The Puke Parable

Picture this: One of your friends gets sick with the stomach flu and is puking into a toilet every time you come over. Chances are, you’re not going to get angry and offended because they’re throwing up around you. You probably wouldn’t approach them and say, “What’s wrong with you? Why are you being so disrespectful to me by throwing up around me? What did I do to you that made you so upset that you had to go and make a mess in our relationship?”

Chances are, you would just support them, realize that what’s happening on the outside is just a manifestation of something not right that’s happening on the inside, trying to evacuate their system. If they threw up on your shoes, you wouldn’t take it as a personal attack and therefore withdraw your friendship, and you probably wouldn’t assume that you’re the only person getting that treatment.

Unfortunately, this isn’t how we respond oftentimes in our relationships when gunk starts coming to the surface. When our friends and family act in a way that is contrary to their nature and the heart that God has put in them, we either get hurt, offended, hostile, or we distance ourselves. Any one of those is too easy to do in response to the negative stimulus of vomit-like behavior.

What we sometimes fail to recognize is that everyone goes through seasons, and God is constantly drawing the dross from our depths as he continues to purify us. And in order for the dross to be slaked off and removed forever, it has to surface. When it surfaces, it’s going to spread over the top of the silver and change the silver’s appearance–but does that mean that the silver is no longer silver just because the dross is the most visible ingredient in the purifying container? Absolutely not.

It’s the same with people. When we are born again, God gives us a new heart and we are called saints, and the purification process begins. So many have dropped out of the Church early on in their walk because of the constant conviction they feel for sin in their lives. “Oh, I’m supposedly holy and perfect now that I’m born again–but now all I see is the sin in my life! I’m so discouraged! This doesn’t feel good. It’s not worth it to feel this way all the time, so I’m leaving.”

This is neither an unrealistic nor an uncommon thought pattern to have, especially if you’re surrounded by people who demand an explanation for your feelings, your behavior and your sins. “Why are you vomiting all over my shoes?” is an accusation that can only be answered with a mumbled apology as you stagger back to try to make it back to the toilet before your body tries again to expel whatever has made it sick in the first place.

When how we relate to people is dependent on their behavior and not their identity, we create relationships of punishment, woundedness and distrust.

I strive to be the kind of leader that relates to people based on their identity and their potential, whether they are curently operating out of that potential or not. My prayer is that God would forge me into a person who can see beyond the puke, beyond the mess, beyond the mistakes, into the heart of the matter. That I would have the same attitude as our Lord who said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, sick people do.” That I would be an active solution, a healer to a world of hurting people, not the self-appointed informant diagnosing death sentences for every symptom.

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Day 2 – Short Circuit (Part 1)

Readers, I would like to take a brief note to thank you for your patience. You have stuck with me through over 60 incredibly verbose blog posts, missed deadlines, and sometimes me dropping off the face of the blogging earth for months at a time–yet hear you are, your beautiful eyes gracing my eager journalism. You bless me big. Thank you.

Read Day 1 here. Want to know what Power Surge is? Click here!

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After sleeping horribly with terrible dreams, I woke up bright and early at 6 and slunk into the kitchen to prepare a pot of coffee (Emily’s family always has the best coffee) and read my Bible before the morning got busy.

Before long, Mark lumbered into the kitchen as well and started moving around to get his breakfast and lunch ready. We talked about how good God is (an endless topic, to be sure). I got the chance to sozo/shabar Mark a bit, and it was absolutely cool because when he pictured a little boy, he saw a porcelain doll of a little Dutch boy. Holy Spirit saw that I was puzzled at this unusual description, so He whispered to me, “It’s like Pinocchio.”

We asked father God what the little boy needed, and His response was, “He needs to be brought to life…like Pinocchio.”

Talk about confirmation! It was so awesome! I got a little bit further in my Sozo tools, but then Mark left for work and I read some Bible.

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Emily and I went to the church a little bit later to drop off sleeping bags and meet the new interim pastor, Stephen. His 18-year-old daughter, Eryca, was there also. Instantly, I fell in love with both of them. They are as loud as I am, always smiling, and can’t seem to go two minutes without talking about how amazing God is.

