Stay with the Father

There is this phrase my roommate picked up while she was in Mozambique. “Shakababa.” It’s from the Makua language meaning, “Stay with the Father”, and lately I’ve been learning what that means.

Everyday we play the prodigal.

We leave the Father and try to write our own story. It’s not just an outward expression of sin and debauchery – it’s an inner choice that says, “I don’t want to be yours”. We usually don’t recognize it, but we do it all the time.

We resist the love of our Father, we run away, we fight for ourselves and we try to manipulate the very One who made us. In our defiant, independent, worlds we try to be our own kings and queens.

But if I don’t want to be a prodigal, then I have to take my place as a daughter and the only thing I get to do as a daughter is receive. Daughter’s don’t control. They don’t earn their inheritance–it’s given to them because of who they are. Daughters receive. That’s it. I have to humble my heart and let Him do it for me; I have to let Him give me everything.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

To inherit anything you have to be meek. You have to know that what you’re receiving comes from outside of you and anything you’ve done. It’s based on position – on relationship – and that’s why we have to stay with the Father.

James says that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Why? Because only the humble are willing to receive it.

Everyday we have to remind ourselves to come home.

I have to choose to stay with the Father. In meekness and humility I have to learn to receive. There must be a reunion, a “coming home” of sorts, where we return to the Father and stop living like orphans and prodigals. We have to put our hand back in His day after day, letting Him be the one in control.

That interaction is called ‘abiding’. That’s literally what it means to abide. It means to “live in”. So basically when Jesus said in John 15:9 “As the Father has loved me, so I love you. Abide in my love,” He was telling us one thing:

Stay with the Father.

Audacious Boldness

~ She breathed in deep, letting the oxygen that filled her lungs, remind her of someone greater, the giver of breath itself. There was a path behind her, rocky and steep, and more mountains to climb ahead, but for the moment she was free. At the edge, overlooking a vast expanse that brimmed with beauty, she’d never felt safer. There in that moment there was a deep release in her soul, a letting go (of sorts) that can’t really be explained in words. ~

Standing on a mountain is where we come alive. There’s something so raw, so freeing, in that place. It’s where we’re beautifully in over our heads. Like the feeling of being on the edge, nearly bursting from emotion, nearly falling, nearly letting go. It’s like something is breaking inside us, crumbling while our arms are stretched wide. We’re breathing in something wild and we almost feel…fearless.

I feel brave on those mountains. I know I’m small. For what is man that thou art mindful of him? I know I’m nothing. We are but a vapor. But, I know I’m His. Mountains remind me of that audacious boldness I can have when I come into the presence of God. Its that feeling of “I know I belong here”.

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess…Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:14, 16

I think back to moments when that verse felt so real. Approaching with confidence. The sun shinning down on my face, the wind blowing my hair, my heart beating from the climb–and peace filling my soul. I stand on those mountains and I KNOW. I know who God is and I know who I am. I have access to the Father (Eph. 2:18). You can’t help but worship in that place. It’s a sense of awe and reverence but with confidence. It’s the fear of the Lord, but worshiping Jesus in the beauty of holiness.

This is my attempt to describe the feeling I have when I stand on a mountain. It’s the best I could do. Audacious boldness.

The Revelation of Mountains

There’s moments in life that pictures just can’t capture. Sometimes we sit in awe, gazing, breathing in the majesty of what we’re beholding. Sometimes we try to memorize every detail, wishing the moment wouldn’t end.

For me, if it’s that beautiful, I cry; then I write. Whatever comes out is worship.

There was an evening last week that three of us sat on a hill, watching the sun set behind the mountains. To say it was stunning is not adequate. We watched in silence outside and then went to the prayer room with giant windows overlooking the same view. It was huge and empty except for three gazing hearts.

That evening, He played me a concert and I played Him one too. His was a symphony of colors, the sun fading behind the indigo mountains. Mine was stiff fingers, playing a melody that came from my heart. There were no words, just a song of simple worship.

It was mutual enjoyment. I felt the Lord’s joy in giving His gift, that magnificent display. I felt His joy too when I slowly began to play, my gift to Him ravished His heart just as much as His did mine. It was true worship welling up from my heart; worship that enjoys the creator while the creator enjoys His creation.

And eventually, from that place, came a few words.

“The mountains don’t move for anyone, but Jesus, they melt like wax before you.”

I felt it burning inside me. Those mountains stand tall and strong, they don’t sway in the wind or crumble under the weight of any man. But Jesus, the Word made flesh, the one upholding everything by the Word of His power is so glorious, so magnificent, that when He stands before them they melt like wax (Ps. 97:5).

