On learning to Receive

Adventures in Cana

IMG_20140226_151652575If all the doing were stripped away,

The pull to impact

To shift

To release

To happen

Deemed void.

If all that was required,

And all you could do

Was receive,

Would it be enough?

To simply be and receive His love,

Would it satisfy?

To dismiss yourself from the road of accomplishment and simply be,

Like a child.

Could you handle being the apple of His eye,

And find the greatness you crave therein?

For the mystery lies here

That in receiving His love as a child,

Resting in His gaze,

Life is produced.

You happen,

You release,

You shift,

You impact,

By simply letting Him love you.

Love produces life.

More powerful than all my striving, all my dreaming, all my pursing.

The act of simply being.

Oh, for the maturity of being like a child.

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Fatherly Advice

This Christmas I have been torn between wishing everyone a “Merry Christmas” or a “Happy Father’s Day”. My mind and heart have been stuck on a simple thought for many months- the great gift of Jesus revealing the true nature of the Father. 

How precious to know the nature of God – and to discover it is love without limit. 

In celebration of the birth of such a sweet revelation, I’m reposting a favorite Christmas devotional from my days on The Daily Fast Fuel. ‘Tis the season.

My Son,

You are my greatest gift. You are my highest honor. I have tried my best to memorize your life – all your expressions, your laugh, the wonderful things that come out of your mouth, the simple moments working together, building. It is a blessing for a Father to build with his child.

I confess, I did not know if I would be a good father – if I would be enough – if I would know what to do to protect and raise you. I have not been a perfect father, I know, but I was given a perfect son. And I love you – more each day as I discover more of who you are.

I wish perhaps I could give you some fatherly wisdom or advice, but what more could I offer that you do not know? So perhaps instead, I will share a simple thought – My bride found favor from the Lord, and I found favor when I found her. There is nothing that compares to finding your bride, and loving her well. My greatest decision was not leaving my bride, when though she was broken in the world’s eyes, she carried a great promise. Some day, son you will have a bride. She may not seem perfect, but you might be surprised by the promise she may be carrying. You will value her, I know – you’ll think her worthy of your very life, even. I believe, Son, the love you have for your bride, and the love she has for you could change the world. I trust mine did.

Yours for always,
Joseph

Potted Plants: The Story Behind the Story – A Mother’s Day Edition

I think I was in the middle of worship at church when the idea came. In fact I saw great portions of the story like a movie in my mind.

This is pretty typical for how my brain works – and how I hear God’s voice.  I always say I see better with my eyes closed.  That’s often when my imagination takes flight and His Spirit takes over.

I remember writing down the title and some notes in my journal. Her story was obvious.  If you knew my mom, you’d understand.

The world may never know your name, Chosen, but that is of little consequence. For the Kingdom itself testifies to your life.” Papa turned towards the mountains again, “And what a significant life it is.”

 

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Sometimes I find it funny that the whole world doesn’t know my mom.  From my seat in the arena of life, few have walked in such love and humility.  My mom is a great woman. A world changer.  I’m biased.  Unashamedly.

Moms are full of such greatness.

Today I am celebrating my mom and my friend.  She raised four kids.  I’m sure there’s a special crown for that alone in heaven.  She said “yes” to moving our family overseas for ten years.  She went out of her way to make sure life was special and even “normal” in seasons where circumstances were actually quite scary.  Cue Colombia in the 1990s.  She chased her dreams and was never afraid of hard work.  When she laughs really hard, it’s hard to tell if she’s laughing or crying.  And she always sighs at the end. A tireless servant, and a hopeful encourager, she makes you feel like you could do anything.  She values all the stuff you really should value, not riches or prestige, but how you treat people and opportunities to love ridiculously well.  I don’t know how many times I’ve left my parent’s house with her coat on my back or her gloves on my hands because she knew I needed something to keep me warm.  She values the little moments for the gold they are.  And she has shown me more than any other, what it means to walk in greatness.