Emily and I met with Eryca for about an hour where we shared testimonies. I was impressed and inspired by Eryca’s story and how her parents raised her into her identity. She shines so freely! I shared our testimony of God’s faithfulness coming through for our wedding in September, and it was a golden-apple-timely-word of confirmation for Eryca and her family, that I had no idea they even needed! We had a wonderful time, I got to sing over her, and Holy Spirit was ridiculously heavy on all three of us.

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Best. Game. Ever.

After scrambling to get the rest of everything we needed for the retreat, it was go time. 5 o’ clock rolled around and kids started showing up, one by one. I was anxiously waiting for Levi to get off work and drive down to Vancouver, but in the meantime I ate dinner and played games with the kids, getting a chance to get acquainted with them.

I fell fast in love with all of them, particularly Sammy.
Sammy is thirteen years old. He is one of the most optimistic people I have ever met in my life. He’s affectionate, loves games, and absolutely LOVES praying when it’s time to bless a meal.

But if you saw a picture of him, that probably wouldn’t be the first conclusion you’d jump to. Sammy was diagnosed six months ago with bone cancer when a sports physical to clear him for football season revealed a tumor in his knee. Sammy has gone through 40 weeks of chemotherapy, and now that his hair is gone, he prides himself on bearing a close resemblance to Voldemort.

When we were getting in line for dinner, I was just behind him when he asked loudly, “Who wants to pray for me?”

Very seriously, I looked him in the eye and said, “I would love to pray for you. What would you like prayer for?”

Sammy gave me a hard look and said, “What do you think? I’ve got cancer.”

“I know,” I replied, still being absolutely dead serious. “But I don’t want to think of you as just Sammy with cancer. I want to think of you as my friend Sammy, who has cancer for the time being but probably has a lot of other things he’d like prayer for as well.” I told him that I didn’t want to have our relationship revolve around the temporary fact of his disease. I think that really impacted him, because afterward he didn’t say any more, but sat with me at dinner.

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I left early to prepare songs for worship, and Levi showed up just when I was getting super anxious about when he was going to get there. Sweet relief! The youth group filed in for worship and Levi and I began the first song, with me leading on guitar and Levi singing backup while doing some sweet rhythms on a bongo. We were seated on the steps of the stage, at eye level with the group, who sat in a semicircle of chairs around the stage.

The music was great, I was singing my heart out…

Then I stopped. And started talking to the group. My heart was pounding and my mind was screaming WHAT ARE YOU DOING??? because I was going against every performance inclination I’d rehearsed; but I needed to make something very clear.

“Is this what you need?” I asked, taking the time to look each and every one of them in the eye. “Because if this isn’t what you need, we can do something else. We are here for you. It’s not the other way around. And we don’t want to come up here in front of you and go through the motions for the three days that we have together with you, then go home feeling good about ourselves while leaving you with absolutely nothing.”

It was silent in the sanctuary as they realized I was serious, then one or two of them spoke up and said, “This is what we need.”

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So we continued. And we worshiped our little hearts out. I stopped again after the second song to share a word that Holy Spirit put on my heart about a sacrifice of praise in even the worst circumstances and situations, and then Levi and I taught them “One Thing Remains” by Jesus Culture. It felt like we sang it forever, yet it felt like we didn’t sing long enough.

We moved into the youth room to transition into “lesson time.” I had no idea what to give a “lesson” on, and I wasn’t feeling any promptings from Holy Spirit, so I just started to tell my testimony. Little did I realize, the majority of my audience were 13-to-15-year-olds with attention spans that short-circuited very easily. Not even fifteen minutes into my story, I was losing them.

If you want to find out what happened next, follow and subscribe to the blog, and don’t forget to Like the Facebook page!  See ya next post!

Repossess My City

There is an awesome event going on in Olympia called Repossess. It was started either my freshman or sophomore year of high school, and has been growing exponentially ever since. A common catch phrase for Repossess, as listed above in the title, is “Repossess My City,” or “Taking Back Our City.” I never questioned that slogan before, but I’m glad one of my friends did. He’s been asking around on Facebook for a while–“What is Repossess trying to ‘take our city back’ from?”

