My Heart Cry

Oh Lord have mercy on us weary sinners.

If God asked you, “What are you willing to give up to be close to me?” what would you say?

He asked me and I know what I would say because I said it.

I would say that it is so hard. To live like that. To honor the Lord in everything that you say, everything that you do, every thought that you think, and every way that you move. To live and breathe to honor the Lord. It’s a task that, to my weary soul, seems close to impossible.

My little heart is being pushed and pulled and moved by the Holy Spirit. What I want most right now, in this season of my life, is to thrive not just survive. Everyday I go to school and go to work and I see people who go about life just because life is what they have to live. But I don’t want to live like that! I don’t want to just survive. I am so sick of contentment. I am so tired of being okay with the flow. I am weary of living life in the same sin and the same routine.
I want to live a gracious life that shines forth the glory of the Lord so that people will know that it is not from anything that I have done, but only because of the grace of God and the death of my Savior Jesus Christ that I am who I am.

My heart cry is to honor the Lord but my flesh tries to stifle the sound. My heart longs for more grace and more love, but my flesh fights for sameness and loneliness. My heart yearns to know the Lord better and better, but my flesh tells me that I am enough. My heart yells at my flesh, “Enough!”, but my flesh laughs at it. My soul sees a dark world in need of light, but my flesh tell me that it is what it is and will continue to be. My heart mourns the flesh and my flesh looks away in smug disregard.

Oh Lord, help me to fight the good fight for I know that it is worthy of the death of your one and only Son, Jesus. Help me to fight my flesh, to fight my sin. God, help me to see beyond myself and my own circumstances. Holy Spirit help me to see the error of my ways and to pursue righteousness and honor. Father, help me to stand and press forward when my feet tell me it is time to stop.

Give me strength.
Give me purpose.
Give me love.

This is my heart cry.

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drifting.

“We must pay more careful attention, therefore,
to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.”
Hebrews 2:1

It happens quickly. It is unexpected and unnoticeable, the act of drifting away. One day we are just fine and the next, it has already begun. The slow fade that carries us far away from our Source of Life.
We have seen it happen. The slow drift that sets us to sea like driftwood that is slowly carried away from the shore by the tide.
It is as if we are always standing on the edge of the water. We look forward and know that to walk forward into the land is good, but we look back at the water and see how the waves toss to and fro tempting us. It lures us back in. While we drift, the only action we must take is to not drown. It we can just stay afloat, we will survive.
But what is that? Ahead is a distant shore. Something once known and hardly remembered. A word begins to take shape from a memory, from a dream, or a dream within a dream. It surfaces. It draws up bringing a sweet fragrance with it.
Hope.
A thing forgotten in all the time spent drifting.
Hope.
The flickering light, that draws us, pulls us toward its flame.
Hope.
The candle set on a table for any lucky soul to catch a glimmer.
Hope.
The thing that pushes us toward the future.
Hope.

In a moment, it all rushes back. The joy, the laughter, the peace. Like a sweet memory of times distant, the unreachable, the unthinkable has just resurfaced: hope.

That glimmer, that flicker of hope that rose like the flicker of a candle flame from the horizon begins to grow. The waters begin to turn from inky black to deep shades of blue and green. The flame continues to grow. The sky becomes a canvas of pink, orange, yellow, and purple flames. It rises higher and higher. We can see the pruned state of our skin. So saturated with water that it has begun to turn white. It rises higher. The waves are clear now. It rises higher. All we can see for miles and miles around us is water.

Until one moment.

The moment that we see the shore. Far off in the distance, almost too far to distinguish. But the internal flame has been lit. We begin to swim; using legs that have been idle, tossed by the current of the sea, for so long. We are weak, but the flame inside has been fanned by the sight of the shore, by the hope of setting foot on land. We kick and kick, but the waves push back against us, seemingly pushing us farther into the sea. We will not give up. We start to make progress. We find ways to dodge the oncoming waves. We get closer. The shore is clearer now. The faint outline of trees come into view. The flame is fanned higher. We start to breathe heavily. The waves become larger and stronger as we get closer to the shore, fighting to pull us back out to sea. We almost give up in a moment of doubt. The flame is given more oxygen. The day is bright now. The sea has turned into a shade of turquoise, the sky a perfect shade of blue to match. We draw closer to the shore. The salt of the water begins to dry out our mouths. The sand comes up from the bottom of the sea floor and creeps toward us as we draw closer to the shore. The waves are almost unbearable; they crash down with such force that we think we might drown. In that moment, we think that it would have been easier, better, to stay out at sea. Then, taken by surprise, a final wave tosses us on shore.

