There’s always a YES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Now!

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

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

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

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

My YES to HIM never left.

My Jesus YES.

My only YES that I NEED.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drop the Nets!

Leave your homes!

You’ll know why later!

I’ve got it under control!

Just do it!

Don’t worry about those details!

Follow ME.

NOW.

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

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

“YES, Jesus ~ YES!”

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

Who am I to dilly dally?

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Squint if We Have To

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

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

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

But here are my own observations for now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus is the source of all of it. Period.  

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

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

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

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

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

He knows.

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

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

But it’s not supposed to be that way.

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

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

Even when it hurts.

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

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Part of the Story about My Dad

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Hi Friends.

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

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

As always, it’s about Jesus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He was in his early forties.

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

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

But he still got up.

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

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

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

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

Did he get the letter and was it opened?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Always with and in HIS love.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BUT GOD –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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God sees right through the Bubble

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These are the burning questions on my mind lately.

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

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

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

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

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

And this little boy is telling on us.

GOOD FOR HIM!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All of it.

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

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

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

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

You have to look out for number 1.

You must stay positive above all else.

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

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

Self matters. 

Self matters.

SELF MATTERS!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So today I am reminded:

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

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

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

BUT…………

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

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

We will remember and we will know.

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

We can tell it all to God.

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

He has NOT forgotten us.

And our real home is with Him.

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

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

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

And he’s telling it all to God!

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

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

Thanks be to God. No more need for bubbles.

THANKS BE TO GOD!

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

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Thorns Have to be Pulled Out if We Want to Heal

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I’ve been feeling a pulling inside of my heart lately ~ a tugging. It’s a gracious little pull, but firm and unrelenting at the same time. God is nudging me ~ and that means I need to perk up my ears and listen.

He has something to teach me. It’s something that’s important to Him, therefore, it’s important for me.

It’s about Mercy.

What is mercy, anyway? Well, just for starters, dig on this….. (and this is just the definition that mankind has tried to come up with for it):

  • Compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.

And for those who like the one-two-punch-type-definitions ~ Try these on for size:

  • Leniency
  • Clemency
  • Compassion
  • Grace
  • Pity
  • Charity
  • Forgiveness
  • Forbearance

But God’s definition of mercy even goes far beyond all of that. We have only to look at the cross to see it ~ and then we get to gaze upon the EMPTY tomb and the blessed hope we have because of what Jesus Christ has done for us!

God doesn’t need our offerings, our sacrifices, our works. He wants, more than anything, for us to show His love and MERCY.

This is what it is to love in a merciful way ~ doing it especially when it’s hard.

This is mercy.

  • It goes far beyond something as simple as offering support or acceptance.
  • It moves right on past feel-good harmony and shows up even in the midst of conflict.
  • It entails blood, sweat and tears on our part sometimes and the pain is most assuredly not lost on us.

But who are we to be absolved of that when our own Lord and Savior allowed Himself to be nailed to a cross as He showed us all of His beautiful mercy?

Just who do we think we are to retain any kind of “right” not to offer up mercy to others?

It’s what He wants from us, friends. But we must ask Him for the power, lest we fail. ‘Cause mercy may be a gift, but not one that we offer up without a cost.

Showing true mercy can truly hurt.

  • So today, as I walk through my own kind of hard stuff, I shall ask the Lord to search my heart and pull out the thorns that are blocking it from being pliable and mercy-filled.
  • Today, I will ask Him to fill the spaces that are raw and possibly even bleeding from the wounds ~ fill them with His healing balm so mercy and love can flow.
  • Today, I will pray that my Savior will help me to remember that it’s not all about seeking to “do the right thing” when it’s hard, but to truly share His love and mercy and allow that to then flow out toward others.

And I covet your prayers, friends. Because this is one of those things that I think you might easily apply the “be careful what you pray for” little snippet to.

We shall not fear.

How about you? Is there anything in your life that you have started to approach with a sacrificial mode of thinking instead of asking Jesus to give you a heart of true mercy, compassion and grace? Do you find yourself struggling under the weight of the sacrifice and carrying a burden that seems to be getting heavier every day? Are you feeling empty, depleted, and like there is nothing left to pour into others? Is there a place God is calling you to display His mercy but you feel you are holding back for a multitude of reasons?

I can answer yes to all of the above, so just so ya know, you aren’t alone.

And that’s when I realize that I am doing it wrong. That’s exactly when I know that it’s time to stop working within my own power and turn it all over to Jesus.

This is part of what this really means, I think. This is part of how we show mercy instead of offering up sacrifices that over time just run dry. Relinquishing the sacrifice-and-serve-because-I-should-do-it mentality and simply let God move us one moment at a time.

This is how Jesus does things. And He will help us too if we simply ask. We will probably have to ask over and over again, because self creeps in often and tries to take the reins.

But He is faithful.

He is merciful.

And He will deliver.

So that pull inside of my heart and the one that you may be experiencing yourself right now? That little tug that is unrelenting? In a way, although it can be uncomfortable at times, it’s just another way the Lord is displaying His mercy towards us. He cares too much to allow the thorns to remain, friends. He loves us too much not to heal our infections in our hearts.

He has work to do in me. And I have so much to learn.

But I am ever-so-grateful that I have the best teacher a girl could ever ask for.

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

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More than 24 More

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Once upon a time, there was a girl who decided she would get married, have three or more children, and live happily ever after by the time she was about 20 years old. She wanted to have her children young, so she would be able to be a hip and fun grandmother some day.  Her husband would be handsome, fun, and reliable (loyal). He would take care of her until the end of her days on this earth, never cause her harm, and make her feel loved. Always.

She had it all planned out: She would keep herself pure for her husband, always be beautiful and the perfect partner for him, never be mean or angry, and then, maybe she would be worthy of the love she knew he would provide for her. She didn’t want to mess this up; not before she met him, and certainly not after.

