The Nighttime Shelf

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When my daughters were young I used to have the privilege of tucking them safely into their beds each night. Bedtime stories and prayers, — special moments for this mom’s heart. It was during this time that they would share with me what was troubling them. Tired from the day’s demands, I listened intently to the cries of their hearts, and then encouraged them to take their cares and lay them on the “nighttime shelf.”

The nighttime shelf was a safe place. Even a bit magical. While it’s only visible with the eyes of your imagination, — I assure you it’s very real. Sturdy and steady, and always up for the job, of holding what troubled one’s tender heart at night. In fact, it seemed to take special delight in helping my girl’s unload their burdens. Allowing them to lay aside what troubled them — and rest….

The beauty of the nighttime shelf is that most always, when morning came, the worries from the night before were no longer there. On the occasion that the troubles were still sitting upon the shelf, they had magically become smaller and less troubling.

The nighttime shelf has weathered the storms of life and come out the other side with little to no scars. It remains steady, strong, and able to shelve the weightiest of concerns. It’s never been intimidated or alarmed in any fashion. In fact, I’m convinced it’s made of an indestructible substance.

While my children are now grown, and I no longer tuck them into their beds at night, — I do however continue to cover them with my prayers. As for the nighttime shelf, it remains a constant and is ever ready to shelve any care we give it.

I’m reminded of a story Corrie Ten Boom shares in her book The Hiding Place –

“He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his trasveling case off the floor and set it on the floor. Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?” he said. I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning.
It’s too heavy,” I said. Yes,” he said, “and it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It’s the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger, you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.”

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I take comfort in knowing my heavenly Father understands the weight my shoulders can bear in the torrents of life. He is my nighttime shelf.

 

 

Serenity Prayer

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God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Amen.
The serenity prayer was written by the American theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr (1892 – 1971), an American theologian.

The truths in the serenity prayer are as applicable today as they were when it was written. In a world filled to the brim with uncertainty; God’s grace and serenity are as essential as the air we breathe.

Serenity, courage, and wisdom.

Serenity — calm, untroubled, no worries, without stress, or turbulence.

Courage — the ability and grace to face danger, difficulty, uncertainty, or pain, without drowning or being overcome by fear, or being detoured from a chosen course of action.

Wisdom — the ability to make sensible decisions and judgments based on personal knowledge and experience.

Shame’s Seduction

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Shame. The word alone makes me want to inhale deeply, before preparing myself for confrontation. The fallacy is, that shame comes in like a thick fog — daring you to defy it, to confront it, — while taunting you with the notion that you are worthless, and no match for its power.

The serpent was clever, more clever than any wild animal God had made. He spoke to the Woman: “Do I understand that God told you not to eat from any tree in the garden?” – Genesis 3:1 the Message

Since the dawning of time, shame has tragically makes it’s abode in the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. Once its venom enters the victim’s life blood, it takes up residence, even being passed on from one generation to the next.  A skilled master of disguise. He greets his targets in a variety of different forms. Even those who don’t believe he exists. In his ever cunning way he’ll convince his prey that he is holy, just, and righteous, — one’s lot in life, and even a birthright. It’s sufferers having lived with it for so long, are often unaware of its toxicity spreading throughout their soul.

13 “The serpent seduced me,” she said, “and I ate.” Genesis 3:13 the Message

Shame has exercised and honed his seductive skills to near perfection — if that were possible.

21 God made leather clothing for Adam and his wife and dressed them. Genesis 3:21 the Message

Thankfully, shame underestimated its greatest opponent — the King. As He did in the Garden of Eden, — so He has done to this day. With His very own hands, He’s crafted new clothing for us to wear. No two are alike. Once this clothing is embraced it carries with it the antidote to disarm shame at every level. Shame actually shrinks away from the King and His grace woven clothing.

The LORD says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. Psalm 91”14 NLT

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Immanuel ~ God With US

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photo credit – The Nativity Story

The Birth of Jesus

The birth of Jesus took place like this. his mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. Before they came to the marriage bed, Joseph discovered she was pregnant. (It was by the Holy Spirit, but he didn’t know that.) Joseph, changrined but noble, determined to take care of things quietly so Mary would not be disgraced. – Matthew 1:18-19 The Message

Have you suffered under the ruthless hands of shame? Maybe you’ve had the weighty shadow of shame cast upon you by a society, or a people group, — or those you love? Perhaps you’ve stood strong under the weight of shame for simply saying “yes” to God’s will in your life. Maybe our broken world gifted you with shame before birth? Shame comes in all kinds of packages.

