A Significant Speck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HE IS.

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

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Encourage Radically

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m guilty.

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

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

And it will be hard sometimes.

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

Everyone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bible tells us so – through and through.

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

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

Know. Our. Enemy.

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

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

We have to know our Savior.

Know. Our. Savior.

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

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

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

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

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

It is the truth. 

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

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

Relentlessly.

Maliciously.

And beyond gleefully.

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

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

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

We MUST NOT let down our guard!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And above all….

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

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

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

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

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

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God sees right through the Bubble

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These are the burning questions on my mind lately.

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

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

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

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

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

And this little boy is telling on us.

GOOD FOR HIM!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All of it.

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

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

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

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

You have to look out for number 1.

You must stay positive above all else.

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

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

Self matters. 

Self matters.

SELF MATTERS!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So today I am reminded:

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

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

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

BUT…………

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

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

We will remember and we will know.

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

We can tell it all to God.

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

He has NOT forgotten us.

And our real home is with Him.

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

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

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

And he’s telling it all to God!

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

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

Thanks be to God. No more need for bubbles.

THANKS BE TO GOD!

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

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In Spite of the Thickets and the Thorns

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

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

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

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

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

Seeking HIM. Looking to HIM.

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

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

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

But it’s not easy.

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

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

In the Garden of Gethsemane…

In the dark….

Surrounded by trees and very, very alone.

Knowing. Knowing what is about to come…

And He still looked up.

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

And I think of my Jesus upon that cross…

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

And He still looked up.

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

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

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

So can we.

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

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

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

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

For us.

Jesus looked up for us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunshine Spots

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Puppy breath

Big fat smiles

Steaming Coffee

Running Miles

Happy Dances

Snoopy Lives!

Receiving Flowers

Husband Gives

Young Adults

Babes are Grown

All those seeds

They’ve been sown

Bible Time

Words of love

Speaking Life

Gifts from above

Beachy Getaways

Airplane Rides

Toes in Sand

Birds that Glide

Jesus Joy

All around

Inside Out

His grace abounds

Sunshine Spot

The puppy seeks

Laying there

For weeks and weeks

Plants and flowers

Growing tall

Life goes on

In these four walls

Smiling faces

Hearts to hug

Burdens lifted

No need to lug

Peanut butter and honey

On top of toast

Dripping and delicious

Satisfies the most

Books to read

Poems to write

Colors to embrace

Black and white

Seeking light

While hugging chains

Basking in sunshine

Appreciating rain

All of it pales

When I seek His face

The greatest gift of all

He’s in every place

Jesus, my Savior

The One who lives

Thank you for the little things

For the light You give.

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

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The Itch I Cannot Scratch

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Those dudes in the scriptures? They were T-O-U-G-H peeps, my friends. The stuff they went through – endured – it’s truly beyond me.

Johah, Moses, Abraham, Job, David, the disciples and sooo many more! These dudes went through the ringer, man. I can’t even fathom it.

I get it: Some of them, at first, went through stuff without relying upon the Lord for help. But when they did turn to Him ~ when they did rely upon HIM, His power, His strength, they triumphed. Yes, even while suffering God can show us that because of Him, we have overcome.

That’s how our Savior does things. He pulls us up out of the broken pits of despair and suffering and works His wonders in and through those trials for the world to see. Glory be to God!

He doesn’t necessarily remove suffering, although we, small children that we are, like to think that a nice parent would do so.

Sometimes you have to allow your children to go through some stuff so they truly become stronger and learn and build character. All that good stuff, you know?

I laugh at myself of late, because I feel like I relate to Job. I laugh out loud because when it even goes through my little mind that I can relate to this dude and what he went through, it becomes crystal clear how small and weak I really am….ha ha. Why? Because what I am enduring right now is only a microscopic fraction of what Job actually went through in his time.

And if compared to the suffering that Christ endured? My trials cannot even be seen under a microscope!

