I will still be writing from time to time on this lovely blog – because I LOVE to write, yo! It’s a form of worship to me – of my loving Savior, Jesus!
But I have felt CALLED for quite some time to connect with others and spread His love, His joy, His peace, His EVERYTHING in every avenue possible. So, I will be creating an extension of the blog on a YouTube Channel.
I would LOVE, LOVE LOVE IT if you’d follow me over there. Like I said, the blog will still be here, but I will most likely post on the YouTube Channel more frequently for a while. Please feel free to share it with others!
I welcome feedback through the comments under each Vlog….but keep in mind, like the blog, this is a work in progress. Just like US!
We will see where the Lord takes it and how HE decides to refine it and grow it over time.
Here is the introductory link. Please watch this video and click to subscribe on YouTube. Give it a thumbs up if you enjoy it (there are two videos on there right now) and shout out any ideas or suggestions you’d like to see in the comments below each video!
I look forward to seeing all that God has for ALL OF US as we continue to share His love in a dark world!
P.S. USE YOUR GIFTS!!
On the bottom of the video, to the right, you can click “watch on YouTube”. You will see a button then on the YouTube page that allows you to “SUBSCRIBE” to the channel. Love you, freinds!!
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10
I have come to the conclusion that is is BAD…very, very BAD for us not to open and use the gifts God has given us. They are given to us so that when we USE and SHARE them, it can possibly benefit others. They are given to us so that when we USE and SHARE them, it brings glory to God! That matters, folks. More importantly, that matters to GOD!
So let me expand upon that a bit differently, Annie-style.
God has given each of us various gifts – spiritual gifts, as well as special talents and abilities. Part of why the Lord made each of us different is because He wants us to USE those gifts to edify others and connect to others – ultimately, as a way to shine HIS light to the world and spread HIS truth and HIS love.
These last 6 months (or longer) that I have stepped away from this community and blog have been NO BUENO for this chick feelings-wise. BUT……..I had to do it to do some reflecting and such. As you know, I wrote (practically every day) for the first year or so after I created this blog…and I stinkin’ LOVED IT, yo!
Why? Because I was using those gifts and connecting to others while doing so.
Because, like I have always said – writing out or sharing out my heart and how Jesus is working in my little life (this utterly messy and sometimes mixed-up gal), does my heart good and is a form of worship of my Savior, in my opinion. Sharing it, causes me to live more vulnerably, and also gets me to think outside of myself as I have been reflecting on the inside. It is beyond therapeutic – it is something that causes me to TRANSFORM each and every time I share something with YOU. And if it helps even just ONE PERSON, each little thing I share, that is something that makes my heart smile. Big time! And it’s ALL BECAUSE OF GOD.
So, back to the story. I pulled away for a while to reflect. Something just wasn’t quite right in my life. I took a slight turn and started to go down a little bit of a different road – a new adventure – it’s still a work in progress. As I embarked upon this new journey, I had to give my ALL to that change and transition – learning curves aren’t fun for this girl, but necessary and if you know me at all, I had to FOCUS my ALL into learning these new things. I had to give up some of the things that mattered MOST to me as I was in such a new transition, completely foreign to me. And it was important to do that as we are called to do our work as unto the Lord.
But the absence of getting to do this for a while also gave me some time to think and reflect on it.
It gave me time to MISS YOU, friends.
It gave me time to realize it is a HUGE part of my time with God – the time I spend sharing with others.
And that is GOOD.
So, I have returned, and I have some new ideas on how I will expand the WAYS that I share my heart for Jesus, for the beauty and the ugly stuff in life, for the mundane and the intense things we walk through on this earth, and for the BEAUTIFUL HOPE THAT IS ALWAYS PRESENT as we walk through such things together in Christ. I will be sharing those on the blog very soon.
But for now, here is a little background for you on the MAIN THING I have learned during this time of reflection! Again, in Annie-style, so this will take a paragraph or two to explain…
I have been really praying and working through the concept of contentment with the Lord. There’s a LOT to it that I won’t go into detail about yet, but call it sufficient when I say, there is a DIFFERENCE between walking around not being content because we covet things that aren’t for us, and knowing….. just KNOWING that we have something inside (Holy Spirit, anyone?) creating somewhat of a HOLY discomfort.
It’s all about the PEACE, YO!
When the LATTER REASON is causing that unsettled feeling – it will grow and grow if we DO NOT LISTEN.
I know this, because it’s what has been happening to me and I’ve FINALLY been able to identify it.
You see, I always err on the side of assuming it might be the first reason – the fleshly one- and then I have to pray about it and test that out to be sure it’s not just a case of me not being obedient or that maybe I am just being spoiled, coveting, or ungrateful as I go through this unsettled feeling.
That’s what I’ve been doing this past 6 months. That, and a WHOLE LOTTA PRAYING, dudes!
I have concluded with no SHADOW OF A DOUBT that yes, I am a sinner (nothing new there), and yes, sometimes I want things that aren’t mine to have (not a news flash either), BUT, that I am NOT using my gifts God gave me to the fullest, or even TRYING to, for that matter.
Again: That = No Good, Man.
The Holy Spirit is telling me (and has been for quite some time)…that no, it really is ME telling you this and you will remain uncomfortable as HECK until you DO something about it.
So I’m going to.
This book I am reading right now nailed it: I had prayed and prayed for the Lord to lead me to understanding this inner conflict I have been going through. I had been reading and reading in Proverbs, and many other parts of the Word about all of this. I kept coming back to a passage in Romans that I will place at the end of this for you.
And then this book fell into my hands (another story in and of itself).
Here is the statement that I could never express, but that describes COMPLETELY the struggle I am talking about in just a couple of short sentences (not Annie-style, nope):
“There is a big difference between wanting what we don’t have just for the sake of wanting more and wanting to do something else because we know, deep down, it is where we are meant to be. It is often difficult to strike a balance between a healthy longing for something more and choosing peace, no matter our circumstances. After all, how are we supposed to find our sweet spot when we are stuck in a job or town or situation we don’t love? How do we remedy the tension between choosing contentment and striving for more?” Living Well Spending Less ~ Ruth Soukup
I can be grateful for what I have and choose to bloom where I’m at, but AT THE SAME TIME know that I am supposed to do something more. Those things CAN co-exist and I am living proof of it. I would venture to guess that many of you are as well.
It’s not always either/or.
We are CALLED if we are followers of Jesus Christ and COMMANDED to use our gifts to build up and edify the church and be light in a lost and dark world. If we leave the gifts unopened or unused, that is so utterly sad and Such. A. Waste.
No more for this girl.
As always, it’s a work in progress – finding the gifts we are called to use for the Lord’s glory, pulling them out of the dusty box if they have been hidden for a while, and getting them to work well again. We have to find our way – try new things – live them out in vulnerable and risky ways and let the Lord make them hum when He so desires.
But we gotta use them.
Remember today, dear friend, that you have gifts and you will WILT if you do not use them. There are people out there that NEED to benefit from that. There are people out there who NEED to know someone is there. It’s part of having a servant heart and being a bond servant of Christ. And if you don’t know what yours are, seek HIM and have a heart to find out. It may take a while, but He will answer!
“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” Romans 12: 6-8
A long, looonnnnnng season of NO has ended for me, dear friends. As of four weeks ago today, things changed in my life dramatically! My energy level went up 70 percent and my pain level dropped about 50 percent! This came after a long hard program I have been on with my doctor and we were NOT sure if it was going to help me or not. It DID.
Beautiful little sprouts of green have popped up through the frost melt. Some are even starting to bud and bloom! I feel Spring coming on, even though we are entering Autumn in our physical and earthly world. And I will water those buds with the truth, power and love that only Jesus can bring! FAITHFULLY.
It’s a long and sweet story, but after working with a VERY special Naturopath that I truly KNOW the Lord brought into my life (another awesome story) for 12 weeks now, I am HEALING. Healing, do ya hear me?!? Praise the Lord!!!!!! Whoo Hoo!
Annie, the way GOD made her to be is back! I can use my gifts of encouragement and high energy without fear of being bed ridden the very next day. I can spread God’s love and saving grace more radically now – because I went through this long and dark season of pain and no and frustration and ups and downs and loneliness and exasperation and …..suffering!
And guess what? He used that season of NO, NO, NO to make Annie a little less like “herself” and more like HIM. This, and growing closer in my relationship with Christ is what I am MOST grateful for! That is the greatest YES of all!
God can do anything through us in any season, and He always knows EXACTLY what He wants to do. He taught me so much in my personal season of No. He showed me so much more about Himself – who Jesus is, especially in how it relates to suffering and the loss that comes with something like that. He showed me that no matter what, the season of No will always end with the greatest Yes of all – eternity spent with Christ! So that loss we find in our hard seasons is truly all gain for those of us in Christ Jesus – no matter what the outcome!
Many of you know this – It is a long and hard road – being in a season of complete and utter NO – but we always must remember that for every 1000 no’s we have to say to things we used to love and enjoy doing in this earthly life, we can and DO continue to receive the GIFT of saying Yes to Him. Always. If we only draw near TO HIM through it ALL.
He never left me. He never will. He’ll never leave you. He never will.
The Lord has brought Yes back to so many things in my life – new and old. Things I used to enjoy and love – attending church regularly – meeting a friend for coffee – having people over to my home – pouring encouragement into others more consistently and RADICALLY!!! These Yes’s I get to say are all back but now are more enjoyable than ever before!
And there are new ones too! Exciting ones! Ones I never imagined I would ever get to be a part of and that Jesus can and ALREADY IS going to use for His glory. I’m so excited I can’t stand it!
I knew He had plans for me no matter what the season – I just wasn’t sure if they included a new season of YES on this earth or not. I’m so thankful that it does! God is SO GOOD – in our seasons of darkness, His light is still right there with us. It may not be easy – but without Him, I could not have withstood it. No question!
Several months ago, as I realized I had hit the 3 year mark of this Fibromyalgia onset – God brought to fruition many, many things for me. He showed me that for every no that Fibromyalgia brought into my life, my YES to Him was still always there.
My YES to HIM never left.
My Jesus YES.
My only YES that I NEED.
Last week, I was able to share some of my story with some other beautiful people in a group setting. As I prayed the day before, God really urged me and led me to share the suffering part. You see, He immediately had opened up a door for me to walk through about 1 week after we knew I was healing – and I went right on through. I had prayed over this for over two years, but knew I couldn’t go through that door quite yet. Now that I can, He has opened up a whole world to me of not only more Yes answers for my family or for me, but OTHERS! Every single day, He is giving me new chances with new people to share His love and what He can do through the things in our lives that hurt. He did it during my season of No too – but it’s more FUN in this new season of Yes! Yay!
He has released me from my holding cell and given me wings with which to fly – and share HIS peace, HIS joy, and HIS love and truth with others – in the most unexpected way I ever really imagined. It is crazy-insane the avenues and vessels through which Jesus chooses to have us pour out His loveliness and His testimonies. God truly does work in the most mysterious ways!
