But Lord…

6871B368-B6C6-4DB8-9EE6-8446A88D2680

The Lord said, Go!

Ananais said, But, Lord!

But the Lord said, Go!

So Ananais went.

Acts 9:10-19

’Now in Damascus there was a disciple named Ananais; and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananais.” And he answered, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul; for he is praying there, and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananais come in and place his hands on him, so that he may regain his sight.”  But Ananais answered, “Lord, I have heard from many people about this man, especially how much suffering and evil he has brought on your saints [God’s people] at Jerusalem; and here [in Damascus] he has authority from the high priests to put in chains all who call on Your name [confessing you as Savior]. But the Lord said to him, “Go, for this man is a deliberately chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will make clear to him how much he must suffer and endure for My name’s sake.” So Ananais left and entered the house, and he laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road to Damascus, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit [in order to proclaim Christ to both Jews and Gentiles]. Immediately something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized; and he took some food and was strengthened.’

Acts 9:10-19 tells the story of a man who doubted but did it anyway. Can you relate Sis?

I get it. When God says go, I run through a mental checklist of what it could cost me. I’m a lot like Ananais. He knew who Saul was and fear stepped into the path before him. Sis, isn’t there always a form of fear stepping between us and obedience?

I wonder how Ananais missed this promise. “I have shown him (Saul) a vision of a man named Ananais coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again.” God revealed he had gone before Ananais.

Because Ananais is so focused on who Saul is, he can’t see clearly who God says he is.  Because Ananais is so focused on Saul’s power he can’t see clearly the promise of God’s power in him.

Sis, I think sometimes we are so fiercely focused on fear of the unknown that we forget God is the all-knowing. When God asks us to go, could we cling to the promise he has gone before us?  There is courage to be found there.

I love how God in his infinite patience explains the plan to Ananais. He gave him the encouragement he needed. So Ananais went. And in the going, he found God’s confident heart beating with his. He trusted God even in the unknowns.

When Ananias found Saul he wasn’t timid.

When Ananais found Saul he didn’t stand at a safe distance.

When Ananais found Saul he laid his hands on him and said,

”Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Okay Sis, did you catch that? Ananais called Saul his “brother”.  Because Jesus loved Saul, his persecutor, Ananais loved him too. He trusted Jesus’ perspective even when he didn’t see evidence or reason to. He trusted God even in the unknowns.

I love that Ananais proclaims he was sent so Saul could REgain his sight. Maybe you are like me in recognizing the beauty of grace poured out on Saul through these words.

Saul was a man longing to serve God. He had lead a passionate life for God. He had lead a purpose-driven life for God. But somewhere along the way he lost sight of God. His pride lead him to judge others, blinding him to grace and mercy.

Sometimes we need to sit in darkness before God allows us to REgain our sight. He acknowledges we once saw him clearly, but have allowed the world to crowd in and cloud the truth. The truth that we have a great need for grace.

Ananais said, but Lord…

Saul said, but LORD…

We say, but Lord…

Sis, don’t you love how God will get through one way or another. He will either tap us on the shoulder with a little unveiling of the bigger picture, or he will allow us to sit a spell in darkness so we will regain our sight with a new perspective.

On any given day I can stand alongside Ananais and Saul.

But here’s the picture I cling to. I see Jesus laying his hands on either side of our face, leaning in and whispering—will you trust me now?

Will you say yes to my plan?

Will you go where I say go?

Because Ananais and Saul were willing to trust God, we can find hope for the moments we react with the same words…but Lord. I am so thankful for their stories because we get to see how God will take a single solitary effort of obedience and change the world.

So Sis, lets turn toward trust in the all-knowing when we stand facing the unknown. He’s got the plan, he’s gone before us. It’s a promise we can depend on.

 

Dear Father,

We stand at the road leading to unknowns and we shake in our boots. Oh, we hear your voice, we long to go, but we stagger under the burden of fear. Lord, help us to see your perspective. Help us to see the path you have already set out for us. Oh Father, help us to remember all the other times you have gone before us, because it reminds us to trust you in the new journeys. When we stand hearing you invite us to go, give us courage like Ananais, built on  the promise you have gone before us. When we stand hearing you invite us to change our perspective, give us a new vision like Saul to see through your eyes. Lord, we live thankful you believe we can go and make a difference in this world for your Kingdom. We depend on the promise you will always go WITH us. Thank you Father. We declare we can’t do it without you.

all my love,

Amen.

