…to sing thy grace.

Welcome! This is a place for hearts and for grace. A place for life and story, laughter and tears, the serious and the silly. I hope you see my heart in all that I write, and that ultimately you see the Father's heart for you as we learn together to tune our hearts to sing his grace.

On Cynicism and Compassion-Driven Prayers

FullSizeRender-2

When we ache for others, sometimes we find ourselves lost and angry and confused…at least I do…

And I can find myself so mad, just so broken-hearted and honestly it makes me want to shut my eyes and ears and close my heart to this messy world.

But the fact of the matter is, God put His heart in me.

He tore out my heart of flesh and gave me his own spirit, his own love, his own compassion…

And even as I read headlines and ache for hurting people, hurting communities, hurting moms and dads and confused and frightened children…I won’t shut it out. I won’t ignore or “move on” I will do as Jesus did…I will look with compassion and I will pray to my Father.

A wise mentor once gently pointed me to prayer in this kind of heartache…she said “Jess, just like when we fast and we let the pain of hunger remind us to pray we take the heartache we feel for others and we let it remind us to pray.”  So today I will pray.

And hang with me here… I don’t have time today to write my thoughts out well so forgive me…but sometimes important things just need to be said.

 

We have some choices to make. When we see our broken world, we can become cynical, self-righteous, and lose hope.

Or…we can shut our eyes and ears and ignore.

But there is a third way…we can also pray. 

But may they be prayers that connect our hears and our souls with our eyes and ears….may what we see and hear drive us to align our hearts with God’s heart through prayer.

And I worry because there are a lot of cynics out there. The book “A Praying Life” by Paul E. Miller says, “Many of us believe in the Christian hope of ultimate redemption, but we breathe the cynical spirit of our age and miss the heart of God.”

You know what? When we know the character of God and we see his response to generation after generation of sinful hurting people, Miller reminds us that “God is not cynical in the face of evil. He loves.”

So pray today. Pray tomorrow. Let prayer change you. Let your heart be soft. Don’t fear the hurt, anger and compassion…let it in…because if your heart changes and something deep in you begins to understand God’s heart, we will begin to see glimpses of our future hope. We will become a people who will point to the only deeper reality that can fix, heal, and redeem.

Paul Miller also point his readers to certain kinds of prayer that guard us against cynicism…prayers of repentance and prayers of thanksgiving.

He says, “Cynicism looks reality in the face, calls it phony, and prides itself on its insight as it pulls back. Thanksgiving looks reality in the face and rejoices at God’s care. It replaces a bitter spirit with a generous one.”

Do I need to repent? (Obviously the answer is always yes.)
Do you need to repent?
Is there a prejudice and callousness and a judgmental and critical spirit…or perhaps just a selfishness, an apathy…a self-focus in our lives that we MUST confess? You know a critical spirit can be sneaky…you don’t have to be a grumpy old curmudgeon to have a critical spirit. A critical spirit often hides behind a smile, it lurks behind good deeds, it masquerades as kindness. Be so careful not to let a critical spirit take root.

Oh, there is so much to say here…

But but let me simply end with this thought and quote from Miller’s book:

“Nothing undercuts cynicism more than a spirit of thankfulness. You begin to realize that your whole life is a gift. Thankfulness isn’t a matter of forcing yourself to see the happy side of life. That would be like returning to naive optimism. Thanking God restores the natural order of our dependence on God. It enables us to see life as it really is.”

So this week, as our nation turns to a collective gathering of giving thanks…may we truly pray with this spirit of thankfulness…not just for our couch and football game and our turkey and whatever it is…

Let us pray with thanksgiving that admits our dependence on God. Let’s pray with thanksgiving and yield our hearts to tender compassion and true repentance…and when that spirit leads us to act in our own circle of influence in our own neighborhoods…then we act with the very power of God.

And I’m not sure if any of this is a complete thought, but thank you for grace…and to be honest…the sun is shining warm and bright today in my part of the world–but I will choose to remember that in other parts of this world there are very dark places. I urge you to pray for those overcome with or battling the dark.

 

Singing His Grace,

Jess

 

 

It’s Okay To Not Be Okay

 

IMG_8898

“It’s okay to not be okay.”

 

I texted that to a friend the other day… (but I need to hear it too.)

 

And here’s the deal….It is okay to not be okay! And right now, I want you to know that if you are not okay…that is okay.

 

Don’t let the world tell you that you need to somehow fake it, ignore it, mask it, numb it, or deny it.

If you are going through a physical challenge, an emotional hurt, an identity crisis, a relationship struggle, a stressful dilemma or a grief process. Embrace it. Let it shape you. Let it mature you. God doesn’t want your brave face.

When we throw up our hands and accept what God has for us, we are also free to trust that He will carry us through.

 

You might be thinking….But I have a job to do, I have a family that depends on me, I have bills to pay, I have things to take care of….I can’t do all that unless I’m okay.

