Category Archives: Faith

Mountains And Molehills

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Don’t make mountains out of molehills.”  If only I had a nickel for every time I heard that phrase in childhood…

Circumstance occurs.  Perception magnifies such & such to grandiose proportions, causing verbose lament of its significance to ensue.  Exacerbated parent/teacher/adult/any-reasonably-sound-human-being within earshot gets their fill of said ranting and responds with the classic wisdom: “Don’t make mountains out of molehills.”

This propensity is not merely my own shortcoming.  It’s common to us all, old as the Garden itself.  How effortlessly we overlook obvious good through laser-focus on the often small-by-comparison lacking bits of life.  A vast expanse of Paradise with everything free for the taking except that one little caveat that would ultimately spur Eve’s downfall.  She possessed more than a mountain; she’d been made ruler over Created Earth with Adam.  Yet of all the beauty – SINLESS beauty – surrounding, her eyes flocked upon that one fruit from that one tree.  And we’ve been following her lead ever since.

Research has repeatedly shown it takes ten positive statements to compensate for one negative.  Spend an evening showered in complements and a single negative utterance drowns them all in memory.

Annie F. Downs recently made the case for “keeping the painful parts of your life small to live a full life”.  Now she’s not advocating we play Pollyanna.  After all, in the sage words of T. Swift, “band-aids don’t fix bullet holes”.  Silver linings won’t stop a severed artery from bleeding out.  No, pain demands attention.  Survival, in fact, depends upon pain for, without it, we would befall harm quickly and at great cost.  Pain provides necessary parameters for living when it comes to safety as those affected by CIPA (aka the genetic inability to feel pain) will tell you.  Though you may not feel the heat of the flame, you still bear its resulting burns and at far greater extent than if you had felt the singe instantaneously.

Pain has purpose.

THAT SAID – it plays a part but NOT the whole.  A life’s summation must be more than its collective suffering.  There must be cause for celebration somewhere.  While creation remains under a curse, STILL it cries out in worship declaring the glory of God.  If desert sands and parched ground, if ashen hillsides and flooded banks can sound forth praise, then certainly so can I in the middle of hard things.  Even the psalmist sang, “I would have lost hope had I not believed I would see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living.”

God Himself declared to Moses, a man He spoke to as a friend, “See today I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing.  Choose life that you may live, you and your children.” (Deuteronomy 30:19)   Both exist in our reality: life AND death, blessing AND cursing, good AND bad, dark AND light.  Just as God instructed Moses, so He gives to us: CHOICE.  Choose life that you may live.  Neither are exclusive descriptors of existence.  Where there is life, death also dwells.  ‘Tis the way of all fallen flesh.  But where there is death, life’s remnant can also be found.  Decay renders soil more fertile.  Ash alkalizes acidity.  It’s central to nature, both the law of entropy AND the reality that life will out.

Does this mean Annie’s statement of keeping pain small is unfounded?  Not at all.  Pain is and always will be present while this fallen earth remains.  Pain because of a curse, a curse resulting from a choice, a choice that existed SO THAT LOVE COULD BE POSSIBLE.  Love without choice is not love at all and that comes with great risk, at great cost.

Pain is real.  It demands attention.

But not all of it.  Even darkest nights reveal the shining through of stars.

We magnify what matters.  We measure by what we make much of.   Query the Psalms, ancient accounts of suffering and song.  They face pain head-on, crying out for justice, for mercy.  They do not deny life’s sorrows but rather take its full weight before the listening ear of God.  Even the most heart-wrenching psalms bear an element of praise, a remnant of hope.  Where pain is great, praise is made greater.  Where trials rage, thanksgiving rings through and true.  The determinant is choice.

With both options ever before mankind of life and death, what realm will we choose to dwell in?  Think of your own story.  Do you measure it in increments of suffering or joy, of failure or accomplishment, and by what lens do you define the two?  When you share your experiences, do you belabor the woes or delight in even mundane moments with gratitude?  As you look over your life thus far, what draws your attention, your affection, your energy?

Let’s labor together to take one step towards triumph, towards celebrating even the smallest of wins and not letting pain hold the final verdict on our life.  When all seems ashes, take heart.  May we be people who face pain headlong with tenacious thanksgiving on our tongue.  May we be known more for what we celebrate than the wounds we lament.  It takes courage to choose gratitude in what seems a graveyard; it feels an awful risk.  But it is one worth taking.  In the context of mountains and molehills, we determine which elements of life hold sway over our hearts.  May looming structures in our lives be marked by grace and gratitude, by praise resolute with hope, rather than majoring in the minors and magnifying pain over joy.

