Not too many days ago, which, if I am completely honest with you – is about once a week – I have one of those pull-out-your-hair types of days.
Most of the time the impetus is my kids, and either some crazy mishap like poo on the floor, water all over the place, cooking extravaganzas gone horribly wrong or something else that is impossible to clean up.
Then I start playing the mole in the hole game as one thing after another pops up to drive me mad:
I start stubbing my toe.
The cabinets look a mess.
I can’t organize worth a small stack of T-bonds.
I needed to throw out everything (about 10 years ago).
I am the worst mom.
I can’t do things well.
Before I know it, I grab my AK-47 and start firing.
Normally the bullets hit my kids first, leaving what I assume are critical care wounds from words like this:
You are not listening.
You are not obeying.
You are frustrating me.
You are going to be punished.
You better do ____, or else!
I don’t want to be around you.
I am leaving you here until you can shape up.
Why can’t you __________?
Perhaps you shoot down your spouse this way too,
this kind of thing has been known to happen.
It’s interesting, isn’t it?
The ones we most love are the ones we most love to shoot. The ones that are closest always land our stray bullets. The ones most invested in us are the ones we most often try to rob.
It is as if somehow we know that their belief in us –
is also our greatest risk.
The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. Prov. 14:1
God’s spiritual inclinations repel from our earthly inclinations.
He’s basically like:
If you have a house, why are you ripping it apart? If you are building something great, are you really going to be so dumb as to ruin it? If you are wise, get wise about the words of identity you declare –
they determine the path of the ones you love.
Then, he graciously teaches mom his love and how to speak love.
He says, My Child, watch what I do,
then you will see and know how to speak.
I say things like:
I love you always, no matter how badly you mess up (or how bad your cabinets look).
I want to help you listen and obey.
I am with you and will guide you in the process.
I won’t leave you or push you aside when you fail.
I want to encourage you in all your ways.
If you have questions about my approach, just ask.
I won’t keep reminding you of all you have done wrong.
I love how I made you; I approve of you.
I love watching your small steps of improvement.
I wait for you to be near to me; I love being close to you.
What if I was to talk – like God talks to me?
What if rather than tearing down, I start laying down new bricks of life-long security?
What might that do to a dwelling? To the attitudes inside – and to the mom who feels subpar?
Somehow, I can’t help but think, when we start speaking grace, we start believing it.
Then, when moles sneak out of their holes, rather than believing they are creating dugouts that will sink our house, we remember what we have built. We step back, we see our foundation and we know God’s words and reinforced love made it strong.
We gently hear his voice say: “I will be with you. Just do your best and I will take care of the rest.”
And, things feel okay – and so does everyone else.
People are laughing and hugging as they reunite.
Talking about the year past.
Unwrapping their anticipated gifts.
Listening to a story repeated for the one-millionth time.
Eating dried out turkey.
Drinking egg nog or sparkling apple cider.
Singing it’s a Holly Jolly Christmas… while, inside, feeling anything but jolly.
Sure, they may be singing “Joy to the World,” but their true emotions are joyless.
They may give you the highlight reel of the year past, but they leave out the drama.
They may be busy with buying, cooking and wrapping, while having a world of marriage, finances or health crashing down.
They may be proclaiming “Happy Holidays,” only to be deeply grieving those they love.
“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”–which means, “God with us.” Mt. 1:23
God with us in the thick of pain.
God with us in the thin of finances.
God with us when we feel happy – or sad.
God with us despite how much others are.
Will our hurting family members get a chance to know “God with us”? How he draws near to the down, dejected and devastated?
Or will they believe that facades of merry and bright are the only outfits allowed?
For others to know “God with us,” they have to see “God in us.”
They have to see how “God in us” has worked life – through us.
This means taking a risk. It means we have to move our usual conversations past ugly Christmas sweater styles, present ratings and the words “Pass the gravy.”
Are you willing to step outside of comfortable to bow down, worship and treasure the small baby – in both word and in action – this Christmas?
Will you make known the cries that moved from a manger to a cross to change everything?
On coming to the house, they (the 3 wise men) saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. Mt. 2:11
Lighting up Christmas, is not about lighting up a tree. It is about lighting up our loved ones with the treasure we have in Jesus Christ. It is about lighting what truly matters.
I (Jesus) in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. Jo. 17:23
When we light Jesus, we light love. What shines is the one thing that matters most, the one thing that people need and the one thing ready to light the world.
So how do we shine Christ on Christmas?
