<![CDATA[Inking the Heart - Lenten Reflections]]>Fri, 01 Jan 2016 22:58:46 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[At the Door of the Refinery]]>Tue, 17 Feb 2015 00:04:35 GMThttp://inkingtheheart.weebly.com/lenten-reflections/at-the-door-of-the-refinery
Here I stand again at this familiar door.  His familiar door.  And once again I am ready and eager to enter.  This place is massive, and it's steely exterior can be overwhelming and scary, but one cannot deny the truth that important work is done within those walls.  The smokestacks are always smoking, a glow from the everlasting fires never cease and the flow of those coming and going and then returning again remain constant day and night.

It is the refinery of the Refiner.

I have been here before, but the season is calling for my return.  

Lately I have been too angry too many times and I need to find out why.

Is it pride?  Is it discouragement, disillusionment, disappointment?  Is it fear?  

I don't have those answers, but I know that what enters those doors gets purified and comes out changed.  

Max Lucado says, "The refinery does for petroleum and other products what your 'heart' should do for you.  It takes out the bad and utilizes the good."  The Applause of Heaven

I believe I have a heart problem.  And I know it is going to take me setting my face and my heart toward the Refiner, entering the door and being willing to walk through the purifying fires of the refinery.  All the while, keeping my eyes on the Refiner.  For what gets burned away can leave behind vulnerability and root exposure that can be painful.  But my heart's cry is still that of David in Psalm 51:10
"Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me."
The season of Lent is more than just changing habits.  Those outward, exterior things that we do or don't do won't produce the inner change we really desire.  It is entering through the doors of the refinery and seeking His will for our lives, where those things of self get burned up and the pure will of the Refiner is revealed in us.  Then the habits change.  The change happens from the inside out not the reverse.  The reverse is trying to do it our way with God's help, instead of allowing God's way in our lives as we surrender.  Moses knew all about this when he prayed in Exodus 33:13
"Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight."
To be purified is to lose those things that are extraneous and unnecessary, those things that pollute our relationships, separate us from God, and fill our hearts with guilt and shame.

In other words:  To be made pure is to be set free.

I am all about that this Lenten season.  

Care to join me?  

I don't know what that might look like for you.  I am not even sure what it will look like for me. Can I give up anger for lent?  Probably not, however I know that surrendering my own will and entering the doors of the refinery are the first steps to setting my eyes on the Refiner.  I know it will be a blessed journey because the Word says so. 

"Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they shall see God."
Matthew 5:8
Blessings to you!


Linking with:

Lyli  Thought Provoking Thursday 
Barbie The Weekend Brew
Barbie Swihart
<![CDATA[Can God trust us?]]>Sat, 08 Mar 2014 01:54:39 GMThttp://inkingtheheart.weebly.com/lenten-reflections/can-god-trust-us
On February 26, 2004 at 5:30 in the evening I was scheduled to be rolled into an operating room, have my lower stomach cut open and a baby extracted.  I knew about the scheduled surgery 3 weeks in advance.  Those 3 weeks were filled with anxiety, fear, self-pity and disappointment.  

About 4 weeks ago a few schedule changes were made in my life.  With these changes I experienced fear, anxiety, worry and turmoil.  Many days have been filled with uphill battles I have had to fight in my mind, my heart and even in my marriage.  At the onset of those weeks my pastor gave a message titled, "EMPTIFUL".  I walked away knowing I had much emptying of myself to do to get to the point of the faith dependency I longed for for the weeks ahead.  But I had no idea how much emptying God would require of me.  

Lent, a season of spring cleaning from the inside out, was scheduled to begin on, well, today!  As I reflect back on the past few weeks I see now how God orchestrated the prep work for today's scheduled surgery.  The pre-op appointments examined areas within me that festered with the sins of my own self-dependency.  Each x-ray revealed unsubmitted areas where pride hid, poisoning my life in ways that created conflict with everything I tried to do to bring glory of God.

Throughout this time I studied the last few chapters in the book of Daniel.  Daniel, a man greatly beloved by his God, had his face set "toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes." Daniel 9:3.  Daniel prayed that the Lord would hear, forgive, listen and act. (v.19)  Not void of spiritual warfare, God heard Daniel's prayers and began responding even before Daniel's prayers were over.  

