Today, it is my joy to welcome Tracey Rogers to Women’s Ministry Monday. Her words both uplift and remind my heart that there is safety in my struggle and hope in my longings. Thank you, Tracey.
I got lost in the wilderness.
I hadn’t planned to even go out there, but there I was right in the middle of unfamiliar territory. I did, however, know what was on the other side. THAT I knew, so I was confident on how to maneuver myself through the uncomfortable deserted land.
But I got lost.
No, not literally. The deepest I have been in any kind of wilderness is a color-coded, well-worn hike through many Tennessee State Parks; hardly a place for loss.
No, my wilderness was God’s doing. Leading me out of my comfort and leading me into a place of uncertainty and trial and pressure and temptation.
The wilderness is not an unusual place for God’s people.
He often leads them into the wilderness.
Moses was called by God from the burning bush while Moses was in the wilderness.
Elijah receives encouragement from God while spending 40 days in the wilderness.
The children of Israel spent 40 years in the wilderness –
unlearning the pagan influence from Egypt and becoming a people of God.
They found their identity in the wilderness.
Even Jesus, Himself spent 40 days in the wilderness being tempted before beginning His earthly ministry.
David, too has a season in the wilderness.
David was anointed king of Israel as a young man, and through a series of God-ordained coincidences he found himself in service of the present king of Israel, Saul. I imagine David saw the path to kingship. He imagined that he would learn from Saul; be mentored by this present king so he could one day step into the role that was destined for him. Although David knew the way the story would end, with him being king, I think the process ended up being very different than he expected. Saul began to see David as a threat and David was forced to run for his life. Where did he run?
To the wilderness.
The wilderness is a place ripe for God to shape and grow David into the king He called him to be.
1 Samuel 21-31 record David’s time in the wilderness. I don’t think this turned out to be the way he expected God to grow him into a king, but that is exactly what God did. In thewilderness, David went from shepherd to leader.
David learned how to handle opposition.
David was met with challenges, yet followed God.
The wilderness was where David found shelter in caves, yet knew the shadow of God’s wings.
It was where David found rest beside still waters and found his soul restored.
And David, had tests and temptations, but resisted them and proved worthy of the call.
The wilderness isn’t just for God’s people in the Bible. He is still calling His own into the wilderness today, and that is where I found myself.
But I carved the path. Wondering, how can I get out. How will God actually work things out?
Real surrender is not the act of acknowledging hard times,
but of letting God walk you through them, altogether.
What path do you follow? Is it providing refuge?
“Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me,
For my soul takes refuge in You;
And in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge
Until destruction passes by.
I will cry to God Most High,
To God who accomplishes all things for me.
He will send from heaven and save me;
He reproaches him who tramples upon me. Selah.
God will send forth His lovingkindness and His truth.” Ps. 57:1-3
And so I remained in the wilderness, but no longer felt lost. I found comfort and I think that is exactly what He had in mind.
Tracey Rogers is a gifted Bible teacher who brings passion and enthusiasm to the life-giving Word of God. Tracey speaks with authority and authenticity leaving her listeners wanting to spend more time with God in His Word and inspiring them to live lives that shine His light. Tracey has also taken her revealing teaching lessons and unique insights and put them in her new book, Life Lessons from the Book of Job.
She lives in Franklin, Tennessee with her husband of almost 19 years, Kevin, along with their children Preston, 15; John John, 13; and Josie, 10. In addition to serving on the adult groups staff at Church of the City, she has been incorporating her love of scripture by teaching Christ-centered yoga for 4 1/2 years.
Uber scares me. I rode on it one time and I convinced myself I was about to be trafficked and brought to South America on first sight of the car. I was wrong. He was nice; I got where I needed to go. The next time, things took a different turn.
It was desolate and dark. I stood on the curb heart beating out of my chest, pondering whether to hide behind the nearby bush. I’d watch UBER wait for me, then see him drive away. Perfect! I could go inside to safety. I didn’t. I am glad, boy, am I glad, I didn’t.
“I am a Pre-K teacher,” the driver said, “You know, kids say all types of things.”
I nodded and continued, “One kid said to his misbehavin’ friends, ‘Aww…you’re in trouble…I am going to tell Jesus on you.’”
Little did she know – I know that kid.
He lives in me. He talks the same:
“You’re being insecure. I’m telling Jesus on you…”
“You’re not spending enough time with God. I’m telling Jesus on you…”
“You’re not acting nice to the family. I’m telling Jesus on you…”
When we believe Jesus is out to get us,
we have a hard time believing Jesus is out to love us.
“…You are trouble in Jesus now! He’ll never bless you, help you, want you, lead you or provide for you now, you little delinquent.”