But she did. She messed up all of her plans.

Yes, something happened to the girl along the way. She searched for love in all the wrong places. She gave up thinking that she would ever find the guy – the one who would love her unconditionally, support her in the good times and the bad, and be her best friend at the same time.

She gave up.

So she threw in the towel. She screwed up in her search so badly, that she felt even more unworthy by the time that she actually got in touch again with the man that she had met at a younger age…the one who would be her husband.

She was happy when they reconnected again, but had already made the firm decision that marriage would not be in her future. She was done…finished. And besides ~ she was tainted goods. How could this guy ever love her for who she was now?

But God made it clear: this is the one. This is the one for her to marry, as much as she didn’t want to get married after all that she had been through.

So she did.

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I am so thankful for 24 years of marriage with my guy. But I have a newsflash for you, dear friends: He’s not THE ONE.

  • He does love me unconditionally.
  • He does take care of me in sickness and in health.
  • He is loyal, reliable, handsome and fun.

But he wasn’t THE GUY.

He is not the One that my soul was thirsting for. He’s not the One who could make me pure again after all the screw ups from my past. He’s not the One who will FOR CERTAIN be with me until I take my last breath.

But He is the one I was meant to marry ~ thanks be to God!

I’m so glad that God lent him to me. I’m so thankful that he is right next in line behind my Lord and Savior for me to love. I don’t always love him as well as Jesus would have it done, but I try.

And the girl does get to live happily ever after. And so does the boy. With The One!

#morethan24more #whoohoo #eternitywithChrist

As I look back over the years of our marriage, I find myself not only grateful, but enjoying a moment of clarity as well. There are two main things that I truly think have carried us through and drawn us closer together over the years, in spite of how we can be in different places regarding different things at the same time.

  • Our mutual and individual love for Jesus Christ.
  • Our desire to be good friends above all else.

The first thing has to be there, or we start placing our expectations upon our spouse for love and acceptance. We start living for that, versus allowing Christ to live in and through us. We start trying to glorify ourselves, worship our marriage instead of the Lord and what He wants to do through our marriage, and live for self instead of for Christ.

We start seeing “love” as what we get out of it instead of what it really is meant to be by God’s design.

And to me, the friendship thing is soooo important because all the other stuff fades anyway, friends. We get old; can ya dig? We stop being so sexy. We can become sick, even ugly in some ways. Just ask my husband how I look during one of my Fibro flares first thing in the morning…ha ha. (He probably won’t tell you though – cuz he loves me too much – so there!)

But because he is my next-best-buddy-second-only-to-Jesus ~ he simply laughs at my disarray and lack of charisma. And I love this about him a whole bunch. It’s one of my favorite things.

So Happy Anniversary to my best husband ever! You are my favorite friend on this earth and I am so grateful that you love me for who I am, even when I’m a messy monster.

God displays his sense of humor frequently in our marriage. But He also shows us His unending grace and mercy.

Once upon a time there was a girl who became, in many ways, quite the opposite of what she thought she’d be as a wife, a friend, a mother. God took her and married her to a wonderful man of God who showed her without question, Jesus and His grace, love, mercy and compassion in physical and tangible action on a daily basis. He showed her through this man that she can be loved, flaws and all. He made it clear that with the help of Jesus, she can love better than she ever thought possible too.

  • 24 years of beauty mixed in with some ugly too ~
  • Loving moments coupled with some scrappy, nasty conflicts ~
  • Impossible-to-verbalize joy and palpable painful seasons ~
  • Blatant imperfections all overridden by gracious and unmistakable gifts from God.

24 years of blessing and time to understand God’s kind of love a little bit better right here on earth – together.

And here’s to more than 24 more!

Above all, love each other deeply; because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

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Jesus Sees

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Do you suffer with something that seems to prevent you at every turn from feeling like you can be the “hands and feet” of Jesus? Are you sick, afflicted, grieving, or so overwhelmed with your day-to-day tasks and responsibilities that you struggle to be able to “go out” into the world and love upon others?

Have you cut out all the extraneous stuff that takes your time, attention, or space away to make room for what is truly important; yet you still get stopped in your tracks every time you try?

You may simply just not be seeing it then.

You may not be seeing that you can serve others from right where you are.

I want to encourage you today, dear friends if you, like me, sometimes forget to remember that you can love others the way Jesus commanded even if you can’t go out into the world to do so.

  • You can do it from your bedridden place.
  • You can do it from what seems like your prison of sorts.
  • You can do it, even if you feel isolated, too sick to go serve at the soup kitchen, unable to go to church because you might be contagious, too weak, or incapacitated.

Prisons got nothin’ on Jesus. Walls can be torn down.

Your heart is not incapacitated, friend. Jesus lives there if you have accepted Him as your Lord and Savior. Jesus is bigger than all the things that pretend to be obstacles that are insurmountable. He can and He will love others through you, even when it doesn’t seem like you are doing “much.”

AND…..sometimes another way that we can show love to others is by allowing them to share some grace with us in our own time of need. Let us not discount that part of loving like Jesus, friends. He let His own feet be washed, after all. He allowed others to wait upon Him at times too.

Humility is precious, yo.

Yes…part of being a true servant comes in allowing others to do things for us too. It is a mark of true humility if we can push down that ugly pride and allow others to meet us in our ugly places, our needy places, our spots in which we feel trapped or like we can’t give in return.

This is grace.

And we can love and encourage in our own ways too. Don’t let anyone tell you that just because you cannot go and volunteer at the church, meet needy people downtown, or run all the races to raise money for worthy causes that you aren’t giving of yourself; that you aren’t “enough.”

Jesus was sacrificially loving all of us while nailed up on that cross. Nails did not incapacitate Him by any stretch of the imagination! Quite the opposite.

