Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thankful for the Empty

I remember as a little girl being taught to say "thank you". Some of the "magic words", they say.
My chubby little hands full of whatever thing I had wanted or had been was always supposed to end up with a "thank you".
But no one tells you when you are little that you will have to learn to say thank you with empty hands.

When you are staring at Thanksgiving Day for the first time without a grandparent, it feels empty.
When you are faced with a day all about thanks, but friendships once present are painfully absent.
When you are walking through daily life with the glass of fractured and broken realtionships painful all in your soul, and you're supposed to be grateful.
I'm not gonna lie.
Thankfulness is tough.

Life shoves you up under the water and then you hear a muffled yell, "Be thankful!"...when all you want to do is breathe.
You can only pretend you have air in your lungs for so long. At some point, stuff starts shutting down and you are sinking to the bottom.
Empty places make you feel like that.
And thank you is hard.
I'm not just talking about routine thank you's in the middle of lack, though.
Finding ways to give thanks in the voids of life is one thing. 
But the hard place God has been leading me? To give thanks for them.
Being the good girl, I want to scurry around and stay busy making lists of all that I do have- a good practice...but not without its ulterior motives. 
See, I rationalize that if I keep my mind busy enough, it won't continuously remind my heart of the aching, gaping hole. 
But all the while, the Lord is asking me to stop and stand up right in the middle of that empty place and learn to praise Him for what isn't there.
He wants me to trust Him in the taking so I can believe Him for the filling.
He wants me to be grateful for the absence so I can be more aware of His presence.
Saying thank you as you hand over something you don't want to give away? That's tough.
Saying thank you again and again as you stand empty handed for what seems like forever? It feels impossible.
But God.
His grace will take you where you cannot go on your own- right to the middle of that empty place.
Because I promise that is where I have found-and you will find- His loving arms hold you the tightest, His promises ring the truest, His hope shines the brightest, His presence is the fullest.
So I am learning to take a deep breath of grace, and hold out these hands-remembering the empty hands that Jesus stretched out for me.
Because His empty hands led to an empty tomb!
The stone wasn't just rolled away so Jesus could get was so we could see in
Otherwise, we would have assumed death resided there! 
They had to look at the empty place so they could see that it gave rise to LIFE! 
Jesus gave me an empty tomb to be thankful for so that I can give thanks for my empty places. 
He turns misery into marvel.
He grows a garden of gratitude from the gaping holes of life.
With Jesus, LIFE always comes breaking out of the empty places!

It's true, I'm all grown up now. 
But to be perfectly honest, I still feel periodically inclined to have a tantrum about what isn't in my hands.
But God.
God is teaching me to say "thank you" instead. Not because they are magic words, but because they are words full of power and life.
Maybe you, too, are faced with your empty in this season of gratitude.
Don't lose hope: LOOSE it in the middle of your empty place by thanking God for the life that will most assuredly spring from it.

"Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert."
Isaiah 43:19

"...Abraham was first named “father” and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing. ” 
Romans 4:17-18 The Message

"But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened."
Luke 24:12

Share #SimpleTruth today:
"God wants me to trust Him in the taking so I can believe Him for the filling." -@JuliePMac #SimpleTruth #emptyhands #thankfulheart

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Breakfast with Daddy

"I'm famous in my Father's eyes
Make no mistake
He knows my name
I'm not living for applause
I'm already so adored
It's all His stage
He knows my name"
-"He Knows My Name"
 by Franscesca Batistelli. Listen here.
(full lyrics at end of post)

He woke me up with a phone call. 
It was my daddy.
He asked what I was doing at the moment, then he told me he was taking me to breakfast.
Because that is the way my daddy loves- on purpose and without hesitation.
And I needed that kind of love that rushes in and saves me from myself and my crazy.
I was sinking in the quick sand of life and listening to lies that screamed loud to define me.
And my daddy came to get me.

It's the kind of love that reaches back to where he sees me walking and loves me in that place. 
Not because of how I am walking through it, not in spite of my walking in that place. 
No, he loves me completely separate of any place he happens to find me wandering.
He just loves me.
I am his child. 

