These writings are for the imperfect person searching for more of the Perfect God.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Christmas Bell


The Christmas bell draped from his neck.

And the delicate ring of this Christmas bell filled the frigid space where the winter air permeated the interior of our car.  


As my youngest uninhibitedly sang Christmas carols driving home from school, the very breath of his holiday tunes lingered in the wintry temperature, now wrestling with the cars forceful heating system.


He smiled with his sweet, gentle and amused eyes as he shared with me the traditional story behind the bell around his neck.  "Mrs. Pearson gave me this, Mom," he said with great enthusiasm, as he proceeded to ring it harder just in case I hadn't heard it the countless times before.


I was sweetly amused at the simple joy he was experiencing with this gold bell.  A bell, which in return, brought him spontaneous laughter.  Unreserved happiness.  Innocent pleasure.


But strangely for a moment, as if turning mute on the sound system to life, the car fell silent.  The singing, the ringing, the sounds of Christmas came to an abrupt pause as Jesse intensively white knuckled the bell in the right palm of his ten year old hand.  Still shaking the bell with great vigor and passion, the sound of the bell fell completely mute.  Silent.


That's precisely when he cut through the unexpected and awkward  silence- and said it.


The secret to life, that is.

"Mom," he insightfully shared, "If I hold on too tight to this bell, it doesn't ring.  I need to let go for it to fulfill its purpose."


Every letter of those few wise words spoken through this child seemed to linger in the now luke-warm air of the car.  As Jesse released the bell from the grips of his little hand, he gently let-go, one finger at a time, and delightfully continued to ring the bell.


Let go. huh.


It's in the letting-go we find purpose, isn't it?  We find identity.  We find meaning.  We find freedom. We find life.


The purpose of that small and simple Christmas bell draped around the soft skin of my Jesse's neck was to bring joy to a childs heart.  Yet when clung too tightly, its sole purpose was obsolete.  Absent.


But how human nature is still strangely drawn and naively tempted to cling.  To cling too tight to him or her.  To cling too tight to past mistakes, to regret, to shame, to unforgiveness, to assumptions, to guilt, to control, to finances, to insecurities, to pride, to resentments, to hatred, to lies. 


To cling.


Yep, it's in the who I'm clinging to during times of insecurity is where I'll find my security.  And how often, I ashamedly find my white knuckled grip wrapped around too tightly a false security.  A delusional hope.  A mirage of happiness.  A counterfeit truth.  


All the while, shaking the bell of life with passionate vigor and relentless zeal, yet not fulfilling God's hand knit purpose and calling; simply due to the destructive clinging that's diminishing the ringing.  


I suppose that's why Jesus Himself said "If you cling to your life, you will lose it.  And if you let-it-go, you will find it."  


As the author of life, Jesus has given invaluable direction for the meaning of life; letting-go so that He Alone can fulfill and expose the very purpose hand designed for each and every life; one which supersedes the greatest imagination.  


And yet, letting go is no simple feat.  No indeed.  

It wasn't until I was broken open did I come to a place of desiring that which I was unaware was in the waiting room of life.  Once the fingers were willing to be released, one by one, of my white knuckled clenched grip, could I experience the unimaginable gift of purpose.  Which, in return, ushered in the very presence of rest.  A rest where exhaustion and heavy negative emotions were no longer dictating that of my reality;  but where surrender, reverence, trust and an unfathomable experience of the love of God, formed the way I now operated and shaped my life.


I have found it to be undoubtedly true, that Jesus is indeed the cure for the insecure.  And the more I let-go of that which depletes me of the very purpose of my existence, the more I find my life.

May the Christmas bell of the heart, this season and beyond, refuse to cling; so that it can continue to ring. Ring, for the One in which the heart will sing.


Merry Christmas, joy



Monday, November 28, 2016

Scoliosis of the Heart

Sometimes it still overwhelms me that I have two 18 inch titanium bars running up and down my spine.

A Spine that was prone to wander, to curve beyond its boundaries, to engage in that which was beyond its God-given design. 

They say a spine is the internal infrastructure to the human body.  Supporting the bodies weight, facilitating movement, operating flexibility and protecting the vulnerable spinal cord from injury that would alter both the brain and inner organ functions.  And if that weren't enough, the spine's individual vertebrates each house nerves which extend from the brain throughout the body sending movement, thought and sensory perception signals.

