Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Thousand

A Thousand

I’d fall a thousand times
Just to feel You reach out and catch me.
I’d cry a thousand tears
Just to feel You wipe them from my cheek.
I’d jump off a thousand cliffs
Just to feel You lift me on Your wings.

I would break my heart into a thousand pieces,
Or brave a thousand storms
Just to learn what peace is.
I’d run a thousand miles,
Or swim a thousand seas
Just to look into Your eyes
And know the joy of sweet release.

I’d give anything
And everything away.
I’d face a thousand giants
Or a thousand years of pain
Just so I could hear You when You say
“I love you!”
Just to find myself for a moment
Before Your throne of grace,
For nothing
This human mind could ever comprehend
Could be so great
As a moment
In Your presence.

Stephanie M. Frakes
(December 30, 2010)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

From Glory to Glory - Part Two: The Battle is the Victory

So in my last post, I discussed my growing belief that life is a spiral staircase and we are on an upward climb from glory to glory. Sometimes we get frustrated because we feel like we're going in circles and there's no forward motion, but the reality of it is that the goal isn't forward motion at all. We are already complete in Christ. We have been made whole and glorious because of His sacrifice. Our journey in this life is a deepening, allowing the image of God that we already reflect to seep in and become the core of our identities. In every sense, we are becoming who we already are in God's eyes. We have nothing to earn or prove. We are on an upward journey.

Now I move to the next part of my theory: the battle is the victory. Here's the fact of the matter, we fall on this upward climb. We struggle. Yes, we find ourselves revisiting a lot of landscapes we've seen before. We also revisit a lot of the obstacles. We never escape the flesh. We continue to battle the same lies... and that's okay. I had to remind myself of that the other day. When I am tempted to fall back into old habits or believe an old lie because I'm revisiting (or being revisited by) areas of insecurity or doubt or fear or whatever was at the root of my old struggle, I have to make a choice. I have to choose whether to give up and give in or to stand up and fight the lies with Truth. When I am tempted yet again, when I feel weak, discouraged, fearful, resentful, bitter just like I used to, I can choose to act differently. I can choose to battle, and the battle is the victory.

When I decide to act differently and cling to my Savior in a new way when I revisit old circumstances, that is victory. Victory is not an absence of temptation. It is not perfection. It is not walking away from struggles and never looking back. Victory is taking up the Sword of the Spirit and standing strong in Grace and fighting. Most of all, victory is trusting Him. Sometimes I'll wimp out and my emotions will get the upper hand. I'll fall, and I'll fall hard. I'll give in to lies and turn my back on Truth. We all will. But He is so faithful to lift us up again, and I can repent, and we can continue on this upward climb, and I'll be stronger, and my heart will be refined by the fire. The battle is the victory because it is in the battle that I realize I can't fight on my own. The battle is the victory because the battle drives me to the throne of grace. Regardless of the outcome, God meets me in the battle and that is sweet and precious and it outweighs the struggle. Every battle is a victory because, by the grace of God, even in the conviction of sin and the breaking of my prideful heart the Enemy is routed.

Here's my favorite thing about life as a spiral staircase and the battle being the victory: I do revisit some struggles... okay, a lot of struggles, but I also get to revisit victories and more than anything, I get to continually return to the throne of grace, and even if it's often pain that drives me there, those are the most precious times in my life, at the altars, on my knees before the throne of grace.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

From Glory to Glory - Part One: Life is a Spiral Staircase

Sometimes I feel like my life is just going in circles, which is understandable. Life is all about cycles and seasons. For me, the changing seasons are accentuated by my travel and my studies. Winter and summer find me in the Valley; fall and spring find me in Abilene. Semesters and finals come a go like clockwork. It's different for everyone, but we all have those times of revisiting that leave us feeling like we're going in circles getting nowhere fast. Whether it's coming home, running into someone from the past, or just facing the same kind of situation yet again. For some of us, just looking in the mirror and dealing with the inevitable self-talk can bring that feeling of revisiting.

The truth is when we revisit certain places (be they physical, emotional, or spiritual) and we find ourselves fighting the same old fight and battling the same old lies, it can be discouraging. The enemy knows that too, and he will jump on it. I'm so there right now. Life is a spiral, and I'm so sick of going in circles and getting nowhere. But what if I really am getting somewhere? What if life isn't just a spiral? What if it's a spiral staircase?

I feel like I'm getting nowhere because there is no forward motion, but what if forward motion isn't the goal? What if it's all an upward climb? That would certainly explain how challenging it is. Here's my theory in two parts: 1) Life is a spiral staircase. 2) The battle is the victory.

First things first. Take a look at II Corinthians 3:18:

"And we all, who with unveiled faces reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."

Now, in the NKJV, the phrase "ever-increasing glory" is translated "from glory to glory." Does that sound like circles or what?! Here's what I gather from this passage. When Jesus died on the cross, He covered us with His blood in order to cleanse us so that we might finally be able to reflect God's glory. When Paul uses the phrase "unveiled faces" here, he is referring to the time Moses met God on the mountain and was so radiant with God's glory when he returned that he had to wear a veil. Jesus death and resurrection made a way for us to live in the very presence of God and removed the veil, making our very lives all about reflecting the glory of God. And as we reflect that glory, we are simultaneously being transformed into the same image that we reflect. It is a deepening. Catch this. The process of transformation (aka: sanctification) begins from a place of glory. We start the process covered in the blood of Christ and anointed by the Holy Spirit. We are safe, Secure, and endowed by our Creator with our identity. Therefore, there is no more need for forward motion. By the grace of God, we are already there! The rest of this journey is upward. It is deepening. It is the glory of God soaking us to the core so that we no longer just reflect His glory... we are His glory! Through Christ's sacrifice we return to our original and intended state as God's image-bearers. In every sense, this journey is about becoming who we already are in God's eyes. Glory!

Exciting, isn't it? I think that's enough for now, in a day or so I'll post my thoughts on the second part of my theory: The battle is the victory. Be blessed, beloved, as you continue your journey on this spiral staircase!


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

In the Valley

It's good to be home. After what has possibly been the most chaotic, and yet most rewarding semester of my school career (so far...) it's so good to get away and rest. It's good to be on holiday. Recently I noticed that I've changed my language when it comes to coming home. I've started simply saying, "I'm headed back to the Valley." And I like it because it's awfully symbolic. It gives this image of retreat, of a time to regather myself and get realigned. The Valley. This strange place of comfort and who I used to be colliding with who I am and who God is making me. In the words of a friend, a place of revisiting. And I'm learning that home is anywhere, because relationships are so much more important than locations and love lasts. Still, there are some locations that are so infused with memories that they will forever be special, and they will forever be a place where God can get your attention. Not to mention, a change of scenery never hurts the creative spirit. :) I'm looking forward to years from now, looking back and seeing what other valleys God places in my life.