There is no accomplishment that changes that. There is no failure that taints that. There is no thing I can do to strengthen that truth. 
It simply is.

He loves me when I see clearly, he loves me when I walk blindly towards the cliffs of life.
He loves me when I soar on the heights of who I am, he loves me when I wallow in the muck of the worst of me.
He just loves me.

He loves me...and when he sees the world spewing lies all around me, he pulls me out of those moments and I can look into his eyes and I am just his little girl, wholly and completely loved, even as I sit a mess at the breakfast table.

And so my earthly daddy showed me the truth of my Heavenly Father on a random Tuesday morning of this life. 
That I can pull up a mess to the table He spreads before me and know I am loved.
Not because of what I have or haven't done...but just simply because of this truth: I am His child.
I am adored because of that truth alone.

There is nothing I can do to make Him love me more and there is nothing I can do to make Him love me less.
He rushes in to save me from myself and my crazy, without hesitation.
My Daddy will always come to get me.
He is mighty to save.

He knows your name.
He knows you- all of you....and loves you just as you are.
Accept the invitation.
Pull up to the table.
Look into your Father's eyes.
When you see that kind of love, it changes you.
You are so adored.

Post/Tweet this #SimpleTruth today:
"There is nothing I can do to make God love me more and there is nothing I can do to make Him love me less."- @JuliePMac #SimpleTruth

"For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” 
Zephaniah 3:17 NLT

"But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine."
Isaiah 43:1 NIV

"For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children."
Romans 8:14-16 NIV

"He Knows My Name"
Spent today in a conversation
In the mirror face to face with
somebody less than perfect
I wouldn't choose me first if
I was looking for a champion
In fact I'd understand if
You picked everyone before me
But that's just not my story
True to who You are
You saw my heart
and made
Something out of nothing

I don't need my name in lights
I'm famous in my Father's eyes
Make no mistake
He knows my name
I'm not living for applause
I'm already so adored
It's all His stage
He knows my name oh, oh,
He knows my name oh, oh

I'm not meant to just stay quiet
I'm meant to be a lion
I'll roar beyond a song
With every moment that I've got
True to who You are
You saw my heart
and made
Something out of nothing


He calls me chosen, free forgiven, wanted, child of the King,
His forever, held in treasure...
I am loved

I don't need my name in lights...
I'm famous in my Father's eyes...

Monday, November 10, 2014

Facing My Ugly

Life sometimes feels like a blender.
You take all these good, recognizable, individual ingredients, cram them into this container and hit the switch.
What you end up with is usually looks pretty disgusting. 
The kind of thing that evokes the question, “You’re gonna drink that?!?”. 
Yeah, life can be like that sometimes.
My life feels like that now.
My response? 
White knuckle grip something! Nail it all down! Whatever it takes to keep it all in place- yeah, do that!

I realize I need to let go.
Let go of the things I long to control, but cannot. 
But realizing I need to let go leads me to an even more uncomfortable place:
staring in the face of why I want to hold on. 
And it’s ugly.
Kind of like if you were to google spider bite images or boils or goiters or something. 
That kind of ugly.
The ugly you wish you’d never seen.
The ugly you wish you could scrub out of your mind’s eye.
But I’ve seen it now…this ugly that’s in my soul.
And so I must face it.

But unlike those horrific images that haunt behind closed eyes, looking full on at the ugly in our own soul doesn’t have to leave us scarred and scared.
When we see the worst part of ourselves magnified under the lens of the Holy Spirit, it is to bring us forgiveness and freedom.
Forgiveness for attitudes, choices, thoughts, actions, that not only hurt the heart of God, but the hearts of His created.
Freedom to leave those destructive patterns in the past and walk forward in grace.

Clarity is a fickle thing. Sometimes you long for it, beg for it, plead for it…wait for it.
And then it comes.
But the problem with clarity is that you can’t unsee what clarity reveals.
Once you see it, you have to respond.
There is no such thing as a lack of response. 
You are faced with the choice:
obedience or disobedience- cooperate with the Holy Spirit or cooperate with the enemy.
Neither is easy.
But only one gives life.