It's no wonder God uses analogies such as "straight paths, straight ways, straight roads, straight feet and straight direction," when describing a life of abundance, of liberation, of hope, of joy- and most importantly, of restoration.

God's in the business of restoring the crooked spinal column of the heart. He finds such deep satisfaction in being the surgeon to my life.  Taking my curved, wandering, self-destructive heart and implanting His divine, supernatural, life giving guard rails along my prone-to-wander soul; straightening the very central support beam of my life so that my wandering, curving, crooked heart would stay where it's safe.  Where it's protected. Where it's offering life to others.  Where it's bearing good fruit. Where it's tasting sweetness of hope. Where it's a blessing and no longer a curse.

But this wandering spine of my heart, yep, it's prone to venture beyond its God-permitted design.

It was in the curved path of both my life and spine where pain was experienced. Where conflict of purpose was tasted. Where confusion of boundaries was cultivated.

The curve of my spine resisted staying within its safe boundaries of protection.  And as a result, the body, the organs, the brain, the nerves-- they were all negatively effected by the health of my spine. How often I, too, see how my children, my husband, my friends, my family, are all affected by the condition, the health of the spine of my heart.  A scoliosis-of-the-heart has enough power to set my life off balance.

Jer 50:5 "They will start back home again.  They will BIND themselves to the Lord with an eternal covenant that'll never be forgotten."

I started back home again. After chronic pain, daily exhaustion, consuming fear, anxious thoughts, restless sleeps-- I, too, started home again. 

And the moment I started my journey back home, God binded the vertebrates of my heart to His perfect, good, pleasing, restful, joy-filled titanium bars of protection.  Bars that took the hearts' curved path, and by the steady hands of the Great Physician, surgically straightened it. Releasing me of the shame which gripped my thoughts, the fear which consumed my mind, the counterfeit love which deceived the heart, the curve which disfigured the soul.

Ironically, I learned just today that the titanium rods in the spine are no longer needed after approximately twelve months of recovery. They're originally put into place while the spine permanently fuses and binds itself into its new straight position. Once the fusion is complete, the rods are no longer the primary source of preventing that which was curved from becoming crooked again.  God's guard rails of the path of life are similar. The bars along the newly straightened path are boundaries, perimeters, safety measures; so that while I'm still unsteady, still unable to keep straight the path He's laid out before me, He's keeping my feet steady and straight, all the while protecting my heart from returning to its former crooked position.

And this is precisely how God interceded with my own feeble human heart. Enabling a season of growth, of self-evaluation, of healing, so that He could be given access to straighten out the curves, level out the mountains, raise up the valleys, smooth out the path (Isaiah 40:3-5) and place His titanium guard rails along the boundary of the scoliosis heart; so that I am protected, guided, mentored, nurtured, re-parented and filled with the Life-Giving presence of Jesus.


Although my new normal comes with new limitations; every time I walk, stand and sit, the stiff bars within my spine remind me how good God is.  How grateful I am to have a constant, tangible reminder in the inner fiber of my being that I have a God who takes the scoliosis of my heart and surgically straightens each individual vertebrae so that I can experience first hand Isaiah 30:21: "Wether you turn to the left or to the right, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying "this is the way, walk in it." 

If you have found yourself on the crooked path of life, dear friend, there is no question as to why you are reading this. He has brought you here, in this place, at this time, so that He alone can surgically, gently, and radically transfer your heart into a straight, smooth and guard-railed path. A path offering hope. A path offering rest. A path offering refreshment. A path offering joy. A path offering freedom from the exhaustion, fear and anxiousness the crooked heart obtained.  

Gods simple recipe for straightening the scoliosis of our hearts remain the same:
"In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight ." Proverbs 3:6. 

If you and I desire and choose to seek His will for our life, He promises to surgically align the spine of our heart with His protective titanium bars of radical love, unfathomable grace and abundant life.  Please know this, He is a good God who WILL "make His way STRAIGHT before you." (Psalm 5:8) 


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

I hope you dance



This is to all the soon-to-be mamas and the mamas of all stages and ages.  I have a guest writer today blessing us all with a precious gift God has given her-- the ability to take that which our mommy hearts experience and to put them into words that enlighten and lift the human spirit.

Recently she posted on Facebook a difficult truth us moms rarely authentically share, yet almost all experience-- the raw reality of feeling not good enough.  A not-good-enough mom, a not-good-enough wife, a not-good-enough friend, a-not-good-enough employee, a-not-good-enough ____ (Fill in your blank.) And if that weren't enough, we simultaneously experience a disruption, a confusion in our purpose, our calling, our identity amongst the chaos and isolation mama hood often catapults us into. 

