I am tired today.
I am tired of division.
Tired of injustice.
Tired of malice and bitterness.
Tired of fear.
I am tired of grief, all around me and spilling up out of me when I least expect it.
I am tired of uncertainty.
I am tired of corruption.
I am tired of deception.
I am tired of feeling like I don't even know the next right thing to do sometimes. Does anyone know what the 'right' or 'best' thing truly is, anyway?
I am just tired and overwhelmed and in desperate need of rest. True rest.
I'm lamenting all of these things while scrubbing mud off of a white tile floor and suddenly think again of the Israelites.
Delivered from bondage and slavery in the most astounding and miraculous and unimaginable of ways and then ushered right into the wilderness. Truly living from glory to glory. Daily manna that is gracious and supernatural in and of itself, yet the miracle of it lost day after day, week after week. A people chosen by God Almighty, spared and under His great and all-encompassing provision. A people keenly aware of the character of their God, of His mercy and faithfulness and of the sheer terror of His might and power. A people at the same time weary of hardship.
My mind wanders to several weeks ago, during a different kind of lamenting and pining for my own perception and idea of rest, when the Lord set His Word right in front of me: Hebrews 4, titled 'The Promised Rest'.
The promise to enter his rest remains, says the Word of the Lord. But we are exhorted to be diligent to enter into God's rest. John Piper writes,
"Be diligent! Pay close attention to what you’ve heard (Hebrews 2:1); don’t neglect your great salvation (Hebrews 2:3); consider Jesus (Hebrews 3:1); do not harden your hearts (Hebrews 3:8); take care against an unbelieving heart (Hebrews 3:12); exhort one another every day against the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:14); and fear the unbelief that will keep you from your promised rest (Hebrews 4:1)."
We are to be diligent, especially when we come up against hardship, to not fall into the same pattern of disobedience, to not harden our hearts "as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness." (Heb 3:8)
We are warned against unbelief.
And sister, this has been real heavy on my heart in recent months. When we are feeling hit from all sides, surrounded and stuck, with not a clue as to how to come through; when what lies before us seems formidable and overpowering and oppressive; and sometimes when we are simply weary, unbelief creeps in.
We are sometimes like the Israelites, standing at the edge of the Promised Land, trembling at the massive Nephilim and feeling like grasshoppers. (Numbers 13)
And we cry out, "How?"
And I say to you, sweet sister, this is okay.
This is even good.
As long as we remember.
Remember that we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses.
I exhort you to boldly approach the throne of grace, to throw yourselves at the feet of our great high priest who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin, so that you may receive mercy and find grace to help you in your time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)
Bring him all of your doubts and fears and yes, even your unbelief. Weep and mourn and repent. Lay out the circumstances that have your heart troubled before Him and ask Him, "How?"
We must keep our hearts soft in this way. In order for His truth to penetrate our hearts, they must not be hardened. If we want to receive His help and
rest in our time of need, then our hearts need to be permeable and open to receive.
So we lay it all at the feet of Jesus and we say, "This belongs to you, King Jesus. I know You are good. I know You are able. I believe. Help my unbelief"
"Here's my heart, Lord. Speak what is true."
Over and over again, friend, pray.
"Believe His promises and sing His praise." (Psalm 106)
Remember. Remember the relentless love of God. Remember how:
"He rescued them many times,
but they continued to rebel deliberately
and were beaten down by their iniquity."
"When he heard their cry,
he took note of their distress,
remembered his covenant with them,
and relented according to the abundance
of his faithful love." (Psalm 106:43-45)
Take care that you do not exchange His glory for lesser things, that you are not seized with craving in the wilderness. Take care that you do not forget God your Savior, who has done great things and wondrous works. Take care that you do not retain grumbling in your heart. (Psalm 106:13-14, 20-22, 25)
"Today if you hear his voice
do not harden your hearts."
Today, His rest awaits you, beloved.
It is promised.
Make every effort to enter in.
WRITTEN BY: OLIVIA CALDWELL
It's really been sort of interesting and challenging to begin to think, pray and write through all of the topics we have explored this year at Pretty & Wise in light of all that 2020 has held.
Purpose seems like an especially gripping topic.