It took quite a bit of praying and searching my own heart to find an answer that satisfied me. I’d heard people answer, “Satan!” or “from demons and evil spirits!” but that didn’t really resonate with me, because that wasn’t what I felt those people on stage who were speaking or worshiping were trying to communicate. Here is my answer:

I think the personal answer I feel strongest about is that so many people in our community feel hopelessly helpless over their own lives. Even if we restrict that “people” qualifier to just youth ages 12-19, I know personally my life was hell for most of those years. My family, my feelings, my relationships–EVERYTHING I was involved with was so out of control for me.

The first Repossess I went to was the one that came to Tumwater. It had been a horrendous week; the Saturday before, I got the phone call that one of my classmates had killed himself. I’d never experienced anything like that before and I had no idea how to handle it. The rest of the week was a haze until Friday, when I had Subdistrict competitions for Swim team, Sean’s memorial service, and Repossess all in the same day. I almost didn’t go. I was this close not to going. But I went, because I needed hope SO bad.

At first it was painfully awkward because I was not Christian…as in, AT ALL. I hated church, hated God, hated anybody who had anybody to say about any of it. So the singing and the raising of hands and that weird peer pressurey atmosphere was just weird for me and uncomfortable and I did not like it…it didn’t do anything for me.

But then our principal got up and spoke, broke down in tears several times during his message, and shared the most glowing heart of compassion for Sean’s friends and family and our community in grief. That was what touched me, was someone who cared THAT much. I don’t even remember the message. I have no idea what he said, but what stuck with me was just this deep, deep love that I had never felt from anybody before. How vulnerable our principal was when he got up in front of us. He wasn’t the peppy, charismatic public speaker he usually was in front of us at assemblies or announcements, but he was so real and so down-to-earth with us. That impacted me so much and has stayed with me ever since.

So…I don’t know if that answers the question. But Repossess came into my life at a time when I desperately needed it, and it kept me going. It’s impacting hundreds and thousands of young people’s lives, and giving them hope–something our communities are sadly deficient in and probably wouldn’t even know how to define if asked. And I don’t mean that derogatorily–we have these words that we have really vague definitions for, like love and hope and peace and joy, all .these things that are supposed to be so big and important and intense, yet so difficult to grasp.

Power Surge 2012 – An Introduction

Last weekend, Levi and I had the privilege of going down to Vancouver to speak at a youth retreat for a Free Evangelical Church.

It was ridiculously awesome.

Just to give you some background, the church has recently gone through an enormous upheaval in leadership. They are dusting off the debris of destructive doctrine and stepping into a new season of romance with God. They have a new interim pastor and his family who moved recently from Michigan, and with them they brought a double dose of Holy Spirit! (Can you tell I’m excited?)

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Levi and I went down with explicit instructions from Holy Spirit—we were not to prepare a message. Our charge was simply to prepare ourselves. Easy enough, right? Take into mind what E.M. Bounds says about this in his book, “Power Through Prayer:”

The character  as well as the fortunes of the gospel is committed to  the preacher.  He makes or mars the message from God to man. The preacher is the  golden pipe through which the divine oil flows. The pipe must  not only be  golden, but open and flawless, that the oil may have  a full, unhindered,  unwasted flow.

The man makes the preacher.  God must make the man. The  messenger is, if possible, more than  the message. The preacher is more than the  sermon. The preacher  makes the sermon. As the life-giving milk from the mother’s  bosom  is but the mother’s life, so all the preacher says is tinctured,  impregnated by what the preacher is. The treasure is in earthen  vessels, and the  taste of the vessel impregnates and may discolor.  The man, the whole man, lies  behind the sermon. Preaching is not  the performance of an hour. It is the  outflow of a life. It takes  twenty years to make a sermon, because it takes  twenty years to  make the man. The true sermon is a thing of life. The sermon  grows  because the man grows. The sermon is forceful because the man is  forceful. 

The sermon is holy because the man is holy. The sermon  is full of the divine  unction because the man is full of the divine  unction.

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The first time I picked up this book, I couldn’t get past those few paragraphs. They have haunted me for about six months, following my every move. And when we were invited to go to the youth retreat and speak, the call to rise to this standard grew louder, and louder, and louder. At first, I resisted just as loudly: “NO God, I don’t want to do that. I want to write a sermon and make it simple for the kids.” Then I turned around and said, “Holy Spirit, what do you want me to talk about?” And He kept bringing me back to this. It was truly a vicious cycle. For about two months, I wouldn’t budge.

