a pre-determined number of miles as my goal, so as not to overtax my knee and elbow, which are still healing and tender in spots. That was the focus and I was going to get ‘er done. No fooling around, fanciful riding! I also decided to add in to the mix, a prayer for safety and that God would use this new beginnings ride as He saw fit; whatever that means. He did. I’m pretty sure I knew deep down that He would; when I invite Him into what I am doing, He always shows up. Always.

The morning was chock full of sensations; I mean full. There was a light to moderate, persistently cooling breeze with notes of a gently sweet flower – jasmine I think, with undertones of dew damp grass and that calming scent of the sea floating along, teasing and soothing. The light was lovely. It was fairly early, so it was a new light, just waking up from its sleep; all soft, gentle and tumbly;  pleasantly warm when it hit my bare skin. The birds were in rare form, especially some blue jays with the raucous calls they are famous for, along with the pretty little birds, finches maybe, who dart and dip all over my neighborhood, singing their hearts out to the new sun. Wind chimes played in the distance and I may have imagined the earthy smell of coffee, floating by, making me wonder who was up and what they were doing. I’m also intensely curious! Some leaves danced and twirled past on a side street, as the playful breeze flew in to stir them up and left again just as quickly. Naughty and playful!

By this time, I am on the bike path parallel to the canal, trying to take in all the blue and yellow wildflowers that dip and twist in the breeze as I fly past. I realize that I have not been paying close attention to how far I’ve gone, what my knee is feeling, who else is out and about. It has just been me, my six senses and such a feeling of joy and excitement over what sight, smell, sound,  or creature I might encounter next. As I pedal along, I am struck by how much beauty and joy I rob myself of on a daily basis when all I am focused on is the next accomplishment, the next item marked off my list (I really, really like lists!!), the next thing I think I need to do because someone else is doing it, someone else thinks it would be a good idea . I am comparing my desires, my dreams and my genetic make-up, that calls and beckons me to get outside and bask in sensations’, to someone else’s make up that does not or sends them in a different direction. I felt like I had a mini epiphany that allowed me, through sensations, to see that this is good, right, ok and to not feel guilty or less than, because I choose to do life a little differently than the next guy and to embrace that and love it and deeply nurture it, because it is the essence of me. It is the spirit of me that my God put inside me when He created me. He knew I was going to crave and need nature and sensations in a big, big way along with words, dreams , music, visions and the scent of the air more than other things, and that He delighted in making me this way. I don’t have to decide to do something a different way because someone else is doing it; I don’t have to stress because I like to exercise and nourish my body, my way. I think it was such a revelation to me, because as I was riding my blue bike, feeling sweat running down my back just to be immediately cooled off by the chilly breeze, I simply thought, “why hello, Melissa. This is me.” I could see all those parts of me and loved them. So many thoughts started pouring through my brain. I won’t go into all of them, because a lot of them make sense only to me and I think God wants some of those revelations and thoughts to be just between Him and me. But thoughts regarding weight, gifting, inclinations, my ministries, friendships, past decisions, my food choices and my thoughts around those were highlighted in a gentle, yet firm way, pointing out that they stem from what God thought of and got excited over when He decided He was ready to set me loose on this earth. Yes, I do have a lot to learn from other people, things to re-think and maybe go about in a different way, but the essence of me, my spirit, is me and it’s mine and I desire to intimately know, cherish and fiercely protect every part of it; not feel like I have to explain myself, convince others to see the essence of me or to defend it.

So, God did show up on my bike ride. Like I said, I knew He would, I just didn’t know what He would bring to the party. For me, it was something deep and shifting inside. I’m not sure I did a great job explaining and sharing it, but I’m ok with that, too, because a lot of it was just for me. Maybe you will get a little nugget or tidbit for yourself. That is my hope. That through this convoluted and a bit random blog post, a little treasure will hop off the page that God put here just for you.

