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.