The Space in Which We are Found

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He is an ugly thing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it’s my real home.

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

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

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

Jesus. Jesus. Jesus!

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

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

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

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

And I know it.

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

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

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

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

I felt like I was watching a movie again.

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

We long for home.

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

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

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

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

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

Without caving in and living for this world.

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

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

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

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

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

I’m choosing to be okay with that.

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

I’m choosing to be okay with that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

See it for the gift that it is.

Choose to be okay ~ even good with that!

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

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

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

AND…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that is Good ~

That is earthly and heavenly GOOD.

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

So here is the question:

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

Things that make you go “hmmmm.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think….NO.

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

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

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

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

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

Only God is good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tell them!

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

Tell them!

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

Tell them!

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

Tell them!

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

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

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

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

The Blooms…

The Light…

And the weeds…

And the darkness…

The Joy…

And the Suffering…

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

His Good.

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

We are responsible to let the light shine ~

What others “see” is up to Him.

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

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The Perfecting and Utterly Perfect One

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

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

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

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

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

God.

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

And that is because sometimes it IS.

But sometimes it’s NOT.

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

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

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

He speaks to that person’s heart.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a step.

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

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

It’s about what HE does with it.

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

It’s not perfect either, friends!

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

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

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

Every. Single. Day.

Yes, I have work to do friends. Always.

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

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

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

None of it is perfect.

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

I’m done with that.

It’s not either/or.

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

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

It is ALL.

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

I will travel those roads with Him.

Those are the places that I think Jesus would go.

But they aren’t the ONLY places.

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

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

That’s how seeds grow.

We are only the planters sometimes.

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

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

Deeper with those in my physical realm.

Deeper with those in the seemingly virtual realm.

Deeper, but still not perfect.

Never “perfect.”

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

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

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

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

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

The Perfecting and Utterly Perfect One.

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

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Got a Good Salt Shaker?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big, big “no”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His grace is enough.

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

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

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Loving the Other Pharisees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s all of us. He loves ALL of us.  

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

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

It’s not meant to be easy.

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

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

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

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

That means loving when it’s hard.

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

But for me, it’s about: 

The Pharisee in my heart….

The other Pharisees….

The lost who have not chosen Him….

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

The church and their own heart hurts…

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

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

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

“Death” to the Pharisee inside of my heart.

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

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

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The Tale That May Never Be Told

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

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

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

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

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

Ugly and tormenting ways.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Surrender. The constant need for surrender.

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

It’s not how I want for it to be.

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

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

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

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

Truth is more important.

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

A perfect little tale with all the bows and ribbons.

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

I only thought the middle would be a bit tattered.

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

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

Newsflash to Annie: It’s not working.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One that will be there for an eternity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

He will shine through.

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

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

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

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

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

Yes…I think I shall.

I shall look up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you see the fire?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s not a reflection of Mercy.

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

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

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

Maybe even more so.  😦

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

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

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

Not really.

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

 

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

We are to be salt and light.

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

REALLY GO.

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

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

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

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

I can and I will and I am. 

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

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

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

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

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

At all.

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

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

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

Synonyms for Mercy:

Leniency

Clemency

Compassion

Grace

Pity

Charity

Forgiveness

Forbearance

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

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

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

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

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

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

Death to the Pharisee inside of my heart.

Death to the Pharisee!

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

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

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

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

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

Here it is:

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

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

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

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

No. God is bigger than that, friend.

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

Only Jesus saves.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In spite of my flesh.

In spite of my sin.

In spite of my pride.

In spite of my selfishness.

In spite of my coveteousness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Compartmentalizing and Coveting: It Doesn’t Work That Way

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I long ~ I look back ~ and I find myself cherry picking the good stuff in my memory banks as to how I used to be. The vitality. The health. The energy and the abundant good moods.

I find myself in want this morning ~ I find myself coveting the good parts of things I used to have.

I remember: I remember the good stuff and how great it was.

