If, in leaving a place,
Those you leave behind
Sigh in relief and
Give thanks to God
For your departure
Then you can trust that
You offered no good
Provided nothing of substance
Added no value
To the space you vacated.
If, in leaving a place,
Brings relief and praise
Then your presence must
Lend towards darkness.
Hate, malice, venom –
These are choices.
You choose to do wrong.
Plot to go out of your way
To cause harm.
You speak death even as
You’re wrapped in the embrace of life.
I have no sympathy for your wayward travels.
I spoke caution for the danger
You’re rushing towards
Offered respite from the
Consequences of your choices.
Warm shelter and full belly
In the midst of a concrete jungle.
You took what you wanted
Wasted the remainder unnecessarily
Misused, overused and abused my hospitality.
You left with no understanding of the
Safe harbor you cast aside in
Favor of lies and misrepresentations
There was no acknowledgement of grace
No thank you
Not even a: ♫♯ Dear John, by the time you read this line, I’ll be gone…♭ ♫
No, instead you left a petition
for an order of protection
claiming harassment and abuse.
As if I were the one who
Showed up on your doorstep
Without warning or invitation
You asked for a restraining order
As if I were the one
Sleeping in your home with ill intent
Plotting against your peace
And dreaming of your downfall.
Entitled complaints all.
As if you have a right
To my life.
My property, my income,
My provision, my inheritance
Simply because you showed up
And lusted for the fruit of my
Praise, hard work and perseverance.
I have no curses to hurl at you
There’s no need.
You aren’t worth my frustration.
When I opened my home to you,
I made available to you everything
God has made available to me.
You have no idea how blessed you were
sitting in the shelter of the grace that covers me.
You rejected that when you attacked me.
A character like yours
doesn’t require strong sight to see.
Your stench permeates around you
It turns the edges of the space you inhabit.
You are your own worst enemy,
But you think you’re a boss
Making boss moves.
In a borrowed Top Ramen reality.
If, in leaving a place,
Those you leave behind
Are filled with satisfaction and joy,
Then your boss move –
Your departure –
Was actually an
Thank you for testing
My faith and resolve.
Thank you for dropping in.
Thanks so much more for leaving.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Waking up with a song in my heart, mind and spirit is one of the most encouraging and soothing things I’ve experienced in my faith walk.
Last night I attended our weekly prayer service. I took a long way – a bike ride along the Hudson River Greenway with a pause on a park bench to contemplate the setting sun and my barren life. My spirits were low. My heart was heavy. My mind and my body were extremely tired. Eventually, due to the limited time I had the bike share bike for, I pulled myself from the bench and continued riding until I got to church. I was an hour late but just on time for the message: to ask God to move me beyond my freedom into my full purpose in His service.
I was extremely open and vulnerable by the end of that message, throughout the corporate prayer that followed, the taking of communion and the songs of praise that wrapped up the evening. Leaving the church, I walked to one of my favorite spots in the City, Columbus Circle, to sit and reflect on the city, the people, the lights, the night, and my life. All I wanted to do was cry. I dragged myself home and prepped myself for a nice retching cry to sleep.
The cry didn’t happen. I was asleep before my head hit the pillow. When I awoke this morning, the words, “You are my strength, strength like no other, strength like no other reaches to me” were flowing through my spirit and humming in my throat. All I could do was give thanks for the song.
You Are My Strength
by William Murphy is on repeat for the day
Say this tonight: You are my strength. Strength like no other. Strength like no other. Now lay your hands on yourself and say: Reaches to me. The strength of God is reaching for you tonight.
You are my strength, strength like no other. Strength like no other reaches to me. [x4]
In the fullness of Your grace, in the power of Your name, you lift me up, you lift me up. [x2]
You are my strength, strength like no other. Strength like no other reaches to me. [x2]
In the fullness of Your grace, in the power of Your name, you lift me up, you lift me up. [x3]
You are my strength, strength like no other. Strength like no other reaches to me.
I declare whatever your struggle is, you’re going to finish strong! Thank you for being so gracious. Thank you for being so kind.
“My question tonight is: What’s keeping you from going that full distance with God? What is it that you’re afraid of? Are you afraid that provision won’t be there? Are you afraid that your message will be rejected when it’s spoken? What is it that causes you to draw back and say, ‘Lord use me for your glory… except for this… or that… or this…but for anything else, God, just use me for your glory?'”
“The problem is that you want to come out of something but you don’t necessarily want to go in… to what God has for you. You just want to stop halfway. You just want to say, ‘I was set free’ for the rest of your life, but you don’t want to be used of God to set others free.”