1. We make his purpose higher than our cause of opening gifts.
2. We are more concerned with sharing Jesus than sharing mashed potatoes.
3. We go to vulnerable places, so hurt ones know it is okay to go there too.
4. We seek to touch a person’s real need, not just their need to be entertained.
5. We seek the quiet of the Lord, so that we can enter into the mayhem of family – with peace.
6. We sit and listen, verses boast, toast and gloat over things in our own lives.
7. We look to serve and honor others above ourself.
8. We pray to discern who the Lord might direct us to.
9. We discuss the Christmas story.
10. We speak about the Savior who saves.
BONUS:We take a risk, even when the risk makes us think others won’t like us.
And those around us will get a chance to know the God who goes with us – Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6).
And, the small beginnings of Jesus’ new beginnings will shine. They will shine all-consuming love that touches our houses and hearts with true and long-lasting “merry and bright”.
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You live to make others happy. String. You can’t be happy if others are upset. String. You are burdened if you made a wrong choice. String. You can’t disagree about life issues or opinions. String. You feel responsible for how others act. String.
Ever wondered how to live life with no strings attached?
For so long, I have walked like a shoe with warn down treads and strings wrapping me. These strings seemed to both keep me together and squeeze me. They seemed to be known and detested at the same time. For so much of my life, I would tie these strings up and say, “I just care a whole lot, a whole lotta lot about people. I would give everything for them and to them.”
The only thing about strings so tight like that is – they squelch the very person wearing them.
When we give everything to everyone, we really become a no one to everyone. When people seem to control our every move, we move into places of anxiety and fear. When we don’t have a way, we allow others to define our way. When God is not making our way, we lose our way. When we hand over our identity, we live insecurity. When we live insecurity, who lose all surety. When we are at the beckon call of man, we find ourself far from the peace an’ call of God.
Have you ever considered that being an over-giver is unhealthy?
Have you ever pondered how eyes on man divert eyes from God?
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. Gal. 1:10
I am considering all of this. Deeply. Meaningfully. Carefully.
I choose to seek the approval of God.
With this, here is what I have come to:
1. I can’t help another, if I haven’t given God a full chance to help me. 2. I can’t control the environment of happy, peace and calm by telling others what to do. 3. I can’t make others see, do or say what I need them to in order to keep me balanced. 4. I can observe a situation or happening without making it declare me bad. 5. I can give space and grace rather than side glances of judgement and disappointment. 6. I can be free to be me, when I trust it is God, not man, that will take care of me. 7. I can say that I am beautiful, when I stop believing man thinks I am not. 8. Others opinions belong to them, not me, and I am not any less for their correct or incorrect assessment.
9. God wants me tethered to him, not tethered to ties that keep me stuck to the past, emotions or fears.
So, take that strings! Take that, because I am cutting you!
The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. Prov. 29:25
For each will have to bear his own load. Gal. 6:5
But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel,
so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.
1 Thes. 2:4
unmoved by the shaking,
but uncovered in the trembling,
Trekking towards the once declared “impossible”,
yet moving all the same,
to the place where surrendered feet stand on holy ground,
God’s ground, the place where you know all will finally be okay.
It creeps. It crawls. It slithers. We move fast, running with a paper towel to try to kill that blasted thing before it shows it’s disgusting face. We. Must. Kill. The. Yuck. We can’t see that. We can’t admit that. Don’t let anyone know that exists…
It would change the face of everything.
It would risk who we are.
It might make us reconsider things.
It might make others declare us un-Christian.
It might make God angry.
Just the other day, feeling overwhelmed by the this’ and thats of our great joyride called life, I stood in the center of it all, dropped my arms and practically screamed, “God, can you really help me get out of this mess? Do you really help?”
I have probably said it a hundred ways, on other days –
sounding something like this:
God if you are so good, why haven’t you saved me yet?
Jesus, if you are all love, why did that happen?
What if my beliefs are all wrong and I chose the wrong way?
Why would you let the innocent get hurt?
Do you really want me?
I can’t be good enough (which truly is saying Jesus isn’t good enough).
Does prayer really change anything?
Even writing these things evokes feelings of shame. Shame that I would much rather gather between my fingers, pinch and let the insides squirm out. Shame that I want to hide for fear of a quick rebuke, but hiding never went unseen in the garden and it doesn’t on earth either.
So it makes me consider, what if speaking doubts
is the best way to speak in new faith?
What if talking with God about the unknown
is the best way to make him more known?
I think about one man. His name was John. He baptized. But, before he did that, he went to the wilderness and started to preach and to call people to repentance. People came. They came from Jerusalem and Judea and the whole region of Jordan (Mt. 3:5-6). They confessed and were changed.