And I selectively forget: I forget about the bad stuff that was glued right by the side of the good for a very long time.

It was a whole package. I can’t forget that I am compartmentalizing in a crazy way when I do this. I thank Jesus for intervening in my twisted mind this morning.

Because, you see ~ that’s when my heart and mind begins to slip ~ it begins to forget that life doesn’t work that way. That we get the whole of the picture, not just the bits and pieces. That there was bad that I never want to go back to, along with the good stuff that I am missing right now.

Back in the day, I was high energy, of good health, and never skipped a beat mentally. I had a fast and efficient brain, a vibrant and explosive body full of endless energy, and was a high achiever and a striver (and obtainer) in most all that I put myself into at any given point. I was in a good mood a lot. My body did not hurt. I was moving like lightning and it felt good.

I miss those things today. Today I am not there. Today, I am literally sick, and have been for over a week now. I can hardly swallow. My whole body aches. I have almost NO energy. And I am getting ready to go off to work and barely move through the motions of the day.

Today, I am not only ill, but today, I have seen clearly that I have taken several LEAPS back in regard to my overall health and the progress I was making with regard to this Fibro Monster.

Backwards. It stinks.

It breeds fear. Anxiety threatens. “Lord, I don’t want to go back to that place.”

So I went to the over-compartmentalized place. Again. So I went into the coveteous heart and mind place. Again.

I told you I play with the matches in my brain. Remember?

And now ~ this morning, I realize I am doing the same thing in reverse here. I am picking out the bad stuff that I don’t want to repeat, but failing to set my eyes upon the good stuff I have learned through that ugly of the Fibro sickness.

Annie. Are you listening? It doesn’t work that way!

God doesn’t work that way.

So I submit.

I submit to the sickness and illness of today and what God is going to do with that.

I submit.

I submit to the fact that in the old days, I may have been healthy-seeming of body and of mind, but I was not ~ not spiritually at ALL, and that is what matters.

I submit.

I submit to the LORD and what HE is doing through this illness, rather than TO the illness itself.

I submit.

Reluctantly, I must admit, but I will submit.

I’m reluctant because the flesh is strong, friends. Do you find that hard too? I drag my feet because I keep on thinking that if I fight, fight, fight, I may be able to beat this. But that is not true. I can’t beat this thing.

I submit.

I’m a kicking, screaming, tantrum-throwing child, but I am His child.

HIS child! And I submit.

Do you have something you are over-compartmentalizing and coveting and cherry-picking over that you find yourself pining away about today? Something you have never had, but think that you want, or something that you had before? Zoom out for a minute with Jesus, friend. Look at the whole picture of where you are now, not just at the lack of things if you are struggling with health, heartache, or some type of suffering today.

Zoom out, and submit to His will.

Remember the whole of the past.  Love the parts that were good, but look forward with me to the future and the hope we have in Jesus.

He will do great and wonderful things through us even when our flesh doesn’t seem to feel the rewards of that just yet.

He is our Mighty Savior ~ our Great Physician! He is about His Father’s business and that includes inside of each and every one of our lives.

Through the good stuff and through the suffering.

Through the parts that don’t feel great, and the parts that make us jump with joy.

I submit.

I surrender.

I am grateful.

I am His.

He will figure out what to do with ALL the bits and pieces.

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. Galatians 3:26

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. James 4:7

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I Don’t Do Crazy Well ~ Do You?

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Crazy is not my forte. How about you, friend?

As I sit here this morning ~ praying, weeping, laughing ~ this thought came to me:

“Why don’t I do crazy well? After all, it’s like an appendage to me. It’s even bigger than that ~ it’s ingrained into me and runs through every single cell of my body! I’m 48 years old. You’d think I would have gotten used to it by now!”

I accepted a long time ago that crazy is just somehow determined to be a part of Annie. It has a mind of it’s own and it’s a twisted one, at that. It’s a part of me and there’s no way to run from that fact.

But I only accepted the reality of it’s existence. I have never been able to quite accept that it’s there and make best friends with it. And there’s a good reason for that. It’s because I am a Child of God.