I'm excited about this season. I mean, there's a lot going on in my heart right now as far as figuring out who I am, where I'm going, and who God intends for me to be. Over the last six months or so, God has really been working to show me that I am chosen, that He has some really special plans for me that go beyond what I can imagine, beyond what I can understand or plan on my own, even beyond the shadows of a vision He's placing on my heart. It's a neat feeling to know in your heart that you are special and chosen by God for something great. It lends value and purpose. I pray that you sense that in your own life. I pray that you know you are chosen. It's so easy to forget that or to doubt it, because "no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived," precisely what God has chosen us for, but you, dear one, are chosen. That's just how God is. We're not chosen because of anything we've done or could do. We're chosen because a sovereign God decided we are worth it, because He desired an outlet for His perfect love, and because He's big enough to reveal His glory through even the most broken of vessels, if we will give ourselves over to Him.

A lot of what is catching my eye in my time with God right now is His promises. Promises about resting and rising to my destiny, about God writing His name on me and claiming me for Himself, about His redemption and mercy, about Him sending His rain as I break up my unplowed ground and seek Him (which is precisely what I was created to do), about how everyone around me will know how He has loved me (Glory! How He loves me!) and He will be glorified in the fact that He loves my brokenness so well, about how He will lead me and protect me and open doors for me because I have limited strength. There is no end to His promises! My prayer for this season is that as I seek the Lord and sit with Him and His promises He will cause those to be rooted deeply in me. I don't want to just know them cerebrally. That's enough for my time in the Valley, but when I face the battle once again, how quickly I'll forget it! No. I need God's promises to consume me, to become the very foundation of my identity, so that when I go back to the pressures of school, when I am once again surrounded by all those voices telling me what I should do, when a hundred things fight for my attention, when I face the fires of success and failure, I won't have to search for God's promises. I want them to be so deeply ingrained in my spirit that under pressure they naturally rise to the surface so that I can cling to them, so clearly etched on my heart that the Holy Spirit can bring them to mind in my time of deepest need. I want them to be so much a part of who I am that I will never, ever be able to forget my God, no matter how many wonderful distractions lie ahead of me. Yeah. I want my Beloved first.

His always,

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

If it all Really Matters

If it all Really Matters

How quickly
Does my life start to feel
Like disaster
And I wonder if it all
Really matters
As much as I think
When my heart begins to sink
The moment
All my strivings seem
To fail
And fear sets in
And tears build up
And everything in me screams
I'll never be good enough

Who sets the scale?
Does it matter if I measure up?
To whose standards?
My own?
Could it be that there's
More than what I achieve
And what people think
Of me?
That won't just be forgotten
Next year or next week
Can I let it be?
Can I learn to see
And receive the peace
Of strivings ceased?
Just allow my Beloved
To love me
And lead me
Find Security
In the glory
Of the power that drives me to my knees
Can I drop the pride
and simply cry
"Thank You!"
Because I've been set free
And His love goes beyond what I achieve
He freely works through me
In ways I can't conceive
Can I look at all the things
I do
And realize
It doesn't matter really.
Because Life is beyond me.
I am free indeed.

Stephanie M. Frakes
(November 17, 2010)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Moment to Weep

A Moment to Weep

Just give me a moment to weep
As I begin to let go
Of all the tension that I keep
And my heart is swept away
By this feeling of release

Just give me a moment to weep
As I take on this journey
To a new and foreign land
Battle against feelings
I can’t begin to understand
Melt under the weight
Of the glory in Your hand
Pressed against the small of my back
As we dance
Divine romance
That goes beyond all my deepest longings

Just give me a moment to weep
As I learn to sing
And to breathe
In time with You
As I become all You mean
For me to be
It’s so far beyond me
And yet I believe
It’s my destiny
My reality
Or my wildest dream
And I promise
I’ll go where you lead
On this journey
But for now, Lord, just hold me
And give me a moment to weep

Stephanie M. Frakes
(November 21, 2010)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Symphony in Silence

“The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." ~Zephaniah 3:17

Few things stir my heart like an evening at the symphony. The busyness of life seems to fade away as the lights dim, and the intricate tapestry of sound drapes itself over the concert hall. I find myself swept away by the melodies, my heart beating in time with the conductor’s graceful movements. There are no burdens. There is no fear. There is only music. For me, it is as if I am surrounded by the very breath of God. I can truly sense His presence. And in that moment it is so easy to worship. It is so easy to give God glory and praise, to believe He can save me from any enemy I might face. Yes, when I’m in my comfortable, velvet upholstered chair in the concert hall lost in the music, life is easy.

Do you know that feeling? Maybe you’ve felt it at a great Sunday morning church service, or at some retreat or conference. We all have those seasons in our lives where we find ourselves immersed in God’s presence, where we grow by leaps and bounds, where we’re surrounded by a wonderful community of faith, where everything just seems to fit. And it is good. And life is easy.

But what happens when the music stops and we are left in silence?

We know that feeling too, don’t we? Those times when life is NOT easy, and God feels distant as we stand in the dark parking lot outside the proverbial concert hall hearts beating and minds racing, burdens falling on our shoulders once again. Those seasons we live in the spiritual desert, plagued by doubt, wondering if God was ever there in the first place, if we’ll ever grow. Sometimes our worlds fall apart, and the silence is deafening. And as I think about those times in my life, the ones I’ve faced and will eventually face again, I am comforted by the words of Zephaniah 3:17. “The Lord your God is with you; He is mighty to save.” This is not a question, nor is it dependent on situation or circumstance. This is a promise. Whether we sense it or not, God is with us and He is mighty to save. I’ll confess to you that the prospect of silence scares me, especially as I turn the final page on an amazing summer of ministry as a camp counselor. I am confident in this, however: in symphony or in silence, God does not change. He takes delight in His people. He fights for them. He quiets them with His love. And, when silence falls, we can hear Him singing over us. Rest assured, dear one, even the greatest orchestra cannot match the symphony our Father sings in silence. That is something to stand on in every season.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


I am astounded sometimes. Generally by one of two things. Some days, I find myself astounded by God and how He orchestrates details so intricately, how He cares so deeply for His children, how there is absolutely no where I can escape from His grip of grace, and how He is so worthy of complete trust and I don't ever have to worry again.

Then come the times like what I experienced earlier this week where I am stressed to the max, I feel like I can't balance anything else on my plate, and I get so caught up in everyday duties and responsibilities and trying to do them all just right that I forget what (or Whom) I really live for. And after so many times of witnessing God's providence, grace, and faithfulness, I must say that I astound myself. How is it possible for me to so quickly forget all that God has done and is doing? How is it possible for me to get so lost, so caught up in this dust-devil of a life when I know what being led, step by step, by the hand of the Shepherd feels like?