We are weak at first; having drifted for so long, our muscles are not strong enough to stand on their own. Our skin begins to dry out and become soft and full of color again. Suddenly, he appears as if taking form from the air. He whispers to me, “Child, take my hand. I will help you stand.” Unsure, we take his hand. We are surprised to find that it is strong and steady, easily helping our weary bodies of the sand floor of the shore. Again he whispers, “Come, eat and drink so that you may be well.” His voice is strong so that we are drawn to trust him, even if we do not know him; but also gentle as if caressing our faces by the very essence of the words. He walks us to a long table and at first, all that is set before us is a glass of milk. The milk is sweet; it is unlike anything we have every tasted before. From the milks nourishment, we begin to grow stronger. Soon, foods of various kinds are set before us. We eat, but it seems that no amount of food can satisfy. After a time, he says, “Come with me.” He leads us away from the table, but we know that we can come back whenever we should need. He speaks again, “Child, do you trust me?” We ponder this for a moment. He has never done anything to harm us. He has cared for us and nourished us. “Yes”, we reply, “we trust you.” He smiles and continues to walk on. Again he speaks, “Child, will you go on a journey with me? I do not promise that it will be easy, but I want you to come with me.” The way that he smiled has struck us deeply. We have not known him for long, but his smile revealed something that we have not seen before; something that is too deep, too strong to comprehend. A word comes to mind: love. We ponder the meaning of this. How could someone who we have barely known love us? We look up at his face. Yes, it was there. Love. Etched into every line of his face, every hair of his head, every pore of his being. We can see it now. Written on his thorn pierced brow and his nail torn hands: Love. We know how to answer him. “Yes, we will go with you.” And so we begin to walk. We don’t know where we are going, but we trust that he knows the path well. Sometimes we ask questions and he decides whether it is time to answer or not. We cannot know what the destination will be like, but he has told us that it will be like nothing we have ever seen.

Sometimes we still think about what it would be like if we had continued to drift into the blackness with pruned skin and a vast abyss of nothingness. Whenever we doubt where we are going in the future, we remember the blackness that we came from and the flicker of flame that drew us to this journey. We know that going back would only lead back to the nothingness. So, we continue to press on to Hope and hold onto Love. Whom then shall I fear?

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Contentment

Contentment: “the state of being contented; satisfaction; ease of mind.” (dictionary.com)

Contentment is something that everyone struggles with and no one takes the time to deal with. Personally, I deal with contentment in two ways; the first is in my walk with God, the second is with material things.In my walk with God, I tend to reach a certain point and then say, “Okay, that’s good enough for now.” At this point, I stop striving for more. I stop seeking God is all of his splendor. I have contentment. On the other hand, when it comes to material things like money, cars, clothes, good, etc. I always want more. I lack contentment.

I believe that this is the case for many people. We like to think that we have contentment, but if you look closely, you will see just how backwards the equation has become.

When it comes to our relationships with Jesus Christ, we should never reach a point of contentment. Even in the face of adversity from the Sanhedrin, Stephen never faltered or denied the gospel. He ran toward it all the more to the point that it caused his death (Acts 7). He was not content with the level at which the gospel had been spread. He was not content to let the Sanhedrin live in falsehood. He was not content. The greatest issue with contentment is the level of comfort that accompanies it. We have become comfortable with things that should set a fire in our souls and we are uncomfortable with the things that we could use less of. When it comes to Christ, when we reach the place where we are comfortable, we can quickly reach the point of complacency and apathy. This is a dangerous bundle.

I have found that though I can find a place of passion and fervor for the Lord at times, I struggle with falling back into this place of contentment. I need to be in a place of hunger and desire for the things of God. For every noble, right, pure, and lovely thing. Once we reach this place, our hearts are set free to seek God. We know that when we seek Him, we will find Him if we seek after him with all of our heart (Jeremiah 29:13). Then, the Holy Spirit begins to move and work in ways that we could not fathom. We must learn to be uncomfortable with contentment.

In the same way, we must learn to be content with what we do have. Everything that we have is a blessing from our Heavenly Father, for every good and perfect gift is from above (James 1:17). Let us learn to be grateful for what we do have and content in every thing that we don’t.

