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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Some things cancer taught me…

April is a big month for me. On April 26, 2012 I celebrated a HUGE victory. That is the day, at 2:15 pm, I was told, “You are cancer free!” After being diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer in November 2010, I began surgeries and treatments that ended in April 2012.  

As this anniversary date approached, I had many things running through my head; random memories of the cancer center and that “one of a kind, not found anywhere else” smell; the taste of the peppermint candies I sucked on to keep the horrible taste of saline and chemo out of my mouth; the blanket I brought to keep warm during treatments and comfy pink slipper socks. I can still hear the sound of radiation equipment being dialed into place. It was such a lonely feeling being alone in the radiation room, as the technicians went behind layers of safety walls, and I lay there exposed, cold and numb, willing the machine noises to stop; hoping I wouldn’t burn.

Good memories also pop into my mind of my faithful husband going with me to my treatments while the meds flowed in; or when a friend kept me company during a long treatment. The distraction of good company meant so much to me, even though I knew it was hard for them and uncomfortable. There are the memories of my little 2nd grade boy telling me to hop on his bed, as he tucked me in with blankets and got out his books to read to me. Blessed. Loved. Precious. I treasured up in my heart when my 6th grade girl would tell me about her day and the ups and downs of middle school; feeling so blessed that she shared with me; praying so hard that I would have years and years ahead of me to just listen to her talk to me.

Through all of this, I learned I am physically strong, as my body fought with everything it had to beat this invader named breast cancer. It endured extreme treatments, nausea, steroids, exhaustion and hair loss, but never stopped fighting. God gave me the strength to make it one more day, through one more test, one more treatment. He did it. He is absolutely faithful. His eyes never left me and His tears mixed with my own as I would cry out of fear, rage and frustration; when I wondered if I was going to die.

I see my body through a different filter now. I am proud of my scars. They shout out that a battle was waged and won. I want to be strong and healthy, so I do what I love – hiking, biking, swimming and all things outdoors.  I want to enjoy every single second of life I am given. If my son asks me to go get ice cream, I will. It’s a memory we are making and it makes me happy that he wants to share it with me. So I will eat ice cream and I will not worry over whether or not I will look ok in a swim suit because of it. I am alive and that is enough. Our days are numbered and I want to take advantage of each one with those I fiercely love.

I am mentally and spiritually stronger, as well. Despite days of deep sadness, fear of the unknown, rage and brain fog, I told myself I would get through this; that cancer would not win and that God would not give me more than I could handle. I knew God would be with me through every test, every treatment, every bit of good and bad news. I held on to that and He proved Himself faithful and merciful and compassionate. Yes, it was the hardest thing I have ever done. Yes, it put my body, mind and soul to the ultimate test, but I am an overcomer and I am victorious in Christ Jesus.

During other trials that have come along since this cancer diagnosis, I have looked back on all that Jesus brought me through.  It gives me strength and courage to face the trials that I know are coming. Life is hard, unpredictable and unfair, but I have found that if you look closely, you will find nuggets of joy and hidden treasures of beauty in everything. It is there just waiting to be discovered, but you have to look for it, change your filter from a victim mentality and choose life; choose to find peace, hope and sweetness in whatever is swirling around you. I promise you it is there. I remind myself daily, sometimes minute by minute, that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. It is only by His strength, love and healing that I am here to live another day and breathe another breath. It is His breath in my lungs and as long as I live, I will give Jesus the praise, honor and thanks due Him. He saved my life and changed my perspective. I am thankful. I have another day to live and my prayer is that I leave everyone better than I found them. Peace and love, readers.

Revealing Truths in Exodus

I’m reading through the Bible in a year. I’ve done it before and each time have found fascinating nuggets of truth, revelation and delight that I never noticed in my previous readings. I am in Exodus now. I know this part like the back of my hand, or so I thought. Today, the Lord opened my eyes to some beautiful, yet hard hitting truths about myself, about Him and maybe about you, too.

