All The Way

surrender (2)

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine dresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.John 15:1-7

You know what I see that we do a lot when we don’t want to truly change for the better, eradicate a besetting sin out of our lives, or make a heart change that is a real indicator of true repentance (the all the way kind)?

We take, and maybe even apply the parts of what we feel halfway comfortable with, in order to “allow for change”,  yet we discard much of the rest of what is truly required to allow the Lord to do the job completely.

When we do this, we are still in a state of resistance, not surrender.  And we can become very, very good at telling ourselves that is not what we are doing!

  • We tell ourselves little lies and walk in the halfway kind of ownership and surrender that is required to truly allow the Lord to “make all things new”, conform us to His likeness, and “work all things together for our good.”
  • We pick and choose what we will face up to and then reserve the right to customize just how we will go about dealing with that problem.
  • We find ways to make excuses for how this or that is not “working for us” and even go so far as to blame shift and hide beneath scripture we take out of context to justify ourselves in continuing to run.

We do that because we have not TRULY surrendered. And when we do this, we don’t see real change.

You see – most of the time, true surrender is a grueling process. Believe you me, this gal fully understands that because she is the QUEEN of not having mastered surrender!

But, so much of the time, if we really take a long, sustained, hard look, with a REAL desire to face the REAL AND WHOLE truth, we will see that we hang on and we grip very tightly to at least some form of control all the way to “the end.”

We like to do surrender halfway, man. Because it isn’t stinkin’ comfortable.

  • We want comfortable change.
  • We want comfortable accountability.
  • We want comfortable love, comfortable submission and comfortable truth in our lives.
  • We tell ourselves and others we want surrender, but the truth of the matter is sometimes, we just want it to be as comfortable as possible. Or at the very least, we want for it to be less UNCOMFORTABLE.

And sometimes – if we continue to walk in that for too very long, we then start to become people who profess our total commitment to Jesus, but are teetering on the edge of really just walking in a comfortable form of Christianity. And being a follower after Jesus Christ is not comfortable!

When we come to a place where we realize we are still reserving some form of control over our situation and not fully submitting, displacing ownership, blame shifting, and being the victim instead of submitting to the Lord, then we finally reach the place where we are in a state of surrender and the Lord CAN AND WILL WORK.

  • This place understands that the full truth and full self confrontation is nothing to try to run from – because God sees it all anyway.
  • This place understands that forgiveness is freely given, but restoration is conditional and requires full submission.
  • This place stops shifting blame and hanging on to control and looking at everyone else, and starts owning the truth.
  • This is the place that allows us to FINALLY START TO WALK in a struggle that is REAL, but one in which we are truly not alone and have the Lord fully on our side!

Why?

Because we open the door and let Him in. All the way in. He could knock it down- but in my life- He hasn’t. He waits for me to say “yes – come in and come ALL the way in.

We’ve all been through a war like I just described above – I venture to guess we will all go through one again. What I find interesting, is that those habits and tendencies die hard. Each new challenge or trial that I face causes me to see that I am still struggling anew with true surrender.

But thankfully, I am on to myself now. I know I can tend to want to go  halfway when it comes to surrender. I am aware of the fact that I tend to reserve some form of control over matters when it is necessary to fully let go. And I realize that letting go doesn’t mean that I stop doing my part – sometimes, letting go means discontinuing doing the part I decide to do for myself, and STARTING to do the parts that I wasn’t doing that God WANTS for me to do.

We don’t get to just say we have surrendered and not do anything. We have to walk in it. Really WALK.

So the process often isn’t as long and drawn out now when I see that there’s a new need for surrender again. But it will always be a struggle.

It just will.

And this whole constant cycle is indicative of just how much our flesh and our minds fight and war against facing the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Facing the truth and displaying a true willingness to do whatever it takes to allow the Lord to change things, is necessary for true repentance. Facing that truth – all of it – (yes, even when it’s ugly), and truly submitting ourselves to the Lord, (all of our selves, sin and all) allows God to work through our imperfections and shortcomings SO THAT we can become more like Christ.

I’m here to share this with my friends today as clearly as I possibly can – In my own little life, I have seen – God doesn’t do His best work in us when we are only willing to  surrender halfway. But He WILL be there for us all the way through things- EVEN WHEN we haven’t fully surrendered yet.

He is patient. But He truly doesn’t want to see us wrestle with this over and over again. I’m sure He often wonders “why are you making this so hard on yourself?” But the process is important, otherwise, He probably wouldn’t allow it in the first place.

You see….. Jesus LOVES us even while we are still sinners. Jesus went to the CROSS for us because of His love for us. But until we truly accept not only the free gift of salvation because of all that He did on that cross for us, but also desire to truly walk in a submitted and surrendered manner with Him, we really aren’t allowing Him to be the center of our lives. The truth is, when we don’t fully submit to Him, we are still in the driver’s seat. And we will probably never experience the FULLNESS of the joy, love, peace and freedom He so desires for us NOW until we reach that place.

That place is a place of UNCOMFORTABLE AND TOTAL surrender. But it is a beautiful place to be.

He will still love us when we are not going all the way and when we are lying to ourselves and not truly submitting. He will still love us, warts and all. But we will never be in the kind of relationship with Him that He intends for us if we continue to hold on to our sin and the lies we tell ourselves and continue to fool ourselves with all this comfortable Christianity, comfortable submission, and comfortable surrender.

Halfway just doesn’t cut it if we want real and intimate relationship. He wants all of us. He truly wants the whole deal. Meeting Him halfway is not abiding – not truly. And it causes a separation in our relationship with Christ. We can’t just hang out on the vine and pretend we are connected and tell ourselves that we can actually bear fruit that way.

We have to cling to the vine. And often, we wanna go our own way when it suits us, but continue to profess that we never left. It’s just what we do sometimes. And fruit eventually stops growing even when we part way separate ourselves from the vine. It’s just the facts, jack.

Even if and when we DO attempt to die to our flesh and the war that goes on within our hearts AND our minds, we will struggle, make no mistake about it! But we can stop layering our own extra crud – I like to call it the “crud of resistance” (LOL!) all over the top of that innate struggle, and it will help matters. We have to realize and stop only going halfway with this type of stuff. We add to the battle when we do this, and it makes the “process” oh-so-much- harder.

