The Narrow Path

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The air crisp,

The sun bright,

As we enter the ancient city of the Ephesians.

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Ephesus (Efes) located in Kudasai, Turkey is more than 35% uncovered. In 1st century B.C., it had a population of more than 250,000 which served to make it one of the largest cities in the Mediterranean world. The city served as great importance to Christianity in 50 A.D. The evidence shown in this inscription:

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Christian Community “Jesus Christ our Savior”

We bounce over B.C.-marble with our 21st century sneakers and are ushered through several gate-like structures. We pass underneath a stone gate and I see the view. The city, the wide road and I begin to think.

I am reminded of Jesus words.

Words found in Matthew 7 about narrow gates and wide roads.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. 14 How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.”

Nobility took up residence in terrace homes along this wide Ephesian road. Cluttered with people, wealth, prostitution, and idols, many first century residents traveled the destructive wide road.

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Marble floor inside one of the homes

I put myself in ancient mindset for a moment.

This nice, comfortable yet crowded path was attractive and accommodating. But this isn’t the way of Jesus. This isn’t the path he designed for them, for us.

The stones cry out.

Jesus beckons.

He beckons us down a hard road filled with amphitheaters of hate and walls of chains. Just like the Christians back then…

A long time ago.

I brush my fingers across divots in a stone wall.

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There are too many to count. These divots held the chains of persecuted Christians. I could almost hear their cry. They hung in humiliation under a hot sun ~ overcome with sweat but soaked with determination. Determined and resolved to count the cost, to lose their life for the cause of Christ.

I kick the dirt in this spot and I think, “Why would I be so arrogant to think my road to travel would be any different…any less hard?”

I may not find myself in chains for my faith. I may not even be called to lose my life for it. But I can embrace my call as a disciple of Christ…and that is to share gospel and make disciples of all nations…and never stop.

These followers knew what it meant to walk the narrow path. They knew the narrower the path the greater the risk. But they also knew like the man who hid a treasure in a field that Jesus was worth being in chains for…because to live is Christ and to die is gain (see Philippians 1:21).

So here I stand in wonder. I wonder 2000 years later how far we as believers have wondered off this path. These devoted followers of a Jewish carpenter who was crucified show us that following Christ isn’t just praying a prayer, but a summons to lose your life.

This is the road I choose. The narrow, risky, unpopular one. The one that leads to life.

Which will you choose?

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Amphitheater staircase

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Homesick

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Ahhh traveling alone with the kids. Just the sound of it makes a mama cringe. Even the flight attendant began a spiel over the loud intercom, “If you’re traveling with kids, today well… we feel sorry for you!” I rolled my eyes as I handed out Hello Kitty coloring books and crayons to the three. So far things had gone quite well. No hair-pulling from in between seats, no frequent stops to the toilet, and no choking on honey roasted peanuts. Yep, had there been enough arm room, I’d of given myself a pat on the back. Yes ma’am things were going so well I decided to strike up a conversation with the gentleman seated next to me.

Interestingly, this man was from Thessaloniki, Greece. He said, “You know the Thessalonians from the Bible?” My reply, “Wow, Thessss-u-lun-iiiii-ca (imagine the southern accent)?” He corrected of course by saying, “No it’s Thessalon-ee-k-ee.” Oh okay, I say. I practice a few times.

Well, just about that time, my five year old tugs on my sleeve and says, “Mama, why are you talkin’ to him? You don’t even know his name!” She said it real loud and sassy! So… after proper introductions were made, we continued discussing how he (Michael) left his home in Greece and came to the United States, went to University, and married a Baptist preacher’s daughter in Tennessee of all places. We talked about our favorite dish at Cracker Barrel and then I asked, “Do you get homesick?” I’ll never forget his thick-accented reply. “I miss my family in Greece but God has me here and here is home.”

The conversation paused a bit and I began to think about home. On these little trips down south I usually get “home-sick.” I miss shooting hoops with my dad in the gym where he coaches. I miss my mother’s smile when I walk through the door. I miss splitting a Chick-fil-A Sandwich with oodles of mayo dripping down the side with my brother.

Home?

Where is mine really? I mean Tennessee doesn’t feel like my home but neither does Reno.

I guess missing things is a part of this life, because I can’t live in two places at once. But Jesus tells me my home isn’t in Reno nor Tennessee ~ my real home is in Him, with Him, in a place he has prepared for me.

Hebrews 13:14 says, “For this world is not our home; we are looking forward to our city in heaven, which is yet to come.”

“Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it,” (1 Peter 2:11 MSG).

I don’t feel cozy in this world.

I don’t always feel comfortable either.

But according to the Scriptures, that’s a good thing. Honestly, the moments I feel at home are when I am in the yoke with Christ…when I am his hands and feet, when I am denying myself, when I am following him.

With Christ, I (we) never have to wonder where home is.

We will always know. But on days we forget, our Savior is there reminding us.

And that makes me happy.

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Just Live Rooted

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We ARE rooted in Christ–

Living in Him

Built up in Him

Strengthened in Faith by Him

so…

We MUST be Overflowing with thankfulness to HIM!

Remembering who I am in Him is half the battle sometimes.

I get caught up in all that I think I should be in Him and get distracted and frustrated and condemn myself a lot. I beat myself up a lot. After all– I should be so far by now, right?!

I try to rush Him… to push His work in me. I move to to make change on my own and then get worn out  and quit in defeat.

I forget that HE is my strength.

I need to return to the basics. 

To go back to when I first received Him and just be zealous for Him. Trusting Him. Seeking Him. Finding Him. Loving Him. BEING STILL. Waiting on Him.

And… THANKING Him... for all things.

What I need… is to just live rooted.

Join me?

Have a JESUS-filled weekend!

Love,

Heidi

 

 

 

With Courage

So, we are just now watching The Bible Series put on by the History Channel. Last night we watched the shepherd David — soon to be King — take down Goliath with a sling-shot and a stone. And I was quite taken by David as he confidently picked up the stone and walked fiercely out to meet the giant while reciting the 23rd Psalm.

There was so much immense power and courage in His stride to victory. He felt no doubt that the Lord, His God, was with Him.

Now, I realize there was much artistic liberty taken in the making of this series and what David actually said to Goliath that day was…

“You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.  All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” (1 Samuel 17 45-47) 

But, I imagine His courage to be very much the same as it was depicted, for indeed, he did know that the Lord God was with Him.

This scene weaved in and out of my thoughts. And the question passed through me… do I speak and claim God’s Word for me with such courage?

No.

Often the words of Psalm 23 come out in a moment of fear. They fall from my lips in a whimper as if to beg Him for His mercy instead of being sure of His love and watch care over me.

And the conviction wells up within… Where is my courage and my confidence in His promises to me?

It’s not as if the Israelites had it easy. I know some were fortunate enough to experience God up close and personal, but still they suffered greatly. However, as God’s anointed, Noah, Abraham, David, Paul and so many others remained courageous because of their great Faith in Him.

Father, bless me with such great Faith as these — I deeply desire to walk with Courage.

 

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Rusty Nails

Photo from A Holy Experience

Photo from A Holy Experience

Colossians 2:14, is a verse I memorize. It draws me to rusty nails driven into wooden beams, the cross where punishment meant for me was paid for by the Christ, the One who rose on the third day. The verse that translates:

“He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross,” (NLT).

It wrecks me. I can see it. My unrighteousness, my transgressions, pinned against cold shanks, pressed against stained grace.

The Message translates the verse like this:

“When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive—right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross. He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets.”

I am bent, my shoulders arch in hollowed repentance, my sobs lost in Him. This Good News spills over and I think: Blessed are those who find themselves empty, like the tomb ~ an empty tomb, an empty space longing for the King who has risen but who is to come again. A simple space open and available for the pouring out of scandalous grace meant for you and meant for me.

Happy Easter!

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Entering God’s Rest

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Once upon a time I pressed through the thickness of life, believing I’d figured out how to have a healthy pace. I checked boxes, made to-do-lists when all of the sudden I declare! I ran out of gas, without so much as a warning flicker from my tank.

I decided to conduct a self-inventory, lickety-split.

This is what I found ~ I felt like a ghost of my former self; carved out and dry like the Samaritan’s well. I felt smothered by demands; hollowed by meaningless activities; overwhelmed by child-rearing.

Was I losing my mind?

Was something inside broken?

Then one morning, my Jesus came looking for me in all my sleepy-eyed-mess. Only this time, I wasn’t drowsy to his presence ~ I was looking for Him too.

Suddenly I’m compelled to fall on my face, to bring my body to the lowest place possible with absolute submission in mind. With only a pink-burst sunrise as my witness, my hands fold, tears stack, and head bows.