I am so grateful. I am thankful for my season of suffering and what God has revealed to me and how He’s drawn me closer to Him than ever before. I am thankful and giddy like a child on Christmas morning at all the presents I get to open and play with in my new season of Yes. I am most thankful that I get to shout from the rooftops in ANY season I am in, the utter magnificence and GREATNESS OF OUR GOD!
I have spent the last month not only in awe of what God has shown me through a long and dark and difficult period, but flat out amazed at the fact that he is NOT choosing to bring me into the fullness of this Yes Season slowly or easily! It has been a fast-moving, earth shaking, GOD-sized last few weeks! And I love it!
Our God is a patient God, but when He’s ready to usher in another part of His will, He is RADICAL!
So, although it can seem like sometimes God works slowly and methodically in one season of our lives (usually the ugly ones for this girl), He is working on us all the same. Then, when He decides it is time for a new one, if we are truly following HIM, we had better be ready! We’d better drop everything – jump off the boat – walk into the water or the sea before the waters even look like they will part – and move with faith and trust toward Him.
Drop the Nets!
Leave your homes!
You’ll know why later!
I’ve got it under control!
Just do it!
Don’t worry about those details!
If you are in a season of No, ask the Lord for help in showing you your big YES to Him! You are still following Him even if it feels like you are going nowhere or are…stuck. You CAN still say Yes to Jesus in the midst of the paralyzing darkness or the cave you feel you are trapped inside of. And never give up! Submit to His will and be willing to accept the answer – but if he decides that you will now embark upon a new season of Yes while you are still on this earth, start praying NOW that He will help you have a spirit of readiness to jump as high as He asks you to when the time comes. It may not be EASY, but Jesus doesn’t often do things that way, now does He?
It is ALWAYS worth saying YES to whatever Christ asks of us – following HIM no matter what the season is the greatest gift of all!
“YES, Jesus ~ YES!”
“Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men. And immediately they left their nets and followed him.” Mark 1: 16-18
Who am I to dilly dally?
People are just simply not gifted by God in all of the same ways; otherwise we’d be boring little robots. To some of us, it may come easy to be a “lifter-upper”, a cheerleader or an encouraging coach and motivator for others. While for others, offering encouragement can seem like rocket science or be an experience akin to pulling teeth without Novocain.
Like I said ~ we all have different gifts and talents ~ and every single one of them is important.
At the same time, we are all admonished (quite clearly) in scripture to find ways to be encouraging to others! Whether it seems to come “naturally” to us or not, this is something that the Lord asks of each and every one of us.
We all have the capacity to encourage ~ especially when we are seeking God in this worthy endeavor.
A step in the right direction can be small, but powerful ~ we can strive to at least try to not be the opposite of uplifting toward others. It’s too easy to discourage, critique, or point out the negative side in things before we even think about our approach and the person who may be receiving it. And we certainly don’t have a lack of discouragement hitting us from every which way we turn on a pretty much daily basis.
I think that in order to combat the negative forces that bombard us all the time, and to be more like Jesus in how we treat one another, we must be seek Him and ask Him to help us to encourage others and be relentless about it! It’s a radical thought, I know.
But it’s kind of a big deal. God’s word tells us so.
For those to whom it comes easy ~ being encouraging ~ sometimes we struggle with being active about it. We can get lazy, or seem at a loss about purposefully pursuing new ways to continue to lift others up. We can worry or do it for the wrong reasons; to please people only, rather than God. We can forget about striving to truly seek out what makes another person feel valued and cared for and loved, (while keeping it in line with scripture at the same time) rather than just sticking with what’s always worked for us or only offering up easy-to-use platitudes and blanket statements.
Radical encouragement isn’t marked by laziness or selfishness. It’s marked by seeking God’s heart and is NOT always within our comfort zone.
BUT! We are to encourage and love one another, friends – radical Jesus love – and this means to do so even when it’s hard.
And it will be hard sometimes.
This does not only apply to how we love and encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ, friends – but to everyone with whom we interact.
For those who “just aren’t empathetic” or don’t feel they are “built that way” – well, part of showing the Lord’s love and truth is to seek out ways to smile, share a kind word, offer our time, and treat others better than we even treat ourselves.
A huge part of what the Christian life really is, is going AGAINST much our “nature” to become more like Jesus. I can attest to this because I have been forced, as I seek His will, to go way out of my comfort zone more times than I can possibly count. Also, because I am in a constant spiritual battle in which I have to fall to my knees over and over again and ask Him to help me to slay all about self and fill me up with….More. Of. Him.
Yes, encouraging others is a serious thing. It is serious and important enough for the Lord to make mention of it in His word over and over again! It’s a major vehicle through which His love and truth can be channeled. We do best not to neglect this important truth and privilege of encouraging others in God’s truth and love.
I have found recently that I have – neglected this in some ways. I slipped back into the easy kind of encouragement that seems to come “naturally” to ME – rather than becoming the radical kind of encourager that truly brings glory to GOD and shines His love and His light radiantly without question.
That’s the kind that matters. I’m so glad that He gently reminded me.
We all have our own way that we can go about being encouraging in how we interact with people and friends and family and passers-by. People can encourage in multitudes of ways and with different styles – and that’s important.
God is creative and awesome like that! He made us different and did so in His mysterious and glorious ways.
None of us has ever perfected any of it anyway ~ a perfected process would again run the risk of being mundane, not radically Christ-like. No one is perfect except for Jesus Christ Himself.
Most of us have also failed at least once in our life with regard to this – this girl has failed time and time again, I can tell you! There’s just no doubt about that.
But with God’s help – if we ask Him to make it the desire of our hearts to be an encouraging rather than a discouraging presence in the lives of those around us, He will give us HIS grace, HIS wisdom, HIS power, HIS truth and HIS love – He will give us a thirst for being encouraging and loving and motivating like we may have never had before.
He can quench that thirst better than we ever could for ourselves.
Let us seek to be encouraging rather than discouraging forces in others’ lives. Let us ask the Lord daily to show us how, provide the opportunities and not discount anything, big or small, or shove it aside when the chance to radically uplift someone is there!
It truly is a blessing to offer up a shoulder to cry on, flash a shared smile and a clap for someone, participate in or incite a resounding “rah-rah” for a person’s joyful news, or make an investment of time in another that will never be forgotten.
It really is all-too-easy to be discouraging to another. The ugly and the dark drags people down day in and day out. It is much harder to be an encouraging witness of Jesus Christ and His love. But with God’s help and a true and fervent seeking-after-Him-and-abiding-in-Him-daily heart, He will spill right out of us and lift others up toward HIM.
It’s all for HIS glory, friends. And of late, He is pointing out to me, through my very own disappointments (large and small) and discouraging times, the very ways that I myself have forgotten or failed to love others well.
I am thankful ~ so very thankful ~ that each and every day He teaches me even more about what it means to be truly encouraging of other people and how this is an even greater witness of His love, His power, and His grace!
And yes – I’m even grateful for the fact that He often has to convict me and motivate me through my own let-downs or mistakes.
Hard lessons can be utterly precious treasures if we allow the Lord to use them for His glory. 🙂
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11
“Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.” Romans 15:12
The noise all around us can get so very loud – the slinging, the clamoring, the shouting and the bullying, the twisting and the pounding, the clinging and non-relenting.
The relentless noise, noise, noise is but one symbol of the consistent flow of darts and arrows the army of the enemy is launching toward us all the time.
This is war.
But what I have found, is that the more subdued whispers of influence and deceit are what can often do the most damage ~ because they frequently either go unnoticed, or we fail to deal with them once the noise subsides.
Think about war for a minute. Imagine you are a soldier in the civil war on the front lines. You are so busy fighting for survival from all the muskets and canons and other weapons of choice, that you don’t really have time to notice the things that are creeping in to take up residence on your side of this particular battle.
It’s called infiltration.
This is the kind stuff that seeps in – to the mind and to the heart. This is the stuff that sneaks around the loud and obvious junk and plants itself somewhere – INSIDE.
This is the evil that remains long after we think the battle is done.
It plants itself and grows, and grows and grows.
Jesus tells us to be on guard for good reason. He tells us to be careful, friends. He also tells us to risk things for His glory and to reach out to others.
Again I say: It’s not either/or.
We may have to lock out the distractions for a season in order to move back to our first love – as it should be.
We may have to regroup and reassess our armor – are we wearing the armor of GOD, or something we made up ourselves because, well, we think our version fits better?
And sometimes we have to retreat – but not just for rest, but to reassess. Sometimes we just gotta clean house.
If we forget this step after a battle – if we don’t make sure the last vestiges of the ravages of war are dealt with – nasty things will still grow and thrive in places they don’t belong.
Let’s not allow that simply because we’d rather just be done. Let’s ask the Lord to cleanse us from the inside out – not only during or after we are doing battle, but daily.
I often stand before the Lord in awe ~ in awe of Him and His desire and promise that He will accept that I keep getting so dirty. He doesn’t mind bathing me daily, even when I get into things He told me not to right after he’s put me in my Sunday best. I stand before Him in shock and disbelief at just how much poison and toxins have entered into my heart or mind from one day to the next. I never fail to be surprised that I have so much I need to dump out and ask to be cleansed of within one 24 hour period. Often this mess has been self inflicted – sometimes not. But either way, my loving Father never fails to bathe me and take care of me.
I truly believe that my tendency to get “dirty” is because not only are new things coming my way daily that I “absorb” so to speak, but there is much residue left inside of me that is so deeply rooted, that it will take time for the Lord to remove it – tentacles and claws and all.
But at the same time that I’m fully (hurtfully, sometimes) aware of this fact, I am so thankful that He has brought this awareness to me – that I’m not asleep. It hurts to be awake and aware of the evil as much as the good – but it is far better than living a lie – which I have done as well and which is part of why I’m where I’m at today.
I pray that we ask the Lord daily to cleanse us, friends. He has already saved us and wiped the slate clean if we have trusted Christ as our Savior. At the same time, there is still the reality of walking and living in this human shell. There still is the reality that we are in a battle of the flesh.
What we can truly stand in awe of if we get right down to it, is that GOD has already won the ultimate battle.
So yes – we have to be careful – we have to watch – we have to put on t he armor of God every single day. But we can rest in the knowledge and the beautiful, divine promise that the Lord has us in His mighty hands – and that He will never forsake us.
We have to show up for bath time though.
This is the good news that I am pondering today. I pray that if you feel weary of battle, that you too, can remember that with Christ, it is both/and. And as we trust in Him, through trial or battle, and through seasons of rest and overcoming, we will know….
That He is God.
And He will be exalted.
He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:9-10
My beautiful father-in-law, Alden, went home to be with Jesus, friends. And we will miss his presence here with us on earth, for certain.
