My God Is for Me

It was there in Psalms yesterday, right when I needed to read it, on a morning when I felt pressed down by a secret, invisible weight that threatened to flatten me.

This I know, that God is for me.

Do I know this as David did? I wonder. David didn’t pen those words while in his palace, king of all he surveyed. He wrote them right after he had been seized by the Philistines, long-time enemies of his people.

David cried out to God in desperation, for his life was in danger. He was hated, pursued, attacked, trampled, oppressed. Yet even in his fear for his life, David chose trust. He chose to believe in God’s faithfulness to all His promises.

Psalm 56 shows a constant contrast between the apparent hopelessness of David’s situation and his unwavering faith in the reality of who God is.

My enemies trample on me all day long,
    for many attack me proudly.
When I am afraid,
    I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
    in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
    What can flesh do to me?

In the midst of trial, David has the audacity to praise— to praise the word of the Lord, all God’s promises to David. Those promises– that David would be king of Israel, that God would always be with him– must have seemed pretty tenuous as he waited in captivity among the Philistines. But David refused to give into doubt and fear. He knew that no harm could come to him, because his God was trustworthy.

Beyond that, David believed that God cared for him– cared for every tear, every sleepless night. He believed that God would answer his prayers and show him His rich grace and mercy.

You have kept count of my tossings;
    put my tears in your bottle.
    Are they not in your book?
Then my enemies will turn back
    in the day when I call.
    This I know, that God is for me.

This faith of David’s in spite of his circumstances, in spite of the appearance of hopelessness, in spite of his feelings of abandonment and loneliness in the midst of his enemies, this is an audacious, wild faith. This is the faith I am called to practice– a faith that praises God for the deliverance that hasn’t even come yet, because it believes so very strongly that it will come because God has promised it.

I will render thank offerings to you.
For you have delivered my soul from death,
    yes, my feet from falling,
that I may walk before God
    in the light of life.

David was just so sure that God was for him. He trusted the word of the Lord to him. He refused to look at his circumstances as a hindrance to God’s ability to keep His promises.

And what has God promised me?

Abundant life–

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Spiritual victory–

In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

The unceasing presence of Christ–

I am with you always, to the end of the age.


[I pray that you may know] what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead.

Overflowing grace–

For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

Access to God as a beloved child–

And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

Welcome before God’s throne in times of need–

 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

A God with a plan–

And we know that for those who love God all things work togetherforgood, for those who are called according to his purpose.

and the ability to make it happen–

He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

This is just skimming the surface of the rich inheritance I am promised as a child of God. And when I consider this, when I determine to praise His Word as David did, to trust God and not fear, then I am living in faith that My God is for me.

And I can rejoice in trials, knowing that God is going to do something amazing in them.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Steadfastness. Maturity. Sufficiency. All found in trials and troubles. And through it all, the unfailing love of my God.

This I know: That my God is for me.



I have been forgiven.

As if it weren’t amazing enough that the magnificent, glorious, eternal, almighty God of the whole universe sees me in all my insignificance, that same God has compassion on me.

He doesn’t just see me; He loves me. He sets His favor on me. He does whatever it takes to draw me in.

I taught it to the children at church last night– Romans 3:23. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. I asked them who all meant, if that included me, if it included them. They tried to jump up and touch the ceiling, fell far short. They know what it is to fall short of something. They knew that all included me, the other teachers, the pastor.

A holy God gets to decide what is right and what is wrong. And all of us fall short of His holiness. We are separated from Him by the massive gap caused by our sin.

This isn’t good news, I told the kids. This is a sad verse. But we know a happy one, right? And then we all said those sweet words together– For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.

I have been a rebel against God, opposed to Him in every way– in my pride and my idolatry, in the lack of love in my heart. I have disobeyed my parents, failed to love God, coveted what others had. I have spoken cruel and angry words, gossiped, lied, and dishonored God with my words and my actions. I have worshiped comfort and self instead of the true God.

But I am forgiven.

Not by works of righteousness which I have done, because I could never do enough righteous acts to bridge the mighty gap between my small, sinful self and His holy presence. According to His mercy I have been saved.

