Squint if We Have To

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

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

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

But here are my own observations for now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus is the source of all of it. Period.  

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

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

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

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

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

He knows.

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

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

But it’s not supposed to be that way.

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

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

Even when it hurts.

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

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Part of the Story about My Dad

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Hi Friends.

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

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

As always, it’s about Jesus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He was in his early forties.

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

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

But he still got up.

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

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

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

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

Did he get the letter and was it opened?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Always with and in HIS love.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BUT GOD –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Razzle Dazzle

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Razzle dazzle gather round

See our glitter, hear our sound

Pasty lady, white and glowing

All our thoughts; she is a sowing.

 

Razzle dazzle, see the lights

Fat cats abound; suck up our sight

Pretty sounds from lips instead

Backroom deals over our heads.

 

Never fear,  just love the razzle

Whilst your nerves they shall unravel

Twisting tummies; party dances

Molding minds through all their prances.

 

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

Round and round, the whirling frazzle

Morphed and moved by itchy ears

Here’s our pill to calm thy fears.

 

Razzle Dazzle ’round she goes

Where she stops nobody knows

In the glass house, they are all-seeing

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

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

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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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Sliver

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Here’s another one of those tight rope things to consider, friends. It’s about hopes and dreams and walking in line with God’s will for us. It’s about dark and light and which one is truly more powerful. It’s about the pull that seems so strong, but is really just trying to fake us out.

It’s about God’s power to overcome all of it.

In the Bible, we find many stories of men who had hopes and dreams. Some of those dreams were crushed, but God still worked out His perfect plan for those guys. The dream they thought they had became something much bigger, much greater, and most importantly, something that lined up with God’s will for them.

God’s plans are more important than our dreams.

The walk toward the “dream” was always one of hardship. Was this a dream that God planted inside of their heart, or was it one of their own making? Finding out is usually what brings on the challenges.

Most of these guys went through some type of process of captivity first – look at Joseph – look at David – look at Paul, and many, many others. Dying to self is always an aspect of bringing about GOD’s plans for us.

And it hurts. A lot.

If not actual captivity (being bound in chains), these guys experienced some serious obstacles every which way they turned – ailments, iniquities, sin as stumbling blocks, people trying to murder them, being beaten, flogged, swallowed by a big fat fish!

Nonetheless, God took what started out as their dream or their desire as to where they wanted to be or go, and used those challenges along the way to change their path – correct their course – so they would end up on HIS path and doing HIS will.

God’s compass seems confusing to us, but it’s always right.

I struggle all the time with the desires of my own heart and sacrificing all of that and laying it at the feet of Jesus, friends. What are my dreams, and do I even have any left any more? Should I even have dreams or are they just dangerous things that lead me down a path to self satisfaction? Usually my own dreams are things that will help me escape my current plight – that’s why they are often quite unrealistic. Although God can do ANYTHING and nothing is outside of His power and reach for us, I feel that He is trying to help me learn to be content – Under some pretty rough circumstances too.

Chains make it hard to do that. I’m a comfort creature, friends. I’m like that person in the Princess and the Pea story – I will notice ANYTHING right now, due to the Fibro that doesn’t “belong.” They feel like heavy chains to me – weighing me down. And I don’t know how to do contentment in the midst of discomfort.

But Jesus does.

Lately I have struggled again with some of the ugly depression that creeps into my life every so often – it is a clinical type of depression, mostly physiological – in other words, it doesn’t start with emotional or mind-type stuff, it starts because of the neurological issues going on in my body. But mine then does impact (once it sets in) my mind, my heart, and sometimes it FEELS like it even touches me deep in my soul. So the emotional things – the attitude, the perspective, the thoughts, the heart – they all follow.

And it HURTS. (Please don’t pity me – I’m just stating a fact here)

It’s the double whammy of depression, friends. The physiological cause, and the emotional and mental effect. Compound depression. Anyone out there who experiences this knows EXACTLY what I am talking about. And it stinks!

During these times I have to walk a line between surrender and fighting to even walk each day in the face of that surrender –

  • In giving it over to God and asking Him to let it run whatever course it is supposed to and trusting Him to remove it.
  • In giving it over, but not laying down and letting your bones dry up.
  • In not struggling tooooo hard, because if you do, the chains are going to bite right down into your flesh.

You can’t fight it out of the picture. You can’t fully give up, either. You just have to ask the Lord to help you know when to move and when to stay still. And most of all, you have to ask Him to keep fear from setting in, because that will completely immobilize you.

During these darker times, (this should go without saying) I feel an even greater sense of being in prison. You see, the “normal prison” is one I have made the best of, friends. I have found, along with Jesus, how to live inside of it – the light can burst out from the inside and still move outward in the world. Even though I am “in here” I am not confined by these walls. Jesus can do anything!

But during the depressive times, the beauty of my prison fades….it becomes a darker and more “dried up” place. I have to search for drops of His water more fervently, because it’s hard to see. I want to run, but my chains seem even  heavier. It feels like the light has gone out, although there’s still a sliver of it living inside of me. It feels like it wants to burst free, but it isn’t time for that right now.

Talk about discomfort. It’s hard to just lie there and hug your chains when you fear you are wasting away.

The dreams you had left die a little more….

Death to self becomes a whole lot more real and talking about it becomes an actual acted out, very real, and very tangible thing in one’s life.

The pain associated with that is not even something I can articulate. I am sure many of you know it all too well.

But we can’t buy into the lies of the enemy. He wants for us to believe that because the dark cloud seems more pervasive than the Lord’s sliver of light, that it is actually more powerful. The enemy wants us to believe it is going to overtake us and extinguish ALL the light. And he makes it seem very likely and very imminent and very, very real.

We MUST remember that the light in the midst of that darkness is there -it is Jesus – and it’s pretty clear to see that it’s there if only we lift up our heads. It doesn’t always make the depression or the chains disappear – it doesn’t always make the black and threatening cloud go away immediately, but it does give us peace, comfort, and even some joy.

It extinguishes any doubt as to whether we are alone.

He is always with me. Always.

So yes….it’s hard not to “dream” during these times – dream of the things that would take us away, if only for a moment. Dream of the things that would  help us escape the cloud of darkness. Dream of the things that would offer a fake sense of lightness, satisfaction and freedom from the prison or the chains. Dream of light and bright places that aren’t really bad things, but also aren’t the real source of light, freedom and living water we are to be seeking after at all times.