At the same time that we grieve OUR loss, we are rejoicing too ~ because we KNOW, that we KNOW, that we KNOW – he is with his Lord and Savior right now – and for that we rejoice!
Bless the Lord, oh my soul!
I couldn’t sleep last night, because I kept writing this poem in my head as I was laying in bed. I got up this morning and the rest of it came together, so I want to share it with you today.
If you are grieving the passing of a loved one who is also a Christian, friend ~ grieve away ~ and remember to give your grief over daily to the Lord. He will comfort you. He will be with you. He will place you under His mighty wing of refuge. It’s okay to grieve. We just need to do it with the help of our Savior.
And as you grieve, know too the peace ~ that only the Lord can truly provide. Know too, the promise of getting to be in our true home with our Savior when we leave this tiny dot in the universe to go home. Know that your loved one who accepted Christ as his Savior is there now. He is right there with Him…..
We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:8
Home Sweet Home
He gets to run ~He gets to jump
He gets to dance and sing.
He gets to see ~ His shining face
And all the light He brings.
He gets to laugh ~ He gets to hug
And tears? He’ll never cry!
He now has wings ~ And gets to soar
Throughout the heavenly skies.
He gets to kneel ~ He gets to bow
He gets to worship in praise.
He gets to shout ~ “Thank you, Father!”
For eternity ~ all of the days.
He gets to live ~ his real life now
Days of adoration, joy and love.
His Almighty Lord ~ His Risen Savior
He meets Him, up above.
He gets to live ~ he gets to abide
Next to God and all His saints.
Where there’s no grief, and no, not war
Only praise, devoid of complaints.
He gets to do this ~ ’cause of mercy
From our Jesus, he is now there.
He loves His precious ones ~ all His children
He’s counted each and every hair.
And he is one ~ he is God’s child
And His Father called unto him…
“Come home, my child” ~ it’s far past dark
Into the light, where there’s no sin.
He gets to shed it ~ that broken body
And fly home, as it should be.
No longer encumbered ~ no longer trapped
God’s face now, he’ll always see.
For You have delivered my soul from death,
My eyes from tears,
And my feet from falling.
I will walk before the Lord
In the land of the living.
I believed, therefore I spoke,“I am greatly afflicted.”I said in my haste,“All men are liars.”
What shall I render to the Lord
For all His benefits toward me?
I will take up the cup of salvation,
And call upon the name of the Lord.
I will pay my vows to the Lord
Now in the presence of all His people.
Precious in the sight of the Lord
Is the death of His saints.
I’ve been reading and studying 1 Peter this week and it is full of beautiful golden nuggets of Christ’s truth. All of the Word is, friends ~ but I find that every time I return to this section of scripture, there is just SO MUCH to absorb. I’m still learning and digging into this beautiful book of God’s word, but I have some observations that I thought I’d like to share with you.
Although the entire context of the whole of the book of 1 Peter (and the entire Bible for that matter) is crucial for us to understand, I thought I would break down what these particular verses (taken in context) have meant to me lately, and that I’d do so in a different format than I usually would.
Maybe some of you are contending with the same things, and maybe they speak to you and your life and Christian walk in a different way, depending upon the season you are in and what the Lord is guiding you to do right now in your own life.
But here are my own observations for now.
Chapter 2, verse 2…..“like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation”
Chapter 2, verses 9 -12…“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.”
Chapter 2 verses 18-20 “Servants be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.”
This leads us straight into the next section of 1 Peter which reinforces that we have Jesus Christ as an example….a beautiful and perfect example!
Verses 21-23….”For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.”
The second half of 1 Peter is the section I am studying right now –
So I will leave you with some thoughts about the introduction into that part of 1 Peter and some of the things that God is growing my own heart about it as we speak. I am sure I will learn much from Him over the coming week as I delve further into this. How about you? Do any of these sections in scripture encourage your own heart or mind?
Chapter 3 verses 8-17 “To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. For the one who desires life, to love and see good days, must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit. He must turn away from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears attend to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.”
This has been what the Lord has been challenging me to learn more about lately – and I keep coming back to one thing:
Jesus is the source of all of it. Period.
His word is the nourishing milk that leads us to know more of Him, to learn to love Him better, to make HIM be the only One we turn to for guidance in navigating these confusing and difficult times.
I don’t have this down or mastered, in case you haven’t guessed that one yet. I’m just walking along the road with Him by my side. There is so much I don’t see or understand about it all. There are so many shiny objects all around that distract me. There are darts and arrows coming our way – some of which are disguised as loving little zaps of happiness, false peace, or “good and right Christian behavior.” I often think that I am my own worst enemy at times – but I know better. It’s a conspiracy. We must know who our real enemy is. God reveals much about that for us in his word as well. We do well to study it, as He provided His word as well as the Holy Spirit to us for good reason.
But although I don’t trust myself, I DO trust in Him. One day at a time, sometimes moment by moment, He is with me to teach me and help me see when I am being deceived. He removes the real enemy and the layers of trickery and deceit blocking my vision when I plead with Him to open my eyes and reveal where I am going astray. He sometimes teaches me through correction for mistakes I am making. Sometimes, He steps in before I screw up royally and spares me from impending heartache and pain.
But always, he saves me. He most often does so by helping me to cut through the muck and simply focus my gaze upon HIS beautiful face. Him and Him alone.
I love Jesus! I just wish I could love Him better, more, and as much as He is deserving of – and I fail, friends. It pains me, but I fail so utterly so often. Thankfully, he knows. Just like when my own children were little toddlers and were self-absorbed and throwing tantrums, never as a parent, did I feel “they just don’t love me.” We must remember that, because He is our Abba Father and He knows.
He has already drilled holes through the conspiracy and its shoddy foundation. He has already made a place for us where we will no longer go through these experiences and where our fleshly desires and our humanity will stop getting in the way of loving Him best and eternally and wonderfully and beautifully.
May the Lord continue to teach us and guide us – so that we can truly shine His abundant light in the darkness. Sometimes we can go to such dark places….be surrounded by so much darkness, or be so aware of the darkness that resides in our own sinful little hearts, that our eyes start to adjust to the black. It becomes comfortable eventually, that dark place.
But it’s not supposed to be that way.
It can hurt when the light starts to pour back in. But we must open our eyes – we must pursue the light! It has to be done – even if we have to squint at first.
Let’s continue to ask Him to help us. Let’s continue to be the light. Yes…..
Even when it hurts.
The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. John 1:5
I have a story to tell you – not really a STORY, but something I really need to share with you today.
It’s about my dad. It’s about me. It’s a story about things that happen in our lives that form, change or solidify things that we value (or don’t) in life. It’s also about Jesus.
As always, it’s about Jesus.
Recently I felt the need to apologize to my face book friends, because I had found myself sharing not only big picture things about deception and corruption I see in our world but specific things about our current presidential candidates. That is not something that was coming across well, and it is probably largely because of two things:
In light of that, I feel strongly that many of the folks who are on my face book and also read my blog should know a few things about me. I want for you to know where I was coming from.
BUT – I also do NOT want to minimize that I have still been in the wrong to allow my anger to seep in to what I share.
So please know that. This is about giving folks a little bit of insight that they may never have had before in regard to myself and what drives me to share things.
My father served in the United States Air Force for almost 20 years. He was dedicated to this country and the constitution, upholding the law, protecting us from evil things and corruption. He sacrificed a lot – including ultimately, his own life.
There were many things the man just could not tell us – and he told me that. There were also things he could tell me, later in life – because I too, worked for the government with a certain level of secret security clearance. The few things he COULD tell all of us hit us like a ton of bricks (it did me, at least). You could see it in his eyes how very important it was that we remember these things.
He taught us about the good things too. This was not a man led astray easily. He was (and I truly don’t say this just because he was my dad) BEYOND INTELLIGENT. He was wise. He sought after Jesus with all his heart, mind and soul. Like most of us, he had his times in which he became a bit lost – or couldn’t find a good church to attend, and even fell away a bit in his relationship with His Savior.
But he always came back. Especially toward the end of his life. He told me the last time that I saw him how very important Jesus was and our relationship to him. He told me that I might go through times that were extremely dark and difficult but to rely upon JESUS through it all. He told me that is the place he was in – after all he’d seen and experienced – and that he saw how easy it was to get caught up and grief stricken about the darkness we see around us.
He told me to always remember during those times the following two words: BUT GOD.
He had almost a photographic memory, so not much was lost on him. He looked at all sides of things and made up his own mind as to where he would stand firm for himself. He was not brainwashed. He carried experiences and things with him he couldn’t share with anyone close to him – only with Jesus.
So, I feel very strongly about a few things in regard to national security and especially terrorism. I feel strong feelings regarding corruption – in government and in other leaders in our world too. I won’t go into that at this time, but trust me – I have my reasons. And they are SOLID.
But more so – I feel compelled at times to bring to the surface the things I see in the enemy – the real enemy – who hides in the shadows and tries to trick us. Always, Christ’s truth and love is what is most important to me. But sometimes we have to be willing to go deeper into the mud before we can free ourselves from the pit.
Lt. Col James Michael Basile was killed in El Salvador in 1987. Ironically, although he was working there to deal with some corruption issues and saw and dealt with first hand what the terrorists in central america were trying to do, he died on a routine rescue mission in a helicopter.
He was in his early forties.
Right before he died (a couple of months prior) he had come home to us in Panama for a rest. The man was despondent. He had just seen something horrific happen (due to terrorists) that I cannot even repeat here.
Friends of his died. Families broken. Human sensitivities to such things only can withstand so much. He was pretty tapped out.
But he still got up.
He got up and he showed up for all the normal little things we, his family were going through at the time. My brother’s graduation from high school. Some activities my other brother was involved in. Family time and family dinners.
Then he had to go back to El Salvador. Alone. And I could see the deep grief and sadness in his eyes the morning he left.
That was the last time we got to see James, “Jimmy” Basile alive.
We all wrote a letter to him for Father’s Day that year. We each wrote a paragraph or two and mailed it to him from Panama, where we were living comfortably. This was one of the things that I was deeply worried and concerned about when we found out he died….
Did he get the letter and was it opened?
We did find out later that yes – it was in his apartment and was opened. I still have that letter today and treasure it.
This gives me peace and I believe with all my heart that it was a gift that God gave to me at the time.
My point is this – friends, we all have things that have happened in our lives that we feel pretty emotional about. We have things that have formed, solidified, or utterly blown apart certain values we hold dear.
Some of us are called by Jesus to share His love and His truth. Sometimes the truth part as to what Jesus tells us is really going on all around us isn’t pretty or comfortable.
Jesus went all the way to the cross for that and more. But He did it IN LOVE.
BUT…..we are little humans. We are sinful creatures. It is easy for the enemy to sneak up on us and get us to focus on one thing more than the other.