I want to be like Daniel.  Don't you?  In order to be a Daniel we must set ourselves apart from that which defiles and separates us from God.  We must allow the x-rays, do the self-examinations and show up to the pre-op appointments with our minds set to understand the ways of God and to humble ourselves before Him.  God has work to do on this earth and we are to be the empty vessels in which He pours Himself into, using the gifts He has given each of us for His glory.  But . . . 

Can God trust us?

Or will our PRIDE get in the way?

C.S. Lewis once wrote:  "There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which everyone in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine they are guilty of themselves . . . it was through Pride that the devil became the devil:  Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind." (excerpt from Mere Christianity)

This Lent, let us set our minds toward self-denial of those worldly lusts that lead to sin.  Sin is simply man putting himself where God should be.  Instead let's pick up our cross and with self-discipline walk the road to Calvary like Jesus did.  It was a road that lead to death, death of the flesh.  The cross of Christ was God putting himself where man should be.  Jesus died for our sins but identification with His sufferings is where we will find our own sins nailed to that cross. The road to Calvary, walked in humility, is the breaking down process of self.  That same road, where in the end we lose our life, is also where we will find it.  

"And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.  He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it."  Matthew 10:38-39

With a heart open and on the operating table this Lent my faith dependency is turning toward faith expectancy, expectant that "all that is weak, defective, sinful, and contrary to the will of God will be exposed and put to death and our souls healed, and what is spiritually strong, upright and holy may be blessed and strengthened." (excerpt from Draw Me Nearer, Vol 1 The Way of the Cross by Dr. Pete Bertolero)

Blessings to you on your journey through Lent!


There is this book coming out soon by my friend Jennifer. Her words have always been an encouragement to me and I am expecting nothing less from her book, "LOVE IDOL."  It is my pleasure to be on a team of women to help her launch this book coming our April 1.  Throughout Lent and in preparation for the release I am joining Jennifer in identifying a love idol in my own life.  PRIDE is certainly where the LORD led me in preparation for Lent.  But that is not what I am giving up.  More on that to come. . . 

You can find more about Jennifer and this Love Idol movement on Facebook.

Also linking this weekend with:

The Weekend Brew

<![CDATA[My Message from the Cross this Easter]]>Mon, 01 Apr 2013 21:41:28 GMThttp://inkingtheheart.weebly.com/lenten-reflections/my-message-from-the-cross-this-easterPicture
"Dear Lord, I pray for my wife.  She has lost sight of who she is in You. . . ."

It started Saturday.  I don't remember how it started or what sparked the frantic search in His word for who He says I am, but I remember searching and then giving up the search. 

There are lots of scriptures about who God says I am to Him.  I have read them all before.  I have written them down in ink, I thought I had written them upon my heart.  But on Saturday I came up empty. 

God chose not to speak to me through His Word that day.

Instead, He chose to lean in close and whisper in my ear later that evening.  I was sitting in front of a mock body wrapped in linens in a mock tomb.  Songs were sung there at that candLelit vigil in remembrance of Jesus' death the Good Friday before.

And when He leaned in or maybe I leaned in first, I don't know, He said, "You have been searching for My words to find your value today.  But I want you to look at My actions.  I died for you.  You, Rachael, are worthy enough to die for.  And that is why I lie here in this tomb.  Because I think you are worthy."

I was struggling because I was trying to fit my worth into the actions of people around me.  How they treated me.  What they said or didn't say. 

In doing so, I was feeling devalued, unworthy.

His actions toward me were all that really mattered. 

Perspective change!  I LOVE THOSE!

Christ loves me.  I have tried to follow His example and love others, too.

But His love is perfect.  My love is not. 

His love for me cost Him His life.  

When I love others it might cost me something, too.  I am learning this the hard way. 

I wince at the slightest bit of pain or even in the anticipation of it.  So when the hurt comes from loving others, my world gets rocked a bit.

On Sunday afternoon I shared my heart's struggles with my husband.   

"Why do I always have this struggle?" I asked.

Holding me he said, "Because you have opened up your heart to people in your life and online.  If you are going to do that, you need to be more resilient," he said.  "You can't worry about what people think of you.  As long as you are being obedient to the Lord in all that you do, then you have nothing to worry about."

"Then squeeze all the worry out of me!" I said being held tightly.

"How about I pray for you?"  And so he did.