These are thoughts that occurred to me on my eight hour drive home from Abilene on Monday. I was at the end of my rope. I simply couldn't take the pressure of school anymore, so in five minutes I had thrown a bunch of clothes along with some necessities in a duffel bag, ready to take off running the minute I finished my ten o'clock exam. I was angry, and while it came across as embitterment toward the academic world and the ability of its pressure to suck the joy out of that which I am so passionate about, in reality that anger was a soul's deep cry for fulfillment. I know that sounds slightly melodramatic, but it's the truth.

I'm thinking about these verses from Song of Solomon:
"I looked for the one my heart loves. I looked for him but did not find him. I will get up now and go about the city through it's streets and squares; I will search for the one my heart loves... When I found the one my heart loves... I held him and would not let him go."

These verses so aptly describe the cry of our souls. That's life. Truly. It's a depth of love that brings purpose to every day. Passionately pursuing the Beloved, even to the point of desperation. We are to seek God in everything that we do. You know, "In the streets, in your home, on the job, all alone, highways, byways..." that whole deal. It's not just a fun song to sing! It's Truth, and it's a huge part of abundant Life. We MUST make pursuing the Beloved and searching for where God is moving in every moment the single most important part of our lives. If we don't, our souls will NOT be satisfied! That's where I was at. I was at that point where I was so caught up in the activities of my everyday life (activities that included reading the Bible to check it off my list) that I forgot to look for my Beloved. Frankly, I hadn't even noticed that He wasn't there, or worse, that He was right there all the time and I just wasn't enjoying Him.

I know it's a strange thing to say in today's world - that the worst thing we can possibly do is get so caught up in activity that we don't find our enjoyment in God - but it's true. Busyness and stress wouldn't bother us so much if it weren't. I learned that once, not too long ago. I learned how important it is to look for God in every aspect of life, to practice the presence of God, to search until I find my Beloved and then to never let Him go. I learned that God is in everything and seeking His presence lends purpose to even the most mundane parts of life. But then I forgot, and that astounds me. Which brings us full circle, back to the beginning of this post. I praise God for holidays and times of rest and, most of all, for His willingness to stop and remind me of things I've forgotten. He is so patient and gracious that way.

I'll close with a quote from George Mueller that John Piper used in the sermon that helped get me realigned. May it serve as a precious reminder to you as well.

"I saw more clearly than ever that the first great primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord . . . not how much I might serve the Lord, . . . but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished."

I pray this will become the thought that starts my day, "I will get up now and go about the city, through its streets and squares; I will search for the one my heart loves."

For the One my heart loves,

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Look at Women's Roles

The role of women in the church is something that has been coming up a lot in my life recently. I guess when you're a young woman looking into seminary and ministry, that's something you think about. But really, I think all women ask that question. What is our role? What does the word "submit" really mean for us? And it becomes especially difficult to answer when we look at verses like these from 1 Timothy 2:

I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

What does THAT mean? And I am really quick to get defensive. Women must be quiet because Adam was made first. It was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. Okay Paul, what are you trying to say? But then as I started to think about these verses, they started to make a lot of sense to me.

The first thing I notice is Paul's call to modesty and humility. Don't wear flashy and expensive clothes. Clothe yourselves with good works instead. Be genuine. And I can understand the significance of that. Why, most of the time, do women where flashy, immodest clothing and lack humility? It's out of an effort to feel important and valued. We want to be noticed and affirmed. And the women Paul was talking to had more reason than we can imagine to desire affirmation. These are women who had been oppressed for years, some of them were reformed prostitutes. These were all women who were finally realizing what freedom is. In Christ they had found something totally new, revolutionary. Jesus valued women. He called them, worked through them, anointed them, healed them, loved them, and set them free. But they hadn't learned to trust that freedom yet. Paul is calling women to live quietly, and affirm that they worship God. He calls them, and us, to live a life that exhibits trust in God, rather than a fear of being overlooked or oppressed again. That's why a husband's call is to love his wife as Christ loves the church. God calls him to faithfully provide, in a tangible way, the affirmation and respect that a woman's heart so deeply longs for.

Another thing I notice is that Paul never says women shouldn't learn about God. He doesn't say they shouldn't study or sit at the feet of the Rabbi. He would have been contradicting Jesus if he did, because Jesus allowed women like Mary to sit at His feet right along side His disciples. Paul doesn't even say women shouldn't teach. The Scripture only says women shouldn't teach in authority over men. Let's note, however, that it does not say men can't learn from women. Here's the deal: women were created for a very specific purpose. We are every bit as endowed with God's image and His Holy Spirit as men. We are valuable. We are, however, different, and God intended it that way. Since He made us as sensitive nurturers, we are more vulnerable to Satan's deception, which is why he hit us first. So God calls us to let men have authority as a way to help us fulfill our own purposes. I feel like the call to submit is more of God's way of calling us to have faith in Him and our identity in Him, rather than trying to grasp at straws for affirmation and a sense of security and value. Submitting to man requires that we trust God to fight for us and to protect us from oppression. It requires that we believe that our value comes from the fact that the Son of God died for us, and through His blood we become coheirs with Christ, and our inheritance is nothing more or less than the love and affection of the God of the universe. It requires that we believe that when Christ says "It is finished," it truly is and nothing can take away the freedom He has earned for us. We don't need to fight for it or try to earn it. God is in control.

Men are called to trust God enough to have courage and lead. They take up their authority in faith. Women are called to trust God enough to submit and let Him protect us. We submit to authority in faith. As I think about it, that's exactly what didn't happen in Eden. When Satan said, "Surely God didn't say you'd die..." he caused Eve to question God's goodness toward her. She felt like He was holding out on her, and she took things into her own hands. Adam didn't stand and protect her from the deception, and when Eve offered him a bite, he didn't say no. He didn't lead. In so many ways what our roles in life come down to is trusting God's goodness and His love for us. This trust manifests itself in different ways, but it is the very core of truly living.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Children, Come Running!

So for the last few weeks I've had the chance to spend time playing with my professor's little girl while she teaches a class, and I'll tell you, if you don't have a four-year-old in your life, go find one! Seriously, it'll change your life. The other day was the absolute sweetest! I hadn't seen this little girl in a week, and Monday morning I'm walking through the lobby on my way to class. She saw me from across the room, got this big smile on her face, and just came running into my arms. It was precious! And yeah, it does make me feel loved and valued. I'm not going to lie. But the bigger thing, honestly, is that I can see her so ready to receive my love. Being around her brings me such joy, and she doesn't even realize it. She's not trying to make me happy. She just does, and her willingness to receive my love and just be who she is is her greatest blessing to me... go figure.

It gets me thinking about my relationship with God. I spend so much time running in so many different directions, trying to give God something... as if He needs anything I could give to feel loved and valuable. But, I mean, really? And I love that about kids. They don't spend all their time trying, striving for a way to earn their keep. They just receive, and as they receive, they get to know the giver and that's where their outpourings of affection stream from. They're not trying to prove anything. They're not trying to save the world or make everything perfect. They simply respond in the sweetest kind of freedom. And when I see this little girl running toward me, I realize that it is no sacrifice for me to love her. It is pure joy, and so it is with God. Even as I type this, my fingers move slowly, taking in every word, struggling to wrap my mind around it.

