Magnified

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Now we see but a dim 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. 2 Corinthians 5:7

This is a hard thing to write about – it’s truly difficult for me to put it into words, so I’m just going to try!

I’ve been thinking a lot about relationship lately. Relationships, the way that we tend to perceive them, are based a LOT around feelings. As humans, we experience them, right?

Feelings are part of our  make-up. But often, we rely upon them way too much. We can allow them to define us and/or define our relationships. And feelings are so fickle! So if you ask me, they shouldn’t be the foundation of all that we call relationship. No sir!

Much of the time I find myself thinking that the type of relationship we have with God is really the only one that is all the way right. It has crossed my mind so often, because, as you know, I don’t get out and about a whole lot.

The world likes to say that if we aren’t seeing, feeling, touching, hearing, smelling – EXPERIENCING –  well, then we aren’t in real relationship with others. That can be partially true, but it isn’t always the whole truth. Be careful about that and listen to the Lord!

My relationship with God DEFIES human boundaries! I know this because I have experienced it first hand now that all the other stuff has been stripped away during this weird and hard season in my life. And it’s caused me to take a hard and deep look at the fact that maybe – just MAYBE – we rely too much upon what we can see and experience- all the tangible stuff- to define true relationship.

In some ways, that reliance upon all that is within our grasp can trick us, man. And God can break the mold any time He wants to if we allow Him to do so.

I used to be surrounded by people. I was in the mix of it all. I’m not bashing that – man, alive! If you can get out among people, please do it! Jesus and the disciples did that very thing and it is important! Being alone is not good for us, so whenever it is possible to spend time with other people, it is GOOD.

But in some ways, being alone a lot causes a person to really dig for the true gold amidst the intangibles. And that too, is very, very good ~ IF we are digging in all the right places.

It all depends upon what we do with the season in life that is before us. Do we wallow around and feel sorry for ourselves most of the time, or do we look for the treasure we have when we are in relationship with Jesus?

  • The Jesus treasure!
  • The real relationship we have and find in prayer and study of His Word – His love letter to us!
  • The crying out we do in the bathtub when we are feeling sorry for ourselves!
  • The dancing and singing in our hearts to praise Him for every little thing that we used to dismiss as not important!
  • The new understanding of His character in the midst of our “suffering” that we may never have had revealed to us before without having been placed in this season!

Make no mistake about it – our relationship with Jesus involves feelings too! But for me, I have found that it is characterized more about what I know about Him than all of that other stuff. It takes a lot of me out of the picture – although that is always still a struggle. It causes me to focus in on Him a little more.

We can’t “see” Him yet. We can’t touch him tangibly yet. We can’t hear Him in the same way (with our ears) or smell Him just yet. But does that make the relationship we have with our Savior less-than in some way? No!

It defies the boundaries we mere little human beings place around our ability to have “relationship.” It transcends feelings and tangible feel-good stuff. AND, no matter whether we are surrounded by 1000 other people or walking much of our season in life alone, HE IS WITH US.

How rad is that?!

Not being able to rely upon the things we can grasp,  hold, squeeze, cling to – well, it all causes us to rely upon HIM and the fact that HE is unchanging. It causes us to try to know Him, rather than rely upon all that other stuff to convince ourselves there is something there. It inspires us to dig – to listen – to be in His Word in order to “hear” HIS VOICE. It is an experience – our relationship with our Savior.

But I won’t lie. It certainly makes it harder in some ways, right? The ideal is to be able to press in deeper in our relationship with Jesus AND nurture our many other relationships with people in real and tangible ways. But sometimes, we are in a season like Job was when he was ailing (to put it mildly) or like Paul was when he was in prison – and conditions are not “ideal.”

And isn’t that something that might actually be to our benefit? Again – is it possible that when we can’t rely upon the tangible things, we seek Him all the more? 

