If You MAY, He Will

“There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire, it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight-why the bush does not burn up.” When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.” – Exodus 3:2-6

Imagine this. You’re driving along to the mall and, Voila! A burning bush right in front of you! Not only is it burning, it’s not even being consumed by the fire! Such a sight would certainly get our attention. The same was true for Moses.

When Moses saw this astonishing thing, he went over to check it out up close and personal. Little did he know that he was walking into the most life-changing encounter he would ever have. Moses stumbled upon the Lord’s Presence.

The circumstances may be different, but God still works like that with us today. His Presence can take us unawares at any moment, in any place of His choosing. It can be frightening. It can be comforting. It can be quiet and reverent. It can be joyous and exhilarating. But however He gets us there, whether we stand in awe, delight, or abject fear before Him, we are shaken out of the ordinariness of our lives into something quite “extra-ordinary”. And we know it is a moment when we cannot fail to give Him our complete attention.

“Take off your sandals, Moses, you are standing on holy ground”, said the Lord. “Uh, ok. Absolutely. Done!” Wouldn’t we respond in the same way? “Whatever You say, Lord! Right away!” An overwhelming sense of awe and reverence ushers us into the place of perfect obedience. It’s so much easier to follow directions when you get them firsthand from Someone who holds your life in His hands, Someone you love and respect and would do anything to please.

Moses was ambushed (pun intended) by the Lord’s Presence that day on the mountainside. Sometimes that’s the way it happens with us, too, but it doesn’t have to be like that. The Word tells us that we can take the initiative – we can seek Him and He will be found by us! We have access to His Presence at the throne of grace anytime we have need. The only condition is that we want this with all our heart. I pray that daily each of us will want this experience with Him. I pray that we will seek Him, find Him, fall before Him in awestruck worship, listen carefully to what He would tell us to do, and then go do it! Instead of a burning bush, Lord, give us burning hearts for You.

April Alive

“And by a miracle God sent them food to eat and water to drink there in the desert; they drank the water that Christ gave them. He was there with them as a mighty Rock of spiritual refreshment.” – I Corinthians 10:3-4 TLB

We have a rose garden at the home in California where we have lived for the last three years. By the time April comes each spring, I can hardly wait to watch the roses begin to blossom and bloom. I eagerly go outside every morning, in both the front and back yard, to see if a new bud is emerging. It is a daily ritual that my family finds very humorous. To look at the plants before the blossoms appear is no great treat, as they are scraggly and covered in thorns. But, oh, when just one rose blooms, it changes everything! It starts out small, simple and plain. And then when it opens, the colors come to life and the fragrance fills the whole yard.

My amazement does not stop there; that is just the beginning. As the days progress, more roses begin to bloom. No two are the same; not even on the same vine. They are unique in shape and color, some showing more multicolor definition than others. Some bloom quickly, while others take their time to enjoy every minute of the exquisite process. To admire a rose from a distance is far different than experiencing it’s journey to beauty up close, on a daily basis.

When the first autumn came at our home, I had such a dilemma with the rose bushes. I had read that rose bushes needed to be pruned. But, they looked so healthy to me – still green and full. There were, of course, not many blooms at that time of year, but still they did not look like they needed to be cut back. And then, there was the fact that we live in sunny California where it rarely even ever reaches freezing temperatures. So, in my extremely limited knowledge and expertise, I decided to test the pruning theory. We only trimmed back some of the bushes and let the rest remain full and green. While those pruned back looked so pathetic and forlorn, the others looked alive through the entire fall and winter seasons. I felt pretty good about that decision and surmised that all the pruning talk must be for every bush outside of Orange County, CA.

April came that next year, and the bushes which had been pruned burst into vibrant life again. They produced numerous and gorgeous roses, healthy looking, full, robust, fragrant and longstanding. But my brainstorm bushes, the ones I didn’t have the heart to cut back, and the ones we enjoyed in their dormant state throughout the winter…they did not offer many colorful and rich blooms. In fact, very few roses fought their way through and meekly bloomed and withered.

Wow, what a vivid picture of our hearts and lives! While we dislike the winter seasons of life, we try to avoid the pruning process at all costs. Oh, it can hurt, bend, test every bone in our body, leave us dry and lonely, and cause pain, even deep physical or emotional pain. But, those shaping, pruning and refining seasons are the glorious moments that create the very depth, heart, character and beauty of who you are at the core. In the midst of them, you may not look or feel very good about your state of being. Your thorns may be sharp and plentiful, you may be scraggly looking, and you may have to stay near the ground, bent down – even on your knees to get through.

Then it comes. Wait for it. One morning you take a deep breath, in the tent of God’s forgiveness and grace and healing where you have been camped, and you sense the promise of a new day, a new season. And from that moment, an aliveness comes that involves all the senses. It is radiant with a dimension only possible when produced by God. The harvest that comes in the “Aprils” of your life is a fragrant offering of beauty and multi-toned color and life and energy with an unmistakable and pronounced testimony of God’s grace and power.

We celebrated Resurrection Sunday this month. Life began when Jesus rose from the grave. When all hope was gone, when it seemed death had defeated, when darkness crept in, when discouragement and shame threatened to conquer – Jesus rose from the grave! That changed everything! Every season, every sin, every problem and trial, every fear, every illness, every shame – every single thing of this life is covered by the blood and grace of Jesus Christ!

