A Release: Coming to the Altar

I first met Aliza when she became a writer for (in)courage. I'm so thankful that out of the hundreds of applications submitted, hers was among the group selected. Aliza is an aspiring artist, dreamer, and adventurer who is learning the grace that she is enough just as she is, and believes that you are enough, too.  In 2013, Aliza traveled to Rwanda, where she fell in love with blogging, Africa, and Jesus. Now, she is spreading cheer and sweet caffeine as a barista, and making the prettiest words you ever did see. She is a gorgeous hope spreader, an encourager, and the dearest of friends to me. I'm thrilled to welcome her to the blog today, and honored by her words.

Text by Aliza Latta:

I'm preparing myself to come to the altar, and a mixture of fear and apprehension sit in the pit of my stomach.

As I ready myself to begin the journey, my offering tucked tightly within my folded arms, I'm aware of the knowledge that a sacrifice is looming shortly ahead, and the truth of the matter is, I've never been one to find surrender easy.

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I place my offering on the altar that has been built for me - my disappointments, my shame, my feelings of not-enough. They all get plopped down with a heavy thud.

I'm wary, looking at them. I'm wondering if maybe these offerings aren't...right. I'd like to give Jesus my talents or gifts or glory, but at the moment, these measly insecurities are all I have to extend heavenward.

In Coming to the Altar, with a way that is both elegant and refreshing, Erin gently explains and assures us that we are home, we are safe, and we are loved by a Father who accepts us as we are. There is no need for striving, nor perfection, nor having it all together. Erin says that "even in our mess and waywardness, [God] longs to commune with us. He is jealous for our affection, spread thin in so many other places."

As I read Coming to the Altar, I felt a sense of utter rest. Erin talks about how this is the word she has chosen for her year, and how ironic it is that we must choose to take rest. But Erin makes this choice easy, with her poetic and enlivening prose.

Erin encourages us to find "deep, soul joy," and after reading Coming to the Altar, I believe that I can.

So now, I look at my altar, my offerings displayed vast and large across it. And I know that my altar is unnecessary now. I don't have to sacrifice myself, because Jesus has already sacrificed himself for me. And in that sacrifice, he displayed the greatest act of love ever known, and with that love I can rest in this: I am home, I am safe, I am enough.

Read Coming to the Altar. You won't regret it.


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A God Who Beckons

In Revelation, scripture says that God is knocking on our doors, and if anyone hears His voice and opens the door, He will come in and eat with them. But my insides, well, they're all tied up in doubt and grief knots. I wonder if the Lord delights in the inner workings of my heart and my thoughts. Am I creating the kind of dwelling place that my Creator would desire to inhabit? The world can be such a grim place, and sometimes I forget trust. I search for security in places that it cannot be found. All the while, He is inviting me into the residence of His goodness. Isaiah says He reaches for me all day long. In spite of my mess, in spite of my waywardness. He longs to commune with me.

Sometimes I forget that I am known -- that He is wholeheartedly in favor of me. Believing is sometimes a moment by moment battle, but each of these moments is an invitation to trust. Each moment stretches my heart farther than I thought it could go.

And sometimes, the stretching is painful. It pushes me out of my complacency, pulls me out of my good and fine and comfortable and into the messy and hard and genuine; the grace that is at the end of myself and beyond.

Each of those moments is an invitation to become more like Christ. More like the redeemer of everything it means to be human.

Perhaps I must turn down my noise in order to really hear the knock. The choice to be still is not always readily made, but that is the invitation: to open my heart to His reaching arms, and allow Him to bring peace.

Because to know that there's nothing I can do to make Him love me more? That can sometimes be a bit anxiety inducing. But flipped, it is also the most freedom giving. To rest at His feet, and simply be.

The Testimony of Creation

Donald Miller once wrote "all the trees are losing their leaves, and not one of them is worried." I can't tell you how much time has passed since I first read those words, but I can tell you that they still leave me in a mixed state of awestruck and convicted. I keep coming back to them.

I have always loved Autumn. Nothing quite compares to the way blue sky stretches to meet crinkly mustard and burnt sienna, and the swaying motion of crisp terra cotta as it dives towards the ground. Its all incredibly beautiful, but there is a much darker side: creeping death is at work. Soon, the trees will be skeletons, shivering in biting gray wind.

The earth is unafraid of what is about to take place. She does not struggle to maintain her grip.

Oh, how I have been afraid, and struggled to maintain my grip.

In the opening chapter of Romans, Paul tells the church at Rome that there is no excuse for not knowing God, when His glory can be found everywhere. By taking a look around us, His divine presence should be evident enough.

Christ tells us to consider the birds, how they don't sow or reap or gather, and yet the Lord sustains them. Will He not provide for us, His children, in the same way? And look at the lilies, they don't toil or spin, and yet they are dressed more beautifully than even the richest of kings. Simple grass, here today and gone tomorrow. How much more does Father God care for us? He knows what we need, and longs to be gracious.

Donald continues, "teach us what the flowers already know: that we'll live and die, and You'll clothe us -- all for your glory."

Eyes brim as I recall in scripture where it says that He is before all things, and in Him, all things hold together.  Even when I'm falling, even when it seems like I have been forgotten and all hope seems lost. Even when the pain of winter is so bitter, and springtime seems so far away. He is holding me together.

Is this not reason enough to praise?

Christ said that if we cease praising, the very rocks will cry out.

This is the testimony of creation: that we don't have to worry about what may come tomorrow. Creation testifies to the heart of the Creator.

A friend tweets "Study God as Creator, because if He made you, then He can keep you, and if He can keep you, then He can always reach you. He's strong enough to love you."

God as Creator: His name literally means “the sound of breathing.” He spoke, breathed His life image into the world and all that is went through the process of becoming. He spoke perfection: once broken, but never beyond His reach. The Word became flesh, but even his own failed to recognize him, and how often do I err in the same way? How frequently do I go through my days without realizing the evidence of a grace-torn curtain, His glory unleashed?

Christ, entirely familiar with my afflictions, and yet without sin. He took my punishment. How could that be insufficient? And how much does He, who went to the ends of the earth to save once and for all, desire to bless with all things?

Knowing this, receiving it, is how we begin to live a life like the lilies, a life that wholly recognizes the sovereignty of God. The lilies live open, stretched upward, as though to say that they are ready to receive the grace.

He’s holding me together, in His love and mercy. He knows what I need before I ask. Nothing that happens here catches Him off guard — and all those nagging “what ifs” and all the creeping, crippling fear have no place when we rest in His presence, when we listen to the truth that He is speaking over us: that we are always loved, always within reach.

Coming to the AltarLinking up with The Nester and a host of other amazing bloggers for {31 Days}Returning to some words written last month in When Fear Throws Pebbles...