Beauty

Middle school. What is the first  word that pops into your mind when you hear the words middle school? Awkward , the fear of being different, of not having a “place”. Much of my thought life in middle school was taken up with concern over where I belonged. Who would talk to me today? Would my friends still be my friends? Was I pretty enough for a certain crowd to speak to me and acknowledge me? Maybe it all boiled down to wondering if I was enough?

As I lead my group of 8th grade girls once a week, I see this painful struggle. The desire to be loved and enough, just as they are; to be liked, sought out, pretty, hip and cool.  This struggle is just as real for young men, as they struggle to find their place in the world. It is  real for all of us.

At our middle school group last week, we talked about beauty; specifically inner beauty. So much is hurled at us about our outward appearance; our size, shape, eye color, hair color, skin tone, you name it; someone, somewhere has decided what is and isn’t ok. W ewant to measure up to what culture has defined as beauty and I think it is terribly flawed and destructive.

Think for a moment about something that is uniquely you. Something that is a different, that might stand out. Is it your laugh, smile, eye or hair color? Do you have a unique sense of style or quirky sense of humor? Do you realize this unique part of you is a gift from God that sets you apart as special? You are His creation. Can you look at your uniqueness and begin to love it?

Read Psalm 139:13-18 and allow it into your mind and receive it in your heart.

“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me.”

God took such time and attention to detail to personally create you. Your shape, size, sound of your voice, color of your hair and skin were all planned out as He carefully invested time and poured His breath and love into the person that you are. He is crazy about His design! Ephesians 2:10 says “for we are all God’s masterpiece. He created us anew in Christ Jesus so that we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.”

More important to God, I think, is our inner beauty. I define inner beauty as the characteristics of Jesus; such as, gentleness, kindness, inclusivity, confidence, compassion, mercy, humility, forgiving, full of love and kindness.  These traits have the power to draw people to you, because they see Jesus shining through the vessel of your physical body. We all have a God sized space in our souls that longs to be known, loved and accepted. Only God can fill that void in our lives. The more we look like Jesus on the inside, the more beautiful we become on the outside.

Take a few minutes to think about the traits of inner beauty that you have been gifted. Are you patient and laid back or are you a confident, type A go-getter? Are you kind and merciful? Are you a dreamer or a realist? Are you a leader with a dynamic personality? Are you humble and gentle? Do you have compassion for those less fortunate? Are you an encourager? All these qualities are gifts given to you by a loving God who knows all of your strengths and  weaknesses. He doesn’t look on you with eyes of disappointment, frustration or annoyance. He created all of you and intimately knows your thoughts, struggles, fears; your areas of strength and weakness. In your weakness He is strong and He uses those areas to draw you closer to Him.

If you struggle to see yourself as a lovely, precious, beautiful creation on the inside and outside, I challenge you (this is for me too!) to ask God to be your mirror. Ask Him to reflect back to you, all the beauty and loveliness He sees when He looks at you. When He sees you, His unique and valuable creation, He sees all the potential He placed in you. He sees the time and effort He personally put in to creating you for very specific purposes. There is only one you and you are definitely enough. You are a gift, from our Creator, to the world and I pray you see yourself that way.

What would happen when you look in the mirror this week, if you refused to allow negative thoughts and words any space in your mind? What if you refuted every negative word, thought, or description of yourself that you harbor in your soul, with positive words and thoughts; you could only call out encouragement and goodness, as you protected your heart from caustic and castigating words?  Imagine what God is seeing in you and receive in your heart and soul, that what He sees, He is so incredibly proud of and so in deeply in love with. You are enough.

Zephaniah 3:17 “The Lord your God is with you, His power gives you victory. The Lord will take delight in you, and in His love He will give you new life. He will sing and be joyful over you.”  

Come Away

I’m up early.

A restless, unsettled day, led to a similar night of sleep.

Rest is elusive, thoughts scattered.

Warm, earthy, steamy coffee warms my hands;  my eyes glaze over; mind swirling.

Through the open kitchen window, the morning air carries the faint scent of jasmine and cool earth.

