if wishes were horses…  (childhood phrases, part 1 )

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“If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” 

I knew this idiom well as a child.  The phrase essentially meant, you wish for such and such, but, alas, since it is only a wish, it will remain an unfulfilled desire.  It was a reminder that mere ‘wishing’ was not a productive activity. Wanting something to be a certain way contained no power to make it so.  After all, if wishes were all that was required to bring about reality, lazy beggars who did nothing at all would have whatever they wanted.

Recently, coming back from a lovely prayer walk through some beautiful nearby neighborhoods, I was in my backyard stretching and doing a little reading.  Putting my books aside, I became aware of my Abba, and I basked in the warmth of His presence all around me.  A cluster of wishflower seeds, borne on the wind, came whisking towards me.  Mindful of the name “wishflower,” Father God’s voice was strong and playful: “If wishes were horses…”  I smiled, remembering the phrase my mom often would say when I was younger.  “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.”  Then it hit me.

Wishflower seeds have repeatedly represented desires in my life, and horses are a common symbol the Lord has used to talk with me about authority.  To me, as well as to others, horses are a symbol of riding on the identity we have in Him. They represent our active choice to exercise the ability He has vested in us to be able to command a mountain to move and see it move or to speak to a pile of bones and see them come to life. Could it be that simply wishing for something, without recognizing the authority we’ve been given to bring change, causes us to act more like beggars than redeemed children of God? Some desires are undeniably God’s will for us.  As Scripture attests again and again, He wants us to live lives devoid of fear and saturated in joy.  So what if we stopped wishing?  What if, instead, under the guidance of His Holy Spirit, we spoke life to the dry bones and destruction to the mountains that stood in the way?  Has a part of us still been feeling and acting as if we were beggars?  What if we chose to ride on who He says we are?  We are His royal sons and daughters.  We are co-heirs with Christ.  The power that raised Christ from the dead is living in us.  And these are not just nice theological truths.  They are palpable living realities.

Learning to ride a horse is a process.  It requires coaching.  It requires learning from mistakes.  Good thing we have a resident Wonderful Counselor.  And authority is His trademark. So let’s leave beggarly thinking behind us.  Let’s turn our wishes to horses.  And, as favored sons and daughters, let’s ride.

stirrup “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,  and his incomparably great power for us who believe.   That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” (Eph. 1:18-21)  

roses for my heart…

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Thanks to my bestie for surprising me with these giant beauties yesterday morning! I didn’t realize till she left that they each form a heart shape in the center!  ❤ image

fly deeper

Written during SCSS worship 2/6/14:

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Keen vision,
Quick precision,
Indecision left behind.

All division
And derision
In collision with a way that’s fiercely kind.

Rewind all thoughts of fear;
Unwind the truth:
Christ’s mind made clear.

Pure strength,
Raw power
Available now and every hour.

We ride His Spirit
Like a hawk on the wind,
Resting on air
Around every bend.

Our destination: deeper
Into His heart of fire.
We soar into His depths
At the same time we go higher.

The glint in each eye
Gleams brighter and brighter;
The white of our garments
Is shown even whiter.

We’re drawn to the fire
By a blazing fire within;
We’ve forgotten what it feels like
To focus on sin.

“Let it go!  Let it go!
Soar in My sky!
Go lower, lower,
And I’ll take you high.”

We hear the Spirit’s cry,
And at the same time
A spark in the fire catches our eye.

The fire is so vast,
So hot, and so bright—
What is that little spark
That’s catching the light?

“My child that’s you,
You’ve become a flame in my heart.”

“How do you separate fire from fire?
How do you separate light from light?
You are a distinctive spark;
Yet we are one—
A fire so great
It swallows the night.”

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messes have stories

My Abba spoke a truth to my heart the other day.  I can’t remember if I was spending focused time with Him, or if I was just putzing around my room, but this little maxim came into my mind:

Messes have stories.  Learn to cherish the story.