The one thing we can control is our choice of whom we will trust when life spins out of control. 
And it will.

It’s time to let go and trust that God is who He says He is- not just in everyone else’s life- but in yours, and in mine.
See. Know. Trust. Receive. Live.

God can’t bless who you pretend to be.
It’s time to face our ugly…and replace it with life giving grace.

So blend away, life.
Jesus is showing me how to enjoy the ride…even in the face of my ugly.

"And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart."
Ezekiel 36:26

"So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet."
James 4:7-10

Post or Tweet this:
"God can’t bless who you pretend to be.
It’s time to face our ugly, and replace it with life giving grace.”-@JuliePMac #SimpleTruth 
What are you holding on to?
What in life has you in the blender, dizzy from it all?
I would love to pray for you!
Comment below.

Friday, November 7, 2014

When You Feel Less Than

There are days I feel really small.
Itty bitty.
Tiny up next to the size of the struggle around me and those looming ahead of me. 
And itty bitty next to great big?  It's scary.

Fear tells me I am weak and I listen long to those words.
My kids mess up. "I'm a failure."
I step out in my gifting. "Why would anyone listen to you?"
I look in the mirror. "You are going to walk out of the house looking like that?"
I scroll through Facebook. "Too bad you aren't as whatever as so-and-so."

Life feels big and uncomfortable and heavy- like Saul's armor draped on the little shepherd boy David- and panic sets in because I see how small I am...and I know a Goliath is close on my horizon.

All I really want to do is run from these ugly giants in my life.
Because little ole me cannot face big ole that. 

I sit around like the Israelites listening to Goliath heckle them for 40 days, 2 times a day(that's 80 stinking times- for those of you who don't want to hurt your brain).
They listened to what the enemy called them. 
They hunkered down in their smallness and gave ear to his lies.
But David stood up in the middle of feeling less than.
He didn't stand up in who HE was; he stood up in who GOD is.

He reeked of sheep and the world's armor was ill fitting.
But David was a worshipper and what went before him was the aroma of praise.
David was small but he threw off what did not fit and embraced what the Lord had given him: a sling shot and five stones, to be exact.
He didn't compare. He didn't complain.

I have a lot to learn about that.
Throwing off the world's ideals, not listening to the enemy's taunts of who I am and who I am not.
David had a confidence that was great big because he didn't just know the promises of his great big God- he believed them.
He lived large in the middle of the reality of his less than...and giants fell.

Psalm 138:3 in the Message version says this:
"The moment I called out, you stepped in; you made my life large with strength."

I love that! HE makes my life large. 
Not my trying, not my doing, not my fit pitching, not my fussing, not my creating, not my succeeding, not my attention seeking, not my anything.
My little life turns large when I cry out and turn it over to Him.

Those great bigs in my life are indeed great big.
But God is bigger.
I may indeed be less than, but in Christ I am greater than.
I can slay giants...and

It's time to live large.

Don't give up, mom.
Don't give up, dad.
Don't give up, teacher.
Don't give up, pastor.
Don't give up, student.
Don't give up, senior adult.
Don't give up, business owner.
Don't give up, dreamer.
God is at work in you and for you. 
If you have breath in your lungs, He is not done with you yet, friend.
Grab your slingshot. 
Let's go take down some giants. 

"When I walk into the thick of trouble, keep me alive in the angry turmoil. With one hand strike my foes, With your other hand save me. Finish what you started in me, GOD. Your love is eternal—don’t quit on me now." 
Psalm 138:7-8 The Message

Spread Truth today! Post and Tweet this: 
"In Christ, I can live large in the middle of my less than...and giants WILL fall."-@JuliePMac #SimpleTruth

What giants are you facing? What has you convinced you are less than?
Have you seen this truth in your life? 
Comment below! 
I would love to pray for you and see how your story can encourage others to grab their slingshot!
There is power in community and power in prayer!

