Thursday, August 29, 2013

These Boots Were Made for Walking

"I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble. Hold on to instruction, do not let it go;   guard it well, for it is your life." - Proverbs 4:11-13

My daughter Emma is a figure skater. She loves nothing better than being on the ice. Feeling the air rush past her face as she skates. It's her happy place, her solace, her creative space where she can fly. She has a passion for the sport that can only be described as God-given. 
Which is probably a really good thing considering how it's gone for her the past couple of months. 

She'd been falling. A lot. 
And in case you're not familiar, ice is hard. And cold. And unforgiving.
Emma had been skating in the same boots for almost a year, 4 -5 days a week, jumping, spinning, turning, gliding across her frozen home away from home. Those boots had seen her earn gold and seen her come in dead last. They worked with her to create beauty and precision and skill. They were warriors for her as she fought to learn new steps, new movements, new combinations. They were comfortable and familiar and like an old friend, cherished for where they had taken her.
But as good as those boots were they are leather, after all, and they had begun to break down so badly she had no support left in them. 
So she would hit the ice, literally, day after day, too stubborn to admit that she needed new ones. 

For a skater, breaking in a new pair of boots is a process. A painful process. 
New boots are stiff. They have no give, no sweet spots that are perfectly molded to your movements and feet.
So even though she already had a new pair of skates. Beautiful, amazing skates that were gifted to her by one of her coaches, she was as stubborn as those new boots about breaking them in.
Until she just couldn't take it anymore. 
One fall too many landed her in the ER and she was on crutches for a few days. 
Hard to skate when you're on crutches. 

As I was thinking about those boots this morning it occurred to me that they represent our faith journey at times. 
Walking our journey with God each day is a process of learning and growing and failing and repenting and growing again. Each lesson, each step building upon the other.
We walk some days in perfect harmony with the God of the universe. Knowing without a doubt that He is right there with us, leading, guiding, loving. Filling us with the truth of His grace and mercy. Showing us the path he's carved for us and equipping us to walk it with sturdy boots that support us and allow us to fulfill the plans He's made.

And then there are days that we walk away. Choosing instead a more difficult road full of rocks and bumps and ditches and steep trails.
One that starts to break down our boots. 
We begin to notice that we're stumbling more often. Tripping over the rocks. Turning our ankles as we walk further and further away from the truth we know. And we get angry when we fall, skinning our knees and bruising our hips, until we end up on crutches, wondering what happened. 
Where did God go? He was supposed to be our support, our strength, our guide away from the rocky ground.

We look up from our crumpled heap and see that He's right there, holding out His hand to lead us back to the path He's chosen.
And as long as we stay on it, our boots support us and give us strength and courage to keep walking with Him. 

As time passes we eventually wear them out. Through many twists and turns and joys and tears, we've walked with God and away from God and right back to Him again and again and again.

And God is ever faithful. 
At each stage of our faith journey, He gives us fresh, shiny new boots to wear. Boots that will support us as we grow and learn and fail and repent and grow some more. 
As we walk in them, we find those sweet spots that can only come from many miles walking with Him. Those special, quiet places where we know He can be found with every step we take. 

Like a figure skater who continues to build on their knowledge and experience every time they take the ice, enjoying the sweet spots in their boots; we build upon our knowledge of God every day we continue our walk with Him. Learning something new and fresh and beautiful that allows us to feel His freedom rush past our faces as we travel. 

Where are your boots taking you today?

With a Courageous heart, 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

What's on my Playlist Today

One of the things I love about being the Mom of a teenage daughter is the variety of music I'm exposed to on daily basis.
We've always been a pretty musical family and music is one of the ways that God speaks to me best, but also, music has been one of the languages that's bridged the generation gap for us in our home.

I think a lot of people would be surprised to know some of the things that are on my current playlist, and I'd probably be surprised at yours too. We all have our guilty pleasures, don't we? For example, I have quite a few Big Time Rush songs on my mix playlist and when I hear "Nothing Even Matters", I can't get it out of my head for hours. (Go download it, I dare ya.)
And yes, for the record I am 49.
Don't judge. 