God more resembles a punisher than a lover.
Does Jesus ever feel more like a high school principal than the Prince of Peace?
People avoid principals! They take the opposite route, to avoid them. They fear his office. They know retaliation is prevalent. They fear him in a way where they forgo wanting to be near him. They keep safe distance. I do. I don’t want to get hurt, shunned.
Is this you?
7 Ways to tell if you’re Distancing yourself from God:
1. You fear God’s mean face before you think of his abounding grace.
2. You fear admitting wrong because you believe God’s compassion can’t be that strong.
3. You feel if you accept God’s good gifts, you will owe him something.
4. You think you are unworthy of forgiveness.
5. You are certain who you are and how you act, disqualifies you.
6. You work really hard to be loved.
7. You feel great when you’re great and a heathen when you’re horrible.
5 Truths that Move God from Authoritarian to Author of Peace
Remember, for children of God, God’s grace more than meets the strength of mess-ups. There’s no ounce that can stand under the power of the cross. “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” (Ro. 5:20)
God’s love requires nothing from you, but gives everything to you. When you receive and then receive some more, suddenly you start to believe God is good, truly good. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)
Meditate on the idea… If Jesus died for us while man treated him like the scum of the earth, if he received whips and lashes on the account of our sin, if he died a slow an agonizing death and won – won’t he continue to forgive you today? God demonstrates…love…: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Ro. 5:8)
Say, “I am sorry. Forgive me God.” It will restore you every time. The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. (Ps. 103:8)
Believe this: God isn’t a rule-master, but a Master who knows his love, law and liberty will set us free. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Mt. 11:30)
There is no punisher hoping to hurt you. The complete sum of Love pursues you.
Will you let him in?
God doesn’t love you dependent on good actions. He doesn’t disqualify you based on your wrongs. He won’t outcast you because you look different. He sees past your personal convictions of guilty. He released you 2000 years ago – when Jesus paid for it all.
My story of marriage shattered and with it my childlike dream of love. But like Job, I found hope. My summertime musings turned into truth the day I invited God to take my simple dreams and make them into His beautiful reality. The key to dreaming is accepting God as the keeper and developer of the dreams.
I opened my heart and looked for Jesus in my life. I asked Him “why” questions over and over, and found my answers in Him. In the process, my dreaming didn’t stop, and in the reworking our patient God taught me this…
We nurture dreams when we feed them with hope, purpose and trust.
What begins as a fleeting thought can easily blossom into hope for the future. What looks good on paper may turn into a career that lasts for thirty years. What is broken can be made whole again.
Dreams are the visions we imagine and release to God to mold, shape and grow. When we let go, God creates amazing beauty. He makes all things beautiful!
He covers the sky with clouds; he supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills. He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call. Psalm 147:8-9
Many people in the church complimented me on my strength. Little did they know that behind the strong façade I was a wreck. I kept smiling. Sometimes I said that I was tired, but nothing more.
I failed three out of six courses. The Lord was gracious. I was able to get a note from counseling center which allowed me to drop off those courses. There was no fail on my transcript. I couldn’t continue the program. I dropped out.
At the time, it looked like a defeat. I left my dream of becoming an environmental specialist behind. I was not going back to finish the program. How could I when I wasn’t able to pass even the smallest lab reports. Our God is so wise. Sometimes, when the road was not meant for us, He will let us to walk until we are crushed and can’t continue down that way.
With Him are wisdom and might; to Him belong counsel and understanding Job 12:13 NASB
My dream was buried under the rubble of personal and emotional problems. I became more focused on the Lord. I became more involved with my church. My heart became settled. Read more.
Sleep has always been a thorn in my side. I am a night owl who is required to rise early, and while I meet my responsibilities that require me to rise early, falling asleep is never easy. It doesn’t matter if I go to bed early, drink tea, take sleep aids, or try relaxation techniques. Those methods help to some degree, but they aren’t enough to lull me into a relaxing full night’s sleep.
I lie there tossing and turning, counting down the hours until I will have to get up. I begin to worry not only about what I may have forgotten, but also about whether I will get enough sleep. My mind races to figure out how to ensure that I have the energy I believe will be required to accomplish what I have planned for the next day.
Anxiety takes over because I pressure myself to perfectly manipulate circumstances that are beyond my control.
Then God reminds me that I am following Him, not the other way around. Read More.
Newsflash! God doesn’t give us a certain amount of faith and hope we use it for the correct issues. He gives us faith and grace for each moment, as we need it!
Despite these truths, at times it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around this. But this shows how little I know of God in comparison to how much there is to know of Him!
