A Significant Speck

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When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Psalm 8:3-4

I am at a crucial stage right now, I think – in regard to how I perceive myself. For a while I was standing at the crossroad, but now I think that I have started down the path I am supposed to take. I think so, at least.

I don’t know this path well – I am a little fearful and trepidatious. But that’s because I am only human. I’m a small human with a big God in my life though, so I know it will be okay.

This path is vast. It’s a bit foggy and misty right now, and there are many trees along the dirt road. There are no other people walking it with me, although at times, I can see others out there in the distance. I can’t tell if they are on a different part of the path, yet far away, or if they are on a completely different one. But I know they are there.

So for the most part, I am alone on this part of my journey. But not really alone. God IS with me. And that’s part of why I’m here.

  • He is teaching me that He is always with me, no matter what.
  • He is teaching me that He is all I truly need.
  • He is teaching me that even good things can be used by us to form our identity and sense of significance.
  • He is teaching me and it doesn’t always feel good. But He is faithful and will NOT leave my side.

This long and winding, dirt-floored, tree filled, foggy and misty, not bright, but not totally dark path makes me feel tiny. I’m but a speck on the road. There are no signs, no landmarks, no hints whatsoever of where it leads or if there’s even a final earthly destination.

This path is all about the journey that God has set out before me. It’s about walking it with HIM.

I did see a flower on the side of the road the other day. One, lone, white flower growing up out of a log that I sat on for a bit of rest. I stayed for hours and gazed upon that beautiful thing. It smelled good and was a small, bright light in the middle of all the gray and mundane.

I believe it was a gift. But I also believe that God doesn’t want there to be too many distractions on this journey. I am meant to embrace what it is to be tiny. I am meant to feel alone, but know that I’m not. I am meant to venture into the unknown with the One who does know all. I am meant to learn about what it is to be small, but significant because of HIM.

Sometimes, I learn about how tiny I am because I can’t escape it – there’s a lot in my life to cause me to feel humiliation right now, if I allow that in. But then I remember not to stay in that place – because I can “boast in my weaknesses” with His permission – and His “power will then rest on me.”

It’s because of this that I have been given the gift of that in the face of my humiliation – HIS GRACE.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12: 9

I am also learning about how important it is to embrace how very small we are and how tiny this earthly life is by gazing upon His creation and our speck of a spot we take up in it. That kind of stuff really used to make me feel….insignificant. But I am learning now that it makes us see, all the more, the MIRACLE it is that HE created little ol’ us.

  • My smallness and my speck of a life is a gift.
  • I get to hide underneath His mighty arms.
  • But He sees me and He LOVES me.

The more tiny I feel in the face of the big stuff all around me –

God’s creation ~ the mountains and the oceans and the stars and the heavens and the universe and then….just me.

A vast path in an unknown and sometimes scary wilderness, upon which there are few other people at all and I really am just a tiny little speck venturing into….I don’t know what.

A chronic disease that is SO BIG that it reminds me every single second of how very fragile my body (and even my mind) really is and threatens to smother my soul too and makes me feel at times like I’ve disappeared ~

All of that and more it has caused me to have nothing but one choice: Disappear completely, or embrace it and ask God if He has a purpose in all of it.

He has answered me, and I am so grateful. I found the answers in His word. I find out more about what the answer is meant to do in my earthly life as I walk with Him every day.

Me. The speck that seems insignificant, but isn’t – because of Him.

With Him. The Author of all Creation – and the One who is writing this story too.

I have found joy in the midst of the things that make me unhappy, and most of that is because instead of fighting against this disappearing act, I am actually finding out more about what it means to have almost my ENTIRE EXISTENCE be about my relationship with Jesus.

  • No, I haven’t lost my family – thank you Lord!
  • No, I haven’t lost my home – thank you Lord!
  • No, I am not living in poverty – thank you Lord!

I haven’t lost it all. But I did have to give up SO VERY MUCH of what was still (even when I didn’t realize it) forming a lot of my “identity.”

  • The dream job that I loved.
  • Getting to be consistently involved in my church community (in person).
  • Jogging, hiking, going to fun get-togethers.
  • Shopping, doing lots of projects, being the life of the party.
  • Feeling GOOD IN MY OWN SKIN consistently – most of the time!
  • Having a sharp brain and a quick wit and never struggling to concentrate or focus.
  • Having choices – about which paths to take.

Many of those things are not bad things, friends. It’s okay if you are in a season in which the Lord has blessed you with them, and as long as you aren’t letting them take His place, it’s okay to embrace them and be thankful for them.

But for me, He is teaching me something right now and had to remove some stuff to cause that to happen. I’m a stubborn girl and I play tricks on myself sometimes. God knows that about me. I don’t think that I was trying to sin by any stretch of the imagination in loving it when I had those things in my life. I just know that the Lord wants to help me understand something that we can only understand as He allows certain things to be stripped away and takes away the crutches and distractions.

I’ll tell you now – it’s hard to realize that you really ARE just a speck, at first. It’s hard to embrace your smallness. It’s difficult beyond belief to make peace with how very tiny you are in the big God picture of things. But once we get to where we start to feel a peace about it – once we find that there is SIGNIFICANCE in being one of God’s tiny specks, and that HE is the One who is BIG, it is so freeing.

Chains have been broken. I knew that before, but I didn’t know  how to walk in it.

The battle has already been won, and God doesn’t need my help for that.

I am small, but the Lord still has plans for me. Even if no one ever sees them come to fruition but Him.

I still have so much to learn. As I said, I have only just fully realized what it’s like to move past just knowing what I know – that I am a small and tiny speck in the midst of God’s creation and the humiliating things in life that make us realize how small we are – to starting to LIVE it and walk it out with Him on the gray and vast path into the unknown.

But, He is with me. He is teaching me that my significance is not MINE. It is all about Him and how He loves me. It is all about the purpose HE has for ME to bring glory to HIM. It is about how He uses the smallest and most insignificant-seeming things to work out His will.

He doesn’t need me. But He still chooses me. I am a significant speck because Jesus truly loves me. He has numbered every hair on my head. (Luke 12:7) I matter to HIM.

I want for Him to matter to me more than I matter to myself. And that’s where I still have much to pray over and learn about.

  • That’s why I’m on this path.
  • That’s why God is teaching me about specks in the midst of His vast creation.
  • That’s why I am so grateful today, because at least I’m starting to feel a peace about it.

The smaller I get and the more the world around me starts to disappear, including my own mind and body, the more magnified He becomes in my view. And that is worth seeing and experiencing, even when it’s painful.

Because He is beyond lovely. He is vast and large, but not too Big to come down and walk by my side.

He is the whole point of it all. He came down for us – the significant specks that He created.

HE IS.

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” Revelation 4:11

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What People Living With Chronic Illnesses Think But are Sometimes Afraid To Say

 

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I’ve only lived with Fibromyalgia for just over three years now – at least, with the diagnosis of it. I will say one thing about that ~ knowing what had been ailing me for a lot longer than just the past three years did help. It helped to know I wasn’t crazy (totally) and just imagining it. But it had been lurking there – right under the surface – for a lot of years. It also is probably a BIG PART of the other stuff I have contended with in life – we just didn’t know what to attribute it all to before the diagnosis.

What did rear its ugly head early on in my life, however, has been depression and anxiety. Chronic. Life long. And I don’t like to talk about it sometimes, but it’s the truth and I have to be honest with you. I’ve lived with my own sort of depression (and anxiety)- mostly chemically/hormonally/biologically driven – for the better part of my life. I am fifty years old, by the way.  That’s a long time. Don’t feel sorry for me about it – there’s a point to this story that’s about something much bigger than that.

I know it for what it is – I no longer buy into the stuff that others, including myself used to tell me about that second part of things. I will say it over and over again until the day that I die – when it comes to depression or anxiety, there are two MAIN kinds. The kind that is about perspective, attitude, outlook, behaviors – (semi-controllable with life changes) and the kind that is chemically driven (not so much controllable). I have both, but mostly the second kind is what takes me over sometimes. Yes. The two can co-exist. Yes – it’s hard for those around us to see which one you can do something about and which one is beyond your control.

It’s the same way with Fibro and the way it manifests itself (mostly invisibly) in your life.

I’ve learned one thing throughout all of this – but it doesn’t mean that I’ve perfected living it out. Feeling like we have to hide it from the world is still VERY PERVASIVE in our society. And I get that. I do. It sucks, but I understand it. It’s all about not being able to understand something if  you don’t go through it yourself. We are only human.

So, here is a PARTIAL list of things that I suspect most people who are struggling with chronic illness, chronic pain, chronic depression or anxiety or a host of other chronic things that make them “different” than who they really are inside, would like to say.

I share this with the heart of letting you know, that although there are some of us that do not feel this way, many of those I have met that struggle with things like this DO feel this way. We may tell those in our near and dear circle these things, but often we don’t feel that you truly believe us. More often, you hear us, but it just doesn’t STICK, because life clutters stuff up, man. And we are SO BUSY managing our chronic-whatever, (IT’S A FULL TIME JOB), that things like this – things that need to be said over and over and over again in order to stick, well – they get lost.

So, here we go:

Most of us realize that life is not all about us. Most of us deal with a lot of guilt when we think about how much worse things could be and we find ourselves crying in our Cheerios about our own situation.

Most of us feel selfish for having to focus so dang much on ourselves. Yet, we don’t know what to do, because we HAVE TO think about our situation so much – especially if we have chronic pain. There’s no where to run and little distraction from something like that. At least, there’s none that is lasting for much longer than a small stretch at a time.

Most of us were not always this way – it may have always “been there”, but we used to be able to do more things, have more good days than bad, and be more focused on others. Our whole lives didn’t used to always revolve around our illness and managing it. You probably remember that too.

Most of us still remember what it was like before. And we are in the cycle of grief. We know that you are too.

Most of us know this is hard on you. We know that we know that we know. And we feel responsible, even though it’s not “our fault.”

Most of us know that you have your own problems – some of them big ones- too. We want to be there for you. We want you to know that we get it – that you matter to us.

Most of us feel we are alone to a certain extent. Even when you help us – even when we pray. We KNOW we are not alone, but we FEEL alone. A lot.

Most of us realize there is a fine and messy line between knowing when it’s time to fight and when it’s about growing in surrender. That is very hard to discern. Why wouldn’t it be even HARDER for YOU to discern when you aren’t living in this skin? We get that.

Most of us feel pressure to act/deal with/look at things the way that those closest to them would want for them to. We try to look up, but sometimes, we just can’t. Then we feel like we have let you down. Again.

Most of us know that you are doing the best that YOU can in the face of this. We actually appreciate all the grace you extend to us, but feel bad about it all at the same time. It’s easy to say “it’s okay” but sometimes, we can’t help but think we are nothing but a pain in your butt. It’s part of the deal, man. We need lots of reassurance.

Most of us still find ourselves just wanting to be understood and to be sure you know we understand you as best we can. We also realize that part of surrender is giving that all up. That is H-A-R-D.

Most of us would snap our fingers and move this out of our lives (and out of YOUR life) in a hot second if we could.

Most of us want to do more for you and have the center of our lives be ANYTHING other than managing this junk. We are sick of ourselves. And that makes us even more sick. Dig it, man.

Most of us feel lost, even when we press in to God. We are reeling, spinning, and doing our best to try or not try – depending upon where we are at. We aren’t comfortable living in our own skin – but we keep trying to keep perspective in the midst of the fog of it all. For us, for you. For everybody’s sake.

Most of us feel all the same pressures as “normal” people have, along with knowing we must dedicate a lot of hours to managing this crap – we feel like failures and losers, even when we know it isn’t true. We know we are not martyrs, and that there are starving children digging through dumpsters in the world. We don’t want to try to explain our illness and situation to you in order to make you feel we are “one-upping” your problems- rather, we find ourselves desiring SO DEEPLY to help you understand. Not just for our sakes, but for YOURS.

Most of us finally shut down and stop sharing our feelings because when we see that it can’t be understood and it doesn’t help much to explain, that’s what we feel we need  to do for everyone’s sake.

Most of us know it’s more about surrender than fighting. You can’t know that until you are living in our shoes. You just can’t. It may look like we are giving up, when we are “practicing” surrender. It’s a process, yo. We don’t know how to do it any better than the next guy would.

Most of us try 99 percent of the time to keep perspective and look at the upside. But we have days where we can’t see straight, even when we turn our eyes upward. We know it hurts you when we share with you on those dark days – and yet….we feel we need to speak to someone who loves us about all of it.

Most of us would give anything to jog again, have a clear head again, and be able to hold a convo with you that’s all about YOU and NOTHING about our illness.

Most of us know that our identity SHOULD NOT be defined by our illness, but that so much of our lives are spent managing it, that gets murky and muddy too.

Most of us know you miss the old us. Newsflash: We do too.