It struck me as profound, and I wrote it down in my journal.  As the days have passed since I first heard those words, I have realized just how life-changing such a perspective is, should I choose to embrace it.

old book-2079_640For instance, that small pile of shoes on the entryway floor, that I have to pick up yet again before I sweep, tells many stories.  Those shoes tell innumerable tales of family members I adore, who are stories in themselves and who wear those shoes in all sorts of stories of their own, who were too considerate to open the squeaky shoe-closet door when they arrived home late the night before from yet another story.  If I will cherish the stories, the shoe pile is transformed from a temptation to complain to an internal celebration of some of the most precious gifts in my life.  Or there are those never-ending piles of papers in my room.  Each paper contains many stories: the missionary updating me on how God is moving in that country, the precious card from a student telling me thank you for a birthday gift and for coming to her party, the advertisement for something I might like but haven’t decided yet, the lyrics to the song some friends and I danced to at our church’s Christmas service…the stories are endless, as each story represents a million other stories.  The piles of laundry, the stacks of dishes, the cupboards that I close in a hurry so nothing will fall out…stories. The fallen leaves that litter the driveway, the ugly boards put up around the yard to keep the dog from escaping, the weeds that dare to put down roots and bloom in the impossibly small amount of soil in the cracks of the front walk…stories. When I look at it that way, I see that much of the disorder around me is not a cause for shame but actually evidence of a richly full and wonderful life.

Then there are messes not of clutter but of circumstances: recurring miscommunication and uncertainty in friendships, negative emotional patterns, financial troubles, estranged family members, addictions, sicknesses and deaths that make no sense, relationships that are complicated… Each situation I see in my own life or the lives of those around me represents individuals I love deeply, fellow image-bearers of God who are each a story within a story within a story…  And so many of the hurts of these circumstances and relationships stem from sad stories in our pasts we haven’t fully healed from yet.  In fact, a lot of messes stem from stories that we don’t want to cherish: painful stories, tragic stories, treacherous—even downright evil—stories.  cross-123948_640For those messes we have to remember those are the messes whose stories aren’t over. Let us not forget that the greatest story ever told has a brutal crucifixion at the center of it.  We serve a God Who redeems and restores and heals.  Moreover, we serve a God Who raises the dead.

For the messes that are so messy that even the word “messy” feels like a ridiculous, cute understatement, we cherish the story to come.  Every miracle is preceded by the need for a miracle.  The healing chapters of each of our stories aren’t yet complete, but they will be.  And the possibilities of beauty and redemption are endless, because an unfathomably loving God is the primary Author.

I have had a habit for a while now of writing down answers to prayer that occur, nothing lengthy, just a sentence or two.  Often I read over the ever-growing list to remind myself of the countless messes that have turned into testimonies.  And you know, when I look to cherish the story in the messes, I find there are a lot of “orderly” things in my life that have stories too.  Everything in my life has meaning when I look at it this way—everything is a tale within a tale.  Lately, Abba has also impressed on me how significant our little actions are in these tales.  A little smile, a little prayer, a little humming while we work despite a lurking depression we feel and don’t always know how to kick—these things are huge from heaven’s perspective.  Each little moment joins to the next to create the shoes enhancednarratives of our lives.  As the New Year unfolds before us, let’s dare to look beyond the messes, to see the meaning in our moments, and, along with the One named both “Author” and “Perfecter,” let’s cherish the stories.

turning up the heat

fire-15103_640“Joy unspeakable.” It is real. I’ve tasted it, and it is good. “Overflowing hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” It’s an understatement to say that that’s pretty wonderful as well. “Peace that passes understanding.” I love it. Especially when I feel it in times that understanding is farthest away. He’s the God of all comfort. His love satisfies our deepest needs and longings. I know this.

Sooo… where does that little anxious whisper come from at times? The nagging feeling that something’s not right… The feeling of still being emotionally hungry… The feeling of God not being as real or as close as we believe that He is… Where does that come from? Hmm…

Planet earth contains exquisite beauty but also immense challenge. Our bodies sense vibrations, changes in temperature, light, oxygen, odors, and sounds. We don’t think much of it. Sometimes our bodies feel uncomfortably cold or hot. Recent weather patterns, current humidity, the architecture and shade of the room we’re in, as well as the number of people in the room all affect the temperature we perceive. These factors combine with the heating and cooling systems being used, the amount of time the windows and doors have been open or closed, and the amount and material of the clothing we are wearing. Then add to that all the factors that influence our own blood circulation and body temperature regulation, and one can see that a great multitude of causes are all interacting together in ways of which we are not even aware. Like I said, we think little of it and have become adept at creating comfortable environments without too much effort. However, if someone was new to planet earth they might find this overwhelming. “So, if I feel cold, sometimes I need to adjust a window, sometimes turn on the heat, sometimes just put on a sweater, or I might just need to eat or sleep…” What is second nature to us, might be quite difficult to analyze without experience.