I say this a lot because I really mean it: When it comes to JESUS’ truth and love, it’s not either/or. It is meant to be both/and.
But sometimes we have to choose to emphasize one over the other at certain times. That’s what listening to the Holy Spirit can do for us. That’s what being in tune with the Lord does – it helps us to discern whether to do both/and or either/or at just the right time.
The Holy Spirit, our Helper – helps us to know when we are falling off course and helps us to correct our footing. Also, we are helped to stand firm when needed if we only seek the Lord in prayer and lay it at HIS feet each and every day.
Right now, although I feel strongly that I am called by Jesus Christ to share BOTH His truth and His love, it is HIS, not mine. And if it becomes tainted with myself, my own “feelings” or anger, it’s time to listen to correction and change course.
And I am now moving into a place where He is asking me to share more about the love than anything else – without sacrificing His truth – not by any stretch of the imagination!
Always with and in HIS love.
At times the Lord puts it in my heart to get tough and share the things that aren’t so nice to hear, but are true. At times, He asks me to share nothing but encouragement and light. At times, He asks me to do both. But when my human sensitivities start to get in the way, that’s when it all just becomes corrupted by the enemy.
I told you in my post the other day – it’s a conspiracy. And often what I write about is something – a spiritual war I am waging myself, or a thing Christ is working on within me – right at that very moment.
It’s quite the opposite of these things I just listed in most of the things that I write, dear friends.
That’s the whole point. I write about what Jesus is showing me about these things in my own life and sometimes I feel He urges me to share it.
Right now, when I look around myself – I see things the way I think my dad did at certain times in his life. He dug deep. That man dug for gold in others around him and he also dug for truth – even when it wasn’t pleasant. He didn’t hide his head in the sand but he didn’t forget that we have to love one another at the same time that we seek the truth.
Of late, I have felt so strongly to share with others that Jesus tells us to remain watchful – because there will be so many coming in His name to deceive – because the enemy is walking around – prowling – waiting to devour.
What I see right now is that maybe once in a while I need to do quite the opposite at times such as these.
Maybe when I see how utterly deceived we are – we are soooooo being led astray – instead of sharing what I see, I am to share more of the light and the love again.
I don’t know. I am in prayer about it like I haven’t been about something in a long time.
BUT GOD –
But God will reveal Himself to us – those who seek Him – even in the ugly.
And for now? I have only to remember one thing if and when I am conflicted or in a place where it feels like I have to choose between truth and love:
It is both/and. But it needs to always be done in love.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror;then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:4-13
It may be hard to recognize false fruits for what they are, especially in these confusing times. But one of the reasons Jesus tells us to constantly be in communion, relationship and prayer with Him is because the more we know Jesus, the easier it is to discern truth from lies.
Satan is very deceitful. He knows that the Lord tells us we will recognize truth and those who follow Him “by their fruits.” He wants to confuse us and throw us off base. He is a counterfeit of Christ, friends. And he has refined his fake products and fruity, lucious goodies to the point it is very hard to see that they aren’t the real thing – the truly GOOD thing – unless we go deep below the surface and we seek the truth in the Lord.
Seek the truth in the Lord ~
In the process we can recognize our real enemy much easier. He is the antithesis of Christ and the fruit he provides for us to consume is rotten ~ to the core.
Do we really think that the enemy does not know what the Word of God says? Do we really think the enemy forgets that he needs to counterfeit GOOD fruit as well?
He is formidable, make no mistake about it.
God tells us clearly in His word that the more we press in to Him and our relationship with Him, the more we can see the real truth ~ HIS truth, for what it is.
We need that. We need discerning eyes and hearts and minds all the more at this juncture on planet earth.
So is it true? Pretty is what pretty does? Yes – if we are pure inside, it will shine through ~ it is true.
But not all outward beauty is inwardly beautiful and true. Not by any stretch of the imagination.
Many are pretending, friends. Many say all the right things and give us exactly what our itchy little ears want to hear. Many are also deceived – I know I find that I have been often. Usually I find out such things about myself only as the Lord helps me to see it – as I spend time in relationship with Him, He reveals such things to me.
I think it is so important to remember that all the time; that we can be deceived and that many others who are deceived may lead us down the wrong path if we are not careful.
Hint: It’s about more than politics. It’s a spiritual conspiracy.
So it is good to keep in mind that sometimes we still see what we think is good fruit, but if we dig a little deeper, we often see that it is rotten inside.
Again I say – But God!
We truly can trust in the Lord that He will guide us and lead us, friends. But we have to do our part as well. We must be active participants in our time spent with Him, in nurturing our relationship with Him, and in KNOWING JESUS.
Knowing Jesus makes things that are not of Him, all the more clear.
Just some thoughts that I had today as I did my devotions, and I wanted to share them with you.
Maybe we should check out the fruit – especially before we take a bite.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every tree bears GOOD fruit, but the bad tree bears BAD fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Matthew 7:15-18
If you haven’t read it – or if you haven’t revisited it lately, I would urge you, my friends, to read C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. Lewis’ work paints a crisp portrait of how the enemy likes to work out his evil plans- and most importantly, it emphasizes for us the fact that the enemy (satan) is truly the author of confusion and the great divider.
Yes. The enemy wants to confuse us….in order to empty us. And he is waiting in the wings to provide his own evil and twisted refill services….
He wants to distort the truth of God and force us into thinking “it’s all relative” when it comes to being true followers of Jesus Christ’s love AND truth. He wants to play with us and cause us to be “moderate” in regard to our love for Christ and our desire to seek after Jesus with all our “heart, mind and soul.” (Luke 10:27)
He is giddy when he gets to do such things as this….
“A moderated religion is as good for us as no religion at all—and more amusing.”
― C.S. Lewis,
He uses our flaws that seem insignificant or not worthy of our full attention just as much, maybe even more sometimes, as when he uses those that have a firm grip on us to move us away from Christ and towards self (so he can pounce).
He will stop at nothing, but is genius-level smart when it comes to choosing which way to play us.
The goal is to keep us on the road to hell and/or darkness and apart from the Lord and His light. The favored tactic he employs to do so is to weave it around us very subtly sometimes, without us ever waking up to the fact that we are on a very dark walk….
“It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”
― C.S. Lewis,
Lewis said that he had to go to a very dark place to write the Screwtape Letters, but he felt it important to paint a picture of just how satan really weaves his web of deceit. Many Christians are not called to do something like that – but some of us are. To me, it is just one way that Lewis “took up his own cross” to promote the gospel of Jesus – because for some of us (many), we are often misled by the circus of sin, temptation, and confusion that the enemy likes to use as his primary weapon to keep our focus off of Jesus.
I will admit it – I am no longer nervous or concerned to say it out loud:
I DO believe there’s a major conspiracy going on that is the foundation for all of the evil and corruption we see in the world. I don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to believe this.
The Bible tells us so – through and through.
And the enemy knows that some of us are on to him – so he has woven all other kinds of conspiracies into the picture so as to confuse us and layer a bunch of muck on top of the real and very ugly truth that lies beneath it all.
Recently, I have found that much runs through my head as I try to remember to not lose sight of who my enemy really is. We have to know our enemy. The one that is underneath all of the junk and pulling all the strings.
Know. Our. Enemy.
If we aren’t watchful, as Jesus admonishes us to be ~ if we dig our heads in the sand and forget to remember WHO THE ENEMY REALLY IS ~ he can and WILL sneak up on us. He will pull us down in the quicksand and attempt to bury us. He will attack. Make no mistake about it. And the more in love with Jesus we are, the harder he will try to defeat us.
Staying focused on Jesus is number one and of the utmost importance in the face of it all.
We have to know our Savior.
Know. Our. Savior.
Someone once said ” be careful what you pray for.” It has been one of my greatest and most consistent prayers in my pleadings with the Lord that He help me keep focused on HIM, but also help me to keep watchful and maintain a clear head about who the real enemy is.
It’s getting confusing out there, friends. Jesus told us it would. We can’t bury our heads in the sand to avoid it. The enemy is formidable and will TAKE US OUT if we do it.
But I for one, must remember that I am no match for the devil. I can not fight that part of the battle alone or for myself. This is where I get tripped up so often, because I feel such a strong responsibility to keep my eyes peeled that I can fall into a mode of self-reliance.
God’s got this. I have to take an active role in remaining watchful, but turn it over to HIM.
You see, Jesus is not a “match” for the wits of the enemy – HE IS FAR SUPERIOR! In every way you can imagine.
It is the truth.
So much is thrown at us – each and every single day. The enemy is the true author of confusion. The enemy is the twister of truth and the mutilator of love. The enemy is a master at taking our eye off the ball – enticing us with a VERY GOOD counterfeit of the truth – and turning us against one another, and taking our eyes off of Jesus.
The hope is to divide us, and make us think that we are one another’s enemy. The work done to make this happen is carried out efficiently, masterfully, and diligently.
And beyond gleefully.
After all, this is about life or death. Both for us, as well as for the enemy. And he knows he will be on the losing end of things at the end of it all – but he wants to take as many down with him as he possibly can.
You see, the enemy knows this and knows it all-too-well: This time we have in this earthly life is fleeting. The enemy knows that it will all pass away. He knows we will spend eternity somewhere, and he doesn’t want us to be with God.
The enemy wants us. And he won’t stop until Jesus finally puts it all to rest. It will happen, friends! And although Jesus has already won, our earthly and spiritual battle continues until such time that the Lord decides it’s time to be done.
We MUST NOT let down our guard!
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8
But just as important as it is to know our enemy, it is even more important that we focus on Jesus. I find myself often going to one end of the spectrum or the other when it comes to this stuff, friends. It’s part of what the enemy likes to do to me to get me to move off base.
I either focus so much on seeing the enemy for who he truly is and what he is doing, that I forget my first love and forsake some of my time spent in relationship with my Savior, or I focus only on my comforting devotional and prayer time so as to avoid the ugly truth of what is happening all around and within me and get side swept by a land mine the enemy planted underfoot when I wasn’t looking.
Again I tend to think: It is not either/or. It is both/and.
My prayer is that as we seek to place our focus intently on Jesus, we can know Him even better. The more close we are in relationship with our Savior, the easier it becomes to see sin for what it is in our lives and all around us. The more we focus on Jesus Christ, the easier it is to discern truth and that includes knowing who our real enemy is and being on guard.
Thanks be to God, that although our earthly fight and battle is not done, Christ has truly has already given us victory in that we can have eternal life if we trust in Him as our Lord and Savior.
But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:57
If we can remember that, then I believe that ultimately the confusion the enemy throws our way will not fully penetrate our hearts and minds.
And above all….
I personally, would covet your prayers as I endeavor toward this and fail so very often. I would ask for prayer that I can remain of sober mind, but not let the enemy cause me to focus upon him more than I focus upon Jesus Christ. And know that if you are reading this and you are struggling with either one of these things – knowing who the true enemy really is when things are getting confusing or challenging, and keeping your eyes focused upon Jesus Christ in the midst of it all – that I am thinking of you also as I write this today. My prayers go out to you. My deepest prayers.