Mary was as human as you and me. While she knew whose child she carried inside her chosen body — she was also confronted with the shame of her culture. I imagine it would have been difficult not to receive shame projected upon her as Joseph wrestled with the news of her pregnancy. Was her integrity questioned? Was she accused unfairly? Did she feel rejection from the one who held her future in his hands? Did she feel isolated, abandoned, — alone? Did she suffer heart ache?  

Shame is easily handed off — even, when it’s unjust, cruel, and unwarranted.

Take heart. God sent his very own messenger, the angel Gabriel to rescue Mary. He loves you none the less. He will rescue you too. Rest assured in His plan for you. Even if you can’t see it. Keep your eyes on the end of the day — His purpose, His plans, His way, His great big love for you.

He is your Immanuel — God with you!

Refuse shame at every port of entry. It does not belong to you. Jesus took all shame upon Himself. All shame. It is not yours.

Rest, even if misunderstood. Immanuel, God with us, understands you well.

I believe you make His heart smile every time He thinks of you.

“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.” Matthew 1:23 NLT

The entire nativity story was written for you. Wrapped in every written word is a gift of peace. One sent to a broken and hurting world. It’s the good news!

 

 

The Lost Son

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Lovers of prodigals, — you never walk alone.

     The man did as he had so many mornings, — stealing away to a quiet place, outside the walls of his home. He slowly made his way to a table and chairs positioned in a shady corner of his courtyard. Here he found one of his favorite spots. The morning breeze always carried with it the air of hope. It was in the solace of this place he often began his day. Something about this hour, and the beauty of his surroundings, served as a perfect beginning to each day. It was his private space — a serene place. It was here that he often came to make peace with the emotions, and realities, that fought for dominion of his soul.  A space he had carved out for personal reflection and quite trust. Here he gave himself permission to slowly sip and enjoy a cup of tea. Alone with his thoughts — or so he thought. The truth is he was never truly alone. Nothing illustrated this more than the sounds of hawkers selling their wares in the streets, and the occasional braying of donkeys. The village was awake, and alive, — and a new day had begun. His village not unlike the others in the Middle East woke with the sounds of life. 

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Rembrandts rendition of the return of the prodigal son.

     His thoughts wandered as he listened to the voices of children playing in the streets. The sounds of their boisterous and carefree moments brought him both joy and pain. He recalled the days when it was the voices of his children that could be heard outside the walls of their home.  Those were good days. He longed to hear their voices. He allowed himself a few brief moments to silently acknowledge to himself, and his God, — the pain he valiantly carried, but, only for a moment. His accute and chronic pain, forced him to not linger long in this area of his heart — he only allowed himself brief periods of time in this place.  He feared the power of the pain that lay just beneath the surface of his soul; it’s implications far too grave.      

     This man had never imagined he would be in this place. He could not tell you how many sleepless nights had passed as he searched for answers.  What had they done wrong? Worse was the moments, hours, and days, when they longed to know where their son was. Wrestling with his imagination was exhausting. Was he safe? Was he on the street? Was he alive? He carried a chronic heartache with him daily. It is in those times that he dare not even verbalize the scenes, and scenarios, that plagued his mind. He would wish this journey on not another soul.  

     He had certainly heard from many solicited and unsolicited voices as he traveled this road of pain. He was not ignorant to the murmurs spoken both privately and publicly. He heard the whispers and was aware of the unspoken opinions displayed in their eyes. He heard their questions. He too had pondered many of them himself.  Gossip, rumors, and suspicions were not unnoticed. Their residue — an undeniable presence they would learn to live with. They had however, learned to walk through the thick fog of shame with strength, and dignity.   

     The man fully understood the ramifications of a son’s actions in a culture based on honor and shame. He knew his son’s choices would surely blanket his house with shame for many years to come. Regardless, he never wavered in his extravagant love for his son. A flame of love and hope burned eternal within his heart — in the very place that only his son could fill.  

