Aaron: you are my hero in every sense of the word.You are my role model, my best friend, my forever crush, my deepest love, my closest brother. You are all of the most beautiful relationships entwined into the greatest human love I have ever known….
October 14th, 2012 – quite possibly the best day of my life! Just a handful of days ago, Aaron and I celebrated our very first anniversary of this wonderful, crazy union of marriage!
HOW CAN I EVEN BEGIN TO DESCRIBE LIFE WITH THIS MAN?
It is perfectly beautiful.
No, not because our lives are perfect. Not because we are perfect. Far from it! It is because we serve the most MAGNIFICENT GOD in the universe, and by His grace, we get to serve Him TOGETHER!
This has been a year of abundant blessing, of crazy love, of much learning, and at times – painful personal growth.
But it has been the most beautiful year of my life!
How can I begin to thank God for giving me my Aaron? He is truly the most amazing man I have ever met….his gentleness toward me, his constant loving forgiveness, his depth of God-given wisdom, his servant’s heart, his passion for our God and zeal for truth, his romance and friendship – I can hardly write this post without feeling tears well within me. I have been given a man who lives a life of worship – a man who has completely consecrated himself to God, and then – (here’s the crazy part!) to me.
I will not cease to praise my God for His provision for Aaron and I this year, as we stepped both into our first year of marriage AND our first year of full-time ministry – on our own this could have been a disaster, but God has been SO FAITHFUL and SO GOOD, and this year has been the coolest thing ever!!
I PRAISE GOD FOR HIS GOODNESS AND FAITHFULNESS TO ME!!
There is always SOMETHING to praise God for. I praise Him today for a husband and a marriage beyond what I had even imagined!!
WHAT ARE YOU PRAISING HIM FOR TODAY? =)
Have you ever needed to FIGHT?
And no, I’m not talking about swinging your fists when you got made fun of on the playground in elementary school – I mean FIGHTING IN THE SPIRIT. I mean throwing all you are into a battle where your heart, your mind, your soul – are on the line.
I have had to. And I would love to share with you what is ONE OF THE MOST POWERFUL SECRETS the Lord has taught me about spiritual war. It is a secret weapon that is so often neglected by Christ Warriors – it is left sitting on the pew at church or restricted to our hymnals and iPods – if it even exists in those places! In a culture where even Sunday mornings are primarily filled with songs about what God has done for ME, what God should do for ME, or about how broken WE are, how much WE need,we are unwittingly laying down one of our sharpest, most powerful weapons: THE WEAPON OF PRAISE.
WHAT IS PRAISE? Praise is using our words, our voice, and our bodies to pour out thanksgiving to God for what He has done for us, for Jesus’ sacrifice, to glorify Him for Who He is, and to declare His worthiness, His majesty, and His beauty. Keeping this in mind, we are going to look at one of my favorite chapters in the Bible to see an example of battling with praise. Don’t be lazy – grab your Bible and turn to 2 Chronicles, chapter 20!
This historical account of a very memorable battle occurs during the reign of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah. Jehoshaphat had made many reforms in Judah – putting away idols and teaching the people the ways of the Lord (for fascinating back story, see chapters 17 & 18). He then gets word that “a great multitude” of Moabites and Ammonites were coming up to battle against him and his people. Verses 3 and 4 captivate my attention:
“And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. So Judah gathered together to ask help from the Lord; and from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord.”
Notice: Jehoshaphat was AFRAID. But he let his fear drive him to his God. And then he chooses to seek God in a way that few people know how to do anymore – BY FASTING. And not only himself fasting, but he gathers the ENTIRE KINGDOM into complete unity to pray and fast before the Lord.
Then Jehoshaphat stood in the house of God and spoke aloud to God, recalling the things Jehovah had done for His people, glorifying God for Who He is, and beseeching His divine help. This section (verses 5-13) ends with Jehoshaphat humbly proclaiming, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes on You.”
AND THEN….GET THIS:
“Meanwhile all Judah stood before the Lord, with their little ones, their wives, and their children.” ONCE AGAIN, this theme of complete unity as a nation as they seek the Lord. Oh, if our nation knew how to do this, what a different place America would be!
BUT CONTINUING ON….
