Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Glory

           Oh, what untold power exists in the medium of song: the power to brighten our moods and to express the inexpressible angst brewing within our souls—the power to resuscitate dormant memories and in a sense, to rewind time.  But, every now and then, when we least expect it, a song does more than that.  It breaks through the barrier of our tympanic membrane and with it the walls we have neatly constructed around our hearts.  And it changes us - the way we think - the way we see - the way we live.  Or, perhaps it causes us to live again.

So it was for me when I first heard Avalon’s “The Glory of the Blood.”   There I was in the midst of my darkest hour, my deepest need, writhing in the pain of betrayals and brokenness, when that song had the audacity to invade my hearing.  It rattled me like Golgotha, like the temple veil ripped in two from top to bottom.  “So that what cannot be shaken [could] remain.”  (Heb. 12:27)

            No longer was I kneeling on tear-stained carpet in the corner of my bedroom.  Now I was kneeling on blood-stained dirt at the foot of the cross.  He had carried me to Calvary.  Instead of the betrayal done to me, I saw my betrayal of Him – my sin, my shame, my guilt.  And, I sobbed for the ugliness of it.   

Even as I cried those body-wracking sobs, a drop of blood trickled off of the Word Made Flesh, and like a time-lapsed image, I saw it descend in my direction.  And then, oh the glory of then, it graced the back of my bowed head and brought with it a deluge of forgiveness. 

And, I felt the cleansing.  I felt the filth running off of me.  I felt the salve of His lifeblood penetrating wounds that had festered so long.  Sweeter to me than the oil running down Aaron’s beard onto his robe (Psalm 133:2) was the reality that my own robes were being made white in the blood of the Lamb. (Revelation 7:14)  My Great High Priest had “opened for [me]” “a new and living way,” “through the veil, that is, his body.”  (Hebrews 10:21)  And when, for the first time, I peered behind the veil, mine eyes did see the glory of the coming of the Lord.  His robe dipped in blood, mine as white as snow. (Rev. 19:13-15)

"The Glory of the Blood"
by Avalon
Listen Here

In the solitary moment of His birth,
On this barren dusty land,
All of heaven kissed the face of the earth.
With a miracle of love,
God became a man.
But He was sent away to draw His final breath,
When He was only thirty-three.
And in the shame of dying a criminal's death,
He cleansed an angry world,
And in his suffering I see

The glory of the blood
The beauty of the body
That was broken for our forgiveness
The glory of His perfect love
Is the heart of the story
The glory of the blood

I have tried to find salvation on my own, 
In a search for something real.
There's a guilty heart inside this flesh and bone.
I fall upon his grace,
And I begin to feel

The glory of the blood
The beauty of the body
That was broken for our forgiveness
The glory of His perfect love 
Is the heart of the story
The glory of the blood.

And when I close my eyes I can see Him hanging there
Oh the precious wounded lamb of God.
And all the majesty in this world cannot compare 
To the glory,
The beauty of the body
That was broken for our forgiveness.

The glory of the blood
The beauty of the body
That was broken for our forgiveness
The glory of His perfect love
Is the heart of the story
The glory of the blood

He was sent away to draw His final breath
When He was only thirty-three.

"I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and He turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire.  He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.  He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God." ~ Psalm 40:1-3a

Monday, April 18, 2011

SSMT Verse # 8 and My Determined Purpose

SSMT Verse # 8 - Philippians 3:10 (Amplified Version)

The other day I came across an essay that I had written for a fellowship application several years ago.  The essay prompt asked, "What is your life-purpose or life-task? What burning desire has God placed on your heart to do for Him in this life? How does this desire affect you now, and how will it affect you in the future?"  I could hardly believe what I had written in response.  You see, these very questions have plagued me regularly during this last season of my life.  They're what  I daydream about non-stop.  They're what keeps me awake at night.  They're what has caused me to pour my heart and soul out to God every day, begging him to shed some light on my path.  