Then I relented. As soon as I gave in and lifted the entire retreat up to Him, He came in and started a deep, deep work in me.

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There were weeks where every single night, just as I was about to go to sleep, He would bring to the surface a very painful memory of bitterness or offense in my life. I would lay in bed and soak my pillow with tears while my heart cried. Some nights, Levi was awake and held me to comfort me in my sorrowful repentance as I faced things I had locked away in the closets of my memory. Other nights, it was just me and Papa God, Him holding me as I cried and cried and cried…and then would come the peace and the rest, only to repeat the process the following night with another memory.

Levi and I faced challenges in our own relationship that we needed to work out, and it took running into the arms of wise counselors to find peace in that area. God spoke to both of us about prioritizing our time, and asked us to lay down distractions that we were very reluctant to let go of at first.

But every moment of it was worth it. There was intense testing, blue-hot fires, and tremendous pressure that demanded equally tremendous sacrifice…but it was all worth it. Because every single thing He brought me through was accompanied by His tender reminder that it was all for the sake of the kids we were going to be speaking to at the retreat. He said, “They are worth enough to me to do this.”

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So my response was to fling my arms open and cry out for Him to come closer and burn me all the more. I prayed dangerous, scary prayers like, “God, I want the growth that would normally take years—and I want it now. I want all of you, no matter what it takes.” He heard and honored my prayer.

So many people sowed into the retreat with their prayer and encouragement over Levi and I, and I knew we were being specially anointed for this trip. As the days counted down, I felt the strangest mix of peace and great anticipation, excitement to see everything that God would do!

And He certainly did not disappoint. He was manifest powerfully in His love and His passion over each and every one of us! My life was changed by Him and what He’s doing in each one of the youth we got to spend the weekend with. He brought me toe-to-toe with my greatest fears and my longest-standing chicken lines several times every day, and gave me the choice to turn around and go back to where it was safe. But He also gave me the courage to face my chicken lines and run at them with everything I had—what relief! What reward! What breakthrough!

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The posts following this are an account of the glorious things God did for us that weekend. I hope you claim the promises, the breakthrough, and the spectacular power of the testimonies contained inside!

Let There Be Light

Genesis 1:1-3
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.

Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

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My spiritual father brought this up in church a couple of weeks ago. He read this portion, all the way through much of the first chapter of Genesis, but after the first two verses, he stopped reading, looked up at us, and said, “That was me.”

“The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters.”

That was me. That was you, too. That was all of us.

“And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.”

That was God in my life. That was God wooing me to Him. That was God protecting me from evil and preserving me for a grand purpose that I knew nothing about and certainly didn’t want to have anything to do with.

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I think we have this interesting idea about sinners (the definition for “sinners” being that they are in the world and don’t know Jesus and yahda-yahda) that because they reject God or don’t know anything about Him, that He is absent from the situation and the devil has total control of that person. It takes a lot of courage and a lot of discernment to see God hovering over them, protecting them, brooding over them, being concerned for them, mourning for them, and moving on their behalf, orchestrating things perfectly so they can come into the Kingdom.

And it’s just interesting to me, because a lot of the time we’re unwilling to share our hearts with people and have intimate conversations with them and let them into the safe places of our hearts until we see the conversion point of “Let there be light.” And THEN we acknowledge them as people, THEN we want to know what’s on their heart and what concerns them. THEN we want to be their friend.

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I’m not disregarding what the Bible says. I’m not skipping over the verses of caution that say, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” Yes, we have an enemy. Yes, he is formidable. Yes, he is the prince of this world. Yes, we have to resist the devil so he may flee from us (James 4:7).

But immediately after James writes that, He says “Come near to God, and He will come near to you.”

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Maybe this is just me, but I know I personally have never found encouragement or strength in looking at my enemy. I don’t need to behold him. I don’t need to assess him. I don’t need to analyze him. And I certainly don’t need to focus on how close he is to me.

Because I’m easily impressed with darkness–that’s a great weakness of mine. I used to hear stories about demons and the darkness of the world, and just eat it up without even thinking or questioning what sort of spirit was behind this news and what spirit I was receiving it all in.

