Thursday, January 30, 2020

A Bookstore, the Ten Commandments and a Pursuit of the Almighty

Early yesterday, my office was a Chick Fil A.

Not a bad place to work, especially if you can sip a Frosted Lemonade while working...

However, as I put this blog to bed, I "officed" out of a nearby Barnes and Noble.

There's something sacred about libraries and book stores. 

I don't know what it is, but as I enter, it feels as if I'm stepping onto hallowed ground.

There's a sense I should take my shoes off, but I highly doubt the managers would appreciate it.

Perhaps this sense of consecration has to do with all the brilliant minds represented under one roof.

Maybe it's the totality of combined hours of sacrifice by authors who've passionately poured out their hearts onto the written page...and a prayer that some of it will rub off on me...


AND...I do wish I could help you appreciate the fresh aroma of this bookstore air...

There's nothing at all like opening a new book, nestling your nose deep into the spine of a crisp fresh page, and taking a deep sniff...

That, right there, provides uncanny inspiration!

However, I highly doubt you've logged in to read about bookstore air...

Hopefully, you are curious about where this week's thought will take us.

I'm in pursuit of the Almighty...

+ longing to meet Him in a deeper, more meaningful way...

+ to be surprised by Him as He collides with the ordinary in my every day world.

I've taken note that this pursuit can't even begin until I look deep inside,
pull back thick layers of mask-wearing,
and, look at myself closely through the mirror of the Lord's Commandments.

I can't hide from Him, anyway, He knows all...

But, for many years I've glossed over the truth of what's deep inside, thinking, "I can't be all that bad..."

...until I began reading, researching, reflecting on the first five of the commandments.

At this moment, I should be in a puddled heap on the floor of this bookstore.

I definitely deserve a death sentence.

Commandment 1. No other gods. 

To simplify this commandment, I answered this question:  Exactly where do I try to find contentment/satisfaction?

My answer should be God-alone...

...but, it isn't.

I'm guilty of looking elsewhere...all the time saying He is my One and Only with my mouth.

I almost always digress from God-Almighty when I hear myself saying the words "If only...." and following them with something other than Jesus...

Commandment 2. Don't take His name in vain.

I'm no cusser.

I don't salt and pepper my sentences with declarations of "oh, my G___!"

But, here's what this commandment really means -

It's not just about speaking God's name casually, lowering His estimation in other's eyes; it's about lifting Him up!

The second commandment is also about speaking up with praise, magnifying the Lord, elevating His character, bringing glory to His reputation, and uplifting His status among the community of which I am a part.

I may not speak God's name in an unworthy manner, but sometimes I fail to speak about Him at all!

And, because I carry His name (Christian), I'm to be a reflection of His character (that's what it means to bring Him glory...)

No, I don't. I want to, but I don't....

Commandment 3. Protect the Sabbath.

Do no work on your "Day-of-Ceasing."

I continually play catch up in my office (whether it's at home, a hotel in a city where I'm speaking, or a Barnes and Noble) on Sunday afternoons. once were...and you now are...and you could have been...

The Sabbath is for remembering all God has done, from where I've come and what He protected me from, then celebrating it...with intention.

I forget to do just that.

The Sabbath is to be a sign of the covenant-of-love God has made with His children.

If a non-believer watched my Sabbath, there's be no indication of this covenant other than church attendance...

Commandment 4: Honor your father and mother.

I looked at the word "honor" more closely.

Attached to it is this word: cherish.

Cherish: to protect, nurture, hold dear.

In a book titled by this same word, Gary Thomas (author) pointed to the following picture as a way to define this uncommonly used word.

Here is the headline that showed up in the Daily Mail below the photo:

"Touching moment as Thai beauty queen kneels down in a glittering tiara and sash to thank rubbish collecting mother who raised her!

  • Khanittha (Mint) Phasaeng, 17, won Miss Uncensored News Thailand 2015 
  • Her mother raised her alone by collecting and recycling trash
  • Beauty queen returned home straight after her win to say thank you 
  • She says all she has accomplished is because of her mother's hard work"

Cherish your parents...