I find myself wanting to be on the beach and hearing the waves crashing around me – my toes in the sand feeling it wrap around me like a cocoon – the sun hitting my skin and melting away the chains that bind up my muscles and tissues on a daily basis – the melatonin (oh what beautiful stuff) that helps our mood and lifts away the heavy and dark…..these are all good things.

But none of them are Jesus.

The beach can’t meet me in the dark places. I can’t make it magically appear to help me feel better. The sun doesn’t really shine in the dark corners of our hearts and can’t melt the chains that are wrapped around us so tightly during dark times. It’s all a temporary “fix” if you will.

But the Son of God can.

He is my sun – He is my light – He is my freedom.

Is He yours? Are you allowing Him to meet you in the dark places? Do you cry out for Him all the time to help you walk through whatever might come your way? He is here for you too, you know. One sliver of His light can penetrate the death cloud the enemy is trying to use to threaten you. Do you feel it melting away? The burden can be turned right over to Him – He can bear it for us. He wants to take the weight of it all and lift it from us. We have to open our hearts and our eyes to Him. He is here.

I do believe that when I go to live with Jesus in eternity, there will be a beach there. I just think He knows the desires of my heart and will far surpass my own idea of a beachy life. He builds palaces instead of mere houses. He fills us with light from the inside out instead of just tanning us on the surface. He ebbs and flows through us more powerfully than the depression or ailments of our bodies and hearts and minds ever can.

He is with me in the dark and He is always there for me when I come out the other side of that darkness.

I don’t have to walk in darkness, although it comes for me some of the time. I get to walk with Him no matter where I am. No chains can ever stop Him from penetrating all of it. A sliver of God’s light is more than enough to penetrate through that cloud of dark.

He looks at me and smiles and tells me to bask in the light with Him. He says it is time to dance with Him on the water. He wraps me into Himself and shows me without question that He will hug me far tighter than the sand ever can. He warms me with His light in a way the sun can never do.

He is my rock. He is my salvation. He is my freedom from all the chains that try to bind me.

He is God.

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.John 1:5

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Three Positive Things to Say to Those Who are Suffering ~ Power Punch!

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A long time ago, someone shared with me that one of the most loving things we can do for others is to tell them what we need. It gives others the same opportunity to show grace and love and care that we ourselves have when they do the same for us. If we withhold, we rob others of that gift. And being able to give grace and help others in time of need is truly just that; a Gift.

So that’s what my last few essays have been about here on my little blog.

But make no mistake: I am not only talking about things that I have concluded that I need for myself. I truly believe this applies to so many people out there in the world ~ not just those who might struggle with an invisible illness, like my Fibromyalgia. There may be some deep and dark grief that is lodged firmly inside of their heart, or things that are causing internal stress that is wreaking havoc in their life. Most every person is fighting a battle of some kind that may be invisible to the naked eye.

By the way: I hate the “outta sight, outta mind” deal, if you haven’t noticed. I truly feel it glorifies God to celebrate all that we are grateful for, but also refuse to sweep under the rug that which is uncomfortable or ugly simply for convenience, selfishness, or whatever reason it is that is driving us to….sweep and hide stuff. And I do it all too often myself. Ick!

Jesus didn’t do only the fun stuff when it came to relationships when He walked this earth, friends. Why should we?

Others may have a “list” that is different than mine, but in most cases, I have found that it boils down to three main things ~ belief, compassion, and care.

In the last essay I shared 10 things that we might NOT want to say to someone struggling with an invisible illness or fighting a battle we cannot see, but that is very, very real. Today, as promised, I will share what I personally feel IS good to say in these situations.

Why only three things when it comes to the positive aspect of this?

Because to me, these three things hold more power all by themselves than even 100 of the things that we shouldn’t say do.  They are a Power Punch Trio of beauties that always make me walk away feeling cared for, and wanting to share all of myself with the person who has said these things to me and said them with a sincere heart. When it’s sincere, their follow-up actions always prove their words to be overall true.

As you read what I have shared here, please remember that as always, it’s about the intentions of the heart and know that these are simply the things that almost always scream to me “I love you and I care.” It is a personal feeling, a by-no-means-exhaustive list, and just what I have seen it boil down to as I have struggled these last few years with invisible ailments (physical, emotional, and spiritual). As I said, it can take on many forms and words can be tweaked here and there ~ but for me, it always has come down to these three things that make me actually feel I can share my burden with someone else. For REAL.

So here it goes….

“What you are dealing with is REAL.” In other words, “I totally believe you.” I can tell you without question, that especially when it comes to Fibromyalgia, we are treated as though it is not quite all the way “real”. But this holds true to many of the other invisible things that folks around us deal with as well. If we can’t see it, measure it, label it, or somehow control it, we seem to throw our hands up and either avoid it, or chalk it up to some other junk. We have to put meaning behind these words too – the person struggling with something like this needs to be convinced again and again that we believe them. Why? Because they are being bombarded with messages that are quite the opposite on a daily basis. They need to know that you believe them just as much as the friend of yours who just received a cancer or RA diagnosis. Invisible Illness, Grief, Pain or Stress from something that happened a while ago, but has rocked this person’s world and still is TODAY, all of this stuff is just as real as the stuff we can slap a label on ~ we have to dig to bring that which is not seen to the surface. Helping to encourage someone that you believe them is often the first step in allowing the ugly thorns that attack them relentlessly to come to the surface so they don’t have to bear the pain alone.

“It’s truly okay to feel bad about it sometimes.” Guilt for being sick all the time is not only self-imposed. In my case, I do take the guilt up on my own a lot of the time, but I must tell you that the medical community, the world at large, is not helping matters for those who struggle with chronic and invisible illness. We see the way that others are treated who have a clean-cut (albeit ugly) diagnosis, versus those of us who have one that is about a condition the medical field doesn’t even understand yet. We see it and cannot help but wonder why we aren’t given permission to feel bad about our pain, our brain fog, our limitations, while others who struggle with something that is more tangible for others to grasp can. We have to ultimately be able to give ourselves permission to feel bad about what we are going through most of the time. But it certainly helps when those closest to us do so as well. This holds true for stress and grief that people are walking around holding inside and dealing with all by their lonesome selves. If they only had permission to talk about it and even know that it’s okay to feel bad about it sometimes, maybe they could actually get on the road to healing and even helping others.