Yes, I laugh.

And I cry.

I laugh and I cry because right now, along with the “normal” pain I carry with me all the time from the Fibro Monster, I am infected. Out of the blue (that’s what Fibro and CFS does – surprise!) my immune system started to shut down. Literally over night, my skin became inflamed and infected. It is now in my eyes (pinkeye), my face is covered in scabs (candida yeast) and I have fever blisters on my lips.

I cannot hug my kids or my husband. I can’t even kiss my puppy. I am itching all over and want to scratch my face off, but I can’t touch it. There is no escape. And it sucks rocks.

But…it’s really going to be okay. I’ve been here before. And I, unlike Job, have a doctor I can finally cave in and go to see today.

But when I think of Job, I often think only of how well he held up under adversity far greater than mine. I tend to walk in condemnation during such times because of that. I compare myself and my small faith as compared to men like these, and I come up quite short.

And then I realize later what I have done because God whispers to my heart – go and check a little deeper into the story, my daughter. Job was not so perfect in how he handled things either. He was human, like you. You can learn from him, yes. But also learn that he wasn’t pretending this was all fun and games and that’s not what I am trying to grow in you right now either.

I realize that Job, like me, at first accepted his plight with great dignity and minimal complaining…

The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD (Job 1:21).

So very often, when I am under duress, I stop right there in Job’s story. And then I walk away thinking I am an ungrateful child. But when I check a little further and go a little deeper, I see that eventually, Job had his human moments too. He, much like David in the Psalms, cries out. He doesn’t pretend he is loving this situation at all. He even goes so far as to curse his life.

Yes, long before spilling their hearts out to the Lord, these men, like little old me, also went through phases of resentment, bitterness, self-pity, and even anger for all the calamities they were facing.

None of us is perfect when we have an itch we cannot scratch…

Why is light given to him who suffers? Why is life given to those who feel sad in their soul?  They wait for death, but there is none. They dig for it more than for hidden riches. They are filled with much joy and are glad, when they find the grave. Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden, and around whom God has built a wall?  For I cry inside myself in front of my food. My cries pour out like water.  What I was afraid of has come upon me. What filled me with fear has happened.  I am not at rest, and I am not quiet. I have no rest, but only trouble.” Job 3:20-26

There’s no pretending on Job’s part that this is a walk in the park, friends. The key is that he sees his infection, but doesn’t place blame on the Lord for it. He cries out to Him instead. He is honest in his anguish. And when we honestly share our burdens with the Lord, it is then that He can truly take them for us.

In His timing, of course.

So yes, this is why I laugh at myself, friends. This is also why I cry sometimes. Because I am like Job even though my infection doesn’t come close to comparing to all that he endured. And unlike Job, I allow the enemy to make me berate myself before I realize what is even happening.

But the good news is that like Job, I do not blame God for my suffering. Thanks be to God that He speaks to us and ministers to our hearts through His Word. Thanks be to the Lord that He can “work all things together for our good.”!

We go through these little processes when we are “suffering” don’t we? It is part of what the Lord uses to mold us and shape us and build our character. It is part of surrender. It is part of dying to self. We struggle to scratch and scratch and scratch. We struggle to satisfy and obtain our own peace and relief. We struggle to the point we can even sometimes forget for a moment and lash out and fight against the One who knows us and loves us the most.

Until we finally give up.

Through all the struggle Job endured, the struggle to understand what was going on was the very itch he couldn’t seem to scratch. Searching for the answers and looking TO GOD is what finally brought him relief of sorts. Trying to understand more about God versus his present situation was part of what strengthened his already-strong faith and character.

Job may have become angry with his situation for a while, but he never really cursed God. He did, indeed curse his situation and cry out a lot about it though. He stopped short of accusing God for the suffering that was inflicted upon him, even though he was angry and upset about his plight.

I think this is the kind of thing that God wants from us. He wants us to cry out honestly about our plight – to HIM. He doesn’t want us to pretend it’s all okay and show how tough we are.