Yet, somehow in the midst of my doubt and unbelief, I had forgotten that God had answered all of these questions very clearly three years ago.  I first began to wrestle with God over these questions right before I started law school, and I continued to wrestle over them throughout law school.  But, I anesthetized the sense of turmoil these questions created in me by forcing myself to concentrate on the task at hand -- i.e. finishing law school.  When I graduated, I dulled the sense of panic these questions created in me by again focusing on the task at hand -- i.e. passing the bar.  But, after I finished the bar, there was nothing left to distract me from the questions anymore.  Sure, God had blessed me with a wonderful job for the immediate future, but it was/is only a one-year gig.  The reality that my vocational future was only set for one more year created a big question mark over my life.  What am I going to do after that year is up?  That's a question I still don't have the answer to.  Hence the reason I keep pondering the questions that happened to be the subject of the essay I had written three years ago, "What is your life-purpose or life-task? What burning desire has God placed on your heart to do for Him in this life? How does this desire affect you now, and how will it affect you in the future?" 

When I read my essay last week, I couldn't believe that three years ago, God had given me such a clear answer to these questions, and I had forgotten.  Where did I lose my focus along the way?  Or, maybe I just didn't like the answer because it didn't answer my more practical question of Ok, so what am I supposed to do for my JOB?  In truth, I think that when I initially wrote my response to the essay question, it was based mostly on head knowledge.  God had shown me what my life's purpose should be, but it had yet to seep down from my head and take root in my heart.  When I read the words last week, it was as though God said to me, "See, my child, this isn't a new lesson.  I've been teaching it to you and reteaching it to you, but it just took this long for the lesson to take!"  Friends, that's the amazing part of receiving a true Word from God -- it will be true the first time He speaks it, and it will still be true three years later when you've all but forgotten that He said it in the first place.  

Well, I suppose the good news is that it only took me three years - haha!  (Hey - before you judge me, keep in mind that it took the Israelites 40 years to realize they actually did want to take God up on the whole Promised Land idea!  I mean, really, they decided forgo a land with grapes so big it took two grown men to carry them on a pole because they were afraid that their God who had parted the Red Sea and drowned the entire Egyptian army wouldn't be able to handle a bunch of brawny men?  Seriously?!  No judgment here, though, because I have spent the last 3 years of my life doing the exact same thing.)  Anyway, I thought I would share my original response to the essay questions for two reasons: 1) I very much do believe the answer that I wrote all those years ago, and it is finally starting to take root in my heart!; and 2) my own words are what inspired me to choose Philippians 3:10 (AMP) for my SSMT Verse # 8.  

For quite some time, I have wrestled with God over these very questions.  “What is my life-purpose?”  Over and over, I have begged God to reveal to me a clear-cut vision of my purpose.  I have repeatedly prayed Isaiah’s words, “‘Here I am. Send me!’” (Isaiah 6:8b).  Gradually, I have accepted the fact that God might not answer my prayer exactly as I had planned.  He answered me with both a “no” and a “yes.”  God’s “no” came by way of the realization that he would not give me a specific play-by-play of my life.  I realized that God’s immediate plan was to increase my faith.  If God had answered my insistent pleas in the way that I anticipated, if he had said, “Missy, my purpose for you is xyz,” I would have set out to accomplish it on my own, without his help.  Instead, God desires for me to lean on him.  Because I do not have a clear-cut vision of God’s exact purpose, I have been forced to rely on God to be my eyes.  He is leading me one step at a time! 

I also realized that my need to know my “purpose” was founded in selfish motivations.  I wanted to know that my life would be worth something – that I would do great things.  I was focused on my glory, rather than God’s.  God, being the wonderfully gracious God that he is, corrected me through a poignant “yes.”  While he did not reveal to me the future, he opened my eyes to the ultimate and eternal  purpose for my life.  Philippians 3:10 has become my life verse.  I love the Amplified Bible’s translation of it:

“[For my determined purpose] is that I know him, [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death.” 

This verse says it all.  My life’s purpose is that I may know Christ.  There is no other goal. There is no other end.