Honesty moment? It’s a tiny, little, teeny bit similar to how little I know about sports in relation to how much there is to know. (I mean let’s be real – I had to ask what sport the Blackhawks play. By the way, it’s hockey.)
I need to choose to understand that when God says He cares about me it includes the little things. Even things like college, jobs, internships, and friends (and learning how to make dinner without demolishing the kitchen!). He’s present in all those places, not just when I’m experiencing dramatic life change. Read more.
How Do You Break Free from Anxiety and Overcome Settling in Life?
A year ago, God asked me to do something ridiculous. He asked me to share my story; to write. He asked me to be honest, to unmask and let others know I struggled. When I struggled with anxiety, I felt shame because Christians aren’t supposed to worry. We aren’t supposed to be hopeless and feel desperate, and we aren’t supposed to quit.
Panic keeps you paused and passive.
God didn’t want me to remain muted and overlooked. He wanted me to be courageous and confident.
Me, the girl who likes to blend into the background?
Honestly, I still feel awkward.
I’m still afraid.
When you’re used to hiding, it’s hard to have confidence. I’m vowing to unmask and not withdraw this time.
“God, how can this be? The doctors said the mastectomy was necessary. I’d never dreamed I’d lose that. But I hoped after reconstruction I’d look normal.” With tears streaming down my cheeks, I stared at the pale hospital wall. “I’m only 34!” Now it had failed. What I anticipated rectifying the effects of cancer on my body, on my appearance, on me, had failed. Now the only option left was for me to gain thirty pounds and have a procedure requiring six months recovery.
I knew I’d never opt for it. I had three daughters ages 11,7, and two. I’d already lost two years with my family, stolen by cancer, no way I’d voluntarily surrender more.
“God,” I cried, shaking and sobbing alone in my hospital room, “I know You’ll redeem this. I just can’t imagine how.” I stared ahead, trying to comprehend it all. “But You will find a way somehow, some way; You’ll use this for good.”
“You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Man may judge by appearance, but I judge by the heart,” Scripture burned in my brain. “Your heart is beautiful,” His voice whispered into a mind struggling to comprehend such a concept.
I sobbed all afternoon, praying, “God help me fully trust You.” Read More.
Strength in Fragility: How To See Beyond Our Weaknesses
“God is pressing upon this season to see things from a new perspective. To recognize that although I may be fragile, who I am able to Trust in is not.”
God’s love never wanes, His strength never wavers, His comforting never ceases, and His guidance is resolute. Frailty becomes gift worthy when the weakness allows us the freedom to be our true self. This in turn allows the wonderful truths about our Lord and Savior to shine into our glass facade.
Our Lord invites us to embrace the insecurities within us and see them as stepping stones to greatness. He encourages us to believe his love is an oasis for our weakened spirit where we are able to sip his living water, revitalizing our soul and providing strength for the journey.” Read more.
10. Kim Fredrickson Author, “Give Yourself a Break: Turning Your Inner Critic into a Compassionate Friend” Twitter: @kimfredrickson
Having a terminal illness with no cure is rough to say the least. Despite such devastating news and the way my life has changed, I’ve been blessed by God’s support and the love and encouragement of family and friends. There are still blessings and things to be grateful for if you look for them.
Self-compassion (S-C) has helped me get through these tough times. When I was diagnosed with cancer, and then PF, I decided to be a good friend to myself. S-C helps me be kind and caring to myself in the ways I talk to myself, take care of myself, encourage myself, and accept the volumes of prayer and support my friends and family offer. I am committed to not turn on myself or abandon myself during these difficult times. God has not, and will not abandon me.
I know He has a purpose for PF in my life, and in the lives of others. I honestly wish I didn’t have to go through cancer or pulmonary fibrosis. I wish I would have a miraculous healing. I know God doesn’t waste any pain or hardships as I submit to Him and allow Him to use what has happened in my life for His purposes…
I googled Luke’s condition, marking the last time I’d experience peace for the next sixteen months. Hopes and dreams for my boy collapsed one by one with each account I read. When I wasn’t cluster feeding my infant, I was reading of botched surgeries and broken lives. I wasn’t sleeping and soon slipped into a dark place. Instead of enjoying my infant, our last, I found myself distancing myself from him. It hurt to love him. I’d lie him back in his crib as soon as I was done nursing him, simultaneously feeling guilty for not savoring those precious moments and knowing that lingering over him only caused more tears.
On one particularly bad night I reached out to a few of my Christian girlfriends. I was wracked with anxiety and depression and knew I could no longer do this on my own. I told them everything, Luke’s condition, my fears, our indecision, how utterly hopeless I felt. It was hard to press “Send” but also strangely freeing when I did. There is power in bringing the darkness into the light. And I was tapping into it.