Anyway, we've all heard the saying - "There's no such thing as Christian music, just Christian lyrics."
Lots of great faith-statement lyrics are partnered up with some musical styles that we would scratch our heads in wonder at with secular lyrics. 
And also, thankfully, today's Gen X has proven itself to be very open to retro tunes (that's 80's music for those of us Baby Boomers/borderline Gen Y kids. Really.)
Which just proves that they CAN be taught. Don't give up. :)

Because of that, we've always been open to listening to each other's music in our home. Emma loves Journey (thank goodness), a little Fleetwood Mac, Stephen Curtis Chapman and Point of Grace among others.
I have discovered TobyMac, the Afters, Pentatonix, Lindsay Stirling and Imagine Dragons to name a few. 

This Momma counts herself blessed.

Recently, Emma introduced me to a song called "Rebel (Intro)" by Lecrae.
Yes, Lecrae is a rapper.
Yes, it is a rap song.
No, I really don't enjoy a diet of rap music.
No, I haven't lost my mind.
I do have to confess that I sing the TobyMac rap line in the Mandisa song "Good Morning" and can make it sound legit.
Emma loves me. :)

So this brings me to the point of today's post - sharing a rap song with you.
Don't just click off and walk away - I challenge you to actually listen to it. (and if you can't understand all the words, I've posted the lyrics underneath. You'll thank me later.)

I've added this song to my workout playlist. Not only is it great theology, but the beat gets me through the foam roller at the end of my training sessions.

What I love most about "Rebel (Intro)" is that it challenges us to rebel in the way Jesus was a rebel against the culture of His earthly days.
Let's face it, today's culture is conformed to the latest and greatest, hottest, sexiest, fastest, outrageous, who can out-trash who lifestyles in history. Just read Romans 1:18-32.
It was pretty bad back in Paul's day, and humanity hasn't improved much through the centuries.

The song is a challenge to follow the counter-cultural Jesus, rejecting the 'sameness' of what everyone else is doing in exchange for being a stand out for the truth.
If the youth of today really want to rebel against society then being a Christ-follower, a Jesus Freak is the best way to do it.
Dare to be different?
I'll take that challenge.

With a Courageous Heart,

Rebel (Intro) lyrics:
Just wanna dive into the beat
Swim around in it
Lets rebel

Rebel, I'm in rebellion (repeated)
Yeah, to all my Rebels out there
Rebelling against the culture, being transformed
Not conformed to the ways of this world, or this age
Welcome to the Rebel-ution

Jesus was a rebel, a renegade outlaw
Sanctified trouble maker, but he never sinned, naw
And he lived his life by a different set of rules
The culture ain't approve so you know they had to bruise him
That's the way they do, man they swear they so gangsta
Everyone the same, everybody do the same stuff
Tattoos, piercings, smoking up and drinking
Money and sex, plus them extravagant weekends

Man if that's the high life of puff puff pass that
You live evaporated like missing a gas cap
I guess I'm past that, I'm in rebellion
Rather have a dollar in my pocket than a million
I'm scared to worship money and my wants over Elyon

I remain a rebel while the rest of them just carry on
This is what I live for, its the hill I'm buried on
If Jesus is the truth that means one of us is very wrong
Think about it

Rebel, I'm in rebellion (repeated)
[Spoken sample]
I know in our day rebel means sinner
But everyone is sinning, so it’s no longer rebellious to sin
Jesus was a rebel who was counter cultural

No glory in me, all glory's to the King of the throne
You either love him or you leave him alone
But you can't do both

Yeah I know you heard that once in a song
I pray you hear it ten more 'fore you're gone
Hey listen up holmes, the stage is the corner the crowd is the streets
And I rap the bread of life because they dying to eat
Yeah I'm a rebel, you know the kind that die in the street
Cause you refuse to conform won't eat the king's meat
Christ rebelled by shunning the culture
He eating with the sinners, giving Pharisees ulcers
He never got married, he was broke plus homeless
And yeah that's the God I roll with
Your boy got a wife, and no I never cheated
I'm praying for humility whenever I get heated
Forget about the drugs, rebel against pornography
This ain't how it ought to be homie its how its gotta be
A rebel