And yet, through the years, the weeks, the days and the moments, we're left with the absolute truth that "our babies ARE our ministry."  As Tess so eloquently and perfectly shared, "it is rarely glamorous, or praised, or respected in our culture today.  But when you lose your life for that which can't be lost, it's all worth it."

May you be deeply refreshed, strongly encouraged and joyfully filled as you read from the heart of my dear friend, Tess Aven:

"Motherhood will be nothing like you expected and so much more than you ever hoped it would be. You will wipe away his tears, keep him from falling, pray over him continuously, and tirelessly watch him as he sleeps. 

He will reach for you from across the room, laugh at your silly faces, hold your hand, bring you flowers, make you smile when you're feeling sad, watch you to see if you're watching. 

It is those sweet exchanges that will help you to put one foot in front of the other in the ordinary and the mundane. 


During those times when you are, yet again, spending countless sleepless nights, making unexpected trips to Walgreens, cleaning up his crumbs from the floor, packing his lunch, cleaning his room, or taking him to school, there will not be a more important role you will ever have, next to loving his Daddy well, than this.... motherhood. 

One thing I have grown to see is that God equips us to do what we feel incapable of doing. Sometimes the busyness from one season to the next can keep us from what matters most. My encouragement to you would be to stop and listen intently, speak life, play often, laugh hard, hug always... 

Be ok with the imperfect. 

It is the hardest, most purposeful, perpetual, organically beautiful, captivating, rewarding job you will ever have. 

This I pray for my children and I invite you to do the same for you precious ones:  

"The lord God is my strength, my personal bravery and my invincible army.  He makes my feet like hinds' feet and will make me to walk- not stand in terror, but to walk- and make spiritual progress upon my high places (of trouble, suffering or responsibility!)" Habakuk 3:19

There is no better person in the world than YOU to be your little one's mommy.  So when you get the chance to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance!"


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Every family has a story, welcome to ours.




This is a new season for us-- our daughter likes a boy, a lot.

And honestly, I fear for her eventual broken heart. Her inevitable shattered emotions.  Her imminent shaken spirit-- after the break up.


But it begins with who's in the control tower of her life.  Who's there?  Is it a boy?  A presidential candidate?  A substance?  A feeling?  A counterfeit comfort?  Who and what holds the prescription to her joy, her peace, her hope, her identity, her emotional stability, and most importantly, her security.


They say the phone lines at the National Suicide Prevention reached an all-time high in over 25 years after the presidential election.


They say local schools are offering grief counseling for our children who have been traumatized by the outcome of the presidential debate.

They say scheduled class time have been cancelled for collegiate level students to grieve with an on-site therapist and the offer is being accepted by the multitudes.

They say streets of large cities are being flooded with weeping, confused and angry US citizens-- while each tear drop, hitting the well-worn concrete pavement, represent a deep, abiding sense of hopelessness, anxiety, loss and of course, fear.


And many watching eyes from their family room television sets are left whispering, why??


"Faith," I say to my sweet girl in these recent days, "love is wonderful.  Love is joyous.  And God made us relational beings so that we are to do life with one another and love each other well.  Yet, when we have given someone access to a place in the heart which gives them power over our security, control over our emotions, authority over our safety, provision over our heart condition, and dominion over our identity-- we've simply de-throned Jesus from His rightful place and replaced His position with someone who will ultimately, inevitably, and undeniably let-you-down.  Spouses, friendships, parents, siblings, presidents, kings-- they're all valuable people, wonderful bonuses, helpful resources, gifts from God.  But the mili-second they have the authority to dictate your hope, dear daughter, into complete hopelessness, to dictate your joy into utter despair, to dictate your Light into absolute darkness, you can be sure God has been dethroned from His position in the control tower of your heart," I share with her, as I'm speaking directly into my own prone-to-wander heart.


I repetitively and annoyingly remind her to love and to love well.  But to know her worth.  To know her value.  To know her security.  To know her anchor.  Because when an important relationship fails, a long term position dissolves, a health issue attacks, a presidential candidate takes office, she will be unshakeable. Unshakably certain in who she is and in whom she belongs.


Yes, her human heart will hurt.  Her human soul will sting.  But her Divine control tower will not loose its sure footing in the deep knowing she was made for a purpose, a destination, a calling of that which supersedes a failed relationship, an uncertain nation, a deep loss.  The blows of life will indeed be felt, but they will not be given permission or direct access into the dictation of her hope.