 

 

Advertisements

The Best is Yet to Come

Dear Sis,

One September day 5 years ago, I was wandering the aisles of an arts and crafts store looking for a distraction. My heart ached as I stood on the edge of a decision that weighed heavy.

Have you ever straddled a line?  You’ve got one foot firmly planted on either side of a finish line. Stuck there by uncertainty. The future seems fragile at best.

Are you like me sis? You know God has a plan, but you just don’t see it. And to be honest, seeing is believing.

That morning I spent time asking God to help me believe there was something worth saving in this relationship. I cried out to God to just give me a glimpse of hope.  I just wanted one single moment of sweet assurance.  As I write these words, I recognize this sounds so composed, when in reality I wanted much more. I wanted a clean, clear answer to a messy, clouded question. Should I stay, or should I go?

As I waited for answers, I wandered down aisle after aisle of creative wonders. I found myself in the aisle of “misfit” items. The clearance rack was strewn with assorted novelties. But one small item caught my eye. It was a rubber stamp sitting up straight, its words clean and clearly printed in bold, block letters.

“The Best is Yet to Come”

Sis, have you ever known, just known without a doubt that words were intended for you?  As I walked to the checkout with my little piece of hope, I felt my heartache ease. I carried that stamp around in my purse for a year. I needed the sweet reminder that hope lies in the truth of those words.

Then one day a sweet friend was diagnosed with cancer. She stood brave through the trials of treatment. The only thing I held out to her was a little rubber stamp that held hope. I gave her that stamp because hope holds us up when we are straddling a finish line. She survived that cancer and a year later found a friend needing a dose of hope. The stamp once again moved into the hands of someone just longing for encouraging words.

Me.

Oh Sis, are you like me, finding yourself in need of hope on a regular basis?

I had just moved for the first time in 32 years and I was desperately lonely. Then my mom died. Cancer took her quickly. So standing alone in a new place, broken hearted, I needed a glimpse of hope. So that sweet friend dug that stamp out of a drawer and pressed it into my hand. Pressed it right into my heart.

Sis, today I sit here as my sweet friend straddles a finish line. Her cancer has returned this time with purpose. She lays in the hospital ready to cross right into God’s loving arms. Her future home is full of light and life and fresh beginnings. I tell her I look forward to embracing her on the other side. I tell her to breathe deep and know the love she feels flow over her is His. I tell her the blanket of peace that brings her comfort is His.  And I send her my love and whisper in her ear…the Best is yet to come, the Best is yet to come, the Best is yet to come.

Dear Father,

Each of us stands at the finish line wavering because we are weakened by hopelessness. Lord, thank you for giving us glimpses of Your hope. The hope of eternity. The hope of a new beginning when we just don’t see a way through. You promise that you go before us and stand behind us and are always with us. So no matter where we stand we never stand alone. We lean in and depend on that truth because hope is born there.  And peace follows and settles in and we whisper sweet prayers of thankfulness for Your Presence.  Amen

Shine on Sis!

Dear Sis,
This letter is for you, and for me, and for us.
Time is short and the shadows are growing long.
We sit here, looking around at each other with the same question on our minds. What lights us up?

Sis if you are like me, you wonder at what “special light” you have to shine in a world just crying out for a little relief from the darkness. And here we stand. Stuck. And here we plant our feet, because there is no clear plan.

Oh Sis, I want to ask you a question, the same question I ask myself.
Was there a moment in your life,
A point of pain in your life,
A place of poverty in your life,
that propelled you into the arms of Jesus?

Did you long to be seen?
Not social media seen, but deep soul seen.
Did you long to be known?
Not known for what you do, but know for who you really are.
Did you long to be accepted?
Not accepted in the perfect Pinterest places, but accepted in the messy spaces where we really live.
Or did you just long to be invited?
Not invited by mass evite, but invited to really connect, heart to heart.

Here’s what I’m wondering Sis.
If we are standing in His light today, searching to and fro for a place to shine, could simply remembering how we once stood in the shadows open our eyes to possibilities?

Because whatever propelled you and me into the arms of Jesus will propel us to wrap our arms around the shoulders of our sisters standing in a similar place.