He was right, you know.  All my struggles were not necessarily squeezed right out of me, but that truth was squeezed right into my heart and my mind and brought about an amazing freedom.  This weekend I needed a Savior willing to die on that cross whose actions screamed "You are worthy."  I needed to hear that still, small voice in the tomb of my own prison.  And God knew I needed my husband to confirm these truths in my heart and my head through the strength of his words and his arms around me.

Am I alone in these struggles, bloggers and friends?  Don't we all need our Savior everyday, every time we push "publish" or love others?  Does that still, small voice calm your fears when you have laid your heart bare, too? 

It is what God has called us to do. 

If I continued to live in my fears, you would not be reading this post.  And I would not be encouraged by yours. 

Have a great week as your hearts continue to celebrate the message of the cross of Christ! 

"Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand."  Psalm 95:6-7

Love this guy!
<![CDATA[Maundy Thursday]]>Thu, 28 Mar 2013 07:54:53 GMThttp://inkingtheheart.weebly.com/lenten-reflections/maundy-thursdayPicture
I have been looking for God this week. 

He has felt so far away.

I climbed a mountain looking for Him.  Two miles up into the clouds and all I could see were snippets of His creation.  All I could feel was the burn, but not His presence.  When I turned around to see the view from the top I searched for Him in the vast ocean before me.

Beauty, yes.  It was beautiful  And I kept counting those gifts of beauty.  I didn't forget to be thankful even in the emptiness.

I didn't forget that on the road to Emmaus Jesus walked alongside the two men.  He talked with them and asked them the reason for their sadness.  They talked about Jesus to Jesus.  They were sad.  They were empty, missing their friend's presence in His presence.  Later, it was when Jesus gave thanks for the bread at their evening meal, their eyes were opened to His very presence. . . only to see Him disappear again.

I pray daily without ceasing as much as I possibly can.  I give thanks over and over each and every day.  But there are days when my eyes just are not open and my heart does not burn in His presence.

And in the thanks

2338) birds soaring below        2339) to be in the clouds

sometimes I still feel like His back is turned on me.

But I will not be a doubting Thomas.

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."  Hebrews 11:1

During this Lenten season my heart has been preparing for the celebration that is to come in four days.  My hope is in that risen Savior, and even though I wasn't there 2000 years ago to see Him die on the cross, I believe with all my heart that He did it for me and for you.  He has set eternity in my heart and that longing I cannot deny.

He has been faithful these past 40 days:

turning my face toward the death of my fears, offenses and insecurities,

filling my emptiness through answered prayer,

drawing me closer to His heart by weeping for the things that make His heart weep,

helping me to see beauty in the messes of life through His perspective,

reminding me of His transforming work in me,

and teaching me that His mercy falls upon the most undeserving and He redeems despite shame and regrets.

Today, Maundy Thursday, I am back in the valley.  The mountain climbing is over, the sea searching is behind me and God is still distant. 

I still give thanks:  2361) safety home   2362) my own bed.

But now I am sick and I have floors to mop, laundry to fold, soup and bread to make and in the mess my heart cries, "Less of me and more of You."

At the table, together as a family, we light candles and pray, "Heavenly Father, as we light these candles of creation and redemption . . . may you release light into us all - the light of mutual love and honor, the light of conviction repentance and faith, all of which are ours through faith in the name of Your Son, Jesus, in whose name we pray. Amen."

And I see the light, I see the Light, I begin to feel the flame within.

We sing.

Jesus, an example of servanthood, washed His disciple's feet.  So we, in a spirit of humility and affection, wash one another's hands and offer words of honor and blessing.  

Father blesses daughter, daughter blesses mother, mother blesses daughter, sister blesses brother and son blesses father.  And in the circle of blessing there are tears.  The little one weeps with her few words and the blessing is in the tears of the heart more so than the words of her lips.  Beauty of the heart is called forth in the preteen, and now we know what means the most to the boy who is almost a man. 

We give thanks and we break bread.  But Jesus has already opened my eyes to His presence.  This time it wasn't in the giving thanks, it was in the loving one another.

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another."  John 13:34

In loving one another there is fullness of joy around the table tonight.  And I am full and my eyes are tired from searching this week.  They can rest now.  And my heart is reminded of what it really knew all along:  Jesus had not forsaken me, He never left my side, He walked alongside me up that mountain and brought me safely back to the valley.