This year, we've seen a lot of the vehicles through which we believed we carried out our purpose changed or stripped away altogether. Our ministries, communities, mission fields- adapted to fit into quarantine restrictions or just put aside altogether.
And I don't know about you, but without the things that made up my insanely busy, "productive" and "purposeful" life, it got pretty quiet.
And it became hard to do even the most basic, 'neighbor-loving' things.
And it was in this eerily quiet, unknown and uncharted sort of place where I believe purpose was truly fleshed out.
One of my most favorite books of the Bible is Hosea. Oh, I would love to tell you all about the many times the Lord has wooed and pursued me through this book! It holds such beautiful, breathtaking grace, love and mercy.
Hosea 2 speaks to Israel's adultery and I want you to take a look at what the Lord says:
"For this reason I will fence her in with thornbushes.
I will block her path with a wall
to make her lose her way.
When she runs after her lovers,
she won't be able to catch them.
She will search for them
but not find them.
Then she will think,
'I might as well return to my husband,
for I was better off with him than I am now.'
She doesn't realize that it was I who gave her everything she has-
the grain, the new wine, the olive oil;
I even gave her silver and gold.
But she gave all my gifts to Baal." (Hosea 2:6-8 NLT)
Oh, sweet friend. I hope that you will read this book in its entirety, for the rest of this passage speaks even more to what we have experienced this year. An end to annual festivals, celebrations..
This is likened to being stripped naked.
Completely exposed before the Lord, with nothing to hide behind or throw ourselves into.
Just us and our Bridegroom. Face to face.
And wow, I've got goosebumps when I think of this level of intimacy. It is beautiful beyond words or comprehension.
But it is also uncomfortable.
I know so very well how difficult it is to be completely seen. And it's like, we know that Jesus sees us ALL, but when we become keenly aware; when we can't escape it.. whew, it's humbling. It's flesh-killing. It's sanctifying and refining.
Friend, I am sure this year has been all of this and more. And I say to you, sister:
This is very good.
The Lord's Love for Unfaithful Israel:
"But then I will win her back once again.
I will lead her into the desert
and speak tenderly to her there.
I will return her vineyard to her
and transform the Valley of Trouble
into a gateway of hope.
She will give herself to me there,
as she did long ago when she was young,
when I freed her from her captivity in Egypt.
"When that day comes," says the Lord,
"you will call me 'my husband'
instead of 'my master.'" (Hosea 2:14-16 NLT)
Through the discomfort and exposure to the elements, in the quiet and uncomfortably still, in the arid desert, have you heard Him calling?
Have you seen Him pursuing you?
This desert, this wilderness of a year. Oh, sister, this has served a purpose. Beyond what you can even begin to imagine.
This season has freed us from bondage. Caused us to repent and lay down our idols. We've thrown it all off, all that has weighed us down, so that we can begin to RUN.
Our purpose is to love the Lord God with all that we've got. Above all else. More than any other thing. Our purpose is to know that nothing else in this world will satisfy us and to drink deeply of Living Water.
Our purpose is to hunger and to thirst and to pant and long for God as a deer pants for water. (Psalm 42)
We were created in the image and likeness of the Lord God Himself. To walk with Him. To commune with Him. To love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.
And then to love our neighbor as ourselves.
And so if we are to effectively walk out our purpose, purposefully, in the many ways that we love others; if we are to fruitfully be salt of the earth and light of the world, we have *first* got to love the Lord our God above all else.
This is critical.
This is vital.
And so, sweet friend, I pray that you have seen this process unfolding this year. And I pray that if the wilderness has felt unkind and almost like a near-death, wasting-away experience, that now your eyes will be opened to the restoration and new life and new wine to come.
IT. IS. COMING.
IT. IS. RETURNING.
Love is returning.
Hold firm to this truth, sister. Do not give in. God is good. He is faithful. He does not delay.
He is coming for you.
He is doing a new thing.
Do you perceive it?