Nevertheless, God does have a specific purpose for me, and I know that he “will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6, NIV).  I also know that God has created me with unique passions and dreams, and I have not ceased to believe that these dreams have been stirred by the Holy Spirit.  For example, I enjoy studying the law.  My father is an attorney, and even as a child, I loved to hear every detail of his cases.  I love the idea that words and legal constructions can take on a life of their own in the courtroom. To an even higher degree, I love to study the Scriptures.  While man’s laws merely appear to have a living function in society, God’s Word is life.  I will never get over the first chapter of the Gospel of John.  Even if I read it a million times, I will always be dumbfounded by the concept of the Word made flesh.  Before the beginning of time, the words that spoke the universe in to being were and are Jesus!   More than anything, my life’s aspiration has been to study God’s law and man’s law.  My prayer is that God will somehow fuse the two.  Whether it be through making oral arguments, writing bible studies, or simply teaching my children to revere the Scriptures, I am content to wait on the Lord.  For, “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day” (2 Timothy 1:12, NIV). 

Thursday, March 31, 2011


With Easter quickly approaching, I have been pondering the question, "How in the world do you prepare your heart for something as gruesome, yet beautiful as the Crucifixion?"  And, assuming you could get your heart adequately prepared for it, then two days later comes the Resurrection -- the most glorious day of all time thus far.  How do you prepare your heart to receive the Savior who poured out His blood as a ransom for your life?

I'll have to get back to you on those questions...In the meantime, I have been riveted by the lyrics of Sidewalk Prophets' latest song, "You Love Me Anyway."  Maybe it's a good place to start...

I am the thorn in your crown,
But You love me anyway.
I am the sweat from Your brow,
But You love me anyway.
I am the nail in Your wrist,
But You love me anyway.
I am Judas' kiss,
But you love me anyway.
See, I am the man who yelled out from the crowd
For your blood to be spilled on this earth shaking ground,
Yes then, I turned away with this smile on my face,
With this sin in my heart tried to bury Your grace,
Yes, and alone in the night, I still called out to You,
So ashamed of my life, my life, my life...
But you love me anyway.

The line that rocks me to the core is this one - "With this sin in my heart tried to bury Your grace.  Then alone in the night, I still called out for You."  The thought of mankind trying to bury their ONLY HOPE of Salvation is mind boggling on this side of the cross, but I can't say that I wouldn't have had a shovel in my hand if I had been there.  ("He came into the very world he created, but the world didn't recognize Him.  He came to His own people, and even they rejected Him." John 1:10-11 (NLT).)

BUT, we have this hope ---  The. grave. could. NOT. hold. HIM!!!!   

"Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?"

Click here to watch the Sidewalk Prophets video of "You Love Me Anyway."

SSMT Verses 6 & 7

Technically, I will be a day early posting my seventh verse, but I doubt I will have time to get around to posting tomorrow - so here goes!  (I'm going to do my best to type Verse # 6 from memory.)

Verse # 6

"I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guard post.  There I will wait to see what the LORD says and how He will answer my complaint.  Then the LORD said to me:  . . . 

This vision is for a future time.  It describes the end, and it WILL be fulfilled.  If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place.  It will not be delayed."  
Habakkuk 2:1, 2a, 3

I can't really articulate my reasons for choosing this verse.  Ok, well maybe I can, but a) it would take too long, and b) it's kinda just between the Lord and me!  (You know it's good to have some things that you keep just between the Lord & you!  By way of analogy, my husband and I use the term "marriage confidential" to refer to things we keep only between the two of us.  Well, if I (as a part of the Church) am the bride of Christ, I figure it's ok to have some "marriage confidential" with my heavenly groom, too!)