Praise the Lord for His mercy. His mercy, not mine, because I know my mercy struggles to forgive even the smallest offenses. HIS mercy, that saw my tiny, insignificant, rebellious self and loved me. HIS mercy, that knew I could never come to Him on my own, that knew the high price my salvation would cost. HIS mercy, that sent His beloved Son to pay that cost.

Praise the Lord for His love that cannot fail, does not change, abounds beyond all comprehension. This is a love that came in flesh as a helpless baby, that humbled itself from all the glory of heaven and the worship of the angels to be born tiny and scrunched up and dark-haired to a girl of questionable reputation in a barn. This is a love that submitted all its authority and power, in obedience to two sinful parents that it had created. This is a love that touched the untouchable, that loved even Judas, that healed and taught and walked dusty roads with holy feet. This is a love that had compassion on the shepherdless people, that wept when they died, that turned toward Calvary with unflinching steps.

Praise the Lord for the cross, for the sacrifice of the only One who never deserved death. Praise the Lord that Jesus did not call down the angels, or speak the word that would have destroyed all those who mocked and beat Him, all those who stared at Him without pity in His agony, all those whose sinful rebellion nailed Him there. Praise the Lord for forgiveness offered in the bitterest of pain and and anguish, for the words torn from His lips in His dying torment– It. Is. Finished.

I am forgiven. No cost was too high. It has been paid in full. All Christ’s perfect righteousness credited to my account, so that when my holy God looks at me, He sees His beloved Son, in whom He is well pleased.

Praise the Lord for forgiveness.

Words do not exist for this inexpressible grace. Yet I will praise Him.


Lies and Truth

When the enemy comes against God’s people, He comes with lies.

I have been so prone to believe them.

Time and time again I have fallen prey to the same old deceptions. Sometimes they’re not even dressed up particularly cleverly; my flesh is all too happy to jump back onto that wagon again and take a few turns around the block.

You are failing your husband and your children.

You can’t live consistently for Christ; you’ve never managed more than a few days before. There’s no point in even trying.

If the church doesn’t grow, it will be your fault. Why can’t you be a better helpmeet, a better musician? Think of all the women you know who are far better pastor’s wives than you will ever be.

That child is never going to master that subject. You’re a terrible teacher. The whole situation is hopeless. Where did you ever get the idea you could homeschool?

All she saw when she visited your house yesterday was the mess. You are seriously the worst housekeeper ever.

I cannot believe you said that out loud. Shameful, shameful, shameful.

Eating. That’s what you need. More eating. You deserve it. Look at the hard day you just had. Comfort food!

Didn’t you literally just confess this sin yesterday? Good grief, woman, what’s the point?

Nobody likes you.

There is no way in a million years you can ever do this job God has called you to do. Seriously. You didn’t even make it out of your pajamas yesterday. You have rheumatoid arthritis. You have three kids. You already do so much. You’re doing okay. Why add one more thing? God won’t give you more than you can handle . . .

If you had that thing, you would be so much happier. It’s so unfair that God has withheld it from you. You deserve happiness, fulfillment, honor.

Something terrible is going to happen to someone you love. Can’t you just imagine the fiery car wreck? The diagnosis? The terrorist attack? Let’s just sit here while these images play over and over in your mind.

Friends, I know it’s not just me. Your lies might be different than the ones I get to listen to, but they’re still there. The enemy is a student of humanity and he knows exactly where our weak spots are. He knows the places where we tend to be apathetic, to let our guard down.

Zing! Here comes a dart of temptation and falsehood.

He knows the soft places in our hearts, the tender spots.

Zing! Here comes a dart of fear and worry.

He knows our strengths and abilities.

Zing! Here comes a dart of pride.

The only way we can possibly stand against this continual onslaught of lies and deception is is to know what is true. Truth– real truth– sanctifies us. It makes us holy and set apart.

Set apart, so that we can see more clearly, from a different perspective, what is happening.