I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. John 12:46
From an Outfit of Foolishness to Duds of Discernment
I felt God near me, and the morsels of His Word were enjoyable. I had been trying to read my Bible on a regular basis. I applied the plan to read the chapter from Proverbs that corresponds with the calendar day of the month since it has 31 chapters. It helped me begin the habit of spending time regularly feeding my spirit.
Then one day I started seeing a disturbing pattern. I wasn’t quite sure, so I skimmed for confirmation. Yep. It was there.
I saw myself accurately described in the verses I read. It was staring at me from the black text printed on the thin white paper of my Bible:
I. am. a. fool.
It was one of those moments when you get to the bathroom after sitting at the restaurant table with your friends, and you look in the mirror and discover what everyone else had probably already seen. Read more.
Recently I read that many of the craftsman and artisans who built the great European cathedrals didn’t live to see them completed. They never knew the satisfaction of seeing it all come together.
The craftsmen were more than skilled laborers performing a job in exchange for a livelihood. They viewed their work as service, even worship, to God. Many of them intentionally hid some of their best work within walls, fully intending it for HIM alone.
They weren’t afraid their work wouldn’t be seen; they knew the one who truly matters did see it. He sees. The Gospels remind me that he knows if a sparrow falls. The psalmist declares:
“You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn through sleepless nights, each tear entered in your ledger, each ache written in your book.” (Psalm 56:8, The Message)
The challenge is clear. How can I move from feeling invisible to doing everything with the intention of being invisible?
I needed to know that I was enough. To know that others liked me and would include me. Unfortunately, it left me looking for acceptance among people, which will always leave us wanting for more. We can never please everyone and most won’t love us unconditionally.
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. – Galatians 1:10
I’ve always been sensitive to being left out or left behind. I’ve had my feelings hurt unnecessarily at times when I’ve made assumptions about not being included. It’s been a process of years to heal from those wounds and slowly learn about my Father’s love and my worth in his eyes.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10
I was spending time with God. All was good in the land of faith and love until some little neuron fired off and decided it was high time I look beyond my online devotional.
“Kelly, did any babysitters apply to your job listing?” I asked myself.
I clicked away. No one applied, I clicked back. My devotional time continued…God loves me, he wants me, he rejoices over me…Should I research search engine optimization for my blog?”
Your distraction is why you only feel a fraction close to God.
Convicted, I clicked back. Yet, again I started reading my First 15 devotional, “You are not a failure in his eyes. He is wholeheartedly glad you are his. He longs to fill you with the knowledge of his gladness today. He longs to give you a revelation of how deeply in love with you he is. The Creator and Sustainer of all rejoices over you as his creation. You are not a mistake. You were made intentionally because your God longed to have relationship with you. I should write a blog post in response to this before I entirely forget what I want to say.”
Distracted, again, I closed the half-read devotional, click some clicks and start producing.
When we pull away from God, we never give His life a chance to soak into ours.
God must wonder where we go when we do this. We stand with him face-to-face, only to become like those people, the ones who look left and right trying to search for something or someone better. There’s nothing better.
Faith-Restorer #1: Say, “I am sorry God. I am sorry I get distracted.”
This morning, when my daughter woke, the first things she did was run into my arms. All she wanted was to nestle in. There was no other question, motive or move. It was me, only me. It was her, only her, knowing she was cared for.
When we get quiet to hear from God, his whispers recharge us.
When we get deep with God, he deeply moves us.
When we set down our plans, he speaks his.
When we rest with no other motives, he directs ours.
Being with God is pushing aside commotion,
to sit in compassion.
Eyes set, mind steadied and ready to receive, I returned to the devotional.
“God doesn’t see me as a failure.” He forgives me. “He is wholeheartedly glad I am his.” He wants me every moment. “He longs to fill me with gladness.” His ongoing growth far exceeds my momentary progress. “I am not a mistake.” I don’t have to live my life proving and posturing to make myself believe it.
When I sit still with God, He fills.
When I let go of my to-do’s, he pursues.
When I get quiet, fear is quieted.
Faith Restorer #2: Sit in the center of God’s truth and you’ll be held strong in it.
I wiggle back in my seat, to get more, to dive deeper. God speaks:
“…He will quiet you by his love…” (Zeph. 3:17)
What is an ADD spirit – is quieted by God’s love. This love calms energized nerves, spare-thoughts and unruly temperments – to smooth waters of peace.
Love is the hunt we are always chasing, and yet,
it waits, patiently, for our return.