God takes great joy in just loving me and watching me, regardless of whether I always obey, even if I get a little messy. He loves to love me... and you!

It is that love that He so freely lavishes on me that stirs excitement in my heart and causes me to run into His arms. And He bends to receive me with great joy. I'm not sure when things change and we start to think we need to give to God and work at loving Him. I don't know when we decided we needed to be refined adults and stop running into His arms. I want to get back to that. Where I'm at right now, feeling so busy and so far from where I should be with the Lord, I need to remember that He sees something inexplicably beautiful in me and just watching me warms His heart. He loves me, and He loves loving me! It's no sacrifice. That is finished. He simply loves. My pursuit of Him. My running joyfully abandoned into His arms. These are free responses to the love I receive. It just happens, and my willingness to receive His love and let it transform me into who I really am is my greatest blessing to Him... go figure.

Maybe that's why Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me." They were drawn by His love, and it was His joy to pour it out on them. He loves to love His children, regardless of what we have or lack, whether we are weak or strong, full of faith or full of doubt. Now, may we lay down everything that hinders us and run into His arms!


Friday, November 12, 2010

Writing Love on My Arms

Today is To Write Love on Her Arms Day, which has me really thinking about a lot of stuff.

I'm a huge supporter of TWLOHA because it brings darkness to light. Anyone can struggle with depression, self-injury, addiction or thoughts of suicide, even your standard type-A, over-achiever, valedictorian, youth group leader. Anyone. It's not just the emo kid who wears skinny jeans, eyeliner, and has hair over his eyes. Anyone. And the biggest problem is that we struggle in secret. We try and battle the darkness on our own. There's this stigma attached to talking about this stuff. And the secrets are Satan's greatest weapon in keeping us bound up.

Here are some lyrics that I clung to during high school:
"I talked to absolutely no one. Couldn't keep to myself enough, and the things bottled inside had finally begun to create so much pressure that I'd soon blow up and I heard the reverberating footsteps syncing up the beating of my heart and I was positive that unless I got myself together I would watch me fall apart. And I can't let that happen again, 'cause then you'd see my heart in the saddest state it's ever been, and this is no place to try and live my life....."

How often we live like that! When we begin to struggle with emotions and feelings we can't explain or understand, our first reaction to to withdraw. We don't want people to know, for fear that they won't understand or that they'll judge or label us. We hide in the darkness, forgetting that it's the darkness we're fighting against! We try and get ourselves together before we attempt to live in community. We don't want people to see us broken. And sadly, we consider so many places, particularly church, no place to actually live our lives. We don't think we can be real. We think our problems aren't important enough. Or we think they're too big.

But here's the next line of that song: "Stop right there, that's exactly where I lost it. See that line? I never should have crossed it. Stop right there, I never should have said that. It's the very moment that I wish that I could take back!" And it's true. In the battle against the forces of darkness (and I believe that's exactly what depression and self-injury is), the biggest mistake we can make is running away from community. When we're in the heat of battle, when we're more broken than we've ever been, when we're struggling hardest and feel weakest, those are the times we most need other people. We CANNOT fight alone. I'll say it again, one of Satan's major strategies to keep us in bondage is convincing us to keep secrets. Community, transparency, honesty... they are so important in every part of life. I wish I would have believed that four years ago.

So my hope is two-fold. First, I hope those people who are fighting will come to a point where they are willing to seek out someone they can trust and stop hiding. I hope they will run to community and not from it. Second, I hope that those of us who have been rescued or have never struggled with this at all will learn to love and accept those who are in a battle. I hope that we will do our part to make them feel safe, that we will be people who can be trusted, that we'll stand in the gap for them and love and support them through anything and everything.

I'll close with some words from Lamentations 3:
"I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail... For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love."

Love is the movement,

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Seven Years

It's Veteran's Day today. We have a choir presentation at 11 in chapel. It's funny. I haven't sung in one of those since eighth grade. I remember that day really well, and it has little to do with Veteran's Day. November 11, 2003 is that day I mark as my spiritual birthday of sorts. That's the day I first started journaling. If I had known then what that would end up meaning for me. I was talking with a friend yesterday who said, "I can't write to save my life!" My response was, "I write to save my life." And it's true. There's something about putting pen to page that makes me feel so much closer to God. Words are so valuable to me. They stir me like nothing else. Over the years, that affection for words has grown into an affection for His Word... a deep affection. And it's wonderful. That day, seven years ago, when I first began to be intentional about spending time daily with God became the beginning of a habit. It was the day I first began to really follow Jesus. It was my first experience with spiritual discipline, and it's funny. God made it so easy. I sat down that day and every day after that. I've hardly missed a day in seven years, even when I was in the pit of darkness, I didn't miss a day. I'm not boasting. I'm praising God, because it's only by the power of His Holy Spirit in me that I had that habit to cling to. Truly, it saved my life. It was a manifestation of the fact that no matter how bad things got, how hopeless I felt, God was still there. He never let me go!

Seven years later, I can't imagine a day of life not spent in full pursuit of my precious Savior, my Beloved Christ. As tired and worn and stressed and just off as I feel right now, I can't help but rejoice because my God is forever faithful, even when He is silent, even when I am clothed in darkness. He is good. His love endures forever! May He encourage your heart with that Truth today, beloved.


Friday, November 5, 2010

Who's the Judge?

As a singer, I spend a lot of time being judged. That's especially true at this time of year when NATS auditions, Concerto/Aria auditions, and juries come in pretty close succession. But I mean, honestly, music itself is just a field that centers around constant assessment. Not judging per se, but assessment happens all the time in voice lessons, performance lab, rehearsal, and practice rooms. It's constant, and it can wear thin. Yes, it is for our good, and generally, it is with the best of intentions and meant for our growth. Still, there comes a point when I feel like enough is enough... well, actually, I feel like nothing is ever enough, and I get tired of it all. It's vulnerable. And it's really hard to not feel like it's you that's being judged, not your use of a developing skill. It's so easy to feel like these teachers and judges are making a call on your value as a person, deciding whether or not you are worthy of love and acceptance.

Then I realize... it's not just musicians that do this. This is humanity. This is life. We watch each other every day and scrutinize and assess and judge and analyze. Whether it's passing someone on the street or passing a mirror in the hallway, we constantly judge. And the truth is, that can be a good thing. Judgement and assessment are tools to grow, and we honor God by growing in the gifts He's given us. However, when judgement becomes not about "That color would bring out your eyes more," and "Standing up straight would really free up your voice," but rather "I have no style sense. She doesn't like me. I have no worth," and "I'm a terrible singer. I have no value," then it becomes dangerous. That is when it wears thin. Yeah, I know. You read those examples and think those conclusions are ridiculous, and you are right. That doesn't stop us from coming to them though, does it? It's happened to me more times than I'm willing to admit. And that is exactly Satan's plan: to deceive our hearts and bind us up, rendering us useless in the Kingdom. He takes what could be used to grow us and turns it into triggers for insecurity.

