Yet Still Today

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A couple of months ago I hit a new low in regard to my health. It reached a place where I could not continue on the way things were and I had to go out on leave from work for about six or seven weeks. So these last weeks have been spent in rest and recuperation, nesting around my home, and moving through the days one at a time.

Blessings have come, yet my health is still a thorn in my side, friends. Yes, I am better in some ways, but the monster is always there ~ simply looming and waiting, teeth exposed and jaws flapping, eyes squinting and piercing and ugly mouth salivating ~ just always right there and waiting to chomp.

But Jesus is here too, and although the monster tries to give me a run for my money, it is simply no match for my Savior.

I am His.

Yet still today…………

  • Today I return to work, to a new and better work situation which is a blessing (a miracle, actually) yet I find myself in a strange place.
  • Today I am finding myself anxious when I know that I shouldn’t be.
  • Today I am wishing I could continue on the way I have been these past six weeks or so.
  • Today I am finding myself feeling discontent even before anything has changed or happened.
  • Today I am fearful and feeling guilty because that must mean I am not trusting in Him.
  • Today I am looking at what might be yanked away from me instead of seeing the blessing that the Lord has provided to make dealing with the ugly a little bit less ~ ugly.
  • Today I am already feeling guilty that I have all of these feelings.

What will this new season in life regarding my new work situation really mean for me and my family? Will I be able to do a good job without compromising my health? Can I let go of the expectations I have always had of myself to perform to the utmost of my ability and just simply do a GOOD job? Is that enough?

What if it doesn’t work out? What then?

I am His.

In so many ways I am a glass half full girl, while in others I am quite the opposite. I wish I could just pick one and be it, but that’s not the way it works for me. When I am the half empty kinda gal, I know I am simply trying to be honest and practical and realistic, yet I feel guilty for being less than positive about things. When I’m in half full mode, I feel great about looking at things as positively as possible, yet worry I am placing too much faith and hope in whether things turn out good or not.

It’s not about that and I know it.

It’s about trusting in Him no matter what things come, how things work out or don’t work out, and knowing without question that no matter what, He never changes.

Neither does this:

I am His.

So today I do not find myself looking at the glass one way or another. I find myself looking past the glass and unto Jesus, friends. I am reaching for His hand and trusting Him to pave the way for me. I am believing that He already has this covered and will reveal to me all that He has for us. I am hoping in Him and that He will help me to keep what truly matters at the top of my priority list.

That’s the part that is far more than half full. My cup runneth over.

Because…….

I am His.

Do you know that you are His no matter what happens to you? In the face of the unknown or difficulty or trials, do you know that Jesus never changes and is always by your side? Can you bring yourself to His feet and turn that thing over to Him even before you have your emotions straightened out? That’s the way it’s supposed to be anyway, friends ~ we can come to Him just as we are. It’s always been that way and remains that way ~

Yet still today.

LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. Psalm 23:5

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Peace for this Piece ~ A Prayer Request for Kara’s Loves

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Last night, I went to bed with a piece of my heart that felt kind of out of place, jumbled up, and twisted in several knots. I then woke up this morning and the first thought that came to my mind was of Kara Tippets and her loves ~ particularly her beautiful little family and one of her dearest friends who I call friend as well, my Shellie.

To say that my heart hurts for them today, friends? Well, that is quite simply a major understatement.

As many of you already know, Kara Tippetts went home to be with Jesus yesterday, and her loves are hurting. Her husband, her beautiful four children, and her many, many friends ~ they have a different feeling in their hearts today than they did prior to yesterday. I would venture to guess that it feels like it’s being squeezed, and squeezed hard.

And that is a hurt that one can only understand if they have been there.

But there is peace in this piece of things too…

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

Kara allowed Jesus to speak to us through her in so very many ways, friends. She spoke much about The Hardest Peace and even wrote a book titled as such ~ about the peace we find in Jesus in the midst of suffering, hardship, heartache, and even when all the pieces of this puzzle we call life seem to be shattering all around us.

But she always returns to Jesus ~ always returns to His grace and His peace, His joy and His love ~ no matter how many pieces of us seem to be crumbling down to the floor.

He makes us whole even when we seem to be falling apart.

And there is peace in that piece of things too…

Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well. Matthew 9:22

Kara has fully returned to Jesus, friends ~ to live with Him in her forever home. And she is healed from cancer and all that may have been ailing her on this earth.

But what about the sharp pieces that those who love her are dealing with today? Is there peace to be had for this piece in the suffering pie that they must endure right now? Is there peace to be had and snippets of joy to be felt even as they move through these days, weeks, and years without Kara by their side? They know they will be seeing her again ~ but that doesn’t mean that they won’t be missing her something fierce ~ something heart-squeezing.

Is there peace to be had for all of these pieces that are so very hard to swallow and we sometimes wish we could just throw out and rid ourselves of so we can get back to the good stuff?

I’m pretty sure that Kara might say to us ~ “this IS the good stuff. Seeking His peace and being held by Him even when it’s hard.”

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 14:27

Christ’s peace is not always the kind that makes us feel totally calm, at ease with everything, or completely void of stress and difficulty. It is, like Kara tried to tell us and show us in all that she did, a peace that can often be hard to grasp, but one worth holding on to with our ALL.

And it can definitely be hard to swallow.

But the Lord has placed a voracious appetite within us and has assured us that He is here for us, with outstretched hand ~ ready to carry us through so we don’t cut ourselves on the shards.

We have to reach for it, friends. We have to reach for His hand. But we don’t need to strain too hard, for He is ready and waiting for us.

We have only to hold out our hands, because His is already right there for the grasping.

There is peace in that piece too….

…that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us. Acts 17:27

Reaching for the hand of Christ is not hard once it’s open and willing~ it’s not the hardest piece for us as we walk through rough things. I think it’s the willingness to simply even open our hands wide in the first place that can prove to be a strain for us.

We like to clench our fists sometimes.

But Kara’s loves ~ many of them ~ well, they don’t struggle with this piece of things. They don’t struggle with reaching for Jesus through this sad time or the suffering they are enduring as they grieve the loss of having their Kara by their side.

But their hearts are still being squeezed today, friends. They are all dealing with the pieces of grief, and heart hurt and missing their love so very dearly today.

They are being squeezed and may be wondering if they will come out whole on the other side of it. But they are also being held tightly by Jesus. He’s holding them together as they contend with the broken.

And there is peace in that piece, friends.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:1-2

So, will you pray for peace amid all the pieces of grief these friends are enduring today, dear ones? Will you pray for their hearts to be filled with Jesus and His love and comfort as they walk through this twisty-turny valley of sadness intermingled with peace and love all at the same time? Will you pray that the Lord will help them to know that it’s okay to be rejoicing one minute for Kara and the fact that she’s fully healed and in the presence of her Savior, and crying the next because they miss her so very much?

Will you pray peace over all of these pieces?

Most of all, will you open your hand to your One, True Savior and let Him hold it as you walk through suffering or hard stuff in this life as well? Will you share yourself with others who wish to walk alongside you if you are grieving, or if the pieces seem to be shattering all around you today?

Therein lies His peace.

There is always peace in every piece if we open up our hands and turn our eyes upon our One and Only and ever-so Mighty Savior, our dear Jesus.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to a fund benefitting the Tippetts children:
Jason Tippetts
P.O. Box 49727
Colorado Springs, CO 80949

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For My Son ~ It’s a Painful Privilege, I Know

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Lately my son has been sharing his heart, his hurt heart with me. I’m thankful that he’s willing to do so and I know that he would want me to share some of this with you, as many of you probably struggle with this at times. Maybe you will be encouraged to know you are not alone ~ that we are all in this thing together, yes?

His hurts come not from the normal-type of angst you might expect from a teenager ~ one who is on the cusp of becoming a full-blown man. One who may feel ready to move on to the next phase/stage of life, but still has school ahead of him.

No. His hurt comes from something much more riveting than all of that stuff.

His hurts aren’t plaguing him because no one is paying attention to him, or that the girl of his dreams doesn’t like him back the way he would hope she would right now, or even from being a bit in that awkward, in-between place where you are sort of ready to grow up, but the world says…”not quite yet.”

It’s not that kind of stuff at all.

It’s about the difficulty we all face ~ those of us who are best friends with Jesus ~ the difficulty of feeling like we are trapped, and unable to live in our forever home. The difficulty turns into a bit of sadness. It can then morph into a sense of discontent, being  unsettled, or wondering where your place is when you know you aren’t living “at home” right now.

That forever home with Jesus ~ the place where there are no limitations in screaming out how much we love Him at the top of our lungs!

That forever home ~ the one where no one is trying to stay hush-hush about the one, most singular awesome thing there is to talk about ~ our Mighty God~

That forever home ~ the one that those of us who walk with Him closely know will be so much better than the world we live in now.

Yet…….

We have been placed  here for a reason, friends. It is hard ~ soooo very hard sometimes not to long for home in a way that wrenches our hearts isn’t it?

But what I was trying to share with my son (and I would covet your prayers for this to sink into his heart and encourage him) is that I have been through the same thing he’s going through right now ~  and what the Lord has always planted inside my heart to encourage me and pull me out of the mire is this:

HE came down to rescue us.

HE came down to be light in this world and save us.

HE came down to walk amongst us and suffered for us.

HE came down!!!

So why should we get out of it? Why should we get to be let off the hook from being here, walking amongst others in a foreign land?

In no way do I want to make light of or diminish my son’s feelings, or those we all experience from time to time at all by saying any of this. I just feel that I’d like to share what God showed me when I went through the same thing. He taught me that it is actually possible to wish for and long for our forever home, but still be okay with being here for the time being.

  • It IS possible to live in this world, but not for this world.
  • It IS possible to look forward to (and pray and beg for) his imminent return, but still move through our days with purpose and joy and peace.
  • It IS possible to do both ~ but we have to fight for it, and pray diligently, and walk in faith and KNOW without question He has us here because it is HIS will.
  • It IS possible!

And yes ~ it IS hard.

We get the privilege of being light in a cold and dark world.

We get the privilege of living out the love and compassion Jesus so deeply desires be given out freely to others who either don’t know Him, or are struggling to stand strong for Him.

It’s our privilege that is painful, but a privilege nonetheless.

I will be the first to raise my hand and say “ooh, ooh, pick me” to be able to proclaim without hesitation that it is hard ~ hard beyond belief! We are to look forward to the return of Jesus and He even tells us that those who do so will be blessed.

But in the meantime, we have to trust Him that He has us here for good reason. It’s not about us ~ it’s about Him and His glory.

So, for my son, I’d like to encourage you today…

It’s a painful privilege you have been gifted with to walk this life on fire for Jesus, when it seems that everyone around you simply wants to pour water over you and put out that fire.

Don’t let the enemy win.

My son ~

It’s a painful privilege to long for your forever home, but remain here to be Jesus even when you can’t freely speak Jesus.

But He will be the words ~ you have only to show up.

Oh my son ~

It’s a painful privilege to love your Savior so very much that you simply want to be in His presence forevermore and be done with this hiccup in your eternity.

But it’s also a peaceful privilege.

There is peace beneath the pain ~ and it’s all because of Jesus!

May God give you the peace and JOY that surpasses all the gunk that comes at you from the outside. Those darts and arrows cannot penetrate the fortress He has created in and around your heart, mind and soul.

It is not possible, because YOU. ARE. HIS.

And I am so very thankful that I have been given the beautiful privilege of walking through this painful privilege with you as my earthly son. Yep ~ there’s that peace again.

And ~ as I smile to myself, I hear Him say….

Don’t forget about the joy. Do NOT forget about my joy!”

Oh my son ~

We shall rejoice!