Even through the suffering, Job did not blame the Lord…he even admits he came to know him and build his relationship with him in a new way…

My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you. Job 42:5

I am infected. I am not tough about it. But far greater than the infection I carry around upon my face right now, I am filled with the love of Jesus. And He saves me!

  • He scratches my itchy heart when it needs it.
  • He brings relief to my soul when I cannot get any from my physical and emotional ailments.
  • He has my heart in the palm of His mighty hand.
  • He brings me a greater peace than any itch-scratcher-reliever-thing ever could.

And it is all for HIS glory anyway. 

And oh, yah….

It’s not even about me.

“See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this” (Isaiah 48:10).

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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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Hour by Hour

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God delivers. God saves. God makes all things new.

The residue from our family conflict is being replaced by new seeds ~ seeds of beauty to replace the ugly gunk. Seeds of growth that God plants, even in what seems to be a lifeless mass of junk that this girl would have chosen to discard ~ thinking it’s worthless.

They’re going to become beautiful flowers.

Because He makes all things new.

Healing has begun, but God doesn’t stop there. He uses every situation ~ every circumstance to make things new and better than before. He’s growing a garden ~ a divine one that surpasses what we can even imagine right now.

It’s hard though ~ hard when we are hot in the middle of the messy part. It’s hard to see what He is doing. We can believe (we have to or we are DEAD)…..but we want to see the results faster sometimes than they come. We get tired of just believing, and want the prize right away.

Seeds have to grow.

Today I am thankful that talking and heart sharing has been done. I am grateful that I know that the seeds of the newness of God have been planted. I see the flowers in my mind’s eye. I see them already.

Yet I find myself wondering ~ when will He plant those seeds regarding my health? I find myself wondering if there will ever be pretty flowers to smell in this part of the garden.

Chances are He already has planted them. I think maybe I have stopped fully believing.

  • I believe He is working all things together for my good.
  • I believe His strength is being made perfect through my weakness.
  • I believe He will make something new out of the old in my body.

I just don’t know what it’s going to look like yet. I don’t know that I will get to ever see and smell the pretty flowers.

And that makes me SAD.

Please don’t pity me, friends. I am not asking for that at all. I am simply a weary woman who is sharing what is in my heart and mind today.

I don’t know anything special or wise to share about all of this at this point….it hasn’t been given to me. No nugget of wisdom ~ no secret sauce ~ no enlightening answer as to how God gets us through such things.

It surpasses my knowledge ~ it surpasses my understanding.

I only know that He is not forsaking me. At this point, I only know that there’s something more He wants to grow in me regarding my belief.

It may not look pretty or smell good, but He is growing it. My faith is not strong in the way or area that He wants for it to be. I don’t know how I know this ~ I just do.

So for now, it’s truly hour by hour. For now, I cannot make plans that I know are likely to come to fruition.

For now, I don’t know what the next day holds, or even the next hour.

I only know I have to take it hour by hour ~ with Him.

What will the Lord help you to accomplish this hour? What if we stop worrying about whether we will meet all of our responsibilities in the hours to come and take it one hour at a time? What if we ask Him to meet us anew as we trudge, hope, pray to make it through just this hour? And when the hour arrives in which we don’t “make it” through? Is it really true that we didn’t make it? If He is with us, and we are seeking Him, is that not triumph?

I am so focused on my failures that I fail to see the triumph in what He is doing in and through me in those times. I fail to see that I am already walking through the garden with Him.

Hour by hour, He meets me and is making something new, friends. Some hours I am able to move, accomplish, finish, follow through. And some are filled with disappointment and fear of what may result as a consequence starts to threaten me.

This is when He meets me and tells me that He’s got this covered. I just don’t see it yet.