If you are walking through a pruning season right now, take heart. There is good and growth and beauty and opportunity and blessing in the journey. God is right there with you. Walk forward in faith. Walk forward with purpose. Do the hard stuff. Recognize your pruning, receive it and grow from it in character and in truth. This April is alive, and is for you. And you are a glorious representation of Christ. Let His beauty and transforming power WOW someone who’s watching you bloom!

“Now change your mind and attitude to God and turn to Him so He can cleanse away your sins and send you wonderful times of refreshment from the presence of the Lord”. Acts 3:19 TLB

March!

“It’s day one of the rest of my life. It’s day one of the best of my life. I’m marching on to the beat of a brand new drum, yeah here I come, the future has begun, day one.”  – Lyrics from “Day One” by Matthew West

“The good ‘ol days are still ahead of you, may you have many of them” – one of my favorite quotes by Audrey Hepburn, seen daily hanging on a wall in our home. Have you had a season in your life where you long for a good ol’ day or when one day just kinda runs into the next, where you find yourself wishin’ for what has been or could be? Maybe that is where you are right now. Well, I’ve got great news for you – this is a new season! One for marchin’ on. One for taking extra weight off your shoulders and walking lighter and brighter. Come on! It is spring and newness is all around us!

I had the opportunity to tell a friend the “birthing” story of the “Fearless and Fancy Free” ministry once again this week. This time it grabbed my heart and whipped me back into that place in time, that season of clarity where I should still be: sitting under God’s miraculous flow of grace to receive my “marching orders”. Reflecting back, those orders were as clear as could be. They were not a plan where I became stronger or bolder or more daring and courageous, but rather a mind-blowing, strength-finding journey letting go of control and power. Becoming fearLESS was so impressed on my heart, I could think of nothing else.

A plethora of “Fearless” products and companies have popped up since then, with everything from clothing to coffee to hotdogs to software and photography and the list goes on and on. We literally see them every day. “Fearless” has become somewhat of a catch phrase because culture keeps jetting forward and is looking for something with a force, a drive that will not give up, radical in it’s approach, demonstrating no limits and no hesitations. Fearless = strength. At least that is what we are being told.

That equation is intriguing. I may not be a genius at math, but what I know is this: me + fear + brute strength + boldness = a disaster. A positive outcome is not possible without God. It just doesn’t work.

Is anybody else a slow learner or as stubborn as me? It has taken me many years and heartaches to understand that this fearless thing is not about the conquering, it is about the surrender. It comes from a place of brokeness that creates exquisite beauty and where wholeness can be realized. The Bible says “perfect love casts out fear” (I John 4:18). God is love. God takes our fear and gives great peace. Only He can take us from timid to bold, discouraged to joyful, abandoned to loved, and broken to healed. I can’t, but God can.

What is it going to take for you to let God take the lead in your life? Could it just be a choice this very day to let loose of the control of this life? While I had several hurdles in life where I should have grasped this powerful concept, it was the journey through breast cancer where the “a-ha” moment finally came. I could not fix. I could not change. I could not control the speed or duration or the outcome of the journey. I was not strong. I could not just tighten my belt and make it through. No way. Through the intense wrestling to surrender it over completely to God, there, and only there, was where the “fancy free” blessing was realized. The freedom, the joy, the lighter load to carry, the peace, the almost giddy realization of God’s provision – and there is such a sweetness in that.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Today. Don’t wait until tomorrow to change your direction. Pick up your feet, your knees and march it out. Dance it out. Run it out. Get light on your feet and get ready for the good ol’ days ahead.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”. Romans 15:13

Fabulous Fearless February

“Life is not waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”
– Vivian Greene

Our ten-year-old Lhasa Apso, Chrissy, does not like to go outside in any weather other than pure sunshine. We live in Southern California, for goodness sake, where the weather is almost near perfect a large percentage of the time. But, if it is windy, rainy, or just a little too cold, she will simply stand at the door and refuse to go out. If made to journey outside, she will then stay close to the door, visibly shaking, and present us with an altogether pitiful sight to behold. We have all taken our turns venturing out into the rain, holding an umbrella, walking and dancing and coaxing, in an effort to show her that she, too, will survive. (How I wish I had captured some of those Kodak moments!) Still, she does not believe it.

How much of that little Lhasa Apso dog lives in us? In the course of our lives, we live through many storms, we get wet, we dry off, and we come out no worse for the wear. But do we live like we know that? Or, rather, do we shrink back from every little cloudburst, fearful of some discomfort we might have to suffer, and refusing to believe that we actually will survive this one too?

During this short lived rainy season we have in California, there hopefully will be days of much needed rain. Perhaps this calls for a little step out into the actual rain to give us a tangible hold on what it is like to step out into the “rainy” seasons of our life. Contrary to what we might think, or have been told – we will not melt, shrink, or get sick. It actually might be exhilarating, it might change our attitude and we might see blessings in a new way. Maybe, just maybe, we might break out into a little two-step, or a waltz or free style dance.

Capture the very end of Fabulous Fearless February – there is no better time to learn to dance!

“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the One who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6