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The One who takes my weakness and carries my disease calls me to pause, to enter His rest (see Matt. 8:17). The kind of rest defined as, “To cease from labor in order to recover and collect strength (see Rev. 14:13).”

I hear the echo of God’s invitation into this place. A place where His rod, His staff comfort me. It ignites my soul like an oil-fire. And I know. His rest is the artery that pumps life-giving rhythm into the arrhythmia of my life.

He’s asking, “Will I join him?

Will I lay down in the grassy meadows and the quiet still waters of the 23rd Psalm?”

I’m asking, “Can I stop?

Can I stop long enough to sit at his table; to devour His bread?

I review the past couple of weeks like a movie reel. My life had become like a broken sprinkler head swinging out of control back and forth into excessive extremes. I required a new gauge, because I am pretty sure mine had broken! I needed a slower pace, maybe even a sprinkler that pointed in only one direction.

My schedule?

My pace?

They were things only I could control. I had to choose whether or not to accept the invitation of the Good Shepherd.

Will I?

Could I?

Oh yes my sweet sisters I could and I did.

Once upon a time, God revealed to me that without rest:

I just might miss His most spectacular displays of unhindered glory;

I may never fully awaken to His presence;

I may never develop a sustainable pace; and

I may miss God-moments that could further His kingdom.

When we allow God to set the pace, the quality of the run will be less exhausting and much more fruitful.

So how’s your pace today? Remember the pace of your life, is your making and only you can undo it. The grassy meadows and gentle waters await!

Lupine Meadow, Dawn

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Attitude Check

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I’m not big on reality TV, but there is one channel where I get taken in a bit. If you know me, than you know I love to cook, so of course I’m a Food Network fan! Over the years I’ve recorded favorite cooking shows and competitions. These are reality TV, but I have just considered them not so bad compared to others out there and I learn so much about something I enjoy so much… cooking.

However, there are a couple new shows that I have watched that do cross the line for me. One is called Restaurant Stakeout and while the motive is ultimately good, there is just way too much negative going on before we ever get to the positive side of things.

They basically set up cameras all over a struggling restaurant to see what is happening when the owners are not around and there is always trouble. The several, 8 or 10 or more episodes, that I’ve watched revolve around employees being poorly trained or having a bad attitude for one reason or another and they take it out on the customers or the restaurant owners by not being quality employees. In the end everyone is confronted, including the owners, as to what their part is in this failing restaurant and what they need to do to turn things back around. And the alternative to being a stand-up team player is to just get out.

Sometimes I feel a little for those people, because, well I was a waitress long, long ago, but mostly because we’re all guilty of having a stinky attitude at times. And we’re most likely to let it all out when the “boss” isn’t looking. I’ve thought a lot about my own attitude in my home. When my husband-boss isn’t looking… it’s not always grand. And often enough when my kids are looking… it is out of control.

What impresses the deepest into my heart is the truth that it’s kind of like a “Restaurant Stakeout,” in my life all the time… because God sees all things. And there are no cameras needed when the corrupt attitude of my heart comes bubbling-out, like a pot of water boiling-over, through my words and actions… He’s watching. 

I love reminders like Chuck Swindoll’s above that support God’s great Word below because they demand an instant Attitude Check… and I need that. 

“Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus,” 

Philippians 2:3-5 

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A Good Fight -n- Pixie Sticks

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“Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses,” (1 Timothy 6:12).

I think about joy and my disorganized desires pummel me like a rock-sling.

They tangle like threads of twine woven into a fabricated mess. They twirl and twist and suddenly my God-orientation is compromised.

Sometimes, what I believe will bring joy betrays me.

The Adversary presses hard ~ He being the enemy of my joy.

His intent is that we find joy in ourselves, our accomplishments more than God. When we press back, Paul calls it a good fight of faith. Maintaining joy in God takes, “work;” or in other words a fight against every impulse for hollow joys.   

Paul also calls it a good fight because we are not left to our own strength in the fight. The words of Martin Luther, “Our striving would be losing.”

God fights…

for us

and

in us

…as we tread on uneven battlefields of worldly scatter.

John Piper says it’s a good fight because it’s not a struggle to carry a burden, but a struggle to let a burden be carried for us. The life of joy in God is not a burdened life, it is an unburdened life (When I don’t Desire God, 2004).

How quickly I forget Jesus said his burden and yoke are easy, light.

Fighting the good fight doesn’t involve self-exaltation like the southern smack downs over pixie sticks in my middle school used too…

Ahem… it involves self-humbling.