We all endure the rain.  Floods may rise and fall.  But if its hope you’re looking for, Charlie Chaplain said it best: “You’ll never find a rainbow if you’re looking down.”

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Heard

It’s been quite a year, this 2015.

A hard one.

Hardest that’s come in my 33 years.

Funny looking back on seasons once deemed difficult, now paling by comparison.  Perhaps that’s an encouragement though – those valleys deep seeming shallow in rear view, after their hidden lessons were learned and the Author’s crafting, carrying, through it all made evident.  Perhaps those rifts felt foreboding then as these canyon-sized cracks do now.  Perhaps it’s just reflection’s rose-colored glasses.

Nevertheless.

It’s been a year of dark storms and brilliant silver linings, a year of fears actualized and unknown strength rising.  But let’s be honest – even that “strength” is simply weakness brought center stage, leading to greater dependence on the only One mighty.  If in weakness one is strong, then I’m Miss Olympia.

When walking sorrow’s road, there comes a point when our mortal core cannot carry gratitude’s banner any further, when the silver linings don’t make up for the massive clouds within, when you’re simply, honestly NOT OK and too weary to convince yourself otherwise.  ‘Tis the way of all fallen flesh.  Whether abandonment of provision, people, or plans, human hope only goes so far.

We cannot save ourselves.

Another exhausted day gave way to sleepless night.  As the last of my frayed rope’s end gave way, the guttural cries stored deep from this awful year came pouring out, silent cries giving way to sobs.  My life’s foundational belief in Yahweh, the One True God, the Ever-Faithful, Ever-Listening, Ever-Sovereign, Perfect Author of life itself, met its crux.  All the silver-linings and gratitude-fueled-hope could not sustain the weight crushing within.  God, I “know” You hear me but I NEED to know You’re with me, FOR me, RIGHT NOW in this make it or I’ll break moment.  Would my Cornerstone prove sure?

It all poured out with torrential force.  Anger.  Sorrow.  Fear.  Every awful emotion birthed from loss.  Nothing polished.  Raw.  Laid out ugly before Holiness in the dark of night.

Here, He showed Himself near.

A middle-of-the-night message sent from a friend woken, prompted to pray for me, for my precious children.  Slowly I heard His whispers.  I’m here.

Whispered nudges to a spent soul, Open your Bible app.  A book of 66 books.  Out of all of that, where do I even start?!  Just open it.

Psalm 116

I love the Lord because He has heard my appeal for mercy.  Because He has turned His ear to me, I will call out to Him as long as I live.  The ropes of death were wrapped around me, and the torments of Sheol overcame me; I encountered trouble and sorrow.  Then I called on the name of Yahweh: “Yahweh, save me!”  

The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is compassionate.  The Lord guards the inexperienced; I was helpless, and He saved me.  Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.  For You, Lord, rescued me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.  I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.  I believed, even when I said, “I am severely afflicted.”  In my alarm I said, “Everyone is a liar.”  

How can I repay the Lord for all the good He has done for me?  I will take the cup of salvation and call on the name of Yahweh.  I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people.  The death of His faithful ones is valuable in the Lord’s sight.  Lord, I am indeed Your servant; I am Your servant, the son of Your female servant.  You have loosened my bonds.  I will offer You a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of Yahweh.  I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people, in the courts of the Lord’s house—within you, Jerusalem.  Hallelujah!  

He heard me.

I read the psalm over and again, awed how the phrases contained spoke directly to my cries.  It had just turned midnight.  I opened the app again.  A new day’s passage appeared.

I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace.  You will have suffering in this world.  Be courageous!  I have conquered the world.  John 16:33

Comfort like rolling tides swept over as the One who holds all things together held me together by His Word, living and active.  Colossians.  SheReadsTruth.com was studying the book currently.  Colossians.  Well since it’s after midnight maybe the next day’s post will be up.  Opening it read:

So if you have been raised with the Messiah, see what is above, where the Messiah is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on what is above, not what is on the earth.  Colossians 3:1-2

Peace like lightening broke through my dark.  He heard me.  God was speaking to me – broken, battered, ugly-raw me, saving me from what I couldn’t save myself.  And His Words spoke Grace.  Grace greater than sin, ALL sin, mine, those against me and against those I love.  Grace, My child.

And with it – Hope.