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God has given me a gift of great discernment of spirits, and I have to be careful not to get all wrapped up in it all the time. It’s so easy to see someone and notice that there is a spirit of death on them, or a spirit of depression and rejection–and then to take that knowledge and address it in a way I see fit, like go right up to them and say, “Oh, do you have problems with rejection?” Or go and tell my friend, “Hey, so-and-so has a spirit of death on them. We should really pray.” (I think the only reason we should make certain discernment of evil spirits public is so we empower each other to speak life and blessing and encouragement into whomever or whatever the spirit is on.) I hope that makes sense.

With this gift of discernment, and being surrounded by a lot of very prophetic people who are sensitive to the workings of the Holy Spirit, it can be very tempting to focus on the problem and not on the Solution–yes, Solution with a capital S, because the Solution is not a bill passed, a law, a mandate, a behavior, a punishment, a program or a speech–the Solution is a Man. His name is Jesus.

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People come over to our house to pray almost every day–and we’re talking large groups, from spheres and spectrums all across the board, all different ages. And a lot of them pray very fiercely against certain moves of law in our Capitol. Sitting in on these prayer meetings, I quickly became very confused, and extremely exhausted–and discouraged. And my heart was crying out with the desire just to worship and to set our gaze on Jesus and bring Him glory with our words and the meditations of our hearts.

Because my heart is to seek His heart. And if I focus on the problem–the sin condition, the behavior of a person, the way I’m feeling, the offense someone dealt me or another–if I focus on that for any length of time at all, it will start to consume me because darkness is so easily overwhelming when we pull our focus from the Solution.

My only excuse to spend time thinking about these things are so I can say: “Okay Holy Spirit, help me understand this. What is this? …Oh, okay. I understand. Now I will pray equipped, powerful prayers about this. And I give this burden to you. Will you show me your face? Oh Holy Spirit, you’re so good to us,” and so on. My prayer time always begins and ends in worship, exalting who He is, magnifying Him above the problem. And in the face of His glory and His strength and His might, the world just fades away into the background.

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This is not to say that I disagree with words of caution at all, but just to maybe bring a new perspective and share some of my testimony. And if you’re feeling a word of caution that we need to focus on righteousness and that maybe the devil is getting a little too close to our personal business for comfort, I’d like to challenge you to start declaring life to that.

I’d like to challenge you to lead us in declaring over ourselves, things like, “I was made in God’s image” (Gen. 1:27), “I am being transformed by the renewing of my mind” (Rom. 12:22), “I have a new nature–Christ’s nature” (Eph. 4:24), “As God is Holy, so I am Holy” (1 Peter 1:16).

Just try it and see what happens.

Psalm 139:2 – Don’t Think it, Just Drink It

Psalm 139:2 – You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.


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“Why would you take me back after all I’ve done to you? Why would you take me back after all I’ve strayed from you?”- Canopy Red, “Why Would You”

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Oh, Papa. Thank you for being near enough to my heart that you know me, and every part about me, even when I feel like I’m far away. Even when I miss the mark in my thinking or theology, you are still there, watching me oh so intently…

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He knows my every move. He knows what I’m going to do it, as I’m doing it, before I do it, and His hindsight is even better than mine in the aftermath!

Past the literal realm, this speaks to me in that He even sense my spiritual posture. He knows when I am about to collapse with weakness, and He knows when I’m all gung-ho, refreshed, and ready to go.  He doesn’t miss any unspoken cues, and He never turns His eye away long enough to have to rely on just hearing for me to fill Him in on how I’m doing. He’s right there. He’s present. He’s paying attention. 

This means so much to me, because my entire life, my relationship with my dad has been the exact opposite. He lived in another state for most of my life. We only filled each other in on our bi-monthly weekend visits and very scarce phone calls in between. Even now, my relationship with my dad is completely dependent on how up-to-date we keep each other. Since neither of us instigate fill-ins very often, we virtually stay strangers.

And now I have a Dad who stays close by, every single moment of every day, sending His goodness and mercy to chase after me, sending His spirit to rest upon me, and never leaving my side as I walk through the mountains and valleys of this life. What a beautiful exchange! 