This man. He was on fire for the Lord. This man. He was preparing the way for Christ.
This man. Not too long after, doubted.
When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” Jo. 11:2
Sometimes our prisons of despair make us feel certain
God doesn’t care.
Sometimes when we get all alone, our loneliness makes us believe God left us too.
Sometimes, when doubt kicks in, we have to kick out our fears to Jesus’ feet
and let him stomp them out.
That is what John did. He sent his disciples to Jesus with his question.
Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” Jo. 11:4
When we remember what God has done, we start to realize how much more he can do.
When we see all that he has fulfilled, we begin to believe he will fill in our gaps.
Jesus doesn’t tell us to go around squashing and squishing every question, fear or uncertainty that arises. He doesn’t chide John for his question and send him off without any care. Jesus tells us to come to him, to dive into his Word and to taste and see that the Lord is good.
Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Ps. 34:8
When we feel blocked in by the bars of life, we can reach out to receive the Word of life, in order to be refreshed by the Spirit who provides life.
Then, with new strength and new hope, we can call out and say something like: “I believe; help my unbelief!” Mark 9:24
And God does, because he is. And our heart becomes stronger; it beats louder, gets more oxygen and pumps more blood and we know that we did the right thing by being honest for he honestly changed our doubts into belief. We become confident he answers prayer.
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I am struggling.
My heart is ripping in two with the thought of how I hurt you.
My defensiveness is boiling, spilling over, with the burning effect of protect or be harmed.
My guilt is cascading onto those I love.
My fears seem to keep me stuck immobile, feeling more like a pillar of salt than the salt of the earth.
There is a insidious inclination to look at myself, in these moments, and to say, “I hate you.”
“I hate how you can’t get things right.
I hate how you don’t love properly. I hate how you make others feel.”
In these moments, it seems like I’m riding a roller coaster that is only descending, that is only heading into the swamplands of no movement, no progress and eternal frustration. I don’t want to go…still though, I move there, even despite my best efforts.
God, why can’t I be all you want me to be?
Why can’t I do better and be better?
Why do I fall into my own traps of defeat?
Why can’t I beat my mind so I can be a “good” follower of you?
Love. Do you feel it? Do you know it? This is all I have reserved for you. It is the only seat I offer you, it is front row to my unending offering of everything I have. For you are mine and I am yours. Love. Move in and let it sink in.
Even when you may feel like you are pulling up the covers, turning off the lights and laying down in disappointment and discouragement, flick the switch, see the light and dead-stare into my eyes. I wait, not to give you the evil eye, but to let you know that you are mine.
I want all of you. I delight in all of you. The places where you are falling, are the places I am uprising. Will you trust? You see the skinned knees, I see the miraculous renewal. I don’t just bandage and regrow, but heal and remake a zillion times more abundant than your smallest comprehension of new.
My work transcends earthly and rebounds into the spiritual
which far surpasses what you consider – natural.
For nothing will be impossible with me (God). Lu. 1:37
So, dear child, don’t be angry at yourself, for this is all part of the process. Don’t cast your efforts into class “loser”. Don’t tell yourself you need to go to bed with no dinner. You will fail, fall and falter. But, here is the truth:
I don’t want to return you to the orphanage and wipe my hands of you.
I don’t want to drop you off on the side of the road, unless you put a smile on your face.
I don’t want you to know that you better – shape up or ship out.
I just want you, all of you, in my hands, moldable, breakable, pliable, makeable and malleabe so that I can make you incredible as you lay back into the warmth of my will.
Stay with me. Take heart. Don’t quit. I’ll say it again: Stay with me.
Ps. 27:14 MSG
Don’t fear my process of remake, but open yourself up to it. Let love sink in – into the cracks, into the chaffed edges and into the unseen – so I can revive every cell you believe is of disrepair. I promise, I work wonders for beauty.
You see, my love is the healing point of all pain. My love is the answer to your lash-outs. My indwelling love is the answer to your out-dwelling peace. My love is the end of condemnation and the beginning of affirmation. My love is the termination of avoidance and the conception of acceptance. My love is arms around you when agony is too. My love is the only current that removes the constant buzz of unbelonging.
The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again;
rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.
And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” Ro. 8:15
Will you give it a chance? A chance to just – be? A chance to sit on your heart as you sit quiet on your couch? A chance to change you? A chance to remake you?
Cherished child, don’t let love become cliche. Common. Normal. Ordinary. See it afresh. Consider it anew. Resign yourself to know that you can never know the fullness of my love; there is always more and more to it.