“So many think greatness is a thing to achieve, but greatness is not found in a destination or occupation. Greatness lies in my flowers blooming in the fields in which they are planted. It is not about achieving, it’s about being.” Papa looked at Chosen by His side, “Every child of mine is fitted with greatness. The power of greatness lies not in where it is established, but what it establishes. A flower planted in a bog can still move a mountain. Do you see, Chosen?”

 

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Everywhere she goes, she makes life beautiful.

Just by being her.

I think it’s something she picked up from Papa.

Love you, Mom.

 

Read her story and more, The Invitation.

Legacy: The Story behind the Story

Last Saturday we had breakfast.

I wondered if it were possible that he was getting younger.  My Pa, nearing 90-years-old, was all smiles, loving on his waffle.

We caught up on life, laughed.  He joked about how restaurant syrup containers are dangerous because they will always get you gooey.

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On Sunday he was dressed in his finest.  I had bought a new dress.  My place of honor was next to him in a church pew, where we sang to Jesus together.  I wanted to remember everything.  Sometimes you know the moments you need to cling to.

We journeyed home and my whole family gathered.  I served him snacks.  We sat and watched golf.  I held his hand as we prayed for our Easter meal.  I sat beside him as we ate, and I watched him laugh until he cried watching his great-grandson’s three-year-old antics.  Surely he was getting younger.  The cane was just a prop.  I can’t recall when I’d seen him smile so much.


 

Five years prior, I was in California when I got a call from my sister, I needed to come quick.  Pa might not make it.  With tears sprinkling my keyboard, I booked my flight to Texas. All I could think of is what I wanted to say – before I said good-bye.  I had been on a journey of writing stories for my family.  He couldn’t leave before he got his.  I just hadn’t written it yet.  And my flight was leaving the next day. I gathered myself in front of my computer and stared at the screen.  What do I want to say?  What do You want to say, Lord?  What should be said at a time like this?  And suddenly, all I could see was Pa, as a kid, playing jacks with God.

Destined thought he might as well sit on the floor and occupy himself while he waited. He pulled out of his pocket a small pouch filled with jacks. He scattered them on the hardwood floor. The floor chimed delicately  as Destined bounced the ball.

Bounce. Scoop. Bounce. Scoop. Bounce.

“Scoop.” said Papa, swishing His hand down to grab up the jacks. Destined looked up at him with an amused grin.

“When’d you get here, Papa?”

“Sneaky, aren’t I?” Papa winked and playfully patted Destined’s arm.

“Yes, Papa. And I’ll have you know I was doing really well in that round of jacks before you showed up and stole my turn!”

Papa began to chuckle and the two playfully batted each other.

“I’m glad you came, Destined. It’s always good to spend time with you like this.” Papa lovingly stroked his little head.”

I walked into his hospital room in Texas with a mask and robe on.  His skin was ashen.  I imagined Death sitting in a chair by the wall, legs crossed, foot swinging, waiting for its chance to speak.  Not yet. Ignoring its presumptions, I took a seat.  He looked so weak.  I don’t remember what I said, but I handed him the story, and watched him read it. His eyes teared, he said “Thank you.”  And Legacy was placed on his side table.

“Did you forget to hang some pictures or something, Papa?” Destined kidded as he watched Papa meander around the room. It was obvious He was thinking about something, though Destined hadn’t the foggiest idea what.

            “No,” Papa smiled, as he continued to walk around the room by the walls, “No, this room is quite perfect.” Papa finally stopped, looking up at one of the large blank walls surrounding the room.

“I have wanted to show you this room for a long time, Destined. I want you to see something very special.” Papa walked to the wall in front of Destined and placed his hands on it. Something was happening.

Over the course of the next few days, more and more family began to arrive at Pa’s bedside.  Doctor’s seemed hopeful about his improving condition.  Death began to look bored sitting in his room.

At first, Destined could not determine any purpose to this little game. Then, suddenly, something caught his eye. Destined began to see something at the very top of the wall. Names. And more names. Names began to fade in, as if an invisible artist was now at work on the giant blank canvas. As more and more names began to appear, Destined could see it was a chart of sorts. Names were spreading all around the room, creating a waterfall as they cascaded down the walls.