NO. Crazy is not my bestie.

So, although I am not deep and close friends with Crazy, I’m not necessarily an enemy with it either. I was for a long, long time. It made for a constant state of war within me that led to no new growth. I still wage war all the time, friends ~ make no mistake about that, K? Sometimes Crazy is in that mix during the battle, but the war is no longer just with the Crazy.

But we do fight and argue and bicker ~  a lot!

So Crazy is not my friend, nor is it my one, sole enemy. It just IS. And I don’t do things well in our relationship a lot of the time.

I know who the real enemy is and the disguise is NOT WORKING.

Sometimes I am quite baffled by the fact that our relationship suffers. You would think with a constant companion, you would get to know and understand one another better and reach some compromise as to how to co-exist peacefully.

Not with this girl though.

The only conclusion I can draw (because Crazy is moving aside for a moment here), is that maybe we don’t do Crazy well for several reasons.

Maybe Crazy is there for a reason?

  • It keeps me uncomfortable living in this body, this flesh, this convoluted mind and this world.
  • It keeps me from becoming totally numb.
  • It challenges me.
  • It causes me (most of all) to seek God and HIS wisdom (because I don’t trust my own).
  • It causes my mind to whisper constantly “test this, test this, test this. ~ make sure what and who you are listening to here.”

Yes.  Even CRAZY can be used by God!

Friends, we aren’t meant to be Crazy any more than we were meant to be sinful. We were meant for peace. We were meant for total relationship with God and not to have all this junk to sift through in our hearts and minds.

But man is imperfect now ~ that was part of what happened in the Garden of Eden. Until we get to heaven, we are going to have Crazy to contend with. And sin. But the battle has already been won.

But God has already done the winning for us!

But God is here with us now.

So I say “so what” if Crazy is too. I stick out my tongue to Crazy today. “Naa Naa Naa Naa Boooo Booo!”

Yes, God is bigger than Crazy. God is bigger than all the stuff Crazy does that is not good in our lives. God’s voice is more clear, and true and right ~ ALWAYS.

Trust Him with me in the midst of Crazy today, won’t you?

Don’t ever allow your acceptance of the fact that Crazy is here to stay until we go home to live with the Lord forever, to mean that you have to get comfortable with it.

You don’t. You shouldn’t. You have decided with me not to kick back with Crazy.

We don’t do Crazy well, but Crazy is here to stay a while. Let’s allow God to deal with that stuff ~ ‘Cause He makes ALL things work together for our good, friends!

So if you find yourself distraught, because you think that if you could just “do crazy well” that the war within you would be ceased, know this: It is a blessing if you don’t do crazy well! It means you are doing it right!

Do not cave in to Crazy. It is not the winner here.

Peace will be there for us in the midst of Crazy if we listen to the Lord. It doesn’t always make Crazy go away ~ it just simply overpowers it and puts it in it’s place, friends.

He can and will conquer even Crazy.

It’s a promise.

“But all who listen to me will live in peace, untroubled by fear or harm.” Proverbs 1:33

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Praying for Others: Let us not become Immune

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First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people. 1 Timothy 2:1

I am so thankful this morning as I realize that I find myself privileged to pray for others. It didn’t used to be that way for me ~ I used to be “that Christian” that would say I would pray, and then I would either forget about it or decide within my own little dark heart that the prayer request was simply not as important as some of the others I’d heard.

That’s the heart of a Pharisee ~ and it was there….SO there for me for many, many years.

Now, I find myself coming back to a heart of compassion and empathy for others, whether their need is big or small; what may seem to be common place or rare and shocking.

I was thinking about something else too this morning: things that are no longer rare that people go through every single day. Things that we become immune to when it comes to the heart and feeling for others because the world tells us it is normal.

Is normal what it’s really about, or is it the heart that is important to Jesus? We are living with things that may seem normal, but it doesn’t mean that they don’t cause pain.