  • It prevents surrender.
  • It prevents true change.
  • It results in halfway relationships – ones that aren’t truth.
  • And that includes our relationship with our very own Savior.

If we meet Him where we are at – and come to Him in FULL honesty, He will realize we at least want to submit, but that we are struggling and we need HIS HELP.  He knows the truth anyway. So why would we try to hide it?

We can cry out to the Lord and tell Him we want to fully surrender, but we realize we are struggling and still clinging to our own form of control. We can ask Him to do whatever it takes to break that down within us. It’s a  hard prayer to submit to the Lord, even. But if we truly mean it in our hearts, He will deliver.

It may be hard…

It probably won’t be comfortable…

But in the end, it will be SO VERY worth it.

Surrender your heart to God,
    turn to him in prayer,
and give up your sins—
    even those you do in secret.
Then you won’t be ashamed;
you will be confident
    and fearless.  Job 11: 13-15

surrender

 

 

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The Broken Prayer Warrior

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One of the worst aspects of battling an invisible, but-very-real-chronic illness (disorder, disease, condition – sheesh, don’t even know what to call it anymore!) is in the MIND.

There are lots of things about this subject that I could share with you, but today, I will simply share the part about feeling U-S-E-L-E-S-S.

It’s a very lonely feeling – feeling useless – and combating that takes a LOT of perspective -changing and hand-wringing and mind-tweaking and total-behavior-and-thought-reforming and (ugggg) submitting to see the BIG FAT lie the enemy tries to tell us about our contribution to the world when we are “sick people.” It’s a mess in and of itself, I must say – the entire “process.”

By the way: it’s never ending. Not at least while until we get OUT OF HERE and head onward to our eternal home. Just so ya know.  😦

Remember- feelings can trick us! That’s why this girl’s crazy mind has to be submitted to Yeshua on a DAILY BASIS. I will absolutely, and with no doubt at ALL, go cray-cray, otherwise.

The devil attacks my mind – a lot. This I know.

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7

I did not realize, until it was all stripped away, just how much I was still relying upon my ability to get out and about to serve my Lord and Savior, Jesus, in ways that seemed – well, just meaningful. Of course, walking around in a halfway healthy body made things a lot easier too!

You see – back then, I could see it – taste it – touch it, hear it – and I could feel it ! You know what I’m talking about – the fruit of it all. It was right in front of me and glaringly obvious.

I was actively fulfilling His purpose for me as one of His many disciples! And for a while there, when I couldn’t see it anymore – once I became trapped inside this messed up body and not able to practically ever leave my house – I started to doubt it all.

If we can get out and meet people face-to-face, serve at church and other places, be that light at the grocery store or toward that stranger we run into on the street, or interact with people in the workplace – well, we get to see at least SOME of the fruit that comes out of that! At the same time, we run the risk of thinking we are doing a good job of serving the Lord – and at least for me, well – I think I had to see that He  had other plans in mind that would be just as USEFUL as those were back in the day.

But I didn’t see it right away. And sometimes, I still am plagued with doubt. Then I am reminded that God is bigger than all of it.

“But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth” (Exodus 9:16).
Now that I am in my own “prison” of sorts, because of my chronic disease – well, I almost never get out of the house – not very often, at least. And for a while there, I struggled to figure out how God may want to use me FOR OTHERS. I mean- how in the world does one go about being the light of the world when one can’t go OUT into that world? And remember those two greatest commandments? I can’t seem to forget them:

 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31

The enemy gets into my MIND and tells me – “what neighbor?” “Who are you helping and loving right now, Annie?” “You are an isolated hermit unable to be any kind of light in this world because you have caved in to your selfish need to take care of your sick little self.”

Just being honest – that’s what runs through my head when I am under attack. And that happens a lot, friends.

That’s why I can write this and share it with you today – I am not immune to the attacks from the enemy – you may not see them, but they are very real. And my mind is where he knows to go to first and foremost. The sick, sore, worn out and messed-up body symptoms? Ha! Those are NOTHING (and they are kinda a big deal, man) compared to the attacks that my mind undergoes on a regular basis. I bet you know what I’m talking about for your OWN reasons, don’t you?

BUT GOD!

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. Genesis 50:20 

Here is what I have realized as I have spent a lot of time in prayer these past three weeks or so – and just so ya know – just because I “realize” this, it does not mean that the battle is OVER. Like I said, it’s a daily surrender and I’m fully aware of that!

But I have come to see that PRAYER is one of the best ways we can allow God to use us as His loving disciples in bringing glory and honor to Him and being that light in the world. And that INCLUDES those of us who have to pray behind closed doors.

Others may not ever see it – but it is very, very real. God sees it. It takes “us” outta the picture. And in some ways, that’s a really, REALLY good thing!

And prayer is powerful beyond measure.

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

I had prayed throughout all my life about the fact that I didn’t think I was “very good” at prayer. I lose focus easily (the mind again, yo) and get distracted by all the racing thoughts and lists in my head that I can’t seem to rid myself of – no, not ever!

But ONCE AGAIN, God has made something good happen out of a seemingly “bad” situation. By being trapped in some ways because of my illness, I had no choice but to trust in Him that He would help me to learn to pray more diligently, be in His Word more deeply and regularly, and seek to become laser focused in praying for others in our world.

TRUST. IN. HIM.

God is SO GOOD, friends. He will make use of you right where you are at if you pour your heart out to Him and ask Him to do so. Sometimes, He does it in quiet ways that not a single other soul will EVER know about or see- but He knows and so do YOU.

  • It teaches us to rely upon Him and Him alone in living out our calling to spread the gospel – not to rely upon getting to see the fruit of our “efforts.”
  • It teaches us that it’s all about Him anyway – and that we can trust God to be GOD and that He will fulfill His purposes and bring about His will regardless of the limitations his disciples may face.
  • It teaches us about humility and renews our ability to focus on our first love – HIM – and love others in these ways that before, we may have thought – “not enough.”

If you can still go out in the world and share the gospel of Jesus Christ with others, DO IT! But if you are someone who for whatever reason, can not do that and you are starting to feel like you are useless to God – lay that CRAP right at the foot of the cross and let God do His will through you.

I promise – He WILL do it!

For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Philippians 2:13

Nothing can stop God from using one of His children in a powerful and effective way to bring glory to Himself! God is much bigger than all of the roadblocks, prisons, illnesses, ailments, sins, challenges, and attacks that try to stop us.