Hands and Feet don’t have to be free from physical limitations to be effective.

Jesus proves it.

  • We can still stir one another up, even if we are ill or unable to literally be the hands and feet that are out there meeting others.
  • We are part of the stew of grace and love and truth.
  • We are part of the same mind and body as our fellow believers who may be enjoying better health and vitality than we are able to right now.
  • We are still part of the church, dear friends. Don’t let the enemy tell you otherwise.

So if you are down in the dumps today, wishing you could serve more actively and feeling like you are trapped and just not “with the program” of being the hands and feet of Jesus in the way the world likes to see, remember that your light is still shining.

And maybe it will help you to remember two simple little words today ~ I know I’m going to……

JESUS SEES.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. Philippians 2: 1-4

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Party Rockin’ in the House Tonight

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There are some ugly guests that have decided to live with me and they keep having dance parties without my permission. You are about to meet just a few of them.

We gotta laugh at ourselves sometimes; at least this girl has to do it. If I don’t, I would wallow up in the fetal position under my bed forevermore or until the rapture happens, at the very least.

Here is just a snippet of what I really feel, much of the time. If this doesn’t prove to you that I am a sinner in need of Jesus, I don’t know what will.

Introducing today’s top five contestants in the contest to destroy Annie’s brain:

Dear Laundry Room ~ I tried to make you pretty to make it easier to be with you 24/7, but you just keep showing your true colors. Also, your dominating and selfish spirit is getting to me a bit. You try to keep me locked inside all for yourself, and pretend you are wonderful to me because you clean our clothes. Only half of that is true. I’m grateful for all of the skills that you have, but I’d like to spend a little time elsewhere. You may be able to wash the clothes like a boss, but you AREN’T THE BOSS OF ME!

Dear Scale and Perverse Pound Revealer ~ You are truly twisted and depraved. I don’t even know any more why I allow you to be in my house, let alone speak your rancid thoughts to me all the time. I’ve tried to put you away, but you just keep calling me from your dark little corner. It’s annoying. You’re poison. You need to depart from me. Apparently, you obtain some sick kind of pleasure in counting things and then rounding up to the nearest 100th, but I guess that’s how you roll. I shall resist you and just keep in mind ~ Jesus is on my side and he loves me, rolls of fat and all.

Dear Fibromyalgia and Menopause and Irish/Italian Temper ~ You think you have won, but I have news for YOU. You may like to come out to play but you are not my friends. You pretend to be ingrained into the most core part of who I am, but you are just unwelcome visitors who have stayed so long, you think I will forget that you don’t belong here. I know you like to wreak havoc and cause pain that then trickles out or comes in waves to crush all in my circle, but your party is sad and I wanna go home. #partiesareoverrated #idontlikeyourcake

Dear Person Taking Your Bad Mood out on Me ~ I never do this myself, so you shouldn’t either. What’s the matter with you, anyway? I never allow my feelings or concerns, stresses and ailments to cause me to FREAK OUT on others (anyone, anyone? Bueller?) in my line of vision or earshot. What the heck are you thinking?! Don’t you know you need to get a grip and grab it now and never let go? You are ruining the mood I am in and am entitled to BY LAW. Pursuit of Happiness ~ Yay!

Dear Paycheck ~ Why do you make me work so hard before I get to see you? And what’s up with the fact that you grace me with your presence only to disappear before I can even greet you with a hug and a kiss and spend a little time with you. You are a fair weather friend and have a lot to learn about lasting friendship and community. It may pay for you to stick around a little and actually get to know your people. I’m just sayin’.

Dear Melasma, Acne Scars, and Dark Circles that are Never Ending ~ I know you came to see me and stay (till death do we part) because you are cousins to the sun that I spent so much time with when I was younger ~ (we are family).  I have tried to love you, because just because you aren’t pretty, doesn’t mean that you deserve poor treatment. But you need to behave and hide a little when other guests come to play. We don’t want to scare everyone else who JUST CANNOT UNDERSTAND. People are all in a different part of the process, yo. Some day I may be strong enough to let you come out all the time, but right now, I’m still a sinner with issues who doesn’t want people to run away screaming ~ does she have chicken pox or leprosy? Sorry, but it’s true. I’ll work on my dark little heart.

Life is a mess, but Jesus does messy well. For this, I am ever-so-thankful, aren’t you? He loves us, messy and all. And once we have a full grip on the fact that we are broken, imperfect and in DEEP NEED of our Savior, He meets us there.

He will even meet the uglies.

He will take us one day to the real party ~ the best party ~ the one that’s filled with beauty.

I can’t wait for that one!

Yep. His Grace is Enough.

Even if my flaws try to pretend otherwise.

When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor–sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” Mark 2:17

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Are You Homesick?

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Do you ever feel like you are homesick, but you can’t quite place your finger on just why that is? Do you, like me, forget sometimes that the pining away for that sense of home is kind of always right there with you even if you are with your earthly family, surrounded by loved ones, and nested in your little nook of the world that you reside in daily?

Are you lonely for home, dear friend?

Do you forget to remember why you are a little homesick, friend? Do you forget to remember, albeit momentarily, that this is not your true home and the reason you are having that feeling is because in your heart and your soul, you know this all too well?

  • You may be thankful for your earthly family and never want to leave them, yet feel conflicted because heaven just sounds so much better right about now. You kind of feel like you want to cut and run. Fast.
  • You may realize what your mission on this earth really is and embrace it with a disposition of gratefulness and even see it as a privilege, yet….you know in your heart it’s just not the good part of the deal. Jesus gets it.
  • You may know that you are still, in a way, just a child inside ~ a child of God who simply feels like they just want to go home and be reunited with their Father. You feel lost. But He is with you.
  • You might be the kid who feels like he has been invited to the party (party? really?) who really just doesn’t feel like attending and wants to stomp their feet, cry and yell, and scream “take me home NOW”. (It often seems like kind of a stinky party anyway). Parties are overrated.