Finally, most of us know that the world does not revolve around us, and that this completely sucks for everyone involved in our lives. But we have to hang on to the fact that God has a purpose in everything – that He is teaching not only us through this ugly hot mess, but that He may be trying to teach others in our circle a few hard truths  as well.

We often laugh at ourselves, because in some ways, we feel like test subjects. We are reminded thousands of times a day of what failure looks like, and we have to WORK HARD to keep that in perspective and realize that what looks like failure (not being able to have any stamina, having to lay in our bed to protect our bodies and minds so that we can be productive for the 6  hours a day that we can, saying too much when we are in a very dark and unreasonable place mentally, crossing the line between managing our chronic condition and letting it define us and take us over), is just topical.

It’s what is inside our hearts that matters. Truly. It isn’t what impacts the world around us right away – all the junk likes to take on that role. But it IS what truly matters.

So, if you live with someone or around someone who struggles in these ways, please know that as much as we can, we get it. We don’t want to be a burden to you. But MOST OF US are fighting against completely shutting down to “protect” you.

Most of us want to be real with you, yet let you know that we are okay.

Most of us know that you miss us. That’s not lost on us. But please know, that although this has changed us on the outside into something that can seem MONSTROUS and UGLY the vast majority of the time – if you look a little deeper, you just may find that the inside is being transformed into something of beauty.

And we want to share THAT with you too. You see – we get to understand something now (so do you) and use that for the glory of God!

So I will leave you with this verse. If you ever feel lost, not sure what to do with your chronic friend or family member – not knowing whether you are helping or not…remember this one thing, if nothing else. It’s all worth it if we use this to comfort others in the name of Jesus.

It’s all worth it.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4

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Dear Fibro: I’ve Got News for You ~ I’m Beautifully Broken

I was recently challenged to write a letter to my Fibromyalgia – some of this you may have heard me already talk about on this blog, friends, so if it seems redundant to you, just know this is part of a challenge for a new support group I am privileged to be a part of now. But the idea is to acknowledge what you used to be and what Fibro stole from you all in the process. The ultimate thing that I wish to acknowledge, is that although sometimes I feel like Fibro has beaten me – it has not. You know, it went into a remission of sorts last summer and fall – it came back with a vengeance. God is greater than Fibro – I can be whole in spite of the holes it has punched in my life, my body and my mind. And it’s all because of Jesus, friends. He makes ALL THINGS NEW!

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Here is my letter:

Dear Fibro: I’ve Got News for You ~ I’m Beautifully Broken

I used to be “that girl.” You know – the one who was just chock full of energy, light, happiness, joy – the one who was always right there in the mix of it all cheering others on. I was a cheerleader ~ a coach ~ a leader of sorts. But always the kind of leader whose greater purpose in life was to lift others up. And the energy to do so was never ending.

I still am –DEEP within my soul.  It’s just changed now. Sometimes I feel really sad about it, but then I have to zoom back out and remember – I am being made into something new – something better than that girl that I once was. It just hurts in the process.

Just because you can’t jump and do cartwheels, doesn’t mean it changes the core of who you are. It can seem that way, but it’s a lie.

You see – things come upon us to wreak havoc in our lives-  they give us a run for our money, yo. That’s what you’ve done here, Fibro. You weren’t even invited, you know. You are a bad house guest. And not to be rude, but I have tried and tried to make things work out for you to be around, but you just keep on trashing the place.

NOT OKAY!!!!

So I have a few things to say to you. It’s time I tell you the truth of the matter. It may be hard to hear, but that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. You can handle it, right? (You are just sooooo strong, eh?)

You see – as I said –  you showed up uninvited in the first place. But because I try my best to have the most positive outlook  I can, I tried to make things work with you. Then, when it got tough, I talked to you about it all. You did not LISTEN. You just got worse. It’s as though no matter what I do to make things work out okay – you being here – you aren’t satisfied with that at all! You just want to keep creating drama and destruction everywhere. What’s left to destroy? I shouldn’t even ask that, I guess, because I KNOW that you will try to find something.

Let me tell you what my life was like before you showed up. My house was clean, man. It was sparkling and pretty and everything was in order. I wasn’t rich, by any stretch of the imagination – not in the way of material things. But I was rich in the fullness of life. I had my dream job – coaching a team of others in their personal and career growth and development. I was living out my greater purpose in every way – through work, and in my personal life. I was the person who “got things done” when no one else could seem to squeeze it into their schedule. AND I LIKED IT.

I was running/jogging 5-7 miles a day – the ONLY thing I asked for that was just for me – myself – my alone time. And I LOVED IT. I could run up mountains, hiking with my family, go to every event I was invited to, be in the middle of everything when there were noisy get-togethers and parties, TOTALLY focus on all that I was doing without losing track of anything and being able to REALLY ENGAGE with others.

I was that girl. And I liked her.

Then you came. You hit me like a ton of bricks.  I know that makes you smile, but wait for it. Like I said, I’ve got news for you!

First, the pain all over my body. No problem – I can deal with that. It sucks, but I have been through worse things than this. You wouldn’t even tell me your name at first – (sheesh, don’t you have any social graces at ALL?) but I knew you were someone who had a ton of issues and you weren’t going anywhere anytime soon. I tried to work through it – your unwanted arrival – but you kept yelling at me and making it worse. Whatever! 

Then, my mind. You took it, man. You confused me and took away my focus. I couldn’t keep my dream job. I certainly couldn’t jog any more. And then, if that wasn’t bad enough, you even took my ability to sit in church and worship with my family away half the time or more. You made me hate crowds, and lights and noise – you  made me have an aversion to my favorite thing – PEOPLE. You stink! I DO NOT LIKE YOU.

But get this: I have figured one thing out after three unrelenting years of this. I may not be able to make you leave – I may not be able to control you – I may have to admit, if I’m being honest and truthful, that your presence has changed things and I can’t fix that. You know that I’ve tried. But I have NOT been defeated.

YOU. HAVE. NOT WON. I know you’ll keep on trying. But I have a far more powerful ally on my side.

You broke everything – from the inside out. You smashed it to pieces. Sometimes, I sit there and I look at the shards of glass all around me and I weep – I’ll admit it. And I know you like to laugh at me when I do that – I know (sick and sad).

But guess what? Inside – you know that weeping and that crying out honestly to the Lord that I do – you KNOW that means you haven’t fully won.

Because you can’t take away the Lord’s ability to make me whole. You just can’t.

Sometimes, I don’t know whether to step forward or not – even a little bit. I’m on to your scare tactics –  they aren’t lost on me at all! I know you like to paralyze me and lie to me and tell me that I have to sit still, curled up in a fetal position, lest I step on the shards of what I once was and get cut to pieces.

What’s a little blood, anyway?

Other times, you try to trick me and make me think that if I could just at least TRY to glue some of the glass back together into a semblance of a solid structure, that it will mean that I am whole again. But I can see the edges of ugly when I do that – and there are holes there. All the water I then try to fill inside the pieced-together structure just seeps right out. It just doesn’t work. Ain’t nobody got time for that anymore.

But I have finally reached the point where I’ve figured something out – it’s about surrender. And it’s about truly WINNING.

It’s not for me to fight the battle alone – the one against YOU, dear Fibro. It’s not for me to fill the hole in whole and do a messy job of it at that! It’s not for me to constantly fight, totally give up, or remain paralyzed all on my own. It’s about moving through all the murky and muddy and stew like states of existence that continue to change with my God who is NEVER CHANGING!

I don’t have to do this alone. And THAT is my secret weapon that you KNOW you cannot touch.

It is the love and support of my Savior – Jesus – and others, like through my support network – that you cannot take from me.

You can steal jobs- you can steal memories and concentration and focus- you can even rip me apart limb from limb and fill what’s left with shards of pain – but you cannot choose to fill that ONE HOLE INSIDE with yourself that keeps me from being whole. That is RESERVED. You are blocked. You know you can’t go in there as hard as you try.

Because Jesus is there. My  family and friends (the real ones) are there. Who I really AM is there. And it’s NOT YOURS.

I’m not going to say that I never go into a dark place because of  you – who wouldn’t? But I know enough now to know that I have to just move through it and that I don’t have to do it alone. And when I emerge from the darkness – after crying out to my Lord and Savior? He has filled that hole in whole with HIS light, HIS love, HIS power, and HIS strength.

And it makes me be able to go on, oh, ugly friend. It makes me be whole again.

With or without you, I am whole. And it’s all because of Jesus. Maybe “that girl” was never REALLY whole to begin with. That’s why I can still say I am grateful for the mess that has been created as a result of you. But you don’t get the credit. No….you don’t.

God is creating a beautiful mosaic out of the shards and fragments of my old self. He is making all things new in SPITE OF YOU, ugly Fibro friend. In spite of myself too. And that is wonderful.

There is beauty in the ugly – you didn’t know that, did you? And you can’t stop Him – I will no longer try to step into the shoes of being the artist and Creator of the masterpiece mosaic- Someone else is doing that. Someone ALL-POWERFUL AND DIVINE!

 It’s not my job. I know the world screams at us to the contrary – self-reliance, and all that bull. But I know better.

 I am just here to seek Him through it all – to seek others who go through suffering or other struggles such as myself. To think outside of myself as much as you try to get me to think only about me.

That fills the hole in whole. And you ain’t got nothin’ on that, friend.

I’m beautifully broken – and the fact that I am turning that brokenness over to the Author of all Creation, makes me more whole than I ever could have been before – when I was “that girl.”

And since I know that you will now get really, really angry – know this as well: during those times where all I can see is shattered glass, the Lord reminds me – even when it still doesn’t feel very good – of the truth. That truth is that He has already won the greatest battle of all – for our sakes. That truth is that this is not my story, but His! That truth is that those shards and fragments of what I used to be are being used by Him and HAVE A PURPOSE. That truth is that He is creating a mosaic out of my life so as to bring glory to Him and hopefully, draw others to Himself.

That truth is that He is NEVER changing. But, thanks be to HIM, He will always change our stories and make them His own if we let Him.

He will make a mosaic out of the shattered glass – and I just have to stop trying to put it back together to a semblance of what it once was. He knows better. He is meant to fill the hole in whole.

It may sting. I may not know how to take the next step without getting cut, even. But for this girl, I know that I have to STOP trying to glue everything back together and let the Author of all creation, My Savior, DO HIS WORK.

He is bigger than me. And He is most certainly creating something far more beautiful than the vase all these pieces of glass used to signify in my own little life. HE MAKES ALL THINGS NEW, FRIENDS!

And it’s all because of the blood of Jesus and His love for us that any of this can ever make any sense.

Thanks be to God.

2 Corinthians 4:7-12
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you.

2 Corinthians 4:15-18
For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God. Therefore, we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison. While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

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So that, Yo. So THAT.

 

4d2982e5bff124830a7c0bbb0c1c91c2Not one detail of the Bible is in there just to embellish things or simply make them exciting for us. Not one word is there by mistake. The Word of God is truly living. The Holy Spirit teaches us and speaks to us through it – not only while we are reading or studying it, but as it works its way into our hearts and minds and consequently, our actions.

On suffering, man! Let’s talk about this for a moment. Yes…..again.

You know that I get it – in my own little way. I get the mixed-up mess that our suffering can be in our lives. I totally understand how our minds can play tricks on us as our bodies, our feelings, our emotions, our circumstances wreak havoc in our lives. I’ve had my share of my own form of sufferings in my fifty years on this earth so far – and I totally understand the GUILT AND CONDEMNATION the enemy tries to place upon us while we go through such things.

I think I know why, but for just a moment let us visit some of the thoughts that come to us as we suffer when we end up trying to do it on our own.

Any of these sound familiar, friend?

“I can’t believe you are such a baby. This is NOTHING compared to what other people go through. You really need to get a grip.”

“Why don’t you just change your attitude – your outlook – your perspective. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps, already!”

There are starving children in so many parts of the world – they don’t even have a roof over their heads – and here you are crying in  your cheerios about YOUR situation!”

I could go on and on and on, but it wouldn’t be helpful. You get the picture. And if YOU have ever experienced your own kind of suffering that doesn’t fit into the category of a terminal illness, being totally abused, living in poverty, amongst other more horrid things than what you are experiencing, you T-O-T-A-L-L-Y feel like my soul mate right now, I would bet!

Dig this: We CAN remember that others are suffering things far worse than we are, yet still feel badly about what we are going through ourselves all at the same time. Big epiphany, I know!

The enemy wants to  make us feel like we are brats or that the worse things that others go through in the world are lost on us. The enemy wants to keep us small, TOTALLY self absorbed and wants us to HIDE the fact that we are suffering out of guilt, or…whatever.

But if we look at Jesus and the time He spent here on earth, He did not discriminate when it came to sufferings. He didn’t ask people to hide it, either. He displayed that we should bear one another’s burdens and be honest with each other about such things. Not just sin, but hardships!