He can walk right through those walls. I’ve decided to follow.

Believe. Believe that He is bigger than all of it. Call out to Him and ask Him to meet you where you are at. Draw near to Him from WHEREVER you are – and He WILL draw near to YOU!

It’s all about HIM, anyway. Removing the ability to see the fruit from our “efforts” makes that come into focus very quickly. Praise the LORD!

Now go and pray. If you can do nothing else today – just pray. Because in doing so, you aren’t “just” doing something else that is a poor substitute for going out into the world to serve your Savior. You are doing what Christ Himself put above all else.

And that matters.

Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. Jeremiah 21:12

Jesus praying

 

 

Are We Bashing or Blessing?

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I have been really heart broken and almost grieving these last couple of months, but the Lord has comforted me in the way that only He can. He always does – He just surprises me every time this is needed in my own life because He is still full of surprises as to how He goes about it. God is so AMAZING!

You see… My Father allows some grief to enter in at times SO THAT I will actually go to Him in prayer over all of it. Deep prayer – not the kind you do here and there. On my knees, kind of prayer!

He allows such things to get me thinking – and seeking – to go deep with Him. He causes me to wake me up in places where I have started to doze off, and maybe didn’t even realize it. He heightens my awareness that other stuff IS GOING ON that we don’t always pay attention to, or that we push down and try our best to ignore.

Guilty as charged.

But when that nagging is there, as a follower after Christ, you know that you need to address it. It won’t stop until you do. And that is what has been happening to me.

This actually has happened before – but these last few months it has gotten really, REALLY strong. You see – most people don’t realize this, but I am a very observant human. I watch things people talk about and I actually actively pay attention to  how they are being received or how others are responding as well.

I can see all sides of things and I can see where misunderstandings occur too. It’s tempting in those situations to tell those that I love to “play it safe” and just stop sharing altogether – so as to avoid conflict and save them some pain, right? But God has us all going through our own process that He’s taking us through – sometimes we make errors, but we learn from them as we seek Him. Sometimes, others attack us too, and we want to avoid that stuff all-the-more.

Have I ever told you that I am the master of wanting to squash conflict before it even starts? Hmmmmmmmmm.

The stuff that’s been grieving me lately has to do with what I see happening among believers regarding what is going on in the world and what scripture tells us clearly about God’s plan for this earth – that the way it is now will not last forever – and He has had a plan from the very beginning for all of that – for all of us.

I’m talking about our Blessed Hope (for those of us who follow after Jesus Christ) – and, depending on where you’re at and how you view things, what is sometimes also called the “end of days” or “end times.” My own studies have caused me to look at it more as our Blessed Hope – but it took a long time to get there.

About 8 years ago, the Lord really pressed it on my heart to truly study – to go DEEP – and learn about why part of the “end of days” in reality, as a Christian, is not scary – because it contains our Blessed Hope. He had me start off with Revelation – a book I was always afraid to study – and then move on to other parts of the Word that talk about prophecy – over 1/4 of the bible is about prophecy – so it’s kinda important, yo.

In the beginning of the book of Revelation, we are told:

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near. Revelation 1: 3

That is huge, man. I always wondered what makes up this special blessing when the book of Revelation is not about only lovely things. But once I really dug deep and looked at the other prophetic scriptures, I saw. (Hint- there’s more than one special blessing – that’s just what I think now).

One of the special blessings I received was that God took away my fear – although at times I still feel unsettled, because I literally feel like the rubber band of this world has almost stretched to capacity, and I can feel it about to snap, I don’t fear it for myself or my family. I do still grieve deeply for those who will have to go through some of the stuff that’s coming up – make no mistake about it. But the focus being on our Blessed Hope as Believers totally overrides that now. Isn’t that where the focus always was supposed to be on in relation to God’s prophecies? On His promises, and drawing closer in our walk with Him? I just never understood why it wasn’t until I went deep.

God actually placed an overriding and utterly joyous expectation into my own heart for the possibility that Christ MAY return for His church (rapture) in my lifetime. And if he doesn’t? It doesn’t matter – because I am saved and I WILL live with Him – my Savior – for all eternity. He also has caused me to want to shine His light all the brighter to those who may not yet know Him. That’s pretty important too!

But what DOES matter, is that I live my life LOOKING FOR His return and never losing hope. I also realize He is with me right here and right now, lest you were wondering.

So, why have I been grieving? Why am I so unsettled?

Well, for starters, I have seen so much dissension in the church over this matter. I’ve come to expect such things in the world, but seeing it in the body of Christ is another thing – it actually HURTS MY STINKIN’ HEART!

It’s always been there – I get that. But it seems like now, it is really bad. There are those who want to actively watch and look for Christ’s return rather than go through their days thinking “oh well, if He comes back, great, and if not, great.” They are excited – they want everyone else to actively watch as well and feel a special blessing because of that in their own lives. There are those who are called to watch and sound the alarm and “speak this prophecy aloud” and those who are called to other things in the body of Christ at this time. We are all part of the same body – we are called to different things at different times. It all matters!

But I have seen a REAL opposition lately toward those who wish to speak about prophecy aloud – in a big way. I also see us taking an either/or approach to things – and that is missing the mark, if you ask me – it is a trap laid by the devil  himself.

I get it – a lot of it is because there have been folks in the past who were “date setters” and deceiving people. But if you really study that – most of them weren’t looking to the WHOLE of scripture and reading it in FULL context to make their case. MOST of them.

And people are fallible…that’s just the crux of the matter. But to not even want to ENTERTAIN the thought of Christ’s soon return is flat-out stifling.

On the other side of the coin, there are those who use scare tactics and forget about the love and the hope part (the most important part of our Blessed Hope) when they talk about such things. I  have been guilty of that in the past, I know. I’ve also been guilty of ignoring prophecy and talking about it out loud with others because of fear that others would judge me, be scared, think this or that of me. Neither of those two things is right.

The point is – all of the Word of God matters. All of what He admonishes us to do and how to behave matters. Truth matters. Love matters. Looking for our Blessed Hope matters. STILL ministering to and loving others as we love ourselves while looking for Christ’s return matters. Not being asleep, but being awake in regard to what God says will happen matters. Actively watching matters. Realizing others may not have studied or understand matters. Understanding fellow believers may have unsaved family members in their lives and that’s why all of this makes them uncomfortable matters. Speaking up and sounding alarms matter (if truly rooted in scripture). Speaking the TRUTH IN LOVE matters.