Most certainly in these times, our eternal home sounds a whole lot better ~ and with good reason.

With good reason.

You see, although life is a gift, this earthly place in which we temporarily reside was never meant to be party-ville for any of us anyway. Yes, it’s filled with blessings and beauty, but also with heartache, grief beyond belief, and a consistent and relentless slinging of darts and arrows. It’s a mixed up stew of good and bad, of beauty and ugly, of elation and confusion and it’s hard to know at times what the baseline was that started the cooking process in the first place.

The stew can be comforting but confusing at the same time.

Yes, life is a gift, but not in the way we like it to be sometimes. We like bows and ribbons. We like pretty wrapping paper. We like fun and laughter and happiness. We don’t like it when a spoiled brat comes to OUR party and ruins it for us. Oh yah…but I’m that spoiled brat at the party sometimes. (You’d think then that I’d be a little bit more understanding.)

Jesus was when He walked the earth.

Jesus still IS.

It’s not our time to open all of our little presents, friends. I’m sorry to say it, but it’s true. The real and lasting gift comes from accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and allowing Him to live in and through us. That’s the only gift we really need anyway. The great news is that we don’t have to wait to open that one and it stays with us forever and ever!

We just don’t get all the other great stuff that will be part of our daily living once we enter our eternal home right now. That is reserved for when we step into eternity. And there are mansions and feasts awaiting us there. Whoo Hoo!!!

But there are other gifts to be thankful for in the meantime:

  • There’s the gift that comes in the sharing of the gospel and good news of Jesus Christ being spread throughout the world so that when the real party gets started ~ so that when the best present of all is opened ~ so that when we all sit down to celebrate and feast with Christ ~ we will have many permanent family members and fellow good party attendees alongside us as well! Now that’s a party!
  • There’s the gift of our family, our friends, our loved ones and the fact that the Lord lent them to us so that we aren’t quite as lonely while we wait to go home. We get to see them go through joyful times and comfort them through grief as well. We get to live out Jesus with them during all of these times. We get to do this life with them. We are in good company.
  • There’s even the gift of knowing Jesus better through our suffering, our trials, and our grief.  When He heals us ~ when He comforts us ~ when He lifts us up ~ these gifts just keep on giving. Because of the first gift that we got to open right away, we are filled up with Him. He never forsakes us.

I don’t know about you, dear fellow Christian friends, but for this girl, it’s easier to come to terms a bit more with my longing for my true home if I just fully embrace it in those moments that I am so very heartsick and quite simply, reach for Jesus.

If I fully wrap my heart, mind, feelings, thoughts, my very SOUL around the fact that this is an ongoing grief process, (we are dying to self daily) but there is still cause for celebration ~ well, then the grief starts to dissipate into a million little pieces.

Because of Him.

In these moments ~ these moments in which we long for our forever home with Jesus, these moments in which we find ourselves feeling so alien and out-of-place, so very sick down to the molecular level of being in a foreign land, so desiring with every fiber of our being to finally arrive at our eternal home and stay ~ forever ~ in these very moments, we can taste our true home inside our very hearts….because He is there.

Yes. It is in these precious seconds that we find ourselves actually being filled with the sense of home we need. It is when we are on our knees and telling our Savior that we want more of Him, that we want to be in His presence more, that we miss those who have gone home already without us ~ well, in those moment we have truly come as close to home as possible ~ until such day that we take our last breath and depart this earth.

It is in these very moments that we find and know our Jesus in new and special ways. It is then that we are not quite as lonely for home anymore. He lives in us.

Are you lonely for home today? Do you long for Jesus to come back and take us home with Him and allow us to leave this temporary life behind? Do you find yourself loving parts of this life here, but knowing it is all temporary and struggling to wrap your mind around how to live here when eternity will be so very much better? Cry out to Jesus, won’t you dear friend? Ask Him to fill you with His peace and joy, His comfort and wisdom. Remember His will is being done in and through you, even when many things that surround you feel like a party that’s just gone bad.

For now, our loving Savior has taken up residence in our hearts to help us as our physical bodies walk through a foster home of sorts. And He has prepared a place for us that we get to look forward to. Yet He has not left us alone in the meantime.

How great is our God!!!!

In the meantime, let’s allow Him to live in and through us every second of every day. Let’s be okay with longing for our true home but making the most of the time we have here so that our feast in heaven will be filled with many other beautiful children just like us. It’s what Jesus wants, you know.

He wants all of His children to join Him in eternity!

Let us cry out to our Savior in our loneliness.

Let us ask Him to heal our hearts when we are homesick and look to Him.

And let’s be filled with the wonder of home that Jesus brings to us right where we are at in spite of our earthly limitations.

He can do that, you know.

He will do that.

He has promised.

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” John 14:23

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A White Christian Woman’s Apology for being Privileged yet truly Poor

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But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:17-18

I was born privileged.

I was born into a caucasian family, of middle-class social “status”, if you will.

My father was in the US military and I was able to travel and receive “special” status for being part of a military family that served a great nation. Wherever I went, I was accepted. And I milked that for all it seemed worth at the time.

  • I have never gone to bed hungry…
  • I have never gone without clothing….
  • I have always been cared for, loved, and had all of my basic needs and then some met to the fullest.

Yet I complained ~ a lot.

You see, I always wanted more than what I had. I wanted everything that I wanted and then some. Wasn’t I entitled to it, after all?

  • I wanted acceptance.
  • I wanted the kind of love that I thought worked best for ME.
  • I had holes in my heart and nothing I tried to fill them with worked for very long.
  • It was all about me and I had to do whatever it took to make my life how I wanted it to be.