I have been fighting new battles recently, or maybe the same old battles in different shapes, with different faces. And I have come to the conclusion that for some of these battles a general knowledge of truth isn’t going to cut it. I need to sharpen my sword. I need to have real, specific truth to hold up to the lies and prove their falseness. Familiarity with the Word of God, a Bible college education, a knowledge of a whole bunch of Bible stories and the Lord’s Prayer– none of that is going to help in this sniper fight.

Just as Satan targets me with specific lies that are carefully chosen and sharpened and aimed so as to do maximum damage, so I need to fight back with specific truths that are carefully chosen and sharpened and aimed.

Every single lie listed above can be parried with Truth– Truth from the Word of God. I can choose to believe that I am worthless, or I can choose to believe that I am God’s workmanship.

I can choose to believe that my child’s education is a hopeless cause, or I can choose to believe that my child is fearfully and wonderfully made with a purpose.

I can choose to believe that I cannot handle another thing on my plate right now, or I can choose to believe that the One who began a good work in me will bring it to completion.

I can choose to believe that food will solve my problems, or I can choose to believe that God is my portion.

I have begun writing out specific verses that I am going to believe when Satan attacks me with his lies. I know how many times I have fallen, and I know how prone I am to believe all the deception. But I’m tired of it. I don’t have time for it. I have work to do– a purpose to fulfill. I have to be on my guard, ready to fight back.

Friend, maybe you’re listening to lies today. Maybe you’re so entrenched in them that you can’t even tell you’re being deceived. Maybe you know that you’re under attack but don’t know how to fight back.

There is only one real defense against a lie, and that is the glorious, shining truth. Open your Bible. Compare what you’re believing to what God says. Know that His truth will set you free.

Here’s something to get you started today:

Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.


Wisdom And a Way Forward

Life pulls me like crazy in so many directions. It can be relentless, and confusing. Which way is the right way? And even when I’m so sure I know the destination God has in mind, I can’t always see the path from here to there.

The second half of 2016 has brought new things into my life– new ministries, new relationships, new challenges, new battles. I have felt like I was in a constant battle with time, with the hours in a day and my body’s need for rest and my heart’s need for daily time with Jesus and my family’s need for me present and my home’s need for someone to actually clean it occasionally.

In this big game of tug-of-war, I have been the rope. Everyone just grab a limb and pull.

Figuring out which way is God’s way for me has been hard. I spent many weeks in August feeling like I was drowning. My house was a mess. I couldn’t keep up with my responsibilities to teach my kids, to minister in my church, to help my husband. All the helpful blog posts about how to manage my time by cutting out a bunch of stuff really didn’t seem very helpful. Every single thing that I was struggling to make time for was something I believed God had given me to do, here in this season of life.

Which meant there had to be a way.

And you know what? There is a way. A way for me to not feel like I’m gasping for breath, barely treading water. A way for me not to panic when I look at the calendar and see something written on every single day for two weeks straight. A way for me to keep my home, if not showroom-clean, at least clean enough that I don’t feel like I’m losing my mind.

I’m not here to tell you how to clean your house. There are people who are way more qualified and experienced at time management, home management, and, well, life management. The point of this post isn’t to give you Five Brilliant Tips on how to do a million things every day.

The point of this post is to tell you that God cares about your struggles. He cares about you when you’re drowning in a sea of Crucially Important Things To Do. He cares about you when the very thought of the day ahead sends you into panic, when you’re totally stressed out, when you’re exhausted and about six inches past the end of your rope.

When those feelings came to the Tiny Town Parsonage, God was here, caring for me. He had already begun to place in my life the resources I needed to get things into focus. He had already begun the work of fixing the problem. He had called me to do this work, and He had a plan for me, for my schedule, for my daily life.

I just had to ask. I had to ask for wisdom to see His way out of the mess, His path. I had to ask for wisdom to recognize the things in my life that were hindering my ability to function. I had to ask for a willing heart to do the work needed. I had to ask for physical strength and for a submissive spirit.

And then I had to do. I couldn’t just read the book about home management. I had to actually follow her instructions and find the best way to keep my home clean. I had to combine wisdom from different books, from wise women in my life, to come up with a reasonable way to do the work. I had to submit my ideas about what I thought I needed and try something new. I still have to do this. Every day.