All that said, as I was preparing to go sing at NATS auditions this morning, I read these verses in Hebrews:

But in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom, He appointed heir of all things, and through whom also He made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So He became as much superior to the angels as the name He has inherited is superior to theirs.

Verses that speak of Christ's radiance and glory just really draw me, and these are especially eloquent. God spoke to us through Christ "through whom He also made the universe." Catch that. He made the whole universe through Christ, and He also made a way to speak clearly to us and even redeemed us through Christ, and not only Christ, Christ's death and resurrection! That's big. Jesus is the exact expression of God's nature. Radiant. Glorious. All-sustaining in His powerful word. And He lives in me. He is my righteousness and my hope of glory. This same Christ through whom the universe was made lifts me up and makes me stand. He heals me and sets me free. He sits enthroned in all authority forever. All things change and wear out, except my Beloved. He reigns forever, seated beside the Majesty in heaven, and His love for me never fails. He holds all authority, power over things I've yet to even see. He is the one who breathes life and music and makes the heart beat. He is the final authority, the final judge of all things, and HE HAS DECLARED ME BEAUTIFUL AND WORTHY OF HIS LOVE. In reality, it truly is finished. The rest of life is an adventure, a chance for my refinement and to bring Him glory as I reflect Him and exhibit His gifts and work in my life.

That, my friends, is Security, the kind of Security that makes us more than willing to take risks, go anywhere, and do anything. It is this Security that helps us use judgement and assessment as tools for growth, rather than as the basis of our self-worth. When we realize that Christ is the only judge with real authority, and that He has already declared us full of value, we remove the power from Satan's hands. We render him inactive, instead of the other way around. We no longer find the need to judge others harshly as a way to make ourselves feel worthy. We no longer feel the burden to be perfect because the people watching us decide our value. We realize that day by day we're becoming who we are, transforming from glory to glory. That is how a long and treacherous journey becomes one that builds strength and sanctifies. And that is a huge relief.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Way God Moves

It is amazing to me how God moves and orchestrates the details of life, just so He can speak to us. It seriously blows my mind! I've been meaning to talk about this forever, but I just haven't had time to sit and type it. Now I have time.

A couple of weeks ago I was talking about bearing the cost of living given over. That had been a really difficult day for me as God taught me how painful it can be to surrender everything to Him, and to trust Him with everything. When I typed that post on Wednesday night, it was after a day full of tears and brokenness. It was really a lot of fear and useless worrying, a day that proved I'm not as good at living a surrendered life as I sometimes think (anyone else had those days?). The evening ended well though, with God proving that He is faithful and that truly,nothing is impossible with Him. I went to bed celebrating that night, and I woke up celebrating too.

The next morning, I went to instrumental worship for chapel. I was running late, so I ended up sitting by myself, which was fine with me. I was ready for some quality time with my Beloved. It was great! I poured my praise out, and He poured His love down, and after the pain of the battle the day before, it was the sweetest respite. As I was leaving a girl stopped me. I’d never seen her before in my life, but she asked my name and then said God had given her a word for me. I know that sounds a little crazy. I believe that God speaks through people, but I'm still a little skeptical when someone says specifically, "God gave me a word for you." But she had such a sweet and humble spirit, I decided to really listen. She then began to describe this vision of a waterfall pouring down and a saw with a spinning blade at the top. “I feel like your desire is to pour out, to really pour out,” she said, “but you feel persecuted, as if someone is trying to stop you, or maybe you’ve tried to pour out before and someone cut you off and you’re afraid to try again. Does that connect with you at all?” I nodded with tears coming to my eyes. She continued, “And then I see this horn, this trumpet. Psalms says, 'His horn is my strength,' and God wants you to know that. He wants you to take hold of His strength and go pour out His love.” She began to pray that over me and then she stopped and said, “I feel like God wants you to hear Him say, ‘I’m proud of you. I see you pouring out and I am pleased. I see the little outpourings you don’t even realize, those little glances that say: you are loved.’” And she went on, “And God is declaring that He has not given you a spirit of fear or timidity but of power and His strength. He wants you to learn to walk in that and to go pour out that love and that power on others.” And we said, "Amen."

Then her friend came up to me and said, “Now I just feel like I need to say that I was watching your worship and I just saw the freedom of the Holy Spirit all over you. He wants you to pour out, but He also wants you to know that He’s pouring out His love all over you. I saw that as I watched you and it encouraged me.” And I was at a loss for words. Anyone who has read Hinds’ Feet on High Places (which I was rereading at the time and was touching me so deeply it’s as if I had never read it before) knows the significance of the waterfall as a symbol of being humbled and delighted to pour out everything. Much-Afraid even jumps off the edge of the waterfall to find the pit and the altar where she is to lay down her life. In that book, the symbol of the waterfall and living given over are synonymous. "Held back" described perfectly what I had been feeling the day before. And if that second girl only knew how intentionally I was raising my hands and dancing in worship out of a deep desire to live in the Spirit’s freedom. And the words, "God is proud of you." What a comfort for someone who had been battling the guilt of allowing unfounded fear to tear me apart, someone who felt shame at her own lack of faith! Our God is so good! But the story doesn't end there.

Later that day I had some extra time before my voice lesson, and it was such a beautiful day I decided to go out to Jacob’s Dream and write. When I got there I saw a lady drawing. We exchanged smiles, and I found a place to sit. Later she walks by and says, “I drew this little picture of you, and I wanted you to have it.”

I looked down and there’s a sketch of this girl with a contented kind of love-struck expression on her face, notebook on her knees, pencil in hand, leaning on a rock that says “The Lord.” I remembered sitting down thirty minutes earlier and thinking how symbolic it was and how I’d like to have a picture of it. And a picture I got! A picture of how I want to live: love-struck, pencil in hand, leaning back against the Rock, the Lord.

And that's how in one very intense day God taught me how He cares about the details and how He just loves so well. He confirmed in a HUGE way everything He had been speaking to my heart. It was faith-building and encouraging. I love that. I love that God refuses to be distant, even though that's what we deserve. I pray that you're encouraged today. God speaks in whispers or in shouts, in songs sung in the darkness, through complete strangers, softly and tenderly and directly to our hearts. He is so ready to speak. Are we ready to listen?

In awe of Him,

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Enough to Keep Me Singing

I had a very different post in mind for today, but that can wait. I think instead that I'll share with you word-for-word my journal entry from just a few minutes ago. Hopefully your heart will be as encouraged as mine was.