Jesus, oh beautiful Jesus, we come before you. At your feet. Laid bare. And we thank you for this painful, almost unbearable pruning. We thank you for this great shaking. We pray, Lord, that we would seek Your face above all else. That you would show us how to love, by lavishing on us Your great love. You are good. You are beautiful. Your love IS lavish. It is extravagant. It doesn't make sense but you pour it out on us, Jesus. Open our eyes to see what you are up to! Help us to walk forward from here on out with great purpose, bearing fruit, ready for harvest. Awaken us, Lord! Awaken us to the full life you have for us on this side of eternity and at the same time, awaken us to what awaits for us in eternity with you. Give us an unquenchable desire for you and an urgency to establish your Kingdom. Thank you, Jesus. AMEN!
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Okay, so when you think of fear, what comes to mind?
Public speaking, you say?
Oh great, so you're tracking with me here! Apparently we are in good company, according to statistics.
All joking aside.. the latest development in my journey of overcoming fear has come about as a result of public speaking.
It's been quite the journey, which funnily enough, began a few years ago with public speaking. The subject? '20 Seconds of Insane Courage'.
Yep, true story.
I have dealt with completely and utterly paralyzing fear surrounding public speaking. It has been crippling and frustrating.
It has also somehow become freeing, serving as an altar on which I can clearly recall and trace and see the Lord's goodness.
Several months ago, I made a commitment to begin making time in the evenings to write a few days a week. From that commitment to myself and to God came this completely unexpected and beautiful time with the Lord and this pouring out of words onto pages of a notebook that I had not a clue what to do with. I just began to write and waited to see what, if anything, would come of this writing.
One Sunday morning soon after, right in the middle of worship, I suddenly knew what I was to do next. And look, I was not thrilled.
I mustered up twenty seconds of insane courage to approach our Pastor after service and said something like, "Umm, hi, so I've been writing this thing. And I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to share it in a communion meditation but I'd really rather not. I mean, I will. I want to. To be obedient, that is. Not a communion meditation. But I will because God said so. So.. Yeah." (Please insert about a thousand "um's" and imagine a very red face for the sake of historical accuracy)
And you know this was completely and totally the LORD because our Pastor was so very encouraging after those tangled words fell out of my mouth.
I lost a good bit of sleep as the day of my communion meditation approached. My heart was constantly in my throat and I shook like a leaf all that morning. I wanted desperately to run and begged the Lord to sustain me as I felt incredibly physically and emotionally weak. After I somehow managed to get through what I had written without passing out, I returned to my seat and sobbed through the rest of worship, crying out to God, saying, "Lord, this is for You. This is all about You. Please don't let me make this about me or my performance or how I may be perceived or received. Please just let You be visible and glorified above all else."
(God, in all His extravagant goodness and graciousness, allowed this morning to be an unthinkably beautiful and emboldening time for me anyway. He's lavishly good like that.)
Moving forward, though, this became a somewhat regular cycle over the next few months. My stomach would drop when I learned the date of my next meditation and I would feel absolutely sick as the time approached, even though I was growing in intimacy with the Lord in the preparation, prayer and worship leading up to Sunday service. One Saturday evening, I had had enough and texted a couple of precious friends of mine, asking what was so heavily laid on my heart, "Please pray for me. I am so sick over this and I am so sick of this. I am praying for ALL fear to GO and for the FEAR OF THE LORD to be the only thing remaining. Please pray with me!"
I share all of this with you, sweet friend, so you will have an idea of how much of a burden this fear has been for me. And there were many times when I thought I surrendered this fear to the Lord and anticipated breakthrough in this area of my faith, only to be perplexed and momentarily defeated when I didn't see this unfolding quite as I expected.
This was so because my trust in the Lord only went but so far, as it turned out. I trusted Him enough to step out in obedience. I trusted Him enough to place on my heart what to say for a particular service. But I had drawn a line and I didn't yet trust enough that He would fill my mouth if I only opened it in expectation that His Holy Spirit would guide my words and fill my gaps. I just couldn't do it and I reasoned that, well, it wasn't that I didn't trust Him. I just didn't trust myself. I was the problem.
And that right there was exactly the problem. Too much hinged on my ability, or lack thereof. Instead of fixing my eyes on Jesus and keeping my eyes there, too often my gaze wavered and I wondered why in the world I was drowning in this fear.
"In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge." Proverbs 14:26
"Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack!" Psalm 34:9
I laid down my fear but then ultimately snatched it right back up because of my own lack.
Lack of fear of the Lord.
Lack of confidence in Him.
