Things are not what they seem. It’s like walking at night. You think you see a person, but it is only a shadow. In the light, you can see how the darkness fooled you.
There is more than meets the eye.
I love the story in 2 Kings 6:15-17 that illustrates this point…
“When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked.”
He was surrounded; it looked like there was no way out, no way to win and no hope. Maybe you’re in a place like that today…
“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
“And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”
Just because it looks like defeat, does not mean you’re defeated. Just because you feel all alone, doesn’t mean that you are. Just because you can’t see all that God is doing for you, doesn’t mean He isn’t doing anything.
Things are not always what they seem.
Darkness can easily trick us into seeing things or believing things… But, in God’s light, there is always more of Him and His forces with us, than against us.
Can you even imagine what you might see if God opened your eyes up the way He did Elisha’s? How might He be defending you, protecting you or fighting your battle?
This is a funny story. A turtle showed up on my doorstep. Can I tell you all? He was the cutest turtle. His back had all these fun little stripes and lines and I just loved the little fellow the second I saw him… But, before long, I knew we’d have to return him back to the wild, much to my son’s disappointment.
When we released him, I felt like I was watching some sort of kids movie. The little guy swam off into the lake behind our house and there was nearly a dry-eye. There should have been sad music playing in the background. The second he was gone, we all wanted him back.
My son prayed just that, “God, bring me a turtle back.”
About a week later, my boy came into the kitchen from a playdate at a friend’s house. He said, “Mom, I have a surprise for you!” He led me outside with my eyes closed.
I looked down and saw, not one, but two turtles. God hadn’t just addressed my son’s loss by answering His prayer, but He’d given him a double-portion.
Some of us, like what happened with my son, are experiencing loss. We have lost a relationship, a person, a dream or a hope and it seems it is long gone. We miss — what was. We want to cry. We feel so — at a loss…
I understand this. However, what looks like loss, through Christ is gain. What looks like defeat, through Christ, is resurrection life. What looks like the end, through Christ, is only a new beginning.
Just as God brought back — not one, but two — turtles for my son, God can bring back life, hope and joy to you, in a double portion.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Eph. 3:20-21)
Our God is prepared to do: more than we can ask, more than we can imagine, more than we can understand.
Today, what would it look like for you to get beyond your own understanding, to leave the past in the past, and to hope again?
Someone has taken advantage of me. By all appearances, it seems they’ve used a position of power to force my hand. They’ve taken from me. It smells like trickery because I am left the fool. Now, I have no choice but to do what they want. Grr…
Yet, the more I pray, the more I feel God nudging my heart: not to fight back, but to give-in. Yes, to give in to what they want.
It feels like the lesson of this situation wants to stick to my heart. It tries to teach me that I am weak. It wants to convince me that people will take advantage of me again.
I can’t trust again. I must rise up and be powerful, so I don’t get hurt.
Yet, God speaks differently.
In His Word, I am reminded of the time the Arameans were coming against Elisha and the Israelites. Here, the enemy had the whole city surrounded and was about to strike. Elisha was trapped; the others had a clear advantage.
At this point, Elisha used wise prayer; He asked God to blind His enemies. When the forces finally opened their eyes, they quickly discovered they were defeated. They went in the wrong direction. The Israelites had won.
Although Elisha used a powerful powerful prayer strategy, this is not the part that most speaks to me. The part that speaks to me is how Elisha appeared to give way, to give in, to an enemy.
Take a look…
Once they had the Arameans trapped, “The king of Israel … shouted to Elisha, “My father, should I kill them? Should I kill them?”
“Of course not!” Elisha replied. “Do we kill prisoners of war? Give them food and drink and send them home again to their master.”
So the king made a great feast for them and then sent them home to their master. After that, the Aramean raiders stayed away from the land of Israel. (2 Kings 6:21-22)”
The enemy didn’t just get food, they got a feast. Why was this able to happen? Because they trusted God more than the people who hurt them.
And, this is what speaks to my heart today. I can trust God more than the person who hurt me. Why? Because God holds all power. God holds the purse-strings to everything. God makes armies bow. God brings redemption where things were stolen. God restores. And, He is always faithful.
Much more do I want to rely on God, than to allow a person’s actions declare who I am or how I will act. No. I won’t do that. God wins. He knows.