It’s now another day into this year, this year that can’t fade to memory soon enough.  Perhaps one day those rose-colored glasses will find similar reflections on the valley of now.  Much terrain remains to be traveled as my surrounding circumstances haven’t changed.  But Ann Voskamp summed it best, “Every person needs hope planted at the bottom of their hole.  Because this is the thing.  Hope is what holds a breaking heart together.  Hope in a Big God is what frees us from big fears.  Hope is a thing with keys…”

At the blackest bottom of my hole, God gently placed mine.  Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.  Beneath storm clouds still raging, He renewed truth’s song in me.

Great is His faithfulness.

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When It All Falls Down

What to do when your world needs fixing…

When everything teeters on the brink of crumbling, how do you cope?

You cry out to God, pray earnestly for His strong arm to mend the broken, to rescue before collapse. You search Scriptures, search your heart, search earnestly for something, anything, for remedy.

But what do you do when after all this – the tears, the prayers, the repentance – it all falls anyways. Prayers for repair seemingly return with rubble.

I’ve pondered this much of late: how to reconcile cries for fixing when the answer comes back in further breaking.

Was the Lord averse to my cries? Had my pleas fallen on calloused ears?

While emotions raged and circumstances spun, I sensed His gentle Spirit whisper truth to my weary soul:

I am not a handyman.

Patch this. Mend that. Indeed my prayers for fixing desired repair work on existing structures, keeping the status quo minus the cracks. “Here’s MY plan for fixing, Lord. Be a good handyman and get the job done.”

Oh the love of our patient God. As I wrestled with this new realization of my heart’s desires, He whispered again transforming truth.

You are clay and I, the Potter.

The Potter. Master craftsman. Clay always transforms into its destined design within the molding palm of His hands. Should cracks develop or walls weaken, He does not simply patch nor mend. The Potter presses the entire piece to the ground, flattening to scratch and building again from the bottom up. For the vessel to hold true, it must be made new. For the fractured, fixing requires breaking.

With this newfound perspective, I realized my cries for fixing had in fact been answered! Not by mere patchwork that would eventually give way to greater rupture but by the loving leveling of the Master Potter’s Hands. Not out of distain or frustration but clear vision of the full potential trapped within the my clay, potential that could only be realized by His molding touch.

He allowed all to fall so it could be built up in Him, strong and sure.

Take heart, weary one. You are not forsaken. When it all falls down, rest your battered bones in the palm of your Potter. His desire exceeds mere repair of fractured places. Know you are ever in His sight as the apple of His eye. He has a masterpiece in mind!

Therein lies the beauty of being broken.

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Grace

Grace beyond vast oceans’ deep
Embrace my soul with eyes to see
This glorious love, so strong, so free
Immerse me in its flood

High above celestial reach
It towers o’er grand mountains peak
This splendor reaches low to me
Poured out in crimson blood

Awake this soul once bound now free
Redemption’s call beckoning me
Chains broken on Calvary’s tree
Christ’s ransom – grace enough

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Truth To Cling To

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O Lord, You have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is high; I cannot attain it.

Where shall I go from Your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, You are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there Your hand shall lead me,
and Your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the lights about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to You;
the nights is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with You.

For You formed my inward parts;
You knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are Your woks;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in Your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was not one.

How precious to me are Your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake and I am still with You.

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
See if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
———-
Thus says The Lord who made the earth,
The Lord who formed it to establish it –
The Lord is His Name:
Call to Me and I will answer you,
and tell you great and wondrous things you do not know.
———-
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord,
plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you a hope and a future.
Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me,
and I will hear You.
You will seek Me and find Me
when you seek Me with all your heart.
———-
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, The Lord,
the Creator of the ends of the earth
does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.
He gives strength to the weary,
and to him who lacks might He increases power.
Though youths grow weary and tired,
and vigorous men stumble and fall,
Yes those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength;
They will mount up with wings as eagles,
They will run and not grow weary,
They will walk and not be faint.
———-
Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Surely I will help you.
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.
———-
Thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob,
and He who formed you, O Israel,
“Do not fear for I have redeemed you;
I have called you.
You are Mine!
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be set ablaze,
nor will the flame burn you.
For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

Psalm 139:1-18, 23-24
Jeremiah 33:2-3; 29:11-13
Isaiah 40:28-31; 41:10; 43:1-3a

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Pray For Joanna

Some families touch you for a season, others impact you for a lifetime. For me, the Dennstaedts are the later kind.