But what matters most is our relationship with God first, and loving others as ourselves right next in line. Sometimes, love isn’t all flowers and hearts, I get it. But we MUST remember to love one another all the more as “we see the day drawing near.”

I go back to what I have always said –

It’s not Either/Or…..

It’s Both/And!!!!!!!!!

Paul speaks here to believers at the time and this applies to us now: I highly recommend reading ALL of it, not just the first verse or two.

 But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you.  For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.  For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.  But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.  You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness.  Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.  For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night.  But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.  For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5-11

If you read this as well as MANY other parts of scripture that talk about Christ’s return and His plan for us as believers, it starts to become quite clear that we don’t have to be surprised about when He will come back for us – that if we are truly studying the Word and going deep, we will know the season. But we don’t want to get so caught up in looking for the particular day or hour that we forget to love one another in the process. It’s not wrong to look and watch as Christ Himself exhorts us to! But all the others stuff as to how He would have us live while we wait is important too.

Yep. It’s Both/And.

I could go off on another tangent here about “no one knows the day or hour” and how that gets thrown around so casually but I won’t. Let me just urge you to TRULY go and study that entire section of scripture and harmonize it with all the other prophetic passages throughout the Word and see for yourself that “the day or hour” is really not speaking about the rapture, but when the heavens and earth will melt away (that’s at the end of the millenium, in case you don’t know that yet).

I’m not here to “make a case” for Christians to look at prophecy and how much or how little you want to speak about it the same way. I’m here to admonish all of us – MYSELF INCLUDED – to take these things seriously and to look at the WORD of God to interpret itself.

I’m here today to share what is grieving my heart and that I feel it is SO IMPORTANT that we pray for one another, share the love and truth of Christ with each other as well as those who do not believe, and never simply dismiss one another’s point of view – but look to the Word and to Christ.

But most importantly – we have to LOOK UP. And at the same time, we can’t forget to look side-to-side at one another. All of this – well, it should be causing us to draw even closer to our Lord and Savior and one another. If it isn’t – don’t blame prophecy, man. Look inward and ask the Lord to show you where the darkness lies in your own heart. This is what I have to do on a daily basis. My tendency is to simply cut and run and avoid the subject entirely, rather than looking at my own heart and what the Lord is trying to show me about myself and how maybe, just maybe – He wants to change me.

We are in this thing together, even though the enemy tries to tear us apart. I would never want to EVER steal someone’s zeal and desire to actively look for the Blessed Hope of Christ’s return. NEVER! It grieves me in ways I cannot express when I see others do that (even well-meaning folks).

At the same time, I don’t want to EVER forget that not everyone is in the same place with how they approach their own study of God’s Prophetic Word – and we all need to show grace, love and understanding, because EVEN WHEN we are not in the same place, we are, as believers, IN THIS TOGETHER.

So instead of continuing to grieve silently, I decided to write this today – to any of my fellow believers out there who so choose to read it. You don’t have to agree with me – and I’d appreciate all commenting to be of a nature of building one another up – if you DO wish to talk with me privately about your take on prophetic scripture, please feel free to place your email in the comments and we can do so. But if the desire to debate prophecy is the first thing you think of as you read this, then that should be a good indicator that you missed my point entirely. I’m here to discuss such things with any brother and sister who wants to – but that’s not really the point of this story today.

I am not a prophecy teacher. (Buah ha ha!) I am not an expert. (even funnier!)

But I am in love with Jesus Christ.

I look to the SCRIPTURES of God to discern what He is saying to us about all of this. I take it seriously – and it actually causes me to let loose of the few earthly ties that bind me here and look forward to my life with HIM once I am removed from this earth (another blessing?) It didn’t used to be that way before I studied what I had always feared. (ANOTHER blessing!)

Yes-  God made true (again) on His promise that it would be a blessing to my life to seek Him in this way as well. And I am POSITIVE that He will make true on EVERY LAST ONE of His other promises.

Talk about grace upon grace. Wow.

Most importantly, I am saved. That – salvation through Jesus Christ – matters more than anything else. Drawing others to thing about Him too, so He can then work within them and they can become saved too – that matters as well. And I pray every single day that I can share the light, love and truth of Jesus with everyone in my path in ways that cause others to let Him pierce their own hearts. I want EVERYONE to get to live with us for all eternity with Jesus – it grieves me that not everyone will.

Let’s share the good news of Jesus rather than fight against one another. Let us not be afraid to respectfully question other believers and seek to understand them and our Savior all the more. Let us not be intent on winning a debate, rather, stand for Him and His truth AND love one another even when we disagree. But let us also allow others who want to shout from the rooftops about our blessed  hope to do so – in a respectful manner, of course.

Let us see our Blessed Hope as a blessing, rather than Bashing it. Let us not bash one another over the head with any of this, rather edify one another. We are all mere humans who all are going through different experiences in our earthly lives – let us look up to the only One who truly understands all of it.

That’s what Jesus does. And we do well to follow after His example.

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This I Love

ps46-10It took a disease for me to even begin to understand the parts of God’s word that have to do with resting in Him.

A disease, man. A really mean and ugly one, at that.

It is a thing so ugly, that it has turned my entire life upside down, made me feel like I am riding on a perpetual roller coaster (inside and out), and it LOVES to wreak havoc and create chaos at any time it pleases (grinning all the while). It even tricks me sometimes and makes me think it has left the building – for good, this time….only to return and do so with a vengeance. Ain’t nobody got time for that, but it still happens, yo. (bless my soul)

Yep. It took something that took over the wheel and took ME out of the driver’s seat. I’ll give it that much – it did do that. But that isn’t good either, because that is not who is supposed to be driving. So I looked for Him and asked Him to take over (finally).

To do that, it demanded that I fight for the right driver and part of that fight (most of it) comes in the form of surrender. That’s right –  not to the disease, but to the Lord. That right there is a HUGE battle. We are at war, in case you haven’t noticed.

And guess what? I’m only just learning about this surrender thing, man. I’m only just now learning.

The other day in my morning devotions, as I was reading chapter 4 of Ecclesiastes, this verse hit me like a ton of bricks:

One hand full of rest is better than two fists full of labor and striving after wind.