A hope that does not fail.


It was late one school-night evening last week.  

I had been asleep for some time and woke to a small spark of light peeking into the upstairs hallway.  As I groggily followed and moved closer to this distant light, I noticed it was coming from the small space under my daughters closed door.  Immediately, my thoughts went to her being on the phone with this boy significantly later than what she was permitted.  So, I did what any good mama would do (this was not my finest moment) and secretively creeped open the door just enough to catch her red handidly.  But what my eyes saw was quite different than what my wrongful assumptions tempted me to believe.  There she was, crawled up into her favorite blanket, in her favorite position, reading my favorite book-- God's Word.  I slowly and quietly slid the door back into its former closed position and crawled my in-awe heart back into bed, filled in abundance with peace.  Peace knowing that in this moment, right here, tonight, she was exactly where she needed to be; inviting God into the control tower of her heart.

"Those who have fled to God for refuge can have a great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us.  This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.  It leads us into His presence." (Hebrews 6 18&19)


Yep, it's inevitable.... the break-up.  But what's not inevitable is the break of her anchored heart.  A heart which belongs to the One who holds it in the palm of His safe, secure, hope-promised hands.  The same One which is holding yours as well--- where you can walk confidently, securely, purposefully and peacefully in the face of challenging circumstances.  


As the late Brennan Manning used to say:

"Define yourself as one radically loved by God.  This is your true-self.  Every other identity is just an illusion."

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The unthinkable through a handshake



It was the early spring of 2016.  

A spring season following that of a rough season. A persecution season. An injust season. An unfair season. A hurtful season for my fifteen year old first born girl.

On this particular night, the lights were intensified, the cheering fans were chanting and the piercing sound of basketball shoes screeching the thickly glazed basketball court echoed off the high school gymnasium walls and into the foundation of the bleachers where my husband and I sat watching the high school basketball game.

Yet, through the chattering and penetrating noise of the watching crowd, I notice from the top row of our bleacher seat, him walk in. 

Him, as in, the boy who persecuted our daughter just months before through aggressive, purposeful, damaging and malicious words.

He had a strong dis-like for a God he never knew. A strong dis-like for those that followed Him. A strong dis-like for our girl he desired to date, yet was told by her that her one love was only Jesus in that season of her life. 

Yep, it was him.

Memories immediately flooding my thoughts to just months before, wrestling with how to seek justice for this young mans cruel words, hateful phone calls and daily verbal attacks towards my daughter. 

These days were filled with  Jamie and I taking hands, pleading before the Lord-- seeking counsel and His wisdom as to what to do. Who to tell. How to protect. When to move. 

We wanted justice. 

Our baby girl being persecuted because of her faith in God was more than my heart could take most days. And as a direct result, this mama heart cried for justice!

And yet, each and every time we brought our hurting hearts before the Lord for direction, we would collectively walk away with a confident-knowing He was unquestionably saying "Be still."  

And so we did. We waited. We prayed. We cried-- all the while being still in the deep, unshakeable knowing that His love and protective instincts to care for our daughter superseded, beyond comprehension, that of our own.

However, this moment of watching the young man walk through the doors of the high school gymnasium ushered in the annoying reminder that justice had not yet been served, executed or completed to the level of justice my earthly flesh desired --- and truthfully, desired from God.  I felt the blood rush into my face as I wavered between an internal battle of wanting to weep at the sight of this young man and yet longing to clock him one straight into his face.

In an effort to calm the intense emotions, I tried locking a gaze with my husband, who was also on the top row of the gymnasium bleachers, but a few people down talking with a friend.  As I sought for Jamie's familiar, warm and empathetic eyes, I noticed he was no longer participating in his discussion.  He, too, was now fixated on the sight of this young man standing down on the shiny gym floor.

That's when it happened.

Jamie slowly, yet intentionally stood up and began the long journey down the 15 flights of bleachers-- straight towards this young man near the entrance door.

As much as I desired Jamie to take justice into his own hands, enable this young man to experience our pain, to know the level of hurt his words have caused, and to plead for our forgiveness-- I knew any kind of scene would terribly embarrass our daughter and more importantly, it would simply be an act of straight-up disobedience from what God asked us to do. 