Lack of belief.
Fear of the Lord means having "a deep respect, reverence and awe for God's power and authority." If I don't allow Him complete and total authority over my fear, trusting that He, in His sovereignty, will come through, even when I don't see a way, how then can His perfect love cast out fear? (1 John 4:18)
How can we have a deep and personal reverence and awe of Jesus if we are not willing to lay it all down, to risk it all?
How can our eyes be opened to the magnificence of His power and authority in our lives- and how can He be glorified- if we won't loosen our grip on the things we feel like we need to hold onto simply because we are afraid of what will happen when we let go?
Oh, friend. It's quite the journey to exchange your fear for the only fear that is pure (Psalm 19:9). He is able. There are no words for the relief and freedom there is when we can finally wholly surrender our fears to Jesus. His desire is for chains to break and for scales to fall as our eyes are opened to His glory.
I praise Him for His great mercy in this walk of allowing Him to loose the grip of fear in my life. I still am growing in this area but have seen such a transformation. There is still trembling but it is before Him. I have seen Him provide and sustain in new and unimaginable ways this year and can say to you with confidence: God's power and authority far outweigh any fear you find yourself up against. He wants it out of your grasp so that you can see just how glorious He is. I stand in awe of all that He has done with such debilitating fear! Him and Him alone!
Lord, we praise you. You alone are worthy. You are worthy of it all. And so, Lord, we lay down our fear to you today. We lay it all down and pray that even our mustard seed of faith in doing this results in such an abundance and covers our lack in such a way that is unfathomable and unimaginable and supernatural. Please forgive us for the fears we have not yet been able to leave at your feet, God. Let your fear reign over our hearts and let all our worldly fear fall off. You are able, Lord. We cry out for freedom from fear and for a boldness for you and for your kingdom. "Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen."
WRITTEN BY: OLIVIA CALDWELL
It's taken me a long time to sit down to write this month's article. If I'm being honest, the topic of leadership has had me feeling some kind of way these last few weeks.
I almost want to make sure you know up front that I am an unlikely sort of leader, which is sort of true, I guess.
Growing up, I was painfully shy and quiet. I preferred to follow and avoided standing out at all costs. And really, I still tend to be quiet and shy and I most definitely deep down inside prefer not to do anything that looks like stepping up and stepping out.
Oh yes, most assuredly I am an unlikely sort of leader, but in the Kingdom of God, I am in good company. How many instances in the Bible are there wherein God partners with the unlikeliest of characters? How many times do we read of God coming in and doing something so unexpected and remarkable?!
So this has got me thinking.. if the Kingdom of God sort of flips the switch on what's conventional and expected; if the very things that would normally disqualify or count us out according to the world are opportunities for God's grace and mercy and glory to shine all the brighter; if we see time and time again in the Word of God that our tendencies and weaknesses are the very places that His strength is manifested, could that mean that our perception of leadership could use a little aligning with these truths?
What if the key to leading is following? What if leading well actually looks like following hard after Jesus?
"My soul followeth hard after thee.." (Psalm 63:8)
When I think of a heart for the Lord's leading, I think of a passage of Scripture that absolutely changed my life. I think of Isaiah 6, when Isaiah encountered the Lord in all of His glory:
"..I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphim were standing above him.. And one called to another:
Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of Armies;
his glory fills the whole earth.
The foundations of the doorways shook at the sound of their voices, and the temple was filled with smoke." Isa. 6:1-4
Isaiah's response? "Woe is me for I am ruined because I am a man of unclean lips and live among a people of unclean lips, and because my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of Armies." Isa. 6:5
Isaiah stands in the presence of the King, absolutely awestruck as he is overcome by the glory of the Lord and his response is that he is not worthy, he is unclean- he cannot remain here.
"Then one of the seraphim flew to me, and in his hand was a glowing coal that he had taken from an altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said, Now that this has touched your lips, your iniquity is removed and your sin is atoned for.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord asking:
Who will I send?
Who will go for us?
Here I am. Send me." Isa. 6:6-8
I am so struck by Isaiah's audacity. In one breath, he expresses the impurity of his lips and in the next, once he has been cleansed, he speaks to the King of Kings and pleads, "Send me." And the Lord commissions him to go and speak!