Faith Restorer #3: Let in God’s love, versus running from it.
Fall face first into it, knowing it will catch you in grace, restore you in peace and strengthen you in the mighty hands of an Almighty God.
Faith Restorer #4: Respond to God’s transformation.
Christ’s love often gives us first-sight of liberty. This can feel overwhelming, strong or scary. But, what gives comfort is knowing that the work is not yours, it’s God’s. What he calls you to, he will equip you through. What he has for you, is good for you. What he began, he will complete.
You need not fear it and rush away.
You need not worry you will fail and give up your fight.
You need not wonder about others.
“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” Zephaniah 3:17
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Today we’re saying goodbye to one of the oldest members of our family. She doesn’t wear human skin or express herself in many syllables, but she’s loved just the same.
She’s the four-legged kind. A blondie. A dear friend named Coco.
She and our other mutt brought my husband and I together thirteen years ago with their mutual love for walks and chasing furry creatures. And as they say, well, the rest is history.
Since I’m pregnant and rather hormonal the realization that our companion is dying hit me rather hard. But I believe during those hard seasons God often speaks the loudest, sometimes in the most unexpected ways.
As my husband wrapped his arms around me and my round belly this morning, I reflected,
“It’s amazing how God speaks to us through our animals.”
I’d been observing our two girls over the past couple of days. Our other dog, Zoe, knew something was up and her disposition had changed. She’d become more affectionate, more calm, wanting to be near us often.
One day I let both of them out on our back porch while I cleaned. After about a half hour, I peeked through the window. Coco laid on the doormat, like she always does, and Zoe reclined behind her, practically spooning her with her legs.
She stayed in the same position until I let them inside, only leaving Coco’s side for an occasional drink of water. It was as though she was saying, “I’m here for you, girl. It’s okay.”
But she didn’t need words to say it. Her presence was enough.
As I thought about these mutts who started our family, I realized how often I use words to fill the empty spaces of grief. Not because they’re needed, but because I think they are. I have friends and family members who are walking through difficulties much harder than a dying pet, and the silence of sadness can be awkward.
I focus on myself and my need to fill the void rather than the grieving person’s need to simply know I’m there. To know I’m not going anywhere, and that the discomfort of grief won’t keep me from loving them.
When it comes to grief, silence always speaks louder than empty words.
Sometimes a hug goes further than a platitude and a listening ear further than a trite explanation.
“Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.” Job 2:13 NIV
When we can’t mouth the words to Jesus because of the weight of our sadness, He still hears us. He’s that good of a Savior and a friend.
Job’s friends modeled the behavior of Jesus himself when he encountered those who were grieving a deep loss. If we look into the scriptures and walk through the chapter of his life where a close friend died, we see that his words were few. And even though he foresaw the miracle, he wept. (John 11:25)
Today as I run my fingers through my companion’s soft fur for the last few times and reflect on these verses, I know my love for words won’t change. I’ll keep offering them up as praise, encouragement, and a gift at the altar of the One who gave them to me.
But I pray God will give me wisdom to know when words are weak. Because even when I have nothing to say, his healing power is still strong.
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Abby McDonald is a writer who can’t contain the lavish love of a God who relentlessly pursues here, even during her darkest times. When she’s not chasing her two little boys around, she loves hiking, photography, and consuming copious amounts of coffee with friends.
“The girl who smells” & needs to learn what deodorant is. “The girl with the budding boobs” no one else has. “The girl who can’t read” and is behind. “The girl who is selfish” and shouldn’t speak. “The girl who doesn’t really know what she is saying” and needs direction. “The girl with too loud a voice” who needs to kneel on some hard floor in front of Mary to figure things out. “The girl that is not like us.”
What has the world named you?
As I enjoyed lunch with a friend, I mentioned an old prayer partner, “She called me intense,” I said. “I am no longer offended at these crippling words,” I told her, “I am healed.
Internally, I nodded. Yes, I agreed with that. I am over it. I really am. I’ve wiped my hands clean of that word.
She looked at me and said, “Yes, you know your book is intense too.”
The thing that is coming out January 2017?
That thing I poured my heart, soul and sweat into, along with the power of 3 coffees a day?
I thought in my bed that night about it. “Intense? No one likes intense. They like funny, they like frilly and they like fanciful, but no one in their right mind like a book to be – intense. People flee from the intensity of hurricanes, tornadoes and tsunamis. They’ll flee me too.”
I got up from bed. I dictionary.com’d it:
1. acute, strong, or vehement, as sensations, feelings, or emotions: intense anger. 2. of an extreme kind; very great, as in strength, keenness, severity
I was “this”? The kids started mocking again.