My heart rate increased with each increasing step Jamie made towards this boy.  With one eye closed to pray and one eye open to witness that which was about to take place, I noticed something unpredictable, unnatural, something contrary to what I expected and ashamedly, desired.

Jamie stood before this young man and with all intentionality, he reached out his right arm and shook the boys hand, firmly yet respectfully.  I noticed he shared a few words with the young man and deliberately walked straight back up to the top row of the bleachers. 

As he approached the top row and proceeded to sit next to me, I looked over to him and inquired "What was that?"  He said "I have no idea Joy. I stood up to go down and tell that boy a few things, but when I reached the second to last step I heard a whisper in my Spirit say "Shake his hand and tell him something respectful." So, I did.  I told him it was nice to see him and that my daughter has said nice things about him.

It's a quiet, small, tender whisper, isn't it?

A whisper that's incongruent to a wandering thought, an unreliable feeling, a feeble desire and a clenched-gripped heart to seek justice for that which deserves punishment.

This whisper, it opposes all reason, all rational, all sensible and cognitive thinking.  And yet, there it was. Undeniably camped out in the core of the heart. Yet, Strangely quiet and persistently relentless.

Three days later, as we were in the car together as a family, our daughter received a phone call from this young man.  After answering, she began to repeat, "It's okay.  I've already forgiven you, a long time ago.  No, it's really okay. I promise!  Of course I forgive you."  After hanging up she shared he was crying, weeping over the fact he had hurt her with hateful words, wounded her with evil intentions and slandered her reputation because of her faith in God. 

The handshake he received the night at the basketball game, just three days prior, gave him a glimpse and a taste of the make-no-sense kind of undeserved grace and kindness of Jesus.  Where he deserved punishment, he was offered forgiveness.  Where he deserved penalty, he was given freedom.  Where he deserved justice, he was given grace.  And as a result, it changed him, wrecked him forever.

As the preceding days, weeks, months went by, this young man began to inquire more about the God he witnessed in Jamie's handshake.  He began to have daily bible studies with our daughter, weekly youth group attendance at OakPointe Church and a new relationship with God in his every day life-- which all eventually led to his baptism this August in a lake behind Jamie's parents home.

This young man, he now is a part of our extended family-- one we love and care for a great deal.  One we're honored to be witness to the restoration and redemption of a new life rooted in Christ. He now has a relationship with His True Father-- one that his orphan heart had longed and hungered for.

Had the gentle, unreasonable, make-no-sense kind of whisper been ignored on that spring evening at the high school basketball game--hate and anger would of conquered.  And yet, when obedience and a heart desiring to accurately represent the character of Jesus was fully executed--grace and love prevailed.  

Hearts healed. Lives touched. Generations changed from the simplicity and the counter-cultural obedience to a voice of an internal whisper.  A whisper offering life.

I don't yet know what the future holds for this special young man, but I do know the One who now holds him and his future.

Romans 2:4  speaks to the very heart-beat of this story:

"Don't you see how wonderfully kind, patient and tolerant God is with you?  Can't you see that His kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?"


Grace, it makes no sense. But sometimes it reveals itself in a simple act that has enough power to heal the broken, restore the lost, redeem the fallen and bring a lost young man back into His Fathers embrace.

Yes, grace was met in a handshake.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Hiding among the baggage



God said to a young man, "You are a mighty hero Gideon!" But Gideon replied, "God, this can't be so! I am the least in my entire family!" (Judges 6:12,15.)




Have you ever felt the least of your family?

I have. 

There was my brother....  And than there was, well, me.

And inspite of my family's consistent affirmations of love and praise towards me, in my mind, the facts simply outweighed their sweet words.

My brother is strikingly handsome as all get-out. And don't get me started on the natural, raw, God-given talent that oozes effortlessly out of his angelic vocal chords. 

Truly.

Than there's his innate talent to perform. To light up a stage. To memorize line upon line of hours worth of production material and to consistently be the hit of each and every show.  

There's more-- he's an artist too. Yep I know. He takes a simple pen and an empty blank paper and turns it into absolute creative beauty.

Just when you think there couldn't possibly be more, he also is the founder and head honcho to one of the only creative churches in existence that focuses on the community of creative arts and the acting community.  (It's called the greenroom-- check it out thegreenroom-annarbor.com)


Okay, I saved the best for last. Because of my brothers very existence, my dad turned his life over to Jesus (literally.) He heard Gods audible voice while looking at his new born son in the hospital and chose in that very moment to follow Christ.


My brothers birth brought Dad to Jesus.

