My life has been a journey full of twists & turns, highs & lows. Honestly, I'm not sure I could really define where I'm headed. But one thing I'm learning, the journey isn't all about the final destination but more about how we travel. And fulfillment is found in all that we learn & experience as we journey, not just getting to the end of it. I can't even imagine making mine without Christ before me, behind me, and beside me...

Saturday, May 29, 2010


This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. - 1 John 3:16

"We were bought with a kiss..."  The words of the song invaded my thoughts. I've probably listened to that David Crowder song a hundred times before but today was the first time I "heard" that one line--like it yelled at me and captured my full attention. In grasping the truth of that one line, the whole song became new to me as it blew away some of my own stinkin' thinkin'!

     And the problem is this: WE WERE BOUGHT WITH A KISS,
     But the cheek still turned even when it wasn't hit...

Have you ever thought about that? ...How we were bought with a traitor's Kiss? Jesus knew before He ever went to the Garden of Gethsemane--Judas would betray him, setting God's plan into motion. A kiss meant for evil ultimately brought the redemption of man as God worked His will and way in the middle of circumstance. 
    Looking back at my own life, I remember how often I thought He can't forgive me--He couldn't love me...WHY would He love me? I've heard the same time and again from many whose paths have crossed mine so I know I'm not alone in my thinking. Lately, some circumstances have caused those thoughts to resurface more than I really like to admit.
    But as I pondered the phrase "bought with a kiss," I thought back to all of Judas' story and about Jesus' unfailing love for him. Judas' kissed him as he would a friend. Even in that moment, Jesus knew it was an act betrayal not of friendship, yet He still turned his cheek to receive the kiss. He knew He would die a painful death out of love for the very worst of us...even Judas. I don't know if I could have, but I think that maybe in that same moment he received the kidss, Jesus also forgave Judas. Maybe as Judas drew away, he looked in Jesus' eyes. I can only imagine that he was overwhelmed with the shame of his betrayal but Jesus' tender eyes still offered forgiveness. He loved Judas enough to forgive him but Judas wouldn't accept it...In denying forgiveness, he denied Christ's love.
    Crowder was in awe of such a love as he pondered Jesus' response to Judas, "And I don't know what to do with a love like that."  A love that sees past betrayal and sin to the very heart of men and women like us. If I stay in my "unlovable" mindset, I can't really do much with the grace and the overwhelming love I've been given. In HOPE, we talked about life changes a lot recently. We will see evidence of lives that have been changed by His love this Sunday through baptism--Life Change Sunday. Circmstances and teaching "change" has caused me to reflect on my own life changes since I came to Abilene...even in the last few months. I'm not the same person I was before November of 2003. I've been in church my whole life. I've known grace...And I've known and witnessed "ungrace" far too often. I guess, if I'm to be honest, I have to admit I've also been a part of "ungrace" too. 
      I remember the hurt, despair, the loneliness, and the utter worthlessness I felt the first time I walked in  Mission Abilene. I wanted to run away but I was detained. To my surprise, I found acceptance there in the middle of people who had the courage to be broken too--no pretending. I can't say that things have gone the way I expected...I've walked through some of my hardest miles and I've fallen again and again. But I can say that I've known grace like I've never known before in the last few years. Grace has changed me...Why? Because Jesus love ME. A few years ago, I could say the words but I was empty inside yet I still tried vainly to earn the grace I had been given. Today, I can say the words and I'm overwhelmed because of the vastness of His love...At a little place called Mission Abilene, filled with imperfect and broken people, I've discovered a secret. He loves ME--the best and the very worst of me. His love isn't measured by how well I love Him back and His grace isn't measured by how much i deserve it. When I think about that kiss--I know that I know Jesus loved Judas with all His heart. Judas should have known...shouldn't he? He had been with Jesus up close for three years! He should have known what to do with a love like that. But he couldn't look beyond his own remorse to embrace Jesus' love. He took his own life. In denying grace, he threw away Jesus's love. He wasted it...
     Peter betrayed Jesus too--denying him three times when Jesus needed him most. Jesus looked at him across the courtyard as the rooster crowed. As Peter met His gaze, no doubt he knew the shame of his denial, but I think he must have seen a love that was so much greater in Christ's eyes. Though he was filled with shame and remorse for the moment, he knew that he couldn't turn away from the kind of love that looks beyond betrayal and sin. He probably wondered what to do with a love like that...till Jesus said, "Feed My sheep." And Peter did. Jesus' love changed him and because he let the love he had been given flow out of him, Peter changed the world... 
     By nature, I often turn away or resist the Savior's grace...when I fail Him so deeply and I can't imagine that anyone could love me as I am. In those times, I want to be reminded of that kiss... Jesus knew the depth of Judas' betrayal--all for 30 shekels of silver but Jesus still loved him enough to die for the sake of him. No matter how great my failure, His love remains the same--it never diminishes. He loves ME--it's an undeniable truth. He died for the sake of love, knowing every sin, every failure, every evil thought. So the question remains: What will I do with a love like that? What will you do?
    I'm going to keep striving to embrace truly experience His love as I never have before. I want to be overwhelmed because He loves all of me--the whole kit and kaboodle! And in fully accepting His immeasurable love even though I don't deserve it, maybe I can BE a love like that. 
"...The problem it seems is with you and me, 
     not the Love who came to repair everything.
Where there is pain, let US bring grace.
Where there is suffering, bring serenity.
      For those afraid, let us be brave.
Where there is misery, let us bring relief.
      And surely we can change....Surely we can change something.
Oh, the world's about to change...The whole world's about to change..."
     --David Crowder, "Surely We Can Change," Remedy song #10. If you haven't heard it before, check out this song.

