Saturday, December 17, 2011

Grey for Gray.

Life is precious. Fragile. Too short. Uncertain and flimsy.

Today as I sat with a few hundred friends laughing and remembering the joy of a friend's life - his laughter and fabulous gift of being ridiculous, the ferocious competitiveness, incredible strength and courage, absolute dedication to the Lord and to so many lives that collided with his, his belief in and support of the beautiful ministry of Young Life and a deep deep love for his precious wife and children - I am left without words at how beautiful the Lord is.

A man that brought laughter with him wherever he was and people together throughout his life, has yet again brought a glimpse of heaven through a life lived in fullness - inviting friends to come together to celebrate and remember this incredible God, even though he got to be with Jesus before us.

His life was soaked in hope. In not an idea but a reality that our God is bigger than, more beautiful than, more gracious than, more outrageous than, more adventuresome than, more compassionate than all of our dreams.

HOPE. Such a simple, short word for a man that lived life so big, that loved so deeply, that called forth joy so preciously.

I can see so clearly him striding forward to meet the Lord - his son in the arms of kids that have seen Jesus more clearly because of this brave  Father, sitting in the place that his father met Jesus so many years ago.  I can see a huge smile as He wrestles with this big man with a bigger heart and whispers "Welcome home, good and faithful servant.." And as we sat thinking, laughing and remembering, I know that the Lord was listening and smiling, laughing and crying with us as we celebrated the live of a brave man, friend, father, husband, son and brother.

Thankful for the many lives that have seen holy because of Troy Gray. For his courage and deep joy, big dreams and faithfulness. We are changed because of how he lived so ferociously and for how he loved a BIG God.

His life is a beautiful glimpse of what we strive for - memories abounding, dreams exploding, love spilling forth, and joy so deep as to change our souls. And a calling for us to walk into the same. To be intentional with our time and with our love. And to never underestimate how big our God is and how deeply He craves our souls..

Life is precious.

But oh so beautiful. So powerful it shakes the soul. So stunning it leaves me speechless.

A holy moment as we sang How Great Thou Art today, celebrating a life and a God that have brought so much beauty to our lives.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Whats up with praise?

It is the season of giving, of thanks, of sharing, of 'goodwill'. And it seems for a few weeks now I've been wrestling with this thought of gratitude, of grace, of thankfulness... 

There's several blogs that I 'subscribe to' and when I get a email that there is a new post, I want to drop everything to read the words that come from the depths of their hearts; they bring me to the feet of Jesus as I am overwhelmed with the vulnerability and truth that seeps into my aching heart. These women are incredibly strong, stunningly beautiful, overwhelmed and in high demand, not perfect and utterly amazing. And I have been noticing a theme in what the Lord is revealing to them and to me, and its this :

     recognizing the importance of gratitude & its role in our experience of 'full life'.

We are taught those polite manners and social 'nicities' such as "thank you'', ''your welcome'', ''have a good day'', ''great to see you", etc. from the cradle; they're ingrained and in reality they're a front, a fake, an unconscious greeting or parting comment most of the time. And sometimes it frustrates me that they are used as something to hide behind, a quick get-a-way as we are walking in opposite directions, you know what I'm talking about... And I have caught myself several times lately falling into the play-by-play we all know, without any intentionality or genuineness in the midst of the 'hustle and bustle' of this season.

And I wonder, how much do I rely on the ingrained or convenient phrases as I communicate with God? How much do I over look because all I say is "Thanks God, great going today!", or "Oh hey Jesus, hope you have a great day - peace out!", and the classic "So wonderful to see you, lets catch up SOON!"... And I realize, that sucks. I want more. And yes, Little Mermaid song is running through my head as I write that last sentence!

This word of "adoration" has come up many times lately... WHAT does it mean? HOW are we supposed to do it? HOW important is it? And WHY the heck is it seemingly so hard to do..?

Adoration : the act of paying honor. reverent homage. fervent and devoted love. worship given 
                           to God alone. profound love and regard. praise.

Well, there you go.. that's why its so hard. It requires of me in order to express fervent and devoted love. Its not an absentminded "Oh hey, what's up?" or a "You're pretty cool, I guess.." but an expression of utter thankfulness, of deep awareness of who He is and how He is working in my life and in the lives of people around me - near and far.

