As I sit here with my computer opened before me, I wonder what to write. I wonder if others are experiencing the same feelings that plague me. I wonder if I should expose my inner thoughts. I wonder how to make a difference in the lives of my readers.

And then my mind starts to wander. I wander off the path of peace into the forest of restlessness and discouragement. I wander through the weeds of purposelessness and depression. I consider if I am bored or if I need a new challenge. Wandering in circles, I arrive back at the path and continue in a forward direction.

These forays into the wilderness come with annoying regularity leaving my heart heavy, my spirit tired. Perhaps you are familiar with these wanderings. Life is hard. Jesus said it would be (John 16:33); he didn’t want us to be surprised by it, so he told us in advance (John 14:29).

I cannot believe I am the only one. But you see, that’s the oldest strategy in the book. Isolate and then attack. I fear exposing my weakness. I don’t want to tell you I am not okay because maybe I am the only one. Today I am going to operate on the knowledge that I am not the only one. I believe there is at least one other person who would benefit from a little help along the path.

As I sat with the Lord, he brought me to two scriptures. Isaiah 40 is a powerful passage about God’s care for the people he loves. I recommend taking time to read the whole chapter this week. The other is Psalm 147. Also a great psalm to read in its entirety sometime this week. But no worries if time doesn’t allow. I will include a selection from both chapters in the posts this week.

Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He brings them out like an army, one after another, calling each by its name. Because of his great power and incomparable strength, not a single one is missing.

Isaiah 40:26

He counts the stars and calls them all by name.

Psalm 147:4

As an act of worship today, spend a few minutes outside looking at the stars. Can you count them? Call them all by name? Allow God’s great power and strength to wash over you. How do you need to experience that power and strength in your life right now? Name it and then hold it up for him to carry for you.

The center book of the Bible is Psalm 118. Psalm 117 is the shortest chapter of the Bible and Psalm 119 is the longest chapter of the Bible. There are 594 chapters before Psalm 118 and 594 chapters after. If you add those together, you get 1188. Psalm 118:8 could be said to be the center of all Christian thought.

8It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people.

Psalm 118:8

Who do you place your trust in? Do you trust the Lord more than influential people? Do you trust the Lord more than you trust a person to lead you? Today is a good day to evaluate where your trust lies.

When I read scripture, I remind myself that most of scripture (a few chapters in the Old Testament address nations that oppressed Israel) was written to people who professed to follow God and live in obedience to his commands. The Old Testament is the theological history of the nation of Israel and the promise of a Messiah. The New Testament is written to those who follow Jesus, the fulfillment of the OT promise for a Messiah.

Scripture is relevant to everyone in every time in every place. I believe God is interested in seeing belief in Jesus translate into behavior that points others to him rather than away. In my recent reading of scripture, I pondered on these two passages.

16Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight. Give up your evil ways. 17Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows. 18“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.”

Isaiah 1:16-18

 3This is what the Lord says: Be fair-minded and just. Do what is right! Help those who have been robbed; rescue them from their oppressors. Quit your evil deeds! Do not mistreat foreigners, orphans, and widows. Stop murdering the innocent! 

Jeremiah 22:3

These two passages, written hundreds of years ago to the people of Israel and Judah, remind me that my responsibilities are the same today. Speaking up for those who don’t have a voice, learning to do good and help the oppressed, fighting for the innocent — it was God’s heart then. It is God’s heart today.

As always, the promise of God is to cleanse me from whatever keeps me from his presence. He takes care of the sin problem in my life, setting me free to love others radically. I confess, I don’t always do this well. The learning curve seems quite steep at times, but my heart is willing.

How can you help the oppressed? The voice-less? The innocent? Oh that we would love and advocate for others the way God has always intended!

One of the most difficult practices to develop is stillness; stillness not only in our bodies but in our minds. Calming and quieting ourselves so we can listen. Moses told the Israelites to stay calm and watch. What would they see? The Lord at work!

Psalm 46 is also an invitation to be still. The writer of the psalm outlines the chaotic condition of the national climate, inviting the reader to be still and see God work. The promise? God will be honored in every nation throughout the entire world.

Another invitation to come into the presence of the Lord is found in Psalm 100. While stillness and calm are important, thanksgiving opens the way into God’s presence here.

1Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth! 2Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy. 3Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. 4Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name. 5For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation.

Psalm 100

The middle verse of this psalm is paramount in importance – acknowledgment that the Lord is God! Not only that, but we are his creation, we are HIS PEOPLE!