“I want to understand as best I can.” We stink as a society about being willing to deal with the ugly stuff in life. We want all the flowers and bows and pretty little wrappings to make things easier for us to swallow. Basically, we just want to have the party and not do any of the work to make it happen. I don’t know what world we think we are living in, but this fairy tale land we have made up for ourselves is a lie. If we truly want relationships that are lasting and real, we have to be willing to get down in there with people ~ share in the beauty AND the ugly, wade through the things we can easily understand and the things that puzzle us to no end. It’s about wanting to and trying to and being there even when we don’t. But so often, we fail to even express to others that we’d like to understand better what they are going through. Just allowing them to talk helps. But asking questions does too – it shows interest, desire, and an actual care and concern that goes beyond a stance of “I’m here for the ride” and moves right into, “I am sitting right next to you and not going ANYWHERE. Talk to me, brother!”

So those are my three things, dear friends. My three things that I think we can say to others who are struggling with stuff and may feel alone in that battle. My three things that I feel hold more power and punch than all the many little negative things we can try to avoid saying.

Our role is to find ways to encourage others and help them know they don’t have to allow the battle, illness, grief, stress to remain hidden. It can be brought to the surface, and dealt with, even if it takes a lifetime ~ together. We don’t have to bear it all alone and we most certainly don’t have to do that and hide all that is ugly from the rest of the world.

When we do, we truly aren’t doing others in our lives any favors.

MOST important is to remember that only God can truly heal us. Only God can truly understand us, friends. But He has placed us in one another’s lives to be encouragers to one another, to be iron that sharpens iron, to help one another bear the burdens (especially the ugly and invisible ones). There are times that we  have to face parts of things alone (just us with God), but if we make it a habit of bearing all of our burdens by ourselves, self starts to creep in and surrender becomes elusive.

Let us look for the invisible hurts and pains that our very own neighbor is contending with today. Let us search for the beauty and the ugly in the lives of those with whom we interact. And let us encourage each other that we are here for ALL OF IT….the long haul, the sickness and in health thing, the for better or for worse deal.

Because only taking the good parts and discarding all the rest makes for a petty little party. I want the real relationships, don’t you? I’ll take the Power Punch of true friendship and love over the petty party any day.

And that, is what makes me go to sleep at night feeling a lot lighter than when I woke up earlier that morning.

It wasn’t the cake, or the flowers, or the circus animals that did it. It wasn’t all the fun and frilly ribbons and presents ~ or the snacks or the treats or the music and dancing on the tables. No….not at all.

It was the Power Punch. 

And it didn’t even have to be spiked.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

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

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

I was born privileged.

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

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

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

Yet I complained ~ a lot.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I could still do that myself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I get it now.

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

I understand.

And now I am truly rich.

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

Period.

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

I do apologize for turning a blind eye.

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

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

Turn to Jesus, won’t you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it won’t last.

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

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

Let us go forth and share that with others!

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

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

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The American Dream was one of my False Idols

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But is that really freedom?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the cycle continues to pick up speed.

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

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

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

We love our illusions.

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

But I am still thankful.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Only YOU can save us.

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

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

You, and only You reign SUPREME!!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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Free the Monkeys!

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I’m a silly little monkey sometimes. How about you?

I have been thinking so much lately about my chronic condition – Fibromyalgia. I have been thinking about the fact that although on the surface, it may seem like suffering, I really haven’t quite been looking at it that way.

Instead, I have been struggling, friends.

Let me explain further by sharing this with you:

Suffering ~ The state of undergoing pain, hardship or distress. Anguish, adversity, torment, martyrdom. Opposite: Pleasure, or happiness.

Struggling ~ Making forceful or violent efforts to get free of restraint or constriction. Having difficulty coping with or handling. Fight, grapple, wrestle, brawl, spar. Opposite: Surrender, giving in, peace

Suffering seems in our culture to have a nicer ring to it, no? Well, not in the sense that anyone wants to suffer, but the person “undergoing” the suffering is, well ~ thought well-of, I would say.

Struggling is more of an action – it’s seen as something not happening to a person, but a thing that person is actively doing. Often struggling is seen as somehow sad, or less than. Other times, people place admiration upon the person who “fights for their rights.”

I don’t care what the world really thinks in the big picture of it all, friends. But I will say that sometimes I do get caught up, in the midst of my “condition” (no one really wants to call it an illness yet) in wondering why people treat folks with invisible illnesses as though maybe, just maybe, it’s all in their  head.

I can tell you – without question – this stuff is not all in my head. I’m not even convinced that this label of “Fibromyalgia” is quite all the way accurate. There may be something bigger going on than what meets the eye. I can say most definitively that the spiritual struggle is by far been more pervasive than even the widespread pain can be.

So back to the struggling and suffering stuff. Friends, I may suffer sometimes in the clinical and dictionary definition way with regard to this problem I have. But I must tell you, I don’t feel like it’s true suffering at all.

There are people in the world that can attest to what true suffering really is. I am not one of them.

This version of “suffering” that I am experiencing doesn’t take away my happiness. It doesn’t completely steal my peace (most days). It tries to ~ I’ll give you that. Sometimes I have to fight, and by fight I mean surrender a lot of stuff to the Lord. My human weaknesses, my sin, my selfishness, my desire to have it all, is really the way that I suffer as I walk this earth. It is far more crippling of a condition than this chronic pain syndrome is.

So in reality, it is me that “tries to” steal my own peace. It is me who I have to fight against every single day. It is me and the elevation of self that tries to put up a fight.

I am not a martyr.

I am not deserving of recognition for how I handle my pain.

I have a lot of things that afflict me that are far greater than Fibromyalgia.

But I am saved by Jesus Christ ~ and that makes me special.

That and that alone.

Him and Him alone.

Friends, the struggling aspect of things is what assails me more, by far. I am a little control freak who has “struggled” her whole life to achieve balance and peace.

It ain’t gonna happen.

I find myself struggling and getting all jumbled up some days about the stuff that I simply cannot control – and when that happens, I’m pretty much wasting my time. I find I end up having to surrender it all anyway at the end of the day. The only thing about that that holds any value whatsoever, is that it teaches me even more about surrendering it all to Christ.