Good parents, or not so much...

...they gave you life!

They could have chosen to do otherwise.

You are who you are because their blood runs through you.

Do not revile, abuse, disregard, or malign their character.

I can not say with a whole-heart that I have been a good daughter, honoring the memory of my parents who gave me LIFE!

Commandment 5: Do not murder.

Initially, as I read #5, I sighed with relief. Finally! One I haven't broken. Until... I read Jesus' words in Matthew 5:21-26, where He compares murder with anger towards another; and, the Apostle John follows up with this: "Anyone who a murderer... (1 John 3:15)."

Angry: Ever been exasperated? Annoyed? Infuriated? Provoked? Yep...Murderer!

Hate: Love less? To fall short of a 1 Corinthians 13 description in any way?

Yeah? Me, too!

I heard the gavel fall.






Death X5!



...and He pursued me as He died in my place.

That's the ONLY reason I'm not in a puddled heap on this book store floor...

And, why I will leave this holy-sanctuary-place roaring with GRATITUDE!

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Living in the Land of Nod (not realizing it)...and, my Pursuit of God

I began 2020 with the intended purpose of pursuing the Lord in greater measure.

Many, many weeks ago, I was struck by the passage that mentioned how Cain had purposely walked away from the presence of God.

He moved to the "Land of Nod and settled there..." (Nod: the land of wandering, a vacant place - Genesis 4:16)

This dumbfounded me.


But...Cain had sinned.

Sin is a separating factor, we can't deny.

He decided he'd rather hide and isolate than deal with his sin.

So, Cain determined that he'd find a way to pay his own penance for the murder of his brother.

For some reason Cain didn't trust the love or the forgiveness of the Lord.

So way back at the beginning of Lent, I determined in my pursuit of God that I didn't want to be Cain.

I would (with the Lord's help) take a hard look inside, and, along with this, I would ask the Lord to help me identify the false-self that tries to gloss over sinfulness, and start living the true-self of my identity in Him.

I know that when I'm living out of my true-self, my whole spirit feels free-er and is more at REST in

So, this led me to a side-study of the Ten Commandments.

I just completed this study...

Over it's course, I didn't like what I saw in me...

...and in many ways, I, now, understand why Cain ran.

Martin Luther said this:

There is no better mirror in which to see your need than the Ten Commandments.

He was right.

John Stott had a great quote worthy of reading:

Holy is not a condition into which we drift.

I hadn't even turned in my Bible to Exodus 20 or Deuteronomy 5, where these words-to-live-by are written, when it felt like I'd been struck by a baseball bat across my heart.

Writing in my journal, I declared my intention to do this commandment study, mentioning that I felt "hesitant and a bit fearful" regarding the spiritual discipline of confession and "training for righteousness."

Those two words were my stopping point.

I felt tension.


The answer came easily.

I was hesitant because of fear of what I might see in me.

The root cause of fear is often a lack of trust.

My hesitancy and fear said to me that while I say I trust the Lord with my whole heart, I do not.

Cain lives inside of me.

Like Cain, I struggle to live an un-abandoned faith.

Like Cain, there is within me, an inability to fall-in-His-arms-backwards-trusting-Him-to-catch-me-kind of trust.

Before I could even begin looking into the Ten Commandments, I discovered I needed to reconcile this fear-vs-faith-dilemma.

Could I fully trust His forgiveness?

Could I fully trust His love?

These are foundational...

Here I thought I was nothing like Cain...

...and, all along like Cain, I was living in the land of Nod.


Yep truth is, I am he.

He is me.

After a bit of wrestling, I recognized two things:

1) God's love will ALWAYS be my very safe WHY.

2) Trusting Him is the only road to JOY.

There are eleven days left of Lent (by the way, this has felt like the longest Lenten season, I can remember)...  