“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” Ephesians 6:11
“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
“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18
Razzle dazzle gather round
See our glitter, hear our sound
Pasty lady, white and glowing
All our thoughts; she is a sowing.
Razzle dazzle, see the lights
Fat cats abound; suck up our sight
Pretty sounds from lips instead
Backroom deals over our heads.
Never fear, just love the razzle
Whilst your nerves they shall unravel
Twisting tummies; party dances
Molding minds through all their prances.
Look at the stage, it’s all a’ dazzle!
Round and round, the whirling frazzle
Morphed and moved by itchy ears
Here’s our pill to calm thy fears.
Razzle Dazzle ’round she goes
Where she stops nobody knows
In the glass house, they are all-seeing
“Let’s party, folks!” And break some ceilings.
The LORD enters into judgment with the elders and princes of His people, “It is you who have devoured the vineyard; The plunder of the poor is in your houses.” Isaiah 3:14
Look at history. Look all the way back to the beginning of it all.
Take a hard look, friends. Doing so will simplify matters when it comes to the root cause of all that is going on right now.
If you want to see the core, basic reason all of these terrible things are happening, looking back does boil it down for us – a lot.
But the core truth of what ails us has always been the same. It just manifests itself differently throughout history and all time.
It comes from the heart.
It comes from the fallen nature of man. It comes from the enemy of Christ. And the true enemy is an ever-changing chameleon-like-wizard who is pulling our little strings as he chuckles and laughs in the most evil way imaginable all the while.
So we are just to turn our eyes upon Jesus in the midst of it all – right? Yes! So easy, yet so complicated at the same time, it seems.
Friends. God does not abandon us. We abandon God.
I have yet to hear anyone in our world or society really talk about the REAL root cause of all this escalation of violence and hatred. I hear lots of other things, most of which are true contributing factors.
But we keep leaving the most important thing out: JESUS.
I could go on and on and on when it comes to the list of all the true things that are happening right now that we all think contributes to all this CRAP.
But they aren’t the heart of the matter. To say that any one of those or a combination of them is, is NOT TRUE. And if we ignore that piece, we will not see things truly change. They will only get worse.
Again – that piece is that we have removed Jesus. And we need to place the ownership squarely where it should be – on us.
God does not abandon us. We abandon God.
We like to say we haven’t, but as a society here in the United States and in much of the rest of the world, the reality is that we have.
How’s that going for us, I ask you?
The simple truth really is just that, dear friends. We have taken over and are now placing our little butts smack in the middle of the driver’s seat. And there are too many of us drunk driving out there right now.
That is a recipe for deadly disaster. Utterly deadly.
Our problems run deep in America – true.
But if we could come back to this one simple truth about our need for Jesus, and live it, we would actually have a chance to co-exist on this earth a while longer and reach out more to others who don’t know Him as their Lord and Savior yet.
God does not abandon us. We abandon God.
We have totally lost sight of who the true enemy is. We are turning against one another and Satan is laughing harder than he maybe ever really has. He is playing with us like little puppets and having a great time doing it. The strings have become all intertwined and knotted up and the puppets are in disarray. It’s getting darker and uglier and more damage is being done on an escalated and daily basis. The puppet show is about to come to an end.
God will allow us to go our own way and take Him out of everything if that is what we choose. He will not force us. But nowhere in the Bible does it say that Satan operates the same way.
What God does: Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20
What the ugly enemy does: Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8
Today, I pray that we would come back to the simple truth of Jesus. That is simply that if we truly turn to Him, He is faithful.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6
There are those who won’t bring God back into the center of their lives or even invite Him in at all ~ and Jesus tells us clearly to expect that, friends. He warns us to be watchful and take heart that He is still with those of us who truly follow after Him with all our hearts.
The disciples were concerned as to how we would know when He would be returning – He tells us clearly in Matthew 24…
And it isn’t pretty.
He calls it like it is and tells us the “sorrows” we shall see before He returns are akin to birth pains – contractions that move closer and closer together.
And those hurt.
But in spite of knowing this truth, friends – we can’t give up. Our hope is in Jesus Christ and He has work for us to do while we still remain here until His return.
We that follow after Jesus Christ with all that we have – We that have made Him and only Him our One Lord and the center of our lives – We have a responsibility and a privilege, really, to shine His light in the midst of this darkness.
We as true Christians are not going to save the world. We can’t save ourselves with our own devices. We can’t even totally cleanse our own hearts and minds.
Only God does that.
But we can fix our eyes upon Jesus as we watch the things He told us would happen before He returns unfold. We can fix our eyes upon Him and be His vessels for truth and love in the middle of a puppet show gone mad.
We can share the good news with others!
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only son that whomever should believe in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
And how do we get through these increasingly dark and wicked times while we wait for our Lord’s return?
We remember this….
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Revelation 21:3-6
Because this is what is coming.
HE IS COMING BACK FOR US!!!!!
Soon and very soon.
It’s too big of a deal to sweep to the wayside, friends.
It’s the only way we can get through it all.
It’s the one way we can cling to God rather than allowing Him to be completely removed from our society and world.
It’s the most important decision each individual can ever make.
I pray that if you haven’t made yours, that you will do so. Today.
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. John 1:12
Because if you do? He will never abandon you.
God does not abandon us. Not EVER.
“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8
…..We remembered that we are royalty because of Jesus AND we have many friends that are as well?
This one’s going to be hard to articulate, so I ask you to bear with me as I attempt to put into words what has been on my mind and in my heart these past few weeks.
It’s about living in our protective and self-made bubbles. It’s about avoidance, friends. It’s about withdrawing, forgetting, ignoring, and self-protecting. It’s about closing our eyes.
It’s about selfishness. Pure, utter and total selfishness.
Yes. This is going to be another one of those blog posts. And I get to talk about it, because I am a prime offender. I can’t speak for you, but I can tell you that I like my little feel-good bubbles. I like them way to much and I often do everything in my power to avoid having them popped wide open.
I like to be comforted. And I often look to my own devices to find those soft and fluffy things that will make me feel good. It’s a fact.
And although it is not always wrong to seek comfort and regroup, to care for ourselves so we can be better for others, our motivation behind it is what is important.
These are the burning questions on my mind lately.
So, before you get to this next part, please keep in mind that this is not a political post. This is not just about refugees or people hurting in other parts of the world.
This is about the state of humanity all around us and inside of us! It is about how we don’t want to look at the ugly and how we think somehow, that by closing our eyes to it, we can escape it.
So this came across my news feed the other day on face book – and it reminded me, friends. It reminded me about the bubble – the dangerous bubble of self-protection we often live inside of and guard with all that we have.
You see, he reminded me ~ this little boy reminded me. What he expressed deep from within his sincere little heart right before he died brings back home (it never should have left) the truth ~ the OPPOSITE of what our world and our modern culture tells us is the actual truth.
And this little boy is telling on us.
GOOD FOR HIM!
I think about Jesus and how He was when he walked this earth alongside of us. I think of how although he often retreated to the mountains or the quiet places to spend time with His Father in prayer, He then immediately immersed Himself among the lost, the suffering, the left out and the shunned.
Jesus didn’t avoid looking suffering right in the face. Not the suffering of others around Him, and not the suffering He took upon HIMSELF.
No. Jesus is not about avoidance of the ugly. Jesus IS about the hope and beauty that only HE can bring about as He steps inside of our ugly mess and pulls us up, up, up.
Ugly stuff ain’t got nothing on the power of Jesus Christ, friends.
And Jesus sees right through our “protective” little bubbles – the ones we like to think hide us from the bad and uncomfortable stuff and even from His divine and mighty view. You know these bubbles well, I’m sure. The’re those things we use to prevent anyone from seeing the pain and ugly within ourselves. They’re the little things we try to tell ourselves will shield us from things that might drag us down.
We think they are our friends, but they’re just big, fat fakers. Masters of illusion. Liars.
He sees inside and He is telling us that there is a time to come out.
There is a time to burst out of the bubble and rejoin the living – the ugly of it and the beauty of it, friends.
All of it.
There comes a time to rejoin – the reality in life – to look it full in the face and soak up the whole of it.
But it’s hard. It is so hard to open our eyes and come out of our cocoons of self protection, isn’t it? It feels so warm and soft inside and out there – well, it’s cold and harsh, man.
It’s challenging for any of us to do this – especially when the world tells us the opposite of truth:
You have to look out for number 1.
You must stay positive above all else.
Remove negative forces from your life and immediate environment – that is the true mark of a healthy human being.
Don’t tolerate negativity or stuff that just drags you down.
I find it especially difficult because of my health and the nature of my Fibro – people often ask me why I spend so much time studying world events and news when it’s just so negative! I do so because I am somewhat trapped inside of my home due to my condition – trapped from going to be a part of things that are too overwhelming for my senses and my nervous system. I don’t want to go completely dark while I am not able to go “out” into the world as much as I could before I had the Fibro.
I don’t want to lose complete touch with what is going on in the “outside” world.
I find that the Lord gives me a peace about having to look the ugly full in the face as I watch the news, read about world events, and compare these things with what He tells us in the Word.
I don’t like to see the suffering, friends – but I see the good in how the Lord uses this to remind me it’s NOT ALL ABOUT ME.
But I have to be careful, just like anyone else does – that in “managing” my Fibromyalgia, I don’t end up staying in the cocoon all the time. I have to be willing to venture out and take risks so I don’t get caught inside the bubble of health management. It’s a hard one, I tell ya – and it bothers me. I need prayer over this matter, for sure.
There is so much outside of our own little world – our own bubbles, so to speak – the ones we create for ourselves or the ones that circumstance lays upon us. Sometimes we can’t burst out all the way due to things like health issues, living in a remote location, or being in a place and time in your life where you are somewhat stuck where you are for right now.
But the Lord has given us so many ways to stay connected – even in the midst of such limitations.
When I look the ugly full in the face – when I look at the suffering I see around me – it’s only a microscopic picture of what is really happening, I know. And even that small amount is so-very-unpleasant.
But when we do that, we miss out on all God has for us.
When we do that, we don’t get to see the way Jesus works His divine wonders through even the ugly and the dark, the suffering and the pain, the seemingly insurmountable circumstances and state of the dark side of humanity and darts and arrows of the enemy.
We don’t get to truly appreciate the triumph and saving grace of the Lord if we don’t look it ALL full in the face.
So today I am reminded:
The state of the world can be depressing if we lose sight of that – if we rely upon how things are going as our true indicators of how Jesus works and moves in mighty ways, we shall be lost.
We shall spiral down the staircase that leads to nothing but death, utter hopelessness and despair.
