prodigal

We all love the story of the prodigal.  We love the story of his return home, of his father running to meet him with open arms, of his graceful reacceptance and joyful reception.  We love to picture the gathering of friends and family to celebrate.  We can even almost hear him singing “Amazing Grace. How sweet the sound!  That saved a wretch like me… I once was lost… but now I’m found… was blind… but now I see!

I wonder what the prodigal son felt as he made the journey “home”.  I put that in quotes because I bet on his way back, he probably doubted if he would even be accepted or allowed to serve his father as a slave, certainly not to dwell in the house as a son.  I’m sure that his shame tried to keep him still with offers of false security.  Even worse, the prodigal probably heard his false sense of freedom claiming that he’d never be “free again” through sacrifice and obedience.

There must have been a deeper calling, though.  He must have felt a greater need than to appear right in his own eyes or to be protected from the pain of wounded pride.  He must have felt the depths of misfortune, and I wonder if he recognized  those trials as discipline in disguise… tools to transform a selfish man into a shameless servant.

Have you felt like the prodigal son too?  If we were all honest, I bet we all would admit a time in our lives when we ran away and feared return.  Remember though, there is no fear in love for perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).  So if you find yourself away from the home of God’s heart, return to God and find that in resting in Him and in the sacrifice of His Son, you will be saved (Isaiah 30:15).  Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you (James 4:8)!

psalm 37.23-24

Run into the arms of the Father and find that He will never let you go…

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Singing His praise and a taste of spring already!

“Bless the Lord, O my soul!

O Lord my God, you are very great!

You are clothed with splendor and majesty,

covering yourself with light as with a garment,

stretching out the heavens like a tent…

He set the earth on its foundation,

so that it should never be moved…

O Lord, how manifold are your works!

In wisdom have you made them all;

the earth is full of your creatures.

May the glory of the Lord endure forever;

May the Lord rejoice in his works,

who looks on the earth and it trembles,

who touches the mountains and they smoke!

I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;

I will sing praise to my God while I have being.

May my meditation be pleasing to him,

for I rejoice in the Lord.”

Psalm 104:1-2, 5, 24, 31-34

May you hear God’s creation singing His praises this week, and

May you sing as long as you have your being!

Japanese Magnolia outside of “The Bakery”

Mississippi State University

(…if only I could live and serve here on this campus forever ! )

February 8, 2012

And into glorious light.

There is one fear that is instilled in all human beings.  Although right at first it can kindle a sense of adventure, even no adventure is possible when the object of this fear is full.  This fear is of darkness.

This past weekend, some friends and I went rock climbing and camping.  During many of our adventures throughout the day, we encountered some caves.  Tip-toeing down big, steep drops into the earthen holes, we maneuvered our way down into the darkness.

Yes, it was fun exploring through there, but there came a point when I was ready to see the light again!  I was ready to crawl towards the light–knowing that freedom from the cave was right there– and to climb out.  I was ready to see the world around me in the fullness that only the light can provide.

This was the scene waiting once I clambered out of the cave.  Beautiful.  What made it even more beautiful, though, was that I had to crawl through the darkness and scrape my hands on rocks along the way through it.  But eventually, I reached for a friend’s hand, was pulled out of the cave, and with that friend, we stood in the marvelous light.

———-

The same is true for all of us in our relationship with God.  We all will have times in our lives that seem to be dark just like the inside of a cave.  But, “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).  If you are going through a time of darkness in your life–whether struggling with an illness, doubting God and His goodness, or choosing to leave the well-lighted path for more of an “adventure” (which ultimately leads to complete separation from God)–I pray that God will open your eyes to see Him as the Light that obliterates the darkness.  Do not choose times of darkness, and yet never forsake these times when they occur because God will still use them for the good of those that love Him (Romans 8:38).  As Oswald Chambers once wrote,

“At times God puts us through the discipline of darkness to teach us to heed Him. Song birds are taught to sing in the dark, and we are put into the shadow of God’s hand until we learn to hear Him…Watch where God puts you into darkness, and when you are there keep your mouth shut. Are you in the dark just now in your circumstances, or in your life with God? Then remain quiet…When you are in the dark, listen, and God will give you a very precious message for someone else when you get into the light.”

If you are going through a cave, seek Him and whatever it is that He is trying to teach you through this time.  May He bring you out of darkness and into glorious light…

“Because he holds fast to me in love,

I will deliver him;

I will protect him,

because he knows my name.

When he calls to me,

I will answer him;

I will be with him in trouble,

I will rescue him and honor him.

With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

Psalm 91:14-16

Praying your day is filled with Sonshine,

Sarah 🙂

At the heart of worship is surrender.

I am so excited that I wish I could shout this from my rooftop:  I have an Internet connection!!!  Imagine this: since July, I haven’t had access to this blog, email, my school’s website with our classes’ websites, guitar music, iTunes music store, etc.  For some, this may not sound that monumental, but for a 2o year old in this day and age, that’s huge!  With this small victory, I write to you from the comfort of my couch with a cup of coffee in my hand and a great story of worship on my heart…

.hillsong live.