As I continue to read through the Old Testament, I think of the many times in the book of Judges, where this notation is made:  "And, the people did whatever they thought was right... and in those days, the people had no King."

We're living in some fearful days as we close out Lent...
Let's check where our trust is?
Are we doing what is right in our own eyes?
Or, are we surrendered with unabandoned trust in the King of Kings?
The Israelites didn't need a man to be King - not if they were truly trusting in Yahweh...

Without even realizing it, we may have fallen into doing what is right in our own eyes, and are wandering away into the Land of Nod, without the Presence of our King directing our paths...

Let's not be Cain and "settle there."  
Nod is a worthless place.
It lacks abundance.
In that place there is NO REST!

These eleven days - It's worth taking a glance inward! 
You'll be more prepared than ever for EASTER (even if you are celebrating it from home)!

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Words to Live By - In Pursuit of the Holy

As I sit to begin this morning's blog, my mind travels back along the past week.

Bay and I sat shocked (early last week) following a call from a dear friend's daughter informing us he had just graduated from earth to heavenly-places only minutes before.

It was a quick, unexpected home-going.

For over two years, Alan and his wife, Joyce, have participated in fellowship and the study of God's Word with us in a life-group.

Even more than "big church", this small group has become true "CHURCH."

We've formed a family.

While grieving, we rejoice.

Alan lived for years with severe muscular dystrophy.

I never heard him complain.

It hurt to watch him try to do simple things: like walk from the kitchen to the living room, find a comfortable place to sit, or attempt to carry a plate...

Yet in spite of his disabilities, he and Joyce bought a mobile sawmill, planed their own boards, built their dream home from the ground up (one of the most beautifully crafted homes I've ever been in)...all by hand and debt free.

Throughout his difficult journey, Alan pursued God.

Of anyone I know, he understood the struggle of Job.

Interestingly enough, I just finished reading the book of Job on Sunday morning, the day of Alan's celebration of life.

There was much about Job's life I would attribute to this man...

 In spite of hardship, these Job-statements resonated:

"Though He (the Lord) slay me, yet will I hope in Him."

"I know that my Redeemer lives, and will yet again stand upon the earth."

"A man's days are determined..."  The Sovereign God holds each of our days in His hands.

"What is man that You make so much of him, that You set Your heart on him?"

"Should we receive good from the hand of the Lord, and shall we not receive adversity?"

"The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord."

In spite of his difficulties, Job kept pursuing the Lord!

As I seek the Lord more through 2020, these statements are truly Words to Live By!

And, this is what I want to focus on this morning:

We all need words to live by.

Early in December, I was challenged to listen to a message by Pastor Craig Groeschel of Life Church in Oklahoma City.  The title was: Words to Live By (preached in January of 2017). If you click on the title of the message, you are directly linked to it on YouTube.

When life gets tough, I've recognized we often find ourselves in a place of stuck.

Not only stuck, but, actually, lost.

Not a "lost" as in not saved.

Lost as in: "broken, undone, perplexed, conflicted, bewildered, disoriented..."

Ever felt that way? I'm sure you have, because we are all human and nothing one of us experiences is foreign to others.

I've certainly been there...and expect it isn't a once or twice experience, check and done...

In Psalm 143, King David calls the "hard-stuff-of life" that puts us in this place:

"adversaries of the soul"

That phrase echoes deep within, doesn't it?

So, when we find ourselves sitting on an ash heap, scraping away at the scabs on our heart so the pus-filled places of our soul can be healed, words that help us to do what David did when in despair are hard to come by.

Scripture tells us that David learned how to "encourage himself in the Lord."

It's God-Words that assist in the strengthening,

But, these words can be hard, no, almost impossible, to come up with when we are lost in the middle of our mess.

Proactively writing strong Biblical truth down on paper, and repeating these words OUT-LOUD to ourselves each day, do something to bring clarity to our minds, settle our souls, and get us up out of the ash-heap.


I know this from experience.

Job's words inspire me in my pursuit of God, especially when things go pear-shaped.