If we look full in the face the reality of the world – the horrid things that happen to us and to others in their suffering and REMEMBER WHAT JESUS CAME FOR – we will know.
We will remember and we will know.
We can tell it all to God.
God IS there for us, in spite of how much evil there is in this world.
He has NOT forgotten us.
And our real home is with Him.
Little boy didn’t get the option of staying inside a bubble of comfort – quite the opposite is true. And now?
He knew that he was going and he knew that God would be welcoming him home soon and very soon after this photo was taken.
And he’s telling it all to God!
Little boy’s earthly life was taken from him – but he is telling God everything. Just as God asks us to do. And now, no one can take life from him ever again. Praise God!!!!!!
Thanks be to God. No more need for bubbles.
THANKS BE TO GOD!
Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. John 16:20-22
In the past two weeks, my devotions have been permeated by one main theme: In our trials and suffering, if we always remember to look up to the Lord, we will receive a reward that trumps the ugly of our situation.
That’s really the whole theme of this blog and I find it interesting that I am learning even more about what that really means – what it really means to look up in SPITE of all that clouds our vision here on earth. To look up in the face of intense opposition. To look up when our heads keep getting yanked back down. Just to keep looking UP.
But I don’t mean looking up in the way that the world does. The world tells us to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and get a good attitude. The world tells us to have a positive outlook and believe in ourselves so we can change our circumstances. The world tells us it’s about mind over matter, motivation and willpower. The world tells us we can choose happiness and health no matter what.
The world tells us it all hinges upon US. The world tells us to look up to OURSELVES.
No. That’s not working for me – it never has. I have to seek Jesus and His face so HE can work all things together for my good. Only He can do that. My looking doesn’t even make that happen – it’s just the mere part that I play in it all.
Seeking HIM. Looking to HIM.
We don’t often find ourselves ardently searching for His face in times of joy and ease. Sure, we can praise Him through the beauty of a time unmarked by pain, suffering, or difficulty. But for me – I find that when I have to look harder, and I finally can fix my eyes upon HIM – He cuts through the cloudy and the murky and the junk – He cuts through it like a sharp blade and emerges…..CLEAR.
He gives me a point of focus through all that is murky and beyond my ability to endure alone.
But it’s not easy.
And when it gets really hard for me – I focus upon Jesus and the many times He looked up in the face of insurmountable obstacles.
In the Garden of Gethsemane…
In the dark….
Surrounded by trees and very, very alone.
Knowing. Knowing what is about to come…
And He still looked up.
He looked up in the midst of an excruciating pain and blunt and brutal knowledge of the cup He was about to have to drink of in a mere few hours.
And I think of my Jesus upon that cross…
When not only gravity and the relentless pain and torture inflicted upon His body was pulling Him down…down….down, but also the spiritual pain and torture He must have endured that screamed out to him relentlessly….”give up already – they aren’t worth it.”
And He still looked up.
Jesus looks up while upon that cross and He cries out!!!
He looks to the Father even in the face of having all the sin of the world resting on Him.
In that moment and in every moment, Jesus always looks up.
So can we.
Is there something in your life right now that makes you feel like all you can do is hang your head low? Do you find yourself seeking after the Lord, but unable to find Him? Would you please keep looking up in spite of it all? Would you have faith that He will show up, even if it’s not in the way that always feels good or removes your trial or thorn from your life? He is our Almighty and Loving Father, friends.
He wants what is best for us. Even if we don’t always understand it, He will work all things together for our good in the midst of our challenges, sufferings, even our sin. Our “job” is only to seek Him in the middle of it all. And obey if He asks something of us.
Just like Jesus did that day on the cross and every day – every. single. day.
No – The cup was not removed from Jesus, friends. But oh! What happens now for an eternity by far surpasses that horrific suffering that He endured.
Jesus looked up for us.
And He yearns for us to look up and seek His beautiful face. Every day.
Sometimes the days feel like weeks when we go through them living with these thorns that we cannot remove. Sometimes we wonder when it will all end or if we will ever have an answer as to exactly why it all had to happen in the first place. But we can trust in Him that He has us right where He wants us. We can work through our anger, our disdain, our confusion as we look up to Him for His peace, His comfort and His joy in the middle of it all.
Sometimes it’s the only way to embrace beauty in the midst of the ugly anyway.
I don’t have to feel great about this stuff that makes my days feel like weeks and my weeks feel like years. I don’t have to love my pain or my suffering. But I can be thankful in the midst of it all that I know that one day – one glorious day – I will be with my Savior for all eternity. And there – in that blissful place – there will be no more suffering.
And we will always see His face. We won’t have to look long and hard and search through the thickets and the thorns. All of this will be a blur by then.
And we shall walk in the light and the love of our Lord and Savior forever more.
To You I lift up my eyes, O You who are enthroned in the heavens! Psalm 123:1
A storm is coming. My pain is rising.
I feel the anxiety rising up in the pit of my stomach. I try to run. I try to hide. Then I make my feeble attempts to move into a place of accepting it.
But the body fights – it fights for its rights.
All to no avail.
So I stop trying and just….exist. I just commit to exist in the midst of it. All expectations must be thrown out of the window – smashed. Except for one.
I won’t do this alone. I will NOT do it alone! And that’s not because of my own expectation, but because of a promise made by Christ Himself.
He will meet me here. He will draw near.
My heart is crying out along with every fiber of my body and being. Not only does my heart cry, but real tears stream down my face throughout these last 24 hours. How much longer? How much longer, God?
These are the times. These are the times that make me realize that the DAILY pain I have ALL THE TIME with Fibro, is nothing compared to the stuff that jumps off the scale when there’s a weather situation or an illness on top of it all that exacerbates it. I can live with that stuff (the day to day aches and pains), and still offer something of myself to others; experience a good mood even though it is a wicked little thorn in my side that never leaves.
“Don’t you know, Jesus – don’t you know that THIS is where I draw the line? I have to deal with the daily crud of Fibro and I don’t like it, but I’ve been a good girl and I suck it up. I seek you in the midst of it all. But why do I have to deal with THIS on top of it all. It’s not fair.”
Jesus didn’t draw a line with regard to how much suffering HE was willing to endure, now did He?
Ha Ha. Silly little girl.
Gut wrenching, bone crushing, deeeeep, deeeep pain.
Practical paralyzation – just bad enough to make EVERY SECOND excruciating to get through, but not bad enough to be given a pass not to do life – work, tasks, chores. That little tidbit right there? THAT is one of the WORST PARTS ABOUT FIBRO! Or – is it a blessing? Got me!
But then there’s this one too…..
Attacks from the ugly enemy.
“this is nothing compared to what Christ did for you. Why are you compaining? There are people out there suffering far worse than you. Why don’t you just pull yourself up from your bootstraps little girl and persevere for once? Geez. What a little baby.”
I long for rest. I want to run, but there’s no where to hide. It’s inside of me and I can’t get away from it, friends. I have no choice but to move through the pain. One ugly and long, drawn-out second at a time. Each hour seems like an entire day. Each day seems like a long, bad, drawn out week.
Where’s the end? Where’s the destination? Where’s the party, yo?
Vice grip, trapped in concrete. Unable to move to the left or the right. Even being still comes with its own level of crushing pain.
I want my mom! Oh yah – she’s in heaven with Jesus. I’m happy for her. I really am.
But what about ME!!!!
Are we at the peak yet? When will we move down the other side of this evil bell curve? I’m ready for the fall, because after its done, it spells a semblance of relief. Right?
We are going to get off the ride eventually, right?
Can Jesus just meet me here in the midst of it all? Do you think its possible that He would?
Will you, Lord? Will you bring me peace through the pain? Will you carry me through these excruciating moments, minutes, days in which this suffering wreaks havoc through my body? Will you massage my soul and my mind that is growing weary as I trudge through this? Will you pour Your grace out upon me – more of it, even though I am stamping my feet right about now?
A storm is coming. My pain is rising.
My heart is crying out along with every fiber of my body and being.
Gut wrenching, bone crushing, deeeeep, deeeep pain.
And a peace –
And a joy –
And a comfort provided by the only One who can offer it.
The Great Physician.
My Almighty Savior.
The One and Only Divine Healer of all our hurts, all our pain.
My Lord Jesus Christ – He shows up in the storm and through the rubble it leaves as we move through it. He clears the path.
And through this, I shall know Him better.
Through this ugly, His glory shall be made manifest.
This I know.
I look to YOU, Lord. I see you clearly even when my eyes are closed. I can see you when I am in the middle of the darkness, inside the tunnel when it seems there’s no way out. I can see you even on the roller coaster ride that is spinning my head and blurring my vision. I can see you, Lord!!!
And I know that YOU see me.
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Romans 8:18
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. …1 Peter 4: 12-19
We all have struggles. We all make mistakes. But some of us don’t realize until later in life that one of our root issues or problems that we’ve been carrying around since ummmm, FOREVER ~ is a big reason for all of those other trials we experience.
I’m one of those people. And it’s time to work on discarding the layers of gunk that don’t need to be there anymore.
There’s enough to contend with that causes us to be tempted or stumble in life without all this junk that we carry around that was never meant to be there in the first place. I’ve mentioned several times before that part of what I struggle with is how I handle conflict. If I told you why I think that is or what all has perpetuated this issue, I would be writing a book instead of a short little essay today. So we won’t go there.
Conflict is part of life. But if you are someone like me, you allow other layers of junk to get in there and add to the root issue. That stuff is not meant to remain with us. It is evil and needs to be completely discarded.
This is by no means easy to do.
So I just want to share today that the Lord is truly enlightening me in regard to one MAJOR AND DECEPTIVE culprit in my life when it comes to conflict problems –
For most of my life (all of it) I really haven’t had or enforced many boundaries. And not only is dealing with conflict getting harder and harder for me now (almost unbearable), but I truly think a lot of my health issues are coming as a result from this as well – at the very least, they are being worsened by it.
Because of the lack of appropriate and Christ like boundaries in my life, I have opened the door to more sin. Resentment, bitterness, outbursts when I can’t take it any more…AND a perpetual cycle of trying harder, doing better, so as to avoid wrath or displeasure with those with whom I interact. I find myself having to withdraw more in order to regain composure. But the worst kind of withdrawal comes from inside of my heart.
I shut down.
Part of the need for withdrawal in the midst of conflict, in all fairness, is due to the issues that Fibromyalgia causes a person…you really have no choice when you get overwhelmed but to remove yourself for a while. And removing yourself from evil or situations that are becoming sinful is also a part of what God asks us to do, as long as it is due to the fact that you have chosen this as a boundary line that is healthy, rather than escape with no intention of resolution at a later time.
It gets blurry sometimes.
But sometimes we just flat out withdraw. Sometimes we build walls after realizing we have no property or boundary lines. And that’s kind of like going from one extreme to another, don’t you think?
