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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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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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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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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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

Gethsemane

 

Stormtrooper

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A storm is coming. My pain is rising.

I feel the anxiety rising up in the pit of my stomach. I try to run. I try to hide. Then I make my feeble attempts to move into a place of accepting it.

But the body fights – it fights for its rights.

All to no avail.

So I stop trying and just….exist. I just commit to exist in the midst of it. All expectations must be thrown out of the window – smashed. Except for one.

I won’t do this alone. I will NOT do it alone! And that’s not because of my own expectation, but because of a promise made by Christ Himself.

He will meet me here. He will draw near.

My heart is crying out along with every fiber of my body and being. Not only does my heart cry, but real tears stream down my face throughout these last 24 hours. How much longer? How much longer, God?

These are the times.  These are the times that make me realize that the DAILY pain I have ALL THE TIME with Fibro, is nothing compared to the stuff that jumps off the scale when there’s a weather situation or an illness on top of it all that exacerbates it. I can live with that stuff (the day to day aches and pains), and still offer something of myself to others; experience a good mood even though it is a wicked little thorn in my side that never leaves.

But THIS.

“Don’t you know, Jesus – don’t you know that THIS is where I draw the line? I have to deal with the daily crud of Fibro and I don’t like it, but I’ve been a good girl and I suck it up. I seek you in the midst of it all. But why do I have to deal with THIS on top of it all. It’s not fair.”

Jesus didn’t draw a line with regard to how much suffering HE was willing to endure, now did He?

Ha Ha. Silly little girl.

Gut wrenching, bone crushing, deeeeep, deeeep pain.

Practical paralyzation – just bad enough to make EVERY SECOND excruciating to get through, but not bad enough to be given a pass not to do life – work, tasks, chores. That little tidbit right there?  THAT is one of the WORST PARTS ABOUT FIBRO! Or – is it a blessing? Got me!

But then there’s this one too…..

Attacks from the ugly enemy.

“this is nothing compared to what Christ did for you. Why are you compaining? There are people out there suffering far worse than you. Why don’t you just pull yourself up from your bootstraps little girl and persevere for once? Geez. What a little baby.”

I long for rest. I want to run, but there’s no where to hide. It’s inside of me and I can’t get away from it, friends. I have no choice but to move through the pain. One ugly and long, drawn-out second at a time. Each hour seems like an entire day. Each day seems like a long, bad, drawn out week.

Where’s the end? Where’s the destination? Where’s the party, yo?

Vice grip, trapped in concrete. Unable to move to the left or the right. Even being still comes with its own level of crushing pain.

I want my mom! Oh yah – she’s in heaven with Jesus. I’m happy for her. I really am.

But what about ME!!!!

Are we at the peak yet? When will we move down the other side of this evil bell curve? I’m ready for the fall, because after its done, it spells a semblance of relief. Right?

We are going to get off the ride eventually, right?

Can Jesus just meet me here in the midst of it all? Do you think its possible that He would?

Will you, Lord? Will you bring me peace through the pain? Will you carry me through these excruciating moments, minutes, days in which this suffering wreaks havoc through my body? Will you massage my soul and my mind that is growing weary as I trudge through this? Will you pour Your grace out upon me – more of it, even though I am stamping my feet right about now?

A storm is coming. My pain is rising.

My heart is crying out along with every fiber of my body and being.

Gut wrenching, bone crushing, deeeeep, deeeep pain.

And a peace –

And a joy –

And a comfort provided by the only One who can offer it.

The Great Physician.

My Almighty Savior.

The One and Only Divine Healer of all our hurts, all our pain.

My Lord Jesus Christ – He shows up in the storm and through the rubble it leaves as we move through it. He clears the path.

And through this, I shall know Him better.

Through this ugly, His glory shall be made manifest.

This I know.

I look to YOU, Lord. I see you clearly even when my eyes are closed. I can see you when I am in the middle of the darkness, inside the tunnel when it seems there’s no way out. I can see you even on the roller coaster ride that is spinning my head and blurring my vision. I can see you, Lord!!!

And I know that YOU see me.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Romans 8:18

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. …1 Peter 4: 12-19

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Paradoxical and Perfect Peace

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Should I even share and write about this right now? I really don’t know, friends. But something (someOne) is whispering inside (thank you, Holy Spirit) ~ and He tells me that I should.

Why? Because when we feel raw, if we can share with vulnerability, God does some magnificent work.

Magnificent God.

There are some very raw thoughts that run through my mind of late. These are the slings and arrows of the enemy. They are the attacks, relentless ones, that are coming at me constantly. They are also the work of the Lord inside my mind and heart – those things can hurt too, you know. No one ever promised the Christian walk would be a bed of roses.

“Follow Me”. ~ Jesus

Most of you have experienced the same kind of battles and tough refinement in certain seasons of your life. If you have read this blog for any period of time now, you know that mine (battles and growth in Christ) have been as pervasive as the illness that I carry around with me.

Some of those “thoughts”……

Why, every which way I turn, do I feel like I am alone when it comes to finding ways to improve my health? I know it isn’t true – but I still feel it. A lot.

Why? Why do I beat my own self up even more with self-condemnation and guilt when I feel a bit sad and sorry for myself sometimes that I have to contend with this beast of an illness? I know that I don’t operate through my daily living with an attitude of self-pity – I just have moments in which the grief overwhelms me. Shouldn’t that be okay? Yes. Yes it should. (or should it?)

Why? Why can’t I just focus on all of the beautiful blessings God has brought about in my own little life in spite of the ugly of this illness? Even the illness (suffering, I guess we could call it) has strengthened my faith. It has been a gift, in a way – as much as it is a royal pain to live with. This has truly been one of the most ironic and paradoxical things I have ever experienced, because it is not a one-time thing, rather a continual paradox that I live and walk and breathe in daily. And it hurts at the same time that it helps. I am weary.