window shutters - CopyA large part of what makes this earth challenging (and exciting!) is that it also contains an unseen realm. Our spirits and souls are finely calibrated to sense the vibrations, temperatures, sights, scents, and sounds of that realm. Sadly, we often live in a world where we feel like aliens to that realm in which we cannot help but live! “So, if I don’t feel right in my spirit, sometimes I need to adjust a window, sometimes turn on the heat…ahh, this is so overwhelming!” Sometimes, like helpless babies, we find ourselves crying when we’re cold, because it’s all we know to do. Sometimes we get around others, and they say that it has been a cold day and they’ve felt it too, and so we feel a little comforted: “Oh good, it’s not just me!” Other times, I’m the only one who’s cold. Instead of feeling like something’s wrong with me, I’m learning to recognize there is a multitude of unseen factors. Sometimes I’m aware of some of them, other times, not so much. Thankfully, I’m indwelt by One Who sees them all. His whispers point me to that window that needs closing. He reminds me to turn on the heat. Or sometimes just one comforting word from Him contains all the warmth I need to be feeling right again.

Abba, teach us moment by moment what it looks like to thrive in the unseen world while living in the currently visible one. Let those days where we feel a little “off” be filled with teaching moments from You. Teach us how to partner with you in caring for our souls, so they won’t be left feeling out of sorts. Teach us how to shut off those negative drafts of unhealthy thought patterns. Teach us how to pray and release blessing when we’re being affected by the spiritual “temperature” of those around us, whether we realize it or not. Teach us how to open the windows of our hearts to the wind of Your Spirit when we’re overheated. burn-96142_640Teach us how to fan into flame the gifts of Your Spirit when we’re cold. Be our perfect thermostat, Jesus. “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves and blown here and there by every wind…” (Eph. 4:14)

And “joy unspeakable” will be joy unshakeable.

a novel idea: thoughts from the Three-in-One…about you

books-20167_640Written during worship at SCSS 10/10/2013:

That’s a novel idea!  That’s what We said when the picture of you first came to mind, long before you came to be.  You are the result of divine inspiration.  I am an author, and I never get writer’s block.  Every day is a day of inspiration, and so it was, on one of My infinitely inspired days, that you were thought of. I am so vast, and there are so many delightful parts of Me just waiting for a new form of expression.  It was so fun for Us–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–to express Ourself in you.  Your life is a novel, a finely-crafted, artful piece of literature.  Have you ever noticed the uncanny symbolism I weave into your ordinary days?  Have you ever noticed the beautiful recurring themes?  And you know what is a primary theme We see when We look at you?  Overcoming.  You see themes of darkness in your life.  We see overcoming.  Look at where you are!  How again and again and again you’ve partnered with redemption when the enemy wanted destruction.  And you know what the secret is behind all that overcoming?  Well, I try not to keep it a secret: it’s love.  That love I have for you was powerful enough to sustain Me through the agony of the cross and radically burst through the stone walls of death’s tomb.  My love for you is of an immensity larger than your whole person!  But there’s one thing to Me even more powerful and precious than My love for you.  It’s those times when you love Me back.  Those times when you reach up your little hand to Me.  Those times when you raise up your little voice to Me.  Those times when you love another person from your heart.  Those times when your circumstances make it look like I’m lying and you make that faint little choice to believe Me.  Those are the times you might feel some warm happy God-tears wash over you.

That’s where the overcoming happens.  When that love flow goes both ways, Mine to you and yours to Me, nothing is impossible.  Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing can withstand that love.  There’s no need that love cannot meet, no gap that love cannot bridge, no barrier that love cannot penetrate, no problem that love cannot solve.

And it’s not just talk.  Lift up to Me that little tiny desire for connection, and overcoming is bound to happen.  A connection thinner than a strand of spider’s web is enough to make all hell tremble.  So don’t hold back My loved one.  You are My novel, My poem, My song, and overcoming is a theme, because love is the refrain.

hope for a friend

A friend who is overtaken by mental illness has been very much on my heart lately, along with her family.  Sometimes my prayers for people turn spontaneously into poems, imagining what breakthrough might look like someday.

orange-light-burst
Deepest darkness shattered by the One Who made the sun.
Process of death reversed by the God that victory won.

Love Himself entangled in a massive mess of thorns
Melts away the madness and mental illness scorns.

Loved ones unremembered are brought again to light.
Souls asleep in nightmares wake up and join the fight.

Vanity of drugs and numbness fade away;
Darkness loses power at stunning rays of day.

Life that can’t be ended brings mortal ones to thrive.
Tears, locked up for years, finally are cried.

Pain so deep it screams and hides when brought into the light
Finally knows a salve that can truly set things right.

Mystery of illness meets mystery of healing,
Secrets left uncovered finally revealing.

