Morning Meditations: Hallowed be Your Name -Matthew 6:9

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“Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name…” -Matthew 6:9

What if our prayers began with a “hallowed be Thy name”? Where truly before we thanked God for anything, before we made our requests known to Him, we first lifted up His holy name.  Wouldn’t our requests be made more in line with the reality of who He is not what we wanted Him to do?  Wouldn’t our prayers be more kingdom minded then worldly minded?  Wouldn’t our prayers first seek the Giver rather then the gift?  If only we would discover the JOY of first hallowing His name.

Jesus knew the way to know God, to pray, was first to lift up the name of the one to whom we bring ourselves and all of our desires.  The way was first to pray that His name be hallowed, honored, glorified.  Is that my first prayer, the first desire of my heart, that His name be lifted up above all else?

“Oh Lord, I do not often come to you first with a reverence and awe at the One I have direct access to. I take for granted Your holiness, Your righteousness, Your awesome power.  Let this become my practice, that before anything else “Hallowed be Thy name.”

My August 2016 Book Reviews

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I’ve started a new goal of reading 3 books a month and want to share some of the gems of books I’m discovering along the way in hopes that you may find a great new book to read as well!   Some think I may be a little crazy attempting this goal with a little active  6 month old to look after, but here’s my encouragement to myself and to you… I easily read 2 books last month (August), finishing the 3rd I’m going to include here just by reading 10-15 minutes a night.  I also browse random, mostly insignificant and unhelpful articles online so I figure if I pick up a book instead of my phone, I’ll be able to get through more books!   We’ll see how it goes, I may be including childrens books in my 3 if it doesn’t go so well.  I may include children books just for fun because we have a lot of really good ones I’d love to pass on to you!   Hope you enjoy my book reviews for the month.

For Men Only  by Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn

formenonlyOkay so in the spirit of honesty, this book has taken me a little over a year to read.  Not a good sign for my 3 books a month endeavor.  But in my defense, I had yet to give myself the challenge.  You may be wondering why I’m reading a “For MEN only” book.  Well, our pastor encouraged my husband and I (over a year ago… maybe 2 years ago, I’m bad with time) to each read the book intended for the other spouse and highlight everything that connects the most with us and then discuss what we learn.  Kevin and I have been slowly working through these books together, with him highlighting the things that connect most with him in “For Women Only” and me in “For Men Only”.  We haven’t finished discussing but that has been an incredibly helpful way to go through these books and to stimulate conversation between the two of us that we otherwise wouldn’t have.  We’ve been able to ask questions and understand each other in new and fresh ways.  I love how these books address common issues that men and women face in their communication and helps us understand one another more! Even though it’s taken me awhile to read, I would highly recommend these books and even going through them like Kevin and I are doing to be able to identify the things that more fully relate to the other person.

Twelve Baskets of Crumbs by Elisabeth Elliot twelvebasketsofcrumbs

I love Elisabeth Elliot and you will see her quotes and influence in my life all throughout my writings.   I also want to read all of her books, though I realize to be well rounded I’m trying to branch out to different authors, this month I just was reading her stuff!   This book is a random assortment of ideas and thoughts that she wanted to put down so that none of it would be lost.   I think more than any other book of hers you see her rawness a little more, her writing a little less filtered and her vibrant personality.  Her writings will challenge your thinking in a variety of ways and have you look at our culture with fresh eyes from one who has faithfully gone before us.   I’m a huge fan of this book and though she would say this book includes just the leftovers of her material I think they are some of her best material.

No Graven Image by Elisabeth Elliot

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This I believe is the one and only novel that Elliot wrote. It parallels her own story in many ways, though it is completely fiction. When it first came out there was much backlash because it doesn’t end with a pretty bow or nice silver lining.   I like that and think that is more true to our journey as believers.  The pretty bow we’re longing for isn’t on this earth but it sure makes us feel better when our stories look like they are redeemed in full here.   Elliot will challenge that perspective in this book.  I think it is a must read for every person in any kind of missionary work.  It will challenge your view of mission work, of what true success is and how we walk in faithfulness to His call in our lives regardless of the results.  I really enjoyed this book and while it isn’t the best novel I’ve ever read, the principles and perspective that I gained through reading it were well worth the read.

Looking forward to introducing you to 3 new ones at the end of this month!   Feel free to send me your suggestions or find me on Goodreads!