Wait, he knew what it was. The names multiplied, lines joining them, down, down…until he saw it. “Destined”. His own name. His name had appeared in the vast family tree now adorning the previously blank cream walls.

“My family tree?” Destined looked at Papa.

Papa nodded and smiled, His eyes beginning to tear. Papa placed His hands on the wall again and slowly dropped His head until His forehead kissed the family tree, “So beautiful.” He seemed to drink in the thought of this family.

His color returned to his face.  Along with his smile. And his humor. Death had left the room.

Destined approached the wall, drawing near to his name. He saw the familiar names of those who came before and those who came after. He looked above and all around the room, overwhelmed with the sight of so many names. So many lives leading to his own. So many questions of those who had come before, and those who would come after. The magnitude of life, the abundance of family. It simply left him with a bewildered look offered to Papa.

With Pa on the miraculous mend, I ventured back to California.  He was transferred to a rehab hospital, where the family would gather once again to celebrate Christmas with Pa.

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Suddenly a name near the top of the wall began to glow again. Destined instinctively clung close to Papa.

 Papa stroked his head as if to reassure him, this time he wouldn’t be so affected by what was about to happen. Destined could hear a voice. A voice that came from the glowing name. He could understand the words. It was a prayer. It was the sound of that person praying. As their prayer ended a glowing orb would form out of the glowing name and bounce to another name on the family tree. Then, a few more names began to glow, and Destined heard more prayers and the orbs flew through the room like shooting stars. Within moments the room was a chatter with prayers and shooting stars buzzing from one name to another, from one side of the room to the other, from the top to the bottom and back again.

“I hear their prayers, Destined, you see? But sometimes the answer comes to another in the family. Look.” Papa pointed down to Destined’s name. As Destined fixed his eyes he saw a barrage of glowing orbs hit his name, time and time again. They came from every which way around the room. And orbs were released from his name, and they bounced around and trickled down.

“It’s like a fireworks show, Papa.”

Papa smiled, “My favorite kind. I hear them all, Destined, every prayer. And I am not slow to answer as some consider slow. Rather, I am strategic, working on a canvas that expands through time. My son, your prayers have been greatly effective. You have put on quite a show there.” Papa patted Destined’s shoulder. Destined marveled at the sight of prayers being lifted up and answered throughout the generations.

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This Easter Sunday, five years and lots of laughter and hugs later, Pa gave me a hug and told me he loved me.  I told him I loved him and I’d see him later.  I hugged him, and lingered.  Sometimes you know when you need to linger. We waved good-bye, and my smiling, youthful Pa rode home.

Earlier that day he had mentioned how he always wanted to go to the Holy Land, but teared up as he added, but I probably won’t get to. I instantly thought of the incredible trip that would be – to go with him.

The next day I flew back to California, thankful for my family time.  And a few nights later, Pa went to sleep.

 Jesus woke him up, and took him home.

Perhaps He was too excited to show Pa the Promise Land.

Papa knelt down beside Destined and whispered in his ear, “Look, my child, beyond the names.” Destined at first wasn’t sure what Papa could mean, but as he gazed as best he could beyond the names, the names themselves began to blur and the walls became like a soft veil, and all he could see for miles and miles was a beautiful great expanse of hills and mountains and a pristine Kingdom nestled within them. He could see lights on all over the stunning buildings and the distinct aura of life.

“It’s what I’m building.” Papa whispered, “through these names.” Papa looked back at Destined to make sure he was following “I have drawn up my plans since before the beginning of time and I have hidden pieces of them here and there, throughout the hearts of men, throughout the ages. For we are all meant to be together. And someday we will be.”

Papa took Destined’s small hand and walked towards the veil to get a closer look. “You and your family, Destined, you are colaborers with me for this Kingdom, and someday it will be on earth as it is in heaven. This is the restoration of the promise.   That the dwelling place of Papa would be with man. And all you have said, and done, and prayed I have used to this purpose. Clever, aren’t I?”