     He knew his son was what some term a “strong willed” child. He recalled the day of his son’s birth. A son brought such honor to his home. He had big dreams for this child of his. If he were honest with himself — he still did.  

     As he allowed himself to be carried away with a multitude of memories he was unaware of those who surrounded him — yet were unseen. The King had given strict orders to those who were assigned to protect this man’s household. The King and His Son looked upon the man and his family with extravagant love. The Son could often be heard talking to the Father on behalf of their beloved sons. They made sure that the man had ample strength to carry him moment by moment. You see the King understood with vivid clarity the weight of this pain residing in the heart of the man. In fact the King was intimately acquainted with this kind of loss. This is why He never allowed him to walk alone.

Lover of prodigal sons and daughters — you are not alone. There is hope. The end of the story has yet to be written.

22-24 “But the father wasn’t listening. He was calling to the servants, ‘Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We’re going to feast! We’re going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!’ And they began to have a wonderful time. Luke 15:22 – 27

 

Why I Love Prodigals

Do you know what I love about prodigals? When they find the Father waiting with open arms — they run right into them. They find it hard to resist, or reject, such love. They quickly recognize the reflection of pure adoration in their Father’s eyes — one without even a hint, of shame or disdain. Their Father isn’t intimidated by the stench of sin on their clothing. His shameless embrace aids in ridding them of the weighty clothing they have become accustomed to. The real acceptance is received, and exchanged, for a life that will never be the same.

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Rembrandts rendition of the return of the prodigal son.

Do you know what I love about prodigals? When they return broken and scarred from the torrents of life — they are rebuilt with authenticity. They will not be comfortable in the religious confines of man-made boxes. They’ve tasted death and life — counterfeits will never suffice. They are easily identified! They are the real deal.

Do you know what I love about prodigals? I love how Jesus loves them. I love how Jesus loves those who love them too.

The Story of the Lost Sheep

15 1-3 By this time a lot of men and women of doubtful reputation were hanging around Jesus, listening intently. The Pharisees and religion scholars were not pleased, not at all pleased. They growled, “He takes in sinners and eats meals with them, treating them like old friends.” Their grumbling triggered this story.

4-7 “Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’ Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue. Luke 15:1 – 7 The Message

 

 

Beginning A New Chapter

It is this time of the year that I begin to look back over the past year and ever so gently release my hold on it. To slowly process the journey of yesterday, and embrace my story. Reviewing each chapter and acknowledging the right of the author to pen them exactly as He chose. Re-living for a moment the storms forever etched in my heart — and seeing God’s thumb print on them all.  Recalling every rocky road, uncertain path, deep valley, and mountain top written into my storyline — with humility and awe. DSCN4712 (2)
 There are chapters in last year’s story I savor, and others I gently close. Some were written through the blur of tears, and pain — but, never without a purpose; that only the author of my story may fully understand. Other chapters filled with joy and laughter and laced with love. I am grateful for the lessons of yesterday and the moral of the story — sometimes found by reading between the lines.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! It is amazing to think about. Your workmanship is marvelous—and how well I know it. Psalm 139:14 NLT
As I release yesterday, I am met with rest for today, and impossible dreams for tomorrow. It is then that I begin to step into the storyline prepared for me in this coming year.
One of walking barefoot along the shores of a beautifully calm ocean. As cool and refreshing waters from the ocean tides gently wash across my feet; taking with them the prints left in the sand behind me. Leaving me surrounded by steady waters, and unmarked sands. Looking ahead and walking ever so closely to the shoreline — I am met with constant rhythms of cleansing waters — prepared for me. In front of me I can see that the unmarked sands and land ahead is limitless and waiting for me to step into it.
“Dreams are not fulfilled by the sensible. True passion loves the impossible” – Graham Cooke
I am thankful that God is not intimidated by my yesterdays. That I can rest knowing He is well aware of my tomorrows, and present in my today. I look forward to starting a new chapter in 2016
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An Object of His Desire

The sun shone brightly in the morning sky, gently warming the desert floor beneath. Pleasant sounds, and sights, of vibrant life blanketed the surroundings and the sky above. A tranquil and inviting peace permeated all of creation. It was in this place, and at this time, that the King had chosen to walk. The gentle ocean breeze blew just enough, to brush the hem of his garment across his ankles. Each time he took a step, the dust and sand from the ground lightly covered the straps of his sandals. His stride was strong, steady, and purposed.