Seeds are being planted round the clock, friends. I can’t say it doesn’t hurt sometimes. I can’t say I am not impatient to see them grow. I can’t say I get tired of all the planting and want to see the end result more than focus upon the utter KNOWING that God’s work is being accomplished!

But I know that He is planting.

This hour, I know that He delivers ~ He plants ~ and He can grow beauty out of what seems worthless or even dead.

My prayer for us today is that we all forget, even if just for a while, about all that is old, broken or just not working right any more. May we forget it long enough to see that inside, we are being renewed. He is in the process of planting new seeds all the time.

Every hour He is making us new.

Let Him meet you today, friends. Let Him meet you this hour and the next one and the next.

And know that He is God.

Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17

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

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

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

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

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

So here is the question:

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

Things that make you go “hmmmm.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think….NO.

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

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

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

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

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

Only God is good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tell them!

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

Tell them!

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

Tell them!

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

Tell them!

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

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

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

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

The Blooms…

The Light…

And the weeds…

And the darkness…

The Joy…

And the Suffering…

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

His Good.

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

We are responsible to let the light shine ~

What others “see” is up to Him.

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

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Loving the Other Pharisees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s all of us. He loves ALL of us.  

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

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

It’s not meant to be easy.

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

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

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

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

That means loving when it’s hard.

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

But for me, it’s about: 

The Pharisee in my heart….

The other Pharisees….

The lost who have not chosen Him….

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

The church and their own heart hurts…

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

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

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

“Death” to the Pharisee inside of my heart.

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

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

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The Tale That May Never Be Told

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

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

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

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

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

Ugly and tormenting ways.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Surrender. The constant need for surrender.

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

It’s not how I want for it to be.

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

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

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

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

Truth is more important.

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

A perfect little tale with all the bows and ribbons.

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

I only thought the middle would be a bit tattered.

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

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

Newsflash to Annie: It’s not working.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One that will be there for an eternity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

He will shine through.

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

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

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

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

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

Yes…I think I shall.

I shall look up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you see the fire?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here it is:

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

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

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

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

No. God is bigger than that, friend.

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

Only Jesus saves.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In spite of my flesh.

In spite of my sin.

In spite of my pride.

In spite of my selfishness.

In spite of my coveteousness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Compartmentalizing and Coveting: It Doesn’t Work That Way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Backwards. It stinks.

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

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

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

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

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

God doesn’t work that way.

So I submit.

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

I submit.

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

I submit.

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

I submit.

Reluctantly, I must admit, but I will submit.

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

I submit.

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

HIS child! And I submit.

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

Zoom out, and submit to His will.

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

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

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

Through the good stuff and through the suffering.

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

I submit.

I surrender.

I am grateful.

I am His.

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

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

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

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Praying for Others: Let us not become Immune

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let us not become immune.

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

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

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

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

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

Because God cares.

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

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

It all matters. We all matter to Jesus.

Let us not be immune.

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

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

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

Let us not become immune.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let us not become immune.

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

It ALL matters to Him.

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

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

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

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

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

Let me start by telling you what I am NOT:

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

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

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

But God is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a relief that will be!

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

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

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

His name is Jesus.

Door of the Sheep….

The Great I AM.

Light of the World…

Living Water..

Lord GOD ALMIGHTY!

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

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

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

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

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Birth Pangs and the Glorious End of Them

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What do we see the world placing their faith (or lack of it) in? When man lets man down, outrage ensues. When the institutions, actions, and hearts of humanity fail to deliver, all hell on earth breaks loose ~  and then some. Lots of little irritants add up to create pain.

And it begins ~ (Pervasive and relentless pain that seems to be getting worse all the time)

We are not yet at the end of things as they exist today ~ but birth pangs give one a very strong taste of what the final push might look like, dear friends. The process is not pretty. It’s excruciating, even. But the end will come ~ and the result is beautiful.

Are we entering the transitional phase?