This past Monday night, I lost myself in a night of worship.  The Hillsong- New York City’s pastor cried out, “Don’t leave this place the same way as you were when you walked in here tonight!” And I didn’t…

———-

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you:

take your everyday, ordinary life

–your sleeping, your eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life–

and place it before God as an offering…

Don’t become so well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.

Instead, fix your attention on God.  You’ll be changed from the inside out.”

Romans 12:1-2 (the Message)

———-

What is true worship?

It is this…

…surrendering to God.

Some may be reading now and say, “Oh, but I’m not one of those enthusiastic believers that breaks out into dance, waves my hands in the air, etc.”  And honestly, I haven’t been.  I lacked courage to raise my hand even above my heart as if doing the pledge of allegiance.

But we have so much more to offer God than a pledge of allegiance.

While standing at the foot of the stage, I listened to songs like “With Us” and felt the words sinking into even the deepest places of my heart… “There’s no end to your love.  There’s no end to your love,” they sang, “You’re with us.  You’re with us.”  With closed eyes, I relished the sweetness of those words, the truth of them even sweeter than last week’s Thanksgiving dessert.  “…There’s nothing in this world/ That could take you away/ You’re with us/ You’re with us…”  In that moment, I drew near to God, and just as James promised in James 4:8, God drew near me.

What I learned Monday night is this: worship isn’t just listening to Christian radio in the car, nor is it just going to church and enjoying the solo during the offertory.  Worship–true worship of the Father and Creator of this Universe whose Son, Jesus Christ, lived as a human, died on the cross and overcame the world when he defeated even death itself–is encountering God and responding to Him.  It’s the crying out of your heart after casting your burden on Him and feeling Him not only take your burden onto His back, but take you up into His arms, as well.

Today, my prayer for you is that you offer up your everyday, ordinary life to God and ask Him to meet you in every moment.  Whether it’s a prayer that He helps you be patient with a coworker or customer, a prayer to have a greater desire for Him, a prayer to give your life over to Him, God is able.  God is able…

So what is worship?  It’s the proper response to an encounter with the One that knitted you together in the womb (Psalm 139:13), the Son that has gone before you (Hebrews 6:20) on your behalf.

Worship is surrender.

The strength of our hearts.

In the past two weeks, the phenomenon of time has, once again, proved to be greater than my understanding.  Although I walked slower than usual, paused in places of solitude, and literally stopped to smell the roses, time has still flown.  While sitting now in a coffee shop, I reflect on the past 16 days.  Tomorrow will be Sunday, two weeks since the funeral, two weeks since the first time I picked flowers from the sprays at Mammaw’s graveside.

Healing is a process.  Healing is a day-to-day, hour-to-hour, get-through-each-minute kind of a process, and honestly, I don’t know yet if it ever truly ends, at least not on this side of Heaven.  Often, I find myself saying that my grandparents live in Grenada.  If someone asks, “How are they doing?” most times, it’s just easier to say, “He’s doing great.  Thanks for asking.”  The truth is that I still miss her.  Every minute of the day, I miss her.

Today while standing at the stove making soup, I made a promise to Mammaw.  Whenever I have children–God willing that this happens, especially if I am blessed with a daughter–I promised Mammaw that I will tell them all about her.  I will pull a chair into the kitchen and set it in front of the stove.  While letting my child stir the contents within a great big pot, I will tell him/her about the many times I did the same thing with my grandmother: making homemade Play-doh by the recipe in Mammaw’s Bell’s Best cookbook held together by duct-tape.  We will sit at the table and pour through the pages of the cookbook that she gave me before going off to college.  At the end of it, we will find her name–Gerry Harden–and the recipes that she shared within the book.  It’s called Endless Blessings, and what an endless blessing it has been and always will be to me…

Thank you for reading my ramblings tonight.  Although filled with my jumbled thoughts, hopefully there is one message that will shine through: the steadfast strength that comes from God.

“My flesh and heart may fail,

but God is the strength of my heart

and my portion forever.”

Psalm 73:26

No matter what you are going through, God is for you.  Your flesh and your heart will fail.  Even your greatest efforts, your hardest tries, and your acclaimed achievements will fade in the shadows of the obstacles that seem to stand in your path.  But praise be to God that this does not mean that your path is at the dead end!

God doesn’t take us on detours around the obstacles in our lives.  Instead, God walks with us through each and every one.  It’s in these times that we learn most what it means to rely on God and His strength alone.

“But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,

my glory, and the lifter of my head.

I cried aloud to the Lord, 

and he answered me from his holy hill.

I lay down and slept;

woke again

for the Lord sustained me.”

Psalm 3:3-5

Tonight, cry aloud to the Lord, and He will answer you.  Listen for His whisper… Lay down and sleep tonight and wake to the morning sustained by the love and strength of our great Father… He is the strength of our hearts.

Sleep well, dear readers 🙂