Chains are simply shattered in pieces on the floor.
The new Life is so healing no one remembers what was before.

Moments before breakthrough, agony seeks to tighten grip,
But it proves a fatal move—misery’s final slip.

Imagination’s weak to conjure what could be,
But never underestimate whom the Son can indeed set free.

worship

worshipWorship.  It comes from the word ‘worthy.’  We praise One Who is worthy.  There’s another word: praise.  What does praise mean?  We sing it over and over as we worship, “I praise You,” and I feel in my soul what the Psalmist says, “How good it is to sing praises to our God!”  Still, I want to know what I am singing.  What is praise?  Yes, I know our very lives praise Him, but what about those times set aside just for giving praise. What does it mean to give it? More importantly, I’m longing to know: what does it feel like from the perspective of the One receiving it?  Hmm. Sometimes, in order to better understand a facet of something, imagination comes in handy…

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Imagine if it were your birthday and a song was written in your honor by a close friend.  Take a moment a feel the emotions that would stir inside of you. Your friend could sing directly to you, telling you what you mean to them.  Or they could sing about your attributes, your personality and character, the things that set you apart as you.  They could sing about the way you have impacted them or how you make them feel.  Or even if the song didn’t have words at all but was simply an instrumental piece written in your honor and performed to you as a gift…how would you feel?  What if it wasn’t just one song that was written in your honor but several?  What if every friend that came to your party had written a song for you?  Some would be really musical, poetic, and skillfully performed.  Others would be humorous, witty, and make you smile.  Some would be tender and bring tears to your eyes. Others would be hilariously off-key and cheesy, but it wouldn’t matter.  Each song would come from the heart and personality of a dear friend and speak of how valuable you are.  As you listen to each song, you would be reminded of what delights you about each of your friends; you would be reminded what makes your relationship with each friend unique and wonderful and real.   A little shyness here or there would be okay, and individual awkwardness would be almost dear.  You would value their vulnerability and forgive the twinges you saw of their insecurity, because they were daring to show their love in a personal way.

What if each song that was sung had a chorus where all your friends joined in together with gusto and sang with all their hearts?  What if they really got into it and started dancing a goofy dance that made you laugh till you cried and started dancing too?  What if it were a day that was ever after remembered as a day of laughter, fun, goofiness, and, most of all, love?

Less ideally, one friend could write a song and sing it while everyone else listened stiffly, and the whole room could be awkward and reserved about it and afraid to sing along, and moving to the music could be most uncomfortably out of the question…  That would still be somewhat honoring…I mean, a song would be sung in your honor.  A stiffer scene would still be honoring…maybe, but not nearly as fun.  You might almost wish your friends had skipped the song and all just played a fun board game together…and actually had a good time at your party.

Hmm.  You know, self, when it comes to praise, maybe God’s not as different as you might think.  Maybe the God Who made frogs whose eyes bulge out of their heads and throats turn into balloons when they sing feels a His own God-sized thrill when we, the ones He has called friends, each dare to sing our own unique, simple, silly, deep, precious song to Him.  Maybe so.   Maybe we can learn something from birds of paradise I was watching on a Planet Earth video recently, who make colorful fools out of themselves when they dance for their mate!

That is not to say a regal, solemn ceremony can’t be honoring too.  It can be especially honoring.  But I think a solemn ceremony given in your honor would feel disappointing if nobody who participated in the event took the time outside the formality to get to know you and your quirky personality—to  just hang with you, eating good food, letting your hair down, and laughing together.  Just a thought, self…  Maybe God’s not as different as you might think.

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Speaking of worship… I love you, Abba.  The word ‘worthy’ falls infinitely short of how deserving you are of praise.  Thank You for being Your wonderful, never-ending, never-changing, always-surprising Self!  A lot of things keep me from fully experiencing the feeling of Who You are, but every glimpse my soul gets leaves me undone.  I want to be in your presence till I’m soaked in You and the awareness of You.  I love our times of singing together, dancing together, talking together, creating together.  Even Your rebukes are so jam-packed with love, they taste good!  Oh, draw us deeper in, Papa!  Deeper into the awareness of Your heart.  They weren’t kidding when they said that “in Your presence is fullness of joy.”  It is absolutely true that without You I am nothing.  I love you.  ~SRP

stream of consciousness

pool and waterfall with green“I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit…”

“…whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

I love the countless pictures of God’s Spirit we find in water.  Spending time in His Presence some weeks ago, I was conscious of the wonderful feeling of Him–His personality, His nature–and this poem flowed out.  I have left it basically unedited, so it would retain the feel of the spontaneous expression that it was.  Delight in Him today!  He is already delighting in you.