Destined looked up with a sly grin, “Yes, Papa, very clever.” they exchanged smiles and a lighthearted laugh.

“Each of you are building a legacy, passing down tools of the trade, that the Kingdom would expand. And we are getting closer, Destined. I long for it. “

“Me too.” Destined finally said trying to take it all in.

“Thank you for loving Me, Destined. Thank you for trusting Me.” Papa turned to Destined and hugged him. Destined embraced Papa, filled with the thoughts of legacy and purpose Papa had interwoven through the ages, which had finally trickled down to him. What a joy to partner with Papa, what a privilege to be His own.

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Pa with great-grandsons Simon and Noah. Easter Sunday, 2014.

Love you Paw.  Miss you dearly. Oh, how precious the legacy.

Excerpts taken from the short story, Legacy, from The Invitation,

Tea for Two : The Story behind the Story

Love came down

It began with Leea.

I had already come up with a plan.  I would write stories for people – as gifts. I would call it “practice” and hope they were blessed in my messy process of becoming a writer. So many stories swimming inside, sometimes you just have to aim and shoot and get them out.

So, Leea was my first target.

I was a missionary in southern Illinois at the time.  Living a life of spiritual luxury with a small band of prayer warriors.  Hours to spend on the Lord and lingering with people, I felt like a Queen.

Leah was the eldest daughter of a family our team had fallen in love with.  They were the Von Trap family worshippers – two passionate parents, a slew of children, and a desire to travel around the area leading worship and seeking God.  Leea is one of those people that captures your heart simply by saying, “It’s nice to meet you.”  Our staff was invited to her sweet 16 birthday, and I felt charged to get-a-typing.

Sometimes writers wait for inspiration.

And wait.

And wait.

Until you have about 3 hours before said party – and an hour and half drive to get there.

I took my laptop and my wavering inspiration to our little prayer room and pulled up a chair.

“Okay, Jesus.  I’m here. I could use a story.” Half of my thoughts centered on giving me a good talking to for waiting until the last minute, while the others tried to quiet me down so I could hear what God was saying.

It started by thinking of Leea, and suddenly I knew.  God wanted to give her an invitation.  He wanted to meet with her.

All I could think of was our mutual love for all things Jane Austen, and suddenly… tappy, tappy, tappy on my lappy…Leea was off to have tea with God.

I watched my fingers type away, as if they knew the story themselves.  But everything stopped at the end of the story.

“Just lift the lid.” He nodded.

I knew the music from the music box would be divine.  Music streamed through my mind like a happy lark while my fingers dashed out the details. Triumphantly I arrived at:

“It’s the sound of heaven?” She asked with awe.

Of course it was, that music box was playing songs from heaven – no doubt. I knew it!  I enlisted my fingers back to their tap-dance.

But that’s when I felt the Spirit of God stop me.  I had it wrong. And as I listened to what He had on his heart, I began to cry.

I wrote the rest of the story with elephant tears showering my tap-dancing fingers.  Gene Kelly would have been proud.

“It’s the sound of the Kingdom,” He said, “In you.” He smiled.

Suddenly the story was not about oohs and aahs of the amazing tea house or God buzzing about how outrageous the sounds of heaven are – it was about the incomprehensible love of the Father for his daughter.

It’s a theme that shows up time and time again in The Invitation.

The story came to a close and I dried my tears.  I sat asking God to confirm the story – that it was from Him, that He had been a part of this creative process.

I asked for a sign.

I asked for a music box.

A few hours later in the dwindling light of a city park, Leea’s grandmother gave her a box.  I remember her saying it was a present intended for Leea last year, but had gotten lost.

She opened the gift, and my tears returned. There it was.  A music box. The tune: The Wind Beneath my Wings.

“He will cover you with his feather, and under his wings you will find refuge;” Psalm 91:4

Suffice it to say.  I decided to keep writing Invitations.

He says, “An invitation for one, is an invitation for all.”

So here’s, a delivery for you.