  • He understood what it meant that a leper or a blind man could not be a part of society – their physical ailments – the pain – the limitations –  the full ramifications of that.
  • He understood that a woman scorned was suffering just as much – just in a very different way.
  • He understood and did not minimize the fact that sin caused suffering too – Peter and his pride, Noah and his drinking, David and his lust, and Martha who had many “control  issues” and was a  chronic worrier.

He came to save the lost and the broken from their sin and all forms of suffering. And He asks us not only to rejoice with those who rejoice, but to also weep with those who weep! But none of this can happen if we don’t acknowledge our NEED for Him – our brokenness.

So, yes – sin causes suffering, but so do iniquities and things that we cannot control. Both entered the world when Adam and Eve made the choice to eat from where they were told not to. It’s part of the human condition – sin and suffering. And it’s why we need our Savior, Jesus Christ.

When we suffer, if we don’t see the need for surrender, we are even more lost, and more suffering gets layered on top of the mess we already are dealing with. Even if we don’t have a specific circumstance or season marked by what we might describe as suffering, surrender is still necessary to walk with Jesus. Why? Because we really are ALWAYS in a place of needing our Savior to comfort us and make us more and more like Him. We have not arrived!

When we are walking around in a season of health and ease, we are more likely to forget our brokenness – to forget our need. For me, that is when I have forgotten that I am utterly broken.

But at the same time, seasons of suffering – although they cause us to press in more and seek the Lord’s face more, also can be marked by a self-centered condition that I can’t even put into words. Hence, the darts and arrows flying through our minds and hearts that come from that ugly enemy.

Getting outside of oneself when suffering with something that is SO ALL-CONSUMING you cannot ever, EVER avoid thinking about it is a challenge, to say the least. There are things we can do to distract ourselves, but I find they only help for so long. All the self help in the world, doctor’s advice, pills or potions can’t hold a candle to this formidable enemy of focus on self.

You don’t have to be acting “selfish” to be totally consumed with self. If you have ever suffered from a chronic illness, pain, grief, or depression or anxiety, you already know that.

  • But you FEEL selfish.
  • You FEEL like you “should be able to” rise above it all.
  • You FEEL like if you could just think more of others, maybe you could be more giving and self sacrificial in spite of what you are contending with.

Feelings suck sometimes. Just sayin’.

I don’t have the answers to any of it…but Jesus does. The only thing that I know is that I have to practice surrender over and over and over every single day.

  • Spiritual surrender
  • Physical surrender
  • Mental surrender
  • Surrender of perceptions, work ethic, timelines, schedules.
  • Surrender of things I love and things I struggle with and need to remove from my life.
  • Surrender of the ugly and yes….some surrender even of the beauty. That last part is the part that makes me want to scream like a child and throw a tantrum. Not fun!

But in that surrender, there is such beauty – as we empty out, even of those things which aren’t “bad things”, it leaves a space. A big space.

Jesus is meant to fill that space. Only Jesus.

On the days I don’t seek Him with all that I  have, that space causes MORE SUFFERING. It causes a black hole, that ends up becoming like a cancer-of-sorts. But on the days that I do realize – “hey, I am empty now, I need to seek HIM and I NEED Him to fill me with HIMSELF“….those days are SO VERY GOOD in spite of the pain that I may still be contending with.

  • We aren’t meant to do this by ourselves.
  • We aren’t meant to think we are “less than” if we are suffering.
  • We aren’t meant to walk in guilt and condemnation.
  • We aren’t meant to dump stuff out and leave the black hole alone.

And now, I will get to the crux of it, friend. These verses speak to me about purpose in suffering and fill my heart with joy!

IF we are seeking Jesus in the midst of our sufferings, and IF we are asking Him to change us, He WILL use that for good and bringing forth His will. He WILL use that to spread the gospel – the hope that we can have only in Christ! No matter what the circumstances are.

He will use it to get us outside of ourselves. Even if we can only do so in teeny tiny ways. God is God and can use even the smallest of things to do BIG STUFF!

So, what is the purpose in suffering, then? Well, first off – we can become more like Jesus if only we ask Him to teach us through it all. And secondly, it is (the suffering) there SO THAT we can offer comfort to others that we never could before.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.”  2 Corinthians 1: 3-7

Paul goes on to say that much of what happened to them in Asia caused them to despair, even to the point of seeing it as almost a death sentence. But he shares that he sees in retrospect that it all happened SO THAT they would not rely on themselves, but on God, who raises the dead!

There is a purpose, friends. God can do anything! It may not be what we would have chosen for ourselves, but it is part of the human experience and part of His will in our lives to walk through hard stuff with HIM by our side.

And how better to rid ourselves of the mindset of self, self, self, than to let Him fill that black hole and pour Himself out to others in need of His comfort?

Nothing is done without purpose when it comes to our Lord working out His will in our lives and the lives of others. There is always a SO THAT.

So that.

So that.

So that.

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Reaching Out Every Way That We Can ~ ‘Cause God Says So!!!

Friends!

I will still be writing from time to time on this lovely blog – because I LOVE to write, yo! It’s a form of worship to me – of my loving Savior, Jesus!

But I have felt CALLED for quite some time to connect with others and spread His love, His joy, His peace, His EVERYTHING in every avenue possible. So, I will be creating an extension of the blog on a YouTube Channel.

I would LOVE, LOVE LOVE IT if you’d follow me over there. Like I said, the blog will still be here, but I will most likely post on the YouTube Channel more frequently for a while. Please feel free to share it with others!

I welcome feedback through the comments under each Vlog….but keep in mind, like the blog, this is a work in progress. Just like US!

We will see where the Lord takes it and how HE decides to refine it and grow it over time.

Here is the introductory link. Please watch this video and click to subscribe on YouTube. Give it a thumbs up if you enjoy it (there are two videos on there right now) and shout out any ideas or suggestions you’d like to see in the comments below each video!

I look forward to seeing all that God has for ALL OF US as we continue to share His love in a dark world!

P.S. USE YOUR GIFTS!!

On the bottom of the video, to the right, you can click “watch on YouTube”. You will see a button then on the YouTube page that allows you to “SUBSCRIBE” to the channel. Love you, freinds!!

Use Your Gifts

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Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10

I have come to the conclusion that is is BAD…very, very BAD for us not to open and use the gifts God has given us. They are given to us so that when we USE and SHARE them, it can possibly benefit others. They are given to us so that when we USE and SHARE them, it brings glory to God! That matters, folks. More importantly, that matters to GOD!

So let me expand upon that a bit differently, Annie-style.

God has given each of  us various gifts – spiritual gifts, as well as special talents and abilities. Part of why the Lord made each of us different is because He wants us to USE those gifts to edify others and connect to others – ultimately, as a way to shine HIS light to the world and spread HIS truth and HIS love.

These last 6 months (or longer) that I have stepped away from this community and blog have been NO BUENO for this chick feelings-wise. BUT……..I had to do it to do some reflecting and such. As you know, I wrote (practically every day) for the first year or so after I created this blog…and I stinkin’ LOVED IT, yo!

Why? Because I was using those gifts and connecting to others while doing so.

AND………..

Because, like I have always said – writing out or sharing out my heart and how Jesus is working in my little life (this utterly messy and sometimes mixed-up gal), does my heart good and is a form of worship of my Savior, in my opinion. Sharing it, causes me to live more vulnerably, and also gets me to think outside of myself as I have been reflecting on the inside. It is beyond therapeutic – it is something that causes me to TRANSFORM each and every time I share something with YOU. And if it helps even just ONE PERSON, each little thing I share, that is something that makes my heart smile. Big time! And it’s ALL BECAUSE OF GOD.

So, back to the story.  I pulled away for a while to reflect. Something just wasn’t quite right in my life. I took a slight turn and started to go down a little bit of a different road – a new adventure – it’s still a work in progress. As I embarked upon this new journey, I had to give my ALL to that change and transition – learning curves aren’t fun for this girl, but necessary and if you know me at all, I had to FOCUS my ALL into learning these new things. I had to give up some of the things that mattered MOST to me as I was in such a new transition, completely foreign to me. And it was important to do that as we are called to do our work as unto the Lord.

But the absence of getting to do this for a while also gave me some time to think and reflect on it.

It gave me time to MISS YOU, friends.

It gave me time to realize it is a HUGE part of my time with God – the time I spend sharing with others.

And that is GOOD.

So, I have returned, and I have some new ideas on how I will expand the WAYS that I share my heart for Jesus, for the beauty and the ugly stuff in life, for the mundane and the intense things we walk through on this earth, and for the BEAUTIFUL HOPE THAT IS ALWAYS PRESENT as we walk through such things together in Christ. I will be sharing those on the blog very soon.

But for now, here is a little background for you on the MAIN THING I have learned during this time of reflection! Again, in Annie-style, so this will take a paragraph or two to explain…

I have been really praying and working through the concept of contentment with the Lord. There’s a LOT to it that I won’t go into detail about yet, but call it sufficient when I say, there is a DIFFERENCE between walking around not being content because we covet things that aren’t for us, and knowing….. just KNOWING that we have something inside (Holy Spirit, anyone?) creating somewhat of a HOLY discomfort.

It’s all about the PEACE, YO!

When the LATTER REASON is causing that unsettled feeling – it will grow and grow if we DO NOT LISTEN.

I know this, because it’s what has been happening to me and I’ve FINALLY been able to identify it.

You see, I always err on the side of assuming it might be the first reason – the fleshly one- and then I have to pray about it and test that out to be sure it’s not just a case of me not being obedient or that maybe I am just being spoiled, coveting, or ungrateful as I go through this unsettled feeling.

That’s what I’ve been doing this past 6 months. That, and a WHOLE LOTTA PRAYING, dudes!

I have concluded with no SHADOW OF A DOUBT that yes, I am a sinner (nothing new there), and yes, sometimes I want things that aren’t mine to have (not a news flash either), BUT, that I am NOT using my gifts God gave me to the fullest, or even TRYING to, for that matter.

Again: That = No Good, Man.

The Holy Spirit is telling me (and has been for quite some time)…that no, it really is ME telling you this and you will remain uncomfortable as HECK until you DO something about it.

So I’m going to.

This book I am reading right now nailed it: I had prayed and prayed for the Lord to lead me to understanding this inner conflict I have been going through. I had been reading and reading in Proverbs, and many other parts of the Word about all of this. I kept coming back to a passage in Romans that I will place at the end of this for you.

And then this book fell into my hands (another story in and of itself).

Here is the statement that I could never express, but that describes COMPLETELY the struggle I am talking about in just a couple of short sentences (not Annie-style, nope):

“There is a big difference between wanting what we don’t have just for the sake of wanting more and wanting to do something else because we know, deep down, it is where we are meant to be. It is often difficult to strike a balance between a healthy longing for something more and choosing peace, no matter our circumstances. After all, how are we supposed to find our sweet spot when we are stuck in a job or town or situation we don’t love? How do we remedy the tension between choosing contentment and striving for more?” Living Well Spending Less ~ Ruth Soukup

BAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I can be grateful for what I have and choose to bloom where I’m at, but AT THE SAME TIME know that I am supposed to do something more. Those things CAN co-exist and I am living proof of it. I would venture to guess that many of you are as well.

It’s not always either/or.

We are CALLED if we are followers of Jesus Christ and COMMANDED to use our gifts to build up and edify the church and be light in a lost and dark world. If we leave the gifts unopened or unused, that is so utterly sad and Such. A. Waste.

No more for this girl.

As always, it’s a work in progress – finding the gifts we are called to use for the Lord’s glory, pulling them out of the dusty box if they have been hidden for a while, and getting them to work well again. We have to find our way – try new things – live them out in vulnerable and risky ways and let the Lord make them hum when He so desires.

But we gotta use them.

Remember today, dear friend, that you have gifts and you will WILT if you do not use them. There are people out there that NEED to benefit from that. There are people out there who NEED to know someone is there. It’s part of having a servant heart and being a bond servant of Christ. And if you don’t know what yours are, seek HIM and have a heart to find out. It may take a while, but He will answer!

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.Romans 12: 6-8

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There’s always a YES

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A long, looonnnnnng season of NO has ended for me, dear friends. As of four weeks ago today, things changed in my life dramatically! My energy level went up 70 percent and my pain level dropped about 50 percent! This came after a long hard program I have been on with my doctor and we were NOT sure if it was going to help me or not. It DID.

Beautiful little sprouts of green have popped up through the frost melt. Some are even starting to bud and bloom! I feel Spring coming on, even though we are entering Autumn in our physical and earthly world. And I will water those buds with the truth, power and love that only Jesus can bring! FAITHFULLY.

It’s a long and sweet story, but after working with a VERY special Naturopath that I truly KNOW the Lord brought into my life (another awesome story) for 12 weeks now, I am HEALING. Healing, do ya hear me?!? Praise the Lord!!!!!! Whoo Hoo!