I would venture to say that digging in with regard to our relationship with Christ is a bit harder when we are not in a season of spending a lot of time alone. Why can I say that? Because I have been in both places. I had a relationship with Jesus before, but I was distracted a lot, too. Maybe, in some ways, He has given me a gift through this season of chronic illness. I know that sounds weird, but it’s how I’m coming to see it all.

And I share this with you today because if YOU are in a season that is causing you to be alone a lot of the time, I know you will be tempted to allow the world or, worse yet, the enemy cause you to think you can’t have a FULL relationship with Jesus Christ in the midst of that. That is a lie! Be encouraged, dear friend!

I have grown closer in my relationship with Jesus than ever before because I have been able to use this time in this season in my life to get back to my first love – something I should have done before anyway.  I desire to seek Him more diligently but have to ask Him daily to help me to cut through all the feelings I have about my chronic illness, including the physical and emotional ones, so as to focus in on HIM. It is a daily battle in which I am asked to surrender my attitude and outlook and change it from thinking about all that is missing to all that I can still have in HIM! And to enjoy and appreciate every single thing He has provided for me on this earth too – like my family, my church family, my sweet puppy dog, and having a nice home to sleep in and live in until I go to my forever home.

I am not really alone. You aren’t either if you don’t want to be.

I often find myself longing to hear Him or feel Him hugging me in spite of the fact that I know He is already here with me. That’s the human being inside that longs for the tangible stuff. But I am not missing anything this side of heaven in having a real and awesome relationship with Jesus.

And one day ~ one GLORIOUS DAY – we will meet our Lord and Savior and get our glorified bodies.  It’s going to happen soon and very soon!  And THEN! I can’t even imagine what He has in store for us, dear friends!

In the meantime, we can cry out to Him to draw near – and He does, friends, HE DOES! We can use this time to ask Him to show us through what seem like dark or lonely seasons or like loss or missing out on things, that we actually have more than we could ever ask for in our relationship with Him! We can learn more about HIS attributes and who HE is in spite of the fact that the only thing we feel we can grasp is our relationship with our Savior and His Word.

The only thing? That thing is HUGE. Don’t allow the enemy to diminish that. Allow God to magnify it!

And He and His word lives on forever, whether it is clutched in our mere little hands or not. It is living and everlasting and deeply embedded in our hearts and our souls. He can never be stripped away from us. No, not ever!

He is always with us, friends. He is faithful and true.

Jesus Christ is all about relationship. But never forget – He KNOWS HOW to break the mold. And in what seems like a time marked by having to squint so we can see, He can magnify Himself in our lives. He can!

Let us embrace that.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 5:7

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The Broken Prayer Warrior

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BUT GOD!

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

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

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

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

And prayer is powerful beyond measure.

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

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

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

TRUST. IN. HIM.

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

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

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

I promise – He WILL do it!

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that matters.

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

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Are We Bashing or Blessing?

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

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

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

Guilty as charged.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I go back to what I have always said –

It’s not Either/Or…..

It’s Both/And!!!!!!!!!

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

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

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

Yep. It’s Both/And.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I am in love with Jesus Christ.

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

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

Talk about grace upon grace. Wow.

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

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

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

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

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This I Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The big stuff?

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

I’ve accepted these big things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And this I love.

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A Significant Speck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HE IS.

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

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

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

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Here is my letter:

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

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

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

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

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

NOT OKAY!!!!

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

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

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

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

I was that girl. And I liked her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s a little blood, anyway?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks be to God.

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

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

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So that, Yo. So THAT.

 

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

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

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

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

Any of these sound familiar, friend?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feelings suck sometimes. Just sayin’.

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

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

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

Jesus is meant to fill that space. Only Jesus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So that.

So that.

So that.

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

Friends!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

P.S. USE YOUR GIFTS!!

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

Use Your Gifts

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

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

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

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

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

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

AND………..

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

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

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

It gave me time to MISS YOU, friends.

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

And that is GOOD.

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

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

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

It’s all about the PEACE, YO!

