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Every once in a while, in the midst of the mundane, the Lord speaks so vividly it feels as though you have opened a door to a rushing wind that hits you and knocks you on your feet. The memory of it lasts through a lifetime as you search for the significance and meaning to the encounter. 

When I first got married, I remember vividly being given a verse from the Lord in Hebrews. This verse is smacked at the end of the thirteenth chapter in the midst of a farewell from the author. It had been easily glanced over by me in the past because, well, the book was over. And yet, the verse struck me to the soul this particular time. The writer of Hebrews is admonishing the readers to "go beyond the city gate" as Christ did for His beloved sheep. He went beyond His comfort zone. And then the verse "For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come" that acted as a pivotal shift for me comes next. 

For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come
— Hebrews 13:14

When I read that verse, the foundation of that idea made sense to me; "Sure, I will seek God's Kingdom. This world isn't home." But I believe that in that moment God was conveying to me that He would in fact be teaching me that concept first hand. That verse would in fact become the definition of my married life.

Growing up, I always lived in the same place. No movement, no change. My childhood was defined by steadiness. I defined myself by where I came from. Everything I was existed in the parameters of that half acre lot. And that was a huge blessing, but also a burden. 

I had to be taught by the Lord that in His kingdom is all that there should be of me. I would have to be pulled like Velcro from every thing of this world I attached myself to. It would be a painful removal, but a sweet lesson.  

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
— Matthew 6:33

Since that point, my family and I have moved 12 times. We have gotten very good at it in fact. Yet even now the difficulty in learning this lesson escapes me. I struggle against change and discomfort. I want peace, tranquility, stability in this world. I want to be rooted in one spot and never leave. My soul craves that consistency. 

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
— Colossians 2:6-7

And one day I will have it. But not on this side of heaven. 

The day will come when roots will dig deep in the consistency and reliability of Christ. No worry or pain or change will ever take us away from His presence. 

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
— Romans 8: 38-39
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Until that glorious day, Our kind Father will continue to teach me this difficult lesson. I will continue to be lead beyond the city gate into the unfamiliar. Every time I adhere myself to a place on this earth, He tenderly leads me away, keeping my eyes fixed on Heaven and the everlasting promise of being in His presence.  I am a child on my Father's shoulders, being guided to the place where I belong, the everlasting city that is to come. 

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
— Philippains 3: 13-14
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Peace of the Olive Branch

I drive by on another blisteringly hot California day, eager to race home and harldy noticing the peaceable swaying of green. I have passed by these trees a thousand times as they stand silent, meek and overlooked. Rough, jagged trunk of grey bark sprouts sage green leaves dotted with infantile fruit.

These trees and the branches they bare stand as an ancient symbol of peace. The seal of the sovereign state of Israel bares testament to its' importance as the branches of olive trees stand opposite the menorah.  And these very trees were the only witnesses to Jesus' tears of blood as he petitioned to the Father.

In Roman times, the branches of the olive tree were a symbol of ultimate surrender during war. And after the Great Flood, the Olive branch was brought in the beak of dove showing that land was not far away and the time of sorrow was over. The world was covered and swollen in never-ending flood waters and that branch brought hope to aching humanity.  

And our world is covered too. Division, racism, floods, disasters, wars, weapons, and death are rampant. Our world is in a desperate time of sorrow. We need to know there is hope. We need to know that our time of sorrow is almost over. We can't seem to grasp enough air above the surface before a new tragedy strikes and our hearts break open again. 

"Why God? 

Oh Lord, let us be like the Olive tree. Resolute and peace-giving. Never-withering through the starvation of drought or the drowning of flood water. Life-bringing King, help me to epitomize the peace that the Olive tree symbolizes. I pray that I would make peace in a world where there is none. Help me to be like you. Long-suffering, slow to anger, patient, merciful, quick to listen, abounding in love.  

And Lord, You are hope. You are salvation to a world drenched in tears. You are the evergreen tree, anchored in love. You gave humanity... yourself. Your very life is that olive branch; offered to drifting, bitter, swaying, starving, angry and lost humanity. You are hope, You are life. Thank you for giving Yourself for all of us. And leading us to You when we would have otherwise been adrift forever. 

Heal our land, give us hope. 

Amen"

 

 

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Vessels

Vessel filled with sand

Blended with shifting and swaying

The sands were once separated

By colors and differences

Now they are inseparable

 

Vessel filled with impossibility

Only a perfect God could make

Two different souls

United as one flesh

Bound together in grace and love.

 

Vessel filed with love

Together we’ll always be

One color, stronger together

Blended, not broken

For many more years to come.   

Don't look away

Don’t look away

O’ you selfish world

Wrought with war, evil, decay.

 

Don’t look away

From their heads, all curled

Children who will not see another day.

 

Don’t look away

With just a saddened heart

Unmoved to be with them in the fray.

 

Don’t look away

To your world of color and art,

Your children full of laughter and play.

 

Don’t look away

Never again to see their tender faces

To which our God would say

 

“Don’t look away,

For you I have abounding graces,

Come to heaven with me today.”

 

 

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." Matthew 19:14

 

 

Photo courtesy of NBC news

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/father-says-goodbye-his-baby-twins-killed-syrian-chemical-attack-n743246

The Arms I am in

While playing in the front yard a couple nights ago, my husband grabbed my camera and snapped a couple photos of my daughter and I. It is amazing to me just how much those simple photos meant to me. They are not perfect. Not because the photographer was lacking in skill, but because the subject is haggerred, clearly tired, and no make-up masks the mommy-dark circles that encompass the eyes. But that matters very little. I love this photo. You can see my daughter's chubby hands, dark colored eyes, bald head and fair skin.  You can also see her trust of me holding her sideways and almost upside-down. She cares very little. She loves the arms she is in. I love photography because it captures pure moments like this. The trust and love between a mother and a child. I actually learned some valuable lessons about myself by looking at this photo. 

1. She trusts me. 

That seems obvious. But she trusts ME. I am frail. I am weak. Prone to wander. And she trusts me.

This made me think about how I trust. And WHO I trust. 

My Everlasting Father, El Roi, El Shaddai, Holy Eternal God; HE is worth trusting. And yet I don't. I don't trust. Like a child, I wrestle out of His loving arms and tell an all-knowing God that my way is better planned, thought out and safer. That I know best. This limited, emotional, imperfect human knows better than the Creator. How dare I?

This cannot be. 

2. I love my daughter. 

I hope that is obvious from this photo as well. She is my treasure. She is one of the three greatest treasures of my soul that the Lord has given me. I would do anything for her, her brother and her dad. I would give my life for them. 

And yet. 

God loves more deeply than I ever could. As a mother, that is difficult to admit. But yes, my love for her is not eternal, as deep, perfect or selfless as my Heavenly Father's love for her. Or as His love is for me. 

I have to learn to trust the arms that I am in. You'd think I would have this down after knowing the Lord for 10 years. But no. I do not. I wriggle free from His tenderness and demand my own way. 

No, knowing the Lord is not always safe. He often carefully leads us to places that force our trust in Him. 

I need Him. I need His love. I need to trust Him. 

He is perfect. He is good. He is loving. 

Psalm 91:1

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

*El Roi- The God who sees

*El Shaddai- God Almighty