Annie, the way GOD made her to be is back! I can use my gifts of encouragement and high energy without fear of being bed ridden the very next day. I can spread God’s love and saving grace more radically now – because I went through this long and dark season of pain and no and frustration and ups and downs and loneliness and exasperation and …..suffering!

And guess what? He used that season of NO, NO, NO to make Annie a little less like “herself” and more like HIM. This, and growing closer in my relationship with Christ is what I am MOST grateful for! That is the greatest YES of all!

God can do anything through us in any season, and He always knows EXACTLY what He wants to do. He taught me so much in my personal season of No. He showed me so much more about Himself – who Jesus is, especially in how it relates to suffering and the loss that comes with something like that. He showed me that no matter what, the season of No will always end with the greatest Yes of all – eternity spent with Christ! So that loss we find in our hard seasons is truly all gain for those of us in Christ Jesus – no matter what the outcome!

Many of you know this – It is a long and hard road – being in a season of complete and utter NO – but we always must remember that for every 1000 no’s we have to say to things we used to love and enjoy doing in this earthly life, we can and DO continue to receive the GIFT of saying Yes to Him. Always. If we only draw near TO HIM through it ALL.

He never left me. He never will. He’ll never leave you. He never will.

And Now!

The Lord has brought Yes back to so many things in my life – new and old. Things I used to enjoy and love – attending church regularly – meeting a friend for coffee – having people over to my home – pouring encouragement into others more consistently and RADICALLY!!! These Yes’s I get to say are all back but now are more enjoyable than ever before!

And there are new ones too! Exciting ones! Ones I never imagined I would ever get to be a part of and that Jesus can and ALREADY IS going to use for His glory. I’m so excited I can’t stand it!

I knew He had plans for me no matter what the season – I just wasn’t sure if they included a new season of YES on this earth or not. I’m so thankful that it does! God is SO GOOD – in our seasons of darkness, His light is still right there with us. It may not be easy – but without Him, I could not have withstood it. No question!

Several months ago, as I realized I had hit the 3 year mark of this Fibromyalgia onset – God brought to fruition many, many things for me. He showed me that for every no that Fibromyalgia brought into my life, my YES to Him was still always there.

My YES to HIM never left.

My Jesus YES.

My only YES that I NEED.

Last week, I was able to share some of my story with some other beautiful people in a group setting. As I prayed the day before, God really urged me and led me to share the suffering part. You see, He immediately had opened up a door for me to walk through about 1 week after we knew I was healing – and I went right on through. I had prayed over this for over two years, but knew I couldn’t go through that door quite yet. Now that I can, He has opened up a whole world to me of not only more Yes answers for my family or for me, but OTHERS! Every single day, He is giving me new chances with new people to share His love and what He can do through the things in our lives that hurt. He did it during my season of No too – but it’s more FUN in this new season of Yes! Yay!

He has released me from my holding cell and given me wings with which to fly – and share HIS peace, HIS joy, and HIS love and truth with others – in the most unexpected way I ever really imagined. It is crazy-insane the avenues and vessels through which Jesus chooses to have us pour out His loveliness and His testimonies. God truly does work in the most mysterious ways!

I am so grateful. I am thankful for my season of suffering and what God has revealed to me and how He’s drawn me closer to Him than ever before. I am thankful and giddy like a child on Christmas morning at all the presents I get to open and play with in my new season of Yes. I am most thankful that I get to shout from the rooftops in ANY season I am in, the utter magnificence and GREATNESS OF OUR GOD!

I have spent the last month not only in awe of what God has shown me through a long and dark and difficult period, but flat out amazed at the fact that he is NOT choosing to bring me into the fullness of this Yes Season slowly or easily! It  has been a fast-moving, earth shaking, GOD-sized last few weeks! And I love it!

Our God is a patient God, but when He’s ready to usher in another part of His will, He is RADICAL!

So, although it can seem like sometimes God works slowly and methodically in one season of our lives (usually the ugly ones for this girl),  He is working on us all the same. Then, when He decides it is time for a new one, if we are truly following HIM, we had better be ready! We’d better drop everything – jump off the boat – walk into the water or the sea before the waters even look like they will part – and move with faith and trust toward Him.

Drop the Nets!

Leave your homes!

You’ll know why later!

I’ve got it under control!

Just do it!

Don’t worry about those details!

Follow ME.

NOW.

If you are in a season of No, ask the Lord for help in showing you your big YES to Him! You are still following Him even if it feels like you are going nowhere or are…stuck. You CAN still say Yes to Jesus in the midst of the paralyzing darkness or the cave you feel you are trapped inside of. And never give up! Submit to His will and be willing to accept the answer – but if he decides that you will now embark upon a new season of Yes while you are still on this earth, start praying NOW that He will help you have a spirit of readiness to jump as high as He asks you to when the time comes. It may not be EASY, but Jesus doesn’t often do things that way, now does  He?

It is ALWAYS worth saying YES to whatever Christ asks of us – following HIM no matter what the season is the greatest gift of all!

“YES, Jesus ~ YES!”

Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men. And immediately they left their nets and followed him.Mark 1: 16-18

Who am I to dilly dally?

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Encourage Radically

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People are just simply not gifted by God in all of the same ways; otherwise we’d be boring little robots. To some of us, it may come easy to be a “lifter-upper”, a cheerleader or an encouraging coach and motivator for others. While for others, offering encouragement can seem like rocket science or be an experience akin to pulling teeth without Novocain.

Like I said ~ we all have different gifts and talents ~ and every single one of them is important.

At the same time, we are all admonished (quite clearly) in scripture to find ways to be encouraging to others! Whether it seems to come “naturally” to us or not, this is something that the Lord asks of each and every one of us.

We all have the capacity to encourage ~ especially when we are seeking God in this worthy endeavor.

A step in the right direction can be small, but powerful ~ we can strive to at least try to not be the opposite of uplifting toward others.  It’s too easy to discourage, critique, or point out the negative side in things before we even think about our approach and the person who may be receiving it. And we certainly don’t have a lack of discouragement hitting us from every which way we turn on a pretty much daily basis.

I think that in order to combat the negative forces that bombard us all the time, and to be more like Jesus in how we treat one another, we must be seek Him and ask Him to help us to encourage others and be relentless about it! It’s a radical thought, I know.

R-A-D-I-C-A-L.

But it’s kind of a big deal. God’s word tells us so.

For those to whom it comes easy ~ being encouraging ~ sometimes we struggle with being active about it. We can get lazy, or seem at a loss about purposefully pursuing new ways to continue to lift others up. We can worry or do it for the wrong reasons; to please people only, rather than God. We can forget about striving to truly seek out what makes another person feel valued and cared for and loved, (while keeping it in line with scripture at the same time) rather than just sticking with what’s always worked for us or only offering up easy-to-use platitudes and blanket statements.

I’m guilty.

Radical encouragement isn’t marked by laziness or selfishness. It’s marked by seeking God’s heart and is NOT always within our comfort zone.

BUT! We are to encourage and love one another, friends – radical Jesus love – and this means to do so even when it’s hard.

And it will be hard sometimes.

This does not only apply to how we love and encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ, friends – but to everyone with whom we interact.

Everyone.

For those who “just aren’t empathetic” or don’t feel they are “built that way” – well, part of showing the Lord’s love and truth is to seek out ways to smile, share a kind word, offer our time, and treat others better than we even treat ourselves.

A huge part of what the Christian life really is, is going AGAINST much our “nature” to become more like Jesus. I can attest to this because I have been forced, as I seek His will, to go way out of my comfort zone more times than I can possibly count. Also, because I am in a constant spiritual battle in which I have to fall to my knees over and over again and ask Him to help me to slay all about self and fill me up with….More. Of. Him.

Yes, encouraging others is a serious thing. It is serious and important enough for the Lord to make mention of it in His word over and over again! It’s a major vehicle through which His love and truth can be channeled. We do best not to neglect this important truth and privilege of encouraging others in God’s truth and love.

I have found recently that I have – neglected this in some ways. I slipped back into the easy kind of encouragement that seems to come “naturally” to ME – rather than becoming the radical kind of encourager that truly brings glory to GOD and shines His love and His light radiantly without question.

That’s the kind that matters. I’m so glad that He gently reminded me.

We all have our own way that we can go about being encouraging in how we interact with people and friends and family and passers-by. People can encourage in multitudes of ways and with different styles – and that’s important.

God is creative and awesome like that! He made us different and did so in His mysterious and glorious ways.

None of us has ever perfected any of it anyway ~ a perfected process would again run the risk of being mundane, not radically Christ-like. No one is perfect except for Jesus Christ Himself.

Most of us have also failed at least once in our life with regard to this – this girl has failed time and time again, I can tell you! There’s just no doubt about that.

But with God’s  help – if we ask Him to make it the desire of our hearts to be an encouraging rather than a discouraging presence in the lives of those around us, He will give us HIS grace, HIS wisdom, HIS power, HIS truth and HIS love – He will give us a thirst for being encouraging and loving and motivating like we may have never had before.

He can quench that thirst better than we ever could for ourselves.

Let us seek to be encouraging rather than discouraging forces in others’ lives. Let us ask the Lord daily to show us how, provide the opportunities and not discount anything, big or small, or shove it aside when the chance to radically uplift someone is there!

It truly is a blessing to offer up a shoulder to cry on, flash a shared smile and a clap for someone,  participate in or incite a resounding “rah-rah” for a person’s joyful news, or make an investment of time in another that will never be forgotten.

It really is all-too-easy to be discouraging to another. The ugly and the dark drags people down day in and day out. It is much harder to be an encouraging witness of Jesus Christ and His love. But with God’s help and a true and fervent seeking-after-Him-and-abiding-in-Him-daily heart, He will spill right out of us and lift others up toward HIM.

It’s all for HIS glory, friends. And of late, He is pointing out to me, through my very own disappointments (large and small) and discouraging times, the very ways that I myself have forgotten or failed to love others well.

I am thankful ~ so very thankful ~ that each and every day He teaches me even more about what it means to be truly encouraging of other people and how this is an even greater witness of His love, His power, and His grace!

And yes – I’m even grateful for the fact that He often has to convict me and motivate me through my own let-downs or mistakes.

Hard lessons can be utterly precious treasures if we allow the Lord to use them for His glory. 🙂

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

“Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.” Romans 15:12

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Bathing Matters

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The noise all around us can get so very loud – the slinging, the clamoring, the shouting and the bullying, the twisting and the pounding, the clinging and non-relenting.

The relentless noise, noise, noise is but one symbol of the consistent flow of darts and arrows the army of the enemy is launching toward us all the time.

This is war.

But what I have found, is that the more subdued whispers of influence and deceit are what can often do the most damage ~ because they frequently either go unnoticed, or we fail to deal with them once the noise subsides.

Think about war for a minute. Imagine you are a soldier in the civil war on the front lines. You are so busy fighting for survival from all the muskets and canons and other weapons of choice, that you don’t really have time to notice the things that are creeping in to take up residence on your side of this particular battle.

It’s called infiltration.

  • Disease…
  • Infection…
  • Maybe even a spy or two dressed up in clothes that look friendly.

This is the kind stuff that seeps in – to the mind and to the heart. This is the stuff that sneaks around the loud and obvious junk and plants itself somewhere – INSIDE.

This is the evil that remains long after we think the battle is done.

It plants itself and grows, and grows and grows.

Jesus tells us to be on guard for good reason. He tells us to be careful, friends. He also tells us to risk things for His glory and to reach out to others.

Again I say: It’s not either/or.

It’s both/and.

We may have to lock out the distractions for a season in order to move back to our first love – as it should be.

We may have to regroup and reassess our armor – are we wearing the armor of GOD, or something we made up ourselves because, well, we think our version fits better?

And sometimes we have to retreat – but not just for rest, but to reassess. Sometimes we just gotta clean house.

  • Sterilize.
  • Go through a burial process.
  • Cleanse the land.

If we forget this step after a battle – if we don’t make sure the last vestiges of the ravages of war are dealt with – nasty things will still grow and thrive in places they don’t belong.

Let’s not allow that simply because we’d rather just be done. Let’s ask the Lord to cleanse us from the inside out – not only during or after we are doing battle, but daily.

I often stand before the Lord in awe ~ in awe of Him and His desire and promise that He will accept that I keep getting so dirty. He doesn’t mind bathing me daily, even when I get into things He told me not to right after he’s put me in my Sunday best. I stand before Him in shock and disbelief at just how much poison and toxins have entered into my heart or mind from one day to the next. I never fail to be surprised that I have so much I need to dump out and ask to be cleansed of within one 24 hour period. Often this mess has been self inflicted – sometimes not. But either way, my loving Father never fails to bathe me and take care of me.

I truly believe that my tendency to get “dirty” is because not only are new things coming my way daily that I “absorb” so to speak, but there is much residue left inside of me that is so deeply rooted, that it will take time for the Lord to remove it – tentacles and claws and all.

He understands.