Morning Meditations: He buried him. Deuteronomy 34:6

“And He buried him.”  Deuteronomy 34:6

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*How many times have I read this and never noticed the “He” who buried Moses.  The He… God Himself buried Moses.  Did He come down?  Was Moses with the Lord as he watched Him… Elohim, bury the shell of his body.  Honor his life.  Something inside of me melts at the thought of my Lord stepping down to bury his servant.  My God, who knows he is now fully healed, fully restored, still cares for the shell of his body.  Who are you Lord? You, who give life and put to death.  You who wound and heal.  Somehow in this simple phrase, it is too easy to pass over and not sit in the fullness of the weight of these words. He buried him. God buried him.  My God, you buried this man who had walked closely with you. Face to face.  The one for whom you showed your glory, the one for whom all your goodness passed before.  The one who cowered in fear when you first called him, and yet was faithful to respond to you in the midst of all his weakness and strength and YOU spoke through him, and You revealed yourself to him, and YOU lead him in life and in death. And buried him.  BURIED him.  There is a piece of my heart that feels so seen and known in a fresh way, knowing you know what it’s like to bury someone.  Of course you do as you watched Jesus die and be buried but to see it and think of it in this tiny phrase for a man just like us.  For us to see that you don’t just see, you know.   Oh taste and see that the Lord is good, is near, does see, does know, is here!

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.”                Psalm 91:1,2

*Written January 9, 2015.  Just a little over a month after we buried our 2nd daughter Dasah.  Good for my heart to reflect on this past week as we celebrated Sophie’s 3rd heavenly birthday, sat at her gravesite and remembered that God is the God who sees and knows. 

15 years ago on the other side of the ocean. Remembering 9/11

15 years ago I was in a little remote town in Germany, where the houses looked more like cottages out of a storybook and the fields and forest were more green and lush then I had ever seen. I was staying at a small retreat center with over 100 other young new missionaries, getting ready to head to different countries all over Europe to bring the good news of Jesus Christ. As an aside, my now husband, Kevin was there as well but we would not meet for another 8 years.  God’s ways are mysterious.  I was headed to the Netherlands. I had just graduated from college, my parents had taken me to the airport, gone through security with me and watched as I boarded my plane to head overseas for a year. Having no idea in just a few weeks how everything would change in America.

We had our afternoon free and I was walking in the picturesque woods with a friend when other staff began to calmly but urgently ask us to come back to the main meeting room.   We sat in stunned silence as they shared with us of reports coming in that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. Like many in the states we had no idea what was going on. We also had no TV. A few staff were hunched around an old radio trying to get it to work and find out something, anything.   Someone connected with a local in the village who happened to have cable and a VHS recorder (yes, VHS recorder) and they would tape CNN for an hour or two and run it up to us so we could watch it, there must have been a VHS runner because we were able to watch hours of footage, just a bit delayed. Our meetings were cancelled for the next 24 hours as we watched, prayed, cried and mourned with our country feeling further away then ever.   Everyone was told to call their families so I of course called mine, my dad answered. “I’m okay, you’re ok?” was about the most we could say before another person needed to use the phone. But I distinctly remember my dad saying “I know you’re ok. You’re in the center of where God wants you and that is the safest place you can be.”   The safest place I can be, is where God has me no matter the terrors that surround. That stuck with me.

I remember going into Cologne, a large city in Germany the following evening.   We walked around the city and into the Cologne Cathedral. As we entered thousands of candles were lit for the fallen in America.   When we walked out a crowd had begun to form and hundreds of Germans holding American flags were gathering in solidarity with America.   That was the moment when the gravity of what had happened struck me and I sat down and cried.   I wished to be back in the states with my family, with my country, but here I was in an unfamiliar country and the people were gathering around to come together for us. It was not lost on me that I was in Germany, seeing Germans hold American flags. Evil never triumps over good. In 9/11 and every tragedy that has happened since, people come together and more good rises up out of evil.   Even in the unseen places in the world where few know the tragedies that are occurring I am comforted by the fact that one day there will be a reckoning of evil. Evil will not win. We see the glimpses of that now but then we will see it fully.

