Written Devotional

Rivers of Living Water Available to Us: Lenten Devotional Week 4

Sabino Canyon Dam

Sabino Canyon Dam

Last week I had a picture posted like this on my Instagram feed. Obviously it's when I was in Arizona because we don't have anything like that near us in South Bend! But I wanted to share with you the inspiration I found while at Sabino Canyon Dam.

First of all I had to do one last hike in this place and the one to the dam was a quick few miles. When I got there I stood at the top of the water fall and hiked down to the base where this photo was taken. I took it laying flat on my stomach on a huge rock that overlooked the waterfall. As I laid there I just took in the scenery and let God speak through the beauty of nature. 

Here's what I heard...

"Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, 'Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.'" John 7:38

I just kept hearing "rivers of living water", "rivers of living water" and when I went to this version that said "from his heart," it just hit me. We let His love into our hearts and it will FLOW from our hearts. 

I have many times in my life lived by a river - the Potomac in Washington, the River Lee in Cork, Ireland, the St. Joseph River in South Bend, and the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia. There are rivers all throughout the Bible. Rivers seem to be a theme and on this trip I realized how much God's love is just constantly flowing and available for all those who thirst for his righteousness. It's a beautiful thing.

That wasn't the only verse to come though. 

Proverbs 21:1-3 MSG

"Good leadership is a channel of water controlled by God; he directs it to whatever end he chooses. We justify our actions by appearances; God examines our motives. Clean living before God and justice with our neighbors mean far more to God than religious performance."

I also like the NLT Version of verse 2-3,

"People may be right in their own eyes, but the Lord examines the heart. The Lord is more pleased when we do what is right and just than when we offer him sacrifices."

As I was walking into this TedX pitch I gave earlier this week it helped set my intention for the moment God was putting me on that stage. His love flows out of me like a river because I receive it and he is more pleased if I share my heart than if I try to "show off." 

One final note. God didn't stop with that intention setting, the view or the verses. I heard these two songs about The River (both awesome) on my last evening there. I thought it was appropriate to share in this devotion if you want to reflect. Next week I'll be talking about how all things may be permissable but all things aren't helpful.

How a Canyon Hike Can be a Spiritual Experience: Week 3 Lenten Reflection

Have you ever had a spiritual experience where you feel so close to God it's almost tangible? I know for me I often feel that way in nature, especially in places of grandeur where mountains are surrounding me. I have found that these moments are when God is reminding me of how much He really wants me to trust in and rely on Him alone.

It's often like a spiritual journey where God just speaks to you through the beauty around you. It makes me think of the movie "The Way" with Martin Sheen. There is something very special about  a long hike. The repeated steps are like a meditation of the soul. You move your body and your mind while your soul gets to take in the beauty. It reminds me of when I used to run marathons. They were such a metaphor for life. But hikes even more so now because I'm just showing up to walk a terrain I know nothing about. I'm not trained for it and getting a medal. I'm getting a deep connection with the Divine, which is much better to me than a medal.

Let me tell you first about the Canyon. 

Towards the end of the hike, taken on the walk back. Trail ahead to the left and canyon to the right.

Towards the end of the hike, taken on the walk back. Trail ahead to the left and canyon to the right.

If you've ever seen or hiked a canyon, you know it's a huge deep almost indent in a mountain landscape where a river flows through. I later looked up the definition which I thought was pretty interesting:

"A deep gorge, typically one with a river flowing through it." Another said, "A deep narrow steep-sided valley formed by a river in the place where there is a little rainfall.”

I thought about this, knowing how much I felt connected to God on this hike and realized the deeper metaphor of God's love, and how His love is deep. The road is wide and his love is a river of life. These verses came to mind:

“And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love us.” - Ephesians 3:18 NLT

“For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” - Matthew 7:14 ESV

“You formed the mountains by your power and armed yourself with might strength. Those who live at the ends of the earth stand in awe of your wonders. From where the sun rises to where it sets, you inspire shouts of joy. You take care of the earth and water it, making it rich and fertile. The river of God has plenty of water; it provides a bountiful harvest of grain, for you have ordered it so.” Psalm 65: 6, 8-9 NLT

If you want to get really deep, it's as if the canyon is the world we walk through - rocky, rugged and rough, and beautiful - and the river is God flowing through at the very depths of it with a constant flow of life.

What's funny is as I walked I found signs of his love...

Every time I walk or hike I find a rock to hold onto that makes me feel connected to God. It's like a reminder that on this journey He's holding my hand. This one was no different. I found one that was a little jagged at the beginning to walk with and one right there on the trial in the water. Each one was a reminder that God is always with it, reminding of us of His great love. I found these and then this one at the destination right in the middle of the waterfall. 