Silence filled the air as every living thing watched, and waited, with great expectation; looking for the object of His desire. The King’s eyes filled with a reflection of His love. Acceptance and extravagant love shaped his smile. He had come to this place, at this time, to retrieve His work of art —His masterpiece, handcrafted by the Master Potter.img_20150317_191205270

He knew precisely where to retrieve what He had come for. He slowed His step and gently bent down to look upon it. There, buried beneath the dirt and sand, lay a vase almost completely covered. Others had walked this very same path and passed this piece of clay many times before — yet never saw it. Some had unknowingly walked across the top of it. This earthen vessel had withstood the scorching temperatures of summer, and the bitter cold of winter. There were times when it was deemed flawed, of little use, and eventually discarded. None of those deterred the King from seeking His vessel of honor.

He knelt down and carefully unearthed this beautiful piece. One created by His very breath. Carefully He brushed the dirt that life had left behind from the object of His desire. His eyes filled with joy as He gazed upon the vase now held in His hands. He understood that the gradual shape of His masterpiece had happened over time, so subtly at times that the vase hadn’t fully understood the depths of its current state — but the Master did. That is why He came.

He had not only come to retrieve her, but to restore her. He wasn’t ashamed of her brokenness or frightened by her rough edges. He had set His love upon His beloved creation long before.

Now His love began a work of complete restoration. He began to repair her brokenness, smooth the rough spots, fill in the cracks, and restore her luster. He had not created her to be hidden beneath the dust of life, or fragile from the storms she had endured. To the contrary, His intention was to clothe her in extravagant love, and put her on display for all creation to see.

“Now listen, daughter, don’t miss a word; forget your country, put your home behind you. Be here — the King is wild for you. Since He’s your Lord, adore Him.  Psalm 45:10-11 The Message

A Coat Called Shame

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We as people have inherited a piece of deceptive clothing; one that has been handed down to us from one generation to the next. It has been around since the beginning of time. It comes in all shapes, and sizes, and knows no cultural boundaries. It can be received as early as conception, and birth, and is often handed to us along life’s journey. We accept it without question and wear it sometimes for a lifetime. We are told it fits us and we become very comfortable in it. This coat, or cloak, or covering is called shame.

In the book of Genesis we are told of how Adam and Eve reacted when they were aware of their nakedness – they were ashamed. Their first reaction was to find a cover to hide behind.

At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves. – Genesis 3:7

We may have been told we need to wear our coat of shame – because this is who we are. Maybe we have dictated this message to ourselves. Perhaps the world points to this clothing of shame and demands we keep it on. Whatever the reason, we become all too comfortable in it. Wherever it has come from, and no matter the size, or the length of time we have worn it – it is not ours. Contrary to what we have been told – it does not look good on us. It was not intended for us.

It was never God’s desire that Adam and Eve be introduced to shame. It is not His desire that we live clothed in it either. He has given us a much better garment – that of salvation, and joy!

Once shame has been worn for any length of time it may seem scary, or foreign to lay it down. It is worth the risk. You will have plenty of opportunities that will tempt you to pick up that familiar coat and wear it again – refuse.

I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Isaiah 61:10

 

Say A Prayer

~ Say a prayer ~

 Did you see the homeless girl you passed on your way into work today? She is someone’s daughter. The man you passed this morning, the one sitting outside in the rain – he’s someone’s brother.

The next time you see that homeless girl, boy, man, or women sitting along the road, or against a building, or in a park, or anywhere – say a prayer. Say a prayer for them, and say a prayer for those who love them.

You may look at them and see a drug addict – I see someone’s daughter, son, mother, father, brother, or sister. I see the sleepless nights and tear soaked pillows. I see loved ones suffering silently. I see those enslaved to addiction and mental illness who are dying yet are alive.

So the next time you see that young women obviously bound by addiction, or the man hopelessly homeless – say a prayer.

12 “If a man has a hundred sheep, and one wanders away and is lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others and go out into the hills to search for the lost one? 13 And if he finds it, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine others safe at home! 14 Just so, it is not my Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish. – Matthew 18:12-14