Verse # 7

"For I resolved to know nothing (to be acquainted with nothing, to make a display of the knowledge of nothing, and to be conscious of nothing) among you except Jesus Christ (the Messiah) and Him crucified." ~ 1 Corinthians 2:2 (AMP)

I had decided to do this one to prepare my heart for Easter, but I realized how appropriate it is for my current season tonight when I was reading some of the comments on the LPM Blog.  Beth introduced us to one of Lifeway's newest Bible teachers, Tammie Head, whose first published Bible study is being released tomorrow.  Beth has served as a mentor to Tammie for many years.  Tammie commented on the post, and said that Beth would often remind her along the way, "Seek the Caller and not the calling, and you will run smack dab into your calling."  Because I have been searching/wrestling with God over my calling for some time now, that hit me straight between the eyes.  Alas, I realized I need to memorize this verse for more reasons than one! 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Siesta Scripture Memory Team 2011!

Hola friends!  I thought I'd share something that's making my year this year!  I have joined up with over 5,000 women (siestas, to be exact) + Beth Moore to commit to memorizing 2 Scripture verses a month for the year of 2011.   Together, we form the Siesta Scripture Memory Team (or SSMT)!  The inaugural SSMT was back in 2009--the same year that Bobby and I got married--and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience then, too.  But, there's something extra special about this year...

This year, I have been thirsting for the Scriptures like never before.  We begin our new verses on the 1st and 15th of every month, and, I have found myself eagerly anticipating those days.  I often flip through my calendar to see how much longer I have to wait until I get to start my next verse.  If that sounds crazy to you, let me explain.  I haven't always been so excited to memorize Scripture.  Even though I am able to memorize easily, I have often been lazy about actually doing it when left to my own devices.  (That's the wonderful thing about having the accountability of the SSMT!)

But, I think the difference this year is that I have chosen verses that my soul desperately needs.  As a result, the practice of memorization has become more than just a spiritual exercise.  It has become the active pursuit of the renewal of my mind that Paul talks about.  (Romans 12:2)  As I have said my verses over and over again over the last two months, they have renewed my hope and even given me life more abundantly.  I can totally understand what the Psalmist meant when he said, "Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors."  The verses I have been memorizing this year have been just that - counselors to me.

Another reason this year's SSMT is even more special to me is because my mom is doing it with me this time! We have practiced saying our verses to each other over the phone, and that has added so much to the experience.

Finally, two other additions make this year's SSMT extra fun:

1. Beth & the wonderful staff at LPM put together these precious spirals for the siestas this year:

2. Beth & the staff at LPM also made an iPod app just for the SSMT!  Yes, there's an app for that!  I mean, how cool is that?!

So, I thought I would take this opportunity to share my first 5 verses of the year.  I will do my best to write them by memory!   My commentary on why I chose the verses is in blue.

Verse #1 - January 1, 2011

"To all perfection I see a limit; but your commands are boundless."  
Psalm 119:96 (NIV)

I chose this verse to help tear down the stronghold of perfectionism in my life.  There is nothing like the ability of the sword of the Spirit to demolish strongholds! (Ephesians 6:17; 2 Corinthians 10:4)

Verse # 2 - January 15, 2011

"It is the bridegroom who marries the bride, and the best man is simply glad to stand with him and hear his vows.  Therefore, I am filled with joy at his success.  He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less."  
John 3:29-30 (NLT)

This one is a little bit harder to explain.  Over the last few years I have been wrestling with my calling.  As I look around at other people who seem to be so sure of God's plan for their lives, I have struggled not to feel jealous.  This verse is a reminder that, as the body of Christ, we are ALL working together toward the same goal - the glorification of Jesus Christ (our bridegroom).  We should rejoice at the success of other Christians because their success is our success!!  

Verse # 3 - February 1, 2011

"Roll your works upon the Lord [commit and trust them wholly to him; He will cause your thoughts to become agreeable to his will, and] so shall your plans be established and succeed." Proverbs 16:3 (AMP)

I chose this verse to remind me that, as I seek God's will for my life, it is God who causes my thoughts to become agreeable to His will!!  

Verse # 4 - February 15, 2011

"[She] did not waver in unbelief at God's promise, but was strengthened in [her] faith and gave glory to God, because [she] was fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform."  
Romans 4:20-21 (HCSB)

This one speaks for itself!!  Speaking of demolishing strongholds, this verse is everything to me as I seek victory over the stronghold of unbelief.