Rebel, I'm in rebellion (repeated)
[Spoken sample]
You’re just a conformist, if you're drunk and naked and driving around on a loud motorcycle smoking cigarettes and breaking commandments
And getting pregnant out of wedlock
Everyone's done that, that’s so tired

If you really want to be a rebel, read your Bible, because no one is doing that
That’s rebellion
That’s the only rebellion left

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." - Psalm 34:18

Some days, I am so homesick for Heaven.
It's easy to go through our days only thinking of what lies directly in front of us as we take this journey.
But then there are days when we come up against the brick wall of reality. We come face to face with the reminders of the holes in our hearts that were left by those we love. 

I count myself blessed that all of those who've gone ahead of me are waiting in Heaven for me. I know it's a rarity to have that assurance.
That hope.
But it's there and I'm grateful for it. 
It's on days like today that hope sustains me.

Six years ago today my best friend went to be with Jesus.
She gave up the fight in her battle with the demon Cancer. 
There is not a day that goes by that I don't think about her.
She's in my heart always.

Missy and I - 2 days before my wedding, Dec. 5, 1991
We met in Freshman English in 1978 and became instant friends. 
Practically inseparable through high school, she became the sister I never had. 
I can hardly remember a time when she wasn't part of the memory and we were only separated when she married her sweetheart and moved to Omaha. 

Missy - Freshman photo
Fast forward 9 years - my wedding day. 
Missy's life had taken some unexpected turns. Some sad and awful days, but she'd come through the hurt and pain and heartache and had been blessed with a new life. Loved by a man who saw her value and beauty. 
On this day, she saw me marry my own prince. 
And as always, she brought joy and silliness with her, making sure that we didn't get too serious....

She was always there for me
The years that came next were full of wonderful memories together, simple times shared and so much intersection of our lives. 

I'll never forget where I was and what I was doing when my cell phone rang and she gave me the terrible news of her cancer. 
It was a beautiful September morning and I was walking Emma to school. 
Her voice on the other end was a knife in my heart, and my heart died a little in that moment. 

"It's Stage 4" she said. 
"But God is going to heal me." she said. 
"I love you." she said. 

And for a while, it seemed that anything was possible. 

One of the bravest women I've ever known
As Fall melded into Winter and Winter into Spring, it became clear that her healing would be miraculous or a homecoming. 

We went for a drive that April, just so she could see the spring flowers and budding trees. I think we both knew it would be the last time she would see them from this side of Heaven, but our conversation was all about the ones she loved. The ones she was scared to leave. 
That was my Missy, the one who had the most compassionate heart I've ever known and who never failed to put others before herself. 
I've often wondered why God would see fit to bless me with such a friend. I know now that it was to teach me about love that can only be found in sacrifice. 

The end came as it always does - sneaking up on you like a child on tiptoe. 
I was such a coward. 
I wasn't there when she left us, I was walking the beach. 
We'd said our goodbyes two days before - not officially, but we both knew it, like we'd always known each other's minds. 
She slipped quietly into Jesus' arms surrounded by her family. 
And I wept on the beach. 
Great big gulping tears pouring straight from my heart. 

It is said that you can count on one hand the number of real, true blue friends you'll have in a lifetime. 
It is true for me. 
And I can honestly say that she was the only friend who knew everything about me - yes, everything - and loved me anyway. 
That friend is a once in a lifetime. 

It is also said that we see glimpses of those we've loved deeply in the ones we have still around us.
That's also true for me. 
I see so much of Missy in my Emma. 
Loyal to a fault. 
And that's why not a day goes by when she's not with me. 

Even though I'm sad today - remembering what was - I also rejoice in what will be. 
She's waiting there for me, and today I'm just homesick for Heaven. 
For her. 