A couple of months later, I was in the Netherlands, serving as a missionary on a college campus there. My team and I were hosting an American Thanksgiving with our new Dutch friends. Questions like “Do Americans really eat as much at Thanksgiving as what we see in the movies?” were answered that evening with an exuberant and stuffed “yes.” I’m embarrassed to say that I was in charge of the pumpkin pie and having no access to sweetened condensed milk made a dismal attempt to create my own. It did not work and my pies looked more like pumpkin crater’s.   To this day, those poor Dutch friends I’m sure have no idea the wonders of true American pumpkin pie.   But aside from that Thanksgiving fail one conversation that night struck me and left a lasting impression. I was sitting at a table with several Dutch students including a young man. I could tell by the way he was talking that He believed in God and I wanted to hear more of his story. As I asked him about his spiritual journey he proceeded to tell me that he had become a Christian on September 11th. Intrigued I asked him to tell me more. He proceeded to tell me that he was an atheist and then an agnostic and as he was reading the Bible he was becoming more and more drawn to it as truth. On September 11, when he heard of the World Trade Centers being struck he thought to himself “If even America isn’t safe there must be one safe place. And it must be found in God.” He pulled his Bible off the shelf and that day placed his faith in Jesus Christ, the one safe place in the midst of the chaos of the world.

It seems as if as time has gone on our world has not gotten more peaceful but more violent. The security in our country constantly threatened not just by outward forces but forces within.   We create laws, increase security, all that give us the illusion that somehow our safety can be controlled and then something else happens and it is threatened again. I believe the laws and security are good and have protected us from much, but they cannot be where our trust is found.

So today, I’m thinking of all the fallen, the heroes of 9/11. I’m thinking of all the men and women and children whose lives are forever changed because of what happened 15 years ago and I’m reminded that in a world of increasing instability and chaos there is, there must be as my Dutch friend said one place of safety.   His name is Jesus, and he’s in the boat in the storm and he calms the wind and the waves. He doesn’t define safety as we do.  He may not protect us from the storm, but He will surely be with us in it and one day there will be no more chaos and calamity. And that frees us from fear.

Tears of Sadness, Tears of Wonder. Thoughts on Sophie’s 3rd birthday.

12:28am.  3 years ago this morning was the time my heart exploded with love in a way I had never known. I watched as my precious firstborn daughter was lifted out of me with arms wide open as if she was just waiting to be received  by our wide open arms (or just was glad to be out of the confines of my womb!). Though we had hoped for a miracle of healing, we knew the moment we saw her that the miracle God had chosen for her was not physical healing. My mere split second of disappointment in that moment was exchanged with overwhelming joy that she was born alive, breathing and making little sounds and soon little crys. It was music to this mommas ears and though she’d only get 10 precious hours in our arms, she’d get a lifetime of love by us and so many who have loved her with us.

This week as I have spent more time thinking of those moments, those memories that feel both so long ago and yet as if they were just yesterday, I was overwhelmed with all God has done in 3 years to restore, to redeem, to walk us through the valley of the shadow of
death not once but twice and discover that though we have been struck down we have surely not been destroyed. He has been ever faithful to us.

On Sunday night, we sat in church with Jaden asleep in his stroller by our side and sang a song whose lyrics my dad read to us right before I began my induction in the hospital. “Bless the Lord oh my soul, oh my soul. Worship His holy name.  Sing like never before. Oh My Soul, I’ll worship His holy name.” I was struck by the line “The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning.  It’s time to sing Your song again.  Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me, let me be singing when the evening comes”. Tears ran down my face as I looked at Jaden asleep, as I thought of those intimate moments in the hospital, laboring with Sophie, meeting Sophie, snuggling her, watching her sleep, watching her live, celebrating her life and watching her be loved by so many and then caring for her as she took her last breath, saying goodbye to her little precious body and wondering how I would survive with this piece of my heart now missing.

I could not have known then all that God would do in the coming years, how our hearts would mend and then break more before we would know a kind of joy and hope that we had never known. I could not have known the friends we would make that have come out of our losses, the ways we would be able to weep with those who weep, the journey God would take us on in parenthood and all the people that would come alongside of us in that.
I could not have known that 3 years after we would welcome and say goodbye to our firstborn daughter that I would be sitting in the same church with our 6 month old son, sleeping soundly as these powerful words that now held new meaning were sung. No, I could not have known that I would write before Sophie’s birth “Look and Watch ” as God led me to Habakkuk 1:5 “Look among the nations! Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days- you would not believe if you were told.” That exact verse I would then share as I gave a final  charge in a conference I would speak at 2.5 years later on the other side of the world right before I would find out our son had been born and chosen to be ours.

I could not have known that as I asked Kevin the morning we would bury Sophie “This is the last hardest thing we have to do right?”  Meaning… not just with Sophie, but ever (a foolish and unanswerable question I know, and yet still asked), we would sit at that gravesite a year later, burying our 2nd daughter and a year after that holding our first son.  And today, celebrating Sophie’s birthday for the first time with her sibling in our arms.