The truth of who God is, is declared in every rock and tree. His beauty is all around us. I don’t know how people see things like that every day with not one thought of the master craftsman who made it. Paul said it well, the whole world is without excuse. God’s invisible attributes are clearly seen through creation. Clearly seen. (Rom. 1:20) This means that all of creation uniquely reveals something about God to us.

This is why I love the mountains. All I have to do is gaze and I learn something about God. I can’t help but worship Him there. So here it is, a few more phrases that burst out of my soul, the revelation of mountains:

Though the mountains depart and the hills be removed, yet your loving-kindness will never depart from me (Isa. 54:10).

You’re so much bigger than me. The mountains remind us that God is bigger and stronger than our current situation.

You’re a better artist than I’ll ever be. Every sunset is unique, every one is painted by his hand.

These great heights, they’re nothing compared to you. No matter how high a mountain stands, God sits above the circle of the earth, enthroned in power and glory.

The mountains don’t move for anyone, but Jesus, they melt like wax before you.

He Shines Brighter

pulpit rock

Pulpit Rock, Colorado Springs Colorado

(I went to Colorado over Spring break, so the next few posts are going to be written out of what I saw and learned about God while there. All you have to do is take one look at the mountains to learn something new about our Creator.)

It was midnight and 36 degrees out. There we were, Colorado air filling our gasping lungs, as we made a not-so-simple climb up Pulpit Rock. We kept going despite that we couldn’t really see the next step in front of us. Personally, my legs were burning just as much as my lungs (this was the second mountain to climb that day) and I was just praying I wouldn’t trip over a rock on the way up.

It was worth the climb. Once at the top we could see the city lights for miles. There was a river of yellow, orange, green, and red, all flooding the night. As far as I could look I could see lights. We sat at the top, silent and completely mesmerized as we stared over the city.

Then I looked up.

It was a clear night and to say the stars were stunning is not enough. Sure, the landscape out before us seemed brighter, but those orbs of burning gas, millions of light years away, weren’t the least bit intimidated by their competition. Did you know that the Milky Way contains something around 400 billion stars? There’s also 170 billion galaxies that we can observe, each with their own billions of stars in them. That’s more than all the grains of sand from every beach and desert on earth. It’s crazy.

The city that so caught our attention was built by man — and it took years. Those billions upon billions of stars were spoken into existence by God Himself…and it took less than a day.

~

I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man. . .His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.” Revelation 1:12-16

Man can build his cities and shine his lights, filling the night with an artificial brilliance, but Jesus, none can ever outshine you.

“Hungry”

Two years ago I had an experience that has changed the way I see the human on the side of the road holding a sign that says, “Hungry”. I sat in the car, with my groceries in my lap and passed by a woman holding that little sign. I knew right then I was supposed to give her some of what I had but I came up with a few good excuses and my roommate and I drove on by. That night my heart was burdened, I felt so convicted, and I spent the next few hours looking up every verse I could find about giving to the poor. This one struck me pretty hard,

If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:17-18).

I was nearly dumbfounded. If you withhold your compassion and your possessions from your brothers and sisters then the love of God is not in you?? There I was, desperate to be found abiding in the love of God (John 15:9) and now I found out that this meant giving to those in need. There’s obviously tons of more verses on the subject, but I think the one that so clearly portrays the Lord’s heart is Isaiah 58:6-8,

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness[a] will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.”

That night I made a promise to the Lord, one that I have need His grace to keep. I told Him that whenever I saw someone in need and I had something to give, I would give it. It’s been a journey walking this out and I certainly haven’t done it perfectly. Sometimes all I had to give was an orange, but I believe it is something. The reason I’m writing about this is not to earn your admiration, it’s actually to call you to do this as well, and I’ll tell you why. It’s not just because the Bible tells us to, though that ought to be sufficient, the reason is that in the last few weeks I’ve noticed something different in my heart. Something’s changing (and I want you to experience it for yourself). You can only brush hands with the broken, look into the eyes of the lost, and share your food with the starving for so long before something in your heart changes. It’s a slow process, but eventually handing them a bag of food while you’re sitting at a stop light won’t be enough. There’s stories behind those sad eyes. There’s a name behind the cardboard sign. Your heart will start breaking and the question, “Lord, what else is it that I can do?” will begin forming. I haven’t got that answer yet, but I think it’s a beautiful thing to be drawn into the heart of the God of compassion, learning His thoughts and emotions for the people you’re touching–though only for a moment. It’s such a beautiful place to be, knowing the emotions in your heart weren’t there a few months ago, that this new strange thing called compassion is now in you as a gift to be given to others. It’s a simple charge I give you. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars every month, but you might have to go out of your way sometimes. You don’t have to put yourself in dangerous situations, but you will have to get used to being pushed out of your comfort zone every once in awhile. All it really takes is a heart that’s available. It won’t look the same every time and you won’t always have something to give, but when you do, don’t let the enemy steal your treasures in heaven by talking you out of it. 19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

Learning to Play Again

My fingers are stiff, they don’t know what they’re doing. I am rewiring the connections in my brain with the ends of my fingertips. Working all my muscles and straining my memory–painfully slow.