The grass was always greener and I sought my special sunshine spot in the meadow ~ relentlessly.

  • I didn’t really care what it would take as long as I got what I wanted.
  • I didn’t think much outside of myself.
  • I knew poverty and hopelessness existed all around me, but my own little life ruled everything.

I thought somehow that I was entitled, and even secretly “cast the first stone” at others for their own inadequacies or sins, all the while, sinning in my own special way and then justifying it.

I cared a little about others ~ but in reality, my own self preservation was the driving force behind all that I did.

Yes….I was born privileged. And I was born poor as well.

I wasn’t concerned with how people of other races or financial classes might feel when others made them feel out-of-place, not accepted, or even persecuted.

I took care of a few people who were needy – giving a bit of money and care here and there when it worked out for me and was overall convenient.

I proclaimed to follow Jesus Christ, but didn’t really give my whole life over to Him. Sure, I would accept “salvation”, but not make Him the King of my life and allow Him to make all the decisions.

I could still do that myself.

I told you: I was also born poor. I just didn’t know it yet.

So today I wish to say I’m sorry for the things that I have done in the past and the thoughtlessness that I portrayed all those years.

I’m sorry to all those who I could have cared for, loved and  helped, but I chose not to.

I’m sorry to God for turning from Him for decades and ignoring those that he loves.

I am sorry for being born white, but not taking extra care to be grateful for what I have and take even more steps toward helping others who struggle because of their race.

I am sorry for being born into a middle-class family, who never really struggled to make ends meet, yet I turned a blind eye to the poverty right in front of me.

I am sorry for being a fake Christian all of those years and allowing legalism to rule, judgement to reign, and love to take a back seat to everything.

I am sorry for being truly poor and lacking love in my heart.

I can’t help how I was born – that I am white, that I was allowed to be educated, that I was able to travel and have all the comforts and needs that I took for granted to be met. But I could have helped how I saw it all. I could have shared more. I could have appreciated things so very much that I simply wanted to just give it away.

But I didn’t. Because I was truly poor.

I am now a very flawed work in progress and always will be until I go home to live with Jesus.

But I get it now.

  • I understand that to follow Christ is to allow Him to live in and through us and that it’s not MY life.
  • I understand that I am not able to turn a blind eye to others in need and it is my privilege and responsibility to help them.
  • I understand that I am to discern the truth and stand firm in that truth, but always speak it or show it in love – REAL love.
  • I understand that I was born rich by the world’s standards, but was truly poor without God.
  • I understand that I can love others even when I disagree with them or their choices, because God loves me that same way.

I understand.

And now I am truly rich.

I won’t make apologies for being a Christian and I won’t make apologies for standing for God’s truth in love. I won’t make apologies for not conforming to this world and its definitions of just what truth and love are ~ because I only follow the truth of Jesus.

Period.

But I do apologize for my lack of giving and lack of love and care at times.

I do apologize for turning a blind eye.

I do apologize for pretending to be rich, but really being poor in my heart.

So if you find yourself privileged but knowing in reality that you are poor, dear friend?

Turn to Jesus, won’t you?

If you find yourself under-privileged, but truly rich because Christ lives within you:

Celebrate and praise Him with me, won’t you?

If you feel lost, misunderstood, persecuted, terrorized, because of race, social disagreements, spiritual arguments, bickering and fighting, or for any reason under the sun…

Won’t you turn to the One who understands it all? Jesus Christ!

We all must seek to find true salvation, understanding and love through Jesus Christ and Him alone.

Then we truly have something wonderful to share with others. Then we are truly rich.

We can’t make everyone feel understood or loved all the time in spite of all of our own sins ~ only He can do that. But maybe, just maybe, He can do some of it in and through us.

We can’t live by truth and do so in love without Christ.

We can pretend ~ just like I pretended to be privileged and rich when I was so very bankrupt inside.

But it won’t last.

All the other stuff is temporary and doesn’t really mean we are rich anyway.

But in Christ, we are both privileged and we are rich.

Let us go forth and share that with others!

‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ Matthew 25:39-40

...that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.…Colossians 2:2-3

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The American Dream was one of my False Idols

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It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. Psalm 118:8

The American Dream ~ the chance to live life to the fullest, in freedom, peace, and strive for happiness and prosperity. The ability to work hard, take responsibility, and make something out of yourself, your life; in the face of obstacles and barriers.

All because of supposed “freedom” and “opportunity.”

And it’s a lie. I guess it has sort of always been a lie.

Here is a more formal “definition” of it. (I say definition loosely, because it could be re-defined at any given moment, just so ya know)….

The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States, a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility for the family and children, achieved through hard work in a society with few barriers.

There’s no question about it; we have more outward freedoms here in this country than we might have elsewhere. I’m not bashing that, although there might be room to think about that a little more in another post some day.

  • We can wear the clothing that we wish (most of the time).
  • We can decide where we wish to go grocery shopping.
  • We get to vote and actually think we sorta have a say in who will be elected to office.
  • We can attend church without hiding.

But is that really freedom?

I’ve come to see over the last several years that the American Dream was really, for me, just something of a nightmare that was in diguise all along.

And oh, what a beautiful nightmare it was for a while.

Several years ago, I stopped placing my trust in this country because I saw that Jesus is the only One in whom I should fully trust. I saw that the things we say we stand for aren’t really more than talk a lot of the time. They are, in fact, not indicative of what we stand for at all.

And I saw that we live in a bubble and the bubble, also is a lie a lot of the time.

I saw that I had still been placing some of my trust and hope in MAN.

No country, no set of ideals, no illusion of freedom is what makes us truly free.

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners Isaiah 61:1

And friends ~ I didn’t fully understand just how brainwashed I really was. I didn’t truly get it – that loving and supporting my country and buying into this nightmare of a dream was a false idol of sorts all along.