As I walked I just noticed the terrain. Rocks all over the trail, some over three feet high. Some were across streams and you had to balance yourself while walking across (like life). There were almost 10 of these streams to walk across...

The rocks around me had so many layers showing probably how many thousands of years they've stood there, making me feel like my life is so minimal compared to them! What a beautiful example of the depth and layers to life.

That was all just in my surroundings. Inside me was a whole different story. After 3 hours my legs started to get tired. My head wanted me to turn around and give up. My body kept walking and my heart knew I needed to keep going. At one point I even said out loud, "Come on Meredith you can do this."

That's why last week I recommended going by yourself because when you are out there by yourself, it's between you and God. He'll give you the inner strength because he's right there, but you've got to be the one to walk. Not only that, he's didn't bring someone along that you know to push you. He gave you Him to rely on for encouragement. So no matter how hard it gets, how tired you get, you just keep taking the steps. You stop and breathe or take a drink but you do not give up because you know that the journey is worth it because at the end you'll know who carried you. 

I did eventually make it to the waterfalls. I think you can see all 7 of them in this picture below. 

What's funny is there was a woman walking near me the whole time. When I got to that summit, he connected us. I found out about her life; where she's at, why she's doing this hike and what her challenges are in this life. I love to hear people's stories because it's just a reminder that we're all on the road together. What is so cool about our conversation is that we pretty much walked the whole way back together and when we hit the road, the sun started to set all around us.

I have seen some pretty amazing sunsets in my day but that one was glorious and lasted to the very moment we hit the parking lot. It was 360 views all around of color.

All of that glory was just a reminder of the presence of God and how amazing he is that he would create this day. I couldn't believe how perfect it was from start to finish. But, then I could - because that's what God is all about. Every day He gives us the chance to see just how much he loves us. We just have to notice it. No, we don't always get days like I got on Saturday. But every day we can notice how he is working in our lives and we can see over time that nothing happens out of coincidence. Everything is happening just how He plans it. All we have to do is keep showing up for the road ahead.

___

One last thing.

I heard this song when I had just finished my last hike of the weekend in Arizona and it just really encapsulates the feeling I had from the weekend in nature. I will leave you the video and the lyrics. I'm also going to recommend that you watch the movie "The Way" if you haven't seen it and if you are a soundtrack buff like me, listen to the score. I know I've recommended it before but it is one of my favorites for writing and just reflecting. Check it out on ITunes.

"The Maker"
I see You in the sunrise
I see You in the rain
I see You in the laughter
I feel You through the pain

Everything that You have made is beautiful
Oh, my God, I can't believe my eyes
But in all of this to think that You would think of me
Makes my heart come alive

[Chorus:]
Your love is like a mighty fire deep inside my bones
I feel like I could climb a thousand mountains all at once
And I never have to wonder if somebody cares for me
I love the Maker
And the Maker loves me

I see You, You are creation
I see the grandness of Your majesty
The universe is singing all Your glory
I can't believe You live inside of me

Everything that You have made is beautiful
Oh, my God, I can't believe my eyes
But in all of this to think that You would think of me
Makes my heart come alive

[Chorus]

More than just some words upon a page
You've shown me in a million ways
But there is one that stands above them all
Hands of creation on a cross

[Chorus]

 

 

From Needing to Justify to Remembering my Justification through Faith

I was struggling this morning feeling like I have to justify myself all the time. If I really think about it I can see how I do it with my husband around my work, my finances, or my time. It's not like he asks for it. He doesn't. In fact, he wonders why I do it and challenges me to look at it.

This morning my husband didn't have to challenge me though. I challenged my own thoughts and feelings around it. If something is bothering me, I've got to go within, look at my behavior, what might be causing it and what I can do to change it with God's help. 

One thing I know I'll be doing is adding this to my prayer list,

 "God help me to let go of my need to justify for it is through faith in you that I am justified. That's it and more than enough."

The next thing is as I was writing this, I thought about the three actions that I get wrapped up in doing when I tend to justify and let me tell you - a waste of time.

1. Justify

2. Defend

3. Explain (sometimes overly)

Then I repeat the cycle. I'm learning from experience and age that it's a process of going around in circles with no end and I'm ready to get aware, and get out of it. 

So, here's what I did this morning. I got on the elliptical and I looked up struggling with justification knowing I'd find some blog and at some point I'd get led to scripture which was ultimately where I wanted to go.