Friends, this applies to so much more than my time management catastrophes. When life is overwhelming, there is a Rock that is higher than we are– high above the storms and the crazy. He does not move, does not shake, does not change. His Word has the wisdom we need. He puts into our lives the people and the resources we need to get through every storm.

But we have to be willing to put one foot in front of the other and do the hard work of obedience. We have to be willing to live within the boundaries God sets up for our lives. And within those boundaries we are able to flourish, to live freely, one day at a time.

For me, in the area of food, it means counting calories. And in the area of using my time, it means a daily schedule. It can seem like chains, but all it really is is another way of binding my heart to Jesus. Saying His priorities are important, my day belongs to Him, and I want to use my time to glorify Him and bring joy to His heart.

There is peace and freedom in obedience. A clearer view of His face is worth all the work of clearing away the brambles.

Jesus is worth every single sacrifice.

Founder and Finisher

We’re walking, just getting started on the warm-up for today’s run. My app tells me that somehow the kids and I are supposed to run twenty minutes straight today.

Last time we ran, we did eight minutes, then we walked for five, and then we ran for another eight. By the end I felt like I couldn’t take another step. I almost didn’t make it. It was only the kids running with me, and my understanding that if I gave up so would they, that kept me putting a step in front of another, breathing in and out.

Art and I are walking together, but we won’t run together. He’s faster than I am, and it won’t take him long to pass me and get well ahead. He’s doing thirty minutes today.

“I just honestly don’t feel like there is any possible way I can run for twenty minutes without a break,” I tell him.

“I felt that way too, when I first did twenty minutes,” he answers, “but I was surprised at how much easier it was than I expected.”

“I know. That’s the only reason I’m even trying it.”

It’s true. Knowing he felt unready, knowing he was able to do it, knowing he has passed this way before, all the way to the end of the eight week training program– that strengthens my resolve. To try.

I can’t help but think about Jesus and my walk with Him as I begin my jog. The encouragement I take from Art’s going this way before is the same encouragement I can take from Christ, for He too has passed this way, and won.

He does not throw me into a race and then wonder hmmm, is that even possible? He knows what it is to run the race, to endure the cross, to keep going for the joy of the finish line and His Father’s face. He knows what it is to endure and to press forward. He knows what it is to finish. And He invites me to do the same.

My kids and I– we run together. We run slower than molasses. We gasp out that things hurt, that the hill is hard, that the sun is hot. Sometimes we have conversations– that would be the kids talking while I grunt in reply, or maybe push out a few words in time with my hard breathing. We talk about the way the bean field has changed in the last few weeks, the sound our feet make on the bridge. Pooka tells us she’s feeling AWESOME and then thirty seconds later that she can’t possibly go on another second.

We distract each other, encourage each other, cheer each other on, and pick each other up. We are honest about how hard it is. We know that Dad has done it first, and if he can do it, maybe we can too. We set new goals and run toward them. We talk about how good the water at the end will feel on our throats, how delicious supper is going to taste after such a long run.

I promise not to start blogging every day about running, but I can’t help but see the parallels between our foray into the world of shin splints and running shoes and the race we are called to.

There is One who has gone before us, who is already seated in victory at the finish line. He is pleased with every step we take– both on the days when we barely make it a yard and on the days when we feel like we could run forever. He has made the way for us and promises to help us and to guide us.

And He has, in His goodness, not left us alone. His Spirit within us gives us strength. And His people around us– our fellow runners– are there to encourage us, to refocus our energies, to pick us up when we fall down. We are not lone runners blazing a trail through the wilderness. We are following in His steps, with His saints cheering us on from the stands, with our fellow runners beside us just as my kids run beside me.

I don’t know if I’m ever going to run a 5K. I don’t know if I’ll finish the program, or what I’ll do then. But I do know that I ran 20 minutes yesterday without stopping. I know that my kids ran it too. And more importantly, I know that I will finish the race God has given me to run, because my Savior isn’t just the Founder of this race of faith; He is its Finisher.

Time to lace up my running shoes. My victory awaits. So does yours.