There is also the element of stability. I am praising and adoring the character of who God is, not just how pleased I am that He worked things out to how I wanted them to be in a certain circumstance. I am expressing love and devotion even when I don't have the answers and my heart is aching. I am putting my heart in a place of trust and depending on who He has promised to be, not only when its convenient but when I have all these lies going to and fro in my mind. I am choosing to praise through life and joy, but also in death and sickness by believing He is faithful.

One of my favorite writer's Sara (She's adopted 3 girls and 1 boy from Africa and has an incredible story as well as a beautiful gift of putting words together, check out her blog here) wrote this post, putting words to what I was trying to flesh out in my mind. And these words resonated with my heart :

     "Then come the questions - the shadows over my vision: Who am I? and Where is He? they 
     whisper. They seek to draw me back to the well of uncertainty, feeling low about myself and 
     all that I'm not and having forgotten the very thing which gives me life: who HE is.

     Enter adoration. Moments of praise aren't just for the ones who feel all filled-up with praise,
     but they are the weapons of war for those who have forgotten their last song. Praise is for 
     the bored, the broken, the barely-surviving. Adoration is like oxygen, infusing, building and
     rebuilding... Him into us, and us built-up in Him. You and me, on our worst days, have been 
     given a way out. A way up."

Praise isn't only when I'm happy-go-lucky and when there are rainbows and unicorns  all over my world or just standing in church on a Sunday night. But maybe more importantly when I don't have much else left.. When I'm having really hard conversations.. When I am yet again curled up in a chair in the middle of the night at the hospital waiting for news of friends.. When I can't breathe because my heart hurts so bad. When I have so many questions rolling around in my head, the "why did this have to happen this way?" 's or the "why did it have to happen now?'' 's and the "why did it have to happen to that person?'' 's... When I don't have the words to offer comfort and can just sit next to them... When my empty arms ache to hold the one's I know need hugs, to let them know that someone care's and to wipe away the tears. When my lips ache to kiss the precious foreheads and boo boos that need comfort and healing.. When I'm stuck in the cold in the parking lot with a dead car in the middle of the night.. When my wallet and bank account have pennies in them instead of dollars yet again... 

Maybe these are the moments that praise is for... To know that I'm not alone in the ER waiting for news but am with my Papa, believing and knowing that He is faithful and good.  When my arms are empty and boo boos are going un-kissed, that their real Father has them in His lap - cuddling and soothing and healing and protecting in ways that I couldn't. When the empty wallet shows how intimately He know my needs and provides for them through people and circumstances... When there aren't words to comfort or heal or erase the past, the Holy Spirit in me is with us and healing as we sit in the silence. When my heart is breaking, getting a little glimpse of how intimately He craves all of me and how deeply He loves. And when the questions come a-knocking, answering with assurance of and trust in who He is. 

Praise is powerful.

Praise puts my heart in line with His, that no matter the outcome - He is good and faithful and true.

Praise is getting my head out of my butt and focusing on who He is and what He has promised instead of slipping into doubt or frustration or anger or bitterness.

Praise is healing.

Praise is a breath of fresh air and a peace where there wasn't one before.

Praise is hard, but it is so integral to my survival. Because in praise I can recognize how powerful He is; I can acknowledge my limitations and lack of control and give Him reign to be sovereign; I can release my aching heart into His care, knowing that He will give it back to me a little bit more healed and a little bit more beautiful. And I can declare how He has brought me this far, how He redeems, how He pursues the heck out of me. I can proclaim not just with my lips and words but with my heart and soul that He is good.

And so in this season of reunions and goodbyes, laughter and tears, changes and patterns, new memories and loses - I am choosing to praise with all of me. Choosing to declare, recognize, proclaim, acknowledge, whisper and scream that He is faithful and good and true, that He delights in us, that He calls us home to His side and His heart, and that He loves. And I'm choosing to remember the blessings that I have and the people that I love - whether they are with me or not. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Coming awake..

Some days I wonder...

Some days I ache...

Some days I get frustrated and unsure...