At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other...Matt 24:10

The deceivers will come ~ the ones who pretend that they will save the day. They will prey upon and pounce all over the disappointed. worn out and angry souls. They will make their feel-good promises, all for a turn at being heard. They will tell their little lies.

In times of immense stress, weakness is there and will try to take over everything. People listen to anything that sounds reasonable during such times. People even turn on one another for that which will soothe them in this very moment.

This is the time that we might wish to turn back ~ we may want to run. But the plan is in motion already.

It is beyond critical that we tune our ears and listen to the right voice!

And many false prophetswill appear and deceive many people….Matt 24:11

The real truth tellers will be shunned ~ sent to reside in the shadow of the lawless and loveless ones. The gray will seem to grow and grow, but the reality of the black and white is actually still there. Others try to redefine it. But the Word is the Word.

People will tell us there is no right or wrong – that it’s all “relative.” But there will be ~ it just won’t be the truth. We will be told that if we don’t accept their version of truth, we are evil. Much will be marked by lack of love, twisting of truth and an abundance of hate and apathy for that which is of Christ.

Chaos has a way of causing numbness eventually.

Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow coldMatt 24:12

It will be hard ~ very, very hard to stand strong in and for Christ in these times. It will be difficult to be less-than paralyzed by the gray ~ the lukewarm ~ the dark and the wickedness. The pain will be palpable. The savvy soothers will be tempting us at every turn.

Yet even in the midst of feeling numb or unable to move, we must stand firm. We must test the spirits. We must remember the Word and the truth about Jesus and consistently allow it to prick us and poke us to keep us vigilant. We must never lose sight during the worst of the birth pangs, contractions, and searing pain, that there is the ultimate and most blessed hope awaiting us.

We can only do it in Christ’s strength. Never on our own. He will be what helps us to stand strong. Only Him.

It’s really happening ~ and there will be a happy ending for some.

But he who stands firm to the end will be saved. Matt 24:13

And there will still be those who crave. There will still be those who will listen. There will seem to be few left who wish to hear about His love, His truth and the salvation He offers to each and every one of us. They may be hiding, but they are listening. We need to keep telling His story.

They shall be found. He knows who they are. They shall be found and they shall be treasured.

Birth and the bringing of new life is a beautiful, yet painful thing. But treasure is found along the way.

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. Matt 24: 14

And just when hearts feel they have broken too many times over all that surrounds them ~ just when we think we have seen the pinnacle of wickedness, lovelessness, hatred, brother against brother, and more, what looks like the worst of the worst will rear it’s ugly head.

And those left are admonished to flee.

And we are crowning ~ the pushing will hurt. But the Lord will help His own to endure.

So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel–let the reader understand–  then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains…Matt 24:14

We may not know for sure when, but we do know it will happen. And It will be sweeping ~ it will be vast ~ it will be overwhelming and surprising and painful and beautiful and powerful beyond words. There will be no question any longer about what it happening. Magnificent beauty is about to rip upon the scene and fill the dark spaces with light.

As much as we know the result from the pain of childbirth is a reality, the pain in the process often still takes us by surprise. But Jesus prepares our hearts. He emphasizes that we would do well not to forget.

He admonishes us to watch. To remember. He does so over and over again throughout scripture.

But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,[f] but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Matt 24: 36-39

And because we do not know the day nor the hour, are we to just sit back and wait passively? Is this an empty, daunting hope we wait upon, or one we are to be active participants in looking for with joy? It’s going to happen either way ~ but preparations most certainly matter.

Jesus says it does. He says it matters that we watch, expect, wait in an eager way.

He also tells us not to miss out on living out life now with Him right beside us as we watch for His return.

 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. Matt 24:42-44

The pain exists, friends….. and there’s no way to run from that. We shall see things that break our hearts. We may mourn for those who continue to refuse Him. We may dread the ugly part of this beyond glorious and beautiful story that He has written long, long ago.