Of course if said person loses the middle school whoopin’ and pixie sticks blast all over the school yard like rockets, take it from me…there is some serious self-humbling!

Sho’ Nuff ….

The fight Paul talks about reminds me that even though I can guzzle the tar out of some pixie sticks and can fold laundry like nobody’s business, I AM WEAK.

Period.

And am desperate for the mercy of my heavenly daddy.

At the end of his ship-wrecked, persecuted life Paul said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” (2Timothy 4:7). “Keeping the faith for a lifetime is the result of fighting the good fight for a lifetime. And if faith includes at least the taste of joy in the glory of Christ, then this lifelong fight is a fight for joy—a very good fight,” (Piper, 2004).

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Fightin’ For Joy

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Do these two things really go together?

Fighting and joy?

Fighting seems so pressured while joy sounds more relaxed. The fighting part comes easy; it’s the joy that requires the effort.

I’ll quickly set the stage.

Today I’m a parched field with too many wide open spaces. Like a barren land gasping, thirsting for a hydrating solution that doesn’t seem to come.

“Mom, she spit on me!”

Mom she’s picking her nose and wiping it on my seat!”

“Mom she totally licked my homework!”

Ahh, the American dream… kids that spit and lick stuff; white picket fences that chip more than look good; and a dog who packed on the pounds is now doggie-door-challenged.

Yep, us Jesus girls must fight for our joy.

The journey to school is often frustrating but today I notice something in the midst of it all. We stop at an intersection and my eyes lock. I notice the river, sparkling against sunshine rays. I pass it several times a day but suddenly, it looks different.

“My people have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water,” (Jeremiah, 2:13).

God pictures himself as a mountain spring of clean, life-giving water. I picture myself a cistern, cracked sides and all ~ a vulnerable slab that allows more spill than soak. I simply can’t afford to spill, especially on days like these.

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I need the water which brings life, calms my thirst.

I long for its smoothness over my rocky, battered soil.

I want to praise the water, keep returning to its edge, point other people to it, get strength from it, and never prefer any drink in the world over it…that’s what brings my God, my fountain, deserved glory. I desire this kind of savoring of my God, don’t you?

On these challenging mama days where joy hides itself behind book reports and fussy children, I will fight. I will duct-tape my cistern if I have to! I’ll do whatever it takes to house this living water deep down, to keep it from seeping through the breakage.

I don’t want this well-water to evaporate and I yell at my kids again. I desire to soak it up faithfully so that my reactions will always point my children towards the water, never away from it.  So there I’ll be, sitting at His shore, wading in His water, absorbing all His grace… day after day after day…

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Crazy?

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I don’t want to sound totally crazy, but… I hear voices.

Yes, it’s true and since I’m being honest, I’ll go ahead and confess that it seems like there are an awful lot of them going off all at once and more often than I care to keep count of.

And it not only makes me sound a-bit crazy, but it also makes me feel a-lot crazy. And I don’t like that much.

You know that mental picture of the devil and the angel whispering in a persons ear. It’s a little like that. But worse… because that flesh-girl is in there too and sometimes I’m not sure who’s side she’s on.

They’re all in there in a brutal match of coercion. Trying desperately to get me to do, feel or believe something.

Something good? Something bad? Something right? Something wrong? Something that feels good, but is bad? Something that feels bad, but is good? Have Faith? Give in to fear? Trust? Resist? Believe a lot of ugly lies? Believe what is True?

And all the voices swirling around in there have an opportunity to posses me. To enchant me and steal me away from one another.

Unless…

I’m grounded.

In Truth.

Sometimes I’m without my battle gear. Sometimes in my weakness the flesh-girl loses Faith and joins the other side. If only for a moment.

Yet, it takes only a  moment to doubt.

And only just a moment to believe!

Crazy. I know.

But, maybe, just maybe you relate?

And it’s little reminders like the one posted up there that keeps all the unnecessary and wicked voices quiet. Where I can peacefully dwell on what HE says and nothing else.

I need that in the busy that is my crazy life.

You know what mental picture I prefer over the angel and the devil whispering in my ears? The one where God’s angels are raging in battle with the devils minions over me.

Yes, I like that much better, because it plucks me right out of the picture. The one that has nothing to do with it… getting out of the way of the One that has Everything to do with it.

Oh, and, I read-ahead… I know who the Victor is. And, I don’t want to brag, but… He’s a close personal friend.

May YOU be ever so blessed with the Voice of Truth today!

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.

John 10:27-28

 
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