His love isn't complete until I accept it in full and I return it to Him by loving others just as He loves me...I like saying that and even hearing it. I don't flinch so much anymore or turn to stone... He loves me....Hmm, for so many years I said what I've known in my head--I thought I understood--but that's as far as it got. Can you imagine the difference? Now I say it and the words mean so much more. I'm overwhelmed and humbled by the truth of three tiny words--because what I know in my head, I now hold in my heart and I will never be the same. 
                                                         Bought with a kiss...

.. Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in His presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything. 
Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God... --  1 John 3:18-21 NIV


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

1000 Gifts: The Ways That He Loves (Psalm 116)

The way that He loves is as fair as the day that blesses my way with light....
      The way that He loves is so thrilling because His love reaches even me...

      ...Words from the old country & western gospel hymn. When I was about 12-13, it was one of the first songs I taught myself to play on the piano (It was easy--Key of C!) of the first songs I sang at church by myself and with my sister and cousins. I remember how precious it was back then to be reminded of the way that Jesus loves...A simple sweet message and melody.
     When I look back on my life journey and I realize how many miles I have come, I am reminded how He has blessed "my way with light," especially in the darkest times. I can't help but be humbled by all that God has done and for all He has given. When life overwhelms me and I look to His Word for comfort, I am reminded of His faithfulness and the many ways that He loves. And I am so humbly grateful as my list of "1000 Gifts" goes on...

6.  He listens even when no one else hears me. All I have to do is whisper His name.
"I love the Lord because He hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because He bends  down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath." - Psalm 116:1-2

7.  In times of despair, He gently draws me to Him even when i am blinded by circumstance. Time after time I wanted to give up. Time after time, His Spirit gently reminded me to turn to Him rather than despair.
"Death wrapped its ropes around me; the terrors of the grave overtook me. I saw only trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord: 'Please Lord, save me!'" - Psalm 116:3-4

8.  He never forgets me. His gentle kindness, His abundant goodness, and His unwavering mercy are faithful reminders...
"How kind the Lord is! How good He is! So merciful, this God of ours!" - Psalm 116:5

9.  He protects me from harm. He has been my Safe Place my whole life long. No matter how people or circumstances tried to harm me, He guarded my heart. In a laundry hamper or under a willow tree, He provided me safe shelter in childhood. And today, He gives me safety and rest in His peaceful sanctuary. He IS my sanctuary.
"The Lord protects those of childlike faith; I was facing death, and He saved me. Let my soul be at rest again, for the Lord has been good to me." - Psalm 116:6-7

10.  He saves me...from depression, from the pain caused by others, and from my own mistakes and downfalls. He comforts, He strengthens, he heals, and He pushes me onward.
"He has saved me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. And so I walk in the Lord's presence as I live here o earth!" - Psalm 116:8-9

11.  He cares about every moment beginning to end. He knows our sorrow even as He fulfills His perfect plan in us.
"The Lord cares deeply when His loved ones die." - Psalm 116:15

12.  He frees me from the chains of my sin and my past. He gave me freedom, yet I am honored and blessed to be His servant.
"O Lord, I am Your servant; yes, I am Your servant, born into Your household; You have freed me from my chains. I will offer You a sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord." - Psalm 116:16-17