I'll never forget the day I walked into Mr. Lenz's choir room in the fall of 1990 to try out for Concert Choir.  Concert Choir was where it was all at! You've reached the top of your vocal game when you've made it into Concert Choir.

I was much more interested, however, in wearing that satin royal blue floor-length flowing performance dress than the singing portion of it.

But, I never did get the opportunity to wear that satin royal blue floor length gown. (I'm still grieving over that loss.) And even though Mr. lenz' excitement that Scott's sister was there to tryout for Concert Choir surpassed that of my own excitement to one day parade the stage wearing my royal blue satin dress, it soon fizzled out. Quickly. Abruptly.

His face lit up as I approached his piano. "Look everyone!"  He proudly announced to the handful of cool high school singers lingering in the choir hall. "Scott's Sister is here to try-out!" as he smiled from ear to ear.  


The room grew fearfully silent as he straightened his back, placed his hands perfectly and properly on the ivory keys and pressed his three fingers gently on the C chord for me to follow with my voice.

Within seconds the exaggerated ear-to-ear hopeful grin, without even a slight hesitation, turned to a look of panic, than to a look of confusion, than to a look of just utter disappointment.

Yep, than there was me.

But in spite of my own obvious weaknesses, I remember vividly experiencing a depth of proudness that bubbled over while listening to my brother delicately sing life into a song, or confidently preach on stage, or effortlessly perform in a theatre production.  I loved (under statement) wearing the label of "Scott's sister."    

But, this title all too soon and all too easily became a piece of my own identity. 

Scotts sister. 

I hid under this label because my brokeness, my bondage, my fear, my anger, my toxic thinking, my emotional strongholds, my unforgiving spirit-- they all fed my heart lies that I would never find wholeness, fulfillment, purpose and genuine life-giving intimacy with God. But at least I had one good thing going for me... I was Scott's sister!

A man named Saul was chosen by God to be the very first King of a nation. And when Saul found this out, he immediately said "This can't be! My family is the least important of all the families of the land.  Why are you talking like this to me?" (1 Samuel 9:21.)

But God persisted and chose Saul to be king. So, soon after thousands upon thousands of people gathered together in one place to see and be introduced to their brand new king Saul!

"But Saul was no where to be found. When they looked for him, he had disappeared!" (1 samuel 10:21.) 

Why?

The story reads : 
Because "He was hiding among the baggage!" 
The king that God hand chose was hiding among the baggage. (1 Samuel 10:22 nlt)

I was hiding behind some baggage too.

I know I'm not a King, but I am the daughter of One. And He has whispered ever so gently, yet persistently--- come out from under the weight of your baggage, Joyelle. Come out of hiding and allow me to fulfill the purpose, the calling, the plan of your life.

"But God," I'd whisper in my spirit, "I'm naturally naive. Naturally foolish. Naturally lacking in common sense. Naturally un-talented." 

"Yes, that's you away from the cross." God would share as He spoke directly to my heart. "But next to the cross, sweet daughter, anything is possible."  

 "For the lord grants wisdom, from His mouth comes knowledge & understanding. He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest.  He is a shield to those who walk with integrity. He guards the path of the just & protects those who are faithful to Him." Prov 2:6-8

In other words, God's looking for a heart that seeks Him. He sees beyond my fragile humanness, my hindered weaknesses, my less than perfect vocal chords or even my natural strengths --- and goes straight to the heart.

"The Lord doesn't see the things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7.)

God uses both the naturally talented and the least-of-the-family to accomplish His purpose. There's no human lack or human strength that prevents him from using us; as long as there's a humble, willing, thirsty, obedient heart within these human tents, as frail or as mighty as they may be, pleading  "Here I am lord, send me. And I will give to you ALL the glory due."

Is He, by chance, calling you out from among your baggage?

To prop up your head just ever so slightly above the mess of the baggage and see your Father reaching out for you?  Waiting for you to rid yourself of the weight of your past, the lies of the enemy and the shame of your weaknesses-- so that you'll embrace the life of purpose He has hand-crafted, hand-sewn, hand-designed, hand-structured, hand-chosen, just for a time as this... for you and for me?

My brother, yep, he's pretty talented and creative and handsome.  But he, too, will be the first to share that all of his natural strengths mean nothing when compared to the incomparable power and incomprehensible might of Gods spirit working within our surrendered, weak and fragile bodies-- so that His power alone is what radiates through the cracks of these human vessels . His. power. alone.