And I continue to be thankful:  2267) for free flowing tears and words of blessing   2268) for the quiet of this night   2269) for His presence in it.   

Dear Lord, Thank you for your faithfulness even when I feel alone.  Thank you for pouring your Spirit upon my family tonight.  Thank you for being an example of Love for us to follow.  And thank you for tomorrow, Good Friday, for walking down that road of suffering and dying on the cross for my sins and for those of my children.  Thank you for rising from the dead so that we can serve a living God!  Amen

<![CDATA[Crying Mercy]]>Fri, 22 Mar 2013 05:30:57 GMThttp://inkingtheheart.weebly.com/lenten-reflections/crying-mercy"He answered and said, ''I will not,'' but afterward he regretted it and went."
Matthew 21:29 Picture
A few years back I went to a funeral of a man who was said to not have died without regrets. 

That one statement pierced my heart and I sat in that pew and wept.

I wept in the loss.  I wept because even in his frailness before death, he was a pillar of strength in my church family and now he was gone.  I also wept because I had regrets too, and I was drowning in a sea of shame and condemnation.  I so desired to grasp that quiet strength I witnessed lived out in this man's life.

Last Saturday I sat along the seashore in a bed of sand wondering about regret and disobedience and the God of second chances who redeems both.

The waves gently tumbled onto the shore and then back out again, but in the open Word on my lap a tempestuous storm was raging in the sea.  

God had given a command to one of His own.

Arise.  Go.  Cry out.

The man arose, but then fled.  His vain attempt to flee from the presence of the Lord, even going so far as to pay money to get as far away as possible, only led him into the worst storm of his life that almost cost him his life.

But even in Jonah's rebellion the Lord had prepared a plan to save him.

Jonah's disobedience to God's voice exposed his fear and weakness, but it also exposed his faith.  

"Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will become calm for you.  For I know that this great tempest is because of me."  Jonah 1:12

At first the men didn't believe it, so they strived harder to control the ship in the storm. (Sounds a little like my life some days.)  Finally, they relented and cast Jonah out to sea 

The raging ceased. But Jonah's thrashing did not.  He was drowning in a sea of shame and regret.

In that moment, God, in His goodness, reached down and extended mercy to an undeserving child of God

God's mercy fell upon Jonah in the form of a big fish.  It swallowed him whole allowing Jonah to think twice about rebellion for three days.

Weren't we all just Jonah's a few hours ago?  Did we miss God's mercy that fell softly upon our rebellions hearts, minds, attitudes and actions?

Wouldn't it be nice some days if a big fish would come and take us away for 3 days?

In the belly of the fish, Jonah had nowhere to turn except to the Lord.

Jonah cried out of the belly and his voice was heard, even in the depths of the ocean.  

In the darkness Jonah acknowledged the weeds wrapped around his head. "What was I thinking, disobeying the voice of the Lord?" he must have thought.

Most days, I often have weeds wrapped around my head AND my heart!

While still in the belly of the fish, Jonah knew that the Lord was bringing him up from the pit.

Don't we know that of God too?  

"For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts for a lifetime."  Psalm 30:5a

Jonah's soul, the place where there is no appetite for God, fainted, and he remembered the Lord.

His disobedient attitude was transformed into a voice of thanksgiving.

"So the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land."  Jonah 2:10 

The God of second chances spoke once again.

Arise. Go. Preach.

This time Jonah went.

But not without regrets.

We will all die with regrets, just like that man in my church.  We will all choose to disobey the voice of God more than we would care to admit, but He is a merciful God and will pull us out of the pits that we fall into over and over again.

He isn't just the God of second chances, He is the God of third and fourth, and seventy times seventy chances.

He has and continues to redeem my regrets and disobedience by His unfailing mercy as long as I allow myself to fall into Him . . . daily!

David knew this truth too.  In I Chronicles 21:13 he said, "I am in deep distress.  Let me fall into the hands of the Lord, for His mercy is very great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men."

God is probably not going to send a big fish to bring us to this place of "crying mercy", but He does want us to do something.

While I was sitting on the beach preparing for this post, a family set up their beach picnic very close to me.  The dad was upset with his son and said very firmly, "Stop, Jonah!  And just listen to your father."