The house is warm, but the fragrant air is inviting and full of promise; electric.

It beckons.

A friendly breeze, a puff of soft air, calls to me from the musical notes of the wind chimes,

“Come out.”

I go out.

My favorite bench is canopied by the looming butterfly bush; it’s purple, fragrant blooms toss and wave; encouraging me to come.

I do.

The cold marble of my bench, as I sit, is in stark contrast to the warmth of my hands around the child-painted coffee cup I carry with me. “I love Mommy” it proudly shouts, from its brightly painted surface. That brings a smile.

Also some tears.

I don’t feel so loveable of late.  Irritable. Tired. Frustrated, not loveable. Chaotic, possibly.

Looking at the flowers in the planter tubs next to my bench, I see chaos; at first.

Upon closer inspection, I notice that the random way in which I planted these lovelies, is actually quite beautiful.  Patterns emerge amidst the seemingly random design.

There is order here in the planter, despite the chaos and it is so lovely! Yes! Yes, it is.

Do goodness and beauty and happiness have to be meticulously ordered, spaced and arranged to be ok and acceptable?  Do I have to understand it?

This revelation makes me smile and breathe deeply. Inhale life.

The rising sun glitters its reflection at me on the feathery water of the stone bird bath. Winking and spunky, I want to laugh with it, at the possibilities of the new day.

I feel my back and shoulders relax; everything isn’t wiry and tense, ready for flight. Calm. Peace.  Is that joy?

Again the breeze; it caresses the back of my neck with cool, kind fingers; barely a whisper against my ear.

What was that?  I close my eyes, try to still my mind and just be.

I hear it now. You are speaking, but no words are spoken.

The peaceful scent of jasmine and butterfly bush blooms tell me all is well.

The stable, steady, ancient scent of dirt reminds me that new life is all around; rebirth is waiting daily for me to acknowledge it.

The breeze whispers that I’m never alone.  You will never leave me. I remember; I know.

I see in the riotous, chaotic colors and placement of the flowers, that You have patterned and woven my life together in a tapestry that may appear to be a random intersection of lines and curves; hills and dales; yet is actually something far more beautiful and ordered and perfected than I can imagine.

You see the entire picture of me and You call it lovely; You call me lovely. I am enough because of You.

You have dried my tears; they are captured in the bottle that holds all of them. In place of frustration, I notice acceptance has taken root. Not a resigned, sighing acceptance, but an acceptance of the unique journey I am on with all of the ups and downs that I know will come.

My place in Your arms as chosen, loved, accepted and redeemed is reconfirmed on my little marble bench. I am enough. I just needed to come away with You for a spell. You remind me I’m Yours and all will be well.

It really is ok to rest…

Mark 6:31 (NIV) Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

When I read this verse this morning, it jumped off the page and invited a deeper look; more than just a cursory glance. On the surface, it seems like a benign verse; one that can be read at face value and left at that. However, after giving this verse some thought, I beg to differ!

Jesus and the disciples had little, if any leisure time during His time of ministry; teaching and healing the people. The crowds never seemed to let up. People were so anxious to be near Jesus, to listen to His revolutionary teaching that set them free, released them from bondage, fear and legalism. They heard that He had the power to physically and spiritually heal them, so they came in droves with their ill and hurting friends and family, with those suffering from demonic harassment and chains, for a chance to see Him, touch Him, be healed by Him.

Jesus and his disciples rarely had  “opportunity for private meditation and prayer, nor of spiritual converse together; nor even so much as to eat a meal’s meat for the refreshment of nature.” (1)

Being fully God and fully man, Jesus knew and felt the physical and mental exhaustion of always being “on” and the deep fatigue of being surrounded by the hurting, needy and lost.  He also knew his disciples needed respite from ministering along side Him. So Jesus retired from His work. He was diligent to remove Himself and the disciples for periods of rest, refreshment and spiritual and physical re-filling, so that they could then return encouraged and strengthened for the next task set before them. He gave Himself and the disciples permission to stop and take a breather; to eat, to get themselves away from noise, hurry and the urgency of humanity knocking at the door of their hearts.