No, all these broken pieces have not been made whole, have not been put back together as they once were. All is not redeemed this side of heaven. There is deep ache in each chapter of our story and YET the broken pieces are being put together in such a way that the beauty is found in the broken.

A few days ago I lamented before the Lord “As Sophie’s birthday draws near, an ache, steadily growing each day with longing for this now 3 year old little girl who remains an infant in my mind.  And that brings sadness, ache, longing.  For the years.  YEARS.  It’s been years now.  Years lost. 3 years, 3 years lost Lord!” As soon as the words came out of my mouth, His words flooded into my mind like a mighty rush “I will restore the years the locusts have eaten. Behold I am making all things new.” (Joel 2:25, Revelation 21:5). His Spirit reminding me of truth. Truth I needed to hear.  All is not lost.  The years will be redeemed.  A promise. How?  I don’t know and it would be foolish to try to imagine.  For even my greatest visions for how sweet redemption could come will not compare, can not compare to the glory that will be revealed.  “For these light and momentary afflictions are producing for you an eternal weight of glory FAR BEYOND ALL COMPARISON.”  (2 Corinthians 4:17)

Last night I sat with my son snuggled on my shoulder as he fell asleep, lingering a little while longer to put him down to bed as I looked at the 3 shadow boxes above his crib for Sophie, Dasah and him. Each with their locks of hair, bracelets, first hats and photos and I
sang softly “When peace like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll.  Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul”. Truly I have known the peace like a river and the sorrows like the sea billows these past 3 years.

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I lingered a little longer, not wanting to put him down so I could sing to him for the first time the song I had sung to Sophie so often in my womb;

“I don’t know why God allows fires and floods
I don’t know how He can stand by and watch a mother lose her son
Such things are too great for me to understand
No, I don’t understand

Beautiful, beautiful, oh how beautiful

The soul that finds a song to sing
Despite the pain and suffering
Beautiful, beautiful, oh how beautiful
The heart that brings an offering
of praise before the One who makes all things
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful

Maybe it’s not my place to understand
the workings of God, His divine and mysterious perfect plan
All I know is that He’ll work things out for good somehow
He’ll make it good somehow

The One who shields our eyes from understanding why
catches every tear we cry
And someday, He’ll make all things…

Beautiful, so beautiful

Beautiful, beautiful, oh how beautiful
Our souls will have a new song to sing
No more pain and suffering
Beautiful, beautiful, oh how beautiful
When every heart will bring an offering
of praise before the One who makes all things

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful”  

-“All Things Beautiful” by Shelly E. Johnson 

Tears streamed freely down my cheeks as the song took on a whole new meaning.

Kevin walked in and knelt beside me. Jaden stirred and looked at his crying momma with great seriousness and then began to smile at me and look away and then smile at me and look away and I couldn’t help but laugh between my tears. Eventually he reached out both his hands and put them on my eyes, one hand covering each of my eyes, as if to try to soothe my tears. Oh the wonder of it all.

I long for Sophie, for Dasah and yet, I am reminded that if we had not had Sophie as she was,  we would not have had Dasah. And if we had not had Dasah as she was, we would not have had Jaden. Who am I to understand the ways of God? How He writes our story
and what He writes into our stories are often such a mystery.  And these are but the fringes of His ways.  There is so much unseen in our beautiful, broken stories.

“By His breath the heavens are cleared; His hand has pierced the fleeing serpent.  Behold, these are the fringes of His ways; and how faint a word we hear of Him!  But His mighty thunder, who can understand?” – Job 26:13,14 

As we celebrate and honor Sophie’s 3rd birthday today my eyes will be filled with tears of sadness for I miss her deeply and tears of wonder for all God has done to walk us through the past 3 years.

So happy 3rd birthday to my firstborn daughter, Sophia Kyla Dennis… I had no idea how God was going to use your little life to lead us to so much more of Him.  I’m so honored to have been given the gift of stewarding your short little life and can’t wait to spend eternity with you!  I love you more than words could say!  -Love, mommy 

View More: http://amandakern.pass.us/sophie

one of my favorite mother daugther photos

Morning Meditations: God redeems the broken pieces in our story -Psalm 62

“My soul waits in silence for God only, From Him is my salvation.  He only is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken”  Psalm 62:1

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This week marks Sophie’s 3rd birthday.  It seems as if both so much time has passed and so little.  And as I reflect on her life this week, feel the ache for her more deeply I am reminded of all God has done in the past 3 years to transform our lives and our perspective and draw us into a deeper understanding of the gospel.  I spent some time the other day reading in my journal what I had written on Feb. 14th of this year, 2 weeks before Jaden came into our lives.  For truly from Him has come our salvation, our strength and He has and continues to redeem the broken pieces of our story.