And that I believe was a word from the Lord.  I was so stunned that I snapped their picture.

Stop and listen to your Heavenly Father today.  What is He saying about your fears and weaknesses?  

Linking with:
Missional Women
<![CDATA[When the Journey LeadsĀ Us UpĀ Mountains]]>Fri, 15 Mar 2013 14:09:18 GMThttp://inkingtheheart.weebly.com/lenten-reflections/when-the-journey-leads-us-up-mountainsPicture
About a year ago I found myself standing at the bottom of a mountain.  Somehow I got stuck along the path of this faith journey. 

The only way out of the valley was up.  But the up seemed so daunting.  The climb seemed so steep.  My heart was so tired.

The Lord gathered a few around me, but most of all He surrounded me with His presence.

We had a mountain to climb, a path of suffering to endure for a time and a whole lot of steps to take on this upward journey.

I felt so much like the character, Much Afraid, in Hannah Hurnard's book Hinds' Feet on High Places.  As Much Afraid stood at the bottom of a great precipice that she was to climb, she was overcome by fear and cried out to the Shepherd  The Lord met her on her journey because He "is of very tender compassion to them that are afraid."  (Hurnard, pg. 107)

Calling her by name, the Shepherd asked Much Afraid why she was so fearful.

"It is the way you have chosen for me to go," she whispered.  "It looks so dreadful, Shepherd, so impossible."  (Hurnard, pg. 107)

Jesus' journey to Calvary was dreadful too!  He called out to His Father praying, "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me."

Then He immediately follows his plea with, "nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will." Matthew 26:39

It was not my will to be in a valley of despair looking up at a route that seemed so hard.

But I knew I couldn't go around the mountain.  I couldn't go under it.  I couldn't go through it.  I had to go up it, one desperate step at a time, somedays with bloodied knees crawling from stone to stone.

Laying down my will over and over and over each day. 

Jesus only laid His will down once in that garden, but like the disciples, my flesh was weak and the temptation to have it my way overruled way too often.

Each step of the going up strengthened the faith muscles, each tear drop in the pain and frustration released that self-sufficiency that kept me in the valley, each bend I went around was a lesson learned of a characteristic of the Lord, all the while the blood of hope pumped harder and harder through my veins.

The Shepherd had a question for Much Afraid.  He asked her if she believed that he could change her into a mountain goat and get her to the top of the precipice.

"Yes" was her answer.

But it wasn't enough to just believe that he could get her to the top.

"Will you let me do it?"

It was his will, his way in her journey.  It was His will, His way in mine. 

Is it His will, His way in yours?

Complete surrender and trust in the Shepherd through suffering leads to triumph in Christ and transformation in us. 

It is the only way that our hearts of stone can be transformed into a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 11:17

It is the only way that He can turn the ashes of our lives into something beautiful. Isaiah 61:3

It is the only way we can stare into the empty tomb with joy, knowing that God redeemed Christ's sufferings, and in His rising from the dead, we have a risen Savior to walk with us through ours.

"I love doing preposterous things," he (the Shepherd) replied.  "Why, I don't know anything more exhilarating and delightful than turning weakness into strength, and fear into faith, and that which has been marred into perfection.  If there is one thing more than another which I should enjoy doing at this moment it is . . . transforming things."  (Hurnard, pg. 109)

Let us bend our knees at the foot of our mountain, at the foot of the cross, and drop our wills and surrender to the transforming work He so desires to do in our lives.

"But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord."  2 Corinthians 3:18

Linking with:
<![CDATA[Cleansing the Temple]]>Tue, 05 Mar 2013 09:41:05 GMThttp://inkingtheheart.weebly.com/lenten-reflections/cleansing-the-templePicture
"Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying 
and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers 
and the benches of those selling doves. 'It is written,' he said to them, 'My
house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.'"  Matthew 21:12-13

Cleansing the temple
Those words have been on repeat in my mind for a week now.  I keep praying and asking, "What does this mean?.  What am I supposed to say about this? What is it You want to say, Lord?"

Last week I had one of those days where I had so much to do, I had to write out my agenda in order to focus on any one thing.  After I wrote it out, I prayed over it. 

"Okay Lord, here is my agenda for the day.  Feel free to change it." 

Laundry was one of those things on my agenda.