Oh, I pray my heart is always as willing as Isaiah's. I pray that I never lose sight of the majesty of King Jesus. I pray that in His presence, I am filled with wonder and reverence. I pray that in view of His holiness, I am wholly humbled and repentant. I pray that in light of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross wherein my sin was removed as far as the east is from the west, I am therefore emboldened to do what is the good, pleasing and perfect will of the Lord.
Here I am, Lord. Send me. I am willing.
Could it be that as we seek after the Father's heart, as His desires become our own, that we begin to overflow into our spheres of influence? Could it be that the more closely we follow Jesus, the more He is magnified and therefore His glory is the driving force behind any and all leadership we have the honor and privilege of partnering with Him in?
What if our leadership simply looks like, "Come and see"? Come and see this Jesus, come and see all He has done. Come; see and believe! Taste and see for yourselves!
Lord, let us be so ruined, so undone by Your sovereignty, that we can't help but lead others to pursue You. Let our hearts be gladly given to Your will, no matter the cost.
Written By: Olivia Caldwell
My husband needed clean underwear this morning.
Like, really needed clean underwear.
He waited for our dryer, set on 'speed dry', for one pair to be dry enough to stand wearing while I sat and thought of all of the times I could have bothered to throw clothes into the washing machine before early this morning and I prayed for those underwear to miraculously dry like five minutes ago.
We both sat on edge because this is not how we wanted this morning to go. Today, after over 10 days on a ventilator, his dad is going to be taken off of sedation and extubated.
With his dad being in such delicate health after an extremely difficult year, we all have been so concerned. Today could go any number of directions. And with all of his phone calls, hospital visits and everyday responsibilities lately, I certainly could have made sure this basic need was met to help him with all he is carrying.
PS- I might have been successful at my quick fix if I had taken the other clothing out of the dryer and left the one pair of boxers in to dry on their own. Hindsight, right?
He called me on his way to the hospital and brought this to the attention of my tired ol' brain. And he said, "You know, I feel like this dryer situation is what we as the church need to do. We need to throw everything OUT except for Jesus."
Y'all, this is super convicting to me because gracious, how this very thing has been on my heart. My goodness, how the Lord has been refining me and drawing me nearer to His heart in this season.
And yet, I've found myself filling up on the things of this world instead, like He's not enough for me.
I have felt incredibly uncomfortable (telling my husband dramatically when he asks how I'm doing, "Oh, you know, just dying... to my flesh.") and turned from that discomfort to all of the THINGS going on in the world.. which doesn't even make sense, especially if you've checked out the news lately or caught up on the controversies of the week.
Instead of being faithful with the things right in front of me, like laundry for my loved ones, I often chose numbing out on social media and even got a little too caught up in current events. Instead of running to the arms of my Father and instead of sitting with the One who is able to empathize with my weakness, I often just traded His presence and His healing balm for lesser, "easier" things. These things have just served to clutter up the "dryer" of my life. As a result, my heart may feel heavy and overwhelmed and the voice of the Lord seems to be drowned out underneath it all.
Doesn't Matthew 11:28-30 say to come to Jesus, all of His weary and burdened children, and He will give us rest? Doesn't He say that His yoke is easy and His burden is light and that He is gentle?
Isn't He the Lover of our souls, King of our hearts, the only One able to satisfy? Isn't the Word filled with promises to us from our Jesus??
So, where is our focus? And why is it so often not on Jesus?
Later on this morning, laundry in the washing machine and many, many more loads lined up for their turn through the wash, I put my phone down to walk outside and take care of our birds (chickens, turkeys and ducks- and a whole lot of mess!). Once they've been watered- the water-attacking dog, too- I begin to water the garden. It's a little sad looking because of all of the trees in the yard, but we have several squash plants that are growing well and a very large pumpkin vine we are super proud of, especially considering that it came from our compost bin after carving pumpkins last fall.
As I water, I inspect the vines for any new growth. Our squash climb the fence as they grow and the vines have these little tendrils that look young and delicate, but they are what is holding the entire plant upright. And the plants that have grown past the fence have tendrils growing out near the tops, reaching for something to grasp onto.