Why? Why do I not find myself actually celebrating that more often? Why, more often than not, when I think on these things, I find myself knowing the good stuff to be true- but I don’t feel the good stuff? I know it’s not all about feelings. But I am ready for the cycle of grief to stopI am ready to move into full-on acceptance and out of the sadness stage. But God determines what I’m ready for, and when, friends. God determines that. Because He is God.

Be still and know that I am God.

So, even with all of these thoughts and all of this heart work going on, and as my cup seems to drain down to mere droplets physically, mentally and emotionally, Jesus fills it back up with more of Himself. I am alive – more than ever before – in the way it truly matters. My body may be crumbling, the vitality of good health may never return, but I am alive in Christ Jesus! This is the truth.

“I am the truth and the life.” ~ Jesus

But for now, I am still here on earth, so I get to deal with my sad and tattered daily baggage. It’s heavy baggage on the back, seeping into the heart and mind, and seemingly exacerbating my condition.  I’m ready to dump it, Lord. Problem is, something seems to fill it back up daily and I have the dump process to go over again the next day. Because I’m a sad little human.

But I am also a child of the One, True King!

“I Am.” ~ Jesus

I would like to be able to say I still hope for better health, but aside from my hope in the Lord that He can do anything if He wants to, I don’t hold out much hope for that. Sure. I will do all that I can to improve things – but I kind of feel like I’m in the place right now where I vacillate between just accepting stuff, which then turns into me feeling even worse physically – and simply fighting all the time – which causes conflicts, and pining away for things that I think will help me that may not. I find myself walking a fine and dangerous line between becoming content in my current circumstances, and simply giving up and throwing in the towel.

This is its own kind of battle, and probably the one that I am most weary of at this point.

I’m tired of this battle, friends.

I so badly want to be able to embrace my current circumstances in a way that would bring glory to God that I can taste it! Yet fear of giving up and not trying for better health attacks me. I start to believe that we are losing when I think this way. But often, God’s glory shines even more through what seems like loss and human failure.

To think that I need to do “better” in helping God to bring about His glory through my little circumstances has quite an arrogant ring to it, doesn’t it? God doesn’t need my help. He’s got all the right stuff.

“Trust in God – Trust also in me”. ~ Jesus

And, as weary of the battles that I find myself becoming, I’m also grateful for the victories that Christ brings about in the midst of this never-ending war.

It’s not either/or. It’s both/and.

And that’s a weird, yet glorious place in which to find yourself. It’s an ugly, yet beautiful thing. It’s a frustrating, yet peace-inducing experience. And all of  it goes on and on and on and on. It’s a place in which there is truly no control we can claim to have.

Yes. This is surrender, friends.

And do you know what else?  I think that there are so many things that make surrender so hard for us – we talk about them all the time. But one of them that I haven’t shared about much is one that resonates greatly for me today as I write this:

Perception and false expectations.

I can’t speak for you, but for me, I have always had some distorted version of what a person feels like after they surrender. See, that implies that although you appear to be losing the battle, at least you are D-O-N-E.

But you aren’t.  😦

What happens after you surrender can be more difficult that the battle was in some ways. It’s its own kind of weird and difficult. But thanks be to God that He knows what He is doing. He is in all of it!

Sovereign God.

Thanks be to God that He will never forsake us and He will get us through.

Thanks be to God that no matter how weary we may become with this perpetual battling and cycle after cycle of surrender, He will show up and He will take the baggage and give us a reprieve.

Thanks be to God that He will bring about His glory through our sufferings and failures as well as our victories. They all come from Him anyway.

They are His.

Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. ~ Jesus

Thank you for the reprieves, Lord. No one ever promised that I should get to have one, but I am sure glad that You deem them important in my life. Thank you for making all things beautiful and new. Thank you for being able to bring about YOUR glory, even in our weakness, our sin, or our ugly stuff.

And I will accept. I will accept what I don’t want to accept, because only YOU get to determine if it’s time for a new or different season for me regarding health.

You know me well enough to know that I will struggle with this surrender and acceptance thing again tomorrow – probably even later today. But I want you to know that I will always come back to surrender, even when I fight like a kicking and screaming brat at times.

And I will only be able to do so because of YOU.

Gracious God.

I know you will be there, Jesus. I know you are here. Will you help my friends know the same? If they don’t feel You near today, will You help them? Will you wrap Your loving arms around them?

  • So, yes. Today I feel raw and vulnerable. Maybe you do too.
  • Yes. Today I find tears of grief streaming down my face for the good health I used to experience, but never really appreciated fully.  Do you?
  • Yes. Today I find myself moving back and forth between sorrow, yet joy in the knowledge that God is doing great things through this thorn in my side – not just in me, but in others around me. Do you also, friend?

It’s about His will being done in our lives. We have to trust Him and surrender it ALL to Him. And we can cry out to Him when it’s hard for us. Because He understands.

Faithful God.

  • I want to hang on so badly to my own desires to have my health back. Do you?
  • I want to hang on to some idea of “happiness” that isn’t really what it’s supposed to always be about for us. Don’t you?
  • I want to hang on to false hope, if I’m really honest. Because I’m human. Because I’m sinful. And because it FEELS SO GOOD. How about you?
  • But I know – I know that my true hope lies in Jesus Christ and Him alone. Do you? 

I pray that all of my friends do – that you DO know this.

“I am the true vine.” ~ Jesus

Our true hope lies in eternity spent with Jesus Christ; where there will be no more tears, no more sorrow, no more suffering. That doesn’t make it a lot easier in some ways to deal with our earthly sorrows, but it does make it better in the sense that this is the WORST IT WILL BE!!! (this earthly stuff we contend with).

It only goes “up” from here once we leave this earth – if we truly follow after Jesus and have accepted His gift of salvation.

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

May you press deeply into the hope you find in Jesus, dear friend.  If you are struggling in any way today with surrender or sorrow, cry out to Him and look up and see Him in all His glory.

And may He give you PEACE.