So, I go ahead and prepare a feast for someone who is acting like an enemy.
I feel convicted. It is easy to read God’s word and to say, “Yep, that thing right there is what I need to do…”. Yet it is quite another thing to do it. It is easy to develop a three-step plan for improvement, but it is hard to see it through. It is easy to remind yourself of all the ways you really need to change. And then to never find change.
At home, as a mom, I’ve recognized 3 things that need to change:
1. I give in to my children when they ask repeatedly for something.
2. I desperately avoid paths of resistance to keep everyone happy.
3. I have a hard time setting boundaries because I feel guilty.
Friends, I guess I feel a little angry at myself that I haven’t changed these things already. That I haven’t recognized them and reworked them. That I still struggle. That I cause issues at home sometimes. That I can’t stand it when people feel unhappy or angry at me.
I know I am wrong; I am a pushover. I am disappointed in myself.
Maybe you feel like me; disappointed in how you are, what you are doing or where you are today. Maybe you’ve told yourself you’re going to stop cussing, start praying or you’re 100% going to speak nicely now. Or that you’re going to get yourself to where you want to go.
Are we justified to feel this way? To “get our self where we want to go”? To “work up” some sort of inner-heart conversion?
Only God can change a heart.
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (Ezekiel 36: 26-27)
– God gives us a new heart.
– By his work, he removes the stone.
– The Spirit, in us, moves us to follow God’s decrees and laws.
Only by a work of God can we work-out any real and lasting life change.
Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Ps. 127:1
So where does this leave us? In prayer and with faith.
God will complete the good work He has begun in us. (Phil. 1:6) We no longer need to be angry at ourselves but 100% trustworthy in the Saviors saving work, that is at work within us.
Feelings can be frightening, overwhelming a heart to the point of desperation and misery. Or prisons, entrapping one to past experiences, traumas or memories. Often they become future proclamations, declaring over us, “What was, always will be. You’ll never escape this emotion.” Feelings, on the other hand, can be amazing, liberating and soul-rejuvenating. Just think of the best day of your life!
What do we do with them?
Up, down and all around – they move like the wind. Like a hurricane or an underground rocking that shakes the foundation of who you are. I get all this. I know how anger has made me act, in days of old. I remember getting all up into my sisters face. And the feelings of self-annoyance I perpetually lived with. The depression that made me feel like there was no good way out of life.
Feelings can be fun, or no fun. They can be old and then haunt us again.
Yet, just because they show up on our doorstep doesn’t mean we have to answer the door so they stay forever. We are not obligated to say, “Come on in and make yourself at home.”
I fear some of you have done this. Sadly, now old feelings are cramping your good style. They’ve spread out all over the space of your soul, heart and mind, stealing your attention on God, negating God’s good plan for your life and telling you that there’s no way you can be enough.
People ask me what to do with “feelings”?
Well, I think when we see them at our doorstep, we peep out the side window and first acknowledge them. We allow them and we even bring them to God. There he is again, “Mr. Disappointment” I see him there, trying to get in. God, what do you think about this? What does your word say about hanging out with this emotion for too long?
Then, with wisdom, we decide whether or not they can sit in our house for long periods of time.
We can do this by asking ourselves a few questions:
1. Are these feelings going to cause me to dwell on what is “true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy” or lesser things? (Phil. 4:8) Are they leading me to life or death?
2. Are they reinforcing God’s truth or are they backed by lies?
Example: If God says he is “for us”, we would not be wise to dwell in hopelessness that believes, “God is not for me.”
3. Are they helping me to love God (and others) with all my heart or do they cause me to pull away from this?
If we’re called to do all things in love, anything contending against it should be heart-checked.
Friends, we don’t have to declare our initial feelings as “bad”, ignore them or hate ourselves for them. However, we do need to see them for what they are, quickly, and make moves to let Godly-facts take precedence over wavering-feelings.
Why? Because sadness soon turns into isolation. Rejection soon turns into depression. Anger soon turns into a division. Loneliness soon turns a bottle. You get the picture.
Don’t make a long-term resident of a feeling that should only be seen as a passing-by door-to-door salesman. Yep, Kelly sees you there wanting to sell a whole bunch of stuff, but God’s got a better word than you. She’s listening to truth, over feelings. And letting that be her guide…
These three words crawl under my skin like a spider.