  • What is right and good about hatred and violence?
  • What is right and good about divorce, and relationship issues?
  • What is right and good about stress in the workplace?
  • What is right and good about heartache in your family, relationships, or in the church?

Have we forgotten that just because people go through stuff that is no longer infrequent, that it still hurts?

Have we become numb to the pain and the heartache, that comes from things such as divorce, breakups, separation from loved ones and family, conflict within our family and circle of friends, struggles within the church, job woes, friendship junk ~ all that stuff?

Let us not become immune.

Sometimes the enemy uses that which has become what we perceive as just “part of life” now in our world, to trick us into believing that it’s no big deal any longer. It’s part of the plan ~ the evil and ugly plan to numb us up or make us have to hide.

People feel they must hide sometimes from the fact that something that may have become accepted or commonplace in our culture still hurts them.

Hurts are hurts ~ whether it’s due to some disease you have been diagnosed with that had nothing to do with you, or a consequence of circumstances or choices that just went bad.

Yes, Christian friends ~ hurts are still hurts even if they came as a result of our own sin. They are all worthy of our prayers.

All of it is important. All of it is painful, whether we see that or not as a culture, or as a race. All of it is worthy of being prayed over and laid in the lap of Jesus.

Because God cares.

Jesus clearly shows that all things that cause us stress, pain, emotional turbulence, temptation, or lack of joy matter to Him. As he walked among us, He took care of many different needs that people had ~ big and small, rare and common-seeming.

  • He healed people in miraculous ways.
  • He touched their hearts and lives in intimate and personal ways.
  • He healed lepers, raised the dead, brought sight to the blind.
  • He also brought rest for those who were weary or tired, and fed people that were hungry.
  • He spent time talking with people about their feelings and the things they were going through ~ even when they seemed like small things compared to all the sick that needed healing around them.
  • He helped and interceded for (wait for it!)…..SINNERS.

It all matters. We all matter to Jesus.

Let us not be immune.

Jesus……Savior of the World….. is never immune to our needs. He asks that we love others as we love ourselves. That means it all should matter and matter BIG to us, just as it does to Him.

The big, the small, the common, the rare, the stuff they may have had nothing to do with, the things that are consequences of previous choices that were made, the seemingly no-way-out kind of stuff folks contend with ~ ALL of it.

Let our hearts remain tender for others in Jesus, friends. Let us not become immune to the pain others go through just because it seems like something we may hear about many going through around us. Sometimes, it seems easier to pray for others when we are shocked by their situation or condition. That is feelings-oriented. We must check our hearts.

Let us not become immune.

We have to dig, friends. We have to dig deep down in our hearts sometimes to find love, mercy, compassion or empathy for people and their situations that don’t shock our senses any longer. We have to kill that which is making us immune to caring for others in all that they are contending with that causes them hurt and pain.

Won’t you dig down with Jesus today, friend? Won’t you look around and hear the hearts of those who are all around you and commit to pray for them? Let Him decide what is worthy of healing. Let Him decide what to do with that situation you are lifting up to Him on behalf of another. Bring it to Him.

If you find yourself starting to really feel you are privileged to pray for others, won’t you commit to finding things others contend with that you have possibly stopped feeling is big enough to pray about and put those people right on the top of your list?

We can’t allow the enemy to isolate them from our prayers. We can’t let him make the multitudes fall by the wayside.

It’s not about which things we must choose to pray over ~ it’s not about discerning who has the worst and hardest situation to bring before the Lord. Sometimes, it is about the very opposite of that.

Sometimes, it’s about finding that which we have become accustomed to and remembering that it is NOT normal, is NOT what God’s intention and plans were for mankind, and is NOT unworthy of attention, empathy, and deeply committed prayer.

Let us not become immune.

Let us not close our eyes to how others are hurting all around us. In the shocking and in the day-to-day.

It ALL matters to Him.

In every place. From every man. Every single prayer.