 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying,“Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”  Revelation 21: 1-5

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Sin: How I Know It is Our “Natural” Tendency

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Sin is a part of this earthly life – it is inevitable. But we don’t have to leave it at that.  God asks us NOT to accept that inevitability – quite the contrary.

Some people may find it hard to believe that we are born into sin. And some Christians may find it hard to believe that it’s still a part of our lives even after we have fully given ourselves over to Jesus. And then there are those who feel that Christians think they are now perfect and that because they have been saved from sin through Jesus, it means that they don’t struggle with it any more.

But I don’t. I don’t find it hard to believe at all.

Not any more.

Deeep down inside – we have all the makings of someone who WILL sin. It’s inevitable. And a lot of it has to do with the power of the flesh. The question is – do we accept that inevitability and simply embrace it? It’s a perfect excuse, after all.

  • This is just who I am….
  • Well, at least I’m being honest.
  • I’m going to be true to myself and focus on the good parts about me.

No, No, and N-O!

A lot has to do with the flesh and the things it will seek for its satisfaction. The desires of the flesh are strong. Sometimes, even stronger than we may realize.

Add in the layers of the workings of the mind, the heart, and all the twisty-turny-jumbled-up-type stuff that starts to complicate our inner workings as we walk through this world, and you have a perfect set up for sin.

I may have to accept that it is in my nature to sin, but I won’t accept it remaining there. It will be eradicated one way or another. But it’s best to ask the Lord to help us to deal with the ugly little monster. This is what is called sanctification. And it’s imperative to lay hold of this very important part of what God wants to do in us (daily) as true followers after Jesus Christ.

Pssst: Sanctification hurts. But so does sin. One ends in walking hand-in-hand with the Lord. The other is an empty and dark path laced with loneliness. Except for the devil. And he likes to pose as a fair-weather frenemy.

But people don’t like the word sin. We conjure up images of hell fire and brimstone, of people being judged and burned at the stake, of bullies who sit in judgement of others and their hearts and making decisions as to whether or not they are really saved.

And sometimes, those who shout “SINNER” are doing just that.

But I have learned what sin really is and what it really means. Sin is simply anything that falls short of the perfection of God. That’s most stuff, friends.

That’s most stuff.

None of us is perfect. None of us is God.

But here is what makes me really and truly know that sin is a part of human nature. It’s the fact that even if you have worked with the Lord to move away from a sin that had a grip on you at one time in your life, sometimes, you can pine away for the feeling that sin brought about for you.

Your mind can be tempted to glorify the good parts of that sin and even long for it lustfully.

We over-compartmentalize it and we discard the parts of it that made it sin in the first place and remember the “benefits” that it brought to us at one time.

And that is the work of the enemy, right there.

Here are some ways it happens to me at times, and I will share it the way the words and thoughts actually run through my crazy little head! Keep in mind, that these are things that ended up being sin in my own life – and maybe they aren’t causing sin in your own if you do some of them, K? Okay.

“Boy, oh boy – I sure am glad the Lord delivered me and saved me from alcohol. But, WOW, did that stuff ever WORK! It took the pain away – I wasn’t really getting drunk, per se…..just taking the edge off. I can see why people (including myself at one time) get stuck on that stuff. Too bad it can be so evil and take hold of a person like it does. If I am really truthful, I would say I wish I could  drink sometimes.

Man….I really wish I could just tell that person to take a flying leap of a high cliff. Maybe it would actually HELP them for someone like me to stand up to them and give them a taste (a hefty gulp) of their own medicine.

I hate that person inside right now – my heart is turning black right this very moment and I can feel it. They are being mean to me and I don’t care about all the other good stuff about them or their circumstances or about seeking to truly love them in the midst of all this. I just want them to be nice to me and if they won’t, I want to be angry and bitter. Period.

See? There is sin, and there is temptation to love and glorify parts of that sin. We don’t have to act upon those things, but if they are creeping across our thoughts and trying to edge into our hearts, we have to turn that stuff over to the Lord. If not, the temptations will take root and become sin manifest in our lives.

It’s inevitable.

But the most wonderful news of all is that we are saved from it all if we trust in Jesus as our Savior. He washes away our sin so we can live with Him for all eternity. He sacrificed everything for that.

We don’t have to sit and wallow in that shame any more. We don’t have to choose sin.

Does that mean the tendency to sin will be removed? No way, no how. But we don’t have to white knuckle it and fight it all alone.

We are doing battle while we walk this earth, friends. Sin has a grip, but we don’t have to walk in it and revel in it. But yes – we do still have to fight against it.’Cause the flesh still lives and breathes right now.

So, if you struggle with this in ways like I do, and Jesus is your Savior and Lord, know this:

  • He has washed away your sin in the eyes of the Father.
  • He has equipped you with the Holy Spirit to help you discern how to handle things until you go to live with Him for eternity and sin doesn’t threaten your flesh any longer.
  • Sin will still be a part of who you are, but with God’s help, you don’t have to walk in it.

And if we do sin? We can go to Him – the One who saves us from it all. We can go to the One who can wash us clean each and every day from the muck and mire. We can go to Him and thank Him for saving us from it all and ask Him to remove it from our path.

We can. He will.

God is in the business of taking what is “natural” on this earth and putting His divine stamp upon it. That trumps everything we call…..natural.

  • He saves us from eternity and He saves us from ourselves.
  • He is always here for us to help us fight against those natural (but very wrong) tendencies.

If we call upon Him he will come.

It is inevitable.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:19

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Sunshine Spots

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Puppy breath

Big fat smiles

Steaming Coffee

Running Miles

Happy Dances

Snoopy Lives!