To me, they mean:
Someone disagrees with me.
They probably think my idea is stupid.
I have a huge chance of being wrong.
Beyond these three horrible feelings, they induce shame.
Shame is a:
Sudden Heaping on of A Massive Embarrassment
Shame makes you feel:
– like a fraud
– as if people won’t look at you the same
– like you should keep your mouth shut
– no good
Do you experience shame? When you speak? When you act in the wrong way? When people catch you doing something? When you make a mistake?
The other day my daughter came home from church. She looked at me and said, “Mommy, when I do bad, and say sorry to God, I get to do this…”
She took one hand and wiped off her other arm as if she was wiping sand off her forearm. Then, she did the same with the other arm.
“I get to wipe it all off, Mommy, and it is gone.”
I considered her words and actions. I get to do the same, too.
I get to wipe off the moment I feel caught, the second I feel exposed, the time I feel burdened by what I did wrong, the moments where I hate the little things I do. Wipe…wipe…gone.
Because of Jesus. Because his love leaves no place for shame. Because He came to free me, not to bind me up to my own nervousness. What He delivered me from was my sin and the things that keep me insecure, so I can walk out and into this world with glorious light. He does the same for you, too.
There is this real pressure to look right before man.
TV constantly implies, “Don’t be one of them.”
Clothing stores convey, “You better look as good as the music we’re playing.”
Past encounters remind us, “Be likable, or people will reject or leave you.”
Because of this, it is easy to find an identity, tweak it, and fit it to man.
Ever done that? Molded, morphed or changed color to look like others? To fit in? To be liked? Loved? Accepted? To not be seen as off?
If you’re human, the answer likely is yes.
We like to look like everyone else, so as to not stand out. To not be set apart. To be one of the many. To not feel like we are “too much” or “not enough.” Keeping ourselves from being “set apart” makes us feel safe. It prevents us from being that one… the weirdo!
Yet Jesus tells us, being set apart is this: Holy.
“We have been set apart as holy because Jesus Christ did what God wanted him to do by sacrificing his body once and for all.” Heb. 10:10-12
Why do we fight it? Why do we fight the idea that Jesus picked us up and set us apart? Why do we fight his identity that provides the only identity we’ll ever feel good about: Chosen and set aside for his purposes. Why do we fight him, in us? Everyday, he’s our only saving chance.
As daughters, our identity is Jesus. He will never be loved by the world. But he will always be set apart as the victorious, high and mighty King of Kings. Why would we ever want to settle for the world’s second best when we have the kingdom’s first and only?
What God-given qualities have you stifled because of your fear of man? How have you held back who God created you to be? Where may God be calling you to step up and step out into his purposes, right now? Even if you are set apart?
While driving today, a motorcyclist cussed out loud at an intersection. Apparently, he didn’t make a right turn fast enough to get ahead of the cars headed his way. Now, he was slaying everyone, including me, with the evil eye as he sat waiting for his turn to go.
Staring at him, I wondered, “What would it take to fix this man’s attitude? To show him or teach him you don’t act like this?”
Many women ask themselves the same thing. “What would it take to change this person’s attitude? How they approach me, how they live, how they talk to me and listen to me. . . ”
They say, “Should I:”
Be someone different for them?
Bark at them until they act better?
Whine under my breath?
Nitpick their small issues?
Be passive aggressive?
Teach them a lesson?
Flesh aims “to fix.” It focuses on faults.
Spirit loves always. It never ceases in prayer.
My inclination at that intersection was to fix the motorcyclist’s problems. What if God called me to something different? What if rather than fixing, I was called to go about empathizing.
Empathizing, according to Merriam Webster Dictionary, means:
“The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another…”
Empathy thinks: He is likely having a horrible day. A coffee-spilled-on-you, kids-yelled-at-you, huge-project-at-work, hardly-any-sleep day. I’ve had those days too. I know what it is to feel rushed. I understand what it is to get so annoyed I unleash my mouth like a rabid dog. I can understand how that is.
Empathy acts. It offers eyes of sympathy with a small smile and wave that says, “Please sir, you go ahead. I am making way for you. I love Jesus and I want his love to reach you.”