So, step back, hold on tight and let it flood your insides so that it floods your world, not with proper actions, but with me.
You will be astonished at what comes out when you let my love move in.
When I find your heart, things change. What was up is down and what was down is up, meaning you, God, move down, and the enemy moves far, far, away. Rather than feeling like all the walls are caving in, rather than feeling suffocated by sub-par Christianity, I feel young again. I feel uninhibited, released and restructured. I feel like running downhill, arms wide open, body receiving, will disappearing, all the same emerging. Emerging into a better me, not because of me, but because of you.
The wind of your gentle Spirit strips away the old, the useless and the unneeded, to pack in new, useful and entirely needed. You bring me to your destination and, as I trust you God, it is great adventure, with great joy and great power in distinct and purposeful movement. God, keep me there. Keep me in the place where my heart says let’s go! Let’s go wild and free down your journey of adventure.
For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. Job 19:25
You love me, oh how you love me,
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Faith is easy when life is simple. Faith is tested when life gets infested.
Infested with: trials, trauma, ticks, testing, tainted people, tiny bank accounts, T-Cell Cancer
Then, we start to lose our marbles, we run after them as they spread left and right and downhill and diagonally. We think that somehow they are our source of pleasure, our primary need, our must haves to stay in this competitive game called life. When they go wild, we go wild. We zig and we zag, frantic with the what ifs, the how comes and the if onlys. We run tired with metastasized doubt.
Just the other day, my bag spilled out.
Kids were going to bathroom in places they never should go.
Water was being poured faucet-to-floor.
Shoes were being protested as we headed out the door.
Bad news was arriving via telephone.
Later, I sat in my car, zoned, and seeking: “Dear Lord, please help me right now. Send me some encouragement that will uplift my heart.”
I stared out the front windshield, a tad dazed, yet I still saw it, a beacon of hope, a blessing in the making and a little valentine from God – I was sure this card tucked under the wiper was the answer to all my days wrongs.
“God, this must be it. What is on that card, you have written for me, to encourage me. Please Lord, let it be.”
I plucked the card out and, with excitement, read it, sure of my oncoming peace. But, what it said shocked me, it nearly broke me, “Alert: You park like an idiot.”
And, boom! There it was, the hammer that broke the frozen dam of pent up wild, the final condemnation I needed to lose and the final word on what was already written up as horrendous day.
Have you ever been there? Just needing a little pat on the back, only to get a great whack?
What I never considered, until I got the chance to consider how much of a parking idiot I really am, is that no one ever really knows our situation.
While that person placed a card on my windshield to help all mankind, they had no idea that a man of my kind was near her breaking point. They had no idea that I parked the car like that because kids will not be able to open the backdoor if the car is too close. They had no idea that leaving two littles in the center of a crazy parking lot to back up and load them in is frankly idiotic. They had no idea that my head was going to explode from the pressure of all the marbles that were already hitting all the walls of discouragement.
How often do I judge someone before I know?
How often do I see bad moves and curse the person for not moving another way?
How often do I miss the chance to love and lift for a decision to kill and destroy?
That person had the chance to change my whole day for the better, I bet they had no idea.
All the same, in that moment, for a split second, another marble came loose. It was the marble with the name God on it, for a split-second it started to roll – away, far far away.
I watched it. Would I get it? Not sure.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Ro. 8:28
I know this verse, but sometimes it is hard to believe this verse. Sometimes it is hard to live in the eye of tornado and still keep an eye on truth.
Truth like: God cares less about wiping our feelings clean and more about wiping our souls clean. God sometimes let’s us go through the fire, so we get a chance to see the miraculous undoing of our self. God is holding our heart, even when we lose heart. More important than earthly mayhem is spiritual peace. Mania makes us motivated to find it. People don’t drive our standing in God’s Kingdom, Jesus did.
If I stop chasing marbles, I start to get back into God’s game. I start to think strategy, promises and peace to myself. I start to find life abounding in the face of myself rebounding.
I start to think of how all this bad is made for all God’s good.
I start to feel calm again, steady and ready to stick solidly to all that really matters in this world.
Sense starts to boil up from all the nonsense – and that is enough for me.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. James 1:2-3
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It is that thing that pretty much all of us hate. It’s what we would rather run from – than run straight into. It’s what makes us think bad thoughts, nasty thoughts and mean accusations to our closest. It’s what drives us batty and crazy because we wonder if we will ever be understood. It’s what sends us to mindsets of sin instead of the peace of holiness, faster than one can whip out a quick retort.
It’s conflict. The worst 8 letter word around.