It really had me duped. I was bought in all the way.

By the way ~ in the face of this realization, it does NOT mean that I don’t support our military. It does NOT mean that I am not grateful for the blessings I reap by living here. It just means what it means ~ that those things are nice, but they aren’t what I am supposed to be living for.

They are not what make me free. The truth is. And Christ alone is that truth.

So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:21-23

The enemy is the father of all lies; the master of deceit. He makes that which is ugly look sparkly and pretty. He distorts something from its true or original meaning and parades it all around and gives it new meaning – his, not God’s.

Just look at how the rainbow is being used right about now, friends. I’m sorry, but I have to point it out.

The rainbow is a symbol of God’s covenant with the earth. We’ve decided to use it to represent something to fit our own agenda. We’ve decided to use it to further what we like to call freedom and humanity and love. We’ve used our re-definition of what the rainbow symbolizes to fit our new definitions of all else we decided works better for ourselves.

And the cycle continues to pick up speed.

We can distort anything if we put our minds to it. And we can tie it up into a pretty little bow while we’re at it.

So although this is harsh, I’m not bashing everything about this entire country ~ I’m simply pointing out the truth about the state of man’s heart, particularly my own. It can be a dark place if we put on the sunglasses and drink the kool aid for momentary and fleeting satisfaction and false comfort.

It’s hard when we realize we have moved from appreciating something we have to believing in or buying into what it pretends to stand for – allowing it to be a fake substitute for the real thing.

We love our illusions.

I’m not happy about things that have been happening in our country for quite some time now. I’m not pretending they are new, either, although things seem to be happening at a higher rate of speed now and we are waving it around in an in-your-face kind of way. And that makes me sad.

But I am still thankful.

  • I am still grateful that God can use these things to open my eyes even more.
  • I am thankful that God can and does use all things for His perfect will and our good.
  • God can help me see just how blinded I was and even continue to be sometimes.
  • God can help me focus more through these harsh eye-opening realities.
  • God can help me dig deeper into my own little heart and realize where my idols are still taking up residence.
  • God can help me remember that people still need Jesus and regardless of how the enemy tries to take our eye off the ball, we CAN be light in a dark and needy world.

Oh, it’s painful to take the blinders off. If you’ve been in the dark about anything for a while, the light can hurt more than a little bit as your eyes adjust.

But light is a good thing. As long as it’s not the fake stuff.

Thank you, dear Jesus for helping me see what is really just a dream, what is truly real, and what nightmares parade around pretending to be beautiful dreams or fake realities.

Thank you for exposing the dark crevices inside of my own heart (again) and the falsities that I have been filling it with in place of YOU.(again)

Help me to remember, dear Jesus: Help me to remember we are still walking around in a bubble and there are real people in this world – here and elsewhere – living out their own antagonizing and terrorizing nightmares on a daily basis. Their nightmares are very real, quite tangible, and aren’t always wrapped up in bows to lull them to sleep. They are fighting just to survive.

All kinds of nightmares. All kinds of darkness. Your light, dear Jesus ~ You can save us from it all if we place our faith and trust in YOU.

Only YOU can save us.

  • Wake us up.
  • Take the fake pretend comforts away.
  • Startle us!
  • Help us to see what is real, even if it’s ugly.
  • Help us and fill us with YOUR strength, YOUR love.
  • Help us to DO something about it.
  • May Your light shine all the brighter through us in dark days.
  • And most of all ~ Help our eyes to focus on YOU.

YOU, dear Jesus. You are not a dream. You are our reality and you don’t re-define things to suit the flavor of the day.You love us just the same today as you did yesterday.

You, and only You reign SUPREME!!!!

And You hold us in your mighty hands and comfort us as we awaken from the nightmares.The nightmares do not hold us prisoner.

You give us true freedom. You give us Your peace. We belong to You.

Thank you for using all things to keep us awake and focused upon You.

May the idols come down and may we stand firm and tall in the love and truth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

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Evil Pretends to be King

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Each day, we check the news and something more shocking seems to have happened.

  • Something that grieves our hearts…
  • Something that rocks a family, a community, a country to the core…
  • Something that makes us stand in awe, jaws dropped to the floor, wondering…”how can this possibly be happening?”
  • Something….. more.

Something more evil than we can even wrap our minds around.

  • It breaks our hearts and tries to steal our peace, our love.
  • It incites fear, fighting, and tries to take our eye off the ball.

Evil, and the one behind it all prides itself on being a great magician ~ a master of deception.

And it has always been here.

Evil tries to masquerade as many things ~ anything but the pure dark and sick and twisted thing that it is. It doesn’t want you to see who the driving force behind it really is.

  • It tries to fake us out.
  • It tries to put us into fight or flight and keep us there.
  • Evil feeds on FEAR.

And fear breeds lots of even uglier things. It is a catalyst for all kinds of ugly..

But evil can NOT be allowed to be the winner.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1 John 4:4

WE can not allow evil to take center stage, friends. Sure, it’s impossible to deny that it is here ~ I am certainly not talking about doing that. (That ~ causing us to simply look the other way ~ well, that’s another tricky tactic that is often used to cause apathy or compromising of our values ~ of love).

Yes. LOVE through the power of Jesus Christ is the true, most powerful thing we have in our arsenal against evil.

But even more importantly, we MUST remember Who is the One, True King!

He has not only always been here ~ He has always been and is!!!

HE IS.

Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. The ONE TRUE KING!

Don’t blame God for “allowing” evil to be present on this earth, friend. Cry out to him instead.

Remember to assign blame where it is due. Then ask the Lord to fill you up with more of Him and His love, His comfort, His peace.

There’s a prince of this earth and his sad little name is “Satan.”