Other times, struggle can be good. We have to struggle and fight to not get sucked down into the mire ~ into the “I gotta fight for my right to party” mentality. We have to fight and grapple and grasp for the outstretched hand of Jesus sometimes. This is a good kind of struggle. And thankfully, my stubborn self helps me out a little with this kind of thing.

But ultimately, I can offer nothing in the fight against worldly thought processes and mentalities. I have nothing to bring to the table that will help me fight against those things which are seen or unseen that threaten to attack. Nothing of Annie will help here, friends.

But I have Jesus.

My Lord and Savior saves me from more than I know – all the time.

My Lord and Savior can give meaning to even seemingly “bad” things like suffering and struggling.

My Lord and Savior takes all that is bad and creates good and brings about His will.

Nothing will stop Him.

And there is great peace to be had in the full-on knowledge of that fact.

Are you suffering today, dear friend? Are you struggling to fight for your rights or grappling for the Lord’s peace because something, some outside force is trying to take you further down into the pit of despair. Fear not. The Lord God is with you, friend! Bring it all to Him, won’t you? Leave it at his feet. Simply accept that today this is how it is, but know WITHOUT QUESTION that He can change it all at any moment.

And even through the ugly – the very, very ugly – He will shine His beautiful face upon you.

In that, we can rejoice!

In that, we are made free!

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5\

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Just Enter In ~ Even when You are Limping!

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And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:25

Tonight I got to attend church for the first time in several weeks. Friends, it was a blessing that I find hard to put into words.

You see, my family and I attend the Saturday night service, and for whatever crazy reason, Colorado has been having rainy weather ~ storms brewing on the last few weekends especially.  Well, those storms and that back and forth “weather” is something that wreaks havoc with regard to my pain level. And quite frankly, I haven’t been able to muster up the strength to show up until tonight.

Pain. Deeper than the “normal” Fibromyalgia pain I have and walk around with every day.

Pain. The kind that goes to a whole new level – making my joints feel like they are being squeezed in a vice – restriction of range of motion.

Pain. The sticky, slashing layers of it – striking me over and over again.

Underneath is the all-over tightness and dull ache I always have. But layer upon layer of acute and sharp stuff starts to ensue ~ tacking on to the one beneath it and compounding and building something….awful. Until ~ well, you guessed it: I am down for the count or full on struggling and even limping.

But today I was able to do it, friends. Today, I was able to get to church (and even able to somewhat disguise that limping for a while).

It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t fluffy and feel-good stuff. No way, no how! But I wasn’t agonizing to the point that I couldn’t smile. I wasn’t so completely focused on my pain that I couldn’t pause to worship my Lord and Savior. I wasn’t disabled to the level of not being able to talk a bit with a couple of lovies of mine, hug a few sweet peeps, and let someone know how very proud of them I am.

I was laughing through the limping. I was loving through the limping. I was able to enter in and engage, broken body and all.

And this was good.

I even got to see a double rainbow driving home with my daughter while we laughed and listened to the Spanish radio station (that always makes you happy by the way- you must try it sometime).

My point is this: If you can scrape yourself together enough to just show up and hang with some fellow believers – even if only for a short time – it’s a good thing.

It’s good to get there and be there – to just enter in – even if our bodies are falling apart.

It’s good to rest too if we just can’t do it ~ but when we can, we almost never regret it.

It’s good because there’s no better place to be while limping than with others who can lift you up and just need to see your smile. Yes. Even your wincing-type smiles.

I’m thankful today friends – I’m so very grateful that I got to enter in to my church home. I am glad I got to see those fellow lovers of Jesus who are hurting in their own individual ways, yet seeking Him through fellowship with one another.

Some of us may be limping ~ it’s true. But the best kind of  healing comes when two or more gather in His name. Because when that happens? Well, HE is there.

And HE is never limping. HE conquered the grave. HE saves us from everything, friends and gives us eternal life and fellowship with HIM and those who are part of HIS family.

That is cause for constant celebration. That is the most good of all!

Limping or not ~ I’m up for that kind of party. I shall sing His praises. And yes ~ I shall dance.

Even if only in my heart.

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20

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I Have Been Immersed Today (And I Will Rejoice!)

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I have been immersed today.

I have been immersed in self-pity. I have been immersed in Jesus joy at the same time.

I have been immersed in pain – true and deeeeep-below-the-muscles-all-over-kind-of pain. I have simultaneously been immersed in an inexplicable Jesus-kind-of comfort.

I have been immersed today.

I cannot sleep, so I write. I write about my immersion.

Today I have sharp and vivid memories – fond ones of times when I given the ability to jog all the time. Running for miles and miles and sweating all the toxins out – ending with a rush of endorphins that lasted the whole day long.

Immersed in the beauty of that memory.

Pounding out the stress – the aches. Pounding it out through the pain. Painful at first – probably for the first mile or so.

And then came the bliss. I was immersed in the bliss then ~ consistently.

I have been immersed in the memories of that physical euphoria today.

I have been immersed in the longing for it – the pining away for it.

The flesh is strong. The desire to satisfy it is even stronger.

And the tears came. They came fast and hard. And they are still here right now as I write and share my heart a bit.

I am immersed in tears today.

Oh how I miss days in which experiencing some initial pain – intentionally-embraced pain – held what seemed like a beautiful pay-off that was beyond worth it after each of those long and so-very-satisfying runs.

How I miss being able to work hard enough physically that I would get on that good sweat and feel….cleansed.

Now my body has to work in overdrive just to make it through the day. The pain from my Fibro is so intense some days that the days in which I feel nothing more than a generalized tightness of muscles (ALL OVER, I might add) seem like “good days.”

Will I ever run again?

And so I walk with Him. I walk with my Jesus as I cry like a baby and wish for something more – something different. I struggle and strain not to fall into a place of condemnation for not being content on days such as today. I turn it over minute by minute to my Lord and Savior – begging Him for conviction to replace condemnation where needed, and comfort to replace my sense of discontent and sadness.

He is cleansing me.

I am immersed today. Because I am toxic.

I am immersed in the knowing of my Lord and Savior and the need to know Him even better.

I am immersed in waves of self-pity and despair laced with the knowledge that I am blessed beyond belief all at the same time.

I wallow, I bask. I beg, I accept. I scream. I pray.

I ask for more.

I thank Him for what I have.

And I end this day immersed in prayer – praying for a deeper knowledge of Him and who He is – and the ability to see the fruit that He is producing in my life.