As you begin your day, sit with that reality a bit. He made you and then claimed you for his own! He didn’t sell you to someone else, he didn’t discard you. He treasures you!

And that is a great way to begin this Wednesday!

13But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. . . .  14The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”

Exodus 14:13-14

Perhaps you are like me. Attempting to craft a battle plan to wage war against the “enemy” in your life. This scripture is an invitation to stillness. It is difficult to sit quietly and to wait calmly while allowing another to work on my behalf. And yet, that seems to be God’s mode of operation.

There is another place we are invited to stillness. Psalm 46 paints an incredible picture of God’s protection in a world where nations are filled with chaos and kingdoms crumble (see v 6). The psalmist invites the reader to stillness.

10“Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.”

Psalm 46:10

Today, I invite you to stillness. Wait patiently for God to rescue you today. He is fighting for you. Be confident in Him today.

Friday I sent a message to my five most trusted friends that said: “I am not okay. Depression is knocking at the door, standing on the porch waiting for me to invite it in. I spend time with Jesus, I rehearse truth. But this is lonely and I need someone to know. I need to share the truth.”

Friday was also the beginning of our sixth annual BET camping weekend. BET is three families that have connected over the years, when our children were just toddlers. Today the oldest is 32, married to the second oldest who is 31; they have two daughters together. The rest fall in line behind those two. And no, none of the others married within the group. But we, together, are the church. And that is what I have been missing.

Not the Sunday morning gathering with all the politics of church. But the community of being with others who are likeminded, experiencing life and willing to share the journey with others.

As we spent time together around the swimming pool, the food table, the card table – conversations were authentic and real. One of the most profound realizations I made is this: church is collaboration. It is meeting together with others who are on the same journey and, together, figuring out how to do this thing called life. It isn’t about agreeing with one another on every topic, but it is about taking time to listen authentically and love unconditionally.

I am beyond blessed to be a part of this group. Who is your “BET?” Who helps you figure out how to do life? Are they bringing out the best in you? That is truly church.

If you don’t have that kind of people in your life, I recommend you ask Father to bring them to you. And then expect the unexpected! Be ready for the miraculous! He wants you to have fellow pilgrims on this journey!

I am finishing this week with an invitation. An invitation to come clean. It’s okay to not be fine. No longer do I need to say “I’m fine!” It’s okay to say, “I need help.” This song spoke so deeply to me this week and I think it will speak to you as well. Here’s the invitation: don’t wait another day to speak up, tell the truth, confess, reach out…whatever you need to do to find the freedom Jesus died to give you.

Have an amazing holiday weekend!

The Greek word translated sin means to “miss the mark.” As in archery, there is a target and the best shot is right in the center of that target. To sin simply means I missed the target.

The Greek word translated confess means to “say the same thing as.” It is agreeing with what God is already saying. To confess simply means I agree with what God already knows.

The act of confessing my sin makes all the difference. When I keep it inside, it burns like a fire, consuming my thoughts, distracting me from life that really satisfies. Confession sets me free from all of that and releases me into a life that is fully alive. No longer will I be rotting from the inside out. I will be free to love and be loved; to live and let live.

David, in Psalm 32, gives a poignant picture of the effects of unconfessed sin and the amazing freedom of putting it all out there for God to see and heal. Take time today to read the psalm below. Where do you find yourself in this psalm? Are you hiding and feeling the effects of unconfessed sin? Have you confessed your rebellion, experiencing the freedom of being fully known? Do you know the careful watch of the Lord over your life as he leads you into the right path? Are you experiencing the very best life?

PSALM 32

1Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight!

2Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!

3When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long.

4Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.

5Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.

6Therefore, let all the godly pray to you while there is still time, that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment.

7For you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory.

8The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.

9Do not be like a senseless horse or mule that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.”

10Many sorrows come to the wicked, but unfailing love surrounds those who trust the Lord.

11So rejoice in the Lord and be glad, all you who obey him! Shout for joy, all you whose hearts are pure!

Psalm 32

21This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. 22Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.

Colossians 1:21-22

8If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. 9But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 10If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.

1 John 1:8-10

When I was a child, I disobeyed. One time in particular was in the fourth grade. A new girl moved to town and she was all that! Everyone wanted to be her friend, including me. Finally she invited me to spend the night. Her family was going to an event in town advertised as a “circus.” I asked mom about going, but it was a hard no from her. But I was still invited to my friend’s house. When I arrived at Veronica’s home, she insisted it was okay for me to go. And I went.