Be blessed as you go and remember to be a blessing.
I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, so I shall be saved from my enemies.
The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of perdition assailed me; the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me.
In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.
Remember when Superman caught Lois Lane mid-air and said these words to her? Lois looked at him incredulously and said, “You’ve got me, but who’s got you?!?!”
I never thought of it this way, but it’s just come to me. She wasn’t interested in his power. She wasn’t interested in his strength. Nor his ability to fly. She wasn’t even impressed that he had saved her from certain death. Her one and only question was about HOW he was able to do that. WHO was EMPOWERING him? In other words, she could have said: Yeah, you may have me for the moment, but when your steam runs out, then what?
I’m passing on the question: Who’s got you?
When you’re doing superhuman feats, are you relying on your own strength or the Source that supplies you?
When you’re receiving supernatural help, are you aware of who is enabling the person reaching out to you?
God has you covered and supported. He’s the power of the universe. Nothing greater. Relax into Him. He’s been wooing you and whispering to you for a long time: “Don’t worry. I’ve got you.”
How Goliath and the Israelites saw Goliath (the enemy)
Then Goliath, a Philistine championfrom Gath, came out of the Philistine ranks to face the forces of Israel. He was over nine feet tall! He wore a bronze helmet, and hisbronze coat of mail weighed 125 pounds. He also wore bronze leg armor, and he carried a bronze javelin on his shoulder. The shaft of his spear was as heavy and thick as a weaver’s beam, tipped with an iron spearhead that weighed 15 pounds. His armor bearer walked ahead of him carrying a shield. (v. 4-7)
How Goliath taunted the army of Israel
“Why are you all coming out to fight?” he called. “I am the Philistine champion, but you are only the servants of Saul. Choose one man to come down here and fight me! If he kills me, then we will be your slaves. But if I kill him, you will be our slaves! I defy the armies of Israel today! Send me a man who will fight me!”
When Saul and the Israelites heard this, they were terrified and deeply shaken.
For forty days, every morning and evening, the Philistine champion strutted in front of the Israelite army. (v. 8, 11, 16)
How David (servant of God) saw Goliath (the enemy)
“What will a man get for killing this Philistine and ending his defiance of Israel? Who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?” (v. 26)
What David’s people thought of him and how they saw him
Eliab: But when David’s oldest brother, Eliab, heard David talking to the men, he was angry. “What are you doing around here anyway?” he demanded. “What about those few sheep you’re supposed to be taking care of? I know about your pride and deceit. You just want to see the battle!” (v. 28)
King Saul: “Don’t worry about this Philistine,” David told Saul. “I’ll go fight him!”
“Don’t be ridiculous!” Saul replied. “There’s no way you can fight this Philistine and possibly win! You’re only a boy, and he’s been a man of war since his youth.” (v. 32-33)
What David thought of himself
But David persisted. “I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats,” he said. “When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death. I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God! The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!” (v. 34-37)
How Goliath taunted David
Goliath walked out toward David with his shield bearer ahead of him, sneering in contempt at this ruddy-faced boy. “Am I a dog,” he roared at David, “that you come at me with a stick?” And he cursed David by the names of his gods. “Come over here, and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and wild animals!” Goliath yelled. (v. 41-44)
Why David fought
David replied to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. Today the Lord will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head. And then I will give the dead bodies of your men to the birds and wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel! And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lord’s battle, and he will give you to us!” (v. 45-47)
Every time I read this story, my heart swells with home team pride! 🙂 Everyone saw David as the unfortunate underdog, but he knew that the LORD he fought for made him a conqueror! There is POWER in our knowledge of God. There is STRENGTH in knowing what God will do for us and bring us through. There is VICTORY in defending the honor of God and those associated with Him.
Think of how the enemy (Goliath in this situation) taunted the Israelites. He terrified them with his presence, his apparent dominance of the situation and his words. He had esstentially defeated the army of Israel before they even went to battle. Imagine that! The army of Israel was the Army of the Living God – as such they were guaranteed victory, but in their minds, they were no match for the “Philistine Champion from Gath.”
How are you viewing your enemy? Do you listen to what your enemy says about themself or are you listening to what God says about you?
David was not intimidated. David did not look at the physical situation. What David proclaimed was: (1) I am a servant to the king, (an anointed king postioned by God), (2) the Philistines defied/disgraced the armies of the Living God (the offense was deserving of death), (3) the battle was the Lord’s, (4) the Lord will conquer His enemies, (5) all will know the Lord rescues His people.
Honestly, what more do we need to know for our own personal battles? See Ephesians 6:12.