The thing about these tendrils that fascinates me is that they wrap themselves around the fence post until they look like curly-q's. They're not going anywhere. And the ones that are reaching? You can bet that once they find another part of the fence, they'll do the same thing and will not let go.
I'm standing in the garden, thinking about focus and distractions and fixing our eyes on Christ and I just think to myself, "I think these squash plants are showing me how to pray."
The thing is, my own will to lay down worldly things and to focus in on Christ will only take me so far. But I know that if I ask God to help me, to transform and renew my mind, and for the desires of my heart to be aligned with His heart, He is faithful to do so. I believe He delights in doing so, because He sees our hearts and our struggles and our shortcomings and when we see them and recognize our dependence on Him, that's an invitation for the Lord to come in and do a work that only He can do. His power in our weakness is always a beautiful, beautiful thing.
And so we can pray to be loosed from anything other than a firm foundation to hold us up on.
We can pray that the Lord will lead us into all Truth and that we will cling to Him and His Word and His presence in such a way that no one or no thing can easily remove or unwrap us from Him.
We can pray that when we've come to the end of ourselves and we are reaching and grasping for Him, that He will see our outstretched hands as beautiful longings for Him and Him alone to sustain us.
And we can thank Him that as long as we keep praying and asking and seeking, we can rest assured that He will be there.
Our unshakeable, immovable, unchanging God.
WRITTEN BY: OLIVIA CALDWELLHead over to the Community to join in the conversation!
Well, sweet friends, I must be honest with you: I have been procrastinating sitting down to write about joy for about as long as I possibly can.
It's like JOY is a loaded word right now. It's like my heart doesn't even want to go there right now because mostly I just feel tender; mostly I'm just lamenting; mostly I'm just crying out; mostly I'm just in need.
I resonate a lot with Gay's article and maybe you do, too. It doesn't take much time to scroll social media, catch a glimpse of the news or to talk with neighbors and family and friends to see a great deficit of joy in our world right now.
When I think of joy, I think of just a fullness and at the same time, a weightlessness. Joy is overwhelming. Joy is like surface tension: have you ever seen drops of water on the surface of a coin? The water just fills and fills and fills until it makes almost a dome shape and somehow, it stays intact. Somehow it doesn't burst- but it's filled to the brim and just ready to burst.
I can think of many times when my insides have felt just like that surface tension looks, like I could just burst. I cannot contain myself. The tension of being held in is too much and I just want to spill that joy over onto all around me!! What good does this joy do if I don't release it?? I have to do something with it!
Although this particular season has not exactly been marked by the fullness, lightness and tension that I envision joy to be, this does not mean that joy has been absent. I am still learning about true joy that is found in the Lord; He is still teaching me.
In this wrestling with joy, friends, the Lord did something so unexpected and ridiculously beautiful.
One day a couple of weeks ago, I woke up full of joy. Just. FULL. Everything seemed different to me; brighter, more beautiful, more hopeful. I wondered about it, especially since the day before had seemed like a real battle with heaviness and darkness.
The next day, as I scrolled my Facebook memories, there was a message from a sweet woman I had befriended eight years ago that day. As soon as I saw it, my heart leaped and I immediately understood what had happened.
The day before, eight years ago, was the day that I surrendered my life to Christ.
I had forgotten, but God remembered.
He cared enough to remind me.
And my soul needed to celebrate with Him.
Just as I was filled with joy that day eight years ago, like a dam bursting in my heart; so was there joy in heaven over my repentance and salvation (Luke 15:7).
Sisters, if we are feeling weighed down by our circumstances, maybe we need to cry out to the Lord: “Restore unto me the joy of your salvation.” (Psalm 51:12)
Maybe what the Lord had to say to the church in Ephesus is for us today, too: “I know that you have persevered and endured hardships for the sake of my name, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.” (Revelation 2: 3-5a)
When I surrendered, when I was saved, on my knees and face tear-stained at the altar on June 3, 2012, I was radically changed. It was perceptible. I was eager. I went home and immediately began seeking His face with a hunger. I longed for more of Jesus, I did everything I could think of to get to know my Savior, this Lover of my soul. He permeated every part of my heart, my soul and my life. In an instant. With just one look.
I had found this Jesus to be real, to be true. He is magnificent. He is better than anything in this world; He is even better than I can imagine, even now.
