I’m trying something new! Join me for time spent in scripture discussing the remarkable ways God works in our lives.
“Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.” ~ Matthew 8:5
When I take a step back and look at my life, with everything I’ve been through, and everything I’ve done, I wonder how could anything pure could still exist in me? No one gets through this world untouched. And like a lot of people, not only have I been touched by the world, it’s flat out beat me down a time or two. And that leaves a mark just as surely as sin does. That’s where bitterness, anger, coveting… all stem from. Broken dreams, broken promises, insensitivity, frustration, betrayal, battle, condescension, these are all things that destroy what was once pure. And that’s just lightly touching the surface.
So when I read the first part of the verse, “Blessed are the pure of heart,” I say, Yes, bless them, we need more of them, bless their pure, sweet, innocent hearts. And then I read the rest of the verse, “…for they shall see God.” And I think, “Just them, or does anyone have a bible with a different version that’s maybe a little more vague and encompassing? No? Then what does that mean for me?”
What does it mean to have a pure heart? How can I ever get one of those?
Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.”
That tells me right there, in and of myself, it is impossible for me to have a pure heart.
But, what is impossible for me, is possible for God. By the grace of God, I can have a pure heart.
I think a pure heart is a forgiven heart.
One night at a bible study, our lesson was based on a Rob Bell video we watched. The message had this to say: There is nothing you could ever do to make God love you less. Nothing you could ever do to make him love you less. Nothing. This message really meant a lot to me because I grew up hearing these words from my parents my whole life. “There is nothing you or your brother could ever do that would make us love you less.”
When I was about 7 years old, my brother and I accidentally broke something of mom’s. I don’t remember what it was, but we were afraid to tell because we didn’t want to get into trouble. When Mom found out (as Mom’s do), she decided she needed to come up with a way for us to feel like we were able to come to her with anything we’d done. So, one day, she got us together and showed us a keychain. It was a simple little keychain with a picture of a puppy on it. She told us that any time we did something we were afraid to tell her about, we could bring her the keychain. It didn’t mean we wouldn’t be punished, but Mom promised us that if we brought her the keychain, she would not get mad or yell, but she would talk to us about what had happened or what we’d done. We didn’t have to be afraid because she would always love us, no matter what we did. She hung the keychain low on the wall on a nail beside the washing machine and told us it would always be there when we needed it.
I remember, vividly, one occasion when I used the keychain. I had been sent to my room as punishment for something I had done. I was so mad about getting into trouble, I wrote on my bedroom wall in big, little kid letters, I hate mom. I don’t remember what I used to write it with, but I do remember that it didn’t come off with an eraser, and it didn’t come off with water. I instantly became afraid, and ashamed. I knew three things for certain. I knew I was going to have to tell mom what I’d done. I knew that it was going to hurt her badly. And I knew there was no way around it, because there was absolutely no hiding it.
So, I walked into the kitchen. With trembling hands I removed the keychain from the nail, and with tears streaming down my face, I went to find my mom. She didn’t get mad, but when I told her, she started to cry. She hugged me, and took my hand and led me into the kitchen. We got a small bucket from under the sink and filled it with soapy water, my mom handed me a sponge, and together we walked back to my room, and to my wall. The worst part of the whole thing was the guilt and shame of having to face those blatantly mean words again in front of her. She knelt down beside me, and together we scrubbed the words off the wall…every last mark. I still, to this day, feel terrible for writing it. But I don’t remember ever talking to mom about it again.
I decided to use this story as an illustration at one evening service when I volunteered to give the message. I thought I’d better let Mom know and make sure it wouldn’t upset her again to hear it. I asked her if she remembered the keychain she gave my brother and I and she told me that she did. She said she’d even thought about that keychain just a couple of days earlier. I took a deep breath and I told her what I planned to say about my writing on the wall and what a horrible daughter I am. She sat and listened until I’d finished. And do you know what she said? She said, “I don’t remember that.” She remembered the keychain, and she remembered that my brother and I had both used it a few times, but she didn’t remember a single thing we had ever done.
How many times do we fail to come to God with our sins and anger simply because it hurts so badly to have to face that sin in front of Him? How many times have we been mad at God, or too busy for God, and turned our backs to Him only to find ourselves standing in front of a wall, facing the sin in our lives, with no way to hide it, and no where else to turn? It begins with a simple prayer of complete surrender, “Lord, forgive me. Have mercy on me.”