In this life, the tide is constantly coming and going, washing the sand to and fro, wiping it clean. No circumstance will ever be the same, no two people will ever be the same, and no season of heart will ever be the same. We can learn the same lessons over and over again, but unless we let the knowledge travel from our heads to our hearts, we will simply learn the same lessons all our lives. We must learn to allow these truths to grasp onto our hearts so that we can apply them to every situation, in every area of our lives. This is the beauty of God as father. Though we mess up time and time again, though we forget time and time again, he is ever patient and ever kind. He will not give up on us. When our hearts are weak, he is our strength (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Let us learn to trust in God and the truth of his promises. Let us hold fast to the many lessons of faith that we are taught. Let us stay strong and keep the faith. Let us walk humbly with our God.

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Acts 7

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:13

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
James 1:17

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10

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To understand oneself.

The process and journey of discovering who you are as an individual is a long and arduous process. It requires many trials and tribulations, but it also requires revelation. It requires seeking and discovering who you are at the core of your being. It requires contemplation and articulation, but above and beyond all of these things, it requires God.

To ask the question, “Who am I?” is commonly the beginning of this journey to revelation. Questions like, “Why am I the way I am?” “What motivates me to become better?” “What is my passion?” “What breaks my heart?” “Who has God created me to be in this world?”  “What do I most strive for in life?” all lead to an infinite number of correlating questions which eventually link back to the beginning of the quest: Who am I?

We are created in God’s image. Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
To know God better is to know ourselves better.

John Calvin states it perfectly when he says:
“No man can survey himself without forthwith turning his thoughts towards the God in whom he lives and moves; because it is perfectly obvious, that the endowments which we possess cannot possibly be from ourselves; nay, that our very being is nothing else than subsistence in God alone.” – John Calvin

God knows us to the very core of our being. God knows how many hairs are on our head and exactly how to speak to us so that we will listen. He created our inmost being. God knows us better than we will ever know ourselves. Therefore, if God knows us better than we know ourselves, and if we were created in his image, is it not evident that we
must learn to know God better before we can truly understand ourselves fully?

The process of discovering oneself is a journey. It is not something that can be done by sitting and meditating for 20 minutes. It cannot be discovered by reading a verse here and there and making assumptions about who God is. It requires the constant and prolonged search of God’s heart. As his heart begins to be unveiled, your eyes will be opened to see the world from his perspective rather than your own, your heart will be softened to the things that his heart is softened to, and your life will be changed.

At the core of understanding who you are is understanding what makes your heart beat. The heart is the most important organ in the body for from it comes life to all other parts of the body. The heart is the distribution of all that is oneself. But is not blood the true source of health for the body?
God is the blood and we are the heart.
God is the life source from which all things come. Therefore, if God is the source of life, then does it not make sense that we must know His heart before we can truly know ours?
To know and understand God’s heart is to be able to better know and understand oneself.
To know God’s heart is to be able to better know oneself.
To know God is to know oneself.

“It is evident that man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he has previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look into himself.” – John Calvin

Once you understand yourself, you are able to live in the truth of yourself, and the truth will set you free.
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~Psalm 139~
1 You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.
19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

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See the eternal, seek the incarnate, and behold beauty.

—To keep our eyes on what is eternal, that is what we are called to.—
It has become apparent to me that oftentimes I can become so focused on my life and the tasks at hand that I forget what is truly important. I become so focused on the span of my life that my gaze is not on the Father but rather on me.
—If we are not living a God-focused life, then we are living a self-focused life.—
We are called to live every single day for the cause and sake of the Kingdom.
Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek first the Kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.
That is it. It is written to us for “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
God breathed. Just as God breathed life into Adam, as he breathed life into the earth and every living thing, as he breathed life into you and me. God gives the breathe of life, and if God gives the breathe of life, then what life have we been living without Him?
I have discovered that there are two ways that we live life. We either live life constantly looking down and focusing on the current array of dilemmas and situations dealing with self, or we live disregarding self and focusing completely on the future. The only issue with this is that the eternal has been left out of each of these lifestyles.
—To live life for oneself is to live neglecting the greatest and most significant event in history. —
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life,” John 3:16.
Have you ever stopped to realize that this event in history so dramatically affected the course of time that it caused a change in what time was called. We live in the year 2013 A.D. Even time was shifted and altered at the time of Christ’s death and resurrection.