Empathy sees things from the other side. It loves with all it has. And keeps at it.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.” (Heb. 4:15)
First, we want to acknowledge that you do not exist. You never can, nor will you ever exist. We are sorry to tell you this, but your mission is 100% impossible and we regret to inform you it is one God never called you to.
We also want to encourage you, finally, to let your shoulders relax. You can let down your guard. You can stop pretending you’re a whole lot better than you look. You can let go of the messy drawers, the bad habits, the quick responses and stop beating yourself over the head with a self-improvement plan that never seems to work. You can inhale, let your stomach fill and then exhale.
You can rest. Finally, you can rest. You can find a daddy God who doesn’t look at you for what you can do, but who you are in him. You can see him want to be near to you. You can see him approach you with the fullness of love.
He wants you, even when you don’t want to see the horrible things you’ve done.
Breathe deep. Again.
There is peace for you. Even when you are face-to-face with a horrible, ugly, unwanted failure. Still, there is peace, love and hope. Acceptance of failure is freedom.
I am writing you today with an invitation to let in- the love you hold at an arms-length. The love your always-unmet achievements declare you unworthy of. The love you keep away lest it make you feel needy. The love that will change you.
Today, let in…Christ. Let love in to a greater capacity.
What Jesus did covers what you don’t do. What he did washes away the blame that sticks. What he did marks you blameless. What he did removes the status of “wholly unworthy” and leaves you with an identity of holy.
This status reminds you: you will mess up, but God never gives up on you.
Return here, to this reminder. It is your rest. He wants you, not your work. He wants your heart. Let him have it. Let it be immersed in the Living Water. Let it splash around, dance, have fun, be free and enjoy the goodness of him who loves you.
The lady was confident. That was my first issue with her.
If she was just beautiful and – not confident, she might not have bothered me. But, she was SO sure of herself. She knew she was made of. No one in the world could tell her otherwise! No one could stop her! She brought her brilliance with her wherever she went!
She sat like the statue of liberty. I was a small seagull whose job was to soak in her glory.
It didn’t help she had a great job and wouldn’t shut up about it. That really irked me, because at this time, I had a horrible job and I loved to whine about it. I have too much work! I can’t do it! I need a new job!
This lady spoke to my husband differently: My job is a dream! My boss is inspirational. My life is fantastic!
Puh-lease….someone pass me the salt shaker – so I can pour it on her head.
I could almost see it, me – the small one, salt-shaker in hand – wrecking her moment. Her, the large-and-in-charge one melting like the Wicked Witch of the West.
But, she is not wicked. I am. Ever asked yourself…Why am I thinking this way?
I sat back in my chair, tuned out her conversation and considered – why am I thinking so – meanly?
Her strength is depleting mine.
Her success is ruining my moment.
Her great attitude defines me as less than.
Her belief in herself is stealing my joy.
Why does one woman have such a great impact – on me? Can 1 lady take away all of God’s promises with 1 sparkly super-white smile?
Is this what God intended? For me to hate girls who are happy, successful and beautiful?
Somehow, in this moment, I know my heart has followed a rabbit trail – straight away from God’s glory. I’ve gone got myself stuck in a pit now.
Have you found yourself in a pit lately? Perhaps someone shines better than you? Always has a perfect answer? Has the job of all jobs? Is PTA mom extraordinaire? Is driving your dream car? Has perfect kids? Constantly shows off Facebook vacations?
God says, our pits are escapable, with his help. “He lifted me out of the slimy pit…he set my feet on a rock & gave me a firm place to stand.”
God has the strength to lift me up from the yuck I put myself in.
When I set my eyes on God, not her, he, like a medivac, pulls me to safety. Choose to stand upon the solid rock – the ground that is not sinking. , that is not wavering and that will not quake under the pressure of earthly measures.
Here, I see: I am not less than, I am just right in God’s eyes.
I am not struggling, but victorious, because I am chosen as daughter.
I am not without a plan, because God has created good works for me in advance. I am not alone, for God sees the desires of my heart.
I am not dependent on others, but fully dependent on God – and who he says I am.
I pull out of my thoughts and find myself at that restaurant table. Her voice emerges, except it no longer sounds like nails on a chalkboard, but another girl, who’s excited to be who she is created to be. I mention how blessed she is to have a good job. She smiles. We talk – and have fun.