The Spirit of God comes in response to this king’s bold, yet humble prayer and declares, “do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours, but God’s…you will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, oh Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.”
Oh, how many times this beautiful declaration of salvation from God to His people has given me great comfort and courage! To think that the God of heaven and earth fights FOR me…..fights for ME….
All I have to say to that is – WOW.
Then all Judah and Jerusalem falls down and worships the Lord, and the scripture specifically notes that the Levites “stood up to praise the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice.” Hmm….Seems to me like we don’t like to do that in our culture either. We don’t like to be “very loud,” at least not for God – I mean, that would be embarrassing, RIGHT? I speak not because I am better than those who fear being embarrassed if they worship too radically…but because all too often I AM one of those people. God forgive me for ever being ashamed of praising Him with my whole being!
OKAY, NEXT SECTION:
20 And they rose early in the morning and went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. And when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Hear me, Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed.” 21 And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the Lord and praise him in holy attire, as they went BEFORE the army, and -“
Woah, woah, hold up – BEFORE THE ARMY?!?! No offense Mr. Jehoshaphat, but what king with ANY brains sends the choir out before the infantry??? I mean let’s be serious, IT SOUNDS CRAZY.
And then I realized – CRAZY IS WHAT GOD CALLS US TO. He calls us to CRAZY TRUST. He often asks us to put aside what makes logical sense and throw our pathetic, trembling selves into His arms and upon His strong and valiant chest – and when we do, we will hear His heartbeat.
His deep, constantly thudding, aching heartbeat of mercy. Mercy, mercy, mercy, mercy….
22 And when they began to sing and praise, the Lord set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed. 23 For the men of Ammon and Moab rose against the inhabitants of Mount Seir, devoting them to destruction, and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they all helped to destroy one another.
When they began to sing and to praise…..Oh Lord, teach us this truth! Teach us that when we CHOOSE to praise You (yes friends, it IS a choice!) that YOU WILL FIGHT FOR US!
This miraculous story ends with:
29 And the fear of God came on all the kingdoms of the countries when they heard that the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel. 30 So the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet, for his God gave him rest all around.
Oh, dear friends! How I WISH that Jesus’ Body truly knew this magnificent, crazy truth! PRAISE IS OUR GREATEST WEAPON, CHURCH! God has ordained it to be so. HE WILL ACT WHEN WE PRAISE HIM! Have you ever done that? You know, instead of whining to God about how hard life is and begging Him to please do something cause He’s taking forever – have you ever just quit your complaining and started to PRAISE HIM? To lift your voice in until you are “very loud,” to sing and to dance, to throw your entire being into radical worship of your Savior?
HAVE YOU EVER?
I dare you to try.
This is a poem I wrote a while back in an attempt to portray the crazy love relationship our Lord has with us. I hope it ministers to your spirit!
Dance With Me
Outstretched, gentle – let me feel
Thy hand outstretched to mine.
Uncling my hands from other loves,
That Thine may intertwine.
Lord, be the arms that catch my all
And sweep me off my feet,
Oh, be the song that leads the rhythm
Where man and Maker meet.
Lord, catch my eyes, oh, lock my gaze,
Seduce my faithless heart
With eyes that burn with holy fire –
That burn my soul apart.
With gentle words, instruct my feet,
Lead them in step with Thine,
Come twirl me through Thy arms of grace,
As heart and soul keep time.
Dip me in Thy boundless love,
And sway me with Thy peace.
Lift me with Thy arms of joy,
Forbid the music cease.
Don’t ever turn Thy face away,
Forever steal my eyes,
You lock my heart – my spirit’s gaze,
And gently mesmerize.
I slowly melt, the world around
Me ripples, fades away,
As dreams I thought I’d never lose
All slip to yesterday.
You made it clear right from the start
The pain this waltz would bring.
Yet still You asked, and I said “yes”,
And to that “yes” I cling.
I’ll let You lead – and I will trust,
No matter what the cost.
Without Your rhyme and precious song
My spirit would be lost.
A smile tweaks my trembling lips,
Eternal joy abounds,
Such sweet freedom in surrender –
This God my mind confounds.