And while I feel I am withering and rotting in so very many ways, I know the truth. And it sets me free.

I have been immersed today. I have been immersed in relationship with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And I shall rejoice. Because HE is never going to be a fading memory I have to pine away for – He will always be with me. And it keeps getting better and better every day.

I think I’ll “run” with that one!

Though the fig tree may not blossom,

Nor fruit be on the vines….

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,

I will joy in the God of my salvation.

The Lord God is my strength;

He will make my feet like deer’s feet,

And He will make me walk on my high hills.” Habakkuk 3:17-19

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Anew

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And the crushing of the heart – it is raw.

And the hurting of the feelings – they are fresh.

And the complaining and the mocking and the misunderstanding – all there…

Anew, anew, anew.

And the selfishness – replenished daily.

And the failure to understand – a formidable presence.

And the sneak attacks of the enemy – surprising.

Anew, anew, anew.

Relentless, pervasive, crushing, divisive.

Battling, raging, perplexing, isolating.

Ripping, smashing, slaying for whatever cause –

Anew, anew, anew.

And the blessings – they are awaiting.

And healing of the heart – is never-ending.

And the sanctification – His merciful cleansing.

Anew, anew, anew.

And the wisdom imparted through prayer.

And the peace – through self surrender.

And the love replacing the hatred.

Anew, anew, anew.

Perpetual, ever-present, molding, unifying.

Treaties, calming, understanding, risking.

Patching, rebuilding, healing for whatever cause –

His mercies and His love –

Anew, anew, anew.

It is of the Lord‘s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

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Utterance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace, Love, Salvation. So very much more.

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

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

And He has good news for us to share.

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

Only One King ~ It’s ALL GOOD

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

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

The enemy knows this.

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

And that is good.

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

The glory belongs to God. friends.

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

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

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

HE is what is Good.

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

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

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

These guys knew….

That was not good.

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

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

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

But it’s not MY ministry.

It’s not my personal kingdom, friends.

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

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

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

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

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

Like I said: It’s a fine line.

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

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

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

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

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

Keepin’ it Good ~ ALL the way good.

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

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

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

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

It is GOOD.

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

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

No ~ not even an angel.

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

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

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

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

He is our One and Only ~

There is only One King ~

And He is our ALL GOOD.

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

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Show us the Ugly!

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

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

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

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

He twists everything.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You are the Almighty One.

You are the Faithful One.

You are the truly Beautiful One.

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

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

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There’s a Yes in that No!

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The Word of God admonishes us to “let our yes be yes and our no be no.” That is truth we need to live by, as so often, we fail to be honest ~ we waver ~ then we are tossed to and fro. We often add emphasis to our yes or no to make our point. This is unnecessary and according to the Lord, comes only from the evil one.

We are not to swear by anything or anyone else ~ just to say yes or no.

Sometimes circumstances change though, and we have to change our minds. If that is the wise choice, then our answer may have to change along with the situation. Then, we must stand firm in that new answer ~ once again.

We may have to give a new answer ~ a different one. But in that moment, we still need to  simply answer….. yes or no.

Again.

This will bring about a time of testing for us, friends. It is hard to stand by our answers, especially when they have to change. We get caught up in thinking that our first answer should remain no matter what happens.

But it can’t always be that way.

  • The person who has cancer, and thought they would be able to continue to drive or attend PTA meetings for another six months…but the test results show that there needs to be a change of plans.
  • The play you said you thought you could attend (on time) for your child’s drama performance, but traffic decided otherwise for you.
  • The commitment you made months ago to help out in another area in church, at work, or at a friend’s special party ~ and illness changed things on a dime.

So yes being yes and no being no is not about whether or not your answer will ever have to change. It’s about not adding to it by swearing by any other power outside of your answer.

Was your initial “yes” not true? Certainly not! Circumstances simply changed.

So let’s look at another part of the struggle in our need to sometimes say No. This part of it is the part that I am dealing with currently, and it is WAY harder for me than the kind of things I listed above.

It’s about the perspective thingie.

For me, the struggle is not about whether I stand firm in regard to my word, barring circumstances that I cannot help. Instead, it’s about how there is always a “yes” to be found in our need to say “no”…..IF we are now having to say “no” after prayer and consideration from a Godly perspective.

It’s about how hard it is sometimes to see the Yes in the No and know that God’s got plans. Plans to work all things together for our good. Plans to show His mighty strength through our weakness.

Plans to prosper us and not harm us.

HE knows what the Yes is in the No.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

Let me tell you, friends. I cannot COUNT how many “No’s” I have had to dole out lately.

Here are just a few:

  • I have to say “No” about serving or attending church on Wednesday nights right now – it’s the middle of my work week and I have to use Wednesday as a day of rest, a day of not going out in the evening. Period. And I hate it.
  • I have to say “No” about doing more than one or two errands at a time ~ even when it’s something that might mean a lot to my kids if I could say “Yes.” Hate that too.
  • I have to say “No” to doing the big grocery shopping trip every week ~ this means my husband gets to do this chore after working way more hours than I do during the week, along with the many other things he has to take care of on the weekends. Really hate this one!
  • I had to say “No” to several things at work that would not only benefit me career-wise, but really benefit the company for which I work if I could pull it off right now. Hate, hate, hate it!
  • AND…..at work: I can’t have a “normal” workspace….I can’t wear normal headphones like everyone else around me. I can’t sit just anywhere. I can’t volunteer to do extra things that would benefit many people, even though I am skilled to do the tasks. My boss has to build me a special cubicle just so I can cope with the sensory stimuli issues this Fibro is causing me and the pain that ensues as a result.

No. Can’t. Sorry. Unable to at this time.

Did I say I hate it yet?

BUT….God is working on me, friends. He is helping me to see the “Yes” in all of these “No’s”.

I don’t know about you, but right now in my life, it doesn’t bother me to miss out on opportunities as far as work is concerned. I don’t care about moving up the ladder, getting a new and more challenging  job, or making more money. So I don’t have to contend with that whole set of angst that comes along with that.

But I hate to disappoint others. I hate to say “Yes” and then have to change it to “No” if circumstances with my health change. I dislike immensely having to inconvenience others and make them do more work to make things work out better for my health.

I forget about Jesus and how He allowed the other man to help Him carry the cross.

I forget what I know about all the Yes’s I find in Him. And they are often found in saying No here on earth.