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” Philippians 4:4

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Lizard Dawgs Need Love Too

My husband and I were gifted a trip recently ~ a getaway for a few days, friends. We enjoyed every minute of it. We are ever-so grateful.

Aside from the time together as a couple and the chance to get away from it all, we were in a beautiful and warm climate. My body truly loved soaking up the sun and the bit of moisture in the air.

This is the kind of place that makes you want to immediately go outside upon waking.

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We only ran into a small spot of trouble when winding through these lovely pathways around our hotel as we made the short trek to the beach. They seemed to be lurking at every turn. Some were sunning themselves, while others were scrambling across the path from one place of hiding to another.

You had to be careful, friends ~ some of these dudes were the size of a dog. This one here is one of the medium-sized ones.

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Eventually my husband learned that although I was in awe of these scaly (somewhat slimy-seeming) things, I was not about to be walking across any path that I could already see them congregated upon.

Not this girl.

So we did even more walking and took the long way ’round lest we run into more “lizard dawgs.”

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Now, when someone is naughty or rude to me around my house, I have decided to call them a lizard dawg. I’ve always had issues with avoidance of conflict.

Upon returning home, we finally were able to get our new puppy we have prayed over for quite some time now. With me starting to work from home instead of in the office, I needed a little friend. My family has wanted a puppy to love for years now.

Meet Rudy.

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Rudy is beyond easy to love. He has become a part of our family quite effortlessly and is a wonderful (already trained) little dog. He is easy to take care of, loves to sit and cuddle, but enjoys playing and running around.

He doesn’t make you walk around him to avoid being bitten either, unlike the lizard dawgs.

But as we were returning home, I thought about how people are judged as to how lovable they are sometimes by how easy they are to love. And that is really just not right.

Jesus came to save the sinners, sin, imperfections, warts and all.

He came to love the unlovable.

He calls us to do the same.

There’s nothing wrong with the fact that I love my little Rudy. But I must always remember not just to love him because he’s cute and cuddly. I need to love him (as well as others)even when they are ugly.

I need to remember to love those who don’t always love me back.

Even if they are lizard dawgs…..

And maybe even skeleton dogs too.

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For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? Matthew 5:46

 

 

For You ~ My Forever Friends

It’s been a while, friends ~ a spot of time has passed in which I have not written anything down that normally must spill out of my heart without hesitation. I have not been intentionally withholding ~ in fact, I have longed to write to you and share with you.  Yes ~ I have missed you. It’s been a while, friends.

I haven’t forgotten to pray for you. You are in my heart. 

It’s been a time, friends ~ a time of solitude, listening, centering myself with my Jesus and my family. A time of wrapping my heart and mind further around the state I am in physically ~ of reconciling that with the Lord. It’s been a time of learning something new about acceptance and surrender (when is it NOT the time for that?).  It’s been a time, friends.

What has the time brought to you over the last month or two?, I wonder.

It’s been a journey, friends ~ a continuation of a journey in which the Lord brings new surprises along the side of the road for me to feast my eyes upon. A journey in which He has had to carry me along the way, and at other times, in which He has allowed me to stop and rest a while. The road changes daily, but the sameness that matters is there and found in Him (He is with me every step of the way). It  has been a journey, friends.

I feel like you are there with us a lot of the time.

I have much to share with you about this last month, but I am not quite ready just yet. But you are in my heart ~ deeply tucked inside ~ and for you, I am ever-so grateful.

I have been out on a temporary leave of absence from work for almost a month now. I have much to share with you and will promise to do so soon. I am a blessed and most fortunate girl.

But for today, I just wish to say that there is so much to be learned from living in each day with Jesus ~ simply one day at a time ~ one step at a time. Just doing the days with Jesus.

These days string together and certain things on the outside become fuzzy. The lack of that relentless need to know exactly what date of the month it is has been freeing for me. I have never felt that kind of freedom before ~ free to just let the day pass and fill it with what the Lord leads me and enables me to do that day. There is beauty to be found when illness creates limitations for us as long as we spend that time, that while, that part of the journey with Jesus.

Jesus can make us fly when our bodies seem to say we have to stand still.

  • It’s been a while since I felt that, friends.
  • It’s been a time I will never forget to cherish, my friends.
  • It’s a part of this journey that by all worldly standards screams “this stinks!” but is having the most opposite effect that I could possibly imagine.

So for a while longer, I shall revel in that, dear friends. For just this small portion of time, I will move from one day to the next without worrying too much about all the plans and tasks that I cannot do, and embrace what I can. I am not sad. I am not feeling like I am missing out, although there are pockets of time in which I get sick and tired of being sick and tired.

I am rich. In spite of it all, I am RICH!

You are riding along with me in my heart on this journey, friend. This journey with Jesus at the helm.

I talk to Jesus about you every single day.

And although you aren’t hearing from me as regularly right now in this particular season, please know that I pray for your daily walk with Him ~ that your journey would be full of richness and joy and peace and learning.

And may you know without a doubt, that I have not forgotten you ~ my brothers and my sisters.

I hear from Him about you as well: I can feel His love for you. It is strong.

It is a beautiful thing.

Let’s celebrate the freedom that comes from knowing Him ~ from loving Him and loving one another. Let us celebrate the beauty to be found in the midst of that which can seem daunting or less than pleasant. Because wherever Jesus is, well….that’s where I want to be.

  • He doesn’t always pick the beautiful looking road to take us on ~ no, He’s not a tour guide.
  • He doesn’t always let us stop along the way, but if we are weary, He will always be there to carry us.
  • He does give us rest when we need it, and amazingly, allows us to connect to one another through Him, even when we have physical limitations.

He is AWESOME.

He is ALL-KNOWING.

And He is FAITHFUL.

I thank Jesus for you, dear friends. And I just wanted to let you know I am thinking of you and praying for you. Oh, how I do miss you. I look forward to the time in which the Lord says I can write to you regularly again.

Let me know how you are doing in the comments, dear friends. And if you do? Know that I will celebrate along with you, and I will pray for you if  you are going through a difficult time.

I am certainly no Paul, by any stretch of the imagination. But I do relate a lot to what Paul might have been going through when he was in prison (on a much smaller scale, I am sure). I ran across this section of scripture again that sums up how I feel about you and just wanted to share it below.

It is for you…..For you are my forever friends.

I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy  because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now,  being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1: 3-8

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Hour by Hour

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God delivers. God saves. God makes all things new.

The residue from our family conflict is being replaced by new seeds ~ seeds of beauty to replace the ugly gunk. Seeds of growth that God plants, even in what seems to be a lifeless mass of junk that this girl would have chosen to discard ~ thinking it’s worthless.

They’re going to become beautiful flowers.

Because He makes all things new.

Healing has begun, but God doesn’t stop there. He uses every situation ~ every circumstance to make things new and better than before. He’s growing a garden ~ a divine one that surpasses what we can even imagine right now.

It’s hard though ~ hard when we are hot in the middle of the messy part. It’s hard to see what He is doing. We can believe (we have to or we are DEAD)…..but we want to see the results faster sometimes than they come. We get tired of just believing, and want the prize right away.

Seeds have to grow.

Today I am thankful that talking and heart sharing has been done. I am grateful that I know that the seeds of the newness of God have been planted. I see the flowers in my mind’s eye. I see them already.

Yet I find myself wondering ~ when will He plant those seeds regarding my health? I find myself wondering if there will ever be pretty flowers to smell in this part of the garden.

Chances are He already has planted them. I think maybe I have stopped fully believing.

  • I believe He is working all things together for my good.
  • I believe His strength is being made perfect through my weakness.
  • I believe He will make something new out of the old in my body.

I just don’t know what it’s going to look like yet. I don’t know that I will get to ever see and smell the pretty flowers.

And that makes me SAD.

Please don’t pity me, friends. I am not asking for that at all. I am simply a weary woman who is sharing what is in my heart and mind today.

I don’t know anything special or wise to share about all of this at this point….it hasn’t been given to me. No nugget of wisdom ~ no secret sauce ~ no enlightening answer as to how God gets us through such things.

It surpasses my knowledge ~ it surpasses my understanding.

I only know that He is not forsaking me. At this point, I only know that there’s something more He wants to grow in me regarding my belief.

It may not look pretty or smell good, but He is growing it. My faith is not strong in the way or area that He wants for it to be. I don’t know how I know this ~ I just do.

So for now, it’s truly hour by hour. For now, I cannot make plans that I know are likely to come to fruition.

For now, I don’t know what the next day holds, or even the next hour.

I only know I have to take it hour by hour ~ with Him.

What will the Lord help you to accomplish this hour? What if we stop worrying about whether we will meet all of our responsibilities in the hours to come and take it one hour at a time? What if we ask Him to meet us anew as we trudge, hope, pray to make it through just this hour? And when the hour arrives in which we don’t “make it” through? Is it really true that we didn’t make it? If He is with us, and we are seeking Him, is that not triumph?

I am so focused on my failures that I fail to see the triumph in what He is doing in and through me in those times. I fail to see that I am already walking through the garden with Him.

Hour by hour, He meets me and is making something new, friends. Some hours I am able to move, accomplish, finish, follow through. And some are filled with disappointment and fear of what may result as a consequence starts to threaten me.

This is when He meets me and tells me that He’s got this covered. I just don’t see it yet.

Seeds are being planted round the clock, friends. I can’t say it doesn’t hurt sometimes. I can’t say I am not impatient to see them grow. I can’t say I get tired of all the planting and want to see the end result more than focus upon the utter KNOWING that God’s work is being accomplished!

But I know that He is planting.

This hour, I know that He delivers ~ He plants ~ and He can grow beauty out of what seems worthless or even dead.

My prayer for us today is that we all forget, even if just for a while, about all that is old, broken or just not working right any more. May we forget it long enough to see that inside, we are being renewed. He is in the process of planting new seeds all the time.

Every hour He is making us new.

Let Him meet you today, friends. Let Him meet you this hour and the next one and the next.

And know that He is God.

Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17

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This Is War

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There was a conflict in my home last night ~ a family conflict. It came on suddenly, and it grew, and grew and grew until it had a life of its own.

Words flew, confusion ensued, and emotions ran the show. I can tell you right now ~ it was not a show that I haven’t seen before, but I never signed up for a repeat performance.

You see, the enemy entered my house at some point and I didn’t see him coming. I don’t think any of us did.

I think it’s because he snuck into our hearts first. He came in through the back door.

This is what I was writing about the other day: This!

  • This is the ugly I want for God to show me when it’s coming.
  • This is the ugly I want to be on guard for, so I can avoid being caught unaware.
  • This is the ugly that the world tells us is unavoidable, so we get weary of looking for it and heading it off at the pass.

This is the ugly that is not beautiful in its own twisted way.

What is really sad is that we all have a full set of the best armor ~ It’s God’s armor. The sad part is that I can’t even say we weren’t armed…we just armed ourselves with the fake and cruddy stuff. We grabbed the armor of self ~ the glittery and really convenient kind. We grabbed what seemed like it was closest.

News Alert: It didn’t work. Fake stuff never does.

So today…today remorse is trying to win. Today condemnation is trying to win. Today the conflict and the life of its own that spun a web of fire and tried to burn things down has subsided, but the embers are still there ~ threatening to catch on fire again.

Today seems…..dark.

Today it is time for God’s water. It is time for God’s light in the midst of the darkness. Today it is time for God’s mercy and compassion and love. Today it is time to dump out the vestiges of remorse, bitterness, condemnation.

It’s going to hurt.

I am anxious today. I am anxious because everyone has to go their separate ways to do life and their individual responsibilities and we are all separated. I am anxious because there is talking and understanding to be done and we are unable to come together to do it.

I am holding on to the anxiety and struggling to turn it over to God.

But I am believing today, friends. I am believing that God can draw us together in spite of the physical separation.