With a Courageous Heart, 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Real Deal With Psalm 35

"Lord, you have seen this; do not be silent.  
Do not be far from me, Lord." - Psalm 35:22

I'm having a really hard time with Psalm 35

Have you read it? 
I mean, really read it? 
It's pretty raw. 
David - who wrote it - is dealing with a lot of anger and a lot of hurt and he's not holding back anything from God. 
And it's just raw emotion jumping off the page.

So, I was reading this Psalm last week (we're reading through the book of Psalms with our church right now), and I was at the beach with Mark for a little soul restoration. And I do mean AT the beach, as in ON the beach - just soaking in the greatness and splendor and majesty that is GOD displayed all around me, and I've spent the first couple of days just having my flip-flops blessed off by Psalm 33 and Psalm 34 and now I run into THIS. Psalm 35.

David is pouring his heart and mind and soul out to God - riding the roller coaster of his emotions until he's just flat out done in. 
Not exactly light beach reading folks. 
In fact, I realize pretty quickly that I'm having a hard time with it because I didn't quite see how the David I knew (you know, the "man after God's own heart) squared with the David I was seeing in these verses. (the fit-pitching, toddler-like David)
Anyway, I said to Mark "I'm having a hard time with this Psalm." 
So he, ever the steady-eddy that brings me back to what's real, says to me "Think about all the times you've been hurt by someone who's accused you of things you haven't done, or blamed you for something that you didn't cause, or just hated you for no reason. You've been there, we all have and I'm sure you remember those times. How did you act?" 

And that's when it dawned on me, I was having a hard time with Psalm 35 because I'd lived it - many times - and thought I'd moved past the point of getting my "mad" on towards God. 
You know, or maybe you don't, but it's the feeling that I'd grown enough spiritually that I didn't shake my fists at God anymore when my circumstances didn't match my expectations. The attitude that I accepted my situations as "God's will" and to calmly look for the lessons in them. 

You know what happens when we think we've learned a spiritual lesson? 
God decides to teach it to us again. 
And this time, I looked at things like anger, despair, betrayal, abandonment, revenge, paranoia, self-pity, self-righteousness and more and I saw a picture of myself and my very HUMAN emotions crying out to the only one who can heal our emotional wounds.  

As I read through the verses penned in the depths of David's raw emotion, I get a very vivid picture of the many times I've felt wronged, betrayed, hurt and lied about. And of course, as we women tend to do, I re-lived each and every one of those roller-coaster emotions.  

Let's walk through it a bit and see if you feel it too: 
Verses 1 - 3 are David crying out to God to stand up for him, to fight the battle for him, to take up his cause. To rescue him. 
I've done that - stood there in shock at the circumstance that has knocked the wind out of me and in my indignance cried out "God, go fix this, please! It's not fair!" 
Sound familiar? 

Verses 4 - 6 are a few choice suggestions David has for ways that God can take care of his enemy and get revenge for the wrong that's been done to him. 
I've done that too - thought, well I hope they have a flat tire and a bad hair day and lose their keys and then trip on the curb to boot. That'll show 'em, right God?  
Uh, right. 

Verses 7 - 21 are what I call the whiny verses. Mixed in with a few promises of what David will do when God acts on his behalf. Here, David is laying out the whole deal, retelling the stories of how and when and by whom he's been wronged. 
As if God didn't know it already. 
And he's even promising God to praise Him more, to exalt Him more. He's even buttering Him up "Who is like you Lord?" (v.10)
Yep, I've done that too - sat there and had my little pity party, whining to God about all the hurtful things that "they've" done to me. Crying about how unfair it all is and I know you can fix it all God if you want to because you are AWESOME like that, and I know you love ME and don't want to see ME hurt like THIS.....

I wonder if God sighs at us.
Anyway, there it is. It's all out now in a great big rush of hurt and despair and frustration and tears. And there is a little place of calm. Of rest. Of regained sanity. 