Sis, don’t we all know the desperate need to believe we are not alone?

Could it be that the answer to what lights you up, what lights me up is waiting to be uncovered in the pages of our own stories?
When we remember that place of longing, passion for compassion will be born there. It will burn there.
And Sis, there it is, the simple spark that grows into a full blown brilliant light.

Sis who knows where that spark will lead you, maybe you’ll share a meal, offer to help with the kids, or even invite someone to sit across the table and have a cup of coffee. And some days it might just be you’ll offer a hug, the kind of hug that says, I’M WITH YOU!

Okay Sis, listen closely here, I want you to hear this…
WE MUST NOT BELIEVE THE LIE THAT SAYS IT’S NOT ENOUGH!

The biggest hindrance to our light is looking for the big things to do. Jesus took a towel and started washing feet, he stopped to talk to a woman at a well, he had dinner with sinners. He paid attention and allowed his path to be interrupted.
What will we do?

Okay Sis, If you’re like me you’re probably wondering if we could do this thing. And in the wondering your mind is wandering through all the ways you could add a little glow to your world.
Let’s be honest Sis, we are girls who like a plan, and if it comes with a list that’s even better.
But, I can almost hear Jesus whispering right into our ears…
Hold on.
Hold on.
Stay with me here.
Because he wants us to remember he isn’t sending us out to shine FOR him…
He’s inviting us to shine WITH him.
So Sis, when we say yes to lighting the day with love, let’s remember Jesus stands beside us linking arms…and the one true God WITH US WILL SHINE THROUGH US.

Okay Sis, do you see what I see?
The only “plan” we need is to stand so close to Jesus everyone we meet will ask us to introduce him.
Because the common cord in our string of lights, the very lights that illuminate the darkest places is Jesus IN US!

So dear Sis, dear you, dear me,
Let’s let go of the plan, link arms with Jesus, and when we feel him nudge us toward someone, let’s just do it! Even if it feels a little crazy risky.

Let’s unleash compassion that grows from the light of His love.
Because Sis, THERE IS NO POWER OF DARKNESS THAT WILL OVERCOME IT!

Yes Sis, your little light, my little light, our little lights will make a difference for eternity.
And His Kingdom will be multiplied!
And His name will be glorified!
Let’s light it up girls! Let’s light it up!

Love,
Your Sister in Christ,
Karen

 

Bible Study for Dummies

IMG_1265

So you’ve made the decision. You’ve taken the gift. You believe God is who He says He is. You want to follow Him. And you want to do it right. Now you are searching for the book titled, “Following Jesus for Dummies” because you have no idea where to begin.

I remember with great clarity my first steps as a Christian. I didn’t grow up going to church like many of my friends. I didn’t go to Sunday school and see the puppet shows about Moses, Noah, Daniel or any other story in the Bible. It’s hard for people who have grown up in the church to remember what it was like to learn how to find their way through God’s Word. As children there’s a common denominator, no one knows how to navigate. So they sit down in a classroom on a level playing field. No intimidation. No one feeling foolish. So how does this 45 year old person who has finally found her way to salvation learn about God and His great story?

When you come to the cross late in life, you struggle with great feelings of inadequacy. You long to know more, understand more and allow truth to mold you into someone pleasing to God. But there’s this barrier constantly tripping you up. It’s called doubt.

You are determined to learn from God’s Word, so you sign up for Bible study at church. The leader starts with prayer. Great. You are good here. Then you are asked to turn to a chapter in the Bible with numbers following it. You look around trying to follow what others are doing. Flipping anxiously through the thin pages of your new Bible hoping no one notices you have no clue where this chapter called Galatians is located. By the time you have found Galatians they are reading from the book and you have no idea what the numbers mean, so you sit completely still pretending you are right there with them. And because you are overcome by anxiety from the search you barely hear the discussion.

And satan has found his way in.

Discouragement is born in moments like this. Disbelief is born in moments like this. And the fear of failure turns us away from what should be an experience of joy and expectation.

Our insensitivity to new followers of Christ and their difficult journey into His beautiful Word has caused many to stumble and even turn away. It would be like sending a child into third grade not knowing how to read. It breeds hopelessness.