Receiving Flowers

Husband Gives

Young Adults

Babes are Grown

All those seeds

They’ve been sown

Bible Time

Words of love

Speaking Life

Gifts from above

Beachy Getaways

Airplane Rides

Toes in Sand

Birds that Glide

Jesus Joy

All around

Inside Out

His grace abounds

Sunshine Spot

The puppy seeks

Laying there

For weeks and weeks

Plants and flowers

Growing tall

Life goes on

In these four walls

Smiling faces

Hearts to hug

Burdens lifted

No need to lug

Peanut butter and honey

On top of toast

Dripping and delicious

Satisfies the most

Books to read

Poems to write

Colors to embrace

Black and white

Seeking light

While hugging chains

Basking in sunshine

Appreciating rain

All of it pales

When I seek His face

The greatest gift of all

He’s in every place

Jesus, my Savior

The One who lives

Thank you for the little things

For the light You give.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. John 8:12

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Thrive

THRIVE not survive

On the days that I slip back, health-wise, I fight it, but still seem to move backward spiritually. emotionally and mentally too. It always causes me to realize (again) that I have forgotten to remember how Great our God really and truly is.

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God…..

I struggle. I drown in self-pity. I cry and wonder “why me?” I want to thrive, Lord. I want to be full of energy and verve and move and walk with joy and enthusiasm among your people. It hurts to smile when I feel this way. What is wrong with my body? Did you make a mistake? Can’t you fix me? I feel like you either don’t understand or you simply don’t care about this seemingly minor, yet so very pervasive problem I am dealing with here.

…Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable…

I am doing everything I am supposed to do. I even tried not doing anything and just turning it all over to You, Lord. Why am I so weak and weary? I just want to enjoy life. I am scared. Just when I think I am growing stronger physically, I am set back and seem to be worse off than when I started. I want to trust in You – that You will heal me, Lord. But if that’s not your will, I just plead with You – please help me to surrender and know what to do. I feel I have no strength left in my body and don’t know what You want for me to do, God!

He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.

I supposed this may be about patience, huh? Okay then – I get that, God. BUT….how am I supposed to do life this way? How can I take care of my family and other responsibilities when I am like this? What can I do? I can’t just stop life, can I? I  mean, I would, but don’t I have to keep going? I can’t just lay down and stay in bed until You  heal me, now can I? Can’t You just tell me how to handle things in the meantime?

Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength….

Clearly, I don’t have the answers. I know that You do. I supposed I haven’t truly learned what You really mean by “waiting.” I am tired, God. I am so very tired. My heart is alive, and so is my mind. My faith is in You, but I still have a degree of unbelief You need to deal with in me. I still put too much stock in myself and my own capabilities. Is that what You might be doing here? Asking me to lay down and be still so that you can make me soar the way You always intended? Not of my own might or power or strength, but in Yours – that Divine and Supernatural God-Kind?

…they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary…  

I’m going to stop trying so hard, God. I submit this temple to You. I pray You decide to heal it. And as long as You equip me to do so, I will continue to walk. I hope to run one day. I hope to soar and fly. But only with YOU.  Help me to endure the pain, God. Help me to keep my heart and mind clean while the physical junk keeps dragging me down. Help me to love in ways I never loved before. Help me not only to keep going, but to walk strong with You, love with You, fly with You and…oh my God…THRIVE with YOU.

….they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:28-31

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Thanks Giving and Receiving

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Have you ever thought about how much humility must be exercised when we can receive from others with grace and thankfulness in our hearts? I’m not talking about the things that are always easy to receive either; although those are good and they happen all the time too.

I’m talking about the way that others give of themselves to us when it’s hard…for them and maybe even for us.

When you are the recipient of something that isn’t always easy to accept, but is very, very good for you nonetheless, are you thankful? Are you grateful for the life lessons, building of character, practice in humility that comes about as a result? Are you grateful and thankful in the ugly mess of it all, even before you know how things are going to turn out?

I know I’m not always – in fact,  not even close! Most of the time it’s just far easier to give thanks for the beautiful and fun things that I receive in this life. When it comes to the stuff that’s just as good for me, but maybe doesn’t feel so great at the time, I can often be quite a spoiled little brat. That is, until I see what’s in it for me. Then I revert back to having a grateful heart and turn around and share some of the credit that belongs FULLY to God for having expressed (finally, after resisting) thankfulness.

Even if I do it secretly – deep down inside somewhere, I’m trying to share the credit if I’m really honest with myself.

I don’t want to be a downer on Thanksgiving folks, so please hear my heart here. This is just the stuff that I thought a lot about not only today but in the last couple of months in relation to being thankful from the heart – truly and really thankful.

So here it goes: (not an exhaustive list)

I am thankful for beauty and fun and light-hearted humor. I am thankful for getting to play with my family, hold babies here and there, and sing silly songs. I am thankful for my bed, hot water, a great job, friends, the ability to write this blog post. I am thankful that Jesus Christ lives and breathes in me and that this life, even the very best of it, pales in comparison to what my eternal life will be with Him one day!

But I want to be more giving in my thankfulness over the next season of my life. I want it to stick around forever too. I want to be more gracious about the things in life that seem like hard knocks, but are truly blessings being disguised and cluttered up by the enemy to seem like rough stuff that we should be bitter about or stressed or anxious about, or stumped about, to the point that we don’t thank the Lord for the grace He is about to shower upon us through the “trial” we are going through.

He’s already got it for us – we just have to turn it over. All the way.

I don’t mean that I want to become a good actress through difficult situations. And already, I am often thankful underneath all of it when I am going through some kind of rough or tough stuff – thank you Jesus! But I hear Him calling me, loudly and clearly….”take it to the next level, my daughter. I can take this so much higher than you’ve allowed me to so far.”

Thanks and giving through the thanks. Grateful even when pressured, concerned. Rising above it all with God, or rather, IN God’s hand, no matter what the circumstance. Authentic expression of angst while simultaneously counting my blessings at the same time.

Not easy stuff. Stuff He sometimes gives us anyway to grow us.

To truly give thanks, it takes surrender, it takes keeping our eyes wide open, and it is imperative that through it ALL, before, during, and after, we are giving all the credit to HIM.