But we must remember. We must never forget to remember that as hard as the pains may be ~ as taunting and daunting as the relentless squeezing is ~ there is a beautiful end to this earthly story ~the one that’s the beginning of our real life, divine, and perfect story.

It’s the ending that is just the beginning. And Jesus has not forgotten that.

Jesus has not forgotten US.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust God, trust also in Me. In my Father’s house there are many rooms, if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back, and take you to be with me, that you also may be where I am.”  John 14:1-3

Are you ready for the crowning part?

He is coming ~ soon and very soon.

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There’s No Getting Away From Crazy: But You Don’t Have to Do it Alone

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If there’s one thing I have learned, it is this: Balance is elusive. It’s elusive, and it’s an enigma, all at the same time. And crazy lives on both sides of balance – it lives on the side when you think you have it, and it lives on the side in which you think you don’t.

On the one hand, it’s important to strike an overall balance in our lives ~ to try to, at least. But that process can make us crazy if we go too far. If we get tricked into thinking that we are supposed to stop looking at the “overall” and head into the nitty-gritty of it, we become crazy ~ because IT IS NOT POSSIBLE. We also become crazy if we throw up our hands and never seek to keep things in check – because the wrong stuff will start to take over.

And, it seems ~ either way we go, SIN rears it’s ugly head. C-R-A-Z-Y!

Here’s what I’ve found. I have found myself (all of my life) being sucked into this idea that I have to have balance in every area all the time, or I get into trouble. But part of the trouble lies in the fact that once this vicious cycle starts, I end up idolizing balance and becoming totally discontent with my current situation if it isn’t falling into the category of being perfectly balanced and even.

This is no way to live.

At the same time, even when I realize these things and find the way to stop myself ~ stop striving for some perfect balance in every area of my life ~ I find myself going crazy then too. That’s because I am a very thoughts-driven and analytical person, someone who NEEDS lots of down time because when I work, I WORK, and my health and emotional well-being suffers when I don’t have enough “balance.”

Crazy lives on both sides of the coin for this girl. I guess I have to figure out which crazy is the lesser of two evils (evil grin). No, but seriously. I really do!

This is such a difficult concept to deal with, friends. If we give up completely on this whole balance or no balance thing, either side of the line we land upon, sin has an opportunity ~ so does crazy. It’s another one of those things (that I HATE) where it’s just not A or B ~ it’s some kind of in-between and gray area, and my brain hates those! Talk about crazy!

If I throw up my hands and realize there just is no such thing as balance, I have no order in my life and I go ballistic. The stuff of the world WILL overtake us! We have to surrender to Jesus, make the best choices we can, and keep the junk in check. But if we rely upon “balance” too much as a crutch to do such things, we aren’t really relying upon the only One who can help us anyway. So, there ya go.

Crazy. That’s me right now. I want it all, friends. I want to make it a bit easier on myself to be this smiling, happy, filled with joy for Jesus, always-has-time-for-others-and-the-stuff-that-really-matters, person. I want to work, but I want to work during hours that work well for me and my little life. I want to go to church, but never feel badly if I can’t go because I don’t feel well that day (I feel badly because I miss out on time with my family when I can’t go and fellowship with others). I want to have good health so I have the energy to be vibrant and filled with love and a surplus of stuff to give to others I care about in life. I don’t want to have to focus so much on the simple things such as caring for my health and keeping it all in “balance” that I have to miss out on the things that are most important. The whole thing draws me (sucks me into) thinking about SELF. Ugly, and crazy ~ most certainly.

I want it all, I guess.

Thing is, that’s what’s making me crazy, friends. How about you? Do you ever find yourself struggling with the line between moving through each day for what it is – moment by moment – yet not being able to just hang up being responsible in order to do so? Do you feel like you are constantly torn between letting go and taking action steps with wisdom and integrity?