But at the same time that I’m fully (hurtfully, sometimes) aware of this fact, I am so thankful that He has brought this awareness to me – that I’m not asleep. It hurts to be awake and aware of the evil as much as the good – but it is far better than living a lie – which I have done as well and which is part of why I’m where I’m at today.

I pray that we ask the Lord daily to cleanse us, friends. He has already saved us and wiped the slate clean if we have trusted Christ as our Savior. At the same time, there is still the reality of walking and living in this human shell. There still is the reality that we are in a battle of the flesh.

What we can truly stand in awe of if we get right down to it, is that GOD has already won the ultimate battle.

So yes – we have to be careful – we have to watch – we have to put on t he armor of God every single day. But we can rest in the knowledge and the beautiful, divine promise that the Lord has us in His mighty hands – and that He will never forsake us.

We have to show up for bath time though.

This is the good news that I am pondering today. I pray that if  you feel weary of battle, that you too, can remember that with Christ, it is both/and. And as we trust in Him, through trial or battle, and through seasons of rest and overcoming, we will know….

That He is God.

And He will be exalted.

He makes wars cease
    to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields with fire.
 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:9-10

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Home Sweet Home

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My beautiful father-in-law, Alden, went home to be with Jesus, friends. And we will miss his presence here with us on earth, for certain.

BUT….

At the same time that we grieve OUR loss, we are rejoicing too ~ because we KNOW, that we KNOW, that we KNOW – he is with his Lord and Savior right now – and for that we rejoice!

Bless the Lord, oh my soul!

I couldn’t sleep last night, because I kept writing this poem in my head as I was laying in bed. I got up this morning and the rest of it came together, so I want to share it with you today.

If you are grieving the passing of a loved one who is also a Christian, friend ~ grieve away ~ and remember to give your grief over daily to the Lord. He will comfort you. He will be with you. He will place you under His mighty wing of refuge. It’s okay to grieve. We just need to do it with the help of our Savior.

And as you grieve, know too the peace ~ that only the Lord can truly provide. Know too, the promise of getting to be in our true home with our Savior when we leave this tiny dot in the universe to go home. Know that your loved one who accepted Christ as his Savior is there now. He is right there with Him…..

With GOD.

 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:8

Home Sweet Home

He gets to run ~He gets to jump

He gets to dance and sing.

He gets to see ~ His shining face

And all the light He brings.

He gets to laugh ~ He gets to hug

And tears? He’ll never cry!

He now has wings ~ And gets to soar

Throughout the heavenly skies.

He gets to kneel ~ He gets to bow

He gets to worship in praise.

He gets to shout ~ “Thank you, Father!”

For eternity ~ all of the days.

He gets to live ~ his real life now

Days of adoration, joy and love.

His Almighty Lord ~ His Risen Savior

He meets Him, up above.

He gets to live ~ he gets to abide

Next to God and all His saints.

Where there’s no grief, and no, not war

Only praise, devoid of complaints.

He gets to do this ~ ’cause of mercy

From our Jesus, he is now there.

He loves His precious ones ~ all His children

He’s counted each and every hair.

And he is one  ~ he is God’s child

And His Father called unto him…

Come home, my child” ~ it’s far past dark

Into the light, where there’s no sin.

He gets to shed it ~ that broken body

And fly home, as it should be.

No longer encumbered ~ no longer trapped

God’s face now, he’ll always see.

For You have delivered my soul from death,
My eyes from tears,
And my feet from falling.
I will walk before the Lord
In the land of the living.

I believed, therefore I spoke,“I am greatly afflicted.”I said in my haste,“All men are liars.”

 What shall I render to the Lord
For all His benefits toward me?
 I will take up the cup of salvation,
And call upon the name of the Lord.
 I will pay my vows to the Lord
Now in the presence of all His people.

 Precious in the sight of the Lord
Is the death of His saints.

Psalm 116:8-15

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Squint if We Have To

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I’ve been reading and studying 1 Peter this week and it is full of beautiful golden nuggets of Christ’s truth. All of the Word is, friends ~ but I find that every time I return to this section of scripture, there is just SO MUCH to absorb. I’m still learning and digging into this beautiful book of God’s word, but I have some observations that I thought I’d like to share with you.

Although the entire context of the whole of the book of 1 Peter (and the entire Bible for that matter) is crucial for us to understand, I thought I would break down what these particular verses (taken in context) have meant to me lately, and that I’d do so in a different format than I usually would.

Maybe some of you are contending with the same things, and maybe they speak to you and your life and  Christian walk in a different way, depending upon the season you are in and what the Lord is guiding you to do right now in your own life.

But here are my own observations for now.

Chapter 2, verse 2…..“like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation”

  • This is one of the things that I feel that the Lord has been calling me to absorb and grow in for so long – I often find that I get caught up in many other things in life and put my time spent in the word second, or third, or even further down the line. It needs to be my GREATEST priority. I find that the more consistent I am about it the more it becomes a DESIRE versus a thing that I need to do. Babies need milk – they crave it. It feeds them, grows them, nourishes them. We can’t allow ourselves to go on a fast when we are but babes in need of our life-giving Savior.

Chapter 2, verses 9 -12…“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.”

  • Man, there is a lot of meat here to digest. I will pick a couple of things that the Lord is using in my own life and walk with Him right now – First, I often find that I am encouraged by others to remember that I am royalty as a true Christian and to “walk in that” with my head held high. Although I think it is important to remember this promise that we are his royal heirs, and we can remember to remind each other about it as a source of brotherly encouragement, I find that this is so emphasized that it can become twisted – tainted by man – and in those times, for me, a struggle ensues.
  • The piece that stands out to me here is what it says right after that in verse 9 – “so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you”.…In other words, we must remember we are his royal heirs FOR HIS GLORY AND HIS ALONE.
  • We can’t allow the enemy to distort this for us, friends. We can wear the crown with our own human pride if we aren’t careful. When we find ourselves doing this, it becomes about self versus the Lord. When we need encouragement, let us remember we are his royal children – but always because we are thankful that He has sacrificed for us so that we can be a part of His royal family. We receive His mercy – not what we deserve. It’s about HIM.

Chapter 2 verses 18-20 Servants be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.”

  • This is on my mind so much lately – and God is working in my heart a lot in regard to this very thing. Yep – this political season we are in as Christians in America right now – it will challenge us to remember these verses. It’s beyond difficult. We can stand for truth and what we think is right – and we should. But no matter what happens, we must bear up under the authority that ends up being chosen for us. We don’t have to agree with the things they ask us to do that are not biblical, but it doesn’t mean we don’t still have to find a way to glorify God under the authority of rulers that may not be good ones. We do. Jesus had to do it too.
  • If we go to other sections of scripture and study what Jesus did under the wicked rulers of his time on earth, we see that it was not an either/or approach that He took. He spoke the truth and never stopped – even to the point that it led him to the cross. He tore up tables in the temple where the Pharisees were. But he also stood and accepted the sentencing of Pilot. It is hard to do both/and in these situations. The world tries to make us feel like we can’t be good little Christians and submit to authority over us while at the same time standing up for the truth. But it can be done. We have only to look to Jesus and follow in His footsteps. And it will bring about pain. If any of you has this figured out yet, please send me a note! 🙂

This leads us straight into the next section of 1 Peter which reinforces that we have Jesus Christ as an example….a beautiful and perfect example!

Verses 21-23….”For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.”

  • God is our judge, not man. Satan, through others, will try his best to make us feel judged by man – to make us feel that we are in the wrong to stand for Christ’s truth and love in an increasingly dark world. But we must remember who the real judge is, and that we are to please and honor HIM above all.

The second half of 1 Peter is the section I am studying right now –

  • It is about serving the Lord willingly, especially when it is hard.
  • It is about remaining zealous and fervent in our love for Him and sharing in the sufferings of Christ.
  • It is about Godly living in a world that stretches us and pulls us and tries to twist it all up.
  • It is about loving one another and seeking peace without starting to live for this world and pleasing man.
  • Jesus experienced the very same temptations and struggles and obstacles in his time on earth. He overcame all of that and so much more. For us.

So I will leave you with some thoughts about the introduction into that part of 1 Peter and some of the things that God is growing my own heart about it as we speak. I am sure I will learn much from Him over the coming week as I delve further into this. How about you? Do any of these sections in scripture encourage your own heart or mind?

Chapter 3 verses 8-17 To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. For the one who desires life, to love and see good days, must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit. He must turn away from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears attend to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.” 

  • “Harmonious” here does not mean blending in or going with the flow of the world. It means being free from destructive and consistent disagreements, to the point of broken relationships and allowing discord to rule our lives ~ and, in particular, among fellow believers it means forming a consistent whole. Christ is the foundation that holds us together, and the moment we go off and do our own thing, we are separating from the whole.
  • Sometimes, part of seeking and pursuing peace as Christians gets mixed up and distorted in our world. The world likes to redefine what love is – what joy is – and yes, what peace is. We are to seek true peace, (the peace of GOD not man) even if it means we have to suffer. We will be intimidated and even worse. It will feel troubling, but we can always remember to turn those tough feelings over the Christ, friends.
  • We want to be comfortable Christians sometimes, because our flesh screams for it and also because we get tripped up in our minds by the enemy (at least I do). In our endeavor to be kind and not sow discord, we can sometimes water down the truth. That is not love.
  • Going with the flow for the sake of the world’s definition of harmony and getting along is not real love. I, for one, am in deep prayer about how to be loving, yet not venture into the abyss of watering down God’s truth for the sake of getting along by the world’s definitions of it. How to be zealous for Christ’s truth AND love, and how to know when to remain quiet and always gentle in my approach to such things versus when to speak up and do so loudly (but without malice or bitterness) is an inner struggle I am facing as a Christian right now. It. Is. Hard. But I am seeking Him – and I am seeking the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to show me the way. That’s the only way it can ever happen. I can’t figure this one out, and I think that’s the whole point – we are to rely upon the LORD and fill ourselves with HIM (milk for the baby) so it will flow out of us. #bigstruggleforthiscontrolfreakofagirl
  • He tells us to “be ready to make a defense for anyone who asks us to “give an account for the hope that is in you”. To me, that doesn’t mean to be “on the defensive” as Christians. Yes, we must be sober minded. Yes, we will be attacked much. But we can stand for His truth and His love with a gentle spirit – relying upon the Holy Spirit to give us the words and the nudges as to when we should remain silent, or when we should speak up. Have I ever told you that I desire a gentle spirit? I so want to know what that looks like! This Italian/Irish girl struggles with this, friends. Will you pray for me? I need Jesus!

This has been what the Lord has been challenging me to learn more about lately – and I keep coming back to one thing:

Jesus is the source of all of it. Period.  

His word is the nourishing milk that leads us to know more of Him, to learn to love Him better, to make HIM be the only One we turn to for guidance in navigating these confusing and difficult times.

I don’t have this down or mastered, in case you haven’t guessed that one yet. I’m just walking along the road with Him by my side. There is so much I don’t see or understand about it all. There are so many shiny objects all around that distract me. There are darts and arrows coming our way – some of which are disguised as loving little zaps of happiness, false peace, or “good and right Christian behavior.” I often think that I am my own worst enemy at times – but I know better. It’s a conspiracy. We must know who our real enemy is. God reveals much about that for us in his word as well. We do well to study it, as He provided His word as well as the Holy Spirit to us for good reason.

But although I don’t trust myself, I DO trust in Him. One day at a time, sometimes moment by moment, He is with me to teach me and  help me see when I am being deceived. He removes the real enemy and the layers of trickery and deceit blocking my vision when I plead with Him to open my eyes and reveal where I am going astray. He sometimes teaches me through correction for mistakes I am making. Sometimes, He steps in before I screw up royally and spares me from impending heartache and pain.

But always, he saves me. He most often does so by helping me to cut through the muck and simply focus my gaze upon HIS beautiful face. Him and Him alone.

I love Jesus! I just wish I could love Him better, more, and as much as He is deserving of – and I fail, friends. It pains me, but I fail so utterly so often. Thankfully, he knows. Just like when my own children were little toddlers and were self-absorbed and throwing tantrums, never as a parent, did I feel “they just don’t love me.” We must remember that, because He is our Abba Father and He knows.

He knows.

He has already drilled holes through the conspiracy and its shoddy foundation. He has already made a place for us where we will no longer go through these experiences and where our fleshly desires and our humanity will stop getting in the way of loving Him best and eternally and wonderfully and beautifully.

May the Lord continue to teach us and guide us – so that we can truly shine His abundant light in the darkness. Sometimes we can go to such dark places….be surrounded by so much darkness, or be so aware of the darkness that resides in our own sinful little hearts, that our eyes start to adjust to the black. It becomes comfortable eventually, that dark place.

But it’s not supposed to be that way.

It can hurt when the light starts to pour back in. But we must open our eyes – we must pursue the light! It has to be done – even if we have to squint at first.

Let’s continue to ask Him to help us. Let’s continue to be the light. Yes…..