We can’t wash away our sin without God’s help. God faces our sin with us. He washes it clean. He forgives us. And then through Isaiah 43:25 He tells us, “I – yes, I alone – will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again.” He forgives us because He loves us. And there is nothing we could ever do, to make Him love us less.
Blessed are those who are forgiven, washed clean, for they shall see God. Achieving a pure heart is not something we can do once and maintain. It is a constant renewal by the grace of God. Blessed are the pure of heart, the forgiven heart, the willing heart, for they shall see God.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a faithful spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10.
When you focus on your faith, you find a new perspective. You get a new angle on dealing with the world around you.
Focusing your faith can mean something different to each of us, but if you need a place to start, here are three steps to get you on your path:
1. Understand that God is not looking down you, watching you suffer in your situation. Instead close your eyes, take a deep breath, and know that He is with you, feel the comfort of His presence, and hear Him whispering these words in your ear, “I’m so sorry, sweet child. I’m so sorry you’re sad. But there is a plan. There is hope.”
2. Focus on praying for strength and do not doubt. When you do not doubt, faith is present. It’s already there. Focus on Jesus and not on your circumstances.
3. Be ready for action. Pray for guidance to know when it’s YOUR move, and use every ounce of your faith to cast any doubts you have aside.
Read Matthew 17:20, then pick up your mountain of doubt or bitterness or whatever it is standing in your way, and chunk it!
There is a road that runs through the center of my city. Just past the university, there is a stoplight followed by a curve, then another road splits off the main road to the right. Typically, as many cars take that turnoff as continue straight. People are changing lanes at the last minute to turn off, while other cars are lined up to cross the street from both sides. It’s a busy, rushed, and at times confusing intersection. Houses line the turnoff road on the right-hand side.
One morning I was taking my daughter to daycare on my way to work. She was four years old, and I was 7 months pregnant. I’m always in the right-hand lane on this main road because I take the turnoff as it splits to the right. As I rounded the curve after the stoplight, I saw a little girl, not more than two years old, laughing and chasing a little puppy out of the open gate on the side of her house. The puppy ran right into the street just in front of me, and the little girl followed.
I slammed on my brakes. As a few thousandths of a second passed and I tried to decide what my part was going to be in whatever would happen next, the passenger door of a plumbing truck in the left-hand lane next to me opened, and I watched in absolute amazement as a man jumped from the truck that was still trying to stop – he just jumped from a moving vehicle. He landed on his feet already in a dead sprint across traffic, right in front of my braking vehicle, toward this tiny, happy, toddling girl. He scooped up the smiling child and her puppy, and ran for the sidewalk. I instinctively turned on my hazard lights, watching this unselfish act of heroism in stunned amazement. Thankfully, the cars in the lane behind me and those in the left-hand lane quickly became aware of the situation. We all just stopped and watched in relief (I cried) as this brave young man hugged the girl and her puppy close to his heart, while he talked to her and smiled at her and carried her safely up to the door of her house. The door had a lovely painted wooden heart decoration hanging on it. I often wonder how the person who answered that door must have felt, hearing about the moment I had just witnessed.
I drive that route every single day, and I always think about that morning as I pass the house. Things could have happened very differently that day. So many things could have gone wrong. But they didn’t. Because one man did not think – he just jumped. At that moment, nothing on this earth was more important to him than that child. And he didn’t even know her.
We may not always have the benefit of seeing God swoop down from above and physically pluck us out of a bad situation, but he still does it.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life. You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes; with your right hand you save me. ~Psalm 138:7
He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son. ~ Colossians 1:13
As creatures of this world we so easily chase dreams and goals and desires – seeing only what’s just out of reach in front of us – without realizing the path we’re running full speed down ends at a dangerous intersection.
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. ~ 1 Corinthians 10:13
I really like the first sentence of this passage. “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.” God is so much bigger than the temptations of this world. And in the next sentence we read, “…he will also provide the way of escape.” This says to me that when I find myself overcome by the difficulties and pressures those dangerous intersections surprise me with, there will always be a way out. There is always a choice. There is nothing I cannot be rescued from.
Read it again – out loud. “There is nothing I cannot be rescued from.”
Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. ~ Hebrews 7:25
God’s intervention alters the course of events for YOU and ME.