Last week I mentioned that in my pursuit of the Lord, I am attempting to work through some spiritual disciplines - some of the practices are old and well-known, some are new and stretching me.

This is one such new spiritual discipline for 2020.

I'm writing words to live by.

When Job said, "Though He slay me, yet will I hope (wait) in Him," I wrote a few words - ok, I wrote some lengthy words:

No matter what the Lord allows into my life

I will WAIT, HOPING, in Him

     to come, to just show up

     to act, to be mighty on my behalf

     to be my joy, my contentment, my source of satisfaction

     to heal, make whole

     to restore, renew

     to providentially unfold His plan

     and, do a good work in and through me.

In the meantime, I will trust
     REST, &

     ABIDE in Him...

I will

     process the pain

     learn what I can about the nature and character of the Lord


     ask the hard questions

     and, mostly, allow God to unveil to me all the unbelief that is within me.

I will not

    lose heart

    become bitter

    reject God

    curse God

    or stop pursuing Him

I will not

    look for other ways to cope

    fall into sin

    react wrongfully (even to misguided friends)

   give in to peer pressure

I will remain

    true to my convictions

    true to my integrity

    true to what is right and honest

I will pursue the Lord God Almighty...even when I feel lost in the middle of my mess...


Can I encourage you to write a few words of your own?  It doesn't have to be lengthy (that last sentence I wrote is really at the heart of my Words to Live By. So, a few meaningful words will do...just write them...then speak them...every day until they go from your head to your heart and are lived out through your life.

Want a "song to live by?" Here's a great one!

Big Daddy Weave: I Know (link to YouTube is included)

Thursday, January 9, 2020

In Pursuit of God...More Than Toast and Eggs

I am so thankful the Lord began stirring my heart for Him so many years ago.

Even as I child I desired Him.

It took a long time of wilderness wandering, before I stopped pursuing my own way-of-doing-life, gave up, and allowed Him to find me.

There were a lot of twists, turns, and looking the wrong direction, before my vision cleared and I SAW HIM BECKONING me to come.

The Good News of the Gospel is that GOD never stops pursuing...

Through the years, He continues to pursue's evidence of His AMAZING LOVE and the AWE OF GRACE.

2020 slid into our world one quick night, and with the new year, came a renewed, BURNING passion within my soul:

I want to pursue the Lord just as fervently as He has pursued me.

Like King David, I have heard myself whispering,

Oh God, You are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water (Ps 63:1).

When I read Isaiah's similar prayer, something in me rose up and said, "Yes!"

My soul yearns for spirit within me earnestly seeks you... 
(Is 26:9).

The Sons of Korah put their prayer to music,

My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God (Ps 84:2)...

Paul joined in:

How I want to know Him, and the power of resurrection, and fellowship with Him in suffering, becoming like Him (Phil 3:10)...

It's my only goal for 2020 - to pursue the Lord.

And, before I ever began waking up each morning of this new year and praying those Scriptures, making them my daily reminder, I knew that prayer was answered.

Jesus told me so in one of His first public teachings, on a beautiful wildflower infested hillside, overlooking the Sea of Galilee:

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst...
for they shall be satisfied... 
(Matthew 5:6)...

I love it when I set a goal and know at the end of the year, I won't be one of the 80% who never follow through with their's (see this article for more).  When I wrote down my goal, I knew it was a done deal.

This isn't pride...this is simply what I've been promised: If I seek Him, I will find Him, if I seek Him with all my heart (Jeremiah 29:13)...

Years ago, I read A.W. Tozer's book, Pursuing God, and have picked it up once again. Immediately I was reminded that

"the impulse (within us) to pursue God originates with God, but the outworking of that impulse is our following hard after Him; and all the time we are pursuing Him we are already in His hand (Ps. 63:1)..."

And so, I begin by following hard after Him.

I want to be more attune to His Presence in the ordinary of everyday.

As I mentioned last week, I want to be more aware of those moments when God collides with my world, because sometimes He comes in quiet little the ordinary and the mundane.