It is that thing that we don’t know why, we as Christians even have to deal with, but, still, we do. Somehow and sometimes, we are bound to hit it. And as ugly as it is, we often stand right in the midst of it, wondering how something so icky, so yucky and so unsavory, could exist in one who is trying to pursue God so hard?
How a God seeker could turn into more of a raging lunatic than a calming saint?
How this very growth of mold could threaten to swallow whole God’s very light shining on it?
But, yet, if we stop and think, this is the point isn’t it? There still is light.God’s light is still shining on it, right? There is no amount of disgrace, shame and darkness that can remove the ray of light that is above you. Light won’t let go of your hand, it won’t stop warming you and it won’t stop quenching darkness. So, even though you feel your feet stand in the death and decay of relationship, have you ever considered…
…maybe it’s more about focusing your eyes on the land of repair, instead of the face of despair.
Maybe, just maybe, instead of focusing on all that person didn’t do, it is much more about focusing on what God is about to do – in you…
How God is preparing you.
How God is molding you.
How God is bettering you.
How God wants outstanding for you.
How God uses people to reconstruct you.
How God cares more about his life in you, than your happy life around you.
How God can fix the most complex junkers into complete beauties in his perfect timing.
In any rotten moment,
God extends his hand of love out to you.
Will you take it?
Hold on to it. And let him lead you?
Conflict is the body shop of God’s repair, for it is here that he points out, kneads and buffs out the greatest defects of our hearts.
But, it requires we get open, real and ready for his work; it means we get humble.
For a heart bowed down, clears more space for the light of Christ to rest over it.
The light is always the answer. It is the proving point to a mind that thinks like this:
Be not discouraged, he is helping us.
Be not dismayed, he is with us.
Be not disgraced, he calls us to see.
Be not downright angry, he leads us to listen.
Be not debased, he calls us to set our ways down.
Be not defeated, he calls us to victory in Christ.
Be not dejected, he calls us to new ways of thinking.
Be not defamed, you are always loved in his eyes.
Be not defensive, the correction spoken might be your ticket to fullness.
Be not down and out, you are always Christ’s new creation, created in his image.
Be not disqualified, nothing can remove you from the hand of God.
Be not denied, Christ already died to fully accept you.
Thinking like this leads a person. When they feel ready to fall prey, they simply fall down and pray. Suddenly and often, what they find is – God has the best way. Imagine that.
They find themselves being and doing the wild and crazy things they never dreamed they had in them or available to the mean folk who love to come against them: Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Col. 3:12
And, what they find is – real love. From God and to man.
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Dear eyes,you have looked through the glasses of not enough for so long. You have gazed upon other’s lots wishing to grab their “a lot”. Their kids, cars, houses, smarts, clothes, cars and blessings. You crave it all. You have hoped and dreamed, pleaded and called, but still, your eyes constrict when you see all you don’t have. There is hope.
Dear hands, you are trying, you are fighting and you are walking by faith, but sometimes the work of your hands falters. You trip up and chip up your nails, your best efforts, which only seems to send you into a cycle of defeat and discouragement. You feel like you can’t make it holy enough. Don’t give up.
Dear mind,you carry around the self-condemning thoughts of “I wish I could be better, love more, do more and be more.” You tend to miss the mark and punish yourself for doing so. Honestly, the way you run circles, chasing the tail of “perfectly all together,” may just rip you apart. There is more.
Dear feet, you go to the places of need. You rise to the moments of emergency. You run to help others. You go far lengths. But, still, you wonder, do these feet travel far enough? Are they making a difference? Are the steps futile? They count.
Dear other person, I wonder, will you still love me entirely with my flaws? Will you be able to look past all my frame is not to see all I am? What would happen if I trusted you? Take a risk.
For he holds the whole body together with its joints and ligaments, and it grows as God nourishes it. Col. 2:19
Suddenly, my eyes open, my ears listen, my mouth waits, and my hands reach out to see God’s nourishing truth. While I always thought the freedom was centered on me, I am realizing it transcends time-sensitive bodies – it transcends our body. It is not just about one flawed and damaged part, but it is entirely about the whole part. The part he is moving and making into his greatness, for his greatness.
His body that makes my body. Why? Because my body is his body (I am his temple). His body is the church (we are his people). The church is God’s primary mission field to repair damaged bodies (if we let it work).
Founded in Christ and deployed through our willingness, we – together – become the healers of the awkward thoughts, the repairers of hidden shame and the bringers of the most hope inducing words ever – “me too.”
Unity creates immunity. An immunity that wards off loneliness, unsteadiness and unsightliness. We were at our worst, but together, we hit the potential to become our best.