I am believing.

I am believing that He knows each of our hearts and our desire to make things right.

I am believing.

I am believing that He can heal us and He doesn’t even need our help to do it.

I believe.

I believe He will use the space of separation to draw us together.

This morning, as I took two of my children to school, my son said “I realize I have anger issues and probably always will need God to help me with that.” All I could think was ~ “don’t we all?”

Anger is an ugly monster. So is selfishness.

And so is condemnation.

When we fail to stop in those moments to put on our armor, we give all of our energy to the match of ugly and evil that is trying to grow into an out-of-control bonfire.

I didn’t use my armor. Few of us involved in the ugly conflict did. We all have “anger issues.”

Today I am going to sharpen it and put it back on.

And I’m not going to forget to remember who my enemy really is.

This is war. And I know who is going to win.I need to stop forgetting to remember that. I need to remember that we are on the winning side.

No one ever said that war would be pretty. But there IS beauty in that kind of ugly.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Show us the Ugly!

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I’ve been thinking about this. I’ve been really pondering how faked out the world has many of us. It’s the enemy. He is so very deceitful and conniving. He is the master of deceit, and if we aren’t guarded, he’s right there ready to ensnare us.

He gets into our minds. There’s a trickle effect involved with that. What is lodged into our thoughts and minds seeps down into the heart, and vice versa.

What we think soon becomes what we feel. What we feel can start to override our thoughts.

Satan’s goal is to lead us astray in thought and heart and in turn, deed.

He twists everything.

The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:4-5- 

He either takes a really simple and subtle approach (a mere distraction that grows like a weed) or makes things too complicated so that we simply think we cannot focus ~ focus on the simple truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

He steals! Little by little, he rips away our time and our thoughts and in turn, our loyalties can become fragmented.

We are split into multiple directions and if we aren’t careful, we can end up….paralyzed.

But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:3

To see the beauty of being in Christ, it is necessary to face the ugly around us just as He did when He walked among us. If we cower, hide, or be afraid of facing it ~ that’s when fear starts to cripple and control us.

You see, I think that is one of the enemy’s go-to schemes. I think he wants us to spend all of our time running away from that which we can embrace with Christ on our side and then it just continues to follow us around (the world calls it baggage).

Adam and Eve COULD HAVE talked to God about the temptation they were facing in the Garden.

Eve could have called upon the Lord and said “I am confused and feeling upset because this guy over here told me something that bothers me.”

They could have faced the fear and the ugly with God.

But that’s not where it stops. The the horrible one never relies on only one method to throw us off-balance and draw us into the abyss. He loves to entice us with fake glimmers of light and beauty to feast our eyes upon as well.

“Look at this beauty over here ~ don’t look at that ugly stuff! Let me give you the positive stuff to dive into ~ let me make you feel better!”

It’s hard, but we can recognize the fake stuff if we listen to the Holy Spirit. It’s usually the stuff that comes with a cost ~ a sacrifice of what we know to be RIGHT.

Sometimes, we are scared to open our eyes because we know somehow….we know inside that we have approached the line and we are afraid that if we open them, there is going to be a big ugly monster staring us in the face.

No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 2 Corinthians 11:4

But when God shows us the truth about that shiny, glittering object that the enemy is putting in front of us ~ the one that is meant as a distraction from real goodness, real truth, real love ~ we can see the ugly that makes up the core of what it really is.

AND……….He is there with us. He is there and He will help us face the monster.

We have to ask. We have to put on the armor daily. We have to WANT to see the ugly for what it is.

And then, we don’t leave it at that: we seek Him to tell us what ugly is from the disgusting one, and what ugly is simply a trial we are going through that the beautiful One wishes to make new.

Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil Ephesians 6:11

We must believe that He will never forsake us, friends. We must believe that He will be with us. We must listen and see what He wants for us. What ugly does He want us to face down today, with HIM? What ugly does He want us to recognize early on and to turn and run to HIM instead?

Show us the ugly, Lord. Show us the ugly that we are to run from and give us guidance to move right beneath your Mighty wings. FAST!

Show us the ugly, Lord. Show us the ugly that is part of what you are doing in our lives ~ the stuff we are to embrace because it is part of YOUR beautiful story. It’s a testimony of your strength in our weakness.

Show us the ugly, Lord. Show us the ugly and give us your wisdom and discernment to know the difference. Help us to listen ~ to see.

Show us the difference between the evil kind of ugly and the kind that is a testimony of the beautiful work of sanctification that comes out of what You are doing in our lives.

  • Even through our weakness.
  • Even through our disobedience and prodigal and sinful natures.
  • Through our mistakes, our challenges, our failures to see.

Show us YOUR beauty in the ugly, Lord. Help us not to close our eyes. Help us not to live in fear, but the full knowledge that You are the faithful One.

You are the Almighty One.

You are the Faithful One.

You are the truly Beautiful One.

But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. 2 Thessalonians 3:3

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

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There’s a Yes in that No!

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The Word of God admonishes us to “let our yes be yes and our no be no.” That is truth we need to live by, as so often, we fail to be honest ~ we waver ~ then we are tossed to and fro. We often add emphasis to our yes or no to make our point. This is unnecessary and according to the Lord, comes only from the evil one.

We are not to swear by anything or anyone else ~ just to say yes or no.

Sometimes circumstances change though, and we have to change our minds. If that is the wise choice, then our answer may have to change along with the situation. Then, we must stand firm in that new answer ~ once again.

We may have to give a new answer ~ a different one. But in that moment, we still need to  simply answer….. yes or no.

Again.

This will bring about a time of testing for us, friends. It is hard to stand by our answers, especially when they have to change. We get caught up in thinking that our first answer should remain no matter what happens.

But it can’t always be that way.

  • The person who has cancer, and thought they would be able to continue to drive or attend PTA meetings for another six months…but the test results show that there needs to be a change of plans.
  • The play you said you thought you could attend (on time) for your child’s drama performance, but traffic decided otherwise for you.
  • The commitment you made months ago to help out in another area in church, at work, or at a friend’s special party ~ and illness changed things on a dime.

So yes being yes and no being no is not about whether or not your answer will ever have to change. It’s about not adding to it by swearing by any other power outside of your answer.

Was your initial “yes” not true? Certainly not! Circumstances simply changed.

So let’s look at another part of the struggle in our need to sometimes say No. This part of it is the part that I am dealing with currently, and it is WAY harder for me than the kind of things I listed above.

It’s about the perspective thingie.

For me, the struggle is not about whether I stand firm in regard to my word, barring circumstances that I cannot help. Instead, it’s about how there is always a “yes” to be found in our need to say “no”…..IF we are now having to say “no” after prayer and consideration from a Godly perspective.

It’s about how hard it is sometimes to see the Yes in the No and know that God’s got plans. Plans to work all things together for our good. Plans to show His mighty strength through our weakness.

Plans to prosper us and not harm us.

HE knows what the Yes is in the No.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

Let me tell you, friends. I cannot COUNT how many “No’s” I have had to dole out lately.

Here are just a few:

  • I have to say “No” about serving or attending church on Wednesday nights right now – it’s the middle of my work week and I have to use Wednesday as a day of rest, a day of not going out in the evening. Period. And I hate it.
  • I have to say “No” about doing more than one or two errands at a time ~ even when it’s something that might mean a lot to my kids if I could say “Yes.” Hate that too.
  • I have to say “No” to doing the big grocery shopping trip every week ~ this means my husband gets to do this chore after working way more hours than I do during the week, along with the many other things he has to take care of on the weekends. Really hate this one!
  • I had to say “No” to several things at work that would not only benefit me career-wise, but really benefit the company for which I work if I could pull it off right now. Hate, hate, hate it!
  • AND…..at work: I can’t have a “normal” workspace….I can’t wear normal headphones like everyone else around me. I can’t sit just anywhere. I can’t volunteer to do extra things that would benefit many people, even though I am skilled to do the tasks. My boss has to build me a special cubicle just so I can cope with the sensory stimuli issues this Fibro is causing me and the pain that ensues as a result.

No. Can’t. Sorry. Unable to at this time.

Did I say I hate it yet?

BUT….God is working on me, friends. He is helping me to see the “Yes” in all of these “No’s”.

I don’t know about you, but right now in my life, it doesn’t bother me to miss out on opportunities as far as work is concerned. I don’t care about moving up the ladder, getting a new and more challenging  job, or making more money. So I don’t have to contend with that whole set of angst that comes along with that.

But I hate to disappoint others. I hate to say “Yes” and then have to change it to “No” if circumstances with my health change. I dislike immensely having to inconvenience others and make them do more work to make things work out better for my health.

I forget about Jesus and how He allowed the other man to help Him carry the cross.

I forget what I know about all the Yes’s I find in Him. And they are often found in saying No here on earth.

So I have to LOOK ~ I have to SEARCH ~

I have to look hard for the Yes in the No.

  • I am saying Yes to God and the prodding inside to take care of my health right now, even if it means that others may be disappointed (although they are understanding at the same time).
  • I am saying Yes to being open to going down whatever path God leads me by not walking through doors that swing wide open just because….they are open.
  • I am saying Yes by saying No to all that glitters in front of me and around me, and embracing the glitter that’s in the mud right where I am at for this moment.
  • I am saying Yes to allow others to help me bear my own burdens.
  • I am saying Yes by saying No ~ Yes to whatever the Lord has in store ~ for all of us.

I will rise up out of the mud some day and the Lord will choose to open a different door. We don’t have to go through every door that is already open, dear friends. Maybe someone  else needs to walk through one of those doors.

Just cause it’s open doesn’t mean it’s mine to walk through.

How about you? Do you find it hard to have to say No to things that seem like they would be great for you or for others IF the circumstances were different? Is it hard for you to have to do it, even though you know it’s the right choice? Can you see the Yes in your No today, and if not ~ have you asked God to help you see it? And have you cried out and asked for Him to comfort you in the part of it that feels like you are missing something, or letting others down?

I can practically guarantee it when I say that it’s not all about the person saying No. I can assure you that others involved have their own process to go through in relation to how your decisions impact their own. Maybe God is working in their life through you or in a way that they don’t know about yet.

We have a responsiblity as Christians to move out of the way and let God be God, right?

Newsflash for Annie: My “NO” may be a big “YES” for someone else.

Oh yah ~ it’s that thing again ~ It’s not all about ME.

I don’t know about you, but here is what I have started to see. I can have the fullest of confidence that God is working in each of our lives if we are seeking Him. I can rest and find peace in my No, even when it makes me uncomfortable.  And I have the hope and the assurance that my No will do good somewhere ~ because God’s got this, friends!

I pray that you will know this too.

That you will know that your No is meaningful. That your No will help you to know God better and say Yes to Him more of the time.

That you will know that in your No, God’s got you. Yes…He does!

That your No means Yes, Yes! ~  When you turn it all over to Him.

Yes. God’s got you.

Yes, He knows.

Yes. He plans to prosper you.

See the Yes found in Jesus, even through all the No, No, No’s.

That’s the only real Yes that we need! And there’s NO doubt about it!

“For with God nothing will be impossible.” Luke 1:37

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” 1 John 5:14

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Glitter-Mud and Secrets

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Yesterday I shared how my heart is learning much about the asking we must do as we are truly seeking Jesus about a difficulty or a trial that we are burdened with in our lives. His will in our lives ~ wisdom and direction ~ patience and perseverance ~ many, many things require that we humble ourselves enough to ask of Him and then listen for His answers as to what the next step should be.

Even if it means we might be crawling, if we are seeking Him, dignity can be embraced upon our knees.

Dignity in Christ.

We ask everything according to His will, but we also ask that He grow our faith in the process of the waiting. We ask that He help us to remember when we fail to cry out to Him or don’t even bother to do any asking. We ask that He slice and dice our own will and make His clear and give us the power to obey Him.