Verse # 5 - March 1, 2001
[*current verse*]

"When You, God, went out before your people; 
when you marched through the wilderness, 
the earth shook, the heavens poured down rain, 
before God, the One of Sinai,
before God, the God of Israel.
You gave abundant showers, O God;
You refreshed your weary inheritance.
Your people settled in it,
And from your bounty, God,
You provided for the poor.

The Lord announces the word, 
and the women who proclaim it are a mighty throng." 
Psalm 68:7-11

"March on, my soul; be strong." 
Judges 5:21b

Beth suggested these verses for the month of March due to their theme of marching.  They spoke to me so deeply that I decided to memorize them this month instead of the other verse that I had chosen.  This current season of my life has been a "wilderness" season.  To know that God, the One of Sinai, is marching out BEFORE me is a huge word to me!  The second verse helps me remember that, instead of plopping down in the wilderness and wishing I were back in Egypt, I have to KEEP MARCHING!  My promised land is just around the corner!! 

I'll check back in around the 15th to share my next verse!  

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Girl Who Had the Faith to Move a Mountain

Song of the Week: "Missing Person," Michael W. Smith

Over the last week, Bobby has been scanning all of my mom's old pictures, so that she will have digital copies of  them.  (It's a little side business that he has started.  So, if that sounds like something you would like to have done for your pictures, email me.  He would love to have more customers!)

Along the way, we have come across some great (and not-so-great) pictures!  We have laughed until we practically cried at some of my outfits and my antics!  Here are a few examples:

As I looked at those pictures, a familiar thought began to haunt me.  It's a thought I have had countless times over the last several years.  It's a thought that first began to dawn on me at some point during college.  And, as I looked at those pictures, it was there staring right back at me . . .

I've lost the spark that shows up in so many of those pictures.  

I'm not sure where along the way I lost it.  Was it in middle school when I ceased being exactly who I was and tried to be the person people wanted me to be?  Was it in high school when I realized that people can be really hurtful, even when you haven't done anything to hurt them?  Was it in college when the exhaustion of trying to be good at everything (and not always succeeding) finally set in?  Was it that my desire for control supplanted my desire to follow God's plans for my life with reckless abandon?  Or, was it just the stronghold of unbelief that took my faith captive over time?  The truth is, I don't know.  I don't know where I lost it.

All I know is that I don't have it anymore.  I wasn't always as serious as I am today.  I wasn't always as ridden with doubts as I am today.  I wasn't always as terrified of making mistakes as I am today.  I wasn't always as self-concious and self-absorbed (gag!) as I am today.

You see, the one thing that hasn't changed over the years is "my faith," in a manner of speaking.  Christ drew me to Himself at a very young age, and I have loved him ever since.  Not one day, since the day I opened my heart to Christ, have I ever doubted the reality of my salvation.  And yet, the very thing that has been battered and bruised so savagely over the years is "my faith."  Sadly, the faith that I had as the little girl in those pictures dwarfs the faith that I have today.  I don't mean to imply that I haven't grown in my knowledge of Christ and my intimacy with Him over the years.  I don't mean to undermine the liberating work that He alone has accomplished in me over the last 21 years since I placed my trust in Him.  

I just want my "faith like a child" back!  For heaven's sake . . .  (literally) . . . I WANT IT BACK!

I do not want to be of no use to the Kingdom of God because I am paralyzed by fear and self-doubt.  I do not want to subsist, when I can have life--and life more abundantly!  (John 10:10)

When I was a little girl, I used to read about the people in the Bible who experienced the presence of God through visions and angels--people like Moses, Daniel, Samuel, and Mary.  I was captivated by the way that God spoke to them.  I begged God that one day He would speak to me through a vision or an angel.  And, in my innocent little girl's heart, I truly believed that He would.  (Now, before you get all theological on me, the point is not whether God still speaks like that.  The point is that I believed with all my heart that He would!)  