I wanted to hate the book in that moment. I wanted to rip it up and speak “loser” over it with loud and forceful declarations – heck, with intensity, with severity and vehement force! I wanted to get all mean all over it.
Do you hate who you are too?
The uncommon, unusable and unrepairable things about you?
But, what if?
What if rather than hiding,
we zipped off people’s demands
to see us, as we are, how God made us?
I considered this, with the help of some wise counselors.
The world has funny,
but could the world need intensity?
Might God want to create an acute force
that reverberates Jesus?
Do severe times call for more solid
and straightforward messages?
My husband reframed the words spoken over me. “Kelly, you are bold,” he said.
What if, rather than fearing what others hate,
I unleashed the raw potential of who God made me to be?
What if you did too?
Imagine what all of us, fully believing in God’s good, could do.
Imagine where we could go, if we no longer held back.
Imagine the face of this world, with people unafraid to step into God’s purpose.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Each unique characteristic has a unique purpose on the board game of God’s master plan.
What if we believed that?
What if we let go of fear? And made our darkness bright.
What if we shared God’s good in us? And found we were the missing piece.
What if we stepped in? And Jesus’ power exploded.
What if we’ve been missing out?
When we hold back our true-self, we hold back Christ.
We show a limping Christianity, yet, Jesus wants to show a thriving one. One where He walks on out into the world, not limping, but striding in trust, light and hope.
When we reach into the deep and hate what we see, we embrace the world’s hate for anything that looks different from its likeness. Yet, when we reach into our deep and believe, with God, “It is good (Gen. 1:31),” something shifts. Something unhooks – and peace falls.
Might God be calling you to unhook the lies?
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. Ps. 139:19
Might you see yourself differently? Known? Loved? Knit as you are for good reason?
Perhaps today, you see yourself reframed and renamed – as His.
A new creation, his original masterpiece, unlike anything else.
An image flowing, moving and working, much like the image of Christ.
Standing there, remembering, it felt like these moments happened just 5 minutes ago…they still weigh heavy. Somehow, everything about these situations said so much about me. Here’s how they played out:
1. I cut the strawberries carefully, practically savoring the trifle I’d soon pick apart. Conversations were ample, fun and full. Juice ran off my fingertips and I loved the feeling, the freeness, the summer air. Life was good, until, I came undone by her words, “You cut differently than I do.”
2. A friend joined me for a morning IV of coffee. We connected, discussing: who we are, where we will go, and how we will approach things. But as quickly as the caffeine jolt appeared, it was crashed with his words, “Well, I am just different than you. I don’t do things like that.”
3. She was kind. So kind. I love her. I still do, but it stung deep when she said, “I believe differently than you do.”
Differences make us feel odd and outside the norm. Rather than feeling like a belonger, we feel like an outsider. Underneath, we hear hostile threats, declaring, “You are wrong. You are not as good as me.”
Ever noticed? These threats come in all different shapes and sizes: A child whose dreams, views or agendas are different. A spouse who thinks “contrarian”. A job moving forward with different plans than the ones you were committed to. A person who looks nothing like you. An opinion that doesn’t resonate with yours. A person you can’t relate to. Backgrounds you don’t understand.
There’s this little homing device I wear. It’s broken. It bumps me into things. It roams and returns me to the same old stuff, like making people happy and trying to impress them with my best dresses. It gets me zapped too. Usually by guiding me outside the boundaries of safe, where I get electrocuted by a dog fence or something like that.
Zap… You look dumb again.
Zap… You messed up again.
Zap… You are letting your kids down.
Zap… You’ll never find your way.
Are you at all like me?
Trying to adventure to more, but feeling continually zapped by failure?
I just read the book, Making it Home by Emily Wierenga. I think this girl gets me.
Her words shed light on the spectrum of my issues:
She says, “I still forget I have a voice.” I say, “Yes, Emily. I often can’t hear myself; that voice feels afraid to stand up for itself too. It feels like no matter how loud it screams it will still be hushed and shushed rather than loved and embraced. I get that.”
Maybe my voicelessness prevents me
from hearing myself – from hearing God too.
She says, “I’ve been working all my life to make something of myself.” I say,“Yes. I go because if I stop, I might be left with – me. And having to deal straight up with all that, well, sometimes that is even more terrifying than all the work I use to cover me.”
Maybe all my hard work,
speaks over the power of Jesus on the cross
– and how desperately I need his saving.
She says, “Because there aren’t accomplishments enough to affirm the three-year old inside who still can’t talk, the nine-year old who decided to stop eating, the sixteen-year-old who was dumped for being too nice.” I say, “Mmm…hmmm. The voices of the past come back, but they don’t sound like the voices of yesterday, they now sound like mine.”