Beginning in Exodus 13:3, Moses tells the Israelites to remember this day that they left Egypt forever; the place of their cruel and unbearable slavery. Moses reminds them that this is the day the Lord brought them out of their bondage with His mighty hand. His. Not their mighty hands and strength in numbers, but His. There is no place for self-reliance and self-congratulation here. The Lord heard their cries, their groaning and weeping and He rescued them because He is all mighty, a Warrior and because He loved them and He chose them as His own. Their bondage and the cruelty inflicted upon them by their earthly masters reached the heart of Almighty God and He responded with amazing power, might and compassion for the Israelites. He answered their cries.

In Exodus 13:17, God does not lead His people toward the Promised Land by the easy, straightforward route taking them through Philistine territory, because He knew them. He knew they would be terrified, turn around and head back to Egypt, because it was familiar there. Despite the horrible oppression they suffered, they knew what to do there. This applies to us, too. He knows our fears and weaknesses. Sometimes, when He seems to leads us in odd, circuitous routes to get to our Promised Land, have we ever stopped to think that because He knows us so well and loves us so much that He leads us around a mountain that might just be too big and cause too much pain? That we are not ready for yet? That touched me and explains some paths that I’ve had to take that seemed to make no sense.  I love how He speaks through His Word. It never returns void.

Verses 21 and 22 say “The Lord went ahead of them. He guided them during the day with a pillar of cloud, and he provided light at night with a pillar of fire. This allowed them to travel by day or by night. And the Lord did not remove the pillar of cloud or pillar of fire from its place in front of the people.”  What a lovely reminder that we are never alone. He is our constant companion. He knows where we are going. That feels peaceful to me. Safe.

The people panicked when they saw the Egyptians had followed them. They cried. They were terrified. They had already forgotten the way the Lord had brought them out of Egypt. They forgot that He guided them and lead them with pillars of cloud and fire. I love how Moses tells them in Exodus 14:13, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” This verse means a lot to me, because there was a time when a trial, a wound, seemed too deep and too hard to overcome. It was blindsiding and overwhelming. I remember asking God to show me something, to please tell me what to do. I found this verse immediately. I did what it said. I stood still and I watched Him rescue me from something that I didn’t understand. He fought for me, because He loves me. What are you facing that seems impossible? Do you trust God to fight for you? Can you wrap your mind about what that really means? God, the Almighty, the Prince of Peace, Creator, the King of ALL Kings wants to fight for you! He is telling you to just stay calm and watch Him. The Lord is our rear guard. He goes before us and leads us, but in times of battle, He is behind us, just like Exodus 14:19-20 shows us. “Then the angel of God, who had been leading the people of Israel, moved to the rear of the camp. The pillar of cloud also moved from the front and stood behind them. The cloud settled between the Egyptians and Israelite camps.” He leads us out of harm’s way, and then moves behind us to hem us in and guard us from what He just delivered us from. Protection. Safety.

The first half of Exodus 15 is a beautiful song of praise, acknowledgement and love to the Lord for His protection, guidance and compassion; recognizing that He is an unmatched and mighty Warrior who stops at nothing to defend and redeem His chosen ones. I am His chosen one. You are His chosen one. Do we dance, sing and worship out loud when He delivers and rescues us, sharing with others when our prayers and cries are heard? Are we like Miriam and the women of Israel who danced and sang this song to Him; “Sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously; He has hurled both horse and rider into the sea.” (v. 20, 21). This hit home. Am I raw and open and lavish with my praise and honor to Him for all He has done and is doing in my life? Do I give Him praise and thank Him for all the “horses and riders” in my life that He has hurled into the sea and battles He has won for me? Do you? Will you?

There is one last part from this first half of Exodus that causes me to examine myself. Exodus 16:4 “The Lord said to Moses, Look, I’m going to rain down food from Heaven for you. Each day the people can go out and pick up as much food as they need for that day. I will test them in this to see whether or not they will follow my instructions.” I read this over a few times and it blessed my heart. I believe He still does this for us today. God rains down food from Heaven, for us, every day. He gives enough for each day. Just enough. It might come in the form of physical provisions; such as food, shelter, water and clothing. It might come in the form of health and relationships. Maybe He gives me enough skill, ability and talent to get through whatever the day will bring me, because He already knows what that will be. He knows what I’m going to need and provides just enough. That spoke to me in a big way. Am I grateful, daily for what He is doing? Do I actively look to see what He is providing and how I need to use it? Do I spend time with Him saying thank you? Do I remember what He has done and what He has provided with a grateful heart or am I selfish and greedy like a giant gobbling mouth, demanding more, more, more and complaining relentlessly that what my Father has rained down from Heaven, for me, is not good enough? What do you do with the daily, loving provision your Father has given you? Food for thought….