But as I said yesterday, it’s not only about the asking. There’s so much for us to learn about the listening too, friends.

The listening and the obeying.

I also mentioned a bit about what happens along the way when we find ourselves asking, seeking, listening, and waiting upon the Lord regarding decisions we know we must make.

What are we to do in the midst of the waiting?

We embrace the beautiful parts intermingled with the ugly ones.

We seek to find things ~ be intentional about looking for grace, receiving it, and doling it out as well.

We look for the glitter that is sprinkled throughout the mud that we feel we are trudging through, friends.

Because it’s there.

Today my pain level was not much better than it was before. But my glitter-seeking antennae were up and running before my feet hit the ground. They were working better today ~ far more receptive ~ far more tuned in than they were yesterday or the day before.

They were ready to look for it, recognize it, and snap it up and hold it tightly.

I had to do things that were hard for me in the midst of the already hard stuff.

But I found the glitter. In Him, and in the grace poured out by others.

I stand in awe at the beautiful relationships and hearts that I saw around me yesterday and today. They have been there before ~ this is most certainly not the first time these people that I call friends have showered me in such lavish grace and care. But today and yesterday ~ well, I was hit with an avalanche of glittery grace that brightened up the quicksand my pain has been making me feel trapped inside of for a couple of months now.

It didn’t take away all of the mud, but it glitterize’d it for sure, my friends.

And it was less heavy.

And I know that God sent them to me, these friends. I know these are grace gifts that He orchestrated to come my way.

What are we to do along the way?

I thought of Jesus and the agonizing trek he had to make that led to His crucifixion ~ the day that His battered physical body could no longer carry His cross completely alone during part of the journey.

He allowed someone to help Him carry that burden for a while, friends.

He received the grace and the help.

And as dark as things looked, I believe it to be a beautiful example of humility, love and grace when the Savior of the world allowed a man to help him to carry the cross that He would be crucified on later that day.

Only Jesus could bear the burden of all our sin on that cross and save us. He chose to go willingly. He also chose not to walk alone.

We are to bear one another’s burdens. We are to give our grace and love freely, but called to receive it as well. It’s part of humility, dear friends. It’s part of listening. It’s part of obedience to embrace the glittery grace that others offer to us in the midst of our pain or difficulty.

It’s a gift for the receiver as well as the giver of the glittery grace.

It puts the mud to shame, even if it won’t completely relent.

It redecorates the space that we are in so that more glitter can breed and spread and eventually light overtakes the dark.

It invites others to share in our most vulnerable and intimate spaces and make them a part of it all.

This is relationship.

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We can give some of our own out too, you know. Even when we are on our knees and still partly submerged in the quicksand, we can reach into our glittery pockets. Even if we have to throw it up in the air behind us and hope our aim is halfway decent.

Part of the way that we can be givers of grace comes from being the ones at times who are receiving of it.

If you are stuck in the mud and all is ugly and sticky and dark and heavy, would you look for the glitter that’s around you too, dear friend? If you cannot see it, cry out to the Lord and ask others for help. Are you willing to submit your pleas for help? Are you ready to receive it as a child would?

We need to allow others the gift of being there for us, just as we wish to be there for them in times of need. Instead of seeing ourselves as helpless animals stuck in the mud, let’s look upon it the way we would if the roles were reversed! Would we want to help a friend in need if they were stuck? Would we want to do everything we could to help them along the way? And if so, would we want for them to receive it graciously?

It’s part of what we must do along the way ~ open ourselves up to be the receivers of mercy and grace.

No one should set themselves apart from giving or receiving such grace.

No true giver of grace is someone who refuses to receive it when it’s their turn.

Jesus didn’t.

I am grateful for the glitter in the mud today. I am grateful the Lord gave me the eyes and the heart to see it and celebrate it. I am grateful for the grace givers and the ones who have received some of what the Lord provided to me to dole out to them at one time.

I am grateful. I am a muddy, glittery, mixed-up, probably frustrating, but ever-so grateful gal.

And as I get ready to rest for the night, I find myself being grateful for just one more tiny little thing.

That although I might be muddy ~ there’s glitter stuck all over me.

Maybe someday I will be able to testify that I have become better at living out the entirety of this little secret:

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. Philippians 4: 12-14

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About the Asking

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“Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.” John 16:24

Yesterday was a full day for my mind and my little heart. I was grateful for the day off from work and the fact that I was able to get much done that had been following me around, weighing on me.

I promised the Lord that I would NOT do ONE thing on my very long list of tasks until I spent time with Him. That is one of my HUGE goals this year ~ to spend at least three or four of my mornings each week seeking Him in Bible study and prayer before the day gets started.

Often, I study at night, which I still plan to do on the other days. But I wish to change that around, at least part of the time ~ so as to make sure I am spending time with Him first.

Doing this yesterday cause a lot of good things for how the events and tasks ahead of me would unfold. One of those things was it caused me to realize I need to fully open a new door of listening and hearing~ not just cracking it open part way.

You see, this nagging feeling in my gut has been back with me, and at me for quite some time, but I still haven’t been able to put my finger on it.  I have been seeking Him and thinking that I’ve been listening, but realize I have been limiting the ways that I have been following through on it all.

I’ve still been allowing my own will to get in the way by not listening for any and everything He might want to tell me.

I haven’t really been asking. Asking with the expectancy of hearing and then, here’s the kicker: obeying.

We don’t truly listen if we aren’t open to what it might mean for us next. Are we going to do something with what we hear, or not? Are we dipping our toes in the water because we are not sure what the Lord’s will is yet, or are we reluctant because we haven’t fully surrendered?

After yesterday, and after praying with my husband last night, I woke up this morning knowing something…..more. I didn’t have all the answers and I still don’t, friends. But I know that the more is that I have been withholding something.

I still don’t know what the nagging means.

I still don’t know what the turnout will be in regard to my health issues and being able to keep working outside of the home.

Part of me thinks that what I want is to be healed and be able to keep doing my job. Part of me thinks…“fine, I will quit if I have to, Lord and I know you will provide. But I need to know that if I do that, that it is YOUR will. Not mine, just because I am weary.

But what is it that HE wants? Is He going to tell me?

I still don’t know if the Lord is asking for me to wait upon Him and His answers or if He’s leading me to a place in which I have to choose ~ choose a new door to walk through, or at least, redecorate the room that I am in.

I still don’t know that.

But I know that I haven’t really been asking. Not all the way.

  • I’ve asked that He tell me what to do. At least tell me what not to do.
  • I’ve asked that He heal me so that __________ can happen. (I’ve given Him a multiple choice list of options ~ yea, yea, I know ~ I know!)
  • I’ve asked that if it’s not in His will to remove the physical problems from me yet, that I grow and learn, but that He make a way for __________ to be better.

I was here before, friends. About two years ago, I was in a very similar spot. And although the circumstances are different this time around, I feel like I am living out the definition of insanity.

That stuff I listed above is good asking ~ but it’s not all the way.

It’s not complete.

What do I mean about all the way?

It’s this:

  • Asking with the absolute and total surrender needed to accept the answer ~ whatever it may be.
  • Asking the way that Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane.
  • Asking in His name, according to His full will.
  • Asking and being willing to accept that He knows what is better for me and my family than I do and that the present circumstances, if they are to remain, will get better.
  • Listening more and asking for the strength to obey (maybe that is what the waiting time is for ~ to prepare me)
  • Being willing to do the hard thing if He doesn’t make the way any easier for a while.

And yes, the thought has crossed my mind  that maybe He has a surprise right around the corner!

You see, I’ve been doing that thing that I do again ~ that thing where I think it’s A or B. But I tricked myself because I had big A, little a, big B, little b, and lots of little bullet points in-between them.

Whatever the answer ends up being and whether it’s some variation of A and/or B or not, God is here with me.

And I am asking.

But I think I’ve been asking more for His will, but His will to be something that works out to make things “easier to cope with” for me.

That’s not what Jesus got for an answer in the Garden……

You see, there’s another thought that is not lost on me in regard to all of this, friends. I haven’t failed to consider that I am possibly being taught about how to really embrace how to be content in the present circumstances.

Oh, I’ve tried. It’s just….that nagging thing.

So I am asking about the nagging too.

Oh ~ and that other pesky thing…my physical health.

Is the nagging just my flesh because I struggle so badly with being content when I am deeply uncomfortable, Lord? Is it going to be the real thorn in my flesh that I carry with me until I go home?

Is the nagging really a prodding from the Holy Spirit to do something different, when I am not sure if by doing that I would be opening and closing my own doors without being patient and listening for YOU to make clear to me what YOUR will is?

I don’t know the answer.

But I am going to start to ask. I am going to ask about the nagging in His Holy name, friends.

I am going to ask for Him to help me, even if nothing of what I think is my heart’s desire is how it all turns out.

Because guess what? I honestly no longer know what my heart’s desire is in regard to this. I just want to be able to put one foot in front of the other and walk like Jesus.

I am going to ask for Him to prepare my heart to receive whatever it is He has for me and make that clear.

Maybe there will be more trudging and blood and sweat and tears for a while.

I am going to ask.

I am going to obey Him and take steps one moment at a time and one day at a time and hope in Him and believe ~ this too shall pass.

I am going to obey.

I am going to wait upon Him to speak to me clearly and help me separate fleshly challenges and self-will from whispers from the Holy Spirit.

He is going to answer.

I don’t know that the answer is going to come in the form of one final…”here it is, and you can rest a while.” So far, it has not been that way, friends.

So it’s not just about the asking. It’s not just about the listening. It’s not only the obeying or the discernment or the waiting or the courage to follow through upon each whisper and  put it into motion.

It’s about Jesus. It’s in the not knowing and what I do with those moments that He has me tightly in His grip, teaching me to surrender, ushering in His daily mercy and grace and lavish love upon me in the midst of bone cracking pain and utter uncertainty at times.

He will provide. He will answer. And I will crawl over each earthly finish line if I have to in order to finish this race the way that He sees fit.

Even if it means that my crawling entails being at a complete halt, an utter standstill.

Dignity can often only be truly had while upon our bleeding knees.

Is there something you think you have been praying about and seeking the Lord’s will over and you just find yourself knowing that something is just…missing? Ask for Him to reveal what you have not surrendered to Him yet, friends. Is there a situation you find yourself in where you wish to be faithful to show the Lord that you are grateful, content, thankful, persevering, willing to stick with or give up, but you find yourself struggling beyond belief as to how to remain in it if things do not change? Don’t give up and ask in His name for His will to be revealed and the courage and strength (His) to step out and obey. Do you think you have told the Lord that you are willing to obey, but still conflicted about what the thing is that He wants for you to do? Ask.

How do we know if we are supposed to step out into the water?

We ask.

We ask just who or what is on the other side.

When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”…Matthew 14:26-27

And we meet Him there.

Wherever “there” may be.

Probably while on our knees.

Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; Be gracious to me and hear my prayer. Psalms 4:1

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The Space in Which We are Found

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“Some people are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.” Oliver Wendall Holmes

I strongly dislike the way that this quote has been taken out of context and used and abused over the years. I don’t profess to know much about the man who made it famous, but I do know this: he used it in a specific context that held value at the time and over the years it has been applied as some kind of reason to “help along” the efforts to keep followers after Christ from living with an eternal perspective in mind.

I get it ~ we need to be able to relate to others just as Jesus shows us how to do. That’s not the point that bothers me in any way, shape or form.

It’s the way that this quote has been applied like a blanket to ALL Christians whose minds are filled with Jesus ~ with listening to Him, being distracted at times from the things of this earth, and tuning in to the voice that many don’t wish to listen to.