So hand in hand, we soar through life,
A romance so profound,
That none can stop this flow of Love,
Or make my feet touch ground.
Thy sweet words echo in my heart,
As I remember Thee,
And gazing in each others eyes,
You whisper – “Dance with Me.”
Autumn is so full of magic….here is my attempt to express it!
Colors of the dust and dirt,
Of blood and golden tears,
Adorn the worshippers –
Their wordless praise so clear.
A steppe of dew-struck jade,
Flecked thick with pearls and gold,
The shadows – haunting – dance,
Hypnotic-like, their hold.
A frantic sea above –
Grey, black, and white, they melt
To hide the diamond rays
That – though not seen – are felt.
A spell is cast – so strong
That common sense must flee,
Shake off the chains that bind,
And loose your sore heart free.
Have you ever felt like Hope was dying? If so, I will let you have a peek into my journal….
(This allegorical story overflowed from my heart almost two years ago as I watched a precious friend whose Hope seemed to be dying…it was an attempt to express my frustration with this issue in life and was a very real question that I was asking. I “just happened” to re-read this allegory in my journal today and realized that today, in the midst of my own hurt and pain – as I am tempted to feel hopeless – God has given me the answer to the question I asked in this allegory. Read on if you need Hope in your life again or simply if you’re curious….)
March 3rd, 2011
Little girl – a-flight in this big, strange world. Wide eyes, a wider heart – embracing the tender rose of life, despite its constant thorns. What was it that made her dance, even as she bled? Why, coupled with the anguish, was there such a stubborn light in her eyes? Bare feet flying through mud, uncalloused hands stretched to the thundering sky, she opened her childish lips – her simple song persisting through the naked trees, her melodic words tangling with the sunlight and dancing with the raindrops that so constantly soaked her world.
Hope was her name. She had been a stubborn child from the moment she was born, rivaling each of her sisters in perpetual endurance. Those times when Faith would finally give in, Hope would grab her hand and drag her to the finish line; where Mercy was not strong enough to reach, Hope would jump in and lift her up. If Joy became sick, it was Hope who would nurse her back to health. When Peace’s mind was shattered, Hope would silently pick up the pieces and begin slowly gluing them together again.
Yet this dear child’s sanguine spirit was not always appreciated by those around her; in fact, for all the countless times her optimism encouraged others, it also frequently frustrated them. This she could not fathom. She stretched out open hands dripping with comfort and delight to those who were sorrowful, and instead of seizing her hands with newly enlightened eyes, they would reach out with a look of disdain and disgust, close her open palms into fists, and despondently turn away. Her tender heart grew increasingly frustrated as these anguished individuals listened to her counsel with deaf ears and an even deafer heart – determined that Hope would not be their friend. They said she was impractical, unrealistic; that listening to her was akin to living in a fantasy world. This injured Hope very badly and, not surprisingly, she grew more and more distant to the people who kept pushing her away….
Years later, the day that she had long denied would ever come had arrived: Hope lay frightfully ill. She was not one to give up easily, of course – she fought the raging fever with every ounce of sweet rebellion within her. But alas – now that Hope was crumbling, who would reach down and help HER up? Faith had all but died, Peace had fled, and Mercy had grown despairingly distant and cold. And no one had seen Joy for a very long time. Now even Hope herself, abandoned by her sisters and consistently pushed away for so long, was dying.
And I ask you – when Hope is dead, who can revive her?
December 17, 2013
Wow. Just now…in the midst of my second miscarriage…I have found the answer to my question. When Hope is dead, the child Praise is the one who can revive her! In fact, Praise will revive, not only Hope, but Joy, Peace, Faith, and Mercy as well! How fascinating….I have discovered this in the midst of my pain over losing my second little one… Though I will not meet my own “little Praise” until the day I meet my Jesus, my little Praise has taught me a MOST important lesson: That when I choose to praise my God and Savior in the midst of pain, when I dance for Him with every ounce of strength I have, when I sing at the top of my lungs through my tears – WHEN I PRAISE MY GOD BECAUSE I CHOOSE TO TRUST HIM – my gracious and beautiful Father pours His grace, mercy, peace, trust, faith, and joy into my soul! It is ASTOUNDING! My soul has been rocked in this storm, my heart broken, my faith rattled. But when I praise the One who cradles my soul, who heals my heart, and who places my faith back on the Rock that CANNOT be moved – suddenly, I am at peace. I am comforted. I am loving being with my Father!