Hurt and Healer

I have been feeling a bit nostalgic lately. I’m dealing with some health issues that are coming to a head soon with some tests and procedures in the works. Maybe that is triggering memories of my cancer days with surgeries, radiation, chemotherapy and biotherapy, when I really didn’t know what the outcome was going to be and if I would be healed.

Music has always had a tremendous impact on me. When nothing else can reach that deep place or describe my feelings, music has always done that for me. It is a gift that I am so grateful for and that I hold very dear to my heart. To me it is God’s mouthpiece to my soul.

During the most intense times of my cancer treatments there were many songs that spoke to those places in my heart that were weary, afraid and overwhelmed; songs that spoke peace, hope and safety to my soul.

This song, The Hurt and the Healer, by Mercy Me is one of those that I clung to tenaciously and listened to over and over again, multiple times a day sometimes; declaring to myself that even in the midst of my deepest fear, pain and hurt, Jesus is there; the Healer colliding with my hurting body and heart, whispering to my soul that one day this will all be understood and made clear. I know that one day I will hear Jesus say, “It’s over now.” That brought me such hope! I know that whatever I face and whatever scars I’m left with, He will use for good and His glory; to bring hope to someone who has run out of steam and needs to know it will be ok. If this is you today, soak in these words and promises from a God that sees all, hears all and watches your every move, cherishing you and catching every single tear, bringing you healing in unexpected and beautiful ways. His arms are open wide.

The Hurt & the Healer”

Why? The question that is never far away

The healing doesn’t come from the explained; Jesus please don’t let this go in vain

You’re all I have, All that remains

So here I am, what’s left of me, where glory meets my suffering

I’m alive

Even though a part of me has died; You take my heart and breathe it back to life

I fall into Your arms open wide, when the hurt and the healer collide

Breathe

Sometimes I feel it’s all that I can do;  pain so deep that I can hardly move

Just keep my eyes completely fixed on You

Lord take hold and pull me through

So here I am, what’s left of me, where glory meets my suffering

I’m alive

Even though a part of me has died; You take my heart and breathe it back to life

I fall into your arms open wide, when the hurt and the healer collide

It’s the moment when humanity, is overcome by Majesty

When grace is ushered in for good and all our scars are understood

When mercy takes its rightful place and all these questions fade away

When out of weakness we must bow, and hear You say “It’s over now”

I’m alive

Even though a part of me has died; You take this heart and breathe it back to life

I fall into your arms open wide, when The hurt and the healer collide

Jesus come and break my fear, wake my heart and take my tears

Find Your glory even here, when the hurt and the healer collide.

-Mercy Me

You can find the video to this song on youtube.

 

Communion with Heaven (Psalm 91)

“Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare of the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; He is my God and I am trusting in Him.” (1)

I’m searching for it. Shelter.  Protection and rest seem elusive. There is too much noise, so much confusion. This landscape is so dry, hot and barren and I am weary. I found shelter, rest and protection once upon a time.  Somehow, bit by bit and small step by small step, I came out from the places of safety. Oh, it was very subtle, my wandering; slow and insouciant; without the purposeful intent of distancing myself and going too far, but nonetheless I left my safe haven.  It felt a little exhilarating to be out on my own, managing things well and keeping things orderly and controlled. I have learned so much!  Venturing out a bit from under the shady covering seemed fine, good, well deserved. I felt stronger and Your strength lifted me up and gave me confidence.” I am stronger”, I said. ‘There are things I can do on my own.” “Watch yourself do it, watch yourself succeed and use that new strength,” Self Reliance said, soft as a whisper. “You know you can, I know you can and so does He”, Ego breathed. “Trust yourself,” Pride hissed in my ear, “you know yourself best, after all.”  Well, only a little way out from the shelter should be fine, I won’t be gone long….