Gallery of Grace

faint-fringes-potterI am a masterpiece of God. So are you.

This isn’t just my idea of a Friday morning pep talk, although goodness knows I could use one. This is the truth of God– that we are more than just this mess of flesh and bone and sin and desperation. We are masterpieces– works of art, each different, each showing in a uniquely beautiful way the fingerprints of the Master Artist.

He is an Artist who doesn’t make mistakes.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

It’s that word workmanship that tells us how God views us– other translations say we are His handiwork, His masterpiece. The Greek word is related to our English word for poem. We are specifically, intricately, carefully created by the very hands of God for a specific purpose– to bring glory to Him.

This is all because of grace. Every human being is created in God’s image, formed within our mothers’ wombs. But this verse goes beyond that– this verse comes in the context of our salvation by grace through faith.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship . . .

God always is working on us, creating a masterpiece of beauty and glory. He does not allow anything to happen to His masterpieces that will not bring us closer to the loveliness He has in mind. All the ugly things,  all the bitter and sorrowful things, all the painful moments and the uncertainties, all of them are part of the masterpiece God creates in our lives. Not one of them is a surprise to the God who has been forming us from day one.

It brings such comfort to me to remember this. It seems God asks me to do so many hard things– things I feel so incapable of, unqualified for. But in His kindness He reminds me that I am His masterpiece, and that He created me specifically to do good works. And He so lovingly reminds me that He has had these particular works– all these hard things that stretch me and humble me– He has had them in mind for me since He began creating me.

Nothing in my life is a surprise to God. He made me, and He made these hard things for me to do, and He poured out grace in lavish floods so that I could be saved to do these things. From the moment He began His good work in me, my loving Father– the Master Artist– was working toward this moment, this hard thing.

He knew that I would approach some of His tasks with excitement and boldness and confidence.

He knew that I would fall flat on my face more than once.

He knew that I would be afraid and unwilling to attempt some of His good works.

He knew that the enemy would attack me, that life threaten to overwhelm me, that I would be weak and tired and so very unable.

He knew all these things beforehand, when He was creating these specific works for me to do. And so as He has trained and formed and purged and purified me, as He has slowly over many years built up this masterpiece, He made sure to include everything I would need.

He gave me His Spirit, His Word, His people. He lavishes me daily with grace sufficient. He promises help, comfort, strength, life, and presence.

He asks me to do this hard thing, but never alone. It is part of the handiwork of God– a way to showcase His beauty and glory and grace in all the imperfections of my life.

faint-fringes-in-the-fireHe composes His poem in my life, forms His pottery, paints His picture, designs something beautiful in me.

I am His workmanship– His masterpiece– created in Christ Jesus for the good works He calls me to do, prepared for those works, empowered for them, never alone– not even for a moment.

And so are you.

 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

Photographs taken by Irv Cobb
Faint Fringes Photography



His Face, His Grace

I wish I could see His face, right now.

I wish Jesus would walk in my back door, help Himself to a cup of coffee, and pull up the chair across from mine. I don’t think He’d mind my pajamas or the dishes in my sink.

No offense, but if He did I’d close this laptop and not give this blog another thought. Because His Face.

I feel like it would make things better, like the painfully slow sunrise outside the kitchen window wouldn’t matter because He would be here. And I think in His eyes I would see what my heart needs.

I’m not even sure what my heart needs, besides Him. I know it needs Him.

I know I’m supposed to walk by faith and not by sight. I know that in some way I do see Him with unveiled face. I know that I meet Him in His Word and in prayer and that He is enough today, even when I can’t see Him.

But oh, there are days when it doesn’t feel like it could possibly be enough.

He told the disciples it would be better for Him to go away, so that they could receive the Holy Spirit– a Helper and Comforter who would lead them into all truth and give them the power that they needed for the work He was giving them.

Despite what my flesh– so physical, so bound to this earth and full of this earth– tells me, it is better to have the invisible Spirit within me. I am blessed when I believe without seeing. I know this, but still I long to see Him.

There will be a day.