“I desire then that in every place the men should pray; lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling.” 1 Timothy 2:8

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I Think It’s About Time I Introduced Myself ~ Meet Annie

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Hello. My name is Annie and I’m a problem-solva-holic, a control freak, a mind-spinning crazy person, and a child of God. (but it only seems like it belongs in that order!)

Some of you may know me, while there are others who think I’m something I’m not. I’m here to clear that up for you today ~ just in case.

Let me start by telling you what I am NOT:

  • I am not the girl who is adept at casting all her anxieties away and turning them over to God before I’ve toyed with them a while. That stinks. That needs work. And I do know this ~ oh, how I know this!
  • I am not the girl who knows how to do all the things the Bible says we are wise to do. Actually, I either don’t know how, or sometimes, sin gets in the way ~ but nonetheless, I don’t always do the best thing. That’s why on my blog, what you read will usually be what I find that the Lord is preaching to ME ~ teaching to ME ~ trying to get through to ME. Maybe sometimes it applies to you too? When that happens, I feel blessed, because God uses my “issues” to help others, and that is COOL.
  • I’m not that woman who has figured out how to cut through the flesh and go straight to what she knows is the truth and stop messing with all the junk that needs to be immediately discarded. Sometimes I play with fire. There are lots of little matches in my mind and sometimes in my heart that beg to be lit all the time.
  • I’m not a lotta things, friends. And I’m fully aware of it.

So  yes. I’d like to introduce myself today. I’d like to make sure you know the picture is not always very pretty. I won’t introduce you to the very best version of Annie. I refuse to do it.

Why? Do you think I want to walk in condemnation? I’ll admit, that’s another “problem” I have. Sometimes while confronting myself, which I must do daily, it crosses that line. But in the bigger picture of things, the Lord always pulls me back from that bonfire I am starting to step into just in time. So yes…sometimes I allow condemnation to play too long before I realize what is happening. I’m just not that smart.

But God is.

What is the main reason I believe in daily self-confrontation? Why is it so important to embrace our ugly to see the beauty He has in store for us?

Because it truly shows me over and over again (which I clearly need) that Jesus loves me as I am ~ still a sinner in need of her Savior. So I feel it’s only right to show you the whole of me.

Here’s a snippet of some of that stuff. (You’ll never see all that Jesus gets to see. But it’s not because I don’t want to try to show you. I think it’s just impossible for me to share the depths of the ugly parts without making you want to run, scream, curl up into a fetal position, never-to-return again. And that wouldn’t be a good thing. Just NOT good.)

Let’s look at some of the ugly, shall we?

  • As I said, I’m a problem-solva-holic. (That means I have control issues, yo)
  • I’m a worry wart sometimes. Hmmm. Kinda ties into the control freak thing. Well….a LOT. Hence, the many blog posts and scriptures that speak to us about surrender, anxiety, depression, and grief.
  • I’m co-dependent and “own” other people’s feelings a lot. I feel sometimes like SpongeBob, but without the happy and gleeful disposition. I absorb all the junk that is around me even when it’s not for me to do. I collect emotions, friends.
  • I work hard to protect myself from conflict which makes my health issues worse and my emotional state unbalanced. This gets in the way of me being truly servant-oriented, fully transparent, and putting others first. I don’t like screaming, fighting and bickering. At ALL. Cause of the spongy thing. It hurts. I don’t like pain.
  • I am driven by a need to be understood, and am constantly reminded to a level of what I would call c-r-a-z-y, that only the Lord will fully understand me. Feeling understood is what makes me feel loved. I don’t feel this very often. Then I feel sorry for myself. Then I am reminded that I AM loved. I am reminded that if this need was filled by others, that maybe I would forget about God.
  • I am selfish – a lot.

I could go on and on, but  you get the picture.

But I am also these things: And I am trying to learn how to celebrate them. 