What was then, I claim as now.
Oh, I know, Emily, I know. I know living with the emotions called its-scary-to-be-me.
Often, the fear of self is our greatest fear.
It’s in this place where you have to come to terms with the idea that God made you alright. That he likes you alright. That you can speak inner-truth without retribution. That you can fall down and he won’t hate you. That taking the risk is worth the small chance you might fall over the cliff. Because he’ll catch you when you do. And this is the point – almost the point of life, I believe.
Unleashing the wounds under all the age-old bandages are freeing. You rip off what the enemy has placed over your mouth and again you come alive. You scream out, “I believe in Jesus. He loves me the way I am. He is healing what was broken. I don’t have to know the way; he does. You get real; he does too.”
You see his face; it looks like love.
I am approaching that.
She says, “I am learning that being a woman is about giving until it hurts and then receiving so much that my soul might break.” I say, “It looks like letting go.”
God says,“For whoever would save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 7:35)
So often, I think it is about fixing.
I think it is about rewriting.
I think it is about thinking.
I think it is about finding a counselor.
I think it is about working harder.
I think it is about fitting more into my schedule, or organizing things well or stopping bad behavior.
It’s not. Finding my way is about losing myself to love and finding myself swept up under the feet of Christ as he saves.
It is about getting so wrecked and so raw that you’re remade. This happens through little people, sometimes, small feet whose tender trust in dad, shows how much you can trust a good daddy. Or, through a book, as it sparks an area you need to stop, pray about and deeply consider. Or, through a husband, who humbly and sacrificially gives so abundantly that God calls you to scream thanks. Or, through circumstances that align, like stars, only as a loving Savior could display. Or, through a fresh encounter with God that almost leaves you breathless. Or, through prayer that works, as each word takes hold in the air.
Home is all around me. I am in the center of it, because God is in the center of me. Will I believe?
This small shift, this mustard seed belief, changes everything. For, when I get low and looking, I uncover Jesus. Then, I see me, coming to life. Rather than a dull image, I move with certainty and power. I run like a flip-book drawing galavanting to purpose. It may not look like much by the world standards. But, God and I? We know, it is power, vision and hope that are leading.
They lead home.
Thank you, Emily, for sparking this in my heart. In this case, God rushed in through small words written in a medium-sized book that was written by you; I am grateful.
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Sometimes you meet someone you immediately connect with. Emily is this sort of gal. Her honest and engaging prose lifted my heart to another place. Emily cares. This is what I felt when I read her book. I felt loved, as she grew in love for herself. Thank you, Emily.
For women who have grown up in the tension between third-wave feminism and Martha Stewart, it can be a struggle to define and embrace the meaning of home. There is constant pressure to do things a certain way, and sometimes intense criticism from those who think you’re doing it wrong. But what if home isn’t really about whether or not you homeschool or have a career? What if it’s more about who you are than what you do?
There he was, Jesus, tugging the weight of the world on his shoulders, straight up the road to his demise. He trudged along, weighted. He proceeded by faith, bent over. Heart and body, likely splintered. By all accounts, Jesus, looked like he was failing and failing badly, very badly. His Messiah mission fell, His name apparently couldn’t save, His cause was causing people to laugh, mock and taunt him.
Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” Mt. 27:39-40
People anti-worshipped him by outpouring disgust.
“Fix it!” they screamed. “If you are so great, why do you look so bad?” they yelled. “If you trust your God, why has he let you down so badly?” they ensued.
Are you hearing the same?
Does it look like you’ve been left on the side carrying failure?
That you are destined to be hurt?
That God isn’t coming through for you?
Sometimes, I feel I am falling into the great abyss of obscurity and aloneness. I see the black storm. I see myself as homeless.
These storms make our future look dim.
We continue to drink, even though we wanted to quit.
We figure we will never shed that last 10 pounds.
We react in anger and try no different.
We gossip, then do it again and again.
We figure we will always be stuck in a dead-end job.
We have no hope for our marraige.
We decide our kids will always be ingrates.
We accept rejection at work and no longer try.
We feel like a sub-par Christian and accept that as truth.
We believe we will always be in debt.
And on and on it goes…but, no doubt about it – it will never end well – for us.
What if Jesus, by all accounts,
saw the circumstances and declared himself destined to be a loser?
He could have –
if he lived by the comments, claims and convictions of the world around him.
If he chose to believe doubts over faith.
If he didn’t believe in a good, good daddy.
If he didn’t know that a Saving God, always saves.
But, he didn’t.