I picture myself, in that crowd of His people, and I feel myself straining on tiptoes, searching for just one glimpse. And– you’ll forgive me if this is selfish– I imagine Him looking for me, too. I imagine our eyes meeting across the sea of faces and the smile on His face, and I know that in that moment everything will be okay. Because the One who loves me more than life itself will be there with me, finally in the flesh.

 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

As we look to what is unseen. Only eyes of faith can do this. Faith is the evidence of things unseen.

Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Hope does not put us to shame. Another version says it does not disappoint. Because God’s love is available through the Holy Spirit with me. And it is enough.

My needy desire to see is weakness; I know this. Strong faith loves without seeing, trusts when everything is veiled. But my faith– it is weak and my heart longs to see.

What hope there is in that sweet promise that His strength is perfect in my weakness. He brings me here again and again– when I can’t be strong anymore and I long just for deliverance, when my faith seems so small it’s barely even there– He sees, He knows, and His grace is sufficient. His strength is still perfect.

Here is a hope that does not put me to shame.

The sunrise, when it finally comes, is glorious.

We Run

runWe run, and it’s hard. We start together, all five of us, Art and I pressing start on the running app at the same time. For five minutes we stay together, warming up with a brisk walk, stretching our arms as we walk, conversing about books we’re reading or what so and so did yesterday. And then the phones chime, and we run.

Art is the fast runner in the family, and he’s three weeks ahead of us. His runs are now nearly half an hour of solid running, while the kids and I are still doing intervals. It’s not long before he leaves me in the dust, trailed by Angry Ranger and Pooka, with Darth Piggy and me taking up the rear.

We run, slower than a sloth swimming in molasses, around the back of the ball field, marking off little milestones. Park bench. Scoreboard. We turn right over the bridge and our feet echo as we jog. The water looks high, my running buddy comments in a quick push of words between hard breaths.

It rained a lot the other night, I gasp back. We make it off the bridge, to the corner, quick right and quick left. There is a long sidewalk between a dirt road and a soybean field, and we fix our eyes on a yellow pole marking a gas line and run for that as if it were the holy grail. Our slow, steady, jogging steps are punctuated occasionally by grunts– my knee hurts— and groans– it’s so humid— and words of encouragement– we can do this. Before we make it to the yellow pole, the phone chimes again. WALK!!! I yell to the children ahead of me. We all slow down to a walk, try to catch our breath. Pooka walks toward me instead of away, so she can give me a fist bump. One interval done.

It is hot and sunny and the grasshoppers jump out of our way as we bear down on them. We are not ready when the chime sounds again, but we set our eyes on a telephone pole and start to run. Art comes running back toward us, and we give him high fives and gasps of encouragement. It feels like maybe we won’t make it. My breath comes hard.

But if I don’t make it, neither will these three kids running with me. Whether I like it or not, they are all counting on me to keep going, and if I stop so will they. In my weakness, He is strong, I remind myself.

We run. This is really hard, I push out between steps and breaths. I don’t feel like I can make it.

Me either, Darth Piggy agrees, already slowing down. His uncertainty– the way he mirrors my own feelings– spurs me on.

Yes we can, I force myself to say. That telephone pole right there. It belongs to us. God is our strength, and He’s totally strong enough to get us to that pole. Somehow our feet keep pounding, our hearts keep beating, our lungs keep breathing, past that pole and another and another, to the place where we turn around and all the way back, until the voice tells us it’s time to walk again.

I am learning in this running that I am weak. That is no surprise, but it is good to be reminded of it. This physical reminder of my weakness– the complaining muscles, the blisters on my feet, the sweat pouring off me–  is something good because it drives me again and again to my God. Does He care about whether I can run five minutes at a time? I think He does. He wants me to remember my need for Him, and He wants me to glory the strength He gives.

We aren’t quite back to the bridge when the app chimes and we must run again– the last time. Deep breath. Here we go. Your grace is enough for me— the song runs through my head in slow time to the pounding of my feet. As we cross the bridge, my eyes scan ahead for my husband, but he is out of sight, somewhere where some trees or the curve of the path keep him from view. I’m so proud of him.