IMG_0610.JPG(Photo credit: Jensen Photography)

Throughout middle and high school, the Dennstaedts were like second family to me. Kevin and I were class mates, Brian was the big brother I never had, and Jenna and my sister were two peas-in-a-pod. Through the challenges surrounding my high school years, Miss Shirley and Mr John welcomed me into their hearts as their home became a frequent refuge. Truth be told, I’m not sure I could have made it through that season without their friendship, their love, their example and prayers. Time and distance has taken us all down different paths and to different states, yet their family remains dear to my heart.

Now its time to pour love, support and prayer back to them!

Kevin’s wife, Joanna, is a remarkable mother of 4, lacrosse coach, and all-around lovely woman. Hers is a life marked by faith and kindness. Just over a month ago, her world changed as a simple mole turned out to be malignant melanoma which metastasized to her lymph system. Today she’s under the knife for an aggressive groin lymph surgery – a procedure carrying significant consequences depending on what the surgeons find.

Would you please join me in praying for and supporting this family? I can attest firsthand that they have spent their lives loving Jesus and serving others well.

Pray for wisdom and skill for her surgeons.
Pray for peace to envelope Kevin and their four children as they wait for the surgery’s results.
Pray for strength and healing for Joanna as the recovery process is extensive.
And PLEASE pray that there would be No Evidence of Disease in Joanna. For complete healing.

I know from personal experience the tremendous support that can come via the blogosphere, from friends and strangers alike. Let’s surround this family with love as they walk cancer’s uncertain road.

You can follow their family’s journey at DennstaedtFamily.blogspot.com.

IMG_0609-0.JPG(Photo credit: Jensen Photography)

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Fog Of Failure

She set out to conquer her morning run.  Shoes laced, water bottle in hand, her body stretched and fueled. The familiar path brimmed with potential. 3…2…1… Run!

No stranger to the road, this experienced runner girded herself for the task ahead.  Hills.  Turns.  The mental struggle to keep going right before that euphoric “runner’s high”.  Nothing seemed to phase her focus and stride. She was ready!

But then the fog set in.

imageOut of nowhere dense clouds descended upon her path. Her surroundings faded like intricate stones beneath snow – all detail, all guiding markers lost in a blanket of white. She’d run this path so many times before undaunted through rain, wind, blinding sun, and fading light. But as the fog fell thick, her stride slowed to a timid stroll. All experience, all previous runs faded like her surroundings as her bearings blurred to gray. Though she could not hold the fog in her hands, its presence surrounded her to a stop.  Which path to take?  Which direction to run?  Where am I going?  Where am I now?!  Frozen.

Whether we’re runners or not, we’ve all faced this similar dilemma. Course set, skills honed, yet become wary of taking the next step ahead.

When the fog of failure falls, how quickly courage fades.

Perhaps its a familiar road. Perhaps its a new trail. Perhaps its a path long traveled, preparations years in the making. When failure rears its loathsome head, everything goes gray. The fog of failure can render us lost, afraid, immobile.

What if it happens again?
What if you fail?
Remember when they betrayed you? How can you trust again?
Don’t get your hopes up. Remember when…
Do you honestly think you’ll get it right this time?
You can’t. You can’t. You can’t.
Failure……

Failure immobilizes like a fog. But thanks be to God who shines in our darkness, who lights our path! (Psalm 119:105) Like a ship lost at sea, the Truth of God’s Word and character will give us our bearings, guiding us safely to our destination. It may be slow going for a time but we need not be frozen in the fog. He has given us mileposts, markings, lights to guide our way out through.

What if it happens again?
“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6 & 8)
What if you fail?
“My grace is sufficient for all your needs for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:)
Remember when they betrayed you? How can you trust again?
“For there is a Friend (speaking of Jesus) who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)
Don’t get your hopes up. Remember that past pain?
“”We rejoice in our sufferings knowing that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)
Do you honestly think you’ll get it right this time?
“I lift my eyes to the hills from whence does my help come? My help comes from The Lord, Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber.” (Psalm 121:1-3)
You can’t.
“For I am The Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you.'” (Isaiah 41:13)
Failure.
“The Lord is my light and my salvations – whom shall I rfear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid? Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear, though war arise against me, yet I will be confident. For He will hide me in His shelter in the day of trouble; He will conceal me under the cover of His tent; He will life me high upon a rock.” (Psalm 27:1, 3, 5)

Failures fog will fall. Rather than freezing in fear, we can fix our eyes on the unchanging One who stands strong, His faithfulness sure as the coming dawn. The going may be slow but with our focus set on the Light that shines in the darkness (and the darkness CANNOT put it out), we can navigate through the fog back to clear skies and full strides.

Keep moving forward, Beloved. You are not forsaken.

You are not a failure.

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