  • I am the daughter of the One, True King. He loves me, warts and all. I still can’t fully grasp that, but I’m trying.
  • I want to love Jesus with ALL my heart, ALL my mind, ALL my soul. I ask Him every day to empower me to love the way He does. Because I fail at this.
  • I have been gifted by Christ in ways that dumbfound me daily. That’s not of my doing, so it doesn’t count as bragging. It puts me in a place of being in awe of HIM, and what He does through little old me, not in a place of pride about myself. He allows me to use those gifts every single day.
  • The Lord has lent me a husband and three beautiful children to live with, love, and do this life with. That’s a gift all of it’s own.
  • I have been given the gift I prayed over for about forty years ~ the ability to use my love of writing to talk about Jesus, share Jesus, and touch others who seek Him. There was a time when I thought I could not write if it was about God. I never thought it would ever happen. Now, I rarely write anything that is NOT about the Lord.

You see, I am learning more and more every day about who I am in Christ. Part of that is realizing which parts of me are not of Him. Which parts of me are flesh, or stuff that needs to be discarded. Which parts of me need to leave and make room for more of Him? I can assure you, as much purging as I have already done with the Lord, there is still plenty of stuff left in there that needs to leave.

I am beyond thankful for the fact that although I know there’s enough junk in there to last an eternity, it won’t have to. I have the greatest gift of all, friends. I am assured of the fact that I will one day start my real life (the eternal one) where the junk is just GONE.

What a relief that will be!

But in the meantime ~ well, the junk is here. It is going to be here for me to deal with daily with the Lord. Dying to self is a daily process. It can wear us out at times. That’s when we have to remind ourselves that that tired, weary, downtrodden feeling is a very strong indicator ~ a RED light, if you will, that we are trying to do something in our own power. We are wrestling. We are struggling. We are being problem-solva-holics.

Do you have troubles that you need to surrender today? Do you have ugly that is threatening to block you from seeing the beauty in who you are? Do you, like me, find yourself hypnotized by the bonfire just up ahead and all it’s pretty little flickering lights?

If so, dear friend….allow me to introduce the One who you really should get to know today:

His name is Jesus.

Door of the Sheep….

The Great I AM.

Light of the World…

Living Water..

Lord GOD ALMIGHTY!

Knowing HIM is far more important than knowing ourselves! Allow Him and His grace to draw you closer to Him each and every day. He will take the junk out. He will pull you back from the fire. He will fill you with less of you, more of Him.

Then ~ when you introduce yourself, you can do it in the right order!

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18

Hello. My name is Annie. And I am a Child of God. Praise be to HIM!

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He’s Freeing Up Space

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Do you pray that the Lord would help you to be able to place Him first in your life? Do you find yourself crying out to Him ~ “Lord, help me do what I am supposed to do without sacrificing my relationship with You.”

God first. Yes…God first.

How do we move through the day and take care of all our responsibilities without sacrificing our focus on that gift of a relationship? How do we go from place to place and task to task without taking our eyes off Him?

I find this more and more difficult with each passing day, friends. And I am more committed to God first than I have ever been before. Some of that may simply be spiritual warfare ~ the enemy is not too hip on me placing the Lord in the Number One spot in my life. I’m aware of that and I pray accordingly.

But that’s not all of it.

For about two years now, I can’t get away from this nagging inside. It’s something I find difficult to articulate, but I assure you it’s very real. I am only recently truly starting to believe it is God’s voice and not my own. It’s about whether or not I should continue to work outside of the home. I keep thinking it’s because I am meant to eventually do something else, take care of my health, my family, and my home. But I think the overarching reason is that He wants to free up space.

I  had to test it out, you see. I had to be sure it wasn’t just me talking.

All logic in regard to this situation flies right out the window when I look it bold in the face. God has actually used my decline in health, I believe, to tell me it’s really Him talking. He is knocking, and has been for a while. It is beginning to sound like pounding.

I even stepped out and quit my awesome job over a year ago. I went where I felt He was leading me. Each place I went was “not right.” Then, I came back full circle and was led by Him right back to my old job, but with a better schedule ~ working days instead of nights. What a blessing!