Just like a really good friend, who can sense a change in your thoughts, your mood, your attitude, or what you’re about to say before you even say it, God is close enough and intimate enough with me that He knows how I’m poised without me even having to tell Him.  

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You know my thoughts, even when I am far away.

I love this. Just declaring and affirming His nearness brings so much reassurance.

How could a God so insurmountably big be so close to me all the time? It’s like looking at Mount Rainier in the distance and simultaneously knowing every square inch and detail of its surface and surroundings.

But that’s exactly how He is, isn’t it? Even when I feel like I’m far away from Him, or far away from being able to worship, pray, or just rest in Him, He still knows me. This is the most beautifully paradoxical relationship I have ever heard of; how could I be far from Him and He be close enough to me to still know my thoughts so intimately, at the same time? It’s mind-boggling.

Even when I feel like I’m far from His presence, He still knows my thoughts. He’s still going the 100% in our relationship. He’s still willing to do whatever it takes to get love across. And while I can never fathom the measures of this wild, reckless love, there’s also nothing I can do to escape from it.

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If you’re anything like me, it’s easy to forget that  God is close and present all the time. But Jesus said in Matthew 28:20, “I will be with you always, even unto the end of this world.”

I encourage you to join me in the challenge of declaring and believing that He knows us. That He knows our hearts, our positions, our place. He knows our posture. He knows if we’re tired and He knows if we’re ready for a challenge. He will never give us more than we can handle, and who better to know what we can handle than the One who knows us better than we know our own hearts?

We can’t afford to go by whether or not we feel His presence nearby. I fall into this routine so often of going off of what I feel and how I feel Him ministering to my heart in a moment or situation–or conversely, how I don’t feel Him.

I feel a freedom coming on. This freedom will release us from our dependence on feeling and loose us from the binds of basing the measure of His presence on our emotional capacity to feel Him. 

So here is my challenge to you:
Don’t think it–Just drink it.  You don’t have to feel it–just know it, chase it, and the feeling will follow.

I promise.

Psalm 139:1

Psalm 139:1 – O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.

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What comfort. What peace. What joy! He has examined my heart, so I don’t have to—I can just examine His.
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I see Papa, perfect and tender, with a doctor’s coat thrown on over His robe. He kneels down and places a stethoscope to my heart, looking intently into my eyes. Then He gives me the stethoscope, and my eager toddler hands put the earpieces in, and hold the receiving end to His heart.

What a song! What a privilege! Gone are the days of holding the bulb of that stethoscope against my own heart, a frown of confusion and frustration painting my face downcast because I can’t interpret the rhythms of my own heart—or worse, because I think I can.
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He knows everything about me. There isn’t an angle of me He hasn’t investigated. Not one development has gone unforeseen. Every bump, every bruise, every particle of me has been examined. I can’t surprise Him—and yet I can delight Him!

“Your majesty gently washes over me.”
–Kari Jobe

He is so tender and so gracious and so merciful! That He reinforces His sovereignty by gently letting me know that He knows everything about me—and that when He reexamines my heart, the results aren’t death and judgment, but pleasure and affection!

It’s a tender but firm reminder that my mission isn’t to sift through my heart and scrutinize for impurity so I can yank it out—that’s His job. My mission is to romance Him in return. I am questing for His heart, for His face, to know everything about Him.
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My job isn’t to know myself inside and out; that’s a depressing pastime with finite fruit, and after so long of introspection I have discovered that I can’t dig any deeper, that I’ve turned over every stone in my heart there is to turn over.

But if I know His heart, which He has given to me, then I will know my heart. Because you become like that which is your treasure, your object of awe and affection and adoration.

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For He is the infinite adventure! There is no end to the pleasures of knowing His heart! He knows me. He sees me. Every part of me, even down to the cellular level. He knows everything about me, things that even the most knowledgeable surgeon or technician, even the wisest scholar, could never know!

Every  mystery that baffles our minds is simple and, simply, known by Him.

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I am overcome with affection.

“I love you so much,” I say.

Not as much as I love you, is the immediate reply.

The love of the Lord…wow. Astronomic. Titanic. Galactic. Mighty, extravagant love. Overwhelming. Talk about butterflies in the belly.