So, ahead of time, I say to my Savior, “Thanks. Thanks for the constant giving of grace. Thanks for loving me despite my serious spoiled brat attitude, my pity parties, my lack of graciousness, humility, surrender. Thanks for giving me the gift of salvation and best friendship in YOU, Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior.  Just thanks.”

In and through it all – I give thanks. In and through it all, I receive grace. In and through it all, reluctant and willful as I may be, I give myself over to You. Thank you for not only saving me, which by far is beyond what I could ever imagine, but for standing by my side.

Always Giving. Always Teaching. Always Loving. Always Thanks.

Pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. 1 Thessalonians 5: 17-19

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The Sinking Feeling

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Desires….

Obedience….

Submission….

Strong and overpowering flesh and will to fight….

A greater calling….

A surrender of those desires…

Unsettled….

Willingness to yield…

Sadness….

Loneliness…..

Crying out in what seems like the darkness…

Hopes dashed….

Hopes reassessed….

Perspective regained…

Eyes on JESUS…..

Have you ever been here? Have you ever had all of these feelings whirling around inside of you, crunching up your heart, yet been filled at the same time with the joy of Jesus and the knowledge that He’s got you – He’s got you right where He wants you? He might be moving you? He’s definitely growing you? He’s sovereign and divine and filled with love for you and knows exactly what’s going to happen, even while you don’t?

If you’re a Christian,  you’re His child, you know.

Have you ever gotten that sinking feeling? You know? The one deep down in the pit of your stomach that once realized, the tears start to come? Those tears? They are the ones that come from the depths..deep, deep down and simply then spill out through your eyeballs? It’s gut wrenching,  heart squeezing, yet somewhat freeing all at the same time. It’s that moment in which what you’ve been contending with transfers from just your mind, and thought life, to this place in your gut or heart where you know…you just know by the feeling that a decision is about to be provided to you from God.

At first, it feels like that moment (especially experienced as a little kid) when someone comes up behind you and scares  you – suddenly your stomach jumps. And if you were really, REALLY scared, it doesn’t immediately dissipate…something lodges deep down in your gut afterwards and stays there a while. You know that you are standing in reality now and the scary surprise wasn’t real….that thing you imagined for a second (while suspended between full on reality and what you think might have been lurking behind  you)…there’s some kind of weird gap in there for a few seconds. That’s the feeling in my stomach that I am calling this sinking feeling. The one that  happens after the “jump” or the “startle”, but the stomach has something lodged…like a rock….heavy in there. And it’s about to be removed, but it  hasn’t been  yet. I know it’s weird, and it’s definitely hard to describe, but  have you ever been there, friends?

The realization…the scary, saddening, while all at the same time thrilling, realization that He is about, yet again, do do something that is going to be really, REALLY hard for you to submit to, but that you know – you know because the sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach and heart – well, it’s telling you that you have made the decision that whatever that thing is…you are going to do it. You still don’t know what it is – that has yet to be revealed. But you know you’re about to be called by name. And it’s probably gonna hurt for a bit.

Plans get made….changes happen. We go with it. Even if we resist, we eventually go with it if we’re obedient. We acclimate, we try to settle in. (Lately I’ve been asking myself…why is that?) We find ways to manage with the Lord’s help through that change. We find ways to learn in our new season. New ways are encountered that we never knew existed to glorify the Lord. We sometimes leave all – everything behind to follow Him. And sometimes, we only leave a part of ourselves or our circumstances behind. And then we “get there” and think we’re done for a while. But sometimes we’re not, friends. Sometimes we’re not.

What is it about us that should ever make us think we’re done? Why do we  have to learn this lesson over and over and over again? I think of those in the Old Testament…those who moved and moved and moved every time God called them. Did they ever think they were settled once and for all? Did they ever think they would never  have to change again? I would have been a poor choice to be one of the twelve, I tell  ya! And that’s not right. It’s not right at all.

Sometimes the sinking feeling is there because we realized we were counting upon something that we thought He gave us to keep, at least for a while. But we may not get to keep it. Then we realize it wasn’t ours to keep anyway. We realize He wants us to remember that it is only HE that we get to keep permanently. It is only HE and our relationship with HIM that matters and is constant. He trumps all else and sometimes He asks us to prove it. We realize we were still placing too much ownership on that which wasn’t ever really ours. Hence, the sinking.

Oh God, my flesh is so strong. I want it to be easier to yield to You and what You want for me to do as I grow closer to you day by day. But sadly, it doesn’t get easier as time goes on…it seems to get  harder and harder. And God, I can do hard, because my hard is so minimal in the face of what You have done for me, for us. My hard is a cake walk. I’m just saddened that I find it hard at all. I want to be so strong in You that I can look up into your face one day and say I followed after you gladly – obediently – and that it wasn’t a hard choice to make. I grieve over my sinful nature – my loyalty to myself and my own flesh. I grieve over the knowledge that you have blessed me and saved me, yet I resist and I struggle, even when I am trying not to. I hate that I struggle because of what it means and says about my obedience and loyalty and love for you, not because of how much it hurts. No, I don’t like the discomfort, that’s true. But the true struggle for me lies in the fact that it’s a struggle at all.

It’s a blessing to be reminded of why (quite clearly) I need my Savior.

I cry – streams of tears running down my face as I realize over these past few days that my desires, good as they may be….in line with your Word as they may be…they are still MY desires. You may ask me to turn those over to You tomorrow. You may not. But I must be willing to yield, and today…I have that sinking feeling. It makes me sad. But only human sad. My spirit still is marked by your joy, your peace. It’s that good stuff that is behind all that seems sad, defeated, and the antithesis of “peaceful.” It’s the real stuff. My stomach is nothing but an indicator of how my flesh is responding to truth.

You know what kind of feeling is better than most? The feeling one has when they were sinking….down, down, down…and then they come back up to the surface. And the air is gulped in, relished, and brings about renewed life and energy and motivation and backbone and commitment, amongst a multitude of other things. The realization that you are truly alive and you can NEVER really die in Christ Jesus is amazing. How would  you ever  have this knowledge and true epiphany if you never almost drowned in the first place?