We are meant to have clear lines of demarcation (boundaries). When we have them, we don’t have to build walls very often. When we don’t, we end up having to go curl up into a fetal position alone or come out guns-a-blazing.
The book I am studying right now along with the passages in the Bible that talk about healthy conflict management and appropriate boundary lines focuses on how HAVING good boundaries is truly loving like God wants us to love and NOT HAVING them is NOT.
It’s eye opening, yet heartbreaking at the same time. You see, I asked God to help me take the logs out of my own eyes so that I can work on how I deal with conflict (hence, relationships and love better as a result) and this is what keeps coming up for me.
The first book I am studying (aside from the Bible) is called Boundaries, and is written by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. Here is an excerpt that hit me like a ton of bricks:
All of this is biblical, friends. In fact, I was led to it from a couple of Pastors that truly teach from the Word and even Focus on the Family recommends this book throughout so many things they deal with in regard to conflict issues among Christians.
The whole point of this is that in order to even think of being a peacemaker, we have to establish good boundaries. In order to even think of loving like Christ, we must follow his mandates in regard to loving from the heart, not because we fear loss of love, loss of acceptance, or anger that might come our way.
This Boundaries book also opened my eyes to the fact that the idea of boundaries comes from the very nature of God. I have gone to the Word to check this for myself, and it’s all throughout the Bible!
The entire reason I started down this road and am embarking upon intensive (and biblical only) study of conflict management is because it has been made clear to me that the deepest desire of my heart is to love like Jesus wants for me to love. He desires “mercy, not sacrifice.” (Hos 6:6). I realize now that for most of my life, I have missed the mark here. I have allowed fear to dictate what I will do for others, rather than asking the Lord to tell me what is appropriate and right to do, and what is not.
I neither created nor implemented healthy boundaries.
And when we don’t, the bad stuff gets inside and distorts real love. It makes us sick.
I would covet your prayers regarding all of this, dear friends. You don’t reach the age of 50 and start learning how to create God-like boundaries and do it with ease. Not only do you have to learn, but as you implement, it may be hard on others in your life who aren’t used to you being this way. I need prayer that the Lord would guide me and lead me to have healthy boundaries and own them in love. I truly want this to be something that is beneficial not only to me and my own relationship with God and others, but that frees me to discern where there are true burdens I can lend support to, instead of carrying so many loads that take my eye off what really matters to God.
I need to own it and it’s not going to be easy.
But it is crucial. It is absolutely crucial that I learn what others’ boundaries are, as well as allow mine to be created (and implemented, even when it’s hard) with the leading of the Holy Spirit. He will help me to stick to them, regardless of how it feels – this I know. I just need a lot of prayer for wisdom, clarity and courage right now.
Everyone must work their “own salvation out with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). This is no different than that.
It’s high time.
We see a clear example of healthy boundaries right on the cross – it is seen between Jesus the two thieves hanging next to him. One repented and opened his heart sincerely to Christ. The gates were flung open and Jesus invited him to enter into paradise with him. The other was not repentant or sincere, and Jesus drew a line – He wouldn’t even look at him. Boundaries are Christ like. Appropriate ones.
I don’t want to be that guy that Jesus wouldn’t look at. I want to be sincere, through and through. I want to truly repent. I want to love with compassion, not sacrifice. (Matt 9:13)
I would rather learn now to create healthy boundaries to be more responsible for what God has called me to, than continue down this path I have been on, especially when it comes to conflict.
Will you pray for me, friends? If you also find yourself struggling with having either inappropriate boundaries (too many, not enough) or not honoring someone else’s, would you go to the Lord about it all? If you even question whether or not you are doing things for others out of sacrifice or pure love, out of fear of a bad result, worry about withholding of love or acceptance, or fear of anger and retaliation, will you turn it over to God? If you find that instead of loving others by helping them carry their true burdens, you are too busy carrying the loads that don’t belong to you in the first place, will you consider asking Jesus to help you have clarity and power to change?
So often, we Christians only cling to the verses in the Bible that sound good – we take them and distort them without looking at the context in which they are written or without applying all of the other principles Christ has put forth for us in the rest of the Bible!
But if we surrender this twisted stuff over to the Lord, He will empower us. He will enable us to learn more about how to walk in the freedom He has given us and love with freedom and from a pure place.
A God place.
This is part of what it means to walk the hard and narrow road as a Christian. “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it”. Matthew 7:13
But I know, that I know, that I KNOW – He will be there with us every step of the way!
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear. 1 John 4:18
Sometimes ( a lot) the enemy attacks me inside for being completely honest with you, dear readers. I have things run through my head that I know are from the ugly enemy all the time – things like “no one wants to hear that stuff, you need to talk about the more beautiful things of life and help uplift others, Annie. You’re doing it wrong.”
And I know what that is: It’s the master of deceit’s attempt to get me to think of this little blog as something I do only for others and that I should tailor it to the things people might want to hear. The enemy tries to whisper that I should write only about that which makes me come across as strong and together and that I got it all going on just perfectly because I got Jesus. He says that something like this should not be something I do to bring about my own personal growth (spiritually) as I work through things with God – because that is….Just.So.Selfish.
The enemy tries to tell lots of pretty little lies, friends.
But I do write in order to work things out with the Lord, friends. I do, because He is the ONE and ONLY who can make us whole through the messy stuff in life. Writing this stuff out actually makes it more real and takes away the foothold the enemy likes to take advantage of when we keep it all inside. But he just keeps on whispering – that ugly minion. The enemy whispers that I should portray things as only being all glittery and shiny – like a beautiful treasure chest full of jewels – you can’t wait to open it to see what you will be rewarded with next.
But in so doing, I know that I would create a false prison of sorts. I know that I would be lying. The fact is that the Christian life is messy and ugly and beautiful and intentional all at the same time. So I write the way that I write for that reason. I share the way that I share for that reason. I share it ALL because it’s the TRUTH.
This blog was started as a form of worship of the Lord. Some people worship through music, or art. Some do it by serving in person at the church and expressing their love for Jesus in that way. I write. I write out my feelings and struggles and joy and everything I go through as a Christian far better than I speak it. I am a pretty sensitive person when it comes to things like the body language of others, tone of voice, etc. And I screw up all the time when it comes to my own peripheral forms of communication, so I know that by writing things out, the LORD knows my heart and He reveals things to me in that process. I know that by writing things out that He is working on within me, it takes power away from the enemy and enables me to have more clarity to see things that I need to turn over to the One who holds me tightly, in His mighty hands.
Not everyone who may read it does understand where I’m coming from. And that’s okay. Because another reason I share this stuff out here in cyber space is because I know that there are others who feel alone in their messy stuff right now. There are others who DO feel sort of the same way at times, and need to know they have company. There are many of you, dear friends who read this stuff from time to time who are isolated, and the only form of “fellowship” you may be able to have with other believers is through things like this.
So, I don’t have to share only the happy and shiny stuff here, friends. Because I truly believe that if the Lord would have something I write about help another person, He is God, and He will convey to that person what they might need from it. He will make it work together for our good. He will make it beautiful, in the midst of the messy. If He wants to use anything that I write in someone else’s life, then so be it. Whether it be to encourage, uplift, or just shine light on the fact that sometimes our less than pretty junk is part of the Christian life.
We are NOT perfect. Far from it. But HE is.
So….I will continue to write the way that He has led me to. As mucky and weird as it may seem at times, I will continue. And it can be unpleasant stuff sometimes, I know.
I write a lot about angst – I write a lot about struggle – the struggles that come from sin, iniquities, and walking as imperfect beings who may have accepted Christ as their Savior and Lord, yet still sin. I am tempted at times not to write about such things. Yes, I am tempted beyond belief.
I am tempted at times to share only the joy-filled, awesome and feel-good stuff that convinces others that I am filled with the joy of Jesus Christ. There is always that pull, no matter who we are or where we are at in life as a Christian, to pretend that everything’s okay. There’s something in there that the enemy has lodged quite deeply – waaaay deep down – that whispers…
“but you must be a good example of how GREAT it is to be a Christian, you little complainer! You are leading people astray by sharing all this hard stuff. You are coming across as a martyr or something. You are __________, __________, and _____.”
But I know. I know what led me to start this blog and I know that Jesus only gave me the ability to express the things He is doing inside of my own heart and mind as a form of worship, and a way of speaking His truth AND love.
Love doesn’t always look pretty. Neither does truth. But the result of Jesus’ love and truth is always B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L.
So I hold firm to the promise I made to the Lord – I will not cover up (as I write and I share) the ugly stuff. We are still imperfect humans – And we still struggle – sometimes even more than we did before we were true followers of Christ. But HIS strength is made perfect in our weakness.
I write about such things because they are the reality that most of us (we Christians) truly do grapple with, but are afraid to admit at times, for whatever reason. I write about such things because I feel the Lord calls me to do so – He calls me and it is loud and clear.
Share it, Annie. Share it. Share the stuff that everyone thinks or goes through but maybe feel they can’t say. Share the stuff that is ugly and twisted and messed up, so others may see that they are not the only Christian out there still struggling. Share the stuff Annie, so that through it all, others will be comforted and know that I, Your Mighty King, have the power to help you all overcome these struggles.
The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14
Yet He also whispers that I am to share the good stuff too. He tells me through my prayer and devotion time that what He really wants is to have others see that truly, beyond truly, He works all things together for our good.
So as contradictory as it may seem, these things of beauty do come out of the ugly if we allow Christ to work in us. He is the Creator, the Great Physician, The Almighty and All-Powerful Lord and King. He can and does do it all.
So I shall also write about peace – peace that comes only from Jesus in the midst of these struggles, trials and temptations we face sometimes. And I shall write of love. The love of Jesus that is always there for us, trying to dominate our own hearts and spill forth in spite of the ugly stuff that tries to infiltrate. Most of all, I will share how God works through my own personal struggles and the lack of such things as joy, love and peace in my own little heart to draw me closer to Him and help me be more and more like Jesus through it all.
So often, the reason I can even see the need for greater love in my heart – the reason I see the need for more patience to be developed in my character- the reason I see the need to allow Him to correct me and grow me and help me change direction and take my hands BACK OFF THE WHEEL, is due to the absence of them. He shows me through writing things down that my heart and at times, my mind still need much work. He shows me how very much I struggle putting into practice what I know to be true under duress. He shows me that I am His child and that He loves me too much to leave me the way that I am.
He shows me my need for Him. More of Him.
He must become greater; I must become less.” 1 John 3:18
I hate how much of ME there still is. I want to be nailed to the cross once and for all, like Jesus was. But I struggle with signing up for stuff that’s painful. I don’t have the same kind of love that Jesus does, friends. I care about my own comfort too much. And that pains me in its own way….because I know this so well about myself. And it is hard not to walk in condemnation in the face of that.
That mirror is one I want to shatter sometimes.