I laugh at myself sometimes. I can only imagine what I must look like on days like today when the weather is perfect and all the world seems bright and beautiful and full of hope and potential. So here I sit, back against a tree, journal on my lap, pen in hand, mesmerized by everything around me. I suppose it might appear kind of silly, but I love it. And it's nice to just enjoy God's presence and all of His gifts and not be victim to fear or anxiety. The breeze seems to hit at just the right time so it feels like the fondest touch, and joy and affection bubble over in my heart.

Believe me, I know how cheesy it sounds! But it's true! I cherish times like these when I can literally turn my back on everything and just sit with my Beloved and soak. And it's so clear that God really does have a plan for freedom and wholeness and redemption, even though I can't always see, feel, or imagine it. Moments like these remind me that no matter what happens God is good and loving and faithful. He makes a way for us to get out of the pit and press on. And as if that were not enough, He does more than help us escape out of darkness... He grows us there. He meets us there. He speaks to us there. He teaches us profound lessons there. He takes darkness, and speaks light. He takes the shards of brokenness and creates a new masterpiece that is greater and better and more like His image. And I love that about my Beloved. He doesn't just calm the storm and leave the clouds hanging over us. He makes the sun come out and the air is crisp and the grass is greener and the sky is more vibrant and blue than we ever remember. And by doing that, God makes the storm a glorious thing. He is SO good!

And just to know that is enough. To know He has a plan to make things right. To know He brings beauty from ashes. To know that He takes what the enemy intended for evil and turns it into the fertile soil in which our roots can dig deep as we grow in His likeness, like a tree planted by streams of clear water. To know that this delight I experience is His gift directly to me, His beloved. That's enough to keep me going and to push me passed the fear that tries to hinder. That's enough to make me willing to give my all and to be stretched. It's enough to make me willing to bear the cost of living given over. At least... I want it to be. When the tears fall and I'm flooded with "what if's" and the storm overwhelms me, I want to remember moments like now, and I want that to be enough.

Not every day is this beautiful. Not every day brings this same sense of rest and peace and the presence of my Beloved. Let's be real, some days... most days are chaos which drowns out the voice of my Shepherd. And yet just knowing that moments like these exist, knowing that I've lived them... that's enough to keep me singing, "it is will with my soul." Amen! Let it be so, Lord! Let it be so!

This is the journey that I am on. Learning to live firmly established in the fact that my Father has given me a grand inheritance, and that gift is nothing less than the very presence and affection of the God of the universe! I am learning to live as the Beloved, even when the world around me contradicts that. It's a good journey! I pray He's taking you down that path as well. We are deeply loved!

Always singing,

Monday, October 18, 2010

Given Over

I wrote this song something like a month ago. It provides a little background for my last post. How wonderful it is to serve a God who lifts us up when we come face to face with our own weakness! It is purely out of love that I make my greatest desire to lay my life, my dreams, and my will down on His altar in daily sacrifice. "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing in God's sight. This is your spiritual act of worship." (Romans 12:1)

Given Over
Words and Music by Stephanie M. Frakes
To Pauline Bjorem for setting these two words resonating in my heart and teaching me, by example, how to live them.

I've fought this battle
A thousand times before
And still I always wonder
Just what I'm fighting for
It's just so foolish
To think it's up to me
To scale the heights of love
Or delve the depths of peace

And then I feel the earth against my knees
And it's clear that I am flesh
And I am weak

But that's when You lift me
To rise on eagles' wings
When I've nothing left to offer
But all You offer me
My life here on Your altar
A humble offering
It's all You've given me
Given over

Words are so easy
Falling from my lips
Until I start to wonder
How then shall I live?
The moment I realize
To live what I believe
Requires so much more
Than songs and poetry

And then I feel the earth against my knees
And it's clear that I am flesh
And I am weak

But that's when You lift me
To rise on eagles' wings
When I've nothing left to offer
But all You offer me
My life here on Your altar
A humble offering
It's all You've given me
Given over
To Your power, to Your love
Given over
To Your presence, it's enough
Given over
To Your glory, to Your will
Given over

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bearing the Cost Meets Acceptance with Joy

So here's the deal. I'm really struggling today. And I'll cut to the chase. I'm tired. I'm tired of the battle and the constant conflict. I'm tired of the brokenness. I'm tired of that aching longing that I feel for eternity, for that time when things will all be new and whole and we'll be really, truly free. I'm so ready for that day when the flesh won't have so much power over me. I want to be done with this whole refinement process. Yet I know that as long as there is breath to fill my lungs, there is more. There is more to this journey. There is more adventure to be had. I just wish it didn't involve quite so much pain or frustration or work or sorrow or suffering. And I know that this brokenness creates the very stones that build a deeper intimacy with my Beloved. I know that it is sorrow and suffering that drives me to His throne of Grace. I know that I only discover the fullness of His glory when I am facing the darkness. I know Hope only holds significance when it is juxtaposed with feelings of hopelessness. I know (in fact I preached a sermon on it in my last post...) that the brokenness of this world and the pain that we face is not without purpose. That purpose is our refinement. The entire point of life is for us to be transformed into Christ's likeness. The whole reason I'm on this journey is so that I can be transformed from glory to glory. Still, I'm not going to lie. I so wish there was an easier way! And I know I'm not alone in that cry, and I don't think we're wrong either. Didn't Christ Himself beg the Father to remove the cup from before Him? He cried for an easier way, but His cry for God's will to be done was so much louder and so much deeper. And I pray that is so in my own life.

I have this vision of the way I'd like to live, and I can sum it up in two words: GIVEN OVER. I want to lay my entire life down on the altar. And not just my life, but my will and my dreams and my deepest desires and my passions... everything. With that comes this idea of joyful abandon, of release, of surrender, of letting go, of strivings ceased, and of true freedom. I want to lay down this life that I'm holding so that I can just run after my Beloved. I don't care where we're going or what we're doing when we get there. I just want to run after Him. I just want to be where He is. I want to be available for Him to use me as His vessel, His instrument. And it sounds so appealing, this idea of being given over to God's power and love and will and Presence and glory, and singing at the top of my lungs, "You can have all the world. Give me Jesus!" Yes, it sounds wonderful. It sounds like an adventure. And nothing gives a poet more to write about or a singer more to sing about than a life of adventure. Hear me on this, I really believe that's the way we're supposed to live. Given over in joyful abandon to the Lover of our souls, the One who has hemmed us in behind and before. I'll confess though... it is SO much harder than I ever thought it would be. Words are one thing. Living them is something completely different.