We run. My children are around me, except Angry Ranger who likes to keep out in front. Pooka is our little athletic cheerleader– Come on, guys! You can do it! She runs the whole way on her little seven- year-old legs and isn’t even out of breath. We clap for each other. We cheer each other on to the next bench, to that bush up there, to the place where the sidewalk branches.

There is a moment where I’m really sure I can never run again. One minute left, the phone tells me. I look at my kids, sweating and laboring with me, counting on me, faltering as my steps slow. It is good for them to see me weak, good for them to see me gather up my determination and ask God for help and keep going. We can do one more minute. Of course we can. Come on guys. God’s helping us. We can totally do this. We’re going to rock it.

And somehow we run, right to the end.

Fighting in the Valley

christian-soldier The question-asker and imaginer in me often wants to know the things that the Bible doesn’t tell us. I want to know how people felt, not just what they did. I want to know what Hannah experienced that last night before she took Samuel to the tabernacle to serve the Lord there– her little boy, her holy vow. I want to know what Noah’s wife thought when he told her he was going to build an ark, and whether his daughters-in-law were okay with spending a whole lot of time shut up in a boat with a bunch of animals.

As I walk this journey God has called me on, I want to know about the spaces in between the mountaintops. I want to know about the valleys.

I’ve been transcribing Genesis, and I’ve reached the story of Abram who would become Abraham. God called Abram, and he obeyed and went to Canaan– mountaintop followed by obedience. But then there was a famine– valley– and Abram went to Egypt and convinced Sarai to lie and generally showed his lack of faith in God’s ability to protect Him– disobedience. This cycle of obedience following mountaintop experiences, with valleys leading to disobedience, is repeated over and over in Abraham’s life. God makes all these amazing promises to Abraham, but then waits for a long time to fulfill them. And Abraham fails in the waiting.

It is not until Mount Moriah that we see obedience in the valley. Finally, it seems, Abraham has learned to obey when the way seems entirely impossible. God commands Abraham to sacrifice his son– that promised child, in which all of God’s promises lay, in which all of Abraham’s hopes were placed. I can’t imagine a deeper valley than the one that Abraham walked through the night before he obediently began his journey to the altar.

I wish Genesis described it. Somehow in the deep darkness of that valley, Abraham found a new kind of faith, and he found strength to take servants and fire and wood and son and knife to the mountain of God.

We know the end of the story, but Abraham didn’t. We just know he had faith. He trusted God and walked in obedience, and we can argue what God’s purpose was in all this, but in the end a good thing was accomplished in Abraham’s life, because Abraham saw the ram provided and he heard the voice of God.

Sometimes I picture spiritual warfare as a dramatic scene at the top of some mountain somewhere– and I, this great warrior, brandishing my sword above my head with strength and courage. I picture Elijah and the prophets of Baal– this glorious, raw display of faith and courage and the power of God. And maybe sometimes it’s like that. But more often than not, the real battles are fought in the valleys, in the darkness, on our knees. The real battles are fought in the places where no one sees or knows. They are not battles to gain an acre of ground, but battles to gain a foothold. They are not battles that end with glory and recognition, but that end with the ability to stand again, to take another step, to see the face of Christ a little more clearly.

Perhaps the real battle wasn’t David with the slingshot and the Giant; perhaps it happened much earlier, in some lonely valley, with a bear and a lion. Perhaps the real battle wasn’t Gideon and the soldiers and the pots and the trumpets;  perhaps it was Gideon creeping out in the night to destroy the altar of Baal.

Today I am fighting a battle– a valley-battle against principalities and powers and the rulers of the darkness of this age. I am fighting against the old self and the lying voices. If I didn’t write it here, you wouldn’t ever know. Maybe you are fighting a battle too. Maybe you’re deep in a valley, barely holding on. And maybe nobody knows, because they’re all looking for Peter at Pentecost battles instead of Peter on the night after Jesus died battles.

Yesterday I shared my heart and I have been so overwhelmed by the kind response of my readers. Friends, we were not meant to fight these battles on our own. We do not have to hide in shame when we are under attack, when we are weak and vulnerable and afraid. We need one another, and as the Body of Christ we are created to support one another in weakness and during those valley-battle times.