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

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

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

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

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

Again: That = No Good, Man.

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

So I’m going to.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s not always either/or.

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

No more for this girl.

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

But we gotta use them.

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

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

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There’s always a YES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Now!

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

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

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

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

My YES to HIM never left.

My Jesus YES.

My only YES that I NEED.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drop the Nets!

Leave your homes!

You’ll know why later!

I’ve got it under control!

Just do it!

Don’t worry about those details!

Follow ME.

NOW.

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

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

“YES, Jesus ~ YES!”

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

Who am I to dilly dally?

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Encourage Radically

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

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

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

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

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

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

R-A-D-I-C-A-L.

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

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

I’m guilty.

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

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

And it will be hard sometimes.

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

Everyone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bible tells us so – through and through.

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

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

Know. Our. Enemy.

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

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

We have to know our Savior.

Know. Our. Savior.

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

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

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

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

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

It is the truth. 

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

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

Relentlessly.

Maliciously.

And beyond gleefully.

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

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

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

We MUST NOT let down our guard!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And above all….

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

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

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

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

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

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Razzle Dazzle

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Razzle dazzle gather round

See our glitter, hear our sound

Pasty lady, white and glowing

All our thoughts; she is a sowing.

 

Razzle dazzle, see the lights

Fat cats abound; suck up our sight

Pretty sounds from lips instead

Backroom deals over our heads.

 

Never fear,  just love the razzle

Whilst your nerves they shall unravel

Twisting tummies; party dances

Molding minds through all their prances.

 

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

Round and round, the whirling frazzle

Morphed and moved by itchy ears

Here’s our pill to calm thy fears.

 

Razzle Dazzle ’round she goes

Where she stops nobody knows

In the glass house, they are all-seeing

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

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

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God sees right through the Bubble

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These are the burning questions on my mind lately.

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

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

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

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

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

And this little boy is telling on us.

GOOD FOR HIM!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All of it.

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

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

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

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

You have to look out for number 1.

You must stay positive above all else.

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

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

Self matters. 

Self matters.

SELF MATTERS!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So today I am reminded:

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

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

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

BUT…………

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

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

We will remember and we will know.

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

We can tell it all to God.

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

He has NOT forgotten us.

And our real home is with Him.

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

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

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

And he’s telling it all to God!

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

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

Thanks be to God. No more need for bubbles.

THANKS BE TO GOD!

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

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In Spite of the Thickets and the Thorns

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

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

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

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

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

Seeking HIM. Looking to HIM.

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

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

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

But it’s not easy.

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

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

In the Garden of Gethsemane…

In the dark….

Surrounded by trees and very, very alone.

Knowing. Knowing what is about to come…

And He still looked up.

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

And I think of my Jesus upon that cross…

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

And He still looked up.

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

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

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

So can we.

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

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

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

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

For us.

Jesus looked up for us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Out of the Brown Box

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That mirror is one I want to shatter sometimes.

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

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

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

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

Every. Single. Time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Patience.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But our God reveals.

Our God refines.

Our God restores.

And I trust in Him.

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

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

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

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

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Paradoxical and Perfect Peace

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

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

Magnificent God.

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

“Follow Me”. ~ Jesus

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

Some of those “thoughts”……

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

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

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

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

Be still and know that I am God.

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

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

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

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

“I Am.” ~ Jesus

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

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

I’m tired of this battle, friends.

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

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

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

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

It’s not either/or. It’s both/and.

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

Yes. This is surrender, friends.

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

Perception and false expectations.

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

But you aren’t.  😦

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

Sovereign God.

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

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

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

They are His.

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

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

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

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

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

Gracious God.

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

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

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

Faithful God.

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

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

“I am the true vine.” ~ Jesus

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

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

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

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

And may He give you PEACE.

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

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

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

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

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

Not any more.

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

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

No, No, and N-O!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s most stuff.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s inevitable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We can. He will.

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

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

If we call upon Him he will come.

It is inevitable.

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

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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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