The next day I returned home, carrying the awful secret of disobeying my mom’s directives. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t a bad place, it didn’t matter that nothing happened. It only mattered that I had disobeyed. My heart was in turmoil.

It wasn’t until I had a broken, repentant heart that I found peace. I needed to confess to my mom before I would find the peace and intimacy I longed for; to know forgiveness.

It is much the same with our Father in heaven. The intimacy we long for, the peace we desire so strongly, the desire to be heard won’t happen if we resolutely stand in our arrogance. Without a broken, contrite heart change will not happen.

The way I see it, brokenness is a gift. A gift from God. And sometimes, that brokenness comes at his hand. Psalm 51 says, “Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me—now let me rejoice.” David acknowledged that his brokenness was from God and it was a gift that brought him to a place of hope, joy and change.

It isn’t my job to point out when another needs to repent. But if I am submitted to God, he will speak to my heart when I have gone astray. It is my job to follow through, respond with a broken heart and confess (which means agreeing with what God is already saying) and then I will find what I am looking for in life.

Where are you today? Are you experiencing the deep intimacy, peace and joy God intended? Or are you hiding secrets (that God already knows), refusing to humble yourself and be broken? Contrition leads to life through repentance. Follow that path today!

22A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.

Proverbs 17:22

17The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

Psalm 51:17

As these scriptures point out, there are two kinds of broken spirits. One is helpful; one is not.

In the first scripture, the broken spirit points to losing the drive, energy, desire to continue the task of living often as the result of an influence outside of ourselves. There are many reasons our spirit might be broken but the word that comes to mind is LOSS. Loss has the power to break, or crush, our spirits. The psalmist has this to say about the Lord’s response to this type of broken spirit:

18The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.

Psalm 34:18

The second scripture speaks to a different kind of broken spirit. It is the kind of brokenness that is necessary for healing to begin and originates from within ourselves.

Psalm 51 is David’s response to the sin he committed with Bathsheba and the subsequent murder of Uriah. Written later, perhaps even a year later, it is filled with strong words of anguish as David wrestled with the intense emotional consequences his sin brought into his life.

Sin is not something we talk a lot about. We talk about God’s grace, mercy and love. We talk about Jesus yearning for our hearts. And all of that is true. But without acknowledging our sin, we will never truly know intimacy with God as he intended through Jesus death on the cross.

Jesus going the distance, crossing from heaven to earth, confining himself to a human body with all its frailty, dying a painful death on the cross so that God declares my debt paid –that’s a big deal. And I fear I take it too lightly. I, somehow, have the idea that God needs me. Then I read Acts 17:25 where it says, “and human hands can’t serve his needs—for he has no needs.”

The truth is, I need him. I need him to rescue me from myself and my wayward thinking. I need him to keep me out of the ditch of despair. I need him to open my eyes to the wonder of creation, to teach me how to celebrate life, to show me how to live a life of worship. I need him to show me the way to live fully alive. He doesn’t need me.

Years ago, my husband took a job where he did a significant amount of travel. Obviously, I had to take more initiative with our home and children when he was gone. After a few months, I said to my friend, “I find that I don’t really need Dave. I can do the work around home; the kids and I developed a new routine. I don’t feel like I need him like I did before.” She wisely replied, “Okay. So maybe you don’t need him to be there, but what if you just want him to be there.” That one little word made all the difference to me.

God doesn’t need us. He wants us. He wants us so much that he sent Jesus to do the really hard job of saying no to Satan and his schemes so that we can ultimately say yes to God’s invitation to relationship. Unfortunately, Satan doesn’t give up easily. Even though he is a defeated foe, he continues to make every attempt to draw us away into self-centered, autonomous living. In short, he entices us to sin. And many times, we do it.

Sin separates me from God. Jesus brings me close to God again, but a broken spirit – a repentant heart – is a prerequisite to coming into God’s presence.

The problem lies in my hesitancy to admit I sinned; I don’t want to admit I sinned. Have I lost sight of the importance of repentance and confession? Is it not acceptable to admit I missed the mark? Is making excuses for my behavior more acceptable? Is there no Truth, no right or wrong?

These are the thoughts I wrestle with these days. Where it will take me, I do not know, but I invite you to tag along and make the discovery with me.