If we give unity a fighting chance, we give let progress walk in – shuffle around –
and do it’s victory dance.
For then, a collaborative voice emerges, saying, “We can do it, make it and conquer it. We can see our bulges, our wrinkles and our indents and say, this body is very good.” (Gen. 1:3) Not because everything is perfectly beautiful, but because everything is beautifully transparent in a way where one needs Christ, where one needs another.
Holding hands, there is joy, there is a sliver of something – a glorious sunrise emerges in the center of the darkness of night and what appears is the new beginning to a story that we thought ended.
We see our ill-formed bodies, as a whole, formed into the image of Christ.
Our body emerges remarkable, radiant and restored.
You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you. Song 4:7
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Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105
I love the picture presented here of a path. It’s not a room filled with light or the light as bright as the noonday. It’s just enough light for the path ahead. God’s Word is the source of light.
You may have your own dark cloud that looms directly overhead causing everything to seem dull and difficult to see. Darkness comes in many forms. For me it can be ignited by circumstances beyond my control, fear of the future and discouragement that quickly turns into depression. You may not have a cloud of fear and feelings like me, but your darkness may manifest itself in the form of shattered dreams, prayers yet to be answered or circumstances that make you wonder if God has completely forgotten about you.
As I think about my dark clouds and the light I know I need and desperately desire, God is drawing me near. When I allow His light to brighten my path, my thoughts are transformed and I remember the familiar essence of His light.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17
I had been a Christian for seventeen years at the time my fourteen-year-old son Jacob and five others were killed while on a missionary trip in Mexico.
Over the next eight years I demanded an explanation. I wanted to trust God again. They say trust is earned, could God re-earn my trust? Is that a fair question to ask? It eventually occurred to me that there’d be no one better to trust than the One who died for me—no one had invested more.
I decided to return to the place I first met God, I opened my bible and let Him reason with me through His Word. I found that pride was standing in the way of my healing. The only way out of this bitter downward spiral would be to admit that God was blameless and release the resentment held against Him. It was after humbly laying my broken heart at His feet that God revealed Himself in a way that healed my broken spirit. I finally was able to form these words, “Lord, this isn’t the life I would have chosen, but I’ll receive it. Please teach me from it.”
I found God again. He had been waiting there at the core of all my pain. I discovered something else—pain and joy could coexist within me. I could experience the sting of Jake’s death yet at the very same time feel the joy of the Lord without having to pretend I was OK with what happened. You see, I’m not OK with it; I’m not going to be OK with it. I loved Jacob and losing him hurt. The truth is there’s no explanation for his death this side of heaven that will ever satisfy me. Jacob is irreplaceable in my life—but so is Jesus Christ and I couldn’t afford to lose them both.
I used to pride myself on the lists I could make and accomplish.
If I didn’t finish the whole list, no one saw the list, even the things I’d done. I’d sulk and be surly to my family, which was an expression of how I felt worthless inside.
God’s Word says the following about me, oh and by the way…I can do nothing to earn it! I am the apple of His eye, I am a Saint, I am redeemed and forgiven (Hallelujah!), I am free from condemnation, I am established, anointed and sealed by God, and most of all I am complete in Christ!
What broke me free from worthlessness, list making, and achievement-based love was confession and then choosing to believe God.
I have made a reference of scriptures identifying who I am as a new creation in Christ. I try to read them every day to ingrain into my heart so I have a new go-to thought for when Satan tries to tempt me to think the old thoughts.
When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul. Psalm 94: 19
How might the pain, hurt and fear I’ve experienced since a little child be worked into something good?
As a child, I started trusting the actions and words of brokenness above the actions and words of God in my life. Idolizing the love and acceptance of humans exacerbated the fear within me. And with anxiety multiplying within me, the inherent fear that I would never be good enough, I lent into my own prideful self-control to numb it away. I sought to deny the existence of the fear by striving to perform, to be the best possible student, lover, wife, mother and friend.
Fleeing from fear gave me a semblance of control, but also festered an anger and exhaustion within me because no matter how hard I tried, I could never live up to the perfection I strived after. And so the fear would rear its ugly head repeatedly and I’d turn to anger to stifle it, anger at myself boiling within me and compounding the exhaustion from my attempts at perfection.
If you grasp and cling to life on your terms, you’ll lose it, but if you let that life go, you’ll get life on God’s terms. Luke 17: 33 (The Message)
I am choosing to trust that just as His Word promises He WILL go before me (Deuteronomy 31:8), preparing the path (Isaiah 43) and working ALL things together for my good (Romans 8: 28).