Sometimes I think I'm crazy. Who in her right mind would chase after a Spirit? Who would ever live life moment by moment, totally okay that she doesn't know the details of what's going to happen? Sometimes I feel alone, like there's no one who really understands the passion or the faith that's driving me. Sometimes I feel confined, whether by my own fear, or by the fear of the well-meaning people who love me. Sometimes it just plain hurts, which brings me to the idea of bearing the cost. I guess I hadn't realized this, but it costs something to live given over. It makes perfect sense. If I lay something at the altar, I lay it there because it is a sacrifice, and sacrifices are costly. I lay it there to be consumed by fire from Heaven, and fire burns. If I'm going to live life running after my Beloved, after Jesus, I'm going to have to bear the cost. He said it like this, "Take up your cross and follow me." I don't know why it's taken so long for me to understand that. Maybe it's because I thought taking up my cross meant intense persecution or seasons of pain and struggle. That's not the case though. When I made the decision to live given over, my life changed. The desires of my heart changed. God sowed a seed in my heart that pierced my flesh, and left me aching, longing for Him and for His perfect, eternal love. That too is a cross to bear. So I daily bear the cost of my choice to live given over, but it is so worth it! To see God move in my life. To watch Him orchestrate every last detail. To feel His comfort after the pain. To experience His faithfulness. These are the things, though so often surrounded by pain, make life worth living. This is abundant life. Just because it hurts doesn't mean He's not in control, and it most certainly does not mean He's forgotten us or doesn't love us. It doesn't even mean we're on the wrong path. It's just a hard journey. And yet our Shepherd is a good and faithful guide. We hear His voice, even when we can't see or feel Him. And that is where acceptance with joy comes in. We bear the cost of our sacrifice, and we accept that with joy, because we know that He who called us is faithful, and though we experience sorrow and suffering, it is never unto death. Jesus chose to bear the cost so we might have eternal life.

May He reassure your heart today, and renew your faith to continue bearing the cost and live given over, for that is where we find abundant life.

Given over,

Friday, October 8, 2010

At the Pool of Sent

The story of Jesus healing the blind man in John chapter 9 has some special significance to me. It is the story God used to confirm in my heart that He has called me to seminary. I am a firm believer that we are all called to live a lifestyle of ministry wherever we are at. Ministry is a natural overflow of the Holy Spirit living in us. That is why I cannot say with any complete certainty at this point that God has called me into vocational ministry. I can only say that His desire for my future is to go to seminary and immerse myself in the study of His word so that I might be fully equipped for whatever He leads me to. I was blind, but Christ made me see. I was bound in chains, but He set me free. I was mute, but He gave me a song to sing. And now we are on an incredible journey... a journey of sanctification and transformation from glory to glory. Falling at His feet in worship, dedicating my life to following and serving Him seems the only response.

Something that has particularly begun to strike me recently is this idea that my affliction, my moments of darkness, my days in the pit, these all become the conduit through which God's work flows into and through my life. These are all places where Christ meets me and touches me and heals me and teaches me and transforms me. And as painful as those times might be, I actually look back on them, not just with a sense of peace, but an honest joy! I can actually be thankful for the pits and the moments I fall, because they provide opportunity to build a deeper intimacy with my Savior and Redeemer. In the wilderness, I am refined so that I can reflect the full glory of God as I go about my daily life.

Here is where I stand: I believe sorrow and suffering in our lives is not accidental and that our afflictions are actually predestined. The pits and our pitfalls along the journey do not surprise God, but rather are a part of His plan to meet us and refine us. That is what the blind man washing in the pool of Saloam (which means Sent) means to me. It's not the pool of "sending" or "going to send" or "might send." It is the pool of SENT. It's predestined. Our pain, the cancer, the self injury, the divorce, the sexual abuse, the depression, the addiction, the insecurity, the intense season of doubt, the fear, the anxiety, the unplanned pregnancy... none of it is without purpose. Even before we knew Christ, we were chosen, Sent to one day go and proclaim His power and grace and goodness. We face affliction so that Christ can have the victory and set us free. Though we know not when, I believe it will happen, and we will rejoice over the pain we once faced. That, my dear friends, is HOPE.

Bound to be set free,

At the Pool of Sent

There was a time
When I was blind
And I never knew why.
Who sinned?
And what was the sin
That had denied me my vision?

And I was fine.
I learned to get by.
The darkness hid the tears I'd cry
On my knees as I wrestled
With that unvoiced question:

Then one Sabbath
I felt the warmth of the sun on my skin
And I heard them
A group of men
Asking my question.
"Who sinned
To cause this man's affliction?"
And I prepared for an answer
To reinforce the condemnation.
But instead
The Man said,
"No one."

And in response to our surprise,
He replied,
"This man lacks his sight
So that all might
See the glory of God's work in his life."
Then I felt His hands
Placing mud upon my eyes.
I'll never forget
When He said,
"Go now, and wash in the Pool of Sent."
Only later did I realize
What He really meant
To say.

That my affliction
Had been predestined.
I had been chosen
To meet the Son of God
And experience His touch
Right there in the pit.
Before I even knew Him
I was Sent
To proclaim His faithfulness,
His power, and His goodness.
This pain
Which no one could explain
A conduit
Of God's grace
And glory.
It has shaped me,
The day I could finally see
The Man who stood before me,
And I believed.
Now I live
To worship at His feet.
That all might see
God's work displayed in me.
The fight was for His victory.
I was bound so He could set me free.
My suffering,
The stage for Glory.

Stephanie M. Frakes
(October 8, 2010)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Of Pits and Power

I've been thinking a lot about standing in strength and power recently. Last Tuesday I found myself in a practice room on my knees and in tears, wrestling with God. What it comes down to is that He was calling me to stand. And I wanted nothing to do with it. But our God is relentless.

Here's the best way I can describe it. There's a story in II Samuel where a man chases a lion into a pit on a snowy day and kills it. It's really very exciting stuff. Now, another pit story. In Judges, Gideon is hiding in a pit from his enemies. It is at this of all moments that God calls Him "mighty warrior" and tells him to rise and that he will rescue Israel. Of course Gideon thinks it's all crazy. Given the choice between the two stories, I would definitely have to say I prefer Gideon's. I would much rather hide in a pit than fight a lion in one. And yet, I know that hiding will not fulfill my soul. Hence, the tears and the wrestling match with God.

Let's be honest for a second. We've all been there, haven't we? We've all faced God's calling and wanted to run the other way. We've all looked at the women God wants us to be - standing strong, clothed in dignity, heads held high - and we've all at some point or another wanted nothing more than to hide. I discovered as I cowered in my pit that I was afraid of my potential. I could hear God calling me mighty, and I couldn't wrap my mind around it. I couldn't for the life of me see what He saw. And quite frankly, I was a little resentful that God would call me to such an impossible task. I didn't ask for the chance to go fight lions! I wanted to stay hidden in the pit like Gideon! And then God stopped me and gently reminded me that Gideon did eventually rise. He stood up and God fulfilled His plan, leading Gideon to victory. God made Gideon a mighty warrior once Gideon was willing to stand in faith and stop cowering and hiding... after Gideon was willing to be vulnerable. God was calling me to do the same thing. He calls all of us to do the same thing. And the truth is, as much as we may want to fight it, in our hearts we know that our desire is not to cower, but to stand in strength and dignity. So right there in a practice room, on my knees I found myself submitting to God, handing my heart and will over to Him, and begging Him for the courage to stand in the strength He desires for me.