—Jesus changed the course of the world. —
Without Christ, without his sacrifice, we would have been left without hope, without truth, without love, and without life.
In John, when the time came for Christ’s crucifixion, the Jews rejected Christ and sent him to be crucified as was written. After Christ’s hands and feet has been nailed to the cross and he had been raised for all to see, the guards cast lots for his garments. Now, all of this had to take place in order to fulfill the scriptures that were written previously, but in all appearances, it was an ordinary day.
I think that that is what God intended. God intended to take Christ, an ordinary human, of the same flesh and bones as you and I, and make him extraordinary by being one in Father and Son. On that very ordinary day, with ordinary people, with ordinary wood, ordinary nails, and ordinary garments, history was made and it was extraordinary.
God wants to take the ordinary and make it beautiful. In this God takes the ordinary and makes it beautiful. In fact, he does this so well that the ordinary is beautiful.
You and I are ordinary. We live an ordinary life in an ordinary house with ordinary people. Yet God wants to take the ordinary, the insignificant, and make it beautiful.
Indeed…he already has.
We just have to open our eyes to see it.

See the eternal, seek the incarnate, and behold beauty.

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tree of the wind…

Trees of the field; they grow.
With rain, with sun they live tall;
To live tall and grow is to know
That living is good.
But when winds of change come,
For surely they come,
To live tall and grow is not to be strong.
For in the wind,
With all it’s strength and might
The tree cannot withstand.
But the wind has aided it.
The wind whispers secrets to be strong
And the tree listens to it.
Soon the tree has roots that go deep.
The tree is tall and strong.
The tree shall not be moved or torn down in the storm.
For surely as the tree is tall,
The storm shall come.
With thunder that roars and lightening that strikes the earth,
The tree shall stand.
Surely it shall stand.

written by Elizabeth Grace-Marie     

There are moments in life when the winds of change begin to blow. Without winds that blow, we are unable to be strong and grounded in the Rock, our Savior.
Life will constantly change and mold as the Lord directs the winds of life.
It is in these moments of change and growth that we must decide to be stand tall against the winds that come.
There are and will be moments when the Holy Spirit whispers to the quietest corners of your heart that change is coming.
Take growth and accept it.
To be strong in winds of little strength is to be even stronger in winds of great strength. Praise the Lord for moments of change, for though they be tough, they make us stronger.

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simply love.

Life can be a very complex array of situations that ultimately combine to create the hustle and bustle that is experienced daily. Oftentimes, every complicated situation looming in front of us becomes an astronomical obstacle, when in reality, all that needs to be done is to simply love. 
The phrase “simply love” seems to encompass the very essence of life itself. God’s greatest commandment to us is to love. We are instructed to love God, love our neighbor as ourselves, and to live a life of love. 
So, if to love is truly the greatest commandment, why do we choose to neglect love so often?
To live a life of love, is to live a 1 Corinthians 13 life. This chapter is not the “Love Chapter” which is strictly confined to the relationship between a husband and a wife. This chapter is, however, how Christ lived life with love.

To live a life of love is to be patient and kind. It is to be content, modest, and to be humble. It does not dishonor others and it is most surely not self-seeking. It is to be slow to anger and to keep no record of wrongs. It is to live rejoicing in the truth, not in evil. It is to protect, to trust, to hope, and to persevere. 

This is life worth living.

Life will treat us like life. Yes, it is hard. Yes, it does have trials of many kinds, but God never promised that it would be easy. We can consider it pure joy when we face trials of many kinds… because we know that we may become mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4). 

To love, I believe is the most difficult challenge that we, as humans, face today. At the core of all things is love, and if we have not love, we are like resounding gongs or clanging cymbals. We can accomplish nothing.

As Christ followers we are called to life like Christ.  If Christ is the true definition and manifestation of love, then are we not also called to love?

My question is this: if to live is to love and if to love is to live, then how do you live a life of love?

The answer to this question is twofold. First, if to love is to be like Christ, then we must know Christ. Therefore, first we live in the Scriptures. You cannot know Christ, nor the power of His resurrection without knowing the Word. Second, to live in love is to think in terms of love. You must consciously make the choice to love and all other things will follow. 

John 3:16 says that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”

Clearly, love is important to our Father, and if it is so important to Him, then it should be important to us as well.

We must all learn to “simply love”.

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Romans 12:9 says, “Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it….be good friends who love deeply.” (MSG)

1 Peter 1:22b says, “…love one another deeply from the heart.” (NIV)

Colossians 3:14 says, “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds then all together in perfect unity.” (NIV)

Philippians 1:9-11 says, “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.” (NIV)

Ephesians 5:1-2 says, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (NIV)

1 Corinthians 13:13 says, “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (NIV)

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