But oh…how tempting and taunting it is to believe it about ourselves at times. That thought – that little nagging thought that maybe we are no good here if all we think about is Jesus.

Today, like many other days over the past year or two, I felt like I am probably perceived sometimes as one of the people Mr. Holmes speaks of in this quote of his.

I’ll even admit it: sometimes I even wonder if this might be sort of true at times.

But I know better. It just doesn’t feel that way at times.

Isn’t that one of the ways that the evil one works, friends? He takes a degree of truth and then perverts it. He makes it popular to twist it. He takes it out of context but never so much that the degree of truth to it disappears completely.

That’s why the mind is a battlefield, friends.

He is an ugly thing.

As I did various normal things throughout this day, I realized that I (once again) feel like I am only really half here, if even half at all. I am struck by the realness of how surreal everything seems. I see it as its happening ~ in real time ~ and it used to really freak me out.

I sat in my car and took time to breathe during my meager little lunch hour and think to myself..is this all for real? There are people dying right now…people hurting…and I am sitting here eating my Baked Lays. How can this be where you want for me to be right now, Lord?

In some ways, I feel like a character out of The Matrix ~ kinda sorta. It’s a trip.

After lunch I moved back into my work mode and talked with people all day long. I tried to help them…validate their feelings, make things work out better for them. I care, I really do. But I feel displaced…not fully connected. I know it, and I try to change it. But I just can’t shake it.

I think I’m supposed to be listening right now.

My mind and heart keep going back to what IS real, what IS fully good, listening for His voice. I think of heaven and those who went before me. I think of those who are on their final journey here on earth and about to enter in ~ to be with Him forever.

It’s the place that some think is not for real.

But it’s my real home.

Lest you think I’ve lost my ever-loving mind for good this time, let me take a moment to add, just for the record, that I am more content and peaceful about this strange reality I am walking around in than ever before.

The discontent that does remain is not made up of disturbing feelings that are laden with fear at all. It comes from an outside pulling and pressure to succumb to the “reality” that is man made.

It’s just that I am called to walk in this body, this place, and sometimes I just don’t quite know how while still setting my eyes upon Jesus.

Jesus. Jesus. Jesus!

It’s just that sly little whisper, friends ~ the one that things like the quote above likes to taunt us with ~ the one that tries to drown out the voice of peace and joy, truth and reason, love and true connection.

The one that says, you don’t appreciate the life you’ve been given here enough by longing for Jesus to come back and take you and those you love to heaven.

But it’s not working. I am so thankful that it’s not working.

I can enjoy this life and love others while I am here, yet still long for the real one ~ the best one ~ the permanent one. Sometimes I struggle ~ but that’s because of the taunting.

And I know it.

And so, the beauty of the strange continued after work as I stopped by my favorite store to pick up the new rustic log-candle-holder that I had wished for to place upon my mantle. I knew the sale was ready for me and happily moved towards the lovely place where I could find something that would be joyful to gaze upon as my family sits around the fireplace.

We are doing that more now that the kids are older ~ sitting together and hanging out as a family.

After picking up my favored log, I wandered to feast my eyes upon the other lovelies throughout the rest of the store. This is fun, I thought. No holiday shoppers, no hustle and bustle, and no squirming to try to find more, more, more to spend money on today. Just a beautiful sense of contentment that I was blessed enough to take a small portion of my earnings and purchase something special, and time to wander a bit and enjoy. Fun.

But I was still disconnected from the things going on around me in the store.

I felt like I was watching a movie again.

It’s strange how we can feel like we are walking around doing such a normal kind of thing ~we humans ~ yet know that we aren’t really and truly home. We can be immersed in the special moment we are having while still realizing that we are foreigners in an alien and temporary land.

We long for home.

The fun little log is something small that will bring a fun and light kind of joy to my household, but this house and this life is not our true and eternal home.

Am I too heavenly minded?, I asked myself as I wandered through the store and got into the car to make my way home to my beautiful little family.

“No, dear one”, I heard inside. “This is a part of it all. I am going to teach you more and more, I promise.”

There was a time that I was concerned about myself for being in a place of quite the opposite of looking forward to heaven. And oh, how much earthly good I thought I was doing back then! Ha Ha!

It is nothing more than an absolute compliment if folks start to wonder if you fit quotes such as these. The “good” we should be seeking is not merely found in this earthly life, but an eternal good and one that brings glory to Jesus Christ and His kingdom. Part of that also comes in learning how to be grateful and love the things we can do to glorify Christ while we are here.

Without caving in and living for this world.

And part of it comes from accepting the gift (and not the curse) that it is to be somewhat “spaced out” when we are truly relating with our Savior instead of thinking about our lunch.

At the end of the day, that candle holding log for the mantle will end up in a trash bin somewhere. The Baked Lays will be long gone. They will have brought fun, joy and served a decent purpose for us, but will not be coming along with us in the end.

And so it’s good ~ it’s good that they didn’t receive my full attention anyway.

But how I felt moving through that store today ~ how I felt during my little strange lunch break when I pressed into the Lord and asked Him…”how do I continue to move through this life, this superficiality, this stuff that so often tries to distract us from what IS real, what IS lasting? How Lord?  That feeling and that crying out for His guidance is what makes me know that I am truly connected to the right thing.

Maybe sometimes I am so lost in my prayers and thoughts and conversations with the Lord that I struggle or grasp for focus in regard to my earthly tasks and duties.

I’m choosing to be okay with that.

There might be times that I seem zoned out, lost, distracted, but most of those moments are ones in which I am listening intently to another voice ~ one that is more important than the task at hand.

I’m choosing to be okay with that.

I may not meet every goal or go after every accomplishment with single-minded focus and clarity and commitment any longer as my mind is elsewhere half the time.

But I’m good with that one too (although I have to fight feelings about it – a lot).

I may be “too heavenly minded” for some ~ even myself at times ~ but that is most definitely GOOD.

There are times when the world wins for a while and takes more of my focus than it should be allowed to. Those are the ones I will give my attention to, because I am done feeling guilty about days like today.

It’s the days in which I am too focused on earthly good that I am going to be concerned about (if it’s taking me away from Jesus).

Do you find yourself struggling at times with moving through the day-to-day and appreciating it, yet at the same time, feeling as though your focus is being outright forced to be split? Do you wish for times in which you could just choose one or the other to make it a bit easier? Do you know that it is a blessing to be in communion and fellowship and prayer with the Lord all day long, even when it “gets in the way” of helping you truly put your full attention into the task at hand?

See it for the gift that it is.

Choose to be okay ~ even good with that!

I think a lot of how to walk like Jesus did comes down to this, friends: I think it comes down to accepting that we are aliens here, but we are also called to love others here. We are called to work hard, be good stewards of our time and money, to focus upon loving and helping others, and to do what we say we will do.

But more than anything else, we are called to be heavenly minded. And if that gets in the way sometimes of creating earthly good, so be it.

“Set your mind on things above; not on the things that are on earth.” Col 3:2

AND…

Faithfully serve the Lord ~ continue to relate to and love upon others.

God values our faithfulness in the little things, friends. If our focus seems split or we seem distracted by something we have to do, but its because we are praying or seeking the Lord about something else, we should listen ~ listen for the Holy Spirit for guidance. He will equip us to get back to the task at hand when the time is right.

It is part of our own affliction, friends. It is also a gift from the Lord ~ this life.

Part of what is perishing as we walk through this earthly life we have been given is not just our bodies, but our focus ~ our attachment to this world ~ our connection to the earth.

There’s gonna be some struggle involved with that whole deal.

Go to that space. That space with the Lord in which you are NOT lost, but found. Choose to be good with that. Choose to embrace that space. Hold onto it with all you have. Ask for His power and strength to do it.

Most of all, take heart if this is something you struggle with, friends.  What seems like a disconnect or a movie, is actually something that is drawing you even closer to HIM.

And that is Good ~

That is earthly and heavenly GOOD.

“We do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” 2 Cor 4:16-17 woman-571715_640

 

 

The Light Speaks for Itself ~ Just Don’t Bury It

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But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18

Today friends, I wish to share something that has been rolling around inside of my heart, my mind a LOT lately. I wish to hear back from you ~ your thoughts, your heart, your learning from the Lord about this very subject. I am intrigued and smitten by this whole thing and I crave to hear how others who follow after Christ have grappled with this very same thing.

Because I do not yet have the answer ~ (I almost never have the FULL answer)!

But I have been given some of what I think the answer is…in my own life and learning and following after Jesus. I wish to share some of that with you today.

So here is the question:

How do we ensure that when others see things in us that they think are good, that JESUS is who they see, versus OURSELVES?

Things that make you go “hmmmm.”

Sometimes I find myself dumbing down (or dimming down, I should say), the light of Jesus inside of me. I don’t want to freak people out, so I start to dim it down a little ~ bury it.

It’s not because I’m ashamed of Jesus. It’s that I find myself starting to wonder ~ are they just thinking that they see “me” here? Do they think that Annie is “all that?”

Which leads me right back to the question I wrote up above.

It’s easy to study the Word and find much about humility, servant leadership, turning over self to the Lord daily and nailing it to the cross, and real love ~ real love in the midst of ugly ~ sacrifice in order to put God first and others right next in line ~ the struggle to kill self daily and fill ourselves with more of Him, less of us. It’s easy to find guidance about this in His love letter to us.

Easy to study. But in all fairness, I must say ~ Hard to do.

But what about how others respond to us and our following after Jesus? Can we “control” what their reactions and responses are? Is it possible to make sure that they don’t walk away from interactions with us seeing the awesomeness of who they think that WE are, and instead see that we have a relationship with Jesus Christ ~ one that they can have too if they seek Him?

Can we make certain every single time that they recognize Jesus is the only good that is within us?

That is the question, friends. That is the big and burning question! Here’s what I have found as I have prayed over this so very much lately:

  • It is not always possible to make sure that people know (from our words) that all they see in us that they think is good is not about us ~ some of that is to be left to the Lord.
  • It IS our calling to make sure that the rest of our life – the stuff they see when they are not able to interact with us face-to-face – IS giving all credit/glory/honor to Jesus Christ and IS bringing glory to Him, versus ourselves.

People watch. People study us if they see something in us that intrigues them. Sometimes they walk away and think “that person is so great”, or “I want to be like him some day”, or “that person is so special, wonderful, good.”

Sometimes they walk away and then they make their own judgement about what they experienced when they interacted with us.

Do they know? Do they know by what we do and say (the rest of the time) that is is not due to us, but due to what Christ is doing in us that there is a light that they see there?

Do they know? Can we make sure that they know?

We have the privilege of not trying to pretend that we are perfect, but simultaneously giving Him all the glory and honor and praise for ALL that happens to us ~ the good, the bad, and the beauty He creates out of the ugly.

Eventually they will see Him, and not us.  But only if it is Him that they seek.

They may not know it yet ~ they may not realize that what they see is Christ living inside of this person, and not an extra-dose-of-awesome that the individual possesses.

But if they hang around long enough, and if we are honest in how He has delivered us out of darkness and continues to work in our sinful flesh, they might see.

  • They will see HIM if their hearts are open.
  • They will see if they are seeking HIM.
  • They will see someone they do not fully recognize, but they want to get to know.
  • They will see ~ they will eventually see that it is not possible for one person to be so “good” without divine intervention.

But what if they never do endeavor to seek Him? Are we then wrong to be this person ~this light~ in their lives that they might look up to, admire, think is great and/or want to be like?

Are we leading them into temptation or a false path if we are examples of how God can work within a person when they don’t want to (or even know how to) attribute any of it to Christ at all?

I think….NO.

As Jesus walked among us, He presented the good news and allowed others to choose whether to believe or not. He then moved on, but not without continuing to shine His light everywhere that He went.