A little way out turned out to be quite a journey. There were so many cheerful, encouraging voices urging me on, out into the unknown.  “Go on!” they shouted, “look at you, you’re free, you’re doing this on your own, bringing all your knowledge and understanding.  Now it’s time to use it, show what you’re made of!” “You are needed out there!” Yes, yes I am needed and I have so much to offer, how could I not use it?”  I begin to notice that things are not so easy anymore; control is not coming so willingly and my knowledge and understanding are not adequate. My strength isn’t enough and I am weary, thirsty, afraid. Anxiety and worry are like leaches that I cannot shake off, that dog me exhaustingly, and relentlessly until there seems to be no way out from under the heavy weight I am carrying on my back.  I grow weaker and weaker under the pressure of it all. The once friendly, encouraging voices have changed their tune. Instead of cheers and words of praise for my strength and knowledge, I hear mocking laughter so full of malice it is unbearable. The chaos that surrounds me sucks all peace and beauty from where I find myself. I am in a wasteland of my own making and I cannot save myself. I am sure You must have abandoned me, left me to my own devices. Weariness overtakes  me and I have nothing left. I am undone. Lowering my face to the dirty and sandy ground, I feel something soft, light, lovely and gentle cushioning my cheek. I begin to cry, asking You to come and rescue me.  You come.  I sense a presence more glorious and breathtaking than anything I have ever known, come over me. The shade, the shadow, the shelter; it is here. You are here. Looking up, I see You. At your feet are angels, against whose wings I am resting my cheek. You are the most powerful, wild and terrible, yet beautiful vision I have ever seen! You stand above me with Your wings spread out over, above and all around me; my refuge and my fortress. Your eyes are closed and I hear the song again! The song that You sang over me before, when Your mercy and love rescued me. Your eyes hold mine and the deepest feelings of acceptance and worth pool and flow around and over my heart, my soul, my entire being. Bathed in Your mercy, washed in Your love. Shelter. Rest. Refuge. Safety.  I lie at Your feet feeling light, free and at peace. I am wanted. Your angels lift me up and I sit at Your feet, looking back over the places I’ve been. I notice my wayward path. I can see where stones, traps and snares were shoved away. Small pieces of feathery white, show brightly against some of the larger rocks, where they were snagged as a way was made for me. “He orders His angels to protect you wherever you go. They will hold you with their hands to keep you from striking your foot on a stone.”(2) I was protected, even along the path that I was not meant to walk.

“Watch daughter,” You say. Subtly, the air begins to stir, gently at first and then stronger and more violently. The atmosphere sizzles and snaps and I am frozen to my spot under Your wings.  There is a commotion, a rupture of sorts and it throws me to my knees. Fire, wind and lightening begin spewing and shooting all around as I watch with my eyes, the destruction that comes. It is terrifying. Something huge is shifting and rending the ground I am standing on; like a break, a rupture, a bringing down of giants. Strongholds. You are breaking them. It is chaos and destruction and storms, but I am untouched. The wind and air are warm. There is enormous power at work here, beyond anything I have ever witnessed. Suddenly, I am lifted up off of my knees and something slams into my body; it is supernatural; terrifyingly beautiful. A bright light explodes in my chest and eyes and I feel so incredibly hot that I am numb. I can’t breathe, but that force is breathing for me. I turn my face up to the sky and open my mouth and sing. I sing with such force and strength that I can feel my chest and throat thrumming from it. As I watch the sky, my voice becomes a huge beam of white-blue light that points straight up to the clouds, parts them and points into Heaven. The sound of my singing is so beautiful.  I have never heard anything like it. There are no words that I can understand, but the sounds are beyond description.  As I sing and sing, other voices join me that are even more beautiful and haunting than my own, but blend beautifully, perfectly. The deep is calling to deep and I am part of it. I see it, feel it, hear it and know it. It is almost too much to take. A communion with Heaven. Then it fades and is gone.  I am left completely spent, lying face down, trying to process in my finite mind what I was just blessed to witness. Sounds of peace and singing, scents of beauty brush over me, soothing, healing, filling the redeemed places with validation of Your love for me, Your desire to make me whole, Your desire for me. Simply me. I am wanted, not needed, and that realization brings a tender joy that I accept and hold tightly. I can trust you with me. Gingerly raising myself up from the ground, I immediately notice that I am no longer in a wasteland.  I am on ground that is alive with hope, joy, and new life. Strongholds were broken this day. This fresh, new ground was watered with my tears and my cry to my Father that I love, to rescue me, to bring me back to His shelter. You did. I have found rest.