In my daughter's room, I opened up a drawer to put some folded laundry away.  The inside was a mess!  Nothing was folded!  Pajamas were mixed with school clothes!  Some were dirty and everything was wrinkly.

I took two drawers completely out of the dresser and dumped them onto her bed.  I had a huge pile to sort through!

This was not on the agenda.

I am thinking that maybe Jesus had a different agenda the day He went into the temple to worship and found it turned into a marketplace. 

Maybe He went into the temple to offer some teaching to those who had ears to hear.  Or maybe He went in to worship and pray to His Father.

Whatever His one thing was, what He found inside caused Him to overturn tables, hinder the money exchanges and express His dissatisfaction of the activities. 

First Corinthians 3:16 says, "Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in your midst?"

If our bodies are God's temples, then I think maybe this lenten season is a good time to assess the activities going on within us.

As I sorted through the pile of clothing, I made smaller piles.  Some items went into the dirty laundry pile to be cleaned  Some things that were stained or torn were discarded.  A few things were not necessary anymore because they didn't fit and were put someplace else.  And the things that belonged were folded neatly and put back.

Sometimes our lives get messy too.  We get overwhelmed with the activities of the day.  Or the storms of the season beat the joy right out of our hearts.  Sometimes regrets block the free flow of the rivers of grace.  Maybe the pain of the past keeps our eyes shut so tight we can't see Jesus beside us. 

Whatever the mess is, some spring cleaning never hurts.

What activities really aren't necessary for today?  I didn't get to a few things on my agenda that day because the Lord had something else in mind.  And it was okay!

Romans 12:12 says,
"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer."  We know that storms eventually subside, the sun always shines again, and the rain is necessary for new growth.  In the storm of today, what is the one thing Jesus would like to come in and do?  Give you joy in your child's laughter?  Offer hope through answered prayer?  Give you strength to get through one more day?  Or would He have you pray instead of react in a particular situation? 

Shame and guilt too often turn into boulders that dam up God's grace. 
But the Lord says in Isaiah 43:18-19, "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?"  Receive that word!  And let the rivers of grace flow. 

What is robbing you of Jesus' presence today?  Get rid of them and focus on the one thing that will lead you toward prayer, worship, or a lesson Jesus longs to teach you.

"One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple."  Psalm 27:4

That is my one thing, my temple cleansing.  To abide with the Lord and see beauty in the messes of life through His perspective.   

<![CDATA[When We Weep like Jesus Weeps]]>Tue, 26 Feb 2013 18:38:08 GMThttp://inkingtheheart.weebly.com/lenten-reflections/when-we-weep-like-jesus-weeps
I am following Jesus' footsteps this Lent.  Will you follow with me?  When He sets His face toward Jerusalem, toward death, shall we have the courage to go there too?  Together?  He set His face in that direction for me.  For you, too.

And I want to know why.

I want to understand the heart of this Savior that would knowingly die on those cross beams of wood.

The perfect lamb, sinless man who endured such suffering.

Such a sacrifice of passion fills my soul with a passion too.  Passion to serve as He served.  Passion to love as He loved.  Passion to weep for the things that made Him weep.

"Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it saying, "If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace!  But now they are hidden from your eyes."  Luke 19:41-42

Jesus knew destruction was coming.  He knew their enemy would have victory. He knew the children would die. He knew the stones would crumble around and beneath them. He knew they would forsake the only One who could bring true peace.

When we were born, He knew our futures too.  

And I wonder if He wept.

I wonder if He wept knowing that our parents would divorce.  Or our spouse would leave us.  Or if He wept because He knew we would fall into drug or alcohol or food or pornography addictions.  Did He weep knowing we would give our hearts and bodies away too soon and live life under a blanket of shame? Did He weep knowing that our children would be with Him before we were ready to give them up through miscarriage or premature death?  Or that our innocence would be taken from us?  Maybe He wept because He knew we would make decisions that would level our lives leaving them barren, fruitless, lonely and empty, void of the peace that He came to bring.

He wept for what was to come.  We weep for what has already come to pass.  

And I believe that as we weep for our losses, pain, hurts, disappointments, fears, failures, betrayals, shattered expectations, unwanted diagnoses, and the devastating consequences of our sins, He weeps with us.  

He is the Comforter.

He holds our raw hearts in His hands.

He is the Healer.