Thank you for the reminder, Lord. (P.S. Can I have some air soon, please?)

Know what else it does? It reminds you of how truly fleeting what we call “life” really is. If we place too much emphasis on the things of this life, (even the good and Godly things) and we start to sink, we can begin to believe we are going down with an anchor tied around our ankles….never to rise again.

But no matter what, with Christ Jesus in our hearts – if we have accepted His gift of relationship with Him and salvation and eternal life that comes through Him, we will never remain at the depths, never to rise again. We will rise again to live with Him in all eternity – we will be right by His side forever and ever, amen.

Oh God. Give me the strength to remember during this time of fleshly sinking that you have me in Your mighty grip and you will determine what to do with me, but no matter what that is, You will raise me up again. You will raise me up all the closer to my ultimate destination, which is in Your presence, and which is in the place that is never a sinking place.

Yes, one way or another, I shall rise again. And when I do, I will still be with You.

You are with me in my sinking, and you are with me in my rising. You are my One, true King. Oh thank you, Lord for reminding me that you have me right in the palm of Your hand. Give me the strength and the wisdom and the joy of knowing that I will never drown, never die, and never be fully lost because of YOU.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

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Ooops – I did it again!

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I don’t know what you call this: this thing that I find myself going through a lot. But I do wonder how many of the rest of you out there do the very same thing?

The longer I press in and grow closer in my relationship to Jesus, the more I seem to think that I know about surrender, risk and ultimately, faith. At the very least (in all fairness to myself), I typically think that once I’ve applied and learned a good lesson from the Lord once in my little old life, that I won’t have to learn it and intentionally work at reapplying it all over again.

Nope. Not happening that way.

It is true, we do learn more and understand Jesus all the better the longer we walk with Him. Our pastor was just sharing about that the other night. Yet I find that just when I think I have learned a certain principle or teaching or lesson from the scripture, I’m in a new situation in which it is as though I am having to apply it all over again, just as though I forgot it or something! Like I didn’t learn anything at all from past experience or something.

Let me try to elaborate to be more clear: Right now, this picture will sum up for you the particular lesson that I thought that I should have learned, and learned quite well by now. I should be an EXPERT at this dudes!

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Nope, and nope all over again.

Ug! What is my problem in regard to this anyway? Why do I have to learn this over and over and over again – ad nauseam? Do I not have faith enough to remember how much He has delivered me from in the past when I had no idea what I was doing? Is my flesh that stubborn that I will continue on forever, diminishing what God is capable (and more) of doing in me and through me if I only step out in faith and just trust Him already? Am I really going to continue to hold back from things He is calling me to do out of fear, trepidation, doubt?

Fear is a liar – a perpetual and impulsive one. And oh yes, a malicious one.

And then, I think about our dear disciples – the dear friends of Jesus that He chose to walk alongside Him. He didn’t choose the smartest ones, and He didn’t choose the ones who were “ready” and “prepared” for everything they were about to embark upon if they walked with Him and followed after Him and love Him with all their “heart, mind, soul and strength.” Luke 10:27 No.He simply called them.

And they simply followed.

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Man alive, I am one to be daunted by things if I don’t feel “prepared” or “adequate” or “up to the task.” Fact is, any time I have ever waited to step out until I feel safe about it, or relatively ready for it, I simply find out later that I wasn’t all the way ready like I thought anyway. Sheesh.

Yes, we are going to feel daunted in those times that we undertake something that we are being called to by Jesus, especially when we are facing what seem to be insurmountable obstacles or things that don’t make sense. We are going to feel daunted if we try to make every step we take be laced with rose petals, carefully mapped out, and only venturing along what we little humans perceive to be the “safe” path.

The truth of the matter is that it is HE who will make our paths straight. It’s not to be found in the kind of shoes we choose to wear, the compass that we think we can rely upon in our back pocket, the people we are following, or the maps that we are reading. Only HE adequately equips us.

And He does so in His own timing.

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We tend to measure outcomes, especially what seem to be successful ones, by some strange litmus test that makes sense to us. Does anyone out there know what I am saying here? We tend to think if a person is chosen for this or that, or gets the opportunity to do something they never thought possible, they are either just lucky or they have what it takes.

I “have what it takes” to do lots of things that I am NOT being called by Jesus to do in life right now, my friends. How do I know what I am NOT being called to? Well, lately, it’s the things that seem to make a whole lot of sense – those things that I can feel in my bones I’d be great and successful at right off the bat – that I know from that still small voice I am not suppsed to do.

It’s just the season I’m in right now. It’s the thing(s) that He’s trying to teach me through that uncomfortable place right now. That’s what He’s been calling me to do and where He’s been calling me to be.

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Yes, it seems He is calling me more and more to step out and do things that don’t make sense initially by man’s standards and measurements, but certainly do make total sense in relation to Christ, His purpose for me and others in my life, and in bringing glory to Him through my inadequacy.

If you are like me, there are really only two questions to ask yourself if you have prayed about a decision and God is leading you to step out in faith to do something you don’t feel fully equipped to do:

Are you willing?

And…..

Do you trust in HIM?

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First World Problems Suck Rocks Too!

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First, let’s get this out of the way: Yes, I said “Suck.”

K…moving on.

So often, I feel like a petty little jerk because of how the little, yet tedious and pervasive problems that I experience here in my protective, bubble-like, and luxurious world get to me over time. They start to drag me down, yo. They start to make me sad, irritable, anxious, doubtful, and even angry. And then I sit back and wonder why I am so crazy and selfish, because I am constantly reminded of just how good I have it.

But that’s my reality, “getting” to live in a place where our problems aren’t always BIG. Make no mistake about it, I have had my share of the bigger problems in life and the Lord showed up in His grace and got me through it. But these minor things that infest our world at times like weeds, threatening to destroy, they can wear a person down.