(Read more about David's story and God showing up great big in 1 Samuel 17) 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Time for New Perspectacles

Some days I just want to close my eyes.
Just close my eyes and escape back to the comfort of my bed, covers pulled overhead.
The view of my life seems safer there.

I can shout at circumstances to go away, without ever looking them in the eye.
I can even pretend they aren’t there.

But that doesn’t mean they go away…or that they get smaller or untangled.
Worst of all, it usually makes them bigger than ever in my mind.
My perspective has been whittled down to the sliver of light piercing into the spot of darkness I have chosen to lie down in.

Comfortably miserable in the familiar.

Maybe you have been there.
Maybe you are there.

Maybe you, like me, know what it’s like to live life from behind the covers in your life.
Maybe you, too, have had all the feelings about all the things.
Maybe you feel like you are losing the ability to truly see.

We are in need of new perspectacles.

God given perspectacles that open my eyes to the purpose, the plan, the power for the moments I am blindly stumbling through.

The funny thing about any glasses that correct my vision, is that they don’t just jump on my face. 
I have to pick them up, and put them on- day in and day out.

That’s why it isn’t enough to simply talk about a new perspective.
It feels elusive and slippery. 
It is something I cannot hold, so I rationalize it is something I cannot have.

You and I?
We have to look at what we are holding on to, feel it and acknowledge it in our hands and set it down. 
We have to take the time, make the effort to exchange our obstacles for perspectacles.

Obstacles of fear, worry, insecurity, pain, jealousy, bitterness- they all blind us to the truth.
This kind of skewed vision leads to a life dictated by circumstance rather than His Promises.

But God will replace your obstacles with perspectacles.

You have to put on your God given perspectacles, not just so can see the way, but so you can see the One.

These perspectacles don’t merely give you sight.
They focus the eyes of your heart on His hope, the way out of this dark you’re sitting in.

He doesn’t always remove those obstacles, but He constantly reminds you that HE remains.
That is the perspective that brings victory into the cover-over-my-head days.

No one can do the seeing for us.
We have to choose to open our eyes, allow our vision to be made new.
There is power in perspective.

Don’t waste another moment staring blindly at all that drains and paralyzes you.
Throw those covers back, friends!

Put on your God given perspectacles today.

“I ask-ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory- to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing Him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is He is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for His followers, oh the utter extravagance of His work in us who trust him- endless energy, boundless strength!”
Ephesians 1:18-19 The Message

Monday, November 3, 2014

Rollercoaster Parent

You’ve been there.
Scrolling through your newsfeed at a particular time of year when Facebook or Instagram is flooded with accolades from report cards, Awards Day, Sports banquets, etc., etc. 
As a parent, we have all posted our kids "wins" at some point- actively or passively. 
And if you haven't, you will.

But there is a hidden side of all this, which none of us ever dare talk about...

You see, I love to see the excellence, hard work, gifts, talents and opportunities applauded…really, I do.
But then, it hits like a leg cramp in the middle of the night. 
I mean it just reaches up and grabs a hold like a crab on a chicken neck: comparison.
"Oh wow. My kid didn’t do that."
"Yikes, is my kid even on grade level in that subject?"
You get the picture.

But why do I care? Why do you care? Why do any of us care?

Because we all like success.
Victory is programmed into the very fabric of our being. 
We are created in the image of a victorious God.
So, naturally, we all want to succeed at this parent thing.

I have never met anyone who has procreated, who- involved in their kids life or not- said, 
“Yeah, I hope my kid is a complete failure. That’d be greeeeaaat.” 
It doesn’t work that way. 
We see them as an extension of ourselves.
And we want that extension to represent us well, don’t we?
I'll be the first with my hand in the air on that one.

But boy, can this can be a dangerous ride.
I'm talking nauseating-where's-the-trashcan-panic-attack-inducing ride. 
The rollercoaster of all rollercoasters...if you let it.

And me? Unfortunately, I'm a annual pass holder. 
I find myself, green in the face, asking, 
"How did I end up on this up-and-down ride as a parent?