A young man once tried to point out the goodness of the man He saw that Jesus was…and Jesus replied;

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good–except God alone.” Luke 18:19

Jesus is not saying here that He was not good. He is trying to help the man to recognize that He (Jesus) IS GOD!

He was trying to help the man to see that he should not recognize the man in Him as good, rather recognize that He IS God, and the good that He sees is because He is God!

Only God is good.

Unlike Jesus, I am not God. No Christian walking this planet is God either. But we are His children and He lives in us if we are following after Him with all our hearts and have accepted His gift of salvation.

The “good” in us (the real good) is of God, not of us.

  • Let’s remember that we are sometimes nothing but the planters of the seeds.
  • Let’s remember that God is the only One who can bring about growth.
  • Let’s never forget that just because we don’t see the full blooms that result from the seeds He allowed us to plant, that He continues to work in the garden of each and every individual.
  • Let’s remember that it may be a blessing beyond comprehension that we don’t always get to see the seeds bloom.

If we did, we might be tempted to take credit in some way for that, wouldn’t we?

What if we saw them die, or start to bloom and then get infected or filled with weeds? We might become discouraged, because we thought WE actually had something to do with the success (or failure) of how their garden grows.

And when others comment on our own beautiful gardens, what then?

If others attribute the beauty of our garden to us somehow, what about that, friends?

Tell them!

Tell them who is responsible for the beauty that they see.

Tell them!

Tell them through all the rest of what you do and say that the garden hasn’t always been pretty.

Tell them!

Tell them how you tried to be the best caretaker in the world ~ how you studied how to make things take bloom and grow ~ how you methodically tried to fully invest yourself into being the best de-weeder on the planet, but the weeds still came anyway.

Tell them!

Tell them how the beauty that they see is only because of the divine intervention and complete Lordship of the only One who can make beauty out of the ugly.

Tell the story of Jesus, friends! Tell them how His story is far more important than your story.

Tell them how His story is the One you are a part of ~ not the other way around!

And remember ~ our primary role is to love others and simply let the blooms tell His story.

The Blooms…

The Light…

And the weeds…

And the darkness…

The Joy…

And the Suffering…

And the GOOD that He has brought out in the midst of it all.

His Good.

Yes, I have the fullness of the answer that He wishes for me to have today….

We are responsible to let the light shine ~

What others “see” is up to Him.

Nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:15-16

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The Perfecting and Utterly Perfect One

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And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:5

I’m just going to come out and say it…

We judge the effectiveness or sincerity of one’s sharing of the gospel if it doesn’t fit our idea of perfection. There.

People do use things as substitutes sometimes, but there are many times that we look at others and judge them instead of taking a hard look at ourselves. We assume they can’t possibly be for real if they aren’t doing it the way it’s always been done. We venture to guess and assess. We sift and sort and decide: Who is sharing Jesus the right way? (You know…the perfect way).

And in doing that, we are judging the validity of the sharing of Jesus based upon that ministry or that person, rather than GOD Himself. God and His work through others.

God.

Take blogging, for instance. Any of you who share about Jesus through a blog or social media will know what I am talking about here, I have no doubt. Blogging about Jesus ~  It’s seen in Christian circles as “less than” somehow. It is seen as a substitute for the “real thing.”

And that is because sometimes it IS.

But sometimes it’s NOT.

Perfection. Sheesh. Is there really such a thing, friends?

We judge. As people who struggle with sin and pointing fingers at anyone besides ourselves ~ we judge.

But only God knows the true heart of a person. And God leads that person to share the way that He leads them.

He speaks to that person’s heart.

I have, of late, seen a lot of judgement cast toward others who like to share Jesus through social media. It seems to be assumed that they are hiding behind their blog, their email, their facebook page, rather than connecting with others for real. I’m sick of it.

Again, sometimes that is true. Many people hide behind their “ministry” and struggle with turning their intentions, motivations and whole hearts over to Jesus each and every day.

Many struggle with seeing it as their ministry, instead of His.

This girl is all-too-aware of that. There are times that I step away from the blog on purpose because I can feel it grasping hold of me too tightly. That’s when it’s time to put it back into place. That’s the time that He whispers to me and tells me to remember where my treasure really is.

But sharing Jesus through social media doesn’t always mean something less than sharing face-to-face. I don’t believe it is that clear-cut all the time. Sometimes it’s nothing more than another place where the lost are searching ~ a place that the Lord has urged some of us to seek out some kind of connection and way to share Him with those who might be found there. Searching.

  • Some people are sick and cannot go to church.
  • Some are stuck somewhere, without the means to get around.
  • Some are indeed downtrodden, and not sure when they wish to venture out amongst people again after being hurt very, very badly.
  • And some are indeed hiding ~ waiting to be found.

They are watching. They are checking. They are craving connection, even if it’s not a perfect one.

I’ve spent many a night doubting and questioning and praying whether or not blogging and sharing my heart about Jesus on social media is something that is worthy of my Savior. I’ve questioned it ~ wondered about it ~ and yes, I’ve seen the holes in it, friends.

But I’ve also seen the glory it can bring to Jesus. I’ve seen more connection and heart sharing and openness here than I have anywhere else. Some may say it’s because it’s easier for people to speak freely when there is a computer screen between them and another person. That may be true. But at least they are talking. At least they are wondering.

It’s a step.

You may think that is sad ~ that our world is such a place as this. But sad or not, it’s good that we can reach one another.

It’s not perfect. Nothing is fully worthy of Him. Nothing that I do.

It’s about what HE does with it.

And aside from the way that I share Jesus with others on Social Media ~ aside from proclaiming His light and love and truth and divinity in the places where we are somewhat disconnected or in the places that are seen as substitutes for the “real thing” ~ in my physical life, I find the disconnect is still there too. (Did she just say that?)

It’s not perfect either, friends!

  • If I scream from a pulpit or in front of a group of people who are gathered together in one physical place, it is seen as a worthy ministry. It’s seen as a greater connection than writing about my Savior from deep heart places.
  • If I serve at the church or go down to the soup kitchen and help those who are less fortunate than myself, it is seen as more effective and more caring somehow than reaching out to a lonely friend through an email.
  • If I meet with someone one-on-one and hear their heart hurts and pray with them, it is seen as “better than” touching a lonely heart who can’t meet me in person, but IS able to check their facebook newsfeed today.

I’m all for the real thing, friends. But I don’t believe that sharing with others on social media is always fake and quite frankly, we like to blanket it that way because of some (a lot) of the stuff that is.

God can and does do mighty things through that which seems “less than.”

Every. Single. Day.

Yes, I have work to do friends. Always.

I have work to do in how I connect with others when I meet with them in person. I have allowed my illness to cause a roadblock to take up space. I have done it and I am aware of it. I wish to get better about it.

I want to be more engaged and more connected in all the spaces ~ the physical ones and the ones that seem….less than.

I want to do better, but I operate under no illusions that better is not perfect.

None of it is perfect.

It seems like if we can’t do it right or better, we tend to throw up our hands. We either do that, or we simply criticize that which is “bad” or “less than” in what we ARE doing. Or worse yet ~ we just do nothing at all if we can’t go ALL THE WAY.

I’m done with that.

It’s not either/or.

It’s every big or small moment that presents itself in which I am to share Jesus Christ with others.

It’s that person in need of a hug at work, or the one who seems disgruntled or sad in their FB status update today. What about the person who lives far away who I haven’t emailed in some time, or that one on the street corner who is holding up a sign.

It is ALL.

I will continue reaching out in the places where the Lord leads me to do so ~ I will continue to use the gifts He has given me as well as my weaknesses  (yep, those!)  to connect with others in the places that are seen as fake connection avenues to travel down.

I will travel those roads with Him.

Those are the places that I think Jesus would go.

But they aren’t the ONLY places.

  • Friends, the person stuck in the retirement home or soup kitchen matters.
  • The person on the other end of the planet who can’t go to church, but who CAN check a blog or facebook account (sometimes in secret) matters.
  • The person at church who needs a hug, but is busy speaking to someone else when you see them matters. They may go home later and check social media or read a few blogs to enhance their sense of connection to other believers ~ to Jesus.
  • The people in our homes need us to be engaged with them. They matter.
  • The family members who have conflicting schedules and aren’t home when you are might check facebook or email or messages and feel that’s a way they can connect with us from afar. They matter.

Something of Jesus is better than nothing of Jesus as long as the heart is where it should be and it’s not something that acts as a counterfeit of Him, friends.

That’s how seeds grow.

We are only the planters sometimes.

So, you guessed it. One of the things I wish to do in this new year is work on the connection with others ALL the way around.

I wish to connect in deeper ways with a few, just as Jesus did.

Deeper with those in my physical realm.

Deeper with those in the seemingly virtual realm.

Deeper, but still not perfect.

Never “perfect.”

That will not happen for this girl until she goes home to live with the Lord for eternity.

So yes ~ I will leave the perfecting of His truth and love up to Him. He’s the only One who does it ALL perfectly anyway.

Do you also wish to do better? Do you know that in Him and through Him you shall?

Then join me, dear friends. Join me in turning over all that is less than in us to the One and the Only who is truly perfect.

In that, we can fix our eyes upon Him ~ the One who makes beauty out of ashes. The One who works wonders through our inadequacies.

The Perfecting and Utterly Perfect One.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:2

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Got a Good Salt Shaker?

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Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. Colossians 4:6

Back in the day, salt was used for a lot of things, but mainly was a preservative or a flavor enhancer. However, it could easily become contaminated and lose its effectiveness as well. Things like dust, or mud or water could greatly decrease, or even ruin salt’s usefulness.

So salt, although resilient and very useful, needs to be taken care of as well.

As long as it is kept pure, it will remain effective.

As Christians, Jesus tells us we are meant to be salt and light. We are not meant to save up or hoard the salt, but to actually use it and BE it. We have a responsibility, and a privilege of replenishing our salt stores daily with our Savior, making sure he is keeping them pure, and allowing Him to guide us in how to use it to edify, exhort and encourage other people.

We are always to season our speech with salt and always be gracious in how we speak to others. I think it’s fitting to mention that the Lord didn’t tell us to just do this….sometimes.

How do we know how much salt to add into each meal we deliver? By the guidance of the Holy Spirit, friends. If we aren’t spending time with the Lord in our relationship with Him and our prayer life (where we actually commune with Him), we may start to hear our own voice and that’s when mistakes in regard to salt start to happen.

Our tongues in particular, can be very dangerous ~ I know there have been many things that have come out of my mouth in life that I did not even bother to season with salt first. There have been times where I dumped the entire shaker on top of my words as well, and that wasn’t palpable at all either. THAT leads to poor health!

These are the times that it becomes obvious to me quickly that I have either lost my saltiness, am taking the shaker into my own over-eager little hands, or am utterly failing to utilize it in a graceful way.’

No matter how hungry someone is, they aren’t going to eat a plate full of stuff that’s more salt than anything else. At the very least, it’s not going to go down the hatch very well.

And if it’s totally bland? They might partake of it, but if given a choice, they will go for the one that has some zest to it.

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.” Matthew 5:13

So do we simply flavor our speech in ways that compete with all the gooey goodness that’s out there completing for the taste buds and cravings that people possess? No.

Big, big “no”.

But that doesn’t get us off the hook when it comes to providing a tasty meal for those that we serve either.

People may resist the truth, but they will really resist the truth when we don’t remember to include the salt and the grace!

And yes…there have been times that the salt I was using had become less effective because I allowed it to get contaminated ~ sometimes without even realizing it until later.

It’s important for the people who deliver meals to make sure things are sanitary, along with tasty.