So I have to LOOK ~ I have to SEARCH ~

I have to look hard for the Yes in the No.

  • I am saying Yes to God and the prodding inside to take care of my health right now, even if it means that others may be disappointed (although they are understanding at the same time).
  • I am saying Yes to being open to going down whatever path God leads me by not walking through doors that swing wide open just because….they are open.
  • I am saying Yes by saying No to all that glitters in front of me and around me, and embracing the glitter that’s in the mud right where I am at for this moment.
  • I am saying Yes to allow others to help me bear my own burdens.
  • I am saying Yes by saying No ~ Yes to whatever the Lord has in store ~ for all of us.

I will rise up out of the mud some day and the Lord will choose to open a different door. We don’t have to go through every door that is already open, dear friends. Maybe someone  else needs to walk through one of those doors.

Just cause it’s open doesn’t mean it’s mine to walk through.

How about you? Do you find it hard to have to say No to things that seem like they would be great for you or for others IF the circumstances were different? Is it hard for you to have to do it, even though you know it’s the right choice? Can you see the Yes in your No today, and if not ~ have you asked God to help you see it? And have you cried out and asked for Him to comfort you in the part of it that feels like you are missing something, or letting others down?

I can practically guarantee it when I say that it’s not all about the person saying No. I can assure you that others involved have their own process to go through in relation to how your decisions impact their own. Maybe God is working in their life through you or in a way that they don’t know about yet.

We have a responsiblity as Christians to move out of the way and let God be God, right?

Newsflash for Annie: My “NO” may be a big “YES” for someone else.

Oh yah ~ it’s that thing again ~ It’s not all about ME.

I don’t know about you, but here is what I have started to see. I can have the fullest of confidence that God is working in each of our lives if we are seeking Him. I can rest and find peace in my No, even when it makes me uncomfortable.  And I have the hope and the assurance that my No will do good somewhere ~ because God’s got this, friends!

I pray that you will know this too.

That you will know that your No is meaningful. That your No will help you to know God better and say Yes to Him more of the time.

That you will know that in your No, God’s got you. Yes…He does!

That your No means Yes, Yes! ~  When you turn it all over to Him.

Yes. God’s got you.

Yes, He knows.

Yes. He plans to prosper you.

See the Yes found in Jesus, even through all the No, No, No’s.

That’s the only real Yes that we need! And there’s NO doubt about it!

“For with God nothing will be impossible.” Luke 1:37

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” 1 John 5:14

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The Space in Which We are Found

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“Some people are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.” Oliver Wendall Holmes

I strongly dislike the way that this quote has been taken out of context and used and abused over the years. I don’t profess to know much about the man who made it famous, but I do know this: he used it in a specific context that held value at the time and over the years it has been applied as some kind of reason to “help along” the efforts to keep followers after Christ from living with an eternal perspective in mind.

I get it ~ we need to be able to relate to others just as Jesus shows us how to do. That’s not the point that bothers me in any way, shape or form.

It’s the way that this quote has been applied like a blanket to ALL Christians whose minds are filled with Jesus ~ with listening to Him, being distracted at times from the things of this earth, and tuning in to the voice that many don’t wish to listen to.

But oh…how tempting and taunting it is to believe it about ourselves at times. That thought – that little nagging thought that maybe we are no good here if all we think about is Jesus.

Today, like many other days over the past year or two, I felt like I am probably perceived sometimes as one of the people Mr. Holmes speaks of in this quote of his.

I’ll even admit it: sometimes I even wonder if this might be sort of true at times.

But I know better. It just doesn’t feel that way at times.

Isn’t that one of the ways that the evil one works, friends? He takes a degree of truth and then perverts it. He makes it popular to twist it. He takes it out of context but never so much that the degree of truth to it disappears completely.

That’s why the mind is a battlefield, friends.

He is an ugly thing.

As I did various normal things throughout this day, I realized that I (once again) feel like I am only really half here, if even half at all. I am struck by the realness of how surreal everything seems. I see it as its happening ~ in real time ~ and it used to really freak me out.

I sat in my car and took time to breathe during my meager little lunch hour and think to myself..is this all for real? There are people dying right now…people hurting…and I am sitting here eating my Baked Lays. How can this be where you want for me to be right now, Lord?

In some ways, I feel like a character out of The Matrix ~ kinda sorta. It’s a trip.

After lunch I moved back into my work mode and talked with people all day long. I tried to help them…validate their feelings, make things work out better for them. I care, I really do. But I feel displaced…not fully connected. I know it, and I try to change it. But I just can’t shake it.

I think I’m supposed to be listening right now.

My mind and heart keep going back to what IS real, what IS fully good, listening for His voice. I think of heaven and those who went before me. I think of those who are on their final journey here on earth and about to enter in ~ to be with Him forever.

It’s the place that some think is not for real.

But it’s my real home.

Lest you think I’ve lost my ever-loving mind for good this time, let me take a moment to add, just for the record, that I am more content and peaceful about this strange reality I am walking around in than ever before.

The discontent that does remain is not made up of disturbing feelings that are laden with fear at all. It comes from an outside pulling and pressure to succumb to the “reality” that is man made.

It’s just that I am called to walk in this body, this place, and sometimes I just don’t quite know how while still setting my eyes upon Jesus.

Jesus. Jesus. Jesus!

It’s just that sly little whisper, friends ~ the one that things like the quote above likes to taunt us with ~ the one that tries to drown out the voice of peace and joy, truth and reason, love and true connection.

The one that says, you don’t appreciate the life you’ve been given here enough by longing for Jesus to come back and take you and those you love to heaven.

But it’s not working. I am so thankful that it’s not working.

I can enjoy this life and love others while I am here, yet still long for the real one ~ the best one ~ the permanent one. Sometimes I struggle ~ but that’s because of the taunting.

And I know it.

And so, the beauty of the strange continued after work as I stopped by my favorite store to pick up the new rustic log-candle-holder that I had wished for to place upon my mantle. I knew the sale was ready for me and happily moved towards the lovely place where I could find something that would be joyful to gaze upon as my family sits around the fireplace.

We are doing that more now that the kids are older ~ sitting together and hanging out as a family.