No one who has ever been a parent has described it as easy. Ever.
Seriously. It is a tough and unpredictable adventure.
But, contrary to popular opinion, being a parent doesn't have to be a never-ending rollercoaster ride. 

Have you ever seen those warning signs posted outside a rollercoaster? 
It basically lets you know in a nutshell that if you have issues...dude...don't get on...just don't do it. 
But there is always that person who thinks they have to because all their friends are, or they don't believe the warnings...and that usually ends being the person whose vomit you are stepping through later on. 
Gross. Ain't nobody got time for that.

But our pseudo-friend Good Intention coaxes us onward, further into the line. Then Fear shows up, and tells us we better jump on, because our reputation is on the line. And of course, Comparison convinces us there is no other way to exist, so you better just figure out how to ride this ride for the long haul.

So...I'm talking to the queasy parents who one way or another have boarded this rollercoaster and feel like it's the only way to go through this awesome journey called parenting.
I'm talking to those who are already covered in vomit- your own or somebody else's.
I'm talking to those standing at the warning sign, feeling the pressure.
I'm talking to me.
I'm talking to you. 

Here is the real danger we face: 
If I take credit for my kids successes, I will also take credit for their failures.

Let that sink in a second.

If I pat myself on the back-even in secret- for the right choices my children make, then I will beat myself up for the the wrong choices they make.

That is sobering truth. 
Truth I don't want to admit. 

But follow me here...

If I, as a parent, begin to combat that truth with, "But shouldn't I be proud I have trained up my child in the way they should go?"
That same logic as a parent also then leads me to this question at some point: 
"But shouldn't I be condemned because I failed in some area of training my child in the way they should go?" 

Neither are true of you and I as parents, when we are living with the grace of God rushing through our veins.

Here is where we slam the emergency brakes on the rollercoaster and disembark this dizzying ride:
All I truly can do is be obedient to the Holy Spirit guided parenting He has called me to, and then.... 
trust God with the rest.

Releasing our kids doesn't begin at 18; it begins before they take their first breath.
Otherwise, I am subject to the rise and fall of the choices they make.

This is a me-centric attitude toward parenting: wanting them to act a certain way because of how those choices reflect on me.
Me-centric parenting has a desire for the child to succeed that grows from our own busy-ness to make them victorious, rather than from our rest in the already achieved victory of Jesus.

Of course we all want our children to make safe, successful choices- choices that bring them life, health, and happiness...but is that so I can walk with my head held high, or so that Jesus alone can be lifted high? .

Good or bad- we should use it all to point our children, and this world, to the grace of Jesus. 
That is the Jesus-centric parenting we all should strive for as Christ followers.

If I take credit for my child choosing good, then I am belittling the grace of God. 
Even my choices to lead my child well are only possible through grace.
Because only by grace can a sinner make a choice that speaks true life.
When I struggle with Jesus-centric parenting, it's because I am not embracing the fullness of His grace- the all encompassing grace that Jesus gave His life to pour out over mine...and theirs.
It is not about what I can get them to do or not do:
It's about WHO I point them to through it all.

I don't just need grace to be a parent- they need grace to be a son, be a daughter.

I can't forget that they need JESUS above all else- NOT my excellence in parenting.

They need me to be excellent in my pursuit of Jesus above all else.
That is what will transform and empower their life.

When I finally admit my deepest heart motives, and get that it's not ME that they need- it's Jesus in me and through me they need...THAT is when I fulfill my role as a parent the way God intended, and release all delusions about my abilities. 

So here's the truth: 
You DON'T have to get on the ride. 

And here's the warning: 
If you do, it WILL make you sick.

Good intentions may have gotten us on that parent rollercoaster...but only Grace will get us off.

We don't have to be rollercoaster parents.
Somebody throw the kill switch already.

Parent friends, let's choose to put our feet on the solid ground of His grace, and walk forward in faith.

So next time you see me zombie eyed heading toward that me a favor...grab my arm and tell me to run the other direction- straight into the arms of my Father and His never ending grace and love.  

Galatians 3:3- NIV
"Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?"

James 4:6- AMP
"But He gives us more and more grace..."