The first article was this one: "16 Things You Shouldn't Have to Justify to Anyone Else," by Marc Chernoff. I don't know why we feel the need to justify ourselves but I believe it gets harder the more we give of ourselves and share the road with people we love. We give so much that we forget ourselves and feel guilty - so we justify.

 We just need to BE us! #5, 8, 13 and 16 speak to me right now. How about you?

The other thing I found was this article from the American Express website, "The 6 Excuses Entrepreneurs Use to Justify their Struggling Business."  Okay, I'm an entrepreneur. Although it seems glamorous and in many ways it's nice to make your own hours, be your own boss and work from home, it's also tough. I'm just getting back into my business after two years of a pretty crazy personal life. I'm picking up coaching clients again, getting speaking engagements and writing more. You've got to show up intentionally with focus to make a living from something you really believe in, and it takes a lot of faith in God. I've got to not just believe in Him, I've got to believe that He's got the ultimate plan and he's working it all out for His good. Period. He IS my boss ultimately. He wants me to show up for life and glorify Him.

As my mother-in-law said to me when she was leaving for Iowa this morning, "Well, we say in our family - good things take time," and I agree. Yup, that and commitment and a lot of letting go of making excuses. I know that my shoulder surgery and following weight gain has made me want to play the victim role. I also know that with such a full plate at home as a wife and stepmom, I can easily get distracted by being present. But I can take being present to the extreme of not doing anything when I need to keep a balance of letting God show up to keep me present and keeping some structure.

So, all that being said, I got to the end of my google search and finally found a Lesson on Bible.org titled, "Justification by Faith Alone" by Steven Cole. I recommend you check it out, especially if you are coming to know Christ through faith, not faith AND works or religion itself.

I related to what this gentleman shared greatly. Growing up Catholic it was never justification through faith alone, but justification by faith and works.

I know for a fact in the depths of my soul and spirit that the minute I accepted Christ into my life, it wasn't about rules, regulations or works anymore. It was about Him. My little bit of faith at the time was the seed that allowed Him to come into my life and me to give Him all of me. I realized in that very moment there was nothing I could ever DO myself to change that. In the book I wrote, "Healthy Voice: Life Beyond the Weight," I speak of the moment I came to the Lord and the verse I share that speaks right to where I was at is Galatians 2:20, "My old self as been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me." This morning Utmost for His Highest referred to the scripture similar from Romans 7:9, "Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died."

The author of this Justification through Faith study, reminds me as a Christian that I am saved by grace through faith, not works. I can't earn it.

 He makes four points. I pulled out a few quote concepts for you to catch what he's saying. I don't expect everyone to understand this, but those who have been saved by grace no matter how much they tried to do before - they know this...so it's more of a reminder and itself a justification or reminder that you ARE justified through faith alone...

1. Justification is God's declaring the guilty sinner to be righteous on the basis of Christ's death. To quote, "Justification does not mean to make righteous, as the Catholic Church teaches, but rather, to declare righteous."

2. The means of justification is faith in Christ's death. "Faith is not the basis of our justification; rather, it is the means. Faith is the hand which receives God’s provision in Christ. The basis for justification is that the just penalty for sin has been paid by an acceptable substitute. The justice of God must be met, and Jesus Christ paid that penalty." (Hello, that's why he died on the cross - for ALL of our sins!)

3. The only kind of people God justifies are the ungodly who do not work to be justified. "Hear me on this: You cannot and will not be justified in God’s sight as long as you think that you can earn it or deserve it."

4. The transaction of justification takes place the instant a sinner believes in Christ. He mentions, "Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote, “If you cannot see that you can become a Christian immediately, at this moment, you have not grasped the doctrine. The moment one sees this doctrine one says, ‘Yes, I see that it is as possible for me to become a Christian now as it will be in a thousand years. If I withdrew from the world and became a monk or a hermit and spent my whole days in fasting and sweating and praying, I would be no nearer than I am now.’ God justifies the ungodly” (Romans: Atonement and Justification [Zondervan], p. 179) at the instant they believe in Christ. (That's exactly what I started with - just knowing the minute I began to really believe.)

A FINAL THOUGHT

My point is to show you where God took me in my devotion time this morning - from an inner struggle to His strength. I wanted to share the process - from my heart, to my head to HIS power, so that you could remember next time you feel like justifying something, you don't have to justify who you are. Remember WHOSE you are and how amazing it is that there is nothing you can DO yourself that would help you earn his love or make him love you any less. That was life changing for me and continues to be and I have to be reminded of it on a regular basis. 

I hope you all have a great week and catch yourself the next time you feel like you have to justify. Realize where it takes you and if you believe, who you are justified in, because it's Christ.

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