As I thought about this verse, I felt Jesus whispering to me and my worn out heart to “come with Him” by myself “to a quiet place and get some rest.” My days may not be filled with healing the sick and enemy-harassed in my world,  or with traveling roads that are literally dusty and parch the mouth, or teaching on hillsides in the hot sun, but He knows what my days are filled up with: relationships that are chaotic,  full of misunderstandings and unmet expectations; disappointment; dreams long held in my heart, that seem so far from being realized; illnesses and injuries that I cannot control or fix; past regrets that try daily to haunt my peace; friends and family going through heart wrenching trials that physically hurt me as I see the struggle; daily annoyances and offenses that threaten to become bigger than they need to be; and the list goes on. Life on planet Earth and the human condition!

I absolutely love that Jesus gets this! He understands the physical and mental exhaustion of taking care of everyone else around me. The things I take on that are not really mine to take, that I struggle and wrestle with until I have nothing left. He loves me enough to give me permission to get away, rest, get some refreshments for my mind, spirit and body and then, with the full armor of God strapped on me, get back in there and move forward, into all the goodness, abundance, joy and excitement He has planned out; filled up and able to minister to those He places in my path for such a time as this.

Is He calling you to go off with Him for a spell; to rest, refresh and soothe your mind, spirit and body? It really is ok to rest…

(1) John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible

 

Everything

This song by Lifehouse (lyrics below) has been running through my head for a couple of days. I find this song profoundly beautiful and deeply moving; almost to the point that I cannot explain it with words. When I listen to it, goosebumps rise up all over my skin and my spirit awakens and rises up; tears prick my eyes and my heart beats stronger and faster. This is a song I can put on repeat. The lyrics resonate with me so deeply, because I have experienced these emotions and responses to Jesus described in this amazing song. I desire to hear Him speak and long for His words; it is a deep need in my soul and when I do hear Him, peace fills me up; I rest and have the strength to keep walking and trusting Him.

There are several specific times in my life that I look back on and know, like I know, like I know, that it was ONLY Jesus that kept me going each day; only His presence, only Him holding me in His hands and letting me rest that literally kept me afloat. There were times that I didn’t know it was Him carrying me through the storm, until it was over, and frankly, wasn’t sure I wanted anything to do with Him.  Nevertheless, He saw through the pain and fear, right into my hurting heart and gently lifted me anyway. I’m His girl and He wasn’t letting go.

During my years of battling an aggressive form of breast cancer, He was the only hope I had to cling to and He never once failed me. Never once. The weeks and months that I don’t remember, because of a haze of medications used to keep me from the sickness of treatments, He was there and held me in His hands. I have scars, yes, but I’m proud of them. It reminds me of where I was and where He brought me. Survivor. Overcomer. Victorious.

During other dark times, He was the light that led me to a place of healing, peace and safety. Fully protected; never out of His sight. Thoughts of Him do take my breath away! He has stolen my heart and I’m not ashamed to say so.

Life has things in store for me and those I love that will be hard, painful and seem very unfair. I know this. However, I also know that Jesus has walked this suffering before me, He knows, He understands, He heals and He restores. He brings joy and peace into situations where there shouldn’t be any.

He is all I want, all I need. He is everything.

Everything

By Lifehouse

Find me here, and speak to me

I want to feel you, I need to hear you

You are the light that’s leading me to the place

Where I find peace again

You are the strength that keeps me walking

You are the hope that keeps me trusting

You are the life to my soul

You are my purpose

You’re everything

And how can I stand here with you

And not be moved by you

Would you tell me how could it be any better than this?

You calm the storms and you give me rest

You hold me in your hands

You won’t let me fall

You steal my heart and you take my breath away

Would you take me in, take me deeper now

And how can I stand here with you and not be moved by you

Would you tell me how could it be any better than this?

Cause you’re all I want, you’re all I need, you’re everything, everything…