When you have fibromyalgia, you feel like you are chasing after the wind most of the time – as you grasp and strain for any sense of normalcy in the midst of the topsy-turvy-control-freak-show-evil-grinning-master-of-chaos that this disease is, you strain yourself all the more. The struggle is real, no doubt about it. So much so, it’s truly hard to do it justice by trying to put it into mere words.

But more than that, it has put into perspective that much of what I was doing in my “healthy” life before was only a prettier version of the same thing.

  • All the striving…
  • All the performing…
  • All the reaching and coveting and the never-ending goal-setting and planning.
  • All the good intentions I told myself I had as I worked hard and tried to always give everything my all.

My false idols weren’t ugly ones, my friends. They were very pretty, and that was really deceitful. I’m sure I have some more of them right now as I write that are hiding from me.

My false idols were veiled behind false beauty – very convincing, I might add! I wanted to do my best to please others and myself. I told myself God was part of that too, but you see – He wants all of me, not just the leftovers. Maybe a little bit for God was in there, but a whole lot of self was still the reigning factor in the equation, dudes. It still is a lot of the time – but I’m onto myself now. That’s not a fun one to face. But truth is a beautiful thing.

My desire for fitness was not just about being healthy (the good thing), but also about having control over something – being in charge – perpetuating an illusion that “I can still do this and do it well.” There’s good in that too, but it can quickly cross over the line from being a good thing to take care of our bodies, the temples of the Lord, to becoming a false idol and a control mechanism and in some way…taking His place.

We may reach our goals in whatever it is we are striving to do, but if we cross that line, we are chasing after the wind. I did that.

None of these “good things” apart from God are lasting in the face of eternity. Not one.

Struggling, though? WOW. When we struggle and it seems we can’t grab hold of a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g at all – that EVERYTHING is out of our reach? Like….

  • The ability to even get a good night’s sleep…
  • The possibility of predicting whether we will function even halfway well today…
  • The knowledge that we have our situation or illness or circumstance at least under-control enough that we won’t  have to give up our job, stop seeing friends, and be able to keep the disease from growing and taking everything else over and smothering us…
  • Knowing if we can even walk well today, let alone go out and hike or jog!

In the face of that unknown and the inability to grab hold of anything and hang onto it, we end up with nothing but a feeling that we have nothing. But that nothingness – if we can begin to understand that God wants our all, even if a lot of stuff has been stripped away – we start to find out that’s what He wanted all along.

I tried before to give Him the me who also had it all. But stuff was clouding up the picture and now that I have turned into what seems like a big bag of mush,  it feels like He is finally getting more of what’s left of me than what I ever offered before. Weird.

And hear this one, because it is true – when it comes to the things of this world, none of it is ours to claim anyway. Not a drop.

We think we have all these rights – these rights to health, to happiness, to prosperity. But if we are followers after Christ, who are we to name it and claim it? Maybe it’s not ours to have! Sometimes He gives us seasons of prosperity, and there’s nothing wrong with that if it doesn’t take His place. But if not, I ask you –  Why should anyone be better than our Lord and Savior, who suffered, even to the point of death for our sakes? Why?

If you are someone who has figured out how to do that – how to walk through life without some form of suffering ever happening to them, but still not allow it to become, in some way, a false idol, I’d love to know your secret.

Maybe it’s an Annie thing. Maybe I just haven’t learned yet how to be content in abundance or seasons of prosperity. Maybe that will be coming down the road. And maybe not. Because…Annie.

But the Lord IS teaching me a lot about contentment within my own form of lack. And let’s be honest – I still have much. I haven’t lost everything. But the lack and the hard that I am going through is real and He is using that to make me understand all the more about HIM. And for that, I am very grateful.

I don’t have this surrender and contentment thing mastered – like I said, I’m just starting to learn. Where I struggle the most is in the things that would seem easy – not the big stuff.

The big stuff?

  • I have accepted that I have a disease and there is only so much I can do to make it easier to live with.
  • I  have accepted that God can work all things together for our good and often, He uses ugly things like this to do that very thing.
  • I have accepted that God can  heal me if He so chooses – in His timing – but that if He never does remove my thorn from my side, He has good reason.

I’ve accepted these big things.

But I struggle in the small and minute – the finer (edgier) details:

  • Do I continue to allow things into my life that cause me to still strive? Or do I give up those things all together because….Annie, man!
  • Do I continue to dream for things, or am I to ONLY set my eyes upon finding joy in the moment and dream big for eternity and that alone?
  • Do I try this new treatment (again) or is that just chasing after the wind too?

I don’t know the big answers to these smaller questions in my life yet, but the Lord encourages me that His teachings are resonating with me as He reminds me that the fact that I’m okay with not knowing is a dang good start. Go figure!

I am learning friends – for the very first time in my life – the true VALUE of rest. Literal rest and what it means to rest in Him.

He is giving me something I  have never been able to say I really had before – no, not ever! A semblance of contentment EVEN WHEN my circumstances cause distress – it’s about contentment in HIM. I will never find it in my circumstances.

  • Finding joy in Him and who He is!
  • Fixing my eyes upon eternity rather than the things of this world.
  • Helping others who struggle with their own kind of hard.
  • Learning how fragile life really is and that it’s not about how strong we can make ourselves appear, but how big and powerful HE is through our struggles and weaknesses.

And enjoyment of the little things in this earthly life while I’m still here – wow! Has that stuff ever come into full focus for me now!

Things like the joy of being able to hold a puppy or hug one of my young adult children or my husband, even though I feel like my body (and mind, at times) is about to crack all over the place like an egg. I can still do that! And that is GOOD!

I’m able to revel in the beauty now of what it looks like to just be….to be in the moment, even if I am covered in hot water bottles and blankets.

I now what it’s like to not be able to strive and in many ways, be okay with that!

  • To not be able to go out and jog to release my anxiety bothers me, but it also gifts me the chance to putter around in my garden instead.
  • To not be able to know if I can dream big without making that dream become a false idol. is actually a blessing in many ways.
  • To not be able to know if I can even continue to work next month used to distress me, but now, I’m just going with it.
  • To not be able to know if I can meet for coffee tomorrow has become something I’ve learned to accept instead of cry over.
  • To not be able to know if I can go to the family reunion, the party on Friday, church services on Saturdays, the errand I need to run on Wednesday – all of that forces me to focus on what can happen today and makes me look for the beauty in the little things in front of me. It makes me seek His face instead of all of these other false certainties.