But over ALL the earth, over ALL the universe, over ALL eternity, there is only ONE TRUE KING.

He is coming back for us soon…

Soon and very soon!

And there shall be no more evil. There shall be no more tears. Every single knee shall bow to the One True King!

For those of us who have accepted Christ as our One true love and our One true King, we know this.

So yes….

  • Evil hurts us.
  • Evil causes grief, pain, and absolute outcry.
  • Evil takes temporary victories and tries to fake us into believing that it’s time to throw in the towel and surrender to it.

But let us remember the love of Christ. Let us remember who the King really is.

Let us remember we are royalty ~ Christ’s children.

And most of all: let us remember just Who has already won.

We are not the captives of evil. We have been captured by Jesus Christ, our Lord. And thanks be to HIM!

AMEN.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 2 Corinthians 2:14

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I Celebrate Mother’s Day Differently ~ Since Mama went to Heaven

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Every year, when Mother’s Day comes around I realize it: I celebrate Mother’s Day differently since Mama went to Heaven a few years ago.

Don’t get me wrong, friends. I miss my Mama dearly. But I am so happy, now that the shock of the initial grief has subsided a little.

Why? Because I know that I know that I KNOW where she is right now. And its a way cool place. She’s with the King of Kings!

Sometimes on Mother’s Day I feel a tinge of sadness or a remnant of that fresh kind of grief that strikes you in the first days and months following the passing of a deeply loved one. But although I cannot celebrate with Mama on Mother’s Day, I find that I celebrate her for who she was and still is in many ways that I couldn’t appreciate before she left this earth.

I celebrate who my Mama is every day ~ not only on Mother’s Day.

I celebrate who Mama was and is in Jesus.

I celebrate my Savior, who  has her firmly in His grip.

I celebrate the fact that He’s got me too!

Yes. I celebrate ~ differently.

I often find myself lost in thought as to what Mama might be doing with Jesus right now. It’s the coolest kind of imagining one can do. And, usually when I catch myself dreaming away about such things, I find I have a smile on my face. I feel like I am getting to be right there with them sometimes, and I often wonder if the Lord isn’t doing something mysterious in those moments.

It’s awesome.

I dream about it, friends. I find myself walking in a meadow to meet them ~ it feels like I’m walking on puffy clouds, but it’s actually beautiful green grass. Everything feels….lighter. All burdens are lifted. There’s a peace there that reaches a whole new level that I cannot explain with words.

I celebrate differently ~ and I would venture to say that I celebrate…..BETTER.

Because I cannot wait to see my Jesus face to face! And my Mama too.

I am excited for the day that I can see them and hug them and kiss them and wrap myself under their love again.

When it happens? I shall twirl. I shall dance. I shall sing and laugh and cry and love will pour out of me that I didn’t even know that I possessed.

And in the meantime? Well, that’s another part of the different kind of celebrating that I will continue to do. Love transcends earthly boundaries.

True love ~ like the kind that I receive from Jesus and from Mama? Well, all I can say is it’s cause for a daily celebration!

Jesus lives, my friends!!! He conquered death and He is KING! And because He lives, Mama does too. So do WE! Whoo Hoo!!!!!!!!!!!

What a GIFT of love, my friends. So much better than any Mother’s Day gift or any other gift I could ever give to another!

Just call me the party chick. ‘Cause I have a never-ending present to open, and each time it gets better and better!

If we follow after Christ and trust Him as our One and only Savior and King, we get the best present of all!

We get His presence in our presents.

Every single day.

I celebrate differently now. I celebrate Mother’s Day and Christmas and Easter and every day differently now.

I am grateful.

And it is…………GOOD!

Join in my celebration, friends. You are SO invited.

But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.1 Corinthians 15:57

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Utterance

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Sometimes I say the wrong thing. Maybe it’s not appropriate for the situation, not diplomatic enough, or it just plain comes out…..wrong. Anyway, I can definitely say that sometimes I have a big mouth and my foot fits right in there regardless of what kind of shoes I might be wearing that day. (And sometimes they stink)

But more of the time, I don’t say enough. I don’t take the opportunity to proclaim Jesus and His grace, His love, His understanding ~ boldly and with great joy. I let fear hold me back. Or selfishness, or worry, or concern about what others might think if I say something the wrong way or offend them.

I have found in life, dear friends ~ I have found that I usually regret the not saying more than the times I have said something the wrong way. I can apologize with great sincerity when I say the wrong thing. But a missed opportunity? Well, those are the times – those pockets of silence that I KNOW should have been filled – that I regret.

Do I wish to live with that? Not any more.

I pray for the Holy Spirit to nudge me (and pound me, even) when I am not sure what to say, but I know that I am supposed to open my mouth. I pray for the words – His words – to flow out freely. I pray for the obedience to stop over-thinking things and just let those words come out….the words that come straight from the heart and the Spirit of the Lord. And I pray for the wisdom to know the difference ~ the difference between my own well-intentioned words and those that He would wish for me to say.

Our words matter, friends. And not just how we say things, but all the things that we do not say.

Open your mouths and let your words be things that reflect all that Jesus Christ is.

Grace, Love, Salvation. So very much more.

It’s the good news that we simply cannot keep to ourselves.

We may be in chains in many other ways, but we can still speak powerfully for Christ Jesus. Because He lives.

And He has good news for us to share.

And for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. Ephesians 6:19-20

Only One King ~ It’s ALL GOOD

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You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only. Matthew 4:10

Sometimes as Christians we cross over a line without even realizing it. The fuzzier it is, the harder it is to tell once we are treading on thin ice.

The enemy knows this.

We have the best of intentions as we find ourselves wanting to express love and kindness to others and look for the light and love of Jesus in them. Naturally, we then wish to lift that person up, encourage them, and take a moment to revel in all that God is doing in their life.