After picking up my favored log, I wandered to feast my eyes upon the other lovelies throughout the rest of the store. This is fun, I thought. No holiday shoppers, no hustle and bustle, and no squirming to try to find more, more, more to spend money on today. Just a beautiful sense of contentment that I was blessed enough to take a small portion of my earnings and purchase something special, and time to wander a bit and enjoy. Fun.

But I was still disconnected from the things going on around me in the store.

I felt like I was watching a movie again.

It’s strange how we can feel like we are walking around doing such a normal kind of thing ~we humans ~ yet know that we aren’t really and truly home. We can be immersed in the special moment we are having while still realizing that we are foreigners in an alien and temporary land.

We long for home.

The fun little log is something small that will bring a fun and light kind of joy to my household, but this house and this life is not our true and eternal home.

Am I too heavenly minded?, I asked myself as I wandered through the store and got into the car to make my way home to my beautiful little family.

“No, dear one”, I heard inside. “This is a part of it all. I am going to teach you more and more, I promise.”

There was a time that I was concerned about myself for being in a place of quite the opposite of looking forward to heaven. And oh, how much earthly good I thought I was doing back then! Ha Ha!

It is nothing more than an absolute compliment if folks start to wonder if you fit quotes such as these. The “good” we should be seeking is not merely found in this earthly life, but an eternal good and one that brings glory to Jesus Christ and His kingdom. Part of that also comes in learning how to be grateful and love the things we can do to glorify Christ while we are here.

Without caving in and living for this world.

And part of it comes from accepting the gift (and not the curse) that it is to be somewhat “spaced out” when we are truly relating with our Savior instead of thinking about our lunch.

At the end of the day, that candle holding log for the mantle will end up in a trash bin somewhere. The Baked Lays will be long gone. They will have brought fun, joy and served a decent purpose for us, but will not be coming along with us in the end.

And so it’s good ~ it’s good that they didn’t receive my full attention anyway.

But how I felt moving through that store today ~ how I felt during my little strange lunch break when I pressed into the Lord and asked Him…”how do I continue to move through this life, this superficiality, this stuff that so often tries to distract us from what IS real, what IS lasting? How Lord?  That feeling and that crying out for His guidance is what makes me know that I am truly connected to the right thing.

Maybe sometimes I am so lost in my prayers and thoughts and conversations with the Lord that I struggle or grasp for focus in regard to my earthly tasks and duties.

I’m choosing to be okay with that.

There might be times that I seem zoned out, lost, distracted, but most of those moments are ones in which I am listening intently to another voice ~ one that is more important than the task at hand.

I’m choosing to be okay with that.

I may not meet every goal or go after every accomplishment with single-minded focus and clarity and commitment any longer as my mind is elsewhere half the time.

But I’m good with that one too (although I have to fight feelings about it – a lot).

I may be “too heavenly minded” for some ~ even myself at times ~ but that is most definitely GOOD.

There are times when the world wins for a while and takes more of my focus than it should be allowed to. Those are the ones I will give my attention to, because I am done feeling guilty about days like today.

It’s the days in which I am too focused on earthly good that I am going to be concerned about (if it’s taking me away from Jesus).

Do you find yourself struggling at times with moving through the day-to-day and appreciating it, yet at the same time, feeling as though your focus is being outright forced to be split? Do you wish for times in which you could just choose one or the other to make it a bit easier? Do you know that it is a blessing to be in communion and fellowship and prayer with the Lord all day long, even when it “gets in the way” of helping you truly put your full attention into the task at hand?

See it for the gift that it is.

Choose to be okay ~ even good with that!

I think a lot of how to walk like Jesus did comes down to this, friends: I think it comes down to accepting that we are aliens here, but we are also called to love others here. We are called to work hard, be good stewards of our time and money, to focus upon loving and helping others, and to do what we say we will do.

But more than anything else, we are called to be heavenly minded. And if that gets in the way sometimes of creating earthly good, so be it.

“Set your mind on things above; not on the things that are on earth.” Col 3:2

AND…

Faithfully serve the Lord ~ continue to relate to and love upon others.

God values our faithfulness in the little things, friends. If our focus seems split or we seem distracted by something we have to do, but its because we are praying or seeking the Lord about something else, we should listen ~ listen for the Holy Spirit for guidance. He will equip us to get back to the task at hand when the time is right.

It is part of our own affliction, friends. It is also a gift from the Lord ~ this life.

Part of what is perishing as we walk through this earthly life we have been given is not just our bodies, but our focus ~ our attachment to this world ~ our connection to the earth.

There’s gonna be some struggle involved with that whole deal.

Go to that space. That space with the Lord in which you are NOT lost, but found. Choose to be good with that. Choose to embrace that space. Hold onto it with all you have. Ask for His power and strength to do it.

Most of all, take heart if this is something you struggle with, friends.  What seems like a disconnect or a movie, is actually something that is drawing you even closer to HIM.

And that is Good ~

That is earthly and heavenly GOOD.

“We do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” 2 Cor 4:16-17 woman-571715_640

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

So here is the question:

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

Things that make you go “hmmmm.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think….NO.

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

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

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

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

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

Only God is good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tell them!

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

Tell them!

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

Tell them!

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

Tell them!

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

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

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

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

The Blooms…

The Light…

And the weeds…

And the darkness…

The Joy…

And the Suffering…

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

His Good.

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

We are responsible to let the light shine ~

What others “see” is up to Him.

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

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The Perfecting and Utterly Perfect One

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And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:5

I’m just going to come out and say it…

We judge the effectiveness or sincerity of one’s sharing of the gospel if it doesn’t fit our idea of perfection. There.

People do use things as substitutes sometimes, but there are many times that we look at others and judge them instead of taking a hard look at ourselves. We assume they can’t possibly be for real if they aren’t doing it the way it’s always been done. We venture to guess and assess. We sift and sort and decide: Who is sharing Jesus the right way? (You know…the perfect way).

And in doing that, we are judging the validity of the sharing of Jesus based upon that ministry or that person, rather than GOD Himself. God and His work through others.

God.

Take blogging, for instance. Any of you who share about Jesus through a blog or social media will know what I am talking about here, I have no doubt. Blogging about Jesus ~  It’s seen in Christian circles as “less than” somehow. It is seen as a substitute for the “real thing.”

And that is because sometimes it IS.

But sometimes it’s NOT.

Perfection. Sheesh. Is there really such a thing, friends?

We judge. As people who struggle with sin and pointing fingers at anyone besides ourselves ~ we judge.