I GET to rest in Him and what I do know about Him all the while.

That is what I now hold in my hand – and it is FULL.

And better yet, He holds ME in His mighty hands.  And He isn’t letting go.

And this I love.

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

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

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Here is my letter:

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

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

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

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

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

NOT OKAY!!!!

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

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

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

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

I was that girl. And I liked her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s a little blood, anyway?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks be to God.

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

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

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So that, Yo. So THAT.

 

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

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

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

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

Any of these sound familiar, friend?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feelings suck sometimes. Just sayin’.

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

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

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

Jesus is meant to fill that space. Only Jesus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So that.

So that.

So that.

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

Friends!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

P.S. USE YOUR GIFTS!!

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

Use Your Gifts

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

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

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

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

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

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

AND………..

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

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

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

It gave me time to MISS YOU, friends.

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

And that is GOOD.

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

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

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

It’s all about the PEACE, YO!

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

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

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

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

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

Again: That = No Good, Man.

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

So I’m going to.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s not always either/or.

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

No more for this girl.

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

But we gotta use them.

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

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

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Part of the Story about My Dad

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Hi Friends.

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

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

As always, it’s about Jesus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He was in his early forties.

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

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

But he still got up.

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

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

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

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

Did he get the letter and was it opened?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Always with and in HIS love.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BUT GOD –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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God does not Abandon Us

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

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

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

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

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

It comes from the heart.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God does not abandon us. We abandon God.

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

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

How’s that going for us, I ask you?

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

That is a recipe for deadly disaster. Utterly deadly.

Our problems run deep in America – true.

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

God does not abandon us. We abandon God.

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

But God.

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

Nowhere.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it isn’t pretty.

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

And those hurt.

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

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

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

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

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

Only God does that.

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

We can share the good news with others!

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

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

We remember this….

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

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

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

Because this is what is coming.

HE IS COMING BACK FOR US!!!!!

Soon and very soon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because if you do? He will never abandon you.

God does not abandon us. Not EVER.

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

 

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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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Stormtrooper

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A storm is coming. My pain is rising.

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

But the body fights – it fights for its rights.

All to no avail.

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

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

He will meet me here. He will draw near.

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

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

But THIS.

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

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

Ha Ha. Silly little girl.

Gut wrenching, bone crushing, deeeeep, deeeep pain.

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

But then there’s this one too…..

Attacks from the ugly enemy.

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

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

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

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

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

But what about ME!!!!

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

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

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

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

A storm is coming. My pain is rising.

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

Gut wrenching, bone crushing, deeeeep, deeeep pain.

And a peace –

And a joy –

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

The Great Physician.

My Almighty Savior.

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

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

And through this, I shall know Him better.

Through this ugly, His glory shall be made manifest.

This I know.

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

And I know that YOU see me.

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

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

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Out of the Brown Box

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Sometimes ( a lot) the enemy attacks me inside for being completely honest with you, dear readers. I have things run through my head that I know are from the ugly enemy all the time – things like “no one wants to hear that stuff, you need to talk about the more beautiful things of life and help uplift others, Annie. You’re doing it wrong.”

And I know what that is: It’s the master of deceit’s attempt to get me to think of this little blog as something I do only for others and that I should tailor it to the things people might want to hear. The enemy tries to whisper that I should write only about that which makes me come across as strong and together and that I got it all going on just perfectly because I got Jesus. He says that something like this should not be something I do to bring about my own personal growth (spiritually) as I work through things with God – because that is….Just.So.Selfish.

The enemy tries to tell lots of pretty little lies, friends.

But I do write in order to work things out with the Lord, friends. I do, because He is the ONE and ONLY who can make us whole through the messy stuff in life. Writing this stuff out actually makes it more real and takes away the foothold the enemy likes to take advantage of when we keep it all inside. But he just keeps on whispering – that ugly minion. The enemy whispers that I should portray things as only being all glittery and shiny – like a beautiful treasure chest full of jewels – you can’t wait to open it to see what you will be rewarded with next.

But in so doing, I know that I would create a false prison of sorts. I know that I would be lying. The fact is that the Christian life is messy and ugly and beautiful and intentional all at the same time. So I write the way that I write for that reason. I share the way that I share for that reason. I share it ALL because it’s the TRUTH.

This blog was started as a form of worship of the Lord. Some people worship through music, or art. Some do it by serving in person at the church and expressing their love for Jesus in that way. I write. I write out my feelings and struggles and joy and everything I go through as a Christian far better than I speak it. I am a pretty sensitive person when it comes to things like the body language of others, tone of voice, etc. And I screw up all the time when it comes to my own peripheral forms of communication, so I know that by writing things out, the LORD knows my heart and He reveals things to me in that process. I know that by writing things out that He is working on within me, it takes power away from the enemy and enables me to have more clarity to see things that I need to turn over to the One who holds me tightly, in His mighty hands.

Not everyone who may read it does understand where I’m coming from. And that’s okay. Because another reason I share this stuff out here in cyber space is because I know that there are others who feel alone in their messy stuff right now. There are others who DO feel sort of the same way at times, and need to know they have company. There are many of you, dear friends who read this stuff from time to time who are isolated, and the only form of “fellowship” you may be able to have with other believers is through things like this.

So, I don’t have to share only the happy and shiny stuff here, friends. Because I truly believe that if the Lord would have something I write about help another person, He is God, and He will convey to that person what they might need from it. He will make it work together for our good. He will make it beautiful, in the midst of the messy. If He wants to use anything that I write in someone else’s life, then so be it. Whether it be to encourage, uplift, or just shine light on the fact that sometimes our less than pretty junk is part of the Christian life.

We are NOT perfect. Far from it.  But HE is.

So….I will continue to write the way that He has led me to. As mucky and weird as it may seem at times, I will continue. And it can be unpleasant stuff sometimes, I know.

I write a lot about angst – I write a lot about struggle – the struggles that come from sin, iniquities, and walking as imperfect beings who may have accepted Christ as their Savior and Lord, yet still sin. I am tempted at times not to write about such things. Yes, I am tempted beyond belief.