Even when it hurts.

The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. John 1:5

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Part of the Story about My Dad

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Hi Friends.

I have a story to tell you – not really a STORY, but something I really need to share with you today.

It’s about my dad. It’s about me. It’s a story about things that happen in our lives that form, change or solidify things that we value (or don’t) in life. It’s also about Jesus.

As always, it’s about Jesus.

Recently I felt the need to apologize to my face book friends, because I had found myself sharing not only big picture things about deception and corruption I see in our world but specific things about our current presidential candidates. That is not something that was coming across well, and it is probably largely because of two things:

  • My own anger and emotion was coming through.
  • All of us right now are feeling a bit emotional about this election in the United States and the candidates especially.

In light of that, I feel strongly that many of the folks who are on my face book and also read my blog should know a few things about me. I want for you to know where I was coming from.

BUT – I also do NOT want to minimize that I have still been in the wrong to allow my anger to seep in to what I share.

So please know that. This is about giving folks a little bit of insight that they may never have had before in regard to myself and what drives me to share things.

My father served in the United States Air Force for almost 20 years. He was dedicated to this country and the constitution, upholding the law, protecting us from evil things and corruption. He sacrificed a lot – including ultimately, his own life.

There were many things the man just could not tell us – and he told me that. There were also things he could tell me, later in life – because I too, worked for the government with a certain level of secret security clearance. The few things he COULD tell all of us hit us like a ton of bricks (it did me, at least). You could see it in his eyes how very important it was that we remember these things.

  • Things like what totalitarianism and dictatorships can mean for people.
  • Things about terrorists – their ideologies, philosophies and goals to destroy.
  • Things about the methods of Satan and all the very real things that enemy seeks to do to human kind.
  • Things that were going on even back then – under the surface – in our very own government – that our current President at the time was fighting AGAINST.

He taught us about the good things too. This was not a man led astray easily. He was (and I truly don’t say this just because he was my dad) BEYOND INTELLIGENT. He was wise. He sought after Jesus with all his heart, mind and soul. Like most of us, he had his times in which he became a bit lost – or couldn’t find a good church to attend, and even fell away a bit in his relationship with His Savior.

But he always came back. Especially toward the end of his life. He told me the last time that I saw him how very important Jesus was and our relationship to him. He told me that I might go through times that were extremely dark and difficult but to rely upon JESUS through it all. He told me that is the place he was in – after all he’d seen and experienced – and that he saw how easy it was to get caught up and grief stricken about the darkness we see around us.

He told me to always remember during those times the following two words: BUT GOD.

He had almost a photographic memory, so not much was lost on him. He looked at all sides of things and made up his own mind as to where he would stand firm for himself. He was not brainwashed. He carried experiences and things with him he couldn’t share with anyone close to him – only with Jesus.

So, I feel very strongly about a few things in regard to national security and especially terrorism. I feel strong feelings regarding corruption – in government and in other leaders in our world too. I won’t go into that at this time, but trust me – I have my reasons.  And they are SOLID.

But more so – I feel compelled at times to bring to the surface the things I see in the enemy – the real enemy – who hides in the shadows and tries to trick us. Always, Christ’s truth and love is what is most important to me. But sometimes we have to be willing to go deeper into the mud before we can free ourselves from the pit.

Lt. Col James Michael Basile was killed in El Salvador in 1987. Ironically, although he was working there to deal with some corruption issues and saw and dealt with first hand what the terrorists in central america were trying to do, he died on a routine rescue mission in a helicopter.

He was in his early forties.

Right before he died (a couple of months prior) he had come home to us in Panama for a rest. The man was despondent. He had just seen something horrific happen (due to terrorists) that I cannot even repeat here.

Friends of his died. Families broken. Human sensitivities to such things only can withstand so much. He was pretty tapped out.

But he still got up.

He got up and he showed up for all the normal little things we, his family were going through at the time. My brother’s graduation from high school. Some activities my other brother was involved in. Family time and family dinners.

Then he had to go back to El Salvador. Alone. And I could see the deep grief and sadness in  his eyes the morning he left.

That was the last time we got to see James, “Jimmy” Basile alive.

We all wrote a letter to him for Father’s Day that year. We each wrote a paragraph or two and mailed it to him from Panama, where we were living comfortably. This was one of the things that I was deeply worried and concerned about when we found out he died….

Did he get the letter and was it opened?

We did find out later that yes – it was in his apartment and was opened. I still have that letter today and treasure it.

This gives me peace and I believe with all my heart that it was a gift that God gave to me at the time.

My point is this – friends, we all have things that  have happened in our lives that we feel pretty emotional about. We have things that have formed, solidified, or utterly blown apart certain values we hold dear.

Some of us are called by Jesus to share His love and His truth. Sometimes the truth part as to what Jesus tells us is really going on all around us isn’t pretty or comfortable.

Jesus went all the way to the cross for that and more. But He did it IN LOVE.

BUT…..we are little humans. We are sinful creatures. It is easy for the enemy to sneak up on us and get us to focus on one thing more than the other.

  • The Ugly Truth OR….
  • The Beautiful Love.
  • OR the distorted truth and/or the distorted love – the counterfeit ones.

I say this a lot because I really mean it: When it comes to JESUS’ truth and love, it’s not  either/or. It is meant to be both/and.

But sometimes we have to choose to emphasize one over the other at certain times. That’s what listening to the Holy Spirit can do for us. That’s what being in tune with the Lord does – it helps us to discern whether to do both/and or either/or at just the right time.

The Holy Spirit, our Helper – helps us to know when we are falling off course and helps us to correct our footing. Also, we are helped to stand firm when needed if we only seek the Lord in prayer and lay it at HIS feet each and every day.

Right now, although I feel strongly that I am called by Jesus Christ to share BOTH His truth and His love, it is HIS, not mine. And if it becomes tainted with myself, my own “feelings” or anger, it’s time to listen to correction and change course.

And I am now moving into a place where He is asking me to share more about the love than anything else – without sacrificing His truth – not by any stretch of the imagination!

Always with and in HIS love.

At times the Lord puts it in my heart to get tough and share the things that aren’t so nice to hear, but are true. At times, He asks me to share nothing but encouragement and light. At times, He asks me to do both. But when my human sensitivities start to get in the way, that’s when it all just becomes corrupted by the enemy.

I told you in my post the other day – it’s a conspiracy. And often what I write about is something – a spiritual war I am waging myself, or a thing Christ is working on within me – right at that very moment.

  • It’s not because I am enlightened and “past” the attacks myself.
  • It’s not because I have some awesome wisdom or knowledge that others don’t have.
  • It’s not because I am on the other side of it and not waging the war myself.

It’s quite the opposite of these things I just listed in most of the things that I write, dear friends.

That’s the whole point. I write about what Jesus is showing me about these things in my own life and sometimes I feel He urges me to share it.

Right now, when I look around myself – I see things the way I think my dad did at certain times in his life. He dug deep. That man dug for gold in others around him and he also dug for truth – even when it wasn’t pleasant. He didn’t hide his head in the sand but he didn’t forget that we have to love one another at the same time that we seek the truth.

Of late, I have felt so strongly to share with others that Jesus tells us to remain watchful – because there will be so many coming in His name to deceive – because the enemy is walking around – prowling – waiting to devour.

What I see right now is that maybe once in a while I need to do quite the opposite at times such as these.

Maybe when I see how utterly deceived we are – we are soooooo being led astray – instead of sharing what I see, I am to share more of the light and the love again.

I don’t know. I am in prayer about it like I haven’t been about something in a long time.

BUT GOD –

But God will reveal Himself to us – those who seek Him – even in the ugly.

And for now? I have only to remember one thing if and when I am conflicted or in a place where it feels like I have to choose between truth and love:

It is both/and. But it needs to always be done in love.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part,  but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror;then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:4-13

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Look Each Time You Bite

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It may be hard to recognize false fruits for what they are, especially in these confusing times. But one of the reasons Jesus tells us to constantly be in communion, relationship and prayer with Him is because the more we know Jesus, the easier it is to discern truth from lies.

Satan is very deceitful. He knows that the Lord tells us we will recognize truth and those who follow Him “by their fruits.” He wants to confuse us and throw us off base. He is a counterfeit of Christ, friends. And he has refined his fake products and fruity, lucious goodies to the point it is very hard to see that they aren’t the real thing – the truly GOOD thing – unless we go deep below the surface and we seek the truth in the Lord.
Seek the truth in the Lord ~ 

  • Diligently.
  • Regularly.
  • And with a heart and desire to know JESUS.

In the process we can recognize our real enemy much easier. He is the antithesis of Christ and the fruit he provides for us to consume is rotten ~ to the core.

Do we really think that the enemy does not know what the Word of God says? Do we really think the enemy forgets that he needs to counterfeit GOOD fruit as well?

He is formidable, make no mistake about it.

BUT GOD!

God tells us clearly in His word that the more we press in to Him and our relationship with Him, the more we can see the real truth ~ HIS truth, for what it is.

We need that. We need discerning eyes and hearts and minds all the more at this juncture on planet earth.

So is it true? Pretty is what pretty does? Yes – if we are pure inside, it will shine through ~ it is true.

But not all outward beauty is inwardly beautiful and true. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

Many are pretending, friends. Many say all the right things and give us exactly what our itchy little ears want to hear. Many are also deceived – I know I find that I have been often. Usually I find out such things about myself only as the Lord helps me to see it – as I spend time in relationship with Him, He reveals such things to me.

I think it is so important to remember that all the time; that we can be deceived and that many others who are deceived may lead us down the wrong path if we are not careful.

Hint: It’s about more than politics. It’s a spiritual conspiracy.

So it is good to keep in mind that sometimes we still see what we think is good fruit, but if we dig a little deeper, we often see that it is rotten inside.

Again I say – But God!

We truly can trust in the Lord that He will guide us and lead us, friends. But we have to do our part as well. We must be active participants in our time spent with Him, in nurturing our relationship with Him, and in KNOWING JESUS.

Knowing Jesus makes things that are not of Him, all the more clear.

Just some thoughts that I had today as I did my devotions, and I wanted to share them with you.

Maybe we should check out the fruit – especially before we take a bite.

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every tree bears GOOD fruit, but the bad tree bears BAD fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Matthew 7:15-18

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The Biggest Conspiracy of All: It’s Way Deeper than “Politics”

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If you haven’t read it – or if you haven’t revisited it lately, I would urge you, my friends,  to read C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters.  Lewis’ work  paints a crisp portrait of how the enemy likes to work out his evil plans- and most importantly, it emphasizes for us the fact that the enemy (satan) is truly the author of confusion and the great divider.

Yes. The enemy wants to confuse us….in order to empty us. And he is waiting in the wings to provide his own evil and twisted refill services….

“It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.” C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
The enemy also wants to paralyze us – trap us in an intricate web and prison of his preference. He elevates feelings and sensations and makes our flesh scream. This is a key tactic in trapping the heart, the mind and the soul. Make us elevate how we feel to a level in which we become incapacitated, and in turn, we can no longer truly feel much of anything.
Apathy and Passivity is loved by the enemy….
“The more often he feels without acting, the less he will be able ever to act, and, in the long run, the less he will be able to feel.”
C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

He wants to distort the truth of God and force us into thinking “it’s all relative” when it comes to being true followers of Jesus Christ’s love AND truth. He wants to play with us and cause us to be “moderate” in regard to our love for Christ and our desire to seek after Jesus with all our “heart, mind and soul.” (Luke 10:27)

He is giddy when  he gets to do such things as this….

“A moderated religion is as good for us as no religion at all—and more amusing.”
C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

He uses our flaws that seem insignificant or not worthy of our full attention just as much, maybe even more sometimes, as when he uses those that have a firm grip on us to move us away from Christ and towards self (so he can pounce). 

He will stop at nothing, but is genius-level smart when it comes to choosing which way to play us.

The goal is to keep us on the road to hell and/or darkness and apart from the Lord and His light.  The favored tactic he employs to do so is to weave it around us very subtly sometimes, without us ever waking up to the fact that we are on a very dark walk….

It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”
C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Lewis said that he had to go to a very dark place to write the Screwtape Letters, but he felt it important to paint a picture of just how satan really weaves  his web of deceit. Many Christians are not called to do something like that – but some of us are. To me, it is just one way that Lewis “took up his own cross” to promote the gospel of Jesus – because for some of us (many), we are often misled by the circus of sin, temptation, and confusion that the enemy likes to use as his primary weapon to keep our focus off of Jesus.

I will admit it – I am no longer nervous or concerned to say it out loud:

I DO believe there’s a major conspiracy going on that is the foundation for all of the evil and corruption we see in the world. I don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to believe this.

The Bible tells us so – through and through.

And the enemy knows that some of us are on to him – so he has woven all other kinds of conspiracies into the picture so as to confuse us and layer a bunch of muck on top of the real and very ugly truth that lies beneath it all.