To which, all I can say is that sometimes the best way to be brave in the face of our trials is to accept them.  We walk forward trying to find the fine line between being a total mess and putting on a face. We show up and do the next thing, but we don’t pretend. And here’s what happens:

We find ourselves being okay….being okay with not being okay.

 

So if you find yourself feeling “not okay”… press on brave one.

Also, If you know someone who is “not okay” but you see them bravely pressing on, would you encourage them today? Tell them you see them pressing on. Tell them you see them choosing to be okay with not being okay. Tell them their story matters and that you care.

Let’s hold each other up. Let’s give room for people to not be okay. Let’s help one another not by trying to fix it but let’s tell each other it’s okay to not be okay. There is grace to be found in those real moments. Grace enough for every “not okay” day.

 

Singing His Grace,

Jess

 

 

When You Hate Your Story :: Carrying Miscarriage

20131104-211025.jpg

Because I hate my story right now.

Because I don’t want this.

Because I feel splintered into a million pieces.

 

I don’t want to write one word about miscarriage.

 

But, because I am willing to embrace the story… I will try.

Because I am making a choice to trust even when flashbacks haunt, and sadness seeps in.

Because I love. Because I will be ruled by love. Because the story is not over, because I am not writing this story, because I have a faithful God, I will grasp for words.

And I will be real.

Today, yesterday, and the day before…they have been all kinds of hard. One year ago, at our twenty week ultrasound, we realized our son was gone. We saw him, but he was no longer there.

And as we hit this “one year mark” not every second is tragic. I’m not weeping all day long. Just here and there tears spill over. Deep wounds still ache.

Because I have lost. Because I will never know on this earth. I will always wonder. I will always miss.

And before I experienced it…I didn’t realize the tragedy that is miscarriage. I just thought… “Oh, sad…but you can try again. Right?”

Try again??? What a completely naive thought!!!

That fixes nothing.

A child is lost. An irreplaceable life ended too soon.

So somehow right now I want to just scream that babies are precious…every single one of us that has been born is a miracle. Life is precious. Life is sacred. Life, humanity, from a cluster of cells to an aging man or women taking their last few breaths on earth…all of it is gorgeously fragile and beautiful.

In my loss, I find myself hating death. Yet, I also find myself loving life more. My gratitude, my joy, my capacity to love this life is bigger. All is not lost. Hope is not destroyed. Joy is not stolen. I stand on the Hope that Jesus will set all of this right….not wishy-washy hope, but true Hope…a firm belief in what will one day come.

So I find myself between, between Jesus’ death and resurrection and the day he will return and kill death forever. No more tears. No more sadness. Only restoration.

And I’ve been told that the sadness eases, but I’ve also been told that the sadness never goes away. I see both being true already. I will carry miscarriage longer than nine months, longer than a year–for a lifetime.

 

So today, writing this, I own my story even if I don’t like it. Parts of this story are too hard to even share save with those who are walking this story with us. Yet, I embrace it willingly and humbly and I continue to choose Hope. If you’ve lost someone you love, I pray these words are somehow used to make you feel like you are not alone in the grief you carry.

Singing His Grace,

Jess

Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you. (Psalm 33:20-22 ESV)

***Comments will be closed on this post because there is nothing to say. No words bring our loved ones back, no words ease our pain. Only God heals our hearts.  Feel free to pray as you feel led. Thank you for reading my words, that in itself is a comfort to me…just to be heard.***

Grab On To Hope! :: For A Post-Retreat Monday

I’m thinking about all the students and leaders who were at Woodlands Fall Retreat, here yesterday…

woodlands circle

and who are now sitting in a classroom…(or back to reality.)

 

What a let down right?!?!

The weekend was full of beautiful weather, friends, worship, and time studying God’s word together. It was just awesome!

So I know Monday morning likes to just come along and steal our weekend peace and stomp on our hope doesn’t it?

 

Well here’s to those of you saying NO WAY NOT TODAY! Monday morning you can’t steal my hope.

Because I know there are little nagging things trying to drag you down…there are unresolved tensions, there are looming projects that seem to have no end, there are people who tick you off, there are people we can’t change or fix…

This morning I was tempted to give up hope as I met a challenge that I’ve been facing for a while now with one of my children. Thankfully, (after a few tears…) I was reminded that our challenges can either make us give up hope and stop praying OR they can actually push us to hope and to pray. Without this challenge this morning…I would be just going along thinking about MY day, MY plans, MY comfort. Instead I was forced to my knees and I was reminded that I can do nothing apart from Jesus. And that is actually the BEST way to start my day.

So friends reading this, let me encourage you to grab on to hope. Get a good grip. Don’t let go!!!!