  • Let us not save up the salt and hoard it, friends.
  • Let us not withhold it from others.
  • Let us not get lazy and forget to use it, while also not simply dumping it all over the place haphazardly.
  • Let us ask the Lord to protect our salt stores and replenish them daily so we can actually allow them remain plentiful, effective and useful.
  • Let us remember where the salt comes from and what HIS purpose is for it.

But at the same time, let us remember who the One is that really and truly saves. He made us to be salt AND light so that HE may be seen and absorbed by everyone around us.

So that people will WANT to seek out the source ~ Jesus.

Let’s allow Him to guide us in how much to shake out in regard to each and every situation.

His grace is enough.

“Can something tasteless be eaten without salt, Or is there any taste in the white of an egg? “My soul refuses to touch them; They are like loathsome food to me.” Job 6:6-7

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29

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Loving the Other Pharisees

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Last week, I shared what was burdening my heart in regard to the Pharisee that lives inside of mine. I shouted “Death” to that Pharisee, because he is most certainly not welcome to take up residence there.

He just keeps coming back. And I’m on to him.

However, in that very same vein, the Lord has impressed it greatly upon me that I need to love the other Pharisee invaders ~ the ones who try to go after my brothers and sisters ~ the ones that make me angry because they do seem to be wanted ~ yes, those Pharisees.

I can’t scream “Death” to those guys. I have to love them.

Oh, it’s easy when we are taking a hard look on the inside at something ugly in our own hearts, to then hate that thing which needs to be discarded so very much, that we forget to love others who may struggle with the very same issue.

It’s easy to hate the sin so much that we fail to love the sinner.

I know that the Lord will love me through whatever I happen to be struggling with in regard to sin and heart ugly stuff. He is faithful, He is kind, and He is merciful and compassionate. But I am asking Him to. What if others aren’t?

What if some of the others aren’t asking Him to clean their hearts?

Those are the very people I need to let Jesus love through me. Those are the same folks who we are to be salt and light to, friends. It’s hard ~ there’s no mistake about it. But that’s what Jesus came for: to love us while we were (and yes,we ARE) “still sinners.”

The Lord calls each of us to minister to others in certain ways at certain times. About two years ago, I felt that He was practically shouting to me that I was to love others within the body of Christ better. Then, He brought me full circle, back to the secular world and renewed my love for those who do not know Him at all.

I realize through the past couple of years that for me, what He’s doing in my heart and my life is that He’s making something quite clear:

It’s all of us. He loves ALL of us.  

So, it looks like I’m not going to get out of this one. I like to focus and zone in on the one area that I want to tackle. It’s easier for my little mind to focus on one area and master it ~ conquer it ~ refine it to perfection.

But love is truly imperfect. It’s hard stuff. And we can only do it with the help of Jesus Christ.

It’s not meant to be easy.

I’ve been hurt. Close friends of mine have been hurt. And I am sure that I have caused hurt to others by my negligence or indifference. Sometimes, we are called to dust off our feet in a given area, and if with prayer and heart checks we find, with Jesus, that He’s asking for us to move on, we ought to obey His voice.

But I realize this morning that’s not happening for this girl. I’m kind of excited about the fact that the Lord has finally made it clear to me.

Most of what I share on here is written presumptively ~ as though the vast majority of those who read this are believers and maybe even followers after Christ. I will not sacrifice the truth for love, so I won’t be changing much about that. It’s how He’s led me to share.

But I also will embrace the beautiful fact that Jesus doesn’t want me to forget about loving in the midst of truth either. And that means not to forget about those who may not believe.

That means loving when it’s hard.

I also want to make it clear to my friends who may be reading my heart on this matter today that I am not directing this to you at all. I just wanted to share how the Lord is working in my heart and my life specifically in regard to all of this. I know that many of you are struggling with similar things, and am not trying to tell you that you should go this direction. That is for God to help you determine.  But if the Lord is working in your own heart regarding a similar issue, I can pray for you if you wish to reach out to me. I am already praying for several who are trying to seek His direction for them and who they should be ministering to right now.

But for me, it’s about: 

The Pharisee in my heart….

The other Pharisees….

The lost who have not chosen Him….

The Ones who I have hurt and who have hurt me…

The church and their own heart hurts…

The love of Jesus Christ and how there’s nothing that compares ~ at all!

So, today I embark again ~ starting off another work week. Today, I pray that the Lord would seep out of me, because I fail every time I “try” to do it myself. Today, I pray that the expectations of how others would behave would be left at the feet of Jesus. It’s not for me to decide.

I can only pray that He helps me to love others better.

“Death” to the Pharisee inside of my heart.

“Love” to all the others who may not even know they have an unwanted guest creeping around their house.

“For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:46-48

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The Tale That May Never Be Told

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Today, upon rising, I found myself…not rising. I woke up and sunk low.

I was wading in the mire of self-pity as soon as my feet hit the floor. It quickly turned to grief.

It wasn’t grief over those who are far less fortunate than I am. It wasn’t a grief over things that should seem to really matter to me. It was just plain selfish grief.

Yes, it was a ME kind of grief. (Don’t you just hate that?)

The day before (and the day before that, the day before that, and so on) I had been reminded of the brain fog of this “condition” that I have and the damage that it has done. I was starkly reminded in many unrelenting ways that hurt my heart deeply. Ways that caused me grief….ways that reminded me that the way my life will evolve and finish is most likely not going to be the way I was conditioned to think it would be.

Ugly and tormenting ways.

It’s not going to be what I had hoped for ~ my mind remaining in tact till the end ~ and part of me thinks I need to embrace that stark fact now. That causes grief. That causes heartache. But it also causes some very good, good things too.

But is the tale of our lives ever really going to unfold the way that we hoped for ~ every good story has an unexpected plot twist, after all, right? Can’t every single one of our lives just change on a dime? What makes us think it’s us who is going to get to choose how things play out?

Arrogance and self are the culprits, if you ask me.

So the hoped-for narrative has changed, and yes ~ it kinda stinks like a trash bin full of gross and disgusting, smelly junk. The plot has thickened, and in some ways, it has thinned out as well. I’m okay with that. I’m just finding that I’m not really doing so well with the fact that I may not be able to be mentally present or “all there” till the end. I may miss out on some of my own story.

My memory banks are cloudy at best. I find myself asking my children to tell me about things that apparently, we’ve already had conversations about ~ recently, even. I grasp for words sometimes, and that never used to happen. Not ever! I find myself checking out, so to speak ~ mid-conversation. Zoning out and going far, far away while someone is sharing an important part of their lives with me. This hurts my heart, friends.

I am also starting to find myself getting scared at times ~ afraid of what may come next. But most of all, when I’m not careful to come to the feet of Jesus quickly, I enter into worry ~ worry for the hearts and feelings of my children and how this must make them feel. I worry, worry, worry. Maybe someday, I will forget to worry at all (that will be a plus!)

And sadly, I find myself not remembering much of the first decade or two of our marriage. I have holes in my memories. But the bulk of where we walked, what we did, it’s just….gone. I don’t even remember some of the places we have gone and things we have seen together, while at the same time, I have detailed memories of others. I have talked about this with my husband. He seems to understand. But it has to be disturbing. It must be really disheartening for him too.

Surrender. The constant need for surrender.

I look at photos and thankfully, with a grateful heart, I remember some of what is going on there. But not always the details. Not the circumstances surrounding life at that time. And that’s fairly new for me, friends.That’s certainly not part of how I thought it was going to be now. I wonder ~ will I remember much of anything five, or ten years from now?

It’s not how I want for it to be.

I thought I would be that exuberant grandma some day ~ the one who would play with their grand kids and tell them wonderful stories about the places I’ve lived, the things I’ve seen, the family stories that help them to know from where they came and what had a little something to do with how they arrived to be here.

I thought I might be able to be that old lady who is sweet and kind ~ the one that you want to come to visit, because although she may be frail, her brain is sharp, and she can sit with you and help you see how great that you are right where you are at. She can tell you why you are so blessed and wonderful, and just how much good you add to the world around you just by being YOU.

It may still be that way. Only God knows. The tale is not finished yet. The tale has yet to be fully told. It might be something even better than what I imagined.

But today, I grieve the loss of confidence in the knowing. The illusion was always there ~ it has just moved a step or two closer to being shattered, and that’s never pleasant.

Truth is more important.

There’s a lot that I thought would wind its way through my life and remain an overall constant ~ a common thread that would be seen  from end to end and create a beautiful and intricate,  changing, yet grounded story.

A perfect little tale with all the bows and ribbons.

Sure, I thought there’d be some ragged spaces in there ~ but those would be a part of the tale of beauty I’d get to tell that was created out of those ugly and tattered spots. Those most certainly are there, and I am thankful for them. But today I’m just wrapping my mind around the fact that I thought the “end” would be nice and tidy, and it might just not be.

I only thought the middle would be a bit tattered.

So the threads are broken in some places now, friends ~ places that don’t seem to be mending very well. I find myself wondering ~ is the whole thing going to unravel? What will be left to hold it together at the end of the day?

Yes, I keep picking them back up again and trying to melt them back together.

Newsflash to Annie: It’s not working.

And I know why ~ maybe the why is that it’s not supposed to. Maybe that’s the best part of this story.

So, as sad as that part of the grief process is ~ the kind of sad that I felt upon waking up this morning ~ Jesus has, once again, comforted me.

Jesus has, once again, reminded me that He is the author, not me.

Jesus has, once again, brought peace to me through the grief.

Jesus, again and again and again, helped me to feel whole and complete in the midst of seeing full-blown, right in my FACE, the broken threads in my hoped for and meager little narrative.

I have the greatest gift of all, dear friends. I have the greatest gift in my salvation and hope in Jesus Christ.

Not only that, but I DO have a thread that is not broken ~ one that speaks to the redeeming blood and salvation and light of Jesus Christ ~ one that will be there to the end.

One that will be there for an eternity.

And it’s the ONE thing that I will take with me out of this world when I leave it. The one and only thing.

And so today, I shall embrace the grief of the part of my life that’s not going quite as planned~ I won’t run away from it. I will focus upon the many parts of my tale that are beautiful and blessed, but also upon the blessing that comes out of the unexpected and the seemingly taunting and ugly part.

And in that, I will rejoice ~ in that, I will cling to the peace and the joy and the comfort of my One and Only Jesus.

I will still hope that I will be healed and be able to be that older lady (if we aren’t raptured out of here soon) who remembers special things and whose brain, that she thought was left for dead at one point in her middle age years, has become sharp again.

But if it doesn’t happen, and if the tales never get to be told, the story of Jesus in my life is still more than alive and oh-so well with my soul!

The story of Jesus ~ The telling of it with bows and hearts and flowers is neither contingent upon how great we can re-tell it  nor the absence of the unexpected we encounter as we move through it. It is not limited by human expectations or abilities. It is not about us, but about Him and what He does for us ~ what He does within us.

He will shine through.

His word is never to return void. God is eternal and his power and ability to change lives is not dependent upon me in any way, shape or form.

And even if I reach a place where I can’t speak with my lips or think straight enough to share Jesus in the telling ~ the way with words I’ve always been able to use to do it failing me ~ He will be there.

  • He will be there writing and telling HIS story underneath all that I cannot express.
  • He will still be the beginning, middle, and the end.
  • He will be the eternal story, the never-ending thread.
  • He is the One who never ever changes.

And because He lives in me, my story isn’t really important. Salvation and Jesus Christ is all that matters today, tomorrow, and at the end of our days here on earth.

His story will always be told. And it’s utterly beautiful to behold.

Yes…I think I shall.

I shall look up.

“Lift up your eyes to the sky, Then look to the earth beneath; For the sky will vanish like smoke, And the earth will wear out like a garment And its inhabitants will die in like manner; But My salvation will be forever, And My righteousness will not wane.” Isaiah 51:6

The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” Isaiah 40:8

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Kindling the Fire and Starting New Ones ~ Let’s Play with Matches!