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty…because He loves me,” says the Lord, I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him. I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.” (3)

(1)    Psalm 91: 1-2

(2)    Psalm 91: 11-12

(3)    Psalm 91: 1, 14-16

Divine Exchange

Maybe this time, I tell myself.  I can do it.  I’m strong, I can handle this.  I strain to see.  I try to remember how it looks, but it’s been a long time.  A primal knowledge in my soul tells me that I need to see it, must find it again, but things are obscured through the webs; my vision seems cloudy and I can’t clearly make out the shapes in the strangely filtered light.  Frustration wells up inside as the heaviness settles back in to take the place I’ve given it. When did that happen?  Did I give it permission?  I used to hear, but the sounds I’m searching for are muffled now in my ears; very faint and far off; disturbed by an odd rattling, scraping sound. Frustration, blindness and confusion; is this where I’ve settled?  “Maybe if I get up and move around I can get a better view; this odd lighting is the problem, “I decide.  With that decision made, I make my move to stand and am confronted with the source of the rattling, scraping sounds; thick, heavy, rusted chains.  My chains.  Mine.  I can’t get up and move around for a better view, because I am bound to this place of filtered light, muffled sounds and intolerable frustration.  Why? When? How?  Panicked, I struggle and fight, then in exhaustion I slump down in defeat.  Tears begin to fall from my eyes and spatter down on the ground all around me.  Am I bound here forever? Is there no escape, no way out?  Dark images flicker across my line of vision; stealthy movements threaten and mock.  Is that faint laughter I hear?  I didn’t start out here, bound like this, in chains like a condemned prisoner.  Who put me here? What did I do?  “Please,” I call out, “someone, will you help me?” I don’t belong here.  I want out.  “Someone, rescue me!”

I hear faint movement coming from all around me.  The dark shapes are shrouded by the obscure, filtered light, but I sense them coming closer, bold and violent; mocking in their approach.  “Help yourself,” one hisses in my ear, arrogance and fear scenting its breath, mocking laughter flowing from its tongue.  As hopelessness starts to fall, I look more closely at my surroundings. I am elevated on a mass of circular stones with faded words written on each one.  They are carefully arranged and set just so, in a small clearing.  Like an altar.  All beauty has been methodically wiped away, revealing only dust, barrenness and grotesquely twisted roots, thrusting up out of the ground.  The harsh loneliness of this place is terrifying.  Wait…I can see more clearly now; this used to be shadow-like and obscure, but now I sense the light shifting; brighter, clearer, full.  I don’t like what I see.  Webs from something horrid and smothering have been woven around, above and below my prison, trapping me; altering my view; skewing my perspective.  “Lies,” a Voice gently says, “lies that have kept you snugly ensconced on your altar of self.”  Altar of self.  Yes, that is exactly what this is.  As recognition of my pridefully built, self imposed prison floods my awareness; I realize that I cannot get out on my own.  I have locked myself in.  Trapped.  The mocking laughter swells and I feel the heaviness trying to descend again, the weight of my chains pulling cruelly at my limbs.  I am at the end of my self.  ”ENOUGH!” I shout.  “Please, Jesus, You have the keys…set me free!”

The mocking laughter is silenced by my words.  The atmosphere shifts and grows completely still, except for a deep vibration I feel surging up from the altar on which I stand, as it cracks in two. I look down and see a clear stream of water gushing out from that crack.  You stoop down and scoop the water in Your hands and offer it to me.   I see the silvery scars on Your hands and a song I can’t name, but deeply understand, floods my soul.  Thirst quenching.  A divine exchange is taking place here and my cracked altar becomes the catalyst.