Our victory is already written in God’s Word. We need to stand firmly on His Word in order to continue to walk in victory. To “stand on the word” means to know and believe the Word – you have to trust the Word of God. It’s your belief and trust in God that allows Him to carry you victoriously through your battles.
Encourage others and share your victory over Goliath in the comments.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18
Recently, someone asked me, “How are you? How’s your heart.” I was so overwhelmed by the many truthful answers I could have given that I couldn’t reply immediately. I meditated on the question throughout the day, even long after I sent a reply.
The first defensive reply that rose up in me was, “By what right do you ask the condition of my heart – you, who have not given any care to it at all?”
I scratched that – sounded too bitter. But the thought persisted and morphed into, “It’s grown distant from you.” Then I wondered – if my heart had grown distant from people it once sought, had it also grown distant from God?
I put the question in Google and read some passages and sermons that came up. The Parable of the Sower was prominent. I had always thought I resembled the good ground that received the seed and nurtured it into abundant reproduction, but as I reread this parable in light of the question being put to me, “How’s your heart,” along with a sermon of the same name, I began to see how my heart was close to transforming into a thorny, barren wasteland. Was the Word being choked out of me through all my disappointing interactions with people?
Eventually, I sent the reply, “My heart is as pure as I can keep it in this world. And as open as God needs it to be in this moment.”
When speaking and sharing the question with an old friend later that day, I asked, “How pure can a polluted heart be? Purity in this world still leaves me quite dirty and damaged.” I told her I could have just as truthfully replied, “My heart is bruised and battered. It’s pained and tormented. It’s lonely and sad. It’s been taken for granted and taken advantage of. And it’s no longer trusting. My heart used to be so trusting… It used to be so open….
“Now it’s protected. Now it’s guarded. Now it’s cautious. Now it’s closed to many who once had free access to it.”
She didn’t think that was a bad thing.
I’ve been struggling for balance. Seeking to remain available to those I had offered myself to, while still protecting myself from their lack of care and consideration. Balance between two such opposing goals is impossible. And it’s not necessary.
God isn’t seeking balance from us. He’s demanding all from us.
“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? He requires only that you fear the Lord your God, and live in a way that pleases him, and love him and serve him with all your heart and soul. And you must always obey the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good. ~ Deuteronomy 10:14-16
Perhaps this is where my bruised and battered heart is healed – with the knowledge that it shouldn’t be entrusted to people. People have no respect for something so fragile and precious. So I resurrender fully to my Lord, my God, to my Savior, my Healer, my Shield and Protector. I recommit my heart o the One who created me and knows best how to soothe me.
I must have held some of my heart back from Him in order for it to become so damaged and abused. Psalm 55:22 says when we give our burdens to the Lord, He will take care of us. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall. So, what didn’t I give to my Lord?
Whatever I tried to balance with God left me exposed to people’s ill intentions and selfishness.
For my enemies refuse to change their ways; they do not fear God. As for my companion, he betrayed his friends; he broke his promises. His words are as smooth as butter, but in his heart is war. His words are as soothing as lotion, but underneath are daggers! ~ Psalm 55:19b-21
My heart keeps reaching out to people because it’s full of compassion and has a desire to connect and share its experiences on this journey. Even its bruised and battered condition doesn’t keep it from being powered by love, expressing joy and hope and operating by faith. But when my heart is surrendered to God –every time I surrender to God – the wounds are forgotten as my heart opens and expands to a greater capacity. Perhaps the many scars are necessary. Perhaps the rips and tears, the gouges and punctures are paving way for future expansion. Perhaps everything I saw as people trying to destroy the purity I was trying to maintain was God conditioning my heart for greater battles. Perhaps He was conditioning me for a better reaction to the attacks on my life – the blows don’t stop coming, indeed the enemies refuse to change their ways – but I am better protected when I rest in the shelter of the Most High. I’ve learned to seek Him immediately. I look for His Word first. When I give Him my burdens – the hurt, pain, loneliness and sadness, the many disappointments of dealing with His creation, yes, even those who identify themselves as His chosen – when I am able to confront my weakness and transfer everything that’s damaging me, I am always strengthened in unforeseen ways. I am always better for the process and experience once it has completely run its course.
“How’s your heart,” was a great question to make me evaluate how I’m presenting myself to God… and to others. Though what I dug up wasn’t a complete surprise to me, it may be to those who think they know me. Though I was initially surprised that someone actually asked me such a question, the surprise was short-lived. I began to wonder about their motives, because our interactions had not expressed any care for my heart condition. I wondered if they were seeking to do more damage, i.e. is your heart healed enough to take another beating? However, assuming there was true concern, I wondered if they were aware of the condition of their own heart and if they had traced its roots to see if their heart was resting in Christ or if their negligence left it exposed elsewhere.