No, this doesn’t mean I don’t hurt. I DO hurt. But I am NOT CRIPPLED.
See, Praise doesn’t allow you to remain crippled. In order to praise, you have to purpose to hurl your crutches to the floor and fling every ounce of your bleeding, broken, tear-stricken self into the dance and song of praise. I believe you will find, as I have, a new strength for your weak knees, the healing ointment of trust for your heart, and even a strange sort of joy and peace flooding your body, mind, and soul….
If I can do this, then YOU CAN TOO. Praise Him in your tears! Praise Him in your bleeding, in your hurt – and watch Him carry you on His wings of peace. Watch Him restore Hope, Faith, even Joy. PRAISE HIM.
I dare you.
Sometimes I get so focused on myself. I turn inward and curl up in the worry, in the sorrow, in the pain that seems to flood every crevice of my soul in that moment. It’s so easy for sorrow to turn selfish, for pain to morph into self-pity, for fear to begin to swallow your faith…
Today a dear friend gave me a much-needed reminder. As I spilled out to her my storm of emotion, my words raining like little droplets of sorrow in her ears, she first comforted me and acknowledged the depths of my pain. Then she said these simple, beautiful words:
“Just remember that God has a better plan for you than you can see right now. I know it doesn’t make sense. Cling to Him. Worship. Sing! Dance! Celebrate Him in your sorrow. And let His joy spring from you!”
Celebrate Him in your sorrow.
Oh, friends! Did those words register in your fearful heart? Did your worried, fretting mind focus in on that simple truth? Celebrate Him in your sorrow. Do you DO that?? So, so often I don’t. So often I fix my eyes on myself – my pain, my questions, my desires – and I begin to drown in what seems like an overwhelming sea inside me.
Isn’t that what happened to the disciple Peter? Close your eyes and picture the story again….Jesus calmly walking on the black waves as they crested and crashed and foamed all around Him. He just took step after peaceful step, unaffected by the fury beneath his feet. Then He calls Peter to come, to follow Him into perhaps one of the most terrifying experiences Peter had yet had. And what happened? You know the story. Peter got out of the boat and walked over to Jesus. Peter did not sink right away. Oh no, this passionate, foot-in-the-mouth disciple actually walked upon the raging sea! This was only possible because he had his eyes fastened on His Teacher. Then suddenly, for whatever reason, Peter finally “notices” the wind. He looked around him and saw COMPLETE CHAOS.And as fear snatched hold of his gaze and his heart, he felt his feet suddenly slice through the black depths that had once been a miraculous road to Jesus.
Just now, as I typed out this story, God spoke this to my spirit…
Our Father does not mean for the storms of life to drown us – He means for them to be a path for you to draw nearer to Himself.
Oh, dear sisters and brothers! DELIGHT yourself in your Savior!! TRUST Him. Keep your eyes fastened on His gaze. His love-struck eyes burn with a jealous fire, an insatiable desire – FOR YOU. The storm of love within His eyes far outweighs any storm that might rage around you. Your Savior does not want you to flounder through your storm, He wants you to walk on top of your storm. Step after peaceful step, unaffected by the fury beneath your feet because your eyes are fastened on His.
If the Lord is teaching you a similar lesson, I would LOVE to hear about it!! Feel free to post a comment below and tell me your story. I would like to end by sharing with you the lyrics of a new favorite song – one that I sing to my Savior at the top of my lungs! Click the link below if you would like to learn it yourself. =) Rejoice! He is SO GOOD.
My delight is in You
On Your word I set my heart
You are peace, You are calm for my restless soul
You light my way through the dark
I want to know You even more
Holiness is my desire
Purify, burn in me, come and make me clean
You refine me in Your fire
My delight is in You, Lord
You’re the treasure I have found
You’re the rock where I stand
I will not be moved
All my life is in Your hands
Here I am, open arms
Draw me close to Your heart
You’re my life, You’re my refuge
My delight, my delight is in You
My delight is in You