This is one of the hardest things for me to contend with in life. It’s not either/or. It’s not surrender and take the parts of that that stink and turn them over to God. It’s not keep going and working and not having balance, yet don’t get crazy in that process, either. It’s almost impossible for me to find words to truly pinpoint the mess that this whole concept is and the ramifications that it has on the mind, even the heart.

BUT, I know this: There is a reason that this exists as a challenge and difficulty in our lives. There is a reason it is so pervasive and gnawing, and troublesome. There is a reason we have to fight against it so hard.

There is a reason.

For me, I believe the reason is that it is the constant thorn in my side that helps me to remember I will never be fully satisfied with this life – that I am meant to set my eyes upon eternity. And that saves me from the love of the world and the flesh. At the same  time, I get to be challenged to find what it means to be content amid the discontent and struggle that this causes me. I get to find, through Jesus and Him alone, that even when smack in the middle, ALL THE TIME, of feeling this need for balance that will never be there while I walk this earth, He can bring joy, contentment, and peace to my life.

He brings peace within the crazy.

Is balance elusive in your life, or have you found the way to have it while still relying upon your Jesus for everything? Is it ruling your life one way or the other? The need for it – for the perfect schedule and routine so as not to upset your day? Or the coveting of it, due to the lack of it in your life?

Who is ruling? Who is reigning? Which side of crazy do you live on, friend? Is Jesus there with you? Is He making crazy something you can clearly see for what it is? ALL the stuff that is not Him. ALL the stuff that is external and of THIS world?

I’ve lived in both places. I’ve lived crazy because I was a slave to my routine and my need to have everything perfectly balanced and set up to my liking – my lack of bend and flexibility almost snapped me in two. And I’ve lived the crazy I am in now ~ with the fact that I will never be able to truly seek Jesus and rely upon Him if I have to have things set up my perfect little way all the time.

Balance is elusive. Crazy is real.

But only Jesus is Right. Only Jesus is truly Faithful and Reliable. Only Jesus truly can bring about Peace, Joy, Contentment that overpowers all that causes us strife.

I’ll never understand this whole thing about balance and the constant roller coaster it creates whichever side of the line we happen to be on in any particular season we are in throughout life. But Jesus does.

He understands.

And that is NOT elusive.

I think I will rely upon that ~ upon HIM today. How about you?

Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:5-9

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Tattered, but True

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A couple of weeks ago I shared my thoughts with you about Ugly Love ~ that it’s what I feel Jesus calls us to ~ that it’s the main thing He has asked me to write about ~ and that there is unmistakable beauty in learning to love like Jesus does. Beauty, I say!

Loving in the midst of ugly.

I also made it quite clear, that this girl struggles big-time with loving when it ain’t easy. Know what that means, friends?

It means that I struggle with real and true love.

I struggle with self.

I struggle with pride.

I fight the desire to seek after the easy kind of love.

I want the kind that’s reciprocal or mutual.

I look for the kind that just breeds happy feel-good stuff for everyone all the way around.

The fake stuff: It tastes so good.

 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount.  But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.  Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:32-36 ESV

My dear friend Heather and I were talking about this today – this beautiful ugly love that ain’t easy to impart, receive, or walk in.  Moment by moment, day by day, even second by second sometimes; it is far from easy.

We talked about all of the things that prevent us from doing ugly love beautifully, like Jesus does. Tell me, does your list of reasons (uh-hem, “excuses”)  look something like ours?

  • I don’t feel like it today.
  • I need to be understood.
  • When I seek to understand, they won’t listen.
  • I don’t want to try to understand them.
  • My own sin got in the way.
  • Maybe that would be enabling.
  • I’m not sure which thing I’m supposed to do.

Key Word for loving in the midst of the very unpleasant and ugly = MERCY

Mercy. Compassion or forgiveness shown when it is within one’s power to punish or harm.

Did Jesus have the power to obliterate everyone around Him instead of willingly allowing Himself to be nailed upon that cross?

Does He have the divine option of telling us what we HAVE to do, instead of allowing us to choose Him or choose our own way?