I am tempted at times to share only the joy-filled, awesome and feel-good stuff that convinces others that I am filled with the joy of Jesus Christ. There is always that pull, no matter who we are or where we are at in life as a Christian, to pretend that everything’s okay. There’s something in there that the enemy has lodged quite deeply – waaaay deep down – that whispers…

“but you must be a good example of how GREAT it is to be a Christian, you little complainer! You are leading people astray by sharing all this hard stuff. You are coming across as a martyr or something. You are __________, __________, and _____.”

But I know. I know what led me to start this blog and I know that Jesus only gave me the ability to express the things He is doing inside of my own heart and mind as a form of worship, and a way of speaking His truth AND love.

Love doesn’t always look pretty. Neither does truth. But the result of Jesus’ love and truth is always B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L.

So I hold firm to the promise I made to the Lord – I will not cover up (as I write and I share) the ugly stuff.  We are still  imperfect humans –  And we still struggle – sometimes even more than we did before we were true followers of Christ. But HIS strength is made perfect in our weakness.

I write about such things because they are the reality that most of us (we Christians) truly do grapple with, but are afraid to admit at times, for whatever reason. I write about such things because I feel the Lord calls me to do so – He calls me and it is loud and clear.

Share it, Annie. Share it. Share the stuff that everyone thinks or goes through but maybe feel they can’t say. Share the stuff that is ugly and twisted and messed up, so others may see that they are not the only Christian out there still struggling. Share the stuff Annie, so that through it all, others will be comforted and know that I, Your Mighty King, have the power to help you all overcome these struggles.

The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14

Yet He also whispers that I am to share the good stuff too. He tells me through my prayer and devotion time that what He really wants is to have others see that truly, beyond truly, He works all things together for our good.

  • He brings correction when there has been disobedience.
  • He brings restoration when everything seems to have been shattered.
  • He gives us peace during the most angst-riddled of circumstances or situation.
  • He grows our love when we feel like we’ve lost every last ounce of that loving feeling.

So as contradictory as it may seem, these things of beauty do come out of the ugly if we allow Christ to work in us. He is the Creator, the Great Physician, The Almighty and All-Powerful Lord and King. He can and does do it all.

So I shall also write about peace – peace that comes only from Jesus in the midst of these struggles, trials and temptations we face sometimes. And I shall write of love. The love of Jesus that is always there for us, trying to dominate our own hearts and spill forth in spite of the ugly stuff that tries to infiltrate. Most of all, I will share how God works through my own personal struggles and the lack of such things as joy, love and peace in my own little heart to draw me closer to Him and help me be more and more like Jesus through it all.

So often, the reason I can even see the need for greater love in my heart – the reason I see the need for more patience to be developed in my character- the reason I see the need to allow Him to correct me and grow me and help me change direction and take my hands BACK OFF THE WHEEL, is due to the absence of them. He shows me through writing things down that my heart and at times, my mind still need much work. He shows me how very much I struggle putting into practice what I know to be true under duress. He shows me that I am His child and that He loves me too much to leave me the way that I am.

He shows me my need for Him. More of Him.

He must become greater; I must become less.” 1 John 3:18

I hate how much of ME there still is. I want to be nailed to the cross once and for all, like Jesus was. But I struggle with signing up for stuff that’s painful. I don’t have the same kind of love that Jesus does, friends. I care about my own comfort too much. And that pains me in its own way….because I know this so well about myself. And it is hard not to walk in condemnation in the face of that.

That mirror is one I want to shatter sometimes.

But there’s good news in the face of all of that! It’s wonderful how the Lord knows each one of His children so well. He’s aware of every little nuance and quirk about me as a person. He knows what works with me and what doesn’t. He knows just how to get through to me.

He tailors His approach to me in a way that will work to pierce my ungrateful little heart. But He never changes His truth in order to do so.

He never stops loving me while administering the exact and perfect dose of truth that I need in order to stop being sick and return to good health.

One of the ways that He does this with me, in particular, is He has made me very aware when there is some form of toxic darkness in my own heart. I may hold on to it for a while, or I may try to trick myself into thinking it’s not there or denying its existence, and sometimes I have to regroup for a while to discern where it’s coming from, but after sitting still for a time, if I search after Him to reveal it to me, He does.

Every. Single. Time.

This is never a fun process, and I wonder ~ does the Lord ever get sick and tired of  having to discipline me for the same repeat offenses? Does He ever wonder, “will she ever learn?”

But He is my Father, and He knows this is how I operate. He knows that I try to continue moving forward in spite of the weed that is starting to grow in the garden of my heart. I get tired of pulling weeds, so sometimes I just pretend they aren’t there. Or I try to pull them, but if it proves too difficult for me, I just get exasperated and give up after a while.

I do this because I hate conflict that can’t seem to be resolved within reason. I do this because when things seem unreasonable or insurmountable, sometimes I want to flee. I do this because I still put how I think hard stuff should be handled in a little box of my own making.

And Jesus wants to blow out the box. Time for an explosion. The solace and protection we find under the Mighty wing of Jesus is far greater than a fake brown box of our own making. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it. We like the cocoon-like feeling of our own boxes and like our security blankets of our own choosing. But God knows.

So at the same time that I hate that I finally go and try to hide from the thorns in life, or can’t tell the difference between surrender and resignation, the Lord uses that escape artist tendency for good. He uses that time that I retreat from the ugly to shine a light on the part of the ugly that is in my own heart. He helps me to purge that crud right out of there. But oh, is it a process.

And here it comes – the need for yet another fruit of the spirit to grow stronger in my life….

Patience.

I struggle with patience, but the lack of it manifests itself inside of me in such deceptive ways. I believe there are times we must walk away and regroup with the Lord, but at the same time, I want the work He does during those times to move at MY PACE.

I realize now how very much I do the either/or thing in my own life. This holds true especially in regard to conflict. I get so worked up emotionally in the face of conflict that stretches out over a period of time, that I lose all clarity – to the point that I have to retreat completely and let God bring about some sense to it all.

Do you do any of this, friends? Let me give you a short list of examples of what I am talking about here.

  • Suck it up and let it go. You just have to worry about your own actions here. (this breeds bitterness over time).
  • Attack the ugly stuff with kindness in spite of the fact that you know there is still a big thorn growing larger all the time that you have to pluck out. Just ignore it since all of your attempts in the past to eradicate it failed. (not gonna work – it’s still growing)
  • Work on yourself and ignore the stuff that is wrong with others involved. You’re only responsible for you. (not loving – real love confronts)
  • Give up – you have been defeated. There’s nothing more that you can do. Build a wall. Build a TALL wall! (still giving the power away to the enemy – still a fake brown box)

For now, I am in a place of being still, even though it may have come about because of my “flee and withdraw” tendency. And God is using it for His glory.