These two scriptures offer great advice to help us stay on the right path:
1. For we walk by faith, not by sight. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:7
Walking by faith means we consciously ask for God’s guidance – and we follow it.
2. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. ~ Peter 5:8
Be alert, be aware. Use self-control and be ready, so that when you are confronted with something new that steals your focus and entices you to follow down a dangerous path, you will recognize when the hand of God is reaching for you, to pull you out of the way of danger.
Walk by faith, not by sight. There is nothing you cannot be rescued from.
Let’s keep looking out for each other, friends.
~Be Intentional. Be Strong. Be Faithful. Be Delivered. ~
Untamable – Unable to be controlled; savage, unbroken, wild
Peace – Freedom from disturbance; tranquility, harmony, good will, serenity
When I think of something wild and untamable, I think of wild horses running fast with no fences and no one able to reign them in or stop them; I think of a raging river, flowing rapidly, unbothered by any attempts to stop it.
What about peace?
Have you ever thought of peace as being untamable?
What if you could pray for and accept Untamable Peace into your heart? What if the Untamable Peace made your heart so full of peace that the fullness of it flowed from your heart and began coursing, racing, through your veins? What if every breath you took allowed the Untamable Peace within you to gain more life, to run wild, until the fullness of it made your body so exhilarated with the freedom peace brings that the Untamable Peace shot from your fingers and toes and began swirling around you until it completely enveloped you with the living protection of God’s Untamable Peace – surrounding you in life giving freedom from pain, from anger, from bitterness? What if the Untamable Peace that now races through your heart and your body and surrounds you in life giving freedom from pain and anger and bitterness now fills the room you’re sitting in? What if the Untamable Peace now races through your home, covering every surface, surrounding every living being, and now swells and grows and reaches outside your home, in brilliant streams of glorious Untamable Peace that reach out and envelope your family, your friends, the cashier, the stranger you just walked by, your co-workers, and even that one person that makes you miserable – come on push through it – pray for them to have peace – don’t let them stop you anymore – you have the Untamable Peace you prayed for and that gift from God – that Untamable Peace – gives you authority to absolutely barrel over and smother negativity and bash those blocks of bitterness in your heart, in your home, in your life, in the lives of those around you – with Peace.
Peace is dynamic. Peace always flows. Peace cannot be still – it wants too much to live. I look out my window across a field of tall grass. On a still, stagnant day, there is no change or movement. But then the wind begins to blow, and suddenly not just the grass, but the entire field comes to life with the movement of the wind. There’s comfort in knowing that peace is always flowing. When you feel like you’ve lost your peace, or you’ve allowed it to become stagnant – pray for it – breathe it in. It will come back to you. The peace you long for will flow untamed into your heart, and bring life giving movement back to your lost and stagnant world.
Wild, untamable peace gives movement and life and blows away the dust and clutter – but what happens when it hits a barrier – something that your heart is too bitter to allow peace to overcome? Who or what is that barrier? When you close your eyes and imagine joyous, freeing, untamable peace coursing through your life – what makes you stop and open your eyes and tell yourself that you just can’t go any further than that? Why not? Who or what has power over your own inner peace?
It’s yours. It is your peace to unleash. It is your gift from GOD. And it is up to you to give life to that Untamable Peace – with no fences, no restraints, completely unbothered by attempts to stop it.
It isn’t easy. But maybe that’s why it’s so freeing.
We have to pray for it, and accept it, and then give it away – give it life.
Give Peace Life.
The following story describes the moment of my deliverance from infertility to motherhood.
On Saturday April 30, 2011, I had a phone conversation that would forever change my life. I wrote this blog post shortly after that day.
Josh and I had been trying to get pregnant for quite some time. So when we were approached with the opportunity to adopt, especially considering the amazing family we were approached by, there was no question that God had beautifully orchestrated our circumstances and so purposefully intertwined our lives with the family that was destined to become an extension of our own.
To try and fit our entire experience over the past 6 months into one post would be impossible – and wouldn’t do justice to the lives involved. It was just too precious a journey with such incredible emotional ranges to try and summarize. I hardly know where to begin.
So for now, I think I’ll begin at the exact moment our old lives ended, and our new lives began – Phoebe’s birthday.
