Thursday, April 17, 2014

just like pharaoh

I'm reading through exodus.  I was in Chapter 7 today and this verse was chilling.

Then the LORD said to Moses, "Pharaoh's heart is hardened; he refuses to let the people go.
My heart has been hardened lately.  You could go so far as to say it's felt black.  I would.

What have I been holding on to?  Refusing to let go?  

So I spent some time releasing things to The Lord: namely, my hopes, dreams, and desires.  Help me live open handed!

Some peace restored.

I'll take it.

Lord, what's the real issue going on?  What's the root? 
It's not provision...what is it?


You think love is merited.  You think you've been "better" than some others so you deserve what you want.  But Elizabeth Ann my love isn't merited.  It can't be earned.

Oh yeah.  Grace is a free gift.

What a great reminder (again) before Easter.  The cross.  I didn't earn it.  The gift of salvation is a free one - given to me by God.  

I am constantly reminded that this is a process.   Over and over.   Moving forward one step at a time.  With a few sidesteps, too.  My heart gets hardened and my mind believes the lies satan feeds me.  And yet the Lord is faithful...His presence brings restoration, peace, and life.  

As often as I get bitter, hurt, angry, and the's just as often the Lord ushers me in to His arms.  

Monday, April 14, 2014

Preparing for Easter

Hebrews 12:1-2
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

When you think about the cross, what words come to mind?

For me, it is sacrifice and hope.  How the words co-mingle together?!

What ties them together?  WOUNDS.  Sacrifice leaves wounds, yet the wounds also produce hope.  If we survived the hardship that produced the wound, surely we can survive what lies ahead.  

Jesus went to the cross to sacrifice for our sins.  He was wounded on the cross.  His hands and feet bore the wounds that our sin caused.  

John 20:24-29
Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.
Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

-- Not focusing on Thomas' doubts, but on Jesus' wounds.  He had physical marks of what the cross did to him.  We, too, often carry physical marks.  If not physical, then emotional and/or spiritual.  We have all been hurt by someone or some situation and we carry wounds from it.  

1 Peter 2:18-25
Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

It’s ironic, isn’t it?  God’s ways are so different from the ways of the world.  We are healed by his wounds.  Our sin sent Jesus to the cross; the cross produced his wounds -- yet those very wounds heal us.  

Like Jesus, each of us has wounds.  The wounds we carry around come from something or someone.  I read Donald Miller’s blog today about legalists coming from a wounded place.  I started thinking about it, and I think - to a degree - we all come from a wounded place.  Certainly, some are more wounded than others based on our past experiences and relationships.  But each of us has been scarred by things.  Some things within our control and some things completely out of our control.  However, regardless of what caused the wound, we get to choose how we respond to the wound.  It doesn’t make it right, but we can either hold onto it or ask the Lord to help us move forward from it...

Shut your eyes.  Relax.  Envision yourself walking down a long hallway.  It is the hallway of your life.  There are pictures on the wall.  Paintings of memories and experiences from your life.  There are paintings of pain and frustration.  Look at them.  Pick one painting in particular -- one memory that is hard to look at because you have been wounded.  Stare at it.  Get to know it well; look it dead in the eyes.  Then, ask the Lord to help you take it down.  Ask the Lord if you need to forgive someone and/or accept something.  

Does anyone want to share what they took off the wall?

It is a sacrifice to forgive those who have wounded us.  It is a sacrifice to accept where we may be for a season.  When we are hurt and wounded, it is hard to let others in.  I recently listened to a great sermon about sacrifice and obedience.  Within 4 minutes of the sermon, I knew there was something I needed to sacrifice.  I paused the sermon and thought about what it really means to sacrifice something.  I read the scripture and it was all so clear -- Abraham had to pull out a knife ready to kill his son.  

Genesis 22:1-18
After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.
When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”
And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”

Was I really willing to kill the desire?  The dream?  The relationship?  

In doing so, in my heart, the Lord taught me that sacrifice yields provision.  What we are willing to give up, he will make a provision for.  Abraham and Isaac is a beautiful story.  When Abraham is about to kill his son, a perfect lamb is provided.  His willingness to sacrifice enabled the Lord to provide something better.  

I’m not saying that if we sacrifice our desires, dreams, relationships, etc. that something else will come through and we will really get to keep them -- as Abraham was able to keep Issac.  BUT when we do that, God’s promises are still kept.  And he will make a way for us to be provided for.  For me, making a sacrifice to the Lord yielded his presence.  Wonderful.

I love that Abraham and Isaac foreshadow Jesus on the cross.

Abraham found a substitute for Isaac.  However, there was not a substitute for Jesus.  God the Father had nothing else to send but his Son.  God has adopted many sons and daughters, but he only has One Son begotten of Himself.  And perfect Jesus was the only one that would do - that would be able to atone for our sins.  

Hebrews 9:24-26
For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

Isaiah 53
Who has believed what he has heard from us?[a]
   And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
   and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
   and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected[b] by men;
   a man of sorrows,[c] and acquainted with[d] grief;[e]
and as one from whom men hide their faces[f]
   he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs
   and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
   smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
   he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
   and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
   we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
   the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
   yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
   and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
   so he opened not his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
   and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
   stricken for the transgression of my people?
9 And they made his grave with the wicked
   and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
   and there was no deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
   he has put him to grief;[g]
when his soul makes[h] an offering for guilt,
   he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see[i] and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
   make many to be accounted righteous,
   and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,[j]
   and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,[k]
because he poured out his soul to death
   and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
   and makes intercession for the transgressors.