But I am getting sick again. I don’t blame that on my job, rather, my working outside the home is making the health issues worse than they would be if I could stay home for a while. Is the Lord trying to make a good out of the “bad” of my health issues? Is He trying to use this to get me to do what He possibly wanted me to do all along: Quit and DO NOT go out and get another job right away. Quit working outside the home and (ready for it?) Wait.

Wait.

I am torn – I literally feel the sickness from the tearing in the pit of my stomach. I don’t know what  God has in store, but something’s about to change radically in my life. I can feel it.

I know that God is paving the way for what is going to be happening. I can see signs of things being set up and laid out perfectly for me, although the unknown of just how extreme it will be is still there. I have to keep myself in check by laying the fear that tries to take root inside of me right in His lap on a moment-by-moment and daily basis. That’s probably where the sick pit comes from – sometimes I am busy at work or somewhere else and can’t seem to fully turn it over to Him until I catch a break.

There’s a change happening for me at my work soon that may mean I can cut my hours down even further. This may be all that is needed, and what He has had me waiting upon, but it may not cut it. It may be that I have to completely stop working. Part of me just wants to cut to the chase and  hang it all up right now.

Wait.

If I were to go where the peace seems to be in regard to this situation, maybe it would be better to do so. Just stop. Stop working outside the home and trust Him that He will lead me to what I should do at home. Whether that means finding a part time job I can do from here or not work at all, I don’t know.

I just feel I am toying with this whole thing and have been for some time. Do you ever feel that way? Like you don’t trust that inner voice because you need time to sort – test – make sure it’s not your own voice or some temptation that’s pulling at you? That you need time to put it to prayer and make sure that before you act, you are within His will, not your own?

I share only the very top layer of this with you today, as I don’t want to go off on multiple tangents. But know that this is deeply layered ~ so many things (too many to count) are screaming that I need to do something differently regarding this whole thing.

I have been trying. I have been praying. I have been flexible and willing to try things out. But the nagging is still there.

Wait.

Is it this?

No…that’s not it – you haven’t gone all the way with this, Anne. I want you to COMPLETELY stop. I want you to COMPLETELY trust me. I want you to COMPLETELY understand and have faith and believe and give it ALL UP and trust that I have a reason. I have a plan. You won’t know what it is until you give it all up. You will have to Wait even then before it is revealed to you. But you must step first.

Or is it this?

Have faith and hang in there. You can do this – not in your own strength, but in Mine. I have gifted you with this wonderful job and if you persevere, I have plans for you. Plans that will balance out your need to focus on your health and your family and your home and finances. You need to trust me. You need to  hang in there. I  have a plan. Just wait for it.

Friends, I don’t know which one it is. But I do know this ~ God has a plan. I also know this: I hate waiting. I’m an action kinda girl. I’m also an impatient kinda girl. I just want to do what is right in the eyes of the Lord. Yet I don’t want to let my family down. Such a dumb thing to get so worked up about too! (See how the enemy gets to me?)

But I would covet your prayers. I wish to be obedient, but to the right voice….HIS.

If you are struggling today with something similar, do you know that He does have a plan? Do you trust that He will make it clear which way you need to go, even if the logistics of the decision you must make aren’t laid out “clearly” by human standards, defy logic, are risky, and contain much of what seems to be unknown?

Do you struggle with risk or movement, or do you struggle with being impulsive and impatient?

Are you pressing in and asking Him to make you willing? Do you trust in Him that He will make His will known to you? Do you believe He will be there in the waiting, whichever form it takes?

He will, you know. In the middle of the twisting and the angst, He offers peace to carry us through. He is our foundation. He will knock and even pound to break through the crazy that tries to block our hearing, our sight. He will be with us in the empty spaces of the waiting and fill them up.

He will free up that space ~ the one that is deep, deep down underneath all the layers. He will free it up and we have only to listen. Listen intently until we hear.

And once we do hear? We must move.

He’ll help us know where to walk.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3: 5-6

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