13.  He blesses me with fellowship and accountability. He has surrounded me with a family of believers who love and accept me as I am but who also encourage me to seek His will and to grow in faith.
"I will keep my promises to the Lord in the presence of all His people...I will fulfill my vows o the Lord int he presence of all His people--in the house of the Lord, in the heart of Jerusalem." - Psalm 116:14, 18-19

14.  He loves me no matter what. His love for me is not measured out according to my ability to return it in kind. I could never repay all that He has done for me!
"What can I offer the Lord for all he has done for me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and praise the Lord's name for saving me." - Psalm 116:12-13

      ...His peace hovers near like a dove; I know there's a heaven above.
      To Jesus I cling--life's a wonderful thing because of the way He loves.     

Thank You, Lord, for the many ways that You love me...That You meet me at my greatest need...That You understand my weaknesses and my hurts. I am overwhelmed when I realize how far You have led me and how far You have carried me. I can't even begin to repay all that You are to me, yet You know my heart and accept my meager gratitude. I am nothing without You and I am honored to be Your be Your child. I love You too.-- sheri

"The Way That He Loves," - I couldn't find the writer & publisher information on this song but I learned it from the old "Country & Western Gospel Hymnal" back in the day, long since lost to me now.

holy experience

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

1000 Gifts

  " Train me, God, to walk straight; then I'll follow Your true path. Put me together, one heart and mind; then, undivided, I'll worship in joyful fear. From the bottom of my heart I thank You, dear Lord; I've never kept secret what you're up to. You've always been great toward me—what love!  You snatched me from the brink of disaster! " - Psalm 86:11-13 The Message

     Before Thanksgiving, I determined to be aware of life's blessings--to deepen my gratitude for the overwhelming gifts God has given...Leah challenged her facebook friends to post our gratefulness each day before Thanksgiving. I took up the challenge and challenged my friends as did others. One by one , as our friends took up our challenge, they would begin to share their own attitude of gratitude..thanks for the obvious and tangible and also for the intangible and deeper matters of the heart.  Thanksgiving spread like wildfire. It was amazing. But even more amazing was the change I began to see and feel within myself and how I began to see my outward circumstances differently.
     As I began to note God's abundant grace, I began to anticipate the joy, the blessing, and the miracle of Christmas---not just the season but the advent of our Savior, the Jesus who lives and dwells among us today not just that first Christmas so many centuries ago. It changed my outlook on life and my positive change made others around me more positive too.
     Thanksgiving came and went and most of us got out of the habit of posting our gratitude every day---maybe once in a while but not regularly. I missed it...Then I saw a blog "Tall Tales" ( )...Couldn't help but be drawn to a blog by another person with my same name! She was already well into her list of 1000 gifts. I was blessed by her genuine openness as I remembered how focusing on gratitude changed my outlook...and how a little gratitude leads to more grace and more gratitude. Both grace and gratitude multiplies...
     So I decided it was time again for me to focus a little more on both--grace and gratitude. Seems like they go hand in hand and I'm not really sure you can have one without the other...And like so many of those who have joined this adventure, my list goes on and on and on. I'm not sure what happens when we get to 1000. In seeing those means and matters of grace written out one by one even in beginning, I begin to see already how endless is the grace God has given and how abundant is my gratitude for all He has done. Today is just the beginning of a lifetime and I am so grateful for these, His gifts:
  1. The Jesus who came would come down and rock me as a child while I "hid" in the laundry hamper. I don't fit in the laundry hamper  anymore but He still comes down and holds me in the darkest places.
  2. A freshly mown yard. The contentment of the finished work reminds me how much God has mown down in my spirit. I wonder if he sits on the "porch" to enjoy the moment too....even knowing that soon we both will have to mow again to maintain it.
  3. A quiet phone. It doesn't happen often but it assures me that, for a little while at least, there are no crises to answers and no problems to solve. God is taking care of those I love without my help...He always does.
  4. Being able to sit quietly with a friend as each one of us does our own work. I remember when I couldn't have done it--I couldn't trust that deep.  There's something about a friendship that doesn't always need words.
  5. The men and women who put their lives on the line to protect us. As many of us honor Officer Holder and his sacrifice, we hear stories from the men who served beside him. And we are blessed by his inspiration not only as a police officer but also as a husband, father, a friend, and a man of God. We should all strive to live such a life...

holy experience