"Lord, you have seen this; do not be silent. Do not be far from me, Lord." - Psalm 35:22

David takes a big breath and exhales. And with it I can feel his heart like lead in his chest, his resignation to the circumstance - this thing that's consumed him. 
And like David realizes, so too do we - I - realize that God sees it all, knows it all and yes, while we don't want Him to be silent, our greatest need is for God to be NEAR us. 
To hold us, to carry us and give us peace in this storm. 
Oh God, just please make it not hurt anymore. I can't cry anymore. Just hold me Daddy.

Yes, I know, David revisits the firestorm of emotion he's already poured out in the next few verses - don't we all do that too, not quite ready to give over the fight? - but he finishes strong, recognizing the righteousness of Holy God. 

And it's in that place we can receive grace. 
In spite of the hurt. In spite of the pain. In spite of the injustice of it all....
As we stand in the knowledge of the righteousness of God, we can rest in His grace and mercy and peace. 

So for me, the lesson learned in revisiting those hurtful times is not in how much it hurt, but in how great God's grace was in the midst of the storm and in it's aftermath. 
Our lives are not lived in a spiritual bubble, we will come under attack. We will be unjustly accused. We will be lied about. We will be betrayed by a friend. 
And it will hurt. Deeply.
But His grace will always be sufficient. 
And that's the real deal with Psalm 35.

With a Courageous Heart, 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Broken, Yet Beautiful

"Now remember, look for the pretty ones."

The young mom was holding tightly to the hand of her little son as they strolled along the beach this morning. He was focused on the sand as he toddled along, clearly mesmerized by the beautiful field of sea shells that stretched out before him.
It was a familiar scene, one that my husband and I have seen played out many times this past week and one we've experienced with our own daughter on those sweet summer days past.
I smiled to myself as I recalled those walks, holding her tiny hand and carrying a pail filled with her 'treasures'. As I overheard what this mother said to her son, I remarked to my husband "She's telling him the wrong thing. She should be telling him to look for the whole shells."
While that brought a laugh from him, he remembered as did I that my daughter had collected anything but whole shells from our beach walks, the words were no sooner out of my mouth than I wanted to take them back.

Why is it that as an adult, I tend to look at the perfect things, the complete things, the whole things as the best and most beautiful?
I think of the times that Emma brought me pieces of seashells so beautiful that their colors were beyond description. Their curves and lines and markings so distinct that there was no doubt that they'd been carved by the hand of God.
She saw the beauty in those broken things.
What I saw as pretty but useless, she saw as an object of awe. Beauty for the sake of beauty. No matter that it was broken. 

And that's exactly as our God sees us.
Broken, but beautiful.

He's in the business of creating beauty out of brokenness.
Healing our broken hearts with a love so deep and so vast and so enduring that nothing can ever separate us from it.

Our Father takes us from the dead places, the hurting places, the forgotten places and gives us a transformed life, creating beauty that shines in a way that only He can create.
How long has it been since someone told you that you are beautiful?
How long has it been since you believed that you are loved, valued and treasured?
Really believed it.

No matter where you've been, no matter what you've done, the amazing God who created the oceans and everything in them - yes, the broken shells too - is ready to show you how valuable and how beautiful you are to Him.
Those lines and marks and pits on the outside of your shell?
They stand as a reminder of who you once were - before the God of the universe turned you over to reveal the amazing array of color underneath.
The treasure that you are.

So maybe it's time we stopped looking to the perfect, the complete, the whole in order to find beauty.
Instead we need to look at the undeniable beauty of His love in us, making us shine in ways that only He can.
For what He has made beautiful, He has made whole, even if no one sees it but you.

"He has made everything beautiful in its time." - Ecclesiastes 3:11

With a Courageous heart,

There is a song that I wanted to share with you all, it's been a favorite of mine for a very long time, but there is no video to be found for it. I've attached a link to the audio file on Spotify here for you, so hopefully, you can listen and let it bless you as it does me.
It's a song by Point of Grace called Broken Thing and here is a bit of the lyrics:

"You found beauty in this broken thing
Made angels dance with wounded wings
I can't imagine anything more beautiful

You took the damaged part of me
Restored what little dignity was left inside
Was left inside this broken thing

I know I'm not worthy of this
Never ending perfect love
I can't imagine anything more beautiful"