I listened to a sermon by Allister Begg and he said:
Wounded for me, wounded for me, there on the cross, wounded for me.  He bore all my transgressions to set me free.  The cross does not give guidance about what we may do BUT it proclaims good news about what Christ has done for us!  The cross does not proclaim we are worth saving, but it does proclaim God is mighty to save.

I’m not sure if you’ve given anything up or added something to your life this Lenton season.  Regardless, I love that this season prepares us for what is to come.  It’s a season of getting ready to celebrate what Jesus did for us on the cross.  That he made the ultimate sacrifice so that we don’t have to: giving up Himself.  As we celebrate that this Sunday, I challenge us to:

  1. Really allow ourselves to chew on the sacrifice he made for us
  2. Ask the Lord if we need to sacrifice something in our lives and
  3. Invite him into our wounds -- he carries them, too.

Friday, April 11, 2014

spare tires

My body hasn't felt "normal" lately.  My belly has been bigger.  My thighs and tush have really bulked up.  I can feel it in my outfits and I don't like it.  I don't like that my skirt is tight.  I don't like that my tummy hangs over my pants.  I don't like it one bit.

Can anyone relate?

As I was exercising over lunch yesterday, I shared my body image feelings with the Lord.  And He was gracious - as He is - and shared some thoughts back with me.

elizabeth ann, you don't have the body of a 21 year old because you're not a 21 year've lived experiences and aged and that's not bad.  it's's growth.  your body is a part of that...

...the wilderness was tough for that time, spiritual and emotional endurance was more important than physical...

Just what I needed.  Gratitude in exchange of frustration.  Lord, thank you.  Please keep changing my thoughts.  Please keep showing me who you are and who I am.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


I'd been reading through Genesis lately and it's been of it make me want to throw up.  Parts of it make me overflowing with gratitude for who the Lord is.  I just finished reading it yesterday and while I was in the middle of reading about Joseph, I couldn't help but be amazed once again at the things he went through.  His life and hardships made mine look like a cake walk.  

He was the favored son of his father.  Yet hated by his brothers.

How often is this the case?  The ones that God seems to love and favor the most, who are especially gifted, are so often the ostracized ones.  The ones who others love to hate, be jealous of, and try to bring down.  

Though because of who he was, he was able to rise above the crazy harsh circumstances and live above reproach.  An incredible testimony.  An incredible challenge to me.  

I've read his story several times before, but this struck me the hardest:

Genesis 41:51-52
Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh. “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father's house.” The name of the second he called Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.

I was struck by Ephraim's name.  The fruit of affliction.  Wow...

What is the fruit of my affliction?  I've been blessed to be a witness to some of it in the past few weeks.  Meeting with a girl who wrestles with depression.  Re-living tragic death of a co-worker.  Praying for someone who's dreams are confusing.  Giving prophetic words for someone I had a strained relationship with.  All of them reminders of where I have been and where the Lord has brought me. 

Later on, Ephraim receives a greater blessing than Manasseh, even though he is the younger son.

Psalm 60:7, 108:8
Gilead is mine; Manasseh is mine; Ephraim is my helmet; Judah is my scepter.

Ephraim is referred to as a helmet in the Psalms.  I love that.  Helmets protect our heads.  What greater way to protect our heads - our thoughts - than to remember all that the Lord does in affliction.  There is fruit!  To remember who the Lord is!  He is so good that even in the lands of affliction, he makes us fruitful.  Beautiful, mysterious, perfect.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Out of the ground

A few weeks ago I was at our Wednesday night service.  We have people who paint during the service and someone painted a flower - you could see the flower above and below the ground.  And it struck me.  

Ephesians 3:
17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith-that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

To be rooted in something...

A plant is rooted in the ground.  The ground is dark.  And cold.  And dreary.  

It's not pretty down there...but it's where the plant is fed and grows.

And after a while, it sprouts up and produces a flower, a fruit, leaves, something.  

The dark times can be nasty and lonely.  It can seem like it's a worthless time.  BUT it is needed.  It is where so much growth happens.  It makes you more beautiful.  When you spring forth out of the darkness, you bear fruit for the world to see.  And the time underground becomes worth it.  

Monday, April 7, 2014

Transforming love

A while back, someone asked me, "Can you share with me a few sentences (or more or less) of how God's love transformed you...something specific."

When one thinks about god's love and its transforming power, I'm not sure that pain is the first thing that comes to mind.  And yet, the greatest act of god's love was shown on the cross; could anything be more painful?  Jesus endured extreme physical pain, yet greater still was the emotional and spiritual pain he endured being separated from his father for three days.  What pain the Father must have felt orchestrating this act?  And the result?  The greatest love and act of sacrifice one can ever know and experience.  As the earth and heavens shook, as the veil was torn, as Jesus conquered death, something inexplicably beautiful and mysterious was born.  We continue to reap the benefits today.  

For about the past year and a half, I've been in a wilderness season, filled with heartache, pain, frustration, and lots of other things that human nature instinctively tries to fight and flee from.  In the tears I have shed and the pain I have wrestled with, I have known a love far greater than I knew before.  The Lord met me there, and continues to do so.  In the moments of stillness where I seek His face for comfort, He comes.  In the moments when I am a brute beast lashing out at Him because I do not understand, He is there - taking it all in...and in time, bringing me back to peace.  In the times I want to walk away from Him, He's given me the strength to worship and praise Him.  

No doubt I have a very long way to go.  But, for me the love of god has been manifested in presence.  His presence has enabled me to soften, to see others in a new light.  To be more compassionate to their pain.  To pray more expectantly.  To be more gracious.  As I experience more of God's love, He makes me want to love others more - to love them better.  That looks different in different situations and sometimes I get it wrong.  I am reminded that, "to whom much is given, much is required."  As he pours out his tender mercy and love to me, He's showing me how to pour it out to those around me.