The enemy likes to condemn me for feeling irritated about my little first world problems. He likes to condemn other believers I know around me who are experiencing the same thing. But that’s also a lie. Why do his old tricks continue to work on us? Well, that is going to have to be another story, because this isn’t about that stupid enemy today.

Here’s the truth that the Holy Spirit is whispering in my ear for where I am at right now with all of this. The truth is yes, keep it in perspective, sister. The truth is that yes, you have it very, very good where you live, breath, and are in this life. The truth is yes, it’s not all about you. But the truth is also that yes, God still cares and He wants to  hear about it. God wants to know about the thorns in your side.

He cares about the big and the small, friends. The enemy would have you think otherwise, but again, that’s a LIE.

So, today I am starting off by venting out some of the crud that’s been bugging me, even though I know there are far worse things to contend with in this world. I am vomiting out all of the junk that is trying to weigh me down and take my perspective and make me have a pity party and cause me to give more credence to these petty nuisances than they deserve. I am purging this crap out so the Lord can deal with it. (Yes, I just said “crap.”)

But most of all, I hope it helps you to relate, to understand, that we all go through these things – some big stuff mingled in with a bunch of small stuff – and it’s all stuff that sucks rocks! And the Lord wants us to bring this junk to Him and ask Him to take it and carry us through. He doesn’t want us to “suck it up” and stuff it down because we deem it petty and unimportant. Who do I think I am that I should deem anything to be too small and insignifican for the Lord to place His attention upon in my life? Just who do I think I am!

May you be encouraged at the very least, that if you ever feel this way, you are NOT alone. As one reader told me once (and it SOOOO made me smile)…..

“Anne, you make the rest of us feel and know that we aren’t the only crazy ones!”

As I smile while I type these words, my reply is very honestly and happily…”I am glad I can do that for some of you.” Ha Ha!!!!!!!!!

Give me a break, now the computer is broken?
What’s up, Lord, your word I need to open!

Death of a friend, crying, pain and grief,
Not a petty one there, this life is so brief.

Phone calls, text messages, “I am sick again”
Leaving work, as I should, to help my kids to mend.

Bills to pay, house to clean, it just keeps a’coming,
I don’t have time for this, and I’m starting to be bumming.

Teacher emails, “get a grip, your kid was rude today”
Talks, harangues, replies, discussion, don’t know what to say.

Traffic jams, cramping legs, and the scale just needles higher,
Just get through this day in one piece, is to what I must aspire.

My little world, trying to take over, so much more out there
Typhoons and hurricanes, death, pain, sin and greed laid bare…

Jesus, He’s present, always for me, I don’t have to ask him “where?”
No matter where we all might be, He’ll always be right there.

Yes, even though some of this stuff sucks rocks, I am turning it over the THE ROCK today, because this verse tells me to do so. And I shall rejoice.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4: 4-7

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Grief, oh Grueling Grief.

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Grief: Bone cracking, heart wrenching, mind bending grief.

Grief: Life sucking, joy sapping, body shaking grief.

Felt down to the tips of your toes while simultaneously going in and out of a state of numbness. One moment here, the next – not sure where you are. One foot in? Or one foot out?

Nerve endings in places you never knew you had. Emotions that mere words, drawings, music, or other forms of human expression simply cannot describe.

Grief: Feeling the core of your soul being wrenched and prodded – kneaded like a big blog of dough.

Grief: No adequate words to offer, no adequate words to be able to fully receive.

A time in which prayer morphs into what it may have always been intended to be like for us all along: God simply reading our hearts.

A time where fuzzy is the new normal for a while and we finally accept that we simply cannot understand it all.

A time in which truly it is clear that only God can hold us together – thinly stiched as it may feel right now; like threads threatening to snap and fray that last little bit, threatening to send us into some kind of abyss.

Grief: Down to the last – the very last microscopic piece of who we think we are – what we thought we were made of and, finally, that moment of being fully surrendered and fully aware of just how much we need to be carried in the arms of the One true and living God. Carried – All. The. Time. 24/7.

Grief: Jesus knows it well. He knows grief.

Jesus knows suffering.

Jesus knows separation from the One that He loved most.

Jesus knows pain, unimaginable loss, betrayal, shock, overwhelming sadness, pain and trial.

Jesus knows it all and more. And HE offers the peace that surpasses all understanding through it all.

That Beautiful Savior of ours – our Jesus? He pieces us back together, heals us.  In our brokenness He manifests the light that when we are “whole” we fail so often to even bother to see.

Darkness makes it easier to see the one small light in the distance. IF we keep our eyes wide open.

And then? He makes us stronger than we ever were before. Because He fills us with Himself. More of Him – and less of us.

Oh grief!

And I DO believe: He weaves new pieces of Himself in as He puts us back together. We end up with more of HIS strength, HIS wisdom, HIS peace and HIS joy that trumps all emotions or experiences or circumstances than we ever thought possible before.

Sometimes grief opens the door we thought we swung wide open a long time ago even more. Even one more millimeter of openness to Jesus and remaining fully surrendered to Him and in His loving arms? That’s going to make a difference in our lives! Even when it comes as a result of the work He does in us during our grief. I guess that’s what it means when He tells us that “his strength is made perfect in our weakness.” Wow.

Grief: God’s opportunity to make us stronger through our pain.

Grief: Surrender and bravery seen through our tears. By HIM.

Tears provide cleansing. Tears provide purification. Tears provide reflection. If they are shed in His presence, they do.

Grief, oh grueling grief.

The only thing to do in such times is fix those eyes of ours upon Jesus and know that one day – we will get to see Him in His full glory. That day when there will be no more tears. That day when grief will no longer exist. That day we  have the privilege, even during such heart wrenching times, to look forward to with the most blessed hope we could ever cling to.

Glorious Jesus! Comfort those in their grief and time of loss today with the comfort that only YOU can provide!