But only God knows the true heart of a person. And God leads that person to share the way that He leads them.

He speaks to that person’s heart.

I have, of late, seen a lot of judgement cast toward others who like to share Jesus through social media. It seems to be assumed that they are hiding behind their blog, their email, their facebook page, rather than connecting with others for real. I’m sick of it.

Again, sometimes that is true. Many people hide behind their “ministry” and struggle with turning their intentions, motivations and whole hearts over to Jesus each and every day.

Many struggle with seeing it as their ministry, instead of His.

This girl is all-too-aware of that. There are times that I step away from the blog on purpose because I can feel it grasping hold of me too tightly. That’s when it’s time to put it back into place. That’s the time that He whispers to me and tells me to remember where my treasure really is.

But sharing Jesus through social media doesn’t always mean something less than sharing face-to-face. I don’t believe it is that clear-cut all the time. Sometimes it’s nothing more than another place where the lost are searching ~ a place that the Lord has urged some of us to seek out some kind of connection and way to share Him with those who might be found there. Searching.

  • Some people are sick and cannot go to church.
  • Some are stuck somewhere, without the means to get around.
  • Some are indeed downtrodden, and not sure when they wish to venture out amongst people again after being hurt very, very badly.
  • And some are indeed hiding ~ waiting to be found.

They are watching. They are checking. They are craving connection, even if it’s not a perfect one.

I’ve spent many a night doubting and questioning and praying whether or not blogging and sharing my heart about Jesus on social media is something that is worthy of my Savior. I’ve questioned it ~ wondered about it ~ and yes, I’ve seen the holes in it, friends.

But I’ve also seen the glory it can bring to Jesus. I’ve seen more connection and heart sharing and openness here than I have anywhere else. Some may say it’s because it’s easier for people to speak freely when there is a computer screen between them and another person. That may be true. But at least they are talking. At least they are wondering.

It’s a step.

You may think that is sad ~ that our world is such a place as this. But sad or not, it’s good that we can reach one another.

It’s not perfect. Nothing is fully worthy of Him. Nothing that I do.

It’s about what HE does with it.

And aside from the way that I share Jesus with others on Social Media ~ aside from proclaiming His light and love and truth and divinity in the places where we are somewhat disconnected or in the places that are seen as substitutes for the “real thing” ~ in my physical life, I find the disconnect is still there too. (Did she just say that?)

It’s not perfect either, friends!

  • If I scream from a pulpit or in front of a group of people who are gathered together in one physical place, it is seen as a worthy ministry. It’s seen as a greater connection than writing about my Savior from deep heart places.
  • If I serve at the church or go down to the soup kitchen and help those who are less fortunate than myself, it is seen as more effective and more caring somehow than reaching out to a lonely friend through an email.
  • If I meet with someone one-on-one and hear their heart hurts and pray with them, it is seen as “better than” touching a lonely heart who can’t meet me in person, but IS able to check their facebook newsfeed today.

I’m all for the real thing, friends. But I don’t believe that sharing with others on social media is always fake and quite frankly, we like to blanket it that way because of some (a lot) of the stuff that is.

God can and does do mighty things through that which seems “less than.”

Every. Single. Day.

Yes, I have work to do friends. Always.

I have work to do in how I connect with others when I meet with them in person. I have allowed my illness to cause a roadblock to take up space. I have done it and I am aware of it. I wish to get better about it.

I want to be more engaged and more connected in all the spaces ~ the physical ones and the ones that seem….less than.

I want to do better, but I operate under no illusions that better is not perfect.

None of it is perfect.

It seems like if we can’t do it right or better, we tend to throw up our hands. We either do that, or we simply criticize that which is “bad” or “less than” in what we ARE doing. Or worse yet ~ we just do nothing at all if we can’t go ALL THE WAY.

I’m done with that.

It’s not either/or.

It’s every big or small moment that presents itself in which I am to share Jesus Christ with others.

It’s that person in need of a hug at work, or the one who seems disgruntled or sad in their FB status update today. What about the person who lives far away who I haven’t emailed in some time, or that one on the street corner who is holding up a sign.

It is ALL.

I will continue reaching out in the places where the Lord leads me to do so ~ I will continue to use the gifts He has given me as well as my weaknesses  (yep, those!)  to connect with others in the places that are seen as fake connection avenues to travel down.

I will travel those roads with Him.

Those are the places that I think Jesus would go.

But they aren’t the ONLY places.

  • Friends, the person stuck in the retirement home or soup kitchen matters.
  • The person on the other end of the planet who can’t go to church, but who CAN check a blog or facebook account (sometimes in secret) matters.
  • The person at church who needs a hug, but is busy speaking to someone else when you see them matters. They may go home later and check social media or read a few blogs to enhance their sense of connection to other believers ~ to Jesus.
  • The people in our homes need us to be engaged with them. They matter.
  • The family members who have conflicting schedules and aren’t home when you are might check facebook or email or messages and feel that’s a way they can connect with us from afar. They matter.

Something of Jesus is better than nothing of Jesus as long as the heart is where it should be and it’s not something that acts as a counterfeit of Him, friends.

That’s how seeds grow.

We are only the planters sometimes.

So, you guessed it. One of the things I wish to do in this new year is work on the connection with others ALL the way around.

I wish to connect in deeper ways with a few, just as Jesus did.

Deeper with those in my physical realm.

Deeper with those in the seemingly virtual realm.

Deeper, but still not perfect.

Never “perfect.”

That will not happen for this girl until she goes home to live with the Lord for eternity.

So yes ~ I will leave the perfecting of His truth and love up to Him. He’s the only One who does it ALL perfectly anyway.

Do you also wish to do better? Do you know that in Him and through Him you shall?

Then join me, dear friends. Join me in turning over all that is less than in us to the One and the Only who is truly perfect.

In that, we can fix our eyes upon Him ~ the One who makes beauty out of ashes. The One who works wonders through our inadequacies.

The Perfecting and Utterly Perfect One.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:2

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Loving the Other Pharisees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s all of us. He loves ALL of us.  

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

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

It’s not meant to be easy.

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

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

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

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

That means loving when it’s hard.

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

But for me, it’s about: 

The Pharisee in my heart….

The other Pharisees….

The lost who have not chosen Him….

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

The church and their own heart hurts…

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

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

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

“Death” to the Pharisee inside of my heart.

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

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

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