Brandy, Kim (Brandy’s mom), Josh and I had been to almost every one of Brandy’s appointments together. We heard Phoebe’s heartbeat together, we witnessed her sonograms together, saw Phoebe’s toes on the screen, watched her beating heart and saw her tiny hands together, hugging and holding hands and loving on Brandy together. We began to think of ourselves as the four musketeers – Phoebe’s original crew. From the very beginning, Brandy was so gracious to include Josh and I in every part of her pregnancy. Josh and I were thrilled that Brandy wanted us in the delivery room with her.
Brandy went into labor just a few days shy of being full term. She and Phoebe both had been strong and healthy the entire pregnancy. Brandy’s strength always impressed me – and continues to do so.
On Thursday night (Sept 8th) Josh and I got “the call” and we met at the hospital at around 11pm. It was excruciating watching Brandy, this brave young girl, go through so much pain. She had an epidural in the early hours of the morning (which we were all very glad for her to get), and at about 6:45am the nurses began setting up the room and her bed for the delivery.
It all got really real, really quick.
There were two delivery nurses who were in the room with us to get Brandy started until the doctor was called. The head nurse was a very impressive and take charge woman who said she’d been delivering babies for 40 years and in whom we all had every confidence could deliver a baby without the doctor if it came to it. I think we were all just glad there was an adult in the room because we felt like a bunch of kids who didn’t know what we were doing. Thank God she was there to give us all an activity.
Once the delivery began, Josh and Kim stayed at the top of the bed to hold Brandy’s hands and help her push. Myself and the other nurse (who herself was very new) each held a leg in a stirrup – the most important job of my entire life. The nurse had Brandy push until she saw Phoebe crown, then the doctor came in. We had become acquainted with this doctor over the past months of appointments, so she knew Josh and I too. We really liked her. And I think there was a big collective sigh of relief when we saw her familiar smiling face walk in the door.
I really can’t describe watching the delivery. I had no idea what all goes on “down there” in order for a child to be born. It was incredible. I saw Phoebe’s head. I looked at Brandy and she was looking right at me and I said, “Brandy, she’s coming. She’s almost here. Push sweetie!”
And Brandy pushed.
And suddenly, the world slowed down.
I watched as Phoebe was born into this world. She was here. She was born facing up, and her eyes were wide open. The umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck twice, but the doctor freed her immediately. The nurses cleaned around her mouth and she cried out – and so did we.
Brandy had arranged beforehand what she wanted to happen once Phoebe was born. Josh cut the umbilical cord, then one of the nurses laid Phoebe on a small blanket –
and she placed my daughter in my arms.
I began crying like a baby. We all did – the doctor and nurses included, I was later told. Well, everyone except Phoebe. She was just wide eyed and looking around – taking in her new world.
As I held Phoebe, suddenly it seemed the doctor and nurses disappeared, it seemed there was no one else in the room – in the whole world – except for the four of us and Phoebe. God stopped the world – He stopped time – for just a moment, and gave us the most precious moment I have ever experienced in my life. Josh and I held each other, and together we held Phoebe, I kissed Brandy on her forehead and I thanked her and I held onto Kim as she had her arms wrapped around her own precious daughter. And God’s arms were wrapped so tightly around all of us it was as though He physically enveloped us and allowed us to leave the earth behind for a moment.
And in that precious moment that Phoebe was delivered – I was delivered too.
I was delivered from all of my fears, all of my frustrations, all of my doubts. I was delivered from bitterness and anger and countless days spent agonizing over my infertility.
I was delivered from the fear of childlessness – and born into motherhood.
It was so important to me to write about this moment. It is so important to me that you know what an incredible experience this has been. I know there are many couples who have considered adoption but have held back due to fear of the unknown. I want to thank those of you who have been through the adoption process and who offered nonstop encouragement and prayers when my frustrations started getting the better of me. I want to thank the adoption agency for their tireless efforts to keep us on the fast track during the very unbelievably tedious adoption process. I want to thank Kim for her courage and her friendship and her unconditional love for her daughter. I want to thank Josh for being strong for me every single time I was weak. I want to thank Brandy for her bravery and selflessness – and for giving Josh and I the incredible gift of parenthood.
Dear God, Thank you for blessing us with a child.
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.~ Matthew 7:7
I believe this.
Four years later, at the age of 40, I became pregnant by surprise and gave birth to a beautiful baby boy named Stephen.
Dear God, Thank you for blessing us with our children.