We draw new strength from the encouraging words of our fellow soldiers. When we share our battles and our fears and our broken places, we give others the chance to encourage us, to come alongside us, to share their experiences, to fight on their knees with us, and to see the glory of the grace of God made perfect in our weaknesses.

knight-prayingI do not fight alone. And you shouldn’t either.

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints

True and Truer

I think that one of the hardest things about being who I am– a pastor’s kid, a Christian school graduate, a Bible college graduate, a pastor’s wife– is the fact that I know all the so-called right answers to all the spiritual struggles I face in my daily life. I know them in my head, I mean. The journey from head to heart is a surprisingly long one.

It is so easy to tune out and take the Word of God for granted.

So easy to internally roll my eyes at the precious truths of Scripture, because I’ve heard it all a million times before.

So easy to let the words fly through my brain and never realize that they have the ability to change me.

Recently I have come to a place in my walk with God where I have been reminded how easy it is to quote verses at people and how very, very hard it is to live those verses out in my daily life. I have prayed for God to change my heart, to do what it takes to make me like Jesus, and in that process He has led me into a valley of discouragement and even depression. When I said whatever it takes, this isn’t what I was picturing.

I have tried to be real on this blog, tried to share my journey as God has deepened my faith. I have tried to share my struggles so that those who read these words can know that there is hope for real people with real problems. Sometimes the truth has been painful to share, and sometimes I have felt like I was so vulnerable that I might be sick.

I don’t want to stop now. I don’t always understand why God has me writing in this dusty old blog on this tiny corner of the internet, but I believe He wants me to do it, and I believe He wants me to share what is true.

Today what is true is that the only thing I want to do is to sleep. Today what is true is that it is taking every bit of energy I have to live my life right now– to teach my kids, to clean my house, to make meals, to be a wife and a mom and a friend. Today what is true is that I feel weaker in my spiritual life than I can ever remember feeling.

The enemy of my soul has me in his crosshairs right now, and I find myself being assaulted almost every moment by lies and twisted truths, doubts and fears and temptations. I have given in far too many times.

The adoration part of my prayer life has seemed like a mockery as I strive to see the goodness of the Lord. I read Psalms and seek to pray them back to God, to pour my heart out in worship, to bless the Lord at all times. It feels like hypocrisy, yet I am commanded to praise, and so I try, and I pray for God to be glorified in the worship of a broken and weak child.

This is what is true. I am very weak. Everything seems so hard. And I am sharing this today, even though it makes me feel a little sick to let down my guard, because Paul said he boasted in his weaknesses and gloried in his infirmities. Is this even possible? Paul was no superChristian. He was a man, a man who found in his weakness a deeper, richer access to the strength of God.

And I want that. So desperately.

Because what is even more true than my brokenness is God’s grace abounding in every broken place. What is even more true than my weakness is the glorious, mighty power of God. Whether I see it or not, whether I feel it or not, what is true is that there is nothing that can separate me from the love of God that it is in Christ Jesus my Lord. What is true is that the Holy Spirit has been given to me as my Comforter, the One who comes alongside me when I am stumbling, and that He will never leave me.

What is true is that God’s grace is sufficient for me, right here, right now, when all the truths seem trite and my weaknesses feel like gaping holes that can never be filled. What’s true is that God has led me to this place, that He has a purpose for it, and that He will lead me out.

Isn’t this what faith is? Living the life I am called to live whether I can see or not? Pressing on, even when it feels impossible, even when it feels foolish? Refusing the cries of my flesh and my feelings and putting one foot in front of the other, tiny step by tiny step, until I see the glory again? Drawing near to God again and again and ignoring the lies that creep in, that say He doesn’t care, He can’t use me, He’s finally given up on me, He has turned His back on me?

That is a thing He will never do. He has promised, and He who promised is faithful.

Here is truth– I am weak, and when my faith is tested I despair and I complain and I give up.

Here is greater truth– my God is strong, and when my faith is tested He is always near me and He will bring me forth as gold.

Oh Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.