The day after Bobby and  I were sorting through those pictures, I heard a song that I hadn't heard in years.  It's a song I used to belt from the top of my lungs as a child, never dreaming that it would one day become true of me.  You see, in my house growing up, my sister was the supplier of music.  While I saved up all  my allowance to buy books and baby dolls, she always had the latest collection of cassette tapes and CDs.  Consequently, I mooched off her music.  Mary Ann has always been a huge fan of Michael W. Smith.  I'm pretty sure she has every CD he's ever made.  (...along w/ Celine Dion)  So, as you might guess, I was also a fan of Michael W. Smith.  The song I heard that day was, "Missing Person."  It puts into words everything I feel when I look at those pictures.  

Without further adieu, here are the lyrics to Michael's song, "Missing Person:" 

Another question in me
One for the powers that be
It's got me thrown
And so I put on my poker face
And try to figure it out
This undeniable doubt
A common occurrence
Feeling so out of place
Guarded and cynical now
Can't help but wondering how
My heart evolved into 
The rock beating inside of me
So I reel...such a stoic ordeal
Where's that feeling that I don't feel?

There was a [girl] who had the faith to move a mountain
And like a child [she] would believe without a reason
Without a trace [she] disappeared into the void and
I've been searching for that missing person

Under a lavender moon
So many thoughts consume me
Who dimmed that glowing light
That once burned so bright in me?
Is this a radical phase
A problematical age
That keeps me running
From all that I used to be?
Is there a way to return?
Is there a way to unlearn
That carnal knowledge
That's chipping away at my soul?
I've been gone too long
Will I ever find my way home?

There was a [girl] who had the faith to move a mountain
And like a child [she] would believe without a reason
Without a trace [she] disappeared into the void and
I've been searching for that missing person

[She] used to want to try the straight and narrow
[She] had a fire and [she] could feel it in the marrow
It's been a long time and I haven't seen [her] lately
But I've been searching for that missing person. 

While we were looking at those old pictures, I mentioned to Bobby my fear that I had lost the spark that lights up so many of those childhood pictures.  His response, whether he knew it or not, was exactly the encouragement that I needed to hear.  He said something along the lines of, "I know, babe, but you're getting it back."  I. am. getting. it. back!  You see, I've been searching for that missing person...

"Then [Jesus] said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven."  ~ Matthew 18:3 (NLT)

A Time for Silence

On the off chance that anyone's still checking my blog to see whether I've written anything new, let me first explain my absence from the blog world of late...

As you can see, my last post was in April.  That was right before I started my LAST round of law school exams. (Woohoo! -- I can hardly believe that season of my life is over!)  Immediately after graduation, I began studying full-time for the bar exam.  (Emphasis on full-time!)  Despite the fact that I had been duly warned, I never expected that studying for the bar would be so intense and so boring at the same time.  But, alas, I made it through that, too!  (Praise to God alone!)  Then, after the bar, I had a much-needed month off.  However, during that month, Bobby and I moved into a new rental home.  I literally began packing as soon as I returned home from taking the bar.  Most of my days during my month off were spent unpacking, painting, and recovering from law school and the bar.  So, needless to say, the blog took a back seat to all of that!  

I had planned to start back with the blog full-time once we were settled in our house, but I soon realized that I would have to put blogging on the back burner for the next year due to some responsibilities at work. So, the bad news (for the faithful few who care) is that my blog posts will be intermittent over the next year.  The good news is that I plan to be back full force next year!  I miss blogging!

In Ecclesiastes 3, Solomon tells us that, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens . . . a time to be silent and a time to speak."  (Eccl. 3:1, 7b, NIV).  For the most part, the next year will be a time of silence for my blog.  I will still post every now and then, when I desperately need to get something off my chest.  (In fact, after I finish this post, I am about to write another "Song of the Week" post that I have been pondering for some time.)  But, I won't post as regularly as I did when I first started.  So, check back from time to time if you feel so inclined, and other than that, hope to see you next year!