Think back to a time when you felt lost and alone? Embarrassed to ask for help? You had to fight every fear. They all came crashing in at once.

If we allow new believers to walk into a Bible study without a partner to share the journey, we quickly become part of an epic failure to honor God. He called us to stand strong for one another in the journey. The whole journey.

My beginning was messy and to be totally honest I pretended a lot when I first started going to Bible study. I kept going because I longed to be around these women who loved God, because I loved Him too. I wanted to understand more about Him. Eventually one of these lovely women recognized my struggle and came alongside. She spent time explaining this amazing Book full of truth, love and promises. She made me want to know more, encouraging me in the times I couldn’t make any sense of what I read. She taught me about grace, and helped me understand growth comes with time.

I live thankful for this lovely friend who saw I was lost, longing to be found. I wonder if I would have turned away believing God’s Word was beyond my comprehension had she not stepped into my journey. Because she was the gift God provided for me in those times,

I feel a deep responsibility for those who are coming to the table hungry for His Word. I long to be the friend who senses the wavering and steps into the journey.

Would you consider joining me? Let’s introduce this magnificent Book full of promise to those trying to find their way. Maybe you believe as I do that it’s a journey best shared. Turning page after page, light spilling onto words of truth and peace and exquisite love. Pure joy grows here in the sharing.

Baby Bird Bravery

IMG_1265

Have you ever read a book that just stayed with you? The one that said so much more than it intended. Mine was a children’s book. The entire book circled round and round a simple, single question. “Are You My Mother?”

It was a little story about a baby bird who finds himself lost. Page after page tells of the bird’s unrelenting search for its mother. I quickly found myself drawn into this little feathered friend’s constant longing. A longing to feel part of something. To sit close and be one with something. To understand from where he’d come.

I believe we all must feel this unyielding pull. This tugging into a place of beginnings. Nothing makes much sense without it.

The baby bird in the story had the right idea. He asked each person, place and thing if they were his mother. Though they each answered no, his enduring memory of first love drove him on.

Who can unearth the place it all began? Place full of sweet belonging? I understand little bird’s carrying heavy heartbreak. We sometimes spend a lifetime longing to settle back into familiar love.

There’s another defining book that just stays with me. The entire book circles round and round a simple, single question. Are You my Father? I was first drawn to the Bible while searching for the place I belonged. A place where love lived. Just one stable, steadfast love.

I was much like the baby bird. I spent days, months, a lifetime asking every person, place and thing if they were the one true love. My one true love. Then, just when the journey seemed without end, I turned and there it was.

Extravagant love.

The same love I was born of. God designed every moment of light and life, holding and molding me throughout the journey. I am open book, incomplete story, full of twists and turns. My defining moments rising out of each chapter. I am swept into this true love story the Author has fashioned. Full of deep, unrelenting love from beginning to end. A place to belong. The only place I ever belonged.

If you are wondering what happened to that baby bird, he never gave up. Eventually he did find his mother. Just like us, his journey led him to many things he thought would answer the longing. In time perseverance and perspective drew him to the truth.

I wish for us a bit of baby bird bravery. He just kept asking the question. Even when answers were hard to come by and asking was risky.

Let’s be bold. Don’t give up the search. Won’t you agree risk is worth the promise of a happy ending?

 

Can You See Me Now?

IMG_0127

Can You See Me Now?

We began together. Me holding tightly to Your promise. You lighting the path with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. I stood strong with You in full view. But I awoke this morning and You are gone from sight. I’m blinded by fear. Have You left me here?

Where has my God of promises gone? I strain to see You up ahead. Doubt has found its way into this darkness. So many questions unanswered. I’m blinded by fear. Have You left me here?

Oh my child, I have gone from Guide to Guard. From Sun to Shield. Remember my promise, I will not leave you or forsake you.

It was My heart beating with yours in the joy of new life, and in the grief of great loss.

Do you see Me now?

It was My hand that cleared the way to safety and freedom from slavery.

Do you see Me now?

It was Me who stood beside you in the hard journey, full of thirst and hunger.

Do you see Me now?

It’s My great love holding you close when you can’t take one more breath as the world comes crushing in.

Do you see Me now?

Will you find faith in the midst of your fear? Will looking back pave the path to trusting Me?

If seeing is believing.

What do you see?

I have never left you. I am with you, are you with Me?