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. Isaiah 11:3-4
Do we imagine Jesus sees through the same judgmental lens we do?
He doesn’t. He couldn’t.
Jesus looks past our outward self. Past our lazy or selfish actions. He doesn’t hear the harsh words we spoke in fear and anger. He doesn’t seek out the dirty windows of our situation, glorying in the smears of our circumstances.
Jesus’ eyes look upon us in love, His ears hear the cries of our heart because he isn’t fooled by outward appearances.
He’s not fooled by my surface niceness that overlies a judgmental heart. He’s not fooled by the outward actions that hide a broken heart.
Jesus sees and hears our inward selves. There is no hiding or pretence around him.
Have you had to make a choice that you knew was right but that you thought you would regret? I have. Over and over again.
Recently, I turned down a job offer. For a position I’ve prayed for for years. With enough hours to bolster our bank account. Every bit of knowledge I have dictated that I ought to find a way to make t work, that this was the opportunity I’d been waiting for. The Lord told me no. When I said yes to Him and no to the offer, I thought I would regret it soon.
Romans 8:27-28 tells us that “He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” (MSG)
God erases regret because regret is about my way –and when that slate is clean…
He makes beautiful works of art that are better than anything I could ever dream.
Today I’m glad I turned down that job. I’m so glad we didn’t get the cat then with all the housing turmoil we later unexpectedly experienced (and the dog we were able to get eventually instead!)
I’m glad that money has kept us at times from making decisions to do things more “typically” because we’ve had some amazing relationships out of it. I’m glad for some of my worst moments because without some of the mistakes and brokenness I’ve regretted, I would never have let people into my heart as far as I have.
Each of us gets a bit overgrown at times. We settle into our habits, our routines. We relax into the momentary mundane. It happens. God knows that in order for us to continually be growing and maturing, He needs to prune away the dead, unfruitful leaves and limbs.
He needs to carefully trim the excess, the residue that weighs us down and prevents us from growing, from becoming, from thriving.
Pruning isn’t a punishment. Pruning is an act of love. God loves you. He celebrates you. He longs for you to experience the fullness of your identity. He delights in His handiwork. He declares you beautiful. Whole. Complete.
In John 15:2 (NIV) Scripture says, He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.
James 1:2-4 (NIV) tells us to, Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
“You are my rock and salvation, my fortress and strength…”
I continued to repeat my mish mash verse. In the chemo chair, waiting for lab results, watching my kids giggle, receiving a meal from a friend, fighting nausea, popping pills.
“You are my rock and salvation, my fortress and strength” Ps 62:1-2
Little by little the fears started to loosen their grip and trusting the Lord seemed easier. I found that when we allow God into our pain, He loves to sit with us, hold us, rub our backs and remind us who we are.
At my weakest, when the emotional and physical pain dragged me into the slimy pit, clambering onto God’ rock was impossible unless I clung to God’s promises.
Repeating God’s promises defeats the enemy, sparks hope in our bellies and throws fuel on the fire of faith. With that flicker of hope fanning the flames of faith we are able to trust God with anything. And I mean ANYTHING.
Because when you’re diagnosed with rectal cancer the bottom falls out of your world and then, I’m afraid to say that, the world falls out of your bottom. Laughter and God’s promises really are the best medicine.
The problem is that when we lose our job, when relationships end, when our home goes under foreclosure, when the money we take home dwindles and when our past haunts our future – we begin to question ourselves.
We feel like damaged goods, valueless.
We feel insecure and vulnerable.
However, when we base our worth on who God says we are, everything around us can shake, yet we’re able to stand firm. With an identity in Christ, we’re able to tear down strongholds and strip away labels.
It’s not who you are but whose you are. It’s not what you did but what He did.
Who were are derives from who God says we are, not society.
The Bible says we are, “fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm, 139:14)
The Bible says we are, “chosen, holy and blameless before God.” (Ephesians 1:4)
The Bible says we are, “an incredible work of art.” (Ephesians 2:10)
When we grab hold of truth, we no longer face an identity crisis. Instead, we’ll see an identity breakthrough.
When Jesus found the disciples failing in their nightlong fishing trip, He could have told them to take up their nets and follow Him to a new, bountiful area of the sea.
They moved their nets, only seven feet across the width of the boat, and cast it on the other side. And as their weary hands obeyed the Master, the bounty came forth.
Do you feel discouraged today, my friend?
Is it the same boat, the same spot, the same fishing technique, over and over again for months, perhaps years?