So, I want to be ready to see Him when He does:

When He shakes the branches of the snow-capped pines outside my window, and I see Him in the glistening diamonds that slowly fall to the ground in whisps.

When I hear His voice in the gurgling of river streams.

When I feel His heartbeat through the love of family and friends.

I want to live daily SURPRISED by Him in my world.

To prepare myself for this adventure, I'm exploring some new and some old spiritual practices.

Disciplines that are designed to help me step back from the busy and make space for my God.

Disciplines that slow me down, help me to listen, to see, to sense, and to feel (maybe even to taste) His Presence in my daily life.

Why do I share this today?

It's simply my declaration of purpose for 2020.

Along the way, perhaps I'll be sharing some of that journey, and this will lay the foundational background for it.

It is, however, not an end, but an inception, for now begins the glorious pursuit, the heart's happy exploration of the infinite riches of the Godhead!
A.W. Tozer

Now, please excuse while I go fix some toast and eggs....

Thursday, January 2, 2020

New Beginnings of Pursuing God - & Where I Started

It's a quiet morning of day #2 of a New Year.

I love everything about this number: 2020.
      - it rolls off the tongue nicely
      - has a sweet staccato ring to it
      - holds the promise of many hopeful tomorrows
      - makes a bold statement that leaves me with an anticipatory brightness...
               ...a new sunshine in my spirit

I began the day quite early and am enjoying some Jesus-and-me-time before the rest of the house awakes  and we are off and running to make the best of day #2 (daughter, Steph is here with three grand-treasures, the two grand-pups, and a girl-friend of my oldest grand-son).

My fake fireplace is crackling.

The fake candles are burning.

I'm snuggled under my fun, warm fleecy blanket.




Perfect way to begin...

...or, so I thought, until...

I read this:

"Cain left the presence of God and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden (Genesis 4:16)."

This one little sentence shattered my quiet with one short question.

"Why would anyone choose to leave the presence of God?"

Cain wasn't forced to leave.

God's punishment for the first recorded murder was that the ground Cain worked would be cursed...and, while he would wander to try and find fertile soil, nothing was said about being banned from the presence of the Lord.

Cain chose to move to Nod.

Staying near to the Lord meant he might have to own up to his sinful anger, green-eyed jealousy, wrongful vengeance, and earlier doubt of God's instructions.

However, Cain never confesses.

When given a chance to right his wrong, he simply gets snarky with God, "How should I know where my brother is? Am I his keeper?" 

Dear boy...he falls into the same sequence of sin as his dad and mom:
- he doubts God
- he rationalizes his sin
- he denies any fault
- and, he blame-shifts

Only difference: they confessed and found a cure to cover their sin.

Not Cain.
No confession (guilt and shame, definitely, but not a word of godly sorrow).
So, no cure.
Only a curse.

Cain decided to pursue his own penance.

He departed from God's presence...and wandered away to the land of Nod.

Appropriate place for one to settle when they decide to hide from the Almighty.

Nod means "vacant land."

The Message paraphrase sums it up perfectly, Cain moved to "No-Man's-Land."

Often, this is exactly what we do when we sin: we isolate.

Someone once told me, "we will never experience change in isolation."

They were right.

Instead of pursuing the Lord, Cain pushed Him away.

What a great lesson for a New Year...and for this quiet morning.

Every New Year should begin with a renewed intent to pursue the Almighty with greater fervency than the year before.

New years signal new beginnings.

Clean slates.

New chapters in the story God is writing on our life.

A fresh page, where we can record how God's Great Presence





shows up in our world

to surprise us with snippets of His glory.

But, that page can't be turned

and the new chapter can't begin to be written

until I do what Cain could not.

New beginnings, fresh starts always begin with confession, and a cleansing from all unrighteous.

Then, and only then, can I welcome the Lord-God to do a new thing...

to explode all over the pages of my story!

What a blessed way to begin my morning...

It's still early in 2020 - how about you?