After He comforts and heals, and the peace comes, when our hearts are held safe in His hands, He allows us to touch His heart. 

When we touch the heart of God together we weep.  We weep for the things that break His heart. 
Last week I had a student cloaked in anger who spewed defiance and rebellion.  She hid behind sarcasm and apathy.  She had a cross cut into her forearm 

And she was beautiful . . . and broken.  The pain she inflicted upon herself masked the pain within, but the exterior scars exposed all.

I don't know her story, but God does.  Jesus weeps for her brokenness.  And having touched the heart of God through my own healing, my heart, too, weeps for her. 

Lent brings us closer to the heart of God.  Through repentance, a contrite heart, godly sorrow and holy mourning weeping may come.  But so does comfort and healing. 

With courage let us wear the footwear of the gospel of peace, following Jesus' footsteps even if it leads us into the darkness of our pain or the pain of someone else.  Let us weep a sacrifice of tears knowing that our tears mixed with His, heal our hearts and bring us closer to His heart where the peace of Christ rests.  In that comfort and during the healing, we will find strength to rejoice in His goodness and the courage to praise Him, despite the pain, for His faithfulness.

We know the end of the story.  The stone has been rolled away.  The Prince of Peace is not hidden from our eyes or hearts.  "Weeping may remain for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning." Psalm 30:5

So let us weep for our brokenness and the brokenness of others with the hope of the season, knowing that the Prince of Peace has come to heal the brokenhearted, set the captives free, comfort those who mourn and turn our ashes into beauty.

Linking with:

]]><![CDATA[Giving Up the Empty]]>Wed, 20 Feb 2013 21:13:26 GMThttp://inkingtheheart.weebly.com/lenten-reflections/giving-up-the-empty
God answered my prayers this morning!  He gave me a rubber ducky with big lips and crazy hair.  This wasn't what I prayed for, but this was how He answered.

This morning I read Psalm 31.  I underlined the words, I related to David's distress (v. 12), I praised Him for His goodness (v. 19), I claimed His promise that He would strengthen my heart (v. 24), and I circled one sentence:

"Make Your face shine upon Your servant" Psalm 31: 16

And this is what I got. . . a happy, yellow rubber ducky with lips reflecting a sunrise (or sunset) and hair that screams for some Peace of Christ hair gel that tames the craziness!

You see, earlier those feelings of inadequacy started to rise up again.

I read a blog written by Ann Voskamp.  She wrote:
a book that has me counting one, two, three thousand gifts in my own thankful journal.

She is in Haiti right now with her entire family on a missions trip.  The pictures are beautiful.  The people are beautiful.  The purpose is beautiful.

My response was not.

My family will never have enough money to do something like that.  I will never have an opportunity to serve and make such a difference.

And the pity party began.

Then I remembered that sitting on my kitchen counter was an unopened letter from my own sponsored child from Haiti.  It lay unopened because I felt too ashamed to open it.

This was his second letter. . . I never even responded to the first one..

Christmas came and went and I never sent the suggested extra monetary gift that Compassion encourages sponsors to do as a gift the sponsored child's family.

Feelings of inadequacy as a sponsor added another layer.

But I opened the letter.  And he drew me a picture and he got chickens for Christmas.  And this time I will write back.
This is Ralph.  He likes singing, and soccer.  And his favorite chore is carrying water.

Maybe someday we will meet and maybe not.

But in the meantime I prayed that God would get my feet out of my house today with eyes and hands open to see opportunities to serve.  To meet someone else's needs other than my own.  To have the courtesy before the Lord to be a Jesus with skin on to someone.  

"Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give You a drink?  When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?'  And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'"
Matthew 25: 37-40

I didn't have to go far.  I looked out my kitchen window at a familiar sight, a homeless couple digging through my recycling for bottles and cans.

I'll tell you a secret:  I don't share my recycling.  I keep them shut up in the garage for when my kids and I need extra money for something fun.

But I prayed for eyes and hands to be opened to see opportunities to serve and the Lord said instead, "Open your garage." 

So I did, and they helped themselves.  They refused the food (I offered them hot soup), all they wanted were the empty plastic bottles.  

And the man reached in his pocket and pulled out the rubber ducky and said, "Give this to the kids."

It was "the something fun".  