So, then: have we in some way or another abandoned the love we had at first?
Let's return to Him with repentance. We will surely receive refreshment for our weary and overwhelmed souls.
Be still, sister, and sing this to the King of your heart.
I'm still in love
You're still enough for me
Still all I want
You're still my everything
No one ever cared for me like Jesus
His faithful hand has held me all this way
And when I'm old and gray
And all my days are numbered on the earth
Let it be known
In you alone
My joy was found
I've found my joy.
WRITTEN BY: OLIVIA CALDWELL
There's been this aching in my chest and this tension in my shoulders for the past several weeks. This year thus far has been a challenging one for our family and it seems now that no one is exempt from difficulties and uncertainty and fear of the unknown as we navigate a pandemic and all of the facets of quarantine.
When my focus is on all of the unfamiliar that lies ahead of us, on the sheer vastness of what lies ahead of us and the sheer lack that I have, on my inadequacy and incompetence, it is as if I am drowning. My gaze has wavered...
The Lord is my shepherd.
I have what I need.
I feel out of control as I am sinking and I desperately want to control something. I am grasping at everything and anything in order to feel capable, enough. My head and my heart know better, but I almost cannot stop myself from spiraling, from spinning and toiling...
He lets me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters.
Still everything seems unmanageable and I wonder why. I wonder HOW. How is the cry of my heart as the things around me that used to be my firm foundation have now crumbled and I am stripped bare, vulnerable and exposed without the things of this world to run and hide in. There's not much that FEELS good right now and I wonder how in the world my troubled, restless and aching heart could be a part of the plan, how any GOOD could come from all this turmoil..
He renews my life;
he leads me along the right paths
for his name's sake.
But still, this doesn't make any sense! Everything is falling apart. I feel like I can't see, can't breathe, can't sense You here. My shoulders are throbbing from the weight of it all and my heart is crushed and as much as I want YOU, to hear my cries and to not delay a moment longer, to pull me from this desolate pit, from the muck and the mire, I feel scared and alone as the darkness creeps nearer and...
Even when I go through the darkest valley,
I fear no danger,
for you are with me;
you rod and your staff- they comfort me.
This wrestling with my present circumstances through this psalm, I'm realizing now as I type well into the night... the Lord has woven this into a remembrance of the His goodness and faithfulness. You see, the things that have my heart overwhelmed in this season are not the things that have poured out of me tonight. The feelings are similar, this season very much a wilderness.. but what has happened is that God has recounted for me, called to my mind, a season of unspeakable grief and sorrow, of paralyzing fear and anguish.
And doesn't that seem backwards? To call to mind a time when your world crashed around you while your life is crashing down around you in a new, different sort of way? A couple of years ago, life as I knew it ended. There was suddenly a great divide: life before the accident and life after the accident. I felt like I was suffocating, like I couldn't press on one more day, hour, moment.. Yes, every bit of it hurt worse than anything I had experienced before; yes, it is true that there was a long stretch of doubt and unbelief..
But that's not all. That is certainly not the end. In fact, it was only the beginning.
While I can lay out all of the devastation of that season, I can also recount every bit of beauty that came forth from those ashes.
When I was rocked by the unexpected, I found that my God was not caught unaware. I found that my God had gone before me, grounding me deep in His Word, preparing my heart for the battle that was ahead.
When my heart and flesh failed, when I felt I couldn't go on, my God sustained me.
When I felt alone and unseen, my God opened my eyes to see how many ways He had been pursuing me.
When my heart was hardened and when all of the ugliness was pulled out into the open, His mercy covered me.
When my shame weighed heavy, His grace was weightier still.
When I was sure there was no way, HE made a way.
As backwards as it seems, this sort of bone-deep remembrance is exactly what our hearts need. When we can't see a way out, we remember all the times before that we stood in this exact place of disorientation and watched as Jesus made a way where we thought there was none.