And that is good.

But as soon as it even begins to turn into a admiration of that person, rather than who they are in and because of Christ, we risk a form of “person-worship”.  It doesn’t always  happen ~ but it does become a bit of a tightrope and we need to be careful.

The glory belongs to God. friends.

“I want to be just like that person.”
She is so great and has it all together.”
“What he is doing for God is so wonderful.”
Her ministry is so awesome ~ she’s really great.”

It’s not bad for us to say or think these things ~ It’s only dangerous if it stops right there. It’s really scary if it started right there!

If we don’t go the step further in our minds and hearts to remember that it comes from the Lord, we start to idolize that individual instead of Him.

HE is what is Good.

Often our actions and our words are the only way that others can see what Christ is doing in and through us. But it is SO important that we attribute all the good that any of us that follow after Him do here on earth to the Lord.

It’s important for that person to “clothe themselves in humility”, but equally vital that those of us who listen to them, encourage them, or learn from them do not glorify them as some sort of God.

This happened to Paul, as well as many other followers of Christ, you know. Many times.

These guys knew….

That was not good.

But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: “Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news,telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them. Acts 14: 14-15

We know the story well of the pastors, bloggers, teachers, mentors who have lorded over their own ministry and given the credit to themselves instead of God. But what about those who are following after them? Do we find ourselves somewhat worshiping our teachers and leaders in the church and in ministry overall? How about that person out there who has a “wonderful ministry for Christ?” How do we perceive them?

Anything that I do (such as this blog, for example) in which I share about all the Lord is doing in my life ~ the good, the bad, and the ugly ~ well, in a way it’s a ministry. It’s a testimony of what Christ is doing in my life and the life of others that I am doing life with.

But it’s not MY ministry.

It’s not my personal kingdom, friends.

And for me personally, I must say….I truly feel the greatest testimony of the good that Christ has brought about in and through my life comes from seeing clearly all that I am not without Him. Only then can I clearly see HIS goodness. Only then can I see that no matter what happens, with Him on my side it truly is going to be all good.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Do I find myself admiring another person and how Godly they are (or seem to be) and fail to look for the brokenness and how Jesus Christ is responsible for any and all good that has happened in their life? Do I stop short and simply sit back and wish I were more like that person instead of searching for ways to learn how Jesus made them who they are today and every day?

Sometimes I do. I admit it ~ I am guilty.

I find myself teetering on the line between listening to what GOD has placed inside of them and is allowing to spill out, and seeing it as that person’s own widsom ~ gifting ~ or awesome-ness.

Like I said: It’s a fine line.

I want to be standing on the side of the line that is ALL GOOD. I want to be firmly rooted on the side where Jesus is, rather than mixed up in the stew of human goodness and divine goodness.

It’s a casualty of living in this transitional home, friends. Things get murky and muddy.

Gotta remember to always look up. Look up to what is purely and divinely good.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:37-39

I focus so much on making sure that I am loving others that I run the risk at times of forgetting that it should come in second to loving the ONE and ONLY that is wholly good. Only that makes the second part worth anything at all. Only that allows the second part to be the kind of love that Christ has for us to come out of us as we love upon others.

Keepin’ it Good ~ ALL the way good.

We have to check ourselves all the time. We do this through prayer and daily heart checks with the Lord.

It is good to lift one another up and encourage them and tell them what the Lord is showing us through them and their willingness to use the gifts He has given them.

It is good to seek Jesus inside of others and recognize Him and see Him and how He is spilling out of them because He lives inside of them and wants to shine.

It is good to edify, encourage, reinforce, compliment.

It is GOOD.

But making these things our first stop is not ALL good.

It is not good to exalt or glorify anyone other than Christ. Not a person. Not a pastor. Not a shining leader and man or woman of God.

No ~ not even an angel.

“And I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed me these things. 9 And he said to me, “Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book; worship God.” Revelation 22:8-9

Friends, it even happened to John, so don’t beat yourself up if you, like me, have teetered on the tight rope and occasionally capitulated. It is okay. God understands and will forgive us.

We can simply recognize it and ask the Lord to fill our hearts and our need to worship with Himself. He can use others, for certain. But all the good comes from HIM.

He will do it, you know. He is ready to enter in and be our ALL.

He is our One and Only ~

There is only One King ~

And He is our ALL GOOD.

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Timothy 1:17

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Yet Still Today

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

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

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

I am His.

Yet still today…………

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

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

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

I am His.

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

It’s not about that and I know it.

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

Neither does this:

I am His.

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

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

Because…….

I am His.

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

Yet still today.

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

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This Is War

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today seems…..dark.

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

It’s going to hurt.

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

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

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

I am believing.

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

I am believing.

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

I believe.

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

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

Anger is an ugly monster. So is selfishness.

And so is condemnation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Show us the Ugly!

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

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

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

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

He twists everything.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You are the Almighty One.

You are the Faithful One.

You are the truly Beautiful One.

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

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

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Compartmentalizing and Coveting: It Doesn’t Work That Way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Backwards. It stinks.

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

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

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

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

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

God doesn’t work that way.

So I submit.

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

I submit.

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

I submit.

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

I submit.

Reluctantly, I must admit, but I will submit.

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

I submit.

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

HIS child! And I submit.

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

Zoom out, and submit to His will.

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

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

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

Through the good stuff and through the suffering.

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

I submit.

I surrender.

I am grateful.

I am His.

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

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

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

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I Don’t Do Crazy Well ~ Do You?

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

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

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

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

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

NO. Crazy is not my bestie.

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

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

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

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

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

Not with this girl though.

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

Maybe Crazy is there for a reason?

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

Yes.  Even CRAZY can be used by God!

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

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

But God has already done the winning for us!

But God is here with us now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He can and will conquer even Crazy.

It’s a promise.

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

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