But there’s good news in the face of all of that! It’s wonderful how the Lord knows each one of His children so well. He’s aware of every little nuance and quirk about me as a person. He knows what works with me and what doesn’t. He knows just how to get through to me.
He tailors His approach to me in a way that will work to pierce my ungrateful little heart. But He never changes His truth in order to do so.
He never stops loving me while administering the exact and perfect dose of truth that I need in order to stop being sick and return to good health.
One of the ways that He does this with me, in particular, is He has made me very aware when there is some form of toxic darkness in my own heart. I may hold on to it for a while, or I may try to trick myself into thinking it’s not there or denying its existence, and sometimes I have to regroup for a while to discern where it’s coming from, but after sitting still for a time, if I search after Him to reveal it to me, He does.
Every. Single. Time.
This is never a fun process, and I wonder ~ does the Lord ever get sick and tired of having to discipline me for the same repeat offenses? Does He ever wonder, “will she ever learn?”
But He is my Father, and He knows this is how I operate. He knows that I try to continue moving forward in spite of the weed that is starting to grow in the garden of my heart. I get tired of pulling weeds, so sometimes I just pretend they aren’t there. Or I try to pull them, but if it proves too difficult for me, I just get exasperated and give up after a while.
I do this because I hate conflict that can’t seem to be resolved within reason. I do this because when things seem unreasonable or insurmountable, sometimes I want to flee. I do this because I still put how I think hard stuff should be handled in a little box of my own making.
And Jesus wants to blow out the box. Time for an explosion. The solace and protection we find under the Mighty wing of Jesus is far greater than a fake brown box of our own making. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it. We like the cocoon-like feeling of our own boxes and like our security blankets of our own choosing. But God knows.
So at the same time that I hate that I finally go and try to hide from the thorns in life, or can’t tell the difference between surrender and resignation, the Lord uses that escape artist tendency for good. He uses that time that I retreat from the ugly to shine a light on the part of the ugly that is in my own heart. He helps me to purge that crud right out of there. But oh, is it a process.
And here it comes – the need for yet another fruit of the spirit to grow stronger in my life….
I struggle with patience, but the lack of it manifests itself inside of me in such deceptive ways. I believe there are times we must walk away and regroup with the Lord, but at the same time, I want the work He does during those times to move at MY PACE.
I realize now how very much I do the either/or thing in my own life. This holds true especially in regard to conflict. I get so worked up emotionally in the face of conflict that stretches out over a period of time, that I lose all clarity – to the point that I have to retreat completely and let God bring about some sense to it all.
Do you do any of this, friends? Let me give you a short list of examples of what I am talking about here.
For now, I am in a place of being still, even though it may have come about because of my “flee and withdraw” tendency. And God is using it for His glory.
I have confidence that He will show me what He needs for me to see, and shatter the box. He is already doing it and it has only been a short while now.
I am struggling in these days of remaining still and allowing myself to face the reality (look in the ugly mirror) of what He wants to have me discard out of my heart and mind. I am going through turmoil as to what is to be surrendered, and what is to be held on to tightly.
But our God reveals.
Our God refines.
Our God restores.
And I trust in Him.
If you are struggling today because you are in a place in which you know God is working to help you tear down a wall or shatter a cocoon you have created for peace and comfort, will you let Him bring about the heart work and move you closer toward Him? If, on the other hand, God has asked you to surrender something and retreat for a while to spend time with Him alone, will you obey and let things move in His timing? If you realize you are inside of one, will you allow the Lord to help you venture out of the brown box when He says it is time and move underneath His protective wing instead? If you are having a hard time stepping, ask Him to carry you for a while, because He will. You may even be called to quite a treacherous journey, similar to the walk Christ made to calvary….bloody, even. But He will be with you every step of the way.
He is a loving parent, and our mighty protector. He will help us to walk in what seems like exposed vulnerability, with His protective hand around us the whole time. He knows you, His child. He knows how to make us better.
We have only to open our mouths and allow the medicine to do its work. We have only to turn the burden over to Him. And we must listen when He tells us to pick up the cross. He will give us the ability and the power to carry it.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” Matthew 16:24
Should I even share and write about this right now? I really don’t know, friends. But something (someOne) is whispering inside (thank you, Holy Spirit) ~ and He tells me that I should.
Why? Because when we feel raw, if we can share with vulnerability, God does some magnificent work.
There are some very raw thoughts that run through my mind of late. These are the slings and arrows of the enemy. They are the attacks, relentless ones, that are coming at me constantly. They are also the work of the Lord inside my mind and heart – those things can hurt too, you know. No one ever promised the Christian walk would be a bed of roses.
“Follow Me”. ~ Jesus
Most of you have experienced the same kind of battles and tough refinement in certain seasons of your life. If you have read this blog for any period of time now, you know that mine (battles and growth in Christ) have been as pervasive as the illness that I carry around with me.
Some of those “thoughts”……
Why, every which way I turn, do I feel like I am alone when it comes to finding ways to improve my health? I know it isn’t true – but I still feel it. A lot.
Why? Why do I beat my own self up even more with self-condemnation and guilt when I feel a bit sad and sorry for myself sometimes that I have to contend with this beast of an illness? I know that I don’t operate through my daily living with an attitude of self-pity – I just have moments in which the grief overwhelms me. Shouldn’t that be okay? Yes. Yes it should. (or should it?)
Why? Why can’t I just focus on all of the beautiful blessings God has brought about in my own little life in spite of the ugly of this illness? Even the illness (suffering, I guess we could call it) has strengthened my faith. It has been a gift, in a way – as much as it is a royal pain to live with. This has truly been one of the most ironic and paradoxical things I have ever experienced, because it is not a one-time thing, rather a continual paradox that I live and walk and breathe in daily. And it hurts at the same time that it helps. I am weary.
Why? Why do I not find myself actually celebrating that more often? Why, more often than not, when I think on these things, I find myself knowing the good stuff to be true- but I don’t feel the good stuff? I know it’s not all about feelings. But I am ready for the cycle of grief to stop. I am ready to move into full-on acceptance and out of the sadness stage. But God determines what I’m ready for, and when, friends. God determines that. Because He is God.
Be still and know that I am God.
So, even with all of these thoughts and all of this heart work going on, and as my cup seems to drain down to mere droplets physically, mentally and emotionally, Jesus fills it back up with more of Himself. I am alive – more than ever before – in the way it truly matters. My body may be crumbling, the vitality of good health may never return, but I am alive in Christ Jesus! This is the truth.
“I am the truth and the life.” ~ Jesus
But for now, I am still here on earth, so I get to deal with my sad and tattered daily baggage. It’s heavy baggage on the back, seeping into the heart and mind, and seemingly exacerbating my condition. I’m ready to dump it, Lord. Problem is, something seems to fill it back up daily and I have the dump process to go over again the next day. Because I’m a sad little human.
But I am also a child of the One, True King!
“I Am.” ~ Jesus
I would like to be able to say I still hope for better health, but aside from my hope in the Lord that He can do anything if He wants to, I don’t hold out much hope for that. Sure. I will do all that I can to improve things – but I kind of feel like I’m in the place right now where I vacillate between just accepting stuff, which then turns into me feeling even worse physically – and simply fighting all the time – which causes conflicts, and pining away for things that I think will help me that may not. I find myself walking a fine and dangerous line between becoming content in my current circumstances, and simply giving up and throwing in the towel.
This is its own kind of battle, and probably the one that I am most weary of at this point.
I’m tired of this battle, friends.
I so badly want to be able to embrace my current circumstances in a way that would bring glory to God that I can taste it! Yet fear of giving up and not trying for better health attacks me. I start to believe that we are losing when I think this way. But often, God’s glory shines even more through what seems like loss and human failure.
To think that I need to do “better” in helping God to bring about His glory through my little circumstances has quite an arrogant ring to it, doesn’t it? God doesn’t need my help. He’s got all the right stuff.
“Trust in God – Trust also in me”. ~ Jesus
And, as weary of the battles that I find myself becoming, I’m also grateful for the victories that Christ brings about in the midst of this never-ending war.
It’s not either/or. It’s both/and.
And that’s a weird, yet glorious place in which to find yourself. It’s an ugly, yet beautiful thing. It’s a frustrating, yet peace-inducing experience. And all of it goes on and on and on and on. It’s a place in which there is truly no control we can claim to have.
Yes. This is surrender, friends.
And do you know what else? I think that there are so many things that make surrender so hard for us – we talk about them all the time. But one of them that I haven’t shared about much is one that resonates greatly for me today as I write this:
Perception and false expectations.
I can’t speak for you, but for me, I have always had some distorted version of what a person feels like after they surrender. See, that implies that although you appear to be losing the battle, at least you are D-O-N-E.
But you aren’t. 😦
What happens after you surrender can be more difficult that the battle was in some ways. It’s its own kind of weird and difficult. But thanks be to God that He knows what He is doing. He is in all of it!
Thanks be to God that He will never forsake us and He will get us through.
Thanks be to God that no matter how weary we may become with this perpetual battling and cycle after cycle of surrender, He will show up and He will take the baggage and give us a reprieve.
Thanks be to God that He will bring about His glory through our sufferings and failures as well as our victories. They all come from Him anyway.
They are His.
Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. ~ Jesus
Thank you for the reprieves, Lord. No one ever promised that I should get to have one, but I am sure glad that You deem them important in my life. Thank you for making all things beautiful and new. Thank you for being able to bring about YOUR glory, even in our weakness, our sin, or our ugly stuff.
And I will accept. I will accept what I don’t want to accept, because only YOU get to determine if it’s time for a new or different season for me regarding health.
You know me well enough to know that I will struggle with this surrender and acceptance thing again tomorrow – probably even later today. But I want you to know that I will always come back to surrender, even when I fight like a kicking and screaming brat at times.
And I will only be able to do so because of YOU.
I know you will be there, Jesus. I know you are here. Will you help my friends know the same? If they don’t feel You near today, will You help them? Will you wrap Your loving arms around them?
It’s about His will being done in our lives. We have to trust Him and surrender it ALL to Him. And we can cry out to Him when it’s hard for us. Because He understands.
I pray that all of my friends do – that you DO know this.
“I am the true vine.” ~ Jesus
Our true hope lies in eternity spent with Jesus Christ; where there will be no more tears, no more sorrow, no more suffering. That doesn’t make it a lot easier in some ways to deal with our earthly sorrows, but it does make it better in the sense that this is the WORST IT WILL BE!!! (this earthly stuff we contend with).
It only goes “up” from here once we leave this earth – if we truly follow after Jesus and have accepted His gift of salvation.
To You I lift up my eyes, O You who are enthroned in the heavens! Psalm 123:1
May you press deeply into the hope you find in Jesus, dear friend. If you are struggling in any way today with surrender or sorrow, cry out to Him and look up and see Him in all His glory.
And may He give you PEACE.
And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying,“Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” Revelation 21: 1-5
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