Its arduous and rather unrewarding at first. But there can be no shortcuts. The foundation is the most important part of a house. If there’s one thing I’m learning its that all the good things come slow and with some pain, because hidden underneath the decision to say yes again and again is real desire. You know, people never quit at something they really want. Not if they want it enough, that is.

Those stiff fingers, not-so-deftly moving, never really with precision, are teaching me something. They’re teaching me patience. And the joy of persistence. And the little old saying, “slow and steady wins the race”. And the hope of words like “someday” and “breakthrough”.

cropped-photo1.jpgThis does not come naturally, nor has it ever really been a dream that I’ve held onto. I almost laugh when I look at the mountain ahead that I must climb. I’m ill suited for this journey, not prepared in the slightest. The amount I know versus the amount that still lies untouched, uncharted is overwhelming.

It’s absurd, nearly, and that’s why it’s a challenge. Its not something I have to do, which is why it’s a joyful decision to make. It’s mine. I don’t have to do this, and it’s my freedom to choose. So I get to.

He’s going to use this. He’s going to use this to teach me about himself. For this task I need humility; I need the ability to ask for help. For this I need a teacher and I need to be willing to learn. For this I need divine grace, upon which I must be dependent, for anything done in my own strength is worthless.

I really can’t do this one. My will is gonna give out on me eventually. But I hear his invitation, it’s why this is the only thing I haven’t given up on yet.

He’s going to teach me patience and endurance. He’s going to teach me how to dialogue with him in the process. He’s going tear out my pride, let all the selfish things die, and then resurrect me. All the ‘greats’ had to take a road like this. The saints all started somewhere. Maybe this is mine. Maybe I’m a masterpiece in the making and I don’t yet know what form I’m taking.

Of this I’m sure, it will take years. Are these simple fingers still willing?

I’m learning to play again.

Only Victors Feast

I’m sure you can agree, sometimes trusting God is hard. When there’s mountains before us (those big challenges we face), its easy to question the goodness of the Lord. We think, “Why would He lead me THIS way? Doesn’t He know I’m terrified?”

Something I learned this week is how much we truly can trust God’s leadership. It was simple really. I was sitting in my car in the driveway with the windows down; the little bit of sunshine and the stillness of the moment was too good to pass up. I realized that, despite a little nervousness at the obstacle ahead of me, I wasn’t afraid. Not like I used to be when facing similar things in the past. I whispered to Him, “I really can trust your love“.

Over months and years we build a history with the Lord. Well actually, He builds a history with us. Despite that He doesn’t have to prove Himself to us, He does time and time again. Day by day He proves that His love really is good, that His motives and intentions are pure and that He can be trusted.

Here’s just one example of this.  While sitting there in the car I was listening to a song by Loud Harp, called “Steadfast Love”. One lyric, from a Psalm I’m sure most of you know, stuck out. “You prepare for me a table, in the presence of my enemies.”

It struck me that God doesn’t prepare a table for us in the presence of our friends. Its our enemies we sit before, whether they be people, situations or emotions. In our lives we face giants of difficulty and pain, like our very own Goliath, and we ask, “Why God? Why would you put me up against this enemy?“. But do you want to know the reality of the matter?

Only victors feast.

If God has prepared a table for YOU in front of your enemies, then you already have the victory. Only victors feast. Like me, your enemies might be called, “past failure”, “inadequacy”, and “fear”. You might be up against these giants (and others) but the ultimate statement of victory is to feast before them. God has prepared the table, He has spread the feast, you’ve been invited not just into a battle but into a victory.

This means that just because you’re standing before Goliath, God hasn’t steered you wrong. You might be thinking He’s crazy, that He doesn’t know what He’s doing, or that He really isn’t trustworthy. But only victors feast. You are right where you’re supposed to be, even if its difficult. No its not comfortable, but comfort is not where the feast has been laid. In the presence of your enemies God has secured the victory and He will receive all glory from as you rise above and overcome because of His blood.

Let that be your hope and strength today. The end of the story is written, the victory is secure, you ARE going to make it.