Jesus believed victory was on the brink and didn’t let his mind sink.
He kept walking…even though.
He kept ministering…even though.
He kept his mind on heavenly…even though.
He thought about forgiving us…even though.
Even though, he was hanging on a limb in gut-wrenching agony.
He thought of us.
He is still is.
He is thinking of you and where you stand.
He is thinking of that standing place as his victory-place.
Will you sink by how you think or will you rise keeping your eyes on the prize?
I have set the LORD continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Ps. 16:8
Jesus’ situation looked bleak.
It looked heavy.
It looks so bad the ones he loved ran away in fear.
But here is how it turned out, here is what he was right on the brink of: He was buried, he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures—and is still alive! (1 Cor. 15:4)
He is still alive and still saving us.
He is still alive and still pleading for us.
He is still alive and still making a way for us.
For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ.
And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. (2 Cor. 1:20)
His answer to your heart is – yes! Yes, he will do the amazing for you, according to his will, if only you believe.
And we all say, Amen.
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I believe in Jesus Christ, only son of the Father.
I believe He died for me.
I believe He rose from the dead.
I believe He ascended into Heaven.
I believe He will come again.
But sometimes, I forget that this belief means so much more because of who it is I believe.
Recently our oldest son, who is severely dyslexic, decided he wants to go to medical school. He came to my husband and me and said, “I think I am supposed to be a doctor.”
Not for one moment did I doubt him.
I homeschooled John for the better part of his academic career this far.
I know first-hand that the road he just ventured onto will be hard. When I say hard, I mean “reads at a 5th grade level” hard, or so the test makers tell me. But I have seen the work of this man-baby, I have witnessed a determination in him like no other.
It is one thing for John to believe he can do all things through Christ who is his strength. It is another thing for someone else to believe he can do it. And on the evening after John’s announcement I made arrangements for him to test into the university near our home, my alma mater. A tightness grew in my chest as I recounted the days of dreaded placement and diagnostic testing. For just a moment I entertained, “what if…”
I quickly shook off the thought.
And somewhere on the still evening air, a warm sound swept over me.
I was bathed in peace.
I was slain by love.
I was certain the sound was audible.
The breath of my Lord comforted me and I heard Him say, “I believed first.”
The Alpha and the Omega, the God of Isreal, Maker of Heaven and Earth believes in my boy’s abilities to be fulfilled, the good work that this God created him for cannot be impossible. It cannot be measured by human standards. And in that moment, I am further struck with the reality – He believes in me too.
As much as I strive to love and serve this Mighty and Mysterious God, as many times as I have proclaimed my adoration, as often as I have shouted “YES LORD! I believe!”
He believed first.
He believed all those years ago on a hill, nailed to a cross.
He believed as He descended into the abyss.
He continued to believe as He walked that road to Emmaus.
And when He ascended back to the Father, He believed without a doubt.
He believed in me at the dawn of my conception.
He believed in me as I took my first steps.
He believed when I fell away from Him, when I rejected Him.
He believed in my daughter-ship, He believed I would return.
He still believes. He believes even when I am at my worst.
He believes that the good work He began in me will be carried through to bring Him glory.
This is magnificent to me. When I am in doubt, when I am afraid, when I can’t bring myself to believe, He who dwells in me… believes.
So great His belief he took His petition, His deep and unshakable beliefs, and died for me on the Cross.
Who am I that He who measures the depth of the sea
and counts the feathers on the songbird,
believes in me?
I believe I am the daughter of the God of All.
I believe my son, a newly accepted Pre-Med student at my alma mater, is the son of the God of all.
I believe I am a foster mom, when I was the most terrified woman on the planet. Afraid I would get hurt, afraid of the brokenness, I believed in the calling from my God.
I believe I am an adoptive mom of two precious boys, I believe in all seven of my children.
I believe I am an author, when everyone said, “It’s too hard to get published.”
I believe I am a sinner, desperate for a goodness I am incapable of on my own.
I believe in an unseen God who first believed.
Who am I that He believes in me? I am a believer in Him. He is mighty to save. He is mighty to deliver. He believes in the impossible for He was able to conquer death, death on the cross – for me.
And for you.
He believes in us, dear friend. He believed so greatly in us – and His Father loved us so, that He took it to the grave. Meet Him there. Crumpled at the foot of the cross cry out the hurt, the disappointment, and the fear. For even if the only words you can muster are… I believe. Know He will honor and care for you. He will deliver you and conquer that which terrorizes you. He will make all things new. He will make it all work together for good.
The great I am, your Father in Heaven… He who first believed.
Being confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Phil. 1:6)
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