As I’ve ruminated on my actual reply, “My heart is as pure as I can keep it in this world. And as open as God needs it to be in this moment,” I’ve come to appreciate it more. The best I can do is constantly seek God. If, in seeking Him, people hurt me, then I trust the result is still for His glory. The grace He has on tap for me is greater than any harm that comes my way.
May he, as a result, make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy as you stand before God our Father when our Lord Jesus comes again with all his holy people. Amen. ~ 1 Thessalonians 3:13 NLT
The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith. ~ 1 Timothy 1:5 NLT
That is why the Holy Spirit says, “Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled, when they tested me in the wilderness. ~ Hebrews 3:7-8 NLT
From The Process of Asking for, Receiving and Giving Love and Forgiveness(Available January 2011)
And he will stand to lead his flock with the Lord’s strength, in the majesty (power) of the name of the Lord his God. Then his people will live there undisturbed (securely), for he will be highly honored around the world. ~ Micah 5:4 (NLT)
The week of Thanksgiving brought several personal revelations to me through the resurfacing of a dormant family relationship. Then over Thanksgiving weekend, I had a series of dreams that expanded on those revelations.
The most vivid dream in the series involved a man (not a relative). In each scene the man appeared in, he was standing tall with firmly planted feet and a broad welcoming smile. Perched on his left hip, like an attachment, was a big baby boy who looked to be three or four years old. He was a beautiful boy with bright alert eyes – piercing, really – and a much older mischievous expression. Physically, the toddler didn’t resemble the man at all, yet there was an element of sameness and familiarity.
The man greeted me and indicated in the conversation that the toddler was one and a half years old. I commented that the baby boy was more than twice the size of the average toddler his age. Even as I said that, I was reaching over to hug and kiss the baby/toddler. The man’s face was glowing with joy when I stepped back to face him. He then embraced me. End dream sequence.
Upon waking, I was confused about elements of the dream. Primarily, who was the big baby/toddler boy? As I mentally walked back through the dream, I discarded the thought of the boy being the man’s son or other relative, and concluded the baby/toddler was the man himself, representing a part of the man that was less mature in some areas, even though he looked over-developed. Mostly, the baby/toddler seemed to represent a part of the man that was extremely vulnerable, even though he appeared to ooze mischief, knowledge, awareness and confidence.
What happened in the dream to inspire this retelling?
The man presented his vulnerabilities to me and I embraced them (symbolized by me hugging and kissing the baby/toddler). The joy the man received from that acceptance lead to his willingness to accept me (symbolized by him embracing me).
The focus scripture in service this week came from Micah 5:1-6. Verse 4 (He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD) stood out to me for two reasons: 1) The man’s solid stance in my dream brought to mind security and strength 2) I’ve been listening to Santus Real’s song, LeadMe. The lyrics are a beautiful blend of a man’s strength and vulnerability through his multiple roles and responsibilities. The refrain is written from a wife and child’s perspective:
“Lead me with strong hands
Stand up when I can’t
Don’t leave me hungry for love
Chasing dreams, what about us?
Show me you’re willing to fight
That I’m still the love of your life
I know we call this our home
But I still feel alone”
The song is a prayer for God to lead the man – the husband, the father – to be the strength of his family – the provider, comforter and defender – through God’s grace and power. It’s a moving prayer of a man laying bare his uncertainties and asking for the strength to love his family through his presence and with the best offerings of his life.
It’s such a vulnerable plea, but there’s so much power in it.
The convergence of all these elements had me analyzing aspects of my life. Specifically, the lack of strong hands in my life and the fact that there has never been anyone (father or other) standing or fighting for me. And I marveled that my hunger for love had turned into such a state of starvation that I’ve ceased to feel. Wonder of wonders… how different would my life be had I been blessed with a father who lead rather than destroyed?
It all rolls up to love. The best expression, the most lasting impression of love that we will receive in this life is through our father, mother, and spouse (husband or wife). If they aren’t led by the spirit of God, His love for us will not be experienced through them and we could remain hungry for love, chasing useless things in a lonely life because we have no idea how to be love or how to receive love.
Fortunately, these sad, lonely low points of neglect and uncertainty puts us in a special space for grace. I thank God for my vulnerabilities and my willingness to accept and embrace them. The more vulnerable I am, the stronger God’s presence in my life becomes.
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. ~ 2 Corinthians 12:8-10