Sweet friend, one of the greatest things you can do with your brokenness, with all your confusion and questions, is to remember. Right where you are, sister. Speak His goodness and faithfulness over your weary and burdened heart and let His rest wash over you. Declare His goodness and faithfulness over your circumstances. He was good and He was faithful then; He certainly is right now. Speak it right back to Him.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows
Only goodness and faithful love
will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
as long as I live.
written by: Olivia Caldwell
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The story of the anointing at Bethany is a passage of Scripture that has become very, very dear to me. Mary's passion and her unabashed pouring out of all that she had stir up in my heart such a longing and desire to come before Jesus just as she did, with all that my everyday coming and going has to offer. Let's head into the gospel of John together, sweet friends.
“Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany where Lazarus was, the one Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there; Martha was serving them, and Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took a pound of perfume, pure and expensive nard, anointed Jesus' feet, and wiped his feet with her hair. So the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
Then one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot (who was about to betray him), said, “Why wasn't this perfume sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He didn't say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief. He was in charge of the money-bag and would steal part of what was in it.
Jesus answered, “Leave her alone; she has kept it for the day of my burial. For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.””John 12:1-7
I wonder at the boldness of Mary, coming before her Jesus with her alabaster box.
I wonder at the intimacy of her relationship with Jesus, fully God, fully man.
I wonder at her indubitable trust, faith, adoration... to approach her Savior with all that she had. An extravagant and inordinate gift that was at the same time... insufficient.
I wonder at how her heart must have pounded, how that must have been all that she heard as she moved toward Him.
I wonder if she could have even begun to grasp the enormity of what she had resolved to do, the immediate and unwavering obedience required to do something so inconceivable.
I wonder if all else simply fell away, vanished, as she gazed upon the Messiah, her First Love, King of her heart.
I wonder at the elation, the exhilaration of drawing near to Jesus. How exposed and vulnerable she must have been and yet how sheltered and covered she was in His presence.
I wonder at the hush in the room as the perfume was poured out, at the breathlessness of all present, how all eyes must have been fixed to the scene unfolding before them.
I wonder of the all-consuming love and joy that must have been burning in Mary’s heart as she wiped her Lord’s feet with her hair.
I wonder at His love overwhelming and filling and spilling out of her.
I imagine her brother’s miraculous resurrection fresh in her mind.
His body in the tomb, her Savior’s seemingly untimely arrival. How He was deeply moved by her sorrow, how He wept. How He called the dead to LIFE at the sound of His voice. His tender mercy, His loving kindness- forever and indelibly in her mind.
I imagine that every time she looked upon the life in her brother’s body, at his every breath and movement, she remembered what Jesus had done for him. For her. How could she repay Him?
Only her finest, most precious possession could do. And I wonder, as she broke open her most expensive treasure, as she sacrificed her alabaster box filled with pure and expensive nard, if she could have imagined His body broken in the ultimate sacrifice, His very life for His most cherished treasure- her heart and the hearts of all creation. The spotless, unblemished, ALL SUFFICIENT, perfect Lamb offered up so that WE can be reconciled to the Father forever. So that nothing stands between US and a HOLY GOD- the great I AM.
Jesus’ body was absolutely shattered and broken and His blood was poured out. His blood is poured out onto us so that our sin is washed away- it is GONE. So that we are dressed in His righteousness, so that we, too, are spotless. So that WE, once dead in our sin, can enjoy communion with our beautiful, holy God. So that we can have life to the full.
In that story of the anointing at Bethany in John 12, something that stood out to me was that it says after Mary anointed Jesus’ feet, ’So the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.’
The aroma of Mary’s gift, of her sacrifice, FILLED the house. The aroma was overwhelming to those present. And that aroma LINGERED, in Mary’s hair and on Jesus’ body in the days before His death, burial and resurrection.
I find it so interesting that in 2 Corinthians 2:15, Scripture says that WE are the FRAGRANCE of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.
Jesus told His disciples that Mary kept her perfume for the day of His burial. I wonder.. if her pouring out then was in preparation for His death.. I wonder then if OUR pouring out today could be in preparation for His return. In preparation for eternity with our Savior.
I wonder if we could be so enamored with Christ, if we could experience His love and power in such a way that the scent of His sacrifice on US would fill every place that we enter.
I wonder if His Great Love could enable us to live SO given that it commands the attention of everyone we encounter.
I wonder if we could trust Him to receive our time, treasures and talents and to then sow them into the growth of His Kingdom.
WRITTEN BY: Olivia Caldwell
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