In giving up all the empties I gave up some more of my empty and was filled.  Not with self-righteousness for doing good or for a sense of self-satisfaction for blessing someone, but with joy and peace knowing that God hears me when I pray.

I doubt I am the only one who has had a Lenten pity party.  This dying to those craving of the flesh and the inward searching of our own darkened hearts can be downright discouraging and bring to light those feelings of inadequacy or whatever else it may be for you.  

Psalm 31 was written by David during one of his darkest times.  

But he prayed that the Lord would SHINE upon him, His servant.

That is how the Lord works!  When we choose to turn our faces toward Christ and become His servants in the midst of our darkest moments, our pity parties, or feelings of inadequacy, His joy and peace and favor and love  shine down upon us filling, the emptiness with the light of Christ.  

May the Lord answer your prayers today in whatever way He sees fit.  And may your eyes, hands, ears, hearts, or even garages be open to be filled with the light of His glory.  Amen

<![CDATA[Moving Towards Death]]>Sat, 16 Feb 2013 17:02:33 GMThttp://inkingtheheart.weebly.com/lenten-reflections/moving-towards-deathIntroduction:  Throughout Lent last year I studied the last week of Jesus' ministry here on earth.  I am revisiting these scripture passages and my own notes.  As often as possible, with the goal of at least twice a week, I hope to formulate my reflections in a post.  So far, Lent has not been easy, but I find encouragement through reading my bible and having time alone with God each day.  I pray that you find alone time with Him, too, and are encouraged by my personal reflections.  Thank you for joining me!

These reflections will replace my Saturday Morning cartoons until Lent is over.
Well, not exactly, we had waffles instead, with bacon, sausage, and fresh, sliced pineapple!  But dinner was rushed.  Shrove Tuesday service was at 5:30 and I fully intended on making the pancakes when we got home.  It didn't happen!  Busyness happened instead:  a minor crisis, bedtime, homework, birthday acknowledgements (that was the best we could do for my husband this year) and a sink full of dishes.

The service was historical and worshipful.  My pastor did an excellent job of explaining the meaning behind this Lenten practice as a time of confession before the season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday.  During worship I remember singing a song that had to do the Lord calling us His beloved.  

And I raised my hands high thinking that if I raised them high enough I might actually feel like His beloved.  

I raised them in faith knowing that I am His.

I raised arms wide hoping to be received as His beloved and desiring to be loved.

But the knowing wasn't enough and I couldn't feel through that clamshell heart of mine!  

A clamshell heart is a heart in self-protection mode.  Inside it holds tight to offenses, insecurities and fears.  Outside it repels love, compliments, peace and truth.  

I remember praying for peace this week.  And it came for the moment.

I remember the compliments and those voices in my head that responded with, "whatever."  

I remember the insecurities.  I could almost see them, that is how real they were.

I remember the love . . . that I rejected.

I remember the offenses that I made up in my head.  They marched in so easily but didn't depart without a war.

And I remember the Truth that I read:  "Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that he steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem."  Luke 9:51

Jesus set out toward Jerusalem, toward death. 

Towards a city that would someday be destroyed.

Towards the city where He would face His own death.

And that is what Lent is: setting our face in a new direction.  A direction that leads to death of all that gets in the way of intimacy with Christ.  

I wish I could say, "I give up fear.  Insecurity. Offenses."  And really have it be that easy.  

But it isn't that easy.  

So I set my face toward my Jerusalem, my death. Death of fear (again), death of offenses (again) and death of insecurity (again).  

This week I am reminded of the bondage sin has on me.  I am reminded of my weakness in self-protection.  I am reminded that those things that are held so tightly in my clamshell heart lead to emptiness, lead to death of love received and death to the ability to give love fully.

And the emptiness within needs to die so life and joy and peace and love can abide.

As I look inward and see darkness I also look upward and see light.  I set my face on that Light, Jesus, who alone has the power to break the bondage of fear, insecurity, and offenses.

Steadfastly, I too fix my gaze in one direction A direction that leads to my own death to self, but ultimately leads to a life of joy, fully rejoicing in His death and resurrection with a heart prepared to receive life raised from the dead.

In this Lenten season my heart needs softening, cleansing, and the peace of Christ.  Doesn't yours too?  Let us all set our sights on death, and give up those things that create those dead places within, by setting our faces toward the one who gave His life so we might live.