Remember: If you are in the center of God’s will, walking in obedience with Him, you are where God wants you to be. The circumstances you are in may be uncomfortable, and you may be ready to move on to a better fishing spot. However, unless the Master calls you to move from where you are… Remain…
He is working a fruit eternal in your life. He is molding you as you cast your net over and over again. He is strengthening you as you choose to trust Him, even though you are tired and weary.
And when you feel too tired to go on, remember this: It is the Master Himself, who, after your toilsome, disheartening failures, keeps calling out to you:
And let me tell you, it was the most beautiful Christmas season I can remember in a long time.
God provides for His own. It is pointless to get up early, work hard, and go to bed late anxiously laboring for food to eat; for God provides for those He loves, even while they are sleeping. Psalm 127:2 Voice
I gave up my belief that taking time to rest was being lazy. I thought I’d see if what others said was true… that I would still be able to get everything done in time–and probably more–if I took time to rest.
I can’t sit here and say it was easy, because it wasn’t. I battled my entrenched habits and pretenses. But, the desire for God to have His way in me was greater than the desire to strive for the perfect holiday, and end up being sick again.
The Eternal, the Everlasting God, The Creator of the whole world, never gets tired or weary. His wisdom is beyond understanding. God strengthens the weary and gives vitality to those worn down by age and care. Young people will get tired; strapping young men will stumble and fall. But those who trust in the Eternal One will regain their strength. They will soar on wings as eagles. They will run—never winded, never weary. They will walk—never tired,never faint. Isaiah 40:28-31 Voice
We may think we don’t have time to rest, but truly, we can’t afford not to.
How everything around me moved from the safety of
white-picket fences and neighborhood playgrounds
to a territory where the wild things are?
What will happen to me? Is this world going to eat me alive? Will my kids be okay? Will I be punished for my beliefs? Stripped of my goods? Hurt?
Today, we seem to live in risky territory. Raw territory. Hunt and be hunted territory. Even a head in the sand can’t hide this fact. It can’t take away the feeling that we don’t know what to do or, really, how to even prepare.
Fuzziness ingrains fearfulness.
Panic invokes more panic.
Rage makes us rage.
Then the unknown makes us certain our demise will become known.
The potential of “anything” swirls like a reality-bomb ready to explode.
The people against us become big and the people with us – become little.
Even when we tell ourselves “we are getting extreme again” and try to check ourselves in to a better mindset, we still don’t do well, for our mind comes undone, yet again, at the next catastrophic world blow-up.
We return to square one at this point, asking God, “Why do you allow this stuff?”
His answer looks something like this: “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2 Tim. 3:12)
God doesn’t hide the truth from those who want to hide their head under the blanket of this-all-can’t-really-be-happening. And, maybe, just maybe this is the point.
It is what it is. And God is who he is.
And fear is profitable when channeled properly.
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling… (Phil. 2:12)
When I start to fear my big God, that stands over all world problems – I find peace. I find hope. I find resolve.
Hope that looks like:
He will save us from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover us with his feathers, and under his wings we will find refuge; his faithfulness will be our shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. (Ps. 91:3-6)
Open your eyes and turn from darkness to light, from the dominion of Satan to God, makes way for forgiveness of sins and a secure inheritance among the sanctified (Acts 28:18).
Protect us, God will. Because he loves, he will rescue. Why? Because we acknowledge his name. We will call on him and he will answer. He will be with us in trouble. He will deliver us as we honor him. As we satisfy him all of our days, he will show his salvation to us (Ps 91:14-16).
Eternal glory in Christ Jesus will be ours, after we have suffered a little while, for he will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 1 Pet. 5:10
Hope that leads to RESOLVE. RESOLVE to believe. RESOLVE to stand, no matter what. RESOLVE with fear. But, RESOLVE, nonetheless. Not in a fake way, not in a shallow way, not in a comfortable way, but in a I-can-only-do-it-with-you way. In a you-won’t-abandon-me-way. In a if-I-stay-in-your-truth-you-have-me-covered-way.
Reaching to a God who saves. Expecting him to fulfill his promises. Searching for his teaching amidst the terror. Obedient to his steady promises above wavering feelings. Leading our mind to his dwelling not the dwelling of the agonizing, torturing and demoralizing. Vindicating and convicting, left to him. Entering the holy dwelling place of the Spirit to reside with the comforter, the leader, the teacher and speaker of all truth.
Resolve in the name of Jesus. Resolve in the name of true belief. Solid gold, unbendable, unbreakable and untorchable belief. Believe that he is protector. Believe he is mightier. Believe he is more powerful.
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