Could Jesus have chosen to love only those who love Him back and do it well?

What about me? Do I have the choice to love others in the midst of that which is frustrating, hurtful, or just flat-out tragic and horrid? Am I capable of real mercy? Real compassion? You know….the kind that COSTS something to offer up?

Real love is going to cost us. Real love is not always reciprocal. Real love is often met with opposition, or even a startling, yet real-of-it’s-own, slap right in the face. But it’s no less real when that happens. It’s often far more real than the fluffy feel-good stuff. (hint: think about the cross, friends. Think about the cross).

It entails sacrifice. It means asking Jesus to fill us with His divine power and mercy. It can not be done through self, will, desire, or endurance alone. It just can’t. We have to give stuff up – A LOT.  (remember that pride thing I mentioned?)

I’ve tasted snippets of it, friends. I’ve seen glimpses of it here and there coming out of me. But the truth is, it’s not something I can say is pervasive in my life yet – the freely giving of real love when it gets ugly. I’m an inconsistent and hot mess!

Why? Cuz………

  • I fight it.
  • I talk myself out of it.
  • I get lazy.
  • I get cocky.
  • I strain for my own voice or heart to be heard.
  • I try to do it by myself
  • I’m a sinner
  • I want something in return and, oh YES, it had better be GOOD!

But I am praying. I am praying and I am taking action. I am asking Jesus to help me. It’s probably the most difficult thing I have ever prayed over in my life ~ this desire to love like Jesus. It’s by far worse than praying for patience. There’s so much surrender involved mixed with  so many flesh driven and relentless feelings. It’s a place I don’t enjoy being in at all ~ but the reward is so great.

There’s nothing ugly about that part.

What lies in your heart today that stops you from loving someone when it’s ugly and dark? Is there something enticing just around the corner that seems more comfortable…that will feed you….that tastes too good to pass up? Why not ask Jesus to help you along with me today? Ask Him to put the desire in your heart and give you His strength to choose to do ugly love in the most beautiful way possible – as a natural outpouring of His own love for us that fills us inside and begs to flow outward. Ask Him to let it spill over. Come to Him and be refilled daily so nothing else gets in the way. Know that you are not alone. That you have another friend whose heart is dark and crooked, where hidden little tempters lurk.

Jesus understands. Jesus gets it. Jesus SAVES.

It ain’t gonna be easy, friends. That’s the way of the sinner. But there’s beauty in the difficult. There’s glory in the sacrifice. There’s love in the ugly stuff ~ to be given and to be found.

  • Ask for it.
  • Pray over it.
  • Endeavor to live it.

And turn the hurts, the disappointments, the heartaches, and the anger over to Him if you are slapped for it in return. Every single day, if need be.

He loved us first, that beautiful Jesus of ours! He loves us so well, spots and all. It wasn’t easy for Him to be nailed to that cross, just as I’m sure it’s not a bed of roses to sit back and watch some of the choices we still make.

But it is real.

It’s Jesus real friends. Isn’t that where we want to be? Right in the midst of Him and His real compassion, His real mercy, His freely offered gift of love in the middle of the convoluted mess that life and love can be?

We are sons and daughters of the most High. May we glorify Him in all that we say and do. May we love one another in the icky and the sticky. May we see through the mask of surface beauty and cut through the tempting desires to get equal footing in this world with others.

No. Real love ain’t easy. And no….easy was never promised to us in the first place. But at the end of the day, we have been promised an eternity with our Savior who loves us no matter what.

Maybe…just maybe, in the meantime, we can glorify Him by asking Him to help us love one another much better.

  • In the good times and the bad ones too.
  • In the midst of joy and during trials, suffering and pain.
  • As we see Jesus there shining through, as well as when all we can see are the Horrendously Ugly warts and cracks and fissures.

He’s always there. His light WILL shine through in the darkness.

And that, my dear friends, is true beauty.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. John 13:34

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