Recently, I have found that much runs through my head as I try to remember to not lose sight of who my enemy really is. We have to know our enemy. The one that is underneath all of the junk and pulling all the strings.

Know. Our. Enemy.

If we aren’t watchful, as Jesus admonishes us to be ~ if we dig our heads in the sand and forget to remember WHO THE ENEMY REALLY IS ~ he can and WILL sneak up on us. He will pull us down in the quicksand and attempt to bury us. He will attack. Make no mistake about it. And the more in love with Jesus we are, the harder he will try to defeat us.

Staying focused on Jesus is number one and of the utmost importance in the face of it all.

We have to know our Savior.

Know. Our. Savior.

Someone once said ” be careful what you pray for.” It has been one of my greatest and most consistent prayers in my pleadings with the Lord that He help me keep focused on HIM, but also help me to keep watchful and maintain a clear head about who the real enemy is.

It’s getting confusing out there, friends. Jesus told us it would. We can’t bury our heads in the sand to avoid it. The enemy is formidable and will TAKE US OUT if we do it.

But I for one, must remember that I am no match for the devil. I can not fight that part of the battle alone or for myself. This is where I get tripped up so often, because I feel such a strong responsibility to keep my eyes peeled that I can fall into a mode of self-reliance.

God’s got this. I have to take an active role in remaining watchful, but turn it over to HIM.

You see, Jesus is not a “match” for the wits of the enemy – HE IS FAR SUPERIOR! In every way you can imagine.

It is the truth. 

So much is thrown at us – each and every single day. The enemy is the true author of confusion. The enemy is the twister of truth and the mutilator of love. The enemy is a master at taking our eye off the ball – enticing us with a VERY GOOD counterfeit of the truth – and turning us against one another, and taking our eyes off of Jesus.

The hope is to divide us, and make us think that we are one another’s enemy. The work done to make this happen is carried out efficiently, masterfully, and diligently.

Relentlessly.

Maliciously.

And beyond gleefully.

After all, this is about life or death. Both for us, as well as for the enemy. And he knows he will be on the losing end of things at the end of it all – but he wants to take as many down with him as he possibly can.

You see, the enemy knows this and knows it all-too-well: This time we have in this earthly life is fleeting. The enemy knows that it will all pass away. He knows we will spend eternity somewhere, and he doesn’t want us to be with God.

The enemy wants us. And he won’t stop until Jesus finally puts it all to rest. It will happen, friends! And although Jesus has already won, our earthly and spiritual battle continues until such time that the Lord decides it’s time to be done.

We MUST NOT let down our guard!

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

But just as important as it is to know our enemy, it is even more important that we focus on Jesus. I find myself often going to one end of the spectrum or the other when it comes to this stuff, friends. It’s part of what the enemy likes to do to me to get me to move off base.

I either focus so much on seeing the enemy for who he truly is and what he is doing, that I forget my first love and forsake some of my time spent in relationship with my Savior, or I focus only on my comforting devotional and prayer time so as to avoid the ugly truth of what is happening all around and within me and get side swept by a land mine the enemy planted underfoot when I wasn’t looking.

Again I tend to think: It is not either/or. It is both/and.

  • We must put our time with Jesus first in our lives.
  • We must focus on Jesus and the truth and the promise that He has already conquered this.
  • We can’t throw caution to the wind either though, just as Jesus warns us about.
  • We ARE still living in this world and the enemy is the “prince of the air.”
  • We cannot fight the enemy without asking God to go in front of us.
  • God is faithful and true and will fight for and with us if we ask.

My prayer is that as we seek to place our focus intently on Jesus, we can know Him even better. The more close we are in relationship with our Savior, the easier it becomes to see sin for what it is in our lives and all around us. The more we focus on Jesus Christ, the easier it is to discern truth and that includes knowing who our real enemy is and being on guard.

  • We study our enemy not to know him better and have relationship with him, but to be “of sober mind.”
  • We are ACTIVE participants in working out our salvation every single day….our Christian walk.
  • And just as a soldier has to focus on the truth of why he is fighting for freedom in the first place, he can’t hide from the raw truth of the bullets and grenades that are being launched at him in the process.

Thanks be to God, that although our earthly fight and battle is not done, Christ has truly has already given us victory in that we can have eternal life if we trust in Him as our Lord and Savior.

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:57

If we can remember that, then I believe that ultimately the confusion the enemy throws our way will not fully penetrate our hearts and minds.

  • We can trust in God to help us to remember the promises outweigh the heartaches of this temporary battle we are in. We can trust in Him that he will not forsake us.He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber. Psalm 121: 3
  • We can trust in Him to help us when we feel downtrodden by looking the enemy in the face.“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.” John 14:1
  • We can trust that the Holy Spirit, as we seek the Lord’s will and remain in communion with Him, will caution us as to when to run into battle full throttle or retreat and regroup. “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. John 14:16-17

And above all….

  • May we strive to know our Savior better than we know anyone or anything else! And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. Matthew 22: 37

I personally, would covet your prayers as I endeavor toward this and fail so very often. I would ask for prayer that I can remain of sober mind, but not let the enemy cause me to focus upon him more than I focus upon Jesus Christ. And know that if you are reading this and you are struggling with either one of these things – knowing who the true enemy really is when things are getting confusing or challenging, and keeping your eyes focused upon Jesus Christ in the midst of it all – that  I am thinking of you also as I write this today. My prayers go out to you. My deepest prayers.

“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” Ephesians 6:11

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

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18

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Razzle Dazzle

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Razzle dazzle gather round

See our glitter, hear our sound

Pasty lady, white and glowing

All our thoughts; she is a sowing.

 

Razzle dazzle, see the lights

Fat cats abound; suck up our sight

Pretty sounds from lips instead

Backroom deals over our heads.

 

Never fear,  just love the razzle

Whilst your nerves they shall unravel

Twisting tummies; party dances

Molding minds through all their prances.

 

Look at the stage, it’s all a’ dazzle!

Round and round, the whirling frazzle

Morphed and moved by itchy ears

Here’s our pill to calm thy fears.

 

Razzle Dazzle ’round she goes

Where she stops nobody knows

In the glass house, they are all-seeing

“Let’s party, folks!” And break some ceilings.

The LORD enters into judgment with the elders and princes of His people, “It is you who have devoured the vineyard; The plunder of the poor is in your houses.” Isaiah 3:14

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God does not Abandon Us

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Look at history. Look all the way back to the beginning of it all.

Take a hard look, friends. Doing so will simplify matters when it comes to the root cause of all that is going on right now.

If you want to see the core, basic reason all of these terrible things are happening, looking back does boil it down for us –  a lot.

  • The matter itself – all the violence in our society – all the heartbreak and tragedy – not simple.
  • The layers of intricate webbing around everything – making discernment beyond difficult, making what course of corrective actions to take near impossible – hiding the truth and illuminating all the lies – they are THICK. Not simple.
  • The barriers we have built around our hearts and minds – they are formidable. Not simple.

But the core truth of what ails us has always been the same. It just manifests itself differently throughout history and all time.

It comes from the heart.

It comes from the fallen nature of man. It comes from the enemy of Christ. And the true enemy is an ever-changing chameleon-like-wizard who is pulling our little strings as he chuckles and laughs in the most evil way imaginable all the while.

  • The enemy’s tactics? Not simple.
  • Recognizing the enemy in the middle of all the distractions and obstacles he places in our way? Not simple.
  • Remembering who the true enemy is instead of turning on one another and abandoning God? Not always simple.

So we are just to turn our eyes upon Jesus in the midst of it all – right? Yes! So easy, yet so complicated at the same time, it seems.

Friends. God does not abandon us. We abandon God.

I have yet to hear anyone in our world or society really talk about the REAL root cause of all this escalation of violence and hatred. I hear lots of other things, most of which are true contributing factors.

But we keep leaving the most important thing out: JESUS.

  • It’s about failure of leadership and corruption from the top down in the government ~ True.
  • It’s about the subtle, yet consistent dividing rhetoric we hear from aforementioned leadership and the way it has now permeated all of society ~ True.
  • It’s about the roots in slavery and white supremacy or corruption within our police departments ~ True.
  • It’s about people living under the victimization mentality and the “let’s blame everyone else instead of changing our hearts” mindset. True.
  • It’s about the self-driven, give-me-what-I-want-right-now, and hypocritical and finger pointing attitudes ~ True.

I could go on and on and on when it comes to the list of all the true things that are happening right now that we all think contributes to all this CRAP.

But they aren’t the heart of the matter. To say that any one of those or a combination of them is, is NOT TRUE. And if we ignore that piece, we will not see things truly change. They will only get worse.

Again – that piece is that we have removed Jesus. And we need to place the ownership squarely where it should be – on us.

God does not abandon us. We abandon God.

We like to say we haven’t, but as a society here in the United States and in much of the rest of the world, the reality is that we have.

  • We may talk about Him.
  • We may SAY we are Christians. And some of us may be.
  • But we don’t, for the most part, consider Him the center of it all. We may call upon Him as our Savior, but have failed to make Him our LORD. We have become our own god.

How’s that going for us, I ask you?

The simple truth really is just that, dear friends. We have taken over and are now placing our little butts smack in the middle of the driver’s seat. And there are too many of us drunk driving out there right now.

That is a recipe for deadly disaster. Utterly deadly.

Our problems run deep in America – true.

But if we could come back to this one simple truth about our need for Jesus, and live it, we would actually have a chance to co-exist on this earth a while longer and reach out more to others who don’t know Him as their Lord and Savior yet.

God does not abandon us. We abandon God.

We have totally lost sight of who the true enemy is. We are turning against one another and Satan is laughing harder than he maybe ever really has. He is playing with us like little puppets and having a great time doing it. The strings have become all intertwined and knotted up and the puppets are in disarray. It’s getting darker and uglier and more damage is being done on an escalated and daily basis. The puppet show is about to come to an end.

But God.

God will allow us to go our own way and take Him out of everything if that is what we choose. He will not force us. But nowhere in the Bible does it say that Satan operates the same way.

Nowhere.

What God does: Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20

What the ugly enemy does: Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

Today, I pray that we would come back to the simple truth of Jesus. That is simply that if we truly turn to Him, He is faithful.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6

There are those who won’t bring God back into the center of their lives or even invite Him in at all ~ and Jesus tells us clearly to expect that, friends. He warns us to be watchful and take heart that He is still with those of us who truly follow after Him with all our hearts.

The disciples were concerned as to how we would know when He would be returning – He tells us clearly in Matthew 24…

And it isn’t pretty.

He calls it like it is and tells us the “sorrows” we shall see before He returns are akin to birth pains – contractions that move closer and closer together.

And those hurt.

  • “And then many shall be offended and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.” Matthew 24:10
  • Because of the increase in wickedness, the love of many will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Matthew 24: 12-13
  • Watch out that no one deceives you; for many will come in my name claiming ‘I am the Messiah’ and will deceive many.Matthew 24:4-5

But in spite of knowing this truth, friends – we can’t give up. Our hope is in Jesus Christ and He has work for us to do while we still remain here until His return.

We that follow after Jesus Christ with all that we have – We that have made Him and only Him our One Lord and the center of our lives – We have a responsibility and a privilege, really, to shine His light in the midst of this darkness.

  • The light may seem dim.
  • It may seem insignificant.
  • But a little bit of God’s light (not our own) does a lot for those who feel trapped in a lonely and isolated and completely dark, dank cave.

We as true Christians are not going to save the world. We can’t save ourselves with our own devices. We can’t even totally cleanse our own hearts and minds.

Only God does that.

But we can fix our eyes upon Jesus as we watch the things He told us would happen before He returns unfold. We can fix our eyes upon Him and be His vessels for truth and love in the middle of a puppet show gone mad.

We can share the good news with others!

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only son that whomever should believe in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

And how do we get through these increasingly dark and wicked times while we wait for our Lord’s return?

We remember this….

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Revelation 21:3-6

Because this is what is coming.

HE IS COMING BACK FOR US!!!!!

Soon and very soon.

  • Let us wait upon the Lord and be His light in a world that can sometimes be so very dark.
  • Let us watch for Him and pay attention to what is happening around us, but keep our eyes fixed upon Him through it all.
  • And let us make certain that we are confident that we have made the right decision – the right choice – JESUS CHRIST.
  • And if we aren’t sure, let us put the time into thinking about it very seriously once again.

It’s too big of a deal to sweep to the wayside, friends.

It’s the only way we can get through it all.

It’s the one way we can cling to God rather than allowing Him to be completely removed from our society and world.

It’s the most important decision each individual can ever make.

I pray that if you haven’t made yours, that you will do so. Today.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become  children of God. John 1:12

Because if you do? He will never abandon you.

God does not abandon us. Not EVER.

“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8

 

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What If?

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What If?

…..We remembered that we are royalty because of Jesus AND we have many friends that are as well?