Some days I am so excited that I start shaking... 

Some days I simply don't understand...

And I am discovering something really important - that no matter what I'm feeling that day - if I let myself step back and right into Jesus with the fears and trepidation, those blasted insecurities, the shaking-in-my-boot excitement, the wonder and amazement, the frustration and the millions of questions or simply with my aching heart... He meets me there.

I came across these words last night and felt such peace... 

           "My dear children, let's not just talk about love; let's practice real love. This is 
           the only way we'll know we're living truly, living God's reality. It's also the way
           to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For
           God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do 
           ourselves." (1 John 3:18-20)

I love that this starts out with talking about real love, about living a full life. And He knows that for us that means so many emotions, so many hard situations, such pain and longing, such joy and grace... And the best way to keep out of my head the revolving parade of mistakes, the "I shoulda's" and the "I'm not worth  ____'s..." is to keep. Keep loving, keep walking forward, keep moving towards His heart, keep breathing when that's all I can do, keep trusting with all of me, keep listening even when the silence is deafening, keep asking questions and keep expecting Him to answer in His time...

I want to live "in God's reality". I want to be so awed by who He is and how He redeems that I'm speechless. I want to see people's souls shake when they realize how deeply they are loved. I want to know in my gut, in my soul, that God is faithful and steadfast. And I'm realizing that the more I ask of God, the more I want Him to be revealed and the more I need grace - the deeper I need to sink into trust. 

I thought that He was good and in my head I knew that "He worked everything together for His marvelous plan"- but the closer I get to His heart, the more I need to not just read but rely on His promises; the more I need to believe and not have thoughts about how good He is; the more I need to know and not just think that He knows me, my heart, my journey AND everyone else's to align them together for His perfect will; the more I need to act in deep trust instead of just saying the words that His timing is so much better than my own... 

Because this journey is not my own. Because even though I don't exactly enjoy roller coasters (well, more the plummet to the earth with great speed and force part) or the shoving myself off of things from great heights - there is the beautiful moment of feeling so blessedly alive as the ground is racing up to meet your face. I think that we are made to be alive, to come awake. Made to do and be. Made to have a crazy story, live this amazing adventure. To look back and say "WOW! That was a crazy ride!"...

And to be alive and come awake means that I need to step out of complacency and of comparison into compassion, into grace, into joy and laughter, into tears and hard conversations... For what else is fullness about after all?

I'm discovering that as I walk into what He is calling for me, the more I need all of Him - not just the comfortable parts - and that requires all of me - not just the convenient, the pretty, the comfortable but the aching, the questions, the confusion, the past experiences, the uncomfortable and ugly parts... And the incredible thing is, He wants it. He wants me - baggage, failures, and the greatness all roled into one. He delights in me, He made me, He desires my ME and He is continuously pursuing my stubborn heart.. Go figure, huh? 

I love how the passage wraps up with "for God is greater than our worried hearts and know more about us than we do ourselves." It makes sense, doesn't it? My silly little heart takes so much onto itself - the details, the stories of others, the "planning", the confusion but He is bigger than it all. And He can handle it. He doesn't need my input or questions or doubt every half second and it certainly isn't good for my stress level.  Now if I could just get that into my head and heart a little deeper, I might be a little smarter... This gives me peace, that even though my heart is fickle and my eyes are woozy, He is still good, still God, still sovereign, still faithful and still deeply in love with me.

In the words of  C.S. Lewis, "the great thing to remember is that though our feelings come and go, God's love does not."  Amen, my friend. For some days, that's all I can I can hold onto. I am so thankful that He is so much more faithful that my fickle heart and so much more steadfast then my wandering eye, that He wants me close to His heart and that His patience level is light years beyond mine. 

Time isn't guaranteed for any of us. And I don't know when I'll get to see Jesus face to face, but I do know that I want the people that I love to meet me there. And to be celebrating, dancing/hopping around, signing (off key for me) and hanging out with Jesus for eva... To be able to tell Him that I loved deeply, that I walked toward Him even when I didn't understand, and that I trusted who He is and was and will be. And so today I am singing this song over and over wanting the words to sink deep into my aching heart... Because we are meant to come awake.