That test, that person, that problem, that drama, that phone call, that injury, that whatever….let it turn you to Jesus! And students…you face so much…but there is nothing that can take away the hope that you find in Jesus! Whatever you learned or experienced about God’s goodness, his grace, and his plan for you…hold on to it, don’t let Monday or anything else take it away.

Singing His Grace,

Jess

Right Of Way :: On foggy mornings, rules of the road & the importance of yielding

IMG_8468

I drove the kids to school in the fog this morning.

The mist hung thick over the trees kissing the grass with dew.

Car headlights cut through the fog, creating a spectacular glowing effect.

I looked down at the dash. My gas light was on. The needle was solidly on the red.

After drop off, I pulled into the gas station to fill up. With a full tank, I began to pull the van back out on the main road, but as I looked to the left, a car had turned and was headed my way. My brian did the split-second-decision-making-thing that driving always requires…Should I pull out? Do I have enough time? Should I wait for him to pass?

My Massachusetts driver at heart told me to PULL OUT! GO!

My learned southern hospitality said BLESS YOUR HEART, YOU GO FIRST.

And I hit the break. I let him pass and then pulled out on my way thinking to myself…You know, he did have the right of way. I thought about how mildly frustrating it is when cars pull out in front of me and I have to hit my break just a touch. You know what I mean…We all think to ourselves…Hey! I’m driving here! I have the right of way!

You see there are rules of the road. There are time-tested, logical guidelines for drivers to follow that makes everything go smoothly. Right of way is one of them. Yielding to cars already driving on the road, no matter what part of the country you come from **wink** is the best way. And yet, how often does our busy schedule, our agenda, our impatience trump another driver’s right of way as we hit the gas and pull out? And before you think I’m trying to give you a guilt trip about your driving…let me tell you the next thought that I had as I headed back to my sleepy house on the hill in the fog….

I thought…Oh Jess, how many times do you trump God’s right of way in your life? Are you yielding to him? Do you let him go first, or do you let your busy schedule, your agenda, and your impatience keep you from yielding to what God wants to do in your life?

I could see myself, eager, foot on the gas pedal ready to go, when the best way…the way through the fog…the smooth way, is to yield and let God have the right of way.

But yielding is hard! It means waiting. It means following. It means letting someone else set the pace, course, and destination in my life. That is so against my nature. And yet, I know the times I’ve been unwilling to yield to God I’ve ended up lost, confused, burned out and out of gas so to speak. I’ve learned that God deserves the right of way in my life. I’ve learned that he wants what is best for me. I’ve seen his faithfulness. He has guided me through. I know the journey isn’t over, and for that reason this morning I remember to pause and consciously decide to yield to God’s right of way in my life.

Where are you this morning? Do you find yourself in a mental, emotional, spiritual fog? Are you confused, discouraged, burned out? Or are you all gassed up and ready to go? Wherever you find yourself, take some time to ask yourself: Am I giving God the right of way in my life?

Yielding may look like giving up something or someone who is taking priority over God.
Or it may look like rearranging your schedule.
It always means pausing, and opening our hands…loosening our grip on control…

The Old Testament is full of stories of generations of Isrealites who did not yield to God’s way. In 2 Chronicles we read this rebuke to the people:

Do not now be stiff-necked as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the LORD and come to his sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever, and serve the LORD your God…(2 Chronicles 30:8a ESV)

This morning, before you dash out on your own, recommit yourself to giving God the right of way in your life.

Singing His Grace,

Jess

 

Some thoughts…

IMG_8197

Just popping in this morning to share a few things. My brain feels like listing my thoughts so here it goes…

1. Fall is breathtakingly beautiful.

2. My days look a little different with two kids in elementary school and one in preschool. It feels so strange…and wonderful…

3. I get to go shopping by myself.

4. I get to meet my husband for lunch.

5. I get to finish what I start.

6. I have quiet time.

7. I can go to a coffee shop.

8. I saw a mom with a little one in the grocery cart and almost cried.

9. We were talking about changing diapers last night and I DID cry because I don’t change diapers anymore. (Didn’t see that one coming.)

10. I love where I am. I love where I’ve been. I love where I’m going. But man! The kids are getting big.

11. I’m still trying to figure it all out. But, for anyone stumbling on this in the middle of tiny tots at home…it is a crazy hard season. CRAZY hard. But it doesn’t last. Nope, nope. It goes by in a blink.

12. I’m learning to how to fill my moment and days with things that bring life to my family and to me…praying, reading, baking, meal planning, organizing, shopping, walking, journaling, breathing deeply, keeping the van clean(isn). I know this season is not forever, so trying to figure out how to get the most out of it!

How about you?

Are things looking different in your life? Or, are you faithfully pushing through a season that has looked the same for a while. Isn’t it so nice to know that we have a God who is always doing something new in our lives? And yet, HE never changes. Pretty much awesome.

Thanks for reading my thoughts.

Singing His Grace,

Jess

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...