The sounds and scents I have longed for begin to reach me.  Sweet laughter, gentle voices, Spirit breath, heavenly song.  Delicate and powerful, they flow all around me, bathing me in sounds and scents so sweet and pure that my breath comes in gasps; expelling the dust and debris that accumulated in my spirit as I worshipped at the altar of self.  I again breathe You in deeply, richly, slowly.  Freedom bathes me, ministering to the wounds inflicted by the stones named Fear, Pain, Loneliness, Pride, Rebellion, Abuse that I used to build my altar.  I feel lighter, clean, loved.  Heavy, rusted chains break apart and fall away from me.  I dance before you with abandon, unashamed, cleansed; my weakened muscles growing stronger and more nimble.  The heaviness is gone and a gentle, but vibrant spirit of praise now clothes me.   “Climb down, child, get down off of your broken altar.  Take the stones with you; they have a purpose to fulfill here.  There is something you need to see again.”  I fill my white robe of praise with all of those stones. Somehow they all fit.  I follow You out of the clearing where that altar once stood. As I go, new life is sprouting up. The gnarled roots of bitterness and rage, rejection and vengeance are sprouting into lovely trees of forgiveness, peace, Sonship and humility.  “Stop here, beloved.  Now You must use these stones to build your steps leading up to My Cross.”  I look up at the Cross and it speaks to me of ultimate sacrifice, profound mercy, joy indescribable, unmatched beauty and plentiful grace, even grace for one who built her own altar of self-protection. Tears of gratitude and love wash over my face and spill down onto my hands as I build those steps. It is hard work.  My building stops at times, as I find a tenacious tendril of frustration or pride trying to creep in over and around my stones, but I rip it out with Your strength in my hands.  As I lift my stones into place, I notice that where my tears have fallen shoots of brilliant green are pushing their way out of the rich soil.  As the sprouts emerge, You bend down and I see You writing something in the dark ground and I hear You speaking tenderly to the new sprouts. Your voice is the nourishment they need as they continue to grow. You rejoice over the harvest that only You can see.

My steps are built. They are placed firmly and deeply into the ground at the foot of Your Cross. Engraved by Your hand on that first step are the words Nisi Dominus Frustra.  “Come up, Daughter.  Come up higher to the very foot and find rest. Up here is what you have been searching for in vain.”  I ascend those steps in anticipation. As I come closer, I stop for a moment and look back down, surveying where I started.  My tears watered what You divinely planted and I see beauty stretching out below me and Your Cross is beauty before me.  I feel a shout that I absolutely cannot for the life of me contain, rising up in my throat, so I shout! It is a shout of pure joy, a song from my spirit to Yours.  A harvest will be reaped from my pain that I never thought I had a right to know. It is a beautiful inheritance.  It is You.

Death of a Stronghold

I want out of here.  I am so cold.  It’s getting darker. Where did the light go?  The air feels heavy and oppressive.  It’s getting harder to breathe.  I can hardly see anything around me.  I reach out my hands to grasp the door.  My fingers brush across the handle, but it doesn’t budge.  I realize that I’ve been sealed in.  Heavy, awkward looking blocks are stacked in front of the door; seemingly tossed in random piles, but effectively blocking my escape. “Who did this?” I wonder.  I turn around and around surveying this place I’ve built for myself. Funny, I don’t remember it looking so bare, empty and void of life; like a grave.  There is nothing of me in this place.  What happened here?  I try to remember the last time I really saw it as it used to be when I first built it; strong, safe, impenetrable, as it was supposed to be; guarding my secrets.  It was a long time ago.  I allow my eyes to wander around the room and then I see them.  The boxes…a flicker of recognition snatches at my thoughts and the old feelings of terror and pain stir and begin to move toward the surface.  I see memories shimmering inside their tightly bound boxes where I banished them all that time ago.  “No, no,” I cry, “I can’t!”  “I can’t see you!”  Not yet…not yet…

My heart is pounding far too hard.  “I can’t…please don’t make me.” I am frozen, staring at the memories bumping up against the lids of the boxes, straining against the ropes I used to tightly bind them away out of sight.  They have been safely tucked away in this tower of heavy blocks I constructed for them. I worked so hard.