“If He can redeem our life from the pit.  If He can transfer us from the dominion of darkness to the Kingdom of His beloved son, surely this loss, this devastation, this disappointment, this broken piece in my story that feels as if it shapes the whole CAN be redeemed far beyond what we could ask or think.  For in saving us, in giving us eternal life He has already done the unimaginable.

If we think He can not or it is too hard to imagine any redemption coming out of the broken pieces of our lives then we know nothing of the cross.  Then we know nothing of the redemption that has happened in the life of a believer because of the cross and the resurrection.   And we must, we must press on to know the Lord.  To know Him in His sufferings and to know Him in His resurrection for there and only there will we be able to say as Paul “I count all as loss compared to the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”  He is God, the only God, the one true God who promises TOTAL restoration, TOTAL redemption.  ALL THINGS NEW.

You cannot view your circumstances as redeemable unless you know, press in to know the redemption Christ has given you.  What it means that HE is our SALVATION.  Are you amazed at this? Shocked that God could take someone like you, someone like me and transfer our lives from DEATH to LIFE?  Too often I take this for granted.   I can not see the magnitude of what Christ, the crucified Christ did for me and what His resurrection accomplished.  I see it through a little lens, out of focus.  And as my eyes are stayed on Him in the valley and on the mountains, He expands my lens.  He brings it into focus.  He teaches me to wait on Him alone and as I wait, He reveals the wonders of His love moment by moment, day by day, ever drawing me into a fuller view of Himself that cannot help but shape how I view my circumstances.”

So TRUST in Him at all times O People… Pour out your heart before Him,  God IS a refuge for us. -Psalm 62:8

Morning Meditations: When you have a different plan then God’s 1 Chr. 17:10

“… Moreover, I tell you that the Lord will build a house for you.”  I Chr. 17:10

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David wanted to build the Lord a house, but the Lord said no.  Instead that He would build a house for David.  David’s agenda was not God’s agenda.  Would he submit to what God wanted?  what He would do?  It would be better, it would be different.  But more glory would go out.  The reason David wanted to build God a house in the first place… to honor and glorify Him, to display His greatness.  Instead God would display His greatness not through a place (though he still allowed), but through a person.  The place would only serve to further shed light on the person that was to come.  And that person would not be clothed with extravagant curtains and furnishings but with thorns and blood, his backdrop a cross.  Its never the way we think it will be.  Our ideas are rarely the best.

I feel much like David in even how I prayed for Sophie and Dasah.  “But Lord, your honor and glory going out for all to see would be best displayed with a miraculous healing.  But it would not be that way.  It would be though death, through pain, through loss that your greatness would be on display.  Lord, I have lots of ideas still of how your glory could be most seen.  But let me bend a knee to hear from you, to listen to your voice above my own.”

I sat at the girls gravesite the other day.  I got my hands dirty as I rinsed their headstones.  I wish it was cleaning dirty diapers and the exasperation that comes with the girls playing in dirt or mud or covering themselves in markers.   Jaden will no doubt bring me all those joys. And I’ll have to remember in those moments that I just called them joys no doubt. But that day by the gravesite, I was missing getting to experience those moments with the girls.  So, I got on my knees and used my hands and got them all dirty as I took a hose that seemed to be just placed their for me and cleaned off their headstones.   I still don’t understand why they aren’t here.  Why I have 2 baby girls whose bodies are buried in the ground and I know who live with Christ now.  Sometimes heaven seems so far away.  I listened to a song as I left that spoke of the Lord’s return, the resurrection.  Sitting at their resurrection site, I’m reminded all over again that one day it will all make sense. And it will be clear how much better His plan was.   And we will dwell in His house, with the person of Jesus Christ.   Let us press on to surrender to His plans above our own.

“How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.” Psalm 1:1,2 (emphasis mine)

What does it look like to mediate on God’s word, to allow it to sink into our soul and lift our eyes to who God is and what He has called us too? I often write personal responses to God’s word in my time with him and I’ve decided to invite you into those responses, some current, some from the past few years. I pray that as God has spoken to my heart through His word, so He may use some of these passages to speak to your heart, to cause you to look at His word afresh and perhaps revitalize your own meditation on God’s word. So every Monday look for a new morning meditation!