I  have confidence that He will show me what He needs for me to see, and shatter the box. He is already doing it and it has only been a short while now.

I am struggling in these days of remaining still and allowing myself to face the reality (look in the ugly mirror) of what He wants to have me discard out of my heart and mind. I am going through turmoil as to what is to be surrendered, and what is to be held on to tightly.

But our God reveals.

Our God refines.

Our God restores.

And I trust in Him.

If you are struggling today because you are in a place in which you know God is working to help you tear down a wall or shatter a cocoon you have created for peace and comfort, will you let Him bring about the heart work and move you closer toward Him? If, on the other hand, God has asked you to surrender something and retreat for a while to spend time with Him alone, will you obey and let things move in His timing? If you realize you are inside of one, will you allow the Lord to help you venture out of the brown box when He says it is time and move underneath His protective wing instead? If you are having a hard time stepping, ask Him to carry you for a while, because He will. You may even be called to quite a treacherous journey, similar to the walk Christ made to calvary….bloody, even. But He will be with you every step of the way.

He is a loving parent, and our mighty protector. He will help us to walk in what seems like exposed vulnerability, with His protective hand around us the whole time. He knows you, His child. He knows how to make us better. 

We have only to open our mouths and allow the medicine to do its work. We have only to turn the burden over to Him. And we must listen when He tells us to pick up the cross. He will give us the ability and the power to carry it.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” Matthew 16:24

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Paradoxical and Perfect Peace

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

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

Magnificent God.

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

“Follow Me”. ~ Jesus

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

Some of those “thoughts”……

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

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

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

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

Be still and know that I am God.

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

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

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

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

“I Am.” ~ Jesus

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

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

I’m tired of this battle, friends.

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

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

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

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

It’s not either/or. It’s both/and.

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

Yes. This is surrender, friends.

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

Perception and false expectations.

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

But you aren’t.  😦

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

Sovereign God.

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

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

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

They are His.

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

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

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

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

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

Gracious God.

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

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

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

Faithful God.

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

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

“I am the true vine.” ~ Jesus

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

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

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

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

And may He give you PEACE.

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

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

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

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

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

Not any more.

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

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

No, No, and N-O!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s most stuff.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s inevitable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We can. He will.

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

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

If we call upon Him he will come.

It is inevitable.

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

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Sunshine Spots

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Puppy breath

Big fat smiles

Steaming Coffee

Running Miles

Happy Dances

Snoopy Lives!

Receiving Flowers

Husband Gives

Young Adults

Babes are Grown

All those seeds

They’ve been sown

Bible Time

Words of love

Speaking Life

Gifts from above

Beachy Getaways

Airplane Rides

Toes in Sand

Birds that Glide

Jesus Joy

All around

Inside Out

His grace abounds

Sunshine Spot

The puppy seeks

Laying there

For weeks and weeks

Plants and flowers

Growing tall

Life goes on

In these four walls

Smiling faces

Hearts to hug

Burdens lifted

No need to lug

Peanut butter and honey

On top of toast

Dripping and delicious

Satisfies the most

Books to read

Poems to write

Colors to embrace

Black and white

Seeking light

While hugging chains

Basking in sunshine

Appreciating rain

All of it pales

When I seek His face

The greatest gift of all

He’s in every place

Jesus, my Savior

The One who lives

Thank you for the little things

For the light You give.

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

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Who’s the Boss?

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“The reason why many are still troubled, still seeking, still making little forward progress is because they haven’t yet come to the end of themselves. We’re still trying to give orders, and interfering with God’s work within us.”  A.W.Tozer

Thanks for Nothing?

Gratitude Mission Continues: Be thankful in all things.

I don’t have “nothing” to do today (although that little red hammock looks really good right about now).  Instead, I have lots of little somethings to do. And friends, I am actually really looking forward to getting to take care of this stuff! I am grateful I have been given a day in which to do so.

Today, I get to run around and take care of lots of odds and ends, organize my bills and “to do” list, and I have the privilege of doing it while not under a ton of pressure.

Haaaaaaa. Breathing day. I kinda like those.

For someone like me, this kind of thing really is a breath of fresh air! When I have several days in a row in which I can’t attend to the small details in life, they start to pile up. It is good for me to be able to let that go for a while, but God always knows when I start to feel buried underneath it all and need to be able to dig in and clear out the rubble.

Jesus certainly does love me. I am so glad He understands.

I am grateful for not having “nothing” to do today. I appreciate having lots to do that I can find joy in as I go about the day. It makes me appreciate the time to take care of these things all the more when I don’t get the chance to do it for a while. Then they aren’t a drudgery, but an actual release.

Isn’t God awesome how He can make chores and errands seem like fun?

I enjoy my God time best that way, too. When I can speak to Him all day long and praise Him for all the small stuff without so many distractions and pressures coming my way – it is so mood lifting! I need some of that today too.

We need those reprieves like that, don’t we? And the Lord knows just when to provide them.

And, by the way: I love, love, love the ability to have a day in which I get totally focused on plugging away through my list of things to do and cross them off, one by one. God rewards us, just because of who He is, doesn’t He? He knows I am a control freak who is working on a daily basis to surrender to Him, learn to let things go, remember to rely upon Him and Him alone for security, identity, and peace, yet part of me is just built that way too – that way of needing to know what is going on, and be able to approach life with some sense of order to it at times. At least, once in a while. And He grants that to me. After all, He is the One who made me.

Mercy and Grace. Mercy and Grace.

I am grateful for the days this week in which I didn’t get to touch the little things that were piling up, because they taught me that there are times for surrender, times to be patient and wait upon the Lord, and times to let go. But I am thankful today for a break from the big stuff and the distractions of the world – soooo very thankful!

Gratitude in having small things to do – and getting a break from the big things for a day. I’m thankful for that “not nothing” kind of a day I will have today. And I think that’s really “something.” Something pretty wonderful. Something that He is giving me as a gift.

I plan to appreciate it for all it’s worth! Thank you, Jesus!

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to
Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18