I can’t look at them. I am too afraid.  Then, in the silence, almost imperceptibly, I feel a stirring in the air.  It is like the faintest breeze, buoyant; like a soft feather dancing lightly against my bare skin.  I catch the scent of something wonderful! It smells new, clean and light.  Pure.  I know this scent, but can’t yet place it; it’s been so long since I’ve breathed it in.  In contrast, the stench of death, decay and emptiness in this place is overwhelming, yet cloying and familiar.  My imprisoned soul is drawn to the new, the clean, the light and I search for its origin.  Compelled by something supernatural, completely unexplainable, I find myself moving toward the boxes. I am right there, closer to them than I have been in ages.  Despite the desperate sinuous fear that is crowding me on all sides, I sense a shift in the air. It is lighter and I don’t feel crushed by the weight of it. I smell the beautiful scent again and it gives me courage.  There is a palpable change in the atmosphere now. I feel the gentle, sweet brush of feathers all around me and know I am safe. I slowly let myself be drawn in again. The stench of death and decay is very faint now, replaced by the scent of Heaven coming from the wings and feathers in which I find myself enfolded.  Your voice is huge, powerful and deep, yet gentle, quiet and sure.  “It is time.  Look at them now, child; open your boxes.”  “Only if You promise to stay. I cannot face them alone,” I whisper.  Strength flows into me that I know cannot be of me. I am all too familiar with the sense of my own failed strength.  Your voice reverberates through the very core of my being saying, “I alone am your refuge; your place of safety; I am your God and you will trust Me. I will shield you with My wings; I will shelter you with My feathers.  My faithful promises are your armor and protection.” Yes, Father, yes.

You place the frayed, weathered ropes that bind up my boxes of memories into my right hand.  I still have Your strength flowing through me, so I pull the ropes with all my might.  As the ropes slither to the ground, my memories, carefully hidden and preserved, gently dance and hover above the box tops, bidding me to look at them and release them.  Peace that I cannot understand washes over me and I go to the boxes, Your hand warm upon my head; feathers brushing my cheeks.  I inhale You and deeply breathe in Life.  I lift up my head and welcome the memories, and they come.  I look at each one as they come before me. I weep and cry out as I acknowledge them all; the violence, terror, pain and fear; the cruel words and hateful actions and slowly nod my head.  I feel You hold me tight and whisper to my spirit.  I am startled and struck silent as I feel the sweet warmth of Your tears spill onto my face as You weep for me.  You turn my face upwards and I watch my memories, my pain, my loss ascending to Heaven, where You will take them and re-shape them to be used for Your glory.  “Is it done, Father?” I say.  “What about these walls of heavy blocks you constructed to protect your pain?” “Is it not time to tear that down, too, Daughter?”  “Do you really want to be free?”  You take my hands and turn them over. They are calloused and rough, from all those exhausting years of building my stronghold.  I watch in awe, as Your breath, Your right hand, begins to smooth away the hardness, the deep grooves and scales, revealing new skin underneath, that glows with life, energy and health. New life is here, in this place that was seeped in death and emptiness.  In the next moment, my attention is caught by a sound, unlike anything I have ever heard before.  It starts as a deep, low rushing, and then begins to spiral upwards, like a roar, like a violent storm and I fear I can’t stand up under the enormity of it.  It is too much for me to bear and I close my eyes, barely breathing.  As quickly as it came, it is gone.  There is peace; blessed silence, as I rest safely in the shadow of Your wings.  The roar is replaced by the most beautiful song I have ever heard, being sung above me, all around me.  I cannot understand the words being spoken; it is too lofty for me, but something deep in my spirit awakens and responds. I am utterly captivated.  I feel so light, so new, so clean!  As I raise my arms in praise and abandon to my Father, I see that I am free! The walls I built are no more, the boxes are gone, the air is clean, and the Light is back.  Gingerly, I begin walking where once the walls of my self imposed prison stood tall. I notice only a slight indentation, like a scar, left there; an indication of where the pit of my captivity had once been.  Today is the day I traded my stronghold for a strong tower.  As I soak in the song You sing over me, Your voice becomes imprinted on my heart, “I am the Lord Your God, I am with you, I am mighty to save.  I will take great delight in you, I will quiet you with My love, I will rejoice over you with singing.”