What If?
…..We wore our crowns every single day, not to be prideful in or about ourselves, but to celebrate – and to invite others who don’t know that they are even invited, man!
(Yes, we shall boast in Christ.)
What If?
…..We remembered – that when the enemy tries to confuse us and fool us, when that ugly one tries to drag us down and condemn us – simply to LOOK UP – and help others to do the same.
What If?
…..We remember that when we or others around us are so downtrodden, they may not be able to GET UP, but we can come alongside them, sit right down next to them, and help them to lift their eyes to Jesus.
What If?
…..Someone’s crown has fallen off – and we can see it. Are we going to pick it back up? Are we going to show up for that person, crown in hand – and help them to remember?
What If?
What If?
What If?
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9
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God sees right through the Bubble

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This one’s going to be hard to articulate, so I ask you to bear with me as I attempt to put into words what has been on my mind and in my heart these past few weeks.

It’s about living in our protective and self-made bubbles. It’s about avoidance, friends. It’s about withdrawing, forgetting, ignoring, and self-protecting. It’s about closing our eyes.

It’s about selfishness. Pure, utter and total selfishness.

Yes. This is going to be another one of those blog posts. And I get to talk about it, because I am a prime offender. I can’t speak for you, but I can tell you that I like my little feel-good bubbles. I like them way to much and I often do everything in my power to avoid having them popped wide open.

I like to be comforted. And I often look to my own devices to find those soft and fluffy things that will make me feel good. It’s a fact.

And although it is not always wrong to seek comfort and regroup, to care for ourselves so we can be better for others, our motivation behind it is what is important.

  • Are we trying to run from something, or are we moving TOWARDS God?
  • Are we becoming so comfortable that we never come back out again?

These are the burning questions on my mind lately.

So, before you get to this next part, please keep in mind that this is not a political post. This is not just about refugees or people hurting in other parts of the world.

This is about the state of humanity all around us and inside of us! It is about how we don’t want to look at the ugly and how we think somehow, that by closing our eyes to it, we can escape it.

So this came across my news feed the other day on face book – and it reminded me, friends. It reminded me about the bubble – the dangerous bubble of self-protection we often live inside of and guard with all that we have.

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You see, he reminded me ~ this little boy reminded me. What he expressed deep from within his sincere little heart right before he died brings back  home (it never should have left) the truth ~ the OPPOSITE of what our world and our modern culture tells us is the actual truth.

  • We are NOT to live for ourselves.
  • We are NOT to close our eyes to the suffering all around us.
  • There ARE and WILL be consequences for everything humanity is doing against humanity, and ultimately, against GOD.

And this little boy is telling on us.

GOOD FOR HIM!

I think about Jesus and how He was when he walked this earth alongside of us. I think of how although he often retreated to the mountains or the quiet places to spend time with His Father in prayer, He then immediately immersed Himself among the lost, the suffering, the left out and the shunned.

Jesus didn’t avoid looking suffering right in the face. Not the suffering of others around Him, and not the suffering He took upon HIMSELF.

No. Jesus is not about avoidance of the ugly. Jesus IS about the hope and beauty that only HE can bring about as He steps inside of our ugly mess and pulls us up, up, up.

Ugly stuff ain’t got nothing on the power of Jesus Christ, friends.

And Jesus sees right through our “protective” little bubbles – the ones we like to think hide us from the bad and uncomfortable stuff and even from His divine and mighty view. You know these bubbles well, I’m sure. The’re those things we use to prevent anyone from seeing the pain and ugly within ourselves.  They’re the little things we try to tell ourselves will shield us from things that might drag us down.

We think they are our friends, but they’re just big, fat fakers. Masters of illusion. Liars.

He sees inside and He is telling us that there is a time to come out.

There is a time to burst out of the bubble and rejoin the living – the ugly of it and the beauty of it, friends.

All of it.

There comes a time to rejoin – the reality in life – to look it full in the face and soak up the whole of it.

  • The beauty.
  • The ugly.
  • The heartache, joy and pain.

But it’s hard. It is so hard to open our eyes and come out of our cocoons of self protection, isn’t  it? It feels so warm and soft inside and out there – well, it’s cold and harsh, man.

It’s challenging for any of us to do this – especially when the world tells us the opposite of truth:

You have to look out for number 1.

You must stay positive above all else.

Remove negative forces from your life and immediate environment – that is the true mark of a healthy human being.

Don’t tolerate negativity or stuff that just drags you down.

Self matters. 

Self matters.

SELF MATTERS!

I find it especially difficult because of my health and the nature of my Fibro – people often ask me why I spend so much time studying world events and news when it’s just so negative! I do so because I am somewhat trapped inside of my home due to my condition – trapped from going to be a part of things that are too overwhelming for my senses and my nervous system. I don’t want to go completely dark while I am not able to go “out” into the world as much as I could before I had the Fibro.

I don’t want to lose complete touch with what is going on in the “outside” world.

I find that the Lord gives me a peace about having to look the ugly full in the face as I watch the news, read about world events, and compare these things with what He tells us in the Word.

I don’t like to see the suffering, friends – but I see the good in how the Lord uses this to remind me it’s NOT ALL ABOUT ME.

But I have to be careful, just like anyone else does – that in “managing” my Fibromyalgia, I don’t end up staying in the cocoon all the time. I have to be willing to venture out and take risks so I don’t get caught inside the bubble of health management. It’s a hard one, I tell ya – and it bothers me. I need prayer over this matter, for sure.

There is so much outside of our own little world – our own bubbles, so to speak – the ones we create for ourselves or the ones that circumstance lays upon us. Sometimes we can’t burst out all the way due to things like health issues, living in a remote location, or being in a place and time in your life where you are somewhat stuck where you are for right now.

But the Lord has given us so many ways to stay connected – even in the midst of such limitations.

When I look the ugly full in the face – when I look at the suffering I see around me – it’s only a microscopic picture of what is really happening, I know. And even that small amount is so-very-unpleasant.

  • It’s tempting to avoid it.
  • It’s easier to run from it.
  • It’s “better for us” to take care of ourselves and surround ourselves ONLY WITH those things that make us feel good.

But when we do that, we miss out on all God has for us.

When we do that, we don’t get to see the way Jesus works His divine wonders through even the ugly and the dark, the suffering and the pain, the seemingly insurmountable circumstances and state of the dark side of humanity and darts and arrows of the enemy.

We don’t get to truly appreciate the triumph and saving grace of the Lord if we don’t look it ALL full in the face.

So today I am reminded:

  • I am reminded of how when something dark and sad pulls deep within me and tugs at my heart in ways that hurt – that literally hurt – Jesus is there.
  • I am reminded of the fact that the Lord came to save the lost and LOVED US ENOUGH TO DIE FOR US even while we were still sinners.
  • I am reminded that Jesus never tries to avoid looking at the suffering for His own sake, rather, meets us right there and looks it full in the face with us.

The state of the world can be depressing if we lose sight of that – if we rely upon how things are going as our true indicators of how Jesus works and moves in mighty ways, we shall be lost.

We shall spiral down the staircase that leads to nothing but death, utter hopelessness and despair.

BUT…………

If we look full in the face the reality of the world – the horrid things that happen to us and to others in their suffering and REMEMBER WHAT JESUS CAME FOR – we will know.

  • We will know that ONLY HE can save us.
  • We will know that although sad and terrible, these things are part of what He said would happen as the time draws near for His return.

We will remember and we will know.

  • We will know, just as this sweet little boy in the photo above knew – all the way up to his last breath:

We can tell it all to God.

God IS there for us, in spite of how much evil there is in this world.

He has NOT forgotten us.

And our real home is with Him.

Little boy didn’t get the option of staying inside a bubble of comfort – quite the opposite is true. And now?

  • Little boy is not crying any more.
  • He is no longer suffering.
  • He is home in his eternal and beautiful home with Jesus.

He knew that he was going and he knew that God would be welcoming him home soon and very soon after this photo was taken.

And he’s telling it all to God!

Little boy’s earthly life was taken from him – but he is telling God everything. Just as God asks us to do. And now, no one can take life from him ever again. Praise God!!!!!!

  • No one can take his joy from him now.
  • No one can inflict suffering upon him now.
  • He has the ear of the Lord right there with him now – and for always.

Thanks be to God. No more need for bubbles.

THANKS BE TO GOD!

Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. John 16:20-22

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In Spite of the Thickets and the Thorns

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In the past two weeks, my devotions have been permeated by one main theme: In our trials and suffering, if we always remember to look up to the Lord, we will receive a reward that trumps the ugly of our situation.

That’s really the whole theme of this blog and I find it interesting that I am learning even more about what that really means – what it really means to look up in SPITE of all that clouds our vision here on earth. To look up in the face of intense opposition. To look up when our heads keep getting yanked back down. Just to keep looking UP.

But I don’t mean looking up in the way that the world does. The world tells us to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and get a good attitude. The world tells us to have a positive outlook and believe in ourselves so we can change our circumstances. The world tells us it’s  about mind over matter, motivation and willpower. The world tells us we can choose happiness and health no matter what.

The world tells us it all hinges upon US. The world tells us to look up to OURSELVES.

No. That’s not working for me – it never has. I have to seek Jesus and His face so HE can work all things together for my good. Only He can do that. My looking doesn’t even make that happen – it’s just the mere part that I play in it all.

Seeking HIM. Looking to HIM.

  • To look up to HIM – the only One who offers clarity.
  • To look up to HIM – even when all we want to do or feel that we can do is to hang our heads low.
  • To keep our eyes wide open and seek Jesus in everything – because He’s there in the midst of it all if we only search after Him.

We don’t often find ourselves ardently searching for His face in times of joy and ease. Sure, we can praise Him through the beauty of a time unmarked by pain, suffering, or difficulty. But for me – I find that when I have to look  harder, and I finally can fix my eyes upon HIM – He cuts through the cloudy and the murky and the junk – He cuts through it like a sharp blade and emerges…..CLEAR.

He gives me a point of focus through all that is murky and beyond my ability to endure alone.

But it’s not easy.

  • It’s not easy for us to look to Him when we don’t feel like it.
  • It’s a daunting thing to search for His face in what can seem like a forest of obstacle courses that have been set up with the intent to not only derail us, but maybe even wound us beyond repair.

And when it gets really hard for me – I focus upon Jesus and the many times He looked up in the face of insurmountable obstacles.

In the Garden of Gethsemane…

In the dark….

Surrounded by trees and very, very alone.

Knowing. Knowing what is about to come…

And He still looked up.

He looked up in the midst of an excruciating pain and blunt and brutal knowledge of the cup He was about to have to drink of in a mere few hours.

And I think of my Jesus upon that cross…

When not only gravity and the relentless pain and torture inflicted upon His body was pulling Him down…down….down, but also the spiritual pain and torture He must have endured that screamed out to him relentlessly….”give up already – they aren’t worth it.

And He still looked up.

Jesus looks up while upon that cross and He cries out!!!

He looks to the Father even in the face of having all the sin of the world resting on Him.

In that moment and in every moment, Jesus always looks up.

So can we.

Is there something in your life right now that makes you feel like all you can do is hang your head low? Do you find yourself seeking after the Lord, but unable to find Him? Would you please keep looking up in spite of it all? Would you have faith that He will show up, even if it’s not in the way that always feels good or removes your trial or thorn from your life? He is our Almighty and Loving Father, friends.

He wants what is best for us. Even if we don’t always understand it, He will work all things together for our good in the midst of our challenges, sufferings, even our sin. Our “job” is only to seek Him in the middle of it all. And obey if He asks something of us.

Just like Jesus did that day on the cross and every day – every. single. day.

No – The cup was not removed from Jesus, friends. But oh! What happens now for an eternity by far surpasses that horrific suffering that He endured.

For us.

Jesus looked up for us.

And He yearns for us to look up and seek His beautiful face. Every day.

Sometimes the days feel like weeks when we go through them living with these thorns that we cannot remove. Sometimes we wonder when it will all end or if we will ever have an answer as to exactly why it all had to happen in the first place. But we can trust in Him that He has us right where He wants us. We can work through our anger, our disdain, our confusion as we look up to Him for His peace, His comfort and His joy in the middle of it all.

Sometimes it’s the only way to embrace beauty in the midst of the ugly anyway.

  • He is always beautiful.
  • He is always faithful.
  • And He promises if we set our eyes upon Him, it will always be better than hanging our heads down low or resorting to our own inadequate devices.

I don’t have to feel great about this stuff that makes my days feel like weeks and my weeks feel like years. I don’t have to love my pain or my suffering. But I can be thankful in the midst of it all that I know that one day – one glorious day – I will be with my Savior for all eternity. And there – in that blissful place – there will be no more suffering. 

And we will always see His face. We won’t have to look long and hard and search through the thickets and the thorns. All of this will be a blur by then.

And we shall walk in the light and the love of our Lord and Savior forever more.

To You I lift up my eyes, O You who are enthroned in the heavens! Psalm 123:1

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