It's kind of ironic, isn't it? Here I am bowing before God, surrendering to His desire to fill me with His power so that I could stand strong. I was surrendering to His empowerment. Yesterday (because the sermon at church was about POWER of all things!) I learned a lot more about this idea of surrender to empowerment. We were in Ephesians 3 where Paul talks about being rooted and established in love and having power to grasp the depths of God's love for us and being filled with the fullness of God. So here's the deal. If Christ lives in me, and if His glory is going to be reflected in me, I'm going to stand strong. I'm going to stand in power, because the all-surpassing power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in me. If I refuse to do that, if I choose to cower in the pit, I'm living in rebellion. If I refuse to stand, I refuse to allow God's power to be reflected me. If I say "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me" but then refuse to live in that strength, I do nothing to prove that true. I do not glorify Him, and I do not enjoy Him. Hear me on this. I firmly believe that God's desire is for us to live EMPOWERED to use and develop the gifts that He's given us TO THE FULLEST. We are NOT weak! We do NOT need to hide! We can stand strong and firm, rooted and established in His Love. We bow so that God can fill us, and than we stand strong that He might glorify Himself in us.

One last thought and I am done preaching. Life drives us into the pit. It happens. But our Beloved is faithful. He meets us right there in the pit, and He calls us mighty warrior. When we choose to stand and walk, even though our circumstances aren't changing, even though we feel weak and like all we want to do is hide, He fulfills His plans for us. He makes us mighty warriors. That is what faith is. God doesn't call us to things we can imagine. He calls us to adventures beyond our wildest dreams (check out Ephesians 3:20-21)! So let's all stand in Him. Let's spit in the face of fear and defy our human nature that causes us to desire safety over the fullness of God. Let's believe God. May we all walk clothed in strength and dignity. All God's promises are "yes" in Jesus. May our lives resonate with a bold and confident "amen!"

Surrendered to empowerment,

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Forever Reign

I heard this song for the first time in church today. Truly it was one of those moments where my heart stopped. My journey for the last week and a half or so has been a lot of God teaching me that He is enough. Nothing in this world fulfills completely. Nothing. Not divine revelation, not scriptural truth, not blessed relationships, not a life of ministry. All of these things are wonderful and they are of God to be sure, but in and of themselves, they will never be enough to fully satisfy my soul. Only the presence of God can do that. Only spending time marveling at who He is and what He's done, listening to Him call me His beloved. Only He is enough. The Person of God. This is the importance of solitude. This is the only place where my spirit finds rest... wrapped in the arms of my Beloved. More on that later, but for now, enjoy these lyrics. If you're brave, check out the video. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

In His arms,

Forever Reign - from the album "A Beautiful Exchange" by Hillsong

You are good, You are good
When there's nothing good in me
You are love, You are love
On display for all to see
You are light, You are light
When the darkness closes in
You are hope, You are hope
You have covered all my sin

You are peace, You are peace
When my fear is crippling
You are true, You are true
Even in my wandering
You are joy, You are joy
You're the reason that I sing
You are life, You are life,
In You death has lost it's sting

Oh, I’m running to Your arms,
I’m running to Your arms
The riches of Your love
Will always be enough
Nothing compares to Your embrace
Light of the world forever reign

You are more, You are more
Than my words will ever say
You are Lord, You are Lord
All creation will proclaim
You are here, You are here
In Your presence I'm made whole
You are God, You are God
Of all else I'm letting go

My heart will sing
no other Name
Jesus, Jesus

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Once Again

I'm making a new effort to start keeping up with this blog again (third time's the charm, right?). God's taking me on too much of a journey not to share it. The plan is you'll find a mixture of poetry, devotionals, and just thoughts stemming from the adventure I have embarked on with the Lover of my Soul. May you taste and see His goodness as you read the words He is writing on my heart.

And let's not make this one way. The greatest thing that could come of this is for God to begin showing you the adventure He's taking you on. Leave comments. Share your story. Start your own blog. I'm learning that there is something really powerful that happens as we share our stories. "We shall overcome by the Blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimonies."

With His song in my heart,

Sweet Release

When I look in Your eyes

I’m overwhelmed by emotions

Words fail to describe

My heart stirs inside

My chest

It’s as if my heart was ice

And at Your touch

It melted

And became this flood of praise

Surging through my veins

Falling from my lips

Like rain

And then the tears came

To prove I’ve been healed

And some might say

I should refrain

And perhaps maintain

My dignity

But I ask them

What dignity?

For I knew not the meaning of the word

Until I heard

Your voice singing over me

As I sat at Your feet

And felt the sweet release

Of freedom

So I’ll break the neck of my alabaster jar

Because You broke the chains that held my heart

I owe You everything

So I’ll give You everything

That means anything

To me

I’ll let the fragrance of my offering


Because I love You


And Lover of my soul

Stephanie M. Frakes

(August 24, 2010)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Everyday a New Song

So I was enjoying some much needed quiet time with my Father the other night when I found myself praying an interesting prayer. I longed for God to reveal to me the newness of each day. You see, I often find myself falling into such a routine that I start to live without thinking, and I hate that! I don't like feeling like I'm just caught up in some whirlwind. I don't like living on autopilot.

I guess it's like this. One of the things that I love most about music is a reflection of one of the things I love most about God. Music is never the same twice. Once a note rings out, it's gone. You'll never hear it again. And while that might sound dismal, that's really the beauty of it. Music is constantly new! I mean, sure you practice enough and consistency is sure to follow (at least that's the goal, generally speaking). This consistency can actually border on tiring and monotonous, perhaps playing on autopilot? But if you listen closely, it's actually always new. There are intricate little details, nuances that are slightly different each time. Truly, it's beautiful if you're willing to listen.

And so it is with God. His character never changes, but no experience with Him is the same twice. It may seem routine, but if you're opened to it, and if you really look for it, God is singing new songs everyday. That's why it says in Lamentations that God's mercies are new every morning. And so my prayer is that I would learn to see that. That I would live my life sensitive to His Spirit. That I would stop trudging along, eyes to the ground and take in even the subtle newness of each day. Because life lived in step with the Spirit may be routine, but it is anything but monotonous. Even being caught up in a whirlwind brings it's own kind of adventure.

Here's to new songs!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Full Out Symphony

Full-Out Symphony

There are times

A simple melody will do

A single line

Can bring me face to face with You

I don’t need more

To make my spirit rise

In little things

Your love takes me by surprise

But then there are days

When it seems Your glory fades

No melody can stir

This heart in stone encased

And I need more

Than a whisper of song

To reach through dark

And bring the light of dawn

So here I am

In tears and on my knees

I’m begging you

To play a full-out symphony

Sound the horns

Before a heart like Jericho

Tear down the walls

With the sweeping of Your bow

Beat the drums

‘Til this heart beats in time

Maestro, play

And Father, hold me tight

Stephanie M. Frakes

(December 25, 2009)