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Those who are on fire already for Jesus are easy to spot, and those who are not, are all around us as well. Do we see them? Do we see them all?

Do we pay attention and set out to look for and see Jesus in others? Is He so known to us, that we can spot Him a mile away, no matter what is going on around us?

Sometimes we have to squint ~ I have to admit it. But other times, He shines through so clearly that we are left just standing in awe.

In awe of the One who is always with us and around us.

He lives inside of us if we are His children and have accepted Him as our Savior.

We get the privilege to see Him working in and through others. As long as we look.

Do you know another brother or sister in Christ that is so filled with the Holy Spirit that the work of Jesus in their lives helps you to know Him even better? Is there someone like this that you have met or know about, and you feel like you know them instantly? The real them? The Jesus in them? Not the nitty gritty of their human and earthly story, but the spirit of the Lord inside of them?

Do you see the fire?

That’s because they are part of Him, friends. Our Lord and Savior lives inside of their hearts. He lives inside of ours too.

The closer we become to Jesus in our relationship with Him, the easier it is to recognize Him in His living in and through others who love Him.

They say that “blood is thicker than water.” I say that siblings in Christ surpass any ties that bind. Jesus weaves Himself through each and every one of us and connects the fires inside. We receive warmth and kinship through this. We see and experience His grace inside out and outside in through this. We are connected to Him through this.

We may get angry at our brothers and sisters sometimes. It does happen. We really get angry at those who say they want to be part of the family but don’t really act that way. But they matter to Him too.

His grace is here for the giving and receiving. Are we looking for the fire?

May we all recognize Jesus when we see Him, whether He is shining through clearly or we find ourselves squinting. May we seek to see Him and celebrate His light, His love, His grace with and for one another. May we rely upon Him as we search and celebrate. May the fire never be quenched or disregarded, but sought after and kindled.

And if we run across someone in whom we see just a little flicker ~ a little glimmer? Let us tell them that we see it, friends. Let us encourage them to let it rip and shine and roar into a bonfire. Let us go a step further and help them to do so.

Let us pour His grace-filled lighter fluid all over it.

It’s time to turn up the heat and melt the ice that is trying to snuff out all that is good. This is the time, friends. Now is the time.

It’s always been more than okay to play with divine matches.

That they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us. Acts 17:27

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Death to the Pharisee Inside of My Heart! I Say “Death”!

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But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:13

There’s something on my heart about the church today, friends. It’s been there for quite some time now. I have been praying about it and will continue to do so, for it hurts ~ my heart hurts over this.

I have asked the Lord to reveal to me the things that break His heart. I have asked that He not only reveal them, but take it a step further, and break through my own ice-covered heart and make it more like His.

This is one of those things: The unwillingness of the church to meet others where they are at.

It’s true: It’s a dangerous prayer to ask Jesus to break our hearts for what breaks His.

I know that I know that I know that this is most definitely one of those things: His church; His people; or those who profess to love Him ~ not truly loving others the way that He does. The ever-present Pharisee who asks others to meet them in their perfect and upright state is not indicative of Jesus and what He came for…

It’s not a reflection of Mercy.

Are we so busy making sure that we, as the church, try to “live up” to our calling that we fail to meet people where they are at? I’m talking…..like Jesus does.

Jesus meets people where they are at. They don’t have to get cleaned up first. He gets His hands dirty ~ a lot.

We can’t live up to it anyway, you know. We will never be worthy on our own, and if we don’t remember that first and foremost, we are just as lost as anyone else.

Maybe even more so.  :(

Sometimes, I feel that in the endeavor to be “upstanding Christians” that setting an example becomes our true mission and our true God. It’s a false idol ~ when we try to profess how great our faith is. It’s hurting my heart.

It hurts my heart most especially when we don’t even see that we are doing it. I find it happening to myself and I thank God every single time He points it out to me. (He has to do that a lot)

  • Yes. We have a responsibility as Christians to fight against sin.
  • Yes. We have a greater calling to live our lives with God first in all that we do.
  • But if we fail to meet others where they are at, just as Jesus does, we are not truly committed followers.

Not really.

If we really follow after Jesus Christ, we will go where He goes. Although we are not to get caught up in sin itself or things that lead others astray, we are still to immerse ourselves in with the people and in the places they are in. We must go where the ugly resides.

 

It starts right inside of our own hearts anyway. So we should be quite familiar with how it looks.

We are to be salt and light.

So, I have a question for others like myself: How are we to be such salt and light if we protect ourselves and isolate ourselves from the dark places? How can we do this if we expect others to come to us, versus us be willing to really go to them?

REALLY GO.

Now, I’m going to get very direct here. Remember that this is the admonishment that the Lord has been giving to me, and I am sharing it with others who may find themselves in a similar place.

  • Are we asking others to meet US where WE think we are at with Jesus (and in turn, where we think that THEY need to be at), or are we stepping into the mire along with them?
  • Are we willing to get our hands dirty and do the hard stuff along with others, or are we just saying we will, and then cutting and running as soon as stuff gets gritty and messy?
  • Are we acting like Pharisees?

Friends, I see a theme and way of life emerging in Christian circles that makes me nervous and quite frankly, scares me. That is my only reason for sharing this today ~ I can’t stop thinking about the Pharisees and how Jesus despised what they were doing. I can’t stop wondering ~ are we all becoming a bunch of Pharisees, but we don’t even realize it?

I can’t judge the heart of others or the church as a whole ~ only God can do that. But I can make an opinion or a judgement about the situation and what I see. Why? Because I have been a part of it.

I can and I will and I am. 

It comes down to this for me: If our relationship with Christ is truly as it should be, our relationships with others will be a reflection of that. Especially others who aren’t ready for it yet. Especially others who are living in the dark.

If we think we are better than others, it cuts us off from not only them, but from God.

Even if we don’t think that in our hearts, if we display it in any way, we have to make that right.

It is humbling to realize it when we have done this. It is not pleasant to look at the Pharisee inside that has been hiding and trying to come out to play. But God sees it.

God sees the Pharisee inside and He does not like it.

At all.

The day that I cease meeting others where they are at ~ the day that I find myself expecting, even slightly, that their circumstance or state or place in life doesn’t meet the mark and is not worthy of my time ~ well, that day is a day for a God-humbling.

There are times when we are called to dust off our feet. But that is not because we determine that others are not worthy, rather, that we are to be about our Father’s business, and if someone is not receptive to it, we are to move on to those who are.

It is not because that “place” they were in is too ugly for us. And it is not because if they become willing at a later date, we aren’t to be there, ready to open our hearts to them once again.

Synonyms for Mercy:

Leniency

Clemency

Compassion

Grace

Pity

Charity

Forgiveness

Forbearance

I have fallen so short in meeting others where they are at, friends. I have found myself protecting myself from the mire and the muck at times ~ too many times to count. I suppose it will always be a struggle for this girl. But I realize it, and I am praying fervently for Jesus to continue to break my heart for what breaks His. It hurts.  I won’t lie.

Yes. I am making a judgement about our Pharisee-type behavior, as the church who professes to follow Jesus with all that we’ve got. But I can, because I include myself at the top of the list in that judgement and observation.

Only you and God can judge the state of your own heart. I can’t and will not try to do that. But I do love my other brothers and sisters in Christ, and felt God was calling me to share this today.

Because, if you, like me, find yourself even slightly trying at times to get others to meet you where you are at, instead of meeting them with mercy and bringing Jesus to them, simply know that the humbling may not feel very good, but you have plenty of company.

If you,  like me, need to slay the Pharisee inside, know that Jesus is ready to help you to do that.

And this ~ our willingness to bring into the open our whole hearts to Jesus ~ this is one sacrifice that He does expect and desire from us.

Death to the Pharisee inside of my heart.

Death to the Pharisee!

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. Psalm 51:17

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Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. Matthew 23:12 ESV

I rarely make reference to what others may be writing about out there, due to the fact that I don’t understand everything about their theology, ministry, or commitment to God’s Word. But today I am going to do so ~ because I have prayed about this for a long time now.

Before I do, I must admit I have not investigated everything this particular man believes, so please understand that I simply think this article is well worth reading and putting to prayer, especially if you are a Christian involved in ministry of any kind.

To reiterate this in a different way: It is what he is saying that has me thinking today ~ it is what he is saying in this particular article that I am seeking God over and pouring over God’s Word about today.

Here it is:

http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/5-signs-you-glorify-self/

Friends, I struggle with this all the time. I am constantly having to do heart checks about so many things, not the least of which, is my approach and my heart as to how I share Jesus with others. This article simply emphasizes what I find the Word of God admonishing us to consistently remember: It’s supposed to be all about HIM.

But life gets to us in sneaky ways ~ the enemy does, rather. It is so easy to think our hearts are pure, in the right place, or hide behind our good intentions and motivations and ignore the seed of self that is planted right behind it all ~ waiting to sprout.

So what are we to do then? Do we hold back sharing Jesus because we fear that behind it all, there is still some small glorification of self going on that is tainting it?

No. God is bigger than that, friend.

BUT ~ we must admit to ourselves, God and others when we find that we are doing this. This is part of how He works in our lives and how he might work in the life of another! The way He reveals our failures, our sin, our weaknesses to us is part of the gospel because it points directly to our need ~ our deep need for our Savior.

Only Jesus saves.

This is part of how He speaks to others through us ~ not through our wonderful successes and our uber-pure hearts, but through that which falls short and can only be redeemed by the Perfect One.

I am here today to admit without question some of the things that I still do that have seeds of self behind them. I thought about making a list, but realized that’s impossible, because when I think about it and am really honest about it, it’s pretty much……. everything.

This is a big (HUGE) reason I don’t want to “promote” my blog. I started this to commune with the Lord and draw closer to Him, because something special happens when I write about (to) Him. If it happens to encourage or speak to someone else at the same time, that is wonderful and is HIS work, not my own.

But even here, I sometimes get caught up in it all ~ I sometimes wonder about the posts that no one decides to read. I sometimes worry that someone out there will misunderstand and be led astray.

And that’s when I know I am getting away from the whole purpose of even doing it. That’s when I know self is getting in the way, and I have to accept His humbling.

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6 ESV

As His child, I get to accept even more of His grace in the process of receiving the uncomfortable humbling too. So it is not MY awesome humility (ha ha – doesn’t exist) that blesses anything that I do ~ it’s God and His grace that brings about such blessings even though I need to receive a good God-humbling every single day!

In spite of my own failings, God continues to place His mighty mark in my life ~ in spite of the stuff that tries to sneak it’s way in, He continues to be faithful and honor my desire to speak of Him and His perfection, Him and His glory, Him and His truth, Him and His love.

In spite of my flesh.

In spite of my sin.

In spite of my pride.

In spite of my selfishness.

In spite of my coveteousness.

In spite of my everything that’s not of Him.

We have a greater responsibility as Christians to check our intentions and our actions every single day and make sure we are not promoting self, friends. This starts in our immediate day-to-day interactions with others in our lives, and spills over into what we do ministry-wise. Truly, it starts in our direct relationship with Jesus.

There are certain things we are to speak up about. There are certain things we need to zip our lips in regard to, friends.

Is it Jesus talking today through our lives, or is it us?

In all things, if it is not Jesus Christ who is shining through, it’s time to check our hearts, our minds, our souls. It’s time to accept a humbling ~ and also His grace.

Let us take a hard look in the mirror, friends. Let us look every day not for glory or vanity, but for truth. Let us cut through all that is us and seek His face alone.

And let us look forward to the beautiful hope we have in Christ for the day ~ that beautiful day where mirrors are just…..no longer needed.

If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 2 Corinthians 11:30 ESV

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