“The Lord is near to those who are broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

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It’s Okay to Open the Present…

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I don’t know about you, but being faced with too many choices doesn’t always seem like a luxury to me. Now please understand: I don’t mean to complain, because I am well aware that many folks in our world don’t have choices at all. I am grateful for choices, believe me. At the same time, I can get overwhelmed by them too. This is because I tend to over think things (big surprise, I know).

This over-thinking thing I have? It serves me well in many ways and I could even venture to say that a lot of the time it does help me to live out my faith in really cool and creative ways that actually glorify God. At the same time, it can be a very bad, bad thing. Discerning when it crosses over into “bad” from good is a whole other story.

So for now, think of a child on Christmas morning. All of the presents are neatly wrapped in colorful paper under the beautiful, lit up tree. You, the parent, have taken the time to choose just the right gifts to bring a smile to your child’s face and capture those moments in which you get the gift back of hearing them squeal with excitement and delight as they tear through the wrapping and hug their gift close to their little chest. Then, if you are really fortunate, they hug YOU – even tighter than the gift.

What joy!

We know it’s not about the presents and the materialism when our hearts are in the right place, don’t we? We know it’s about those moments….the exchange of joy….the gift of giving and that of watching the receiver enjoy what you have freely given to them.

We know.

But so often I find myself getting caught up in thinking about the sacrifice of self, taking up our own cross to follow after Jesus, humbling ourselves and giving it all away, day in and day out; that I fail to accept the grace that just plain “feels good” along with the grace that is there no matter what the emotions are surrounding any particular situation, or issue, or day, or circumstance. Sheeesh!

Grace is BIG when it comes to Christ Jesus.

And yes, some of it is just the plain old feel good kind of grace too.

A wonderful new friend was sharing with me last week that sometimes, we are just given the blessing by God to make choices that don’t necessarily entail doing the hardest thing. Sometimes, we get to make an easier choice. He is our Father after all. He is going to do what is best for us, and even what is hard for us when it is time to learn tough lessons. But sometimes, He just wants to give us a gift and sit back and watch us enjoy it.

She is so right. Honestly, if we are truly following after Jesus with all our “heart, mind and soul,” no matter what choices we make, we will probably endure some growing and suffering in the process of living it out. But who are we to deny our Father the blessing of giving us His unmerited grace and favor? Who are we to say, “No, I don’t deserve that present”?

Sometimes He wants us to choose the fun gift.

If no one is in need of the better present, or if that great gift isn’t intended for someone else, or better yet – for you to give over to someone else, then why not take it if we have sought after God and what He wants for us? My pastor shares all the time that “sometimes, it’s like Baskin Robbins, and we get to choose what we want.” (Eric Cartier, Rocky Mountain Calvary Chapel).

Sometimes we get to choose.

I so often forget the other side of humility, friends. Yes, it’s true. I am so focused sometimes upon not taking too much pride in myself (which I definitely need to stay focused in on for the rest of my ever-loving earthly life!) that I occasionally veer into the abyss of condemnation, which is still just another way the enemy prevents us from exemplifying Christ-like humility.

Humility is knowing who you are in Christ – nothing more, nothing less.

Yes, if I have to err on one side or another, you can bet I will err on the side of surrender or giving something up or taking the hard road if and when I have any doubts about what the right thing is to do. But sometimes, we just flat-out aren’t being asked to do it!

Here is my little test I put myself through:

Go to God in prayer and stay there. Ask questions like “is there something You want me to give up here?” “Is there a hard road you want for me to go down first?” “Is there a sacrifice you want made in this situation that in all reality is probably not a sacrifice at all, but a way in which you wish to grow me further?” “Do I need to rely not upon my own understanding and go in blindfolded with this one?”

Then it’s time to listen for a while. Really listen. Listen for however long He leads you to listen.

Take action if moved to do so after listening and praying – even and especially if you don’t fully understand it at first. Then WATCH, with your eyes wide open to see how He is working His will out through the actions you took (or didn’t take). How is His plan now coming to fruition? Do you see that you had to take that action (move out of the way, surrender, back your words up with behaviors or choices) in order for that to be shown to you?

After all of that, if choices still are ahead of you and the Lord doesn’t tell you otherwise, go ahead and choose what you want.

Then ENJOY it.

There will be plenty of time for it to become tainted somehow later once the enemy is onto it. But for now, it’s okay to open the present and enjoy it for the gift tha it is. (I know that sounds negative, but it is true – the enemy is always crouching and waiting to destroy). For me, this yields positivity, believe it or not. Knowing to keep my eyes open helps me to enjoy the moment, because I hate being taken off guard by the enemy. He will still try, and sometimes he succeeds, but at least I am watching.

Finally, and most importantly, after you open your present, don’t forget to hug the One who gave it all to you!!!!

It’s just one small way we get to bring joy to the One who brings so very much to us.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

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Flower Fade Not

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If you love a flower, don’t let it fade away.
It needs a little light and a little care every day.
With this nourishment, its beauty will stay true;
And a loving, eternal reflection, will shine all over you.

A flower’s beauty loves, but it too, needs love back…
Without this mutuality, its petals begin to crack.
The stem then, isn’t so strong; with nothing there to show,
But leaves and dirt beneath it;  petals that lost their glow.

Yet that can never happen, with some attention every day
‘Cause it will plant new seeds, and won’t just whither away.
Those seeds will keep on growing, with you, your love, your care;
With that you will be showing that you truly want it there.

You say you love your flower? Then know it’s not perfection.
Without a place to grow, it loses all direction.
It’s not completely helpless; it can stand on its own…
But serves all of us better if your heart can be its home.

Let your flower give to you, all it wants to give..
But remember that it needs nurturing to truly bloom and live!
The flower is love and truth, me and you and you and me;
I don’t think it should die – I think we should just see…

That together we’re the caretakers; we can clip it, trim it, mold it…
We can form all shapes and sizes; we can do this bit by bit.
And with a little work – if we just put a little time in,
Our flower will grow and grow, and soon we’ll have a garden.

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus. Romans 15:5

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