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Pouring torrent swells swiftly toward you.
Swirling boats swing in the tide.
Waves of grace surge onward, upward,
Bathing all in the deep and wide.

Snowflakes form in the colder regions,
Clothing land in sparkling white;
Laughing skating slides on ice ponds;
Sparkling sea reflects the light.

Tumbling wake and roar of waterfall,
Whistling trickle of little creek,
Water trips and dances forward
In the giggle of the brook.

Falling firelight finds mirror in lake;
Golden sunbeam smiles at spray;
Dewdrops twinkle goodnight to starlight
As droplets catch first rays of day.

Bubbles surface then join the foam
Then burst back into watery home.
Sailing sweeps across windblown bay,
Diving explores more depths of play.

Carols of wetness, songs aquatic,
Water creatures acrobatic,
Diamonds made of whales exhaling
Decorate same as sloshed out pailing.

Streams wander, canals meander,
Pools simply stop to ponder.
Still as glass, now rippling dress…
Garden hoses-liveliness…

Glaciers glide and hail stones pound.
Raindrops paint a drummer sound.
Watermelons drink while flowers sip;
A smile in sunshine reveals shine on lip.

Coolness swallowed quenches thirst.
Juicy grapes are soon to burst.

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Scripture references: Isaiah 44:3, John 4:14
Photos courtesy of pixabay.com

the purple ring

purple ring_fadeWhen I was a very little girl, around three or four years old, I was given a present. It was a purple ring. It was just play jewelry, but I loved it dearly. I loved it particularly because it looked so much like Mommy’s ring, even though it was a purple gem instead of white diamond. I cherished this precious possession and loved looking at it on my wedding-ring finger. Then sadly, one day, I lost it. I don’t remember how I lost it, but I remember feeling grieved at the loss, thinking I would never see it again. I may have even prayed that I would find it.

Sometime later, I was at church. The service was over and everyone was mingling here and there among the pews, visiting. Then I heard one of the old ladies with short curly white hair (every church we went to when I was a child seemed to have an abundance of old ladies with short curly white hair), “Does this ring belong to anyone?” I watched in disbelief as she went to each of the little girls who were standing around with the same question, “Does this ring belong to you?” No one claimed it or even paid much notice. I held my breath. She came over to me, where I stood next to my dad. The little purple “diamond” twinkled up at me. “Is this yours little girl?” My daddy looked down at me, “Is that yours, Sarah?” And then that fateful moment. A moment I regretted for the rest of my childhood. I didn’t know why I did it, but I looked at the ring and shrugged. “No,” I said, appearing indifferent. And the old lady with short curly white hair walked away.

I wanted that ring back with all my heart! Why wouldn’t I claim it? Sometimes the deceitful concept of “too good to be true” affects us young. Somehow, I felt too vulnerable to have that sacred moment there—to accept something back that would bring me such childlike delight, in the middle of a church observed by people who didn’t know my heart.

What did I really lose in church all those years ago? Was it really just a purple ring? Or was it everything that ring represented? Childlikeness? Delight? Comfortability with the fact that I loved feeling like a princess and was already dreaming of the real, white version of the ring I would wear when I grew up? The authority to claim ownership of that which is rightfully and delightfully mine?

Fearing those watching me would not understand the depths of my joy and think me cute and immature, I exchanged the right to joyfully receive for what I thought was dignity and maturity. Somehow, it even felt spiritually dignified to deny myself. But now, in a place of true maturity I see my “dignified” choice was the utterly foolish one.

How many of us hear of the gifts that are Biblically and rightfully ours in Christ and choose to ignore our longing hearts’ recognition crying out, “Yes, it is mine!” We don’t want other church people to think we look cute, to misunderstand our joy. So instead of eagerly accepting the gifts being held out to us, we shrug. And we build theologies to quell our disappointment. And the One Who is truly mature looks on and sees how tragic our choice really is.

Perhaps it would be worthwhile for each of us to take some time to ponder: Holy Spirit, what have I lost (maybe even in church) that is precious to me? What have I exchanged those things for, when they are offered back to me?

Ah, Lord, teach me to embrace childlike “foolishness,” that I may be truly wise! When I encounter people (maybe even in church) who are, in one way or another, offering those gifts back to me, help me not let the differences between us hold me back from a resounding, “Yes! Yes! Yes! Thank you! The ring is mine!!”

“Stop deceiving yourselves. If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise.” 1 Cor. 3:18